Sunday 23 September 2012

Games Day 2012 - News, Rumours and Information (Part 1 - general information, Chaos Codex)

Firstly, a quick apology - there are no flashy pictures of swanky models here. My phone was stolen a while ago and I couldn't afford a new one, so I'm using a pretty archaic phone for my pictures.

What most people actually see at Games Day
I attended the first Forge World seminar and took notes of that, but for the rest of the day I'm going to rely on my memory. As such, I'll write that stuff up first before I forget, and then cover the stuff where paper is acting as my memory.

The sales area was much better laid out this year, and there were clear groupings and a separate queue for Forge World. I had pre-ordered the show only models like a sensible person, so avoided the Forge World queue entirely and just picked up the show only Blood Angels captain for the wife to paint. Everything else I can just buy normally at a sensible time and not cart it around a convention for a day. I still don't understand people who buy anything other than limited edition, show only or similar items at Games Day. It makes no sense to me.

Payment was quick and easy - they had put a lot of time and effort into sorting out last year's problems!

I saw the new Chaos Codex. I had a chat to Robin as I skimmed over it, but the main things I picked up were;
  • Cult units are back to Elites
  • Cult units are moved to Troops by taking their signature character or a Lord or Sorceror with the right mark
  • Daemon Princes with the right mark does not move Cult units back to troops
  • You can only move units to Troops for your Primary Detachment - you can't do this for allies at all
  • Abaddon moves Chosen to Troops
  • They're moving towards putting Troops choices in a Codex before Elites as that makes things a lot easier layout wise - as you've got to have a HQ and two Troops, it makes sense for them to be first.
  • Weapons and wargear have been split to Ranged Weapons, Melee Weapons, Daemonic Gifts and so on, so that things don't have to be listed over and over in multiple unit entries.
  • There are some unique chaos artefacts which the devs were quite surprised "aren't all over the internet already". I spotted one which was a Scroll, possibly of  Magnus...
I'm afraid I'm not a Chaos player, and there were people behind me who were, so I stopped at this point and let people check if their current unit builds were utterly ruined by the new Codex (those of you who take two Daemon Princes and all Cult units as Troops are going to have to have a rethink!).

I had a chat with a few of the studio about how they manage the creative process and meet deadlines. It seems that there has been a swing more towards the miniature designers coming up with cool model ideas and the rules guys coming up with mechanics around it, and less of the rules guys coming up with unit ideas first.

This apparently happens in cycles - Grey Knights was towards the other end of the spectrum, with some clear holes in what was needed for the army being covered by the rules team first and passed back to the designers. There's no hard and fast rule, though - sometimes someone will have a cool model sculpt half done but not be sure what gun to put on it - so they'll ask the developers what holes there are in the codex. The example given was "Well, this army has enough ranged firepower already, but anti-air is pretty new in 6th edition and we need more units like that".

They're working with small project teams with one lead developer being in charge of the background, descriptive text and flavour (I was standing too near to Jes and Jervis to use the word "fluff", even now I'm back at the hotel I keep glancing over my shoulder to check I won't get a ticking off). So one person writes up the descriptive text, and a team of people work on the rules to develop them and get them working.

There's usually two or three cycles between the writers and the editors, who will look out for both typos and clarity of intent. For example, one editor mentioned that one of their first books was in a system they were unfamiliar with - and when they couldn't make head or tail of some of the rules, they realised that they needed to make them much clearer before publication.

Generally, the studio might be working on around 10-12 large projects between the drafting and publication stage, at various stages in the pipeline. This is bigger releases such as Codexes and other army lists, rather than smaller things like 2 page iPad releases, which aren't tracked quite so heavily. There'll be around the same amount of projects again at the pre drafting / brainstorming stages that haven't got anywhere near the editors yet.

All in all, they do know where there are big gaps in the older Codexes - Sisters of Battle & Black Templars, for example - but without a good range of inspiration, both in terms of models and rules - they won't progress. They try and avoid early leaks because this leads to a lot of disappointment in buyers who were hoping for new models - especially if an early draft gets binned and they decide to come back to it later.

A good number of people are working on projects they still can't talk about. Those who've been working on the Hobbit can say "we've been working on the Hobbit", but nothing more. The Perrys have, for example, been doing that pretty much exclusively in terms of their GW related work, to no-one's surprise. Given that it generally takes a year to cycle through one of these projects, we probably have at least one more big release due other than the Hobbit relatively soon.

I had some other interesting discussions about scheduling and planning which will interest no-one who isn't a project manager. I will not bore the internet with this sort of stuff!

Some of the sculptors are now working entirely in the digital format - some use a mix and some still only sculpt the old fashioned way. There is definitely a move towards more plastic models - some of their sculptors have been doing nothing but plastics at all - there is likely to be more plastic than Finecast in the future, in general terms.

Given the size of this post already, I'll put up a separate post with the Forgeworld Seminar, and a further separate one with my personal experiences so the rumour hungry don't have to read through them!

My news & rumours post continues here.

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