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Subject: Give me your honest opinion of.....WAR GAME COMPANY P500 SYSTEMS & PRODUCTION SCHEDULES (4th in a series) rss

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Jack Stalica
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My Take: I have mixed feelings on these. I suspect it's pretty much essential these days for war game companies to have P500 systems to help gauge the public's interest in a particular game for financial reasons. But it drives me nuts when I see a game that I badly want languish for years and years (and often several credit card number changes) before either getting into production or getting dropped - and possibly picked up by another company.

As far as production schedules go, I love the concept - I just wish they were always realistic. Too often they are not (for reasons that are often murky) and the communication with the gaming public is abysmal (with one notable exception). I think gamers are a pretty reasonable bunch and getting regular updates with explanations would go a long way towards smoothing over "fan rage". Within reason. Don't delay production (for whatever reason) for 5+ years once it hits it's P500 and expect us to treat you nice. On the other hand - as witnessed recently with a number of games have been released with multiple (often 5+) pages of errata, misprints, play balance problems, etc. - some clearly appear to have been rushed out the door to meet a schedule which have resulted in almost immediate V2.0 living rules and errata. An almost certain "patch kit" or 2nd printing/edition will be required to "fix" all the mistakes. I think a well-produced war game should have very minimal errata not exceeding a page and have been well play tested for balance (no matter how complex or the scale involved - adjust your development time accordingly!). I didn't pay for a "game kit", I paid for a game that ought to be playable right out of the box.

Your Take: Do you think P500 systems should always be "the rule"? Should there be a finite limit on the amount of time spent on a P500 list (how long?)? Should a company ignore or skip the P500 if they think they have a "hit"? Is KickStarter a good alternative?

Are you satisfied with your favorite war game company's communications? Do you think companies should live and die by aggressive production schedules? Or would you prefer that they slow down and make sure the product is done right (with serious dedicated designers, developers, and play testers/proof readers) the 1st time round. Should they post their designs online and let the gaming public assist them in crafting a better product? Do you view compiling lots of errata so you can play the game as inevitable? Do you require well play tested play balance or are you fine with unbalanced history to be gamed as such?

Gentlemen, the floor is yours....

Curious Jack
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Lucius Cornelius
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With all the unplayed games, I don't mind delays as much as incomplete rulebooks with careless mistakes in them.
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I'm a huge fan of GMT and their preorder system. I love their monthly newsletter keeping me updated. Their delays aren't usually awful. It's not uncommon for games to slip 6 months or so. But that's par for the course really. Video games, books, movies, albums, they all tend to slip.

I will say, pre-orders in any medium tend to make creators lazy when it comes to quality. There have been numerous high profile scandals in video games involving games with enormous preorders being pushed out the door essentially unfinished. I haven't personally encountered any gaming company that's messed up a game that badly. Although GMT's recent Supreme Commander looks like it got botched pretty badly.

Although it is easier to "patch" a board game than it is to patch a video game, movie or book. You just tell people to play it differently. Still, I'd hate to see this let game publishers get progressively lazier with the quality of their rules and designs.

Lately I've been playing a lot of No Retreat: The Russian Front, and you pretty much have to completely ignore it's printed rulebook, there has been so much important errata. I really need to get the living rules printed out so I don't have to mess around on my iPad constantly to reference the rules. It's frustrating.
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Ocean Druen
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I love the P500 system and I think it is great for the business. It shows a gauge of what is popular for the publishers, and allows less popular subjects to build enough steam to get released.

As for how long can games languish on the pre-ordering system; I'm not sure I have an answer for that. I waited I think 5 years for Angola to be (re)released by MMP, maybe that long for War of the Suns too but I was very happy with the result!

Both of these systems do not charge until around shipping time which makes it easy for me (and to date I have only canceled one of these types of orders). what is more difficult are systems that require me to buy in at the time of the pre-order. This is more because of the Total War fiasco (which I did not partake) but I feel less inclined with these smaller companies that their game will be released even though there are a few that I want. also many of these companies do not have a policy of when my money get refunded or when they decide to cancel a game.
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Don Barree
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I like the GMT pre-order system and regularly participate but am not happy with the high shipping charges. I don't know if it's feasible for their business model but I would like to see a two-tier P500 system where orders placed before the game makes the cut get free or reduced shipping. I think that would encourage more people to place orders sooner and reward the early supporters of the games.
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You know, if you actually check the shipping label on your P500 purchases, you'd see they are already massively subsidizing it.
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Blake Walker
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Your concerns (seems to me) center around design/development, product and communications ...

Design/Development is what it is ...I mean, how many people do this for a living exclusively? I don't know, but my guess is 'very few' -- which means life comes first. Games are also largely artistic endeavors, where I imagine your lead time can twist and turn like a country road. Art just doesn't conform neatly to structured scheduled.

Why get angry about that? If waiting on a game is the worse thing that ever happens to me, I'm gonna have a pretty easy life, y'know?

And it ain't like my pipeline of games ever gets drained I will always have a game to play while I wait for the bright, shiny new one that just got P500'd.

All that said, I agree completely about broken games -- I would gladly wait longer to ensure that a game is complete when released. But sweet stuff happens sometimes. We're all human.

Communications?

Man, things have come so far since I started gaming ...this venue (BGG) is proof of that. I have no complaints. Besides this is a niche hobby -- with a relatively small community of participants ...with a minimum of effort you can readily find out whatever you might be curious about. But as with all things, you might or might not like what you hear. Life's like that.

As to designers and developers letting the gaming public assist them in crafting a better product ...well, I can tell you what my answer would be Translated from the original US Army, it says 'No Thank You, But I Truly Appreciate Your Concern'. That would be just too many chiefs, I think ...

I think the hobby works pretty well ...which isn't to say we shouldn't all be open to new ideas.


Blake



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David
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sullafelix wrote:
With all the unplayed games, I don't mind delays as much as incomplete rulebooks with careless mistakes in them.

What he said. Delays are perfectly okay. Pages of errata, map errors, game aid chart errors are not. This is a significant problem in the industry (wargames) at the moment. Many an excellent game is being tainted. Many gamers are are happy to to print out new sets of rules, I'm not.
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Ron A
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I'd rather have the worst P500 system than Kickstarter. Obviously, companies love Kickstarter, they get $$ up front. From the consumer perspective it's different. With Kickstarter, your $$ is gone with no promise of ever getting anything. There are no time limits on KS for when the creators have to get you something, you could wait years and STILL get nothing. Out of 8 games/game accessories on KS that I've backed, 2 were on time, 6 late, of those 6, 1 was shipped (a year late), waiting on 5, 2 of the 5 may or may not make it (they will be almost a year late if they make their 3rd announced deadline-- they missed the 1st 2). On the plus side for Kickstarter, stretch goals can get you more game for your money.

Contrast that with pre-ordering. No charge until it ships. 100% improvement over Kickstarter. Some companies are very, nay, incredibly generous with their pre-order terms. I just pre-ordered Band of Brothers: Ghost Panzer from Worthington last week, and it will be shipping in 2-3 weeks.

Depending on the company, there are other benefits. I P500'd The Hunters: German U-Boats at War, 1939-43 last winter. Still hasn't shipped, BUT, 2 weeks ago GMT sends out an email, I can take 50% off any game of theirs since I did a pre-order this year.

Count me among the P500 fans. As has already been said, I have plenty of games to play while I am waiting for the pre-orders to come out. I get worked up about delays from my KS games, but never about delays from P500 games.
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Enrico Viglino
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KS would result in a lot less new purchases for me.

P-500, especially how GMT does it with the added benefit of the fall
sale is a very insidious and effective tool at parting me with my money.
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Judd Vance
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My take is get it right. Washington's War was delayed about a year in order to work out some details. Today when I play it, I'm glad they took the time.

I don't mind KS if it's from a reputable company such as GMT, Worthington, MMP, DVG, and Columbia. I agree that it sucks to see it linger, but when it comes to P500, too often, I wait until it hits and confirms and then buy it from Coolstuff. With KS, I know if it's to be, it's up to me. If not for KS, Lincoln's War would have never happened.

I also would like to see companies KS more editions after the first run sells out. That seems ideal as the artwork is complete. All they need is the money. Example: Monty's Gamble (Yo, MMP... listen to me on this one!). It's no risk/all reward and you don't have huge delays waiting on playtesting and artwork.

Production schedules are always too generous. I work for a company that does billions in sales and it takes us 9 weeks to get something from China so when some P500 company claims they can do it in 6 weeks, I laugh and multiply the estimate by about 2.5, so I'm not disappointed.
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My opinion (does anybody ever give a dishonest opinion?) is that you are asking bunch of questions with only tenuous connections, and frequently the way that you've phrased the question presumes the answer.


>Do you think P500 systems should always be "the rule"?

If needed for the company to survive.

>Should there be a finite limit on the amount of time spent on a P500 list (how long?)?

At some point the company might be well advised to pull a game that is languishing, because a game that cannot even muster the preorder numbers is unlikely to be a commercial success. Though there are of course exceptions. But I cannot say that there should *always* be a limit of xyz months.

>Should a company ignore or skip the P500 if they think they have a "hit"?

That's up to the people running the company - depends on whether the company has the assets to survive if they bet wrongly. Just because *I* am interested in a game doesn't mean that it will be a hit. The opposite seems more probable ...

>Is KickStarter a good alternative?

No. At least not from my point of view. I am willing to preorder, but I refuse to use Kickstarter. But this question risks derailing the topic into yet another pro/con Kickstarter thread.

>Are you satisfied with your favorite war game company's communications?

Yes. Well, I miss the Gamers' communications, as they gave a look into the workings of the company. But, good enough.

>Do you think companies should live and die by aggressive production schedules?

I am not sure precisely what you mean by the question. Companies should do what they need to keep functioning.

>Or would you prefer that they slow down and make sure the product is done right (with serious dedicated designers, developers, and play testers/proof readers) the 1st time round.

This is quite a loaded question, isn't it, rather along the lines of "Have you stopped beating your dog yet?" It isn't really an either/or situation. Companies need to do what's necessary to produce a good product. There are some companies/designers that seem unable to actually produce anything, as they are addicted to tinkering and tweaking. There are others that seem more interested in the pace of production than in the quality of product. I would prefer that companies produce the games that I want, when I want, at the pace and price that I want. Of course, what I *want* and what is possible or commercially feasible are different things.

>Should they post their designs online and let the gaming public assist them in crafting a better product?

No. A game is one person's vision - I am interested in that, rather than design by committee. Designs benefit from feedback (that's what playtesters and proofreaders are for), but feedback and the design process are separate.

>Do you view compiling lots of errata so you can play the game as inevitable?

"Lots" is such an interesting weasel-word, that can mean different things to different people. I regard some errata as inevitable. "Lots", or what *I* would consider lots, of errata is the sign of inadequate development or testing. More significant than the amount of errata, though, is the seriousness of it. All errata is not equal. A showstopping problem (scenarios that are literally unwinnable, common situations where the rules provide either no, or contradictory, answers) is much more serious than a missed unit ID.

"Do you require well play tested play balance or are you fine with unbalanced history to be gamed as such?"

I'm not sure that it has to be an either/or. There are ways to make lopsided situations into playable, relatively balanced games. I'm not interested in a game where one side faces a hopeless task in terms of winning the game; and I am equally uninterested in a game where the history has been fudged (or ignored) in order to produce a balanced game.
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Gordon Watson
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I'm based in the UK and no longer use P500 for either GMT or MMP - I used to place many P500 orders but shipping and handling charges (to raise the VAT) have rendered them unviable economically. I still buy games from both companies but only when they hit retail.

So, I am happy with the games both companies produce and therefore whatever design and prodction processes they go through. I am also happy that the P500 allows them to get their games produced but I am disappointed that I can no longer participate in it, for both financial reasons, as the P500 discount/fall-sale were nice, and because it means I no longer contribute to get the games made, even though they ultimately get my support when I buy the game.

I would like both GMT and MMP to look into bulk despatch of P500 orders to the UK and Europe and for a fulfilment company to then on-ship to individual customers who have P500'd them. This model will produce much cheaper shipping and avoid the VAT handling problem as well as helping me support GMT/MMP directly.
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Carl Marl
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I like the P500 system, Kickstarter not at all. I fear, however, that the P500 system will be replaced by crowd funding.
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Tyler
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fambans wrote:
I like the P500 system, Kickstarter not at all. I fear, however, that the P500 system will be replaced by crowd funding.


Ditto. If you want an object lesson in how not to manage a customer pre-order system, look no further than Lock 'n Load Publishing.
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Mark J.
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sullafelix wrote:
With all the unplayed games, I don't mind delays as much as incomplete rulebooks with careless mistakes in them. :(


^^^^^this.this.this. I will gladly prepay for my p500 order, but don't send me a game with map and counter errata.

Kickstarter, no way. I'll give my bank number to a representative of the nigerian royal family before doing that.
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Gord Dickson
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I haven't had a P500 come through for me yet so my thoughts may change, but right now it's a bit like a distant mirage. My only foray into Kickstarter hasn't resulted in anything on my doorstep either... Sniffle. And I've heard nothing from my Secret Santa Grog. I guess I'll have another glass of wine.
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Mike W
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P500 has taught me to appreciate the sweet, sweet feeling of anticipation. And you get lots of it! There may be a little sarcasm in here, but I am at least partially serious.

I also think it is a great way for small wargame companies to manage business risk and get direct customer input. Without it, I think our choices for wargames in this day and age would be a lot less.

As with other posters, Kickstarter I like a lot less, mostly because it transfers almost all the risk to the customer.
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I will preorder games after they have hit their required pre order numbers and are greenlit. I have been burnt too many times to get in any earlier.

I do not use KickStarter.

I far prefer it when companies just produce a game and I can buy it. Victory Point gets a lot of custom from me because in general the first time I hear about their game it is ready for purchase.

That said I have never had to be n the business side of making these games. Perhaps it is needed. I have no idea.



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Jack Stalica
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sgtmath wrote:
Design/Development is what it is ...I mean, how many people do this for a living exclusively? I don't know, but my guess is 'very few' -- which means life comes first.


IMO, this is an "apologist" opinion to justify sub-par or shoddy work. Sorry, but I hate it. I want solid product for solid coin. Besides, there many excellent examples from the Euro (and war gaming) world of outstanding, virtually error-free games with great production values right out of the gate. Are you implying that the war game companies are unable to provide the same level of professionalism in their products? I hope not...

sgtmath wrote:
Games are also largely artistic endeavors, where I imagine your lead time can twist and turn like a country road. Art just doesn't conform neatly to structured scheduled.

All that said, I agree completely about broken games -- I would gladly wait longer to ensure that a game is complete when released. But sweet stuff happens sometimes. We're all human.


IMO, if more time is needed for a great product - then by all means take it! No disagreement here...

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Hoss Cartwright
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P500 is the way of cowards. If you are not sure of an idea, don't rig up voting schemes to gauge support. Just have the balls to release something you believe in. Marginal games simply wont be made and good riddance. What you need are ideas that can be winners and printed in large quantities, not marginal rubbish. Fewer and better games, not more marginal game ideas. No more games that just keep people employed like some grind but true pieces of art.

Example: Tyler Perry movies. He makes like 50+ a week, and they are all the same tired ideas rehashed over and over again. They are horrible.

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Hoss Cartwright
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Oh and Kickstarter is a scam. Nothing more. Reminds me of those old Dragnet shows where Jack Webb works the Bunko desk.
 
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Jack Stalica
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airjudden wrote:
My take is get it right. Washington's War was delayed about a year in order to work out some details. Today when I play it, I'm glad they took the time.

I don't mind KS if it's from a reputable company such as GMT, Worthington, MMP, DVG, and Columbia. I agree that it sucks to see it linger, but when it comes to P500, too often, I wait until it hits and confirms and then buy it from Coolstuff. With KS, I know if it's to be, it's up to me. If not for KS, Lincoln's War would have never happened.

I also would like to see companies KS more editions after the first run sells out. That seems ideal as the artwork is complete. All they need is the money. Example: Monty's Gamble (Yo, MMP... listen to me on this one!). It's no risk/all reward and you don't have huge delays waiting on playtesting and artwork.

Production schedules are always too generous. I work for a company that does billions in sales and it takes us 9 weeks to get something from China so when some P500 company claims they can do it in 6 weeks, I laugh and multiply the estimate by about 2.5, so I'm not disappointed.


I'm totally in agreement.
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Jack Stalica
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Hoss Cartwright wrote:
Oh and Kickstarter is a scam. Nothing more. Reminds me of those old Dragnet shows where Jack Webb works the Bunko desk.


Nah...my Guns of Gettysburg KS project was extremely well run and ahead of schedule. Totally professional IMO.
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Enrico Viglino
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Hoss Cartwright wrote:
P500 is the way of cowards. If you are not sure of an idea, don't rig up voting schemes to gauge support. Just have the balls to release something you believe in. Marginal games simply wont be made and good riddance. What you need are ideas that can be winners and printed in large quantities, not marginal rubbish. Fewer and better games, not more marginal game ideas. No more games that just keep people employed like some grind but true pieces of art.




I, for one, am quite glad that topics with limited support are getting
published. That systems like Musket & Pike, covering an era which
never got a lot of support have been able to prove themselves in a
manner which probably couldn't have happened without P-500. I guess
if all you like is WWII, you'd prefer that the hobby only sold known
quantities.
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