Category Archives: Gaming

How’s it going, Rob? Are the Player Ratings Ready?

So the player ratings are set to be done by the end of Q3.  Yeah, that’s eight days from now.  I’m reasonably certain I can get it done – mostly.  Chances are, the medals (like the level medal) won’t be ready in time and that’s okay.  The player ratings are generated at the time of the battle and are independent of the medals so I don’t see a problem with applying the update before the medals are ready.

Medals?  Did you say Medals?

I did, actually.  When your player rating is generated you’ll receive a medal that’s proudly displayed on your player profile indicating which of 12+1 “ranks” you hold.  There’s 12 ranks for rated players (any one who’s reported more than 30 games) and a provisional rank.  They look something like this:

Medals for battle rating
Medals awarded for battle rating on iToysoldiers

I’m reasonably happy with them.

What’s taking so long?

Well, as it turns out figuring in the impact of a player’s faction required a lot more testing and tweaking than I originally thought.  My original thought was to modify the K value of the calculation through the use of a ratio between the player’s faction battle ranking.  This didn’t pan out exactly the way I wanted it to.

So I set myself to figuring out exactly where to apply the faction impact and I stumbled across a website that talked about how they determine EL0 for NBA teams.  One of the factors they introduced into their calculation is home team advantage.  Clearly I don’t need that but HOW they did it was clever.  They essentially modified the rating of a team by a constant when they had a home team advantage.  “Ah ha!”, says I.  That’s slick.

So right now I’m messing around with the calculations with an aim to implementing a ratio that’s applied to the player’s rating before the rest of the calculation.  So consider a commander playing Eldar with a rating of 2000 against an Ork player with a rating of 1000, the calculation will actually set the Ork player’s rating considerably lower and the Eldar player considerably higher.  Not that in this example it’d be necessary.   But if they both had a rating of 1200 then if the Eldar player won the change in scores wouldn’t be nearly as dramatic as if the Ork player wins.

Please tell me you’re not messing with anything else

Well…  Nothing major.  A couple of bugs.  The biggest of which is making it so that when you add an image from the modelling project page it’ll actually get associated with the modelling project.  I’ve also done some work on the page layout for events so there’s not quite so much empty space on the page.  Really, that’s pretty much it.

Comments? Questions?  Post a comment here or visit the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

Rob @ iToysoldiers

Rating Players: Trials and Tribulations

Ahoy, commander! Now that we’ve got some improvements on creating content on iToysoldiers I figured I’d be time to start working on improving the stats and metrics around your miniature wargaming battles.  Specifically, I’m working on rating players based upon their performance. In short, I’m implementing a modified variation of the ELO ranking system and I’m going to be applying it pretty much everywhere average battle score is used.

Average Battle Score Sucks

Let me talk a little bit about why this change to an ELO based player rating is important.  Right now, iToysoldiers uses your average battle rating to determine your position in various leaderboards.  This isn’t a bad solution because it does show your relative standing as it relates to other players.  It’s also pretty handy for determining a player’s relative strength in relation to assorted meta items like the mission being played.

The HUGE problem with this system is that it really assumes each player has a similar number of reported games.  So players who’ve played lots of games will have a reasonably accurate score and folks who’ve played a small number of games will have a ridiculously inaccurate score.

For example: If I’ve played three games and they’re all wins my average battle score would be 5.  If my buddy Tyler has played 400 games and they’re all wins then his score would also be 5.  If he lost one of those games it’d put him beneath me in the rankings.  Who’s really the better player?  Do we know yet?  Should my score, with only three games, be compared against Tyler’s 400?  Is there a comparison to be made?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But unless we’re looking at a similar number of games, Average Battle score doesn’t really tell us much.  In fact, it punishes players for reporting more battles and that’s something that I certainly don’t want to have happen.

Rating Players using Chess as a Model

Enter ELO as a model for determining a player’s rating.  The premise behind ELO is that with a little fun with math a player’s rating can be determined by past performance and modified by the results of a match between those two players.  The resulting rating is normalized to a value that can be used to compare players whether they’ve played 400 games or 3 games.  (Yes, yes.  I know…  The results will still be more accurate the more games that are played but the concept is sound).

What I’m working on now is implementing a modified ELO system into iToysoldiers so that it’ll be possible to get reasonably accurate ratings of players overall, and possibly (still working on this) under specific sets of battle meta. I’m aware of some of the draw backs of the ELO model and how other rating systems are possibly more accurate because they take a couple of other factors into account – things like confidence level of the current rating and stuff like that.  The biggest issue, to my mind, is that ELO (and Gliko – another player rating system – for that matter) assume that both sides are equal.  Example: In chess, both players have exactly the same pieces and the same “abilities”.  In miniature wargaming that’s not the case.  Factions have varying powers that contribute to the power of the player.  I’m aware of this and hence the modifications.

Keeping me up at night

Modifying the ELO player rating calculations to consider elements of miniature wargaming into account has been what’s really making my head spin the last week or so.  A couple of things have been weighing heavily into how this is going to work:

  • How will a player’s faction affect their player rating?
  • Some players won’t have their opponent on iToysoldiers so that a comparison score can be utilized in the calculation.
  • What are the definitions of a “provisional player”?
  • What happens when players are playing narrative battles where both sides aren’t necessarily considered even?
  • Do people care about their rating on a faction by faction (or game by game) level or is their over all rating acceptable?

Faction Impact on Rating Players

The biggie? How factions can or should impact rating players. I’ve decided on two factors:

First, if a player’s game is not acknowledged by another player on iToysoldiers then the rating change will be based upon the current rating of the opposing faction.  Yep.  That means that I’ll be generating ratings for the various factions of the game.  There’s a couple of cool things I’ll be able to do with that info.  The second is a bit more… dicey, maybe?

So within ELO there’s the concept called, “K”. K is a constant that determines how much a match matters when rating the players.  It is basically, what’s the biggest change in ratings that can happen.  In chess, the K value is only based upon a player’s ranking and how many games they’ve played.  I’m adding in another factor: The relative strength of the factions.  Example: In 40K Orks have had a rough go.  Their codex hasn’t been considered to be terribly competitive.  Craftworld Eldar, on the other hand, are generally considered to be pretty top tier.  Gotta tell you, the test runs of the data I have pretty much bear this out.  It makes sense to me that someone who’s playing Orks against Eldar shouldn’t loose as many points if they’re defeated by Eldar.  Everyone saw that coming, right? On the flip side, the Eldar player shouldn’t get quite as many points for defeating an Ork player ’cause their faction is superior.  I’m incorporating that concept into the ratings.

A nifty side effect is that standard deviation of a game system’s factions will also give an indicator as to the balance of a particular game.  I’m pretty excited about being able to provide that kind of info.

TL;DR

And that’s where my head’s at. iToysoldiers will be rating players by the end of September at the latest.  Have some thoughts on the matter? Feedback? Comment here.  Email me.  Visit the iTS Support Portal Entry for Player Ratings.  I aim to please and a thrive on your commentary.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

 

 

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

iToysoldiers now supports EVERY miniature wargame

Ahoy, Commander!

iToysoldiers is pleased to announce our latest release, 4.5-rc4 which, amongst a handful of other things, brings support for EVERY SINGLE MINIATURE GAME AND ARMY IN THE WORLD! Yep. It’s now possible to add your own armies or factions so you don’t have to wait for the iToysoldiers team to update when a new rule set is released or if we haven’t gotten around to adding your favorite game. How __ing cool is that?

So now, when you report a battle, start a modelling project, or show off your army profile you can enter whatever you want as the army or faction.  I’m totally excited about the possibilities here.

Now. There’s some caveats and quid pro quos here.  Game Systems will still need to be entered in by the iToysoldiers staff and we’re going to make an effort to go through the new factions and see if we can associate them with games but if you want to make sure that your favorite game is truly supported on iToysoldiers all you have to do is zip over to the “Request New Game Support” page and tell us about the game. We’ll get it in as soon as we can.

Now that I’ve gotten that bit of gushing out of the way, here’s some other stuff that’s in the release:

The interface for submitting and editing battles and army lists have been revamped to make them easier to use.  There’s now a series of tabs that group types of input together and all of the required fields are on the very first tab.  No more scrolling through lots of stuff you don’t care about to submit your battles and army lists.

Corrected a whole whack of errors on the League manager. I’m still not 100% sure why the last release failed me so badly but it should all be working now.

Corrected the issue where battle reports weren’t being truly updated on creation. Your opponent wasn’t getting the meta data when you created a battle and that messed up stats for both of you. Also updated all the affected battle reports.

Cleaned up a bunch of backend stuff. Nothing to see here.

So that’s the latest release! If you run into any issues or have some suggestions, I’d love to hear about them.  Zip over to the iToysoldiers Help Portal and let me know what’s on your mind.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

Ragnorak has begun: Better events for miniature wargaming

So one of the things I put into iToysoldiers pretty early on was a calendar/event listing thing so folks could post all the different places/times where we could go and play with our miniature armies.  I built it largely ’cause one of the things that I find to be terribly frustrating is that there’s no really good place to go and find a listing of all the miniature wargaming events going on – in a particular area or otherwise.  Usually, to find if there was a tournament going on during a particular weekend I’d have to sift through a whole lot of different store web pages and then sift through the events to see if there were any I was interested in. Time consuming to be sure.

Now, looking back at what I built for iTS I see it has some serious issues.  The first being that (as one of the first features I added) the functionality is pretty minimal.  It’s also not abundently obvious that ANYONE can post an event.  Also.  The pages are really ugly.

The Ragnorak release is intended to address the issues with the Event pages, calendars, etc.

So the first thing I had to do was rebuild the pages so that all the info packed into them would be easy to absorb.  I find that my sense of style isn’t ideal so I “borrow” design elements from sites that either I like or that I think do a good job handling the layout of the content type.  And so, here’s a screenshot of what the event pages are probably going to look like:

Event Page Screenshot
A screenshot of what the event pages will likely look like.

I’m pretty pleased.  This layout gives me a lot of places to fiddle with different kinds of displays and blocks but still presents all the relevant details right there in front of you.  The right hand block drops beneath the text description on a mobile device, FYI.

Right now I’m planning on leveraging this layout for the main pages of any kind of event: including War Zones (tournament and league manager) as well as Narrative Campaign instances.  I mean, it makes sense since those kinds of content already have a management and operations page to offload the mechanics bits.  Let’s just use the “main” page to display the event details.  Yeah.  I like that idea.

Rob

Concept: Global, Build: Local

iToysoldiers is all about tools to help the miniature wargaming community.  Right now it’s mostly about how folks can share the exploits of their armies but I have grand plans.  One of the things I’m doing is building tools to support my local community in the Greater Windsor, Ontario area.  Why?  Well, the stuff that they need to thrive is likely the same sort of stuff that other communities need.

Now that does generate a wee bit of an issue.  The Windsor crew tends to think of iToysoldiers as their playground – and I’m all over that.  But the intent behind iTS is so much more.  I want it to become a community of gamers that transcends regional boundaries and yet supports the local scene.  I know…  that’s hard.  But I think I can do it.  What I’m discovering I need, in order to address a global audience, is some sort of way to filter out content to only show what’s really important to a particular player.

My first step into this realm is part of the Ragnorak release, which deals with events/leagues/tournaments/ect.  I’m going to try and start suggesting events that a person might be interested in and I’m going to utilize the geo location info to do so.

Baby steps.

Rob @ iToysoldiers.

What’s a core feature to miniature wargamers?

I’ll admit that I get distracted with nifty new things that I can add to iToysoldiers.com.  It’s extremely tempting to fiddle with new features and unfortunately that comes at the expense of things that one might consider to be “core” features.  So over the last week or so I’ve been thinking about what the core features of iToysoldiers are from a player perspective and I’m committing to polishing those up.  Here’s the list I’ve come up with for each of the three major aspects of the hobby:

Gaming

  • Battle Reports and Stats: Kind of where iToysoldiers started.  I mean, the original tagline of the site was, “We have stats. Stats are cool”.  To be fair, I’m always working on making this better.  The Kilgrave release is going to see some new player stat pages that I think you’ll like. Submit a battle and let me know how I can improve them.
  • ListCrit: I’m kinda bummed that more folks don’t take advantage of the listcrit system.  I find a lot of folks use the Army Profile and/or blog functions to post their lists.  That’s cool.  I mean, use it how you want, right?  ListCrit was inspired by the ship buildout tools for Eve Online.  I need to revisit this ’cause I think I may have made it too cumbersome.  But anyway, a place to get peer reviews of your army list is pretty neat, right?
    Any thoughts on how I can make ListCrit better?

Modelling

  • Modelling Projects: The first thing I need to do is decide how I’m going to spell this on the site.  “Modelling” and “modeling” are both correct depending upon what country you’re from.  But I digress.  This is one of the newer features on the site.  Immediate needs are stats and achievements related to the projects.
    Take a look at the modelling projects and let me know what you think of where they’re at right now.

Narrative

  • Army Profiles: So the inspiration for army profiles are those old Index Astartes articles in White Dwarf. I don’t have any specific plans right now to improve it (there was a release not too long ago that added some authoring tools that are kind of cool.  Any feedback on the Army Profiles as they are?

So that’s my list, from a player perspective.  Did I miss any that I should be focusing on? Any ideas for improvements on them? Don’t hesitate to let me know.

Cool idea? Club and Store Automatic Ladder Leagues

So last night I was thinking about some of the conversations I’ve had with my local gaming crew.  One of the things they mentioned was internal ranking for the club would be kinda cool.  I think I have a nifty idea to accomplish it.  Read on:

The basic format would be this:  Every given time frame (I’d probably default it to every quarter) a “league” would be automatically generated for each club and store that opted in to the system.  Every member would then be allowed to register for the ladder.  As players play each other in regular games, league games, or tournament games the system would automatically calculate a ranking based upon the results of the battle.

The ladder rankings would then show up, of course, on the ladder page but could also show up on the club or store page.

The rankings themselves would be generated once per day (so as to not add too much additional processing when unrelated battles are reported).  The rankings would be ELO style and reset at the beginning of each new ladder league.

Whatcha think?  Cool idea?

What’s coming in Smaug

Greetings, commander!

I’m aiming to release Smaug (the code name for the next iToysoldiers release) into the world this week or early next week!  I figured you might be interested in what’s going into it.

So first and most importantly: The iToysoldiers Tournament Manager will now support Privateer Press Steamroller tournaments!  Yep! After years of threatening to do it I’ve finally gotten it into the system.  Now, there’s not a huge ton of differences between a Steamroller tournament and a plain jane swiss style tournament but there are enough differences – especially on tie breakers and the like – to justify a separate rule set.  I mean you could always run one using the existing system but now it’ll sort players exactly as stated in the Steamroller rule pack.  Oh! And the scenarios can be picked manually or randomly generated when one starts the tournament.  Neat, eh?

I’ve also added a stats page to tournaments and leagues.  I know it’s pretty basic but there’s only been two tournaments (and only one league that utilizes the newish system) so I don’t have a ton of real data to play with.  I’m hoping with more events and more feedback I’ll have a better idea on what information is interesting.

I’ve also added the ability to attach a tournament to a gaming club.  So if your tournament is of interest to a particular crew of players they’ll get a notification when you create it.  It’ll also show up on the club page – which is kind of handy.

For tournaments (and leagues and events and campaigns actually) I’ve given the EO the ability to register players.  This is particularly handy with Tournaments where folks will show up on the day of the event and not necessarily have signed up already.

Lastly, some of the feedback and observations of previous tournaments on iToysoldiers generated some bugs/feature requests surrounding the look and feel of certain forms and processes.  I’ve done a number of things to try and address those.  Mostly they’re cosmetic but there’s also a few backend things like removing fields that aren’t necessary, consolidating functions and the like.

I’m really excited about this release.  I’m confident that it’ll make the Tournament Manager even better.  If you’re an event organizer or a friendly local gaming store owner and you’re interested in using the tournament manager for any of your miniature war gaming events drop me a line at rob@itoysoldiers.com and we can chat.

Carpe Acies!
Rob