Yes, yes, I know some of you might be thinking "I know that name from somewhere..." So check over the following, and see if any of these reasons could be why my name seems familiar to you:
I'm the proprietor/editor of a web magazine which concerns itself with grown men and toy soldiers (military miniatures). You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I attended Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, New York from 2002-2003 - maybe I was in one of your classes. (I was the Old Guy.)
I also took a few courses at Austin Community College (Austin, Texas) in the '90s.
If you attended Brigham Young University back in the '70s, then perhaps you met me way back when. I was president of the dorm one year (John Hall), or you might remember me for running the Metamorphosis Alpha campaign (one of the first role-playing campaigns at BYU). I was a Spencer W. Kimball Scholar and a National Merit Scholar (with my scholarship sponsored by National Distilleries!).
Going back even further, I attended Clayton Valley High School in Concord, California. I lost the election for student body president, but won the presidency of the senior class (Class of '75!).
I'm a nearly lifelong member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, sometimes known as the "Mormon" Church. As a rebellious teenager, I studied the Book of Mormon and tried to prove it wrong - and instead gained a testimony that it was true.
I spent two great years in Florida as a missionary, so if it's Elder Armintrout that you're looking for, that might be me! Random mission highlights: Being on a bike in Key West in the winter (you can bike around the whole island in less than two hours). Doing radio sermons one week in Lake Okeechobe (sp?). Eating strange and foreign foods while in the Haitian and Cuban parts of town (I sure did love Miami).
I'm currently a member of the Latham Ward (congregation). Our meetinghouse is located in Loudonville, New York.
I used to work as a manager and designer in the computer game field. Here are the companies I worked for:
I was hired on as Lead Writer for this project (at Origin Systems), but when all of the company's Directors walked out, I ended up as Director myself. We had an all-green (new hires) team, yet I think we made one of the best Ultimas of all time (your opinion may vary :).
As the Director, it was my job to manage everyone on the team (writers, artists, programmers, audio engineers, composers) on a day-to-day basis. At some stages of the project, this was as many as 30 people. I also wrote many of the conversations (in Moonshade), did the art direction, and wrote "scriptcode" for some of the more difficult scenes (such as the trials in Fawn and Moonshade). I had a great bunch of people to work with, and my memories of that project are among my fondest in the game industry.
I stepped down from directorhood for the chance to work on this WWII flight simulation. (I needed a break from fantasy, and I'm a big war buff.) As Lead Designer, I did the historical research, wrote the dialogue, directed the art (for the non-mission parts of the game), cast and directed the actors doing the voice work (lots of fun!), wrote the scriptcode which told the game which mission to fly next, and -- as an emergency measure -- did a major overhaul of the artificial intelligence code (in C++).
|Pacific Strike Mission Disk||
Was Director on this project, which lasted only a few weeks before being cancelled (due to poor sales on Pacific Strike). The plot was to have been a 1945 set of missions, during the (hypothetical) invasion of Japan. Player was to have flown several late-war planes, including the Tigercat and even a British plane (flying with Canadian pilots from a British carrier). We had already done the casting for the voice parts, including a new set of radio taunts from Tokyo Rose.
|Pacific Strike CD||
Had the title of "Lead Designer" on this one, but all I had to do was cast and record the speech for the enhanced version of the game. Spent three glorious weeks in a sound studio, getting some of the best game performances I've ever heard. We had a running version when the project was cancelled, due to the poor sales of Pacific Strike.
With all of the cancellations, my producer unit had nothing for me to work on. I was free to do whatever I wanted to do, and for a few weeks did pure R&D on topics such as the Web (learning HTML), Windows accelerator cards, and commercial prototyping tools. Then I went to my Producer and volunteered to help out with a game team that was two years into a six-month project -- so I became a junior designer on BioForge. My specialty was scriptcode, including the operating room scene with Doctor Mastaba, and the meeting with the Alien Elite. I also did casting and voice direction.
I took over the BioForge license at Origin, and had the chance to put together a Dream Team to make the next-generation technology. Many of my old Serpent Isle guys came back, and I was also able to recruit some top-grade new talent. We had finished the design and were working on the art when the company halted the project, and diverted us onto...
A "quickie" project. We had nine weeks to put together a new adventure to tack onto the end of the original BioForge game. Let me stress right here that nine weeks is an insanely tight deadline! The project was a wild ride, with millions of obstacles and emergencies (including artists in the hospital, half the programmers pulled off for another project, and so forth), and we set a new record: BETA in 10 weeks. Unfortunately, the game never shipped (the executive product left the company, and all of his projects were cancelled).
I started as a free-lance author, writing for magazines such as The Space Gamer and Fire & Movement. Then I was hired as editor-in-chief/art director at Steve Jackson Games, when GURPS was first being rolled out. I left SJG to go back to freelancing, forming my own editorial services company (Jovialis). Later, I took a partnership role with Bard Games to try to rescue that company (primarily doing sales work), but couldn't save the company from bankruptcy.
|Mean Streets|| Auto adventure, originally published as part of a choose-your-own-adventure
series from TSR. Later published by Steve Jackson games. This was the book in which I made the
rash promise (never kept) to include an elephant and a nun in all of my books.
The basic plot involved an agent from Texan Intelligence sent to infiltrate Houston, which has been overrun by gangs (shades of Escape from New York). One of the gangs had gotten hold of nuclear weapons from a sunken attack submarine.
Beyond Thunder River
Another CYOA, in an adaptation of one of the original Robert E. Howard short stories. A fun project, especially since I had the chance to write "alternate branches" for the original story.
I had the strange feeling of being a collaborator with the late Robert Howard on this book. Certainly I felt the responsibility not to add anything to his story which he wouldn't have wanted in it.
| BILI THE AXE|
| This product was set in the world of the Horseclans,
and what I remember most about it was the long conversations I had with Robert Adams (author
of the novels). This was an unusual CYOA, since it was more of a scenario generator than a
story -- the player, as Bili the Axe, fought through his years as a mercenary prior to the
events described in the novels.|
This book was recalled by the publisher due to editorial errors - the paragraphs had been numbered incorrectly. (The manuscript had paragraph labels when I turned it in, with the paragraphs being randomized and numbered by the editor.) I was surprised by the recall, as the book doesn't have any major errors in it that I'm aware of (all of the books had minor errors, I believe - this kind of editorial work is very difficult to do perfectly).
| || |
A CYOA adaptation of the novel by Alan Dean Foster, in which Pip and Flinx start their careers. My hopes to adapt all of the novels in the series were never realized.
The challenge: First, to convert an entire novel into an adventure booklet without losing anything (major). Second, I created new "alternate" characters for the book, the idea being to give more replay value to the players. That was fun, but it was hard because I wanted to create figures who would blend in with what Alan had done in the original novel.
A disappointment: Never getting to talk to Alan Dean Foster. (According to my editor, he never bothered to make any comments whatsoever on the draft - he has no interest in games.)
|Fun but relative straight-forward adapatation of a Conan short story (essentially, an icy dungeon).|
|Flight 13||Originally titled Flight 666, but the publisher was afraid that title would generate negative publicity. This was a GM-moderated adventure book of what I think of as a "Twilight Zone" type of plot: the players are thrown into mysterious circumstances and must figure out why these events are happening to them. My editor recruited me into the playtest sessions, so this is the only adventure which I both wrote and playtested.|
Moon of Blood
|CYOA sequel to Beyond Thunder River. I had some aspirations to continuing to follow Conan's adventures in chronological order, but this was as far as I got.|
|Death Game 2090||My only cyperpunk work (so far), and I'm rather proud of it. It was a virtual reality adventure, a year or two before that subject became so popular.|
|Harlequin||I contributed to this Shadowrun anthology, writing the "Past" mini-adventure (which involves a trip to Germany, and some shadowrunning in an ancient castle).|
|A Bunch of SJG Stuff||I was editor-in-chief there, so I worked on more than a few projects, including: the middle four books in the SJG/TSR Car Wars book series, the Australian Road Atlas, GURPS Space (most of the universe setting material was written by me), and GURPS Horror (I designed the original psionic rules). However, most of my time at SJG was spent recruiting freelancers and keeping them on deadline.|
| Talislanta Cyclopedae|
Volumes 2 through 6
| We actually
worked on volumes all the way to 10, but the company failed before it
could all be finished and published. The work was fun, because we had to
use our imaginations to flesh out each region based on the random facts
stated in the previous books (quite a challenge).
Later, after a royalties dispute with the designer, all of the Cyclopedia material was declared "unofficial" and stricken from the official lore of Talislanta! (And I've never received a dime for the copies of the books sold by Wizards of the Coast - they won't even reply to my mail, the worms...)
|Space Atlas II||Another "ghost" book. My team put together this multi-world pack for a game publisher, only to have the publisher try to weasel out of the contract. (He still wanted to publish the book, and in fact had already typeset it, but didn't want to pay us the promised fee.) So we (the authors and I) pulled the book, figuring we'd rather get paid nothing than be cheated. At the same time, we pulled all three adventures that had been written for the game setting as well, and never worked with that publisher again.|
|The publisher's idea was that people would pay to get campaign ideas, which they could then flesh out and add to their own campaigns. The book had a collection of six or so campaign articles. The authors did a great job, but the book had an ugly cover (the kiss of death).|
Back in the dawn of time, I designed a few boardgames:
|Hot Spot||I had been fascinated for years by a story, and more particularly a cover, from an old issue of Analog magazine. They were the inspiration for this boardgame about warfare which takes place on floating crustals on a molten planet.|
|OneWorld||People have given me a lot of ribbing about this one over the years, but I still believe that the idea has merit! Yes, it's a boardgame version of Rock-Paper-Scissors, not the most cerebral game in the world, but I think my boardgame version has almost a classic feel to it...|
|C.B.W. Pi Metra [unpublished]||In the late 70's, I designed several games that were published in the Microgame series (see above). I followed this by designing a space fighter game (working title: C.B.W. Pi Metra), and I was surprised to receive my first rejection slip - the publisher said the game wasn't rich enough in gameplay. This was a good learning experience for me.|
Strike Force Jove
Seeking to improve my design skills after the failure of C.B.W. Pi Metra, I invested a lot of time in researching successful games and learning more about tactics before designing my fourth game. This design, the hardest boardgame project I ever worked on, eventually turned into a game I called Cheng Sze. This was accepted by Metagaming and went into full development (by Keith Gross), but Metagaming went under before it could be published.
This design was later put into development by TSR (and Kevin Hendryx), where they intended to publish it as a full-size boardgame (working title: Hellball). But there was a change of management at TSR, and they stopped making full-size boardgames.
The game next went to the offices of The Space Gamer magazine, where editor Chris Frink put it into development as a "game in the magazine." It was now known as War in the Slime or Slimelord. However, The Space Gamer was sold before the project was complete.
So what finally happened to the game?
Chris Frink, with my permission, sent three of my game designs to a new publisher in Australia. In the mid-80's, Pandora Magazine published Dragon Run in their premiere issue. I then received a notice of bankruptcy, and until recently, it had been my understanding for all of these years that Pandora had gone out of business after its first issue.
However, a kind reader has just (1998) sent me a copy of Pandora issue #2, and the game that was once in development as a Metagaming microgame was in fact published as a magazine game, called Strike Force Jove. The background has been changed almost beyond recognition by two successive editors (without any consultation on my part), but the game mechanics appear to be identical to my original design.
Thus, Strike Force Jove may be considered the last of the Microgames to have been published (although not by Metagaming!), and also perhaps the rarest.
| || The last of my boardgame projects, this game
(working title: Sky Riders) was planned to be published in the Dwarfstar
mini-game line from Heritage. Unfortunately, Heritage went out of business, and I was very
lucky that my editor (Arnold Hendricks) returned my design before Heritage's creditors could seize it!
This game next went to The Space Gamer magazine, where it was expected to reach print as a "game in the magazine." However, the magazine was sold, and for some reason the manuscript was not sent to the new owner. Instead, the design eventually was part of a three-game package which went to Australia (see above).
The game was finally published as Dragon Run, in the premiere issue of Pandora Magazine. Unfortunately, I've never seen a copy of that game - shortly after receiving payment, I received a notice that the publisher had declared bankruptcy.
Oh, what was the game about? One player controlled a Dragon, with the mission of flying to a tower and picking up the sacrificial maiden. The other player had a variety of soldiers on flying pegasi.
Did you live in the Utah desert in a small town called Tooele? I'm the crazy gamer who hosted the game club (the Tooele Valley Gamers Association) once or twice a week in my home. We had some really great times, and made friendships that have stood the test of time.