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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Wrapping Up the Year in Amarillo

Jean Sexton reports:

What a year it has been for ADB, Inc. We’ve released many new products and made great strides in how we work together so that our productivity is going up and our stress levels are going down.

What have we released?

We have released numerous miniatures to complement our Federation Commander and Star Fleet Battles lines. These include individual ships as well as our Squadron Boxes and Border Boxes.

Each month we have produced Communique, our monthly newsletter for Federation Commander, as well as producing Hailing Frequencies, our newsletter for all our product lines.

Throughout the year we have released booster packs for Federation Commander.

In January, we released Federation Commander: Line of Battle which is a “booster pack” for people who want multiple battleships in battles.

In February, we released Federation Commander: Briefing #1, chock full of useful information for FC players.

In April we released Federation Commander: Klingon Space (mail-order only), designed for those people who bought Romulan Border first.

In May, Federation Commander: Distant Kingdoms was released, adding Hydrans, Lyrans, and WYNs for the FC players.

In May, our SFB players got Module Omega 5 and that added many PFs to the Omega Octant.

In June, everyone got a treat with Captain’s Log #37. Module X1R was released, providing many X-ships to the Star Fleet Universe.

In September, Federation Commander: Orion Attack was released adding even more pesky pirate ships.

October was especially busy. Module Y2 was released and added many new early ships to the Star Fleet Universe. Prime Directive d20 Modern was released and is revitalizing the roleplaying game line.

In November, we wrapped up the year with Captain’s Log #38.

What have we learned?

Working ahead is a good thing. It lets us plan ahead for what needs to be done and lets us budget our time more efficiently. We are working to avoid the “It’s 1:00 am and how many pages do we still need?” syndrome.

From my end, proofreading got much quicker when we found I could send the scanned page to the Steves and they could work from it directly.

Mike Sparks stepped up and learned how to do layout, so our Prime Directive line can grow.

This week in Amarillo has let us work together as a real team. Steve Petrick and I worked on checking some Ship Cards, and he was able to show me things I didn’t know to check. (True, Steve Cole winced when he saw the amount of purple and green ink, but he didn’t hide.) Steve Cole and I finally figured out what was happening to some files we were sending back and forth, and life should be much better for us (and his blood pressure should be lower, too!). Leanna and I worked well as a proofreading team, also.

I am looking forward to next year as I see glimpses of the products we will be releasing this spring!

Those of us at ADB, Inc. hope you have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve. Remember that the only thing that should be wrecked is your opponent’s ship.

Tuesday, December 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.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Keeping Busy at ADB, Inc.

Jean Sexton reports:

What an exciting first day!  I'd done some proofreading on Sunday night to get a head start on things and I was up bright and early on Monday morning. My body is still on North Carolina time, so at 5:00 am Texas time I was ready to proofread and edit.

After my check of the legacy BBS (everything was quiet), I started checking the Ship Cards for Federation Commander: Hydran Attack.  These were in black and white since SVC printed them off for me. I did go through them while they were on the screen to make sure no "pink boxes" had slipped in instead of the new green color scheme.  Now the Ship Cards are in black and white and purple ("my" color to use when I proofread and mark changes).

Leanna came to get me and we were off to the office.  Steven Petrick hooked up the line for my laptop and I was off and running. I did get to meet Eric Olivarez and Mike Sparks. They are the neat guys I thought they would be.

I got to participate in a group meeting about Tholians and their history.  I set up a spreadsheet to help me calculate the surface area of planets for Prime Directive's Federation sourcebook. I got to start proofreading and editing that. John Sickels is a joy to work with as I can concentrate on things such as is "amongst" or "among" the better word choice.

The company Christmas party was fun with lots of laughter, lots of funny stories told, and plenty of good will.

Now I am back at the office, courtesy of Steven, so I can post about "Jean's Day" for all of you.

I'll tell you all on Wednesday about how the week is going.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Jean Sexton is Here

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Jean Sexton arrived early in the evening last night, and was checked into a hotel for her stay.

Today, SVC and Leanna are taking some time to show her Amarillo.

Tomorrow she will swing into work with Michael Sparks on the Prime Directive project.

Saturday, December 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.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Jean is on the March

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today was an all hands on deck day, although SVC and I had had intended to sneak out to see Valkyrie. That did not happen as the theater was almost sold out by the time we got there, and neither of us wanted to sit in a crowded theater. Perhaps we will go sometime next week.

Jean Sexton is taking some vacation time from her "real job" to come try to finish the next Prime Directive Module.

Efforts continue on building up inventory and trying to make progress on the other various products scheduled for the first months of 2009.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

25th of December 2008

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

What are you doing reading this? It is Christmas Day and you should be spending this time with your family. Remember, there are many who are not with their families on this day, out there in either the heat or the cold giving you the respite to enjoy this day, whether you are Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Sikh, or even Muslim.

This is a day for Family, no matter what your personal belief, or lack thereof.

Do not forget those, whether soldier, policeman, fireman, or medical, or any of a number of myriad tasks needed to keep you safe so that you do not worry about your family on this day of days. But take the time to be with your own family, you will not have them forever, nor will they have you, make every moment count.

Wednesday, December 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.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

24 Dec 2008

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

With the close of the day, there is barely a week remaining in 2008. The year has gone by very fast, surprisingly so.

Usually I try to get a flu shot, but this year the flu seems to have caught me before I could get the shot (and it was a miserable few days as was noted).

I will probably be in the office on Christmas Day [if you all have not noticed, I do not have any real outside distractions, and have not won the lottery so I do not have the time or money to develop any (GRIN)]. Even if I won the Lottery, I would try to keep Star Fleet Battles going as long as I could. Much would depend on how much was won, but of course this is not something anyone need be concerned about.

As I have told SVC, if I have not already won the lottery, then obviously I never will (he says he does not understand that concept, to me it makes perfect sense).

Ah well.

Week took some time to try to figure out how we will set up in the new building if things in fact go forward. The building inspector has agreed to do his thing on the 29th, and if he finds no problems we hope to start moving in next Month and be all settled by the end of January 2009, and thereby starting the fourth decade as an entity.

Monday, December 22, 2008

To Order a Snuggie

Steve Cole reports:

I saw these "blankets with sleeves" on television and decided to buy a pair (buy one, get one free) one of which would be a Christmas present for Leanna. Since their website would not talk to a Macintosh, I called the toll-free number. I figured out pretty quick that I was never going to get a human being and would have to deal with the computer voice. (There was no "punch this number if you want a human operator, or at least I never heard one.)

So, it asked how many "sets" I wanted. That's easy, just one. Then it went through how swell it would be if I would order another set or two, and asked me how many I wanted. I pressed zero. Then it went through the identical pitch to buy extra sets,and I said zero again
Then it went through the hassle of getting a shipping address, billiing address, and credit card. Always a joy.

Then it said it had some special offers. I kinda figured I could just hang up the phone and the order would go through as it was, but I was hoping to get to some point I could get faster shipping options, so I listened.

They offered me more snuggies, this time at $5 off per set.

Then they offered to upgrade my snuggies to the thicker version. Ok, always go for the upgrade.

Then they offered to sell me some kind of leather bag, and I said no.

Then they offered to sell me a membership in some kind of buyer's club. I said no. They said I was crazy not to join the buyer's club and went through the whole pitch again. I said no.

They apologized for keeping me on the line, but said they were now going to repeat all of the specials.

I held down the zero key until I heard a voice say: "I have noted that you don't want the specials." Then it said "Your snuggies will arrive in two to six weeks" and hung up. Well, no faster shipping options so these things will arrive sometime, probably after we move to the new building. Great.

No contact info, no way to change the address, no way to get a human on the phone.

I realize they are "buried in orders" and "have to do it this way" but sheesh, I regret buying the things.

Sunday, December 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.

Saturday, December 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.

Friday, December 19, 2008

19 Dec 2008

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We shipped a few more orders.

SVC and Leanna decided to make the first real step towards purchasing a building. Things now depend on what the building inspector says. A positive step could lead to much disruption in the company over the first two months of 2009.

Thursday, December 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.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Wednesday, 17 Dec 08

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Another day has passed. Much work on the current project got done, but tomorrow will be more difficult as I will have an appointment with the eye-doctor. That means drops in the eyes to cause them to dilate. Sometimes this has no real effect, other times it does make my eyes very sensitive to light and I have difficulty looking at the computer screen.

SVC spent some time talking to Douglas Dietrich and Jean Sexton on the phone, in addition to making headway on various of his projects.

Mike Sparks continued building up the inventory of fleet and squadron boxes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Yet Another Day

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Another day, with not much to report I fear. Orders were processed and shipped, I got some work done on various projects and managed to answer a few letters.

Leanna is recovering from the surgery on her right eye, but she was here doing the orders.

Monday, December 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!).

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Here We Are Yet Again

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

It is Sunday, so of course SVC, Mike Sparks, and I are here in the office.

SVC is working on his Stacks Items (see previous posting).

Mike is working on building up inventory in the warehouse, specifically fleet boxes, squadron boxes, and general miniatures. We have the miniatures, but getting them in packages for sales takes some effort.

I am working on my own projects, with occasional interruptions to spot check what Mike has packed and to converse with SVC on some concepts.

Tomorrow, horror of horrors, I will doing the mail orders, as Leanna has a prior appointment (which is fine, as on Thursday I will be tardy as I have my own appointment with the eye doctor for my annual exam).

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Steve Cole reports on 13 December:

As I said in the designer's notes for Captain's Log #38, we completed all of the projects for this year without storm or drama by "working ahead" on them. (When we started this program in the fall of 2007, there was a gap in the release schedule -- and cashflow! -- as we "worked ahead" on several products instead of just focusing on whatever was next in line.)

We continue to do that. Steve Petrick never had any problem doing it without the arcane work management systems I use, and he continues to work (every day) on several products due for release up to a year in advance.

My own system is called the STACKS REPORT, so called because the theory is to do the top item in 30 different (metaphorical) stacks of stuff to do on my desk. Let's see how I did this week.

Star Fleet Alert is our marketing press release. I know we need to do marketing, and I have to do it, and I hate doing it. But I force myself to do a press release every week and I have done the one for next Monday.

I finished Communique #36 and Hailing Frequencies for December and had Eric send them on time (the 10th).

I got Leanna to stop working on mail orders for one afternoon and get the files to reprint Captain's Log #1 ready.

I have a list of "short jobs" and this week I got the Captain's Log #38 Supplemental File ready for hard copy sales.

I sent a ton of website upgrades  to Eric, who did them.

I reviewed the art schedule with the artists.

I updated one of a dozen website pages that are scheduled to be reviewed once every three months.

I didn't do a good job of reading the military intelligence files I use for research, reading only one (while seven more came in).

I exchanged memos with Gorilla Games and VBAM and sent memos to Starmada and Iron Crown.

I did half of a Ship Card for Hydran Attack and half of a Ship Card for War & Peace. I finished the FC Reference Rulebook and gave it to Leanna; it goes on sale Monday the 15th.

I got nothing done on Briefing #2.

I did a new index for G3, although Petrick sees no point in publishing it. I formatted all of the reports on the SFB Master Starship book so I can start the final "F" draft next week.

I sent a memo to the head of F&E about ISC War, and did a little work updating the Fed SIT. I also told the FEAR that I had already processed all of his Q&A files and asked for more.

I discussed the project to do new PD20M versions of Klingons and Romulans with Jean and Leanna.
I read and edited the seventeen-page Fed politics file.

Jean and I jointly sent a major memo to the PD staff.

I talked with the sculptors about new starships, ordered more minis from AoG, ordered the one ship we need for Border Box #8, and sent a memo to Ninja Magic.

I did six pages of CL #39, but only two of them have been sent to Jean.

The project (not part of the stacks) to make our website host stop complaining about Discus has moved forward, and we have (to date) cut 100,000 obsolete posts from the BBS.

Friday, December 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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Trying to Stay Busy

Steve Cole reports:

It's that time of the year when we take a deep breath. All of the major work is done, and there is a tendency to slack off instead of getting a jump on January's products. Jean and Leanna are hounding me and Petrick to stay busy. We're making progress on things while trying to catch up on things not done and press ahead with cleaning out the dead topics on the BBS.

I have a list of 30 tasks and projects which need to move ahead each week. It's a great motivator to work on something, go mark it "progress" or "finished" and see my "score" slowly mount higher and higher. I got a lot done Monday and Tuesday, not so much Wednesday and Thursday. I was distracted as we try once again to find an office building to buy. (We found one and put in a bid, but haven't heard back and others are trying to buy the same building.) I have also been spending an hour or two per day on the BBS clean up project. The "easy to delete" files are done, and I am down to the ones that actually require me to do some work, such as evaluating proposals for new ships or rules. I actually spent most of today creating a new index that will be included in Module G3. I did read and approve a very long memo for Jean to send to the RPG authors, telling them to get their project memos turned in by Christmas if they want a signed contract for a spot on the 2009 schedule. I am starting to mentally toy, again, with the idea of a new edition of Star Fleet Battles which would use some of the streamlining of Federation Commander: Damage allocation, double cost reverse movement, new ESG rules, only three ships shooting out of a super-stack, various ways to put a stop to star castle. Probably won't do it, but it's interesting to think about.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


Steve Cole reports:

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.

Tuesday, December 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.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Monday, Monday

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

For whatever reason, I could not get to sleep before 0330 hrs (at least that is the last time I can remember looking at the clock). The result is that when I did pass out, it was into a very heavy sleep, and apparently heavy enough that I turned off the alarm clock without succeeding in reaching consciousness. So I was more than a tad tardy this morning. This did, however, work out well, as I was in position to stop and render assistance to Leanna, whose car would not start because the battery had been drained. A quick swing by and some battery cables, and we were both headed to the office in short order.

I made some progress on my current projects, although I had the usual interruptions, including having to stop everything and create an SSD for someone (for some reason SVC wanted this person to have an SSD that existed, but with just those parts that applied to the Federation rather than to all of the other different empires it represented genericly). But that was done and sent out.

I still need to sit down and read proof read another project SVC needs done, and I need to get it done before I head home in case we do get more than a light dusting of snow overnight (I am currently assuming that it will be nothing, given how warm it has been, and in any case even if we get the promised inch, the roads probably have enough warm in them from the last couple of days to clear up pretty quickly).

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Thoughts on the Day that Lives in Infamy

Steve Cole writes:

Today is December 7th, the anniversary of the Day that Lives in Infamy. While it has been joined in that status by
September 11th, 2001, the original date still reminds us that there is evil in the world and that it can show up at unexpected moments.

Take a moment to remember the brave men and women who defended America, on that day, on all the days since, and on thousands of days before. The men and women in the US military in 1941 were a handful compared to the military we had a few years later, and today. Outnumbered and overwhelmed, many of those who signed on for a military career knew that when war came, they would be quickly killed or captured and that the US, which had failed to build an adequate military force in 1941, would have to build a new one out of what little there was. The US military that won WWII was a brilliant improvisation, frankly a bunch of amateurs who did not have time to learn how to do it right, but did it right anyway because they were Americans who had been called to do.

Today, things are different. A proper-sized professional military defends America. They know that when a war comes, they will have to win it, not wait around for America to build a new military force as it did in 1942. But the threat is different. The world knows it cannot beat America in a stand-up fight, so now we have to be on guard for the sneaky, the ruthless, and the insane. We also have to accept that there are nations out there determined to build a military that CAN defeat America in a stand-up fight, even if it takes decades. We can never give up the professional military we have, even while we ask it to learn to fight new kinds of enemies. The challenge is to remember how to fight the last war (which will, one day, come back) while learning to fight a new one.

Saturday, December 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 lasted 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 was personally liable) or that most of the family savings account was gone. It's a wonder she didn't kill him or leave him, but she did force him out of the game business immediately. He sold out for what he could get and applied that money to the debts. Moral of the story, if you are married, make your wife a part of every business decision and do not keep secrets from her about family money.

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

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

Just another Friday

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

SVC and Erick worked on the newsletter, I worked on my project. Mike Sparks packed orders and some products as well as binding a few more books. Leanna Processed orders which I checked and Mike Sparks packed. Then Mike and I made the trip to the Gulag to pick up supplies to continue accomplishing all of the above.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Just Another Lazy Day in the Office

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Mike Sparks has run out of immediate use supplies, and so a trip to Gulaug will be necessary to pick up additional materials to continue restocking our depleted shelves.

I got through some report files, and managed to shrinkwrap most of what Mike has packed of late.

Leanna processed orders, and Mike Sparks got them packed and shipped out with his usual efficiency.

SVC and Eric worked on the next newsletter.

Wednesday, December 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.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Things Move Along

This is Steven Petrick posting.

It is late, but I have made some progress on the next item that is due to go to press. Even now a draft of the parts I have done is making its way to the printer so that SVC will have one more thing to review when he gets to the office on the morrow. He will be late as he needs to get his heating and air repaired, and tomorrow is when the head honcho will arrive to review the situation. At his convenience of course (not that he is being deliberately obstructive, the reality is that such people make the best use of their time that they can and there is always the clutter of the unexpected ruining perfectly good schedules).

Lots of mail order went out, which was a constant running interference in trying to get things done for me, and I have a nice homework assignment still to get some word done on.

It is the last month of the year, and we are still running like it was the first day. Too much to do and not anywhere near enough time to do it.

Monday, December 01, 2008


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Our BBS has grown almost unchecked since we started it in 1999. This results in time being lost as the system cycles through all the old messages to see which ones are new since you lost posted.

No more.

We have instituted a system to delete much of the backlogged messages that are no longer relevant to the board.

Most of this has been done by Jean Sexton and Paul Franz who have attacked the problem with a level of ruthlessness and cunning that has been a wonder to behold.

Our thanks to them both for their efforts and to those who have helped in identifying the topics that are no longer active.