Tuesday, December 31, 2013

server glitch

If you were affected by the problems at World of Card Games this evening, I apologize!

The server had stopped responding to many requests - people weren't able to get to tables, couldn't invite robots, etc - and I wasn't able to do anything to fix it. I've restarted the machine. I hope this reset will keep problems at bay for a while.

Monday, December 23, 2013

network outage

I just wanted to post here that if you've had problems connecting with World of Card Games, you are not alone! The site was down for a few minutes at several different times today. The only information I have is that it was a "Network error." I've contacted my host and am waiting for a response. Meantime, I appreciate your patience. Unfortunately there's not much I can do except wait and hope it gets fixed.

Edit: I just got a note from my host that they are "aware of the problem" and are getting someone to look into it. I hope it's easy to fix!

PS: The problem was fixed as of last night (Dec 23) around 9 pm EST. They told me "one of the distributions shut itself off and we had to fix it twice."

Sunday, December 22, 2013

server updates, new avatars

World of Card Games got some updates for minor bug fixes this morning. For example, a bug sometimes caused the table info to be displayed incorrectly; that was fixed. Also, if your turn times out when playing Spades, as you probably know, the computer will play a card for you. Previously, if you had bid nil, the computer's unwise choice could cause you to lose your bid. This has been corrected so that the first few times that you timeout, a better card is picked.

In addition, five new avatars have been added. Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

seven new avatars, options panel is larger, and robots will go alone in Euchre

A few changes were applied to World of Card Games this morning. Seven new avatars have been added! There's a snowboarder, a skier, and more... Check them out by clicking on the "Avatar" link in the upper left corner.

In addition, the "Options" panel has been made a bit larger and is now contained within its own dialog. Previously, it was confined to the space reserved for each game panel. You can see the old "Options" panel in my post about the "no robots" option. Here's a screenshot of the new "Options" panel:
I hope this makes it easier to change options for those with small screen sizes. Please let me know if you have any trouble with the new dialog.

Finally, a bug fix was applied to Euchre. Several players noticed that robots never "go alone," and pointed that out to me. This has now been fixed.

Thanks to everyone who sends me feedback! I'll keep working to fine-tune the site so that it's easier to use for everyone.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

bug fix update - game panels should appear now

Over the last couple days, a few players at World of Card Games told me that they were unable to play a game there. They'd get to the main page, and the game panels were not displayed. It was sporadic - in my case, it only happened a couple times. Turns out it was caused by a bug that was introduced in my previous update. I fixed it and the site should be working fine now! I'm sorry I had to shut down the site again - I hate to chase people away when they're playing a long game of Hearts or Spades!

Another player told me that starting last week, they were unable to play the game because their "Custom Cursor" (the green pointer) had disappeared. It turns out that there's a new version of the Windows browser out, Internet Explorer 11, and this version does not handle animated cursors like the site's "Custom Cursor." I've also solved this problem. I didn't actually fix it; I just set the cursor to the default (little white pointer) in all browsers except for Chrome, where it's working reliably.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

don't leave the table by mistake!

A player at World of Card Games reported that some people were accidentally leaving tables. They would sit at a table, try to click the "chat log" link to see what had been going on, and then accidentally hit the nearby "leave table" link.

I've moved the links around in the lower left corner, so hopefully this will not happen anymore! As you can see in the screenshot above, the "chat log" link is now far away from the "leave table" link.

In addition, you can now view the chat log without it scrolling down constantly as more players chat. To do so, you will need to open the chat log, and hold onto the scrollbar with your mouse. As long as you've got your mouse down on the scrollbar, the chat log will stay where you've got it.

Finally, there was a bug which caused the screen to appear blank if the zoom level had been set low. It looked as though the site was gone! This has been fixed now.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

server was down briefly for bug fixes this morning

The server was down for about 10 minutes this morning, during which time I applied some bug fixes. If you've been noticing a message about your browser "zoom" level not being set correctly, that was probably a bug. Zoom detection has been removed, since it's not working reliably in all browsers.

The site looks better if your browser zoom level is set to 100% (the default). If the zoom level is set too low (less than 75% zoom), the web page does not show up at all - you'll just see a blank page. I will look into developing a warning for such situations. Meantime, if you see a blank page when you hit the site, you should check your browser's zoom level. If you don't know how to do this, feel free to write me. My email address is marya@worldofcardgames.com.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Euchre - stick the dealer

At World of Card Games, we follow the "Stick the Dealer" variation of Euchre. It goes like this: After the cards are dealt, a card is turned up, and each player in turn is allowed to accept this card as the trump suit. If no one chooses it, then each player in turn is allowed to name an alternate trump suit. It can happen that no one has a strong hand, so they don't want to risk naming the trump suit, and being required to take three tricks to score a point. In that case, no one names a trump suit, and the dealer is "stuck" with naming it. This can work out fine if the dealer has a strong hand, but it can be annoying, otherwise.

Today, a player wrote me that when he had played Euchre in the past, they had the custom of "throwing in a hand and passing the deal when all the players pass twice around the table." This is sometimes called a "misdeal."

This appears to be a common way of playing Euchre. However, it does make the game last a little longer. Each time there's a misdeal, no points are scored, and you have to go through the whole deal-and-choose procedure again before any cards can be played.

I'm curious to hear from Euchre players what they'd prefer. At this point, I wouldn't want to change any rules to the games, since I'm more focused on bug-fixing and adding a few new features. But for the future, I'd consider adding more variations to the rules, or even changing them if the majority prefer a specific variation.

Finally, variations in the rules of each game fragment the players onto different tables - 4 different players can be sitting at 2 different tables, waiting for a game to start, but without the variations they'd all be sitting at one table actually playing a game! That's another reason I'd rather not add more variations, now. If and when the site gets more players, more variations won't be such a problem.

[Edit Dec 8 2015: There is now an Option to turn off the "Stick the Dealer" rule.]

Thursday, November 14, 2013

new feature - 'dislike player', new avatars

World of Card Games was unavailable for about 30 minutes this morning while some updates were applied. Here's a summary of the changes.

1) The "Kick Player" button is gone. No more kicking! In its place is the "Dislike Player" icon, a round red button with a white "x" in it. If you hover your mouse over this button, you will see the label "Dislike Player" appear (see screenshots below).

Clicking on this button will put the associated player on your "disliked players" list. My blog post about how to kick players tells you how to edit this list.

Once you have "disliked" a player, you will not be seated with them again. But other than that, they will not be affected.

2) There are five new avatars!

3) The robot strategy for Hearts has been modified (hopefully for the better). Changing the robot strategy is a "work in progress" - I'll be making small changes over time, with the goal of improving it overall.

4) Finally, there was a bug in Hearts that has been fixed. Normally, when shooting the Moon, 26 points should be added to all other players' scores. If this would cause the game to end with the shooter losing, only then should points be subtracted from the shooter's score. But there were some cases where points were deducted from the shooter's score even if the game was in no danger of ending. This led to some very long games! The bug has been fixed, and I am grateful to the person who pointed this problem out to me.

Here's wishing everyone an early Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

server glitch - site was rebooted

The server suffered a glitch last night, and the site was malfunctioning for a few hours. It's back up and running this morning! Sorry for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

server update! - custom cursor bug fix

I got a few reports that the "Custom Cursor" setting was broken. This has been fixed, and the server was updated this morning with the change. Please let me know if you have any more issues with this.

In a little more detail: the mouse pointer on your screen usually looks like a white arrow. The "Custom Cursor" is an ornate version of that mouse pointer. See the screenshot below for a look:

The "Custom Cursor" is shown inside and to the right of the green circled area.

Sometimes, this feature can cause performance problems. If you have any trouble with it, you can turn it off and switch back to using the white-arrow mouse pointer. You do this by clicking on your user name (or Guest #) in the upper right corner, which opens your profile settings. Just uncheck "Custom Cursor" to turn it off.

The related bug caused the "Custom Cursor" to turn back on unintentionally. So if you were having this problem, you shouldn't see it happen anymore.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

server update! - more sounds

I had a couple of requests from people that they'd like an audible alert if someone arrives at the table where they're seated. In response to this, I've added a "shop bell" sound when someone arrives, and a "door shutting" sound when someone leaves.

I don't plan on adding any more sounds, since I don't want the site to get too noisy. Remember, if you don't like the sounds, there's an option to turn them off in your user profile area (click on your user name up in the top right corner to see this).

Sunday, October 27, 2013

server update - gong! and ad space

This morning, World of Card Games was down briefly as I applied a couple of updates.

I've added the sound of a "gong" when the game starts. This will help to alert people who are multi-tasking while they're waiting for a game to start. I realize that some people don't have sound for their computers... I'm not sure what to do to alert this group!

You can turn off the "gong" sound by visiting your profile (click on your user name at the upper right corner) and unchecking the "Play Sounds" box.

I've had requests from a couple of players to add some sound when a person sits at their table, before the game starts. I'm planning on doing this in the near future as well.

You will also notice that the site has some blank space at the right. I've been delaying putting an ad on the site, but I knew I'd have to do this sooner or later, and now is the time. I'll be experimenting with this over the next few weeks.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

server update this morning

There was an outage at the site for about 5 minutes this morning while the server was being updated with a small bug fix. My apologies for the interruption!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

server updated - resync, new avatars, robot gameplay in Euchre

This morning, I applied some updates to the server. These are the changes:

1. Resync

The first change gives players some feedback when a "resync" occurs. What's a resync? It has to do with the hourglass that you may see if you take too long to play a card.

When playing with other people at a real table, if you make people wait too long, someone will give you a nudge or make a comment. But on the internet, there's no way for other players to do this. For a game site with multiple players interacting, there has to be some way to deal with this.

To impose a level of fairness on everyone at the table, there's a timeout period. If you take too long to play, the hourglass shows up. When the hourglass runs down, the server picks a card for you to play, and sends a message to your computer to play it.

Since internet connections are sometimes slow, it may happen that you will play a card while the server is sending a message for you to play the card that it picked for you! In this case, the server has to overrule your picked card. It maintains the integrity of the table for all players; otherwise, there would be chaos. So if the server sees that it overruled you, it sends a "resync" message to your browser - telling it to redraw the cards on the table so that they correctly display the state of the game as it is managed by the server.

Up until now, there was no way for a player to know when their picked card had been overruled by the server. They might see some cards jumping around, and be confused about what happened. Now, you will see a reddish-pink message in the lower right corner to let you know what happened. This is shown in the screenshot below:

The message says "Your view of the table is out of sync with the server and is being reset." That's shorthand for the detailed explanation given above!

2. Improved robot gameplay in Euchre

I've had some complaints that robots are not leading with the right bower in Euchre. This is generally considered to be a good strategy, and I've modified the robot code so that they now do this.

I'll be working on more improvements to robot gameplay in Euchre and other games over the upcoming weeks.

3. New avatars!

There are nine new avatars available!  Since Halloween will soon be upon us, I've added five Jack O' Lanterns for players who want to celebrate the day. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

bug fix - memory leak

This morning, I updated World of Card Games with a change that many people won't notice. But others may see a big difference!

The site had a bug - it consumed computer resources, but did not release them when it was done with them. In technical terms, it had a "memory leak." It was only noticeable on certain computer systems. Over the last week, I was able to isolate the problem and solve it. My tests indicate that it's now gone.

I've had reports from some players who say that the site "freezes" when they're playing - it sounds very frustrating. I suspect that their problem was caused by this memory leak. I hope this new change fixes it!

If you have more problems with "freezing" - please let me know.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

new feature - kick player

Today the site was updated with a new feature which allows players to kick another player out of the game.

Why is this needed? Occasionally, players have been frustrated by another player for various reasons: mainly because they're being rude or abusive, or at times because they appear to have left the game (and the computer is playing for them).

In these cases, it would be pleasant to have a way to boot such an antisocial player from the game, and hope that someone better joins the table.

That's what the "kick player" feature is about. If a majority of players vote to kick a player off the table, that player gets ejected! So if there are two human players at a table, a single vote will cause the player to be kicked. If there are three or four players, it takes two votes.

Voting to kick a player has a side effect. The player that you voted to kick is added to your list of "disliked players." The site will never seat you with these players again. If you wish to "undo" the effect of kicking a player, it's simple. Click on your user name in the upper right corner, and scroll down to the "Manage Dislikes" area. There, you'll see a list of all the players that you've kicked. Just click the "(remove)" link next to the player's name, and the system will forget that you ever disliked this player, so you may be seated with them in the future.

kick player feature

The screenshot above shows how it works. Guest #81 at the bottom hovered the cursor over the cogwheel graphic next to Guest #2. This causes a tool tip to be displayed which says "kick player?" Next, Guest #81 clicked on the cogwheel, causing a button to appear in the lower left corner, just above the chat button, labeled with "Kick Guest #2". When this button is clicked, it is registered as a vote to kick the player from the game. In a two-player game, the player is immediately ejected.

Again, if you kicked someone by mistake, and want to undo this action, go to the "Manage Dislikes" area of your profile and click the "(remove)" link. See the screenshot below:

manage dislikes

To get to this area, click on your user name, which opens your settings panel. Below that you will see the "Manage Dislikes" area, with a list of players that you've voted to kick. Any players you want to "forgive" can be removed from the list here. You may have to use a scrollbar to view your "Manage Dislikes" area, depending on how many options show up in the profile area.

Let me know how you feel about this new feature in the comments. I hope it helps in the rare cases when it's necessary.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

new feature - no robots

I've gotten a number of complaints about the robot players at World of Card Games. For various reasons, some people would simply prefer to play at a table where robots are forbidden. (If you're a Star Wars fan, you'll get my reference when I say this reminds me of the Mos Eisley Cantina.)

Now there's a new option which will make such players happy! To use it, click on the "Options" button for your card game. The "Options" button is found in the lower left corner of each gold frame which surrounds the name of your card game. When you click it, you'll find that there's a new option called "Bots" (shorthand for "robots"). If you click the "No" radio button, you will be seated at a table where robots cannot be invited.

Keep in mind that there's a drawback to this option. It may take longer for your table to be filled with players, since some other players may have chosen "Yes," and you will never be seated at their table, even if it has openings.

The most flexible option to choose is "Either" - this seats you at any type of table (with regards to robots). This is the default option.

Aside from this new feature, there are a few minor changes.

There were some bugs related to "Going Alone" in Euchre which have now been fixed.

There are also a few new avatars, with an emphasis on marsupials, in a salute to our Australian friends!

PS - a little problem occurred during the update this afternoon which caused some players to be unable to log in. This has been fixed. Please let me know if you experience any new issues after the latest update.

Friday, August 16, 2013

more down time

Sorry to report that the site was down for a while today. Apparently some people were having trouble connecting, while others were not. I haven't been able to figure this one out yet. I'll keep looking into it!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

site is down, "uplink fiber has been cut"

World of Card Games has been down for a couple of hours now. All I know is the following message which I got from my host: "The uplink fiber has been cut, they are working on splicing it back together now, I'm sorry but we do not have an ETA."

I'm sorry, not anything I can do about this! I'll post here when the site is back up.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

server down for minor updates

I deployed some changes to the server this morning, so the site was down for a short period of time.

The changes are relatively minor. Probably the most noticeable thing is a new 'game info' link at your card table. When you click on it, it displays the total number of players at the site who are also playing your card game. For example, if you're sitting at a Hearts table, it will display the total number of players on the website playing Hearts - this is shown circled in green in the image below.

A couple of players have pointed out to me that in Euchre, the robots will sometimes discard a trump card needlessly. For example, if you'd already won a trick by playing the Jack of the trump suit, your robot partner might discard a low card of the trump suit, even when it had non-trump cards it could discard. This has been fixed.

The changes made today were small. I'm also working on larger changes which require more time to make. But I try to fix small bugs as they come up, if possible, and deploy them when ready.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Feature requests

I've had a number of e-mails from players with feature requests. Everyone has their idea of what would be helpful, and sometimes there are conflicting ideas.

My highest priority when considering a change is whether it will adhere to the spirit of the site: keep the site looking beautiful with a clean design, while making it easy for all types of players to enjoy card games.

If you have a suggestion for a change, you can always email me at marya@worldofcardgames.com. In addition, feel free to leave comments on this blog with suggestions. Comments are moderated, so you won't see them appear right away. Sometimes, items end up in the spam filter, or I don't have time to check email, and there may be a delay in replying. But I do read them all, and will reply sooner or later.

Finally: I generally give higher priority to bug fixes, rather than adding features. Right now I have a heap of bug fix work in front of me; please be patient when requesting a new feature, as it may take me some time to get to it.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

server was shut down for a bug fix

Several people reported to me over the past few days that the cards were disappearing for players, so they couldn't play their hand, and the computer played for them. Frustrating!

I was only able to reproduce this problem when the browser had been refreshed. When I did that, it happened a lot!

Once I could reproduce it, it wasn't too difficult to figure out the problem, and apply a fix to the site. That happened this morning (around 6:45 EDT), which is why the server went down for a brief period.

Let's hope this bug is gone for good!

Friday, July 26, 2013

"Initializing User..." bug

Yesterday I got several reports that World of Card Games was hanging with the message "Initializing User...". I saw it myself a few times in the morning, but I was able to work around the issue by refreshing my browser.

Later in the day, the problem became more severe. Eventually I couldn't log in at all. And apparently no one else could!

So in the evening I rebooted the server. My apologies for the inconvenience! I'm investigating the issue to see what caused it. Since I didn't actually fix this bug yet, I expect it may recur. But hopefully I can figure it out and fix it before it does.

Thanks to everyone who reported this happening!

new avatars! and a touch of censorship...

I've been working on a few new features for World of Card Games over the last two weeks. This morning, I deployed the changes to the server. You should see them live today.

First, the fun feature - there are eight new avatars! I've had a few emails from people who would like to have some different avatars - in particular female ones - and it seemed like a good idea to me, too. You can see a couple of examples to the left and right of this blog post. To see the other new ones, go to World of Card Games and click on the Avatar link in the upper left corner. In addition to the avatars shown here, we now have a Businesswoman, a Scientist, a Doctor, a Runner, a Tennis Player, and a Weightlifter.

I've also added a profanity filter. This is something that's been requested a lot, which a bummer. But it's to be expected; the internet is the wild wild west, after all. The filter is turned on by default. If you prefer your chats uncensored, you can easily turn it off by unchecking the "Profanity Filter" option under Settings. Oh yeah, you can find your Settings in the upper right-hand corner of the page - just click on your username to open this panel.

Last but not least, a user pointed out to me that there was a bug in the scoring of Euchre. Yikes! A big "Thank You!" goes out to the player who reported this. Previously, when "going alone," if a player won three or four tricks, they'd be given two points. In fact they should only have been awarded one point. These are the rules according to the Pagat page on Euchre (true for both British and North American rules).

I've got more changes in store for the site; these ones are just dipping my toe in the water, so to speak. As usual, feedback is welcome!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hello World!

I'm creating this blog to post updates about the website World of Card Games.

You can find out about changes on the website by looking at the changelog (click on the "about" link at the bottom of the page, and then click on "show change history"). But that doesn't leave much room for commentary. I'll add any extra details here.