Because people won’t listen unless you have some credentials, lets start this article off by saying I have some experience when it comes to balancing games. I’ve been playing table top game longer than some of you readers have been alive, and eventually I got to the point where I was running events and on committees that designed comp structures and scenarios. This isn’t nearly as complex as balancing an entire game but, for those who don’t know what comp is, when you go through every available option and decide what should be banned, what points should change, what score an option should give, and what allows competitive play, you get pretty close.
And that’s what CID comes down to, is competitive play.
If everyone was just having fun in their basement CID wouldn’t matter, new toys would come out and we’d smash em together, but that’s why it’s needed: for the competitive players. And let me tell you… competitive players (as a whole) are a game designers nightmare. I remember when I came up with a fun (40k) scenario which required one side to break through a defensive line and take objectives on the far side. Then someone reminded me that some models have the ability to give be deployed on the far side, or be dropped in, or come in from the side… ok, easy, I’ll just say those models aren’t allowed! But then I was reminded that one team HAD to drop in, it’s how they worked… crap… what now… do I just ban that entire army? Or do I rewrite the way they work. That was just a simple scenario, so you can imagine what comes in when you need to keep in mind every option and every interaction and then find a way to make it perfectly balanced so that competitive players can’t ‘break the system’.
That’s also not fair to competitive players, they don’t want to break the game, they just want to play the game. It’s not their fault if the game has flaws.
Where was I going with this again?… oh right, why CID is amazing.
This is why the CID process is so important. The game designers may think they know how they would like something to work, but ultimately it’s the players who will determine how it will actually play out, and the best way to work out any ‘flaws’ or unintended consequences is to run it by competitive players and get their feedback. I mean you can always changes the rules after you release, but it makes it smoother for the general gamers if it just comes out as close to it’s final form as possible.
Of course gamers don’t always agree on what is a problem, and how to fix it. Ask a gamer what is broken in a game and they’ll list everything they keep losing too. Ask two gamers what is broken and they will point to the other person’s stuff. Everyone has their own viewpoint, everyone thinks they have the right solution, and everyone thinks everyone else is a fool for not listening to them. If you asked everyone if they thought they were above average intelligence more than half the people would say they were, when obviously this isn’t the case. Then again playtesting isn’t about intelligence, it’s really about just getting the gamer’s perspective because everyone has their own experiences and just because something is honestly ‘overpowered’ in one playgroup doesn’t mean it’s ‘overpowered’ in other playgroups that have different players playing different builds.
Where was I going with this again?… oh right, why CID is awful.
This is why the CID process is so toxic. When rule changes are being discussed you have people playing the faction trying to make it better, other factions trying to keep it toned down, fluffy players trying to make them interesting, and competitive players trying to make them address new meta issues. So how to you get anything from the noise? Well you can take battle reports. At least then you have hard data rather than just theory. But what does one game really mean? This is a game of dice played between people of differing skill, so how can you eliminate those variables? If I’m told hamster with knife beat crab with hammer, but bird with knife lost to crab with axe, and worm with axe and knife beat hamster with bow and arrow, are the knife rules fair? And we aren’t even getting into the fact that this is the internet and people will troll and lie just for the fun of it. You basically just end up with a room of nerds yelling at each other like star wars fan fighting over which movies were good.
Of course not everyone is like that. You do have good honest people out there trying their best to put in the time and effort to test the design elements being focused on, and giving fair trials, and providing unbiased feedback to Privateer Press. And I think Privateer Press knows this, and will learn who these people are, and will look to them first.
Where was I going with this again?… oh right, why CID is awesome.
At the end of the day, after all the fighting, and the conflicting ideas and data, the main thing is that if something has an obvious flaw that will be ‘exploited’ by competitive gamers then it will come up and be reported in the CID process, which gives Privateer Press the best shot at making the best game they can, and that makes it all worth it.
So where do I stand? Me as a competitive gamer with lots of experience in balancing games and systems? I stay out of it. No not because I’m lazy, and not because I’m a hypocrite, it’s because I don’t enjoy it and CID ruins the game for me. I play Warmachine because it scratches that competitive itch, and if I’m focusing on learning a bunch of experimental rules then there is a better chance I’ll mix up the current rules and/or won’t have time to learn the rule I need to memorize to be at my best. Ever wonder how companies release models that are obviously not balanced? Well not only is there a lot of information in the game to keep in mind, but at that level you also have site on everything else is coming. We look at how things work in today’s meta, people in the know have to also balance it with things coming out a year from now, and honestly that makes it easier to get mixed up. “Did we decide that new model was going to keep that rule?” “Is that model out yet?” Take all these concerns and absolute focus you need, and the game starts to become less fun. Like I said I play this game to scratch the competitive itch, but it’s also to escape and have fun, and if I get too focused on the numbers, and what the numbers should be, and what the numbers can be, and what the numbers will be, well then my ironclad smashing a monster with a hammer just isn’t as cool any more.
Where was I going with this again?… oh right, why CID is the worst and best thing for Warmachine.
CID isn’t for me, and I know it can be toxic if you look at all the bickering it causes, but it really is a great thing and I have nothing but respect for Privateer Press for going through the effort to making it happen and analyzing the feedback, and also for those playtesters who do take the time and give honest unbiased feedback. Hell, I’m even grateful for the biased ones. Even if they just want to get other factions nerfed at least they will point out when something is clearly more powerful than it should be. An overpowered Bradigus is worse for the game than an underpowered and unused solo.
So there you go, CID is amazing, awful, and awesome, and as a competitive gamer I’m glad it exists, even when I don’t agree with it’s outcomes.