Two Retrospectives at Once?

By Shamus Posted Sunday Oct 7, 2018

Filed under: Notices 69 comments

I knew this would happen sooner or later. Sometimes there just isn’t enough news going on to give me a topic for a weekly column. Now that I’m writing at the Escapist, I’m trying to fill two columns.

One of the decisions I made when I took the Escapist gig was that I wan’t going to reduce the volume of content here on the blog. I think that’s the only way to be fair to my Patrons. Now I’m having trouble filling both commitments.

My self-imposed quota goes something like this:

  1. A weekly column for the Escapist.
  2. Some low-effort content for Sunday. (Hint: You’re reading it now.)
  3. Podcast on Monday.
  4. A 1,500 to 3,000 word column on Tuesday. (Currently This Dumb Industry.)
  5. A retrospective post on Thursday. (Currently GTA V.)

My other problem is that I have too much content in the form of retrospectives. Right now I’ve got an accumulated 7 months of lead time in the form of Grand Theft Auto V + Mass Effect Andromeda + Spider-Man. It’s not a lot of fun writing something that won’t see the light of day for half a year. Usually if I’m writing about something it’s because I’m interested in discussing it now-ish.

This means I have a shortage of one kind of content (columns) and a glut of another type of content (retrospectives) and my deadlines are either tomorrow or next year. That’s… weird.

My quota has me putting out about 5k words a week. I can hit that easily. The problem isn’t writing time, it’s the lack of column topics.

The obvious solution would be to send all the columns to the Escapist, and run two concurrent retrospectives here on the blog. I’d have to be careful with the category filing to keep them from getting mixed together in the archives, but otherwise I can’t think of a reason why this wouldn’t work.

This would mean more total words here on the blog, since retrospective posts tend to be a bit longerA minimum column length is 1,500 words, while I prefer retrospective posts to exceed 2k. than columns, but it would mean you’d need to go to the Escapist to get my bitching & moaning about the industry.

Then again, I kind prefer “This Dumb Industry” to “Experienced Points” in terms of branding. I really love the TDI header image…

I've always been fond of this.
I've always been fond of this.

…and I’d be sad if it didn’t pop up on a regular basis.

I dunno. It really looks like this is the best solution to the problem of unbalanced content pipelines. We’ll see.



[1] A minimum column length is 1,500 words, while I prefer retrospective posts to exceed 2k.

From The Archives:

69 thoughts on “Two Retrospectives at Once?

  1. Yerushalmi says:

    Idea: Reskin Factorio so it’s about generating blog content.

    1. Kalil says:

      Only half joking: I’d totally read a Shamus Let’s Play of Factorio.

      1. Worthstream says:

        Actually not joking: I’d love a Shamus let’s play of Factorio.
        Text and images let’s plays are disappearing thanks to the easier to digest video ones, let’s show them some love!

  2. Lupis42 says:

    Could you run one of the Retros at the Escapist?

    1. Kavonde says:

      I second this, assuming The Escapist would be up for it. I think your Mass Effect retrospective, even if it’s old content, would do great over there, and it certainly deserves all the eyeballs it can get.

  3. Scampi says:

    Couldn’t you run TDI, say, every other week instead of weekly, filling in the other weeks with the retrospectives, speeding up your retrospective schedule while reducing the columns for a while to catch up? TDI would still be a regular while more rare read and the retrospectives would be out a bit sooner, reducing your glut. Alternatively, you might occasionally publish your retrospectives instead of your low effort posts, if you feel they are queuing up too much.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Couldn’t you just run a TDI column infrequently, as in whenever there’s an issue you feel is worth writing about?
      Trying to find something interesting to write about every week seems a challenge, particularly for something like TDI which relies on current events so much.

      What I’d do: Run retrospectives and reviews in the regular weekly slots, but whenever something interesting/worth writing about turns up, just displace the regular retrospective episode with a TDI post or something else.
      Means there’s always something to read on the site, and you’re not working to churn out 2-3 columns every week.
      It’s YOUR website, after all, write about what you want to, when you want to.

      …anyway, just the opinion of a non-Patreon. Take or leave it as you will.

      1. Dan Efran says:

        Honestly, I thought this was already the plan…I too would prefer TDI To preempt regular in-depth analysis infrequently, rather than be a regular feature here itself.

        As for your fondness for the TDI header image, Shamus, I must admit I never paid it any attention except as a category icon. I don’t know that I ever really looked at the details enough to distinguish it from clip art. So maybe that’s just me or maybe the composition makes the joke too subtle – even looking closer, it seems more droll than LOL – but I’m not convinced the picture is as valuable overall as it is to you.

        Sorry if that sounded snarky at all – it’s kind of an awkward criticism to express politely. I wonder if others have had a different reaction….

      2. Liessa says:

        This sounds like a good idea to me. I’m always happy to see more retrospectives.

      3. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Seconded. TDI seems like the sort of column you can really only run situationally, or if you intend to deep-dive into the problems in the industry. Otherwise you just run out of material.

        And I certainly wouldn’t complain about more retrospectives (assuming I cared about the game of course)

        Non-Patreon, so do with that what you will :)

      4. Using the retrospectives as filler seems like a bad idea to me. The problem is the nature of Shamus’ retrospectives being a sequential set of articles makes them very reliant on a steady release schedule and disrupting that flow to focus on a sudden influx of news can be very detrimental to maintaining readership. Yeah, loyal regulars who comment will probably put in the time to refresh their memory from a hiatus, but its just as a likely a lot of readers to will bail if they keep having to go back to to two or three week old articles to remind themselves what this guy’s talking about.

        Once these things come out, the best thing for them is to commit to a solid release schedule regardless of what news pops up.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Well it depends. How big are the interruptions between the regular articles? Three weeks, yes, I get that. But one week? I’m not so sure.
          These aren’t reviews of newly-released games. They aren’t linked to current events. They’re just Shamus’ opinion*, spelled out clearly. Usually, the topics in a retrospective series are somewhat self-contained, or Shamus includes a ‘Last week I talked about [Link]…’ at the beginning.

          If someones going to be put off by having to refresh their memory about what was said a couple of weeks ago, are they really going to be interested in this form of long-form analysis to begin with…?

          *Informed, researched, lucid opinion.

  4. AndrewCC says:

    Put the retrospectives up, Shamus. At this rate you’re building a backlog to rival most gamer’s Steam backlog.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Go for it! We all can’t wait for the promised retrospectives, and if something needs to be addressed, just do a TDI.

  6. chris says:

    it’s generally better to write out of passion than obligation. Whenever I write about something I want to share i can keep going for hours and im happy with working on it till its perfect, and it ends up higher quality. While with obligations I put it off and delay it. So I’d say that it would be better to do more retrospective stuff and keep TDI for when you feel they have gone too far.

    That said, i’m not a patron.

  7. Asdasd says:

    I have an idea for a column you might be interested in, Shamus. In fact I half thought you might already be working on it..

    So this caught a bit of attention recently. It’s a post mortem of this mystery puzzle game, Lake Ridden. As the producer notes, there were a lot of positives during development. They made this cool looking game that tested well and got a bunch of publicity despite being a tiny team with no publisher backing. Just about everything they could want went right for them during the build up, even up to release, where they sat on the front page of the Steam store for like a week.

    Only.. none of that translated into sales. So this article is attempting to get to the bottom of the why. And several hundred words later, kind of draws a blank.

    It’s understandable and forgivable, but I think the person who wrote this post mortem is too close to, too enamored with the project to really dare to dig at what it is about it that made it unsuccessful. Not prepared enough to roll up the sleeves and really get stuck in. Which is where you come in? Maybe? In any case I’m sure you’ll find it an interesting read.

    Oh, and as for your plan: I can’t speak for other patrons, but as I’m concerned I’d be happy for you to go for it. I love reading the retrospectives (TDI is great too of course) so I wouldn’t complain at all to see them coming out at a faster clip.

    1. Noumenon72 says:

      Great article. They did everything right and it’s really too bad.

    2. Droid says:

      It might just be that the name/thumbnail combination drove people off.

      It might not have mattered that much when the game was at the front page on Steam, but as noted in the article, that was at a time when very few people were likely browsing the store pages at all.
      And after that, the ONE thing that your game has to do to get noticed, especially when you’re banking on getting more buyers through a discount, is to convey an emotion in its title/thumbnail combination. And at least for me, “Lake Ridden” does absolutely nothing (maybe I just don’t get it?). What’s that supposed to evoke in the person scrolling through 5 pages of offers on Steam “just in case there’s something good”?

      Also, the thumbnail DECIDEDLY looks like one from a horror game. The branches look like arms moving in to grab the character or to cut off her escape. It would fit Mirkwood or the Old Forest of Buckland. The shades of red in the background, while probably trying to evoke the thought of a warm, cosy fire, give the picture another layer of alarm or distress at first glance (a fire so much more prominent than the main character would pose a considerable risk in a forest, after all). And people seeing said thumbnail are not going to give it more than that one glance unless they are intrigued by the game’s name.

      Of course, this is only speculation, but since the article also said that they have nothing more to go on than speculation: Maybe the name/thumbnail drove away a lot of potential buyers, especially during discounts, due to how little it actually managed to grab the potential player’s attention, or actively misinformed them on what they were looking at?

      1. DerJungerLudendorff says:

        Lake Ridden pretty much screams “Indie first-person horror game” to me. I’d discard it pretty much on sight if I ever ran across it.

        1. Syal says:

          Yeah, reading that it was originally going to be a horror game, it looks like they just didn’t think to change the title and image when it changed directions. Names matter, probably more than word of mouth.

          (speaking of good games with bad titles: fans of Earthbound and horror aesthetics should check out Jimmy and the Pulsating Mass.)

          1. Syal says:

            Oh, also they say the graphics are on par with AAA games? I can’t tell what level of graphics card they require, but I wonder if they out-teched their audience.

  8. Christopher says:

    Sounds like a great solution to me.

  9. Wangwang says:

    You make me a happy Sunday. I prefer Retrospective than This Dumb Industry. Not because This Dumb Industry is bad, just because I prefer to read about actual games than the industry in general.
    Also, I know you have to be in the right mood for it. But I wish you could make more comedy series. The kind of Stolen Pixel or LOTRO Play.

  10. Leipävelho says:

    One idea for additional content is, that you could play short games with strong/interesting stories/worlds, like Rodina, and use your expertise in nitpicking to gauge how well they succeedeed. Which is completetly different from retrospectives, obviously.

  11. Mr. Wolf says:

    Okay, but we’re still on track for 2023 Fallout 4 analysis? That’s a thing, right?

    1. Nimrandir says:

      I missed this before. Perhaps Twenty Sided now has its own Duke Nukem Forever?

      1. Mr. Wolf says:

        Nothing quite so unglamorous. I’m just extrapolating based on the last Follout retrospective.

        1. Shamus says:

          I’ve had Fallout 4 on the back burner for over a year now. Every time I bring it up people tell me, “Bah. Don’t bother. It sucks and isn’t worth tearing apart.”

          I’ve got a few thousand words on it done already. Maybe I should just bash them into shape and put it up as a short 3 week series.

  12. Joshua says:

    As long as it’s more written introspective, I’m good.

  13. MadTinkerer says:

    I read this blog for whatever you put on it, Shamus. I prefer programming content, but I also appreciate how difficult it is to produce that content, so I don’t expect a lot of it. Otherwise, I’m pretty content with whatever you choose to write about here.

    Maybe more tabletop RPG content? Nah, that would require changing your blog’s name to something like… Well anyway, I wouldn’t mind more tabletop RPG content.

  14. Redrock says:

    I may be totally wrong here, and if so, sorry for making assumptions, but it does feel occasionally as if you’re having a bit more fun with This Dumb Industry than Experienced Points. The last couple EP columns seemed a bit more dry than TDI. Just a little bit. I dunno. I totally see how maintaining two similar weekly columns can get weird. Back when I was producing radio shows, running out of topics was the main concern that killed a lot of proposals. We’d come up with a great format, figure out a lot of neat tricks and features and then I’d ask “Okay, so we just dreamed up a great pilot. Will we be able to come up with enought topics and guests to sustain that format every week?”. 9 times out of 10 the answer is “no”.

    Now, if I were to give some unsolicited advice, a way around that would be to give the two columns some more strict specialization. For example, you could re-format This Dumb Industry into a hindsight case-study column, devoted to past mistakes and interesting cases and whether the industry learned from them. A sort if industry retrospective, if you will. Just a thought.

    1. Nimrandir says:

      In fairness, that could be editorial direction. Maybe they’re going for more tone-neutral content?

      1. Thomas says:

        Someone should tell ‘They hate me because they ain’t me’ Bob that.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          Yes, Bob “I don’t have any ideology, I just want what’s objectively best” Chipman is dearly concerned with tone neutrality.

          1. Redrock says:

            Look, Bob was once mentioned in the NYT for his angry (and ugly) Pixels review. He’s been fumbling for a coherent style ever since. I used to love Bob’s work, I still think he’s one of the more knowlegeable and thoughtful movie and pop culture geeks out there. Big Picture used to be really great. These days … yeah, it’s a bit tougher to be a fan of his.

            1. Nimrandir says:

              For what it’s worth, one of his first reviews on the Escapist was a similarly angry screed against the Transformers movies. I agree that the current political climate seems to have made following him . . . problematic.

        2. Nimrandir says:

          Different standards/goals for video and written content, maybe? The idea could be that Zero Punctuation already throws enough metaphorical Molotovs (at least it did when last I watched one of Yahtzee’s videos) that holding other video creators to stricter standards is too hypocritical. I’m not sure I’d be able to tell a difference between Bob’s vitriol and Yahtzee’s if the Internet weren’t determined to make sure I know the former is one of the worst human beings ever to be human.

          Again, I’m hypothesizing here, and I don’t condone Bob’s tone when he decides it’s time to climb on the soapbox.

          1. Redrock says:

            I think the difference between them is that Yahtzee mostly does straight-up comedy, while Bob is going for pretty straight-faced preaching, complete with fire and brimstone. Me, I don’t much care and I certainly don’t support the idea of anyone in the Escapist leaning on Bob to switch up his style, god forbid. I’ve had plenty of experience with editorial censorship amd I hate it. I don’t really think that the Escapist enforces a lot of standards anyway. Doesn’t seem to be their style.

            1. BlueHorus says:

              Yeah, I think the ‘preaching’ distinction fits quite well.

              I always get the impression that Yahtzee’s got political views, views he’s not going to apologise for, but they’re not the point of his videos. He reviews games first, makes jokes second, and isn’t there to make political points.

              Meanwhile Bob seems to like getting on a soapbox and actively proslyetising. Man does that dude take himself seriously sometimes.
              It’s sad, because when he does a COMICS ARE WEIRD or Shlocktober episode, It’s (to me at least) a lot more fun.

              Makes me wonder if he’s a good example of some who spends too long on Twitter?
              As in he’s been getting more entrenched, strident and argumentatie without actively meaning to.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                These are both completely fair points. I generally only watch one of his videos if the title skews toward ‘Comics are Weird’ or something along those lines.

  15. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Dumb question: why not just run the current retrospective two times a week?

  16. Kdansky says:

    I’ll take double retrospectives please! Either two at once, or one at double the speed.

  17. coleusrattus says:

    I don’t really care if I read your content on the escapist or here, with the caveat that I don’t check out the former, but use the links you post here to go there. So I don’t really care if you put up the retrospectives here and the columns there.

    BUT, despite me liking reading them and the Header art really being awesome, doesn’t the TDI title kind of narrow down the topics (and it also gives the whole column a default negativity), so dropping it might free you up to write about other stuff than the industry being dumb?

  18. Teddy says:

    Like others have said, I don’t really care where you post, I will read it. Here, the Escapist, do whatever works best for you. Just please keep giving us commentary here on your Escapist posts, even if it shrinks.

  19. Tektotherriggen says:

    TDI does have a great picture, but Experienced Points is a decent RPG pun, so I think they are both good brands. The uber-coolness would be to use the TDI image for the EP column, changing the icons depending on the topic (happy emoji for saying SpiderMan is great, angry face and storm clouds for when people are WRONG ON THE INTERNET, etc.)

    I’m very happy with retrospectives instead, either double-helpings of one or two at a time.

  20. Ramsus says:

    Personally I really like the idea of putting up both retrospectives and am perfectly fine to click a link here to your Escapist content.
    This also has the benefit that the comments section for whichever the later posted retrospective would be doesn’t require you to go back and re-read what you wrote to make sense of what people are responding to.
    And personally I actually enjoy the retrospectives a little bit more than the columns, so this plan actually gives me more of what I like.

  21. Fizban says:

    I always figured the limiting factor on retrospectives was time and pipeline, but if you can handle two a week then why not?

    As for moving both the columns, as in This Dumb Industry over to The Escapist- I’d be wary of that idea, since wasn’t the whole point of This Dumb Industry being a “new title, same content” because The Escapist had the rights to the old title? It also feels to me like they’re written a bit differently, since Experienced Points is explicitly for more general audience at The Escapist, while TDI is more personalized for the blog. Trying to “move” it would just result in two columns of slightly different styles still drawing from the same limited pool of topics.

    So throw me in the camp of TDI when there’s something to talk about, more retrospective posts when there’s not I guess.

  22. Aevylmar says:

    I’m a big fan of double retrospectives. I love the longform analysis; you’re the only person I’ve found who does it, and you do it really, really well.

  23. Duoae says:

    Sign me up as being a fan of putting up two simultaneous retrospectives on the blog. I also like the columns but I mostly do the patreon stuff for the longer-form content on here.

  24. Wiseman says:

    I find it weird that the column at the Escapist, as you said, is ignored by a non trivial part of your audience. I mean you are making another column every week. So why does it matter what site it’s in?

  25. baud says:

    I think I’ve been reading the TDI since you started and I think it’s the first time I’ve noticed the buttons are not the usual AB/X/Y.

    On one hand it’s a cool detail that fits very well with the title of the column, on the other hand, I feel stupid for not noticing it earlier.

    And as for the content, I don’t really have an opinion regarding it, I’ll just read it anyway.

  26. Husr says:

    Just putting in another vote for double retrospectives. I like your columns too but the retrospectives are really the main draw for me to the site here and clicking one link to the escapist is really no trouble at all.

  27. JDMM says:

    How about subdividing the columns into two different types of topics?

    At the moment Experienced Points is about whatever and TDI is also about whatever however you could divide them so Experienced Points is about non-programming and TDI is about programming related subtopics, ideally you could then always have enough news for Experience Points and if you run into writers block with TDI go back into your professional life and write about (idk) how the current controversy over the Linux CoC is emblematic of the fact that most truly professional programmers who will contribute to open source are insane madmen

    Just a suggestion as Experienced Points seems aimed at the broader audience meanwhile TDI could be aimed at a more willing to be educated audience

    1. default_ex says:

      That might be a good one to touch on. The Linux Code of Conduct issue is one where we are actively seeing politics break down a primarily meritocracy driven system. So many misunderstandings on both sides of the topics that are being driven by one side looking for politics where there doesn’t seem to be any and the other look at it as people whom didn’t have much merit in their contributions looking for other reasons they are being discriminated against. It would be nice to see it looked at from a more pragmatic mindset but it’s hard to do that when it’s such a messy topic. Perhaps Shamus could pull it off.

  28. somebodys_kid says:

    I would prefer posting a single retrospective twice a week, rather than two different ones. Honestly though as long as there’s content I’ll be good.

  29. AzzyGaiden says:

    Nothing against this iteration of The Escapist, but their website is…let’s say not quite ready for prime time. I hope this new gig pans out, Shamus.

  30. Jack V says:

    I’m not sure I completely understand, but I say run the content you have! Too big a buffer risks the articles going obsolete somehow (if you mention the same thoughts elsewhere, or if you run out of material in the meantime or whatever), and if you’re using the content you have, you’ll hopefully be a bit less stretched.

    But then I think your most interesting thoughts often come out in retrospectives, even if you later summarise them into a more consumable article, so I like the plan — I don’t know if there’s people who only read the articles.

  31. Lars says:

    Or you could make something more twenty-side-ish in addition to TDI/sunday, like … a comic of film scenes where the actors behave like they are in a tabletop rpg. :-)

    But what films could that be? It needs a group dynamic, so no solo hero.
    Jurassic Park
    Tributes of Panam

  32. roj says:

    Not that anyone will care, but I DON’T care. I come here to read Shamus-written words. If I don’t like a particular article or type, I am free to skip it. In this case I am free to consume the more words. So yay!

    *written without reading existing comments, dictated but not proofread*
    *edit: okay proofread a little*

  33. Kylroy says:

    I feel like “This Dumb Industry” is at it’s best when it’s addressing something topical; there’s perennial issues in gaming like lootboxes and representation that can also generate columns, but I don’t know that it can generate *enough* to maintain weekly output that remains compelling.

    So count me a vote for double retrospectives and all columns at The Escapist. Bust out “This Dumb Industry” when appropriate back at the mothership.

  34. Dreadjaws says:

    Then again, I kind prefer “This Dumb Industry” to “Experienced Points” in terms of branding. I really love the TDI header image…

    A solution to this would be to send both columns to The Escapist but give them both a different header in the blog.

    And, you know, don’t get so stressed about it. People are here to read your words, not the news. I don’t think anyone’s going to complain if you make a retrospective on a game that’s no longer new, particularly since that’s what you do most of the time.

  35. WWWebb says:

    I’d like to think that “grumpy old man” Shamus would run out of topics for “This Dumb Industry”, but … well … yeah. However, at this point, I don’t think the industry is making many NEW mistakes, so the columns are getting kinda same-y, especially when the same industry news ALSO gets covered in the podcast.

    Experienced Points (IMO) was always best when it was celebrating/explaining some new graphics or narrative trick in a new game. The “wow, this game feels extra great but I can’t quite put my finger on it” explainer. That “celebrate what’s great about games” ethos is supposedly central to the Escapist now, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you got some “don’t be a Debbie Downer” feedback from them eventually.

    As for the “what do your patrons think” question, I agree with the suggestions above to just speed up the release schedule on a single retrospective at a time (twice a week isn’t too much).

  36. Gndwyn says:

    Gotta admit that “I have way more to say about a bunch of games that I like than I do about how dumb the games industry is” is a good look. Good for you, Shamus!

  37. Jeremy Smith says:

    As one of your Patrons, I don’t care where you do your writing. I just want you to be able to put bread on the table and keep doing what you enjoy. I’ll happily go to The Escapist for whatever of your content you decide to put there.

  38. CliveHowlitzer says:

    I’ll take two retrospectives at once please, they are my favorite kind of content on the site.

  39. Simplex says:

    I just finished Spider-Man so I’d love to read your retrospective on it.

  40. “but it would mean you’d need to go to the Escapist”

    I’m fine with this, it’ll probably benefit you financially as well. I’ve got adblocker disabled for The Escapist just because of you.

  41. Jamey says:

    You should totally go for two concurrent retrospectives. If it works, then great! If not, you can say, “In retrospect, two retrospectives wasn’t a great idea.” It’s win-win!

  42. Blake says:

    Minor theme nitpick:
    Running latest Firefox, when my window is sized so that the [1] is near the right-edge of the window and I click it, half the yellow popup is outside the window making it unreadable until I scroll down to the footnotes.
    Popup should clamp to the edge of the window or something.

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