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Subject: What I Look For in an Erratum rss

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Andrew Swan
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In this thread, Graeme Christie makes the following plea:

chomama wrote:
I really wish (designer's name) would put down the bong for 5 minutes when he attempts to make a rule clarification. (Designer's initials) contradicted himself and the rules as written time and time again in the forums, only making the rules less clear with every statement.

I'm not familiar with the incident or game that he describes, and haven't had any issues with that particular designer (which is why I'm posting this in "General Gaming"), but I sure feel his pain. I hate it when the authority on a game provides low-quality rules "clarifications". But instead of following my first instinct and joining Graeme in a well-earned rant, I'm going to make some constructive suggestions that will hopefully be taken on board by their target audience.

As a game consumer, here's what I would like the designer (by which I mean whoever is the English language authority on the game) to do when addressing a valid complaint about a game's rules (in which I include both text in the rulebook and symbols/text on cards, maps, counters, etc):

thumbsup Admit that the rules-as-written were unsatisfactory in whatever way (e.g. incomplete, self-contradictory, ambiguous, confusing, badly written, or unnecessarily complicated).

thumbsup Apologise for that lapse. People who buy a game should be able to learn it and have fun playing it without having to go on-line for errata; especially considering that many rules errors/omissions could be detected by simple proofreading or blind playtesting. The effect of a bad rulebook is to inconvenience and annoy people; the first thing that's indicated after confirming the lapse (see previous point) is an apology.

thumbsup Clarify what the rule actually is, i.e. issue a revised rule that is the opposite of all the negative adjectives I used above, i.e. complete, concise, and accurate. It's not good enough for designers to make a hasty or ill-considered comment about a rule; as Graeme points out, that kind of shooting from the hip often only leads to more confusion and more questions, and in more extreme cases, erodes players' confidence in the designer's competence to answer rules questions at all.

thumbsup Publish the clarification in a suitable way, ideally on the publisher's web page for that game. Having a single authoritative source for errata is way better than posting multiple clarifications to multiple threads/forums on BGG or CSW (God save me from having to find anything there). By all means, post a message on those popular sites directing people to the official errata, but don't make them the primary source; they are too free-form and don't reach the widest possible audience.

Really, the above list is just a special case of how to handle any dissatisfied customer:
Admit the mistake.
Apologise for it.
Make it right, taking special care not to make a second mistake in the process.

Am I asking too much? I'd especially be interested to hear a designer's perspective on this.
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Ken
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I'd strike the apology requirement altogether myself. You will never write a set of rules that everyone reads and plays exactly the same way universally. This has zero to do with the designer and everything to do with the fact that people pay varying degrees of attention to what they're reading and reach different interpretations of exactly the same language. And even with complete attention to the language, meaning can differ.

There will always be FAQ's and errata. I don't need apologies from the designer, I need to know what is being explained or fixed. I would like them to have a central source for their fixes.

What I'd prefer is for the publishers to spend some time and/or money to get their rules edited by professionals, preferably with some gaming background or by passing them to folks who have good language skills to have them mercilessly ripped to shreds prior to publication. What annoys me is that for a good number of publishers, it makes more sense to download and read their FAQ/errata first and then the actual rules. And that's just silly, sloppy, and entirely fixable. Your fan base would probably edit them for you and point to problems either for free or for a very small number of copies of the game when published.
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Jeffery Qualey
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The complexity of a game - particularly with many expansions - complicates the matter. I remember the expansions of Talisman 2nd edition tried to clarify how all the new rules and character situations should be resolved with the previous characters and situations. Almost every game, however, there was a need to question the rules and to create a house rule to cover it.

What do you do when you ever have the character with infinite strength and you want to lift the character with infinite weight? shake
 
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Liam Eyers
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perfalbion wrote:
What I'd prefer is for the publishers to spend some time and/or money to get their rules edited by professionals, preferably with some gaming background or by passing them to folks who have good language skills to have them mercilessly ripped to shreds prior to publication.


Most people are not prepared to increase their purchasing budget by sufficient ammounts to make this a worthwhile proposition for the publisher. Quality textbooks cost 3-4 times the cost of any book of equivalent page count, and yet these still have errors and unclear passages, despite having proffessional level proofreading. It's not worth the added cost to the company when compared to the net loss in sales.
 
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This Guy
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Errata or clarifications aren't always mistakes. Apologizing is nice, but not necessary for me. I'd settle for a clear, concise, tested erratum posted officially. It's existence is enough for me.
 
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Ken
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Ambrogino wrote:
Most people are not prepared to increase their purchasing budget by sufficient ammounts to make this a worthwhile proposition for the publisher.


I work for a company that uses contract technical editors, and I can assure you that the cost of hiring an editor to go through the rules and provide feedback on clarity, use of language, etc. would be quite small and unlikely to have any significant impact on the cost of the game.

I'd also point out that for most games, the community of people that purchase and play the game would probably be happy to do the job for the cost of a free copy (I know I'd do my best to find some time to do it).

Quote:
Quality textbooks cost 3-4 times the cost of any book of equivalent page count, and yet these still have errors and unclear passages, despite having proffessional level proofreading. It's not worth the added cost to the company when compared to the net loss in sales.


I'd argue that the cost of handling the individual "question transactions" probably works out to more than the cost of getting it right (or closer to right) the first time would probably be a cost savings in the long run.
 
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