*** *** *** It's a Kind of Resume... (Kind of....) *** *** ***
I spent 20 years sending resumes, letters, you name it, to game companies. Nobody ever even responds. In the 20 years I spent doing that only one company ever even responded... and they hired me. I have 20 years of actual experience that tell me that sending things to individual game companies is a waste of time. That is why now, in what is certainly my last attempt to do what I was born to do, I did this publicly on the only major game industry discussion forum there is. So this isn't a traditional “resume” because over 20 years of experience tells me that is pointless. It is just ignored. You don't know your own history, and don't seem to have any concept of how sophisticated some of the games from the serious side of the hobbyist game industry were. Avalon Hill and their many imitators were continuing the Ruler & String games that military men had been playing for centuries and the most complex of these were far more detailed than people today imagine a “board game” too be. I didn't go to the Devry School of Game Design... I went to the Harvard, Yale, and Oxford of game design all rolled up into one. We literally invented the process by which games are made today, long before you even existed, and produced the largest and most complex game ever made. But you don't know any of that, so it means nothing too you. I've tried everything else already. All of your suggestions... I did all of that already 20 years ago. It didn't work. There is no point in trying that same thing all over again when it is already proven beyond any doubt that method does not work for me and my unique situation.
Gamasutra Blog: http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/MarcMichalik/787769/
So this time around I attempted to explain where I came from with this blog and my blog on Gamasutra which is mostly about the history of the hobbyist game industry and specifically Star Fleet Battles. I can't just tell you I was SFB Staff because you have no idea what that means, it just flies right over your heads and you pay no attention too it. 20 years of doing that tells me that is meaningless too you. I have to explain who we were first, which I did on my Gamasutra blog, or you just compare me to some 20-year-old kid who knows almost nothing at all about designing games. That's how bad the situation is, you would actually compare us to little kids who want to make games when we've been doing this since before your industry even existed. It really is just about the most insulting thing I have ever heard in my life. It really is. We really were doing this before your industry even existed, long before, and our games were far more serious than the children's games that you make. They are too complex for modern gamers to even consider attempting to play. What we do is based on over two centuries of accumulated knowledge of real military men simulating warfare, and I've been doing it for about 40 years now. And you honestly insist that any 20 year old who takes a few classes at your nonsense “school” is qualified to be designing games and that we aren't. You are actually comparing your own founding fathers to little kids who don't even need to understand how the games that they play even work!
*** Payday/Attached Board Game AI ***
My game design “career” began in the mid-1970's when I was just 7 years old. My grandfather taught me how to play Cribbage and Pinochle while I was visting him for the summer. He was with military intelligence and tried to teach all of his grandchildren games at a very young age, but only I took too it. I was immediately obsessed with both games and made him play them with me as much as he would for the whole month that I was there. He must of told my parents how obsessed with games I was because they got me a children's game called Payday that Christmas. My brother was only 2, so I didn't have anyone to play it with. But that didn't matter, because as soon as I looked at Payday I realized that it played itself. There is no decision making in children's games like Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, or Payday so this is no great revelation to adults, but I saw this immediately when I was just 7. Even at just 7 years old I naturally “saw AI” in games. It wasn't any fun playing in the game myself, so I would mentally “attach” the “AI players” to myself. I wasn't actually one of the players, I was an “invisible player” and all of the “AI players” were “attached” too me. At least, that is how I saw it. This has evolved, over my lifetime, into one of the core concepts of how “Rube” functions. One way that Rube can be used is to “maintain a constant illusion of activity around the player” and my Attached AI is at the core of how that usage of Rube functions. After Payday I would constantly ask my parents to get me games and when they did I would immediately work out how to make them “play themselves”. “Invisible me” would advance through the turns/phases which would “turn the cranks” of all of the “AI players” or, as I have said in other places on this blog... “Rube is powered by moving through time”. I wouldn't be one of the players, I would make up “automated rules” to make games run on auto-pilot and play themselves without my being directly involved. I was practically obsessed with doing this until I was 11. Then I discovered Avalon Hill games.
*** Avalon Hill ***
The first Avalon Hill game that I got was Victory in the Pacific. First I made it play itself like I had been doing with simpler games for almost five years already, then I actually started playing it with other kids. Victory in the Pacific was the first game I actually played with other people, up until then I had always just created my “board game AI” and watched games play themselves. Soon I also had Blitzkrieg and Panzerblitz, and I made both of these games play themselves as well. This was far more challenging than any other games I had ever worked with before. Especially Panzerblitz, which was one of Avalon Hill's most complex games at the time. It was while working on a “board game AI” for Panzerblitz that I realized that I was not quite normal. Other people didn't even do this with simple games, and what I was doing with Panzerblitz was far beyond the understanding that any normal 12 year old should have. In fact later, in my late teens, I came to realize that even the best game designers in the world at the time (after having met most of them at conventions) did not “see AI” in board games like I did. They were confused when I would start talking about making complex games like Victory in the Pacific, Blitzkrieg, and Panzerblitz “play themselves” without me even being involved in the game. They didn't see how what I was describing could be possible. It was during this time that I gradually realized that I was not normal, I was a natural born “savant simulation designer” who just naturally “sees AI” in everything. Games, nature... everywhere. And other people, even the best game designers in the world at the time, didn't see this like I did and would just become confused when I would try to explain it too them.
One of my favorite movies of all time is Wargames, because I was that kid. I never broke into NORAD, of course, but around this time (1981) my family got a Franklin 1100 (Apple II+ clone) with a 1200 baud modem. I immediately discovered BBS door games and spent many hours searching for BBS systems to play the door games and download commercial games. Eventually Trade Wars and Barren Realms Elite came along and those were my favorite door games. My brother and I were the best BRE players in the world. The sysop of the BBS we played BRE on directed us to the network where the designer ran his own international BRE “galaxy” because he wanted to see us conquer the designer's network in under a week like we would do locally. We did that, then convinced the designer and the players in his “galaxy” to reset the game so that we could defeat them all by ourselves from a fresh start. Me, my brother, and the two other people that played our way with us took on the entire galaxy in a fresh start game. The entire world, about 100 players, against us four players on “Planet Colorado”. The rest of the world conceded on the third day after the reset, some after the first day and the rest over the next two days as they realized that we could not be defeated. Barren Realms Elite was a very broken game. Unlike everyone else, we played it for what it was and not what it was meant to be. We could beat an unlimited number of people arrayed against us, it didn't matter how many people were allied against us. The designer then banned the entire state of Colorado from his network because “you aren't cheating, but I don't like how you play my game”. This is where Pirate Dawn comes from. The original concept of Pirate Dawn was a blending of Trade Wars & Barren Realms Elite as the strategy layer combined with a blending Star Control, Subspace, and Star Fleet Battles as the tactical layer.
*** Star Fleet Battles ***
When I was 13 I discovered Star Fleet Battles. There have been very few people who learned to play SFB at such a young age and I had to have been one of a very few a very few self-taught 13-year-old SFB players. I have only heard of one other person who was playing SFB at 13 and he was the son of a staff member who made a big effort to teach him at such a young age. Naturally I immediately tried to make SFB play itself but, for the first time, I couldn't do it. SFB was far too complex to make that happen, which absolutely fascinated me. Eventually I did find a way to “cheat” and make SFB play itself against a player in a reasonably challenging way (in just 4 paragraphs!), which today is among the most popular solitaire scenarios in SFB called “The Orb” (which many also consider to be the “most Star Trek-like” scenario in SFB). The fact that I couldn't make SFB play itself in any real kind of way was what drew me too it like a magnet. So, instead, I made Panzerblitz run on SFB's Impulse Chart instead of Avalon Hill's phased turns. This was the beginning of my applying how SFB worked to other games that were totally unrelated to SFB. Panzerblitz running on the Impulse Chart was far too long, unwieldy, and confusing to be a commercial game but it worked very well even if it did take days to resolve a single scenario that only took hours in the original version. I had dozens of counters on the map running in “simultaneous real-time”, as if it were an RTS computer game, several years before RTS computer games even existed. My Panzerblitz “playing itself” on the Impulse Chart was, in reality, the world's very first “real-time strategy game” (1982). I had essentially created what was almost certainly the first RTS at 14-years-old, about 5 years before the earliest computer game RTS games existed. This was also the first marriage of my “Attached Board Game AI” and SVC's Impulse Chart, the true beginning of what today I call “Rube”.
*** Axis & Allies ***
I still remember waiting in front of the game store in the morning before it opened to buy Axis & Allies the first day it came out, I was there before they opened the doors. I took it home and immediately began working out how to make it play itself. It seemed like it should be simple compared to making Panzerblitz play itself, but I was surprised to find that it actually wasn't easy to work out... especially Japan and America. It took a long time to finally make Japan play itself well. It was easier than Panzerblitz, but at least twice as difficult as I had been expecting it too be going into it. But, in the end, just like a children's game like Candyland or Payday, I had all five nations in Axis & Allies playing themselves without my involvement other than following my own “automated rules” for each nation. This was the last board game that I did this with, because this was also the time that I had become a full-blown SFB junkie. For the next ten years or so after this I essentially lived SFB, and making “poker chip prototypes” of strategy war games after one of the original founders of Avalon Hill told me about “poker chip prototypes”. This was also the earliest days of commercial computer games, and if I wasn't playing SFB with someone or re-arranging poker chip prototypes into what would eventually become Territories, then I was playing the earliest computer games. Computer games were also a big part of my changing from making board games play themselves to actually playing the games myself. Up until I discovered SFB, and computer games came along, I hadn't actually played games very much. I made the games play themselves with what I had come to call “Attached Board Game AI” which later, when combined with Steve Cole's Impulse Chart, would eventually lead to “Rube”.
*** SFB Staff/Task Force Games/Territories ***
After about five years of playing SFB and computer games constantly I decided to review the entire Commander's Edition of SFB. I reviewed every word of the entire Commander's Edition and sent Steve Cole about 100 pages reports. I had no idea that TFG/ADB were just beginning the process of creating the final Captain's Edition at the time. SVC sent me back an invitation to join the SFB Staff. I was one of only a few people who did a review of the entire game during the design of the Captain's Edition. Many of my suggestions and corrections were used and to this day SFB is still laced with things that came from me. I was among the group of the first 7 people to ever be given a medal when SVC first began doing that, in the Z section of Advanced Missions for the design phase of the Captain's Edition, and remain one of the very few people in the history of the SFB Staff to ever be awarded a Silver Star. I represented the Romulans during my time on the staff, but actually had a bigger impact on the Andromedans who had no staff representative at the time and were being completely re-designed for the Captain's Edition. There is a lot of me in the “new” Andromedan rules of the Captain's Edition. This was, arguably, the most important of four critical periods of actually designing SFB (Pocket Edition, Designer's Edition, Commander's Edition, Captain's Edition). Shortly after joining the staff I became, at the time, only the third staff member ever actually hired by the company. Another came after me and today there have been four of us. I worked at Task Force Games, the publisher and not the developer ADB, but remained on ADB's SFB Staff while I worked at TFG. At TFG I was going to be their in-house game designer and this is where the very first version of what I today call Territories came into existence, after nearly a decade of playing with poker chip prototypes which had led to Territories. But then the hobbyist game industry collapsed about a year into my time there and TFG had to let everyone go except for the owner and his brother just to stay in business once all the retail outlets became novelty stores that didn't carry hobbyist games any more. This was only the beginning of my lifetime of bad luck in attempting to make games. From my perspective I had started at the top at just 22 years old, it was like wanting to make movies and being hired by Steven Spielberg... but of course the entire industry then collapsed around me to prevent that from happening.
*** IKNFL ***
I had wanted to make board games at TFG so that I could then make computer games. My goal had always been making computer games, not board games. After returning home after the collapse of the board game industry I immediately began trying to just go straight to computer games. Right away, it was obvious that the people in that industry didn't believe that board game designers knew anything that would be useful too them. They were absolutely convinced that they were doing a completely different thing that had no relation to table top games at all. They were wrong about that, but there was no convincing them of that. So I decided to transform one of their games into something much better than what they had done to show them what I was talking about. It took nearly 3 years to perfect the “IKNFL Unofficial Stat Patch” for Sierra's Front Page Sports Football. We received e-mails from people throughout the NFL praising IKNFL. Players, coaches, and scouts all sent us e-mails about how great they thought it was. One of the best linebackers in the league at the time completely agreed with our ratings of the linebackers and wanted to let us know that he thought we were right... he also believed that he was the 4th best linebacker in the league and he felt the ratings we had given all of the LB were dead on. A scout wanted us to know that he thought my brother knew the players as well as any NFL scout did and he couldn't understand how that was possible.
FPS:FB on the Imagination Network was probably the very first organized online gaming community ever (for a commercial game), which was formed and led by “Longshot” who had created the first “Ultimate Football League” on INN. My brother and I were among the first people to join Longshot's original league, and he restarted the league to use the original INNFL95 version of IKNFL as soon as we showed up and he saw our league file. IKNFL was also almost certainly the very first “mod” of a commercial game ever, which just naturally went along with the FPS:FB leagues on Imagination Network being the first organized online gaming community for a commercial game. So I was also one of the leaders of the first online gaming community for a commercial game and that entire community revolved around my INKNFL, which was the very first “mod” of a commercial game. IKNFL98e, the last and best version of the stat patch that we ever made, was eventually even included on the disk with the 1998 version of the game. So IKNFL was also the first mod to ever be included with a shipped game. To this day FPS:FB running IKNFL is still by far the most accurate sports game ever made in player ratings, individual player statistics produced by both simulations and played games, team standings at the end of the season, and post-season results. It is the original, and the basis for the player ratings in all sports games, which has still never been equaled. What you see in sports games today is simply their current version of my IKNFL. Of course, I never got any of the credit for this... everyone thinks Madden did this. Madden didn't do that, I did. They got it from me.
IKNFL was a game that people loved to lose because of the way that they lost... simply being outplayed. It wasn't just popular online, experienced players liked IKNFL because it was very hard in a good way. As “Avarice”, one of the top 4 players in Longshot's UFL league, put it after his first game against the AI of our “ultimate” version of the stat patch (IKNFL98e)... “I actually lost to the computer 24-10 and loved every minute of it!” This is the version that is on the disk for Sierra's FPS:FB '98, so if you can find this and make it run on a modern computer then you can play IKNFL98e for yourself. IKNFL98e is a zip file in a directory called “Extras”, the zip file includes a text file with instructions for how to manually install it “DOS style”. It really is still the best thinking man's football game ever made even today, 19 years later... “games that stand the test of time”. Nobody ever played FPS:FB with a gamepad, that's what Madden was for. Just call the plays. I suggest using the Denver Broncos for your first game. They beat the Green Bay Packers in the Super Bowl in the previous season and what we called the “Triangle of Death” (John Elway, Terrell Davis, & Shannon Sharpe) will at least give you a fighting chance in your first game. And if you know where to find a version of it that will run on a modern computer, or how to make it run from the original disk, please send me an e-mail or PM on this site telling me how to do it. I still have the disk, but I can't make it run in Windows 7. I'd love to be able to play it again because, like I said, it's still a great game now, especially playing/simming multiple seasons in franchise mode... due too Sierra as much as “Indra & Kavik Kang”, of course.
*** GGN/Heat Net ***
While doing IKNFL, in the mid-1990's, I came very close to founding my own game development company and online game service. The online game service side was called the Global Gaming Network (GGN) and the game development side was called Lost Art Studios (LAS). I actually came close to doing this, I had three very wealthy investors behind it. The investors decided to go to MCI to discuss partnering with them for the online game service side of this company. I tried to convince them not too but they insisted on revealing my whole plan for GGN too MCI. When MCI pretended to not be interested, and another company we were wanting to partner with for the LAS side was not in a position to do what we wanted them to do at that time due to an internal struggle taking place within their own company, the investors decided to drop the whole thing. They had spent about $100,000 towards doing this over about 6 months. About a year later MCI started HEAT.NET which was very obviously based on a horrible misunderstanding of my online game service. HEAT.NET was terrible, they just didn't understand what the point had been, but HEAT.NET came from me... even though it was a horribly misguided vision of what I had been talking about. I've never fretted too much over this incident because it would have ultimately failed. Steam came along around this same time and would have buried me right along with all of the other online game services, so I didn't actually miss out on anything this time around. Had it made it far enough to make its first game Lost Art Studios would have survived, but Steam rose to power long before the Lost Art Studios side would have released its first game (which would have been Territories).
*** GameFX ***
IKNFL actually worked! In 1998 Sierra offered both me and my brother jobs as the designers of FPS Football '99 out of the blue, I hadn't even sent them anything, and GameFX offered me a job at the same time. I had sent them something. It was easy to see that their attempt to go 3D with FPS Football '99 was going to be a disaster that I would not be able to save, and GameFX was obviosly a top flight group of people who were on the cutting edge of their time. It was an easy decision to make. Of course, again, almost the same thing happened at GameFX that happened at TFG. Only this time the entire industry didn't collapse, just GameFX. I had went there thinking that we would be making what I called “Homefront” after they finished the game that they had been making at the time. Most of my time at GameFX was spent working on “Homefront”, which today is called “Pirate Dawn”. In the end, during the last 3 month extension they could get on what had become “Sinistar: Unleashed”, they pulled me off of Homefront and had me make all of the levels for Sinistar. I spent 2 ½ months sitting at a desk by myself making all 30 levels across 4 levels of difficulty as fast as I could and then they shipped that quick first pass almost as soon as I had finished it. I had very little to do with Sinistar: Unleashed and was not involved with it at all until the last few months when they finally realized that I was the only person in the office who had any idea of how to make some kind of game out of it. GameFX was shut down about a month or two after the release of Sinistar, which anyone who worked there would tell you had nothing to do with me. In fact, I'm sure anyone who worked there would agree that had I not been there they never would have shipped a game at all. All I did was make the levels, they spent 4 years making the engine. I did very little in comparison to pretty much everyone else who had worked on it for so long. But, at the same time, had I not been there they never would have shipped any game at all. Or, as one of the programmers put it after I was finished with my 2.5 month long, 10-14 hour per day, 7 day per week marathon... “We handed him a shoe box full of unrelated parts and he gave us a game in under three months”.
*** Manifest Destiny/Mission ***
I then spent the next 10 years sending resumes, letters... I tried everything under the sun... to computer game companies. Not a single one ever responded in any way, because board game experience doesn't count in your world and I think you blame Sinistar's failure on me when I had almost nothing to do with Sinistar. While doing this I turned Pirate Dawn into a trilogy, adding Manifest Destiny and Mission. Then I realized that lots of sci-fi stories begin with a nuclear war. I already had “my Civilization”, Territories, which was a nuclear war game, so I stuck Territories in front of Pirate Dawn as a prequel and wrote a whole new story around “the four game trilogy” of Territories, Pirate Dawn, Manifest Destiny, and Mission. This decade of being ignored ultimately ended with me “retiring” from game design right here on GameDev.Net about 10 years ago. After 20 years of being both ignored and plagiarized at the same time (what a combination!), when I had decades more experience and knowledge than just about anyone in the computer game industry, I wasn't about to just silently go away. Twenty years of doing it the right way had never got me anywhere, I figured I would try the exact opposite and truly speak my mind after 20 years of be ignored... other than when you steal from me, of course. You'd think someone worth plagiarizing would be someone worth hiring... but no. But, of course, that didn't work either. Nothing works. I know, I've tried literally everything. That was what “Pirate Lord” and my first appearance on GameDev.Net had been about, trying the only thing that was left to try and just speaking my mind after 20 years of being both ignored and plagiarized at the same time.
I actually have two equally “signature games”, Territories and Mission. Mission is “my other Civilization”. Mission is the starship simulator that places you in the captain's chair that has long been the “dream game” of every Star Trek fan who plays games. My knowledge of how tactical space combat functions allows me to create this, where the closest anyone else can come too it is Bridge Commander... which was just terrible! Bridge Commander was a laughable endless back-and-forth jousting match (essentially no combat environment because nobody in your industry knows how to create that in space) with an interface that doesn't work for the situation and essentially nothing at all as a ship design. Mission really does put you in that captain's chair, and because it is so “realistic” and unlike any game anyone has ever played before one of the biggest challenges of Mission is teaching the player how to command a starship. The only major drawback to Mission is that it is not for casual gamers who want to just install the game and immediately jump into it. Mission is fundamentally an adventure game, but anyone who tries to just jump into the adventure game would be completely lost in doing almost anything at all and would stand no chance at all if they actually got into a fight with anything. The biggest challenge in designing Mission is how to teach the player not just how to control the ship, but how to fight with it because the SFB inspired Rube-enhanced enemy AI will absolutely humiliate you if you don't know what you are doing. This is why the trailer/advertising song/movie for Mission is Pink Floyd's “Learning To Fly”. “There's no sensation to compare with this.”
Players would need to spend 6-10 hours in the Academy Simulators “learning to fly” a starship before attempting to actually play the game... so the “simulators” need to be a whole seperate game that you play before the adventure game so that it doesn't seem like work and learning. They'll need to “pass all of the classes” before unlocking the ability to even try to play the full game, to prevent them from skipping ahead and becoming frustrated by the game being “too hard”. You might call it a “tutorial”, but it is much more than that. It needs to be, modern gamers don't take games anywhere near as seriously as hobbyist gamers did and won't stand for 10 hours of learning before they can even begin to play the game. So I had to find a way to turn that learning process into “a game before the game”. So I guess you could say that Mission is two games in one, the first being essentially a massive tutorial that is disguised as the beginning of the adventure game... your time at the “Academy” before being assigned to GSC Rocinante on humanity's first ever mission of long-range galactic exploration. I really can put you into that captain's chair, and 40 years of knowledge and experience of the SFB community SHOULD make this not surprising at all... and yet I am certain anyone reading this is thinking too themselves “I can't do it, and if I can't do it then you cant do it even though you have 40 years of experience and accumulated knowledge of the subject and I don't” because that is just how arrogant you people are.
*** Pirate Dawn Universe ***
After just a few months of being “retired” from game design, after my first appearance on GameDev.Net about 10 years ago, I realized that I was not able to stop designing games. I have been doing it literally my whole life, since I was 7 years old, and it is not voluntary. I am not capable of not making games. I have to make games, even if they will never be published. It's the only thing I do, and just about the only thing I ever think about. I am not normal, I was born a savant simulation designer and it is really a truly uncontrollable obsession for me. I can't not think about simulations and “artificial intelligence” (my own brand of it, anyway). So I began expanding the “four game trilogy” into what today I call the Pirate Dawn Universe. There are actually 19 games of the Pirate Dawn Universe, but at my age I would never live to make the 12 games of the 6 primary eras of the timeline so I haven't thought much about my own 7 “side games” for a few years now since realizing that. The PDU is meant to be endlessly expanded and you can put a new game, or a new era of 2 or more games, anywhere in the timeline. Theoretically, there could be 100 games in the PDU although that would obviously never happen.
Not expecting the games to ever be made, the focus since my “retirement” has been on the story that encompass the 12 primary games of the PDU. There is no reason to write detailed design documents for games that I won't live long enough to make anyway. So there are game design documents for the first six games, the early ones, but the second half of the PDU is mostly story with “design docs” that are generally 20-60 pages of notes to myself (about the equivalent of the several computer game industry design docs that I have seen, actually, “20-60 pages of vague notes”). I've worked like this a long time and know that I can transform those notes into what I consider to be first draft design docs in 3-4 months, so I only do notes on the later games and focus more on the songs/story. Today there are well over 1000 pages of PDU material in my files, focused mostly on the first 6 games of the PDU. Until I was recently inspired to try this one more time I had never thought I would even try to actually make the games again, and these last ten years have been spent just completing the “Broken Time Loop” of the PDU for myself as a hobby.
Territories is over 25 years old, Pirate Dawn is exactly 20 years old to the month at the time of this posting, Mission is almost 15 years old... “Games that stand the test of time.”
The songs that I have used on this blog are coming from my files on the PDU. I write the story of the entire PDU around the song lyrics. While everyone else looks for music that vaguely matches the story they have already told, I assemble songs that tell a story on their own simply by the order they are in and then expand greatly on the story told by that group of songs. Each era is written entirely around the lyrics of the songs that are the backbone of the story of that era. After evolving for 20 years it is now a very intricately woven story across all 12 games and a player would continue to figure out and notice new things no matter how many times they experienced the story. It really is more of a mythology than it is a story. There are certain words that are used a LOT in many songs and because of this they keep recurring in every era of the story. As a result these words have become extremely important, meaningful, and prominent within the PDU story. The most important of these words are “Dream”, “Vision”, “Mission”, “Spirit”, and “Rain”. Most of these words have more than one meaning within the PDU depending on the context they are being used within. For example Zeus & Hades call reality within the mortal world the “The Dream”. But then they also confusingly call Cindy McAllen “The Dream”... and there is actually a lot too this, far too much to go into here. All 12 games of the PDU have all of their songs worked out already, 90-120 minutes of “movies” for each game, many of which are completely outlined by time stamps (in my own files, not on this blog) as to the movie that goes along with them. The songs come first, and the rest of the story is written around them.
Armageddon Chess, available for download on this blog, is a complete first draft example of this that you can see for yourself right now. If you don't want to read all 200 pages or so of Armageddon Chess, I intentionally included a self-contained “short story” example of how the story is written around the song lyrics with the “Struggle of the Star Queens” chess set in Armageddon Chess. That chess set is only 15 pages written around over a dozen songs and was created specifically to provide a quick-to-read example of what I am talking about here. A particular favorite of mine in Armageddon Chess is how Belinda Carlisle's “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and Van Halen's “Best of Both Worlds” work together... but you will only really get that by reading the blog post for Armageddon Chess and then all 200 pages or so of Armageddon Chess. It won't make a lot of sense without knowing the whole story that leads up to those two songs/movies. On the blog I put Heaven on Earth in the blog post because Belinda's Heaven didn't fit into this version of Armageddon Chess (that song would be in the Fallen Angel Rising DLC chess set which was not included with the prototype version of the game on this blog). For example, if you read all of Armageddon Chess and its blog post you'd realize that Best of Both Worlds is Kavik Kang speaking to/thinking about Cindy “Fallen Angel” McAllen and you'd understand the meaning of lyrics like...
“There's a picture in a gallery, Fallen Angel looked a lot like you. We forget where we come from sometimes, but I had a dream it was really you.”
“You don't have to die and go to heaven, or hang around to be born again. Just tune in to what this Place has got to offer, 'cause we may never be here again.”
“It's not work that makes it work, no, just let the magic do the work for you.”
“If we could have the best of both worlds, we'd have a little bit of heaven right here on Earth.”
*** Rube ***
Finally, about two years ago I recognized what I call now call “Rube” in Territories. It had been there for about 25 years staring me in the face but I had never noticed it until recently. Rube is the E=MC2 of simulation design and is the fundamental basis of something that looks a lot like “The Matrix”, a holodeck, cyberspace, and a self programming computer with omniscient communication. They are all they same thing, really, slight variations on the same theme. Rube is also important to science, it is the “uniform simulation of everything” that science has long said that it has wanted. Rube really is a true “cybergod”, but in reality is a general simulation of time combined with reality which just winds up being indistinguishable from what we perceive as “God”. Rube is the end result of 300 years of simulation design evolution which began with the Ruler & String games played by real world military men since the 17th century. If I ever get to make one of my games then the world will get to meet Rube, if not then Rube will die with me and this knowledge will be lost to history. It isn't coming back any time soon. Nobody does this anymore, nobody makes games or simulations this way anymore, nobody is thinking along these lines anymore. My guess is that Rube will either be lost forever or not re-emerge for hundreds of years. Rube is the end result of 300 years of work of an entire field that no longer exists and there are very few people left in the world with the pre-requisite knowledge required to “discover” Rube. If Rube dies with me, it probably isn't ever coming back. “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see.” - Arthur Schopenhauer
*** Out Of Time, What Now? ***
At this point it is not possible for me to make the entire PDU anymore, I will not live long enough to make 12 computer games. If someone was wanting to do the PDU, I'd be thrilled to start it off and hope that I lived long enough to make it to Mission (but would probably only make it to Manifest Destiny or The Trade Wars). The people I was making it with could then use the games that I had made up to that point, and my files on the remaining PDU games, as the basis of finishing it after I am gone. More likely, nobody is going to be interested in a 12 game universe. If I got started sometime soon I think I'd live long enough to make at least 4 games. So you could just forget about most of the PDU and only make the very best games from it (Territories, Mission, Clash of the Titans, and Armageddon) with a new story written around them based on the original PDU story (and timeline), but greatly shortened where the games are missing and the timeline would just briefly tell the story of what had been entire games. I used the best music in the best games, so Mission would still use Cygnus X1/Hemispheres. Clash of the Titans/2112 could combine with the awesome music of Astral Wake Apollo, that works with 2112 so well, and tell the entire story of that era in just Clash of the Titans alone. So all the best of Rush's sci-fi music would still be there using just those four games, which the entire story was ultimately written around. And so would the Star Queens like Blondie, Belinda Carlisle, Pat Benatar, and Janet Jackson. I love the Clash/AWA era!
Territories/Rube creates its own new genre of strategy war games. Just like you've all been imitating Civilization to the point that there is a “Civilization genre”, Territories would be the same thing as that. Now you'd have two kinds of strategy war games to make instead of just one. And Territories is an actual grand strategy war game, where Civilization is actually an empire building game. Territories is all about the war. You don't actually make grand strategy war games, and when you try it is always a big misguided disastrous mess like Hearts of Iron or something too simple and basic to make for a good board game let alone a computer game. You make good empire building games, and terrible grand strategy war games. If you don't have technological research then you don't know what to do. Tech trees are great for empire building games, and bad for war games. Tech trees discourage both fighting and building military units because “the next big thing is always right around the corner”. Territories would give you something else to imitate and create a whole new genre out of, that doesn't rely on the crutch of a tech tree but replaces that aspect with something just as interesting. Territories has evolved as a computer game for 25 years in its own private independent evolution, it is nothing like any strategy game that has ever existed before. Territories really is the beginning a whole new genre of “grand strategy war game” for the computer.
When it comes to space combat, we are literally 40 years ahead of you in this and the SFB community actually understands how it works at a fundamental level. Any space combat game that I make would revolutionize all space ship games in your industry that came after it. Most of your space ship games have been heavily influenced by SFB, but nobody who actually understands SFB has ever made a computer game. That's what the big difference would be, it's not me blowing my own horn. It is a body of knowledge that I possess in an “I've followed it my entire life” kind of way. While there have been many SFB experts over the years, I'm pretty sure that I am the only one that has spent 30 years contemplating how to translate these concepts to computer games and actually working out nearly a dozen different versions of doing that. It's my best, by far, so stripping Mission of its story and making it a stand alone game that has nothing to do with the PDU would be a pretty good idea. But it doesn't necessarily have to be one of my games. I could very quickly turn BSG: Deadlock into something that you would not believe, for example. I would create a new genre of strategy war game with Territories/Rube, or totally and completely revolutionize space combat games in your industry with almost any space ship game. To a competent person, this should come as no surprise at all considering my background and history with space ship games. It should be expected. This isn't any big claim coming from a life-long SFB expert.
But, in the end...
Since I can't make the entire PDU anymore, and could probably only make it 4 or 5 games into it, I've realized that it isn't even the thing that I'd most like to do anymore. Of course I'd still love to make the abbreviated four game version of the PDU that I mentioned earlier, but after thinking this through over the last few months... at this point the thing I'd most like to do is return to my original dream, making the SFU computer games. The PDU only came into being because I assumed that I would never find a way to make SFU computer games. There are three truly amazing games to be made here... Star Fleet Battles, Federation & Empire, and Mission made as a sort of alternate type of “first person from the bridge” SFB game (which is what it already is). Just as in the PDU, you need to set the stage and establish the “universe/canon” before “flying a starship simulator/adventure game through it”. So the player knows a background, lore, and strategic situation of the universe that they are exploring in the adventure game. The same would be true for the Star Fleet Battles game, SFB would be better with a pre-established universe to exist within. So I think they would be best done in the order Federation & Empire, Star Fleet Battles, Mission. F&E sets up the universe, SFB teaches the player about the ships in great detail, and then F&E+SFB provide a massively huge established universe to “fly a starship through” in every Star Trek fan's “dream game” Mission. Unless I get hit by a bus or something, I would almost certainly live long enough to actually finish this! I have nothing to do with them, I was on their staff for a few years about 25 years ago, but ADB can authorize SFU computer games through Paramount. They have in the past with Star Fleet Command, so I know that this is a possibility. And then if I lived long enough to make a fourth game, which I probably will, it could be Territories.
There is a great asset that goes along with this as I am sure that the SFB Staff/community would be eager to offer their advice through forums in the making of these games. They still exist, and I'm sure most of them would be thrilled to help make these the best games that they could be. These games would have a couple dozen or so “assistant designers” who have made these games a part of their lives. One of the most well-known sayings within the SFB community is “SFB is not a game, it is a lifestyle choice”. These are some of the people who wound up truly living up to that old saying. I've said many times before that I would make truly revolutionary space combat games. If I used my lifetime of contemplating how to translate the SFU into computer games, which in a way is what the PDU is, in guiding the remaining SFB community who cares to help through translating these games too the computer then you could multiply what I've said about that in the past by at least 10. Most of these people have been doing this for 30 years or more, they really know what they are talking about. These really would wind up being some very special games. And we'd get to leave behind the legacy to the next generation of what so many of us thought was so special that we devoted a part of our lives too it.
This doesn't lose Rube, either. Mission is a very different Rube than Territories, but Mission is still Rube. SFB already has Rube's cardio-vascular system running through it, its Impulse Chart, and would also be a “Rube game” (the way I would make it, anyway). As an example of what a computer game version of SFB would be like, and one of the things that would be so revolutionary about it, there is no better example than the AI. When I apply Rube to SVC's original Impulse Chart in SFB... Rube “knows the future” through a “trick” similar to a radio station delay. Think of that “time bar” in BSG: Deadlock. A “moment of time containing reality” or, in SFB terms, “plotted movement”. The AI “knows the future”. The SFB community has the tactics of this down to a science in this particular game, and in general... really. We know the movement plot for all of the ships for ¼ turn in advance throughout the turn, and we have 40 years of accumulated knowledge to now “choreograph” what will happen through “automated rules” (AKA “AI”). There are about a dozen major “empires” on the Federation & Empire map. Each empire's ships would use their best tactics, because we already know what those tactics are. We aren't guessing, “blindly blundering forward through trial and error praying that it works out in the end”, we already know how it works. The SFB-inspired Rube-powered AI of both Pirate Dawn and Mission, which is partly based on the concept of the “Oblique Option Point” (there are many “Option Points” in this system), is the foundation of how this will all be made to work in single player. The SFB community, and Rube, would astonish you with how “intelligent” the enemy “AI” in this game would appear too be. Rube knows the future before it happens, “Rube plans the future”, and we know how to use that information. On “Hard” mode (the best “AI” that we can make) it will be a long time before a new player gets to the point of consistently winning but, just like my IKNFL mod of FPS: Football, it would be a game that you love to lose because of how you lose. You'll just get out-played by our automated rules that already know what you've decided to do ¼ turn in advance. The SFB Staff and a bunch of Rated Aces will be kicking your *** by remote control;-)
And then online, if you want to fight against other people online with space ships in a “thinking man's space ship game” then you'll never play a better game than my SFB computer game would be. It's probably not going to draw an FPS-sized audience, but it would be a great game online with a huge variety of well-established scenarios for up to six players. There are hundreds of scenarios to choose the best and most popular from to use in the computer game, including many great “beer & pretzel” scenarios that are designed purely for fun without regard to realism. For example there is the original “Space Hockey” scenario, “That's My Freighter!” where three players/ships fight to tow a freighter off of their own map edge zone, or the very popular 6-player conundrum known as the “Circle of Death”. SFB has way too many good scenarios to even use in a first release computer game, we'd be picking from just the very best of them. SFB is, of course, also based on original series Star Trek, so now you would not be relying on my PDU story and would instead be making games based on a story you already know is very popular. I was never able to make SFB play itself in any kind of good way, other than cheating with “The Orb”, but as a computer game that becomes an easy thing to do. The AI of this game, which is really the AI of Pirate Dawn and Mission, would amaze the gaming world. It really would. But then, that's Rube for you...
*** One Last Try ***
Space ship games should be a major genre in computer games, right up alongside FPS, RTS, and RPG games. But they never have been. This is because nobody in the computer game industry that has ever made one understood how space combat actually works, the “science of 2D ACM without gravity”. If you don't know that, then you can't make a space ship game that actually works. You can't even design sensible ships. It's not your fault that you make such primitive and terrible space ship games (“No offense...” - Rodney Dangerfield). It's Hollywood's fault. You try to imitate what you see in Star Trek and other sci-fi movies and TV shows, and bring that to life in a game. You stick with their “canon”, which is just a writer's imaginings that is not based on reality. This is the root cause of why you have never been able to make space ship games. They are always a disaster because those Hollywood writers don't have the slightest idea of how space combat actually works. They don't care how it works, and they don't need to know. What you see on TV and in the movies is nonsense, and you wind up trying to re-create that nonsense imagined by story tellers who don't need to care about how it actually works. You can't make it work that way because it doesn't work that way, so in the end you wind up with a complete disaster because it is based on nonsense.
I make space ship games based on how the combat actually works. This has nothing at all to do with what you see in sci-fi TV shows and movies, which has nothing to do with the reality of “2D ACM without gravity” which are like laws of physics. You don't get to decide how space combat is going to work and then make it work that way. It works the way that it works and there is nothing at all that you can ever do to change that. And when you don't know how it works, you wind up with a disastrous mess every time. This is why you don't make very many space ship games even though it should be one of the most popular genres, and it would be if it were ever actually done right. It's because every time that you try, you run into the brick wall of the “laws of physics” of “2D ACM without gravity” which you know nothing about. And then, as a direct result of this, the game you try to make winds up being a complete disaster almost every single time. Faster Than Light is one of the very few exceptions... because it is the classic Star Fleet Battles Ship System Display and Energy Allocation Form, and because there is no movement. If there was movement FTL would have been every bit as big of a disaster as all of your other space combat games have been. You can see this where they get the higher levels of “Evasion” in FTL backwards with diminishing returns. Higher levels of “Evasion” (speed) should provide even higher bonuses than lower levels, diminishing returns is backwards from how it should actually work. Even in simplifying all of maneuver into a simple “Evasion Rating”... you still managed to get even just that exactly backwards.
The computer game industry generally doesn't make space ship games because you've learned over time that you can't. They turn out terrible every time because you don't know how space combat works, and if you don't know how it works then you can't make a good game out of it. All you can do well with space ships is put them into a Civilization-like game. You often ask me “why should anyone hire you and risk millions of dollars making a game” and the answer to that question is “why would you hire anyone else and risk millions of dollars on them making a space ship game when they don't actually know anything at all about the subject”. There is only one group of people in the world who has this all worked out, and there is only one person among that group who has spent his entire life working out how to translate it all to computer games. I would truly revolutionize this genre, I really would, and that should not come as any surprise. That should be expected from the SFB Staff, you should expect that one of us would make a very special computer game in this genre. You would want me making space ship games for you because then you would completely dominate that genre, which should be among the most popular genres but isn't because your space ship games are always so bad. That's why you should be interested in me making space ship games, because then you would be the dominant maker of space ship games. If you were going to do it well, you would have done so long ago at some point during the last 30 years.
Whether it is with my own Pirate Dawn Universe, the “second generation” of the Star Fleet Universe, or with the original Star Fleet Universe, I would make some very special space ship games. And, of course, the original Star Fleet Universe is Star Trek... and I'm sure that the current SFB Staff would be eager to “do their adviser thing” with me for SFU computer games. So in that case it would be a group of experts with decades of experience in making these kinds of games. Either way, PDU or SFU, GSC Rocinante would go on its “Mission” in the starship simulator dream game of every Star Trek fan who has ever played a computer game. “My other Civilization”. It's only a matter of whether it would be a Galactic Survey Cruiser of my own Advanced Ghost Fleet or of Gene Roddenberry, Franz Joseph Schnaubelt & Steve Cole's Federation Star Fleet, which is really the original Federation Star Fleet. The games that you have made within this genre over the last three decades prove that you simply aren't in the same league with us when it comes to space ship games. I don't say this to be insulting, but to after 30 years try and finally get the point across... it's like comparing a professional athlete to little league players. There is no competition out there when it comes to space ship games, just as if John Elway were going up against 12-year-olds. Again, I don't say this to insult you but to try to make the point that I have been trying to make for 30 years now. We are on a completely different level than you are when it comes to space combat games, and this is provably true. If you had everything for SFB you'd have 2 four-inch binders containing about 1,000 pages of rules, and 4 four-inch binders containing well over 2,000 ships across nearly 40 different “empires”. You'd also have another 500 pages of things like the Tactics Manual, and about 5,000 pages worth of Captain's Log. If you like that, a splinter group of SFB Staff also made Babylon 5 Wars which is essentially a slightly different take on SFB set within the Babylon 5 universe. There's another 1,000 or so pages of material for Babylon 5 Wars, too. We really do have this whole space ship thing down to a science.
Why would you want me making space ship games for you? Why would you take that chance on anyone other than me? You've been imitating the Star Fleet Universe, most often without even realizing it, for over 30 years now. Why not let one of the people who has lived it show you how to do it right for a change? And who better than the only one of us who has devoted their lives to translating it all into computer games. Whether it is done as the PDU or SFU... Why would you not want to completely dominate an entire genre? I really can do that for you, easily. That would be a very easy thing to do, there is no competition out there for us in this genre and there never has been. So I am here, waiting to hear from anyone out there who wants to to make some very special space ship games. Whether they are PDU or SFU, or anything else for that matter. The SFU is Star Trek and already firmly established, and the remaining SFB community who has lived it as their hobby for decades would most likely be thrilled to offer their advice in making the SFU games. The PDU has “next generation” designs of the ships, weapons, and systems that work better as a computer game than the ships, weapons and systems of the SFU would because they were designed too from the ground up. The PDU also has the MTV video-Rush-classic rock thing going for it, and the uniquely original mythology written around the music that has been weaving itself into existence across all 12 games over a period of 20 years now. Either way we could make some very special strategy war games in space that are nothing at all like Civilization and focus on the war, tactical space combat games, starship simulators, or simple arcade-like action games (like Pirate Dawn or The Trade Wars, where the combat is like Star Control and other early “top down” arcade games). It's really not your fault that you can't make space ship games, it's Hollywood's fault. Mission could show you the way...
“Dreams don't need to have motion to keep their spark alive.” - Neil Peart