A Final Word About Rube
*** *** *** A Final Word About Rube (Or... One Flash of Pirate Lord;-) *** *** ***
This will be the last post of this blog. If nobody in the modern game industry has any interest in Rube... Well... That is actually not surprising too me anymore. What I call the “modern game industry” might also be called the “computer game industry”. It began in the early 1980's with the first commercial games. Infocom is traditionally considered to be the beginning of the modern game industry. These are things that you know, but unfortunately this is where what you know begins. People had actually been making “serious games” since the late 1940's. And really, even before that, as Charles S. Roberts and the original Avalon Hill gang were players of the “Ruler & String” games that originated in the 16th century. You know these games... the little 3D dioramas with toy soldiers that real world military officers have been playing for centuries. You've seen these games in many movies, including one of James Bond movies. Yes, those were games... not toy soldier collections. That is where the industry that you work in ultimately comes from, those dioramas with toy soldiers that many colonels and generals still play to this day. The “Ruler & String” games originally came from... Chess. They were the “next generation” of Chess among the original “hardcore gamers”, military men. There are a significant number of small “garage game companies”, like DGS Games for example, that still make Ruler & String games today. Most are run by real-life military officers, as they always have been. This is the beginning of your own history. The 16th century, not 1981 and Apple II games. But, right from the very beginning, you insisted that all of that had nothing to do what what you were doing. You were doing an entirely different thing. So you completely ignored centuries of knowledge of game and simulation design and began completely re-inventing the wheel from scratch just a little over 30 years ago. We started taking it farther than “rulers & string” in 1948, you started all over again and completely from scratch in 1981. We knew you were wrong about this right from the beginning, and that you would be doing NOTHING new... but you were certain that the computers meant that you were now doing a completely different and entirely unrelated thing.
You have never understood what our most sophisticated games actually were. And you still don't. We knew there was no difference, that you were not doing anything new because we understood that our games were already “real time games”. You did not, and still don't. I know. I was there. I've been here all along. To this day you still can not comprehend how a board game can be a “real time game”. You still have no understanding of this at all, and question that it is possible if someone tries to explain it too you. (HINT: The pace at which time passes is not relevant... it's relative.) This is why you are completely incapable of even recognizing how important Rube is to what you consider to be “your profession”. It's actually “our profession”. We are the NFL, you are the Arena Football League. We work “in slow motion, under a microscope” and you work in “true real time”... who do you think understands the details better? It all goes flying past you in real time. We simulate time and reality in slow motion, under a microscope. Which ultimately results in... Rube.
We are now so far ahead of you, having begun our work in 1948 while you started over from scratch in 1981, that the height of our work has now reached the level of being literally indistinguishable from magic too you. That's how far ahead of you we are. It really is. Rube says it all. We have now reached the point that we are so far ahead of you that our form of simulation design appears to be impossible magic too you. You aren't even interested in Rube, the ultimate evolution thus far of what you think you do, because it is so far beyond your knowledge base that you are completely incapable of even conceiving of its existence. This is exactly how far behind the actual professional game and simulation designers of this world that you really are. What we do now, in 2017, is literally indistinguishable from magic too you. You are the amateurs, we are the professionals... and this has always been the case. You've always had this completely backwards. You actually consider a recent graduate of the Devry School of Game Design to be a qualified game designer, and us 40 year veterans to not even be qualified in comparison too them. This is the extreme level of your arrogance. You are insulted by me? Are you kidding me? A recent graduate of the Devry School of Game Design knows pretty much nothing at all about game design and is not qualified to shine our shoes, and the only reason that any of us could possibly have to go to your nonsense “game design schools” would be to retrain the incompetent teachers there who have less than half the experience and knowledge that we do!!! Welcome back to reality...
Charles S Roberts & Avalon Hill set out, without really realizing what it was they were actually doing, to simulate time combined with reality. Who knew... they just thought that they were making WWII games. They made those old diorama ruler & string games producible as commercial products for the masses. They replaced the rulers & strings with hexes on a cheap cardboard map instead of a 3D diorama, shaded for elevation, and the expensive miniatures with cheap cardboard counters. This is what the early Avalon Hill games really were, commercially viable versions of the military war games that real world military men had been playing for centuries. They began quickly evolving the old ruler & string rules and soon arrived at the phased-turn system, which they then further evolved for about 30 years. The “cash register example” that they apparently teach at the Devry School of Game design is actually a very rudimentary explination of Avalon Hill's early phased-turn system. In the end, Advanced Squad Leader, this had become very sophisticated with many sub-phases of phases... sub-phases of sub-phases, and so on. But this most sophisticated form of their phased-turns found in Advanced Squad Leader had actually been somewhat influenced by one of the many Avalon Hill-like hobbyist game companies that had emerged, Steve Cole's far more sophisticated version of Avalon Hill's phased-turns. which encompassed an even more detailed “Impulse Chart” with yet another entire Sequence of Play within each individual “impulse” (or, “moment of time containing reality”). In some ways ASL takes some inspiration from SFB's more complex phased-turn system, which they had inspired to begin with, as a part of turning Squad Leader into the massive Advanced Squad Leader. When Steve Cole and Task Force Games made Star Fleet Battles they took over the development of the “treadmill of time” that Avalon Hill had created gradually over decades through their ever-evolving phased-turn system.
Stephen V Cole and Amarillo Design Bureau took this a quantum leap forward with a warp powered version of AH's phased turn system called the “Impulse Chart”, which was itself merely the “new detail component” encompassed by a very sophisticated AH-like phased-turn system. Avalon Hill made a wind-up clock, Amarillo Design Bureau turned it into an atomic clock... and I eventually turned it into, well, time itself. SVC and ADB, by the way, are in terms of longevity the most successful company in the history of the game industry and only Gary Gygax and Dungeons & Dragons have been more influential on your games than Steve “SVC” Cole and ADB. SVC's company began as Jagdpanther Productions in 1973. His company has continuously published games since then as Jagdpanther, then Task Force Games, and finally as Amarillo Design Bureau from 1973 to this very day. That's 44 years. ADB still releases several new products every year. Only Avalon Hill and TFG/ADB have ever succeeded in making games for 44 years. Avalon Hill existed for... 44 years. ADB will surpass Avalon Hill sometime this year as the most enduring game developer in all of history. Unlike Avalon Hill, the same man has been behind TFG/ADB all along making SVC unquestionably the most experienced game designer of all time. He also, by the way, practically invented the cooperative process by which you make games today. Only his friend, Steve Jackson, comes anywhere close in terms of longevity and sheer time. “The Steves”, both of them in Texas, have been doing at this for longer than anyone else has ever done this type of thing... and both of them are still going strong to this day. You'd think that everyone in this business would know all about both of these two founding fathers of all that they do.
One of the many games to come out of Task Force Games over the years was the game you know today as “Heroes of Might & Magic”. Some of you probably already know that HoM&M began its life as “King's Bounty”. What you don't know is that King's Bounty was actually Task Force Games being ahead of its time, as usual, and with New World Computing (which had been formed by a group SFB Staff and SFB Rated Aces) attempted the first simultaneous release of a board game and computer game... King's Bounty. In the end they were actually released about 9 months apart, but we had tried to release them together. This was one of the big things that happened when I worked at TFG, along with the release of the final “Captain's Edition” of Star Fleet Battles. The game that you know as Heroes of Might & Magic originally came from Task Force Games, as King's Bounty, just one of countless marks that Steve Cole and his company have left on your industry without you knowing it. His Star Fleet Battles, of course, is the Dungeons & Dragons of space ship games. Just as with D&D and your RPGs, there are very few space games you have ever made that don't trace their lineage back to Steve Cole and Amarillo Design Bureau in some way. You've never heard of SVC and ADB, but they have had a vast influence on you. As I've said before... Master of Orion, Sword of the Stars, and Faster Than Light should all have Star Fleet Universe labels on them! And those are just a few of the more prominent examples. We are invisible too you, but not unknown too you.
This 50 years of work by AH/ADB then wound up, through an accident of history, with me and my 20 years of developing my own Pirate Dawn Universe, really the “Fifth Generation” of the primary line of serious simulation design in all of human history. Checkers/Chess, Ruler & String games, Avalon Hill, Amarillo Design Bureau, Lost Art Studios (which is really just me). Rube is the end result of this 70-year long focus by AH, ADB, and in the end my LAS, on simulating the combination of time and reality on a table top. This is where Rube comes from... it's not just me. It comes from the first 70 years of the history of modern game and simulation design. It is the ultimate evolution of the first 70 years of modern game and simulation design. If the modern game industry is going to continue to ignore all of this... then the Matrix, a holodeck, and cyberspace will probably be lost to history. Because, ultimately, those things are where Rube will go. And it's not like someone else will just come up with the same thing later. Nobody is working or thinking along these lines anymore, if Rube dies with me it isn't coming back for at least 100 years... and possibly not ever. Nobody does this anymore, the few who have this knowledge are getting old now... and a fundamental component of Rube is my Attached Board Game AI, which has only ever existed in my unpublished games. This knowledge dies with us because you know little, if anything, about how this works and only our generation that lived through its development is likely to ever be able to see Rube in it anyway. And then without my Attached AI, which has never been seen before... there is no Rube. It's 1/3 of Rube and it only exists on my hard drive and in my mind. This isn't coming back any time soon, if it is lost now it is lost for a very long time.
Here is an alternate way I've come up with to describe Rube that is tailored to this audience, you. Programmers rather than game designers. Rube is a new “predictive” design for a punch-card computer. A manually operated punch card computer running on a table top. “Predictive” is not the right word, Rube literally plans the future. It does not simply predict the future by, for example, knowing how long it will take a shot to travel a certain distance... and therefore you “know the future” and can predict where that projectile will be in the future. Rube writes the future of all of its reality. Rube can plan any future “moment of time containing reality”, for any and all individual “living entities” within it, up until that moment happens. I am aware of how you use what you term “predictive” mechanics to compensate for networking issues, so this is a concept that you are at least familiar with. Rube is not actually what you mean when you say “predictive”, but this at least is an example of YOU “playing with the future” in a way that most outside of your field can not truly understand. I understand it, your “predictive mechanics” are very simple compared to Rube, but this is something that you know and understand that might seem “indistinguishable from magic” to most outside of your field. It is also you using a far more simple means of “knowing the future”... the basic idea is not completely alien too you. Just as I, or we (AH/ADB/LAS), have discovered a way to literally plan the future of reality. Simply knowing where an object will be in the future based on its speed and direction of travel is far less complex than Rube, but it is still a case of you also “knowing the future”. It's not as unbelievable as it sounds on the surface, you have your own means of “knowing the future” in a far more simple way. I'll just skip the part about how Rube is powered by moving through time to avoid confusing you... Oops, too late.
The best way for programmers to think of Rube is that it is a manually operated punch card computer operating on a table top. A good example is my current effort to make a board game version of Territories. Territories the computer game might have as many as 12000 cards in an “all out production” of it. Territories the board game (think Cold War-gone-Hot War in 1989, Axis & Allies on steroids) can only come with about 200 cards at most. Its expansion would consist solely of 6 more decks of cards, another 300 or so cards. The board game with its expansion will only have about 500 cards, both for production reasons and the fact that players could not manage anything even close to a 12,000 card version of Rube operating manually on a table top. The computer game version of Territories might have over 100 different card decks, maybe even 500 card decks, 1000, infinity... any and all of which might potentially be running at the same time, many of which the player does not even know exist as card decks and are simply bringing the world around them to life. “I make games that play themselves” is a line that has been in my mind since I was a little kid. One card deck, for example, might be what amounts to a James Bond mini-novel running in the background of my Cold War game. He keeps popping up and doing real things within the game that have a real effect on the game. Associate a movie with every James Bond card... and you've got Goldfinger running in the background, as a mere side story, of Territories the computer game. This is an example of what I mean when I say that Rube is exceptionally good at telling stories in a strategy war game. I bet you programmers are starting to at least see something here now... at least I hope this works better for you.
At the end of my all time favorite Star Trek episode, “A Piece of the Action” (Book'em, Spocko!!!), Kirk says something like “the transtator is the basis of the transporter, the tractor beam, the phaser... much of our modern technology”. Rube really is a thing like this. I know, it took me months to come to grips with having discovered this about 2 years ago now, but it really is. Rube is best described as “The Matrix”... but the Matrix is a lot more than just the Matrix. After all, other than make games and simulations for science... what do you actually do with something like the Matrix? Well, as it turns out, the Matrix is more of a scientific theory, and basis of other things, than it is a thing in and of itself. It is a simulation of time combined with reality that looks for all the world like what we think of as “God”. It is, effectively, a theory about the nature of how time and reality function together. I have come to realize that the Matrix can also very easily be an “insubstantial holodeck”. Just think about it, and that one should make at least some sense too you all by itself. They really are almost the same thing, and Rube can also be a holodeck. Rube is also what we all think of as “cyberspace”. This is the latest thing I have realized about Rube. Rube is also “realistic cyberspace”. Not crazy, off-the-wall, Lawnmower Man cyberspace, but it is the basis of an “all-knowing cyberspace” that would make George Orwell's 1984 look like a story of hope for a more private future. Tron actually has it most right in this case... “Master Control Program” would be a more accurate name for it than cyberspace. In fact it is largely my original “Attached Board Game AI” that I have just naturally used since I was 7-years-old, and is a fundamental part of how Rube works, that could be turned into something like cyberspace. What you might call “Rube's Vision of Cyberspace” is in many ways actually a more simple and more primitive version of Rube than Territories is (but much more massive, obviously) and with it “attached” to literally everything on the internet... I actually don't like what Rube could do to the internet. The “transtator” was the basis of the transporter, tractor beam, and phaser in the fictional world of Star Trek. Here in the real world, Rube really is the basis of the Matrix, an insubstantial holodeck, and cyberspace. And, apparently... nobody cares.
Rube is the new height of the field of game and simulation design. It really is. It is the result of an entire lifetime of work based on 50 years of work that came before it, it's not just me. It really does come almost entirely from a blending of Avalon Hill's phased-turn system and their concept of “assembling the battle”, Amarillo Design Bureau's Impulse Chart with its embedded SoP, and my Attached Board Game AI. I'm not one guy saying I have come up with this out of the blue, this isn't coming from just me. In a way... there are centuries of evolution behind Rube that can be traced all the way back to chess! This is not just me...
Now that I think about it... Who would I have to convince to create an X-Prize for The Matrix? That would be perfect! It's a shame that isn't out there... I could fund my own private and seperate computer game industry dedicated solely to making the PDU, haha!
So this is the end of my last attempt at getting through too the computer game industry. If nobody contacts me... I won't be surprised, that's what I expect. You just aren't ever going to acknowledge any game design prior to 1981 as being relevant to your world, are you? You are going to continue to remain absolutely convinced that you are the leading experts in this field, aren't you? Really... It is not your field, it is our field. There is a sandbox at the edge of our field, and that is where you can be found playing with your plastic buckets and shovels angrily insisting that you are the greatest sand castle builders that the world has ever known... as we construct the pyramids right behind you without you even noticing that they are there. If you have no interest in Rube, then you have proven that this is exactly who you are. You really have. You really are just the kids playing in the sandbox at the edge of our field. “One Flash of Pirate Lord”;-)
“If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking.” - George S Patton
Kavik “Pirate Lord” Kang, Black Knights
Lost Art Studios
“Honey... I know what it's worth...”
I just can't make a blog post here without a song. So, just in case there is someone out there who has actually read the PDU story overview, Armageddon Chess, and the Pirate Dawn lore files... which there probably isn't... here's a bonus for you actually knowing the story (and I'd love to hear what you think of the story if there is someone out there who has gotten into it enough to have read it). One final Cindy McAllen song, since I have used her as the big star of the presentation here, that anyone who might have read the whole story that is here will appreciate. If you haven't read the story then you will just shrug and not get the coolness of this. As with all of the songs that I use, if you know the story then every single word of this is very meaningful and relevant... because the story is always derived from and written around the lyrics of the songs that tell the spine of the story. And I always make sure to tie every line to something somewhere in the story. I probably shouldn't be giving this one away, actually, but oh well... I'm pretty sure that nobody has read it anyway, so there probably isn't anybody that I am giving anything away too. You will all just shrug...