Of Beta Testing and Demos

I finally got some time this weekend to do some stuff on the side that I had been meaning to do. The first was trying out the new beta of a CSS-editor program. I’ve used the previous version, and enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to seeing the new version and seeing if I could help iron out some of the bugs that I had found/quirks that I hadn’t liked. This is my second beta-test of a program (first real one, though) and I have to say I’m hoping that it gets better.

The program I am working on is a complete mess – while the functionality is marginally better, it seems that they have spent more time on interface design than architecture. In fact, the processing of this program is so slow that the program is nary unusable. I have put my comments in, and hopefully will see some fixes in the near future. If not, this program is doomed…

The other was a demo of a game that I have loved in the past in both board game and PC versions – Axis & Allies. I have always liked the board game version, but can’t find anyone willing to spend the hours to play. The first PC version was a mess, but the Iron Blitz version was more playable and fun. Far from perfect, as the AI was nearly incomprehensibly stupid, but at least close to the flavor of the board game. So, when I heard that Atari was putting out a new version, I was excited.

Now, I’m very disappointed.The whole point of moving the board game to the PC was so that people like me whose friends think spending time with their kids is more important than playing games can still play some of their favorite games. It’s to take a relatively finite board game and jazz it up with moving graphics, new features and single-player playability. The old versions had this (well, mostly). The Atari version … well, it’s just a mess. First of all, it IS NOT Axis and Allies. This uses the name in an ostensible manner for what becomes a Real-Time Strategy (RTS) game. Instead of creating units and using strategic oversight (as a general does), now you control individual units, supply chains, ammo dumps, and the minutiae of warfare in WWII. Using what seems like the old Age of Empires engine, you micromanage units as they go and try to achieve objectives handed to you by the generals. You decide what units you want to build and then deploy them in lengthy animations. Granted, this is a demo and my graphics card needs a serious update, but I found myself hating this.

What happened to simply making the game better? If I wanted a RTS, I’d pick up Battlefield: 1942, which is infinitely better than this game. I want Axis and Allies, albeit an improved version, and this is nothing of the sort. They’ve taken Monopoly and made you analyze construction contracts and real estate zoning regs. They’ve taken Life and now you have to add auto maintenance, stock portfolio management and local crime stats to how you play the game. It was a complete disappointment that the folks who have made such a fantastic board game have killed themselves with this PC version. Now, this might be a good game for what it is, I didn’t get that far. But it isn’t Axis and Allies, and THAT is what I was looking for.

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