The first thing we all learned when creating The Bovine Conspiracy was that any asshole could make a webpage. All you needed was some content with decent grammar, and a guy who was competent with HTML. The second thing we learned is that press contacts were shockingly easy to make. Eric had quite a list by the time BC began to die off. The third thing we learned was that free stuff boosts traffic.
The Somewhat Awesome Next Few Months
Right around the end of January, two of our better reviewers, Bram and Al, no longer had the time to write reviews of games. We also lost one of our Wargame Reviewers (who still needs to submit a review for the last game we sent him), but that was okay as we still had quite a few people who were willing to write those. This was important as we considered Shrapnel one of our favorite companies, and so developing a relationship with them was most important. I don't mean a "relationship" as we would give them good grades for everything. More like, a website that has the wargamers and indy gamers who can properly review their products on a more level playing field. As opposed to the morons who gave Dominions III a 4/10 because the graphics sucked.
Content began to flag around February. There was a point when Ask SuperHiro dominated the front page, which isn't what you want out of a weekly feature. And you definitely don't want to point to an advice column about doing the nasty with Furries when you're showcasing your site to publishers as a gaming-focused site. Luckily, the contest for GalCivII boosted traffic considerably, which gave us an idea.
In March, for the next contest, one of our own (forum member Sergi, also known as gellar), volunteered to buy a copy of Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. After we got over the shock of the resident consumer-maniac offering to buy someone else something, we decided to kick the contest up a notch, and started a "screenshot editting contest", with a special note that ALL entries, even ones done with MS Paint, would be accepted. We pushed it on every site that we could, and got quite a large number of entries. What really made me happy though, was a fair amount of "low tech" entries. Even though those didn't win, I did my best to give credit to them in the "Best of the Rest" follow up column.
The biggest problem we had as a site was attracting NEW visitors and making sure they stayed. Thus far, we relied mostly on the incestous relationship between the spin off sites from Gonegold.com, which was once one of the better gaming sites on the internet, and now is a hub of advertisements involving deviant sexual activity with Russians. So, our primary source to get new users was Gamerankings. It certainly wasn't the BEST source, but it was the one that would reach the broadest possible audience. Gamerankings at the time liked to covert numerical ratings to percentages, which drove us NUTS. 3/5 would indicate an average game… but that would translate to 60%, which anyone who went to high school would realize is NOT an average grade. So we had a minor arguement regarding the wretched "7-9" scale most game reviewers fall into. After which we decided it wasn't worth the effort, converted to a "1-10" scale, and just left it alone after that.
Press contacts were slowly rolling in, and it paid off big when ArenaNet, makers of Guild Wars, came calling. We were cordially invited to Guild Wars Nightfall's launch party. Actually, it was more like Eric was invited and I, as the only one who could play Guild Wars without turbo barfing from boredom, had to tag along. I don't know about Eric, but this was certainly my first time rubbing elbows with Game Devs. Plus, free beer!
The party itself was… interesting. I made an honest go of trying to chase down a dev and ask "HARD HITTING JOURNALIST QUESTIONS". I was even in line to talk with Jeff Strain, but then I got discouraged when everyone surrounding him was heaping loads upon loads of praise. I was reluctant to be the stick in the mud, plus I began to doubt that I'd get a decent answer anyway. And after three beers, my ability to remember the answers was starting to waver. So I ended up harassing the guy in charge of organizing the GW Tournaments about some asinine quibbles I had with the base game that I thought needed more attention. It was clear from his cookie-cutter-press-release responses that I wasn't going to get any scoops this night. Free beers and tapas, I would get plenty of that. PLENTY.
Ultimately, this didn't seem to be a gathering of the GIANTS of the gaming press like I had hoped (I may have geeked out for an hour about how I would get to touch Greg Kasavin, I will not confirm nor deny those rumors). It felt like a big party for the devs and their roommates, friends, a lucky few SUPERFANS who were way way way way more into GW than I ever could possibly be, and a few local schmucks like us who were on the press contact list. Regarding the SUPERFANS, I befriended one of them, and showed him around the area (This was in the Capital Hill District of Seattle, one of the best places in the area to people watch). Wow, the dude played on two computers with two different charaters. I was a bit outmatched in nerdity. Eric and I ended up leaving a bit early, right before they were showing some montage of footage we had all already seen. I doubt anyone missed us.
The name of the site proved to be an obstacle. Namely, no one heard of us, and the name was enough to be dismissed out of hand. I did get the attention of the head of the IGN Fan Page for Guild Wars however, and I gave him some advice on content to provide, as the IGN site was doing poorly compared to other Guild Wars sites, such as the Guild Wiki. I suggested he review replays of top Guild Matches and give in depth coverage of strategies. I have no idea if this was ever implemented. One thing I learned fast though, being a webmaster for one of those sites is a thankless task, and chicks aren't impressed by it.
Next: The last hurrah, some Monday Morning Quarterbacking, and a requiem.
Last 5 posts by Derrick
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