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Wednesday, October 01, 2014


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

In Praise of Our Volunteers

The adventure game (wargame+roleplaying game) industry is a small one, and there isn't the kind of money inside of it that other industries have. The industry consists of creative game designers willing to work 60 hours a week for half the pay they could command outside the game industry, all because they get to BE game designers.

Even at that, the only way the game industry survives is by the hard labor of unpaid volunteers who (for honor, glory, and rarely some free games) provide no end of valuable services to game publishers.

Mike West answers rules questions on Federation Commander. Mike Curtis does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Jonathan Thompson for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, Jean Sexton for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Andy Vancil for Star Fleet Battles.

Frank Brooks runs the play-by-email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the online game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs. Tenneshington Decals does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures and is run by two of our fans: Will McCammon and Tony Thomas.

Federation & Empire would not exist without Chuck Strong (a retired real-world colonel from Space Command) in charge of the overall game system. He keeps his staff (Mike Curtis, Ryan Opel, Scott Tenhoff, Thomas Mathews, and Stew Frazier) busy moving projects forward.

Very little would get done on any of our games except for the Playtest Battle Labs run by Scott Moellmer in Colorado and by Mike Curtis and Tony Thomas in Tennessee. And all of the other playtesters are invaluable to us.

We have other staffers and volunteers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including John Berg, Howard Bampton, and Lucky Coleman (Galactic Conquest campaign); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); and John Sickels, Tony Thomas, James Goodrich, Mike West, James Kerr, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them. Sometimes our volunteers become part of our staff; Jean Sexton started out as a volunteer proofreader.

Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by email or BBS or Forum or our page on Facebook, contribute in some way to the company and its product line. They may report a glitch in an existing product, playtest a product in development, suggest a new product, point out something another company is doing what we may want to take a look at emulating, look up a rules reference for another player, report on somebody who using our property improperly, comment on a posted draft of a new rule, or simply ask a question nobody else ever dared to ask.

Many years ago, we began awarding medals, ribbons, and other "decorations" to staffers and others who contributed to each product, and some other projects. These awards not only recognize those who contributed to the various projects, but encouraged others to begin making their contributions to future projects. We have created the Wall of Honor at http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml. This is a tribute to over 30 years of volunteer work. We hope you visit it to say thanks to all the volunteers and their efforts.

Monday, September 29, 2014

This Week at ADB, Inc., 21-27 September 2014

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on multiple projects. The weather this week was pleasant, about 80F every day with clouds many days. The spam storm mostly remained at something under 200 per day.

New on Warehouse 23 this week JagdPanther #9.

New on DriveThru RPG and Wargame vault this week were both JagdPanther #9 and Star Fleet Battles Designer's Edition Expansion #3.

Steve Cole worked on the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet 1.2 project (sending the 30-page core rules pack to the staff on Saturday). Steve continued to walk Wolf and Ramses regularly, gaining strength in his battered knee, and Leanna forced him to rest on Sunday.

Steven Petrick worked on the Hydran Master Starship Book, Captain's Log #50, the ACTASF 1.2 project, the Hydrans vs. Borak campaign, and other things.

The 2500 project moved slowly forward, with promises that a new prototype company would deliver "soon" and further CGIs on the jumbo and heavy freighters. If the new prototype company does what two others failed to do for the last three months, we could see some new ships on the cart in November or December.

The Starlist Update Project moved forward with two new entries and an update.

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.

Simone did website updates and some graphics.

Jean worked on ACTASF 1.2, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 2266 friends), managed our Twitter feed (124 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread some of the Hydran Master Starship Book, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

On Work and Priorities and Play

Jean Sexton muses:

It seems that everyone has "work to do." Note that "work" is not the same as a "job." Once upon a time I was asked, "What sort of work is appropriate for a librarian?" I answered, "Whatever needs to be done in the library." It was a small library and there were times when I pushed chairs under tables, shelved books, or made sure the books on the shelf were actually in order. None of those tasks required a master's degree, but they were ones that needed to be done. "Work" is something you feel must be done.

Apparently this applies to dogs as well. If they are not assigned "work," they will find work to do and it may not be appreciated by their humans. A friend had a dog which decided his "work" was to eat my friend's furniture. The dog was much happier when he relocated to the country where he guarded the house from anything walking by and demolished his toys (and no longer ate sofas).

Wolf has found himself work which is guarding ADB from passersby. We are working to encourage him to let us know by a quick bark. Then we can praise him and thank him for his diligence. He doesn't have to continue to alert us. Wolf's other work is much quieter. He patrols the building to see that everyone is where he or she belongs. If he senses the person is stressed, he demands to be petted. Everyone benefits.

My work has always seemed to make things be "right." As a cataloger, that meant the item had subjects to help people find it and a call number that was a good match. Now this covers proofreading and editing. Marketing seems to flow from it (if you have something good, people should know about it). It helps with getting ebooks up as it involves making a schedule of releases and then following up with marketing. It helps with customer service as I want things to be right between our fans and the company.

The problem is balancing all of those aspects. That is when I am glad that Steve Cole runs the company. He tells me what has priority and then I can focus on that. This week it was to really work on A Call to Arms: Star Fleet. That was harder for me to proofread because we want people who play ACTA to feel that this is merely a variation of the game they know and love. So you won't see rule numbers. The few chapters are short. Power exists, but you don't find yourself tracking it. Most of the effort seems to go into measuring movement and distance to target (oh, and making enemy ships get blown up). It is its own game, not "ADB re-imagines Star Fleet Battles."

My next assignment is the Hydran Master Starship Book. There I try to make sure that everything is kept uniform. I crosscheck rule numbers. I try to keep everything from being capitalized -- after all we write about seeing the frigate in the harbor, not the "Frigate." It promises to be a fun book and a great reference for the players.

Finally, part of our life must include play. The Steves enjoy teasing me. I think sometimes that they are trying to find out the limits of what I will believe. They tease me about TV show episodes I haven't seen yet (and I believed them when they told me the main character in Forever had come back in World War II as a soldier in four different nationalities). They play word games. They plot elaborate pranks (and they will improvise at the drop of a hat). In short, they behave as I think two elder brothers would act.

Here Wolf has a part as well. He throws himself into his own play so thoroughly joyfully that he makes us all laugh.  I also think he has given Steve Cole's health a boost. Steve walks him thrice a week after lunch. Steve's formerly broken leg doesn't pain him the way it did earlier. Steve's endurance has improved. And if the Wolf has any say in the matter, Steve will be with us a long, long time.

So my days at ADB include work and play, prioritized appropriately. I find I am comfortable there and happy. I wish you all happiness in your life and work.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. Our page on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) exists to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers. You will find us on Twitter as ADBInc_Amarillo. We also are releasing YouTube videos that show what you'll find in "the box" and our latest releases. You can catch our videos on our channel here: http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames.

We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full-color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Friday, September 26, 2014


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Continuing Operations

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There have been surprisingly (at least to me) few reports on the Hydran Master Starship Book, so it seems to be heading towards a smooth launch date. The page count has held steady, even so while I originally envisioned keeping the Stinger-X where it appeared in the "rulebook sequence," i.e., as the last ship description in the Module X1 rulebook before the first entry for the Module X1R rulebook, I have now decided to move it to more or less to "rule sequence," that is to say to say it now appears as the last entry in the Hydran advanced technology ships.

I have also been doing my bit on the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet rulebook revision, having been allowed to read the draft (just the rules) looking for problems. I think over all the book is much improved over the earlier version. It is still a very simple and slimmed down set of rules allowing for large battles to be quickly fought and resolved.

I have been frequently interrupted to check orders and products being packed for shipment, which always breaks my chain of thought.

One of the advantages of "The Early Years" is that there are not a lot of small attrition units. While shuttles exist, they are mostly unarmed and there are no fighters or fast patrol ships. Planetary defenses do not include defense satellites in this period. This can make a relatively large scenario relatively easy to play. I have completed a scenario about the Hydran attack on Borax, the homeworld of the Borak Star League found in Module E3. While there are a lot of ships, there are no fighters so it is very much a slugging match. Because this is a home planet, however much in the Early Years and an empire itself not long in space, the planetary defenses are not all that strong, and the only "attrition" units are a force of early security skiffs to support the ground bases and the defending Borak Star League ships. The Hydran attack is, however, further hampered by the historical fact that at the time of this attack all of their early dreadnoughts and early command cruisers had been destroyed by the Klingons and Lyrans, and with the home shipyard destroyed, they had no means to replace them.

Still, the unique circumstances that existed between the Hydrans and Borak allow for some additional elements of surprise.

I would note that it should be obvious that historically there would have been a lot of merchant ships in the system, but as these are almost entirely unarmed merchant ships, the scenario is simplified by noting that both sides would have ignored them as targets.

Well, that is it for today, I need to get back to examining the A Call to Arms: Star Fleet rulebook.