Is promoting your guild forum proving to be a daunting task? Is it difficult to get your guild to visit it regularly? Are you tired of switching between the game and the browser to participate in the latest topics? Then you should try MessageBoard, an in-game guild forum!
MessageBoard includes all the features you would expect from a web-based discussion site, such as: categories, sticky and locked topics, announcements, officer-only sections, and even user avatars! The list could go on.
All the activity happens in-game, which means it does not require any external software, web-server or character to be always logged in. All your guild needs to do is to install the add-on and nominate the forum officers, which can be set independently from guild ranks.
The add-on also provides features which web-based forums cannot possibly deliver, such as notifying users of new posts as they play, or automatically removing players when they leave the guild.
We also had the opportunity to have a chat with the current add-on's developer, devilhoy:
Why did you come up with the idea for MessageBoard? Was it something your guild was craving for?
The original author Evil Duck made the original mod as a test for his database sharing library Ducklib. It didn't have many features and was pretty bare bones, everything in one list, no categories, stickies, permissions, notifications. My guild needed something to use for communication. We tried hosted websites, but it was always hard to get the guildies to go there.
I started looking for an in game addon solution, and I came across MessageBoard. However, it didn't work. There were many lua errors. Being an amatuer and never having touched lua before or any wow mod development, I began researching trying to figure out what all the errors meant. Come to realize, Blizzard had changed quite a few things along the years.
It tooks me 6 months to finally understand enough to make the old version compatible. It was really only a few lines. Over the years of continual poking and proding at the code, and with the blessing of the original author to continue, you have what you see now. The code is a huge mess and there are some bugs yes, but our guild uses it everyday.
How was the experience of working with the World of Warcraft UI?
The experience of working with the wow ui..very very tough the first few years. Looking at bits of code from other addons, trying to understand certain technical bits. No very good place to go to get the answers I was looking for.
Eventually extracted all of the Wow UI lua code and started seeing how that all worked. But the official wow addon forum is definitely no place to look for lua changes or help.
How does MessageBoard syncs forum information between members?
Basically, when you log in, MessageBoard sends out a ping, if it gets a response from another guild member with the addon, it starts building a list of database entry timestamps, then compares your list to the other guild members list, and makes the appropriate changes (new posts by you, new posts by others, edited posts, deleted posts, administrator settings, avatars, etc.). During all of this syncing, the addon will still send out and receive any immediate posts made by you or others. If the person you are syncing with happens to log off, the addon will send another ping and continue the process.
It's all very minmal in communcation and doesn't have all the guild members sending heaps of data everywhere. Unfortunately there is the one limitation: if you happen to log on and there's no one online, you won't receive any updates, as it's all peer to peer. We haven't run into too much trouble with this however, if you have enough people in your guild to put this addon to good use, you shouldn't have any problems.
Did you come across any problems during development?
Yes: development from the old version to the new version took years due to never having programmed anything before. That is still the biggest challenge today, there are more new features (cross-guild board) that I'd love to implement, but I've been hitting a brick wall on a few of them for a while.
Any plans for new addons in the future?
I've got a couple of ideas in my head, but I'm still very amatuer at wow lua.
Do you have any advice for others who would like to start modding?
First step, extract all of the wow lua and xml to a folder. This has helped me very much. If there is something in the standard wow ui that I want to know how works, I just see what's going on in the code.
You can find bits and snippets all around the web, but I haven't found a good central location for wow ui development. Keep poking at the code, don't be afraid to try different things, trial and error is neccessary. Make sure you have a good text editor, I use notepad++.
Debug, debug, debug!
Thank you to devilhoy, for developing MessageBoard and answering our questions, and to EvilDuck, for starting the project.