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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

New Zealand Trip Diary: Part 2

My second day in NZ, and first day at Battlefront HQ was quite enlightening.  I was fortunate to be able to witness a lot of different processes at various stages.

Firstly, Mike got to see the fruits of his labors as the advance copies of the new Market Garden books had just arrived.  Apologies to Mike- I spotted a mistake in a platoon diagram that ate at him the rest of the day, even though it was interesting to see how that occurred.  Mike showed me a working copy that did not have the error, and a much older copy that did.  At some point, the older version of a platoon diagram was linked into the final document, and slipped by final proofing.  Unfortunately, these things happen.  And besides- the rest of the book is awesome!  People are going to be very surprised by a few new forces and stats tweaks.

The studio uses fairly comprehensive document version control systems, so the issue is particularly perplexing.  In fact, the final diagnosis is unclear, but seemed to be something out of sync.

Next, I got a glimpse at a "Rapid Prototyping" session.  Evan (The head BF sculptor) was in the office with the latest batch of rapid prototypes- Tiger 1E bits (think the Panther G), and OH-6 "Loach" choppers.  There was a somewhat heated debate on whether or not the Loach should have a door gunner.  Not doing so makes the chopper less "cool" (not to mention accurate?) but doing so completely changes how it must be designed for casting.  I also saw some of Evan's sculpting work in the bohemoth Soviet T-35 and nimble BT-5.

The studio was also busy with designing for various media.  Wargames Illustrated, web articles, and some work for Gale Force 9.  Wayne and Phil were both focused on new Flames of War material, Wayne's was the subject of the nightly playtesting.

The playtesting process was quite enlightening.  First, as I mentioned on our forum, the regular Battlefront crew who show up do so as volunteers.  It must be stated: Playtesting is not particularly fun.  Lots of "rewinding", undoing bad decisions, and curbing either good or bad luck.  Rolled a bunch of 6s? Awesome!  Now re-roll it.  Run that scenario back again.

The night started with a big group chat with Phil and Wayne issuing marching orders.  They detail which lists need testing, which issues should be payed particular attention, and then goes over the changes from the previous night.  The models used are essentially the island of lost toys.  Spare, broken, and excess Flames of War units have been sprayed their national color and everyone uses from the large bins.

I had the opportunity to play Phil using a very new and very unique force that I am not allowed to talk about.  He was running Soviet tanks absolutely bristling with T-26s of all flavors.  I lacked ranged AT in any real sense and the game was a foregone conclusion, prompting a lengthy conversation with the rest of the playtesters.  Eventually the conversation inevitably came back to Soviet Tanks.  The conundrum there is varied and deep with no magic bullet fix- but it boils down to "How on earth do you balance these soviet tanks with the rest of the game and still keep points values and balance in sync across the board?"

One rumor I will dispel is that the playtest forces are only tested within their own book.  That was absolutely not the case last night, and it largely dominated the conversation.  "Well sure, that works here- but what about when they're facing German Panzergrenadiers.." etc.

Finally, again, I am struck by the differences in terrain.  Their tables are a lot lighter than the ones *I* am used to for better or worse.  But none of the tables, even their "heavier" ones really match ours on the East Coast in terms of terrain density.  I plan to have more chats about this with the crew and hear their thoughts- though the conversation last night was dominated with Soviet tanks.

I also began recording interviews with the crew.  On our first day, we got several hours worth of footage that will take ages to sift through, but there's some very interesting material covered there!

Stay tuned!

PS- One of the big things I've wanted out of Battlefront for a long time is coming true in the next few weeks.  If you know me, you may know what that is.

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