Journal of the Emerald Specter 94: The UFC-ESPN Deal

The UFC has signed a five year television rights deal beginning in 2019 with ESPN, the quote/unquote “sports leader.”

I’m here to look at what was, look at what is to come, and let you know what I think of the deal.

I’m not going to look all the way back at the UFC before Fox. That is unnecessary and would only pad the word count of this article that I’d like to keep concentrated on what will be coming. I do need to go over the Fox deal, though. Just the “outside perspective” of the deal, not the meat and potatoes.

Fox and the UFC helped to bring a lot of MMA to people who probably wouldn’t have watched any otherwise. There is a reason why the UFC has continued to grow over the past few years, seeing larger audiences on television than they used to get (which were, technically, barely any before Fox). There were lots of Fight Nights on Fox, FS1, and a good chunk of the prelims would also be televised. Exposure was given to a lot of fighters that wouldn’t normally see exposure because they wouldn’t normally be on TV.

The UFC produces about 12 pay per views annually, with another 38 shows on Fox or FS1. The preliminary bouts on the PPVs normally air on FS1 and the main Fox channel has seen bigger headline events as time progressed forward.

Apparently the Fox deal ran out last year, though, and that meant they have just been cruising on autopilot for about a year.

The ESPN deal will have 30 events per year on their platforms, with 10 being on the main “ESPN network” channels and the other 20 being on the new ESPN+ app. This will obviously not affect the PPVs as they will still be “pay per view.” The key to this deal is that 20 events will be on an APP, a streaming service ESPN is attempting to launch with the UFC as it’s big draw.

Here’s where my issue comes in.

I don’t subscribe to cable. I have watched the UFC events on Fox, prelims and full events on FS1, and looked forward to getting more into the UFC over the course of the next couple of years. Since I don’t subscribe to cable, I do not get any ESPN channels… nor am I going to sign up for the ESPN+ app.

How many other people out there are going to do the same?

I think that the ESPN deal will hurt the UFC viewership overall. People aren’t streaming content in the numbers that ESPN would need to really shove home calling their app a success. CBS All Access launched as their guiding light (an unconnected company launching an app primarily showcasing their biggest property, Star Trek: Discovery) and will look at that as what to shoot for in measuring success.

The problem is that CBS All Access isn’t doing as well as they’d hoped, it’s going to miss their subscriber goal, and most of their biggest surge of subscribers came from Trek watchers who unsubscribed after the season was over. Hell, some people are actively signing up for the one week free, binging the whole season and then dumping the service before they have to pay.

I know this because I have friends who have done this.

So, why does ESPN think their endeavor will by any different?

ESPN has largely had their successes tied to the cable model. A chunk, and that is more than a little, of everyone’s cable payment goes to ESPN, a deal I’m not sure how they scored but have been reaping the rewards of for decades. They do have a few sports which they have rights to broadcast, but the largest chunk of ESPN programming are talk shows.

Sports Center is easily their most popular show that isn’t actual sports and it is also the one thing most people can live without. Nothing on ESPN’s list of shows (to include College GameDay, Outside the Lines, E:60, Around the Horn, and Sunday NFL Countdown) is really all that interesting. Bringing those shows to the ESPN+ app will do little to draw anyone to watch it in great numbers.

It’s LITERALLY filler.

Putting the UFC on ESPN+ will draw in a few more people that might not have subscribed otherwise. The large majority of UFC fans, though, are probably going to be doing what I’m going to be doing: not watching those events that aren’t on ESPN proper.

My prediction is that the UFC will take a serious hit in streaming viewership. Sure, ESPN is paying the UFC a lot of money and they may not mind, but after five years of seeing no viewing growth through streaming, the UFC is going to have some serious repair work to do.

Right now, I probably watch 60% of the UFC events on Fox. Some of these are due to when they’re on (early events I tend not to be able to watch) with some of these not being interesting enough for me to watch (I have fighters I’ll go out of my way to watch but don’t necessarily do that just because of the UFC hype machine). I catch about 25% of the UFC PPVs annually, either paying for them myself, which is about 10% of that 25%, and watching at sports bars for the 15%. My viewership, personally, is going to drop with the UFC events not on mainstream ESPN and I’ll probably continue with the same rate of PPVs that I currently do, assuming they are interesting enough for me to keep up my pace.

Am I the only one that is going to be doing this?

I’m friends with a few fans that don’t go out to watch OR pay for any of the PPVs. They ONLY watch the Fox and FS1 events. Those people are going to almost completely stop watching the UFC because none of them will pay for an ESPN app. Will ESPN+ get rights to other sports that can drive up their numbers? Who can say until they announce something?

My thoughts are that the UFC will get out of the ESPN deal when they feel that there is more money to be made with a more mainstream broadcaster. Hell, they may even go with a streaming option of their own, which would still perpetuate their lost viewing numbers, but at least I’d pay for a UFC streaming service that carried most of the events.

The UFC is going to lose fans because of ESPN. They’re going to have to rebuild some of their base once the ESPN deal ends. I just wish they’d seen the longer term effects of this move rather than simply looking at the amount written on the check that ESPN handed them.

No final thoughts today… just disappointment.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 93: State of the Comics Industry

There is a great disturbance in the comics industry. Things are looking both grim and hopeful and I’d like to talk a little bit about that now.

As long as I’ve been collecting comics Marvel and DC have dominated the scene. They are, admittedly, the largest two comic book producers in the market, but recently they have been joined by two more “big companies” (Image and Dark Horse) and a whole slew of smaller companies (Valiant, Boom!, Dynamite, IDW Publishing, Lion Forge, Aftershock, Aspen, and Titan to name a few).

The basis of the industry has always been the floppy, or the single issue. Everyone used to play around with different formats in the past but the tried and true means of selling comics has been 22 to 24 page single issues. While there can be many issues that make up a single story, there can also be a single, self contained story within a single issue.

Over the last couple of decades, though, the term “writing for the trade” has come up as being a means of writing stories. A trade paperback, for those not in the know, are six issues collected into one large graphic novel like book. There has not only been a trend in writing for a trade, there has also been a movement in simply waiting for the trade and skipping the floppies.

There is an occasional original graphic novel, or OGN, that comes out of the big four, but most of the OGNs are independent creators putting out stories they can tell in one lump rather than dribbling it out over a monthly floppy schedule.

If floppies are the comics industry’s version of TV, then OGNs are the comics industry’s version of movies. In the end, this is really what the column is going to be about.

Marvel and DC have long standing histories, continuity, that they seek to maintain in their current stories, despite the illogical problem of explaining away decades of continuity by stating that time doesn’t flow the same way in their respective universes. Marvel has stated that despite 75 years haven taken place in the real world, only about 12 years has passed in the Marvel Universe.

First, I’d like to talk about looking at the history and talk about why continuity is so important… to Marvel and DC.

There is a subset of fans that read Marvel and DC that insists that continuity be maintained. Superman has to be from another planet, lands on this planet, and has had every single adventure that he’s had in comic form. Captain America also has to have every single adventure that he’s ever had. No matter how ridiculous, everything that they’ve done has to have been done.

DC has somewhat gotten around the diehards by having their “Crisis” events, which resets the DC continuity (or at least that’s what they hope) and then they move forward. There are subsets of these fans that only really like “pre-Crisis” or “post-Crisis” events, even to include the recent Flashpoint (which launched the New 52) and so on.

As far as DC is concerned, I was a big proponent of the New 52 because it relaunched their entire company with only about “five years of history” build into the revision. Most people reviled it so they dumped it. There was so much more awesome that could have been told.

Marvel has also attempted to do little things to “soft retcon” their line. Things like “Heroes Reborn” (a retelling of the origins of the Fantastic Four, Captain America, and a few others) to update their origin stories… but then they were reintroduced into the continuity as if they’d only been momentarily taken out of time. While these soft retcon (short for “retroactive continuity”) attempts didn’t really do anything to further their hopes, Marvel did do something that was revolutionary and totally awesome: Ultimate Marvel.

In 2000, Brian Michael Bendis was handed Spider-Man (under the Ultimate Marvel imprint) and told to tell the Marvel Universe over again… from scratch. Ultimate Marvel ran for more than a decade and is largely the basis for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s origins of the heroes, but Ultimate Marvel stopped hindering themselves with over 50 years of continuity. Ultimate Marvel also did something that neither DC nor Marvel has dared do in their “main continuities”: allow changes in the world to happen as a result of their heroes.

In the Ultimate Marvel line, X-Men are still hated by many and that has led to sweeping changes in how the governments of the world react to them. This fundamentally changed the world in which they live, unlike in the 616 (Marvel’s main continuity) where nothing really changes. Technology that the Fantastic Four created crept into the Ultimate Marvel world, unlike the 616 where even though Reed Richards has a flying car no one else seems to have technology anywhere near that.

Basically, I’m saying that Ultimate Marvel was glorious and awesome because it affected the world in which they live. Not having Tony Stark’s armor tech seep out into the world, even little useful bits of it, is unrealistic. Fanboys will cry about Ultimate Marvel not being realistic, but in the end, they look and sound ridiculous because they’re reading a world that never gets changed by the things that happen in it.

I made a comment a while back on a forum that I tend to peruse from time to time that if Marvel’s 616 has 75 years of published materials but only 12 years have passed, that means the Avengers change their lineup about twice a week and have an announcement about their lineup changes every other week. How can Captain America lead the Avengers against the greatest threats if he’s busy announcing the new members from what they had two weeks ago?

Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

Since the industry is changing, actively, speculators are starting to see what the future of the industry is: trades. If writers are going to write towards the trades anyway, why doesn’t the floppy disappear and allow the readership to just read trades instead?

This would mean (for Marvel and DC) a quarterly (at most) release schedule on their most popular heroes. Sure, there would be some snags in this, like new heroes not being created and flopped stories being highlighted all the more because of less material, but there are too many people waiting to get the trades instead of the floppies anyway. Why not just make the plunge now?

I’ve got a better idea, though. Instead of “writing for the trade” or releasing just a trade paperback in a quarterly fashion, why not do an OGN version of the MCU?

Hear me out.

You put a creative team on Captain America and tell them to write a graphic novel about a particular adventure that Cap is going to have. They can include things that other creative teams are doing on their own assignments or they can just keep themselves self contained. Six months later you have a 200 page Captain America story that is better than what we would have gotten in six floppies or a trade.

Now, you have many teams working on many projects like this… Fantastic Four, Thor, Iron Man, Daredevil, etc… you have them use the same process I said for Captain America but you aren’t trying to eek out six months of floppies on each title and you’re allowing for complete stories to be told that are far more interesting.

Sure, Captain America might only come out once or twice a year, but the story that is in each OGN is far better than you would have gotten in floppies. Utilize an MCU approach by building up a decade worth of OGNs and you have a comic version of the Avengers in the MCU that would be just as epic. After a decade, or however long they decide to run their epic length OGN universe, they could just say “ok, this story has been told” and begin again with new titles, heroes, and a new epic length story.

Wouldn’t that be better?

DC could have a Superman OGN that tells a complete, updated origin for him which lead to a great OGN. Batman, Aquaman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, and the lot could each get theirs, building on the appearance of the “first hero” and have their own epic decade long tale. Just like my Marvel example, you could just tell everyone you’re done and restart when it’s time to do something different.

No more rebooting every couple years. No more retconning decades of history. No more wondering why technology isn’t helping the world even though the beneficial heroes could save lives by handing it out.

This OGN universe theory also solves another problem: constant relaunching titles.

Every third week there seems to be a long standing title (Superman, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, or Justice League) that ends it’s 25 or whatever issue run to be “relaunched with a new #1!” That’s BS and the companies know it.

Their reasoning for using this method of selling comics is that they want to bring in new readers, and apparently they think new readers only come in when there is a #1 issue. I’d like to argue that you lose more readers than you gain by relaunching every other year just to have a shiny new #1 on a cover.

The industry could be doing more to keep themselves working at an optimal level but they seem beholden to the old model. If I were in charge of the companies, I’d start looking at moving to the new model ASAP, because there may be a gap if they don’t get their ducks in a row soon.

And by “gap,” I mean something catastrophic for the sales departments of the companies.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 92: Building a Better Emerald Specter

Um… what?

This is a column I’m about to detail a whole bunch of things in and it’ll involve everything to do with EmeraldSpecter.com, the podcasts, the articles, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and the future. This is a roadmap to getting me from where I’m at to where I want to be, which will include what I’ve done in the past that worked that I’ve stopped doing.

Despite my sincerest desire, “winging it” with a lot of my content isn’t working as well as I’d hoped. There are spurts where I can do just that but I also have the opposite, which is long periods where nothing works. This leads me to look back at what has worked, which means looking back to LimeFlavored.com.

When I started Lime Flavored, I literally just needed a place to do things online that entertained me… and hopefully along the lines someone else would be entertained as well. That philosophy has definitely held up for the years and has become a pseudo-business model for what I’m doing with Emerald Specter. There was a point, though, where things needed to have a little more structure.

Fast forward a few years (from 2000 to about 2010), where the Lime Flavored Podcast jumped into the world. The show started as a place for me to talk about this and that, sort of like how the Specter Show has been, and then I started bringing on guests to talk to… several episodes then were mainly about the conversation between two people. This eventually led to me having regular cohosts for the show, with two dominating the show for lengthy runs, but died down when excuses from those cohosts began to take down the recording schedule. That’s when I initiated “the show format.”

Rather than beg guests to come on, or talk about the random this or that, I came up with a weekly rundown of segments that would be structuring the show into something more… structured. This version of the show was the most popular, got the most downloads, and fell to the wayside when trying to edit the video content for episode 50… the LAST episode.

Lesson learned, although not immediately.

During the run of LimeFlavored.com, as well as falling well into EmeraldSpecter.com, was the Greatest Show (originally known as the Greatest Show Online). This was me and my best friend Bob getting together to talk about whatever we wanted to, which ran like this for a long time, including my wife into the show as something for us to watch (she cooked while we talked and filmed the cooking), turning eventually into inviting a few more friends on to turn the show into a round table discussion of the more recent years. Special guests have been had and though most of the hosts aren’t on most of the time, those that show up when they can are welcome. Guests have also started to become a big part of what the future of the show is going to be…

Back in the early days of Emerald Specter, I had a multitude of columns. There was the generic “Emerald Specter” column, Gaming Specter, UFC Specter, Storytelling Specter, SpecterFit (also known as Fitness Specter), and those are just the ones I can name without looking up the others. Each of these were short, primarily to keep content flowing, but all eventually started dropping off here and there in favor of a more generalized column… that would be the current Journal of the Emerald Specter (which you’re reading issue 92 of right now).

I’ve added the Specter Show as a podcast as well, doing the “winging it” audio I was in the early days of the Lime Flavored Podcast, along side the Greatest Show (which takes longer breaks between episodes than I’d like but as long as it keeps going I’m good).

This is a lot of unstructured things happening at once, most of which interfere with my ability to progress on structured things like life, BuJoRPG/BuJourneyRPG, and producing more content that I’ve wanted to start producing.

So, I am going to make some changes to streamline, structure, and produce higher content.

Starting with what has become the flagship content provider of the site, the Journal of the Emerald Specter.

Each issue of the Journal will be presented with a unique “cover,” going along with the comic book feel of the site’s aesthetic. This will more than likely convert to a square cover instead of a more comic book traditional shaped cover, but this will be the first step.

Next comes the banner topic, the “geeky thing on my mind” in a smaller than current segment. This could be about anything I listed above but will be concentrated on that topic alone. I plan on planning out these topics in advance, too, allowing for the research that might need to be done when writing.

After that comes the first ever serial fiction I’ll be writing. I will be writing an installment of a serial fiction story with the intent of finally putting out my fiction that I’ve wanted to create for a long time. Including this into the column will allow me to remove the self imposed requirement of having the story completely written before hand and just get my ass writing again. I don’t know how long the installments will be, I’ll let that flesh itself out after a couple of columns.

That is followed by a sports commentary of some sort. I often want to write entire columns about sporting items and rather than dominate a column like I have with chess over the past two issues, I figure I can throw a tidbit into this in order to quench my thirst. Ideally, I’d be covering whatever sports are actively happening but I am not going to limit myself to just that. I’m hoping that continuous commentary on certain topics might one day pan out into a paying gig on another site.

Next comes bullet journalling updates. I am going to include an update EVERY SINGLE TIME and that means I better be making progress on things in the background. Play testing the BuJourneyRPG hasn’t started as of this writing but I’m on the edge of actually being able to do that, and that means I can definitely have content for this segment of the column.

Finally, there will be an RPG tidbit included in each column. This might be a story hook, a review on a new game, a story about a game that I participated in, or just a general discussion about merits of why a certain system works well. This won’t be as big as the main topic but I want to start doing something gaming related and that means writing is probably the best place to start.

That is just the Journal of the Emerald Specter, folks. Let’s look at the Specter Show next.

Just like the Journal covers, the Specter Show will also be getting custom covers for each episode. You might be wondering why I’m interested in doing this for both of these and it’s because I’m interested in putting out quality content, meaning that if everything is planned ahead of time I don’t have to scramble to accomplish anything.

The show will be led off by a geeky topic of discussion, I’m thinking that this might be the place where I talk about my love of TV and movies (reviews, reactions, etc), but I am not locking myself into anything specific. Media seems to be big on the podcast scene so that is definitely where I’d be looking towards for inspiration on this.

Also like the Journal, there will be an installment of a serial (not the same serial), read aloud of course… and this would probably be on the shorter side but with this being altogether different than the written stuff, I’m interested to see what kinds of wonderful pours out of my head in the near future on the serial fiction front.

Finally, the show will include a “what to watch for” segment. The reason for the media being in the beginning could relate to what I’m talking about in the “coming up” section. Movies, TV shows, comic books… all that I’ll be consuming in the near future.

I also had a plan for the Greatest Show, but I won’t be locking anything down on that front because I don’t want to shoehorn anyone else into following a strict rundown. Time will tell what form the show takes but what we’re doing seems to be working for now.

When will all this go down? I did have specific issue/episode numbers for when I’m rolling this out but I want to make sure all the back end stuff is done before I roll out everything. There will be a few graphical updates to the site, too, but they won’t be monumental in difference.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 91: FIDE and Chess

Yes, yes, I know… another chess column. But if you didn’t like chess, then why are you coming to this website?

Before I begin with the meat of this column, I should note that the things that interest me are the things I talk about. Those include, but are not limited to: chess, sumo, NFL, UFC, soccer, comic books, bullet journaling, RPGs, TV, storytelling, writing, NASCAR, podcasting, fitness, and movies. I try to keep from talking about one or two things too often but I honestly cover things when I think of them or something in the world happens that relates to them.

With that said, there is a chess story in the news I thought about and that leads me to talking about what I’m going to be talking about.

There is an election coming up for the president of FIDE (Fédération Internationale des Échecs), where the incumbent Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been in power since 1995. The election is not the first to attempt to unseat Ilyumzhinov from power but this is the first election to really have a shot at making that happen.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov has been plagued with corruption his entire run as president and has even been placed on a sanctions list by the US Treasury Department, meaning he can’t do any business with US dollars. Since that is the currency a lot of the world use (though by no means is it the strongest currency), he can’t actually open bank accounts (they’re frozen) for FIDE… which is a problem for an organization that needs funds in order to operate.

While we could be ending up with an alternative to Ilyumzhinov, we might end up with a thinly veiled new version of him because of the Russian Chess Federation.

One of the candidates running is Arkady Dvorkovich, who has now been officially recognized as the candidate for the RCF. I don’t know anything about this guy at all but from what I’ve heard, there may be other issues that prevent FIDE from being looked at as corrupt if Dvorkovich wins the bid.

So, what is the issue with FIDE?

FIDE has a serious image problem. They give official tournaments to places that ban certain players (like a not so long ago tournament) or allows shady happenings to occur with voting from the General Assembly (absentee voting, even when not absent, is an issue). There is also a perception (based on practices) that lead most players and interested parties to see FIDE as discouraging the very game they are charged to administer.

That last sentence is like the NFL actively working against the teams in American Football.

Dvorkovich is unlikely to make the sweeping changes necessary for chess to survive long into the future under FIDE’s control. There are two other candidates but worries about the General Assembly passing anything that doesn’t directly benefit those who are benefitting from the current system is a real concern.

So, how does one fix this dilemma? Simple: provide an alternative to FIDE.

As I see it, FIDE began with good intentions and somewhere along the line started falling out of that in favor of lining people’s pockets. FIDE should be a non-profit organization, or at the very least, be doing everything humanly possible to make chess the most popular game in the world.

FIDE needs to die and something better needs to be there to take its place.

Here’s how I would like to see things:

The formation of another chess governing body should form (for the purposes of this little thought experiment, let’s call it International Chess Association… or ICA) and immediately recognize the largest chess federations in the world. Right off the top of my head, that would include the All India Chess Federation, English Chess Federation, Russian Chess Federation, and US Chess Federation (there are more, but I’m not into just coming up with a large list). The ICA should also immediately recognize the World Chess Champion (who at the time of this article is Magnus Carlsen).

Sponsorship deals should be formed to fund the ICA. There are several options for what exactly sponsors could be paying for: ratings list, specific tournaments, website, federation naming (like the English Premier League for soccer is currently sponsored by Barclay’s, making it the Barclay’s Premier League), and merchandise. Let’s say that the ICA, now sponsored by Coca-Cola, becomes the Coca-Cola Chess Association, publishing a ratings list (using the URS method instead of Elo) will be sponsored by Tesla (the Tesla Top Players List, or the Tesla Ratings Report), and all of this can be found on the official ICA website (something like ICA.chess) sponsored by GoDaddy.

The ICA should also spell out how competition will work, ideally allowing for multiple ways to compete in the sport. I’m personally envisioning a couple of distinct means of competing but I’ll limit my ideas to just two: match play and tournament.

Let’s begin with tournament play.

The Grand Chess Tour is a series of tournaments set up to be chess’s version of tennis or golf, determining a “champion” by means of pivotally important tournaments. Rather than come up with an alternative, allow the GCT to continue with ICA support and get them to expand from five annual events to six (one every other month, ideally). Recognize the winner, give that winner a slot in the World Championship Cycle, and just generally encourage the GCT wherever possible.

Match play is a different animal.

Traditionally, chess (and more specifically, the World Chess Championship) has been about match play (two players getting together to play a series of games to determine an ultimate winner). At some point in the past, match play became less of “a thing” and gave way to tournament play. Sadly, tournament play is almost exclusively how chess players interact with one another.

This is where recognition of the World Champion comes heavily into play.

Set up a ladder system for the ICA, encouraging match play between players at different points on the ladder. The World Champion would be listed at the top, and then using ratings, determine a definitive ranking of players from 1 to 100. Rather than only defending the World Championship once every three years (see the 2018 cycle’s results), match play would encourage an annual championship defense… with every third year being a required player based on the outcome of the ICA’s World Championship Cycle.

An automatic qualifier for the Cycle would come from the GCT (as suggested above), the top two qualifiers from the Chess World Cup, the top two rated players on the ratings list (that are not otherwise qualified from the other categories), a nominated player by vote of the General Assembly of Federations (one vote per federation, no absentee voting, no giving your vote to anyone else to cast), a nominated player by vote of the top 100 players, and a fan voted nominee (utilizing a poll or some form of verifiable social media to prevent multiple votes being cast). These eight players would then compete in a double round robin tournament (no more than two games per day per player, preferably one game per day per player) to determine the “mandatory championship contender.”

Outside of this cycle, however, individual match play would be encouraged by the ICA to give a competitive feel to match play that hasn’t currently existed outside of the World Chess Championship match since the pre-1950s. Encouragement would come in the form of match prizes being funded by whichever sponsor wanted to jump on the specific “match card” for promotion (like the UFC has sponsors plastered all over the Octagon during fights).

This idea is the one that will meet the most resistance but I believe will draw the most attention from non-chess players (casual players or fans of competition that don’t necessarily include chess) because they can latch onto big names that provide “exciting competition.” Ask someone who five of the top 50 players are right now and only die hard chess fans would be able to come close to being correct.

There is one more competition variation that I did not consider… but now that I’ve gotten this far into the article, I want to include it. The PRO Chess League is team play, run and formed by IM Greg Shahade, and is another exciting version of chess. The ICA would formally recognize the PRO Chess League and work to aid in endorsing the promotion of team play.

Now that we’ve got some basics out of the way, there are some bullet points that also need to have the ICA declare for better chess:

  • No tournaments will be held in locations that will prevent all competitors from attending.
  • No tournaments will be held in locations that force local customs on the competitors.
  • Proven cheating will result in a 5 year ban from the ICA, meaning the player cannot enter any tournament where the ICA is providing the prize funds. They would also be removed from the ICA rating list for that time. A second offense results in permanently banning the player.

I believe that allowing for an alternative that promotes chess, doesn’t charge players for being listed on the ratings list, doesn’t charge member federations for belonging to the organization, and is generally trying to do things that would be working towards making chess more popular would have federations leaving FIDE in favor of this ICA idea.

Without getting into detail, the ICA would be able to put chess on TVs like poker has been, provide high quality documentaries, build chess academies for youth players (or maybe financially supporting already existing chess academies), provide a spotlight for chess play (both promoting match play events as well as tournament play events), and maybe even working to include other forms of competitive play (other than team, match, and tournament).

Corruption is bad. Perceived corruption is the same as corruption. Perception is reality. If someone perceives FIDE to be corrupt, it is corrupt. FIDE has to work on correcting that image and the only way to do that is to get rid of those who are in the spotlight of the perceived corruption.

None of the ideas expressed here would be without consulting some of the top players in chess. One thing that FIDE is famous for is ignoring the very members they are governing in favor of just doing whatever the hell they want. I’m honestly surprised that the top players in the world haven’t already formed their own federation and driven FIDE out of business.

Wilhelm Steinitz declared himself World Champion in the 1880s (utilizing a match with the next best player at the time to legitimize it) and there was no governing body back then. FIDE didn’t pop up until the 1920s, and wasn’t even a position of power to do anything until 1946. Why is a floundering and corrupt body being allowed to continue when FIDE isn’t even really completely necessary?

Before FIDE, players determined who would play for the World Championship based on the ability to raise funding. I don’t think we should go back to those days but FIDE isn’t running the show in a sustainable and uncorrupt way. A replacement is necessary unless FIDE can right the ship, which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

I just wanted to put this out there as a possible alternative.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 90: Chess Basho Roundup

Before I get into the nitty gritty, I’m going to be covering ALL of the Chess Basho stuff in this column. There will be a mini-history, a recap of the first two Chess Bashos (the unnumbered ones), and then I’ll cover Chess Basho III and IV (I’m hoping that by the time this posts that Chess Basho III will be over).

Let’s get to the good stuff.

I had an idea that I thought was worth exploring. That idea turned into combining the competition of sumo with the game of chess. Thus Chess Basho was born. The Emerald Specter Chess Club (the rules are here, and the running posts about what else is going on can be found here) was created on Chess.com to organize a regular series of tournaments to allow for people who will never be called “Grandmaster” or “International Master” to have a chance at earning other titles.

As of this post, only two others have joined the club to pursue this. It should be noted only members of the ESCC can hold the titles.

Chess Basho I, originally known as Emerald Specter Winter 2018 Basho, was the January 2018 event that introduced everyone to the system. Including myself, there were 12 players that jumped in to compete and much to my delight, there were more than a few strong players who entered the tournament. The results were as follows: WINNER Alexin2 (21), Nikbasketball12 (19.5),  Sim_zama (14), dukenukem123 (13), tom36adams (12), pantheon-67 (11), AlCzervik (11), ANTE1990 (11), OlegMalikov1965 (9.5), mancroft (5), EmeraldSpecter (5), and bespaly (0). The top four were initially made Sapphire Adepts but haven’t returned to competition.

Chess Basho II, originally know as Emerald Specter 2018 March Basho, was the March 2018 event that saw no one return but competition was just as fierce. No Adept titles were granted from this as there was some interest to return from the original group but I’d opened the tournament up to the world and it filled too fast. The results were as follows: WINNER ArturFaust (21), homozzapien (20.5), anujvaniya78692 (15.5), biraandrada (14), King_of_Not (13), ardirahendro (13), Aurel1954 (12.5), Fredl1963 (9), EmeraldSpecter (7), PietroSalem (4), sarotaromchuen (0), and vedantachess07 who withdrew.

Having communicated with the original group and the second group, almost no one wanted to return for a regular cycle of events. Their interest was primarily in a tournament that was quick (1 move per day) and they weren’t interested in what I was trying to accomplish… which is completely fine. It was learning this that I instituted the requirement to be a member of the Emerald Specter Chess Club to be promotable, getting automatically invited, and getting notified when new tournaments opened up. Two players joined, only one of which had previously competed: King_Of_Not.

Chess Basho III, fully known as Chess Basho III: May 2018, saw a full roster of players jump in to compete, including the three members of the ESCC (I am, of course, a member). As of this writing, only two players have the chance to win the whole thing: syibil (currently at 19 points with one game to complete) and FlashyFerrari (currently at 16.5 points with four games to complete). King_Of_Not will be promoted to Sapphire Adept for achieving 11.5 points, while both Mmuse and EmeraldSpecter (myself) failed to achieve the 11 point requirement. King_Of_Not is the first person to actually have a shot at being the first Ruby Adept after the next tournament.

As Chess Basho III stands, I have a chance at increasing my points to 7.5 if I can win my final game, which will again be higher than my previous finish. I’ve noticed that my games are all over the place with how I’m performing (I beat some higher rated opponents but lose to much lower rated opponents just as often). I am going to compete in the Chess Basho system until at least the end of 2018, if I fail to achieve an Adept title by that point, I’ll likely step aside to allow 12 other players to compete without the founder in the way.

Since July is fast approaching, I announced the Chess Basho IV event with a pretty new banner and a start date of July 8, 2018:Both King_Of_Not and I have joined already and I’ll be opening up the signups to everyone on July 1 or the end of Chess Basho III, which ever occurs first.

Hopefully everything keeps going super smooth for a long time, though I’m also hoping for membership to start picking up.

I am going to be devising a means of advertising the ESCC more broadly. I feel that there is a lack of exposure that is hindering the club and the goal of the club, which means I just need to get the thing out there and up front.

I’m also interested in creating a match play league, which wouldn’t rely so heavily on membership but could definitely drum up at least a little interest if done right. The details are still in the air a bit, but if you’re struggling to think of an analogue for match play, consider thinking about the UFC. One vs one. There would be an altered point system to encourage fighting to the end (i.e. no draws) and I’m interested in building mini-events around them.

Let’s get the Chess Basho system working fully, though.

148: Eddy Webb is an RPG Mecca

Eddy Webb joins DJ, Tricia, and Metal Jesus as they discuss a wide range of geeky topics, including things like Pugmire, Monarchies of Mau, Fetch Quest, Onyx Path Publishing, living overseas, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, and more!

DJ can be reached at EmeraldSpecter.com, @EmeraldSpecter on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com.

Tricia can be reached at MadeByTricia.com, @MadeByTricia on Twitter and Instagram. You can also email madebytriciapdx@gmail.com.

Metal Jesus can be reached through astral projection and smoke signals.

Eddy Webb is EddyFate on literally everywhere… so you can find him on any social media by searching for EddyFate… no, really.

The Greatest Show 148: Eddy Webb is an RPG Mecca

In an Emerald Specter first, I’m posting the YouTube link to episode 148 of the show. Attempting to present the channel as a “go to” as much as this website, the Greatest Show has a few episodes on Channel 1, and the entire back catalog on Channel 2.

Eddy Webb joins DJ, Tricia, and Metal Jesus in talking about RPGs, Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Who, conventions, and living in Ireland… among other things! Enjoy episode 148 here!

Journal of the Emerald Specter 89: The Rook Disaster

Wait, another Journal entry so soon? I told you I was going to be writing a few entries while I looked for time to record the Specter Show.

Content is king. This content is another “tale from the past” that was about something other than eWrestling… this one is about SIMming.

A SIM, for the uninitiated, is a simulation. I’ve tagged Obsidian Fleet more than once, but that is really what SIMming is (and has turned into) and I can summarize it as a “collaborative writing effort to tell a story guided by the Captain.”

My first SIM was the USS Sovereign, based on the Enterprise E from Star Trek: Insurrection. I played the role of a medical officer (Allison Blair) and added a little twist of having a witchcraft heritage in her family. I was slowly expanding that story until a change in command (a new, or rather returning, story leader came in… someone I’d never met) shifted how the SIM ran to the point I wasn’t really enjoying myself. I was also told to nix the witchcraft and I did by deciding to leave.

I found a couple of other SIMs, learned the ropes of how to really do things both as a player and even as a storyteller. That’s when I started in on being a captain of my own ship.

This isn’t about that first ship. It’s not even about the second ship. It’s about the third ship, the USS Rook (a ship that was created at my request, though I hadn’t realized I made a request at the time).

I’ve run my fair share of roleplaying games throughout the years. I was good enough to run Werewolf: The Apocalypse without the books, I’ve run lots of Vampire: The Masquerade AND Vampire: The Requiem games, and my old favorite of Wraith: The Oblivion got some play as I ran some games, too. All that table top RPG experience led me to believe that some of my techniques in RPGs would work well in SIMming.

When Obsidian Fleet has a new captain, they run them through a sort of boot camp to teach them the ins and outs of how to run a SIM. I had been through their boot camp and since I was returning, I got to go through the refresher version for the Rook. Once you finish the prep work, you run an “episode 0” as a sort of a “take the ship out to test it” game so that all the players can get used to the ship. Once I got through with that, the “fun” began.

Each and every player had written up a background for their characters, as they are supposed to, and I noticed a pattern when I was reading through them. Almost every single character had a person in their backstory with a past that was either shady, undeveloped, or otherwise attached to some sort of crime. While we were still in episode 0, I began heavy duty development of episode 1.

The story was ingenious. I patted myself on the back so hard and I thought that there would be record posts recorded on the Rook because of how deeply I’d developed this single story!

I took every single one of my characters from old SIMs and introduced them, coyly, into the Rook roster. Each one of them was introduced into their different departments as “advisors” without a rank. I’d had a variety of characters in different departments (because I wanted to play different roles through the years) and them all coming on the ship at once was to invest the players in their presence.

How? Well, I purposely held everyone’s rank to Lieutenant JG or lower, except for the XO. The mission that this advisor crew were brought on for was to investigate a ship that was lost in the line of duty. While we traveled there, though, that was where things were going to really take root for the actual mission (the lost ship was going to be episode 2).

The advisor crew were tipped off by a father/uncle/cousin figure from the crew’s past, who was working with others of similarly shady repute from other species than human, to the presence of a roboticist who was wanted by the Federation for (banned) eugenics experimentation to create an alternative to the Borg threat (basically creating an anti-Borg). The “advisors” were brought on because only the newly commissioned Rook had the technological advancements available to help this sinister roboticist complete the final stages of the first anti-Borg, which meant they were going to mutiny and take the ship straight there.

When the transmissions from a ship shadowing the Rook were detected by the crew, it was revealed that this father/uncle/cousin figure, along with his cohorts of other species, were involved in a nefarious plot (as was suspected by their histories). The mutiny was initiated and the movement towards getting everyone super invested into the story I’d weaved was underway! The posts were destined to start flooding in!

Posting dropped by more than 50%.

I was so confused. As a captain should, I put out a plea that we needed to keep active and get the posting up… and I had several players transfer off the ship without any notice. Posting continued to diminish and some people just flaked (which means they didn’t respond, didn’t post, and just generally stopped playing without notice).

My Task Group CO, the person I reported to as the captain, contacted me and told me that there were some complaints that I’d overstepped a little. Overstepped? I was told that I had messed with some backgrounds that players were upset over, and rather than them coming to me about what I’d tried to do.

Episode one was dead. A whitewash story was made up over the story that had been used as a reason the Rook had been brought back to dry dock. I’d contacted the TFCO and let them know I was stepping down as the captain, and someone else stepped in to keep the ship from disappearing completely.

I was completely blindsided. Absolutely none of the players who complained said anything to me. None of them bothered to mention that they had plans for anything, none of them seemed to think to say something to me about this plan I thought was magnificent… I could have recovered from someone giving me direct feedback, but I didn’t get any.

A tactic I use as a GM in a table top RPG is to take the character’s backstories and weave them into the story. I thought that by using everyone’s backstory in the SIM I’d get everyone interested in the SIM and want to move forward as one of the highest posting SIMs in the fleet. Instead, I was crapped on and left out in the cold.

I don’t actually know what the true issue was. I know that I haven’t SIMmed since on a Star Trek based SIM and I haven’t done anything more than lurk on the Obsidian Fleet site.

Just like the last story, my memory may not be as solid as I thought. Memoir over biography.

I don’t run great ideas by the people who would experience those things. That would be akin to an author running their story idea by you, their reader, before writing the book. Things like that don’t work. What’s the point of playing a game where you already know what’s going to happen?

Someone will refute my claims above. Honestly, it probably wasn’t as dramatic as I made it out to be… but it wasn’t that far off, either.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 88: The Rise and Fall of the DWO

In an effort to keep content flowing with some updates now and then, I am going to be writing a few Journals to have that information flowing out regularly. This means that I am going to be covering some topics that don’t require timeliness, so here’s the first one that is me recounting “the good old days.”

I’m old.

Who knew I was going to utilize this banner again?

In order to talk about the title of this Journal entry, you need to understand a meager amount of history. The history is in the “eWrestling” era and before that era really began.

Way back in the 80s, professional wrestling was a big deal. Simulating that among friends without intense amounts of work was also a big deal. That spawned the Allied Wrestling Federation (AWF), which we had loads of fun with for about a year… then it died and we moved on. That led me to create another federation, less collaboratively run, and more me acting as the owner and others entering in their characters. That was the Further Wrestling Federation (FWF, and Further is the parent company I created to control things).

The FWF lasted for almost five years, with people drifting in and out of interest and a wide array of characters coming and going. That allowed for awesome story arcs and a hoot and a half. When it went away, I was sad, but I had also moved past doing most of the work.

When I joined the Navy, a fellow wrestling fan introduced me to “wrestling by mail,” essentially the same thing I did with FWF but via the Post Office. I did participate, but man alive was it slow. Participation lasted all of six months before I stopped playing because it was just too slow for my taste.

After the Navy, and during the rise of the Internet, I was introduced to “play by email” wrestling, or eWrestling… the early days, at least. I was in and out of a few federations before I decided that no one was doing it right, so I gathered some work friends together (all wrestling fans) and created another federation for us… thus the Dark Wrestling Organization (DWO) was born.

The DWO started in August of 1998 with only six handlers, those are the actual humans who control the characters, controlling six characters. Those six characters turned into 12, which also enticed several other coworkers into joining, and things got big from there… when I opened the DWO up to the Internet.

Originally, the DWO was a collaborative effort to get characters doing interesting things and have interesting storylines. One of the Internet players showed me the types of federations he was used to participating in and I decided to move a little bit in that direction.

The standard means of the Internet eFederations of the time was to create a post about your character, known as a “role play” or RP, and judge the two character’s RPs against each other and that’s how winners were decided. Unlike real pro wrestling, the storylines are determined less by interesting things the two players would do and became more about who could write some epic craziness more than their opponent. Thus, the better writers rose to the top while the rest lingered in the middle or eventually got better over time.

Not the way I really enjoy running the show. My preferred choice is known now as an “angle fed,” which means that the two players come up with their story arc, play it out collaboratively, and then move on to bigger and better opponents. Angle feds don’t allow the snappy one liners to flow out and players can’t openly insult each other, so it’s not really that popular. Imagine that.

The DWO attracted a whole new crowd once I introduced the RP element. Almost the entirety of the fed’s roster turned over as the coworkers slowly went away and the Internet players came out in droves. There were so many players at one point that there was serious talk of breaking the fed into two so that spotlights weren’t being hogged by the same few people at the top.

As more people came and went, more and more RP elements were pushed in while there were less and less of the angle elements. When the RP took completely over, I ended up announcing I wanted to “retire” from running the DWO… but didn’t want the fed to just end, so I turned control over to a pair of Australian friends who wanted to take the fed to new heights. I moved all my characters to a new, and smaller, federation that was more akin to the FWF and played there.

About two months after I openly left the DWO in the hands of others I received an email asking if I’d be willing to come back. When I was poking around the forums and the website, I uncovered a mass exodus about six weeks after I left because the rules had been shifted slightly to be a little more structured… and players didn’t like that.

I discussed the situation with the two guys, who miraculously turned into just a single guy because his buddy also left, and came to the conclusion that I had actually missed the DWO. We plotted out a “big comeback” and talked about what needed to happen in order to facilitate moving the rules less what they’d become and more what they needed to be in order to attract new players (or get the old ones back).

When I burst back into the DWO, without any formal announcements, things turned around almost immediately. Old handlers started coming back and re-apply for entry back into the DWO. Players were interested in restructuring the RP element back to what it was… which is where the beginning of the end really started.

The plan wasn’t just to return things to the way they were just before I left, but to return them to almost the point where RP was barely a factor again… when I had first introduced it. This was met with mixed results.

There was a big boom in player activity, storylines were running all over the place, and there was a level of excitement to the point where several of the other feds who experienced an uptick in activity started closing down because everyone left.

Those who were killer RP writers were having a field day early in the revival but started realizing their skills weren’t going to be in there for the long term. The players who were good storyline creators started seeing that their chance in the spotlight was on the rise and that the tide was about to change. The influx of returns and new players lasted about two months before the RP hardcore group started filtering out.

My Australian co-owner (because I never really took full control away from him) decided he wasn’t happy with the RP elements being phased out so fully. I actually discovered in the months after the DWO died that he was being talked to by the RP hardcores and was being influenced to start his own fed to bring the RP back to the forefront… to each their own. When he left, though, the fed did shrink to critical mass.

The legend of the DWO was far larger than the DWO actually was. My tag line had always been “once you’ve been in the DWO, no other fed is as good.” People ate that up and I used that in the declining months to bolster the storylines back to where interesting things were happening and the solidification of the DWO came down to a core group of about eleven people (including myself).

In the final 30 days of the DWO, we were finishing up some of the biggest storylines we’d ever run and players were having a blast… or so I thought. Three of the eleven were “humoring me” until I “realized” that RP was vital to survival. They left when they realized that wasn’t going to happen. Two of the remaining eight were lured to the “hanger on” fed that didn’t dry up when their mass exodus of former DWO players left, and thus began rebuilding. When three of the remaining six of us decided they wanted someplace with more activity and were worried about leaving me “high and dry.” I held an impromptu meeting with everyone and we decided, mutually, to dissolve the DWO officially in May 1999.

Yes, the fed only lasted a short time but is still remembered as one of the better eFeds on the Internet by those who participated in it. When the DWO ended, I’d started up a new fed with the intent of bringing in an amalgamation of RP and angle… it lasted only four months and it was because someone posted an RP after I’d already written up and posted the results, decided I’d done that out of spite for the RP he’d posted.

People took sides, things were said, and the fed died at the end of that week. Completely dead.

All in all, the DWO was fun and if I had the free time I did way back in the day, I might even be interested in running another fed. I don’t have that free time, though, and I haven’t watched professional wrestling in some time (years).

This was a little trip down memory lane, something to put out content without needing to do tons of research. I’m also happy that I can retell something that I haven’t talked about in a long time.

Those who were part of the DWO may not remember the whole story. Some of them might say that things didn’t last as long or things didn’t go the way I said they did. Maybe things didn’t go exactly that way, but since I lived it that’s the way I remember it.

Memoir may be more fun than biography anyway.