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"We've had Fluxx for a long time. Every time we play it, we laugh a lot. At the end of the game, we always agree that it's a terrible, horrible, no-fair game and that we'd better play again immediately. Totally zany, and I'll never admit how much I love it." -- Heather Madrone's Rabbit bio

Thursday, July 21st, 2005
by the Writer's Guild of Wunderland

What's New?

What's Going On? Pleased with Progress / Icebreaker 2!

Lots of stuff going on here this week, as usual. I'm pleased to say that everything is going well!

Firstly, I'm very pleased to report that the card artwork for EcoFluxx (and Fluxx 3.1) has gone to the printers Yay! Be sure to check out the greatly expanded EcoFluxx page for card samples! Also, samples of the color Keepers Alison's making for Fluxx Junior can now be seen on the new Fluxx Junior page. (Alison by the way is now at camp until the end of August, but she'll be back for a few days between 2nd and 3rd session and plans to finish up the Fluxx Junior artwork then.)

Secondly, here's a photo of my new Packing Assistant, James Durfor, at his book-scanning station (i.e. the multi-user desk in the living room). He's only put in 2 days here so far, but already we've inventoried and packed up 18 boxes containing almost 700 books. The packing project is finally moving into high gear!

And speaking of things finally getting in gear, I'm really very pleased indeed to say that our sales department is staffed and working like never before! For years I've been whining that what we really need on staff is someone who's fully focused on making sales calls, someone who has what we call the Sales Gene, and is good at and enjoys making sales calls instead of hating and resisting such work like most of the rest of us here at Looney Labs are prone to do. We've tried hiring various people to fill this role but none have worked out until now. But at last, we finally have Alvaro on our permanent team (though still only part-time) plus we have Luisa, who we can't actually hire yet, but who's working for us as a volunteer until she gets her Green Card (she's a Mexican citizen who's been living in Greenbelt for 10 years on various student visas). Now Alvaro (who has many years of experience in high-pressure sales of much more boring things than games) is training Luisa and they're both working our phones, getting retailers excited about our new releases. Whoo-hoo! I think this is really going to make a difference.

Speaking of things that could make a real difference in our path to success, I had a great idea last night, for publicity stunt of sorts that we can get our rabbits to help us with. We're still kicking the details of the idea around, so I can't really say anything about it right now, except for this: get ready to play a lot of Fluxx in September. (If you're on the EDU mailing list, you already know what I'm talking about.)

And as if all that we're pleasing enough, I just got some really exciting news. Nothing's final yet, but it's looking as though the impossible is going to happen. There's a very good chance now that ICEBREAKER 2 WILL BE RELEASED FOR THE 3DO. That's right, the completely unpublished sequel is finally going to become available for the long-dead platform!

How is this possible? First you must understand why it had been impossible up until now.

Ten years ago, I had some time on my hands. After I finished programming Icebreaker, the alien overlords I was working for (at Magnet Interactive Studios) left me idle for a surprisingly long time. I kept coming to work, and they kept paying me, but they couldn't decide what to have me do next, so I mostly just played Icebreaker. After about a month of that, I couldn't resist beginning development of new levels and new features for the game. My friend Dave Bondi, who created all those wonderful animated pyramids for the original game, even worked up really cool new art for many of the new features I added. (I also tinkered around with various other bits of software, including my first "Neutral TV" experiments, such as Kristin's Eye.)

The problem of course was that I was a dinosaur. Magnet had trained me to be a 3DO programmer, and I was one of the best! But by 1996 it was obvious the world needed no more 3DO programmers. The platform was rapidly dying at the hands of the cheaper and obviously better Sony PlayStation. Eventually, all 3DO work was scrapped and the programmers (including me) started to learn to write software for the PlayStation. I was finally assigned to a new project, regrettably called Incredible Idiots in Space... and then, the whole company boiled away.

"Yes, yes," I hear you saying, "but why was it impossible to release Icebreaker 2?" I was just getting to that...

In an attempt to maintain control over their hot new technology, the 3DO company had a system for requiring that all software released for the platform go through them first. As developers, we were unable to create disks that would play directly on standard 3DO game systems, ours would only work on specially equipped Testing Stations. To make a disk that would work on anyone's player required a processing step, called Encryption, which could only be performed by the magical wizards at 3DO. Thus, when we finished Icebreaker, I sent all my files and the final image to the 3DO company, who encrypted it for us. They sent back a master CD that we could duplicate and sell to the thousands of people who bought 3DO machines.

When I left the imploding remains of Magnet in 1996, I agreed to take a bunch of 3DO developer's equipment home in lieu of my final paycheck, and thus was able for a few years later to continue developing 3DO software at home. But of course, with no one at the 3DO company to encrypt it for me, the final disks I made were playable only on the Testing Station I took home. And that's how it's been for the past decade, and that's how I figured it would always be.

But suddenly, out of the blue, I hear some amazing news: renegade programmers in California have cracked the 3DO encryption system! THEY CAN ENCRYPT MY ICEBREAKER 2 DISK! Not only that, but they -- a company called OlderGames -- wish to publish it for us!

I've got a lengthy email here from their Creative Director, explaining how legally everything's cool, since Magnet's gone, the platform's dead, and the number of copies to be sold is so small it wouldn't be worth suing anybody over. Also, since they'll be the publishers, not us, they'll be the ones taking the heat if a legal issue does come up somehow. So I think this really can happen!

Of course, what we're going to have to go with is the last version of the game I burned to a CD way back when... my development system has been in mothballs since around 1999. This means what we release will have some rough edges, since it's actually just a work in progress. Instead of a full 150 levels, it only has 115 or so, plus at bootup it begins with a little programmer's interface I created, providing access to over a dozen odd little test programs and such, including Kristin's Eye, virtual Paul Murphy, and Rocks in Space. You can also play Rock Paper Scissors with me, for those times when I'm not there to meet such a challenge in person. All of this, and more, will of necessity be available on Icebreaker 2 for the 3DO. (But not the Aquarius Girls... I did that stuff after version 6.7, at a time when I did not have the ability to burn new CDs.)

Anyway, it's not a done deal yet, but amazingly enough it sounds like Icebreaker 2 may finally see the light of day... for anyone who still has a 3DO, that is. (And if you never got one but want to now, check eBay!) And while I still don't expect to make much money from Icebreaker, it will be a joy to finally have the sequel -- and all its cool features -- available for the fans.

Oh, and speaking of done deals, here's one more pleasing thing: We've signed a contract with a Japanese game company, who'll be releasing the Japanese version of Fluxx! Unlike the German version, I won't be able to understand it at all, but I'm really looking forward to trying to play it anyway!

AndyHere's hoping your week has been pleasing as well, and thanks for reading!

Thought Residue
Rest in Peace, Scotty! You were always my favorite character on the original series (fond though I may be of Mr. Spock). I'll never forget sitting right up front when you were the guest speaker at an Engineering Colloquim at Goddard, when Kristin and I were working there together in the early 90s. Perfect timing, too, leaving the Earth on Moon Day. You may be dead, Jim Doohan, but you'll live forever in our hearts.

"Since my name is Molly Ivins and I speak for myself, I'll tell you exactly why I opposed invading Iraq: because I thought it would be bad for this country, our country, my country. I opposed the invasion out of patriotism, and that is the reason I continue to oppose it today -- I think it is bad for us. I think it has done nothing but harm to the United States of America. I think we have created more terrorists than we faced to start with and that our good name has been sullied all over the world. I think we have alienated our allies and have killed more Iraqis than Saddam Hussein ever did." -- Molly Ivins, "Batten Down the Hatches"
"Despite a congressional finding to the contrary, marijuana does have valid therapeutic purposes."-- The Supreme Court's medical marijuana ruling of June 6, 2005

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