Looking for player feedback on the new site style design

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The designs that Sherif made for the site redesign (and some designs for the game itself) are now available at https://github.com/Eternagame/design.

We would like to hear feedback from everyone on the designs, which will be the baseline of the site rewrite which I will begin writing soon (which will be open-source as well, meaning that everyone will be able to contribute to the code!).

You can download the files via clicking the green "Clone or Download" button on the right, and then clicking "Download ZIP".

You can either open the files in Adobe Xd, view the images, or open the example page (style guide/index.html) in the browser, which shows how all of the buttons and interactive elements will function.

Feel free to change anything and add designs for pages that aren't covered yet, or raise any opinions over how things should look and interact.
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MasterStormer, Player Developer

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Posted 3 months ago

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LFP6, Player Developer

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For some additional context on the goals of Refresh from Sharif (in response to some of my own confusion)
The goals of the refresh were more about responsive design and implementing features from past reviews that are feasible in the near term, not necessarily a complete redesign of user workflows. I tried to provide a flexible framework that allows those features to be implemented with some customization
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MasterStormer, Player Developer

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LFP6, Player Developer

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Some rough notes I took from the Eternacon presentation
  • LRroppy: Multiple chat channels
  • General consensus: Ditching the sidebar is good
  • Lroppy: Separating filters e.g. for content owner is important (vs "magic search") [This is not currently reflected in global search/puzzle search/etc]
  • Lroppy: Resources tab for player page is good
  • Lroppy: Challenge puzzles should probably be tagged [LFP6: or alternatively, a collection, or multiple - e.g., real RNA, early features, etc]
  • Brourd: List folding engine on puzzle page [LFP6: Plus filter!]
  • Brourd: Concerned that challenge page is going to wind up being a mess of a ton of challenges with a bunch of overlap plus challenges with three puzzles in them called "my test challenge", etc. etc. [LFP6: Good sort/filters, featured by staff, a rating/voting system, "for me", etc could help]
  • Lroppy: Make sure players have a chance to test and give feedback
  • Guzz: The consistent visual styling of the badges is very good and reflects very well on the site. If players can upload their own, this could very easily be lost/look bad/etc [LFP6: maybe we need base templates? Though that only does so much]
  • Prestonzen: Tier system for challenges like Khan Academy?
  • Gerry: Knows people who would potentially want to contribute $$, but wants a specific wishlist, ie "if we had $x, we could do y". People would be more willing to contribute if they know where they money is[/could be?] going as opposed to just "donate to Eterna"

Plus some additional thoughts of my own:
  • Homepage still doesn't quite hit the "Netflix" idea we [on the development team] had discussed. As you scroll down the page, it should show you different categories (with a way to browse all categories quickly), and generally make it easy for a player to go "I just want to play... let me open it up and just find a puzzle". Maybe this just requires fleshing out what the categories are? Being able to see puzzles and challenges you recently worked on as well as having the equivalent of a "watch list" might be the main things that this needs.
  • Homepage needs to accommodate tutorials (we could look at design options for both "10 tools" and potential tiered/nonlinear tutorials - Omei suggested that maybe when a user first joins it shouldn't even be this page)
  • What was the deal with the feed "updates" thing? I think I said that should go on the player profile?
  • Resources tab on player profile needs to be flushed out
  • Achievements profile page should be fleshed out and has a lot of potential. E.g., grouping similar types of badges, collapsing multiple levels, finding unfulfilled badges/levels
  • Puzzle search should have more specific filters, e.g. creator name, puzzle title, numeric input for # of states
  • When creating a challenge, maybe it should be possible to create it via filters (i.e., what's available on the puzzle list) - e.g., Vienna2 3 state switches by Brourd tagged with #sometag
  • Lab view doesn't handle something like openCRISPR where there are multiple named groups of puzzles during one round
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Brourd

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The netflix feel comes from having multiple 'genres'  and an algorithm that can make smart recommendations based on what the user has viewed recently. In the case of Eterna, you can have genres like "Popular on Eterna" which shows the 10 most recently played puzzles, "Single State Vienna", "Switch Puzzles", "Unsolved Puzzles" etc. And then those puzzles are chosen based on how many people have tried them and relevance to the player.
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DigitalEmbrace

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I would definitely use a reel or watchlist of My Recently Played Puzzles (Continue Playing). Instead of having to bookmark old labs like I do now. And then maybe a reel of non-lab puzzle categories below that.
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DigitalEmbrace

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I love it. Even better than I had hoped.
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Brourd

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So challenges appear to be the primary change or new feature that is being included with this update, and will be the focus of this comment.

The reason I hold reservations about challenges has many layers.

First, I would like to point out that there is a desire on the part of the player population to design puzzle playlists. Playlists being a list of puzzles that has a name and some specific goal (usually) from the viewpoint of the creator. This can be used for tutorials, puzzle series, etc. 

1. Playlists are not Challenges


The use of the term "challenges" suggests that these are meant to challenge the player. It's an obstacle or goal for the player to get over. You can look at it as "Oh, this is difficult, and requires more effort or skill on the part of the player to complete the task." If Eterna deployed several puzzles with scientific relevance where it was unknown if it was even possible to solve them in silico, that would be better described as a challenge. One could postulate that's what the original 'challenge' puzzles used to be.

"But Brourd, player skill level varies. You can't do this to new players."

One of the things I find most compelling about this new format is that it provides the ability to do something like:

Hey, you're rank 50. The players who are within 10 ranks above and 10 ranks below your rank solve puzzles with X number of solvers on average. Here are the recommended puzzles based on your skill level.

Challenges doesn't need to be based around a list of player created puzzle lists. Challenges should be a recommendation of puzzles around the theoretical height of your skill level. And then there will be the "Challenges" that exist to push the boundaries of in silico design and research in Eterna. In essence, Challenges should exist as a dynamic puzzle playlist based on that player's current skill level.

2. The Badge Enigma


I don't think it is bad to tie achievements to completing the playlists. It's unnecessary in some ways, but it makes sense that if you want players to complete playlists, there should be some reward at the end. However, this leads to problems like badge inflation and the use of optional achievements to pad out things to do. This also does not do much for the more prolific members of the community either, considering that most of them probably already solved all the puzzles in your typical playlists. Puzzle playlists should be there for players to play and have a collated experience for experiencing Eterna. It's unnecessary to have a reward for experiencing Eterna (so-called mandatory achievements), given we already have so many of those already.

3. The Creation Conundrum


Puzzle playlists should only be created from puzzles the player published, and there should probably be a minimum and maximum cutoff for playlist size, and each puzzle should probably have a maximum number of uses in a playlist. Sure, maybe I want to include a puzzle made by another player in a playlist I'm generating, but is it necessary?

If I'm making a playlist, and I call it "Here are some fun puzzles" is that even a useful way to describe puzzles? What happens with attribution? Are players just allowed to randomly select puzzles (that they may have not even solved) and publish that in a playlist on the site? Eterna has a library of over 20,000 puzzles, and in some ways it makes sense to collate the puzzles into digestible chunks. However, based on the current proposal, there would be no way to regulate the digestible chunks.

As a reply to LFP6's notes, I also would not understand the idea of making a "for me" list of puzzles. Like, what would that accomplish that something like a "20 Most recently played puzzles" category wouldn't feature. A list of puzzles that I want to remember? Are playlists something you can edit after the fact?

These are just some thoughts about the proposed "challenges".
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LFP6, Player Developer

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Thanks for the detailed thoughts!
So challenges appear to be the primary change or new feature that is being included with this update, and will be the focus of this comment.
Before we get too far into this, I want to clarify that it is entirely possible that this might not even be in scope for the website rewrite, at least initially. The reason being is that it would require backend changes, which may be more complex than we want to go after right now. TBD.

The use of the term "challenges" suggests that these are meant to challenge the player. It's an obstacle or goal for the player to get over. You can look at it as "Oh, this is difficult, and requires more effort or skill on the part of the player to complete the task." If Eterna deployed several puzzles with scientific relevance where it was unknown if it was even possible to solve them in silico, that would be better described as a challenge. One could postulate that's what the original 'challenge' puzzles used to be.
Yes and no. You could argue that something like a set of tutorials isn't necessarily "challenging". However I think you're missing the point. The term challenge in this case is being used to describe some concrete task that players can set for themselves as a goal (solving all the puzzles in the set) that has some reward for completion at the end (badge, 100% progress bar, personal satisfaction, etc. Completing the "Fun with Brourd" series definitely seems like a fun way to challenge yourself. Similarly, finishing a tutorial series, while more focused on learning than difficulty, may still take some amount of time, is a concrete goal, and could be rewardable. Now whether it's a good thing to frame all sets of puzzles as challenges? That's more of an open question, but I think that a set of puzzles put together with any purpose is most definitely a challenge.

Per your specific points: "The use of the term "challenges" suggests that these are meant to challenge the player. It's an obstacle or goal for the player to get over" Yes. Even if you might not find it difficult, completing a set of puzzles is a valid goal, regardless of the intent of the set. That said I'm not sure that I'm completely understanding your argument. If that's the case, please reword your argument something like "Challenges are XXXX, whereas playlists are not because they YYYY" or whatever so I can get it through my thick skull. :P

Challenges doesn't need to be based around a list of player created puzzle lists. Challenges should be a recommendation of puzzles around the theoretical height of your skill level. And then there will be the "Challenges" that exist to push the boundaries of in silico design and research in Eterna. In essence, Challenges should exist as a dynamic puzzle playlist based on that player's current skill level.
This is a fundamentally different feature, and has very little to do with the mechanism proposed. I think it's interesting, but is completely unrelated (not an alternative to the proposed mechanism - just using the same term because you argue it would fit better).

However, this leads to problems like badge inflation and the use of optional achievements to pad out things to do.
MasterStormer has convinced me that badge inflation is not really as big of an issue as I thought. A lot of games have very high numbers of badges and are able to pull it off quite well. The issue is moreso that they need to be better presented.
This also does not do much for the more prolific members of the community either, considering that most of them probably already solved all the puzzles in your typical playlists.
I don't really see this as a detractor so much as a natural result of longtime players having already done a lot. This is no different than if we overhauled our badges and experienced players got a bunch of badges from the outset. Makes sense to me.
It's unnecessary to have a reward for experiencing Eterna (so-called mandatory achievements), given we already have so many of those already.
The benefit of having achievements tied to sets is a) recognition of completing a specific set of puzzles (e.g., finishing Fun with Brourd seems like something worthy of recognition!) and b) another set of "collectables" (that is, a "gotta catch em all" mechanic that's stronger than just for individual puzzles)

I will add on though that there's a couple additional issues with tying playlists to achievements:
1) Achievements that are essentially impossible
2) Adding additional puzzles to the list winds up being really weird. You could make an argument that it should either be disabled or highly pressured against, which I don't think is a good thing if you're just trying to collect things or it's an expanding series. You have to lose the badge, but that'd suck and probably wind up being really annoying. You could just keep the badge, but that seems disingenuous.
These alone make me feel like tying them with achievements is a bad idea, or else we'd need to be really careful with how we present them so that achievements coming and going wouldn't feel weird.

Puzzle playlists should only be created from puzzles the player published, and there should probably be a minimum and maximum cutoff for playlist size, and each puzzle should probably have a maximum number of uses in a playlist. Sure, maybe I want to include a puzzle made by another player in a playlist I'm generating, but is it necessary?
I completely disagree. If you don't feel like creating a Fun with Brourd playlist, I should be able to do it myself. What if I want to collect tutorials on a specific subject, or puzzles with a specific theme or characteristic? Maybe housing all the Eterna100 redesign puzzles (or the Eterna100 itself)? These should definitely be supported, and almost certainly won't be tied to one specific author.
If I'm making a playlist, and I call it "Here are some fun puzzles" is that even a useful way to describe puzzles? What happens with attribution? Are players just allowed to randomly select puzzles (that they may have not even solved) and publish that in a playlist on the site? Eterna has a library of over 20,000 puzzles, and in some ways it makes sense to collate the puzzles into digestible chunks. However, based on the current proposal, there would be no way to regulate the digestible chunks.
Per my comments, I don't think regulation is necessary. The intent of playlists isn't to have a structured organization of puzzles with well-defined high level categories so that you know where everything is. Sure, that'd be cool! But that'd also be unmanageable - who would be trusted to make the sets, and have the time to maintain it (never mind organize all the thousands of puzzles that already exist)? I doubt we could even come up with all-inclusive categories that are anywhere near sufficient. This tool was never intended to do that.

Instead, the point is for players to be able to create groups of puzzles that they find meaningful for themselves. It might be a puzzle series, or based around a theme, or a specific type of tutorials, just something fun, or potentially even a personal list of puzzles they want to look at later (I'd probably want to have "private" collections to better support that use case). Allowing players to make a set on whatever is interesting to them is somewhat the entire point. As I mentioned before, to maintain the "discoverability" of interesting sets (e.g., preventing the front page from being flooded with arguably "useless" sets like "my test set" with two puzzles in it, etc) is a matter of having proper filters and sorting, including "featured", "recommended", "highest rated", etc etc etc. If you think it's possible to create a coallated/regulated experience, then I see no reason that we can't ALSO support that by some sort of filtering. But I see no reason why it should preclude this usage (and certainly if that's not viable, I don't see that as an argument against implementing the system just because it doesn't fill that use case - this is still very much a viable use case).

As a reply to LFP6's notes, I also would not understand the idea of making a "for me" list of puzzles. Like, what would that accomplish that something like a "20 Most recently played puzzles" category wouldn't feature
This is a "recommended for you" feature like you'd see on Netflix. As you mentioned before - "an algorithm that can make smart recommendations based on what the user has viewed recently". The idea is that we'd have some sort of algorithm that would be able to take into account your skill level, types of puzzles you've played, etc. and recommend ones that would be good to try next. The entire point is so that you can load up Eterna and just pick a puzzle to start playing without having to think about it, and have it be one that you're more likely to enjoy (allowing it to be skippable so that you can hone your suggestions and such of course - maybe re-suggesting it after some arbitrary time gap has passed or you've solved a bunch of other puzzles).
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Brourd

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We'll start from the bottom 

This is a "recommended for you" feature like you'd see on Netflix.

Got it. So again more use of having the site make smart recommendations. I thought that comment pertained to playlists that the player was making for their own self. As in I make a playlist 'for me' and that's hidden from the rest of the site, so it won't result in increasing the number of playlists, etc. That didn't make any sense. The idea of private collections is fine, but I think it bleeds into what was said right before this. That inherently, a playlist is potentially dynamic, which leads to issues with achievements, with regulation, and with padding things for players to do. My criticisms or suggestions seen above refer to the use of all playlists as 'challenges'. That is, if you want to put them forward on the site as something that a player should do for an achievement or reward of any kind, then it should be something that is more heavily regulated. For example, if I make a private collection with a badge, then the only person who will have that badge is myself. If I make a public playlist with a bunch of puzzles I have not solved, then I am essentially throwing together a playlist that I have never played. If I want to make a 'Fun with Brourd' playlist, and then another player makes a 'Fun with Brourd' playlist but includes the unauthorized sequels, and then another player makes a playlist that includes 'Fun with Brourd' with company, then you're just padding the site with achievements and tasks that are either redundant, or at worst induce badge fatigue.
MasterStormer has convinced me that badge inflation is not really as big of an issue as I thought. A lot of games have very high numbers of badges and are able to pull it off quite well. The issue is moreso that they need to be better presented.
Very rarely do you see games where achievements are generated by players. Eterna could have 1000 meaningful or meaningless achievements, but generally these would be made by the development team. They may be inspired by player actions, or be generated to respond to what players are currently doing, but players don't usually make the achievements themselves. Again, I don't think this is a bad idea. If your community has the ability to make achievements for players, then the community would know best. I just worry about something like:

"Solve all puzzles made in 2011" challenge and badge.

Somebody may not be able to do this. Maybe they can't solve 10 puzzles. In response they make the:

"Solve most of the puzzles made in 2011" challenge and badge.

All they did was copy and paste the other badge png and now they have it. This is the most extreme case, but it's the same thing we see with puzzles. I can't solve Teslagon, so I decompose the structure and publish 9 bits of it. Still can't solve it, but now I have 900/1000 points for "almost" solving Teslagon. It's an inflation of what points are in a system where everything is worth the same thing.

Will this ever happen? I doubt it, but I bring it up given the constraints of the system could allow for something like this. Whatever is made right now needs to be robust enough that it is not phased out at some future point in time given we want to move in a different direction, and is something that should be a defined part of Eterna going forward. Making all playlists as all challenges is not the correct path for us to do that.

To use Pokemon as an example, the 'gotta catch em all' mechanic is designed in such a way that while it is encouraged in every Pokemon game, it is not required. Pokemon is an RPG with multiple layers of gameplay and mechanics, with the addition of the catching and training mechanism providing some kind of completion criteria for the endgame. While this may seem impossible, the games are usually designed to have a regional dex and a national dex in order to make that goal seem feasible. The regional dex consists of all the pokemon in that region, and can be completed through that standalone generation, while the national dex consists of all the pokemon in the series so far, and can be completed using all the games that interconnect with each other. If Pokemon required the player to catch 10 of each pokemon to complete a pokedex entry, the mechanic would be burdensome for the player. Furthermore, if Game Freak and the Pokemon Company continuously added Pokemon to the game as dlc, then there would be no completion mechanic.

Eterna does not have multi-layered mechanics. You solve a puzzle, and that's it. I've mentioned in multiple locations that there is a lot that we can do to streamline and diversify puzzle content. Furthermore, until players have better computational tools, you're not going to see players complete anything. There is a lot about the gameplay experience that needs to be refined, that refining the presentation is not going to fix.

tldr: I don't have an issue with players making playlists. I think it's really cool and definitely has potential for changing the way players approach Eterna and solving puzzles. I have an issue with the current proposal of making all playlists as challenges, and all challenges as playlists, and the inherent deficiencies in making that the new "thing" for the site. I would prefer if we had a collated system where certain playlists were vetted by the community or developers before they are launched on the homepage as challenges. Padding the game with lists of puzzles that correspond to menial activities does not make for a good game. Refining the way players interact and play the game is a better approach. I also have a sneaking suspicion that there is only so much you can draw out of the idea of allowing players to make playlists before it becomes a redundant system.
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LFP6, Player Developer

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I'm inclined to agree - though if we move away from "all playlists are challenges", I'd instead just drop the term challenge and instead just leave it as "achievement for completing XYZ playlist". Raises the question on what we should call them though - playlists? [Puzzle] sets? [Puzzle] collections? Something else?
(Edited)
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Brourd

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I think the idea of redefining the homepage to have multiple categories of interaction would be a good thing. I think having "Recently Played", "Puzzle Playlists" (or whatever they're called), "Challenges" etc. are all valid categories of puzzles that should be on the homepage to scroll through. The feel of Netflix, more than just smart recommendations, is having the ability to have genres on the homepage that a player can choose from.

Also I don't have any thoughts on what to call them. Scientific terms that come to mind are aggregates, assemblies, concentrates. For games, stuff like collections, playlists, catalogs, directories, classes, etc.