All posts by Rob@iToysoldiers

WYSIWYG and What You See is Awesome: Authoring Experience on iToysoldiers

Well…  Not yet.  So one of the things that’s been killin’ me is the inability to add photos easily – especially on mobile devices.  I swear it’s like some of these module developers have never heard the word responsive.  They also love to hard code things in the most bizarre spots.  But I’m rapidly descending into a rant so I’ll go back to taking about what’s next for iToysoldiers and that is WYSIWYG and some improvements in the “authoring experience” and how images are handled.

Right now it’s nigh impossible to upload a photo from your phone onto iToysoldiers.  The window doesn’t scroll, you can’t zoom it in or out and it has a gutter on the top and left sides that prevents you from getting to the submit or close button.  That’s a huge problem and it’s been preventing me from posting stuff.  And if it’s preventing me from doing it I’m sure that it’s even more frustrating for other folks.  I’m pretty close to having this fixed.

The next thing that’s kind of a drag is the lack of a handy editor on text fields (in which you can put images inline).  No body wants to remember all the various html codes in order to make the text of their post bold or what have you.  I don’t even like doing that.  So the next release of iToysoldiers will include a major authoring experience improvement: a Wysiwyg editor built into each and every text form.  Yay.

I’m going to be offering up two flavors: Basic (the default) and Advanced.  The difference?  Basic only has a couple of buttons – the most useful.  Advanced will open up all the formatting options to you.  Things like lists, headings, and the like.  I think mostly Basic will cover everything you might want but…  The option will be there.

So that’s what’s going on right now.  iTS Release 5.1: Tolstoy is coming soon.

Rob

The iToysoldiers 2014 Roadmap

Ahoy! Well, since I’m trying to be a bit more organized I figured I’d also let you guys see into what’s on the roadmap for the rest of the year.  Important: If there’s something you’d like to see on the list feel free to visit the iToysoldiers Support Portal and get it in there.

Q3 2017

  • Return WYSIWIG functionality to the site.
  • Introduce site wide player rankings.
  • Fix any bugs brought in with 5.0

Q4 2017

  • Revamp the Narrative Campaign Manager

 

What’s Inside iToysoldiers Version 5.0

Greetings, commander! I’m deliriously excited to announce the release of iToysoldiers Version 5.0. As befits a major release, there’s just a ridiculous number of new things and improvements.  I’m going to try and itemize them all here for your reading enjoyment. Of course the best way to experience all the new stuff is to visit iToysoldiers.com and experience it yourself.

Improved Site Design

Probably the most obvious change is the site layout and theme.  I’ve opted to dramatically simplify the menus and various widgets on the page because I got a bit carried away with trying to be clever.  The end result is that pretty much everything you might want to see and do can be done from the navigation bar at the top of the page. I’ve also tried to bring all of the features and menus in line with the five major categories of the site.  Navigation is hugely improved as a result and I think you’ll find it easier to explore both the features of the site and the exploits of your fellow commanders.

A change that I think you’ll really appreciate is the “Add Content” menu.  It’s been broken down into categories so the list of things you can create to show off your miniature armies is a bit less… well… random. Here’s how the categories work out:

Gaming: putting the dice on the table (or planning for it).  Battle Reports and Army Lists.

Modelling: Building your models and putting paint to the plastic (or resin, metal, whathaveyou).

Narrative: Telling the story of your armies and their exploits: Narrative campaigns and Army Profiles

Theater: Where, when and with whom you play: Events, tournaments, clubs, and battlefields.

Community: Kind of everything else: Player profiles and leaderboards, Blogs, Galleries, and Forums/Discussions.

There’s a final section – for you technically minded folks – I’m calling Core.  It represents backend and UX improvements that really aren’t really player facing. Oddly enough, Core elements, even though they’re not necessarily obvious, you’d hate the site if I didn’t give them some TLC.  This is stuff like making sure I’m using the right libraries for various things, author experience, performance things, and the like.  Boring, Sydney.  Boring.

I’ve put a bit more consistency into the site.

Comments look the same (ish) whether you’re posting on a forum post, a battle report, or an image that someone’s uploaded.  Author content blocks look the same on all the various content types.

The activity stream on the front page (for those of you who’re logged in) has been dramatically simplified.  I removed that timeline bar from the display so it doesn’t take up valuable space when you’re using your mobile device or tablet to look at the page.  I also did some work on the formatting of how items show up on the page so they’re a bit more consistent.

The layout of pages – both for the battles, lists, blogs, etc that you create as well as the pages that list site wide content have (mostly) gotten a bit of attention.  The display of content is a bit more consistent across the site.

Image galleries are now formatted in such a way that it’s easier to view them and interact with images (like commenting on them or seeing larger versions).

Maps are back

Once upon a time, iToysoldiers had a number of different map based views.  Over time they’ve been disabled – largely ‘cause of technical issues.  Well, that’s changed!  I have a beautiful new mapping repository and library which makes creating maps easy.  Two maps have returned: The battlefield map for battle reports and the battlefield display for players – it shows where a player has engaged in battle.  Gotta tell you, I’m excited to add more.

Categorical Improvements

Since I’ve taken all this time to consolidate the site into five major categories, I should probably list improvements the same way, right?

Gaming

Player battle stats have gotten a major overhaul.  Rather than lumping all of your stats together, battle stats are displayed by faction.

Player battle stats also have “raw data” tables that can be manipulated with various filters to allow for more in depth analysis of your battle results.

The battle report pages have gotten a major facelift.

You can now link a battle to an army list entry on the site.  You can even create an army list from the battle report screen.  It’s totally optional. I’ll be providing real stats for army lists in the near future.

Modelling

One thing I’ve wanted is a list of my models, by army and unit, with how many I have and how many are completed.  Well.  It’s there now.  You can see an example, mine, here.  <insert: http://itoysoldiers.com/user/16/modelling/collection>  Fair warning: I don’t have all my models up yet but I’m working on it.

Community

You didn’t think I’d leave your player profile alone whilst bringing everything into a more consolidated look and feel did you?  Well, even if you did, I didn’t.  Player profiles are now way better because they consolidate your miniature wargaming exploits (and other site activities) into the five major categories.  There’s now a tab for gaming, modelling, narrative, theater, and community.  When you and others peruse your profile they’ll (and you) will have an easier time drilling down to what’s important to them (or you).

Core

There’s a ridiculous number of backend fixes and improvements. Most of it was removing deprecated stuff that didn’t hold up to the new categorization system.  Stuff like that helps improve the performance of the site in general ‘cause there’s no need to reference things that aren’t there anymore.  However…

After much internal debate I’ve decided to use UserVoice <insert link> as iToysoldiers Help Portal. The main reason?  I really value the “I suggest you…” feature.  See, UserVoice is not only a support ticket tracker, it also does an amazing job of helping me prioritize what should come next with iToysoldiers.  It’s also one less thing I have to manage and that’s a good thing.

Speaking of which…

So that’s Release 5.0.  I’m excited.  I think it’s one of the more helpful releases I’ve done.  That said, I may have missed some things.  I might’ve introduced a bug.  It’s even possible that there’s something iToysoldiers doesn’t do that make showing off your miniature wargaming armies easier. That’s why I have the support portal.  Let me know! Really.  Zip over to http://itoysoldiers.uservoice.com and tell me about what I could be doing better.  Of course you could reply here or send me an email at rob@itoysoldiers.com as well.  I aim to please.  I hope you like the new version of iToysoldiers.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Some Thoughts On Presenting Battle Stats

So on the iToysoldiers site I still have a legacy forum that asks for feedback on how to improve the site.  It really shouldn’t be there ’cause I really want to get “backend” type content out of the site proper.  However, every so often there’s a post there and it gets me thinking. In particular, I’m thinking about player battle stats and how to generate/display them.

If you’re interested, the post in question is here:  http://itoysoldiers.com/forum-post/8th-edition-stats.  Essentially the ask is to allow players to “reset” their stats when a new edition of a rule set comes out (or whatever reason floats their boat). I think this is a fair ask to a certain extent. But here’s the rub: I don’t think a player really wants to “reset” stats.  I think what they really really really want is the ability to display stats with more granularity and customization than I currently allow.  Allow me to explain:

The Problem

As I was first building iToysoldiers I made a design decision to force players to pick specific elements representing their battle from a list I provided.  For example: You couldn’t just add an army faction.  Missions went into the mission field.  Points per army went into the points field.  I did this so that there’d be a way to aggregate data specific to a particular meta item and display it relative to every battle on the site.  For sure this helped keep my stat displays under control but unfortunately, it also means that players were only provided battle stat combinations that I created.  This is the problem.

How am I fixing this?

Well, the good news is that I’ve already started to do so!  The first major step to addressing this came when I allowed folks to add any faction into the “Army” field.  Yeah, for sure this has caused some problems – specifically with folks adding stream of consciousness type values into that field.  But as more players participate in the site that’s becoming less of an issue.

The second part of a fix is what I’m working on now.  Player battle stats are now tiered.  To explain: there’s high level stats based upon every game.  Stuff like win/loss/draw, # of battles, and that sort of thing.  But there’ll also be a specific page for each army that a player has entered battle reports for.  To use me as an example, I’ll have CSM, Dark Eldar, Ynnari and World Eaters as my armies and I’ll have a specific page for each.  Kinda like this:

iToysoldiers Battle Stat Teaser
What the army specific stat page looks like

There’s also an advanced filter view without graphs for detailed comparisons:

iToysoldiers Battle Stat Teaser 2
Advanced filters for iToysoldiers Battle Stats

So each army that you play will have these views.  Now, if you’re playing a new army or something it’s pretty easy to “reset” your stats because they’ll be army specific.  And since you can enter anything you want into the Army field a player could reset their stats by using a new army tag. But…

It Could Be Better

Yeah.  It could be better.  And here’s what I’m thinking.  What if there was a world where a player wasn’t restricted to the elements of a battle that I consider important?  What if this world allowed players to tag a battle report with elements that they thought were important instead of having to enter data in a fairly ridiculous number of fields?  What if every meta item was treated the same and battle stats could be generated using a selection of meta elements rather than specifically associating a meta item to a particular input/output field?

That’s what I’m thinking about now: How to revamp the battle reports to be more flexible, easier to use, and more useful when looking at battle stats.  Right now it’s just a seed of an idea and thinking about it is drawing attention to some of the really iffy design choices I made early on.  It’ll be a fair amount of work to do this.  Not so much to build it an put it into effect – but rather make old battle reports obey a set up like this.

So what do you think? I really really really want to know.  It’s feedback that spawns improvement in the site and this is a great example: One forum post and suddenly I’m think of huge improvements.  Drop me a line at rob@itoysoldiers.com, visit our support portal at http://itoysoldiers.uservoice.com or comment here.  I aim to please.

Rob @ iToysoldiers

Don’t I feel kinda silly

Ahoy, commander! Well, as it turns out the iToysoldiers Help Portal hasn’t been working in like… well… ever.  Kinda explains why the Bug Hunt has been kind of quiet.  Anyway, I fixed it by trashing the old system and bringing in a new one.  I still need to put the knowledge base back in there but you can now submit bugs and feature requests with impunity.

Oh! And because of this, I’m going to extend the Bug Hunt until May 31st.  Feel free to let me know what’s wrong with the Help Portal as well since it’s kind of new and hasn’t really gotten a thorough shake down.  Not at all like the previous version.

Carpe Acies!
Rob

Narrative Campaign Manager: Some ideas

Ahoy, Commander! So it’s been a really really long time since I visited the Narrative Campaign Manager on the site. I think the first iteration of it was pretty neat.  It allowed folks to create narrative campaigns that could be played over and over again. These campaigns could be organized in a linear fashion or using a node system (like planets or battlefields).  Players could pick which faction they wanted to be part of and have their games count toward the over all results of the campaign.

A couple of folks jumped on board and created and/or ran their narrative campaigns using iToysoldiers.  That made me happy.  However, it wasn’t without noticing that there were some things that weren’t quite there.  And so, I present to you: A List of things I want to add to the iToysoldiers Narrative Campaign Manager.

Special Rules

Either manually or based on rules, I want the campaign organizer to be able to define special rules that are enabled against certain conditions or phases of the campaign.  Something like, “Phase 1: Faction: +1 to reserve rolls during this phase”.  These special rules would show up on the campaign instance.

Solo Campaigns

Getting buy in from other players to commit to a long term campaign is hard.  What’s easier is defining a narrative around the games you play against whoever happens to be around.

Global Campaigns

Along the same line as solo campaigns, the Narrative Campaign Manager should be able to handle players anywhere.  Think of the Eye of Terror campaign that Games Workshop ran or the various WWII campaigns run by Warlord.  Essentially, anyone can sign up and report battles against the event.  Those battles would then help craft the story line as it continues.

Just In Time Narrative

This one will be harder but I think it’d be cool.  So the first time a narrative campaign is run it would update the “core” entry on iToysoldiers.  The idea being that you can create a narrative campaign as you go and then it’ll save it for other people.

I wander back and forth on this one though.  See, one of the reasons that I built the Narrative Campaign Manager the way I did was to prevent folks from losing interest and abandoning campaigns.  If the campaign is written and ready to go before it even starts it’s much more likely to be played to completion.  On the other hand, it could be said that playing the games the first time around define the story line of the campaign.  Still working on this one.

Anyway, that’s what’s in my head for future Narrative Campaign work. I have a bit of stuff ahead of this on the pipeline but I’ll get around to it.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers.com

What’s In the Pipeline at iToysoldiers

Ahoy, Commander!

So I just wanted to let you know about what’s currently being worked on for iToysoldiers right now. I have a release scheduled for next week that’ll include the following:

Achievements

  1. I’m redesigning the look and feel of the Achievement pages. They’ll be cleaner and it’ll be much easier to see who’s earned a given achievement.
  2. I’m fixing the “bulk award” achievement rule so that it doesn’t generate quite so much email. This is a little thing ’cause it’s not often that I introduce a whole bunch of achievements.
  3. I’m going through and fixing some of the older achievements to use better code.

General Stuff

  1. In an effort to make navigation a bit easier I’m totally revamping the left nav menu.  Rather than being clever with titles like, “Order of Battle” I’m going to be using the categories of Gaming, Narrative, and Modelling for the major features.  Theater will still be events.  Think, “Where, when, and who to play” and Gazetteer will be collapsed into Community.
  2. General bug fixes that probably won’t really be noticed.

Bug Hunt 2017

Oh, and don’t forget that Bug Hunt 2017 is running right now. If you have any bugs, feature requests, or comments, do not hesitate to zip over to the iToysoldiers Help Portal and submit them.  You’ll be entered for a chance to win $25 at your favorite game store.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Reading Now: Warlord, Fury of the God Machine

Ahoy, commander! So I figured I’d start sharing with you the stuff I’m reading. Some of it is going to be tech related (not much though since I do most of that on the Internet) but most of it will be sci-fi and fantasy and horror ’cause I love to read fluffy stuff.  Anyway. Right now I’m reading, Warlord, Fury of the God Machine by David Annendale.  Granted, I’m not terribly far into it but so far it’s not too shabby.  Likely, once I’m done I’ll write a full review but right now… too early.

The Narrative is Important

One of the things I really dig about the Warhammer 40K universe is the depth of the fiction surrounding the game. There’s not that many universes in the miniature wargaming hobby that can claim to have such a developed back story – at least science fiction and fantasy ones.  Clearly, the historical ones have a pretty decent repository of content if you want to dive deeper into the world but fictional ones? Not so much, really.

And that’s one of the things I really look for in a game.  I like the stories and the fluff and the narrative.  Not being a writer myself, I have to rely upon the efforts of others. Games Workshop has done a really good job providing folks with lots and lots of content associated with their games.  Kudos to them!

One of the things I’m trying to do with iToysoldiers is to help folks make the narrative elements of their games more available, more structured.  It’s always a work in progress but I love the narrative bit so much.

Anyway, feel free to read along with me! Pick up the Warlord, so far it’s pretty slick.

banner link to Warlord, Fury of the God Machine
Click here to buy Warlord, Fury of the God Machine

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Bug Hunt 2017

Ahoy, commander! It’s a little bit later than usual, but the 2017 Bug Hunt begins today! What’s the Bug Hunt? Well, as with any software product, iToysoldiers probably has a few quirks that are driving you mad. You may also have an idea for a new feature. Well, this event is intended to encourage you to tell me about both! Anyone who reports a bug or a feature request on the iToysoldiers Help Portal will be entered into a drawing for a $25 CDN gift certificate for either the store or online vendor of their choice.

The Rules

Bugs reported between now and April 30th at 23:59 will count as an entry.

The winner will be contacted during the first week of May.

Only bugs or feature requests reported on the iToysoldiers Help Portal count as an entry.

Each unique entry from an individual counts as an entry into the drawing so even if someone else reports the same bug you’ll still get credit for reporting it – unless that duplicate is from you.

Only valid bug or feature requests count as an entry.  In other words, the entry has to be something related to iToysoldiers and how it works (or should work).

A bug or feature request does not need to be accepted to be counted (i.e. your bug may be “works as designed” or it could be a feature request that isn’t in line with iToysoldiers).

iToysoldiers reserves the right to consider a report as “not really related” and cancel the submission.

You do not have to be registered on iToysoldiers in order to report bugs (although it’d probably make sense if you were).

And there you have it! Good luck!  I really value the Bug Hunt because it gives me a bunch of feedback that I don’t usually get. So go ahead and get started now at the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Achievements for Modelling Projects are Live!

Greetings, Commander! I’m delighted to announce that as of right now, iToysoldiers has begun awarding achievements for your work on painting up your miniatures! There’s a new category of achievements, aptly titled, “Modelling” that shows off who’s been doing the most work on their armies.

Right now there’s three new achievements:

  • Modeller: for submitting a modelling project.
  • Requisition: a leveled achievement for aquiring models.
  • Uniform Regulation: another leveled achievement for completing ’em.

You should get on earning some of these by tracking your modelling on iToysoldiers.

Oh, and this new release also fixed about 53 bugs that’ve been sitting around and bothering me. Granted, you probably won’t notice the bulk of the work on these since they’re largely back end type stuff but every little bit works to make iToysoldiers faster, better, and more stable. Yay me!

Of course there’s always more to do and I’m sure I continue to miss stuff (or there’s something I haven’t even considered) so if you want to make a feature request or report a bug feel free to do so at the iToysoldiers Help Portal.  In the meantime:

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers