Days of High Adventure
A Perpetual Traveller - Marc Miller

Allen Varney | 14 Jan 2010 21:00
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Miller left GDW in 1991. Once more, for a few years, he wandered. He sold insurance, which he has said gave him "valuable experience and a grounding in non-game business operations." He wrote the storylines for several Microprose computer games based on GDW properties, including MegaTraveller I and II - "a very well executed collaboration between Traveller and the computer people to create a game that was fun and was faithful to the game background." And when Magic: The Gathering launched the trading card game industry in 1993, Miller designed and produced the second TCG, Super Deck!

With his wife, Darlene, Miller started a consulting company, Heartland Publishing Services, to advise new and would-be game publishers. In a 1986 interview in The Traveller's Digest fanzine, he had suggested every game designer would do well to study business. "[A]ny game designer is going to get involved in the business, the advertising, the merchandising of games. He can't help it. Most game designers are self-employed. Half of those who aren't self-employed work for game designers who are self-employed, and will be called upon to write advertising copy, to do good writing, to keep accounts or to do merchandising. I don't think it hurts to know how to give business advice. If the ball falls out of your court, you can always use those skills in the real world."

Of his current work through Heartland Publishing he says, "In about half of my consulting opportunities, I tell my client that the project isn't practical or potentially profitable, or both. I have a duty to be straightforward with them and to share my experience with them. For the other half, I help them not have to re-invent the wheel. My job is to show them the ropes, discuss with them the practicalities of designing and publishing, and guide them toward a successful publication.

"Some don't really understand being an entrepreneur, and they are the ones who risk not following through or devoting enough time and energy to the project. Those who do understand the concept of entrepreneurship sometimes need advice on what is and isn't practical; their enthusiasm sometimes overwhelms practical considerations.

"I can't say I wish potential publishers out there knew any different facts: it's my job to provide much of that information. But I wish some of them understood there's a process for arriving at conclusions or decisions, and (properly done) that process will save them money and heartache. I also believe a publishing venture is a process rather than a destination. If the process isn't going to be enjoyable, then it probably isn't going to work."

In 1996, after almost 23 years, GDW shut down. Rights to Traveller reverted to Miller, and he started Far Future Enterprises to sell reprints - and nowadays, CDs packed full with .PDFs - of the GDW books. He started yet another company, Imperium Games, to produce a fourth edition of Traveller set in the Imperium's earliest days.

Today Miller remains central to the game's ongoing development. For several years he has led careful development of yet another edition, Traveller5. "Traveller5 is in - I suppose we should call it 'beta' - and the kinks are being massaged out. It's a gigantic project, and we want it to be worthy of its expectations. Then again, it isn't supposed to replace Mongoose Traveller (or any of the other versions); it's a step up after someone has started playing Traveller and ultimately wants more."

Meanwhile, the Millers still love to travel, nowadays at a more measured pace. "Curiously, we find travel works best when work forces us to travel. In 2002 (in the aftermath of 9/11) we had to go to Las Vegas for a game industry trade show and decided to drive rather than fly. Did you know it takes nearly three weeks to get from Illinois to Las Vegas by car?"

Allen Varney is a writer and game designer based in Austin, Texas. He has written over 60 articles for The Escapist.

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