The state of the HonestGamers site (version 2.0)
February 24, 2011

Alright, I think that everyone who wanted to say something has probably said something. The original topic has run its course, so here's a new topic wherein I respond to selected comments and questions from the original topic. This might go a bit long...

Know why I come here? Because I know when I post stuff here, it'll get a fair critique if it's due one. As long as that's true, I'll be here. (Fedule)

If a day comes when that's not true and there's little hope that it can be true again, I don't see a reason for HonestGamers to continue. I posted this topic because I see things headed slowly in that direction and I'd like to stop that.

I think activity will pick up in the summer, although we probably have to accept the HonestGamers is never going to be Gamespot. That doesn't bother me, but then I guess I'm not the one paying for the site. (JANUS2)

I've noted to others that I think the lull we're seeing here is a seasonal thing. However, every season it is getting worse. We're slowly seeing our numbers dwindle, so that even our brightest bursts of activity start to feel that they're lacking something we once had. Every period of inactivity that hits as low as we've been hitting lately makes it more difficult to bounce back. It decreases the likelihood that all of the people currently involved will feel the urge to fight for something that no longer is as exciting and dynamic as it once was.

Is the site likely to die next month as a result of this current slump? No. Next year? Maybe. Two or three years? Almost certainly, if the trend continues as it has these past few years.

So overall, I think HG is in a good place. What we need is not to improve in any particular area, I think - what we need is to redefine our goals. We're never going to be a big-name video game news site. The question is, what should we be aiming for instead? (willthegreat)

I find myself in the unique position of agreeing with pretty much everything that Will said in his full post on this topic. HonestGamers has something special and what we do with our reviews is commendable. It goes to the heart of the site. HonestGamers is a review community. That's what we do well, and our goals in other areas tend to be ignored or they get only token support. I have a lot of thoughts along those lines but there are other comments I'd also like to address.

To add to what Janus said, if anyone accuses you of not caring, it's probably because you seem to make a thread like this every couple of months and nothing ever changes. And I'm not blaming you for that, because in my mind, there's one big problem with this site, and I don't know how to fix it. Basically, HG needs a bigger community. (Suskie)

I make these topics on occasion to determine the community's level of satisfaction with the site's slow death. I have ideas to streamline things, to focus on our strengths and possibly to reverse things and bring activity and a more active community to the site, but they won't work with the current design and changing too much may just piss off too many of the people that I would need to see stick around and participate for a re-design to work. So I have to see where we're at on occasion, and I have to either say "Screw you all!" if not enough people are ready for serious change--then implement sweeping change anyway--or I have to say "Well okay, then, we'll leave things as they are and see where we are next year." I've been doing the latter for a long time now, hoping that people come around to trusting me to make some big changes to the site. They haven't. I'm not sure that most folks have trusted me to make big changes to the site for a long, long time.

There's really no excitement around here at all. I bet some good reviews are still being posted (I hardly read reviews here anymore but don't doubt they exist) but honestly no one seems to care anymore. Why bother writing reviews anymore? There's really no way to improve with the lack of community and no one to impress with the lack of people reading. If you want new, exciting content you first need a community. (sportsman)

I wish I could disagree more heartily with those comments. I'm glad to say that I don't completely agree, either. Review of the Week still is quite interesting and occasionally inspires some excitement. The people who are keeping that alive definitely deserve more shouts of "Kudos!" than they've been getting.

We've had some neat reviews posted over the preceding months that have had the same effect. But HonestGamers feels a bit like a huge lake now and there aren't enough fish. A fish leaping out of the lake to stir the surface of the water has a hard time making a ripple when there's so much distance between that fish and anyone else who might be watching.

The problem is, how do you advertise a dead board and a largely unenthusiastic community? (JANUS2)

A valid point, and one that had occurred to me. If I pour money into advertising, I want it to do some good. Right now, it wouldn't. I've spent months experimenting with options and money and what I've learned is that in its current form, HonestGamers won't benefit from cash injections unless I'm ready and able to spend a lot of cash--thousands each month--for a year or two. I wish that I could, but I can't.

The problem isn't getting people to come to the site, anyway. We do that every day. We average around 1600 to 1700 unique visitors daily, but they're not finding what they want. Why should I pay for another 1600 visitors daily (which would be expensive) if they're not going to find anything different than the first 1600 did? We can't force people to dive into our database of excellent content. I've done what I can to address that wealth of incredible content and to make the casual visitor aware of it, but the fact is that most people who come to the site will quickly get the impression that nothing much is happening and then they will leave. I'd rather not pay for the privilege of seeing that distressing event play out again and again.

Speaking of convergence, isn't there a way you can combine the reviews here and the blog style streaming of Gameroni into one site, or at least two sites with a common home page that takes advantage of both site's material. Because they're both run by you and it does seem silly to spread yourself across two sites - three if this videocritics thing ends up happening. Gameroni's forums seem dead apart from article feedback, so the two forums could be integrated, couldn't they? (Jerec)

That's not an entirely unreasonable idea, but it's not the direction I'd like to go because I feel that we could benefit more from a pure focus on reviews and review feedback. HonestGamers has far too broad a focus, to the point where it struggles to even have a focus. Gameroni has a narrower focus--and thrives, comparatively--but it's still broad. I'd like to see things get even narrower, to see them really come down to what we do well: reviews.

I now know a bit more of what Jason was planning with Gameroni because of a discussion we had a couple days ago, and that made me feel somewhat better about the whole thing, though I still admit to feeling uncertain about its necessity beyond a certain point. (wolfqueen001)

Gameroni was built to allow myself and others to write the content that we wanted to write within a new framework, on a more agile site that could easily allow us to determine what sort of content was directly impacting the site's performance so that we could adapt and find solutions more easily.

That experiment was a huge success, and it allowed me to find all of those things out without having to take a risk and change HonestGamers in any substantial way, only to find that the changes didn't work or were ill-advised. I am extremely pleased with Gameroni's performance and its potential outlook for the future (though it is suffering lately from a lack of ongoing support and that could ultimately damn it to failure). In any event, Gameroni has already accomplished its primary objectives and my only regret about the entire experiment is that people decided not to believe me when I told them the truth about the site and its importance.

Part of me does wonder if Gameroni attracts more visitors than HonestGamers does, actually. (Ben)

It's not that simple. On a day-to-day basis, HonestGamers typically receives more traffic than Gameroni. There are days where Gameroni has more visitors, but those occur a few weeks apart. There are days where something gets posted on Gameroni that brings the traffic up to around half or two thirds of what HonestGamers gets. Those days are quite a bit more frequent. And there's a lot of content that does really well for Gameroni that wouldn't be noticed here, or would have its impact severely limited.

A sobering fact is that HonestGamers has around 70 or 80 times the content that Gameroni does--literally--yet receives only around 8 to 10 times the traffic on half or more of the days within a given month. Not only that, but according to Google Analytics, traffic that visits Gameroni tends to stay on the site longer after arriving. The obvious message to take from this is that Gameroni is doing a better job of engaging people. If I were ready to pour a bunch of money into advertising and content on Gameroni, there's a good chance that I would see a visible return on that investment. Unfortunately, the same is not currently true for HonestGamers. I know this because I've tried.

Firstly we need more exposure. Try searching Google for "antipole review" and you will find our review on the second page third from the bottom. I personally would not dig that deep for a review the first three or four on the first page would be as far as I would go. Remember i found this site looking for some specific information not just browsing around. That should tell us something. (CoarseDragon)

A lot of that comes down to SEO, and a lot of that can't be changed in a substantial way without a serious change to the way that HonestGamers functions. A site has to be built around its focus to impact that site's performance in social media and search engines, and right now HonestGamers is built around a focus that can be loosely defined as "no focus at all except that it in some way relates to the very broad topic of video games."

I personally think the site could benefit from a design change that better promotes content through a cleaner layout. I don't read a whole lot of content on the site except when I'm looking for something on a particular game, but I still like submitting for contests. I like HG because I get a different level of feedback from the writers here than I can get anywhere else and I think that's the biggest strength of the site. (asherdeus)

A cleaner site is a difficult thing to do with the numerous types of content that we feature but don't really promote with activity. At this point--as it has been for awhile now--it's clear to me that the variety of other content that we feature is hurting the site in several ways that won't be going anywhere anytime soon unless there's a major reworking of the site... a reworking that, based on half of the comments in the original thread, would irritate about half of the site.

I personally am not interested in one-way promotion. If these two sites are going to work together, then let's make them fucking work together. (willthegreat)

I've been linking to HonestGamers content since Gameroni started, and more links to HonestGamers from Gameroni have happened than the other way around... by far. But people don't seem to care and that's fine. I'm no longer looking to mingle the two sites. I'll continue to link to HonestGamers content from Gameroni when it's relevant, as I always have, and until something changes I'll continue to do what I can to make sure that HonestGamers folk don't have to worry that they'll load up HonestGamers and see reference to what they have decided is unwelcome competition.

This is a good idea. I'm not sure if HG receives that many review codes nowadays, but this could be worth looking at. You can maybe push new recruits to post in the forums from time to time as a requirement. (Ben)

Just about every regular writer on the site right now has had the opportunity to write in exchange for games, and the few who haven't could--in most cases--have a similar opportunity if they contacted me and made a compelling case. There's a limited pool of talent right now, the result of years of letting things slide.

So that leaves me looking outside the current talent pool, competing with many other sites who also are trying to recruit talent. It's becoming harder and harder to convince good writers who have no prior experience with the site to write for HonestGamers without not only sending them games, but also paying them. And of course, I can't afford to pay people when I have no expectation that the content I pay for will perform in a manner that makes back at least a fraction of the money that I put out to run that content in the first place.

Most freelancers who write well enough that they attract my attention and get a gig or two then start looking around elsewhere and find work there too, because after all, HonestGamers turns good writers into great ones and great writers can demand more money than I can pay. In those rare cases where good writers stick around without compensation (and some do, because they come to appreciate what our reviewer community has to offer once they dig through all of the layers of filler), the last thing I'm going to be able to do is force them to participate in the community as a condition of continuing to post their stuff.

The solution here is to put together a site and frame the community in an approachable manner that makes fresh talent want to participate, and that's really what all of this comes down to: right now, as much as we'd like to believe otherwise, we don't have that. If we did, we wouldn't be struggling to get new people involved. It's food for thought.

Personally, I think it's time to cut our losses and focus purely on the review community aspect of the site. It's time for me to put together a new version of the site that features nothing but reviews and forums, one that focuses on the exercise of writing better reviews while cultivating a passionate audience that appreciates what we do here and grows as a natural result of that appreciation. But hey, that might just be me.

Most recent blog posts from Jason Venter...

Felix_Arabia Felix_Arabia - February 24, 2011 (05:42 PM)
Are we going to call this new site Videocritics?
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - February 24, 2011 (06:12 PM)
Re: Linking HG content from Gameroni.

Sometimes I talk out of my ass. That post was one of those times. I think it's fantastic that Gameroni features HG content from time to time, and my original sentiment stands: Let's make the collaboration two-way.

Hopefully the stigma's died down a bit since then. Perhaps we can test the waters with a news article or a forum post.
CoarseDragon CoarseDragon - February 24, 2011 (06:18 PM)
It is difficult for a person who does not write opinions to write them. At work I write technical manuals there is no "how I feel about this process" involved. The reviews I try to write come off like a tech manual because that is what I do and how I have been trained to write. So when I say I don't know how to write a review I really mean that. Something that might help is a (and just a thought here) could be a series of articles on "how" to write a good review. It's subjective I know but the talent is here to make that work. Then your new people might not be intimidated or seem like they making complete fools of themselves trying to write.

New people need to be treated with respect. None of this "you call that piece of shit a review" (I am not saying this happened but from what I have seen here I am willing to bet it has). You cannot nurture talent unless you are willing to bend over backwards to help that new talent develop.

I enjoy coming here and reading the reviews. Thankfully everyone here as tolerated me. I truly wish I had the talent to contribute more but sadly I do not. That will not stop me from trying from time to time and in time I will be able to write (I hope) but until then I can only offer whatever I can to help out.

Your comment on diversity is what makes this site excellent but at the same time is also a drawback. I think that shows in the forums. Posting about a specific game might draw three or four people but not for long and that spurt looks good but those spurts are generally short lived. If I were to post in the forums how much I am enjoying Dragon Quest VI how many comments would that really get - not many I'd wager. Will I do that? Yes I like the game but the point is we are so different here and that is what makes this site rich and poor at the same time.

I have no real suggestions all I can do is keep coming here and helping with what I can and telling all my friends to come here. We might be in the coffin but we have not been burried yet. Don't let that happen to this great place.
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - February 24, 2011 (06:24 PM)
New people need to be treated with respect. None of this "you call that piece of shit a review" (I am not saying this happened but from what I have seen here I am willing to bet it has).

For what it's worth, I have never in my stay at HG seen that happen. Ever. Except for one time when a bunch of people did exactly what you suggest, bent over backwards to try and help somebody improve, and the person in question acted as though they'd spat on the Mona Lisa.

So yeah, not a problem here at HG. This community is one of the best I know of for helping people improve.
Suskie Suskie - February 24, 2011 (08:51 PM)
At the very least, all I want to see is for HG regulars to stop treating Gameroni with such hostility. Maybe integrating them in any way isn't the direction you want to take these sites, but isolating the two communities isn't going to help anyone.
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - February 24, 2011 (09:23 PM)
I think it's a great idea, focusing mainly on the review community aspect. This is coming from a FAQ writer, too. Personally, I don't have any problem if you axe the FAQs (a rhyme, hey hey!) or ditch the codes or whatever else. I'm willing to make that sacrifice. I'm pretty flexible as long as we still have a review community and said community grows.
- - - February 24, 2011 (11:47 PM)
I've always never had a problem with a site redesign. In fact, I believe I was the only positive person when you tried that portal-esque layout a long while back before reverting back. I also think the vast majority either don't care or have embraced Gameroni. Barely anyone has any beef with it. At least, that's what I hope and believe anyway. I don't speak for everyone, of course.

I somewhat agree with CD. I posted a topic about a Wii game but no one's responded. I'm not saying this because I'm demoralised by this specifically - it's just one topIc after all - but I wish we could talk about games more often on here instead of just being all about contests. As True mentioned, Blood Omen was great for this.
jerec jerec - February 25, 2011 (01:13 AM)
I've never once clicked on a FAQ here. GameFAQs has way better coverage, and most of the FAQs here are also there anyway.
CoarseDragon CoarseDragon - February 25, 2011 (11:58 AM)
This is not GameFAQs and never will be but I have read and used several of the FAQs here. They need not be prominent but they should remain.
aschultz aschultz - February 25, 2011 (02:48 PM)
I'd be sad to see my one lone Apple IIgs FAQ vanish from the Internet.

Less over-specifically, I don't know what the site wants to focus on, but I really enjoy being able to write something obscure and having an outlet for that. Since for me reviews and FAQs for games not covered go hand-in-hand, it's useful to have a place that expects quality forms of both.

Also, just a generic list of updates is nice to read. If it isn't exciting, Jason, we know you're not the sort of person who plays Godfather and says "LOOK AT ALL I'VE DONE FOR YOU! FIND TIME TO GROVEL, THANK ME AND THEN WRITE FOUR NIFTILY PROOFREAD REVIEWS A WEEK!" Even having neat new minor stuff to play with is nifty.

Yeah, it's not a permanent fix, to list updates, but it's something to come back to & a sort of encouragement for me at least. I remember seeing those trivial fixes on GameFAQs and saying, gee, well, I guess something I wanted to write that seemed trivial is worthwhile too. I think we're interested, even if we don't understand many of the technical bits.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 25, 2011 (03:10 PM)
For the record, major revisions to the site design and its content focus wouldn't have to mean that content everyone contributed suddenly disappeared from the Internet. Any content already contributed could be archived exactly as you see it today... or close enough to it that any differences wouldn't matter. The difference would be that if the site were archived, new contributions and activity would no longer be possible. All of that would be moved to the new site.
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - February 26, 2011 (12:45 AM)
Some questions:

About when do you think this new site will hit?

Should I hold off on any review submissions?

Are reviews from here going to be carried over to the new site or just archived here?
honestgamer honestgamer - February 26, 2011 (12:04 PM)
About when do you think this new site will hit?

The new site wouldn't likely hit for awhile yet, probably mid to late March. Its development won't affect operations of the current site.

Should I hold off on any review submissions?

No. Please continue to use this site as you normally would. There's nothing to be gained--particularly at this early stage--from holding off on contributing.

Are reviews from here going to be carried over to the new site or just archived here?

The reviews would just be archived here. However, I'm mulling over an "account linking" feature so that your profile on the new site could link to not only your reviews on that site, but to archived reviews from a single user account on this site (making it easy for someone to access all of your reviews from both the old and the new site on a single page).
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - February 26, 2011 (12:06 PM)
"The reviews would just be archived here. However, I'm mulling over an "account linking" feature so that your profile on the new site could link to not only your reviews on that site, but to archived reviews from a single user account on this site (making it easy for someone to access all of your reviews from both the old and the new site on a single page)."

That would be excellent. :D
Leroux Leroux - February 26, 2011 (12:51 PM)
zigfried zigfried - February 26, 2011 (01:06 PM)
I misunderstood... I thought we were talking about a re-design of this site that would streamline the appearance, put the focus back on reviews, and eliminate superfluous functionality. I'm not interested in a true "new site", while all the old content gets pushed into an archive in the corner.

If that's the route this goes, then my future reviews can be found at my personal blog where I can at least control the appearance and feedback. I wouldn't have submitted stuff this week if I thought there was the possibility that they would just get archived on a dead site.

You should do what you and your audience wants, and I'll always wish you the best of luck, but this proposal is not something I'm interested in.

Felix_Arabia Felix_Arabia - February 26, 2011 (01:20 PM)
I have no desire to be a part of HG 2.0's disorganization. It makes me wonder why I even bothered to submit crap to this site in the first place.
jerec jerec - February 26, 2011 (01:25 PM)
Leroux Leroux - February 26, 2011 (01:28 PM)
It sounds like you gave Joe some very bad, self-serving advice. "Should I hold off contributing?" "No, I'll archive your work on a dead site, and I'm mulling over even linking it at the new one!"
Halon Halon - February 26, 2011 (01:42 PM)
So you're trying to revive a slowly dying site by killing it completely? I'm not so sure if the best way to pick up the pace is to eliminate all of what's left here. Nothing works better at inspiring contributors by nuking everything they've worked on over the years.
Suskie Suskie - February 26, 2011 (01:46 PM)
I'm working on a Dead Space review as we speak and I don't know what the fuck to do with it.

This place is becoming such a mess that it's starting to just be funny.
overdrive overdrive - February 26, 2011 (01:55 PM)
Um...I guess I held off commenting on this topic because when I was getting ready to, it had entered DEATH MATCH DRAMA zone, but yeah...the new site/dead site deal doesn't really excite me either. To put things as non-rambling as possible (since I do tend to go on and on at times):

I don't know what EVERYONE'S reasons were for ditching GFaqs for here. For me it was for an opportunity to have my reviews featured alongside other high-caliber writers, as opposed to being a site afterthought thrown up alongside poorly-written crap while sporadically reading random "things are in. the. works." threads that never turned into anything notable. A site evolution/re-designing is one thing. Having nearly 300 reviews written over a period of 8 or so years relegated to a dead site, but possibly linked to from the new site is something else.
wolfqueen001 wolfqueen001 - February 26, 2011 (02:12 PM)
=/ I was thinking about posting some concerns and such here, but now I'm thinking they might just be ignored anyway so don't feel like bothering.
JEREC2 JEREC2 - February 26, 2011 (02:13 PM)
Hey guys, I brought popcorn!
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - February 26, 2011 (02:53 PM)
I, too, thought we were discussing reorganizing this site, rather than scrapping it and starting anew.

For the record, perception that Gameroni was an attempt to scrap everything and start anew was the reason I was initially wary of it. If this is the course that HG is going to take, I won't be a part of it.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 26, 2011 (03:22 PM)
Thank you for making clear your displeasure over the notion of a new site, nearly everyone who still actually posts here or contributes. I'd say "Let's wait for more of the community to chime in before I make any decision or respond!" but there really isn't much more to the active community that hasn't posted in this thread or that I haven't heard from either directly or by way of a third party.

The purpose of this thread was to give you better information about a solution that I knew would probably work to revitalize the community and my reasons for endorsing that potential solution. Then you could better say "Yes, let's do that" or "No, let's not do that."

It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that too many of you like the site's current form--wrinkles and all--to ever embrace significant change. You're happy to say "Jason doesn't give a damn and he won't take risks," but the minute I offer to spend dozens of hours coding and designing something that represents a risk that would likely pay off in the form of a community built around reviews and critiquing--something that almost all of you have at one point or another told me you want in the past--several of you line up to take cheap shots at me while the rest of you sit back and watch the show.

I don't appreciate the cheap shots. They would hurt anyone with normal human emotions and as it turns out, I have those. I want this community to succeed as much as anyone and it's not because I'm some greedy bastard who just wants to be the next IGN or GameSpot the way some of you suggest. Ironically, the current design has a great deal more in common with those sites than anything I was proposing producing in its place. The only way for HonestGamers to become a true success and secure a lasting, active community in its current form is to compete directly with IGN and GameSpot and such sites and I'm not sure that anyone wants that.

So let's make a deal: I'll leave the site as it is, the way most people clearly want it, and you'll all tell anyone who complains that we all like things the way they are. I'll pour what resources I can into bringing new people and content to this community, to tilt at windmills, and I'll trust those who care about the site's future to do the same things within that same framework because it's clearly the framework that the majority of you prefer and would like to see stick around.

My posts these past few days were never about forcing a change down anyone's throat. That's part of why I've said so little (relatively speaking). The posts were about determining what the active majority wants and that active majority has spoken. Now, the predictable and promised outcome: the majority gets what it wants. We'll move forward with the goal of making the current site perform efficiently and any changes that might be implemented in the process will--as always--follow a democratic process designed to keep the majority happy with our online community for game reviewers.

If anyone else has any suggestions as together we continue along that path, feel free to share them here, by HG Mail, over AIM or by e-mail, as always.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 26, 2011 (03:24 PM)
Please see my earlier post in this thread, which took awhile to write. I will be going to work soon and won't be able to address comments until at least my lunch break or much later this evening, but I encourage you all to not mistake that for a lack of interest in hearing what you all might have to say.
- - - February 26, 2011 (03:35 PM)
I'm confused. I don't think the community minds change. They just dislike the possibility of their reviews being "archived" and stored away, separate from the new reviews.
Leroux Leroux - February 26, 2011 (03:40 PM)
When you said we need a new "version" of this site, how could anyone know or even guess you meant an entirely new site with none of the content of this one, including its reviews, for a site version centered around reviews?

Everyone was wishy-washy about certain aspects being cut, but no one even entertained the notion of the reviews here not making the cut. That's why this is shocking and you got the response you did. Most people, you know, want their reviews.

Suskie Suskie - February 26, 2011 (03:45 PM)
You're happy to say "Jason doesn't give a damn and he won't take risks," but the minute I offer to spend dozens of hours coding and designing something that represents a risk that would likely pay off in the form of a community built around reviews and critiquing--something that almost all of you have at one point or another told me you want in the past--several of you line up to take cheap shots at me while the rest of you sit back and watch the show.

The problem, Jason, is that your solution is absolutely batshit. No one suggested it and no one wants it.
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - February 26, 2011 (03:48 PM)
It's becoming increasingly obvious to me that too many of you like the site's current form--wrinkles and all--to ever embrace significant change. You're happy to say "Jason doesn't give a damn and he won't take risks," but the minute I offer to spend dozens of hours coding and designing something that represents a risk that would likely pay off in the form of a community built around reviews and critiquing--something that almost all of you have at one point or another told me you want in the past--several of you line up to take cheap shots at me while the rest of you sit back and watch the show.

Jason, I don't think that's what's happening here.

What you originally proposed sounded like drastic, sweeping changes to this site and the way it was organized, and most of the users seemed to be behind that. But then it became clear that what you were actually proposing was creating a brand-new site divorced from the wealth of content and history that HonestGamers already has, and that's where the disconnect is.

As to whether there's a perception that you're unwilling to take risks, that to me doesn't sound at all like the concerns being raised. The concerns being raised stem from your apparent belief that changing HonestGamers is a binary process - either things stay more or less the same, or we throw everything in the garbage and start all over. This may not be true, but your actions to date have led a lot of people to this belief.

From what I've seen nobody is seriously opposed to changing the way HG organizes and presents its content. My question then is, why can't we do that and keep the existing material?

Now, it's true you did experiment with a new front page layout a while back, but it caught a lot of us off-guard and came unexpectedly, and in that state of surprise the userbase reacted badly. Had it been handled differently - had there been a seperate index page presented in a blog post with a note that said "Hey guys, here's a knock-up of the new index page I'm working on, what do you think?" I think it would have been better received.

What that shows is that, if anybody says that you're unwilling to go balls-to-the-wall and change HG, they can go fuck themselves because that's clearly not true. But just because feedback is negative doesn't mean the status quo is the only acceptable option.

So let's make some goddamn changes. But don't spring them on the userbase with no warning, and don't backpedal to square one at the first sign of criticism. It's an ongoing process, and you need to find a balance between sticking to your guns and yielding to community pressure. Because at the moment you're oscillating between the two extremes and I get the sense that it's killing your creative drive.
Suskie Suskie - February 26, 2011 (03:58 PM)
Let me restate what I believe this site needs. We're a reviewing community; even if we don't have many people, we do that better than any other site on the web, as far as I know. That shouldn't change. What does need to change is how the site presents itself. We need to showcase what we do well (reviews and user-submitted content) and push the filler aside (why do we even still have a news section now that Gameroni exists?).

And for chrissake, the site needs a better design. As it is now, it's ugly and unorganized. You were willing to hire a web designer to clean up Gameroni's appearance, so why not do the same for HG?
WilltheGreat WilltheGreat - February 26, 2011 (04:04 PM)
Heck, you wouldn't even need to hire one, Jason. You know I do web design for my job, and my offer to assist you on the design side of HG still stands.
zigfried zigfried - February 26, 2011 (05:24 PM)
An idea just sprung to mind. First of all, all existing content would need to remain

| TOP |
| AAA |
| BBB |
| CCC |
| DDD |

The TOP part is the header, plus a focus window for whatever is the most important thing to be featured at that point in time. Only one sidebar, probably on the right, and it would need to be colored in such a way to be less prominent than the content. Want to make the content pop out at visitors, after all.

The other four rows are "formats" to show off our content, and they would rotate around. So one day AAA is on top, the next day BBB, and so on. That way there's movement and everything gets a change to be near the top.

AAA could be a block of twelve cover arts, somewhat similar to the current front page (but with less text -- either no game names, or tiny text under each individual picture). These pictures lead straight to reviews.

BBB could be a similar idea, but it's four random reviews -- not necessarily new ones. You know how a focus has to be 600 x 250 in size? For the image, it would pull the middle 180 to 200 pixels. The images would be side-by-side, with the thinnest of boundaries between each one.

Of course, that piece requires the game to have a focus window asset. If there's no "focus window" asset, then that game gets bypassed in favor of a game that does have one. This would be a bit of set-up work (one: create a section under each game entry that houses a "focus window" asset, and then move or add assets to games).

Section CCC would be a new feature: community reviewing. People have the chance to submit a one-paragraph review under space restrictions. When three acceptable submissions have been approved (which could take a month or years), then the community review goes "live" and gets added to the community review section.

Basically it's like the old Gamefan or EGM reviews. For a (really badly designed) example of what I mean:

It would need to be vertically oriented instead of horizontally oriented.


To submit community reviews, you would have to choose a "community review" avatar, which could be different from your forum avatar. That way, people could change their forum avatar all the time, but leave the community one as is.

The screenshot would just be whatever the first screen in the game's gallery is. Each user review would be laid out as follows, and could probably get two or three reviews side-by-side on each page:

|USER| |
|----| TEXT |
|USER| |
|AVA.| |

Section DDD would be a row of three reviews, each represented by a screenshot. The criteria could be variable -- maybe this row is for newest three reviews one week, maybe it's random another, maybe it's set to represent a particular system. It should be something that staff can easily change.

And by automatically rotating those rows daily, we never give off that "unchanging" appearance we have today. And there could be a horizontal banner ad between the first row (AAA above) and the second row (BBB).

Just a thought.

jerec jerec - February 26, 2011 (06:06 PM)
I like the idea of short reviews. I think it could get a lot of new content on a regular basis, as maybe even the casual visitors would like to write 100 words or so if they feel too intimidated to write 1000+

I know I'd probably write a bunch of paragraph reviews. I enjoyed doing those for that one site you Turbo guys had a while back. I also like the idea of the rotating focus for 4 old reviews - it'd promote a lot more content than the "Looking for a good read" box without using that much more space. The current box has very static wording apart from the reviewer name, the game and the score. My mind manages to block out the "figures that the game deserves x out of 10" every time.

disco1960 disco1960 - February 26, 2011 (07:21 PM)
Maybe you could start posting on GameFAQs again, and lure people here indirectly? Seems like that's how it worked before.
Leroux Leroux - February 26, 2011 (08:07 PM)
My pitch:

First, the cuts. I'll use the top bar as reference:

Submit | Contests | Top Rated | Reviews | Previews | Guides | Cheats | Screens | Scores | Videos | News>/strike> | Forums | My Blog | HG Mail (0) | Logout | Users | Staff | Links | Meta

So we keep reviews, guides and screens. Guides and screens can still be contributed, but they're off the bar too. In fact, no one uses that bar aside from forums, their blog and mail, so those can be integrated into some sort of navigation piece, along with the console front pages and retro. Half the pages that bar links to stink.

Drop import, and have a separate retro front page. Retro reviews will still show up on the front page, but its the biggest niche and deserves a page that sort of mirrors the front page, with the console pages for those accessible from that. Doesn't need to be ready for the 2.0 launch but it seems like a good idea to look into. Move arcade to retro.

The front page is wide open then and ready for new ideas. The above scraps three of the bottom sections (codes and videos, and while being able to see the most recent screen galleries is nice, it's not something to keep visiting for). Guides can probably stay somehow. News is gone from the right column. Might even want to even scrap all the individual review links -- if you're browsing the NES section, you're probably not interested in Antipole, The Ball or Halo Reach, so having those links on the right side isn't great. At least knock it down to just the latest reviews. Maybe the latest featured review always keeps the bottom position if they stay.

The "Now recruiting game critics!" blurb needs to go away too. A simple contribute link somewhere would work.

Those would be my ideas for trimming the fat.

The tough part is figuring out a way to combine the navigation with pieces we might want to keep, like the recent forum discussion and recent reviews. But I picture a top user-based piece (Contribute, Forums, Blog, Mail), followed by console main pages (two columns to save space, or some way to keep it from looking bulky), forum discussion and the latest reviews.

So this is my vague idea and I'm pitching and a hell of a lot of work. Which sucks, I know, but no one expects this overnight, and we're throwing ideas around. But I think this is more along the lines of what people had in mind, where the framework stays, we become review/forum focused and redo the design while slimming down.
jerec jerec - February 26, 2011 (08:22 PM)
Yeah, if nothing else comes out of this, fixing the Retro section so it looks like the main page, only with easily accessible retro links and reviews is a must.
JANUS2 JANUS2 - February 26, 2011 (10:46 PM)
I like the idea of being able to do 100 word reviews. I think ratings should stay too.
honestgamer honestgamer - February 26, 2011 (11:18 PM)

1) Please continue to post here with your ideas that you would like to see implemented on the site, either as part of a new design or as minor revisions to the current site.

2) Gameroni's first and second (current) design were both designed by me. People seem to like it almost as much as if I had paid someone $2K or $3K to do it. A redesign for HonestGamers would probably cost several times that amount.

3) I suggested the site archival to keep anyone from losing precious content as the site shifted focus. I didn't want people to feel like they had done all of that work for nothing. The linking of old reviews to user profiles was one possible suggestion and was never a finalized plan, nor did I intend to present it as such.

4) I'm unlikely to respond directly to each suggestion that might follow in this thread or any others, particularly if someone asks a question that I have already answered. I read every post on this site's forums--or nearly every post--and have now for the nearly 10 years that the site's forums have been online. I will seriously consider all posts in this thread but I won't likely be especially active on AIM.

5) Thank you for your continued interest in the HonestGamers community. As long as that remains, I'm happy to continue working with all of you to ensure that the site moves forward in the manner that works well for as many of you as possible.

6) I have a wife, bills, a day job, freelance work and (I'm beginning to think) stomach issues related to all of the above and the natural stress that stems from running this site and trying to protect everyone's interests. Sometimes, I'm going to have to take a break. When I do, I hope that you can be understanding. I like all of you, even when some of you piss me off on occasion, and I'd like to continue to like all of you. I'd like for all or most of you to like me, too. We'll see how that goes.
True True - February 27, 2011 (01:01 AM)
I had one last thing planned...sorry, one last review planned. I know what everyone was thinking: "Oh, god. How can he possibly outdo himself?" Not going to, just want to end it where it all began. And I had originally intended on not saying anything--blog, forum, AIM--because in the end, it really doesn't matter. I was going to let what I did calm down and simply walk away. At this point, I really can't. It's not that I think it will make a difference, I'm simply hoping that--combined with everything here--it might.

And I'm not saying this just for you, or going to such exhaustive efforts to try and salvage HG just for you. I'm saying it for them. For the girl that sat up on AIM and tried to make me feel better, despite every other person on here despising me. For that technical, talented kid who--regardless of having disappeared--tried to settle a stupid and petty argument just because he respected us. For the king of the mountain, who was the only one who tried to fuel my passion rather than stifle it and took my request. For the quirky, annoying British fellow who brings more to this site in a day than I do in a year. For the passionate, misunderstood fellow who nearly drove himself mad trying to organize the contest we all know and love, and got flack for it yet refused to give up. For the object of everyone's taunts and jabs, the proverbial punching bag, who sticks it out and has more heart and resolve than almost anyone on here. For the guy who offered to read my book, the person who sent me one, the soon to be doctor and the Korean video addict. The new guy that pumps out quality reviews and brings a positive light with everything he says on the forums. And I'm saying this as Greg, hoping that some people know how much I abhor erasing that line.

If there's one thing I've learned over this past year and even in writing this, it's that you have a lot of personalities here and 99% of them are beneficial. You have a lot of people who pour their very souls into this site and have done so for years, without any sort of payment, award or line on a resume. And though I can say this only for a select few, they are tired, frustrated, burned out and ignored. And it's only getting worse.

Trust me, I know. I'm not going to try and justify my actions. Even if I thought it would earn me back the one shred of dignity and respect few held for me, I would not. I would only apologize incessantly to Mike that he got involved with it--sorry, that I FORCED him to be involved with it--and am glad he was smart enough to walk away. It was a shit thing to do when it mostly wasn't directed at him. I know he won't listen or care, but I'll say it again anyway. I apologize, to him and everyone else who had to see it.

But it's not about that, never was. Like a lot of people I'm burned out. I'm the only one who lets it get that extreme or who's as negatively vocal about it but there's still a lot of tension on here. Has been for a long time.

And though 99 times out of a 100 my actions are wrong, foolish and utterly stupid and the only time I've every really inspired someone was by making them start embedding videos into their posts, you may want to listen.

I did what I did for a lot of reasons that I'm not going to address, mainly because it's between me and others.

I pulled what I did, yes, because I blew up, lost it, took things the wrong way. And like a lot of others, have been frustrated for over a year. And regardless of what I said or did, it didn't matter. Calm and assertive, or insane and over-dramatic they--like those from a lot of others--went ignored. So I yanked out the dumbest, most pathetic stunt ever in one last attempt to shake you out of this technical, logical apathy you've developed and to make one simple point: Regardless of how hard you try to quiet them, erase them off the forums, ignore them, try to conform them or simply not deal with them you have a lot of personalities here. And no matter what else you try to do--be it redesign the site, put up slicker forums, archive the old to bring in the new, etc.--the users and the staff will be what makes or breaks you.

I would suggest, Jason, you start with that. You would be amazed at how loyal and motivated people can be with just a small incentive. Inspire them, or pass the torch to someone who can. No, I’m not saying that it all has to be on you, but it needs to start with you. Reinstating the staff feedback might be a good start. I was declined the first time I posted here and I asked for feedback. Had Emp not given me a few tips, I would have given up entirely. I reworked it, got them posted and the rest was history.

Sometimes I don’t have the time to leave feedback for a review I really like. Maybe set up something like Facebook or Youtube where other readers can click like or dislike. Hell, even set up something that allows users to vote on specific things we all look for in a review—things like grammar, structure, fun factor, transitions, focus, etc. A simple one through ten rating like we use for the actual review, so the writer can get a quick overview of what they need to work on and the reader can leave that feedback with little effort.

Start small if you like but I say this with all the seriousness I can muster, and this goes for all of you who care, not just Jason: Focus on becoming a community again, on inspiring people. No, I'm not asking for that job. Mike was right. I do more harm here than good, and I no longer like the person this site brings out of me. I'm done. For good. Leslie was right; I'm sad and I'm tired.

There are a lot of people, still, that are not. And I hope for the sake of every single person I mentioned above and the countless others I haven't--people that I respect--that you're able to fix this. Not just for you, for them. Maybe with me gone, it will be a good start.

For you Jerec. Thanks, Buddy.

Maybe I'll see you guys around.
wolfqueen001 wolfqueen001 - February 27, 2011 (01:01 AM)
My issue was, and has been from the beginning, that I'd much rather see an attempt made to try and overhaul this site from the beginning rather than starting fresh, since that can present problems of its own (besides community dissatisfaction).

The whole archiving idea / relaunch combination irked some and unsettled others because, even though your intent was to preserve everything that was there, it still looked as if you considered it less important than whatever new thing you were planning. An archived site wouldn't get a lot of traffic, for example, and as such, all of everyone's work would have still semed to have gone to waste because nobody but us would really be looking at it. And, even if you integrated the new content with the old, there'd be issues of metalinking and whatever else... It just seems really cumbersome and a lot of work.

Granted, a general redesign of the current site would be a lot of work, too, but I genuinely feel that more people would be happier with such an attempt rather than one that appeared to disregard everyone's contributions. Even if this really isn't true at all.

Basically, I echo a lot of Will's sentiments regarding the issue. I also realy like Zig's and Leroux's idea for revamping the site. I truly believe that the kind of change people want to see is one tha affects the current site. I know you can see that people care about it, and I know it's frustrating when you see all your ideas shot down, but after seeing what's been going on here, I think it has more to do with the fact that there needs to be two-way communication and compromise between both you and the community. As Will said, for all intents and purposes and with all your proposed changes, now and in the past, it appeared as though you would bounce from one extreme to the other, between doing whatever you thought best without much notification or input from the community (or very last minute notice) and between backing off at the first sign of resistance so that eventually nothing gets done. The former case has seemed to be a larger issue, especially when debates like this pop up, but the latter case has its own issues as well. Especially with the latter, though, you need to be careful not to stray into the former. I thinkk for true success to come for you, the site and the community, you really need to compromise and consider everyone's opinions from the outset. Let people know what you're planning more before you actually start working on things. What you've done here seems to be a good start, with letting us know ahead of time before acting. I'm glad you appear to at least be listening, but ultimately, we won't know how much of this has really changed until you decide how ultimately to go forward.

This probably dosen't make a lot of sense, but I'm really tired.

Anyway, I will say that I'm sorry if I appeared just s "wishy-washy" as everyone else, but I really like to understand both sides to a situation as well as echo concerns on all sides of a situation, especially when I feel them myself. I know this isn't easy for you.

I would also like to add one more thing in, and it's something I've been concerned about for a very long time now because I know it will be an inevitability at one point or another. If, indeed when, you do get so tired and / or busy that you need a break from all this, you're probably going to have to hand over the reigns at some point. That means granting one (or several) of your dedicated staff (or somebody... I don't know who... Whoever would be willing to do it, I guess) the same sorts of powers you possess so that even if they can't directly code the site like you can, they can at least administer it in such a way that it can function without your constant needing to be there. (Deleting staff reviews, for example, comes to mind).

In any case, I'm sure that's something you probably don't want to hear right now or even address, but it will come up in the future at some point, and I think it's worth considering. Of course, I hope whatever you decide on that is a very careful and thought out decision as well.
jerec jerec - February 27, 2011 (01:32 AM)
True, stop being such a whiny baby and get back here.
hmd hmd - March 02, 2011 (11:29 AM)
I'm aware that I'm probably a few days late for the suggestions. If I may, though, I'd still like to pitch a few.

First thing, from a technical aspect: please, please please please for the Love of God, get some actual forum software! This barebones set-up just ain't cutting it for me these days. If nothing else, at least give people the ability to actually quote other posts without having to copy and paste the message into their own reply and put quotation marks around it. That gets pretty old pretty fast, I would imagine!

I would also suggest a consolidation of content from both this site and your sister site, Gameroni. Granted, I do have my problems with that site (due entirely to its content, not a perceived notion of taking away the community), but any kind of additional content could have a positive impact on the outside viewers. If all you have to offer are user-submitted reviews and little else, then the whole thing comes across as GameFAQs but without the FAQs.

And while I'm on that subject: DO NOT start recruiting GameFAQs posters over here! I shouldn't have to tell you why that's a bad idea, but I suppose I could elaborate. The whole idea of keeping a user-based website together is to foster a sense of community. However, if that community is full of morons, jackasses and other assorted weirdos, then all that does is make you look bad for maintaining a site like that, and the non-crazy users look bad for being associated with them.

And the most important thing: the community. From what I've noticed, there seems to be this never-ending wave of passive-aggressive attitudes or just out and out flipping the fuck out over harmless jokes or the results of a weekly contest. The major problem is trying to fix that before fixing any web design issues. If it means having to use stricter disciplinary methods like temporarily removing posting privileges from certain people or just straight-up banning them, then so be it. If I were, say, some curious fella lurking the boards and all I saw was passive-aggressive drama, I would never sign up. Who would? Other than trolls, I mean. What I'm trying to say is, your number one bullet point should be that Honest Gamers dot com has one of the best communities on the internet, full of intelligent, well-spoken individuals of all walks of life. If you can't say that, then you have nothing.

I certainly hope that was helpful.
honestgamer honestgamer - March 02, 2011 (03:29 PM)
Three compelling reasons that I've not already thrown up some pre-built forums:

1) Pre-built forums are ridiculously difficult to implement with content across a site such as this one--or any site--without building pretty much the whole site in a program such as Joomla or what have you... which would essentially require months of work or would require a complete reboot of the site. Even then, it's tricky to tie content into the forums (and that's something that we absolutely must do).

2) Pre-built forums would open the site up for more attacks, because pre-built forums are used often enough that there are handy scripts all over the place for anyone with a grudge to use against a given site. No site is impervious to attack, including this one, but I don't feel like rolling out a welcome mat.

3) Pre-built forums allow a lot of features that are open for abuse, features I've been careful to either disable here or to never build... stuff like a "Quotes" feature (abused without exception on any forum I've ever seen), Javascript nastiness (security holes, ahoy!) and so forth. Extra formatting options also tend to be abused and some related features make the site a target for spammers.

There are other little reasons related to those three main things, as well. I don't anticipate that you'll see major changes to the forums anytime soon.
jerec jerec - March 02, 2011 (03:47 PM)
I like the forums here. The fact that they aren't like the typical generic forums (that always seem disconnected from the rest of the site), is a definite plus.
zigfried zigfried - March 02, 2011 (07:12 PM)
From what I've noticed, there seems to be this never-ending wave of passive-aggressive attitudes or just out and out flipping the fuck out over harmless jokes or the results of a weekly contest.

That's why we need you! You have a talent for making people look and feel dumb for flipping out, but in a funny way.

bluberry bluberry - March 12, 2011 (11:27 PM)
"Personally, I think it's time to cut our losses and focus purely on the review community aspect of the site. It's time for me to put together a new version of the site that features nothing but reviews and forums, one that focuses on the exercise of writing better reviews while cultivating a passionate audience that appreciates what we do here and grows as a natural result of that appreciation. But hey, that might just be me. "

there you go.

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