Category Archives: Gaming

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

Itty Bitty Battle Report Release Today

Good morning, commander!

I implemented release code name, “Hastur” today.  Honestly, the changes are fairly minimal.  Mostly backend battle report type stuff.  There’s a minor change to the layout of the battle reports to put tem more in line with other types of content as well as playing with the tools bar.  What do you think of the buttons as opposed to the straight links?

Oh! The main Battle Report page also has new tabs that show all battles, your battles, trending battles, and battles of folks you follow.  I’m going to be adding that to most sections eventually.

Also, I fixed the achievement logic for battle oriented achievements.  Now they trigger when you create a battle so you don’t have to wait for a modification, a new battle or someone to acknowledge the battle.  I also cleaned it up so that it’ll be easier to implement new achievements in the future and that’s a good thing.

Lastly, I made some improvements to the look and feel of the monthly battle champion achievement.  Look for it on July 1st.  It’s more better.

See… Not a terribly interesting release really.  But that brings me to a bit of a chatter about the next release:  “Smaug”.  Smaug’s going to bring in something I’ve been threatening to do for a long time, namely, support for the Privateer Press Steamroller tournament format.  The good news is that the rule set isn’t terribly different from the existing Swiss format that’s the bread and butter of the iToysoldiers Tournament Manager.  When I built the tournament system I tried to think ahead and allow for a modular building block system.  Now I’m calling it the “War Zone Framework” and all the event management stuff is being driven through it.  Seems to be working pretty well.  Anyway.  That’s what I’m working on.

If you have any suggestions for improvements to the site or things you’d like to see I’m all ears!  Drop me a line at rob@itoysoldiers.com or post a comment here.

League Manager Improvements

Greetings, commander!

Based upon some feedback I’ve received over the course of the current GWTW Warhammer 40K league I’ve made some minor improvements to how battle results are reported.  It’s still done using the “Operations” page of the league but now there’s a handy list of your open matches and four buttons: Win, Loss, Draw, Forfeit. I think this’ll be easier to use from two perspectives: First is that it’s more mobile friendly.  Second, I think it’s a tad more intuitive.  It’ll also be cleaner when I get around to putting the round robin league format into play.

Oh yeah! Speaking of the forfeit button.  There is one now. I kind of overlooked that last release (it was there but it wasn’t visible) and now it is. So if you run into a situation where you can’t play your opponent (and it’s your fault) you can easily click the forfeit button and it’ll process the score cards for you and your opponent.  Neat, eh?

For you Event manager folks, I corrected the missing management page on various types of events. Gotta tell you, this was driving me batty.  I also corrected some of the formatting of bullet lists so that they don’t scootch over to the left quite so far anymore.  Huge win for authoring as well as some other spots where there’s lists (like the panel on club pages where you create new content).

So.  With all that there’s one other major thing on the League Manager that I need to address and that’s what happens when a player submits a battle and they’re recorded as player 2.  Unfortunately, I was using some legacy code from the old league manager and it only required a single player to report their battle and then it would generate everything.  I thought it might be a good idea to have both players report their results.  I was wrong.  What I’m going to do is remove the stupidhead form for reporting battles (because the button is way better) and change the code so that only one player needs to report their battle results and then the battle will be generated and acknowledged.

I’m also going to do some improvements to the messaging system so that when players forfeit or report their battle it’ll message their opponent.

Whew.  Anything else I’m missing in the league manager? Improvements? Suggestions? You can post them in the comments, send me a PM or an email at rob@itoysoldiers.com.  I aim to please.

Carpe Acies!
Rob