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Thursday, January 14, 2010


Steve Cole and Jean Sexton report:
We don't know, and we've given up trying to set deadlines or predict production dates, but that date is much closer than it has ever been due to the tremendous progress made when we were able to work together in Amarillo. Here is the situation.
There are a lot of people involved in the project, all of whom are also involved in other projects, and all of whom (including ourselves) have a really bad track record of doing a bunch of work but not finishing ALL of the work for the project. She Who Must Be Obeyed (Leanna) has said that we will not announce a release date until all of the pages have been created, edited, and laid out. This is the "KEY DATE" for the project. (Proofreading and getting the interior art done will be done after this KEY DATE. After that, we will make two copies of the "generic" book and insert the PD20M and GURPS data into the empty spots (and fix the Tech Level vs. Progress Level thing). Someday down the road, we could take that "generic book" and insert the data for Fudge, D6, Savage Worlds, HERO, or whatever system we want. Because this book is being done RIGHT from the start, converting the "generic" version to any system, given a system designer who has written the stats, is a day of work for a page layout guy.) The problem is that if we announce a release date before the KEY DATE and somebody doesn't do their part of the project, the whole schedule goes in the dumpster and we look like idiots all over again. (This has, as you all know, happened before.)
The release date for PD20M will be 60-90 days after the KEY DATE and the release date for the GURPS version will be 30-60 days after PD20M. We have to give the wholesalers at least that much warning that the product is coming, otherwise, sales don't live up to expectations. We usually have only one product release day (a Monday) in each calendar month, so it's just a matter of taking the KEY DATE and looking ahead for whatever release date works. This is (sometimes) complicated by what other products are already scheduled for that date and how much printing the Kyocera print-on-demand engines can produce for one release date. (This is why PD20M and GURPS cannot be released on the same day. PD20M goes first because the GURPS version has to be reviewed and approved by Steve Jackson, and that takes about a month.) In rare cases, we might be forced to have a second release date in a given calendar month to spread out the printing load.
Here is a rundown on what's left to do:

Steve Cole (I) was at one point the biggest obstacle to finishing the book, since he (I) had never written the huge military section. Those pages were all done during Jean's (my) visit to Amarillo, when she (the other I) stood over his (my) desk with a #8 Griswold cast-iron frying pan telling him (me) to do the pages NOW or expect another WHANG. (It wasn't quite that bad, Jean interjects!) That said, Steve Cole (I) still have to read, edit, and do the page layout (not to mention making all of Jean's corrections) to the rest of the pages. And that work has to be fitted into his (my) busy schedule (finishing the F&E 2010 rulebook, making progress on Captain's Log #41, doing things Steve Petrick needs regarding SFB Modules C3A and R12, running ADB, Inc., keeping She Who Must Be Obeyed happy, doing two blogs per week, and so forth).

John Sickels (who wrote most of the book) has to finish the last pages (Things to Buy, Things to Sell, and his Designer's Notes). Right now, John is finishing his annual baseball book (which is how he makes his real world living), but when that's done in a couple of weeks, John should whip these things up in short order. (Indeed, we may ask the playtesters to contribute a few things to buy or sell, reducing John's burden.)

Jonathan Thompson has to finish the PD20M licensing page (a list of any d20 material from open source books we used) and do the PD20M stats for the new species and new weapons. Jonathan, of course, runs his own game company and has his own books to do, but gets motivated when he's the only one standing between an incomplete book and a completed book.

Gary Plana has to do the last of the GURPS stats (one new species, he has done the others) and is working on that even now.

Tony Thomas has to do the sample characters. The way Tony does these is really great (he starts from character creation and works the characters up one level at a time, the way you would over a year of campaigning) but it's very time consuming. Tony has a real-life job, but he's also the sculptor who is busy doing the missing Pegasus starship miniature, as well as being very much involved in editing the F&E 2010 rulebook and the new Federation Commander products.

That leaves Jean Sexton (me), who has to take the new pages as they arrive, edit them for game data and correct the style sheets, send them to the playtesters (and John Sickels and ADB), hound the playtesters (and ADB, John rarely needs hounding) to actually report on them, update the files, send them to Steve Cole (the other me) to be put into the layout (finally resulting in the KEY DATE). While waiting for new pages, Jean (I) does the final proofread of the laid-out pages and sends them back to Steve (the other me) to make the final fixes, and which point those final fixes have to be checked. (Steve says "Worse, Jean has never seen a page of text without proofreading it all over again.") While all of that could happen after the KEY DATE, there is a LOT of it, and the more she (I) gets done before the KEY DATE, the less there is to do after the KEY DATE. And did we mention that in the meantime, Jean (I) has to proofread the weekly press release, watch the BBS for flamewars (any more questions why the political topics went away?), proofread the monthly Communique, keep the new Facebook page fresh, proofread the monthly Hailing Frequencies newsletter, watch the entire internet for problems, work at a full-time real-world job, beg to be allowed to do just a little proofreading on F&E 2010, proofread whatever pages of Captain's Log #41 happen to get done, and do about one blog per week.
Getting the last missing pieces should happen by the end of January, and the KEY DATE should happen before the end of February. Both Steve (I) and Jean (the other I) are very excited about Prime Directive Federation and hope you will be, too.