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Analyze This

by Max Barry
Thu, 15 Dec 2011

So! Now everyone has been successfully rejiggered (OH YES YOU HAVE), I can reveal that new feature. Nation pages now have an "Analysis" tab, which will take you to a whole new world of graphical excitement! Hmm. I could probably phrase that better. But click and see!

If you find raw numbers as stimulating as I do, you're in for a treat. Also, you might want to see someone. It can be serious problem. But in the meantime, add a bunch of nations to an Analysis page, pick a metric from the drop-down menu, and you can see exactly how they stack up.

Some metrics have a "World Average" line, but this hasn't been calculated for them all yet. So in many cases you'll have to wait to see where you sit compared to the "typical" NationStates nation. If such a thing exists. Which it does, because, mathematically, it has to. Did you just get a shiver? I did. Oooh, yeah. Numbers.

Algorithmic Rejiggeration

by Max Barry
Wed, 07 Dec 2011

There's a nifty new feature coming along shortly, which will allow you to analyze your nations like never before. Well. That's maybe overstating it. To be honest, it lets you analyze your nations like before, only slightly more so.

Anyway, while testing this feature, it became clear that some of our internal algorithms—the things we use to, you know, simulate nations—are broken. They work fine most of the time. But at the extremes, in some situations, weird things can happen.

We've known this for a while, but let it ride, because, hey, it's NationStates. Weird things are supposed to happen. Also, my thinking was that if you've worked hard on making your nation weird like that, you deserve it. But what's become clear is that in a lot of cases, we've crossed over from weird to just plain nonsensical. Also, the results can be wildly counter-intuitive, so nations with bizarre internal values—values clear off the scale—often seem to get that way from luck more than hard work.

To correct this, there will be a Grand Rejiggering. For most nations, this will do nothing. Some, though, will see changes in their internal freedom values. These will probably be minor, but may be visible as a change in your Trend graph, in certain World Census rankings, and possibly (if you are rejiggered particularly hard) in your main Civil Rights, Economy, Political Freedoms ratings, as well as your overall Category.

Want to check exactly what will happen? Use the Rejiggeration Predictor!

My apologies for messing with nations in such a heavy-handed way, but hopefully the result will be a more realistic nation simulator. Although maybe "more realistic" is overstating it. I mean, "less ridiculous."

Three Million Ways To A Better World

by Max Barry
Sat, 29 Oct 2011

The main page has a nation counter. Did you notice? Well, it does. And it recently ticked over three million. Three million nations! That's impressive, you have to admit. If NationStates was a country, we'd be bigger than Kuwait. And comprised of three million nations. Which each have a population of... wait. This doesn't make sense at all.

Congratulations to our 3,000,000th nation, Terrible books! Which was probably made with one eye on the counter, by the way. Bunch of nations all created in a hurry. But still! That's pretty sweet!

And thank you to all of you, without whom there would be no nations at all! Except the ones I play myself, of course. But that's like a few thousand, tops.

The Three Brothers

by Max Barry
Wed, 19 Oct 2011

Sometimes nations die. It's sad but true. They are neglected, they stagnate, then they simply cease to exist. Empires, silenced. Cultures, lost.

But sometimes they come back! And when they do, they've always refounded in Lazarus, the world's welcome-back region. Over the years, thanks to this steady influx of resurrected nations, Lazarus has grown to become the world's largest region, with over 6,700 residents.

Yesterday, something changed. The regions Balder and Osiris were created as official "sinkers," providing two new homes for returning nations.

For the first hour or two, things were pretty quiet. Then people noticed. Nations moved in. There were celebrations. Questions. And, pretty soon, debates over how these regions should be run. Who should be the Delegate? Various well-organized alliances—I'm not sure if you've noticed, but we have those—got edgy at the prospect of some other, well-organized alliance seizing power. Shouldn't the region be left in the hands of the native residents? But who were they? And didn't they need to be protected?

Solid questions. I don't know the answers. But after only half a day, we can see differences in the new regions' emerging political structures. Good luck, all.

Downtime, boooo

by Max Barry
Wed, 12 Oct 2011

We've had two bouts of downtime over the last couple days. The first one lasted about three hours, the second for about forty-five minutes. During this time, the game went down completely. The forums stayed up but refused to let anybody log in, since login details couldn't be authenticated against the game.

The problem seems to lie somewhere in our software (as opposed to a network fault or, as is usually the case, a NOT-QUITE-SO-UNINTERRUPTIBLE power supply unit). We haven't figured out what, exactly, so it's possible that this may happen again before we do. But! Like I always say, every failure is a step along the road to success. So we are succeeding SO HARD right now.

Welcome Back, Russia

by Max Barry
Sat, 08 Oct 2011

The Ancient Name Release Program is underway, and a host of familiar-looking names have begun to emerge. So welcome back Russia, Korea, Norway, Scotland, and many more!

A Few New Looks

by Max Barry
Wed, 28 Sep 2011

The Settings page looks different. So does the Create a Nation page. And not only that! Courtesy of Northrop-Grumman, we have gained a Dark theme. Select it under "Theme" in your nation's Settings to make it stick.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: The Ancient Nation Name Release Program

by Max Barry
Wed, 21 Sep 2011

Since we began, over 2.97 million nations have been created. Wow. That's really close to three million. I just noticed that. We should have a prize for the three millionth nation.

Anyway, the point is, when you create a new nation, it's not easy to think of a unique name. You have to come up with something that hasn't been used any of the 2.97 million times someone did this before you. So new nations today tend to have names like somebody randomly mashed their forehead against the keyboard.

The solution has long been obvious: allow the names of long-dead nations to be re-used! And we've been planning this. But it was tricky, because the way the game is coded means—but you don't care about that. What you care about is that soon you'll be able to re-use old names!

Which names? Find out in The Boneyard! Here you can plug in a name and see if/when it will become available.

In a nutshell:

  1. A name will only become available for re-use if the previous owner is long-gone (ceased to exist five or more years ago), didn't hang around very long anyway (population of less than 250 million), and didn't do anything noteworthy (found an existing region, author a World Assembly resolution, get banned, etc).
  2. When a name is re-used, the previous owner will be permanently designated as "ancient" and will not be able to be resurrected. (Normally, you can bring back an old deleted nation just by entering the password.)

For details and discussion, please see this forum thread. This is also the place for your questions and comments, should you have any. Like: "What took this so long to get coded?" Although the answer to that is: "Shut up."

Small Surprises

by Max Barry
Wed, 20 Jul 2011

Whatever happened to mystery flights? You know, you'd pay a hundred bucks, turn up at the airport, and they'd fly you somewhere random. Ten years ago, everyone was doing mystery flights. They were so exciting. Now I never hear about them. I guess nowadays not knowing where or when exactly the airline is going to fly you somewhere is part of the standard package.

BADOOMTISH! Thank you, thank you. Anyway, the point is that the Regions and Nations pages now have a "Surprise Me" button, perfect for those times you want to visit someplace but don't care where. It will show you a randomly selected region or nation. Maybe even your own! That would be like the most disappointing mystery flight ever. But in this context, kind of eerily cool.

Boom Times

by Max Barry
Sun, 10 Jul 2011

I've been distracted lately, with my first novel being made into a movie and my new book Machine Man coming out next month. It's no big deal. Seriously. Stop going on about it.

So please excuse the lack of NationStates news updates. It's been a great few months for the site, with active nations briefly topping 90,000—almost double the number only a year or so ago!—before our traditional Northern Hemisphere summer lull. We have a couple of major features in the works, to be unveiled toward the end of the year, and we continue to implement minor bugfixes and minor improvements.

Such as this one! The real world has just gained its newest nation state, South Sudan. Thanks to our resident flag-maker Tiago Silva, we now include it in our list of inbuilt flags. Just to say hi.

Region Tags!

by SalusaSecondus
Tue, 10 May 2011

Sometimes an idea comes along which makes you go, "Why didn't we think of that before?" This is one of them. So, after a few weeks of work, debugging, slacking off, and still managing to be productive enough that my real boss doesn't fire me, I'm thrilled to present Region Tags.

One of the oldest problems with NationStates is finding regions that interest you. This will provide an easy way for delegates and founders to tag their regions and let other players search for them.

There is a ton more to be said about this change, and we are looking for player feedback, so please visit us in the forum.

Impending Apocalypses

by Max Barry
Wed, 20 Apr 2011

There's a little checkbox in your Settings now that says, "Email me warnings of impending apocalypses." I thought this was pretty self-explanatory, but there have been questions, so I guess not. What it does is send you an email seven days before your nation will cease to exist due to inactivity. Which happens if you don't log in for 28 days, or 60 days with Vacation mode turned on.

(Deleted nations can be restored again. They just don't exist within the gameworld in the meantime.)

So basically: the checkbox means you'll get emailed if you don't log in for 21 days. Or 53 days in Vacation mode.

That actually wasn't self-explanatory at all, was it? I see that now.

Guest Post: The NationStates Olympics

by Max Barry
Wed, 06 Apr 2011

There are many sides to NationStates. Some you know about. Some you don't want to. Seriously. Don't go there. But some are both obscure and awesome, so how are you supposed to discover them?

Guest posts! That's how! Here is our first one:

The NationStates Olympics

Guest post by Quintessence of Dust

Every year, roleplayers in the NationStates Sports forum hold two sets of Olympic Games: summer and winter. The program of sports is similar to that used at the real-life Olympics, but with a few differences: for example, women started competing in boxing at the NationStates Olympics several years ago, while this year's Winter Games featured a demonstration sport invented by a player.

Like most events in the Sports forum, Olympic results are generated using a program called a "scorinator". This combines a skill ranking for athletes assigned by the player, a bonus score earned by posting funny, interesting or inventive roleplays, and a random number element - this last feature is colloquially known as "Margaret", a mysterious goddess of fortuna believed to be swayed by sacrifices of rubber chickens.

One player hosts the Olympics, taking charge of generating the results and helping others roleplaying by providing information about the city and venues where the events take place; hosting is a very big responsibility, and the NationStates Olympic Council conducts a vote to determine who gets the duties each time. All players are free to participate by sending athletes and reporters.

Players competing in the Olympics can earn roleplaying bonuses for their characters and teams by posting reports of the previous day's action, interviews and profiles, or writing narrative storylines from one of their athlete's points of view. Inventive roleplayers have even gone so far as to create websites about the Olympics, record radio broadcasts, or draw cartoons.

The most recent Olympics were the Sixth Winter Olympics, hosted in the city of Ashton, Krytenia, in the Atlantian Oceania region. A total of 58 different NationStates took part in the Olympics, sending hundreds of athletes to compete in 15 different sports, plus the demonstration events of bandy (a Scandinavian game similar to ice hockey) and Winter Pentathlon (a multi-sport combination devised by Ad'ihan).

The Sixth Winter Olympics saw many dramatic moments, with new Olympic records set in several events, diplomatic crises, arrests, and even deaths of competitors; there were also some rather more light-hearted occurrences, such as teams skipping the competition to go on holiday to the beach, a bobsleigh team of women wearing fake beards so they could compete in a men's event, and numerous skiing Orthodox monks with very real beards. The world of NationStates has provided rather more variety of competitors than is the case in real life: athletes who won medals in Ashton included elves, dwarves, vulpines, and some surprisingly graceful figure skating bears.

Now there will be a break of several months for the Olympic Council before July or August, when they reconvene to vote on a host for the Sixth Summer Olympics, while in the Sports forum, other events take precedence. The oldest and largest sports competition in NationStates, the football World Cup, is heading into its 55th edition; there are stand alone events in many other popular sports, such as American football, baseball, basketball, cricket, ice hockey and both codes of rugby, as well as sports invented by NationStates players themselves.

If you want to learn more, check out the Guide to Sports Roleplaying and General Sports Roleplaying Questions threads, or look up some articles on NSwiki, the unofficial NationStates encyclopedia.

If you've got a piece of NationStates you'd like to share, please propose a guest post here.

Haxx0rs!

by Max Barry
Fri, 01 Apr 2011

It's not easy, being well-known for April Fool's Day pranks. In the hours and days beforehand, many players were speculating what we might do. Is it even possible to prank people when they're prepared for a pranking?

Generally yes, I think we found. Although I am sorry to those of you who suffered minor heart attacks during the course of the "haxxing." It sounded funny in theory, but when you saw it on the screen, man, that really was terrifying. I know this because I forgot for a minute and scared myself.

April Fools aside, it's probably a good time to think about the passwords you use in your online life. Because many people do use easy-to-guess passwords, and do lose their accounts. If it's your NationStates nation, that's probably not the end of the world, but you'd hate it to happen to your email or Facebook.

P.S. For the record, this is what happened:

  • When you logged on, you were notified of 337 bad login attempts.
  • There was also a line saying you'd posted too many times on your Regional Message Board.
  • Your nation's motto seemed to have been changed to "HAXX0RED!" (To everyone else, it looked the same as usual.)
  • The last post on the RMB seemed to be from you, saying something inane. (No-one else could see this.)
  • When you clicked the "Delete" button beside the fake post, it said, "April Fools."

omg downtime wtf

by Max Barry
Wed, 23 Mar 2011

The site was down for about ten hours overnight. Well, actually, the site was fine. You just couldn't reach it. We don't know what happened yet, except that our web host had some kind of network breakdown. We're not sure if it was their fault (moose chewing through cable) or ours (too much traffic). Which would actually make it YOUR fault, now I think about it.

More thrilling details as they come to hand.

Regional Embassies Spread the Love

by Max Barry
Thu, 17 Mar 2011

It's good to implement features that let people do more easily something they were already doing. Who can complain about that? I can rest easy, knowing it won't be like the Condemn & Commend resolutions, which people wanted to hang me for. I'm still haunted by that, you know. HAUNTED.

What was I talking about? Embassies! That's right. People have been informally creating diplomatic links between regions for years, and listing them in World Factbook Entries. Some are simple acknowledgements that regions have a few things in common. Others are full-blooded mutual defense pacts, complete with written terms. Some are I don't know what.

But now they can be formal. Founders and WA Delegates with access to Region Control can invite other regions to establish embassies, and, if the other party agrees, three days pass, and POW! There are embassies.

What do they do? EVERYTHING. Or nothing. It depends how you look at it. Technically nothing. Except make your region much more visible to anyone looking at the other region. And demonstrate your worth in interregional diplomacy. And possibly some stuff we'll add later. So basically everything.

The point is: nothing is worse.

Custom Flags: Bigger and Better

by Max Barry
Mon, 14 Mar 2011

In the old days, custom flags had to be under 6KB. If you were right on the limit, you could try renaming your image to a single character, to save a previous few bytes.

Since then, the limit crept up to 10KB, then 12KB. Now we've raised it to 250KB. That's twenty times larger. Which would be more impressive if the old limit wasn't so insanely small. But still. It's never been easier to give your nation the swanky flag it deserves.

Bunch of technical details here.

Summer of Endless Regional Message Board Posts

by Max Barry
Mon, 28 Feb 2011

One of the most annoying things in NationStates is checking your regional board to find something like this:

Screenshot of dubious authenticity showing Deep South Borland thanking someone for great trophy-collecting tips

Or this:

Screenshot of dubious authenticity showing Crazygirl flipping out over an apparent insult

Or this:

Screenshot of dubious authenticity showing Afforess rethinking socialism

Who are they talking to? What was the previous message? You have no idea! It's gone! Ten new messages and everything that was on the board scrolls off into the bitter void!

Not any more!

Older Messages

That doesn't really do it justice. Let me blow that up a little:

Older Messages

Yeah. That's it. As of now, Regional Message Board posts are saved forever. Or at least for as long as the region exists. You can also click the timestamp on a message to get a permanent link to it, for future reference.

And that's not all! Regional Founders and Delegates have a new power: S U P P R E S S I O N. This allows them to semi-conceal anyone's posts on their regional board, putting them one click away from public view. Spam? Unwanted recruitment messages? Uncomfortably close political truths? Suppress! Suppress!

Suppressing posts is free and may be used if and when the Founder and Delegate wish. Unless the Founder has denied the Delegate access to Regional Controls. In that case, it's just up to the Founder. As always, whether your region is a democracy, dictatorship, or something in between is up to you.

And that's Feature February! Now for Maintenance-and-Bug-Fixing March!

Grrrrrraphs!

by Max Barry
Sun, 20 Feb 2011

The grrrr is because they're sexy. Yes, Feature February rolls on! This is an annual tradition that began this year and may not continue where we add awesome new features to NationStates. Today's update gives nation pages a new set of links beneath the Freedom box: "Overview • People • Government • Economy • Trend Freedom." Clicking these will take you to pages of graphical goodness.

A word on the "Freedom" "Trend" graph: we just started tracking that. So right now, it shows how your nation has changed (or not) in the last seven days. But it will keep adding data points, tracking changes from now until the end of time, or we discover that it's killing the server, whichever comes first.

And Feature February isn't done yet! There's one big new feature still to come!

Update (22-Feb-2011): To avoid confusion, "Freedom" has been renamed "Trend," since it depicts economic strength, rather than economic freedom.

That's Going Straight to the Pool Room

by Max Barry
Sat, 05 Feb 2011

For many years, the World Census has ranked nations. Eight, in fact. Eight years and a bit. But the glory (or shame) has been fleeting. You're ranked, then forgotten. Who was #1 yesterday? Which scale is your best? Nobody knows.

Until now! Starting today, your nation's achievements in World Census rankings can trigger a note in its National Happenings and a trophy icon, displayed beneath your nation description. Here's an example:

  • GrayTop 10% for Largest Mining Industry
  • BlueTop 5% for Largest Mining Industry
  • OrangeTop 1% for Largest Mining Industry
  • Yellow#1 for Largest Mining Industry

Each nation can receive up to two trophy icons per World Census: one for its regional rank, and one worldwide. Worldwide icons look similar but with a border, like so:

  • Gray with gray borderTop 10% in the world for Largest Mining Industry

There are also a few "special" icons designating notable achievements, such as being the Founder of a region or authoring an Issue or World Assembly Resolution.

As I write this, no nation has a World Census trophy icon. But they will now be awarded daily at the completion of each World Census.

Regions must be of a certain minimum size for members to receive regional trophy icons:

TrophyMinimum # of Nations
Top 10%10
Top 5%20
Top 1%100
#1100

For example, in a region with nine residents, no nation will receive any regional trophy icon. (They may qualify for world trophy icons.) In an 80-member region, there will be no #1 or Top 1% regional trophy icons, but four nations will receive Top 5% icons and another four will receive Top 10% icons.

Regional trophy icons are, of course, specific to the region they're received in, and will not display on your nation page if you move elsewhere. They will reappear if you move back to the original region, assuming you have not been gone so long as to lose all Regional Influence in it.

Icons last until the same ranking is next recalculated by the World Census, so your nation can lose them if it falls down the charts.

A special thank you to Icons etc for providing the high-quality free icons!

Tweaking Influence

by Max Barry
Thu, 03 Feb 2011

Two minor adjustments to Regional Influence:

  • When a nation ceases to exist due to inactivity and is later resurrected, its Regional Influence drops as if it had spend that period of time outside the region. (Previously, resurrected nations had the same amount of Influence as when they ceased to exist.)

  • Nations that haven't logged in for at least a week do not gain Regional Influence. (Previously, all nations gained Regional Influence regardless.)
Your Regional Influence determines how easily your Regional Delegate may eject you from your region, or, for Delegates, how easily you may eject other nations. (More about Influence.)

Thanks to everyone who participated in the discussion that prompted this change!

Do Not Adjust Your Sets

by Max Barry
Wed, 05 Jan 2011

After a month of beta and over 500 forum posts, the new theme is moving to default! This means the site will look confrontingly modern for anyone who hasn't been playing around with their Theme selector lately.

If the new look stirs within you a wild fury, don't fear! You can select "Antiquity" in your Settings for that old-school feel. Or visit us via http://antiquity.nationstates.net.

The login/logout buttons are up the top right. I put that in bold because after eight years you get used to things. We haven't removed the ability to log out. That would be cruel to your families.

This is a big change and I bet we broke a bunch of stuff. Please report any bugs you notice and we'll get those straightened out over the next few days. Expect things to move around a little.

Thanks to everyone who provided feedback and ideas! Special thanks to Unicario, who contributed graphics we wound up using. Anything you don't like: totally Unicario's fault.

The Flags, They Are So Pretty

by Max Barry
Mon, 03 Jan 2011

Notice our inbuilt flags are looking swankier? No? I guess they are pretty small. But go on, scroll through a few on your Settings page. Those puppies are smooth. It's thanks to the fine nation of Tiago Silva, who bravely volunteered to recast them all from blocky JPEGs to silky PNGs. And update the list, because the number of real-life countries that are founded and cease to exist year to year, you would not believe. It's like NationStates out there.

If you have an old-style flag, you can continue to use it, but these are no longer available to be chosen from the drop-down Flag menu in your Settings.

by Max Barry

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