My thoughts on the “Star Wars Edge of The Empire Beta”

starwarsedge This morning I stumbled upon the news that FFG has started selling the beta version of their upcoming Star Wars roleplaying game at Gen Con. Selling the beta version? Yes, that’s right. You can also order it from the FFG games site for just $29.95 plus shipping. That game publishers sell beta versions of their games is not unheard of and usually it’s a PDF that you can download from an online store like RPGNow that gets updated to the final version at release or at least provides you with a discount towards the price of the final product. Not so in this case.

On the one hand I can see a lot of people who would love to pick up the beta softcover book as a collector’s item, but on the other hand isn’t that a waste of resources? And is it really necessary that FFG makes people pay for the opportunity to help them make their game better? In a way it seems it’s just a marketing stunt that should also help to flush some money into their coffers. For some reason that doesn’t feel quite right.

What adds insult to injury is that the book excludes art and certain “thematic materials”. In my opinion about $30 for a beta version of a game without any art feels pretty steep, especially since other publishers released playtest versions of their games for free. I am wondering if this “beta version” is actually meant to get some player feedback before the final release or if it’s just a way to make Star Wars fans pay twice.

The game itself might actually be quite nice. FFG has released a couple of awesome RPG products in the last years. So this new Star Wars game might be another winner. Alas Edge of the Empire will use custom dice much like Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 3rd Edition did, and from what I’ve heard the first rulebook will not allow you to play Jedi. But since the game is obviously set into the Rebellion era, this might actually make sense.

While I am quite excited about a new Star Wars roleplaying game, the whole thing with the paid beta leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Don’t make me pay $30 for a 224-paged artwork-less beta product that is a collector’s item at best. If they release a cheaper PDF version or if you get the final game as a heavily discounted price if you bought the beta, I might be tempted, but currently I don’t see myself checking that game out anytime soon.

Michael Wolf is a German games designer and enthusiast best known for his English language role-playing games blog, Stargazer's World, and for creating the free rules-light medieval fantasy adventure game Warrior, Rogue & Mage. He has also worked as an English translator on the German-language Dungeonslayers role-playing game and was part of its editorial team. In addition to his work on Warrior, Rogue & Mage and Dungeonslayers, he has created several self-published games and also performed layout services and published other independent role-playing games such as A Wanderer's Romance, Badass, and the Wyrm System derivative Resolute, Adventurer & Genius, all released through his imprint Stargazer Games. Professionally, he works as a video technician and information technologies specialist. Stargazer's World was started by Michael in August 2008.

16 thoughts on “My thoughts on the “Star Wars Edge of The Empire Beta””

  1. They did something similar with Only war, but as you say, a PDF and discount off the real thing. It also was art less, and lacking flavour text. the bit that really turned me off it though was when people – quite rightly – started griping on their forums about the cost for a ‘beta’, they were told by FFG that it was a complete rules system and that it included all the rules that would be seen in the final release. Not much of a beta if you ask me, more a way to drive sales and get some hype.

  2. There was a response from over at BGG (sorry I don’t have the link so take it with a grain of salt) from someone at GenCon saying that Christian Peterson elided to the fact that LucasArts frowned upon a digital PDF being made available.

    So yeah, FFG could be making it up. They could just be cash grabbing. Then again, I definitely believe that LucasArts would force that stipulation on them so…

    Kinda like PC game designers copping the flack for DLC, when in the end they just had to do what they were told…

    1. The question is: why do a “beta test” at all? The rules are supposedly final and they can’t do it as PDF. So why print the beta softcover books at all?

  3. Perhaps I’m cynical here but the full price tag beta appears to be a blatant “it’s Star Wars so we can charge more because people will pay anyway and then the same people will buy the main release again”. I wonder if they going to be doing beta releases of the following two core books as well…

    I’m actually really surprised about the game at all – I knew about the card game being planned before Xmas this year but SW rpg… Sneaked well under my radar.

    From the description looks like special dice will sadly be necessary (which suggests some weirdo mechanics) but they provide sticker sheet to convert your standard polyhedron (not sure which though) – not a thing, luckily, about cards or so called “party mechanics” known from their Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay The Boardgame.

    There is “new hope” then… only just.

  4. I’m going to ask a slightly different question…

    Anyone know what game mechanics it’s using?

    Something similar to their Warhammer based games? Something d20/Pathfinder-ish (they’ve done d20 games in the past)? Something entirely new and novel?

  5. As for the more direct topic: I’ve seen software companies charge for “public beta”s in the past, sometimes at a discount, sometimes not. It’s a slight bit of a twist, but not a total twist. Could it be a bit of a marketing ploy? sure. Could it be the only way they could do a “beta” while still satisfying Lucas? sure. Could it be just a totally bizarre move by an otherwise credible company? sure. I’ll still wait for the final release 🙂

  6. Michael:
    I tend to agree with your statement. I think I can wait for a full version, with art and excluded thematic elements, before I put any money down.

    Of course, if a person is excited about the game and doesn’t mind the elements withheld, who am I to condemn them?

    1. I agree. I understand why people are irked, but I also understand why people would buy it especially when you consider the full hardback will likely be around $60 (the going rate for a full color hardback), this is as close to a cheaper/PDF version as you will get.

  7. You will be able to play a Jedi in the Rebellion Era, just not with this book. FFG (my fav board game company) is going the 40k route with the Star Wars books, a set of basic core rules but each book in a different vein. Now my understanding about 40k (i don’t know much) is that it works because you would not want to play a Rogue Trader in a Deathwatch game you could but doesn’t fit the style. So it is actually works well.

    But in a Star Wars game your group might want to have a Smuggler, Jedi, and Rebel Pilot (with good reason). For that you will need all three books Edge of the Empire, Age of Rebellion and Force & Destiny. Each will have the core rules and all are set in the Darth Vader-y Era. So you don’t even get a different timeline.

    This is the most disappointing part of the FFG release. I don’t mind the dice I was actually hoping for a Warhammer Fantasy geek porn box set style with little cardboard Stormtroopers, cards, etc. Something that would have been entirely different for a SW game.

  8. I think FFG is is taking the wrong direction with “Betas” for money.
    I don`t care very much about “Open War” (the 40k RPGs are to crunchy for my tastes) or “Star Wars”. The basic dice mechanic for Warhammer 3 is great and very evocative, but in the end Warhammer 3 reminds me of Rolemaster/Spacemaster just with cards instead of table books…
    The new Star Wars seems to work without cards. I am interessted in how it works on the table. “Star Wars” might be still really lucrative. For me the Force my go home. I am tired of Jedi, Rebels, Stormtroopers etc. The d6 system back in the days was/is still great (enough).
    I like Malifers idea of a huge geek porn box. This will not happen again (soon).

  9. I think the “Beta” naming is ill-advised, and they are better off naming it “Early Edition” or something of the sort. You are basically paying $30 for a complete game, from the sound of it. Since it is FFG, the full-art version is going to cost around $60-100 when it gets released, so you are getting the game early and for half price (or better) if you want to get a head start.

    Still sucks, though. FFG also made a critical error with Android: Netrunner this weekend and sold out extremely early, because they let people buy 5-6 copies a piece and therefore didn’t have enough for the massive line behind them.

  10. Michael is much nicer than I would have been. I realize they are probably dealing with what is purported a difficult Lucasfilm, but charging so much for the “Beta” (be they almost complete or not) without art and fluff, sounds like greed to me. The idea of so called funky dice is a turn off for me. I am not a fan. It seems to me a way to sell extra sets of dice to groups because they figure everybody will want an extra set. As much as I love Star Wars, from what I hear I will pass. I have not purchased a FFG RPG in a while and sadly it looks unlike to change soon. I have my WeG D6 and Saga System books!

  11. I came to the same conclusion myself this weekend. I don’t understand the concept behind getting people to pay you to make sure your product is in saleable condition. I’m avoiding this one like the Sarlacc!

  12. Just a heads up, the Beta has art. Not a huge amount but it is full color and looks great. It has graphics, table of content, index, character sheet, and stickers for the special dice. It isn’t black and white devoid of art or layout. Five years ago it would have been considered a full rpg (FFG will likely do the full page art, hardcover route popular now for big companies).

  13. Wow… I am floored by how cynical you folks are. Just wow. “Money Grabbing Schemes”? REALLY? If folks wanted to be shady and make lots of money… why in the hell would they choose the Gaming Industry? …sigh.

    Anyway, I had a chance to play the demo of this at GENCON with Jay & Sterling (main designer and one of the writers). Its a solid game, very different from previous d20 versions. This will be heavily story/narrative driven, and player empowered (as in, they get to dictate some narration. The Tug-o-war Force mechanic is excellent. The dice do more than just dictate success/fail, but actually define the conditions of those rolls (advantageous, or not). This is nothing like the Warhammer 40K percentile dice system either.

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