Any good faction-specific BattleTech website will have a well developed identity. As I mentioned in my earlier post, identity, which is a combination of theme and flavor is the cornerstone of a successful fansite. For the Star League Core, the road to find and create a suitable identity has been a long and painful experience. It’s a process that first started in 2004 and has only recently reached fruition.For the Core, my primary conundrum was determining the site’s theme and flavor. Early on I decided to gear the site towards providing information directly from the (then hard to find) Star League Sourcebook for the general BattleTech community. My reasoning for this was two fold. First, the SLSB was one of the “holy grail” sourcebooks of early BattleTech. Not only was the book relatively difficult to come by, it contained source information not replicated or reproduced elsewhere. Second, the Star League-era has always been a source of awe for BattleTech players. Whether it found itself the centerpiece of a LosTech-inspired scenario or Objective Raid, the Star League often found rest in our hearts eerily similar to our Inner Sphere counterparts.
So, using the SLSB as the site’s template I originally designed the Core’s identity around Comstar. As the supposed author of the in-universe sourcebook, I thought it would be a fitting and easy connection to make. While it should have been easy, it was anything but. The reason why I couldn’t complete this simple transition had everything to do with my inability to settled on the SLCore’s scope.
Defining Scope: The scope is the set goals for a fansite – i.e., what are you trying to accomplish with your website?
For example, a generic goal of any fan forum would the continued use of said forum and the growth of its community or membership. A more specific goal could be the continual publication of fan fiction or to maintain an ongoing RPG thread, etc. Scope can be as specific or as generic as you want, but it should be defined and (hopefully) obtainable.
I have always struggled with scope in relation to the Star League Core. My (modest) dream was to create a locale for everything Star League. This meant the Core would have to become part library, part stage and all community. In effect, I would have to provide both content AND foster a social community to complete the scope of my fansite.
While both goals are obtainable, they were out of my reach. As a single individual working to accomplish this project, building all of the components I perceived as necessary was a daunting task. Coupled with the responsibilities of real life and other online obligations, my resolve and focus began to suffer accordingly.
As I continually modified or re-imagined the Core’s scope, it would live (suffer) through a number of versions over the years, never reaching completion. While the basic theme and flavor continued to revolve around Comstar, the site’s backend, frontend and scope were constantly changing. It became a frustrating exercise in futility to continually rebuild the Core, only to realize I wasn’t happy with how it was turning out. To make matters worse, something would soon happen to change everything and force me to reevaluate the SLCore’s very existence.
The “Happening” as I like to refer to it, was the release of the SLSB in digital PDF. Once one of the rarest print sourcebooks, the SLSB became a virtual King James Bible overnight. With its new availability, the core reason for the Star League Core’s existence was called into question, and what I needed was a real “gut check” moment to figure out where all THIS was headed.