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Serpentine Blog

Got connection problems? - By: Adam Plumb - 3.5 years ago
Hi all, so I'm still working through the connection issues people have been seeing. Things are improving, but not for everyone unfortunately.

I've added a new button to the top of the Serpentine game page that says "Problems?". If you're experiencing connection or game problems, please click on that link and submit a problem notification. That will email me directly and it gives me lots of good information that should help me work through the remaining problems people are having.

Looking forward to hearing from you!

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Problems fixed for Internet Explorer users - By: Adam Plumb - 3.5 years ago
Hi all, we were having some Internet Explorer-related problems from the changes I made yesterday, and that was causing the game to be less reliable than usual. These issues should be fixed now, but do let me know if you're still experiencing any problems.

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Working on a fix - By: Adam Plumb - 3.5 years ago
Hi everyone who is having problems today, it looks like there is an issue with Internet Explorer that I'm working on resolving now. The game should be able to run in either Google Chrome or Firefox, so you may want to give those a try. I'll have things running in Internet Explorer shortly.

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Upcoming improved reliability and iPad/Tablet compatibility - By: Adam Plumb - 3.5 years ago
Hi all, I've been doing some work behind the scenes that I'm hoping will improve Serpentine's reliability and get rid of those pesky connection issues that have been plaguing the site since it's inception. The other upside of these changes will be that we'll finally have ipad and android tablet compatibility, which I know many of you have been asking for. I haven't fully tested out compatibility with those devices yet, so that is still to come, but I will hopefully be rolling out the initial changes tomorrow morning (look for the game to be down for a bit around 9am EST). Once the initial changes have been vetted, I'll get to work on providing a good tablet experience.

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Mostly behind the scenes update this morning - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
Hi All, some of you may have noticed the servers restarting this morning, and that is because I was making some improvements to how rooms were handled. Also, I've been wanting to make some rule changes for a while.

First, the rule changes:

  • Now, when you enter a game after it has started, you won't get rated for that game. So you can start playing right away and not worry about what happens!
  • Hatching now happens after five games instead of ten. This only affects new players, but I think the quicker hatching will be nice so people don't have to wait quite so long to get rated, but still have some practice time.

  • The other changes are mostly behind the scenes, but are laying the groundwork for SerpentineMobile and for some fun new features like "Room of the Day".

    Discuss (1)
    Minor snafu with the server - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
    We had a little glitch with the server this afternoon that caused Serpentine to be unavailable for about an hour or so, but the problem has been resolved now and the game should be active for everyone. Sorry for the inconvenience.

    Discuss (1)
    A more engaging input experience - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
    After feeling somewhat disengaged by the word entering experience, I've spent the past few days working on an overhaul. The overhaul incorporates two changes that I'm really excited about. First, and most importantly, it gives you instant visual feedback telling you how you're doing in the current round. That is done with the red-to-blue temperature meter that shows you how many points you are expected to gain/lose this round. The second change provides better feedback about the last word you entered and what the result was.

    A picture tells a thousand words:

    Discuss (6)
    New Facebook Share and Like Buttons - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
    You may have noticed some new Facebook buttons showing up around the site. I've set up some custom actions for Serpentine that you can use to share with your Facebook friends. You can share achievements you've earned and you can also share which rooms you're playing in. That way your Facebook friends can come directly into the room to play with you. I've also scattered some Like buttons around, and these are just general buttons you can use to rate your experience here. I hope these buttons aren't too invasive, let me know if they're giving you any trouble.

    Also, if you haven't yet, please join the Serpentine Community on Facebook. It helps get the word out about Serpentine and gives us all a place to congregate outside of this site.

    Discuss (5)
    A New Look and Facebook - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
    You may have noticed an updated look, which is the result of some work I've been doing to get Serpentine playable on different screen sizes. It's also my attempt to further refine and enhance the look of the site and of the game. There is a lot less green now and a bit more blue, which should be pleasing.

    Also new is new tabs in the game that let you see Recent Winners and your Recent Achievements, along with some visual tweaks to the game. I hope you guys like these!

    Finally, I want to thank RosaKiana for putting up her Facebook page some time ago! We have an official Facebook Page now and even an official Facebook app, so you can play Serpentine from within Facebook. There is still some Facebook integration that needs to be finalized, but we're in good shape. If you can find some time, please go to the Facebook page and like or share it. Thanks!

    FYI, for existing users with a Facebook account, you can link your Serpentine account to your Facebook account by clicking on your name in the top-right and click the big button that says "Link Account with Facebook". I'll take care of the rest.

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    A week older, a week wiser - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
    It has been an exciting first week out of the gate living with our new design and overhaul, and while it has been a little bit bumpy at times, I think Serpentine is in a really good position to keep improving and succeed.

    The biggest issue Serpentine has had this week is having rooms crash, and I thought we were out of the woods with that stuff until last night when some of the rooms stopped working. Writing highly available multi-threaded servers is not an easy task, and in some ways I'm learning as I go, so please bear with me for a little while longer as I figure this stuff out.

    How are people finding their Premium Accounts? I haven't gotten much feedback on what people think of the friends lists, whispering, custom rooms, and room invites, though it does seem like at least some people are using those features. Please let me know if you're having any issues or if you have suggestions, as I would like to make these features as useful and rock-solid as they can be.

    So what is coming down the pipeline? Right now I am about 75% of the way through with Facebook integration. What that means is you'll be able to link your Serpentine account to your Facebook account, and folks new to the site will be able to log in directly with their Facebook accounts. Once logged in, you'll be able to Like Rooms and Share your Achievements with your friends on Facebook. I'm really excited for this functionality as I think it is going to bring in new players and open up Serpentine to a larger audience.

    Have a great week!

    Discuss (2)
    Notice anything different around here? - By: Adam Plumb - 4.6 years ago
    That's right, Serpentine has been completely overhauled and improved! Hopefully you will feel that most of the changes are for the better, but I want to hear your feedback, so let me know how you feel. The first change I want you to notice is that you'll now use to get here instead of Second, just take a look around and get comfortable with the new digs.

    This monumental change has been brought about by my desire to improve the Serpentine experience in order to acquire more traffic and more players. To do this, I've streamlined the process of jumping into a game (no need to register, just click "Start Playing" and you'll be logged in as a guest), and I've also put a lot of work into making the new player experience as enjoyable and rewarding as possible. The biggest change in this regard is how new players get their ratings. Newly registered players will start off with a rating of 0, then after playing ten games they will "hatch" and will be rewarded with a certain number of rating points the game thinks is appropriate. What this means is that rather than starting everyone at 1200 by default, and having to watch your rating get decimated game after game, you'll start at an appropriate level and work your way up! Another addition is the Achievement system, which rewards you for certain actions, such as getting a long word, winning a round, or any number of other things. You can see other players' achievements and they can see yours, and you can even show them off if you want.

    However, the biggest change to the change is Premium Accounts, which gives you lots of additional social features that will both make your experience here more fun and engaging, but also help to directly support this game, which keeps me and my family fed. Premium Accounts cost a small amount each month (they are not necessary to play Serpentine), but if you spend any length of time here, you're going to want to get in on this! What you get for your money is a completely ad-free experience, the ability to make friends, make your own custom Serpentine rooms, send whisper chats to friends, and invite players to your games (and this list will grow over time).

    One final thing about Premium Accounts. Many of you have been incredibly generous over the years and your donations have helped keep Serpentine afloat! That's why, anyone who has ever donated gets one free month as a Premium Account member. Anyone that has donated $25 or more gets six months free. And for the three people who have donated more than $50, Doris Bryant, Nick Yuran, and Faye Kyle, you're getting free lifetime Premium Accounts!

    I'm very excited for this phase of Serpentine and to see how things work out, so please let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback on anything, including the new site design, or game tweaks you think might make the game more enjoyable. Also, please bear with me for a few days as I iron out any kinks in the new design and game, as there will most likely be a few.


    Note: For the people who starting trying to login right away, there was an issue with the login system that I've found and fixed, but unfortunately you will need to reset your password in order to login. I apologize for the inconvenience.

    Discuss (68)
    An update on upcoming changes - By: Adam Plumb - 4.7 years ago
    Thanks to everyone who gave me feedback in my last post, there were a bunch of really good ideas there that I will consider. I don't want to leave people hanging though, so here's an update.

    Serpentine has always been a hobby for me, and once I finished it and was happy with how it came out I have pretty much left it alone. I have to pay for the server I host the game on, and I pay for the domain name, but the advertisements and donations people have generously provided me have been able to pay for those costs with a small amount left over. I think a lot of us have been happy with the status quo, and maybe some here would like it to stay the same forever. And I could leave things alone, but I have a lot of ideas, and the ability to make those ideas a reality. What I haven't had was the time and energy to execute on those ideas once my regular work week was over.

    I've made a leap of faith and am leaving my full-time job (I will still do part time consulting work for now) and I'm going to see what I can accomplish if I make Serpentine my full time job.

    I have lots of ideas on how to make Serpentine better, and I will share those with you soon, but I want everyone to know that my main goal will always be to provide the same core experience that you already have. Serpentine will always be free to play and will always be the fast-paced and competitive game you know it today, but I'll be making changes to it to make it more engaging and easier for new players to pick up. I'll also be adding goodies for those of you who have been around a while, to keep you interested. And there will be a complete website redesign that will better let me leverage my ideas and make them a reality.

    In closing, I'm excited about what the next few months are going to look like! You can look forward to some more news and updates in the next few weeks.

    Discuss (1)
    How can this site be improved? - By: Adam Plumb - 4.7 years ago
    Hey guys, I'm motivated to improve Serpentine to make it more welcoming to new players. I am amazed and appreciative to all of the people who have decided to spend their time with Serpentine these past few years, and I really would like to make your experience better. I've also noticed that a lot of people who are new to Serpentine can be intimidated by the high level of competitive play, and I would like to figure out a way that we can be more welcoming.

    One area I was thinking about making a change is how the rating system is shown to players. For instance, when many new players start their first game and their rating immediately plummets, many decide quickly that the game is too hard for them and they leave. I would really like to soften this experience somehow, but I'm not sure yet how to do it.

    I'd love to hear some more feedback along these lines, as well as ideas for new games you'd like to play or variations on Serpentine. Here are some ideas from the Suggestion Box forum that I'm already considering:

  • Rotate word board with space bar
  • Add 4m/30s room
  • Add 1m/30s room
  • Add room with 6x6, 6 letters
  • Highlight the letters people are typing!
  • Add whisper chat
  • Link to from word list
  • Don't allow boards with less than 5 words

  • Discuss (1)
    Christmas outage is over - By: Adam Plumb - 5 years ago
    Hi everyone, sorry for the outages we've been having the past couple of days. I visited yesterday and it seemed to be running smoothly for me, but then I came back today and it was totally down. It should be back up and running now though. Have fun!

    Discuss (1)
    Game is back up - By: Adam Plumb - 6.2 years ago
    hi all, the game went down for a bit, but it is back up. I found a bug in the code that might have caused the issue and that should be fixed now. So hopefully we'll have fewer of these sudden crashes.

    Discuss (1)
    A word about ratings - By: Adam Plumb - 6.2 years ago

    I've gotten some requests recently for information about how the rating system works. Here is a quick overview:

    A user's rating is meant to represent and distill a user's skill level into a single number. In fact, your current rating tells the game what your "expected" score is in each round you play. And if you don't match up to your expected score, your rating will go down. If you surpass your expected score, your rating will go up. It's as simple as that.

    Let us say there are three people playing in a room. After a game, but before recalculating their ratings, they have the following ratings and scores:


    Based on each of these players' scores and ratings, each player gets an "expected" score. This is the score that they need to get in order to have their ratings stay the same. Expected scores are calculated by dividing the sum of scores (40+90+70=200) by the sum of ratings (1100+1600+1300=4000). The resulting quotient, .05, is multiplied by each person's current rating (i.e. 1100 x .05) to get their expected score. Here's a table...

    NameExpected ScoreScore

    You can see here that both Alex and Jenny did better than expected, but poor Adam did worse. Therefore, we know that both Alex's and Jenny's ratings will go up, but Adam's will go down. But, how much?

    Here is where things get a bit tricky. There is no one perfect way of determining how much their ratings change, because the amount of change is mostly arbitrary. It is simply a matter of making up some rules for what the maximum amount of change per game will be, and how much over or under the expected score the player has to be in order to get that maximum. In our case, I've decided that the maximum change in points one can get per game is 16 (the current number), and in order to get +/- 16 points per game you either have to get a score that is 75% greater than expected or 75% worse than expected. For example, Jenny's expected score is 65 points. But if she get's 75% greater than that (or 1.75 x 65), which is 114, then her rating will improve by 16 points. However, if she get's 75% worse than expected (or .25 x 65), which is 16, then her rating will decrease by 16 points. Anywhere from 25% of the expected score to 175% the expected score will bring a range of -16 to +16 points. If you fall outside of that range, your rating will be limited to the maximum change (+/- 16). Also, there is a mimimum allowable rating of 100 and a maximum of 9999, so players will never exceed those amounts.

    Let's look at how the players' ratings changed:

    NameExpected ScoreScoreOld RatingNew Rating

    I hope this shines some light on the ratings system. If you have any questions, shoot me an email and I'll do my best to answer.

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    Game has gone down - By: Adam Plumb - 6.2 years ago
    Hi all, I'm sorry for the downtime. The game should be back up again now.

    Discuss (1)
    Timer and game issues - By: Adam Plumb - 6.5 years ago
    Hi all, I was recently made aware of some timer issues in some of the rooms and some people getting kicked out of rooms, so I've restarted the game server and that should sort the issues out.

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    Today's Changes and Update on Premium Memberships - By: Adam Plumb - 7.7 years ago
    hi all, I made a small update today that should fix one of our more long-standing bugs, which is that people will not get the word chart at the end of the game, or they only get it sometimes. Let me know if you are still not seeing the word chart after games. FYI, you may need to do a refresh in the lobby and/or in the game in order to connect to the game or lobby.

    One other small change is that now, instead of having two 5x5x4 rooms, I've changed one of the rooms to be a 5x5x5, meaning there the board is 5x5 and the minimum word length is five letters as opposed to four.

    Here is a quick update on where things are with premium memberships. I'm the kind of guy that generally will come up with an idea and then immediately rush in and try to implement it, and that almost happened with the premium memberships idea. However, I realize that going forward with premium memberships is a big deal and affects more than just myself. So I've decided that what I'm going to do is continue to think about it and maybe spend some time making donating more streamlined and more visible instead. I'm not saying the idea is dead, but it is on hold for now. I appreciate everyone's encouragement and the ideas they provided regarding this issue.

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