Issue #5 - Thursday 14th July 2011The Future of Stellar Dawn Central
By Iceman, PoultryChamp, Ren and Spire
To celebrate the one year anniversary of the formal announcement of Stellar Dawn and the release of StellarDawn.com we've got a special issue of the SDC Post, with four different authors. We'll each be focussing on a different aspect of SDC's future.
The future of SDC's content (by Ren)Hey all. Back in April 2009 I wrote MechScape Post #8: The Future of MechScape World. That article explained that we intended for MechScape World to be operated like "a typical RuneScape fansite", but that's not our plan for Stellar Dawn Central. When it came to figuring out what we wanted from an SDC content management system we tried to figure out precisely what we needed, and came to the conclusion that as the game wasn't out yet it was really hard to determine. This meant that whatever solution we worked on would have to be highly flexible and allow for rapid addition of not just new content but new types of content. We were also considering how to handle the floods of submissions from players of new information and modifications, and the scale of the challenge became quite clear.
This situation led us to consider having a wiki to allow for the rapid addition, categorisation and updating of content. Our first thoughts were for this to be a separate part of the site which then fed content back for use on the main site, but we thought this could lead to confusion and duplicated effort. So, ultimately, we decided to go all the way and make as much of our website as possible powered by MediaWiki (the software behind Wikipedia), with a unified login shared with our forums. Tools will most likely be custom-coded, and the homepage will be hand-crafted to draw in information from all the relevant sources. However, instead of having parts of our site jarringly look like Wikipedia we are working to make everything look consistently like a high-quality fansite. While the details have yet to be finalised, our aim is to have the website content be as user-editable and user-run as possible, and I expect that we'll have the wiki up before too long.
However, while the technical aspects of managing the content may have changed a lot since 2009, our general attitude remains the same. To paraphrase my previous editorial (replacing references to MechScape with ones to Stellar Dawn): "At the moment we are in the realm of 'information scarcity', where solid information on Stellar Dawn is hard to come by and requires a great deal of research. We've built our reputation on our ability to be the first to find such fragments of information and our practice of making the most of what little we have. However, as soon as the beta is released we will face a huge paradigm shift in our relationship with information. We will move to the realm of 'information abundance', where the challenge will be collecting all of the data in a uniform manner, sorting it and making it accessible. We will need to become instant experts, which can only be achieved by working together effectively and all putting in 110%. The first few months will be a crazy and frantic time, but it should also be fun - being one step ahead of the general Stellar Dawn population, investigating, exploring, finding stuff out and getting as many scoops as we can... now that's research!"
The future of SDC's brand (by Spire)When MechScape World became Stellar Dawn Central we weren’t just changing our name, but also our brand and our identity.
In the Stellar Dawn announcement video, released one year ago today, Mark Gerhard was wearing a t-shirt with four different icons which we inferred were insignias for the four playable species. We adopted these four symbols as a logo for Stellar Dawn Central's forum. However, as the logo was not created by us and was quite bulky, it didn't suit our tastes for the long term. We realized that we needed to make a logo of our own for use on the new website design. We wanted this logo to be something that we could use with ease in things like banners, favicons, watermarks and social networking avatars.
Much of the same criteria that was important in choosing our name is also important in choosing our new symbol; such as being unique and memorable. We wanted to create something that would represent our site for years to come. Even with great concepts and talented artists creating a new logo can present some difficulties. This is due to the fact that the logo must be usable with different backgrounds, opacities, and colour depths and across various mediums. Therefore behind the scenes we've been very hard at work to ensure that the logo can be applied to all that comes its way.
Our new logo is very sleek. Thanks to the work of the graphics team and other members of staff we have been able to create a brilliant logo featuring a simplistic city and moon. This logo gives a very futuristic and streamlined feel with the 'city' aspect representing us being 'central'. As a special treat today, we would like to present a video introduction featuring Stellar Dawn Central’s new logo:
Stellar Dawn Central has very ambitious goals which won’t become a reality without the awareness of the Stellar Dawn community as a whole. Our first and possibly most important step in creating this awareness was to create a “brand” for ourselves. Through the process of “branding” and your continued support, we’ll eventually be able to expand and improve.
The future of SDC's website design (by Iceman)Hi, my name is Riho Kroll or Iceman, as most of you know me by. I was recruited some months ago to help design the new Stellar Dawn Central website. Soon afterwards, I also received a staff position as a graphic designer. And so, I'm here to talk about the design and development process of the upcoming Stellar Dawn Central website redesign.
Many of you remember that some time ago, I made a design for the SDC home page, which didn't yield any particularly substantial results. I feel it is now time to address this matter. Firstly, I would like to say that we are not using the design in question for the site that is currently in development.
Why, you might be wondering? One of the reasons for this was that, simply, that design was not good enough for what needed to be achieved.
But then what is it, precisely, that needs to be achieved? The keywords here are mostly content browsing and content management, which means that whatever content the users are looking for should be available to them without much effort and, as such, it should also be easy for content creators to support that. I feel that this is where the original design failed, mostly since it was never really meant to fulfil that purpose to begin with.
This new design was then made from the ground up to fulfil the following goals:
- Content Browsing & Management
- Usability and Ease of Use
- Visual Fidelity
- Wide compatibility with different OS, monitor and browser configurations.
Our goal is to test the website against usability-related flaws. This is done through usability testing. But what does it mean and why can't any previews be shown? The nature of usability testing is to observe users as they use a piece of software or a website, for example. This is done to see whether users understand features of the software or the website as they were designed. In order for this to work, the conditions of the test must replicate the "normal" situation a person would be in as closely as possible. So if we showed you a preview of the website and then called you in for testing, you would already know where certain things are and what they do. This means that we wouldn't know if a certain feature of the website was causing users trouble.
So with that said, nearing the release of the website, we will be asking members of the community to use the site. Anyone will be able to apply, apart, of course, from the staff. Further details on this will be provided in the future.
Normally this sort of testing is done in a testing environment, but since we do not have such an environment available, we will be conducting these tests through Skype, making use of its screen sharing feature.
So to wrap up this part, although we would all like you to see what we've been working on, we simply can't at this point. Hopefully this has been insightful as to why exactly we can't. However, (shameless plug incoming) for the time being, you can check out my previous work on DeviantArt! :-) Including the first design that, again, we will not be using in any shape or form.
And all this testing non-sense can't of course go without a Portal reference, so I hope to see you guys in your orange suits as soon as possible. No promise of cake has been made, however I can confirm that we will have smooth jazz.
The future of SDC's community (by PoultryChamp)If life on the internet thus far has taught me anything, it's that all bickering dissolves quickly and you are left with shimmering experiences. Enemies whom I took very seriously on a not-very-serious game became my friends. One friend, who I'd actually banned a couple times, became my best friend, boyfriend and eventually moved in with me from across the country. All because of a community based off RuneScape, an MMORPG by Jagex.
You've been told that the community will expand, will grow, and will eventually drift apart once the game is released. Any community - real or online - which grows larger inevitably is open to the threat of dissonance, forming cliques, and petty issues. We've formed an active, tight-knit community on Stellar Dawn Central over the years, and I'd hate to see it fall to the inevitable growing pains it will have. The future of our community, barring a complete cancellation of Stellar Dawn, is growth. Our staff is ready to handle the organizational issues of a larger community. Here's looking to you, the users, to prepare to help and make welcome new members. Be nice, but firm. Teach these new members what's expected of them as they become more involved in the community.
Next in the future of our community are contests, events and community outreach. I can't promise contests as they depend on several factors such as availability of funds and expected participation, but SDC will hold contests on a regular basis if the conditions are right. If doing in-game events is more of your thing then you will enjoy plans to create a community-centric Events Team Staff. This idea has been in the works since the inception our community, but we're missing one major element: Stellar Dawn! When the game is out the founding of the Event Team will be swift as we learn more about the game's minigames. For now, events are forum-based or RuneScape-based, and we have plenty of ideas to keep them coming. We just need you to participate! Community Outreach is not new, as Stellar Dawn Central has donated to non-profit organizations before, but as long as we've got an active community and available funds, we will try to continue to donate to and promote non-political NPOs.
As an administrator of this community, a developer, and EFF member, I also know the value of privacy and freedom to a community. As long as I remain an admin here you can be assured your personal information will never be shared outside of this website. Our rules will never restrict freedom of speech and expression. The atmosphere that Stellar Dawn Central creates should be free from any fears of being suspended, warned, or banned for the topics you discuss. To make members comfortable who might otherwise be uncomfortable with certain responses, we introduced a (G) rating that topic creators can use to indicate that they do not want the topic to expand beyond what can be safely discussed with G-rated material. With a few tweaks here and there, the goal is to remove broad freedom-restricting rules from the community and put that control in the hands of ordinary users. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we see this model work in the free market when companies are able to create policies for their employees whereas the government as a whole is not allowed to. Watch this space. We might just change the whole community website model.
When you pop open a browser and you enter stellardawncentral.com/forums we don't want you to be visiting just another forum. We want to change the expectations of what an online community can create so that you, the user, make the most use of this website and create lasting experiences for yourself. The atmosphere should feel fresh, free, fun, and safe and you go to sleep knowing that by simply participating in the community you are doing some good in the world. Ambitious? Yes.
Jagex and Community News
- The Stellar Dawn Official Forums community will be celebrating the July 14th 2010 release of StellarDawn.com on Saturday, 16th July at a player-created event.
- RuneFest tickets are currently on sale and various members of SDC will be attending.
- Muck Comics, an iOS app rated 9+, has been spotted on Jagex.com.
- Jagex may be planning to modify the RuneScape logo.
- According to Kaspersky Lab, RuneScape accounted for 4.67% of the world's phishing e-mails in May.
- Clan Citadels will be coming to RuneScape on Tuesday, July 26th.
- MMORPG.com have conducted an interview with the Transformers Universe Executive Producer You can read it here and discuss it here.
- SDC Post #4 - 18 June 2011 - Stellar Dawn: A Vision of What it Could Be
- SDC Post #3 - 26 February 2011 - Jagex, Microtransactions and RWT
- SDC Post #2 - 11 February 2011 - The State of Jagex
- SDC Post #1 - 19 January 2011 - FourthScape: Jagex's New(ish) Fantasy MMORPG
Contributors: Alex, Darth Irule, Iceman, Killrrhubarb, Laurie, Pliigi, PoultryChamp, Ren, Spire.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by members of staff do not necessarily represent the view of Stellar Dawn Central.
P.S. Special thanks to everyone who contributed to the SDC logo and intro video and who are involved in the various projects we are working on such as the new website design.