Behind the Lines
March 2006

In This Issue

 

A Letter from the Editor

The Matrix folks here are all a buzz about football.  Not because the Seahawks lost, those bums... there goes another $20, but because of Maximum-Football.  M-F, in case you hadn't heard, is our second sports game, and there are few things the Matrix staff loves more than football!  Whether it is Canadian, Indoor, or US style, Maximum-Football has it.   It's been a long time coming, but we are very proud to say that it was worth the wait.

In other news, Star Chamber:  The Harbinger Saga is now available on Mac.  Suddenly Matrix has TWO games that are Mac compatible!  Despite the fact I don't own a Mac, I look forward to bringing some more games in the future to the Mac platform.  It's a huge step to growing a multi-cultural community even further, so I welcome any new subscribers who picked up either of our Mac offerings.

In this month's issue we've got some great stuff.  I have another interview; but not with a game developer, with the game developer's wife!  Our monthly editorial is on RPGs, Wargames, and where the line is drawn.  Our feature is a preview of Panzer Command:  Operation Winter Storm... so read on Matrix Fans!

Sincerely,
Joe Lieberman, Editor

Feature Preview:  Panzer Command:  Operation Winter Storm

Koios Works is known for producing some of the best games of 2004 and 2005.  The Tin Soldiers series was as simple as it was brilliant.  It set a new standard in easy to learn, hard to master, with good looking graphics and better looking gameplay.  To this day and long beyond there will be people singing the praises of Tin Soldiers- just look at the forums!

So what's this Panzer Command!?  What about the ancient battles?  Well before you get all upset, This game has the same things that made Tin Soldiers great- yet is completely different.

Allow me to explain.  Panzer Command is a 3D wargame, with much better visuals than Tin Soldiers:  Julius Caesar.  It looks fantastic, surely one of the best looking wargames in development.  It takes place on the eastern front during the desperate battles to relieve and encircle Stalingrad and pits the player against the AI or another human opponent in a variety of scenarios.  There's no grand tactical side to the game, but the game does have a full campaign mode for both sides as well as stand alone scenarios to play.

It is a "wego" system, which means simultaneous movement, also similar to Tin Soldiers.  However, the similarities pretty much end there.  You'll use combined arms, including infantry, tanks and artillery to capture objectives, suppress and defeat your enemies and lay waste to everything you can spot.  In the alpha version I was able to take a look at it was a pretty crazy sight.  The game is turn based, but when you enter your turns it plays out the round in full 3D.  There are shells flying left and right, bullets whizzing across the screen, artillery blowing stuff up.  I particularly like the kill cam option where it zooms into almost a cockpit view when you destroy an enemy tank.

Each unit is accurately modeled in both stats and weapons to match the equipment of the era, and while the game is not trying to go for absolute and extreme realism, it is accurate enough to impress a fan boy wargamer like myself.

It is looking like Panzer Command may be my personal pick for our best wargame in 2006... but it is far too early in the year to decide that for certain!

Want some more information?  Visit the game information site at http://www.matrixgames.com/games/game.asp?gid=327

 

RPGs Vs. Wargames

It was brought to my attention recently by my wargaming group that someone in our group despised RPGs.  I'm not talking about console RPGs, I am talking about the old fashion pen and paper RPGs.

I was shocked!  A wargamer who disliked RPGs?  Of course, I asked him why and he couldn't really tell me, other than "It just doesn't grab me."  My retort was "Neither does your wife," and this led to my grand hypothesis.

Wargames and RPGs are the same.  What is an RPG other than a wargame with a single judge to arbitrate rulings?  The combat in most RPGs is hex based, turn based (I-GO-U-GO).  Each "unit" has very specific stats and it all plays out in a tactical manner.  Occasionally a player will perform some action that is not covered in the rules and a judge must arbitrate that.  The judge is, of course, the DM.

Doesn't this make RPGs a superior system to wargames?  Maybe... it all comes down to how good your judge (DM) is!  It is that flexibility that puts some wargamers on edge, I believe.  It can be very frustrating to have your plans spoiled because your DM doesn't believe the world operates in the way you KNOW it does.

Some of my co-workers at Matrix Games pointed out that RPGs grew directly out of wargaming and a desire by wargamers for more 'detailed' units that followed from battle to battle, which explains many of these similarities.

I suspect the key difference and the thing that turns most wargamers off RPGs is most RPGs are not ALL combat.  The "pretend" social interaction may be a factor that makes RPGs less fun than combat loving wargamers.  These social environs can also be viewed as a "tactical battle" of a different sort.  It is a battle of wit, fast thinking, and possibly some good dice rolls.  However, the lack of structure and a non-objective DM may ruin this for some.

In my mind there is no winner in the epic struggle between RPG and wargame, but perhaps my way of thinking will strike a cord amongst you and we'll see a rebirth of good Wargame/RPG mixes.  I want my level 11 Tank Commander with his Magic Homing Missiles, +2.... And is that so wrong?

 

Interview with David Winter's Wife (Jennifer)

Last week I interviewed a game developer, but when I called up David Winter to do an interview for him it was his wife who answered their phone.  Just like that poor David Winter lost his chance at true fame!  Worry not, you can still talk to both him and his wife on the Maximum-Football Forum.  So let's listen in on an interview with a lady who ensures one of our game developer's doesn't starve himself to death... and someday I hope to have an interview with a developer's husband (Yes, there are female game developers... we just haven't signed one yet).

BTL: So Who Are you?

Jennifer:  I'm Jennifer Winter, a journalist of fourteen years.  Now that I have retired I do temp work.  More of a consultant really.  When things go wrong I get called in to sort them out.

BTL: This game has been in development for a long time.  Has it always been a part of your relationship?

Jennifer:  David was working on this before we met again...

BTL: Met again?

Jennifer:  Oh, gosh, I guess everyone doesn't know the story!  Dave and I knew each other in highschool and hung out with the same friends and were in a school play together.  He was afraid to ask so I did it instead and asked him out to the movies.  The next day I found out his father, in the military, had to go to Winnipeg.  18 years later I moved to BC and created a LavaLife account, went on a few bad dates and stopped logging in.  On a whim I logged back on once and there was an IM from a guy named "Diver Dave" and Lo!  It was no one else other than Dave Winter.  We discovered we lived real nearby and AGAIN I asked him out... the rest as they say, is history.

BTL: Well, if it means anything... my wife asked me out on our first date too.  I guess us gamers are nervous around the ladies.  So you've always known about the game, what's your opinion on making games.

Jennifer: It's a lot of hard work.  He comes home, goes down into his office, and I bring him dinner- then he goes to bed.  It's just what he does.  It IS cute when he shouts "Eureka!" and reminds me of Doc from Back to the Future.

BTL: And there goes our image of the tough football player... but it is a good thing you keep him fed; I think most game developers would starve to death without their "other half."  Does this affect your time together?  Do you have to plan it beforehand?

Jennifer: A lot of times we do.  You just have to work around it.

BTL: So on the game being complete.  Is he already talking about another game?

Jennifer: I made my peace with the fact there game must be supported after release, so even with it being finished it doesn't free him up for me permanently. 

BTL: So do you watch football also?

Jennifer: I used to watch Monday Night Football back in the day, but now not so much.  I prefer the CFL.

BTL:  So have you ever considered helping him develop games, other than administrative tasks?

Jennifer: Well, dave suggests I should learn to code, but at this time I am just supportive of his actions.

BTL: Where does the name Winter Valley come from?

Jennifer: You know... I never asked him.  Hey Dave...

Dave:  My father has a model railroad in his basement.  The name of that railroad is Winter Valley.

(And there goes Dave's only moment in this interview)

BTL: And here I thought the name was because Canada is so darn cold!  So if the game does really well, does this mean you will have less time with your husband?

Jennifer:  Well, it would be the same as now.  I am hoping it does really well actually, because when he is happy I am happy, and I would hate to see the hard work he put into this game not come about.

BTL: Anything else you want to add for all those Maximum-Football Fans.

Jennifer:  Just that I hope they enjoy the game. 

BTL: Do you have any words of wisdom to bring us closer to true self awareness?

There's an old Irish saying I try to live my life by:  Sing like nobody can hear you and dance like nobody can see you.

Well, thank you to Dave for making a great game and to Jennifer for keeping Dave alive long enough to get it made!  If you happen to be up in the frozen north of Canada and you hear someone singing like they were in a shower... at the mall... you can say hello to Jennifer Winter!

Yes I know Canada isn't that cold, but I kept joking about it with her during the interview and I couldn't resist

Whispers...

What on Earth are all these people talking about?

Matrix Games Voted Strategy Game Publisher of The Year!

The players voted and Matrix has bagged some more awards for excellence this year from the Wargamer's Reader's Choice Awards.  That's right, the readers voted, not the editors, and this is what YOU said:

Board Game of the Year, GOLD:  Mark H. Walker's Lock and Load:  Band of Heroes
You go Mark, you sly dog!

Wargame of the Year, SILVER:  War Plan Orange : BRONZE: Battles in Italy & Crown of Glory
Three Awards in one category!  Congrats to Justin Prince and 2By3 Games (WPO), SSG (BII), and Western Civ (COG)!

Developer of the Year, GOLD:  2by3 Games
As the primary publisher of 2by3s products this year, we certainly want to include them in our celebration and give them a hearty congratulations!

Publisher of the Year, GOLD:  Matrix Games
This award is also an award for "Best Newsletter Writer" isn't it?

Game of the Year, SILVER:  War Plan Orange

So as the "Olympics" of awards comes to an end Matrix Games and our developers are able to claim 3 Golds, 2 Silvers, and 2 Bronze for a total of 7 medals added to our cabinet and two more gold awards than last year!

See the full article at: http://www.wargamer.com/articles/readerschoice_awards_2005/

 

Indoor Playlist for Maximum-Football

Marauders was kind enough to come up with some new plays for Maximum-Football for indoor settings.  His playbook is available to download from the Matrix Games member's area:

http://www.matrixgames.com/members

Panzer Command Screenshots!

I posted the valiant story, and while it turns out that my victory was likely caused by a bug (DOH)- it is still fun to watch... http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=1069206 

Updates

This section provides links to the updates released between the last newsletter and now.  No more having to search for download links; we've got 'em right here!

War Plan Orange 1.20:

http://www.matrixgames.com/news/news.asp?gid=326&nid=294

Flashpoint Germany 1.10

http://www.matrixgames.com/games/downloads.asp?gid=287

 

Coming Soon:

Crown of Glory v1.20

Gary Grigsby's World At War v2.00

Keep an eye on the news page and forums at www.matrixgames.com for information on these two upcoming patches!

 

 

A Parting Shot

I signed my last newsletter off with a remembrance of the Columbia Space Shuttle.  I liked that approach... but nothing jumped out at me as far as "it happened in March" - Other than Caesar getting the knife to the back.  So I did some research:  March is Frozen Food Month, but that isn't all.  It is also International Hamburger and Pickle Month!  Even more important than hamburgers and pickles, the first week is also TV Turn Off Week... so you had better turn that TV off and play some Wargames (Somehow, I think the point of that holiday is lost on me).

So really, did anything important happen in March?  In America, March 5th 1770 something DID happen that would help shape the world.  Any idea what?  That's right, the Boston Massacre, as dubbed by Paul Revere.  In reality we now know it was mostly propaganda.  Civilians were taunting the British troops and instigated the event.  We can't say that firing on unarmed people is ever justified, but Paul Revere turned a tragic death of 6 civilians into a rallying point for the rebel cause.  Many historians agree that, if not for this event, the revolution would not have gained steam nearly as quickly.  Good, bad, depends entirely on who you are... but certainly at the time nobody expected March 5th, 1770 to become a turning point in global politics.

As usual, if you have any ideas for next issue just drop me an e-mail at JoeL@Matrixgames.com.

Happy International Hamburger and Pickle Month!

Joe Lieberman
Newsletter Editor