As you all know, Ive been a major contributor to the Traveller game universe since the game's publication in 1977. What I've decided to do here is reminisce a bit about things that people seem to be interested in.
Back before the release of Traveller, GDW had published it's first RPG, a single booklet called En Garde, and it was selling well enough for us to seriously think about doing more. Marc Miller proposed that we publish a game with a science-fiction theme (I forget whether he called it Traveller at that time or not -- in any case, the name came very early in the development process). Design work commenced. At about the same time, rumors were circulating of an upcoming movie called Star Wars, but we knew nothing about it but the title.
About six months before the movie came out, on one of my periodic ranbles through the local bookstores, I noticed a paperback book called Star Wars by one George Lucas, whose name I vaguely remembered as having something to do with the movies American Graffiti and THX 1138 and I wondered if it was the same person (a later rumor said the novel was ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster based on Lucas' screenplay). I bought the book, and soon got a chance to read it -- I drew jury duty. For those of you who have never experienced jury duty, basically you receive a small stipend from the county court to sit in a lounge in the county courthouse for eight hours a day, waiting to be called to serve on a jury. Reading material in the form of magazines and used paperbacks was thoughtfully provided by the county, but I decided to bring my own -- my newly-purchased and still-unread copy of Star Wars.
I read the novel while waiting to be called (I eventually served on a jury in a rather boring land-condemnation case). I liked the novel -- the plot was nice and the characters were interesting -- but overall, it was nothing outstanding. Perhaps my mind's eye wasn't up to the challenge . . .
Design on Traveller proceeded, and playtesting began. The movie's premiere date approached, and we learned that it wasn't going to open everywhere at once. Marc invited me to accompany him to Lombard (a suburb of Chicago) to see the movie on its opening day. We took the afternoon off from work and made the three-hour drive, arriving in time to grab a short meal with Marc's mother (who lived in Lombard or near it) before going to the theater. The theater had two screens (the other film was Gone in 60 Seconds). A huge crowd had gathered. We learned that all six booths were selling Star Wars tickets, and if you wanted to see the other movie, the manager would sell you one out of a roll in his pocket. Marc and I bought our tickets and elbowed our way inside to await the next showing.
The theater was packed, literally wall-to-wall. We were there for the third or fourth showing of the day, and the conversation around us indicated that many people were still there after the first or second showings, waiting to see the movie again. Marc mentioned that this was a good sign. We entered the theater, took our seats, and sat through the coming attractions. The movie began, and as I watched the words scrolling up the screen, like the start of a thirties serial, I remember thinking, "This is going to be very, very good or very, very bad!" The scrolling vanished into the distance, and the small ship appeared. My interest was piqued. The large ship appeared -- and appeared -- and continued to appear. It occurred to me that the small ship was in serious trouble . . . and that my concerns about the film were probably groundless.
Those of you too young to have seen Star Wars in its initial theatrical release have little realization of the quantum leap in special effects that the movie represented -- it changed everything about the way movies are made. The SFX seems primitive now, nearly 30 years later, but at the time it was a major advance in the state of the art. One example sticks in my mind -- the scene where the Millennium Falcon makes the jump to hyperspace. The first time I saw this, I found myself on my feet, cheering -- then I realized what I was doing, and looked around. I was in the middle of a theater full of people, all standing, all looking around sheepishly. Had we really just given a special effect a standing ovation? That was something I had never seen before, something I had never heard of before.
I won't describe the rest of the movie, or the drive home afterwards or the conversations we had with the other staff the next day. Let's just say that for me, Traveller and Star Wars are irrevocably linked -- the thought of one invariably calls up images of the other.