Gripes with Nova

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AgentPhoenix Mon Dec 12, 2011 9:37 am

Gripes with Nova

There's been a growing trend I've seen lately where people are choosing to take their gripes about Nova to their fleet forums or other places and not bring them here. Honestly, that's incredibly frustrating because if I don't know about gripes, I can't fix them. I shouldn't have to troll around fleet forums to hear what people are saying about Nova. Instead, I'd prefer to hear it right from the people who are having the issues. I can't make Nova better unless I know the problems and hear them from the people having the issues.

To that end, I'm opening up this thread for people to post their gripes about Nova. I'll do my best to let people know what's being done about them (whether it's coming in Nova 2 or Nova 3 or if it would never be addressed, exactly why). Please remember when you post that it's only me working on Nova and that I have a full time job, friends, family, and other such things. I work on Nova in my free time, so don't expect the world here. Also, if you have friends in your fleets or on your sims that would be interested in this thread, please pass it along and have them jump in.

With that being said, here are a few of the gripes I've heard/read over the last year or so. Please feel free to post more and I'll address them.

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Adding users to the application review process is overly confusing and complicated.

When it comes to applications, Nova leans heavily on an antiquated way of thinking from the SMS days where an application comes in and is approved by one person. In reality, the application process is much more fluid and often includes more than one person. Unfortunately, this problem is one that will continue for the foreseeable future until I can build the eventual solution: a full-blown application review system.

Nova 3 will include a brand-new feature that allows multiple people to participate in the application review process in a simple and intuitive way to help game masters make decisions about potential players.

The idea behind the system is simple: when an application is received, rules are run against the application and the people specified in the rules are notified of a new application. In Nova, they will be able to read the application and comment on it, even going so far as to "vote" for whether to approve or reject an application. The ultimate decision maker will be able to see and take those comments in to account before deciding whether to approve or reject the application.

So how would a system like this work at a deeper level? Still pretty simple actually. Game masters will be able to manage the application review rules. For instance, the system would come with one basic rule at the start: "when any application is received, include the game master in the review process." That means that when an application comes in, the GM is added to the review process and emailed that a new application has arrived. Further, a GM could add people to that rule, like an XO or anyone else. On top of that, new rules could be added such as: "when an application arrives for the Engineering department, include players A and B in the review process." Now, if there's an application for the Engineering department, the players specified will automatically be added to the review process. Of course, GMs would also be able to add players to the review process on the fly as well.

Once the review has started, anyone involved can comment on the application and comments can go back and forth about what works, what doesn't, any changes that should be made, etc. Any person involved in the process can vote on whether to approve or reject the application. Those votes would be tallied at the top of the process for the decision maker to have quick access to. Once a decision is made, the decision make would approve or reject the application.

The new application review system will be a huge step forward from the current system. So why is this going to be a Nova 3 feature and not be included in a future update of Nova 2? Simply put, there's a lot of work that needs to go in to a system like this. Nova 2 just isn't set up to easily allow something like this to be added. For starters, something like this would involve a lot of new styles which makes it difficult for updates because it requires tons of changes to existing skins. That's a tough pill to swallow for game masters, especially if they aren't terribly familiar with skinning. Second, there are a lot of data dependencies when it comes to pulling that information. Given Nova 2's model structure, it's tougher to do without relationships that will be readily available through the ORM Nova 3 uses. Finally, it doesn't make much sense to spend weeks, even months, building something that's going to be re-built in a completely different system. I'd love to do it, but it just isn't a good use of time or energy for Nova 2. Rest assured though, it's one of those things that's being addressed in Nova 3.

Every Nova site looks the same.

I'll gladly agree with people on this. Sadly, people have decided not to do anything with their sites leaving a ton of Nova sites out there looking the same. There's nothing I can do about that. If game masters are going to be lazy and not do anything unique with their sims, that's their issue to deal with, not Anodyne's. I built six different skins for Nova that are all available on AnodyneXtras and yet few people use anything other than Pulsar or Titan for their sims.

I've heard people say (on other forums) that it's Anodyne's responsibility to provide more skins for people to use. My response to that is: why? Does WordPress take it upon themselves to build tons of skins for their software just so every blog out there doesn't look the same? No. Nor should they. It comes down to this: the more time I spend building skins, the less time I spend fixing issues with Nova, adding new features, and pushing the software forward. You can't have your cake and eat it too.

Skinning Nova is overly complicated. Why isn't it simpler?

I won't pull any punches here, this one is BS. Right now, Nova uses HTML and CSS for skins. There isn't a ton of complicated PHP or anything, just basic HTML and CSS. If you want to wow people with your site, learn HTML and CSS so you can make something impressive. You don't need any graphics expertise because Lord knows I'm not a graphic expert myself. If something doesn't make sense, ask. I'd rather know what doesn't make sense and write a tutorial or two on it than have people bitch and moan about something that ultimately comes down to them.

Adding new pages/content to Nova is hard, complicated, and overly restrictive.

The entire reason Thresher was built was for this purpose. If you want to create a content page, all you need to do is create it in Thresher. From there, you can link to it from anywhere in the system. If people want to add pages in to the system, then yes, it is more intensive, but that's because Nova isn't SMS. This isn't a procedural system that you can just toss new pages in to a directory and be done with it. Nova is an object-oriented system that relies on a framework to work. I'll be the first to admit that Thresher isn't perfect, but until people start actually talking about what they want from Thresher, there's nothing I can do.

One of the biggest gripes I've heard so far is that people are frustrated by how they have to add rich content, like YouTube videos and such to pages. I've heard that loud and clear and Nova 2 addresses that by allowing game masters to add script tags, video tags, embed tags, and other previously disallowed HTML tags to site messages. Now, if you want to add a YouTube video to your main page, just paste the code from YouTube in and you're done.

Nova needs a better mobile experience so people can use it on their smartphones and tablets.

I have an iPhone and will be getting an iPad this spring, so trust me, I understand the gripe about Nova not being as mobile as it could be. It's an incredibly complicated problem and I don't have a solution right now, but I am working on one. Once I sort through the options, I'll make a decision about how to best handle Nova in the mobile space. Rest assured though, it will be addressed.

Nova is incredibly difficult to update.

Nova 2 to the rescue! The single biggest reason Nova 2 exists is to make updating to new versions of Nova a breeze. Delete the nova folder and upload the new copy. Run the update script like normal. Done.
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sojservices Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:47 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

Why is it, when removing an author, or attempting to add other writers to a post, it just randomly fails, or, when saved, doesn't bother to remember your writer alterations.

Also, I'd worry about 'deleting the entire nova folder', and 're-uploading the new update', when users(And there are many out there), who have minor alterations to the service, which take days to work out, and then are rendered useless, or inoperable, by a new update.
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AgentPhoenix Tue Dec 13, 2011 8:13 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

sojservices wrote:Why is it, when removing an author, or attempting to add other writers to a post, it just randomly fails, or, when saved, doesn't bother to remember your writer alterations.

The author selection piece in Nova 1 is significantly more complex than what's in Nova 2. My guess is that any of those issues you've seen in Nova 1 will be gone once you upgrade to Nova 2. In the event that isn't the case in Nova 2, I'll certainly look in to it further. It just isn't worth the time and effort to spend hours, even days, looking in to something in Nova 1 that's likely fixed in Nova 2.

sojservices wrote:Also, I'd worry about 'deleting the entire nova folder', and 're-uploading the new update', when users(And there are many out there), who have minor alterations to the service, which take days to work out, and then are rendered useless, or inoperable, by a new update.

That's the beauty of seamless substitution: Nova will always use your code in favor of its own. That means that if you make changes to a controller method and then do an update, Nova will use your modifications, not its default. Now, it is possible that I fix a bug in that controller method and now you don't have that bug fix, or I add a new feature and now you don't have that feature, but when you modify Nova, that's the risk you take unfortunately. Nova 3 uses a different framework and it'll be possible to only modify small pieces of a controller method in Nova 3, so potentially, you can avoid some of those situations. Back to Nova 2 though, all I've done is move the Nova core files out of the application folder and in to the nova. You should never have code in the nova folder. So really, all you're doing is removing the Nova-specific files and uploading a fresh copy.
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Stormwolfe Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:53 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

First, I'd like to say that as a free gaming system, I think Nova rocks! While some of the flexibility of forums, WP, or specifically designed websites might be lacking for those of us who are click and go oriented, it is still a fantastic piece of work! I would like to thank David and everyone else that contributes to Nova for all the work put in to provide it to us.

While I find issues from time to time that I have to work around in some manner, overall, we are using Nova and the majority of its features to the best of our ability at each of my games.

Adding users to the application review process is overly confusing and complicated.

Instead of a gripe, I'd like to offer an interim solution based on what we did. My games all depend on a multi-reviewer process. We found that allowing one person to make a decision on incoming characters led to bad things *grins*.

What we've done (and it works great!)...

1. When we set up the bio form, we add an OOC/Review Tab with fields for Player comments and each reviewer (for us it's always the GMs). For examples go to RPG Realm and click on any of the games under the RPG Sites tab, look at a bio and you'll see the set-up.

2. We update the account/character approval e-mail to read that ONLY the person's account is approved, their bio defaults to Work in Progress. They need to complete the bio, change that status in it and PM the GMs that they are officially ready. From that point on, reviews and approvals are handled in the bio itself.

3. We added a new manifest/department/position(s) to house pending applications. We also added a new Access Role that gives the new Player access to their bio, PMs, and viewing only.

4. During our review process, if we see that the new character majorly impacts an in-play character, we contact the Players and ask they look over the new bio as well and PM the GMs any comments they want added. Their role, etc. is upgraded once the review is done and their character approved for play.

5. Finally, it is totally approved and moved to the right manifest, etc. The GMs may, at their discretion, reject a bio/account if the character is too badly written or completely outside our game requirements/story, etc.

This might sound overly complicated, but trust me, once the pieces are in place, it moves quickly and works very well. I would say the one hiccup is that your co-approvers have to have access to editing the bios and then it becomes a matter of trust in giving these people that access. We tried many other methods of multi-approvals processes before settling how to make Nova work for us. Our current set-up semi-mirrors using forums where each approver posts comments/approvals to an application. People that need a multi-approval process for their site are welcome to look over my set-up and copy it or ask and I'll provide more detail, etc.

GRIPES

As stated above, we have issues with Nova based on how we organize and run our games. Some of the things we need are so specific to our rules and procedures, they will never be addressed. At that point, it's a case of how can we work around it or do we live with it as is and change our procedure. We have done both.

My only gripe and it's a mild one is based on skinning. I will not say Nova is too difficult to skin or that it's "cookie cutter", just that I am inept in learning HTML and CSS. I am trying and I can do small things. Completely designing a skin from the ground up is not one of them...and I fear it never will be.

Therefore, my gripe is that Nova does not allow payment to an individual who takes on the job of creating skins upon request. I am one of these souls that absolutely loathes asking favors that cannot be repaid in kind. Currently, when asking for someone to design a skin, all I can offer is free advertising for their Sims at my sites - which I gladly do for anyone, by the way.

With the above said, I do understand that as Anodyne makes no profile from Nova itself, it is rather unfair that others do so.

I would like to see Nova officially allow people to offer "paid" skins, or at the very least allow someone requesting a service to work out an arrangement for payment (monetary or barter) behind the scenes. For those accepting payment for their services, they would need to commit to some level of support for their product (skin, mod, etc.).

Overall - Great work!

~ Jer

PS: It's been a hoot trying to make Nova work for genres that have nothing to do with Star Trek, etc., such as Marvel's S.H.I.E.L.D. and Criminal Minds.
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AgentPhoenix Tue Dec 13, 2011 1:46 pm

Re: Gripes with Nova

Jericho wrote:Therefore, my gripe is that Nova does not allow payment to an individual who takes on the job of creating skins upon request. I am one of these souls that absolutely loathes asking favors that cannot be repaid in kind. Currently, when asking for someone to design a skin, all I can offer is free advertising for their Sims at my sites - which I gladly do for anyone, by the way.

With the above said, I do understand that as Anodyne makes no profile from Nova itself, it is rather unfair that others do so.

I would like to see Nova officially allow people to offer "paid" skins, or at the very least allow someone requesting a service to work out an arrangement for payment (monetary or barter) behind the scenes. For those accepting payment for their services, they would need to commit to some level of support for their product (skin, mod, etc.).

Nova 2's license was changed several months ago (though for some reason, the version in the repo is wrong ... which I've corrected) to be less restrictive about those things. I don't want to see people abuse that though. Like it's been pointed out before, Anodyne makes no money off of Nova, so realistically, people shouldn't be making a ton of money off of it themselves. I do understand that some things take a lot of time and effort and people should be rewarded for those efforts. Relaxing this restriction would allow people to charge for custom skins, charge for support, charge for installation services, etc. If there are specific questions about this kind of stuff, just ask.

Effective with Nova 1.2.7 (due to be released the same day Nova 2 is released), the Nova 1 license will be updated to reflect these changes as well. This should make it easier for people so they don't have to figure out which version of Nova they're using to figure out if they can charge or not.
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Stormwolfe Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:07 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

That's good news. Thanks for letting me know!

One minor tutorial suggestion for the HTML / CSS challenged amongst us...

Maybe an Idiots' Guide to Skinning. Just a break down of which section of the CSS does what for Nova and any gotcha's with changing one field... Like my current issue - I change the header height and the nav menu disappears. I know I need to change something else, but tracking it down is beyond my current skill. This would be mainly for those of us that don't mind the cookie cutter look. We just want to install our own banner, maybe add a few borders, change a few colors.

Thanks Much for all your work and support!

Jer
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AgentPhoenix Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:17 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

Jericho wrote:Maybe an Idiots' Guide to Skinning. Just a break down of which section of the CSS does what for Nova and any gotcha's with changing one field... Like my current issue - I change the header height and the nav menu disappears. I know I need to change something else, but tracking it down is beyond my current skill. This would be mainly for those of us that don't mind the cookie cutter look. We just want to install our own banner, maybe add a few borders, change a few colors.

Sadly, that's easier said than done. Skin developers have complete control over their skins, so creating something that's so far-reaching is tough. You'd almost have to create a guide like that for every skin. Even between Pulsar and Titan, there are a ton of differences, so making something like that would be a lot of time and effort. The goal with Nova 3's skins is using cascading styles more than in Nova 1/2, but that's still a long way's out. The best place to start is probably getting Firebug for Firefox and using that to help you figure out what needs to be changed.

For Nova 2, I've redesigned Pulsar and I'm working on redesigning Titan as well. Especially with Titan, I'm trying to come up with a design that incorporates a header image so that all you'll need to do is put your own image in the right place and the skin will use it. (In an ideal world, the skin would just read the file(s) and know how to show them, but unfortunately server setups don't make that plausible.)
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cmdrlanc Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:42 pm

Re: Gripes with Nova

Here's one for you:

Why, when you remove a character, does Nova not open that position?

SMS used to do it automatically.
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AgentPhoenix Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:58 pm

Re: Gripes with Nova

cmdrlanc wrote:Why, when you remove a character, does Nova not open that position?

SMS used to do it automatically.

Not really a gripe, more of a bug report. That being said, I haven't seen any issues with this, though I am running Nova 2 at the moment. If you continue to see this behavior after upgrading to 2.0, I'll look in to it then.
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Stormwolfe Sat Dec 17, 2011 9:29 pm

Re: Gripes with Nova

AgentPhoenix wrote:
Jericho wrote:Maybe an Idiots' Guide to Skinning. Just a break down of which section of the CSS does what for Nova and any gotcha's with changing one field... Like my current issue - I change the header height and the nav menu disappears. I know I need to change something else, but tracking it down is beyond my current skill. This would be mainly for those of us that don't mind the cookie cutter look. We just want to install our own banner, maybe add a few borders, change a few colors.

Sadly, that's easier said than done. Skin developers have complete control over their skins, so creating something that's so far-reaching is tough. You'd almost have to create a guide like that for every skin. Even between Pulsar and Titan, there are a ton of differences, so making something like that would be a lot of time and effort. The goal with Nova 3's skins is using cascading styles more than in Nova 1/2, but that's still a long way's out. The best place to start is probably getting Firebug for Firefox and using that to help you figure out what needs to be changed.

For Nova 2, I've redesigned Pulsar and I'm working on redesigning Titan as well. Especially with Titan, I'm trying to come up with a design that incorporates a header image so that all you'll need to do is put your own image in the right place and the skin will use it. (In an ideal world, the skin would just read the file(s) and know how to show them, but unfortunately server setups don't make that plausible.)


You won't believe this, but I have tried Firebug for Firefox and Firebug Lite for Chrome. *grins* Yes, that is how inept I am.

But...thank you for your explanation. Appreciate the information!

Jer
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AgentPhoenix Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:28 pm

Re: Gripes with Nova

Nothing inept about using Firebug. I use it every day.
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Penta Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:06 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

A minor gripe: I can't choose whether a field on the app form (like the instant messengers field) is viewable only in the application (like the sample post), only by the GM afterwards (like the user fields?), or by everybody. Especially for the IM field, this basically nukes its utility - nobody wants to put their IM info where *everybody* can see it, usually. It'd be nice if I could make non-default fields in the bio/join form that *only* displayed in the app, or only to those with GM privileges after the app.

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AgentPhoenix Mon Dec 19, 2011 10:51 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

Penta wrote:A minor gripe: I can't choose whether a field on the app form (like the instant messengers field) is viewable only in the application (like the sample post), only by the GM afterwards (like the user fields?), or by everybody. Especially for the IM field, this basically nukes its utility - nobody wants to put their IM info where *everybody* can see it, usually. It'd be nice if I could make non-default fields in the bio/join form that *only* displayed in the app, or only to those with GM privileges after the app.

This is significantly more complicated than it appears at first glance. The different scenarios that have to be taken in to account stretch across a pretty wide gamut. In order to make sure this works as expected in all the different scenarios (and to give GMs the widest number of options), there's a lot of work to be done on the file side as well as the database side. Unfortunately, this will not be addressed in Nova 2 or any subsequent 2.x updates, but the goal is to overhaul the feature in Nova 3 to be more robust, offer more control, and make it easier to use.
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Penta Tue Dec 20, 2011 9:51 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

Understandable. Still, wanted to register my gripe - I regularly have players tell me they will not use that feature because it's publicly displayed, not limited somehow. Which, when one is as socially-oriented as I tend to be as a GM (in that I basically rely on being able to chat with my players outside of email, just to pitch ideas and have ideas pitched at me), is depressing.

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AgentPhoenix Tue Dec 20, 2011 10:55 am

Re: Gripes with Nova

As I was writing a response, I kept thinking there was no way that I would have allowed that type of information to be accessible to the world. Turns out I was right.

If you're adding an IM field to the bio form, then yes, that is viewable by anyone. However, if you go in to your user account and click on the My Bio tab, there's a pre-built field for instant messenger handles. Just add your IM screen names and then they'll appear on the user profile page instead of the character profile page. The advantage to that is that only authenticated users can see user profiles, so the only people who'd be able to see their instant messenger handles are your players. Now, if there's some loophole you've found to get to the user profile page when you aren't logged in, let me know because that's a bug that needs to be addressed.

Regardless, more granular control over those fields is definitely coming in Nova 3.
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