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Wednesday, August 23, 2017

On Shapeways, GURPS Prime Directive, and Eclipses

Jean Sexton muses:

Sometimes it feels as though a project has come and is eating all of your work time, far more than you allowed. Around the office, we call that the visitation of the Great Dragon. I actually seem to have a two-headed dragon visiting now.

Shapeways was indeed the Great Dragon. Steve Cole manages the design of the ships, our sculptors create the files for the ships, and I upload those files. Then I create the items (each material requires pricing), including the descriptions that tell the story behind each ship. On "release day," I check the ships one last time to make sure that the picture I wanted is there and the prices we wanted are there before releasing the ships to the store. I'm managing the publicity, including finding cool pictures (taken by fans and talented painters) of the minis and adding those after Simone has "Shapeways-ized" them. (Shapeways requires the pictures to be a certain size; I want us to be in control of how they get cropped.) With Wave 3 releasing 55 ships, my time in July was fairly well focused on that. Still I have found time (somehow) to work on what should be my primary project.

I didn't know that the GURPS Prime Directive revision was going to be as extensive as it has become. You've already read about the start of the project here in "Working on the GURPS Prime Directive Revision" where I was working on the species, advantages/disadvantages, and skills. Next came the section on combat.There I found that some things had been omitted that I thought were essential. The new chapter includes most of the GURPS Lite combat section. Since I never want to leave things out that the players once had, I added in some details. Earlier sections also required information be added here. I made the decision that hex-based combat would have to be omitted (as GURPS Lite does), but I noted that and referenced the main GURPS books so if players wanted to use it, they could find it. I'm now working on the section about injuries, illnesses, and fatigue.  And believe me, if a Slirdarian Marine gets mad at you, you will need this section!
 
 

 I fell in love with science fiction because if its link to space and the stars. I have a fascination with both of those. It shouldn't surprise anyone that I wanted to see the eclipse. I couldn't justify driving north to see it, so I decided I would be satisfied with the 80% covered sun. (I had seen a total eclipse in 1970 and an annular eclipse in 2012). The clouds rolled in and stayed. And stayed. They broke three times so I got to see a bit of the sun covered, a lot of the sun covered, and then finally most of the sun covered as the moon was moving away. While I was disappointed that I didn't get to see the sun at the time it was most covered, I decided I was happy that I got to see it at all.

GURPS Prime Directive is calling my name, so now it is back to work for me!


Monday, August 21, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 13-19 August 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects.
 

Steve Cole worked on countersheet reprints, Shapeways, blogs, and other projects.

 
Coming soon to our store on Shapeways:
the Federation Galactic Survey Cruiser 
       

Steven Petrick worked on the Star Fleet Battles Module R3 update, quality control assembly and shipping, and the Gorn and Kzinti Master Starship Books.
     

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
   

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.
   

Simone did website updates and some graphics.
   

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a kangaroo.
       

Jean worked on the GURPS Prime Directive revision, managed the Shapeways store (uploading ships for next month) managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,874 friends), managed our Twitter feed (232 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Road to Shapeways: How Far Does It Go?

Steve Cole writes:

A recent email expressed interest in our 3788 ships on Shapeways, but also expressed concern for the fact that we had very few ships for some empires, none for others, and he didn't want to start collecting ships and have us not complete the selection for his chosen empire. (In his case, he wanted Federation ships, but the same answer applies to any empire and either scale.)

The simple answer is players are going to get a lot of ships for every empire in a steady flow. The Federation heavy cruiser is not a one-off now and won't ever be. Currently, we have well over one hundred metal 3788 ships including the Federation BB, BCH, DNG, DNL, CVS, CA, CC, GSC, CL, NCL, NCA, DD, SC, HDW, DW, FF, FFB, and POL (plus the tug in plastic). (I think I got them all but may have missed one.) We look at the line as a combined whole, including metal and Shapeways and the five original Zocchi plastic ships that started it all and created the 3788 scale. Shapeways began as simply a way to fill gaps in the metal line, but quickly became so much more.

As we have announced (but not everyone has seen), we plan to move the metal ships all onto Shapeways over the next three to five years (we cannot predict how long it will take), as well as duplicating most of them (including all of the Federation ships) in 3125. One can appreciate that there are a lot of ships to do and even with five sculptors working we cannot do them all in one month (even if we have released 106 units in only 51 days). Federation ships turn out to be trickier builds than most and every "new hull type" takes two or three months to do. Once you have it, we can spin out any variant in jig time. For example, we have the Fed heavy cruiser which allow us to spin off the galactic survey cruiser for 1 September and the strike carrier for 1 November and the drone cruiser, command cruiser, and heavy command cruiser in later months. Many Federation ships use common parts, and the Federation heavy cruiser will spin off the destroyer on 1 October and the Scout on 1 November and the heavy battlecruiser in the future. Building the new hulls (battleship, dreadnought, light dreadnought, light cruiser, new light cruiser, heavy war destroyer, war destroyer, frigate) takes time, but gets faster as we have more parts to clone.



Federation Galactic Survey Cruiser, work in progress


The plan is to add a Federation ship every month (two per month sometimes) as well as a Klingon ship (or two) every month in both scales as part of a steady flow of 36 or more new units per month. (We added 55 new units on 1 August, but that was a special effort to get the store to 100 and involved relatively few new hull builds.)

In converting the two entire lines, we have a lot of debate about priorities. Less than 1/4 of the 3788 ships from 1/2 of the empires were built in 3125 so the priority is to build the "missing" 3125s. Many empires were never built in any scale (25 empires in Omega, five in the Magellanic Cloud, 12 in the Simulators, two in the main area) and players want those, as well. Since the process to build a 3125 involves first building the 3788, you get two for one and that's how the metal ships get replaced, one at a time. Even so, the sculptors cannot do everything immediately and given how many empires want ships, one or two Federation ships a month is about all we can promise. If we had all of the sculptors do Federation ships until all of the Federation ships were done, there would be a riot by players of all of the other empires and you'd have five different styles of Federation ships that don't match very well.

So the good news is players will get all the Federation ships (most of them within a year-ish) but the bad news is you won't get them all next month.

Monday, August 14, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 6-12 August 2017

Steve Cole reports:

This was a week of steady work on current projects.
     

New on Warehouse 23, DriveThru RPG, and Wargame Vault this week was Starmada Klingon Armada Unity. It is also available in print from ADB. 



   

Steve Cole worked on fiction, blogs, Hailing Frequencies, Communique,  countersheet reprints, Shapeways, and other projects.
    

Steven Petrick worked on the Star Fleet Battles Module R3 reprint, quality control assembly and shipping, and the Kzinti and Gorn Master Starship Books.
    

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
   

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.
  

Simone did website updates and some graphics and sent out the newsletters on the 10th.
  

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a Thompson's gazelle. Wolf celebrated his fourth birthday.
        

Jean worked on Hailing Frequencies, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,873 friends), managed our Twitter feed (232 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, proofread Communique, took care of customers, uploaded PDFs, and did some marketing.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

SHAPEWAYS: The Third Mile

Steve Cole writes:

As we moved forward from 11 July toward 1 August, we began to explore new ideas and to learn some new lessons. Some of those lessons involved flying at full speed into the side of a granite mountain, but that's what makes life interesting.
 
An ongoing lesson is that small items take more work than large ones because they keep failing to pass the Shapeways tests for successful printing due to small features. Even after passing the automatic checks, they fail the first time someone tries to order a set of fighters or gunboats. This led to some changes to how we do things. For one, more time had to be allowed for small units. They are easy to build, taking work equal to the bridge of a typical cruiser. The problem is getting them to pass the tests, as the sculptor has to make change after change, trying this and experimenting with that, uploading them again and again to run the tests. This rescheduled many releases (including some carriers that cannot be released without the fighters). We thought that the Fed F18, Klingon ZY, and a Kzinti fighter would take about the time of one ship (total), but they actually take the same time as six ships (total). They had to be rescheduled to a point after the Klingon B10 and are now scheduled for 1 October. That included some fighters which were in fact already done and which already passed, but we needed the three key fighters to be done first in case others had to be changed.
     
Another conversation resolved around "Aztek" panels, the raised panels on a starship designed to add the appearance of depth and detail. Lots of lines of starships do these, and some of ours had them. After much discussion, it was decided that Jean and I (SVC) will decide what gets Aztekked and what does not. In some cases we may well do both. The 3125-scale ships for the Lyrans will come in Lyran (with Aztek) and LDR (no Aztek) versions. The Klingons will get a D7B and C8B (no Aztek) and a D7K and C8K (with Aztek).
   
Someone asked if we could do ships in a different scale, one he regularly buys. We can (legally) do anything. It depends on time available and potential sales. Probably for the rest of 2017 we need to focus on the three scales (3788, 3125, Omni) we are doing now. The problem is that a single model can be done in 3788 and easily converted to 3125, but that's about the limit either direction. If we wanted to do a version of a ship in, say, 1/7000, it would mean a sculptor starting over from nothing, then probably having a lot of trouble getting the details to print at the smaller size. If we wanted to do, say, 1/2000, we could scale up the 3125 but even then the sculptor would have to add details and make other changes, not quite a new ship, but still a lot of work. To launch a new scale would require making at least four ships and probably more, and that's a lot for sculptors to invest if it turns out we only sell a few copies. So such experimental new scales will happen, but with limited numbers in carefully selected scale-markets, and sometime next year.
 
During the process, we received the first and probably only shipment of the last two metal ships (in both scales), the Klingon and Romulan heavy war destroyers. The start-up cost of these ships had increased by 300% over the previous five years while sales went down because we had already done all of the good sellers. The result is that these ships will never turn a profit and should have gone straight to video, I mean Shapeways, except that when they started we hadn't thought of going to Shapeways. Which is a key point. It can easily take five months to get a ship into the warehouse in metal; it only takes a month (often a week) to get a ship into Shapeways
      
One thing that happened was that the BBS and my email program started crashing because there were too many graphics being juggled. We had to take a day to clean out the ones that were outdated.
       
Will McCammon had done the first scouts (F5S, D6S, G1S) and determined that Shapeways cannot handle the traditional sensor dishes that Star Fleet Universe ships and art have. They just cannot build the thin edges of a hollow dish. So sensor dishes are now a bowl with a flat surface and substantial peg in the middle, said bowl being merged well into the ship's hull to reduce the changes of failing the auto-checks. This is important because the players want (and the sculptors want to get paid for) scout variants of the warships, and having a standard sensor dish that actually works will help things.
        
 Before we reached the second release group on 11 July we had decided that the sculptors would need to get their ships to Jean on 25 July rather than 31 July. That would give her a comfortable six days to upload about 30 ships.
      
Well, we thought we had a good plan for the production of a reasonable number of ships (30), but enthusiasm got the better of the sculptors and ourselves. Will McCammon was scheduled to do the "missing" Klingon C8 dreadnought for 1/3125, but we soon decided to also sell the same ship in 1/3788 since he already had it done. (All ships are done in 1/3788 first and then scaled up for 1/3125.) Later when the Aztek conversation happened, it was decided to have him do the C8K in both scales. He also did the Federation gunboat as scheduled. Matthew Lawson was scheduled to do four Omega ships and in fact sent two extra Trobrins. Steve Zamboni was scheduled to do eight ships but in fact sent 22, although we only uploaded 18 of them due to time limits. Gary Pollock was scheduled to convert two of his Hydran fusion designs to the hellbore variant, which would have been four ships counting both scales. He actually sent six. Chris Nasipack was scheduled to do three Lyrans in two scales (six total items) but ended up doing five Lyrans in two scales plus an Aztek alternate for a total of 15. While more ships is good (it pushed the store past 100 items for sale, a place we did not expect to reach until October), uploading 55 ships instead of 30 meant some long days for Jean. These got longer as the inevitable happened and some ships failed and had to be uploaded a second time. Looking back, 55 ships was probably more than you needed to pick from, but what's done is done.
    
It may be 10% extra work for a sculptor to convert a 1/3788 ship into 1/3125 or to convert a destroyer into a scout; it is 100% more work for Jean to upload the extra ship. The company needs Jean (and for that matter, me) working on many things, not just Shapeways, and the two of us were effectively AWOL for a month as we became the Prisoners of Zenda (I mean, of Shapeways).
       
The plan for the fourth batch is for each sculptor to do an easy build (a variant or something mostly done), then a priority ship the line needs (starting with Will McCammon's B10), then to send in whatever he can. We will be sure to get the first two into the store (which will probably be more than 20 ships) but the "extra" ships sent after that will be checked by Will when he isn't doing his own ships. Then they will be reviewed and posted by me (Steve Cole) when I am not working on my own projects (counter sheet reprints, Captain's Log #53, Scenario Log #2, A Call to Arms: Star Fleet Book #2, Federation Admiral, and others). And finally they will be added to the store for the first of September when Jean isn't pushing to finish the GURPS Prime Directive revision and editing Traveller Prime Directive. That should mean a less stressful August for everyone on the team, and will still get you plenty of ships to pick from.
   
The road got bumpy at the end. The Hydran gunboats were delayed when the sculptor had to fix some issues with previous files and ran out of time. The Kzinti dreadnought almost slipped to the next month when we had to get it re-scaled as the original 2500 resin and metal ship was too big. Steve Zamboni completed it just in the nick of time.
        
But when it was all over, the store had passed 100 ships in a mere 50 days. Jean and I were already at work creating a new pipeline system designed to get the priority ships done first and to better manage the time we invest in the project.
 
 
 
 
The Kzinti Dreadnought is available 
on ADB's store on Shapeways.
 

Monday, August 07, 2017

This Week at ADB, Inc., 30 July - 5 August 2017

Steve Cole reports:

Tuesday, we released 55 new ships on Shapeways, bringing the store to 106 units. Once we got past that we took deep breaths and got work done on other projects.


 

3125 Scale Tholian Heavy Cruiser in
our Store on Shapeways 
  

Steve Cole worked on Shapeways (establishing a more rational work flow for the sculptors, writing sales copy for Jean), blogs, the registry of what ships are in which games and use what minis, Romulan belly bird graphics (two birds, a dozen colors), caught up on FYEO, and other projects. Steve and Jean coordinated next week's release of Starmada Unity.
      

Steven Petrick worked on Captain's Log #53, quality control assembly and shipping, and the Gorn and Kzinti Master Starship Books, and the Star Fleet Battles Module R3 update. He also kept fully informed about the Shapeways project which is just good management.
   

Leanna kept orders and accounting up to date.
   

Mike kept orders going out and rebuilt the inventory.
   

Simone did website updates, posted Steve Cole's Romulan belly bird collection for free use by customers, and some graphics.
     

Wolf guarded the office, chasing away a covey of doves.
 

Jean worked on the GURPS Prime Directive revision, uploaded 55 ships to Shapeways, managed our page on Facebook (which is up to 3,865 friends), managed our Twitter feed (230 followers), commanded the Rangers, dealt with the continuing spam assault on the BBS, managed the blog feed, took care of customers, and did some marketing.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Third Wave of Ships Released!


On August 1, 2017, Amarillo Design Bureau released its third wave of ships (55 in all, for over 100 available ships) in its store on Shapeways.

The Federation gets the gunboat they would have built, but never did, the Thunderbolt.

The Klingons get some love with the C8B dreadnought and the fancier C8K refitted dreadnought.

The Romulans get their Condor dreadnought.

The Tholians greatly expand their fleet with their destroyer, heavy cruiser, war cruiser, and police cutter. The very first carrier with the fighters molded into the miniature is the one-piece Black Widow. They also get a cargo patrol corvette with an attached pod. Do you want to show the Spider fighters flying away from the Black Widow? There's a comb of them, waiting for you. And the Tholians get the first empire-specific freighter.

The Hydrans add to their fleet with the Dragoon cruiser, Knight destroyer, and Hunter frigate.

The Seltorians add a dreadnought to command their fleet. They also get a flotilla of Avenger gunboats.

The Frax get a dreadnought to lead their fleet to success.

The Maesron add a frigate to their fleet.

The Trobrins add their dreadnought, torpedo cruiser, and the frigate leader to their fleet.

And we introduce some new empires, too!

The Kzintis, large tiger-like felines, have their powerful dreadnought.

The Lyrans and their wayward county of the Lyran Democratic Republic get their heavy cruiser, war cruiser, scout, destroyer, and frigate.

The WYN Star Cluster has a ragtag fleet that can only win because every ship that comes through the radiation barrier is badly degraded. Their auxiliary battlecruiser and auxiliary cruiser are based on freighter hulls.

The Koligahr are part of the Omega Octant and the spherical hull sections of their ships are built underwater, and then launched into space to be assembled in orbit. Check out their heavy cruiser and destroyer.

Two new freighters show up hauling short pods: the large and small freighters with short pods.

Check all these out here: https://www.shapeways.com/shops/amarillo-design-bureau-inc





3125 Scale Tholian Black Widow