I was around from Gold on through Samurai edition and for a while I quite enjoyed the game. It wasn't perfect, but it was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed watching the story unfold and the camaraderie with fellow Ratling players. I won't deny that mechanically the game has always had issues and every environment had massive issues and there was some really really obvious design bias and a lot of 'good ol boy' problems with fans joining the design and brand teams.
But a lot of that didn't matter. You had your friends, you played your faction, you cheered when you won, you fought for your place in the game and the story.As bad as the environments were, everyone ended up with some time in the limelight.
For me, axing the Ratlings killed my interest. I really liked them, they were an outsider group, they were indicative of the larger world and not the microcosm of samurai culture that was just Rokugan. They were the oddballs, misfits, they were the only non-clan faction to survive past Gold and it was purely coincidence that they had stayed in the game, if the Warrens of the Nezumi had never gotten that gold bug in that final WotC set, there never would have been a Ratling faction, it would've remained the odd one off joke. But we lobbied, we fought, we pushed to be included and eventually we got recognized as a full faction, we were allowed to sit at the big kid's table and play for real instead of being a complete and total joke.
Then they rebranded the game. People got on staff that didn't see a place in the setting for Nezumi, for anything that wasn't a samurai. They didn't see the wealth the setting had to offer, the rich asian influenced fantasy, and instead just saw 'samurai drama', the human struggle to maintain honor, loyalty to one's lord, oh yeah and overcoming corruption because that only happened every gods damned arc. To me it was horribly uninteresting, and the Spider was just a terrible idea. Much more the story gymnastics the team had to pull out of their ass to justify it.
AEG just made tons of mistakes. Like they do with pretty much all their games. I don't want to browbeat them, but they have this amazing knack for developing these really awesome, geeky properties that encourage a lot of loyalty to the brand and particular groups in the setting. And then crashing them hard into the ground and having them either die slowly or quick and suddenly like this. They're absolutely notorious for mismanagement. I mean, L5R, Deadlands, 7th Sea, Warlord, Spycraft, and those are just the well known original ones, there was plenty of flops like that racing anime CCG, that weird pokemon wanna be one? And plenty of others I can't name because they were so immemorable and short lived. But I get why their games are succesful and I get why they aren't.
It's really frustrating, frankly. I'm thankful they've been able to bring back Doomtown and I'm glad it's lasted this long and I'm hopeful it lasts longer under the LCG model. I'm excited for the Eagle Wardens and I'm looking forward to the new round of outfits and I'm really digging the flavor.
So I guess, here's one for friends past and passed. It's sad to see even L5R go. It was never perfect, but it was fun and it was a kind of home for a while.
I've heard FFG has done good things with old brands, maybe they can bring the magic back to L5R. It's a ways off to GenCon 2017 and expectations are going to be high, I can tell you now, whatever form the game takes, people will be both excited and disappointed. Maybe I'll fall into the former category. I don't really expect it. But I've been wrong before and DTR was a complete surprise.