About Hardcore Gaming 101
Want to write for HG101? Good! Please read the below.
Picking a Topic:
The general goal of this site is twofold: (1) Get people interested in games they may not have played otherwise, and (2) Educate people in retro games. As long as your proposed topic fits into one of those categories, that should be fine. There are several topics that we have bounties on (see below), if you're interested. However, feel free to pitch a topic. We do offer payment for your work, which, while not to the scale of a larger site, should help compensate you for your time and effort.
Generally, the less exposure the topic has on the internet, the better. However, keep in mind one important thing: fan sites tend to be written just for fans, for people who are already familiar with the games in question and want to learn more about it. This site is aimed more for people who aren't familiar with the games in question, acting as an introduction to a given topic. The idea of each article is to be thorough without being overwhelming. For instance, the King of Fighters article details the changes in each game in a broad sense, but doesn't go into extreme specifics regarding different character variations, because that's just a bit too much in detail for someone who's not too familiar with the games, and would end up being a bit too obtuse.
Remember: you must be able to cover all games in a given series. Being obsessively thorough is a trademark of the site, and this should be consistent among all articles. You can pick themes, if you'd like - for example "Dune RTS" games if you just want to cover the ones by Westwood and skip the other ones. If there's some super obscure entry that's beyond your ability to play, at least find some screenshots and give some facts about it. If a series is too expansive, you may want to think about covering something else.
You also must cover all of the console and computer versions. You should definitely compare specifics between arcade and console ports on all systems, and find out if there's any difference between regions. This is easy for 8/16-bit games, where you just need to download the ROMs, but grows more difficult for other platforms. You probably don't need to go into much detail between the differences of most Xbox/PS2/GC games, because they're probably very similar, and if not, you can trust most professional sites for the differences. But definitely try to compare between PSOne and Saturn versions. Emulators for these platforms have near 100% compatability, so you should be able to check for yourself. If you hear about some things changed between Japanese and English versions, try to confirm it yourself, don't parrot what people say unless you either do the research or there are a lot of people backing it up. Ask on the HG101 forums if you're unsure.
For many older games, you need to cover all of the home computer ports too, including the Amstrad, Amiga, Spectrum ZX, IBM PC, and so forth.
Also, try to keep in mind topics that would be interesting to other readers. Just because you have an obsessive knowledge of video games based on Japanese quiz shows doesn't mean other people care about them. And if you're really passionate about super obscure topics like this, you need to be able to make them relevant and make the reader understand why they should care.
Pitching a Topic:
If you want to write an article, please pitch it to us! Send an email to email@example.com. HG101 covers an extremely broad array of topics, so there isn't much we'll shoot down, although there are subjects we'll pay more for. The three things we need are:
(1) A brief run down of the game you want to cover, what you intend to cover in the article, and why you think it's relevant. This doesn't need to be anything complicated - if it's a somewhat enjoyable, underrated arcade game, just say that.
(2) A writing sample. It doesn't have to be anything specifically you've written for this pitch - if you have a video game oriented blog, that's good enough. It's just to know that you have some kind of writing capability. Just please note that you will need to follow the site's writing guidelines for your actual article.
(3) Confirmation that you can provide quality screenshots. HG101 is just as much of a media site as a review site, and part of them revolves around high quality screensots, especially since it's something that so few web sites seem to care about. This means you must know how to use emulators. If it's a game on the PlayStation 2, Gamecube or Wii, you need your computer to be able to run PCSX2 or Dolphin. If it's on another platform, you need an HD capture card. If you are unable to run these programs or do not have the necessary equipment, do not pitch the article in question.
Please, only reserve an article if you are absolutely committed you'll be working on it in a reasonable time frame. Obviously some of these can get very long, so we'll allow a significant amount of time for them, but in general, if you're not sure you can finish anything within a 2-3 month time span, then you may want to rethink your choice. We understand that Life comes up, and if you can't complete something, that's totally okay. Just let us know.
A few extra notes:
Contributors of articles may not be professionally affiliated with the developer or publisher of any of the games covered.
All submitted articles are subject to fact checking and editing by staff. Contributors should nonetheless always strife to write as accurately and fairly as possible.
We reserve the option to not publish any submitted articles for content, completion or quality concerns. We'll always write back to discuss whatever improvements may be necessary to bring it up to standards.
The payment rates are as follows:
-$30 for a ~1000 word article. This should be a suitable length for most retro platformers, shooters, beat-em-ups and so forth. Note that it doesn't have to be exactly 1000 words, if it's less then it's fine, the payment will still be $30.
-$45 for a ~1500 word article. This is generally more appropriate for RPGs, and for fighters and shooters that require more explanation of mechanics, or something that requires detailed information about various ports.
-$60 for a ~2000 word article. Again, this is good for RPGs, fighters, or shooters that might require a lot of character bios or supplementary information.
Generally if you're writing more than 2000 words for a single game you should probably pare it back a bit, but we'll accept more if there's a good justification for it. However, payment will still max out at $60 for a single game. For multi-game articles, the payment is roughly $15 per 500 words. So an article that covers 6 games with short pieces at around 500 words will be $90. An article that covers 3 games at ~2000 words each will be paid $180.
Payment will be made with two weeks of the article being officially posted on the site's main page.
For payment, we'll need a few things:
(1) Your Paypal address. We do all payments through Paypal so this is mandatory.
(2) If you're a US citizen and you intend to become a regular contributor (or contribute a very large article), then we need an IRS W-9 tax form completed, since we'll need to report these wages to the government for tax purposes.
(3) An invoice breaking down the services provided. This is for record keeping purposes.
To submit an invoice, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. In the subject line, make sure to include the invoice # and the total payment. The text should include:
Your Paypal Email address
Invoice Number - you can make these up, use your initials, then count 01, 02, 03, as you continue to submit them The work performed and the payment rate, line-by-line
The total payment
So, it should look something like this:
Subject: JP001 - $150
Pork Ahoy! - $30
The Art of Ham and Video Games - $60
Bacon Empire II - $30
Vagrant Story - $30
Total - $150
You can submit an invoice at the same time you submit your article. However, be aware that we don't issue payment until the article is published. The amount of time that takes depends on how many submissions are in our queue, but it could be anywhere from one to two months, or even longer. We'll keep you in the loop as to when we have something solidly scheduled. Please note that we NEED an invoice before we can disburse payment.
In exchange for payment for these articles, you are giving the rights to publish your work on HG101. You still have the rights to republish the work on your own blog, sell it to another site, or basically do what you want with it.
We also occasionally publish books with articles compiled for the site. If we choose one of the articles you've written, you'll be contacted separately for permission to re-use the articles, keeping in mind they might be edited for length. You'll receive credit in the masthead and a free copy of the book, in both digital and physical forms. (For long time contributors, if we're reprinting an article from the days before we paid writers, you'll also be paid for use of the article based on our current rates.)
We create our budget based on both our ad revenue and donations to our Patreon. Our ad revenue has been flat for the past several years, but if the contributions to our Patreon increase, then our rates will increase too.
The central idea of any article should be: Why is this game interesting? It seems to be a common misconception that you only write articles about topics that you're a huge fan of, but this doesn't necessarily need to be the case. I've written a lot about Altered Beast and Alien Syndrome, two games I don't care for much - but I'm a huge Sega fan, so I have this obsessive desire to be comprehensive. Even in these cases, you need to be able to identify what made these games popular. For Altered Beast, it was the huge graphics, and the sense of power you get from turning into huge monsters and smashing things. For Alien Syndrome, it's all about the creepy atmosphere, the grotesque monster designs, the sense of urgency, and the fact that it rips off one of the best action movies ever made. Remember, just because you don't specifically like something, doesn't mean that there isn't anything interesting about it. They were popular at some point for a reason, right? You need to figure out what they reason is.
You need to ask: why is this game significant? Final Fight, for example, took the formula from Double Dragon, tightened it up and inspired legions upon legions of clones. That's pretty damn significant. Most importantly, you need to establish a sense of context to understand why something was important. The Lunar games for the Sega CD might seem like kinda generic RPGs in the 21st century, but back in the 16-bit days, it was pretty standout - it was one of the few text heavy console games with a decent translation, it had voiced characters, cinemas and a vocal song, and the publishers didn't feel the need to change the anime-style cover artwork into something more palatable for Americans.
At the same time, you needn't solely wear rose colored glasses. If a game hasn't aged well, talk about it, and be specific. Going back to the Lunar games - localizations have been getting better, far more RPGs have been getting translations, most of the world is more comfortable with anime characters, and people are getting jaded with simplistic battle and character development systems. So with the playing field leveled, the weaknesses become more apparent, so more modern gamers may find them boring.
Your articles should try to stay away from fanboy gushing and aim towards being balanced. All games have flaws, and talking about weaknesses isn't bashing it, it's just to give the reader a clearer idea of what to expect. Plus, be sure to analyze why a given title failed or was received poorly. Lots of people are eager to blame shortsighted critics or poor marketing plans, but in reality, cult games are usually obscure for a reason, because there's some element of the gameplay or graphic design that gamers might find off-putting. Like the graphics and characters of Psychonauts and Beyond Good and Evil were cool and interesting and all, but perhaps a bit too weird for most people to accept. You'll want to analyze these, and give the reader some kind of idea of what side of the fence they'll fall on. Try to be objective too. Obviously, if you're trying to get people to play it, you'd want to skew more towards the positive, but definitely address both sides.
Try to avoid wordiness at all cost. Your pieces should be detailed but still succinct. The biggest changes I make in articles is deleting extraneous information or rewording sentences to make them flow better. Try to avoid small sentences, and try to cram as much as possible without turning it into a run on. Also, remove any redundant information. If you've already established that the graphics are awful and the control sucks, you don't need to bring it back up again in your conclusion sentence. Conclusion sentences aren't even always necessary, depending on how you've written the rest.
Also, try to avoid using the first person. You can when you're relating personal experiences or feelings, but your writing may come across weaker if you rely on it too much. For example:
Bad: "I think the graphics are outstanding."
Better: "The graphics are outstanding."
The latter speaks with more authority and is definitely preferable.
Also, don't be vague in your criticisms or praises. Say more than "The graphics are nice," or "The level designs kinda suck." Give at least one example to support these statements. "The graphics are bright and fluidly animated, especially the main character." Or "The level designs are repetitive, consisting of huge expanses of flat terrain and almost no variation in graphical design."
You can be casual and informal - I'm not a stickler for things like that, and if you want to pepper your article with some humor, go right ahead. Add in with wacky anecdotes if you want, but don't go on too many tangents. Try to avoid cursing unless necessary also. If it helps, pretend you're on a message board, recommending a game to your peers.
I know some places consider it a no-no, but you can (and should) make some comparisons to a more well known games, since they're an easy and direct way to hook readers (ex: "Senko no Ronde is like Virtual On mixed with a bullet hell shooter", "Bubsy is sorta like Sonic except total rubbish"). Since this site is aimed at people who are at least somewhat knowledgeable about games, you should assume they have some vague knowledge as to what these famous titles are, and also assume they're familiar with video game vocabulary like "move sets," "combos," "frames per second," "anti-aliasing" and stuff like that.
Here are just a few short guidelines that make the editor's job easier. For spellings of terms and names, the The Videogame Style Guide and Reference Manual by the IGJA and Games Press (freely available as PDF download) is a good first adress in general, although everything listed below overrides it:
The most obvious difference, as evidenced in the title of that book: Write "video game" as two words.
Write as one word: cutscene, minigame, sidequest, backstory, savegame.
With the exception of headlines, game titles should be italicized. However, for the formatting it would be more useful to put <i> and </i> tags around them instead of using the word processor's function. Titles should only shorten to an acronym when the full name has been mentioned at least once and it is unambiguous (eg. only write GOW if it is absolutely clear whether you're talking about God of War or Gears of War). Acronyms should still be in italics. When using the genitive, the apostrophe is outside of italics.
Avoid all caps for emphasis. Bold text (inside <b> and </b> tags) is preferable.
Punctuation goes inside of closing quotation marks, but outside of closing brackets. Use a simple short dash and straight, non-curled quotation marks.
When referring to decades, prefer full numbers like "1990s." use abbreviations with an apostrophe ("'90s") sparsely, avoid misplacement of the apostrophe, for example "90's."
Important platform name spellings: Famicom, NES, Game Boy, SNES, N64, GameCube, Wii, Master System, Mega Drive, Genesis, Saturn, Dreamcast, Neo Geo, Neo Geo Pocket, PC Engine, TurboGrafx-16, PC-88 (or PC-8801), FM-7, FM Towns, X1, X68000, IBM PC (use "IBM PC" for DOS games, "Windows" for Windows games), PlayStation, Xbox, Xbox 360. With the exception of NES, SNES and N64, you should write the full name (minus the manufacturer's name, "Sega Saturn" is redundant unless you somehow find yourself in the odd situation that requires explicit distinction from the planet) at least once. For everything else, check the exact official spelling if unsure.
Some spellings for important software programs: DOSBox, ScummVM (note the difference to the actual SCUMM engine). For Everything else, check the exact official spelling if unsure.
Concerning genre names, "beat-'em-up" means "belt-scrolling brawler" or its modern 3D counterparts, as opposed to "(one-on-one) fighting game." Avoid writing just "shooter", rather distinguish between "first-person shooter" ("FPS") and "shoot-'em-up"
For multiple game articles, it should flow like this:
Rip Off Games/Homages
The later sections can go in any order, and you can restructure various bits where you feel they make sense.
The Intro should establish a sense of historical context. Also do some research on the publisher, the people involved, or what kind of other games they've made. The more information you can find, the better, especially if you know how to dig through the Japanese Wikipedia to search for names, gameographies and connections.
After this, you should talk about the defining aspects of the series, and what elements are constant among all of the games. Beyond the basic game concepts, talk about graphic style (Are they consistent amongst all of the games? Who's the character designer, if they're important? Is it dark/bright, realistic/fantasy, serious/goofy?) and music style (composer, genres, etc.) This way, when you start talking about the actual games, you only need to address what's different/unique about them, instead of stating the main points over and over and over again. For single game entries, separating the introduction is not necessary.
In the actual game section, you're analyzing the specifics of a given title, rather than the general concepts of the series. For certain topics, the first entry may be the briefest, usually because all of the main points were already brought up during the intro. For example: R-Type. Once you detail the gameplay system, talk about the pace and difficulty and graphic style, there's not much to say about the first game.
When talking about later games, you can talk about additions and changes to the formula, what works and what doesn't, changes in graphic or music style, and - most importantly - the high and low points. Try to be specific, if there's a really cool stage or setpiece, or a really annoying plot element or level, bring it up. For, let's say, a Mega Man article - once you've set down what the original games are all about, all you need to address are the different robots, the types of stages, how the music is, how the graphics have improved (if at all), the difficulty, and how it all ties together, while maybe bringing up how cool the dragon was in Dr. Wily's castle or how breathtaking the intro was in Megaman 2, or how Bright Man's stage was complete garbage in Mega Man 4.
Again, you're trying to be balanced - bring up facts, talk about how you feel about those facts, and whether they make for a fun game. If you want to lavish praise or completely bash a game, you should do it reasonably, and make it perfectly clear why this particular entry is totally the best of them, or why this one completely sucks. You should also avoid being too inflammatory, because if you sound too much like a jerk, readers may tend to tune you out. You should also have a good grasp on the attitude of the fanbase towards certain entries, and maybe try to address common complaints in a sensible manner.
Again, bringing up Mega Man - to an outside observer, all six games might seem practically identical. So you might want to bring up that the later games had worse music, or weaker boss designs, or unbalanced difficulty, or however you feel. If a fanbase is particularly nasty towards a game, and you feel that hate is unjust, defend it. If you think it's overrated, make a case for it. Just try to avoid absolutes. For example, you'll hear a lot of people say how Mega Man 4 massively sucks - when, really, you could say it sucks in the context of other Mega Man games, but it's still a fairly decent compared to other NES titles, and shouldn't be ravaged totally - it may just suffer from sequelitis, and fails because it isn't as inspired as later games. Remember, not all gamers play titles in order, so it's very possible someone could play Mega Man 4 before Mega Man 2, and feel the former is superior for whatever reasons.
When writing about RPGs and fighting games, you should talk about the major characters. This way, when readers see artwork or read people referring to them, they'll be able to identify them. Usually RPGs have different rosters in each game, so they can be addressed in each individual sections. Only concentrate on the "main" characters, and perhaps the primary villain, or anyone else that you think is interesting. Fighting games usually have rosters that remain (relatively) consistent throughout each iteration, so they can be addressed in the intro. The exceptions are entries which have completely different character rosters. In the Power Instinct article, the intro covers the characters in all of the games except for Groove on Fight, which has its own unique roster addressed in the game section.
Not entirely necessary, but you may want to examine other games that are extremely similar, or even spiritual successors. Cannon Dancer, for example, is not a Strider game, but is practically a sequel for all intents and purposes. How far in depth you want to go is up to you - even a casual mention is fine.
This is another optional section. It can include random trivia about the series including cameos, cultural influence, additional artwork or screenshots, and stuff like that. For Metal Slug, the boss design is one of the best features of the game, so I included a screenshot gallery showing all of the more impressive enemies.
Talk about the anime, comics, live action movies, or any other appearances. Don't worry about really obscure doujin or koma (4-panel) comics, no one really cares. Try to get firsthand experience on these and analyze them. If that's not possible, just bring up that they exist.
Not completely necessary, but you can round up any remaining thoughts, maybe talk about the future of the series, if any. Other websites should be linked, especially sources you used for your article.
Single Game Articles:
Single game articles obviously need to be more in-depth than series based articles. Professional reviews answer the question "Is this game worth my money?" You should be answering the question "Why is this game important and/or interesting?" Why, of all of the other tons of games that come out every week, is this game special? The object is, simply, to make it better and more detailed than professional reviews. Delve deep into the story, talk about specific scenarios or levels or situations. Detail all of the characters, with pictures, and devote a lot of space to the graphical style or music. Talk about how the game fits into a genre, if at all, and how well it meets its goals compared to its brethren. For example, I spend a lot of time in my Rhythm Tengoku review disseminating the rhythm game genre, and where Rhythm Tengoku fits into the scheme of that. If you're looking for another example, compare HG101's God Hand review to IGN's, and see what it does differently. The Killer7 article analyzed it in a way that most other places didn't. The Psychonauts one went into the characters and a lot of situations that make it so worthwhile, while most reviews written when it came out didn't really go into specifics.
Please e-mail submission to email@example.com. Include the text in a TXT, RTF, or DOC file, and include all of the images together in a zip file. Try to find the box shots in at least 250 x 250 resolution. Label the full size images "gametitle.jpg" and the thumbnail "gametitlea.jpg". If you're using Japanese or European covers, use "gametitlej.jpg" or "gametitlee.jpg" to differentiate. Include as many screenshots as possible. Pick which ones you want me to use and name them "gametitle-1.png", "gametitle-2.png", etc. Include as many as possible as well - it's better to have extras, since there needs to be enough screenshots for the right column to match up to the text on the left. If there's not enough, I may have to go back and request you supply more.
When taking screenshots, try to capture the most interesting moments of the game. You need to be able to show different parts of the game as well. Try to avoid using multiple screenshots of the same level, unless there really is no variation in graphics. If there are amusing cutscenes or dialogue, grab some of those too. If you're playing a game that has been fan translated, please try to supply the original Japanese screenshots, as I definitely prefer them. If not, just make sure to clarify in the article that you're playing a fan translated version.
Screenshots must be in the native resolution for the platform. Please do not supply screenshots that have been upscaled and filtered. Most screenshots should use the PNG format - however, if they grow too large (usually screens for HD games can grow to be 1 MB+ each), then use JPG with extremely low compression. For anything captured from a video capture card, please supply the original image titled "gametitle-1.jpg" and a half-size image named "gametitle-1a.jpg". Use very low JPG compression for these.
If there are character profiles, please supply portraits. They should be roughly 150 x 150, although you can make them smaller or larger if necessary, as long as they're consistent. If they're screenshots, they should be in PNG format, but otherwise use JPG if they're scans. You can also supply a larger, full size image if you want to the reader to be able to click on them to get a bigger view. Please supply these in the format "charactername-1.jpg" for the full size, and "charactername-1a.jpg" for the smaller thumbnail.
For comparisons across platforms screenshots, please use the format "gametitle-platform.png". (For example: "shinobi-c64.png", "shinobi-sms.png", "shinobi-genesis.png".) Remember that when you take pictures, they should be in approximately identical situations, usually the first screen of the first level.
If you can provide your article pre-formatted in HTML, that will be amazing and practically guarantees your article will go up really quickly. However, it is not necessary.
The best way to put together the article is by downloading and using our templates. There is a simple one that only accounts for a single page with no particular featues like character tables, boxouts and the like. Please download by right clicking the link and selecting "save as..." Opening and saving through the browser's "file -> save page as" dialog might mess up the formatting of the code! The full template contains placeholders for all of those. The base name for folder and html files should be a representation of the game's title in lowercase with no spaces, although long titles can be shortened as long as it is clearly distinct (Good: goemon for Ganbare Goemon, zamn for Zombies Ate My Neighbors; not good: gow for Gears of War or God of War). Note that you need an internet connection while reviewing the page on your computer for it to get displayed correctly.
You can open the file in any text editor. The basic Windows Notepad will do, but using something that color-codes tags makes it more easily viewable (like Notepad++). Please avoid HTML editors that mess around with the formatting of the code!
Basically you can just search the file for "!!" (without the quotation marks) and replace them and the following all caps statement with content. For the first two for example you delete "!!TITLE" and fill in the title of the game (or series) instead. Every "!!" that follows on a filename and a #, for example company.htm#!!COMPANYNAMECODE refers to the anchor link in the index (here the author index). You can get those by clicking on the link in that index page and checking how the file name in your navigation bar changes. The !!SHOWCASESCREENSHOT should link to a representative screenshot of the game.
If you need more lines in the quick info box, you can copy&paste everything from the <a... to </a> and put a <br> in between the two.
It may be a bit confusing to weed through the file, but larger structures are enclosed by comments. Every line that starts with a "<!--" (without the quotation marks) is a comment that marks the beginning and end of a larger structure. In Notepad++, these are green. Should you need more than one instance of any given structure (for example two games on one page), simply copy everything from the opening to the closing comment.
Smaller structures don't have the comments, though. For example in the screenshot column, this block is a screenshot with a caption:
<p class=image><a href="!!IMAGEFILENAME"><img src="!!SMALLIMAGEFILENAME"></a></p>
<p class=caption>!!TITLE (SYSTEM)</p>
Here you can just replace the all caps portions (always including the "!!") with the file names (the first one is the full size image that opens upon clicking the thumbnail, the second is the thumbnail itself) and game title & system, then copy the whole block for as many screenshots you need and replace the file numbers.
Below all that is a gallery for comparison shots or additional screenshots. You can expand the table with more rows by copy&pasting everything from and including <tr> to </tr>
Japanese kanji/kana titles are run through this converter before inserted into the HTML. What it puts out looks like garbage in the text editor, but is more compatible with different browsers and settings.
The header table for each article may contain up to three images. The left-most should use the American box cover, and the other two should be box covers of other regions if available. If there's no variation between box covers other than the logo, don't bother putting them up. The captions below each image should indicate what region the box cover is.
For the screenshot column, the width limit for the thumbnail images is 360 pixels. There must be enough images to fill up space next to the text. For long texts, it is advisable to put a few images in between paragraphs, as well. Those can be up to 600 pixels in width. The character profile images should be around 150-200 pixels wide. Try to avoid having the descriptions take up more space than the portrait. Finally, the related articles should be either games from the same genre, thematically similar, or something from the same developer.
That should do it. If you have any questions, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions specifically about the article template and HTML formatting can be adressed to email@example.com, while actual article submissions go to firstname.lastname@example.org.