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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.

Another Update…

Yeah… this seems like all I’ve been doing lately.

My much awaited day off to catch up on all my stuff has turned into helping my wife’s business catch back up again. The pain of success… which is good, because if we can turn that thing into a heavy duty money earner and I can stay home all the time, then I’m a happy camper.

I will be writing some Journal entries to release periodically (as I can write a bunch of them in a short period of time) and I’ll be attempting to see what a podcast as recorded by my phone sounds like in the near future… so I can record without needing to be in the studio or have my proper mic to use.

Hang in there… I’m really working hard to get things in a row…

Popping In With An Update

I didn’t have a chance to record a Specter Show again, nor have I written a Journal entry… but I have managed to score a potential Eddy Webb guest spot for the Greatest Show for June 23!

On Wednesday this week I am going to finish up my own bullet journal for play testing of the BuJourneyRPG system. That means it will begin (play testing) and that also means that the release isn’t far off.

I also plan on recording a Specter Show, writing at least one Journal entry (planning on two), and finalizing some potential products for sale in the bullet journal corner of this little universe.

Stay tuned!

Hello Spooklings!

You’re probably wondering where the podcast is this week. It didn’t get recorded.

I’ve been working on BuJourneyRPG… and recently learned about digital planners, so I’ve been tinkering with those specifically with the intent of integrating that into BuJourneyRPG and BuJoRPG. That isn’t all, but I can’t give any more about the bujo stuff right now.

Also, I’ve had to shift my focus a little to help my wife with two gigantic orders that came in… and since I am the fastest producer of the treats (I sit and cut, while my wife gets to do the other stuff) I am the one who is best suited to crank out the product.

All of that to say there won’t be a podcast this week, nor will there be a Journal entry. I am trying to get a little ahead again so I can go full force into the creative process again to actually get something release ready.

Sorry for the delay.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 87: Fixing Chess

The title is really a misnomer, sort of… I really mean “how to fix chess to be closer to a spectator sport than it currently is” and you can already see that title is too long. So, I shortened it.

I’ve got a story to tell, it’ll be less about just that sixth grade chess club (though that will definitely be included) and be more rounded to my entire chess experience. Come take a walk down memory lane as I lead up to the meaty part of the column.

I learned to play chess in the sixth grade and was part of, for lack of a better term, a chess club that ran itself like the WWE of the 80s. I call this the 6CC (Sixth Grade Chess Club). We had a World Championship for the top tier, an Intercontinental Championship for the second tier, and we had ourselves a really good time. Some of us got better as time went on and some of us didn’t.

I was a someone who got better.

Without getting into the minutia of how everything went down, I personally ended up as the club’s final World Champion before the end of the year. I took that championship into the “next wave” of the club, which was smaller and operated slightly different, but held on to the excitement we had all experienced. The new club went forward with everyone on the same level, and those who weren’t quite up to snuff for a championship run were helped to get better so they could have their own runs as champions.

We were an all inclusive and collaborative bunch.

The next wave club lasted twice as long as the first one but still suffered a pseudo-death. I wasn’t the one to end up with the championship for this transition but the guy who did wouldn’t last long into the newest club before I was once again the champion.

This newest club, which I’ll call the last club, was really composed of a hard core group from the first and second groups (because a few from each group joined) and we ran closer to what an actual chess club with a champion would run like… we had a couple of tournaments, we had some championships among the best few players good enough to hold it (I was one of them), and we ended when all but one player (yup, me) left the group.

Instead of thinking that no one was interested, you should be aware that the others left school (all of these clubs were based in my small home town) and some moved to different towns to go to different schools.

My final year of high school, I helped form the World Chess Organization (WCO), and the WCO decided that there would be a two player match for the WCO World Championship. I won’t embarrass the runner up with publicizing his name, but I won a “best of 13” by winning all 7 games.

I won the WCO World Championship on April 24, 1994 and defended it almost 10 ten times in three countries (Puerto Rico, Japan, and the United States) with contenders from over five nationalities (Greece, England, Philippines, Mexico, and Canada). The reign was not unbroken, I did lose the championship to the Filipino (and regained it). Except for three months, I was the WCO World Champion from April 24, 1994 until July 24, 2004… when I retired the championship and ended the WCO.

Now, I’d love to continue the WCO but I’m not a 2800 rated player. I’m not even a 2000 rated player. I have, though, been trying to figure out how to recapture that exciting feeling when I was back in that first chess club.

There have been many attempts to exactly recreate the chess club but each and every attempt has failed. Some times the failure was due to a misunderstanding about what the “club” was about, sometimes there was a lack of participation, and there have also been disruptors that basically sought to undermine the entire effort because they didn’t believe in it. (To that last point, why did they bother joining? I cannot answer that.

There have been a few different variations of the club attempt: straight up WWE style (again), something more akin to how boxing operates, a tournament series (akin to NASCAR), and some other options too numerous to list.

Then I made a connection with something I love that seems to have taken hold.

Merging sumo and chess, putting a time control on this that puts a little pressure on the participants, seems to have made an impact. The Emerald Specter Chess Club on Chess.com hasn’t gotten a full roster of players yet, but we’re only three events in and things are working.

The time control is a 1 day per move and if I had the time, I believe running an even shorter time control for a single day 12 times a year would probably get more steady attention.

The concept is to give an interesting competition for players who may never have a chance at a Master, International Master, or Grandmaster title in their lives. I’d like to see this go through as a bigger “organization,” modeled to have our own versions of Yokozunas (Diamond Adepts) headlining and hopefully eventually going on to do something more than they thought possible.

I’ve been evaluating what I’ve done so far and seeing what else might be able to be done with this format. Would it be popular enough to get a sponsor and maybe some modest prize money for the winners? Ideally, that would be great and then transitioning into more of a known entity… like the PRO Chess League.

The PRO Chess League took rapid chess and put a team play spin on it. Basically, this is the NFL of chess.

This doesn’t necessarily make chess a spectator sport. So, isn’t that what I told you I was going to talk about? Yes, and I needed all that to start talking about it now.

Every one of the clubs I was a part of in school had an audience for the chess matches. Every time I defended the WCO World Championship there was an audience for the chess matches. Every game played in the Chess Basho system in the ESCC has an audience for the matches.

Do you know who the audience was for each and every one of those? Chess players.

You’re probably thinking to yourself “of course, who else would be interested?”

THAT’S THE POINT.

I have been evaluating what I have been trying to do and how to make that fit into the vision of what I ultimately have been working towards.

The biggest obstacle is figuring out how to get the average joe interested in watching chess. I do not have the answer to this question and I know that is an unsatisfying ending to this column but I have learned something from all of this: if you want to build something for the masses, you need to start building for the players first.

Chess PLAYERS want some expert analysis while events are going on. Spectators that aren’t well versed in chess may not understand the analysis and are more just looking for a “what’s happening” type recap.

What else would the common person want from chess? This is what stumps me.

Part of the problem is over saturation. Magnus Carlsen, current World Champion, playing Fabiano Caruana, current next contender for the championship, isn’t big news in and of itself. Why? They’ve both played each other, I’m guessing, over a hundred times. Where’s the excitement in that?

Every active player in the top 100 of FIDE is similar. You have played everyone you’re ranked with at several tournaments already, you’ll probably play them a couple of hundred more times before your stint in the top 100 is done, and the only thing that matters is “how did that particular day go?”

The other killer for chess as a spectator sport is the time control. There is no reason to play a single game for 8 hours. Not a single reason. The PRO Chess League went with a much shorter time control and it makes the games more exciting because you know you aren’t going to be sitting around for 6 more hours waiting for a result.

Fixing these things is exactly as easy and changing the situation to elicit the results that you want. Sounds simple, right?

Do you want shorter chess games with vastly more activity? Make the time controls 15 minutes or shorter.

Do you want less drawn games? Score wins much larger than draws, maybe even going so far as to reward losses more than draws to cut them down.

Do you want to see games less frequently between the same people to make their meeting far more anticipated? That is something that would need to be figured out…

I made lots of references to the WWE style organization we used for the 6CC. When people hear or read “WWE” all they can think about is predetermined results and chair shots. There are two better references that can be made this two decades later that would be better analogies: UFC and poker.

I’ll start with poker.

Professional poker is a series of tournaments leading to a final tournament to determine the winner of the year. It’s kind of like NASCAR in the respect you have to win your way to the end, then win again at the end. The problem with poker is that you have multiple organizations claiming dominance and running their own tournaments irregardless of what the others are doing. ESPN shows the World Series of Poker, which some regard as THE championship, while Travel Channel as the World Poker Tour, which I believe is presented far more interestingly than what ESPN does. Personal preference, really.

If you’re interested in keeping the format a series of tournaments and running through to crown an ultimate winner at the end, this is definitely the scenario for you. In fact, don’t even limit the field of competitors… start the cycle out a hundred “qualification” tournaments all over the world, open to anyone. If you qualify from those, you get to then enter the next level and try to keep going from there. The field gets smaller and smaller as the year progresses until you reach a final tournament at the end to crown your champion. The later stages of the cycle are also where you’ll see the top players hang out as they’re really good at chess.

You could also use a point system to allow for advancement. Wins could be 5 points, losses could be 2 points, and draws could be 1 point. This encourages the players to actually play to win because right now “draw” is the word that you hear most often in results. The top 1024 point earners from the qualification rounds to advance into the heat of the competitions? Use the points.

Now, let’s talk about the UFC.

The UFC signs players to contracts, the best of the best in the world, to offer them a series of fights that heightens the excitement of the company as well as enriches the status of the fighters. Due to the fact that this is a combat sport, scarcity is a necessity… but the UFC doesn’t limit those who want to be really active and are healthy (see Donald Cerrone). They have multiple divisions for fighters to compete in based on their weight and they promoted the bejesus out of events to make sure they draw in the crowds.

Personally, I love the UFC and the way they do things. They get fighters scheduled to fight and let them smack talk each other the whole process, leading to the eventual fight to resolve the matter. WWE used to do this type of thing but their model is vastly different now.

This model, like the 6CC, would rely on some scarcity. In this scenario, ratings don’t matter… in fact, don’t even publicize the ratings of any of the players that sign on to this scenario. Group players in different categories so that super strong players aren’t taking on less competitive players. Behind the scenes, use the ratings to group them up… maybe in 200-300 rating point increments. Ideally, you’d allow for a little overlap per “division” so that someone who is getting better can opt up rather than be stuck in a division because they can’t find the competition to help them excel.

Yes, I’m saying keep ratings behind the scenes but don’t let the public know them. If John Doe is rated 1753 and Bill Fold is rated 1562, the potential spectators would know that Bill Fold’s chances are very low. If Art Work is the Gold Division Champion and his opponent, Jim Shoe, has played his way through some exciting games for a shot at the title, this is a scenario that would garner more interest because you aren’t focusing on the number. Sure, Art Work could be 1612 and Jim Shoe could be 1599… that could even be a selling point under normal circumstances, but keeping those numbers unpublicized makes the potential much greater (and if the players don’t know the exact strengths of their opponents, that eliminates them mentally beating themselves if their rating is lower).

Arrange matches (two game matches, one with white and one with black) to determine winners and losers. Use the point system from the poker example to keep draws almost non-existent (or use points per winning with white and black pieces specifically, same thing with draws… that would also be a winning combination to keep the draw counts down and allow for players to play for the win). Get players to “sign” for the organization to compete in so many matches, like the UFC, so that if the player wants to go on and do something else (or more traditional), they aren’t locked in for an indeterminate amount of time (but do have to participate a minimum number of games).

Hype the matches. Have the players do some smack talking about their opponents right up until the match. Even UFC fighters hug after the fight, showing their opponent respect. Chess players can do that, too. Really drive up the potential value of a, let’s say, blitz match between two championship contenders. Yes, they’d be ranked, which is another way to get them interested in smack talking and competing for ranking. The ranking and opponent’s rank could determine the prize fund (a #1 vs an unranked player might draw $100, whereas a #4 vs #7 would draw $300 because ranked players playing would be more interesting).

There is something I haven’t said in this column that would affect almost all of these ideas. Ratings are that subject.

Nothing I’ve talked about up to this point involves anyone rated higher than 2200. I’d even go so far as to say that you’re probably looking at a rating cap of 1800. The reasons for that may not be entirely obvious but they’re completely valid.

A player with a 2200 rating has a more “traditional” view of chess and would be less interested in the showmanship of what I’ve talked about. Players with 1800 ratings and up are more interested in studying games, figuring out how to improve their games, and are interested in competing for traditional prizes in traditional tournaments against other traditionally minded players.

On the lower end, players rated 1000 to 1300 seem to be more open to some shenanigans during their play. I have a regular game against a 1300-ish player that results in some fun back and forth while we play. We haven’t gone overboard with straight up smack talk but the potential is there. I’m also under the belief that players in the 1400 and 1500 range might also be willing to participate, as they’re in that “I’m not good enough for top ranked play but I’m better than casual games.”

The reason for the rating limit is to encourage those who aren’t really in any danger of winning any prizes to participate in something that will draw some attention to the game for someone who doesn’t necessarily play. I’m willing to lay money down on the bet that if you have an event (a single player v single player match, or maybe a couple of those) played at a faster time control with a whole bunch of smack talk leading up the actual games, on top of the event being promoted like a UFC fight, that you’d get non-chess players at least moderately interested. This draws attention to the game, allows players who are interested in doing something a little more on the “fun” side of the game to participate, and gives those interested in learning chess a platform to jump onto that isn’t a traditional “stuffy chess scene.”

I believe these ideas have merit. I believe that with the right group of people that a successful organization could rise up to bring chess to a wider audience. I believe that if some effort was put into these ideas that, if nothing else, could be a way for lower rated players to feel like their accomplishing something great, even though they may never reach a 2000 rating.

Isn’t that worth giving a shot?

055: Even Deeper

Bullet journaling takes the forefront, with notes about what I’m doing with my own bullet journal… as well as a little bit about Westworld, mysteries, and a potential website redesign.

Host: DJ Allen
Intro Music: The Idea of You by Nine Inch Nails (from Not the Actual Events)
Outtro Music: The Perfect Drug by Nine Inch Nails
Intro Lead in: Dirk Manning

Contact:
Website: www.EmeraldSpecter.com
Email: EmeraldSpecter.com@Gmail.com
Twitter: @EmeraldSpecter
Instagram: @EmeraldSpecter

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Journal of the Emerald Specter 86: Friendship

I’m sure you’re wondering about the title. Well, the whole point of a title is to draw you in a bit, and unlike my normal columns, I’m going to do some dwelling on things that aren’t necessarily “fun, lighthearted,” or site related.

I’ve gone through life knowing a certain kind of person. There have been plenty who haven’t fit that mold, so I’ll start with the good before I hit the bad.

In high school, I was best friends with two others that made getting through life bearable. When I was in the Navy, I had a group that would also fit that mold… actually, lots of buddies for all kinds of occasions. Since that point, though, I’ve really only been able to rely on one super friend for all things: my wife.

Here’s where we go with WHY.

I’ve known a plethora of people who would use the word “friend” to describe their interactions with me but I can’t really reciprocate that word in the same way. The reason for that is because what they call friend is more accurately called an acquaintance.

Here’s a little bit of a “normal” interaction. Forgive the dramatics, I’m sort of merging a bunch of first hand experiences into one so that I don’t single out anyone who might be reading this.

“Hey, Joe Q. Public, I’m having a get together at my house on Friday and we’ll have ourselves some drinks and we can watch some quirky movie,” I say.

“That sounds good,” said Joe Q. Public, “But I’m waiting to hear from John Doe about going to Far Town. I’m also thinking about going to Nearsville on Friday with Ron Random.”

So… what you witnessed there is the “friend” of Joe Q. Public literally told me (paraphrased): “I’ll be happy to show up if absolutely nothing else comes up that interests me in the slightest.” I have run into this response many, many, many times. People who claim to be a friend but would rather do anything else than hang out with me.

Now, before you say something like “these people have lives, too,” I want to let you know that these same people expect to be able to show up on my doorstep unannounced, wishing to have me literally drop everything to do something on a whim.

Why should I drop things and take off on a whim? I have a life and I have things that need to be done. I also have a desire to do things on MY schedule once in a while and never getting that reciprocated at least occasionally and that almost never happened. In some cases, it never happened.

I was listening to a podcast today that brought this type of thing up, people who want to hang out with you but never actually do that on your schedule. They want you to adapt. They want you to do all the work. They want you to be irresponsible and just not do things to hang out. Those people are also interested in mainly entertaining themselves and in the above example, those people really aren’t interested in hanging out with you… they’re interested in you because you’re 37th on their list and you’re the first one to answer “yes.”

These people bother me. They bother me to the point that I have to actually relate to you a story about a specific person and how that friendship ended.

The age difference between myself and this other person wasn’t so drastic as to be unable to understand each other’s point of view. I’ll call this other person, for the sake of ease, Ray. Ray and I met before I married my current wife. We hung out occasionally, mostly in the company of others, but came to understand that our own aspirations were lofty and were mostly pointed in the same direction.

Ray had his own best friend, Mike, and they hung out a ton. Mike’s aspirations also fit ours, loosely, but Mike’s seemed to be more oriented towards moving away from others. The pairing of Ray and I seemed to be merging more as Mike wasn’t around as often. Then came the offerings of hanging out and that’s when things started to skew in the direction I gave in the example above.

I would call and try to arrange some hangouts and Ray did come periodically. Then things slowly started working away from the automatic yes and less hanging out was done on my terms. I tried to hang out on his terms as often as possible but as time went on, I got less amiable to working outside of my comfort zone.

My wife and I used to have an annual Super Bowl party where we’d invite a butt ton of people over to eat and watch the game (or commercials). The party started out large and as the years went on, people started making excuses for not showing up. Hell, some people didn’t even make an excuse, they said they’d show up and just wouldn’t. This type of thing is a good example of what I’d been dealing with.

I invited Ray to some sort of party, I don’t remember the details. It was likely an outing or a New Year’s Eve thing… something that would have been just hanging out and drinking like the old days. The response that I was given boiled down to “if nothing else comes up, sure.”

If nothing else comes up. Not like the example above because I was told yes… “except.” Then it was “except if this” and then “except if that” and finally “except of this other thing.” In the end, there was no plan made because I’m not going to base my plans off of a “only if I have nothing else going on” answer.

I picked on Ray because it’s the best example of what I have to detail my dislike.

I understand that people have their own lives but this isn’t having their own lives, this is claiming to be one thing and ending up being just a “in case I get bored, can I count on you?” No, no you can’t.

If you want to be a friend, friendship is a give and take. Friendship is a “I’ll help you move because someday I will need help moving.” Friendship is hanging out both when its convenient for you and when it’s convenient for the friend.

I hope other people read this, identify their own similar “friends,” and kick them to the curb because that isn’t what you need in life. I’ve got better things to do than work twice as hard at a friendship as the friend the friendship is with.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 85: Projects, Projects, Projects

There has been a question about what the hell is all the stuff I’m working on in the background and how much time is actually being put into each of these projects. I have a hierarchy of what needs to be done before other things that come on board and I decided to write a little bit about everything I’ve been working on, have previously worked on that is still being considered, what projects have been added as future fillers, and what this all means for all the talking about doing things and seemingly not doing things that I’ve done on this site.

THE top of the pile, THE main project, THE thing that I’m interested in finishing is the BuJourneyRPG basic ruleset. The link there is the category, which is everything that has been tagged with BuJourneyRPG specifically. If you haven’t been paying attention, I invented BuJoRPG and BuJourneyRPG is the next step in that evolution. If you have been paying attention and you’re waiting for me to drop that ruleset, I’m not ready to release it. With another, related, project involved, I have to make sure that I’ve got all my ducks in a row rather than release with a headache of fixing things in post-release.

What’s that related project? Physical bullet journal items that I’ll be selling. Time is money, folks, and if I can’t make money off this then I have to work to make a living and work on this as a side deal. I’d like to have some BuJoRPG-related income (including BuJourneyRPG), which means I could cut some hours at work and put most of my free time into working on the two systems and physical items. The physical items project is being done in small bits. Progress is being made and when I have something to release, I’ll probably announce that with links and such when the time comes, but know that I’m not stalling for the sake of stalling, I only have so much time to work on stuff at the moment.

In the last column, I announced I’m considering revisiting the ESPL. That is a distant thing, really looking for a 2019 restart of that. How can I add this into the mix without having the above two items taken care of? The key is: I haven’t added anything. Once the ruleset and accompanying physical products are out there, I’ll have “fiddle around time” to work on logos again. Read the post if you want more information, but just know that I have this on the list but not on the “active” list.

Something that is going to be happening more regularly is the Specter Show. On episode 50, I mentioned that I’m interested in “catching up” with my releases and get back to where I actually SHOULD BE with the episode/date. Having said that, I rolled back my lofty goal to look at more of a “two per week” or “three per week” option, instead of going for the original three to five per week I’d mentioned. The readings that I tested have ate up WAY more time on my end and I’m hoping that I get better at that for future releases. What readings? Listen to the episode.

Speaking of podcasting, let’s look at the Greatest Show. I attempted to turn the show into more of a seasonal offering, not overtaxing the hosting troupe with a show per week (meaning 52 shows a year), or running like we used to with a “if anyone else can be on, we’re having a show.” I stopped updating that schedule and haven’t decided how long that page will remain up… the idea now being different with what I’m trying to do. I have wanted to have more guests on and that will allow us to move the recording times/days to whenever necessary. We will still broadcast on a Saturday night now and then, while having an episode in the middle of the week with a special guest or whatnot.

The bullet journaling and the podcasting is at the top of my active list. I just wanted to drop a note here to say that.

There is another podcast that is coming, for sure, that is tied to another project that I’ve been leaving stale for about eight months now. The project can go forward because I’m ready to fill you in about what I’m wanting to do… this deserves a banner to change gears (the first of two banners you’ll see before the end of the column).

The project’s working title (like an OS codename, so less a working title and more codename) is Stellaris. There are several components to this particular project, and I’ll detail each one a little here before moving on to the next one. But first, a little history… brief history.

I’ve written short stories in the past (if you visit the way back machine, I’m talking my school aged years around 1989 to 1994). One of the most prolific “series” I wrote was my version of Star Trek, which would be more relatable as a version of the reimagined Battlestar Galactica or a combination of the two. (Keep in mind the reimagined series didn’t air until 2003, so I’m not claiming credit for that… but I am stating that my idea was much like it.) I wrote somewhere in the neighborhood of two million words (at best guess). There were several “crews” that basically crewed a line of starships with the same name, creating a universe around their adventures. I did have a “revival” of my writing late in my Naval career (let’s say 1996 or 1997), but those never really went anywhere.

Using that as the basis, I have sort of been building up a mythology and background for new fiction. I’d also like to have a SIM fleet, like I’ve mentioned in the past like Obsidian Fleet, running in this universe. That’s a “further down the road” segment of this project, let me get back on track.

The podcast that will be born of this project is that of the history of the planet of origin for Stellaris. There are multiple species, almost 10,000 years of “recorded” history, and a wealth of background that can be translated via voice to the listeners interested in the “how the hell did we get here” portion of the fiction that I’ll be eventually writing. The podcast will be formatted much like Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcast, with the obvious change that I’m relating fictional events from a fictional location to the listener. I haven’t decided on how often the podcast would happen, but know that it is unlikely to be weekly.

When the history gets to a certain point, I’d start writing the fiction because you’d have enough background to know why certain characters are the way they are. The fiction would be serial fiction, with an intention to release in a novel format. The serial version of the fiction would be run as if the website was HBO and there would be a goal of 13 episodes per “season,” which means 13 installments within the book.

Speaking of serial fiction… 

I’ve talked about writing serial fiction in the past and I’ve decided to start writing it. I’ve got lots of “series” that I’d like to write and they’re all literally sitting in a file somewhere not getting done. So, I’m going to go ahead and start writing.

Will the series fit the above mentioned format? I’d like to believe so, but I’m not going to tie myself entirely down. I’m going to start writing a series based off of a short story I wrote for a college project, and I’m going to “revamp” the mythology behind that as I start writing. There will be installments, they’ll be released as they get completed, and I plan on working the mythological rework as I write.

That means NO “big write up” before writing. I’ll just keep track of things as I go.

Once I get a few installments released, I will consider doing other series. I may even try doing some background informational write ups for those before hand, but no so detailed I never get moving forward on the stories themselves.

The other big thing I wanted to move towards is… 

My goal of creating a comic book from start to finish before the end of the year is looking like that isn’t going to happen. I’m not done with the year, obviously, but I’m a realist. So, that leads me to giving a little bit of background with what I’d like to turn this into.

Yes, Specterverse.

So, when I started collecting comics in 1988 (beginning with Amazing Spider-Man #303 and branching out to many Marvel titles from there, as well as adding DC titles after that and I jumped in with both feet to Image when they launched), I had created my own superheroes and many of them, I’ll admit, were thinly skinned versions of some of my favorite heroes.

Since their initial conception, I’ve worked on my heroes to fit more of an original bent rather than be skins of other heroes. I’m basically telling you that I’ve been working on my own comic book universe for the better part of 25 years.

Yes, for real.

Since I’m unlikely to be a comic book writer, since I can’t even get seem to follow through with my goal of producing a comic book in a full calendar year, I’m going to aim to work towards JUST writing scripts. I’m intending to write them as Graphic Novels, so that there is no presence of a “monthly” release.

Using Marvel’s Cinematic Universe as a template, I’d love to write a graphic novel, or two, annually. My art is what I feel is holding my progress on this particular project back.

This is not high on the active list, but I wanted to detail it here.

I have announced in some form or another doing things that have less intense involvement on my part. These include Specter of the Galaxy, Specter of the Octagon, and Final Fantasy XV SpecterQuest where I play these games (No Man’s Sky, UFC 3, and Final Fantasy XV) and release the gameplay in installments. None of these are high priority and neither my wife have the time to play these at the moment.

So that is a rough rundown of some of the projects I have in the making. Some are nothing more than an announcement, a planning stage, etc… others are, as listed, active and noted, in the column.

There are some that weren’t mentioned at all and those are not on the active list but are under consideration. One thing I can do is talk, those things are podcasts, and that means I could just talk more… but I would need to be able to keep up with what I’m already doing, first.

Anyway… I’ll type at you next week.

Journal of the Emerald Specter 84: Revisiting Things

I put “things” because there is probably more I’m going to talk about than the one thing that I was centering the column on, so I wanted to be a little more generic. Revisiting also means that it’s something that has already been and I’m examining it from a distance of time, so buckle up… I’m revisiting the ESPL.

The ESPL, for those that don’t know (more on that shortly), is the acronym for the Emerald Specter Premier League… a logo design experiment that simulated a soccer league for a whopping two seasons (see Season One and Season Two finales). This ran from 2016 to 2017, when I decided that this was a fairly labor intensive experiment.

The whole experiment was a version of this logo forum experiment.

Now, the ESPL has only not happened one year but it feels like it’s been away forever. I have had some ideas on some updates that I’ve wanted to work up and without a place to really put them, I decided to take a look at reviving the ESPL in order to do something with my designs.

What I’d like to do is revamp the logos from the ESPL, add on to the league a little, and modify the way the league runs in order to create the output in a far less intense way. I would like to run over what the logo forum experiment did/is doing and adapt things a little to suit the ESPL, specifically. (That league is the AFA, so I can reference it easier.)

In the AFA, the creator (Veras) documents off season goings on in a summary format, including things like general news, coaching changes, hall of fame news, the draft, and then has a separate post about the season… which is also done in a general summary format. The whole season. At no point has Veras detailed the roster of an entire team, nor has he detailed an entire list of names for draft picks. Soccer (the world version, not the MLS) doesn’t use a draft, so I wouldn’t need to include that, but I am considering doing the rest of the stuff in a summary format.

The ESPL had previously detailed an entire roster, complete roster moves, and I’d even gone so far as to give some fairly detailed match summaries early on in the process, though I went with a vaguer weekly summary for the second season… with the new ESPL revival, I’d look at doing the general summaries of the transfer windows, off seasons, the seasons, as well as any “extra competitions” (like a Champions League, league cup, World Cup, etc). The results would be more of a “final league table” and would probably still include goal differences and points.

My hope is to revamp all the logos, as well renaming some of the clubs in order to “modernize” the entire league. I’m also hoping to simply pop up a “league 2” in which to do pro/rel with (for those not in the know, pro/rel is promotion/relegation). I’m also considering doing the uniform designs, like Veras has done with the AFA. All of this would be done in a different way than what I’ve done previously, and I’m modeling my own efforts after the things Veras did (the way I remember it, anyway).

The first step would be revamping the ESPL logo. The old logo was a neat little ditty that worked for the ideas I had for the original run. What I want to do is make it a little more timeless, less hokey, and have the league logo last for a long time without needing to update it (if ever). Next in line would be doing a complete club identity per season. That means the logo and uniforms (I don’t really need a field design). My idea is that the Premier League and League 2 would each have their own slate of clubs, with the PL having 16 and as yet undetermined number in League 2 (though I’m eyeballing 12 to 14 clubs as the hope, at most).

If you pretend I just announced 14 clubs for League 2, I’ve just roughly laid out a schedule of one club identity per season… lasting 30 seasons. For those who are paying close attention to my wording, I’m saying seasons and not years.

One of the biggest things I’d like to do differently is run multiple seasons per year. I’m interested in stopping the identification of the year as the season. So, Season I and Season II have been completed, meaning that Season III would start the new cycle (and eliminate the references to actual dates). The ideal situation is running four seasons per calendar year but I’ll be starting with a goal of two per calendar year until I know I can keep up.

But there is one other thing that has really spawned this conversation today and will lead into some other options…

That thing is that since I have stopped the ESPL, I’ve gotten just as many hits on the ESPL posts since I’ve closed the thing down as I had when I had things running. The highest hits on those pages are the logo reveal pages. I’ve got some comparison time frames to run against each other and I’ve really had to take a hard look at if I wanted to do this.

With that in mind, I’d like to say that if I didn’t do the uniforms part (only did logos with each summary cycle), then I’d also consider running another league (or two) from different sports…

This is the second new banner I’ve had to make for this column.

Along with the ESPL (soccer), I have been considering doing logos for what I’m calling the ESLAF (Emerald Specter League of American Football).

The ESLAF would be run like I proposed running the ESPL, and if I stick to JUST logos, I can probably do both at the same time. In this scenario, I’d probably stick with doing two seasons per calendar year for each of them… but let’s not stop there.

I don’t watch basketball actively (currently), but I’m planning on following my home team (the Portland Trailblazers) starting with the next NBA season. With that, I’d also considering doing the ESBA (Emerald Specter Basketball Association), but rather than committing to that, I’m just tossing out that idea before I get to the other thing I’m interested in doing.

Mixed Martial Arts.

Using the formula with the ESPL and the ESLAF, the ESFC (Emerald Specter Fighting Championship will be what I use unless I come up with something better) would be mainly “event posters” instead of logos. Since MMA events, using the UFC model, basically happen on a weekly/monthly cycle, the ESFC could use the same format (with an obvious build up as the league would be new).

Now, you’re probably thinking I’m getting ahead of myself. If you just took all this at face value, you would be correct in assuming I’m way in over my head with all of this. So, know that I’m not talking about launching all this immediately.

The ESPL will be the first to return, and I’m earmarking the latter half of 2018 or 2019 as that relaunch. I do, after all, have bullet journal stuff to get done as promised.

If that works well, I’d start up the ESLAF. After that, I’d consider the ESFC and future options.

I wanted to put out a column and this was an easy write. I can often vamp about things to last the entirety of a full column, so I wanted to talk about this. Hopefully I can get a little interest in the project and hopefully the folks who have been pinging those ESPL pages of old will speak up at emeraldspecter.com@gmail.com and let me know you’re in.