As the post title might give away, Irregular Magazine Issue 10 came out the other day.
The production quality is up from last issue, which is good to see. I can forgive the occasional slip, but if it had started to become a regular thing then that is when I begin to break out the critiquing stick.
Not really much in this issue for Warhammer players, nor modellers or painters in general. There is an interesting article on Fighting Fantasy, though. Especially fortuitous, as Fighting Fantasy has come up in the research for one of the article I am working on for Skavenblight Gazette. Plus, I had almost totally forgotten about the book ‘Out of the Pit’. This book single-handedly put fantasy onto my interest radar, and it is just an index of monsters!
While the issue may not contain much relevant information to our kind, it is still worth downloading. These kinds of quality productions need to be supported.
Just trying to finalise issue 9 of Skavenblight Gazette. All the major articles are in, so there is just little abnormalities to fix. Hopefully we can get this thing out by the end of this weekend. That would be nice.
Keep an eye out!
Not a massive, pull no punches review as normal. More a friendly heads up.
Issue 4 of Irregular Magazine came out not long ago. I am still making my way through it, but if previous issues are anything to go by, this issue is well worth a look.
While you are at it, go check out The Bellower issue 2. This came out a while back, but the opportunity to push it never really came up. Now seems like a good time. Download now, thinling!
Issue 2 of The Doom Seeker came out a couple of weeks ago, so most likely nothing I have to say will be anything fantastically new or timely. But, the purview of this blog is to cover all Warhammer that I come across, so here we go.
With most webzines it is around issue 2 that you can start to get a feel for where it is headed. Issue 1 is always the introduction. The staff are so full of ideas and energy and that translates into the issue. Issue 2 is where some of the shine has worn off, and everyone involved has discovered that the hard work just starts all over again. Conversely, issue 3 is about where half the contributors jump ship.
So how is the Doom Seeker looking?
Honestly, from the outset, it is looking very unfocused. Where the first issue had a definite flavour and audience, this issue seems a lot more general. Which is disappointing. The internet at large provides the ‘general’ Warhammer vibe, while the webzines allow a more succinct look at a specific area. So in regards to the overall content of the issue it is very disappointing.
This isn’t helped by the fact that the Doom Seeker never really seems to say who exactly this is targeted at. I wasn’t sure if the first issue was directed at Slayer armies, Storm of Chaos armies as a whole, or Mercenaries. This issue just adds to my confusion.
Thats not to say the content is bad. The articles are easy to read, if a little bland, and there is a good selection of them. It does, however, have an air of desperation about it. Like many of the articles are not fully formed concepts or just not entirely finished. Which is a shame.
The design has improved from last issue, but only marginally. The clipart is way down, but the use of colour is still off. There are also some very ordinary illustrations. Given the popularity of the Warhammer setting for amateur illustrators it shouldn’t be that hard to pull in some original works. And for the love of all that is sacred, ditch the half page adverts. The digital medium basically demands full page promotions, and it just makes your articles look a lot better.
A special mention goes to the editorial piece, too. It reads like a glorified forum post. And that isn’t a good thing. While the points raised are all valid, the tone it uses is just all wrong. It reads like a thirteen year olds whine, rather than an impassioned call to action.
The overall verdict for this issue isn’t good. Download it if you are a staunch supporter of the Warhammer community, especially the creators of webzines. Otherwise this has nothing of real value to offer the general reader. And that isn’t easy for me to say, but it’s better the creators of the Doom Seeker know the problems now rather than later. This way they can correct this issue now and bring out a better product for us.
At least, that’s the idea.
Let me be the first (as far as I know, anyway) to officially welcome The Invocation to the fan made Warhammer webzine club. Yes, I realise this is their second issue, but I don’t consider something a proper webzine until it reaches issue two. Putting together one issue is piss easy, but following through and doing another displays your dedication. And to that, I tip my rusted, dirt encrusted helmet.
So, how is issue two looking, especially when looking back at issue one?
On the article side of things it is looking really good. There is a nice mix of articles types. Painting, tactics and stories all are featured. I particularly like the army showcase ‘Unholy Masterpieces’. The Carnivale de los Muerto is worth the hefty download price alone. The fact that the Vampire Counts players are championing such a different, but appropriately themed, army is good to see. Those armies that have had such time and effort put into them should be celebrated.
Besides this article, and the painting one, the articles were of no great interest to me. This is largely because I am not familiar with the Vampire Counts army book, and so know next to nothing on what they are talking about. From what I did read, though, the articles seem to be well written and edited. Poorly written and edited content is the bane of any publication, and a tough problem for webzines that rely on volunteer work to overcome. It seems The Invocation has a skilled team behind it, and I hope they can keep it up.
I would like to see some more articles that push the background of the Vampire Counts though. While tactics articles and battle reports are fine, the webzine format offers the opportunity to really flesh out the Warhammer mythos. Army books gloss over the details, and even supplement material like WFRP books only drill down so far. These webzines offer a terrific chance to sit down and just look at one aspect of the background that would otherwise go unconsidered. Not only does this create a greater sense of involvement in the material, but it also inspires other Warhammer players by giving them new details to work into their armies and fiction.
The design has certainly improved, but it is still a far cry from Skavenblight Gazette, or even Word of Hashut. To be honest, I prefered issue ones font size to issue twos. I realise that the physically displayed size of the text will differ depending on the readers screen size and magnification preferences, but the overall ratio of page dimension to point size of the text is off. It looks like they have used Times New Roman, or something based on it, as their main body font. Times New Roman can suffer, in the digital realm at least, from looking a bit too bulky and squashed up. It was designed with low quality papers and inks in mind, after all. Considerations a digitally displayed format does not have.
Their article titles need a little beefing up, too. At the moment, as far as I can tell, there is a section header as well as an article title. Section headers are the recurring topic articles appear under. Painting, would be a simplified example. Article titles are the titles of the written piece. Normally the article title is larger than the section header, because the section header is a constant visual que over multiple issues, and so does not need to have attention drawn to it.At the moment, though, The Invocations titles do not make sense. I can’t tell if the larger headers are section headers or article titles. The problem again happens to the next title, which is under the first and smaller.
Up until page 17 the text format seems sensible enough, bar the too-small type. After this the format switches between two column and single column designs. The two column works fine, but the single column looks just a bit too messy. This is compounded by the use of images centred to the paragraphs with large amounts of space equally on each side.Visually it just loses a lot of the coherence the two column formats creates.
I’m also not a fan of the overuse of the parchment background. Changing the background design of an article is a good visual indicator to the readers. Not only can you use it to quickly show them that they are reading a new article, but you can use it to tell them what the article is about, it’s context, and even how they should feel about it. The use of colour and simple iconography should never be overlooked.
This is something I am always on about, so I’ll only briefly cover it, but I think A4 landscape is still the way to go. In this case I am even more confounded by the retention of A4 portrait, but some pages are full page A4 landscape illustrations. My mind boggles as to how the decision to do this came about. I’m also a bit put off by the massive 45mb file size. 120 pages is a lot, but asking people to download 45mb seems a bit presumptuous. Not to mention, if The Invocation ever get its own website to host its issues on, 45mb issues are really going to hit the server hard.
Oh, that reminds me too. Get your own website, The Invocation. And track your website traffic. It will be worth it, especially when you start trying to extract stuff from Games Workshop and their affiliates. Not only will you be able to say you are the webs most popular Vampire Counts webzine, you will be able to back it up with hard numbers.
Alright, to sum it all up, and save you smart people who skipped all the way to the end for the wrap up spiel. The Invocation issue two is a worthwhile read. The articles are good, especially if you are a Vampire Counts player. While the design and layout side of things has a way to go, it is still easily navigated and understood. 45mb might seem like a hefty price to pay to read it, but ultimately it is worth it.
Beware, foulness approaches!
Issue 7 of Skavenblight Gazette is finally finished. There’s a load off my mind, at least for a couple of weeks. Then I get to start worrying about it all over again.
So go take a look. I am reasonably happy with how it turned out. There is a little bit of me that is disappointed that I didn’t get to try out a couple of things I wanted to, but I’ll try and fit them into next issue.
Leave feedback on the gazette here, on Underempire.net, or email the Skavenblight Gazette staff.
A big “How come?” to all who recognise the post title. Those were heady days.
I really should have exciting Warhammer news to post, but all my time has been spent attending to Skavenblight Gazette. The monster is demanding my attention, and I obey faithfully.
Most of the articles have come in, thank god. I was worried for a while that there was just going to be no content, a bad issue for it, since I am trying to impress Black Library and C.L. Werner this time around with my Grey Seer review. Persistence payed off though, and the issue is currently sitting at six articles. There are three more slated to come in, but with the date I intend to release it slowly approaching, I may have to ditch the slackers and run what I have. It is a hard life, being in charge.
All this is depressing me slightly, because it has left no time to go through my huge pile of skaven goodies. They sit there and stare at me with large, puppy dog eyes of love. It’s heartbreaking, but my will is strong. They’ll keep.
Expect to see issue 7 of Skavenblight Gazette our in the first week of September.
Lets look at the good stuff first.
There is quite a bit of content, around 25 pages of articles. It’s not too shabby, especially for such a fledgling publication. The army showcase and battle report in particular are of note. I have seen quite a few ezines on miniatures stumble at the challenge of presenting someones army in a digestible fashion, but Gold and Glory has succeeded in putting forth a clear, understandable showcase. Nice work.
The battle report also is quite good. Battle reports can be difficult to include, as quite a bit of writing is involved, as well as providing detailed pictures and the ability for the author to keep track of the moves of the battle. This battle report seems to succeed on all accounts, meaning that this issue has one of the best battle reports in an ezine so far.
These two good articles makes the rest of the publication that much harder to stomach. Especially when you compare this to issue 1.
First of all, the overall layout has gone backwards. Issue 1 had a nice, if widely overused, treasure map/parchment feel to it. Issue 2 offers up a terrible, urine coloured background that just never lets up. The body copy sizes jump about from article to article, destroying any semblance of consistency the magazine may have had. Even worse, the article headers are largely unreadable, with quite a few being awfully stretched, terribly chosen fonts and garish, eye torturing colour combinations.
Some of the illustrations are ok, but the overuse of pathetic and weedy clip-art is woeful. Clip-art should only be used for…. What am I saying! Clip-art is the spawn of the devil! And not cool, sexy spawn like in some hot Hollywood blockbuster. No! Just regular old spawn that everyone hates. And that falls over into a puddle in front of a cute girl. It’s that bad, it should be a sin.
Most of the articles look far to uninteresting. All huge blocks of justified text, it’s almost impenetrable. The men of Rohan should have hidden behind the pages of Gold and Glory issue 2, not languished in Helms Deep. It really needs to be lightened up a bit. More paragraphs have to be created, and the font chosen coupled with the block justification is just so oppressive. It could probably stand to be left justified. Ragged edges are terrific, they create space and visual interest, and communicate information to boot. It’s the design triple whammy!
So to conclude, I think the first thing that really needs to be looked at is setting a definite style. You really want you body copy and headings to be consistent throughout the publication. Other elements like the background and article content also need attention, but coming up with a core visual target should help to direct the energy of the ezine. You need a solid base to work from.
As you would know, magazines of any sort are kind of my thing. This sits doubly so for ezines. I still haven’t written my ezine manifesto. But this is all besides the point.
The Invocation isn’t a bad ezine. It certainly hugs the archetypes and imagery of the Vampire Counts close. Most pages have a aged parchment type background, while the font is serif and slightly gothic in feel. There aren’t many pictures, which is a shame, but this is a brand new production. Most probably they still have to build up some kind of library to pull from. Beware though, The Invocation. By issue three, if you haven’t addressed the artwork issue, you hazard my ire!
Visual themes should probably be mixed up a bit. The repeating parchment and blocks of black text can get a bit overwhelming. It is in A4 portrait, as you would know, a format I think ezines do not work well in. Using the A4 base is a good idea, as it accommodates the reader if they wish to print something out. But this is a digital medium, and screens are universally wider than they are taller, and I still firmly believe that A4 landscape is the way to go. You get nice columns of blocked text that you don’t have to scroll through, and plenty of room to include a variety of images.
Content is varied and well written. As someone who scrapes for ezine content himself, I can understand the pitfalls of content generation. As a first issue this certainly promises a lot for the future. Lets just hope they can keep it up!
In what is a slightly puzzling move, there are adverts slipped in throughout the publication. Part of my hates this, but then part of my loves this. I think the ads would work, if not for a couple of minor things. First, don’t put the ads on the same page as content. You are just destroying the mood you are trying to create. Second, come up with a standard ad size. For this I would say full page or half page. It’s not like page count is an issue! And make the advertiser provide the ad to size at a decent quality, or else they can provide the elements and The Invocation puts the ad together. As it is, the ads vary in quality, size, and their placement is terrible.
I also find it odd that there is no back page. It really needs some kind of finale, some kind of indication that you have in fact reached the end. And not that the file didn’t just cut out partway through downloading. Pages numbers and footers are also needed. Overall branding like this helps to establish your brand. And while that sounds like marketing bullshit, it is. But it works. There’s a reason popular stuff is popular.
Lastly, guys, get your own website. If there is one thing that really bites, it is having to debase yourself by hopping onto one of those mass file sharing sites and downloading the issue from some nonsensical url that is made from an army of numbers and letters. If you are game to do an ezine, bite the bullet and get somewhere for it to live. Even if it costs you.
So I’m looking forward to seeing what The Invocation manages to do in the future. If there is one thing I want more than having Skavenblight Gazette at the top, it is having someone succeed us. The Skavenblight Gazette needs an enemy it can take down. Do the dead-things dare?
Since I don’t have a great deal of Warhammer to talk about, I’ll address something else I find interesting. Here we have the monthly views for this very website. Look! It’s like a house or something. For those interested, it’s about an average of 300 visitors per month. I have no idea if this is good, bad or average for a blog, especially one on such a niche subject as Warhammer, but I’m pretty happy. So, hi to everyone out there, especially those of you who are not bots or spammers!
Tomorrow, issue 6 of the Skavenblight Gazette comes out. I’m very, very pleased with this issue. Not only do we have the usual selection of Skaven awesomness, but we have articles from two proper sources. There is an interview with one of the developers from Cyanide Studios, the company making the Blood Bowl computer game. On top of this, we have an extract from a book soon to be released by Black Library called Grey Seer.
Frankly, I am awed that the gazette has almost managed to pull itself into a proper magazine. I have been trying to track down content of this nature, stuff that is not just put together by the fanbase, but actual Games Workshop authorised and relevant pieces. Especially when you are looking for stuff that targets Skaven specifically in some way, it is a hard task.
If anyone has thoughts on similar sources that can be assaulted, I am all ears.