Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Old Ways are the Best Ways

Look at 'dat dragon...

Yes, another two weeks without a post. Yes I know. I know it's bullshit. Even more so that the last time I went on an unannounced two-week hiatus. Anyway, to give you a quick recap, since I got back from GenCon things have been pretty busy here at The Shop. I've had a flurry of rewrites for both Deathwatch and Rogue Trader, another Rogue Trader assignment that I'm not at liberty to discuss, and a bunch of other personal stuff. All of that combined reduced my desire and ability to make post, or even be online at all except in a bidness capacity. But now I'm back, I'm back and I want to talk about the evolution of RPGs through their different editions.

So, ever since this comic dropped over at Penny Arcade, this post has been rolling around in my head. See, every game I've ever played, every good game at least, has gone through a number of editions throughout its lifetime. D&D is a perfect example with at least a dozen editions over the years from the original White Box booklets to the iconic Red Box Basic Set to 4th edition and the new Red Box Essentials. Looking at D&D over time is a great study of gaming, as each edition reflects the (then) current ideas and theories of game design. They also reflect the increasing sophistication of gamers, with more detailed rules and more customization of characters and settings.

Now, as long as there have been RPGs there have been gamers bitching about different editions. There always seems to be a sort of tin foil hat conspiracy theory thinking in the hobby wherein gamers see new editions of games as simply cynical attempts to separate gamers from their hard earned cash. Seriously now, I've gone on about this kind of thinking before here so I won't do it again. You know what new editions of games means, gamers? It means that the designers care. It shows that the game designers are constantly thinking about the game, thinking about how it can be better, how it can be more fun, how the experience can be improved for you.

There can be any number of reasons for a new edition. Maybe the game has run its course and needs a reboot. Maybe new ways of thinking in game design have made the game's ruleset obsolete. Maybe it just needs a bit of streamlining. Whatever the case, the game gets updated and there's always hell to pay. Yes, new editions typically obsolete existing game libraries which means that new books will need purchased (this doesn't mean that all your old books will suddenly combust though, you can still play the old edition). Yes, sometimes beloved rules or settings are removed. Yes, sometimes a new edition makes the game worse, and breaks more than it fixes. Thankfully that's rare, and is usually arguable when it does happen.

Games need to be constantly updated and revised to keep them fresh, gamers. To keep you coming back, to make the game better, and to attract new blood to the hobby. Going back to D&D for a sec, 4th edition is a direct result of changing demographics and tastes in gamers. Also, at least in my inexpert opinion, a return to some of its core ideas as a wargame. I suppose that's it, I could go on and on but I've got books to write. Suffice to say that I enjoy seeing new editions of games, it means that they're still alive, still fresh, and will remain so for a long time. Like D&D.

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