Episode 148 – Evil As An Elf

The latest episode of the Strange Assembly podcast is now available for download! Legend of the Five Rings 2014 GenCon Champion Case Kiyonaga stops by to talk about the tournament and the state of L5R.

Strange Assembly – Episode 148 – Evil As An Elf

5 thoughts on “Episode 148 – Evil As An Elf

  1. Not to suggest any sort of impropriety on anyone’s parts, but this episode brought a concern to mind that I’d had a while. I know that most of the top players in L5R know are friends, a lot of those people wind up on the rules or design teams, and people are generally friendly. But when I hear Case talking about being in the room when someone on the rules team was making a major decision, I’m wondering if the ‘we’re all friends here’ mentality is a detriment on the game. I wonder if it contributes to stuff like playtesters feeling like they can casually talk about upcoming sets at Koteis, or apocryphal tales about cards receiving errata after a top player all but threatens to exploit them at an upcoming tournament. When it feels like the game is becoming more and more military-centric at a time when higher-tier players are talking about how the game would be so much better if it were just military, I can’t help but be a little concerned about the fact that all of these people are so buddy-buddy and what that looks like.

    When the playtesting process produces unbalanced cards, did personal feelings affect the feedback or how it was received? When playtest files are leaked, did a leaky playtester seriously think ‘so-and-so on the design team is my friend, he won’t do anything to me’ or ‘so-and-so knows me well enough that if he wanted this secret he wouldn’t have given it to me’ before breaking NDA? And when someone does break NDA, what does it look like when it’s all handled internally but the leaks still happen? I can’t be the only one who wonders about these questions.

    Again, just for the record, I’m not accusing anyone of anything but my biggest worry is what effect the perception is having on the game. How many players has the game lost because they got the impression that sets are being made with the designers’ friends in mind? Even if nothing untoward is going on, am I the only one who thinks it looks a little unprofessional at times to have rules and design team guys casually identifying as members of the same named play groups?

    I’m not saying that these people can’t all be friends, can’t chat it up on the forums or anything like that. But I can’t be the only person who’d be a little more at ease if a token effort was made to make relations seem more professional. I know what it feels like to be able to see sweet gaming stuff that hasn’t come out yet, get excited, and have friends who’d appreciate really having a preview. I see some stuff in my freelancing work that would be so effing tempting to talk about. But one of the things that keeps me in the freelancer Rolodex is that I go to some effort to look like the sort of guy who respects confidentiality agreements.

    I just worry that the casual ‘we’re all friends here’/buddy-buddy interactions between developers and certain players makes it look really bad when those players are casually winning tournaments left and right and don’t seem to have to reinvent their play style on the fly like some folks. Even if there’s nothing going on (and I’m not saying there is, aside from a general lack of respect for playtest NDA), the perception can be a spawning pool of drama and frustration for the majority of players who don’t make the cut in most of their tournaments or get invited to hang in playgroups and secret forums frequented by developers.

    But I could very well be wrong and I probably am off on a few things. But it’s been a concern I’ve had about the L5R community for a while and listening to the interview brought it to mind. I’d like to have my mind put at ease, so I appreciate anyone’s thoughts on the subject. In any case, I have the wall of text off my chest now. Have a pleasant day and tip your wait staff.

    1. Well, I suppose my first question would be whether Case is a playtester. There are a lot of questions here that are about playtesters, but I wasn’t aware that Case was one (although he could be; it’s not like I monitor who they all are). Frankly, being involved in playtesting can make it harder to stay at the top of your game on the tournament scene (because you are spending a lot of time and energy testing cards that may never exist, and then by the time Set X becomes legal the actual environment rarely bears too close a resemblance to what it looked like in playtesting).

      I do have some comments. No, I don’t think a “we’re all friends here” attitude contributes to playtesters leaking (and I don’t think I’d really say that there’s a “we’re all friends here” attitude among playtesters in general – it’s entirely possible for individual playtesters to never have any interaction with Reese). To the extent it matters, it might easily make a particular playtester less likely to leak. If you actually perceive yourself as friends with Reese, then that leak is now a personal betrayal, not just a semi-pro one. I do agree that sometimes players casually talk at Kotei about upcoming sets; I just don’t think that the factor identified is a contributing one. What more could Reese do to stop leaks? That I don’t know either. The main reason that leaks continue to happen is because other L5R players aid and abet them. If a playtester is leaking PDFs or talking about upcoming sets at a Kotei, really the only thing that they get out of it is to be “cool” or the center of attention. If L5R players responded by immediately reporting the situation to Reese, then these incidents would not happen very much. Instead, people want that leaked information, and they feel like they have some sort of obligation to their buddy the leaker. I have seen people get actively pissed at the notion that they might provide any sort of information that might lead to a leaker being identified to Reese. And quite a few playtest teams over the years have gotten the axe because of a leak, so it’s not like action isn’t taken when he dose find out. If you think leaking is a problem (and it is), don’t blame Reese.

      As for tales of players threatening to exploit cards, thus resulting in errata … I suppose I would say good. Top player finds some broken exploit. Instead of ruining a tournament and securing a story prize, he does the “right thing” and tells the PDT about it. If they disagree, why wouldn’t he go and exploit it?

      I disagree that the game is becoming more and more military-centric. Honor, dishonor, and military have all had good decks this arc.

      Regardless, there is really no getting around “friendliness” at some level between the DT and some players. Are Reese and whoever forms the rest of the DT on a particular day simply supposed to not hang out with players? L5R is such a community, there aren’t really a terrible lot of options for playtest teams, and the material rewards for playtesting are not exactly massive. Was Reese just not supposed to hang out with other top players in the pacific northwest when he started running L5R design, instead of winning bunches of tournaments? Especially when after-the-fact feedback from top players seems like it can actually be a pretty handy tool when the DT is deciding whether some new card needs a nerf?

      Those are my thoughts, anyway.

      1. Fair enough, I’ll take your word for it on that, as I know you’re a lot more connected with the community than I am.

        And I didn’t mean to imply that Case was a playtester. It’s just more that hearing him talk about basically being there when people on the rules team were discussing the ban stirred up a few things. And I apologize, again, if it seemed like I was suggesting anything untoward in that particular situation. (And just for the record, any playtesting leaks I put squarely on the leakers, and I certainly didn’t mean to imply otherwise. I certainly don’t blame Reese for people who can’t respect what I assume is a basic confidentiality agreement.)

        Honestly, I’m not sure where half of my rambling came from. I’ve been a little dissatisfied with aspects of the game for a while and I think I was just having sort of a lashing-out moment because the stars aligned just right or something. I apologize if what probably started as blowing off some steam crossed a line.

  2. I guess I should clarify this:

    No, I am not on playtest, design, or rules team. The person there actually asked everyone in the room for their opinions about the card/cards in question, all of whom are top notch players. The type of discussion that went on in that room is actually *extremely* commonplace in almost all CCGS: design and playtest members ask top players for their opinions quite frequently. Also, it was one AEG team member asking for opinions from a group of players (none of whom are on playtest) and then discussing it with the rest of the team and making a decision (a discussion and decision none of the players in the room were privy to until it was actually posted).

    On the other note, while I personally would like the game to be super military centric, crane honor and crab/scorpion dishonor really shaped the environment for gencon: they were strong enough that players had to be able to beat them which is why unicorn was so popular (it beat honor and dishonor silly). Many players in the main event of gencon went with unicorn because of that and that caused another environment shift to decks that beat unicorn. Strength of honor, dishonor, and military go in waves: it just so happened that at this gencon, military was at a peak and honor and dishonor were at a trough. Additionally, the most recent set was almost purely an honor set while the previous set was primarily a military set. The metagame always changes in waves almost regardless of how strong the archetypes actually are.

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