Dimention's New Purpose
I appologize about the lack of updates put to this website, and wish to remedy that right now.
This was originally going to be a rewrite of a blog site I made for my PHP class final, using a more flexible design that would allow me to do what I really wanted to do. The trouble is? I couldn't possibly care LESS about making ANOTHER blog engine - and I really got bored with the idea. It was a great, quick, and easy project for my class, and it turned out to be really nice (for what it was, and for a first attempt at what it was) overall. However, that's not what I want to make for putting up on a resume.
So, I am now in the process of writing an entirely DIFFERENT website. That's right - different database, different PHP engine/framework, different everything. All of it will be written from scratch (with parts of it coming from this failure of a rewrite for the blog site), and it will serve a purpose I DO care about:
That's right. Roleplaying.
"But aren't there already plenty of websites/services created for roleplaying?" Yes. Many. However, they are either not easily accessible (MUCKs, for example), not designed FOR roleplaying (online forums, for example), or both (IRC, Instant messaging, and various websites' "private messaging" systems, for example). Roleplaying is a complicated task to perform online, not just because you need the imagination and writing skills, but also because there are lots of different aspects of it.
Aspects of Roleplaying
To get an understanding of what it takes to create a roleplay, you have to think of what people USE in roleplaying. There are many different aspects of roleplaying, from the style people type, to how they organize their own worlds. Dimentions strives to organize roleplaying in a way that is both free-form and controlled, and while that may sound like an oxymoron, it really isn't. All roleplays have certain aspects in common, and there are always certain aspects that some roleplays don't - but could - have. For example, all roleplays have characters that interract - on the other hand, while all roleplays have a setting, not everyone creates an entire Universe for their roleplay.
For starters, they have to have characters to roleplay as. That may seem pretty... Well, basic, but there really are no systems out there that help with this basic aspect of roleplaying. Even with MUCKs/MUDs/MU*s, you don't have more than one character at a time - and if you do, it's either through some system specific to that MU*, or it's using some cheat/hack in the gameplay (sometimes called puppets), or having multiple accounts. And then, it's always a hassle to switch between characters, you can't combine character posts (it's hard to say "Both Stacy and Caroline ate the pie," as that post will be from either Stacy or Caroline - not really both). On top of that, especially on roleplay forums and the like, it's difficult to easily 'link' to a character - people often make their own web pages dedicated to all their characters, and link to that... But that's really sort of a 'hack' than anything, and doesn't adequately relate the character to the roleplay.
It can often be annoying to have to describe your character every single time you roleplay, give their background info, and completely re-introduce their character. That's why many people make those separate web pages to begin with - they want to just point you to the character and say "That guy." So, the first thing an online roleplaying system would be, is a character management system.
Often, roleplays will exist within an encompassing Universe, and the creator of a roleplay may actually make several roleplays within the same Universe. When you're creating many related but non-identical roleplays, you don't always want to re-describe the world they take place in - and like characters, many people will create web pages describing their own world in which their roleplays exist. The trouble, is that an entire webpage would be taken up for just ONE Universe... Yet the same author may have two, three, or many more. On top of that, some Universes are MASSIVE - especially in the realm of science fiction, where they may have multiple planets, multiple galaxies, and so forth... Making one Universe require more than a single page. So, optimally, a roleplayer would want to at least have the option of describing their Universe within an organized set of pages, all linked together.
This, is new. Many forum systems have full-text search, but such mechanisms are VERY slow and inneficient - or they don't yeild fully relative results. MU*s have no search feature whatsoever, as roleplays happen with whoever you find. IRC you have to search by channel, which again is not always sufficient - and overall, no roleplaying site or service in existance has a proper search feature.
So what websites, in general, DO have proper search functions, to find relavent items for your interests? The answer I found rather interesting, and helpful: Image boards. I don't mean chan-styled boards such as 4chan, 7chan, or others (don't go to those - seriously, they may be popular, but I don't want to be responsible for brain damage), but rather search-oriented image boards like Danbooru and Gelbooru (also, don't go there either - there's some stuff that's just fine, but other stuff that's not so much). They use a system called 'tags'. Tags are essentially small words or phrases that describe a small aspect of a post - blogs use this too, but not so much for searching as image boards do.
The trouble with the way these sites implement tags, though, is that it's horribly limited. It will only show results that match ALL the tags, and it'll order those results by how recently they were uploaded. Also, and I'm not sure if this is a design flaw, or something specific to some of the sites I go to in particular, they only allow up to a certain number of tags to be searched at once - often the limit being 4.
So, I've already designed a tag system for my website, and a search query, that will take any number of tags - and list all posts that have ANY of them. However, it sorts them by the number of matched tags - so if you look for "fantasy, magic, elves", the top results will have all three - results below that will have two of the three, and below that will only have one of the three.
Why implement something like this? Why not allow full text searching? Well, to answer the first, it's because roleplays are a lot like images when people are searching... They want to find a roleplay they will enjoy and want to join/read. They don't want to have to sort through too many results, they don't want their results list limited to only 100% matched results (but they DO want those 100% matched results on top), and they don't want to have to click on and read through every roleplay in the list - they want to have a list of things in the roleplay, right there on the search page - this would be achieved by simply printing out the tags per roleplay, somewhere.
The only issue with this, is that it depends on how well the roleplayers tag their items. Generally, this means that skilled roleplayers who are more careful and want their roleplay to appear to any potential joiners will tag properly, and less experienced roleplayers may complain about their roleplay not showing up in results, or that they can never get anyone to join their roleplays. While this may cause some anger, I hope this simply helps make people learn how to tag properly.
Roleplays will also have an option to not show up in results - it may seem counter-intuitive to tag roleplays like this as well, but there are genuine advantages - for example, if someone asks someone else to join their private (not in the search results) roleplay, that person can look at the tags, and decide if it'd be for them or not.
Roleplays are not the only things that are tagged, and searchable with this system - characters, Universes, and so forth are also tagged. Individual roleplay posts are NOT tagged - however, each post does have a list of characters included in the post, so that you can easily search a roleplay for all posts including a character. You can also distinguish between OOC (Out Of Character) and IC (In Character) posts, and decide to hide either set for easier reading of either the roleplay discussion, or the roleplay itself.
Wow, I wrote a lot about that search feature... Didn't mean to, honest. Guess I was just so excited I actually did write the query for it... Anyway, the next aspect of roleplaying isn't so obvious. It is a way to define content ratings. I don't mean like... "I rate this A+ material!" or, "Four out of seven distance gaseous fireballs!", I mean things like, "PG-13", "R", "XXX", etc. Now, what ratings and their minimal ages I use are not set, but I've designed it so that I can add/subtract/modify existing ratings on the fly - so if I originally make PG-13 only for 15 year olds and up, but people complain it should be 13 and up, I can do that.
The reason for including a system like this, is that people can and will roleplay things that others do NOT want to see or know about. You know what I'm talking about (and if you don't, don't look into it). On one end, you have the general themes like extreme violence/descriptions of blood and gore that you don't want your 8 year old kid reading and roleplaying, but on the other end there is some freaky stuff people roleplay that some adults don't even want to hear about.
I want this website to cater to EVERYONE. Everyone should be able to have a safe, family friendly experience on the site, but I don't want to limit what people are allowed to do - that only makes people who want to break such rules want to break them MORE.
So instead, I've made it so that people under certain ages CANNOT POSSIBLY view certain content, as long as the roleplays/characters/Universes are rated appropriately for their content. On top of that, anyone can change their preferences on what ratings they see/don't see, but only with the ratings they are allowed to see. For example, a 14 year old may see G and PG-13, but will have no option to enable veiwing of R rated material or above. However, a 30 year old will be able to enable or disable any combination of ratings.
Users as Moderators
Wait, what? Yeah, you heard right. The users - ordinary, every-day users - need to be the moderators. Now, this doesn't sound like a good idea when you only read that little bit... Moderators and admins on traditional forum systems, MU*s, and any other service or website, have a LOT of power - and that power, in turn, has a lot of potential for abuse.
However, I don't mean global moderation. One user can't simply delete all of another user's roleplays, for example... However, the creator of one roleplay CAN delete all of another member's posts, if those posts belong in that roleplay.
This allows for a level of self-moderation, and any abuse that occurs will simply make people not like the abuser - with their own roleplays unaffected. Eventually the abusers will get sad and lonely, and hopefully change their ways.
The reason why this is necessary for a good roleplaying website, is that roleplayers do need control over what they create. It's annoying for spammers to just go into a roleplay, and spam about some other roleplay, or "LOL I KILL ALL YOUR CHARACTERS IN A NUCLEAR BOMB ATTACK!", or whatever. The creator of the roleplay should be able to just BAN that person (from that roleplay) on the spot, and delete those posts. Doesn't mean that they can do anything to posts on OTHER people's roleplays, but they can at least control their own.
This extends further than simple roleplays. The concept is also used for characters - sometimes, someone may want to 'lend' a character to another user... So that they can use them in their own posts. Also, this lending may be global, or not - so it may be that they can only use that character within a specific roleplay, or in any roleplay... And of course, the lending can be temporary, and most certainly can be revoked in case of abuse.
Now, IRC already has this sort of thing in place - if you create a room, you are automatically a moderator (unless someone reserved the room beforehand, using some sort of service the IRC network provides). MU*s kinda have this, in that people have control over any items/rooms they themselves create. Forums, however, do NOT have this at all. You can make a user a moderator, but then it's global. You can also make a user a moderator over one particular section, but it's still global over anyone who posts anything in that section.