Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

Some changes
Admin CavemanJoe2018-07-01 20:34:39
Hey, everyone. We've got some updates for you!

They them their
Hey, all. We've revamped our home page a tad, and tweaked the game's opening sequence. In doing so, we added a gender-neutral option.

I know a lot of you have been asking for this for ages, and I can only apologise for how long it's taken - if it were as simple as writing some new text and swapping a couple variables around, I'd have done this back in the 00's. I think I've found everywhere the player is likely to still encounter gender-specific language, but in a game this complex there's bound to be some that snuck past me, so if you're playing a gender-neutral character and see something that doesn't look right, please use the "Tell us about a problem" link and let me know where you saw it.

For the time being, the gender-neutral option is only available for new characters - existing players who've been asking for gender-neutral options will be able to switch things out in the coming weeks, once I've had a chance to work on the new system a bit and make sure it's running properly.

Banter's nicer now
We've made the decision to unsplit the two out-of-character chats on a trial basis. There's been a change for the better in Banter culture, and the reasons we had for splitting the chats in the first place have died down a lot in the few years since we did it, so new characters as of today will have Character Chat be their default chatroom. Player Chat will remain available for those who prefer slower-paced chat. Please be nice to the rookies!

Tube Clay
The new Monthly Memento is the Tube Clay. Did you know that over the past century, the London Underground has dumped so much heat into the surrounding clay that it's starting to be a real problem? If you're interested in the engineering aspect of it, it's a pretty neat rabbithole.

World Community Grid
It's still down because of IBM's mollasses-slow response to the GDPR. I'll keep you posted.

Rookies are back
New players will have the "Rookie" title again, so that they can be welcomed properly in chat. Again, a lot of things have changed for the better since we removed the Rookie title! (hell, that was back in PvP days...)

Have fun!


World Community Grid integration temporarily down
Admin CavemanJoe2018-06-07 01:23:02
Hey, folks - the computing giant IBM was apparently unable to comply with the GDPR in time, so has disabled access to the API for World Community Grid, meaning that Cobblestone Cottage here on the Island doesn't work right now. They say that they can't let just anyone access the API since the GDPR came into effect, and they've got to put people through some kind of test or take some kind of information to make sure API users have the right stuff. I've requested an access token but first they have to figure out what the right stuff is. Once they have the information they need from me, they'll give me an access token and I can update the Cobblestone Cottage code and y'all can get your Cobblestones - and once they've figured out what information they need from me, I'll give it to them.

It's all very silly and embarrassing.

TL;DR: no Cobblestones right now, blame IBM.

Have fun,


Chat improvements
Admin CavemanJoe2018-05-28 04:41:41
Hey folks, I've added a beta improvement to chat - posting a comment no longer refreshes the whole damn page. Since we're still figuring out how this is going to interact with Place programs and so on, for now I've restricted this feature to the Player Chat and Character Chat channels in Outposts.

I'd say "post feedback in the Enquirer," but fixing the Enquirer is next on my list, so you can email me at if you wanna let me know what you think.

Have fun!


GDPR stuff, email confirmation
Admin CavemanJoe2018-05-21 04:14:03
Hey, folks! In accordance with the upcoming European General Data Protection Act, you'll have noticed by now that every damn website you've ever signed up for has been sending you emails telling you that they've updated their privacy policy, because they're being forced to tell you in plain English that they harvest all your data and sell it to spammers, scammers and sociopaths.

We've never done any of the shady shit that the GDPR is designed to thwart, but now we have to tell you that in plain English, so here is a link to our shiny new Privacy Policy. That link will also appear at the bottom of every page.

You'll have also noticed that, ironically, we're now gathering everyone's email addresses so that we can email you to tell you that we have a Privacy Policy that says that we typically don't email you.

You'll have noticed that last month was pretty quiet, new-features-wise, and this is why. Don't worry, the schedule will be back to normal next month.

Have fun!


New Monthly Memento is up
Admin CavemanJoe2018-04-01 17:41:05
Hey, folks! I hope you're having an EGGS-CELLENT combined Easter and April Fool's Day! I have a truly EGGS-CEPTIONAL Monthly Memento for you, that I'm very EGG-CITED about. I'm sure it'll CRACK YOU UP, although some might find it EGG-REGIOUS.

I'll show myself out.

Have fun!


Quick reminder
Admin CavemanJoe2018-03-11 05:51:53
Improbable Island's server runs on UTC, so if your country's clocks are going forward soon, remember that our clock does not. That means new Game Days will happen an hour earlier relative to your local time.

UTC is basically the same as Greenwich Mean Time, but we distinguish it from GMT because people living in the GMT timezone put their clocks backwards and forwards (for example, in England we'll be leaving Greenwich Mean Time and entering British Summer Time later in the month - so in the autumn and winter, Improbable Island's clock is set to the same time as it is in England, and in the spring and summer, it's an hour behind). American Islanders who are friends with the British and vice-versa, your friends' timezones will be another hour off until the last Sunday in March.

TL;DR; your clock probably changes this month, the Island's doesn't, so game days start earlier in relation to your local timezone. Change the batteries in your smoke alarms.

Have fun!


Last of the Decade Vaults
Admin CavemanJoe2018-03-07 01:13:11
Hey folks, I wasn't around to take the Decade Vaults out of the Hunter's Lodge because I was in Kentucky, fixing pinball machines at the Louisville Arcade Expo. I just got back and told chat that I was about to take them out so it was last call time, and a couple of people asked if I could keep them available to buy for another couple of days so that they could afford one. I guess a lot of people get paid towards the start of the month after all, so rather than taking them out of the Lodge straight away, I made them a stock-limited item. There are 50 left for purchase as I write this, unless Tamar buys them all. They'll be gone for good this time next week or when they sell out, whichever happens first, so if you don't have one, but want one, get one quick.

Thank you to everyone who wrote to offer their condolences re: Leo. Your messages warmed my heart and made his passing easier to bear. Because we're a game with thirteen thousand players and this is how numbers work, several people emailed or Distracted me to say that they were also saying goodbye to their own pets that week. Spider Robinson said in his excellent series Callahan's Crosstime Saloon that shared joy is increased, and shared pain diminished, and I took that lesson to heart this week.

(also, for goodness' sake Spider on the off-chance you're reading this, update your website, it's been two years already, I dunno if you've noticed but the world could really use you right now)

There will be some new stuff coming in the next couple of weeks - I rearranged the ten-year-celebration schedule a wee bit 'cause some things changed for the better halfway-through my making them. Changing for the better usually means changing for the more complex and longer-taking, but those things are nearly done now so expect some neat stuff soon.

Have fun!

CMJ (who just noticed that his new keyboard doesn't have a tilde, and - GASP - doesn't have a grave accent either! How am I supposed to do colours on this thing?!)

there it is
That was a month.
Admin CavemanJoe2018-03-01 00:54:12
Thank you all dearly for being part of a wonderful celebration of ten years of Improbable Island!

During the land rush in the minutes following the Places expansion, MySQL queries peaked at over nine hundred per second. The Island hasn't seen that much action since we hit critical mass in StumbleUpon, back when StumbleUpon was a thing. The new server handled it pretty handily, with average pageload times only cresting a full second during the heaviest first minutes.

In the first couple of minutes, I received some error alert emails - there was a bug. It only existed for two minutes, but that was long enough for there to be consequences. When pounding in a Land Claim Stake, the system checks whether the map square already has its full quota of Places. It checks twice - once when you're browsing from the map page (to determine whether or not to show you the link to make a new Place), and again when you confirm that you want to put in the stake. The second check is there in case someone else puts down a stake in the same square between you being asked "Are you sure you want to stake here" and replying "Yes put in the damn stake." The second check was failing, which meant that it was briefly possible for two or more people to more-or-less simultaneously to go to a map square, see four Places, click to make a fifth, click again to confirm, and plant the stake.

Which is exactly what was happening, because I was in Player Chat going "ONE MINUTE TO GO GUYS, GET READY!"

This means there are now eight plots on both NewHome and the square in the dead centre of the lake in the middle of the Island. Since these erroneous extra Places don't seem to be mucking anything up, I'm content to let them stay - to their lucky owners, might I suggest a shrine to the goddess of race conditions?

In sadder news, much-loved Improbable Island Official Cat Leo's long and happy life came to a peaceful conclusion in my arms on the 25th of February. We don't know for sure how old he was, but the first vet we took him to thought he was around twelve, and that was almost a decade ago.

Leo was the local hard man of the cat underground. He weighed upwards of fifteen pounds, all of it muscle, and he had a head like a breezeblock and a heart of gold.

I was smoking when I first met Leo, as he was walking up the path in the garden of my previous house. Four kittens orbited him like tiny satellites, climbing over his back, batting at his paws, and being a general nuisance. He looked up at me and said "CLAU," which is unusual for a cat, and gave me a look that clearly said "Please cut off my testicles." I gave him a bowl of food, and he thanked me by saying "BRACK."

Leo was never a "Meow" sort of cat. Few cats can do consonants, and the ones that can tend to want to show off.

At the time, we were referring to Leo as "Uncledaddy," as we didn't know whether he was the kittens' uncle, father or both. The name Leo would come later, when he had sensed that I was planning on taking him to the vet for the aforementioned bollock-removal, and had had second thoughts and disappeared. There's nothing like shouting "Uncledaddy, uncledaddy, come here uncledaddy" into the dark Friday night of a high-murder-rate neighbourhood to inspire second thoughts about what to name your cat.

Leo used our back porch as his base of operations that spring and summer, as we found homes for his offspring. He was a distrustful, standoffish beast who had lived on garbage until recently, so as I smoked I inched slowly towards him over a period of weeks, trying to make him more comfortable with the big pink cats that make nongarbage food happen. One day I managed to touch him, and it was like a switch had suddenly flipped over in his head. Leo shivered against me as I stroked from his head down his back, his eyes went wide, and he said "BAP" and "B'GCOW" and rubbed himself all over me. The transformation from snarling beast to affectionate buddy was so immediate and dramatic that I could only conclude that nobody had petted this creature before.

He drooled copiously when happy, long strands of thick saliva that smelled like the Devil's arsehole. The vet said that we could have him sedated and have his teeth cleaned, but that it'd be a serious gamble, what with not knowing how old he was. They didn't seem to be causing him any pain or interfering with him eating so we were content to give him the special teeth-cleaning treats and try to avoid contact with the soup-like drool.

Leo had a habit of grabbing me by the leg of my jeans when I'd finished my cigarette and started to head back into the house. He'd sink his claws into the fabric and pull my leg backwards until I'd turn around and pet him some more. He continued this trick after the heat had reached its peak and I had changed into shorts. I didn't wear shorts very often that summer, because I didn't want to show off the puncture wounds.

We already had three cats in a house whose landlord allowed one, and Leo was as big as all of them put together, so when winter came around we made him a little outside house. The first attempt was a styrofoam beer cooler with a small hole cut in the side and a blanket. Putting it down on the back porch I immediately realised just how dramatically I'd misjudged Leo's size. He didn't so much sit in the cooler as wear it as a hat. We fashioned a second home for him out of an old plastic filing cabinet, which he just about managed to squeeze into.

Leo's gentle nature became apparent when I saw him sitting in his filing cabinet, happily watching the birds eat his food. Around this time, Stoop Cat showed up. I hardened my heart to Stoop Cat at first, because we were already at three indoor cats and one outdoor and at some point you've just got to say "Enough" before you turn into Those Cat People but you can't be cold to a cat forever - especially not when, during a summer thunderstorm, the cat huddles beneath your thigh, or buries its face in the crook of your elbow. Especially not when you see Stoop Cat and Leo curled together on the grass, lazily watching the leaves rustle in the breeze, their tails in each others' noses, or sitting butt-to-butt creating a heart shape. That's about when you decide that Stoop Cat is a silly name, and start calling him Stewart instead. You might tell yourself that you're only showing him affection because he's your proper cat's boyfriend, but then you find them cuddling in a yin-yang arrangement and you spend a few minutes doing The Stroke That Never Ends, your hand going from one cat's tail immediately to the other cat's head, round and round forever, as they purr and shine in the sun, the black cat soaking up the heat and showing off his rust patches, and you go "Right, these cats are a package deal."

So when we moved out of the shared house and went separate ways from our roommates, Emily and I took our indoor cat Harley with us, and we took Leo and Stewart too, into our new home, out of the cold for good.

Leo smelled like a well-used barn, and his massive weight pinned the blankets to our bed when he visited during the night. He would jump onto the bed, have me pet his small ears for twenty minutes or so, then considerately relocate to the laundry pile so that I could move and breathe.

His ears weren't actually small. They were normal sized. He just had an enormous head full of cement.

Years passed, happily.

Perhaps too many years.

When our daughter was born, we introduced her to Leo first. He gave her a sniff, rubbed his face against her, and said "BRP."

When we took Minerva from the bed, he'd curl up in the space she'd just vacated, and breathe her scent.

Minerva is nineteen months old, now. She walks and talks. Until last weekend, when we came back to the house, the first thing she'd do - before even having us take her coat off - was shout "Leeo-eo!" And until recently, he'd come.

It's hard to say goodbye to a cat, everyone knows that. Even when their spine knocks against your knuckles, even when their once majestic bodies are winding down and preparing for the end, as long as they're purring, as long as they can make it up onto the bed on the second try, you put it off. Even when the cat develops continence issues, even when they're deaf as a post, even when they no longer talk, you put it off, out of love, but there comes a time when the cat himself gives you the look and you nod and fight back tears and say "Okay mate" and he purrs louder than you've heard in months and you think when did his purr get so quiet and you make the call, the guy on the phone somehow understanding you because he does this all the time, and you make the cat some bacon and buy the nice tuna and take him outside for a smoke, it's unseasonably warm and he can't outrun you anymore and you haven't smoked in years but that's how you met after all, and you hear him say "arp" in such a quiet voice but it's a voice at least, one you haven't heard in a while, and you know that he's happy and you know the clock's ticking until the appointment but in these moments you see a reminder of who he used to be, and who he is now, and you know in your bones that even though you could stop these events with a simple phone call, it wouldn't be right to do so. You tell your daughter that we're saying goodbye to Leo, and to give him lots of extra cuddles, and you give her the bag of treats and she hands them to him one by one. At some point, you excuse yourself from your friend for a few minutes so that you can dig his grave under the big tree next to the vegetable patch while he's still alive. You expect this to feel macabre but the work is repetitive and the ground is hard going and it is physical work that calms you. You choose the biggest, heaviest and prettiest rock from the wall separating your property from your neighbour's. You get his shroud ready, have the cheque written out ahead of time, sequester Nerv with her grandmother, get all the ghoulish and surreal logistics out of the way. Then, all that's left to do is love him and wait.

When I went back inside, Leo was on the bed. Stewart seemed to know what was happening, and was curled up next to him, his nose in Leo's ear. I put my arm around them both, and ran my fingertips up around Leo's cheeks and ears, the way he likes.

I am tremendously grateful for the generosity and support that the players of Improbable Island provided this month, because it meant we could afford the services of a company called Lap of Love. A small, round-faced, kind and very quiet woman came to my house with a little red bag, and shepherding beloved animals into the next life is her full-time job. This is literally all she does, and all she has done, for quite some years. She was an hour late, because she had an appointment before ours, and that's understandable - I wouldn't have wanted her to rush the previous appointment. She didn't rush ours either.

I was expecting some sort of trauma. For him to twitch, or grimace, or convulsce, or die with a stupid look on his face and make me wonder "Is some part of him aware and suffering?"

Nothing of the sort happened. Leo became utterly relaxed at the first injection, resting his head heavily in the crook of my elbow. The second injection was gentle, administered in his forepaw. Leo no longer purred within audible frequencies at this late stage of his long, long life, but I could still feel the heavy rumble that told me he was content. Until it finally quieted, at which point the furry thing in my arms simply wasn't Leo, just something he'd left behind.

I was so moved by the grace and dignity and gentleness of this event that I told the kind woman that I'd be looking her up when it was my own time to go, and I was only partially joking.

Cat's eyes don't close when they die, or even when they're under heavy sedation. Their eye muscles work the opposite way round - they're normally-open, it takes energy to close them. Leo's eyes were open, but not widely so - they were open casually, the same way they were in life.

We laid the not-Leo on the floor so the other cats could see, so that Stewart wouldn't think that he'd ran away and abandoned him. Stewart sniffed him, saw as I did that this was not Leo, put his nose to the floor, and followed his scent trail back to the bedroom, to the bed, to the spot where Leo was before.

Knowing that Leo loved to sleep in our laundry pile, surrounded by things that smell of us, we started to wrap his body in one of the old T-shirts that I sleep in. Just like when we made his little house, we misjudged his size. We couldn't wrap him - his head poked out of the neck hole, like he was wearing it. So we dressed him in the T-shirt, wrapped him gently in a towel, took him outside, and buried him under the big tree next to the vegetable patch, placing the big heavy pretty rock on top to discourage local interest. One day I'd like to decorate the stone with a wee metal plate that says "LEO - 199?-2018. 'Clau. Brak.'"

Then I put Minerva to bed, ordered a pizza, had a stiff drink, watched The Full Monty, and went to bed.

I'm the first thing Minerva sees every morning. While I was changing her nappy she said "Lee-o-ee-o" and I said "We had to say goodbye to Leo, remember?" "Yeah," she says. "Bye," quietly.

A little later, lying on the bed, "Leo," she says, again.

I put my arm around her and ask her if she remembered when she couldn't walk, and could only crawl. "Yeah," she nods.

"Do you remember before you could crawl, and could only stay in one place and grab things?" Yeah.

"Do you remember before then, when you didn't have any words?" She says "Uh."

"Before then, do you remember being in mummy's tummy? And before that, you were in mummy and daddy at the same time. And before then," I told her, quietly, "goodness knows where you were. That's why you can't remember it. That's where Leo is now. That's why we had to say goodbye to him yesterday."

I think she understood, because she hasn't asked for Leo again. I look to the resilience of a nineteen-month-old toddler as inspiration.

The rules of succession for the Improbable Island Official Cat are the same as those for the British monarchy. Because the Island can never be without an Official Cat just as Britain can never be without a monarch, Stewart took the role instantly upon Leo's passing, regardless of ceremony or lack thereof.

The new Monthly Memento for March is the Official Cat Coronation Bowl. It works like the 2014 Prancing Spiderkitty Ashtray in that you can throw it at enemies, but it also gives you a warm fuzzies buff, and can very occasionally land a critical hit dealing ridiculous damage. You can use it once a day.

Please join me in welcoming Stewart to the new role of Improbable Island Official Cat, with all the rights and responsibilities inherent in the title.

Long may he reign.

Further redonkulousness
Admin CavemanJoe2018-02-22 05:30:26
Hey guys, the GPU fan in my development machine has ground its bearings to dust again, so I'm waiting on a new part. The awesome new Thursday Thing might have to wait til the weekend again, depending on how quick the new(ish) fan gets here. Just letting y'all know so you don't log in tomorrow and go "WHERE'S THE THING." Apologies for the delay.


Ten-year celebrations, week three!
Admin CavemanJoe2018-02-17 20:04:06
Hey, folks! If you missed the previous MotD, the new stuff didn't go up this Thursday as originally planned because my basement flooded, so they're going up today instead.

This week, we're adding two new Outpost features! In New Pittsburgh, you'll find the Fresh Start Clinic, and in Cyber City 404, you'll find Helter Smelter. Give 'em a look, I think you'll like what you see.

The bank has also been given a fresh coat of paint - it was originally written prior to the 2008 financial crash, and we never bothered to update it to include suitable disdain towards bankers. I am pleased to announce that this unfortunate situation has finally been corrected.

You can also find an option in your Preferences to disable keyboard navigation, which could be useful for people on certain browsers who tab back and forth a lot while writing Place descriptions and suchlike.

See y'all next week, and have fun!


EDIT: The Fresh Start Clinic is temporarily offline while we work out some unexpected bugs, I'll have a closer look at this tonight.

EDIT EDIT: Fresh Start is back online, thanks for your patience.

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