Archive Items & Archive Points
Archive Items & Archive Points are two stand-alone add-on systems for the powerful vBulletin forums software. Archive points is a points system for user point accrual, and Archive Items is an item shop system for spending points. The systems are coded modularly so they only access one another through a configurable points variable in the database's user table. From the user front-end HTML, links are provided across systems to make these two systems seamlessly integrate.
Reason for Development & Inspiration
The system was devised out of a new way to encourage user posting. Our staff members have long talked about adding a feature to give points to users for good actions, but there did not seem like sufficient user motivation in simply collecting the most number of points.
I decided on an item system as the best method of encouraging user interaction. I also wanted to theme the items appropriately according to our site's focus on Gaming, Game Dev., and Anime. The main solution available at the time was Blaine0002's fine IShop system , and though Blaine's solution is very good, but it lacked some key features I wanted for my community. I decided to start from the ground up and start from scratch to build the system exactly tailored to my community.
I also received some inspiration from SciFi channel's recent miniseries: The Lost Room. Though it might seem like a strange place to receive inspiration for a forums system, I thought the idea of having items that perform mysterious functions was intriguing and could really involve a community as they seek to understand what each item does. To that end, I've tried to create an element of mystery to the function each item in the item shop performs (if any).
The Archive Point System is designed to encourage forums usage by giving ‘Archive Points' for posts (limited to five per day). Additionally, users receive bonus credit for positive reputation received. Points are tallied weekly every Friday night (server time). An infraction (warnings not included) given at any time during the week voids all points earned for the entire week.
Users can check on their points throughout the week to see how they're tracking, and how much they can expect to receive on Friday. They can also view the previous week's report. On the left sidebar, a percent of daily point earned capacity is shown to encourage users to post five times each day, including a link to the week's report.
The Archive Item System supports the following features:
- New items may be purchased via the Archive Item Shop (which supports:)
- Limited Stock/Quantities of items – each purchase decrements the quantity of items available. Limited quantities make items more valuable to users while not making it more difficult to make the initial purchase when in stock.
- Impossible to purchase items – some items (like awards) should not be possible to purchase from the store. (See Admin Give below)
- Imagery - Each item has a full-size picture for display on the item information page and a 16x16 small icon for postbit and inventory display.
- Inventory – View your own entire inventory, or the entire inventory of any other registered user.
- Equip - Let users choose their favorite three items (configurable via variable) and display only those in their postbit to avoid postbit clutter.
- Admin Give – Administrators with permission (configured via variable) may give an item to a user, as well as include a personal message along with the gift. Store stock or points are not decreased.
- User Give – Users may give any item they own and may trade (see Give Restriction below) to any other user, along with a personal message along with the gift. Store stock or points are not decreased, but ownership of source object is transferred. (This allows for simplistic trade, though a robust trade system is a feature under consideration).
- Donate Restrictions – Some item types may be marked as un-giveable. Some items, like a contest trophy, should not be tradeable.
- Item system is linked in underneath the Private Message information display.
- Item types administrated via AdminCP, including integrated upload of item picture & item icon.
- Item Information - Clicking on an item reveals a description, full size image, whether they are transferable, who owns the particular item and who owns other items of the same type, tradeable status, cost and availability in the Archive Item Shop.
- Item Actions - Allow items to do actions.
- Example: users may purchase fortune cookies. Each fortune cookie may be opened once and displays a random fortune from a fortune list (after opening, each cookie remains open and retains its fortune).
- This system is coded so that new item actions can be easily added by administrators with PHP knowledge. A toolset library can be included which provides the most commonly used functions (‘Is this my object?', Save/load instance data, etc.)
Launch & Results
Upon launch, the community was very excited and immediately took to using the system. I provided all active posters with 50 points to play with before the next weekly cycle began. Posting immediately increased severalfold without a post quality loss.
Some users immediately sought out to collect every fortune cookie fortune (~100). To encourage usage of the system (and therefore activity), I've promised a reward to the first collector of all fortunes. Some users also have wanted to input their own fortunes and (fortunes were initially gathered from a site-wide user survey, and closed within a few weeks), search for specific fortunes, so I promised the first finder of the fortune called ‘<insert fortune here>' a fortune of their own to add to the random-list. I was surprised to see that users immediately sought out this fortune and found it within a matter of hours.
I've already added a second group of new items for the second weekend of operation. One of these items added include a useful Item Action-type item, and I've encouraged the user base to search out that item.
Trading through our simplistic User Give page has already begun. For instance, our users are trading fortune cookies they have already collected with other users to collect one of each.
Conclusions & Recommendations
An item system can be extremely beneficial to enhancing activity in a community that has many less frequently active users than more frequently active users. In my own community, it has made many less-active users into more-active users, and changed lurkers into active-members. I would recommend fellow community owners try methods such as Blaine0002's free IShop plugin or write their own system to create engaging, unique interactive content within the theme and focus of their community.
Links to Systems
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