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Saturday, February 28, 2009

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.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Got Any Marketing Ideas?

ADB, Inc., is always interested in great marketing ideas, ways and places to sell our products, as well as new products to sell. We are developing a line of non-game products (calendars, paperback books, ship books, plus Cafe Press). We have an Amazon store (not to make money so much as to put our products in front of other groups of potential customers), and the MySpace page exists for that reason as well. We tried a lot of things that didn't work (Google Pay per Click, full color ads in trade journals) and a lot of things that did work (banners on gamer websites, Star Fleet Alerts) and are always looking for new ideas. If you have any, send them to us at Marketing@StarFleetGames.com and we'll think them over.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Losing One's Balance

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have nearly suffered significant injury several times of late in the office. These incidents have all been associated with the simple act of sitting down. Most of the desk chairs in the office are on wheels, and will move readily if there is no wait on them. Recently, almost every time I have tried to sit down in one of these chairs one or the other of my heels slams into one of the legs of the chair and sets it to sliding away from just as I have begun to sit down. I am past the point of "aborting" the sitdown (my weight has already shifted off center and gravity has taken hold) when this occurs. So far, I have managed to survive (usually by adjusting the angle of fall . . . all I can do, by pushing away from the earth with legs such that I overtake the receding the chair and land in it awkwardly). But one of these times I am likely to completely miscalculate the trajectories and wind up slamming my head on the floor (or the edge of a desk).

I am not sure what is going on. I used to have (while not graceful as a gymnast) a pretty good sense of balance. Now it seems increasingly that maintaining my balance is intruding into conscious thought processes rather than being entirely automatic. Relatively minor disruptions on the ground over which I am walking now seem to have the power to throw me to the ground. It was not that long ago that I would not give any thought to bounding over a short wall or vaulting over a fence slightly more than waist high.

I am obviously in some state of decline, and find it truly possible that this trend may lead to severe injury at a time when I am not doing anything that would, in the past, not even remotely be considered risky.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Austin Trip Coming Up

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC and I will be out of the office all next week as we have a contractual obligation to be in Austin, Texas. This will involve driving a truck down (an estimated ten hour trip). We will depart on Sunday (1 March), and should be back in the office by Sunday a week later (8 March). This means that both of us are spending much of our time this week in making preparations to depart. Plans have to be made (probably not much trouble avoiding "rush hours" on Sunday, but we probably still want to get through any large towns in the afternoon).

We are both, by this time, old hands at such trips (given the annual Origins trip), and the only real problem will be trying to get as much done here before we go as we can. We are taking some "work related" material with us, so the week will not be a total loss (we hope).

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:

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

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

Monday, February 23, 2009

What Would You Change in Your Past?

Jean Sexton writes:

One of those Internet questionnaires was floating around this weekend; you've no doubt seen them in your email box before. You know the type of question asked (my answers are in the parentheses):

If you were a crayon, what color would you be? (Purple!)

How many keys do you have on your keyring? (1, 2, and half a ton)

Where would you like to retire? (Amarillo!)

A friend sent back that the quiz was too long, and suggested 20 other questions. These were not the "typical" questions you find on such internet "getting to know you" emails.

If you could have lunch with three deceased people from history, who would they be? You can assume they speak your language, but you cannot assume they would answer your questions truthfully or at all. (Elizabeth I, Lord Byron (anyone "mad bad, and dangerous to know" would be an interesting guest), and Queen Victoria)

What was the best meal you had this week? (Nuked baked potato with butter. Ate it with hot Russian tea to drink.)

If you could change one decision you made earlier in your life, what would it be?

That one made me think. What would I change? And then--If I changed that, what would be the consequences?

I finally decided that I wouldn't change anything. I like the fact that I ended up on ADB, Inc.'s BBS one day when SVC was interested in finding out my opinion on something. If I changed something bad that happened in my life, would I have found a path that led me to this day when I can ask you, "
If you could change one decision you made earlier in your life, what would it be?"

And missing that, I would regret.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


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.

Saturday, February 21, 2009



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.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Module G3 Is Printing

This is StevenPetrick posting.

Module G3 is being printed and will start shipping to the distributors on Monday.

The expanded Module G2 does not have Annex #5, which has been kicked back to a future Module G3A (which itself will have added items, not just Annex #5), but it does have a Master Fighter Chart that includes a listing for every fighter and bomber with its allowed mega pack, so there is no question about what a given fighter gains from a mega pack.

It also has all of the Master Ship Chart data for ships and PFs added in products (including Captain's Log) since Module G2 was published.

There are no less than five (5) pages of Master Weapon Charts, one of which is mostly just the fighter and PF weapons tables (so you can clearly see what the weapon ranges are), another has the various things your Marines can do (the hit-and-run tables, including attacks on shuttles, combat in a shuttle bay, and the general boarding party combat table that is used for both ground combat and combat inside a ship). The weapons of the Simulator Empires are also included [note that the plasma table includes an entry G L for the advanced technology plasma-L torpedo, and a GL (no space) for the "Long Range Plasma-G" torpedo used by the Triaxians].

At the request of the players we included various tables from the rulebook in a section at the back of the book. Like the EW effects table, the formula to retain, or gain, lock-on to a cloaked ship, the lab data table, and others.

For those who favor tournament play, Module G3's Annex #2 not only includes all of the possible interactions, but those interactions that occur in tournament play are in BOLD text so that you can skip down to them rapidly rather than searching for them.

While it took a ceratin amount of extra effort, the various Empires' Master Ship Chart pages all have their specific Empire in the header at the top of the page, including their Empire's rule number. Some of the smaller simulator Empires do share pages, and it was not possible to get all of the Empires to end on "even numbered pages", so yes the Klingons start on the back of a page of Feds.

The Omega and Magellanic empires are not included this product.

I hope that you will all find the book useful, and I extend my thanks to the many people who suggested errors in Module G2 to be fixed and requested things to make Module G3 better.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

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, February 18, 2009

Module G3 and Murphy

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Much time to work on converting Module G3 to a book was lost when my computer decided it was time to have a breakdown. (Remember my mentioning Murphy? Well, yes, he came to visit.) It took $75.00 to repair, and most of what time I did spend on Module G3 was in the afternoon hours.

It still looks like I will make the current publication date (Visitations by the Great Demon Murphy excepted).

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Module G3 Moving to Publication

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today was mostly spent trying to move files from Excel into Pagemaker. It is slow and tedious, partly because when I can, I try to get all of the ships of one class on one page (this is not always possible, there are limits on the number of pages a given empire can have). This has sometimes meant trashing all current effort on a given empire and starting over. As an example, I thought it might be nice to have the Neo-Tholians start at the top of a page, but the notes section at the end of the Tholian listings is just too long and forced some Neo-Tholians ships into some blank space on the previous page. The "Math" said the page layout would work, but the computer system determined (by its own arcane methods) that it would not.

In any case, a complete draft should be done by tomorrow, and after SVC and Mike Sparks look it over, note any final changes, it should be ready to start printing on Thursday. (I want to start printing sooner, rather than later, Murphy always likes to rear his head on the weekend when the repair men are not available, so try to start on Thursday so the repairmen can get their on Friday and you can meet your shipping schedule on Monday).

Once Module G3 starts printing, I will need to do a clean errata/change file on what was done, that will take a few days of my time. I will also then need to start getting ahead on Captain's Log and getting some proposed page counts to SVC on some other possible projects.

I need to get all the done before I have to drive the protable building down to Austin the first week in March (and somewhere in March I have a dentist appointment . . .), so do not think I am sitting in my chair just snoozing away. There is pretty much always something that has to be done.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Some Pets You Will Never Forget

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

We are still working on getting settled in. Pictures are gradually being posted on various walls (so they are no longer on the floor). I brought one of my cat Stripe from when I was a kid. Stripe was a brown tabby cat, and the odd cat in the litter (his three brothers and sister were all white without a trace of any other color, as was his mother). Somehow, Stripe became my cat for much of his life. The pictures of him in the frame were all take fairly late in his life, while I was away in the Army. All show him laying down and taking his ease. One is a close up of his head, where he was obviously disturbed from his nap so the picture could be taken. Another shows him curled up in a box, and again being "disturbed". The last two both show him spralled on the back of a recliner. One of these has him complete at his ease, obviously enjoying his nap.

I have had a lot of cats in my life, so many that I cannot remember all of their names or even what happened to them all. Stripe was not the first cat that was "mine", but he was one of the two longest lived. And he was (as cats go) extremely intelligent with a well developed "vocabulary" (he had specific "meows" for specific purposes, i.e., I am hungry, I am thirsty, I want out, I want in, I want attention, and others). He was well adjusted to going for rides in the car (liked to sprall in the back window and watch the scenery pass by), and liked going for walks around the neighborhood with his "human", as well as just wandering around on his own.

He was a good hunter, although truth to tell he hunted more for the (to a cat) joy of the hunt than anything else.

He never seemed to forget me, seemed to know who I was when I came home on leave (I have known cats that if they did not see you for a month, they treated you as a stranger, but Stripe while he would be wary around anyone completely "new" would always greet me as his own, not just by scent by by sight.

I wish everyone who ever had a cat could have had a cat like Stripe. He was exceptional (as far as cats go) in so many ways.

Stripe died while I was in the service, and now I cannot even visit his remains as the house where he lived out his last days belongs to a different family now, and is in Florida in any case.

He will always be my cat though.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

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!).

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Steve Cole warns:

Guys, don't forget Valentine's Day. Don't blow it off. Don't ignore it. Girls like that day, and expect to be treated nicely and specially that day, and get upset if you don't. A nice card, flowers, and a nice dinner are required. A present (perfume, jewelry, a Victoria's Secret gift card) are ... well, not required, but worth doing.

LONG-MARRIED GUYS: Use Valentine's as an excuse to rekindle a spark that has long grown into a habit. Maybe you are both too old for that silly kid stuff, but heck, try being a kid just one evening and see how much fun it was.

RECENTLY-MARRIED GUYS: Sorry to tell you, but you NEVER get off of this hook.

IN A RELATIONSHIP: Guys, if you've been with the girl a year or more, put a ring on her finger or admit you are never going to and let her move on. Cosmopolitan tells girls to give guys 15 months to produce or ring or they'll dump you. If she's a keeper, KEEP HER.

CASUALLY DATING: Time to make it special and see if there is another level to go to, or if you both need to look elsewhere.

SINGLE AND LONELY: Look around. Is there a girl in the office who is single? Go to her and say "Look, I'm alone, and if you're alone, let's get some dinner together and have a nice chat. It doesn't have to go any further, but if we both get back into the dating pool, maybe next year we can double date with real dates. It's got to be better than watching television by yourself." You never know. You might discover something you didn't know. Maybe in an hour of pleasant conversation, she will realize you'd be just perfect for a friend of hers. Don't go into it hoping to get lucky and you won't be disappointed, but girls are kinda fun to talk to even if no romance is involved.

Friday, February 13, 2009


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, February 12, 2009

Master Weapons Tables

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have a draft of the Master Weapons Chart, it is four pages currently. I have put a copy on SVC's desk so that we can discuss it on the morrow.

Right now, it includes all of the weapons from Basic Set (Phasers, Disruptors, Photons, ADDs, Plasma Torpedoes R, S, G, and F, and . . . requested for reasons I cannot fathom, MCIDS), Advanced Missions (Maulers, Plasma Ds), Module C1 (Fusions, Hellbores, ESGs), Module C2 (Tractor-Repulsors, PPDs, Web Casters, Web Fists, Displacement Devices), Module C3 (Particle Cannons, Shield Crackers, Web Breakers), Module C4 (Axion Torpedoes, Kinetic Cannons, and Plasma-As, Wire-Guided plasmas are not conducive to having a table), Module F1 (Warp-Augmented Rail Guns, Prospecting Charges), Module F2 (Ion Torpedoes, Ion Storm Generators, no table for Ion Pulse Generators), Module J1 (RALADS), Module J2 (Plasma-K Torpedoes), Module R1o (Plasma Carronades . . . Plasma Sabots are not conducive to being made into a table), Module X1 (Advanced Photons, Advanced ESGs, Advanced Web Casters, Advanced Web Fists, Plasma-M Torpedoes, Plasma-L Torpedoes), Module Y1 (Quantum Cannons, Quantum Wave Torpedoes, Nova Cannons, Warp-Targetted Lasers, Disruptor Cannons, and Heel Nippers), Module Y2 (Plasma Blasters, Plasma Vortex Launchers, Plasma Cannons, Plasma-V Torpedoes, Hellguns), and Module P6 (Proton Torpedoes used by the Hispaniolans). I have included notes about the ranges and overload status of some weapons (Fed Fighters that have them can fire Photons to 12 hexes range, and can have them fitted with proximity fuzes, but cannot overload them or rearm them outside of a carrier, Fed Conjectural PFs can use them as ships, but cannot fire them beyond 12 hexes range. No Fighter, PF, or Interceptor can fire a phaser further than 15 hexes range. And so on).

I made a ground combat (D7.0)/(D15.0) table, and a Transporter Artillery Table, but there is not room for them. If we went to a fifth page, I could add them, but there would not be much else on the page, unless we made all of the hit-and-run raid tables against both ships, and versus various shuttles. Sounds easy, but it would be tedious, and would only fill half the page.

I will see what SVC's thoughts are.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Progress on Module G3

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I am through all of the reported line items for Module G3. Now it is the killing of nits, and dealing with those last minute surprise additions.

I had really hoped to be done, but the new Master Weapons Table is proving more of a pain, and I do not know what the various "useful tables" are going to take up as the formatting on them keeps blowing up. At this juncture, I am just trying to gather them all and hope that SVC will be able to help fix the formatting.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


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.

Monday, February 09, 2009


Stephen V. Cole writes:

Many do not know that we have a page where you can download FEDERATION COMMANDER wallpaper.

Klingon Border, Romulan Border, Klingon Attack, and Romulan Attack are currently available in the following sizes : 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.


If there are any other sizes or any other images that you would like to see turned into wallpaper, please feel free to write me at graphics@StarFleetGames.com and I will get it set up for you.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday 8 Feb 2009

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

First, a thanks to Jean Sexton who covered the Blog while SVC and I were buried in moving the company to the new building.

Second, a note to let you all know that Module G3 is moving towards publication.

Third, my right pinky finger works, but is likely going to have a pretty noticeable scar when the scabbing finally drops off, but at least I avoided any infection. So far I am just gradually discarding dead tissue.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The First Saturday

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Today is the First full working Saturday in the new building. Most of "the crew" is here, Leanna working on orders, SVC and SPP working on getting products done, and Mike Sparks working on getting orders ready to ship on Monday.

All of us are kind of "rattling around" in the building. There is a lot of space compared to where we were, and it takes more time to move from one area to another. It is no longer a case, for example, of SVC just turning around from his computer and talking to me (or vice versa), now it is a case where if either one of us wants to discuss something with the other he has to get up and go to the other office (or send an E-Mail to the other person to come to his office).

Even trips to use "the facilities" are more time consuming since those are futher away.

The refigerator used to be next to my desk, and while I had to get up to get anything out of it (the door opened towards my desk rather than away, so I had to get around it to get something out of the refigerator), now I have to walk to an entirely different room.

Things are not helped by the continuing need to "put things away", i.e., find a proper place for everything and place it there. With luck, I will be able to spend next Saturday just going through the last four boxes in my own room and filing everything that needs filing, so that I will no longer have a skid sitting just inside my door. (What I will do with the space gained I do not know.)

Things continue to move forward.

Friday, February 06, 2009


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.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


It's been a less than spectacular first two weeks for President Obama. Frankly, it looks like the children are running the White House. Three major appointees have withdrawn (two did not pay their taxes, a third is being investigated for corruption), another was approved despite tax problems, and a few lobbiests got "waivers" from the "no hiring lobbyists" rule (so much for the "most ethical administration"). I watched West Wing for years, and Josh Limon would never have allowed this kind of incompetent staff work.

The "stimulus bill" is obviously in trouble and won't pass. Sure, blame it on Pelosi (who hung every payoff she could find to every political constituency the Democrats owed) but Obama approved it and fought for it and refused to change it. As everybody knows, it's not a stimulus bill at all, but a junk basket of pork barrel spending and other stupid ideas. The "tax cuts" are $500 checks for people (which won't stimulate anything; if you want to stimulate things, cut
business taxes from the US 35% rate to the European 25% rate). The infrastructure spending is mostly after the recession will have fixed itself (the only parts that are not are Bush projects which have finished planning and are ready for construction money to be allocated). The rest of it is just pork and new social (that is, socialist) programs (many of which will add more spending to every year's budget in the future).

Do I even need to mention that closing Guantanamo is dangerously stupid and naive?

Sure, Obama "won" and should get what he wants, and Democrats (and their Media Stooges, or maybe Media Masters) always define "bipartisan" as "Republicans do what Democrats want so that Democrats don't get all of the blame when it fails", but that isn't what happened. Seven years of the media telling people who didn't hate Bush that everybody else did hate Bush (and the insanity of the Republican Party nominating a Democrat-pretending-to-be-a-Republican for president) is what won for Obama. That and the economic crisis (caused entirely by Senator Dodd and Congressman Frank, who blocked regulations that Republicans fought for due to the millions of dollars in bribes that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac paid Democrats). The country voted for Obama (the most leftwing man to ever hold the presidency, or a senate seat for that matter) but the country did not vote for his socialist agenda.

The Democrats have decided that Republicans now have to say "we want Obama to succeed". We do want Obama to succeed in getting the country out of the mess it's in, but we do not want him to succeed in his radical socialist agenda. If he wants to save the country and be a great president, he better bring the Republicans in (as opposed to demanding their surrender) and consider THEIR plan (cut business taxes and let the economy fix itself).

Wednesday, February 04, 2009


Steve Cole reports:

I held off writing this blog entry, waiting for the "first official normal day of work in the new office" but it seems that is a process, not an event. Every day is a little more normal, but the move (while complete) is far from finished. There are dozens of things on the "punch list" (from replacing the toilets to changing the locks to getting the real estate people to remove the sign that says "buiding for sale") and a couple of hundred boxes of stuff yet to be unpacked (two or three of which have been waiting to be unpacked the last time we moved, ten years ago).

The office is gigantic compared to the previous one. What used to be the 600-square-foot office is now in the front two-thirds of a 3,000 square-foot building. (The back part of the building now contains equipment and work areas which were previously in the warehouse. Having them in heated/air-conditioned space is better, much better.) I have a private office (as does Petrick) and Leanna's office is three times the previous size. We have a kitchen (instead of a corner of one office with a sink) and a separate conference room for meetings (instead of using a big table that was in the office I shared with Petrick, which was an issue as every time we had a meeting, Petrick and I had to clean off the table).

We actually "moved in" about ten days ago when a moving company with a lift-gate truck moved the desks and the bigger equipment, but we spent most of last week (working 14+ hours per day) getting the warehouse stuff moved to the new warehouse (and the mezzanine taken down and loaded on a truck so we could sell it to another company) so we didn't do a lot of "work" in the new office. When we finally got everything moved (Saturday, a week after the moving company) our Internet system went down (Leanna plugged something in backwards as we tried to figure out the wiring the previous owners left behind) so we went home and took Sunday off to rest. Monday we had a visitor (Phil Reed from Steve Jackson Games) who was here to see our print-on-demand plant, which tied up most of the day. Tuesday (yesterday) I lost an hour meeting the old landlord (who was stunned at how clean we left the old building and promised to return our deposit promptly) and another hour to a dental appointment and spent the rest of the day sending apologies for emails I had not answered yet (and getting the Origins events registered, which was a lot more trouble than it had to be as their database won't talk to our Macintosh computers). So now it's Wednesday, and I am hoping to get something done this morning as I promised to spend this afternoon with Steve Petrick working on SFB Module G3.

Moving to a new building is a process that never ends. The "punch list" includes changing the locks (who knows how many people the old owners gave keys to?), paying the movers and the ironworker crew who took down the mezzanine, putting up shelves, adding a lock to the door of the bathroom Leanna uses (I had never seen a bathroom without a lock), getting the HVAC people to replace the thermostats (the computerized ones the previous owner used stopped working during the six months the building was empty), replacing some of the light fixtures, setting up the last of the equipment, figuring out the ethernet system, hanging pictures, hanging clocks (anybody seen the box with MY atomic clock?), figuring out the new insurance policy, going through boxes and putting stuff away (most of the stuff I try to put away goes in some spot currently occupied by something that belongs in some other spot which is currently occupied by something that belongs in some other temporarily occupied spot), handling emergencies that came up during the two weeks we were moving (legal forms to shut down a pirate website, a starving artist who needs to get paid, Origins event paperwork), getting mail orders out (we haven't shipped anything in over a week, and the shipments we packed Monday didn't go anywhere as UPS couldn't find the new office, and in fact they didn't find us until 6pm last night), trying to get all four Kyocera print engines to work at the same time (various issues including a part broken during the move, figuring out the network, routine maintenance, and mysterious software glitches), revising the product schedule (looks like a three-week delay for G3, and a two-week delay for Briefing #2, and a five-week delay for PD-Feds), getting new signs made for the door (right now, we just have a laser-printed piece of paper that says "ADB" in letters ten inches high), ordering new chairs for the conference table, kitchen, and office visitors (we want ten that match, which kind of leaves out cheap used office furniture places unless Leanna gets really lucky), and, well, that's just page one of the "punch list" and I won't bore you with pages two and three.

Once this settles down (maybe another month?) we should be much more efficient in getting work done, but for the time being, up to a quarter of every day goes into something involving in finishing the move, not into new products or running the company. But we HAD to move (we were choking to death in the old office) and this WILL be worth it.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Many people do not know that you can play FEDERATION COMMANDER on-line in real time against live opponents.

Eight years ago, www.SFBonline.com was created to provide players of STAR FLEET BATTLES with an on-line gaming experience. It was a smash hit as hundreds of gamers joined the battles. Tournaments and other competitions, plus general opening gaming, have gone on around the clock since then.

This successful operation has now been expanded to include FEDERATION COMMANDER!

Now you can play with real live human (not to mention Klingon, Romulan, Kzinti, Gorn, Tholian, Orion, and other) opponents all over the world in real time 24 hours a day! The computer automates many functions and acts as a friendly assistant for mundane chores.

For the modest subscription fee of less than $4 a month, you have access to all of the ships in the FEDERATION COMMANDER game system as well as new ships still in playtest and development. The Java Runtime system is compatible with Windows and Macintosh systems.

Never worry about a lack of opponents. Never worry about opponents who don't show up for games day because of silly reasons like family reunions or their own weddings. Don't be cut off from your regular gaming group while on vacations or business trips.

Even better, you can join in on-line tournaments and campaigns, and your victories will add up to a higher and higher average score!

The system also allows you to chat with friends, taunt your enemies, and watch other players fight their own savage battles. (Why learn from your own mistakes when you can learn from someone else's?) This "observer" system allows players of either game to learn the ins and outs of the other game before deciding to invest time and money in it.

So come to www.SFBonline.com right away. You can even fly the Federation CA or Klingon D7 as a free trial, or watch any game in play. Legendary SFB aces and new FEDERATION COMMANDER aces strut their stuff in combat arenas all the time, and you can learn from the best.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On Moves and Blogs and Communication

Jean Sexton writes:

By now, most people know that ADB, Inc. has successfully moved from its old location on 45th Street in Amarillo to a new location on 10th Street in Amarillo. It was a bold move by the company to leave its rented quarters to go to a building owned by Steve and Leanna Cole. While ADB, Inc. will still pay rent (but to Steve and Leanna, not to some outside person), the company will never have to worry about unanticipated rent increases again. The work areas look spacious, everyone has some privacy, and creativity can flow.

I have a great deal of respect for the amount of work Steven Petrick puts into writing this blog each day. When I write, I tend to wander where my thoughts take me, dragging the reader along willy-nilly. Petrick's stories usually illuminate a point very related to wargaming. To come up with a coherent story each day and to shape it to be of general interest takes real work. Many times a company's blog languishes with occasional entries of sterile news. If you read this blog, you come to know Steven and Steve and, through their eyes, the others in the company.

I came to ADB, Inc. via communication interests. This blog reaches out to many people with varied interests--as varied as those of the people who are ADB, Inc. Whether it has been to discuss Girl Scout Cookies, movies, SFB Galactic Conquest, or whatever else has crossed my mind, it has been enjoyable to share with you, ADB, Inc.'s extended family, these thoughts.

Steven Petrick should return in the next day or so to tell you what is really happening at the company and to relate his stories and opinions.Thank you all for your attention this last couple of weeks, thanks especially for those who took the time to let me know they enjoyed what I had written, and thanks to Steve and Steven for entrusting the blog to my care and feeding.

I hear a voice in the wings whispering, "Say good night, Jean." I shall hear and obey.

Good Night, All!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

On Campaigns and Rulebooks and Glasses

Jean Sexton reports:

It has been a very busy weekend. I noticed that I was proofreading more easily without my glasses than with. That was a sign and signal to get new glasses. Alas and alack for aging eyes--I required trifocals. The new glasses make things appear to move in a wave up and down when I move my head. I know it is simply a matter of getting used to the things, but being dizzy and nearly motion sick have drawbacks!

One of the drawbacks of the glasses change is that working on my set-up turn in SFB Galactic Conquest is taking a tad more time than it should. What is SFB Galactic Conquest? It is a campaign game that uses Star Fleet Battles information to form a more abstract battle on the strategic scale. Even if we tried to use Federation Commander, the games might get a bit complex to play with as many as 60 to 100 ships in a battle. SFB Galactic is the longest running campaign in all of SFB.

The campaign is different from Federation & Empire as well. Federation & Empire is very structured and one campaign can be recreated by player after player. In SFB GC, the empires change, the size of the empires changes, the year changes, outside foes may wander in, and who knows where you will find friends . . . or foes. I've played the Frax who had less than eight systems and the ISC who had nearly 30. I've nearly brought about the General War single-handedly and I've forged an Alliance between the Klingons, the Federation, the Gorns, and the Romulans! It's a campaign where anything can happen, and does. In the game (Universe 4) which has a set-up turn due today, I am playing the Federation in Y150 on a double-blind map with more than 20 other empires out there. It promises to be exciting!

Interrupting the day has been an attempt to clarify a rules question. We just published the fourth edition of the Galactic Conquest Rulebook (soon to be available through the storefront for ADB, Inc.) and questions abound. Can I tow tug pods? What are the consequences when they are towed over a long distance? What are the strategic implications of giving a pod poor crew? Some of these questions are new and the Rules Committee must discuss the rules as they are, look at the SFB rules to see what they suggest would happen, make a decision, and write it up. The "write it up" part tends to fall to me as the GMs, Mike Incavo and John Berg, and Howard Bampton know more about SFB than I. If I can understand the answers, nearly anyone can!

Now back to writing up my turn. Should I place the mobile base on Vulcan or Earth? Do I send my squadrons here or there? So many decisions to make and midnight fast approaches.

To visit the SFB Galactic Conquest campaign discussion topics, please go to the Discus BBS (the link is available from ADB, Inc's home page) and click on Star Fleet Battles. We'll be right there!