Originally published at: http://statelyplay.com/2018/05/02/what-the-x-wing-2-0-announcement-didnt-announce/
Fantasy Flight, the Angel Cordero*
successfully flogging that Star Wars license to win after win, have announced that their immensely popular X-Wing line of prepainted tabletop miniatures will be getting a new edition
. Lest my fellow players of the existing game crack their screens in frustration, all existing ships will be supported with a conversion kit, so those of us who've sunk hundreds of dollars into the first edition won't be left behind by organized play and new releases. Naturally, we can always play the edition we have, but that's still a comfort. There's a (by X-Wing standards) modest cost to upgrade, and it looks like small ships are headed for a price hike, but the goals announced seem pretty desirable, so it's more defensible than some routes to our wallets. It sounds like they're aiming to make the game substantially more responsive to balance problems while making it easier to build ship lists, avoid having to buy everything, offer a greater variety of play styles, and tweak some of the decisions they now regard as limiting both their design space and ability to accurately represent the world of Star Wars. But none of that's what caught my eye.
See, the way they're implementing a lot of this is with a companion app. It's already set to accomplish a lot of useful stuff, and you can get a half-hour of insight into much of that and the second edition in this friendly Team Covenant interview with Fantasy Flight's Andrew Navarro
. But if you advance to 27:09, you hear Navarro say this:
I think the thing I'm most excited about … [are] the opportunities that now exist in organized play to really do some fun, interesting things, and to mix it up, and play around in that … playground we're creating with the app. I think that should make it a lot of fun. Because I know there's lot of alternate, variant formats out there that exist in a bootleg fashion that are really fun, and that we're taking, we're doing something in a more official capacity, I think is great. … We're kind of giving it our blessing with the app, to say, 'No, yeah, you can do all these things, and we're behind you with it; we'll help support you.
So, two things: first, that sounds like Valve talking about Half-life mods. When players are investing so heavily in the hardware to play, it's extremely appealing to try and cultivate for them the equivalent of Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Day of Defeat, and Natural Selection all playable with the same pieces. There are radically diverse options here, it's not all simple Goldeneye Big Head Mode-style tweaks (though there's no reason you couldn't do something that simple, like combat in a shield-reducing ion cloud). Second, what's announced so far doesn't fully accomplish that goal.
[caption id="attachment_4919" align="aligncenter" width="4032"]
A dice-based AI for enemies. I usually play with an eight-year-old, so they pass the Turing test in my house.[/caption]
What the app (or website) currently does is essentially help with setup, making it easy to keep ship lists legal and balanced according to Fantasy Flight's best current understanding of play. I don't recall seeing mention of particular setups yet, but it could easily include those and objectives to expand the game beyond deathmatch, and that seems implicit in Navarro's description. What Fantasy Flight haven't mentioned is anything which would make possible something like the single existing user-created alternative play mode about which I've heard most: the co-operative campaign Heroes of the Aturi Cluster. Given Fantasy Flight Interactive's recent release of the Star Wars: Imperial Assault app which allows AI-controlled play, it's obviously on their minds as a desirable feature. If this feature were present, the confirmation of its inclusion would be seen by a significant portion of the player base as a substantial source of value in the new edition (which, being a change, is naturally attracting early opposition from numerous vocal internet commenters). So I assume they'd prefer to mention it now to ensure as positive a reception as possible if they felt they could.
The hypothesis I cherish is that they are working on an unannounced feature for the app: ARKit-powered omission of physical measurement. They could simplify this for themselves by quantizing the play space (as HeX-Wing does, perhaps also selling a branded hex-map with some new chipboard terrain to support the campaign), or just go all the way to something like DialVision, allowing players to use that magic window in their pockets to see where ships will be. Basically, I just don't like fussing with range rulers and movement templates, and the technology exists to let me skip that while also putting enemy ships under the control of an app-based AI in a co-op or solo campaign. So the desire is the mother of the hope. Hoping for a good way to play Twilight Struggle for years only to have Playdek play genie of the ring has ruined my resistance to wishful thinking. I mean, I also married way out of my league and have healthy children almost perfectly conforming to my hopes while writing about games in whatever way I want on the side, but we all know it was Twilight Struggle that put me over the top.
So, that's the speculation of a purely casual player with no idea what the current organized play situation is like.
*: My dad was a high school teacher, so he was free to work summers at Saratoga Race Track selling tickets. I'm deeply ambivalent about horse racing, but it's enough a part of my culture that I'm perversely proud to advertise that I remember the name of an admittedly dominant jockey from my youth.