The downloads system here at The GTA Place which we have been using for a good 3 years now is in need of a major overhaul. We are currently using a very heavily modified (by myself) version of paFileDB 3.1, a freely available script which has since received a number of upgrades to improve its features. We of course haven't upgraded, we can't, because I've modded it so much it would just break everything. Having said that, we do need to upgrade, but we are going to move away from paFileDB, instead we're going to take out what useful code there is (not a lot tbh) and then just code the rest ourselves.
Now I refer to "we" rather than just myself... normally it would just be me doing all the coding, but I'm hoping that Jared can help us out with this project, and indeed he did start a few months ago on some coding, since then both of us have been too busy to carry on with it. By the summer I'd say we'd definitely be finished, just how soon before then I don't know.
Below is a quick summary of the new features, followed by a bit about the current system and why we need to change, and then an in depth discussion of all the shiny new features.
Summary of new features and improvements
- Integration with the forums
- Advanced searching options
- Quick download
- Author pages
- Improved rating system
- More detailed file pages
- Comment system
- Multiple screenshots for each mod
- Report broken mod form
- Submit your own mods
At the moment the features we have are quite limited. So we have categories and sub-categories, and are able to add files to them, have a short and long description, author name, version number, 1 screenshot and 1 file. You can see the number of downloads it's had, the file size, and you have links to download it.
On a separate page you can rate the mod, you can also email it to a friend. It's annoying having to go to a separate page to rate the mod, and the email to a friend feature isn't used very much (I think), as most people tend to pass links around in forums and on instant messengers these days. Occasionally I would dare say some people abuse the system and send to loads of people for no reason or spam it.
When searching, you put in some text and it searches virtually every field in the file records, there's no way of narrowing down your search. Results are listed all on one page with just a category name next to them - This is not very useful at all.
That's about all I need to say for that, on to the new system...
New System (good)
The way you navigate the downloads will be largely the same, but will be significantly more intuitive and a lot easier/quicker than before.
Categories and sub-categories will all remain the same as there is nothing wrong with them. Game logo icons may be added to the main ones so it is clear which game you are browsing for (mainly useful for searches which return results for mods for more than one game).
When viewing the list of files in a category, you'll have the option to "Quick Download" the file. A link you can click which downloads the file immediately, bypassing the file page altogether.
The current system uses American style dates and times which is confusing to most of our visitors from Europe and Australia-based regions and indeed many other countries which have the day first rather than the month. Instead we'll be using short dates (abbreviations). e.g. 6th Jan 2006, or something similar.
The current system uses a number out of 10. We will be using a maximum rating of 5 in the new one (based on stars) and we will be halving all current ratings so that previous ratings aren't lost in the changeover. It will now be clearer how good a file is based on the number of stars it has (hovering your mouse over them will show how many ratings the file has received - So if you see it has 1 star and hover over it to find out it only has 1 rating, you know that this is just 1 person's opinion, whereas if you find it has 1 star but 20 people have rated it, you know that it is probably not a very good mod.
Searching will be far more advanced than before. Unfortunately it's the most complicated thing to code. However we are hoping for the following abilities and features:
- Search by file name, or description (using tickboxes to select which ones, or both)
- Search by author name
- Advanced options will include selecting a specific category or categories
- Sort options: by file name, rating, date added, author name, or # of comments. Ascending or Descending.
- Flood control for guests - if you are not logged in you can only do X searches every X seconds (probably 1 search every 60 seconds)
Author name with a link to their profile page. # of stars (rating). Date added. # of downloads. # of comments. (# of screenshots/files - not sure about this one)
Integration with The GTA Place Forums
As you've probably realised from some of the things I've mentioned above. We are trying to get the system implemented to the forums, i.e. to use the member database etc. Some of the features members can do are the following:
- Leave comments on mods, just like as if you were posting on the forums. (comments will not increase your post count)
- Upload your own mods
- Edit your own mods (screenshots, file, description etc.) - this will come at a later date
Each mod author will have their own author page (and before you ask, mods with multiple authors will be able to have each author linked individually). This page will be based on their member ID on the forums, so for example, /downloads/author.php?id=2 would be the page for me (Chris) as that is my member ID on these forums. Mod authors who aren't members on the forum will also have a page but linked differently, you won't need to know about this.
Each author's page will have the following:
- # of mods by this author (link to page of them)
- total # of downloads this authors mods have had
- Average file rating
- Some forum profile data (along with link to forum profile)
- Link to website (if available)
Viewing a mod will be largely the same as in the old system, with a few more details, and a slightly modified layout making it all easier to read.
New features and/or improvements are:
- # of file views.
- Rate file directly on the page (rather than having to click through to a new one - this should mean more people decide to vote, thus giving a better indication of how good the mod is.
- Multiple screenshots. Thumbnails will be shown of each one, linking to the full version.
- Remove email to friend feature
- Add 'Report this Mod' button (allows you to notify admins if it: contains a virus, file is corrupt, file doesn't exist etc.)
- Main stuff
- Show categories
- Show files
- Show rating as stars
- View all files
- View statistics
- Quick download
- View a file
- View author profile
- View authors files
- View authors contributions
- Majorly Improved Search Engine (yay finally!)
- Rate a file (no AJAX yet)
- Comment system (this will be added at a later date)
- Show thumbnails of screenshots
- Report file
- Sort list of files by name/downloads/author/rating/date
- Thumbnail view option when browsing files
- User CP
- View my files
- Upload a file
- Upload screenshots
- Add a file
- Edit my files
- Admin CP
- Add/Edit/delete category
- Add/Edit/delete file
- Add/Edit author
- Upload file
- Upload screenshots
- Change settings
- Approve/Unapprove mods
- View/Update Reported Mods
- Tutorials with Screenshots
- Install a GTA3 mod (manual)
- Install a GTAVC mod (manual)
- Install a GTASA mod (manual)
- Install a GTAVC mod using VCMM
- Install a GTASA mod using SAMI
- Install a GTA3 or GTAVC mod using GMI
- Install a GTA3 or GTAVC or GTASA mod using GGMM