Friday, May 21, 2010

Backwards Engineering

I used to work for a major game company several years ago. For all practical purposes the company has since folded. There's a vast conglomeration of reasons for why this happened, but the reason I mentioned my experience with this company is because of its marketing.

...or lack thereof. In 2005 there was a decision made to re-make an old game. The decision was made in great haste, over the course of a single weekend, and with thunderous applause. Many people working at the company loved this old game, and heavily supported its re-release. The decision was made to go ahead with its design, development and subsequent release.

Do Eskimos make a living selling ice to each other? Probably not... but maybe once upon a time there was an Eskimo who did, and chances are that he's no longer in business. My point is that when you decide to sell a product (and I'm no expert here by any means, so correct me if I'm wrong), you should probably do some demographics research to determine if anyone will show interest in buying it. No matter how much some folks just looooved the Studabaker, no one is going to re-release it to the general public because it's just not a profitable venture.

You get a general idea of what kind of product or service you're going to sell/provide, figure out if anyone wants it, create a version of it that will appeal to those people, and THEN you mass-produce it. I'm fairly sure that this is just rudimentary... but I'm getting to my point.

Do you see a parallel here? I see it every time I walk into my FLGS. There is some guy going "OMFG look at that awesome model, I will destroy everyone with it!" This guy goes home with his new models, builds them, paints them, puts them in his newest army configuration, and promptly gets utterly destroyed by a rather mundane, yet tried and true force. He begins the whole process with an impulsive decision, expecting his excitement and positive energy to pay him amazing in-game dividends. He is ultimately disappointed when his army is crushed, and he cries to his friends like a little bitch about how his new models "should have kicked SOOO much ass, and probably will next time!" This kind of rationalization is what sets a mediocre player apart from a good player.

So is it a bad thing to take cool models in a tabletop hobby-based miniatures game? Of course it isn't because creativity is at the core of Warhammer 40,000. What you want to do when you walk into your FLGS and exclaim "OMFG I will pown noobz!" when you see a new awesome model is to figure out a way to either 1) integrate the new model/unit into your existing army so that it doesn't detract from its current effectiveness level, or 2) take army construction to the next level by focusing your force on the new unit.

For example, I really love the new Sanguinary Guard. The models are awesome, and the price point is great - buy one unit in one box for around $35 and that is IT! Of course they are a kick-ass unit, but they have their drawbacks. If you're going to use them correctly, you must minimize their drawbacks and maximize your ability to utilize their strengths...

How does a jump pack equipped unit that is only five models in size survive as it's crossing the table to assault the enemy? Keep them in reserve, behind cover, keep LOS blocked, Feel No Pain, or put them inside a Stormraven Gunship. Can they get by on just their 2+ armor save? Did Terminators get by on just a 2+ save when 3rd Edition was released? NO. The safest thing to do is to either put them in reserve, in a Stormraven, or jump them up behind a fast-moving vehicle or two. This tells you that you need to be playing a semi-mechanized force.

You can see where this is going. Plan your army around a strategy, and pick your units based on how well they execute tactics that allow you to implement that strategy. Don't just say "OMFG these guys are awesome!" and expect to win.

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