Editor's Note: Pens, Paper and Pretzels

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Pens, Paper and Pretzels

Today, The Escapist turns two and we're celebrating in style. Technically, Thursday, July 12 is our Real Birthday, but today, we publish our 105th issue of The Escapist, marking the beginning of a third year of publication.

In these past two years, we have brought our readers a variety of timeless content, from interviews with industry stars, to profiles of the companies that make the games, to your daily gaming news.

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Happy birthday to us!

Happy Birthday, Escapist! :)

I couldn't be happier with the new design. Absolutely fantastic. Congratulations and nice work!

I'll let the guy who designed it know! He's pretty cool. I wish I could be like him.

Are PDFs of Escapist still going to be available? I've been downloading the PDFs of each issue when it comes out, and reading it on my Nokia 770 while on the bus. I've been doing this for at least the past 50 issues, so I'd hate it if that went away. Otherwise, the revamp looks great!

All of the old PDFs are available in the Archives section. Unfortunately PDF generation was only really useful with the old design, which was very, very time and man-power intensive. You should be able to access our pages now from your mobile device. If not, please let us know. We are very open to increasing and expanding our ability to deliver content to as many ports as possible.

Where is the table of contents for the latest issue? The image
announcing the latest issue just links through to the random
article currently highlighted (man, you guys just can't escape
the anti-user interfaces--impressive).
The text 'issue 105' is not a link. The menu across the top
divides them into features and editorials and doesn't divide
them up by issue.

The RSS feed appears to have the full list, though.

The text 'issue 105' is not a link.

It should link now, to a page that has what you're looking for.

Congratulations on making it this far!

However, I'm gonna have to say I'm not a fan of the layout. On the main page front: Color-wise, it's much too busy; I can't follow it very well. So much is vying for my attention that I can't focus on any of it. Looks like it's the sort of design where it's easy to get to the newest stuff but very difficult to see specific articles, which is bad for people like me who like to read everything that goes up. I have a long-standing and highly personal grudge against the sort of time-based navigation thing that is used to link to individual articles.

As for the individual articles, call me old-fashioned, but I liked having all the articles in order and linked to each other and being limited to a single print-like page at a time without scrolling. It was part of the charm, the sort of thing that lets you know "This is different than the other game sites." I liked that they were sorted by issue. The magazine metaphor was very distinct and very strong previously, whereas now it's sort of coming off as an imitator of 1up.com. And, really, if you're going to imitate a website design, there are far better ones to choose from. I understand the reasons why several pages of hand-drawn art accompanying each article would be too expensive, but there's no reason to throw out the very logical, elegant interface that surrounded it.

Anyway, now I'm worried that I will miss articles from time to time. I'm sure you don't want that. My suggestion would be to keep having an index page for each issue, sort of like the cover pages that previous issues had, and give us a big old prominent link to the most recent issue rather than to the individual articles. In my mind, the reason that I keep coming back to The Escapist was because of its very distinctive "magazine" metaphor, with the main articles each week adhering to a central theme. The current layout is like cutting the articles out of the magazine and scattering them around. It may be easier to get at each one, but it's jarring and it doesn't match the style of content you're delivering.

And while I'm on the subject of criticizing the layout, there's not much I'd change on the forums themselves, aside from the colors. Certainly make thread titles bold, or do something to make the "new" indicator distinct from the thread titles. Maybe make threads with new posts have bold titles?

Just my two cents.

I'd have to agree with Bongo Bill here. The old graphic style may have been too much work, but couldn't you keep the magazine layout? This just feels convoluted, like any other gaming news site (none of which I read on a regular basis).

I'm sure the content will continue to be great, but I honestly, really don't like the new look and layout.

I like the visual style of the new design, but it's insanely busy and inelegant. With so much going on, it's nearly impossible to find my way around. In fact, almost everything in the right column of the main page could be removed and the site would be better for it.

Already I miss the magazine feel of it. I had to spend several minutes poking around to even find anything like the Table of Contents for issue 105, and even that reads more like a news feed than a magazine. The editors note is the last thing on the page, instead of the first where it belongs. And I still have no idea what the theme is of this issue. Please don't lose the structured feel of The Escapist.

I like the new look and structure of the articles a lot. Very cohesive and attractive. They're easy to navigate, have a nice selection of web 2.0 links, and give ready access to the related forum posting. Very nice job on this. In fact, you should make your issue contents page just like this, and add links to the next and previous article in the issue.

I do really like the Related Articles sidebar in concept, but it's presence is obscured by the surrounding ads and the "What's New" panel that has no business being on every page. When I want to know what's new, I'll go the the homepage. All I need in that sidebar is my login information, the related links, and perhaps a single advertisement.

As a website, it's infinitely better than previous iterations. As a magazine, it's currently a step backwards, though that's fixable. Just please don't stop producing a PDF. In fact, this new design, if implemented as a PDF, could be rather printer friendly, which opens up another distribution method.

In case it helps, I too am a fan of the PDF format and grieve its loss. Even with the different design, PDF would just be lovely. So far the site is a bit complicated for my tastes, but I know I will embrace it quickly.

I feel left out into cold. The magazine layout was the most user-friendly thing anyone has ever done to a magazine on the internet. I could only see the necessary, no vertical scrolling at all, short colums for easy reading. I could read the whole of the magazine by just pressing PageDown. The layout was a lot of hard work I appreciated every time.

I understand the reasonigns: by having the magazine and the site integrated, the site does not feel as a back-yard of a theatre everyone goes to. You can sell banners, put digg and reddit banners everywhere, tag things. But all of this could have been done without sacrificing the One Amazing Identity Generating Thing.

The reasoning is all purely marketing-economic reasoning. Same thing, less costly, more integrated.

Yet for me, the rest -- things apart from the magazine -- are clutter. I can spare only a limited amount of time for the The Escapist each week. As of now, I cannot separate The Escapist from the site itself. I finished my fist article and felt stranded. There was absolutely no click I could do to go to the next article. Hell: there was absolutely no obvious click I could do to get to the Table of Contents.

You had a terrific magazine and turned it into an inconvenient web-site.

Now I'll turn my emotions down. What can you do? I assume that going back to the magazine format is a non-opiton.
- Add a Table of Contents as thing that contains articles.
- Add next article to every article (if TOC is added to the database, this is not difficult).
- Give user a clue that he is browsing "inside" the magazine: add a location bar with links to the TOC and current article permalink. "The Escapist Portal >> The Escapist #105 >> Pawn Takes Megabyte"
- Add a clever shortcut with space key and page down which works as follows: In case you are reading an article (and not commenting), space and page down go downward (as they do now). Now the clever part: In case you are in the bottom of the page - you go to the next page or next article.
Then I can put away my mouse again.

And yes, the proposed additions seem to be a nasty thing to program.

Happy birthday!

1) Happy birthday !
2) Where is my magazine ??

I have to second each one of Bongo Bill's points. I feel I've lost a unique experience on the 'net. It may only be the shock of something new, but I strongly believe the older way was better.

There is no clarity or cohesiveness to the site and it looks the same as a zillion others (twitchguru.com, anyone?). I kept trying to "open" the latest issue; obviously, with no success. Moreover, on my firefox-linux station, the layout crumbles if I increase the font size (hadn't checked on another system), as the forum links go under what's below them.

I'll avoid repeating what's been said above, but please, do what is possible to recapture the older feeling. I came to The Escapist for the in-depth articles, not the news or general forums, and I feel this change waters down what was once a powerful concept (which was weakened once before with the previous layout and focus change).

Assuming you will enable browsing the articles without clicking back and forth and make the front page "quieter", please allow the use of a full screen's width, as (same as in other sites) it's silly to have to scroll down to read, only to have a pillarbox view of the site.

Edit: The articles appear as white text on a white background for me, and I can only read them by highlighting all of the text.

Happy (belated) birthday! :)

Re: the new design, I like the new front page and forum design a lot more, though I'm ambivalent about the new "magazine" layout. The front page is like a cleaner, more organized, and easier to read version of the format that a lot of "portal" sites are using nowadays (e.g. my own preferred source for tech news, Ars Technica, which I've been reading for over 7 years). As with most portal site layouts, I wish the "main" column containing the article and newspost links was a bit wider, but that's just my layman's aesthetic.

The new "magazine" layout is also clean and effective, but I loved the beautiful layout of the old magazine, with the lush artwork and photography integrated into the page and the text arranged around it. This way is clearly vastly easier in terms of art/layout, so I can definitely see how it made sense to change. I do like the new look as compared to other similar sites, but I'll definitely miss the old style.

First of all, as everyone else has said, Happy Birthday!

Second, and the meat of this post, is that while the new site design looks nicer than the older (website) design, The Escapist has lost that special charm that differentiated it from game news sites. With how it is now, I might as well just read Gamasutra, or another such site; the magazine we all loved has disappeared.

As well, the lack of PDF issues is a killer for me. Unfortunately I'm one of the unlucky few who is without decent internet access, and the only way I've been able to continue reading the magazine is via the PDF edition of each issue. Without the PDFs I can't continue reading The Escapist, which is bad for both of us -- you lose a reader and I lose access to some valuable material.

Please bring back the old magazine feel! Keep the new look for the website itself, but restore the old magazine look and feel for the actual content. And bring back those PDFs!

Happy Birthday!

Let me first say that I like the Escapist and am all for innovation. Colourwise, I like the new look. I like the feel. It's much easier on the eyes than white text on a dark background. It looks more like paper.

Otherwise, Trillion summarized my impressions. I feel lost. The front page is hopelessly busy and I don't know what is what.

- It's hard to pick out the titles among the dominant permalink bars. I find that the permalink bars distract me from the content.

- I don't know whether the long list of titles in the lower left-hand corner are part of the Escapist Daily or not. What are they?

- What is the Escapist Daily? Does it include both the News and the Editorials but not the Features and not the Gaming Discussion and not the Off-topic Discussion posts? It's not clear and I've spent a long time trying to figure it out. I shouldn't have to dissect the site for an hour to figure it out.

- Why is the Editor's note in the Editorials and not with the Features? It confuses the Editorials with the magazine. Which is the magazine? Is there a magazine and where do I find it? The fact that the two categories are conflated makes it difficult for the casual reader (or even this long term reader) to understand the distinction. Is there any difference between the magazine and the editorials? Is there any magazine left, or is the Escapist turning into another site with a bunch of articles?

- What is "It Came From the Lounge"? Is it the editorials? It might partially help if, in the forums, "It Came From the Lounge" was renamed to make it clear that the Lounge is the Editorials (if, indeed, that's true).

While I did like the magazine feel, the pdf idea, and especially the art, I almost never read it in pdf form.

I hate to complain but please take it as a compliment. If I didn't care about the magazine, I wouldn't have written anything.

We had underestimated the extent to which some of our loyal readers actively enjoyed the magazine-style formatting. Our web statistics and server logs, of course, indicate that the vast majority of people use the site in a traditional web-style manner, reading one article, often in print-style layout, so that was the direction we trended.

To accommodate those of you who prefer magazine-style browsing, we have created tables of content sections for each issue at the bottom of each article page. Included in those tables of contents, we added in links to the Editor's Note and the Letters to the Editor, to help preserve the original content structure.

As for the PDFs, as Landslide mentioned, these were pretty time-intensive of themselves. We were sad to see them go, as well; we feel your pain. Believe me it was not an easy decision and there was much gnashing of teeth involved.

What we are working on is creating an easy way by which you guys can print the articles, so the mobility of the articles will still be intact. Hopefully, this will ease some of the concerns over the need to sit at the PC to read.

Thanks for your feedback and ideas - please keep it coming. We are here, we are listening and we are trying to incorporate them into The Escapist 2.0. We've already started, as evidenced by the new table of content links at the bottom of each page. If we can incorporate your ideas into the new design, be assured we will.

The table of contents at the bottom definitely helps.

Unfortunately for me those PDFs were my only lifeline to the magazine. It's easier for me to drop The Escapist as reading material than to get a real internet connection (thanks to costs), so I'll unfortunately have to bid adieu until such a time as PDF editions may once again return to this magazine.

Andraste:
What we are working on is creating an easy way by which you guys can print the articles, so the mobility of the articles will still be intact. Hopefully, this will ease some of the concerns over the need to sit at the PC to read.

I don't know how this works for Windows users, but in Mac OS X anything that can be printed conventionally can be "printed to PDF" instead (via the same "print" menu option, just like printing regularly). If this functionality is available in Windows, making articles easily printable would be just as good as bringing the PDFs back. :)

Futzing around with Windows XP SP2 here at work, I can't seem to do it, but that doesn't mean it's impossible.

Andraste:
Thanks for your feedback and ideas - please keep it coming.

Since you asked, I have another thought: on the front page, the "Issue #" in the top left isn't very prominent. That is, I don't think it's immediately obvious that those tabs form an issue of a thematically-cohesive weekly magazine, because the Issue # box is very easy to just glance past. It does fit with the rest of the front page style, but I think that the current week's issue ought to really stand out.

However, I always view the Escapist (and everything) at 1280x1024 on a 17" LCD, whether I'm at work or at home -- the overall Issue box and the small Issue # box would definitely be more prominent if I was at 1024x768 or lower.

By the way, I really like that you guys have kept the artwork alongside the articles, it's a good way to preserve the feel of the original magazine in the new format.

Ajar:
I don't know how this works for Windows users, but in Mac OS X anything that can be printed conventionally can be "printed to PDF" instead (via the same "print" menu option, just like printing regularly). If this functionality is available in Windows...

I've used CutePDF in the past. It's free, doesn't include advertising, behaves as a printer from the print menu, and spits out a PDF.

http://www.cutepdf.com/Products/CutePDF/Writer.asp

It's not going to bring back the old-style Escapist, but it will give you a PDF.

I'm going to chime in and say that I will dearly miss the magazine layout, as it was one of the most distinctive setups I have ever encountered, and I really enjoyed it. BUT, with the addition of the ToC at the bottom of each article, many of my initial concerns are taken care of (I thought about posting yesterday, when this first happened, and refrained because I wouldn't've been nearly as friendly).

//begin rant
The only thing left that I really find jarring is the placement of the tags. They're jumbled, and everywhere, and mostly look like *self-censured*. I appreciate that you've got a tagging system, and you want to make it accessible, but everywhere I look I see:

Excellent, Evocative Title
By Author
fanboy, horse, peanut butter, puppies, Queen Elizabeth, socks

The site was always so clean and slick before. The tag placement just doesn't look good. Additionally, if I'm reading an article, aren't tags the last thing I'm interested in? They're maybe how I got there, but I don't think most (non-ADD) people arrive at an article, go, "Flower Power", "By Spanner", oooooo "pokemon". I read the article, I enjoy the article, and THEN I become interested in where else the wonderful web2.0 might lead.
//end rant

In the end, it will take more than a format change to keep me from coming back, as the content is some of the best out there. Thank you for trying to address the initial concerns so quickly, you guys are all awesome.

edit: P.S. I just noticed that in the "What's new" and everywhere else with Comment links, its no longer possible to jump directly to the most recent comment. Maybe this was a glitch that I enjoyed exploiting previously, but it was nice, if I'd been following a particular thread closely, to hit the homepage, see that people had responded, and jump directly to the most recent comment. Still not a deal-breaker.

edit^2: Latest Post links are now working! W00T! Or maybe they were working before, and my browser was just malfunctioning.

Im one of the PDF fans too and I will be less likely to read all the articles now. The new design seems more like a news site rather than a magazine site. Is this the intent? Im sorry but I dont read the Escapist to find news about games and I much prefer The Escapist as a magazine.

Interesting about CutePDF.

The tag thing is a good point -- the dark font really stands out, and makes the light grey author line above it significantly harder to read. In my mind, the author of an article or newspost is a lot more relevant than the tags (which I agree would probably be best at the end of the article).

I want to say again how much more I like the new forum. A lot more readable than the old style.

When The Escapist turned from magazine to portal a while back, I was a little disappointed. I really liked the old Lounge design for non-article postings and comments and loved the simplicity of it all.

Now, it's taken another step further from its roots and is reminiscent of IGN and 1UP. Again, I'm disappointed by this decision. Everything is way more accessible, but busy and complex.

Of course, I love the content of this site... which is why, despite my criticism, I continue to come back time and time again. The Escapist has the best writing and art design team out there, bar none.

The Escapist started out very casual, but now it seems like a hardcore gaming site. I like how "un-hardcore" the writing and perspectives are... which is why this revamp confuses me.

I do appreciate the color scheme and dominant white background though; very attractive. I just miss the magazine metaphor and simplicity it encouraged.

Hey folks!

As Producer, I feel like I can be of some help here, with a bit of explanation. I oversee the 'production' of each article after our editorial staff is finished with it, I've also been responsible for a lot of the design decisions and changes made throughout the lifespan of the magazine. So, more or less, tomatoes should be aimed this way. :)

Our reasons for the redesign are manifold.

When we first launched the publication, the interested public was polarized regarding the design. Many loved it. Many didn't. This always bothered us, but at the time it was more important for us to expand the standards of web publishing (as we found it lacking), than it was to create something less unique, with broader appeal.

Working 'outside the box' was very difficult. We noticed it immediately in our production costs, dedicated manpower, and difficulty getting sponsors. To make an impact, you have to go beyond what others are willing to do (or even accept), and really make a scene. So we ate the costs, the time investment, and worked through it, because we really felt that what we were doing and providing was something necessary for this industry to grow and mature.

We still feel that way.

And as we strive to help this industry take a critical and constructive look at itself, so too must we. To make a real, definitive difference we realized it was important to re-invent how we presented ourselves to have more mass appeal, and carry our writing to more and more people.

Trust me, part of each of us here is sad to see the old style go as well (It took a lot of effort to conceive and execute it), but we all believe that this redesign is key to the longevity and ultimate goal of the publication. Thank you ALL for your incredible support. We were all taken a bit by surprise at just how attached some of you were to the old style, and we really look forward to working with you all on improving and streamlining the new one.

Thanks, and happy gaming!

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I can understand the change in direction. And, I like the concept. I find the feature articles easier to read even though I liked the aesthetics of the old magazine better. The main issue that I found was with the confusing organization of the front page. Most of the time, the blue bars represent titles. When the blue bars are used for Permalinks, it feels confusing because I automatically envision them as major sections.

As an avid reader of the escapist, I don't have much to add I entirely agree with posters like Bongo Bill, the articles just seem harder to read now as well for some reason with the scrolling and layout change.

Two more things:

1. I love the Articles of Interest (if these were on the previous site, I never saw them). I think I've read 4 articles today that I'd either forgotten, or never seen before. Glorious.

2. Wordwrap on various things seems to be turned off, leading to several things (in my browser) disappearing behind the control to their right when they're too long. (ie "Sierra Announces New Additions to F.E.A.R. Fran"

Happy Birthday to the most important publication in the video game industry!

Happy Birthday Indeeed!

I also miss the magazine style layout. If the content remains of the same caliber as it was before, than I'll keep reading, It's become a wonderful "home" for me online. I don't really care for the new layout at all, It's far more trendy, busy, and web 2.0 and frankly not what I want. I really enjoyed reading it as a magazine. I don't know how heavily it would affect your time / budget to bring back a little bit more of the in article photos and text wrapping around them throughout the layout, but it would be nice to see them again.

I have to second that I don't primarily look to the escapist for news or reviews. I want and have so far found someplace that gives me thought provoking articles, and interesting features that are closer to stories than anything else in my mind. The community that has formed around these articles to debate the meanings of them and the greater world in which they take place are what have made this place feel like a home to me.

I worry that by making our "club" less exclusive, by adding tags and by making everything so very automated, we lose out on the unique feel and differences which make this site so dear to me. Time will tell if this is true in the end. I wish you the best of luck in your endeavors, and I hope that the design grows on me.

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