OngoingWorlds blog

News & articles about play-by-post games, for roleplayers & writers


A tragedy occurs in Ongoing Worlds!

The hindenburg


Disaster strikes in Ongoing Worlds’ first play-by-post to be created. The game, which was created just a few days ago has had three posts so far, two by the creator; Mike, and one by me, testing out my new character which I created for the game.

Mike spent an hour and a half writing a story post which he claims was awesome. It was a work of literary genius. But unfortunately he spent all that time writing this amazing post in the browser, typing away inside the textfield on the “post” page of his game. When he was finally finished with this piece of artwork, he reached for the submit button… and pressed it.

That was where things went wrong. He’d expected the next page he saw was to say “Your post has been submitted successfully”, but unfortunately what was actually shown was a login prompt saying “You need to be logged in to access this page”.

Disaster strikes! Even logging in successfully here and going back to the post page doesn’t retain the post that Mike spend so much time and effort on.

The next thing I see on MSN client on my phone is “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”, and some later claims that he was in tears from loosing the story post (kidding – don’t kill me Mike!)

The problem

I haven’t yet identified the problem that caused Mike to be logged out. I assume it’s because he spent so long writing the post that the session timed out. Although I was pretty sure the sessions is set to a very long time. If not, it can easily be changed.
I expect people to spend a long time on the “post” screen, and definitely don’t want this to happen again.

The solution

I have no clear idea what the solution for this problem would be.

In the many years I’ve been running Blue Dwarf in a Yahoo! Group, people have complained to me about loosing their posts, either from their browser crashing, or accidentally pressing “backspace” and loosing their post, or just submitting the post but it not appearing on the messageboard. With the Yahoo! Group I had no control over what went wrong and why it went wrong, so what I’ve always recommended is to write the post using MS Word or OpenOffice, that way you’ll always have a regular backup being taken of your post, which means you will get most of it back when you have a computer crash. Then when the post is finished you can copy and paste it into the field on the “post” screen.

But with Ongoing Worlds I’m responsible. I feel so bad for Mike for loosing the work. He did admit straight after that he knew he should have written it in a different text editor and copied it across, or taken a copy just before clicking the button to send it.

Idea 1

So one solution I came up with was to put some warning text on the post page to prevent people from writing their posts straight into the field on the website. It would be a warning that something might go wrong, either with the website or with their browser, or their internet, and not to spend too long writing the post in the field. This is the easiest solution.

Idea 2

I could write a javascript timer which counts how long you’ve had the “post” page open for. After a few minutes it would bring up an alert box warning the user to backup their work. This idea is a bit annoying though because a fast writer might have written many paragraphs before they have noticed the alert box has come up on the screen, stopping them from typing.

Idea 3

When the user clicks the button to submit the post, it saves the entire post into memory, so that if there is an error like the user needs to login again, they can safely login and then the post can be successfully sent from memory, or the original “post” screen can be reloaded with the text loaded into it again.
I think this is something I probably should do anyway, but there is a limit on the amount of text which can be stored into a browser’s memory (called a session), and user’s story posts could potentially be pages and pages long.

I’ll look into a few of these solutions, and see which I can add the quickest.