I've been a war gamer since it was synonymous with role playing games and there almost no division between game types as there is now. Then there was a great revolution where plastic models became available that were designed as playing pieces and not just for modeling. There were companies who had been casting figures in metal for years, mostly historical figures. Almost within a decade the landscape had changed and suddenly dozens of companies were publishing games of all types.
The table top gaming industry is going through a number of revolutions right now that are a natural extension of those early days. The first is price point. The days of mass battle games being the standard are largely gone, replaced with skirmish games. Portability and price point are large selling features, almost as important as a compelling backstory. More than ever today collaboration is the key. Collaboration in the gaming industry used to mean one or two game designers working together with a particular sculptor. Now with the internet the meaning and scope of collaboration has changed and it changes everything.
The most important feature of collaboration in modern gaming is feedback. A player can now post a comment, tag me to it, get an answer, and see the errata/FAQ updated within a matter of days or hours, if not minutes. Comparing this to the old methods of snail mail, or even having to go to game conventions specifically to talk to a developer's staff about game issues this is a quantum leap.
Collaboration also happens on organized forums, in the case of Jovian Wars and Heavy Gear it's the Dream Pod 9 forums in the Current Game Editions section where I can post WIP rules and get feedback directly from players. Jovian Wars in particular has benefited greatly from players feedback and suggestions.
This shift has lead almost directly to the living rule book concept. As a miniatures company we at Dream Pod 9 want you to buy our models and we provide a rules system for the players to use as a service to our customers. This rules model makes more sense for us because the game can be constantly updated with new models, factions, and improved rules based on feedback. Of course now with new print on demand technology players are welcome to order a high quality paper copy of the rules if they want it for walking around purposes, or they can just print out the sections that are relevant for them. Or as most players seem to prefer, just keep an up to date version on a tablet or laptop and use the easy search functions to find the rules and model details as required.
What will make the most sense for a published paper product will be background and story line books that can be referenced and appreciated long after they have been published.
The last kind of collaboration is the direct type. This kind is the most exciting for me because it means we're moving into a post-game designer phase of tabletop gaming. In this last type players are directly recruited to help build and create game rules and background. This is happening right now for Heavy Gear as a number of interested players signed Non-Disclosure Agreements and have been developing the future of the Utopian faction based on my initial design document. The main advantage of this is that the players can bring years of tabletop experience in HGB and the Heavy Gear RPG as well as their own widely varied perspectives. In a couple of weeks we'll be previewing the first example of this kind of collaboration in preparation for the next Heavy Gear kickstarter. This new phase of collaboration does not mean that I stop doing my design work but rather that my tasks now include scheduling open and closed Alphas and betas for new materials with distinct play groups.
Can you get involved? I hope so! It starts by joining the forum and participating. Play the game and share your experiences known.
Thanks to all the current and future collaborators!
As a game designer myself I am constantly checking the online news and reviews.