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Saturday, November 08, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the Star Fleet Universe.

1. We have a tradition of Customer Request Wednesday. I take an hour and review whatever requests have arrived, doing them in the order of the ones that take the least time first. This is for things like "Please look this up for me" and "Please review my scenario out of the normal sequence because if it's good I want to do sequels" and "Please create a graphic I need for something." Every now and then, however, we get people who just don't understand the whole "one hour" idea. One individual asked me to design Module X2, obviously not something that I can do in an hour, or even 52 hours. Another asked me to have a particular product uploaded as a PDF. That's not something for Wednesday, since the Board of Directors has to decide what gets uploaded, not least because anything we upload has to be updated first, and that means putting it on Steven Petrick's schedule, which is not a matter we take lightly.

2. Some people who know me think I'm a really nice person. Some people who know me think I'm a mean bastard. The difference is whether you went out of your way to piss me off, cheat me, or steal from me.

3. Jean says to stop saying "I don't care" which people think means "I don't give a rat's ass what you do or if you do it at all" when it really just means "either way is fine" or "I'm not married to either plan; do the one the fans want." The modern soundbite generation apparently thinks that the short version means what the few remaining words mean.

4. Over 20 years ago, I was at Origins running the SFB tournament. John Olsen from TFG had stopped by to say hello. One of the judges came to me with a young gentleman in tow, saying the individual had asked to see me. I said hello and asked him what he wanted. The individual announced that he had designed the 3rd Generation X-ships for me and wanted to sign a contract for their publication. I told him that I had no plans to ever publish 3rd Generation X-ships, and that if I decided to do so in future I would design them in-house and not buy them from someone outside who had no idea of the overall plans for development of the universe. He asked if I would at least review his designs (insisting that this must be done immediately), and I said that I would not. I explained that I had other appointments scheduled, was in the middle of running the tournament, and would not have him come back years later claiming that I had copied his designs. I did tell him that he could mail them in under our published standard terms, something he rejected, saying he wanted a deal. (For the record, I have no idea what the contract he envisioned us signing would look like. I don't know if it would have been fair and consistent with other deals we made, of if it would have been unreasonable. Given that he had rejected the standard deal, I considered his demands for a special deal he would define to be a non-starter for any discussion. If I'm going to give someone a better than standard deal, it would only be for something really spectacular that I really wanted.) The individual left, not in anger but clearly in disappointment. He never gave his name. John Olsen berated me for being rude, a charge I rejected, noting that I had in fact given more than adequate reasons for not reviewing his submissions. I told John that from my viewpoint, the individual had been a bit rude and certainly demanding, things I had no reason to deal with. I noted that I had not asked him to design anything and had never given anybody any idea that I wanted them to design an entire product, and that the last time I had allowed an entire product from an outside designer to be published had turned into a disaster that took years to fix. (I also noted to John that said outside design was the second-generation X-ships and had been kicked out of the universe so anything based on it was not publishable.) I remember this incident every now and then and wish it had been different, but I really do not think that politely reviewing and still rejecting his designs would have accomplished anything good, and more likely would have led to long-term legal problems.
5. A thought on game design. Many years ago, someone put on my desk (I was part of TFG then) the game Supervillains. I tried to read it, but it made no sense. I gave it back to my partner, and years later he printed it. The reason I couldn't make heads or tails of it began with the introduction, which described the events of a typical day for the supervillain about town. One of them was to go to a certain area and "beat up some punks." There were other events of the day, but that one stuck in my mind. Why did I want to go beat up punks? Did I gain money? Did I gain reputation points that had some game function? Did I gain combat skills? Why was I doing that? So remember when designing a game and writing that very important introduction, get the people into the game mindset. Something like "Go to the Bowery and beat up some punks, thereby gaining reputation points you can use to intimidate people when you go to Central Park later" or maybe "... beat up some punks, thereby gaining money to support today's expenses and activities" or "... beat up some punks, thereby keeping your combat skills points up to the maximum level." Give me something to start getting my mind into the purpose of the protagonist's lifestyle.