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King Kev

King Kev

So Kev swung by the offices this afternoon. We have barely seen each other in a decade. He pretty much passed from the annals of PBM when it started to move into the murky waters of PBeM and the personal computer was becoming a realistic purchase. That was about 1998.
Before parting company with the promise to meet and guzzle beer – Kev’s beer drinking ability is legendary, I asked him a few questions about how it all started so long ago…


So, who is Kev?

None other than Kevin John Cropper, the KJC in KJC Games and its founder back at the young age of 18 (1979) when Dungeons and Dragons ruled and the first incarnations of Warcraft was still a distant dream.
Way back then he signed up to play a few fantasy play-by-mail games. The one he mentioned was Tribes of ‘somewhere or other’ possibly Crane which was alright but he wanted to game in a setting like Middle-earth. So he simply created his own world – Crasimoff’s World to be precise.
The premise was simple, he drew a nice big map and pinned it to his wall and sent out starting positions to potential players. They had some boxes to fill in for their actions and space to write something more specific and posted it to KJC Games – actually his parents’ house, where he was living.
The turn fee was around £1.50 per turn.

When it arrived he would pull out their file, modify some stats based on the actions they had elected to undertake (increase strength, health; ‘you know, that sort of thing’ etc) then update their location on the big map and give a response to their specific requests. There was some dice rolling or some reasonable account of their requests such as descriptions of locations, results of a battle. Then the turn report along with a sheet to fill out the next actions was mailed out to the player.

He reckoned that he could get through around three to 4 per hour – that’s £4.50-£6.00/hour (minus 19p per first class stamp). This equates to around £12/hour (minus 60p/stamp) in today’s money. Not bad for an 18 year old.


His worked hard and customers told friends to the point where he expanded and moved into the backroom of his parents shop along with a couple of mates from the local gaming community.

That’s when his big break occurred. Games Workshop reviewed Crasimoff’s World and within a week he was getting hundreds of sign-ups. It was amazing; suddenly he had to get more staff and offices, though for all this it was still very much a hand’s on job.

That was when he was contacted by ABM, an American company that had produced some computer moderated play-by-mail games. Unlike hand moderated games these did not rely on looking over a few pages of player submitted turns to identify where they had ticked boxes and interpreting a scrawled mess to the effect of ‘I want to wule the world,’ written by an 11 year old, these simply had a sequence of code to be inputted into the computer.

In his own words he blew the European competition out of the water. Whereas before he could do a handful of turns an hour; suddenly he was producing dozens and at the same price. The staff no longer needed to be veteran RP’ers (with their personal styles and idiosyncrasies) they just had to be able to type. Out went smelly gamers, in came short skirted secretaries. Kev was king of his empire and KJC Games was the largest PBM Company in Europe.

Andy Smith waved au revoir and created Crasimoff Games, taking with him the hand moderated stuff and Kev moved into large scale massive multiplayer (for the time) gaming. Back then It’s a Crime had 475 players per game and games were starting weekly.

Oddly enough it was around this time at the age of 16 (so around 1987) that I first encountered both Kev and Andy. They had started running a Games club every Wednesday night at the local Masonic hall. I joined Andy’s game of MERP, basically running through the adventure at the back of book. Kev described the club as glorified babysitting operation. He said parents would drive up, dump their kids outside ten to 20 minutes before it started and return long after it was finished. The kids didn’t mind in fact they would have to be dragged back into the cars, so obsessed were they with the events of the night, describing what their characters did. Seeing him sitting there staring into the past, it was clearly that this period in the history of KJC Games held a lot of nostalgia for Kev.

By 1990, after decade of expansion it was the golden age of PBM though already it was drawing to a close. KJC Games was running It’s a Crime, Troll’s Bottom, Earthwood, Capitol, Dawn (of something or other?), Casius Belli, Warlord and State of War.


He told me about one of the first pubmeets they held. They hired a massive marquee and erected it in the Traveller’s Rest carpark. It was winter, cold and raining. Beer was being drunk by the bucket load. A game they were playing had its rules changed to include forfits, one of which was to stand outside without a coat. About half an hour after the game ended, a teenager blue with cold and soaked through, put his head through the door asking if he could come back in yet. Poor bugger had been completely forgotten and they had started another game.

I spent some time bringing Kev up to date with the events over the past decade or so, the death of postal gaming and the transition first to email gaming and then to online and showed him Phoenix both how Nexus works and the Editor. While very impressed he said that if we had a fantasy version he would sign up as though he has played games like Warcraft he keeps quitting as he dislikes the need to react immediately. Having time to think about what your next move will be is highly underrated in modern gaming and even board games when people are drumming fingers can be frustrating. Who knows, we may lure ol’ Kev back yet.


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Wimbles Crisis Solved ***

The Wimble Crisis of 217 has come to an end with the human Baron making way to the wimble Grandfather Paden Mastaak. Celebrations were held in Wimbledon upon the news with crack teams of Wimble security staff guarding all the pies.

It’s unclear how long the Wimbles will enjoy this new era of peace and self-determination.

Vocal Wimble Dinasha, one of Paden’s early backers, has chosen this precarious moment to bait Dewiek, Flagritz and humans who were initially disposed to be friendly to the new administration. Whilst the Wimbles' history with the former-slave-loving Flagritz could be understood, their animosity towards the Dewiek and humans was more mysterious. One insider alluded to a rise in the number of cases of foot-and-mouth across the herd as being a likely cause.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Storm in a Teacup *** Yahn Bares All * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door ***

The stargates are closed! Reports from multiple sources indicate at least three of the stargates, all within Dewiek controlled systems, have been closed.

Two different sources have indicated that the TCA have been spotted recently in a number of systems and may be behind this turn of events. A scan sent to the SSS indicated eight TCA ships were recently spotted first in the Faery system and later near the Kasmer stargate.

Another source, suspiciously put the blame on the ARC, suggesting the ARC and DEN were working together because they “need to trap [the TCA] and try and finish them off after the DEN bodged their operation to protect the ARC while they incinerated the MEK homeworld, which ended up with several ARC ships being destroyed and the job only being half done."

However, with no public statement from the Dewiek themselves, its hard to know whether these rumours are reliable.

Lord Igor of the Dominion and Erasmus Andersen of the Garcia Family both offered public apologies at the delay in meeting their trade commitments because of the recent closures. The not-so-subtle subtext being that someone will pay with blood for this interference in their business. Or at least with a stealthy price rise.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Wimble Civil Strife * Who Sniffs the Sniffers? * Largin’ It * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Videtis quantum scelus contra rem publicam vobis nuntiatum sit? ***

The Flagritz Empire is no more! The Flagritz Republic is reborn! Quick on the heel of the collapse of the Empire, the Fessin caste declared a new era of foreign and economic policy with a rapid withdrawal behind the Black Gate.

The new ecologically-friendly Prime Minister Kayxaer, asked for patience as “economic” reforms were undertaken. It remains to be seen whether there will be any price to pay for the dramatic changes being made by the reclusive Flagritzi or whether it will all be sunshine and rainbows going forward.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Large at Large * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Bravo for Freedom ***

Naplian Forces have attacked three human pirate outposts in the Morroglyph system. A spokesperson for Naplia HQ told the press that the plucky duct-tape loving free people would continue their war against slavers and pirates in their home periphery.

One salty Naplian libertarian told the SSS, “The people of the Naplian Home Periphery are sick and tired of human criminals coming here just because their homeworld is an overcrowded hell. It’s time for them to go back home.”

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Igor of Fang and Horns * Admiral Loves Dick Turpin * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

.What is It?
..a wOrmhOle?.
…No.. worse..
….the KANG singularity!…
…..It pulls us IN…..
……lOOks sO familiar……
…….yet so strange…….
……..what is……..
………that?……..

*** Flagritz Liberalise Economy ***

In good news for all the galaxy the Flagritzi have vowed to liberate all slaves across their Empire. Furthermore, the hectapods have given up eating other sentient species; taking up a strict diet of veganism and soy chai lattes. Sales of turtle neck sweaters and Forbidden Fruit laptops have skyrocketed.

The news was cautiously welcomed by the benevolent Felini Tyranny who looked forward to reducing the War phase of their daily Nap-Lick-Nap-War-Nap-Eat-Sleep cycle to a perfunctory forty winks.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Baron Womble * A Short History of the DPP * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Empire Strikes: Solo ***

A massive fleet of some 1600 warships, including large numbers of super-heavy capital 300 and 400 hullers, attacked the DEN in the Solo system, catching them with their metaphorical pants down. The DEN gate platform and some two hundred DEN freighters were subject to antimatter missiles amongst other high tech ordinance.

Jack the lad, Viceroy of the Empire, claimed a victory for freedom and the Imperial (right of) way leaving the sullen Dewiek unusually unresponsive.

With DOM platforms firing on CIA ships, will the IMP now demand the DOM add them to the Do Not Fire lists as well? And what exactly is the nature of the DOM and DEN alliance in light of the sustained attack from the Empire? And will the DEN’s alien friends stand idly by as the Empire fleet camps in the vital gate system of Solo? How will the DEN retaliate for this action or are they ready to roll over and have their bellies rubbed?

All this remains unknown. All that is certain is the “feel good” factor across the DTR has increased, with citizens reassured that for some time yet, they may continue in their slumber with the easy assurance that their number is not coming up anytime soon.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * New BHD Guy * DOM Statement * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** To Ur Is Dewiek ***

Dewiek forces had a hefty smackdown against the mysterious living ships known as the T’Cath (TCA). Seven adult TCA 400 hull capital ships, each firing eight of their notorious plasma cannons, were killed by a DEN and DOM fleet of some 700 ships.

Of the minimal losses suffered by the DEN / DOM, one-eyed Magnus and Nevets Motnhap of the FEL were amongst the dead.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * Caribbean Congo Continues * Ur Witness Report * * Hive Briefing * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** The Long Quiet Season ***

Listen…
There’s no sound of anger or of annoyance,
There’re neither cruisers racing on the jump lanes
Nor there jump lanes for them to race on,
There’re neither monks chanting on the battlegrounds
Nor bells calling us to the True One.
There’s neither the lightning cracking of the sky
Nor the persistent Naplians pattering on my roof.
There’s no Dewiek arm in arm to admire the magnificent view
There’re no war drums to feed Human ears
Nor Hive sirens to steal the boredom away
There’s no unfamiliar wing creeping underneath the Falconian sun
Nor floods to enshroud the Aquaphid grounds
The land lies lonely out here
On this lazy summer’s day
There’s no pollution to poison the airs of Inversion
Nor forests to give them life
All I hear is the hushing sound of the wind
Assisting the sand to fall into beautiful undulations.

Whilst we’ve been away: * Operation Giantslayer * Naplian Liberation * Back in the DTTR * &etc

 
***** Inter Galactic News *****

*** Falconians Saved ***

The Imperials have cunningly saved the Falconian Republic from being consumed by the Dewiek Elder Nation and at no small cost to the DEN either. Whilst the new pro tem Consul crowed about the “victory”, all former FCN systems besides Acropolis have been taken over by the two warring Empires - Human and Flagritz.

Was it all worth it? For the IMP / GTT it clearly was, for the movement of a few hundred thousand troops is surely nothing to the cost they endured trying to and failing to knock the DEN out of Solo after the fact. The FCN now plucked off most of their navy and wider assets are a tiny nothing of their former self. The DEN may have resorted to some dirty namecalling but can the costs endured to save an enfeebled FCN have really been worth it? Time will tell.

Inside this issue of the SSS: * INDignation * FELicitous Caribbean * Nah Plan for Naplia * Mercs Trouble DEN * &etc

 

Free Ship when you sign-up
Complete missions for in game rewards
Control everything, up to an entire empire
Dedicated human moderators
Player and Moderator driven plotlines
Discover new worlds to explore, exploit & colonise
Over 20 years of content development
Persistent Browser-Based Game (PBBG)

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