oo, hello, I notice that your account is new, do you just not remember your old account or are you intentionally starting from scratch?
Aaanyway, long post incoming. Sorry!
Thanks for the detailed feedback! It’s very much appreciated, and I’ll go over your points below. And yes, I had an old account but I lost the details years ago. Besides, having that as my first post is pretty cool :)
On the Source Converter, I think it’s a neat idea, but I can’t help but think that even a new engine would be less work! I’m rather curious on how you plan to be having “all existing custom source edits will be automatically upgraded”, such a thing would be incredibly difficult to produce human usable/readable results for even experience programmers.
You’ve stated “Yes, it’s not a new engine, but it’s not realistic to promise making a full brand new engine in only a few months.”, but is this any more realistic to promise in a few months (I know this hasn’t been stated in your OP)?
Still, it looks like you have things under control. It looks like you’ve made some good progress already (yet to view the source, will do so when I have a bit more time).
I think that a new engine would actually be significantly more work as it would almost certainly require complete a rethinking of how everything is structured and handled. That process alone takes time, especially when designing an engine tailored towards a large community - after all, everyone wants many different things!
Converting the existing engines isn’t actually as complex as it may seem. At a high level, it’s almost like writing a converter for any other data files the engines use: maps, npcs, things like that. The process is essentially: load a model of the existing codebase, manipulate the data until it’s formatted nicely, and generate new code based on that original model. Steps one and three are immensely straightforward in terms of actually building. There are toolkits that language researchers use to generate models of various programming languages, and those same tools can and have been adapted for this task. I’ve used ANTLR to generate a parser that can load raw VB6 code into an Abstract Syntax Tree (the in-memory model of the code). From there, it needs to be cleaned up and sent to the .NET Compiler Platform which deals with the complexities of generating valid and easy to work with C# or VB.NET code. Apart from that, there are smaller tasks like converting VB6 forms, doing some pattern matching to deal with converting some of the procedural VB6 code into more object-oriented C#/VB.NET code. Overall, I think it’ll be significantly easier to start with a converter like this.
On the Exchange, I’m a bit more critical of this; again, another neat idea, however I recall something that tried to be like this (sans hosting custom streams) on the older IP.B forums that ultimately nobody ended up using because the already existing things that did what it offered works better.
I think that an asset-type store that can inject and compile source edits alongside hosting public domain ready-to-use assets would be a wonderful addition (something like this was touched upon before, but nothing became of it), I fully support an integrated package for non-programmers, but as for the others:
On progress/updates/tutorials, is this not what the forum is for? The boards are dead enough, I’m not sure if actively discouriging users from posting is the best idea.
On recruiting members, what would this offer that stack exchange, /r/gamedevclassifieds, tigsource, etc, wouldn’t already offer? The provided alternatives have a much broader range of people available, so you’re going to need to offer a hefty niche.
On hosting streams, are you sure? This is something that would require larger server capacity and can get expensive fast. Why would I not use Twitch or Hitbox for bigger exposure (and likely better stabiltiy) instead?
Injecting and compiling source edits is actually a fairly neat idea that I hadn’t thought of. I’ll definitely see what can be done about making that happen. You’re right, this would in a way be replacing some of the forum features. However, I see this as a supplement to the forums, to aid where features on the forums are lacking. For example, with this kind of system, you’ll be able to see your game information in one place rather than scattered across multiple boards. You’ll be able to quickly see the game information, any updates, check if they are recruiting any staff/apply for those positions, among other features.
You’re right that this may discourage users from posting on the forums, especially if done as a separate, isolated site. However, I want to integrate parts of these features with the Exchange and the forums. One big thing I want to do is allow you to login to the Exchange with your forum account (no need to make a separate account), so that you can seamlessly navigate between both systems - almost making the distinction between the two transparent. You’ll be able to start threads and discussions and link them to your posts on the Exchange. Say you’ve made some new tilesets for your game, and you want to make them available to others: you post on the Exchange. When you do that, you’ll be able to open up a discussion: essentially, creating a new thread specific for your tilesets where others can discuss. I’ll be taking feedback for how all this will work from all of you. I don’t want to replace the forums, I want to supplement them in places where a forum-style discussion may not be the best format for content.
Those features aren’t final, but I hope you get the idea. On recruiting members, I was more referring to recruiting members from the current community into different game projects: similar to the current recruitment board_._ I don’t want to try to replace StackExchange/TIGSource/etc, the idea is more for the current community at the moment.
And streams, they’ll be hosted on Twitch/YouTube/etc. Running a custom streaming infrastructure would be impossible here. You’ll be able to embed your streams - or not, the choice will be up to people making the games.
Finally, not to increase your workload, but there are two key things that I think need to be taken care to maximise your success:
- Updating the forum to 2016/2017 standards: personally, I think myBB and the likes are dated, their decrepit board design has just never been intuitive or nice to use as an experience.
While I’m not saying that there needs to be yet another forum conversion, per sé, the following do need to happen:
- an updated (mobile-first) responsive theme that actually puts an emphasis on posting, as it stands, forum activity is mostly relegated to the shoutbox.
- actual URL rewriting, showing topic IDs and post IDs isn’t particularly memorable.
- Serious pruning and deleting/hiding of old/irellevant topics and a restructure of the boards, there are still too many boards (especially considering that most are unused). Searching would also not take such a toll with the older things gone.
- Reworking of grouping: too much colours, too much groups.
It’s an oldie but a lot of it is still relevant to myBB today, this covers most of my gripes: https://community.mybb.com/thread-122216.html
Great ideas! I’ve already had multiple requests for a mobile-first theme; I’ll see what I can do about that.
- Actual URL rewriting: done!
- Pruning of old topics/boards: I’ll be working with the staff to clean things up. PM me, or post a thread if you have any suggestions on how you want things to look.
- Same with groups: I’m open to all suggestions, and this is something I’ll be working on
- (More of a question, really) Members: it’s not exactly a secret that the forums are probably at the 2nd most inactive they’ve ever been, down to the fact that most members have left. Combine with the fact that indie/hobby RPG dev interest has dwindled over the last few years.
(Probably anecdotal/not a very good source, but my source is the dwindling activity of RPG Maker and the non-existence of every other Mirage community and the niche small-ish size of Intersect)
Clearly, broadening out to be general-purpose and trying to compete with the likes of Game Maker and Construct is a suicidal move. There’s also the issue that a good amount of our members are…abrasive (to put it nicely), so how do you plan to perhaps recapture some of the older members and introduce new members to the forum?
In general, I’d like to start by trying to be more welcoming towards everyone. I’d like to be supportive towards whatever projects the members want to work on, and help them with whatever tools they may need to see success. I know it’s fairly vague right now, but that’s the general attitude I would like to see.
Anyway, I support your current plans however, I hope you take my critical points as legitimate concerns.
I’ll stick around for a bit longer and wouldn’t mind helping you out if you’re in need.
Best of luck!
Thanks for your support! I hope I answered your questions sufficiently. Let me know if you have any more, or want anything cleared up