Scott is dismayed to learn that several Funeratic members have been prevented from participating during weekday hours for some time, ever since the website had been blacklisted on numerous professional networks as a time-wasting distraction among their employees. It's nice to have been successful enough to warrant being blocked, but with the site already struggling, Scott cannot afford to lose any more active members. He devises a backdoor entry point into the site that gets around the blacklisting, allowing several members in the know to keep on playing whenever they want. The only problem with the solution is that players have to mention to Scott that they're being blocked for him to know that they need to be granted backdoor access, but for those who do get it, the solution helps.
Funeratic enjoys a fairly stable hosting environment during this period in its history, but when the site does go offline, it happens at a very unfortunate time: The night of the Predict the Oscars contest, when site participation is at an annual high. The servers hosting Funeratic stop running at 4pm and stay offline for the rest of the night. Several members including Scott have been deliberately waiting until the last few hours of the contest to make their "real" predictions, and have no choice but to compete with rough guesses made prior to the outage. To each of the several members who complain, Scott apologizes and directs them to his host's Twitter feed for updates, as the situation is out of his hands. As frustrated as he is, Scott opts not to abandon his host, since their uptime is otherwise reliable.
With declining participation threatening the future of the site, Scott decides to start advertising Funeratic. On advice from Samir Mehta, Scott avoids doing the marketing himself, since prior experiences have made him uncomfortable with the practice. Instead, he hires German company Hello Traffic to make a set of ads and run them on similar websites, for a small monthly fee. The campaign brings in a steady flow of forty to ninety new visitors on a weekly basis, leading to several new registered accounts and active members.
The re-launch of Rock Block has gone well, but it feels even more like the old game again when the first seasonal tournament gets underway, based on Europe's hit song "The Final Countdown." Players must keep winning concerts in order to keep their countdown clocks from running out. Play is fast and furious, with a winner (Steve West) emerging triumphant after only two weeks. The event is such a success that future tournaments are announced at the end, with the caveat that they won't be over as quickly. The next, based on "Happy Together" by the Turtles, proceeds at a much slower pace over the course of the fall.
Amidst the game's frequent winners, there are a number of other dedicated players who keep up with Celebrity Goo Game season after season whether or not they ever get the glory, accolates, and prize that come with a championship. LaVonne Lemler scores a triumph for the underdogs when she earns her first victory in the game after solving 1,732 goos over the course of seven years. Players like LaVonne, Aaron Shurtleff, Richard Slominsky, Sarah Kyle, Scott Horowitz, Tony Peters, and others, are unsung players who show dedication, skill, and enthusiasm for the game by participating for many years, deficient only in luck. The game is all the better for having them.
Funeratic adds support for text messages, finding another way to interact with members wherever they are. Several players sign up to be notified of their turn in Rock Block or new private messages from other members. The biggest use for it comes in Gothic Earth, as some players often have to be absent at the last minute, forcing a game cancelation after other players are already in the car driving to Scott's house to play. Scott builds a simple attendance chart of who's in and out of the next game session that sends instant notices by email and text message whenever a game session has to be canceled by mass absences, sparing all of the players some frustration.
After considering it several times in the past, Funeratic finally organizes an official fantasy football league, using Yahoo! Sports to provide the functionality. Numerous players quickly sign up: The inaugural season includes Chris Lemler (Superman Punch), Erik Bates (Saint Louligans), Joanna Woods (MeanMug), Justin Woods (Salty Dog), Matthew Preston (Under Pressure), Samir Mehta (SDS's Excellent Team), Scott Hardie (Concussionators), and Steve West (Fat Rats). With discussions on the site and on Yahoo!, the league brings new life to Tragic Comedy and yet another new kind of game to the community. It's so successful that two more fantasy leagues are founded in the fall to play basketball and hockey, this time on ESPN's service.
Funeratic gets a long-overdue upgrade when Scott encrypts all member passwords in the database and alters the "forgot my password" email so that it resets the password instead of retrieving it. Scott also offers members three different levels of security based on how comfortable they are with their information being stored in browser memory. Password encryption is an invisible but important change that members have requested for some time, and it comes with a few side effects, like email addresses now having to be mandatory (with no other way to regain lost access to an account) and Scott no longer being able to log in as another member in order to test a reported problem from their perspective. Offering members more safety and comfort is worth the trouble.
Thanks to the technical assistance of IT expert and Funeratic member Jeff Coopes, Scott finally has a home computer running Ubuntu (Linux), which makes it far easier to do Funeratic development. For one thing, Scott can easily run PHP and MySQL and Apache on the machine, so he can run a local copy of Funeratic on his computer that mirrors the live site (complete with an automatic nightly refresh of data and files from the live site), making it far easier to test new features before they get published; Scott no longer has to disable access to certain pages of the site so that he can work on them, and he can try out more ambitious new features like generating gooed images on the server. Scott also sets up version control software to keep track of his changes, making it even easier: Not only can he restore any previous version of the site code to figure out where a bug was introduced, but he can segment projects off into branches of code, doing a project months ahead of time and letting it sit in a branch until the time comes to reintegrate it and publish it. Every section of Funeratic sees changes large and small thanks to this major system improvement.
Celebrity Goo Game takes a strange turn thanks to an incomplete project. Scott starts using software called ImageMagick to generate goos on the server: All that he has to do is provide a celebrity's name and click a few links, and Funeratic generates the images automatically. But while Scott intends to make each gooed image truly random, he is unable to finish the project and instead generates them according to a handful of algorithms, resulting in a boring sameness to every gooed image thereafter. Since the project isn't finished, Scott also doesn't accomplish his secondary goal of making the tool available to members to create their own goos. The software does allow Scott to make goos much more quickly, but the project qualifies as both a partial success and partial failure.
Playing the video game Fallout 4 inspires Scott to make a web page based on The Onion for the second time. Pairing screenshots from the game with headlines from The Onion, Scott pretends that the satirical newspaper is reporting on the events of the post-apocalyptic game world, with headlines like "American Life Turns Into Bad Jerry Bruckheimer Movie," "Experts Agree Giant, Razor-Clawed Bioengineered Crabs Pose No Threat," "It's Sad Seeing How Much My Hometown Has Changed Since That Level 7 Nuclear Accident," and "Area Man Beginning To Think He Has Memorial Day Off." The page is a hit when Scott shares it, almost making up for Scott disappearing for eight weeks while exploring the game's irradiated wasteland.
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