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Tuesday, August 04, 2015


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

1. We recently noticed on the BBS some customers discussing a new type of freighter. I remarked that the idea was obvious, had been thought of by us before anyone else had seen the ship that inspired the idea, and that we had never printed it because it had no real function in the game other than being a target (the game has all of those it needs) and that players would resent being "forced to pay for it." (Hundreds of the ship probably exist in the universe.) One player asked if we could do a whole book of such "ships that players don't want to buy" and sell it as a PDF. I explained that this was impractical. It would take as much work as a book of ships that players did want to buy, so we'd be canceling a product that would sell well to print a product that will sell maybe 10% as many copies. I mean, really, just say "book of ships that players don't want to buy" out loud and you realize the situation. Steven Petrick added that there are only two of us Steves here in the company to do any such book so wise choices must be made as to which book we do.

2. I found myself last June, as many creative people do, wandering from project to project without getting anything finished. Recognizing my failure, I called a board meeting, explained the problem, and requested that they help me design a plan to focus my efforts. It took an hour (and had to be revised when we realized that we had left out my part of one product) but it looked good. The first thing to do was to send the Federation & Empire counters to press, which involved a lot of game design and graphic design. Now I am taking a few days to do the graphics for the Klingon Master Starship Book (the project we forgot when writing the plan) because that art was all that remained between three months of Steven Petrick's hard work and putting the book on sale.

3. We had something of a fiasco in July. After the Federation & Empire staff spent April, May, and June checking the four F&E countersheets, I sent them to press. When we got the proofs back, we found that the die cutter had faithfully done exactly what we sent, but that the files we sent included dozens of mistakes nobody had caught. A crash program in four very intense days did the sheets over again and resubmitted them to the printer (who charged us $309 extra to do them over and delayed the entire job two weeks). Everybody was frustrated and upset. I set out to discover what went wrong and how to prevent it in future. What I found was shocking (beyond the fact that the F&E staff had done their worst job of checking counters in history, a shock in itself). When I originally did two of the sheets, I got frustrated with the way the staff redid the SIT charts, which made it very difficult to find a specific ship. Instead, I "guessed" the backside factors and told the staff to fix them. Putting incorrect information into the sheet was just asking for problems, so in future any "guess" will just be "000" so it is obvious that it is a placeholder. Jean also helped me find a way to quickly produce a SIT that I can use more efficiently. (You can't sort the existing SITs without crashing; they're too big and contain unstable elements from the staff's attempt to do SITs for me. What we can do is delete any column not related to the counters then alphabetize everything that's left.) The night before the counters went to press the first time, Steven Petrick and Jean Sexton had given them "a quick glance" and found several mistakes. I should have taken this as a sign that the F&E staff had not done the job and rechecked everything, but instead I took this as a sign that Steve and Jean had caught everything. I will interpret that sign correctly in future. We also noted that there were identical counters all over the sheet, and the far-flung copies often got missed when we corrected the main group. In future, all counters of a given type will be in one group (because I will put the counters in alphabetical order, which makes also it easier to fix things the staff finds). While I gave the staff three tries at the counters, I only gave Steve and Jean one. In future, they'll check the updated sheets after each round of staff checks, which will give me a read on how good a job the staff is doing.