Wrapping up 2016, GrogHeads Style
We polled some friends in the business for their thoughts on 2016 ~
The GrogFriends, 21 December 2016
So we launched out an email to a whole bunch of friends out in GrogLand, and asked the following:
- What was the biggest ‘story’ in gaming this year?
- What was the most fun you had playing a game this year (even if it wasn’t a new game)?
Here are the responses we got at press time…
Ken Burnside, Ad Astra Games
- For RPGs, seeing John Wick Presents get the rights back to 7th Sea and run a million dollar plus Kickstarter. For game publishing, seeing FFG “merge” with Asmodee, have their first “failure” in their Star Wars line with Star Wars Armada, and seeing Games Workshop pull the Warhammer RPG and assorted licenses from them.
- I had a lot of fun playing Star Trek: Ascendancy with two people who were even bigger Trek fans than I am.
Tim van der Moer, CEO, The Lordz Games Studio s.a.r.l.
- The announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2. Mr. Marston will be back, best in game character ever. Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone spaghetti western is an open game world made by Rockstar…very much looking forward to it!
- The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Civilization VI.
ed note: 2016 was pretty hard on our sense of mortality across everything, not just gaming. We even added an “RIP” icon for threads in our forums…
Steve Rawlings, LPS Games
Not sure if only upbeat material is welcome, but if you want to mention a “dark side” (or an “In Remembrance” section) that impacted many, it was the casualties among the game company people that really shook me this year. Bill Gibbs at Omega dropped dead, Ed Wimble from COA suffered a minor heart attack while in Tempe at the CSW Expo show this year, and my own right hand man, Lembit Tohver, had a major heart attack last month. I’m sure you can name others. Aging may be taking us down one by one faster than poor game sales.
Doug Miller, GrogDude
- Biggest story: The creation of Wargame Design Studio (WDS) and John Tiller allowing access from an outside group into the code for the games. This might not be as big news to general gaming as something like “No Man’s Sky” but for wargamers and chit shufflers, it’s a big deal.
- Most fun: I had a lot of fun with a lot of games, most of which weren’t new. Probably the most fun I had though was playing OGRE Designer’s Edition with Cyrano and his family for his birthday weekend.
Joel Billing, 2by3 Games
- No idea. From my perspective, the fact that the PC Windows operating system updates have not yet totally obsoleted our older games continues to be much appreciated (although I had some personal issues with Windows 10). The fact that games can continue to sell for so many years makes it easier to undertake the long development cycle monster games that we work on. I hope I haven’t jinxed things for the future by saying this.
- Honestly the most fun has been testing our upcoming (not in 2017) War in the East 2 game against some of our alpha testers in PBEM. There’s nothing like playing the first 6 months of the war in the east as the Axis in a monster game. Every turn I have hundreds of serious choices to make, and during the turn I’m constantly adjusting as things go better or worse as I play out the turn. Yes, I’m biased, but for me with each of Gary’s Eastern Front games over the years, my enjoyment grows (or maybe just the length of each turn grows). As for other games, I had a lot of fun playing Twilight Struggle on the computer. It’s a boardgame I’d played a few times that was excellently converted to the PC with a decent enough AI. You get to play a game and relearn your post-WWII history. Earlier in the year I spent some time with Order of Battle Rising Sun. I really like the Order of Battle Series.
Matt Forbeck, Author & Designer
- I think the biggest story was how Gen Con came out against the sexual orientation discrimination law Mike Pence passed in Indiana. They helped send a strong message to state legislators that got the law changed.
- The most fun I had playing a game this year was a session of Dungeon my quadruplets and I played at the Nexus Game Fair in Milwaukee. The game’s inventor, David Megarry, taught us the classic game with a copy of the original edition played on Dave Arneson’s ping pong table. It was like stepping through gaming history.
- The release of our newest Professional Series game, Bad Moon Rising: The Battle for Fire Base Illingworth, April 1, 1970.
- Play testing! I have had a lot of fun this year play testing our games in development, particularly Pierre Razoux’s Bloody Dawns: The Iran-Iraq War.
Stephen M. Buonocore, Stronghold Games
- Biggest story: Asmodee NA acquiring Z-Man/Plaid Hat Games (and specifically nothing else from F2Z Entertainment)
- Most Fun playing a game this year: Finally getting a game in of Terraforming Mars, as I had not played since prototype stage.
- For the most part these past years have seen board gaming evolve a long way than what I have known. Fantasy Flight Games in particular seem to have the Midas touch when it comes to games, been playing a lot of their games lately.
- For me personally, this past year I have done a lot more board gaming than I ever have before. Not just traditional wargames either (like hex based games). Actually, I have done less wargame type board gaming this year and have been playing other types with friends.
On Target Sims (Jim, Rob, Steve, and the gang)
- Biggest story is the rise and fall of “No Man’s Sky” or as it should be known “The runaway hype train, failed marketing, inde developers and massive production house, broken promises, fanbois and trolls game of the year” that has single handedly changed the policies on Steam as to promotional materials. The whole drama should get a Netflix mini series. As developers, it should serve as a poster child for how not to hype your game, drop misleading comments on content and features, fail to be visible after a massively blown up launch (bugs and tech support), and allow entire Internet communities to run open loop. It was a huge parade full of very large overfed animals. The Dev team has a massive clean up job to do to set things right. Live and learn folks.
- Earlier this year it had to be playing Rebel Galaxy. That game was a Firefly inspired romp through hostile space. Good storyline, solid action, and some kick-ass music all fused together in a great inde game. Some folks found the lack of 3d motion to be an issue, but if you looked past it the design was elegant and made you feel like you commanded your various ships on the high seas of outer space. My wife loved it too so it was easy to to justify buying it. Add in X-Com 2 and some Civ6 and you have a good year.
Pat Harrigan, editor of Zones of Control
- The biggest news for me personally was the release, last spring, of Zones of Control, the collection of essays on wargaming that I edited with Matthew Kirschenbaum for the MIT Press. Three years in the making, and containing contributions from over 60 game designers, academics, artists and security professionals, I don’t think it’s too immodest to say that this is an important contribution to the field, and one that I’m proud to be a part of.
- Despite the huge number of great games released this year, I’ve managed to get very few of them to the table. Of the ones I have, I’ve had the most fun with Lee Brimmicombe-Wood’s Wing Leader, which has a great concept and an elegant learning curve; it also plays quickly enough that I don’t need to leave it set up on my dining room table for days on end. As for older games, I’ve played through, with friends, all of the new cases in Ystari’s re-release of Consulting Detective, and will be soon moving on to the cases from Sleuth Publishing’s original expansions, which have been gathering dust on my shelf since the 1980s. Also old school: An epic, as-yet-unfinished 5-player game of The Republic of Rome, which, after three all-day gaming sessions, shows no real sign of ending. Unfinished business for 2017!
Bart Schouten, Iceberg Interactive
- The biggest story for me this year came as a result of a small tweet late November. Nearly 40% off all games sold on Steam were released this year. While it is nothing new or surprising, it is proof of what we were all expecting. Steam is becoming more and more crowded and this is happening at an accelerating pace. This is changing the PC gaming landscape drastically. With this many releases, it is up to the players via Steam reviews, curators and community forums such as Grogheads to help each other out and navigate this jungle of releases.
In addition this chart indicates, the press is unable to cover the majority of the released games. The unfortunate consequence of this system is that great little gems can go almost completely unnoticed, being overshadowed by the bigger titles, or tossed on the pile together with 50 other games that released on the same day. Steam used to be a great platform for the small and indie studio, but in the current climate, it are the bigger games that reign supreme again.
I don’t expect too much will change for the dedicated grognard, for you guys already know how to look beyond the most prominent shelves, but for the industry as a whole, it will be interesting to watch this trend develop over the next year.
- In my line of work I get to play a lot of games in all different genres and all different states. The one game I kept coming back to this year, is Europa Universalis IV. There is something so satisfying about seeing states develop and being able to shape the course of history. With more updates and DLC on the way, I will be sure to fire it up more than once in 2017 as well.
What was your best of the year?