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Making Time

April 8th, 2010 by Troy Goodfellow · 11 Comments · Blogs, Me

The big problem with being a strategy gamer is that so many of them take a lot of time. I’m still slowly working my way through the Command & Conquer 4 campaign. I want to put more time into Distant Worlds. I want to get to the RUSE beta before it expires – maybe later today. I never really mastered anything in the Starcraft 2 beta beyond getting my ass kicked. And now we have Scourge of War: Gettysburg (coming soon to a podcast near you.) Still haven’t acquired Settlers 7 or the Majesty 2 expansion.

And I have to write about them because that’s why I have the blog. Of the games listed above, I can say that only C&C4 is a game that I am actively avoiding – which is bad since Bill Abner wants that review. I just can’t bring myself to play it. No, it will not be getting a positive review.

Since there is so little regular strategy game coverage anywhere, I feel a special responsibility to try almost everything out there. This means that when I do get around to a game, it is not a headline title any more. This turns out to be one of the great blessings of the genre. Strategy gaming has a long tail, either because the games are constantly being patched and updated or because the community is more likely to stick with some of them since they never were flavor of the week stuff. No one is playing Majesty 2: Kingmaker because it is the hot new thing to play. So my bloggy thoughts on it can wait a little.

The consequence of course is that I end up writing another “Sorry for not blogging more” post. I’ve recently agreed to write a strategy game themed column for another site, so that, too, will take more content off Flash of Steel, especially the meaty think-piece posts that I wrote many, many more of when I had a lot more to say about strategy games.

And it’s not like this is all I do, either. I have another feature story in the works for Gamespy (not strategy related), I am working on another column pitch, I am planning other articles for other venues, I am wasting spending time chatting collaborating with friends online. Oh, and I have a household to run. Or run into the ground.

According to Bruce Shelley, a good game plugs into that sense of flow – you become one with the system and tasks seem easier. When you have to make time to play five or six different strategy games a month – some of which are quite elaborate – it’s hard to get into that flow mindset. I get emails from readers and listeners asking what I think of Arsenal of Democracy or Gratuitous Space Battles and all I can say is “I started playing” or “Don’t have it yet”. No iPhone, either, so ask Tom or Julian about those, please.

Now, I’m not complaining. OK, I am, but not in a major way. The depth of strategy games is what pulls me to them and if I was getting paid to play all of them I would be very deep into them all. (The column will certainly help in that regards. More news on that later.) The mastery of the system and trying to understand how a designer interprets the past or the future are big things for me.

It’s spring. Baseball season. A time of new beginnings. Here’s hoping I can find the time. Because this is shaping up to be one very busy year. I hope when Civ 5 comes out that I won’t still be avoiding C&C 4.


11 Comments so far ↓

  • Jon Gad

    Ultimately what you’re experiencing is prettty much the modern strategy gamer’s dilemma writ large.

    We don’t have enough time.

    And quite a few of us don’t have enough money, either.

    I love my strategy games, but I can’t play them all. Heck, I can’t even play a reasonable percentage of them.

    Which is why, of course, that I cherish this site and your podcast. It gives me an idea of what may be to my taste, and what would be a waste of my time and money.

    So thank you, my man, your sacrifices in the name of strategy gaming have not been forgotten!

  • Joseph Crook

    I respect your honesty and integrity Troy, don’t ever change.
    Most strategy gamers (IMO of course) are interested in in-depth reviews to their games, but unfortunately usually we get day of release or pre-release reviews from a guy who barely more than glanced at the game. People simply cannot review a 6 hour action game and a strategy game with loads more complexity in the same fashion, yet many do. I appreciate writers such as yourself, who take the genre seriously, and actually play the game in depth, even if you hate it. Also it sounds like you are pretty frustrated. Take heart my friend, soon you shall banish C&C 4 to the depths from whence it came. Or use it for a coaster.
    I will say that I feel for you, for being forced to play that terrible game that is C&C in name only. I admire your fortitude, because I couldn’t play for any stretch without getting completely disgusted and turning it off. I wonder how many people are hovering over the uninstall.exe as we speak? I hope you come out swinging in the review, I look forward to the spanking that it deserves. I must say, I have never hated a game this much, and that is saying a lot.
    Anyways, have yourself a great thursday, and be safe.

  • Hoo

    I’m been here off and on from the beginning! And I’m still waiting for my Nationals content, which I believe was an original idea for the blog before it became more strategy only.

    Your blog is more like a nice sweet liquor that is to be savored instead of rapidly consumed.

  • Nikolaj

    Just think how much worse it would be if you branched out from strategy games a bit. :D

    (and why aren’t you spending any of your time on the new Dwarf Fortress!?)

  • Mauricio

    Since you can’t cover everything on your own, why not split the effort?

    You have the makings of a strategy game review cabal here. Between the five of the regular panelists, you can probably cover every significant strategy title fairly soon after release, and in decent depth. We don’t need five separate reviews of C&C4, though maybe some games like Distant Worlds deserve attention from more than one of you.

    Of course, what you end up playing for fun (there is still time for fun, right?) is separate from this.

    And feel free to skip Settlers 7 while Ubisoft is still using that horrible DRM. :)

  • James Allen

    So…Scourge of War. Been playing the demo waiting for Monday’s evaluation copy. Seems to be too much like Take Command, plus multiplayer.

  • Javier-de-Ass

    Haha. Nice post. There are so many strategy games to play right now. I’ve got Anno 1404 Venice, Majesty 2 Kingmaker, Settlers 7 completely unplayed. Really looking forward to putting more time into Distant Worlds aswell, also on the want to put more time into list are For the Glory, Achtung Panzer Kharkov 1943 and Rise of Prussia. Ridiculous. Haven’t gotten around to checking out the latest patch for Hearts of Iron 3 yet. The only thing I’m actually putting my time into right now, no joke, is Stronghold. Hehe.

    Kind of getting interested in Making History 2 from the podcast mentions now also, luckily that isn’t out for over a month it seems. Oh wait actually there’s beta access for preorders. Hmmm.

    Oh yeah, my TMA mugger arrived today. Working quite well, here’s a photo http://i43.tinypic.com/352q62u.jpg

  • James Allen

    The game you are playing in the background made me think of only one thing:
    “MORE rations?! Why, thank you, sir!”

  • Troy


    Though the idea of a hydra headed Flash of Steel may sound appealing, the TMA panelists all have their own things. Tom has Fidgit, Julian has GWJ, Bruce has life saving and Rob has his own where he has every right to do his own branding – I like his writing very much and it makes sense for him to write his essays on his own space.

    No, I just need to manage my time better.

  • Roland Gunner

    You should form the Goodfellowship review list.

    You could have a list of strategy releases. Some you would review, other would have no review available, and a third option would be a link to a review you respect.

    There may be other sites that do things similar, but this list would have your trusted spin on it….

    Show the top 5 or 10 on your main page with others only 1 button away..

  • GJ

    Good idea to keep playing Distant Words. It really has a lot of potential (is named to be the rightful successor to MOO2, if Galciv2 wasn’t that already). In addition, the devs are really following the forums closely and releasing updates like crazy.