Scott feels pessimistic about the site's decline and his ability to keep up with changing trends, so when member Samir Mehta, who has a law degree and good sense in general, offers to give Scott advice over the phone, Scott happily accepts. Samir first offers insights into copyright law that give Scott immediate relief from his Sisyphean ordeal of converting the site's huge body of content. But even more importantly, Samir offers his opinion about what the site should be, based on Scott's strengths, weaknesses, and capacity to work on it. He gets Scott to stop trying to fix the problem of declining participation by offering newer and better features, and instead treat it as a problem of lack of awareness of the site's existence, which can be solved through outsourcing the work of marketing that Scott avoids out of dislike. Feeling new wind in his sails thanks to Samir's advice, Scott abandons the business plan that had taken the site in the wrong direction for years, officially embracing the site as a mere hobby like it had always been, and decides that the first change should be to resurrect a very popular rock & roll game that had been sacrificed to make the site viable as a business. Samir's advice would shape the site's future and maybe even save it from extinction, earning Scott's lasting gratitude.
Site members had married before, including Justin Hampson and Wendy Eberhart in the mid-2000s, but those weddings didn't have the same effect on the site as Scott Hardie marrying his longtime girlfriend Kelly Lee, with several Funeratic members past and present in attendance, including Amanda Ross Bryant, Andy Lee, Andy Perkins, Evie Totty, Jeff Coopes, Jeremiah Poisson, Joan Hardie, and Wes Bryant. The wedding is coordinated with guests in advance using a hidden page on the site. Planning the wedding, as well as the honeymoon in Los Angeles and San Francisco, takes up most of Scott's attention for months, leaving the site adrift with a declining activity level that Scott feels helpless to change. After returning from the trip (which was based in part on suggestions from site members, including former San Francisco resident Samir Mehta), Scott writes a pair of extra-long blog posts describing the wedding and honeymoon in great detail with dozens of photos, both to share with the world and for his own future recollection. It has been a great adventure and Scott has loved every minute of it, but he is also glad to get everything in his life, including Funeratic, back to normal again. He doesn't yet know that a death in the family the following month will soon take over a few more weeks of his life.
There's no denying that participation on Funeratic has dwindled to a tiny fraction of its peak levels a decade earlier. There were once hundreds of new comments daily in Tragic Comedy, but now entire weeks pass with only one or two comments. The site reaches an all-time low in March, when Tragic Comedy goes a record 22.7 days without any activity. Other sections are also in decline: Thorough Movie Reviews often goes weeks between new reviews (including a six-week draught in the fall of 2013), while in Pirate Paradise, there are only five new non-automatic battles between players in the first half of the year. Only the flagship Celebrity Goo Game stays active daily, but even it is reduced to around fifteen regular players. it's clear that the site needs more participants to survive, and Scott begins formulating a more aggressive plan to attract them, asking for players' help in the meantime to spread the word to family and friends. This era in the site's history feels largely quiet and uneventful week-to-week.
After a few weeks of programming that Scott privately dubs "Project Tokyo," Celebrity Goo Game begins its summer season with an entirely different format inspired by the culture of Japan. Players claim levels on an ever-growing pagoda by solving goos, trying to score enough points to occupy the highest level when the season ends. Along the way, they can acquire the help of nine lucky cats to help them, such as Kuro the thief, Momoiro the romantic, Ao the psychic, and Aka the drunk, who manipulate scores, let them guess again after missing a goo, or choose upcoming goos. Players are also invited to submit their own goos for points in the game, leading to new goos from Chris Lemler, Joanna Woods, Justin Woods, Lori Lancaster, and Samir Mehta. With this new format, the goo game achieves a fair (and fun) balance of luck, strategy, and skill, while the cats and pagodas add personality to the otherwise plain game, a breath of fresh air after several years of timed tournaments and weekly themes.
During a lull in the lunch conversation at work with his fellow developers James, Nathan, and Nkosi, Scott brings up a programming problem that has him stumped: The upcoming revival of Rock Block should restrict the artists available on the form to those playable given the chosen opponent, but the computations so far take thirty seconds or more to re-draw the form options, and Scott wants a faster algorithm that can do the math in under two seconds. Scott only intends the question as a thought experiment about math formulas and efficient logic, but James considers it a challenge and writes his own script to calculate the values quickly. His solution is ultimately incompatible with the game, but Scott continues to think about the problem and has a eureka moment at 3am that solves the problem by building on some of James's innovations. When the game launches a few weeks later, Scott invites his co-workers to check it out, but only Rosa Melano joins and plays concerts.
Although Funeratic is getting quieter online, it continues to bring its members together in other ways. Chris Lemler's participation in disc golf tournaments gets members rooting for him and following his progress on a league website. Amy Austin's dog's serious illness gets members to rally with donations to help pay for veterinary bills. When Steve West brings his often-mentioned wife Brenda and daughters Lauren and Olivia to Florida for a vacation in August, they're joined by Kelly and Scott Hardie for a dinner of gator bites and other Floridian food at the same restaurant where they had dined years earlier with Denise Sawicki and Matthew Preston at GooCon: Champions Gate. Kelly and Scott go on to support the Wests' annual Autism Walk on Olivia's behalf, continuing the offline connection inspired by the site.
When Gothic Earth faces yet another player moving away as several others had already done, Aaron Shurtleff proposes a solution: Allowing distant players to participate online in the tabletop RPG via video conference. Aaron and fellow former player Jeremiah Poisson participate in a trial game session about a fake miracle worker in Tombstone, Arizona, which proves that the technology is sufficient for Aaron and Jeremiah to keep playing Gothic Earth every week as their old characters. A game on Funeratic once again helps friends keep in touch, even if they have to use an external video conference service to play the game together. It works so smoothly that Scott even considers using the technology to resurrect GooCon online.
Two and a half years after disappearing from Funeratic, Rock Block comes roaring back to life in a full re-launch, with a carefully curated mix of old and new content, including new artists like Diana Ross, Traffic, and Curtis Mayfield, as well as new themes like A is for Aerosmith and Hitsville U.S.A. New features include an interactive concert-generation form, a way to earn new artists directly by playing the game, automatic concerts started by the site, and more. Though it doesn't inspire quite the same frenzy of activity that greeted the game's original launch in 2007, the re-launch is very successful by the standards of the site's reduced membership in the summer of 2014. Rock Block immediately becomes the second most active section on the site (behind only the goo game), seeing consistent daily activity during its initial weeks.
In a roundabout way, Gothic Earth is being turned into a video game. Scott is contacted by someone who is part of the thriving mod community for the game series Civilization, who happened upon the Gothic Earth storyline on Funeratic and wants Scott's blessing to develop a custom mod based on the RPG that will let players take control of one of the many "qabals" warring for control of the fictional world throughout its history. Scott warns him that much of the game's setting comes from popular fiction and the Masque of the Red Death RPG, but Scott wholeheartedly approves this modder's blend of those pre-existing elements with characters and concepts unique to Gothic Earth. Scott and the players look forward to the results of the project, which is already previewed online in a modding community forum with screenshots and extensive documentation of the work in progress.
After years of enduring a sluggish, ancient computer from the era of Windows XP's initial launch, Scott finally acquires a new machine and stops pulling his hair out waiting for two programs to run at the same time. This finally brings about the long-anticipated day when celebrity goos will no longer be made with Kai's Power Goo, the once-popular, long-forgotten, mid-1990s image distortion software that gave the "goo" game its name and inspiration. Although Scott has sometimes created goos with Photoshop or online programs, Kai's Power Goo has been used in the creation of perhaps 99% of all goos. With over 3000 goos published online and nearly a thousand more created for various GooCons, Scott wonders if he has used Kai's Power Goo more and longer than any other person on Earth. Kai Krause's software has had a nice long run, but eventually the goo game has outlasted it.
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