First steps on a Modding Database

Several months ago, when SimRaceway was just announced, many Modders, including CTDP withdrew their support of the platform due to a lack of communication from SRW. It’s predecessor rFactorCentral was dying a slow death and something new was required. However with SRW knocking themselves out of the picture, the question arose, what kind of replacement could possibly come up. This was before rF-Planet or any other ideas were begun.

At that time, early august, I was discussing with many people about such a new Mod Database. I elaborated on some of the ideas we pitched in my post the other day. We weren’t sure if somebody in the community would step up and deliver such a system. Often I felt the community kind of worships the guy working out a community homepage, rightfully as far as he had a great idea to start with. But sometimes the community acts as a gatekeeper, locking out people with other ideas. A homepage is not a big deal and a system like rFactorCentral is quite simple with some planing .
So my base theories were, that such a system could be implemented fast, using the right tools, that it could be easy to maintain.
I kinda felt motivated to proof the point, that such a website is nothing to be in awe about. It’s an application the important thing is the quality and the planing that goes into it.

Concept and Prototype

So for half a week I sat together with erale and Andy and discussed, what we would expect from such a system. Obviously we knew the strength of the old rFc, we knew its weaknesses. We worked out, use cases for the site and we established, what the platform should not be. I wrote about this in another article.

Based on this, we had a rough overview on the handling and how the database would be structured. So I began working on a small prototype using Ruby-on-Rails, an web-application Framework I worked with before and which I wanted to warm up again, for my new job. This was a nice opportunity. I began with the basic database structure. We have games, each game can have many mods, each mod, can have many releases, each release has many mirrors. A mod can have many authors, authors are either members or teams. Based on this basic structure, it was quite easy cover all basic elements. Mods today are sometimes done by one team, but more often done in collaboration. This system would allow for full crediting of all people involved. In one click, you could list the mods of all parties involved. The point was to bring as much mods and teams in relation to each other as possible, up to a point, that conversions would have a link to it’s original mod. This was to cover one of the main points I like about such databases. You should be able to browse them easily and to find new stuff you didn’t know before. It’s like the late Wikipedia, you browse from lemma to lemma and end up on a site you never thought existed.
For each mod it could display a list of related mods and another emphasize would have been on the search engine.

Within two days a system under the working-title Alekta was born. I worked out the basic structure of the application, models and controllers. I finished basic mod management and user management. Something I didn’t focus on at all was design, layout and navigation. This are obviously some major points to make a successful website, but I began to realize, to continue this project, I couldn’t do it alone and this would be something somebody else needed to work out.
Two days to have a working prototype which allowed adding and editing games, mods and releases. I uploaded this prototype to get some feedback from the people I worked with.

Future of the project?

It was at this point, that I realized, that I began to dive in deeper than I wanted to.
I did not want to be the man running the new system, even though the idea was intriguing. As I said above, we were wondering who would step up and I had the decision, if I wanted to be the man.
I didn’t.
I was very involved with the community and CTDP for the past 7 years and I didn’t feel like getting in even deeper. Recently, I bought a new steering wheel and I much rather wanted to drive, than spend my time on yet another project, which would restrain me for at least another year.

So instead, I put my sources under an open source license. They can be browsed and forked online at github. After 3 months of working on another Rails-project I wouldn’t call it the best code I’ve ever done, but it’s surely not the worst. It’s a start and when trying the online demo, you should always remember, this is only the technical backbone. While I don’t suggest to use this as a start, I suggest to take a look at it, because it could have some nice ideas.

Point of it all…

One final point is, that I endorse other systems. I wanted to proof to myself, that such an application can be done quickly. The problem more often is not the technical implementation, but the required dedication and the required time and support to run such a project.
While I decided not to pursue such an endeavor, I wish everybody who does the best of luck. Ideas are free, so take as many as you can.

I hope our short articles gave you a small idea of how easy it can be to establish a new Mod Database. We predict such a System will become Handy for rFactor2 again. It’ll need to be open and transparent. Easy to use and close to the community. We endorse people stepping up and take the initiative.

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