Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Boardgamegeek Frustrations & My Solution

Time to vent...

If you have done any significant kind of searching on the internet for information on Boardgames, chances are you have run across - which is quite simply the most comprehensive database and community concerning boardgames you will find.

Boardgamegeek (or BGG as we affectionately call it) has listing on over 25,000 boardgames. Each listing has the standard information like the name, publisher, year it was made, ect... but it also has pictures of the game and it's components, files you can download like FAQ's, player aids, player made variants, BGG member ratings and comments, links to related web sites, marketplace and eBay listings and much, much more. You can enter all the games you own into the database and keep track of them and how you much you like (ordislike) them. Looking for missing parts? There is a section for that. Need a rule interpretation? Look into the game's individual forums for your answer. Wanna trade away a game you no longer play? Click the "For Trade: box for that game in your collection. There is so much more too, I'm only hitting the tip of the iceberg here.

Anyways, the site has continually been growing and changing in the last 5 years. New features, new changes - all kinds of things to make the site better and better. BGG quickly became my "home" page years ago and up until recently, it's been the ONE page I'd check 5 or 6 times a day to see what's new. It was like gaming Nirvana.

Yes, I said was. What has changed you ask? Unfortunately, I'm afraid the site is becoming less and less useful as it becomes more and more overloaded by the continually increasing demand on it's servers. Just this past weekend I tried continually to access the front page and the server gave me nothing but errors or "Database Busy" messages. Accessing the "Geek" this past month or so has continually been hit or miss with the constant "server not found" errors as well as experiencing painfully slow page loading - I'm telling you it feels like Im on a really bad dial-up service, and I know my DSL is faster than that!

I feel bad for the site's main administrator Scott Alden (or "Aldie" as he is affectionately known) as he is continually trying to keep things operational while still adding new features from the hundreds of member requests he gets weekly. He also has to continually be tweaking the existing ones to just keep everything running - yes just running at this point, I think the equipment is far too taxed to hope for "running smoothly".

Aldie quit his programming job to dedicate himself to BGG full time and his salary comes strictly from member support (of which far too few seem to do). He has slowly had to find other methods of generating income to pay for upgrading the hardware and adding new servers. The site is a behemoth at this point, too large for one guy (no matter how good he is!) to maintain and keep operational, yet I suspect there is not enough income to support him, let alone another dedicated employee. I think he must be very frustrated, as he is constantly against the 8-ball and appears to be losing a race to upgrade the hardware faster than the demand on it increases.

Maybe I'm over-reacting. Maybe it's just bad timing and once the new equipment is in, things will be ok again. I really hope that is the case. BGG is an extremely valuable resource for those in this hobby and losing it would be catastrophic. If the influx of new users continues as it has in the past and the percentage of supporters stays the same, I predict that it will be impossible to keep up with the demands of it's members under the present system of membership, there just wont be enough money to do so.

So what's a guy to do?

How can Aldie save his baby?

I think it's time for Draconian measures...

If you aren't a supporter of the Geek through a minimum $25 donation, you can't have full access to BGG.


New users who stumble across BGG through Google or somewhere else will only get to see the (as yet to be created) simplified game entry pages. You'll be able to search and find any game you want, but, you'll only see the basic information, a description, a rating or two and a few pictures. THAT'S IT.

If you can't fork over $25 bucks then you don't get access to the forums, you can't get to the marketplace, you can't have geekbuddies (friends whose opinions and comments you value and can track), you can't collect Geekgold (the site's funny money used to buy badges and avatars), you can't block any ads and most of all, you can't make comments and suggestions for more features, since you haven't paid for any of the existing ones.

$25 bucks is VERY Cheap for what the site provides and if everyone was a supporter, there would be a lot fewer problems, as money wouldn't be an issue. Aldie (and Derk too come to think of it) DESERVE to make a great living doing this, as it is - like any other great invention, something that filled a void that nobody knew existed.

BGG has a LOT of members. I'd say that there must be at least 10-15k members out of the upwards of 50k unique people that visit the site (per month), that would be willing to pay to make things better. At $25 a pop, 15 thousand members is $325,000 dollars a year. The wayI see it Aldie and Derkshould be pulling in 100k each, leaving 125k for equipment. It's that simple.

The truth of the matter is, the other 35k or so that come to BGG each month really don't care too much about how the menu's work, or if they can customize modules or not. Give them a 30 day free trial membership to see if they want to keep it. You wont keep everyone, but should that matter? I have many gamer friends that are heavily into games who only come to BGG once in a blue moon. When they do come here, they could care less about how many columns the game pages have or whether or not their post was moved to another forum.

They just want the site to load quickly like it should when they click on it.

Like me.

So, these things may not happen this year, or even the next. But when these changes are made, just remember where you heard it suggested first.

Long live the Geek!

(And special thanks to Aldie and Derk for bringing the Geek to life and making it what it is today).