Interview with Mike Bremer
Last week I had the opportunity to ask simming legend Mike Bremer a few questions. Mike needs no introduction as he’s arguably one of the most important leaders in simming and online role playing history. Mike started his career in Allied Electronic Simulations (AES) way back in 1996. After moving over to Tango Fleet later that year, he then co-founded Bravo Fleet with Pat Weber in 1997. Mike served as Bravo Fleet Commanding Officer (BFCO) from 1998 to 2004 and grew it into one of the first true mega-clubs of the Internet era. Mike has received numerous accolades over the course of his career, including the 2011 Simming Prize and, most recently, the 2015 Ongoing Worlds Medal for Superior Online Role Playing (aka the Squiddie). Mike also hosts the Starbase 400 sim (SB400, previously known as the USS Pegasus), which is incidentally one of the sims he joined back in 1996! Starbase 400 has won multiple awards for its high-quality and longevity. With that, I present to you, Mike Bremer in his own words…
Charles Star (CS): Today, I’m here with longtime simmer Mike Bremer. First, we’re glad to have you onboard, Mike, and second, congratulations on your recent Squiddie award.
Mike Bremer (MB): Thank you, and thank you! It’s an honor to be awarded.
CS: Let’s go back to the beginning. What is your earliest simming memory?
MB: The very first sim I joined was the USS Iomega, an Ambassador class ship in the old AES group. So many of the players used their real names for their characters, but I wanted to be part Klingon, and thus Mike K’Wor Bremer was born. He was a Lieutenant jg and Assistant Chief Security/Tactical Officer. I saw an ad for the Iomega in the old Usenet Newsgroups, and thought it looked interesting so I joined.
CS: What do you remember about your time in Tango Fleet?
MB: I’d simmed for about a week when Mark Casey messaged me after we’d talked in the same newsgroup where the Iomega’s ad had been posted. He asked me to join the USS Pegasus sim because the former XO, Andy Grimm, had just left to take over his own sim. At the time, it was just the USS Pegasus, USS Saturn, Andy’s new sim, and they were recruiting for a fourth sim, the USS Hyperion. Instead of making a new character, I just moved Bremer over since the Iomega was pretty much dead even when I joined. It was fun in the beginning, but things changed. The CO of the Saturn left and instead of finding a new CO, Mark created another sim, the USS Octavian, and moved the Saturn’s crew there. He said at the time that he really wanted a Sovereign class ship. Remember, this is right after Star Trek: First Contact came out. He opened up the Saturn for a new CO and crew as he didn’t want to close it. He promoted my Bremer character to Captain and CO of the Pegasus, and then started putting limits on other sims: tech, mission types, etc. He was micromanaging everything, yet he allowed a lot more creativity on his own sim. I also played a character there, my James K’Temoc Bremer character that I still use on SB400 today. Through it all though, I remember I had a lot of fun with some good simmers, including Pat Weber, Paul Knott, Melanie Kabance (who plays SB400’s XO today), James Sizemore, Michelle Cox, and others. Deep Space Nine (DS9) was on the air, the Dominion War was heating up, and it just fed the simming world. It was a great era for Star Trek simming.
CS: That sounds like quite a time! What then led to Bravo Fleet’s creation?
MB: After a while, after so much micromanaging from Casey, I decided to quit Tango Fleet. The members of the Pegasus talked me out of it, and suggested that I instead start a new group. How hard could it be, right? Weber was also starting the USS Miranda sim, Knott had his own small USS Calidorn sim, and we decided to make something new, Bravo Fleet (BF). Our intention wasn’t to compete with Tango Fleet or even be a big group. Pegasus was the first active sim there, the Miranda soon followed, then the Calidorn joined, and so did a USS Nautilus and a USS Yorktown sim. I didn’t want to be the BFCO, between a lack of time and really a lack of desire. Weber took that role, and in August 1997 BF was born.
CS: As you alluded to, BF did go on to become one of the first true mega-clubs of the Internet era, and it’s arguably the most important club of all time. How did you do it?
MB: *I* didn’t. It really was a team effort from the start. We had a lot of good members on the Pegasus and most of them had become sim COs in BF by 1998. We knew what didn’t work in Tango Fleet, one person in charge and making all decisions for the group, so we used a Chain of Command system in-character (IC) while all the members of the CO group at the time (remember, there were about six sims) had a vote on group matters. Over the years, that turned into the Bravo Fleet Admiralty (BFA), which is similar to how Congress is supposed to work representing the COs and their sims. I guess we hit on something as others liked it too and our membership exploded. It was also the right time because simming was so popular, Star Trek was on TV, and good Trek movies were in theaters. This was all before Trek games like Star Trek Online (STO). Everything just fell into place for us. Sadly, two people that helped BF get off the ground and running never really saw the success. Two of my best friends in real life, James Sizemore and Michelle Cox, were killed by a drunk driver in early 1998. BF later named two of their Hall of Honor awards after them, as did the Pegasus.
CS: Wow, what a crushing blow!
MB: It really was. We decided to sim on in their memory.
CS: A fitting way to continue.
MB: It’s amazing how many players they continue to inspire today.
CS: Tell me an interesting fact or story about BF that most people don’t know.
MB: I have two actually. Did you know that in November 1997 we had a Star Wars ship in BF, in the Trek universe?
CS: No way!
MB: Yeah, it was Weber’s idea as he wanted a crossover, so he tried to start a sim on a Rebel Medical Frigate that had somehow managed to find itself adrift in our universe. He called it the Traveler, but it never went active. We had it in a few of the original BF images, and I still have them too.
CS: That would have made for an interesting game!
MB: Tell me about it! The other is related to BF’s official designation as the Forth Fleet. I don’t know why, but four has always been my lucky number, so in 1998 I wrote into BF’s history that its official name was the Forth Fleet, code named Bravo Fleet. In DS9 they mentioned the Second, Third, Fifth, and Seventh Fleets. Forth Fleet worked out well so our sim canon didn’t interfere with Trek canon.
CS: And now it’s a key part of BF lore. Switching gears: you were often criticized for your use of BF’s JAG during your time as the BFCO. Specifically, some accused you of using the JAG as a weapon against both personal and political enemies. How do you respond to that?
MB: I’m not sure if I should laugh, shake my head, or ignore those old accusations and rumors. Yes, I held the fleet JAG position for a very brief time before becoming fleet XO then CO in 1997, but after that other people held that position and made those decisions. Frankly, anyone that was ever JAGed in BF from 1997 to 2004 deserved it for their own actions, and many of those people later contacted me to personally apologize for those actions. Most rejoined BF and some even joined SB400 for a while too. Many of them were young at the time and admittedly grew up. There were never any hard feelings on my side. I admit, I could play the hard role well back then, and many times I had to. A lot of players either had their own motives or their own sim, but I had a whole group to think about. That said, even as BFCO, without the backing of the BFA I couldn’t make those decisions on my own and I never personally kicked anyone out. As for the JAG, if the fleet JAG made a decision, all I could do as fleet CO was support it, listen to appeals, and take all the heat since that’s what a leader does. Just like with any group, team, or government, the top dog is always the one to get the glory when things go well or to take the blame when there’s something wrong. Said thing is, what people accused me of later happened to me.
CS: Your eventually break up with BF was quite messy. What exactly happened?
MB: Yeah, it was a mess. There were really three factions in BF back then in 2010. A handful that followed along with the BFCO at the time, a group that saw the wrongs and how the older members were being mistreated, discriminated against, and forced out, and those that really didn’t care because they just wanted to sim and not get involved in the drama. A lot has been said about those events, but to make a long story short, it got to a point that the members of SB400 and myself had enough of the mistreatment and withdrew the sim from BF. Many other sims did the same thing before and after us. Groups like Antares Fleet and The Ninth Fleet were created by former BF members who had been forced out or left BF on their own. A week after SB400 had left, I received word from people I still knew in BF that the leadership had held a JAG trial and found me quality of a long list of charges. They did this all without notifying me of the charges, telling me there would be a trial, or even giving me a chance to defend my name. They banned me from the group for life, stripped me of all awards I’d received while in BF, stripped SB400 of all awards it had received in BF, and stripped SB400’s members of their awards. They also posted rather misleading articles in their wiki and forums with false accusations, complete with made-up evidence, and all but erased my name from BF’s history. They rewrote things to make the then BFCO and his friends appear to be behind all of BF’s triumphs over the years. It really was sad. I disputed it, showed proof, and many people spoke up for me both in and out of BF. In the end it didn’t matter and more people were kicked out of BF for trying to help me.
CS: Are you now at peace with BF?
MB: Absolutely. It took a few years, but those behind the fiasco either quit or were kicked out. I’d given the domain names for the BF sites to Darian Caplinger a few years prior as I trusted him as a person, player, friend, and former BFA member of mine. He was back in BF and was trying to make things better before the group totally fell apart. In the end, he did it, was able to bring in more good people, and has been the BFCO for a few years now. He cleaned house, then reached out to me and others about returning. I’m proud to say that in August 2015 we did just that, we returned to BF
MB: Yeah, SB400 is a proud member of BF’s Task Force 99 (TF99) and the flagbase of the Ares Operational group in TF99. TF99 is home to the sims that operate outside of the BF canon timeline, using the timeline we’ve created and expanded on SB400 for years. Commodore James K’Temoc Bremer is the command adjutant for the Ares Operational group, and SB400 was BF’s TF99 Simm of the Month in November 2015. It really is nice to be home.
CS: Speaking of awards, SB 400, is one of the longest running on the net and has received numerous recognitions for its high quality–what’s been the secret to your continued success over nearly two decades now?
MB: Honestly, just being who we are. SB400 is home to a dedicated core of writers. We’re adult, old school simmers. We enjoy realistic Trek stories, developing our characters, and the Trek universe. Like BF, SB400 isn’t a one man show by any means. If it wasn’t for the wonderful members past and present, you wouldn’t be talking to me now. Oh, and the the big flashy site is nice. The banner exchange we host and the awards we give out to scifi sites are pluses, but again, it’s the people that have made Starbase 400 special.
CS: I definitely can buy that. What individual has had the most influence on your simming career?
MB: I’ll give you two again, Melanie Kabance and Darian Caplinger, and each for very similar reasons. Both have been my trusted right arm at various times. Mel as a member of SB400 crew and the sim’s XO for many, many years. She joined when the sim was still known as the USS Pegasus, and she’s someone I can bounce ideas off of or turn to for advice. She’s someone I can trust with the SB400 keys when real life takes me away from simming and a friend I can talk to. Darian, I still remember his original application to join BF, I remember promoting him to Fleet Recruitment Officer, and then later he was the BFXO before I left. He’s been BFCO twice now, hosts the BF site and hosts any BF sim that asks (all for free!). He’s been someone I can turn to for advice and he’s willing to tell me his opinion even when it differs from mine. He turned BF around and has helped make her a great group again. He’s been a good friend for many many years. Without these two, I’m not sure I’d still be simming right now!
CS: It sounds like they’ve been there for you many times! If you could do anything from your past differently, what would it be?
MB: I don’t know if I’d change anything. If I did, then we might not be talking today, right? Good and bad, it’s made me who I am, it’s made SB400 what it is, made BF what it is, and so on. I don’t like second guessing myself. Instead, I like to learn from life’s lessons and not make the same mistakes twice. Looking back fondly on the good and bad, it has really made for an interesting journey and a fun rude.
CS: How is simming different now from when you launched BF?
MB: It’s a much smaller niche now that before. Most simmers are hard core fans of whatever genre they sim in. For Trek simming, no TV shows and the movies are in a different timeline than anything we’ve had before. Games like STO are where a lot of fans go to have their final frontier adventures now. Fan films like Horizon and Axanar help, but the community is older and smaller than it was 10 or 20 years ago. It’s no one’s fault, but just how times change.
CS: Where do you see simming and yourself in 10 years?
MB: Trek simming, and simming in general will be much like it is now, a small dedicated group of fans that enjoy writing and developing characters. It might be a smaller group, as the core players are getting older, but there will be new fans joining every day. Me? Well, I’ll be here, helping to write SB400’s future as it defends the Federation. Maybe my six year old son will want to join. LOL. He’ll be sixteen by then and he already likes watching Star Trek with me.
CS: Fifty years from now, when the next generation of simmers are reading about Mike Bremer, what do you want them to see?
MB: Star Trek Simming: The Next Generation will read about this Mike Bremer guy and will see that he always had one thing on his mind, the wellbeing of the sim and the group he was a member of and how he wanted all members of the sim and/or group to have fun and succeed. He defended and supported his members just as they supported him over the years. Sure, he had a temper, but it was because he was passionate about his sim, group, Trek, and especially the members. Without the members, there would be no sim or group. I also hope they look over SB400’s logs and think he was a pretty damn good writer too. LOL.
CS: I’m sure they will. Lastly, what advice would you give to that individual who finds him or herself now leading a sim or a club?
MB: Don’t try to do it all yourself. Surround yourself with quality simmers, people you enjoy writing with. Trust them, listen to them… their ideas, suggestions, concerns. Stay true to Trek, yourself, and what got you to where you are now. Be ready and willing to listen to suggestions, concerns, praise, and even hate. Above all, have fun! If you’re not having fun take a step back, simming shouldn’t be job.
CS: Well Mike, I think we’ve reached out limit today. Thank you again for your time and candidness.
MB: Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure.
CS: And best of luck with SB400 and all your other future endeavors.
MB: Thanks, you too.
Mike Bremer can be contacted through the Starbase 400 website.