We are moving along with the creation of the site. We have a number of interesting projects lined up and are already creating a strong and smart community with the people who have donated $15 or more here. The indiegogo is still my (Pete Dodd) gig but everything else business and money wise is handled by Rich Grisham. The last two or so weeks of this indiegogo will be the last time you will be able to get a lifetime subscription (see far below for what it entails, and more will be added in the future) for $15.
Having a "slant towards the consumer" means more to me than just news stories. It means interacting with members of the site. Finding out what they want and being nimble enough to move with that. It also means playing videogames (gasp!). Maybe 1 staff member and 4 subscribers on one team, another staff members and 4 more subscribers on the other team... and play a best out of 7 series of Titanfall (with multiple streams from both sides). There's many ideas we are fleshing out to make this site more than just news - we really want it to be one of the smartest sites on the internet and we hope to attract those types of gamers to the site and our forums. We also want to play games together. The other sites can have the system wars.
As for the design - it's probably going to get resized into weird dimensions by this indiegogo page but here are work in progress looks at what we are trying to do visually.
You have until April 26th to get a lifetime subscription for $15 (see details far below) and in the process help us make the best website we can!
Massive Update 3/22/14
The suggestion I've heard the most over the last several weeks is "you need a business guy." I now have a business guy. Without further ado...
Richard Grisham, host and creator of the Press Row Podcast which is nearing 2 million downloads in less than a year, freelance writer, and corporate ladder climbing business man, approached me about becoming a part of this venture as the head of the business side. Everything this man touches turns to gold. Further details of this partnership will be forthcoming.
Jeff Holtzclaw is doing web design and back end work.
Mike Phillips will be helping with visual design.
There have been other inquiries about the business side of things which we are currently exploring as well.
Many writers have offered their services and this isn't the entire list of people who will fill out the staff but here are some of the writers and contributors...
Gabriel Galliani. 34, Italy - Associated writer for PlayPress Italy for seven years. Owned his own mom + pop game shop called Kaos Games. Inventor of the Sei una Sega, a 6 in 1 Sega console.
Rich McGonigle, 32, Oklahoma, USA - Former community director of Noobtube for 5 years. Staff writer and reviewer for Digitalnoob. Also worked at Gamrank last year, an achievement aggregator. Very prolific in the world of podcasting with 6 years experience and two shows currently.
Richard Leahy, 23, England - Has held a number of different jobs at many small sites. Is currently working on his sociology dissertation about gaming related topics. Will be looking at the gaming world through a sociologist's lense.
Mike Zupan, 31, New York, USA - Writer for DVDtalk. Blogger for Times Union. Mike has a passion for gaming and is frustrated a lack of critical analysis in the press.
Gustavo Lazo, 29, New Jersey, USA - Former staff writer for the New Game Network. Published fiction writer. Self motivated and talented blogger.
Bucky Hacker, 30, Texas, USA - Writer for Texas Bank Lawyer Vol. 37. Article Editor for the Business & Bankruptcy Law Journal, Vol.1. Brings a level of astounding legal knowledge.
Ahsan Rasheed, 27. Pakistan - Ahsan is a doctor and a recent graduate of Dow University of Health Sciences and holds a degree in MBBS. Being a doctor... he will only contribute rarely but we are excited to see what he has to say when he does.
(more to come, watch this space)
If you donate at the $15 tier or higher you get access to the private forum which is not only a good place to chat about games but you also help shape the future of the site. Here are some of the topics we are talking about currently.
Major Update #2
Things are moving along swiftly with the campaign. I have already secured hosting (starting small with a company that can shift us to bigger/better/more expensive servers quickly when needed). Jeff is working on the backend currently. We will have a private forum up for everyone who donated over the $15 amount shortly and we will start bouncing ideas off of you guys as to what you want to see and what you don't.
I have a stack of over 20 people interested in helping that I will need to sift through as we work out the design side of the site. We are going with a wordpress backend that we will modify to suit our needs. I am a minimalist when it comes to design, so the site looking like Polygon/Verge wasn't going to happen even if we raised 3 million dollars.
I did an interview with boogie (the video above, I'm the guy on the left if you don't know who either of us are) which was a huge success and helped generate quite a bit of money. We are on the home stretch now, less than two weeks to go, and everything is coming together nicely. As much as I want the funding to go on... as more money will make things easier, I am really looking forward to getting past this step and getting in there and creating something that helps fill a few of the voids in gaming coverage. The focus will be on the consumer, in everything we do. We may try things that don't work. Reviews, for instance, may be a waste of time. We have the man power to give it a shot though.
As for my business plan, there will be a subscription model setup on the site that anyone who hits the $15 tier or higher will be put into (even if more stuff is added that isn't listed there currently). I have a few ideas of subscriber interaction, like on streaming nights picking a few subscribers at random to team up with and we all can hop on Skype and the stream will be all of us playing, plus our voices. I could easily do one PS4 night and one XB1 night with that setup. It would be even more exciting if we could get some industry personalities to join us as well. Other means of keeping the site sustainable are advertising, which sucks - but required - and just a simple ol' donate button. Also if we go in a video-heavy direction we will also try to monetize that with YouTube, which - again - sorry for the ads.
I also have some ideas in terms of reviews, or mini reviews, looking at games and what their worth is. Something like breaking down all of the PS4/XB1 launch games and now that they are starting to go on sale what price each becomes worth it (if at all... some games, unfortunately, just aren't worth your time, let alone your money).
The ideas are flowing. The funding is picking up. The site is coming together. The staff is coming together. Things are very positive over here right now. And if you haven't contributed yet - please do! Every cent will help make the site better.
Also, if you want to see part two of that interview with boogie, go here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSKupITM0ZE
Major update #1
The funding got off to a wonderful start and has slowed down which is usual for anything not made by Inafune, Shafer, or that Scrubs guy. The hard part has officially begun, which is making the sell to people who have no background info on me, the people who will be helping me, or why this is a worthwhile project. I also need a stroke of luck... someone with a huge twitter following to tweet about it. A random article about it that garners a ton of interest. It's better to be lucky than good, they say. I would prefer to be both.
What I can say is that I have a few ideas to get funding moving (though I do expect it to mostly be flatlined other than a few bumps, which are hopefully large). Beyond that, however, I've gotten more people willing to help than I ever imagined. This will bring down the costs quite a bit. I can't change the goal after having started this IGG, but I do feel confident that I'm already pretty close to having enough money to launch the site with a much larger staff than I expected. I believe the legitimacy of the site will happen quicker because of this and normal avenues of funding (advertising, mostly) will kick in sooner than I expected. As I've stated many times, I'm not pocketing a dime of this IGG. It's all going into the site.
The main reason to hit the goal at this point are for purity reasons. The less we have to rely on advertising the better. Also, IGG pockets a much larger % of the funding for projects that don't hit the goal. I like Indiegogo, but I'd much rather that money go into the site.
Please share this page with as many people as you know. Tweet it at your favorite YouTubers or other independent gaming voices. If you are fourth cousins with Ashton Kutcher ask him for a twitter favor. I need you guys for this to work.
All in all it's been a spectacular start. I knew the flatline was coming (as it does on all crowd-funding) and now it's time to find a way to push through that. I will soon have some announcements about uses of the money already earned as construction will begin earlier than I expected. Other than the worst stomach flu of my life which i just recovered from... these are some extremely exciting times.
A major failing of the gaming media is that they are beholden to the companies they cover. Whether they fear being blacklisted and not receiving review copies, or that the journalist in question is using their platform as a springboard to get a job in the industry proper, there often seems to be a conflict of interest: review scores that are far too high, repeating press releases as if they are news, and dismissing facts completely because they go against the narrative they are trying to build... This is a problem and it seems like gamers have far less trust in these sites because of it.
The problem is that a website needs to play ball with publishers to have any chance of success. If you don't get your review up when the embargo is lifted, you will receive far fewer clicks than you would otherwise. If you are critical of a company and they blacklist you so that you no longer get press releases, early screens or videos, or other such materials, it puts you behind your competitors. Life is a thousand times harder for small sites or blacklisted sites because they don't get the access of the bigger sites who have this symbiotic relationship with developers.
Dodd Scientifics will not be about any of that.
The site I want to create will be strictly independent. There are certain things we will go along with that are the industry standard, like embargoes and NDA's, but we will not shy away from reporting a story because it may damage our relationship with a publisher. Nor will we fail to give a game a review score we think it deserves because it will anger the publisher, the fanboys, and lessen our chance of being on Metacritic. If we are blacklisted, we will tell you. If there are gaming companies who refuse to give us any access we will write stories about that. This whole underbelly of the industry needs to be exposed and eradicated if "games journalism" is to survive. And as an active member at NeoGAF, Reddit, and other popular forums, I'm well aware that the bigger gaming sites are not as invaluable as they may think they are. They (and I) need you a lot more than you need them.
I want to do everything that a gaming website shouldn't. This is an approach that is currently believed to be unsustainable. I'm not arguing that it isn't. What I'm arguing is that irrespective of this, it needs to exist, and it currently does not. There are some wonderful independent voices in our community but not a central hub where you can reliably hear from an outsider's perspective. I've been referred to as "industry insider Pete Dodd" when websites publish my tweets as stories, but I want to be the opposite. I don't want to be a part of the industry, I want to look at it from the view of an outsider. Or, as you may know them as... consumers.
I would also like to use the website as a platform for talented people in need of exposure. This could range from an indie developer using the site as developer diary to things like gaming related artists, podcasts, comics, and of course writers. In addition, whenever we pull a news story that has been posted elsewhere we will go above and beyond to credit the source. We won't just say "Source: Neogaf" with a link. We would mention the user by name and even link to that person's personal site if it is in their bio. Likewise if it's pulled from another site we will of course link to the original article but will also name the writer as the source. Sources should be given more credit than they currently are. We plan to do our best to contribute to that.
Who am I?
My name is Pete Dodd and I am a 36 year old married man with a wonderful wife and no kids (yet?). I've been a freelance writer since the mid-nineties. I've written for the New Haven Advocate, a newspaper that had a readership of 75k at the time. I've ghostwritten a psychiatric manual for a therapist located in Vermont (where I lived for several years). I was offered a position as a freelancer at EGM in the early 00's but gave up on the idea when they moved from Chicago to San Francisco. I've been a paid blogger on several sites, including being featured on Squidoo. I also played a significant role in the #PS4NoDRM campaign last year.
Outside of writing, I worked in the mental health field for fifteen years. I worked primarily with adults with autism, teaching them living skills to be more independent. I also worked with kids who had been through traumatic situations. It was very rewarding work that I am happy that I did.
My personal preferences in games skew towards the Playstation. I want to be clear about that. I can and will be objective but I think it's important to know what a person's preferences are. If I get the chance to add more staff, one thing I will really search for is getting people with other preferences so the site can give a wider set of opinions (when opinions are warranted).
And last but certainly not least (ok, maybe least), I was one of the Gamers of the Year in 2013 as selected by Kotaku. BOOM!
What I need to get this going:
As I've considered what I want to do with the site over the last few months, I've come to the conclusion that it can be many things and those things, unfortunately, cost money. First off, the site is happening, no matter what. I need $8,500 to make this site exist for one year without it making me a penny through advertising. I don't expect to hit this. With $5000 I believe I can sustain it with the help of advertising and other revenue. Here's how the pricing breaks down over the course of a year.
Website design - Donated
Website/podcast hosting - $1000
Games and gaming related items: $1000
Rent: ($375 x 12) = $4500
Utilities ($100 x 12) = $1200
Indiegogo's cut (If I reach the goal - it more than doubles in percentage if I don't.) = $340
These are all ballpark figures that can and will move depending on the funding. The chances of getting of getting exactly $8250 are nearly zero. This is just an outline of how I would use the money. It can be divided or multiplied depending on what the final numbers end up being. I don't plan on pocketing a cent from this campaign, every single penny will go into building it and getting other people on board to help me build it. If I am going to profit (and obviously, yes, someday I would like to make money) it will be down the line when it is successful for being different and important to the gaming community.
What could be added?
What if I don't hit my goal?
I start subtracting from each category (other than hosting, that number is locked). I can compromise on design. I can get fewer games. I can find other avenues to pay for rent and utilities. This would mean taking on at least a part time job, if not a full time one. The number of times the site is updated daily would of course be impacted by this. That said, this is a passion and not a money making scheme, so I will use every penny to achieve my goals the best I can. I feel as though I have a solid track record behind me to give confidence in this. Over 600 posts on my Doddscientifics blog, 31,000 tweets, and 6500 posts on GAF point to an obsessive who can't stop writing about videogames.
General news stories will be presented with 2 or 3 sections, depending on how much we know.
So let's say that Respawn announces that a day one patch will change the player count from the announced 6v6 to 8v8. The news will be presented as objectively as possible under the Facts section.
In the Conjecture section I would say something like "Six versus Six never felt empty in the beta but eight versus eight will definitely add to the chaos. There were some framerate dips in the Xbox One beta so we will be keeping a close eye on how smoothly things go with the higher player count.
And, if there is a rumor that is known to us that we believe to be credible (two sources is my personal rule) we will add that. Example: "This may not be the end of expanding the player count for Titanfall, sources close to the game say they hope to increase the player count further by the time the first DLC pack hits."
None of that is true by the way. It's just an example. The benefits of this three-tier news reporting is that if all you want is the news, you start at the top and read the facts and then you click off the page. If you want to know what we think, you keep reading. If you want to hear rumors, you keep reading beyond that. I don't want to force an opinion down anyone's throat with news, so I believe compartmentalizing it like this is the best way to include everything without crossing boundaries.
Reviews. One to five stars. No half stars. Reviews are genre based. Reviews will go up when they are ready - number of clicks be damned.
Five represents the pinnacle of the genre and will likely pull in non-fans.
Four equals a strong game that fans of the genre will enjoy greatly.
Three equals an average game in the genre.
Two means super-fans of the genre may be able to eke out some fun, but there are too many issues for most gamers.
One equals no redeeming qualities.
Why genre based? Because some people like certain genres more than others. A three for a turn-based strategy game may mean more than a four for a first-person shooter to a certain person. This keeps review scores comparing apples to apples instead of apples to oranges.
Editorials - Free form. It must be thought provoking and expressed in an intelligent way. That's the only rule here.
Videos and Streaming - I have a capture card and a very nice camera already, so videos are definitely something I plan on doing. I also stream quite a bit already. My plan with the site is to have set nights where I stream games - hopefully showing off new games that up-and-coming developers want to get noticed. Eventually, if audience participation gets going (and I know first hand this is *very* difficult to achieve), the streaming nights will be voted on in advance as to what I play.
Forums: A private forum for supporters. A public forum will be opened as well.
Interviews - I am interested in digging deeper than the usual interview. I believe this will keep most major publishers/developers away from me as it is out of PR's comfort zone. I'm not looking to be "gotcha" in interviews, but I do want to know more than reguritated fact sheets about the games. I want to know why someone creates games. I want to know how they feel when they have an idea and play it pre-alpha for the first time and how that feels. I believe most of the people who would read a site like this are interested in this process also. How hard is crunch? Is it worth it? What does it do to your personal life? What effect does money have? What change do you regret the most? I want to dig deep. Will I be allowed to? Probably not. I don't care, I'm going to try.
Comments - Moderately moderated, likely through community voting. This seems to fly in the face of everything else I'm trying to do with this site but there's a very good reason for it. Most comments are useless trolling. Those will be erased. If you have something interesting to say, even if it disputes every single point we put forth, your comment would not be moderated. But the general rule of the internet is "don't read the comments". I agree with that rule. I will either moderate them heavily or turn them off. Petty console war squabbles after every story have no point. I know they can be addictive and keep users on your site longer, which would increase the amount of revenue I make from advertising but, again, I don't care. I'm creating the unsustainable website.
A platform for talented people - I plan on giving links to podcasts I love, youtube videos I love, artists I think are talented, comics I think are funny, and blogs I find interesting. If people want to help with the site, be it news or reviews or editorials, there is a high bar for entry as I cringe at writing worse than my own (ok, so maybe the bar isn't very high). I do want to be a platform for people to share their work with the world though. If you have talent, I am interested. It's that simple.
Advertising - Yep. Google adsense. Hopefully not to the point of being tacky. I recommend using the adblock add-on that Chrome (and I assume other browsers) has. I hate looking at ads. I will probably use it on my own site. I won't blame anyone else who does the same. Again, unsustainable, but... enjoyable? That's the hope.
Reward Tiers <----Full description here because of lack of character space in perk list
This campaign is not about rewards. I am doing this solo and it's just not feasible for me to create a bunch of trinkets and whatnot. If you believe in the idea and think I can pull it off, I would love a donation. If you want more, check out what's below, but it's not all that impressive. Everything listed here is available at the $15 tier and higher and is a lifetime subscription. A yearly subscription will be available when the site launches.
1. A weekly email newsletter (for the life of the site, maybe longer). It may be about videogames, it may not. It may be opinion, a rant, excitement, or about curling. It will probably happen more than once a week. You can easily unsubscribe. Also, as far as I'm concerned, you own this. If you want to post it on a forum or something, go right ahead.
2. At least four podcasts a year (for the life of the site) that are tailored to and released to supporters only (either here or on the site when it goes live). Questions/topics/guests...everything is generated by you. Also, when you download the MP3 it is yours. Wanna post it on your own blog and charge $15,000 for it? Go for it. You own it.
3. A private forum. This will be useful to me to communicate with supporters and it will be useful for all of us to feel elitist and high five. I also want to shape my content to my customers as you will be the reason the site exists. I am beholden to you, not publishers or developers. Also, I may use you guys to crowd-edit my grammar as it's mediocre at best.
The public forums, however, will not be going live for a few months. Three months from the site's launch at the absolute latest.
NeoGAF and Fugazi. GAF because it is a completely independent entity that does not worry for a second about how the industry reacts to it. Fugazi because they are the model of doing everything you aren't supposed to do in an industry and being successful because of hard work, talent, and respect for their fans. It's also worth noting that I feel like Rock, Paper, Shotgun does this in the PC gaming space and that PastaPadre does it in the sports gaming world. I get motivation from both.
Why the name Dodd Scientifics:
It's the name of my blog now, which makes sense as that's just me and updated randomly and for fun. I wanted to come up with a name for this site that didn't include my last name as I felt that was egotistical. My wife wouldn't let me. She wields more power than EA.
Sounds good. What can I do?
Donate, obviously, if you can. I understand that many of you can't. Hell, I can't. If you still want to help the best thing you can do is get the word out about this, link to it, use the sharing tools that are built in if you want.
Or, if you hate me, spend a lot of your energy making this not happen, because that will probably help me. Thanks!
Also you can follow Pete personally on twitter @atPeteDodd
Or the Website twitter @DoddSci