An open letter regarding Sentinel Tactics Wave 2 transparency

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fenianb
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An open letter regarding Sentinel Tactics Wave 2 transparency

An open letter regarding Sentinel Tactics Wave 2 transparency
This has been emailed to Paul Bender as well as posted in GTG's Sentinel Tactics forum and on my Facebook page. A general summary timeline follows
 
I saw the newsletter yesterday (Feb 7, 18) regarding Sentinels of Freedom, a turn-based story-driven computer game being developed with Underbite Games, and initially thought a new direction was being taken for Sentinel Tactics, that tangible progress was being announced. I was disappointed to see that while sounding similar the game would be based off of Sentinel Comics: The Role Playing Game. I write this letter to express how I feel at this point regarding Sentinel Tactics and Greater Than Games. I am not trying to accuse of any action by GTG but rather am only trying to express how things are perceived by me in hopes you will provide greater transparency in the game’s progress.
 
To me Sentinel Tactics and Sentinels of Freedom sound very much alike. Sentinel Tactics is a turn based game with “many  specific  scenarios  to  play  through,  each  of  which  tells stories  of  the  Multiverse". Compare that with “Sentinels of Freedom is a turn-based digital tactical game ... a story-driven campaign ... within the Sentinel Comics universe”. The major difference (besides tabletop versus computer) is that Tactics is PvP with skirmishing outside of scenarios, while SoF is player versus engine (PvE) with the computer-controlled villains, and no details about PvP or other options are yet available. It feels to me like Tactics continues to be the red-headed stepchild of the Sentinel Comics games. Multiverse Month after Multiverse Month it gets banished to the scullery, and now it will be late to the ball after OblivAeon, Sentinels of Freedom, and Sentinel Comics RPG fill the prince’s dance card.
 
Maps for Tactics bought in the original Kickstarter are still waiting on promised scenarios. Pre-orders for Tactics expansions were completed almost three years ago. Since then Greater Than Games has produced a significant amount of unrelated game material for other products through Kickstarters, individual development, merger with Dice Hate Me Games, and in coordination with various other game companies. We see your other campaigns progress from funding to development to printing to delivery with regular updates given to customers. Meanwhile no concrete progress is given on Sentinel Tactics, either its playstyle, rules, or gameworld information. This makes me feel like our money was taken by GTG and used to fund other endeavors while no one felt obligated to complete this. Christopher Badell’s regular response to questions 'it is in production, it will be ready when it is ready, you can ask for a refund’ was in my opinion concise and succinct at first when the change to Wave 2 was announced a year and a half ago. Now it feels to me as though it has become rote, flip, and dismissive of your customers’ concerns. Your responses, while more empathetic, likewise say nothing more.
 
To me Tactics Wave 2 seems to have been relegated to a line item carried over on the State of GTG from month to month, with only the least effort being considered due diligence in attempting to fulfill promised material to your customers. It appears as a company you do little to indicate you have any interest in it or to promote the game. I can understand if no one in development has been inspired to revamp the game or if it just didn’t come together over time. In that event I think the reasonable thing to do would have been to announce that and refund your customers. Instead I feel that you have amortized the refunds over time as individual customers get fed up with waiting for the promised product. I no longer participate in other campaigns associated with GTG because of what I see as a failure to deliver in this matter, and a practiced indifference to inform us of progress.
 
I do not think it is unreasonable at this point for us to expect a level of transparency in the development process equal to your other game campaigns. We were originally told several times that Broken City and For Profit were proceeding well. Then since the change to Wave 2 we have received next to no progress reports, just promises of delivery someday with an undefined extra for sticking with it. Because Greater Than Games organized this funding outside of Kickstarter there is none of the normal accountability and obligation to inform one would expect, with your company’s KS reputation at risk. I’d ask that you consider even providing a fraction of the transparency you do for other games and campaigns. I would suggest the first update consist of describing in greater detail what has been going on with this product for these past years in order to restore some measure of confidence in Greater Than Games’ honesty and ability to deliver.
 
Yours Sincerely,

Patrick Dorsey


fenianb
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This is a general summary of Greater Than Games production dates I have assembled since Sentinel Tactics original Kickstarter concluded.

April 2014 original Sentinel Tactics Kickstarter funded, including add-on maps which were supposed to have scenarios to be used with them. Update on KS in Oct 2015 said scenarios to be distributed in downloadable format due to printing issues. No scenarios released to date.

Jan 14, 2015 Villains of the Multiverse for SotM announced. Broken City and For Profit for Sentinel Tactics announced.
Mar 2015 pre-orders for Villains, Broken City and For Profit ended. Expected delivery to be by end of 2015.
Villains begins shipping Dec 28, 2015.
Positive notes regarding Tactics progress were given in various news posts. Jan 2016 announced delays for Broken City and For Profit, expected delivery updated to early 2017.
Aug 2016 notice given that Broken City and For Profit will be postponed, and Wave 2 of Sentinel Tactics with initial releases of Prime War and Rise of the Ennead announced.
April 2017 Paul said OblivAeon would need to go to printers before any further progress could be reviewed. In Dec 2017 after OblivAeon went to printers Paul advised they had had a major Tactics meeting in Nov. The hope was for something to demo by GenCon. In Jan 2018 Paul advised they had a week of intensive work on Tactics in December. Christopher said in LiveStream test this week that files were recently sent to volunteer playtesters.

Since the map add-ons from the original Tactics Kickstarter as well the conclusion of pre-orders for Broken City and For Profit GTG has had a number of games developed and successful Kickstarters, for example:
May 2015 Sentinels of the Multiverse RPG announced. Sentinels Comics RPG Starter Kit was released Nov 2017.
Mar 2016 SotM OblivAeon Kickstarter funded, currently printing, delivery expected by latest July 2018
July 2016 Exoplanets (No. Amer. version) Kickstarter funded, game has since been completed and delivered
Aug 2016 Fate of the Elder Gods Kickstarter funded, game has been since completed and delivered
Oct 2016 Spirit Island Kickstarter funded, game has since been completed and delivered
Nov 2016 Lazer Ryderz Kickstarter funded, game has since been completed and delivered

Since pre-orders for Broken City and For Profit closed GTG has also merged with Dice Hate Me (Feb 2015). There have been multiple Kickstarters under that name also funded and delivered or in process, as well Sentinels of Earth Prime with Green Ronin, Sentinels RPG with Critical Hits Studios, assorted video game productions with Handelabra, the upcoming Sentinels of Freedom with Underbite Games, and various cancelled or unfunded projects.

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@fenianb

We are actively working on Prime War, and will definitely be posting more information about it and its progress when it comes available. We have had a ton of difficulty and anxiety relating to Sentinel Tactics, more than any other project we have contemplated or released. We had several false starts, including several version of Broken City and Prime War that were developed for a long time and then reached a dead end. We are continuing to work through it to deliver a product to you that we are proud of. Here are a few truths that I am able to share:

  1. We have high confidence in the iteration of Prime War currently on the playtesting forum.
  2. We will definitely produce Prime War once we fully confident in the state of the game.
  3. We definitely understand if you have lost confidence in Prime War, and will give you a full refund if you preordered Broken City.
  4. We will announce a lot more details about Prime War as soon as we are fully confident that we are telling you true things about the path forward.
  5. We will not announce anything about Prime War until we are fully confident that we are telling you true things about the path forward.

“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” ~Obi-Wan Kenobi

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Also, Sentinels of Freedom isn't related gameplay-wise to any other product.  It uses familiar Sentinels characters, as they appear in the RPG, but it's a completely unique system that would be a bear at best to translate to a physical product.  It's also being developed almost entirely by a third party--Christopher is writing story and Adam is acting as art director, but they aren't developing, playtesting, etc.  Its existence isn't pushing back Sentinel Tactics or any other >G product by any notable amount.


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I feel like 4 & 5 on Paul's list are important after recent convos I've had elsewhere. It's hard to be transparent when history has shown that people will completely flip their lids if they're ever given a timeframe or any other sort of info that turns out to be rendered wrong by unexpected events.

Also to go with MindWanderer's post, GTG is a business. Many of the things on your list were developed by people other than Christopher and Adam or require only partial involvement and so have zero effect on Prime War development other than generating money for GTG so GTG can stay open. Likewise, OblivAeon and the RPG were always planned projects and have proven likehood of being financially successful, so it wouldn't be a good plan to completely stop them for the sake of Prime War development.

Between this and the usual OblivAeon-related reactions, I increasingly wish people would understand that while you have a right to be disappointed, there are sometimes reasons why things are the way they are that are not "excuses" or "GTG just being rotten to its fans" and that complaining can't do much to change. Because the constant complaining--particularly since a lot of it is often hostilely-toned to boot--is creating a toxic and unfun atmosphere that's risking putting me off from the fandom.

Like after we already had a couple hostile aggressive questions as it is during the OblivAeon Kickstarter test, I'm wondering if I even want to go to the Q&A because I'm worried that any interesting discussion about the actual content of the product will be drowned out by the usual hostility from people saying the same complaints they always drown into just about every update.


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Admittedly, I've also had that thought about the Q&A...

Jeysie
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I mean, over on Reddit I had a convo in a thread about the update where after I asked if the people complaining could maybe give it a rest because it's getting to be annoyingly unproductive and unjustly aggressive at this point, people rushed in to defend their "right" to be hostile toned and continue to make the same complaints over and over (including saying they want "apologies" that GTG has actually already made, for issues GTG has already addressed), and then claimed I was "attacking" them for giving them any sort of criticism along with other chastisements and downvotes aimed at me.

So... yeah. I don't think I'm being paranoid, I feel like I have honest reason to worry that people might show up to be toxic and then pitch a fit if they're asked to not do that, since that literally already happened.

Heck, I've also had people pitch fits at me when asked to not drown out the Letters Page threads with negativity, too. Like, I'm just starting to not want to come to the fandom any more if I have to wade through regular negativity to reach positive topics and then get constant pot shots taken at me whenever I ask if maybe we could change the mood ratio to something less oppressing.


"If life gives you lemons, make a lemon cannon."

Not always the best at social skills; I apologize in advance. I don't apologize for any corny and morbid jokes, though.

Resident Argent Adept and Biomancer fangirl, be forewarned.

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I'm going. I'm planning on trying to drown _them_ out and otherwise ignoring them. cool


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I'm not too worried about negativity in the Live Q&A thing next Tuesday. I'm pretty good at shutting down that sort of thing when it's in person, and this is close to that. We shall see, though! The trolls, they may be many... but I am not afraid.


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Just remember, folks, Christopher's favorite question to answer is which hero he likes playing the most. wink

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Now that's trolling! :V

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Paul wrote:

@fenianbWe are actively working on Prime War, and will definitely be posting more information about it and its progress when it comes available. We have had a ton of difficulty and anxiety relating to Sentinel Tactics, more than any other project we have contemplated or released. We had several false starts, including several version of Broken City and Prime War that were developed for a long time and then reached a dead end. We are continuing to work through it to deliver a product to you that we are proud of. Here are a few truths that I am able to share:We have high confidence in the iteration of Prime War currently on the playtesting forum.We will definitely produce Prime War once we fully confident in the state of the game.We definitely understand if you have lost confidence in Prime War, and will give you a full refund if you preordered Broken City.We will announce a lot more details about Prime War as soon as we are fully confident that we are telling you true things about the path forward.We will not announce anything about Prime War until we are fully confident that we are telling you true things about the path forward.

 

Thank you for your response. While not giving any particulars you have answered me in general. I feel better for having communicated my sentiments clearly. I hope for more in the future as it comes available.

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Christopher wrote:

I'm not too worried about negativity in the Live Q&A thing next Tuesday. I'm pretty good at shutting down that sort of thing when it's in person, and this is close to that. We shall see, though! The trolls, they may be many... but I am not afraid.

 

I regret that you feel my original post is close to trolling. While I hoped to elicit more information regarding the development process I do not intend to cause and promote conflict. I was very specific in expressing these are my feelings and perceptions regarding this game's development and how it has been communicated to us. I tried to express clearly why I had these impressions. I did not demand but rather requested and suggested more transparency and communication. I have done so in what I thought was a polite manner in the appropriate forum. In the past I think have tried to remain at minimum polite and open to communcation. If I have failed in that regard I apologize. If you can recommend of another method to publicly express my feelings on this matter, please let me know.

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Christopher wasn’t talking about you specifically but about the possibility on the Live Q&A


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fenianb wrote:

 

Christopher wrote:
I'm not too worried about negativity in the Live Q&A thing next Tuesday. I'm pretty good at shutting down that sort of thing when it's in person, and this is close to that. We shall see, though! The trolls, they may be many... but I am not afraid.

 

 I regret that you feel my original post is close to trolling.

When Christopher wrote 'this is close to that', I think he meant that a Q&A is close to in person.


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Andy and Powerhound understand my writing much better than most!


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Christopher wrote:

Andy and Powerhound understand my writing much better than most!

Thank you for clarifying.

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Thank you---both to OP for raising the issues and to gtg for replying.

I'm glad to hear the system is coming along.

I'm sorry the vexed customers are causing stress--but you have to admit that if you say "The scenarios are all done but we decided not to print them on the maps themselves because they would be illegible" and then never share them at all, well it doesn't exactly inspire trust.

I get it, the system is changing and you want scenarios that work with the new system.  That could be great...someday.  For now though, it's not just a Prime War thing.  It's the original kickstarter still not being complete.  It's these four weird shaped boxes that take an awkward chunk of shelf space.

It would be nice to know if the real situation is "we have some great scenarios they just have to be brought in line with the new rules" or if it's more like "well really the reason we didn't print the scenarios is they were a mess and nobody really knows what to do with those maps so we will hopefully try to do something with them someday but it's a sort of an intellectually 'unfunded obligation' at this point rather like the Ogre Nightfall stuff"  I don't think confirmation of the latter would freak anyone out at this point.  I mean, that's how it seems, and sometimes kickstarter things don't work out, that's part of the deal.  But it would certainly be nice to know how things stand.

 

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It is situation #1! Since we'll be altering the system, we don't want to release anything more under the old one.


“Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” ~Obi-Wan Kenobi