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How to make the sausage ?

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16 Mar 2024 17:29 #341954 by Msample
So somewhere it the deep bowels of Consimworld recently there was a post talking about GMT having what the poster thought was a disproportionate amount of dogs. I started to type , then type some more.

So I offered these thoughts. They are mainly derived from my experience in the wargame world ( mostly hex and counter, some CDG ) but I think some of the same logic applies in other genres. At the end of the day, a lot of heavy lifting is done by volunteers or meagerly paid designers. For every Jamey Stegamaier/Eric Lang, there are hundreds of people who if they did the math, their design royalties would be measured well below minimum wage. Its ike that line in DREDD when the corrupt cop tells Dredd " It's a fucking meat grinder. People go in one end, and meat comes out the other. All we do is turn the handle". That's how I feel playtesting sometimes.....

Here was my response; curious as to people's thoughts:

( re GMT and some spotty releases )

Sure - with the sheer amount of stuff they put out some stinkers will hit the streets. And while they have some loose "series" like COIN, the Simonitch stuff ( not a true series despite some detractors' claims ), Command and Colors they do publish a lot of one off sort of stuff. Some works, some doesn't as we've all seen. Series games like what a lot of MMP's output is has the advantage of being fairly stable and usually have a point person to vet new designs using an existing system ( Gamers honchos if you will ) .





I do think their high profile works against them in some ways. Just like we hear about their hits more than other companies, their failures also resonate loudly as well. I've played good games from other companies, and some absolute steaming turds as well. And while GMT has duds, they've got enough hits that I'll gamble on them more than most other companies - if I get/play my first game from a company and it sucks it's far less likely I give them another shot. Sure it is a small sample size and some might regard it as unfair but it's not like it's a small market.





As far as "how does GMT let this happen"....at the end of the day, while they are certainly a large company, the games themselves are designed and developed not much differently than a game put out by a smaller company . It's a group of designer/developer and playtesters maybe or maybe not all in the same area who turn something in to GMT. Even though I have done some playtesting for GMT ( as well as MMP, NES, Compass off the top of my head ) almost all my interaction has been with the designer/developer - not someone at GMT "corporate" if you can even call it that, not counting Mark Simonitch when working on one of his own designs.





So , said group of designer/developer turns in the game to the publisher and says it's ready to go. It goes thru final graphics ( in most cases these days the playtesting is on pretty nice/functional stuff, no more Berg/Racier felt tip markers on home made maps and blank counters ) so final graphics is more pure proofreading. Is it truly ready ? Short of actually playing the game ( do you think Gene has the bandwidth to do even 10% of the games they publish ? ) they've got to take the submission at face value. I listened to a podcast awhile back with Jason Carr, who from the sounds of it is the head developer for GMT, but it sounds more like a coordinator of developers under him than he himself literally developing everything. Anyway he said they take a sort of rough final proto and send it to a blind group to see if it works out of the box, but I don't know if EVERY game gets this, or how far they actually get other than setting it up. I can't imagine telling a blind group to say read the rules and set up the campaign scenario for A TIME FOR TRUMPETS.





Blind testing is obviously a way to introduce better QA, but this comes at a cost, not entirely financial either. You don't want to do it too early, as it will probably lead to a fair amount of redundancy as they find stuff that the "regular" testers would find. Towards the end of the process, when things are hopefully more buttoned up, would be ideal. But first you have to find a group willing to do it. As many designers have mentioned, finding good people is hard. I've often read 50% of people who sign up to test either fail to return useful feedback or flat out disappear into the ether. Blind proof reading of rules/playbooks is perhaps a low intensity filter that could be applied towards the very end. Even that probably has some drawbacks. For instance if you post a PDF of the rules with an open call for comments, you might get 20 responses calling out the same error. Good, you correct the error - how much time was spent by all involved ? I suppose you could post a call out and narrow it down to a closed group and I do recall seeing some more recent game credit listings with blind proofers listed. This is perhaps the best ROI that could be realistically done .





I do think there is also a somewhat small but relevant elephant in the room as well nobody wants to acknowledge - burnout. Even just playtesting I am fucking sick of seeing the same game for in most cases multiple YEARS . I gotta imagine for designers it's far worse. Whether motivated by the paltry royalty checks to come or simply 'god I am sick of looking at this, what did I get myself into?" I think this plays into things whether people want to admit it or not.





Going back to GMT in particular, for sure they've got some designer/developer pairings that have produced....a pattern of less than ideal quality and we'll leave it at that. I do not know what sort of discussions are had when said team turns something in. "OK, your last game resulted in an update kit/rewritten rulebook, is this one going to be more complete out of the box?". I'd like to think so, but again I have zero idea. I think that at the end of the day the market will decide - if it doesn't make the prepub number, case closed. If it does and maybe the royalties are reduced based on prior issues, dunno. If sales are low enough maybe the dud designer/developer decides its not worth the trouble any more.
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16 Mar 2024 19:29 - 16 Mar 2024 19:30 #341956 by Gary Sax
Replied by Gary Sax on topic How to make the sausage ?
I agree with almost everything here.

Comparing high variance but interesting GMT with MMP is such a good exercise. Old GMT did a lot more like what MMP does now, with fewer designers, more series, and more straightjacketed wargames.

I don't miss that old model, but GMT's risk taking and lack of oversight does produce a lot of bombs. The good news is that it producing a ton of interesting products that don't sell AND, for them, it produces a few smash hits which lift all boats.
Last edit: 16 Mar 2024 19:30 by Gary Sax.

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16 Mar 2024 21:55 #341959 by Msample
Replied by Msample on topic How to make the sausage ?
I don’t think GMT so much lacks oversight as it’s unrealistic to have any sort of central control over such a wide and diverse portfolio of game designers.
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16 Mar 2024 22:50 #341960 by n815e
Replied by n815e on topic How to make the sausage ?
I can’t think of any publisher with a large catalog that spans a long time that doesn’t have disappointing, or even bad, games.

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30 Mar 2024 14:32 #342022 by Cranberries
Who still buys bad games? Why is it an issue? Does Gene have prison tattoos?

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