A (Quick) Fireside Chat with Rod Humble

By Joe Robinson 21 Oct 2019 0

I have returned from PDXCon in Berlin, so we’re now ready to return to our usual schedule. You probably won’t see many more updates from the show on Wargamer - apart from the Hearts of Iron 4 expansion, there wasn’t much else to look at in the wargaming space other than perhaps the board game, which I’ll be doing a separate write-up on.

Make sure to check out Strategy Gamer, as there’ll be a load more PDXCon reports filed over there!

I did have the distinct pleasure of meeting and chatting to Rod Humble for the first time. Despite a career that’s involved everything from Second Life, to EA’s The Sims and even mobile games, it’s no secret that he is very passionate about strategy and wargames. Along with his professional development career he has also made a lot of personal/experimental projects, one of which was Stavka-OKH, a strategic level wargame set on WW2’s Eastern front where you're making very top-level decisions and potentially have to deal with the political fallout.

Stavka OKH 2

He is a delightfully modest man who’s dedicated to the more artful forms of creating videogames. If you’ve ever ventured over the QuartertoThree Games forums, a very well known hive of strategy gamers and Dr. Bruce Geryk, you’ll quite often see him posting in various wargame and strategy threads.

In case you weren’t aware, Humble is heading up a new internal studio for Paradox in California called Paradox Tectonic. They’re definitely working on something but it wasn’t being announced at this year’s show. He was under strict instructions, but this is what he had to say of his upcoming project:

Putting aside the theme. What I really want to focus on is rich, deep gameplay that creates something beautiful for the player. Paradox is extremely dedicated to the modding community and allowing players to be creative. They also don’t really punish players - there are few fail-states in a PDS game. If you look at Crusader Kings there’s not many success states either - you’re not really going to paint the map, so now it becomes a story telling experience. I like that idea of adding richer and richer gameplay.

He also mentioned that nobody should be 'surprised' at what they’re making. With nothing else to talk about, I thought we could catch up on our mutual love of wargames. I was especially keen to hear his opinion on the state of computer war games at large. In my own personal opinion, it’s a genre that’s awaiting a kind of renaissance that’s happened not only in mainstream strategy games, but in table-top/board war games:

Yes, I agree! One day I would [like to look at that] - I guess that’s code for “Im not now” - but in the past I made a game called Stapka OKH which was… the reason I agree with you that wargames need a renaissance is I think that they’re probably too focused on just the conflict part. I mean I love military units too, I love tanks and I’m a gearhead. But I think most of the wars that we model have got all these extra components - Political, Societal... and what the impact is.

So I agree with you - I think it’s coming, and maybe one day I’ll charge into that. One game I can recommend is Armored Brigade. That to me is starting to push [wargames] to be a little more interesting.

I pointed out board war-games own quiet revolution, with companies like GMT Games et al producing some more thoughtful or unique wargames, aside from the tried-and-true hex and counter fare:

I love board games as well. In many ways they are a different part of the artform. Board Games have got this quality where… you have a lot of the rules in your head, so you start to think about them a lot more and focus on delightful little mechanics. SpaceCorps is one, where you flip over the map and you have to take in the new scale, or the COIN series where you have that this decision process around the cards and actions.

It was a quick chat, but it was a pleasure meeting him all the same. We’re very much looking forward to see what his new project will be. He was officially told to say “soon” if asked about when he’d be announcing his new game, but he also said that it wasn’t going to be this year, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

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