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Pubmeet 2014

Pubmeet 2014

This last meet was a very good experience for us. We didn’t have a hard sell to push, such as in previous years when we were adding mechanics that would in some players’ opinions restrict their game. Nor was there serious grumblings about recent GM’ing decisions. Even Darak was laid back though I suspect this may have been due to the short course of medication he was on. In other words we were there to present nice stuff to a bunch of gamers over a truckload of beer.

The main drive of this pubmeet was to flesh out what we are developing which for the non-phoenix players, i.e. for those without Nexus accounts, details can be found in the other article in this issue. The main issue raised during the debate was on the subject of Characters, specifically on the conversion from scientists and officers when character mechanics are introduced.

There were two points of contention:
  • Having too many characters will be a pain in the arse but lots of scientists are useful for maximising bonuses over multiple research bases.
  • Having new skills available but capped out characters, i.e. question on re-skilling.

The premise in the first point is that by amalgamating lots of skills into one scientist, though making things simpler removes some of the flexibility of shuffling the scientists around especially where the scientists is being shared between multiple affiliations. If other skills were added then it could spell the end of this practise according to some pessimists. We weren’t quite sure what to make the issue. Was it a good enough reason to keep hundreds of extra and largely pointless characters in the game?



Darak is currently unmoved by the plea for free re-skilling as it sets a dangerous precedence insofar as any future expansion of available skill sets sends the masses clamouring for another call to re-skill. He is of the opinion that characters have developed and benefited from the skills they have developed in Phoenix and should not be able to change them. He does however concede that the conversion should allow capped out characters to at least be able to keep developed skills even if this breaks the cap rule at the time of conversion. The counter argument is that the new skills would have been chosen as they were more useful and as a result they have already lost out.

The debate though was based on too many unknown quantities to be much more than a hat tip to a future storm if there are too many constraints on the conversion. It was very clear that a few wanted to ignore any previous training and only convert their experience pools and apply templates to these pools.

While I am not sure what will happen with scientists I suspect that we will probably do something along the lines of converting experience and removing all their skills but giving them ‘training pools’ based on skills they have paid for so that they can learn skills without incurring the stellar cost. How this will take into consideration more points than the character cap will allow I have no idea. I do know though that we will think a lot longer and harder on the subject further down the line.
The other thing that came up which was something of an eye opener was the demand that items that have infrastructure values be made general knowledge when added if it seems reasonable that such an item be general knowledge even if added to the game through a special action. There was quite a lot more to the pubmeet but in general the following pretty much covers everything:

What Happens at a Pubmeet?
From my (KJC’s) point of view, the weekend is divided into two distinct parts – beer and socialising on Friday followed by the business end on Saturday. Saturday is further split into a presentation followed by around 6-10 hours of ‘quiet chats with the GM’ by various groups.

Beer
Friday is my favourite part because it’s a chance to chat informally (not that the private chat’s are particularly formal) while guzzling beer. It’s a time to hear rumours and listen to the in-game events that have entertained during the year which may have nothing to do with the results of special actions. There is generally a lot of cross-affiliation banter as small groups form around somebody delivering anecdotes. There is often a bit of baiting and trash talking. I may let slip a few points about NPC’s or drop a few hints on ideas for the coming year. Players also use this time to debate tactics and motives with some epic fails being laughed off or lamented.

Fast food is ordered and consumed to soak up some of the beer.



Here’s the leader of the DEN (Dave) enjoying a traditional Dewiek snack.

Presentation
Saturday normally starts, in terms of official business, sometime in the early afternoon and typically goes through design and development documents already handed out. It is at this stage where glaring oversights are pointed out (if they exist, not that they every do, nosireebob) and players get their opportunity to require a zillion caveats and additions to the proposed designs while repeatedly expounding on over-complications in the design.

While we aim to have the presentation take at most a couple of hours, this has turned out to be up to four or more depending on how often and far we are led off the beaten track. The longest presentation was when there were two distinct mechanics camps with one faction favouring open attacks anywhere while another favoured draconian restraints based on exorbitant stellars fees leaving a lot of middle ground to argue over. From this came affiliation relations, charters and related mechanics.

Private Chats
After the presentation has broken we (Darak, Emma and I) depart for the quite front lounge of the hotel where we hold private chats with the factions. This gives the opportunity to discuss matters that need fleshing out and are otherwise unsuited to PM’s, special actions and emails. Often these are ideas on how to develop the affiliation or faction though may have foreseen snags or are currently impossible within the game mechanics as they stand. They may be requests for advice or a better understanding of a series of events in the game. It is here that we often hear anecdotes that cannot be told in public.
While these normally conclude around midnight we have found ourselves still chatting into the early hours. At some point though we discover that people have stopped wanting to talk to us.

The Rest
While for us the weekend is Phoenix, for others it has grown to mean so much more to the point where players often arrive midweek and set off back home on the Monday morning. In some circles, Thursday is the new Friday and it is on this day that best deals are struck freeing up the rest of the weekend for other matters. These now extend to board games, roleplaying and for a few players, finding somebody to fix and update their laptops (it’s handy that the game is dominated by tech-savvy people). Reconciliations, cake and skulduggery can all be found over the course of a weekend.

Blackpool
If the idea of hanging around a hotel for an entire weekend seems stifling there is always the town to visit. Blackpool, tourist Mecca has a lot to offer with its recent and extensive town centre redevelopment, new tram service, vast number of bars and nite clubs and of course the Pleasure Beach, Tower and Piers but to be honest most people only leave the hotel merely to get a quick bite to eat or smoke a fag. Apparently some wives are incredulous that people have been attending for a decade and have still to see the sites. That said, on many years the weather has been so horrendous that only the brave and foolish would consider abandoning the comfort of the lounge chairs.

Origin of the Phoenix Pubmeet
Back in the old days at the height of Play by Mail gaming when letter writing was an art or at the very least a necessity, computers were silly money and even national telephone calls cost a packet, the opportunity to meet fellow gamers and discuss at length plans for the coming year was invaluable. That it was in a pub conveniently situated next to a train or coach station was a happy bonus. People would turn up, chat, wave around sheets of paper much to the bemusement of the local patrons and many would drink copious amounts of beer before staggering across the road back to the station. These were often player organised in pubs around the country, usually London or Birmingham and rarely attended by KJC staff. Kevin, when he did attend would be bought large numbers of drinks, make lots of promises and invariably forget them or more likely discover that what sounded trivial turned out to be a coding nightmare once it hit the programming department.




Back then Quest meets ruled, though some dual gamers also brought along their Beyond the Stellar Empire data with them. Despite this, there was growing interest in BSE players forming their own pubmeet. The problem was a few drunken hours were insufficient time to broker all the trade deals and treaties with various factions along with the sharing and correlation of exploration and investigation data accumulated over time, especially for those that could not attend the regular player organised pubmeets. What was really needed was a weekend.

The first pubmeet weekend was announced for early May back in 1999 and as there were quite a few players around Bath this was chosen as the venue (that and it was organised by players). It proved to be a resounding success with a small hoard camping out at David and Emma Bethel’s house. Enthusiasm was running high so much so that players wanted a second 2-day event in the same year. By happy coincidence Danny’s girlfriend (who remembers Danny?) worked at a local hotel which opened during the season but was prepared to stay open for a weekend after the Illuminations finished. This was to be the first of the Blackpool meets at the Sutton Park Hotel on 5-7th November 1999 and we have been there every year (as far as I recall) every since.

So much and so little has changed since. On the one hand the average player is around 15 years older and most now have kids though a few lucky ones have watched theirs bugger off. Some factions at the height of their glory are now dull embers while others are firmly in ascendance. The hotel has switched owners and gone forever is the jukebox and Jolene while casually smoking cigars in the comfort of being indoors while an in-game enemy has a rant at you is also a thing of the past.





 
News
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Fox Effects Fantastic Turnaround

With his feet barely under the table, Xavier Fox has managed to dramatically turn things around at the GTT. With year-on-year sales figures up by 23%, manufacturing up 42% and ship production increased by 36%, the megacorporation is running at full steam with noticeable impact on local economies across the Stellar Empire. Political analysts also note that after a period of retrenchment following the disastrous leadership of Ike Krieger, investment in defence is at a five-year high. After such bullish growth, the trick will be for Mr. Fox to recruit C-level executives fast enough to match his ambitions. It is notable in temperament, the current crop of GTT politicals do not exhibit the monomaniacal xenophobia of their predecessors and have resisted repeated provocations by the DEN to enter a pointless spar before they have re-established superiority against the foolhardy aliens.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Felini flounder in Winter against superior Dewiek forces

The FEL have managed to get their asses kicked by the DEN yet again after provoking the definitely “not cute or cuddly” Dewiek in the Crossley system. The furry punching bags had bought a civilian flagged outpost in the system, without permission or under certain conditions depending on who you ask, and then had the gall to reinforce this error by positioning warships in orbit. The famously patient warlord Halvor did not buy the story these heavy hull armed ships were merely transports and sent a pack to clear the orbit. The mouthy yet green Felini fleet commander Pr'prz fancied his chances against what looked like a light complement of DEN warships and ordered his own warships to engage in the neighbouring Winter system. The result was predictably a wipe out of the FEL forces consisting of forty-seven capital warships at no loss to the DEN. Once again, a series of calamitous decision making resulted in Felini lives being wasted by a leadership barely fit to clean a litter tray. The otherwise untested Halvor can now claim some victory ale although with his penchant for picking on creatures as weak as Gracians, it’s not exactly clear how much glory this new breed of Dewiek warrior can claim against the legends of old.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Dastardly Dewiek Disregard Yank Neutrality

The governor of a MRC outpost in the Yank system reports that a 400-hull DEN warship called Grey Hunter Axiom entered orbit of Spritzer and opened fire with weapons of mass destruction (WoMD) against a platform, outpost, ground party and ship. Reports indicate significant casualties to Kastorian personnel both in space and on the ground. The KAS Junta is gruffly warning, with a slightly indifferent air, that everybody better stay out of the sector of the outpost for their own health. It is unclear what measures the KAS have or will take against the DEN on this matter. Such a breach of Yank neutrality has in the past caused the Dewiek to froth at the bit against the Empire for their disregard of ‘civilised’ norms. Their current silence on this matter speaks volumes.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Yenni-bodies Pirates?

A PIR outpost was miraculously discovered by an IMP freighter, of all things, in the Yanni system with several Javelin class warships in orbit. After noticing the IMP freighter and seeing the public post by Jack Jones on subspace, the PIR decided to flee and leave a combined force of IMP and FET forces to capture the outpost. A brain damaged three-year old commentator who still believed in the goodness of people and Santa Claus was quick to commend the IMP on their good work, dismissing those who thought it no more than a convenient clearing up operation signifying* completion of operations in the nearby FET claimed systems of Graydown, Canth and Onissian by IMP puppet Edward Lowe. Meanwhile, the Wolf Lord Lyceum summed up the view of many when he screamed, “What is this amateur b*llshit?” into an uncaring universe.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Crowe Coups Self

The IMP Viceroy Tiberius Crowe has finally achieved something in his unremarkable tenure by relinquishing even the semblance of wearing big boy pants and instead, appointed Jack Jones as Patrol Commissioner, salty spokesperson and policy maker for the Empire. Crowe will now join CIA Director Laton in riding the special bus to work where the two of them will enjoy long pleasant afternoons sipping cups of tea. Actually, just tepid fruit-scented water as neither of them can be fully trusted with a hot kettle. Occasionally, they might be visited by equally dynamic war “veteran” Admiral Bridge to enjoy mimes presenting the latest comics from the Howl. Meanwhile, Jones is putting pressure on the FET and will soon no doubt find a pretext to deploy his vast mercenary forces against anyone else who is seen working too closely with his most hated of enemies, the HEX.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Highlord Aadolf Loses Control As Dewiek Break Peace Treaty

Around one hundred DEN warships have launched an attack on a small GTT destroyer squadron of forty ships in the Daggern system. Two GTT ships were destroyed and another fifteen suffered noticeable damage. CEO Xavier Fox issued a restrained but angry statement demanding the DEN explain themselves. Highlord Aadolf’s buffoon-like response amounted to “Dewiek be Dewiek, let’s drink and forget about it.” Cold comfort for the dead crew onboard the GTT ships and their families. Especially, as seems likely at this time, the Empire will settle for some bloody money instead of retribution.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

The Worm Turns

The FET have reduced relations with the IMP to neutral. Sneezy boss Cu Chulainn took the bold step of putting 1 and 1 together by linking recent mercenary attacks in their systems with the IMP scouts seen loitering for some time and refusing to move. Even bolder, hints that they believe “a certain Imperial citizen” is responsible for Edward Lowe’s entire underhand operation were voiced loudly enough that the handsome but hard of hearing Tiberius Crowe had to take note. He was seen grappling in trademark fashion with his skin tight jacket, pulling it down over his partially concealed middle-aged girth, as he sat to issue a terse public statement. Exactly who this citizen may be was left unnamed and no news channel subject to Imperial laws would dare unmask the villain. Luckily dear readers, we are not subject to phony Imperial laws. It’s Jack Jones everybody. Jack Jones, butcher of Naplians and fancier of silver long johns.


 
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”Necessity hath no law”

Lord Cromwell of the DOM slapped a fleet of privateers, on charges of "knavery", "bad manners" and "poor sportsmanship." Such offences carry the death sentence in the Dominion, a nebulous territory neither part of the Empire nor apart from it. At least thirteen Armadillo class ships, typically sold by the DOM, were destroyed at a location Cromwell was unwilling to disclose publicly. Bloodthirsty Dewiek as well as "prince of peace" Yahn Wodenzoon were quick to congratulate the DOM for their merciless carnage. It seems the consensus in the galaxy’s ruling class is that not presenting valid identification is a crime worthy of the murder of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of unfortunate crewmen. This is all just another indicator that the political elite are far removed from the lives of ordinary people who are seen as little more than meat inventory. It is telling so-called “man of the people and the downtrodden” Wodenzoon so readily aligns himself with this grisly concord. Meanwhile, the archaic elocutionist Cromwell further establishes the recent trend of mild exertions of power by the cold-blooded DOM.


 
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Return of the Fox

The galaxy is still digesting news of the return of Xavier Fox to the boardroom of the GTT. The ailing corporation's share price began a sharp rally after a six month downward spiral under Ike Krieger, credited with being the worst CEO in the megacorporation's history. The only surviving board member from Fox's initial tenure as CEO, and perhaps across the entire GTT board, is Antt Tilton the Research Director. The reclusive Tilton is the brains behind the ascension of GTT technology, particularly in the field of antimatter weapons and super-heavy dreadnought size ships, Tilton offers a small measure of continuity during this tumultuous time. Mr. Fox has therefore resorted to a broad appeal for new blood to join the ailing firm. So far, the result has been a number of two-dimensional "Yes" persons being promoted to the C-suite. Still, key stakeholders were upbeat with one commenting, "Fox is the man to turn this bloody disaster around. He knows how to put a great team together and where to bury the bodies of the non-performers."


 

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I’ve played on and off for approximately 10 years, over a 20 year spell. After some interesting debate on the in-game forum, I did wonder what, exactly, has kept drawing me back to the game, when for so many others I’ve generally lost interest after a few months.

Ultimately, I think it is a combination of automation (that allows the game to handle thousands of positions to interact on a daily basis) coupled with Special Actions (that allow the story arc to develop in a way that could not be catered for by a set of predefined list of available orders).
-Zigic