New Features on IFDB

This is a summary of recent additions and changes to the site. The list isn't comprehensive - we report only the more visible and significant changes, so you might notice some minor changes from time to time that aren't reported here.

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23 September 2009

News reports for competitions: Competitions can have news reports just like games. This is especially useful for an event in progress, since it provides another way to disseminate updates to entrants, judges, and fans.

New RSS feeds for games: Each game page has two new RSS feeds. "All updates to this page" sends updates every time the page is edited or a new review is added. "Updates to downloadable files" sends updates whenever the list of download file links is edited. This is especially helpful if you're playing a newer game and you want to be notified if the author releases a new version while you're still working on the game.

New RSS feed for author profiles: Each member's profile page now offers an RSS feed that provides updates to games linked to the author's profile. This feed is essentially a combination of the "All updates" feeds for all of the games linked to the profile, plus notifications whenever new games are linked to the profile. This makes it easier to keep track of your favorite authors' work.

Attention Authors: use IFDB to notify your players of new releases: If you're an author of a newly released game, you can use IFDB as a way to get the word out whenever you release a bug fix patch or new version of your game. Just tell your players to subscribe to the RSS feed for "Updates to downloadable files" on your game's IFDB page. They'll see a new item in the feed any time you update the Download File links on your game's page. You just have to be sure to update the IFDB link to your game's downloadable file, to reflect a new version number or release date in the description of the linked file. It's important to update the IFDB listing for the file, not just the copy of the file on your Web server or the IF Archive. IFDB doesn't poll your server to see if the date changed on the file. Instead, it looks at its own records - namely, the URL to your file, the title you entered, and the description - to determine if something changed. As long as you change one of these fields, IFDB will know that the file changed and will add the update to the RSS feed. We recommend putting the version number in the description text for the download link - that way you can simply update the version number in the description whenever you update the file, and IFDB will know there's a change to report.

Cross-referencing related games: Some games have genealogical relationships to other games. For example, Adventure has been translated into many natural languages, and has been re-implemented several times with different programming systems. Each translation and port is really a full-fledged game on its own, so each one rates its own IFDB page. On the other hand, all of these are different incarnations of the same original Adventure, so we'd like a way to link all those pages together. This is where the new Cross-Referencing feature comes in. You can now add a list of other games that a particular game is related to. You can specify the kind of relationship for each cross-reference: a game can be related to another as an adaptation, a translation, a port to another programming system, a sequel, a prequel, a remake, or a spoof, or as simply making some other kind of reference to the other game. Cross-references are always entered from "child" to "parent"; for example, you'd edit the page for the Spanish version of Adventure and add a "Translation Of" cross-reference to the original Adventure. Once you've created the child-to-parent reference, the system automatically displays the reference in both directions - that is, it displays the reverse link to the child on the parent game's page automatically.

New Frequent Fiction earning opportunities: Frequent Fiction points now include several new items: 10 points for a game rating with no review, 1 point for each Helpful/Unhelpful vote you've cast for other people's reviews, and 25 points for each Recommended List you've created that includes at least five games.

Reviewer Hall of Fame: The home page now includes a sidebar with a short list of the top reviewers, with a link to view the full list. This actually just takes you to the regular membership browser page, sorting the list with the new "Sort By Top Reviewer Status" option. Another new sorting option lets you sort by Frequent Fiction points. (Sorting by FF points is almost the same as sorting by status. The only difference is that Top Reviewer status requires writing at least one review, so it's theoretically possible for someone to achieve a high Frequent Fiction score without earning a Top Reviewer badge.)

One-click sorting: IFDB finally gets with the 90s: The sorting controls on pages with sortable lists now refresh the page immediately, rather than waiting for you to click Go. (The Go button is still there for the benefit of older browsers that don't support this.)

"Show All" for long lists: In most cases where a list of results is displayed, such as search results or the list of reviews for a game, the site normally breaks up a long result list across several pages, with controls to navigate through the result set. For very long lists, such as browsing the whole database of games, this is essential, since otherwise the page would be unusably huge. For mid-sized lists, though (up to a couple hundred items, say), it's often more convenient to see the list all on one page. Most of the result lists now offer a "Show All" option to do just this. When it's available, this new button is displayed alongside the existing page navigation controls.

Exclude a rating from the average: A new review-writing option lets you omit your "star" rating from the game's average rating display. Your rating will still be shown alongside your review, but it won't be counted when the game's average rating is calculated. This is useful when you want to include a rating as a quick indication of your overall impression of the game, but when you don't think it's appropriate for your rating to count toward the game's total score. For example, suppose you've played an older version of a game that you thought was too buggy, and you're aware that the author has since released an update that supposedly fixes a lot of bugs. You might not think it's fair in this case to weigh down the game's average rating with your negative impressions from the early version, so you might choose to exclude your rating from the average.

Reviews of old versions of games: A new reviewing option lets you specifically mark your review as referring to an older version of the game. If you check this box, the system will simply add a note when your review is displayed saying that the review is for an older version. This is useful every so often when you're aware that the game has been updated since you played and you want to alert readers that your review doesn't take the updates into account.

See who's played a game: Each game's page now displays the number of members who say they've played the game, and how many wish lists the game is on. This information is displayed in a little sidebar box on the right side of the page, with the Download and RSS boxes. You can click on the listing counts to see a list of members who played or wish-listed the game (and have made their play/wish list public, of course).

Game license type search modifier: You can now search games by license type, using the license: search keyword.

Downloadable game search modifier: You can now search games by whether or not they're downloadable, using the downloadable:yes|no search keyword. A game is considered downloadable if it has at least one download link in its listing that's marked as a playable version of the game. This search is helpful if you're looking for a game to play and you want to exclude commercial games that can't be downloaded. It's also useful if you're specifically looking for a particular commercial game and you want to exclude any freeware games with similar titles.

Negative search modifiers: You can now perform a search that excludes items that match a modifier keyword. To do this, just put a hyphen "-" in front of the modifier keyword. For example, to search for games with any license types except "commercial" and "demo", you'd enter -license:commercial -license:demo into the game search box.

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