Another Year; Another Change
When I started this vblog two years ago I had so many aspirations for what I wanted to do with it. In the past my websites had been successful in large part due to a dedication that was life consuming. My VEFED.com for example had over 400 active members competing in the games I had developed and saw literally thousands of hits every day. My X-Men RPG pen and paper game saw 100 active members but distinctively saw hundreds of thousands of hits a day.
They were a success large part because they were my life. A goal in making this blog was that it would not be my life but merely a part of it. In the last three years writing this blog has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. While my previous websites were far more successful and actually profitable this website gave me a voice to various communities and an ability to provide a valued service.
On this two year anniversary I want to start out by saying that I will not be working for any larger websites just yet. I have been approached by quite a few websites to work for them but I simply do not want to monetize my work in such a way.
So for the next four parts of this I will just go over the four pillars of my blog (reviews, editorials, guides and video)
Part 1: Reviews
When I first started this website the goal of it was an outlet for my voice. I posted opinion pieces on games. This is where my reviews started. They were poorly organized and closer to a rant. But above all else, they were honest. They were not demonstrably hurtful on purpose but at the same time they were not padding the blow for developers. I think at this time people gained respect for my honesty and even if they disagreed with what I said they respected that I was trying to be honest instead of win people over.
My first review is in fact titled “Star Trek Online: Wish there was a game.” It’s all paragraph form with no real format. All of the images are stolen from other websites and the gameplay video belongs to someone else. Since then I produce my own videos for reviews and I use my own HD images. On top of that I have gone through two major format changes.
The first major format I used was a 50-point grading system. Each category was worth 10 points. At the end I would average up the points to give a review out of 10. I found over time that this format kept me from being honest. A lot of the times I would recommend a person play a game with a 6/10 score while telling people to stay clear of a game with an 8/10 score. Because I was so fridigly and narrowly sticking to a review format I was inadvertently being dishonest about my reviews.
So I instead switched to a new format in which I would describe the gameplay in total, discuss the strengths of the game, the weaknesses of the game and then I would weigh them in. After weighing them in I would tell you whether the game is not worth trying, worth playing the demo, or worth playing. A not worth trying review meant that it was just not worth any amount of money and the demo was bound to be a waste of time. Worth playing the demo means I enjoyed it but the game has a lot of problems that some people just might not be willing to look past. The worth playing review indicated that everyone will enjoy this.
I think overall the review format I adopted this year was the most honest and I think because of that people were more than willing to read an honest review even if they disagreed with me on some merits. People were no longer looking at just a number and instead actually willing to debate points of strength and weakness.
And for a person who was just looking for a “buy” or don’t buy I’ll tell them at the end.
Part 2: Editorial Work
It was long.
I mean really long.
But what it was, was definite and precise. It is the sort of an investigation I would take part in my Bachelor of Arts program some 6-7 years ago. I think when I started this blog I wanted there to be a sense that you are dealing with someone from an educated background, not just some teenager or some guy who has the IQ of a potato.
Most of my first few major editorials were all huge and very thorough. Although they would get a TONNE of hits they would get little to no community interaction. They were simply too big and too precise. If you finished reading them you were forced to agree, because the evidence was there. On the other hand some people didn’t want to disagree simply because they had not read them at all. It is a sort of material only 1% of the total population can digest and unfortunately people prefer about a forum’s post worth of material.
When I introduced the “Fail Series” last year it had as many hits but instead of having no community interaction it was bustling with it. The problem though was that these articles just were not as well researched as my others and were left this way purposely. They were opinion pieces instead of historical merits. I used evidence to create a conclusion and presented it as an argument.
The other problem is that “fail” is used metaphorically instead of actually. A game can only fail in the same sense that a dam can fail. But I’m not saying the game is broken, like a dam is broken. I am saying that the developers failed in the same way the engineers of a dam have failed. Of course when you are talking about a developer failing they can fail in many ways. They can fail to meet expectations (which is most of them). They can fail to meet a goal (another lot of them). They could fail to impress. They could also not meet the hype.
Rift for example was a game that actually did considerably well despite the studio being very small. But Rift did not actually meet all of the hype that websites had put on it. The game had so much hype because DC Universe Online was hacked and there was no other fantasy MMO coming out. The next fantasy MMO after Rift is TERA which as we know was a full two years away. So yes it was unfair to Rift to get so much hype, but it worked in the developer’s favor… and they abused that. My article on Rift although not the best researched was an attempt to be honest. A lot of people disagreed not with my points but instead the title. If the article was “Rift is an average MMO” people would probably have agreed with the article unchanged. Kind of funny how naming something can stir up controversy, eh?
Every now and then I will release an article that lacks a lot of real research. Most of my articles I usually have sources for but some of those sources are insanely weak ones. As an example when people release information that gives them bad press they often have it retracted or deleted it. The Wayback Machine is one of my favorite tools for ‘busting’ them however sometimes they just retract it so fast.
In this instance there is no source that can prove something true. It means only people with insanely good memories (like myself) can act as a witness to it. This ends up being a pretty poor reference for sourcing. More recent events I can remember them spot on. Ones that are further away my memory will fade and that’s where the troubles really begin.
A lot of people rightly call me on them and unfortunately I am wrong to publish something that isn’t factual. I don’t have deadlines so there is no real reason for this to be published. If it is an opinion piece that words should be crafted to be opinions, not facts. I can’t look up information that has been retracted, but I can look up counter-information.
In the future my promise is a stronger proof reading and anything that is a fact I will have a source… or remove it. I need to find a better mix of shorter argumentative articles with my older factual articles. They can’t be as beefy but they have to be factual.
I still want to keep to what I do, smart articles that explain advanced concepts to people… I just intend to do it in a far more cohesive manner.
Part 3: Just Play
When I first started I had a lot of meta-analysis. This is basically and analysis of an analysis. Someone else plays a game and has an opinion on it and I look at that opinion and break it down and show why it is false. This is the work of a philosopher and it is the one I’m most comfortable doing. When I cruise forums I usually only respond to people using gross fallacies to show off their points.
My problem was that I wasn’t actually bringing anything to the table myself. In the end I just had to play games and give my own opinions on games.
This has its problem in itself. By just playing games I’ve attracted that “let’s play” audience that watch videos to figure out how you beat things.
This is good and all but my largest problem with that is that these are people who are viewing my website, not really kicking around. They are looking for temporary knowledge and really are not looking for strong arguments.
The other side is that people who are looking for arguments are usually people who are looking to confirm their opinion. As an example my “Why did Rift Fail” article was featured on a large number of forums as an argument to try and confirm their opinion. This lead to hundreds of people nitpicking at the article trying to find anything factually wrong with it in hopes of defrauding my character.
Playing games has been fun and I will continue to play games. But I think there is also a need to publish responses once more. I think a lot of people get away with saying retarded things on YouTube, on Reddit, and on their own blogs simply because they are preaching to a choir.
I will continue to just play games in the future and enjoy them. I will prepare strategies for beating things and I hope you will all follow me along on that. But I’m also going to be more critical of popular speakers and authors and I most definitely will not let them go on their rants unchallenged.
In my first year I covered a lot of things but none of them really in depth. I covered World of Warcraft, Global Agenda, Aion, Dawn of Discovery, and Star Trek Online.
Over these last two years what I noticed is that some articles STILL get hits today. The ones that still get huge amounts of traffic are those that were actually thorough and that I covered in great depth. Starcraft 2 and Aion are two of those.
After a year I started reviewing MMOs very in depth. I would do my “leveling day” style commentary where I would analyze an aspect of the game each day and discuss where my leveling progression is.
It was an honest way to review an MMO so that when you do the final review you had tones of source material to draw from in order to create a review.
But further analysis showed that most of my traffic was not MMO people. MMO people were mostly just trolls brought here from random forum posts people make.
What I found out was that my biggest supporters were people who played RTS and simulation games. This is because these games, unlike MMOs are actually intellectually and skillfully challenging. They are demanding and require a lot of knowledge. MMOs by comparison are sort of this thing a five year old can do really well.
My coverage this year has included the following:
- Star Wars: The Old Republic
- Age of Conan
- DC Universe Online
- Forsaken World
- GodsWar Online
- Prius Online Anima Redux
- Scarlet Legacy
- Star Trek Online
- A Game of Thrones: Genesis
- Anno 2070
- Tropico 4
- Wargame: European Escalation
- Starcraft 2
- Warhammer Online Wrath of Heroes
- Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim
That’s quite a list of games. One thing I found was that the games that I hated reflected in my playing them and in my writing. Even when I tried to say honest things about a game I hated I just kept playing it.
In the next year if I do not enjoy a game, I’m going to stop playing it. Games that I enjoy I will develop more content for because I will want to understand them better. I think people will have more respect for someone who is knowledgable about the game than a person playing a game just for something to do.
For YouTube I will publish a first impressions of the game and if I seem to enjoy it I will continue it. So many times I just kept playing games I hated because they were popular. Not doing that anymore.
In next year’s coverage I will most likely continue with Age of Conan and DC Universe Online because I enjoy playing them. The other MMOs will be a sometimes maybe type of thing.
I also intend to continue covering more simulators, more real time strategy games, and maybe even a few RPGs.
Part 4: YouTube
This year I started a little experiment with YouTube.
How has it faired? Well unfortunately videos have to be short in order for people to watch them. This means that an opinion piece can be like 2-minutes meaning your opinion will get trolled to all hell.
What I have had great success with is recording harder games I play and putting the levels or missions up on YouTube. It has most definitely been hit or miss. My perfect run through of Sonic Generations with all S-ratings on every single mission for example barely saw a hit. However my coverage of Anno 2070 campaign and how to play videos saw massive success.
My YouTube channel sees roughly 80,000 viewers a month which is about 1/10 the monthly viewers for my website. But one thing my YouTube channel has over my website is that it gains subscribers far faster.
This is also kind of a problem because YouTube builds a “fanbase.” I’m not a person who wants fans. Fans are ‘idiots’ who will almost always accept what you say as gospel. I’m far more of a person who wants a readership who will agree or disagree with your article and tell you why.
I will be continuing the YouTube experience into the new year and will probably focus more in on being a let’s player.
The YouTube experience has one main problem, if you don’t play popular games and do not have popular opinions people will not want you. I lost roughly 20 subs when I posted a video called ‘Terraria Sucks” making fun of how insanely popular the game was and some of the insanely weak parts of the game that made it very unfun. The overwhelming response was huge, people left in droves.
What I’ve been doing is play games I enjoy. Usually they are less popular games. The sad truth is if I spent all of my time just playing Modern Warfare 3, Battlefield 3, or Starcraft 2 I would have a larger following. I’d be a fairly good player at a game and do well enough at it to have a following.
Thing is there are so many “pro gamers” who are doing just average. They are making a decent living but not for the effort they put in. I can play 80 hours a week and it can be a job for me and I can make up to $50,000 a year.
Or I can do it as a hobby, enjoy what I’m doing and have to slowly work my way to the “top.”
At the end of the day I want to do this as just a hobby. The day that I’m trying to make a living off of this is probably the day that I quit doing all of this.