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Comments on the Kickstarter

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Thank you all for your valuable comments on the Dystopian Empires Kickstarter. As you’d imagine, we hoped they would tell us you loved our new idea and would be pledging on Day 1, but we’ve learned so much from your comments that although they’re not what we were hoping for, they are incredibly valuable for us. Page one of the handbook tells us to build products that customers want to buy. We have a number of Dystopian, Firestorm and Planetfall projects already underway (new narrative, new scenery and new models) but based on your feedback yesterday we need to gather more information directly from you. So we’re working up a short new survey to ask you EXACTLY what you want now from our game systems. We thought expanding the Dystopian World through Empires would be welcomed, but it is clear you want us to do that in other ways and we want to learn what you need. Watch this space and thanks for so openly sharing your views – we are committed to responding to them. All the best, Spartan Neil.

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Bravo Spartan.

I am acutely aware of the immense disappointment that the negative responses must have caused after what I suspect has been a large amount of time and effort pouring creative juices, energy and hope into a grand project.

Asking for feedback rather than pressing on shows courage. Bravo.

Personally, I will look forward to offering my thoughts as a fan of your work and whilst you marshal yourselves for the task of navigating forward from this point I would ask that you keep in mind one point:

People wouldn't be this passionate about something that they didn't care about. 

 

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I hope we didn't make Spartan Neil sad.

But on to more general thoughts... I am not intrinsically opposed to a 15mm Dystopian line- play or not, I'd probably pick up some models if I thought the looked cool (e.g., The Legions scale Xenophon). The issue arises when we consider how many model lines Spartan has already- Dystopian Wars, Legions, Firestorm Armada, Planetfall, Halo Fleet Battles, Halo Ground Command, Uncharted Seas- and how Spartan seems to struggle to give them the level of support that they need to sustain themselves, which means that most people think Spartan is overstretched as it is, and another model line will not help matters.

Second, Spartan has quite the reputation for being unable to focus on a product. It was somewhat of a joke when DW1.1 was around, but has since become an expected fact of life. We don't want Spartan distracting themselves from the games we've already invested in with yet another project. And people interested in DE don't trust Spartan to get enough of the game complete before abandoning it in favour something new.

Finally, We have Dystopian Wars and Legions. Yes, going 15mm might have been a better plan for DL from the off, as to avoid competition with the very cluttered 28mm market (in addition, though Spartan models are normally great, anything in metal is quite poor, which impacts collectors), but at this point, with Spartan's reputation and game lineup as it is, is trying again in 15mm really a good plan?

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Seriously, though, if you did a Kickstarter to try to inject new life into something that already exists that hasn't seen much support, I'm sure people would get behind it.

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Spartans,

You may be aware of the recent backlash to your proposed Dystopian Empires Kickstarter recently. And it isn't that the community wasn't open to the idea of a 15mm Dystopian game, its just that the announcement exemplified a trend that has become a little too common and obvious to us.

The fact is that Spartan very much has a reputation of being like a Magpie - jumping from project to project without finishing anything, always looking out for the next shiny thing. It is a reputation that is driving some potential new players away. And it is somewhat well deserved - during the leadup to the release of Halo Ground Command, Spartan was totally devoted to that one game, and promised releases and updates for other games seemed to fall by the wayside.

And that's not good - it makes the community feel that they've been forgotten, or, worse, decieved (I'm still waiting for my Dystopian Legions Russians...due Q1 2014). Remember the big hype when you posted all those blogs for new releases to existing games in the last couple of weeks? That was the community coming back and getting excited again, thinking that you'd remembered them...and then you said your next release was another new game. Which would take massive effort and massive amount of resources away from other projects. Plus, Kickstarter being used by an established company...eh, no - Kickstarter already had a bad enough reputation there, thanks.

The other issue was that Dystopian Empires would have been released to a market that already had plenty of other well-established Company-level team-element games, such as Dropzone Commander, Flames of War, Epic 40k (Net and the upcoming GW version), and even your own Halo Ground Command. For a new game to try to break into that?

And on top of that, there's your statement that you're a small company. If anything, this a more of an indictment rather than a mea culpa now - other companies, larger companies even (Corvus Beli, Privateer Press, Hawk Wargames, Battlefront) have one, maybe two miniature lines to maintain for their games. You've maintaining five (six, if you include Dystopian Legions), with most likely several thousand various model types. If you're a small company, you have to focus on what you've got and make it better, instead of constant expansion - expansion comes when you're doing well and have a large enough team (a la Games Workshop). Quality over Quantity will work here (and because this isn't Soviet Russia!).

Let me give you some examples of things that your energies could be devoted towards, instead of another new game:

Dystopian Wars

For one, get the Fleet Action rules available for download. Its supposed to be an introductory/more accessible game, so make it more accessible.

These factions have been mentioned in the rulebook in the Allies table, but have yet to be released or even detailed:
    - Free Chilean Republic
    - The Wani (More Phase Generators!)
    - Socialist Union of South America
    - Republic of Egypt (burrowing APCs?)
    - Portugese Empire
    - Spanish Republican Confederacy
    - Garibaldi's Legion
    - The Order of Honorable Gentlemen
    - League of Crimson

Talk and rumours from the Spartans and the Vanguards have put forward the idea of improvements, revamps, and new models for the following factions:    - Dominion of Canada (what ever happened to that see-saw top Mobile Airfield?)
    - Ottoman Empire
    - Teutonic Order
    - Honorable Eclipce Company (Heavy Interceptor?)
    - New models for existing factions (the Brit artillery battlecruiser...)

Additionally, some of the older models in the range are starting to look their age compared to their contemparies. The following models could probably do with a resculpt, especially in the light of some of the more recent, more detailed releases:
(Please note that this is my personal list - others may have other opinions)
    - Enterprise
    - Washington
    - Princeton
    - Saratoga
    - Lexington
    - Sokotsu
    - Nakatsu
    - A-17

You don't need to call them the same thing, either - you have precedent for using different names/models for the same stat line in Firestorm Armada.

And whilst the Dreadnought Robots may not have sold well, they were well-designed miniatures, capturing all that weirdness that is steampunk. Why not do a few more? A British submersible aircraft carrier. An Antarctican Bipedal Titan Robot with Particle Accelerator eye. An EotBS Super-Dreadnought, the Yamato!

Firestorm Armada

Firstly - Taskforce rules - downloadable.

Apart from the obvious release of the full stat documents for Firestorm Taskforce, there are still a few factions in the background that still don't have models:
    - Illosians
    - STL Traders
    - OSO Marauders
    - Pathogen (I think their rules also need a rework)
Also, a third Sorylian vs Relthoza Starter box would probably not go astray, as well as the re-release of the Battle of Valhalla, so that all six main factions have a starter box.

And if that isn't enough, your proposed expansions, resculpts, revamps...any sort of new release (even if its just a re-boxing of an existing line) can be a news item. Why not Reinforcement boxes for the allied races? (Ryushi escort carriers?)

Dystopian Legions

It was mentioned some time ago that a revamp of the Legions game engine in progress, but the line was effectively dropped before anything could come out of that. Its not that the game was unpopular, it just that it was competing against established games of a similar scale like 40k and Warhammer, or against good dedicated communities like that from Bolt Action. It needs something to stand out, and some of the weirdness of steampunk could certainly make the game stand out.

Additionally, the range needs to be completed - even if it is just completing the range for the Antarcticans and French, but you already have test models for the Russians, so why not go all out with them as well? And after that - more mercenaries? Italian Condottieri?

I would not be surprised if you had a bunch of ideas ready for Dystopian Empires, but, there's nothing saying that you couldn't include those in the Legions range. That "Medium" Ironclad on the DE banner would certainly look interesting in 28mm.

Firestorm Planetfall

Whilst I can agree that the game is playable in its current form, and its basically complete, additional variety certainly wouldn't go astray in this game - you've teased CQC Leviathans, alternate helices such as Artillery, as well as your more recent announcement of core helices for the allied races. Different model options for each of the helix types, such as different tanks, infantry types, a proper Dindrenzi Recon helix (as an alternative to the current "Beachead" Helix).

But on top of that, helices for the Illosians, Kedorians, Ryushi, Xelocians and Takarians are missing - I would love to see a Ryushi Drone flyer helix, or see the kind of twisted biomorphs the Illosians field as shock troops.

Halo Fleet Battles

Fleet Battles needs to be supported and expanded as well - people are still waiting for more commanders and heroes (who doesn't want to field John-117 as a Hero!?), as well as the already-prototyped Halcyon/Autumn-Class Cruiser. Plus, what happened to the promised Sangheli ships?

Also, there is the option there for a third faction - the Forerunners/Prometheans. Their ships would look very different to the current horizontal vessels (they're vertical!...its an Eve Online joke), and it would add much needed variety to a pretty solid game.

And finally, the campaign rules in the Fall of Reach book certainly deserve another look - I mean, there are plenty of battles and the campaigns in the Halo universe. Why not release more campaign supplements for them? They don't have to be for sale in the store - its one of the great things about Spartan Games that the rules (generally) are available free for download.

Uncharted Seas

Why not bring it back, even if it is Mail-order only? You even listed a few new models a few years back (I remember something about an Imperial Human Dragon?), but its a decent game, and it could do well because the last well-known high fantasy high seas/tall ships game was...Man-O-War. That factor is a potential selling point.

 


That all said, though, I think one thing that needs to be also done is that you need to have a good plan worked out - and I'm not talking just six months, I'm talking two-three year plans. Find out how long it takes a team to do something, plan their time on certain project, work out how that fits into the cycle of getting a product ready for release - Project Management 101.

Face it, Spartan, you've got a loyal, dedicated community, a bunch of great people working for you, and good group of rule sets. The DE smack-down may hurt, but its better to get hit now rather than at a time when the company may be going belly up - because at least now you can fix the problem.

We of the community fell in love with your games and still play them for a reason. You keep that going for us, and we'll keep buying your resin. Your lovingly crafted, solid, weird-shaped resin.

Signed,

Draco (Greg H) - Spartan Nut since 2010, and proud of it.

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Where and when should we look for the survey?

I have to agree with the above sentiments, while DE did sound like a great project, it does feel like Spartan needs to consolidate before expanding further.  I personally would be more than happy to contribute to a kickstarter to help consolidate existing product lines if that's what it takes.  

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I think is wise way remember that do not bite off more than you can chew

As most people there, I believe first step should be consolidate and reinforce all the great games you already have created and released, avoiding at this point to diversify efforts and get worse support to all the existing games, the costumers and the community in general terms.

I'm proud to say everyone Spartan is a different kind of wargames company and one of the reason to say that is you guys are listening to the community even if we say is not exactly you're hoping to read.

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Spartan, I want you to be the Blizzard of tabletop gaming not Electronic Arts. 

Support and flesh out your current universes, make them great again (to quote a certain person) - start by realizing all the promised things in the rulebooks and blogposts. I have an untapped market here but its very difficult to sustain interest if background is paper thin and products are not supported in the long run. DO NOT diversify way too much. Expanding in depth is better than expanding in width at this point of time. 


Please do not let the Spartan Games brand name be known as a producer of a multitude of mediocre, unsupported games despite having excellent models. Having a reputation as a gaming "Casanova" is ultimately undesirable for all the stakeholders involved as it indicates instability and short attention span. An unsupported game, real or perceived, by the player base will eventually lose steam, wither and die.


Perhaps that is the core problem, perception. How Spartan perceives its support may not be how its customers see it. Would be great if Spartan can give some insight into this - do they think they have been supporting their games sufficiently? If there is a mismatch of expectations then I am glad that this brave move by Spartan can be the first step to close that gap. 

 

 

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To add my opinion to the pile, it's pretty much the same as anyone else. I'm relatively new here, so the modus operandi you have kinda galled me in a way. I picked up Halo Fleet Battles on-release and set to work selling it hard to the local community, because gosh-darn I really love the Halo universe.

Then there was a six month hiatus, interest fizzled due to the lack of new units, and my player pool faded.

And then a blistering pace of releases came up, and they were good! They accumulated issues however, that somewhat went unanswered, but it was promised they would be, and I relayed these promises to my now-regrown playerbase. I even started a campaign of Battle Reports online to get people interested, which seemed to be mostly successful. However, Ground Command began to rear its head and Fleet Battles petered-off. Ground Command itself ground on a month or two over schedule but it wasn't until a couple of weeks ago we got the confirmation that it'll be 2017 before Fleet sees any updates.

I can't keep selling this game to people, not like this. In 2015 I was parroting your promises that we'd see MAC Platforms, Halcyon Cruisers, and DSCs by Christmas. In early 2016 I was promising that a big update was coming, because the UNSC ships lack variety and some units don't really function. In late 2016 I'm still making that promise, with the addendum that we'll see those Christmas 2015 Halcyons in 2017. I can't keep lying to people like that.

Now...I know more about how Spartan is run internally than is probably prudent, by way of a friend who used to work there. It's really starting to show is all I'm saying. The lack of long-term planning, the month-to-month scheduling meaning that I have no idea when I can hope for an update to a game I really came to enjoy. The fact that promises are made and then seemingly immediately forgotten.

The bit that really blew my mind was going to Salute. A table set out for every game you have? Cool! Actively showing the gameplay, awesome! A single table for each game, including your new "flagship" for the year, Ground Command, which was promptly swamped and clearly gathered a lot of interest. 

Gottedammerung had two tables. Why was twice the table space set aside for a "fun side project?" Guys, you really need to focus, is the core of this. Gotte should've had maybe one table off to the side, with two set aside for Ground Command. HGC is this year's big release, why are you not pushing it as hard as Yet Another 15mm WWII Wargame?! HGC is literally stretching your resources to their absolute limits, and you're planning more games?!

Additionally, though I don't know if it's just our, little channel that gets this, but on top of promises about games I've had promises that Spartan would help us in cross-promoting our Halo Fleet Battles content on our Youtube channel, while we promote your game via said channel. Mutually-beneficial, it was agreed by all. That was in February, still nothing, we've had to drop HFB as the viewcounts have plummeted due to the lack of interested players. Forum and Facebook traffic have likewise followed suit.

We were promised by a Spartan Vanguard that we would be visited with an early demo copy of Ground Command in order to film a demo game and unboxing ready for release, to assist you in that initial push for interest. We still have not seen this Vanguard, nor any sign of this happening. This has meant that our first piece of HGC content is landing next week, long after we could have helped you push the content. If the initial videos underperform then we'll have to drop the line as a whole, which is a damn shame, but at least we can play it among ourselves locally.

We had to cancel the three demos to push the game locally, mind, due to repeated delays, so after remembering the track record for Fleet Battles we've opted not to push it locally either.

I would really love you guys to be able to handle the games you've swamped yourselves with, but hot-damn I just can't see how you can keep 6 game systems running, when a leviathan like Games Workshop only has 2-3, and companies of a similar size to you run 1, maybe 2.

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Spartan,

To add to what others have said in this thread, I don't want to dog pile, but I want you to understand what your players think.  I've participated in and help grow groups for Uncharted, Firestorm (I grew a FA group from scratch at release), and Dystopian. I have not gotten into Halo because of experiences with the 3 games prior - I can't promise I can keep a group running with a game that will get a huge burst of stuff and then not see releases for 2 years.

With the "retirement" of Uncharted you have essentially 3 main miniature universes, and 5 core games from my perspective:  Firestorm Armada, Planetfall, Dystopian Wars, Halo Fleet Battles, and Halo Ground Command.  On top of that you have multiple "side" games, to which I can't even name them all.  For a small shop, this is a daunting amount of games!  In comparison, 2 much larger companies - Games Workshop and Privateer Press - have a much smaller catalog of games.  Privateer Press runs 2 main games (Hordes and Warmachine), and a handful of one offs.  GW runs 3 main games (40k, AoS, and LoTR) along with specialist games.  

Now, you hear over and over again here (and elsewhere) that the community wants you to support your existing games.  What does that look like?  Well, as someone who is currently a Press Ganger (PP), and has been an Outrider (GW) and City Rep (Thunder Castle Games), you need at least 3 releases per year, ideally 6 or more, for a game to keep the attention of the general gaming populace.  Anything less than that and your game starts to get categorized as either unsupported, or as a board game - board games are great and get played 2 or 3 times a year but aren't a real serious commitments.  Now, each release doesn't necessarily need to be miniatures to keep yourself as acknowledged has having an active supported game, but you do need to hit a certain critical mass of minis for each faction.   After that critical mass has been reached, you can have more releases that are fluff, campaigns, rebalances, etc, but always have at least 1 miniatures release per year.  Looking at other games (PP in particular) even with their massive amount of available models, players call the game "solved and boring" if there are not several releases for their faction per year.  

It is currently October as I type this.  Since Firestorm is the game that currently interests me, lets look at what kind of release schedule you would need for me to really be able to generate interest in Firestorm, similar to what I do with privateer press.

Jan: Release Firestorm 3.0.  A new rule set is a great place to launch interest.  Hopefully v3 will address some of the nagging issues discussed on the forums, such as interceptors and PD mountain being too good, and the conflict between models not touching and ships really being represented by the flight peg of the base.

Feb: Dystopian Release.  I've been out of touch with Dystopian for a while, so I don't know what it needs, I just know it needs releases.

Mar: Halo. Ideally this would be both a ground and fleet battle release.  The IP for Halo has to be super valuable, so you can't let it stagnate.

April: Firestorm Armada and Planetfall Levithans!  Each major faction gets a Leviathan.  If necessary release the rules for them all at once, and stagger the miniatures release of 3 months.  Start with Terrans and DIndrendzi with the announcement, with a Armada and Planetfall leviathan for each..

May: Dystopian release.  Aquan and Directorate Leviathans.

June: Halo Fleet and Ground multi month Release.  Relthoza and Sorylian Leviathans.

July: Halo Fleet and Ground multi month release part 2.  Rest, or release something for one of the side games. Prep for Gen Con.

August:  Its Gen Con time.  Put something awesome out here for Dystopian, to help get people revved up for the game again.  3rd and final release of Halo fleet and ground release from June, with stock available for purchase at Gen Con. Also have the newly releases Levithans on hand, as well as a sneak peak of the September release.

September: Alliance of Kurak and Zenian League reinforcements.  Ryushi module cruiser pack (light cruisers / escort carriers).  Ba'Kash Battlecruiser / light carrier pack.   Alliance and Zenian reinforcements for Planetfall.

October: Halo release.

November: Dystopian.  

December: Rest for Christmas, or a side game release.

That looks like an insanely busy schedule doesn't it?  However, as a Firestorm Armada Terran player, out of a whole year of releases, I've only gotten 2 releases - Firestorm v3 and a Leviathan.  If I expand into Kurak, I get a 3rd release with the Ryushi pack. If I were a typical player, I might start losing interest because I've been playing with the same core all year, with only 2 things to change it up.  I might even be a bit bitter if one of my favorite models has mediocre or worse rules.

Please, try holding a release schedule like that for a year or two.  Try to give everyone a little something, reserving at most 2 months a year for adding releases to "side" games at most, and not at the expense of your main lines.

 

 

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Worth noting as well that while people here have quoted Privateer Press as running both Hordes and Warmachine, those games are deliberately designed to effectively be one game, with a few important differences. Ergo they likely mitigate requirements as far as development of rules and playtesting.

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7 minutes ago, CoffeeGrunt said:

Worth noting as well that while people here have quoted Privateer Press as running both Hordes and Warmachine, those games are deliberately designed to effectively be one game, with a few important differences. Ergo they likely mitigate requirements as far as development of rules and playtesting.

To a certain extent, the core Mechanics shared between Spartan games share a similar role to the core rules convergence in WM / Hordes.  While there is Fury, Focus, and a couple of one off rules for certain factions (Induction & Monstrosities for example) the majority of the core rules are the same.  This is similar to the attack and linking mechanic found in Dystopian / Firestorm / Uncharted.  I'm not sure how it compares to halo (I believe halo uses special dice), etc, though.  

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