I'm finding it honestly amazing how little good mailing list software information is out there.

I want two mailing lists set up for this site. You can see a "subscribe" box for one over on the left – it's the mailing list that gets notified when I make another devlog post, such as this one. The second is the mailing list on www.mandible-games.com which should get notified when I finally make a public release of D-Net (which I am, note, working on.) The mailing list management software should be smart enough to deal with multiple mailing lists properly, so that the user doesn't have to do the whole verify-that-this-is-actually-your-email dance twice. It should also have an interface that doesn't look like it came out of the 1990s. And, finally – and what's giving me the most trouble lately – it shouldn't get flagged by gmail as spam.

Seriously. About 2/3 of the people who have signed up with gmail accounts haven't verified their addresses. From my testing, the "authorization" mail goes straight into Ye Olde Spam Bucket. Why? I haven't been able to figure that one out, and trust me, I've been trying to. And before you say "screw gmail", I should point out that the gmail readers outnumber all my other readers, put together, by a factor of three. And one of the "others" is my lone Hotmail user who hasn't authorized either. I haven't tested to see if Hotmail tosses it into Ye Olde Spam Bucket also.

If 1/3 of the people who have expressed interest are actually able to receive emails, that is not a good ratio. It is a very, very bad ratio.

I feel like kind of a dick trying to evade gmail's spam filter, but the fact is that I want my emails to actually be received. I mean call me crazy here, but these people have signed up, explicitly, by typing their email into a form on my website – I think they might be interested in getting the newsletter. And yet, they are not.

Options that I've come up with:

  • ┬áTry another software package, and see if that one bypasses the gmail spam filtering. I suspect it won't – the exact same message content sent from my personal email account goes right through to the Inbox with no issues.
  • Use a paid provider. Problem: which one? There are dozens if not hundreds and I can't find any real information on them.
  • Deal with most of my messages vanishing. I don't like this one.
  • Figure out some way to bounce messages through the same mail servers that I use for personal mail. Eww.

I don't really like any of these, for various reasons. But I'll have to choose one. Time to start mucking with Option 4.

The advantage to all this work is that I'm getting a really, really good idea of what actually goes into a functional large-scale website – I just feel like I'm neglecting D-Net itself. Back to work though – it's almost finished, I think.

I hope.

It Never Ends

2007, October 20th 11:10 AM

So, remember how I indicated it was only a matter of time before I completely broke something?

There's a few people who are signing up to be notified about one thing or another. That's cool, because that's why I put those systems in, and I'm glad people are using them.

It occured to me, perhaps a bit late, that I should check to see how spammy those emails are considered. So I signed myself up on my gmail account and bam, straight into the spam folder.

Looking over the email carefully told me that it had failed gmail's SPF check. That has nothing to do with suntan and everything to do with spam prevention – it's a way for domains to specify where emails from that domain should be sent from. If mail473.gmail.com sends a mail from bob@gmail.com it's probably legit, but if some random IP in Russia sends an email from viagra@gmail.com it's probably not. SPF is a way of listing what servers can send mail from a domain. It's a good idea, and I completely forgot about it.

So, ten minutes of research and fiddling later, and I have a working SPF system set up. I try it again and . . .

. . . right into the spam folder. Fuck.

But at least this time it's listed as having a valid SPF check.

So I improve the email text also, and it still goes into the spam folder. I set it up so the Replyto address is the same as the From address, I set it up so that there's only one domain mentioned anywhere in the email . . .

. . . Oh well. I don't know how to convince gmail that I'm not spamming it. I guess, check your spam folder if you're subscribing to anything.

Edit: I posted this, then checked my Livejournal. It had two "comments" links, and one of them said that this entry had negative one comments. That's fixed now, I think. Bear with me. The launch will be a bit rocky. I swear I tested that before, really I did.

It's not the design, it's the details.

2007, October 19th 4:47 PM

It's honestly amazing how many little fiddly things show up when you start trying to do reasonable PR.

See, first off, I've submitted my game to the IGF – the Independent Games Festival. For those who don't yet know, it's called Devastation Net, and it's designed for a lot of players to blow each other up using tanks, played on a projector. It's nowhere near finished (it has no single-player capabilities, for example), but it's fun and is making huge progress.

However, this brings up a few more issues. The IGF requires a website (and, honestly, even if it didn't require one, I'd provide one.) In theory, people might visit this website from links. And that's cool. Visitors are good. Traffic is good. But this all means I need to finally unearth my company website and make it vaguely palatable. And that means, once I have that up, that I can't just let it rest. I have to post once in a while, otherwise it dies and there goes all the goodwill I've gathered.

And that means I need to make my dev journal functional, and I need to make sure the site and link structure stay sane so I can start accumulating pagerank and Google love, and hopefully draw more readers – which means a lot of fiddly server issues, like making sure that http://www.mandible.net and http://mandible.net not only both work but one actually redirects to the other so I can keep consistent single URLs. And it involves setting up some kind of 404 tracking so I can pin down future issues that might occur, and planning properly so I don't end up needing a new URL structure and wasting all the search-engine-fu I've built up, and blah blah blah oh god the pain.

In some ways having worked at Google helps in that I know what sort of things to watch out for ("someone help, all my google pagerank went away overnight! I mean all I did was move a few pages around and change the entire directory structure of my site, and also I installed a new content manager and completely changed all the content and the look, and I changed domains too and the old one is down because the server's crashed, but Google should somehow know that this happened and give me the same pagerank!") but it also makes things tougher because I really don't have any excuses if I fuck it up.

Oh well. Here goes. Let's see how many days it takes before I irrevocably break someone's links.

So. Hi. I'm Zorba. I'm starting a game studio named Mandible Games. I'm making a game called Devastation Net, which I'll be posting more about in the future. It's a pretty huge experiment, but it's what I want to do – so, here we are. Hope you enjoy reading.

Going public.

2007, September 19th 5:48 PM

I keep putting this off, but it's time to finally open this site up. I'm going to be submitting D-Net to the 2008 Independent Games Festival contest. With any luck that will drive some readers to my site . . . and, well, for that, I kind of need a site, don't I?

So welcome to the official, still-under-construction website of Mandible Games. I'm planning on posting entries every week at most, and I'll be talking about game development in general and my game development specifically. I'm still unknotting a few kinks from the website – let me know if you have issues with anything, includng comments.

Also, wish me luck in the competition. There are some very, very skilled people submitting games that are currently more finished than mine – but if I don't do well this year, there's always next year, when I'm hoping to have this whole thing wrapped up.

Fundamentally, it's because I'm insane.

2006, August 30th 4:26 PM

Today I quit my job.

It's time to start a game studio.

Wish me luck. (I'm going to need it.)