This is not a work related project, just something I and a fellow site developer worked on during our spare time. But I liked how it all came together, so I decided to post it here as well. But first, a little blurb about Fred By Night, directly from their about page...
Fred by Night is a Vampire: the Masquerade chronicle using the third edition Laws of the Night live action roleplaying (LARP) rules published by White Wolf. The game has run continuously since 1999 as a Member Chronicle of One World by Night (OWbN), a world-wide shared universe games.
With an average of twenty players per session, we pride ourselves on bringing the World of Darkness to (un)life every second Saturday night.
Now, into the nitty! Into the gritty! :)
I joined the Fred By Night game in December 2005. I hadn’t been playing a live action roleplaying game in years, and I wanted to meet new people, so I chatted to a friend and dropped by one night. For a couple months, I just played non-players, to get a feel for the game and the setting. I finally "rolled up" my own character during Keycon.
I wasn’t the only one. Turns out a couple people dropped by during Keycon and were interested in the game. They tried it out, they learned about the setting and the chronicle, and they wanted to regularly attend. The problem they discovered, as I did when I was first attending, was finding out when and where the games were happening was troublesome.
First of all, most of the game player base communicates through a mailing list. Of course, unless you already know someone on that mailing list, how would you discover it’s existance, never mind becoming part of it.
Second of all, the chronicle’s web site had fallen victim to a common malady: apathy. See, the trouble with game related sites is not that it has to be administrated, but that it requires up to date content to remain useful.
That content can only be provided by the game’s storytellers and player base. If the storytellers and player base do not provide content, the site does not get updated. If the site is not updated, the storytellers and player base lose interest in the site, and are less likely to provide updated content. The site administrators fight a losing battle against this cycle, and eventually give up. If no one else wants to bother with the site, why should they?
Usually, when a site falters like that, a site has three possible fates:
1. The site remains online, but stagnant, never receiving new content. This is, in my opinion, the worst option. New site visitors will get the impression that the game is not running anymore, as abandoned as the site seems to be.
2. The site is taken offline. This removes a site’s online presence, making it harder for new players to find the game and current players to keep updated, but better that than turning potential players away. At least this way, new players will continue to look!
3. Relaunch the site, kick start interest again. Get interest going again, get momentum again, put a fresh face on the site and get relevant content up!
The site is currently hosted and administrated by a fellow roleplayer and site developer named Reddz. He’s a fun guy to chat with, a fun guy to roleplay with, and enjoys maintaining the site. But when he found himself asking for new content from people and getting nothing back, he decided to stop wasting his time. I can’t really blame him.
After Keycon, I volunteered to assist Reddz in trying to get the site updated. I’m a web nerd, and I like designing and making web sites as a "free time" hobby, so it was no skin off my neck. As soon as someone else was interested in the site again, Reddz was full bore at it, ready to get going!
So we took down the old site, talked about what worked and what didn’t, and came out with a new game plan. We collaborated in what pages would remain, which would be combined, and which would be removed entirely. We ended up separating it out into two main sections: information about the game (rules, resources, contact info, etc) and information about the setting (the theme, the characters, etc).
I designed the site and coded the initial HTML and CSS pages. Reddz took over, hosting the site and incorporating the dynamic elements. We launched the site in mid-June, shortly before an upcoming game, in hopes we could build up some interest.
So far, things seem to be working. Players are volunteering new and updated information. Players and storytellers are requesting log in information so them can update their characters’ profiles. People are commenting on the site and the look.
Reddz and I plan to try and sustain that by occasionally adding new sections ourselves. Stuff like bringing a laptop with the site on it to the game, showing people the site and it’s (possibly missing or out of date) content. Stuff like bring a digital camera to a game and getting character shots and/or putting a gallery page together.
The idea is to occasionally prod the storytellers and player base and keep them jazzed about the site by keeping ourselves jazzed about the site :)
Down the road, I’ll write up another article to update you on the success of our endeavours.