Two Books of Stories — So Many Mistakes

Okay. I admit. I’m not publishing anything right now, certainly not working as a professional author. So, when I criticize the work of another, I feel bad about it. I try not to be a critic if I don’t have a good reason.

But that said, along with my admission that I’m not working for a publisher… I wonder if Catalyst Game Labs would like me to work for them?

Recently, Catalyst released two books of short stories for their Shadowrun and Battletech universes.

These two books are both edited collections, but suffer severely for a lack of editing. To the point of being distracting from the reading. For example, just on pages 100-101 of the Battletech collection, there are four serious editing errors in just those two pages. In the Shadowrun collection, editor’s notes were left in the text of a story that went to final print…

I realize that proper editing is something deemed less important than other tasks by many gaming companies, but the level of editing errors in these two collections is far worse than many amateur publications. I can forgive the odd misprint, or grammatical error — so what? But when sentences just plain don’t make sense, or editorial notes are left in the final versions, or you have multiple errors on a single page… that’s poor craft.

As for the stories themselves, well, this is more subjective — so I don’t want to say too much, but I, personally, was disappointed by the content of the Shadowrun anthology. I don’t want to include any spoilers so I’ll keep it simple, but for some reason, all of the stories were very fringe. They touched the edges of the Shadowrun universe with little interest in the “meat and potatoes” of what would be of interest in a typical Shadowrun story. The Shadowrun book also has a very, very strange trend. Pretty much the three things you can count on any story including at least one of — and sometimes more — are dogs, technomancers, and old, retired shadowrunners… so it’s basically a Shadowrun country and western song… I guess.

Anyway, like I said, the quality of the stories is subjective — so others may enjoy them more than I did. But the actual quality of the books is poor. Seriously, Catalyst, I’m happy to send a resume anytime you’d like to hire an editor… just let me know!

As always, thanks for reading.

PS — I just finished the Shadowrun anthology, hence this post. I will get the next part of my discussion of adaptation up Tuesday. This weekend, off to Marscon!


10 responses

  1. I totally agree. A review on DriveThru that calls out a book for poor editing is enough to make me skip the purchase.

  2. I’m not surprised. I love Battletech, but the rulebooks are damn near unusable because of the editing and layout. They seriously need to get someone who is halfway competent at that job.

  3. I don’t have any problems with the rulebooks for Battletech, though the original 4th edition rulebook for Shadowrun was really poorly designed.

    The fiction collections though, are very poorly edited… to the point of being a product I wouldn’t buy any more of from Catalyst.

  4. Battletech is the only game I’ve looked through where the rules for one item are spread out onto three seperate pages in three different spots within the rulebook without references linking them. The tech manuals are usually fine, but looking through TacOps or even Total Warfare to find out what this one gun does is a nightmare.

    1. I guess I’m just such a jaded old gamer I consider that pretty normal… I hated the layout of the 4E PH, the DCA Heroes Handbook, and a lot of other game guides.

      But it is a fair criticism. Battletech’s rules do involve a fair amount of flipping back and forth in the books. But after reading it a little, I’ve gotten used to Total Warfare.

    2. Yeah, we’ve spent all kinds of time trying to figure out which Battletech book has what rules. Tech Manual and TacOps have been particularly annoying, with the Construction/Fluff/Actual Rules on three different pages.

      I’m used to Games “What the hell is an index?” Workshop books, and Battletech has been throwing me off.

  5. Well, in Battletech’s case though, the division of the rules into the different books is actually intentional. I found the TechManual pretty easy to use, though I’ve stayed away from Tactical Ops and above… I’m not interested in all the optional Level 3 rules.

    That said, I sat down a few days ago to make a character for Time of War (the BTRPG) and it was an exercise in frustration. This is an RPG that seems to get worse with every incarnation instead of getting better.

    1. Really? I found it to be slow at first, but it has come to grow on me. I think it is a big improvement over 3rd, for example, in terms of actually actually doing what it was supposed to do: enable you to make characters, mechwarrior or otherwise, for play in the Battletech Universe, with the ability to transition fluidly between the wargame and the RPG if you want it.

      Having spent a lot of time over the last decade with chargen systems where you simply assign dots, I was annoyed at the somewhat old-fashioned approach to generation, but after making some Palladium Fantasy characters, I felt better… šŸ˜‰

  6. Doesn’t this kinda undermine the comment you left on my blog today?

  7. Not particularly. Catalyst is putting out great gaming products (and my feelings about the Time of War RPG are subjective, so… take them as you will) and the first Battletech fiction anthology was pretty good — and didn’t include the blatant editing errors that these two had.

    I’ll give them a pass on a bad run of a single type of product without undermining the rest of their efforts…

    More specifically, if they continually fail to produce quality products they will lose their reputation for quality — and people will stop trusting them just for the name… but that takes time and repeated failure, which they haven’t done. I look at every Shadowrun and Battletech product that comes out — and while I don’t buy every single one, I buy most, even if I don’t use them actively in game — because Catalyst puts out good stuff and I can rely on it.

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