viernes, 25 de marzo de 2011

Blitzkrieg Portal Interview

pc4warcover
From the memory...

This interview was originally published in edition 30 of the French PC4War gaming magazine in December 2007. This is the original English version. The French language version can be found on the 39-45 Strategie site.

1. Who is BKP ? ( Who are you ? Where do you live ? What do you do as a job ? ...)
BKP is Lee Campbell and I live in England. Running Blitzkrieg Portal sometimes makes it feel like that is my full-time job but the one that pays the bills is as an IT Manager for a manufacturing company.
I'd like to make one thing clear at the beginning: I am not, in any shape or form, what you would call a "gamer". I discovered Blitzkrieg almost by accident. I purchased a gaming magazine just to try out the demonstrations on the cover disc on my new computer and on that disc was the demonstration version of Blitzkrieg. I found the game complemented my interest in WW2 history perfectly and so began my relationship with the Blitzkrieg series.

2. What is the history of Blitzkrieg Portal ? ( Who created the site ? , Since when has it been online? , Has it always borne the same name ?, Why is it devoted to Blitzkrieg and its by-products ? )
I began Blitzkrieg Portal in September 2004 (which was approximately 18 months after the release of Blitzkrieg itself), initially because I felt that the many maps that were being translated (in particular those from Russian to English) needed a permanent home rather than being buried on the CDV forums. I began translating maps myself, mainly from Russian sources (always the best suppliers of maps in the early days) and those that were being released on the German Blitzkrieg Maps site. Shortly after launching the site I was contacted by CorpBob (a name well known to the community, mainly because of his Spanish Civil War and Korean War mods) who provided some new map translations plus some of his own custom-made maps.
At that time in the game's life we were seeing the release of La Plata Studio's Rolling Thunder, announcements about Stalingrad, Total Challenge IV and pre-release information about Blitzkrieg II so the site expanded to include news items.
There were no forums initially but in November 2004 I accepted an invitation from milknova (who was co-admin of the German Blitzkrieg Bunker site) to run an English language sub-forum as part of the Blitzkrieg Bunker forums. When Blitzkrieg Bunker shut down suddenly in early 2005 Blitzkrieg Portal launched its own forums and milknova came aboard to manage the German community. The site had a major relaunch with a new content delivery engine and was made available in both English and German languages (and that remained the case until only recently when only a lack of translators forced a switch to English news only). As well as hosting as many maps and mods for the series as possible and publishing tutorials and reviews the site also began featuring profiles of armoured fighting vehicles, though this is one area where there is definitely room for expansion. In the near future I would like to see more historical information published.
I am especially proud of the “On This Day” section which lists events that took place on the same day and month in WW2. We have “specials” for major events, such as an hour-by-hour account from the opening days of the Battle of Kursk (complete with relevant screenshots from Active Gaming’s Mission Kursk expansion) and the Russo-Finnish Winter War.

3. What is the importance of Blitzkrieg Portal in terms of figures ? ( number of downloads, of members, of mods and maps ? )
Blitzkrieg Portal currently hosts over 1300 maps (that includes both single and multiplayer maps and translations) for Blitzkrieg and Blitzkrieg II and nearly 600 other downloads (modifications, tools, patches, historical film clips etc. etc.). Monthly visits average 80,000. The number of maps downloaded exceeds 1,500,000 and other downloads account for another 1,000,000+ downloads. Now these figures are undoubtedly distorted by search engine indexers, but if you take into account the fact that around 1,000,000 copies of Blitzkrieg and the La Plata titles (Burning Horizon and Rolling Thunder) have been sold (and that figure is from early 2006) then they do present an idea of the games continuing popularity.

As the site does not require visitors to register then there is no number of members to report. The forum currently has over 700 members however I think it is a mistake to judge a site by the number of people posting on its forums. The number of guests versus the number of registered users is always greater, sometimes by a large factor.

4. Isn’t it a full-time job to look after such a site?
Some days it is, defiantly! And, just like with any other job, there are good days and bad days.

5. How many people are there in the BK team ? What are the abilities and competences of each member ? ( regulators, moder, mapper )
Blitzkrieg Portal itself is just me (though of course there are moderators on the forums who assist there). The site would be nothing without content so the real "team" is made up of the map and mod makers and anybody else who contributes. Translators (such as yourself and Carlitos who maintains the Blitzkrieg en Español blog) also play a vital role in making the game accessible to a wider audience. It is reassuring to note that many of the contributors (mr.frost72 and Manhunter, for example) have been around since the early days and still contribute regularly.

6. What is the originality of Blitzkrieg Portal ? What do you think can account for its success? What are your relations with BK-maps.de ? (translation from German into English and other languages )

I like to think that the strong point is content. The site will never win any awards for its design (though I did look at the early pages using the archive.org site and can see that at least some progress has been made!) but any shortcoming in that area is, hopefully, made up by the amount of downloadable material on offer. I'm also proud of the fact that people are not made to jump through hoops to get what they want: there is no registration process - everything is available instantly.

7. Is it due to the action of the community of creators of Blitzkrieg Portal that the success of Blitzkrieg is durable ?

I think it is fair to say that the site, along with the other fan sites and forums, has played its part in the continuing popularity of the series. I felt it important that there should be a source for all information about the games and an outlet for the many map and mod makers. Not limiting the content to one single language was a conscious decision, taken to ensure that the site serves everybody.

8. On that subject, have you had contacts with the promoters and publishers of Blitzkrieg and its by-products ? Is the opinion of the community taken into account and valued ?

My relationships with the promoters and publishers of the Blitzkrieg series have been mixed. On the one hand La Plata Studios have been very forthcoming and helpful in all my dealings with them and were good enough to supply copies of their titles for some of the competitions that have been run. On the other hand I couldn't get Nival Interactive to even add a link to the site on their English language Blitzkrieg page (or on the official CDV Blitzkrieg and Blitzkrieg II sites). CDV Germany were good enough to provide review copies of expansions (Green Devils and Mission Kursk) but I did have a rather bizarre experience with them over Blitzkrieg II. Following a preview of the sequel on the site I was contacted by their head of marketing and PR demanding to know why we were not being more positive about the game, something which I felt was unfair as I had gone out of my way in trying to evaluate the game on its merits and without taking into account its history.

I'm sure the developers and publishers do read the forums and keep abreast of what is happening out in the community. However if they added every item on the inevitable wish lists that appear when a new game is announced then I'm certain they would never get anything finished!

9. Blitzkrieg Portal advertises Amazon only and the adverts aim at selling books and games about WW II . Is the site attractive to advertisers ? If so, is it a deliberate choice to limit advertisement ? Is the advertisement for Amazon sufficient to cover the expenses of your site?

The decision to have no advertising on the site (and forums) was deliberate. I am not opposed to internet advertising per-se but I never felt it would suit the site. The ethos behind Blitzkrieg Portal is easy access to everything for Blitzkrieg. Why should visitors have to look at adverts for villas in Bulgaria or for something they will never buy when all they want to do is download a map for a game? Unfortunately the referral fees generated when visitors order through the Amazon affiliate sites are not sufficient to cover the hosting expenses. Occasionally Amazon.co.uk referrals generate enough revenue to trigger a gift certificate from Amazon (which always goes on books) but, on the other hand, Amazon.com has generated $20 this year so I won't be retiring any time soon!

10. Blitzkrieg 1 came out in 2003 but it looks as if Blitzkrieg 2 hasn’t sparked off the same interest among players . What is the future of Blitzkrieg Portal after Blitzkrieg ?
I have considered covering other games but a lack of time makes it difficult to consider the options. One obvious choice would have been Sudden Strike 3 (many players came to Blitzkrieg from the Sudden Strike series) but this already has a well-establish community.

I've asked myself about the future of Blitzkrieg Portal at regular intervals over the years. When I started it I honestly didn't think it would last as long as it has. It is a testament to the games originality and versatility that there is still interest in it and that new people are coming to the game even now, 3.5 years after its initial release. You are correct in saying that Blitzkrieg II hasn't sparked off nearly as much interest as its predecessor, though there is a small band of players working on maps and mods for the sequel and it must sell as we have had two full new games based on it released (Fall of the Reich and Liberation) as well as a spin-off in Frontline: Fields of Thunder. People must be buying these otherwise developers wouldn't write them and publishers wouldn't publish them!

What does the future hold? I am hoping that Active Gaming's eagerly awaited Overlord expansion will finally see the light of day and, of course, we have just had La Plata Studios recent announcement about Burning Horizon 2 which should be released in 2008. This will be reworking of the first game, with La Plata teaming up with the head of the original Blitzkrieg development team to produce it. There are no other details available at this time but the release of Burning Horizon 2 must surely mark a new chapter in the life of Blitzkrieg.

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