by Max Barry

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Ad-Free: You Too Can Be This

by Max Barry
Sun, 16 Dec 2012

People have long complained that there was no way to give us money. "Please," they begged, "let me pay you for this wonderful site." But no. We would not take it.

Now I can finally announce: You can give us money! And as if that wasn't enough, the ads go away! For US$2.99, your nation need never be sullied by commercial imperatives again.

The NationStates Store

(If you are concerned that we are turning into one of those games that charge for everything: We're not doing that. This isn't the beginning of a Zynga-like devolution, I promise. I don't like games like that. There are some things I think it makes sense for us to offer in-game, like an ad-free experience, because that won't give anyone an unfair advantage, and we can't offer it free to everyone. I mean, servers don't run on air. Another possibility in the future is a larger inbox for Telegrams. But we will never sell better stats or gameplay bonuses. That would screw things up.)

You can even gift to other nations! Just if you are feeling generous. The store uses PayPal and Google Checkout, which accept any credit or debit card.

A Decade of NationStates

by Max Barry
Mon, 12 Nov 2012

We just turned ten. Seriously. In Internet Time, that's like a hundred years old.

Visit our 10-Year Anniversary Page! Chat! Mini-game! Memories!

I remember coding this game up and hoping one day it might get 1,000 players. That, I figured, was the number that would make all the time I was spending learning programming worth it. I remember weeks of freaking out about ballooning player numbers, which hit my long-term target on day 13 and kept doubling every day from there. I remember being kicked out by my web host for overloading their service. I remember mass downtime and lag and Jen being pissed at me because she hadn't seen me all day and I was heading back to my study because every time player numbers doubled, the site went down.

Against all odds, this site turned into something awesome. And that happened because people like you showed up and breathed life into it. You created nations and regions and communities. And that's the reason why we're still here ten years later, while plenty of other online games have disappeared.

I've tried to do my part to keep us running, but it's the ongoing contributions of so many different people—admins, moderators, and players—who have made it all possible. I'm deeply grateful to all of you. Thank you.

M-M-M-Mega Update

by Max Barry
Sat, 27 Oct 2012

Hello! There haven't been any news posts for a while. But there have been changes! I've just been so busy making those changes that I haven't had time to post about them. Either that or lazy. It's one of those.

  • New forum hardware! Seriously, the forum doubles in size like every six months. It's a beast. Things were getting pretty slow, but a few weeks ago we completed a major move to new hardware, and now it's super-fast again. For at least the next few weeks.
  • Rippling Flags! When you upload a custom image for your nation's flag, you can check a "Ripple" box, to make it look more like an actual rippling flag. Unless it's very dark. It doesn't work so well on very dark images. But everything else: beautiful! This feature uses a template designed by deviantArt user alxfa, who has kindly allowed us to use it here!
  • Advanced Dossiers! Hardcore players who manage lists of hundreds or thousands of nations can now download and upload their dossiers for offline management.
  • More API Shards! We have an API. You probably didn't know that. You probably don't even know what an API is. That is okay. You have a life instead. But for those of us who think life is meant for building web sites that automatically suck data from NationStates and display it in new and innovative ways, we have an API. Which now supports more data calls than ever!
  • WA Vote Percentages! When you consider a World Assembly Resolution, you are shown numbers on how the rest of your region has voted. Some people argued that this would function as a kind of peer pressure, increasing the "lemming effect" of votes. I'm not sure if that actually happened. But you could figure it out with the API.
  • Random Nations! When you create a new nation, you can set its starting government type as "Random." There used to be a "Psychotic" option, but that's gone, because frankly it was too psychotic. It didn't make sense even by our standards.
  • Daily Update Speed Variance: The update time of regions (i.e. the time at which votes are tallied to determine the WA Delegate) has become a lot more predictable since we shifted to new hardware, and this means invaders can time their attacks to within a few seconds of perfection, making them near-impossible to stop. This isn't quite how things are supposed to be, so the update now has inbuilt cleverness to randomize its speed a little. There's more planned in this area, but that's what we have for now.

We also have a few major new features that have been in the works for a long time and are nearly ready to let loose. I can't tell you what they are! That would spoil the surprise. But one of them rhymes with "Bent Bitems Bolder bor Belegrams."

By the way, did you know that November 13, 2012 is our 10-year anniversary? It totally is. Expect something for that, too.

New feature: Factbooks

by Max Barry
Mon, 04 Jun 2012

Nations now have the ability to write their own Factbooks, which are collections of "facts" about themselves. I put "facts" in quotation marks because obviously they will be full of lies and distortions.

But that aside, I know this is going to be nifty, because it's an extension of what's been happening in the forums for years: nations expanding on their own descriptions, often in amazing detail. You go there, you can read about historical events and cultural landmarks and how the current government gained power for as long as you want.

But these have never been easy for most players to find, and deserve to be more visible. In the future, we also want to add ways to quickly find the most well-regarded Factbooks in the world, so that good content can be seen by more people.

Also planned are more uses for dispatches beyond Factbooks, allowing nations to issue inflammatory statements about each other, for example.

But for now it's just Factbooks! You will find a "Factbook" link on your own nation, in amongst "Overview," "People," "Government," and so on. This link will also be present on other nations you view, but only if they've written something.

What Went Down

by Max Barry
Mon, 02 Apr 2012

A recap, for those who missed the April Fools frivolities, and some questions answered, for those who were here.

So every year since 2004 we've done an April Fools thing. These started out small and quirky, but escalated over the years until I could practically feel thunderclouds of disappointed players hovering overhead as April drew nearer, waiting to shower me with, "Last year's was better"s.

In 2011, under this pressure, I made a last-minute decision to do a haxx0ring stunt, and while this was very effective, it scared the bejeesus out of people, and I felt bad afterward.

So this year I was looking for something a little more fun and a little less email-generating. Our lead moderator, Reploid Productions, had the idea for the IPO, which could be a fun mini-game, where people formed alliances to gain the most shares. Everyone would start with 1 share per million population, and could trade them as they wished.

I also gave myself some shares, as a target for people to beat. I had no real idea how many would be a challenging but not unbeatable amount, but guessed 25 million.

Up went an IPO page, plus, at the last minute, a new subforum in case people wanted to talk about share trading. (Looking back, this is very much like how I added the original forum to NationStates, just in case anyone wanted to talk about their nations.) This forum filled with thousands of posts. With shares as currency, people hawked haiku, nations, art, dignity, insults, influence, ad space, and more. Lotteries and banks sprang up, as did scams, which were sometimes the same thing. There were pyramid schemes and standover merchants and many, many beggars. It was a spontaneous, concentrated eruption of inventiveness. I spent a lot of the IPO days chortling over those threads, because most of them are frickin' hilarious.

As nations pooled shares in order to reach the higher rungs of the share leaderboard, another unexpected thing happened. The leading nation—second on the list, after me—stopped being a faction-based effort, collecting shares primarily from deals and alliances, and instead started representing practically everybody. It was represented by The NationStates Community, and was genuine a community-wide movement as I've seen.

For a long time, it looked like they'd make it, but in the last hour, it tapped out at a little under 20,000,000 shares, five million short of the goal. The rest of the leaderboard was full of people who had decided to hold on to their own shares, or had gone to bed. (Because for anyone in North America, it was really late. It was meant to finish an hour earlier, but I coded in the wrong time zone. Sorry about that.)

At this point, the organizers of The NationStates Community reluctantly decided (via a vote) to transfer shares to the next-placed nation, in order that it, at least, would beat the target. This would be NewTexas.

Obviously, I should have just let that happen, and we all could have learned a somewhat sour yet useful lesson about the power of holding a non-negotiable swing vote in a high-stakes negotiation. But that seemed like a shame, to me, given the nature of the community effort, and how ridiculously hard the organizers had been working. So I decided to transfer my 25M shares to the community. But only at the last minute, as trading closed, so I also secretly disabled the ability of "The NationStates Community" to trade away its own shares in the meantime. This was cheating, of course. But very fun.

In the last few minutes, chaos reigned. There is a whole IRC transcript up here (the IPO ends at 04:00).

Over the thirty-something hours, 37,505 nations claimed a total of 95,407,494 shares, representing 95 trillion NationStates citizens. (It's a big world.) There were 29,448 trades, after which 14,898 nations held at least one share. The other 22,607 nations who claimed shares had given them all away. You needed 251,781 shares to make the Top 25 leaderboard, while 59,763 shares would have placed you at #100, and 11,789 at #1,000. Nine hundred and fifty-nine nations finished with exactly 1 share, for some reason.

Again, I just want to say how much fun this was. And the reason it was fun because of how madly you embraced it, so thank you to everyone who made it so. I've said it a million times before, but I really am in awe of this place sometimes. On the surface it just looks like a website.

Some people are asking if we can make this a regular thing, and I don't have an answer to that. There are a few reasons why this worked for April but wouldn't be the same if done again. But I'm going to look at how it might be possible. Because... fun.

You may now begin preparing for disappointment next April.

— Max.

NationStates IPO: Share Offer

by Max Barry
Sat, 31 Mar 2012

Since NationStates successfully achieved its primary financial goal of not sending me broke, it's time for the next step: an IPO! All the big gaming companies are doing it.

But unlike them, we're not just interested in making out like bandits while crapping all over our playerbase. No, our IPO is different: we're giving stock to you, the players!

For a limited time only, you can claim 1 share in NationStates Corporation Pty Ltd for every million citizens in your nation. Also, as kind of a last-minute thing, you can trade shares with other nations.

I have, of course, assigned myself a sufficient number of shares to ensure that I remain the largest shareholder. Obviously, we can't have the lunatics running the asylyum. That would be a disaster.

The NationStates IPO

Update: Two hours in and I'm close to losing my majority holding. This isn't going well.

Update 2: Well, it happened. I no longer own a majority of the company. Luckily, though, I'm still the largest individual shareholder, and there is no plausible way anyone could overtake me.

Update 3: There's plenty of trading going on in the new IPO forum. (Note: Please ignore any threads about a revolution.)

Update 4: So it seems that some people think it's possible to overtake me as the #1 shareholder. Ha! Well I'm not worried! That would take, what, some kind of massive pooling of shares on a ludicrous scale. People trusting each other and working toward a common goal? On NationStates? Hahahaha!

Update 5: Ohhhh, now it's got a warm and fuzzy name. "The NationStates Community." How completely heart-warming. You're never going to make it, don't you realize? You only have twelve million shares with less than seven hours left! You're throwing away shares for nothing!

Update 6: Okay. Okay. Let's just take a breath. I may have been a little hasty. It's possible you could make it. But how—by giving absolute power to one nation? Is that what you want? Because you know what that smells like? Tyranny! How much do we know about this "The NationStates Community," anyway? Do we really want to take orders from a College State?

Update 7: That's it. Hoard your shares. Hoooooaaaaarrrrd them.

Update 8: And so I watched as "The NationStates Community" crept closer toward its goal of 25,000,000 shares, ever-more slowly, until it became obvious that it was destined to fall just short. I felt relief... and something else. An emotion strange and unfamiliar. Was I perhaps... moved? These disparate nations that had come together in shared puropose, discarding personal glory in order to shift the world together: had that impressed me? Did I find them... admirable?

Clarity filled me. Yes, many of those nations that donated to the cause had done so to oppose me, while many of those who held back were my greatest supporters. But this wasn't about me. Not any more. This was about NationStates.

So I have chosen to trade my own 25,000,000 shares to The NationStates Community. It is a privilege and an honor to be a part of this place. Thank you.

P.S. Most fun April Fools Day ever.

Back, Kind of

by Max Barry
Sat, 11 Feb 2012

And we're on a new server! But some data is taking an awful long time to copy across, so we're the kind of back where not everything works yet. Specifically, what's not working is new nation creation and old nation restoration. We should have that within the next day.

Also, not everyone's custom flag is displaying. Those have almost finished transferring, though! Resist the temptation to change yours, and it'll be restored shortly.

Thanks for bearing with us!

Update! Normal service has resumed.

Here Goes Nothing

by Max Barry
Sat, 11 Feb 2012

Downtime imminent! As mentioned, the game will be down for a few hours as we migrate data to a new server. This will happen soon!

Onward, Ever Upward

by Max Barry
Wed, 08 Feb 2012

Almost exactly three years ago, we boldly embarked on a quest to answer the great question: if I pay for hosting myself, am I going to go bankrupt or what?

Not yet! is the answer. We've been able to keep the game going and support its growth, as we've added our own forum (now home to 7 million posts and running on two servers) and nearly doubled active player numbers.

Now it's time to upgrade the game server! Because that thing is really struggling. There will be some game downtime over the next few days as we do that, during which you also won't be able to log in to the forums (although you'll still be able to browse them). Also, we have temporarily disabled nation restoration.

For those of you who have been with us all that time: really? You didn't... you didn't find anything better to do? Well... okay. And thanks.

Big World

by Max Barry
Wed, 04 Jan 2012

Happy New Year! And for the first time, nations have started hitting 20 billion population. Congratulations to the somewhat crowded The Most Ancient States of Korinekia for being first to pass the milestone!

And very closely following: The Republic of Kyupaa.

(These statistics sniffed out by handy resident number cruncher Ballotonia.)