All-Stars is the thing at the front of my mind, so I suppose I'll start by talking about it. We hit 45 players, and it was such a large turnout that NPM had to put a cap on the number of players that could be let in! I don't think anyone could have expected such a good turnout. It's so great to see old friends, and I'm glad that so many people could still be contacted after so many years. It's been over ten years since EvilGenius hosted the first Werewolf game on IDB, and this is where we stand today, with Neopetsmom delivering what looks like one of the most intricate games we've ever seen. If the ambitious store system is what we get to see at the start, who knows what other surprises are waiting?
I'd also like to thank the people who helped to spread the word about All-Stars. A lot of effort went into this, and there's a lot of thanks to go around. I'd go listing off names, but I don't want to risk forgetting anyone.
Managing such a large group of people is also a daunting task. I wish I'd gotten the Reunion Chat up sooner. Having so many people around the site has also been very rewarding. I haven't taken the time to speak with so many people one-on-one in a very long time. I feel like I've gotten to know a few people much better than I have in the past, and that's something I very much want to continue doing.
Before All-Stars, we had Nightless Werewolf to gear up. I've said a lot of my thoughts about it elsewhere, but suffice it to say that it was good to play such a bare bones game as preparation for All-Stars. I'm hoping that it'll give me a little more insight as I read through the All-Stars posts, and it's also a cautionary tale about how easy it is to jump to conclusions that might not be correct.
futureguy got married on Wednesday. I know he hasn't been around recently, but some of you might remember him from the Debate forum back in the day. He might be the first Sparkbomber to get married (or the first semi-active one to do so). He and his wife are quite happy, the wedding was very well done, and I really wish I could think of more to say. I've been invited to quite a few weddings during the past couple of years or so (attending about three or four a year, I want to say), and this was one that I was very excited for.
The Sparkbomb Gaming League has been a lot of fun. So far we've only played Monaco, and it's made for some enjoyable nights with Dyl, Nebiros, Rex, Nell, Cel, and Blacjak. I think this is the first consistent gaming experience we've had on Sparkbomb (outside of Sparkbomb Hour) since the Minecraft server was up back in the day.
Hitting break-even was a great feeling. When I started the reboot, I didn't know what to expect on the financial front. I was giving up six to eight months to dedicate to Sparkbomb on a dream. I had told myself near the beginning of the year that if I didn't hit break-even within six months, the site probably wasn't financially sustainable. (And I think several of you know how difficult it is to manage a community on top of full-time work or even an unenjoyable part-time job.)
That also makes this a time to reflect on how things have turned out. I can say, beyond a doubt, that purchasing the IPS software was the correct choice. The forum software is excellent. IP.Content allowed the set-up of an excellent home page and provided for both SparkWiki and SparkComic. IP.Blog is still a bit more questionable, as it's only been used (so far) for these Reflections and The Mansion story (both of which could have been posted in the forum). Our host has been fairly good to us with minimal downtime and only a few acceptable hiccups. Nearly every dollar put into the site has been well spent.
IP.Board v4 isn't even in beta yet, and I'd been hoping that it would be released by now. Right now, I'm uncertain if it will even be out by the end of the year, and it will cost us to renew the license to be able to make the upgrade. The new software looks like it will be beautiful, though, based on all the previews.
At the beginning, I had expected to be release an episode of The Mansion each week and a Sparkverse story each month. Today, there are five episodes of The Mansion, a Mansionverse role play, and no Sparkverse stories (despite a small pile of crumpled up papers). The Mansion became something much bigger than I expected it to be. I had planned on writing a story similar to my forum plots of the past with short, light-hearted entries, without too serious of a plot. Instead, it's had longer entries and has a much richer plot than I'd ever considered when I decided (largely on a whim) to start writing it. On the other hand, the lack of a publishable Sparkverse story is very disappointing. Meanwhile, today, I'm being reminded of how difficult it can be to juggle multiple tasks. I'm very focused on the forum and community elements of the site, so I haven't yet drafted Episode 6 (despite having thought about the events of that episode for something like three months now). It's something that I'll need to find a spare evening for, and I'm acutely aware that I'm back into the old balancing act that's been so difficult in the past. (The only difference is that in the past it was about finding time to code Items or Competitions for the Spark Game. Now it's about finding time to write.)
Nebiros' schedule becoming too busy to work on SparkComic was another disappointment. I'll leave it to her to say what she will about this subject. I believe I've said before that if SparkComic returns it will be only featuring Shiftone (and probably no followup on The Mansion comic). I still jot down notes from time to time on comic ideas as they come to me, so there's no shortage of material waiting to be given life.
So what are the long-term plans? SparkWiki needs to have its Werewolf elements completed. That's another thing I need to make some time for. I also still want to get an actual canon Sparkverse story posted. But right now, in the midst of All-Stars, I'm focused on building up the community. It's all a balancing act, trying to get one thing taken care of long enough to work on other things before needing to go back to the first thing. That's something that, in many ways, I've been reminded of this past month (seeing the IDB history a month ago, being reminded of some Sparkbomb history, rereading some X-Evo history, and seeing some other things). Right now, everything's about All-Stars. Maybe next month there will be a bit more normalcy.