A love letter to John Tiller

By Jeff Ward 24 Feb 2015 0

We all know what it’s like when we start to realise that the magic in a relationship has started to fade, the time when, perhaps, a few hard truths need to be aired. Today Jeff Ward starts a new (hopefully) regular feature on Wargamer.com with a plea to John Tiller on just that subject – well you didn’t think this was going to be an agony aunt column did you … 

 

Dear John, 

Although that’s certainly an inauspicious start, rest assured, we’re not breaking up. After all the time we’ve invested in each other it would be pure folly to let it go. There aren’t many things you can count on in this fickle PC gaming world, but you and I have always been one of ‘em! 

Remember Talonsoft John? Those were good times! Battleground Waterloo, Shiloh, and Middle East. Our love affair was just heating up and we all awaited your next move with great anticipation. 

Even industry changes couldn’t even drive a wedge between us, John. Your brilliant move to HPS Simulations only proved that we were meant to be together all along. And your gaming system only got better. How many titles are there in the Panzer Campaigns series now? 

Faster Internet speeds only brought us closer together. With the advent of John Tiller Software, we no longer had to wait on the postman to embrace your latest offering. It doesn’t get much better than that. 

But John! The fact that we’re approaching our 20th anniversary makes this so much more difficult to say – I’ve been cheating on you. Yes! I admit it! Lately I’ve been turning to TOAW III, Decisive Campaigns, and, dare I say it, Flashpoint Campaigns: Red Storm Player’s Edition to get my gaming fix. 

It’s not that I don’t love your games anymore John, it’s just that those other simulations understand my needs a little bit better. But I desperately want to come back to you John. Does anyone really ever get over their first love? 

So! In an effort to restore our relationship and make it as fresh and exciting as ever, I have a few suggestions on how we might bring back that Panzer Campaigns magic. I gotta tell ya, those games have been letting themselves go lately and a makeover might be just what the doctor ordered. 

Let’s start with the graphics. 

We’re not talking major plastic surgery here; we wargamers always prefer depth over beauty, but the 3D view has never really worked and, even though the 2D view reminds me of my beloved board games, there’s so much more you can do with today’s PCs and tablets. 

Sometimes I think you take us for granted, John. It’s not that we want to dump you for whatever latest model comes along – it’s just that making an effort to look good never hurts. 

Then there’s the interface. 

When you click on a unit, the reachable hexes should be highlighted without blacking out the rest of the map. The same goes for artillery. Show me what’s in range without having to remember which miniscule menu bar button I need to push and unpush to continue. 

And please, please, please, make the organization markings far more distinguishable than those slight red outlines. When you’re looking at a map with hundreds of on-screen units, its way too easy to miss something. 

I could go on, but I’m sure you get my drift, John. We’re all getting older and, trust me, bifocals are not the computer gamer’s best friend. 

And speaking of hundreds of units, John, we’re not as young as we used to be. We no longer have the – umm – stamina to do it all night long. Perhaps it’s time to revise the scale a bit and let the AI handle certain not-so-important things. 

I’ve always appreciated the ambition of battalions, two hour turns, and one click hexes, but especially in the case of the east front games, it can get rather overwhelming. Are regiments really all that that bad John? 

Then there’s the AI’s fire and assault phases. That process, even on the fastest computer, can make me long for the times I’ve had to wait for my wife to get out of the bathroom. A little abstraction couldn’t make me love your games any less. 

And lastly, John, you’ve always done a great job with the AI, but we’re still waiting for that programmer who’s gonna take it to the next level and you’re just the man to do it. 

To summarize, mildly better graphics, an updated interface, a more manageable scale, a little less complexity, and a new AI that kicks butt and takes names – essentially a Panzer Campaigns 2.0 if you will. We love it when you make the effort you spice the relationship up a bit. 

C’mon! You’ll do it for us won’t you? We may have occasionally strayed, but there’s never been anyone but you, John. So here’s to another 20 wonderful years! 

Always Yours,

 

Jeff Ward

 

 

Jeff Ward is a free-lance writer, radio show host, and former 8-year opinion columnist for the Sun-Times Media Group. He got hooked on wargames immediately after picking up a copy of Avalon Hill’s Midway from Hobbymodels in Evanston, Illinois in 1972.

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