Author Archives: Micah
Every now and then I like to pull back the curtain a little and give a glimpse into what it’s like to run Obsidian Portal. It’s pretty much an endless stream of putting out fires and fixing bugs. I really love to do it, but I like to pour cold water on anyone who thinks it’s all fun and glory. For example, today I had two support emails that caused me quite a bit of grief. Enjoy…
Ascension without consent
I never gave my permission to “ascend” or be charged anything, you don’t even have my information. so, yeah, please take off this “ascended” title, because, I’m not going to be charged. so, again, nobody has my consent in anyway for any reason for anything ever. the end.
As it happens, the issue here was that the person in question signed up with a promo code when creating their account. The promo code gave 1 month of free Ascendant time to new signups.
I understand that we could be a little clearer about “complimentary” vs “paid” Ascendant accounts, but frankly I’d rather work on cool features. Some other people have inquired about their strange Ascendant status, and I was happy to answer. In this case, I did exactly as was requested and deleted the complimentary subscription. Be careful what you wish for, I might just give it to you.
My wiki is gone, I hate you
Pages on my XXXX page were deleted. I want them back, along with my money.
These emails always fill me with dread. Did I accidentally delete someone’s work? How long has this been going on? Is this just the first of a flood of hate heading my way?
Luckily, I’ve been hit with a lot of these by now, so I know not to panic. In almost all cases, it’s a misunderstanding. In this particular case, it is a legitimate bug…but not one where data was lost. Instead, there is a case-sensitivity bug for some of the wiki links. In other words, Places isn’t the same as places. The pages are all still there, but some links in the wiki are broken. Definitely something I need to fix.
Unfortunately, it took several back-and-forth emails to discover the actual problem. The original email didn’t have any real information, only anger. I know it’s frustrating when things aren’t working right, but a “You screwed me” email is pretty worthless in terms of diagnosing the problem and finding a fix.
There are essentially two morals to this story, one for me and one for you:
For me: Can’t please ‘em all
I am the first to admit that Obsidian Portal has bugs and problems…a LOT! But, wonder of wonders, it limps along enough to provide thousands of gamers with the tools they need to manage their games. That provides me a lot of comfort when I deal with irate users. I have to remind myself that even as I’m working to fix one person’s problem, hundreds of people are managing their games and having a great time doing it.
For you (and me too): Take a breath before sending
When I get a support email, my initial gut reaction goes one of 2 ways: I want to help this person, or I want to hurt this person. If the email is asking for help, I want to help them. If they are lashing out at me or the site, I want to hurt them. I can usually swallow my pride and do the right thing, but it’s always tempting to just reflect back the anger and hate coming my way.
The point is to realize that most websites (and small businesses) out there are like this. When you send an email, it doesn’t go to a customer service person. It goes to the head-honcho, the person who pours their heart and soul into the site. If you have a problem, ask for help, and you’ll probably get it. Accusations and rage will send your email straight to the trash bin, or worse, the site owner might flip out and declare war on you. I’ll admit, I’ve come very close to doing this in the past.
Blow your top, or solve your problem?
Before sending a support email (to anyone, not just me), ask yourself: “What’s my goal here?” Do you want to get your problem solved? Or, do you want to unleash your anger and surrender to the Dark Side? If it’s the former, then do your best to describe the exact problem, what you did when the problem manifested, and have a little patience. If it’s the latter, tap into your deepest hatred and let me know how you really feel. Just don’t be surprised when I don’t respond and you suddenly find your account disabled.
We know that many of you have been having problems loading the site on Android browsers. It took us a while to get our hands on an Android device and pin the problem down, but we’ve finally got a fix.
Basically, the login system we use that allows for Google, Twitter, Facebook, and all the rest has some parts that are incompatible with Android 2.1 and below. Whenever the login section would load, the browser would crash. The upside is that we can intercept that and keep it from loading on those Android devices. The downside is that login with 3rd party is unavailable on those same devices. If this causes problems for you, send us an email and we’ll help get you sorted out.
If you’re still having crashing problems on your Android device, please let us know and we’ll keep looking into it. Otherwise, thanks for all the bug reports, and enjoy!
It took me a few hours on Saturday and a few more on Sunday, but I’m ready to announce our coolest new feature: The Character Quick Select popup!
The old way
One complaint we heard long ago was that it was a real pain to be writing a wiki page and want to reference a character. You’d have to open another browser window, navigate to the characters tab, and look up the slug or ID of the character in order to link them. To fix this, we added the sidebar with the dropdown box containing all your characters.
This was a decent solution, but I was never pleased with it. For one, it’s cumbersome if there are a lot of characters. Plus, it doesn’t help when you’re busy writing and want to define a brand new NPC. This happens to me A LOT when I’m planning out an adventure or new area.
The new way
To help with this process, I’ve revamped the lookup process to be much friendlier, and moved it to the textarea toolbar.
Simply click the little character-in-a-folder button, and voila! You’re looking at the new quick select popup.
You can create a new NPC for your campaign, right from here. No more need to go add them via the characters tab then come back to where you were editing. Click the New Character button, fill out the basics, click save, and your new character is added to the list, ready for immediate insertion into your post.
Just start typing a character’s name or a tag. As you type, the list will automatically filter itself to the characters you’re looking for.
Found the character you’re looking for? Click the Insert button to insert the link tag right into the post.
There is one main irritating bug that I’m aware of. Sometimes the textarea you were originally editing loses the place of the cursor. When you click the button to insert a character, the wiki tag is inserted at the start of the textarea, instead of where the cursor was originally. This is a limitation of how textareas work, but I’ll see if I can find some sort of workaround.
Like it? Hate it?
I’m very proud of the quick select popup, as I’ve needed it many times in the past. Let me know what you think, and if there are any ways it could be improved.
We found a bug in how the dynamic character sheets were being stored, and we pushed out a fix tonight (Oct 6, 2010). Essentially, there was some duplication of storage where the same character would be stored in two different states in two different places.
We did our best to pull the different pieces together and keep it all straight. However, there may be some slight changes to your dynamic sheet values, like a wrong stat here or there, depending on if the data merge was 100% successful. We’re confident that it worked correctly in the vast majority of cases, and we humbly apologize if any of your data was incorrectly modified. If you’re seeing huge discrepancies on your dynamic characters sheets, please let us know.
We’ve fixed the problem and everything will be smooth from here on out. Again, our apologies for the inconvenience.
If you’re getting a 500 error when trying to edit a character, we know about the issue and are working on it. It’s a subtle bug and we need to be careful about fixing it to make sure we don’t lose data.
We’ll be working on this on October 7, and hope to have a fix for it by the afternoon, or perhaps sometime on October 8. Until then, our apologies and we hope you can live without a character or two for a day.
We’ve had a few updates in the past couple weeks, and I thought I should explain them a little better and give some context.
Many people have requested the ability to search through a campaign. Sometimes you want to find a specific wiki page or character and you don’t want to go hunting through all your links.
All Ascendant campaigns now have access to an intra-campaign search, making it easy to find exactly what you’re looking for instantly. Look for the search box in the sidebar on the campaign home page, and enjoy!
As many of you have already seen, we’ve added unlockable achievements for everyone. We wanted a way to call attention to all the cool things you all do, and the achievements were an easy way.
Right now, there are only a handful of achievements, but we’ll be adding more as time goes on. If you have ideas of cool things we could give achievements out for, please let us know.
We’re working on translating different parts of the site into several other languages. We’ve made great strides on creating a Spanish translation, and thanks to a lot of help from our multilingual users, we’re getting close on several other languages as well.
To set your language preference, just edit your profile and choose your language.