by special guest writer Terence Jason Dorman
Due to complications with the Internet in Ken’s particular part of Florida, he asked me to fill in for him for this month’s edition of Let’s Build Something. I only became aware of his situation late last night, hence the lateness of this update as I only just wrote it this morning. Anyways, on with the blarg!
A few years ago during the heyday of Tenacious Games, there was a major discussion regarding the card Emergency Obfuscation. At the time, a deck emerged that was designed by some of the top players. It quickly became tournament viable and extremely popular. A problem arose, however, due to the fact that the deck created a very un-fun situation for anyone playing against the deck. In essence, the player running the Emergency Obfuscation deck would have complete control of the game, so much so that he would literally be taking his opponent’s turns for him.
This obviously created a massive problem as nobody ever wanted to play against the deck as it was not fun. Sure, losing usually isn’t fun regardless of what deck you are playing against, but at least you had the chance to play the game. Emergency Obfuscation removed that option and effectively turned a game in which two players brought their own decks to play against each other into one in which two players would bring their own decks and one player would play both.
Following the popularity of this deck, Josh Lytle, the gentleman who designed this wonderful game and was former Rules and Lead R&D Designer, created an open forum in which to discuss whether or not the card (Emergency Obfuscation) should be errata’d or banned.
The purpose of this blarg isn’t to discuss the decision that was made (banned) or the arguments for or against that particular card, but instead to talk about how I personally look at the issue of errata vs. ban. It is an extremely tricky issue and no matter what designers choose, they usually end up appeasing only a portion of the player base. I, of course, am not a designer of this game, but I was for a short period of time, so I like to think my opinion is valid enough to be written for this Blarg that is usually written by the Lead Designer.
I, personally, am always in the favor of errata. To me it makes much more sense to have every card a player can open in a pack still be usable, even if they may have to look online to see how that card may have changed. I understand that a lot of players don’t want to have to keep up with an “Errata List” or “Most Recent Printing” list, but almost every successful major game (Magic included) has one of these lists, so that issue kind of fizzles for me.
One of my favorite ways to handle errata was the system Decipher used with their Star Wars game. When a card needed an errata, such as the situation with Asteroid Sanctuary, players could mail their incorrect copies of the card to the company and Decipher would mail them back the same numbered of the errata’d version. This probably hurt Decipher’s profits a bit, but it did wonders for their player/customer relations, plus it was a pretty handy solution to the problem.
Of course, this system only works assuming a game doesn’t have a ton of erratas. This burden falls on the shoulders of the designers, and thankfully The Spoils has a great team of designers that will create a game in which errata shouldn’t be much of an issue. In fact, throughout the history of The Spoils, there are only a handful of cards that I can think of that have had wording changes, and those were rectified via promos and/or Second Edition.
Despite the examples given above about how errata could be handled, there are still some who will not agree with me. This is natural, of course, but let me make one more point that I think really hits the nail on the head when it comes to my opinion of errata in card gaming.
With the advent of massive online gaming and platforms such as Xbox Live, Steam, and PlayStation Network, game designers now have the ability to patch their games via downloadable updates. This didn’t exist until very recently, so if a game had a glitch or bug prior to this new technology, it just existed in the game forever. Now, however, designers can go back (if they so choose) and fix their games via patches. It has become so commonplace that we accept it as part of video gaming culture. Sure, nobody likes glitches or bugs in our brand new $60 game, but there is always the potential for it to be fixed, which there wasn’t before.
This is how I view erratas, like a patch. As such, I see no reason to ban cards when they can simply be fixed. Yes, there would obviously be a discussion about how to distribute the “patched” cards or make the information available to players, but that isn’t my main point. My main point, as you probably guessed, is that I favor errata over ban and can only see myself favoring ban in VERY specific and overpowered situations.
For reference, I did not consider the Emergency Obfuscation combo one that warranted banning and I was in favor of errata.
What do you think of the errata vs ban debate? Discuss!