The Flare Path: Full Steam Astern

The labyrinthine Steam department store now stocks mind-blowingly rich historical strategy epics, military-grade battle sims, and flight sim add-ons so dense they can punch through Chobham armour like it was damp loo roll. Is there any chance My Wargame of 2014 will be appearing on its shelves any time soon?

Sorry. Leon, the new Flare Path Picture Editor, really is hopeless. That was meant to be a photo of Charles de Gaulle pointing to a big fat “NON!”.

As a fascinating thread over at Battlefront.com made crystal clear this week, there’s more chance of the RAF replacing their Panavia Tornados with Fairey Battles than the makers of the marvellous Combat Mission wargames bringing their super-intricate WW2 skirmish titles to Steam.

For those that can’t face ploughing through 285 posts’ worth of pith, passion, and personal attacks (sadly some contributors seem more interested in stifling the debate than enriching it) here’s the gist of the official BFC position:

– We’ve been doing this for ages. We know best.

“Sigh. Here’s yet another thread with people telling us they know our business better than we do. You know, the guys who have been doing it successfully for 20 years 24/7/365”

– Greater exposure doesn’t mean more sales.

“Wargaming appeals to a select few. It will not change by being exposed to more people. All it will do is expose more people to a game they don’t want.”

“Wargames are niche. They always have been and they always will be. Hardcore wargames are niche within a niche. Always have been and they always will be. Lack of exposure has never been the reason for this and never will be. Therefore, any “solution” to hardcore wargaming appeal that starts with “all you need to do is get more people to see it” is not a productive path to tread.”

“There’s not a single hardcore wargame that’s crossed over into the mainstream.”

– Steam’s terms and conditions are less than attractive.

“The thing I don’t like about Steam’s approach is they require us to do a bunch of work, pay $100, and then they decide if they want to carry the game. If they decide to “greenlight” us then, and ONLY THEN, do they reveal the terms and conditions they require us to agree to prior to allowing the game to be carried on Steam. They also have some sort of NDA clause in there that prevents developers from talking about the terms and conditions. I also know they have a “take it or leave it” attitude, though I suspect the big boys have room to negotiate.

Having dealt with retail publishing contracts over a long period of time, their process doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence that I’m going to like what I see. Based on the dribs and drabs that have filtered out into the public domain over the past years, I’m even more suspicious that we’d rather not sign on the bottom line.”

“Our primary beef with Steam is the lack of control over pricing and the way they apportion royalties. Given that we have little faith that they could boost our sales, we don’t see a reason to give ’em a shot. Even with an older product. We *do* let others sell our older products because they have more agreeable terms for those sales.”

– Just because our peers have embraced Steam doesn’t mean it’s right for us.

“It is ill advised to presume that there is a “one size fits all” cookie-cutter structure to business. What works for Company A with Product 1 does not necessarily work for Company B with Product 2. It just doesn’t work that way. Not in wargaming, not in gaming, not in ANYTHING business related.

My guess is that companies like Slitherine don’t have the direct sales strength that we do. There’s some evidence to back up this presumption, but since none of us have access to their sales numbers it can’t be proven. I can say at one point I did see some Matrix sales numbers and they were very unimpressive. I also have a fairly decent understanding of how Matrix operates as a business internally. Again, that might not be the case with all of their products or their sales in general, just saying that I have some sound reasons for my position.

The point here is that a company like Matrix might require Steam sales to stay in business. Therefore, they have everything to gain by being on Steam and everything to lose by staying off it. We feel the opposite is true for Battlefront.

Now, if I were in my early 20s again and starting a game company from scratch, I would likely go with Steam instead of building my own infrastructure. It does offer a lot of benefits, including avoiding the need to become versed in a whole bunch of disciplines that have nothing to do with game development. Not to mention the risks that go along with that. But I’m not in my 20s any more and I’ve already taken the risks and accumulated the expertise to be successful without Steam. Steam has very little to offer us.”

*************************

Steam may have very little to offer BFC, but it’s been providing me with agreeably novel naval entertainment for most of the past week.

Relaunched in November, Task Force 1942 (MicroProse, 1992) left port on its second maiden voyage sporting a dramatic Hoegh Osaka-style list. Frustrated with the audio issues and the lack of crucial documentation, I beached the £5 warship sim on a nearby mud bank, hoping that owners/salvagers Night Dive Studios would eventually fix the issues. Fix them they did (there were heartfelt apologies too) meaning I’m now able to enjoy a game that somehow slipped past my radar pickets twenty-three years ago.

Thus far, most of that enjoyment has come via a campaign engine that proves dynamic campaigns don’t have to be elaborate or vast to knock their linear counterparts into cocked hats. Wisely, TF1942’s long game doesn’t attempt to recreate the entire naval war in the Pacific or cast the player as a freelancing Silent Hunter-style warship captain. It focuses on just one hop in America’s three-year-long island hopping offensive – the tooth-and-nail battle for Guadalcanal.

You’re the USN/IJN bigwig tasked with ensuring the grunts fighting for jungle-hemmed landmarks like Henderson Field and Alligator Creek don’t run out of rounds, ration packs, or replacements. From your home base (Rabaul, or Espiritu Santo) you choreograph air reconnaissance and organise and despatch naval task groups. Flotillas can be sent on patrols, milk runs, or bombardment missions. Deliver enough troops and materiel to the crucial island to guarantee favourable odds, and AI-controlled land forces will mount attacks and slowly push the enemy into the sea.

It’s a simple mechanism, but an ingenious one. You’re constantly wondering what’s going on under undispersed patches of Fog-of-War. You enter every triggered skirmish acutely aware that ship damage will effect your capabilities for days… weeks to come. The template isn’t directly transferable to other sim subgenres, but squint a bit, and it’s not hard to imagine it weaving its magic, scatterings its fishhooks, in, say, a combat flight sim context.

Eels and shells can be loosed personally from first-person torpedo and gun director stations, vessels manoeuvred from generic bridges, but a fair portion of most battles will probably be spent watching ant-sized ship representations toiling across a chart screen.

As everything from heading and targeting instructions to specialist combat and defensive orders (Smokescreens, searchlights and starshells are important tactical tools in your locker) can be issued via this position, and torp tracks and shell hits and misses also appear on the magic chart, you’re free to totally ignore TF1942’s undeniably dated 3D graphics, treating the game purely as dual-layer 2D wargame, if low-poly turrets and garish crenellated flame sprites aren’t your thing.

*************************

 

 

The Flare Path Foxer

Last week’s foxer theme might have been 670 feet wide and 120 miles long, but that didn’t mean it was easy to spot. Despite cracking seven of eight clues, phlebas, Don More, foop, and Llewyn never realised they were seeking the Suez Canal.

a. Fokker Friendship
b. Yellow Fleet stamp
c. Aigle Azur airline (If it hadn’t been for the cheeky queue jumping of HMS Newport, French yacht L’Aigle would have been the first vessel through the canal.)
d. Tiger Prawn (a Lessepsian migrant)
e. Mumford Musketeer
f. Napoleonic bee
g. Nimbus motorcycle combination
h. Bitter gourd

*************************

Friday morning wouldn’t be Friday morning in the Flare Path office, without one of Roman’s ‘physical foxers’. This morning when he arrived dressed in tweed plus-fours, a WW2 vintage Denison smock, and a President Mobutu leopardskin hat, clutching a stuffed puffin, a bust of Dvořák, and a 1/72 Heinkel Greif, there was a communal sigh of disappointment. It was the first time in years we’ve had to go without.

All guesses in one thread, please.

114 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Matchstick says:

    Woman left middle is Bonnie Elizabeth Parker of Bonnie and Clyde fame (car is a Ford V8 B-400 Convertible)

    • AFKAMC says:

      The trimotor aircraft in plan view appears to be a Stinson Model A.

    • Rorschach617 says:

      Are the pink airfix-style model parts of a Boulton-Paul Defiant?

      • AFKAMC says:

        I think the cockpits (if that’s what they are) are too close together for a Defiant.

        This is more of a guess than usual, but is the kit possibly a Hawker Hart or some variant?

        i.e. a Hawker Hart/Audax/Demon/Hardy/Hind or Osprey

        • Rorschach617 says:

          You’re right, the Hart looks a better fit than the Defiant.

    • Llewyn says:

      And the car bottom right is some variant of either the Porsche 356/1 or a 356 Speedster. And since I’m pretty much stating the obvious there, I’ll try to update with something more specific, just in case…

    • mrpier says:

      Good looking car is a Porsche 356a speedster i believe.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Glider/Sailplane top-right looks quite a bit like a DSK Duster but I’m not sure the tail plane is right….

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      Definitely a long shot but the background photo isn’t an aerial photo of Pearl Harbour is it ?

    • mrpier says:

      Funny looking building is the Mercedes-Benz-Center/museum in Stuttgart.

    • P.Funk says:

      Big Brother is watching you on the right side. My vote on the car is a 356 Speedster.

    • Premium User Badge

      Matchstick says:

      I’m getting a movie vibe from some of these clues(Bonnie [and Clyde], Pearl Harbor, Woodstock, Big Brother poster [from the 1956 film of 1984]) but that doesn’t
      a) fit the other clues as best i can tell and
      b) seems way too nebulous a connection to be the right answer.

      I have done a quick scan to see if there are any obvious links between the films but nothing has leapt out.

      • Rorschach617 says:

        Better than I have done.

        But I learned that the Bonnie photo might have been found on a film roll in Joplin, Missouri.
        Janis Joplin played at the Woodstock festival.

        Still looking, but linking Janis Joplin to Porsche and Mercedes Benz is defeating me :)

        Except she did have a song called “Mercedes Benz”. (Bad Rorschach, finish reading the wiki article!)

        “Piece of my heart” – Hawker Hart model pieces?!?!

        And an album called “Pearl”

        Her Porsche 356c is an exhibit at the Whitney Museum, NY

        She was in a band called “Big Brother and the Holding Company”

        • mrpier says:

          Bravo :)

        • Premium User Badge

          Matchstick says:

          Nicely Done :)

        • AFKAMC says:

          Yes, well done.

          All I can add is that Joplin’s ashes were scattered over Stinson Beach, California.

        • Rorschach617 says:

          I can’t link the tri-motor to Janis Joplin, if anyone has any ideas, please tell me.

          And AFKAMC finds the last piece of the puzzle!

          Thank you for the plaudits, I would just like to thank my complete lack of knowledge (Boulton-Paul Defiant indeed!), everybody who actually identified the clues and the immense amount of free time I have :)

  2. froz says:

    Crusader Kings 2 is not TBS (first link in the article). Not sure if that’s maybe an intended pun or something.

    • eggy toast says:

      lmao yes it is

      • froz says:

        How is it? It’s not turn based, it’s real-time. Of course every real-time game technicaly is not really real-time, but TBS is term reserved for something else.

        • eggy toast says:

          I guess it comes down to if you think of each day as a turn with options for how fast turns auto-resolve, or if you think of it as a game that plays out in real time that you can pause.

          Everything plays out in slow, plodding, turn-based results so I guess I think of it that way

          • froz says:

            You could say that about every real-time game. Every game is actually divided into ticks, that’s how it has to be done technicaly. That doesn’t make all games turn-based. What is more important to me is that TBS term has some context in it, just like RTS is not just any real-time strategy game. I wouldn’t call Paradox games RTSes, even though I think they are real-time strategy games.

            So yeah, I still say it’s not TBS. And apparently the author agrees with me, as the link name was changed in the article. Thanks.

          • P.Funk says:

            With your kind of logic I could describe my life as turn based cellular decay.

            I think you’re losing the plot on this one.

      • Gaytard Fondue says:

        It is indeed, like every other Paradox grand strategy game. It really becomes apparent if you take a closer look at the combat mechanics.

    • Cinek says:

      Crusader Kings 2 is a TBS, only in a less common meaning of that shortcut: It’s Tick Based Strategy.

      Tick-based games sit in a middle ground between turn-based and real time games. It clearly got elements from both.

      • P.Funk says:

        Except that even real time is basically a tick based game, just with every tick being a second assuming no time compression.

        Where does one put the line between a Tick based strategy and a real time strategy? Command Ops is basically real time except that the slowest it can go is probably more like a tick for every couple seconds. Its definitely not real time but so close that its hard to tell.

        • Baines says:

          Obviously Virtua Fighter is a Tick-Based Strategy game. It just lacks a time accelerator/decelerator function, so players are stuck playing it only at the default 60 ticks per second speed.

  3. eggy toast says:

    To the publisher or dev or whatever in the article: with allthe good press on RPS I would buy one of your games sooner or later just to try it, if they were on Steam. But I will never, ever buy your games from your site without a Steam code coming with.

    Personally, I have 750 Steam games on a 5 year old account, which is an average of a new Steam game every two days. A bunch of those are random crap from bundles but the fact is I splurge on games all the time. On Steam. Not on every random dev website on Earth. I have one account and 700+ updated and synched games, not dozens of accounts on dozens of shitty websites with dozens of download systems to worry about.

    Steam is singlehandedly responsible for thousands of people becoming video game buyers, instead of pirates, myself included. If you’d rather not be included in the store where I buy my games that’s fine, but it’s not me who is losing out.

    • eggy toast says:

      PS anyone claiming in any way to be a professional and complaining about a $100 business expense write off is clearly a child, and not an adult or professional.

      • AW says:

        Couldn’t agree more that the $100 fee is the first straw man, and I don’t see how any of their other arguments would hold up under any serious examination.

        I bought the first two Combat Missions when they came out way back then, and the idea of buying from to their little company made sense then because they were offering something pretty exciting and unique. But now? I expect a little more, I expect Steamworks, and I expect to pay less. They’re not getting anything from me until they get on Steam.

        Can’t help but say that from my point of view, they’re too proud (and this pride is based on absolutely no principle) to act in their own interest: they’re dopes.

        I will note that Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord is currently on GOG.

        • Zephro says:

          I also don’t expect to pay for patches.

          I do have Battle for Normandy. Though it only has a limited number of downloads for some god forsaken reason so I’ve never bothered uninstalling it. Patching is all manual as well. But if I look at the web store for the extra content of Commonwealth bundles, Fortress Italy etc. I seem to have to pay for a v3.0 upgrade as well as buy additional content through a hideous clunky webstore.

          They’d have a leg to stand on if their webstore offering was actually decent.

      • Baines says:

        The $100 expense is a bit of a fair complaint in context.

        The complaint isn’t that there is a $100 expense, but that there is a $100 expense (and the whole Greenlight wait period) *before* you are even told what Steam’s terms are. If you are set on being on Steam, that’s not completely horrible. But BFC is already concerned that Steam’s terms are not agreeable. (While Valve locks terms behind NDAs, publishers and developers have leaked bits of information over the years.) So BFC is being asked to pay $100 (and then wait) to even see if BFC *wants* to have its games sold through Steam.

        • Jason Lefkowitz says:

          But is Greenlight the only way for a publisher to get their titles listed on Steam? I always thought it was more for tiny indie startups than established publishers. And certainly third parties were selling games on Steam before Greenlight became a thing, so there was at least some other process in place back then.

          My question, in other words, is whether they’re looking at the terms for Greenlight and thinking “welp, don’t like those, guess Steam is out then” when the option exists to just go another route and work out a more conventional distribution deal with Valve instead.

          • Shuck says:

            Unless you’re a major publisher (they aren’t) and/or have already done business with Steam, Greenlight appears to be the only way on Steam.
            As for the “terms and conditions of Greenlight” – those terms merely cover, essentially, the rules for how to apply to have Steam sell your games, not the terms for having games on Steam. They have nothing to do with the terms and conditions of actual sales through Steam if you’re approved – you don’t get to see those until you’ve already gone through the process and been “accepted” by Steam. Valve does this so that they can change their conditions on a whim for each publisher.

          • Zephro says:

            Nope people can get on Steam without going through Greenlight even indies. Just looking at the New Releases section should show some small self published indy titles which are first entries and never on Greenlight. Warhammer Quest for one.

    • paperdeks says:

      Totally agree, I have no time or intentions to check every developer’s store to see what’s new – not on Steam? I won’t know about your game.
      + the fact that I have it on Steam, so I won’t lose the key,installer, whatever.

      It’s their call, but I don’t like it.

    • LNO says:

      I’m in the same boat as you. The recent joining of matrix caused me to spend over 100 dollars on their products. I never touched them before steam, because of the hassle of installing and maintaining many different games (I simply cant be bothered, see convenience argument below). I do in fact own 5 different battlefront products, some of which are unplayable because of changes in my computer and loss of codes etc.
      Basically it shows battlefront as old farts, grumping about them youngsters. This attitude matches their forum responses and behavior. As a battlefront customer I would very much like steam, as the updates are automatically applied etc, its just convenience and service to the customer. Moreover, add steamworks and the whole mod scene (which is great in CM) and it just doesnt make any sense NOT to be on steam for them.
      Ive come to expect this from my games these days (and it keeps people away from piracy). So its not just about getting more customers, its certainly as important in pleasing the ones you have.

      • Appendix says:

        The same for me. When Slitherine/Matrix came onboard steam I immediately purchased games for 300 USD…
        Now when I earn a lot of money I tend to support the companies that enable my old hobbies to continue. Even if I sometimes don’t have the time to put the required effort into the games.

        But seriously. Steam for all its “pains” for developer is the number one service for gamers. All games in one place. Extremely nice uptime. Automatic patches. “Steam Workshop”. Achievements. And so on.
        Sp saying that you don’t like steam is more or less “We don’t care what our customers like.” Matrix games had that view point earlier but have now changed it.

        • ExitDose says:

          I bought one game from them a few years ago and never wanted to go near them again. Then they joined Steam and as the person above did, wound up dropping about 300 dollars on their products; Flashpoint Campaigns being my favorite of the lot.

          It’s funny how the arguments they provide are nearly identical to the ones that Matrix gave a few years back when Flare Path did a similar article. What’s sad is that Combat Mission is the one wargame I’ve played that I find myself happy to pay what is a AAA price for, unlike a few of my Slitherine purchases. It should be a slam dunk for them to get Black Sea on Steam, but sadly the wargame devs have gotten too set in their ways. What is absolute nonsense about their claims is that Graviteam appears to have done fairly well on that sales platform.

    • Emeraude says:

      Steam is singlehandedly responsible for thousands of people becoming video game buyers, instead of pirates

      The reverse is also true. Personally, the less companies that forces you to make business with Valve (or any third party that uses such bullshit client infrastructure) the better.

      Weird anger you manifest too. You’d think they insulted you personally

      • eggy toast says:

        I dont work in games but I have worked at/for companies that went under because the ignored this type of advice, but I guess you are right who cares if someone’s spose loses their job because the company is being run like it’s 1900

        • Emeraude says:

          If they were running their company like it’s 1900, they wouldn’t be doing business at all.

          Again, weird self-involvement and misplaced anger over brand loyalty.

          The issue, I’d say, if there is to be one, is that their own infrastructure is not up to par (and that they use DRM solutions on top). Not that they refuse to do business with another company.

          • eggy toast says:

            Pretend I linked the wikipedia article for vertical integration and didn’t call you name, dip shit

          • Emeraude says:

            I’ll do just that while trying to understand the reason of your needless aggressions, you miscarriage waste.

            You can ignore that last part.

    • P.Funk says:

      The good old “I don’t comparison shop, I only buy from one vendor because I’m a crazy lazy bastard” plea.

      Yes yes, you love your one enormous service. Yes yes you don’t want to remember more than a single log in.

      Bloody hell. Does anyone remember command line based operating systems? You’d have to remember dozens of commands, type in folder structures to access .exes. How lazy does modern convenience make you.

      Smug self satisfied brand loyalists. A very very obnoxious breed they are.

      I also wonder how in the hell some people can figure out these hardcore wargames that simulate ridiculous detail but can’t figure out mod installation without using steamworks.

      Shit even pirates have to use more than just piratebay for jebus sake.

      • eggy toast says:

        I comparison shop tons, for cheap prices on Steam games!

        • P.Funk says:

          That ain’t comparison shopping. :P

          • Stargazer86 says:

            During the Christmas sales, I did do comparison shopping. Green Man Gaming, Gamersgate, GoG, Steam, Amazon, I rifled through a fair number of different online retailers to find the best deals that I could. Know what I discovered? Steam, hands down, had the best prices of them all. When they didn’t, they at least matched what the other services were doing. Gamersgate selling Dishonored for 7.50? Welp, so is Steam. GMG selling the Witcher 2 for 11.50? Steam’s selling it for 5 bucks.

            The only time I found better deals were when the other services had games that Steam didn’t. Amazon had Sim City up for sale for 10 dollars. Well, Steam doesn’t carry new EA games anymore, so I suppose Amazon has the best price. GoG has a bundled Planescape/Bladur’s Gate deal? Those are old games, which GoG specializes in and Steam doesn’t. Stuff like that.

          • eggy toast says:

            It is when I regularly save 50-75% off the Steam price for the same Steam game. You have made lots of very wrong headed comments just to be anti-Steam and truthfully you’d be better off getting used to living in the 21st century than to keep whinging that it’s evil.

          • fish99 says:

            Stargazer86/
            Steam had some decent deals over Christmas, but GMG and other stores had them beat more often than not. Maybe you weren’t factoring in the coupon code on their front page. Also pulling out one game as an example of which store is cheaper is pointless since prices fluctuate all the time. If you want to play that game Far Cry 4 is currently an eye watering £45 on Steam whereas I can get it for under £25 elsewhere.

          • Baines says:

            I comparison shop as well, and found that Steam’s prices are often met or beaten by other online stores.

            Steam had Witcher 2 for $5 during the Christmas sale? Hate to say it, but you could have gotten it for free during GOG’s Autumn sale. Though I don’t believe you get a Steam key there. GMG had similar prices to Steam, but I believe also had a coupon code that put their prices below Steam’s. Amazon price-matched Steam’s daily deals. Though the Christmas sales overall were a bit of a dud, Steam’s included.

          • neotribe says:

            Install the Enhanced Steam browser extension. Then do your browsing using the Steam store website rather than the Steam client. The extension will comparison shop for you. I regularly see Steam sale prices undercut by Nuuvem, GOG, GMG, Humble, Amazon, GameSpot, etc. Especially during big sales. There’s also IsThereAnyDeal which tracks prices across multiple sites, and will send you email updates.

            It’s also nice to be alerted that one can buy a game on another site and get both a steam key and a DRM free download.

      • wengart says:

        Really though Steam prices are sometimes not the best. However, they are rarely so bad as to make more of a difference than $5 dollars, and that pricing difference is okay enough to make me prefer Steam over other stores. I’ve found that I spend more time with a game if it is on Steam and enjoy my time with it more.

    • Chiron says:

      Yay! Hoorah for Monopolies!

    • TC-27 says:

      He strikes me as a particular type of wargamer who takes a perverse pride in refusing to change his ways.

      Its a real pity as CM games are great (although recently I have come to see the quality of any given scenario relies almost entirely on the quality of the scripting),

    • fish99 says:

      You come across as an addict.

      • Eightball says:

        Or a kidnapping victim. “The tide of progress means I physically am unable to purchase games from other distributors, and so the rest of you had better get on board. Gaben beats me because he loves me, I want him to love you, too.”

    • Premium User Badge

      Wisq says:

      I think, to sum up the comments in general:

      The bottom line here is, get on some popular, qualified, acclaimed digital download storefront. Don’t try to go it alone, because that way lies obscurity and/or users frustrated with your obtuse, antiquated system.

      That said: If you don’t have a clear idea of which digital download storefront to get yourself onto … go with Steam.

      Personally, I prefer Steam over even DRM-free downloadable services because of the auto-updating etc. But, worth noting, you can be on Steam and still be DRM-free — you just don’t integrate the Steam client hooks into your game binary, so people can launch it without the Steam client having a say.

    • GT5Canuck says:

      I’m also a Steamite, but Combat Mission is the only non-Steam game/series that is a must purchase for me (bring on CM:BS!).

      I love the system, and it completes the “ASL player without the time/space/opponents for a game” in me.

      Having said that, I’d adore the BFC catalogue on Steam, just for the convenience.

      As well, if BFC continues to make their DRM more and more convoluted I may have to reconsider my future with the series. Steam’s style of DRM would remove that nonsense, and the exposure to millions (please BFC, let that sink in, MILLIONS) more customers would surely result in a plus.

      Let’s face it, if Matrix/Slitherine have hopped on the Steam wagon, BFC should truly take an introspective look at themselves using a freshly washed mirror.

  4. eggy toast says:

    Because I apparently am desperate to avoid doing real work on a friday:
    “- We’ve been doing this for ages. We know best.”
    Nope sorry you have been doing the same thing too long and have become convinced it is the only way. This blinders on/in a rut situation is common and easily fixable but it’s a quagmire until you acknowledge it and start being open to change.

    “- Greater exposure doesn’t mean more sales.”
    lmao what. Unless you believe that 100% of the people on Earth who enjoy your product are already buying it, then yes more exposure would mean more sales. And if you do believe that you are mind bogglingly stupid, it’s a planet with 7bil ppl, there’s always more customers.

    “- Steam’s terms and conditions are less than attractive.”
    Here’s the pathetic part where they whine about $100 like they were 13 and thought that was a meaningful amount of money. I didn’t read past that because it was so disgustingly pathetic.

    “- Just because our peers have embraced Steam doesn’t mean it’s right for us.”
    Sure just because all of the other delivery firms are using lorries that doesn’t mean it’s right for us! We’ve always used carriages and by god we always shall! Well enjoy continually decreasing returns!

  5. mrmalodor says:

    Battlefront is run by dinosaurs.

    I’d definitely take a look at some of their games if they were on Steam. Oh well. There are other companies who actually want my money.

    • Premium User Badge

      JiminyJickers says:

      Yeah exactly. Their stupid DRM also stops me from buying any of their games. I guess if they were on Steam, they may have to drop the silly DRM scheme and probably would also not be able to sell patches for money. They really need to wake up, until then, I’ll spend my money elsewhere. Shame really, their games look good.

  6. Eightball says:

    I don’t have a problem with developers/publishers not using steam (mostly the byzantine and clandestine terms & conditions would bother me personally). I do question Battlefront’s policy of “wargaming is niche therefore we shouldn’t do anything that would involve marketing and developing to more than forty grognards at a time.” Maybe wargaming is niche because it’s cheaper to own a T-55 than it is to buy a wargame with T-55s in them.

    • Emeraude says:

      If anything, I would argue it’s *because* the genre is so niche that the company would need to make use of most of the available propagation platforms available.

      Dandelion strategy.

    • TC-27 says:

      If I want to play an old uninstalled game I bought for Steam then I have simply right click a greyed out entry in my library.

      For the various titles I have bough through Battlefront.

      1. Try and remember my BF account details and inevitably end up resetting my account password

      2. Request a new download link via their support system because god knows why but have persistently available downloads is beyond them.

      3. Wait for support to respond to my ticket.

      4. Install game and activate tedious DRM.

      Yeah in the context of life’s greater challenges its not the end of the world but its more than enough to put me off from BF particularly when I could be playing a great Wargame from Longbow/Matrix/Slitherine/AGEOD/Paradox within a few clicks (and if this relatively minor outifts can get themselves onto Steam and yet somehow not end up being forced into eternal bondage to Gabe then I am sure BF could manage it)

      • Emeraude says:

        Sure they can, but if they don’t need, and don’t want to, then…

        If anything here, the only issue I can see in your enumeration is the DRM. If not for it you wouldn’t have to deal with the whole needless mess.

        • pepperfez says:

          Yeah, pretty much the only clear benefit Steam has for me is that it eliminates other, even more unwieldy, DRM systems. If you’re opting out of Steam you really ought to be opting out of DRM as well.

        • eggy toast says:

          If they can’t afford $100 business expense then I’d say they do *need* to be listed on Steam!

          • Emeraude says:

            If they can’t afford $100 business expense then I’d say they do *need* to be listed on Steam!

            It’s not a matter of “affording” .And, I totally gave the argument as to why I think it would be to their benefit to do so right up there. You even agreed to it, weirdly enough.
            Still, they don’t *have* to, they don’t *wan*t to. And as far as I’m concerned, the only gripe I have is the quality of service they’re offering. They can do business with whoever they want. But at the very least if they don’t want to use other platforms, they should be on par quality-wise with them, as much as possible.

      • Eightball says:

        I was referring more to Steam/Valve’s treatment of those who wish to access their storefront. It’s totally within their right to be weird and difficult, but I don’t think it’s a good thing that they do so, and I sympathize with developers/publishers who are frustrated at putting up with it because Steam has a near monopoly.

        • Hedgeclipper says:

          I don’t know, everyone’s going on about how weird and difficult steam is but pretty much every other game company seems to manage it so it can’t be that disastrous (seriously does GabeN make you sacrifice a cat or something?).

          • Eightball says:

            Gaben says you’re legally *not allowed to know*, with the NDAs vendors are made to sign. Isn’t that weird?

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            Pretty standard for lots of commercially sensitive contracts really – its not like Steam invented the NDA. Honestly I get that a lot of people that make games in their basement have no idea how business works, but its probably something worth brushing up on if they want to get into the big end of a multi-billion dollar international market. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to stay small and sell a few copies of your dream game out of mum’s basement but calling an NDA weird is just unprofessional (unless of course the contract really is cat-sacrifice weird but nothing that we’ve seen leak out so far suggests its anything like that).

        • MartinWisse says:

          There are of course good reasons for Valve to make it a bit of a hassle and investment to be on Greenlight; if it was too easy they’d be drowned in a flood of chancers and gamers with a dream.

  7. P.Funk says:

    For some reason consumers will eschew choice in favour of convenience.

    Okay, thats fine. Why are so many of them smug though? Its like their defiant refusal to deviate from their comfortable norm is some bold statement. What exactly are they fronting?

    • Chiron says:

      I’m lazy, go me!

      I can see the guys point, if you’ve any interest in the genre you usually do seek out and find them for yourself rather than relying on being force fed them by say Steam recommendations.

      On the other hand an impulse buy from someone whose not got a clue what a wargame is still a sale, even if you then have to put up with entitled assholes trolling your forum going on about how “THIS GAME R STOOPID AND 2 HARD 4 ME” or about balance issues*

      *see every Multiplayer game ever made

      • Soviet Pachyderm says:

        Yep, if you want to see idiots getting angry over prices and difficulty for extremely niche games, just see the C:MANO Steam page.

    • Zephro says:

      Battlefront’s webstore is atrocious though, there’s also no automatic patching and they essentially charge for patches. As well as limiting the number of downloads etc. It’s more to do with their system being actively worse to use than Steam by a long long margin.

    • MartinWisse says:

      Funny, I can’t see anybody smug here.

      It’s silly to make this about choice versus convenience (while heavily implying that the latter is of lesser concern). Like it or not, Steam is the largest, best known and arguably the most user friendly games selling platform in PC land. Not being on it, not being part of its ecosystem is cutting yourself off from > 90% of gamers.

      Now battlefront.com argues that they don’t care about this audience, because proper wargamers will buy their games anyway, but I wonder about the demographics of their audience. Even if you concede that seriouz wargamingz is only a niche gaming genre, of interest only to grognards, you can’t keep depending on the same, aging population that bought your games in the nineties. You need somewhere for baby grognards to come from, some way for them to get to know you actually exist.

      Steam, being the largest storefront in the world, not forgetting all the various other places selling steam codes, seems the logical place for that process of discovery to happen.

      Especially when your own storefront is as shite as comments here say it is.

      Also, you may moan about gamers rejecting choice for convenience, but you forget choice comes with a price: every new gaming solution you chose to use means having to deal with more hassle buying, installing, patching and playing games. For the most part you can trust steam to make all of this easy (with GOG being a good second (and they are actually trying to copy Steam with their Galaxy client now too) and even Origin not that bad). It’s also the place where you can find the most games the easiest, directly or through a third party.

      But beyond Steam, GOG and perhaps Origin (or *ugh* ubiplay if you have to), why would I want yet another platform to learn to use? Especially one that’s more limited in games and userfriendliness, has more intrusive DRM and is more expensive?

    • Zeewolf says:

      How on earth is “being forced to buy the game from Battlefront’s atrocious web store” representative of choice?

      Choice would be if the game was on Steam, on GOG, on Gamersgate, on GMG, on Gamesplanet, et.c. AS WELL AS their own store. Or at least a couple of those. Forcing your customers to buy your games on ONE LOCATION ONLY is the opposite of giving choice.

      And Steam? You can probably survive without it. It’s pretty obvious that being on Steam is the smart thing, though. Especially if you are serving a small niche where every customer counts.

      • P.Funk says:

        Its more to do with those who inevitably come out and say “I won’t buy anything not on steam” which is pretty much unrelated to Battlefront’s store. There are examples of smugness in the comments.

  8. harristweed says:

    I have a couple Combat Mission games and think they are the best tactical games available. I was in the first Stryker Brigade Combat Team when it stood up, and Shock Force is a remarkably accurate simulation. I still play it almost daily.

    That being said, Battlefront is a train wreck. Installing CMSF (I’ve had it through several computers) is an almost comical sequence of downloads from third party sites, updates, and license key mishaps. I went to buy a new CM just before Christmas and got so lost in the options (3.0 is actually a paid upgrade from 2.0) I put it off for later. And still haven’t bought anything.

    Totally aside from the question of Steam, if their own website, pricing scheme and support wasn’t such a disaster, I would have spent at least another $100 with them over the past year or so. I’ve come to think of Battlefront as a 1990s-era company that makes a really good/could be great product.

    It might be true that hardcore wargamers are a niche, but it’s the way of technology that the expectation of amenities work their way down into every niche. I certainly can’t speak for anyone but myself, but Battlefront’s business model has had a very negative impact on my buying of their games.

    • Premium User Badge

      Syt says:

      I’m in a similar boat. I love their games, but working through their store and installations can be a chore: game, plus free updates, plus paid engine upgrades, plus expansions, plus bundles that offer combinations of the above … I can’t be bothered any more these days; I have other wargames that are less hassle and as fun.

      • Razgovory says:

        Hey Syt! One of the nice things about Steam is that I can reinstall a game anytime I want. When I bought Shock Force I bought only digital. Didn’t know that the digital download only lasted one year. So I didn’t end up buying the other expansions, and now no longer own the game. If I had bought it on Steam, I’d still own it!

        • P.Funk says:

          Change Steam with any other number of vendors. You might as well say you were dumb for not reading the small print.

          I could one up you with “If I bought it from GOG I’d never need to download it again because it’d be somewhere in my personal database of game installers that’s available even offline.”

          See how that works?

          • eggy toast says:

            Its not the same at all. And if you bought it from Gog you would own it a year later, too.

          • Zeewolf says:

            So? It should be on GOG as well. What’s your point?

          • Premium User Badge

            Syt says:

            I haven’t checked in a while, but has BF gotten rid of its limited number of installs restriction yet?

          • Razgovory says:

            I would have needed a time machine to by the game on GOG then. It didn’t exist. But, please go on insulting me and telling us how special you are buy not using Steam. That’s fascinating. You must be really interesting. It is my fault for expecting professional business practices from a company.

    • P.Funk says:

      Some would say thats an argument in favour of the ‘steam for everything’ concept. I’d say instead its an argument in favour of a company going out of business or suffering badly because they’re not up to date with the competition, of which there is FAR more than just steam. Most download services are pretty straight forward.

      Take the non steam version of Command: Modern Air and Naval Warfare, linked to steam above. It has an auto-updater that polls a separate server to Steam and checks for updates and then downloads and installs them. Thats direct from the developer basically, no need for steam. Its the same damned way with the now unavailable Command Ops series.

      Stores have no business being a mess these days. Thats naught to do with Steam. GOG is a breeze and you don’t even need to worry about always online issues. I’d like to see someone justify never buying from GOG if its not available on Steam. Just bloody try me.

      • Premium User Badge

        Syt says:

        You’re correct on Matritherine’s/Slitherix’s autoupdater. But as a counter example: Paradox’ games were long considered niche as well (not quite as niche as BF, but still pretty far down). They had their own web store. The dipped into Steam, and have meanwhile switched completely, because their they received far more sales from Steam than any other avenue, and providing resources to support the other outlets were just not worth it any more.

        Not saying that this would work for everyone (many great small-developer titles go relatively unnoticed on Steam), or that it’s good in the long run to have but one dominant player in the market, but unless you try you won’t know. The Combat Mission titles being so well regarded among wargamers and having such a vocal fanbase would probably have a significant advantage over Johnny Noname’s lackluster tower defense clone that he brewed up on lunch break, though.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          And by Christ I’m sad that Paradox went Steam only.

          I’m royally sick and tired of having to roll back forced patches so I can play a saved game. Bah!

          And no, don’t tell me I can turn off auto update. That option is a joke and doesn’t really work as the game updates no matter what the hell I do.

    • Zephro says:

      Yeah same here. I just can’t bring myself to buy the additional content or paid for patches from their website anymore. It’s just hideous.

    • p-donkey says:

      I’m in the same boat. I love BFC games but have substantial reservations over the way in which I am required to obtain them or keep them up to date.

      I still have CMSF installed. The problem is how I have CMSF installed. That is through a support ticket, a series of downloads, a subsequent patch. That patch incidentally doesn’t actually fix some of the problems with CMSF mind you. Oh and I mustn’t install it on all of my computers. Only 3 computers per license please.

      Historically, I purchased, without fail, everything BFC put out until the first expansion for Fortress Italy.

      At that point it became fairly clear that:

      1. BFC had a policy of trying to monetise its product in line with other niche publishers. Ok I guess that is fine. I’ve got heaps of cash. Let’s go on.

      2. New content would require us to pay for patches going forward. Without paying for patches access to future expansions (“modules”) was likely to be restricted. BFC now says on its forum that it aims to push one patch at $10 per year in order to maintain currency. That patch seemingly won’t add additional content (the recent $20 try on for ARVE variants springs to mind).

      3. The expansions and modules themselves lacked content commensurate with the price. That criticism of the content goes to both the additional TOE items and the scenario and campaign content. A re-skinned Sherman M4A1 is a re-skinned Sherman M4A1, just like a re-skinned Tiger 1 is a re-skinned Tiger 1 (see further Fortress Italy at $55 plus $35 for Gustav Line). The quality of the built in scenarios is uneven. The campaigns are very limited (in creativity, historical accuracy, plausibility, briefing quality) and difficult to access for even relatively experienced but time poor players like myself. If i want to push an outnumbered rifle company into a hasty attack without any reconnaissance or supporting fires with a briefing written by a 12 year old (who is probably a 44 year old man who lives with his mother) then I am well and truly set mind you with the content that comes with the game. So top-self prices for something that retains an element of truly rough edges.

      4. BFC seem to assume that I will remember my log-in details and want to head to their website specifically to then give them money. If you are going to involve me in a painful series of borderline micro-transactions for patches, please at least let me do it using a convenient platform and then to install that expensively acquired content across my devices with minimal fuss.

      So on that basis I still haven’t purchased CMRT. Last attempt was thwarted by a need to reset my login details. Then I decided that CMRT was the tip of the iceberg in terms of arcane DRM, paid patches, additional modules, oddly restricted initial TOEs and probably fairly ordinary single player content.

      I have brought stuff that I am far less interested in from Steam and it can’t be that bad. DCS World for instance has made the migration. They are if anything an even more specialised publisher who, like BFC, see themselves in the business of retailing modules.

      The real question is given how much I enjoyed CMSF as whether I can bring myself to get on the treadmill for Black Sea. I guess that I will but on principle I don’t want to deal with BFC’s webstore, its painful micro-transactions, the irregular content light “feature rich” paid patches or the “modularity.”

      Finally, I’m reasonably confident that you can withdraw a product from Steam. Maybe they could just make it easier for all of us and give it a go.

  9. curiousepic says:

    I’ve been enjoying Advanced Destroyer Simulator, recently released and playable in-browser (very well) by the Internet Archive. It’s a bit shallow, but I’m on the shallow end of grognard, and this game is surprisingly engrossing.

    • briangw says:

      Thanks for the link. I played the hell out of Epyx’s Destroyer game way back in the late 80s and it was one of the most engrossing games I have ever played. I’ll have to try this one out.

  10. morbiusnl says:

    the crappy battlefront user interface (downloads that only last an year, paid patches, Really?) prevents me buying tons of their products. I love their games, but I dont want to sit through the same ordeal after each game. If you dont like steam, hey, thats fine, but really the guy who invented that crappy way of delivering games, fire him. It will prevent you from making more money.

  11. Premium User Badge

    phuzz says:

    Ok, they don’t like Steam. Fine, some people don’t, but why not sell through GoG, or Humble, or even Amazon?
    I’m much less likely to spend my money with some tiny company, partly because setting up yet another account is a pain, but mainly because I don’t trust them to get their security as tight as I would Valve/Amazon/GoG etc.

    • Zeewolf says:

      Not to mention the fact that they’re much more likely to go bankrupt than Steam is, and with their DRM being the way it is that pretty much kills the hope of ever installing what you’ve bought again.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Pretty much.

    • GT5Canuck says:

      Ironically enough the original Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord is on GOG for $10. I snagged it for $5 during a sale. Now I can access it, DRM and time limit free, for the rest of my (or GOG’s) life.

  12. Shardz says:

    Is this Valve’s attempt to put Slitherine out of business like everyone else?

  13. harristweed says:

    What’s funny to me is that this is the first time I’ve ever commented on an article here, though I’ve been reading for a while. And it is purely because I desperately want Battlefront to be reading this and realizing that I want to give them more of my money. I think they grossly under estimate the potential of Combat Mission. The mechanics and visuals are fantastic, the interface is very good, the campaign content is uneven, and the business model is terrible. Surely there must be a way for them to address the problems.

    When it comes to CMSF you could hardly get more grognard than me. Playing it is nothing less than therapy. When you serve in combat arms you get out to the realization that none of the skills you developed are worth anything. The movies you see are silly, all the “realistic” video games are nothing of the sort, once you lose touch with friends there’s no one who even speaks the same language. For me, the first time I fought a CMSF Stryker infantry company through a battle, using battle drills etched into my brain, it was quasi-religious. I’ve played certain scenarios (Ambush in Alfubar) probably thirty times. It’s like exercising this weird, forgotten muscle that I built up for four years.

    I’m going off the deep end here because I want Battlefront to make even better games. I want Black Sea to be awesome than Shock Force was. I want them to reach new audiences, to make more money, to put that into better writing and a dynamic campaign system and on and on. Being esoteric and cryptic was cool when I was a kid. I’m not anymore.

  14. postrook says:

    those prices for battlefront games that are like 15 years old are insane, haha.

    also, battlefront’s drm policy is insane and paranoid, and i refuse to support them.

  15. ExitDose says:

    God, some of the complaints in that thread are ridiculous. They don’t want immature or young gamers sullying their precious hobby. Maybe I’m just an outlier, but when I fired up Steel Panthers for the first time as a thirteen-year-old it wasn’t after leafing through a dogeared copy of Achtung Panzer. My knowledge of World War 2 at the time was cobbled together from watching Indiana Jones and Kelly’s Heroes. Maybe Combat Mission could be that entry point for a new generation of kids, just like Steel Panthers and Battleground: Arndennes was for me.

  16. AdrianWerner says:

    Many of the most hardcore niche grognard companies ignore Steam. Especially today it’s hard to get exposure on Steam anyway for such games, as the store is flooded by new releases. And it’s not if they would sell more with Steam. They definitly would. But would they sell enough to cover the money they would loose on their own store? Because we all know that once thos games would be on Steam majority of people who buy their games through their store would switch to buying on Steam, where developers have to pay 30% (rumored at least) from each copy. So to break even on move they would have to sell at least 30% more copies.
    Plus those are expensive games, so they have harder time convincing newbies to try them out. Sure..they could go on sales, but how many of their existing customers would then start to wait for those sales instead of buying them full price?
    Those types of games are niche of the niche. It’s audiences already know about them and they are willing to buy them directly.

    • ExitDose says:

      Gary Grigsby’s Eagle Day To Bombing Of The Reich is niche of the niche. Combat Mission, on the other hand, might be the most commercial friendly wargame that I’ve ever played – It’s an extremely cinematic, strategy war game. Even with its fussy UI, the demo for CM:FI sold me on the game.

      The devs of Command have the most niche wargame on Steam, one that is extremely hard to approach, and is very expensive. Yet when you read their comments over on the Steam and Matrix forums they sound like their launch has been a net gain.

      I have honestly never heard a dev talk about a Steam launch in such dire terms before. Even when Matrix was dragging their feet, they didn’t do that.

      Those players that they’re losing direct sales from write reviews over there. They have the ability to evangelize for this game in a place that people actually visit, as opposed to the echo chamber that is the Battlefront website/boards. They aren’t even necessarily losing those, since you can give Steam keys to people that purchase directly from your website like every other dev that has a direct sales route.

      Honestly, with this line of thought, I’m amazed the company even allows Chris to do his weekly Twitch stream.