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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Captain's Log #52 and Hoop Jumping

Steve Cole writes:
Embrace the Chaos!
Sometimes there are just too many moving parts, and Captain's Log #52 will stand as a shining example of that. You might think that it would be easy to just "do nothing but Captain's Log until Captain's Log is finished" but fate and fortune donĀ¹t work that easily.
It's fairly common for any game companyto want to release several products at the same time. This makes it easier for the wholesalers, retailers, mail order gamers, and our warehouse to handle orders and shipments. Rather than shipping a wholesaler 72 copies of Captain's Log #52 this week and 48  copies of Prime Directive PD20M Supplement next week, we ship them both at once. In this case, that also included the new large, jumbo, and heavy freighters.
Shipping Captain's Log #52 and Prime Directive PD20M Supplement at the same time wasn't that big a problem, but it did mean that while we were finishing Captain's Log #52 and getting its cover created, checked, and sent to the printers we also had to create, check, and print the cover for Prime Directive PD20M Supplement. It wasn't that hard to get Prime Directive PD20M Supplement done a week early so that the bookbinding department could have those all done before they had to start binding Captain's Log #52. We did have to make sure that every press release for one included both. Simone did the covers and Leanna got the two products onto the cart; Simone then added the cover art to the cart and provided cover art for advertising.
Adding in the miniatures complicated things by a factor of six. It's not just that we were adding six products to the release; we had to carefully explain an entirely new product concept (known as "tinker toy freighters") to the players. (The press release for the freighters is actually longer than the one for Captain's Log #52 because everybody understands what a Captain's Log is. Nobody had ever seen freighters that snapped together like these. We had to create photographs of the miniatures, and have them sized and captioned for the cart and for advertising.
When Jean runs around the internet posting notices for the new products, she had to have information, text, and graphics to tell about all of the new products ready.
We had Communique and Hailing Frequencies coming out on the 10th of March (the products shipped on the 13th) which was good for publicity and marketing, but bad because the same designers and proofreaders who were busy trying to finish Captain's Log #52 had to stop everything and create the newsletters. All of the news releases (new products, the new edition of Starmada, and the Shapeways store) had to be coordinated in both newsletters and Captain's Log.
Speaking of the Shapeways store, a lot of people had done a lot of work to get the store all ready to open. The game publisher (busy doing page layout for Captain's Log) had to negotiate the deals with Mongoose, sculptors, and Shapeways. Ships had to be uploaded, evaluated, then redesigned to pass the various checks and tests. We did not know what we did not know, and finally reached the moment when we could order pre-release samples of the ships going on that store. Only then did we find out that it would take 20 days, not two days, to get those samples. Since we have never done this, we decided to delay opening the store until we could actually review samples of what we would be selling. This actually became a benefit because in the intense and critical last hours of finishing Captain's Log #52 we could just ignore anything that the Shapeways store needed us to do until the issue was on the trucks to the wholesalers.
Buried in Captain's Log #52 was the announcement of the new Starmada Unity edition.This required special care as we wanted to make sure that people knew about the free upgrade path before they got upset about being "forced to buy" another new edition. This is why there's a special note in the free PDF Captain's Log #52 Supplement. (The supplement has a nominal charge if ordered in paper.)

While any major project has come to be referred to as "the visitation of the great dragon" because it takes up all of our time, this issue was stretched over such a long period (due to articles and art not arriving and other interruptions) that we could not put all other matters aside. The F&E staff needed some help with a problem with command ratings, Jean needed occasional bits of information about this or that species for her Prime Directive books, and Leanna needed some production issues resolved. Another aspect of the long gestation period was that things written two months ago had actually become obsolete by the time the issue was printed, and these became part of the "hoop jumping" work that made this issue fun. The brief notices of the Platinum Hat tournament had to be updated once when the last semi-final game was resolved and again when the finals were played. The new freighter miniatures were once expected to be "released in a month or two" and ended up being shipped simultaneously with this issue.
 Jean did us one favor. Steven P. Petrick and I had come up with a plan to release the printed Lyran Master Starship Book at the same time as Captain's Log #52, Prime Directive PD20M Supplement, and the freighters. Jean put a firm stop to that plan, insisting that the Lyran Master Starship Book go on the PDF stores for a full month before she would allow printed copies to be released.