In the beginning...

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  • Greetings Fellow Gamers,

    A criticism that is occasionally raised by our players is that the 9th Age is too opaque in terms of its development and interaction with the general community. As a former public user and playtester, I remember well my own frustrations not knowing what was going on internally, which has resulted in me lobbying for a more informed community ever since. Well, as the saying goes, be careful what you wish for, it may well happen - and it did happen! In December 2016, @Shadeseraph and I were promoted to AvB with the express intention of providing our general community with more insight into what’s happening at all levels of the project.

    In many ways, it’s a great privilege to be able to read to discussions at the highest level. I am constantly astounded at just how much work is being shouldered by key staff members and the breadth of knowledge among those making the tough calls at the top regarding balance and design. On the other hand, when you see the sausage factory, you realize that the process of making sausages can be ugly before the final product is reached; no difference here, you're also exposed to the arguments, passion, pressure, and screw ups – because let’s face it, no-one is perfect, so why do we expect this in a voluntary project?

    Eventually Shade & I, after freaking out a bit at our new-found super-powers, sat down to hammer out some ideas to help share information with everyone without compromising internal trust or creating unnecessary drama. Then, as if on cue, we suddenly had 1.3 roll in faster than anticipated, Christmas holidays hit, and last of all the Freeze was implemented. Our little plan got derailed, but these things have to start somewhere, so here we go getting this blog on the tracks...

    The goal of this blog is to better inform our community's understanding of what’s happening internally.

    • Vision, decisions and planning (ExB)
    • Consultations (AvB)
    Game Progress
    • Background & art (BA/CDS)
    • Army redesigns (ADT)
    • Balancing (BT)
    • Rules development (RT/RTA)
    I’m aiming to provide bi-monthly updates, but these may increase in frequency if interesting/important developments are happening - and if I lag behind, give me a @call. If you are looking for spoilers – like Bear Cavalry for Dwarfs then prepare to be disappointed. Blonde Beer is in charge of PR, lives about 40 minutes drive away, and is much bigger than me, so I'll be taking no risks.

    What’s happening behind the scenes?
    Well as everyone is aware, there has been a freeze of the Rulebook, but what people might not know so much about is the why. This was due to several reasons both internal and external:
    • Externally, we were seeing players complaining about the lack of stability, and general attendance/activity was below average compared to earlier times. There was the idea of a 1.4 final tune-up floating around for a while, but if you could see the amount of work that went into 1.3 from the RT/BT/ACS and PR then it soon becomes clear that nothing is minor when it comes to 16 books.
    • Internally meanwhile, people were pretty tired and frustrated, especially among those juggling multiple design tasks – the risk of burn-out was becoming too high, especially for irreplaceable members, so the call was made to stop, focus on 2.0, and pause other developments.
    In terms of army design, the ADT receives a lots of great suggestions from the community via ACS, but these can be tricky to include. For example, recently it was suggested that WotDG should have 'bananas' in the army - and the WotDG ACS immediately up-voted the idea knowing that the community would love to have a new fruit. However, this concept went directly against the AWSW (Army Wide Strengths & Weaknesses) guidelines of a meat-only faction, and it was pointed out that there was already too much food on the table. Background also added that bananas were more of a Daemonic Legion thing, which led CDS to remark that 'fruit magic' seemed out of place then, and that perhaps WotDG should have 'gravy magic' instead.

    You see the picture.

    Then there are times when the ADT comes up with a brilliant idea about 'sausages' that doesn't quite fit the background but which gets CDS/ACS extremely excited, and so Background revisits the material and agrees to go with the stronger theme. Then CDS works on providing a sense of thematic consistency, ADT focuses on functionality, and BLT ask themselves if 'sausages' can be correctly priced. Right now, we have some pretty amazing 'sausages' in production!

    These kinds of cross-group discussions happen quite a lot, and this can also lead to 'animated discussions' about what the community will or will not accept. The necessity that existing models should always be playable is an important guideline, but this imposes certain limits on the Art, unit redesign, and internal balancing. Occasionally a model is kicked back to Background/CDS to provide clearer thematic direction, thus it's a far from a linear process and requires a lot of patience and mature compromise.

    At the end of the day, what keeps everyone sane & productive is the knowledge that everyone is out to make the best possible book and that while the opinions/approaches may differ, our ambitions are fully aligned.

    Besides book design, the ADT is also involved in lots of brainstorming going on regarding cool stuff like 2.0 magic, weapons, combat, and more. The central balancing act behind all of this familiarity vs. improvement, but during brainstorming it's just great fun to see some outside-the-box thinking being tossed around.

    At the same time, the Background & Art wizards are building up some seriously impressive WotDG material, and I hope with longer release schedule we can preview their work in a way that does justice to the efforts of all involved - there is one amazing portrait by @NicePants which has now become my desktop background - I need to see the full figure though, I need it!

    Data & Analysis are delighted they can start to collect some consistent information, but they will need at least 20 major tourneys before they can begin to extract meaningful results.

    The Balancing Team are currently bored out of their bulging brains, but that's probably a good thing after the bouts of extreme stress juggling 16 books at a time. Plus they will have plenty of upcoming work in the next few months I suspect.

    For non-native English speakers, the freeze also means that the various translation teams are catching up and that means more familiar languages and less reaching for the dictionary.

    There have also been some exciting suggestions from the red tags to survey the community’s opinions more, and attempt to incorporate the huge pool of gaming knowledge into the design work. This is incredibly challenging for many reasons, not least managing expectations, but I’m hopeful that we can figure something out that harkens back to those glorious pre-TAC days of public inclusiveness.

    A final thought for the day
    As a closing, I’d just like to add something that has become quite noticeable to me over the last few weeks – people may be brilliant in their roles, try their very best, and still, eventually, screw up. It’s at these moments, when we fail to meet the expectations of the many, that staff are at our lowest and those few small words of encouragement from strangers allow us to pick ourselves up and get back to work like a fully-charged superman.

    Thus remember, our triumphs and failures are glorious for the same reason – we’re only human.
    Open Source INTERNAL BALANCE: HBE | DL 2.2 | WDG 2.2 | ID | SA | VC

    1,403 times read

Comments 4

  • Kapten Kluns -

    @There is no spoon Now I will be awfully angry if there isnt bananas in the new DL book.... My expectations has been raised

    • There Is No Spoon -

      Greater Daemon of Split - triple cherry save, does D3 calorie wounds per bite, and has the following special rules: cannot march (too fat), distracting (with extra -1 ld. penalty if on a diet), requires two hands, and unwieldy.

    • Kapten Kluns -

      I am content with this

  • saint_barbara -

    Nice piece TINS!
    Right person at a right position!