As you may have noticed, the site has been changing since the update earlier this year. Expect that to continue as we try out different approaches to organizing, promoting, and displaying games and resources.
Hubs & fans
We've updated hub entries to display some extra information (thanks to Falacy & SuperAntx for some suggestions here). Of particular interest is the #fans. The count of BYOND Members who are fans of a game is used as a score that determines the default popularity sort. The top-20 games get front-page billing and a shiny star. We chose to use Members rather than non-members because the latter is far easier to fake; that said, we'll be on the lookout for abuse.
You may notice that not all games appear in the aforementioned popularity sort-- in fact, many of our more popular games don't. This is because we have opted to exclude "fangames" from the default display. Wikipedia defines a fangames as "video games made by fans based on one or more established video games", but since Wikipedia is mostly full of ****, we're changing the definition to suit our purposes. We're calling fangames "games who owe their popularity due to an outside, established intellectual property or franchise". As an example, let's pick a completely random title, say, "Naruto: Legend of the Drunken Pickle"... that's a fangame! (It's also more than likely a "rip" and will be pulled from the index before you can say "goku", but let's pretend it is original for the purpose of this thought experiment). Due to the plethora of Anime fans within the BYOND community, someone could make a game like that*, attract players simply on the merit of the name, and encourage other developers to follow suit. This leads to a cyclical setup where BYOND remains a fangame hub for perpetuity because developers see it as the easy way of getting players. And this doesn't even consider the legal and/or moral implications of using another intellectual property without permission as an essential component in one's own development (a topic for another post).
*Yes, we realize that there are good, original fangames out there-- and in fact those are the only ones we are attempting to even list-- but the fact remains that, good or bad, without our intervention, fangames will always get more exposure on the current site due to the composition of the community.
There is some wiggle-room in the fangame definition, and we will review all submissions. For instance, "Texas Hold'em Poker" is not a fangame because there isn't really a claim to the intellectual property (the guy who owned that would be rich though). Games that borrow elements from movies, tv shows, other video games and so-forth may be exempt from fangame status depending on how they use (or mask) such elements. Games that have other pop-culture titles or promotional materials (such as banners and graphics) are pretty much guaranteed to be fangames. However, all of this can be changed after the fact if the developer is willing to put in the time to update their titles with original resources.
Honestly, for existing users, not a heck of a whole lot. You can still search for fangames (at least the original ones who've survived the 99% "rip" filter). We have even created some special tags-- "anime" (Anime fangames) and "fangame" (everything else, mostly movie/video-game homages)-- to list them. The only difference between fangames and other games is how they appear in the default, tag-less, display and the fact that such games are not promoted on the banners throughout the site. This is important, not for you, dedicated BYONDer for over 10 years, but for the new users we hope to bring in. We would like them to understand that BYOND is more than an Anime development studio! We want them to find new, original concepts to play, maybe the next indie sensation. More importantly, we want to encourage the creation of such things. If you happen to be one of those new users and want to take a crack and making a game, why not make something original and shoot for a front page listing?
Top new games & featured games
At the top of the popularity sort are two new boxes: Top new games & featured games. The top new games are just that-- popular (non-fangame) games recently listed. At this point in time, BYOND does not have a lot of new, original submissions but we hope this can change, now that we're being proactive in encouraging their development. The best thing that can happen to BYOND isn't the Flash port or BYOND 3D or what-not... it's getting good developers to write good games.
Featured games are basically "staff picks" of games we'd like to draw attention to. Typically these will be current games, but occasionally we may want to feature games from the past. For example, I (Tom) fondly recall some fun sessions playing Lexiconomy, Una, and Tanks, among others. Perhaps we can feature these in a "retro BYOND" segment one day. Featured games may, pending his approval, be attached to ACWraith's periodic review of BYOND happenings. Again, a lot is contingent on increased activity of developers of original games.
This site update has, quite expectantly, taken forever and we've still got some things on the docket before moving to Flash & other things. For the next iteration, we plan on providing users an open-look into the hub review process as well as a way to coordinate discussion with the reviewers. We also have some new plans for increasing communication between game/library owners and their players/users.