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Monday, June 30, 2008

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, 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.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sunday Lessons

Jean Sexton writes:

Ever gone to a con and wondered about how the booths are set up? Today I got a practical lesson in how to do that in reverse. Steve Cole was my instructor.

The rules of Origins are that you may not break down the booth until after the last customer leaves. We didn't break down anything, but we also didn't feel compelled to add more copies of things we sold as long as there were copies already out there.

At 4:01 p.m., the fun began. We had some boxes already packed by having consolidated our stock. We quickly packed all of our books and the unsold minis. The shirts were already in boxes and all we had to do was to add the lids.

Then Steve Petrick came back with the bad news: no big carts were to be had. That meant he would have to make multiple trips with the hand cart. That change in procedure meant packing the vehicle would be much slower and also meant that he couldn't help Steve Cole pack things up. Boy, was I glad I stayed to help them!

The tall magazine rack broke down into three parts, each with its own box. The clear magazine racks were actually six parts that had to be packed "just so" and then they would fit into three boxes. The boxed-up minis fit into the back of the mini display rack.

That pretty "tablecloth" turned out to be sheets! While Steve Cole went looking for someone (we'd accidentally missed a bag of stands that were supposed to go home with that person), I folded those sheets and the ones we'd used to cover the stock each evening. (Yes, the person was found and the stands sent to the correct destination.)

The big display stand behind the booth folded down into a very compact bundle and went into its zippered bag. The triangular shelves went into their flat box. Miscellaneous "stuff" went into a couple of boxes.

The two tables folded down and each actually folded in half with a handle for easy carrying. Then Steve Cole gave me a hug and headed out to supervise the loading of the minivan. I folded up the two chairs that belonged to ADB, Inc. and watched our boxes while Steve Petrick made a next-to-last trip. When he came back, he loaded the final boxes on the hand cart, gave me a firm handshake, and headed off to load up and head out.

I got my cooler (Steve Cole had already made sure that I felt safe about going off to my car by myself), my cat bag that holds the working copy of edits for Prime Directive d20 Modern, and my purse and set off on my lonely trip back home.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Need for Fun

Steve Cole reports:

I have been working long hours for two months to get ready for Origins. This (plus my weight, age, and health) has left me perpetually tired (exhausted, really), cranky, and weak. I cannot walk from the hotel to the booth without sitting down.

Today, I "played" in a live-action RPG called Terrorwerx. This involved a squad of space Marines fighting their way past monsters to find the parts to fix the drop ship.

I got to be the combat engineer who fixed the radio and called for extraction. I shot a few aliens, saved the colonel's life, and dragged the corporate lady out of the line of fire.

I came back from the "game" feeling better than I have in years. Maybe it's the adrenaline or maybe it's some kind of endorphin.

It's not just mental. I feel physically better. I do not feel tired. I do not feel sore. I walked, briskly, from the game back to the booth.

This has been a revelation to me. I must make it a point to do something physically fun every day.

Friday, June 27, 2008

More from Origins

Jean Sexton writes:

Friday was a day of learning. After a shift in our booth, I got to shadow our judges for the tournaments at Origins. There's a huge amount of paperwork that goes on to make sure the SFB players face a variety of different ships in order to show their skills. The Federation Commander tournament has different paperwork to check. If the judges do have to make a decision about who won a game (due to an SFB game exceeding the time limits, usually), the deliberation is measured and meticulous. Much thanks to Steve Petrick and his judges for letting me shadow them.

And then I learned a whole bunch about how the miniatures come into being. All I can say is "Wow!" John Schneder went through the steps he took to make a new mini model and talked about the materials he used. Steve Cole talked about the manufacturing process. I know so much more now.

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.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Idle Hands . . .

Jean Sexton writes:

. . . means that Steve Petrick will snatch you up to play in a classic SFB scenario.

I'm still at Origins and having a grand time. Working at the ADB, Inc. booth with Steve Cole was lots of fun. I got to see lots of interesting things and meet wonderful people.

That evening as I was standing around yacking to the SFB judges, he recruited me to play a classic SFB scenario. In vain did I protest I'd only played once; the guys all promised they'd help.

Help and advice from SFB judges and players like Ted Fay who sat beside me and walked me through Energy Allocation each turn? Well, I really should not turn it down. With lots of help doing things I had a grand time gathering up flags, dodging through asteroids, and "blowing stuff up". My Orion ship died gloriously while holding three flags of the five while making sure that the ship that damaged her also went down.

Maybe I shall see if I can have idle hands tomorrow night . . .

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Welcome to Origins

Jean Sexton writes:

It has been an exciting day for me. This is my first time at Origins and it is pretty fun. I’ve visited with the Federation & Empire players, and it was an experience! Gentlemen all, they’ve shepherded me through the basics of con stuff.

Steve Cole and Steve Petrick are just as grand in person as they have been through email. Tomorrow I get to explore the wonders of the ADB, Inc. booth (no, not an agonizer booth, but a vender booth!). I’m looking forward to learning more about Federation & Empire.

Tomorrow the Federation Commander tournament starts. Mike Filsinger is running that and is fascinating to listen to. I was privileged to hear some of the behind-the-scenes things and realized how much work goes into making the tournament a success.

So come on to Origins and you’ll have a grand time!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

We have merged the two websites. The combined site now has a new front page, site map, and index, making it a lot easier to use. You are welcome to comment on the changes, but more importantly, please suggest changes, and check the changes we make.

Here is my e-mail: Design@StarFleetGames.com or you can comment on either forum.

Monday, June 23, 2008


Steve Cole writes:

Better a hundred guilty men  go free than one innocent man go to jail.

So says the average defense attorney, and the average liberal who is generally opposed to sending anyone to jail if there is some other possibility.

I do not agree. I think it's better to send 100 guilty men to jail at the cost of accidentally sending an innocent man to jail now and then. It's not a perfect system, and the accidental incarceration of a truly innocent man (one not guilty of any similar crime he was never caught for) is actually pretty rare. Now, I don't want to be the one innocent man in jail (I could suggest a few names), but those 100guilty men who went free will certainly commit more crimes once on the street,crimes against innocent people who were never arrested or tried for anything.

We might presume that some of those guilty people only committed one crime in their entire lives. I'll even agree to half of them, a wildly exaggerated figure, but the rest are repeat criminals who WILL, no doubt about it, commit more crimes within hours or certainly days of their release, and will probably commit multiple crimes before they are caught and taken back to jail to await another trial.

So, Plan A: No innocent man goes to jail, at least 50 (and more likely 500) innocent people (who never committed a crime to be found guilty of) are injured, killed, or deprived of their property by the 100 guilty men who were set free.

And then Plan B: One innocent man goes to jail, along with 100 guilty men, and somewhere between 50 and 500 innocent people do not become crime victims. Sooner or later, the innocent man is found innocent and is paid a million dollars for his trouble. It's the cost of doing business.

This came to mind after I watched a National Geographic special about prisons. (National Geographic has an unfortunate leftwing agenda, with programming intended to prove that sending guilty people to jail only makes them worse. NatGeo also does some spectacular shows I really enjoy.) In their "prison nation" series they said that (a)jails are overcrowded because of mandatory drug sentences, (b) that state taxpayers won't pay to build more prisons, and that (c) state taxpayers won't pay for the kind of job training and "reintroduction to society" programs that have been proven to cut down recidivism (released prisoners going back to crime). They leave it up to the viewer to see the obvious answer (get rid of mandatory drug sentences) but I see the equally obvious answer (courts should order states to find the tax money for more prisons and for more job training in prison). I also see the less than obvious answer (just execute everyone on death row and everyone with "life in prison without the possibility of parole" right now, that will cut down the overcrowding a


Saturday, June 21, 2008


This is Stephen V. Cole Posting:

When I started Task Force Games, I did it (partly) to have people to work with and hang out with. I didn't want to be a lonesome game designer sitting alone in a room and working on games. I wanted to be a gregarious game designer hanging out with gamers. For the first year, I had to drag my then-partner (Allen) to work as he preferred to work alone in the quiet while I preferred to work with people around me. Later, we actually had an office, and so I got to have people around me while Allen locked himself in the smallest office farthest down the hall. For a few years after TFG split into two companies (TFG and ADB) I worked alone and hated it, then Petrick came to work for ADB and I enjoyed having at least some days each week that I had people around me. People to bounce ideas off of. People to share observations, thoughts, and ideas with. For the last 20 years, Petrick and I have spent most hours out of most days in a room together, each working on our own projects, but each available to discuss our projects when we got stuck or needed another point of view. We just finished three intense weeks working on Captain's Log #37 (mostly my project this time, even though previous issues had been half his and half mine) and X1R (about 90% his project, about 10% mine; I did the master ship chart and some of the ship names, and some proofreading). Having now finished both projects, I find myself suddenly alone, and not really happy about it. Petrick is out in the warehouse trimming Captain's Log. (Due to the supposed danger of the cutter, our insurance company will only tolerate company stockholders running it, and due to a screwup by the printer who did the cover, every book has to be trimmed on three sides instead of just one.) I am sitting in the office doing the "things to do before Origins" list, and have just about finished the "Do before May 1st" part so I can start on part 2 "Do before June 1st". Sigh. I don't like working alone, but we need those books trimmed. Normally, Captain's Log is about 50-50, but this time, because Steve was finishing X1R, I had to do most of his parts of Captain's Log (or do other parts to replace some of his articles). Now, in working on the "Origins prep" list, I find myself looking at the things in green (assigned to him) and doing whatever I can because I'm running out of things in blue (the ones assigned to me). Leanna has already done the things assigned to her (in red) except for one item that she cannot do until Monday (we leave at 5pm Monday). Soon enough, Petrick and I will be locked in a car for three days and I won't be alone, and by tomorrow he'll be back in the office working on is "green items", but for today, I'm working alone, and I don't like it. Leanna knows I don't like being alone much, so she comes in here every few minutes with some trivial thing she needs me to do or sign.

Friday, June 20, 2008


Our website is vast and full of fun, useful, and interesting documents, charts, play aids, illustrations, and other things. Most of the best stuff is found at: http://starfleetgames.com/playerresources.shtml which has lists of resources and links to other lists of resources. Take a look down the list and see if there are documents you always wanted and could never find or documents which you never knew you were looking for.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Luck and Skill

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Long, long ago I used to play a lot of Wooden Ships and Iron Men by Avalon Hill. I was the "odd man", running a frigate when almost everyone else captained a "ship of the line".

She was a Carronade Frigate; big guns but very short ranged.

Ah, but I was very good with the frigate. I was constantly able to maneuver my small ship into position to pound, at close range, enemy warships in situations where I received very little return fire. Heavy broadsides ripped the rigging from many an opposing ship of the line, forcing them to strike their colors to my mere frigate.

It took a lot of skill to get in close to use those big guns, but I did it quite successfully for a while in the numerous small actions (squadron level, rarely more than five ships on a side) we fought. I never had to fight in a big "fleet level slugfest".

The day finally came, however, when things did not go well.

The opposing squadron commander knew my reputation, and knew how I operated. The engagement massed three ships of the line and one frigate on each side. One of theirs was the largest Ship of the Line France ever built, the Paris (the squadron's flagship).

As was my custom, I saw a gap in the opposing line that I could exploit and moved my speedy little frigate to do so. Only to find that the captain of the Paris had precisely predicated what I was going to do, and maneuvered his ship, even though it meant breaking his own line, to meet mine.

At pointblank range the Paris let loose a full broadside after very nearly crossing my "T".

The effect was so devastating that my ship quite literally "blew up".

At that point, you could say my "luck" had run out. While I had maneuvered quite skillfully previously, I had been lucky that none of my opponents had anticipated that a speedy little frigate playing with the Ships of the Line would move in such a hazardous manner.

So, was it truly skill, or merely luck that my ship lasted so long in the campaign and captured so many enemy ships of the line?

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

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.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Ankle Incidents Part #1

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the jobs I held while in the service involved giving tours to high school students at the Air Assault School. As part of this we take them down and show them the obstacle course. For reasons of insurance, we cannot allow the students to run the obstacles (surprisingly, there are always a number of young males in any given group that want to be allowed to run the course, whether as a group any of them have any interest in the military or not). If the students seem to be getting along with the officer assigned to guide them around the post on their tour, I would sometimes race the officer over some of the obstacles (those least likely to soil our uniforms since the had to take the students elsewhere). These gets the students cheering for "their guy" as a sort of bonding experience to give them something to remember and talk about.

On this particular day the officer and I was racing across an obstacle requiring us to first scale troop ladders, go over the top, climb half way down to a horizontal ladder, walk across the Horizontal ladder, go over another beam onto another set of troop ladder that went from there half way to the ground, at which point you drop the rest of the way.

I (since I got to work on the obstacles myself quite often) had gained a lead as we went over the far beam. Then, I missed a rung with my left leg. This cost me my lead, and being somewhat competitive, I decided to regain it and beat the LT by simply stepping off and dropping three quarters (rather than half) the distance to the ground.

Really should have been no problem.


Except I landed on the deftly on my right foot, and my left ankle.

I swear I felt the ankle pop out of joint before the tightly laced combat boots force everything back to where it was supposed to be.

Before "the scream" could escape my lips I had my jaw clamped shut (must not upset the tourists). In an animated fashion I moved the tour group through the rest of the obstacles pretending nothing was wrong with my ankle, although I doubt I was completely successful in that, I think did convince them "the hurt is minor".

I got them back to their bus, answered a few questions, asked the what his next scheduled stop was (to get him to end the Q and A and board the bus), and told the medic to stand by.

I then stood there until the bus rolled over the hill, before falling against "The High Step Over" (the first obstacle on the course and instructing the medic to remove my boot and inspect my ankle.

I still have the cane from that incident.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Background Activities

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the things about a game that has been running a long time is background. Star Fleet Battles has a lot of that, so much that there are a lot of things you can extrapolate into the future from given "macro-events" very easily. The end of the General War, for example, was pretty ruinous for some empires and less so for others. Yes, everyone suffered economic exhaustion, but some never had any major incursions across their frontiers, leaving their industrial intact. That can help set up the next round of history and explain the decisions of various political and military leaders.

Even so, you have to make sure everyone is acting with consistency within their own characteristics. The Tholians, for example, are not suddenly going to become all chummy with the Federation just because the Federation helped them. The Tholians inherently do not trust anyone, and are going to be expecting the Federation to betray them at any time. They are not going to be any more friendly towards the ISC, even though the ISC has removed their "Seltorian problem" for the time being.

There character is always going to be one of trying to get to a point where they get that Dyson Sphere moving again.

Like I said, the Seltorian problem has been dealt with for the time being, but how many years will it be before more Seltorians show up now that they know conclusively that Tholians are here? (They did send messages "home".) For the Tholians that means more Seltorians will come, and they will not want to be there.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Free stuff for FEDERATION COMMANDER players!

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!).

posted by Federation Commander at 9:39 AM

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Even I Can Be Amused

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I am old. Been around for more than 50 years. Read a lot, seen a lot, heard a lot. I know most story lines before I sit down to watch a movie or a TV show.

All that being said, if you have not seen "Kung-fu Panda" you should go.

It was worth the price of admission if you know the "hero" will in the end rise to the challenge and defeat the foe.

But the computer work on this animated film was very good. The backgrounds were worth a look as things happened.

IF you have not been, go.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fear of 13

Jean Sexton Writes:

From Wiki: The fear of Friday the 13th is called paraskavedekatriaphobia,[1], a word derived from the concatenation of the Greek words ParaskevÌ (meaning Friday), and dekatreÌs (meaning thirteen), attached to phobÌa (meaning fear). The term is a specialized form of triskaidekaphobia, a simple phobia (fear) of the number thirteen appearing in any case.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Stephen V. COle 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 try to set it up for you! Email me at: Design@starfleetgames.com

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Campaign of Terror to Affect Our Election is Coming

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have said this before, and I am going to say it again because I think it is important and this is one of the few forums where I can express the thought and hope enough people will understand.

People in this world do things to influence our elections.

Right now the news is filled with stories about how the violence is down.

I will tell you right now that it is down because they are husbanding their resources to make attacks close to November, to make you vote for someone who will give up and leave.

The fact that they are husbanding them on this level is telling.

They ARE losing. There IS a good chance that if we kept doing what we are doing that there would be something that looked much like victory after two more years.

So they are going to pull out all the stops in September to October, burn every resource they have to look as strong as they can then so that we will vote in a President and Congress that only wants to quit, that sees quitting preferable to the cost of winning, because that way the cost of quitting is paid by future generations that they, frankly, do not care about because they do not want to look that far forward.

We are supposed to vote for people who are leaders, who will look ahead and deal with problems before they occur, not create problems in the present that will be harder to deal with in the future.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Report Cycles

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the joys of working on a project is the reports you get. The problem is that you have several different people generating reports, and you are the only one processing them. You need time to do new things to send out that will then generate new reports, but you are too busy trying to get through the reports that are coming in. You would like to set aside the reports to do later, but things you want to do are predicated on what is in the reports. It is an endless cycle until one day you are done. It still leads to a lot of late nights.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Stephen V. Cole 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.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Jump Towers

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Another little tale from Jump School, those wasted fun-filled days of my misbegotten youth.

During "Tower Week" (the second of the three formal weeks of training in Jump School in those days, it may have changed since) you had to make two drops from the 250 foot towers. These towers operate by raising a parachute with harness up to 250 feet, and then releasing it (in simple terms). The parachute is open and held by a clamp in its middle and by rings around its circumference. When the release is thrown (by a man on the ground) the parachute simply floats to the ground. The object here is that the soldier suspended in the harness under the parachute gets an opportunity to practice landing by parachute under a "real parachute" rather than simply jumping from a four foot platform or being dropped from a swing trainer.

I spent most of my time around the jump tower doing parachute recovery. This was a good deal, as the black hats (jump instructors) would not bother the people on parachute recovery (at least as long as we moved quickly about our tasks), but would frequently have the students waiting their turn to "drop" doing all sorts of things (mostly involving exertion and sweat). When the time came for me to do my drops, I wound up doing them "back to back", i.e., I did one, changed harness, and did the other.

The first drop was in a modified Dash One (-1) parachute. This parachute has large openings on the back end so that air spills out of it in that direction, imparting forward motion to the parachute. The modification is that it has the connector and those rings around the outside to it can be attached to the tower. My very first drop.

I came down light and easy, and had no trouble executing a perfect (well, "satisfactory" as the Black Hats graded them) parachute landing fall. All fear and concern that I would not know what I was doing was gone. Why did I need to even do the second drop? You make two drops from the 250 tower, and if either one of them is satisfactory, you pass (yes, 50% was a pass). If you bomb both . . . let's not go there.

In any case, I had made my one, why did I have to do it again at all?

Well, they put me in a modified T-10. Now the T-10 has three modifications for use on the tower. It has that connecting link, those rings, and the outer most circumference of material has been removed so the parachute is somewhat smaller in diameter than normal.

Now, if you are a thinking person, you have probably guessed that smaller parachute equals faster descent.

I did not make that connection.

My second ever parachute landing fall had the five required points of contact, it is just that instead of Toes, Heels, Calf, Thigh, and pushup muscle, it was toes, heel, kneecaps, elbows, head (thank goodness for that steel helmet).

It was a valuable lesson that I took with me, and if I had ever had to pull a reserve parachute after my main had failed, I would be prepared for the rougher landing.

Saturday, June 07, 2008


I constantly see things on industry mailing lists and in my Email where people want advice on entering the game business. The best advice I have is my free book which you can find at www.starfleetgames.com/book as a nice multi-chapter PDF.

In one recent case, an individual wrote to say: "I just lost my job and have decided to be a game designer for a living. I need a stable income of $4,000 a month. How long would it take me to get there? Three months? Six?"

I laughed and cried at the same time. For one thing, I don't make $4,000 a month now and I've been in the industry 28 years. (A few years I have made that much, barely, but not in the current market.) The sad fact is that except for the lucky three or four, game designers won't ever make that much. Worse, you probably cannot make a living as an independent game designer at all, since game publishing companies were (99% of the time) created to publish the owner's games because no other company would publish them.

In another case from some time ago (I'm going to blur some facts here so that nobody can tell who I'm talking about), a young game enthusiast decided to quit his day job and focus his full time efforts on game design and publishing. His wife said that she would allow this only if he "brought home" a paycheck of a defined amount each month. He had some money from an inheritance which was separate property and his wife allowed that he could use this. Well, he went through the nest egg, borrowed money from savings without telling his wife, maxed out the credit card he got for the business, and then got two more cards (those offers in the mail) without telling his wife and maxed them out. All the time (his company last 18 months and did a dozen products) he was "bringing home" the required paycheck. His company was making a profit beyond expenses, but not enough to cover the paycheck, but the paycheck continued because (a) his wife insisted and (b) he was sure he would start making more sales any time. One of the credit cards was a $5,000 cash advance spent on advertising (which produced few if any new sales). Every month, he wrote that paycheck but came up short elsewhere. He had established credit with the printers and with the companies that sold him advertising pages so he ended up deeply in debt to the printer and to advertising publishers. Worse, his first product (which sold well enough) ran out of print, but it was going to cost $20K to reprint it and the dwindling rate of sales (nowhere near as good as it had been 18 months earlier) would not support the debt load, but he "had" to reprint it to avoid looking like a company on the way out. Finally, with no more places to borrow money and creditors threatening legal action, he took the case to his wife for a home equity loan. She, of course, had no clue that his company was $40K in debt (for which he as personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

In another case (actually, there are four or five of these I have seen, all about the same), an enthusiastic game designer who knew nothing about the industry but was sure his game was the next big thing got a home equity loan, printed thousands of copies of his game, and THEN (and only then) asked other game companies how to contact stores and wholesalers to sell his game. He had no clue what size the market was (few games sell over a couple of thousand copies) or who the wholesalers were or what it would take to get them to buy (some now demand that you pay them $500 for advertising before they will carry your game) or even what the discount structure was (which meant that his cost per game was fairly close to the 40% of the retail price he had printed on the games). Moral of the story, learn as much as you can about the industry before you spend a dime getting into it. GO READ MY BOOK FIRST.

I see lots of gamers who think that running a retail store, and on-line discount store, or a game publishing company involves low work and high reward. It does not. If it did, a lot more people would be in this business.

Friday, June 06, 2008

June 6th, 1944, in Remembrance

June 6, 1944. This date is one we should all remember.

"Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force!

"You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world." -- From General Dwight D. Eisenhower's Orders of the Day, June 6, 1944

Many Americans awoke to the news that the invasion had started. Paratroopers from the US 82nd and 101st and the British 6th had been dropped into Normandy during the evening of the 5th and morning of the 6th. Landing craft were delivering troops to the beaches. Remember though, that communication was not as widespread as it is today. My father didn't hear this news until later because his family only ran the radio for short periods of time since they didn't have electricity.

"It wasn't too bad for us sailors, but I think one of the main reasons why Normandy was such a great success was that the soldiers would rather have fought thousands of Germans than go back into those boats and be sea-sick again." -- R. McKinlay as quoted in Caen: Anvil of Victory.

The rough weather may have contributed to the success. No one expected an invasion in such bad weather. The paratroopers that were scattered due to an encountered cloud bank, and enemy flak also contributed to the confusion of the Germans. Still, the rough weather led to many deaths. A person in my hometown was put off in water over his head. He only lived because two of his buddies were taller and held him up so he could breathe and reach shallower water. To this day, he cannot watch Saving Private Ryan as his memories of the day are too strong.

Back in America, during a radio broadcast, the Liberty Bell was tapped with a rubber mallet a dozen times to symbolize "independence". At the end of the show, it was tapped seven times to stand for "liberty".

But people didn't know for sure that this would lead to victory. It was another battle among many; however the Allies were finally taking the war to the Germans. My mother remembers her mother moving thumbtacks on a map, following the progress of the soldiers as it was broadcast back to the states. She also remembers that my grandmother lost a cousin on the beaches of Normandy. Knowing someone who was lost or hurt was not so difficult. For the US alone, approximately 29,000 troops were killed and 106,000 were wounded or missing.

"They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home." --"Let Our Hearts Be Stout" written by President Franklin D. Roosevelt

On the evening of June 6, 1944, President Roosevelt broadcast a prayer. "Let Our Hearts Be Stout" was meant for the soldiers and their families, but also for the average citizen. The title comes from this line, "And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be." The goal of the war was expressed thusly: "Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace -- a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil."

June 6, 1944. Let us remember the brave men who fought for such a noble cause.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Fifth of June

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Today is the Fifth of June. As had happened so often in history, our own and those of many other lands, thousands of men were preparing themselves for what many of them knew not. All of them were looking into the eyes of their comrades, and asking themselves if they would let them down.

It is often overlooked that many of the men who would go ashore, or float down from the skies, had never previously been in combat. Some had some experience with seeing people they knew killed, either from German bombing, or from accidents (and even German intrusions into) training exercises.

Most of them, however, knew that the next day was going to be something very different.

Most of them went diligently about their assigned tasks, drawing what fortitude they could from their leaders, their comrades, and their faith in themselves.

The vast majority of they would meet the tests set them on that fateful day more than 70 years past.

We can be grateful that, even today, we have people who will go in harm's way to protect us all. None of us would be here to complain about the cost of gas without their willingness to face the unknown horrors of conflict, whether in Normandy on that never to be forgotten day, or on the battlefields of the present, and perhaps those of the future.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

The Little Things That Make A Project Last

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

As you may be aware, the hardest part of getting any project done is the time to do it. I should be concentrating on Module X1R right now. But I have a lot of other little jobs that come up in the day and break my train of thought, not to mention just taking me away from my desk.

Things are even better because today was the day my E-mail address got picked by the Spammers as the dummy address under which they would send everyone spam. I got over a thousand E-Mails today (more than 400 were waiting for me when I sat down and more than 600 more came in in the course of the day) that I had to stop everything and start deleting from my E-mail before they caused the whole system to crash.

Then there are little games the computer program likes to play. I tell it to unlock the grids, and it does not, meaning I have to repeat the command. Only a few seconds, but over the course of a day they build up (that is not the only command that sometimes does not go through).

All sorts of other things go wrong, like having the program crash just when you were about to do the last save on a file. Everyone I am sure has been through that moment of inestimable joy.

Progress still gets made, but it takes a lot of extra effort sometimes.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


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.

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Deer Memory

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

At one point in my time in the Army I was given a no-notice assignment as a reward for previous performance. What that performance was can wait for another time, but the gist of the assignment was that I suddenly, at the end of a long week of effort, had to go from Fort Campbell, Kentucky (which is right on the border with Tennessee) to Camp Grayling, Michigan (which is about as far north in Michigan as you can go. Travel was by P.O.V. (Personally Owned Vehicle, i.e., my own car), I could not depart before close of business (the end of the duty day), and had to be there early the next morning.

Yes, it was going to be a long drive, and I was already somewhat sleep deprived.

However, Lt. Sviontek had been previously selected for this assignment, and as the officer I was replacing had been his ride, now I was his ride, so I would at least have someone else to drive. Even better, someone who was familiar with a standard transmission. (I favor standard transmissions, and have learned NOT to let people who have not learned to use one drive the car.)

The bad news was the Lt. Sviontek was about as sleep deprived as I was for the same general reason.

We did our best, and crossed into Michigan sometime after Midnight. (Despite getting lost at least once and finding ourselves heading West instead of East on one particular stretch of interstate . . . what can I say, we were both very tired.)

As we drove up the interstate, Lt. Sviontek had fallen asleep. The road we were on at that point was a four lane dual divided highway (at least as I remember it). There was no other traffic in view (no headlights ahead, none behind us). No nearby towns, no sources of light other than my headlights and starlight (I could tell you what the phase of the moon was, but I do not remember it being overcast).

Suddenly my headlamps filled with deer!

There was a herd of them all over the road, and I was heading into it at somewhere between 65 and 70 miles per hour. I slammed on the brakes (which was only going to slow the speed of impact if I hit one) and swerved desperately for perceived spaces of darkness (where the headlamps did not appear to be reflecting off deer hide).

Somehow, I got through without making contact.

The braking and radical swerving woke up Sviontek, but by the time he came awake enough to be cognizant, the deer were past. And while I explained what had just happened, it was quite clear that he thought I had dozed off and the car had woken up to find the car about to leave the road. However, my heart was now pumping and for a few more minutes, at least, I was going to be wide awake. So Sviontek started to doze off again.

My heart rate and breathing were about back to normal levels when . . .

the headlamps again filled with deer!

Once more I braked and swerved for dark spots to try to avoid a collision, but this time Sviontek, who was not completely out, snapped up. Both of us were looking to the right as, in a flash, the head of a buck appeared in the passenger side window looking down into the car, at least eight points, and somehow under-lit (as if the light was coming up from beneath him).

Seatbelts do save lives, as the only thing that kept Sviontek from leaping from his seat into mine in startled reaction was his seatbelt.

Somehow we again made it through the herd without an impact. We drove on for another mile or so until we came to a place where it was possible to pull off the road and stop. At that point I advised Sviontek that I was done, the only way we were going to make it the rest of the way to Camp Grayling was if he drove. Which he did.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The First Day of June and the Countdown Begins

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is the first day of June, and our more or less official countdown to attendance at Origins. More than any other time of the year this will be a period of "controlled chaos". There are going to be a lot of tasks to be done in a very short period of time, and a lot of day to day tasks that cannot be put off.

As always, we will endeavor to meet these challenges with good spirit, and each of us has some goals that our attendance at Origins encourages.

For SVC and myself there is not just the pleasant stop at Sweetwater Barbecue (always something we look forward too), but also the pleasure of meeting our customers, many of whom we have come to regard as friends over the years.

For the warehouse crew and "adult supervision" there is the joy of have SVC and myself out from underfoot, even if it does mean they have to pack the orders themselves and pick up the mail.

We hope to see you all at Origins.