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Thursday, September 30, 2010

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, Jonathan Thompson and Jean Sexton for Prime Directive PD20 and PD20M, 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. Bob Pomroy 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, Thomas Mathews, 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); Daniel Kast (Klingon Armada); 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, September 29, 2010

September 2010 in Review

Ramses writes:

It has been a busy, productive month for those of us at ADB, Inc. While there were some disappointments, there was exciting news. I am not sure why I got the job of writing up the first monthly summary (being head of security!) but Jean said that somebody had to do it and everyone else was busy.

The big release of the month was SFB Module Y3. Steven Petrick has worked with his SFB Team to create an outstanding supplement. Command cruisers, commando troop ships, strategic transports, and even a few bases are just some of the highlights. You can find it at many gaming stores or order it directly here: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=5634&Category_Code=NP

Steven Petrick also surprised us all with a second new product, Module YG3, which is a compilation of all of the annexes from Module Y1, Y2, and Y3. Just personally, I think this is one of those things that he did for his own convenience as an internal document, and then let it slip that the book existed, causing many players to ask to buy copies of it. This is the perfect companion to Module Y3. Kudos to Steven Petrick for thinking of it, compiling it, and presenting it as a product. His team is hard at work checking it and verifying its data. You can pre-order it in print here: http://store.starfleetstore.com/merchant2/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=S&Product_Code=5425&Category_Code=NP or wait until it is released on e23 on 4 October -- the same day we ship it to people who ordered their print version.

We've reorganized and expanded our Cafe Press storefront. There are new designs and you can quickly find what they are on. If you see a design and you want it on a product not listed, please let us know and we'll see what can be done. Take a look at the designs here: http://www.cafepress.com/starfleetuniv Thanks to Xander Fulton for the truly amazing coffee mug designs he has done. Mike Sparks and Leanna have taken the lead on getting this storefront revitalized.

Our products on e23 (http://e23.sjgames.com/credits.html?t=publisher&n=Amarillo%20Design%20Bureau) continue to thrive and are popular. Because our PDFs are produced from the original product, they are easily searchable and of high quality. Leanna continues to explore the e-frontier as we work to get our first book out on Kindle. This will be the popular paperback For the Glory of the Empire and we expect it to be available in October. The issue here is that having never done it, we have to figure out all of the tricks of the software, and by the time she got the last of the illustrations in, the file crashed from a nervous breakdown. Steve called an old friend at Polymancer, who has done many Kindle books, and he showed her a way to make the art work. If there are no more issues, this book will be available in a few weeks. (Of course, once we finish and upload it, we can expect a week or two of faxing contracts and licenses back and forth to prove to Amazon that we can legally do a book about Klingons. Like the software, that is a problem we only have to solve once.)

Sadly, both Alien Armada and Star Fleet Marines Assault had to be delayed. The designer of Alien Armada had to take some unexpected time off and the market isn't right yet for SFMA. We're hoping to release Alien Armada in November (barring unforeseen circumstances) and SFMA next year.

Marketing is the job that has to be done, and only SVC can provide most of the data needed to do it, but he's busy and doesn't WANT to do marketing in the first place. Realizing that the job wasn't getting done, that this failure was costing the company money, and that most of the work was just "doing" rather than "cleverly creating", SVC suddenly announced that Jean Sexton had been promoted to Marketing Director. This took Jean by surprise, but she was never one to pass up a chance to grab power. What she found out, however, was that her real job was to grab SVC, drag him away from his other five jobs, and shake him until the necessary marketing information fell out. Only Leanna and Jean can make SVC do something he doesn't want to do, and Leanna doesn't want anything to do with marketing either. Jean, being a naturally friendly person, a player of many types of games, and savvy in how the internet works, took on the job with dash, elan, gusto, and yes, even sangfroid! She has discovered that SVC actually knows how to do marketing, and once she gets his attention (thanks to the #8 Griswold) she can get him to provide information, direction, graphics, and clever ideas. Jean, who has her own clever ideas (if she wasn't a competent game designer, do you think she'd have been able to get PD20M Federation finished?) has taken on the world of gamers who haven't really heard about or understood the Star Fleet Universe. Her job is to (drag the information out of SVC, and then) get it into the hands of existing and new customers. She has done this by way of a vast array of media outlets and connections, including Communique (http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/Commanders%20Circle/resources.shtml), Hailing Frequencies (http://www.federationcommander.com/Newsletter/past.html), new videos (http://www.youtube.com/user/starfleetgames) done by Mike Sparks (when Jean makes SVC do them). She has taken the information and announced it via our page on FB (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Amarillo-Design-Bureau-Inc/231728653279?ref=mf) as well as on our BBS (http://starfleetgames.com/discus/) and Forum (http://www.starfleetgames.com/federation/phpbb2/). Jean has taken great pride in our page on FB, which has brought in hundreds of new players who never took part in the BBS discussions. Our page on FB has turned into a quick and friendly way to keep up with what has happened on the SFU, and includes art (including artist concept sketches never shown to the public before), graphics from upcoming products, and links to all of our other venues and activities. The most important thing that Jean has added to the company is the concept of IDIC (Infinite Dissemination of Infinite Communications). Every time SVC or Steven Petrick does anything, Jean has to coax them into thinking "Now, where will we put this?" and to make sure that all news goes into Captain's Log, the Forum, the BBS, our page on Facebook, Hailing Frequencies, Star Fleet Alert, Communique, TalkShoe, and many other outlets.

Paul Franz continued to produce his talk show "Star Fleet Universe on Call". Jean has pushed Steve Cole to call in at least once a month, and get over his fear of being caught making a fool of himself when he doesn't remember what he's talking about. (That happens on the BBS every week, so the TalkShoe fans are just getting their share of the fun.) SVC and Jean Sexton were even guests one evening. (Steve laughed out loud when he ducked out and left Jean there to face the public all alone on her first visit, but everyone was there to listen to her anyway and she did just fine.)

SVC has also worked on something in which we take pride: our Wall of Honor:
http://starfleetgames.com/ArtGallery/Wall%20of%20Honor.shtml It honors our volunteers who have worked so hard and given us so much of their time and energy for three decades. You are welcome to email SVC and ask him to turn your medal page into a jpg for your Forum sig file. Several people are proudly displaying their medals, ribbons, and honor bars in their Forum sigs.

That wraps up our month in review. It's time for me to patrol and then get a brushing. Until next month, this is Ramses signing out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where Module YG3 Came From

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

In working on Module Y3 I found it convenient to create a combined Early Years Annexes file. This was little more than all of the annexes from Module Y1 and Module Y2 integrated into one document to which I added the new items from Module Y3. As noted, this was for my own convenience and was not intended to be a product that would be released for sale.

Having created, when Module Y3 was done I went ahead and showed it to SVC, who thought it might be something people would be interested in. This changed things.

As noted, I created the file for my convenience with no thought about anyone else using it. Now that it is going to be released, it needed polishing. While I am happy with the layout of the Master Ship Charts, for my use they were all done as one large file back to back. For ease of use, they had to be broken into empire specific chunks (not that hard to do, all the needed breaks were there, but each empire was at the foot of the empire before it). While all the annexes were there, they were not necessarily in order.I had simply taced the MSCs and MFC onto the end of the file rather than trying to integrate them. There was also the question of what other useful information might be added (to try to stick in as much value as possible).

Module YG3 is now laid out basically in the format of Module G3, and includes some material (all applicable to the Early Years) from Module G3A. To make it better serve the Early Years period, a review of the material was undertaken to further eliminate anything not directly apropos to the Early Years in the Alpha Octant.

I hope that it will prove of value to players of the Early Years period, and will at least make it easier to assemble battle forces in that period because all of the ships through Module Y3 are listed in distinct sections rather than being lumped together for each empire.

Monday, September 27, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 19-25 September 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week remained comfortably cool; it rained a little on Wednesday and Thursday and was cloudy all week (as it always is when the local fair is in town). The Spam Storm kicked up with 1000 on Tuesday, then trailed off to normal levels. Bad news this week was that Alien Armada was delayed to November and Star Fleet Marines Assault to next year.

Steve Cole has spent the week keeping up with the final stages of Steven Petrick's Y3 project, and completed the Wall of Honor Audits for CL#10-CL#28. He got some experience with Leanna's Kindle so he could help her get the first book ready. He got the alert out on time (Jean has insisted on him doing one alert per week). He got the pack of six Frax ships (including the battleship) done and Leanna uploaded those to e23. He tried to work on Federation Admiral, but had to send the files back to be modified (twice). Steve also did some graphics for Café Press and the Kindle book, got the first chapter of Federation Admiral done, and did three packs of Frax ships for e23 (of which one has been uploaded).

Steven Petrick continued working on Module Y3, and we started printing books on Thursday. (Shipments began on schedule on 27 September.) He took time out to explain to players why he would not approve another Federation single-space photon fighter. Steven Petrick also created Module YG3 which will be available on the shopping cart today. It will ship next Monday and will be on e23 then as well.

Leanna kept the orders going out and continued trying to get the first book ready for Kindle.

Mike Sparks got another video done, and kept all of the orders going out. He worked with Joel Shutts to continue improving and expanding the selection on Café Press. Xander Fulton did some splendid coffee mugs for that project.

Jean Sexton did her first TalkShoe program on Thursday, the 23rd, and seemed to enjoy interacting with the players. She has also been making our page on Facebook one of the most active game company sites.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

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 pages on MySpace and Facebook exist 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.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Module Y3 is ready for release

This is Steven Petrick posting.

Module Y3 has gone to the print engines, and the first books have been bound and packed into folio covers with their countersheets ready to be shrinkwrapped.

There is very little "white space" in the product. For ease of reference I used some of the white space to print the Module Y2 errata, but also used it to include some rules clarifications and upgrades (like better augmentation module docking for the early bases). That, however, is not all. I also took the time to get three background pieces done which collectively tell you how the Tholians got here, how the Hydrans were able to drive the Klingons and Lyrans out of their space the first time (actually I figured out the big secret and SVC wrote the article), and how things were in the WYN Star Cluster between the time the Usurper first arrived and the Orions intruded into the Cluster and found him.

The scenarios include that first Orion Intrusion, but also a three player fight by the early Inter-Stellar Concordium members, while they were still at war with each other, using their warp-driven ships to try to resupply their ground forces (think about the Japanese Tokyo Express to Guadalcanal and the American destroyer transports making their own runs when neither side had total control of "Iron Bottom Sound", then add a third force). The scenario includes four and five player variants (as well as a two-player variant), but could easily be expanded to six by adding a force from some other Warp-Refitted Empire. There is also a Tholian delaying action pitting their command modules against a Klingon task force, and a fight between two early strategic transports over an armed freighter that is loyal to one of them. And a major effort by the Romulans to disable a Jindarian asteroid ship and thereby capture the secret to warp technology.

Of course there are also additional Early Years Battleships for some of the empires so that you can fight the Klingon B4, and more ships for everyone.

While I was working on the project, I also created a Consolidated Early Years Annexes (all the stuff from Modules Y1, Y2, and Y3 in one book), including the Master Ship Chart for all the Early Years ships (including all Tholian ships that would have been available in the Early Years Period to the start of the Middle Years Period, and all Jindarian units that also qualify) and the Early Years Master Fighter Chart. SVC intends to make this available for mail order.

As always, none of this would be possible without both the support of playtesters and checkers interested in making these the best products they can be, and the support of the gamers who consume these products. I am grateful to both groups.

Friday, September 24, 2010


Sign me up, back in the Fleet,
Do my time, take my chances.
Go the distance, now I'm back in the heat,
Just a man and his will to survive.

So many times, to win you must bleed.
You skip your training for glory.
Don't lose your sight on the men that you lead,
You must fight ... just to keep ... them alive.

In the eye of the Lyran, it's the dream of the fight.
Rising up to the challenge of pure evil.
And the last known destroyer stalks his prey in the night.
And he's watching us all in the eye of the Lyran.

Ship to ship, out in deep space,
Hanging tough, cause he's hungry.
They stack the odds while we fight for our race,
For we kill ... with the skill ... to survive.

In the eye of the Lyran, it's the dream of the fight.
Rising up to the challenge of pure evil.
And the last known destroyer stalks his prey in the night.
And he's watching us all in the eye of the Lyran.

Raise the shield, full to the top.
Have the guts, seeking glory.
Went the distance, now I'm not gonna stop,
Just a man and his will to survive.

In the eye of the Lyran, it's the dream of the fight.
Rising up to the challenge of pure evil.
And the last known destroyer stalks his prey in the night.
And he's watching us all in the eye of the Lyran.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, September 23, 2010


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.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


SVC responded to the survey and thought you might be interested in the questions and answers. -- Jean Sexton
QUESTION: Some people may not be as familiar with all the companies involved so if you could give a brief overview of your company and a quick description of your electronic publishing efforts. Nothing major, just three sentences perhaps?
- - - - -
ANSWER: We are Amarillo Design Bureau, Inc. We've been around for a long time (starting in 1979 as part of another company, splitting away from the other company in 1982 and incorporating in 1999) and have several product lines (Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, Federation Commander, Star Fleet Armada, Star Fleet Battle Force, Prime Directive RPG, Starline 2400 miniatures). We have only just recently (summer, 2010) started PDF sales, and plan to be porting more and more of our products into PDFs over the next year. I am not sure if we will do all of them, but we might. My answers below are, in many cases, limited by our lack of experience and based somewhat on what we have seen others do. A significant point about our company is that we switched to print on demand five years ago (we have our own printers, bookbinders, and trimmers in the building we own) so we're somewhat unusual in that regard. We sell about half of our dollar volume through distribution and the other half via our website, and of course, most of the profit comes from the website sales because of the wholesale discount structure. (We won't go "mail order only" because we want the products in stores to attract new and returning customers.)
QUESTION: Do you think that the hobby in general is open to using PDF based rules and materials?
- - - - -
ANSWER: Apparently so, although we have a feeling that the RPG guys are more used to having such things than the boardgame guys. People have asked us, for many years, to make our starship diagrams available as PDFs so that they can print them as they need them instead of photocopying the one from the book. They have also been asking for searchable rulebooks since we publish fairly thick rulebooks. They will be getting these over the next year.
QUESTION: Is there one genre or age bracket that is more open to using PDFs? Is there any facet of the hobby that is less open?
- - - - -
ANSWER: I don't think that openness is a mental decision issue, but a practicality issue. Some games are just easier to use as PDFs. I would guess that people who habitually walk around with laptops are going to be more of a market than those who only use desktop machines. I do expect that as our non-PDF customers get used to using them and discover the joys of searchable rulebooks, that more and more will want to use them.

One point I'll make that doesn't fit any of your questions is that our books are so big and so complicated that we never managed to do one without some mistakes in it, and we think it's really cool that people who bought the earlier version can get a free download of the updated product from the vendor we use.

I will also note that we are also moving into Kindle books, although the technology to make those things work is proving to be a challenge, at least so far.
QUESTION: Do you release PDF versions simultaneously with print versions, and why?
- - - - -
ANSWER: Not at this time, although that's more a factor of having just started releasing stuff and having hundreds of products done since 1979. We're discussing the idea of releasing a future hard copy product as a PDF simultaneously with the paper release but haven't reached a decision on which product to use for this experiment. We are also planning to do new updated editions of one entire product line (over 50 books) and to release those books simultaneously as PDFs and hard copies.
QUESTION: Do PDF releases sell longer than print copies? Has this changed how long you have older rules available for purchase and is your back catalogue now larger than it used to be?
- - - - -
ANSWER: We haven't been doing this long enough to answer that.
QUESTION: Has access to PDF versions enabled more impulse purchase of products?
- - - - -
ANSWER: We have about ten products uploaded so far, but when we uploaded PLANET ALDO it sold like crazy, perhaps because it's a $3 product. We actually plan to change a scheduled series of $10 PDFs into twice as many $5 PDFs because of this impulse element.
QUESTION: How have PDF releases effected sales?
- - - - -
ANSWER: We haven't been doing this long enough to answer that.
QUESTION: What has been your most successful PDF release?
- - - - -
ANSWER: The KLINGON ARMADA SHIP CARDS, not least because Starmada players (who always wanted to fly Klingon ships and now can) have been used to using PDFs because Starmada wasn't often in distribution through stores (although, now it is, by way of ADB).
QUESTION: What impact does online piracy have on your release plans and sales?
- - - - -
ANSWER: It concerns us a great deal. We already have endless problems with pirate PDF sites and torrent indexes using scans of our hard copy products, and our web guy spends four or five hours a week filling out the "remove this copyright violation from your site" forms for sites that should be policing themselves but won't. We haven't seen any of our "sold PDFs" show up on pirate sites yet, but we've only been doing them for a few weeks. We have said that if piracy explodes as a result of PDF sales (since it would eliminating the scanning step and make pirate copies easier to pass around) we will have to rethink the plans for PDF sales. We do, however, also know that some customers who really want PDFs would buy them if we sold them and are forced to get illegal pirate copies as the only way to get what they want.
QUESTION: If you produced products under license does that affect how you approach online piracy?
- - - - -
ANSWER: We do, and it doesn't.
QUESTION: Do you think that piracy is from potential paying customers or do you think that your customer base primarily pays for PDFs?
- - - - -
ANSWER: I think that most people are honest, and hope that most people who want a PDF will pay for it, but I do know that there are people out there who would pay for it if they had to but steal it if they can. I actually had one "customer" who said we should give him free PDFs so he doesn't have to photocopy the product his friend bought.
QUESTION: How do you determine the selling price for a PDF release?
- - - - -
ANSWER: Usually about 2/3 of the printed price, but with the caveat that in one particular case we have two kinds of printed versions and base the PDF price on 2/3 of the more expensive one of those, because the PDF is more like the expensive version than the cheap version. This means that we have one sixteen-page "text" product for $3 and six twelve-page "graphic" products for $10. That seems to be a disconnect but given the way each document is used, it's not.
QUESTION: Is the current computer technology suitable for using PDFs in a gaming environment? Or do you think that PDF sales are for reference use?
- - - - -
ANSWER: I am told that my customers want the books to reference during the game, but I guess if I was playing a game with a 2000 page rulebook I might want that as well.
QUESTION: What additional workflow is required for a PDF release?
- - - - -
ANSWER: Well, we have to decide what to release and when to release it, which is more than a two-second snap decision and usually involves several people discussing it for an hour or two over a couple of days (by email). I suspect that is a matter of having done so little of this that we are still figuring out those items. The additional work is minimal, since we already have the PDF (we use it on our print-on-demand system) and a suitable product description was already created for the website shopping cart. Now, there is an exception in that we did one 72-page pack of the cheap version of one product, which had to be split up into six twelve-page packs for PDF sales, and that took a couple of hours of extra work creating cover pages, descriptions, and rules extracts. We avoid doing that kind of product, so I don't see that happening again.
QUESTION: Can you envision a time when you don't release print copies of your products?
- - - - -
ANSWER: Actually, I can. I think that is at least five years away, but I think it's out there.
QUESTION: Do you use PDFs in your own gaming?
- - - - -
ANSWER: No, but then, I am lucky to get three hours a month playing a game, and I usually play Space Hulk because it has cool toys.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010



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 http://www.StarFleetGames.com/pbemgames and we will be happy to help you.

Monday, September 20, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 12-18 September 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week remained comfortable, although it did hit 100 on one day and rained a little on Monday night. The Spam Storm kicked up more and more, with about 600 hitting SVC's computer on Tuesday and Wednesday each, with over 1000 on Thursday and Friday each. A local printer came by and asked if our bookbinding machine could do some of the smaller jobs he doesn't want to send to Dallas or Austin. We had an electrician come in and install a separate power circuit for the new bookbinder.

It's a "normal" week at ADB for most of us as work continues on several projects, although things are getting very busy for Steven Petrick as his Module Y3 is due for release on 27 September. He has finished the SSDs, ship descriptions, and annexes, and is working on scenarios (and complaining that none of those sent by staffers or players were usable). Steve and Leanna disappeared for a long weekend to celebrate their 33rd Wedding Anniversary.
Steve Cole got some marketing stuff done, and continued to work on Marines, while supporting progress on Y3 and the Café Press upgrade. He continued doing updates for the Wall of Honor (all of the Fleet Captains were updated, and the first of the pre-Doomsday staff appeared) and trying to find a way to print Booster #93 without losing money on it.

Leanna kept the orders going out and continued to work on the first Kindle Book, while helping (and pushing) the project to get Café Press working. Leanna reports that Alliance sales in the last two-week period were up 71% from the previous two-week period.

Mike Sparks kept the orders going out on time, and worked with Joel on the Café Press project, replacing some corrupted images, and making more of the existing images available on more products.

Jean Sexton continued to explore her new duties as Marketing Director, declaring that we shall do one new Star Fleet Alert per week, but will expand these to include such things as e23, Facebook, videos, SFBOL, FCOL, the Wall of Honor, and other activities. There are four mailing lists for Alerts (wholesalers, retailers, players, and media) and many won't go to all four.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


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, September 18, 2010

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 "grow 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 eighth 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 $5 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, September 17, 2010


"Ah, Ssslak, you're back. Did you drop the prisoners off at their planet like I told you?"

"Uh, yeah . . . but . . . well . . . You did say that, but I guess you didn't mean it literally, did you?"

"Well, no . . . of course not."

"Yeah, I figured that out, but by then it was too late."

"What do you mean, Captain Ssslak?"

"With God as my witness, I thought Paravians could fly."

Thursday, September 16, 2010


This is Steven Petrick Posting.

When I was a young lieutenant I was tasked to run an opposing force against the 36th Engineer Group at Fort Benning, Georgia, one night. After several operations I finally found my stocks of ammunition and pyrotechnics very low, so I decided on one more attack, and then I would disperse my troops back to their billets for the rest of the night.

Things went horribly, impossibly wrong . . . in a manner of speaking.

My detachment successfully infiltrated into the main encampment of the Engineer Group (a surprise to me).

Being inside the enemy's perimeter, I searched for something good to attack. There it was. A couple of tents, surrounded by concertina wire and with a guard posted at the entrance.

It was well past midnight, maybe 0300 hrs. But I organized my troops for the assault, literally telling them that as soon as we came out the far side of the Concertina, they were to immediately disperse and head for their beds (they were all drawn from the elements of the Group Headquarters to start with, as indeed so was I. being then the executive officer of the Group's Headquarters company).

The assault went well, lots of gunfire with almost no return fire from the stunned security force (what, we are under attack while inside the perimeter surrounded by friendly troops?), pyrotechnics going off, and confusion in the tent area.

With my job finished for the night, I headed to bed as things were in some confusion within the perimeter.

The next morning, my immediate superior came into my tent and woke me.

He asked if I had happened to attack certain tents about O-dark-thirty. I allowed as how I had. My superior than advised me that the Group Commander had not been able to make up his mind to get out of his cot with his pistol and participate in the defense, or with a large stick to beat to death whoever it was that had woken HIM up.

Having advised me of the above, my immediate superior ended with the words: Don't do it again.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

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 Communique which includes scenarios, tactics, and new ships. You can also access a database of FEDERATION COMMANDER players looking for new opponents (you!)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. The world is only going to beat a path to your door if they know you have a better mousetrap to sell, and spreading the word in an age when everybody is bombarded by too much Internet junk mail is very difficult.

2. One industry guy says that it's impossible to convince the modern youth that getting an illegal copy of a game from a torrent index is against the law because it's technically not "stealing" or "theft" but "illegal copying" which is a civil tort, not a crime. To me, that is a distinction without a difference. Stealing is stealing.

3. That song the hamsters sing on the car commercial has a point. You can have this, or you can have that, but you cannot have everything you want, or everything you see, or everything there is. You have to make a choice.

4. The Atacama desert in Chile is so dead that there are not even any living microbes in the soil for much of it.

5. Here's a question. On just exactly which one of the newly discovered planets is Lady Gaga the height of fashion?

6. Has anybody noticed that Pete Bethune (the whale warrior who went to jail in Japan) looks a LOT like Max Headroom?

7. I get really tired of (when watching TV) hearing "after the break". Guys, I am watching the show, I don't plan on changing the channel, and I resent the fact that two or three minutes of actual content was left out of the show to make room for this needless repetition. When I heard "after the break" I click the fast forward button, so I'm not hearing it anyway and it's just more commercial time as far as I'm concerned. And I am not watching the commercials either, not unless they have cute animals or cool sci-fi effects.

8. An old friend who is a broker for a printer we used before print-on-demand came by one day, trying to get us to print books with him again. (Not likely, given the market vs. minimum print runs, and that print on demand is no more expensive and much more efficient). He said he had lost half of his business in two years because companies with big annual books (e.g., catalogs) now just put the stuff on the Internet (or CD) and do not even offer hard copies. I began to wonder if I would have to replace the Kyoceras in four years, or just switch entirely to PDF sales.

9. Ok, let's all say it together. Burning the American flag, or the Bible, is free speech that has to be not just tolerated, but praised as courageous free thinking. However, burning a Koran is hate speech which cannot be tolerated and must be deplored by everyone, and those who propose doing so must be ostracized, condemned, and encouraged to rethink their plan. Got it now? (The real reason that Bible burning is ok and Koran burning is not is that Christians only get upset when you burn their book, but somewhere there is a Moslem who will get so upset about burning the Koran that he will blow something up.)

10. Do you think we can stop worrying about doing things that upset radical Moslems? I mean, we had not burned any Korans, stopped any mosques from being built, or overthrown any Moslem governments before 9/11, and they haven't done anything worse since we started being mean to them.

Monday, September 13, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 5-11 September 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week remained cool, and we got some much needed rain on Wednesday. The Spam Storm kicked up a little, with about 400 per day hitting SVC's computer.

It's a "normal" week at ADB as work continues on several projects, but there is no imminent deadline (the release of Y3 being two weeks away). The BBS started acting up on Monday, but Jean figured out that the problem was an expired cookie and was able to get it running normally again. The staff meetings on Tuesday and Friday discussed delaying Marines to next year because of the expensive color printing that is needed for the maps.

Steve Cole was busy this week, doing a wide variety of things. He got the press release for Y3 and Alien Armada done (Mike sent it out on Monday), and Communique and Hailing Frequencies done (Joel sent those on Friday). He continued the process of updating the Wall of Honor, completing the audit of records from CL#10-CL#19. Steve performed in three videos that Mike shot, and Mike got two older videos and one of the new ones uploaded. Steve Cole read more of Y3, wrote a Hydran history article for that product, and worked on Star Fleet Marines: Assault. Steve Cole and Mike West selected the contents for an FC Early Years ship pack for e23.

Steven Petrick pressed onward with Y3, completing the ship descriptions through the WYN cluster by Saturday afternoon.

Leanna got caught up on orders and accounting, uploaded some stuff to e23, and got the first Kindle book read to upload.

Mike Sparks completed the restocks and minis check-in. He and Joel reorganized the Café Press store so that you can actually see what's there, and began a process to make the images we have already uploaded available on more products.

Jean Sexton is getting really into the swing of her new duty as Marketing Director, and has declared that all news must be reported on all venues (the website, BBS, Forum, Star Fleet Alert, Facebook, Communique, Captain's Log, and Hailing Frequencies) plus on any non-ADB websites she can find.

The entire staff took a moment to reflect on the events of 9/11, some nine years ago, when everything changed for the USA and for the world.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


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, September 11, 2010

Remembering September 11, 2001

Jean Sexton writes:

Each year I try to set down words to remind myself of September 11, 2001. It never gets any easier. But remembrance of such an act should never be easy.

Where was I on the morning of September 10, 2001? I don't remember if I was at work or if that was my night to work reference. I think I was at work.

However, I know where I was the next day at 8:46. I was indeed at work, sitting in front of my computer. Just after 9:00 my parents called me to tell me that planes had hit the World Trade Center. My brother had called after the first plane hit to tell them it couldn't be an accident. While he was on the phone, the second plane hit. Only seventeen minutes had passed. They called me to let me know what had happened.

Where were you on September 11, 2001 when you heard that a plane had hit the north tower of the World Trade Center? Were you at work? Were you at home? Were you traveling? Did you wake up to the news? Were you watching the television when Flight 175 hit the south tower? Had you already realized that something was going on or was that your first sign that the attack was organized?

I quickly logged into NPR. I couldn't get any video feeds and I knew that people who worked in radio would give me descriptions. It wasn't very long until I heard about the Pentagon.

How did you spend the 35 minutes until the Pentagon was hit? There were 125 people who died in the Pentagon and another 64 people who died on Flight 77.

There was such confusion and worry and it was reflected in the media reports. Was there another hijacked plane? Or was it two? Only slowly were the facts discovered and spread as planes landed all over the country.

Did you experience a fierce joy that the passengers on United Airlines Flight 93 fought back and the hijackers’ plans were foiled? Did you then mourn for the loss of those heroic passengers?

One of my coworkers called her son and asked him to bring a TV to work. We gathered in her office to see what happened and to not be alone. We saw sights which still move me to tears -- both of horror and anger.

Did you see the people choosing to jump from the burning towers? Once the television stations realized that the falling objects were not debris, but people, they didn’t repeat those clips. Did you wonder what you would choose to do in those circumstances and feel your throat tighten with emotion as you contemplated the choice?

We watched. It seemed a lifetime, but it was not even an hour after the TV arrived before the towers were gone. There was a collective gasp and someone moaned, "No." But there was nothing any of us could do to stop it.

Did you watch the towers fall? Did you even watch it in real time? Or were you preparing to defend our country against further attacks? Were you one of the people who mobilized to go help the people in NYC? Or were you one of the many people who volunteered (or returned) to serve in the armed forces, even if you were too old or unfit for active duty?

There were 2,974 lives (not counting the 19 hijackers) lost. That included 411 emergency workers who died while they were trying to save others. I didn't lose anyone I knew personally, but I still grieve for those who lost loved ones.

Nine years -- almost a decade -- have passed. But we owe those who died on that day a duty. Do not forget them. They and their families deserve to be remembered.

Do something constructive with your remembrance today. Promise yourself to spend time with your family. Live your life to the fullest. Love your country and honor its Constitution.

Do not forget the people in the military who stand between us and those who would repeat the acts of that day and would try to destroy all that the United States stands for. Some have given their lives so that we can remain free. Others have sacrificed their health. They and their families deserve our thanks.

"This is a day when all Americans from every walk of life unite in our resolve for justice and peace. America has stood down enemies before, and we will do so this time. None of us will ever forget this day, yet we go forward to defend freedom and all that is good and just in our world." -- President George W. Bush

Let us not forget, but keep our resolve to defend freedom and what is just and good.

Remembrance is what the living owe on this day.

Friday, September 10, 2010


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.


Saturday night on Orion,
Working for the GIA.
Sitting in a nest of Pirates.
Brandy bottles on the way.

Incoming raider on the dock side,
Full of people who are on the run.
Just about to call up the Star Fleet ships,
When I heard somebody shootin' a gun.

A pair of 'rup-tors made me head for the doors,
My temperature started to rise.
She was a tall, dark Klingon with a batlette,
Just a fighting and making them small.
With just one look I was a bad mess,
Cause that tall dark Klingon had it all.

I saw her heading to the dock port,
Like a tall walking big black cat.
An Orion said I hope that we're hidden well,
But I'm telling you she knew where we're at.

Well suddenly we heard the phasers,
And everybody started to run,
A jumping out of doors and port holes.
Well I heard somebody shooting a gun.

Well the Captain was pinning my medals,
And then she was right there at my side.
Well I told her not to run,
Cause we're gonna have fun.

Well I've gotta be traitor,
If I wanna hook up later,
With a tall dark Klingon with a batlette,
Just a little too much all in all.
Well, with just one look I was a bad mess,
Cause that tall dark Klingon had it all. . . . Had it all.

Parody copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, September 09, 2010


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, September 08, 2010

A Game Design Observation: Look at the Whole

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

One of those other little things about game design.

You cannot simply add something to the game because you thought of it. An example (and this is not in any way meant as disrespectful to the proposers, it is intended only as an example) is the recent proposal of a planetary defense photon-armed fighter.

The rules for photon fighters are pretty well established in the game system, so it is not hard to say "so many damage points, so much speed, so and so dogfight rating, and etc.". Everyone knows how that works (well, if they play with fighters). And the game system already covers what you need to do about arming the fighters.

However, while the game system covers what you need to do to arm the fighters, you still have to look at the systems to do so. Photon torpedoes cannot be armed by the fighters themselves, the base (or carrier) has to arm them and then deck crews load them onto the fighter. All well and good, right? Not quite. First, photons require warp energy to arm, and second they require a minimum of two points of warp energy on each of two consecutive turns.

That becomes the problem.

In order to have your photon-armed fighters you need to have energy to arm the photons. Your typical fighter ground base has only one or two points of power. Even if you convert the cargo entirely to power (allowed on fighter bases that operate fighters armed only with direct-fire weapons), that only gives your base (with its twelve photon-armed fighters) six points of power (and generally means your fighters will not have drones, not even type-VIs, because you have given up the cargo storage for them to have the power). Enough (if the base does nothing else requiring power) to arm just three fighters every two turns. And the base has things it wants to do (like power its shields, or have power to lend ECCM or ECM to the fighters).

So you have to find other sources of power, and it all has to be "warp" power (well, at least the power you will use to arm the photons does), which means attaching the base to a power grid, but the only bases that NORMALLY have warp power are small ground based defense photon stations, and they need their power for their own weapons.

Alternatively, you have to design a special base that is larger and has the power to meet the demands of the fighters.

The point to all this is that you cannot simply propose a fighter armed with a photon torpedo for planetary defense. You have to consider the forest, not just the tree. (Or as I would say, the logistics needed to support the fighter.)

Operationally, if the fighter stays in the atmosphere, and there is no EW fighter at all (so that you can have all twelve armed with photons), that means they all need to always have EW pods (and you want to invest in a few spares for crippled fighters that drop them and are repaired). Because if they do not, well the fighters have two points of ECCM, and the base has no power to lend them (see previous comments about the base's power situation), and they need to have at least four points of ECCM (so that typically an attacking ship will only have a one shift against the photons), because the atmosphere will have both direct effect on the warheads of the photons (25 percent reduction) and electronic warfare effect (the target gains one point of ECM which means it can pretty much always guarantee a one shift when the photons fire).

So, when you propose something, consider why it has not existed before (the above pretty much tells you why there are no A-10s on Federation Planetary Defense Fighter Ground Bases). You should think of everything that goes into operating the system (in this case the fighter) you want to add. There may be more "costs" associated with it than you first thought.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself.

1. Is there any real doubt that the guy who wants to build that mosque at ground zero and the foreign contributors who are paying for it think it's a "victory mosque" on "conquered territory"? I mean, really? You can rest assured that virtually all Moslems regard it as a victory mosque.

2. A friend told me that TOP SHOT is casting for Season Two, but Petrick and I are combat shooters (the liver or kidney is as good as the heart, since either one puts the target down) not precision shooters. I may shoot High Expert (243 out of 250) on a military scoring system, but I could not qualify for the qualifying round of a precision-target competition.

3. If you think that the 20th Maine won the battle of Gettysburg, then you don't know as much about that battle as you think you do (and you absolutely don't know enough about the battle to be telling anyone else about it).

4. My old Guard chaplain dropped by one morning, asking me to write a screenplay about Elijah (or maybe Elisha, I'm not sure which). I am sure there would be a market for such a movie (given the number of serious Christians in this country) but I told him that I'm not the guy to write it. I would need a year of research about the man. (This should be written by some biblical scholar who already knows this stuff.) Even then, I have no Hollywood connections so the studios would not know if I was the one (out of one thousand guys trying to peddle a script) who actually had a winner.

5. In the recent scandal about corrupt politicians in a small town in California, over 500 newspaper, wire service, and television stories reported their ridiculously high salaries, but only one of those mentioned they were all Democrats. And the liberals still claim there is no media bias?

6. Something a lot of people don't realize is if you're even stopped for anything from a rolling stop to a busted tail light, the cops run wants and warrants on your vehicle and your driver's license, just in case there is a warrant out for your arrest. If it's an out of state warrant, you'll be sitting there until the state in question phones back and says if they do or don't want to pay to extradite you. None of this applies to me but I know a lady who does have an old warrant in a distant state that never wants to pay to extradite her, but it costs her several hours of sitting in a police station every time she gets a ticket.

7. When you see an actor swinging a heavy sword in a movie, the sword probably is aluminum because very few people who haven't done it for a lifetime have the strength to do it with a real steel sword.

8. Did you know that there are about 100 hate crimes against Moslems per year in the US and about 600 hate crimes per year against Jews in the US?

9. Did you know that dolphins actually have names they use to communicate with each other? Each dolphin selects his own name while an infant (being some combination of those strange sounds they make), and other dolphins address the individual using this self-selected name.

10. Spain has no concept of middle names or maiden names. (A woman keeps her surname after marriage, unlike in the US where she takes her husband's surname.) In Spain, everybody has two surnames, the first being your father's first surname and the second being your mother's first surname. Lots of women in Spain (and France) have a two-part first name, the first part of which is Maria (which they never use), going through life addressed by the second half of their first name.

Monday, September 06, 2010

This Week at ADB, Inc., 29 August-4 September 2010

Steve Cole reports:

The weather this week was cooler than usual for this time of year (60s-70s in the morning). We had some rain on Monday and Tuesday to cool things down. The Spam Storm briefly jumped to 500 per day. This was the week we shipped PD20M FEDERATION but the awful economy (many stores have folded) didn't help sales much. Too many are worried about losing their job and just aren't spending money. Our page on Facebook reached 440 friends.

Steve Cole spent the week on stuff that didn't get done while he was finishing PD FEDS. He did the first steps on the GURPS version but is waiting for Jean's RPG data for that book. He combined all of the single-ribbon and multi-ribbon pages from the Wall of Honor and added many lost medals from the early 90s, but won't post new images until he finishes the list of awards that were not posted. He also read the General and Federation pages of Y3, did one page of CL#42, and started exercising again (although the heart monitor limits this to a few minutes, he is working up to longer sessions).

Steven Petrick continued work on SFB Module Y3.

Leanna Cole got more stuff uploaded to e23 and dealt with the continuing mail orders, which are actually increasing as wholesaler orders drop, making us think a bunch of stores went out of business. She also proposed one part of one of the Three Revolutions program, which will be announced later.

Jean Sexton did some marketing and promotion stuff, mostly on PD FEDS.

Mike Sparks continued shipping orders and rebuilding the inventory.

Joel updated a lot of the stuff on the website that gets updated when we release new products. Joel has the next issue of Hailing Frequencies ready for 10 September. Joel shut down about a dozen pirate websites and torrent indexes.

We had the first serious meeting about what will be printed next year, and reviewed plans for the rest of this year. Module Y3, Alien Armada, and CL#42 are locked in, but Star Fleet Marines Assault (which is expensive to print) may have to wait for better market conditions.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


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 over 30 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.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Module Y3 Soldiers Forward

This is Steven Petrick Posting.

Work on Module Y3 continues. The SSDs have been reviewed and checked repeatedly by various volunteers, and Jean Sexton has prepared her report. SVC is reviewing ship descriptions, and there is currently no reason the product will not reach press date on time and on budget. At least in a perfect world. Between now and press date there are going to be distractions. Things that need to be done that are not part of getting Module Y3 finished. Some of these are anticipated (almost scheduled events even if there appearance is more or less random), some are going to be completely unanticipated. Having a retired General drop by for a visit was not anticipated, and it would not have been courteous to avoid meeting him and talking about things, but that takes time, and time has to be made up.

Fortunately it is not like "war". In war when you make a mistake you often have to pay for it in the blood of your troops. I will pay for my errors with a little less sleep here and there, something I am grateful for.

Friday, September 03, 2010



"Have you identified the data we need?"

"Of course. We need explosion strength, command rating, docking points, and the year in service added to every SSD in the whole game system."

"You haven't got a snowball's chance in hell of actually getting it, you know."

"Watch and learn, Grasshopper."

"You mean, ask for more and settle for what you wanted?"

"No, I mean ask for something else entirely and get what we want by accident when SVC thinks it was his idea."

"Maybe you can trick SVC, but you will never get it past Petrick. That guy is not going to fall for any of your tricks."

"Watch and learn, Grasshopper."


"Ok, people, listen carefully to your assignments. Rodent, you ask him to add the ship names to every SSD. Hummingbird, you ask him to list the spare shuttles. And Grasshopper, ask him for final construction dates. He'll really hate that one."

"Why do I get the one he'll hate?"

"Somebody has to do it."

"But, Tos, why does it have to be me?"

"Because I said so. Now just do it, and I'll let you ask him the easy one next time."

"Ok, ok, but what are you going to do?"

"Stay out of his way until you guys get him good and rattled, then close in for the kill."

"Oh man, you get the good job!"

"Because I'm the only one who can get it done. Now get busy."


"Things getting to you, Steve?"

"Yeah, Tos, they want spare shuttles and ship names on the SSD."

"How dumb."

"Yeah, but it's just distracting me from what I need to be doing."

"You mean on-line porn?"

"Well, maybe later. For now, R9 needs to get done so I can work on GURPS Romulans."

"Well, maybe if you offered them something, something else, something there is a legitimate need for?"

"Like what? Empire symbols? I can do those easy enough. Yeah, those would be swell. Pretty, and already on file."

"I had another idea...."

"As long as it's something I don't have to check against the MSC."

"Wow, look at the time, I have to go wash my car. Maybe we can pick this up later."

"Yeah.. ok... klingongurlz.com...."


"Danged if I can figure out what Tos is after, but I will."

"I dunno, Petrick, he hasn't even spoken up."

"Steve, with that many people asking for that much nonsense, there has to be a master plan. And Tos has to be at the bottom of it. Nobody else would even try to pull something this arcane. Where there's that much smoke, Tos is setting something on fire. Until I figure out what his smokescreen is covering, I'm viewing this whole thing with deep suspicion."

"It's more a matter of curiosity for me, but even so, I was thinking ..."

"Stop that at once!"

"No, really, Petrick. I know we cannot add anything to the ship data table."

"There is just no room!"

"Precisely. So, what do you think of this?"

"This? I think this is eight meaningless numbers in a little box. Is it the ship's zip code? Does Crawford want the ID code of each ship's computer so you can tap into the computer and drop its shields?"

"Very funny, Petrick. No, that's four numbers from the master ship chart. I figure people can remember that the one in the lower left is the docking points."

"Stop this foolishness right now!"

"Oh, don't be a party pooper. The one in the upper left is the year in service, which you can tell since it's three digits."

"This way madness lies!"

"And the one in the upper right is command rating."

"Run! Flee! Hide! See: Escape!"

"And the one in the lower left is ..."

"Did Crawford put you up to this? That WAS a stripper I saw leaving the office at midnight last night, wasn't it! Admit it!"

"Nothing of the sort. That was my sister. Anyway, this little box is all my idea."

"I seriously doubt that."

"That it was my idea?"

"No, that you have a sister you have never mentioned once in the fifteen years I've known you!"


"How's it going, Steve?"

"Oh, hi, Tos. Just fine, I guess. Petrick is all upset."

"Oh, what about?"

"That little box I was going to put on the SSDs. He thinks it's just confusing."

"Well, I could see it would be. You can't expand it into a full table, of course."

"Of course not, there isn't any room."

"Well, as an alternative, maybe you don't need a whole table, just a hint, a clue, what each number is."

"I don't know what you mean."

"Well, instead of just a number for command rating, put a 'C' beside the number."

"Hmm.... no, that won't work. One letter is just more confusing."

"Well, I'd hate to see things confused more. You cannot put 'command' or 'cmnd' of course."

"Four letters, no room. But perhaps two?"

"Do you mean put 'CR' beside the number?"

"Yes, yes, I think that would do it."

"Genius, Steve, pure genius! But then..."

"Do you foresee a problem?"

"Well, year in service would be three letters..."

"I see ... I have it, we'll just put 'YS' so all of the identifiers are two letters."


"Yes, DK for docking and SS for spare shuttles."

"Do you really need spare shuttles?"

"Do we really need any of this?"

"As an alternative, could you put explosion strength instead of spare shuttles?"

"Perhaps, but 'ES' might be confusing. Perhaps 'EX' instead?

"Genius, Steve, pure genius."


"What are you doing?"

"Oh, nothing, really."

"It LOOKS like those little tables with the mysterious numbers."

"Not really. Totally different."

"No, now it has letters and is twice as big. I thought we agreed to drop this."

"Well, when it was just numbers and was confusing, we had no choice but to drop it."

"But now that you made it twice as big, it makes PERFECT sense."

"I am glad you agree."

"I most certainly do NOT agree!"

"Oh, don't be a party pooper."

"Poop is one word for it. Why are you pursuing this insanity?"

"Think how many replacement SSD books we'll sell from the print-on-demand system."

"Look how many SSDs there are that I have to upgrade."

"The amount of work is trivial. Less than two minutes per SSD."

"Times two THOUSAND of those SSDs."

"I did all the boxes for R9 myself. No extra work for you."

"Uh huh. And you got the data from where?"

"That draft MSC you gave me."

"Uh huh. The one before we processed the reports and made 700 changes?"

"That would be the one. What's your point?"

"Yes, what IS the point to any of this?"

"Is that like 'Who's on First?' or something?"

"Or something. Look, with that many changes, we don't have time to do it."

"Oh, they're already on the SSDs."


"Yeah, I was down here late last night."

"I thought you were doing on-line porn?"

"No, no, sacrifices had to be made, and I spent the time on the SSDs."

"Ok, so now we JUST need to update 80 little boxes with 320 items to the post-report changes."

"Over a hundred, actually, counting the ones for each of the pods."

"Sigh. Ok, let's get busy, I guess."

"Wow, look at the time. I have to take Leanna to lunch."


"I have 247 orders in the backlog file for C3. Are we ready to print the revised SSD book on the Kyocera?"

"No, Leanna, we are not."

"Well, Petrick, you told me that the Master Errata had only three items. So, figure, what? Five minutes and we can have them printing?"

"No, Ma'am. It will take the rest of today, all of tonight, and most of tomorrow."

"To make three changes? You can do eight SSDs per day from scratch. Why do three changes take two days?"

"It's not three changes, Ma'am. It's something over 100 changes, counting the pods and ground bases. All of those changes involve four items of data to look up and type in. Then we have to make a spot to insert the chart, and some of those SSDs will have to be rearranged to make room. Then figure another couple of hours to check the items, all 400 of them, on the proof and correct any typos. Like I said, all of today and most of tomorrow."

"What the ...? Please explain this to me."

"Well, the new Crawford Chart has to be added to every SSD. Which means looking up four numbers, typing them in, making the chart fit, and then printing it out and checking it against the MSC and the errata for the MSC. And every time we update the MSC, we have to check every SSD."

"Well, fine, take the time to do it right, we sold three copies as spare parts. But no more of this."

"Uh... no, once we start, we cannot ever do an SSD, a new one or a reprint, without it."

"Sigh. Well, at least the C5 and F2 playtests are moving forward. We have lots of orders for those."

"Better tell the distributors to expect them a month late. We have to include the charts on them before we can do more playtesting, then update the charts every time we get a series of reports."

"Who authorized this Crawford thing?"

"He did."

"Ok, hubby, what's up with this?"

"Well, I didn't want to go ahead with the Crawford project, but Petrick insisted that he could handle it. In fact, he staked his personal reputation on doing it efficiently and quickly."

"By the way, Leanna, did you get a chance to talk to Steve's sister when she was in town last week?"

"What sister?"

"Never mind that, Honey, Petrick and I are just exchanging ... jokes. Yeah, it's a guy thing. You wouldn't understand. At least I hope you don't. Anyway, this little chart is no big deal, really. Well, not much. And I did them all myself for R9."

"It's adding two days of work to every reprint, and a week's work to every new product! Leanna, can you talk some sense into your husband?"

"Never could before."

"Wow, look at the time, Honey. We were going to lunch?"

"I am. You don't get lunch until these charts are finished. Or dinner. Or a place to sleep."

"Yes, Dear."

Copyright (c) 2010 Stephen V. Cole

Thursday, September 02, 2010


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

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For the modest subscription fee of less than $6 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.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

How Amateurs Get You Killed

Steven Petrick writes:

This is real world military, even if the incident was in training.

Back in 1980 I was tasked to lead a collection of "soldiers", but not "infantry" to probe the defenses of various units of the 36th Engineer Group. My "soldiers" were helicopter mechanics, clerks, and other individuals in uniform, but whose primary job was not running around in the dark carrying firearms looking for strangers.

At one point I had them formed up into a column with myself at its head as we advanced on a suspected enemy position. I had taken "point" because I was the "trained" infantry type, and did not have enough time to explain to one of them all the things I expected a pointman to do. Feeling the ground (sorry, it is hard to explain, think of it as paying careful attention to all of your senses and feeding all of the data through your mental processor so as to form a picture of things from what you sense even if you cannot really see) as we advanced, I got the impression we were "close", so I started moving cautiously from tree to tree, peeking around the edge of each tree as I reached it.

Finally, I found what I was looking for.

A trip flare planted behind the tree to mask it from observation with its tripwires extending across the avenue of advance.

Smiling smugly to myself at this point since I knew we would be able to circumvent the flare easily, moving farther up the slope and getting into assault position (getting my soldiers deployed in line abreast instead of column), I turned to begin issuing instructions to my "soldiers".

To my absolute horror, I saw that one of them had decided to move out to our left flank, leaving the column and thus the trail I had "proofed" by advancing over it myself while looking for tripwires and possible enemy listening posts.

Desperately I began waving my arm to try to get the man's attention, but he never once looked at me as he headed out. If I called out to him, we would be revealed, and dashing after him meant I would have a good chance of triggering another, as yet undiscovered, trip flare or other simulator device.

All I could do was keep desperately signaling the man, hoping he would look at me before it was . . .

. . . too late. He triggered another trip flare, and within seconds the enemy defensive line erupted in weapons fire.

The opposing force had been totally unaware of our presence until that flare went off (they were in their fighting positions because they were being evaluated on conducting local defense, but half of them had been asleep). We had not made any noise that they had detected to that point as I had led the column up the slope. But for that man I would probably have been able to initiate the assault into the defender's lines out of the darkness. (With real, regular, trained, infantry, I would probably have tried to inch considerably closer to the defenders before initiating the assault.)

As it was, I very probably (in a real world case) would not have survived the night.