Where We're Going #2
Feature by Howard Thompson
The Space Gamer No 2 (1975)

WHERE WE'RE GOING

The first order of business is a big THANK YOU to all those who have subscribed to THE SPACE GAMER. Within the first six weeks TSG was out we received the minimum number of subscribers to survive. And, it looks like the number of potential subscribers is large enough to insure an expansion of our quality and quantity of s-f gaming material for several years. That potential puts the burden of growth on us, right where it belongs. If we don't grow, it means we're failing to deliver the fun s-f gamers want, not that there aren't enough of you to support s-f gaming as a separately identifiable hobby.

The response we've had shows that word-of-mouth publicity is a big factor. A significant proportion of our subscribers heard about us from you. One eager fan even asked us to send sample issues to six of his friends, which we did, and three bought games or subscribed. That's one way to get some people to play with if there aren't many gamers around. So, tell someone about us. It'll help the hobby and probably get some more gamers in your area. If your friend wants a "freebie" copy of TSG, send us his/her name and we'll mail an issue. Most successful gaming groups grow from this basis, and being involved in a group is the best way to enjoy gaming.

You will note non-staff articles in this issue are few. We hope that 50-70% of all material we publish will eventually be generated by nonstaff people. Articles about s-f gaming by active hobby members should provide the bulk of the words and should be of most interest. TSG will of necessity be a "house organ" type of zine, but we really mean it when we say we want to give the hobby a forum. That means you don't have to agree with our policies or products to have your say.

Some do distrust a company publication. One unsigned letter accused us of writing all the complimentary STELLAR CONQUEST 1etters--. We hope that time will prove our credibility. Just because we have the time and money to publish our say doesn't mean we're always right or see things from all sides. Fortunately, our subscribers, that's YOU, aren't characterized by timidity or herd instincts. You clearly delineate what you take issue with. We certainly won't have the luxury of being blind to our own faults.

For the future, we hope to go to bi-month1y publication as soon as we have sufficient volume of material. A quarterly schedule is appropriate for learning the "how to" of this type of venture, but more frequent is better. The number of subscribers enters into this consideration, since economies of scale are involved. Suffice it to say, we can do many more things with 2-3,000 paid subscribers than with 500. These early issues will be somewhat experimental to give us a feel for what you like and what we can learn to do best. Before committing resources to making TSG bigger, we have to be sure our content is appropriate in subject matter and quality. As long as you keep giving us strong feedback, TSG can make a positive contribution to the growth and enjoyment of s-f gaming.

Some have asked, justifiably, about TSG's publication schedule. Small gaming and s-f zines have been known to fold, and this issue is several weeks later than we'd hoped. Final work on THE YTHRI was given priority, which we felt was justified. Issue #3 is scheduled for mailing in November, so you have time to send in orders before Christmas. February and May, 1976, are the next two dates after that. Depending on how circulation and contributions go, we will try to "get-ahead" of our 1976 schedule, if time is available. We will try to give firm dates for the next issue each time. Regular reliability is very important and we don't want to give the impression we aren't concerned about target dates--we are. Our problem is that Metagaming and TSG are moving from what has been more of a super fun hobby into a small business. Just the volume of order processing and record-keeping has reached the point where further growth will require additional labor and service. A small computer would help, but we'd also have to find time to design and write programs, even if we could afford a computer in the next twelve months.

Subscribers will note this issue came in an envelope and was third-class mail. Third class costs 3.9¢ per issue more to mail, but is two weeks faster than bulk mailing on the average. The envelope will insure that your copy will get to you in better shape. The questionnaire asks about third-class versus bulk mailing to see if subscribers would prefer an extra four pages of magazine or the faster mailing service. We'll see.

There was a lot of response to a new name for our "Hymenoptria" game. Some name suggestions appear in our questionnaire. One option for us is to get permission to use the name "Dragon Masters" that went with the Jack Vance novel that originally used the Gaughan illustrations. The game is only loosely related to concepts in the novel, but a s-f novel may be a way of insuring greater sales. There will be some preview information on the game next issue after we get the THE YTHRI successfully launched.

Our big news this time is, of course, THE YTHRI, as detailed in our advertisement. It should be well worth the money for anyone new to gaming or those that often want a fast-moving, two-player game. It's experimental in several ways, and if successful should go a long way to boost s-f gaming.

Since the essence of s-f gaming is the games, we're moving as rapidly as we can in that direction. Our game discount policy has been very popular and we've extended it to our own games plus adding more titles this issue. We plan to publish two major games next year. The spring game wi1l be "Hymenoptria," sure to be renamed, with the fall game scheduled as the winning game of our game design contest.

We may also try prototype games as an experiment. This would be a limited edition game emphasizing do-it-yourself components for a low production cost. It would most likely be a non-staff design with the purpose of giving our most avid gamers more variety, and testing a design's appeal before publishing it in a professional, wide-distribution format. Hopefully we would be able to publish several prototype games per year; the best of which would go on to wider publication. Only a few hundred of each would be printed with prices in the $3-$4 range. Anyone who bought one would get a hefty bonus discount on any re-pub1ication in more expensive form. Response to the prototypes would determine the design's future.

At this time, the prototype idea seems a good one to us, and it will probably be tried at least once. It has the advantage of providing more, cheaper games for hard-core gamers while testing and de-bugging what may eventually become a best seller. Since our time is constrained, anything that spreads the ┬Ětesting and de-bugging effort helps us. Yes, that means the game won't be too good for novices because of less complete rules and play aids. But the prototypes should be great for gamers who end up re-designing games to suit themselves anyway--and there are a lot of those. Any comments on prototypes in addition to the feedback question will be appreciated.

Several people have asked about publishing s-f/f games they've designed. Metagaming will be publishing non-staff designs next year, so it's a real possibility. However, we can't tell you that we'll publish your game without ever seeing it. The best thing to do is briefly describe the game to us, so we can respond to the general concept. If it sounds like something we'd publish, if well designed, we'll ask you to send us a complete copy for evaluation. We gain no right to your game and no promise of publication or remuneration is implied in an evaluation. It's just a necessary step to determine whether or not we want to negotiate for publication rights. When dealing with any publisher we advise having the draft of a game notarized as your property and design before mailing.

What about the "Game Design Contest"? The contest is mainly a publicity vehicle to gain attention for our desire for outside game design. Details for the contest will be in issue #3 of TSG and any design received before its ending date will be eligible for prizes. Prizes will essentially be cash advances on royalties that are non-refundable if royalties aren't sufficient to cover the advance. That means, you keep the prize even if the game is never published or makes little money. The best design received will be published.

 

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