Weekend Site Enhancements and Tweaks
May 03, 2015

This weekend, I've thoroughly surprised myself. In addition to implementing the 5-star rating system (which I posted about here once it was done), I spent most of yesterday and today working on additional site features, as well as updating features that already existed.

I'll get technical in a moment, but here in brief is a list of the most important changes and updates:

  • HG Mail now features an outbox.
  • The site's internal search engine has been improved.
  • HG Mail will now check to make sure you have entered a username before it sends a message.
  • Game profile pages now specify the scale on which a game was rated as individual reviews were posted.
  • Stars appearing at the end of reviews have been cleaned up a bit.
I realize that there are a lot of game sites on the Internet--many times the number that existed when I first built this site's early versions--and I'm grateful to those of you who spend your time here, enjoying the features, engaging in discussion, and giving me reasons to continue working to improve the experience for everyone. Without all of you, I'm sure I would have given up on the whole project years ago. Thanks for that!

So, with that all said, it's time to go into a bit more detail about each of the above bullet points.

HG Mail now features an outbox.

This has been EmP's most requested feature for years, and so occasionally I have put some serious effort into making it happen. The last few attempts failed, but this one did not.

You can view any of your messages you sent since the HG Mail feature was first added to the site, provided the recipient hasn't deleted them. Once the recipient deletes a message, it is gone for good.

As for organization, the posts will be sorted the same way as posts in your inbox, either grouped by sender/recipient, or displayed in the order in which they were sent or arrived. I also added some navigation options at the top to make it easier to get around your mail account.

The site's internal search engine has been improved.

The site's search engine will now show more relevant results. Previously, some games wouldn't show, even if they were already listed in the database. The workaround was easy: just browse the site alphabetically by system. That's still the workaround if a search fails you. However, it's now less likely that a search will fail you.

When I first designed the search engine, I used the WHERE statement in mysql queries. That's what was available at the time, and I further modified it to yield better results. However, it was awkward and some stuff just didn't come up as a match. Since then, mysql has been improved and this weekend I found the MATCH AGAINST option, which allows a query to be compared to a fully indexed column in a database table and even ranked.

For instance, someone can search for "Tony Hawk's Pro Skater" and it will check the games database for all results with Tony, Hawk, and Skater. Each of those words that is found will improve the value of the result, which is assigned a score. So if the games database contains Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and Tony Hawk's Pro Baker, both will display, but Tony Hawk's Pro Skater will take the lead because all three key words appear.

Words shorter than 4 letters are not considered by mysql. This can be updated, but it slows the process. I considered updating it, then decided to simply list the closest matches first, using BOOLEAN info, then more general matches in a second table. The results are very good. Even less complete records--largely for games on newer systems, since most of the retro stuff is now filled out very well--should appear properly. A search for Assassin's Creed is now much more effective.

The search function still isn't perfect, and never will be, but it's a lot more useful to the general who probably will never think to browse alphabetically as a secondary measure. This is something I've wanted to be able to implement for a long while, so I'm pleased the functionality could be improved.

HG Mail will now check to make sure you have entered a username before it sends a message.

When I was adding an inbox, I discovered that EmP hadn't ignored a recent message I sent him. I just forgot to specify his name in the "To" field when I composed it. I'm not sure why I let such a blunder be possible for as long as I did, but it should be fixed now. If you try to send an HG Mail message without a recipient specified, you'll receive a message telling you that it couldn't be sent.

Game profile pages now specify the scale on which a game was rated as individual reviews were posted.

When you look at a game profile page, you'll see a lot of numbers from the 10-point scale, since it was in place for years. Overdrive recent rated Super Mario Galaxy 4 stars, and that wasn't reflected on the page in the proper context.

Now if a review was rated on the 5-star scale, it will appear as (for example) 4/5, while a review that was rated on the 10-point system will show as 8/10 or whatever. It's a small adjustment, but should help to eliminate any confusion.

Stars appearing at the end of reviews have been cleaned up a bit.

Suskie didn't like how stars appeared, and I didn't either. I updated the image that displays for each star, so that it looks a bit crisper. It's actually more difficult than you might suppose to find a good, clean image of a star to use in a situation like this, but I think the new ones are at least better than the older ones were.

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Feedback
JoeTheDestroyer JoeTheDestroyer - May 04, 2015 (05:48 PM)
The HG Mail outbox is something I've always wanted but never bothered to ask for. Thanks!
EmP EmP - May 05, 2015 (10:24 AM)
Guess I need to find something new to bitch about for the next few years. Good work, Jason!
wolfqueen001 wolfqueen001 - May 07, 2015 (12:47 AM)
Hey, neat. That outbox thing has been floating around for awhile, and the "to" line was likely much needed. Thanks.

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