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Hypnos' Blog

Patching after Atlantis

This week we start off this Puzzle Pirates blog entry with an issue dear to all of our hearts: gender equality.

It cannot have escaped your collective notice that there exists a massive inequality between the male and female pirates of Y!PP, and the developers are not going to stand for it any more.

I speak, of course, of eyepatches.

The eyepatch has long been a sore point of contention between genders in our game.  Highly sought-after, rare, and once gotten, noticeably unequal because the female eyepatches look better.

Female eyepatches are antialiased and male eyepatches are not.  The reason for this is interesting: when first creating the game and putting in the injuries, male eyepatches were set as their own separate layer, but female eyepatches went under the category of facial hair.  This was because hair and facial hair could be antialiased, but clothing layers had to be in 8-bit so that they could be recolored.

Some of you may remember the Santa hats of last winter holiday, when Cephalopod had to make a separate head for bearded ladies with eyepatches because you can't add a beard when somebody already has a beard (well, a beard that's an eyepatch, anyway.)  Female eyepatches + beard in fact made a separate facial hair head that was called up if the female character had an eyepatch already.

Finally now, after years of anticipation, the inequality is coming to an end.  Since eyepatches never need be recolorable, code will be rearranged, art tweaked, continents moved, and male eyepatches will soon be antialiased like female eyepatches and the glass ceiling of smooth eyepatch blending into the head of male pirates will be no more.

One-eyed males of the ocean, unite! *Hypnos burns his 8-bit eyepatch*

Pardon my dust...

First off: apologies for the changing appearance of the blog and the oddly-placed footer - I'm working on massaging the TypePad templates into something a bit easier to read and navigate, but their templating system is refusing to cooperate, and in general is painish.  When I like a piece of software, I'll praise it, but when it stinks, you'll hear about it.  Ah well, c'est la vie.

Edit: <rant>I give up.  Six Apart, you win.  Typepad is a crippled version of Movable Type, and not designed for people who want to be able to have things look and feel right.  While I'm sure that Typepad does exactly the job that it's supposed to do for casual users, I am having an extremely frustrating time trying to get something so simple as having posts retain their formatting and linebreaks, but only include the first paragraph or two on the front page and have a link to the full post.  I've wasted two hours on this so far and it just isn't working out.  It took me an entire hour to get the author of a post to show up below the title.  There are plenty of good, Free/free solutions out there that get the job done, like my beloved Textpattern.  I shouldn't have to interrupt my workflow to click buttons and insert formatting - writing a post should be as easy as writing a wiki-formatted entry.  I shouldn't have to spend hours fiddling with adding custom templates and changing a value every time it appears in the default templates just to add a custom footer.  Sure, Typepad is only $15 a month, but it looks like trying to "upgrade" to Movable Type will cost on the order of thousands of dollars, equivalent to a significant fraction of my salary.  That's purely ridiculous.  I have great respect for Brad and the Danga/Livejournal folks, but I don't think I can justify pulling my hair out like this on a "cheap" product, or paying through the nose.  If anyone knows how to solve the first paragraph problem in Typepad, please let me know since we're stuck with it for now; otherwise, some blog posts' summaries may not make sense since they are missing links/formatting and linebreaks.</rant>

I thought that I should formally introduce myself, now that we have this lovely, shiny blog.  Many of you players know me as Lizthegrey, and know that I do magical behind-the-scenes things with the game.  In real life, I'm Elizabeth Fong (or just Liz), and I wear many hats.  I'm a Technical Operations Manager with Three Rings by night, and take care of day-to-day troubleshooting and render assistance with technical matters to the OceanMasters and player community at large.  I also help out with the website design, ensuring that launching/registration is as easy as possible, and all the miscellaneous coding tidbits that might fall between the planks otherwise.  By day, I'm a student at Caltech - I'm a sophomore biology/computer science double major; I'm investigating a family of genes involved in plant development as my research project.

I first stumbled into Puzzle Pirates in July 2004 when a friend told me that I absolutely had to try the game.  I was hooked from the first day not merely by the puzzles and gameplay content, but also by the amazing community and spirit of the players.  The Pollywog left me on the docks of Epsilon Island, and I wandered into the nearest chat circle and asked whether anyone knew how I could get in touch with my friend's crew (we've since made it so people you refer are automatically placed in your crew, making it easier to connect from the first day).  Within minutes, someone had done a /cwho, gotten in touch with an officer from the crew, and I was on my way sailing.  And within the first week, I had my own sloop, the Adventurous Trout, had subscribed, and had become an officer.  Puzzle Pirates was simply unlike any other game that I'd played, and far from the monotony of the mainstream.

I started working for Three Rings in late March/early April 2005 as a software engineering intern, and spent my summer helping iron out bugs and working on several exciting projects.  The fruit of the first of these projects was our new set of forums, based upon mvnForum; our old forum software, phpBB, was laden with security holes and gigantic performance problems that eventually ground our webservers to a halt.  Another of these projects evolved over the summer into YoSupport v. 2.0, which is the unified interface the OceanMasters use today to respond to all the petitions and complaints all of you file, across all of the oceans (326375 petitions and 189221 complaints to date!).  I've also taken up the task of hunting down any individuals who choose to cheat, or who attempt to hide thefts from the support staff and myself.  I enjoy my work an incredible amount, and am looking forward to spending the coming months and years helping all of you out, both directly and indirectly.

We're currently seeking both interns and full-fledged software engineers, so I wanted to embolden aspiring coders as well as those of you with a significant chunk of experience to apply to job with us for a summer, or apply for a post as a full member of the Three Rings crew.  Three Rings is, by far, the most fun company that I have worked at, the projects are rewarding, and the experience is unique.  Because of our strong belief in Open Source, we contribute to the community projects which we use in our day-to-day work as well as releasing our own frameworks under the GPL, LGPL, or BSD licenses (have a look at http://www.threerings.net/code for examples).  We don't dig the cubicle farm thing - the first day I worked into the office, I sat down at a comfy Aeron chair in the sunlit, open office next to a window.  Also, <hobbyhorse>I strongly encourage young women to learn to write code, and to apply for jobs in the game industry.  It's not uncool to be a girl geek - I'd say the opposite, myself!  Drop me an e-mail at elizabeth@threerings.net if you want a bit of general advice/mentorship or are curious about how to get started.  Same offer goes for guys, too.</hobbyhorse>  You can find out more about our application process at http://www.threerings.net/jobs - we are an Equal Opportunity Employer, etc.  Note: you must be 18+ to work for us, due to employment regulations, but don't let that discourage you from writing games using our toolkit for fun even if you're under 18!

Anyhow, I think roughly sums up everything I wanted to say this evening.



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