Friday, December 31, 2010

Should GW Open-Source 40K?

by SandWyrm

Sorry for the light week of posting, but the family and I have been sick with Sinus Infections. I did, however, have a question today that I wanted to throw out to theBack40K community.

Should GW open-source the 40K ruleset and/or background?

Yes, yes, I know. They'd never do that. Yadda yadda yadda. Lets not argue that. It's obvious.

But should they? Would it be a good move for them and the community?

We're already seeing the rise of independent codex projects. Some of these tackle armies GW could do, but isn't. Like Admech. While others are popping up to fix armies like Chaos or Orks that a lot of people feel got shafted by GW in this update cycle.

There are obvious parallels with the tech industry, where big companies like IBM that sell lots of hardware (models) put a lot of work and support into open-source software (rules/background) because they want the support of a larger programming (rules writing) community than they can provide themselves. It works well for them.

So could GW transform itself from a Microsoft to an IBM? Or would they repeat Apple's experience of trying more open-ness (Mid 90's licensing of MacOS), only to abandon it when their hardware (models) kept getting undercut on price by the companies they licensed to?


  1. I think they'd benefit from open-sourcing the modelling aspect of it. It would allow them to roll out more peculiar stuff in their mag and codexes and (potentially) drive costs down. People want a lot of things that they just don't produce, like Jetbikes, Titans, and other weird bits and bobs.

    Would it improve the rules? Ehhh, they really need to pay more attention to playtesting and quality control. If they're stuck for cash they have some great IP that they could let outside companies develop; I wouldn't mind seeing an Eisenhorn or Gaunt series from the BBC, or some better-made video games, for that matter. LIke a lot of large companies, I think they're suffering from bad management, and dying a slow death because of it.

  2. Yeah, I really feel that they either need to follow Apple's path and create a very well executed vertical market with a high degree of quality, or they need to open up like IBM and let others take up the slack they're leaving.

    I lean towards the latter because Jervis is a knucklehead and there's no other personality that can take charge and fix things the way Jobs did in Cupertino. Apple's path depends on having a guy with taste and pride-of-product call the creative shots and hold departments accountable to a long term vision.

    I just don't see that happening at GW.

  3. I think this idea is flawed... and technically, it already is open source to a degree. Without getting too technical, what makes Windows (and MacOS for the record) closed-source is that you can't look at the code and modify it - you can't release Windows N++ Edition because you don't have access to the code (rules). (Just like Apple won't let you sell MacN++)

    GW allows you to buy the rules. Everyone sees the rules, there's nothing hidden, anyone can design their own house rules, tournaments can design their own rules (comp), etc. You can't sell supplements, but anyone can make their own websites and blogs dedicated to releasing their own versions of the game for free.

    If GW made their IP anymore open source, they'd be giving up the rights to Warhammer, and allowing ANY company to produce and sell rule supplements, armies AND models.

    A good side is that competitiveness means everyone has to work harder to stay in the game. Better rules, better quality of models, etc... but other than complaints here and there each edition, I don't think GW's system is so very flawed that it needs that much of a revamp.

    This is a bad idea for a few reasons:

    First, they'd be allowing companies to directly compete with them in a market where things are already a little shaky.

  4. Second, considering the competitive nature of tabletop wargaming, this raises all sorts of balance concerns.

    Take the D20 system as an example - when Dungeons and Dragons went open source, a lot of people stopped buying books because the core rules are available online legitimately for free. (D20 SRD) If you want more, you can buy supplements with all sorts of overpowered classes/races/gear/magic/etc from other manufacturers or make up your own rules since it's roleplaying, without ever paying Wizards of the Coast a dime for their game.

    That works when you're playing in a non-competitive group setting. When you're playing against opponents in a game where the only goal is to defeat another human player, things HAVE TO be balanced. Do you really want to goto a tournament and face 100's of different armies of varying races, factions and builds, composed of models you've never seen before geared up with equipment you have no idea what it looks like / does?

  5. I think that GW would benefit greatly from allowing other people to help write their rules and codices. Privateer Press showed that it is possible to open up your rules to the public, take their feedback, and mold your ruleset to meet customer demand. While not exactly open-sourcing the rules, this would be a step in the right direction.

    As an aside, imagine if GW pulled back from writing games and focused solely on making models. Fantasy Flight might be charged with publishing books for GWs models. The games we play would feel very different when the rules aren't used as marketing for the models. "How can we sell a ton of these new Valkyrie kits? I know, we'll undercost them and people will buy them in droves!"

  6. I really would like a seperate company or a seperate division to handle the competitive side of the game. Similar to what we have tried to promote with the WIN/LOSS tournaments. Have either another company or a seperate division handle the cometitive side and the main the hobby side.

  7. I think stuff like Special Operations: Killzone shows people are pretty capable of making great rules to cover GW's gaps.

    To give them credit, GW's always said that you should feel free to house-rule things you don't like. In Australia they use comp almost universally in their formal events to balance up the armies. There's also stuff like the INAT which has ended up being fed back into the GW FAQs. It does seem like the community goes a long way in making good the shortfall in GW's output.

  8. Do you think we'll ever see the day where we have the INAT Witch Hunters Codex? Or Tau? Or any other book that needs updating?

    Could the competitive scene produce such a thing?

    Could a book like that be put out without infringing on GWs IP?

  9. There's a lot of different Open Source models out there, and a lot of closed sourced ones that could work well too. I think GW would have an immediate benefit to a "Freeware" model where they give away the core rules and codex's but sell the "hardware." They could make books available as PDFs (without all the snazzy artwork) and sell the books still directly for people who want a printed copy to take with them and don't want to spend the money and energy to bind and print the PDFs. And hey - value added they include more of the fluff and the paint in the printed copies.

    Now as far as actually opening the system itself, I have some reservations. I mean, let's be honest that there are some good reasons as to why Forgeworld codex units aren't allowed in a lot of games - obscurity is not one of them. They are simply no balanced properly and that's where I have issues with opening the system.

    See... I don't believe that there's some magic spreadsheet out there that I can tick off certain special abilities and input its stats and *POOF* there's what he'd cost. Granted I know there are some similar stuff (such as the VDR calculator) but that just gives you a rough template - it's not tested and balanced and even hindered a little for "fluff."

    That all said, what I think GW should take is a 'gated community' approach to designing the codexs themselves. Think of it like a castle wall, and the core game developers are inside the wall and us rabble are outside. We come up with an idea and we shove it over the wall and let those inside look at it. If they like it, they slap it in to the next edition of the codex. If not, then they simply say "nah" or take the bits of it they like.

    This way the community gets a bit more involvement and some talented people get a better chance at recognition by the developers inside the wall (who may bring them in). GW in return gets more crowd support for their products and some better (somewhat) playtested ideas than their own teams may be coming up with.


out dang bot!

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