The tsumea games section: part 1

Hi there folks, I thought I'd write a little bit about the new games section on tsumea that I’ve been working on for the last two and a bit weeks. This will be in two parts, the first will be a look back at the various iterations at the games section on tsumea and the second will go into this latest attempt and why I chose to go that particular direction.

It probably seems strange that a games section is missing on tsumea particularly considering what kind of site this is, but truth be told, we’ve actually had a games section of some form since the site opened up in 2002. Here’s a little bit of history for those interested.

Version one:

Version one, as I can recall, was a simple ‘upcoming games’ list on the page where we listed all our developers. Each entry in the list had the game's title, a release date, and it linked straight off to another site with more information, usually a website set up by the game company or publisher. Once the game was released, it was put in a ‘just released’ list, and so these lists were gradually shifting based on release dates. These lists were a nice glance at was being worked on, what had an impending release, and what had just come out from the local industry. It was simple and required very little maintenance.

Version two:

The next iteration took things much further. Games had their own pages and there was an option to add a whole lot more information including pictures and media. The main content of the game was connected to the tsumea wiki, so anyone could go in and edit the wiki to update information on the game. For some of the more notable games, a substantial effort was put into frequently adding and updating interesting milestones about that game’s development while it was being made. Games were also conveniently listed on their developer’s page on tsumea.

Unfortunately, only a small handful of developers added or updated the information on their games here, and in many ways, I don’t blame them. There was no big incentive for developers to put in the time and effort to continually do this on tsumea, particularly when games developers (particularly the larger ones) already have so much on their plate as it is. So it turned out, the job of adding and updating most of the games listed on the site fell upon myself, and as the numbers of games developers doubled and quadrupled over the years, it became an extremely time consuming task.

Version three:

So, the decision was to ditch the format of having an information page for every game. The way we got games listed on tsumea now was to tag all incoming youtube videos in our media section as game entries. We subscribed to as many youtube channels from our developers listing as we could find, and as new videos came in, they were checked to see if they showed off a new game. The youtube’s description entered by the developer became the game’s description on tsumea. While this solution did reduce the amount of maintenance and data entry required to have a games listing, it was very flawed. It certainly missed games being added since if a developer didn’t make a youtube video of their game, there was no way to get it listed.

Version four:

This version was the one I had spent the most amount of time working on. It was completed but never opened for public use. So, if the problem was data entry being the bottleneck, why not just automate it? So development time went into building ‘importers’ for games. You could paste a link to your game (from the App Store, Google Play, Steam, Desura etc) and press an import button, and tsumea will scrape that page and grab all it’s information including the release date, version info, images and media, and make a page on tsumea of it. Once the game was listed on tsumea, the site would continually check the link to see if there were any new updates, and it would automatically scrape the page again, extract the new data, and update it’s page on tsumea.

Here’s just two games I had imported as a test.. Gamebook Adventures 8: Curse of the Assassin and True Skate

It meant no more tedious data entry required from anyone, and this functionality opened up a whole bunch of possibilities where tsumea could provide something like an app/game information service like AppShopper where you could find out all the newest releases, latest updated games, and charts on price drops or sales.

But the new dilemma was, how much use would this really be for most of us? While a data mining service like AppShopper has it’s uses, it’s not something I actually use on a daily basis, and price charts aren't things I’m extremely passionate about. And I think this is when I began to question what I wanted to achieve with having a games section on tsumea, and the overall direction I wanted to take with the site.

Additionally, I had also created the same functionality for artists so they could automatically import their work from places like Tumblr, Soundcloud etc, so they wouldn't have to upload it themselves. That was never opened for public use either, and I feel that providing features like that would create a detachment to the members and their work on here. Why even have members at all then? I didn’t want this site to be merely an aggregator and curator of content from other sites, so this feature and others like it were shut down, including the reddit feature which aggregated the items from our Reddit subthread, and our media section (as popular as it is) which will be closing down also. Even the Events section which I had recently posted about falls under that same idea, and while a lot of work went into making that section work, it'll be pushed out of the limelight and may be resurrected once I figure out how it can best refigured to suit the community here.

So this is where we’re at now at the fifth iteration. We’ll go more about the new games section in the next part of this journal, but needless to say, there’s no automatic aggregation involved. You’ll have to add content and edit it yourself (it won’t be much work, I promise). And the focus is no longer about getting ALL games from Australia and New Zealand listed. I just want the games from the members in this community listed, and I feel this is what tsumea used to be all about and the direction we've subconsciously been heading since we pushed towards making tsumea more social in 2013. tsumea has always been evolving and changing since 2002, and we’ve dropped plenty of features and sections that haven't work and refined others that have, but I think the new games section is much more aligned with what I think this site is more about now.