Progress Update – March 2013

It’s been a month since the last web site status update, so it was about time this place got some love.

As such, the main status update for the Encounters project will be here this month. Oh, a similar one will be posted to the Kickstarter site, but the main one will be here.

So what have I been doing the last month?

As I mentioned in the previous Kickstarter updates I have scribbled page upon page of notes, both on paper and more recently on tablet. Most of those notes have been around exactly how to develop the broad concepts that have been floating around in my head since the 90s and that I outlined during the Kickstarter into a coherent game system. 

In the last few days the process of setting the core system on paper has taken its first steps forward. There are now 2,000 words of rules in a Word document. The hardest thing about it, after all those notes, was deciding on the core definition of a “character”. What statistics are good for presenting a well-rounded character in as simple a way as possible? My notes had about fifty different single-word statistic names and it was a laborious process to whittle those down to the final few. Some compromises were made, but I think the nine stats give a good, balanced overview of a character.

Developing The Setting

An urgent requirement (probably more urgent than nailing down the basic game system) is to develop the game’s specific setting. Part of the Writer’s Pack is the honour of naming a star system, a planet and a space station. I offered those honours to the pledgers on the Kickstarter and only the star system pledge was taken. The pledger named the system Morten-Marte and we discussed the nature of the system, agreeing that a binary system would be suited to the double-barrelled name and that each of the stars would be named after one of his children, giving rise to the full name of the system. Morten and Marte Bjorvik, you are both stars – literally!

The astronomical layout of the system was approved by a real astronomer yesterday too – Dr Wookie from the Frontier Forums is a real scientists and kindly offered to provide some verification and suggestion for the authors and their sometimes wild ideas. When I submitted my overview of the Morten-Marten system to him, he said that it was viable under a certain set of rules, none of which contradicted anything I had already come up with! Woohoo!

The planet and space station were left to me to name. The planet is named Cullen, after my maternal grandmother and the station is named Snowdon, a root name that gave rise to Sneddon, my maternal grandfather’s name and my mother’s maiden name. Those names have been approved by Frontier and now I just need to finish writing up the final concept of the system and its society to get it ready to write about.

Alongside that I’ve started outlining the sample adventures, which is the big “fiction” concept that makes up the rulebook. I have envisioned three separate adventures that are linked together by a common story arc, and I need to submit that arc to Frontier for approval before expanding on it. I’ve finished the outline for part 1, and have started bullet-pointing part 2 – hopefully progress will be a bit faster on this in the next week or so, especially if I can find some spare time over the Easter weekend.

Cobra Model

One unexpected lump of progress has gone on a particular reward. The Classic Cobra Mk III card model has received lots of love since just before the end of the Kickstarter. The difficulty has been to make this model an interesting one even though it’s just a shape made up of simple triangles. My concept for external detail was to make sure that the markings and panels showed where the equipment and machinery were placed – things like the fuel scoop, cargo bay and landing gear would be visibly placed.

In order to accurately place the panels and doors and so on, I had to “invent” a concept for the internal layout. That meant trying to work out where the decks were placed, where the bridge was, where the missiles were stored and (quite importantly) how the crew got from ground level into the ship and then into the rest of the ship.

To do that I started outlining the internal layout then, after a certain point, started BUILDING the internal layout. This has a number of side benefits, not least of all the possibility that I might be able to provide internal detailing sets for the ship model.

I don’t know yet whether I will make the detailing sets. I’d love to offer the complete internal layout of the Cobra in the model, and it IS possible, but I don’t yet know if time will allow it.

Dice and Interviews

I now have most of the surveys in hand, and a good handle on how much of each reward will be needed. I seriously underestimated how much raw information 260 pledges can generate and how big an Excel spreadsheet it makes. It doesn’t help that Kickstarter’s export of the survey data doesn’t have the same format for each pledge level depending on the questions asked in the surveys. That’s making it a bit of a nightmare to collate.

The first substantive total is the number of dice you pledgers have bought. Well over 400 dice will be needed, and I’ve been thinking that it might be great to get the dice ordered, processed and sent out to the pledgers as quickly as possible. So I’m thinking about ordering them after the Easter Break. I hope that’s OK.

I did a Writer’s Interview for the awesome Lave Radio podcast last week, whilst in the clutches of Space Flu. It was a great experience, and thanks to the guys in the Sidewinder for asking me to do the interview. It was another first for me, appearing in a podcast.

A couple of gaming websites have asked to do interviews on their sites too, and it’s an honour to be asked. The media awareness of Elite is awesome, and the overlapping of RPG players and Elite gamers is bigger than I thought. Anything I can do to raise the awareness of Elite: Dangerous and the associated RPG I will do.

Bits and Bobs

You may have noticed that I revamped the website too. Hopefully it’s a bit easier to read now. The last theme was nice, but maybe too bright and too bold. This one hopefully won’t give people headaches.

I’ve got the Daftworks forum working properly now (I hope) and it no longer needs the administrator to authorise EVERY POST! You should be able to post now if you’re registered. Just remember that the registration question is there to get rid of spammers, and the answer to the question is “Lave”!

The Developer and Playtester forums are set up and working, and as far as I;m aware the people who pledged at those levels have exclusive access to those forums. Feel free to try out your posting privileges and let me know if anything’s wrong.

I’ve been contributing little bits and pieces to the ongoing writer’s bible development, including some insight into my view of thargoids, the Alliance and GalCop as well as some of the organisations and the “old worlds” region of space, where Lave and the original Elite planets live.

I’ve been active on the official Elite Dangerous forums too. Five or six drabbles have been submitted for inclusion in the Frontier updates and I’ve been trying to keep up with the DDF – which is a full-time job in itself.

Anyway, time to get away from the keyboard and back to the Word documents. If you have any comments or questions about the update them please feel free to comment or get in touch via email or messaging.

All the best,