10/27 Update - Activity Wall
The Activity Wall, a new widget, goes live today! It's like the walls you'll find commonly on social networking sites. It's what the old Status Updates widget was kind of trying to do, only it does it a lot better. It could also be looked at as a replacement for shout boxes altogether, since it supports media.
In order for people to post to it, they'll need to be granted higher than public/applicant access to your site. Here are some of the features:
The familiar WYSIWYG editor is used, only in a slimmer version. Tools available for now are: toggle full-screen edit mode, spell check, some formatting, insert link, insert image, and insert video (from either YouTube or Vimeo). You may find the area too small to work with, especially if you're inserting big images or videos, so make use of that full-screen toggle on the far left!
Adding video from YouTube or Vimeo is easy. Just go to the web page on YouTube or Vimeo where the video is shown, copy the address, click the blue Play icon to the far right in the wall editor, and paste the URL. Hit your tab key and you'll be presented with a preview of what it'll look like in your post, along with some options.
Most of them can be left alone. The one you want to pay attention to is "Play the video automatically on load." You'll probably want to un-check that box, else risk the wrath of guildies opening the page with the wall on it, getting hit with all kinds of videos starting to play at the same time!
The Next Thing
Once you've added your text/video/images, click the post button and boom -- there you have it. Emoticons are automatically parsed based on defaults and/or any custom emoticons the guild uses. Clicking on the name of the poster displays the standard drop-down menu for doing things like viewing their profile, visiting their blog, chatting with them if they are online, and all that good stuff.
Know how sometimes, you can put an image in a post or a news item and if it's too big, it'll stretch out the page, wrecking the design? Well, I think I've got that figured out now (and with all the layout possibilities there are due to customization, and the fact that IE ignores max-width unless everything's set a particular way at the parent level, it took a while -- that, and I'm dumb as a rock)! Anyway, when you post an image to the wall, it'll now do its best to fit inside the available space, without stretching things out. Notice: if your browser is way, way old, it'll probably be icky like before. So with a large image (the one shown is actually around 1200 pixels wide, in a widget that's about 700 pixels width), here's what a well-behaving browser will show (minus the purple arrows I thought were neat while putting the screens together in Fireworks):
But hey! What if the image is gigantic because there's that much going on? Easy to do with something like an in-game screenshot. And you might want to see it full size. No problem! You can click any images on the wall and they'll open up all sexy like in a gallery-type scroll view dyno-resizing nifty thingy. Stuff. Whatever you wanna call it. Hey, I'm not a writer, k? Anyway, it's got arrows (way better-looking than my purple ones up there) that you can use to move between other images on the wall.
The Morning After (after you post, I mean)
There are a few things at the bottom of each post. People can click on Comments to show comments or add their own. The date and time of the post has been sacrificed in a pagan ritual, making way for the more friendly "how long ago" display. There are tools to delete the post if you're a Super Admin or the original author, and if you're the author you can edit the post, too.
The comments are pretty simple. Not much to explain there. I thought about spinning it so they sounded all complicated and neat and shiny, but... Yeah. No. Oh, and both of those posts are from me. I talk to myself while testing, and for a reason I cannot fathom, I always revert to a despicable sub-set of the English language.
Instead of cramming the thing with everything I could think of, taking ideas from some of the major social sites out there, I decided to hold back and push it as it is now. I'm counting on feedback to direct the decision making when it comes to further enhancements for the wall. After all, there are things I found that I like which a lot of you might really not, and there were some features the big boys are sporting now that I really find... icky (who says "icky?" I do!).
So let me know what you would like to see done moving forward. Maybe WYSIWYG editing of comments instead of the simple type-and-hit-enter behavior it has now? Or automatically-entered posts by the site when people apply, add a shout, post something in the forums, add a news item, create a new raid, add an image to the gallery (all linked automatically to the source item)? Anyway, let me know!
When someone requests a one-on-one chat session, you will now hear a... beeping thingy. Useful if you have more than one browser window open, are looking at a different screen, or have your head spun around facing behind you, like that girl from the Exorcist. I do
that sometimes. Don't judge me!
Typical GP Chat
Also, on-demand playable sound effects have been fixed in guild chat. Type /sounds for a clickable list of the currently available ones. In addition, lots of little bugs and stuff were fixed.
- Many widgets have had their displays cleaned up a little. There will be more of this going forward, as we move to a more universally clean (and still customizable) theme format. This is primarily being done to enable us (and you) to create much higher quality themes than is now possible. We will be making use of HTML5, CSS3, and responsive design principles.
- Quirky behaviors in some of the style editors have been un-quirkified.
- Your hamster has been watching you with malice as you sleep.
- The ability to add an image to a post via link instead of the image manager has been restored.
- Many other bug fixes.
Dear Game Company,
Thanks for the great game! As you know from your numbers, people are, in great numbers, choosing interactive, virtual worlds like yours over static forms of entertainment like television. As you also know, as the customer's computing power increases, so will your budgets for creating even more compelling, interactive, immersive and content-rich worlds to pull them (and their friends!) even more deeply in.
This is a good thing. As is plastered all over research sites like this one (though it's not the only one; a person only need Google to find a plethora of research on the topic), the brain may actually be more active while sleeping than while watching TV.
However, there's a problem. Your game runs on an operating system (or systems, huzzah Blizzard!) that is also used to download keyloggers, which, in turn, can send a player's login name and password to a database on the other side of the globe, which can then be used to login to the game in order to steal the player's virtual currency, items, and above all else -- the time spent working for it.
Now, keyloggers such as these do not appear on CNN or MSNBC. They show up in "comments" areas of sites that provide anybody the ability to post their opinion on a quest, item, or something else pertaining to your game.
Some sites take action to prevent this kind of thing (like GP does, after having been burned once a couple years ago), but as everybody knows, your general channels in-game are filled with people asking questions and being answered with "look it up at ..." followed by the latest info site. These sites are popping up all the time.
Some of them, if you take a look at the juggernaut of RMT (real money transactions for virtual items/characters/etc., which is against the EULA in the vast majority of games), IGE and their Zam/Wowhead/who-knows-who-else networks, are merely different skins wrapped around the same core engine.
Some however, are start-up sites with little to no experience in the security realm, using open-source or other software with frequently exploited vulnerabilities, unable to protect their users.
Which of those two is a bigger threat is up for debate. Some of them might even be in place solely to gather game logins and passwords, even though the percentage of people using the same login and password on a web site that they do to login to their game may be quite small (as was the case for a specific forum site that was just for players on a single server in a single game).
By the way: if you're one of the game companies that has your users login to your official web site using the same credentials they use to login to the game with, you might be contributing to the problem. Just an FYI!
Now, let's consider possible reasons why people go to these 3rd-party database sites:
- The official game web site you provide does not have the data they're looking for.
- The official game web site is too hard to use.
- The official game web site is too slow.
Any one -- or a combination of -- the above would be enough to provide a niche market for these sites to exist.
Providing data on items, quests, etc. Open it up! Either you will provide the data, or someone else will. If you don't want to write an interface for all this, that's fine; provide it via an API and license sites you approve to use it. Require that they only send a certain number of requests to your servers over a given time period, so that you don't get hammered, and the licensed sites will then only need to build a responsible request/caching system. The licensing is there to ensure that sites you don't approve of, such as RMT sites, don't have the data.
The licensing is particularly important. Demand full disclosure of company ownership, including parent companies, and parents of parent companies, until you know who's really running things, at the highest level, for your licensees.
If the data comes from you, then third-party sites can only provide value-added features or integration with what they provide, that you do not. Using GuildPortal as an example, the biggest overhead outside of the hardware and people required to make it run, is the amount of support required for a relatively complex web application with lots of customizable options. Add on top of that the expectation that more features be added and the interfaces both for the administrators (guild/clan leaders) and members be updated to Web #.# standards as they emerge, and the additional support incurred by doing that, and you have something that goes well beyond the scope of what a gaming company's web presence department would want to -- or should have to -- support. After all, do you make a game and have a web site that provides info/support for it, or are you in the business of making games and also in the business of hosting web sites?
Our members are constantly asking us to integrate with 3rd-party sites to provide game-specific data. Usually, we can't, because we have a policy against any kind of integration or partnership with sites that are owned by or even advertise for (even through multiple levels of parent companies) RMT companies, since the very existence of their business is unethical -- they sell products and services that require the customer to break an agreement they've made, every time they login to the game.
So then, providing the data you have openly (with the only option being users needing to go elsewhere for it), with an API for sites you license (can we be one, pretty please?) to provide value-added content/functionality (again, using GP as an example, having an active guild web site that people can visit outside of the game does keep them engaged in the people they play with and the game they play), is the best option.
Mythic did it for Dark Age of Camelot, Blizzard did it for World of Warcraft, and Mythic is at it again with Warhammer Online.
Maybe they're on to something!