First off―thank you, to you guys. Free at point of delivery, with brand new art, and many new missions, or great new takes on old ones. I was particularly happy to see Terrain rules enforced and expanded. I hope some of those rules get incorporated into 2018 ITS.
The space aesthetic―man, I don’t think anyone was upset about that. It was absolutely fantastic to (finally!) see the space craft and stations of the various factions. I was actually happier with that than the space art in Outrage.
Also, it was great to have an active staff throughout the campaign. I had a couple problems with the battle report uploads, but the problems were solved in less than 12 hours on both occasions. Again, splendid, since this was free.
And as far as the player base goes, I am most impressed with PanOceania. They could have easily become demoralized after Phase 1, but by Phase 3 they emerged the real heroes. And credit to Vanther, I did not like the Tohaa direction, but it was very well organized and executed. And credit to the Gentle Winter guy, he was killing it on reports, but I don’t think much credit found its way to Yu Jing.
But here is what I think could be the “do better next time” improvements.
Players will play politics. There is no way to stop it. So let factions officially ally. Or at least, let factions “give” their campaign Points score to the parent faction, to be diplomatic.
ONLY ENEMY RATINGS MATTER
Factions should not be able to uprate their own reports, if the ratings are the metric that the AI Historian uses to determine “good” from “fake”. Removing that option makes it much more tedious for players to artificially inflate bad reports for the AI Historian to appraise, requiring a separate account to do so.
Knowing that only the opponent’s rating matter would force a gentleman’s agreement for everyone to rate one another fairly. A faction that conspired to downvote everyone would see everyone else downvote them into irrelevance.
Outsource your faker-screening to the opponents, and lighten the workload on the campaign staff.
The problem with scoring is that you often don’t want to fight in the specific theatre, because of faction politics, or because you just wanted to fight a different mission.
I think the best way to address this is to weight the Points scored on a territory against the faction’s average Forces. Or “Casualties”, or “Survivors”, or however the name needs to fit. This Forces score wouldn’t be based on a faction’s number of players―it would be based on a faction’s average surviving Army Points.
Figure in an average game, you have 150 surviving Army Points. This would be a Forces score of 1. 300 surviving Army Points would be a Forces score of 2. But, let’s say average army points of the Combined Army players was 187. This would be a Forces score of 1.25, which would prorate all campaign Points by a factor of 1.25. Thus, an Onyx player who scored a cool 10-0 victory would actually score 12 points for the Combined Army.
The abstraction here is that the army only has so many bodies on the ground, and even if a territory is conquered, maybe the army has taken losses such that they can’t hold it. Pyrrhic victories are losses.
How this would help the campaign is that players can contribute to the faction, even if they can’t contribute to the theatre. Contrariwise, when fighting the enemy, even if the theatre is wrong, you can hurt the enemy score by killing the enemy―regardless of theatre.
Warren’s interview with Carlos said that there were about 4,000 Wotan players, and about 5,000 battle reports. Even if we presume that 2,000 Wotan players were abandoned or sock accounts, that still doesn’t put the average pover 3 reports per player.
Problem with batrep spammers? Limit it. 2 or 3 reports per player per theatre. That’s actually a very reasonable number: If you are playing 9 campaign games over the course of 9 weeks, you’ve actually played a lot of games. But you won’t have a metaphorical whip behind you to grind reports, and you will know you have time to pretty up those 2 or 3 reports.
Maybe I missed it, but there wasn’t an open briefing room where Wotan players could riff or cheer or propogandize. Put one in, and let people @ each other in the chat, and in the battle report comments and such. It was hard to carry on a conversation with enemy players, when there was no way of notifying them.
You could also a daily Most Viewed Report feature for each faction on the campaign’s home page, so that particularly great reports or atrocious reports get the proper ratings, comments, and commendations.
FREE ACCOUNT AND $5 ACCOUNT
Wotan got slow. Beasts of War needs to rent another server. And I think they should get paid for the work to host.
So: offer 2 account types. Free account and Stakeholder account. Charitable or determined players can throw them 5 quid to become Stakeholders, allowing unlimited reports per phase, and a couple other nifty perks. Add a custom badge. Throw a shiny orange “Stakeholder” tag next to their name. Etc. It’s a lot of work to run a campaign, so asking for money isn’t unreasonable. Especially when you can decide not to, and run a generic free account.
Monthly cloud servers cost about $50 per month. Thus, if Beasts of War do a 3-month summer campaign, and just 100 people give 5 bucks, that’s $500 for you to cover the server costs, and pay your poor intern who can’t keep up with her troubleshooting requests.
I personally wouldn’t mind giving Beasts of War a tip for their work. Getting some money out of the affair would help to alleviate bitterness against complainy players, and allow them to turn that money into more art and prize support.
RAILROAD THE STORY
Something I learned from running roleplaying games: people like being railroaded on a specific track, even though they think they don’t. A sandbox gives unlimited possibility, but no direction.
If you want players to feel like their results matter, and you want to tell a narrative, then you might consider restricting campaign Points scoring for some factions to specific theatres. You don’t have to restrict factions to 1 goal, but if PanO has no narrative reason to fight ALEPH, then it is probably better to disallow them from attacking each other. If ALEPH and Tohaa were supposed to attack Nomads, then it is probably better to make that inevitable.
Focus the players, give them purpose, and you can both tell your tale and blow up the Nomads station, just like you wanted.
The biggest problem I had with Wotan had nothing to do with Beasts of War’s campaign itself. The liaison of my faction (the Tohaa, of course) set the direction in keeping with the most hawkish Tohaa moral, “Let others fight your wars.” I didn’t like the direction for reasons you have probably already read, if you are on my blog. What PanO did was much more exciting.
I threw up a Lonely Artichoke YouTube channel during my lunch break today, so if you want to see my scraggleface talk about wargaming, or watch battle reports, I will upload there once in awhile. Or more, if people like that more than blogging. My potato video was in response to VaulSC’s review of Wotan, who―although I have a disagreement or two on his take on Wotan―is my most recommend Infinity YouTuber. Check him out, too.