about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Ten out of Ten: Not What Will Happen

Steve Cole comments: The spring schedule for ADB, Inc. included ten products to be out by Origins. We're not going to make it. We should get more than half of them out, but not all of them. Let us review:

1. SFB Module C3A: This one was late, shipping on 16 May instead of in February. That is a failure of my leadership. I thought I was giving Steven Petrick freedom to do it without my bothering him, but instead, I left him adrift without helping him deal with issues as they arose. (The death of my aunt and a month-long depression-inspired chocolate binge didn't exactly make me accessible.) Anyway, it's done, so one out of ten.

2. Federation Admiral: This is probably going to end up being the biggest book we have ever done (not counting the SFB Master Rulebook which is a compilation of a dozen other books). Things I have said about this have led people to the inaccurate estimation that I don't want to do it, but in fact I think it's going to be one of the more important products we have ever done. It is, however, a huge project, and wasn't helped by the delay caused by my month-long depression over suddenly becoming the third-oldest member of my family. It also didn't help that I didn't exercise better leadership (due to trying to manage too many projects and too many outside designers at the same time). I had been under the impression that Jay understood that the book had to match the SFU knowledgebase, and didn't discover until long after he sent in his files that he had invented entirely new concepts of supply, logistics, and technology which were so different from the SFU that it just wasn't an SFU product any more. (Under our contact with Paramount, the SFU has to remain a self-consistent whole. Having a product which does things totally differently would break the contract. His technology system was just wrong based on SFU data, requiring you to invent both an FFS and a DWS and a CWS when under SFU concepts once you have the S part you can apply it to the FF, DW, or CW hulls without inventing a new ship.) I am committed to getting this thing out this fall after I have time to devote to walking Jay through doing it to match the universe. So, failure #1, limiting our potential to nine out of ten (and we won't even get that far).

3. Star Fleet Marines: This will also be delayed to fall. I sent it out to playtest and received reports and filed them unread until the schedule said "work on Marines now" at which point I discovered that the reports all said "major problems requiring design changes and re-testing" which meant it wasn't going to happen before Origins unless I canceled other products. Since this one is my personal pet project, I wanted time to do it right. It is also an expensive product to print (color maps) and needed to come after two other successful products (which did not get done on time) to absorb the cash flow hit. Two, two failures, and we're at one out of ten, with seven to go and two that won't go.

4. Starship Aldo: This is a little sixteen-page RPG adventure done with both GURPS and PD20M rules. It was done for Free RPG day (which is in early June), and we'll have hard copies on sale at Origins (and put it on e23 when we get back). This turned out to be a really fun product to design, and if I cannot have fun designing games, why am I enduring the drudgery of publishing games by others? It's got a set of deck plans, characters, and even die roll charts for what you find in each room. It's sort of a dungeon crawl thing. Two out of ten.

5. GURPS Federation: This was written by John Sickels and edited by Jean when she was here last Christmas. (I wrote some fairly big pieces of it and was heavily involved in editing.) It went on e23 two months ago and was released on 16 May. So, we're at three out of ten.

6. Captain's Log #43: This isn't done yet, but since this is our best selling product line, it has the highest priority. As the entire fiction section (always the part that delays the issue) is already done, I am sure this will be shipping before Origins. It would be premature to say "four out of ten" but I am fairly confident I'll be able to claim that before too much longer.

7. F&E ISC War: This will be out at Origins, assuming nothing goes wrong. The counters have gone to press, and what's left is just taking the scenario and annex files that the staff are finishing and editing them into the page layout software. It's still got a ways to go, but it has the highest priority after CL#43. It's way too early to claim that it gets us to "five out of ten" but I am confident we will get there.

8. Starmada Distant Armada: This is the next product for this line, being done by Daniel Kast (who has a good track record for turning in work on time). This is the conversion of Distant Kingdoms and Hydran Attack into Starmada. While it's not under my control, Daniel has a better track record than any outside designer in ADB history and I am supremely confident that he'll get it done, which would take us to "six out of ten."

9. Federation Commander Transports Attacked: The ship cards for this one are out for final checking, and it does not need counters (they were in Hydran Attack). I had plans to include 12-20 scenarios about tugs, but without non-cargo pods, there are only two or three scenarios. So, I have yet to decide if I will send it to press with a smaller rulebook (and a lower price), reprint a dozen or two Communique scenarios, or (my preferred choice) include a dozen entirely new scenarios (but I may not have time because I really cannot predict how much time will be spent on the other three products. I'd rather get to Origins with two finished products than three unfinished ones. Whether this gets finished in time for Origins or not is yet to be seen. Cash flow is always an issue, color ship cards are expensive, and it would make more business sense to release it a month after we cash the checks from the other products, but a good business plan has never stopped me from doing something stupid before now! So, we might or might not make "seven out of ten".

10. SFB Module E3 Borak: This product is about a "failed empire" on the off-map border between the Lyrans and Hydrans. (Too complex to tell you right now, but the product sort of explains why the Lyrans and Hydrans had no off map wars.) This is another outside design (being done by Jeremy Gray). Jeremy is a real-world US Navy officer, and if the President tells him to go fire some cruise missiles instead of working on this product, well, I'm not going to win that argument (and that's not a failure of my leadership or Jeremy's work ethic). Jeremy has discovered that a "finished design" is not a "go to press document" which is something I had to learn years ago. Jeremy might or might not finish this in time for Origins (I tend to doubt it) and even if he does, we might not have time to "process" it, but it will get done this fall if not sooner.

So, I'm going to have to limit myself to "seven out of ten" and may have to accept "six out of ten" before I get to Columbus. The missing products will still get done this year.

I should take a moment to note that "ten" is not really the real number. I have, besides the "ten products" noted about, finished five issues of Communique (with a sixth certainly to be done), Mike Riddle did our first iPhone Application (the DAC from SFB), and I have done Revision 6 rulebooks for several Federation Commander products. So my score is probably going to end up somewhere around 16 out of 20 or 18 out of 22, which does not sound nearly so bad. And, to be sure, out of the six or seven products that will get done, most were done at least partially by people other than me (C3A by Steven Petrick, GURPS Federation more by Jean than anyone, Starmada by Daniel Kast, ISC War by Chuck Strong and the staff; plus of course Federation Admiral by Jay Waschak and E3 by Jeremy Gray). That does not mean I'm lazy, but it does mean that my original job as game designer has evolved into a job of recruiting, managing, supervising, coaxing, encouraging, and editing other designers. That's how business works. Those good at their jobs end up supervising the next generation as it learns that job.