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Introduction - And a little bit about "Rube"

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Kavik Kang

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*** *** *** Pirate Dawn Universe *** *** ***


Welcome to my developer's journal! This is a little different than most of these journals I have looked at, I am a game designer and not a programmer. I've also spent about 20 years working on this. This journal is dedicated to my Pirate Dawn Universe which consists of 14 games tied together through a timeline that begins with the formation of the Earth in 4.5 billion BC and ends in either 4288 or 8112, depending on what happens. It is essentially my own Star Trek, Star Wars, or Babylon 5. I have a great deal of experience in creating a sci-fi universe within games, far more than anyone working in the modern game industry today, and the Pirate Dawn Universe is my life's work. I have been doing this pretty much continuously for about 35 years now. I really have forgotten more about imaginary warships in space, fleet composition, and combat between them than any 5 of you combined have ever known. That's not bragging, it's just a fact. I am not alone, there are a few dozen others just like me but they are of a different generation and they don't really care about computer games. I have been playing your games my whole life and you don't take this anywhere in the same plane of existence as seriously as we did for over 40 years.

My blog will tell you a little bit about who I am, and about the old hobbyist game industry from someone who was there. Gamasutra Blog: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MarcMichalik/787769/

Most of the games of the PDU are based on a unique form of game design that I have developed over the last 40 years. There have never been games that work like these ones do. I call this "methodology of function" Rube. Rube is the next generation of the Star Fleet Universe, or the third generation of Avalon Hill... take your pick. Rube is the end result, the highest evolution, of 70 years of game and simulation design knowledge of the hobbyist game industry that just happened to wind up ending with me. My "Lost Art Studios", which is really just me, is the next and last in the line of evolution of the game industry of the late 1940's-1990's. Avalon Hill, Dungeons & Dragons, Star Fleet Battles... that whole era really, it all ultimately led to and ended up as the Pirate Dawn Universe. In one week I will post about 300 pages of information about the PDU to this journal, most of it as downloadable text files. The game is almost all of that material. Armageddon Chess is the first game of the PDU and you can be among the first people to play it if you want, and it is the star of the show of this journal.

The point of this, obviously, is to find a way too make my games. I am 48 and gave up on this 8 years ago. This is definitely the last time I will ever try to make my games... so I might as well go all out and show you everything! It's just going to die with me if I don't, so there is no reason not to show it to the world now. Even if I got to make the PDU starting right now I'd probably be getting close to 65, or even 70, when the Armageddon game was being finished. Randomly contacting game companies is pointless, I tried that for almost 20 years. They generally have a plan to make their own games and aren't interested in looking at anything else. At least that was my final conclusion after nearly two decades of trying. On top of that, one of the very first things I was taught in the board game industry was that we returned all unsolicited game submissions unopened, for many obvious reasons. I would imagine that you are the same, and suspect it is possible that in all those years of trying... not a single game company ever so much as looked at what I had sent them. Understandably. Then, to make matters even worse, I am inherently incompatible with the modern game industry. The way that I make games, that we made games, is pretty much an exact carbon copy of your complete list that you believe is the "worst" way that it could possibly be done. You do things, for the most part, completely backwards from the way that we did. When the phrase "game designer as rock star" emerged back in the early 1990's... One of you may have actually talking about me! I'm serious, that's not a joke. I was then, and still am, exactly that guy (although the hair is gone now). I wouldn't be surprised at all if I had been at least part of the inspiration for that phrase. I have been occasionally among and around you since the dawn of your time. I have at least met most of the "old legendary names" of your industry. In a few days I'll show you exactly what it is that your long-despised "rock star" actually does, and how that winds up working out in the end.

I "retired" from trying to do this anymore about 8 years ago, right here on GameDev net;-) But about a year ago I decided to try this one last time. So if anyone out there is interested in what really is the ultimate evolution of 70 years of work by hundreds of the original commercial game designers, then through an accident of history... it's right here. Avalon Hill... Amarillo Design Bureau... Lost Art Studios... this is the chain that led to the PDU. This is its heritage, where it comes from, what it is. It is the ultimate evolution of 70 years of continual unbroken work by several generations of the very first modern game designers. Created by someone who has been playing computer games constantly since they first came into existence. As you might imagine, it is just a little bit more refined than the games that the modern game industry makes. "Just a 'lil bit..." Or may you wouldn't imagine that, since I am just your "rock star";-)

Until this weekend... Something you should find interesting, if you have an interest in game design. If you have an interest in game design and you don't find this interesting... then you should probably be in a different line of work. A little bit about Rube...

After having had over a year to contemplate and consider Rube I have a much better understanding of it then when I first discovered it. Recognized it in nature is more accurate, actually. I am going to focus on making the first two games of the Pirate Dawn Universe, and forget about Rube, because the very simple-to-produce Armageddon Chess is definitely the most likely path to success. Also because making Territories, the second game, makes Rube... and that is the only way that I am ever going to get anyone else to understand Rube. The programmers don't need to understand Rube to create Rube. Rube is a part of nature. It's all simple... until it comes together to function as a single entity. Rube will simply come into being within Territories whether anyone else recognizes what is happening or not, and by the time the project is finished the programmers WILL understand Rube! It has become very clear that the only way that I have of introducing the world to Rube is to make Territories.

To make others understand Rube I would need to be able to express Rube mathematically, and I am nowhere near capable of doing that. People don't believe that Rube exists because I should not have been able to discover Rube. People expect anyone who could discover something like Rube to be capable of representing it mathematically. Rube is so complex that attempting to explain Rube in any other way just sounds... insane. So the only way that anyone else is ever going to understand Rube is if I make Territories. By the time that game is done, the programmers who helped to make it will understand Rube. And some of them will probably be able to express Rube as a theory mathematically, at least well enough for it to finally be understood by people other than me. This is the only means that I have of explaining Rube in a way that anyone else is ever going to understand. So I am now trying to make Armageddon Chess, so that I can get to make Territories... and thus Rube. And then, of course, the rest of the PDU!

Rube is not an editor, or game making tool. Rube is a physical construct used to explain a very complex method of simulating the combination of time and reality. Rube is a functioning model of how time and reality function together. "Moments of time containing reality", the defining statement of Rube. This is used as the basis of making games, at least that's what I use it for. I will share my current understanding of Rube at a macro level. Take this as you will... it is all true.

Rube is a FUNCTIONING scientific model that I have just naturally been using various incarnations of for most of my life. I am a "savant simulation designer", and I will just leave that for however you want to take it. Rube is the product of nearly 70 years of continuous work by literally hundreds of designers. The third-generation of Avalon Hill, the next-generation of Star Fleet Battles. An evolution that, through an accident of history, then ended with me and my now 20-year-long obsession to create the Pirate Dawn Universe.

As I have said before, what Rube actually is is the world's first functioning scientific model of God. The Rube of Territories is a primitive, embryonic form of what Rube can actually be. The Rube of Territories is simply a very sophisticated way of handling cards within a simple Avalon Hill-style phased turn system. Territories is a VERY "board game primitive" version of Rube. Struggle of the Ancients Part 1 literally is Rube in its natural state. Just Rube being Rube... but that is Game #11 and Territories is Game #2.

If you assume a Rube where all of its five components are functioning at an infinite capacity, then all of the following things are true... Rube is an "artificial universe". A self-programming computer with omniscient communication. This is exactly what Rube is. A functioning simulation of God. A functioning simulation of time combined with reality. I did not set out to create a simulation of God, I set out to make better games based on SFB's Impulse Chart with its embedded sequence of play. The founders of Avalon Hill had set out to simulate real time in games, and Amarillo Design Bureau took that system to the next generation. And I, or "Lost Art Studios" which of course is just me, took it to Rube. We didn't set out to simulate God, we set out to simulate time and reality. And with Rube, that 70 or so years of work has now been completed.

I can't tell you how time, reality, or God function in the real world... obviously. But Rube is a functioning model that I have actually been using for decades and I CAN tell you how Rube says that time and reality function within Rube. Most importantly... Rube says that what we perceive as "time and reality" **IS** God. Or, what we perceive as God **IS** "time and reality". One or the other, or both at the same time... take your pick. But according to Rube, this is the case. This is why our combined 70 years of work to simulate time and reality within games (Avalon Hill/Amarillo Design Bureau/Lost Art Studios) ultimately resulted in a simulation of God. Because, according to Rube and how Rube functions anyway, "God" and "Time combined with Reality" are one and the same thing. They function identically. God is Time, and/or Time is God. Take your pick... because they are one and the same thing. At least, within Rube they are. They function identically.

This, BTW, makes for some pretty awesome game lore within a sci-fi universe

After having successfully completed the work of AH, ADB, and LAS/Territories, and achieving a complete functioning model of time and reality, I was not looking at the model of "moments of time containing reality" that was the basis of my "3[sup]rd[/sup] generation" work on the system. I was looking at God, or a model of God anyway. Here is the most obvious and descriptive way of describing the 5 components of this simulation of how "time combined with reality" functions. "Moments of time containing reality." And how I described them as components of a simulation of time and reality before recognizing this as being equally a simulation of God.

Top Spinning Wheel of Time (Heaven)
Rube Goldberg Card Sorting Machine (God)
"Living Entities" within the A/P Map (Souls)
Active/Passive Map (Mortal World, AKA "The Matrix")
Bottom Spinning Wheel of Time (Hell)

Or... a slight modification for the "God Games" that come at the end of the PDU. The Struggle of the Ancients trilogy and Astral Twilight are essentially just Rube being Rube, as a game. This is how Rube is configured for those games, and this time in the terminology of the PDU.

Top Spinning Wheel of Time (Upper Void)
High Rube Goldberg Card Sorting Machine (Zeus)
"Living Entities" within the A/P Map (Ascendant Candidates, Zeus)
Active/Passive Map (Mortal World, AKA "The Matrix")
"Living Entities" within the A/P Map (Ascendant Candidates, Hades)
Low Rube Goldberg Card Sorting Machine (Hades)
Bottom Spinning Wheel of Time (Lower Void)

Rube seems incomplete without the "Low God" and his "Souls", doesn't he? This is what I call "Rube III". Rube III began as the foundation of Struggle of the Ancients, Part II: Armageddon and then also became the basis of the entire Struggle of the Ancients trilogy and Astral Twilight. Territories after I understood Rube as a physical construct is Rube II (the first Rube listed above), the strategy war games of the PDU all have Rube II at their foundation to some degree or another. The original Territories where I first noticed Rube as a physical construct was Rube I, which is "obsolete" now in my mind. Mission is Rube IV and is not "god"-like at all, IV came before III but is much more complicated. Rube IV is better described as "an insubstantial holodeck" than it is a simulation of god. Rube IV "maintains a constant illusion of activity around the player". There are several versions of Mission and I am considering stepping back to the previous one from this "holodeck" one I have tried to put together in what I call "notes stage"... only because I think that, although Rube IV is a very impressive trick, the previous version of Mission was a better game than what is coming together with the new "Rube IV" idea. Rube IV still "maintains a constant illusion of activity around the player" by literally planning the future of the reality around them. I somewhat fear a Rube V.

I have created all of this part of Rube, these five components are my "next generation" of the Star Fleet Universe, the completion of the work begun by Avalon Hill in the late 1940s. The "treadmill of time" created by the hobbyist game industry over the past 70 years is the cardiovascular system that runs through those five components, and is the heart and core of the system. The "Spinning Wheels of Time" also incorporate the basic design of the SFB Impulse Chart. In the most simple terms... this is the difference between the way that I make games and the way that everyone else does it. That really is what Rube is, me finally be able to conceptually explain how my singularly unique games function.

This is what you get when you take the SFB Impulse Chart to the next level of "moments of time containing reality". This is what you wind up seeing after you finally succeed in creating a functioning model of time and reality. Not time and reality... God. They are indecipherable from each other.

I am, just to be clear, a scientific-minded person who likes to think of himself as an on-the-fence agnostic ("Who am I to answer that question?") but just naturally leans pretty far toward atheism. So there is no religious motivation, or "opinionated contamination", on my part in any of this. I am also not claiming to have any answers in the real world. This is how Rube functions, which doesn't necessarily have anything to do with how time and reality function in the real world. For the sake of my own sanity, that is an issue I ignore and will leave for other people who know "blackboard math" to worry about. But Rube does function, so this does carry more weight in my mind than the imaginings of a futurist, for example.

And, if you are wondering about what Rube says about time travel... Rube says that you cannot travel forward in time because time and reality consist of "moments of time containing reality", and that future "moment of time containing reality" is "staged within Rube/God", and it will not happen until the moment that it happens. Rube/God, however, can alter and plan the future of each individual "Living Entity"/Soul at any point prior to that "moment of time containing reality" happening, planning any future "moment of time containing reality" of every "Living Entity/Soul" in its universe into eternity! Rube says that you cannot travel backwards in time because once a "moment in time containing reality" has happened it has ceased too exist. Even Rube/God cannot access the past in any way because that "moment of time containing reality" no longer exists.

That's what the functioning model that is Rube says, anyway. And from here I will wait for Territories before wasting time trying to explain Rube when I don't know the math required to do so. Territories will explain Rube for me to people who do know the math to explain it. On the plus side, I have realized that I can publicly explain Rube in as much detail as I want without worry of someone else running off with it, because nobody has any idea what I am talking about no matter how I try to describe it. I couldn't get someone to understand Rube even a tiny little bit if my life depended on it, so there is no reason to be secretive about it. Trying my best, all I get is blank stares and concerns for my sanity (literally)... so there is no reason at all to be secretive about something that I can't make people understand no matter what lengths I go to explain it. Hence the fairly detailed description above.

Next Friday I will post a summary of all 12 games of the the entire Pirate Dawn Universe timeline and a playable prototype of Armageddon Chess, the first game of the PDU. The opening timeline is the entire beginning of the story of both Armageddon Chess and the entire Pirate Dawn Universe, it is about 120 pages long and covers 4.5 billion BC to 1945. Because of the unique way that the PDU is written for games the story works well no matter what order you take it in. As a published game almost all players would play the game and learn the story of Armageddon Chess before being into it enough, if they were going to be, to read the timeline which then acts as a prequel story. But the story is best taken in order, as it is presented in the zip file. If you are mostly interested in the story then reading the timeline first, then the game manual, then the chess sets in the order they are presented will turn Armageddon Chess into the big ending of the story that you have just read.

There are 9 chess sets included with the prototype, 7 of which are compatible with each other. None of them have ever been play tested, in fact I have never even set up a chess set and tinkered with this. I did this entirely in my head sitting in front of a word processor over the last six months or so. So you will almost certainly find some game balance issues that might still need some more work, it has still never been played. If you are playing it you might be the first person to ever do so. The chess sets should work very well with themselves, this is fairly simple to work out. It is freely mixing and matching the sides from different sets within the Fantasy Series where play testing is almost certainly going to reveal some problems. Armageddon Chess is about 250 pages with the timeline, game manual, and the 9 chess sets. All you need if you want to actually play it is a chess set, poker chips, and some 6-sided dice.

I will post the PDU summary of all 12 games, with the zip file for Armageddon Chess attached, this Friday. Armageddon Chess is Chess brought up-to-date for the modern game audience. From the perspective of modern gamers raised on computer games Chess is missing a combat system, so I have given it one. Obviously just some type of one-on-one Archon like D&D thing would be pretty... lame... as my generation would say. So, just like a computer game might do, Armageddon Chess "zooms in" on a "tactical battle area". All of the pieces in the 3-square combat area are involved in the battle, and they can have very unique abilities beyond just causing damage. Moving other pieces within the battle area, for example. This is all designed to create a combat system that seems like it is a part of Chess, very simple to understand rules that create an endlessly complex situation... especially when combined with the existing rules of Chess that they are working with. Armageddon Chess amplifies the existing complexity of Chess. So if you always thought that Chess was too complex... you might want to try another game;-)

10... 9... 8... 7... 6... 5... 4... 3... 2... 1...


Marc Michalik
Lost Art Studios

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Right.  Next week I will post a summary of all 14, 12 really, games of the primary timeline and Armageddon Chess.  I'm spending one last week proofreading all of it a few more times.

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