Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thoughts about TSR

This is a tangent of my previous post that got so big I just decided it needed to be its own post.

In my mind TSR will always be thought of as the KINGS of "we know you want X, but we, in our infinite wisdom, will give you Y because, well, me and the 10 guys in this room like Y".

Here's an example of this thinking:

Why didn't every game TSR make use the D&D game engine or a derivative of it?

The AD&D engine might be the most popular engine of all time. Other companies tried like the devil to make compatible products for it and were roundly sued by TSR for their trouble

I am not debating the wisdom of TSR's love of lawsuits- just pointing out that companies were willing to risk the wrath of a notoriously letigious company just for the ability to make something compatible with the best selling game engine on the market.

But when TSR went to make a sci-fi game, or a post-apocalyptic game (which is SO CLOSE to fantasy as a genre that it's totally unfunny) or a western game, they started from scratch and tried to forget D&D ever existed.

I always felt this was a mistake and think it speaks more to designers wanting THEIR turn at crafting a game engine more than it does any burning desire of the market for more game engines.

The success of d20, Hero and GURPs should tell you everything you need to know about how badly people want multiple game engines for tabletop gaming.

For the most part, people find an engine they like, and they NEVER WANT ANOTHER ONE.

They want to use that engine for modern games, fantasy games, sci-fi games, post-apoc games etc etc.


Masada said...

Yup... TSR will be forever warmly remembered for creating roleplay, but also forever remembered as an example of how not to run a creative intellectual property business.

I had never thought on their system versions before, but you're dead on. All those different systems did not help their costs.

Chuck said...

I first had the thought "what the fuck are they doing" when they secured the rights to make a Conan RPG and made an entirely new (entirely bad) system just for it.

I also think Gamma World stands out as a terrible example. GW was a great IP in desperate need of a great game system.

They tried an original system, one edition GW used a modified FASERIP (or at least its resolution table) and finally, they tried something involving class and level, which wound up feeling a lot like a proto-True20 to me.

mikelaff said...

whenever I see game designers deciding they have to go back to square one and design a system from the ground up that captures "the feel of the genre", it strikes me as the same kind of thinking that TSR was engaging in back in the day. "Let's reinvent the wheel because it builds our ego -- never mind that it's putting a barrier between the potential audience and our work."

On the other hand, especially when you look at the "indie game" movement (which seems to spawn 3 new rules systems every week), it looks like there's a small but vocal audience that _lives for_ new systems.

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