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Building Your Own 40K Site
Introduction <> Content <> Set-up <> Maintenance
Own 40K Site: Content
Content is king. People come to sites for content and nothing else. Your layout may be bad, your navigation may stink, but if you have excellent content, people will come back again and again. So what do you want to post on your site?
Consider carefully the scope of your website. The more categories of stuff you include, the more attractive your site will be to others (“something for everyone,” you know) but the more work you make for yourself. You will probably find it useful to limit your site to a handful of categories.
You have a lot of options, so let’s take a look at them. You can include one, a few, or all of them on your site. I’ll discuss some possible categories, referencing how I did or did not approach each here at the Jungle. Ready?
“But my army is cool!” you reply. Sure, you think your army is cool and you think that everyone should know about it, but for a moment, imagine yourself as a visitor to your website. Why should they spend their time looking at pictures or reading descriptions of your army? What’s so interesting about it? What makes your army any different from all the others out there?
In my case, I think that my army’s theme, with its inspiration in India and Hinduism, is a fresh counterpoint to the Western European sources Games Workshop has used to create other Space Marine Chapters. In addition, I have several well-defined characters with distinct looks, personalities, strengths, and styles of fighting (and I’ve used my fiction to further define these characters). My army has quite a few converted or out-of-production figures and vehicles. And while my paint scheme is not original, I hope that it interests others.
Find some angle to make visitors pay attention to your army. Perhaps your army has an interesting background story. Or perhaps your miniatures are painted very well or in a unique design. Or perhaps you have racked up an impressive amount of wins. And if you need ideas on creating a distinctive army, I have just the article for you….
While many of you are probably convinced that your army is already worthy of being posted on the Internet, some of you might not be. You may be saying to yourself, “There’s nothing interesting about my army. Why would anyone want to see it on the Web?”
Don’t be discouraged. At the very least, your army interests you, right? So what is it about your army that you like? Is it painted nicely? Is it a large collection that you can do anything with, or a small collection specialized in a certain style of fighting? Do you have a particular figure you like more than others? How did you acquire it? Is it a new army, or one you’ve had for a long time? If you play an army that Games Workshop created, like the Ultramarines, Space Wolves, or Biel-Tan, why did you choose that army?
Think about those questions (and others that might spring to mind) and use your website to let people know the answers. Emphasize what you consider to be the most interesting aspects of your army.
Scout around 40K bulletin boards like The Millenium Gate or The Bolter and Chainsword and ask for submissions. Or try gaming networks like The Warp. When you go trolling for submissions, be sure you let people know how you want them: what software (Word, Wordperfect, HTML, ASCII, whatever) to use, what font and size (Times New Roman 10 point), how many pages, what topics to include, etc.
Here at the Jungle, I have pages devoted to my friend Pat’s Space Wolves (particularly Ferin Ironhammer’s company) and Orks (including his Speed Freeks). In time, I’m sure I’ll have information on other armies he’s building.
I’ve included Pat’s armies on this site because my army usually fights them: I don’t get a chance to play much, but when I do, Pat is often my principal opponent. Pat’s Wolves are currently battling my Dark Eldar in the Tooth and Claw Campaign and his Orks have tangled with my Tigers in the Blood Deserts of Auros IX. Every once in a while, his Wolves “practice” against my Tigers.
But other than Pat’s armies, I don’t devote a lot of space to other people’s collections, only because this is a website based around the Fighting Tigers. Posting descriptions of other armies that rarely or have never had contact with mine is outside the scope of this site.
If you decide to include this facet in your website, you’ll probably need to work with a company like Ezboard, (one of the more popular ones, but there are others out there). Be advised, though, that running an active discussion board may be very time-consuming, which was one of the reasons why I have never included one here at the Jungle.
In setting up the board, you’ll need to define its scope: will your board allow discussion on a variety of 40K topics, or do you plan to limit discussions to certain subjects (e.g., a board devoted only to Tau or a board devoted only to painting)? Will you permit “off topic” discussions that have nothing to do with 40K? “Off topic” discussions can be enriching and worthwhile but run the risk of de-railing your board if not carefully monitored.
Once you’ve decided on that, you’ll probably want to segment your board into various sections to categorize discussions. Many “general 40K” boards do this by army, with a “Space Marines” section, an “Eldar” section, etc. Even a board with a narrow focus (such as one devoted to a single army) will benefit by having easy-to-distinguish categories to help posters (folks who contribute comments to your board).
You’ll also need to define and enforce “rules of behavior” for posters. Free speech is a wonderful thing but it can be quickly abused. You certainly don’t want your board contaminated with flames, spam, or pornography. You’ll need to act as a moderator (or enlist people to act as mods). Moderators must be entrusted to allow a free exchange of ideas and expressions of diverse viewpoints without allowing malcontents to besmirch your board’s reputation.
Let me discuss “reputations” for a moment. Boards are online communities, and like any other communities, they take on characteristics of their members. If your board’s members conduct themselves in a mature fashion and treat each other with civility and respect, word will spread across the Internet and like-minded people will want to join in. Conversely, if you allow your posters to indulge in bad behavior, word of that will also spread: at best, people will shun your board; at worst, other Internet hooligans will flock to your board under the assumption that on your board, “anything goes.” As the administrator, it’s up to you to determine what reputation your board will earn.
While this approach won’t tax your creativity, it will certainly eat up a great deal of time. Trolling the net for interesting 40K material is not my idea of an easy job. Better by far to establish your site and have the webmasters come to you, but to make this work, you must convince them that you can bring them lots of visitors. If your portal site doesn’t get many hits, why should anyone bother “advertising” with you?
Also note that you can link all you want to someone else’s site or article, but you need to secure each webmasters’ permission before you re-post any material (copyright laws apply on the Internet, too).
From the beginning, I decided that the Jungle was going to focus on original material, either my own or stuff created exclusively for this site. Thus, I decided that the Jungle would not be a portal.
You can also collect and exhibit works of the finest painters to be found. Or you can let anyone with a mini, some paint, and a camera submit something, regardless of talent.
I’m not much of a painter: I do okay, but I’m never going to win a Golden Demon award. To make up for my lack of talent, I try to post stuff that is interesting and unusual, especially conversions or out-of-production miniatures.
I favor “big picture” tactical guides, applicable to most or all armies, with easy-to-remember principles. The best example on the Jungle is the Master-crafted 40K series. I don’t find highly detailed dissertations very useful: you’re liable to forget all the arcana you’ve read when the poop really hits the fan and your army is in serious trouble against a good opponent.
Here at the Jungle, I’ve limited fiction to stories about my Fighting Tigers. At first, I only posted stories I had written myself, but as time went on (and I became less of a raving control freak), I started accepting stories written by others.
Something to consider about fiction is how far you’re willing to stretch the “40K universe,” the background fiction that has already been established by our pals at Games Workshop and disseminated through the codices and White Dwarf. What do I mean by “stretching?” Basically, what new ideas you’re willing to interject.
For instance, you will notice that in several of my stories, I mention (or feature) female Space Marines. For an even better example of what I’m talking about, read Scott Mallinson’s fabulous series chronicling the resurrection and return of the Emperor.
Therein lies danger. Some 40K players (and thus, some visitors to your site) are, for lack of a better term, “fluff-Nazis” who tolerate few (if any) deviations from the story that has come before. They aren’t about to accept female Marines or the resurrection of the Emperor—and thus, your fiction will not be well received. This is not to say that “fluff-Nazis” are bad people (despite the label), just that they have a certain expectation of what good 40K fiction should be. If you go outside their boundaries, you risk losing them.
Conversely, some readers (myself included) love fresh approaches to 40K fiction, even if they challenge established “fluff.” If your writing isn’t much different from what one would find every month in White Dwarf, you’ll lose them.
Alternatively, you could just present a campaign purely as entertainment for the visitors. That’s what Pat and I have done for our second on-line campaign, Tooth and Claw. As far as campaigns go, it’s not that complex or challenging, and though someone out there could run it with different armies in a different setting, it would lose something. The appeal of Tooth and Claw (we hope) is that it’s a cool story with interesting characters and lots of gripping action. If you want to do something like Tooth and Claw, you need to involve your visitors somehow. I had the advantage in that I had an established milieu with characters that people found engaging.
Your visitors won’t be there when you play each game, so you will have to be their eyes and ears and relay to them all the information they need to understand your report. You’ll need to tell them whom the players and the armies were, what mission was played, what the terrain was like, and what happened, usually in a turn-by-turn sequence to they have a better grasp of how the game went. You’ll find that detailed army lists, photographs, and diagrams are very useful.
In crafting battle reports, you have a lot of different options. You can use a journalistic, “just-the-facts” style, where you painstakingly account for each unit’s movement, firing, and assaults. While this has the advantage of being accurate and comprehensive, it can get pretty boring quickly. I don’t know about you, but I don’t really want to know exactly how many shots Squad A fired at Squad B at what range, how many shots wounded, and how many armor saves failed.
You can go to the other extreme and provide fictionalized accounts that leave out the nit-picking details in favor of more exciting stuff. Instead of saying, “Squad A fired 12 shots, 7 hit, 4 wounded, and 3 members of Squad B failed their armor save,” you could write, “The Guardians unleashed their shuriken catapults at point-blank range, cutting down three of the vile Orks before the brutes could take more than two steps.” I know which version I prefer.
A problem with the “fictionalized” option is that your writing may become so nebulous that you risk having the visitors lose some details they need to know. To counter this, you can mix the two styles: “The six Guardians moved up 4" and leveled their shuriken catapults at Rob’s Tankbustas. ‘They must not advance!’ came the order, and each Guardian fired twice. Seven shots hit, and three Orks fell.”
While that may sound wonderful and inspiring, I have to throw some cold water on you and admit that writing batreps is a lot of hard work. It isn’t easy to take notes, snap photos, and play a good game of 40K all at the same time, and I recommend that you take notes during the game because it’s often hard to recall crucial details after the game. The more photos and diagrams you can provide, the better, but again, these too take a lot of effort, increase download times, and eat up a lot of storage space on your computer.
Speaking of diagrams for battle reports, you’ll notice there aren’t any on the Jungle. Why not? I just don’t have the time to play the game, jot down notes, take photos, write the narrative, provide analysis and include diagrams of what unit moved where on what turn. Would diagrams improve my batreps? Absolutely. Do I have the wherewithal to do them? No, I’m afraid I don’t.
This also applies to other modeling projects besides terrain, by the way. You can use your site to present and discuss conversions, scratch-built miniatures and vehicles, whatever.
Here at the Jungle, I have a small terrain section. My terrain-building skills are about as mediocre as my painting skills, so I post photos of the more interesting pieces I’ve built in the hope that they’ll inspire people to think creatively when making terrain.
Here at the Jungle, I have a very large section (The Tiger Roars) devoted to commentary. I’ve been playing 40K since 1987 and I think that I have a lot of experiences and insights to share with folks who haven’t been gaming as long. I welcome well-written guest commentaries, and I include my e-mail address on the front page of The Tigers Roars section so people can provide feedback. I strongly recommend that you, too, include an e-mail address so visitors can reply.
But before you launch into your first rant, consider this. The best thing about the Internet, as my friend Scott Smith tells me, is that it allows you time to think about what you are going to “say” before you actually “say” it. Alas, many people don’t take advantage of this, and they shoot off their mouths, usually to their regret.
Bear in mind that whatever you post on the Internet will (hopefully) be seen by many, many people from all over the world: the more controversial your subject, the more people are going to disagree with you, sometimes vehemently. If you’re going to post an editorial that whines about the abundance of star cannons in Eldar armies and blasts Eldar players as “cheesy gits,” you should be prepared for a lot of negative responses. At best, you’ll receive hate mail. At worst, people will dismiss you as a jerk and never return to your site.
This is not to say that you have to be “politically correct” or steer away from controversial subjects, only that you need to approach them with tact. Or not. I suppose you could make a name for yourself by spewing out the most obnoxious, inflammatory comments, but eventually people will tire of your act.
Almost all of my editorials here at the Jungle have been well received, and several of them have become visitor favorites. I did have an ugly episode about two years ago, when I posted a rant called The Kids Are Alright, defending younger gamers. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a very good job writing it, and several people (mostly younger gamers) thought I was attacking them—the complete opposite of what I was trying to do. I apologized to the offended people and edited the article, and now I think it gets the point across very well.
If you persist in creating new rules, however, make sure you make good ones. Playtest them thoroughly and/or post disclaimers about them. Posting a lot of unbalanced rules will make visitors wonder if you really know anything at all about 40K; if they get the idea into their heads that you don’t know, they will stop coming to your site.
I don’t belong to any gaming clubs, so I didn’t include this aspect at the Jungle. However, I must point you to The Warmonger Club of New York City, which has done an excellent job of making their “club” site useful to non-members. At The Warmonger Club, you’ll find lots of commentary, tutorials, and battle reports that should not be missed.
I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this subject, as I don’t think most people are interested in setting up a site for buying, selling, or trading miniatures and other gaming materials. But if you are, bear in mind that the greatest obstacle to overcome with building your own trading site is trust: why should people be willing to send their money or miniatures to you? How do they know you’re not scamming them? The answer is that they don’t, unless you establish some kinds of credibility for yourself. You have to earn their trust. How you do that is beyond the scope of this article.
Also bear in mind that you’ve been beaten to the punch by the 800-pound gorilla of online trading, e-Bay. If you’re not running your own gaming company and you’re interested in buying, selling, and trading, you may want to just use e-Bay: otherwise, why re-invent the wheel?
As I have mentioned before, copyright laws are valid on the Internet, and you violate them at your own peril. Rest assured that if you go about copying Games Workshop’s material, you will eventually receive the attentions of the GW Intellectual Property staff. As a former moderator of the Millenium Gate forum, I’ve dealt with them before, when one of our posters reprinted stuff from the then-unreleased Tyranid codex. They asked if I would remove the material, and I did, as they had the law on their side and they were polite about it.
The GW Intellectual Property folks aren’t the Gestapo and they aren’t out to crush “freedom of expression”: their job is to protect GW’s rights. They don’t mind if you quote some text here and there: they just don’t want you to reprint Codex: Space Marines. If you have doubts about posting something, check out their page or e-mail them.
When writing about my Fighting Tigers and Ozone Scorpions, I use elements of Games Workshop fluff without reprinting their stuff verbatim. For example, I describe the interactions between my Marines and various other chapters, including the Blood Angels, Dark Angels, and Ultramarines. Similarly, my Dark Eldar are supposedly on the run from Asdrubael Vect. See what I mean? It’s an easy and effective way to make my armies seem more “real” without breaking any copyright laws.
While I’m in favor of most product reviews, I’m afraid I don’t really see the utility of reviewing White Dwarf issues. Many gamers have subscriptions, so they’re going to get the issue anyway. Gamers who don’t have a subscription will probably see the latest issue at their gaming store or hear about it from their friends if there’s something they need to know about. Not to mention that, given various postal delivery schedules, your review could go out when almost everyone already has their copy.
So, what are you
going to put on YOUR website?
I strongly advise you to go with approaches that you’re interested in and not to include stuff just because every other website out there does it. If you don’t want to post photos of your army, don’t do it. If you don’t like writing commentary, don’t do it. If you don’t want to do battle reports, don’t do them. It’s your site, and you have to do the work, so you might as well enjoy it. Take comfort in the fact that the Internet is a big place and there’s a big audience for 40K material: someone out there will share your interests and hopefully you can bring them to your site.
I’ll discuss setting up your site.
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© Copyright Kenton
Kilgore, January 2003.
Codex <> Tactics <> Gallery <> Allies and Enemies <> Tales of the Tigers