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The Video Game List

The Video Game List – March 1, 2009 9:55 PM (edited 3/4/09 12:09 AM)
Talraen (2373 posts) Doesn't Play with Others
Rating: Not Rated
This post will detail the usage and features of the Video Game List. While the information generally applies to the list on any Four Light Network site, the feature was designed for the Gamer Corner and as such will be written with this site in mind. Note that I am the only Game List Administrator on the site, and thus I will use "me" or "I" interchangeably with "the admin" during this post. For the convenience of the reader, this post will be broken down into sections that can be read independently.

The Game List Concept
The Game List Concept
The Game List originated as a custom database hosted on my own computer, which was intended to keep track of my game collection. Specifically, it was designed to make it easy to track which games I had played and beaten, which I was in the middle of, and so on. For my own convenience as much as anything else, I decided to port the list to the Gamer Corner, make it accessible to all users, and add a number of new features and general UI improvements.

The basic idea of the game list is for each user to record what games they have, as well as their status within that game. Whether users want to go all-out and list their entire collections as I have, or use the list in their own way, is up to them. It has been specifically designed to let each person "do their own thing," even if their thing is to ignore it completely.

In structure, the list is simple. All users have creation rights by default (though these can be taken away), so they may add games that aren't already in the database. You can only edit games you added (unless an admin edits them; see below). Each game may also have a list of goals, which work in similar fashion. Anyone may add a goal to any game (even one they didn't add), but may only edit goals they've added. Everything about the list revolves around games and goals.
Games
Games
Games are very simple constructs in the list. Each game has a name and a platform, as well as a variety of optional data. The platform is required, but if the correct platform is not listed you can choose "Other" and ask an admin to update the platform list. The publisher, developer, and release year fields are searchable, and should be filled in if possible (if all else fails, check Wikipedia), but are not required. I do ask that you pay attention to the "Expansion Of" and "Series" fields, which should be self-explanatory. Keep in mind that as a general rule, stand-alone expansions (which do not require the original game) should not be marked as "expansions of" any game. This field is meant for actual original-game-required expansion packs.

The one somewhat complicated field games have is "Original Name." The list uses this field to determine if two games with different names are, in fact, the same basic title. Two games with the same name on different platforms (such as Rock Band) are automatically registered as alternate versions of the same game, but alternate versions don't always have the exact same name. In the case of Final Fantasy IV, for example, the game has been released under three names: Final Fantasy II, Final Fantasy IV, and Final Fantasy IV Advance. In order to let the database know that these are all remakes of the same game (and that the SNES version is not the same game as the real Final Fantasy II), you would set the "original name" for the first and last versions to "Final Fantasy IV." If the original game is not on the list, I suggest adding it before adding the renamed remake. (Just remember to set the ownership status to "Not Owned" if you do this.)

You can also add goals when creating a game, but I'll cover that in the next section. After a game is created, you will automatically be redirected to the "view game" page, where you will see a number of user-specific fields. I'll cover each of these in turn:

My Rating: This field allows you to assign an A, B, C, D, or F rating to a game. This is your personal opinion of the game, and not necessarily the score you'd give it in a review (though it very well might be). You can use these ratings to find games, and each user's game rating will be averaged together to determine the community game rating. Note that the rating on the game list will be gray when it is based on only one or two ratings, getting darker as the rating becomes more confident. You can un-rate a game at any time by selecting a blank rating. Note that, like all other user fields, the rating is saved automatically via AJAX, so you don't need to click a confirm button, and you can edit ratings directly from the game list.

Ownership: This field is pretty much self-explanatory. Enter a value here corresponding to your ownership status of the game. For the purposes of list filters, "All I Own" means games marked Owned or Lent Out, and "All I Have" means games marked Owned, Borrowed, or Rented. When searching for a game by owner, the "All I Own" sense of ownership is used. Note that games you create are automatically marked "Owned" by default.

Status: This is your playing status for the game. This field is a bit more complicated, as it is really up to the user to determine exactly what each status means. The only hard and fast rule is that the "All I've Played" filter shows everything except games marked "Never Played." My intention is for "Not Playing" to mean a game you've played but have no particular intention to play again, while "On Hold" means a game you are not playing but are planning to go back to. "Finished" means a game you're not playing because you've done all you intend to in the game (typically this means all "Important" goals have been completed; see below). "Playing" is a game you're currently in the middle of.

Online Preference: Other users can use this field to find people to play games with online, so make sure to set it correctly if you're interested in online play. "Offline" means either the game has no online play, or you're not interested in it. "Available" means that you would be willing to play online, but are not actively looking for people to play with. "Interested" means that you are. The system will only match users when one is "Interested" and the other is "Interested" or "Available" for the same game.

Personal Notes: This text field can be filled with whatever you want, and unlike the other fields, this information is private. It automatically saves whenever you leave the text box, although on some browsers closing the window will prevent this. I suggest clicking elsewhere on the page before changing pages to make sure your notes are stored. You can use this field however you want. When on the "My Notes and Goals" list view, your personal notes will be available as tooltip text. The game list search will also search your personal notes, so you can use this to add special filters (such as games for which you own strategy guides) if you choose.
Game Creation Guidelines
Game Creation Guidelines
Taking a quick look at the game list, you may notice some strange entries, like the original Metroid for the Gamecube. This is a result of four basic guidelines of game creation that I ask everyone to follow when creating games.

One System, One Game
Several users have asked that games should have one entry spanning multiple systems. For a variety of reasons, this simply was not feasible, so each game entry is a unique game-system combination. The basic reasons behind this are to differentiate what version of a game users own (and want to play with one another), and to allow for differences between games on multiple systems. It is entirely possible that goals would not apply to certain releases of a given game, for example.

A number of features exist to compensate for this choice. First, games link to other versions of games with the same name on the view page. You can copy an existing game (including goals) with the "copy game" feature, and copying goals between existing games is also possible with the "copy goals" feature, both available from the view page.

New System, New Game
The second guideline is that if a game is released on a different system than its original release, it should be recorded as a new entry. This applies especially to console game compilations. The reason for this is twofold: first, many re-releases have been changed in some way, leading to the same concerns as the previous guideline. But even when the games are virtually identical, the exact system the game exists for can be important. For example, if you recorded Duke Nukem 3D for XBLA as a PC game (which it originally was), then the system wouldn't realize you wanted to play on Xbox Live if you marked your online preference as "Interested." This can also be an issue for people looking to borrow games.

One Version, One Game
Generally if a game is re-released in a new package on the same system, it does not get a new entry. This is true of game multi-packs, collector's editions, etc. However, if the re-release is actually different, the game should get a second entry (as is the case with the special versions of Metal Gear Solid 2 and 3).

One Game, One Game
Finally, when recording games on a compilation, each game should get its own entry. Yes, this means things like the PS1 Activision Collection will crowd the list with old and crappy games. I am open to ideas on how to add some sort of UI to indicate that a game is only available in a compilation, or perhaps I might add an "original system" field that would mark the game as a direct port. In any case, compilations yield multiple games, as do games with unlockable games within them (like Metroid Zero Mission). Mini-game collections like Wii Sports should only have a single entry, however, since the games included within have never been independently released.
Goals
Goals
When creating or editing a game, you have the option of adding goals. For games you can't edit, an "edit goals" link will be found instead that allows you to add or change your own goals. You can remove goals as long as no other user has marked them complete. When creating goals, the format is extremely simple: all goals consist of a single-line title, and an optional details text field. In general, if the goal can be described in a single line, it should be.

There is no strict spoiler policy for goals, but it is probably best to avoid putting significant spoilers in goal titles. If a spoiler is necessary to describe the goal, it should be put in the details field if possible. Of course, for many older games where the "statute of limitations" has long since expired, this is no big deal. And I should clarify that when I say spoiler I mean plot spoilers. "Defeat Omega Weapon" is not a spoiler. If you want to avoid gameplay spoilers entirely, you probably want to avoid the goal lists.

Once goals have been created, they can be put to use. Each user has their own personal record for each goal. When viewing a game, the goals are shown in a list. By default, details are available as tooltip text, though they can be added in the list proper with a filter option. Each goal has a checkbox that, when checked, marks the goal as complete. The list also shows which other users have completed any given goal. Of particular interest is the "priority" drop-down, which controls how goals are displayed for you.

If you create a goal, it will be "Normal" priority by default. For all other goals, no priority is set - the goal is considered "new" until you select a priority for it manually. "Normal" priority goals are simply listed and used as normal. "Important" goals are much the same, except they are listed in bold and are sorted to the top of the list automatically. If you mark a goal "Ignored" it won't show up on the list at all by default, and will be marked with gray text and a strikethrough to denote that it is being ignored. Ignored goals can still be marked completed as normal, though this won't be tracked on the game list.

The game list tracks normal and independent goals separately, in two columns. The left column tracks the number of completed Important goals compared to the total number of Important goals. If you have incomplete Important goals, the completed number will be shown in red. The right column does the same thing for Normal goals, except incomplete goals are noted with a green number. If you sort on the goal column, it will show games with the most incomplete Important goals, then the most incomplete Normal goals, then by the total number of goals (with Important goals given preference). You can use this sort to quickly determine which games you have the most work to do in.
Goal Philosophy
Goal Philosophy
Because the system allows you to ignore goals that don't interest you, it really doesn't matter if every user creates goals with the same general philosophy. That said, I'm going to explain my own methods of coming up with goals so if anyone else is wondering why I've made the goals I have, or wants to create goals in a similar fashion, they can do so.

The basic idea I start with is that, if you complete every single goal, you've done everything there is to do in the game. This doesn't necessarily mean the game isn't worth playing anymore, just that you're no longer accomplishing anything new. I don't care for goals that just serve to show off how much time you have on your hands, though - I tend to avoid goals like "hit max level with all your characters" or "max all your characters' stats" in general. To understand why, compare Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII. Yes, in FF7 you can max every character out, but after you've beaten the weapons, doing so is kind of pointless. You're already powerful enough to kill anything, what does it accomplish to become more powerful? Whereas in FF8, if you're thorough, characters will start hitting level 100 naturally, plus monster levels scale with yours, and there are even abilities that require level 100 (such as certain GF item creation). I will sometimes, however, add goals like this if the game has some kind of record of that specific sort of thing (like FF6's PS1 extra mode).

Now my old philosophy was to condense the "everything there is to do" into as few goals as possible. There was a lot of "Attain 100% Completion" in the original list (some of which remains). But having played with Achievements (which my list pre-dates Sticking Out Tongue) I've realized the allure of actually achieving things. Which basically means that all my "unlock all characters" goals have been split into "unlock character A," "unlock character B," etc. (unless there are just far too many to split it).

Those basic rules work for quite a few games - just unlock everything, beat the game, and get all the collectables, and you're done. RPG's are a little more complicated because of side quests. In games where they are all at the end and are nicely divided, like Chrono Trigger, I'll just put them in as goals. For games with more sidequests, like FF6, I'll try to have goals that summarize what you get from them (in this case, recruiting every character and obtaining every esper). Any outliers will get tossed in individually. When it comes to early-game sidequests that have no bearing whatsoever in the long run, I tend to ignore them. Other times I'll go with having goals for getting various unique items.

I do try to avoid goals that are hard to check later - this is mainly because I originally created the list with quite a few retroactive "game finished" marks, so they had to be checkable to verify them. Philosophically, if there's no way of knowing whether you've done something, it probably doesn't fit as a goal anyway. For this reason, I tend to avoid esoteric personal goals like "win every race with every character" unless the game tracks that sort of thing (and usually not even then, unless it unlocks something). One big change I've made recently is not being afraid to add ridiculous goals no one will ever accomplish. After all, you can just ignore them. (Beating every star tournament with every character in both singles and doubles to unlock max difficulty in Mario Tennis is a good example of this.)

And that's basically it. After the goals are made, I tend to mark goals important if they seem fundamental to finishing the game normally (i.e., not poring over a FAQ or guide), and ignored if they're something I just don't give a crap about. But how you do that is entirely up to you.
The List
The List
The actual game list has a number of filters and views to make it as convenient as possible to use. The filters are similar to those on other parts of the site, and are, for the most part, self-explanatory. Some of the more complicated filters are described below. The various table views are a unique feature of this list, and will be covered here. All views show game names and platforms, as well as the number of comments made on any given game.

Notes on Filters: The search, comment search, and comment author filters work the same way as they do elsewhere on the site. The "owned by" filter is similar to the author filter, and has the same syntax and features. Three new "range" filters have been added with a new syntax: my rating, community rating, and release year.

The rating filters are relatively simple. You can specify a comma-delimited list of ratings, possibly including ranges. "My rating" filters only allow A, B, C, D, and F, so you can specify searches like "A-C, F", "A, B", and so on. The community rating filter works exactly the same way, but allows for +/- additions to grades, so you can write things like "B+, C-", "A-C", "D+-A-", and so on. For all range filters, order is not important, and you may put spaces between the terms and the hyphens (though not between grades and +/- modifiers), so "A- - B+" is a valid community rating range.

The release year range has the same basic features as the rating filters, with two extra additions. To specify that a filter should show all games released in the given year or later, you can add a + to the end, as in "1995+". To specify games released up to and including a year, use the "pre-" prefix, as in "pre-1990". You can also use "1995-" in place of "1995+" and "-1990" in place of "pre-1990" if you wish. All of these allow spaces between the hyphens or plus signs.

Game Release Data: This is the default view for users who haven't logged in. It shows the publisher, developer, and release year columns. Note that sorts are kept when switching views even if the sorted column is no longer visible. You can, for example, sort by release year then switch to a different view to get a chronological list of games.

Game Series Data: This list is used to determine at a glance how games are related to one another. The "Other" column has links to other versions of the game, by platform. If a game has multiple other versions on the same platform, there is no easy way to differentiate them on this list (but this is a rare occurence). The "Series" column shows what series the games are in. Clicking a series name will bring up that series in a new list. Finally, the "Expansions" column shows two things: what expansions the game has (if any), and what game this game is an expansion of (if applicable). If there are too many expansions, the game will simply give the total number, and the specific names will be available as tooltip text.

Community Data: The Rating column shows the average user rating for a game, as described above. Rating confidence is not considered when sorting by this column. The Goals column shows the total number of user-added goals for this game (even counting any you've ignored). "Who Owns This Game" shows a list of users who have marked a game Owned or Lent Out.

My Notes and Goals: This is the default view for logged-in users. The first column is the Goals column, described above in the Goals section. The next four columns are the user's rating, ownership status, playing status, and online preference, all of which can be edited right on the list. The current user's personal notes are also available as tooltip text.
Administrator Rights
Administrator Rights
I'm not going to beat around the bush - this feature was originally for my personal use, and it's been designed with that in mind. Admins, of which I am the only one, have a number of rights that given them pretty powerful control of the list. Admins can edit platforms and game series, but the major admin priviliges relate to editing games and goals.

If you create a game, that game is yours to edit - until an admin edits it. Once an admin has edited a game (other than one he created), that game is considered "locked" and can only be edited by admins. This is to prevent edit wars. Provided there is a single admin, that admin has the final say on all game information. The same applies to goals. Note that while I can change whatever I want, my intention is basically to only control games I actually own. You want to add games I don't have, go to town - I won't interfere. But if you own a game and I buy it, I reserve the right to inflict my own anal attention to detail on its record.

The same applies to goals, though I don't foresee doing much goal editing beyond maybe fixing typos. I suspect I will be the main force behind goal creation, and in any case if I don't like your goals I can just mark them ignored. Hell, I've created some goals I might mark as ignored. So have fun with those.

Note that I do not have the right to delete things willy-nilly. There is no on-site method to delete games, and just like other users, I can only delete goals if no one but myself has marked them completed (although unlike normal users, I can delete other peoples' goals). That said, I have the database password so in theory I can do whatever I want. Any vandalism of the module will result in lost usage rights and deletion of all user data. Like I said, this is really my list, and I will keep it the way I like it.

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