Diplomacy Today

Some 30-odd years ago I tried to run a play-by-mail DIPLOMACY game to keep in touch with someone my game-playing friends. I’d moved to Portland, Oregon from Eugene in 1987 and left behind some of the folks I’d played with in my early 20s. I picked up a couple folks in Portland while I was at Reed College, but one of them had headed out to Princeton after a year or so, and the other got sucked up by Microsoft before he graduated. Back in the pre-Internet, mostly pre-email days when you still had to pay long-distance phone fees, it was hard for me to keep up with my far-flung cohort; ultimately, I wasn’t successful, i lost touch with most everyone, either for years or for ever.

I’d started this project while I was working at Powell’s Books, where I had just convinced management to set up a $10,000 state-of-the-art desktop publishing system (just slightly less than my annual income there, at the time) and finishing off my English Literature degree at Reed. Id seen a few other DIPLOMACY zines, and i was reasonably certain this one was unique in style, at least, so i sent a couple of the black-and-white issues off to Avalon Hill’s in-house magazine THE GENERAL. Then-editor Rex Martin wrote back, and he was going to be a player in the second game I was planning to run (the ’Red’ edition), with the possibility that we might run some material in THE GENERAL.

But things didn’t work out in the short run. i don’t recall exactly how it fell apart, but like a lot of PBM games, there were issues with everyone having time to deal with real life before they got around to games. There were already intimations in this relatively early phase of the Blue game. That’s the way the cookie crumbles, DIPLOMACY-wise.

Anyway, the interesting thing to me was that I’d written a little colophon for this edition, highlighting hardware and software in use around 1990.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been asked several times about how DT is put together, what programs are used, how the graphics are generated, etc. It seems appropriate to address some of these questions now that we’re making a major format upgrade.

First, it probably helps to know that my job places me in close contact with Apple Macintosh II computer with 2MB of RAM, a 40MB internal hard drive, an Ehman Engineering removable 45MB hard drive, and a color monitor, all of which is attached to a LaserWriter IINT. Basic page layout is done with Aldus PageMaker (the latest version is 3.02CK), with most of the text being directly entered into PageMaker. Our lovely master map was done by Regan Carey in Adobe Illustrator. I’d tried my hand at tracing a scanned DIPLOMACY map, but Regan’s looks soooo much better. The patterns used in the black-and-white maps were designed by myself, except for the double-headed Russian eagle, which is a simplified version of Regan’s logo (featured on the front page of this issue). Likewise, the DIPLOMACY TODAY logo and most of the other graphics were created by myself with Adobe Illustrator (latest version is 1.9.3). I use bits and pieces of the master map to make the ones with arrows and things. All of the fonts are standard LaserWriter Plus (and later) fonts: the logo is in Avant Garde, with some heavy line strokes, headlines are in Helvetica and Helvetica Narrow, body text is New Century Schoolbook; and some Zapf Dingbats are thrown in for good measure. The look, of course, derives directly from the pages of USA TODAY.

Up until now. I’ve just been printing the newsletter on the LaserWriter and letting it go at that (a process I will continue for most of the people on the mailing list). To get this first color issue, however, I’ve been forced to delay publication partly because none of the Portland service bureaus were equipped with a PostScript color laser printer. Finally, L.graphix, just a block from my office, came through, and got their new QMS up and running just after New Year’s.

If I can get hold of Regan to ask him for permission, I will make the master map available to anyone willing to give him credit for it. Anyone with a self-addressed, stamped envelope can have a copy of DT in black-and-white, an SASE and $2 will get them the color version the players get for free.

—Questions about DIPLOMACY TODAY