Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

Welcome hackers, outage, foundation funddrive
Admin CavemanJoe2024-01-30 15:13:55 [Permalink]
Hello and welcome, everyone from Hacker News and all the other websites that have been banging on about my enormous CoC since last Thursday.

As a brief explainer to Improbable Island and its current state, imagine you're throwing a party, and it's the best party ever, and you started it in your twenties and now you're 41 and you've had to create extensions on your house to hold All These People, and one day you look behind yourself and remember that you ripped the floor up to create another swimming pool and then got distracted because somebody asked you for a balcony. Suddenly an extra couple of thousand people show up from out of nowhere and start falling through the holes, and the various possums and raccoons that inhabit this particular floor of your house go "What holes?" because they've been there for so long that nobody notices them anymore. Welcome. If you come up out of the lobby and poke around a bit, you might find some places that look like they've at least had a new coat of paint and a minor dusting since computers had a TURBO button.

Yes, do come in, I know this pipe is gushing right now, I thought it'd be quiet for a month or so, just ignore it, I'll have it patched up in a jiffy. You've joined the party just after we've completed a server migration which involved skipping three major PHP versions like a gazelle leaping gracefully over the Grand Canyon and making a perfect ten-point landing only to smash face-first into a schoolbus full of porridge. I hope you love it here, at least once I've tidied up a bit. Welcome, and I'm sorry.

We had a minor server outage Friday night/Saturday morning, and it's my fault, because when my mate texted me to say "Wow you made the front page of Hacker News, hope your box doesn't melt!" and my box had not yet melted, I just couldn't resist replying with my best Posh Horsey Laugh, "Ahwahwahwa, euxgh dahling, hai've been optimizing the absolute bollocks off this game since it ran on spinning rust, Improbable Island hasn't even noticed a little blip like Hacker News, ahohohoho." Sure enough, that very night, around 3am, after serving twenty times our usual traffic for over 24 hours without so much as a sneeze, a whole different server belonging to some other bastard blew its PSU and popped the rack fuse, and down we went like a sack of spuds. Nobody will ever believe me, and that's fine. I guess.

Speaking of stuff falling down unexpectedly, I need some foundation repairs and they're gonna be bloody expensive. It's a long, long story, and you might have seen me talking about it a little at a time in Banter, gently probing around the edges of the subject like your tongue might squirm at a cavity you're trying to ignore, but the short of it is that I live in a house on a hill, the hill is trying its hardest not to be a hill anymore, we gotta jack up the whole front of the house, nine grand kthx.

I got the quote in mid-December after noticing a big crack where I put up my Christmas tree; it's taken me this long to just, like... parse the idea of nine thousand fucking dollars and what to even do about that. Previous fundraisers have been stuff like, oh I need some new tyres, I bet if I ask a few thousand people on the Island I can have that sorted out in a day, or we wanna pay for a whole year of hosting up front because that'll save us a few hundred quid, stuff that seemed big at the time but they're dwarfed in the shadow of this nine fucking thousand dollars.

So I've gotta think of something big and impressive to promise you lot in exchange for this fund drive, but it's gotta be bigger and more impressive than anything I've ever done, and I've gotta think of it while trying not to think about the whole front of my house falling off. So I haven't thought of anything yet, so I guess I'll start the Actual Fund Drive in February with some kind of bonus Monthly Memento or something, consider this advance warning.

Have fun!

~CMJ
Real quick WIP update
Admin CavemanJoe2024-01-23 17:06:49 [Permalink]
Hey folks, I've been a bit quiet the last couple of weeks and wanted to stick my head in and let you know what I'm working on at the moment; endgame improvements!

Basically we're taking the Drive out of the Jungle and putting it in a lab on the map. There'll be six labs that don't have the Drive in, and one that does. In a previous update I talked about rewriting the Stamina system for this, but after some fiddling it became clear that it made more sense to do the drive-on-the-map project first.

Like every project, it's become more complex than I'd initially figured; I've got to make all sorts of decisions about what will be in each lab, how best to give clues about where the labs are and which one has the Drive in it, whether the labs should be in the same place for everyone or whether every player will have to find their own labs.

It's a lovely ball of complexity! Just to give you an example, on the local-versus-global information question.

Having lab locations set globally will encourage you lot to chat with each other and keep an eye out on where the labs are and what's in each one, which is great from a social standpoint - but having the lab locations set on a per-player basis makes their discovery more of an explorey-bribey-determiney game element and less of a just ask banter element. If we're to blend the two together, have some labs in the same place for everyone and others in different places for everyone, then that raises more questions: which labs need to stay in the same location for everyone, and which need to be in different places for each player? Should the contents of any given lab be set locally or globally? Should the labs move around, so the information-sharing happens on an ongoing basis? When, and how? Which brings us to figuring out an algorithm to ensure that we never end up with a lab right next to or on top of another lab, and that they're spaced out in satisfying but only semi-predictable ways, which was an interesting morning in itself.

Anyway, the drive labs feature is, I reckon, probably about 60% complete; the labs move around on an irregular basis, there's a hidden mechanism to determine which are in the same place for everyone and which you'll have to hunt for, there are semi-random outcomes to things like what's in that locker or what will that sandwich do to you, the next part of the work will be rejiggering Headphones Jones in the Comms Tent so that he can give you hints that are just hinty enough to be fun.

I've been moving at a pretty good clip so this should be done probably early to mid February. I just wanted to pop on and tell y'all that I'm still alive and working on stuff. :)

Have fun!

~CMJ
January Monthly Memento, cookies
Admin CavemanJoe2024-01-14 20:56:00 [Permalink]
Hey all, you know what the January Monthly Memento is, it's the calendar again. Use it once a week to get a new game day.

Nerv is now SEVEN YEARS OLD OH MY GOD WHERE DOES THE TIME GO, and she's selling Girl Scout cookies! Players in the USA can buy them at Nerv's online cookie shop. Please choose the shipping option, as we're not driving littleun all around the country for the sake of six bucks.

Have fun!

~CMJ
New Monthly Mementos, dev update
Admin CavemanJoe2023-12-05 18:16:40 [Permalink]
Hey everyone, December's Monthly Memento is Solstice Squirrel's Christmas Number One! We're also doing a special bonus MM to commemorate Harley, our late Improbable Island Official Cat.

So let's chat about the Stamina system for a sec. Back in 2008, you didn't have a pool of Stamina points to use - you had separate turn points for travel, fighting, building etc. If you ran out of Travel points out in the middle of nowhere then you were just stuck, even if you had ten Jungle fights left for the day. It sucked. So I wrote various Wee Thingies to let you swap jungle fights for travel points etc, and those sucked too, but they provided the basis for the Stamina system which we started using at the beginning of Season 2 in 2009.

I had big plans for the Stamina system! Originally we were going to have five main actions (Hunting, Gathering, Fighting, Travel and Crafting), you'd have sub-actions within each, and experience gained would trickle up to the main action category. For example, hitting "Look for Big Trouble" would give you XP in "Hunting for Big Trouble" and "General Hunting," and going up a level in "General Hunting" would get you Stamina cost discounts in "Hunting - Standard," "Hunting for Easy Fights" and the other sorts of looking for trouble.

So why do we have the current weird system, where there are eight friggin' different actions for Travelling, and you can be level twenty in travelling specifically over shallow water and level two in travelling specifically over swamplands? Why does Budget Horse get too tired to travel along beaches but then find more energy to travel across plains? Why doesn't Hunting for Really Big Trouble give you some XP towards Hunting for Big Trouble, which surely is the same thing but easier? Why does it cost fourteen hundred days' worth of Stamina to go from level 98 to level 99 of Travel Across Plains in order to get the same 25-point cost reduction as you got for spending 8% of your Stamina to go from level 3 to level 4?

Well, I ran out of time before the Season 2 deadline, basically. I felt the deadline looming and cobbled something together and it's kind of worked for fourteen years while pissing me off the whole time.

Anyway, I'm in the mood to Correct This Mistake because I'm working on two things; first, refreshing the way Rallies work, and second, having the Drive move around the map rather than lurk in the jungles outside outposts, and giving a bunch more cool things to do in the endgame. Both of those things involve reconsidering the calculations for monster encounters on the map - for years I've wanted to give y'all "Sneaky" and "Stompy" travel options that reduce or increase map monster encounters, but to do it Properly would involve us having twenty four friggin' different actions for Travel, and frankly fuck that so yeah, returning to the Original Plan for the Stamina system is how we're gonna do that. Expect it late this year or early next.

Have fun!

~CMJ
Return of the Wiki
Admin CavemanJoe2023-11-28 15:27:28 [Permalink]
Hey everyone, the Improbable Island Wiki has returned! In fact it's returned twice - that link there is to the New Wiki, which started off completely blank, and here's a link to the Old Wiki which is read-only. We've separated out the old wiki and the new wiki because the old wiki was so full of outdated stuff that it would've been a bigger job to remove/alter its outdated info than it would be to copy-paste the still-relevant stuff into a shiny New Wiki. Make sense? Pfft yeah right

Anyway if you wanna start filling the New Wiki up with stuff then you'll need to make a wiki account, your regular Improbable Island game account is no good there, at least at the moment. In future I plan to make One Account To Rule Them All, where you log in with your email address and choose from a list of all your alts to play, but that's a thing for next year.

Have fun!

~CMJ
Super Fancy Fun Club!
Admin CavemanJoe2023-11-16 16:00:57 [Permalink]
Hey all, in a rare moment of Actually Trying To Make Some Money From This Game, the old Hunter's Lodge has been upgraded into the new Super Fancy Fun Club! Permanent customization items have been restocked too. Prices that ended in .95 or .99 have been rounded up to whole dollar increments, because the whole "Hmm, it's only $4.95, if it were $5 that'd be too expensive" thing demeaned us all.

To gain access to the Super Fancy Fun Club, you'll need to deal with the extremely polite bouncer, and he will only permit entry to the fanciest of people: those who can prove that they can afford two U.S. dollars. In real life. That's right, give me two bucks and you get to mingle with the fancy-cheese-eating secret rulers of the world, resting your feet on the butlers' backs while tossing darts to determine the next pope. Practice your Posh Horsey Laugh so you can fit in better whenever someone looks out the window at the poors. Say things like "Ahwahwahwahwa, jolly good, h'of course h'ai have nyiever used a decomposing chicken carcass h'as an h'ashtray," nobody will ever suspect a thing. Say "He's gorn ento tha hice" instead of "'e's gonn in'er thee 'ouse." Practice "We only wear three-stripe tracksuits in my house," etc. Notice that someone's chucked a bike into the dumpster round the back, and leave it there because you're the sort of person who puts things into dumpsters, that's how posh you are.

Have I say jolly good fun what what,

~CMJ
November Monthly Memento, Official Cat change
Admin CavemanJoe2023-11-13 15:15:48 [Permalink]
Hey folks, November's Monthly Memento is the Guy Head, and it gives a totally normal buff as a result of your totally normal annual effigy-burning ritual.

Harley, the Official Cat of Improbable Island, died last Tuesday after a short reign succeeding Stewart, who succeeded Leo. Next month's bonus MM will be an Official Cat Coronation Bowl in accordance with our traditions.

In a somewhat unorthodox spin, Improbable Island's new Official Cat will be a dual reign of two Official Cats, since it's unclear which of Harley's two potential successors was born first. Introducing your new Official Cats in ascending order of mass:

Carl
Carl is black, sleek and pointy. He enjoys riding on shoulders. He will drink only from a cup in the kitchen sink. He is quiet but believes in physical reciprocity, and will wait at the stairs landing for you to be at eye level with him so that he can pat you on the head.

Nola
Nola is black, round and confusing. She is vocal and enjoys the sort of conversation where she says brrt and you say hm? back and forth rapidly a dozen times or so. Her body language is frequently at odds with her behaviour, to the point where she will lie on your belly hugging you and purring while scowling with her ears folded back.

Long may these two Official Cats reign.
Crate hoarding alleviation, free Quill Bundle upgrade
Admin CavemanJoe2023-10-18 14:45:51 [Permalink]
Hey folks, remember my last MotD mentioning hey maybe let other folk get some crates instead of hoarding tens of thousands in your inventory, well you know what happened? You know what fucking happened?

What fucking happened is on me. I've been doing this for fifteen bloody years and there is absolutely no excuse for me not seeing this coming:

"Hey everyone, try to leave some crates on the map 'cause we're kinda running out here."
"We're..." *putting on hat* "running out, you say?"
"Yeah it's a whole thing, there are a quarter of a million crates in people's inventories, folk are walking around with thousands or even tens of thousands of crates in their backpacks and they're still picking up more."
"What, they're picking up more?" *grabbing keys* "Like, actively right now?"
"Haha yeah weird right"
"So..." *picking up Crate Opening Crowbar and lacing up running shoes* "crates are becoming rare, is what you're saying."
"Yeah, in fact at this rate we'll run out completely later on today, and anyone who doesn't have one will just be basically shit outta luck. Uh, where you going with that crowbar?"
"Nowhere BYE"

Yeah I've got no excuse, sorry. To anyone who's spent more than ten minutes around other humans, never mind someone who runs an online game, it was forehead-slappingly obvious what'd go down there. Chalk it up to my advancing age.

Anyway, there are some changes to the map pickup routines - you can't pick things up with no stamina, or with too many crates in your backpack. This doesn't remove crates from people's inventories, but it should at least stop the problem from getting worse. Banter had some good ideas about the funniest ways to reimplement crates in the future, and things like "Giving crates little metal legs" have been discussed and are in my notes folder.

(I mean, that'd be cool, right? If crates loved people but hated other crates. If a crate got lonely and had the chance to move once per midnight, it could move away from deep water areas where nobody wants to go for example, and it could even sneak out of the backpacks of players who have 43,876 other crates.)

Anyway, speaking of arbitrarily thieving shit out of your Inventory like the total bastard that I am, I'm in the process of retheming the Hunter's Lodge into the much funnier and more user-friendly Super Fancy Fun Club, and part of that process involves removing obsolete Lodge items. Older, crappier versions of our Quill bundles (which give you Special Comments, which you can use to post chat without your name attached for special effects) have been upgraded to the more recent, more generous versions, so that I can finally remove the old definition files from the game and quit tripping over them trying to support two different versions of Quills.

Folk who had an old-style 4-pack of Quills have been given a new style 5-pack.
Folk who had an old-style 25-pack have been given a 50 pack.
Lucky bastards who had an old-style 60-pack have been given a 500 pack.

The version 2 Quill bundles are functionally identical to the old ones, the only difference is the amount you get (and the old graphic was a bit crap).

Have fun!

~CMJ
New Monthly Memento, Witchbloom Seedpods, server move more or less complete, crates on the map, injury update
Admin CavemanJoe2023-10-11 23:33:21 [Permalink]
Hey everyone, October's Monthly Memento is the sizzling Server Sausage, yum yum yum, get it while it's e-waste.

Our server move is more or less complete; I need a day or so to tidy up a couple of DNS-related things that shouldn't result in any downtime, but the Big White Box is still up directing folks towards our Mastodon account as a precaution.

Back in the pre-global-banter days, Common Ground used to be our most popular chatroom, because of its accessibility from anywhere. We haven't had much RP in CG for a while, which makes me nostalgic. A while back someone in chat had the bright idea of having One-Shot Teleporters take you to Common Ground on the way to your destination, and I liked both the social/mechanical idea of that and the sudden combat-violence-fight-going-poorly-must-escape followed immediately by this really chill garden space, sudden mood shifts like that are catnip to me. So, One-Shot Teleporters are being gradually phased out in favour of Witchbloom Seedpods, which do the same thing but in a cooler and more folklorey way.

I've been writing better auditing systems that help me to keep a better eye on what's going on on the Island, what's working well, what needs improved, which pages take a long time to load, that kind of thing. With it I saw 1,200 crates disappear from the map today - that's a lot, folks.

There are exploits in the game that I've left unfixed for a long time, because they were often being used for generous ends - it's possible, with the right combinations of doodads, to have effectively infinite inventory space, and to use that space to move stuff around for the benefit of new players. Wandering around the map with a thousand crates in your back pocket isn't exactly what I had in mind when I left these viable techniques in place. If you don't need crates, leave them where they are, cheers.

My wrist is slowly improving, and I'm spending more time each day on the Island again! I've got a whole laundry list of new features to work on; please keep your bug reports and feature requests coming, I always love to hear your ideas.

Have fun!

~CMJ
Server migration (mostly) done, some new bugs, injury
Admin CavemanJoe2023-09-26 17:08:48 [Permalink]
Hey folks, we're on our new server and whoa it's fast. Midnight now happens in under ten seconds where it was a minute and a half before, and Long Midnight is down from nearly an hour to two damn minutes. Thank you everyone for helping me to test it.

Some new bugs came up in the transfer; folk are getting auto-logged-off very quick, replying to Distractions is a ridiculous text-eating mess when including the original message, email notifications (and confirmations) still don't work, there's a button missing from Place inventory management, buncha little stuff, but honestly on the whole we got pretty lucky. Please use the "Tell us about a problem" link to report any other bugs you come across, because I'm sure there'll be more.

Tomorrow, the 27th, our domain name moves over to our new host, so we can expect some more downtime for a little bit. You remembered to bookmark the Mastodon page, right? It's at https://mastodon.social/@ImprobableIsland, keep that address handy because it's where I'll be posting updates about downtime.

I'll be fixing these bugs throughout the next couple of weeks, but at a heavily reduced rate; I've injured my right wrist! And all it took was moving a bunch of pinball and arcade machines while pulling twelve-hour days at the computer for months on end and then doing one of those Test Your Strength things at the ren faire, you know the ones where you take a big paving mallet and hit the thing and the thing flies up and dings the thing, well I told that thing pretty good but about a week later after doing a bunch more Long Computer Days my fingers/wrist/forearm/elbow told me right the fuck back so now I've gotta keep the Island stuff to like an hour a day tops while I heal up.

So yeah, we're fixing bugs, but we're fixing them pretty slowly until I'm in a bit less pain. Then I'll finally get to code up some fun new stuff for y'all to play with.

Have fun,

~CMJ
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