State of the Site 2016: Where Do We Go From Here?
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State of the Site 2016: Where Do We Go From Here?

This year sucked.

I’m not just talking about the seemingly psychotic level of death and destruction our current events gave us, or even the American presidential elections (although that did suck in its own, special way). Nope, I’m talking about the operations of this small corner of the Internet. Life put this website on the backburner for most of the year which killed or stalled several new additions to the site I wanted to do. Reviews didn’t just slow down, they got clogged into a ‘Not Done’ pile that may never truly be rectified. And a lot of this isn’t confined to 2016. Several aspects of the site have gone downhill over the past few years. It just took this long for it to finally crater.

So, that begs the question: where do we go from here?

It’s a subject that has been on my mind for a few weeks now, because just coming back and picking up where I left off like nothing happened is short-sighted at best. I have no intention of excusing 2016, but I do hope this post will be a continuation of learning from it to actually build a better gaming site for you guys. So, let’s start from the top: the reviews.



Before we truly begin, let me say I’m very sorry to the developers throughout the years who had been expecting a review of their work and have never gotten it. I’m not going to offer any excuses on that one because I made a commitment and didn’t keep it several times over. If VNs Now is going to be the site I and many of you want it to be, then this is where we need to start. For the most part, it’s just going to take a lot of hard work to get the reviews backlog back to homeostasis. But there are steps I can take to make the process more open.

The first step is simple enough and that’s telling you guys what reviews I’m working on. I’ll be adding a section to the main page of the site this weekend to keep track of the reviews we are actively working on during each month with the goal to update the section weekly based on writing progress. When I’m running in my top gear, I can do four or five reviews in a month. Getting back to that is the long-term goal of the progress section, but until I do we’ll be in overclock mode just to catch up. Hopefully, if there is any stagnation, it can be caught immediately. As of this moment, these are the reviews I’m working to get out by the end of the week and their current statuses:

  • Lucid9: Still playing….yeah.
  • Just Deserts: Game completed, haven’t started writing reviewing yet.
  • One Night Stand: Still playing.
  • VA-11 HALL-A: Frist draft done.
  • Solstice: First draft done.
  • One Small Fire at a Time: First draft done.
  • Backstage Pass: First draft halfway done.
  • The Lion’s Song: Still playing.
  • Forgotten Not Lost: First draft done.
  • Redacted Life: First draft done.

After that we’ll have round two before the end of the year. This will be talked about more in the next section, but my major focus at least for the next three months is cleaning up the reviews backlog and correcting this error. I am also going to be working on bringing more contributors to VNs Now and do some more promoting other game reviews in 2017. I had always hoped that this site could be a piece of the larger conversations around this subgenre as it growed. That hope has faded some as the last few years as the site become more insular, but opening back up and connecting to other opinions is a worthy process.

I’m already working on the guidelines and even some contributing pieces right now that should be up on the site before Christmas. I’m not sure if we’ll go back to looking for regular reviews signed up under the ‘VNs Now’ banner. And, again, there will be a process to ensure it is something that contributes and isn’t just mindless yelling (I do enough of that for everyone B)). But, for those who just want to contribute some thoughts every now and then, my goal for next year is to open the door for you.

Of course, I cannot guarantee this will work in all cases and that life won’t interrupt these plans. I still need the basic human requirements which means I still need to earn a paycheck at least for now. But this is what my energy for VNs Now will be going towards immediately. I’ll also be working on a long-term goal to make my reviews more useful analytically and to broaden conversation instead of just being an opinion piece. I’ll share more of those plans in the future.


End of the Year List

This has been a perpetual issue since 2014 and the last time I finished the Best Ofs on time was 2013. For me, that’s a sign that it might be time to change the format going forward into something that better fits into the life I’ve suddenly found myself in. I’ve bounced back and forth on shortening the categories I reward on or just replacing the entire thing with a Top 10 list. Unfortunately, there is no decision either way and the big problem is still that I cannot give awards to games I haven’t played. So, for now, the issue is put on the backburner and until further notice the Best Ofs and other End of the Year lists are postponed.

The entire section will be getting a long overdue overhaul over the next few weeks as well and any incomplete lists should be corrected in that timespan. The entire site is in much needed of a logistical overhaul, but this is the easiest place to start and it’ll allow me to finally put up the wonderful minimalist poster done by Katy133. Like the reviews, I’ll be looking at ways to better integrate analysis into these lists instead of just having a digital trophy room. There is a definite need to understand why some games receive adulation from me and why some don’t and using the End of the Year lists as a hub for that information is, for me, much more noteworthy than just releasing a list and moving on.

So where does this leave 2016? Well, even though I haven’t reviewed a lot there are several games I’ve played that deserve accolades whether that be in the form of a Top 10 list or traditional best of or just me sitting here gushing about them. Along the Edge, Solstice, One Night Stand, One Small Fire at a Time, Redacted Life and VA-11 HALL-A all come to mind when I think about the VNs that defined this year. Regardless of if I get to formally recognize them and all the other standout visual novels of the year, I sincerely hope everyone has played them or is going to play them moving forward.

There are some other things I want to get into, like our lack of news stories for the past six months and what we’re going to do about our other media outlets. But these two things are the immediate goals I have in line for myself and the site. And above all else, I want to ensure by this time next year, VNs Now is a focused, consistent website that does more than just trash a bad VN every once in a while.  Once I’m confidant those goals have been met, we’ll get into the rest of the site and what will be done to bring everything back to code during the Winter of 2017.

I sincerely appreciate everyone who has been patient with this site and I over 2016. Ironically, most of my opinions over the year have been relegated to social media and I’m enjoy whatever time I can get to interact with all of you there. As we go through this process, your input and feedback isn’t just necessary, is it deeply appreciated. As I said, this site is supposed to be a piece of a conversation and that starts with us continuing to talk where and when we can.

Here’s to a new year of building a better gaming site. JP3: OUT.

Written by JP3 - December 19, 2016