Dom: Hi Scott, can you tell us a bit about yourself?
Scott: I’m just over 50, I’ve been married for 8 years and I have a little boy who’s four. I studied History at university, which I financed by playing poker, and for the last few years I’ve have been teaching History and World Geography in Phoenix.
I read a lot about naval history as well as SF. In this connection my favourite authors of the moment name Harry Turtledove and David Drake, who have both written some great works of historical fiction. I‘ve hardly ever played RPG’s, but I have a real predilection for Napoleonic Wargaming (I have more than 5000 historical figurines). On the other hand, just like vegetables, I detest those game-cards to collect. Lastly, unlike Spanish, I don’t speak any French at all (apart from a few words).
Dom: How did you come to be a game publisher?
Scott: At the time TSR, with D&D, was the only publisher in the roleplaying world. No alternative existed for people, like me, who didn’t find D&D interesting. I set out on the adventure saying to myself "why not?". And don’t forget that roleplaying games were in their infancy; we’re talking more about a craft industry than a multinational. (Editor’s note: and creating a company in the USA is much easier than in France…)
Dom: You created a wargame yourself in 1975 called Royal Armies of the Hyborean Age. How was your collaboration with Lin Casing?
Scott: Lin was my roommate at university. I also had access to all the possible informations concerning the world of Howard. Lin also contributed to the illustrations and gave me lot of advice about the uniforms, the standards, and the composition of the Hyborean armies.
Dom: Is Flashing Blades (‘Les 3 Mousquetaires’) still your favourite RPG?
Scott: Yes it still is, but I don’t play any more. On the other hand I’m fascinated by the period.
Dom: How does it feel to walk through the old quarters of Paris?
Scott: It’s true that I’ve been strolling through Paris a lot, and I appreciate the old buildings. I’ve also had the chance to pick up some military maps from Napoleonic battles.
Dom: Coming back to Space Opera, who was at the origin of this project and how did it proceed?
Scott: I. I wanted a SFrpg and I gave the job to Ed Simbalist. During the process I’ve never met Ed, nor Phil McGreggor and Mark Ratner, who lived in the Canadian west, Australia and the east of the USA, respectively. The project was completed over more than two years entirely by correspondence.
Dom: After all these years, are you surprised by the continuing popularity of the game?
Scott: Not Really. It’s a good game after all. What astonishes to me is the low sales volume, even if the sales are regular in the USA (which is not the case in Europe). In France, Hexagonal has sold few copies of Bushido and Flashing blades; the shop ‘Phenomène J’ made a good attempt at trying to relaunch Space Opera but it didn’t have the success it anticipated. FGU reprinted Space Opera in a single volume a little more than a year ago. Potentially, there are enough players in the USA to finance a new project for the game.
Dom: You know what became of the authors: Ed Symbalist, Mark Ratner and Phil Mc Gregor?
Scott: I have some rather rare contacts with Phil Mc Gregor. Mark Ratner, who is a professor of literature, had a very serious car accident and suffers from cancer. He lives in the north of New York and almost never leaves his place any more. As for Ed Symbalist, he’s finishing the 4th edition of Chivalry & Sorcery.
Dom: FGU is no longer very present on the RPG scene whereas it had developed a certain reputation at one time. Why this retreat concerning the game industry?
Scott: It is a long story. For financial reasons, I decided to move the FGU premises to Phoenix in 1987, as the business rents are cheap there. There was then a problem with the postal address and FGU stopped receiving payments from its distributors. In short, at the end of a year the company had no money coming in and I had to look for a job to live. For a while I did odd jobs as a car salesman and I followed courses at the university to obtain the modules to teach.
At the same time I opened a games shop in Gilbert, where I live. The business went well and I opened a second shop in Phoenix. I thought I was finally seeing the end of the tunnel, but 4 years ago, an unscrupulous salesman started to send fraudulent invoices and to place false orders in the name of FGU. The complaints, the writs, and the suppliers I had to settle with, forced me to close the shop in Phoenix. Despite winning all the lawsuits, the company budget was spent on paying lawyers. To sum up, the last ten years have been a uphill struggle.
Dom: What are your professional projects at the moment and for the years to come?
Scott: My principal trade is now teaching not publishing. When you’re over 50 and married with a child you cannot allow yourself the same delirious adventures as when you’re 20 or 30. I don’t have the same perspectives as before but I’m still in control of FGU. If I don’t intend to go out looking for new games any more, I’m still ready to maintain the existing range of FGU games and to launch new supplements. I no longer promise to fight as hard as I did in 1987, when the distributors refused to sell FGU products because they were not presented in boxes like TSR products. Or, again, when the day before signing contracts, the financial director of Marvel preferred to trust TSR, against the opinion of his own design and marketing departments, because FGU was a small structure…
Dom: Can we hope to one day see the release of the still unpublished supplements like Clash of Empire, The GPR or SCS4?
Scott: I remain in liaison with the authors and they are ready to work on the Space Opera range again. We’ll still have to wait 2 more years until the legal problems that FGU is going through are finished. At the moment, it is very probable that these supplements will be published.
Dom: If somebody wants to propose a new project or a scenario for Space Opera, what would you say to him?
Scott: I would be delighted and very happy to develop and produce any valid project. Not in the coming year, as I’ve already said I have certain problems to resolve and there’s a chance I’ll file it in a corner and forget about it. Authors shouldn’t imagine that if I don’t answer immediately, or in the following months, that I paid no attention to, or had no interest in their work. I have other obligations which must take priority. In general I trust people and several times I‘ve given a verbal go ahead while waiting to finalize a project. However, I am ferocious when companies appropriate FGU games without authorization, as has occurred in the past. It’s not because FGU has withdrawn from the commercial scene that companies should try to bury it!
Dom: What do you think of the French project and the work completed by the team of ‘Phenomène J’?
Scott: I saw some illustrations and 3D images, which impressed me a lot, but I never saw a mock-up or a prototype. When I was contacted I made a verbal agreement and accepted modifications concerning the Technological Levels, computers, and the description of the political camps. (Editor’s note: notably anachronisms due to fact that Space Opera was written during the period of the cold war.) I’ve been in the business a long time and I have no illusions. The people who work on these projects do it out of a spontaneous desire and passion. There is therefore a real risk that the creative process will be interrupted. Which is one of the reasons why I do not ask for a written contract. ‘Phenomène J’ was originally to finance the French project but they ran into difficulties…
Dom: Wasn’t Space Opera translated into Japanese? Where else has the game known as much success?
Scott: the game sold well in Australia as well as in French-speaking countries.
Dom: Did you see the web site? What would you like to find there?
Scott: No. In fact I don’t like technology whether it’s the fax, the Internet or computers. I refuse to get within 10 metres of a computer for fear of not being able to unglue myself from it! In fact I‘m a bookworm. On the other hand, I am very glad to see projects concerning FGU games on the net.
Dom: To finish up, what would you like to say to all the fans of Space Opera?
Scott: Above all, to send a message of gratitude. Thanks for playing.
Dom: Thank you Scott for finding the time to answer our questions.
Paris, France, June 2000
Remarks collected by Gil Morice.