Behind the Lines
November 2007

In This Issue

 

Grazing Fire

In Memoriam: Norman Mailer (1923-2007)

When we saw, on the opening screen of AOL, the newsflash about Norman Mailer's death, at age 84, it staggered us like Ali's best punch landing square on the kidneys. We asked around to see if anyone we knew cared to write a brief elegy for this fallen giant, and to no one's surprise, Bill Trotter volunteered. Here's his eulogy:

I cannot claim to have been his "friend", but during the Sixties Norman Mailer and I ran around with overlapping crowds and I frequently saw him in action, sometimes charismatic, sometimes just rowdy, but never dull. His writing had an electrifying impact on me, blowing open new perceptions, exciting me about new possibilities of language; more than any other factor, his influence helped me to grow up as a writer.

I had published several reviews of his recent books, and written about him with enough perception for him to remember my name when we were first introduced. Eventually, we did hang out a few times, and on one memorable night we actually went out drinking together, holing up in a skuzzy, roughneck Irish bar that was one of his favorite secret refuges. All the regulars knew who he was, but they also had the working-class decency not to pester him. There was sawdust on the floor, the Clancy Brothers on the juke, and a vaguely disturbing man in one corner whom Norman identified as "a retired IRA assassin". That might have been horse-hockey, but after being introduced to this blunt-faced gent with the handshake of a longshoreman and the easy gracious manners of a well-raised Catholic boy, I noticed there were hard-edged shadows deep in his eyes, as coiled-up and dangerous-looking as a pit viper on full alert. I also observed the care with which he always found a seat with its back to the wall, and the instinctive little jump he made whenever someone new entered the pub.

Source: Carl Van Vechten Photographs
(Lots 12735 and 12736)

By this time in our tenuous relationship, Mailer had read some of my serious work, particularly a long "New Journalism" essay I had written about the 1967 March on the Pentagon. If you weren't alive back then, believe me when I tell you there was brimstone in the air that morning, and many an apocalyptic scenario zapping through my nerves - rumors of SDS crazies prepared to assault the building with dynamite bombs had grown to such proportions, I was half expecting a replay of the 1917 Winter Palace attack in Petrograd. I was politically neutral, having by 1967 developed a hearty loathing for ideologues of every stripe, but I went along with the Leftists, on this occasion, as a photo-journalist, hoping to make a documentary film with a borrowed 8mm Bolex. All in all, it was a memorable day.

After I'd written my essay, I impulsively sent a copy to Norman, not realizing he was then engrossed in writing The Armies of the Night, his brilliant Pulitzer-winning account of those same events. But by God, he actually read it! And he liked parts of it very much, because when we were drinking and having a good time in that Irish bar, he was in an expansive, companionable mood. At one point, he touched my arm in a surprising, almost brotherly gesture, and very distinctly said:

"Trotter, you got talent running outta your [I'll leave the reader to imagine where]. But like many hot-hearted young writers, you bear down so hard when you're describing emotions that you snap the pencil point…"

(He paused to take a big gulp of bourbon before delivering the punch line, jabbing my shoulder with a blunt forefinger for emphasis…)

"But you have got to learn how to write to that same level of intensity without breaking the [expletive] PENCIL POINT!"

It was the best advice I ever got from a more famous colleague, and it has stood me well for many years. I'll always be grateful that Norman cared enough, saw enough potential in my prose, to blast me with that aphorism. I went home that night - none too steadily, you may be assured - feeling as close-to-Enlightenment as an earnest young monk who's just been given a good boot by a legendary Zen master.

He was the last of a breed - the two-fisted, macho, literary heavyweight; and at his best, he was the finest stylist of them all. Dear God, I'm going to miss him so!


Comments? Questions? We'd love to hear from you through our feedback email address.

Enjoy the newsletter,
The Newsletter Team


Back to Top

This Week's Feature: Thanksgiving and the Civil War

The Feature Article section is designed to give an in-depth look behind one of Matrix's popular titles or to provide interesting supplements to our product line. Expect to see developer diaries, AARs, industry commentary, and the like here.

Thanksgiving and the Civil War

Let's move on from Squanto and the Pilgrims, shall we? We all know the story.

It was Abe Lincoln, though, who made the idea stick. It cannot have been coincidental that the concept struck a deep chord in the American people in a year when their nation was fighting for its life, and so many civilian families had sons and brothers in uniform, in harms' way.

In September, 1863, Lincoln received a strongly argued letter from a prominent journalist, Mrs. Sarah Hale, editor of the widely influential Lady's Book, urging him to solemnify the Thanksgiving traditions by making that event an official national holiday.

The notion struck Lincoln as being both politically and personally agreeable, and so, on October 3, 1963, he issued a fulsome proclamation, designating the last Thursday in November as a "Day of National Thanksgiving". At the heart of this somewhat verbose document were these phrases: "that the blessings bestowed upon this country be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by all the American people."

Americans quickly saw the occasion as an opportunity to send the bounties of home to the frontline soldiers and sailors. But in 1863, the over-stretched Commissariat simply couldn't mobilize sufficient food and distribution in the period available.

By 1864, it was very different. The influential Union League Club of New York City launched a campaign to provide a proper Thanksgiving feast for all the Union troops:

We desire that on the 24th day of November, there shall be no soldier in the Army of the Potomac, the James, the Shenandoah, and no sailor in the North Atlantic Squadron who does not receive tangible evidence that those for whom he is periling his life, remember him…

We ask primarily for donations of cooked poultry and other proper meats, as well as mince pies, sausages and fruits. To those who are unable to send donations in kind, we appeal for generous contributions of money.

The response was staggering. In only three weeks, the Club collected $58,000 dollars (that's $600,000 in today's money), and used it to purchase 146,586 pounds of poultry. Another 225,000 of cooked meat was donated, as were enormous quantities of other meats, cakes, gingerbread, apples, vegetables, cheese, and pies.

This time, the Union Army had a remarkably efficient distribution system in place, even one for the blockade ships far off shore. It would be an understatement to say that the soldiers and sailors welcomed this demonstration of concern. A typical response came in a letter from a captain serving with Sheridan's Army of the Shenandoah:

The want of proper appliances compelled most of the men to broil or stew their turkeys, but everyone seemed fully satisfied, and appreciated the significance of this thank-offering from the families back at home.

It is no different today.

For further information, see:

  • Pilgrimhall.org - Here you can read a number of Civil War letters, written by New England soldiers, about the event.
  • CivilWarHome.com - Here you can read Lincoln's windy proclamation in its full rhetorical glory.


Back to Top

Historical Perspective

The Historical Perspective section is intended to give readers the "history behind the game." This week, Will Trotter gives us the third of a series of articles about the historic Saipan operation during WWII. The following is an excerpt of a larger portion which can be found on the Matrix webpage. The first and second installments are also available to read on the Matrix website.

Night of the Banzai Charges: The Strange and Bloody Struggle for Saipan - Part Four

William R. Trotter

"Land the Landing Force!"

At 0542, July 15, 1944, the traditional stirring order went out over the radios and loud-speaker systems aboard every US ship anchored off Saipan. And with that signal a vast and complex ballet of steel began to play out across a four-mile stretch of water off the southwestern coast of the island. Just how complex the landing operation was, can be at least suggested by studying the diagram attached to this installment - and that only shows the major groupings of ships and landing craft, not the total array.

As had been the case at Tarawa, however, the Japanese defenders hadn't been nearly as badly hurt, nor as intimidated, by the colossal pre-landing bombardment as American observers were convinced they had been. Of General Saito's coast artillery, only one cannon had been destroyed, and his men - well-supplied with ammunition and full of fight - now manned their entrenchments in full strength and began to track their first targets methodically.

The place certainly didn't look like Tarawa, either. To the Marines waiting offshore, Saipan's western coastline appeared rather pleasantly green and temperate - many were reminded of Hawaii. Weather conditions were ideal, too; at 0700, one hour before the landing craft were schedule to shove off from their Line of Departure, the temperature was a balmy 83 degrees, the sky was clear, and a westerly trade wind blew just hard enough to refresh the assault troops but not hard enough to stir up any appreciable chop on the ocean.

No previous Pacific landing had been planned on so large a scale, or executed on so broad a front. It was a two-division attack, the 2nd Marine Division on the left, the 4th Division on the right. Even the symmetry was impressive: each division would storm two miles of beach, and each division's frontage was subdivided into numbered, color-coded landing zones, each approximately wide enough to accommodate a full battalion. From left (on a north-west axis) to right (on a roughly south-east axis) the landing beaches were designated...

Read on here to continue part four of Night of the Banzai Charges: The Strange and Bloody Struggle for Saipan...


Back to Top

Game Spotlight: Advanced Tactics: World War II After Action Report - Part 3

Advanced Tactics: World War II is the successor to the turn-based strategy game People's Tactics and is currently available for purchase. This is the third and final installment of a multi-part AAR. Read the first and second installments at the Matrix Games website.

Advanced Tactics AAR - Part 3

Turn 8, 5th of November 1941

The Germans surrounded Leningrad, but overall their advance is slowing down.

I got Siberian reinforcements and counterattacked successfully around Moscow. Enemy flanking attempts have been thwarted by my counter attacks. After the counter attacks I reinforced the Moscow lines with a whopping 400 infantry and 20 AT guns.

However around Leningrad the situation looks dim. I am building up my Far Northern Front to keep the enemy from gaining Murmansk, but I will not be able to counter attack there.

Some of the troops remaining in Leningrad have suburb entrenchment however.

In the South the enemy advance seems to be slowing down. And at some places I seem to get some sort of frontline in order again. Furthermore I ordered more production to the Caucasus front for the next turn since I figured Moscow Front is now pretty secure.

Follow this link to continue reading the third part of the Advanced Tactics After Action Report.


Back to Top

Latest News

In this section we provide a rundown of the latest updates from Matrix Games, just in case you missed a press release or two.

  1. Close Combat: Modern Tactics Now Available! - Take your own battle group into the heat of some intense real time tactical action!
  2. John Tiller’s Battleground Civil War and Battleground Napoleonic Wars Out Now! - Two compilations of classic John Tiller games now available, and with a special deal too!
  3. Napoleon In Italy Now Available for Purchase! - Grab the bayonet and fall in; it’s time to experience Napoleon in Italy!
  4. A New Hornet Leader PC Demo Is Prepped and Loaded - Test your tactical air combat mettle in a fictional Syria 2000 skirmish. Get this little bundle of joy from here.
  5. A New Hornet Leader PC Update Cleared for Landing - The new v1.1 update fixes issues and adds display improvements. Get it here.
The latest releases from the Matrix Games lineup.

Back to Top

Frag with the Matrix Staff - A Weekly Gaming Gathering

Believe it or not, it's not all business here at Matrix. After all, we are a company that publishes video games. If we didn't engage in any sort of digital entertainment we'd be frauds! The Matrix staff recently caught word that The Wargamer has rented out a Call of Duty 4 server and they're looking for people to join in on the fun.

Since a good deal of the Matrix staff is already quite addicted to Call of Duty 4, it was only natural that we flock to this server on a weekly basis to shoot digital bullets at one another.

So the bottom line is, if you like Call of Duty 4 and dig servers with low pings and a relaxed, fun environment, there's no reason not to stop by The Wargamer's Call of Duty 4 server evenings during weekdays to see if the Matrix staff is hanging out and having some digital fun. So without further adieu - the server information:

Server name: The Wargamer's CoD4 Server
IP Address: 69.90.34.10:28960

If you can't FIND or CONNECT to the server using the "Join Server" screen try this:

Connect to the server through your console manually. Go to Options and enable your console. Press the tilde (~) key to bring up the console and type: "connect 69.90.34.10:28960" (without the quotes). This should always connect you.

We also have a Teamspeak server that anyone from the community can hop on to and chat with fellow players as they seek to destroy one another. To join our server just download and install Teamspeak and connect to 204.13.13.11 to chat!

We hope to see you there!


Back to Top

Help Wanted at Matrix Games

That's right - you heard correctly. Matrix Games is currently looking for a few good men (or women too, we are an equal opportunity employer after all) to help bring wargamers everywhere some awesome products. Right now, Matrix is particularly interested in hearing from anyone ready, willing, and able to take these positions:

  • Video Tutorial Creator - Matrix Games is looking for people who have experience in manual writing and video editing to create video tutorials to teach gamers how to play the latest Matrix Games titles without having to read a manual. The candidate should be well-versed with video capture software like Camtasia and knowledgeable in video compression techniques.

    Responsibilities for this position include playing and intimately learning Matrix Games titles and then writing a tutorial script for short video tutorial modules. The Video Tutorial Creator must also record reading the tutorial script while playing the game and illustrating the main points of the tutorial. The position will also require that the Video Tutorial Creator render the video file into an appropriate format both for CDROMs and online downloadable video files. Strong verbal and technical skills are needed for this position (and a sexy voice can't hurt your chances either).

  • Promotional Video Creator - Matrix Games is looking for articulate and technically proficient people who can create promotional videos for upcoming Matrix Games titles. The responsibilities of this position include creating a short video for an unreleased Matrix Games product that explains the basic mechanics of the title in addition to other major selling points.

    Promotional videos will generally contain a recording of gameplay to be done by the Promotional Video Creator in addition to voiceover, also the responsibility of the Promotional Video Creator. Experience in creating dramatic, visually appealing videos to add polish to these promotional videos is a big plus. Applicants must be acquainted with popular video capture software like Camtasia and well versed with video compression techniques.

  • Volunteer: Forum Moderators - Like to chat up a storm? Matrix Games is looking for responsible and mature individuals who have a passion for cruising the Matrix Games forums and don't mind laying the law down if necessary. Responsibilities include frequenting designated forums to moderate forum traffic, upholding and enforcing Matrix Games forum policies and dealing with any forum-related issues that may arise. Please note: This job is volunteer and is NOT a paid position. There will, however, be plenty of perks to reward dedication and hard work...

  • Volunteer: Product Experts - Grognards rejoice! Matrix Games is looking for dedicated individuals who have a passion for one or more Matrix Games products and are able to share their intimate knowledge of these products with other gamers. Applicants must have an impressive dedication to and in-depth knowledge of the products they are applying to be experts of. They also must have very strong verbal and interpersonal skills and be courteous, responsible, and mature. Responsibilities of this position include frequenting the forum of the product you specialize in and answering questions, providing assistance, and attempting to grow and support your product's online community. Please note: This job is volunteer and is NOT a paid position. There will, however, be plenty of perks to reward dedication and hard work...

Any interested candidate should shoot an email over to jobs@matrixgames.com.


Back to Top

A Parting Shot

Needless to say for anyone who has had the chance to dig into Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, productivity for certain Matrix staffers has not been at full capacity. We encourage anyone who has already caught the Modern Warfare bug to try to meet up with the Matrix and Wargamer staff at some point and frag with us. Anyone else with even the slightest interest in first person shooters should most certainly check that game out. After all, even generals (and armchair generals) need to get out to firing range every once and a while to let off some steam (and full metal jacket rounds).

There is one piece of gossip, however, that we at The Newsletter Team think might be worth mentioning: Empires in Arms! Anyone who has been closely following Matrix banter will probably already have a pretty good impression of when this long-awaited title will be available. Of course, we can't give out exact dates (yet, anyway) - but suffice to say that any Napoleonics fan will still be quite happy with what they find under their tree on Christmas day. I wouldn't be suprised to see some more screenshots, videos, and ARRs for Empire in Arms headed out to the public very shortly too...

And as always, anyone who would like to drop us a line and give us some feedback, complaints, death threats, etc., please don't hesitate to do so by sending an email to feedback@matrixgames.com.


Thanks for reading!
The Newsletter Team


Back to Top