Thoughts & Baubles: December 2021 Edition

by Kirk Bushell 12th December 2021 7 : 17

This month's Thoughts & Baubles comes direct from Kirk Bushell, Lead Engineer and Owner of FaB DB and the Rathe Times.

I don't believe in luck.

Well, almost. I do believe luck has one say in our lives: where we are born, and who our parents are. I believe that shapes most of what makes us into adults- but it doesn't look like luck to our parents or anyone else, only us, as our consciousness could have in arisen in any infant.

But other than that, I think luck is a concept that is largely a fallacy. Everything happens because a range of conditions gave rise to a moment occurring. Which leads me to one of my favourite quotes:

Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

I'm reminded of this quote often, because I feel lucky. Life is going relatively well: I'm married. I have a little 8-month old girl in my life. I have work that fulfils me. Additionally, I run a number of hobby projects (FaB DB, the Rathe Times and recently - Teklo Labs!) that are very enjoyable to work on, despite it effectively being a second full-time job.

Additionally, I'm reminded of this quote often because the last few years (but especially 2021) has felt as though luck has played a part, because I have been in a position to capitalise on certain opportunities.

So, how did the Rathe Times and I reach this point in our co-existence?

A lifetime of work & hobby

I've been developing websites and applications now for 20+ years. My professional career started in 2001 when I was kicked out by my mum and I really had to make a go of something I'd been doing as a hobby: website development. My website development ambitions started by making clan websites for the games that I played- at that time, mostly Starcraft and Counter-Strike. But before that, I was writing games on a Commodore 64 by literally copying and hand-typing hex codes into an application on the C64 (from C64 Magazine), and then running the app - which was usually a game.

(Unfortunately, I had no idea how to save the code, so it was spend a few hours copying codes, run the game, then never ran it again...)

So from a very early age, both programming and gaming were forever entwined. Gaming is what inspired me to support it through programming, and I could have very well gone the way of being a full time software engineer for games companies.

Machinations in the Flesh & Blood

Fast forward to November 2019 and I'm introduced to this new TCG called Flesh & Blood. I had been on and off with TCGs since the 90s, with MTG being my very first card game; but because I had very little money, I couldn't buy very much- usually the odd booster pack or a starter deck (I have a HUGE amount of nostalgia for the randomised 60-card MTG boxes!!!)

FAB landed with me in a very strong way. After my first couple of games with Kenny Michael, I ended up buying a few of the Alpha hero starters and was blown away by how balanced they were, with all my games landing within 1-2 life of my opponent. I then bought numerous boxes and started collecting and crafting my decks for my chosen hero: Dorinthea.

It was right around this time that I realised I needed to start researching the cards more and saving my collection for trades, wants, etc. And thus FaB DB was born.

FAB DB's early days was really limited. You could browse cards, searching their text and add cards to a collection - that was it.

It soon became obvious that FAB DB needed to be a whole lot more, and this is when my second fulltime job began.

Over the next 12 months, I spent a ridiculous number of hours crafting the deck builder (both the basic and premium versions), vastly improving search, and honing the collection manager, eventually starting to add more niche features like the deck tester, as well as building in TTS support as the lockdowns hit.

Although not specifically supported by LSS and their mission, I am convinced that this support for TTS- and through it, bringing the game online- is what kept the game going during the harshest periods of the lockdowns that we experienced globally. It allowed players to very easily play the game, even if they couldn't get ahold of stock- which was a big problem in 2020.

It was a completely free feature, even though it cost a fortune to run (generating the images and exporting for use in TTS was computationally very expensive). But it was important to me that players could continue to play, and a feature I am very proud of developing.

Fast forward a little ways into 2020 and I started supporting articles and content on FaB DB. I had a number of writers helping me out - including Alex Truell, Rathe Times' superstar Editor and partner.

It soon became obvious, however, that FaB DB was the wrong location for article content; and so the idea started ruminating in my cavernous mind (yes, it's mostly empty :P) that I needed a separate project for this. I sprung the idea on Alex for a separate project, with him leading the content aspect while I built all the features and supported it financially.

Alex was onboard, and by March 2021, The Rathe Times launched with no less than 10 articles and an incredible Pro Series from Hayden Dale to kick it off. We were off to the races!

From pennies to pounds

When I was asking for help for content on FaB DB initially, I could only offer authors $5/article, as FaB DB made next to no money. But I didn't want authors providing their time for nothing, even though it was such a small amount. However, as the project grew and became more and more supported by the community, I was able to eventually up this to $20/article. Still not much, but it was something.

Rathe Times kicked off by offering authors $25/article, and in the last 9 months has increased this to $40 per basic article and $85 for pro series articles, as well having narration support from the very awesome Mark Chamberlain (watch out for the sound/speaker icons on articles that have narration available!). This makes the Rathe Times one of the best locations for authors to showcase their content, and is something I'm very proud of. I made it very clear from the get-go that as the Rathe Times grew, the authors that helped get us there would be aptly rewarded. Ultimately, I want the Rathe Times to be successful enough that we can have authors work full-time doing what they love - writing content for their favourite game! We're a long ways off that yet, but it's important to have a clear mission ahead of us, something to strive for!

It should be noted that this mission has ensured that the Rathe Times has access to the best writers and best content, and has led to Alex and I working with some of the best players in the game, from Hayden Dale and Tyler Horspool, through to Mark Chamberlain (our narrator and also top-8 player), Isaac Jessen, Drew Cordell and many others! In fact, the Rathe Times currently has no less than 25 authors on its roster!

Things to Look Forward to in 2022

2021 was a big year for the Rathe Times. We launched in March and absolutely smashed our content and subscription goals within 3 months - half the time we expected it would take! This resulted in our payouts for content increasing substantially within a very short period, and we want to continue doing that. Content takes a lot of time and effort to produce, from the initial concepts to the final publication, after it's been checked for quality and consistency by our in-house Editor, Alex Truell!

But we're not stopping there. 2022 has big things in store for the Rathe Times, and some of those you can look forward to are:

  1. 1 pro series article per week (this is part of our subscription service and is aimed at players that really want to up their game). We currently managed 3 pro series articles per month, and think 1 a week serves our subscriber base well.
  2. More community spotlights/community focus. This has been an intermittent series to date, but ultimately we'd love to great community spotlight piece once per month, bringing more attention to those that are working hard and deserve it.
  3. More features here on the Rathe Times! We've been discussing for a while now establishing our own community through a forum, directly integrated with our own content, as well as some unique features. Aiming to have this land by mid year.
  4. Finally, better account subscription management. Currently we manage it through our Patreon via FaB DB and it's a little rough around the edges. Moving away from patreon to our own subscription system we feel would better serve the community, and result in a better user experience.


A memorable project, and a promising future

The Rathe Times has been a project unlike anything I have ever done in the past, and if you looked at it from the outside you might claim that I was lucky. But in reality, the Rathe Times has been a project 20+ years in the making, beginning with my experience in web development, the user experience, and working with teams to create successful projects - all culminating together with a love and passion for a truly excellent TCG, Flesh & Blood.

At the time of this writing, the Rathe Times has published no less than 152 articles. Since March!!! 2021 has been an amazing year for the Rathe Times- but we're only just getting started.

I wanted to especially thank our authors that have been with us from the start: Drew Cordell, Hayden Dale, Steven Young, as well as many others!

A particularly special thank you to Ada Korman (who has been amazing in writing constant market updates and having her share of her authorship go direct to InsideOut!) Be sure to also check out her very excellent blog where she write all sorts of interesting musings and thoughts about Flesh & Blood :)

And finally, a huge thank you to Alex Truell, who writes content, manages all the content coming in from our various authors, and has been a huge part in making the Rathe Times a reality!

Kirk Bushell

Kirk is the sole developer of both FaB DB and The Rathe Times, proving an obsession with the game of Flesh & Blood and supporting its communities. Additionally, he loves writing articles, the game, and the general hobby of collecting cards.