Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

We're in trouble and need some money
Admin CavemanJoe2023-05-22 17:35:18 [Permalink]
Hey folks, we are officially In Trouble and I need your help.

The short version: We need a lot of money in a very short time and I can't give you much exciting stuff in return for several months. I know, shit isn't it, but the long version explains a bit better.

You might remember back in March our roof started leaking while I was writing the new chat system. Sorting it out enough to last another couple of years was a big job that involved demolishing the chimney (and replacing the hot water heater, which was the only reason we even had a chimney - cheaper than rebuilding, y'see) and it ended up about three grand, to which I said "Hell, I should probably do a fundraiser on the Island, after I get this new chat system written up and in."

Well, shortly after that in April, I took my car to the mechanic because it was making a Noise and I don't have a lift or garage or even driveway to fiddle with it. The mechanic said "Come and have a look at this," which is their way of saying "Oof you're gonna spend some money here pal," and took me under the car and pointed at things so he could hear me say "Oh" and "Sheesh" and "Yikes" and "Fuck Pennsylvania winters." I left the mechanic two days later a couple of grand lighter, and thought "Damn, I really need to get on that fundraiser thing, just make it a bigger one. Tie them together." But by then I was thoroughly invested in making Places run faster, so all my Island time was going into that.

End of April, my web host emails me to say hey, we're decommissioning all our first-gen dedicated servers, you've got until September to make arrangements to move. I go "Well I've been meaning to upgrade this box anyway, the new ones are faster for less money," and I check out their annual plans and it'll save a couple of hundred quid to buy a year at once rather than doing it monthly like we've been doing for the past 15 years. But to do that, I need to have a couple of grand up front.

I also need, since the new server will be running PHP8, to remove/replace/rewrite all the parts of the game code that won't work with this new PHP version. So I go to Goodwill and spend $50 on a computer that's new enough to run the software I need, replicate the new server's environment on that Goodwill box and copy the Island over to it to see what breaks. Basically everything breaks. I start rewriting stuff, beginning with the Inventory display - the good news is nearly all of it will be backward-compatible, which is part of why you have a shiny new Inventory screen now. That $50 Goodwill box is my full-time dev machine now btw, it's nearly twice as fast as my old one and uses way less electricity yay.

(I looked at the manufacturing date on my old processor and went "2009, eh, that's only four years old," and then I counted again before crumbling to dust like that bloke at the end of The Last Crusade)

Anyway then in mid-May my cat went blind. Harley, I mean, the Improbable Island Official Cat as of last year when Stewart passed away. I take him to the vet. Guess how much the bill was? If you're thinking "This is gonna be a couple of grand isn't it," well that's exactly what I was thinking in the waiting room. Along with "Well shit, I hope he even wakes up from the anesthesia."

Well, good news, it were only a grand and a half. And now he's on daily pills and only mostly blind. We're taking him back next week for a followup, fuck knows how much that's gonna be.

At this point if I don't get this fundraiser thing moving now, then I'm sure something else will come along to give me a big fucking hint to get a fundraiser going, so here's the fundraiser. If you care about this game and want it to continue, give us some money.

What do you get in return?

Well, when we've done fundraisers in years past, I've usually accompanied them with some fancy new game feature or bundle deal or something, but today the circumstances are different.

When I fired up the Island on my PHP8-having test box, it output some error messages. And by that, I mean it output so many notices, warnings and error messages, one after the other, that Firefox sat and spun a circle for five minutes, the scrollbar getting smaller and smaller, until it ran out of memory and crashed. That's right, PHP8 got its red pen out and nitpicked so hard that my browser couldn't even load its full list of complaints.

When we did our last server move, back in 2017, you all had written the equivalent of a thousand copies of The Fellowship Of The Ring. We're now at closer to a thousand copies of the entire trilogy, and PHP8 has something to moan about regarding the vast majority of it.

So this is not going to be a quick, straightforward, fix-a-couple-of-things-and-we're-good server migration like last time. This is going to be the sort of job that takes months of very intensive work, diving into the parts of the game code that haven't been touched since the Bush and Blair years, just to make the Island work at all on the new machine. Which we have to move the Island to. Before September. Oh, and I've got two weeks before Nerv's off school for the summer.

So, yeah. Got a bit of an emergency going on. I spent all of last week (except for the vet visit) fixing stuff just to get to the point where I could log in to the game on PHP8 and fight one jungle monster.

As I'm sure you're aware, this is kind of a big game. All of my coding time and energy is going to be invested in simply getting it all to work with modern PHP/MySQl, I simply haven't the spare time to code up something really neat and cool and profitable.

So really the best I can do, for now, is to restock the beloved old Hunter's Lodge Selection Boxes, and promise something really neat in... five months! Check the Lodge for details on the Hunter's Lodge Selection Box, the Deluxe Selection Box, the Builder's Selection Box and the Programmer's Selection Box.

Have fun, gimme yer money, and wish me luck as I dive deep into the code mine and don't return for several months,

I fucked about with your Inventory
Admin CavemanJoe2023-05-08 16:38:03 [Permalink]
Hey folks, I spent the past couple of weeks having a good old bollock about with the Inventory display, to make it less shitty on mobile. While I was in there I figured I'd make it less shitty on desktop too, so now we've got this new thingy. Improvements over the old one:
* Per-carrier display options; choose between grid layout, compact list or Show Fucking Everything, and have different settings on your Backpack, Bandolier, Shoebox and all your other nooks and crannies.
* Display options stored browser-side; no more having to change your settings when you go between your phone and your computer, they're all stored in cookies now.
* Expanded items stay expanded; if you're in Grid or List mode and you make an item Big by clicking it, it'll stay Big between pageloads until you click it again to unBig it. In Grid mode, Biggened items go to the top of the list rather than leaving shitty amateur-hour gaps around themselves.
* For items usable in a fight we now say "Equip" instead of saying "Transfer to Advanced Bandolier" like a huge programmy nerd.
* Actually usable on mobile. Jesus, remember what it was like before? HORRIFIC
* It's not a massive fucking HTML table anymore, it's a buncha divs all modern-fancy-style. I put this at the end because nobody cares about this except web devs, and nobody cares what web devs think except other web devs.

Have fun!

Happy May Day everyone!
Admin CavemanJoe2023-05-01 16:30:36 [Permalink]
Every year I wonder whether to theme May's Monthly Memento around International Worker's Day, or around sinister/horny/incomprehensible British Isles May Day celebrations, so this year I did both. The May Day Animal Head frightens the camera operators into giving you some extra money in exchange for forgetting the May Day tradition of getting furry and burning a cop. Lhude sing cuccu!

Have fun!

Massive Place performance improvements!
Admin CavemanJoe2023-04-18 19:15:17 [Permalink]
Hey everyone, this week and last I've been poking around Valskyr at V35 on the map. It's one of the Island's bigger and more complex Places, so I thought it'd be a good test candidate to try out some improvements to the Place loading and saving routines I've been messing about with.

If you're not familiar with Places and Place Programming, Places are the player-owned structures you can see on the Travel page, and they can get super complex - not just as cool things to look around and sightsee and read some cool writing, but also as ways to get special Mementos and play whole wee mini(and-not-so-mini)games that our players have come up with.

Valskyr is one of the Island's more complex Places, using lots of Memories (bits of data about a player's progress that can be saved inside the Place), and it was taking forty-five seconds to load its entrance page. I've buggered about significantly with the Places backend over the past week, and now it's loading in two seconds!

So if you've ever been curious about Places, but were put off by wondering if your internet connection was shagged or not, try them again 'cause they're super quick now.

Have fun!

April's Monthly Memento
Admin CavemanJoe2023-04-11 19:00:50 [Permalink]
Hey folks, April's Monthly Memento is the Travel Pass!

Not, not the Travle Pass, notice it's spelled properly, this is the Travel Pass for the new Kittania Cat-A-Pult!

The new chat system is going well; I fixed a couple bugs this morning, and also buffered Place Program debug output so Places don't take so horribly long to load when you've got a big Program and debugging turned on. I also added headers to make it easier to see which program's being run, for you folk who like the Run Program contraption.

Have fun and gimme yer money,

New chat system is here!
Admin CavemanJoe2023-04-03 16:04:50 [Permalink]
Go on, try it. Poke them buttons. Switch them options. It's shiiiiiny.

We got some bugs; some lines of chat are shifted a pixel or two to the left, Banter sometimes appears for a second or two where Story should be, the typing-indicator lights are currently rather sluggish, but on the whole it's gone well. Please Problem Report any bugs you see, and have a good ol' fiddle with the new and improved Chat Options menu.

Have fun!

New chat system launches Monday
Admin CavemanJoe2023-03-27 19:09:01 [Permalink]
Hey folks, our new and improved chat system will be launching this coming Monday, 3rd of April! The new chat features swifter live updates, easy mouseover viewing on mobile, colourblind-friendly online status indicators, real-time Distraction notifications, lower CPU and data usage and generally huge quality-of-life improvements.

Most chat will be erased during the changeover, so please copypaste any scenes you want to keep.

On Monday I'll announce live in Banter when we're gonna do the switcheroo, and I'll be around all day to fix whatever breaks.

Have fun!

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.


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