EDIT: I would encourage anyone who finds there way to this page to take the time to read the entire thing - I know it's long but full of very useful information that will save both you and us time - you in understanding the site and us in having less Feedback submissions to deal with. Thank you!
We have been planning to launch a new website for around 5 years. This site you see before you has been under construction for less than one year, largely in part by Mike Tanczos. We could have kept developing this website, probably for another several months at least, however when you recognize yourself repeating the same process that's been going on for five years, you realize it's time to get out of the rut. We did that by releasing the website. No fanfare, no big lead-up - just "here it is."
What "it is" has been perceived by many to be a complete and total disaster, which is understandable because it appears to everyone that we have made decisions that have negatively impacted their experience of the website. However the truth is quite the opposite: we simply chose to not decide how to do certain things and see how people would react. A vast majority of what you are experiencing with this new website is simply the default appearance and functionality of the Invison Powerboard System, which we have already started to tweak now based on the feedback we have been receiving.
This brings us to IPS. We've been resting on custom-made software for the last 11 years, and while it has given us a few advantages, like being able to add our own cool and nifty forum features, it ended up dragging us down in ways far more numerable. We have chosen now to sacrifice the ability to fully customize our website software for the chance to move away from spending so much effort maintaining infrastructure and instead providing more services to our members and the industry at large.
Some people have already voiced complaints about us moving away from being "forum-centric" and in a way this is very true. In the old site, everything was built directly off the forums, so being "forum-centric" was actually a very literal description of how the site was structured. With IPS, we have a much broader content system and we are going to be using it to bring other forms of content (projects, journals, images, articles, etc) up to par with topics (forum content). That said, in no way have the forums themselves been "devalued" or pushed aside for other things. The community is all still here, and you now have better tools to communicate, help each other and share ideas.
The important thing to remember is that we didn't launch this site saying "hey everyone, this is how it's going to be". You are all helping us make it into what you want it to be. That said, we obviously won't be able to make it into exactly what you want it to be. But we will do our best.
After we get through the rough early stages of fixing up the site and things quiet down a bit, I will post more about what we have planned for the coming months as we start to roll out new features and complete the revamping of existing ones. A better understanding of our road map will hopefully further increase everyone's understanding of why we are making certain changes that may have some people running around right now screaming "oh my god what are you doing?!?!"
EDIT: Wow can't believe I forgot this. Please follow us on twitter or Facebook if you are there - this is especially helpful in these early unstable days as we are using these channels to keep people informed during downtime as best as we are able as well as announce any scheduled downtime.
EDIT: I've started using the forum status update to post when I make small changes/fixes/improvements to the site - stuff that isn't worth a blog post but is good for everyone to know. Here's links to mine and other staff who are working on site changes/improvements
Dave Astle (myopic rhino)
Kevin Hawkins (khawk)
Feedback Ticket Monitoring/Known Issues
It's important that everyone know where to go to in order to track the feedback you send in to us. The best place to do so is at the Problem Tracker page itself, where you can see all the issues you personally have submitted and if you've gotten any replies (you can also "Watch" submissions if you want additional notification options).
Also, if you want to check to see if a feature or bug has been reported before doing so yourself, you can browse through the various issues already submitted for bugs and site suggestions.
We've known for some time now that the GDNet+ "member benefits" weren't all that great anymore, and it was mainly a good way to show support for the website (it still is, for that part!). If you go back to the old subscribe page and have a look, you'll see things like using the member map features, have extra webspace for hosting and FTP access, as well as discounts which I honestly don't know are any good anymore. The member map never took off because we didn't have the resources to put into it (that whole infrastructure problem) and after the site got hacked in 2007 FTP access to webspace was lost completely for members.
For the site launch we've reset the GDNet+ membership back to basics and will be adding new incentives and features to the program from this point forward as we complete areas of the website and roll out new features. We'll also be working more closely with other websites as well as publishers and middleware developers to provide discounts and other benefits. If you don't feel it is worth your money now, rest assured we are working to make it so in the future.
Free Development Journals
This probably came as a shock to many in the community, although from our standpoint we couldn't imagine to continue charging people for something you can easily set up for free at any number of places nowadays. You could argue that with charging people for journal space we were encouraging quality content over just a mass of pointless updates with some good ones here and there - and with the old site you would be right because we had nothing in the way of tools to manage quality control. With IPS however we have the ability to make sure good journal content finds its way to the top of the heap, and now everyone has a chance to get there.
Furthermore, I've seen our article submission rate drop in recent years and I have no doubt it's directly proportional to the amount of people starting their own blogs. As great as it is to be published here on GameDev.net in front of thousands of readers, there's something to be said for carving out your own personal niche in the vast internets with which to voice your ideas, opinions and knowledge free of censorship. The journal system now allows us to seamlessly publish entries straight into our articles system - so a lot of those "journal articles" I had to highlight in the past can now be appropriately placed within our content system for more people to find and read. (EDIT: It's also worth noting you can publish a forum topic into a blog).
Right now the main journals page doesn't seem the best place to both feature entries and list entries - this is something that will change as we begin to coalesce more content into the various "hubs" we have for each main site content section (Features, Community, Resources). Eventually you will be able to see the highest-rated journal posts from the main Community page where we will also have special journal features, while the main journals page continues to serve simply as a portal into the entire journal system.
Until the Community page is set up better, we will be moderating the main journals page and hiding less-informative blog posts. But you can still see all blogs posted on this page.
New Rating System
The rating system built into IPS is very simple the way we have it set up. No, you can't rate posts/people down, and no you cannot undo a positive rating - so think before you click. No one will have a negative rating, but you will still be able to approve content above the rest to make good stuff more visible. Although you are rating posts on the forums, that positive rating does have an affect on the rating of the user who made that post - however you are still essentially rating that person's content, not the actual person directly.
5-star ratings can be found all across site content from articles to journals to images to books and topics and more. The ratings are entirely for the content itself and has no affect on the user, but lets you sort content (where/when available) to see what people are finding the most useful/popular. Sometimes these 5-star ratings can be a bit small and hard to find/click - if so please send us feedback on it so we can address this.
We are working to get user rating numbers displayed in posts. All ratings from the old site were brought down by 1000 because the IPS software would not allow us to create accounts with ratings over 1000. If you had a less than 1000 rating you will have not gone below 0. If you think your rating is incorrectly converted, send us a report.
The important thing to remember about the rating system now is that you are not giving ratings to boost people, you are giving ratings to boost content. You can still perceive it as rating people if you wish, but that is not the end goal of the ratings system. No one will want to search for highly-rated people, they will want to search for highly-rated content, and now this is possible in IPS.
A quick note of forum awards. We are currently only giving out two types of awards to regular and GDNet+ members. The first is the medal and heart if you have sent in a donation. The second is an Expert Community Member award that will be handed out by the moderators to members they feel are both helpful and knowledgeable in the community. These people can be looked to for accurate and useful information in forum postings.
We have more awards that will come into play as the site rolls out.
Please note that awards can be revoked from a member at any time.
One of the louder complaints so far has been the current site theme, which brings me back to the similar reaction we had when we launched the new white theme back in 2005 Rest assured, themes will be returning as that is a well-used IPS feature that we are going to be leveraging. You can find out more about the black theme currently under development in this forum thread.
Image of the Day
This was another thing that caught us completely off guard. We had no idea the Image of the Day was as popular as it appears to be, or we would have tried harder to get it ready to launch with the website. As it is, we need to wrap up functionality on it before we can return it to its home on the main page, but rest assured that is high on our list of site areas to complete and will be returning - we never had any intention of removing it permanently and apologize for scaring so many people!
EDIT: I've created a box for the main page (starting to grok this IPS back-end) that is just a static representation the Image of the Day box so there is something there for people to see and a note stating that the IotD will be updating again soon.
Site Display on Resolutions < 1280 Width
This is an issue you are all welcome to lambaste us for, because it was a known defect well before launch and never got fully patched up before the site went live this past weekend. No excuses.
Some people are not capable of realizing this when viewing the site because they can't get up to 1280 width, so we've been getting reports of menu text appearing in a white background, an inch of vertical whitespace after the logo, and the Feedback button covering up a bit of content on the left side. These (and a few more) are all issues with smaller-resolution screens.
This is the next major fix to deploy now that we are wrapping up ad placement. Screen sizes smaller than 1280 will be detected and certain site elements will adjust to ensure that everything fits properly. Once down to a certain horizontal size the page will simply be scrollable to the left and right.
In the meantime benryves has this workaround.
Increased Ad Placement
Speaking of ads, I need to touch on this topic as well. While this version of the website will eventually grow to become largely service-based for revenue, we currently have no recourse but to stick to our ad-based revenue streams until services start to come online. This means that, yes, you will be dealing with ads placed in areas you are not used to seeing them on this website. If you come across any ads that (for example) play sounds without your permission or cover up part of your screen without the ability to downsize, these are still completely unacceptable to us - report them and they will be removed ASAP.
We are not looking to line our pockets with extra cash, but we are asking everyone to bear with us as we simply do what needs to be done to pay our server fees and keep this website online. Hopefully in time we can scale the ads back once again when we are in a more comfortable financial state.
It should be noted that GDNet+ users will not be seeing ads like the one appearing after the first forum post. If any GDNet+ member regularly sees ads they feel they shouldn't be seeing (anything except leaderboard, box or forum-topper) then report it - in placing these ads they can appear to everyone initially for a short time period.
GameDev.net on the Go
One of the cooler things about IPS is that we already have a mobile version of the website all set up and ready to go - although we could definitely put some time into tweaking it as much as the regular site needs to be tweaked in order to make it actually fully functional if you wanted to check GDNet from your mobile device on the go. But it's definitely a start. Give it a try next time you have your phone out.
If you own an iPhone, you can take the mobile aspect a step further by downloading the free IP.Board app from the AppStore. This is a generic app for accessing any IPS community. An android app is coming along sometime as well.
Of course we've also looked into and discovered a few options now available to us for creating our very own GDNet mobile application as well
Site Usage Notes
There's a lot of things to get used to in the new IPS forum that is different from how our old forums operated. It does not help that we never really followed convention because we could code our boards to function however we wanted them to. So people who used our old forums regularly and not many other types will no doubt have the most trouble finding their way around. Here are some issues I noticed people having trouble with.
Recent Threads/Active Topics
There was a good deal of consternation revolving around the fact that the Recent Threads box is no longer prominently displayed on the main page. While this box will remain on the front page, it will merely serve as a small portal for people browsing the main page and no longer is the main jumping point into the forums.
The page analogous to Active Topics and that is available from the top of every page in the site is the View Latest Content link that appears next to the RSS feed icon (we understand how initially people associated that text directly with the icon). This link is actually context-sensitive to the content area of the site that you are viewing, but regardless of where it lands you the tabs there let you jump around content areas from within the page.
You can also view all content that you have created via the drop-down profile menu.
EDIT: Slight change here in that while the View Latest Content does give you a rundown of all the new stuff that has been posted since you've last visited, if you're sticking around and want to see what is being discussed most, there is an Active Content page (the link is below the main forum index)
Quoting and MultiQuote
Some people have been confused by how to quote other posts. You do this by using the "Reply" button under that person's post.
To multiquote, you select "MultiQuote" on all posts you wish to reply to (this works even if you have to page) but then you must select the "Add Reply" button at the top or bottom of the topic.
Many people are not liking the fact that you can be friended by anyone without needing permission from you. Besides people maybe finding this rude in some way, I think the major issue is that people are seeing these friend connections like Facebook or LinkedIn. The difference however is that there is no sharing of private information among friends of any kind (if I'm wrong I haven't been able to find evidence otherwise). Being a friend with someone here only means that it is now easier to communicate with certain people - you can find them in your profile rather than having to search for them in the member listing for example. Other people can also see who you are buddies with on the forums.
Then again you may simply wish to not be associated with someone (or anyone). Unfortunately in digging through the admin panel I couldn't uncover any setting that dealt with friend approvals. EDIT: I was looking in the wrong place! In your settings page under the Profiles tab the second option allows you to change it so people must get your permission before being added as a friend (thanks, Saruman!). I looked through the admin panel again this time for a way to change this default to enable friend approvals for all accounts but could not find one.
So if you would like to remove a friend, click on the itsy-bitsy (again, no us) View Profile button next to their image in your profile and you will see an icon to remove them as a friend. You can also add them to your Ignored Users list if you don't want them becoming your friend again.
We do have plans to integrate friendships into the site services (teams, event attendance, etc) so I would encourage people to buddy up.
It's been pointed out to us through the Feedback tab that certain equations and programming text not encapsulated in tags can trigger an automatic smiley to be generated instead. I've tried looking for a forum-wide setting to disable automatic emoticons, but there doesn't appear to be one. However you can disable emoticons on a per-post basis by clicking to expand the "Options" area at the bottom of a post. Note that this is only available in the Full Editor, not Fast Reply. We're not saying that's our final solution, but for now it will have to suffice.
EDIT: It's been pointed out to me that, if you make a post without disabling emoticons and see that one or more has accidentally popped up, while editing the post and turning them off if you select the Preview option the check box disabling emoticons will revert to checked. We've logged this as a bug. (Thanks SiCrane!)
Marking Board Read
I suggest that everyone scroll down to the very bottom of any page in the forums and click the "Mark Board As Read" if you have not done so already. The reason for this is that from the moment you logged in for the first time, the forum has marked every topic an unread for you - which means you'll never see the forum icons change to show you if any new posts have been made in a forum, because the board will see that you still have thousands of new (unread) posts in each forum.
EDIT: In addition to making this change, we currently do not have topic read tracking enabled to reduce load on the server until we get it better stabilized. This means that after you are done reading whatever threads interest you in a particular forum, you must click on the "(Mark this forum as read)" link at the far right of the forum's title bar. This way when you next return, you will see newly posted threads/topics since your last visit and the "Go to first unread post" button will work properly. Once we have the server steady we will turn on post read tracking and see how that affects our load.
(NEW) Forum Favorites
If you are unable to run benryves' GreaseMonkey script to re-enable the feature of selecting which forums to group at the top of the main forum index for easy access, then the way to do this in IPS is to go to the forum(s) you like and at the top next to the "Start New Topic" button select the "Watch Forum" button. After you set your notification type, return to the main forum index and one of the small boxes on the right will read "Watched Content" - in that box you can see if any of your watched forums have new posts in them. You can also check any watched threads as well.
Here is a listing regarding some of the bigger stuff we have changed so far.
Wasted Post Space
We've begun working to reduce wasted space in the forum posts themselves by modifying the style sheets. So far you may notice the left margin of posts has been reduced slightly and the post content widened to match. Awards icons have also been made smaller. Some further tweaking is needed - for example location listings can wrap awkwardly. We don't fully know yet how much flexibility we have in shuffling around the displayed details and shrinking that left column more vertically.
Smaller Font Size
The size of text site-wide has been reduced and has allowed elements to float up a bit higher.
Recent Articles -> Recent Resources
There's been some understandable confusion over the Recent Articles box on the main page. Not all articles added to the Resources section will be featured on the main page. This box will list all latest additions - it will become more apparent once this starts happening, but to help alleviate confusion the box is now labeled Recent Resources
Full Name No Longer Required
This was actually a private field not visible to regular members in your profile, but we couldn't find a way to make that apparent so it is no longer required. Note that we removed it from the public view (forum posts) earlier on before deciding to let it go entirely.
Article Paging Works
You can now page through articles. Don't forget any trouble you have with articles on this site you can still do over at archive.gamedev.net - be sure to tell us what's wrong though (we know the code styling and print versions are broken)
No More Auto-Caps of Each Letter in a Topic
The anti-SHOUTING feature of the boards was turned on - apparently it takes effect whether someone is actually shouting or not. This will help alleviate problems like changing "AI" into "Ai" or causing capitalization after apostrophes
Cleaned-up Feedback Window "Thank You"
Now people know where to go to see their submitted issues and there is no more random scroll bar
Lots of Broken Links Fixed
If you see a broken link definitely let us know about it so we can patch that up!
The Process Continues...
I will continue to blog when we have significant site updates to report, as well as to reveal more about how the site is going to be developed over the coming months as we are ready to talk more about it. For right now we are focused on the bug submissions, then once those trickle down we will go through and evaluate all the site suggestions that weren't yet implemented.
In the meantime it would help immensely to keep all responses on the new site encapsulated in as few places as possible so we don't lose track of anything. These places would be 1) here in my journal as comments 2) in this thread or 3) in the tracking system if it's something you would like to see action taken on. (you can add an issue directly there without needing to go through the Feedback tab).
Thank you all for your continued support of GameDev.net