What The Heck Happened?
Our site and both forums were down for about 16 hours yesterday (30 Aug) and today. We assumed it was a server problem, filed the normal request for info, and finally went home and got a good night's sleep. This morning, we found out what happened.
We have a computer (named "wildcat") used by the marketing director. It is used (among other things) to send STAR FLEET ALERT, the PDF press releases about new products, to retailers, wholesalers, gamers, and media who ASK to get them. After Vanessa left, I would send the Star Fleet Alerts myself. I would do them, Email them to "marketing@", then go down the hall and re-mail them to the "batches" of Email addresses Vanessa had collected. Whenever I went down the hall to that computer to send the Alerts, I would deal with any Email had arrived for "marketing@" or "support@" which had not been read in 2-3 days (since nobody worked at that computer). We decided two weeks ago that this was bad customer service and had all of the mail from those two addresses redirected to me, and I deal with it each day as it arrives.
This had an unintended consequence, as the first time I sent the PDF by Email to that computer, it redirected back to my computer. So I had Matt set up an Email address (Wildcat@) that does not forward to me so I could Email things to that computer. (I could just pop them over there via the LAN, but I was overcome by ennui.) A day or two later, on 24 Aug, I had a Star Fleet Alert to send out. So I Emailed it to Wildcat@ and walked down the hall and set up the five different Emails (Star Fleet Alerts, depending on what they are, go to various combinations of people; some only go to wholesalers, some only go to the media, etc. This one went to everybody) and transferred the Star Fleet Alert PDF to them. I didn't realize that it was sending them "from Wildcat@" instead of "from Marketing@" but when I noticed, I considered this to be almost irrelevant. When I saw what was happening, I changed that computer so that even if it wasn't receiving marketing@ Emails (which are still going to me), it was sending all of its email FROM marketing@.
Somebody got one of the 24 Aug "from Wildcat@" Emails, and not realizing it was something he had ASKED for, and not bothering to Email Wildcat@ and say "why are you sending this to me?", filed a complaint with his ISP (AOL), which forwarded the complaint to our host, who send us a notice of: "What are you doing sending spam? That is against the rules!" But we never got the notice because they sent it to an Email address we rarely use which has been "spoofed" by some Russian spammers who send a million spams a day with that as the phony return address. Of those million emails, anything that doesn't go through (over 1,000 Emails per DAY) bounces back as "this Email did not go through" to ... me as "the guy who sent it" even though, of course, I never sent it. So I had every spam filter known to man added to that address and one of them trashed the notice from our host, and the follow up "why didn't you answer our Email" notice. When they didn't get an answer, they locked down our account so they didn't get sued (or shut down) for sending Spam. We Emailed them asking what happened and only got the answer only because I (suspecting something was up) visually scanned over 1,000 "killed Russian spams" to find it.
The problem was solved within minutes (our host is VERY good!), and steps are being taken to make sure it never happens again. The host will now send such warnings to every Email address in the company, a special pre-filter will pick out everything they send and put it into a priority folder, and a special note was be sent to every AOL address on the mailing batch (and the culprit fessed up and apologized for the panic, saying he gets so much spam he automatically forwards everything he doesn't recognize to the complaint desk).
I want to thank all of our friends who called or Emailed to warn us that something was happening (all of whom knew they were probably wasting their time, but all of whom knew we'd rather hear 99 times than zero times). I am sure there is a lesson to be learned here (and I think we have already learned and implemented it), but for now, I just need to get back to work.
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. Nick Blank does the same thing for Federation & Empire, Andy Palmer for Prime Directive d20, Gary Plana for GURPS Prime Directive, Richard Sherman for Star Fleet Battle Force, and Mike Filsinger for STAR FLEET BATTLES.
Frank Brooks runs the Play-by-Email system as a volunteer. Paul Franz charges barely enough for the On-Line game system (for SFB and FC) to pay the server costs.
Federation & Empire would not exist without Jeff Laikind in charge of the overall game system and the Ship Information Tables, or without Chuck Strong (a real-world colonel from Space Command) keeping the scenarios updated and coherent.
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 who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Scott Tenhoff, and Chris Fant (the F&E staff); Jean Sexton (Director of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg (Galactic Conquest Campaign); and John Sickels, Matthew Francois, Jonathan Thompson, and Loren Knight (Prime Directive). Some vital part of the product line would grind to a halt without each one of them.
Added to this list are hundreds of others who, during any given month, by Email or BBS or Forum, 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.
Steve Cole's day
Leanna and I got here at 8:30. Mike was less than a minute behind. What's up that made us all come in early this morning? It's going to be a good day as we saw a huge full-arc rainbow this morning, and a second partial rainbow. Petrick arrived on time. Closing this out at 5pm as I feel pretty bad and am going home to lay down.
STEP ONE: ROUTINE FUNCTIONS
This is stuff I do every day.
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PART A: Going through Email. The usual spam. Adam Turner about age of female on PD20Fed cover. GPA nominations for board of directors (I am not running). The stink about whether a certain printer is a good guy or bad guy continues to dominate GPA discussions. Paul Franz about getting Tholians into FCOL. Fix to PDFed by Gary Plana. Talked with retailer Darren Kehrer about some issues. Copy of emails between Leanna and wedding planner; they seem to have the cake and flowers under control now. Email to BGG about arrangements to attend their convention.
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PART B: Checked the BBS. No flame wars. Maybe some progress on the rated ace thing.
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PART C: Web crawl. Astronomy picture of the day. DVD rentals. Ebay auctions. Copyright violations. Server. Boardgame and sci-fi websites. Fed Commander Forum.
STEP TWO: IMPORTANT "EXTRA" TASKS
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PART D: Pending Mail. Didn't get there.
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PART E: Worthwhile tasks. Did the new Hydran MSSB pallet graphics.
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PART F: FYEO: Read a couple of days. Still behind.
LUNCH: Chile Dogs.
INTERRUPTIONS: Long conversation with Kyocera dealer about new contract. No real arguments; we're both trying to write a deal that does what we already agreed to do. It's about as tricky as a set of game rules.
STEP 3: PRIMARY WORK
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PART F: Prime Directive Federation: Started on surveys, but didn't get far.
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PART G: Captain's Log #36: Jean's final fixes to the Input Guide article. (She's in charge of proofreading now, and she's getting picky about what gets capitalized and what doesn't.)
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PART H: Omega Five: Petrick handed me three pages.
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PART I: Federation Commander Briefing #1: Didn't get anything done.
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PART J: Everything else. Consulted (last night) with John Schneider about miniatures (and again this morning).
Steve Cole's Day
I got to the office at 8am. Leanna came in at 9:30. After I got sick and went home last night, I slept a few hours, got up and watched TV, slept a few more hours, finally got up at 4am and eventually got bored of the History Channel and came to work.
STEP ONE: ROUTINE FUNCTIONS
This is stuff I do every day.
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PART A: Going through Email. Not that much real mail, but plenty of spam. GPA continues to debate whether it should or should not allow manufacturers to comment on printers who did good or bad jobs for them. Talked to Fictional Reality Magazine about the ad we're running.
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PART B: Checked the BBS. No real flamewars. Interesting discussion in the "rated ace event" topic.
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PART C: Web crawl. Astronomy picture of the day. My DVD rental places. The Ebay auctions I am watching. I checked some pirate web sites for copyright violations. I checked the sfg server for stuck mail and spam. Wandered into a couple of assorted boardgame and sci-fi websites I check now and then. Read the Fed Commander Forum.
STEP TWO: IMPORTANT "EXTRA" TASKS
Supposedly, one hour per day.
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PART D: Pending Mail. Did five or six key Emails which had been waiting for me to have time to answer in detail. One of which was to answer an Email from Ann D who wants to do a PD version of her "fudge" rules.
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PART E: Worthwhile tasks. Did a new version of FC MSC in race/card# order and sent it to Matt, who uploaded it. Had Matt add Star Fleet Alert Fall Schedule to the site
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PART F: FYEO: Read a two-day-old file. I gotta catch up.
LUNCH: Salad bar. Yummy. @#$% diet.
INTERRUPTIONS: Did some FC ship cards for FCOL to see if the way I do them will work for FCOL. The Kyocera dealer installed Valla, the new printer.
STEP 3: PRIMARY WORK
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PART F: Prime Directive Federation: Processed Jean's report on the colonization part of PD FEDS. Approved sketch for PD20Feds cover. Did Mysteries of the Federation for PD Feds and sent those two pages to the staff.
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PART G: Captain's Log #36: Added article about SFBOL world league to CL36. Did Jean's report on CL36 input guide. Email with the guys doing the orion pirate SFC web site about their article in CL36.
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PART H: Omega Five: consulted with Petrick on SSDs to be done.
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PART I: Federation Commander Briefing #1. Set up the files.
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PART J: Everything else. Consulted with Adam Turner on art we are going to need.
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. We are developing a line of non-game products (calendars, paperback books, ship books, plus Cafe Press). We have an Amazon store (not to make money so much as to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers), and the MySpace page exists for that reason as well. 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.
And today, which is another day...
Steve Cole reports:
I got to the office at 1:30, typical for a Sunday afternoon. It is now 6pm and I plan to go home soon.
The spam filters have done their usual job, today, trapping over 1000 spams.
STEP ONE: Going through Email. Not as many as yesterday. No real "reports". But several were set aside for Monday. More entries into the miniature painting contest and some of those that have been stalled will open for votes in about a week. Check www.StarFleetGames.com/discus and look in the Starline 2400 section for the contest.
STEP TWO: Checked the BBS. No flamewars, but somebody hijacked my King Stephen topic and got slapped down. Several minis contest entries, including some resubmissions of stuff I sent back earlier.
STEP THREE: Web crawl. Astronomy picture of the day. My DVD rental places. The Ebay auctions I am watching. The pirate web sites I check for copyright violations. Checked the server for stuck mail and spam. Assorted boardgame and sci-fi websites I check now and then.
STEP FOUR: Pending Mail, didn't do this, as I wasn't here that long.
STEP FIVE: One hour on the Hydran MSSB. I actually did over two hours, and didn't get to the end of the C-draft reports.
STEP SIX: I read parts of the FYEO file.
Lunch: Leanna cooked something nice at home before I came to the office. I'll pick up something nice for her when I go home.
PRIMARY WORK: Updated my List Of things To Do. It's a very long and complicated list.
Let me tell you about my day
Steve Cole Reports:
I got to the office at 10:23, having taken a couple of hours this morning for television shows that I slept through last night.
My spam filters had killed 300 messages in 14 hours. The ones on the server had killed over a thousand. The backdoor admin account had collected 120 spams; the primary accounts had collected 37, so the filters are doing pretty good. I have 40 actual valid Emails, an unusually high number, but that includes a bunch of staff reports on the FC MSC which is undergoing another update. Attachment bin has about 100 assorted unsolicited items including porn and virus files.
My day breaks down into a number of steps.
STEP ONE: Going through Email. Lots of reports to process. More files from the guy who is doing the HERO translation. Wrote a set of notes on running a trade show booth for one of the industry mailing lists. (Lots of companies are posting such notes, but I've seen few ideas I haven't already had or heard.) There was a heated discussion of a particular print on demand printer who did a lousy job and didn't get products to people on time and they were kind of upset. The GPA is again debating whether to allow people to post negative information about printers who screw things up. The GPA board says "no" and the membership says "you're wrong, we want to know if the printer we just hired is going to screw us."
Quick answer to Loren Knight about fiction for PD Tholians.
Some interesting dinosaur stuff I didn't have time to read.
Doing a lot of Jean's FC MSC reports , which are taking a ton of time (over an hour, almost two) but we need that updated MSC.
Got some photos for the minis contest and had to send most of them back to be done over for various reasons. I hated doing that, but either I can stop working on new products to resize photos and adjust contrast on photos, or people who knew how to do it right and just didn't can do it right.
STEP TWO: Checked the BBS and didn't have to put out any flame wars. (Guys, thanks for giving me an easy day there.) Did provide some better information to one discussion about printing games. And of course I defended Al Gore's good name. He really did contribute to the development of the internet and should not be denied the credit for what he did do while joking about what he didn't do.
STEP THREE: Web crawl. Astronomy picture of the day. My DVD rental places. The Ebay auctions I am watching. The pirate web sites I check for copyright violations. Checked the server for stuck mail and spam. Assorted boardgame and sci-fi websites I check now and then. The FC Forum.
STEP FOUR: I should take some time to work on "pending mail". The theory is that every Email has to be handled the day it arrives; otherwise it gets lost. Some complicated ones get put into a "pending" file that in theory I work on every day, but today I spent so much time on the FC MSC that I cannot go work on the pending file.
STEP FIVE: One hour on the Hydran MSSB. Not happening today because the FC MSC took too much time. Basically, my "one hour of MSSB time" is really my "one hour of necessary things that aren't part of the product schedule" and today that went into the FC MSC. I spent all day Wednesday doing the FC MSC, all day Thursday doing the Greater Games Industry Catalog quarterly update, and all day Friday doing the Fall schedule for new product releases.
STEP SIX: Read the FYEO file (current, real world, military technology, tactics, and intelligence). I'm five days behind and haven't got time today due to the FC MSC.
Lunch: I look forward to lunch to add some fun, joy, and flavor to my day. Today, Leanna dragged me to a place that routinely produces awful food and they outdid themselves in making a hamburger into a burned chunk of garbage, putting me in a foul mood until I stopped to get something for desert.
INTERRUPTION: I love a good crisis. Turns out that Graduation is turning from a "oh by the way" into something that the retailers are clamoring for. Which means Monday will see Matt doing a cover for it, and me sending some stuff to reprint sooner than expected. (We have only about 200 Klingon C7 cards, and they are used in both Klingon Border and Graduation. Any plausible combination of orders for Graduation and restocks of Klingon Border is going to run us out of C7s in a month. Which means reprinting it. Which means that sheet (which was planned for January, a plan that was never going to work anyway) will be going to press by late September and since the Monarch and Cave Lion are on it, FC; Line of Battle will move from a January release to an October release. Everyone around here is scrambling. Mike is checking inventory on everything else that goes into FCKB and FCG to see if some other little surprise is going to bite my backside.
PRIMARY WORK; did eight pages of PD FEDERATION. Between Petrick and myself, we have to complete a total of 580 pages by 10 Nov, and that doesn't include Communique, Star Fleet Alert, or Hailing Frequencies.
I WANT YOUR HELP, ADVICE, & COMMENTS!
Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:
As the graphics (on the web sites and in the products) continue to improve here at ADB, Inc., I am learning about new things every day, and drive SVC crazy because I do my list of things to do before he is ready to give me another list.
We have merged the two websites (the legacy site now has a new front page, site map, and index), and you are welcome to not only comment on my changes, but suggest changes, and check the changes I make.
Here is my e-mail: graphics@StarFleetGames.com or you can comment on either forum.
Another Wedding at ADB
Steve Cole Reports: Seems love is in the air this year. Our warehouse manager Mike Sparks got married a few weeks ago. Graphic Director Matt Cooper got married just before he came to work for us, and former interns Jolene and Vanessa are both approaching their wedding dates.
The next wedding is a surprise one that nobody saw coming. No, I'm not talking about Petrick, the perpetual bachelor.
Leanna and I have been married for almost 30 years, and on our anniversary (17 Sept) we will be in Las Vegas doing this whole wedding thing all over. Leanna went out yesterday and bought a drop-dead gorgeous wedding gown to wear. (So she tells me. I won't be allowed to see it until the ceremony.) At our first wedding, Leanna never found a gown she liked and got married in a white cocktail dress that just about everyone agreed was pretty hideous. When I asked Leanna to marry me all over again just for fun, she said "Only if I get a real wedding dress this time."
It's strange, and I never expected to feel this way, but we're having that giddy, silly, giggly, falling in love thing all over. We've had the kind of deep, abiding, unspoken love that real marriages are based on for three decades, but we're now experiencing once again the magic we felt falling in love the first time. It's surprising and strange, but in a very good and romantic way.
The trip to Vegas and back (in the new car I bought her as an anniversary present) will include stops at the places we saw on the first honeymoon.
We will pick a nice chapel in Vegas for the ceremony. No, it won't be Star Trek (or Elvis), just a proper gown/tux wedding. I doubt the whole thing will last 15 minutes. We'll spend more time getting dressed than getting married. Vegas chapels aren't designed for huge crowds, but if anybody happened to be in Vegas that day and wanted a slice of wedding cake, you could Email me and we'll send you a notice of how to find us (once we pick a chapel).
And who knows. Things come in threes, and remember, Mike's wedding was not that long ago. Maybe Petrick will finally discover that girls can be kind of warm and cuddly and might decide to get one of his own.
If you are getting a lot of Emails with phony "you have a greeting card from somebody" links, and are finding strange attachments in your reception folder that seem to be PDFs but won't open (and have names like complaint.pdf, new-specification.pdf, wire-instructions.pdf, new-job.pdf and might even include bits and pieces of your Email address), then you are under attack by the STORM virus, the worst in Internet history.
Virus 101: Do not open attachments if you don't know what's in them, and not click on links from unsolicited Emails from people you never heard of.
This virus began earlier this year with fake warnings about storms in Europe, and expanded from there. Like most viruses, if it gets into your machine, it reads your address book and Emails itself to everybody you have an address for. The servers are also sending millions of copies a day to known Email addresses, and to commonly-guessed email addresses (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org).
Unlike viruses that are just pranks, or that damage your hard drive, this one is intended to turn your computer into a zombie, part of a million-machine "botnet" run by a criminal gang of "bot herders" somewhere not in the USA. The gang has boasted of their accomplishments and has offered the services of their botnet to deluge target websites with hundreds of millions of phony emails. If you want to make sure that your greatest business rival takes no orders on his shopping cart during his current inventory cycle, these guys can (for a fee) make sure that your rival does no business at all. Your rival may already be hiring them, if he's a bigger crook than you are, since hiring these gangsters is as big as crime as they one they do for their customers.
If you go to the greeting card link, or open the PDF and get a "this PDF won't open, it's not a PDF" message, then your computer is probably infected. This could be a major problem, since STORM is hard for anti-virus software to stop or to eliminate. Web cops say it's that toughest and smartest virus ever seen. It hides multiple copies of itself in the darndest places, and if you remove it, it might just re-install itself. Maybe it doesn't matter to you, since the gangsters are probably just as interested in keeping your computer healthy and working as you are. After all, they are using your computer a lot more than you are using it. You may observe your computer running slower or stalling out on web connections. That's STORM, using your connection to mail itself to everybody you ever emailed, or maybe being directed by the gangsters to mail something to somebody ... for a fee.
FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email
FRANK BROOKS WRITES: FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email
Playing FEDERATION COMMANDER by Email is an alternative to playing Face-to-Face. While there are a few differences (i.e., your opponent isn't sitting across the table from you), it is the same game.
The basic gist of the FEDERATION COMMANDER Play-by-Email (PBEM) system is that you and your opponent submit your orders for the turn to a moderator via Email. The moderator then processes them, and sends a "Sitrep" (Situation Report) to the players via Email. You receive the results, write up your next set of orders, and then submit your orders once again. The process is repeated until the game is completed. Sounds simple? That's because it IS! It'll take a little getting used to (after all, what doesn't?), but once you've got the hang of it, you'll be lobbing photon torpedoes (or whatever your weapon of choice is) at opponents from all over the world.
Every FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game has at least three participants: two or more players and one moderator. The moderator's purpose is to accept orders from the players and carry them out, reporting the results of those orders to all players. While (s)he is not a player, the moderator fulfills a very important role in the game. Good moderators and good players make for a good, enjoyable game of FEDERATION COMMANDER. Moderating a FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM game is also an excellent way to learn more about the FEDERATION COMMANDER rules.
While there are some disadvantages to PBEM (it does take longer to finish a game), there are advantages as well. You can play against people in other parts of the world (how often do you get to Australia, anyway?), you can play multiple games at once, and you can have large multi-player games (without worrying about running out of chips and soda).
For more information about playing FEDERATION COMMANDER PBEM, please visit the Play-by-Email section of ADB, Inc.'s website at www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.
Why I hate cars
Steve Cole reports: Lots of guys like to tinker with their cars, change their own oil (and spark plugs if they're ambitious). I don't. I want my car to start and to run and I'm ok with filling it up with gas, taking it over for an oil change, and having a mechanic check it whenever I start on a long trip. But I really do not want to "mess" with my car.
But I'm going to have to. The battery is old and dead, and the car won't even jump-start. (And yes, I can manage to jump start a car if I have to.) I can have it towed to the dealership, which will charge me for towing, charge me too much for a new battery, and charge me to put the battery in, or I can go buy a battery and spend 30 minutes with a socket set changing it out. I don't want to, but I will save a hundred bucks doing it, and I guess I can manage that. I'd have Petrick fix it, but he really doesn't know any more about cars than I do (probably less). Maybe Mike, the warehouse guy, can be convinced that fixing my car is part of his job?
Visitors in the office
Steve Cole report: From time to time, we have visitors stop by the office. Rarely, these are game business people; mostly, they are gamers. The office is 3 miles from I-40, a major east-west corridor, and millions of people pass by here every month.
Today (Sunday) we had a gamer (who is also a staffer working on our card game series) stop by, tour the office (not much to see, but hey, it's a free tour and most gamers have never seen a game company), discuss some upcoming projects, and chat for a while. (We aren't usually all in the office on a Sunday morning, but we made it a point since Richard Sherman is a friend we had never met.) A few days ago, an F&E player stopped in, and we got an Email that another gamer would stop by in two weeks. That's a lot of visitors for us; we probably average four a year.
Anyone is welcome to stop by, take the tour, and chat for a bit. We cannot (as some have asked) take the day off to play wargames; we just have too much to do.
One tradition of such visits is "the pinata", a shelf in the warehouse where all of the "dinged" products (and parts of products) go. The rulebook with a torn cover, the ship card with screwy lamination, and so forth. We keep all that stuff to use for samples, reference copies, and so forth. Say an artist wants a book to study to do a cover, or say a new printer wants to see what the old printer did. Visitors are welcome to help themselves to a freebie or two (or three) out of the pinata. (Why do we call it the "pinata", which is a Mexican party game where blind-folded kids try to break a pottery animal stuffed with toys and candy? Because once Leanna and I watched a short-lived TV show about computers, and they were always getting freebies to review, and they gave them to callers and other viewers for no end of kooky reasons. We needed something to call our "pile of junk" other than "pile of junk" and...)
Boot Hill Bar & Grill, Vega Texas
STEVE COLE WRITES: We live in Amarillo (duh, Amarillo Design Bureau, get it?). 45 miles west of here on I40 is a town called Vega. Lots of cowboys, not much else. I knew it well when 18-20 since I was always driving truckloads of lumber there for my dad's construction business (he built about half of the houses in Vega).
A couple of years ago, there was a reality TV show called Popularity Contest shot in Vega. Every week, the town voted which contestant they liked most, and the lowest vote-getter was sent home. A lady chef named Rory came in second, but she fell in love with a cowboy, sold her restaurant back east, moved to Vega, and her new restaurant Boot Hill Bar & Grill opened last week. Rory was later on the reality TV show "next food network star" and again came in second (and again was robbed of her rightful victory). But the show mentioned that her new restaurant would be opening soon.
Leanna got her new Honda minivan yesterday, and we decided to drive over and see this place. We had very nice steaks, and told the waitress to tell Rory we had driven out from Amarillo to see her place, and wanted to meet her "just for a second" since we knew she was busy. We were escorted to (and into!) the kitchen, where Rory thanked us for coming by and apologized she had no time to chat. We told her we had seen both of her TV series and thought she had been robbed, which seemed to make her day.
I think she should be on HELL'S KITCHEN next. She'd be the first chef to stand up to Gordon Ramsay. (He's the famous British chef who demands perfection by yelling at people. We have a saying: "If Hitler could cook, HE would be on television.") Rory is now a true Texan, and she just has to mention to him the percentage of Texans who routinely carry concealed firearms. Blast his bollocks, Rory!
How to Find Opponents
STEVE COLE WRITES: Many gamers are looking for new opponents. This is nothing new. When I was a teenager, there were maybe four wargamers in Amarillo that I knew, but there must have been more as the one store that carried Avalon Hill games (then the only wargames) would sell one or two now and then that my friends and I knew we didn't buy. Funny, it never once occurred to us to ask the store manager to give our phone numbers to the other guys. When I was in college, SPI (then the second wargame company and rapidly becoming larger and more innovative than Avalon Hill) had an opponent wanted list. I sent in my dollar to get it, and found only one person (of the 20 on the list) who was within 120 miles; the first and last person on the list were each 450 miles away (in opposite directions).
These days, the concept of contacting other gamers has had decades to mature, and works much better, and you have a lot of ways to do it. For best results, do all of them.
You can go to the Commander's Circle and enter your data (as much or as little as you are comfortable with) and perhaps find opponents near you. We are gaining new sign-in's every day, and since it's free you can try it every month or two and find out of somebody near you has signed in.
You can go to the forum and find the area where local stores and groups post announcements and invitations and let people know you're around. How silly would you feel if you found out that the guy who you've been arguing with on the forum for years actually lives in your town. (That HAS happened.)
Feel free to go to your local store and ask them to let you post a notice looking for opponents. You could also run a demo of FEDERATION COMMANDER (or any of our games) and "grown your own" opponents. If anybody already plays the game you demo, they'll doubtless drop by just to swap phone numbers.
Many towns have community bulletin boards on the local cable company's "home" channel. These are variously free or cost just a couple of dollars. It's hit-and-miss, but you could get lucky. (When I commanded Company C of the 1-39 MPs, I gained a dozen new recruits in a year that came from cable TV.) You could also buy a cheap want ad in the newspaper or the free advertising newspaper (American's Want Ads or whatever yours is called) found in quickie marts.
The quickest result, probably, is Starlist. Go to our Legacy site and look for the button that says Player Resources. Under that menu is a link for Starlist. Enter your data in the form, and you'll get a list of local players back. (This may take a day or two as it is done by hand.) Starlist is the most effective hunt for new players because the database has some five thousand players in it, far more than all of the other sources combined. The only drawback is that Starlist works with full information (name and address) and those who are seriously concerned about identity theft often find this uncomfortable. In all reality, however, Starlist would not give an identity thief any more information than your local phone book would, and if that's enough for those criminals to operate, they would be vastly more likely to use the phone book than to request a copy of Starlist.
The original website has a bulletin board system and the 8th item on the main menu is "seeking opponents". You can post a notice there (and search the previous postings). Again, you can post as much or as little information as you are comfortable with.
Many of those on Starlist and StarFleetGames.com/discus will be players of STAR FLEET BATTLES, but most of those can be convinced to play FEDERATION COMMANDER. Indeed, over half of the names on Starlist are people who quit playing STAR FLEET BATTLES for lack of opponents (or because SFB was too complex for them or their opponents) and most of those are ready recruits for the faster cleaner FEDERATION COMMANDER game system.
With more effort, you can post opponent wanted notices in a whole lot of boardgame sites (see the links list on our site).
If there is a game convention within driving distance, it's worth a trip to see if you might find someone who is also within driving distance. If there is a game club in your home town, or a store with a gaming area, go there and set up the game and wait for somebody to ask what it is. (Even better, take a friend who will play the game with you so you won't be bored.) If there is a star trek club in your home town, show them FEDERATION COMMANDER or Star Fleet Battle Force. There are people who have printed a card with the logo of one of our games and their Email address and left these in the windows of their cards who got Emails from other gamers in their home towns who were seeking opponents.
You can go always go to SFB Online and play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line with live opponents from around the world for the princely sum of $4 per month. You might even stumble into somebody local.
There are probably more ways than this to find opponents, but unless you live in a cave somewhere, you can almost certainly find a new friend within a short while by trying these methods.
STEVE COLE WRITES: Some people do not realize that you can download what amounts to a free copy of the FEDERATION COMMANDER game (well, enough of the game to play a few battles). Go to www.StarFleetGames.com/fc and you will find a lot of stuff you can download. Some of those downloads include:
o The free First Missions packet (demo version of FEDERATION COMMANDER).
o Turn gauges and firing arcs for the tabletop rules.
o Sample Ship Cards.
o Wallpapers of game covers.
o Frequently asked questions.
o Information for retailers.
o The original theatrical trailer (ok, not that, but it WAS the original flyer handed out at trade shows).
o Notes from the game designer (Steve Cole) on what parts of the older game STAR FLEET BATTLES we decided to include in FEDERATION COMMANDER.
But that's just a start. If you join the Commander's Circle, which is free, you can download the monthly Communiqué which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!).
LOOKING FOR ANOTHER VANESSA
We started the official search yesterday for a new marketing/customer support intern to replace Vanessa. (It's hard to get college interns when college is not in session, but I should have tried much harder to get one last May since too much of that job is not getting done.)
The job is posted on the West Texas A&M University intern site. I hope we have candidates by the end of the week, and someone hired well before the end of the next week.
The job is an important one. I've done most of the customer service since last May, which has detracted from my work. I've done just barely enough of the marketing part to make sure the wholesalers know we didn't go out of business, but not nearly enough. Whenever the person we hire leaves, would somebody please get on my case to hire someone else ASAP and not wait "until I have time to deal with it." I don't have time NOT to deal with it.
We do have one other new staffer due within a couple of weeks, Valla. She will be working with Kate, Samantha, and Paula in the production department.
Graphics Director Matthew Cooper writes:
Have you ever heard of Cafe Press? Cafe Press is a website where you can open up a free online shop and promote products on your website. Cafe Press creates and sells products with designs provided by various companies. So upon learning about Cafe Press, Leanna set up an account and we have uploaded several designs for T-shirts, coffee mugs, Christmas ornaments, mousepads, etc.
See www.CafePress.com/starfleetuniv for these items. And take a look at our new I-heart-Klingons T-shirt!
If you have any questions or comments or would like to see something on Cafe Press, let me know and I will set it up for you! Email me at: graphics@StarFleetGames.com
Communique #20 posted
We have posted COMMUNIQUE #20, and have sent out the August edition of HAILING FREQUENCIES, the on-line opt-in newsletter. If you aren't subscribing to the newsletter, you should! If you aren't reading Communique, you're missing a lot of good stuff.
Graphics Director Matt Cooper writes:
Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.
Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.
If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to write me at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and I will get it set up for you.
Progress & Obstacles
Steve Cole Reports: Some progress today. Art Trotman reminded me I had never written communique 20 which is due to release Friday, so I whipped it up and sent it to the staff. Reports tomorrow, final fixes, and post on time. It's a good issue, with a new ship (Klingon E5) and a scenario that can accommodate 3-13 players. We've been asked for more multi-player scenarios and this is a good one.
Steve Petrick was in the office at 6am this morning, bushy-tailed and ready to hit the backlog. He's been working like a man on fire all day. Bad news is that he checked the Seltorian CA mini needed for Squadron Box 13 and Border Box 5 and it's going back to the sculptor again. It may have been damaged in shipment; perhaps the glue was not hard set when it was packed. Another 10 days of delay. Sigh.
I got more reports on the Master Starship Book and processed them.
I still have about 70 "pending Emails" to answer, but I'm gaining about 5-10 per day.
Leanna and Petrick are installing the new phone system. The one we bought when we moved in here 8.5 years ago has become impossible to maintain. They don't make the phones any more, and they do burn out now and then. Matt's phone burned out a month ago and has never been replaced because the only replacement phones we can get are reconditioned (and don't work, the argument over refunds has been going on for months.) Anyway, the new system is slowly going into operation. Leanna's phone works, and so does Petrick's. They're trying to get my installed while I'm in the other office blogging. (Blogger changed their software a few months ago and it will no longer talk to my Mac, so to blog I have to either come use Matt's computer or Email him the blog. Matt goes home at 1:30 and I had him busy when he was here taking photos of miniatures and doing the August newsletter.
Leanna greenlighted two more FC products, and a new product idea. One is a scenario book that will probably come out this fall. Another is a "booster of battleship cards" which will be done when we need to reprint cards that we're out of. The computer thinks we have less than 100 of nine different cards, but a physical count in the warehouse says we have over 400 of each of them. The new product idea (the battle series) would have 15-16 cards, but only seven-eight ship types. It would have three each of four common ships and one each of three or four less common ships. It would not have map panels because we're running out of ideas of space things to put on maps and you guys are running out of tables to put them on.
Somebody asked when when we would do the fighters from SFB for FC, and I told them I didn't know. (There is a fear that hordes of drone-armed fighters would slow the game down like it did for SFB.) Consider that we do two or three major products a year, and we have Distant Kingdoms 1 and Distant Kingdoms 2, War & Peace, Orion Pirates, and at least three if not more "battle" packs, and we could in theory go for three more years without doing a fighter product. At least, I don't have to decided that today.
Making Haste Slowly
Steve Cole reports: Lots going on, and lots waiting to happen.
We're waiting for the fourth laser engine to show up as we're maxing out the other three. I have got to get the new building built or there won't be room for it.
Steve Petrick has been sick since Friday (wer'e both VERY allergic to onions and some other things, and he managed to swallow a piece of onion the size of his pinkie thumbnail, sending him to bed for four days), and his absence isn't helping. Because Mike has taken over the warehouse, Steve Petrick and I have been able to work much more closely, and when Steve P isn't here, I'm kind of back to the old "spend 30 minutes finding what he could just tell me" thing. I've been working on the Hydran chapter of the SFB Master Starship Book, and there are things I could ask him that I now have to look up.
Matt got back from his trip down state, and spent the day finishing the merging of the two web sites. A few things are still a bit wonky, and while it's easy to get INTO federationcommander.com it's trickier to get out of it since the original FC site had no real links to the SFB one.
Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., has a MySpace page! Be our friend and find us! Make comments, and see what's going on with Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., from another side! Our MySpace page is run by Matthew (the Graphics Director) so you will get different interaction with Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc., than you get elsewhere.
New Schedule Forthcoming
SVC: I am putting the final touches on the Fall 07 Schedule. We just shipped FC boosters 16-18 and we may have a battleships booster later, depending on whether we need to reprint some other cards. We'll have six new FC miniatures boxes. Distant Kingdoms will probably come in Feb 08.
SFB will get Omega 5 and G3.
F&E will get a product sometime between now and April 08. Whether it's ISC war or Tactical Operations, I'm not sure yet.
RPGs will be big news. We should have d20 Federation, GURPS Federation, and Modern Prime Directive d20.
Captain's Log #36 will be along in November.
There will be several new Starline packs of miniatures.
And there may be something else, something not expected, but don't expect it until you see it.
Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.
Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then.
This successful operation has now been expanded to include FEDERATION COMMANDER!
Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.
For the modest subscription fee of less than $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.
Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.
Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!
The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.
So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.
Night of the Mouse
It was about 11pm. Leanna was asleep, and I was watching TV. A mouse scurried across the floor, having (I later ascertained) come in through a crack under the garage door. Isis, who had been asleep, instantly awoke when the sound of the scurry reached her ears. She was out of bed, off the table, and onto the floor (and the mouse) in a flash. A minute of scrambling around boxes, furniture, and other clutter, and she had the mouse properly in hand (well...) and was scratching at the back door. Leanna had long since trained Isis that mice could be played with outdoors, but not indoors. Isis left, with her mouse, but before I could close the back door, Ramses had joined her, demanding to be given the mouse. Not willing to share, Isis darted to the back corner of the yard into the darkness. Ramses followed at a dawdle, knowing that in the cat-proof fence, Isis could not stay away for long. It was only two minutes later that I heard a scream from the bedroom (where a cat door was installed in the window). Ramses had returned, mouse in hand (well...) and was proudly displaying "his" kill for Leanna. By the time I got there, Isis was filing a protest over ownership of the mouse. With a bit of drama and effort, both cats and the mouse were back outside a moment later, and the cat door was firmly closed. Two hours later, the cats asked for (and were given) admission through the back door (the mouse was nowhere to be seen) and the cat door reopened in preparation for the dawn patrol a few hours hence.
ONE DAY IN HISTORY
August 2nd has been an important date in history many times over.
In 216BC, Hannibal destroyed a Roman Army at Cannae, regarded by some as the greatest military disaster in Roman history.
In 1776, the British landed 32,000 troops in New York to crush the rebellion.
In 1867, there was the "Wagon Box Fight," a battle in which 30 US Army soldiers, far from the fort cutting firewood, survived an attack by 1,000 Sioux warriors.
In 1887, the patent was issued for barbed wire.
In 1914, the First World War was just getting going (the Guns of August) as German troops entered Luxembourg and Russian troops entered Germany.
In 1934, the German Army swore a personal oath to Hitler, replacing the national oath to German itself. (US soldiers, from early times to the present day, swear their oaths to the Constitution, not to the country, flag, or president.)
In 1943, John F Kennedy's PT-109 was rammed and sunk by the Japanese destroyer Amagiri.
In 1964, North Vietnamese torpedo boats attacked the destroyer USS Maddox, beginning the Vietnam War. What few people know is that the destroyer was there to protect CIA smuggling of weapons to anti-communist guerrillas in North Vietnam.
And in 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, touching off 17 years of continuing US military involvement.
WHAT UP WITH THE MICE?
We haven't had a mouse inside the house in years, but in the last week Isis and Ramses have caught two of them. (Both times, Leanna and I woke up in the middle of the night during the crashing fury of an active game of "get the mouse".) The warehouse next to ours is full of food, and they never had mice (been here 15 years) until this year?