I don't want this to sound like a rage/flame topic but I really think the db sites need an overhaul, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.
I didn't post this in the suggestion thread because it looks pretty inactive.
I've been a member since 2009, and a lurker long before that.
Again, I don't mean to be flaming but this is just a legitimate concern of mine. A lot of users are already abandoning the db sites and going to other platforms. While other sites are constantly improving, moddb is still the same as it was a decade ago. Whenever I post a new update, I get users asking if they can follow on discord, social media or other websites instead because they don't bother checking indiedb/moddb anymore. If you look at other gaming sites like Steam, Gamejolt, Itch, it's really easy to see why.
Here's a list of problems I see in the website:
Readability and over reliance on text
Look at this front page and compare it to Steam and Itch below:
Notice the differences? When I go to the front page on moddb, I'm greeted by 2 giant ads, and a ton of text and small images. It's clear the moddb page was made in the mid 2000s for square monitors running 1024x768 resolutions.
Not only is the text barely readable on the moddb page, there's too much of it! It's 2017, people don't like reading anymore. As an indie developer I might have the patience to scroll down and read the text descriptions, but your average reader browsing on a lunch break or between classes isn't going to bother.
Those images are too small to put anything meaningful in them. Most of the time I can barely make out what's even being shown. A lot of devs post animated gifs to get more attention (I even tried this a couple times), but tons of tiny animated gifs surrounded by huge walls of texts is painful to look at and just makes me want to skip to the next page (or close it).
The front page needs to be resized for modern aspect ratios. Move those giant ads to the side where they'll be less obtrusive. Limit front page article summaries to just one line, but allow developers to post larger images. Here's a screenshot from RockPaperShotgun (it's a gaming news website so it's not the same audience, but the same idea can be applied here) for reference:
Video games are a visual medium so gamers are usually more interested in visuals than reading. If it looks interesting, they can click on it and get the full story. If not, there's no need to show them a massive wall of text because it'll just get ignored.
Okay, so I found a mod or indie game that I'm interested. Now what? If it's released, I probably want to play it. If not, I probably want to at least subscribe for more information. But how do I do this? It takes 3 clicks to download a mod/game:
And how do I follow a a game? I have to click this tiny eye icon hidden in a corner.
Compare this to GameJolt, if I click on a game the subscribe and download buttons are easily visible on the front page.
Users come to moddb to play mods. Users come to indiedb to play indie games. If it's not out yet, they want to know when. The subscribe and download buttons should be big, obvious and not need any unnecessary clicking to get to.
Finding stuff I like
Okay, so I found one good mod/game and I downloaded it. Now what? What if I want to play similar content? Hidden away on the right after a couple pages of scrolling is this:
There doesn't seem to be any intelligence in the results, they're just games listed in the same "First Person Shooter" genre. These games all came out over a decade ago, whereas the game I'm looking at hasn't even been released yet! What about the tags, or "users who subscribed to this also subscribed to these games"? The images are again, way too small to see anything and there's no meaningful information as to why these games were recommended.
Compare this to Steam which tries to find content I'm interested in, and tells me why I'd be interested in it.
The problem with tons of content that isn't relevant to a user's interests is that they'll just start to ignore it altogether. Most of my friends don't "browse" moddb or indiedb, they just have a few favourites that they keep checking for updates.
There's a ton of good content on moddb and indiedb but it's hard to find. It would be great if the site could track my preferences from games that I followed (genre, release date, developer, similar users) and try to find similar games. If not, there should at least be an option to set preferences for "I like this genre" and if I see something I'm not interested in, there should be a button for "hide all games from this genre" "hide all games by this developer" etc.
It would also be super cool if the front page was curated to a user's preferences. Right now there's way too many posts on the front page and along with its poor readability probably deters a lot of users from even scrolling down.
Right now, commenting is limited to purely text. What about embedding videos? A lot of indie gamers like to record their playthroughs and marketing wise it's a win win for everyone. It's also good if I want to see real gameplay from a player and not the developers. When I released my mod back in 2013, I only got 22 comments but I later found out there were over 30 let's play videos on youtube. It would have been great if there was a better way to connect with those let's players.
Allow users to post let's play videos of mods and indie games, and the developer can choose to feature those. Something like this would be nice:
I'm lucky enough and grateful to have my content authorized most of the time and even promoted to the front page a few times. But this prevents posters from timing news posts and in my opinion pretty biased and inefficient how a small group of people curates the front page for the entire audience of thousands of users.
Judging from the times news posts are authorized, I think most of the moderators check and authorize posts before and after their regular 9-5 jobs. I commend these people for doing two jobs, but I have two problems with this system.
First, if someone checks moddb or indiedb during your moderators' 9-5 hours they won't notice any updates. Second, since posts are authorized in batches, if you're authorized first in the batch your post will be stuck at the bottom under a pile of others. This is totally out of a poster's control and I've noticed a huge difference in traffic depending on how lucky the authorization order was.
So my question is, why is the authorization system necessary? It just seems like unnecessary work for the moderators to look through every single post every day.
Another issue is that the front page slider content is made by the moderation team with no input from the developers. Sometimes I see some nicely photoshopped work put together with a descriptive caption, but at other times it's not so great. Look at these for example:
This screenshot is a quick development render from Source SDK's model viewer. It's not even an in game screenshot. If I were the devs, I wouldn't want this image to represent my mod. There were much more interesting screenshots in the actual news posts, why weren't those chosen instead? Also, why should I want to know "what's coming in v3.0 of the Half-Life 2 zombie mod"? Vague captions with a not so great screenshot don't really entice me to click on it.
Also stuff like this:
... Okay, what's "Supreme Mech Commander"? What is "Age of the Ring"? Why should I download it? A one line description would have been much better than "Download vx.x of this mod for this game". Again, I don't blame the moderators for this. I really feel this should not be their job, which leads to my proposed solution:
I understand that authorization is necessary to prevent spam or inappropriate posts. How about a probation period for new users, where their first 3 posts have to be authorized but if they pass that, they can post freely? If they get reported for causing problems they can get temporarily banned and go back to probation again. This way there will be a constant stream of news on the front page and users will check back more often (that means more ad money too!). It's also more fair this way because everyone gets their brief moment at the top of the front page.
Same with the slide images/text. Most of the time it looks so quickly pasted together and the text is super vague. How about adding an image and text field for news posts, so that if the news post gets featured onto the slider, those images and text will be shown. That way developers can choose images and a caption that accurately describes their work, not a moderator who has to guess at it.
This along with a curated front page that lists updates according to your preferences would make it a lot more interesting to browse the front page. I understand that the moderation team is a group of human beings with lives, but this means most of the time they'll just take the first screenshot and write a vague caption for it.
Moddb and Indiedb have a pretty large community and lots of good content. However, activity is dying down because other similar websites have much better navigation, readability and show more relevant content. I don't have any statistics to back it up, but based on every conversation I've had about these sites I believe most users just come here, search for what they want, download it and leave. For example, someone might come here looking for Half-Life 2 mods. They might play a mod like Nightmare House 2 and really enjoy it. They might come back looking for more Half-Life 2 mods, but they probably won't find something similar. There's a lot of good horror indie games, or mods for other games but they'd never be able to find them.
In addition I also notice a lot of devs giving up on their pages because they find it not worthwhile because it's too hard to get users' attention.
I really believe improving a lot of the functions and designs of the site will engage a lot more users. I know it's not an easy job but I hope the admins and moderators consider it. Anyways thanks for reading through my super long post, let me know what you think!