Friday, February 4, 2011

40k Community building: The Codex Project



I want to officially announce the Codex Project to the Friends and Fans of Galaxy in Flames. It is an exciting project that I along with some really talented guys have created to help the creative amongst us design their own Fandexes and house rules!
Our goal is to dismiss the perception that Fan made rules and codecies are rubbish.

We will be working hard in the future to make sure that Fandexes under the banner of TCP become known for their quality and balance.
This will take time, maybe even years to happen, but as hobbyists with years of gaming under our belts we are patient!

Cheers,
Jim

So here is Stucarius' announcement of the Project:

Wow! Here we go fellow 40K fanatics. The Codex Project and TCP is geared to provide the community with an organization through which we can fulfill GW’s mandate to its gamers to make the game theirs.

To that end we have created this portal through which the thousands of 40K gamers and fans at all levels can express themselves through the creation of codices, art, fiction and additional rules all geared to enhance their enjoyment of the fabulous 40K hobby. TCP is not just a free for all.

It is overseen by a council of highly experienced gamers not just in 40K and GW environments but across all genre’s and with over a centuries combined experience. The TCP Council also has access to many additional resources and people to help with the development of the best fan projects imaginable.

Now keep in mind the The Codex Project is still in its very early stages. The website is growing every day but it is still not complete. I doubt it ever will be. Many elements I will be talking about are still being implemented to please be patient with us. Better yet, jump in and offer to help. This is a great opportunity for you as a gamer and fan of 40K to become a guiding part of what will all hope will be an important part of our gaming future.

So what I am going to do is take you on a journey. I am going to discuss the whys, why nots and ultimately the reasons TCP has the capability to change the way you look not only at 40K but gaming in general. Why in so many ways TCP is the perfect solution to one of the most difficult problems facing table top gamers today.

Ultimately I will come back around to the beginning and what TCP is going to allow us to do. I will tell you how TCP has the capability to re-invigorate your love of 40K, bring you back to the game if you have left it, and even though we have nothing to do with GW as a company in any way shape or form, how TCP can make GW a whole whole lot of money by harnessing this amazing community around which their business is built. After all the future of our hobby is tied to the success of GW and anything that can help them move into a successful financial future is something we all should want.

So we have created this great site and are building tools to enable community development. That’s great but what exactly is it we are planning to do? Well for years, in fact from the very beginning, GW has told us to take ownership of our game. If they do not have something we need. Make it. If there is not a troop type, codex, chapter, race or scenario we have repeatedly been instructed to come up with our own. Well for years many of us have done exactly that. However, there has always been a problem.

There is a great deal of reluctance by many in the community to play with or use the creations of fellow gamers. In some cases this is perfectly understandable but in many cases it is simple foolishness. Sometimes this is because people assume anyone making their own codex, campaign or scenario does so with selfish reasons and that the result will not be fair or balanced for their opponents.

In all fairness it must be said that such impressions may have, at some point, had some basis in fact. However, I contend any such unbalanced efforts are more likely the result of desire exceeding personal experience and tools. Like-wise and with no insult toward GW intended.

I can assure you that Games Workshop does not have anything close to a monopoly when it comes to the ability to create exciting, balanced and compelling game design and content for 40K. As a matter of fact there is an ocean of talented 40K designers and players who have never worked directly for GW. Compared to that talent pool the studio in Nottingham is a mere pond.

Its simply a matter of numbers. So do not get caught up in a false premise that if it was not created in Nottingham it can not be good. That is not true. Games Workshop themselves acknowledge that when they call on us to create what ever changes and additions we need as fans to make 40K enjoyable for each of our gaming groups.

How many of us have come up with ideas for a new Marine Chapter? Or a new vision of our favorite chapter or maybe a special Ork Mob, Eldar Craftworld, unique Imperial Guard regiment, Dark Eldar Cabal or even an entirely new race. Were you a Squat fan? A fan of the Zoats or Slann?

Are you disappointed that GW no longer supports them with active codices or unit stats? Well why not do exactly what GW has told us over and over to do via their publications and in person. Create your own army list?

I know that most of us have had exactly that idea more than a few times. Be it talking after games with pals or over mugs with friends at conventions and tournaments. So what exactly keeps most of us from creating our own content and for the few of us who do give it a go why is there an impression the efforts are poor and unbalanced?

For many I think it is the shear scale of the effort. Having never tried development before you have no idea where you should start. Take it from me. It is a hugely intimidating thing to actually sit down with pen, paper and calculator, or at you computer, and simply start the process. I have created many rules, army list, campaigns and scenarios both personally and professionally.

Even knowing the process and having more than 33 years experience it can still be daunting. You are like a carpenter who has decided to build a house. You know what you want. You know what you want it to be in the end but all you have is a basic home owners tool set. Having never built a house you do not even know what tools you should use.

What you really need is a team of fellow builders around you. A group of people who all bring a piece of the puzzle to the table. Like all successful people know. More often than not a projects success is predicated on the first decision being the right one. In a nut shell this is what TCP is. A gimme, a mulligan, a guarantee that the first decision is going to be the right one.

You know those preconceived notions I refereed to previously? I contend that most of those notions were born simply because the people trying their hand at developing new content had limited experience with the process and lacked many of the tools and facts they needed at the beginning to see the project through. Remember the old saying “It takes a village to raise a child.”? Well in game development (listen closely here GW) “It takes a community to develop a good game.”

What exactly does that mean? Games are played by people. People are different so the experience is going to vary person to person. For a designer this means you need to have your efforts sampled by and processed by as many different gamers and types of gamers as you possibly can before your project can even begin on the last leg of its journey to completion. So in function a design project with a necessarily social outcome simply cannot be developed in a vacuum. Designers need input.

Not just from the little group close to them, or even a studio, but from a wide range of the target audience. Those ideas and observations not only provide you with new ideas and observations but more importantly they mature the thoughts and ideas you've had. It sounds chaotic doesn't it? This is often where the poor project manager looses control. They will become controlled by the mass of input and not use that input to control the mass over which they have charge. Or as I have often told managers I am mentoring. Inspired by committee but never designed by committee.

You can see the results of the different responses to this in different companies. Some companies successfully harness this energy and turn it into new products that reflect the needs and desires of their gamers. Recently we saw this put to work by a large company in the second edition of their rules. They openly reached out to their community for input and play testing. They took all of that energy and harnessed it.

They did not let that input overwhelm their vision but neither were they afraid of letting it make changes to their direction. The result? One of the most, if not most successful redesign of an already hugely popular game. There are other companies who design via a limited and insular design process. A major game or project may never actually get played and tested by more than 25-30 people. Often those people are not only not impartial but are already part of a set culture or worse yet part of the designing company. The outcome is obvious. They will be convinced they have produced a great product because they all have been busy patting each other on the back about it and they all come into the process with a similar desired outcome.

Then when that product is released it is discovered it is full of holes, exploits, poor writing and it may turn out it was not even what the customers wanted. All because they never envolved the thousands of members of their community in the process or even worse they do not understand why they should. More than one company is guilty of this. Even outside of our hobby companies are guilty of it. They tend to go out of business.

If you look at a hyper competitive market like software development, a design culture with many similarities to game design, you will note they have learned this lesson the hard way. Even monolithic organizations like Microsoft will never again release an operating system that has not spend a year or more in the hands of actual customers and not just their testing teams. It is time for the gaming industry to take this lesson to heart as well.

A well managed and successful company recognizes what their customers want and deliver it to them. Even when, as is often the case with enlightened companies, their customers did not know they wanted it. Ask Steve Jobs about that. A poorly managed company creates the product they want and then tries to convince their customers it is what they want too. I bet we can all think of examples of this from personal experience.

A fair question here would be “What the heck does this have to do with The Codex Project?” . Fair enough, I will tell you. TCP will give gamers the tools, resources, community, over-sight and ultimately the legitimacy needed to make fan driven content viable on the table top, in tournaments and across the spectrum of our hobby. A few years back a 40K community decided that what they wanted to see was a really great background and high quality production covering the Badab Wars.

So using the power of community provided by internet communication they created exactly what they wanted. It was great! It really excited a lot of people. GW sold a lot of additional miniatures and models because people built armies around their efforts. To tie in my comments above concerning companies paying attention to what customers want the following happened. GW via Forge World recognized this success and decided that maybe a really nice effort using their vast resources would be in order as well. The result? Well now we have what is with out a doubt the best series of books FW has ever made accompanied with models and other accessories.

GW is now making a ton of additional profits they never would have seen had a little internet based group not taken it upon themselves to create something for the community that did not exist. GW in their wisdom did not stop them. The paid attention and saw the opportunity. The community is happy, GW made money they would not have and a lesson is learned. At its core this is what The Codex Project is all about.

The Codex Project is about harnessing that amazing well of talent, guiding it and giving all of us something we would not have otherwise. So here is how we are going to do that and the resources that The Codex Project Community will provide our fellow game developers. I am listing these in a quasi order of how you would make use of TCP resources.

  • Propose a possible development project on the forums
  • Discuss the project, refine its direction and identify possible team members
  • Name the Project
  • Assign a Team Lead and 3-5 additional team members
  • The Council assignment of a Blog and Forum specific to the project. A project email address is given to the Team Leader for community contact purposes. The blog is for public notification of the progress with comments and the Forum is a closed development environment for the Team Members. Both the Blog and Forum are under Team Leader control and the Team Leader is responsible for maintaining regular Blog updates to the main Dev Blog on The Codex Project website.
  • The Team downloads from the TCP site downloads the “Project Development Packet” containing worksheets, point values, design guide lines and templates for layout.
  • The team begins putting its project together while discussing issues amongst themselves on the forum, Skype or any convenient method.
  • The Team makes use of the “open” forum project discussions to pose questions to the TCP community.
  • The team has access the TCP Council members to ask question, get assistance and advice on development issues.
  • The team has pre-arranged access to a structured Play testing environments allowing for the testing of their projects through out the U.S., Great Britain, Europe and Australia. There are standard Play test results forms to help Teams make the most out of feedback. We also hope to have play test groups established in Asia, New Zealand, South and Central America and Eastern Europe before long.
  • The Team will have access to and be able to make request to the Fan Art and Fan Fiction teams to enhance and bring to life all the hard work going into their project.
  • The team will have possible access to the audiences of Council and TCP member Podcast and Blogs who are supporters of TCP. This can mean exposure of your project to 10’s or even 100’s of thousands of 40K fans.
  • The team will be able to use the download and bandwidth resources of The Codex Project to put their work into the hands of as many fellow gamers as possible.
  • Ultimately the Team will be able to submit their project for “Certification” by The Codex Project Council. If “Certified” your Project or Codex will get an “Official” TCP “Certified” label and official statement of compliance on your final fan publication.
  • Once “Certified” as a Compliant Codex or Project your work will be added to the “Official” complaint list and can be used in any event that is TCP compliant.
  • Once “Certified” a TCP project will be legal for use not only among you and your friends with out fear that it is anything but highly tested and balanced but it will also mean your Project and or Codex will be legal for use by any fellow 40K fan in a even or tournament that is TCP Compliant.

As you can see being part of The Codex Project adds the kinds of things to your efforts that you simply cannot replicate via any method other than one like TCP. With the establishment of The Codex Project there is simply no other process, official or un-official, that will result in a more highly tested, vetted, balanced, organized or fluffy result than you will get using your own brothers and sisters to guide your project through its development cycle.

TCP will no doubt instantly gain the moral support of 10’s of thousands of our fellow enthusiast. That is truly exciting at a level that gives me shivers. However, when you consider the hundreds, possibly thousands , of experienced 40K gamers registered to develop with The Codex Project it blows the mind.

TCP will literally bring more experience to the table than has ever been brought to work on our beloved hobby before. Never again will you have to worry about a fandex or fan generated content because the fans themselves will have guaranteed that nothing could be more reliable or safe to use than one of their own codices or projects.

No longer will the 40K community have to worry about the standards and quality of its own efforts. I think it is safe to say that via our fan based community The Codex Project we will in fact set a standard for quality at all level others can follow.

There are already a dozen projects that will be appearing in the Dev Blogs in the next couple of weeks.

LETS MAKE IT HAPPEN!!!!!

2 comments:

  1. This is an absolutely wonderful idea, and a great initiative! I would love to offer support of some kind in the future for it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This gets a vote of Awesome Sauce, I fear I shall be willingly led into its embrace :)

    ReplyDelete

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