Wednesday, November 29, 2017

GameDB News Roundup 01/2017

Let's take another look at some developments within the video game database landscape.

(The content in this update is a bit outdated, as this will be the last GameDB News Roundup for the time being, because I want to concentrate more on subject matter work to finally bring Oregami online, and couldn't beat myself to publishing this earlier. If you want to continue writing these contents, please get in touch at our forums.) released version 2 of their API this summer. And while I cannot tell the differences to version 1, version 2 is claimed to be faster, more stable and ready for heavy-weight usage. The interesting thing here is the pricing, which reveals that free use of the API is limited to 7,000 requests per day, which is rather not much. Also, IGDB's advanced search feature has been rewritten, and is now an even more powerful tool that is among the leaders of the pack. A feature that usually perfectly showcases the weaknesses embedded into the current models of genre definition, is an automated similar games search. The IGDB developers introduced this nonetheless, but also added the possibility for the users to add their own recommendations. Take a look at the recommendations page for the 1990's game Apprentice for an example.

The IGDB guys started a new interesting feature series called "Industry Insight",too, where members of the gaming industry get a voice. Be sure to check out the first issues. Then they gathered all there is to say about IGDB itself on a single About page, amongst the information the interested user can find the IGDB Manifesto and the current database statistics. And those busy bees also ditched another missing feature from their ToDo list again, a review aggregator. Now, there's dozens of critic's reviews calculated together to give the users a glimpse of a game's quality. Another interesting thing added is a page about gaming events, which gives a nice overview about where to meet other gaming maniacs. And finally, if you wanna know what the IGDB algorithms think you could like on the site, just visit their personal user feed. Of course, over the last months countless bugs were fixed, too, and many small tweaks to the pages have been made.

It's good to see the on-going progress to renovate the MobyGames code. Lots of small and bigger changes have made their way onto the site since the last update, here's the short list:
  • When I was an active contributor at Mobygames, we all thought that hell would freeze over before the site's data would become accessible via an API, but we were wrong. The Moby developers released the first alpha version of their API some time ago, so the gigantic data masses there can soon be accessed in better ways. Let's see what will become of this!
  • Since June, MobyGames accepts submissions of promotional images for games. There's so much image work done for promotional purposes: Neatened-up screenies, wall papers, concept art, etc., and all of these can now be archived at MG. This new feature seems to be received well, as there's been 100K of such images contributed till October 20th already. And the site owners seem to like promo images, too, as they released screenshot scrapers for some popular stores in the net.
  • The developers introduced the possibility of auto-approval for some database items like game sites, company logos, game ad blurbs, developer portraits, and Critic Scores. And the plan is to add more. Moby owner Simon Carless describes this change as a "much-needed change (which includes auditing so we can check the auto-approved items)", thus the site "can catch up on the queues that were months behind, & concentrate on helping new users & approving more complex items - while still keeping quality high." I'm sure not everyone will agree with this assessment, as the rumors of an overall drop in quality won't fall silent with it.
  • The Moby contributors celebrated 20K database entries for the Windows platform, which is quite a lot.
  • The game catalogue for the seems to have reached completion.
  • Moby contributor vedder released his database visualization again for 2016. Take a look at it here.
And on January 1st, 2017, the Mobygames owners revealed their plan to re-write the Moby code-base. Long-time contributors will shake in fear at this news, as the former owners nearly killed the site with such an undertaking. But hope dies last, that the current people in charge have carefully read this article.

Our friends at RetroCollect posted another update on their big database redesign. This time it's about the future scope of the project. Unsurprisingly, the approach to the scope of covered data is bold, as the future RC shall cover ~everything. Highlights of this announcement include a shift from the back-office packing of new data into the database, then releasing rather complete data sets to the public, to user-contributed content. Furthermore, users will be able to check if their copy of a game is already part of one of the preservation efforts that are taking place. Preservation is an important part of the retro games movement, so this new feature, unseen anywhere else, is a good step in the right direction. RetroCollect will also become a magazine database in the future, which seems like a natural step because magazine scores are already supported. In other news, RC also added a library of Nintendo DS/DSi games to their database.

Giant Bomb turned eight years old in July 2016, big congratulations to whomever feels responsible for that! :) Before this anniversary, the GB engineers released the next beta version of their new Wiki system (using Comic Vine data), where they implemented editing of nearly all entities. Check out the feature video here. At E3 last year, GB editor Austin Walker announced his departure to create a new dedicated gaming site for Vice. This new project is part of Vice's agressive expansion strategy. Also, it is now possible to use GiantBomb on Amazon's Fire TV, using the beta version of the Giant Bomb Enthusiast App , and on the Roku set-top box, and on Microsoft devices, and on Android. The developers also launched a new embedded video player, and continue to improve it, which has some interesting features, the majority of them even for non-premium users. There's even some API support for videos.

CPC Power celebrated their 10th anniversary in April 2017, congratulations to them!

VideoGameGeek now allows cover mounts and type-in games to be entered into their database. And the Amiga CD32 finally made the platform list there.

The GGDB is currently down, let's see if it will come back.

Home Of The Underdogs continued the quest to clean up their old-world data, meanwhile reaching letter D of their "Top Dogs" category. Also, they added links to the ReplacementDocs project where applicable.

The Italian database UVL added some new platforms to their count, namely these:
  • Unix
  • BSD
  • Minix
  • Solaris
  • Exidy Sorcerer (1978)
  • Camputers Lynx (1983)
  • Memotech MTX (1983)
  • Tatung Einstein (1984)
  • Amstrad PCW (1985)
  • NeXTSTEP (1989)
  • Ouya (2013)
  • Nintendo Switch (2017)
The Video Game Museum has two interesting new features about warning screens and messages for consoles. One feature is called "TurboGrafx CD / TurboGrafx-16 / Sega CD WARNING messages", the second one documents Gameboy Color / Neo Geo Pocket Color / WonderSwan Color games shoved inside their monochromatic predecessors. Once there, one should also checkout the Super Game Boy borders section which is also content that is likely to be found nowhere else.

Let's take a look at some projects that are new in monitoring:
  • A first look at the five databases that the Australian company DBolical is offering to the gaming world reveals some beautiful gaming data to explore:
    • GameFront is the newest addition to DBolical's portfolio. This site is a massive database and download site for game files. The content spans from full versions, patches, demos  over to tools, trailers, music, maps, and whatnot. If it's a file and if it's gaming-related, it can probably be found there now or in the future.
    • Indie DB is a portal for independent game developers to present their work and get in touch with players. By supporting the indie community, the database has acquired information about close to 30K games by now. The latest additions to the site are download widgets to embed into other sites, the possibility for developers to host game giveaways, and a price comparison feature.
    • Mod DB, which is the original site that started the DBolical story, describes itself as the "largest website dedicated to supporting independent development of games (user generated game content), including mods, addons and DLC." At the time of this writing, the site contains information about many thousands of game modifications, addons, total conversions, and also about over 650 game creation engines.
    • The other two sites in the DBolical portfolio are Slide DB and VRDB. Both sites are similar in scope to Indie DB, where Slides DB aims at mobile developers, and VRDB tries to make an impact into the world of virtual reality games.
  • The PlayStation DataCenter has the goal of documenting every PS game there is. Currently, there are three dedicated sites there for the PS1, PS2, and the PSP. The site features detailed information about thousands of releases with regular updates, and its own Youtube channel with many game play videos.
  • The GameTDB describes itself as a wiki-style "Titles DataBase: a collaborative database of games for anyone to contribute and anyone to use in any game-related project.", and is obviously aimed to be a basis for emulator frontends, native game browsers, or collection trackers. The whole database can be downloaded and used without registration, for use on a website permission is required, though. Currently, there is coverage of Wii, Wii U, gameCube, 3DS, and the PS3.
  • An interesting project is the hobbyDB, whose users are "building a giant database of every collectible ever made – from diecast cars to action figures to comic books to corkscrews." Of course, video games are collectibles, too, so they can be entered there with a rather detailed set of data attached to it. Furthermore, the first big bunch of data objects for video games was obviously imported from HUGADA, which is another project monitored here, as over 27K of the 28K database entries come from there and HUGADA founder Klaus Brandhorst is the video game expert at hobbyDB's Advisory Board.
  • While Eli's Software Encyclopedia seems to have been abandoned quite some time ago, it still holds much valuable information about classic video game releases. For instance, check out the hundreds of releases listed for Apple Macintosh or Commodore 64. Or did you know the 1994 multi-platform edutainment release Tchaikovsky's 1812?
  •  seems like a promising, eye-pleasing project with some 40K database entries, a first version of an API available (that even seems to be in use by some software projects), and a clear development plan. However, the admin posted a note at Christmas that the site will be migrated to some faster servers over the year change, but this doesn't seem to be finished, as I was unable to delve deeper into the data due to time-outs and database errors. Let's see next time if something improved!
  • RF Generation is another rather big game database and community online since 2004. The primary feature of this project seems to be collection tracking, where users can select from  over 113K database entries to add to their collection, where a database entry seems to be a game release or piece of hardware, thus the huge number. There's even collection checklists, a feature I did not see elsewhere until now. The interested reader can get a glimpse of the site's data model complexity reading through their game submission guidelines. Users can also use the site's infrastructure to maintain their own blog, and participate in a lively message board.
  • Another site that wants to become the IMDB for video games is SPOnG. The database of this rather commercial project already features over 40K entries and an acceptable data complexity. Check out the pages for GTA IV or Doom III for a glimpse. There's also some editorial content such as reviews and other features offered.
  • The first Brazilian project on our monitoring list is the Video Game Data Base, or VGDB. From what I could gather using the Google Translator, this project is aimed at consoles only, documenting hardware and software alike. Check out the pages for the Mega Drive and Battle Toads as examples. The data model shown on the game pages is rather simple, the focus seems to be more on collecting YouTube links with playthroughs for every game, as many game pages feature these. Unsurprisingly, the VGDB also has its own YouTube channel.
  • As the name suggests, the Acorn Electron World collects everything about this British home computer. Using their own words, the project is "an electronic collection of everything that was ever produced for the Acorn Electron. This web site showcases libraries of professional and public domain software, companion discs, articles, instructions, reviews, screenshots, solutions and game help.". And as the first project I ever saw, the people behind AEW consider the database to be completed, as in having everything about the Electron archived. Hats off, if this is true!
  • The people behind the Acorn Electron World also maintain the Dragon 32 Universe, which also has the goal of "building a library of all the software for the Dragon 32 computer and archiving it for future generations.". As regards games, they seem to have completed their goal by ~91%, which is great.
  • The goal of the Handheld Games Museum is to "document (primarily photographically) every electronic handheld game made in the late 1970's to the mid 1980's.". The site seems to not have been updated since 2014, but nonetheless offers a wide variety of pictures of handheld electronic games.
  • The LGDB (Linux Game Database) is - to no surprise - a crowd-sourced database for Linux games, which offers information about ~2050 games at the time of this writing. The goal of the site is not to collect as much games as possible, but to "list interesting games, that are likely to be played and are a valuable asset to the Linux gaming community". This project is definitely worth checking out for Linux gamers, it offers an acceptable data complexity within its modern design.
  • The project System 16 - The Arcade Museum offers information about Arcade machines, namely hardware and games alike. Check out the page for the joint Namco/Sega/Nintendo board Triforce to get a glimpse of the site's content.
  • The IFDB (Interactive Fiction Database) solely focuses on the IF genre, which could also be described as "adventuring by reading and typing". The site lists around 8,500 games by now, and offers strong community features around its database. User reviews, user game lists, playlists and wishlists, and polls among them. The data complexity is also satisfying, check out the entry for Planetfall to get an impression.
  • Another game genre with a humongous library is the Visual Novel, which could be described as eye-pleasing Interactive Fiction, but with little interactivity. The main site dedicated to this genre is the VNDB (Visual Novel Database). This project lists around 20,500 games as of now, with a data complexity that rivals the best projects out there. There's releases with screenshots, extensive additional data per release, a tagging system, character database, game relations, company and people credits, and so forth. Check out some random games for some database lover's eye candy.

Database projects we are monitoring  (constantly adding):
1) Multi-platform sites: (2016.11.03)
Eli's Software Encyclopedia (2016.11.18)
GameFront (2016.11.18)
Gamers Global (GG) (2016.11.03)
Games Database (Online Games System Repository) (2016.11.03)
The Games Database! (2016.11.03) (2017.01.08)
GameTDB (2016.11.17)
Gaming History (GH) (2016.11.03)
Giant Bomb (2017.06.20)
Great Game Database (GGDB) (down, 2016.11.17)
Historique des jeux video (2016.11.17)
hobbyDB (2016.11.17)
Home of the Underdogs (HotU) (2016.11.18)
Huge Game Database (HUGADA) (2016.11.17)
Indie DB (2016.11.18)
Internet Game Database (IGDB) (2016.11.28)
The Legacy (2016.11.18)
MobyGames (2017.01.01)
Mod DB (2016.11.18)
Online Games Datenbank (OGDB) (2016.11.30)
PlayStation DataCenter (2016.11.30)
RetroCollect (2017.01.18)
RF Generation (2017.01.12)
Slide DB (2016.11.18)
SPOnG (Super Players On-line Gamebase) (2017.01.18)
Universal Videogame List (UVL) (2017.01.18)
VGList (gone, 2017.01.18)
Video Game Data Base (VGDB) (2017.01.19)
VideoGameGeek (2017.03.08)
The Video Game Museum (VGMuseum) (2017.06.04)
The Video Games Museum (VGM) (2017.06.04)
Video Game Rebirth (gone, 2017.06.04)
VRDB (2016.11.18)
Zavatar (2017.06.04)

2) Single-platform sites:
Acorn Electron World (2017.06.07) (2017.06.04)
C64 Games (2017.06.04)
CPC Power (2017.06.04)
Dragon 32 Universe (2017.06.07)
Hall of Light (2017.06.04)
Handheld Games Museum (2017.06.07)
International Arcade Museum / Killer List of Videogames (KLOV) (2017.06.04)
Lemon64 (2017.06.04)
LemonAmiga (2017.06.04)
Linux Game Database (LGDB) (2017.06.07)
SixtyFour Originals DataBase (SFODB) (2017.06.04)
System 16 - The Arcade Museum (2017.06.07)
World of Spectrum (2017.06.04)

3) Single-genre sites
Interactive Fiction Database (IFDB) (2017.06.07)
The Visual Novel Database (VNDB) (2017.06.07)

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