Friday, May 4, 2012

Defining The Problem We're Solving

Untitled, Banksy
SandWyrm here. As of a couple of days ago, Nurglitch has joined our project to contribute his technical writing experience to the cause. Welcome aboard! We'll get him set up as an author soon, but he's already written up some great things that I wanted to share. First up, we have a nice formalized statement of our design problem.

The Design 'Problem'

Games Workshop's commercial game development and release schedule results in uncertainty for Warhammer 40,000 players, both casual and tournament goers. This uncertainty takes three forms: (1) Uncertainty in GW's ability to continue supporting the Warhammer 40,000 game, (2) uncertainty in GW's ability to produce a balanced Warhammer 40,000 game in which its entire product line consists of valid options for competitive play, and (3) uncertainty about the game's capacity for competitive play.

Additionally, GW asserts ownership over the Warhammer 40,000 IP, and its associated trademarks and likenesses, and operates as a boutique miniatures producer rather than as a mass-market game producer. GW appears to be both unwilling and unable to produce the robust gaming experience necessary to support the Warhammer 40,000 game as a tournament-ready experience.

The M42 project lacks even the monetary resources that the GW Design & Development Studio has, and requires work to be done on a volunteer basis. This does not mean that a volunteer effort is doomed, but that it must operate under some different constaints than the GW Design & Development Studio, while being mindful of both the causes (and possible solutions) to those constraints. One such constraint is the time required to bring elements of the Warhammer 40,000 product to market, and the timing required to avoid both insufficient R&D, and player (end-market) fatigue. Another such constraint is organizational memory, or the distribution of staff and/or volunteer effort.

Specifically the design problem is building a better 28mm Sci-Fi Battle Game in which most (if not all) of GW's miniature product line is a valid choice, in which the rules are stable enough to ensure some reasonable degree of certainty in collecting elements of GW's miniature product line, which allow experienced players to finish the equivalent of a 2000pt game (5th edition) in two hours, and to feel that the game requires the application and development of skill rather than luck.

SandWyrm's Addentium

That's an excellent rundown of our more immediate goals. But I have some longer-range goals for the project as well. Let's address one of them:

GW is the largest producer of 28mm miniatures in the world. But they are not the best, not the cheapest. Their quality and prices are routinely bested by small boutique manufacturers who focus on specific ranges that fit into the 40K rules. This is made possible by new technologies such as digital C&C milling of plastic molds and 3D printing of masters for small runs of resin-cast miniatures. This gives smaller companies the ability to create high-quality products at progressively lower costs.

This is the other half of the vice that is squeezing GW (The first being rules competition from other systems). These manufacturers are springing up all over the place and are able to bring new products to market much more quickly than GW's bloated organizational structure can. So quickly, in fact, that GW has found itself losing the name rights to some of it's own ideas because someone else released a finished product with that name before they were able to.

So far, most of these manufacturers have been forced to come up with individualized names and slightly different themes for models to avoid infringing on GW's IP. But, if we can gain traction as a viable alternative to 40K, then we can offer extremely reasonable licensing terms that would unite these disparate efforts into creating products that reflect and develop OUR fluff and uniqueness at the expense of 40K's. All whilst providing a funding stream for our own development.


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