The Ideas section in the Battle for Wesnoth forums is in very bad shape right now, and despite the efforts of my trusty moderators, the root of the problem lies far beyond our ability to lock topics.
I won’t mention any names for obvious reasons, but a major behind-the-scenes administrative role in the Battle for Wesnoth Project (hint: it’s not Noy, it’s not Dave, it’s not me) once described several board sections including the aforementioned as “a place where all the noise can go to so that it does not hinder us too much”. This is not just one individual’s opinion and it shows; even when I was a user back in 2006 I always felt Ideas tended to be left aside by the development team.
Yeah, I know:
Q: Why doesn’t Wesnoth have my favorite feature?
Because we are building this game for ourselves, to suit our own preferences. We’re not building the game for you, in large part because this is our hobby, not our job; whether you like it or not is immaterial to us. You may wonder, then, what the point is of soliciting ideas, as we do on the forum. We, the developers, have certainly come up with many good ideas on our own, but our players often do as well, and generally ones we don’t think of ourselves. If a player comes up with an idea we like, we might implement it. Not because they asked for it, but because of its own merits as an addition to our game. […]
Of course, the extent to which a bunch of key developers can come up with ideas when they don’t even regularly play the game proper is debatable. The other side of the coin shows that users don’t really come up with good ideas most of the time. Most Ideas topics fall into one of the following categories:
- Frequently Proposed Ideas (FPIs) — which go in the opposite direction of Wesnoth’s development
- Good ideas that can’t be immediately implemented (BWH, from “been suggested before, we think it’s a good idea, hope to add it eventually”)
- User interface ideas (usually overlaps with BWH)
- Add-on and multiplayer server ideas (ditto)
FPIs can be easily handled by moderators following a few simple guidelines and the bulk of locked threads in Ideas correspond to these. The problem is that BWH entries are not correctly classified anywhere — not even Feature Requests in the Gna.org bug tracker are properly monitored and occasionally completely ridiculous entries get added there; others are forgotten and implemented by other people on their own without referencing the existing open issue(s), and there’s also a swamp of outdated issues that may no longer apply to trunk.
BWHs are also quite sad to handle because, let’s accept it, most game players have no coding skills and won’t mess with the source to contribute C++ or Lua code back to the game, no matter how prominently advertised the open source nature of Wesnoth might be. The Forum Moderators are deliberately picked up from the non-technical bunch so they don’t get overloaded with responsibilities, something that’s happened before and has resulted in a degradation of the forums’ service quality.
User interface ideas are an even worse terrain because Wesnoth’s GUI development has been largely stuck since 2008 with Mordante/SkeletonCrew’s new internal toolkit, GUI2. Pretty much no groundbreaking changes can be done until GUI2 is mature enough to support all the old features. It’s not very hard to create a campaign scenario with an absurdly long Objectives entry and watch the ensuing rendering mess — that’s just one example of how GUI2 is still inferior to the less flexible old toolkit in some ways.
GUI is also a tough matter because it’s easy for a single user or Wesnoth developer to propose an interface for some task, implement it, and later find out that most of the other users or developers don’t “get it” — this is an issue inherent to user interface design, of course.
Add-on and multiplayer server ideas are very hard to implement because they tend to require not just changes to the server and client code to suit our needs, but they also often involve new GUI elements, resulting in an overlap with both the GUI category, which in turn overlaps with BWH.
Gambit and I tried for a while to make people use topic icons in Ideas to mark BWH entries and the rare issues that get finally solved in trunk. This doesn’t work very well because other developers either don’t watch Ideas thanks to the predominance of posts in any of the categories described above, or don’t watch the forums at all.
I usually try to be optimistic about things, but I really feel like we core developers are alienating our own user base with this apparent lack of interest for communication. Don’t even get me started on the “new lobby” fiasco in version 1.8.0.