Thoughts on Blood Bowl 2…by someone that has never played it!

The recent release of Cyanide’s Blood Bowl 2 has seen some glowing reviews from games sites. Most of the reviews tend to go along the lines of “I used to play Blood Bowl as a kid….it is a mix of American Football and the Warhammer Fantasy world…BB2 perfectly recreates the game…blah blah blah.”. Yes, the have a leg up on me given that they’ve played the game (I hope) but quite frankly I’m very sceptical about them all. They seem very far fetched. I saw one review that went from “note-perfect” to listing a whole load of problems with the game and then still giving it “8/10 Great”.

Let’s start with what I would want in an ideal world. I want a version of Blood Bowl on my tablet/PC/Mac/console that perfectly recreates the current Blood Bowl rules (CRP), that lets me play solo games/campaigns against a good computer AI or against selected coaches that I want to play online. Online play should then extend to allow me to organise leagues and tournaments with coaches regardless of the platform they are using.

League play is an absolute must for 99% of the world, I know. I don’t really play Blood Bowl online. I’ve played some FUMBBL and I have Blood Bowl:Chaos Edition. I don’t really like playing against random people online and would much rather be part of a league with people I know or at least a league that I could build up some camaraderie with a group. Even then being part of a league is hard as I find arranging matches a pain. Tabletop is my real passion. I’ve got Cyanide’s tablet version of Blood Bowl which is probably the one that I’ve played the most. I like single player games versus a computer. Computer games of my childhood were Player 1 Vs Computer or Player 1 Vs Player 2. I’ve never really got into playing games online, so that’s just me. Maybe?

All of the talk before the release of the Beta version of the game was about rule changes and the interface. My initial reaction based on the videos released was that the design of the interface wasn’t for me. It was too much of a console game in the way actions were performed, the animations and the cut-scenes. The changes to player stats – Human Catchers becoming AV8 – and the Bretonnian roster spawned many lengthy threads on the TalkFantasyFootball forum. The inclusion of player ageing and modified Bank/Petty Cash rules were another hot topic and still are shortly after the release of the game. I’m disappointed that there isn’t a switch in the game that lets you play with the ‘real’ rules but in all honesty that is not stopping me from buying the game and neither is the interface. I watched several of the streams from people in the Beta and post-launch and the interface, although not perfect is something that I could adapt too. We’re used to websites and software changing and quickly adapt. The in game rules chatter seems to be getting quieter and focus is on the problems with the out of game experience.

I’m disappointed that the Alpha testers don’t seem to have been listened too. I can’t believe that this game was given to people pre-Beta and they didn’t feed back some of the issues that you see today. There are some glaring game play issues and wort of all some of the basics of the rules are just not implemented. I can forgive some skills not being implemented, but to implement skills incorrectly is unforgivable. They are very simple to test against and there should be no problems of that sort in the released version of the game. ESPECIALLY when you’ve got BB:CE to compare against. In that regards I see this as a backwards step.

The number of concessions and opponents disconnecting that is being reported is unforgivable. I’m only taking this from my Twitter feed and from the BB2 forums so is in no way scientific but if I’d found 90 minutes to settle down to play a game and some anonymous coach started a game and then got fed up and disconnected or quit it would really annoy me. It would be even more annoying given that my match would likely have been found through ‘spinning’ via the matchmaking process which seems a complete mess. The changes that they’ve made have been poorly conceived or poorly implemented. Either way it is making for some very uneven matchups. There’s no lobby feature so you can’t chat and find people looking to find games. Until this is lot is fixed I won’t be buying the game.

I’m also upset that the computer AI seems to be WORSE than the one in BB:CE. There was lots of talk from Cyanide early on about how they are redeveloping the AI so that it can be race specific (no more caging Wood Elves!). The AI is a big part of the game for me and early reports again are that the computer refuses to score in some situations and I’ve seen streams where a Gutter Runner gets the ball, runs back to its own endzone and then stays there as an opponent makes his way towards him over 3 turns to eventually knock him over. Stupid stuff. Until this is fixed I won’t be buying the game .

I don’t want to see different rulesets to develop between “old” players and BB2 players. I’m happy for things to change but not arbitrarily. If Cyanide want to change rules of the game that they have licensed then fair enough, but they should publish a proper rule book. There online help system doesn’t match what happens in the game. It just becomes very confusing especially when there are some many bugs you don’t know what’s going on. I would like any changes to be done with the advice and inclusion of the Blood Bowl community if possible. I think the old guard should be encouraged to help and support the game, rather than being left out in the cold.

Given that this game was several months late and that it has launched with so many errors and missing features I do really worry for it. They will need to make significant money as part of the licence agreement and it would seem that they’ve spent quite a lot on development, animators and marketing this time around. These things all add up. I for one will be interested to see when they make the next set of teams available to buy and how much they will be. I’m guessing cash flow would be an issue.

I don’t want to come across as grumpy and anti-new things (I am but that is beside the point). I would love to see more people playing Blood Bowl. I would love to be able to convert some of the computer game players to tabletop players. I really want this game to succeed and I want it to be good.

I think the game is confused. It wants to be a computer game and open to new games and popular like Madden, but it’s background is a tabletop dice game from the 80s. If they made Madden with Ogres and Halfings, I would buy it. If they made a perfect version of Blood Bowl tabletop, I would buy it. If they smash the two games together and miss the point, I won’t buy it.

In general, I don’t like this modern way of developing and releasing games which means that the developer releases unfinished or bug filled games and then patches them and patches them (hopefully) until people can broadly put up with it. It’s lazy and isn’t fair to the players. In this case rather than grow the community, I think it has the potential to expose players to the beautiful game and then put them off. By not explaining the rules or the mechanics very well, making matchups extremely unfair and making game play buggy or non-intuitive it isn’t giving new players a chance.

If they fix things and it improves then I will happily part with my cash, but for now it is not for me. I’m also not telling you not to buy it or pointing and laughing if you have got it already. If you’ve got it I hope you enjoy it and can convince me to get it and support it. Grumble over 😉

Have you got it? What do you think? Step forwards or a step backwards?

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Sorry I didn’t call you. I meant to. I promise.

I really did. I sent you those flowers. You didn’t get the flowers? I know, it’s my fault. I’ll try harder…I know there may not be a next time…just give me one more chance.

After an initial flurry of posts and excitement enveloping me like a cheap cologne on a teenager, I hit a slump. It was bound to happen. I’ve been tweeting a bit, but I know that doesn’t count. It’s been a rough time at home with us all suffering with the lack of action on the house move front. We’re so close, but in the English system of buying and selling that is not a good place to be. The stress has been building up as have the number of calls and emails placed to various estate agents and solicitors each day. We’re nearly there! (Famous last words and words that I’ve said myself at least 100 times in the last couple of months). Add to that the usual excuses of the increasing dark and cold of winter and things have slowed down.

The painting has taken a back seat too. I am pleased to say that I have been trying out my Skaven tactics on the Cyanide Blood Bowl Chaos Edition. I’ll write a post shortly about what I’m coming up against and what I’ve learned so far. I’m hoping that I can get everything painted up and that my move and subsequent decorating is done before Christmas. The tabletop league that I want to join starts in January so I need to be ready for that and introduce myself to the club first.

I’ll try harder, I promise.