Panzer Grenadier Battles on November 21st:
Desert Rats #16 - The Panzers Pull Back Desert Rats #19 - The Panzers Return
Desert Rats #17 - The Tomb Of Sidi Rezegh Jungle Fighting #7 - Line Of Departure
Desert Rats #18 - A Pibroch's Skirl South Africa's War #5 - Irish Eyes
PG-HQ Evolved
by Shad, 2012-02-07

When Panzer Grenadier Headquarters launched on June 6, 2010 it was with the barest feature set possible. We had collections, play and AAR recording, the Library, and that was pretty much it.

While my plans were far more grandiose, I chose to adhere to a popular tenet of free software design: release early, release often. The idea is to get your barebones, core idea out there, grab some attention, and then keep rolling forwards as quickly as possible with new features and versions.

And it worked from the start, for the most part. One of the first little cracks to appear in the system was each scenario's Win-Draw-Win statistic. We quickly realized if you played another PG-HQ member and you both recorded your play (as you should!), that the result would be double-counted on the scenario page because the Library had no way of knowing that these two separate plays were actually the same match.

Some hemming and hawing with my General Staff behind the scenes resulted in what became known as The Vince Rule, named after its chief proponent vince hughes:

If all of the following conditions are met:
  • same scenario
  • same play date
  • same play result
then 2 recorded plays shall only be counted once on the Library scenario page.

It was admittedly a stop-gap measure, but we felt pretty good about it. We figured the odds of two unrelated people picking the same scenario from ~1,400 (at the time), playing them on the very same day, AND getting the exact same result were pretty damn low...

Not low enough!

It only took a couple of months before a "collision" occurred. A few more popped up soon after. Unwilling to willfully discard good data, we abandoned The Vince Rule and I set to work on a proper head-to-head play system.

It took far longer than expected, but the wait was worth it...

Shared Plays

The shared play functionality is fairly self-evident, so rather than rehash the obvious I'll highlight a few interesting features.

First, as many of you have discovered, PG-HQ will send you an email notification if someone joins a shared play you're on, or if a member of one of your shared plays writes a new after action report. This makes it very easy to keep track of your opponents' activity.

Second, shared play results are now counted properly by the Library. So one win is exactly that: one win. The Vince Rule can finally rest in peace.

Third, the shared play system is very flexible. If a scenario side has more than one nation, you can record the fact that you led all of them in battle, or just a subset. Furthermore, two players on the same side can record themselves as having led the same nation. Examples of battles where this is important are Beyond Normandy scenarios which heavily feature formations, or for massive Russian Front scenarios where you might want to split leadership duties. This may not seem like a big deal, but both options are important when calculating statistics, which leads us to...

Fourth, shared plays open up a whole new world of data analysis. If you have shared plays, your profile already reflects your win-loss-draw stats against your opponents. This is really only the tip of the iceberg with respect to what we can do with this data. As time goes on and I expand our analysis tools, you will be able to track at a glance things like:

  • my success rate against John when I'm attacking as the Germans
  • what size battles Bill and I most like to play together
  • what nation Mike is most deadly with

Lastly (and personally most exciting), the shared play system provides me with the infrastructure necessary to support tournament and contest play. At the very least, you can expect a PG-HQ Annual Round Robin Tournament with the inaugural event kicking-off this coming June.

The Comment & Subscription System

Not coincidentally, only weeks after we finished the long-awaited shared play system, we have just unveiled a new comment and subscription system.

For several months now you've been able to comment on front page news posts. However, now you can also comment on individual after action reports. Furthermore, I've created a subscription system which I'll explain now.

On your My PG-HQ > Profile tab there is a new section called Site Subscription Settings located just below your Personal Details.

site subscription settings

The first option will dis/allow PG-HQ to include you on a mass email, such as a major site announcement. It should be noted that in PG-HQ's 20 months of existence exactly zero such mass emails have been sent, so don't live in fear of your mailbox getting hammered by PG-HQ spam!

The second option will dis/allow automatic email messages notifying you that other members have commented on your AARs. It is important to note that this is a global setting - either notify me about comments on ALL my AARs or don't. It also overrides any individual AAR subscription settings, as explained below.

Each news post and AAR now has a link in the bottom left corner that looks like this:

comments link

Note that AARs listed on Library > Scenario pages currently lack this link because the Library code has not yet been updated. Only AARs viewed via the AAR Depository carry the link at this time.

Clicking that will take you to the item's comments page. On the comments page you now have the option of un/subscribing to that item without making any comments by using this toggle:

subscription toggle

Note that for individual AARs, this toggle's setting will be ignored if the global setting on your My PG-HQ > Profile tab is set to disallow notification emails, as mentioned above.

Subscription Procedure

When someone leaves a new comment anywhere on the site, that item is added to the site's subscription queue. Every 30 minutes the site automatically checks this queue. For each item it finds it then checks to see if any users are subscribed. Those that are receive a new comment notification email from our loyal and hard-working Subscription Bot that looks something like this:

notification email

Included are a link to the item and a link to unsubscribe directly. You don't even need to be logged in to unsubscribe! I'm trying to make this system as easy-to-use and unobtrusive as possible!

Why all the fuss?

Panzer Grenadier Headquarters is evolving. With 400+ members the initial hurdle of getting people to enlist and give us a shot is cleared. Our Library is nearly complete. PG-HQ has become synonymous with Panzer Grenadier, as it should be.

Our focus is now shifting towards building engagement and cultivating the PG community.

On November 11th, 2010 I wrote a stats article to mark us reaching 1,000 recorded plays. One section was titled Community Development. Here's what I wrote at the time:

...one of the most vexing questions swirling around PG-HQ's development and launch was how many PG people are out there? When we hit 1,000 plays we had 259 enlisted members, but as you can see to the left the numbers drop off a cliff as you delve deeper into the site. By the time you get down to AAR authors, our pool of participants has dwindled to only 37. From a site admin's perspective, that breakdown is not at all surprising. Now, I certainly would love to have every member out there recording plays and writing AARs, but that's just not realistic...

It's interesting to see how those ratios have changed now that we're fast approaching 3,000 recorded plays:

2010 Nov 2012 Jan % Change
Total Plays 1,000 2,944 294%
Total AARs 483 1,432 296%
Members 259 446 172%
% with Collections 65% 70% +5%
% with Plays 22% 25% +3%
% with AARs 14% 16% +2%

The big number - total members - is obviously key, but having even 10,000 members is useless if they aren't doing anything. That's why we rebuilt the record and AAR input system to make it as user-friendly as we possibly could, that's why we added an extensive filtering tool to our AAR Depository to help you seek out interesting reports, and that's why we've added a simple but powerful comments system.

The participation levels for collections, plays, and AARs have crept up a little organically over that time, but we want to drive those up as high as possible. Hopefully are recent slew of site upgrades will impact these numbers!

So now what?

We keep growing, you keep playing! In 2012 I want to run at least one tournament, I want to see us hit 2,000 AARs this year, and perhaps we can even squeeze a boxed game Vassal module out of the stone that is Avalanche Press... If anyone can achieve such a legendary feat, it is us!

Come hell, or high water, or even Kursk: South Flank - PG-HQ will be here serving you!