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mwaschak
Lieutenant JG


Joined: 22 Oct 2007
Posts: 93

PostPosted: Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Cole wrote:

FA turned out to be "all wrong, not universe compliant" and basically had to be tossed and done over from blank paper.

There was also a decision made to make this system fit equally well with SFB, FC, ACTASF, and Starmada, which actually took maybe two hours of total work and didn't slow the project at all.


This is news to me! I went and checked the current text to original draft and some 90% of the original text remains. We did some updates (changed tech, fleet organizations, etc...), not the least of which was making it compliant to EVERY system ADB makes. I don't think "all wrong, not universe compliant" is fair in the slightest.

-Jay
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's how I remember it, as I was the one throwing out entire sections and doing them over or asking you to do them over (some of those I still need). You were told every time, so nothing is news to you. The heart of the project was FASCARS and it all was wrong. The intel system was totally wrong. I don't think 90% is left by any means. Ok, not "blank paper" in many cases, but in some cases, and there is hardly a page without multiple edits and whole chunks added, replaced, or deleted.

To pick the first page I opened at random, page 49 (just happened to be the "most recent" document even if others were done later, the computer thinks this one has the most recent changes), there are 14 sections. One was totally replaced, three had major rewrites, several had minor edits, and two are FASCARS stuff that will be replaced later when FASCARS is done over. Page 50 is a sea of red and pink notes on what's wrong with FASCARS, violation of the universe, or just not workable, and page 51 is the same, just a list of why the whole FASCARS thing has to go back to blank paper and start over.

Let's just guess that the random PDF I opened is the worst of them and pick another at random. Page 17 is 33% new material replacing what you wrote because you got all the technology stuff dead wrong. Page 18 is 75% new material, replacing your stuff that was wrong. Page 19 is about 60% new material replacing your technology text that had nothing to do with the universe and was clearly written by someone who didn't even bother to read any SFU materials.

Don't get me wrong, There is a LOT of really good stuff here, but editing this document (the biggest book other than the SFB Master Rulebook) is more work than any other document I have ever worked on. I wouldn't be DOING the work if the end result was't worth it. I would be doing a new book if this one wasn't pretty great. But it's just a TON of work, and being a "system" every problem on one page changes 12 other pages. It would have been published by now if it had been written as a new document specifically for the Star Fleet Universe in the first place. This seems to have been done for some other science fiction setting or maybe a random science fiction setting and the names changed.

I love Jay, and I love reading his stuff and actually do ENJOY working on his stuff, but he made it VERY hard for me get this done.
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Last edited by Steve Cole on Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:57 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Paul B
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Joined: 27 Dec 2006
Posts: 189

PostPosted: Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If there was a specific manner in which something like intel was to be represented, should not that have been specified to the developer? VBAM having already published a few products presumably has a specific manner in which they represent some of their core mechanics, it's readily apparent the system that they have to offer. In the same way that SFU went to MGP and MJ12 and we got basically Starmada and A Call to Arms Crossovers, a product coming from VBAM would likewise be a VBAM crossover.

If the delivered document was not what ADB wanted, it suggests to me that either there wasn't a clear understanding of the VBAM system or a lack of direction on the part of the client.
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2013 3:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

No, and Yes, and Not Really.

There was a bad old day when project definition was done by a 3 minute phone call or by two or three emails. Jay was specifically told that his rules had to fit the SFU and, well, they did not, which was the problem. (There was also the problem that many of his rules had glaring loopholes and contradictions and other things that just didn't work, but that's what editors and developers are for. Had his rules been SFU compliant as he was told they had to be, we could have patched the holes in relatively little time.)

Nobody told me that Jay was going to give me VBAM with the names changed, and I told him it had to fit the universe. Could the definition process have been longer and more detailed? Yes. Could it have been more clear? No.

This isn't the only time an outside crossover developer paid no attention to the "must be SFU" part of the definition and did the product the he wanted to do and which was easy for him. (A dear friend of mine just did the same thing with another outside crossover product and go all kinds of upset when I told him he had not followed the very clear instructions.) Shucks, I could take SFB and do a search-and-replace and do a game that was CALLED "Battlestar Galactic" but it would have nothing to do with the BSG universe. It would just be SFB with the names changed, and I suspect that the guy who runs BSG would feel like I do.
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Two major points.

If Jay's stuff wasn't as good and as fascinating as it was, I would have tossed the files a long time ago.

I was remembering a problem with the intel system which is relatively minor and easily fixed. Most of the rest of it is relatively clear.

But the overall document is still problematic and Jay has yet to rewrite the major sections I told him about earlier. I have PDFs sent to him in March of 2011 and March and April of 2012 citing issues that he has never revised or provided. Maybe he wants to wait until I get to the end and he can take a clean run at the whole revision.
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Maxwell Luther
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Joined: 10 Apr 2013
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2013 4:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

If FA is that complex, maybe it ought to be scaled back considerably. Campaign systems shouldn't be more complex than the game that they are serving as the backdrop for, at least not any that I would use.

I'd much rather see something that provided a basic system with a few extra rules for the supported games to make them more strategic, than a massive tome of niggling little rules and exceptions for paper shuffling on a massive scale, which is what this is sounding like.

I mean, if I wanted something that detailed, I'd just use F&E to run all my campaigns...
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mwaschak
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Joined: 22 Oct 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2013 5:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I am bowing out of this discussion as a professional and personal courtesy.

<tips hat>

-Jay
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Paul B
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Joined: 27 Dec 2006
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PostPosted: Wed Sep 25, 2013 7:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, don't know the process behind this particular collaboration, just I know that communication usually best avoids such problems. Whether before or during the process.

From what I've seen of VBAM and from what I've heard of Fed Admiral I was under the impression it would be significantly different from their previous publications, including three different ways to play campaigns including some sort of border control campaign with a focus on missions other than combat and conquest.

In fact when I asked on their forums whether offshoots of some of these ideas or mechanics would find their way into other VBAM products, the answer for some of it was probably not because they were in part so tailor fit for the FC game and its universe.

So, the impression I got was not that it was simply a reskin of VBAM but rather significant changes were introduced to tailor fit it to SFU, some people calling it for example VBAM 1.5 when describing it.

In any case, just wanted to stoke the fires of memory so we can someday see this product released
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I was under that impression (major rewrite to fit SFU) as well, but that is not what I got in a manuscript. I got item after item that I sent back marked "Star Fleet Universe doesn't work that way."

In a theoretical academic case, "communication will prevent problems" but that doesn't work when the only communication I get is "here is the file" and it's wrong.

Scaling back? Not really plausible unless you toss it and start over writing from blank paper with a completely different concept.
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Last edited by Steve Cole on Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:23 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Moment of philosophical reflection...

In small business America, there are too many jobs chasing too few people. Jean Sexton is doing four jobs (marketing, RPGs, proofreading, customer service), each of which has a separate person with a full time assistant at Steve Jackson Games.

I have more than I can count (game designer FC, game designer F&E, game designer SFM, game designer Other), editor of outside designs (Admiral, Starmada, ACTA), Editor of other designers (RPGs, SFB), graphics technician, company president, print buyer, building landlord and maintenance engineer, pay layout artist, assistant to the marketing director, contract negotiator) which would be covered by at least five people at Steve Jackson Games.

The net result is that I'm busy. There are always more projects that (even after delegating all that I can and more) are just things only I can do. They take time, and there is only so much time. It gets worse, because every time I have a sickness or injury (or Leanna does) I lose work. Since half of my time is design and half of it is non-avoidable admin stuff, every day I miss delays every project two calendar days.

And it gets even worse. I just to have this tendency to schedule outside designs based on a wink and a promise. We never did the D6 version of the RPGs because the authors who signed up to do them just disappeared without doing anything. The guy who was doing a conversion of Ace of Aces disappeared without a word. The sculptor doing the people figs disappeared for years, then showed up again with double his prices.

Fed Admiral was supposed to be "plug and play" which means I just get the files, throw them into page layout, give them a quick read, and away we go. It turned out to be two or three times as big as it was expected, in need of more than the usual amount of editing and proofreading, and major sections were non-functional or non-universe. (There was so much in it that was brilliantly good that i could not bear to toss it as I have tossed other projects that hit that problem.) But all of that meant the project was doing to take a lot more time than it was scheduled for. Which mean I had three choices.

1. Delay or cancel other projects to invest more time in FA. That wasn't practicable. I rather break one promise than three, and three projects mean three times the sales of the one I delayed.

2. Drop the whole idea. As noted, it was too good to drop.

3. Make it my "poor boy" project. I always have one or two of those, things I spent an hour or two or four per week banging on. Some day, months or years later, enough of it is done that I can put it back on the real schedule. That is what I picked for FA.

Now, the problem with "poor boy projects" is that they're the first thing to disappear when the schedule goes crazy, or when "the current project" (for example, a captain's Log with a deadline) has to take more time because it cannot be delayed. (Today I had to take my wife to have laser eye surgery. That situation popped up on the schedule only a couple of days ago, without much warning. I lost four months of poor boy time to a broken leg.) So you have the theory that in 52 weeks I might get 52 or 104 or more hours of work on "the poor boy project" but you have to factor in that I lose time for the last week or two of just about every product we release (six to ten a year) and for Origins (about three weeks) and medical emergencies (which seem to always happen). Heck, I even lost "poor boy time" when one of my top staffers suddenly made a no-notice visit to the office and I had to seize the opportunity to work with him on a project (which will pay dividends later). Fed Admiral lost most of its poor boy time in 2011 because of Mongoose demanding more and more of my time (and I finally put my foot down and told them no more of that). Endless other interruptions cause problems, but I can in a normal year (which 2013 was not due to the broken leg) I can expect about 100 hours of poor boy time.

Now, right now, last days of September 2013, I'm feeling pretty good. I have gotten over the broken leg as much as I am every going to (I will have a permanent limp and am limited to walking about 100 yards at atime which means if Walmart has no handicap scooter by the door I have to go back to the car and do that errand another day). We just got past C6 and I think that FCTM is going to go quickly. My "review que" is under control and my other "poor boy project" (F&E revisions) has passed the "hump" and will move along swimmingly with one hour a week. I'm finally to the point I can work on FA, and look forward to that happening. It may not get more than two or three hours during October (enough for a few pages) and that much in November (due to CL48) but it should get "full poor boy time" in December.
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Paul B
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, if it's commonplace that there are more "poor boy" projects than is desirable, it might be beneficial to have someone reliable and familiar with the SFU product line to shore up any shortages in manpower on a short-term basis when necessary.

Just an idea, not necessarily feasible
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 01, 2013 3:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not really feasible in this case. I'd still end up doing the same work later.

I did four pages in three hours last Friday, but had to stop until I got questions answered. Getting them, I spent another hour over the weekend and asked more questions. Got the answers to those, and have to go rewrite and edit some stuff.

The four pages were full of good ideas and problematic execution. The start/end segments did not match, many of the 60 campaign objectives were awkwardly worded, and the whole strucure was badly explained (until I got the answers and added the explanation).

To do this takes a master editor, master page layout artist, and master game designer, and I'm the only one who is all three.
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 07, 2013 8:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here are four sample pages, the four pages done with six hours of SVC design time, to illustrate the amount of editing and rewriting and fixing needed.

http://www.starfleetgames.com/discus/messages/12032/19865.html?1381178415#POST699805

As anyone who has worked with me knows, I never ever rewrite stuff just to fiddle with it. (I'm too lazy to do over anything that is already workable even if not the way I'd have done it.) But the original text was just seriously unclear.

Here is one example:
5) Information is Paramount: At the end of the year if our total Intel, CM required, we earn 3 VP. If we have more than double their amount, we earn 5 VP.

Jean and I puzzled for quite a while over what that meant. After several conversations with Jay, this is now:

(5) Information is Paramount: At the end of a cycle, if you have twice as many Intel Points as your opponent, you get five VPs. You can only score this one time, but it could be at the end of the first, second, or third cycle for the respective number of points (double, single, half).

Anyway, the finished "strategic objectives document" is a lot of fun to read and shows why I want to do Jay's book so much.
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mojo jojo
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Joined: 23 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Was bored, so did some proofreading. Laughing

1) For VPs, it's unclear how to handle fractional VPs in general. Some places explicitly tell you where to round or drop fractions, but other places don't. For example if you earn 5 VPs in the 3rd cycle, do you get 2, 2.5, or 3 VPs for that objective after halving?

Another example is the Monitors objective. Every three monitored
System Hexes grants two VPs
. Does 1 monitored hex give 0, 2/3, or 1 VP? Does 2 monitored hexes give 0, 1, or 4/3 VPs?

There are other places where it's unclear how to treat fractional VPs.

2) One of the objectives mentions a "cruiser sized" ship. It's not clear whether CAs or CLs count. Perhaps that section should refer to .75 or 1 Move Speed ships (whatever is the cutoff).

Now for some grammar edits:

1) 3rd paragraph, right side, 1st sentence: 1) 3rd paragraph, right side, 1st sentence: [i]This

edit: It looks like my message was cut off. There are a total of 8 grammar edits that didn't post.
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Steve Cole
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 08, 2013 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Please send any reports by email.

The wording is fairly precise. Double and half mean that. A specific "round" means round in that case, not all cases. Three X gets you two VPs means three X gets you two VPs; one or two X get you nothing.

"There are other places" doesn't help me much unless you list them.
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