The Def Guide to Zzap!64

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 28, 2008 3:48 pm 
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Iain wrote:
Also where do the games come from? I assume big sites get them sent to them free but are small ones meant to buy them?

Get to know people!

Over at Oldschool Gaming, Jason (TMR) is well adept at "blagging" copies of any software that isn't free. Shaun Bebbington of MicroMart also does the same for us...

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 4:33 pm 
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If you did this, it would only make sense if it actually was Zzap! in the way reviews are handled, and that leads itself to some logistical problems. You'd need someone to write an impartial review (as in, what goes on in the game, but without opinion) and an opinion, and then one or two other people to add their own opinions. Ratings would, roughly, be an average of whatever the people say.

It'd be interesting to know who holds the rights. I know artwork rights almost certainly remain with Oli (hence the reuse of the Thalamus logo), but I've no idea about other IP.

For the record, while I've zero interest in doing another Zzap! tribute, I would potentially be willing to help with a website. And while this sounds a bit mercenary, I'd obviously be willing to write/edit if it turned into a commercial venture.

(Note that for games reviews, you just need to get the PRs to send stuff over; that said, if it really did turn into a 'proper' Zzap!, you'd end up pissing people off really really quickly, and so might have to revert to rentals at some point. Still, you might get the readership levels if you were willing to use the full range regarding ratings.)

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 5:15 pm 
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If people were genuinely interested in doing proper ratings, rentals would be a good way to go. I'm already with Swapgame myself, so although I may write more occasionally than many, at least everything I/we write can be truly independent, with no outside pressures at all (and I've certainly given some viewpoints on popular games in the past that have been, ahem, "against the grain"). You have to be brave to slag off something you get for free, but if any website was indeed to be ZZAP! in any way, that would have to be how it would be.

Even if it did result in everyone paying for rentals somewhere down the line...

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:07 pm 
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PaulEMoz wrote:
You have to be brave to slag off something you get for free

I guess. In my case, though, I've been send software worth hundreds (and in a few cases thousands) of pounds and happily slagged it off, if it warranted a poor review.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 8:57 pm 
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CraigGrannell wrote:
PaulEMoz wrote:
You have to be brave to slag off something you get for free

I guess. In my case, though, I've been send software worth hundreds (and in a few cases thousands) of pounds and happily slagged it off, if it warranted a poor review.

Good for you. If I had read an inaccurate review written by yourself because of this point, I would be a tad unhappy to say the least!

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 29, 2008 10:30 pm 
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CraigGrannell wrote:
PaulEMoz wrote:
You have to be brave to slag off something you get for free

I guess. In my case, though, I've been send software worth hundreds (and in a few cases thousands) of pounds and happily slagged it off, if it warranted a poor review.


I should really have said, "You have to be brave to slag off something you get for free, when you aren't being paid for it"! :D

In a print magazine, that's fair enough. In a commercial website, that's fair enough too. It could/can make things difficult if everyone is doing it just for the love of doing it. :)

Not that that's ever bothered anyone at WotR, and I'm sure it wouldn't bother anyone involved with a ZZAP! website.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 12:33 am 
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PaulEMoz wrote:
I should really have said, "You have to be brave to slag off something you get for free, when you aren't being paid for it"!

I'm more cautious and forgiving with de-facto free stuff (i.e. freeware), but no longer with stuff I've been given for free. The only 'confusion' occurs when sent stuff by friends, which is why I now tend to avoid such things.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 6:10 am 
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I've REALLY got to stop posting silly ideas on this site - they have a habit of steamrolling :)

There's a couple of issues we'll need to sort out before we can embark on this kind of thing (and answering each one of these problems opens up a whole NEW list of problems!)

Disclaimer: I've managed, edited and written for several professional gaming sites over the years, and still (silently) manage one, but while it may appear that I know what I'm talking about, please don't take my word as gospel :)

1) Branding rights

First and foremost we need to establish just who owns the rights to the name, logo and all other associated branding. Doing a Zzap!64 website without being able to use the logo, or gold medals, or Sizzlers, or Rockford and Thingy etc would be kind of pointless. This one needs to be cleared up before anything else can move ahead I think.

2) Website rights

We'll need to sort out who is paying for / owning what. Who is paying for hosting, will Iain continue to own the domain name etc - should be an easy one to sort out :) (I'm willing to pay for it all but want to see what everyone else here thinks)

3) Style of the site

I think we're all agreed that a website done in the style of a classic-era Zzap would be awesome. It would be different from the mainstream, but still open and accessible. How exactly we're going to make that work on the web is another issue :)

I think above else what Zzap could offer that other gaming sites don't is the multi-person review - 90% of the pro sites farm out their reviews to freelance writers who are working in isolation, and we can work collaboratively on reviews together. We'll get more into that on the next point.

We'll need to get the 'update schedule' together pretty quickly - one review a day? One update a day which includes a review, a feature, a news item and a letters page? Just update whenever? Lots of different formats to try out. I haven't been to Rodent for ages but that updates once a month, right?

I think we should be looking at daily - its the web after all, not a magazine (sadly!) with one piece of content per day. Unless any of us feel like quitting our day jobs :) I'd love to see other content besides reviews - features, interviews, news letters page etc.

And what about what kind of games we cover? Obviously there's not a lot of new C64 games and news to cover - though we should cover them whenever they pop up - but should we restrict it to just C64? How about all 'retro' formats that are still being supported non-commericially? How about we make it all modern systems and C64? How about every system we can think of and can get review copies of?

We'll also need to think about how we're going to manage the content on the site. Wordpress? Joomla? Drupal? Joomla is pretty good for multi user collaborative enviornments - I've used it a lot on my sites - but its very techy and needs a coder to personalise it. I've heard good things about Drupal - it's being sold to me as Joomla-like in functionality but Wordpress-like in approachability. Wordpress I've used only sparingly - can it handle multi-user sites?

Thoughts?

Overall, I think the site should represent a return to the 'good old days' of games journalism, where reviewers were genuinely excited about what they were talking about, could slag things off as they saw fit without fear of reprisal, and had unbiased opinions and loads of personality. Who's with me? :)

(While writing this I asked a friend who helps me run another site for his opinion, and he suggested we keep this mainly C64-centric and have a lot of Mr Zzapback-style 're-reviews' where we take old games and review them again today, mainly for the nostalgia factor that will draw the attention of the demographic that will make the site - 30-something guys who have day jobs and other big life commitments who fondly remember the good old days of gaming - very casual)

4) Staff

I think it's going to be a while before we can get paid staff, but we should keep that as a target for future growth. (See point 8 below)

Like #107, we need to set out roles at the start that we're all comfortable with. It's super important that you only apply for roles you know you will have the time for. I never want this project to feel like an unwanted obligation, like mowing the lawn, doing your taxes or visiting your parents.

Just thinking out loud here - We'll need a Managing Editor (to control the overall direction of the site, handle press / advertising relations etc), Content Editor (to sort out upcoming content, fix typos and work on their drinking problem), Art Editor (to make the site look great and sort out screenshots, spot illustrations etc), a litany of reviewers, artists and feature / news writers to make awesome content.

Of course these roles will double up / merge as needed but it's good to have a place to start. Maybe we can have multiple people fill the one role?

For reviews, as Craig said above, you'd need one person to do the straight description, then other guys to do the opinions.

On my 'other site' I have a small group of talented reviewers who would probably jump at the chance to be involved in this, and I'm sure everyone here knows lots of other people who they think would be a good fit. Should we have a casting call?

5) Getting review material

This is probably the easiest section! Getting review materials is pretty easy. All it requires is emails / phone calls being sent to a publisher politely introducing yourself and asking for anything we can use to talk about their game with. It's one of the roles of the Managing Editor.

They're in the business of getting their game talked about, so as long as you can prove that you're worth their trouble, they'll oblige. This means that the smaller your site is, the less the big publishers will give you the time of day, but really there are a million smaller game publishers out there who would like to get some coverage.

And the Zzap name has a lot of value - as long as we treat it with the care and respect it deserves, this will continue :)

And we will be free to slag things off. Publishers know it's a risk that comes with the territory. It wouldn't be Zzap otherwise.

6) Other features

We'll need news, previews, interviews, letters (LLOYD)...what else? Comics? A podcast? Video? We need to make something unique to get people's attention, but not too weird to drive them away. Like it or lump it, the reason IGN / Gamespot etc get the traffic they do is because they cover the 'big name' games that get lots of search traffic.

However, Zzap wasn't known for fawning over the big name games - it was known primarily for the personalities of the staff (something that 1up.com does well with these days - the staff get more attention than the games) and I'd like to see that continue with the site. We need to be putting ourselves on the site just as much as what we think about the latest game we're talking about.

7) Managing the site

Since this is largely a collaborative project, we'll need a quick and easy way for us all to communicate on a more frequent basis. The yahoo group worked pretty well for #107 but maybe we can move it to some IM platform like Google Chat? Of course we're all in seperate time zones so it's gotta be email / forum based so we don't need to be on at the same time.

8 ) Expectations

It takes years to be an overnight success. Anyone who is looking to do this as a way to get rich quick and make IGN-levels of money should walk away now.

That being said, I want everyone who is going to put their hard-earned time and effort into this to feel rewarded for their work. This can be in the form of blagging the occasional free game, getting a press pass to a local industry party, finding some promotional goodie in the mail etc.

Iain's idea of paying each writer based on the adviews of the particular page works only if we can find a way to track adviews on a per-page basis and we know its just one person writing each page - multi-person reviews would be tricky. And even then until we're getting tens of thousands views per page we're still talking about cents (pence?) per piece.

I would like it if we're getting tens of thousands of views per page :) But it could take a long time to build enough content and following to get there.

Primarily this should be done for the fun of it, and to see what would happen if there was a site based on our beloved mag :)

Anyway that's all I got at the moment. Just spitballing around here. Would love to know what you think you crazy bastards who keep me up way too late thinking about this junk instead of sleeping! :)


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:03 am 
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Gazunta wrote:
First and foremost we need to establish just who owns the rights to the name, logo and all other associated branding.

Best bet for that is just to email or phone Roger Kean. Like I said, I suspect Oli owns the art rights, but I've no idea about the de-facto IP rights—presumably, whoever bought Impact when it went under (if anyone). Note that Retro Gamer's been using the Sizzler! logo for a good couple of years now, and there's been no shit-storm.

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And what about what kind of games we cover?

Everything. PS3 to ZX81. Whatever's new, basically. Although with Zzap!, you can also, of course, do 'Past Blasters'. Zoo Keeper review in Zzap! style? It's covered. And not getting too hung up on exclusives and getting stuff out too quickly would make sense.

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Wordpress I've used only sparingly - can it handle multi-user sites?

Cult of Mac is WP, and that has at least five user levels, from admin through editor, to basic user. I also use it for Revert to Saved, although that's just me.

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While writing this I asked a friend who helps me run another site for his opinion, and he suggested we keep this mainly C64-centric

Bad idea. That massively limits the market to nostalgia, and makes it likely you'll get no advertising. You have to appeal to a wide market, but without losing sight of what makes you you. Preaching to the converted massively limits you in so many ways—look at the C64 remix scene for a good example of that (from a commercial viability standpoint—and, let's face it, getting something to actually pay for itself is the best way to go. Even if the rates end up being rubbish, like Eurogamer's, you're still paying people for their work, which makes it more likely you'll get regular content).

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We'll need news, previews, interviews, letters (LLOYD)...what else? Comics? A podcast? Video?

Video is nightmarish to produce and extremely expensive from a time standpoint and sometimes from a money standpoint. Podcasts are also typically problematic (I've been involved with several), especially if you're trying to make anything from the venture. I'm not sure what value comics would bring.

Oddly enough, a letters column would be somewhat unique these days, as would a high-scores page a la Scorelord.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:03 am 
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I would be very happy to be involved in such a venture...

I currently do reviews for a small gaming site, and they get sent review copies by various PR firms. It can be tough getting a relationship with some of the games companies though.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 1:31 pm 
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CraigGrannell wrote:
Gazunta wrote:
And what about what kind of games we cover?

Everything. PS3 to ZX81. Whatever's new, basically. Although with Zzap!, you can also, of course, do 'Past Blasters'. Zoo Keeper review in Zzap! style? It's covered. And not getting too hung up on exclusives and getting stuff out too quickly would make sense.

A lot of very awesome ideas here but this one really sticks out the most for me. I agree 100%.

Gaz, what hast thou wrought? :)

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 2:05 pm 
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Just a quick reply first.

I agree that the site would have to review games on the new platforms and that would be its main focus. It's not going to get the traffic etc. without that.

It's about the rebirth of Zzap for the new generation so it would make no sense to just have C64 reviews.

I'd see the main focus on PS/Wii/Xbox but a healthy dose of retro reviews as well. Both new releases for old platforms and some Zzapbacks as well.

I dunno about Spectrum or Amstrad reviews though, they really don't fit into the Zzap mold in my opinion since they had Crash and Amtix. C64 and Amiga should be the main retro focus (with some C16 / +4 of course ;-) )


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 10:26 pm 
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Yeah, I think you'd have to have at least a 50/50 mix of modern and retro, probably leaning more towards the modern systems (there's more new stuff released for them, obviously).

I'd be very happy to write pretty much anything I was asked to write. I'm used to the whole "writing for deadlines" thing, and can always guarantee my enthusiasm.

I think daily updates might be ambitious, especially when it comes to reviews, but it might be do-able. Weekly might be more realistic?

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2008 11:43 am 
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Professor Brian Strain wrote:
I would be very happy to be involved in such a venture...

I currently do reviews for a small gaming site, and they get sent review copies by various PR firms. It can be tough getting a relationship with some of the games companies though.


I certainly might be interested as well... on a "whenever I can fit it in" basis given how little time I seem to get spare currently!

As a reviewer for NTSC-UK we have affiliation with certain online sellers and in exchange for banner advertising and click through (plus other stuff I might not be aware of), we are allowed a number of free games from them per time period. Might be something to consider?

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 03, 2008 12:33 am 
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OK now I'm just going to answer my own questions with my opinions :)

Gazunta wrote:
Branding Rights

Does anyone here have Roger Kean's email address?
Gazunta wrote:
Style of the site

Updates - hopefully daily, each section posted by the relevant editor of that area when they see fit to make an update (so the hope is that on average there'll be at least one new thing a day - with a website it's good to make it part of every reader's 'daily routine')

Games covered: Everything under the sun. Whatever we can get our hands on and feel like playing and talking about. New stuff, not so new stuff, retro stuff - as long as it is interesting to write about.
Gazunta wrote:
Staff

Note to self: DO NOT WRITE IN THIS SECTION YOU'LL BE GLAD TO DO MANAGING EDITOR

Of course I'll be happy doing whatever role you guys see fit to foist upon me :)

I think at first we should keep the 'staff' to the crew of this forum - at least until we get it going - simply because we 'get' what Zzap is more than most. Once the site is established we can then call for more writers and contributors as needed.

Unless someone can get me Julian Rignall's email address :)

I'm so glad to see this thread already filling with eager beavers! :)
Gazunta wrote:
Getting Review Material

I think there's enough freelance reviewers, editors and website managers here to ensure we'll have a plentiful supply of games to cover. And there's always rental services, private collections etc if we end up annoying too many publishers.
Gazunta wrote:
Other features

Mailbag
Previews
News
Feature Articles
Interviews
Letters (I agree Craig, this would be pretty unique and it's such a part of the branding the site would be lost with out it)
Podcast (I've been involved with a gaming podcast that's been done on a weekly basis since 2006 - we've got the process and tech down pat now and wouldn't mind a name change - we record it in a studio but it would be a doddle to do this over the net with Zzap staff. Podcasts are a good way of driving home the personality of the site and staff, and its a good promotional tool)
Wacky photos of staff and drawings
Gazunta wrote:
Managing the site

Thanks for the links Craig I'll check them out after I post this.

I guess my secondary concern after we decide on a content management system is how to make the layout look 'zzapy'
Gazunta wrote:
Expectations

I want to bring Zzap back :) That's about it :)


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