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Serpentine Blog

A New Look and Facebook - By: Adam Plumb - 9.6 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 - 9.6 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!

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Notice anything different around here? - By: Adam Plumb - 9.6 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 - 9.6 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.

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How can this site be improved? - By: Adam Plumb - 9.7 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 - 9.9 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 - 11.1 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 - 11.1 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.

    Discuss (1)
    Game has gone down - By: Adam Plumb - 11.1 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 - 11.5 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.

    Discuss (8)
    Today's Changes and Update on Premium Memberships - By: Adam Plumb - 12.7 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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    Invisible improvements - By: Adam Plumb - 12.7 years ago
    Before I make any decisions about premium memberships and all that, I decided I needed to make Serpentine run better for people. The game should be less laggy, the words chart should show up every time, and mousing should work better. So today and yesterday I rewrote parts of the server and the game to be more efficient, hopefully fixing some of the lag issues and the word chart issue. Please leave your feedback in the comments section and let me know if you notice any difference, good or bad.

    FYI, you may need to refresh your browser in the lobby and in the game. Otherwise, the game will not work.

    Update: We ran into some unintended snags and I had to revert the changes back, so the word chart is back to being buggy.

    Discuss (15)
    On the possibility of creating premium memberships - By: Adam Plumb - 12.7 years ago
    I hope everyone has settled down after this week's flurry of activity. It has been an interesting week and I've enjoyed spending time on the project. I worked on overtime almost constantly last year, and as such, I didn't have much energy for fun projects like Serpentine. But I have taken a break from work for a few months and would like to invest some time into making Cobra Dragon Games better.

    One idea that I have been kicking around for a while is the possiblity of creating premium memberships, where a user would decide to pay a small monthly fee and get additional features and privileges that normal users wouldn't have access to. I want to make clear that I'll never require users to pay to play Serpentine. This change would only layer on additional features that are not a core part of the game. Some things that only premium users could do are:

    * Create your own room with your own rules
    * Initiate voting to kick a person out of a room
    * Instant message other users in your own private window
    * See detailed statistics and information from your games
    * Access a premium-users only room in the forum
    * Ignore selected players in the chat window
    * Get an icon next to their name in the players listing

    There is definitely room for that list to grow and to become more enticing, it really depends on your reaction and feedback. And it is possible some of those features will be available for normal users as well. However, before I start working on any of this I want to see what you guys think. Would you be willing to pay a small amount per month (around $5 I'm thinking) for extra features? If so, aside from the list above, what are some key features you'd like to see? Please let me know your thoughts in the discussion section.

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    Back to where we started... - By: Adam Plumb - 12.7 years ago
    I apologize for jerking everyone around the past couple days with regards to the rating system changes. I assure you, while I do want to please people and have them be happy with the game, I also want to be fair to everyone. And unfortunately, the bonuses were not really fair in the long run.

    To try to keep you from coming to my house with torches and pitchforks, I've made a couple changes which I think people will enjoy.

    • I fixed the chat window scrolling issue. If you have scrolled up, it won't force you down again
    • During the game, it now predicts how your rating will change. And if you are behind, it tells you how many points you need in order to break even
    • I tweaked the interface in to use the space more efficiently
    Again, I'm sorry for messing around. As they say, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

    Discuss (15)
    First Tweak - By: Adam Plumb - 12.7 years ago
    I overlooked an obvious loophole in the bonus-giving, which is, if a user plays on their own in a room they will get a winner bonus every time. The way I've fixed this is that there now needs to be at least five people in a room for anyone to get a bonus (including the lower rated players).

    Discuss (1)
    Experimenting with some rating tweaks - By: Adam Plumb - 12.8 years ago
    I'd like to try an experiment with the ratings system to see if we can make it a little bit more exciting. As it is now, I believe the system does a pretty good job of nailing down how good you are relative to the other players. For example, if you have an 1100 rating and someone else has an 800 rating, then you will consistently beat them by 30-40%. And from what I have seen playing this game, this seems to bear out in practice. However, I'd like to see if we can mix things up a bit and make our ratings more fluid and volatile.

    With that said, here are the new rules:

    • Winning players get a two point rating bonus
    • Players under 800 rating get a three point rating bonus
    • Players between 800 and 999 get a two point rating bonus
    • Players between 1000 and 1199 get a one point rating bonus
    In addition to this, I've added a new element to the player's listing that shows how much your rating changes each game.

    I'm hoping not to get tarred and feathered for this, so if people hate it I will definitely consider reverting back to the old system.

    Discuss (1)
    Game server down for a minute (now up again) - By: Adam Plumb - 13.6 years ago
    Will update soon...


    I've made some small changes on the game server code that should help out with resource usage. While most users probably won't directly benefit from this change, it helps me out quite a bit. And anything that helps me also helps you ;)

    Discuss (1)
    Migration from Apache to Lighttpd - By: Adam Plumb - 13.6 years ago
    Hi all,

    I hope there wasn't too much of an interruption in your gaming, but this afternoon I made a switch from the apache webserver to the much lighter lighttpd. The reason for the move is that the RAM resources on this server are somewhat constrained and lighttpd uses fewer than apache does. While you may not see much change in your user experience, it helps me out quite a bit as I now don't have to be nervous that the server is going to get overloaded.

    Happy Gaming!

    Discuss (1)
    Removing the Stats page - By: Adam Plumb - 13.8 years ago
    I've been postponing the inevitable, but the sad fact is that I can't keep the Stats page up. The way the stats work now is not efficient enough and stores too much data for me to handle, so I'm giving it the axe for now. In the future I may try to add a simpler form of stats (like each person keeps their longest word, their average word length, etc) but it won't be as extensive as it has been up to this point.

    This doesn't mean the game is over or no fun anymore, though. It is still going to play exactly the same and still be fun ;)

    Discuss (4)
    Scheduled server crashes - By: Adam Plumb - 13.8 years ago
    I've gotten Serpentine to a point where it can run almost indefinitely with little trouble, except for one bug that crashes it every few weeks. I know roughly what the bug is, but I haven't been able to find a fix for it, so the result is the game server crashes every few weeks without notice. I don't really like that, so I wrote a small utility that will automatically restart the server every sunday morning at 4AM EST. My logs show that this is right around the period of lowest web traffic, so hopefully it won't affect too many people. The restart shouldn't take more than a minute, and it'll happen at the same time every week so late-nighters can plan around it.

    Discuss (1)
    Server back up - By: Adam Plumb - 13.9 years ago
    hi folks. The server went down for a little while but it's up again. Happy playing!

    Discuss (1)
    Big changes to the forums - By: Alex Plumb - 14 years ago
    Hey everyone, sorry we've been so scarce lately. Adam and I have both been very busy lately! Nevertheless, I've been working a lot on the forums in my free time in order to address complaints and Adam has been doing the same for the game. Here is a rough outline of the changes that I put into the forums today (see 1.4.1 to 1.5 of the changelog for full details):

    - Changed QUOTE tag layout.
    - Made a lot of the text slightly smaller.
    - You can now highlight text and then click on a tag to put the tag around the text.
    - Differentiated between thread starters and posts within threads.
    - Experimental: New posts are now automatically placed at the very bottom of each thread.

    I'm still unsure of the last point, so if anyone has any complaints then I may change the functionality back if it's valid.

    Discuss (1)
    Minor bug fix update today - By: Adam Plumb - 14 years ago
    Hey guys, long time no post ;)

    I made a few bug fixes this morning, nothing major.

    • - Fixed issue where word chart showed NaN and incorrect amounts
    • - Fixed issue where word entry was case sensitive and capslock or capitalized letters invalidated a word

    Discuss (1)
    Looking for more emotes - By: Alex Plumb - 14.1 years ago
    We will be adding smilies and other emotes into the Serpentine chat rooms in the future (you'll be able to toggle them on and off), but in the mean time I want to add new emotes to the forums. There's a lot of blank space on the right side of the post screen and it needs to be FILLED with pictures, both animated and not.

    So if there are any emotes that you'd like then feel free to post them by following the link below this post and I'll consider all of them for inclusion. They can be pretty much any size, but only small ones will be allowed in the Serpentine chat.


    Discuss (1)
    Server crash last night - By: Adam Plumb - 14.1 years ago
    Hi all, It looks like the game crashed last night for a totally new reason that I haven't seen before. Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later! I think we had actually gone two or three weeks without a crash, so I'm happy about that. The good news is the game is back up and running. And I'll see what I can do about fixing that issue so it doesn't strike again.

    Discuss (1)
    The holy roman empire was neither holy, nor roman, nor an empire. Discuss! - By: Adam Plumb - 14.1 years ago
    Alex did an awesome thing with the news/forum systems and tied them together, so now you can comment and discuss news entries in the forum.

    This is yet another awesome feature from alex.

    Discuss (6)
    Quick Player Info Fix - By: Adam Plumb - 14.1 years ago
    hi all, a couple quick fixes this morning...
    • Fixed player info to only show up when you click on a player's name
    • Fixed player info so it doesn't show peoples' real names
    Also, Alex has now started keeping a changelog for the forum! Here are some changes he made yesterday...
    • Fixed bug that disallowed nested tags.
    • Fixed regressions caused by svn346 in which a user could not see anything but the forum list until visiting a forum.
    • Cleaned up layout for users of IE6/7
    • No more outstanding bugs!
    Let's hope he's right about that last one ;)
    Player info and board rotation - By: Adam Plumb - 14.1 years ago
    I've been wanting to add a hover-over-a-player's-name-and-get-their-info feature for a while now, and it's finally hear. Yeah, it is a bit ugly, but it's a start in the right direction. ;) It may also be somewhat buggy, so let me know if you have issues.

    I also added a keyboard setting so that you can now press the left or right buttons on your keyboard to rotate the serpentine board. Let me know how this works out for you all.

    Trying new connection mechanism - By: Adam Plumb - 14.1 years ago
    I know a lot of you guys are having random game connectivity issues, and I feel for you. Unfortunately, I don't yet know why you're having those issues, and that is why they haven't already been fixed.

    I decided to do a test and change the way the game client (your browser) connects to the game server. I've switched to what I think is a more rigorous mechanism for connecting, and I hope that translates to better connectivity for people. However, bear in mind that I don't know if this will fix anything. It's just an experiment. But if you were previously having issues and you no longer are, please let me know!

    I've also made a couple other small changes: The game now kicks you to the lobby again, instead of the homepage, and I've tweaked the sounds and removed the word-related sounds, and kept the round-related sounds. Also, I've changed the round-sounds to a more pleasing ding. Finally, I think I've finally fixed everyone's favorite bug, the word box should no longer be scrolling to the top every two seconds. UPDATE: Found out quickly that the new mechanism needs some more testing before I put it up live. So for now we still have the old connecting mechanism.

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