Preserving Armchair Arcade: Town Meeting!

Matt Barton's picture

Armchair Arcade is dying and needs your help to survive.

As most of you have no doubt realized, we're been suffering from all kinds of technical problems here at Armchair Arcade. The biggest of these is a surge of "max connections reached" problems with our database. We've been working very closely with our host, Modhost, to resolve these problems. To put it simply, Modhost has been (in the past) very gentle with us when our website went over the limits imposed on database usage, but not any longer. Now, whenever we get too many people using the site at once, we get that nasty database error. According to our stats, we had 3,699 fewer unique visitors last month than the one before, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out why. This problem is killing Armchair Arcade.

There are a few possible solutions to the dilemma. One is that we could move to a dedicated server. However, this costs $165 a month, which is simply impossible for us to fund ourselves. Unless one of you guys (or a few of you guys) are willing to bankroll us on this, dedicated hosting isn't really an option. The second possibility is moving to a simpler CMS, like Movable Type. Modhost assures us that Movable Type would consume less database resources, but we'd lose some of the features of Drupal. In any case, we're about to have to undertake some pretty drastic measures to salvage the site.

Finally, there is some concern that our readership has been steadily declining, and that folks just don't care about this site anymore. Besides a few friends like Oldschoolgamer, most of our posts go uncommented, which is the only way we have of really, 100% knowing that people are reading and enjoying our stuff. Likewise, we are generating much less buzz on other websites than we used to--again, besides a few fantastic folks like SimonC of GameSetWatch, the rest of the world seems to be content to ignore us completely. As for the various tools we have to help publicize the site (the little buttons for digg, del.icio.us., and so on)--well, nobody is using them. Obviously, it does take a little bit of work to click these buttons and help us get some buzz going, and we can't pay you for this work, but I'd like to think a few of you cared enough about the site to chip in just a little bit. After all, Bill, Mark, and I put in hours (probably 20+ hours a week!) working on this site for free. It doesn't seem like too much to ask that a few of you click some buttons and leave some nice comments for us every once and awhile!

The way I see it, the future of Armchair Arcade is really in your hands, now. We're exhausted, and not even sure that what we do really matters anymore. If anyone out there actually enjoys this site and wants to see it prosper, you'd better start speaking up now. Otherwise, pretty soon you'll click the ol' familiar link to Armchair Arcade and get nothing but a "PAGE NOT FOUND" screen.

Speak up and let us know you still care about us! We love this site and all of our readers, but this isn't a one-way street. The time has come for YOU to step up to the plate and offer your support. Please, we need you.

Sincerely,

Matt Barton

Comments

dragon57
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Joined: 05/18/2006
Bill/Matt/Other editors, Did

Bill/Matt/Other editors,
Did you consider Zoops before selecting Drupal? Zoops is also well respected in the same space and has a more robust built-in forum plugin. I have also discovered an offline Windows based program that works with Zoops that pushes blog entries out to the server.

I am toying with the idea of installing Zoops here on my servers and playing with it to see how it is to work with. If you guys haven't played around with it and would like my feedback on it let me know. If this is something you would like me to do it would help me to know how your account on your hosted server is configured, e.g. is it WAMP or LAMP (Windows, Apache, MySQL, PHP) or (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP) or something else.

Mark Vergeer
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Dragon57, if you do try out

Dragon57, if you do try out Zoops, keep me posted if you can. I might try it for my experimental site www.markvergeer.nl which is currently based on Drupal and serves as some sort of testing grounds for AA.

=======================================
Mark Vergeer - Editor / Pixelator
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
Xboxlive gametag
========================

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crcasey
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Joined: 11/17/2006
I need to make a comment

I need to make a comment here, even if it is a bit late.

The blog format killed the interactive feeling of community that the original AA forums wanted to re-create.

AA was formed for a reason, and that was to continue a discussion that had ended on a site that had ended it’s time.

So Bill and Mat created a webzine that worked well in its place and created something beyond where it progenitor started.

That the big guys decided to switch from a webzine to a blog is how we ended up in this space… But I thought that they understood that the webzine was the basis of the site.

We would read and comment on the in depth articles that were posted here on a somewhat off time basis, and in the meantime we would go at it in the forums.

But that is not the reason for the loss of users here.

You want to know the reason why people left here?

1. It has become a blog.
2. It is a pain to post and read comments.

This feels like the Bill and Mat show. You watch it, and that is it. The depth of the articles has faded off into a news post in general.

I have to say that some of your posts here guys could have been great articles, but they would still have been better with more review.

I guess I have to say give us our simple forums back.

We liked them, and posted to them. Change for the sake of change failed.

-Cecil

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Bill Loguidice
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crcasey wrote:AA was formed
crcasey wrote:

AA was formed for a reason, and that was to continue a discussion that had ended on a site that had ended it’s time.

So Bill and Mat created a webzine that worked well in its place and created something beyond where it progenitor started.

All your other comments are fair and well taken, but the two that I left quoted above are, unfortunately, incorrect. We (Buck, Matt and myself) started Armchair Arcade after MEETING on the Monroeworld forums, that's all. It had nothing to do with AA's formation otherwise. After Shane and Bryan (RIP) had a meltdown, they closed their forums down, which brought a lot of people over to Armchair Arcade, which was already well established, just not from a forum activity standpoint. For the record and hopefully for the final time, AA and MW have and had nothing whatsoever to do with each other and never will. We're our own entities that do our own thing.

As for your other comments that I didn't quote, if you think it's the "Matt and Bill show", so be it, but that's because despite trying for three years to get multiple people involved and have them take pride and ownership of AA too - including people such as yourself - we remained the only ones active. After a while you get tired of being part of a "team" that is not active other than yourselves. Right now, AA is and has been for some time, Matt, myself and Mark. No one else seemed to really care enough to bother to participate on anything remotely resembling a regular basis.

As for the forum comments, the old AA forums on "classic" were dead when we created the new site, so you can't tell me that there was a true need for forums. We have forums here, so let us know how to make them better. I bet no one participates in those either. It seems like now that we have things like quoting and people know that "hey, it would be nice if we could hear from you", people are becoming more active in the blog comments. Besides, it's not like ANYONE can't make a blog post that we would gladly promote to the front page to have the "world" see. We just did that with the "Midway at the Mall" post. If it's not fleshed out enough, so be it, it's still visible and active, just not on the front page.

Finally, keep in mind, that yes, it is ONLY Matt, myself and Mark at the helm these days and doing all the work, and we've put out countless pleas for help with the technical side of things that no one seems to want to answer. So, with that in mind, you get what you get - we're doing the best we can with things. There's only so much three people with limited time can do and there's only so much technical knowledge one can gain.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

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forcefield58
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Joined: 05/19/2006
Bill Loguidice wrote:crcasey
Bill Loguidice wrote:
crcasey wrote:

AA was formed for a reason, and that was to continue a discussion that had ended on a site that had ended it’s time.

So Bill and Mat created a webzine that worked well in its place and created something beyond where it progenitor started.

All your other comments are fair and well taken, but the two that I left quoted above are, unfortunately, incorrect. We (Buck, Matt and myself) started Armchair Arcade after MEETING on the Monroeworld forums, that's all. It had nothing to do with AA's formation otherwise. After Shane and Bryan (RIP) had a meltdown, they closed their forums down, which brought a lot of people over to Armchair Arcade, which was already well established, just not from a forum activity standpoint. For the record and hopefully for the final time, AA and MW have and had nothing whatsoever to do with each other and never will. We're our own entities that do our own thing.

As for your other comments that I didn't quote, if you think it's the "Matt and Bill show", so be it, but that's because despite trying for three years to get multiple people involved and have them take pride and ownership of AA too - including people such as yourself - we remained the only ones active. After a while you get tired of being part of a "team" that is not active other than yourselves. Right now, AA is and has been for some time, Matt, myself and Mark. No one else seemed to really care enough to bother to participate on anything remotely resembling a regular basis.

As for the forum comments, the old AA forums on "classic" were dead when we created the new site, so you can't tell me that there was a true need for forums. We have forums here, so let us know how to make them better. I bet no one participates in those either. It seems like now that we have things like quoting and people know that "hey, it would be nice if we could hear from you", people are becoming more active in the blog comments. Besides, it's not like ANYONE can't make a blog post that we would gladly promote to the front page to have the "world" see. We just did that with the "Midway at the Mall" post. If it's not fleshed out enough, so be it, it's still visible and active, just not on the front page.

Finally, keep in mind, that yes, it is ONLY Matt, myself and Mark at the helm these days and doing all the work, and we've put out countless pleas for help with the technical side of things that no one seems to want to answer. So, with that in mind, you get what you get - we're doing the best we can with things. There's only so much three people with limited time can do and there's only so much technical knowledge one can gain.

======================================
Bill Loguidice, Managing Director
Armchair Arcade, Inc.
(A PC Magazine Top 100 Website)
======================================

I agree with Bill that the simple changes to the Forum are making it easier to see who's talking to or about whoever. I've always used the Forum's and on a couple of occassions have ended up on the home page. I don't really have a desire to Blog there, but it doesn't matter one way or the other. My joy is reading and participating in the discussions. The Forum here will evolve and become vibrant again, I'm sure of that. My only regret is that I wish I had the technical expertise to help you all with the web site. Unfortunately, I don't. I'll help in any way I can, even it it means clicking on a bunch of links here within AA. I'll certainly start doing that and I've been spreading the word to all my friends about the site, and who share my passion for gaming. I recently got a couple of my co-workers into gaming and they ended up buying 360's. The result is we stay up all night playing FPS's and now can't get any work done because we're too tired to do it!!! I appreciate the Mod's running this site and I just hope you don't get too discouraged with the technical issues. Like I mentioned before, this site is beginning to feel just like the old AA site, and that's a GOOD feeling!!

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Matt Barton
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Bill Loguidice wrote:If you
Bill Loguidice wrote:

If you think it's the "Matt and Bill show", so be it, but that's because despite trying for three years to get multiple people involved and have them take pride and ownership of AA too - including people such as yourself - we remained the only ones active. After a while you get tired of being part of a "team" that is not active other than yourselves. Right now, AA is and has been for some time, Matt, myself and Mark. No one else seemed to really care enough to bother to participate on anything remotely resembling a regular basis.

Amen. The reason why most of the content here is produced by Bill, Mark, and me is that most of the content IS produced by Bill, Mark, and me. Over the years, people who started off making great contributions (Buck, Mat, David, etc.) decided they had other things that were more important. I don't blame them nor think they should have felt an obligation to contribute anyway. With the old issue format, we spent most of our time trying to figure out when people were going to finish things, and then finally we found out it was easier just to do this work ourselves and try not to depend on other people.

Lately, we've been getting many more comments on the site and that proves that there's nothing about the "setup" here that was preventing discussions from taking place. It was just that people needed to be "pushed" a bit and then the rest came naturally. Once people know that their comments matter and that they're participation counts, they'll chip in.

As has been mentioned several times, even if we were just running a phpbb2 board with an awesome theme etc., it doesn't follow that we'd end up with a great online community. Again, it would depend on the people who collected there and their willingness to make something happen. There are literally hundreds (maybe even thousands?) of forums all over the net dedicated to retrogaming. Some of us are active on other forums, but others avoid them because they get tired of seeing silly posts, repeats, people with horrid writing skills trying to ask for help downloading an illegal ROM, or sites taken over by spam. Bleh.

I think the value-add with a site like this is getting in-depth perspectives on things and quality writing, PLUS the ability to discuss them at-length in the comments. There is an amount of quality control here that makes a big difference, at least to us.

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number6
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Joined: 05/20/2006
I think it is great that you

I think it is great that you want quality over quantity here. The one thing you need to realize is that this is a double edged sword. I will speak from my own perspective here. I for one am more hesitant to participate in an in-depth disussion unless I have a lot of time to put my thoughts together. If you want more frequent feedback from me I prefer a more informal form of communication like a full featured forum.

I like what you have done with AA, but realize that the way it is setup now you will definitely limit general user interaction.

Your point about forums in general is well taken. Even with all of the less articulate members posting on Monroeworld of late it is still a great place to informally discuss classic/modern gaming. That's what I really want at this point in my life. Actually I doubt I will ever want anything more in this respect.

As I have said before good luck with the site and I will be visiting here daily as usual.

davyK
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Joined: 05/21/2006
I second number6's

I second number6's remarks.

There are general issues with forums per se. They seem to have a natural lifetime. You get a "golden" era when there is a great core of posters who keep things going. This tends to fade naturally.

The post-RGR1 era was great at AA. There's no reason why it can't return - it seems the main posters of that time are still here. They just aren't as vocal.

Another limiting factor is that there's only so many topics about retrogaming you can visit. AA doesn't restrict itself to retro but its what I'm interested in. I get my modern gaming needs from the Edge forums - as caustic as they are.

Matt Barton
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davyk wrote:Another limiting
davyk wrote:

Another limiting factor is that there's only so many topics about retrogaming you can visit. AA doesn't restrict itself to retro but its what I'm interested in. I get my modern gaming needs from the Edge forums - as caustic as they are.

I would agree somewhat with this comment--I definitely agree with the spirit of it, even though on a philosophical level I think you could wax on about retrogaming (or even a particular platform or even a single game!) infinitely. However, it seems the only way to do that would be for pretty heavy moderation of "off-topic" posts. Say, for instance, we had a website dedicated strictly to the Amiga. It'd be hard enough limiting posters on a casual forming even to computing in general, much less force them to neglect any mention of other platforms or connections to modern gaming. Pretty soon, people would be posting about whatever they wanted, be it President Bush or the Xbox 360, and newcomers to the board would always be asking, "What's this site got to do with the Amiga??"

I call this phenomenon "forum drift." What happens is that when a forum first forms, it draws in a certain number of people who share a single common interest (Amigas, Nintendo, K.I.S.S., etc.) Eventually, though, once some "regulars" have established themselves on the site, they start to get more interested in learning about each other than in learning about the common interest that drew them together. It's not as though they suddenly lose interest--indeed, they're probably more interested and knowledgeable now than before--but it's almost like "talking shop" becomes only part of their forum experience (mostly limited to introducing noobs and answering random technical questions from outsiders). You can always tell when this has happened to a board because there will be a large number of new posters saying things like, "I thought this board was about X!" or when the moderators/admins start getting chop-heavy and the mutual respect of the board goes to pieces. The "regulars" will then either go to another site, wait for things to cool off again and then start off-topic threads again, or just give up.

Another sign of this is on boards that have a large number of "topics" or "categories" for discussion, such as an Atari site that had different forums for Commodore 64, Commodore Vic-20, Commodore Plus/4, etc. If one of the forums was called "GENERAL" or "MISC" in addition to these finely-tuned categories, the great bulk of posting would happen there. Only the occasional curious poster would post in the specific forum.

On the other hand, a site that was really too general wouldn't attract much interest either. I've often struggled with the idea of whether AA should officially dedicate itself more to retrogaming, or move to keep things ambiguous with "videogames and computers." We could always stick the word "retro" or "classic" in there somewhere and still continue to do what we're doing now, but there would be that occasional nag asking about "I thought this was a retrogaming site" whenever we wanted to talk about the 360. Right now I'm thinking it's probably better to keep the "mission statement" broad and then keep the content focused rather than the other way around.

The only loss here is that it's easier to categorize and distinguish a site that is more narrowly focused. Most of the other sites that have indexed or mentioned us refer to us as a "reviews" site or talk about the free Flash games here instead of the articles or blogs. Last time I checked, the most popular articles we'd ever written was Mark's article on Mac gaming and mine on gay characters. You can decide how much these articles pertain to "retrogaming."

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