WordCamp Philly 2015 – A Recap

It’s been a busy few days in the Santoro schedule – As I write this, I’m in the car a fourth of the way home from WordCamp Philly 2015. There, I gave by far my most “out there” presentation to date – typically, I like to focus on broad strokes and standard examples, but this time I wanted to try a more philosophical approach… I wanted to demonstrate a bigger point, and so I made a smaller target, a focused example, and something that (while certainly in-depth) was likely too packed with information to call it my best presentation. Still, I’m rather proud of it – and so, we’ll give a brief overview of the topic, include some slides, and wait for the video to be posted on WordPress.tv 🙂

So what’s it about?

Being an avid gamer and fan of understanding (and creating) systems and guidelines, back in 2006 I developed a Pen & Paper Role-Playing Game system (much akin to Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, etc.). It was more closely based to the D6 system – an older style much overlooked due to the flexibility of D20, but it suited my needs well.

The core idea of this system was to create a brutally hard, extremely realistic system where failure could equal catastrophe and a misstep could mean death. High stakes, high tension, and high speeds were essential, and although the rules have evolved over the years (yes, occasionally I’ll still go back and revisit them!), we’ll use the original version of what I call the Simple D6 System, Version 1.

Cool! How did you cover that?

In the most confusing way possible! The end setup is an extraordinarily complex site, but the coolest part was that at no point did I have to write custom PHP. A knowledge of HTML payed off so I could quickly create layouts, but a WYSIWYG editor could do just fine.

Let’s jump straight to it – you can find the live demo site at http://demo.danielsantoro.com/game.

The Ingredients

The talk, titled “Cooking with WordPress – No Code Required!” seemed fitting, as much as the way with cooking, one must understand the basic ingredients and components of what we’ll be manipulating. In the slides available here:

Download Slides

We cover a few important components and explain the different types and uses:

  • Custom Post Types
    • “Post”-style Post Type
      • For time-sensitive information such as press releases, updates, or updates to the game.
    • “Page”-style Post Type
      • For “Static” information with a URL that doesn’t change, such as an Account page or a profile.
  • Custom Taxonomies
    • Hierarchical Taxonomy
      • These are taxonomies that can be nested within each other – these are great for sorting content for readers, as you can essentially create folders.
    • Flat Taxonomy
      • These are taxonomies that do not have any sort of structure, but instead can be used as keywords for search and relating posts to another.
  • Custom Fields
    • Much as they sound, Custom Fields are just that – with a half dozen ways you can have users input data, these are useful since they write directly into the Post Meta fields in your WordPress database.
    • This means you don’t need an external database, and you can manage all of your content in the comfort of the WordPress Administration Section.

The Tools

All good chefs need their tools, and that’s no exception here. While I hate to say that some of these plugins are premium plugins (which means you’ll have to invest in them), I can assure you that the plugins I recommend are invaluable – I’ll explain each of them as I go.

  • WP Types – WP-Types is a free plugin that can be found on WP.org. It allows you to easily add new custom post types, taxonomies, and fields to your site, without ever having to touch your functions.php file or open a text editor. It is, hands down, the most user friendly and powerful tool of its kind, and is a “must-have” for any site that I develop.
  • WP Toolset – The WP Toolset is the name of the premium plugin suite that is designed around Types. There are a few different components here:
    • Views – Views is the Peanut Butter to the Types Jelly. Although you can absolutely call in the custom Types fields by editing the PHP template files, Views makes this much easier with two main features.
      • Views are the key feature, as the plugin name would imply. They allow you to create custom loops – essentially a way to write PHP functions without needing to know what that entails. You can loop through content or pull information for a specific entry – for example, you can make a list of all the pages in a post type, or pull all the fields for the active page.
      • Page Templates are a feature that allow you to write whatever you’d like in an HTML editor, including Types values as shortcodes or even embedding entire Views. This is perfect for creating a style for the single pages of your Custom Post Types.
    • Cred – Cred is a cool plugin, in that it allows you to create forms that allow non-admins or users of a specific role create a post type entry – for example, adding their character or adding profile details for their personal profile.
    • Access – Access is probably the least unique plugin in the bunch – it allows you to create specific user groups, which enable users to be put into different groups. For this I actually recommend Groups, a free plugin on WP.org that’s a little more user friendly.
  • Sensei & Groups (Optional) – The two plugins together can build a learning platform as used in the example.

The Examples

Alright, now that we know the parts and the tools, let’s see what we’ve built! For the demo purposes, the URL to visit is

Simple D6 Game Demo

A more complex example can be found at the original site that this sort of setup was placed, which is a Star Wars D6 RPG –

Imperial Entanglements – A Star Wars D6 Online Game

What to take away

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the slides and even the concept, so I’ll summarize what this means in a single sentence:

If you have an idea and a dream, then it can be accomplished in WordPress. In the example above, we needed to build a D6 Role Playing System – I’ll give twenty bucks to someone who can find a plugin that manages all of that, because there simply isn’t (and probably never will be) one. Instead, we took a look at how WordPress works, and we created our own plugins.

Want some typical examples I use for client sites?

  1. Many clients want an “Our Team” page, which lists thumbnails and basic information on each team member. This links out to their personal profile, or their Twitter account.
  2. I’ve never once found a Gallery plugin that was easy and fit all my needs. With Custom Post Types and Views, we can easily create our own galleries – even video galleries with AJAX search.
  3. We can easily create full-fledged databases, which can especially be seen on Imperial Entanglements.

In short, with a $129 investment, you’ve grown your development skills from someone who would need to outsource to someone who can provide a full service. That’s a value you just can’t beat.

With such a complex topic and so many moving parts, there’s inevitably going to be some questions, some comments, and some accusations that “You’re not a REAL developer!” – I want to hear them all 🙂 Comment below to tell me what you think, and if you’re interested in the topic, keep up-to-date with my Newsletter and periodically check http://demo.danielsantoro.com for more examples.

Thank you for having me, WC Philly – I can’t wait to see how far this idea has evolved by next year!

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