A New Direction

The Future of the Star League Core – Rebirth And Renewal

Publication of the SLSB in electronic PDF was a strong bucket of water in the face and major wake up call in the development of the SLCore site. I had spent too long petering along with the development of the site’s basic theme and now one of the primary reasons for its very existence was rendered moot!At first I was apt to finally dump the project for good. Goodbye SLCore, I’ve washed my hands of your wretched wickedness! And yet, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I mean, like the BattleTech game proper, the SLCore had come to define my place in the hobby. I could no more separate myself from the Core than I could from the BattleTech game.

Yet the inevitable sense of having to do something continued to seep into my thoughts. What was I going to do now?

As it turns out, the Classic BattleTech storyline was also going through something of an upheaval. Well, not a disorganized development upheaval, but rather the Word of Blake Jihad. While there are some members of the BattleTech community who will disagree with my assessment of the Jihad’s finer points, there is an under current of house cleaning prevalent throughout the story line fiction. After all, how else was the universe’s story line ever going to progress in a new and refreshing direction without major conflict and the death of old characters? Sure some of our most beloved units, commanders and worlds are no longer with us, but we’ve been given new characters, new commanders and new factions to play with. For a game, that’s a fair trade once you’ve wrapped your head around the fact that without the Jihad the BattleTech story line was likely to grow ever more stagnant.

It was within the Jihad story line that I found the new direction for the SLCore. It was a direction that would be both pertinent to the contemporary BattleTech community, current story and the original content of the first site.

Enter the Word of Blake.

Ok, ok, finish your boos and hisses now, because from a design, fan and content perspective, using the Word of Blake as the foundational basis for the new Star League Core website was a really, really good idea. For one, the number of Word of Blake themed-sites can be counted on one hand. So already the new theme will stand apart from some of the more traditional faction-specific websites available. Two, as long as the Word of Blake remains pertinent to the general BattleTech story line and their product development, so will does the basic SLCore site. Three, preservation of the Star League was a major drive behind the Word’s Jihad. So detailing Star League-era information maintains a cohesive character model. Four, with the new Jihad fiction revealing so many new and buried secrets from the First Star League I now have loads of additional content available to post on the site. And finally, who doesn’t want to indulge their inner bad guy every now and again?

The Word of Blake are the fellows you just love to hate, but there’s something inherently tragic about them.  How much fun would it be to play THAT angle? Wouldn’t it be a neat twist for the BattleTech community to represent the Word?

So thanks to the Jihad and the Word of Blake, the new Star League Core now has a second, err…fifth shot at life, and with it an opportunity for regular BattleTech players to try their hands at playing or writing the “dark” side.

Platform Selection

So if you’re dead set on building a BattleTech fansite and you’ve already pegged down the site’s theme, scope, content and your innate technical skills, it’s time to build. There’s always the question of platform when designing and building a website. While there are countless sources of information available on the internet to help you make an informed decision, I’ll add to the current body of knowledge only by helping you sift through some of the more tedious steps – most of which can be whittled down by answering some simple questions. (If you have trouble with these, reference Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Know thy enemy…)

  1. Determine how much content you’re going to have
  2. Determine the type of content you’re going to have
  3. Determine what content is static and dynamic
  4. Determine your users and your viewers
  5. Determine your secondary products – forums, chat clients, etc.

Depending on how you’ve answered questions 1-6 there are certain open-source content management software (CMS) platforms available for development. For example, this blog uses the easy to use, easy to operate WordPress Blogging Software (also suitable as a lightweight CMS.) It was determined that WordPress would be the best CMS for hosting this site since my content was going to be great in number (blogs), dynamic, with (hopefully) many readers, (again hopefully) many users and necessary integration with a secondary products.

For a larger site like the Star League Core, or Blacknova’s Kapteyn Universe, a different platform is required. Truthfully, outside of a news, blog or light business site, moving into a “heavier” or more robust CMS is usually the best option. While the technical know-how to operate these CMSs grow exponentially with the platform’s sophistication, the shear amount of goodies at your disposal can set you giddy with glee.

Don’t worry if you can’t write PHP, CSS or Java. Since some of the best CMS platforms available are open-source, that means they’re free. Plus, open-source communities tend to be large and thriving entities in their own right, with plenty of helpful and knowledgeable individuals willing to answer questions and trouble-shoot. You’ll have to play it patient, but the open-source community tends to very closely mirror our own. Same rules of etiquette apply.

But if you’re really technologically challenged, or simply lack the time to devote hours and hours to developing a website organically, ask members of the open-source community for time saving tips and shortcuts. Most, if not all of these CMS platforms have free templates, plugins and modules (the list goes on) that can mimic or add functionality to your site free of charge. Some, like the WordPress Plugins used here are designed to be operated by non-tech types.

Quite literally, they’re plug and play.

While I’m speaking of free, I mentioned free templates. Since many non-web gurus get hung up on the look of a site, (or rather what they see through their browser) there are hundreds of free templates available online. Spend a little time searching through Google for the free template that fits your needs and theme, and you might only need to build yourself a little logo. Then your off! Sometimes, it’s that easy. Again, pegging down your fansite’s theme, scope and content will provide you with all the information you need to get it right, and get it right the first time.

Try to remember, the amount of work you put into any project should reflect its success. Work hard at building a good fansite and you’ll be rewarded…even if it’s only the personal satisfaction of knowing you’ve left a mark on the hobby you love and a place to share with the community.

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