Content Maladies

Expand spring expand EXPAND!!! In to the cosmos of the tinternetz, clog up those tubes with weasels, no zakus, no armored assault shells, no storm troopers yes storm troopers! On delta siege dry! Now wouldn’t that be wonderful? Its hardly appropriate but its nothing compared to what is actually happening.

Spring held onto the idea of the ‘lack of users lets advertise for more’ paradigm. I was hoping I could blow this out the water by exposing the truth. The problem was not attracting users, it was that of retainment. However content developers are failing to capitalize on their projects, and still behaving as if they are mods, while claiming they are games, causing immense damage to their projects in the process.

How is this happening? Well, content developers are focusing on the spring engine itself as a means to acquire more users. They are aiming advertisements and promotion at the existing user base. This manifests itself in numerous ways, and none of them are good. While content developers may preach that users naturally switch between content even when spending most time on a primary mod, the actions of content developers are at odds with this theory and are actually discouraging the very thing they claim gives them a user base however minimal that may be.

The latest example of how daft the situation has become is the recent debacle over the front page of the new site design. A small medium sized banner sits on the new front page from which a banner is randomly shown. A great argument arose because content developers wanted to add their content and thus stamp their logos all over it. They wanted to advertise using the front page, show off their content for all to see, attract those new users so to speak.

While this is a point, they have exerted such a huge amount of effort attempting to get what they want in this small banner, it boggles the mind what they could have done if they’d spent their time elsewhere. Examples of what the same amount of effort could have done include:

  1. Building their own website
  2. Building a brand new spring website from scratch
  3. Several useful lua gadgets that could be used across the entire community
  4. Tutorials and articles about unit making and lua scripting
  5. 2 or 3 brand new maps
  6. A small mini mod

The focus on this small image which may or may not show their image based on a random time function is so huge that they have neglected the rest of the site. The games page has no images whatsoever (edit: It took an enterprising user to fix this, after almost a full year of neglect from the very people who complained their content was not represented well enough doing absolutely nothing about it ). One would think that when a new user arrives and clicks to see what games there are it would be nice if the first image they saw was a nice big picture from their content, and a shiny link to their website, but no, they poured all their time and effort into arguing over a random image banner.

But even so, and even if they got their way and the games page wa filled with artwork and promotional images, theyre still barking up the wrong tree.

By relying on the spring site for promotion, content developers are cheapening their content. It looks less professional, less polished, and its harder to get at. They’re saddled with all the disadvantages of spring, and sacrificing many benefits they could be getting by giving up their ‘game status’. These are not games they’re mods. These content developers are ‘downgrading’ their content from game status to modification status, they may say they are games but their conduct speaks otherwise.

So what should they do?

  • Build a proper website
    When I give a user a link to your content do you want me to send them to an outdated wiki page? a 40 page forum thread with various download versions scattered everywhere that looks unprofessional? Or a polished shiny website dedicated to drawing in new users to YOUR content and only your content that makes it easier for that user to get your content and start playing with it there and then, rather than having to mess with spring?
  • Distribute installers
    Distribute a windows installer with spring, your content, and a customized set of maps alongside your content. Make it easy for the end user to install your content and give your self full control over the installer and its content too so that you can tailor it to work best with your content.
  • Spring is a gateway to your site not your sdz
    Spring should lead users to your website where you can deploy every means at your disposal to reel them in, you shouldn’t be presenting raw SDZ or SD7 archives to a brand new user whose likely going to get confused.

Why should they do this?

Well firstly, I subscribe to PC Zone every month, and they have various sections at the back and a demo disc. It would be a huge boost to a spring game if it was featured on the back of such a magazine in the freeware section or on the DVD. It would be something you could put on the website too, and it would also help other games in spring, and if they got featured you could benefit too!

But they’re not going to do that if they have to bundle the whole spring installer and all the rest will they? They’ll be wanting an installer that installs your game, just your game, and your game alone. They don’t have space in a small column to explain our quirks and customs, why we needlessly complicate the process, how we’re not straightforward. They want a single file which will install deploy and get the user playing there and then.

Some games they mention they don’t actually include but post a url, are they really going to put a wiki page url in there? Or a forum thread? Fat chance of that happening.  Imagine this on a magazine page:

Secondly, by putting up your own website and your own installer, your setting yourself up as a proper game, really following the commercial model. Content developers insist they are doing this but quite frankly they’re deluding themselves. If the content is good enough it shouldn’t need the spring community to support it, and most content in the spring engine is being cheapened by its authors because of the way its being distributed and presented.

Thirdly, most content cant be touched by most places. Spring itself is barred from numerous free games lists because of its association with TA intellectual property. By freeing yourself of the spring site you are unshackling your content from this restriction and getting the best of both worlds. You can continue getting all the advantages you get currently, and you remove a lot of the negatives too while opening up a whole new world of opportunities for expansion and growth.

But there’s a horrible problem.

I have noticed that content developers refuse to do any of this when suggested, and tend to ignore any points made that support it or refute their position. They claim they have no time for making websites and marketing and building installers. What they fail to realize is, nobody said they had to do it themselves. Nor do they realize there are skilled people in the community, who do not have any commitments and are not associated with any projects who would be more than willing to help. All they have to do is ask. There are plenty of people with webspace who would be willing to host websites myself included, and plenty of people willing to build websites for content developers who lack the time.

Content developers so far have argued against this and one reason they cite is that if someone wants to do it they can go and do it. This is nonsense. For one by arguing against making a website they are surrounding themselves with a no go zone.

No web designer with spare time would dare do anything to do with their projects as they either suspect the developer has a site up their sleeve in secret or plans for one, or that theyll get their heads bitten off, or that there’s no point as they dont want one anyway. That and it would be pretty presumptious to go ahead and build a website for a project your not involved with randomly out of nowhere.

In the end no spring community initiative to draw users in will be anywhere near as successful as a minor initiative by a content developer with a well done website and supporting media. But the failure to do this is hurting that content and spring as a whole. Credit for creation of content is being thrown out the window. Recognition stamped on and thrown in the trash. Authenticity on the other hand….

What content developers do not realize is that their projects can be hijacked easily. Who is PC Zone going to believe made the content? You with your forum thread? Or the imposter with the large user base and the self contained community and the flashy website?

Before I finish I want to heap praise on the Spring 1944 people. While a few people have made tentative steps inching a little towards what I have proposed ( gundam CA and evolutionRTS for example), they have not gone anywhere near as far as they need to, but spring 1944 has gone further. They built a website before anybody asked, bought a domain, and set everything up before they even have a finished release. Theyve populated the site and maintained it all on there own with little or no help. Its this sort of initiative we need to see.

2 Responses to “ Content Maladies ”

  1. Great isinght. Relieved I’m on the same side as you.

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