From the Staff of GMT:
First off, I’m writing a set of detailed “State of the Union” articles about the current state of GMT. I wrote Part 1 of that series for today’s update, but decided to post it in InsideGMT instead so its size didn’t clog up your email inboxes. So here’s the link to that article. It’ll give you a sense of what our growth is like at present, and why it’s so important that we upgrade our systems and infrastructure to handle that growth. Please check it out if you haven’t already read it.
As I noted last month, my focus right now is on an urgent update of our systems and infrastructure to meet our accelerating growth and scale with us into the future. We need to move quickly on this, so I’ve spent much of the past month talking with various vendors, examining software, and working with our shippers and some team members to get a handle on exactly which solutions are going to be the best fit for us going forward.
After a lot of study and several demos, I have identified one integrated system that at this point looks like the best fit, but have not yet made the final decision. Once I get this update finished and out to you guys, I’ll spend a day or two finalizing what I hope will be the last “show me how it handles x” document for the vendor. If all goes well with the subsequent demo/conference, I think we’ll be ready to sign contracts and move to the implementation stage.
It’s premature at this point to give you guys any details on the implementation, but I think it’s only fair to tell you that we are intending a BIG slowdown in production over the coming months to make sure that we can focus on training our team members on the new systems during the transition period. I hate doing this as much as you guys hate not having more games, but the transition needs to be our focus in the near-term, so that we can get back to running on all cylinders as soon as possible. See the Tentative Production Schedule below for more details.
Switching gears to new P500 offerings, we have a couple of “2nd Edition” P500 offerings this time – both from Vance von Borries. I met with Vance at the Consim Expo in Tempe a few weeks back, and was thrilled to learn that Vance has recently retired from his CPA career, some of his caregiver responsibilities have eased, and he is now going to be able to focus on designing! That’s great news for those of us who love the EFS system and hisRoads series. Who knows what designs Vance will grace us with over time, but for now, we have the long-anticipated 2nd Edition of Barbarossa: Army Group Center and a 2nd Edition of his popularRoads to Leningrad. I hope you guys will support these games with your orders and let Vance know how happy we all are that he’s BACK!
Note that I’m including in the news below a section on “why Made the Cut games sometimes get pushed back on the Production Schedule.” I know it’s frustrating to you guys when this happens, especially if it happens repeatedly, so, after several customer requests, I wanted to give you some more insight into the “hows and whys” of changing production plans.
OK, on to the news.
P500 Removal: Cactus Air Force
I’m just going to lead with the bad news. Designer Terry Simo has recently contacted us and explained that due to job constraints, he just can’t commit at this point to a finish date on Cactus Air Force. He’s going to keep working on it as time allows, but he feels uncomfortable having the game on P500 but really not having any idea when the development will be complete.
We appreciate Terry’s candor and agree that for now, Cactus Air Force needs to come off the list. So, effective today, we are removing it and cancelling all P500 orders for it. When Terry and his team have it ready to go, we’ll put it back on the list, and judging from the (1400+) order interest to date, it should get plenty of orders at that point and have a production slot very quickly.
2nd Edition Simple GBoH to P500 List
GBoH players, rejoice! Developer Alan Ray has completed a revamped 2nd Edition of the rulebook, playbook, and Player Aid Cards for Simple GBoH. Charlie Kibler has done beautiful art and layout work on them, as you can see from the image above. These are ready to go to the printer; all we need is the orders. So check out the2nd Edition Simple GBoH P500 page and order away!
Colonial Now in the Warehouse and Available for Sale
Recently Tony concluded an agreement that allows us to bring our customers the 2nd Edition of Christophe Pont’sColonial, published by Strategem Games. $40 is a great price for this cool multi-player game, so check out the link and order away! Oh, and I’d recommend using the full advanced/optional rules from the beginning, for what it’s worth. They make the game even better!
So What’s the Deal with Games That Keep Getting “Delayed?”
OK, first off, let’s briefly note the word “Tentative” on the Production Schedule. I put that there purposely to indicate that it’s not an exact list, and every few months I reinforce that. But I know, sometimes when you look at a list of months and games, somehow the “tentative” part gets lost and then we get customer angst or even angry emails that accuse us of “breaking our promise” to print a game in x month. Sigh…. (I know, “suck it up, Gene!”)
Ok, that concludes the semi-snarky portion of this section. What I’d like to explain now is how our process works internally, and why our schedule has to be “tentative,” especially for those games that are out there 6+ months on the schedule. To channel Adrian Monk: “Here’s what happens”:
When a game goes on the P500 list, its design is usually complete but development and testing is not. We generally choose the time to add it to the P500 list by the simple litmus test of “Are the designer and developer sure enough of the game system/play to be able to give us an exact component list?” We’ve found over time, that if the answer to that question is “yes,” then we have a game that is ready for the list, in that the time left to test and do final development of the game should roughly match up (based on us have done this a few hundred times) with the time it’ll take us to gather enough P500 orders to make production financially viable.
So the development team works and you guys order and at some point, a game gets more than 500 orders, maybe a lot more. Enter Mark Simonitch, who manages the component artists and the integration of the design team’s final development with the art team’s creation of the final component art. Mark begins checking with the designer/developer to determine whether the game is ready for him to begin handing off counters/maps/cards/rules/PACs, etc to the art team. Much of the time, the development team isn’t quite ready for that yet (they might tell him “next month” or even “probably six more months”, either of which is no big deal to us, as we have lots of design teams and lots of games, and we don’t want to push any out the door until the design team satisfied that the game is ready). (And yes, we’ve learned our lessons with a few that slipped through over the years). Mark will just check on the next team to see if they’re ready and later come back to the first team in whatever timeframe they gave him to see if the game is ready yet.
Given that most of our designers have day jobs and game design is not a simple endeavor, it shouldn’t be surprising that many times, a game takes much longer than they originally anticipated to get to the final developed state where the design team tells Mark “yes, it’s ready for art.” So most of any delay we find in our processes isn’t really delay at all, it’s just the game taking longer to get through final development than we thought.
But, here’s the rub: A few years back, we decided to listen to what our customers wanted and start posting a longer-term production queue projection. It’s actually really good in some ways. For example, we see orders increase markedly when a game “gets a production slot,” even when it’s 6+ months away in the queue. I guess maybe it’s just naturaly that the game seems more real and imminent at that point, so more people order. And that’s great. But it’s also created a “managing customer expectations” issue for us, especially when games over 500 orders either don’t get a production slot, or they get one that’s far off, but just keep getting “pushed out” on the schedule month after month – sometimes year after year.
Before I put out this update every month, I go to Tony Curtis and Mark Simonitch, who generally have a production meeting shortly before in preparation to give me the latest info for the update. They give me their most current “best take” on the production schedule, based on what they know of current “at the printer status” as well as what the design teams are telling Mark as he queries them. There are times when the list looks markedly different, so I ask “what’s up with that one?” And the answer is usually some version of “the rulebook isn’t ready” or “xx got busy with his day job and won’t be ready for a few months.” I shrug and go on, knowing that it’s just the reality of working in a cooperative creative enterprise where so many of us wear multiple hats and have other priorities besides games. On the other hand, sometimes it works the opposite way and a game that wasn’t even on the list the month before suddenly is 4-6 months out because the team was ready and Mark got them working with our artists in the intervening month. So don’t despair if a game gets moved back; that can change month to month.
So when I get this monthly list from Tony and Mark, I know (and I want you guys to know) that:
- The games that are listed for sometime in the next 3 months are most likely already at the printer. These games are going to be pretty close to the time we’ve projected, barring any weird printer delays, which sometimes happen, but even then, don’t usually delay a game more than a month.
- The games in the 4-6 month categories are probably somewhere in the “beginning to almost finished” process of getting the final art completed by our art teams. These games are more susceptible to delays than the first group, as sometimes the development team will find a new problem during the process, sometimes there’s a delay finishing the rules or playbook (these are REALLY HARD on the design teams and often “delay” the process by some period of weeks or even months at this stage.) We also have a delay if Tony has to wait for a print slot at one of the printers. Frustrating, but it happens. Sometimes we use a contract artist, and he takes a little longer than any of us anticipated. We’ve even had cases where we got into this stage and a key member of a design team got crazy busy in his day job, got deployed overseas, etc. And in those cases, we’ve learned (after a couple of difficult experiences) to just STOP and wait until the team member is ready to focus and help us get the final details right. This can be really frustrating for customers who see the game six months out, then five, then four, then what? Back to six? Or in an indefinite holding pattern? You can just about bet the farm in those situations that we’re waiting on one of the key team members or outside artists. But we’re not about to throw him under the bus in public. Again, we don’t get too worked up about that internally, as we have lots of games, and we’d rather wait and get it right than push it out the door and have a mess on our hands. But from the customer side, I understand it can be really frustrating.
As you might imagine, the further out our production queue looks, the more possibility there is for the answers Mark gets to the readiness question to be unintentionally wrong, as there are lots of reasons during development that a design can be delayed. Sometimes testers “break” some part of the game system for us (thanks, guys, we’d rather be embarrassed in front of 10 or 20 of you during testing than before 10,000 in public later). Sometimes a designer or developer just comes up with a better way. Sometimes they add a playbook or a solitaire system. All of that takes time, and that’s frustrating in a way, but it’s virtually always time well spent when you finally get to see the final product.
There are a few games on our list now that have lingered or been pushed back repeatedly. And the reason for that is always some version of “the design team isn’t yet ready” or “the answer Mark is getting is changing over time.” So we roll with them, and update the production schedule accordingly.
If any of those teams ever told us that the stasis on the project looks longer-term to them, then we’d take the game off the list, as we did with Cactus Air Force when Terry came to us. We hate to do that, but we don’t want a designer to have the pressure of customer expectation if he doesn’t think the game will be finished anytime soon.
I hope this information is helpful to you in understanding some of the reasons that games might bounce around a bit on the production schedule and to help you better know what to expect when you see it each month!
Digital Twilight Struggle News
Digital Twilight Struggle (Steam for PC and Mac and iOS for retina-display iPads) continues to do really well for us, both in terms of sales and in bringing new TS players to the game.
The big news this past month was that Playdek released the game on the Apple Store, for iPads! And it’s doing really well there, both is US and overseas markets. And the rollout isn’t going to end with iOS. Playdek is now working on the Android version as well, as they work through the list of planned platforms for the game.
Playdek has had some problems with getting codes for our Kickstarter backers from Apple, so a few hundred of our Kickstarter friends are pretty unhappy. I hate this. We’re in a tough place in this situation, because we never want our customers to be unhappy, but we have really no ability to affect the outcome here. We don’t have codes to give out and Playdek is managing all of the digital side of things, and that’s pretty frustrating when our customers need something fixed. I wrote a bit more about the situation here, if you’re interested.
I can’t really do much in the near-term to make a positive impact (except to ask Playdek for updates, which we do), but if this becomes a long-term problem, I think you guys know us well enough to know that we won’t sit idly by. But I still have confidence in the guys at Playdek that they’ll be able to take care of everyone.
More as we know it on that front.
Back to the “good side” of all this for a minute, and it’s massively good. Wow, we are seeing a LOT of new Twilight Struggle players, and they LOVE the game. I had an email recently from a guy who bought the Steam version in early May and has now played 100+ games of Twilight Struggle since then! I thought “man, I didn’t play that many games in the first three YEARS I had the boardgame….”
So ultimately, this is a really good thing for us. The PR alone from the PC Gamer review below has been amazing!
Twilight Struggle’s creativity and elegance sets it apart from most of what’s available on PC. It’s a great strategy game, but one that behaves according to completely different logic than we’re used to seeing. As a strategy game, Twilight Struggle is a revelation. On PC, it’s one of the best head-to-head strategy games around.
If you haven’t seen the Digital Version yet, or you’d like to learn to play Twilight Struggle (and this is a terrific way to learn the game), I invite you to check it out. When you buy the Steam version linked below, you get access to both the PC and Mac versions of the game for the $14.99 price. Enjoy!
Twilight Struggle Collector’s Edition Updates
1. The misprinted cards from the CE have just arrived in our warehouse. Once we finish with our current round of MBT/Panzer shipping, we’ll ship the updated cards to all of you who have the CE, and will then ship decks to all KS backers who’ve ordered additional card decks.
2. As I noted last month, If ANY Kickstarter backer of physical rewards (CE, Expansion decks, T-shirts, etc) has not yet received their items, please contact our offices (email@example.com) as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.
3. For those of you who want to know when we’ll make the remaining TS Collector’s Editions available for general sale, it’ll be after we ship out the reprinted cards and make sure all the folks in #2 above are taken care of.
This Month in InsideGMT!
Here’s a look at our most recen InsideGMT articles:
And, in case you missed them, here are links to our previous month’s InsideGMT articles:
Illusions of Glory: Developing GMT’s Latest WWI CDG
Interview with Marc Gouyon-Rety on The Player’s Aid
theplayersaid.com published a 3-part interview recently with Pendragon designer Marc Gouyon-Rety. There’s a ton of information in there that I think you guys who are looking forward to Pendragon would love to know. Here’s a link to part 1 of the article:
San Diego Historical Games Convention
The November San Diego Historical Games Convention (November 11-13, 2016) is now open for registration! This year brings a new venue utilizing the 5,200 square foot Shriner’s Hall and sharing a parking lot with the Convention Hotel. This years special guest will be Mark Herman. Come join us in San Diego where it’s 70 degrees in November! http://www.sdhist.com/
GMT Weekend at the Warehouse Oct. 13-16
We had a great time with about 90 gamers at our most recent GMT Weekend at the Warehouse on April 21-24. Thanks to all of you who attended and made the event so much fun!
We do have dates for our Fall Weekend, so come join us on October 13-16, 2016, for our 32nd (!) GMT Weekend at the Warehouse! We’ll spend the better part of 3 1/2 days, often long into the night, playing your favorite GMT (and non-GMT, if you’d prefer) games. This is mostly an open gaming event, although we do have tournaments from time to time.
The hotel has already blocked rooms for us, so feel free to go ahead and make reservations whenever you are ready. If you’d like to attend, just call or chat with our office ladies and they’ll reserve your spot.