Article / News

Welcome (Back) to RPGFan

It is with immense pleasure that I get to welcome you to a new RPGFan experience today. What you’re seeing now is the culmination of years of work. To even be able to write about and present this to you is a surreal experience. There is a reason an internal name for this project has been both Green Dream and Grand Dream (well, the desire to complete it plus our fondness for Chrono Trigger). There is so much to introduce you to, but first, I want to share a quick look at the little-known origins of this project:

What is a “Game” Anyway?

This image is of a functioning page I built in 2003-2004, when I first wanted to overhaul RPGFan’s structure and offer a cohesive place for readers to learn about a specific game, access its related features, reviews, media, music reviews, and basic info all in one place. But even in 2003, we had so much hand-coded HTML content that it was a monumental order to try and build these for every game we covered. And that was before we had over 3400 games within our sphere of coverage!

We soon learned the only logical path forward for the project was to rebuild the site on a modern CMS platform. But we’re all volunteers here, and between 2008 and 2016, I lost track of how many false starts we had with various developers! As if to answer our prayers to the elder emerald gods, Mark Tjan returned to us in late 2016 and the latest modernization attempt began. And today you are seeing the results: An entirely new set of capabilities, look, and feel for RPGFan. It has been a monumental task over the last few years, but finally, we are here. Let’s talk about what it means.


New Features

It won’t take you long to see what’s new at RPGFan. Our navigation has been restructured, with our new “Games” section taking center stage. The front page finally allows us to feature more than two items. Every post on the front page now has an image and a summary. The list goes on, but I’m going to highlight some of the best ones:

Games

Since this whole project was built around “Games,” of course that comes first. Games are the reason we exist, so it stands to reason the games themselves are now the backbone of our content. It’s what everything ties into. Browse something in our Games section and you’ll understand. Look at Chrono Trigger for example, and you’ll instantly get the picture: Game hub pages collect related articles, game and music reviews, all media, and include an overview of the platforms a game is available on, initial release date, and more. Likewise, everything on the site about a game ties back to its parent hub page, so you’re always one or two links away from everything you need about whatever game you’re interested in. We’re incredibly pleased at how everything ties together, and we hope you enjoy this new way of browsing!

Dark Mode

We heard you! Every time we would switch to a temporary dark theme on the site, people asked for a dark mode toggle. This was going to be a “one day” feature, but we’re pleased it could become a launch feature. Toggle this on with the Dark Mode button near the bottom of your screen and embrace the darkness.

Commenting

Yes, you can comment on posts now! We have limited this to news posts and other articles, so you won’t be able to directly comment on things like reviews, but please share your thoughts on news posts. Just be cool, okay?

About

Something that had often been requested both by readers and the staff is the ability to browse all posts or reviews by a single author. At last, by clicking the author’s name on a post or on the About page, this is finally a reality. So now you can finally see just how many reviews people such as Bob Richardson have written during their time here (spoilers: it’s a lot).

No More Interstitial Pages

What the what now? Whatever you may have called them, we know many of you didn’t like having to click from the front page to a post introducing a review and then the review itself. It was cumbersome for reading, and as fun as it could be for us to write introductions to our teammates’ work, it just added another layer to the process. It was something we were stuck with on our old system, but no more—thankfully for us and for you, these are a thing of the past. Now when there is a new review or feature on the front page, clicking it will take you straight to what you want.

Woman running out of an office excitedly cheering
This is how we all feel about this change.

More Sorting, Searching

For years, we offered basic sorting on our old review pages, but at some point in time, that sorting stopped working properly. Now, on our main Games, Reviews, and Music pages, we have both a useful search experience (will anyone miss our old Google site search?), but sortable lists as well. This should help you find what you want much faster.

More Discoverable Features

We reimagined the whole of RPGFan, and extra attention was spent on our new Features page. We’ve added new categories, making it easier to find things like our popular “So you want to get into…” game primers. Tina’s frequent Crowdfunding Chronicles has a home here, along with traditional feature categories like Games of the Year, Retro Encounter Final Thoughts, and more. We spent a lot of time breaking these out and installing a simple filtering menu, to help you discover features you may have never known we had.

Faster for Us, Better for You

I cannot begin to explain to you the efforts it took to make a post on the old site, and may the Twelve help you if you ever made a typo in a news post. We had a cool and helpful program that updated our front page, but the fact was that if you had to make an adjustment to a headline, it meant logging into our server and literally changing four files in three different locations. Our L.A.R.A. Updater served us well for years, but it was time for a change. Making posts on RPGFan is exponentially faster now, and easier to edit. This drastically-reduced friction means we can spend less time training people; it means doing something that should be simple like adding images and video to news posts is actually simple, and so much more. It means getting more timely coverage to you and less busy work for the team here. Literally everyone benefits from this.


What’s Ready, What’s Still to Come

Explore the new RPGFan a bit, and you’ll come across some missing images or content, though these are temporary omissions. With a task this massive, we had to do things in stages. Absolute priority for launch day was that we had all of our game and music reviews and all games in our new system. I couldn’t overstate the time that went into this: I’ve never worked on spreadsheets so massive. At over 2000 game reviews, 2000 music reviews, and over 3000 games, each of which had a row of data that needed checking and research, we spent an obscene amount of time on data entry. But this allowed us to launch today with every single review intact, and every single game associated with our content under Games. Even if they don’t have related content yet!

To ensure we could launch and not keep people working on two sites simultaneously like some of us have this summer, we had to delay certain transitions. As of now, here is what you will find on the site and our progress on the rest. All of these items have to be manually moved over, so it’s simply a matter of time:

  • Game reviews, music reviews, and games: 100% done
  • Media/galleries: approx. 450 games have galleries, which is around 25% of the total (We have upwards of 150,000 media files to port!)
  • Music review samples: currently none, as there was no way to automate this. We plan to re-introduce these moving forward, but have not yet decided on a path for retroactively doing so. It’s so easy to find music online now, we have to seriously weigh and pros and cons, and we will continue to evaluate.
  • News: currently we have brought over all news for the current year. In time we will bring over more.
  • Features: currently we have all features from 2020, plus some popular features from previous years, such as our Top 20 PSP RPGs, and Top 20 RPGs of the 90s. We are working to bring over all features as soon as we can.
  • Forums: these weren’t something we could bring over intact, since our old forum software wasn’t going to play nice with our new platform. But hey, most of you moved to our Discord server anyway. That said, we have brand-new forums, and we’d love to get our forum community going again!

Here’s to Another 22 Years

RPGFan turned 20 in 2018, but this move is a milestone almost as large. We are incredibly excited about the change, as it will allow us to improve the site in ways we’ve only dreamed of for, well, a very long time. It’s the foundation for our future, and a culmination of years of planning, effort, design, and development. We are fully aware at how rare it is for a site like ours from the tail end of the 1990s to still be running—let alone thriving—today. Our hats are off to our friends at RPGamer, who have been around for almost the same amount of time as us, and whose volunteer efforts also keep them a strong voice for our beloved genre.

I speak for all of us here at RPGFan when I thank each and every person who reads the site. Whether you’ve been with us since LunarNET in 1998 or just found us last month, it means a lot that you find us a useful resource. We will always continue to bring you what we’ve been doing for over two decades: Extensive RPG Coverage.

Please let me know your thoughts below or email me via our new Contact page.

Be part of the conversation and join us on our Discord, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Mike Salbato

Mike Salbato

Mike has been with RPGFan nearly since its inception, and in that time has worn a surprising number of hats for someone who doesn't own a hatstand. Today he attempts to balance his Creative Director role with his newfound Editor-in-Chief status. Despite the amount of coffee in his veins, he bleeds emerald green.

16 Responses to Welcome (Back) to RPGFan

Derek Heemsbergen
Derek Heemsbergen

Congrats on the site relaunch, guys! Rooting for you!

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Breeze

VERY exciting, gang! Congratulations on such a monumental effort!

Jbumi
Jbumi

👏🏽 - Standing ovation for all your (the whole staff's) hard work!! Here's to many more decades to come indeed! 👍🏽 😸

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biaxidentm

Congrats! The site looks great!

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spacecowgoesmoo

I made a javascript tool that might be useful with getting the music samples running again, if you decide to. It powers all the playlists on my own site - https://github.com/spacecowgoesmoo/BasicAudioButtonJS

Rudo
Rudo

Congrats on the awesome achievement. People have no idea how complicated the process of moving old content to a new website is. I've been involved in attempts to get this done on RPGFan in the last decades and it's a nightmare. What Mike and the rest of the staff has done is outstanding. Hats off to them!

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Terithian

Hey, the new site looks great! Definitely a vast improvement over the old one. I'm sure it was a lot of work, but it was definitely worth it! Just a couple minor issues that you might want to look into if you feel like it, when you have the time: 1) The new "games" section is great, but both it and the reviews section have no way to see platform without clicking into the game itself. There should probably be a column for platform, and some way to filter by platform like on the old site. I personally really liked being able to filter by platform, as it was very useful for discovering new (or old!) games to play. 2) The dark mode looks great, but when you have it on, every page starts on light mode and has to animate to dark mode, which gets annoying. I probably won't use it because of that. 3) This is very minor, but the articles on the front page are huge and necessitate a lot of extra scrolling, which can be annoying if you're trying to quickly scan titles for something you're interested in. Maybe you could have an optional alternate view mode that makes things a bit smaller? A quick example of that would be the Anime News Network website's front page, which has buttons in the top right which change how articles are displayed in the list.

NightmareVortex
NightmareVortex

Yay! Dark Mode is here! And the new site is blazing fast too! Congrats on the new site you beautiful people. I know it ain't easy to rebuild a website and it takes a long time and lots of effort too. Thanks for the great coverage all these years. It's time to celebrate now!

Mike Salbato
Mike Salbato

@Terithian: Several people have spoken up about an option to search by platform again. It's something we're looking into for a future revision, but we want to make sure it's working right first! We originally planned on including platform in the main lists, but so many modern games release on 3-6 platforms, and it severely cluttered the list view, especially on mobile, so we decided against it. As for dark mode, that behavior is something we're looking into, but don't have anything more to report yet. The article sizing may be something we can do down the road, so we will consider it. Thanks for the feedback! @spacecowgoesmoo: Thank you for the offer! We actually do have an idea of what to do, it's simply that the amount of time it would take to retroactively add them all may not be our best use of time when it could be used for other improvements. But we appreciate it! To everyone else: Thank you! It's been a lot of work, but I'm pleased you're enjoying it.

Sakurazukamori
Sakurazukamori

Congratulations.

Giga_Force
Giga_Force

Is there any way to retrieve an archive snapshot of my old profile on the forums? I always tend to keep pics of things like for historical purposes haha.

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erichni

Hey congrats on the new design! Cheers from a longtime reader from Brazil!

Mark Tjan
Mark Tjan

Sadly not at this time. We may be able to do it in the future, but the old forums are currently defunct.

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Heeho

The early 2000s layout have me serious nostalgia.

deleroth
deleroth

Man, any filtering option on the review page would be nice. Everything being reliant on searching makes certain games that have similar words a pain (looking at you, Summoner).

Mark Tjan
Mark Tjan

@deleroth We're developing a better search engine for a soon-ish future update. :)

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