The "Computers saved wargaming" debate

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The "Computers saved wargaming" debate

Post by lesthesarge » Sat Feb 09, 2008 1:56 am

It's possible you have witnessed this manner of discussion, maybe even more than once and in more than one location.

But current trends make me wonder if the times are a changing yet again.

Do you have an old computer? Have you pondered getting XP? Are you aware that XP will soon be as welcome as 98?
This is not a pro Vista posting (because frankly I hope the program lasts as long as ME did). But OSs are not forever, and XP will soon be yesterday (whether we like XP or not).

I like XP for the record (well more than Win 3.1 and everything in between up till 98SE). I'm not saying XP is my buddy. It won't run a number of my first wargames. And I would prefer it did, without all that DosBox jumping through hoops requirement.

But as much as I like XP, I realize it will not be marketed eventually. Not sure if that eventually will be 2009 or 2010, but I think by 2011 it will be as welcome as 98SE, which is for the most part not at all.
Doesn't mean it will suddenly stop running of course.

But today, when I format the system I go and eventually do the update function. Tomorrow, that eventual tomorrow, I will be able to format it, and disable the update portion of the routine, because it simply won't be about to happen.

All things end.

Now here in lies the question. How long will it be, that a PC will be able to deliver on the goods for the PC wargaming industry, before it succeeds in killing it, whether by intent or by accident? Because our wargames are a considerably niche hobby. Always has been, always will be. We are not big in number. And the PC market has not been overly well liked on the retail shelf for a while now. It's been my note, that brick and mortar retail has slighted shelf space in favour of the console. PC wargames belong to a branch of gaming, that is basically being told it's not very important to retail.

We ar a niche, in a sector, that is not appreciated.

Sooooo if the OS scene becomes unfriendly to our games, and retail couldn't care less about us, does that make our PC wargaming future all that great? Will there be much reason to state "computers saved wargaming". Or more correctly, will our computers evolve to only being a means to play them, but differently employed?

Right now, I can go online, talk at length about a game on a forum, but there's no assurance I will be able to play the game I am discussing. I'm NOT in a hurry to upgrade my OS. I DON'T want Vista at all. And eventually the OS WILL evolve till they probably won't run my current collection. I likely will need a new computer in a few years. Will I still be able to run XP intelligently speaking on it? If not, that likely spells doom for PC wargaming for me.

But regardless, I will still be able to go online. I will still be able to seek out news on wargaming, and be able to buy wargames online. I will still be able to stay in the loop on wargaming. But, will it be PC wargaming?

Right now programs like VASSAL and Cyberboard to name two, are still a bit raw. But that could change. And they use the power of the internet, they deliver old school wargaming with actual real board game wargames. They are for the most part immune to OS fluctuations. They still sit on an ordinary table and still play like the real deal, no matter how old the board game actually is.
The computer can connect me with companies making board games, and I can chat about them on forums. The computer can give me an interface so I can play that board game any time of the day, and any day of the week, with anyone on any part of the planet.
The OS I am using won't likely be even an issue worth comment. The hardware won't matter. I might not even need broadband to enjoy it (although I plan to have broadband either way :) ).

The computer won't be out of the picture, but I am not positive the computer wargame will still be a PC program in the future.
I still see board game wargames in production, in use and being requested. Not in vast numbers, but then again, at their height in the "golden years" they were never in great numbers in the first place. I think the number one selling wargame of the lot, likely hasn't outsold some of the worst selling PC games of mainstream. That says a lot.

And demographically speaking, how long will my generation be around, effectively keeping the love of board game looking PC wargames alive? When we are gone, will there be enough of a market left to make companies like Matrix Games even doable? Their best titles are relics of my past.

In 10 years, will anyone care if PC wargaming as a grognard knows it, exists at all?

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Post by Sombra » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:12 pm

I hate Vista, I dont see any benefit against XP . None at all. Besides having a new computer to run "only " the OS is kind of baffeling. My biggest "problem" with even Slitherine right now is that a simple hex based war game needs quite a powerful computer to run on it.

Regarding wargaming, I think computers especially the interent saved wargaming. Face it, its quite hard to find 4-5 friends in the neighborhood which enjoy the good old classcal wargames and have time for days to play these games. The internet and computers made it possible to play quite complex games with other players over the net . This is what keeps me interessted. The AI in these games I can neglect (I dont expect from a board game that there is a singleplayer included)

I like the competion the playing against other players. I like usally all the features which make it easy to play online , find players online, share results etc. Good example is the fantasy hex turn strategy can observe games, play games, save replays, chat during the games with other observers etc.

I would love similar features for more complex war games too.

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Post by IainMcNeil » Thu Aug 14, 2008 3:28 pm

If you mean CEAW, it was developed in Java by an external company - Firepower entertainment, we published it and helped with the art & game design, but are not involved in the programming at all. Java is definitely an issue and after CNAW I doubt we'd want to release any more games using it unless the performance issues can be solved.

Internally we use C++ on all our game development and we go out of our way to make sure its as fast and slick as possible on all machines. Firepower is a one man team though and does not have the resources & experience we do, so it can't be expected to directly compete. The reality is that games liek CEAW dont generate enough sales to pay for large teams so the production values are never going to be as high as the revenue just can't support them. Unless there is a major shift in buying habits and PC game sales take off again it's not very likely to change and small teams like Firepower are the only way these type of games will see the light of day.

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Post by MrsWargamer » Fri Aug 15, 2008 1:39 pm

Hmm colour me clueless. I never actually made the leap and realized that Firepower programmed CEAW.

I suppose that means a congrats to Firepower are in order :)

And it is interesting all the moreso, that two of my current fav wargames were made by one man teams (at the coding level).

I hear a lot of people claiming the computer saved wargaming due to being able to find opponents online.
What is confounding, is the same crowd generally insists the wargame absolutely MUST have an AI because opponents are not easy to manage even online.
My beef with online play, is most wargames have dreadful "honesty" security between turns. And it's likely most of your online opponents won't know you personally, and will either cheat on you, or will think you cheated on them. That's just a reality of human nature though. No point denying it happens.

Board game wargame sales are actually doing ok these days (ok in the usual wargame sales sense of the word of course).

Myself, I like the wargame being on a computer for the fact I can "set it up" and not require an unrealistic amount of table space be used up indefinitely. You need to be either rich and single or rich and with a family that thinks your wargame room is that important in order to have that wargaming table.

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Post by IainMcNeil » Fri Aug 15, 2008 2:53 pm

Slitherine are moving from developer to publisher and over the next year the majority of the games we release will not be developed in house, though of course we will be tightly controlling the game designs to ensure they're all really good fun!

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