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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Publisher Woes

I had no publisher when I began work on Balance of Power. 1984 saw the collapse of the videogames business, and publishers were dropping like space invaders. They were too terrified to take a game like Balance of Power. Months dragged by and my agent couldn't find any takers. Our savings were running low and I was beginning to worry about making ends meet. Fortunately, in early January of 1985, Random House agreed to take the game. I met with the publisher and we saw eye to eye. We signed a contract, I got an advance, and my financial troubles were over.

But then the publisher handed the project off to an editor and things started to go downhill fast. That editor and I had been preordained in some distant past to do battle. He was a good person, but his particular weaknesses found perfect syntony with my own, and together our clash reverberated to ever-greater amplitude. At one point, I fixed him with a cold eye and asked: "You don't know anything about games, computers, or geopolitics. Why are you the editor for this project?" My question was right on the mark, but he didn't blink. "Because that's my job," he shot back. We were both right, and in our incompatible correctness, we failed spectacularly. After just three months, Random House pulled out of the deal, and I was suddenly in worse financial straits than before.

That was the second-worst period of my life. We were facing financial ruin. My wife, losing patience after I had played freelance game designer for a year, demanded that I get a "real job." Nobody wanted the game. At this point, any rational person would have coldly calculated the odds and taken my wife's advice. But I was possessed by my noble ideals and absolutely certain of the greatness of the design. I ignored all advice to the contrary and pushed on.

The angel that descended upon me was Scott Mace, a columnist for InfoWorld. Somehow he learned of my predicament and did a two-part story on Balance of Power. That story in turn was read by a junior producer at a new startup in Chicago, Mindscape. That producer knew me from my reputation and forwarded the Infoworld story to his boss with a strong recommendation that Mindscape acquire the game. And they did. I was saved.

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