Author - Andrew

Honing Our Focus

Jack of all trades, master of none. It means you’re competent in a variety of subjects, but not an expert in any one subject. I feel like you could apply this to Tournamatch’s development and list of supported CMSs. I’m a huge fan of including people. Including people just makes them feel great. I enjoy making folks happy which also explains my desire to include people. Over the years, this meant building out support of Tournamatch so that you can use it with any CMS system written in PHP. As of today, the exact same source code in Tournamatch works on WordPress, phpBB, PHP-Nuke, and a couple others I’ve neglected to publicize. Like a library you include in your source code with a package manager, except at a larger scale and Tournamatch integrates well enough in each system to appear native.

My ambition to support every customer’s needs has had consequences. In none of those systems does Tournamatch integrate the way the system was designed to use plugins. This has been a challenging hill to climb, especially in WordPress. Too often my time is spent overcoming these challenges instead of building or growing the software. In WordPress for example, the biggest issues standing in front of us right now plugin compatibility, distribution, and localization. Neither of those issues exist if Tournamatch were a native WordPress plugin instead of bridge to another PHP-powered CMS.

I’ve evaluated solutions to these glaring issues for well over a year. The best solution I keep coming back to is to build a native plugin. I’ve been reluctant to pull the trigger on this because it means dropping support for our other systems. This is a tough decision, but it’s important for the health of this project to focus on just one system in the near term future. All development resources moving forward are focused on making a truly native Tournamatch solution for WordPress. I’ll provide more details soon. In the meantime, know that if you are on WordPress, you shouldn’t be impacted. Your experience moving forward should only improve. If you are using one of the other systems, consider switching to WordPress. The copy that you have will continue to work on non-WordPress websites, but we will no longer offer technical support or updates for those other systems.

Thank you always for the support, and we apologize to the folks that will be excluded by this decision. We’re excited about the future and hope you’ll make the switch to grow with us. Cheers!

Reviewing 2018

At the beginning of 2018, our goal was to push out one update per month. We just missed that mark with only ten updates. Several changes required more time to build and test; so, the additional time was warranted. Of course, we could have released something just to hit my goal. We instead favored meaningful updates so to not waste your time patching over nothing.

What wasn’t always obvious is that we took on a major refactoring project in each new feature or change with a specific mission in mind. Those efforts will begin to come together in 2019. We already have a post detailing our goals for 2019 written and it should be released next week. Before that, I’d like to look back and recap our major improvements in 2018.

  • Ten new software updates.
  • Added support for manually seeding a tournament and seeding a tournament from a ladder.
  • Added support for limiting bracket size.
  • Added several bracket management features including replacing competitors, advancing competitors, clearing disputes, and confirming results.
  • We completely overhauled the email system with 18 new messages and notifications, beautifully formatted emails, and support for using SMTP and WordPress email system.
  • Added support for a new blind challenge mode.
  • Improved the cleanliness and layout of ladder standings, ladder and tournament lists, and tournament brackets.
  • Added new filters for Games, Ladders, and Tournaments.
  • Added new tools for “resetting” data post install testing and checking email settings.
  • Added support for users to upload their own avatar and administrators to upload game images.
  • Added new configuration options like disabling draws throughout the site and setting attachment file types.
  • Significantly improved automated test coverage.

Thank you all for the support and contributions through your feature requests, bug reports, and suggestions.

Version 2.20 Released

It took a bit of extra time, but version 2.20 is finally here. Development for this update actually started back in August. We’ve been looking forward to this release for quite a while because it focuses on an area that needed the most attention: tournament brackets.

Matches from tournaments now appear on the match list page and you can see match details just like you could with ladder matches. A link to get to the match details is available via the three little ellipses on the brackets page. In addition to the “View Match Details” link, users who are participating in the tournament will have appropriate “confirm” and “report” options.

Confirm Result

Administrators who are logged in will have various options depending on the state of the given match. If a match has a pending dispute or result, you can “clear” that result so that a user may correctly report a match. You can also advance a user to the next round and confirm reported matches for the users from this drop down. Finally, an admin may replace any player or team with another competitor also participating in a tournament. Note that this behavior is not recursive meaning it only affects that one match. You will need to replace that competitor any where applicable.

Result Pending

Along with new features to tournament brackets, we adopted the tabbed style sub navigation on tournament and ladder pages. General tournament info is displayed at the top of each page and the specific (rules, standings, registered, brackets, etc) is displayed below.

This release also added support for filtering the game list and ladder list pages by Platform. Just specify the platform in the URL to filter accordingly.

Please use the same download link to retrieve the latest version and open a ticket or email if you run into any issues.

Version 2.19 Released

We released the an update today (version 2.19). This is a relatively minor release with a handful of bug fixes and a couple new features. From Tournamatch Admin, there is a new “Tools” page that allows you to Purge Data and also to Send Test Emails. Purge data is useful for when you are organizing and tweaking the software initially. Once happy with how everything is setup, you may use the Purge Data tool to clear match, challenge, ladder, tournament, teams and individuals’ win-loss records. This will not remove configured games, maps, or delete settings. You must be a super admin to perform this action.

You may use Send Test Emails to verify SMTP or PHP mail() settings are correct.

You should use the original download link to retrieve the latest version or send an email to support@tournamatch.com for a new one.

Individual Team Record

There is no “I” in team. You’ve probably heard that cliché so many times you’re preparing to strike that back button if this turns into another retina-detaching eye-rolling message. This is not one of those messages. No, there is no “I” in team, but there is an “I” in Individuals Team Record. The version 2.18 release added a new feature that permits you to track the career and team records separately for individuals.

Before this update, an individual’s record was solely determined by his or her player’s performance. When enabled, you may record the individuals who participated in a team match. The player’s overall record is displayed separate his single’s ladder record on his profile:

Player profile showing singles and overall win-loss record.

Player profile showing singles and overall win-loss record.

Over on the team profile page, you can also view the records of members on the roster. Note that this will display the player’s record relevant to that team’s competition only:

Team roster displaying individual's team record.

Team roster displaying individual’s team record.

This setting is useful for communities where you permit a team to have “extras” on their roster and encourage competitors to reuse existing teams. You can enable or disable this feature in the Ladder Settings section in Tournamatch Admin > General Settings:

team_individual_records_03

The setting is disabled by default.

Version 2.18 Released

This release blog is a two-for-one, as I failed to write one for the previous update. We added a couple new features in the last two updates. In the most recent version (version 2.18), there are 18 new email notifications for various admin and user actions. See below for a concise list:

New email notifications in Tournamatch 2.18.

New email notifications in Tournamatch 2.18.

In addition, the email system received an overall makeover. Tournamatch no longer uses plain text emails but HTML-standard compliant messages that look quite nice on gmail and other popular email clients. Most email messages also include a link with button for the main desired outcome, such as approving a petition, confirming a match, etc. Several minor bugs introduced in version 2.17 were also released as well as another which affected the loser’s bracket when check-ins were used.

Earlier this month, we released a version 2.17 update which mainly focused on the individual team members records. Tournament results now affect a team/individual’s career records. If enabled, you can also choose to record the individual players that competed on team matches. This is useful if you have one team with more members than what is actually required for a match. More details in another post to come.

You can find a detailed list of changes in the release notes. Please use your existing download link to grab the latest. Thanks!

Blind Challenge Mode

In version 2.16, we added support for a new kind of challenge labeled “Blind” challenge. In a regular challenge, one competitor on a ladder chooses another competitor on a ladder, a time for the match, and then clicks send. In a Blind challenge, the challenger doesn’t directly choose anyone specifically to challenge. He or she just chooses a time to play a match and creates the challenge. The challenge list and challenge details will hide the challenger from users until the match has been accepted.

Hidden challenge information

Competitor data for blind challenges remain hidden until accepted.

You enable this feature when you create the ladder by selecting “Enable” from the “Blind Challenge” drop down. You may also edit an existing ladder to enable this feature.

Ladder Challenge Settings

Enable or Disable blind and direct challenges from the ladder admin page.

Once the challenge has been accepted, the challenger’s identity is revealed and an email notification is sent out. A future update may likely toggle the hidden nature of the challenge, but there is currently no timetable for this. Hit me up @Tournamatch or the comments section below and let me know your thoughts! We’re interested to know how we can further tweak this feature.

Version 2.16 Released

We released version 2.16 yesterday. This was scheduled to go out in May, but we were a few days late. Hopefully we can get back on our timeline and still get a June update out before the end of the month. This release primarily focused on some client facing UI improvements as well as adding support for a new challenge type.

We’ve gone back and forth over the years with how challenges work. Very early adopters may remember back when challenges involved numerous steps between challenger and challengee. It then was simplified to only include a simple notification when one player or team wanted to play a match against another. In this update, we incorporated a time drop down to choose from and added a “blind” challenge feature.

We also continued the touch-ups of client-facing UI pages in this release. While the last update targeted tabular list pages, this one targeted the non-tabular list pages for games, ladders, and tournaments. Those pages use the .card style, replaced links with buttons, and shrunk the game/event avatar. You may need to add a style for the .card if you do not currently have one defined. The before and after difference is displayed below. More pages will receive touch ups in future updates.

Ladder list before minor update.

Ladder list before minor update.

Ladder list after minor update.

Ladder list after minor update.

Please use the original download link to retrieve the latest update. As always, send me an email if you no longer have that link and I can send you a new one.

Mobile Admin Management

Version 2.15 Released

Tournamatch version 2.15 was released on April 30th. This was another large release which updated a variety of UI screens, improved user experience, restored some features, added several new features, and resolved some bugs. In this update, we made another pass at every admin page with the primary focus on making each easy to use from a mobile device. We’ll begin to shift our focus to front end-client facing web pages in the next release. New features in version 2.15 include the ability to lock ladders, image upload, and restored the maps section.

Lock ladders gives you the ability to freeze the roster of every team currently participating on a locked ladder. Competitors won’t be able to leave team, drop members, or add new members while participating on a locked ladder. Another update for ladders is that the team size is now strictly enforced. You won’t be able to exceed the lowest team size of any ladder in which you are participating.

We rolled out the first phase of a JSON API for extracting data to display in other parts of your website. Expect this to get additional attention as we work with several eSports managers that asked for this feature. Polishing this feature will be a focus in the next update and we’ll also put together a blog post soon describing how you may use this.

The games and maps management section also now have the ability to upload a thumbnail image right from the admin view. I have been very reluctant to add upload features in past updates because of the risk associated with allowing users to put files onto your own web server. Thankfully though, we’re close to a decade and a half past those days where this was a hard “no”. Expect users to get this feature for player and team profiles in the near future.

In addition to the new features above, we also updated the sorting, pagination, and searching for several tabular views. The Players list, Teams list, Match list, and Challenge list are now all sortable and may be paginated to any users preference. Users may also now search the Player and Team list page and observe the output update in real time.

Finally, we updated some additional bugs. Two bugs which have haunted me forever are now fixed (for real this time). The homepage and avatar link fields in player/team profile pages no longer attempt to prefix https or http… it just takes what the user gives and displays regardless of whether its formatted correctly. If your users experience a change in behavior here, then they should go to their profile and edit the link again.

You can download this free update using your previous download link. Check out the official release notes for a detailed list of changes.

Ladder Ranking Modes

Tournamatch comes out of the box with three different methods to rank players or teams on a leaderboard. Two common methods available are points and ELO rating, and a unique third method is what I call “Rung-Up”. At this time, only one method may be used at a time, but expect a future update to permit having support for a combination of each with a default sort preference.

The points rating method is the most straight forward. When you setup a ladder in the administration panel, you may enter a number of points for wins, losses, and ties. Depending on the result of a match, each player or team gets points accordingly. While you can enter 0 points for a loss, I recommend using a value greater than 0 and less than ties. Competitors will always be rewarded for their activity and quickly rank higher than inactive participants.

ELO rating uses a complicated formula similar to chess or other club play. In general, the better player you defeat, the more points you will be rewarded. Defeating a player with a lower ELO than you rewards fewer points. Similarly, losing to a high ranked (relative to your ranking) results in very minor point loss and losing to someone ranked relatively lower to you causes you to lose the most points. Using rating is advantageous because competitors are not rewarded equally for wins. With points, each win is worth the same. In reality, a win over a novice should be less difficult and should also reward fewer points. ELO is great for encouraging competitors to compete against similarly rated individuals. The biggest criticism of ELO is rating inflation/deflation and inactivity of highly ranked players attempting to protect their rating.

The third rating method, which is unique to Tournamatch, is Rung-Up. Rung-Up is a system for ranking players which encourages competition by not penalizing a player for playing in a match. It doesn’t penalize players for competing because you can never lose rank by a loss. If a lower ranked opponent defeats a higher ranked opponent, he moves up. How much he advanced on the ladder depends on the matchup – we’ll share specific examples in another post. Any other outcome results in no change to either player. Even if the higher ranked opponent loses to the lower ranked opponent, the [higher ranked] loser does not lose ranking. It sounds odd at first; but, the reason we don’t want to penalize the loser is because we want to encourage activity. Using this ranking mode, there is zero penalty for a loss. Similar to ELO, the drawback to Rung-up is inactivity of players at the top attempting to protect his or her ranking.