Jump to content

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

Simon

HERO (Central) Reborn?

Recommended Posts

Caveat: nothing may come of this conversation.  I'm currently of a mind to take this on, but have not decided yet.  That said...

I've been thinking of re-creating HC.  One of the problems that the site ran into was that it was grown somewhat organically over the years -- it started as a simple site to conglomerate the emails from a PBEM campaign I was running and kinda grew (quite a bit) from there. It worked fine in the environment that it had been developed for, but had some issues (easily attacked for DoS/DDoS) and had much greater issues when transferred to a different server/environment.

While I can re-use a large portion of the code for the site, there are a number of things that I think need to be done differently or re-thought...hence this thread.  I'll start a few lists below -- feel free to add your comments, thoughts, additions, etc.

 

General Purpose:

  • HC worked great as a story telling site. The best campaigns were the ones that focused on story development/role playing rather than the mechanics of combat (for example).  Online forum posting is a remarkably poor medium for rules-heavy combat. A retooling of the site should focus on the strengths - the storytelling/role-playing aspects. The idea is (in essence) to have a group write a story, with the GM taking on the roles of the NPCs/antagonist(s)/narrator.

 

Added Functionality:

  • I like the visibility settings in the old forums, but want to enhance them somewhat.  The "locking" of a thread to open up visibility to everyone always seemed clunky.  Instead, I think that there should be "private" posts that are only visible to the players specified in the visibility list...and a new "public" post which is visible to all but can only be responded to by those players in the visibility list.
  • Sort of a side feature to the visibility settings - marking of posts on the story board as either being story-progressing or mechanics/GM conversation. Story progressing posts should do just that -- either be GM posts moving the story along or player posts doing the same...or conversations between characters.  Player-generated story-progressing posts can be moved to mechanics/GM conversation posts by the GM (who is the ultimate storyteller in all of this).  Quick toggles on the screen will show/hide non-story posts so that you can simply read the story and skip over the sideline "stuff" ("I need you to make a Stealth check for me....")

 

Updates:

  • the DHTML/Javascript engine that was responsible for showing/hiding of posts and much of the dynamic interface was extremely dated.  The front-end of the site in general is due for a full re-write as part of this process...likely the majority of the work that I'll have to handle.
  • possibly moving the die-roller off onto its own -- rather than inline with a post (using the text notation), have it as a separate section in the post form...and have the rolls displayed in their own section outside of the post itself (likely immediately following the post, separated by HTML formatting)

 

Removed Functionality:

There were a number of things that proved to be more trouble than they were worth (or more easily-abused by DoSers)...

  • Search functionality.  I'm not sure on this one, honestly.  It's always the most easily-abused area of a site...but also has definite legitimate use.  I'll likely find some compromise solution for this.
  • rendering of HD character files.  I'll create an export format for use with the site - running HD on the server just wasn't a good enough idea to warrant the headache it caused.

 

Spitballing of Ideas:

  • I'd love to come up with a way to create "HC as a service" - a way to have the main functionality of HC layered onto an existing service like basic email, facebook, or something else reasonably sure to stick around for a while.  The "site" simply becomes one view into a distributed data set. No concerns over uptime or a central point of failure...
  • Moving from a database-driven structure to...something else.  A campaign _could_ be contained entirely in an XML file (for example)...replete with visibility settings and everything else that we're considering.  I'm not convinced that this would gain much beyond removing the database server as a requirement for the site, but worth pursuing.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

This is great (though unexpected) news, Dan!  I know this isn't a commitment by you to re-create 'Hero Central', but it heartening all the same.

 

For what it's worth, I liked HC for the following:

 

1) Story organization/Thread Visibility - This.  Being able to control this was a very nice feature.  If we have this in any new iteration, then other enhancements would simply be gravy.

 

2) Finding a new game - I play online pretty much exclusively, so having a place where you could go to get paired/grouped up with a GM/Players was a huge thing for me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

General messages board would almost certainly be there...not sure about the chat -- it always seemed somewhat extraneous to the site.  It originated as a (very drunken) experiment in the days before XMLHttpRequest objects in JavaScript -- a way to create a chat that didn't require any plugins or applets (before that kind of thing was commonplace).

That said, I'm not entirely opposed to it..and done right, it shouldn't place much of a load or risk for a load on the server.

One thing that I'm hesitant to get into is what I view to be the biggest stumbling block to the site:  the front end.  I've always been a business developer (back when I was a developer) -- my focus was on the data and the integration with backend systems.  The front end of the site could desperately use a re-write...but I've been out of the programming/development side long enough that I don't know anyone who could take that kind of a project on.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

One thing that I'm hesitant to get into is what I view to be the biggest stumbling block to the site:  the front end.  I've always been a business developer (back when I was a developer) -- my focus was on the data and the integration with backend systems.  The front end of the site could desperately use a re-write...but I've been out of the programming/development side long enough that I don't know anyone who could take that kind of a project on.

 

I do know developers who do websites in their sleep.  They would have to be paid to do work on the side.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No telling when my job will leave me the time to run another game but I'd love for HC to be there if it ever happens.

 

I am curious about the story/mechanics toggle.  I tended to make extensive use of the GM and Action tags to separate mechanics and story elements to make it easier both to find the mechanics and to ignore the mechanics as needed.

 

Were you thinking of marking an entire post as either 'story' or 'mechanics'?  Or something more along the lines of a Spoiler tag so you can hide the mechanics within a given post?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I would love to see the return of Hero Central in some form :) I miss it.

 

I've had health issues again this year, but mostly getting my stomach under control I belive now. RPOL is just not as good a site as HERO Central was.

 

I don't know how to program and the few programmers I know are swamped with their RL work (they are behind schedule).

 

I was looking forward to seeing how Phase turned out in Kirby's game.

There is almost no Champions over on RPOL, there is my game which has largely been on hiatus due to my health but I hope to restart next week with more regular posting. I do agree that the pbp game is better made with RPing oftentimes, combat slows it down a lot especially with the number of players I have. Time will soon divide the teams into more maneagable groups though :).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Chat was just fun to just discuss random topics (Hero related and others) And to just get to know eachother. It's one of my top things for a wishlist. Dice roller I've got to say is on the very top. Probably the most useful tool on the site. 

I was on of the newer people on the site, but I would be so excited if you could get this up again!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some notes here:

 

I don't foresee this going anywhere in the immediate future.  The more I think about the possibilities, the more I think it'll be a good idea to go back to the origin of HC and just start playing a plain-old PBEM and then build from there...so that's what I'm looking to do.  I'll be starting one in the not-too-distant future and then specing out the site from what I see as being beneficial.

 

That said, I'll certainly entertain ideas and keep this thread up to date as I start to formalize plans.  One thing I'm reasonably certain on is the lack of a chat -- it was sideline to the purpose of the site and there are plenty of options for connecting and chatting with folks these days.  The die roller will certainly be part of the site (a necessary function), though I'll likely retool it somewhat to make it a bit easier to use/integrate.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Some notes here:

 

I don't foresee this going anywhere in the immediate future.  The more I think about the possibilities, the more I think it'll be a good idea to go back to the origin of HC and just start playing a plain-old PBEM and then build from there...so that's what I'm looking to do.  I'll be starting one in the not-too-distant future and then specing out the site from what I see as being beneficial.

 

That said, I'll certainly entertain ideas and keep this thread up to date as I start to formalize plans.  One thing I'm reasonably certain on is the lack of a chat -- it was sideline to the purpose of the site and there are plenty of options for connecting and chatting with folks these days.  The die roller will certainly be part of the site (a necessary function), though I'll likely retool it somewhat to make it a bit easier to use/integrate.

 

Simon, Thank you for your obvious good nature and helpfulness. Hero is my favorite system and I enjoy all aspects of the game. Hero Central Reborn is IMHO well worth the effort.Cheers!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Simon, I too would very much appreciate the rebirth of Hero Central. Futhermore, I believe that HC was and could again be a resource that encourages more Hero System expansion. Please continue any and all efforts towards bringing HC back. Thank you.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Hello Dan.

 

I realize that you did say that this may not be going anywhere in the 'near future', but I was wondering if, since it is a few months later, you might have a better sense as to where this project might be going?  

 

Thanks again for all your attention to this.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

No real news yet -- I have a full PBEM up and running with a group of entirely new players...the experience is helping me to figure out what things to change and what to keep.  Once I've run with this for a while, I'm going to revisit the code and see what can be done (and what kind of time I have to do it).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

 

Caveat: nothing may come of this conversation.  I'm currently of a mind to take this on, but have not decided yet.  That said...

 

I've been thinking of re-creating HC.  One of the problems that the site ran into was that it was grown somewhat organically over the years -- it started as a simple site to conglomerate the emails from a PBEM campaign I was running and kinda grew (quite a bit) from there. It worked fine in the environment that it had been developed for, but had some issues (easily attacked for DoS/DDoS) and had much greater issues when transferred to a different server/environment.

 

While I can re-use a large portion of the code for the site, there are a number of things that I think need to be done differently or re-thought...hence this thread.  I'll start a few lists below -- feel free to add your comments, thoughts, additions, etc.

 

General Purpose:

  • HC worked great as a story telling site. The best campaigns were the ones that focused on story development/role playing rather than the mechanics of combat (for example).  Online forum posting is a remarkably poor medium for rules-heavy combat. A retooling of the site should focus on the strengths - the storytelling/role-playing aspects. The idea is (in essence) to have a group write a story, with the GM taking on the roles of the NPCs/antagonist(s)/narrator.

 

Added Functionality:

  • I like the visibility settings in the old forums, but want to enhance them somewhat.  The "locking" of a thread to open up visibility to everyone always seemed clunky.  Instead, I think that there should be "private" posts that are only visible to the players specified in the visibility list...and a new "public" post which is visible to all but can only be responded to by those players in the visibility list.
  • Sort of a side feature to the visibility settings - marking of posts on the story board as either being story-progressing or mechanics/GM conversation. Story progressing posts should do just that -- either be GM posts moving the story along or player posts doing the same...or conversations between characters.  Player-generated story-progressing posts can be moved to mechanics/GM conversation posts by the GM (who is the ultimate storyteller in all of this).  Quick toggles on the screen will show/hide non-story posts so that you can simply read the story and skip over the sideline "stuff" ("I need you to make a Stealth check for me....")

 

Updates:

  • the DHTML/Javascript engine that was responsible for showing/hiding of posts and much of the dynamic interface was extremely dated.  The front-end of the site in general is due for a full re-write as part of this process...likely the majority of the work that I'll have to handle.
  • possibly moving the die-roller off onto its own -- rather than inline with a post (using the text notation), have it as a separate section in the post form...and have the rolls displayed in their own section outside of the post itself (likely immediately following the post, separated by HTML formatting)

 

Removed Functionality:

There were a number of things that proved to be more trouble than they were worth (or more easily-abused by DoSers)...

  • Search functionality.  I'm not sure on this one, honestly.  It's always the most easily-abused area of a site...but also has definite legitimate use.  I'll likely find some compromise solution for this.
  • rendering of HD character files.  I'll create an export format for use with the site - running HD on the server just wasn't a good enough idea to warrant the headache it caused.

 

Spitballing of Ideas:

  • I'd love to come up with a way to create "HC as a service" - a way to have the main functionality of HC layered onto an existing service like basic email, facebook, or something else reasonably sure to stick around for a while.  The "site" simply becomes one view into a distributed data set. No concerns over uptime or a central point of failure...
  • Moving from a database-driven structure to...something else.  A campaign _could_ be contained entirely in an XML file (for example)...replete with visibility settings and everything else that we're considering.  I'm not convinced that this would gain much beyond removing the database server as a requirement for the site, but worth pursuing.

 

General Purpose:

It's strenght with Storytelling vs mechanics is what I got from the other thread too. It is an inherent flaw with how combat resolution works with Hero (especially the abort mechanic), combined with lack of proper timeouts and the general complexity of combat resolution.

 

Visibility settings:

As I said in the other thread, you should consider a "as parent" option for visibility (for a root thread it would just take all players of the campaign). That would reduce the complexity of the queries quite a bit, while allowing later addition of players automagically.

 

Distributed Storage:

I don't see herocentral as big enough to warant all that overhead. If you truly want this, MS SQL might be your best candidate. Between SQL Lite/Compact/whatever it is called these days and merge relication to a proper SQL server it can be exceptionally powerfull tool here. And it even got support for a heirarchical organisations with a special datatype. Of course the central server software is not free of charge, but that is usually the biggest hurdle.

 

No DB:

That I can only strongly advise against. The scale is just plain too big. In the end all you would be doing is to make your own DBMS, and it would be worse then any existing could ever fear to be. It's one of those things you should let the professionals deal with, same as Driver and Realtime Programming.

 

Instead, how about turning the DB access into a WebAPI? Or some other type of abstraction layer for the DB calls (on code level)? That way it would be less tied to wich specific DBMS and Database Type you use as backend. Of course it is both extra load and development time, but you seem to at least think about it.

 

One thing that I'm hesitant to get into is what I view to be the biggest stumbling block to the site:  the front end.  I've always been a business developer (back when I was a developer) -- my focus was on the data and the integration with backend systems.  The front end of the site could desperately use a re-write...but I've been out of the programming/development side long enough that I don't know anyone who could take that kind of a project on.

Not that good at writing GUI for webapplications myself. But one thing I do know is that posts and pages tend to be very sparse with any markup for formating. Instead nowadays everything formatty is done via CSS tags and a CSS file. You could even allow users to define thier personalised CSS design (to be delivered by the server). It saves memory (stored post lenght), bandwidth (page size), is better reable for screen readers, allows later changing and a dozen other advantages.

When in doubt, just try to loosely transalte the current layout to something CSS based and see where it get's you.

CSS is one of those things just plain too good to get rid of anytime soon.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you looked into adapting the free, open source engine that runs Wikipedia?  I understand that it downloads and installs easily, supports section editing and context tabs, has parametric controls for viewing and update, has skins for appearance and behavior, is quite secure, and scales up rather well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I've been waxing nostalgic for this lately.  :)  Life is busy... but it's a far cry from the disaster I had trying to play with hawk and write a thesis and work at the same time...

 

That being said, it seems like Java is kind of a monster on servers and memory.  I'm not sure on any alternatives I could recommend, either, I've mostly been working with NodeJS.  Node is processor intensive if you don't break it up into individual node-running threads.... and I don't know of any forum modules for node (and I haven't been able to set up HTTPS, let alone vet it's security at all).  Most Node stuff works through MongoDB as well... not sure how well a server would like a flat file DB (even if many are running SSD's now...)

 

OTOH, with node I can write a chat server in my sleep in 15 minutes :P  gwbloom.com:8132/chat

 

Any site that is going to happen would have to be fast to make and easy/cheap to maintain.  Major companies, like paypal and wordpress, are moving to it (or have moved to it).

 

Maybe I'll figure out the MEAN stack some day...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Have you looked into adapting the free, open source engine that runs Wikipedia?  I understand that it downloads and installs easily, supports section editing and context tabs, has parametric controls for viewing and update, has skins for appearance and behavior, is quite secure, and scales up rather well.

In Programming (like in magic) there are tradeoffs.

Wikipedia is designed as a colaborative Encyclopedia. Not a message board. Not a Comment System.

 

You can add just about anythng to everything. But the price in Programming time and (most importantly) Server processing times might be too high.

It is like hammering a nail into the wall using the handle of a Screwdriver - possible, but not nearly as good as just looking for that Hammer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×