Monday, January 10, 2011

Interviews with Runescape Fan Sites: Global-RS

Today's interview is with Aliensvortex, founder, owner and developer of Global-RS. Global-RS is known for their high quality guides. I also love Global RuneScape Herald - an awesome Runescape newspaper. It used to be one of best (if not the best) in 2007-2008 (it's not as active anymore, but there are some promising signs of revival :))
Enjoy the interview!

How would you describe your site in a few words?
A: A small, but friendly and helpful RuneScape community with high quality guides and tools for RuneScape players of all levels.

Q: Can you tell us about major milestones of your site? A little bit of a history?
A: The site was started in March 2005. Back then, I didn't really have any experience with making websites, but a few friends and myself decided to try making a fan site for RuneScape anyway. I don't really remember what inspired me to do it, but I enjoyed it and quickly learned more about coding web sites and everything else related to running websites. However, I soon realized that the others who started the site with me had lost interest, so for a few months I did everything by myself. It started out as a site on a free web host, and it wasn't until September 2005 that I actually got a domain name for Global-RS.
Most of the milestones actually coincide with the anniversaries of the website: In March 2006, a set of advanced skill calculators was added to the website. In March 2007, we released the item database, and in March 2008 we released a lot of small community-oriented features such as hiscore history, community hiscores and upgraded the calculators from 2006. We didn't have a major new feature in 2009, but in 2010 we released a new design, which is the one currently used. Most of the other features on the site are a product of continual development.

Q: What were your original goals for the site?
A: I felt that the existing fan sites put quantity over quality, and I wanted to do it better myself. Over time, I realized that it is simply impossible to make a comprehensive site with absolutely everything. Therefore, today we're focusing less on a having information about everything, and instead focusing more on making the existing content we have the best possible (you could say that we're still putting quality over quantity). This was partly due to the Knoweldge Base, which didn't exist when Global-RS was started. Instead of focusing on basic content which already exists in the Knowledge Base, we're now focusing more on walkthroughs and tools that can help players beyond the plethora of information Jagex has published in their Knowledge Base.

Q: Was it the first web site you ever created?
A: No, I had created a few other websites, but I doubt they were ever seen by anyone but my friends. Global-RS is the first website that has attracted a significant number of visitors.

Q: What technologies were used to create the site? Did you add new technologies into the mix after you created the original version?
A: Originally, the site was made with basic HTML and frames. However, updating the menu became tedious as I added more pages, so I decided to learn PHP to deal with that, while relying on simple HTML for the content.
The underlying PHP code was completely rewritten for the March 2008 update, when all content was moved to a MySQL database and made editable through an administration panel. Since then, I've used more and more JavaScript for various features on the site, but as I've said earlier, it has mostly been a continuous development with no major switches in technology.

Q: Is there a unique feature/service your site provides to Runescape players?
A: We've focused a lot on good tools on Global-RS. For example, in the monster database, it is possible to open a calculator that shows how many times you have to kill a monster to either level up attack, strength, defence, hitpoints, ranged or slayer using any of the combat styles, which is something really useful for training combat. In the past we've had several other unique features that have later been copied by other fansites. For example, we were the first site where it was possible to only list members-only or free-only quest guides. We were also the first site with the ability to compare item stats, and the first site to have a hiscore history which shows any player's skill progress over time. We're also planning more features that do not exist on other sites, but which we will not reveal just yet.

Q: Which feature/service took the most time and effort to create?
A: The current version of the item database took a lot of time to create. It is also very time consuming to keep it up to date.

Q: Which feature/service was the most complex from the programming stand point?
A: Right now I believe either the item database, calculators or forum hiscores were the most complex because in all of those projects, I had to spend a lot of time learning about things I didn't have any previous experience with. However, I'm currently working on a new (somewhat secret) project, which is quite unique, that is extremely complex - much more complex than any previous single project.

Q: Is there a feature/service of the site you are most proud of?
A: The item database, forum hiscores and calculators.

Q: Did you start the site alone or with friends?
A: I started the site with friends who lost interest after only a couple of weeks, so I was effectively the only one that ran the site in its early stages.

Q: Are you the only developer of the site's code?
A: Yes.

Q: What is the most difficult/challenging task you have to do to maintain the site?
A: I'd say the community part is the most difficult, because it's a completely unpredictable factor which takes a lot of time. Especially when there's any sort of "internet drama", which does happen from time to time. It is often hard to keep everyone happy, but we try the best we can.

Q: Did you even had to deal with hostility and/or attacks from other fan sites?
A: Not from any major fansite, no. We used to have a clan which sometimes got into trouble with other clans and people from both clans were joining the other clan simply to spam and flame. We've also had instances of small, new fansites that tried to PM every active member on Global-RS asking them to join the new site, but those issues were usually resolved quite quickly.

Q: Did you ever consider making money with the site or is it just a hobby?
A: I've considered it. I do not think the users would mind if I did actually made money with the site as it would allow me to spend more time working on it. However, I am currently spending more (on hosting and domain names) than I earn from advertisements, so it currently isn't more than a hobby.

Q: What do you think about the current Jagex's fan sites support program? Do they do too much, too little? Is there something you'd wish would go differently?
A: I think they were too late in recognizing the importance of fan sites in the RuneScape community. They've certainly done a much better job working with fan sites lately, but I think they can still improve in many ways. For example, we'd love to have more interactions between our members and Jagex such as by having a Jagex account posting officially on our forums from time to time. Also, many fansite owners are very interested in getting direct access to more information from the game, such as up-to-date item prices (we can only get approximate prices from the GE website), possibility of accessing players information such as non-ranked skills (even free players which do not have an adventurer's log). I also think that they've been a little strict with the advertisement policy they have with fan sites (we are not allowed to advertise for other games, which makes it hard to use certain advertising networks as they insist we should have gaming ads as a gaming-related site).

Q: What kind of Runescape player are you? Which Runescape aspect is most appealing to you: quests, role-playing, skilling, pking, minigames etc.?
A: Mostly a skiller. I rarely do mini-games, pking or role-playing, and I'm not a very active quester either. I used to play daily, but lately I haven't been able to play as much due to "real life" issues getting in the way.

Q: Do you follow/read Runescape blogs and news papers from other sites?
A: Yes, I regularly check blogs and fansites to keep up to date with what's happening at other sites.

Q: Is there something you don't mind revealing about your RL (age, country, hobbies etc.)?
I'm a 20 year old Norwegian male. I've actually worked on Global-RS since I was 14! With the coding experience I got from working on Global-RS, I've gotten a great job as a part-time web systems developer, and I'm also studying computer science. I'm also very active in Norwegian politics, but it's something I intentionally never discuss on Global-RS. I also love hiking in the mountains, skiing (hey, I'm Norwegian, what do you expect?) and rock climbing.

Thank you very much, Aliensvortex!

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