Monday, 14 May 2012

Game Design: Fan-Brew

Lately I've noticed some panic about the expected edition change in Warhammer 40,000. Back in 3rd and 4th edition the fans, as an ill-defined group, looked forward to the next edition fixing the problems that the community identified with the rules (or thought they had identified with the rules). This time, however, the same group of fans seems to be worried that the next edition will not fix the problems with the current set of rules. Indeed, they worry the next edition will expand the problems perceived in the current set of rules.

This worry is driven by the changes made to Games Workshop's fantasy product, Warhammer Fantasy Battle. Apparently, and I say apparently because I gave up on this game as fundamentally worthless around the time its 6th edition was released, the 8th edition of the game isn't what many, vocal fans wanted out of the game. I have to rely on opinions posted to the Internet as my source for the state of the Warhammer Fantasy Battle game, and since I don't bother searching for opinions about it online, the accuracy of my information is highly suspect.

However, I know two things:

1. GW isn't going to produce a product for everyone. It's simply the state of the market that the most viable gaming product, one with the widest audience, is going to disappoint the most people.

2. There's a virtual plethora of wannabe game designers out there busy rocking up sets of rules to play when fan-dissatisfaction with the 6th edition of Warhammer 40,000 drives fans to seek out and crown one fan-brew set of rules to rule them all.

Of course, it's amusing that the perceived deficiencies with the GW product are what is going to drive lots of bad, misguided game design when amateur game designers attempt to create a viable alternative gaming product. As an amateur game designer I've done it myself, and I've reached a point where people can look up the product of that attempt on their own because I think it is crap. No links for you.

Which isn't to say I want to discourage people from trying to use their community leverage to try and design fan-brew alternatives to the official Warhammer 40,000 rules. After all, if people succeed in their plans to provide a 'better' gaming experience with widespread adoption, then that can only be a good thing. And if people fail in their plans, for whatever reason, hopefully it'll give them some appreciation for what Games Workshop has achieved with the 5th edition of Warhammer 40,000. So long as people are brave enough to fail, then failure can be useful. A "learning experience" if you will.

I have to admit that I occasionally regret trying and failing, but failure to achieve a goal does not invalidate a goal, and the courage to take risks and incur genuine costs from failing to achieve those goals is virtuous. Indeed, elsewhere I have argued that regret is good thing because it helps us to learn and avoid failure in a another, similar situation. Regret is good to have, so long as we understand that failure does not invalidate planning, despite invalidating those plans that did not account for it. Likewise the prospect of failure should not deter Warhammer 40,000 fans from giving themselves the opportunity to succeed.

Either way, fan-brew rules are a good way to spend one's time, and a wonderful gateway to recreationally applied mathematics.

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