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Sunday, November 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.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Look to the Stars!

Jean Sexton writes:

Here at ADB, Inc., we are inspired in part by the dream of traveling to the stars. Some of us look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day: http://antwrp.gsfc.nasa.gov/apod/ and are reminded of the glory and wonder of the universe. I live out in the country and have a decent view of the night sky. (When I moved out here and discovered the security light was burned out, I never had it replaced so I could see the stars even better.)

During this week, I have enjoyed looking to the southwest and seeing Venus and Jupiter in the sky at dusk. You can't miss them; they are brilliant--so bright they can be seen even in New York City. But starting tonight, the crescent moon joins them nearer to the horizon. Tomorrow, the moon moves closer and on Monday, December 1, the moon will be the closest yet, above the two planets. They will be only two degrees apart (if you hold your arm out, one finger will cover about two degrees of the sky).

I do intend to see this again on November 18, 2052, but just in case it is cloudy that night, I will watch this conjunction now.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Where Has The Day Gone?

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I am not over being sick as of yet, but felt well enough to come in and do some of the backlogged shrinkwrapping. After about three hours of that, I more or less collapsed and did not really get anything else accomplished.

Ah well, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving Thoughts

We at ADB, Inc. wish you and yours a bountiful Thanksgiving. While times have been hard for many of us, still, take time to give thanks for the good things that have happened. Consider opening your heart for someone less fortunate. Perhaps you can donate to a charity a coat you no longer care for so someone stays warm this winter. Perhaps you can spare a few dollars for a soup kitchen. Invite a friend who is far from family to join you for the day.

And always, remember those in the military who are standing between us and those who would do us harm. Some of them are far from home; take the time to drop those you know a note to let them know they are not forgotten.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 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

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Small Businesses Are Nimble

Steve Cole reports:

It is said that the advantage small businesses have over large ones is that they can make decisions faster and respond to changing markets, and have a closer connection to their customer base (smaller though it may be).

It is well known that I am the most-accessible game designer in the industry. It is also well-known (and much admired) that ADB, Inc., has the most fanatically-loyal customer base in the wargame (adventure game) industry. It is not well understood just how much effort ADB, Inc., has given toward educating its extremely intelligent customers into how business works. Having done so, we can reap the reward of an educated customer base.

We noted some weeks ago that in planning for products for 2009, we wanted to emphasize books we could print on our own equipment. These kinds of products are good for our cash flow. This is why we are encouraging Jean Sexton to generate at least six RPG books during 2009, and why we are seriously considering the SFB Master Starship Book, as well as the first two FC Borders of Madness books.

Knowing this, our industrious and ingenious Federation Commander customers came up with an idea (by way of a discussion led by Mike West, the Q&A guy and principle staffer for Federation Commander). Their idea was to do "paper" FC expansions for areas of the Star Fleet Universe that have lower sales potential but higher demand for new ships.

Mike West and his happy-go-lucky band of gamers came up with the idea of using the not-yet-defined FC Briefing #2 as a book for The Middle Years, a period of time before the General War. (The ships in Federation Commander have all of the "refits"; the Middle Years uses the un-refitted ships which are more challenging to fly due to thinner shields, fewer weapons, and less power.) Mike needed about 72 ships to make Middle Years work, which would require FOUR "attack" products for Federation Commander, and would cost players about $200 including the boosters. Doing a paper product will cost those players only $20.

He submitted this plan, and I took it to the Board, which immediately (and enthusiastically) approved it. So, in the space of three or four days, a new product was not only conceived but approved. Mike West wanted 96 pages (Briefing #1 was 64). Leanna said she would approve this increase in page count ONLY if we could get the revised price ($19.95) into the Greater Games Industry Catalog in time. Fortunately, I had made it a point to be friends with the guys who run GGIC, and since I had done them a favor (I published an article encouraging all publishers to have a "Finish Like A Professional" list for each new product, including the line item "update your GGIC database") the guys at GGIC were willing to make the fix despite being HOURS from going to press. Talk about "nimble"; that is an AA Turn Mode if I have ever seen one!

Players have asked if we would ever do color-laminated cards. We will have to see if sales of Briefing #2 would make that a workable proposition. If so, we will! If not, we're considering a plan to sell color PDFs of the ships. That would probably involve taking some number of orders before any are shipping, so that somebody doesn't put the PDFs on Internet (a violation of law impossible to stop, and giving them clear PDFs makes this so easy somebody does it within hours) and kill the sales.

Monday, November 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.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Lazy Sunday.

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today was Sunday, so we all took the day off . . .

Don't believe me?

Sigh, that is why I do not tell falsehoods, I just lack that proper poker face.

We did take the morning off, but otherwise we were all here processing the mail orders and printing the special orders so that we could get them shipped out tomorrow.

SVC spent some time getting the next Communique ready, and I tried to do some more work on a campaign submission.

The author made a major error on refits, setting his campaign in Y178 and granting all involved Tholian units the Web Snare refit, which was not available until Y183. His background absolutely requires the campaign to be set in Y178, changing the date would pretty much make the campaign background unworkable, and I cannot change the date when Snare Refits appear (and would not do such a thing), and see no real need for a large "conjectural campaign", i.e., what if "X" had happened resulting in history being slightly different so that the Tholians had to do this operation in Y185" (to allow some spread of the new refit)?

Changing the date would impact other things (like why aren't the Tholians using PFs?, and if the mission is so important, why is there not at least one X-ship involved, and etc.). So I am going to have to see if the Tholians look like they might survive without the refit, maybe weakening the opposing forces just a bit (the reduction in BPV for deleting the snare refits is just not enough to justify giving them another ship, and the mission does not seem a likely one to assign a single prototype casual interceptor to).

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Another Day in the Office

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I spent most of the day checking in miniatures and trying to clean up some "campaign submissions". The problem with the campaign submissions is that the authors were neither complete (things like where the opposing sides set up or what their weapon status was) nor thorough (it is annoying to find ships listed as carrying more fighters than they have bay space for, or having a refit the ship never received, or appearing in a "historical campaign" six years BEFORE the first ship that class was built). It can also be a wonder to read how "Side A" won a given battle according to the author's historical outcome, but side A is so outmatched in that scenario that the only way it could have won is if the opponent just laid down and died. No special scenario or campaign scenario rules saying this happened, just a list of ships and a note that side A won, not even a special victory condition.

I tried to make that campaign work, tried to figure out what the author was trying to do, but there was just way too much missing information and too many confusing items.

No names because I am not interested in embarrassing anyone, and I am always looking for new ideas.

Friday, November 21, 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.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Steve Cole reports:

We got an Email today (we get one like it at least once a month) wanting us to license somebody to do a Prime Directive book with our background and another game system. We declined the opportunity, which produced some confusion (and, due to that confusion, some frustration that was headed for anger). We declined the deal for several reasons.

The big one is that our contract with Paramount doesn't allow us to sub-license other companies to do Star Fleet Universe products and pay us royalties. There is a way around that (doing it as a joint venture), but this option is only practical for the kind of project we cannot do for ourselves. (That might be a project so expensive we couldn't afford it, such as producing $50,000 worth of plastic clicky-base starships in China. Or it might apply to some kind of project we cannot do because we don't know how, say, a computer game. Such a project would have to produce a lot of money to be worth the hassles of the special contracts required; the royalties we would be paid on an RPG book would not pay the cost.) In the case of an RPG book, we have Jean Sexton to edit them, we have two writers asking to do that particular system, and we have the Kyoceras to print them. We can do RPG books (that somebody else writes) just fine. No need to license somebody to do them. Well, there theoretically could be a reason to license somebody to do a book we could do ourselves (say, more book available to be done than we can do ourselves), but there's a reason that situation cannot (by definition) actually arise. I'll get there in a minute.

The reason people want us to license them to do products is that the publisher of a product makes more money than the licensor or the designer. It's just the way the game market works. If you do a $25 RPG book that sells 10,000 copies to the wholesales (at a 60% discount, meaning $100,000 total sales), the writer might make $4,000-$7,000, the game system licensor might make $5,000, and the publisher might make $20,000 (profit after paying expenses, including licensing fees to a big motion picture corporation). So you can see why a writer would rather make $24,000 than $4,000. While every dollar is earned by hard work, the publisher has the opportunity to do the work and make the profit. (Think of being the publisher as creating a profitable job for yourself, not as winning the lottery. Whoever makes that $20,000 is going to work hard to get it.)

Now, the writer's idea is that we should be happier to make $5,000 in royalties from him than to make nothing if the book isn't done at all. True, but in this case, the book can and will be done, without licensing it to somebody else. Why would we hand over the $20,000 part of the deal? We'd be crazy to do that, and some writer will come along willing to make the $4,000. (Two writers are competing for this deal even now.) We have no moral obligation to give away money -- money that we need to make to keep the company healthy.

We managed to confuse (and through confusion, induce frustration) with the writer by noting that if he wanted to write the book for us, we'd consider that deal, but that two other writers were already bidding on the project (perhaps he would be good enough to beat their audition chapters?) and that due to the massive amount of editing a new system RPG core rulebook requires, we only expect to do two new core rulebooks during 2009, and that we have about six game systems to pick from. (We also noted that we were guessing about the amount of work a new core book would take based on one very bad experience and that it might turn out we could do the books faster, but we wouldn't know for six months or a year.) His frustrated response was that if we could only produce two of the six available new systems during 2009, would we not make more money by doing those two AND licensing him to do a third one? We explained that, no, we would not make more money. We would in fact make less money.

The reason is that we could not risk our name and brand by allowing him to publish a book we had not fully checked. It would take exactly the same amount of work (and the use of the very limited and valuable number of Steve Cole Hours and Jean Sexton Hours that the company has) to edit-check a book for him to print under license as it would for us to edit-check a book we were going to print ourselves. Editing and checking HIS book would REDUCE the number of books WE published, so it would not be "two books we did and one book he did under license" but "one book we did and one book he did under license." That would mean far LESS money for us to do the deal with him than it would for us to pass on the deal.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Arms Room Debacle

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of my best achievements in the Army was that during a major inspection, three of the five unit Arms Rooms I was the battalion staff officer responsible for supervising the maintenance of passed with out a single noted fault.

The annoying thing was that I came so very, very close to a perfect record.

Each of my two arms rooms that had a fault had one. In BOTH cases, I had found the specific fault myself on a last pre-inspection visit on my own part. In one case, the unit armorer, after being notified of the fault (a loose flash suppressor on an M60 machine-gun), failed to tag it. I can regret that I did not stand there and watch him tag it before I left, but I had other duties to perform, and he not only forgot, but placed the weapon where it was certain to be the first one the inspectors saw.

The second fault in the other arms room involved an M-16 rifle. This was a "magic rifle" in that when it was turned in, I happened to be in the arms room (again making a final pre-inspection), and snapped up and said aloud "something is wrong with that rifle". When I broke it open a quick look inside showed that someone had disassembled parts of the weapon that they were not authorized to do, and had placed them back into the weapon incorrectly. This was a fault that by regulation could only be fixed at third shop. So again I directed the armorer to tag the weapon, but in this case I watched as he did so before I left. The company commander came in after I had left, saw the weapon had a tag and demanded to know what the problem was. He then took it upon himself to order the armorer to "correct the problem". The armorer did so, but was not aware that not only the hammer spring was in incorrectly, but the sear spring had also been installed incorrectly. As fate would have it, of the ten rifles on that rack the inspectors were only going to look at one, chosen "at random", and that was the one (Magic Gun).

So close, but defeated by Human Error (in the first case) and human Hubris (in the second case).

Tuesday, November 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.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Project Update

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

The first shipments to the wholesalers of Captain's Log #38 and squadron boxes #22, #23, and #24 were made today.

I was in the office late due to a power failure in Canyon, Texas. I have no idea what caused it, but Canyon, Texas was left completely in the dark. I suppose I should buy an old wind up alarm clock for times like those.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Getting Inside An Opponent's Head

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the ways to be the "better gamer" is to keep track of the seldom used rules, and to understand not just your opponent's ship (in Star Fleet Battles), but your opponent. An example was a tightly fought duel between my Federation heavy cruiser and my opponent's D7. We had been savaging each other for a while, and both of our ships were badly shot up. Easy to access repairs were gone, and neither of us could afford to divert what power remained to Emergency Damage Repair.

With my ship crippled, and no photon torpedoes remaining, I allocated warp power to being preparing a probe for the following turn. My opponent was maneuvering for a strike on a shield that was not in arc of my remaining phasers.

Neither of our ships were refitted, and had a disruptor and several phasers remaining, while I had just a few phasers. The damage to our ships being so heavy, any additional damage was likely to be critical.

Having finished the probe, I now needed to figure out how to use it.

Probes are wildly inaccurate and short-ranged with very restricted firing arcs. I needed my opponent to present himself voluntarily at the optimum range.

Since my opponent's phasers were phaser-2s, it was obvious to me that he would not want to fire outside of Range 3, and I could obviously hold my fire to that point. But, again, probes are not very accurate, and even if the probe hit I was not likely to survive his return fire. My own phaser-1s would score some damage even at range 4, but without the added damage of the probe, it would not be enough, and the odds of the probe hitting were just too small.

So, I decided to give my opponent a seeming opportunity to win outright. By inviting him to close to range zero. (Bear in mind that there is no "me too firing" in Star Fleet Battles). I accomplished this by executing a Tactical maneuver to face my opponent and bring my last phaser-1s into battery, while he was at Range 4 and, to his surprise, fired them. He had been (as I had intuited) expecting I would fire them when he reached Range 3 and would fire his own weapons, but at least my phasers would score a couple extra points of damage at that range.

With my ship now bereft of any weapons, he decided not to waste his own remaining firepower at Range 3, but to go ahead and close, right down my throat, to Range 0, where his own disruptor would not miss and the damage his phaser-2s would do would be increased on average over what they would do at Range 3. He could survive two points of feedback damage from his disruptor through his down #1 shield, but my ship would not survive the ten points of damage the overload would inflict on me plus his phasers.

With those thoughts in mind, he closed for the killing shot, then at Range 1 I fired the probe, though there was still a chance of a miss, it was minimized at that range, and the surprise blow caught him unprepared to return fire. With the heavy damage his ship had already sustained the mere eight points of damage the probe represented was devastating, stripping him of his weapons before they could fire.

Had he not gone right down my throat, the probe would not have been in arc. He had forgotten that probes could be armed as weapons by crippled ships and assumed the phasers I had fired before were all I had. That let me prepare a golden trail of defeat before him, and he obligingly walked right down it.

Saturday, November 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!).

Friday, November 14, 2008

Marching to Shipping

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Today was a day of printing and binding and trimming books, plus creating the back covers for the new Orion Squadron Boxes for Federation Commander and checking in the new miniatures to go in those boxes (Orion Double Raider, Slaver, Hydran Gendarme, and Commercial Platform/System Activity Maintenance Station). Tomorrow will be much the same with the added tasks of actually packing the squadron boxes and pulling any associated restocks with the distributor orders.

So things remain busy here for the time being.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Captain's Log #38 is on the Printers

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

A short blog to let everyone know that Captain's Log #38 has completed its last pre-publication checks and is even now being printed.

Wednesday, November 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

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"The nation which forgets its defenders will itself be forgotten." --Calvin Coolidge, 21 July, 1920.

ADB, Inc. would like to take a moment today in order to acknowledge and thank military veterans. We know full well that we and our customers enjoy the freedoms we do due to the service of these men and women. While a particular individual may not have stood directly in harm's way while he or she served, the knowledge that sacrifice might have to be made was always there.

Many of you are veterans; some of you are still serving. We thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your keeping the wolves from the door. Words are inadequate for just how grateful we are.

For those who read this, take the time to say thank you to someone who has served. Let that person know how deep your appreciation is.

"Again and again we have owed peace to the fact that we were prepared for war."
-- Theodore Roosevelt, 2 June, 1897.

11 November 2008

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is the eleventh day of November. It is both a day of celebration, and a day of somber melancholy. It is a day of celebration because it commemorates the end of one of the bloodiest wars of the 20th century. At the time it was known as "The War to End All Wars", but in a little over a generation it would become known as "The First World War". It is a day of somber melancholy for all the lives lost, and the destruction wrought across the world. Most Americans do not realize that the fighting took place not just in the confrontation between the Entente powers, whom we joined, against the Allied powers, who became our enemies across no man's land in France. Fighting raged in Italy, Turkey, Palestine, across the broad sweep of the plains of Russia, and in the Jungles of Africa. The Warships would, in the opening days of the conflict, blast one another to red ruin off the coasts of South America and in Asiatic waters.

War and conflict has ever been part of the human experience. And you cannot fault anyone for wishing that the world would be at peace, that we could "Study War No More", but you can and should fault their naivete. War and conflict are simply smaller human faults writ large. You can no more unilaterally disband the military forces of a nation and say "we will not fight any longer" and expect other avaricious nations to respect your stance than you can disband a city's police force and expect that crime will stop simply because there are no police to combat it.

Aggression is never something that can be rewarded. You cannot no more expect an aggressive nation to stop being aggressive by wagging your finger at it then you can expect a bully or a mugger to back off simply because you are appealing to his better nature. Again, war is human faults writ large. You cannot really end war as long as mankind is divided.

And division is not simply a matter of one government controlling the world. There will always be those who will see theft, or violence, as the best way to improve their own lot in life. Just as the mugger gains long term benefit for short term violence (the contents of your wallet takes him a few minutes of actual effort but may allow him to take the next week or so off). Unify the world and there will be insurgencies, both for material reasons and the merely social (do you really believe a unified world government that is not forcing everyone to practice Wahhabi Islam would be acceptable to Osama bin Laden and his crew?).

So for today, remember those that suffered in the wars of the past, and the war of the present. Not just those who did their duty and now lie entombed in forgotten fields and the ocean's depths across this globe, but those whose lives were forever shattered by the sheer horror that is war. Without their courage and willingness to place themselves between war's devastation and home and hearth we would not enjoy the freedom and safety most of us take for granted.

Monday, November 10, 2008

More Progress on Captain's Log #38

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Progress continues on Captain's Log #38. The cover has been completed and sent to press (we could not do this earlier because the contents have to be completed so that we know what will be on the back cover). The book is basically done except for final edits and proofing.

Sunday, November 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.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Another Day Done

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

Captain's Log #38 is just a little closer to publication. We are mostly in the world of waiting for people outside to provide us with the final components, doing final edits, and final proof reading.

So, what did you all do with your Saturdays?

Friday, November 07, 2008

Progress Continues on Captain's Log #38

Under the stern and utterly capricious and cruel eye of Jean Sexton, Captain's Log #38 presses steadily on towards its publication date.

Jean Sexton has stated that "the random beatings will continue until the product goes to press". So far, 100 of the 120 pages have been delivered to her, but not a single one of the has passed the proofreading test.

She further states that rumors of attempted escapes by the Steves are just that, rumors, as there are absolutely no signs that anyone or anything has tampered with the chains linking them to their computer consoles. The reported sightings of rust on some of the chains is merely blood from the recent beatings, and she regretted that these had not been cleaned up earlier.

Jean Sexton refused to give any credence to rumors that food rations had been cut . . . noting that even if they had been, there is more than enough "surplus stored bio-energy" in the Steves to carry them through to job completion.

"Hungry Steves are busy Steves," she was heard to remark.

Thursday, November 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.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Peaceful Transfer Of Power

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

It is time once again for those of lucky enough to live in this country to breathe a quiet sigh of relief.

Once again power has begun its transfer from one party with its vision and ideals to an opposing party.

Once again, this has been accomplished without the use of force. No massive bloodletting in the streets between the opposing camps. No rounding up of the losers to be disposed of at the whim of the victors.

We face the possibility of this every four years in, and to a certain extent actually every two years (although our general voting trends make such a transfer of power between Presidential elections a rarity).

Ours is not a perfect system. As Winston Churchill supposedly observed: Democracy is the worst form of government ever invented by man . . . except for all the others.

For now, we the people have spoken, and now is the time to allow our newly chosen leaders the opportunity to prove that we have chosen wisely.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Election Day Philosophy

Jean Sexton Writes:

Today is Election Day in the United States. As citizens of the United States, we choose our leaders. This is both a right and a responsibility. At ADB, Inc., we are not pushing you to vote for a particular candidate, a particular stance, a particular belief. We are simply urging you to vote. Vote as your conscience dictates and do your duty as a citizen.

As my father says, "If you don't vote, you have NO right to complain about anything that happens. You gave up that right when you didn't exercise your responsibility and vote."

Never let it be said that a single vote doesn't count. In one town in North Carolina they ended up flipping a coin to see who would be mayor because it was a tie. A single vote would have made the difference.

Today, don't let that missing vote be yours.

Steven Petrick Notes:

I spent a decade of my life wearing a uniform and prepared to carry a weapon in harm's way when and as needed. That does not give me the right to tell you HOW to vote, and I have never done so. But I do echo the above sentiment. I do not care who you vote for, as long as you do vote and vote honestly (do not waste your ballot by writing in Mickey Mouse, if you cannot vote for someone, at least try to vote for the one that will do the least harm while in office). There is a truth right now that no matter how many people we know and would like to have in the oval office, there are only two people who have a chance, and you should choose one of them (again if there is not one you can wholeheartedly support, at least choose the one you believe will do the least harm).

It is, however, your choice. I will not tell you who to vote for, only that you should vote. Do that, making the best choice you can based on the information available to you, and you will have done all that I can legitimately ask of you as a fellow citizen.

Monday, November 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.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Just Another Manic Sunday

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

First, a bit of a clarification. While a very hot wire did slash across the back of my hand and leave a nice line of seared flesh, this did not result in its remaining in contact long enough to burn down through the mere flesh, boiling off fluids, until it reached the bone. It did hurt, but my reflexes are not yet quite so slow that I was not immediately aware of the sensations of pain and automatically jerking back away from the source. That is one of the reason Nature created pain, to minimize the damage.

Today is Sunday, and as is not unusual, SVC and I are here laboring away to try to get the next product done. We have made some progress today, never as much as we would like, but to some extent more than we expected to get done. Yes, it is just another Manic Sunday (our Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays tend to be manic as well). At least on Sunday (most of them any way) we get to work in the office relatively quietly. I am not being dragged from the computer console to trim books, check orders, study miniature masters for missing phaser bumps or the like, or repairing the shrink wrap machine, or . . . Today, I get to try to do my own part of the job with relatively few interruptions (there are always some).

It may still be a manic day, but Sunday is often still the best day.

Saturday, November 01, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting:

One of the aspects of a budget that gets very little thought (whether in government or in smaller business) is maintenance. For the government, failing to do proper maintenance leads to failures of infrastructure. For a large business it can lead to electrical outages, or large machines (like a machine press at a newspaper) failing to operate.

The point here is that money does not simply come in and accumulate to be spent on more things in the future. It has to be spent to take care of the past as well.

We had two breakdowns this week, for example. Once more the sealer/cutter wire on the shrinkwrap machine parted (one more laying a small scar of seared flesh across the back of my hand). That is a small breakdown (which could be worse if the wire maintained contact with my hand longer than the fraction of a second it does, i.e., impairing my ability to work at minimum and requiring hospitalization in an extremely unlikely worst case). But fixing the shrinkwrap machine takes time, and parts, which are slowly consumed and need to be purchased yet again to have on hand for those times when the machine fails. And this is just a minor breakdown, we have had to replace the heating elements in the machine, and sooner or later the conveyor belt will fail.

The more serious breakdown involved the booklet maker. We need to fold and staple nearly a 100 booklets this weekend to ship on Monday. But the rollers in the booklet maker have finally failed, and while we may manage to keep them going a little longer (maybe enough to meet this order), we have to pay to have replacement rollers sent in.

The maintenance on all of the company's equipment is continuous and ongoing. None of them are going to last forever, and we have to make sure that there is money set aside to deal with each problem as it arises. Especially those that cannot be dealt with "in house".