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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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11 July 2010

Search lists for genres, systems, file formats, and more: The main game search page now offers lists of possible values to use with several of the special search keywords. You can get lists of values for series, genre, forgiveness rating, language, authoring system, and file format. Each list shows all of the values for that attribute currently used by game listings in the database. The value lists are helpful if you're not sure of the exact syntax to use for your search. They're also good for research and exploration, since they let you see the full range of actual entries for each attribute. To reach the main game search page, just click the Search link near the top of any IFDB page. This page lists all of the special search keywords and explains how to use them. Each keyword that offers a value list has a link to show the list.

Search for download formats: A new game search option lets you search for games with downloads in a particular format. For example, you can search for games with blorbed z-code downloads only. For details, see the "format:" keyword on the main game search page, which you can reach by clicking the Search link in the main controls at the top of any IFDB page.

1 December 2009

"Play Online" option for z-code games: The Download box on a game's home page now includes a "Play Online" button if the game is compatible with the Parchment interpreter. Parchment is a z-code interpreter that uses Javascript to run in a browser window, so you don't have to install any software on your computer. (You'll need a Javascript-compatible browser, of course, but a recent version of any popular browser should suffice.)

The Play Online button is only displayed for games that include a download link for a plain z-code file (.z5, .z8, etc). Parchment can't load directly from a "blorb" file or from a compressed format such as "zip", so IFDB can't generate a Play Online button for those formats. If a game has multiple z-code files among its download links, the Play Online button uses the first one listed.

18 November 2009

Minor bug fix for Play Now! on Windows: The Windows browser plug-in for the Play Now! button couldn't handle Zip files that contained folder (directory) entries that weren't properly marked as such in the file attributes. Most Zip creator programs do this correctly, but it appears that some don't, since there are a few files on the Archive with the missing attributes. If you tried to use the Play Now! button with such a game, you would have seen an error message saying that one of the files in the Zip couldn't be extracted. The plug-in now checks for this case and handles it gracefully, so games prepared with these questionable Zip creators should now work properly with the Play Now! button.

28 September 2009

Streamlined image uploads: The process for uploading images (for game Cover Art, for example) is a little simpler now. Rather than going to a separate page to upload an image, the upload is now performed directly on the editor page where the image will be used. This is a little faster, since it skips the extra page loads, and it's easier to use since it doesn't interrupt what you're doing on the main editor page.

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.

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