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Dissent in a Time of Need - by Sephy

Dissent in a Time of Need

The journey of Starmen.Net has been long and full of disappointments concerning the continuance of the Mother franchise, both in the Americas and in Japan. For what seemed like an eternity, the release of EarthBound in North America marked the end of a franchise that sparked a rabid and wild fan base. Any continuation of the franchise seemed unlikely, after the anticipated Mother 3 was cancelled midway through development for the Nintendo 64. In several other incidents throughout the years, the prospect of a continuation or resurrection of the Mother series always came up somewhere, and fans clung to each heady detail. However, the fans always met disappointment in the rumor or report being, in some way, false.

Today�s climate is different. A mid-April day brought official proof that Mother 1 and Mother 2 � the two existing games in the franchise as they are known in Japan � would be re-released under the Game Boy Advance console as one cartridge, to be called �Mother 1+2�. The rabid fans of Starmen.Net feasted upon this news like a famished tribe of barbarians would upon a grand beast. This information came as a complement to what seemed like a summit for the Starmen.Net community. At around that time, a petition to continue the Mother franchise was bounding closer to completion at 30,000 signatures. Also, it was nearing summer, a time of heightened activity and prosperity for the site in general. Additionally, word of a new site design began circulating, as the more apparent and charismatic Webmaster of the site swore that his time was to increase outside of school during the coming summer (a phenomenon that � when coupled with the same occurrence for many of the community members � is largely responsible for the increase in activity for the summer). The forecast could not have been brighter.

Now we stand here, hardly days from the rebirth of Mother into the world. I hear reports that Starmen.Net and her community are livelier and better off than ever. However, I must dissent. At this point, the website and her community may be in shambles if the Mother franchise should be reborn in the Americas any time soon. Who is at fault, and who is to blame? It�s hard to answer those definitely, but some problems have come about that stand out to the concerned eye.

One of the primary problems is the lack of leadership. The principal webmasters are either fully employed or displaced and consumed with other responsibilities, or responsibilities that do not exhibit leadership in the public-figure sense. The staff of the website is good, but it is good in the wrong areas. For instance, the fan-creation department of the staff is talented, punctual, and exciting. Also, the contest staff is very reliable and visible. However, the staff that handles the actual games does not show up enough, not nearly enough for a climate that is bringing the Mother franchise back to retail shelves. There have been a few strings of unsuccessful staffers in this area, and it amazes many that a suitable and reliable employee for these sections has not appeared. Straightforward demands for leadership have been met with sarcasm and dismissal from all forms of leadership. From this, the community gains a sense that the professionalism of the leadership is less than par. This does not mean that the leadership is comprised of sub-par people; the leaders are of good character and intellect, and this author stands by that statement based on personal encounters. However, many of them cannot find the time to apply those qualities to the site. The leadership must change in some form to accommodate the massive changes in the franchise that it follows.

Another problem, which was addressed in passing before, is the amount of work that the staff is putting into the site for the new games. It is a fact that there are several talented individuals who are fluent in both Japanese and English within the site. One of them is a Webmaster. However, despite the somewhat abundant amount of fluency between these languages, none of the information on the Mother franchise from Japan has been translated and brought to the site. The community sits in the dark as reams of information on the Mother series pile up on Japanese sites (including Shigesato Itoi�s site), information which is exciting even without knowing what it says. There is plenty to speak of about Mother 1 and Mother 2, and even more to speak about concerning Mother 3, but very little has come to those sections of Starmen.Net in recent times.

Despite the stalemate in work that has occurred in some places, and the lack of leadership, there are plans to renovate the design and function of Starmen.Net. However, these have not gone according to plan at all. A new design for the site has been postponed on at least one occasion, and now it seems almost like a moot project. In addition, the site had plans to adopt and develop a new forum, and integrate its user base into that new forum. However, the new forum leaked into the community�s knowledge, and is now a cradle of utter chaos. That chaos, paired with the cosmetic and functional shortcomings of the forum, represents Starmen.Net at an almost zero-level of coherence and professionalism. The climate within the official forums is not that peachy either. The bulk of the forums are not even official, and although many of them are hidden, they are found and overrun by many members, who in turn make the official forums into more of an irrelevant zoo than a discussion forum for the Mother franchise. At this point, the membership is moving away from the Mother forums, and even away from the more general forums that come under official sponsorship by the site (which is most of the forums that are publicly displayed). The left bar of the site�s main page is littered with outdated documents, and much of the site contains inaccurate and outdated information (for instance, the staff directory page). In fact, a careful examination of the outdated information can tell you almost exactly when the main parts of the site stopped being updated.

With all these problems in the site, it is assumed that disenchanted members will find a more suitable site elsewhere. That is not necessarily true. Starmen.Net has been at the head of the EarthBound community monopoly for quite some time, and as it grows, the mass of alternate EarthBound fan sites are becoming ghost towns on the Internet. Even the largest fan sites ever to near prominence, such as EarthBound.Net and Moonside.Net, have been outlived by Starmen.Net (not to say that EarthBound.Net in its previous incarnation would be a suitable replacement for Starmen.Net). The result of this is weakness, and the inability of the membership to find other ways of following the Mother series. Individuals in the community have not been able to pull themselves together to form a strong alternative site. These individuals have no choice but to embrace the stalemate of Starmen.Net. It can be admitted that there are some fan sites out there that are of high quality and have comprehensive information, but the odds of them gaining a significant user base are stacked high against them.

The last frontier in this article�s exploration of the EarthBound community is IRC, the chat protocol. For years, the primary channel for EarthBound chat has been #earthbound. The development of #earthbound was exciting, although sometimes rough, but at the end of each day it seemed like a decent place to discuss both EarthBound and the general breeze. However, the channel has recently come under a lapse in leadership and good judgment, forcing the chatters to flee to satellite channels. Now, #earthbound is on the brink of becoming a satellite channel itself, as other satellite channels are surpassing it in activity and user volume. The site leadership is hardly ever there, as one of the Webmasters has been absent over a month, and the other principal Webmaster not being there in longer than IRC statistics record. The relaxation of user requirements for #earthbound was accompanied, sadly, by a significant decrease in leadership, so now the rules of #earthbound are seldom followed (many of which relate to decency).

What can be done to curb the downfall of this superb site? Many changes are necessary, but those changes could be painful and unwanted. The first thing that needs changing is dedication to the franchise. The Mother series is days away, and the site appears to have been stale in that department for years. Some coverage and information would be good, as well as translation of the detailed Japanese information. The leadership should lead, so as to regain the confidence of the most humble of members, which in turn would curb such dissent as this article. The work put into the site should be kept at a professional level, so as to represent the professional job that Starmen.Net has performed in making itself the premier EarthBound fan site. Also, forums and chat vessels should be regulated and strengthened to foster a bright and disciplined user base that once did exist in greater prominence than today. Should these responsibilities fall outside of the staff�s and leadership�s time, additional persons should be appointed to help. Out of the nearly 3,000 active forum-goers on the site, surely half a dozen or a dozen should be capable of the work and disciplined enough to carry the responsibility along with the current workers. The methods for choosing these people should not be blind and open to anyone who wants to write a four-paragraph pseudo-�application�, rather the leadership should appoint the apples of their eyes. They (the leaders) are the ones who brought the site to fruition; surely they easily can see people who would continue that mission without having to resort to a cumbersome application process.

So what is happening? Is this dark hour in a bright day simply just a short hour, or are those responsible for the liveliness and longevity of the site losing their grip in a most inconvenient and ironic time? The answer to that cannot be told by any other than time, but these days, the time that goes by just brings darker clouds to the future of Starmen.Net. What can be done in the meantime to cope with these shortcomings and this time of dissent? To bring it to attention, as this author attempts to do, could be one way. But the community is also encouraged to act in other ways. Speak out on the forums, in IRC. If you can contribute your skills to a lacking part of the site, do so. If you are fluent in Japanese, translate and article from Shigesato Itoi�s site and submit it to the site. Do not let such a thing as beautiful as this site slip under its own standards with dissenting minds keeping their opinions silent and their actions unperformed. Let people know how you feel. After all, the members are what make the community, and if they are not enchanted, the very bond that holds this site together is broken.


Other Submissions by Sephy

Author Sort Ascending Sort Descending Title Sort Ascending Sort Descending Description Sort Ascending Sort Descending Date Sort Ascending Sort Descending Rank Sort Ascending Sort Descending
Sephy SSBM: Nintendo's Atomic Test Ground
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Sephy n00b Forum Guide
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Sephy EarthBound? That game sucks!
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Sephy Dissent in a Time of Need
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7/31/06 0.00
Sephy EarthBound: Now we're talkin'!
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