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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
GTT step forward to control protection and peace in the Stellar Empire.

With the retirement of Jack Johns and various lower-level IMP officers from public life, the Imperial Services were left on the verge of being unable to fill their role as protectors of the Stellar Empire. Due to the serious nature the Imperial Services found itself in, the Emperor recently travelled to GTT HQ to attend a board meeting with the directors of the GTT.

With Galactic Trade and Transport being one of the few remaining loyal Imperial Chartered affiliations, who also supply well over half of the war material to the Imperial Services, the Emperor sought the position of the GTT with regard to the Imperial Services becoming overburdened with bureaucracy and lacking effective leadership. Effectively the Imperial Services were at the point of collapse. A position highlighted when an opportunistic supposed ally subverted four Imperial Outposts in the Inner Empire, thinking their asset grabbing would go unnoticed.
 
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  Star Date: 221.30.5

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RAGNAROK COMES

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A Forlorn Hope

The seat of Dewiek Government has fallen. What began as a small group of Architect ships picking up retreating DEN forces, amalgamated into a much larger force. The bombardment fleet comprised dozens of Adult ARC ships plus several Planet Killers. The force made short work of the impressive fortifications of the planetary orbit of Newstart. Multiple heavily armoured and maximised deflector shield platforms crumbled. They did so only after releasing their volleys of antimatter and nova weapon batteries. Any DEN warships that remained from earlier encounters also stood the line. But within the week, the last defence was gone.

Bombardment of Wolf Lair starbase proceeded without further resistance from the Dewiek. ARC Plasmas ripped through starbase shields. They demolished tens of thousands of factories and research facilities. The ARC demolished the huge military recruitment and training facilities on the planet. Over half a million trained troops evacuated from deep bunkers, leaving a token ground defence.

The ARC were not satisfied to burn the facilities and murder the workers. They deployed repeated salvos of their Virus Bombs on the wider population. Reports began to arrive of civilians of the world regressing. Leaving settlements and returning to nature. Much as the Dewiek found themselves some decades ago when they started to recover from the First Great ARC-DEN War. This time there was no High Lord Magnus willing to obliterate the world to save a remnant of the people. Newstart was already lost.

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Newstart is lost

 
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  Star Date: 221.27.2

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RAGNAROK APPROACHES

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End Game Lost

A short-lived period of peace followed the Dewiek Elder Nation’s historic and Saga-worthy defence against the Architect Planet Killers. A handful of the more typically encountered ARC ships were spotted picking off DEN support ships in Forlorn Hope before more than forty of them appeared back in End Game.

While the ARC “Adult” class ships, as the DEN had previously classified them, were eight times smaller than the “Planet Killers”, they were still as big as the largest ships any other species has managed to produce. Including the otherwise technologically advanced Dewiek.

Forty-four of these Plasma armed organic vessels smashed through the DEN forces left circling the orbit of Beacon, End Game. The mass of ARC weapons bombarded the DEN Shipyards at Ragnorak with their superheated ionized gas, razing the entire outpost to the ground.

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ARC Plasma weapons devastate End Game

 
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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.
 

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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