Author Topic: Pre-Purchase Question  (Read 9853 times)

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Offline Wolf359 (OP)

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Pre-Purchase Question
« on: February 19, 2017, 03:26:28 PM »
I ended up here via a Steam review for another game, which led me from here, to the Starfire website and rules.

I'm interested in buying the Starfire rules from "Starfire Design", but it looks a little shady.

I sent Cralis a PM via this board to ask a couple of questions, but he hasn't been here in a while and there was no response.  No surprise there.  Activity for Starfire is low here.

I've read some things about the Starfire community history and such things happen of course.  That isn't such a big deal for me as I have no favorite starfire version.

What concerns me about Starfire Design at the moment is that the owner seems to be using community members to do all the work on Starfire while he collects the checks for just himself.

Cralis seems to indicate he is not an employee, but he is clearly doing all the major work from what I can see via their board.  Apparently, people are submitting their scans of old products for Cralis to clean up and Starfire Design to then sell.

I would like to buy the product, but I'm not going to support a disreputable business.  It's great to support a product and game you like, but the IP holder shouldn't ransom his product for slave labor.  I wouldn't support that with my business.

Am I off in my assessment?

I apologize ahead of time for such an incendiary comment and question.  I would have preferred to simply ask Cralis privately.  I didn't think contact on the Starfire Design website would be private and asking such a question there publicly would be rude.

Offline ZimRathbone

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Re: Pre-Purchase Question
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2017, 07:49:55 PM »
Hi Wolf357,

SDS (Starfire Design Studio) was set up by Marvin Lamb who bought the rights to Starfire from Task Force Games way back around 1997 when TFG was undergoing meltdown (Steve Cole, the original designer, bought out Star Fleet Battles around about the same time). If I recall correctly SDS existed for some time before that.

Up till that point TFG had published Starfire in the ziplock format (1st Edition), the boxed sets of Starfire & Imperial Starfire (2nd edition) and finally 3rd Edition (which David Weber had a large amount of input into)

Marvin & the SDS then produced & published 3rd Edition Revised (3rdR) which cleaned up a lot of rules problems to make campaign play more feasible, and subsequently the 4th & 5th Editions (Ultra & Cosmic) which changed the format to try and balance some of the tech mismatches, enable more possible routes to victory, and try to reduce the effects of the survey lottery whaich could rather dominate in the earlier versions. From a purely personal viewpoint I disagree with some of the design choices made in 4th Ed, but there is no denying that without Marvin Lamb, Starfire would have ceased to exist along with so many other Task Force games late last century.

Ever since Marvin rescued Starfire it has been a largely community based product with heavy input from the fans in one form or another (Starfire Assistant, which was the forerunner of Aurora, is one such; the 3rdR Unified Tech Manual was another that I had some contribition to), resulting in little or no financial gain for Marvin (and, I believe, considerable risk). Matt Olsen (Cralis) has been heavily involved since the days of the original Starfire mailing list. 

I think your assessment is neither accurate nor fair. Starfire, like Aurora, is largely a labour of love.  If you feel that you cannot support it then that is your privilege, but the characterisation you have put forth is not reasonable in my opinion.

I have bought SDS products over the years, so my view may be a little biased in the other direction.


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Offline Wolf359 (OP)

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Re: Pre-Purchase Question
« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2017, 06:09:07 PM »
Thank you for your quick response.

Quote from: ZimRathbone link=topic=9402. msg101353#msg101353 date=1487555395
I think your assessment is neither accurate nor fair.  Starfire, like Aurora, is largely a labour of love.   If you feel that you cannot support it then that is your privilege, but the characterisation you have put forth is not reasonable in my opinion.

Excuse me if my very limited observation was insulting to you.  My limited viewpoint is a scan of the information here and at Starfire's website.  Obviously I was unsure, which is why I asked.  It would be difficult to ask without explaining why I was asking.  I could point to some specific topics and comments here and there as circumstantial evidence, but I never intended to argue the point beyond a query.  If Cralis was satisfied, then I wouldn't belabor the point.

Otherwise, I don't know anything about any edition of Starfire as a playable game.  Editions make no difference to me and I thought to simply buy the available electronic version bundles to read -- I think less than $100 USD total.

I play pc and xbox games, but reading rules for other games helps me analyze my games and play better -- building pattern recognition.  There are many derivative patterns in Stellaris, for example, from Godsfire.  I'm also sure I'll find influences from other games in Starfire too.


Offline Steve Walmsley

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Re: Pre-Purchase Question
« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2017, 10:30:41 AM »
I quit Starfire partly because of the direction the game was heading, but also because of some of what you mentioned. However, because of my bad experience with Marvin, I am also probably biased :)

After 4th edition came out and split the Starfire community (which was a very fun group until that point), I formed a design group (the 3DG) with Marvin's permission to keep 3rd edition alive. I also continued to expand Starfire Assistant to support 3rd edition. Firstly, we created the Unified Tech Manual independent of Marvin, but allowed him to sell it. We took no portion of any income because we wanted to keep 3rd edition alive. Next we engaged in a much larger project to create a complete Unified Rules for 3rd edition, combining all existing 3rd edition products and rules into a single, very large document. This was 99% completed and I still have the document (as do about 30 other people who were in the 3DG).

Toward the end of the work on the UR, Marvin complained it was taking too long (which was annoying as we were doing it for free and he would profit from it). Then he invited himself to the 3DG and caused lots of problems because of his different views on game design (which was frustrating because those different views were the reason for us to try to maintain the old edition). Finally he tried to eject me from the group I created.

The whole situation disintegrated into acrimony when it became apparent to Marvin that what actually went into the 3rd edition rules had less relevance than what rules I supported in Starfire Assistant (as most people used that to run Starfire campaigns). At that point he threatened legal action if I released any further updates to Starfire Assistant (which had been around for about 10 years). This was a free program (like Aurora) so I had no financial interest. Even so, I released a small update and said good luck with your international law suit. He declined to follow through with his threat.

By this point I was very annoyed with the whole situation (about 2003 I think) and decided to abandon Starfire and create my own game, which resulted in Aurora. So long-term, the whole mess was very positive for me :)

In Marvin's defence, he did really want Starfire to be a success and he didn't realise the backlash that would result from 4th edition (essentially he removed role-playing elements, tech system background, fluff, etc and reduced the jumps in technology to be more incremental, creating what he believed to be a more competitive game without the unnecessary background material). In terms of the clash with me and others, I believe he was trying to protect his control over the game but didn't consider how other people might view his actions or how they might react to them. Because of this, the situation spiraled out of control when someone with better people skills may have resolved any disputes in a more amicable way.

Regardless of all the above, I did have a great time with 3rd edition Starfire. So my advice is to try the game and don't worry too much about the personalities involved :)
« Last Edit: February 22, 2017, 10:32:18 AM by Steve Walmsley »
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Offline Wolf359 (OP)

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Re: Pre-Purchase Question
« Reply #4 on: July 31, 2017, 08:54:19 PM »
As a quick follow up, I did purchase the STARFIRE Legacy Supplement CD as a download for about $36.

The many rule books, supplements and odd documents contained in the package are a really great bundle.

For anyone new to Aurora 4X, the STARFIRE products offer an interesting etymological and historical explanation for the rules and intent found in Aurora -- in the same way reading the original STARFIRE I rule book made the "grammar" of everything that came later much more digestible.

My only real complaint was not really grasping what products were included in the package before purchase.  If the packages' contents were clearly titled in their order page, I would have gladly paid some more for the ULTIMATE STARFIRE package. . .  which goes for about $56.

In any event, thanks for the reply Mr.  Walmsley and to Quill18 for introducing Aurora 4X to me (and by extension STARFIRE).  I'll continue watching the Aurora 4X C# development with interest.