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Concerning SEMO's Future :: A Message to All Site Visitors

As SEMO's webmaster, I would first of all like to thank you for visiting us — for whatever reason you stumbled upon us, we hope you have found the site useful and enjoyable. Secondly, I wish to take this opportunity to inform readers about some major changes that are taking place in the next few months. These will effectively bring about the end of SEMO as we know it. In its place will be a modern, accessible, community-focused game music resource featuring both database and journalistic content.

I apologise to site visitors and contributors alike that 2011 has been a relatively slow year. We channelled our energies this year into a complete site redevelopment that would fulfil our long-term vision and, as a result, it wasn't always possible to combine this with current coverage. This process has been incredibly time-consuming due to the need to produce detailed plans, make extensive graphical and technical changes, convert an entire database into PHP, and add a range of new content. For budget reasons, it was mostly a one-man job and some steps took much longer than expected. But while it was necessary to invest so much time for this, we felt it was necessary for the site to have a strong future.

There are three main reasons why SEMO is being replaced in its current form:

1) Branding: The site's name has become misleading and problematic. While we enjoy most of Square Enix's music, we have no ties to the company and our interest in game music now spans much further. We are therefore rebranding to site to reflect our focus on all game soundtracks — East and West, mainstream and indie, new and old. With this rebranding, we are also reflecting our shift from a fan site to an officially recognised resource. We hope to develop our already extensive links with composers across the world, while forming new relationships with various game and record companies.

2) Usability: The site's biggest problems extended beyond a name. Since our inception, we have been a HTML-based, rather than PHP-based, resource. As a result, the site requires considerable manual formatting on a daily basis to maintain — every paragraph needs to be tagged before posting, every review needs to be manually listed. What's more, our reliance on this outdated approach limits the usefulness of SEMO: it is not possible to search and sort our album databases, make automatic user submissions and edits, or even generate RSS news feeds. After much consultation, we felt it was no acceptable for our visitors — who generally appreciate the quality of our resource, but struggle with its usability — to continue to deal with second-best. We have therefore successfully converted all our data into MySQL databases to produce a streamlined and accessible resource.

3) Integration: A further goal for the redevelopment is to make the site much more community-focused. Earlier this year, we took decision to close the forum as we prepared for the redevelopment and, unfortunately, it will not be returning in its current form. Following several wonderful years, the forum was no longer generating vibrant discussion in its current state, despite our best efforts. The new site will feature an integrated site-based community rather than a separate community. Here, readers can make comments on our latest news, reviews, and interviews — keeping the spotlight on interesting game music discussion — between writing blogs and making submissions of their own. We want to hear the voices of all our readers. In the meantime, the SEMO community continues to live on through social media, most notably our Facebook group, and we encourage all game music enthusiasts to join us there.

In order to achieve these three goals, we decided to team up with another site — among the best game music sites on the web. This equal merger is something that should benefit everyone from. This is largely because the original sites have unique strengths and weaknesses that were surprisingly complementary. SEMO's team will contribute to an already established brand, its content will develop an already extensive database, and its community will give a truly universal scope to the site. The current team will continue to focus on its strength — offering high quality journalistic coverage through regular news, topical interviews, album reviews, artist biographies, and event reports. The other team have provided an excellent basis for such coverage with extensive album and game databases, a modern look, and cutting-edge technical features.

The difficult work on the merger has been completed — a sweeping redesign and database conversion — but some work is continuing to ensure the data is as polished and complete as possible. The new site will launch some time in Q1 2012.

While 2011 has been a quieter year on the forefront than others, there have been many highlights in our journalistic coverage. In the realms of reviewing, we kept up with an astonishing pace of releases to make numerous exclusive verdicts on what to buy and what to avoid. In addition, numerous specific series — including Medal of Honor, Dragon Ball Z, Silent Hill, and Call of Duty — inspired extensive attention. Furthermore, thanks to the efforts of Matt, independent scores, chiptune albums, and fan-arranged projects became regulars on the front page. In fact, this year we passed an incredible milestone by hosting over 3,000 reviews on the site — more than any other resource by a long margin.

On the interview side, we gave rare insights into the mind and works of composers such as Motoi Sakuraba, Manabu Namiki, Yuzo Koshiro, Jeff van Dyck, and Hisayoshi Ogura. These career retrospectives have allowed artists to speak in more detail about their works than ever before. We also exposed releases such as SOCOM 4, RAGE, Uncharted 3, Rayman Origins, and Octave Theory with behind-the-scenes discussions. Through such articles, we have been able to offer a deeper inside view of the industry than ever before. And let us not forget our attendance of events such as Back to the Future, Zelda Symphony, and Video Game Heroes.

Such developments wouldn't have been possible without the stellar efforts of our staff team. Both site veterans and newcomers have made many incredible contributions this year — both as individuals and part of a team. So much so, in fact, that the site is stronger than ever. Aside myself, the long-term driving force is Don, who has been around since the site's foundation and has a central role in the community. Ben's translations have also been an incredible help — allowing us to offer a range of elegant liner notes translations and frequently conduct interviews with the biggest names in Japan. Both areas will be even more important to the site during 2012.

In the area of reviews, Simon has written detailed and critical reviews for a wide range of Western soundtracks, deserving him a promotion as the leader of this area. Along with Joe and Harris, he has ensured our Western coverage is as broad and fascinating as our Eastern coverage. In other areas, Marc has continued to show his flair for writing reviews of Japanese soundtracks — with opinions closely in line with many fans — while Matt has been central for penning the coverage of the aforementioned coverage of indie, chiptune, and fan-arranged albums (we're still looking for a blanket term for those!). Also exciting are the relatively recent appointments of Leon — who is heading the new Classic coverage, initially with review anthologies dedicated to Technosoft and Data East — alongside SNK and KOEI enthusiast George. I am incredibly thankful to them all.

For the future, there's plenty to look forward to. While 2012 will bring the end of a site named 'Square Enix Music Online' and thousands of HTML-encoded pages, the resource that will take its place will be greatly superior in every way. And despite the shifts in design, database, and domain, SEMO's staff will continue to focus on what readers want: there'll be loads more interviews, news on a daily basis, and reviews of each and every major release. With the grounding of extensive and accurate databases containing game, album, and artist information, we hope this will generate the 'definitive game music resource'.

If you would like to find out more or help in any way with our ongoing efforts, please contact me at chris [at] squareenixmusic.com. Look out for the new site and, in the meantime, keep visiting SEMO as there are a few more exciting weeks ahead. Thank you once again for visiting the site. Have a wonderful 2012!

Chris Greening (Owner / Webmaster) - 27/12/2011