Monday, May 23, 2016

GameDB News Roundup 01/2016

In 2016, we want to continue our little series of blog entries about new developments within the video game database landscape.

The biggest news this cycle, again, came from the team of the IGDB.The core team of the site obviously found investors to believe in their success, and thus the developers are now working full time on the code. You can check out their headquarters and core people in their first episode of "Insight" videos. Also, in a turn of events unseen before, the lead developer of IGDB shared the technical base of the site in a 46 minute video.


The core team also did an AMA on Reddit with some interesting information:
  • On the business model: "We plan to build on 3 distinct business models:
    1. Game sales through affiliate partnerships  
    2. On-site advertisements (which will be non-intrusive and always relevant) 
    3. B2B services such as recruitment tools for development companies."
      We will hopefully start implementing our first business model, game sales, in autumn this year. Our long term goal is that you should be able to buy all games included in our database through us and we will do it in the form of a price comparison feature, which will allow our users to find the cheapest place to buy a game."
  • On the history of the project: "It all started during a lunch discussion at an old job, many, many years ago. The topic being discussed was that it would be cool to make a game site, but in your own way. The problem then, like now was that you used many different websites when researching new games to play. You went to gametrailers to check out trailers, gamespot to read articles about upcoming games and several other places well. But we concluded that the ultimate game page should have everything in one place, plus that as users you need to trust the reviews and ratings being shown."
  • On their different game policy: "We don't have an agreed policy on this but if a game is considerably different visually or mechanically, it's better off being a separate game. For now, we are leaving it up to our users to decide because we don't want to force our opinions onto them."
  • On their relationship to MobyGames: "We don't want you to choose between us or Mobygames, rather use both of us. As a matter of fact we are great fans of Mobygames, and we have known Simon Carless for some time (one of the current owners), and we totally support them in their vision they have regarding the site. But to answer your question: You should go to Mobygames when you want the best game data available (superior to everyone else in both quality and quantity). And you should go to IGDB.com when you want features that allows you to explore and keep track of games and the game industry."
  • On the biggest obstacles in setting up the site:
    1. Getting a good domain.
    2. Gathering a team of passionate and skilled people who were willing to work for free for 3 years and who were situated in 3 different countries. Other members of the team who very much deserve credit are still working for free today.
    3. Chicken and egg situation with content and users.
    4. Developing a brand new video game platform from scratch.
    5. Building tools and the process to validate the user contributed data.
    6. Using skype.
Of course, the IGDB developers continue to steadily improve the site, and are releasing weekly dev notes to keep people posted. Many bug fixes, tweaks, and features went live at IGDB, so let's just take a look at the bigger ones:
  • One bigger addition to the site is the IGDB Pulse which seems to be designed to become kind of a Reddit for games.
  • They also added three Top100 lists to the site, where people can see the best-rated 100 games and companies, and check out the busiest 100 contributors.
  • Curious users can now research which games have been released on their birthday with the respective feature.
  • The game pages now offer a "press kit" view, too, which looks like an executive overview of the game. Check out the press kit for Ocarina of Time, for instance. This feature is obviously part of IGDB's initiative to cover more indie games.
  • The site now features game recommendations for their users based on at least 10 scores given to other games.
  • IGDB now offers the possibility for people in the game industry to "claim" their personal page there, see Jason Marsden for example. This way, the personal page can be turned into some kind of convenient CV or portfolio sheet, or even a fan page.
  • The IGDB people were beaten to having a logo, follow this link for the full story.
  • They now offer users the opportunity to vote for the next enhancements in their public product backlog.
In other bigger news, the GiantBomb engineers are working hard to rework their site from scratch using a RESTful API and a clear separation of its different logical layers (just like Oregami (wink) ). In late March, they also published a beta site (using data of its sister site Comic Vine). Let's see how this develops.

Although not directly related to video games, GiantBomb's sister site Comic Vine merged with GameSpot. The announcement doesn't give any reasoning for the merge except GameSpot broadening their entertainment coverage, thus raising fear for GiantBomb to also get merged in the future. Obviously so much fear that an official follow-up post was published to assure the users that GiantBomb would stay independent. But as GB is a commercial project by CBS, the day will probably come.

The feature news of GiantBomb go like this:
  • GB reduced the number of data items to be returned with a single API call to one hundred, because they've been obviously heavily scraped by abusive users. With this change, they plan to publish more of their data via their API without the worry of hickups or outages.
  • In other API news, GB did some major changes to the way that videos are served via their API. HTML5 links are not served any more, and app developers will need to use a private key for showing GB videos. Looks like there's been abuse here, too, in the past.
  • An engineering update was also posted which contains some more or less vague information about the stuff that the developers worked on, or are working on, the important things being a rewrite of their account management, and much work on the wiki and search functionality.
  • Furthermore, VICE posted a feature about how the sudden death of Giant Bomb's very own Ryan Davis impacted the site, and how the remaining staff kept on. An interesting read with some insight about the project.
  • The GB people also accept paid guest articles now, which will no doubt enhance their editorial reach.
An API seems to slowly become a standard in the video game database world, so MobyGames announced to jump the train, stating to soon offer such a feature. Furthermore, the long-awaited overhaul of the ages-old genre tags is currently happening there. The basic proposal for the new genre system came from long-time Moby contributor vedder who also allowed Oregami to further develop his draft. Besides this, the MG developers took the important milestone of moving the game tags "Compilation" and "DLC/Add-on" to the "Basic Genre" tag category, which is mandatory data when contributing new games. In the old days, there was the rather ridiculous need to apply all the basic genres of all included games to any compilation, and to every Add-on. This policy was changed in 2012 already, but now the technical change happened, too, so after the clean-up the game lists by genre will be much easier to look at.

In other Moby news, two interesting new Twitter feeds saw the light of the Internet day. The first one is the MobyShots channel, where a random screenshot from the MobyGames database is being twittered every four hours, and FaveGame, where new names for video games are automatically invented, also fed by data from MG. Another nice example of what can be achieved with freely usable data is this year's In-Memoriam video at the GDC, where many pictures of MobyGames were used. The coverage of two additional video game platforms seems near-complete there, namely the Nokia N-Gage and the PC Engine CD/TurboGrafx-CD. And of course, the developers are hard at work to fix all the little bugs and annoyances that plague this old code base. Details can be seen here.

Big news are on the horizon at RetroCollect. In an announcement which came just in time for this blog post, RC's main developer lifted the curtain on his work of the last months. Behind the scenes, a new data model with over 500 database tables was implemented that shall be "solving the problems plaguing all game databases out there and addressing their and our shortcomings". We can't wait to see the first data model out in the open that is able to master Stage 3 of this blog post. (smile)

On top of that technical revolution, RetroCollect announced the new features that will be built upon the new data model:
  • Public API
  • Public contribution system
  • Vastly improved collection tracking
  • New platforms including computer systems with custom/local platform names
  • A proper company database
  • Database statistics
  • Data accuracy tracking
  • Tagging mechanisms
  • Tracking of preservation efforts
  • Lots of additional hardware information
  • Revamped genre taxonomy and various other game classification attributes
  • User top lists
  • Glossary of our database terms
Furthermore, RetroCollect sharpened their useability for users who are only interested in one region like North America. These people are now able to search for regional exclusives, and the user option was added to show all the RC pages for one region only.

Of course, the RC database was boosted with new content, too, in the meantime. Following is a list of releases that got added since our last News Roundup:
  • Atari VCS/2600 (Europe)
  • Magnavox Odyssey² (US)
  • Mattel Intellivision (US)
  • Microsoft Xbox (US)
  • Nintendo Game Boy (US)
  • Nintendo Game Boy Advance (US)
  • Nintendo Game Boy Color (US)
  • Nintendo GameCube (US)
  • Nintendo Pok√©mon Mini (US)
  • Nokia N-Gage (US)
  • Sega CD (US)
  • Sega Game Gear (US)
  • Sega Master System (US)
  • Sega Saturn (US)
  • SNK Neo Geo Pocket Color (US)
  • Sony PlayStation (US)
  • Sony PlayStation 2 (US)
  • Tiger Gizmondo (US)
  • Tiger R-Zone (US)
  • Vectrex (US)
The International Arcade Museum also seems to have the problems we've seen at many sites: lack of developers for a code-base too old, and lack of people reviewing submissions. Thus, on the last day of 2015, one of the admins posted a help request for these items.

At LemonAmiga, users can now mark games in their collection as completed.

The developer of Gaming History (formerly known as Arcade History) did much work behind the scenes in the last months to improve the performance of the site. Furthermore, he added a MAME status to the games (emulated, not emulated, impossible to emulate), and removed ads from the video pages for members. Details here, details about database updates can be found here.

The French project The Video Games Museum opened up its database for users to register and contribute. Just some weeks after that, a collection tracker was added, take a look at the developers collection for a glimpse at this feature.

My French is non-existent, but the Google Translator tells me that CPC Power added water marks to their covers to prevent abuse. Users in good standing may inquire there to still get the data unwatermarked. Interestingly, MobyGames did the exact opposite and finished removing their water marks just some time ago.

If you like the UVL, you should re-try the site with your mobile phone, as the developer improved the web design for smaller screens. In other news, they seem to have a rather complete list of games for the Memotech MTX.

And last, but in no way least: While not being a traditional game database per se, Home of the Underdogs holds a special place in my heart, and does so among many, because the love for indie games and underrated commercial releases is trickling off every page there, and did so for over a decade before the site went on a hiatus. Now it is back for quite some time, and the new "HotU Council" running it seems to do a good job. They are always looking for enthusiasts to help out cleaning up the data, interested people should get in touch via their Google group.


Database projects we are monitoring  (constantly adding):

1) Multi-platform sites:

Archive.vg (2016.05.03)
Gamers Global (GG) (2016.05.16)
Games Database (Online Games System Repository) (2016.05.03)
The Games Database! (2016.05.14)
Gaming History (GH) (2016.05.14)
Giant Bomb (2016.05.02)
Great Game Database (GGDB) (2016.05.09)
Historique des jeux video (2016.05.16)
Home of the Underdogs (HotU) (2016.05.23)
Huge Game Database (HUGADA) (2016.05.22)
Internet Game Database (IGDB) (2016.05.13)
The Legacy (2016.05.16)
MobyGames (2016.05.20)
Online Games Datenbank (OGDB) (2016.05.16)
RetroCollect (2016.05.22)
Universal Videogame List (UVL) (2016.05.16)
VGList (gone, 2016.05.03)
Video Game Data Base (VGDB) (------)
VideoGameGeek (2016.05.16)
The Video Game Museum (VGMuseum) (2016.05.14)
The Video Games Museum (VGM) (2016.05.14)
Video Game Rebirth (gone, 2016.05.03)
Zavatar (2016.05.14)

2) Single-platform sites:

Amstrad.eu (2016.0516)
C64 Games (2016.05.03)
CPC Power (2016.05.14)
Hall of Light (2016.05.09)
International Arcade Museum / Killer List of Videogames (KLOV) (2016.05.09)
Lemon64 (2016.05.09)
LemonAmiga (2016.05.09)
SixtyFour Originals DataBase (SFODB) (2016.05.09)
World of Spectrum (2016.05.16)

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