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Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Steve Cole muses: Just thinking to himself that Jean wants him to do more blogs about the company.

1. My work can be more or less divided into two groups, the administrative stuff to run the company and the creative stuff to bring about new products. Many things don't entirely fit into one category or the other, but having 37 categories would be meaningless so I'll settle for just two (and some vagueness about which is which).

Running the company includes handling various emails, sending work orders to various employees, meetings, whatever I have to do for this week's e23 upload, blogs, doing Communique and Hailing Frequencies, dealing with GAMA or things about some convention we're going to, rule questions (including appeals from the Q&A czars), getting press quotes, answering Leanna's daily questions, dealing with convention support issues, marketing, the weekly time allotted to customer requests, dealing with other companies, dealing with whatever building maintenance issues Leanna or Steven Petrick cannot handle, and answering memos from Mongoose.

Creative stuff includes: reading things Steven Petrick did for SFB or Captain's Log, creating ship cards and scenarios for FC, doing SIT updates for F&E, writing or editing articles for Captain's Log, progress on the various long term projects (for example E or the Gazetteer) that get a dab of work every week and will take years to finish, doing a few pages of Star Fleet Admiral, playtesting Marines, creating or editing fiction, working on project T (I so wish I could talk to you about the most exciting product we have ever done, but give me a few more weeks), processing reports on stuff I sent to the staff, and other things. The most important creative thing (although it's partly administrative) is the FLAP list for a new product. The ones for Captain's Logs are particularly important, as they involve updating a lot of databases and website documents.

When I get my admin stuff done each day, I take what's left and do creative things. I try to mix it up, to get something done on every project every week. (Sort of like Dave Ramsey's debt snowball.)

2. One aspect of running the Star Fleet Universe is the need to keep track of what has been done. One example is ship names. We have a master index of every ship name every used in anything (history, scenario, story), and every time we do anything we have to go check that index to either find a ship name that is available (cannot destroy a ship in a year prior to a previously published battle it was in) or make sure the one we want to use is available. This is usually pretty frantic as it gets done at the last second, just before the module or Captain's Log goes to press, when we're all exhausted and just want to get finished. Steven Petrick gave me a stack of draft SFB scenarios to read, and since I am reasonably certain these will get published sometime in the next year, I went ahead and assigned the ship names when I wasn't busy.

3. One of the things about running the Star Fleet Universe is that every now and then we have to stop and invent a wheel. (Just today, I had to invent the ISC emblem for an escort ship, which we never had to have before.) The problem is then, how to you make sure that you use (or invent) the same wheel the next time you use it. The place where that symbol would be explained is the little chart about ISC symbols and what they mean. But we've printed that chart several times, and there are multiple copies on my hard disk. I can only hope that a year or two from now when I do the DDE and FFE that I remember to go look at the CLE or at the right copy of the chart.

4. Probably every other week somebody suggests we use Kickstarter to launch new projects. For those who don't know, this is a website where you basically say your company will do a new product if we get this many pre-orders, and the website holds the money until you reach the goal or don't. If you do, they give you the money and orders. If you don't, they send the money back to the people. The theory is for a publisher to not invest money in product without some guaranteed sales.) We looked into this once, and decided we didn't need it, as we have enough money to publish whatever we have time to design, and we cannot start designing something unless we're sure it will sell. Lately, however, I'm seeing reports of companies raising hundreds of thousands of dollars (in one case over a million dollars) on Kickstarter, and thinking that maybe we need to look into this further. This dovetails into my plans to move the company (at least partly) in the direction of games that have "four pages of rules and some toys" like normal non-genre games. I've always found that impossible because it would cost tens of thousands of dollars to make plastic Klingon soldiers and I didn't want to gamble every dollar we had on something we didn't know would sell. Maybe Kickstarter would be a way to find that out. Such games actually take a lot less design time, so we could afford to design them and then abandon the design if nobody wants to buy it. (It will take me six months of work to do Marines. It took me less than a week for Secret Project T, which is four pages and toys and should sell better. And just maybe if I wasn't rolling the dice with all of our money, I'd consider doing T in a different way than I'm currently considering.)

5. I wanted to have an artist do a picture of a pig sitting on a drone holding two pinwheels, but Leanna said we'd probably get sued by the company that does those commercials. Jean suggested we could have a space boar crying wee wee wee all the way home after escaping from the pen Star Fleet trapped him in.

6. We got a dozen copies of Zocchi's old STAR FLEET BATTLE MANUAL and half a dozen copies of his ALIEN SPACE on the theory that a few collectors might want them. Jean spread the news and we sold out in 24 hours and ordered twice as many more. The Star Fleet Universe would not exist except that "Uncle" Lou Zocchi kindly put us in touch with Franz Joseph, who gave us the first of our licenses. That's why Lou's page on the Wall of Honor has a very rare Distinguished Service Cross.