Saturday, August 15, 2009

Thoughts on Warmachine's Next Big Thing

On the evening of August 14th, 2009 many hundreds of Warmachine players across the globe joined with those in attendance in a convention room somewhere in the sprawl of GenCon 2009 to discover what exactly it was that Matt Wilson of Privateer Press was going to unveil as the NBT for Warmachine. I won't say that speculation was rampant for the week before the announcement, but certainly there must have been a high level of interest in the tabletop wargaming geek community across the globe.

Let's face it, we have a new and most high and excellent edition of Warmachine. There is a completely new faction, the Retribution of Ios, with an army book and a massive release of miniatures all of which became available for purchase on August the 13th at GenCon. In the context of Privateer Press' enviable security against rumours, what could it possibly be?

I went with the Orgoth invasion, for much the same reason that I always choose heads on a coin toss. My friend Ken guessed a naval variant of Warmachine, given recent releases and No Quarter articles. Others on the net chose a Warmachine mass battle game, or a new faction from southern Immoren, or new unit types or abilities. Some people chose a movie or a videogame.

As it turned out, it is a videogame. It will be able to be played on xBox and Playstation but not on Wii. Whether it will be a FPS or a RTS (?) is not yet known. It will have multi-player capacity. The player will control a warcaster with a battlegroup. Presumably there will come into being a domain on the interweb where online combat between warcasters from all the factions, reminiscent of certain of the fiction in Legends and other books, will be ongoing 24/7 in a WOW mode.

What is to be made of this? Well, first of all let me say that what Privateer Press does is none of my business. I'm not interested in questioning the wisdom of its business plan. If I had shares in the company or if I had otherwise invested in it that would be different. Because, as I sit here, I have both an Extreme Juggernaut and Drago winging their way towards my collection does not give me any say on what PP does. I acknowledge this.

That said, I won't be buying a Playstation, xBox or other video or computer gaming system so I can play this or any other videogame. Nor will I be losing myself and my marriage in an online Immoren chasing electrons about the web. It's just not my thing. I'm a tabletop wargamer. Warmachine is, I thought, a tabletop wargame. I'd rather play 10 games a year against other human beings on a 4' x 4' surface than 1,000 against a computer or against others on a computer.

For me, and this is solely my personal take on the matter, computer gaming is a form of wasting disease or elongated suicide. There is no substance to it. When I was a child, there were pinball machines that retained high scores and so, in the small communities that played on them, there was at least the competition amongst the various players to have their three initials up there between plays. There was no cheating the tilt. PAK was the man, until he wasn't the man any more.

I need that human element, the person on the other side of the table, the sense that "this all happened", the substance of the acquisition, preparation, modelling, painting, deployment, movement, the gaming with and putting away of miniatures, scenery and the tabletop surfaces. I need the art, the travel to play, the thrill of a victory or, more likely, the agony of yet another defeat, but a victory or a defeat that is witnessed by at least one other human being.

I sat at a computer a few times in the early 90's and got up 14 hours later after my civilization was nuked out of existence. Afterwards, it was hard to shake the feeling that I had just wasted so much of my time. There are some lines of script from Bladerunner that I think are apt to decribe what I'm trying to say:

I've seen things you people wouldn't believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I've watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in the rain. Time to die.

It's hard to imagine describing anything that ever happened in a videogame with such language. Isn't it more the case that every moment playing a videogame is forever lost in time, just throwing parts of one's life away as if it was garbage?

I know, I know, different strokes for different folks.

I can't wait to get Drago and that Extreme Juggernaut. My tabletop gaming schwi is only going to get better with these additions to my arsenal. Really.


Redfinnegas said...

Amen bruddah, and well stated!

JET (aka Jason) said...

I one played video games in a pseudo-addictive fashion, probably almost 10 years ago. I'm more or less in agreement with you (and have similar feelings about TV for that matter).

However, I have to give credit where credit is due. Resident Evil IV played a great part in helping me to successfully quit smoking.

fireymonkeyboy said...

I suspect the goal of this "next big thing" is to broaden the profile of the PP-aware. I know there are people who are now playing 40k because they were introduced to the universe via Dawn of War. Methinks PP is aiming for something similar.

Keir said...

I'm trying to imagine Ethan playing a Menoth army.