OngoingWorlds blog

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

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The "one-long-paragraph" problem

Long Paragraph

The post all shows in one long paragraph

split into paragraphs

How the post should look, split into paragraphs

I’ve just fixed a problem which has plagued OngoingWorlds for a week or two (actually, that’s a total overreaction – it has always been a problem but was never noticed until last week!). Mike brought this to my attention last week, just after I’d mentioned that you should always write your post into a separate text editor and paste it into the form on the “Post” page when finished, something happened which completely contradicted me.

Mike rewrote the infamous post which he lost the first time (apparently this rewrite is almost as awesome but not quite) in notepad, and copied the text into the form on the Post page. It all looked great, so he pressed “Post”. Viewing the post afterwards however showed the post slightly different, without any sort of spacing between paragraphs.

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A tragedy occurs in Ongoing Worlds!

The hindenburg

DISASTER STRIKES!!!

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”.

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The first game is created

Wizards Inc, office building

The office building for "Wizards Inc"

The Ongoing Worlds website gets it’s first (proper) play-by-post game! Mike, (who I know from the Blue Dwarf game I run) has setup a game called “Wizards Inc” about a magical society set in the modern world. The game is silly, which suits Mike’s sense of humour, and I’ve already joined and submitted a character.

I’ll let you know about how the game goes. If you’d like to join or want more details about the game please have a look here:

http://www.ongoingworlds.com/alpha/games/88

Obviously this isn’t the first time games have been created on the website, I’ve created many games to test the functionality of the site, and also I’ve tasked my friends with creating games just to make sure that the interface I’ve created is usable to people not just myself. But this is the first time a game has been created with the intention of playing seriously.

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OngoingWorlds website goes into alpha

I’ve been working very hard lately on the OngoingWorlds website, and have relised I need quite a lot of help testing the damed thing! I’m too close to it now that I can’t see clearly (a bit like snow-blindness).

Screenshot of the Ongoing Worlds homepage

Screenshot of the Ongoing Worlds homepage (taken 11th Feb 2010)

I’ve shown it to some of the guys at work, and had some great feedback. Most important was a very serious security flaw which I’d not noticed. Tim created a test game (based on Babylon 5) and a character called Londo Mollari, but started inserting HTML into some of the character fields – like the <marquee> tag. Anyone who knows about the <marquee> tag is that it’s such bad taste that it should never appear on a website ever. It makes the worde move across the page and reminds me of websites from the 1990’s which were full of distracting nonsesne like that.

However, Tim was able to insert the code which creates a <marquee> tag into a character field, and then when you save and view the character, it displays his name scrolling across the page. This is embarassing for now, but could lead to some dangerous problems later if users realise they can insert HTML into my site without it being stripped out. I’ve had a site get hacked before by a Turkish hacker group  just by inserting HTML and replacing my homepage for a large image of their own.

I have no idea why people do this. But if they can, they will.

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British TV series that would make great play-by-post games

This is a follow on from my article “TV series and films that would make great PBEM games”, which has become the most popular on my blog and I only hope has inspired many people to create new PBEM games (or play-by-post games as I agreed I’d call them).

Inspiration can come from many places, why not take a concept of a pre-created world and run with it?

Doctor Who

Dr Who

Dr Who

First aired in 1963, Dr Who is the worlds longest running sci-fi TV show. The format of the show and the storylines can vary wildly, probably accounting for it’s long-running success. A new actor plays the Doctor almost every season, keeping the character fresh and different. The character of the Doctor remains throughout, although his travelling companions change often. This makes it very difficult to propose a play-by-post game based on this as the lead character is so strong, and a Play-by-post usually works best with an ensemble group of characters. So to create a play-by-post game set in the Doctor Who universe it would likely be set away from the Doctor himself, and focus on other characters.

The Doctor is the last of the Time-lords, a race of aliens who have the ability to control time. Although the series states that he is the last of the time-lords (following the great time war with the Daleks), it might be possible to mention many more time-lords which also escaped after the war which the Doctor doesn’t know about. Also over the years many other aliens have been mentioned, some friendly which could be used as main characters, but mostly monsters which your characters could meet on a daily basis and have to fight, or run away from, or thwart their deadly plans.

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Why I'm not going to implement “personal messages”

For this article, I recorded an additional audio clip:

On many forums and websites, you can send a personal messages to other members. This saves a message in the website’s database ready for the other user to see when they next login. The user might not login straight away, and so the personal message could sit there for weeks and weeks until the user logs in to see the message. That is why they are normally sent out an email straight away, alerting the user and letting them know that they have to login to the website to see their personal message.

Facebook does this, when a member receives a personal message, they are immediately emailed with the content of the message. So the user checks their email, and sees the content of the personal message within their email. Then they have to login to the website to reply to the message.

Email Icon

What's wrong with email?

This process seems all a bit too cumbersome for me, all it seems like is that websites are duplicating the functionality of email, but still using email to alert people to the email!

I therefore think that adding a way to send and receive personal messages through the OngoingWorlds site is necessary. What I’ll do instead is allow users to send an email from the site which will be sent directly to the user’s email address. The user sending the message will see a form within the website, the same as if they were sending a personal message – but it would submit the email directly to the respondent’s email address.

Please let me know what you think about not adding in functionality for “Personal Messages”. Is it a feature that you wouldn’t miss? Or do you think I’m wrong/stupid to leave it out? Please comment below!

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Help needed to test the OngoingWorlds website

Last week I launched the very first version of my website onto the internet. It’s definitely not ready to go public, and is currently in a hidden location on my server so that people don’t visit the site and think it’s a live site. I have put it live really just to test that the main site functionality works, and also to get some friends to test the site for anything that is broken which I might not have thought to check.

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New Design

I’ve been working this weekend on a design for the OngoingWorlds website. I’m not a designer so this process was very difficult for me. I knew quite specifically what I wanted from the design, but implementing it in graphical form is difficult! I wanted a design which is:

  • Simple
  • Easy Navigation
  • Reasonably Neutral (to suit members of all different tastes)
  • Fun, but not childish

I had a look around at some cool sites for inspiration, and found it at http://cssremix.com/ which lists some really nice sites that have a really clear simple style. I found that I liked the textured grainy background which was on a few sites, and the beige neutral colours were perfect for what I wanted. I took a lot of influence from one site in particular, and tried to copy from it without totally ripping it off!

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PBEM or Play-by-post

I’ve been questioning for a while what to call the games that people will run on the OngoingWorlds site, and have been disputing between calling them PBEM games, or play-by-post games.

I’ve recorded a short audio comment for this article:

What are people searching for?

As a website owner, I have to think about what people are typing into a search engine to try and find my site. So they would type in “PBEM” or “play-by-post”, often they would be more specific and want to find a “Startrek PBEM” or a “fantasy play-by-post”. It’s important that I get the wording correct on the OngoingWorlds website, so that it appears in the correct search results.

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Character tagging in posts on OngoingWorlds

OngoingWorlds is currently on my development server, awaiting to go live. There are a few features however which I haven’t yet implemented. These features are the cream of the cake however, and might not be added until after the site goes live. It’s taking long enough to get a basic version working as it is!

A knight on a horse

Sir Tony might be tagged in this post

Currently, when a user submits a post to OngoingWorlds it will create a post which will go into a thread of posts. All posts will be archived in a long list by date. Easy and simple.

Other members will be able to see that post, and read its contents. For example the post is about a character called Sir Tony who is riding on a horse to a castle. The post has been written with amazing love and care, the spelling is perfect and the grammar is amazing. But it’s still a page of plain text, and I want to jazz it up a bit with an image. Asking a player to submit an image every time they post is a bit unreasonable, as finding an appropriate image would take a long time, and might actually be impossible unless the user draws the image themselves, scans it and uploads it. Far too much work, but it’s not too much work to put an image of the character on the post.

In OngoingWorlds you’ll be able to “tag” a post just like you can tag users in a photo on Facebook. So in our example, the player tags their character Sir Tony in the post and his smiley face is shown to any other players who are reading that post.

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