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Three Moves Ahead Episode 27 – Mark H. Walker and Lock N Load

August 25th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 14 Comments · Matrix, Podcast, Three Moves Ahead, Wargames


The panel welcomes Mark H. Walker to the round table for a bruising discussion of his upcoming squad based wargame Lock N Load: Heroes of Stalingrad. Bruce and Julian dominate an unusually combative conversation, which only shows how much we care. What is the place of narrative in war games? Do designers overestimate how intuitive their designs are?

Apologies for the sound quality here. In spite of a perfect sound test earlier in the day, Mark’s satellite internet was not up to the task later that night so he had to phone in. Then the recording somehow made Troy’s comments appear three seconds later than they actually happened, making editing a real pain in the ass and borking the Dominions 3 discussion altogether. (Short version, Bruce didn’t send his turn but had noticed he was attacked by Julian’s deer men.) We’ll make up for it next week.

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Lock N Load
Matrix Games


14 Comments so far ↓

  • Sarkus

    Interesting discussion, to be sure. It did seem a bit unfair for Julian and Bruce to go after the game so harshly given it’s unfinished status. While some of that stuff may not change before release, it’s possible that some of it will.

  • spelk

    Some interesting discussion on narrative in strategy games there. It did seem a bit hostile at times, but I think it was unfortunate for Mark that his game in development was used more as a catalyst to spark a fiery discussion about the genre, and its foibles. Before the tinder of the discussion got going, I was really excited by some of the points Mark was making about getting a more involving narrative into a turn based tactical squad game, especially the scenario changing events (that can sometimes unpredictably arise during a conflict) and also bringing into play more human or personal issues, outside of the conflict. I’m certain a more engaging scenario, where you have react and respond to tangible changes to the conflict and its objectives, will be appreciated by wargamers who are used to more dry examples of tactical play.

    I haven’t played the Lock and Load system, in either boardgame or computer game, but from looking at the screenshots and videos on Matrix, my initial knee jerk reaction that it was a beautified version of Steel Panthers. But upon closer inspection it does reveal its boardgame roots, and some of the flavour material, like the art on the counters and the comic book action stills depicting melee liven it up making it a title I most certainly will explore. It seems pitched at my tastes more so than the theatre wide chit movers like Commander: Europe at War, it claims to give a more personal feel to the tactical play and it responds with visuals and audio to give you a more satisfying feedback on the combat played out. Who doesn’t like to see tanks explode or men be strafed with gun fire or flame, rather than just chits being removed from the play area? If it does deliver a more up to date version of Steel Panthers then I’ll be a happy gamer.

    I like action and I like strategy, so bringing those two together along with an engaging narrative is the holy grail for myself, and games like the Brothers in Arms series take a step towards marrying the two. I’d really like to see a game that gives you the strategic control to organise your troops and movements across a theatre of conflict which provides the setting and reasons behind your actions, and then lets you drop into the action in terms of experience and soak up the combat more close up. Once the games developers have put that world on that particular stick, I’d like a sequel set in ancient Greece where I can be a hoplite in a phalanx please…

  • triggercut

    Even a favorite podcast has to have a clunker here and there, and this one was a rather spectacular bellyflop. I’m still not sure what point Bruce and Julian were trying to make for the first 35 minutes there, but whatever point it was, what came across instead was “we’re grumpy and haven’t the time for anything unique.”

    Instead of hearing about a game that seems to be trying to bring some interesting ideas to the strategy genre, instead we got to hear about how wonderful it is to read the ASL phonebook-sized manual. Yeccch. Just dreadful stuff. I hope you’ll have Mark back on (if he’d even be willing after the way he was treated on this episode) when the game is closer to release.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Ah, Bruce is one of *those* types of board gamers, a min/maxer.

  • Scott R. Krol

    Oh wait, it may have been Julian. I thought it was Bruce talking but someone started a sentence with “Julian…”

  • skshrews

    Julian’s and Bruce’s point was relevant, but it shouldn’t have consumed so much of the podcast. It would have been interesting to hear from Julian how much the game paralleled ASL.

    I finished the podcast not knowing much more about the game than when I started. Explain the premise/interface/game system/etc. first, then begin the crtitical assault.

  • driillSGT

    Hehe, yah, Bruce can bust out a 10-minute monologue better than anyone. I think that what the previous poster mentioned about explaining all the elements of the game ‘premise/game system/ etc.’ before the critique might help most listeners.

    Other than that, I didn’t dislike the podcast, in fact I went onto the Locknload website to see what the game looks like. I do like the pictures on the chits a lot better than most wargames. I hope the computer version turns out good; I’ll certainly give it a shot if they have a demo.

  • DrewDD

    Wish you guys had explored more how Lock’n’Load is “different” in terms of how it does rules (or at least let Mark explore it.) There aren’t too many rules-sets out there that pride themselves on stripping away complexity (Fistful of TOWs 2) so I would have been interested to hear that further.

  • Punning Pundit

    I do think more designers should have to hear “your interface sucks”…

  • Skyrider68

    Yes, the episode did seem to take a turn down let’s-feed-the-guest-to-the-lions street. I’m sure the technical issues TG mentioned weren’t helping matters either. On the flip side, good to hear Julian get a little more vocal/involved in the podcast.

    I think if I were a designer of this game genre, I would welcome some opinion/critique from the panel, given their gaming qualifications, though I don’t think a podcast makes the best forum for discussion, especially where a preview build is what’s on the plate.

  • Ginger Yellow

    “I think if I were a designer of this game genre, I would welcome some opinion/critique from the panel, given their gaming qualifications, though I don’t think a podcast makes the best forum for discussion, especially where a preview build is what’s on the plate.”

    I kind of agree with this. It sounded like the sort of discussion that would have been great for you guys to have in a pub, to give him some valuable outsider feedback. The point about the intuitiveness of the clicking, for example. But on a podcast it was neither particularly enlightening for the audience or useful to the developer in terms of publicity.

  • Morkilus

    Yeah, sorry to say this was one of my least favorite podcasts. Not even a mention of the Dominions game?

    This is still the best strategy gaming podcast on the ‘net, though.

  • OrpheusX

    Easily the worst show you guys have done. The next time you have a guest on the show it would be nice to let them actually talk a little. Whatever their intentions Bruce and Julian were not only inarticulate in their critique of a (apparently incomplete) game the guest barely had a chance to describe but downright rude as well. Troy, you used the term “bruising” in your description of the show. Is this kind of treatment okay with you? A little more moderating from the moderator would be appreciated from this listener.

  • Quinten

    I think that the bare show would’ve been better, but it sounds like they had to edit it because of sound issues he described. Besides, isn’t the games media supposed to be harsh to developers? I think Bruce made very good points, and that Julien was just whining because his preview build didn’t have a manual. It sounds like Mark liked some of the complaints, because now his game can be better.