And the livin' is easy...
Hi Kickstarter Fans. Apologies for the brief post the other day, but I just wanted to let you know that progress was being made.
Today I'm posting, as promised, to expand on that and to fill you in on happenings past, present and future in the wibbly wobbly world of Daftworks Towers...
What Have I Been Up To?
All right. The last thing you really heard from me was the failure to meet the November deadline for submitting the second draft and all the confusion around the conversation I was having with Frontier. The upshot of all that was that Frontier offered me a submission deadline of July 1.
Before that, I want to mention the harsh reality of what happened when the first draft was submitted and I received the feedback that 100,000 words had to be culled and any "creative content" was to be removed from the lore sections. During all that communication, it became clear that various elements of the RPG that had been part of the original Kickstarter were not going to be possible. The rich, layered mix of Elite's established history would not have any input from me. The instruction was to limit the Lore to a minimum. I can't go into any more detail about that limitation, but suffice to say, the pledged goal to create an RPG that would contain enough hard information to set an RPG campaign in the specific eras of each game in the Elite/Frontier franchise was SERIOUSLY compromised.
That was a major, and I mean MAJOR gut punch. It went beyond the expected kick in the teeth that being edited can be. I was expecting to lose elements that I loved, ready to accept losing ideas and concepts that I felt were "essential". But to be told that I had to lose the foundation brick that half the book was based on was more than I was expecting. I was PROUD and excited that Frontier were, apparently, allowing me to build a book around their universe and its events. It was something people specifically pledged for. How could I drop that element?
Time passed, and yes, I had to take time to come to terms with what these directions meant for the book. I talked to people, and they helped a great deal. I directed my energies to trying to get the content adjusted and edited down, and I spent nearly two months trying to untangle the intricate webs of my own content with Frontier's. Eventually I realised I couldn't and that I would have to start the background section from scratch: a part of the book that took over six months to write in the first place, and involved a mental breakdown in the process (which wasn't due to the book - I do have a life, y'know!).
There was no way I could do it, and with other family issues kicking off at about the same time, something had to give. So towards the end of October I asked Frontier for an extension and you know all about that. By November I was seriously burnt out. Emotionally and physically drained. So I decided to take a break until Christmas and New Year were out of the way and take my head out of the Elite universe for a while. Recharge my energy banks and all that. It worked! I started another couple of small projects that were nothing to do with RPGs and Elite, and I had a little fun. I negotiated family time to build a healthy work/life balance into the schedule from Jan 1 to make sure I would have plenty of time to get stuff done without being overly stressed about it. January 1st rolled around, and I got back to work putting meat on the bones of the new, streamlined, non-creative-input background and lore sections.
Then I went blind.
Not completely blind. I lost the ability to focus on anything in the short to middle distance (about one foot to eight feet in front of me). I could see everything up to about ten inches away if I took my glasses off, but that was it. I couldn't read. I couldn't see computer screens. I couldn't focus on ANYTHING more than a foot away... So I couldn't do my day job and I couldn't work on the RPG. "No worries," thought clever old me, "this is just temporary. It's probably my diabetes! Or something else! The GP can help!!"
Which is where I was stonewalled by the NHS. Apparently losing your ability to see is not an emergency. Nor is it an urgent matter that needs to be resolved quickly before permanent damage is done. No. It's something that specialists will see you about in about 5 months (to put it in perspective, my "urgent" referral appointment to see an ophthalmologist was TODAY - I reported this problem at the end of JANUARY). In the meantime my diabetes was blamed (I'll be honest, I wasn't managing it very well) so I tried to get on top of that. I was told to go back to the optician while waiting for the ophthalmologist appointment, and they were amazing. They actually listened and helped a great deal. They doubted it was diabetes, as diabetes related complications are gradual rather than coming on in the space of a few seconds. They identified the most likely possibility that my new fangled varifocal glasses were the problem, even though I'd had them longer than it normally takes for this particular reaction to happen. So they gave me single vision lenses, including a new pair that specifically targeted the general distances for computer screens and hallelujah I COULD SEE!
This process took three months. By this time it was mid-April. During the time I was allowing the new glasses time to "settle in" to make sure there were no more problems, I realised that I had two months left to get the book finished. Three hours later, once the chest pains and flashing lights stopped, I decided that risks had to be taken to meet this FINAL of FINAL deadlines...
So I kissed my wife, promoted my son to "man of the house" and went back to work (both jobs - day job and writing). From that point, approximately April the 15th, I woke up at 6am every weekday, went to work, came in at 5pm, kissed my wife, got changed, went to the Daftworks broom cupboard and worked there til 2am. At weekends I woke up at 9am, kissed my wife, locked myself in the tower and didn't come out again (apart from life essentials) until 2am. I worked through lunch breaks on the book. I took notes on my phone. I drank five cups of coffee a day (I usually only allow myself one). I basically maintained the most unhealthy work/life balance I can think of for however many weeks it was. On top of that, I had a rather personal operation that I've been needing for a while. Which meant I couldn't sit on office chairs. Luckily that happened while I was blind, so no great effect, but it did cause some problems later...
I'll tell you how bad it was. And how much of an asshole this "push" made me. I've mentioned my aunt Liz before in these comments, and the fact she had terminal cancer. I got a phone call to say that she had seriously declined suddenly and was in hospital and was likely never coming out again. My second thought was "Amazing timing, Liz...".
I'll give you a second to stop cursing me. :'(
My first thought, admittedly was more "me". I was sad. I did think about her and her pain and that her time was coming to an end. Then I thought that second thought (wanker), then my third thought was that she would never see the book - and she was always asking about it. The Elite community met her, and she met them, and she thought they were awesome. So at that point I had to take a break and have some quiet time on my own. Much like I need to do now.
So yeah. That happened. In total, losing Liz took about a week of my time through hospital visits, "the vigil", the funeral and supporting my mum and other family. I don't resent losing that time. Far from it. I miss her and everything, but I had to push all that to one side in order to get on with this project. Which I did. The vision remained stable. The operation site remained blood free (mostly). I got on with it. I rewrote the background section. I edited the game system and character generation sections. I redesigned the character sheets. I edited and revamped the commodity lists.
I even enlisted help. Yeah. I know. GREAT BIG SHOUTOUT TO SAM BYFORD AND COLIN FORD who took on some of the content creation work while I tried to get on with the rest of it. :-)
I compiled, edited and processed hundreds of graphics. I learned how to use two new pieces of software to format and lay out the book. I came up with a way to show star systems on the page using screenshots that is nothing like how I wanted to do that part of the book, but works... I then stuck it all together into one big gestaslt entity called a "book".
Unlike the first draft, which was a simple Word document with a two-column layout and very little in the way of graphics, the second draft is complete. Ready to print. It's cooked. The graphics are all in there, the vehicle combat simulator rules are done, the pledge "thank yous" are in there, the ship posters I promised are done and in there, and all the multimedia glory is there to see.
Except dice templates. I forgot the bloody dice templates!! Bugger!
Where We Are Now
So yeah. That was then. What's happening now? Well, it's been submitted to Frontier for their red penmanship. I have no doubt they will have edits they want. It's a bog book and its scope is HUGE. I had little instruction over exactly what they wanted taking out, so I don't know if I took out the correct 100,000 words. Chances are I didn't. Hopefully, though, they'll be a little kinder and less sweeping in the "get rid of this" statements. My hope is that there should only be minor edits this time round. Please, gods, let there be less edits this time...
The work doesn't stop, though. Although I'm back to having a life again, I'm still doing things around the periphery. I'm not promising, but I'm hoping that my schedule for the next couple of weeks will include some time to resolve some of the dreaded and notorious postage backlog. I know. I suck. I apologise. It WILL be done. I'm also working on some of the other pledge stuff and looking into how to get it done and how long it will take. Maybe one day I'll be able to put together a reference chart for how far along each task is...
I'd like to be able to give you guys a quick-start guide to the RPG at some point. Each time I've asked Frontier they've said NO due to the license terms, but I'm asking again. You guys deserve something tangible from this project at long last. I'll let you know.
Where Are We Going?
Onwards! Upwards! Thataway! Now we wait. The next step is Frontier's. As far as the book is concerned, the next step is preparing the third draft once I've had the feedback. As noted above, in the meantime I'll be working on other KS related stuff and content. GM screens, card models, stuff like that...
At one stage I truly felt that I wasn't going to get this second draft done. Now, having accomplished it, I am in a good place. I sincerely hope that the crest of the work has been reached and that it's all downhill from here. In a good way.
That's basically it! Apologies for the length of this update, but I know some of you LOVE the walls of text I put together. Comments and feedback are now WELCOME.