Category Archives: Narrative

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

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

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

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.

Army Profiles Get Some Love

Ahoy, Commander!

I just released the oh-so-cleverly titled Release 4.3-rc5 release on iToysoldiers.  I know.  I need better names, right?  I should use really cool code names like other software developers.  Yeah, we’re going to do that starting now!  Henceforth this release is code named, “Stormageddon”.  So, Stormageddon has two major facets.  The first is an attempt to address some of the bugginess when creating and editing content on smart phones and tablets.  Who knew there was a secret number for the font size that triggered zoom?  Anyway, in order to make it a bit easier to manage on a mobile device I’ve set the default editing screen to a “Basic” format.  It’s essentially a text box without any bells or whistles.  It’s great for the down and dirty stuff like responding to discussions, or reporting a battle or simply uploading a photo.

The Advanced screen (there’s a toggle at the bottom of applicable text fields that lets you switch between the two) has all the nifty features like embedding images, cool formatting features and the like.  So if you’re like me, sitting in front of a laptop or desktop all day, you can fiddle with the formatting until it’s just right.  The advanced filter is still a bit wonky on phones – it behaves okay on tablets and I’m going to continue to work at it but this should address most of the issues.  Also, because the javascript isn’t loading up initially (or at least rendering), some of the double posting issues and text replacement bizarreness should be minimized. Let me know if you’re still having issues.  I’m working on getting it better all the time.

And now it’s time to talk about the second facet.  Army Profiles.  So the idea behind Army Profiles on iToysoldiers was to have a place where you could bring all the elements of your army together and kind of show it off/tell its story.  For you 40K players, I pictured a kind of “Index Astartes” article type thing.  The Stormageddon release adds some cool features to make that a reality.

If you start a new Army Profile (http://itoysoldiers.com/node/add/army-profile) and scroll down past the description you’ll see a series of buttons.  Each button describes a “kind” of content block.  There’s headers, notable units, etc.  I look at these as building blocks for building your army profile.  If you zip over to my Dark Eldar profile, The Kabal of the Malfean Dawn, you’ll see what it looks like when you utilize these functions.

Oh! I also added a block on the sidebar that shows all the modelling projects associated with a particular army profile.  Cool, eh?

Anyway, give it a whirl and let me know how it all works for you.  I’m excited to add some more content to my profiles so you can all read more of my sloppy prose.  Feel free to ping me at rob@itoysoldiers.com or on the site at http://itoysoldiers.com or here in the comments if you have any feedback, suggestions, or what I’ve done is driving you batty.

Carpe Acies!
Rob

I Blame the Game

I’ve been lax on making iToysoldiers better.  There’s a sorta good reason for it.  Two, actually.  The first is every so often I need to step back and let it run without me tweaking stuff to see what breaks.  That and to kind of give me a break from staring at the site.  The second is that I’ve really gotten sucked into a new game.  Well, it’s not new anymore.  The game’s “Stellaris” and it’s absolutely fantastic. I’ve been playing it to death for about a month.  Now that I think about it that’s like 8% of the year and that makes me sad.  I’ve waited too long.

So let me take a moment to kind of talk about some good stuff I’ve taken from my break.  The premise behind Stellaris is that you’re in charge of running a vast galactic empire. It’s from the same guys that made Hearts of Iron.  The depth of this game is amazing! You can pretty much customize everything and run the kind of empire you want, develop ships and military they way you want, name ships and planets and people.  The list goes on and on.  It’s the game I’ve been looking for.

Part of what’s so appealing is that you can “role play” your society.  You can enslave other races, build a scientific power house, anything.  It’s what you can usually only do when you play tabletop games like we do because there’s a flexibility that isn’t usually present in computer games.  And that’s the cool bit: The story of your empire.  I’ve often commented on how we can add more narrative elements to our games – move from World of Tanks to Hearts of Iron.  In other words, put our miniature wargaming battles into the context of a story that makes the battles matter.  I’m not talking about simply whether you win the prize in the league or tournament but whether your stalwart band is able to defend the bunker against vile raiders and thus prevent a loss of supply lines in the campaign.

What miniature games have right now is pretty decent for handling minor battles.  Tree or ladder campaigns are great for stringing together a series of tabletop games to represent a particular engagement or battle.  There’s even a few rule sets that aim to deal with planetary or regional conquest.  What I don’t see a whole ton of, at least in sci-fi/fantasy gaming, is a system to capture the logistical challenges of a large scale campaign.  I’ve found that Victory By Any Means provides a really good starting point for this kind of thing.  It includes rules for all sorts of mechanics for handling logistics, fleet building, movement, combat, politics, etc.  I cringe at the thought of actually running a campaign using the rules though.  Lots to keep track of and without some sort of “manager” it’d be hard for players to keep track of what’s going on unless they’re really close friends who hang out a lot.

But I’m digressing a bit.  I think I need to revisit the Narrative Campaign manager on iToysoldiers and try to make it easier to use.  The stories of our battles are important and you folks deserve a great way to handle running a narrative campaign. If you have any suggestions on improvements for the manager or some thoughts on what’s barred you from using it to date I’d love to hear them.  Computer gamers should NOT be the only folks who can have complex and rich environments in which to battle. I want to help.

Okay.  And now… I’ve been absent and for that I apologize. These breaks are good for me and in turn for you ‘cause I return refreshed and ready to tackle problems.  Thanks for your patience.

Carpe Acies!
Rob

iToysoldiers is pleased to welcome Relic Knights

Greetings, Warmongers! I’m delighted to add the superfun looking “Relic Knights” by Sodapop Miniatures to the fold.  I’ll freely admit that I haven’t had an opportunity to play this game but I’m a huge fan of the whole anime/mecha aesthetic so this game looks fantastic.  Anyway, here’s some flavor text from the game to kind of give you a feel for the game.

The Darkspace Calamity engulfs the universe. Inexorably it devours galaxies whole, their lights extinguished one by one. Only a single galaxy remains, desperately staving off extinction through the might of its heroes.

Relic Knights is a quick and dynamic tabletop strategy battle game that uses finely detailed 30mm scale miniatures to represent your heroes and villains on the battlefield. Relic Knights uses a card-based system to represent esper—the energy which binds the universe. Players draw and use this esper to unleash devastating attacks and cunning counters upon their foes.

You can take a look at the, albeit spare, Relic Knight page.  I can’t wait to see some of these games and models posted.

Carpe Acies!
Rob