The Necrotechs Workshop: LXV – CID Should Stay Dead

It’s been a while! NOVA is over, the new themes have come out, RiotQuest has been released, Oblivion has come, and the WTC is over. With WFW just a few weeks away, I figured it was time to talk about my favorite topic in the game: CID.

It is likely no secret, but I’ll be clear about it right up front: I hate CID, and I hate it in almost every way that it can be disliked. There are clearly some few benefits that come from the system, but overall it is complete trash, and if it ever does come back, it’ll return as a blight upon the game. Optimistically, I think this is the time to let it fade into the darkness and let the beast that should not be, die.

The Damage has been Wrought

Unfortunately, I think CID is a permanent fixture in the Warmachine and Hordes landscape, and the game is worse for its existence, both in premise and in product.

We’ve had two years (or more, the site is down and I can’t double-check my facts for certain) of CID experience, and there are specific behaviors of CID, and the process that both requires it and feeds it like an ouroboros. It breeds conspiracy theories and distrust, it encourages bad feedback by creating a screaming echo chamber, it is no more balanced than the previous versions of the game, and all the while it discourages many players and feedback providers from participating both in the game and in The CID process. I’ll go a little into my thoughts on each.

Breeding Distrust

One of the ugliest things that I see involving CID is a constant conspiracy theory surrounding players in the feedback process being deceitful and not playing to the needs of a playtest environment. There are continual discussions, at nearly every event I attend from large conventions to games in my basement, about how certain players withhold feedback on a given model or provide extra feedback on a specific model, or who have the ability to manipulate results to achieve a specific goal.

This is a self-destructive and continuous problem that has plagued the playtest from the start, and was present even in the MKII field test way, way back in time. These theories allege that specific portions of the community participate in deceitful practices within the CID boards.

It is alleged that a specific portion of the community will ensure that a certain model, often one that is deemed too strong, receives less feedback than other models in the same cycle, specifically when that cycle is large. This attempts to ensure, through a vacuum of specific information, that the model is released as powerful as it can. This is generally accompanied by a few especially vocal CID providers shouting down all who suggest nerfs to the model with disingenuous posts and arguments.

it also alleges that the same section of the community will overwhelmingly call out models that are likely fine or slightly underpowered, and hammer home feedback to have them buffed, crowding the spotlight, crying for assistance, and generally inundating the system with as many attempts to get the model buffed as is humanly possible within the system. These attempts are hammered home by the same vocal CID providers who are able to monopolize the conversation and direct it towards their pet models.

Lastly, I’ve heard whispers of people knowing how to use the feedback form just so, or who can word their battle reports just so in order to achieve a very specific goal, be it either of the two above topics or, in some times, to cry for nerfs against a specific model that they dislike. This is harder to quantify but is just as damaging as the prior accusations. Things like solo battle reports, games played to clearly achieve a specific end, and other methods of manipulating the data towards an end that isn’t a fair, balanced, and enjoyable game are worrisome.

While all of the above may be believed, there is nothing to say that the above tactics are successful, are actually performed, or that the developers at privateer press aren’t able to see absolutely through their attempts. None of that truly matters, though. Instead, the simple concept of these things happening has eroded at the core community of the game, pitting players against each other in a blame game and conspiratorial us against them that breeds bad experiences. Whispers against specific player bases, of subverting the system, and of breaking the trust of the game are damaging no matter what.

Encouraging Bad Feedback

All of the above and more, however, is compounded by the fact that the CID boards are of a sort that encourages poor feedback, and that this poor feedback is amplified by the fact that Privateer press does little outside of posturing to quell any bad feedback, creating fertile ground for these conspiracy theories to breed.

By staying hands-off, not actively engaging and discouraging bad feedback, and allowing the CID forums to self-police, Privateer is encouraging bad feedback. One of the truths about the internet is that anonymity breeds trolls, and in the CID forums, your anonymity is preserved. Privateer needs to, if they want to continue this doomed experiment, actively destroy anything that looks like a bad faith post, battle report, or feedback form, and they need to do it publicly. It felt like there was a strong effort at the very beginning of the CID concept, but it also felt that it quickly petered out. Specific participants have been allowed to participate even through continuous violations of numerous posting guidelines and repeated belittling and berating of other feedback providers in the guise of being “honest.” as the resident brutally honest individual, I cannot see them being allowed to continue their participation, as there are many – especially in a game development forum – ways of properly expressing opinions without being a complete shit.

I do remember a moment where Privateer mentioned that they don’t let those types of providers feedback count, as it allows them to see the arguments made against these blowhards. This is specifically short-sighted as arguing against people who refuse to acknowledge differing opinions is a futile effort that all reasonable people abandon swiftly.

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A Discouraging Word

All of these specific problems create a system that is difficult to engage in in the easiest of times, and off-putting most of the time. I have had multiple conversations with players who are discouraged from participating in the feedback system via CID because of these issues, and many of them are good, solid players who would have valuable feedback for the company. Instead, these players, which to be transparent includes me, abandon the CID process because it is more fatiguing to engage than it is participating and helping to shift the game in a positive direction.

This has a compounding effect when you combine the lack of desire to engage with the CID system with the absolutely miserable method of production and release that the company either chose to take or were forced to take due to the CID system. Unlike the anthology books of old, specific factions are gifted releases all at once, and are able to vault to the top of the Warmachine pecking order, creating a very toxic and abrasive meta that, in addition to being meticulously precise and scenario-driven, is also revolving around a release schedule that creates new “gotcha” scenarios every few months. While they may have seemed true of the last system, it is nowhere close to the absolute madness we find ourselves in today. With the old system, it felt like releases would be built with each other in mind in order to advance the meta in one big stride. Sometimes, they would miss the mark and we would end up with a strange meta for a bit, but that became the meta and innovators would look towards how to subvert and defeat that meta. Now, the innovation is so short-lived, and the gotcha cycle so intense that there seems to be no reprieve. There are, of course, perennial casters who are able, through their sheer power, to persist cycle to cycle, but that is an exception – much like the casters able to do the same in the previous iterations of the game.

This constant gotcha cycle and need to keep up with the CID system in order to understand the game as a whole has succeeded in driving out all but the most dedicated players. I, too, have been shoved to the side by my inability to keep up with CID. I have, once again, had numerous conversations with players who enjoyed the game but weren’t top tier competitors who have decided to put away the game because they can never become familiar enough with a large enough segment of the game to be confident. Their is a growing and pervasive thought that in order to play Warmachine, you have to be involved in the CID process, which is both something that not everyone likes, and not something that should feel like a requirement to play the game.

All for Naught

All of these problems, all of the issues that come with CID would be worth it if it accomplished the goal it set out to accomplish. It would be worth the pain if the game came out better, stronger, and fairer through the rigors of screaming debate, reasoned listening, and player dissociation. The game would be in a better place for it, and the sacrifices would have been for a purpose.

That, however, is not the case. Throughout the system, Privateer Press has continued to release models strongly on both sides of the balance fence, with specific releases being especially damaging to both the meta and the balance of the game, with a few even feeding into the above topics. These imbalances are not helped by the exhaustingly short CID cycle for each release set, pushing through changes sometimes before playtesting ( and clearly in response to the theory and list crafting forums) can get underway, and many times initiating strong changes to models with a condensed timeline before input was closed.

These poisonous practices that PP has gotten itself into have backed them into a miserable corner. CID is clearly a part of the nature of the company now, even though it is a corrosive and toxic force. The asymmetrical release schedule which was once the domain of other systems and PP’s Anthology books were used as a selling point against these very circumstances that have warped the game into something that feels intrinsically different than it did even 3 years ago. Combined with the processes inability to produce a better balanced and stronger system than prior to the balance, sowing mistrust among the players that remain and alienating players unable to keep pace with the grueling and unpredictable testing cycles, I really think that Privateer Press should take a long, hard look at completely killing the CID cycle, returning to Anthology release books for each game no more than once a year, and preserving what little credibility it has left in this area.

I don’t assume to know all the answers. I only know my experiences and those who have shared theirs with me. Is closing down CID the best move for privateer press? I don’t know, and only they can, but I don’t see it having any benefits strong enough to outway the mess it has created in the Meta, in the community, and in the actual game itself.

Until next time,

Jonathon