Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

New chat system coming soon no really I mean it this time, pronouns in character customization screen
Admin CavemanJoe2023-03-21 15:01:29 [Permalink]
Hey folks, I'm getting ready to launch the new chat system, and most if not all existing chat will be erased. I previously said only OOC chat in Places would be erased, but nah, we're clean-slating it. Here's a quick little preview thingy I knocked up to chat about in Banter, that showed where newChat was on the 1st of March - it's come a long way since then, and I'm crawling all over the game code finding and changing references to the old chat system.

That journey has taken me to some pretty dusty places, places that made me go "Oh I gotta fix that while I'm in there," so expect some updates to the rest of the game too when this goes live. One of the updates that I can go live with today - IE an update that won't break existing stuff if I release it before the rest of the chat updates - is finally adding pronoun switching to the Character Customization menu!

Yes, you can now switch your character between he/she/they right in the customization menu below chatspaces - no more Doc Paprika, no more weird preferences menu workarounds, just swap it right there in the menu as easy as setting custom armour. We would have had this way sooner but to be honest any time I even glance at the way this ancient codebase handles pronouns, I'm tempted to rewrite the whole damn thing.

Presently I'm aiming for the first week in April; I'll give you all a heads-up when I have a date in mind, to give you time to log your chats.

Have fun!

New chat system coming soon, circumstances update, bollocks (UPDATE: update)
Admin CavemanJoe2023-03-13 17:50:04 [Permalink]
Hey folks, I wanted to have the new chat system up and running later this week, but it's very unlikely at this point as I have to do some emergency house repairs.

(our roof was last replaced in the 90's, and it's started to leak pretty bad, most likely because it was damaged by bricks falling from our chimney. It'd cost more to rebuild the chimney than to replace the hot water heater (the only thing that still uses the chimney, 18 years old and would fold in half before releasing its sacrificial anode) with a hybrid electric one and roof over the chimney entirely, so I'm running a 240v line and plumbing in a new hot water heater this week. Sorting this all out is likely gonna cost five figures; I've got guys coming over to give me quotes today, I'll pop up some kinda fundraiser thing once I have a better idea of the total)

All out-of-character chat content will be reset when we go live with the new chat, which is faster, prettier and better on mobile, so please save any OOC chat you want to save.

Also, Place builders and programmers - this won't go into effect soon, but giving you plenty of advance notice - please treat talking as a free action. Today, chatting in Banter while in an Outpost doesn't trigger an entire page reload, but simply reloads the chat portion - we're going to extend that to every chatroom later this year, so if you have any Place programs that interact with chat in ways that expect Place Programs to run on every line of chat entered, they may need to be fiddled with. Chat commands (chatlines that begin with a /) will always reload the page.

The new Monthly Memento for March is the Bollocks, and it bollockses things up.

Have fun, expect fundraiser/newchat soon,


UPDATE 2023-03-13: My typical plumbing jobs involve three trips to the shop, but in this case I was dealing with copper, PVC, PEX, black iron and wiring, so we're up to six trips so far which I think is honestly pretty respectable. I turned a valve I shouldn't have and now it's leaking around the stem, so I gotta fix that before I can pressurize (we have a water pressurizer tank because our mains pressure is super low) but at least we've got hot water again.

Fingers crossed I'll be back to Island development next week.
Covid update, 15-year-anniversary postponement
Admin CavemanJoe2023-01-30 19:19:29 [Permalink]
Hey folks, please see the previous MotD for context on this one.

Seen it? Read it? Cool, my daughter still has covid, and my immunocompromised spouse and I still don't. The nurse on the phone told us hey, you're gonna get it, it's a matter of if not when - I don't think she knew how much duct tape and filter material and stupendously high voltage was in my house.

We've had the thermostat set to 15-16c all winter (folk round here in the USA typically set it WAY higher), so we've saved a bunch of money on gas, which we're now spending as we crack the windows for better ventilation. We're wearing bathrobes over our clothes so we're still toasty.

Furnace fan is set to run even when the furnace itself isn't on, cycling air through the furnace filter, which is a high-voltage electrostatic job that was all the rage for about five minutes in the early 2000's before people realised they were a pain in the arse to run through the dishwasher every month. Ceiling fans are set to reverse, pushing air against the ceiling and down the walls to the intakes where viral particles can be sucked in and exploded in our furnace's kilovolt trap (this also pushes hot air from the ceiling down to where we're at, which means less running the furnace).

We made a Corsi-Rosenthal box out of four MERV-13 furnace filters duct taped together into a cube with a box fan on top. A duct tape shroud ensures air has to pass the hard way through the filters, rather than being sucked back through the edges of the fan. These filters are electrostatically charged so, again, an extra electron (hopefully!) compromises the cell wall in a similar way to contact with copper. And we're all wearing N95's (electrostatic, again). If I feel extra paranoid then I run my CRTs downstairs too (arcades have bizarrely clean air and filthy surfaces because the presence of so many tens-of-kilovolt sources charge the crap floating in the air and make it electrically "sticky" - if you open up any tube TV (don't, it'll kill you) you'll find the area around the anode cap coated in a millimetre of jet-black gunge. Wipe it off and run the game, and it's back again next month).

So far, all this is working. Daughter's exhaling through material that effectively kills the virus, anything that gets past doesn't live very long in this inhospitable environment we've made, and then there's own N95 masks to get past. For a viron to get into me or Emily it's gotta go through two N95's and a gauntlet of traps designed to kill it on an industrial scale. It's still all down to luck in the end, but so far - knock on wood - we've had luck in abundance.

My six-year-old daughter is being incredibly brave, pragmatic and grown-up about this whole thing. Her idea to limit hugs, her idea to all mask inside, her idea to ensure her parents don't get sick so we can better take care of her. She's showing little in the way of symptoms. Honestly she's probably handling this the best out of any of us.

Trying to write code for the Island isn't going so well right now; my head is so full of voltage and filters and worrying about stopping my spouse catching it that even getting simple stuff written up feels way harder than it has been in a long time.

I still plan on converting us over to the new chat system in early February, but doing Something Big for our 15-year anniversary will have to be pushed back a bit.

However, if you're missing any Monthly Mementos, might want to get some tenners saved up, 'cause we're gonna do the ten-year-anniversary MM Catch-Up Memento again. Yay, some good news! Use February's Monthly Memento to turn it into a Monthly Memento that you don't yet have. We only do this for very very special occasions so it'll be five years minimum before we do it again.

Apologies for the delay in programming, and fingers crossed we'll be back to our regularly-scheduled silliness pretty soon.


OOC Chatrooms will be emptied soon, Cobblestone Cottage is working again (for now), happy anniversary EDIT: covid and ads
Admin CavemanJoe2023-01-26 20:09:48 [Permalink]
Hey folks, in an effort to better organize the chat code for the upcoming improvements, most out-of-character chatrooms will have their internal IDs changed some time in the next couple of weeks.

This means when the new, less-buggy, better-on-mobile chat system goes online, chat will expire early in OOC areas. So please save any chat you want to save!

Improvements to the new chat include swifter chat refreshes, real-time Distraction notifications, less data and CPU usage (on mobile this means a lower data bill and longer battery life, and lower emissions for everyone), and a nicer mobile interface. I'm also fixing some annoying long-standing bugs, and taking out the final relics of our horrendous 2010's-era chat system which some Island longtimers still laugh/shudder about.

Speaking of horrible old code, I got Cobblestone Cottage working more reliably last week. In case you didn't know, this is our World Community Grid interaction thing, which gives you Cobblestones (which you can use for, at the moment, Mementos) and Supporter Points for letting researchers use your CPU when you're not using it. So far, Improbable Island players have donated almost four thousand years' worth of CPU runtime to mapping cancer markers, improving rainfall forecasts, analysing potential new HIV treatments and a shitton of other cool projects.

Of course, to reward players with Supporter Points and Cobblestones for donating their unused CPU cycles to science, a fifteen-year-old website has to talk to an eighteen-year-old website, and if you're wondering what's involved there then picture the code equivalent of two creaking great-great-grandpas sitting in armchairs shouting WHAT at each other while holding up ear trumpets the wrong way round, and you might understand why Cobblestone Cottage has historically been, to put it charitably, kinda glitchy. The new updates make the World-Community-Grid-to-Improbable-Island communication process more resilient and gives better error messages when something goes wrong, so at least you'll know what setting to fix in your World Community Grid profile.

Wait, did I say a fifteen-year-old website? YES I DID, WE TURNED FIFTEEN THIS WEEKEND, and I didn't have my shit together enough to do something special for it (folk in banter will remember me going "Oh shit I thought I had another year"). So we'll call February our "official" celebration month, just like when we "officially" turned ten in February 2018 because I didn't have my shit together enough to do something special on 2018-01-21.

EDIT & UPDATE 2023-01-26: After dodging it for three years, my daughter caught COVID, so development is gonna be halted for at least a week or two. We'll probably postpone the 15-year celebration and push back the new chat release to later on in February. Oh also there's a banner ad on the New Day page now - we're not earning anything from these, I just think personal hobby websites are cool and felt nostalgic for the non-corporate Internet and thought hey maybe we can help bring it back. If you've got a site you want advertised for free, no catch, click the explanatory link below the ad.

Have fun!

Fuck I never did the January Monthly Memento MotD
Admin CavemanJoe2023-01-12 14:44:10 [Permalink]
Hey folks, January's Monthly Memento is the Shiny New 2023 Calendar. Use it once a week to trigger an extra game day!

I've fixed the chat bug that would occasionally cause chat to silently stop updating; while I was in there I found a few more cobwebs and I'm currently rewriting much of the Javascript that controls chat so that it performs better. Look for chat improvements next week or late January.

Have fun, and happy 2023!

Solly Returns, and a bonus Monthly Memento
Admin CavemanJoe2022-12-12 17:21:54 [Permalink]
Hey everyone! It wouldn't be the Solstice Season without an appearance from Solstice Squirrel, and this year she's gonna tell you a Christmas Ghost Story, in Standard Solly Story-And-Stamina Style.

If you donate twenty bucks instead of ten this month, you'll get the Bonus Monthly Memento, a commemorative cat bowl for the coronation of our new Official Cat Harley, also known as Little Bastard.

Have fun!

November Monthly Memento, mobile improvements, expanding banking services and an open letter to the games industry
Admin CavemanJoe2022-11-21 16:30:11 [Permalink]
Hey all, I never did post an MotD about this month's Monthly Memento, but it's the Public Duty Cost Allowance and it pays you money every day for the hour you spent as the UK's Prime Minister.

The Bank now has some extra options available to make banking faster and easier! For a small one-time cigarette fee you can add the ability to deposit/withdraw-all in one click from the Bank, or even from the Outpost. There's even an option to have a clerk follow you around the Jungle in case you fancy a quick bank in the foliage.

There's been more improvements to the mobile interface! In addition to more quicknav buttons popping up here and there, we now have a QuickStat system that lets us show relevant stats just above the quicknav area whenever they're needed. For example, when you go into a restaurant on mobile, a little pie appears with your hunger bar next to it, and a coin with your req, so you don't have to scroll all the way down the page to see where you're at hunger-and-money-wise. On the Failboat, a pair of glasses appear to show your favour with The Watcher. In the Jungle after a fight, a coin shows your earned Requisition and a potato shows your earned Experience Points, because there's no generally-accepted visual shorthand for XP, a subject of lengthy discussion culminating in an open letter to the games industry at large which I hope you'll share with anyone thinking of making head-up displays using little pictures of the letters "XP" instead of little pictures of potatoes.

Have fun!

The Cat is dead; long live the Cat
Admin CavemanJoe2022-11-09 15:03:01 [Permalink]
Improbable Island's official cat Stewart died on Friday evening. We'd been expecting it for a while, because he was born some time in the 90's.

He had maybe 30 seconds of confusion, then I figured what was happening, picked him up and he settled down in my arms and started purring. Took him outside in the unseasonal warm and sat down on a rock with him on my lap and scritched his jaw and ear the way he likes and he just purred into the cup of my hand for a couple minutes, twitched a couple times, and his purr kinda faded out until I could just about feel it on the hand underneath him. It was a couple more minutes until I realised I was feeling my own heartbeat.

It was very gentle; felt like he was falling asleep, except his eyes were open. I took him inside and set him down on the floor and the other three cats gathered around in a wee Cat Wake and looked and sniffed and gave him a goodbye lick. Emily cuddled Nerv while I went out to dig his grave; I buried him next to Leo under the maple tree in a beautiful sunset.

He was an excellent cat and I'm glad I was there to ease him through.

Stewart's successor to the title of Improbable Island Official Cat is Harley, who long-timers may already know from jungle encounters. Harley was born before Improbable Island, and was in our lives before Leo and Stewart were, but there was no Official Cat position until the early 2010's and Harley was passed over for the role because he's a dick political meddling from the administrative side of Improbable Island prevented him from assuming his rightful position, a situation that has now been rectified.

Long may the little bastard His Cattiness reign.

Candy Bombs restocked, food prices halved, restaurant quicknav, life update
Admin CavemanJoe2022-10-27 15:41:31 [Permalink]
Hey folks, it's the fucking 27th of October and I've only just now restocked Gargantuan Candy Bombs in the Hunter's Lodge. This lateness is due to an Unfortunate Series of Events since the last MotD, which I'm tempted to write a Long Post about but it'll get Very Very Very long, so I'll just summarize here:

* Kid gets sick (not covid)
* Wife gets sick (also not covid)
* I get sick (still not covid)
* Catalytic converter got sawed off at 3am one brisk Sunday morning in early October; neighbour happened to be awake but by the time he got outside the thieves were already accelerating away
* Got insurance involved rather than just buying an aftermarket cat and putting it in myself; people who've been in this situation are now nodding sagely and going "Dan you done fucked up" but wait, it gets even dumber
* Order cat shield ($300) to discourage this happening again
* Throw my back out picking up a bookcase
* Insurance mechanic who replaced the cat ($500 excess) tells me it's ready
* Drop off the hire car and get a lift to the mechanic
* Car won't fucking start
* Mechanic shrugs, calls insurance, they arrange a tow of my car back to my house and another courtesy 2 hours on the hire car, well that's nice of them I guess
* It's 3pm Friday and everywhere's gonna be shut over the weekend; tell the hire car people alright just bill me over the weekend while I try and sort this out
* Swapped out ignition switch, starter relay and battery ground braid, car still won't start
* It's the fucking starter motor, get on the phone to the insurance saying hey the starter motor worked when I dropped this car off
* Insurance tells me oh well sucks to be you I guess, good luck proving we burned it out
* Back gets worse and it's getting cold, I'm not gonna swap this starter motor myself, gonna pay a guy to do it in a nice warm workshop with a lift and shit
* Car towed to a better mechanic ($150)
* Kid, wife and self seem to be recovering from The Sick, but my back gets worse; lose two days to immobility
* Mechanic installs new starter motor and I have him put the cat shield on while it's already on the lift ($600)
* Drop off the hire car and pay them for the week I ended up having it ($240)
* Drive car ten miles before Check Engine light comes on
* Scan the codes
* Either the new O2 sensor's a dud or this new cat ain't working right
* We just riveted a steel cage around the cat to make it harder to take it off
* Kid gets sick again lol

So I'm the better part of two grand down on this whole saga so far. If you've been thinking of donating, now would be a grrrrrrreat time to do so.

In happier news, I've added Quicknav support to the various Restaurants on the Island, and halved all food costs. As I type this I was about to rejigger the menus to improve the mobile experience a bit, but I had my Covid booster last night and it's starting to kick in

Have fun,

New Monthly Memento, further Quicknav extensions
Admin CavemanJoe2022-10-03 13:39:54 [Permalink]
Hey everyone! October's Monthly Memento is the Hobbady-Lantern, which is what you carve for Hallowe'en if you're growing up in Thatcher's Grim North and you can't get hold of a pumpkin but you do know a bloke who has some livestock-grade turnips. It looks like this and it's a good solid working-class facelantern that knows its roots. Use it to gain Stamina outside of a fight, or frighten a monster during combat.

I've made some more mobile-interface improvements, extending Quicknav to cover our Implants (and adding a wee readout to the player's combat card). Pretty soon it'll be much easier to play Improbable Island on mobile devices, and I'm super excited about it. If you have any pet peeves about mobile, pages you use a lot and wish were better, please do Distract me with your wishlists.

Have fun!

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