Thank You SSG and a request

Discussion relating to Kharkov: Disaster on the Donets

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Thank You SSG and a request

Postby kondor999 » Mon Jan 11, 2010 8:07 pm

Firstly, thank you for what is easily the best series of wargames ever made. I've played everything, and the AI is especially superior to anything else. Additionally, the presentation, rules/game system and interface all make the series a pleasure to play. It's almost enough to make me forget my beloved OCS series boardgames - and I never thought I'd say that.

My requests are simple:

1. Utilize a standard Windows graphics system so I can have (for example) a 1920x1200 monitor show a larger map. TOAW, Panzer Campaigns and Advanced Tactics all do this well. I actually use a 3-monitor Eyefinity setup and like to play TOAW in 5760x1200. Spectacular. At last I have something that approaches what I can see in a boardgame,

2. Do a followup to Korsun Pocket -> Hube's Pocket! This was/is my favorite game in the OCS series by The Gamers. It's a great story and the ultimate operational accomplishment - the "roving cauldron". Awesome! Make it and They will come. This battle is truly legendary among all Eastern Front fanatics. Trust me.
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Postby Roger Keating » Tue Jan 12, 2010 9:50 am

Thank you for the praise and I will try to answer at least part of your questions.

To redo the Korsun system in a new windows interface, such as Carriers at War for example, will take a lot of time and unfortunately some money. It is doubtful whether the return is there if we proceeded with this. Once you go into a windows system eveything has to be re-written and SSG has at the moment one programmer who has to handle all this work. The simple answer is .. if there was more money in this genre it would already have been done.

As to what scenario will be done next, that I leave to Ian and Gregor. I know that further Russian battles are planned but can't say exactly which. Playing ATD with some of the changes we have made since Kharkov, and will be available soon, I can only say that it is a thoughly enjoyable experience. The large scale of the battle and the number of choices, all of which are imporant, make it a great experience.

Just to summarize, there are no simple requests .. everything comes down to common factors, the money has to be there to get things done in a timely manner and at the moment it has slowed us up, but we have not stopped.
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Postby kondor999 » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:14 pm

Wow - Mr. Keating himself! Sir, you have been a legend to me since all those great C64/Apple II games that were never ported to my Atari 800 (dammit). Thanks so much for your time.

It fills me with sadness to hear that, while $millions pour into the development of one mindless FPS after another, you guys - who are producing quality products with endless replay value and intellectual stimulation - are down to a single programmer.

I don't know about you, but I find myself increasingly marginalized in this anti-intellectual society, where attention spans are measured in seconds, and the games reflect it. Frankly, I feel surrounded by idiots hyped up on energy drinks, reality TV and Twilight.

I just thank God you guys are around, and to prove it I went ahead and purchased everything you've made on the Matrix site - just to make myself feel a little better. Have you considered setting up some sort of donation system via Paypal? Surely I'm not alone out there.

OK, ATD2 sounds awesome! I bought ATD way back but got scared off by the negative buzz about impossible German victory conditions (can't lose a single unit pretty much). I wondered though - does it really matter what the game tells me is a "victory"? I could decide that for myself. That's what we did when playing boardgames.

- Maj. Erich Swafford MD
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Postby Roger Keating » Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:48 pm

I must admit a love affair with the Apple II. It was, in my opinion, the greatest advance in computing in its day. We went to the C64 which had a 6502 system and it was fairly easy to learn.

When the Apple II disk system was a bit slow it took me a week to write a new one, on the C64 I never did understand the 1541 disk drive .. and never meet anyone who claimed victory either. Even when we went to Commodore we found that they wanted to ask questions of us as all their good programmers had left for better pay. Handling 2 machines was all I could really cope with even though a good friend of mine, Chris Crawford, was an Atari man at the start. He developed a way to get a 1 Meg hard drive attached to the computer which he used to develop games. He offered it to Atari but they claimed that no one would ever use it and so the Atari started its steady decline.

But that is the past .. I should point out that we still look at various games. We have all played World of Warcraft and look at other new games as well. A few years ago we developed a board game based on our Warlord game. It is aimed at family level and was almost published but just fell short. The components would be fairly expensive to produce and this was the Achilles heal and with board games, you only need one.

I do agree with you on energy drinks and reality TV which I avoid like the plague but have found Twilight a pleasant read and the movie(s) were well made and enjoyable. It is interesting that 'True Blood' was really the first of the new Vampire genres around (I believe) but that it did not go further due to slightly serious rating issues.

On the point of the donations .. of course we would be delighted if we received a check in the mail but most war gamers are hard working folk like ourselves. Having been around for a good number of years in this business means that I have meet a large number of gamers at conventions and meetings and it has really made this job a joy to do. I could not really think of a better way I could have spent the last 30 years.

And thanks again for the praise .. it lifts the spirits on a day that is just a little hot. We are making up the average for the Northern hemisphere at the moment.
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Postby kondor999 » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:00 pm

I chuckled when I read about your 8-bit adventures. I really think that Atari was the class act of that generation, and had a reputation as being easy to develop for. Oh well.

Did you ever play the Sid Meier games like "Crusade in Europe"? They were very good actually, and often "felt" very historical - which is amazing given the severe limitations of the day. I remember really enjoying the Ardennes scenario especially. Gave you a real feel for the difficulties of the situation for the Germans, and I had to play it repeatedly to finally learn how to use those Panzer divisions both to create a breakthrough, and to then withdraw them, replace them with my VG followup units, and then push them through the rupture. Man, that really felt right.

One thing that's always fascinated me is whether it's proper to use cannon fodder (low mobility infantry) to create a rupture, and preserve my mobile (armored) units for a pristine exploitation - or is the proper tactic to use the mobile units (and their much greater combat power) right up front, and then withdraw them ASAP for the ensuing exploitation?

After 30 years of wargaming, I've concluded the latter is by far the more effective. Even though it's difficult to hand over a defensive position to a follow-on infantry unit, withdraw, and continue the advance - it still seems to consistently get better results than holding back your best units waiting for a breakthrough that may never come - or come too late to matter (as the Enemy is no doubt rushing his reserves to plug whatever gap you eventually create).

Just curious what you think...

Also, I really wonder if guys like you and Crawford realize just how many lives you've touched. I've really been edified by your hard work over the years, and I'm sure there are plenty who could say the same. My life would have been a lot less entertaining, that's for sure. You done good :)
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Postby Robjess » Wed Jan 13, 2010 9:16 pm

Here Here!
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Postby Abwehr » Wed Jan 13, 2010 10:43 pm

Although some people here and on other forums, including myself, aim criticism at SSG for certain issues, I'd say that most of the people on this forum form a pretty loyal fanbase.

It might not always seem like it, but my posts filled with criticism are mostly there because I want the series to succeed, not because I want the series to fail.

Understandably, many developers become "defensive" when criticism is aimed at them and sadly some of them don't see that criticism can also be voiced because people want to support them.

There are a few well known developers who proclaim they have made "the" pinnacle of wargaming in their particular area, a promise which quickly evaporates when reality sets in and the fanbase becomes angry.

I'm happy to say that SSG's games have thus far never disappointed me in the same way as many other wargames (including TOAW) have, but rather have lived up well to my hopes and expectations.

It is indeed sad that SSG can't live up to its full potential due to financial woes, but in a way that's also the strength of the development team: it's small (larger development teams can quickly become inefficient as some recent examples pointed out) and they (often) talk with their community.

I'd gladly donate some funds to SSG if it would improve upon a product/speed up development, but even if all the active people on this forum would donate 10 bucks or the like, it will only pay for a few days of hiring a programmer. We're really in a niche here.

I don't know what the sales figures for the Carriers at War, the DB series, Battlefront or Kharkov: DotD were like, but I can imagine that they might not have been much more than what was needed to sustain the development of the next title.

It's a sad world where a pretty unpolished title like CoD: MW2 grabs the big bucks for offering the same lame action over and over again, with a negligible multiplayer experience, whilst a studio like SSG barely has the money to continue to work on quality titles. If a million bucks from MW2 went to SSG, that would have a small impact on the profit for MW2, but it would really help SSG. Strange world we live in.

-

Hmm, now that I give it some thought, maybe we could pay SSG for adding more maps to a game, sort of like Downloadable Content. I know we like our custom scenarios free, but if we had to pay a few bucks to get a nice scenario, I would have no objections to that.

We could hold a poll to see which battle/operation would be the most popular, SSG could name a price and we could see whether we can afford it. If we keep the maps PBEM only (AI can always be added later on), that should lower the initial development time.

Just a thought.
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Postby kondor999 » Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:39 am

I'll get right down to it and say that they (SSG and HPS) are charging WAY too little for their games, if you consider the demographic of their customers.

For me, time is more scarce than money - especially when we're talking less than $200 here. I can make about $175/hr working, so the opportunity cost of even playing a game is huge compared to its purchase cost.

SSG: Wake up and charge what you're worth. If the unit sales are low, then charge double. It's ridiculous that KDOTD is cheaper than COD MW2. I'd say $80 would be a good place to start.
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Postby Roger Keating » Thu Jan 14, 2010 4:08 pm

There is a lot to answer here but it would be difficult to do so adequately so I think I will revert to the past once again ....

I always remember when multiplayer games were coming on line and flight simulators where doing well (those were the days). To cut costs a company I knew decided to host their WWI and WWII simulators on the same computer, just on widely seperated areas. At least this was until one of the WWII players discovered they could get to the WWI areas by flying in a certain direction. This caused a great deal of hastle as the Sopwith Camels tried to cope with a Messerschmitt 109. More expense ... more servers.

In the same game they also discovered that one player had found a way to gain altitude rapidly ... flip the plane upside down then stall it. The programmer had made the plane fall rapidly .. at least that is what he thought he had done.

I liked the early days as they were full of such events. I played a good number of Sid Meier's games although "Crusade in Europe" was not one of them. Chris Crawford once made the statement among a group of game designers that 'any game can be written in 8k (of memory)'. Boy .. did he live to regret that statement.

On the financial side though .. we (SSG) have talked about a number of things in meetings but the bottom line is that there is not a lot we can do to change things at the moment and this is frustrating. Hopefully this year will see things turn around.
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Postby Abwehr » Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:34 pm

I'll get right down to it and say that they (SSG and HPS) are charging WAY too little for their games, if you consider the demographic of their customers.

For me, time is more scarce than money - especially when we're talking less than $200 here. I can make about $175/hr working, so the opportunity cost of even playing a game is huge compared to its purchase cost.

SSG: Wake up and charge what you're worth. If the unit sales are low, then charge double. It's ridiculous that KDOTD is cheaper than COD MW2. I'd say $80 would be a good place to start.


I don't think the base cost is too low.

If you look at forums for War in the Pacific, or the upcoming War in the East, which certainly target a fairly hardcore wargaming community, you'll see that many people are reluctant to pay over 80 bucks or the like, for good reason. Keep in mind that those games cover a greater area, more units, the entire war in their part of the front, and offer multiple scenarios. Charging about half of the price of WitP: AE for SSG games makes sense, makes SSG games affordable and attracts a greater wargaming audience.

I'm still young, and Matrix didn't always seem to care for changes in exchange rates so I think I might've spend more on the average SSG title than a person paying in US dollars (I pay in euro's). It was a small difference, but it does seem to have been a difference.

If Matrix would make me pay 70 or 80 euro's for a game that's 80 dollars in the US (and they will at the start), that would be a pretty hefty sum. Matrix does seem to have lowered its prices recently, as I don't think I've ever seen SSG games for these prices.

Also: paying 70 or 80 bucks for a game with a single scenario is basically a no-no unless it's very good. I would probably still have bought Kharkov: DotD even if it was priced at 70 euro's, but many reviewers (already commenting on the single scenario) would note it as a negative point.

Now if SSG were to charge for high quality scenarios they develop themselves, I would be fine with that. There could be free custom scenarios and SSG scenarios that you have to pay a small fee for to download, that could work.

On the financial side though .. we (SSG) have talked about a number of things in meetings but the bottom line is that there is not a lot we can do to change things at the moment and this is frustrating. Hopefully this year will see things turn around.


I think it would've helped if ATD2 had been released by now.
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Postby Spuddy64 » Thu Jan 28, 2010 7:22 am

Great to see Roger make a post on the forum her every now and then. I can share many of my thoughts with kondor as back when SSG started I had every game and scenario disk they offered, (even RFTS and later Warlords) along with a subscription to Run5 magazine. (still have all those Run5s somewhere in the basement) I bought so many items from the US distributor he recognized my voice when I would call to order. (hard to believe there was a time when you couldnt just point and click your mouse and own something, actually had to pick up the phone and call someone and hope that the number wasnt busy)
Back then I had to explain every purchase with my wife, as we had young kids and I didnt make dick for a salary, now I buy stuff that I dont even open. Price for me isnt an option, but I know it is for most and I respect that. I enjoy these games enough I was even thinking of sponsoring a tourny (paying for the prize) but then it wouldnt be able to play in the tourny :(

In a nutshell SSG has provided one hell of alot of fun for me over the years, and I hope the future is both prosperous and enjoyable for the entire staff. :D
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Postby flick » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:58 am

As much as I love and respect the games here, suddenly raising your prices doesn't seem to be a genius way to convince people to buy your product.
I'm not a sales expert, just a guy with a overdraft, in a world barely out of a massive recession. :o
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Postby kondor999 » Thu Apr 01, 2010 12:50 pm

I think all PC game makers would do well to not only raise prices, but also to include more value.

How? Include high-quality play-aids and manuals like they used to back in the 80's and 90's. Who here doesn't cherish those old manuals like we used to get?

It would make such a difference to the experience, and you can't pirate a nice ring-bound manual. Of course, not every mindless game would benefit - only wargames and flight sims, really.

And that's fine by me. Anyone who pirates a good flight sim or wargame these days deserves to be shot. But until we get that law passed, including something in the box which is a) non-digital and b) valuable is a great way to ensure that only legitimate users get the best experience.

For the wonderful flight sim KA-50, I happily paid an extra $35 for a printed ring-bound manual. It's a total make-or-break when you're dealing with any complex simulation.

Hey - at least give us the option!
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Postby Brubaker » Wed Apr 07, 2010 5:47 pm

Roger Keating wrote:On the financial side though .. we (SSG) have talked about a number of things in meetings but the bottom line is that there is not a lot we can do to change things at the moment and this is frustrating. Hopefully this year will see things turn around.


Hi Rog. 3 words. Graphics, Graphics, Graphics. I know this goes aginst the grain of what most people claim is important in a game, but hey, you make the best games around already. Time to do the graphical change and upgrade the resolution. How much money can be made selling an old Ferrari to a bunch of old guys like us who appreciate the quality? You have to start building Toyotas (or something nice and shiny).

Still love ya work.

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Postby Abwehr » Wed Apr 07, 2010 8:02 pm

Good to see you around Brubaker, it's been a while.
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