The media landscape blur in the Web x.x glasscase

(This article is long as you can see. Read when you have more than five minutes or skip. It reflects my personal opinions on two subjects: Amateurs vs Professionals and Hybrid Models in the modern media landscape. Focus is on Gaming, but I do branch off into other regions, so be warned.)

Let us start with the old story. Unsurprisingly, the traditional medias, like printed press, television, CDs are on the decline. They have been for years and no one is exactly surprised about it anymore – except perhaps some die-hards in that market. Everyone knows this. Old coffee… Stale story.

As an example: I own a digital TV decoder, but if I’m honest, I can’t remember the last time I watched traditional TV. I can watch the news from almost any channel online and the TV formats (cheapo soaps and “real life” shows anyone?) don’t really turn me on. And aside from the world news, what news does TV really offer me?

I still buy some newspapers because its hard to carry a notebook to the bathroom. ūüėČ OK, lately I have been taking my EBook reader on this as on many other a voyage.

Speaking of EBooks. I read a fascinating article in DER SPIEGEL, a German weekly news magazine, the other day. It was mainly an interview with owners and lectors of publishing houses, as well as some less than well known but published writers.

You know what kind of writer I’m talking about. The prosa writers that will never make the big buck, but their work is considered “culturally important”, so the publishing houses support them. As I actually do like the works of a few of said writers, I sympathize with them fearing for their financial security.

But only to a certain level. Because I also sympathize with the new kind of self-published authors or authors using self-publish E-Book platforms like Amazon’s Kindle store or Sony’s EBook store. A recent example of a success story there would be the American author Hugh Howey.

It’s exactly the same on the music market. There is less and less need for the middleman anymore and – just as in logistics on every other market – unnecessary steps are eliminated.

One of the premier and first examples I remember was Nine Inch Nails starting to publish themselves. Considering the many conflicts they had – and still have – with their publishers, probably a wise move.

There is a valid argument that maybe people as a whole are too dumb to decide what is good for them to read or listen to. But I think even if I agree to a certain level that doesn’t mean facts can be changed much now.

The lector in the local German/French/Russian publishing house might decide to feature a German/French/Russian book just because of its cultural value. But mainstream books – with relatively few exceptions – belong to the English market at the moment and that has been the case before any Web x.x entered the world.

Another good criticism hails from the film industry. I’m not speaking big cinema here, I’m speaking of well done and well-researched documentations. Starting with wild life documentations, political documentations. Clearly those need a certain level of funding not available to everyone. And they need a lot of time to produce as well as a knowledgeable film crew.

Compared to the effort – and the often amazing end results – and the educational level, clearly most of the stuff on YouTube etc is nothing but rubbish when compared to e.g. many BBC or National Geographic documentations.

So in the end – with notable exceptions – the Internet and its many different platforms for movie, written word and music – provides us with a big pool of entertainment. It is somewhat lacking on the educational side.

But lets look at the “new” mediums themselves – and how “old” mediums try to get their foot into the new world. I feel it hard to even write about “new” mediums. They have all been around for a while and their constant metamorphosis doesn’t exactly bring many new surprises.

But interesting bed fellows. A quite recent example would be Defiance.

Defiance is a TV series by US SyFy Channel – who also produced e.g. the new Battlestar Galactica series and its offshots.

It is also a game developed by TRION. Namely an MMORPG/FPS.

But the truly interesting concept is of course the attempt to entwine both. To have events in the game affect the series and events in the series affect the game.

Now, before anyone gets too excited: After what I saw – and I did enjoy the game so far, btw – this – in my humble opinion – will be kind of a long-distance relationship, especially in Season 1. (… and who knows if there will be a Season 2…).

I imagine there will be a few more “event quests” in the game as the series progresses. And perhaps they have made some shots with alternate endings for the episodes in the TV series.

As in: “Hey, can you gamer guys in Bay Area shoot this super-giant cockroach? Or will it get all the way to our St Louis setting here?”

There was talk of integrating some player characters into the series. And, to be fair, what else could they possibly do in the end?

The amazing – even daring – thing to do was to invest a sizable amount of money into the development of both a game and a TV series in the hopes they will just hype each other!

Remember, Defiance cannot rely on a known franchise. It is not Star Trek. It is not Star Wars… And it didn’t have the budget of a Star Wars or Star Trek, either. It is literally the attempt to create a legend out of nothing. And, hey, we’ll all see if they are successful or not.

If they are, I’m sure that there will be a lot of copycats soon. Which could lead to a new relationship between TV & Gaming Industry. New in that the film industry doesn’t “push” to the gaming market. It is a pull/push<>push/pull symbiosis. Which kind of sounds like sex, so it can’t be all bad.

Lets look at other formats… Established formats. Since obviously I game too much, lets continue with games…

I remember the days when I bought gaming magazines to keep myself informed on new titles. Obviously this has been replaced by written Internet reviews – or even better YT reviewers.

The other day I listened to the TGS Podcast. And aside from Jesse Cox’s “Hobgoblin Laws” – which I agree would make for a great show, btw –¬† there was a moment of self-reflection there, triggered by ZeitgeistReview… The following discussion was quite interesting.

(Link to exact start of discussion)

Because I asked myself: When I buy games, what sources do I review before I buy them?

Well, on YouTube I usually watch TotalBiscuit’s (aka CynicalBrit) TotalHalibut channel. And I do watch Angry Joe’s channel.

I have watched them long enough to know their views on games, some of which I share, some of which I don’t.

(so e.g. when TotalBiscuit did a WTF is… first impressions of Might&Magic VI, he said, he doesn’t care about the story and just clicked it away… Knowing that for me the story is very important, I didn’t buy the game first… I waited till the price dropped.)

They are kind of my personal choice established channels. If you think that a paradoxon, you might be right. It makes sense to me. It obviously also makes sense to Google, as their ultra-secret algorithms try to find things I would watch or read – along with ads I might click – by analyzing my every web-step in a way that would make any shrink envious.

We are all very much self-centered planets in a huge information universe these days.

Total Biscuit aka John Bain was a radio moderator/DJ before, he is a well-known commentator if you watch E-sports events. Angry Joe (Joe Vargas & team) sure share those skills and some of his Angry Reviews are just hilarious to watch. (Don’t miss out on his “Aliens Colonial Marines” review.)

As you can see at Vidstatsx.com, both are ranked quite highly on YT:

http://vidstatsx.com/AngryJoeShow/youtube-channel

http://vidstatsx.com/TotalHalibut/youtube-channel

They are the modern-day professionals… And they might be an endangered species, because their formats still need you to actually follow what they are saying, follow what they show…

There are quite a lot of Lets Play channels out there, sometimes focused on a single game, that have more success with far less effort.  Now, how do they do that?

Some few are just amusing to listen to. But many more are multi-focused. They don’t just sell or criticise or play a game. They sell a life style and an opinion of the world based on an often very warped image of their true selves.

So while they use the usual tools of the YouTuber (Facebook, Twitter, Forum) to communicate with their audience, it is the way they use these tools and their self-representation that lets them blur into other areas of media.

Namely politics, sit coms & social clubs. Opinions and the feeling to belong somewhere.

And the demand on “belonging” to something seems to result in a blind kind of brand loyalty. Suddenly you are not just someone watching a video – you are also a (enter fancy name for watcher here).

I have done some deep level research on one instance which I’ll report about – probably here or on Bytelife. I’m not usually one to point the finger, but I found this example … dangerous.¬†There should be some ethics even in self-marketing.

As a last example of the blur even amateurs like myself can find themselves in Рand I publish everything  for my own enjoyment first and my friends second. Its a hobby.

When I play games, I like to tie them in with an output for my creativity. I like to write, so obviously I use blogs. I like to film and edit movies – even though these days I don’t have the time to do it as extensively as I used to anymore.

So, yes, I do have my own YT channel, I do have my own Twitch TV and Xsplit license. I do have Twitter. And even if it disappoints you: I have a FB account which I never use. I have friends with whom I share a forum and a TS server.

So, of course I do create hybrids myself. Just look up e.g.

http://aidanbrooder.wordpress.com –> A blog dedicated to my EVE character, tying in EVE vids I made.

http://journalsofthedead.wordpress.com –> A blog dedicated to my DayZ adventures (also showing of my almost non-existent skills with Poser 9 there. Hey, I’m still learning!)

http://sexyshitkickers.wordpress.com –> Yet another blog… About my Blood Bowl team

If I’m honest, I don’t even remember all the blogs, vlogs, journals I have made in the past anymore. I don’t have to, as they are just a hobby. And a lot of people share this multimedia hobby.

Still I think there is always the temptation there when you see a single video can be bumped so easily. Know your audience and post on the right forums.

For me it is easy to resist as I know making quality videos or postings is not easy at all. And I’m quite the perfectionist – though also easily distracted. It would take quite the effort from my side to replace my relatively well paid job, too.

But an increasing number of people will look at the chance the Internet medias offer and grab that chance to try and make a living from them.

I wish all of them luck with that. Well, most of them.

As long as it still leaves room for myself to be an opinionated arse as in this blog article, or a fan fiction writer or a maker of bad reviews and sometimes amusing machinimas or just a blogger of my own thoughts.

Because in the end the true danger is there for all to see it:

YouTube and many other Internet platforms had a starting bonus. Now they must be turned into profitable enterprises, which is understandable. No ROI, no YouTube.

But they have a tendency to do that in a pretty annoying way, and I do hope, that they do not shove it into our faces more than they already did. And that they will not go the way of only supporting the “new elite”.

Lets end this – for now – with a video from 2009…

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XCOM: My first Gaming Review on You Tube… continues HERE!

I’ve done my first ever vid review of a game… Yes, those who know my YouTube channel know, I’ve done a few Lets Play vids and more Machinimas. But reviewing¬† a game – especially in English – spoken Enlglish, that is – was a different story again. Even though I do speak Enlish all day, commenting on a game is different from business English or tech speech, believe me… So… Enjoy my suffering. But also know it was great fun!

There was no script to it… I just blabbered along. Now, here are some points I left out and a summary of the review:

XCOM

Pros:

+ Good customizing for soldiers, doesn’t leave much open to desire. (Well, unless you want the ladies in fantasy armor… Doesn’t happen!

+ Simplified – compared to UFO & old XCOM title – but nicely done tactical movement. No more need to control ammo each and every mission.

+ Storyline supported by very well made cut scenes

+ The four soldier classes Support, Heavy, Sniper, Assault add to the tactical gaming experience a lot.

Contra:

– Main Storyline simply too short. They will probably add Downloadable Content. But a game should out-of-box provide more gameplay in my opinion.

– Science and Engineering do not offer enough. You are through very fast and every time you upgrade to a new tier, the old stuff becomes totally useless

– Aliens don’t move before you spot them, then get a free move. This ruins good “stealth” approaches & patrol ambushes are not possible at all (… the Aliens play poker if they don’t see you… not much invasion on their mind there in the normal missions…)

– No coop multiplayer (I like to play coops! ;))

Now, having said that, I had a lot of fun playing XCOM and replaying it on a higher level (started on Normal, played it through on Classical/Ironman mode, too). Its a good game, if you like tactical games.

Definitely worth a look.

Now, I’ll do more reviews in the future.

Not because I want to compete with all the sites you people check out before you buy a game or want to be a YT legend (I don’t!), but simply because it was fun to create the review.

PS. The XCOM review I made for a friend of mine. In the future I’ll try to pick some games more Indy or unknown.

Satire… (Haiku)

Satire in spring:

Deadly as a solar flare

a message sent forth.

 

Hello Kitty Online Test: Are you crazy enough for the challenge?

It is time again to strain our brains, comrades, friends & countrymen.

Byteblade will test “Hello Kitty Online” – but we will NOT risk our sanity alone!

We want you to join in this endeavour! And by you I mean that you have received or seen in some way an invitation/announcement to join this… ehm.. event outside this blog.

Seriously, I remember the time I tested Second Life for my old blog. I want backup this time!

This is what you’re in for, but remember, you don’t go alone!

If you want to help with this test for Byteblade, please post a comment to this post or send me a direct email, so we can find some common ground on the when and where.

Without any doubt we’ll be in for the Kitty time of our life! The test will start once we have a big enough party of testers assembled.

The guild needs a home! – Tips on paid-for and free sites for MMO Guilds

You have found(ed) yourself a guild and either you are the guild leader or by chance the most tech savvy of its members.

While you can live on happy ever after, if you intend to have a big guild, you should give it a website.

In addition, you should invest into either a TeamSpeak or Ventrilo server. Even though some games (EVE, LOTRO, …) come with their own voice communication software included, the quality usually suffers quite a bit if too many players attend the same channel. Also, you can organize both TS and Ventrilo into subchannels. So you can listen to your players chatting away while discussing the future of the guild (… and the new taxes you want to impose…) with your eager officers on a secure second channel.

Offers for a Ventrilo or Teamspeak server start at about 3 Euro. Some countries – including Germany – have some free providers, too. Best you google offers as the list is endless.

For the guild forum itself, your first decision should be: free or paid-for.

The second question would be how much time to invest in development of the website.

Finally, you should have a features list in mind.

I assume the standard guild would want the following as a bare minimum:

– a forum

– an image gallery

– a video player

– an out of game chat

– a calendar for events

– private messaging

– a newsletter

If this is all you want and you want to go for the least amount of troubles & development, what you should use is a Social Network platform. I’m not talking about Facebook here. There are services out there that allow you to host your own social networks. The Techcrunch blog featured a very detailed article about social network services once, which you can find here.

Though I tested many of these services for various projects, my personal favorite up till now used to be Ning.

ning_exampleI say “used-to-be”, as they have decided to get rid of their free services after August 2010. Their first full-feature Ning forum now costs 19$/month, which I decided is simply too much compared with what they offer.

So the forums I maintained at Ning myself now moved on to Grou.ps. Which still is free and and an (almost) identical clone of Ning. They support transfers from Ning, btw, so if you have a Ning forum you want to move, I’d suggest them.

Of course you might be more the do-it-yourself type… I usually am and I can do quite a lot in the web… But with guild homepages, let me give you a peace of advice: Do NOT invest that much time in the beginning. Wait how everything develops. Keep in mind, the game should still be the main focus, not the forum. And you: Boy, you should be out there having fun! Web 2 ftw!

You can NOT make it better than grou.ps or ning without some effort. And you should see, if your guild is worth the effort before you invest all that time, even if you have the skills.

Anyway:

If you have at least some skills at web design & net programming & are just looking for some free web space that does include PHP support, there are various – often shady – offers in the net.

Byethost is one of the better free webspace providers. As with any free offers, don’t expect wonders. They have some pre-installed stuff, though, so you can have your own e.g. Joomla forum configured and set up in just a few minutes.

They leave you some freedom. I usually only use their webspace, if I want to test a self-made applet for some other side, before integrating it into a server of my own.

Or, perhaps you don’t care about the money.

Oh boy, there are excellent specialized guild hosting services in  the web. Just google them.

For this article I tested only a few:

MMOGuildsites.com

You can test their guild hosting for free first, so I will not go into details

The premium hosting service costs 8,99$ at time of this writing and gives you enough to keep your guild going for a long time.

mmoguildsites_sample

Guildportal.com

Again, they will offer you a free ride. Their free offer will not get you anywhere, but you can play with it for a while. While I found their service excellent, it comes at a rather high price: Gold service starts at 45$.

guildportal_sample

Allvatar.com

Allvatar – as far as I know – is available in German only – but there should be similar hosters out there.

Allvatar offers a free – and usable – hosting offer for an EQDKPPlus Forum.

If you play WOW and do play in a raid guild, EQDKPPlus is what you should use, no matter if self-hosted or paid-for. It is easy to set up and even easier to maintain. There are now versions available for other MMOs. One of my Age of Conan guilds used EQDKPlus and it was an excellent portal.

There is a demo version out there and you can have a look at the hundreds of guilds using allvatar hosting services.

Now I have shown you some options, you might ask yourself: Which do I consider the best? And I must admit: I don’t know!

Some of my future articles will include guild website reviews.

As a starter have a look at this EVE example:

EVE Online: Noir! An elite mercenary group, they have a simple but smashing forum. I love it! Except for the Flash-Intro with the music. Long loading times…

There is a hosting service for EVE offering corp hosting for ISK btw. They also have most of the more useful add-ons for EVE websites available. (Like Mining Buddy and of course the Killboard…). http://www.eve-host.com/

I cannot tell you if they are any good. I didn’t test them.

Founding a Guild and holding it together

This article cannot be a true guideline, but I’ll just share the two cents I have, based on my experiences in various games.

First of all: There is nothing wrong with not joining any guild or not founding one of your own. There are tons of players happy to play alone or with their occasional friends. That’s what groups and friendlists are for after all.

The Agenda – Or: What’s it all about, dude?

If you join a guild, it shouldn’t just be any. You should already know the players – and especially the guild leader – for some time. And of course you should like them and be in tune with the goals of that guild.

If you found one, you should have a good theme in mind and already know a few players that would like to join.

Remember that a guild always should have an agenda, unless it is truly nothing more than a glorified friends list. Meaning, if you want to extend your guild with people you don’t yet know.

An agenda could be as simple as: “We are a Roleplaying Guild mainly. We raid occasionally. Hope you like the local taverns.” or “We raid! Daily! We expect you to be there.”

That’s the shortest agendas I saw so far and the most detailed ones ranged at 20+ pages with very detailed rules.

The agenda is so important, because it will tell outsiders what to expect if they join your guild. It will also serve as a reminder for the players in the guild already what they had agreed to when they joined.

An agenda can change over time, but it should then be with the agreement of the majority of its members. Be warned that the larger your guild, the bigger the chance that sudden changes will create unrest and people will leave!

Example:

When I joined my first corporation in EVE Online, it was a simple mining outfit and our main short term goal was to get rich enough to afford our own starbase.

Group Mining was mandatory on either Saturday or Sunday of each week and you would pay a fee, if you couldn’t attend.

That worked fine for us for a long time. We worked within a stable Alliance, we did add a point to the agenda later on, that all pilots were required to also keep readily fitted battleships at hand and train in their use. Miner guilds are often target of wars, so this was a good addition. Damn, we kicked some butts there!

Then our CEO (leader) acquired a bit too much of a taste for war and we began to attack other mining guilds instead. So, suddenly we had shifted from peaceful miners to warmongers and soon enough we were also ordered into suicide ganking (attacking miners in Empire sectors without declaration of war), or fought as mercenaries.

Finally we had reached a state, where we actually were pirates that occasionally mined a bit. While there is nothing wrong with being a pirate per se, that was not what people had joined for. So it ended in a schism and about half the corp split off to found their own.

Now, it went very peaceful. But in the end, both guilds died in this case. The synergy the prior guild had simply wasn’t present in either of its offsprings, even though they still worked together at times.

Activity – Or: Damn, dude, I’m booored

OK, now you have an agenda. Players have joined your ranks. Time to lean back? If you are leading a guild, nah… There never is a time to lean back!

You must keep the guild players happy and that means: Don’t give them the slightest chance to get bored. There is a certain impetus you start with, but it will quickly wear off. A new guild is very much like a new toy. Say, a video camera. It’s shiny and beautiful in the beginning and you will love it, but then, if you don’t get out there and use it to make movies… It’ll soon gather dust somewhere.

The good thing is, it’s not even hard to keep your guild happy, if you have tons of time on your hand and possess at least some creativity.

1. Give them what they came for. If you are a raid guild, organize raids. If you are a roleplay guild, create stories and roleplay events.

2. Mix in the occasional event not on your agenda. Even RPlers usually like to go monster-bashing from time to time. And even raid guilds might enjoy e.g. a crafting contest. (Better equipment for the next raid!) Training sessions are another goodie for an event.

3. Do not allow players to constantly wander off. There are people that you might like as friends and they might like you, but every time there is a guild event, they rather go raid with other outside people or roleplay with xyz. That will disrupt the unity of the guild over a time. They agreed to dance at your party, that’s what they agreed to, when they joined.

4. One more important thing is to have clear short and long term goals for your guild, so guild members see you are making progress. An example from Age of Conan: Your goal might be to errect your guild fortress. Long term would be to get it build to level 1. Short term would be to collect all the materials to do so and another (parallel) short term goal to build from them.

5. Involve all people in all aspects of the guild as much as possible.

Organize your guild – Or: Attention! Officer on the bridge!

You can NOT keep in control of a guild on your own. Unless it is really just a group of friends. Don’t try. You’ll just double risk of heart attack, get no sleep anymore – and still fail in the end.

Give it some time, if need be, but then do assign some officers or at least a second in command to help you with your tasks.

If you have never done it before, you might not know yet. But you will spend a lot of time just talking to your guild members. There is always some differences to settle, some ideas to listen too, some request for guild sponsorship to forge the ultimate sword of Baggabush.

If you try it alone, there will come a day and you will not even want to log on anymore. Remember that in the end, it is a game. In most cases you pay for it. You should enjoy it, not be ruled by it.

So, how many officers? Depends on the game and the size of your guild.

One second in command was the lowest number that worked (in LOTRO). And there were guilds I had taken part in that had more than 40 officers of various ranks – but they also had a few hundred players.

You can just assign officers as seconds, or you can assign them specific responsibilities (e.g. recruiter, master architect, tax collector, etc…) depending on what they are good at.

Don’t be stupid and share the load when the time has come!

Recruitment – Or: Keep em coming!

No matter how good you are as a guild leader, people will leave at some point.

Usually you have what one would call the hard core of the guild. So, founding players that’ll stick for years and years. And¬† fresh recruits, that don’t share much of a history with the guild yet. Plus the usual in-betweens.

Real Life might show it’s ugly face and so now Rowlf the Cimmerian conqueror, that has held so many arrows away from you suddenly finds his new calling as papa is more important. (Grats, Rowlf!)

Or someone might decide he wants to found a guild of his own with a new focus. Another game comes out… (this one can be like the black plague, btw, especially for raid guilds!)

For whatever reasons, there is negative flux in your guild at all times, so newcomers should be invited at most times, too.

Yes, there can be too many players in a guild. But unless you have low standards, usually this is not the case.

Nothing puts new life into a guild like new faces do. Old hands can act as mentors and trainers for the new ones. New friendships can be made. Be picky, but keep them coming.

Now, just how do I attract new players?

You should have a website already, but since my next article will be solely dedicated to that topic, I will not go into details.

Every game has its ingame channels for player recruitment. Use them. Don’t just shout: “We are guild XYZ, we are looking for members.”. That’s what all the others do. Instead plan & announce an event that is open for all to join, so they can get to know your buddies and yourself. Explain your agenda upfront to interested players and then simply get to know the whole bunch. Take your time for a good long talk with a player.

Every game also has a forum. I didn’t see them ever being effective for recruitment in the past, but it doesn’t hurt to announce your existance there, too.

You can also pass away freebies. Machinima Guild movies on YouTube can be very efficient, if you put time and thought into their development.

Or maybe your guild are the top experts on something and you pass out PDF ebook guides (with lots of ads for your own guild’s site, of course…).

And – only in EVE – it can also be considered a fair way to infilitrate another corporation and charm or buy away their top players . I never found that a good way, but I know others who swelled their ranks in this way and the players stayed. Probably awed by the sheer malice of their new corp. Most other game communities would see this as unfit behaviour. Once you get a bad name in the community: Believe me, it will stick.

Conclusion

Lets sum up for now:

You know what you want to do…

You know how to keep guild members busy…

You have organized your guild…

And applications are rushing in at all times…

There are many many other things that I could post here, but I will get back to them when I post articles about my own guilds in the past.

But if you keep these few basic points in mind for now, it will help you, if you’re a noob as guild leader.

GEMS – Guild Event Manager System

While searching for something completely different, I stumbled over this new project at Guildage.com. It is currently in beta status and only has WoW data available at the moment, but it looks promising for those amongst us shying away from the more complicated Guild management systems.

GEMS has a dragon kill points (DKP), event management, forum, member ranks. It has a very spartan look, but I think it could be a nice support tool, if you already have a Guild forum and want to use it as an event manager only.