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SamP Blog

GameSpot Fuse and other newness

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This week marks the initial rollout of GameSpot Fuse, which we've been quietly testing with a core group of community users for a while.

It's a real-time personal dashboard of gaming and GameSpot goodness, customizing a stream of updates based on who you follow, what games you follow, and discussions you post in. Later we'll have updates based on what you play (an extension of the previous GameSpot Fuse beta launched last year). There's a lot more on GameSpot Fuse in this post over in the Fuse v2 board.

GameSpot Fuse makes following games useful again. We have more to do to improve the delivery of updates (you won't always have to go to the fuse.gamespot.com site on a PC) as well as the content matching relevance. But we have done a lot to simplify how following works, so it's now a one-click toggle button throughout the site, in gamespaces, in E3, and in the Fuse stream itself.

With this move, we're also clarifying that following and adding games to a list (collection, wish list, and now playing) is quite separate. Per my post in the long-running SE thread, we're also removing the auto-follow background process when you add a game to your collection. These changes aren't quite live yet but will be any day now.

Lots of newness around GameSpot this month and it's gratifying to see things we've talked about internally for so long out on the site. There's a lot of cool new technology behind making GameSpot Fuse work in real-time and I have huge respect for our development and design team that's made this happen.

GameSpot in 2011

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I started at GameSpot in April 2000 and have held a variety of roles, first in editorial but mostly on the site development side. And I haven't been as excited about GameSpot as I am in 2011.

First off, I love all the content experimentation. The editors are getting their opinions out there, showcasing their love of gaming and expertise in videos, and getting some great interviews like the ones for History of Videogames Month (link and link).

And the site is getting a whole bunch of updates. The look and feel and navigation update of the other week isn't the first and certainly won't be the last. There's cool stuff coming around GameSpot Fuse (a personal area of focus). And I've gotten some good deals on games via GameMarket, both in buying and reselling.

Just in time, too. There's lots of interesting stuff happening in the game industry and it should be an exciting E3.

More GameSpot reveals

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Here are three cool new E3 site features I'm excited to see live in the days before E3:

  • Showfloor Map - We've done Flash maps before, but this year we tried to strike an even balance between function (as site navigation and place information) and playfulness.
  • Custom Twitter stream (right-column of E3 page or as a popup) - This custom Twitter app mixes discussions between editors' Twitter accounts and users who reply to them. Even before the show, it's already been an entertaining stream of discussion, and it's only going to get better during the show. To use it as a Twitter app, click the link to pop it out into its own window.
  • E3 Photo Feature - We only have one batch up now, but as the show progresses, many sets of images taken from the show floor and related E3 events will get added to the photostream. We've been pretty limited in how we put up images on GameSpot (only as screenshots or standalone news images), and this is a test for doing more to tell a story with images.

E3 is reborn for 2009, and the new show deserved some extra GameSpot site development effort.

New site experience for GameSpot @ E3 2009

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I'm pretty jazzed about the new E3 site experience we've put together for this year's show. It's less a matrix of modules and more of an information stream, with options for a curated stream of highlights or to apply various custom dynamic filters. So this year, you can slice and dice the huge volume of content GameSpot produces at E3 as you'd like it. Or just periodically check the main E3 page for the highlights, also to be delivered via Twitter.

A couple key features are yet to come...

Nearing Beta's End

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GameSpot Wide's public beta will be ending late next week and we'll be moving the new design over to the main www.gamespot.com site. There's a major batch of changes that will hit the beta site on Tuesday as a part of our regular beta release schedule (past release notes are here).

In addition to many small fixes, two of the significant updates will be:

- major tweaks to the profile index page layout based on user feedback

- addition of the new mini-feed panel into the user box in the top-right of every page. This expanding panel will showcase recent blog and tracked games updates and will also bring back the My Games jump-links pulldown.

Panel preview:

About Me

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I've been quiet on the site for a while, so it might be worth a reintroduction...

I lead the GameSpot "product" group, a small team focused on enhancing and growing GameSpot (plus GameFAQs and SportsGamer) based on the needs of our users, the insights of our editors, and the opportunities presented by partners. We work hand-in-hand with the visual design, technology, editorial, and community teams to drive visible changes to our sites' user experience. We track how our site is used and gather user feedback as key input for future development. We also often stand between editorial and the ad sales team to establish and maintain advertising guidelines.

I started at GameSpot in April 2000 as PC news editor and wore several hats over several years with the editorial group before shifting over to the technical side of the house to oversee the launches of new sites and features (DLX, our in-house community system, a couple generations of our hardware site, GameCenter, and the Download Manager). I've learned a range of tech skills over the years, but I'm not an engineer or user experience designer. My group is more about defining projects in forward-looking ways (via goals, use cases, etc) and staying engaged while the technical and creative experts implement the best, most practical solutions.

For the last year, much of my time has been focused in two areas: upgrading our video offering and the GameSpot Wide redesign.

The video upgrade started with last summer's new Flash video player, which also brought back-end changes enabling the video team to encode and publish videos more efficiently. In the first half of the year we gave the player a facelift that made it more flexible (example: 16:9 vs. 4:3 detection) and easier to embed in various pages on our sites (and it moved to sister sites TV.com and CHOW) and we also rolled out live broadcasting support in Flash for On The Spot and E3.

GameSpot Wide takes our video a few steps further. Since we couldn't fit even the 640-wide (high resolution, but definitely not HD) player in our standard pages before, going to the wider page format was key for re-integrating video into our main pages (no more popup player) and giving us a great canvas to show off the new 540p HD format. Among the reasons we picked the 540p format is that it's the largest size that can fit nicely in-page and it crisply downscales from the 720p HD size we've published as downloads for years (and will continue to publish for subscribers). The "540p" terminology is intended to make it very transparent that we're not pretending to stream full HD. And for where Web video stands right now, I think 540p is the best format for our content, since you don't have to go full-screen to see the native 960x540 resolution like you do with 1280x720.

As for the rest of the Wide redesign, there's more about that here.

GameSpot goes wide + gets HD streams

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It's been a long time coming, so it's hard to express how happy I am to get the new wider GameSpot site up and available to the public. The link has been open for the last week, but we've only started really promoting it today, with this page explaining what's new.

Some might ask why it took us so long to go from the skinny 768-wide design to the new (mostly) 980-wide layout. The simple answer is that the bigger GameSpot has gotten, the more our infrastructure and workflow (for content, promotion, and advertising) gets built around certain standards. Getting those standards changed takes a remarkable amount of work. Fortunately, we got together many months ago and agreed to make changes to free up a new round of innovation on the site.

Apart from great new HD streams, what excites me the most about the GameSpot Wide design is that it represents a new visual and technical framework for the site. That isn't to say that we rebuilt all the site technology (we didn't, although there are a lot of optimizations), just that this update will free us up to more easily enhance key areas of the site, both in terms of creating new visual spaces and cleaning up old logic that was getting in the way. There are great ideas coming from Ricardo and the editorial group (plus user requests) that we're primed to start working on later this year and into 2009.

As with most any project, we won't be getting all the features we'd like done for the official launch. The forums will stay in the old style for now and the new mini-feed feature isn't fully developed. For this launch, we're more focused on ensuring that the core GameSpot experience works reliably in the new look than in getting in all the features we'd love to debut. It's a tall order for such a big site, but we've tackled the issue of delivering a quality experience head-on by scheduling in extensive QA time, performance testing, multiple rounds of usability testing, and a public beta. But it's the resulting user experience that matters, so let us know what you think.

Paramecium

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So I just hit GameSpot level 34 or "Paramecium." While I mulled over how it feels to hold this single-celledrank, I wandered over to Wikipedia to find out all about Paramecia.

I'm glad that the Level Guide thread in Welcome Newbies tells me about the game reference:

Level 34 - Paramecium - I believe this is from Forgotten Worlds for the Turbografx-16. At the end of a stage, your character proclaims, "You cannot stop me with paramecium alone!" Apparently it also appeared in Aero Fighters 2 for the NeoGeo.

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