In-Depth

Online gaming community 1Ups its competition

Category: Open Source
Winner: www.1up.com

Gaming is a popular pastime on the Internet and, judging from the number of gaming Web sites, it is big business too. The challenge for Ziff Davis’ Game Group was to plot a growth path through this competitive online market and differentiate itself.

The company already had a simple game portal in 2003, leveraging content from its six gaming magazines, “but we wanted something more fun, more comprehensive,” explains Shampa Banerjee, CTO of Ziff Davis’ Game Group. “This was not just about games. The problem was how to bring gamers and games together.”

1Up.com’s strategy called for turning the site into a community for gamers rather than simply a place to find games and game reviews, which is typical of a gaming portal. As a community, Ziff hoped the site would stimulate increased repeat visits and attract new visitors.

“The first thing we do is give everyone who registers a personal page,” says Banerjee. Registration and the personal page, both free, are central to accessing goodies that come with participation in the community. They include a personal Weblog, access to hundreds of special gaming interest clubs, the ability to create your own club, a matching engine that offers to introduce participants with similar interests, and free offers.

The more players who joined and the more they interacted with each other on the site, the larger and richer the experience became.

Following the launch, the site experienced an 80 percent increase in page views and a 10 percent increase in unique daily visitors. The personal Web pages and clubs have become the most popular pages on the Web site. Since traffic numbers translate directly into the rate Ziff can charge for advertising, the community strategy clearly is paying off.

The 1UP Web site did not start as an open-source project. It was intended to be built using tools such as Microsoft SQL Server. The initial contractor, who proved unsatisfactory, introduced open-source development. “I would have used open source anyway. I like collaborative efforts because I think things move faster that way,” Banerjee says.

1UP consists of two Laszlo-powered rich Internet applications (RIA), SizzleZone and GameFinder, which couple an intuitive, highly interactive user experience with rich content. SizzleZone, the main application, serves as the primary entry point to all content and features. Content on SizzleZone can be viewed using Laszlo’s seamless single-page user experience, which saves users from being interrupted by time-consuming page refreshes.

1UP.com selected Laszlo Presentation Server because Laszlo’s XML-native development environment simplified integration with Ziff Davis’ extensive content-management system. Laszlo became open source during the project.

The Web site was built in Java, using the Struts application framework, and runs on Linux. iBATIS is used as the access layer. Other tools included CVS (source code control), Eclipse (IDE), Bugzilla (bug tracking), and MySQL as the database.

WHAT THE JUDGES SAY
Ziff Davis developed 1UP.com to be the online presence—a gaming portal—for its stable of gaming publications. The site was designed to bring together gamers in a community where they can interact with each other. Most existing game portals focus on the games rather than the people playing the games. With this innovative approach, Ziff Davis has expanded the current online approach and has truly 1UP’d the competition.

1UP.com’s innovation lies in both approach and technology. Ziff Davis achieved significant gains by combining innovative use of open-source technology. Although not giving anything back to the open-source community, Ziff Davis has validated using open source in large mainstream projects. Laszlo Systems was used for front-end development. CVS (source code control), Eclipse (IDE) and Bugzilla (bug tracking) were also used. The source code was written in Java, Linux OS (resin servlet container with a resin front end) and SQL Server 2000 (database).

The new 1UP.com Web site was launched with great success and is continuing to improve and develop. If you’re an on-line gamer or open-source developer looking for ideas, this is the place to be.

DRILL DOWN
Organization
1UP.com
Project
1UP.com Online Gaming Community
Project goal
The purpose of 1UP.com is to be the online presence—a gaming portal—to accompany our gaming publications. Its primary goal is to bring gamers and the games together. Other gaming portals tend to focus more on content, i.e., reviews, etc., instead of games. 1UP.com actually gives gamers a community to meet other gamers and to interact with them.
Project payoff
Following the launch, the site experienced an 80 percent increase in page views and a 10 percent increase in unique daily visitors. The personal Web pages and clubs have become the most popular pages on the Web site. Since traffic numbers translate directly into the rate Ziff can charge for advertising, the community strategy clearly is paying off.
Techology used
CVS
Eclipse IDE
Bugzilla
Java
Linux OS
SQL 2000 Server
Project team
Shampa Banerjee
Steve Hughey
Andrew Wooldridge
Dan Ryan
Prabitha Ganesh
Dan Tripp
David Papandrew
Chris Knight

Photo: Clockwise from bottom: Shampa Banerjee, Chris Knight, Steve Hughey, David Papandrew, Dan Tripp, Prabitha Ganesh

Back to feature: Innovator Awards 2005

 

PHOTO BY DAVID TOERGE

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