Category Archives: Theater

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

Three Keys to a Successful War Gaming League

Greetings, commander! Today we’re going to talk about leagues.  Specifically we’re talking about store or club sponsored leagues (the most common in our world of miniature war gaming).  What we’re going to talk about is the three key things to running a successful league. Guess what? It’s got nothing to do with what restrictions you put on army lists or anything like that. They’re about the management of the league and really keeping your players informed of the overall state of the event in a timely fashion.

I know.  Yawnsville, right? Well, these things aren’t terribly sexy but when I was looking around at various leagues, campaigns, and the like I found a whole lot of failed events and they all failed because they just petered out. Players lost interest.  Updates stopped happening. Results weren’t updated. It can be hard to run a league all by yourself – especially when you’ve got other things clamouring for your attention.

So here is an outline of three keys to running a successful miniature war gaming league. It doesn’t matter if you’re playing Warhammer 40K, Warmachine/Hordes, Flames of War, X-Wing or whatever because these things aren’t tied to the game rule set.  Oh! And I’m also going to elaborate on how using iToysoldiers as a league manager can help with these things.  Cool, eh? So without further ado… The list:

Stick to the schedule

It’s been said that punctuality is the politeness of kings and in the case of a war gaming league it’s totally true. This is the biggie.  If you let everything else go you must keep the league running on time. Post round results and new matches at the very beginning of each round on a regular schedule. Post the results of individual battles as soon as humanly possible.

The cool thing is that if you’re using iToysoldiers to manage your league we handle all that for you. Each round starts exactly on time. Match results show up as soon as the players enter them. Pairings are generated and players are notified within nano seconds of the new round beginning. The best bit? It’s all automated. Once the league has started you don’t have to do anything and it’ll just keep running – on time.

Sometimes you have to be the bad guy

This is a tough one – especially for a store sponsored league. You certainly don’t want to alienate players by enforcing rules in a draconian fashion. But sometimes you have to. If players don’t get their battle in during the designated time you might be tempted to give them an extension. Don’t. There’s other folks who’re waiting for their matches and extending a round can frustrate other folks. Yeah, the players asking for an extension may be annoyed but… so will everyone else who’re waiting for the next round. There’s really no way to win when you have to be the bad guy because someone’s going to be unhappy but if you’re consistent in your application of the league’s rules then at least you can say, “Hey! Them’s the rules.  Sorry”.

Using iToysoldiers for your league manager is a pretty easy way to get around (some of) this. Let us be the bad guy. All the math, matches, and scheduling is handled by the site so you don’t have to be the bad guy. You can just blame us. We’ve got thick skins.

Don’t mess up the math

Nothing’s worse than one of your players coming up to you after the league and pointing out that you made a math mistake that changes the results. You have to make sure that you’re being complete and accurate as you enter in player results, calculating victory conditions, and ranking players appropriately. One little mistake can bring all sorts of pain.

Thankfully, iToysoldiers has this covered too. Our league manager does all the calculations, tie breakers, pairings, and all that for you so you don’t have to spend any time worrying about it – let alone actually having to enter in the data since the players handle that bit.  Computers are really good at handling math related tasks and iToysoldiers has been running leagues for quite some time now.

Do you have some other thoughts on running a successful league?  I’d love to hear about ‘em.  Feel free to comment away.

Carpe Acies!
Rob @ iToysoldiers

iToysoldiers Ragnorak Brings a Better Wargaming Calendar

iToysoldiers is pleased to announce the release of iToysoldiers 4.5-rc1 – “Ragnorak”.  Ragnorak brings some major improvements to the miniature wargaming event calendar and listings as well as some much needed improvements to the features of gaming clubs listed on the site.

Calendar and Events

The biggest change in this release is the look of Events on the site.  They’ve been totally overhauled and present the event’s necessary information way better than before.  Take a look at the calendar and a few of the events and let me know what you think!

Another pretty huge change is part of the “Regroup and Sally Forth Project”. In order to make iToysoldiers a bit easier to use I’m rethinking how all the myriad options and features on the site are presented to you. The first real step to this is collapsing some of the features.  Specifically events, leagues, tournaments, etc.  It’s annoying and/or confusing to have to pick the right one right from the get go.  Well, Ragnorak helps by collapsing the Event and Calendar Only Event types into a single form. One form to rule them all and in darkness bind them.  Ultimately the plan is to collapse leagues and tournaments into the Event form as well but that’s a pretty big undertaking and I need to plan that out.  But in the meantime, if you want to post your miniature wargaming event on iToysoldiers – and even leverage some of the management features we offer, you can do it from a single form.

A minor change to Events is a switch to indicate whether you’re the event organizer or not. This is pretty cool, actually.  Here’s the use case: If you’re just posting an event as an FYI to the community you may not want to be listed on the page as the contact for the event.  I mean, you’re just sharing the info, right?  Well, now your name only shows up as the event organizer if you flip the “I’m the event organizer” switch on the form.  Of course, if you’re enabling the iToysoldiers features this switch will be flipped automatically.

Oh, and I fixed the ability for event organizers to edit registrations if they need to.  Still need to address the issue with this for Narrative Campaigns but it’s a start.

Gaming Clubs

Events can now be tied to a gaming club.  If your club administrator has given you permissions to create events for the club you can either click the link on the club page or select your club when creating an event.  All the members of the club will receive an email notification when you do so.

Oh! And speaking of club notifications…  They’re better now.  They actually provide a link to the content that was created.  This has been something that’s been preventing me from using the club functionality all that often.  It just didn’t really help at all.

Clubs now have a calendar tab!  So now that you can tie an event (or a league, or a tournament) to a club, so what? Well, now folks can peruse the events that are coming up on the club page.

Along with the new calendar tab is a refresh to the look of the club pages.  I think it’s better for sure.  I used a similar look and feel to the events since they kind of share similarities as far as the types of info they provide.

Errata

Removing Text Format options.  It killed me to do this, but part of the “Regroup and Sally Forth Project”, I’ve decided to disable the wysiwyg editor on iToysoldiers.  To the folks who used it, I apologize.  To the rest of you: Welcome to a cleaner interface when authoring content on iTS.  I plan to be diving into the wysiwyg functionality again but before I enable it I need to address some of the issues it has when being used with mobile devices.

Some various patching and security updates for the site.  Yawn.  Boring.

Fixed the URL to the iToysoldiers Help Portal in emails from the site.

Whew!

And there you have it!  Ragnorak is all about bring better miniature wargaming event lists and entries to the world. If you know about an event that’s coming up, why not take a moment to share it on iToysoldiers.  If you have any issues, suggestions, or feedback I’m all ears! Comment here or submit a request on the iToysoldiers Help Portal.

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

Ragnarok: Planning the Next Major Release

Greetings, Commander!

So I’m giving thought to what’ll come after Kilgrave.  One thing that comes to mind is that the event pages are pretty lame.  So the next major release will be “Ragnarok” and it’ll deal with the the lists/views/display of Warzones and Events.  It’ll probably also address event/warzone views for clubs and battlefields.

So if you have any suggestions on what you’d like to see on event type listings let me know at our Help portal or comment here or drop me an email at rob@itoysoldiers.com.

Carpe Acies!
Rob