Sunday, 6 May 2012

Sunday Sermon: Things change, deal with it!!!

Oh no... they're changing stuff again!!!

A manager once said that to me, 'things change, deal with it', this was my first job as a bright eyed bushy tailed graduate... after only working there for about two sodding weeks! You see I was being trained on a computer system they currently used, they were showing me how things worked in the office and it was antiquated and quirky. I'd just about got my head around the now 'old' system, when in a staff meeting I was told we were getting a completely 'new' system next week. No cross over period, no gradual hand over... nope... Monday morning we were all getting a crash course in this newer better software that would make our lives happier and easier. I had no reason to doubt her at the time, but I did question the bloody wisdom of having me in the office for two weeks learning the old now defunct system when there was a shiny new one on the horizon, and lets not get into my concerns surrounding such a hasty transition period! Apparently that made me a troublemaker... if you ask sensible questions you're a troublemaker it seems.

How we really react to 'change'!!!

That particular change in our office was actually disastrous, not because the software was crap, but because they couldn't just import the data over as easily as they thought we could (quelle surprise) and we ended up losing shed loads of fields and cases. Turns out this particular change wasn't so good for the manager... but... it did make my life easier, so I guess ultimately she was right! The new software though had varying degrees of impact on different people, and not always pleasant. You see while some of the more IT literate amongst the staff found it easy to adapt, some staff who'd been there a long time just couldn't adapt and were seen as dinosaurs and 'removed' over time via voluntary redundancy, retirement or in one messy case a sacking via a lengthy and nasty work tribunal. Despite people like me thinking that it was unwise losing such experienced staff members, considering their vast wealth of knowledge and expertise in the field... but... things change, and not always for the best. It's how we as individuals deal with those changes that determines how we will adapt and view them.

So why the boring preamble to this weeks Sunday Sermon? Well apart from the fact that I'm mostly a boring person! Well it's because their seems to have been a lot of change in the air lately within the hobby, and I wanted to just give you all a real world anecdote of change, and let you all know that things are normally 'OK' afterwards, and we all move on with our lives. However, currently change in the hobby is almost tangible, and you can almost reach out and feel it. The past 12 to 18 months have felt like they've at the very least ushered in a big change in attitudes, and at times a change in the games people are willing to play. But lets be honest, it kind of feels like the industry has gone all Barrack Obama on us of late and has been actively courting change, we're in the Golden Age of Gaming and some of us feel uneasy about it. First up though for the 'change' bandwagon was the venerable old statesmen and erstwhile intransigent curmudgeon of the industry, Games Workshop, who finally decided that what Warhammer Fantasy needed wasn't a slow evolutionary change... nope it needed a 50% radical cock up of a change, and 50% bland iterative stagnation.

This was not change I could believe in, no, this cock eyed approach has birthed the mutant spawn bastard that is 8th Edition. The ugly inbreed slightly retarded cousin to Rick Priestly's glorious lineage. I'll be honest here, I had thought that Warhammer Fantasy needed drastic change for many years before 8th Edition landed. Long before Chaos Daemons in 7th Edition I was advocating a radical approach to updating Warhammer Fantasy. The simple reason being that the game has grown to a size that Ricks original mechanics were never designed to deal with, so I was a banner boy for changed, just not the crap change we've ended up with! Random charges but not random ranged attacks? Come again? Tacking the shackles off of magic and making it a no risk push button to win? You what? Monstrous Cavalry, Steadfast... etc. etc. etc. This wasn't a positive or decisive change in my opinion, it was a mutation and aberration that came about because somebody at Games Workshop knew that the game needed changing radically. Sadly they were either drowned out so we got a half-finished, half-arsed job, or they hadn't got the foggiest idea what it was that needed changing.

I think Games Workshop have known for a long time that they sort of dealt Warhammer Fantasy an almost deadly blow with their treatment of it during the heady days of Lord of the Rings. They sidelined it as a product at points, and ignored it like a slightly bonkers insane elderly relative at a wedding. They literally stuck it in a corner with a bottle of wine and cocktail sausages and left it to its own devices. And, they've struggled ever since to make sense of what it is they need to do to rejuvenate the brand and game. They chose to throw the baby out with the bath water with the last update, and then it seems spent a lot of time trying to put the bath water back in and completely forgot about the baby. What they've left gamers with is not even a decent halfway house for casual gamers and more strategic competitive types, it's ultimately unsatisfying for both camps and can't be easily manipulated by house rules for either group. I have no problem with Games Workshop deciding they want to shoot for the casual gamer... just do it bloody properly and give them a decent product they deserve! Stop pretending with points systems and just get on with it. Seems they're potentially at it again...

Apparently it'll be coming with added 'fluff' in July.

So when I heard all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Warhammer 40,000 rumours the past few weeks and months it was somewhat understandable. I'm not going to cover the rumours, because I'm like the President, I don't comment on rumours. But, what I think we're witnessing isn't necessarily the rational concerns of gamers, no, it's more our very human irrational response to change. Or perhaps more accurately our uncomfortable relationship with the unknown period before the change occurs. Lets face it as a species we don't like not knowing stuff do we? I mean we invented a sky faerie to make ourselves all feel better about not knowing what the fecking hell was going on with the universe. We have a need to know, or explain things, we don't like knowledge vacuums and we don't like uncertainty. I remember managing a team during a horrible period when there were rumours of redundancies, this gave space for the gossip mongers to set the agenda and right royally screw things up. For over two months I found it difficult to direct staff and get them focusing on their work, the lack of any official word meant people were finding it difficult to cope. When the redundancies were finally announced and people knew where they stood, ironically things got back to normal.

There used to be lots of Space Marine Chapters...

People can deal with change as long as they know what it is and what it's impact will be. So it will be with Warhammer 40,000. This is why the rumours are causing so much angst amongst gamers of all persuasions, people don't know whether or not to believe them, and if they do believe them and they're not true what then? I personally don't think whether any of the leaks, rumours or outright horse crap that's flying around the Internet are true is actually matters, it's more our collective response to them. It's just enough that they're there and that Games Workshop feel unable to fill that void with any concrete information and that 'helpful' members of the community feel it's their duty to step into the breach. Change happens and people deal with it all the time, it's the waiting for it to happen that kills us. So why is our industry so bad at handling these transition periods... no scratch that, why is Games workshop so bad at it? I think we're partly to blame as a community. Lets be honest here, a lot of us love giving Games Workshop a good old kicking. No matter what they do, someone somewhere will take offence at it. I often think they can't win. not so much!!!

I mean I keep hearing people say that they need to get 6th Edition right... or else! It's almost become a mantra on message boards and Blogs, hell I think even I'm guilty of using the phrase once or twice. What nobody is saying is what 'right' looks like. Does anyone actually know what they want? Apparently a few people can answer yes to that question, they want 5th Edition with better missions and a few tweaks to vehicle rules it seems. In short people don't want change... but change happens and we need to deal with it. Games Workshop must also often feel like they can't win, in the past they've used playtest groups but some crazy test things leaked out, and they got lambasted for it by us 'fans'. Now they're trying to keep schtum and we all take a pop at them for being aloof and out of touch. If you were psychoanalyzing them as a company you'd call their current behaviour a defence mechanism. They just need thicker skin as a company, and to not take it all so personally, even when some people try making it personal. Because we can deal with change. I dealt with the change to Warhammer Fantasy in the only way I could, I sulked for about two months and decided I liked other games better and I moved on.

I suggest all those 40k gamers out there wailing venomous lamentations at the sky while shaking their fists skywards towards the imaginary sky faerie who fails to heed our prayers... just get on with playing and enjoying the game you've currently got for now, and worry about tomorrow when it actually happens. Because what's the point in worrying about something you can't change? Some people have said on Blogs and message boards that if there's an outcry on the Internet over some of these rumoured changes that Games Workshop will have to listen. Yeah, because they've done that in the past right? Look, I think we'll all find out that the look, layout and rules for 6th Edition Warhammer 40,000 were locked down months ago. They would have to have been finalised months ago. Think about it, they need to have printed boat loads of copies for a world wide launch of the world biggest wargame, in multiple languages, and that takes time to amass the required stockpile. They will then have to ship them all over the world, so logistically they'd need to have had the final copy off to the printers in China a good 4 to 5 months ago at least. So guess what, that change you're all worried about... it's already happened, you just don't know about it and there's nothing you can do, so lighten up already.

The industry is changing and morphing, not just Games Workshop. Privateer Press seem intent on making HoMachine as big and brash as they can, and growing their share of the industry. Mofaux is also constantly in flux it seems, having new and 'exciting' expansions bolted on every two seconds whether we like it or not. Infinity looks like it's finally getting its much vaunted and anticipated campaign system and official missions. We've had Fantasy Flight Games finally throw their hat into the ring and release a wargame. In fact there are new wargames being announced at an alarming rate... I've spoken about the Golden Age of gaming in the past, and I'll not got over old ground here again. But for the love of that imaginary sky faerie I mentioned earlier, can people please learn to embrace the change that is happening around them? Sure not all of it will be positive or suit you, but seriously there's so much of it going on right now in this great hobby of ours that some of it simply has to suit you, or at the very least be to your tastes. You just have to find out what it is. It's not change that defines the world around us, it's how we adapt to that change that shapes the world we live in... or more importantly the hobby we all love, yeah I said more importantly! Change isn't necessarily bad, good or indifferent. it just is. Deal with it. Peace out!


  1. I agree that people should probably calm down and wait for new editions to actually land before getting in a tizzy. I recall that when 4th Edition of D&D was on it's way, several of the local RPG were wailing that it would be the end of Dungeons & Dragons FOREVER! Others, of course, were saying it would be the greatest RPG ever, miraculously fixing every problem in any other edition EVER! I adopted a wait and see approach.

    It proved to be neither, as we all know now (though some members of each initial side are still convinced theirs holds true). I gave it a shot when it arrived in my FLGS, decide it wasn't for me, and moved on.

    It's not that I don't understand people speculating. I love doing that too. I find the lack of knowledge rather enjoyable, as I mull over and discuss various possibilities with my friends. I never make pronouncements of doom or salvation though. I speculate away, but know that I'll find out what it's really all about when it arrives.

    1. I think the trouble with speculation is when people start issuing statements like they know what's happening... and then clearly don't. I hate speculation, I really do. I think it invariably goes toxic. We have a tendency as a species to expect the worst, it just so happens that's what has happened with 40k. I just think Games Workshop could handle the situation and change over a bit better and communicate with their customers.

  2. Change is good, but in moderation.. it would be better if the change was incremental and in line to a master plan instead of a full 180 from what it was previously, with a complete lack of play testing..

    Should be interesting to see what happens to 6th for 40k, and if they can figure out the rest of the armies in 8th Fantasy to make it more balanced overall also.

    Will see soon enough I guess..

    1. They've already failed on the balanced armies thing. 3 of the new Army books are hideously out of kilter, Tomb Kings aren't the best, Empire got shafted and I'm not convinced by Orc & Goblins. It's not right and it hasn't been right for some time. They need to year zero the entire system.

      40k might have been developed to a masterplan, just one we're all not aware of yet. I think the level of whining on the Internet over a game that hasn't been released yet is interesting... and could simply be solved by Games Workshop talking to its customers.

    2. Spiffy Iguana6 May 2012 at 17:23

      They almost pulled off a full reset when they launched 6th. But the opportunity seems very much wasted.

    3. *sigh* I couldn't agree more. Ravening Hordes was a once in a generation opportunity it seems that was either squandered or mercillesly stabbed in the back by retail depending on who you speak to. It worked though didn't it? It's not just me? The armies were balanced the game was still fun and it presented a great tactical challenge t those who wanted to take it seriously. What was wrong with 6th Edition?

    4. Spiffy Iguana6 May 2012 at 22:05

      6th Edition went wrong when army books with loads of special rules that unbalanced the game. However, for one shining moment, with Ravening Hordes (RH), it worked.

      Frankly, I think that with as many armies as WHFB (and 40K) has the only way to achieve anything like balance is to write all the lists at once (as it was with 3rd Edition) with as few exceptions and special rules as possible. Which is way RH was so successful, all the armies followed the rules in the main book and had the same core assumptions.

    5. There's no chance of GW writing all the lists at once until it finally catches up with the internet age, which is a shame (also agree with Spiffy's post further down). And I agree that army books and special rules spoiled WH, but IMO 8th Ed is the best edition despite issues that need resolving at some undetermined point in the future when GW deem it appropriate.

      My biggest issue with change between editions of any game is that there needs to be a purpose to the change, not just change for change sake. In 40k's case I think that broadly speaking the system is in decent shape (and again, most of the problems lie in the Codices not the main rules) so I'm adopting quite a sceptical/negative position, which is a lot influenced by GW's past history of sloppy writing or apparently not thinking things through/testing things thoroughly enough.

    6. I can sort of understand people taking a cautiously pessimistic approach to the news that 6th Ed is on its way. But I guess until you all know what's actually in the rules I think it's just not worth getting all hot under the collar about.

      As to GW not doing all the army lists at once... well actually they've done it a number of time throughout their history. Most recently with Ravening Hordes during 6th Ed WFB. Arguably the best period ever for WFB.

    7. I'm not sure if it was covered already, but one of the issues I think (aside from geeneral human tribalism) is the amount of time and money that people invest in buying, painting, tweaking, playing etc etc creating an emotional bond to the product you currently have. If they release an inferior product then I don't think it's unexpected that people will get upset, and it's not much of an extension for people to get upset through fear of all that investment being devalued/invalidated.

      Ofc they also did it with 2nd and 3rd Ed 40k and 4th Ed WHF ;-) I'd agree that Ravening Hordes was balanced, but that doesn't mean the game system was fine. To answer your previous question, issues with 6th: 1/8" shuffle, terrain movement penalties too severe, some war machine performance not linked to BS, infantry get turned into paté by cavalry/beng charged in general, front rank wipeouts, massed combat being decided by 4/5 models, dice system didn't work (playtest rules for 7th were published in WD towards the end of the edition), skirmishers.

  3. I generally don't have a problem with change, it's the nature of the beast. However, when it's change for the sake of it, to break something that worked just fine or to leech more cash out out of the loyal customer base then I tend to get a little niggled.

    1. Change is always for the sake of it. Change is an entity in its own right. For everyone who is fine with something you can find someone who is indifferent and someone who thinks it needs shaking up. There's always a reason for change, it's just that sometimes we disagree with the reasoning behind it. I can certainly understand that viewpoint AND get behind it. ;)

  4. Spiffy Iguana6 May 2012 at 17:05

    The change people are most comfortable with is essentially Lamarckian, incremental improvements based on experience. For whatever reason the big (relatively speaking) game design studios aren't much for evolutionary alterations to their systems. Rather, they go for big, massive changes that can leave a game almost unrecognizable from its previous edition.

    If their wasn't the threat of radical change for its own sake, the community as a whole would get less nervous about potential change. Take the above example of 4th Edition D&D, it doesn't matter if you love it or hate it, but 4th Edition has only the most passing resemblance to D&D or AD&D for that matter. For all intents and purposes WotC wrote a completely new game that drew some mechanical inspiration from D&D.

    That is what gets people on the internet so excited: the credible chance that the game they love will be replaced by a new game with the same name. Of course, you're right, their is next to nothing anyone can do about it. Furthermore, everyone is free to play whatever edition of a game he wants and modify the game however he chooses. The current obsession with 'official' models, rules, etc. makes the fear of change worse as people believe they are required to play the game exactly as laid out by the designer.

    1. I think it's fair to say people are comfortable with change when they don't notice it's happening. There have been some very good psychological experiments that show people deal with slow change far, far better. Sometimes not even noticing the change has happened to them and are quite shocked when it's pointed out.

      There have also been plenty of studies to show that radical change isn't an issue as long as those the change is happening to are fully engaged and can see the reason as to why the radical change is necessary. It's a fascinating field of study it really truly is.

      It's also a field of study that perhaps some in our industry could do with being exposed to. Because as you say we seem to be particularly bad at implementing change. You've highlighted one of the most obvious examples for WotC.

      I also think ironically GW are to blame for much of their current predicament as it stands. They encouraged people to stick religiously to their rules and miniatures. Now they want people to take a bit of the rules responsibiltiy away from them the punters aren't having it, and rightly so. They sold themselves as the complete package and are still trying to... but it's up to you to make their games fun? Sounds like a cop out to me!!!

  5. It is human nature to dislike change, just like it is human nature for most people to be followers and not leaders. As such, people tend to accept change more often if it is introduced at a slow pace, and in a logical order.

    As long as you introduce A then B and finally C, people will flow smoother into the transitions. However the moment you release C, then A, and finally B, all the while saying there is a big picture and telling people to hold out for final results... That tends not to please the masses nearly as much. People like ordered small fixes that make sense logically right now. You remove that logic and people start to get itchy. It gets much worse when you simply change ABC all at once, making most gamers knee jerk reactions go straight to the panic button.

    As for GW, the company does need to grow thicker skin in general. This is the same company that worries so much about their IP it has Youtube close down My Little Pony 40K parodies for 'IP infringements', where as most other companies just see it as free advertising and common modern era fandom.

    Wargamers are an interestingly simple crowd. There are a ton of tabletop games, some better, and some worse, then GW and PP releases, yet a lot of folks aren't going to go out on a limb to test those since they tend to be very different from WarmaHordes/WFB(40k). Most will complain about any changes made to 'their game', but at the end of the day will go into attack dog mode if they feel you are threatening 'their game of choice'. Same thing about the miniatures, and how loyal people become to their brand of game. I remember seeing a quote somewhere that said something along the lines of: 'Games-Workshop greatest victory was making the players believe they can't use anyone elses miniatures'. You bring up the option of using Mantic's Corporation rather then GW guardsmen for 40K, and suddenly you are branded a heretic in some circles.

    1. I'd agree with some of what you're saying... apart from the fact that at many points in human society radical change has been ushered in by the masses. I think the issue for me is this, people will actively seek out change and be for change if they can see why the change is happening. Take that away from them and it's a different kettle of fish. Drop change on people as a surprise and they tend to have a defensive reaction to it. Why do you think so many controversial Government policy shifts are leaked to the press in advance?

      As to GW convincing people you could only use their miniatres with their games... it was a genius stroke, but they originally did it threefold:

      1) They told people you could only use thee miniatures in their shops.
      2) They were the only company making some of these miniatures.
      3) They used to make the best miniatures.

      That last point leads into part of what you talked about with them getting all bent out of shape over My Little Pony 40k parodies... the C&D letters and lawsuits. Anyone who releases anything remotely like their miniatures gets blasted with C&D letters. They've stopped trying to make the best product and convincing us to buy it because it's the best and moved onto trying to stop competitors beating them.

  6. Just one thing to say:

    Tbh, 5th edition ruined my enjoyment of 40k, after playing pretty regularly since Rogue Trader. I can't get any enthusiasm for 6th going, beyond readying the popcorn for the fireworks show and the wailing of fanboys.

    And I'm someone who appreciates change.

    1. I'm not opposed to change. Quite often I can be found at the forefront of movements advocating change... and I'm not just talking about toy soldiers here comrades!!! No, I think sensible iterative change that includes the fans and some sensible feedback can indeed be useful and 9 times out of 10 is welcome. The issue around 40k is that nobody seems to have any faith in GW to get it right this time. Other companies seem to get given grace periods or people just trust them. Not GW. I've expected to read the odd '6th Ed with suxx' posts but expected to see a few 'GW roxx' post as well. So far their aren't many people keeping faith... that's interesting. I'll obviously play a bit of 6th Ed and make my own mind up when it comes out. I mean it is the biggest wargame out there so why the hell wouldn't I? But like you I'm not really bothered either way, I guess I too am looking forward to the inevitable flame wars.

  7. Your "C then A then B" analogy pretty much describes exactly what happened to the Battletech Jihad storyline. In retrospect, now that the dust has settled and all the details are known, it's not that bad at all. Back in the early 2000's when we were told to abandon our beloved record sheets and play with clicky shit in the ass-pull "Republic of the Sphere"? Hoooo boy were we grumpy.

    1. OK this comment is less welcome... lol.

      I've just had Battletech flash backs and I think I might need some more therapy!!! :P

      See even I get all irrational about change sometimes... ;)

    2. Man, my beloved 4th Deneb Light Cavalry, a proud SLDF regiment that served until the Amaris coup and then became the foundation of the Federated Suns Deneb Light Cavalry brigade and served with distinction until 3067 when they returned to Deneb Khaitos to refit after the Civil War.... got hit by the Jihad. Survived on 15% strength after shuffling survivors of the other RCTs in and balancing out the numbers with the 8th (the only other intact unit of the brigade...).

      Well they're now the Deneb Khaitos planetary militia. A bog standard militia unit.

      No I'm not bitter at all. Not even a little. My eye always had that twitch.

    3. My good man I gave up on Battletech a long time ago now, *sigh*

      It was probably my first ever rage quit. I've grown up a bit since then... but still sometimes rage bubbles to the surface and I have to call the nurse to bring me my meds!!!