Day 1 patches have come to the tabletop.
Games Workshop has had a long relationship with the video game industry. As far back as 1991 they’ve been turning their board and tabletop games in video games. For the longest time though they’ve seemed to manage to keep the two parts of their business from influencing each other.
Welcome to 1993!
Now however it seems like GW has started to learn some familiar lessons from the video game industry. Lets take a look at these.
Things About Video Games That Drive Us Crazy
Take a look through any discussion of the video game industry and you’ll see a couple of big issues that pretty much everyone has with the industry. In general people have major complaints with the quality of the games put out by major video game publishers. These complaints center around the major issues of broken games being released and missing features. lets look at these two issues.
- A Broken game is a game that is released seeming incomplete. It’s a game that perhaps knowingly was rushed out to meet a deadline with out being totally finished. Often these games have major bugs that either make the game not run or major parts of the game not run correctly. Many gamers complain that the game company isn’t worried about quality, that they knowingly put out broken products and let the gamers do their testing for them. Day 1 patches are a common symptom of this issue, fixing issues that many feel should have been noticed in testing.
- Missing Features are another issue many video gamers have problems with. This is when a video game is released without certain features that either were announced for it or at the least seems like it should have had. This could be a game launching with no multiplayer support when that had been announced, or lacking the ability to personalize in game objects in an expected way. Often these features are added at a later date, though not always for free.
In both these cases these are behaviors the video game industry has been getting away for quite sometime now. Now with 8th Edition Games Workshop seems to have adapted these feature to the tabletop. Lets look at some examples.
I’ve talked a couple times already about GW’s FAQ problems. Now unlike a video game a tabletop game can’t really launch with game breaking bugs, even if the rules make little sense two human players will be able to play the game. However it also does seem like GW is taking a video game developer attitude to releasing products on time and then patching them after the fact. The very fact that almost every release since the start of 8th has needed an almost immediate FAQ, in essence a day 1 patch, point to a strategy of commitment to release time tables first, and thorough play-testing second. As an example lets look at the most recent of their Day 1 patches.
Yeah, I’m about to talk about the Astra Militarum FAQ. So for anyone who missed it the AM got a FAQ, this FAQ comes right on the heels of the books release and is effectively a day 1 patch. And yes, most of the FAQ is just fine, it answers some questions players had, and it addresses some typos or missing lines here and there. And hey, you might say, everyone makes some mistakes, its natural they might miss a line or two. No harm no foul. But that doesn’t explain Commissars.
You see in the FAQ they completely changed the rules for how Commissars work. Changed, not clarified. Less then two weeks after Codex Astra Miliaturm was released – the Commissar rules were re-written. I mean, lets face it, nothing has happened between the AM codex being released and today that warrants the change. Commissars have been a hotly discussed topic since the Indexes came out, and nothing in particular has changed since then. It seems clear this was an issue has been debating for a while, but only came to a decision on after the book had gone to the printers. So they just decided to fix it with a day one patch, just like the video game industry would do.
Both Age of Sigmar and Warhammer 40K 8th Edition were massive stream-linings of what had come before. And yet with the simplifications many people felt that features had been left out. In particular in Age of Sigmar players felt that things like, points and comparative play had been left out. In 8th players felt that other features, like vehicle facings had been left out. But fear not! Those features were missing from the base game but GW is here with a handy supplement, the Generals Compendium or Chapter Approved to fix these issues.
Now in the past GW has always been willing to give players what they wanted and add new features and rules into the games, and that has been fine. Even with Age of Sigmar it felt like GW released what they initially felt was a full game and then bowed to players wishes to add additional features the next year. Good for them.
But with Warhammer 40,000 8th it feels a little different. Chapter Approved was announced almost as soon as the game was released and clearly was always part of the overall release plan. Rather than just releasing all these rules as one they were split into a core game and a soon-to-come expansion. Again just like how a video game company would do it. We will have to wait till December to see if Chapter Approved contains core-rules that would have been better placed in the main rulebook – or if it is mainly hard-earned balancing tweaks garnered through the game’s first 6 months in the wild.
So in the end it does seem like GW has learned some lessons from the video game industry. In their strategy towards releasing games week in and week out no matter what they follow in the footsteps of modern video gaming companies. And it’s hard to really blame them. The video game industry makes a lot of money and has been using these techniques for years now. Complain as much as video-gamers players do, they still shell out their money and buy the games, download the patches and keep on playing.
It’s probably just not reasonable to expect any company to hold off on putting out a game or book (and making money) for one rule. Can you really blame them?
So what do you think of the “instant FAQs” and And is this a good or bad thing? Let us know, down in the comments!