Flash of Steel header image 2

2011 Can Bite Me: End of Year Reflections

December 10th, 2011 by Troy Goodfellow · 12 Comments · Awards, Blogs, Me

Friends and acquaintances and colleagues know that the last couple of years have been pretty rough for me. Two Christmases ago, my father died. Last winter, my personal life underwent a great upheaval that is still not settled. And this year, a new job took me away from strategy gaming as intently as I once did. Throw in a big move, live trauma, family crises, evening contracts, desires to try new things and the like and 2011 will go down as the year I most needed but also the one I most want to go away.

This has been a problem for the blog, of course. Though the National Character series and podcast brought many, many new readers, Flash of Steel has been in a weird place. The promised video series has been stalled (but is not dead), I blog about fewer new games since I am in a sampling place more than a drinking deeply place, and my gaming reflections have become more general and more abstract – this is where someone should end their thoughts, not begin them.

As I think on my personal strategy gaming year, I think about:

1) Still playing a lot of Civilization 5 even though it is inferior in many important ways to Civilization 4. Civ 5 has its own bits of genius, but shouldn’t I be sticking with the best complete version?

2) Playing through Tropico 4, even though it is a whimsical city builder of little challenge and an overabundance of personality. It’s a quality product with a challenge level aimed right at the mass consumer audience, even though its theme isn’t exactly mainstream. And it’s still too easy to be a nice guy. But I finished it and enjoyed it.

3) Watching the development of a 4x game from the inside of my job and dealing with the challenges of publicizing a game in a subgenre of a genre that doesn’t really “show” well without amazing assets and dramatic video. Finding “hooks” for strategy games isn’t that easy.

4) Watching the early stages of a card playing/RPG and being amazed at how simple aesthetics in the hands of a skilled designer can have people begging for more.

5) Panzer Corps and how it brought back old memories – good and bad – of a game design that is a little bit stale in many ways, even as the game itself remains rewarding for a shrinking audience of “casual WW2 tank pushers”.

6) Seeing the podcast grow, change and thrive under my friend Rob Zacny’s guidance. It hasn’t all been smooth, but I am confident I did the right thing. When I win the lottery, it comes back to me, but he’s my equal here.

7) Not playing Anno 2070 at all or Six Gun Saga as much as I wanted or even buying a bunch of wargames that I should know. Intimately. Days are too short, my mind too old.

8.) Telling stories about my experiences in the Crusader Kings 2 preview and getting laughs and questions from non-strategy gamers. Still very much a Paradox game, but built for story tellers.

9) Buying the Korean DLC for Civ 5 because I am a sap.

10) Doing consulting on board game development because it sounded cool and then realizing how out of my depth I am, but loving the process.

So yeah. 10 points.

My job in PR makes it very, very difficult for me to do the usual End of Year Awards thing. To exclude a priori games that I worked with would not be fair to them and would set the precedent that I could never mention how good I thought Anomaly Warzone Earth was. Including them introduces the opposite problem – what is marketing and what is truth? I hope that the work I will be doing this month will give you some idea what games I played, liked and disliked and why without mentioning a lot of names, but this is the time of year for Awards and Honours.

So I decided to Award and Honour my friends and colleagues. I sent an invitation to a number of peers in journalism, blogging, development and life to write guest posts on their strategy gaming reflections from 2011. Some could not do it, but I am happy with the ones that said they could.

Some didn’t answer at all, and Santa knows where they live.

For the next few weeks, you will be seeing guest posts from people whose writing and opinions I respect. Some of the names will be familiar, some not, but all are people I wanted to help make the end of 2011 at Flash of Steel something worth visiting.

No awards from me. No prizes. No Best/Worst.

Just some writing and opinions. Which is sort of the point anyway.


12 Comments so far ↓

  • Jack Taylor

    Well, you’re still a pretentious tool. At least you can hang your hat on that.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Well, it’s something.

  • Iain Cheyne

    Keep going Troy. You’re doing a great job.

  • JonathanStrange

    You got to find a simple game and play it to death. That’ll shake the gaming blues.

    Either that or start drinking heavily like us SOTS gamers.

  • JohnR

    Well-said as always Troy. I hear you about 2011 being largely a wash. It was for me as well. I would add though that I think Civ5 is the best Civ since Civ2. Sorry, but I hated Civ4. Religion is game-skewing, and I always hated those monster unit stacks. Love Panzer Corps (mostly due to the RPG elements), but it can be most annoying when you see the great military machine you so painstakingly built in 1939-43 get thoroughly trashed in 1944-45. I think the best games in 2011 are Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and my heavily modded Fallout: New Vegas. ;o)

  • skshrews

    Interesting that Troy seemed not to comment on one trend his podcast highlighted: the surprising persistence of strategy board games. To me, this was the story of strategy gaming in 2011.

    Maybe the numbers don’t approach PC gaming levels, but the fact that strategy board games still draw the attention they do is amazing, nearly 30 years after the invention of the PC.

  • Troy Goodfellow

    Their surprising persistence isn’t really a 2011 story in general, nor honestly a surprise to me at this point.

    But there will be some board game stuff in the blog posts!

  • Michael A.

    Having gone through a rough period some years ago, Troy, I can only refer you to that well-worn but true cliche: What doesn’t kill you (or break you down), makes you stronger.

    Still the best strategy game blog on the web. Looking forward to the end of year/start of year posts.

  • Huxley

    Looking forward to the guest posts.

    But Troy; I still want to hear you discuss Crusader kings 2 soon! I dont care that you work for paradox, I still want to hear your thoughts!

    And perhaps some discussion on the podcast of Sword of the stars 2 as well? Im holding off till it gets patched, but would like to hear you guy’s thoughts on it then.


  • Ginger Yellow

    Dude, play Anno 2070. Best. Citybuilder. Ever.

  • Felix Threepaper

    I hope things look up for you soon, Mr Goodfellow.

    While 2011 has had its low points, for me it was the year I discovered 3MA, so that’s a big plus.

    3MA has expanded my strategy interests beyond Civ games and influenced my purchasing like no other games media.

    You guys got me into games that I would otherwise have overlooked or not even heard about, from the old school (Panzer General, Jagged Alliance, Heroes of Might & Magic, even Patrician ffs) to the indie stuff like Hegemony, one of my favourite games of the year.

    I fear where this will end up — probably with a bunch of board games or Paradox games.

    Merry Christmas, best wishes for 2012 and thank you for your writing and podcasting this year.

  • zipdrive

    I’d like to hear more on that board game consulting gig, if possible.