Black­Box 3City is a fan-based larp sta­ge. We laun­ched in autumn 2014 and sin­ce that day we run larp games for a local com­mu­ni­ty. Our main goal is to pro­mo­te lar­ping both as a real­ly cool, mul­ti­di­men­sio­nal hob­by and a slow­ly, but ste­ady gro­wing branch of the art and enter­ta­in­ment busi­ness. In order to achie­ve tho­se goals, we rare­ly expe­ri­ment. More often we run for our play­ers well-tested print&play sce­na­rios. The­re­fo­re we stick to the ones ava­ila­ble onli­ne under Cre­ati­ve Com­mons Licen­ce. But from time to time we invi­te authors to  be our guest stars and run the­ir own games.

Right now we are in the mid­dle of our 5th season. The­re are 60 events and abo­ut 80 games behind us. Con­stan­tly gro­wing fan­ba­se gives us a sen­sa­tion of doing some­thing impor­tant. We want to con­ti­nue our work and deve­lop the are­as that need impro­ve­ment.   

Late­ly we mana­ged to com­ple­te an impor­tant pro­ject: we’ve built new bac­kend archi­tec­tu­re of our websi­te. As in many simi­lar pro­jects, chan­ges are not visi­ble for a typi­cal user (eve­ry­thing is wor­king right?). But for us it’s a big step in terms of our work effi­cien­cy. It means less bugs, errors and last but not least — mana­ging the same con­tent spre­ad in  dif­fe­rent pla­ces.

How we achieved it?

First of all, let’s debug a com­mon myth. When it comes to run­ning your own onli­ne site the­re is say­ing you either learn how to code or you are doomed to have a gene­ric-looking websi­te. Is it real­ly so?  

If you work with Word­Press, at first glan­ce it seems that the answer is: yes. Either you are able to dive a lit­tle into the html king­do­me or… What else is the­re? Asking (aga­in!) your IT friend for ano­ther pie­ce of advi­ce? Just how many “thank you” din­ners one can afford?

Luc­ki­ly, that’s not a case any­mo­re. The­re is a bunch user frien­dly solu­tions equ­al­ly suita­ble  for pro­fes­sio­nals and non-pro­fes­sio­nals out the­re — and we are hap­py to be using one of them — the Tool­set.

Toolset company logo

How exactly Toolset helps us?

When you take a look at our site you’re gon­na noti­ce pret­ty quick that the­re is lot of con­tent that over­lap and inte­ract. We run our games during events. Some of the popu­lar games were pre­sen­ted mul­ti­ple times, during many occa­sions. The­re are authors who wri­te the­ir sce­na­rios alo­ne, but a vast majo­ri­ty like to do a col­la­bo­ra­tion from time to time. Larps we run vary in terms of the gen­re. The­re are hero­ic fan­ta­sy sagas, Sci­Fi spa­ce ope­ras, vic­to­rian hor­ror, dys­to­pian cyber­punk — just to name a few most popu­lar ones. They all need to be run in a cor­re­spon­ding venue.

All of that infor­ma­tions need to be deli­ve­red to our audien­ce in a frien­dly way, with no mista­kes. It had seemed easy at the begin­ning, but as more and more data gathe­red on our server we lost capa­bi­li­ty of doing any chan­ges. When all of the data were spre­ad among many posts, making one tiny patch in game’s author name or venue websi­te address requ­ired either going thro­ugh dozens of posts and making tiny, pre­ci­se amend­ments eve­ry­whe­re… Or just let­ting it go and accept the mess. We weren’t up to any of tho­se. The answer we needed were   

Custom Post Types

CPT sho­uld rather be cal­led Custom Con­tent Types in our opi­nion. They are spe­ci­fic fra­me­work for any type of data or infor­ma­tion you want to desi­gna­te. In our case they are:

  • events
  • games
  • people
  • pla­ces

For exam­ple: the [Game No1], writ­ten by [Author No2] and [Author No3] was run during the [Event No4] at the [Pla­ce No5].

It took some time for us to cre­ate a data­ba­se for all of tho­se types men­tio­ned abo­ve, but defi­ni­te­ly worth it. Now if any­thing needs upgra­de, it’s eno­ugh to alter it at one pla­ce. Period.

Tool­set took our hearts with types, but it has got much more to offer. Explo­ring its possi­bi­li­ties led us to chan­ge the who­le look and usa­bi­li­ty of our home­pa­ge. The next thing we disco­ve­red were…

Views

The­re are many ways to display infor­ma­tions. Some things sho­uld be on the left, other on the right… The truth is, it’s hard to hit bull’s eye at first shot. It’s always weeks of tries and errors, befo­re you cre­ate a view that your audien­ce needs. And will appre­cia­te. After few dif­fe­rent attempts we have our way of display­ing things. Now ima­gi­ne we know it… And all we got­ta do is to apply it manu­al­ly to over 100 pages that hold games’ descrip­tions.
Thanks to Tool­set, the­re was no need of doing so. We cre­ated views — cer­ta­in ways of pre­sen­ting each of our post types. If one day we deci­de the look needs to chan­ge, all we have to do is to cor­rect the view, inste­ad of all the pages of that type.

CRED (CReate and EDit forms)

Larps are a stran­ge mix of art and enter­ta­in­ment. The same is true for the­ir cre­ators. We love having guests — all of them flam­boy­ant per­so­na­li­ties. Do you know how to work in an effi­cient and enjoy­able way with this tri­be? Give a spa­ce to express them­se­lves. And don’t ask to many questions.

Descrip­tion of each larp holds a bunch of infor­ma­tion. Some are basic and sim­ple (dura­tion, num­ber of play­ers, gen­re) but some are much more deve­lo­ped. We always publish a short “nar­ra­ti­ve” descrip­tion, kept in the tone of a gen­re. Except that the­re is always a “spe­ci­fic” descrip­tion with more deta­iled infor­ma­tions, game rules, trig­ger war­nings e.t.c.

All of the abo­ve need to gathe­red and publi­shed. What was an expe­ri­ment at first, now tur­ned into an effec­ti­ve pro­ce­du­re. Via Tool­set we cre­ated a CRED for authors star­ring at our events. They fill the form, Tool­set turns it into a game-type post and all we need to do befo­re making it public is to check for gram­mar and sty­le — and give it a go.

Layouts

During the pro­cess of rebu­ilt a question aro­se. Do we want games to be display­ed the same ways that events are?
Not real­ly. Larps need more a cata­lo­gue sty­le pre­sen­ta­tion, becau­se they hold the infor­ma­tions users rather come back to, brow­sing it leisu­re­ly. On the other hands events are some­thing our audien­ce look for and need all the impor­tant info from and now. When it starts? What cha­rac­ters are ava­ila­ble? Do I need to pre­pa­re costu­me?…

The next thing we did after desi­gna­ting the types, was desi­gning the lay­outs for the most cru­cial ones we’ve got. And Tool­set gave us a gre­at way to do it. We work with it the same way we do with “views”. We make tiny cor­rec­tions from to time to time, adju­sting it to suit the ways vie­wers inte­ract with our con­tent.
The last we used were…

Maps

Maps obvio­usly are con­nec­ted to the venu­es whe­re our larps take pla­ce. Gathe­red data pre­sents that over 60% of our users enter our home­pa­ge on mobi­le devi­ces. When the venue is anno­un­ced, one of the first things they check is the event’s loca­tion. Aga­in, Tool­set tur­ned out to be the many-sided Word­Press plug-in we needed.

Summary

Out of the main Toolset’s com­po­nents the only one we dont’ use on the regu­lar basis is Access – a func­tion that lets you add custom user roles and mana­ge the­ir pre­ro­ga­ti­ves. All the other once, men­tio­ned abo­ve, ena­bled us to build a user (and admi­ni­stra­tor) frien­dly home­pa­ge.
As our pro­ject grew, Tool­set tur­ned out to be the right answer to our needs. We high­ly recom­mend it for any­one facing suc­cess in upco­ming time. If your por­tal to the digi­tal word is built on word­press engi­ne — befriend with this han­dy and ver­sa­ti­le plug-in sooner than later.