All RPGs and Storygames by Tod Foley are now available at DrivethruRPG and RPGnow. Bring these games to your table!
In 2017, Drupal Association decided not to host a DrupalCon Europe 2018 due to waning attendance and financial losses. They took some time to make the European event more sustainable. After this, the Drupal community decided to organise a Drupal Europe event in Darmstadt, Germany in 2018. My colleagues and I joined the biggest European Drupal event in October and here is my summary of few talks I really enjoyed!Driesnote
This year, Dries Buytaert focuses on improvements made for Drupal users such as content creators, evaluators and developers.
Compared to last year, Drupal 8 contributions increased by 10% and stable modules released by 46%. Moreover, a steady progress is noticeable. Especially in many core initiatives like the last version of Drupal 8 which is shipped with features and improvements created from 4 core initiatives.
Drupal took a big step forward for evaluators as it provides a demo profile called “Umami” now. Evaluators have a clear understanding of what kind of websites can be produced by Drupal and how it works by navigating through the demo website.
The online documentation on drupal.org has also been reorganized with a clear separation of Drupal 7 and Drupal 8. It provides some getting-started guides too. Finally, a quick-install link is available to have a website running within 3 clicks and 1 minute 27 seconds!
Developers experience has been improved as well: minor releases are now supported for 12 months instead of the former 4 weeks. Teams will have more time to plan their updates efficiently. Moreover, Gitlab will be adopted within the next months to manage the code contributions. This modern collaborative tool will encourage more people to participate to projects.
Regarding the support of the current Drupal versions, Dries shares that Symfony 3, the base component of Drupal 8 will be end-of-life by 2021. To keep the CMS secure, it implies to be end-of-life by November 2021 and Drupal 9 should be released in 2020. The upgrade from Drupal 8 to Drupal 9 should be smooth as long as you stay current with the minor releases and don’t use modules with deprecated APIs.
The support of Drupal 7 has been extended to November 2021 as the migration path from Drupal 7 to Drupal 8 is not stable with multilingualism yet.
After a lot of discussions on which JS framework will be used to build the new Drupal administrative experience, React was finally chosen for its popularity.
The initiative members wanted to focus on the content editing experience. This affects a big group of Drupal users. The goal was to simplify and modernize the current interface. Furthermore, embracing practices that are familiar to JS developers so they can easier join the Drupal community.
On one hand, a UX team ran some user tests. Those showed that users like the flexibility they have with Drupal interface but dislike its complexity usually. A comparative study was ran to know what has been used in other tools or CMSs too. On the other hand, the User Interface (UI) team worked on the redesign of the administrative interface and built a design system based on components. The refreshment of the Seven administration theme is ongoing.
Another group worked on prototyping the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) changes with React. For instance, if an editor quits a page without saving they's last changes, a popup appears to restore the last changes. This is possible due to contents stored to the state of the application.
You can see a demo of the new administrative UI in the video (go to 20 minutes 48 seconds):Demo of the new administrative UI in Drupal 8
Diversity in gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, disability, religion etc. helps a lot. Proven it makes a team more creative, collaborative and effective.
Tara King and Elli Ludwigson who are part of the Drupal Diversity and Inclusion team presented how Drupal is building a stronger and smarter community. The initial need was to make Drupal a safer place for all. Especially for the less visible ones at community events such as women, minorities and people with disabilities.
The group addressed several issues, such as racism, sexism, homophobia, language barriers etc. with different efforts and initiatives. For example, diversity is highlighted and supported in Drupal events: pronoun stickers are distributed, #WeAreDrupal hashtag is used on Twitter and social events are organized for underrepresented people as well. Moreover, the group has released an online resource library, which collects articles about diversity. All of this is ongoing and new initiatives were created. Helping people finding jobs or attracting more diverse people as recruiters are only two to name.
If you are interested in the subject and would like to be involved, there are weekly meetings in #diversity-inclusion Drupal Slack channel. You can join the contrib team or work on the issue queue too.Willy Wonka and the Secure Container Factory
Docker is a tool that is designed to create, deploy and run applications easily by using containers. It is also about “running random code downloaded from the internet and running it as root”. This quote points out how it is important to maintain secure containers. David Hall illustrates this with practical advice and images from the “Willy Wonka and the chocolate factory” movie. Here is a little recap:
- Have a light image: big images will slow down deployments and also increase the attack surface. Install an Alpine distribution rather than a Debian which is about 20 times lighter;
- Check downloaded sources very carefully: for instance, you can use wget command and validate checksum for a file. Plus you can scan your images to check vulnerabilities using tools like Microscanner or Clair;
- Use continuous development workflows: build a plan to maintain your Docker images, using a good Continous Integration / Continous Delivery (CI/CD) system and document it;
- Specify a user in your dockerfile: running root on a container is the same as running root on the host. You need to reduce the actions of a potential attacker;
- Measure your uptime in hours/days: it is important to rebuild and redeploy often to potentially avoid having a compromised system for a long time.
Now you are able to incorporate these advice into your dockerfiles in order to build a safer factory than Willy Wonka’s.Decoupled Drupal: Implications, risks and changes from a business perspective
Before 2016, Michael Schmid and his team worked on fully Drupal projects. Ever since they are working on progressive and fully decoupled projects.
A fully decoupled website means that frontend is not handled with Drupal but with a JS framework such as React. This framework is “talking” to Drupal via an API such as GraphQL. It also means, that all interactions from Drupal are gone: views with filters, webforms, comments etc. If a module provides frontend, it is not useable anymore and needs to be somehow re-implemented.
When it comes to progressive decoupled websites, frontend stack is still built with Drupal. But some parts are implemented with a JS framework. You can have data provided by APIs or injected from Drupal too. The advantage is that you can benefit from Drupal components and don’t need to re-implement everything. A downside of it are conflicts with CSS styling and build systems handled on both sides. Therefore you need to have a clear understanding of what does what.
To be able to run such projects successfully, it is important to train every developer in new technologies: JS has evolved and parts of the logic can be built with it. We can say that backenders can do frontend now. In terms of hiring it means, you can hire full stack developers but also JS engineers. Attracting more developers as they love working with JS frameworks such as React on a global level.
Projects are investments which continue over time and expect failures at the beginning. These kinds of projects are more complex than regular Drupal ones, they can fail or go over budget. Learn from your mistakes and share them with your team in retrospectives. It is also very important to celebrate successes!
Clients request decoupled projects to have a faster and cooler experience for users. They need to understand that this is an investment that will pay off in the future.
Finally, fully decoupled Drupal is a trend for big projects and other CMSs are already using decoupled out of the box. Drupal needs to focus on a better editor experience and a better API. There might also be projects that require simple backend edition instead of Drupal.Hackers automate but the Drupal Community still downloads updates on drupal.org or: Why we need to talk about Auto Updates
In 2017, 59% of Drupal users were still downloading modules from drupal.org. In other words, more than half of the users didn’t have any automatisation processes to install modules. Knowing that critical security updates were released in the past months and it is only a matter of hours until a website gets potentially hacked, it comes crucial to have a process to automate these updates.
The update can be quite complex and may take time: installing the update, reviewing the changes, deploying on a test environment, testing either automatically or manually and deploying on production. However this process can be simplify with automation in place.
There is a core initiative to support small-to-medium sites owners that usually are not taking care of security updates. The idea is a process to download the code and update sources in the Drupal directory.
For more complex websites, automating the composer workflow with a CI pipeline is recommended. Everytime a security update is released, the developer pushes it manually in the pipeline. The CI system builds an installation containing the security fix within a new branch. This will be deployed automatically to a non-productive environment where tests can be done and build approved. Changes can be merged and deployed on production afterwards.
To go further, the update_runner module focuses on automatizing the first part by detecting an update and firing up a push for an update job.Conclusion Meeting the Swiss Drupal community, photo by Josef Dabernig, license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
We are back with fresh ideas, things we are curious to try and learnings from great talks! We joined social events in the evenings too. Therefore we exchanged with other drupalists, in particular with the Swiss Drupal community! This week went so fast. Thank you Drupal Europe organizers for making this event possible!
Header image credits: Official Group Photo Drupal Europe Darmstadt 2018 by Josef Dabernig, license CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.
So obviously, the pendulum of progress stopped swinging on my game. As much as I tried to prevent it, pressing obligations just wouldn’t take a back seat (nor would the burglars who, a few weeks ago, stole 90% of my wardrobe and who last week stole my monitor). So after a string of hectic weekends and even crazier weeks, this weekend has been pretty wide open for doing whatever I want to do. And not a moment too soon!
So after doing all the other things I try to do with my weekends, I finally loaded up the ol’ Inform 7 IDE and started working on my game. To get me back in the swing of things, so to speak, I started reading through what I’d already written. It was an interesting experience.
Strangely, what impressed me most was stuff I had done that I have since forgotten I learned how to do. Silly little things, like actions I defined that actually worked, that had I tried to write them today, probably would have had me stumped for a while. Go me! Except, erm, I seem to have forgotten more than I’ve retained.
I also realized the importance of commenting my own code. For instance, there’s this snippet:
A thing can be attached or unattached. A thing is usually unattached. A thing that is a part of something is attached.
The problem is, I have no idea why I put it in there – it doesn’t seem relevant to anything already in the game, so I can only imagine that I had some stroke of genius that told me I was going to need it “shortly” (I probably figured I’d be writing the code the next night). So now, there’s that lonely little line, just waiting for its purpose. I’m sure I’ll come across it some day; for now, I’ve stuck in a comment to remind myself to stick in a comment when I do remember.
It reminds me of all the writing I did when I was younger. I was just bursting with creativity when I was a kid, constantly writing the first few pages of what I was sure was going to be a killer story. And then I’d misplace the notebook or get sidetracked by something else, or do any of the million other things that my easily distracted self tends to do. Some time later, I’d come across the notebook, read the stuff I’d written and think, “Wow, this is great stuff! Now… where was I going with it?” And I’d never remember, or I’d remember and re-forget. Either way, in my mother’s attic there are piles and piles of notebooks with half-formed thoughts that teem with potential never to be fulfilled.
This situation – that of wanting to resume progress but fumbling to pick up the threads of where I left off – has me scouring my memory for a term I read in Jack London’s Call of the Wild. There was a part in the book where Buck’s owner (it’s late, his name has escaped me) has been challenged to some sort of competition to see if Buck can get the sled moving from a dead stop. I seem to remember that the runners were frozen to the ground. I thought the term was “fast break” or “break fast” or something to that effect, but diligent (does 45 seconds count as diligent?) searching has not confirmed this or provided me with the right term. Anyway, that’s how it feels tonight – I feel as if I’m trying to heave a frozen sled free from its moorings.
The upside is, I am still pleased with what I have so far. That’s good because it means I’m very likely to continue, rather than scrap it altogether and pretend that I’ll come up with a new idea tomorrow. In the meantime, I’ll be looking for some SnoMelt and a trusty St. Bernard to get things moving again.
So I didn’t get as much coding done over the weekend as I had hoped, mainly because the telephone company *finally* installed my DSL line, which meant I was up til 5:30 Saturday am catching up on the new episodes of Lost. That, in turn, meant that most of the weekend was spent wishing I hadn’t stayed up until such an ungodly hour, and concentration just wasn’t in the cards.
However, I did get some stuff done, which is good. Even the tiniest bit of progress counts as momentum, which is crucial for me. If the pendulum stops swinging, it will be very hard for me to get it moving again.
So the other day, as I was going over the blog (which really is as much a tool for me as it is a way for me to share my thoughts with others), I realized I had overlooked a very basic thing when coding the whole “automatically return the frog to the fuschia” bit…
As the code stood, if the player managed to carry the frog to another room before searching it, the frog would get magically returned to the fuschia. This was fairly simple to resolve, in the end – I just coded it so that the game moves (and reports) the frog back to fuschia before leaving the room. I also decided to add in a different way of getting the key out of the frog – in essence, rewarding different approaches to the same problem with success.
Which brings me to the main thrust of today’s post. I have such exacting standards for the games I play. I love thorough implementation. My favorite games are those that build me a cool gameworld and let me tinker and explore, poking at the shadows and pulling on the edges to see how well it holds up. A sign of a good game is one that I will reopen not to actually play through again, but to just wander around the world, taking in my surroundings. I’ve long lamented the fact that relatively few games make this a rewarding experience – even in the best games, even slight digging tends to turn up empty, unimplemented spots.
What I am coming to appreciate is just how much work is involved in the kind of implementation I look for. Every time I pass through a room’s description, or add in scenery objects, I realize just how easy it is to find things to drill down into. Where there’s a hanging plant, there’s a pot, dirt, leaves, stems, wires to hang from, hooks to hang on, etc. Obviously, unless I had all the time in the world, I couldn’t implement each of these separately, so I take what I believe to be the accepted approach and have all of the refer to the same thing. Which, in my opinion, is fine. I don’t mind if a game has the same responses for the stems as it does for the plant as a whole, as long as it has some sort of relevant response. Even so, this takes a lot of work. It might be the obsessive part of me, but I can’t help but think “What else would a person think of when looking at a hanging plant?”
Or, as I’ve come to think of it: WWBTD?What Would Beta Testers Do?
I’ve taken to looking at a “fully” implemented room and wondering what a player might reasonably (and in some cases unreasonably) be expected to do. This is a bit of a challenging process for me – I already know how my mind works, so trying to step outside of my viewpoint and see it from a blind eye is hard. I should stop for a second to note that I fully intend to have my game beta tested once it reaches that point, but the fewer obvious things there are for testers to trip over, the more time and energy they’ll have for really digging in and trying to expose the weaknesses I can’t think of.
I’ve found one resource that is both entertaining and highly informative to me: ClubFloyd transcripts. ClubFloyd, for the uninitiated (a group among which I count myself, of course) is a sort of cooperative gaming experience — if anyone who knows better reads this and cares to correct what may well be a horrible description, by all means!– where people get together on the IFMud and play through an IF title. The transcripts are both amusing and revealing. I recently read the Lost Pig transcript and it was quite interesting. The things people will attempt to do are both astonishing and eye-opening. In the case of Lost Pig (which, fortunately, I had already played before reading the transcript), what was even more amazing was the depth of the game itself. I mean, people were doing some crazy ass stuff – eating the pole, lighting pants on fire, and so on. And it *worked*. Not only did it work, it was reversible. You obviously need the pole, so there’s a way to get it back if, in a fit of orc-like passion, you decide to shove it in down Grunk’s throat.
Anyway, my point is, the transcripts gave me a unique perspective on the things people will try, whether in an effort to actually play the game, to amuse themselves, or to amuse others. Definitely good stuff to keep in mind when trying to decide, say, the different ways people will try to interact with my little porcelain frog.Other Stuff I Accomplished
So I coded in an alternate way to deal with the frog that didn’t conflict with the “standard” approach. I also implemented a few more scenery objects. Over the course of the next few days, I’m going to try to at least finish the descriptions of the remaining rooms so that I can wander around a bit and start really getting to the meat of it all. I also want to work on revising the intro text a bit. In an effort to avoid the infodumps that I so passionately hate, I think I went a little too far and came away with something a bit too terse and uninformative. But that’s the really fun part of all of this – writing and re-writing, polishing the prose and making it all come together.
Whattaya know. Midnight again. I think I’m picking up on a trend here.
Grrr… I’ve been so bogged down in work and client emergencies that progress on the game is at a temporary (no, really! Only temporary) standstill. I’ve managed to flesh out a few more room and scenery descriptions, but have not accomplished anything noteworthy in a few days. Hopefully after this week most of the fires on the work front will be extinguished, and I’ll have time to dive into the game this weekend.
(She says to no one, since there’s been one hit on this blog since… it started.)