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Winson_Paine
Oct 27, 2000

Wait, something is wrong.


There have been a few derails in other threads over things best served in their own thread. The most recent of which is the Emperor's New Clothes KS and if it hurts the industry or not, but there have been a whole bunch of them. It has been pointed out a few times that many of the issues in the actual business of making games is that it is not treated as a business. Instead it gets to be a sort of hobby, this leads to all kinds of issues like artists and writers not expecting to get paid, infinite release schedules, an almost seeming seething contempt for any kind of post editing or layout, all kinds of poo poo.

Anyway, here is your thread for hashing that poo poo out. Have at it. This is not intended to replace the "How to Not Run a Game Business" which has previously been about more practical matters until it sort of assumed the mantle this thread is intended to service but rather to take some of the heat off of that thread since there is clearly a lot of impulse to talk about some of this poo poo.

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Winson_Paine
Oct 27, 2000

Wait, something is wrong.


I can start.

moths posted:

There is a lot of entrenched backlash to Kickstarter projects. You won't find it in the Something Awful Crowdfunding Thread, but there are still a lot of people who think every project is a ripoff our that crowd funding is fostering dreaded accessibility to a niche hobby.

So when a guy tries to be a smartass and sell those people a box of nothing, he's profiting on an attitude that isn't helping crowdfunding. He's perpetuating and cashing-in on the idea that crowdfunding is a dumb fad. Instead of a legitimate model for little guys to produce cool games.

I like those cool games. I like wildly impractical vanity projects like Uber-Ogre and ambitious stuff like Reaper adding an economy priced line of plastic figures. I love small personal projects like Tre Manor's Red Box figures and Sonya (and Acacia!) Justice's Matching Lions.

If Reaper had gone through normal channels, they would have to pay that million+ dollars back in real money, which would be a massive burden for a hobby company producing a niche product. Instead they got to pay their backers in cheap awesome figures and didn't accrue a crippling monetary debt.

So yeah, gently caress that guy and his box of nay saying.

Kickstarter is a weird territory for things, because it is a mix of brand new projects and old nostalgia projects and a whole bunch of other poo poo. So if this... I dunno, joke? Performance art? I don't even know what to call it? When it can make six grand out of nowhere, I am honestly not sure what to make of it. It baffles me he got the bids he did, so I guess it means people are really looking to throw their money away at anything?

In terms of causing actual harm? Probably nothing for this one. I suspect if they became endemic the problem would fix itself, really. I don't know if I feel better or worse about this than I do about White Wolf using KS to fund reprints of old material, ferinstance. I do know I like having access to Ogre and Tunnels and Trolls and a bunch of other games that I would not get to see again in addition to seeing new stuff like Last Stand and 13th Age or whatever.

I guess I am forced to take the very lame position of "gently caress that guy" while seeing nothing inherently wrong with it. The more I think about it, the less satisfied I am with this as an answer.

Leperflesh
May 17, 2007



I guess the difficulty here is that "what is this guy's intention with his parody" is either explicitly what he says it is - which isn't much - or it's something you have to read in it.

I mean, for me, the impression and takeaway I get is that he's parodying the low-content low-quality kickstarter thing, but not actually criticizing Kickstarter itself. I bet if you asked him "hey, what do you think of Matching Lions" he'd tell you he thinks that's awesome and he's happy it got funded? I mean, I'm guessing, I can't say for sure. But I think it's possible, and reasonable to assume in this particular case, to create a parody that pokes fun at the worst segments of a thing, without necessarily attacking the whole.

So, some really terrible low-content KS games got funded, and he made an even-more-low-content one to kind of draw attention to just how low-content a game can be. But on the other hand: his KS is well run! He shows clearly what you're getting from the get-go, he has reasonable pricing, and he's (apparently) going to deliver high-quality (blank) pieces on time. Honestly I think he'd have been ten times the shithead if he'd turned around today and closed down the KS and said "boy that was funny eh? Bye now".

And I think it's super-small potatoes, too. We're talking like 400 backers for like $6k. It's hard to argue this is going to cause harm to KS in general, or to boardgame KSes in particular, given how tiny an audience has even heard of it.

Actually maybe he's adding value just by prompting people to talk about it. I think if we get some game enthusiasts who bother to be a little more critical of what they're funding in the future, that's good for the hobby and good for kickstarter; and if we get some people who feel smug about poking fun at bad things on the Internet, well, welcome to SomethingAwful.com, where we all know the Internet is Stupid.

Our industry needs our support, but it's not so fragile that someone's little $6k attempt at being clever - whether you think it was in poor taste or not - poses any kind of threat.

Mikan
Sep 5, 2007


I don't have any issue with parody or satire, and I don't think it's going to ruin Kickstarter for everyone. It's just dumb and not that funny. It's also trying to be clever and make a point but it didn't really do that either. Dumb all around, will have no lasting effect, too bad it wasn't funnier.


Winson_Paine posted:

I don't know if I feel better or worse about this than I do about White Wolf using KS

I'm not a hundred on where I stand with White Wolf using Kickstarter as their primary means of funding, but it makes me a little sad that a former number one company is in that position.

Leperflesh
May 17, 2007



We've seen kickstarters that earn multiple millions of dollars. That's probably more than any RPG company that isn't Wizards can just scrape together from other financing sources. Although I assume this stuff with white wolf is for a lot less money, but the point is, crowdfunding seems to have the potential to offer more capital than your typical small business loan from a bank.

Mikan
Sep 5, 2007


No, it's absolutely a good move for them - but it is also kind of weird for me to see the company that made every game I played back in high school, the company that temporarily dethroned Dungeons and Dragons, operating primarily as a Kickstarter publisher. That's before you even get into the weirdness with CCP and Onyx Path and everything else.

It seems to be working for them and that's cool but I'm not a hundred on how to react to it.

Lemon Curdistan
Aug 6, 2009



Aren't the White Wolf Kickstarters purely for the print and deluxe versions?

If so, that's perfectly fine by me - they're putting out a niche product/the deluxe version of a niche product and using KS as a means to essentially get people to preorder before they start printing the books, to make sure there's enough interest for them to be able to afford print. That's the kind of thing KS should be used for, and isn't really different from "my game is finished, the KS is to print the book" style Kickstarts.

Winson_Paine
Oct 27, 2000

Wait, something is wrong.


Lemon Curdistan posted:

Aren't the White Wolf Kickstarters purely for the print and deluxe versions?

If so, that's perfectly fine by me - they're putting out a niche product/the deluxe version of a niche product and using KS as a means to essentially get people to preorder before they start printing the books, to make sure there's enough interest for them to be able to afford print. That's the kind of thing KS should be used for, and isn't really different from "my game is finished, the KS is to print the book" style Kickstarts.

Yeah, they are for print copies. I think using that to get a project up that they might take a bath on otherwise, or to do a project at a level of production they could not otherwise do (like the OGRE KS) is probably cool. It does get into the KICKSTARTER IS A STORE/NOT A STORE debate (which is nominally fine in this thread, I reckon) but I think on the whole it helps.

It has had one odd side effect. When I opened the AEG Second City boxed set for the L5R RPG, one of my first, very real thoughs was I was STUNNED an RPG product of that lever was not done with a Kickstarter. I dunno what that says about me either.

homullus
Mar 27, 2009



I am in favor of game companies being able to better figure out how desired a product is in advance of producing it. Oh, you're willing to donate more to see this done and get these extras, and fund this upgrade for everyone else? Cool! KS also aggregates all of the projects under one roof. I think most people don't go to every game company's website often enough for this ransom model to succeed when distributed across all publishers. It might be better in some ways to have a site that is games-only, because such a site could perhaps make the KS + Amazon cut of the action smaller. It would miss some of the exposure, though.

I don't mind even the most established of established companies using that model. If WotC Kickstarted a D&D 4.5, fixing the things that needed fixing and re-doing some of the older classes and including a simple character builder and compendium on a CD, I would back that the second I saw it. Given the traffic to their site, though, they could probably ransom-model it on their site.

JoshTheStampede
Sep 8, 2004

come at me bro


homullus posted:

I am in favor of game companies being able to better figure out how desired a product is in advance of producing it. Oh, you're willing to donate more to see this done and get these extras, and fund this upgrade for everyone else? Cool! KS also aggregates all of the projects under one roof. I think most people don't go to every game company's website often enough for this ransom model to succeed when distributed across all publishers. It might be better in some ways to have a site that is games-only, because such a site could perhaps make the KS + Amazon cut of the action smaller. It would miss some of the exposure, though.

I don't mind even the most established of established companies using that model. If WotC Kickstarted a D&D 4.5, fixing the things that needed fixing and re-doing some of the older classes and including a simple character builder and compendium on a CD, I would back that the second I saw it. Given the traffic to their site, though, they could probably ransom-model it on their site.

This is where the IS KICKSTARTER A STORE argument starts up, though. For me, kickstarter serves two purposes:

1. It allows companies of any size to see before spending money whether or not a product has an audience. Projects like this aren't designed to make a ton of profit, or at least not more than they would have anyway. This is where larger companies like WotC can run kickstarters that are basically glorified pre-orders with bonuses. They aren't raising funds to get the project off the ground, they're just doing what they would do normally, with more publicity and less risk. I don't have a problem with that at all, but some people do on KS ideological purity grounds. This is the type of project where you really do have to look at what you are getting for the money, because that's all you are getting - you aren't really donating to a project you want to see through, since it would get made anyway - you're just in it for the pre-order bonuses.

2. Raising money to be able to afford a project that might be profitable, but that otherwise would never get made because of a lack of up-front capital. THIS type is where people get mad at companies like WotC, since they can drat well afford to make stuff on their own and don't need fundraising to do it.

KICKSTARTER IS NOT A STORE people want every project to be #2, and the ones that are more like #1 piss them off because for those projects yes, KICKSTARTER IS A STORE.

Countblanc
Apr 20, 2005

mumblecrew

To switch topics and steal from another derail (also from the board game thread; we're just really noisy in there), I'm wondering what the future of traditional gaming journalism is going to morph into. TGs are a much more niche hobby than video games - Even with their growing acceptance, board games just aren't really a media in the way video games, movies, or television. You aren't going to read scholarly papers on how the violent themes in Ameritrash games are leading to school shootings.

Much like video games, the people who are most involved in the journalism aspects are fans, and basically none of them make a living off of it like you might scrape by working for Kotaku. What's more, the biggest board game site (Boardgamegeek) is filled to the brim with fan reviews of games, but very little in the way of actual commentary. There's also no established language for discussing them critically like you would have with everything from books to tea; In the BG thread people were just saying that "fun" gets thrown around a ton, and can mean anything from being synonymous with lightweight fast games (which some people took issue with, since it implicitly states that longer, meatier games aren't fun) to just meaning "I enjoyed my time playing this" (without really discussing how much of it was facilitated by the game vs how much was the people it was played with, or what other games they might enjoy). And the problems don't stop at "fun," there's arguments about if games are even things that can or should be discussed critically, since the objective of 99.9% of games is to end with the players having enjoyed the last 10 minutes/hours and who are we to say that Fakey McHypothetical's group of totally-real people just adore Space Pirate Ninja Catgirls so since three people like it you can't technically say it's objectively bad.

I'm really excited to see where the new SU&SD site/project goes, since their stated goal is to basically be THE place for board game related media and critique.

e: I admit that I don't know a ton regarding RPGs and mostly stick to board games, so if someone wants to discuss that feel free!

Leperflesh
May 17, 2007



I think pre-ordering is a highly effective method of polling a market. Every company does (or should do) market research before investing in a new product; but doing surveys, going to trade shows, or spending money on tele-polling all have problems. People often say they'd like a product via survey, but then don't buy it. Also lots of people just don't respond to surveys, so you get a sampling problem (and this drives up the cost, too).

This is one reason video game companies have loved pre-ordering, such as through GameStop-like venues, Amazon, Steam, etc. You can gauge up front what your initial run is likely to sell, especially once you've released a few games and gotten an idea of what the ratio is of pre-orders to (say) total sales in the first three months of release.

But the problem with general pre-ordering is that you usually have to already have the product well along in the production cycle. Especially for video games, which can have total production cycles exceeding 5 years, and (for A-list titles) budgets in excess of ten million dollars.

What Kickstarter is revealing is that customers are, in some cases, willing to pre-purchase, via a KS pledge, certain products way, way in advance. We're seeing video game kickstarters that promise delivery 18+ months out, and I think that's longer than we see in the more typical pre-order environment. They're also apparently more flexible about delivery dates - usually when you preorder a game from GameStop, the street date is already known, at least to within a week or two. Customers also like being part of a community of fellow enthusiasts - when you go to GameStop and pre-order something, you have no automatic centralized place for the other 10,000 nerds who also pre-ordered can hang out and yak about it, and you don't get to see that rapidly-incrementing dollar figure. There's no stretch-goals, and the benefits you're getting with your pre-order range from (usually) nothing, to maybe a bonus item or collector's edition box (which you paid extra for).

But right now I think KS still has way less penetration into even the computer game market, compared to the combined outlets of Steam, Amazon, other online/digital outfits, and the brick-and-mortar chains like GameStop. When you go to non-computer games, there just hasn't been a consolidated pre-order market. Maybe Amazon, but that's it, and again it's generally been constrained to pre-ordering a product slated for release within the next month or two.

So KS is filling that need, whether the #2 purists want it to or not, but I do wonder if this isn't to some degree just a wakeup call to several somewhat nerdy industries. KS aggregates lots of these projects, but some big players could probably manage the whole thing in-house if they wanted to, and save on fees that way. I don't see why Hasbro/WotC couldn't set up its own website for upcoming products and let people vote with their dollars on which they want to see done soonest. The value-add that KS brings, aside from the built-in audience, is the trustworthiness of their transactions engine (people may be more willing to trust their credit card to Amazon, than some random other company) but third-party billing online is a well-established thing anyway.

KS (or IndiGogo, or whoever) may have all the attention now, but I foresee a future in which established companies eschew the aggregator and just do their own product pre-ordering stuff in-house, complete with bonus items/early-buyer rewards, billing, project tracking, etc. A key element to KS is the incrementing dollar amount - psychologists will tell you that the ability to make a number go up by some amount is a powerful motivator to the human psyche - so companies would be well-advised to provide that level of visibility to their pre-ordering campaigns.

Verdugo
Jan 5, 2009


99% of preordering is bullshit, and it's just a way to bank money before the games come out. I have never run into an issue where a title (boardgame, mini, or video game) is out of stock everywhere launch day because I didn't preorder the game. Companies realize this too, which is why they issue all these different preorder bonuses.

JoshTheStampede posted:

This is where the IS KICKSTARTER A STORE argument starts up, though. For me, kickstarter serves two purposes:
<snip>
KICKSTARTER IS NOT A STORE people want every project to be #2, and the ones that are more like #1 piss them off because for those projects yes, KICKSTARTER IS A STORE.

It's worse than a store, because there is zero incentive for the kickstarter developer to take care of unhappy customers. Because you give them money, and wish something gets made, the company running the kickstarter has almost no accountability, doesn't have to refund "preorders", and can make whatever changes they like to the project as long as it's outside the chargeback window. A backer has zero recourse to get their money back from a pledge outside of the legal system if a kickstarter doesn't deliver. Just because kickstarter has "deliver something" in their TOS doesn't make it the rule of law.

It's not a store, and it's not a way to invest in a company. It's a weird hybrid that takes the disadvantages of both with no real bonus for the person making the pledge outside of "you helped make this cool thing a reality."

A real life example. For reasons, I wanted to cancel my pledge on Shadowrun Returns PC. Since I went through kickstarter, I'm out the money 100%, and Hairbrained Schemes is not interested in discussing it with me outside of "No, you're getting the product, hope you like it anyway."

If I preordered it through my Friendly Local Neighborhood Video Game Store, it's not a problem, and I can use the money I put down with them on something else. Same thing if I backed a board game vs. preordering it at my FLGS. These local places have the incentive to take care of me as a customer.

Mikan
Sep 5, 2007


Countblanc posted:

e: I admit that I don't know a ton regarding RPGs and mostly stick to board games, so if someone wants to discuss that feel free!

RPGs have the exact same issue - there are few to no credible reviewers, there's no established language to use as a foundation and there's a lot of pushback against forming any kind of critical theory. The prevailing discourse is that game design is subjective and so it's not worth discussing. A lot of that's even aimed at the design angle, there are some vocal folks who insist designers shouldn't think about what they're doing and just make a fun game I mean it can't be that hard right?

I have no idea how to fix this other than getting real loud about game design and yelling at people, and that doesn't work very well.

Leperflesh
May 17, 2007



Mikan posted:

RPGs have the exact same issue - there are few to no credible reviewers, there's no established language to use as a foundation and there's a lot of pushback against forming any kind of critical theory. The prevailing discourse is that game design is subjective and so it's not worth discussing. A lot of that's even aimed at the design angle, there are some vocal folks who insist designers shouldn't think about what they're doing and just make a fun game I mean it can't be that hard right?

I have no idea how to fix this other than getting real loud about game design and yelling at people, and that doesn't work very well.

I think part of the issue for RPGs is that they're generally designed to be extended and customized by the players. If I watch a movie, I may agree or disagree with a film critic who said it was bad... but at least the two of us watched exactly the same movie. If someone writes a good review of D&D, well... maybe they just had a great DM, or good players, or made a character that happened to use superior options. Maybe my own experience with D&D was bad because the adventure my DM made me go through sucked, or because I didn't understand how a certain rule was supposed to be used.

Board games tend to be less flexible, but even then, each run-through of Agricola is going to be different. It's easy to imagine a reviewer disliking it because he didn't understand all the rules, or because one player figured out you need to prioritize adding family members and he didn't see that (and still hasn't recognized that as an optimal strategy) and so he thinks he played well but lost anyway.

But I think you can still have reasonable criticism and review of games. You can talk about production quality, rules clarity, artwork; and if you're more knowledgable, you can discuss broad game mechanic choices and how those tend to affect games (like, is this a points-buy RPG or do you roll up everything? Is this D20, or D6, or something else? Etc.). You can discuss expansion availability, the use of genre cliches, whether a new game actually adds much compared to an existing game, and so forth.

Ultimately, though, a critic or reviewer always relies on subjective opinion. There are famous reviewers and critics and they all have their loyal followers and their vocal critics. Roger Ebert knows more about film than I ever will, and he's one of the most respected film critics alive, but that doesn't mean I'll always love his reviews and there have been movies he hated that I loved (and vice-versa).

The gaming community I think struggles with this. Few people are as committed to a given movie, as a gamer is to the games he's committed to (especially RPGs). If I've invested hundreds of dollars and thousands of hours into my favorite system, I'm much less inclined to agree (or tolerate) a reviewer who says it's crap and XYZ system is plainly better in several key respects. Edition wars are revelatory; I doubt anyone has ever fought so viciously or for so long over whether The Godfather II is better or worse than The Godfather I.

JerryLee
Feb 4, 2005

THE RESERVED LIST! THE RESERVED LIST! I CANNOT SHUT UP ABOUT THE RESERVED LIST!


People mostly seem to be talking about kickstarters here so far, and it's very interesting, but I wonder if there's also some room for informed posts about how game companies that "make it" can avoid turning into capitalist juggernauts wherein the "providing products to gamers" portion of the premise disappears up the company's rear end. Basically what happens when you go too far to the other end from the people in their garages who are doing it for love of the hobby, Games Workshop being the example that's on many folks' mind right now.

(I am not the person to make these informed posts, I just am curious if there's anything to be said on that score.)

Mikan
Sep 5, 2007


Leperflesh posted:

Ultimately, though, a critic or reviewer always relies on subjective opinion. There are famous reviewers and critics and they all have their loyal followers and their vocal critics. Roger Ebert knows more about film than I ever will, and he's one of the most respected film critics alive, but that doesn't mean I'll always love his reviews and there have been movies he hated that I loved (and vice-versa).

The thing is, there's an established foundation of language and discussion and discourse available for film and literature. We're never going to have an Ebert (much less a Scorsese or Coppola on the design side) when we can't even get people to recognize the need for something beyond make game fun have pretty pictures. We're not even at the point where we can have someone decent to disagree with.


Leperflesh posted:

Board games tend to be less flexible, but even then, each run-through of Agricola is going to be different. It's easy to imagine a reviewer disliking it because he didn't understand all the rules, or because one player figured out you need to prioritize adding family members and he didn't see that (and still hasn't recognized that as an optimal strategy) and so he thinks he played well but lost anyway.

This is the issue really, not that RPGs are built to be customized. We've got reviewers and critics who don't understand the products they're reviewing or the design that went into them. A good critic should be able to look at Agricola and realize the optimal strategies, or look at 3.5 and realize how hosed everything is for non-casters, or at Magicians and how the mechanics reflect actual language learning practices.


Leperflesh posted:

Ultimately, though, a critic or reviewer always relies on subjective opinion.

There's a lot more that goes into it than just subjective opinion. I think that really does talented critics a disservice.

Gerund
Sep 12, 2007

He push a man


Countblanc posted:

To switch topics and steal from another derail (also from the board game thread; we're just really noisy in there), I'm wondering what the future of traditional gaming journalism is going to morph into. TGs are a much more niche hobby than video games - Even with their growing acceptance, board games just aren't really a media in the way video games, movies, or television. You aren't going to read scholarly papers on how the violent themes in Ameritrash games are leading to school shootings.

Much like video games, the people who are most involved in the journalism aspects are fans, and basically none of them make a living off of it like you might scrape by working for Kotaku. What's more, the biggest board game site (Boardgamegeek) is filled to the brim with fan reviews of games, but very little in the way of actual commentary. There's also no established language for discussing them critically like you would have with everything from books to tea; In the BG thread people were just saying that "fun" gets thrown around a ton, and can mean anything from being synonymous with lightweight fast games (which some people took issue with, since it implicitly states that longer, meatier games aren't fun) to just meaning "I enjoyed my time playing this" (without really discussing how much of it was facilitated by the game vs how much was the people it was played with, or what other games they might enjoy). And the problems don't stop at "fun," there's arguments about if games are even things that can or should be discussed critically, since the objective of 99.9% of games is to end with the players having enjoyed the last 10 minutes/hours and who are we to say that Fakey McHypothetical's group of totally-real people just adore Space Pirate Ninja Catgirls so since three people like it you can't technically say it's objectively bad.

I'm really excited to see where the new SU&SD site/project goes, since their stated goal is to basically be THE place for board game related media and critique.

e: I admit that I don't know a ton regarding RPGs and mostly stick to board games, so if someone wants to discuss that feel free!

To respond to this- half of the reason Board Games are a thing in the last decade (especially in the US) can be tied to the support it receives from evangelical-lite groups and families: 7th Heaven's characters said that you had to play board games together to be a family.

Leperflesh
May 17, 2007



Mikan posted:

The thing is, there's an established foundation of language and discussion and discourse available for film and literature. We're never going to have an Ebert (much less a Scorsese or Coppola on the design side) when we can't even get people to recognize the need for something beyond make game fun have pretty pictures. We're not even at the point where we can have someone decent to disagree with.



There's definitely some jargon and terms that have been developed (although some are uselessly broad); words like "simulationist", "points-buy", and "fantasy heartbreaker" are code for larger concepts, much like similar terms used in (say) film criticism. But we don't necessarily have a consensus on their definition, and I agree we need a lot more. But then again, film criticism is already at least a hundred years old, whereas RPGs were invented, what, 35 years ago or so. What did film criticism look like in 1920?

Mikan posted:

This is the issue really, not that RPGs are built to be customized. We've got reviewers and critics who don't understand the products they're reviewing or the design that went into them. A good critic should be able to look at Agricola and realize the optimal strategies, or look at 3.5 and realize how hosed everything is for non-casters, or at Magicians and how the mechanics reflect actual language learning practices.
I don't think a lot of what's wrong with a given game is immediately discernable, even to an expert. Often an issue with (say) a character class stems from a single ability which seems OK on the surface, but turns out to be overpowered or overbroad or simply ungainly during play. Sometimes there are conflicts in a game's balance which don't reveal themselves until high level, or until you try to play a certain type of encounter, and so forth.

And time commitment is a key thing here. You can watch a long film, watch it again and take notes, and you've got a reasonable basis to write a good article about it but have only committed maybe 6 hours so far. But it's going to take longer than that just to read the core books once through for a typical RPG, and if you wrote a review for an RPG without actually trying to play a few sessions, I think it'd be reasonable to dismiss your review completely.

Mikan posted:

There's a lot more that goes into it than just subjective opinion. I think that really does talented critics a disservice.
Yeah I only meant that subjective opinion is one thing you must rely on, not that it's the only thing. What I'm getting at is that the evaluation of art cannot be totally objective, because aesthetic preferences vary from one person to the next.

e. I should add that I'm basically agreeing with everything you said, just with maybe some caveats. We have film critics who go to film school and study film, and we have art critics who do the same. And we have outlets like Consumer Reports who can evaluate products for quality, and outfits like JD Powers who can perform broad surveys of consumer satisfaction. We have no such apparatus for games, so it's unsurprising that we don't get quality reviews.

As an aside, we also lack most of this apparatus for computer games; so we get game reviews from magazines and such and a lot of them are terrible. We've got game ranking inflation (and games rated on a 10-point scale which, with decimals, is actually a 100-point scale), etc; but the whole situation is still better than what we get for RPGs, which is almost nothing at all.

Leperflesh fucked around with this message at Apr 2, 2013 around 20:59

Mikan
Sep 5, 2007


Leperflesh posted:

I don't think a lot of what's wrong with a given game is immediately discernable, even to an expert. Often an issue with (say) a character class stems from a single ability which seems OK on the surface, but turns out to be overpowered or overbroad or simply ungainly during play. Sometimes there are conflicts in a game's balance which don't reveal themselves until high level, or until you try to play a certain type of encounter, and so forth.

Some of this is immediately obvious, and it still gets overlooked. I wouldn't consider myself an expert and even I can notice this stuff.

quote:

And time commitment is a key thing here. You can watch a long film, watch it again and take notes, and you've got a reasonable basis to write a good article about it but have only committed maybe 6 hours so far. But it's going to take longer than that just to read the core books once through for a typical RPG, and if you wrote a review for an RPG without actually trying to play a few sessions, I think it'd be reasonable to dismiss your review completely.

I agree with this, but don't have much to say other than anyone who wants to be a decent RPG critic can deal with it and put in the work. Of course I don't think that effort is really worth it until we have more well-designed games that deserve that kind of attention.

Leperflesh posted:

e. I should add that I'm basically agreeing with everything you said, just with maybe some caveats.

Yeah I don't know that I really disagree here, RPG criticism sucks. I think part of the reason is that generally RPGs and RPG designers and the RPG fanbase aren't all that great. We need a stronger, better foundation for everyone to work from and there really isn't an individual or group in the RPG industry capable of that right now I think.

homullus
Mar 27, 2009



So there's this thing, an article about "The Future of D&D and Tabletop Gaming." And I think it is 100% backwards. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since it's for this new Gygax Magazine, and couldn't be better calculated to preach to that particular choir.

If I were writing about the future of RPGs and tabletop gaming in general, I wouldn't be rehashing game history for the millionth time for the majority of my article or recalling what it used to be like. Whether you gamed in the 70s, 80s, or 90s doesn't matter; the gaming landscape is really different now in significant ways. I also wouldn't talk about how it's hard to get together for a bunch of hours to feel like a hero; it's cool if you can do that, but I think one of the glaring issues is that most adults DO NOT have lives that can accommodate a game may well be just fine on a high school or college student's schedule.

The future of RPGs in particular is very likely (based on what we're already seeing) games that are:

-- shorter rather than longer
-- streamlined games, rather than GURPS
-- not just SyFy-type settings
-- appealing to a wider audience
-- collaborative rather than adversarial
-- built to take advantage of technology for asynchronous or irregular play
-- light- or no-prep for a "GM"

That's not in any particular order, and games as we know them now aren't going away either. If the hobby is going to expand at all, though, it can't all be "you must have $250 and large blocks of time" games. And if I were going to address the value of tabletop gaming today, instead of "get them durn kids off them iPads!", I'd be talking about :

-- abstract thinking
-- creative play
-- reinforcement of math, language, culture, and history
-- (for RPGs) empathy
-- (for RPGs) the value of improv training

...all in the environment of real-life social skills like negotiation, compromise, networking, and sharing. And these are as valuable for adults as they are for kids.

MalcolmSheppard
Jun 24, 2012
The blood that flows is black, thick, a musky elixir. It does not come once a month as it does with humans, but instead flows whenever the vampire wills it: by expending a point of Vitae, she may expunge this undead menses from her body.

Onyx Path generally does Kickstarters for deluxe core releases, where these fill the role of preorders in a much more beneficial way than old-style preorders. I suppose Onyx Path/quasi-WW could have done traditional preorders for longer, as V20 did just fine using traditional preorders. Nowadays, I'm not sure how well it would work because the consumer culture has shifted, so even if the demand is there, people will automatically look to Kickstarter to fill that demand.

Honestly, I think that if the division could get it past Hasbro and retail partners, WotC would seriously consider doing it as well, even though they could ship without it. Preorders get one person a product. Blah. Kickstarters are cooler. They:

1) Make preordering social, by bring folks to a common portal and driving discussion.
2) Drive orders with the promise of extras.
3) Provide tiers where people will essentially pay for nothing -- technically a name.
4) Provide metrics to see how the product might do when it ships to everyone else.
5) Put product in the hands of a vocal minority first, adding promotional value.

So even if you don't need the money, Kickstarter (and foreign-accented Indiegogo, to a lesser extent) are an improvement on preorders and initial sales to a modest-sized market in most ways. I have no doubt that if Pathfinder was being released today, it would have used Kickstarter.

As Dwimmermount kind of showed us, Kickstarters are actually worse at the things they're supposed to be for than as an enhanced preorder tool. If you actually need the money to get the product made, there's more risk, and funders don't have the motoves of traditional investors where they expect to make money in return. Small creative projects don't use the kind of ramped up project management that almost keeps big projects hitting deadlines, and even if you were to apply them, they might be an ill fit -- timeboxed agile dev meetings aren't going to make drafts happen any faster.

Licensed products usually aren't going to use them because there's a whole other stakeholder involved, but I think that until there's some kind of implosion based on Kickstarters failing to deliver, this is where things are going regardless of how much money companies have to develop products. My concern is that connecting rewards to preorders creates the expectation that this stuff will get done fast, which shrinks deadlines and affects quality. Best practice requires the draft done beforehand, and the rush to get the Kickstarter up may shrink those deadlines too.

Verdugo
Jan 5, 2009


I must disagree. Kickstarter is a horrible preorder tool, because at it's core, Kickstarter is not a store.

MalcolmSheppard
Jun 24, 2012
The blood that flows is black, thick, a musky elixir. It does not come once a month as it does with humans, but instead flows whenever the vampire wills it: by expending a point of Vitae, she may expunge this undead menses from her body.

Verdugo posted:

I must disagree. Kickstarter is a horrible preorder tool, because at it's core, Kickstarter is not a store.

When it nets six figures in preorders in the RPG industry, it is not horrible, even if it's bad at e-commerce functions. On the other hand, large companies are going to use it for major releases only, not for every sub-200 page sourcebook.

Gau
Nov 18, 2003

ASK ME ABOUT THE KEYS TO KICKSTARTER SUCCESS

MalcolmSheppard posted:

When it nets six figures in preorders in the RPG industry, it is not horrible, even if it's bad at e-commerce functions. On the other hand, large companies are going to use it for major releases only, not for every sub-200 page sourcebook.

My estimates indicate it's a lot closer to, if not at, seven figures - and that's not including board games or miniatures.

MalcolmSheppard
Jun 24, 2012
The blood that flows is black, thick, a musky elixir. It does not come once a month as it does with humans, but instead flows whenever the vampire wills it: by expending a point of Vitae, she may expunge this undead menses from her body.

Gau posted:

My estimates indicate it's a lot closer to, if not at, seven figures - and that's not including board games or miniatures.

I'm talking about funding for individual books. Six figures in preorders for a single book isn't bad, and it's not uncommon for large-ish companies now. I think Numenera's half-million bag is about as good as it's going to get until Paizo releases a new edition of Pathfinder or a major supplement this way, which they almost certainly will.

MadScientistWorking
Jun 23, 2010

"I was going through a time period where I was looking up weird stories involving necrophilia..."


homullus posted:

So there's this thing, an article about "The Future of D&D and Tabletop Gaming." And I think it is 100% backwards. I guess I shouldn't be surprised, since it's for this new Gygax Magazine, and couldn't be better calculated to preach to that particular choir.
Backwards is an understatement. The guy launches into an antiscience screed about how it ruins creativity where as there has been a huge push from every which direction to try incorporate technology and science into toys to foster creativity in ways that was impossible in the 70's.

Tekopo
Oct 24, 2008

Sherman's Southern Tour, November-December 1864


Countblanc posted:

To switch topics and steal from another derail (also from the board game thread; we're just really noisy in there), I'm wondering what the future of traditional gaming journalism is going to morph into. TGs are a much more niche hobby than video games - Even with their growing acceptance, board games just aren't really a media in the way video games, movies, or television. You aren't going to read scholarly papers on how the violent themes in Ameritrash games are leading to school shootings.

Much like video games, the people who are most involved in the journalism aspects are fans, and basically none of them make a living off of it like you might scrape by working for Kotaku. What's more, the biggest board game site (Boardgamegeek) is filled to the brim with fan reviews of games, but very little in the way of actual commentary. There's also no established language for discussing them critically like you would have with everything from books to tea; In the BG thread people were just saying that "fun" gets thrown around a ton, and can mean anything from being synonymous with lightweight fast games (which some people took issue with, since it implicitly states that longer, meatier games aren't fun) to just meaning "I enjoyed my time playing this" (without really discussing how much of it was facilitated by the game vs how much was the people it was played with, or what other games they might enjoy). And the problems don't stop at "fun," there's arguments about if games are even things that can or should be discussed critically, since the objective of 99.9% of games is to end with the players having enjoyed the last 10 minutes/hours and who are we to say that Fakey McHypothetical's group of totally-real people just adore Space Pirate Ninja Catgirls so since three people like it you can't technically say it's objectively bad.

I'm really excited to see where the new SU&SD site/project goes, since their stated goal is to basically be THE place for board game related media and critique.

e: I admit that I don't know a ton regarding RPGs and mostly stick to board games, so if someone wants to discuss that feel free!
It's me, I'm the guy that says 'fun' shouldn't be used in order to review games. It actually lead me to create my own reviews in order to avoid using the word altogether. I actually think that subjective criticism of something is unavoidable when discussing games/films/etc since biases do appear even when trying to be objective, but subjectivity isn't a bad thing as long as the reviewer recognises that he has inherent biases and that they are going to colour his review of a particular game. I think there are way too many people that do not realise this and mix up 'stuff that I don't personally like' with 'stuff that is objectively bad'. That is not to say that there aren't objective criteria that we can use to review a game and decide if the game is badly designed: for board games it mostly relies on rules interactions, production values etc. I think someone in the board game thread made a good point of how in isolation, lengthy games don't make bad games, but if you add to that things like highly random results or 'screw-the-leader' situations that artificially lengthen the game, the length of a game can be a problem. I think that although currently board game reviews don't really go into enough analysis of how rules interact with each other, it's an important step in making the review of board game more objective.

I haven't really played an RPG in quite some time, but I think the above would be more difficult to do with RPGs than for board games. Although it is still possible to analyse rule interactions in an RPG, due to the fact that RPGs are more open-ended (and that a part of the community actively campaigns against attempts to make RPGs more tightly regimented), it would be difficult to analyse rulesets without descending into subjectivity, since things that are considered bad design by some can be actively liked by others (f.ex. caster supremacy). Within board game, it's hard to find someone that likes getting elimated early in a highly random 2 hour long game.

SageNytell
Sep 28, 2008

<REDACT> THIS!



Fucker tries to say that we wouldn't have online dating or Facebook without D&D, as evidently they are 'popular and diluted forms of roleplaying'.

Leperflesh
May 17, 2007



My god, I can't tell you how much I wish certain members of my family were just roleplaying on Facebook! (Some kind of variant Cleric sub-class that requires super-low Wisdom? I don't even know.)

Also: the idea that roleplaying games invented role-playing is so plainly and obviously wrong that it's boggling that anyone would think otherwise. Does this guy think acting was invented after 1978?

But even leaving that idiocy aside: it's such a common (and utterly fallacious) idea that the first person to do something or invent something is the only reason that thing exists, and without that particular bright bulb, all of humanity would lack that innovation forever. Even an introductory course in the history of science will inform you that no, actually many discoveries are made by multiple people independently at or near the same time; most new ideas have a time at which they become possible, and then very rapidly materialize once that moment is reached.

So, as much as the holy duo Gygax and Arneson deserve praise for what they did, yes, we'd still have roleplaying games even if there'd never been D&D.

palecur
Nov 2, 2002

not too simple and not too kind

Verdugo posted:

I must disagree. Kickstarter is a horrible preorder tool, because at it's core, Kickstarter is not a store.

I must disagree. Kickstarter is precisely a store, and moreover, a store where I can get things I can't get anywhere else.

Tatum Girlparts
Sep 8, 2011

More like Tantrum Girlparts!
I can't be smug if I never stop whining.



Kickstarter is the kind of store where you put down some money and say "I really like this" and hopefully in about six months you get the thing you bought, but if you don't there's nothing you can really do about it.

So like, it's a store, but a really lovely store.

Lemon Curdistan
Aug 6, 2009



palecur posted:

I must disagree. Kickstarter is precisely a store, and moreover, a store where I can get things I can't get anywhere else.

It's not a store. You're not buying anything, nor are you getting a legally backed goods-for-money exchange. It's a website via which you can donate money to people and companies, and to make you want to donate they promise you certain things which Kickstarter's ToS say they have to make their best effort to deliver on.

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


Lemon Curdistan posted:

It's not a store. You're not buying anything, nor are you getting a legally backed goods-for-money exchange. It's a website via which you can donate money to people and companies, and to make you want to donate they promise you certain things which Kickstarter's ToS say they have to make their best effort to deliver on.

So here's a question I've been wondering about lately in the wake of things like Dwimmermount and the guy who blew 75 grand in six months; I know that by Kickstarter's ToS people who put up a project have to make a "good faith effort" to deliver on their stated goals, including any backer rewards they promised. At what point does Kickstarter judge someone's efforts to be insufficiently "good faith" or not, and if they don't feel that such efforts have been suitably so then what happens next? Does Kickstarter take any sort of legal action? That seems like it'd be a pretty nebulous suit to try and pursue. Or is that ToS mostly just a pro forma thing in this case?

BrainParasite
Jan 24, 2003




Kickstarter is Schroedinger's store. You don't know if it's a store or not until you get your thing in the mail or the guy runs off with the money

ravenkult
Feb 3, 2011



It's not a store, it's just a place where you can order very specific things, pay a specific price, pay for shipping and then have the items delivered to you. Then if they don't deliver them, you call them thieves and scam artists.
So it's nothing like a store, because

Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


ravenkult posted:

It's not a store, it's just a place where you can order very specific things, pay a specific price, pay for shipping and then have the items delivered to you. Then if they don't deliver them, you call them thieves and scam artists.
So it's nothing like a store, because

Okay, not to get dragged into what I'm sure is going to be a fascinating and productive exchange of views, but I would say the biggest thing that keeps Kickstarter from being "a store" is that when you go into a store to buy something (or buy it online from someone like Amazon) there is more or less an expectation that the thing you want to buy is right there and if it isn't they will tell you "sorry, we're out of stock" instead of taking your money up-front and telling you "oh yeah, we might get this in someday." If I pay Amazon money for a book and it doesn't show up then I get to talk to customer service and file a complaint and if Amazon decides to just shrug their shoulders and say "eh, poo poo happens" then I have further methods of legal recourse to employ should I do so, and if this happens to a bunch of people repeatedly then Amazon's reputation goes to poo poo and they probably get investigated by some sort of fraud service.

If I pay a guy on Kickstarter for a book and receive nothing in return then tough poo poo. Once something's funded it's out of Kickstarter's hands, it's up to the guy I pledged to whether or not he ever delivers, Kickstarter doesn't guarantee anything beyond what's in their ToS and there have been enough Kickstarters that have pledged and then fizzled that I don't think it's unfair to say that Kickstarter's ToS aren't exactly a solidly binding agreement. But Kickstarter isn't doing anything wrong if you don't get your book, because they don't promise you that you will. All Kickstarter does is give people like you a way to pay other people money and take your chances. You aren't paying for goods and/or services, you are essentially gambling that your money is going to produce something for which you have been quasi-formally promised a reward for.

ravenkult
Feb 3, 2011



So it's a lovely store, is what you're saying.

I won't argue semantics with you and I get what you're saying. But if it's pretty much used like a store or at least a preorder service, that's how I see it. If White Wolf stiffs you out of 100$, maybe you have no legal recourse because of Kickstarter's TOS, but you sure as gently caress not going to give White Wolf any more of your money in the future.

Lemon Curdistan
Aug 6, 2009



Kai Tave posted:

Does Kickstarter take any sort of legal action? That seems like it'd be a pretty nebulous suit to try and pursue. Or is that ToS mostly just a pro forma thing in this case?

The latter. That stuff is in Kickstarter's Terms of Use, and those have no force of law (like every other ToS).

ravenkult posted:

So it's nothing like a store, because you have none of the legal rights and protections that would apply to buying something online.

Amazingly enough this is actually an important distinction. That in 90% of cases you get something in exchange for a donation doesn't suddenly make it a store where you are buying a thing.

Lemon Curdistan fucked around with this message at Apr 5, 2013 around 09:41

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Kai Tave
Jul 2, 2012


ravenkult posted:

So it's a lovely store, is what you're saying.

If by store you mean "place that doesn't actually sell goods and/or services, merely the vague promise thereof," then yes.

quote:

I won't argue semantics with you and I get what you're saying. But if it's pretty much used like a store or at least a preorder service, that's how I see it. If White Wolf stiffs you out of 100$, maybe you have no legal recourse because of Kickstarter's TOS, but you sure as gently caress not going to give White Wolf any more of your money in the future.

Sure, that's how people use it. And that's how come so many Kickstarters turn into fiascos and why people continue to throw money at people they don't know and then don't understand why when a year goes by they don't have anything to show for it.

Some people, like White Wolf (or Onyx Path I guess) can reliably get away with this but that's entirely down to their own reputation and it's a reputation they have to maintain or else, like you said, people stop giving them money. But it's still entirely a matter of personal ethics (and business sense) that they do so, and you're still only paying for the promise of a thing instead of a thing that exists. That is not, to the best of my knowledge, how most stores operate.

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