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Tuesday, April 07, 2015


Steve Cole's thoughts on ADB and the future of the SFU.

1. Somebody recently contacted us asking for permission to sell T-shirts with our images and pay us a royalty. We aren't allowed to do that (it's called sub-licensing) by the Paramount Agreement under which we operate. In theory he could make shirts and send them to us and we could sell them and mail him a check for his share (which would probably be bigger than our share) but that isn't really practical as he'd have to stock us with several of each size. Anyway, we've sold T-shirts before and they don't sell all that well.

2. It's been fun working with Tony L. Thomas, who did his first published design with ACTASF-1.2. Tony has had to learn (as all game designers do) that there is no such thing as a stupid question. (Even if the question IS stupid, telling the customer that his question is stupid is likely to lose you a customer, maybe more than one.) Sometimes the designer is answering a legitimate question, or pointing out something the rules don't cover (or on which they are not clear). This generates errata, but with the PDF process (which we have never really used before) fixing the book is easy. Sometimes answering a picky question is closing a door to picky proofreaders who know better but delight in finding a "mistake." At least if you fix it, you won't have to answer it again, and fixing it is usually less work than answering it three times. Besides, it makes people feel more valuable and involved, which is good for everyone. Sometimes the answer is obvious, but the rule has just enough wiggle room to allow some aggressive player to push an obviously incorrect answer. You have to cover those questions so that one player doesn't abuse the game (and other players) as those other players might well quit playing (and buying).

3. The most valuable thing ADB has is "Steve Cole time" and we just invested four months of it in ACTASF-1.2A/B/C/D. Was it worth it? Not so far; the revenue to date won't cover my paycheck for 10% of that. So why did we it? Because we always thought that ACTASF could be something really great, and "politically" we need to show a company commitment to doing a truly outstanding game. There is also the matter that while hard core gamers are forgiving of typos, the more casual gamers are turned off by sloppy editing. Since the whole point of ACTASF was to reach a broader audience of gamers (which means getting outside of the hard core) it was worth it.

4. ACTASF requires some "cut-out comet terrain pieces" which we promised to upload (as they could be used with the miniatures version of any game). Reminded of this promise during the proofreading process, I tasked Simone with creating some comets. She created a few, and I wanted changes made (which she did) but I told her to upload both versions and let the players take their pick. It should be noted that comets are actually fairly boring things (muddy white smears on a black background) but I decided to have Simone make ours very colorful just because color is pretty. Simone also suggested that she put a starfield behind (and showing through) the comet to make it more like space, and we agreed that this made them much nicer, but (again) told her to upload the original versions as well since some players might not have the same taste in comets as we do.

5. Somebody asked me the other day why we have the system where you can post certain items of your own creation if you mark them "Submitted to and copyright 2015 ADB, Inc." There are numerous reasons, but mostly to protect what we (and you) have created. Given the laws on derivative copyrights you aren't losing anything doing it our way because you don't have the right to actually publish it as a real for-profit product anyway (nor can you give it away). If we gave permission (or turned a blind eye) to people to post such things without copyright, some unscrupulous person could just download all of that stuff and (claiming we gave de facto permission) publish it as a legal for-profit product (which would get us in hot water with our license). We grant the "permission in trade for copyright" because we have done more than most other publishers to promote creativity among players who want to become designers.