Community issues and Documentation forum section

[Recall I’m a newcomer here, so if I got the wrong end of the stick here, no offense intended, just please set me straight.]

Expanding upon the recent “unsubscribe” discussion, I wonder what more can be done to enhance the experience for VASSAL users, and particularly to develop more of a sense of community (it’s a trendy concept but I think it has substance). I don’t know how active the yahoo group was, but the amount of activity on these forums (apart from the developers sections) seems moderate at best. I think the ladders are a great idea, and I know I can look for opponents for each module in that individual section, but is there something else that can be done to generate general interest and make it even easier to find opponents?

(For example, although it’s a cheesy BGG sort of idea, can we acknowledge really good modules by giving them thumbs up? BTW, I thought the module for A Victory Lost was outstanding. Okay, it’s not the best suggestion, but I’d like to hear others.)

Secondly, I admit that I have not worked on documentation for 3 weeks or so, although I do plan to resume efforts. I wonder if eventually it would be worthwhile creating a new forum section devoted to documentation, hopefully to attract more contributors, to focus the discussion on specific issues, and to get feedback on the existing documentation (which is not widely available at this point, I haven’t even submitted it via subversion).

I have started a “Cases Studies” thread below … for documentation and real module experience …

The concept is to make a tiny module with explaination about issues encountered …

I’m working on Cases Studies N°2 the Morpion Game to allow beginners to see some concepts by this way … when starting a new module …

I overlooked this case studies thread when it was first posted. Thanks for reminding me, and thanks for posting it. I will check it out.

I like the focus of your thinking here Meng. The Yahoo group was averaging probably around 220 posts a month. I’m not sure about the dev list, possibly around 200 a month also. The forum went public on 20th December and is averaging slightly over 1000 posts a month. Admittedly, most of these are from myself and Joel :smiley: It’s still young though, I expect things to continue to ramp up.

I’m in favour of creating more forum sections as needed, but it may have to wait while we work toward figuring out how the mailing lists will fit into the picture.

Well on those numbers, there was no drop in activity, so that’s great!

Yes, this would be more appropriate when the revised documentation is in a more advanced stage anyway.

My interest in building community (and I realize that I’m not the first to suggest it) is because I get the impression that it could be one of the limiting steps to achieving a greater user base (in other words, VASSAL is marvelous on technical grounds) and this in turn would provide more impetus for documentation, bug identification, etc.

That was pretty much the #1 reason I felt we needed a forum, to build the community. Most people just want to come in briefly to get quick answers to simple questions, then disappear. They will do a search for an answer and if they cannot find it they will sign-up to the forum to make a post. They’re here for a good time, not a long time :slight_smile:

One thing I know is going to help is when we get the Vassal chat process streamlined. I can envisage opening Vassal and connecting to a General Chat area where dudes are just going to be hanging out, waiting for a game or just there for a chat. New users can fire up the application and straight away ask others for help. I think that would be awesome, it would encourage people to stay connected to the server simply to meet up their friends for a game or whatever. You could say “hey, I’ll meet you in the main lobby and we can talk about what we’re going to play”. Kind of like the way does it (but without the crazy Interface!)

What about an IRC channel as an interim measure?

Too hard for casual users is my first thought; They would need to download a client, cut and paste the server name then figure out how to join a channel etc. We would need a document on how to do it. The current Vassal server can do it easily enough, it’s just that we need a dev to actually carry out the work. I think Joel may be looking into the initial steps. Hope you don’t mind me dropping your name into random posts Joel :slight_smile:

Fair enough, I pretty much expected the response as I was pressing the submit button. Some sort of embedded browser chat software is another possibility (like what uses).

Thus spake “bsmith”:

Nope, not me. I know close to zero about the chat code. That’s Rodney’s


Messages mailing list …

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Thus spake “meng”:

I hate the idea of building a dedicated IM client—we’re not going to
build one which is better than any existing IM client.


Messages mailing list …

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I’m happy with the way it works now, all we need to do is create a “Main” area that is one level above everything else in the “Server Status” tree, so that opening a module or choosing a game is not required to chat. Does this make sense? So really any change would be minimal, we’re just adding an extra node, no need for funky IM features. The messages area in the main Vassal window would still function the way it already does.

This would not be that hard to do, actually. It would be good functionality for the Library window, maybe something for v3.2


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Another thought - since a common complaint I read is that the VASSAL interface is not intuitive (cough BS cough) - perhaps we could come up with some sort of personal tutor schedule?

For example, perhaps a couple of times a week someone could be available to show the VASSAL ropes to newbies? Obviously this would have to take into account different timezones and different game preferences, and would be more difficult to implement without a “main” non-game-specific chat-room.

I could certainly volunteer, it would help to improve the documentation …

Make ‘Take the tour’ a launch option in the install wizard

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Thus spake “meng”:

Are they ever more specific than that about how they find it unintuitive?


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It’s improving thanks to the guy’s work on newer releases.

There are still problems that need to be addressed such as crazy multi-sized toolbar buttons, no standardised shortcut keys, zoom in and out not centring, no auto-scroll when moving the mouse near the map edge etc. Pretty much a heap of stuff users are very accustomed to from playing real time strategy games.
My own thoughts on this issue are that we must enforce a consistent interface design through the Vassal editor.

Just a few examples, I could rant on about this for 30 pages :slight_smile:

  • The editor should not let people change the shortcut for deleting a piece from Ctrl-D to Ctrl-F. Ctrl-D should be permanently reserved. Changing the shortcut keys for these should be a user preference only, if we choose to allow it at all.
  • Every piece in every module should be forced to have a few traits which are standard, like Delete, label etc.
  • Every map should have Zoom, Snapshot and Hide Pieces by default.

Please NO!

This was my exact problem earlier when Thomas brought it up which turned out to be not his intent and I hope its not yours either

Enforcing key standardization removes flexibility the engine allows.
What if the piece is not supposed to be ever deleted and is an At start stack and does not reside in the palette tray?
Oops I accidently hit delete and didnt notice till later - there goes my piece and there goes my game - got to start all over again because you mandate that every piece must have a delete trait :unamused:
What if you dont use labels? :confused:
Why do I have to have zoom on my map if it is full size and everything is perfectly clear due to graphic size?
Think through what the ramifications could be please…

Again - the open ended nature of the engine is what makes it superior to other utilities. Cut it down with restrictions and BS requirements and it becomes no different than any other similar utility and loses its edge

I do disagree on this point, I would rather sacrifice flexibility if it means we can increase Vassal’s widespread use. Flexibility with a narrow user base or usability for the masses?

Our opinion differs, I’m cool with that. :smiley:

I don’t understand this point, the only module I’ve used without a delete trait on counters was the CC:E module; I remember dragging a piece to the board when I first tried to play, then being driven nuts when I couldn’t get rid of it, that was the last time I used that module. I’ve played hundreds of games on Vassal, never had this problem. Every piece should be in the palette, I don’t understand why you would not do that?

Doesn’t matter, why not have the feature there anyway? There are thousands of apps which have shortcuts nobody uses.

Maybe your eyes are younger than some people? Older or visibly impaired may need to zoom in.