Thoughts on the painting of, and playing with, toy soldiers.

Games Workshop should open source their rules development process

As a rule I don’t like to get drawn in to the 40K gossip echo chamber. There’s an old saying: Never wrestle with a pig: You both get all dirty, and the pig likes it.

Yesterday evening, I noticed a flurry of gossip in the blogo- and twitter-sphere suggesting that rules for the rumoured 6th edition of Warhammer 40,000 had been leaked, and uploaded onto a file-sharing website (the file has since been removed).

All this cafuffle prompts the following question: so what?

I’m trying — and failing — to work out why (a) Games Workshop should care about whether the rules have been leaked, but also why (b) anyone thinks that having “pre-release” access to the rules is in any way beneficial.

First, I am sure that any leak annoys GW, because there’s nothing worse than someone peaking round the edge of the canvas when you haven’t finished the painting. Anyone who enjoys creating things will know how pleasureable the “ta-da!” moment is, when you unveil your masterpiece for all to see.

But Games Workshop hasn’t always been like that. Epic: Armageddon never had a “ta-da!” moment. Instead of having a team of developers and writers toiling away in utmost secrecy, Jervis Johnson worked with a community of playtesters to develop the rules for E:A in an open, collaborative (one might even say “open source”) manner. And the end result was one of the best rulesystems that GW’s ever produced.

Furthermore, it’s hard to see how anyone could actually benefit from a sneak peek at the new rules. It would be of little use to GW’s competitors. Even the ultra-competitive tournament players (who somehow forget they’re playing silly games with with toy soldiers, and think that they’re actually playing high-stakes poker) would be hard-pressed to find the angle over their competitors by knowing about rules they can’t actually play with.

So I say this to Games Workshop: forget the secrecy (those guys at New Line Cinema who told you to go into stealth mode are full of shit. Since when did anyone in the movie industry know anything about managing intellectual property?). Embrace openness! Embrace the army of playtesters, critics and mathhammer fetishists who will pick your rules apart and find all the problems! Given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow (and all loopholes are closable)!

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