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Tuesday, April 05, 2016


Steve Cole writes:

In February-March of 2016, several products entered the final editing stage at about the same time, generating a lot of work in the office. Each project was at a different point in the process, or rather, at several points. A single 40-page rulebook might have a few pages on which SVC is making staff report fixes, a few pages being read by SPP, a few pages on which SVC is making SPP fixes, a few pages being read by Jean, a few pages on which SVC is making Jean fixes, and a few supposedly finished pages on which late staff reports or things just noticed or problems created while fixing something else are causing more fixes to be made. At one point, SVC had on his desk a single four-page rules section (covered by marks from Jean), two separate emails from the staff listing more fixes to be made to those four pages, and a sinking feeling that nobody had asked Steven Petrick to read this chapter (he had not) meaning another round of fixes, changes, and checks is in the future.

It is always frustrating when someone finally notices something that has been there all along. (As I write this, somebody noticed something in one game that has been there without being noticed for two years.) Sometimes that is just the way it happens, and sometimes the first proofreading found so many boulders that the rocks, pebbles, sand, and dust went unnoticed. Style sheets evolve over time. Jean has continually reduced the number of capitalized words she allows Steve Cole to use, and stopped allowing emphatic expressions to use all caps and required them to use lowercase italics. All of that results in some things that have been "like that for years" suddenly becoming errors to be fixed.

F&E Fighter Operations was almost finished. The final PDF was on the download sites, and final reports were arriving randomly as people noticed things that could have been noticed earlier, but weren't. Oh well, whenever mistakes are noticed, they need to get fixed. This generates problems in that Jean Sexton (Vice President of Proofreading) has to carefully check every change that is made because she has already done her proofreading of the book. She carefully scans all reports and checks them against a final copy to make sure that fixing one mistake did not create another. If Steve Cole notices and fixes a mistake that nobody else noticed, he circles on the mark-up copy Jean gave him it so that Jean will know to check the change. It was a never-ending process; even after we printed hard-copy books people will be finding things they should have found months earlier. As this was the final check before hard copies were printed, Steven Petrick and Jean Sexton read the whole thing again just to be sure. They found numerous things, some caused by later staff fixes and some that were there but unnoticed the first time. (The first seven times.)

On the other hand, F&E Minor Empires was just reaching the final design stage. The entire manuscript had been created, and the staff read it a final time, finding things that they did wrong or that the formatting created. Federation & Empire is a unique product in that most of the rules are staff-written (the rules for most of our games are written in the office by one of the Steves) and the F&E staff are notorious for doing brilliant rules that are full of minor typos and glitches. They seem to feel (with some justification) that if they did all of the creating, somebody else can fix the minor problems. The problem is that the only people available to do that are the Steves and Jean, who need to be creating other stuff. Jean and SVC tend to get a little grumpy when the F&E staff just won't get better at capitalization, spelling, sentence-verb agreement, singular-plural agreement, and formatting. The Steves (under Jean's stern hand) have actually gotten pretty good at handing Jean their own manuscripts that are 99% mistake free; the F&E staff sends Jean work with 30 or more typos on every single page and has not improved in five years. That causes endless hours of work by valuable people who have limited time (i.e., the Steves and Jean). We could literally get another product a year done if the F&E staff could deliver work of the "quality" of what the two Steves produce. We have lately tried to impress upon them the need to improve their text files, and that it's really no extra work to do it right the first time.
Steven Petrick was working on the Lyran and Romulan Master Starship books (two separate books). He was finished with the Romulan except for Jean doing her careful proofreading of the finished book, art that SVC was still working on (in between other things), and every two or three days there would be a report from some staffer about something he just noticed. (Remember that the Federation MSSB had been on the PDF stores for months, and players continue to find minor items that need attention even in that).

Then there was A Call to Arms: Star Fleet. A year ago we uploaded Basic Edition Revision E and we had seen very few reports of things wrong. So, the easy enough solution was to take Revision E, make one or two fixes, then add the background, painting guide, and tactics sections to produce the Deluxe Edition. (Revision E would get those last corrections and become Revision F, the final Basic PDF.) So Steve Cole spent a whole week pounding on his keyboard to create about 40 pages of additional material, and then another week making any fixes Jean wanted made. (This was another boulders, rocks, pebbles, sand, dust situation. Jean was finding mistakes on the third try that were obscured by bigger mistakes on the first two.) At least, the added materials (pages 97-152) were finished, and SVC began the final process of making the last two or three fixes to Revision E. Except that we found that there were more unmade fixes in an old file that nobody remembered. So, while doing those, Steve C just had to go post "last call" and that (of course) produced things nobody had ever noticed, ideas to change things that had already been rejected but still had to be reviewed, and a few other things. Also, Jean had spent a year making fixes to the ship cards and sending the same fixes to Steve C to make in the book, 99% of which had already been handled in Revision E. But we had to be sure, and it took Jean all of three days to confirm that all of the fixes had, indeed, already been made. Was this wasted time? It turned out that way, but at the start, it was only too logical that we had to check just to be sure.

Now, the theory was to get Minor Empires and ACTASF Deluxe uploaded as PDFs and then go work on Captain's Log #51. When it was done, we'd round up any public comments on ACTASF Deluxe and Minor Empires and release all three hard copies on the same day. (Then we could start on Federation Admiral.) At least, that's the theory, but the scheduled day to start on Captain's Log #51 was (at this point) nine days ago and we're still making fixes to ACTASF Deluxe (can't upload it until we finish) and Steven Petrick just tore apart the Order of Battle data for Minor Empires, all of which has to be done over.