Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Letter to the Codex Project

I was recently made aware of a new frontier in the land of 40k rules development. Some of the great minds of homebrew documents have formed a group called "The Codex Project" - a fansite with a very similar directive to that of RM's. I am excited to find others that share our interest in this pursuit and that seem equally committed to producing rules of the highest quality.

In the site's homepage you'll find a statement outlining TCP's goals. What stuck out to me was the discussion of "Certification" - the creation of a group or "Council" dedicated to overseeing the creative process thus bestowing credibiliy to any TCP rulesets.

Here is my post in response to this topic:

Hello TCP,

Atrotos here, author of Codex: Stellan Hoplites and founder of Rules Manufactorum. You can google either of those, I won't plug links into this post but it may help people understand who I am and how committed I am to designing rules and background that enhance and expand the 40k pantheon.

I am very committed.

Despite my perseverance, investments of both time and money, and, if I may, some adequate skill in the art of game design my efforts have seen limited success outside of my gaming group. Partially this is because I work alone and partially because my salary limits what funds are available for pursuing my rather ambitious aims. The greatest issue, however, is overcoming the bulwark of "unofficialdom." Without a solution for this persistent and very frustrating gaming more any effort made by the members of this site or any other are almost guaranteed to fail.

I will break the issue into points to ease contemplation and to better communicate its scope:

1. Gamers, with few exceptions, have the tendency to treat each and every game as if it were practice for a tournament. Even Forgeworld, a company that is known to be an organ of the larger GW corporation, cannot convince gamers to use their material with any reliability because of the resistance of tournament organizers to any rules not found readily available in an official codex.

Now that GW has consented to produce rules outside of its codices (see recent updates to Dark Angels and Black Templars) this issue may not be as solid an obstacle as it once was. TO's will be forced to allow rules from online sources and this could easily begin to include FW material and other material created in the same vein.

Despite this small allowance however, if TCP is not a common feature in tournaments across the gaming sphere players will be unwilling to invest the time and effort buying and painting new armies, refining army lists and other tournament-related activities and engender enthusiasm for our chosen faction. The contemplation of strategy as it relates to a truly competitive environment is a big part of the hobby and one that can never be fully enjoyed by a player that stands outside of "sanctioned" competitive play.

2. Rules development takes a long time and a document of any respectable quality also requires professional talent both of which boil down to money. A great great deal of my hard-earned money has gone into the Hoplites and that is a document that is nowhere near the length of a full-sized GW codex (though I feel it is superior in its production quality). Granted I am just one person handling the entire breadth of the project and so the burden in time and coin may be far greater than if the costs were split amongst even a small team. However, can you convince 4 or 5 team members to spend about $200-600 each for the completion of a project that will never be viewed as anything other than neat addition to compliment their model collection?

The enthusiasm and commitment required to see a entire codex through to completion is enormous. Of those that are vocal in their support now I expect fully half will quit when real life forces them to make sacrifices they are hesitant to shoulder. Add to this the cost of each codex and can you really blame them? They need to know that their efforts are something more than a pet-project.

3. Confusingly, frustratingly there are gamers out there (no small majority) that believe the game is perfect just as it is and will rage vehemently at any addition to what they perceive as the apex of wargamming. Anyone trying to present material on the internet can expect a good deal of close-minded but vehement written abuse regardless of whether material bears some seal or not. In order to minimize these reactions however and to keep them from spreading like wildfire amongst the fence-sitters our material will need some external support. Otherwise we will not escape accusations of imbalance and impropriety and any releases will be quickly marginalized by those who do not want their gaming environment to change.

4. And I promise this is the last one. The potential of third-party rule design is just too damn important to be swept under the rug of "unofficialdom." 40k is a global movement treated by its owners as if its development were a hobby to pass the time. Despite recent improvements to game balance the hobby is stagnating. Months go by without any new releases of any import or interest. The rumor tap has been switched off and the codex cycle has been slowed to a trickle as GW sways with the uncertainty of a changing economic environment. If the original designers cannot support the line as it needs to be supported then someone must fill the gap. It is ludicrous to assert that Intellectual Property so rich can only bear two to three rules releases a year. Players are constantly leaving the hobby due to GW's unapologetic refusal to give them something to do in between releases returning only when their codex is updated years later. I for one am sick of discussing the same strategies, the same lists with only the tiniest deviations over and over and over again. The game needs a constant flow of new rules to keep players excited, anticipating changes to their army and that of their opponents. We must provide them.

So I have outlined the issues, but I am not a negative feedback servitor mindlessly chipping away at commendable ideas . Here are some solutions:

--Cultivate a network that includes the TO's for the game's larger tournaments. Convince them (through the quality of our documents) that they can safely include TCP rules in their events without every player walking out in protest.

--Approach games workshop. They are not the evil overlords we all believe them to be. Ask for a 'certification' that rests somewhere between "fan-made" and "GW codex." What if TCP rules-additions, on the scale of a single special character or a single unit entry appeared in every White Dwarf? Or on the GW daily blog? What if the most popular rules actually had a model designed for them by Forgeworld?

--Be ruthless in your quality control. To me, unique artwork, good photoshoping and careful layouts make all the difference in how I perceive rules. It is not a guarantee for acceptance but it can never be official if it doesn't look official. This will mean that not everyone can work on what they want to. People will have to be excluded from projects if they cannot offer meaningful or significant input - and sometimes this support will only be monetary. There must be leadership and hard division between "TCP in-development" and "TCP official." Only once the TCP brand name is synonymous with "quality" and "balance" will our pig-headed gaming sub-culture begin to accept.

Thanks for reading,
-Atrotos

If you haven't yet visited the forums make sure to do so at the first opportunity:
http://codexproject.freeforums.org/certification-the-magic-wand-of-officialdom-t47.html

2 comments:

Ahrimaneus said...

This would be huge if this actually works out. I'd be pumped. I know you've learned that FW is more along the lines of "lets make what we feel like" in terms of stuff, and I'm all for it. Their models are superb and they put a ton of work into them. Let them handle the modeling side while TCP handles actual codex and rules-writing. Perhaps playtesting FW books and suggesting tweaks and rules changes while maintaining TCP's own line of rules and codices. That way perhaps FW can be persuaded to sculpt some badass models to go along with the codices =)

I'd be happy to playtest and rules-review stuff as well. I know I'm not the person to head this kinda thing, but I do think I at least make points that help with development and catching rules imbalances. Like that one time with the infinite tank loop ;-)

Atrotos said...

Infinite tank loops are a thing of beauty and not to be so callously removed. You sir, have sullied my work with an inability to understand one very basic imperative:

"Infinity x Tanks + Foes To Be Crushed = :D"