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Integration vs. Fragmentation

Posted at 19:59 on June 2nd, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Some topics never go away... this one has been one of the central questions of the site since its inception: What makes a game entry and what does it cover?

Lately, one such question has crept up again a few times: What about different versions of the same game? Example: Monkey Island - EGA, VGA, PC-CD, Amiga, CTDV, Atari ST, Mac. Which of these deserves its own entry on the site? Split by system, i.e. PC (including EGA, VGA and CD versions), Amiga (OCS, CDTV), Atari and Mac? Split on 'atomic' level and give each of the versions its own entry (including its own review, screenshots and all)? Or subsume them all in a single game entry?

Between those rather obvious options, all kinds of other compromises are imaginable. At the moment, a 'game entry' statically consists of game data, review, screenshots, documents and downloads. Game data (meaning publisher, year and so on) differs for each version, so there is little chance of combining this - in any model combining versions, it would have to be decided what to put there. Screenshots often differ as well. Reviews could arguably be applied to different versions - depending on how well the reviewer knows them and their differences.

Those are just a few unordered ideas. From a technical point of view, everything's possible. The question is: How do we want to do it? What's the best way to represent the games? Which model would suit potential contributors most? Discuss, please!

P.S. Although I already have spoken to a few people about this in private, please don't hesitate to repeat the points made there.
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 20:08 on June 2nd, 2009
Posted at 17:42 on June 4th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Maybe there should be a "avaiable also on" category in the review where every system on which the game has been released apears. This would also make clear, that the review has been made on one specific system only. Changes which have been spotted on other systems could be implented in this category too.

Manuals, Boxscans and other "extras" aren't that easy to handle because every file needs an tag which shows the version it comes from. But it would be interesting to see those "extras" from other versions because sometimes there are big differences e.g. the Box cover from "Kult" shows an completly different artwork depending on your system.
Posted at 19:22 on June 4th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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As with the board game thing, I think this will be primarily a judgement call.
1) It's a given that different systems should get different entries (unless it's a case where a given version plays on multiple systems & is identical on each).
2) As for ones on the same OS, it all comes down to how much of a difference there is. If it's the exact same game, just with enhanced sounds & graphics, I would say to merge the entries (but try to include screenshots from the other versions, if possible). If they actually changed the game in some way (such as adding a new level or two), then I would make it a seperate entry.
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Posted at 16:54 on June 5th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Originally posted by T-Pow at 17:42 on June 4th, 2009:
This would also make clear, that the review has been made on one specific system only.

I think that's already more than obvious, seeing that the system of the game is clearly written right above the review.

Originally posted by T-Pow at 17:42 on June 4th, 2009:
Changes which have been spotted on other systems could be implented in this category too.

This would be a great thing to have, however, I'd hesistate to make anything like this mandatory and thus expect reviewers to have played (or at least tried) every version.

Originally posted by T-Pow at 17:42 on June 4th, 2009:
Manuals, Boxscans and other "extras" aren't that easy to handle because every file needs an tag which shows the version it comes from. But it would be interesting to see those "extras" from other versions because sometimes there are big differences e.g. the Box cover from "Kult" shows an completly different artwork depending on your system.

As I said, the technological questions should never be an issue when deciding about policy. For example, it would be fairly simple to allow alternate versions of a game as 'stub' game entries. What should belong to those would have to be defined.

Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 19:22 on June 4th, 2009:
It's a given that different systems should get different entries.

Ok, that's a clear statement. Anyone disagree?

Originally posted by Cypherswipe at 19:22 on June 4th, 2009:
As for ones on the same OS, it all comes down to how much of a difference there is. If it's the exact same game, just with enhanced sounds & graphics, I would say to merge the entries (but try to include screenshots from the other versions, if possible). If they actually changed the game in some way (such as adding a new level or two), then I would make it a seperate entry.

That's pretty much the situation as it is right now. Whether to 'group' different versions in one entry (as I've done with The Clue, for example) or make different entries (as it has happened with International Karate / World Karate Championship) is up to the reviewer's discretion. However this leads to one problem: Currently, there is no way to distinguish these versions on a technical level. Currently, games are distinguished by title and system information. If both are the same, the system won't accept it. This is why some game names are marked, like for example "Sim City (CDTV)". Which, to be honest, is incorrect, because that's not the title of the game.

The latter was actually the proble which brought this topic up. My idea was to introduce another layer below system level, i.e. 'sub-systems'. Details about how to organize those, whether to make them searchable or mandatory would have to be discussed. In any case, they would be another step towards fragmentation. Which especially Wandrell (who is a little too silent for my liking) opposed.
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 16:55 on June 5th, 2009
Posted at 17:08 on June 5th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I'm a bit distracted lately, it isn't that I'm ignoring the question. Or I'm ignoring the question just because I'm distracted lately.

This is no easy to solve. What I can say is that if I were a visitor I would like to have everything together. Not a page for each version, but only one page.

I would open the page, see the review, which would have a label telling me what system it was for, and all the content next to it.

Different system downloads? Then I would like to see:

Amiga downloads:
- Game1
- Game2
- Manual
PC downloads:
- Game1
- Boxshot
- Manual

At the end, we are doing this for the faceless masses, which everyone knows they want things quick and easy.
Posted at 17:16 on June 5th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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That's one way to look at the problem. Another one would be the question how to catalogue the games themselves in an optimal way. And the third one is how we want[/i] to do it. Ideally, the third should follow the first two - but as long as the 'faceless' visitors don't speak up, it's just guessing.
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 17:18 on June 5th, 2009
Posted at 00:40 on June 6th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Maybe set it up as simply "alternate versions" instead of "sub-systems", this would allow room for remakes that are on the same subsystems, or localized versions that differ significanly, etc. Something like:

GAME TITLE
-WINDOWS
--ALT VERSION #1
--ALT VERSION #2
-MAC
--ALT VERSION #1
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Posted at 09:45 on June 6th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Wow, I think you've hit a nail there! We would probably have to drop the grouping being based purely on the game name, though. That way, we could represent the link between "King's Quest" and "King's Quest 1" (the Sierra remake) as well as between "Skool Daze" and "Klass of '99".

Edit: One problem with this, however, is the sometimes blurry line between an alternate version / remake and a sequel. Take a look at all the Paradroid games (including Quazatron and Magnetron) - which of those are 'alternate versions', which ones are 'remakes' and which ones are 'sequels'?
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 10:21 on June 6th, 2009
Posted at 16:30 on June 8th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Apparantely, the interest in this even from the contributors is very low, so I guess everything stays the way it is.
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Posted at 17:10 on June 9th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Quote:
One problem with this, however, is the sometimes blurry line between an alternate version / remake and a sequel. Take a look at all the Paradroid games (including Quazatron and Magnetron) - which of those are 'alternate versions', which ones are 'remakes' and which ones are 'sequels'?


I thought we where talking about one game released on different systems. Remakes and sequels should get their own entry but they could be mentioned in the allready existing comparisons.

Quote:
Apparantely, the interest in this even from the contributors is very low, so I guess everything stays the way it is.


Just because people are busy with other things (like myself), it doesn't mean that they are not interested. But back to topic.

A mix of Cyberswipe's and Wandrell's suggestions would be the solution for me. The games should be listed just like Cyberswipe suggested like this:

GAME TITLE
-WINDOWS
--ALT VERSION #1
--ALT VERSION #2
.
.

By clicking on an alternate version the visitor should get a list of avaiable files for this system. This could be box scans, manuals, screenshots... everything thats avaiable for this system including differences in gameplay, sound, graphics as far as known.

The downloads for the games different versions can be displayed like Wandrell supposed in the "Main Test" that makes getting a copy for a specific system easy and everybody who wants to know more about the game can do this by clicking on the alternate version.
Posted at 17:28 on June 9th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I mentioned sequels, remakes and all, because it's hard to tell in some cases when a game is 'the same game on a different system'. Take Elite. The game called 'Elite' on the Amiga is 'the same' as 'Elite Plus' on the PC, and the game called 'Elite' on the PC is roughly aequivalent to the original BBC Micro version. How would you treat those if the system only supports links between alternate versions defined by systems? King's Quest is a very similar case. What about Paradroid '90? Is that an alternate version ('Paradroid' doesn't exist on the Amiga) or a sequel?

I just find it hard to distinguish between those concepts. Granted, I do see a huge overlap with the comparison system - you're perfectly right there.

Edit: Maybe I didn't make this clear enough before, so to give you a few ideas why this is an extremely important question...

Game Visibility

The question of how easily a game is found by casual visitors. This is a double-edged sword. Stronger grouping can increase visibility, because the grouped game entry pops up in more searches. At the moment, if someone searches for Adventure games on the PC, he'll get a list of Adventure games of which the PC version has been reviewed - not all the Adventure games which have been reviewed and of which a PC version exists. On the other hand, splitting game entries up increase visibility on the listings themselves. Check out how many times Paradroid pops up on the action genre listing, for example - hard to miss them all.

Game Metadata

Perspective is important when talking about games. Different versions were made in different years by different people. Currently, there is the tendency to forget about original versions over newer ones. How many screenshots of Monkey Island in the EGA version are there on the Internet? How many with the text inventory?

Contributors

All those years back, everybody was pretty much thinking in terms of distinct systems - both from contributor and visitor perspective. Last time we discussed all this, the assumption was that the existence of a review of a game in one version wouldn't discourage anyone from reviewing another version. This has apparantely turned out to either have changed or to have been untrue all along: People (maybe rightly so) say there is little point reviewing the PC version of Monkey Island now, because the basic game description (which makes up most of a review) is the same anyway. This comes down (indirectly) to game visibility again, and also contributor motivation, of course. Obviously, this argument isn't completely correct. The same way, one could argue we might just completely stop, because after all, all the games have already been reviewed by games magazines when they were new. Still, there is no way denying the general feeling of treating on trodden ground is there for many people. Another issue here is scaring contributors away by expecting too much from them.

There are, of course, even more levels to this question. Wandrell mentioned visitor comfort and expectance. I'm sure you'll come up with more.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 19:29 on June 9th, 2009
Posted at 12:56 on June 11th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Quote:
The game called 'Elite' on the Amiga is 'the same' as 'Elite Plus' on the PC, and the game called 'Elite' on the PC is roughly aequivalent to the original BBC Micro version. How would you treat those if the system only supports links between alternate versions defined by systems?


I know Elite Plus on the PC but I didn't knew that there are such huge differenes between the versions. Maybe the whole system should be case sensitive but that would be another step to fragmentation.

Quote:
What about Paradroid '90? Is that an alternate version ('Paradroid' doesn't exist on the Amiga) or a sequel?


In this case there are several years between the releases so in my opinion this would be a sequel with very similar gameplay so it's a perfect candidate for the comparison system.
Maybe we should first define the differences between alternate versions and remakes/sequels.
If a game is released on different systems in a specific period of time (e.g. one year) it would be an alternate version. If the release has been made later on other systems (e.g. Paradroid) and has a lot of changes like in this case "improved graphics" which alter the gameplay it should be remake/sequel in my opinion. Do you agree with that?
Posted at 17:09 on June 11th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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Originally posted by T-Pow at 12:56 on June 11th, 2009:
Maybe we should first define the differences between alternate versions and remakes/sequels.
If a game is released on different systems in a specific period of time (e.g. one year) it would be an alternate version. If the release has been made later on other systems (e.g. Paradroid) and has a lot of changes like in this case "improved graphics" which alter the gameplay it should be remake/sequel in my opinion. Do you agree with that?

I'm not sure. In the case of Paradroid, there might be a few points making it more of a 'sequel' than a remake (e.g. new levels). Pirates (Amiga), on the other hand, came out three whole years after the original C64 version, and it's the same game - only graphics and music have changed. But boy, have they changed - great! Powermonger (PC) came out two years after the original release, and it's identical. An alternate version surely? Last, but not least: Seven Cities of Gold. Nine years between the original version and the PC port.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 18:49 on June 11th, 2009
Posted at 16:11 on June 12th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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So the time of release isn't a indicator if it's a remake/sequel or an alternate version. What differences should we take to distinguish between sequel and alternate version? If we solve that problem, we could put alternate versions like said before in subcategories and sequels/remakes could be mentioned in the comparision system.
Posted at 16:37 on June 12th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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I thought of yet another really strange example on the way home today: Druid. The original is on the C64. It also exists on the Amiga, but not as an independent game, but it is included in Warlock (the third part of the series). Does this make Warlock an alternate version of Druid?

The reason why I'm bringing all these examples up is this: Maybe what we actually do need is a generic system for 'game relations'. I.e. a system which establishes links between games. These links could be labelled 'remake', 'alternate version', 'sequel' and so on. However, it wouldn't be so crucial to classify them 'correctly' on that scale since they would be linked anyway. So in this case, the inherent fuzziness of the concepts wouldn't have such a high impact.

The obvious disadvantage is that such a system requires lots of active maintenance. The technical level is easy, the organizational level isn't. And seeing how badly these things usually go, quite frankly, I already see it coming that I will be the only one entering game relation data again and all other world citizens ignoring it.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 16:38 on June 12th, 2009
Posted at 16:29 on June 15th, 2009 | Quote | Edit | Delete
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To finally give this some temporary closure: Wandrell and I (and T-Pow said something along those lines, too) agreed to postpone further discussion about this until other projects (themes, comparisons, disk images) have been put into a more complete state.
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Now you see the violence inherent in the system!
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Edited by Mr Creosote at 16:56 on June 15th, 2009
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