The Daily Illuminator

What's New At Steve Jackson Games

Past columns

March 31, 1995

With thanks to the contributors, we now have an HTML-ized version of John Novak's Nightcat solo adventure for GURPS (contributed by Dave Long), a Hârn to GURPS conversion (by Mike Cule), GURPS Albedo (contributed by Fred M. Sloniker) and a number of INWO contributions by Tyler Novak.
-- -JimC [Robots Front Cover]

March 30, 1995

The newest GURPS book to go to the printer is GURPS Robots. That means that our April ship date is looking good for all products except Pyramid #13. The In Nomine crunch is to blame -- but In Nomine is moving along nicely. More updates as the playtests continue.
-- Scott Haring

March 29, 1995

I've been thinking the past few days about our hobby, our industry, especially in light of what I learned at the GAMA Trade Show in New Orleans and elsewhere about the impact of all those trading card games that are all the rage.

One thing's for sure -- things will never be the same. Magic, INWO and the rest have opened up a Pandora's box that will change this industry forever. Some folks think that this is no different from the roleplaying boom of the late '70s and early '80s, but there's a big difference -- the money involved.

I spent a good chunk of the afternoon on the phone talking to a New York hotshot about their new trading card game magazine. Sendai Publishing is one of the largest magazine publishers in the world, with a dozen titles that all have six-figure circulations every month -- and now they want a part of the trading card game magazine pie. How can the Scrye, Shadis, Duelist and Pyramid magazines of the world compete against that big money - big marketing muscle?

And I saw a lot of companies last week that were rolling out a single trading card game as their first release, companies started by people who poured everything they had into this venture -- but what will happen to them when Marvel, Fleer, Topps, Donruss and Sony jump in the pool? It could get very ugly very fast.

The strong will survive; the lucky will find a niche and continue to produce good games. The rest? I don't know ...
-- Scott Haring

March 28, 1995

Still getting out from under the pile that a week out of the office leaves me ... tons of e-mail, real mail, plus the whole bag of flyers and sample products that I dragged back with me from New Orleans ... I saw the light at the end of the tunnel today, though.

[INWO Book Cover] A quick update -- The INWO Book went to the printer yesterday. It and the INWO Factory Set are on schedule and looking good; GURPS Robots and Pyramid #13 are running behind, but may make it yet (I have more hope for Robots, but we'll see); Derek Pearcy is nearly done with In Nomine, and I'll post more playtest results as they happen.

Today's treat is two cool new links: webmaster Jim Cloos has uploaded all 12 Pyramid Magazine covers on one handy page. And there's a neat gaming magazine published in Denmark called Fonix (Danish for "Phoenix"), and they have a new Fonix Web Page to check out. Of course, it's almost entirely in Danish, but it's interesting anyway ...
-- Scott Haring

March 27, 1995

Hi there! Miss us?

While a few hardy souls stayed back in the office making sure that important projects like The INWO Book and GURPS Robots came out on time, Steve, Dana, Derek and myself spent the last six days in New Orleans at the annual GAMA Trade Show. We talked to lots of distributors and retailers, a few prospective suppliers and tons of other game companies. We also sampled New Orleans night life in various degrees -- great restaurants, lots of liquor, more than a little debauchery -- and we did some work, too ...

So what was new? Need you ask? Card games. Lots and lots of card games. I personally talked to every company that exhibited at the show, and counted 48 announced releases between now and the end of the year! And about 20 of those are planned for August alone! We'll see how many actually make it ...

More news from New Orleans in subsequent days, including this tidbit: The Origins Awards nominations are out, and four SJ Games products made the list: INWO for Best Card Game, Pyramid for Best Magazine, GURPS Lensman for Best Roleplaying Supplement and Principia Discordia for Best Game Accessory. We are, as always, humbly grateful to everyone who found these products worthy of consideration. More tomorrow.
-- Scott Haring

March 22, 1995

April 4th will be the big day -- distributors will be allowed to start shipping Unlimited Edition INWO to retailers. Retailers can start selling right away, so get ready for the next round of INWO mania.

You have less than two weeks to prepare!
-- -JimC

March 21, 1995

Our licensee in Argentina, Juegos & Co, sends word that their edition of Toon just came off the press. How do you say ``Fall Down'' in Spanish?
-- Steve Jackson

March 20, 1995

The INWO Book is coming along ... we expect to get it off to the printers Wednesday. We'd better, because on Tuesday morning Derek, Scott and Dana all leave for the GAMA show in New Orleans, and Wednesday I follow them. We'll all get back next week.

This is going to be a nice book. Jeff's graphic design is beautiful, lush and complex -- and he made me add 16 pages to the original plan, so his layout wouldn't have to fight with the type for space. (Even so, the sections on Strategy and Deck Building are in teeny type, because I just kept writing.)
-- Steve Jackson

[Pyramid #12 Cover]

March 17, 1995

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

Here's another cover for you to salivate over -- Pyramid #12 is back from the printer, along with three GURPS books: GURPS Religion and GURPS Time Travel reprints, and the all-new, all-creepy GURPS CthulhuPunk. Shipping has been very busy today ...

And how did last night's In Nomine playtest go? Not bad, though all we really did was create characters. My dude's an angel named Jalisco, currently living among humans as a hangdog, Raymond Chandler-esque private eye in (where else?) Los Angeles -- The City of Angels. He's beaten down by the struggle, a little depressed, a lot cynical -- but he fights the forces of darkness twice as hard because he doesn't know what else to do. And Rebecca Bross has a cool character, too -- a fey living on the Ethereal plane with two Corporeal vessels, a little girl and a cat ... this could be fun. More later.
-- Scott Haring

March 16, 1995

We made some decisions about the next issue of Pyramid today. Issue #13 (with a May/June '95 cover date) will have eight more pages than before, and will be full color throughout! We're also going to a process called ``ota-binding'' which will be a big improvement over the saddle-stitching we've been using. For one thing, Pyramid will have a spine (no jokes, please ...) that we can do inventive graphic things with. Derek Pearcy is already salivating at the prospects.

Speaking of Derek, tonight he'll be hosting the very first official playtest of the absolutely, this-time-we-mean-it final draft of In Nomine! I'll see if I can get him to deliver a progress report this time tomorrow.
-- Scott Haring

March 15, 1995

Don't have a whole lot to talk about today -- we said goodbye to graphics wizard Richard Meaden, who flew back to Toronto. He might be back here for good soon ... but we don't have everything ironed out quite yet.

I just remembered I never followed up on some events mentioned here in the Daily Illuminator ... Steve, Derek, Dana and myself (and about 100 other true fans) had a great time at Neal Stephenson's book signing last weekend. He seemed to enjoy the copy of Pyramid #12 I gave him, and the ones he autographed will go to the writers and artists who worked on the Snow Crash stuff in the issue. On surprising thing (to me, at least) was how young Neal was -- he looked like he was barely out of college. Or maybe I'm just getting old ...

And I owe you a report from the Iron Dragon games I played recently. It's a great game, a real must for all fans of Mayfair's train games. I'll be writing it up as a ``Pyramid Pick'' in issue #13, so you can check out more about it there.
-- Scott Haring

March 14, 1995

One of our most popular out-of-print books -- the one that everyone asks, ``When are you going to reprint it?'', is GURPS Fantasy Folk. Well, it's coming out in June -- and not just a reprint, but a Second Edition! GURPS Guru (it says so on his Web page) Sean Punch, better known as Dr. Kromm, has overseen the revision and added 16 new pages. There's a little time for you to look over the files and give us your comments.
-- Scott Haring

[CthulhuPunk Front Cover]

March 13, 1995

GURPS CthulhuPunk and the new printing of GURPS Time Travel (same text, new art) are back from the printers. Look for them in your game store in a couple of weeks.

Richard Meaden (who has done a lot of great Ogre graphics, and most recently the layout and design on Pyramid #12), is visiting our offices. Mostly he's holed up with the Mac, but we're hoping to get in a game tomorrow, and maybe smear some paint on some lead ...

March 12, 1995

Brenda Hurst is back from Wisconsin, where she was overseeing the startup of INWO Unlimited assembly. She brought back a few sample cards, and they look wonderful!

The cards will ship from the assembly plant starting on March 24th. Distributors will have to hold them until some date, not yet set, early in April ... we'll announce that as soon as we can.
-- Steve Jackson

March 11, 1995

Just in time for the publication of Pyramid #12, Snow Crash author Neal Stephenson is in town today for a book signing. A two-chapter excerpt from this outstanding cyberpunk novel just happens to be featured in this new issue. I'm heading off in a few minutes with our precious handful of advance copies (the rest are on a truck somewhere between Minnesota and here) to get his autograph on as many as I can impose upon him to sign. And just to give Neal a free plug, I'll be picking up a copy of his new novel, The Diamond Age while I'm there ...

A couple other things about this issue of Pyramid -- it's our first all-color issue, a trend I plan to make permanent if the print cost numbers will back me up. And for issue #13, we're looking to make the magazine 8 pages thicker -- again, if the print cost numbers add up ... keep watching this space for updates.
-- Scott Haring

March 10, 1995

A couple of quick things -- We saw the advance copies of Pyramid #12 today, and it rocks. Full color throughout (for the first time), with a higher-quality paper than ever before, one that they say resists ``flaking,'' that annoying tendency for the ink to come off in high-concentration areas, leaving little white dots all over what's supposed to be black sections.

And we've made some additional improvements to this Web page, as webmaster Jim Cloos spends more time fine-tuning his creations -- like this background screen, and the larger capital letters (called``drop caps'' in the page design biz) at the beginning of each paragraph. Neat, huh? (Unless you're using a plain-text viewer like Lynx, in which case, sorry, never mind.)

Oh, and I'm back at work after 2½ days down with a nasty cold. I no longer feel like death warmed over, and that's a Good Thing.
-- Scott Haring

March 9, 1995

This just in from a correspondent in Brazil (!) who gets mail from the American University in Bulgaria (!!) and thought we'd like to see it:

Thanks to those of you who responded to my request for suggestions regarding RPG systems to purchase for the students' nascent gaming club here at the American University in Bulgaria. By the way, out of the several responses, the overwhelming favorite was the GURPS system from Steve Jackson Games.
Looks like we're getting around ...
-- Steve Jackson

March 8, 1995

The Computer Underground Digest now has a home page, so we linked our Secret Service page to it. If you've got a color monitor and Netscape, be ready for some pretty graphics ...
-- Steve Jackson

March 7, 1995

The offices were a ghost town today. Lots of people out sick. This is a Bad Thing.

We did get the first set of color proofs for the INWO Factory Set. These look beautiful. We really ought to make a GIF of one of them and put it up. This would also help deal with the Very Frequently Asked Question ``What do the Factory Set cards look like?''
-- Steve Jackson

March 6, 1995

It was Parade of Bluelines time, as our final chance to get things right on GURPS CthulhuPunk and GURPS Time Travel came today. The good news: we took advantage of the opportunity to catch some mistakes. The bad news: we had to ...

[Voodoo Front Cover]

And several new products showed up over the weekend and got shipped out promptly -- GURPS Voodoo is now on its way to distributors. And we got a new shipment of some neat t-shirts, including the glow-in-the-dark one that celebrates Steve's victory over the forces of government cluelessness. This is the sort of things we'd love to let you order right over the Web, as soon as we get all the details figured out ... stay tuned.
-- Scott Haring

March 4, 1995

A recent communication from Tim Cain, who is plugging away on the GURPS computer game project for Interplay ...
``Funny thing happened with the project today. I had asked one of the artists to render a realistic man for me, so I could test the walk code. He mis-interpreted ``realistic'', so now I have a completely nude, anatomically correct guy walking around the screen. I'm glad I stopped him before he made the woman. I don't want an X rating on this game. :)

March 3, 1995

Our Brush With Greatness
Celebrity Isn't What It's Cracked Up To Be

Steve got a call today from Mike Wallace. The Mike Wallace, from ``60 Minutes''. I think he was returning Steve's call. It seems that the legendary CBS investigative journalism show did a report last week on how computer hackers were going to be the downfall of society or somesuch, and in the course of the report, they showed excerpts from a Secret Service "training film" about hackers. The film led off with a shot of (it was clearly implied) "hacker" material -- including our own beloved GURPS Cyberpunk!

We figured the Secret Service knew better than to include GURPS Cyberpunk in a list of "hacker" manifestos after we smacked them around in court over the whole sorry affair of five years ago -- check out the Secret Service Raid page for all the gory details. But I guess not.

And we sure thought a news organization with the reputation of "60 Minutes" would know better than to just take the government's word for anything. But I guess not.

Oh, yeah. Steve said Mike Wallace said that he didn't really know much about the Secret Service training film, and that we should be talking to the producer of the segment. If he or she returns Steve's calls, we'll let you know.

-- Scott Haring

March 2, 1995

Yesterday was an anniversary ... which we forgot about until late in the day. And that, itself, is a victory. I wrote it up in the IO daily column.

Today, the last of the cards for the INWO Factory Set will go to the printer. It's on schedule for an April release. And it's going to look nice. For one thing, we found out that we could add gold ink to the cards ... It would have been garish to do ALL of them, so we're just adding some tasteful enhancements to the Illuminati cards. Wait and see.
-- Steve Jackson

March 1, 1995

A British writer named James Burke did a wonderful television series that still runs on The Learning Channel (for those of you with cable) called "Connections." It (and its not-as-good-but-still-keen sequel, "Connections 2") is a fascinating romp through the history of inventions and technology, as he explains how breakthroughs are rarely due to enormous flashes of insight, but simply the putting together of odd bits of knowledge and technology that was already out there in a new way. I caught a rerun of the very first episode last night, with a frightening opening about the New York City blackout a few years ago and how in the face of losing the technology which their lives depended on -- even for a few hours -- the people of New York turned into a panicked mob.

Which brings me to our own little exercise in panic today. Illuminati Online crashed, and crashed hard. Nose down in a cornfield kind of crashed. And then, some of our PC-DOS machines that were tied into IO began to go down (oddly enough, the Macs were unaffected). E-mail was down; I couldn't check my newsgroups; I couldn't surf the Web! What ever was I going to do?

A year ago I had barely heard of the Internet; today I found myself lost without it. As Samuel Morse sent over that very first telegraph connection, ``What hath God wrought?''
-- Scott Haring

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