Interview: Diagonal Move

Over at the Diagonal Move blog, an interview where we cover my design history, thoughts, and descriptions of some projects I have been working on.

Thanks Neil!

[ETA: Neil reposted this interview to his blog on on September 5, where it was top news for a day!]

About brtrain
This blog is mostly devoted to posts, work and resources on "serious" conflict simulation games.

5 Responses to Interview: Diagonal Move

  1. Rick says:

    Great interview and truthful answers from a game designer that I respect.

    Perhaps new designers will want start out or simply specialize in making “modifications” to published games already in the market. As an active designer, and previously a game publisher, are there potential legal issues for specialty designers that want to publish their own “modifications” to existing games?

    I can forsee certain game publishers that are not known for publishing game errata to be annoyed by independents publishing independent “modifications” to those mass-produced “works of ?”.

    • brtrain says:

      Thanks, glad you liked it! And I am also glad I have earned your respect.
      I think a lot of designers start out making modifications of games that they play and have liked.
      Whether it’s house rules or new scenarios, the urge to tinker seems to grow and grow in some players until they make whole new things.
      Intellectual property issues are tricky and I am far from an expert in them; the more experts you talk to, the trickier it gets.
      But it seems to me that the conventional wisdom in the hobby wargaming world (a small and musty one) is that while someone may have rights to their own individual creation, no one has the exclusive right to a specific way of doing things.
      For example, no one has a patent on the hexagon map (and if they tried, they’d have a lot of ‘splaining to do with some angry bees).
      It is wrong to rip off someone’s work wholesale and pass it off as your own, especially for profit.
      There were several designs by a company called Fresno Game Associates years ago, where they took old SPI designs and just gave them new graphics and published them, complete with original errata.
      Very wrong, and stupid besides.
      (one thing that gave the game away is that one of the designs they pirated was a Civil War design by Richard Berg, and in the roster of leaders were was a unit commander whose name he did not know, so Berg substituted the name of his psychiatrist!)
      It is right to name-check whenever and however you can; we all have intellectual debts to each other – I crouch on the shoulders of giants.
      Back to modifications: I think of them as a sort of helpful “fanfic” – someone thought enough about a game (or disliked the designer’s approach enough) to try and fix it so that they would be happier with it.
      I think that’s far more of a contribution than some sour one-liner on BGG from someone who punched the counters and played half a turn.

      • Rick says:

        Thank you Brian. All of your comments on this topic are insightful.

        I agree with your perspective regarding some gamer comments after little exposure to a game. I find that approach to be disrespectful, similar to the “First!” posting you see in many forums; egotistical and self-serving. We could speculate ad naseum regarding why people do that.

        I prefer to play a game from start to finish multiple times before I comment or consider “modifications”. It might take that long to learn the game system, or the specific rules, or to just get acquainted with the subject.

        I prefer to considering “modifications” for game topics that I have studied. In my case those studies have taken place over many years and built up my personal library at the same time. So your comments about doing research are spot-on, but never let your research be confined to “the usual sources”. Those “usual sources” are commonly used because they are widely available, not necessarily because they are very accurate. Paul Carell anyone?

        Perhaps what I find most annoying about some game publishers is their disregard for errata, one-time or on-going. I guess some game publishers find the production of errats to either be beneath their station or they consider their games to be “perfect as published”.

        • brtrain says:

          Certainly there are some companies who are much, much better at the errata game than others. Others simply refuse to play; they introduce substantial changes during “development” based on half a game that introduce many more mistakes, too little time for catching same, poor version control, etc..
          But they know themselves that the game being produced is intended to be played once, if at all, then the next issue comes out (woops).
          The perfect should not be the enemy of the good; but neither should the playable be the enemy of the on-time.

  2. Pingback: Obligatory end-of-year review, 2020 | brtrain

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