Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

New Monthly Memento
Admin CavemanJoe2022-05-09 20:15:48 [Permalink]
Hey folks! Given that it's May, our Monthly Memento is the "Hey Boss" Hammer. Use it once a day to persuade a monster to fight with you rather than against you.

This month I'm gonna do some updates to Down Below; I've made some progress towards making it use the new map system, and I think it's overdue for an aesthetic overhaul too.

Have fun!

Combat interface overhaul continued, bug fixes EDIT: more map graphics
Admin CavemanJoe2022-04-29 03:14:04 [Permalink]
Hey folks! If you go down to the woods I mean jungle today, you'll notice our neat new combat aesthetics. Obviously first you'll notice the little cards for you and each monster; I think these give the game some cool retro ambience, but they're not just for show. They stack vertically on mobile and horizontally on desktop, so if you're playing on a short screen (nearly half of modern laptops have only 768px to play with) then you'll be able to see more of the actual fight without having to scroll - and they now show the effects of buffs on ATK/DEF. I want to start adding more stats to the game fairly soon, but the old interface showed HP/ATK/DEF in a table which just barely fit horizontally on a mobile screen; these new cards can be different sizes if needs be, so we can cram as many stats in as we please.

As well as making the cards, I also fiddled with the textual side of combat. Previously, every combat page would begin with "~~~Fight!~~~" on its own line, and then "Start of round: Your hitpoints: x" and then another line of text for every monster, repeating at the foot of the page. I've done away with all that, so the text output from striking and buffs is immediately displayed right beneath the combatant cards (and Timed Combat meter if you've learned that skill) so the whole round's output should be able to fit on even the squattest monitor.

Furthermore, I got rid of the unintuitive cacophany of colours used in combat text; regular text output is now black, damage done to monsters is now green, and damage done to the player or companions is now red, so you can more easily tell at a quick scan how combat is going.

And speaking of companions, I fixed the bug where mercenary healing costs were way too high. Sorry that took so long.

Have fun!

Update 2022-04-28: I've added time/weather-interactive graphics for Swamp and Deep Water map squares! The shallow water ones will take a little longer; we use shallow water terrain to mean rivers or the shallow bits around beaches, and those need different graphics, so I'll have to figure out a way to figure out which graphic to serve, etc. Further update later the same day: I've added the updated River graphics, will specify some squares to be shallowish beachy water at some point soon.

Quicknav for mobile
Admin CavemanJoe2022-04-08 21:38:17 [Permalink]
Hey folks, if you're jungling on a phone you'll probably have noticed by now a new feature, which I'm calling Quicknav! It's a menu system designed especially for mobile, and it's part of the ongoing project "Operation Make Island Less Shit On Phones." It provides a three-by-three grid of quick links that are thumb-friendly and immediately visible on the page without having to scroll down or hit the Actions button. I only started work on this very recently, but I'm so excited about it I wanted to show you what it looks like in this early state.

Because many nav links will have to be altered a bit to fit in the Quicknav system, I'm making the decision to add them manually throughout the game, rather than setting up some kinda automated doohickey to hook into our existing nav system - so not all the navs you'll see on a standard page will be available, at least at first. The object is to get the most commonly-hit links visible without having to scroll, and I find it really makes a difference in combat on phones.

We're still planning on doing a server migration late this month or early next; this'll require an uninterrupted block of a few days' time, which I'm still trying to work into the schedule. I'll keep everyone updated on when that's going to happen as I figure it out. As always, if we're ever down, you can check our Fediverse presence for updates.

Have fun!

New Monthly Memento, outage
Admin CavemanJoe2022-04-04 19:06:21 [Permalink]
Hey folks, the Island went down for quite some time last night because we ran out of disk space. I've been thinking of moving us over to a new server, and now seems like an excellent time to start that process. My apologies for the unscheduled outage.

In happier news, the new Monthly Memento for April is the Jammy Jellyfish! If you know, you know.

I'll have more news for you on a server migration later in the week. Our last server move was in 2017 and back then I paid for a month on the new server so I could test and fix any bugs that arose; this time I plan to do the same, but we've got some technical debt to work off before the Island's ancient codebase will run at all. This is gonna cause a lot of sleepless nights in my near future.

Sometimes Island work results in immediate fancy new shinies which everyone enjoys, and sometimes it's just the dull but necessary technical drudgery of changing thousands of lines of code so that the Island won't fall flat on its arse the next time PHP updates. My spring is going to be full of that, so from the outside it's going to look like nothing's getting done and no new features are being worked on; I appreciate your patience during this time. When we do finally have everything ready to do the server migration we'll be moving from hard drives to SSD's, so the Island should run a LOT faster.

Stay tuned for updates! As a reminder, if the Island is ever completely unreachable, you can always find our Fediverse presence at; bookmark that page or add to your RSS reader and you'll always stay on top of our (thankfully very rare) outages.

Once again, sorry for the inconvenience, and have fun,

New Beach (edit: and mountain!) time/weather skins, daylight savings time
Admin CavemanJoe2022-03-14 01:05:11 [Permalink]
Hey folks! Just a quick one today; I've added time/weather-sensitive background graphics to Beach terrain squares (keep an eye out for more time/weather sensitivity on other squares too).

EDIT 2022-03-14 06:00 UTC: I've gotten new Mountain graphics too. :)

Today is the start of Daylight Savings Time in some parts of the world that contain some of our players, so I wanted to remind y'all that the Improbable Island clock runs on UTC and does not observe DST. Furthermore, countries that observe biannual clockbothering enter and leave DST on different dates, so during the next couple of weeks be extra vigilant about trying to organize on-Island events that happen at particular times of day.

Also, today's a really good day to check the batteries in your remote controls and smoke alarms!

Have fun,

New Monthly Memento, new map options, fundraising
Admin CavemanJoe2022-03-07 17:58:56 [Permalink]
Hey folks, the Monthly Memento for March is the Leftover Winter. It lets you prevent some of your meat from going bad overnight. You might notice this is a reskin of a Monthly Memento we did seven years ago, and that's because I had The Week From Hell at the end of March, but WE'LL GET TO THAT LATER, because I want to tell you about our new Map routine!

There are three places in Improbable Island where you move around on a 2D map, and they all have their own display routines, hotkeys, and ways of doing things on desktop, mobile and screen reader. This was totally unmanageable to put it politely, so I decided to make One Map Routine To Rule Them All, and you can now see it when travelling on the world map. In the coming weeks we'll be using this in Down Below and the new Outpost maps too. If map display looks fucky, clear your cache or do a CTRL-F5.

Here are some highlights of what's changed:

* Pre-move caching. The game now preloads the background graphics of squares just out of view, so you don't get an annoying corner flicker when you move from square to square.
* Hotkey reorganization and extra hotkey options. You can now choose between a set of hotkeys that make sense on QWERTY, AZERTY, Dvorak, Colemak or any keyboard with a numpad. Default is numpad, and the old QWERTY/AZERTY layout has shifted a little to the left because split keyboards (such as the very sexy homemade Ergodox knockoff I'm writing this on) are becoming more popular every day, and the old layout got chopped right at where a split keyboard... well, splits.
* Improved mobile support, which should look a little better and load a little faster on phones.
* Toggleable hotkey and Stamina cost display within the map itself. Check the "Map display settings" link just below the map to turn these on or off.
* An option to highlight or not-highlight clickable squares on the map; default is on, because newbies often don't realise they can move around by clicking on map squares.
* An option to hide the nav links entirely and navigate exclusively by hotkeys or mapclicking. This is really handy on widescreen laptops as it lets you get to the other links quicker.
* A complete eat-my-own-dogfood rewrite of the map accessibility options which should make things easier on blind or visually-impaired players using screen readers. There are now four different ways of having the map audibly read out; the slowest way is more or less like how the old map worked, and faster options are slightly less intuitive but will let you scan the map much quicker with a little practice. Players using screen readers should check the VI Map Help page which explains how the new options work.
* Preferences reorganization; all the map-related prefs are now stored in cookies, so you can have different prefs set on desktop/laptop/phone.
* Hotkey reservation; in making this new mappybusiness I've had to have a wee gander at the nav code as it was assigning hotkeys in a funky way, so while I was in there I added the option to reserve/override hotkeys for specific things. For a start, in the map, "N" will always be iNventory. I'm going to have a general fiddle with navs in the near future, so this'll let hotkeys be more consistent.

There are lots of other improvements, but it's all crap that only programmers or web designers care about, so the short version is that mappy stuff should now be faster, prettier, more accessible, more consistent and much easier to develop for in the future. I hope you like the new map! If you have any problems, first clear your cache or do a CTRL-F5, and if that doesn't work, use the Tell Us About A Problem link.

In other news, I had an ABSOLUTE FUCK OF A WEEK quite recently which has slowed me down and lightened my wallet quite a lot. Wednesday was the death of my last grandparent, Thursday my water pressurizer decided to spray water all over my basement, Friday and Saturday were devoted to plumbing and cleanup, Sunday was a furnace malfunction, Monday - Monday was fine. Nothing bad happened on Monday. Tuesday I find out that my car's gonna need two and a half grand's worth of work and I've no choice at all but to say aye, do the work. If you've been meaning to donate but have been waiting for an opportune time, this is it, 'cause financially this month has been an absolute bastard.

Coming soon: more mobile improvements, more time/weather conditions, Places improvements and 2D Outposts Resurrected!

Have fun!

New Monthly Memento, mobile improvements, Plains graphics, backend map stuff
Admin CavemanJoe2022-02-07 21:51:45 [Permalink]
Hey folks, the Monthly Memento for 2022-02 is the Slice Twice Device, because this month was brought to you by the number 2.

I've been making some improvements to the mobile skin these past couple of weeks! Mobile users can now see the flavour graphics, and there's a convenient button for switching between mobile and desktop. In the coming days I'm going to make a display menu for the mobile skin, similar to what desktop users see.

Speaking of flavour graphics, I've also made some new graphics for the Plains terrain, which respond to time and weather states; I was very pleased with how the Jungle and Outpost graphics reflected a really effective sense of time and place, but the moment you step out of the Outpost onto the map it's clear daytime everywhere, and that's a thing I want to fix, one terrain type at a time. It's a lot of work, but I think it'll be worth it in the end.

Speaking of the Map, and of mobile users, stay tuned for some interesting developments in that department. There are currently three places on Improbable Island where you move around in a 2D space (the world map, Down Below, and the beta 2D Outposts) and they all have their own display routines. Last week I wrote a unified map display function that should work anywhere, which will simplify development of future 2D map thingies. It's not yet live or wired in yet, but the main immediate benefits to you are going to be better mobile rendering and more consistent hotkey support (with options for remapping direction hotkeys). Also since there are some interesting developments going on in Squat Hole, I thought it'd be prudent to knock the dust off the 2D Outpost system. :)

Have fun!

Mobile updates, Girl Scout Cookies (Update 2022-01-25)
Admin CavemanJoe2022-01-25 20:37:06 [Permalink]
Hey folks, there's been some updates to Mobile Beta - if you're playing on a phone, choose it from Display Settings in your Preferences.

I've got some upcoming improvements to the way the World Map displays; those will have to wait until early next week because if I just upload enough to make mobile work, then desktop styling will fuck up hilariously.

Nerv is five years old now, and doing her first sale of Girl Scout cookies! Players in the USA can buy them online at Nerv's shop here. Please choose the shipping option, as we're not driving Nerv all around the country for the sake of a fiver.

There's a new cookie this year called Adventurefuls; I've tried one (they only give you one, 'cause they're top secret) and they're a very chocolatey crumbly biscuit base with an embedded disc of caramelish fudgeish niceness. They're pretty good! What's more, Aldi haven't gotten around to ripping them off yet; I have a feeling the Girl Scouts bakery designed a cookie that would require complex tooling just to slow Aldi down.

Expect more cool mobile improvements soon, and have fun!

Update 2022-01-25: I've pushed the changes up, so if Travel pages look screwy, hit CTRL-F5.
Mobile players will have to re-select the Mobile skin; I've put a link at the top of the Desktop skin, next to the Display menu, to quickly switch to the mobile version. There's also a button at the bottom of the mobile skin to switch to desktop mode.
The World Map overview page (with Places etc) is bollocksed and will be fixed likely tomorrow.

New(ish) Monthly Memento, new Outpost graphics, US healthcare system collapse, performance improvements, mental health, pace of development slowly improves, time & weather updates, EDIT: mobile update
Admin CavemanJoe2022-01-14 22:16:52 [Permalink]
Hey folks, January's Monthly Memento is the Shiny New Calendar as usual; it gives you an extra game day per real-world week.

Now that things have calmed down a bit RL-wise, I've had some time to continue with our lovely new background graphics! Outposts now have slightly less claustrophobic background graphics, and I had a lot of fun making variants for the different times of day and weather conditions. I think these give a lovely sense of time and place without being overwhelming, and I plan to give the other skins the same treatment. You can expect some more variants over the next week or two.

I also made some changes to the way moduleprefs are loaded and cached, which has caused a minor speed improvement to the site in general - but the big difference is in Midnight Black operations, which haven't timed out since I made the change a couple of weeks ago.

The hospital system in many parts of the USA is collapsing under the Omicron variant of COVID-19, and emergency healthcare may be unavailable. We all have to reevaluate the risks we take, because if we get hurt in the next few weeks (hopefully things will have improved by the spring; I'm an optimist!), there's an increasing chance that we'll just stay hurt. I'm dealing with this new situation on the woodworking side by putting the blade guard back on my table saw, building a better table and hold-downs for my drill press, and fucking the palm router off entirely until things calm down a bit. On the arcade repair side, I'm not transporting any pinball machines heavier than a Williams System 6, and eschewing monitor repair entirely. I'm not driving except where absolutely necessary; when I can't avoid it, I'm dropping my speed and increasing my distance from the car in front of me. My gutters are remaining filthy and my staircase handrails are tightened. I encourage you to find the places in your life where you can afford to take another few minutes or even seconds to be a bit safer, and use that time thoughtfully - at least until the hospitals aren't overloaded anymore, at which point you can feel free to go back to juggling rabid skunks or playing poke-the-gator or whatever it is you get up to. I won't judge.

You might've noticed me around a little bit more lately. The situation that was eating up all my time from September to December has ended, and I have a bit more time to sort out... well, all the things I should've been sorting out over the past three months, plus getting back to more programming/writing/community engagement with the Island. I've had a bout of less-than-stellar mental health since late December so it's taking me some time to switch gears back into Island mode - whether it's the everyday variety of depression or anxiety or a reaction to the collective trauma we've been through the past couple of years, I don't know. Either way, I'm finding it a challenge to hold complex systems in my head, as is necessary for the sort of large-scale gameplay improvements I was planning last year. I plan to ease back into Island development gradually by working on smaller, more self-contained updates like the ones I detailed in this MotD, and aesthetic and interface improvements to the desktop and mobile skins, before I get back to big ambitious projects. I appreciate your patience and understanding at this time.

Have fun!


Edit 2022-01-14: Mobile Beta is now available to choose as a display skin in your Preferences; it is currently janky as hell and only sort-of working, but I figured I'd show you so you can see how the sausage is made. This has also caused some cache misses on desktop skins too, so if you see a Vast White Expanse, please hit CTRL-F5 or empty your browser's cache.
Massive new Monthly Memento
Admin CavemanJoe2021-12-04 16:31:07 [Permalink]
Hey folks, the car situation seems to be finally resolved and HOO BOY WAS THAT A DOOZY OF A NOVEMBER. I'll not bore you with the details but put it this way, I was in the mood to write a Monthly Memento that focuses heavily on self-care 'cause wow yeah we could all probably use some of that right now huh.

So, this month's Monthly Memento is a real whopper! Solly the Solstice Squirrel returns for her third appearance on Improbable Island, with over four thousand words of new content, including mostly-wholesome Solly lore and self-care tips, culminating in a song-and-dance finale.

I hope you enjoy it!

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