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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 *****

Meklan Unleashed on Mobile Bay

Mad Dewiek scientist Dr Kala released a number of Meklan on the busy world of Mobile Bay in the Yank system. Thousands of civilians have been killed in what is treated by DEN warlords as an amusing practical joke. Rather than take any responsibility for their affiliation’s reckless behaviour, a DEN lord rumoured to be half-meklan himself quipped he would nuke the planet whilst another merely saw it as an opportunity to test some of his greener troops in combat. Surprisingly, the KAS planetary defence force was up to the job of repelling the insidious incursion. Questions remain whether further meklan are stored elsewhere on the planet and whether anybody will challenge the Dewiek’s lack of care for the lives of innocents. Probably not, given how even the mighty IMP are now cowering from a fight with the DEN (see inside this edition).


 
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***** Inter Galactic News *****

Who is behind the AFA?

Following the large scale holiday attack by the AFA against the FET the question of who is behind the attacks has been raised once again. What is clear is that the AFA is using ships that were transferred from the GTT to the IMP. The organisation and expertise of the operation also reduces the pool of potential candidates. Few can go from commanding a handful of broadswords to half a thousand warships and significant army logistics without a long stint in one of the more combative affiliations. With the DEN’s allies the HEX in close relations with the FET and no recent history of animosity between the aliens and FET, at least since the departure of former one-eye big-bun Norozov, it would be a bizarre turn of events if they were behind these attacks. Frankly, there’s no point dancing around it. The IMP are clearly behind the AFA. The question is what can anybody do about this move of significant Imperial resources to a black-flag agency?


 
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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.


 

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