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Dr Zaius
06 Apr 06, 12:09
I'm curious to hear what people think on this issue. Take a quick look at the activity in the ASL forum. Steel Panthers is also very active, and our SP forum is one of the smaller ones! Tactical wargames are not all that common, but some of the most popular wargames ever are tactical in scale.

But Squad Battles has never generated a big fan base like Steel Panthers, Close Combat, or ASL. Why?

Ivan Rapkinov
06 Apr 06, 12:32
ASL: long established, long time players - very little new blood
SP: it's free; that goes a long way to gaining new folk

a lot of the criticism regarding SB (and Tiller games in particular) is the idea of "sameitis" - people think that SB/PzC/MC/whatever is just a rebadged Battleground #432 - they see a similar interface, similar artwork and then dismiss it as "just another Tiller" game.

Aries
06 Apr 06, 12:39
Two factors Ivan mentioned.

SP is free (well all but the Mage Campaigns, and the deluxe options for WinSPMBT that is).

Most games from HPS DO tend to look a bit "just another Tiller game like" sort of.

They're good games, but they're not free. Hard to beat free.

I think the Campaign Series would be even bigger if that too was free. But, it is I suppose something of a rare fluke we get Steel Panthers for free, but we have to pay for Campaign series, PzC, Sq Battles (likely a few other titles possible here).

At one time SP was just abandoned on the fans as a free download. It's not the way things go routinely though.
I wonder, where would SP be, really? if it had not moved past SP1, 2, and 3 in their original forms?

If the guys had never had access to the files, to make the newer versions, I suppose, it would have no better usage, than first version Panzer General.

Dr Zaius
06 Apr 06, 13:11
The "Steel Panthers is free" argument is just a red herring. Steel Panthers was one of the most successful PC wargames ever produced and saw multiple sequels long before the decision was made to release the code to the public. You guys seem to be suggesting that Steel Panthers was only moderately successful, then became a "hit" when the code was released. In fact, just the opposite is probably true. Back in its heyday, the game was a lot more popular than it is now.

So there goes that argument.

Campaign Series bigger if it were free? I highly doubt that. Again, just the opposite is likely to be true. Gamers have overwhelmingly demonstrated time and again that they want actively supported games, not free giveaways.


A lot of the criticism regarding SB (and Tiller games in particular) is the idea of "sameitis" - people think that SB/PzC/MC/whatever is just a rebadged Battleground #432 - they see a similar interface, similar artwork and then dismiss it as "just another Tiller" game.


Now, perhaps, we're getting somewhere. So you're saying that production values really DO matter after all?

Ivan Rapkinov
06 Apr 06, 13:34
You guys seem to be suggesting that Steel Panthers was only moderately successful, then became a "hit" when the code was released. In fact, just the opposite is probably true. Back in its heyday, the game was a lot more popular than it is now.

no, my point was that it's easier to add to an existing fan base when the product you're offering is free. ASL hasn't had the need to, but it's seen it fair share of business related turmoil.

SB probably traded on the "John Tiller Game" label too much at the beginning - despite similar looks, SB is very not like the PzC/MC games.



Now, perhaps, we're getting somewhere. So you're saying that production values really DO matter after all?

depends what you consider production values. I think SB was marketted at a particular section of the wargaming audience; those that had bought JT games before, and were interested in some vs the AI action infrequently. The game can play PBEM, and even TCP/IP - but in all the time I was involved with it, I play a grand total of 2 TCP/IP games. The people buying the game bought it for offline play.

It also suffered a lot of "SB vs CM" comparisons - most of which are pants because of the separate parts of the fighting they're trying to capture. SB excels as a squad level wargame when it's not set in WW2; SP:MBT is too large scale, TacOps too sterile, ATF too hardcore. Small unit actions is what I love about the series.

where it falls down is in that WW2 money-making market that is swamped with games. And the fact that a lot of the WW2 scns try too hard to expand from the small unit actions into something more - I'm definitely guilty of that. P&F is awesome fun vs the AI - charging ashore at Betio has yet to be better represented IMO; but move to the more "popular" theatres and it becomes a bit of same 'ol, same 'ol

Korea was fun; but there's a reason it's called the "Forgotten War"; people simply aren't that interested in it.

the series imo my opinion is at it's strongest when portaying small unit infantry based actions. The vehicles should be considered more as assets rather than units.

and it's got some interesting rally cries :D

Dr Zaius
06 Apr 06, 13:51
Ivan, I'm not sure if I'm following you here. You seem to be saying that SB isn't more popular because it doesn't cover WWII, but instead concentrates on "boring" material. But you also seem to be saying that when SB does cover WWII, it can't compete because there are too many other WWII-based wargames.

So are you saying it should do more WWII, or less?

If I understand your comments correctly (and I may be way off), you are saying that SB simply can't compete against CM head-to-head with WWII gamers. So it does best in the non-WWII arena, but few people are interested in this?

Ivan Rapkinov
06 Apr 06, 14:13
Ivan, I'm not sure if I'm following you here. You seem to be saying that SB isn't more popular because it doesn't cover WWII, but instead concentrates on "boring" material. But you also seem to be saying that when SB does cover WWII, it can't compete because there are too many other WWII-based wargames.

So are you saying it should do more WWII, or less?


sorry, it's late here :p

SB is fine for WW2 when it concetrates on the small scale stuff - the Ranger scn in ES for example. Where it falls down is when people start designing and playing it like it's a true combined arms game, when it simply isn't. Vehicles are sexy, and in ES's case, the 3D vehicles were even more sexy to play with, but CM has vehicle-to-vehicle combat down pat. As soon as it enters the same arena, it's going to get a pantsing.

Where SB outshines both SP and CM is in the realm of infantry on infantry combat - wherein lies the problem. WW2 = Tanks. Tanks are sexy. Infnatry slogging = not sexy.

so to answr your question - SB isn't more popular because it doesn't cover WW2 well - this is no one's fault, and I'm looking at it from the position of being one the ones who pushed for combined arms when it doesn't really support them that well. The benefit of hindsight.



If I understand your comments correctly (and I may be way off), you are saying that SB simply can't compete against CM head-to-head with WWII gamers.

a slight alteration to this - SB simply can't compete against CM head-to-head due to the scenario designers desire to encompass all aspects of the war. It abandons it's core advanatges when it dabbles in the European theatre - the Pacific WW2 games are brilliant - they encompass the fighting in the jungles and on the beaches really well imo.

that being said, if the dev team had have gone the route I'm referring to, and gone for an infantry-centric game, most likely the gamers would have been asking why "such and such" wasn't included. Damned if you...


So it does best in the non-WWII arena, but few people are interested in this?

it does better in an infantry-centric arena, and when a gamer mentions WW2, he thinks East Front, West Front and Tanks. IMO (and that's all this is) the series can't handle these types of armour heavy scns. Also, once you get beyond the Platoon/Company scale scns the games rapidly become less fun and more work...Rich has a Regimental scn for VN somewhere...we started it once...

Dr Zaius
06 Apr 06, 14:47
Thanks for that very interesting reply. Now allow me to muddy the waters a bit. You say that SB does not handle vehicle combat very well. Why is that and what would have to change for the system to be better? Does it have the same failings for artillery?

Ivan Rapkinov
06 Apr 06, 15:02
Thanks for that very interesting reply. Now allow me to muddy the waters a bit. You say that SB does not handle vehicle combat very well. Why is that and what would have to change for the system to be better? Does it have the same failings for artillery?

it was a design decision to abstract vehicles so the emphasis was on the infantry. Which is fine when the vehicles are just a sideshow to the real fighting, but becomes an issue when they start becoming the focus of the scn.

as for fixing it - I don't think it needs to be, just the scn designers need to take it into consideration when designing.

arty is quite well implemented if it's a little random - the radio calling for support is a good touch and meant keeping the RTO alive was a big priority in the early VN scns :)

Aries
06 Apr 06, 15:04
I want to further add. SP rocked long before it became something else.

But SPWaW is what is being played today, not SP ie Steel Panthers 1

Thus, the ole original is as dead as is original Squad Leader. Remember, its not the Squad Leader forum, it's ASL.

SP is dead, dead but an honoured dead.

SPWW2 is also not Steel Panthers. Thus, the fans are playing something that we'll collectively call SP, but it isn't.

SP2 was also great, of course it was great. But, today, it's not SP2 that is being played by the WinSPMBT fans, no, they are playing WinSPMBT.

That might seem like an idiotic notion, to fuss over the name, but, we have all seen original SP SP2 and SP3 for the most part. They were the beginning. But, that beginning did have an end.

Yes they were great. And if they had not changed, no, I wouldn't be playing it today, not at all. I have original SP. It won't run on a modern computer using XP. And that's basically that. Sure, some guys have a spare room where they can afford to stuff an antique grade computer still running something like Win95. That ain't me. Even if I had the old system I began with, I have no where to keep it. Likely explains why I don't have it.

I live for the day, when I hear someone is updating SP3. I liked it the most.

Ok back to Squad Battles. It's not free.
It's still a very good game.
Slightly different game, but still no less the game. It has a totally unique visual look, no big deal. I don't require my games all look the same. Actually, that would suck.

Squad Battles possibly has one lacking, which makes it easier to sell more of course. You can't make your own battles quite as much if I am not mistaken.
Steel Panthers is mod heaven.
I've seen others make new image icons, but not sure I have seen anything past that. That's not reeeeeeally going to make a big impact after a point.

There's lots of battles available with the series though. But again, comes the money thing. If you want all those battles, you have to buy em all. 10 games at 30 bucks each (assumes you buy from NWS), that's quite a price.
Compare that with Steel Panthers, every battle you can think up (when you combine either of SPWaW and SPWW2 with WinSPMBT, and it's free, that's hard to out do.

And you can't say it's because Sq Battles is too slanted against vehicles.

Joao Lima
06 Apr 06, 15:22
it was a design decision to abstract vehicles so the emphasis was on the infantry. Which is fine when the vehicles are just a sideshow to the real fighting, but becomes an issue when they start becoming the focus of the scn.

as for fixing it - I don't think it needs to be, just the scn designers need to take it into consideration when designing. ...

Correct me if I'm wrong , but if the series was to go into WW2 and as you say it dosen't handle WW2 well, because as you say it's abstract treating vehicles, then what was the point of abstracting in the first place? Nobody realized the future problems of that decision? I mean did someone really expect that a tactical game that only handles well infantry would be commercially viable or atractive to gamers?... That was very bad publicity by the way... :devil:

Ivan Rapkinov
06 Apr 06, 15:35
Correct me if I'm wrong , but if the series was to go into WW2 and as you say it dosen't handle WW2 well, because as you say it's abstract treating vehicles, then what was the point of abstracting in the first place?

that was circa SBV - where the only vehilces were a few dinky tanks and helos...so many helos...

Remember, it took until the foruth game of the series to become really noticable. And as I said, if the scn designers (me included) had thought about it more, they would have increased the ratio of infantry:vehicles. As it was, we were happy to be getting more and more vehicles in the .dats to play with, and a lot of them got placed in scns. Also the Raiders came from the SP background where Tanks are the focus.

the abstraction never (imo) took into accout how prominent vehicles would become in later titles. And it's really only for the two Euro-theatre WW2 games. All the rest aren't really bothered by it.

Benpark
07 Apr 06, 15:06
My ideas to make the series more popular:

-Include a user friendly map making utility. It's not acceptable that this is not included. It won't hurt future sales, contrary to HPS thinking. People like to make their own scenarios, with their own maps. See Combat Mission seriesfor proof. The only reason NOT to offer this is if the games ARE cookie cutter games.

-Improve the graphics to near the point of "Band of Heroes" for 2d and "Tin Soldiers" style(tabletop) for 3d (sorry, but this is the largest reason I suspect for the lack of popularity).

-Improve the AI. Most people are single players. The AI should use tactical doctrine for the timeperiod and force composition depicted. VietCong should not fight exactly the same as Soviets.

RobAPol
08 Apr 06, 05:54
Correct me if I'm wrong , but if the series was to go into WW2 and as you say it dosen't handle WW2 well, because as you say it's abstract treating vehicles, then what was the point of abstracting in the first place? Nobody realized the future problems of that decision? I mean did someone really expect that a tactical game that only handles well infantry would be commercially viable or atractive to gamers?... That was very bad publicity by the way... :devil:

I think the designer was trying to create a game similiar to the ASL boardgame where the focus is infantry squads. In ASL the vehicles are abstracted to a certain degree and thats what I think they have done here.

The inability to create your own maps is probably one reason why the game isn't that popular. Map variety is a lot more important in a tactical game than a strategic game.

I also feel that SB is not advertised or reviewed as often as the campaign series. If you go to the HPS website the campaign games are in your face, the SB games you have to go looking for them.

I like the SB series. It is different from SP and I quite happily use both. The two things that irritate (for me) are the inability to determine whether a scenario has already been played and the fact that the unit counters don't give much information, so you end up having to click each stack to obtain the information you require.

Graphics are pretty out of date too. I would personally drop the so called 3d views as these are very poor indeed and concentrate on improving the standard 2d view. IMO most boardgames I have played have better graphics than SB, so SB needs some work done in this area. I would also like to see hill elevations more clearly defined. Even when you have their edges highlighted they are still not as obvious as I would like.

I have only bought one game from the series, I'd like to buy more. But I think they are too expensive given their out of date graphics and very limited focus.

tevans
10 Apr 06, 01:24
Not trying to beat a dead horse but it's that map editor thing again. Games that allow the gamer to make their own scenarios without limitations are very popular. CM, SP and TOAW are good examples of this. There are literally hundreds of scenarios for each. On the other hand games, such as the SqB series and POA2, which make it difficult to create maps are less popular. A good set of editing tools expands longevity and popularity. I doubt if SP, CM or TOAW would still be played today had it not been for the vast number of scenarios available for it. It's holding back the SqB series.

Wargaming may be a niche market but that's no excuse for not including fully functional editors. ProSim does it. Battlefront does it too. Providing fully functional editors didn't seem to hurt them. They're both committed to releasing new products which will also have fully functional editing packages. HPS/Tiller seems to be the only company saying that providing a map editor will hurt their business. The SqB series is a tactical series and needs a map editor. It doesn't matter how many maps or submaps they include it's not the same thing as having a map editor. I don't think this series will ever have the popularity of other games until they realize that they need to include that map editor.

Xhaos
14 Apr 06, 16:19
Well, I am doing my part in updating SqB...... graphics-wise at least.

Eagles Strike 3D mod info (http://209.164.73.216/message_boards/showthread.php?tid=25823)

Almost done for ES and soon coming to AotR.

Skirmisher
15 Jun 06, 15:42
I bought the first Squad Battles :vietnam game. I still have it,dont use it hardly at all.
The reason I like Steel Panthers better is that you have alot of options in regards to different battles,different theatres ,etc.
You take the two free (or deluxe purchase) of Win SPMBT/Win SPWW2 and all the options it gives you,why would you want to play a game thats only vietnam in a limited stretch of years?

Plus WinSPMBT/WinSPWW2 offers the best editing possible under an SP engine. The extra terrain elevations and complex waypoint system for creating a PBEM like AI,not to mention the complex campaign tree. Thats really hard for squad battles to beat.

pvthudson01
23 Jun 06, 02:09
I don't think this series will ever have the popularity of other games until they realize that they need to include that map editor.

I agree. Tiller overcharges for what are essentially old DOS games. Very old DOS games with outdated graphics, interfaces, and sounds. SSG has proven with the Korsun Pocket series that you can make attractive wargames. Panther Games is taking it a step further

Now I like Squad Battles, but I cant stomach Panzer Campaigns. The gameplay is ok, but its no KP, BiI or TOAW 3 in terms of production values, more bang for your buck, and editors. But when this comes out

http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=1044502

Kiss Squad Battles bye bye and I think Tiller will lose even more customers.

Also I think that Steel Panthers is still a better looking, playing game than Squad Battles

Aries
23 Jun 06, 10:33
I agree. Tiller overcharges for what are essentially old DOS games. Very old DOS games with outdated graphics, interfaces, and sounds. SSG has proven with the Korsun Pocket series that you can make attractive wargames. Panther Games is taking it a step further

Now I like Squad Battles, but I cant stomach Panzer Campaigns. The gameplay is ok, but its no KP, BiI or TOAW 3 in terms of production values, more bang for your buck, and editors. But when this comes out

http://www.matrixgames.com/forums/tm.asp?m=1044502

Kiss Squad Battles bye bye and I think Tiller will lose even more customers.

Also I think that Steel Panthers is still a better looking, playing game than Squad Battles

I would be inclined to agree with the sentiments.
While Tiller has his rabid fans, the truth is, his competitors are outdoing him in several key areas. And people will usually buy the better game, rather than just blindly based on being a rabid fan of a designer.

There are many games that "claim" to be Squad Leader realised on the computer, none of them do as good a job as Steel Panthers. But Steel Panthers is old software.
The second we get a truely great Squad Leader like game with new up to the minute software tech, it will be all over for the old pretenders.

Mark Walker may very easily completely "own" this level of gaming if he plays it right.