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Ashley Winchester May 12, 2012

I'm curious, has anyone had a problem with a VGM related site? I'm not really talking about sites where you can purchase VGM (I'm sure every site has a horror story or two when it comes down to it) but review/tracklist sites? If so what was the problem?

Also, don't mention the site name. I'm not really trying to start any flame wars here but I've been thinking about a few things that went down elsewhere after Chudah's Corner closed its doors. Sometimes I think I should have let my feelings be known rather than just ignoring the issue which I did. That was probably the better option but I guess I mull over it every-so-often....

Razakin May 12, 2012

So, let your feelings be known now. Even if it would be towards like VGMdb or SEMO (is there any other sites even? big_smile).

And to answer the question, no. Time to time slightly annoyed because there's no translated tracklists for some albums but that's not the site's fault ever. But then, I'm too lazy to get mad about stuff, unless I feel like it.

GoldfishX May 12, 2012

I would say more individual members, not the entire sites themselves. The sites themselves are well-meaning, but sometimes members cross the line of stupidity. But I think this is true of pretty much any community/hobby-related site. I see the same pattern in the fighting game community (yay, drama).

In truth, it doesn't seem like there's too many active VGM sites at the moment (at least not as far as forums go). STC is the main one I frequent and not much goes on here. Gamingforce is only active for Song of the Week and sometimes when a contest is being run. I do see a lot of familiar faces at VGMDB, but very few actual topics and a lot of older threads still on the first page.

Dartannian May 12, 2012

Ashley Winchester wrote:

I'm curious, has anyone had a problem with a VGM related site? I'm not really talking about sites where you can purchase VGM (I'm sure every site has a horror story or two when it comes down to it) but review/tracklist sites? If so what was the problem?

Also, don't mention the site name. I'm not really trying to start any flame wars here but I've been thinking about a few things that went down elsewhere after Chudah's Corner closed its doors. Sometimes I think I should have let my feelings be known rather than just ignoring the issue which I did. That was probably the better option but I guess I mull over it every-so-often....

What is the issue of which you speak? I can't really think of any off hand.

Ashley Winchester May 13, 2012

Dartannian wrote:

What is the issue of which you speak? I can't really think of any off hand.

Actually, it was a host of issues that really accumulated into one. For the most part it's too hard to explain without rattling off a name and a site which I have no intention of doing. And despite the title of this thread "mad" really wasn't the right word... I should have chosen my words a bit better. I was mad about it a long time ago but now it's just something that nags me every now and then when I write pieces here and there.

Anyway, if I'm thinking back correctly, the gist of it really centered on planned updates, holding back presented material because it doesn't fit in with said updates (when you'd think a site would be happy to get and publish any kind of new material it can get it's hands on period), an awkward and somewhat forced push/rush to turn part time contributors into full timers and removing contact information despite still hosting content from that person. In reality it all snowballed but I remember that last one being the straw that broke the camel's back and I just wrote the whole thing off after that moment. I remember that last one very clearly and I probably should have spoken up about it.

But then I can't say that the result of my discontinued participation was all bad... in general I look back at that time and think of how inflated my ego was at that point. What is it about VGM (or these kinds of hobbies in general) that does that to people? Regardless of the answer to that question dropping back down to Earth at that point was a good thing.

Zorbfish May 13, 2012

Ashley Winchester wrote:

For the most part it's too hard to explain without rattling off a name and a site which I have no intention of doing.

Considering there are only 2 that are in any kind of active operation you don't even have to name drop,... unless there are actual new sites beyond OSV and SEMO. I think I can read into your post and I agree, but both sites have their issues.

I've flirted with the idea of writing myself, I do have some stuff written offline, but what ultimately stops me from publishing is that:
1. Who cares what you think, I can just download it and listen myself.
2. Where's the download link? See #1

That seems to be my interpretation of the (majority of the) VGM audience, nowadays.

Ashley Winchester May 13, 2012

Zorbfish wrote:

I've flirted with the idea of writing myself, I do have some stuff written offline, but what ultimately stops me from publishing is that:

Well, I originally wrote to inform others but now I do it for another reason: to inform myself. Sometimes my feelings towards a product are kind of murky until I get it on paper. Additionally, I do it for a point of future contrast. I'm sure everyone's run into something they thought loved at one point only to fall out of love with it later. It's those kinds of moments where having something written down would have come in handy had I started earlier.

A bit self-centered I'll admit but I don't see why one should resist the impulse to write.

Anyway, I guess I should close by saying the events above kind of showed me it's a lot easier to write when you don't box yourself into writing about on specific thing - it's better to diversify.

GoldfishX May 13, 2012 (edited May 13, 2012)

Zorbfish wrote:

I've flirted with the idea of writing myself, I do have some stuff written offline, but what ultimately stops me from publishing is that:
1. Who cares what you think, I can just download it and listen myself.
2. Where's the download link? See #1

That seems to be my interpretation of the (majority of the) VGM audience, nowadays.

This is why I don't bother with VGM reviews. There's a difference between writing to sway people into what to buy or what not to buy vs what they should download or not download. On the fence about FFXIII OST? Don't waste $$$, just download it and listen for yourself. I always wrote with the viewpoint "if someone is going to spending $25-$40 to acquire this album, why or why shouldn't they?"

Early on, review sites were essential. STC reviews helped form what I considered something of a VGM cannon, since coming in, my exposure to VGM was basically only what I had played. Arranges and stuff like most Falcom soundtracks were entirely new territory. Adding to the mystique was that a lot of the albums (especially arranges) were long out of print even back then, so they were tricky to find. Plus, there wasn't much information on a number of albums. In reality, that hasn't changed over the course of 14 years.

I wonder whatever happened to Adam Page...His tastes seem right in line with mine.

Edit: Ashley, I do that too, but I just rate tracks going through a soundtrack. It lets me tear through soundtracks quicker. Usually, I'll do a pass/fail rating to weed out what I don't like, then I'll go back and properly rate the tracks that remain. Gives me an excuse to listen multiple times to the best stuff on an album.

Dartannian May 13, 2012 (edited May 13, 2012)

SEMO always struck me as being pretty snobbish and elitist, given some of the things they say in their writing. Some of their writers don't sit well with me at all. I'd rather not point out examples anymore than you would, Ash.

Music reviews, I often read while listening to or sampling the music in question; gives me something to do while still focusing on the music, rather than just sitting back and being a purely passive listener. Especially short reviews.

Some reviews, I don't bother with if they're too long, or aren't addressing the points of the game I'm interested in learning about. A lot of games, you can actually find footage for on YouTube, and after ten minutes, can pretty much decide if you even want to bother with a game or not.

In many cases, I actually consult reviews after the fact, in order to see how other people's opinion corresponds (or clashes) with my own, so before I go saying something like "I like Pokemon!" I'm cognizant of public opinion, and not putting myself out there with something that's wildly unpopular.

Ashley Winchester May 14, 2012

Dartannian wrote:

In many cases, I actually consult reviews after the fact, in order to see how other people's opinion corresponds (or clashes) with my own

Actually, I do this too - but only after I write so I won't be influenced or write what I experienced in someone else's words.

Still, I guess I should have made it clear that despite what becomes of this conversation I don't plan on writing for a website again. Frankly I'm too happy with the freedom I currently have to do that despite the fact it limits who sees it. But again that's not the point.

Dartannian May 14, 2012 (edited May 14, 2012)

Ashley Winchester wrote:

Still, I guess I should have made it clear that despite what becomes of this conversation I don't plan on writing for a website again. Frankly I'm too happy with the freedom I currently have to do that despite the fact it limits who sees it. But again that's not the point.

Admirable!

After all, half the things I write here, don't really expect anyone to read any of it - though I'm certainly glad when they do - and even interject their own thoughts on the subject; still, I, too, use a lot of this for sorting out my own thoughts, as well.

Having to write, film, or produce anything regularly upon scheduled due dates - whether you want to or not - you're going to end up with works that end up sounding forced or unnecessary, if you're being pushed to create content when you really don't have anything to contribute, or simply don't want to contribute (long run-on sentence, I know hmm ). I actually admire the fortitude that columnists have, as well as those who regularly release serialized content.

Chris May 15, 2012 (edited May 15, 2012)

Well, this is awkward, haha. Anonymity is hard in such a small community, hehe.

I think a key thing many people forget is that sites like SEMO, VGMdb, STC, etc. aren't paid services that are run for profit. Their webmasters and contributors are volunteers who have their own full-time jobs and other commitments. I haven't received an ounce of profit for running SEMO, instead actually losing money on hosting, translations, and whatnot. And it's demanded endless hours and efforts. I don't regret it at all, as I'm proud of what the site has achieved and the fact it has made plenty of people happy. It's a labour of love for me, and it will continue to be for years to come (albeit hopefully under a less crappy name). The occasional negative comments do hurt me (I'm more sensitive than people realize), but the positive comments always outweigh them. I don't expect to please everyone, although I am receptive to feedback.

During my running of SEMO, though, I have sometimes let the ball drop and been inefficient at times. That includes delaying putting up two of Ashley's reviews and a few others (although I've never removed pages contrary to the above post). I do feel guilty for that, as I appreciate every contribution and want to make sure they get the full attention they deserve. But occasionally, things just get too much. That said, I am always receptive to prodding and have never asked for exclusivity. It's also true that I have been a little pushy in the past, but at the same time, I think this was sometimes the best approach. And as the current contributors will tell you, I have always thanked them and shown great appreciation for their work. Beyond that, there are definitely times when I have been reckless and stupid -- I started the site when I was 18 and wasn't always mature enough to do the right thing. But I have learned from most of these mistakes.

With respect to SEMO, I would like to perfect, I would like to be ultra-efficient. But pushing myself to do so would make the site a chore, not a passion for me. To put things in perspective, I work full-time in a microbiology laboratory, am halfway through completing a PhD, demonstrate / examine / tutor for undergraduates, am the rep for NZs annual micro conference, and do part-time publicity work to stay afloat. What's more, I like to maintain a decent social life, try to stay in touch with people back in UK, and recently got engaged. With all that going on, I only get to spend an hour or two most days at SEMO  -- times in which I organise the team, edit/publish articles, coordinate interviews, and write my own reviews. But one way to improve this is to make the site less centralised -- this is a major reason I'm merging/upgrading/rebranding to a better system and appointing new leaders.

As an editor-in-chief, I've always been very liberal at SEMO. I've always accepted a range of approaches and it's always up to the writer on the tone, detail, etc. Some of the reviews (my own included) could be considered snobbish, others quite the opposite, but all of them sincere. I guess some readers will suit some reviewers more than others, just as with any other publication. And if a reader disagrees with a review, they can always submit an alternative. I'm also introducing a user comments section for more casual and brief reviews. The good thing is there are other resources also available for those that need further opinions. But while SEMO is a personal project for its contributors, we do try to consider what readers want and try to curtail our series' focuses / interviews appropriately. Anyway, I rambled along enough. wink

Adam Corn May 15, 2012

If I had a Like button on these forums I'd punch it about a dozen times for what Chris just wrote.

Zane May 15, 2012

Chris wrote:

And as the current contributors will tell you, I have always thanked them and shown great appreciation for their work.

Even though I haven't submitted a review to SEMO in a few years, I can absolutely vouch for this. No matter album what the review was about, Chris always was enthused and excited when I'd send over something for the site. I never felt like I was just pitching my articles into a black hole without knowing what was going on or when they'd be published. If there was ever a delay on an update or if my articles didn't go up, I would know why and wouldn't be left me hanging. When I ran the reviews section over at Chudah's Corner I did a horrible job and made some pretty big mistakes (read: I was a total dick to people). Seeing how Chris runs the site and still has the time to have a full-blown work-, school- and social life is something I had wished I was able to see in detail before I took on my editorial duties over at CC, because I'm sure that would have inspired me to have done a hell of a better job both as an editor and as a person.

Chris wrote:

... and recently got engaged.

Holy crap! Congratulations, man! That is most excellent news. smile

Ashley Winchester May 15, 2012 (edited May 15, 2012)

Okay, yes we get it... I'm wrong, I'm a horrible person and I should go away.

Can we move on...

Edit:

And again, I say it again so the person that deserves to hear it hears it - Zane, I apologize for my behavior. You didn’t deserve all that bullshit.

This will be my last post.

Razakin May 15, 2012

Ashley, you do realize that by acting that way, this all seems that you've either misunderstood something badly, or just got a bit too much (sorry for the term but that it feels a bit) butthurt.

Perhaps you typing your point of view would clear what you felt that happened, thus perhaps clearing things in the end.

But then, this whole thing could be just because of ego shiz or some other random nuances with life.

GoldfishX May 16, 2012

Chris wrote:

With respect to SEMO, I would like to perfect, I would like to be ultra-efficient. But pushing myself to do so would make the site a chore, not a passion for me. To put things in perspective, I work full-time in a microbiology laboratory, am halfway through completing a PhD, demonstrate / examine / tutor for undergraduates, am the rep for NZs annual micro conference, and do part-time publicity work to stay afloat. What's more, I like to maintain a decent social life, try to stay in touch with people back in UK, and recently got engaged. With all that going on, I only get to spend an hour or two most days at SEMO  -- times in which I organise the team, edit/publish articles, coordinate interviews, and write my own reviews. But one way to improve this is to make the site less centralised -- this is a major reason I'm merging/upgrading/rebranding to a better system and appointing new leaders.

Once a hobby becomes a chore, there's no way to enjoy it again. Hope all this works out.

Chris wrote:

I'm also introducing a user comments section for more casual and brief reviews. The good thing is there are other resources also available for those that need further opinions. But while SEMO is a personal project for its contributors, we do try to consider what readers want and try to curtail our series' focuses / interviews appropriately. Anyway, I rambled along enough. wink

One thing that every review site has lacked is just that...a user comments section. I think once this is implemented, it will see a lot of use from people. Think of something like Amazon or even the old Game Music Online site, where you can get a quick impression from tiny reviews from a large number of people. Ultimately, I think that will be more useful than 1-2 longer, but more detailed reviews. But again, I'm thinking in terms of buying decisions and not art appreciation.

Leon Jun 5, 2012

I've been a contributor to SEMO for almost a year now, yet I've never been mad at Chris for not getting material of mine edited and published on the site on time, every time. He's got problems of his own, some of them simply too much to deal with at times, and so I both respect and empathize with his current obligations (of which I've had plenty, though I'm a good deal younger).

What genuinely infuriates me in the game music community is the general standard to which game music reviews are held. Not naming names, there are a lot of old reviews (all of which lack dating, thanks to Chris not dating when he publishes articles/reviews on SEMO) that I find to be poorly-written, full of badly-articulated arguments, and generally a waste of time to read. This is most common with Pokemon soundtrack reviews, apparently. Even though mainline Pokemon music itself is, at the least, competent, there are a lot of reviews on RPGFan and SEMO that misunderstand the purpose and qualities of Pokemon game music, and/or lack technical knowledge, not to mention poor structuring and lack of insight overall. Of course, though, these reviews have gotten a lot better over the years, but it's pretty embarrassing to head back to earlier days, when VGMdb wasn't around as an informative guide for the game music community, and when I could have never found information on the soundtrack to Gotzendeiner!

My goal with my game music reviews, right now and possibly forever, is to differentiate them from the enthusiast mentality of past reviews, for the most part. It's easy enough to find information and impressions of game music albums these days—much less can be said for any analysis of the way that game music interplays with game design and presentation to create immersive, memorable experiences within both mediums (games being the most complex art-form and music being the purest, the least complex). I've only ever seen a couple writers try to really dig into these music analysis aspects, while everyone else just explains the music in written form, which completely misses the point of writing a review in the modern game music community (—when everyone can listen to that particular track on YouTube anyway, there's little need for technical description, and more of a need for greater analysis). Ashley: you've actually done a few impressive reviews of Mega Man soundtracks in the past, and I sincerely wish you could get back into writing just to give me some competition! But I can't be so selfish. SEMO is the site most likely to publish my material as is, and it's only going to become more efficient and well-organized with the upcoming site upgrades.

I hope everyone at Soundtrack Central, VGMdb, and other sites dedicated to game music can keep enjoying these articles of mine and others, to some extent. It's hard for me to write these articles if I don't feel like I've done a thorough examination of the albums and material at hand, so it does take me a while. Nevertheless, I'm just plain-interested in talking about both games and game music, so I'm game for almost anything that interests me in this field.

Chris Jun 8, 2012 (edited Jun 8, 2012)

I think your approach to reviewing is admirable, Leon, and it can be inspiring to read more detailed analyses of albums. As I've said to you privately too, I appreciate how you relate things to in-game context and are always mindful of the original composers' intentions.

All that said, I don't think there is a universal way to review. Just look at how film reviews vary: from long insightful analyses of intellectuals, to the crisp topical opinions from columnists, to the brief subjective comments from users. No one style will appeal to everyone, but they'll each have some use for a certain type of reader -- even when the movie is out there to illegally download. Likewise at SEMO, I've published reviews that could be categorised in each of these types, generally emerging from different users. If contributors want to submit them and members of the audience like them, then I'm certainly not going to intervene to promote my preferred way. This is perhaps why reviews like Leon's find a good place here.

When I write a review, my main aim is to consider one question: 'is this product good value for people'? That involves considering the audience, weighing the pros and cons, and justifying based on a number of factors (including entertainment value, musical depth, game context). I can't create an absolute, objective judgment, but try to be considerate of the audience. I personally find more analytical reviews exhausting to write, and sometimes read, and prefer to focus on writing on a range of medium-length reviews as part of an album series. But that's just what works for me and I know it doesn't suit others on staff. It doesn't please everyone, but I still receive plenty of positive feedback.

I do edit reviews for many contributors though. That's usually either to flesh out the detail, make the writing more concise, or remove directly offensive language. I can't rate the Pokemon coverage at SEMO or RPGFan, as I've not had any experience with the franchise. It's one of the few series on the site that I know hardly anything about and I didn't do much when editing those reviews for presentation. If there are major errors at SEMO, I am receptive to making edits if I am pointing to them. But in terms of the writing style, I think it's a case where the existing reviews would benefit from being supplemented by more analytical articles, as opposed to being simply removed. I'm looking forward to seeing you do with this, Leon, and the remainder of the Technosoft articles.

Tommy, thanks for your kind words. I really appreciate them!

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