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Subject: Would this idea to use Kickstarter to get more vassal modules produced work? rss

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Chris Buhl
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I just had an idea. I hope it proves to be a flash of brilliance, but I'll hold off judgement on that.

We all have games that we wish had vassal modules and/or CB game boxes, but don't. I'm always saying I'm going to learn how to make vassal modules some day, but that day never seems to come. I suspect I would not be very good at it anyway.

But I personally know at least one person who does know how to make them, and makes good ones. And I know of several others. I know that GMT churns them out faster than the Russians made T-34's in the early 1940's. What I don't know is how much time and effort it takes to make a vassal module. I wouldn't want to pay as much for a vassal module as I do for a game, but I'd be happy to pay something for modules for some of the games I love, and can't really play face to face. I imagine some others would as well. If only there was a way we could organize ourselves and pool our resources...

Maybe there is. Here's my idea, step by step, as I've thought it through now. I don't care at all if the final "product" is the same, different, or somewhere in between. What I'm interested in is, can we get some modules made that won't otherwise be made.

1) Create a list of people who know how to make modules, and who are willing to do so;

2) Ask them how much money they would want in order to create a module. What would make it worth their time and effort?

3) Start with one game. I have it in mind, actually, I'd like it to (well, them to be) Blocks in the East, Blocks in the West, to start. If this idea works, it's portable so it's not like we can only do one module;

4) Ask the company / designer if it's OK with them to have someone create and make freely available a vassal module for their game. Some will say yes, some will say no. We'll move forward with the ones who say yes;

5) Ask them if they'll provide graphics files and whatever else might be needed to the module designer;

6) Find someone on our list created in #1 who is willing to take on the project, and ask him/her how much money they'd need;

7) Kickstart the project!

I don't know if there would be any way to provide incentives for different levels of pledges. It's not like we'd want different versions of the module floating around. I'm also thinking that the typical level of pledge thing wouldn't matter too much for a project like this. It is true that we'd face a situation where some folks could pledge less than others, and still get the same reward. However, once the module is done everyone with an internet connection can have it for free. Maybe there's a way on Kickstarter to lock in pledges at one fixed amount? Say $10 minimum. I don't know, I have no concept of what this might cost. If anyone wants to make multiple pledges they can, but for whatever the minimum amount is.

Maybe this idea won't work, maybe it will be one of those "everyone thinks someone will do..." kinds of things. I don't know. But personally, if I could get a vassal module created for a game I really like but can only really play solo, I'm fine with contributing a modest amount of money and having some folks reap the benefits without paying. Maybe there are enough of us out there who feel the same way?

So please tell me, how does this idea sound? Any ideas about how to make it likely to succeed? How to make it better, faster, stronger?

Thanks!

Chris
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Chuck Tewksbury
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A couple very quick thoughts on this idea...

- VASSAL is free and so are the modules
- There are already 100s of VASSAL modules out there, what pool of games have not been VASSAL-ized? From a quick glance, you may be dealing with a smallish pool of candidates
- You'd need to be careful of copyrights -- for instance SPI/Decision Games will not allow virtualization of their titles

Again ... just 2 cents worth of initial devil's advocation - don't want to be a buzz kill devil
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Joe Thompson
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I don't think it sets a good precedent to start paying for Vassal modules.
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Joe Kundlak
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I am not sure about that "money changing hands" aspect... When someone creates a Vassal module just by himself, the owner of the license is usually ok with it. But with money thrown in...
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Mike W
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Interesting idea.

It would be nice to do it without the kickstarter percentage cut and deadlines. Why not something more like P500? (maybe a number much less than 500, though)

As someone who has made one VASSAL module, here is how much it would take me to make a VASSAL module for a game:

Do I own the game and want to play it (and it does not have a VASSAL module)?
E 0$ -- just get me the graphics files

Do I not own the game (and do I have at least some interest in it)?
E Buy me the game and I'll do it. I'd probably even do it for a cheap copy.

Am I not interested in the game?
E More money than you have



This is already a geeklist for wargames needed VASSAL modules ([geeklist=153057][/geeklist]). Maybe we just need to provide a method for people to vote (pool money?) on which ones they really want created.

I'd be willing to be put on a list of folks capable/willing to create VASSAL modules.

Edit: grammar
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Emanuele Santandrea
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VNG can support this.

GREAT IDEA



emanuele
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Joel K
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Some thoughts in no particular order...

The idea of money changing hands while publishers sit on the sidelines does initially seem a bit problematic. Maybe some would be OK with this and others wouldn't, I can't hazard a guess.

For me the biggest issue is a longer-term one, and that's maintenance and/or support. There are a lot of modules out there--especially older ones--that were pretty haphazardly thrown together and have never been touched a single time since. They may have things that don't work, missing items, don't incorporate later errata, etc. People seem to mostly tolerate this as things stand, since it's all free.

Once people fork over money, I think it sets some minimum expectation (at least subconsciously) about getting something nice in return. Even if it's only a few bucks, who could blame anyone about getting a little miffed if they chip in toward creation of a module only to discover it has a bunch of things wrong that the creator can't (won't?) fix? Maybe the creator goes and moves on to other projects, or drops out of the scene for a while--or permanently. It's happened. From my perspective, the ideal for every module is an interested party who's involved and making sure things work and that all post-publication changes are accounted for. I wish it was like that now, so in a scenario where people are paying/donating, I'd think it would be imperative.

Quote:
Am I not interested in the game?
E More money than you have

Same here. What little I do is in my personal spare time, which is finite. I'm never going to get involved in something that I'm not going to use myself, and use often--it generally has to be for what I consider a very good game.

Broadly, I think the best way to get more modules created is to get more people making them. Unfortunately, you can't make people want to learn how, and few seem to have the inclination to try--despite my occasional exhortations that it's just not as hard as you think and that the conventional wisdom says it is. There are great resources are out there, but it takes someone who is a self-starter. I've always been like that with computers and software in general--I decided in 1999 that I wanted to try Linux, starting from a position of almost no knowledge. I learned it all on my own and ran it as my only OS (no dual booting with Windows) for about 5 years until I tired of it. It was the same with VASSAL--I had a bee in my bonnet about something and dove in to figure it out myself.

I recognize that not everyone is wired this way--what I consider to be good and straightforward documentation might be byzantine and mystifying to someone else. So for many folks, the prospect of trying to get into VASSAL creation and editing is too daunting to countenance.
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Carl Paradis
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Bah... Most Wargame designers already get almost no money from the work they do. Why should it be different for making Vassal modules? It's a HOBBY!
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Joe Kundlak
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Is there a list of Vassal modules needing serious updates?
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Marty Sample
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JoelCFC25 wrote:
Some thoughts in no particular order...



Broadly, I think the best way to get more modules created is to get more people making them. Unfortunately, you can't make people want to learn how, and few seem to have the inclination to try--despite my occasional exhortations that it's just not as hard as you think and that the conventional wisdom says it is. There are great resources are out there, but it takes someone who is a self-starter. I've always been like that with computers and software in general--I decided in 1999 that I wanted to try Linux, starting from a position of almost no knowledge. I learned it all on my own and ran it as my only OS (no dual booting with Windows) for about 5 years until I tired of it. It was the same with VASSAL--I had a bee in my bonnet about something and dove in to figure it out myself.

I recognize that not everyone is wired this way--what I consider to be good and straightforward documentation might be byzantine and mystifying to someone else. So for many folks, the prospect of trying to get into VASSAL creation and editing is too daunting to countenance.


A couple of years ago at Consimworld Expo Mark Simonitch held an informal seminar on creating VASSAL modules and a few of the guys I know picked it up pretty easily from this. One of them in turn created a VASSAL module for THE KILLING GROUND which has been very well received.

It would be cool to see more of this sort of teaching going on - if not in person, maybe via WebEx or Skype.

ctewks wrote:

- You'd need to be careful of copyrights -- for instance SPI/Decision Games will not allow virtualization of their titles



I don't allow my money to be spent on Decision products for the most part, so no worries there. They, along with a handful of other companies, have taken a stance that VASSAL and their ilk cut into their sales. Their loss IMO. Plenty of other game companies out there.
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Judd Vance
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I'm with Joel and Mike. If I like it and I own it, I'll do it for free. I make them for Worthington on my own because I like their games and like to help the little guy. If I can get the artwork from the company, it looks a lot better. If not, you have to live with my scanner and graphics ability, which is nothing to brag about.

If I'm interested in the game and don't own it, send me a game and I'll do it. I would be willing to be a hired gun but man, I really don't like reading directions, especially if it doesn't look promising. And yeah, I'd be intimidated with the money thing. If I were getting paid, I'd be checking-double-checking-triple-checking it so much that I would be like the dude from the band Boston: turning one out every 10 years

As far as messed-up modules, I've had a few buddies write me and ask me if I can fix them or add features. I list all that stuff on profile. When I do fix them, I try to write the original creator and make sure it's cool with him before posting. It's a protocol-thing.

I get Chris' point, though: A year ago, I would have chucked in a couple of bucks to a KS campaign to get a module for stuff like Guns of August (Worthington), Gettysburg (Treefrog), 1777 Year of the Hangman (CoA), and a few others.
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joel toppen did a series on how to build a VASSAL module.

It is labor intensive and therefore time intensive. Especially for larger games.

If there were a way to ...ahh never mind.

Its a labor of love.

IF I could make one, I wouldnt do it for less than $1,000, and that would be a favor, its HOURS and HOURS of work for games with 300-400 counters / blocks.

I WOULD pay for a finished functional Module - $5 would be my limit. But it would need to be QA and tested and endorsed by designer/publisher first.
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Robert Stuart
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You asked if the idea would work. The short answer, in my 'umble h'opinion, is no, it would not.

That's because the obstacle is point 4. Some game companies aren't willing to allow free distribution of VASSAL modules. This is far and away the primary obstacle to more VASSAL modules being provided.

As for the ones that do agree, anecdotal evidence indicates that they get far more business as a result.

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Mike W
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So I've seen 3 VASSAL mod creators post in here, sounds like we are all in agreement pretty much.. we do this for ourselves / "love" of the hobby.

Instead of money, maybe just create a system were a group of people who want a VASSAL module pool their resources and powers of persuasion to:
1 convince a mod creator that it is a great game that needs a module
2 to obtain a copy of the game (and the graphics files) for the mod creator (if the mod creator does not already own the game)
3 convince the game company to allow a VASSAL module (might be the major sticking point for certain games).

I can't speak for Joel/Judd or any of the other VASSAL mod authors, but I would definitely be willing to create VASSAL mods in exchange for copies of games I want. If there's a game in my collection that really needs a VASSAL module I'd make one if someone spared me the annoyance of trying to get a decent copy of the graphics. I'm not aware of any games I own that are in glaring need of a VASSAL module, but I could be wrong.

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hipshot wrote:
joel toppen did a series on how to build a VASSAL module.

It is labor intensive and therefore time intensive. Especially for larger games.

If there were a way to ...ahh never mind.

Its a labor of love.

IF I could make one, I wouldnt do it for less than $1,000, and that would be a favor, its HOURS and HOURS of work for games with 300-400 counters / blocks.

I WOULD pay for a finished functional Module - $5 would be my limit. But it would need to be QA and tested and endorsed by designer/publisher first.


Joel K turned me on to something really cool in the more recent versions of Vassal: a way to mass-edit counters and cards, and man, is it a time saver!

And Mike has a nifty program that can chop out (graphically) the counters bunches at a time.

They really are easier to create than you think. Where it gets into lots of time is when you know just enough to be dangerous and start adding tons of fancy features and then you find out you don't know as much as you thought you knew and you spend hours and hours trying to figure out how to make that fancy feature work.

Not that I know anybody who is guilty of that. blush
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Emanuele Santandrea
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So... time for action?

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Chris Buhl
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Hello everyone,

Thanks for your replies. I'm sorry I didn't get back to this sooner, I've just finished up at a job and the last month there was quite busy.

I will admit that I'm surprised by the overall response to the idea. I don't mean to say that I am offended or hurt or anything like that. I am grateful for all of these replies, some interesting points were made. Some I don't agree with, but I am certainly glad to get some idea of the lay of the land.

I'd hoped to flesh out at least two things from this post.

The first is how much it might "cost" for somone to agree to make a vassal module, if he was hiring himself out. I have no idea how much work is involved, so I can't begin to estimate. If the general idea is, truly, that I wouldn't take that kind of project on for less than a couple of grand, then I don't believe this idea would work. If the general consensus was something like "give me a couple of hundred bucks for my time," then I think it might be worth moving ahead. As Judd said, there are games out there I'd certainly pay $10 to get a vassal module for. I doubt anyone would do it for $10, but if there are 20 like minded people, maybe it's worth discussing?

If anyone who knows what it takes to build one is willing to give some more specifics about that, I'd appreciate it. I'm wondering things like, more or less, how much time would be required to make one if you have all of the graphics resources you need. I'm mindful of the fact that not all modules are the same, some have a lot of complexity and functionality built in. Perhaps folks in the know could give a range of what is involved, from something like "Just the basics" to "Moderate Functionality" to "All the bells and whistles?" That might be impossible, if so then I'll take what I can get.

The second thing I'd hoped to put together would be a list of potential problems if the idea moved forward. The responses about ongoing module support if it's a paid project, etc., were enlightening to me, and I'm very glad to have heard them. That is a topic I'd never have considered on my own, and it seems to me to be highly relevant. Obviously, that would require careful consideration, to say the least.

Someone commented that it doesn't seem to be a good idea to set a precedent for paying for vassal modules. I'd like to hear more about that, if you would. I can see a lot of validity to that. I'm also aware that at least one pretty well established game company, Dan Verssen Games (DVG), already creates and sells vassal games. Some companies create modules and make them available only to paying customers. I had some vassal modules for ATS games from Critical Hit once, as I recall on a trail basis or something. I never loaded them, and eventually received and email from them asking me to verify ownership of the games in question or delete them from my computer (which I did). They were very polite, and it never seemed an unreasonable proposition to me (that they'd ask that of me). My overall point is, there is some commercialization of the use of vassal happening already. It may not be a good idea to further perpetuate that, but I'd like to hear more thoughts about that.

A number of responses had to do with game publishers / designers / et. al. allowing the use of their games in vassal modules. I'm hoping not to spark up the debate about whether that's a good business decision or not for companies. I am aware, though, that some companies that have steadfastly refused to allow such things in the past have started to change their stance. I have played Decision Games (I)'s excellent Axis Empires games on cyberboard and on vassal. The CB box I downloaded from their website, the vassal module I heard about from someone who worked for the company. Even Avalanche Press Ltd., who seemed to be as firmly committed as anyone to not allowing electronic versions of their games, has softened its stance.

That, however, is not the main thrust of this idea. There are many, many games out there without vassal modules. Far more than could ever hope to see vassal modules, even if the payoff for making one is many thousands of dollars. Some of that is intentional, some not. I know that there are plenty of publishers who say, more or less, "We're not able to make modules for this game, or just don't want to take the time to do it, but if you want to feel free." One game system that comes to mind is Lock 'n Load Publishing, LLC.'s excellent World at War series. There is a vassal module for those games, and it is very well done. It doesn't, however, include any of the expansions published after the Battles Within Battles publication. (NOTE: If I'm wrong about that, PLEASE tell me, I've been wanting to see that happen for years now). I've posted about that at CSW and BGG a number of times. It seems that the fellow who made the first module hasn't had time to update it, but I've seen Mark Walker say that he's OK with it being done, if someone can get it done. The game that prompted me thinking about this initially is Blocks in the East. that game's publisher posted here saying, basically, "Let's do this." If any publisher or designer said no, either to all of their products or a specific one, of course I'd never Kickstart that. I'm not interested in this for games who's creators don't want them vassalized, I'm interested in it for those who's creators either do, or are glad to see it done.

Along those lines, some folks have said they'd gladly make modules for games they're interested in making, but would never bother with it for ones they're not. I certainly understand that. What I'm thinking of with this idea is not to corral someone into doing grunt work. Rather, it's trying to find someone (or someone's) who is interested in doing the job at hand (whichever particular game is on the table), believes that it's not worth his time and effort as a free project, but that it would be if he could be compensated at some level for his efforts. An independent contractor, really, working on a project of interest to him, rather than an employee being assigned a task to which he feels no allegiance.

OK, thanks for all of your responses so far. Any further feedback will be most welcomed.
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Bill Lawson
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Check out this old thread Chris. Same topic.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/820388/voluntary-contrib...
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Chris Buhl
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billyboy wrote:
Check out this old thread Chris. Same topic.
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/820388/voluntary-contrib...


Awesome link, thanks Bill. There are some other very good ideas over in that thread.

In replying there, I thought of something I should also say here:

In case there's any question, I have no interest in making this any kind of financial venture for myself (unless I learn how to make vassal modules one day). I just have some un-vassalized games I'd like to play more.
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Chris,
How much would you take to do a complete and detailed AAR for a game you wouldn't be otherwise interested in doing an AAR for, and with the same level of quality and length of the ones you've posted on BGG?

How long would it take before the investors are able to enjoy it? Remember they're paying you for it.

And would you also post it on BGG for others to enjoy even if they haven't contributed to it?
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Chris Buhl
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Thanks for kind words on my AAR, I have really enjoyed doing that and definitely enjoy the positive feedback it generates.

dyvdav wrote:
Chris,
How much would you take to do a complete and detailed AAR for a game you wouldn't be otherwise interested in doing an AAR for, and with the same level of quality and length of the ones you've posted on BGG?


If I wasn't interested in it, I would have to make at least enough money to pay the bills, as it would then be job for me.

For Blocks in the East, clearly I'd do it for free. For Advanced Squad Leader, it would have to be a pretty good offer. For Twilight Struggle, it would have to be enough to pay for a week's vacation somewhere pretty nice.

I think, though, that you're missing my point. I made it in a previous reply, so I won't belabor it. I'll simply say that I'm not interested in engaging people in a project like this unless they're interested in being engaged in it.

There's also something else to consider, which is more in line with what I'm interested in. I've been long wanting to get a bunch of games on the table (who among us hasn't, eh?) If someone came to me and said "I really like your BitE AAR. I'd love to have you write one for The War: Europe 1939-1945, how much would you take to do that project?" I would certainly have to consider it. Maybe I'd say, "Well, I've been wanting to play that game for while now, but I certainly won't get it on the table before November. Can you wait that long?" The truth is I will not be playing that particular game this November as things now stand. The chance to write another AAR like my current one (which I like doing) for an audience I know will be receptive (I can certainly do an AAR of that quality for another game I like, and I like that game), and make a modest amount of money doing it, might be enough of a combined incentive program to move it up my list.



Quote:
How long would it take before the investors are able to enjoy it? Remember they're paying you for it.


It would take exactly as long as I promised them when we made our arrangement, or less time than that. If it was a project that was hard to estimate a close date for, we'd have an agreement about how to handle that (for instance, if they arrangement we made didn't specify a delivery date, it would certainly include a date on which they would be entitled to a full refund if I hadn't delivered. They may not ask for the refund, but they'd have that option). I wouldn't take the project on at all if those expectations weren't formalized ahead of time.




Quote:
And would you also post it on BGG for others to enjoy even if they haven't contributed to it?


That depends on one salient fact - was our original agreement that the content I produced must (or could) be posted publicly, or made available only to the client?

What you're describing is a free-lance journalism project. I have a friend who made his living doing those projects for over 30 years. He was approached by interested parties with a proposal, they negotiated the details, and he did the work. Whatever the stipulations in their agreement were, he honored (or exceeded). Each job he took had different content, different expectations, different levels of time and effort required, and different specific stipulations. Since he was working for a living, he took on some projects he wasn't interested in, but he didn't take any on that he wasn't able to deliver. He had no obligation unless he accepted the job, up to that point he was free to take the project, or to pass on it.

Would this idea be very substantially different from that type of project?
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I wouldn't pay a penny.

It'd start a bad precedent that would ultimately diminish the overall output than incentivize greater participation.
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I think the real solution to getting more VASSAL mods out. Would be to over a period of time make it easier for non IT types to make mods. Unfortunately I suspect that the guys working on VASSAL are all pretty highly skilled they may not even be thinking of stuff to make it easier for laymen.
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I imagine you'd have huge problems if anyone decided to enforce copyright laws.

Especially the title seems to suggest paying someone else to basically use another medium for someone's work.

If you want to see how that works, try reading a Harry Potter book on to a webcast - you probably don't even have to try charging money for it - as I think the mere act of doing it would probably violate copyright laws ... but then try charging money for it.

See how long it takes before you get contacted by a legal team. Granted Ms Rowling has a lot more financial flexibility than your average wargame company -either operating or defunct.

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egg_salad wrote:
I can't speak for Joel/Judd or any of the other VASSAL mod authors, but I would definitely be willing to create VASSAL mods in exchange for copies of games I want. If there's a game in my collection that really needs a VASSAL module I'd make one if someone spared me the annoyance of trying to get a decent copy of the graphics. I'm not aware of any games I own that are in glaring need of a VASSAL module, but I could be wrong.

As an author of one VASSAL module of 'this is how not to do it' quality and a second in the works I'm probably not the best person to be chiming in but I will anyway. The above comment pretty much nails it (especially the graphics part).

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I think the real solution to getting more VASSAL mods out. Would be to over a period of time make it easier for non IT types to make mods. Unfortunately I suspect that the guys working on VASSAL are all pretty highly skilled they may not even be thinking of stuff to make it easier for laymen.

Reading over the VASSAL 4 threads a month ago there was talk about making certain things especially in regards to graphics/countersheets but I'm still not sure they have a plan on where they're going with it (v4) as platform fragmentation is a huge obstacle.
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