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Sorcerer's Place Happenings
by Taluntain

May 26, 2005 - SP Happenings #102

Well, we've survived the 2005 E3 with little or no damage... For SP, this year's E3 was really the calmest in a long time, considering a grand total of one upcoming D&D game was presented, namely Dungeons & Dragons Online: Stormreach. Atari has apparently decided to save some cash by not showing Dragonshard or Neverwinter Nights 2, which, at least in the case of Dragonshard, was a dumb move. Dragonshard has been given little exposure ever since it's been announced, and I have a feeling that once released, it'll slide by unnoticed relatively quickly. Neverwinter Nights 2, of course, needs little exposure - the name alone guarantees all the recognition the game will ever need. Still, not showing it at E3 when it is the only D&D title currently slated for 2006 is pretty silly. And no, still no word about Baldur's Gate 3, before anyone asks.

Oh, in case you've missed it, check out our Eye of the Beholder Neverwinter Nights module review.

May 19, 2005 - SP Happenings #101

The Pit is the latest addition to the Sorcerer's Place family of hosted sites. The Pit is one of the best, if not THE best site dedicated solely to Planescape: Torment, featuring a large amount of original content and information. Although no longer updated, the site makes a fitting monument to the greatness of a superb game, and I'm very happy to have it preserved for posterity on Sorcerer's Place.

May 12, 2005 - SP Happenings #100

And here we are, the 100th SPH. On my birthday, no less!

I've made many more adjustments to our site search engine since I've mentioned it in SPH last week, and the thing's really running smooth now, with very little interference from content which shouldn't be indexed. The usage statistics are also quite interesting. There are a great number of unique searches (many of them misspelled - you need to be careful with spelling when searching), but there are a few very popular common searches as well. A few of these are: "monk", "portraits", "maps", "dragon" and "romance". Why the "monk" search is so popular, I have no idea, but it's the most frequently used keyword in the searches.

Since last week I have also updated our help wanted page, so check it out if you're interested in doing something around SP. The online walkthrough writer positions have turned out disastrous for the most part. Dozens of applicants, most of which clearly didn't even bother to read the requirements, and none of which would actually follow through with writing the walkthrough they've started from beginning to conclusion. I've had a bad feeling about the guy who started writing the Baldur's Gate online walkthrough for SP right from the beginning, so I can only blame myself for being foolish enough to announce and list it publicly before he completed it. In the grand tradition of people who apply for a job around SP and don't feel like finishing it, he's simply disappeared without even bothering to let me know about it. I hope there's a special pit reserved in hell for people who waste my time in this manner.

So as far as online walkthrough writers go, I've pretty much given up on finding any decent ones. Walkthrough writing is an art, and very few people have the know-how and persistence required in making one. Apparently, the only people I can trust with a job like that are those who have already produced something similar for SP, either a walkthrough, or any other extensive project. Unfortunately, none of them have time to tackle another project at the moment, so I'm rather stuck. At this point I don't know if I should even keep the Baldur's Gate online walkthrough up, considering it's barely been started. I'll probably just scrap the whole thing. *sigh*

In other news, thanks to Catbert our latest screenshot galleries (Dragonshard and Dungeons & Dragons Online) now have the option of going to the previous or next screenshot right on the page where the first screenshot displays, which makes browsing screenshots much more convenient. Our older screenshot galleries don't have this feature yet because I need to do some changes there first for this to work, but eventually all screenshot galleries on SP will use the same format. Which also means that now would be a good time to put any suggestions for improvements to us. So, if you have any, please let us know.

May 5, 2005 - SP Happenings #99

Nearly up to a 100th SPH... Christ, I can't believe I've been filing these weekly reports for nearly 2 years now. It seems like I've only come up with the idea to do it a few weeks ago. Well, in any event, I'm glad that SP is still active enough on the creative and user end that I have something to post in SPH most of the time.

After last week's site update (which, accompanied by many minor site tweaks, was a lot of work), I've turned my attention to our site search engine. Many of you probably don't even know we have one (though it's actually listed in the Features box on the right side of every site page), but it's really a very handy tool, especially for looking up things you know are on SP, but can't remember exactly where. After I've enabled the search script with our new design I pretty much forgot about it since I've rarely needed it. Unfortunately, I never really extensively tested it either. Only after making a few searches recently have I realized that a lot of words on every page that shouldn't have been indexed were still being tracked, and this was inflating the search results considerably (not to mention throwing them off). I have now fixed this for the most part (certain things which shouldn't be indexed are still being indexed, but this can't be changed without extensive modifications), so only the widest searches like "Baldur's Gate" will throw up hundreds of search results, but such searches could never be really productive anyway, considering the number of pages with those keywords on SP.

But there are ways even around that. I have put together a list of useful search tips and examples now found on the main search page, and if you check out all the search options available, you'll see that you can define your searches pretty much down to every detail. I've also prettied up the search results page template itself, so it now feels like a part of SP. In the future, the search will probably be integrated into the site layout itself.

April 28, 2005 - SP Happenings #98

For the last few days I've been putting together a new site content update, which I hope to have up by tomorrow. I've also fixed or tweaked a large number of things around the site which I've been putting off indefinitely for ages, but unfortunately it's nothing very interesting to write about, so I won't. ;)

In case you don't get around our message boards much, I'd also like to point out my Board Statistics thread, which, I think, has some pretty interesting info in it.

Anyway, enough chit-chat, I've got a site update to finalise...

April 21, 2005 - SP Happenings #97

Terra Arcanum is the latest site now hosted by Sorcerer's Place. If you've played Arcanum you've probably been there before, and if not, the site is pretty much the definitive source on the game, so you should check it out. Of course, with Troika dead the site doesn't seem to have much of a perspective any more, but you never know...

April 14, 2005 - SP Happenings #96

The setup of SP's two newest hosted sites (Duck and Cover and another one not fully moved yet) has still been at the forefront of my server-related activities since last week's SPH. I've just finished setting up a bunch of subdomains for DAC, so they should begin getting repopulated soon.

We've also posted 4 new fantasy book reviews in our Booktalk forum since I mentioned the book reviews last in SPH.

April 7, 2005 - SP Happenings #95

Duck and Cover, a Fallout site Sorcerer's Place has been hosting for a while until they moved to another host, is now back after having a thoroughly unpleasant experience with the host they moved to. The site should soon be operating normally again. Welcome back, DAC...

Sorcerer's Place will also be hosting another new site shortly, but more on that next week.

March 30, 2005 - SP Happenings #94

Another quiet week with me busy in RL, so nothing new to report. The only mildly interesting thing that has happened site-wise was another humourous (but not) session of back & forth with the server host because the server's internal time wouldn't properly show up in the applications running on the server (i.e. not accounting for daylight savings going into effect a few days ago in Europe). Well, in the end the whole thing turned out to be a bug in the server's control panel software. Which seems to have been fixed now... it's just amazing how every time you do something utterly unexpected (like wanting to keep EU time on a US server), you need to spend a day figuring it out. Who needs games when server administration is so much fun, eh?

March 24, 2005 - SP Happenings #93

I've been exceedingly busy in RL this week. The present situation is probably going to continue for another month, so don't expect any breath-taking updates in the meantime. However, in our Booktalk forum you can read 3 new reviews since last week. We can always use more, so don't be shy - contribute yours!

March 17, 2005 - SP Happenings #92

New things are afoot mostly on the boards this week. A new Neverwinter Nights premium module review has gone up yesterday (Witch's Wake), and there is a brand new book reviewing system off to a good start in our Booktalk forum. You can already read 3 new reviews there. Feel free to contribute your own reviews!

March 11, 2005 - SP Happenings #91

I have just finished putting together the promised site update, but as it's already past midnight here, I'll post it after I get some sleep. Also, our Baldur's Gate Online Walkthrough has been updated to include certain Chapter 2 areas.

March 3, 2005 - SP Happenings #90

A site content update is coming up in the next few days. I don't have much time at the moment so it probably won't amount to much more than putting all the stuff submitted since the last site update online, but still.

We have many people posting on our boards regularly and playing various mods, but very few people have been volunteering to write mod reviews lately. Since we could definitely use more, and I know there are many people posting on our boards capable of writing quality reviews, please check this thread for more information about what we expect and how you can apply. Get involved, folks - this is also another way of giving something back to the community.

The Prologue and Chapter 1 of our Baldur's Gate Online Walkthrough by Ron het Lam are done, so please check them out and send Ron any suggestions you might have. Keep in mind that the solution is still a work in progress and that many things will be changed or added before the end, so now is a good time to get involved with your comments and suggestions.

February 24, 2005 - SP Happenings #89

The past week here at SP has been a relatively busy. We have posted 2 new mod reviews, ShadowGuard for Neverwinter Nights and Chloe for Baldur's Gate 2. I have spent most of the week re-checking and updating the SPS direct download content (due to some reported corrupted files), and adding lots of new content as well. The library of content available to SPS account holders is now nearly 11GB in size and updated & expanded regularly. So if you don't have an SPS account yet, there's one more reason for you to sign up. Considering SP has been very short on donations for the last few months, some new SPS account holders would be very welcome.

Work is also progressing on the Baldur's Gate Online Solution here on SP, which is coming along quite nicely. More on that in the following weeks.

February 17, 2005 - SP Happenings #88

Another little schedule change - SPH is now going to be posted every Thursday, when I actually have a bit of spare time on my hands. Tuesdays are pretty full for me this year, so I'm not sure why didn't I think of shifting the SPH schedule before.

The only major site-related updates made in the past week have been the fixed & updated content tables for the Pool of Radiance: Ruins of Myth Drannor and The Temple of Elemental Evil game subsections. The differences you will notice now are the credits next to the title of every listing, external downloads & links marked for convenience, the tables stretching as needed, as well as having a unified look. Eventually we hope to convert all game subsections on SP to this level of detail. Oh, and I've had the flu since Sunday, though I finally seem to be getting over it.

February 9, 2005 - SP Happenings #87

Aside from appointing another new moderator for the Alley of Dangerous Angles and the Alley of Lingering Sighs forums (this should be enough for a while), there's absolutely nothing new to report. I've been working on a seminar paper most of the past week, so my free time has been too scarce to allow me to get anything much done around SP.

February 1, 2005 - SP Happenings #86

The past week has been relatively quiet for a change, so there's nothing much new to report. I'm still dealing with the Alley of Dangerous Angles and the Alley of Lingering Sighs forums, which now have two new moderators to keep order, with one or two more to come in the near future. The separation of AoDA from political themes seems to have had a positive effect so far, as both forums are alive & well. I am hopeful that this positive trend will continue.

January 25, 2005 - SP Happenings #85

It's been quite an interesting week... and not entirely in a good way. Yesterday a couple of our hosted sites were targeted again by an exploit aimed at their message boards, which had me riveted to my chair in front of the computer the entire evening, first trying to figure out what the hell was going on, and then what to do about it. Eventually, I suspended both sites so the attacks stopped affecting the entire server. One was turned on again a few hours later (still to a considerable amount of attacks, but manageable), while the other one had to wait a bit longer. The attacks seem to have stopped now and everything is back in order, until the next script kiddie has a few spare minutes. *sigh*

Inexplicably, the time server we were using to synchronize the server time with had suddenly switched time an hour ahead, so I've had to change it to a new one. A Swiss time server this time, which will hopefully be able to hold itself together for longer than the last one. Seriously, if you can't even trust a bloody time server not to go haywire after a few months, the state of technology must really be in the dumps.

However, what's really been keeping me occupied for several days now is the activity regarding the separation of one of our popular forums, the Alley of Dangerous Angles, and the political threads within, which all got moved into a separate new forum, the Alley of Lingering Sighs. I won't go into details here as it's all being discussed on the boards, suffice it to say that the decisions being made about this issue were probably one of the toughest, if not the toughest, that I've had to deal with in all the time our boards have been around. Hopefully something good will come of it.

Finally, I got around to checking and uploading all the fixed content tables for the original Baldur's Gate subsection, and I have to say I'm very pleased with the result. The differences you will notice now are the credits next to the title of every listing, external downloads marked for convenience, the tables stretching as needed, as well as having a unified look. Eventually we hope to convert all game subsections on SP to this level of detail.

January 19, 2005 - SP Happenings #84

I'm going to start wading through all the bookmarked articles and websites that have piled up on my list over the last few weeks, so this should keep me busy for a couple of days. I've also started playing Hordes of the Underdark again after a 3-month break, and I have to say it's quite enjoyable. I didn't get that far yet (Undermountain, level #2), but thus far it's been fun with Deekin onboard. That kobold really cracks me up. The improvement over the OC and Shadows of Undrentide is really apparent from the get-go, and I hope it will keep up throughout the rest of the expansion.

Site-wise, I've decided to try out a slight schedule change in some of the weekly features on SP; namely, a new Screenshot of the Week and Latest Poll Results will now be posted every Wednesday. The poll will still be changed every Monday and SP Happenings posted every Tuesday (today is in an exception to the rule). This should make it a bit easier for me as I'll be able to post all the weekly stuff in the first three days of the week, and be able to concentrate on other stuff for the remainder of the week.

January 11, 2005 - SP Happenings #83

The site update (too) long in the making is finally up now, so I'll focus on some smaller issues concerning SP for the moment. I'll be pretty busy in real life for a while now (exams, papers, studies etc.), so larger projects will have to wait till later.

January 4, 2005 - SP Happenings #82

I'm still working on the promised site update (which I really hope to finish before another week goes around), so there is not much to report in this regard. There have been some other goings-on around SP, however. Namely, chevalier started on cleaning up and improving the Baldur's Gate 1 subsection content tables, and after several kicks in the ass, apparently managed to get it right (:p). After I finish double-checking everything, the tables in that section will be replaced, with the remaining game subsection tables following after the site update. Currently I'm also working with Spellbound on getting our review of BioWare's Neverwinter Nights premium module Kingmaker up, but this is pretty much done and will be posted either today or tomorrow.

Finally, Sylvus Moonbow, at one time a walkthrough scribe at Sorcerer's Place, surprised me a couple of weeks ago with the announcement that he will be shutting down his site, Skullport, and going on a prolonged trip across several continents. Since he has written several excellent online solutions for the games also covered by Sorcerer's Place, he has graciously offered to hand me the content of his site so that people can continue to enjoy it. Over the coming weeks and months we will do our best to get as much of it online as possible, starting with his Neverwinter Nights Online Solution. Luckily I have the benefit of Syl agreeing to start the content conversion work himself while he is still around, so this will certainly help in getting his valuable content up as soon as possible.

December 21, 2004 - SP Happenings #81

Real life cut into the planned site update schedule, so consider it delayed until next week or so. I've also been doing some regular site maintenance (fixing broken links, rearranging forums, running a board re-index, etc.) which you won't see noted anywhere, but still has to be done every now and then, and is usually pretty time consuming. As I won't have much to report next week, the next SPH will be posted in two weeks' time.

All that remains is for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, and I hope you enjoy the remaining days of the year 2004. SP has plenty of improvements in store for next year, so make sure you stick around. And should you feel generous, please check out the SPS accounts Christmas special, and donate a few bucks to keep SP running. Thank you!

P.S. I almost forgot...

"Ring Their Bells", or "The Munchkin's Carol"
--by the Sea Wasp
(to the tune of Jingle Bells)

"Slashing through the Orcs
With a good two-handed blade
Over corpses we go
And through the gore we wade
Mace on helmet rings
Making bodies fly
What fun to sing our SLAYING song
And watch these suckers die!

Chorus:
Oh, ring their bells with swords and spells
Don't let 'em get away!
We're brave and bold for fame and gold
We'll make a lot today!
Oh, ring their bells with swords and spells
Don't let 'em get away!
We'll hack and slash and blast and trash
And blow these dudes away!

Crashing through the door
Into the dragon's nose
Our mage whips out a Cone of Cold
And out its fire goes!
Elven bowstrings sing
Making balrogs fall
And our thief finds a secret door
Into the treasure hall!

(Chorus)

Then appears the Lich
With his demon guard
Our wizard yawns and wishes
We'd run into something HARD...
He begins to cast
His 19th level spell
That damn Lich throws a Gate at us
And drops us all in Hell!

(Chorus)

We appear in Hell
In front of Satan's Throne
Our cleric waves us out the door
And takes him on alone!
Satan's legions don't
Want to let us go
Our Techno pulls a bazooka out
And NUKES 'em 'til they GLOW!

Oh, ring their bells with prayers and spells
Don't let 'em get away!
We're brave and bold and CRAZED, we're told
To think we'll live the day!
Oh, ring their bells with swords and shells
Don't let 'em get away!
We'll hack and slash and blast and trash
And blow these dudes away!
Yes, we'll hack and slash and blast and trash
And drag our loot away!"

December 14, 2004 - SP Happenings #80

I've decided to wait with the implementation of a poll script running on the server until we get all the fixes and changes of the updated site design template up, as it will be much easier for me to test various available poll scripts then. Before that happens, however, we'll start on re-making the old content tables from scratch. As these were simply transferred unchanged when we switched to this new design, some of them contain horrible (not to mention redundant) chunks of code, and it's high time we cleaned this mess up. I've managed to convince Chev to take on this gargantuan task, but as he'll probably be doing all of this manually, it'll take quite some time. He will also be adding the names of the authors to every single download which does not have it specified now (another legacy oversight needing to be fixed), so finding things by author on SP will be much easier in the future.

Also, I've started on the next site content update a few days ago, so I expect the whole thing to go up before next week's SPH, or not much after that.

December 7, 2004 - SP Happenings #79

I got my Internet connection fixed a couple of days after last week's SPH (it turned out the ADSL modem broke down and had to be replaced), so I'm happily surfing the netwaves again. I didn't get much work done on the upcoming site update last week, as I was pretty busy with a few other things. First, I wrote a guide to buying things not listed on Sorcerer's Place via Amazon, as this issue has been coming up regularly for a long time now and a more detailed explanation was in order. The guide will be incorporated into the Fantasy Books section on SP with the next site update.

This week we've also started covering Wizards of the Coast & related news (the bits relevant to gamers), which will expand our news coverage even further and, I hope, prove of interest to our visitors. Some comments on this wouldn't hurt. I've also added a touch of Christmas spirit to the site and boards, so we can get into the proper mood for the season. ;)

Finally, I have installed a poll script on the server, which will enable me to make & save polls locally (they've been made through a polling site previously), but as luck would have it, I did not realize I would need to include a bit of cookie code on every page before the html starts, so currently I'm checking if we can add it via one of the site content includes, or whether it will have to be added separately.

November 30, 2004 - SP Happenings #78

My Internet connection's been completely messed up (constant disconnects and time-outs) for the last few days, so I've been pretty much only doing the most important stuff concerning SP, like checking the mail and the boards, and leaving the rest for when they finally get this thing fixed. I've still got a mile of backlog in the SP updates department (it'll probably take me a year to catch up on all this), so I'm already working on the next site update. Slowly, but surely, the pile is diminishing... Anyway, the next site update will probably have to last till near the end of January, as I've got a boatload of things to do in RL by then. I wonder how many other people have to slave away in December and January when everyone else is enjoying their holidays... *sigh*

November 23, 2004 - SP Happenings #77

Not much new to report. Catbert and I are currently busy discussing the changes to be implemented with the upcoming site design update. Most of the changes will be cosmetic, some purely practical, and a few based on the feedback we've received (and the errors we've uncovered) since this layout has gone up. The changes won't be major on the surface, and the update will be made without any interruption in the site's availability (hopefully). This is just to let you know about one of the many things going on in the background of SP, so you know we aren't slacking. ;)

November 16, 2004 - SP Happenings #76

I've just posted the latest site update, though to be honest, it is merely a fraction of what I've had lined up. However, as I'll be busy in RL for the next week and a half, I though it best to at least get as much stuff up now as possible, instead of delaying the entire update. Besides Half-life 2 and VTM: Bloodlines, the PC port of Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone is also out today, so you might want to check it out while waiting for the next D&D game in the pipeline.

November 9, 2004 - SP Happenings #75

I've started working on the next site content update (which should be coming shortly), and have already split all larger Fantasy Books subsections down into 2 or more pages, so they should be loading a bit faster for those of you on slower connections. I've also rearranged the Forgotten Realms books, so the reading order now should make more sense to the uninitiated. About a dozen large pages in the Games subsections also got split down into 2 or more pages, since they've been quite unmanageable for some time now, but I never got around to splitting them.

November 2, 2004 - SP Happenings #74

I've managed to get the server back in shape, so things are running smoothly again. Various issues with our newest hosted site still keep popping up, so that's keeping me busy as well. Still, I've started working on the next site update, which I hope will be going up relatively soon, depending on how much content I decide to put up in one go. After some problems on the server Catbert and I managed to find some old bits of code left in the new design (causing mischief, of course), and some things which could definitely be done in a more elegant way, so a code update is on the horizon for the near future. However, barring any issues with it, you won't even know it happened. ;)

October 26, 2004 - SP Happenings #73

Busy, busy, busy... The Temple of Elemental Evil Online Solution has gone up a few days ago, as promised. There is also a new review of the Valen BG2 NPC mod up in our Mod Reviews forum. The last hosted site I'm putting on this server, Duck and Cover, is also more or less set up. There are still some issues with it that I'm hoping to work out soon, so that'll keep me busy for a while longer. Unfortunately, the addition of this last site has slowed down the server somewhat, but hopefully I'll be able to do something about that. In any event, I'll be focusing on getting the server back in shape before doing anything else.

October 19, 2004 - SP Happenings #72

I'm running a bit late with the Temple of Elemental Evil Online Solution, but with a good excuse. Another site (more details next week) is moving to our server for hosting, so this has kept me completely occupied for the last few days (that, and some minor server issues). However, there's not much more work to be done on the solution, so it's definitely going up by the end of the week. It'll be worth the wait.

October 12, 2004 - SP Happenings #71

I'm rather annoyed at the fact that I still didn't get the answers to my interview with R. A. Salvatore regarding Demon Stone back (it's been nearly a month), especially since I've been pressed to deliver the questions on very short notice. I guess when (if) I finally do get the answers, I might as well wait for the release of the PC port and post the interview then, so the thing will at least be topical.

In other news, Beren and I have been pretty busy with the Temple of Elemental Evil Online Solution. The majority of the groundwork on it is now complete, so I expect the entire thing to go up before the next SP Happenings.

October 5, 2004 - SP Happenings #70

Besides the second half of the site update (which has gone up a few days ago), I am now working on getting Beren's Temple of Elemental Evil solution converted from text + images to online form. Since my uni classes started again this week I don't have as much time available to work on SP, but I'm definitely working hard to get the solution up as soon as possible. The next project I'm tackling after this is the implementation of a standalone member photo gallery which will be located directly on our server. The MSN group serving this purpose currently has proven popular far beyond my expectations, but with all the cross-registering and reposting it's turned into a bit of a mess, so I'd like to transfer everything to SP and organize it better. That is, of course, assuming I can find a good & free photo gallery script with all the options of the MSN group one, but let me worry about that...

September 28, 2004 - SP Happenings #69

I managed to get part of the planned site update up, but there's more to come (including the promised Temple of Elemental Evil Online Solution) as soon as I'm able to put it all together. After delaying it for a couple of years, I've finally had one of my wisdom teeth taken out on Monday (probably a couple of the most horrific hours of my entire life), and needless to say I'm not feeling exactly fit to do much of anything. Especially as I've had to be up and about since 6 AM till 6 PM today with a fever, instead of staying at home in bed, putting ice on my ridiculously swollen cheek. So much for the doctor's orders... The only highlight of all this is that I have an excuse to stuff myself full of ice cream now. :)

September 21, 2004 - SP Happenings #68

Our FR: Demon Stone contest ends in a few hours, so this is your final chance to enter if you haven't already.

As I've announced last week, all the forum news has now moved off the front page. After some discussion, I've decided to create a separate forum news page, so the front page is now much less cluttered. All the developer forum news posts are easily accessible from the front page via the "Forum News" link in the Subsections menu on the right side of the page. What I'm thinking now is that it would make sense to again expand all the forum news posts to show whole on their separate page, so people wouldn't have to click on the "read more" link in every longer post to read it in its entirety. Please comment on this if you have an opinion.

Beren has notified me earlier today that he has pretty much completed his Temple of Elemental Evil walkthrough. You can look forward to seeing this latest SP Online Solution going up as soon as I can prepare it for publication. Which, in turn, brings me to the point of having to explain why the site update I promised last week isn't up yet. Short and sweet - lack of time on my part. What free time I had was spent on regular site maintenance and catching up with the SP-related news so I could clear my mile long list of bookmarked news. I've caught up on most of it by now, however, so I've already started working on the site update, which should be going up soon.

September 15, 2004 - SP Happenings #67

The past week has been extremely busy at SP. Besides all the cleaning up and re-setting of things after the system upgrade, I've also prepared an interview of 10 questions with R. A. Salvatore regarding Forgotten Realms: Demon Stone (this will go up as soon as I get the answers), and put together a quiz in which you can win 3 Demon Stone posters, one of them signed by Salvatore himself. Hint: the answers to all the questions can be found in the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting and its Web Enhancements. So, have fun solving it and good luck!

An issue we're debating on the message boards currently is what to do with the great amounts of news we've been posting lately - I suggested the separation of forum news and all other news. Check this thread and share your opinion.

Lastly, I'll be doing another site update as soon as possible, so you can expect that as well in a few days.

September 8, 2004 - SP Happenings #66

Although the system upgrade took longer than I anticipated, with several annoying problems down the road, we got the new system up & running and are working on returning things back to normal. At the time of this posting, most of the things should be operational already. However, if you spot anything strange or problematic, please do let me know and I'll look into it.

As for details on why this upgrade and eventual normalization took so long... in short, not a single damn thing had gone according to my plans. Among other things, our server host messed up and set up our new hard drive with a year old system, which I, of course, promptly rejected. After that I had to wait some more for another hard drive with the proper system on. Once that was finally in place, the fun really started. The huge backup of the site I was getting from another location was downloading to the new server for about 8 hours, but then suddenly died at 82% and messed up the downloaded file so completely, I couldn't do anything with it. Luckily I also made a backup of all the site files prior to the system upgrade, so I started uploading the files myself. However, with my slow upload speed, this process took an even longer time to complete. After I finally uploaded the more important files, the real problems began.

More than half of the things didn't work, the front page news and message boards included. Eventually, with the invaluable help of Catbert and Blackthorne TA, we got everything back up and running properly, but it took another few hours. On top of it all, most of the problematic things started happening after midnight, so I was up till 3 or 4 am over the last couple of nights. Suffice it to say, this whole exercise ended up costing me (in more than one sense of the word) much more than I expected as well. But as it needed to be done, for several reasons, I really had no choice in the matter. I will be very happy once we finally return everything to the previous state and I can get some sleep, though.

August 31, 2004 - SP Happenings #65

We've been having some more problems with the load on the server (as well as spam clogging it up), so we'll be setting up some countermeasures to hopefully eliminate these problems. We may have to close down the message boards and/or the entire site for a few hours next week, however. Notices with more information about this will be posted as soon as we have some concrete dates.

August 24, 2004 - SP Happenings #64

It's been a relatively quiet week. With most of the work that came along with the redesign finally complete, I could relax a bit. Since the development of Baldur's Gate 3 has been confirmed by Atari, I've created a new forum for it on the boards as well. Hopefully this is the last newly announced game for a while; this insane amount of D&D game news and announcements has gone on for long enough. Though considering how intent Atari is on milking the D&D licence for all it's worth, I doubt it. We'll see whether any of their efforts will be targeted also at game quality, not just quantity.

We've had some problems with the server over the last couple of days, but I've opened a thread to discuss that in the Sorcerous Sundries forum, so you can read about it there if you've interested.

I'm relatively surprised at how underutilized our new system for making news comments is. I know a great number of people are reading news on the front page daily (and in the News Comments forum), but there are very few comments on the news. As it is now, people must register on the boards to be able to post news comments, but I might enable it even for unregistered people and see if that fares better. Hearing some opinions on this would be nice, so fire away.

August 17, 2004 - SP Happenings #63

For as much time as I had during the past week, I've been working on the latest site update, which has just gone up. The sheer amount of new material and necessary updates (many minor ones are unlisted) have made this latest update quite an undertaking. I've managed to clear most of the backlog now, so in the next update, you can expect to start seeing things which have been on hold until the new design went up.

August 10, 2004 - SP Happenings #62

This past week has been crazy in just about every aspect of the word. After months of silence, whispers and rumours, Atari dragged out the rusty PR cannons and started bombing the gaming news with announcements and previews of no less than 4 upcoming new D&D games. Considering the irrational flood of revelations all of a sudden, it remains a mystery when they're still keeping mum on Baldur's Gate 3, though I'm sure we'll be buried in news about that one soon enough as well. My faithful sidek... err, I mean, Head Daily News Editor, chevalier, also managed to get his computer into repair just as this PR offensive started, so I was on my own to post a bunch of news. Luckily, he's back now, so I can concentrate on other things besides posting news. Just reading all this news salad is time-consuming enough.

As much as I could, I've been working on the site update, though with the incessant storms this week (and subsequent power failures), I didn't get much done yet, though I should have something by the end of the week.

Our forums have also been a hotbed of activity this past week. I've added 3 new game forums, set up several new categories and regrouped all of the existing forums. Things should be much clearer this way. SP's up to 30 forums (2 archived) now, so clear grouping of forums is a must. My, my, how we have grown...

August 3, 2004 - SP Happenings #61

Another week of fixing dozens of small things related to the new design. I've also been away from home for a few days, so I didn't get a chance to do that much around SP in any event. Things finally seem to be settling down, however, so I expect to be able to deliver a site content update by next week.

July 28, 2004 - SP Happenings #60

Whew. First week after the launch of the new design. To say that it has been eventful is accurate to the point that it is also a vast understatement. Dozens of small and not so small things needed to be fixed after the new design was up. I had to set up a bunch of SPS accounts and create templates for the entire process, as well as start planning & gathering the extra content for SPS account holders. I had to inform the major sites that link to SP to update their links, since nearly all of the urls have changed. Finally, with Catbert's help, we also launched the integrated news posting system, which now connects the message boards and the front page. In short, I've been kept so busy I didn't get around to even planning the next site content update yet. Hopefully things will settle down this week, so I can get started on it soon.

July 20, 2004 - SP Happenings #59

Although it took a bit longer than I expected, the new site design is now finally complete and fully operational (as you have undoubtedly noticed). You can read a short introduction in my editorial, and browse the site for the rest. The thread to comment on the new design can be found here. Thanks again to all who have helped make the new face of Sorcerer's Place a reality - especially Catbert, who invested countless hours into coding the whole thing to make it exactly as I wanted it to be.

Of course, the implementation of this new design is only the beginning. Now I will have to make sure to bring all its extra features to life, not to mention clear a mile of backlog that piled up, since content updates have been sparse around here lately to ease the transition to the new site layout. Expect some additional nice surprises in the near future as well.

In other news, I've upgraded our message boards a couple of days ago. Although I've been going on about the switch to a PHP-based board for a while now, I've put it off again. The reason? vB, the board software I am planning on switching to eventually, has seriously limited polling capabilities. In fact, they are so basic, that the majority of our polls could not be imported, if we decided to switch now. I'm prepared to make some compromises when switching to a different board software, but this one is just too big for me to swallow. I guess I'll be looking into what can be done about this issue for a while longer.

July 13, 2004 - SP Happenings #58

I have just completed the conversion of the last page of the Games section. This means that the redesign is, for the most part, complete. During the conversion I've noticed several legacy links to content on Interplay's site, so before bug testing starts, I'll replace all the content links with local copies of the content. There are a few pages which will have to be converted just before the new design goes online (since the content on them is regularly updated), but this can all be done in a hour or so. Basically, the only real work left to be done on the redesign is the implementation of the expanded login system for the SPS accounts. Which would have been done already, had I been able to get ahold of Catbert over the last few days...

Anyway, with some luck, I expect the new design to go up in a matter of days now.

July 6, 2004 - SP Happenings #57

I have been uploading & testing the pages of the new design for the last few days, and I have to say I'm quite pleased with the results. Since I'm also correcting things on the fly it's taking a bit longer, but it means that by the time I'll invite a few more people to test the new site, the majority of the kinks will have been ironed out. I expect to finish all the sections apart from Games by the end of the day, and start on Games tomorrow.

June 30, 2004 - SP Happenings #56

With the last exam for the next two months behind me, I'm now finally free to do the work on SP that's been pretty much on hold for most of the year. You can expect a lot of things to change around here in the following weeks, among them the new design going up, followed by new message boards and a ton of content I've had on hold, waiting for the new design. Catbert, our web code genius, also sent me a message yesterday that he's still alive (whew!), but just on "vacation thing" till next week, when he should be back full-time. In the meanwhile, I'll be busy with converting the rest of the existing site to the new design, so that it can go live ASAP. I should also mention that Blackthorne TA will be away for nearly the whole next month due to his work, so it'll be just me and Beren policing the boards.

June 23, 2004 - SP Happenings #55

I've been without my computer again for four days now (hard drive issues still; hopefully fixed now *crosses fingers*), so the poll is staying on for another week. Since I couldn't really do anything in terms of SP without my computer, there's really nothing to report this week either. I'm mainly catching up on the work around SP that I've missed. Site redesign isn't progressing anywhere either, since I haven't managed to get ahold of Catbert in the last ten days or so. Either way, however, I'll start with the conversion of the Games section to the new design next week. The things I need Catbert to do can be done alongside this.

June 16, 2004 - SP Happenings #54

Another rather uneventful week gone by. I've been ambushing Catbert online whenever I see him to get him to do some more work on the SPS system for the new design (it occurred to me that being able to change your password and e-mail there was a good idea). Hopefully he'll deliver it soon so I can test it and finalize the whole thing. Until that's done it doesn't really make much sense for me to attempt to write FAQs and help files for it (apart from the general outline), if I can't refer to any specifics, considering I don't know yet how the whole thing will look in the end.

June 8, 2004 - SP Happenings #53

My 1 month old Maxtor 160GB hard drive suddenly died last Thursday (it somehow spontaneously developed bad sectors, which prevented it to boot Windows XP), and I only got a replacement a few hours ago, so you'll excuse the lack of updates around here. I've checked my backlog of over 2150 mails (most of it junk, of course) that have piled up while I was without my computer, and I've replied to all the mails that have been sent to me. In case I missed yours, please send it again - with so much junk I just scanned over the mail headers and might have overlooked some valid mails.

I've decided to let some of the regular weekly features (screenshot and poll) run for another week, as it doesn't make much sense to go changing them now, and besides, I've got a lot of more important work to catch up on. On a positive note, I've read the last 3/4 of The Canterbury Tales during my exile, something which would probably have taken me a few months otherwise.

Due to my not expecting a brand new hard drive to fail, I only had about half of the important data backed up, so I had to pay $50 for data recovery off the confounded defective drive, too... And this was just to get the data off the system partition. Of the semi-important things, I lost all of my Neverwinter Nights savegames and characters, which didn't exactly make me happy. The thought that it could have been worse just doesn't produce much of a consolatory effect... *sigh*

June 1, 2004 - SP Happenings #52

The past week has been almost completely uneventful in terms of happenings around SP. The only interesting thing to report is that I've run a test import of our current message board software into the one we'll be switching to in the future, and the results were quite good. A few dozen posts get lost in the process, and several things will need to be corrected after the import, but there are no drastic setbacks to the whole procedure. So, after the new design is up & running, I'll most likely be tackling the boards next.

May 25, 2004 - SP Happenings #51

Nothing really new to report this week, as I've announced pretty much all of it in the previous SP Happenings. A new site update has gone up a few days ago, and work on the redesign continues, though at a slower pace now since I've got a full month of uni exams ahead of me, so I won't be able to dedicate much time to anything around SP apart from the regular maintenance.

An extra 512MB stick of RAM has been installed on the server yesterday, and I can definitely feel the improvement in loading times. This should also make the random blackouts we've been experiencing over the last few months a thing of the past.

May 18, 2004 - SP Happenings #50

The past week's been quite busy around here again. Among other things, I've opened two new forums on our boards (one for Dragon Age and one for the Dungeons & Dragons RTS). Obviously, this means that Sorcerer's Place will also be covering the upcoming Dragon Age, even though it's a game which won't use the D&D ruleset. BioWare calls it a spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, Neverwinter Nights and Knights of the Old Republic, so my expectations are quite high. As for why I decided to stray from the D&D-only path SP has been following for the last 5 years - there are multiple reasons. Most importantly, the D&D games which have been coming out lately (and I can see this trend continuing) have been very lite on the elements which attract a large audience of CRPG gamers for a longer period of time - gripping story, length, and party interaction. I hope Dragon Age will have a little more staying power, and if BioWare implements in it everything they've learned from the making of Neverwinter Nights and its expansions, it should be a game with a bright future. Not to mention it has dragons in the title, and all CRPG gamers love dragons. Well, mostly anyway. ;)

Work on the site redesign continues to progress nicely. We're knee-deep in implementation of the Sorcerer's Place Supporter (SPS) Accounts system, which is proving to be quite an undertaking in regards to all the information about it which needs to be written and properly presented. Catbert's also doing some more modifications to the whole system which will make it easier on me to administer, and easier on the SPS account holders to use.

Next week I'll be ordering the badly-needed extra RAM for the server, which will hopefully eliminate the problems we've been having lately, as well as prepare the ground for the more resource-taxing new site layout.

Finally, a site update is due, however as I've converted pretty much all of the existing content apart from the Games sections to the new design already, the next site update in a few days will be a minor one, only adding and updating things in the Games sections. The rest will have to wait until the new design goes up.

May 11, 2004 - SP Happenings #49

I'm quite pleased with the progress on the redesign over the last week. I managed to add another cool feature to it (let's leave it as a surprise for now) and rearrange the section division anew for all sections apart from Games, where things will stay more or less the same, at least initially. With the help from questions collected on our boards, I also put together a helpful SP FAQ, which nicely ties into the new design. I also rewrote my short biography and rewrote & moved the history of SP into the FAQ, so it will be easier to find. At this point the only things left to do are some community supporter interface tweaks, final population of the site navigation system, and, of course, the conversion of the entire Games section. The first "beta test" for a few select people will be when everything else apart from the Games section is done, which should be quite soon. I'm looking forward to testing the whole thing out and fully experiencing it as the new site, rather than just testing every page separately.

If you're not a regular on our message boards, you should check out the Mod Reviews forum again, since it is growing nicely with submitted mod reviews. Starting last week, I also held a call for donations on the boards to collect money for the server RAM upgrade, so we won't have to experience the problems we've been having lately any more. The call has been successful and we have managed to raise the needed funds, so thanks again to all who have donated and made it possible. If you missed it but would still like to help (SP still has the hosting and many other costs to cover every month), please see this page.

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