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Thursday, April 30, 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.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Simple Things

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

It is always the simple things that trip you up.

There was a short-lived TV series called "Wolf Lake". I did not watch it at the time because decisions have to be made about how much time can be devoted to watching TV, and "werewolves" are not that interesting a draw for me. The series was canceled very quickly (I am pretty sure it did not finish its first season). Time has passed, and the episodes of "Wolf Lake" are being shown on the Sci Fi Channel (sorry, I refuse to call it "Sy Fy", the marketing department that came up with that in my opinion should all be looking for new jobs). Well, heck, there are only a few episodes, and I have Tivo now, so I can record them and watch them at some future date. Eight episodes running back to back. I could set up to record them each individually . . . but wait, Tivo has this "season pass" thing that has been doing real well picking up episodes of "Bones" and "Primeval" and etc. So, I will just set a Season Pass for "Wolf Lake" and all will be well with the world.

Well, all would have been well, except that this was the first time I had ever set a Season Pass for a "dead series" that was being run back to back over an eight-hour period. I did not get eight episodes. I got Five. Why? Well . . . Tivo recorded the first five, and when it came time to record the sixth one, it checked my "recording options". Which I did not think about looking at the "recording options" since in most cases (i.e., every case prior to this point) I am only getting one episode a night, and sometimes two or three episodes in a week ("Bones" and "The Unusuals" both did something like that recently). So when Tivo looked, it saw that my recording options were set for the standard "keep just five episodes", so it discarded the first (oldest) episode (even though it had recorded it that very morning), and recorded the sixth episode. Same thing for the 2nd (deleted) and seventh (recorded) and third (deleted) and eighth (recorded).

A simple thing, and a sign of how complicated life has become that I did not even think about the recording option instructions. I did not even figure it out until I looked at my "recording history" which explained why the firs three episodes had been deleted.


Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Tivo and the Sound of Silence

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

I have a land line (i.e., a "telephone" connected to a "wire" that actually goes to a "telephone pole" for you young folks). I have this because it is a back up should something happen to the cell phone. It has mostly become the major intrusion in my life as almost every phone call I get is someone wanting me to give money to this or that charity, or to get this or that new service for a credit card. So much so that I long ago disconnected the answering machine that was built into the phone. I do not really notice the phone much anymore. So much so that I was completely unaware that it had been dead for over a week.

How did I know it had been dead for a week? Because I now have Tivo, and Tivo complained that it has not been able to contact its home base for a week. I honestly do not know how many more days, or weeks, I might have gone blissfully unaware that the phone was dead. It really had (before I got Tivo) become nothing more than a constant aggravation (even though I am on the "National Do Not Call List) and intrusion with calls from strangers wanting me to give them money (either for charity or for new services).

The thing is, whatever was wrong with the phone, if anyone called while it was down it just "rang", i.e., the person (or computer) calling got the sound of the phone ringing, but nothing happened at the phone itself. (I know this because when I found out it was down I called it myself to confirm it.)

So I spent much of yesterday first waiting for the phone company to show up (they actually showed up by 0900 and got the phone line working soon after, there is still some good service out there, but I noticed the repairman was not a "young guy"), then trying to get Tivo back on line. Tivo it seems does do well (at least over a phone line) trying to get caught up after a week has gone buy. Connections failed constantly, data was announced as downloaded, but not displayed. I began to get concerned that whatever had taken out the phone line might also have taken out Tivo. But by midnight Tivo had finally sorted through all of its problems. (It might have been that it needed to update the data in a particular form and was not able to do it while I was "watching" it upload the data. I say this because I watched it uploading at first, and it would report it had the data but never update, but late last night I tried updating again, but this time left that particular screen and went to watch a show, coming back to the update screen later. This time the data did "partly upload" in that I could search for shows after this Friday, but my "to do list" did not update. Then, sometime just after midnight, the To Do List also updated.)

Ignoring all of the above, however, the true sign that my phone was working again is that at 0900 hrs (I worked late last night on a project SVC had given me and planned to sleep until 0930 and get to the office by 1000) my phone rang and a credit card company was asking me accept a new service. After the silence of the last week, it was almost enough right then and there to make me disconnect the phone, and I fear now I will not because of Tivo. If not for Tivo, I would be enjoying the Sound of Silence.

Monday, April 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.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What Work is Hardest

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

There are different kinds of work. There is physical work (like digging a trench or hauling a steel-beam from one place to another) and then there is thinking work (figuring out why the trench has to be here, needs to be so many inches or feet deep, perhaps so deep at one end and deeper at the other end, or how to make all those I-beams come together to create a desired structure), and then there is the more mundane creative work. This last is of course a great deal of what we do here at Amarillo Design Bureau, inc. I often find this to be the hardest thing to do. So much so that I find it far easier (well . . . when I was younger and still had a good set of legs and working back) to do the physical work. Thinking work is also easy (laying out a company defense with fields of fire and obstacles and . . . well lets just say that is relatively easy even when you are constantly making adjustments, i.e., we do not have enough concertina, one of the machineguns was destroyed and has not been replaced, Battalion is borrowing my third platoon, etc.). Creative work, however, is the most draining and the hardest (at least for me) to do. Does not stop SVC from demanding I do the little bits of it he needs me to do, and of course I have never written a major piece of fiction (little historical background pieces, yes, but nothing about "characters" since we both realize that is beyond my ken). But sitting down to try to create a background to a scenario, or a background for a ship class generally takes a lot out of me. I am far more comfortable with just looking up data and inserting it (you can look at the various Monster Articles and Campaign Updates as examples). Creating something is very, very, very hard work because it has to fit with the known background.

I try to do my best at it, what there is of it I do, but I would much rather be digging that trench, or doing laying out a perimeter defense.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Fact-Checking is Gone

This is Steven Petrick Posting:

I have been watching several movies on the sci fi channel. The one thing they all hve in common is how sloppy they are. There are stories, but there is also frequently a clear indication that there is no one doing any fact checking.

If you ignore the major premise (the impact of a shard of a comet shifted the crust of the Earth 10 degrees out of alignment with its magnetic core, and this problem can be resolved by detonating a 100 megaton device in the Marinas Trench that will somehow shift the crust perfectly back into alignment), the concept that a submarine can get from the West Coast of the United States to the Marianas Trench in less than 48 hours is not that hard to fact check.

There is no submarine in the world that could make that schedule.

It would require a submarine able to reach a sustained speed of (roughly) 200 Kilometers an hour (roughly 165 miles an hour).

And the submarine that does do this task is not a modern nuclear boat, but an aging diesel-electric boat. Mind you this boat was also capable of diving to a depth of 9,000 meters (or a little more than 6 miles). There are a few research submarines that can do that, but none of them are capable of the speeds needed to reach the Marianas Trench in time.

Even if a film is dealing with totally outlandish things, the "real facts on the ground" out to be checked and be consistent.

Friday, April 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.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

What Makes Humor Funny

This is Steven Petrick posting.

It has been noted by people far, far wiser than me that what makes something funny is the element of truth behind it.

Recently someone posted the joke about the old man who calls to report that his property is being stolen, and is told by the police that there is no one available to come to the crime scene and that he should just lock himself and his wife in a safe place. The old man responds by hanging up, and then after a few seconds, calling the police again to report that they need not rush, he has shot the people stealing his property dead.

The result is that within minutes (so the joke goes) there are squad cars, a SWAT team, ambulances, and even fire trucks on the scene, and the theives caught in the act.

The police then reprimand the old man for having made the false claim that he had killed the thieves, to which he replies, in essence, "You told me there was no one available to protect my property."

The thing is that it seems increasingly that the thieves have more rights than the law-abiding citizen. The old man is expected to watch what he has toiled through his life to earn, spending the capital of his alloted lifespan, simply be carried off, and not only that, but simply hope that the thieves will not decide to also burlarize his home (and perhaps harm him and his wife, at least traumatize them).

Some will say "well he should have insurance", but it seems as though only someone who has watched his live being carried off by stangers and faced with having to discuss things with the insurance company can understand that is simply letting the thieves rob him again. Insurance companies may pay out on a claim, but they cannot replace items that are no longer made, or that have that special value, or the heirloom you were saving to pass on to your grand children.

But the law seems more concerned that the criminals not be harmed than in stopping them in the act.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Democracy, or Republic

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the failures of our education system is increasingly the fact that students in Public Education do not understand what form of government our founding fathers bequeathed to us. They believe that it was "democracy", and our school system helps foster that belief by either excluding outright, or mangling the words of the founding fathers. I have met many a student who barely knows who Benjamin Franklin was, and of that number, most believe that Franklin, when asked what form of government he and the Continental Congress had created, replied "A democracy, if you can keep it." Sad to say, that is not what Franklin said. He said "A republic, if you can keep it." A lot of teachers would shrug and say that there is no difference, that a Republic is a democracy. Such statements probably have all the founding fathers rolling in their graves.

The Founding fathers did not believe in Democracy. They were men who knew history, and knew that every state that tried to operate as a democracy had failed. Democracy was anathema to them as it was "rule of the mob". It was for that reason they build our system of government as a series of checks and balances, so that the (to coin my own phrase) "Might of the Majority would not trample the rights of the minority".

For that reason they had two bodies in the Legislature, one representing "the People", i.e, the House of Representatives, and one representing "the States", i.e., the Senate. And either could block the desires of the other.

For that reason they gave the President, one man, the power to attempt to block whatever the Legislature wanted to do, and allowed the legislature to overrule him not on simple majority, but on a two thirds affirmative vote of both houses.

For that reason they originally restricted the vote to those who "owned property" on the theory that they would have an interest in how the government operated. It seems the majority of people no longer have any idea what their elected leaders are doing, and do not care as long as "their guy" won, no matter how corrupt and otherwise incapable of actually guiding the country (consider that massive economic stimulus bill that Congress passed, and all of them admit that they did not read it, but Pelosi and Reid brought it to a vote and refused to allow anyone time to read it, that is rule by the elite, neither Republican or Democratic except that the bill provided plenty of funds to buy votes).

Senators did not used to be elected by the people, but the Constitution was amended in 1912 to take the power of senators away from the states, and give them to the people, i.e., it provided for direct election by the people. From that point we can being to trace the fall of the Republic. Senators, who were a key break on the "enthusiasms of the masses" became beholden to the masses for their seats. Suddenly they had to bring home the pork not just for their state legislatures, but for the electorate as a whole of their state.

The result is that, as others have noted, we have the best political leadership that money can buy, and most of them stay bought by the special interests that provide the funds they need to get elected.

And so, almost a 100 years after it was enacted, we see the results.

The Republic is doomed, and Democracy will destroy what is left.

Tuesday, April 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.

Monday, April 20, 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.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What Causes the Deaths of Some Computers

This is Steven Petrick posting.

There is, somewhere on my computer's keyboard, a key that when I hit it, whatever I was currently typing on line is immediately and completely deleted (this key is always, always, always hit by accident when I am reaching across the keyboard for something and accidentally touch it).

There is no key or combination of keys that I can press (like "Command Z") that will undo this.

I do not know what this key is, or what the circumstance are that cause it to happen, but it has happened several times over the years. It happened today, for example. Suddenly, a certain amount of time in life is erased, lost, gone forever.

If this happens when I am trying to post some of my (admittedly feeble) attempts at humor or trying to keep things light, I can generally shrug and get on with life. It was not that important, after all, in the greater scheme of things.

When it happens when I am doing real work, i.e., answering a rules question, reviewing a ship, checking on a scenario submission, the result is, sad to say, rage to the level of barely restrained violence. All the time I have spent pulling reference books down, back checking rules and confirming rule numbers, making sure the ship has the right number of boxes for what I am saying, making sure the date reference is correct, any of a number of variables, is lost. I have to go back and do all of the work all over again, and will be fretting that something I covered before is now forgotten and not adequately covered the second time.

I have never, as a result, smashed a computer (probably mostly because the computers are "company property" rather than my own personal property). The temptation is, however, there and very, very, VERY strong and real.

I can only assume that some computers out there have "died" as a result of such incidents. And to all those who committed the crime of computercide, I can only say "You were provoked and no court in the land would convict you. No jury would regard your actions as anything but justifiable."

On the other hand . . . maybe this is why Skynet felt it had to protect itself?

Saturday, April 18, 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.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Unintended Consequences

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

The U.S. Navy recently killed three Somali pirates. The pirates have announced that they will seek retribution. Most of us are just laughing this threat off. However, let's consider a few things.

To the best of my knowledge, the three Somali pirates killed by the U.S. constitute the first "deaths" on either side since Somali piracy became common. If the Somalis now kill crew-members of another ship, even if that ship is not an American ship, will the world accept this as the actions of pirates, or will the U.S. be blamed for starting it?

While the deaths were Somalis on the high seas, might Somali nationals not seek vengeance on Americans in other lands?

While the U.N. has sanctioned actions against the Pirates, will it not condemn the U.S. if the Somalis kill someone?

There are unintended consequences that may result from this action.

But will anyone remember that the real unintended consequence was not resorting to extreme force the first time Somali piracy reared its head? If the first Somali act of piracy had been responded to in force, and in blood, would there have been any other acts? Instead, Danegeld was paid, and the result of paying Danegeld was what it has always been, it encouraged the Danes (in this case the Somalis) to keep coming back for more, and encouraged more of them to get involved.

We might not like violence, we may feel sorry for the pirates (or the poor Somalis), but allowing the piracy to flourish as we have (and by we I mean the world as a whole) we have trod the road to this point.

The Somali pirates have no real reason to stop, and every reason (millions of them in point of fact) to continue their attacks.

Thursday, April 16, 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.

Wednesday, April 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!).

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dunderberg and Google

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Google can be a wonderful thing. Back in the 1980s I played a game called "Ironclads", together with its expansion "Ironclads II". The first game was about the Ironclads of the American Civil War, the second was about the development of other Iron vessels in the years following that war, including those in Europe. Being a game, it had a lot of data about things you may never have heard of. One of those things for me was the U.S.S. Dunderberg. I had never heard of this ship, although some of the other gamers were aware of some of its history. In the game, the Dunderberg was remarkably modern, with a lot of internal compartmentalization making it difficult to sink, and she was heavily armored, making her hard to damage at all. But her guns were very short-ranged. The ship could get in close, and give better than it got. It was scary, other ships learned that it was slow, and so they would run from it and it would not "get to play".

Yet, historically, the Dunderberg never entered service in the U.S., being sold to France and scrapped just eight years later. It was actually too big to survive (being the largest wooden hulled ship ever built), and had severe structural problems as a result (the length was just more than wood could endure).

Monday, April 13, 2009


Steve Cole writes:

Every time I go to GTS (the annual GAMA Trade Show in Las Vegas), I get approached by two, or three, or four "marketing consultants" who want to help me. I get Emails all the time from consultants wanting to set up appointments at GTS to explain what they can do for me.

These guys fall into two categories.

1. A guy from inside the industry who lost his job (usually selling advertising in game publications to game publishers) and is trying to make a go of consulting. (You have to think of the game business like Show Business. Everybody wants to be in it, and the choices (if no game company will hire you) are publish your own games, open a retail store, or be a consultant.)

2. Somebody from outside the industry who knows nothing about this unique and bizarre and strange and wonderful industry we are in, but thinks he can apply what he knows about general marketing to this strange industry (which seems to be full of amateur businessmen ripe for the consulting services on offer). Sometimes they are selling mailing lists (I'll mail out 10,000 of your catalogs for $1 each! No, I cannot guarantee a result.) and sometimes just "consulting" (I can tell you what to do and how to do it! No, I cannot guarantee a result.) I can remember one year GAMA got some marketing genius (a real one, who makes a six figure income) to come give a seminar, and she knew nothing about the game industry and every time she started explaining one of her "sure fire" ideas (e.g., door knob hangars), the audience of small publishers would erupt with laughter about how that did not apply to our market, or had already been tried (and failed) by everyone in the room.

Frankly, none of these consultants know more about this industry or marketing than 90% of us publishers already know, which is why nobody is jumping at a chance to meet with a marketing consultant. Almost all of us know what to do and how to do it, and all of us know that it's going to cost money (or worse, TIME) to do and will show a slow, grinding success, gaining a few stores but not breaking into the whole industry in one night. If the inside-the-industry consultants were making successful careers of selling marketing advice, I'd go into that business. My free on-line book about running a game company includes a bunch of marketing advice. You can go to any university bookstore and for $50 buy a first-class marketing textbook (or for $10 buy last year's marketing book) that will teach you more about basic concepts and cost you less than these consultants. If you want the best marketing advice you can buy, go to GTS, go to the dinners, and sit down at a table full of small-press publishers and just ASK US and we'll babble about marketing ideas that do work (if slowly) for as long as you want to sit there.

Few if any of these consultants actually get a client and those that do either don't seem to have much success or the client is so darn happy with his multi-million dollar sales that he kept very, very quiet about how well it worked. If somebody out there has grown to the size of WOTC without telling the rest of us THAT he did it (not how he did it, I can respect a need to keep successful magic bullets secret), well, shame on you!

As others have said, there is no magic bullet, and the basic concepts of marketing (if you tailor them to the game industry, which we all know is very strange) yield slow if steady results. None of us has the time to do it right, but we all do as much as we can.

If you consultant guys want to actually make a living, here's a deal. I'll pay you money for every new store you get to carry my games. (We'll work out the details.) Not for trying, not for how many stores you call, not for building brand awareness, but for stores not currently carrying my products which place an order through one of the wholesalers.

And I'll tell you the best marketing there is in this industry (other than getting your cover art to Alliance on time): jumping through the hoops Aldo required to get a free "ad" in his magazine. (I would have PAID Aldo if he would telephone me, told he had kidnapped my cat and would release him when I turned in the required materials, then called back in an hour.) The new publishers no longer use this magazine in the way Aldo did, which is a loss for the entire industry.

Sunday, April 12, 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

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Briefing #2 Marches to the Finish Line

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

SVC is about ready to put the next new Fed Commander product to bed, but before he does so, he is taking it home tonight to review from cover to cover looking for things missed. I have already been through it, and several staffers are being notified to take one last look to see if any final issues pop up.

On the plus side, we got a little rain and some hail (smaller than pea sized, larger than BBs).

Friday, April 10, 2009

Too Many Jobs, Not Enough Minds/Hands

This is Steven Petrick posting.

One of the problems we have at ADB is that we are eternally shorthanded. We all have other jobs to do in addition to our primary task.

For example, instead of spending the day working on my own primary projects, I spent the entire day trimming books for Michael Sparks to pack games, and reviewing things for SVC's primary project, marking corrections and researching questions by other reviewers to determine the correct answers, and making the mail run.

I am literally taking a short break right now just to do this blog, and once it is posted will be back (into the early evening hours) reviewing material that SVC is putting out.

Thursday, April 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.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


This is Steven Petrick Posting:

We received two "fiction stories" recently, and you might suppose that this means we will have something to put in Captain's Log, but such is not the case. The problem was that these were not really stories in the sense that the Author had created something entirely new. What they were was a process of taking the work of someone else that has been published, and then simply changing a few words. Change some "humans" to "aliens", relabel the location as "planet X", change the weapons to phasers and disruptors and such, but otherwise do nothing really creative. In all seriousness, had we published one of these stories, and the original author had found out, we could have been sued (even if we published the story out of ignorance, i.e., we did not recognize the story that had been converted).

The author of the submission, we are fairly certain, did not see what he was doing as "theft" of someone else's work, but it is, and he/she would doubtless have been sued as well, which might have taken the sting out single-handedly through ignorance destroying our company (again, it would have depended on whether or not the original author had someone point out the story to him, and truth to tell there is some chance the author might let it pass, but that it is not something to bet your company on).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Story That May Never Be Told

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

There are few things that I take a proprietary attitude towards when it comes to Star Fleet Battles. It is SVC's game universe, he created it, and I willingly follow his lead. I consider this a good thing, because it keeps one mind behind all decisions and that helps keep things as consistent as they are. It is a big universe, and ever expanding, so even SVC can be forgiven a few slips.

Not too long ago (seems almost like yesterday) a player looked at a proposed Battle Group situation, and flatly declared from the height of his own brilliance that it was impossible of a solution. I will not claim that he was wrong (perhaps it was impossible for some game Empires). But I had been operating Klingon star ships for a very long time, and had a tremendous amount of experience both fighting against and commanding ships and task forces of the various other Empires. Apprised of the impossibility of the battle group, I sat down and from the depths of my own experiences announced that I could do the mission with a specific force with the BPV point. This earned me a rather sneering retort that obviously my force could accomplish the task, but it was still impossible (I have not really been able to figure that one out).

As time passed, I played around with the force, and gradually developed the outline of a story to cover why the particular units were attacking the particular objective. This grew and grew, until it is something that I feel very possessive of. So much so that it has become something I do not want to let go of, unless it is going to be done "my way".

I think there could be a very good character driven story made of it, although I know "I" could never write it. SVC sometimes considers it, but he wants to change so much (i.e., to make it truly his and not mine any longer) that I am loathe to release it to him, and indeed would rather at this juncture see it destroyed then allow anyone to change my design.

A sad tale, but true. Perhaps one day I will win the lottery, and have time to sit down with someone who can write and will adhere to my design. Of course, at that point we may discover that what I am so possessive of is just the worst kind of drivel. Such things have happened historically, and as noted, I am not a writer myself. Mostly because I have an incredibly difficult time imagining motivations that I cannot myself understand. I know the word treason, for example, and I know people who have committed treason (Jane Fonda for example has committed treason no matter how often people claim she did not), but I cannot grasp that mentality. I cannot imagine a sum of money great enough that I would betray my country. So how can I truly understand and explain the motivations of major characters in my imagined story who ARE committing treason, and treason most foul?

Monday, April 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.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

On Communication

Jean Sexton writes:

During this week, I have been reminded of the foibles in communication. We don't always communicate what we mean to. Once I was eating out with my family and a family friend. I wanted a particular dinner, but it was being served with a vegetable I detested. I asked the waitress, "May I have a substitution?" Her reply was, "No substitutions." I changed my order to something else.

When it got to our friend, he said, "You know, I hate that vegetable. Just leave it off my plate." The waitress replied, "Okay, but wouldn't you like some applesauce instead?" Our friend, stunned, agreed he would like that. We couldn't look at each other, for we had the same sense of humor and we knew we would crack up in the restaurant.

After our waitress left, my mother, from whom I obviously inherited my sense of absurd, said, "Well Jean, they were all out of substitutions. Luckily for Carl, they have plenty of applesauce!" That broke the dam and we dissolved into gales of laughter, subsiding into silly giggles. Until the day he died, our friend would ask as we walked towards a restaurant, "Do you think they will have substitutions?" and we would all snicker.

But sometimes, we don't manage to communicate well with others. Someone may post something that sounds like (or is) a personal attack. Sometimes a person may write something that is just so wrong, we feel we need to set them straight. Sometimes we may be so focused on what we are writing, we forget how the other person may perceive what we have written. Sometimes we may mean it one way, but because the person who reads it cannot hear our voice and cannot see our body language, they may not realize we were trying to be funny. Sometimes we cannot tell the person is getting upset and may inadvertently push too hard.

In many cases, the best response is to write that ever-so-clever response that slices and dices (and juliennes, too!) the person to pieces. Let a moderator know that you have an issue with a post. Then walk away for 24 hours (or run the proposed post past a moderator) and see if you still feel the need to post what you wrote (or if you will be in trouble). Most of the time, someone else will have stepped in to post a response in a more reasoned fashion or the moderator will have dealt with it.

What does this have to do with ADB, Inc.? Our moderators are staff such as Mike West and company officials such as Steve Cole and Steven Petrick. When we are dealing with a "situation", we are not designing products, proofreading and editing those products, or helping make the product a better one. One of the best ways that the fans can help us at ADB, Inc. is to not stir up or contribute to a flamewar (and to let a moderator know if one is in the making). That way we can focus on something like Federation Commander: Briefing #2, instead of asking a person to obey the BBS or Forum rules (which are really nothing more than the courtesy one should offer anyone).

Well, right now, my new fern which claims to be "Pteris cretica" (but I think is really Nephrolepis exaltata 'Fluffy Ruffles') is communicating that it wants water. So, I hear and obey.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Thoughts on Spring, New Products, and Origins

Jean Sexton writes:

I've been asked to stand in as the blogger for today. I didn't get the notice until late because I was out shopping for new plants and garden toys. Some of you may know I have a fairly large daylily garden. Garden toys (objects that move in the breeze, catch the sun, or add sound) draw attention to a garden. In short, they help advertise the garden. An attractive and unique pot for herbs adds diversity to a container garden. Ferns for the shady part of the yard, a sun fern to visually unite the sunny side yard and the shade garden, and purple fountain grass to add height and movement to the container garden were all added to the new plants here at what I like to think of as "ADB, Inc. East"

But no doubt you are waiting to hear about the new products that are sprouting and growing. Well, just as a sudden freeze may put a damper on new plants, Steve Cole's troublesome computer has delayed some products. We are hard at work on Federation Commander: Briefing #2, which promises to be an exciting book. Federation Commander will suddenly gain more depth by adding historical ships from an era where a captain could act on problems without dragging in those bothersome admirals. Flying these ships will require new tactics as there are no refits covering weak spots. There are 72 new ships, additional scenarios, and more useful information.

Over on the SFB side of the house, Steven Petrick is hard at work on G3A which will provide even more information for SFB players. I have to admit that G3 is one of my favorite books of all time. I wore out two copies of G2 looking up information on my Inter-Stellar Concordium ships and deciding if we could deal with the pesky, do-gooding Federation in SFB Galactic Conquest. I expect G3 will get a workout in the new campaign as I decide if my saintly and right-thinking Federation will flourish as we discover belligerent and hostile new worlds (and some species who want to join us immediately!).

As for me, as soon as Briefing #2 is ready for printing, I will be able to return to editing Prime Directive Federation. If your adventurers ever wanted to explore the Federation, then this book will prove a grand resource. Where is Rimworld? What can you expect if you visit Cygnus? How's the fishing on Andor? John Sickels of PD Romulans fame has created a fascinating look at the history, geography, and culture of the United Federation of Planets and I look forward to the day when we can share that with you..

As soon as he gets G3A out of the door, Steven Petrick will be working on the next Captain's Log. This journal touches on all of the games that ADB, Inc. produces. I always like the opening story, the history, the information from the company, the scenarios, the new ships, the . . . well, I suppose I really like it all! I am waiting patiently for this issue. [SPP, is it done yet? (Wait about ten minutes.) SPP, is it done yet??]

Where will you be on June 24, 2009? Is the answer Columbus, Ohio? If so, you must be going to the Origins Game Fair. ADB, Inc. will have a booth, sponsor tournaments, hold informative seminars, and be there for you, the fans. I'll probably be at the booth most of the time, chatting with friends new and old, helping people find new products, calling Steve Cole to help me learn more about the Starline 2400 miniatures, and sharing my excitement about all things Star Fleet. I hope to get a chance to play Star Fleet Battle Force and (if the guys will help me again) another game of SFB. It's going to be lots of fun. I do hope to see you all there!

Friday, April 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.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Goals of an Open House

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Tomorrow we will have our (much-delayed) Open House. We have invited all the people in town with whom we do business. There are several reasons for this. One is so that in meeting one another, perhaps new business connections can be made between them. The guy who repairs some of our non-Kyocera equipment might be have some repair jobs sent his way by some of the larger printers who do our product covers for example.

Another aspect is that it lets them all know that we are doing okay and they can expect more business from us.

It also allows them, as business people, to take a look at aspects of our own operation from their own viewpoints and perhaps they will be able to suggest things that will make our own business run better. To this end, we will not only display our product line, but run demonstrations of how our equipment (printers, binders, etc.) operate. Afterall, some of the larger printers might decide they have small jobs that we could handle for them.

An "Open House" is not just a social gathering, it is an opportunity for all concerned.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Background Consistency

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of the Empires in Star Fleet Battles is the Andromedans, invaders from another Galaxy. They have "motherships", cruisers and larger vessels, that carry smaller ships (called "satellite ships") in internal hangars. The satellite ships range in size from the diminutive "Mobile Weapons Platforms (essentially PT boats) to frigates and destroyers. In addition to ships, the Andromedans have an array of bases, but the bases (despite being as large or larger than the ships) do not have internal hangars for satellite ships. Clearly, something is wrong, right?


The background for the Andromedans establishes that the Motherships are able to move at extremely high speeds along the "Rapid Transit Network" as a function of their displacement devices. These devices are not found on most Andromedan Satellite ships (mounting them requires so much of a ship's internal capacity that a ship the size of a satellite ship would have an extremely limited offensive combat capability. In short, a displacement device is as large as it has to be and as small as it can be. Things get worse in that no more than two ships equipped with them can use them in a given volume of space, meaning that having two motherships with six satellites might give you the capability of having eight displacement device units, but only two would be able to use them. So mounting displacement devices on multiple satellite ship is self-defeating. The satellite ships thus bring more guns to the fight than the mothership alone could carry.

Further, the high speed that the mothership uses when traveling on the RTN is so great that an externally docked small ship would literally be ripped from the docking station from the limited impacts with the few random molecules of dust, debris, and other elements that are in the vacuum of space (even space is not a perfect vacuum). So in order to move the satellite ships, they must be internally docked inside the mothership.

The upshot is that a base does not need internal hangars because it is never going to move faster than speed one (and that only if it is orbiting a planet or moon). Since it does not need internal hangars (being able to dock the satellite ships externally), it can devote the space that would be needed for the hangars to other uses (additional power systems, repair systems, cargo capacity) to better support the operations of Andromedan combat units. It is quite capable of repairing and resupplying ships that are docked to it externally. Whether the ship so docked is a full blown mothership, or nothing more than the smallest of satellite ships.

Installing hangars on Andromedan bases would be inconsistent with their background.