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You’ve found StarfleetComms. We’re omnipresent offering Science Fiction game, TV, book and film reviews from a spaceship in the 33rd century!
Here’s some history:
It’s 1999 and the multiplayer online Games Starfleet Command and Starfleet Command 2: Empires at War are all the rage. Using player created servers to wage campaign battles against warring factions, sometimes hundreds of players were able to play on one server simultaneously, although more often that not the upper limit was around 50 or so due to stability issues.
Community sites at that time providing free and configurable forums were quite rare it seems. In any case, StarfleetComms was born and offered exactly what the Starfleet Command community wanted:
1: Free, configurable forums for their fleets to discuss Dynaverse campaign tactics and strategy.
2: Confidence that those discussions would remain confidential.
3: A free email service that had approximately 2000 users.
This continued very successfully having hundreds of forums available over the time (around 47 individual ones reset for campaigns) and 3000 plus accounts were created on the site. This was well before Web 2.0 and many aspects of customising the forums were hand coded so I was kept very busy.
In addition, StarfleetComms also hosted a series of Dynaverse servers. Most notably the Slave Girls series of servers concentrating on the Orion Pirates release of Starfleet Command. These were never as popular as those use the Empires at War code, however technically they were better in that campaigns were more configurable however they were a little buggy when it came to faction map updates.
9/11 hit. The gaming community with some key players made up of US servicemen and women seems to dissipate. A player group then started saving other development ideas from other player groups and continued developing campaigns and servers. In 2001, StarfleetComms closed as I just didn’t have the time to run it because I was moving to another part of the UK and had to seek a new career.
The community is now concentrated at www.dynaverse.net where server campaigns still run and the Slave Girls of Orion series is now up to version VIII although I was only involved with SGOO I & II.
A few years later in 2006, once I’d settled and started a new career, I retrieved the domain from scabby marketers and set about creating a new community site for Eve Online.
2007 – 2008
StarfleetComms was reborn.
* Free forums that were created on demand automatically (until 2009)
* Free blogs (until 2010)
* Community forums (until 2009)
* Video guides
* Text guides
* Comms links (like Digg) (until 2010)
StarfleetComms offered those services for a number of years. Ultimately, that failed. Why? While free forums are handy, people are now so technically capable they tend to run their own. Trust is also an issue within Eve Online and despite being trustworthy, a generally heightened sense of security within the community mean players source their own solutions.
Blogs are a similar story and when StarfleetComms started blog hosting, blogging was quite new. It’s very popular now, however, Podlogs and EvePress did quite well until they closed. The community forums failed as Scrapheap Challenge, Kug and a couple of other RP forums already exist. There was simply no demand, however, we still offered them. I started an Internet Radio Station in 2007 too, fully licensed with the PPL and MCPRS in the UK and was limited to broadcasting to 130 or so countries, excluding the US. This was more of an exercise in “can I do this” rather than a major project or direction change. Despite that, it was great fun and worked well. I conducted interviews at several players meets as well as recording and broadcasting almost all of the 2007 Fanfest presentations. I even had a few listeners. However, I ran out of money and closed it in the latter part of 2008.
So, what to do now?
In 2007 you will recall I set about creating a Digg-like functionality to the site where all articles could be voted up or down. Players could “Comms Link” any page, thread, post or article on Eve related sites by clicking a bookmarklet in their browser then vote for articles of interest. No one used it. However this year I wanted to take it a step further. If no one was using it to link (comms link) articles, why not automate that aspect allowing players just to vote? Recognising that the Eve Online forums can be a bit messy, I thought it would be a good idea to scrape all of those forums (as Chribba does for Eve Search) but also add voting buttons to the content. Links to the Eve Online forum within the articles would still be valid allowing browsers to properly reply to posts as well as allowing replies on this site to continue parallel discussions here.
A brilliant idea that worked really well and started to become very popular with site visitors but now no longer working because CCP has blocked my scraper according to tracert and the site hosts. Needless to say, discussions with CCP over why it’s no longer working were not productive and this aspect of StarfleetComms sadly remains disabled.
You will find that some Comms Links are still published on StarfleetComms, however, voting and creation of new ones is now switched off. All pre-2014 content has been deleted.
Eve Instant Messenger was born in 2010. The idea behind it was simple and laudable. A single IM client that just needed your in-game API details to authenticate and recognising players want to run their own stuff, it could connect to whatever Jabber server a player ran with no additional fiddly configuration. It created chat rooms based on the corporation or alliance name, these rooms were also passworded so you gave that out to members. On paper that sounds great. In practice I didn’t foresee the ways that API authentication could be bypassed, so Eve IM failed. It could still be useful as a chat client using password authentication but with so many other more secure solutions out there why reinvent the wheel? With no one using forums or blogs and comms links not getting any love and comments now being looked after by Disqus, registration to the site became unnecessary and was turned off.
Now StarfleetComms has a blog with video and text guides as well as its own Podcast.
The podcast goes from strength to strength. Sadly, Eve Core quit Eve Online but luckily I was able to get two new cast members, Noise and Penelope Star. They both provide very different perspectives on Eve Online as they have very different backgrounds making for some great discussions. We launch the ISK Bucket, a comedy/drama audio addition to the podcast which has gained an enthusiastic band of followers!
Near the 1st birthday of the podcast, we launch the StarfleetComms Radio Show broadcast on www.newedenradio.com.Then, around Christmas 2011 after 19 podcasts, 3 episodes of the Isk Bucket and 3 live radio shows we had a short break for various reasons. The priorities of the cast turned toward family life and that short break turned into an 11-month break. Then we finally decided to fess up and officially quit November 2012.
We play Artemis, Elite: Dangerous and many other space games.So we restarted the podcast.
Podcast Feed: http://www.starfleetcomms.com/feed/podcast/
iTunes link: https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/starfleetcomms/id869117153
Podcast Episode list: http://starfleetcomms.com/category/podcast/
Gavin (Noise) my super co-host had to prioritise his time so unfortunately was no longer available. This meant it was a one man band again which was against the grain of the show format so season 2 of the podcast ended. Throughout though, the StarfleetComms site was still running.
Meanwhile, we have brought you Science Fiction book reviews and refocussed attention on the portable bridge set up given its success at Lavecon 2015 and appearance at Fantasticon 2015. The website has had a little makeover and has tighter integration with Facebook. You can learn more about our portable starship bridge facility here.
Again, we relaunched the podcast just before 2016 as Season 3 and now have multiple co-hosts. We now run a science fiction review podcast and the focus on games has lessened. Reviewing and discussing a more eclectic mix of science fiction subject matter we continue to write book reviews too.
Once again, we’ve removed direct social interaction from the site as it simply wasn’t being used. So the group forums and other facilities have now been discontinued as of late February 2016. We also took this opportunity to give the site another makeover placing the sci-fi podcast slap bang centre.
Onwards we march as the listener figures go from strength to strength with brilliant feedback. We’re happy that we seem to be doing something right and are able to enjoy ourselves while we do it.
Season 3 of the podcast ended. During that season a new idea concerning the podcast, it’s presentation and format was born. So to that end, I started building a set for filming and streaming.
Season 4 and season 5 continue, much less frequent than I’d like but at least it’s going!
Is there a moral to this story? I suppose there is. It demonstrates that you should never give up. Time and time again there are setbacks and challenges that must simply be overcome one way or another and that must continue… in whatever form that is!