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Author Topic: GameShui Launcher  (Read 5781 times)
wraith808
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« on: June 06, 2011, 07:37:52 PM »

In response to another thread, I started working on a game launcher.  That thread was given to someone that was a bit further along than I found myself, so I figured I'd make a new thread.  It's in pre-alpha stages right now; I'm just looking for feedback in regards to the UI and fields right now.  Currently because of the fact that games can be in multiple groups, I'm having to use a view for the main view of the data, so it's read only, with editing done in dialogs (that I haven't created yet).  I might change that, though I haven't decided yet.

Just really wanted to show how far I was along, and see if it was beginning to look like what was being put forth before.  Know that this will be sort of a slow process between work and home... so it could be a while before it's totally finished... though I hope to have the basic functionality in place to allow it to be at least used in the next couple of months.

Figure 1: Main List View
Each of the games is assigned to zero or more groups.  I haven't actually tested the zero yet (embarassed).  There's currently no way to see all of the games at once.  I'm figuring that this could be helpful, so I'm looking into a way to do that.  Notice that there is sorting and filtering functionality; those grey cells allow for filtering, and clicking the header allows sorting.  There's no customizing of columns as of yet; I'll see how big of a deal that is to add, but though I'll probably do some preliminary research into that, it won't be in the original release most likely.


Figure 2: Main List View - Different Grouping
Again, the same view, but with the groups expanded.  Note that the header in the grid area always corresponds to the selected game (with the title and publisher), and the run button acts on that game.  I might put the ability to change the subtitle to a different column- I just thought of that, and it would be pretty simple, I think.  There's currently no way to save settings; that would be the first one for that, I suppose...

Figure 3: Main Detail View (Overview Tab)
This is the first view that is shown when the tabs are switched.  A few main fields are shown always, and the subfields/tables are shown in tabs below.  Note that though the main information is not editable from here currently, the sub tables have edit functionality planned currently.

Figure 4: Main Detail View (Notes Tab)
Just as with the Overview tab, the Notes tab is a freeform field.  It is rich text, so I'm thinking about adding that functionality, though I haven't yet.

Figure 5: Main Detail View (Links Tab)
This allows specific links (the games page, hints pages, profile pages, or whatever) to be added.  The links will be clickable from this interface to launch the web browser.

Figure 6: Main Detail View (Custom Fields Tab)
This is an area for any custom fields that are per game, stored as description and value.  They are free form, and not shared.  You could store the same information in the notes field, I suppose, but I thought this an area where certain things could be stored in a more organized fashion.

Figure 7: Main Detail View (Custom Fields Tab)
Another example of custom fields.

Figure 8: Main Detail View (Tags Tab)
Games can be tagged with whatever tags are defined; I hadn't planned on this interface, but ran into a couple of problems with the db.  This is subject to change if I can get the problems sorted.  I wanted more of a text field type interface with all of the tags, and a +/- beside them.

Figure 9: Main Detail View (Genre Tab)
Same issues apply to the genre as the tags.

Figure 10: Main Detail View (Command Tab)
This is where the command is stored for running the game.  The test button will test for the validity of the command (as much as possible) without running the game.

Things I haven't considered yet are screenshots and I also want to do a taskbar notification icon with a right click menu for launching games.  The menu at the top holds all of the table maintenance options, along with a list of the recently played games.  I'm still deciding on MobyGames integration- looking at their terms (1) there's no exposed API so I'd have to scrape the data, and (2) they are limiting access to their db.  I might try to later host my own db for browsing online and integration and other things with the program- that would be far down the line though.

Any thoughts so far?

(Oh... GameShui- a reference to Feng Shui.  Don't ask why I did that... I just liked the sound of it, and it went with the new site I'm going to try to launch later)
« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 07:46:18 AM by wraith808 » Logged

Deozaan
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« Reply #1 on: June 07, 2011, 12:21:56 AM »

Nice work.

I personally don't see myself using something like this (because I'm happy with Steam as my game manager) so I don't know if my feedback matters, but I don't like the Ribbon and the huge icons in it. Seems like a huge waste of space to me.

These days displays are going for widescreen, so it makes more sense to have a toolbar on the side where there's extra space than take up vertical real estate with huge icons in a Ribbon-style interface. Especially in a program where there could potentially be a long list of games. Wouldn't you want to be able to see as many as possible at a time?

Anyway, that's my 40 cents.  cheesy
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kamahl
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« Reply #2 on: June 07, 2011, 12:59:50 AM »

I agree, a ribbon feels like overkill in this application (At least the way it is now)
I'd recommend reading through this MSDN page and re-evaluating the choice and/or implementation of the ribbon.

Other than that, I assume that it automatically updates the PlayCount field?
Can it automatically grab the cover art, or do we need to do that manually?
What about the Publisher Details and Release Date?

What is the Digital checkbox supposed to represent?

Could you change the format for the Release Date to show Date, rather than DateTime?

Overall it looks promising.  smiley
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doctorfrog
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« Reply #3 on: June 07, 2011, 01:56:55 AM »

Take or leave this bit of criticism:

If I use a game launcher at all, I would want it to look like a collection. Like this:

http://darkadia.com/member/doctorfrog/library

As it is, my current game launcher is based on Pegtop's PStart program. It's slim, quick, customizable, and relies on no external runtimes:



Note that Steam is capable of looking roughly like either of these: like a Library, or like a Launcher.
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wraith808
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« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2011, 07:44:30 AM »

Currently, the ribbon gives me functionality that I'd have to code manually.  I wasn't set on using it, but that's not the point of implementation that I'm currently in- I'll take it into consideration; I know it's a take it or leave it type of thing, but there will be other tabs on it later.

Thanks for the link; I already knew those considerations.  It *is* for all intents and purposes a document viewer/browser, which is also one of the reasons that I considered it.

Other than that, I assume that it automatically updates the PlayCount field?
Can it automatically grab the cover art, or do we need to do that manually?
What about the Publisher Details and Release Date?

What is the Digital checkbox supposed to represent?

Could you change the format for the Release Date to show Date, rather than DateTime?

It does automatically update the PlayCount field, and LastPlayed field, and also has a most recently used collection under the home button.  Unfortunately, MobyGames has changed their TOS, so I couldn't use that for the information as I stated.  I'm not sure of another central source for that information.  And yes, the formatting of all of the fields will be taken care of when I'm putting that polish in.  The digital field is supposed to represent whether the game is in a digital format- sort of a reminder or indication of whether there is physical media with the game.


Take or leave this bit of criticism:

If I use a game launcher at all, I would want it to look like a collection. Like this:

http://darkadia.com/member/doctorfrog/library

As it is, my current game launcher is based on Pegtop's PStart program. It's slim, quick, customizable, and relies on no external runtimes:

(image in previous post)

Note that Steam is capable of looking roughly like either of these: like a Library, or like a Launcher.

Thanks for that bit- I might consider adding a more compact version after the full version is done; I'd alread decided that I was going to put a taskbar notification icon menu at some point.  But as far as the main interface, if you look in the other thread, a lot of this is based on what was originally asked for.  As far as the external runtimes bit- what do you refer to?  .NET?  That's what my major focus is in for work- and when I do these side projects it's because I'm trying to advance those skills, so that's not going away.  Or were you referring to something else?

And I guess, to a large extent, I was asking about the available fields- was there anything I missed in terms of important information to be available?
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kamahl
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« Reply #5 on: June 07, 2011, 08:01:51 AM »

I know it's a take it or leave it type of thing, but there will be other tabs on it later.
And that's all I wanted to hear smiley
Quote
As far as the external runtimes bit- what do you refer to?  .NET?  That's what my major focus is in for work- and when I do these side projects it's because I'm trying to advance those skills, so that's not going away.  Or were you referring to something else?
One other issue with using a ribbon (Assuming you're using one of the Microsoft-Provided implementations): It puts your minimum requirements at Vista SP2+. (This does vary between implementations, but is there in the Windows Ribbon Framework, which I assume is your ribbon of choice.)
Quote
And I guess, to a large extent, I was asking about the available fields- was there anything I missed in terms of important information to be available?
As I mentioned on the other launcher, the ability for a group of extra executables (Level Editor, Mod Manager, Configuration Tool, Safe Mode, Save Game Editor, etc) would be nice. (And I'm talking a List<>, not just one)
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wraith808
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« Reply #6 on: June 07, 2011, 08:08:49 AM »

One other issue with using a ribbon (Assuming you're using one of the Microsoft-Provided implementations): It puts your minimum requirements at Vista SP2+. (This does vary between implementations, but is there in the Windows Ribbon Framework, which I assume is your ribbon of choice.)

Actually... it's not.  That's why it has additional functionality already built in.  The grid isn't standard either- in fact, most of the UI is not using windows standard controls.  I was going to go purely windows standard like I usually do... but I had these controls I hadn't used before, and as I said, these projects are usually to increase my understanding....
« Last Edit: June 07, 2011, 09:46:50 AM by wraith808 » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: June 07, 2011, 08:13:48 AM »

I'm just glad you are doing a .NET(/WPF ? ) implementation of this game launcher, I was going to ask on the other thread why it's not in WPF, because it's XAML rather flexible in layout and easy to make looking good thumbs up, but I'll stick to this thread for now smiley, and not start one (thread and games launcher) myself Wink
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wraith808
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« Reply #8 on: June 07, 2011, 09:50:06 AM »

I'm just glad you are doing a .NET(/WPF ? ) implementation of this game launcher, I was going to ask on the other thread why it's not in WPF, because it's XAML rather flexible in layout and easy to make looking good thumbs up, but I'll stick to this thread for now smiley, and not start one (thread and games launcher) myself Wink

It's not in WPF because of the fact that I needed to get up and running quickly on this to test some other things.  I did make it in a pseudo MVVM manner, so I can swap out a different view quite easily; though I didn't use Unity/IOC in this first implementation, I did put an interface over the data layer, so I can implement that later also.  One thing at a time... smiley
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iphigenie
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« Reply #9 on: June 25, 2011, 03:35:38 AM »

I've read both threads and at first I thought.. why would you need a games launcher? I was puzzled... I am a games addict (self confessed) and dont use/want a launcher so what am I missing?

So I went in brainstorm mode and found all these good reasons for quite different kinds of launchers. Just sharing since I did the thinking and perhaps there are some nuggets of use. Note: I dont think the different needs want the same tool at all smiley

* you play lots of esoteric, old, indie etc. games which don't all start easy and don't all play nice in the start menu (or, like me, you've been moving games folders for n generations of computers and get tired of adding them to start menus manually)

* you dont want your games in the start menu, or the desktop, it's a lot of noise/clutter (very true. I use fences to hide all the games icons out of the way)

* you have lots of games, and want to keep information -  things you might keep track of: general info (pulled from the web?), personal notes, keys reminder, where the special folders are (for example screenshot folder, saved games), any mods or extensions (although these might have their own entry, perhaps related), links to community, walkthroughs etc. For long, complex games perhaps a journal tab..

* you want other things started at the same time as certain games - say chat, voice comms, an overlay, a screenshot/screenrecorder tool, or a virtual CD loading the game CD image - or you might even want certain things to be closed/killed before you start a game (i switch my virus scanner to games mode, and sometimes I do start some of the above tools. manually)

* you remove/reinstall games a lot and want to keep stuff in between. Where you were at, what version/patchlevel/mods, what the saved games are, any notes (imagine an rpg) - does that fit in a launcher at all I am not sure, but a launcher would keep your entry when you uninstall the game, so that is a start smiley

Now I started thinking "i dont need a launcher". I find the launchers that come with steam, impulse, raptr etc. to be annoying. I think the steam/raptr etc. tools are popular because of autodetect, but they are not very useful. For example, I only *install* in steam, on average I then start the program directly...

I muddle, I just browse, dig around, keep notes in Opera and LWA and online - and start the things from wherever I can/must... Right now I use Stardock fences and put all games there not in the start menu, minimize the fence to a small square most of the time, and drag it open when I want my games. But that is just plain old windows link launching - no features to have info, reminders, other apps launched - so I could see the value of having something nicely tuned for games...

The question then will be of trade off -  the time it takes to invest in such a tool to get it to the point where the benefits are kicking in AND the fact that any time/information put in there is stuck in that tool and would take more work to get out for reuse elsewhere (even with an export). That is a problem for any information management tool, in the end. Portability, clean exports etc. will all help smiley

anyways, perhaps this was useful and perhaps this was noise

off on a tangent...

Going back to the autodetect, there is a lot of information about games that is both useful and global. I for example spend time figuring out what needs to be backed up so that my configs and saved games can be migrated to another computer (or sync'd). Some games nicely put savegames in clear places, others hide them in systems folders. Sometimes there are additional ones or stupid things hard coded in like paths... I bet 20% of the people who play any game will do the same... Now we have several sites online which have huge DBs of games and reviews etc. do any of them have an API? DO any of them track this kind of more practical information (where are saved games? screenshots? what are the basic keys for basic things?). Being able to check and get information, or share information back up....
in short, is there a public, open GDDB?
« Last Edit: June 25, 2011, 03:41:09 AM by iphigenie » Logged
wraith808
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« Reply #10 on: June 25, 2011, 08:38:13 AM »

Going back to the autodetect, there is a lot of information about games that is both useful and global. I for example spend time figuring out what needs to be backed up so that my configs and saved games can be migrated to another computer (or sync'd). Some games nicely put savegames in clear places, others hide them in systems folders. Sometimes there are additional ones or stupid things hard coded in like paths... I bet 20% of the people who play any game will do the same... Now we have several sites online which have huge DBs of games and reviews etc. do any of them have an API? DO any of them track this kind of more practical information (where are saved games? screenshots? what are the basic keys for basic things?). Being able to check and get information, or share information back up....
in short, is there a public, open GDDB?

There was... until MobyGames sold out.  I've been thinking along those lines also, and about this app and my intentions.  It's going to change quite a bit... as soon as I get a chance, I'll have more info.
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iphigenie
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« Reply #11 on: June 25, 2011, 10:19:31 AM »

doctorfrog linked to darkadia which claims to get information from http://www.giantbomb.com - although giantbomb.com has a bit of an identity problem - it has its own content, plus user generated content, but the database is theirs and might, perhaps, be made available free for non commercial projects... Which pretty much makes me wonder: why would I, a user, take time to put content in your app, perhaps even with a paying membership, and then you will keep the information in a black hole unless paid for?
Almost makes me want to restart my old DB on my old website...
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wraith808
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« Reply #12 on: June 25, 2011, 10:43:57 AM »

doctorfrog linked to darkadia which claims to get information from http://www.giantbomb.com - although giantbomb.com has a bit of an identity problem - it has its own content, plus user generated content, but the database is theirs and might, perhaps, be made available free for non commercial projects... Which pretty much makes me wonder: why would I, a user, take time to put content in your app, perhaps even with a paying membership, and then you will keep the information in a black hole unless paid for?
Almost makes me want to restart my old DB on my old website...

They do have an API, and the content is accessible from it for non-commercial non-competing use.  But they have a paid option for subscriptions, which makes me wary of them going the way of MobyGames.

Also, I just generated an API key, and the terms of service are sort of restrictive- you can only use the data by online requests, i.e. you can't use it offline or store it for offline use.
« Last Edit: June 25, 2011, 10:46:28 AM by wraith808 » Logged

iphigenie
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« Reply #13 on: June 25, 2011, 01:06:46 PM »

doctorfrog linked to darkadia which claims to get information from http://www.giantbomb.com - although giantbomb.com has a bit of an identity problem - it has its own content, plus user generated content, but the database is theirs and might, perhaps, be made available free for non commercial projects... Which pretty much makes me wonder: why would I, a user, take time to put content in your app, perhaps even with a paying membership, and then you will keep the information in a black hole unless paid for?
Almost makes me want to restart my old DB on my old website...

They do have an API, and the content is accessible from it for non-commercial non-competing use.  But they have a paid option for subscriptions, which makes me wary of them going the way of MobyGames.

Also, I just generated an API key, and the terms of service are sort of restrictive- you can only use the data by online requests, i.e. you can't use it offline or store it for offline use.

Which kind of will pause them a headache or two - I put information on their database, about games I have, and suddenly I am not allowed to keep that information offline on my machine? what gives?

The only information they can make that kind of requirement about is, of course, the reviews and editorial they write - and fair point on that.

But information *about* the game, like requirements, size, versions, paths, patches, mods, urls etc. are public knowledge... edited by people, not editors, they might be able to protect the entire database as a whole (like other data providers, protects from someone copying the whole thing and reselling it) but subsets, individual meta data etc?

Clearly they can control the API access as they wish, obviously... but probably it's worth talking to them they possibly havent thought it through...

PS: means that sites like darkadia make 1 request per item per view each time anyone browses... cant cache... that's load...
« Last Edit: June 25, 2011, 01:13:44 PM by iphigenie » Logged
iphigenie
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« Reply #14 on: August 30, 2011, 04:24:45 AM »

I'm curious:did you continue your development on this one? I'm tired of having partial launchers (like steam or raptr that dont allow reasonably documented manual adding) so looking at the 3 mentioned on DC again smiley
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wraith808
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« Reply #15 on: August 30, 2011, 06:52:27 AM »

I'm curious:did you continue your development on this one? I'm tired of having partial launchers (like steam or raptr that dont allow reasonably documented manual adding) so looking at the 3 mentioned on DC again smiley

I plan to (it will probably be a NANY entry at this rate).  I stopped for a while to think about direction and design; I'll be revamping the whole thing based on the initial feedback here.
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