Site Design Notes
This page is a summary of all the major changes from our last 2 site designs, meant especially for frequent visitors who might feel a bit disoriented every time we change the layout . For more detailed information on current features of the site, please read our FAQ.
New content and features: February 6, 2003 design
Just as the previous design was meant to increase the content of the site, this design's main goal is to make the site more useful and interactive for the two groups of audience we care about: game developers, and gamers:
- For visitors who are game developers, we have launched HOTU Store, a full-featured on-line store set up to support small shareware/independent developers who may not have the resources or budget to sell and promote their games. We hope that this will be a viable, commercially sustainable venture that help indie developers earn well-deserved dollars for great games, and also help us pay ever-increasing bandwidth costs.
A note about shareware/indie games: since Home of the Underdogs is designed to promote underrated games of all ages (regardless of whether or not they are abandonware, shareware, or commercial titles), we have been supporting shareware developers from the very beginning by reviewing shareware titles we enjoy and directing visitors to the official order sites. As early as 1999, we have consistently been promoting excellent shareware/indie games, including Hollywood Mogul, Wall $treet Raider, MindRover: The Europa Project, and many more. (For anyone who is interested, visit our archived 1998-2000 pages and look for shareware/independent titles). Our entire Indie Underdogs special collection is a testament of our intent to support game developers who have not abandoned their products. This intent has unfortunately has not been recognized as much as we would like, probably owing to a large number of illegal "abandonware" downloads on the site.
Therefore, we hope that the HOTU Store (not to be confused with HOTU Merchandise store) will help illuminate our design goals and dispel any mistaken notion about the site.
For HOTU visitors who are gamers, we have added many new features to make the site more interactive without sacrificing the level of content quality that we pride ourselves on. User interaction elements are based on our existing forum software, so this will hopefully attract more interest in our small but cozy community of underdog fans as well :)
Without further ado, here is the complete list of new/revised features compared to our earlier (since July 2, 2000) design:
- HOTU Store: A full-featured on-line store that sells games on behalf of small developers. The store provides a storefront, payment processing, and shareware registration services similar to RegNow.com or Kagi.com, in return for commission fees. But in addition, the affiliation of Home of the Underdogs allows HOTU Store to offer a unique and powerful marketing/promtion platform: all HOTU Store products will be featured on the site, and will have to be rated "Top Dogs" by a team of volunteer reviewers before being listed.
- Gamehost feature: If you want to review your favorite games and help us maintain relevant links, you can apply to 'host' up to 10 games on the site. More info in the Gamehost & Comments section of the FAQ.
- Game comments: You can now post comments on any title on the site. Like gamehost reviews, all comments must be approved by us before they are displayed in public. This is to maintain the quality of content, and prevent any potential abuse of the system.
- One man, one vote: You can no longer vote more than once per game. It may seem hard to believe, but some visitors with too much time on their hands have been submitting ridiculous votes (e.g. "0" for System Shock) multiple times. Since the average user rating should represent a true average of HOTU visitors' opinion rather than irrational actions of a few people, this one-man/one-vote system has been long in coming.
- Much improved FAQ: Our FAQ has been thoroughly edited and modified to replace out-of-date links and information. In addition to explanations of our new content, You can now find many more tips and useful programs to help run DOS games on new machines (big thanks to SirJohn and bill22 for the new content).
- Better advertiser support: Thanks to a brand-new ad serving platform, we can now accept requests from advertisers to place ads on the site. If you are interested in advertising on HOTU, please read our brand new Advertise on HOTU section.
- More ways to contribute: We have posted two snail-mail addresses you can use if you wish to send us non-monetary contributions such as 5.25" games or manuals. You could also use these addresses to send personal checks, if you would like to donate money but feel uncomfortable with PayPal. Read more info in our heavily-revamped Contribute to HOTU section.
- More Gamebook features: You can now vote on your favorite gamebooks in the Abandoned Gamebook Collection. In the future, watch out for download counters and better reviews/descriptions too.
- Better integration with HOTU Community: John, one of our HOTU forum regulars, has for over 2 years maintained the HOTU Community Site that encompasses many useful pages for forum members, including utilities, members' games, WWW chatroom, warez list, and many more. His pages are now linked from our forum itself for ease of navigation. The forum also has a spiffy new design thanks to Datazoid :)
- Brand new site design & layout. The basic page layout is still the same, so you shouldn't have trouble finding your way around if you are a regular visitor :) Aside from a brand-new look, we have done a lot of significant clean-up of the overall site, including:
- Replacing an old (and not very functional) script with a brand new CGI script on our chat page
- Cleaning up the polls & quizzes page (which will have the first new content in 2+ years very shortly ;))
- Getting rid of Moreover newsfeed (who wanted to charge us $5,000 a year now) and replacing their headlines with latest modifications. This effectively makes our index (i.e. home) page identical to our "news" page previously - something that should please visitors who thought clicking on "News" would lead back to the index page.
Because the new site design is more graphics-intensive (and therefore bandwidth-heavy), we estimate that the average load time of the site will be 20-25% slower than the earlier design. It should improve significantly once you visit enough times to store the graphics in your browser's memory cache, and when you visit during non-peak hours (i.e. between 1-8 AM USA Eastern Standard Time). Please bear with us, and remember that you can always contribute to help us pay for more bandwidth to cope with constantly increasing traffic.
New content and features: July 2, 2000 design
Each game is now featured on its own page, with appropriate boxshot and screenshot. Now that we have honored to the game itself, our next step is to pay tribute to the maker of the game. You will notice that clicking on any company's name will take you to that company's profile page, where you can read about its history and current status. Some new features include:
- A complete overhaul of the site. All the information has been entered into a MySQL database, and the entire site is driven by PHP. This gives us tremendous flexibility to manipulate the data and present it in several useful ways.
- You can now search not only for games, but for companies as well. Advanced search is not ready yet, but it will soon be :)
- "Real Dog" tag to signify marginally underrated games, i.e. games that we'd rather not upload if it hadn't been for requests. Now you know why we're so reluctant to upload these games
- There are several new ways to browse the site. In addition to the genre buttons on the top menu bar that you are used to, try browsing games by themes, year, and alphabet on the left menu bar. We hope you will find some pleasant surprises!
- User Rating: Now you can let us know YOUR own opinion of a game :) The more games you rate, the more accurate the site will be in reflecting the views of its visitors. So, get cracking ;)
- The FAQ has been greatly expanded, and now include a lot of helpful technical pointers for often-asked issues such as how to free up more memory, and more.
Updates to existing content
Since each game is now featured on its own page, we believe that reviews should be much longer so that all the extra space is not wasted :) Frequent visitors will therefore note that many reviews have been greatly expanded, and we will continually revise existing reviews until most, if not all, of existing games are paid proper respect (or blame, as the case may be). In addition, there are now many more related links, game-related documentation, and various other "extras" to make each game's info page as complete as possible. For most games, the "If you like this game, try..." box is filled with two or three recommendations as well.
Changes to Special Collections
You may note with dismay that the Special section, long a much-loved feature in the old design, is now shrunk from dozens of collections to only a few. The reason is simple: most of the special collections in the old design were organized by company name. Since we now have the company profile page for each company (with complete gameography), it's no longer necessary to put them on the special page. Therefore, all the content in former special collections that are based on companies (e.g. the QQP Compendium, Legend Entertainment Games, etc.) is moved to each company's profile page.
The games that used to be in the Special Collections are still on the site (well, except for a few inferior shareware Star Trek titles that we think didn't cut it-- don't worry, you won't miss them). They have just been re-categorized into appropriate genres... as they should have been all along .
The Special section will now focus on truly special collections-- games that are related in unique ways that are more specific than genres or themes. Examples are the Tolkien Games, Star Trek Games, etc. Unlike in our old design, every game that belongs to a special collection is also indexed by genre (and sometimes themes), so the days of guessing where games can be found is over :)
The Special section is also meant to contain much more than the games themselves. For example, look for "10 Coolest Freebies" and "Game-related Comics" collections in the near future :)