You have to admit, it's awfully pretty.

The tide turns for Gettysburg: The Tide Turns

PC •

A long, long time ago there was a brand new developer that wanted to make high quality, complex war games for iPad called Shenandoah Studios. Sounds crazy, I know, but it really happened! You could say they succeeded, with fairly amazing releases such as Battle of the Bulge and Drive on Moscow proving that complex strategy on iPad wasn’t just a pipe dream. In 2013 they ran a Kickstarter for their magnum opus, Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, an American Civil War title for iOS as well as a cardboard version. Nearly 1000 folks gave them close to $30K to develop it. As of July 18, 2017 those backers haven’t seen hide nor hair of Gettyburg on their touchscreens, nor their tabletops. Instead, last week a version for PC arrived on Steam.

The path that Gettysburg: The Tide Turns to get to Steam is more tangled than a fishing line in a windstorm. Back in 2014, Shenandoah announced that they had gone bottom up and were acquired by Slitherine, so the games would still be delivered. Radio silence followed until 2015 when Slitherine announced in their forums that they were forced to rewrite the engine in Unity, so development was taking longer than expected.

When we took over we had to completely rewrite the engines in to Unity to allow better support going forwards. This is nearly complete and after that things will progress much more quickly.

This was followed approximately two weeks later, in July of 2015, with a message that a beta should be starting in 1-2 weeks. Apparently, something went wrong because the next mention I can find comes in January of 2016 which, if you don’t have a calendar handy, is more than 1-2 weeks after July, 2015. In this announcement, they mention that Gettysburg is coming to PC and a beta is starting soon. There is no mention of an iOS version in this announcement.

In June of 2016 there was still no release of Gettysburg on any platform, but there were promises of the iOS version still being in the works.

Slitherine picked the assets of Shenandoah and is planning to complete Gettysburg: the Tide Turns for iOS. As a gesture of goodwill Slitherine will attempt to fulfil the orders placed with Shenandoah LLC to the best of our ability. We have the list of everyone who supported the iOS version and it’s very important to us that we deliver you the iOS version.

The iOS version will come. We’re currently focusing on the PC version as it’s easier to beta test and faster to iterate new versions, but we haven’t forgotten about the iOS version and will deliver it soon after the PC version.

This attitude was corroborated in an interview posted around the same time with Marketing Director, Marco Minoli:

Are there still plans to release the game on iOS? iPad and iPhone?
Yes indeed. iOS version is definitely coming shortly after the PC version. I cannot confirm timing right now, but the plan is to lead on PC to allow faster iterations and bug fixing and balancing and once any issues have been resolved to roll out the iOS version.

Last week, the PC version of Gettysburg arrived on Steam with no iOS version in sight. In fact, a post from last week seems to indicate that an iOS version is unlikely.

Unfortunately the PC version has taken 3.5 years rather than 3 months that was expected based on what thought we had acquired from Shenandoah. As a result the project has lost a fortune and we’re trying to make the best of it. At this point we don’t even know if we can produce an iOS version. We’d still like to but the way the code is structured (its multi threaded partly in Unity and partly in C# for unknown reasons) it makes it extremely difficult to do anything with, hence the time its taken to get to where we are. All the advantages of using Unity are lost because of the structure but you still have all the baggage of working in Unity, and every change and bug fix becomes horribly complex to work between the threads. With hindsight the first thing we should have done is ripped out the multi threading and done everything in Unity but it would have been a year of coding back at the start and we didn’t realise how much was left to do. By the time we did, we felt we’d gone too far to add another year. In fact we’d probably never have started if we though the project had a year left in it, let alone 3.5 years. The iOS issue is only something we’ve recently become aware of but the general architecture of the code has been an issue since day 1. I know many of you invested a lot of money in the kickstarter and are very angry about how its turned out. All I can say is we’ve invested hundreds of thousands and want more than anyone for it succeed and we’re doing what we can to make sure the game does actually get released on as many platforms as possible.

While this sounds dire, Slitherine has been doing what they can to keep the Kickstarter backers in the fold and are giving backers who backed the iOS version codes for the PC version so they can download it for free, which is a fairly cool thing to do at this point.

The bottom line is that Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, which was once a shining beacon of strategy gaming for mobile devices is now just another PC war game. That’s not a knock on the PC version, but disappointment that we probably won’t see anything close to what Shenandoah produced on our iPads ever again. Original, heavy war games with a sheen of historical polish that made them stand out not just on the App Store, but in comparison with digital war games on other platforms as well.

The PC version of Gettysburg is very, very pretty and has everything you’d want in a war game: online and hotseat multiplayer as well as a solo campaign, as well as a coat of polish we’d come to expect in the Shenandoah titles. Unfortunately, it looks more and more like I’ll never play it as I’m tied to a Mac and it’s PC only. If you, unlike me, are smart and have a PC for gaming, you can check it out at the link below. It’s only $10, which is cheaper than many of Slitherine’s games for iOS.

Disclosure: I was an employee of Slitherine between November 2015 and June 2016.

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