Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)

New Monthly Memento, mind the GAP, general catch-up
Staff2021-04-13 18:05:04 [Permalink]
Hey folks! This is more of a general catch-up MotD than one to announce one particular thing going on.

April's Monthly Memento is the Chocolate Bunny! This funny little creature generates some chocolate every day. Don't ask how.

We're still accepting applications and nominations for a spot on the Featured Places Committee, and I've got a massive list of Place programming improvements to make this summer.

I've been very busy and having tons of fun (and the occasional frustration) making the new display skin! If you haven't seen it yet, and you're playing on a desktop or laptop computer (this isn't for mobile yet), click here to set it as your skin and check it out. This all started as a simple font overhaul, but about a week ago I added THE GAP.

Since the Island began, I've wanted to give it a sense of space and time, of being part of a real world, and I wanted the display skin to change depending on where you were and what you were doing. The closest I came to realising this was making the Island's time and weather system, which changes outpost descriptions based on a combination of seven different time-of-day states and seven different weather states. It's also responsible for the occasional glimpses of rain or tree shadows on the page background that you'll see in places like Kittania, or when it's raining - and it lightens or darkens the page background based on the time of day, weather conditions, and indoor/outdoor state.

It doesn't work terribly well. I mean, all the parts are there, but the big problem is that it's really hard to change the page background dramatically enough to be noticeable, while still having all the various colours of text readable. To figure out what time it is in the game, I usually end up looking at the game time clock rather than at all the outdoor-state hints that I've programmed into the way the game displays.

I also would like to have added some pictures to the game, but this is a text adventure. Having the images rendered on the awesome graphics card that lives in your head is kind of the point. Without images, everyone playing has a different picture of the game, and that's cool. So any images I add to the game have to be pretty unobtrusive and not terribly detailed. My job is to give your imagination a starting point, not to override the images of the Island that already exist in your head.

So, I've made some alterations. Change to the beta skin, click the Display Menu link and open the Colours & Background Menu to see what I mean. We still have the standard classic leather background in its traditional variety of colours, but there are now extra options for graphical backgrounds which, eventually, the game will be able to switch between dynamically depending on what you're doing and when, to give that extra sense of space.

Keep an eye on the beta skin to see new features as I code them in. It's gonna be an interesting project.

In other, less awesome news, development may be delayed a little as I get used to some adjustments to my workspace to counter the hand/wrist/neck pain that's been creeping back lately.

I've been typing heavily since I was a wee lad, and started getting pain from it when I was still in my twenties. Switching from a modified hunt-and-peck to proper touch typing helped a bit. Switching to the Dvorak keyboard layout in 2012 helped a lot, and since then I've been typing much faster with less pain. Of course, this also means I've been typing more, because I'm a fucking idiot (if you're in your 20's as you're reading this, take it as instructional, don't be a fucking idiot like me). And now, because every rainy day reminds me that the Big Four Oh Monster is grinning behind my shoulder holding a hammer and chisel and eyeing up my joints, I'm having to change things up again to stay one step ahead of the pain.

Ergonomic keyboards are fucking expensive, but they're way less expensive than American healthcare (and marginally less likely to get me addicted to smack) so I'm currently trying to get used to a split ortholinear keyboard that I got secondhand, called the Keebio Iris. It's a weird little beast that comes in two halves connected by a wire, so as I type this, my hands are as far apart as my shoulders - that's what the "split" bit means, and it's wonderful. The "Ortholinear" bit means that the keys are laid out in straight up-and-down columns, the way your fingers go, rather than having the traditional diagonal stagger that allows room for the mechanisms inside the typewriter that haven't fucking been there for over fifty years, god damn keyboards are idiotic machines.

It's taking a bit of getting used to because the bad habits I developed like reaching for the X key with my right index finger just aren't possible now, because the X is about 70cm from my right hand. It'll take a while before I'm back up to speed, but the ergonomics are great.

The issue with this keyboard is that there aren't enough bloody keys on it. There are only 56 keys on this whole thing, a little over half what you'd get on a normal keyboard. See, like many "mechanical" keyboards, this thing has a little microcontroller in it (it's one of the newer flavours of Arduino) and so the keyboard is basically a wee computer in itself. The idea is that fewer keys helps you to keep all your fingers on the home row, so you're supposed to reprogram it and give it eight different bloody shift keys and try to remember which one makes the sodding equals sign.

Did I mention that none of the keys have any markings on them? Yup, proper performative nerdy 1337 bullshit right here. But at least my right shoulder feels better.

If this keeps up I'm gonna end up like the My Keyboard Guy.

Have fun, and feel free to donate to the Ergodox fund so I can spend three hundred bucks on a sodding keyboard and feel like a right class traitor,

~CMJ
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