In other news, I've declared war on the front-page management over at That's Just Not Right, because the front page hasn't been updated in over a month. The war would be ongoing, but unfortunately a cease-fire was ordered by said management, since they can lock down threads at their leisure. In the meantime, though, I'm kicking around some ideas for layout and timing for release. Notes are as follow, and are a substitution to my original statement that the front page needs either a superstar or boobs in order to get people to look at it again.
This is my call for the head of John the Baptist, or whomever happens to be responsible for running the site into the fucking ground:
I like the way The Escapist releases once a week, and then tacks on another couple of articles for good measure, if they feel like it. The articles are terribly informative, and the site doesn't get bogged down with trying to report ultra-current news. Current news doesn't work with a weekly publication, because people who are interested in that news have already read it somewhere else. So the site is pretty much entirely editorial (much to the dismay of Trip Hawkins). I also love the design of the front page at The Escapist, given that it fits perfectly into a 1024 by 768 browser window. I don't necessarily care for their navigation system on the bottom-right corner, but it's standardized throughout the site, which probably a good thing.
And it's got ads. Advertising revenue is necessary to any major endeavor that involves pushing massive amounts of bandwidth. However, because of the nature of the site and its attempt to be similar to an actual magazine, you flip through ads in much the same manner that you would in a paper magazine. Flip the page, "Oh, look, there's an ad for Ford Racing," and you move on after you briefly look at it. It's obtrusive, and yet it's not, and it's so slick that you actually look at it for a second, as opposed to those Google ads, or banners, or anything like that. This is one of those cases where advertising on the internet works.
So I think, and not strictly because of The Escapist, but more because of logistics and overall look, that TJNR should release weekly, setting deadlines of two to three days beforehand so that someone (or multiple people) can handle layout and graphics. I think that Movable Type is crap, and it needs to die, as far as that site is concerned. The downside to layout is the amount of front-end that it needs, which reminds me of updating and then archiving my blog manually, back when I was running it through AOL. Of course, that I was on dialup, trying to update a blog that had an index file that routinely exceeded 100 kilobytes was half of my problem (that the layout was totally unoriginal was the other half). Yes, a weekly release effectively kills any notion of doing movie or DVD reviews, but everybody does that. Nobody wants more reviews, because reviews suck. Actual, genuine criticism is far more interesting.
So we're talking deadlines, which I don't think most people are probably terribly happy about the notion of. I think that a lot of people are probably thinking, "Well, we aren't getting paid, so why should we be subject to deadlines?" Well, when you consider trying to do a layout that flows like a magazine or a newspaper, you can't just have people posting to it all the time. The layout person has to look at things and flow them all together, and the most recent article doesn't necessarily end up in the front or in the back. Essentially, you're looking at a whole editorial staff and layout crew, let alone trying to figure out what program to use to put it all together.
A few years ago, I considered the notion that someday websites, as such, would be done in PDF format, since it's universal and grants you total control over the look of the page, regardless of what type of computer it's being viewed on. At the time I said it probably wouldn't happen because of a lack of widespread broadband access, but now it's more feasible. I'm not saying that TJNR should do that, but it's a means by which the site can actually look like something other than a giant clusterfuck of design, which has less pizazz than the movie My Dinner With André. So, maybe the deadline for stories should be a week or so prior to publication.
And then it needs direction. It's my thinking that a lack of assignments was partly to blame for the stagnation and ultimate demise of TJNR's front page. I mean, I hate writing. I hate coming up with topics, and tend to only do so when I've got a point to make, which is a rarity, as you may note from my less-than-daily updates to this particular site. There are a lot of writers who can't be told, "Write about something cool," as was the case under current TJNR front-page management, and then a few days later come back with something. Furthermore, a real sense of direction would allow a general message for the issue, such as politics, movies, television, or even less specific topics like apathy, regret, crazy people, et cetera. Give the writer 24 hours to come up with a topic, then if he comes back without one, give one to him.
So what do writers get out of posting for the front page? Just a link to their blog, myspace account, or whatever. It's not much, but it used to get me a lot of hits back when Justin was running the site and it was clocking an obscene number of hits per day. Today, it gets only three times as many hits per day as this blog, and that ain't much. However, if the front page is popular, you get popular, at least as far as the electronic masturbation that is a hit-counter is concerned. If you're not writing for the front-page on a regular basis (or contributing an inordinately large number of hits to the site), your link is gone. So, all of the fucking patronage and indulgence links (*cough* Kia *cough*) need to be removed.
Anyway, to sum up, it needs to totally get away from everything that it currently is. It needs eye-candy, it needs a schedule, it needs content, and it needs a coherent layout. Most of all, though, it needs someone who's willing to be in charge of things and get resources together, which we clearly don't have right now. If we did, then we'd be trying things and we'd be updating the front page with the glut of articles that have been stagnating for weeks and weeks.
It is a goddamn shame to see that site go from being as popular as it was into being the fucking joke that it is.
Can I just say that R. Kelly's Trapped in the Closet might be the funniest (albeit probably unintentionally) thing I've heard in my entire life? Here, if you're on broadband, go watch Part 5 of Trapped in the Closet. It's totally retarded, and R. Kelly should never be allowed to write a one-man hip-hop opera ever again. Actually, R. Kelly should probably just disappear anyway.
Anyway, with that out of the way, I read a very interesting quote from the developers' rant at the Game Developers' Conference, which is like E3, but without the booth babes, which I hear aren't going to be at E3 this year, anyway. Chris Crawford, one of the curmudgeons of the gaming industry (most notable for desigining 1986's Balance of Power) and the guy who started the GDC, had this to say about the current state of the industry:
Chris Crawford:I wouldn't have quoted it if I didn't happen to agree with him, particularly on the Proctor and Gamble analogy. I've been saying for a while now that the Xbox 360 and the Playstation 3 are, "Same shit, better graphics," and that's the only functional difference between the current generation and the next. At least Nintendo's got the stones to try something new with a console, despite the fact that it won't be as powerful, but then again, it also won't cost as much as either the Xbox 360 or the Playstation 3, which leads me to hope for a VHS-style win over the superior hardware of Beta. I'm analogizing again, so you'll have to excuse me.
I’m a bit nervous here. I don’t have a rant to give you here. A rant presumes that there’s something to rant about, that’s there’s something wrong that needs to be righted. I have to tell ya, there’s nothing better that can be done because the games industry is d.e.a.d.
Now when I say dead, I don’t mean totally dead, I mean brain dead. The product is going out the door, money is coming in. But what’s up here? Nothing. There’s no creativity. There’s no creative life in this industry at all. It’s just a dead creature. We put food in, shit comes out.
So it’s kinda like… EA really isn’t very diff from Proctor and Gamble. Put something in a box, sell the box. Write new and improved on it. Sell the box. That’s all they ever do. This panel is like a group of doctors standing around the bed of a brain-dead patient all talking about what we can do to restore her to life and vivacity, and I’m here to say there’s just green goo inside the skull.
So I can only offer two thoughts. The most charitable thing is.. rest in peace. The second I’ll just mention that I’m going down the corridor to the maternity room where there’s an infant that has a better future than the games business and it’s called interactive storytelling.