Kirb your enthusiasm!


"Pink isn't a color. It's a lifestyle." - Chumbalaya
"...generalship should be informing list building." - Sir Biscuit
"I buy models with my excess money" - Valkyrie whilst a waitress leans over him

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Project: Biomorph Goals, and a Note About Timing.

First, a note about timing.

There seems to be some concern that this project is premature- that we should wait until 6th edition drops before making any moves, and that no one should be panicking. Well, a couple of things to that:

No one is panicking. Or at least, not in the way people think they are. We are concerned, and frankly there's nothing wrong with that. GW hardly has a good track record when it comes to putting out balanced games with tight rule sets. No one's sitting in front of their screen, sweating and crying over the demise of 5th edition- good riddance to it, it has more than it's fair share of problems.Everyone wants a new edition; that is, what you would classically consider what a new edition would bring: more balance, ironed out rules, more depth. That doesn't seem to be what's about to drop. We ALL want 6th edition to be fantastic. If, by some miracle, it somehow is, we'll drop the project. There's no need for it if the game's gone in a great direction.

I really don't need a crystal ball to tell you how likely that is to happen. 6
th isn't going to be unplayable. It'll have it's power builds, it's metagame, and its top codecies. You'll probably be seeing the same people at the top tables (people seem to take this as some kind of indicator of stability, I never quite understood why...) “Mech is king” will probably be replaced by something else that's now king. Infantry if we're lucky. Deathstars if we're not.

This is kind of a unique time to launch a project like this- dissatisfaction is high, there are a lot of other rulesets on the market showing that players can have a tightly written, balanced game. The edition change seems to indicate a vast change in how the game functions; which means that all the experience and knowledge the design team could have gained from the last edition (and to some extent, the last three editions) won't matter at all, because things will change so fundamentally.

I hear people saying that it's impossible for this project to catch on. I can't believe that anyone would think that in this age communication. I've replied to 40k emails from America, Britain, Australia, Russia, France, Spain, and a dozen other countries, including
Zaire.I've also learned that if you build something worth having, and you put it out there, people will find it. So many things in my life I've gotten because I simply made my best effort to make something great, and others recognized it. It's how I got to write for 3++. It's how I stumbled into my career. It's how I got involved in a convention. Make no mistake: if you build it, they shall come.

So we start now, because we want to be ready. We are not interested in a forever wait-and-see, first for the edition, then the next codex, and the next one, all with the promise that the next thing will finally be the time when things are set right. This project is spurred by response but it is more than response. 'Ard Boyz is gone. GW has pulled out of the tournament circuit. We live in an age of instantaneous, fantastic communication. This may just be our hobby, but we have the chance to be more than people who sit quietly in the waiting area, we can be the architects that design the building.

Coming out with an edition a year or more after 6
th edition launches will not work. Waiting for everything to settle and meekly throwing out a difference of opinion is not the way. Our goal is to launch within 6 months of 6th edition, to pitch our changes, and to make an impact.

I love design. I love working with people. I love discussing games. People say I'm wasting my time on this project, but that's impossible, because this is what I love. There is no distinction between work and play here for me. This is the flow state. If I weren't working on this, I'd be designing a thousand other games that no one would ever play or hear about, because that's just who I am.

And I know I'm not the only one. We'll work hard. We'll push hard. We'll do our best to make the best damn possible product we can. I can't promise you success, but I can promise that it'll be a hell of a ride, if you'll ride with me.


We have a few goals with this project. These are the overall important things to always keep in mind. In my first post, I put down a long and incomplete list of some of the problems I have with 40k, this list of project goals is that boiled down to it's

Project Biomorph Goals:

1.) To create a system that is fun to play.
2.) To create a system that has easy-to-learn rules.
3.) To create a system with wording that is as clear as possible, and that is as easy to reference as possible.
4.) To create a diverse tournament scene.
5.) To create a system where every model and unit have some value.

These come from a list of about 20 goals, that were condensed over and over until I got these 5. Let's take these one by one, and elaborate on what we're trying to achieve with each one.

1.) To create a system that is fun to play.
If it's not fun to play, it's not any good. I don't really foresee this being a problem, and I don't think that regular 40k isn't fun, but I think it's important to always keep it in mind. If we're making changes that are making th game less fun, we're doings something wrong.

2.) To create a system that has easy-to-learn rules, and plays quickly.
It would be nice if the game could be learned in a session or two. 40K is actually pretty close to this already, but you'd never know it, because the rules are so confusing. There ends up being a lot of nuance in the rules because they reference things in vague ways, and make assumptions that players will already know how the system works when they start reading. There's a lot of little bits of important rules that are hidden in paragraphs, that should either be cut or better signposted. There's also quite a few small rules that are in there for fluff, but are often forgotten, or don't really add to play, just add to confusion.

3.) To create a system with wording that is as clear as possible, and that is as easy to reference as possible.
This is a big one. Important but subtle rules should be signposted. Rules should repeat themselves. The index should actually be useful. And if a rule is important for more than one section, for God's sake put it in every section where it's important. No one should ever skip over looking up a rule because they're not really sure where it is.

4.) To create a diverse tournament scene.
Wouldn't it be nice to see just about every army represented in the top 15? Wouldn't it be cool if the winning lists didn't always have the same things in common? Wouldn't it be nice if there were more than three kinds of mission objective? I don't see why those aren't all things we can accomplish.

5.) To create a system where every model and unit have some value.
It's absurd to think that we can achieve perfect balance. There's hundreds of units in this game, and some will end up worse than others. What we can do is find every unit a role. Units won't be good in every list, but we should be able to reach the point where most units can find a place in a build.

We're not going to be able to balance every unit. Some of them will probably end up crappy. But we can figure out a way that the vast majority of them can be used in some useful capacity.

Logistics construction is still underway for the project. (It's only been 3 days since my announcement... I almost can't believe it.) We'll have a forum soon. I've got my email sorted out at least, so I can handle you guys. You can reach me at Please include “Project: Biomorph” in your subject line, it helps tremendously. By my next post, the forum should be up, and I'll end every future post with my email and a link to that.

Right now, the project has three main phases:
We'll go through the main book and rewrite the whole thing in good technical language. This is also the time where we'll be implementing small changes and removing/modifying some of the smaller rules. Playtesting starts here, using the same codecies and armies we're all used to.
Once we have a stable basic ruleset, we can start making some of the more radical potential changes. This includes things like changing how cover interacts with armor, changing how vehicles take damage, and changing how terrain and line of sight work.
PHASE 3: INITIAL CODEX REWRITEYes, we are going to end up going through the codices, evaluating and changing units. Luckily for us, this requires MUCH less work than a codex rewrite would. We aren't interested in ditching a codex and starting from scratch- we're looking to adjust what we've already been given so that it will function well in the game. For some units, that just means a point adjustment. For others, it may mean giving the unit a special rule.

At this point, we're looking to launch. Waiting until we've redone all the codices will take far too long, we won't get anything out for a year or more. We want to get this out early, and then rapidly expand from here. This means we'll launch once we have our main rules and two codices locked down.
PHASE 4: FINISH CODEX REWRITESThen we do the rest of them. We playtest, and we mod, and we do it 'till they're done. If a new codex comes out and we haven't done it yet, we'll see if we can integrate it. If a codex comes out that we've already done, we'll integrate whatever new units we get into whatever we've already done.PHASE 5: INITAL UPDATESAfter our rewrites are more-or-less final, we keep an eye on how things are, and we keep balancing. We don't want to have a living document here; it's confusing and it's too much to keep up with. Instead, we'll shoot for a single balance patch to be put out 6 months after the end of stage 4. We won't patch before that, unless we've made some huge mistake and totally thrown things out of whack with something.PHASE 6: MAINTAIN UPDATES
After that, things get simpler. We keep an eye on things, we look at what works and what doesn't. We put out an annual update, keeping things in check. At this point, we can look into side projects. It's likely we'll have been doing some already, making good, compatible forms of Apocalypse, Cities of Death, Planetstrike, etc. I won't be lead design on a lot of these, at this point we'll have a ton of people really into the game, who are ready to design and can take the lead themselves.

That's the rough plan, anyway. It looks a bit daunting laid out like that, but it's really not so bad. We'll move one stone at a time, one by one until the mountain's done. Once we've got our logistics firmly grounded, we can come up with more specific timetables.


Again, my email is If you're interested in volunteering, please let me know and include Project: Biomorph in the subject line. (You can also email Kirby, he'll let me know.)

Forum will be up soon, I'll make another post when it is.

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