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Subject: Quick impressions from Pax West rss

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darksurtur
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I had the opportunity to demo this game at Pax West and thought I'd share some of my initial impressions. Some caveats upfront, in the interest of full disclosure - a) this post is based on a demo, so it may not be representative of what the full game has to offer, b) this post is based on a single play, so it is unlikely to capture any particularly subtle or intricate nuances, c) the game is not finished, although it is pretty far advanced, and some significant aspects may change prior to final release, and d) I have not played the Pathfinder card game, so this post is in some ways an initial impression of that particular game sub-genre. And as there is a new print-and-play available, I'd encourage everyone to try this game themselves, time permitting, to calibrate against their own preference.

Overall, in a nutshell, I did not enjoy the demo, and am glad I didn't pre-order or pledge for the game. In many ways, I think this reflects my particular gaming tastes - I do not believe I am the target audience for adventure card games, as I'll detail a little more below. But in other ways, I think this is a honest reflection that the game, in my opinion, tries to do too much, and in doing so, does very little well.

Let's take perhaps my most visceral reaction - the card design. I found the game visually unappealing, in large part because of the team's layout choices. Worse still, the design actively hindered gameplay, in ways that seem avoidable. There is a horribly inconsistent use of iconography, in that some concepts are described purely through text, others using icons only, and still others a mix of both. The icons that are used are bizarre and unintuitive. The text is in a tiny font that is hard to read from nearby - forget about parsing anything across the table.

But perhaps most damning for this sort of game, the card design erodes the game's sense of theme and place. It is, I think, not particularly controversial to say that this game is mechanically rote, given how heavily it pulls from its RPG inspirations - it hews largely to tried-and-true skill check mechanisms, with some standard CCG lifebleed and dice modifier mechanics thrown in. This game's ostensible competitive advantage is its unique contemporary fantasy theme, and it dribbles out here and there in the scenario structure, card names, or interplay between cards. But once again here the card design interferes. I hear the game has fantastic art - but I don't know that, because it's locked away in a template covered with unnecessary borders and a vomit of microscopic (but gameplay-relevant) information. For fans of, say, Netrunner, with its full-bleed art and clean design, this game will sorely disappoint, regardless of the quality of the underlying assets.

Many of these design choices were not random. I can see the underlying logic that drove them. It's this logic, however, that is the game's largest, and perhaps fatal, flaw. Its production can't match its scope. The result is that the game strives for component minimalism and mechanical maximalism, which is not a particularly pleasing combination. You don't directly encounter the game's thematic elements, for example - you come across numerical markers you then need to cross-reference to the scenario set up cards to know what you're fighting. Now combine this with fairly complex card subsystems where many of your cards are dead in a particular situation, but it's almost impossible to internalize all the relevant information on each card. The result is that much of the time you spend "playing" this game is devoted to upkeep of the game's systems themselves. If the individual gameplay choices you made were more momentous or fraught with true tension, then this cumbersome bookkeeping and indirectness wouldn't be as much of a problem, of course. But in keeping with its pen-and-paper roots, this game relies heavily on dice checks; determining the best statistical option in a given situation is often trivial, robbing the game of much-needed tension.

I fully admit again that this may come down to a deep incompatibility between my gaming preferences and this game's overall objectives. Clearly, Pathfinder has found a niche and enough lasting success to drive multiple rounds of releases. I sincerely hope Lone Shark Games reaches similar heights with this release. But my tolerance for bookkeeping, that is, for mechanically executing code, is pretty low. Absent something more compelling - something that more uniquely takes advantage of the face-to-face nature of tabletop gameplay, or that strives for more transcendent narrative - it's difficult for me to imagine playing this again, much less an entire campaign.
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Jason Brown
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That's a thoughtful, well-written critique. I sincerely hope you're wrong...but I appreciate the honest look and the only 3rd party session report 17 months after the campaign.
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Trent DePonte
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darksurtur wrote:
I had the opportunity to demo this game at Pax West and thought I'd share some of my initial impressions. Some caveats upfront, in the interest of full disclosure - a) this post is based on a demo, so it may not be representative of what the full game has to offer, b) this post is based on a single play, so it is unlikely to capture any particularly subtle or intricate nuances, c) the game is not finished, although it is pretty far advanced, and some significant aspects may change prior to final release, and d) I have not played the Pathfinder card game, so this post is in some ways an initial impression of that particular game sub-genre.

Overall, in a nutshell, I did not enjoy the demo, and am glad I didn't pre-order or pledge for the game. In many ways, I think this reflects my particular gaming tastes - I do not believe I am the target audience for adventure card games, as I'll detail a little more below. But in other ways, I think this is a honest reflection that the game, in my opinion, tries to do too much, and in doing so, does very little well.

Let's take perhaps my most visceral reaction - the card design. I found the game visually unappealing, in large part because of team's layout choices. Worse still, the design actively hindered gameplay, in ways that seem avoidable. There is a horribly inconsistent use of iconography, in that some concepts are described purely through text, others using icons only, and still others a mix of both. The icons that are used are bizarre and unintuitive. The text is in a tiny font that is hard to read from nearby - forget about parsing anything across the table.

But perhaps most damning for this sort of game, the card design erodes the game's sense of theme and place. It is, I think, not particularly controversial to say that this game is mechanically rote, given how heavily it pulls from its RPG inspirations - it hews largely to tried-and-true skill check mechanisms, with some standard CCG lifebleed and dice modifier mechanics thrown in. This game's ostensible competitive advantage is its unique contemporary fantasy theme, and it dribbles out here and there in the scenario structure, card names, or interplay between cards. But once again here the card design interferes. I hear the game has fantastic art - but I don't know that, because it's locked away in a template covered with unnecessary borders and a vomit of microscopic (but gameplay-relevant) information. For fans, of say, Netrunner, with its full-bleed art and clean design, this game will sorely disappoint, regardless of the quality of the underlying assets.

Many of these design choices were not random. I can see the underlying logic that drove them. It's this logic, however, that is the game's largest, and perhaps fatal, flaw. Its production can't match its scope. The result is that the game strives for component minimalism and mechanical maximalism, which is not a particularly pleasing combination. You don't directly encounter the game's thematic elements, for example - you come across numerical markers you then need to cross-reference to the scenario set up cards to know what you're fighting. Now combine this with fairly complex card subsystems where many of your cards are dead in a particular situation, but it's almost impossible to internalize all the relevant information on each card. The result is that much of the time you spend "playing" this game is devoted to upkeep of the game's systems themselves. If the individual gameplay choices you made were more momentous or fraught with true tension, then this cumbersome bookkeeping and indirectness wouldn't be as much of a problem, of course. But in keeping with its pen-and-paper roots, this game relies heavily on dice checks; determining the best statistical option in a given situation is often trivial, robbing the game of much-needed tension.

I fully admit again that this may come down to a deep incompatibility between my gaming preferences and this game's overall objectives. Clearly, Pathfinder has found a niche and enough lasting success to drive multiple rounds of releases. I sincerely hope Lone Shark Games reaches similar heights with this release. But my tolerance for bookkeeping, that is, for mechanically executing code, is pretty low. Absent something more compelling - something that more uniquely takes advantage of the face-to-face nature of a tabletop gameplay, or that strives for more transcendent narrative - it's difficult for me to imagine playing this again, much less an entire campaign.


I haven't had a chance to demo the game but I agree about the aesthetic elements you bring up.

They have released a new print and play version of the game that includes the final art and, frankly, I find it a bit embarrassing. This is the best artwork they could get for a game that raised over three hundred thousand dollars?

It's not just a matter of taste or style either, the art is objectively sub-par. Proportions are bad, perspective is bad, lighting/shadows are bad.

The layout is also rather jarring. The bright primary colors and hard edges really clash with the theme of the game.
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Joke Meister
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MAJBrown22 wrote:
That's a thoughtful, well-written critique. I sincerely hope you're wrong...but I appreciate the honest look and the only 3rd party session report 17 months after the campaign.


I'm a backer and I have to admit that the lack of session reports is also making me worried. Given the amount of times this game has been demoed, I would have expected people to be posting their excitement at playing the demo in these forums. Instead, the silence is making me wonder if people were underwhelmed and aren't posting anything for fear of a backlash from fans.

With all that said, I am enjoying playing PACG (albeit in app form) so I will continue to hold out hope that I will enjoy this game as well.
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Will Martin
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Even as a huge fan, I'm worried about the new graphical layout. :/

This does not bode extremely well.
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Jokemeister wrote:


I'm a backer and I have to admit that the lack of session reports is also making me worried. Given the amount of times this game has been demoed, I would have expected people to be posting their excitement at playing the demo in these forums. Instead, the silence is making me wonder if people were underwhelmed and aren't posting anything for fear of a backlash from fans.

With all that said, I am enjoying playing PACG (albeit in app form) so I will continue to hold out hope that I will enjoy this game as well.


i'm worried too by same reason.
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I still have faith but I appreciate the critical view. Very well done and provides food for thought. Thank you.
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darksurtur wrote:
I had the opportunity to demo this game at Pax West and thought I'd share some of my initial impressions. Some caveats upfront, in the interest of full disclosure - a) this post is based on a demo, so it may not be representative of what the full game has to offer, b) this post is based on a single play, so it is unlikely to capture any particularly subtle or intricate nuances, c) the game is not finished, although it is pretty far advanced, and some significant aspects may change prior to final release, and d) I have not played the Pathfinder card game, so this post is in some ways an initial impression of that particular game sub-genre. And as there is a new print-and-play available, I'd encourage everyone to try this game themselves, time permitting, to calibrate against their own preference.

Overall, in a nutshell, I did not enjoy the demo, and am glad I didn't pre-order or pledge for the game. In many ways, I think this reflects my particular gaming tastes - I do not believe I am the target audience for adventure card games, as I'll detail a little more below. But in other ways, I think this is a honest reflection that the game, in my opinion, tries to do too much, and in doing so, does very little well.

Let's take perhaps my most visceral reaction - the card design. I found the game visually unappealing, in large part because of the team's layout choices. Worse still, the design actively hindered gameplay, in ways that seem avoidable. There is a horribly inconsistent use of iconography, in that some concepts are described purely through text, others using icons only, and still others a mix of both. The icons that are used are bizarre and unintuitive. The text is in a tiny font that is hard to read from nearby - forget about parsing anything across the table.

But perhaps most damning for this sort of game, the card design erodes the game's sense of theme and place. It is, I think, not particularly controversial to say that this game is mechanically rote, given how heavily it pulls from its RPG inspirations - it hews largely to tried-and-true skill check mechanisms, with some standard CCG lifebleed and dice modifier mechanics thrown in. This game's ostensible competitive advantage is its unique contemporary fantasy theme, and it dribbles out here and there in the scenario structure, card names, or interplay between cards. But once again here the card design interferes. I hear the game has fantastic art - but I don't know that, because it's locked away in a template covered with unnecessary borders and a vomit of microscopic (but gameplay-relevant) information. For fans of, say, Netrunner, with its full-bleed art and clean design, this game will sorely disappoint, regardless of the quality of the underlying assets.

Many of these design choices were not random. I can see the underlying logic that drove them. It's this logic, however, that is the game's largest, and perhaps fatal, flaw. Its production can't match its scope. The result is that the game strives for component minimalism and mechanical maximalism, which is not a particularly pleasing combination. You don't directly encounter the game's thematic elements, for example - you come across numerical markers you then need to cross-reference to the scenario set up cards to know what you're fighting. Now combine this with fairly complex card subsystems where many of your cards are dead in a particular situation, but it's almost impossible to internalize all the relevant information on each card. The result is that much of the time you spend "playing" this game is devoted to upkeep of the game's systems themselves. If the individual gameplay choices you made were more momentous or fraught with true tension, then this cumbersome bookkeeping and indirectness wouldn't be as much of a problem, of course. But in keeping with its pen-and-paper roots, this game relies heavily on dice checks; determining the best statistical option in a given situation is often trivial, robbing the game of much-needed tension.

I fully admit again that this may come down to a deep incompatibility between my gaming preferences and this game's overall objectives. Clearly, Pathfinder has found a niche and enough lasting success to drive multiple rounds of releases. I sincerely hope Lone Shark Games reaches similar heights with this release. But my tolerance for bookkeeping, that is, for mechanically executing code, is pretty low. Absent something more compelling - something that more uniquely takes advantage of the face-to-face nature of tabletop gameplay, or that strives for more transcendent narrative - it's difficult for me to imagine playing this again, much less an entire campaign.


Oh oh... You confirm my own fears...

:-(
 
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IMCarnochan wrote:
I still have faith but I appreciate the critical view. Very well done and provides food for thought. Thank you.


Yes, the write up in the OP is appreciated. When the 8/30 Kickstarter update came out, I looked at the symbol guide for a long time and I'd absolutely agree it's a bit difficult to follow. I wasn't sure if it was because I was looking at them out of content (i.e. not playing a demo), but I just couldn't grasp the flow on the print and play cards.
 
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Magic Pink
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I am losing confidence in this but let's remember the OP even said this is not a game aimed at them.
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Magic Pink wrote:
I am losing confidence in this but let's remember the OP even said this is not a game aimed at them.


That's a fair point, but I do think if you go and look at the print and play cards, I think the design/layout observations are valid. I know art appeal is also subjective, but I'd add me to the group of people that thinks the print and play cards are inconsistent in quality/style.

I also don't know if it's a "quick and dirty" edit for print and play and the demo, but (to me) it looked like lots of Adobe layers (if that's the right term). Where someone took the artwork and then pasted text and icons over the pictures (Mind, Body, Soul, Rage). There's no integration of the symbols or any type of consistent framing that carries over to all the cards.

Another example - I had a really hard time reading some of the Omen cards -- where the black and white smoke mixes and text was inserted over the mixed area. Or white text with what looks like a shadow effect was put over a black background, on top of a swirling icon.

Again, if the cards were done that way for the demo or because they're still editing layouts and fine-tuning values or symbols, great. If those print and play cards are representative of what we're getting? Trouble.
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Jason Brown
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As far as symbology, it seems to me that it will become easier and more intuitive with plays. The update said:

Quote:
This shorthand has proven immensely useful in card writing, and seemed to go over great with players at Gen Con.

I hope they're not exaggerating and that the general consensus differs from the OP's experience, but we only have this one, single session report to compare it to. I have faith in LSG that their play testing will result in a system that plays well, but I'm also a bit concerned.
 
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i don't think symbology will be a trouble. several plays will heal it.

my major complaint about aesthetics is about the wide margins. i would prefer the image arrives to the very edge of the card.

i would like to see flavor texts in the cards (this offer a clue about how exactly does my hero use a tungsten cube for improve his mind?). but it would be only possible by reducing the margins, and may be even then they will fit it.
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Craig Stockwell
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I appreciate darksurtur taking the time to share their impressions -- I had a different take when I played at PAX (posted on another thread https://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/23608838#23608838). I reckon'd I'd chime with some related observations ...

Card symbols: Once you get the idea about how assisting works, the symbols -- left, right, etc. -- make a lot more sense (and were almost immediately intuitive). The starburst/starburst-in-a-diamond took a bit longer to get used to.

Card icons: More initially confusing for me than the symbols -- in part because the positions on the character card change (characters can assist with different virtues)(e.g.: Ruby Doomsday can assist the Saint to her left with Soul, whereas Sam Yee can assist left with Mind). Also, in the current layout, the icons are pretty small -- to me it looks like blue splat, red splat, purple splat, and green shape. If I pick up the card and look closely, then I see it's red skull blue flame (Soul ... flamey?), red skull (Rage, makes sense), purple 'head profile' (Mind, okay good), and green upper torso (Body, got it).

Card text: I found them just barely okay to read with unaided middle-aged eyes -- when they were right in front of me. Across the table, I agree it's not happening ... but I don't know if that's a bad thing; the 'real estate' cost to have larger text on a card isn't worth the payoff -- because I shouldn't need to read other Saints' cards from afar, I think. If another player wants to offer me some help, they'll tell me what it is. Despite my "alpha gamer" desire to know everything on the table, in a pure co-op I don't think I need to.

I definitely would like to see the art larger (preferably edge-to-edge) and the other elements cover it the least possible ... while providing the game information required. And that IS a big challenge -- but LSG has a lot of big brains, so they should be able to make it happen. =)
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Chris
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Mike seems quite open to feedback about Lone Shark's games...maybe post ideas for improvement to the KS comments. It might not be too late to change things.
 
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cbrua wrote:
Mike seems quite open to feedback about Lone Shark's games...maybe post ideas for improvement to the KS comments. It might not be too late to change things.


I'm not sure. From the update the mailed out yesterday:

Quote:
The game design is locked down, the art is all in, and the card layout templates are done.


An update with pictures from some of the cards that were provided in the print and play using the "locked down" template format is what we'd need to see for comparison. But even the update suggests it's "pretty close" to what the final design will be.

If they've locked everything down in anticipation of printing this next month (also, from the update), I'm not sure a total change of layout is possible.

Quote:
The fonts are still being adjusted, and the flavortext has yet to be imported, but otherwise it's pretty close to what actual cards will look like.


They did ask for feedback, so who knows.
 
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darksurtur
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At the demo, I was told the layout is close to final, and that the borders around the art were not changeable since they commissioned square pieces.
 
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Mike Selinker
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Phantom Load wrote:
I also don't know if it's a "quick and dirty" edit for print and play and the demo, but (to me) it looked like lots of Adobe layers (if that's the right term). Where someone took the artwork and then pasted text and icons over the pictures (Mind, Body, Soul, Rage). There's no integration of the symbols or any type of consistent framing that carries over to all the cards.


While I would normally never respond to someone's critique of a game of mine, I did feel I needed to address this: Yes, the demo cards are indeed built exactly in that quick and dirty way, and the final cards will be not be built that way. Though the graphic design templates are done, the imported-text-and-art files were not yet ready before we had to get them built for PAX. So any issues you have with the demo cards' physical builds will be resolved by the time we finish the graphic design.

Mike
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mike selinker wrote:

While I would normally never respond to someone's critique of a game of mine, I did feel I needed to address this: Yes, the demo cards are indeed built exactly in that quick and dirty way, and the final cards will be not be built that way. Though the graphic design templates are done, the imported-text-and-art files were not yet ready before we had to get them built for PAX. So any issues you have with the demo cards' physical builds will be resolved by the time we finish the graphic design.

Mike


Excellent - thanks for the clarification. It's what I assumed but just wasn't sure. I appreciate the update.
 
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mike selinker wrote:
Phantom Load wrote:
I also don't know if it's a "quick and dirty" edit for print and play and the demo, but (to me) it looked like lots of Adobe layers (if that's the right term). Where someone took the artwork and then pasted text and icons over the pictures (Mind, Body, Soul, Rage). There's no integration of the symbols or any type of consistent framing that carries over to all the cards.


While I would normally never respond to someone's critique of a game of mine, I did feel I needed to address this: Yes, the demo cards are indeed built exactly in that quick and dirty way, and the final cards will be not be built that way. Though the graphic design templates are done, the imported-text-and-art files were not yet ready before we had to get them built for PAX. So any issues you have with the demo cards' physical builds will be resolved by the time we finish the graphic design.

Mike


Ah, the old ostrich approach eh?

Seems like a great way to handle critique.
 
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FellintoOblivion wrote:
Ah, the old ostrich approach eh?

Seems like a great way to handle critique.

Why would any designer respond to critique of their game? People are entitled to their opinion. A response is unwarranted.

Answer rules questions? Sure.

Provide insight on design decisions? Great.

Argue with people that do not like your game? No way.
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cbrua wrote:
FellintoOblivion wrote:
Ah, the old ostrich approach eh?

Seems like a great way to handle critique.

Why would any designer respond to critique of their game? People are entitled to their opinion. A response is unwarranted.

Answer rules questions? Sure.

Provide insight on design decisions? Great.

Argue with people that do not like your game? No way.


Agreed.
The industry benefits from free expressions of consumer opinions. Corrections of gamebreaking/preview-breaking misplays, or clarification of "beta" vs "final release" differences in components, absolutely. But a publisher/designer should not attack or argue with opinions contained in honest consumer previews.
Mike's response was perfectly suitable.
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dtcarson wrote:
cbrua wrote:
FellintoOblivion wrote:
Ah, the old ostrich approach eh?

Seems like a great way to handle critique.

Why would any designer respond to critique of their game? People are entitled to their opinion. A response is unwarranted.

Answer rules questions? Sure.

Provide insight on design decisions? Great.

Argue with people that do not like your game? No way.


Agreed.
The industry benefits from free expressions of consumer opinions. Corrections of gamebreaking/preview-breaking misplays, or clarification of "beta" vs "final release" differences in components, absolutely. But a publisher/designer should not attack or argue with opinions contained in honest consumer previews.
Mike's response was perfectly suitable.


Not only was it suitable, but it's preferred. Over-reactive, over protective and over defensive creators tend to draw people away from games real quick. @.@

I like that we're allowed to have our opinions and aren't told we're wrong for X, Y and Z reason by the creator at every step.
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cbrua wrote:
FellintoOblivion wrote:
Ah, the old ostrich approach eh?

Seems like a great way to handle critique.

Why would any designer respond to critique of their game? People are entitled to their opinion. A response is unwarranted.

Answer rules questions? Sure.

Provide insight on design decisions? Great.

Argue with people that do not like your game? No way.


Clearly you're confusing critique with criticism.

Why would a designer respond to "a detailed analysis and assessment of" their game?

Oh gee, I don't know, when you're coming to people hat in hand asking for money to make said game, maybe, just maybe, you would like to address people's thoughts on it so it makes them more likely to give you money.

If you think two people can't have a conversation about something without arguing then I understand why you have the position you do.

But hey, what do I know about designing a game? I don't have 4 Kickstarter projects that have all failed to get finished on time under my belt.
 
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FellintoOblivion wrote:
cbrua wrote:
FellintoOblivion wrote:
Ah, the old ostrich approach eh?

Seems like a great way to handle critique.

Why would any designer respond to critique of their game? People are entitled to their opinion. A response is unwarranted.

Answer rules questions? Sure.

Provide insight on design decisions? Great.

Argue with people that do not like your game? No way.


Clearly you're confusing critique with criticism.

Why would a designer respond to "a detailed analysis and assessment of" their game?

Oh gee, I don't know, when you're coming to people hat in hand asking for money to make said game, maybe, just maybe, you would like to address people's thoughts on it so it makes them more likely to give you money.

If you think two people can't have a conversation about something without arguing then I understand why you have the position you do.

But hey, what do I know about designing a game? I don't have 4 Kickstarter projects that have all failed to get finished on time under my belt.


You've just shown exactly why designers in general shy away from participating on BGG. Because no matter what they say, someone will find something to criticize them about.

And yes, you obviously don't know anything about designing a game nor Kickstarter if you think a late KS is somehow not the norm.

Jorune
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