Starship Build: The beginning.

September 18, 2016

A Starship Bridge for the child inside.

A few years ago, far too many years ago, I was introduced to Artemis Spaceship Bridge Simulator. This game developed by Thom Robertson essentially puts you in the bridge of a starship along with your friends. There are plenty of sites that go into it in much more detail and could lose yourself in the myriad of YouTube videos where it features. I won’t be listing all of them I am now just going to assume that you know what this is all about and move on.

I’ve invited friends around to my home, we’ve played for charity and raised money for Special Effect, I’ve also interviewed several community members and the community manager for Artemis for the StarfleetComms podcast. I’ve taken my own bridge set up for free to LaveCon 2015 where we ran sessions over the entire weekend, booked solid from 10am each day until 4am both nights. They were so impressed they decided to adopt it as a convention feature and create their own setup.

Fantasticon 2015 was where the setup really shone and Dan Grubb was kind enough to at least provide us with accommodation! Booked solid once again the room for the bridge was eminently suitable as it was just the right size and hexagonal… just like a starship bridge! I am extremely grateful to Dan for all of his help and wish him nothing but success. Keep an eye out for Fantasticon, it’s one convention with a great host and a team behind it who really understand the value contributors make.

Photo of starship bridge scene

Tense moment on the bridge at Fantasticon 2015, Country Park Hotel, Hull

It was during this period I was hoping to take my bridge setup to different conventions in the UK. Out of the all of the conventions that I approached during 2015 and early 2016 (including some rather famous ones I might add) none were interested in paying money or reimbursing expenses. One claimed they were non-profit which somehow prevents covering expenses and yet they also charged an entrance fee. I’m not sure how that works?

Only one said they couldn’t spare dedicated space for the bridge. We didn’t get to the money stage of the negotiations so I have no idea if they would have been more reasonable.

The majority wanted the starship bridge for free, they wanted me to pay for my own accommodation, they wanted me to pay all the costs, to gain no revenue (as the ticket is all inclusive) and do it purely for exposure.

After consulting with another team of bridge enthusiasts from the Starship Horizons community I was able to offer these UK conventions some ideas for them to generate income to make the bridge “affordable” to them, such as a raffling a crew seat with convention celebrities. Either they weren’t interested and had made their minds up or they thought it a brilliant idea and decided to do it themselves at some point in the future. I have no idea as they declined to comment further.

What is exposure?

Exposure has a time and a place. If  your volunteered effort costs you less than the value gained from doing it then exposure is good. If it costs you more or you gain nothing from it then exposure is not good.

For example, I offer the chance for people to be a podcast co-host. I don’t pay as there is no revenue. The value the co-hosts get is practice at being on a podcast, not having to pay for a website or any hosting fees, a ready-made audience of thousands and the opportunity to get their name out there. If they’re lucky and talented they could be the next Anna Sale or Chris Hardwick. It costs the volunteer nothing in terms of consumable materials other than a few hours of their time. I gain some interesting and varied content in addition to my own efforts and you get to listen to it.

Exposure in terms of taking my starship bridge to conventions offers me no value as all I am really doing is promoting someone else’s product. Yes, it’s my bridge, it’s not for sale but the game is. While my bridge promotes it, I don’t actually make revenue from sales of the game.

The value to conventions is an immersive, fun experience for their guests in addition to the content they already have. The  conventions make revenue in what is known as the gate fees. When it comes to wear and tear and replacing thousands of pounds worth of set and computers when damaged in transit or at the convention, the value from the exposure is utterly meaningless as it cannot pay the bills.

I would have been happy with a minimal fee to cover reasonable expenses such as accommodation but the vision of some convention managers is without doubt focussed on maximising their own profits at the expense of volunteers fuelled in part by the fact some people are actually happy to do it all for free, not only starship bridge provision but other stuff. Hauling a starship bridge for free around the country incurring costs of overnight stays, transport fuel costs and wear and tear isn’t exactly a sustainable model but some people do exactly that and more power to them if that’s what they want to do!

I just don’t see how incurring costs can help maintain, sustain and improve a complex bridge setup. The accommodation cost could easily be diverted toward replacement or additional effects. We all want quality, right?

Moving on.

I have recently decided that I should just have some fun with it all and forget about taking my setup to any conventions or events and to forgo the teamwork training until such time the market improves or a viable opportunity emerges.

My set up was always being put up and taken down in the dining room but spending most of its time locked away in a cupboard, all very sad and forlorn. I need a home for it, a permanent home where I can develop it to its full potential and where it’s available to me and my friends whenever we want, instantly. I need a dedicated bridge! It’s time to have fun with it!

The foundation.

The bridge foundation

Ideas for construction.

The problem I have is that I don’t actually have a spare room so that means I need a dedicated structure. One of the ideas we had was to dig under the garden and construct a room there then build a garden on top of it. This was feasible and would have worked had it not been for planning permission, the Party Wall Act and the teensy little matter of finance.

The solution we’ve settled on is a wooden outbuilding that is no more than 2.5m high and therefore doesn’t need any form of planning permission. This should be arriving sometime in October 2016.

But before we could do anything, we needed to clear away an existing shed. Some foundation work will need to be extended for the whole area as the existing foundation is too small…

Look out for further updates very soon. 🙂

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