Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Why I should hate Catalyst Game Labs

So somebody asked me something today, combined with my free copy of Alpha Strike yesterday, and going through all 110 of my Battlecorps orders over the last few years and finding 5 items (need to double check, but at least 3) that I haven't even gotten yet and it got me thinking.

I went and got my order history from my 2 battlecorps accounts (not sure how that happened) over the last 5 years.  From August 2008, to this month, I have given CGL $2988.27 of my money.  On top of that, I've given IWM another $1809.20 ($255 of that through the Kickstarter).  I've also bought quite a bit of stuff at my LGS, but don't have detailed records on that.  I have at least 6 of the latest boxed sets, and more miniatures that I can paint in a lifetime.  I also blew $90 on a battlecorps subscription (well 2, because I couldn't disable auto-renew).

I have also spent thousands on ebay for miniatures, old book lots, etc.  I won't count that though, as that wasn't money into CGL's pocket.

So, on average, each month, over the last 5 years, I've given CGL about $80 per month.

Of the 6 of my "warnings" on the forum that got me banned, 2 were due to me talking about politics in a discussions about military sizes, populations, etc, you know, those threads that start every week.  2 more were in a thread that was only used by a group that met at a particular store on weekends.  I said "bring money, I'll bring mini's" sorta thing.  Apparently that was wrong too, even if no $ was mentioned.  The other I said something nasty about the amount of errors in their products.  I never flamed anybody personally, never attacked folks, never got "trollish", and always acted with respect towards others.  A couple of those "warnings" I'm 99% sure were just a difference of opinions between a moderator showing personal bias over their role as a moderator, but whatever, I got banned.

Then I'm like "Screw these guys" on my blog after, which even though a temper tantrum, it was on my own blog, read by at most 50 people, but probably well under half that.  Regardless, it was an off-the-cuff thing, and I pretty quickly got over it (or did I? :)).

As it really appears to me, justifiably, that CGL simply doesn't care about me as a customer, I wonder now why I'm sending them $80 a month to pay their bills, sustain their operations, and create new content.

I was one of the top submitters for errata out there, I created lots of new utilities for folks, wrote designers, star charts, and if I wouldn't have been banned I know that today we'd have builders for everything from warships, to mobile structures, to buildings, to bases, to RPG characters, in addition to the usual stuff.  I could have made vast contributions to the masterunitlist.info site.  I would have been fine waiting the couple months before updating my database with new products (for example, I added the LC 3145 stuff last night, though I haven't updated the database their attitude towards me doesn't justify me holding off either).  I was a positive influence on the game, the forums, and the fan base.  Heck, I would have ran demos and given away more miniatures at events (I have thousands I'd give away for a decent cause).  I bought everything, often multiple copies.  In every single way, I was a great customer.

That all being said though, I won't throw hate at Herb, Randall, or any of the folks on the staff at CGL, nor will I stop buying too much stuff.  My anger towards them is unjustified, as not one of them have ever said anything negative to me.  A couple of times I've spoken with them personally and not had any negative thing to say.

So I will direct my anger and disappointment towards the moderators of the forums at http://bg.battletech.com.  Not all of them, but many.  I see bias, hypocrisy, elitism, and trolling, not to mention unprofessionalism from many of the moderators.  It is the moderators (again, not all, but many) that I think are the root of the problems on the forum.

If I decide to not become a customer anymore, and with my current trend towards PDFs only that could very well happen, the moderators on the forums will have cost CGL $80 a month, or nearly $1000 per year.

The biggest tragedy however I think is the overall loss of quality of content on the official forums over the last year or so.  The topics are dull, interesting conversations few, and the number of posts where no information exchange takes place is astounding.  I have spoken, in person and email, from quite a few folks that have nothing positive to say about the forums as well.  Perhaps its just my viewpoint.

Soooooo, now for the good part, since I'm sure everybody has gone on to surf porn by this point and left this blog behind.

I will be starting my own phpBB forum.  I've gotten it running before (its actually on my site if you know where to look) but never advertised it as I didn't think my server, already overloaded making battletech PDFs and Alpha Strike cards, as well as a handful of other sites, could handle the load of a forum with decent response time.  Anyway, I actually work at a hosting company, and can get a new server up and running, well, within a few minutes, that should easily be able to handle the load, and has hundreds (yes, with an 's') of megabits of bandwidth available.

Initially I'll focus on Battletech, though I'll have Robotech, Heavy Gear, Star Fleet Battles, Traveller, 40K, and whatever threads I think may be interesting.

My forum rules:
#1.  Don't be an ass

I'll post an update in the next few days as I set this up.  Hopefully I'll have my site updated to print all the new Alpha Strike cards as well.

If anybody wants to be a moderator... well, not in protecting threads, but just maintaining the board (moving threads as requested, locking them, answering user requests, etc) apply within.  I can setup and get phpBB running, and can probably figure out updates, but I'm not a pro with it.

I actually thought about doing an appeal to one of the official CGL folks, but with me recognizing the biased and hypocritical moderators, I'd be hypocritical in even asking (at least not until they "clean house").


  1. A new forum is always a bonus, but perhaps just keep a mech based forum paradise and leave 40K out of it. 40K seems to encroach everywhere and sometimes the overall constant presence is unwanted.

    Just my opinion.

    1. Yeah, you are probably right. In fact, I don't think I'll do a general content forum for anything *except* BattleTech, as they all have plenty of forums out there. I'll create a thread for any apps I write for other systems, but it'll just be that one thread, nobody can create additional ones. I will support others who created an app and wanted a dedicated thread though.

      This is mostly just a place for folks who don't like the official forums can go. I know there are others out there, like lords of the battlefield and ourbattletech, but I've seen problems with both and hardly ever use them, so I can see why neither is very popular.

      Thanks for the feedback.

  2. I echo hive angel's comments - another forum offers a nice balance of views.

    I've not had an issue at the official ones yet, but I like I hear other opinions.

  3. Not a big fan of forums -- I'd prefer a mailing list or newsgroup -- but hey, I'm a dinosaur. (I'm trying to get rec.games.mecha going again, should anyone feel like wandering over there.)

    I thught at first you were going to write about something else. My problem with CGL is one that's unfortunately intrinsic to their business model. They don't own the IP, so they don't make money off minis -- so they have to make money off books (rules, scenarios, whatnot). Which means the one thing they can't do is say "this is the definitive version of the game, we're not going to mess with it any more"; there always has to be new stuff coming down the road. With that at the back of their minds it's no wonder they end up producing massive errata files.

    1. I think phpBB has RSS feeds, but apparently mailing list integration with form software is pretty rare. I didn't look at the database with my phpBB install, but I'm usually pretty good at "getting the most" out of software somebody else wrote. Course, the dozen tickets I have open today with vendors may say something otherwise :)

      I'm curious how much money it would take for Topps to consider selling the IP. Along the same lines, the Mechwarrior IP from MSFT, or at least a license on it.

      I'd be ok with massive errata, if they'd only update the freaking PDFs with the new stuff. I mean, wtf is the point of a digital file if not for keeping it updated with minor changes? Each product, upon say 10 or 20 errata entries, should have a new PDF released to everybody who bought it. Its just stupid IMO not to do that, when it isn't exactly hard to edit some stuff in a PDF. That is my #1 beef with the errata thing, give me updated files to justify paying extra money for a PDF when I already paid for the DTF version. Not like the bytes cost anything more with a billion copies over 1.

    2. Yeah, the people who write forum software are determined that everything shall be done Their Own Way. (And they tend to do it in PHP, which is a security nightmare.) I have scrapers which convert phpBB sites to local newsgroups.

      I suspect the problem with errata updates is that you need not only the authors but the layout guys involved, and that starts to get expensive (they could be producing new material, after all). But what I mostly object to is the attitude that there's always going to be a new edition.

  4. I will look forward to patronizing your forums, I just picked up Alpha Strike and I am not happy it's not 100% backwards compatible with BF/QS and I had to puzzle out myself how to convert designs to Alpha Strike standard.

    1. Unfortunately if your trying to play a balanced game using the hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of QS/BF stats printed thus far, your not going to be able to. Plus, without detailing how new factors like the armor types (think patchwork) or OVL can be converted, they have essentially IMO released a limited product, which was a bad move I think :(

      I think they should have treated Alpha Strike like a completely new game, without any ties to other products, but with a few pages in the back for conversion from battletech. Plus, a few more pages with stats for units instead of all the fluff data you don't need every time you play the game. The book is huge and you gotta lug that around, and watch the pages fall out if you play too much. A higher quality softcover with less "fluff" and more "brains" I think would have played out better over time.

    2. The changes to Alpha Strike were originally conceived as BattleForce errata. That errata was being held while we started the long project of reconverting all the units.
      The BF errata will be released soon. The Conversions for the MUL are being reviewed and are expected to release in approximately a month.

    3. I kinda figured that, and saw hints in a couple of posts on the forums. If they let us know what the changes were, I could have all 6000 units generated by Monday morning. Yes, 6000, not just the mechs and tanks, but *everything*, even warships, and all with Alpha Strike cards with artwork finished, broken into bits that mirrored the various record sheet products.

      However, I *really* think there should have been a few changes to the system, such as using the missile hit table for damage instead of a all or nothing system now, and damage ratings/heat efficiency should be performed on each range band. Actually, mixing both and fixing many rounding issues, dividing damage output by 3 instead of 10, and then simply reflecting those changes on the inverted missile hit table, balance the game considerably. Oh well, maybe I'll do a a "Syntax Strike" mod for it soon that'll mirror the changes better, which also allow you to average out units so you can use the exact same system to fight out battles between regiments, that you use to fight it out between mechs, and it would actually play faster with the larger unit.

      Do hope to see the updates though, mentioned to the SkyHigh a while back that I'd give him a code snippet that made PNGs out of the images instead of the buggy vectored thing he is using now, but haven't heard back yet.

    4. The cluster hit table is one big love it or hate it for people. But there are certainly options for making the damage more random. I think the general idea with static damage is less die rolls, and more blowin things up. And randomness is not always good. I hate ultra ACs for example...
      There's always the possibility that more flexible damage systems appear later (AS Companion) as an option.
      X3 though? That sounds a bit to me. 18 damage from assaults is a little overkill. On the other hand, you have those 3025 units with 1s...

    5. And I hate the combination of your captcha and my cell phones autocorrect..

    6. Hehe, I bet.

      X3 isn't what it seems like. It doesn't mean 300% more damage is done, just that the attack is 300% more numbers. The missile hit table reduces it down. By allowing x3 damage, you fix all the crazy "round up to nearest 10" issues. You make the mech damage more granular. You do the *exact* same process to find your modifiers to hit, but instead of 1 roll to hit being all or nothing, you take the modified roll to hit, based on your damage, and use the table here:


      And lets face it, most mechs, even at x3, would *still* be under 10 damage. The 0's on the table could end up being a d6 roll, so if you had just a single medium laser, the table would have a 4+ there, meaning if you get that roll you can roll 1 more die to see if you do a single point of damage. This way everything is modeled and nothing "slips through the cracks", and there is not an additional roll required.

  5. Count me as one who has been leery of the offical forums. Your in my reading list and I occasionally read a blog that cathces my eye, but holy smoke! I had no idea what you were doing here! As I get older, I prefer BF to fullon BT and this is the site for me.

    Add another one interested in patronizing your forums.

  6. Whoa, no conversion for custom units? There's one sale lost, then. I'm an old time player and to me it's always been about customisation.

    1. Well presumably they'll add some errata to Strategic Operations at some point, that will fix that. I haven't gone through and reverse engineered the formulas published in the book yet to see if I can see what changes they made. IMO that errata *REALLY REALLY REALLY* should have been posted BEFORE creating a book that uses it :(

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Have to agree with you there Firedrake! I have already bought it so too late on this end, but seriously, I feel a bit used here.

    4. The PDF rules mention that the conversion rules are in Strat Ops and that Errata will be be published soon.

      I haven't run all the numbers, but it appears to be almost exactly the same to the existing system, (just rolling the total damage together for the Damage value, with separate weapons systems now being subtracted after the calc is done). This effects TUR totals on things like the LRM Carrier worst, but it's not hard to figure out.

  7. My own permaban was brought out by a Moderator for whom english is a second language, and tagged me for swearing when I was quoting a novel. and then gave me three subsequent warnings cause I would not drop it.

    warning number 5 I earned for being a jerk to another player, FedComGirl (though she was a jerk right back) and the boot came from being stupid and posting an unseen pic I was using as a color study.

    so yeah, the official Mods suck, but like you I do not feel like I am missing much, except a venue to advertise my Podcast.

    1. I just looked at some thread over there, 73 postings, 26% were moderators.

      Problem with so many moderators are they create the whole elitism thing, they can't help but be biased and show favoritism towards other mods (even when those mods are in the wrong), they dilute the creativity and conversation, they all feel they have to compete in order to justify their positions, and when they are all top posters the forums can't help but become biased and unfriendly.

      But oh well, hopefully I can talk to my boss today (who has been on vacation) about putting a personal server in our datacenter, if so, I'll have the forum up this weekend, as well as thousands of alpha strike cards.

    2. I figure the mods are just so worn down and burned out that, on occasion, their reading comprehension and critical thinking fall below par. I poke my head back in every so often to give them another chance.

      But hey, about YOUR forum! Is it possible to give thread-starters mod-like powers over their own threads? I think that would help take weight off official mods.