Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Stop Real-Timing Your Tabletops

Apparently Games Workshop has licensed yet another Warhammer game. Whatever, you know? Ever since I realized what an utter Warhammer rip-off Blizzard's Warcraft series was to begin with, I've been of the opinion that Games Workshop deserves a much bigger slice of online game revenue. Seriously, Bliz, pay your damn royalties. However, the new "orcs in space" thingamajig will apparently be another Real-Time Strategy game like Dawn of War, and I keep wondering just how much overlap there is between Warhammer's scheming, coldly megalomaniacal tabletop player-base and Dawn of War's click-spamming adrenaline addicts. I mean, based on what I've seen from Focus in Cities XL we can expect this litttle project to have the personality and creativity of mold, so I'm not exactly fishing for my wallet, but the bigger question for me is the choice of genre.

A general consensus arises out of comparing tabletop games with their computerized spin-offs. Battletech, Warhammer, Dungeons and Dragons, you name it, if they're turn-based in tabletop, they get real-timed for the computer. Why?
The simple answer: speed is the advantage computers lend to... most human enterprise. When adapting anything, it's tempting to try to take full advantage of the new medium.
The more likely answer: companies are trying to capture different audiences. Customers who are already playing the tabletop version against real human beings are unlikely to pick up a carbon-copy silicoid experience. Commercially available AI is always more A than I and can hardly compare, so a faithful adaptation would actually be a bit of a downgrade.
The most likely, cynical, stodgy old industry crony answer: you're all a bunch of juvenile imbeciles! Video gamers are nothing but the prepubescent detritus of the game industry as a whole, hopelessly addicted to adrenaline rushes and incapable of appreciating true strategy, so you'll never ever buy a TBS, so developers have to make everything real-time to suit your fast-fingers, slow-brain lack of mentality. So there.

Really, though, Civillization if nothing else proves the existence of a thriving TBS market. Hell, computer chess proved that thirty years ago. We're here, take our money. We're the ones who don't have access to a tabletop game group. Maybe we're friendless shut-ins, maybe respectable traditional manly men and womanly women who have to keep their hobbies a secret, maybe stuck in some mundane hellhole where the best hope for entertainment is bouncing variously-shaped rubber balls around, maybe we're just out in the middle of fucking nowhere in a meteorological research outpost with only a laptop as company.

Maybe we actually like strategy instead of button-mashing. In any case there's plenty of money in the "one more turn" crowd. We're 2KGames' and Ubisoft's customer base. Steal us away! Computer TBS may seem like they fall into a strange no-man's land between the interaction of tabletop and the fast pace of desktop, but they fill their niche quite nicely. You'd think companies with existing turn-based name recognition would be tripping over each other to corner the market. Where is Chaos Gate 2? Why can't I find a D&D adaptation where the initiative stat actually means something? Where's my turn-based battalion of battlemechs?

Can these people all actually think it's so much easier to compete with the likes of Blizzard and Valve than with TBS developers?

Ah well. Guess I'll just look into this Slithering Armageddon thing instead.

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