Daily Archives: February 27, 2015

The Influence of Star Trek

In a world where there was no Star Trek, what becomes of the post-Trek cultural artifacts that range from Galaxy Quest to The Big Bang Theory to catch phrases to television tropes to William Shatner doing Priceline.com commercials?  He’s not getting that gig because of T. J. Hooker or that one episode of The Twilight Zone.

What does the world look like without Star Trek’s influence?

I know, Star Trek feels dated.

The pilot for the original series was done and rejected before I was even born.  The series itself had run its three seasons and was cancelled before I even old enough to know it was a thing.

But then, somehow, it stayed alive.  It ran, and remained popular, in syndication for years and years.  I and millions of others watch those re-runs and the follow-on animated series.  Before Star Wars could have an expanded universe there was already a pile of Star Trek novels available.  There were models and costumes and board games and books just about the phenomena that was Star Trek.  There was even a store over at the San Antonio shopping center at one point called Starbase One or some such.  It sold other science fiction stuff.  You could find a battery powered Robby the Robot or a model of an Eagle from Space 1999 or a few Lost in Space related items, but most of the place was just stacked up with Star Trek related items.

There was a time when having a store dedicated to Star Trek seemed like a sound business decision.  And I used to just nerd out in there when I wasn’t over at the Hobby Shop.

I’ve even written about the first computer video game I ever played, which was, of course, Star Trek.

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek was a big freakin’ deal.  And it was cemented into my consciousness before Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica or Alien or any number of other science fiction franchises.

It wasn’t high art.  The original series could be groan inducingly bad at times.  The third season especially seemed to have trouble finding decent scripts.  And it hasn’t aged very well.  It feels awkward and self-conscious today.

But at the time it filled a need.  It was water on a desert.  It was optimistic and hopeful and showed us a future that looked pretty damn cool.  I wanted to be on the Enterprise, to be a part of that crew.

And the cornerstone of that crew was the half human, half Vulcan Mr. Spock.  I do not think Star Trek works without him and his exotic look and pointy ears and oddly compelling logical view of the universe.  Yes, sometimes emotion would win out, but only when it was logical for it to do so. No character so well defined the series (or was so completely abused in the subsequent flood of novels) than Mr. Spock.

I remember once, back in the early 90s, explaining to a co-worker about Star Trek.  She grew up overseas and emigrated to the United States as a graduate student and then stayed on, marrying a fellow immigrant and settling down in Silicon Valley.  She was (and remains) very smart and was interested in various cultural things.  One day we were giving the “Live Long and Prosper” sign in the lab and she wanted to know about it.

So I gave her a little background on Star Trek and then tried to help her get her hand to do the sign, which she couldn’t quite manage.  Then her husband showed up to pick her up on the way home from his job, and when he walked into the room I turned to him and gave him the sign… and he put his hand up and returned it, causing his wife to boggle in disbelief.  She practically shouted the question, “How do you know that?”  It was a beautiful moment.

Being able to do that was the universal nerd secret handshake and high sign at the time.  If you were in the club, you practiced making that sign until you could do it without hesitation.  And if you couldn’t do it, you weren’t in the goddam club.  But he was in the club.  We were all in the club around those parts.

Live long and prosper

Live long and prosper

I know that this is a bunch of silly, half thought through, semi-connected statements, but it represents the rush of emotion that ran through my brain when I read today that Leonard Nimoy had passed away at age 83.  He and his character were an unreasonably big part of my early life.

And I know he was more than just Mr. Spock, that he played more roles and had a wider range of interests and a life outside of all of that.

But Mr. Spock was important to us and he got that and he played the role long after many people would have tired of the whole thing because he got how important it was.  And through that he will have achieved a sort of immortality.  Mr. Spock lives on.

Crowfall Makes its Funding Goal, The Campaign Continues!

At some point while I slept the Crowfall Kickstarter campaign crossed the $800,000 mark, which means that if you don’t reneg on that bid you made in the next 26 days or so, you’ll end up having to pay them some money.

Crowfall800KSo we’re done, right?  Of course not!

Crowfall800K_bannerThe marketing aspect of this campaign has only just begun, plus more money is always good.  Any detail oriented person probably noticed, it says right on the Kickstarter page itself that you cannot make an MMO for $800K.

So where will this campaign head?

I could see the Crowfall campaign hitting the $2 million mark, which would allow it to finish up in the neighborhood of titles like Camelot Unchained, Shroud of the Avatar, and Star Citizen.

Of those campaigns, this one feels the most like Shroud of the Avatar at least superficially.  Lord British asked for one million dollars, hit that at the 10 day mark, and then went on secure just over two million in funding.

The Crowfall team has 26 days left to go raise another $1.2 million and hit that respectable mark.  And they can do it, if they can negotiate the mid-campaign doldrums.

Wait, what?

Wait, you never said anything about doldrums!

If you look at the charts at Kicktraq, the amount of money raised and the number of new backers signing up is dropping off day by day.  The early rush of enthusiasm is over.  The pent up and eager backers are already on board.  In about a week it is going to get very quiet on the campaign if they don’t have a plan.  To progress further they have to capture the fence sitters and the unaware while continuing to engage their core supported.

On top of that, they have already met their goal, so the tension on that front is over.  This campaign will fund (barring any mass defection) so there is no need to rush out to pledge or up the ante on what you have already opted to give.

To catch the unaware will require more press coverage.  But more of the same “hey, look, a game” sorts of stories probably won’t cut it.  The campaign will need something that will attract fresh eyes.  I am not sure that the Lord British tactic of getting out on the stump and telling people that most game designers suck compared to him (and then claiming he was taken out of context) is necessarily the right route to take.  After all, Lord British has spent years laying the foundation of being an erratic nut case when it comes to talking to the press.  You can’t just get that reputation in a day.

What I expect we will see in the next week or two is a few interviews where Gordon Walton or J. Todd Coleman offer to dish the dirt on what REALLY went wrong with Shadowbane or The Sims Online or Star Wars: The Old Republic.  We love that sort of thing.  You can bet we’ll be blogging about that if it comes up, because a good interview on that front will echo all over the place.  Admissions of failure play very well to a wider audience.  And such tales can easily be turned to teaching moments about how much they learned and how the Crowfall plan has taken those lessons to heart.

CrowfallMeanwhile, there are those fence sitters and those who have already pledged.  There are all sorts of ways to entice them to get on the bus and then give even more money.

One way is stretch goals.  And, frankly, the current stretch goals stink in my opinion.  You are never going to convince me that they weren’t going to do both anyway.  But that is the problem when you present a tight plan, anything you suggest seems either tacked on or was assumed to be part of the plan anyway.  I don’t know how they are going to do it, but they need to step up their game on that front.  Yeah, you want to hold off on the really good stretch goals until the very end to help drive that last 48 hour push, but right now they aren’t playing for me.

But more importantly, they need to tinker with the pledge tiers.  People who were in at the start will up their game if a new tier with a special shiny shows up, while those on the fence may be swayed by a tier that gives them just the right mix of things.  Expect a regular re-rolling of new tiers as they seek out sweet spots and special deals that will bring in more money.

And I expect that they will open up pledges via PayPal and other sources on their own site for people who do not want to use the Amazon funding system that Kickstarter rests on.

At least that is my ignorant, outsider’s view of the world.

Do you think they will make it to two million?  Maybe more?