Third Party Publisher Rate of Publication Question

asloser

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To me the amount of good quality material coming out nowadays is amazing. I just recently went through my ASL collection and looked through the stuff released 15-25 years ago. The difference is phenomenal and it is not just the graphics and presentation. The overall gaming value is way better too.

In my opinion the process has gotten better. Both designers and playtesters have learned to do it better. many people have been at it 15-20-25 years or even longer. As pointed out upthread today MMP and almost all of the TTPs put out products which you can buy without worrying about the quality- it is more a matter of taste what do you like.

Schwerpunkt is interesting benchmark in this regard as their products have stayed more or less the same for 20+ years. What used to be the best TTP offering in late 90s does not stand out the same way it used to nowadays - they have not gotten worse but almost everyone else has improved.
 
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RandyT0001

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People are welcome to write reviews of ASL products in the dedicated forum. Even two or three paragraphs can be helpful to other players looking to buy the latest releases.
 

Michael Dorosh

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Rather than being coy perhaps you can give a list of the third-party companies you have seen releasing multiple products in a short span recently. Then rather than being coy we can tell you what we think of them.

JR
hongkongwargamer will also tell you how much they were playtested.
 
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jrv

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People are welcome to write reviews of ASL products in the dedicated forum. Even two or three paragraphs can be helpful to other players looking to buy the latest releases.
True, but the assertion here is not that any individual product was deficient, but that the strain on a third-party producer of releasing multiple products made one or all of them deficient. That's a claim at a different level than just the individual product. I myself don't keep track of release dates, so I have a hard time saying if there is a correlation (by the original argument, reverse correlation) between quantity of releases in a time span and quality of product.

JR
 

bprobst

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Imagine an "average" Third Party Publisher in terms of size and, perhaps more importantly, number of associates of that TPP who are willing to playtest for it.
I can't imagine it because I don't know what you mean by "average". Are there even enough TPP out there to enable such an "average" to be defined? I mean, most TPP don't produce more than one product, period. So who does that leave? Critical Hit, Schwerpunkt, Bounding Fire, Le Franc Tireur, Friendly Fire, Lone Canuck ... am I missing anyone significant?

Critical Hit are irrelevant to the discussion because irrespective of their production rate their (new) products are badly-designed and not playtested by anyone.

Schwerpunkt rarely ever offered more than 2 scenario packs in a single year and these days are unlikely to even do that.

Friendly Fire never do more than one scenario pack a year (and not always even that).

Which pretty much just leaves Lone Canuck, BFP and LFT. If those are the guys you want to talk about, why aren't we talking about those guys specifically?

What rate of publication for that publisher would make you start to wonder if its goals were beginning to outstrip its realistic ability to fully playtest and develop its products?
I've never thought of a TPP in terms of their "rate of publication". What I think mainly about is: do I want to see publications like the ones they are doing; if I decide to purchase, did I feel that I was getting a quality product; and how much did I have to pay to get it. And that's all about individual products, not a question of how many products there are in total.

Would more than one product per year start having you a bit concerned? (that is when I personally tend to start having doubts) More than two products a year?
As I indicate above, I don't think in those terms, so the questions are irrelevant.

Do you think a TPP can actually release three fully developed and playtested products per year?
Can they? Absolutely! As indicated in previous replies, there might be very good reasons why a single TPP might deliver multiple products in a year, and if they were all worked on independently and separately they might all be excellent.

However, I think what you actually want to ask is, can three products all worked on by the same people be developed and published to a competent-or-better standard in a single 12-month period? I would suspect that to be a much more difficult trick to pull off. I certainly wouldn't declare it to be "impossible" though.

Do you trust that a TPP that released any number of products per year was fully playtesting and developing them beforehand?
The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Was I happy with the previous products that were released? I'll keep "trusting" a TPP to maintain (or improve) their standards until I see direct evidence that they clearly aren't.

Have you ever thought of any past TPP, "Man, they are releasing too many products too fast for them to really have fully playtested them"?
No, I don't think I've ever wondered that.

Since we've already established that we're only talking about three TPP in particular, I can't give you specific answers for those three because I no longer purchase any products from those TPP (in fact there are not too many TPP products that I purchase at all these days). The question of "quality" is really only relevant to one of the three (and even for that one, is only a part of my non-purchasing decision); I have alternate reasons for not purchasing from the other two.
 

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Rather than being coy perhaps you can give a list of the third-party companies you have seen releasing multiple products in a short span recently. Then rather than being coy we can tell you what we think of them.

JR
Because I'm not trying to single out a particular company, nor does it matter to me what you think of that company's products. My question was deliberately designed as theoretical one, because I wanted to know how many product releases it would take before people would begin to have concerns on that basis.
 

Pitman

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Which pretty much just leaves Lone Canuck, BFP and LFT. If those are the guys you want to talk about, why aren't we talking about those guys specifically?
Two reasons. First, I was interested in people's abstract or theoretical reactions to the question of multiple product releases by a company--any company. Second, because as soon as one mentions a specific company, the partisans for that company will come out fighting and the discussion will immediately lose all theoretical basis and simply devolve into a heated and pointless argument about Company X or Company Y.

I've never thought of a TPP in terms of their "rate of publication".
I'm genuinely surprised at this. Every discerning ASLer should pay attention to something like that for a small TPP. The Paul Kenny phenomenon if nothing else should make someone aware.


Can they? Absolutely! As indicated in previous replies, there might be very good reasons why a single TPP might deliver multiple products in a year, and if they were all worked on independently and separately they might all be excellent.

However, I think what you actually want to ask is, can three products all worked on by the same people be developed and published to a competent-or-better standard in a single 12-month period? I would suspect that to be a much more difficult trick to pull off. I certainly wouldn't declare it to be "impossible" though.
It is certainly true that on any one given year a combination of circumstances might allow more than one product to be released without any sacrifice of TLC. But you are correct regarding what I was actually referring to. Not any special circumstances.
 

jrv

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Because I'm not trying to single out a particular company, nor does it matter to me what you think of that company's products. My question was deliberately designed as theoretical one, because I wanted to know how many product releases it would take before people would begin to have concerns on that basis.
Based on three groups that seem to fit your bill, BFP, LFT, and MMP, I would not be concerned if they released more than one product a year. From my limited experience there seems to be a number of developers (e.g. Bill Cirillo for FB, Andy Hershey for KGS, Dan Dolan on Dinant, etc.—those are just three that sprang to mind; there's no significance to the particular names and products) and a band of primary gamers which do much of the primary game design work and playtesting. That work is presented to publishers, who perform secondary work on the game design & playtesting and also do the final graphics, etc. There seem to be no end of developers who have a pet project they'd like to see developed. If there is a bottleneck it would seem to be at the graphics end, and I haven't seen any evidence of distress there.

In another post you mention Paul Kenny. He was one developer trying to put out multiple products (without a group around him, as far as I know) and publish all at the same time. Was he in deeper than was good for quality. Perhaps. But the "lone developer" trying to keep a dozen plates spinning is not the model that most TPP use. They have multiple developers each working on a single product. That's a very different way of working. Paul is not what I think of when I think about "average" TPPs.

JR
 

RobZagnut

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I’ve always ‘voted’ for TPP with dollars. Back in the day the Rout Report, Chicago pack, Kinetic Energy, ASL News and ASLUG Newsletter always got my support. I playtested for ASLUG, so knew the effort that went into those scenarios.

I avoid Critical Hit like the plague. Them stealing Kinetic Energy scenarios by publishing the Aller packs borders on criminal. Why anyone would support a company with those ethics is beyond me.

Currently, I buy everything BFP, LFT, Friendly Fire, Dispatches Bunker, Rally Point - Korea, Death to Fascism, and St. Louis. One maybe two products a year tops seems like a decent rate depending on how many designers and playtesters are involved with the TPP. I playtested and proof read for BFP and Chris Olden, so know how well they value and use feedback. I used to play 40-60 scenarios a year, but no longer play at that rate, so my appetite for every scenario has waned, so I would probably support more TPP if I played more...
 

xenovin

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I met a player who did play test for Paul Kinney. I don’t know for what or how long but he was involved.

In another post you mention Paul Kenny. He was one developer trying to put out multiple products (without a group around him, as far as I know
 

BattleSchool

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A backlog of scenarios is very helpful in getting a product ready. That is to say having a number of scenarios that have been designed and partially play-tested for a couple of years or more, can make production smoother and more efficient.
This is an important consideration that is often overlooked when observing the rate of publication during a single calendar year, for example.

As is often the case with ASL projects, they are under development for years. In some cases, a project may have been set aside while others take precedence. But if one or more projects are close to completion, it is possible for several to be published within months of each other. This may lead some to conclude that short cuts were taken in an effort to get a product to market faster. And while this certainly may be the case in some instances, this ignores the years of development that usually precede publication.

Without knowing what has gone on behind the scenes, it is mere speculation to deem a particular release (or group of releases) the result of a rush to get something, anything, to market. Keep in mind too that there are economies of scale to be gained by "batch" publishing projects.

Admittedly, none of the foregoing is an excuse for poor design and development. As Jim has also pointed out, years spent designing, developing, and testing a product are no guarantee of quality. IOW, much still depends on the talent and experience of those involved in the process. All this is to say that the rate of publication over a select period may not tell us much about the quality of a given third-party publication(s) as some might suspect.
 

RandyT0001

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What rate of publication for that publisher would make you start to wonder if its goals were beginning to outstrip its realistic ability to fully playtest and develop its products?
Four scenario packs per year, one PIF type HASL / CG every other year, would seem to me to be an upper limit for eight to ten dedicated playtesters. For each loss of two playtesters subtract one scenario pack or add four months to HASL / CG product. For each additional three playtesters, increase by one scenario pack or subtract two months from HASL / CG production.

Would more than one product per year start having you a bit concerned? (that is when I personally tend to start having doubts)
No, if the products are scenario packs with six to eight scenarios. Two, really three scenario packs equates to a HASL / CG to me.

More than two products a year?
No.

Do you think a TPP can actually release three fully developed and playtested products per year?
Yes, with enough dedicated playtesters.

Do you trust that a TPP that released any number of products per year was fully playtesting and developing them beforehand?
One TPP I do not trust to playtest and develop products thoroughly. I think the rest do a good job.

Have you ever thought of any past TPP, "Man, they are releasing too many products too fast for them to really have fully playtested them"?
No. I said, "Man, he is releasing too many products, too fast for him to really have fully developed and thoroughly playtested before publication."

Hope my answers were helpful in your quest for truth, justice and the ASL community.
 

Robin Reeve

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This thread shows that estimating the quality of a TPP products based on the number of them coming out per year ignores quite a number of factors :
  • the experience of the designer
  • the experience of the playtesting team
  • the size of the team
  • the number of separate designer groups
  • the bottlenecks of production which can lead to many productions reaching the final line at the same time
  • the nature of the products (HASL, scenario packs) and their size
This can lead to a TPP producing only one scenario pack a year and doing a bad job, while another gets three out and they are top notch quality.

For me, the "test of fire" is the most decisive factor for my judgement: what was playing the scenarios of a given TPP like?
If I found it good, with enjoyable scenarios and no severe VC, SSR or "balance" (for what that means) issues, I will purchase other products from that TPP.
If the experience was mediocre or bad, I won't.
It is a darwinian selection thing: the best will survive.
The weakest will die - or they only will interest completionists, who are in their way, well, "special" people.

Frankly, apart the handful of usual suspects, most TPP offer very good quality products.
My problem is to select among those fine TPPs the scenario packs that I will purchase: I don't have enough of my time to play all that comes out and I have a budget...
 

Tuomo

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To me, the funny thing about playtesting is the potential disconnect between the effort that went into design/development/playtest and the experience as-played. Given the vagaries of dice and the skill levels of the players, I wouldn't be surprised if most experiences of a scenario fall far short of the potential that was baked into the product. So, sure, that's the beauty of switching sides and starting over, but how many scenarios get that benefit, when there's always new ones to be tried afresh? Seems a shame that such effort was put into polishing a product that really didn't get appreciated for one reason or another.

Maps, on the other hand, are always purdy :)

Makes me think the greater value in a scenario is in the aspects that aren't determined by luck. Adroit use of SSRs, VCs, reinforcement schedules, etc. - those are things that are more robust to dice, and more likely to play out as intended. Course, nothing can save you when the players aren't up to the challenge of using what's there.
 

zgrose

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but how many scenarios get that benefit, when there's always new ones to be tried afresh? Seems a shame that such effort was put into polishing a product that really didn't get appreciated for one reason or another.
I would hope a good scenario would get that benefit. If a scenario is balanced but boring, it's nearly as unplayable as an unwinnable-for-(side) one.
 

Vic Provost

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Yeah sorry I got distracted.

There are two parts to how a product gets to market I suppose. There are “designer teams” that put something together at no time cost to the Publisher and there is the core developer team that PT (perhaps), proofread (perhaps) and publish the product.

I suppose an upper limit can be found by looking at how many products MMP or BFP puts out a year (2?). Design, edit, proofreading aside, attracting enough people to PT and getting enough PT in is perhaps the biggest bottleneck. Whether your TPP has good enough reputation for designers to want to work with you is another (affecting # of good designs available to you for publishing). So I imagine the established reputation of the TPP and the reputation/ social pull of the Designer/ Designer team is a big factor when it comes to # of products a year.

So - I would say around 2/3. Too far beyond that I’d wonder not only about playtesting but about quality of design as well. Prodigies not withstanding.
2 Newsletters and with around 4 scenarios each, each year, is plenty for us, I have a dozen Bunker Crewmen I can count on to help with playtesting and proofreading and another half dozen or so guys that I can count on for help so we are in good shape for the most part. We are not perfect and stuff does leak through proofing and sometimes even my veterans miss something for balance (we are humans) but by and large I think we do a good job for Dispatches from the Bunker, Vic.
 

jrv

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It's actually pretty easy to determine whether a group is capable of more or less output. Look at their logo. In the bottom left corner there is a box with the ROF. A white background on the ROF indicates the group is capable of multiple hits

10796

JR
 
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