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Friday, October 31, 2008

Things Roll Along

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Today wraps up the tenth month of the year, only two more to go until 2008 is just another date in the past.

SVC is working on Captain's Log #38.

Leanna is processing the paperwork to fill orders and get the Alliance restocks ready to go for Monday, which means printing more books.

Mike Sparks spent the morning binding books and is in the warehouse now working to get today's orders shipped, and to assemble the games needed to send the restocks to the various Alliance warehouses.

Eric Oliverez is working on getting updates and fixes to the various web sites done.

And I am posting a blog.

Thursday, October 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. Mark Tutton does made-to-order decals for our Starline miniatures at a cost that barely covers his costs.

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

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

We have other staffers who do specific things (and sometimes a wide variety of things) for us including Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading and Product Professionalization); John Berg and Mike Incavo (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.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

John Sickels Visit

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

John Sickels was heading west on a business trip, and took the opportunity to drop in for a visit (and pick up a copy of Module Y2). John and SVC had time to run through some various ideas for the future "Prime Directive: Orions" role-playing module over a quiet dinner at "Montana Mike's".

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Progress and Travails

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We managed a few more pages of progress on Captain's Log #38, but it became necessary to do an "all hands" round in the warehouse. Sales and the need to complete projects has drained manpower (in terms of the hours spent in the warehouse) badly these last few months, and many items, while in stock, are not packed on the shelves and ready to ship. We have literally been living "hand to mouth" in the warehouse, having to pack what was being shipped right then and not having anything in reserve for the next order. Today, we stopped working on other things (orders still shipped) and SVC and I manned the shrinkwrap machine to build up inventory (lots of things packed, but not shrinkwrapped). This clears the deck somewhat for more things to be packed to build the inventory back up.

But the shrinkwrap machine broke early in the process, meaning more delay as it has to cool down before the repair (replacing the cutter/sealer wire) could be done. A fun-filled job that would eventually drive even Job to vulgar language as it requires one (1) person with three (3) hands to to efficiently. There is not room for a second person to help. Still, as usual, the task somehow got down without anyone totally losing their tempers in the process (a minor miracle in and of itself).

Thus the days shrinkwrapping is accomplished and we can continue our march to the release of the next Captain's Log.

Monday, October 27, 2008

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.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Return

This is Steven Petrick posting.

SVC and Leanna have made it home from their short vacation to the Wolf Sanctuary. They are both recuperating from the trip . . . as much as Isis and Rambo will allow them after being deprived of their self-heating waterbeds for two nights, not to mention their daily grooming services.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Quiet Day in the Office

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC and Leanna are off feeding the wolves. Other than that, it has been a quiet day. I got some work done on Captain's Log #38, Eric Oliverez got some work done on the next post we will be making, and he and Mike reorganized their office so that Mike could work on the Binder without blocking Eric from working on his computer (at least that is the concept).

Friday, October 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.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Captain's Log #38

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

With Module Y2 shipping out, we turn our thoughts and efforts to Captain's Log #38. There is no rest for the weary. We already have a fiction story by Michael Grafton in the can, and that is usually one of the hardest parts (getting a good one rather than having SVC try to write one from scratch). So the rest of the issue should fall together fairly easily and make its shipping date with no difficulties.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008



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.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Module Y2 Begins Shipping

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Module Y2 has begun shipping. Packing continues to complete the shipping, the printers are cranking out new books even now.

Monday, October 20, 2008


Stephen V. Cole writes:

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.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Module Y2 Makes the Finish Line

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Module Y2 needs a few final checks and it will be ready to go.

There is so much in it that it has grown to a 120 page SSD and a 100 page rulebook. I tried to stuff as much into it as I could, but somethings did not make the final cut. I wanted to include a Tholian MSC that would let you know just what Tholian units were available, but the MSC was so large I had to compromise and just all the Jindarian part to be added. I wanted to include an SSD of Early (and sublight) Skiffs, but there was no room, and they have been moved to Module Y3 for formal publication, but we will publish an interim SSD sheet in Captain's Log #38. Also in Captain's Log #38 will be some adjusted Paravian bases that did not make the cut for this product.

There is a lot in here, and I am grateful to the people who helped get it to the launching platform

Saturday, October 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.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gulag Part II

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today we began the operation to combine our two off-site storage areas into one. Lots of heavy lifting requiring all available manpower in the office. Moving the "portable building" components from one site to another required a lot of grunt work. Mike Sparks and Eric Olivarrez did the lion's share of the heavy lifting, and SVC and I helped where we could.

There were some minor "owies" (fingers caught under heavy things) at different times, but no major injuries (not even a minor traumatic amputation).

We did not finish (I had estimated five to six hours, but we did not make that time budget for a variety of reasons), and so will have to renew the assault in the morning. We will all be here at 0900 to make the final two trips so that we can turn in the truck by 1400.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Progress Continues on Module Y2

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Progress continues on Module Y2. The SSDs are done subject to last minute changes in their BPVs. The rules are written and are in format. The ship descriptions have all be completed, and various scenarios of the Kzinti Usurper Civil War in Y116 have been updated and formatted. The Annexes are done (again subject to last minute changes of ship BPV) and are complete.

This should be a good product with lots of interesting game background and ships to play.

Wednesday, October 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!).

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Module Y2 Marches On

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Trying to finish a product is often the most trying times. This is when you start getting reports on things you thought were done, but someone having seen the original material, and now having had longer to think about it than when he sent in his initial reports, will suddenly conclude that something, somewhere, must be changed. Sometimes he is even write (and he is really a plural in this case as this is not referring in any way to any single person). You can also find cases of miss-communication from earlier in the project, which brings things to a screeching halt to fix that gaff. The English language is a wondrous thing, but it is constantly being filtered through two (or more) brains and different things are heard and acted on.

Still, progress is being made and with luck the production schedule will be met despite a few sleepless nights.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Playtesters and Designers

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the problems with getting reports from playtesters (as I have noted before) is that they tend to see things through the prism of their own experiences within their own group. This leads to reports of things that are "obvious" to the playtester, but which have no meaning to the designer, resulting in a breakdown in communications. The playtester cites a specific case (at least it is specific to him), the designer is baffled because there is not enough information to really tell what the playtester is talking about, so the designer falls back on his own experience, which does not jive with what the playtester is indicating.

Sometimes one side of the discussion is, in fact, acting on or producing erroneous data, but note that it could be either side.

Sometimes the error is just obvious.

A case in point a while back was a playtest report received on a scenario. The scenario was unworkable according to the playtesters because they simply sat back at 30 hexes range and bombarded the ground based defense stations with disruptor fire, while the ground based defense stations' weapons were impotent. The attacking force then moved in and was easily able to handle the reinforcements because their ships had sustained little damage.

There were several problems with this.

One was the simple fact that a ground base defense station cannot be engaged by any means outside of five hexes range.

Another was that if you sat at 30 hexes range and fired on anything "landed" on a planet with an atmosphere you would likely be firing through a one shift on your heavy weapons (the target would put up max ECM and gain a point of ECM from the atmosphere forcing the shift even if the attacker had six points of ECCM) and a two shift on your phasers (same EW state, but atmosphere imposes an additional automatic plus one shift to phaser fire on top of the EW state).

In essence, to attack the ground bases the attacking force had to close, which in turn would make the ground defenses more powerful, resulting in at least heavily damaged shields on the attacking force, and influencing their actions versus the defending reinforcements.

Sunday, October 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

Saturday, October 11, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Star Fleet Battles has been in publication for a very long time. The result is that is that it has a very large and complex background. Adding to it is not simply a matter of writing something new, but having to go back and find out if something written before affects what you may want to write today.

An example is creating penal ships for the Klingons in the Early Years Period.

Seems simple, just take a D4 and do a D6J conversion to it.

Of course, you get into problems: When do warp packs show up? The D6J boom has a warp pack, was the technology in the Early years able to provide such a thing, or should that be a later technological development?

Then there is the background. Obviously you can write whatever you want since this all happens before D6Js show up, so it does not matter, right?

Well, not really.

In SFB we have Module R8 which introduced National Guards and provided the Klingons with LD4s, basically a D4 upgraded to General War level technology and used by the National Guard (so to speak) for local defense of important planets. That does not affect the D4J design directly, but there was obvious opening for an LD4J, and one was published in Module R9. THAT affects the D4J massively.

It does not answer the question of whether or not D4Js could have warp packs (the LD4J does, but all that sets up is that perhaps the technology shows up in Y120), but it DOES provide background and history on the D4Js such that, when the background for the D4J was written, it has to take account of the background of the LD4J that would actually enter service decades after the first D4J.

Friday, October 10, 2008


We have released this month's issue of the Hailing Frequencies newsletter and this month's Communique.  The newsletter has the latest information on release schedules and company news, as well as lots of other useful content. It also has links to the new Communique, a free PDF newsletter which is full of good things for Federation Commander players, including new ships, a new scenario, and updated schedules and rules. The newsletter also has links to the most recent Star Fleet Alerts, the press releases that tell your store when to expect new products.

Thursday, October 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.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Jean Sexton reports:

Today, ADB, Inc. is releasing Prime Directive d20 Modern, the first new RPG book from ADB, Inc. in years. This was the first book that I did as the new head of RPGs for the company, and President Stephen V. Cole assures me that this is the best RPG book the company has ever done. It has been a labor of love for a lot of underpaid and underappreciated people, and they deserve recognition.

Jonathan Thompson, who did the original conversion of GURPS PD into PD20, did lots of work in getting the d20M parts right. He never fussed when I asked for yet another chart. I was happy to help him correct many of the problems that were created in the original PD20 book when too many cooks tried to stir the soup.

Tony Thomas was always there when I hollered help! He made the sample characters truly reflect the d20M style.

Andy Palmer provided good input until Real Life forced him to step back.

Gary Plana, who did the original GURPS PD books, was there with details that I needed. Someday, maybe in Final Frontiers, we'll get in our "missing" planet classifications added. There just wasn't room for CLASS U in this book.

Loren Knight (who is writing PD Tholians) and John Sickels (who wrote PD Romulans and is now finishing PD Federation) helped with tempting insights. Loren was also in the background offering support and encouragement via email.

Mike Sparks has been a silent partner in this, at least to most of you. He's been a safety net (Jean, are you sure you meant p. 145, because when we renumbered it I think it moved to p. 143?), an adept reader of my mind (some of my notes to him were "interesting", but he had a very high success rate at translating "Jean-ese" into English), and a whiz at layout. He's worked late at night and on the weekends to get this project done. Mike began working at ADB, Inc., a few years ago as a warehouse helper, progressed to warehouse foreman, then to Customer Service Director. Leanna Cole secretly taught him how to do page layouts (because Stephen Cole, who did the previous layouts, simply did not have time).

Leanna Cole deserves lots of thanks for letting SVC spend so much time on this project. She hasn't even fussed about phone calls to their home when I had "HELP! NOW!" moments. She didn't complain Sunday night at 10pm when I called to ask SVC to drive back to the office and send me some files I needed. Likewise, Ramses and Isis have had to sacrifice "pat-time" and "brush-time" and "hunt-bunny-time" during the timeframe for editing this book.

SVC has done oodles. He's gotten those phone calls, driven back to the office in his pajamas, and has been forced to learn enough Urdu to understand what was written. He's pulled long days and nights, walked me through rough spots, spent most of Dragon*Con teaching me about the gaming/publishing business, and taught me a great deal about the business world (as contrasted with academia). He showed great confidence in me when he made me a company Vice President and put me in charge of RPGs. I look forward to doing more books (Federation, Tholians, and others) and translating the books we have for new systems (D6, HERO, Savage Worlds, Fudge, and others). I sometimes wonder if SVC is a little crazy when he thinks I can average "a book a month", but we'll see how much the volunteers and I can accomplish.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Progress Report

It is Tuesday, 7 Oct 08, and Mike Sparks is in the warehouse working on getting the new squadron boxes packed while (after a lost period for some maintenance repairs) the printers are humming away producing books that will later be bound. Leanna is getting the book keeping caught up so that we can make the shipments to distributors.

Monday, October 06, 2008


Steve Cole writes:

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.

Sunday, October 05, 2008


This is Steven Petrick posting.

It is Sunday, 5 October 2008. We have an overcast sky and light drizzle continuing. As always, we can use what rain we can get. The long range forecast says we might get some more rain early Monday, but after that it will be a dry and fairly pleasant (high temperatures in the low 70s) week.

Saturday, October 04, 2008


This is Steven Petrick posting.

Morale is something that is part of our lives, but we often do not recognize how important it can be. Most people who think about morale associate it only with wargames. The "pre-melee morale check" required in Napoleonic miniatures, or the "pre-armored vehicle assault morale check" in Squad Leader. But morale is also a factor in our daily lives. Feeling good about where you work, or simply about the work you do, helps move you forward to get your tasks accomplished, and it can make you go that extra mile to do the job well. It is not just the thing that is pushing the common infantry soldier to cross the open zone covered by enemy fire, it is often the thing that makes any of us keep doing what we are doing.

When morale fails, for whatever cause, even the simplest daily task can become insurmountable. Failed morale can literally cause people to become sick, listless, totally lacking in initiative, and unable to face their own fears.

One of the hardest tasks any leader can face is restoring the morale of those they are responsible for. Whether the leader is a military officer, the coach of a team, or simply an office manager, the task is daunting.

In a game, it is little more than a die roll or a matter of waiting a turn or two until "the rules" say the unit will recover. In real life it can sometimes be little more than a favorable pat on the back, or even a hot meal and a pep talk. Sometimes just replacing the leader who, perhaps through no fault of his or her own, has become associated with failure. Sometimes the best the leader can do to restore the morale of the followers is to remove himself/herself.

Morale is always a factor, and it should never be overlooked. Keep an eye on the people around you.

Because sometimes, when morale fails, there is no recovery, and the broken element (whether a veteran combat unit, or a business) will simply fail and be dissolved.

Morale is not just the business of the leaders, it is everyone's business. Give a favorable comment, some encouragement, sometimes just an ear to a co-worker's complaints, it can work wonders.

Friday, October 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.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Developing Ground Combat in the Star Fleet Universe

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Ground combat in Star Fleet Battles is very abstract, and going outside abstract is always going to be a problem. This is because of transporters. In current times if you are advancing and run into an obstacle you generally have to overcome it. Whether that means making the enemy force blocking you "go away" (destroy it or make it leave), or building a bridge over the river, or clearing the fallen trees from the road, or what have you. Yes, today we do have some "vertical envelopment" (whether by helicopter or by parachute). But these are subject to interdiction and the forces they deliver are relatively immobile. (Yes, the helicopters could be sent to pick the men up again, but this is time consuming.)

With transporters this all changes.

If you are advancing and hit an insurmountable barrier between you and your objective, you can use transporters to drop a force of nearly any size on the other side of the obstacle. You do not have to worry about keeping the force supplied, because you can transport down rations and replacement powerpacks for their weapons, and transport up any wounded for treatment (yes, it is not quite that simple in execution). If the defending transporter network has been destroyed (relatively easy for an attacking force to destroy any transporter capable installations from space) he will be reliant on shuttles, which are fairly easy to interdict and shoot down (when you are in control of space). Even better, this means most of his troops will simply be in large self-sustaining self-guarding prison camps (a battalion in a ground combat location on the other side of a continent can do nothing to help a battalion on the other side of that continent) until the attacker decides it is time to deal with them.

The upshot is that a defense pretty much has to be based on putting as much combat power as you can to fight for the few points the attacker must have (like the Dilithium Crystal mine), and pretty much ignore the rest of the planet.

This leaves little room for "maneuver" in the classic sense, relegating ground combat to little more than the defense, or seizure, of strongpoints, essentially a return to a siege mentality.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Chef's Choice

Steve Cole writes:

Most people eat out at several restaurants, sometimes in a random order and sometimes in a specific order. If one of your favorite places has daily specials that are "Chef's Choice" (usually, whatever the chef had too much of, or found a bargain on, or was inspired to fix), then you should suggest to the manager that he place a small flyer on each table that says:

Ever wonder what our specials are? Well, now you can find out without calling. Just write your email address on the bottom of this flyer and give it to your wait-staffer or the cashier. The manager will add you to the list. Every day, the chef will Email everyone on the list what he has decided to fix "special" for that day. If the special excites you (or even if you just want one of our regular selections) then join us for lunch. Maybe someone in your regular lunch group would be willing to come here (which we know is your favorite place!) if the special excited them, allowing you to enjoy your favorites from the regular menu, or the special itself.

This kind of marketing costs the restaurant nothing, but would encourage people to come for the special, encourage the chef to make specials that bring in a crowd, and would allow regular customers to convince reluctant lunch mates (who don't care for the regular menu) to go with you because today they can have the special.