On Keeping The Pot Boiling

A few of you have expressed interested in how Planets Mag works — some with an eye to contributing content, others no doubt from idle curiosity. The simple truth is, alas, that we’ve got no idea ourselves. We keep writing, and people keep reading, and these are good things.

There’s more to it, mind; it’s a valuable rule to remember that everything is always more complex. So if you’re interested in the process, feel free to keep reading. If on the other hand you prefer to think of it as “magic” and just plan to enjoy the fruits of our labor… well, you too can keep reading, because this is exactly one of those products of which we are (for better or worse) so immensely proud.

A while back, someone — I think it was Lord Pollax — commented on the shallowness of the Insights articles. I of course agreed; they’re intended to be somewhat shallow. That’s their entire point, though to be sure sometimes you might find a surprisingly insightful gem buried just beneath the surface. Sure and it’s a rare Colonies player who would have thought of fielding a three-beam Scorpius before we weighed in.

But it’s nevertheless true that these Insights articles were made to be simple — food for thought, showcasing something curious one might do with an unused or underused ship. The hint’s in the name: “Insights”. Instead of an in-depth analysis, these are designed for light reading. We’ll probably revive the series later, but we’re running out of underused hulls that have a potential serious purpose.

(Having said that, I’ve got a B200 build that’s a bit startling, in addition to two useful purposes for the Quietus and Skyfire. Stay tuned and you may some day get to read them. -G)

It takes a goodly amount of time to write an in-depth article, one reason PsyDev’s series on torpedoes is so long between installments. More complete raceguides take months in the writing and years in the researching. We’re still waiting on Mentar’s, as I recall — brilliant and exhaustive, but it never did make it back from the rewrite. (I slapped a quickie up as a placeholder, but it’s beginner-level at best. And that was… what, seven years ago?) Anaconda’s on the Glory Device was a brilliant and focused guide to Classic Fascists, and it took the better part of a year to edit. If we’re very lucky, we might get three or four interviews with Joshua in any given year (and that’s if he ever forgives us for April Fools!)

So between them we like to do light articles, to keep interest up. That was the purpose of “The Operative” being in short, thousand-word installments, with a well-timed cliffhanger coming conveniently at the end of each one. They’re known to the industry as “potboilers”, which has become curiously pejorative, indicating something with less literary merit but nevertheless retaining the virtue of being a block of text that fills space. The idea is that even something shallow or trite might bring in something to throw into the pot, which is always boiling — you starve otherwise. It draws readers when we haven’t necessarily got much to say, which (let’s face it!) is most of the time.

And yet, there always does seem to be something worthwhile buried in the mass of text. Possibly this is because, with so many words, it’s inevitable that one or two will be interesting or valuable or even profound, just given the odds. It’s like Tom Stoppard said about those proverbial six monkeys — if you throw them up into the air often enough, they’ll tend to land on their tails as often as their heads.

For example: We’re planning to do a broad analysis of each of the fleets of the Eleven Races. Our working title is the FOCUS ON series, as in, “FOCUS ON: The Rebels”. Each will contain a broad overview, with such things as “The Rebels have refit a bunch of random freighters with weapons, some of which are surprisingly useful” and “The main fleet carrier is the Rush, which can hold its own against any vessel in space”. But it will also mention a few unique benefits — Rebels have the Falcon and RGA, for instance, which can be an absolutely deadly combo.

Talespin had the thought that we might assemble some articles on Battle Groups, as mentioned way back when in the Dreadlord Manual. After all, something that’s common knowledge to experienced Federation players like “Stack Missouris with Kittyhawks” might be a startling insight for a new player, and even the most expert among us might miss out on how classic ship combinations might need to be changed up to best work within the New Nu Queue build system revision.

Let’s see… what else? We’ve got the next part of PsyDev’s torpedo analysis in the polishing stage, and Sovereign has been working on a revised ship ranking list by power. A few other players have messaged us with their own submissions, and each of those is somewhere along in the process — there’s one on the new Crystals that I think shows some promise. I’ve got a couple of other Modest Proposals that I’ve been putting together. We’ve sent another list of interview questions along to Joshua and are anxiously awaiting his response. The Operative is still hanging out in orbit, but there’s more to his story — honestly, I’m torn between revising the ending for a print copy or doing a few more chapters to round it out here on the Mag. TS is working on a deployment analysis for — well, I’ll leave some surprises. Oh, and there’s the Invitational, which I’m told is coming along in fascinating style.

Point is, there’s some new content in the pipeline, and we’re really quite excited about it.

For the next couple of weeks, we may end up taking some extra time between releases. We’ve scheduled a bit of a publishing hiatus because we do need a break sometimes — Talespin’s got a real job and a life, and I’m prone to recurring bouts of fever. (Other people drunk-text; me, I fever-post. You do not want me fever-posting. It’s like this only it makes less sense, though at least the colors are fun.)

But if we run silent for a little while, don’t worry. We haven’t given up, and we’re not going anywhere. Planets is the greatest game out there, and it draws only the best players. We’re proud to be its fan magazine.


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