11/04/2015

On Torhead and TORCommunity

I removed Torhead from the "SWTOR Resources" section of my sidebar today, because the site has officially ceased to exist. Rav wrote a thoughtful post on the subject matter a couple of weeks ago when the news was first announced, and I don't have much to add that I didn't already express in the comments there.

I liked Torhead and went through a phase of trying really hard to support it, but in the end it had already been apparent for quite a long time that the owners' hearts weren't really in it anymore, so the site's closure wasn't really much of a surprise at this point - though still sad. (Interestingly, all the old Torhead links now point directly at SWTOR's official website.)

I was all the more pleased when I found out that TORCommunity is currently running a Kickstarter to get a proper SWTOR item database running on its own website. The campaign currently has 10 days left to go and they've had to make new stretch goals because they kept meeting the old ones so quickly, so even if you don't want to donate anything, the project is already funded and everyone should get to enjoy the results of their work for free. I chipped in anyway, simply because I had a bit of money to spare and really want to support community work like this. Not to mention that I simply want a new database! Even when its updates slowed to a crawl, I still visited Torhead quite a lot simply because a database site is a damn handy thing to have in an MMO, whether you want to look up where a certain item comes from or need help with a quest.

Today I found out that there's apparently at least one other new database in the works: swtordata.com. It seems to be developed by the same guy who runs SWTOR Conquest, and unlike TORCommunity's work in progress, this one already has a shiny looking front page. At the same time the site doesn't seem to be very functional yet, as I couldn't find a list of pets on any of the drop-down menus, and all the item lists looked chaotic and unsorted. I guess we'll see who comes out ahead in the race to provide the community with new database functionality to attract visitors.

The guys at TORCommunity may not have a visual database to show yet, however they recently implemented item tooltips like Torhead used to have. After a lot of clumsy faffing about with Blogger I managed to integrate them into my blog, and my first test in my last post seems to work fine now (the first link under the third picture). My only gripe is that the tooltip takes several seconds to load after the rest of the page has already finished loading, which initially made me think that I hadn't copied the code properly, even though I had. Also, as far as I can tell the supposed ability to override old Torhead links doesn't actually work - or at least not with any of the links in the old posts I've looked at so far. But hey, it's still a work in progress.

I'm quite intrigued by the work of TORCommunity in general. One of its staffers was on TOROCast the other day and pointed out that the site has apparently existed since 2008 - but I hadn't ever heard of it until a couple of months ago. If you look at the site now, its visible archives only go back to December 2013... so you have to wonder what the site actually did during the five years before that. Whatever it was, they have clearly been trying to push their visibility lately in what seems to be an effort to compete with Dulfy. This competition has apparently been laced with quite a bit of drama, but as a fan looking in from the outside, I have to say it's nice to see multiple sites working on supporting the community and (hopefully) pushing each other to try harder.

The one thing that currently worries me a bit about TORCommunity is that they have so many grand plans, I'm a bit doubtful whether they'll actually be able to go through with them all. You just have to take a look at their Kickstarter page - they don't simply want to build an item database, but also a character builder, interactive maps, leaderboards and who knows what else. They also swallowed up TORParse, yet that part of the site has been languishing in a barely functional state for months. (I was super-stoked when it re-launched originally... then I uploaded my first log and it couldn't even show me my healing done, only my dps - which, as a healer, I found to be utterly pointless.)

Nonetheless this hasn't stopped me from contributing to the project, because I really want to see them succeed, and I'd never pledge more to a Kickstarter than I can afford to lose. And while everyone has to make their own decisions on whether they want to support TORCommunity's current development or not, I think it's definitely worth drawing attention to.

14 comments :

  1. " This competition has apparently been laced with quite a bit of drama, but as a fan looking in from the outside, I have to say it's nice to see multiple sites working on supporting the community and (hopefully) pushing each other to try harder."

    Can't really say there's anything nice..or competitive, about 30+ comments questioning Dulfy's gender. How completely irrelevant and pointless.

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    1. Hehe, I saw that thread on Reddit and thought it was weird... (assuming we're talking about the post about the interview that HealingSWTOR did with her). To be fair though, most people who posted seemed to agree that it was an odd thing to bring up... and I see no reason to assume that this had anything to do with TORCommunity.

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    2. Yeah some rando brought it up in the comments and one of the TORCommunity guys made the mistake of commenting on it - looked like he got baited pretty hard. >_<

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  2. The domain was registered in 2009 and archive.org shows a hello world kind of post from that year. I didn't see any major development until late 2011, which makes sense, but then it stalled out between 2012-2014 and it's only started to pick up recently. I'd never heard of it either until I saw one of their posts on Reddit. Maybe someone was just off by 1 year? Anyway, I really like what they've been doing so far, but I'm not a fan of the drama.

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    1. Oh, that's clever, I hadn't even thought of looking at archive.org... looks like there really wasn't very much there those first couple of years.

      (On a side note, it's also funny to look back at my own site back in 2012! I forgot just how much that colour scheme used to hurt the eyes... and it's interesting to see the old blogroll and how it's almost 100% different from my current one.)

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  3. TBH, I hardly ever used TORHead, but I also hardly ever used WOWHead either. They catered to a subset of each game's playerbase, and the volume from SWTOR was proportionally lower than WoW's.

    Still, I wish the next generation of databases good luck.

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    1. How could you rarely ever use WoWhead (and before its existence, Thottbot)? :D Wonder where that nice piece of gear/mount/pet is from? WoWhead! Stuck on a quest? WoWhead comments!

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    2. I used to use WoWWiki back before it got overrun with malware, but aside from that I pretty much muddled through by myself.

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  4. I tried to use TORHead a few times but it was always so far out of date that it was effectively useless so I never went back. With these type of database type site you really need to keep on top of content to make sure it is up to date which takes a lot of work but if you don't do enough you effectively take yourself out of the picture as you do not provide the latest info. I feel that TORHead was so far out of date that they will not really be missed.

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    1. It's true that updates are important, but most content from the original game hasn't changed much since launch, so if you wanted to know what things a certain companion likes or how to do a particular quest, it remained useful for those kinds of things even as it became outdated overall.

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  5. It looks like TORCommunity has a basic frontend for their Items Database up and running now, and they released a beta Schematics database for Kickstarter backers the other day:
    http://torcommunity.com/database/search

    They also put up a demo of their Interactive Maps, I really like what I'm seeing:
    http://torcommunity.com/database/interactive-maps/balmorra-empire

    Looks really good so far, can't wait for the rest of the features!

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  6. I know Haywood, rather loosely through when I used to be a sub healer for the rep guild he was in. I think pretty well of him as a player and person, though I haven't discussed torcommunity with him since my swtor time mostly consists of looking at your site, The Cantina, and other sites in your side bar. I believe swtor_minor has no issues working with him so I figure my read on Hayward and the others is pretty good.

    All that being said, such as it is (lotta words for not much content, my specialty) I have concerns on the grand plans similar to you. I can say that for the parser, the original developer wrote it with no scalability in mind and the person recoding it has had a fair amount to do. That decision to recode came after months of trying to find bandaid solutions but knowing, not yet admitting to self (my pov) that a full rewrite would be necessary. I think most of the reason for the slow progress is that this a pure side job for the folks involved, though they did pick up some new folks in the last 6 months. I think serious progress in a timely manner seems hard to envision given that they work full time, play a decent amount (assumption), and presumably have regular real life competing for time spent working on the site.

    As I see it, the drama boils down to folks doing it on the side wanting to make a site that is respected as a resource but is "competing" against a site run by someone as a full time job who can not only spend all day on pts grabbing screen shots and info, but who 1) is respected by the community and likely gets good will submissions of images/info due to her early presence as the only real resource for swtor, and 2) due to running it full time, can pay developers, or if she has the skills herself, devote serious time to implementing new "features" / pages / galleries / whatever.

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    1. I've been wondering how much time Dulfy actually devotes to her site... clearly a lot, but I couldn't see it making enough money to make a living off it? I'm probably wrong, or else she may simply be funded through other means.

      I agree about the problem of tackling a project this size as something on the side. Getting more contributors in has certainly helped TORCommunity, but we'll see how it goes in the long run.

      All in all, a very insightful comment. Thank you! :)

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