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

Miscellaneous bug fixes: Accented characters in game tags had a couple of character set problems, but should now work reliably. A similar problem when switching modes on the Search page (from Games to Lists, for example) has been fixed. Removing the Cover Art image from a game listing formerly lost track of the old image in the version history, but now remembers it properly.

New home page control panel: The main navigation controls on the home page are now in the top right corner. The controls are also a little more compact than they were before. These changes are designed to make navigation a little easier by putting everything in view when the page first loads, without the need to scroll down.

Suggestions for games to review: There's a new "Write a Review" button in the main control panel on the main page. This takes you to a page that lists games that you've either rated or marked as played, but which you have yet to review. Simply click on any of the listed games to enter a review. If you're in the mood to write a review, but you're not sure which game to write about, this is an easy way to come up with a few ideas. It also lets you use the play list as a sort of to-do list for reviews - if you're browsing games and you come across one you've played, but you're not ready to write a review just yet, check off the "I've played it" box as a reminder to come back and review the game when you have time.

Clubs: You can now create IFDB pages for clubs and groups. Each club has a "Join" link that lets IFDB members become club members, so clubs can use IFDB to keep track of their membership lists. Club pages aren't full-featured Web sites, so they're certainly not meant to be a club's primary Web presence. Instead, club pages are designed to give clubs and groups new ways to exploit IFDB's game and member databases for club activities, and to make it easier for clubs to find potential members (and vice versa). Club pages provide two main benefits. First, clubs can use the IFDB news system, so this provides another way to publicize club events. Second, each club combines the Wish Lists for all of its members into a club-wide Wish List; this can be useful for selecting games for group play or club events. The club also provides a combined club-wide Play List, which can be helpful for selecting discussion topics.

Competitions and Awards: You can now create IFDB pages for competitions and award events, such as the Annual Comp or the Xyzzy Awards. Each competition page records the basic details of a competition, along with the list of entrants, nominees, winners, placeholders, etc. This new information lets IFDB automatically display the awards a game has won, and offers another way to cross-reference games, and another way to browse the database. Competition pages work like game listings: no one "owns" a comp page, so any member can create and edit a comp page, and each page keeps a history of changes showing who edited it and what they changed. When a game is listed as part of a competition, the game's home page will include the competition in the new "Awards" section.

Comments on member profiles : You can now add comments on another member's profile page. You can use this to ask questions, suggest corrections or improvements to the user's postings on IDFB, or just to talk. When you post a comment, you can mark it as public or private. Private comments are visible only to the owner of the profile, so you can use this as a simple email system. This is particularly useful for contacting a member who doesn't list an email address. When other members comment on your profile, you have the power to delete their messages, so you can remove anything inflammatory. (Which is something to keep in mind when commenting on other people's profiles, too.)

Comments on polls and recommended lists: You can now add public comments on polls and recommended lists. The comment system is the same that's used for reviews. You can post a comment for any poll or list, and you can reply to other people's comments. New comments for any lists or polls you created will appear in your "subscribed discussions" list, so it's easy to monitor feedback from other members on your items.

News reports for games: Each game page has a new section for "news", which is a list of brief reports on newsworthy events related to the game - new releases, bug alerts, updates on the author's plans, etc. Members can post new items and edit existing ones, so the News section for a game can be maintained by the community just like the game listing itself. To add news to a game, use the new link at the bottom of the game's page, next to the "Edit this page" button. News items, when present, appear on the game's main page below the Details section. News items are also included in the "All updates" RSS feed for a game, and appear on the IFDB home page and in the main IFDB news feed.

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.)

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