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Sorcerer's Place Happenings
by Taluntain

May 4, 2008 - SP Happenings #188

We've had another recruit join the news team recently, so clap your hands for Dalveen! All of our recent news reinforcements have been doing a very good job and I can only hope that they keep it up and earn all those perks that come with being on the team.

A couple of days later than anticipated, but solely due to the delay on the software developer's part, I've upgraded our message boards to the latest available version, which has brought many significant changes and improvements. The main new features are members' social profiles, profile customisation, picture albums, social groups and much more. The upgrade thread in Sorcerous Sundries has the full details.

While all the new features are freely available for everyone's use, the SPS account holders will be interested in learning that their contributions enable me to allow them to upload pictures with larger dimensions and size, and twice as many as non-SPS account holders. SPS account holders are now also able to upload an animated (gif) profile picture.

The board upgrade has been keeping me busy for the better part of this week, but I'm far from done yet, so keep an eye out for things to come in the following weeks. If you've been away from our community for a while, or haven't joined us yet, now would be a great time to get involved (again)!

April 20, 2008 - SP Happenings #187

Our Dragonlance contest has come and gone (the rewards are making their way to the lucky winners already), so if you've missed it - better luck next time!

A short while ago two new front page news editor apprentices have signed up, and so far they've been learning very fast. I hope that they keep up due diligence and quality in the future as well, so here's to Fairie and Cap'n CJ! There's always room for more talent on SP, so if you'd like to help, check out our help wanted page.

In the previous SPH I wrote about the upcoming major new version of the message board software that we use. The wait will soon be over, since the release of this feature-packed upgrade has been announced for next week. Upgrading our boards to the latest and greatest will require a significant amount of re-doing of the various adjustments and hacks that I've applied to the current version, so for a short while you should expect things to not look or work exactly as you've grown used to, but it will all be taken care of as soon as possible. As always, keep an eye out on the Sorcerous Sundries forum where help & information threads on the subject of the board upgrade will appear.

April 2, 2008 - SP Happenings #186

With a rather time-consuming academical project now concluded, I find myself with a bit more free time on my hands again. For starters, I've now opened our Mask of the Betrayer Online Walkthrough for public consumption. As usual, Beren has done a great job authoring it, and Mollusken's taken care of the online presentation. Huge thanks for the effort to both, and we all hope that you will put it to a good use! There are bound to be some quirks left to work out here and there, so if you do spot anything out of order, PM me or Beren about it on our boards, or just use the site's contact form to send us feedback and/or any bug reports.

In the next couple of weeks I expect that the final version of the latest release of our new message board software will see the light of day, and we will, of course, be upgrading to it. On the end user side of things, we'll be getting thread tagging, predefined thread prefixes, social networking (similar to MySpace, but on the level of our boards), public messaging, user picture galleries (about time we ditched that MSN group, huh?), social/interest groups, overhauled & customisable member profile pages (yup, you'll be able to make them as pretty or as horrible as you want all by yourself!), image viewing lightbox, social bookmarking of threads, visitor tracking on profile pages, and much, much more. All of this is long-requested and awaited stuff, and I'm very happy that it won't be long now until it's available on Boards o' Magick.

Oh, and did I mention that we'll be running another contest in the next few days? Keep your eyes on our news...

March 11, 2008 - SP Happenings #185

The last site content update has gone up a bit later than expected, but has in turn been a bit larger than I initially expected. With it, the back log of user submissions has been nearly cleared (with maybe 3 more submissions in the pipeline - this and all the stuff that arrives up until the next update will go up with that one), so I should be able to start adding other content in the near future too.

It's slipped by rather quietly, but the last site content update has broken the "magical" boundary of 1000 downloads hosted on Sorcerer's Place (currently at 1033), so a bit of a celebration is in order. Sorcerer's Place has always been big in the downloadable content department, but more than a 1000 separate downloads probably give a few others besides myself a (renewed) sense of appreciation for the amount of work that has gone into the publication of all this content, not to mention the stellar job that all the people sending Sorcerer's Place their submissions have been doing over the years. Hopefully for many more to come!

Switching from the downloadable SP content to the online, we're counting on having our complete Mask of the Betrayer online walkthrough up in the next couple of weeks. You didn't think that we'd stop with just Neverwinter Nights 2, did you? As with that one, the author credit goes to our staff member Beren who just can't stop writing (I wish!), and mostly Mollusken for the technical implementation. SPS account holders will be getting a preliminary look at the solution so that we can iron out the most obvious bugs, shortly followed by a full public release.

Since I've got some ink left, a few words about E. Gary Gygax (July 27, 1938 – March 4, 2008) wouldn't come amiss. I got better acquainted with Dungeons & Dragons relatively late, only a few years before the release of the original Baldur's Gate. Gygax was more or less completely out of the limelight by then, but every once in a while his name would come up and gradually I got to learn more about him and, in turn, the history of TSR (bought by Wizards of the Coast shortly before the release of Baldur's Gate).

It's probably safe to say that the bitterness Gary must have felt about being forced to sell his share in TSR and ever since having to watch others drive the development of D&D further has never truly left him. It is also a fair assumption that if Gary had remained the driving force behind D&D, it would have been quite a bit different today than it is (and will be with the upcoming 4th edition). For better or for worse - who knows?

What is really important is that Gygax has managed to create something far greater than himself and that despite his diminished role in the history of Dungeons & Dragons after the 2nd edition, history (and all the fans) will always remember him as the father of D&D, even when D&D comes to its 15th or 20th edition. And being remembered as the chief creator of a gaming system and a cultural phenomenon that has brought millions of past, present and future fans countless hours of quality entertainment doesn't sound bad at all.

Sorcerer's Place, the same as every other D&D-related website, owes a moral debt of gratitude to Gygax. Without him, it's anybody's guess what we'd be playing today, but it is unlikely that so many of us would be joined by the love of a common hobby and be able to enjoy it in so many forms, from pen & paper to novels, electronic games and beyond.

So, Gary, if you're reading this - thanks for getting the ball rolling and directly or indirectly influencing the lives of so many of us in a good way. There's not much more a man needs to wish for in one lifetime.

February 15, 2008 - SP Happenings #184

So, site content updates... though the last one's only gone up a couple of weeks ago, I haven't cleared the back log of submissions yet, so another update is order. I'm not dead set on any dates, but I expect that it will go up by the middle of next week and include a bit more than just catch-up material.

One bit I got around to updating already is the SPS Accounts Features & FAQ page. The list of extra goodies has really fattened up since the last update, and the donation amounts required for an SPS account have remained the same for more than 5 years now. A bargain if ever there was one!

January 26, 2008 - SP Happenings #183

I'm proud to announce that our very own Neverwinter Nights 2 Online Walkthrough is now available for everyone's viewing. It is the fruit of countless hours of Beren's hard work, and many hours of work on the part of Mollusken and chevalier in adapting it for online viewing, with occasional contributions by the author of this text. I am sure that you will find it helpful on your questing through the game. As is always the case with a guide of such scope, there will be bits and pieces that will require correction, rearranging or updating, so if you spot anything that is out of order, please let Beren know and we'll look into it. Special thanks go to the SPS account holders who have "beta-tested" the solution.

In other news, we've implemented representative images with every general news post (front page and General News & Comments forum), which we hope will make news a bit less dry to read and easier to distinguish at a glance. Thanks to Catbert, the long lost active forum threads display is back on the front page of SP as well.

I'm planning a preliminary site content update for Tuesday. Yes, yes, the rusty wheels are turning again...

January 12, 2008 - SP Happenings #182

Starting to write SPH again shortly before Christmas has allowed me to skip the New Year's edition (that's the one just before the end of the December that I never write). However, another 2 weeks have gone by since then, and so it's time for another dose of the "what have I been up to" report.

In truth, quite a lot has happened here in nearly a month. The consequences of our message board switch that you could read about in the previous SPH are far from over. While the majority of the biggest issues have been ironed out, there are still a 1001 small and not so small details that I need to attend to, as I have done in the 7 years of running our old message boards. Only this time, the new boards are a gigantic opportunity for our community, and I'm merely in the preliminary stages of unleashing their potential. So most of the work being done now could be considered as preparing the foundations for the next 5+ years of our community. From my perspective, the future looks bright indeed. To keep up with what I'm doing with the message boards, it's best to check our Sorcerous Sundries forum on a regular basis. To mention just a few recent events: entirely new icons and buttons throughout the message boards, signatures enabled for all members, 1000 posts per thread new standard, Infinity Engine Modding forum opened, Santa Claus is Coming to SP contest (finished now) and much more. It's been an eventful month, that's for certain.

We haven't been slacking in the site content department either. We've posted no less than 3 new editorial features over the last month:

If you haven't been around at the time of their publishing, do take a look at them now.

Moving on to the other site content, I've decided to change the schedule for the Weekly (Screen)Shot feature so that the screenshot is changed every 2 weeks on Saturday now, hence making it a Bi-weekly Shot from this point on. The primary reason behind this is that I've run out of fan-submitted screenshots from all non-NWN-series games, and the drives to get our visitors to send in more have met with little success. Since the interest in either the IE games or in sending in screenshots has waned, the frequency of their updates on SP has been lowered.

Gaming news-wise, we could use another person to help out with our coverage, so if you are interested in joining our news crew, check out our help wanted page.

You're also probably wondering where our promised online Neverwinter Nights 2 walkthrough is. We've hit a few roadblocks with the technical implementation of it that we haven't noticed until it was nearly too late, so most of the pages needed to be redone, which has delayed things a bit. But fear not, we're in the final stages of proofing at this point, so our SPS account holders will be getting a preliminary look at it shortly, followed by the full opening to the public. Huge thanks here go to Mollusken and chevalier for their efforts with bringing the solution online.

Lastly, but probably most importantly at this point, I'll be starting clearing the backlog of submitted content later today.

December 14, 2007 - SP Happenings #181

Testing, testing... is this thing on?

It's been almost a year since I've stopped posting SPH updates because of my severe lack of time for anything but regular maintenance tasks at SP. However, this has changed in the last few months, and due to all the exciting changes and ongoing activities that have started to awake the site once again, it's high time I get back on track with SP Happenings. The current plan (which might change) is to get an SPH update out once every 2-3 weeks.

The most visible and certainly major new feature of Sorcerer's Place are our new message boards, to which we've switched about a month and a half ago. This was a major project long in the making (I've been writing about it in SPH on and off for several years), so I'm immensely happy that this first big step (the switch itself) is behind us. Due to extensive preparations it has gone pretty much as smoothly as I could have hoped, but you can read more about that here.

What has immediately followed the switch was a flurry of activity mostly documented in the original message board switch thread, and several separate threads in our Sorcerous Sundries forum. The changes and new additions are too numerous to list in their entirety here, so do check the forum for the full details. Moving away from our old message boards has also required the re-integration of forum news content into the site news pages, which we have completed successfully about two weeks ago. One other relatively important bit of forum content (latest threads) still needs to be re-integrated with the site pages, but the others are more or less done.

During the update of the news system we have also started covering Infinity Engine modding news, which I am sure many of you will find of interest. All this is merely the beginning and an indication of more good things to come. While the primary board switch is complete, the devil is in the aftermath. There are 7 years' worth of links to our old message boards all over the site that will all need to be changed. I have already updated the most obvious and visible ones, but those buried inside various content pages haven't been touched yet. They are still valid since our old boards are still up as read-only archives, but naturally that won't last forever. All of the dozens of tweaks and modifications I've made to the old boards won't need to be applied to the new boards because of the vastly expanded feature set of the new message board software, but several features and behaviours we took for granted in the old message board software are not present in the new software (or were implemented better on the old boards), so I still have quite a few things on the board tweaking and modding to-do list. The most obvious one is probably a complete change of all the default board graphics and icons, which only look relatively decent on bright backgrounds - and utterly crappy on our darker one. But all in good time.

We've been quite busy in the interviews department as well. We'll have an interview with Ossian regarding their Mysteries of Westgate adventure pack for Neverwinter Nights 2 up soon (delay courtesy of Atari's outsourced PR), as well as an interview about the upcoming Dragonlance animated movie. Keep a close eye on our news! Also, if you haven't yet, check out our review of Mask of the Betrayer by Urithrand.

Of course, we've got upcoming exclusive game content too... Beren has written a detailed walkthrough for Neverwinter Nights 2, which we are in the process of adapting for publication on Sorcerer's Place, so you can expect to see that online soon as well. As far as regular site content updates by yours truly go, I know well enough how horrendously backlogged I am. It goes without saying that the first chance I get, I will prepare an update that will at the least bring online all of the submitted content since the last site update. My apologies to all of you who have had your content stuck in the queue for so long, and thank you for your patience.

Finally, I still need your screenshots! I have completely drained the pool of submitted screenshots from literally ALL of the games covered on SP apart from those from the Neverwinter Nights series, and it's a shame that I consequently have to predominantly feature NWN screenshots in our spotlight. I badly need screenshots from all of the Infinity Engine games, as well as all the others we cover. Taking screenshots during your play is simple and described in depth in our screenshot-taking guide, so I'm looking forward to seeing your shots in my mailbox!

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