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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.


 
News
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  Star Date: 221.22.5

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RAGNAROK BECKONS

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Assault on End Game

The ancient Architects have declared war on the Dewiek Elder Nation. The first sign of the conflict was subspace transmissions in a remote system in the Pocket Periphery. This followed reports that the ancient Ragnarok shipyards on Beacon were malfunctioning. In response, the Wolf Mother sent urgent orders to several Dewiek scout ships to patrol the End Game system.

The Konungr Smidamadr was the first to encounter the gigantic, “Planet Killer” class ARC ships. Measuring in at thirty-two hundred heavy hulls and armed with a hundred ARC plasma weapons, the ship was more like a mobile armed platform. It is certainly the largest vessel ever recorded. The scout ship was vaporised instantly.

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ARC Planet Killer dwarves largest DEN warships

 
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  Star Date: 221.11.4

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Caste Apart

The Flagritz Republic is (very nearly) no more. In its place, a single Hexamon and Flagritz power has arisen. The new Collective has absorbed much of the Flagritz holdings with only a handful of Clique-caste Flagritz systems choosing instead to align with the other Elder species, the Dewiek.

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Flagritz and Hexamon Hybrids - A hope for the Future?

 
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  Star Date: 221.3.3

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Meklanmania

Meklan scout ships continue to be seen around the Orion Spur periphery. These cyborg creatures in service of hidden ancient masters appear to be terrorising the Wimble Nation in particular. Despite public lamentations against the hardship of defending themselves, the Wimble leadership have not yet responded to our request for comment.

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Artist's impression of a Meklanised Wimble

However, Xavier Fox, CEO of Galactic Transport and Trade, did give us the following statement:

“We have engaged several Meklan ships, although currently the source has not been identified. GTT Directors have been running patrols and have engaged and destroyed numerous ships that have attacked outlying outposts belonging to different affiliations. The pattern of ships encountered leads us to believe there is a central source, but until that is found we would suggest any affiliation with assets in the area provide adequate defences.”

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Doomsday On Pause

At the site of the Thete anomaly, the Dewiek Nation has sent media sensation Sharon Aleman to the scene. Aleman, whose cybernetic enhancements allow her to directly interface with her ship’s sensor array, led her hardened crew into a dive of the outermost “edge” of the anomaly. After spending several days collecting and analysing data (mere minutes to the rest of us outside the anomaly), Aleman reported her shocking discoveries.

 
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  Star Date: 220.50.5

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Veil Lifted on Flagritz Home Space

As the Hellcadium ISR field continues to fluctuate, one of the newly exposed systems is Junista inside the previously hidden and inaccessible home periphery of the Flagritz Republic.

Over the past few weeks Flagritz Republic patrols and platforms have dealt with a number of scout ships from the Human Empire as the IMP wasted no time in exploiting this opportunity to poke around in their old enemy’s backyard. It is understood that at least one of these unarmed scouts was destroyed with no one willing to estimate how many more might be buzzing around.

Coincidentally, suspected IMP lackey, SSL TOAD, has also been overheard showing an obsessive interest in the Flagritz periphery. However, we have received no reports of this being anything other than his usual drug-fueled, barely decipherable mutterings at this stage.

Either way, this sudden, uninvited interest in the Flagritz Periphery has left the FLZ leadership muttering darkly about appropriate measures being taken. Defensive fleets and supporting structures are being deployed in the Junista system and beyond in expectation of further uninvited guests.

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When You stare into the Flagritz Periphery...

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Thete's Timey-Wimey Tease

Investigation into the Thete anomaly continued in the Dewiek Pocket Periphery. The anomaly was scanned from all angles by a number of the Dewiek Nation’s best sensor ships and officers. The data, collected over several weeks, was sent to one of the DEN’s most advanced scientific laboratories for analysis.

What they found will shock you!

 
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  Star Date: 220.45.1

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Perfidion Reached

Long speculated by theoretical Stellar Cartographers, Perfidion Reach finally opened in the last few weeks. Immediately, the Detinus Republic boldly staked a claim on the first accessible system, Hellcadium. Only time will tell the true value of this strategic move but their much-taunted bureaucracy may have finally proved its worth.

Early reports from scans of the system reveal a wildly fluctuating ISR field. Rumours suggest that at least one ship was destroyed as it was forced into an asteroid belt chasing a stable jump field attempting to exit the system. Casual travellers are warned away from the system at this time for their own safety. Leave it to skilled explorers and navigation officers.

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Mathematical model of Hellcadium ISR Field.

We spoke to Captain Zakiyah Ummahi via subspace link. Zakiyah led the first DEN expedition into the Perfidion Reach. "Spirits remain high but this is largely down to the extended R&R we were all forced to take immediately prior to jumping into this hole. Initial scouting reports show at least one planet with plenty of forests and grasslands which might help if we're going to be stuck here for Folkvar knows how long waiting for this damned ISR field to stabilise."

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Valhalla Stargate Reopens

Dewiek engineers and scientists have finally managed to re-enable Stargate Valgrind this week and the protective Exclusion Zone is to be lifted. If DEN investigators discovered who caused the gate to malfunction, or why, they were not willing to share it with us. Military sources, however, have announced a project to provide a significant boost to the already formidable defence platform in the stargate’s orbit.

 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***

Empire - DEN action grinds to a halt

After months of tension relations between the Empire and the Dewiek Nation, which rose to several large scale fleet actions ending in the DEN losing over 60 Direwolf warships in Solo, things appear to have moved from antagonistic to unfriendly. With the Solo system being a particular issue an agreement has been reached between the Wolf Mother of the DEN and Xavier Fox of the GTT. Since this things have become very quiet, not just because the shooting has stopped, but also because my reporters have been on their summer holidays.
 
News For Discerning Naplians!
---- Special Galactic Edition ----



(The Host sits at his desk as the studio lights dim, and a single spotlight bathes him in light. He looks straight into the camera and begins to speak: )

Host: Naambta!
Good Greetings, and welcome to the show.

This is News for Discerning Naplians, and i’m sure you are all showing much impatience to see this week’s Panel Discussion. We will be discussing religion with the Lady Ghadir of the Temple of Ya Zoon, renowned neo-naplian spiritualist Chairman TonTon, and a very special guest from our imperial neighbours, Bishop Samantha Porteus of the Brotherhood. But before we get to that...

(Looks demonstratively at his digital wrist watch. )

... it is time for a word from our sponsor.
 
******Empire Syndicated News Network (ESNN) ******

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Welcome to the latest version of ESNN, giving the news and views from the ESNN's reporter and news anchor, Ainsley Moore, making this the peripheries' most favourite unbiased publication in the known universe from our new home in the Heartland,

And so with the news from the last few weeks,
 
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*** Inter Galactic News ***
  • DEN assault FEL base and get wiped out
  • CIA Trade fleet caught and destroyed by the DEN
  • Krell denounce worship of the True One

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

    Huge fleet skirmish at the London/Crossley wormhole

    A large fleet of over 700 DEN warships responded to the EMP action in Crossley, where a 4000 hull DEN platform was destroyed. Reports show the DEN ships caught a group of CIA ships napping and inflicted significant losses on the humans. IMP and GTT fleets moved to assist the CIA, matching DEN fleet numbers, but the arrival of over 1200 Hexamon ships seems to have tipped the battle in favour of the DEN-HEX alliance.

    The combined DEN-HEX force pushed through the wormhole into the Heartland area of human space and retaliated, attacking several CIA platforms in response. The outnumbered Empire fleets abandoned the area and fled, they are currently waiting for the larger alien force to make their next move from their hiding places.
     

    Free Ship when you sign-up
    Complete missions for in game rewards
    Control everything, up to an entire empire
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    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