The future of the Items tab

edited July 2013 in General Archive
We've come to a spot that I've been dreading a bit, and that's the Items tab. Why dreading? Well, I don't really know what to do with it. It's not where I want it to be, but getting it there would require us to ignore other parts of the site.

It's not just a question of what we can/can't do to improve the items tab, instead it's a question of what *else* could we spend that time on? A perfect example are the DSTs. They have a lot of potential, but they need to be improved. If forced to choose, I would much rather spend time on improving the DSTs (which a lot of people use) as opposed to the Items tab. Characters are the core of RPGs and also Obsidian Portal. Items...not so much. Plenty of games do just fine without items at all.

We could just leave it as it is, but during user testing it became clear to me that leaving in things that are less-than-awesome is a good way to confuse and irritate users, especially new ones. The less polished features are like land mines. Experienced users know where they are and avoid them, but new users step on them and instantly get a bad first impression about the site. If that happens enough, they decide the site sucks and never come back.

The best solution is to make everything awesome, but reality dictates that we only have so much time, so we have to choose what we will focus on. The next best solution is to remove and/or better hide the land mines to prevent people from stepping on them.

My current plan is this:

* We make the Items page match the new design, but don't really mess with it all that much.
* For existing campaigns with items, they have the items tab in the new design.
* For existing campaigns without items, and for new campaigns, they don't have the items tab enabled. It's an option you can turn on in the advanced settings section, but is disabled by default.

Some have asked if they can choose which tabs are enabled, and we may go that route as well, but I'm not sure yet. It's on our nice-to-have list that we're hoping to get to once we have time.

Some day in the future, hopefully we can revisit the items feature and work it to where it needs to be to match the rest of the site, but for now I don't want to ignore it and allow it to remain as a land mine that people are stepping on.

Also, I'm posting this here because I feel like you all (the inner-circle of the KS backers and OP community) can handle this and understand what I'm trying to say. I'm not really planning on announcing this yet to the community-at-large because I'm still trying to figure out how to phrase it. Most people probably think the reforging is about adding tons of new features, not necessarily hiding existing ones. But, what we're really trying to do is refine and sharpen the existing site so it's always a delight to interact with. Sometimes that requires making some hard choices. I'm glad that I can feel confident in posting this to all of you in that you'll understand what the goals are and how we're going to achieve them.


  • Langy
    Posts: 364
    Can you utilize the code for the Characters tab for the Items tab? They look and act very similarly, after all. I his would allow you to migrate the changes to the Characters tab to the Items tab without ever focusing upon it.

    Of course, there are other things I'd like to see in the Items tab if we could get them, but I agree with you - it can wait until other things are finished.
  • Micah
    Posts: 894
    Heh, good eyes...The items and characters actually work very similarly under the hood.

    So yes, we will probably migrate some of the new quick filtering for the items, but not give it any special treatment beyond that.
  • GamingMegaverse
    Posts: 3,001
    I am one that moved the items to wiki, because the tabs were not integrated, and pre-CSS it was difficult to make the pages the same appearance. If the tags work throughout, that would be my biggest concern. Having it be like the characters tab is fine, as long as the tags are integrated. I agree, it is not high on the priority list.

    Just trying to help out.

  • Maesenko
    Posts: 325
    I find myself agreeing here with both Langy and kiilervp; it's not much of a priority to update due to its relatively low use but would be easy enough to address with what you've already updated.

    I've only just begun to use the Items tab for stuff in my campaign, and I could really see them going either way at this point: more like a wiki or more like a character page. However, in light of what has been done with the Character page thus far in that video, it seems like it would be simple enough to just use that same style for the Items tab. Perhaps that would be the best option for the time.

    I personally dislike the idea of getting rid of features or hiding them; I think some moderators would never think to check the advanced options and find the hidden items tab.


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  • Laslo
    Posts: 7
    It seems like characters and items are exactly the same thing.

    Haven't you just replaced the item type dropdown with a player character checkbox?

    Wouldn't both these items be in the same table in your database?

    If you really wanted you could obfuscate this by having your "character" page only show records with "PC" or "NPC" as their type and have the "items" page only show records with whatever other types you want to include.
  • kenurion
    Posts: 80
    I'm good with hiding/burying the items tab. Items are definitely part of my campaign, but I don't think they rate their own tab. I have more wiki pages devoted to religions and locations than items, but there are no tabs for those. Somehow I don't feel like they're missing. My only concern is being able to find the items I've already created after any changes. Since they use the [[:slug]] referencing, I still need the hardwired Items tab to find stuff when I forget the slugs (can't use the wiki page or character search features to remind myself). Sounds like what you're proposing preserves that, so I'm fine. I may end up moving all items to wiki pages, but would prefer not to have a deadline on that.
  • LordMisha
    Posts: 12
    Hmm, I would be fine with adding the character functionality (tags) to the items for now. But in my case, I really do make use of the Item tab and keep it separate from Wikis, I actually want to work the Items Tab harder than I do. My frustration up to this point has been the fact that I can associate tags with Items but unlike the current Character Tab, when I am on the Item Tab, the nice little Sort by Tag on the right column is missing. I also tend to not use the Category option on Items because it is too limited. I wish I could create my own categories depending on the genre of my campaign. So I rely heavily on tags.

    While I don't mind digging around and learning how to customize pages with CSS, I have been introducing some friends to Portal site and they are beginning to create campaigns. In their case, they just want stuff to work and make logical sense. Logs, Wikis, Characters, Items, and Maps. Obviously I am not searching every game on here and maybe the minority use the Items Tab. But perhaps some don't use it just because it doesn't work as well as everything else and isn't integrated. So to consider 'hiding' it doesn't really solve the problem of people who might actually want to use if it functioned better.

    I also understand that from digging through old forums and history of site that it had one type of intention and it has grown to be another. But that should speak for what a lot of people want out of the site perhaps. Anyways, I do like what I am seeing although since I heavily modify a good chunk of my campaign CSS it is a bit jarring to see some portions work and others not :)
  • Micah
    Posts: 894
    @LordMisha - You're getting to the heart of why we want to de-emphasize the items tab. There is *potential* there, but that's not enough. It will require a lot of investment to get it where it should be, and ultimately we want to spend that time working on other features, like natural editing. So, rather than leaving something there that only has potential, we want to hide it and encourage people to use the other parts of the site that function much better.

    To put it another way, like you say, a lot of new people start playing with Obsidian Portal and choose what they do or don't want to use out of it. Every new person clicks on the items tab and thinks, "Hmm, this looks kind of unfinished." We're tired of that being the first impression. Instead of having X great features and Y so-so features, we'd rather just have X great features. We want to play to our strengths.

    Hopefully one day we'll get a chance to re-focus on the items and build something that's truly useful, but I can't just keep saying that and doing nothing in the short term.
  • Viehmagnat
    Posts: 24
    I use the Items Tab quite a bit in my campaign. It is not crucial to the campaign, but I would miss it if it were gone. The current functionality of the reforging items tab seems to be enough for my uses. It does seem to work just like the character page, and tagging items to sort them works well enough. Incorporating a way to sort by category would be nice (and the ability to add custom categories even better), but I can achieve the same with tags and don't find it a priority.

    Will the item (and character) images will appear on the sort pages once the reforging is complete? Or is it an issue with my browser (firefox)?

    I like the current plan as denoted in the OP. I think as a new user, I wouldn't miss the items tab, and putting in an option to enable it seems sufficient. It could be mentioned in one of the tutorials for new users if there is worry that it might be too hard to find that option. But as an existing member, I would miss it if it were taken away.
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