Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Errata: Your safety net to fun!
Recently, I purchased a new $75 rulebook for one of my favorite miniature games (we'll call it "Swore-hamster" to protect the company). This book is gorgeous, huge, well-produced and thorough. Shortly after its release, an errata was issued for this rulebook, and all the other army books that I own.
Yes, I know this was done because, any time you change the core of the game you have to bring the supplements in line. I get that. But keep this in mind: when a company issues an errata that contains FAQs, clarifications and re-wordings it means that the development job wasn't done properly in the first place.
Play testing needs to happen, regardless of your view on whether it should be in-house or not. And yes, you do have to listen to your community to a certain extent. But the design approach of "we can always issue an errata" means "we don't have time to do it right, but we have time to do it over." Not an approach I agree with.
And this happens with RPGs, board games, and card games as well as miniatures. As a customer, I don't want to buy a new product only to find out that my rulebook isn't up to date, or that some of the components have changed. If the writing, development and play testing are done properly in the first place, you can mitigate the likelihood of having to publicly fix your own mistakes*
*(piss off customers)
Now, I know what you're thinking: 'This happens in the electronics/software industry all the time. You have to download updates to fix bugs or update security features.' And you're right. But I'm not a software or firmware developer. I can't do what they do. I'm also reticent to compare that to cardboard and plastic. The rules for SworeHamster are not quite as complex as how your iPhone works. Furthermore, why is it I tolerate behavior from game companies that I would never tolerate from my bank, doctor, employer or spouse? I can't turn a project in to my boss 'completed,' but under the caveat of "it should be fine, if anything goes wrong I can always fix it later at the inconvenience of the customer."
Don't go anywhere Fantasy Flight Games, I'm not done with you yet either. I'm ok with throwing down $90 for a cool board game that I don't really need, but if you're going to be an "industry leader" then please lead by example. Don't issue the errata the same day as the street date for your new game. I know the game was delayed by 4 months (standard procedure) but I had hoped that part of that was due to fixing your rules. Also, I'm perplexed by the effort of putting a piece of paper inside my board game stating "Read this first!" (just like 'we need to talk,' nothing good can come of this statement). So upon reading 'this' first, it tells me to find a certain card or component and throw it out. Ok, that's like bringing me a birthday cake, then telling me to take the eggs out of it.
Play test your stuff! Don't have the time/resources? Farm it out! Don't give me a product that is shrink-wrapped, yet not finished. Don't schedule future time to re-write a rule that you know is going to cause confusion.
Despite their best efforts, do mistakes get through? Of course they do. These, after all, are humans doing this stuff. It happens. But the mindset, the approach, of the design process is sometimes the culprit.
Bobby still plays board games and Warhammer. He is still mad about the Beastmen book. He still lives in Seattle.