Friday, May 3, 2013

Heavy Gear Kickstarter Musings and Robotech Update

The Robotech Kickstarter I posted about last time is still going strong and likely to reach $500,000 tonight with a free Khyron in an Officer's Pod to celebrate.  If you haven't checked it out or only checked it out in the first few days, feel free to click the link below and take a peek as they have added plenty of designs in the meantime.

Since I've been following the Robotech Kickstarter, I've also been thinking about the kickstart that I believe Heavy Gear needs.  Most gaming kickstarters tend to be glorified preorders that simply cut out the middlemen (stores, distributors) and pass on some of the savings to consumers but the core original idea of the platform is to fund things that otherwise wouldn't get funded.  Almost every time a discussion about increasing the output of Heavy Gear products or revamping the game completely comes up on the DP9 forums, some fanboy brings up the fact that DP9 has only a small core of full time employees that can't handle the added workload and the company can't afford the increased pace anyways.  A kickstarter for a truly new edition (and not just a minimal Locked and Loaded revision every 2-3 years for full $$ price) would help both of those problems as the earned funds could pay the salary of another full time employee.  That is a change and effort that I would indeed support assuming that the scope of the project was broad enough and re-examined everything about the game from the ground up.  No turning the whole herd into sacred cows though!

The proposed change that I suspect would be the most controversial would be simply rebooting the entire universe ala Battlestar Galactica.  The Scifi channel didn't just take the Richard Hatch BSG proposal that simply continued the 1970's show into the new millenium but rather revamped the original into a modern show that still kept the core feel and ideals of that original but updated everything else.  Heavy Gear needs that type of change if it wants to be a more successful wargame.  Right now, every possible change for an existing army (especially the North and South) is buried under literally thousands of pages of fluff and history for an RPG that has effectively been abandoned by its maker for almost a decade.  When the RPG first came out around 1994, it had the unique "hook" of a real time advancing storyline for the world that aged with us.  Despite how good that was in the RPG, the wargame doesn't need that and instead suffers from it.  Take a page from the comic book industry and reboot the Heavy Gear wargame as an alternate universe set at the end of or right after the first Earth Invasion.  Mold the universe and the fluff around what the wargame needs instead of  continuing to shoehorn the wargame into a decades old RPG universe.  If the RPG is no longer weighed down by it's own rules and fluff, why the heck is the spin off wargame that didn't need 90% of it in the first place?

Take the time to re-examine the rules and pick either a skirmish game or a full scale wargame... you can't have both if you want to do a good job!  Right now, Heavy Gear is a skirmish game effectively as the complexity of the rules leads most players to play games of less than 15 models per side (infantry not included of course) in order to finish a game in one evening... but it pretends to be a wargame in its army building portion with 5 gear squads as the core unit.  That dichotomy is the main reason this blog exists as I couldn't finish a full wargame sized battle in a single evening and wasn't satisfied with what I was given in the size game I could finish.

Finally, update the production and materials to the current millenial standards of plastic sets.  Take the opportunity that the release of the upcoming video game gives you to revamp the look of the models to modern robot aesthetics.  People who will be crossing over from the video game will be expecting modern scifi robots and not early 1980's VOTOMs.  As much as I personally like the classic look (and I really do), they don't sell the game as effectively as they did when they were first released.  The Xacto update from the frequently goofy looking Tactical minis was a great move but that was almost a decade ago and the game needs another makeover.  Keep the older minis as officially "legal" in the rules but revamp the design to better match the aesthetics shown in the video game concept art. (I'm not a fan personally of what they're showing for the south but the concept art for the Hunter is kick ass.)  New startups are using kickstarter to raise funds and coming out with plastic lines from the get go.  Take the time and effort and redesign the core minis in the North and South for the rebooted universe/timeline in plastic for an upcoming big starter set of 40+ minis.  Include revised Hunters/Jaegers, Iguanas/Cheetahs, Mambas/Jaguars, and Grizzlies/Cobras in plastic along with the new rules in a wargame style big boxed set like the upcoming Robotech game or like GW has been doing for almost two decades.

I want Heavy Gear to grow and I think the kickstarter platform gives DP9 the opportunity to create the changes needed with less financial risk.  You can't please everyone and you'll inevitably lose some core fans with the scope of the changes above but you'll likely bring in newer fans as well.  I've frequently criticized DP9 for pointless changes that decimated player collections (minimally revised rulebooks that invalidated editions after 2-3 years released for over a decade, tactical minis making the old RAFM ones obsolete and out of scale, etc) but I'd support financially a truly new edition that was worked from the ground up as a wargame.