This is probably a very bad first post. But as an (old) newbie, perhaps I can get away with speaking the unspeakable which, likely, is on the minds of some.
Suffice for brief intro that I've played TOAW for ten years mostly as a solitaire escape, have played wargames for over thirty years, have lurked here for a few years and have an extensive techie background.
That said, I'll stir up a hornets nest. I'll defiantly call out the (much thinned) crowd of torch bearers and pitchfork wielders.
Describing progress on the game as glacial would be understatement. Matrix took over the series in 2006 and has failed to establish a direction. And let's face it, versions 3 and 3.4, while cool, were not groundbreaking. Many of the things the game desperately needs, it still needs. Release times are now measured in years and maintenance releases have become none existent.
One could level the charge that Matrix's handling of TOAW has been visionless, but I doubt it is a lack of creative spark. Instead, I imagine the reality is more common and familiar - money. And who can blame them. A game and a company has to pay the bills and TOAW is not a big seller. This has been a chronic problem in the wargaming world since the days of Avalon Hill and SSI. There's just not a big audience. The series is caught between a rock and a balance sheet.
It is long the wargamers' lament that the genre will never see the success (or resources) of "Call of Duty" or "Starcraft." Perhaps the nearest turn-based game that made a load of cash was the "Civilization" series and its knock offs. But then, Civ was never really a wargame. Given the continued interest in TOAW and its obvious utility as a "game system" or "game maker", it occupies a niche which, to the best of my knowledge, has no other competing peer and so has a future.
But as is, the TOAW series is dead. It has exceeded its lifespan. It remains a fun game but is very long in the tooth. Developmentally, it's a corpse. Those changes (some listed below) that MUST be part of a nextgen "TOAW" are not forthcoming. And I think everyone knows it.
Because there is a niche, TOAW faces the certain prospect of replacement. The only real questions are when and whether that replacement is a further development of TOAW or a newcomer being written, perhaps right now, in a dark basement.
The possible futures for this game, this game type and niche are...
a) Do a massive revamp and devote the resources for a near complete rewrite. You could retain the current series name (with whatever legal hooks are involved) and renew dominance in the niche before someone else does.
b) A totally new game. If TOAW does not evolve, this is going to happen any way ... in that basement. It will mean the death (and the death of sales) of TOAW.
c) A complete rewrite. A new name. As an MG project.
I'm guessing, however, that current sales of the game are too low to justify options a) or c). Oddly enough, if someone undertakes b) it may well end up in MG's stable as many wargame writers are independent and go through a distributor like Matrix.
Continued incremental development of the game could follow a few paths:
d) As is. Which is to say barely. Sell it while you can. Kiss it goodbye when someone does b) above.
e) Adopt a more open development model in cooperation with the community. Put it up on secured SVN, vet a few (a couple? one?) player-programmers, have them sign non-disclosures, put Ralph in overall charge and see what happens.
f) Make it open source. This will not happen, of course. Just being thorough in presenting possibilities.
I could be wrong, but I believe TOAW singularly occupies its niche even after 14 years. It is less a game than an operational/strategic game-making system. A lot of games come with a scenario designer, but none achieve the scale and scope of TOAW. If there is another, please let me know. I'd like to switch. I've played TOAW for years but not much lately. It's a tired old game. Its limitations remain. Its irritations remain. And there seems to be no prospect for serious revamp.
So what would a nextgen TOAW (or new replacement) look like? Well, one need only look at the extensive and lovingly assembled Wishlist. You don't need to research interest groups; it's all there.
In the bigger picture however, there's also a need to recognize what the TOAW community and scenario designers have done with the system. In general, the urge has been toward big and strategic. The popular scenarios tend to this. This is also a direction that exposes TOAW's severe shortcomings. Consequently, the next evolutionary plateau for this niche would lean toward the strategic (but strive to still handle company-level battles) and provide much more refined scenario design controls. The fine details of the Wishlist aside, the "big" items would include:
1) Force identity and hex control: more exclusion zones (possibly with attributes), non-player/multi-player hex control, true neutral countries...
2) Players: multi-general, multi-player. The ramifications of such are extensive but well within reach of game modelling/programming
3) Multi-player implies levels of diplomatic engagement (and governing program). Imagine an operational wargame combined with the wheeling/dealing of the old Diplomacy game.
4) Strategic implies economy. The current equipment-based units and replacement system nearly begs for an economic model to input feed the replacements system.
5) Of course - better sea/air
6) Scenario design: almost EVERYTHING should be accessible to the scenario designer. This means easily pluggable graphics (much more soft rendering and much less hard blitting), granulated access to program variables, fine control of replacements (start, stop, numbers, bolus). The goal strongly suggests a script-driven event system with the option (not requirement) for complex triggers and results.
Finally, money. The uniqueness of this niche, its lack of contenders and its possiblities may well support an entirely different business approach. It's not that there's "Call of Duty"-like cash out there, but there is the opportunity support the company and the game with a new marketing model.
Bring on the pitchforks... ;)
< Message edited by BearFlag -- 12/17/2012 3:29:09 AM >