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Let's play armchair site designer

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Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lumin » Sun Aug 25, 2013 5:50 pm

I PMed Campbell a little while back with a few questions/comments about the site, and he suggested I make a thread.

So, does anyone have any ideas of how to make the main site (and ADRIFT itself) more appealing to newcomers?

One thing that I think has come up before and (I believe) would be fairly simple to set up is a Top 5 or Top 10 list of the more quality/newbie friendly games somewhere prominent, either on the main page itself or the Games page. I believe the Popular Games list just goes by 'most downloaded' rather than any kind of quality (hard to judge quality when most don't have ratings), and I think the sheer number of AIF downloads and possibly bots as well can muddy the waters there. The idea would be to have a list of solid games that we'd recommend any newbie to play, whether they're picked by Campbell himself or voted on at the forum.

Secondly, and this is a little more complex...if you scroll down to the bottom of the main page, you see a screenshot from Jacaranda Jim. It would be neat if we collected screenshots from other games, or just text snippets of an interesting room description or whatever, and had a random one show up somewhere every time the site was loaded... (possibly even in thre exact same place that picture is now, though ideally you wouldn't want people to have to scroll all the way down to see it...) I'm sure you've seen similar things in other places with famous quotes or whatever, and I think it would be a nice way to give newbies an idea of what's possible, and possibly give the games a little more exposure as well.

The issue there, and with any new addition really, would be where to put it without making the main page seem cluttered. There's a lot of words to read there as it is...actually kind of wondering what it would look like if all the 'what is IF and how do I make it' stuff could be replaced with a tl:dr version and a pretty picture?

I don't know, something about that page has just never seemed appealing to me. And, this....this is physically painful for me to admit, guys, but I actually LOVE the design of the Quest site, and I think that probably has a lot to do with why it's so popular.

Anyway, that's all for me...except for one more thing.

This doesn't have anything to do with the look of the site itself, but David posted this while back in another thread:

I wondered a while ago if it might be a good idea to suggest putting a little INFO.txt file in with the ADRIFT download to clue people in to a few things they should watch out for when writing games. In an ideal world it wouldn't be necessary because the people in question would take the time to learn what was needed before releasing their first game, however as we don't live in an ideal world...

Maybe a checklist along the lines of:

> Have you tested your game to make sure it can be finished?

> Can all the items the player sees be examined?

> Have you checked your game for typos and/or grammatical errors?

> Has anyone else tested your game?

The majority of people will probably ignore it and just upload their game with a misspelt title and a game-crashing bug in the first location, but it might help a little.


...and I'm pretty sure it's a suggestion that's come up several times before. If we write up something like this, can it please, please be packaged with the Developer? It seems like a no brainer to us, but it's something people completely new to IF (much of ADRIFT's target audience...) are in dire need of.
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby David Whyld » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:47 pm

Yes, I like the look of the Quest site myself. The guy might not know a thing about designing a decent IF system, but he's a dab hand at catchy website design.

As much as anything, I think the main ADRIFT site just needs a complete overhaul. It's so bland, it's off-putting. It doesn't look like a site aimed at creating games, but some technical design site where drab colours and lots of words are the big issue. The screenshots don't do it any favours, either: the Developer looks very technical and not very exciting and the Runner, showing a lot of words in green text on a black background (which is an eyesore in itself), looks dull. (As an aside, the 3D map might sound like a good idea, but does it have any practical use in a text adventure?)

On the games tab... again, it's bland. Lots of words, the [more] links don't go anywhere. There's no mention (a personal bugbear of mine here) that clicking the Play Online button might screw up playing any of the V4 games on there (and as the very first game on the site is a V4 game which I know for a fact doesn't work properly with the WebRunner, this is a pretty big issue). There's also no way of searching for a game by genre, which is an important issue if you're only after horror or sci-fi or comedy games.
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Campbell » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:13 pm

Wow, don't hold back... :O
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby ralphmerridew » Mon Aug 26, 2013 4:53 pm

The "Games" page doesn't mention which version of ADRIFT the game was build with. (It's on the individual game's page, in the IFID, if you know to look for it.)
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lumin » Mon Aug 26, 2013 7:33 pm

Campbell wrote:Wow, don't hold back... :O


Sorry but I'm with David here, the site is the first thing new potential Drifters see and, well, it's just unnappealing and kind of offputting. I know you're a programmer, not a web designer, but an overhaul's been needed for awhile now.

Not that I know much about design myself, but I'll try and post a few thoughts once I get home.
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby David Whyld » Mon Aug 26, 2013 9:40 pm

Campbell wrote:Wow, don't hold back... :O


Well, you know me. To the point and all that...

But this is hardly the first time a thread like this has come up. Every year someone starts a "wouldn't it be nice if the main site got an overhaul?" thread and people chime in with their suggestions, you pop along and say you agree with some of said suggestions and the main site does need an overhaul, and then what happens...?

Yep, not a thing.

I seem to think the main site has changed a little over the years, but if so it's not a very noticeable or memorable change. The Quest site has gone from a bland eyesore to something that looks pretty damn slick, and Quest itself is now remarkably popular and games are being added at an amazing rate. A quick glance at the site shows me that 3 games have been added today alone, and at least 18 in the last week. Over on the ADRIFT site, we've got a mere 4 new additions this year, of which 1 was actually written last year, 1 is an Italian game so is likely of very limited interest to non-Italian speakers and 1 was a game that was 99% written last year. In short, 1 new game this year, compared to 18 Quest games in a single week. Even ignoring the fact that most Quest games are dire and the best of them would be considered below average if compared to any other system, the site overhaul has done amazing things for Quest. Just think what an overhaul could do for a system that has actually produced a few good games over the years...

It's your site, Campbell, so it's entirely up to you what you do with it, but if you really want people to start using ADRIFT again, redesigning the main site so it looks at least as eye-catching as the Quest site would be a good start.
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lumin » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:52 am

Again, I haven't made a website since junior high, but the biggest problem I see is that the front page is just kind of a wall of text at the moment, and honestly, most of the text is unnecessary. There needs to be something to break it up and draw the eye, and it needs to get straight to the point of what ADRIFT is and what it can do.

Actually, you know what, here, enjoy my suggestions in the form of an embarrassingly terrible MSPaint mock-up. :)
(had to shrink it down to fit, glasses might be required)

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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lumin » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:35 am

ralphmerridew wrote:The "Games" page doesn't mention which version of ADRIFT the game was build with. (It's on the individual game's page, in the IFID, if you know to look for it.)


This as well.

There's kind of a problem right now where people download The PK Girl and try to play it in v5 and then it's completely broken. Presumably they then go, 'huh, so what's supposed to be the best ADRIFT game ever written is a buggy POS. oh well, kind of figured' and then move on.

I'm sure there are similar issues with other v4 games as well. (For one example, I know for a fact that for whatever reason, ADRIFT 5 hates the command >l me. First thing I do in every game and the runner freaks out and pops up a big error message every time.)
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby rotter » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:48 am

Lumin wrote:
ralphmerridew wrote:The "Games" page doesn't mention which version of ADRIFT the game was build with. (It's on the individual game's page, in the IFID, if you know to look for it.)


This as well.

There's kind of a problem right now where people download The PK Girl and try to play it in v5 and then it's completely broken. Presumably they then go, 'huh, so what's supposed to be the best ADRIFT game ever written is a buggy POS. oh well' and then move on.

I'm sure there are similar issues with other v4 games as well. (For one example, I know for a fact that for whatever reason, ADRIFT 5 hates the command >l me. First thing I do in every game and the runner freaks out and pops up a big error message every time.)


I've had this happen to one of my games, which got a bad review because of it. They way I coded part of Unauthorised Termination works fine in V4 but doesn't in V5, it makes it look like a GTV problem. One answer would be to release a fix which corrects this problem I suppose, but I do not have the time at the moment to beta test all my old games.
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lumin » Tue Aug 27, 2013 4:05 am

Is there any reason the runner can't at least pop up a 'hey, this game is meant to be played with an older version of ADRIFT, you might encounter problems?' message in situations like this. Especially seeing how the vast majority of all ADRIFT games are written in v4 at this point.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I remember this exact topic coming up in another thread at some point but I guess it never went anywhere..

edit: yup
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lazzah » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:17 pm

Regarding the problem of ADRIFT v.4 games not running properly on the v.5 webrunner, was there ever a v.4 webrunner?
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Campbell » Tue Aug 27, 2013 1:27 pm

I can certainly add some sort of warning when playing a v4 game in v5, in Runner and WebRunner.

There was no official v4 WebRunner. There are a couple of third party interpreters (i.e. I didn't have any input to them), so they have their own compatibility issues, but could possibly be made to run within a browser.
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Lazzah » Tue Aug 27, 2013 2:05 pm

If playing v.4 games using the v.5 webrunner is causing so many problems, why allow these v.4 games to be played online at all? They should only be available to play as a download, simple as that.

Even playing v.5 games on the webrunner is different from playing them via the Runner. Whenever there is a keypress (i.e. "Press any Key to Continue.....") I think most people will hit the Space Bar - that doesn't work! I have altered my standard <waitkey> message to "Press Enter to Continue....." so that players will hit a key that will work.

It would be a bit cumbersome to have a "Press any Key except the Space Bar to Continue....." message! :haha:
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby David Whyld » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:18 pm

Why not have a clear division on the main site - V4 games on one side (with no WebRunner availability), V5 on the other?
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Re: Let's play armchair site designer

Postby Campbell » Tue Aug 27, 2013 3:51 pm

The main reason I'm against doing that is because a lot of v4 games do run ok on WebRunner.

What I perhaps could do, is add a checkbox to the config for v4 games, so the author could decide whether or not to allow WebRunner to be used or not.
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