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Guide To A Good C64 Magazine
by Jailbird/Booze Design

First I wanted to write a guide to a bad magazine, but then I realised it may be very similar to a review of certain active magazines, so dropped the idea.

Perhaps I'm not the most competent scener to hold a lesson about the outlook of a good magazine, I'm not a coder and I can't see objectively what's the C64 capable of when programming a mag's inner. I'm not a professional journalist neither, although I more or less know what do people like and dislike to read in a C64 magazine. I hope that my insufficiency on this topic doesn't make me less valuable when representing my thoughts about the C64's scene magazines, after all, I was involved in building up a magazine from scratch ("Dimension"). Unfortunately it didn't last for long, but believe me that was not my fault. :)

Like 95% of the sceners, I'm an active reader, and I believe (in fact I'm very sure) that I share the opinion of the majority when the issue of content and outlook of a Commodore 64 magazine comes up. Actually there's not too many golden rules you have to take care of when creating a succesful magazine, and as I see, those points are not even too hard to follow.

THE OUTLOOK

A) BASE

The outlook of a magazine has to be flat. There is no need for extras which can steal the attention of the reader. I took my diploma on magazine typography with the highest score, the theme was more than well done, I can tell about it. My basic idea about a C64 magazine is that a blank screen with easily readable text plus a menu with a logo is more than enough for a good magazine (look at the last issues of "The Crest", "Relax" or "Driven" - all dead magazines, but very successful in their times). It's actually the text that makes the magazine interesting, not the eye-candies. I often run into paper magazines that are so colourful and good looking, while their textuals are boring, these magazines usually don't last for long. Of course a flat and easy design can still look excellent, just take a look on "Domination" or "Vandalism News".

B) FONT

I was told in school, that the best readable fonts are the ones with serifs (f.e. Times family, as opposite to the Arial family) and with individual proportions (as opposite to the Courier family). One of the most readable fonts is a simple Times font. As far as I know there are fonts especially designed for good readability. Let me tell you an example, before offset printing (the most popular printing method which excludes lead letterblocks and works with a help of photography) came up as a solution, typographists were forced to design seperate "fi" or "fj" lead letterblocks to avoid huge spaces after the "f" (*rule*: "white" spaces between characters in one single word, de-cr-eas-e re-ada-bil-i-ty). So a proportional Times or even Arial lookalike could suit the best for a C64 mag. A fixed 8x8 font is definitely hard(er) to read. Believe me, that's *not* my personal opinion but a *rule*. Your reading has a rhythm, if the rhythm is discontinuous, is like listening your 5 years young brother/son/son in law/cousin playing drums (well, in case he's not the new Mozart), and it'll most likely annoy you heavily.

C) COLOURS

Do offer a choice of colour combination. What you find a good color combination, another person may find annoying. For a computer based textual medium, I'd suggest a greenish, grayish background with low font colour contrast. The high contrast could hurt the eyes, while the green or gray are neutral and calm colors, perfect for long reading sessions... Black with low letter contrast (mid-gray, lgt-gray) could be also fine, although not all will love the black background. Have you ever wondered why aren't there newspapers on harsh red paper with black letters (even if there is a possibility today to do that without paying too much extra $$$). Remember that colours can affect your mood (sometimes radically).

D) CONTROLS

Include both keyboard and joy controlling, that's very helpful. Don't try to be too original at this point. Left-right/up-down for turning pages/scrolling, apparently an option for fastening up the movement. Fire/return for select/exit and that's it. Since the very first magazines, people are mostly used to similar controls. Being different will decrease the usability of your mag.

E) MENU

First of all, easy to reach, just a click away, always relevant in the memory. Personally, I'd say that a one collumn menu is more user-friendly than a two collumn, due to the fact that you can have a better overview on the articles you have read already and the editor can put them into a certain order. Anyhow, if you made a two (or more) collumned menu, allow an option to jump from one collumn to another despite the location of the cursor (pointer).

A music menu is probably the best possible option, especially when you have shortcuts to change the musics meanwhile you're in an article (without interrupting the reading). I'm not sure if any magazine has an option of continuous play of all the musics (jumping to the next music after one is finished), but that could be interesting.

F) SPECIAL

Some special options could make the magazine to seem much more "polished". As an example, a page counter, a line where the writer's name is present, an option for printing. Very handy, if you pressed exit by mistake, after selecting the same article, to jump back to the page where you pressed the button.

Fast and smooth routines and fine graphics are meant by default of course, but once the reading is a suffer, you'll think back of the magazine as one of your worst nightmares.

THE TEXT

The textual side of a magazine is of course most important. In my opinion, a magazine doesn't need to have regular articles as long they couldn't be filled properly. Be always up-to-dated and bring only the latest news - make sure they're all true, especially if you hear a gossip that's hard to believe (would you like your favourite paper mag to be filled with 3 months old and dubious "news", just because it has no regular publication date, and their editors don't check their sources?). A magazine has to be informational above all. It has to be communicative, can share ideas, basically, it's an intellectual utility that directly affects your emotions and thinking. Consider about your target audience, who they are and what they do like or dislike. If your target audience is the C64 scene, a silly thing is to include Bundesliga news into your mag, as not too many of the readers will care about it - most likely everyone who's interested in German fussbal, will buy papers that contain such informations.

A very huge majority of the C64 scene could be located on the Internet and have regular Internet access, consequently they don't need news and articles that were published on the net already. If you want to support 10-15 people that do not have even occassional Internet access, one single chapter is more than enough! Put there all your informations that are needless for the 95% of the readers but are important for the 5% and matter solved! All and everyone will be satisfied.

I. REGULAR CHAPTERS

A) EDITORIAL

A chapter where the editor(s) speak(s) up. (Mostly) reserved for credits and news about or the people around the mag. It can hold a fine overview of the chapters, what can you expect when you go to its deep.

B) NEWS

All the latest news, happenings preferably separated to group and single news. Triple check all your informations here! I'd never include news that are older than two months. Don't just copy your news from a C64 portal, rather go to forums, IRC channels, try to find the news yourself. Comment them if necessary.

C) CHARTS

Charts are good if they're really based on a lot of votes. If you're into music, you'd neither like to hear that the band you like, sucks the ass of a chart, based on a statement of 20 fools and 5 horses. Comment the charts if necessary, some words about the sceners on the top spots, please! What do they do, how active they are, why do they draw up the attention of fellow sceners, etc..., etc..., let your imagination fly.

D) RELEASE LISTS

I doubt that today's C64 magazine can put together a lenghty illegal release list, but if you include a list of the latest released demos, collections and other legals matters, if possible, include urls, short comments.

E) ADDRESSES

A collection of snail-mail adresses, e-mail adresses, and websites of various sceners and groups. Check if they really work, if you're not sure, don't iclude them at all.

F) REPORTS

Various reports. The name says it all.

G) REVIEWS

Demos, magazines, graphics, musics, etc. The reviews are one of the most interesting chapters in a magazine.

H) INTERVIEWS

At this chapter, people like to read interviews with sceners they've heard about, not your neigbour who had a C64 15 years ago and cracked two games in the late 80's. Or ask yourself if you'd like to read an interview with John Doe of Newbies or Uninteresting Jack of Oldies, about what he prefers to eat and drink. Look at some charts, ask *those* sceners for interviews, most of us know people who are on the top spots.

II. IRREGULAR CHAPTERS

Everything else that's not listed above. Just as every text in the magazine, they also have to be scene related, informative and interesting. For example "a guide to a good demo". ;) Needless to say, all the better if the article is written by a scener who knows a bit about demos and C64 scene in general. You get the point, don't you? :)

If you follow this guide from line to line, and realise it as a help text, not as a collection of orders, by any chance even include some of the ideas to your production, you'll improve the magazine for sure, and much less negative reactions - take my word on that! All your exclusive need is a coder who knows his job and few editors that are good with words...

It's hard to make a magazine which is very close to perfection ("Domination" is the word!), it's easy as a childsplay to release a mag that absolutely sucks, but from that point, it's not too much harder to do a mag that could be very far from bad.

JAILBIRD/BOOZE DESIGN

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