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A small update to the current situation:

As of October 3rd, there had been a new law stating that credit card companies can no longer support casino games, and Paypal happens to be a credit card payment gateway also... We had got a chance to talk to Paypal regarding this issue, and they are very careful about not breaking the law, and so are we. :O

Meanwhile, we are close to coming up with more plans on changing the gold granting system so that more gold will be given to everyone. Stay tuned! wink
The best news this week was that we were finally able to re-open the Casino games. Though to avoid confusion that our casino games involves actually gambling either virtual or real money, we're taking away the word "casino" for now. I'm still a little worried about the casino look and feel though... sweatdrop

The new invite system is actually part of a big project to bring back the old look and feel of Gaia. After so much time spent on making new features, we felt obligated to make the site reflect all these features and changes, but then a lot of what made Gaia different as a world was stripped away, as many new users came to ask "what do I do now?" after joining Gaia. As we debug the new invite system, all the old features from registration, the front page, the Gaia map, and even the forum pages will be worked on to make sure that Gaia feels like the world which it was.

One of our last big feature push before we reach beta is the Battle system. I'm really excited about its progress, though a lot of work still needs to be done on the server end... Making the front end is already a lot of work, yet having a server that can relay information back and forth between everyone online is extremely hard. crying

We're coming really close to releasing the next mini-game! Keep your eyes out for new announcements next week. wink
Though there were some technical problems, the Halloween event was carried out more smoothly than last year, even when usage almost doubled. Many glitches are part of weaknesses found in a long chain that makes Gaia run smooth, and every event allow us to find the weak links and make the whole chain stronger. We'll spend more effort in making the Christmas just as fun and rewarding for everyone.

After the dust settles, we are now back to rounding up some of the last features for this year as we start putting more effort in bug fixes and site enhancements. Been asking a lot of new members on what makes Gaia hard to use, and we'll be addressing that also.
Wow, so much happened in the past 3 weeks, it went by like a blur... sweatdrop

Fleep did an excellent job in the new user quest, and we hope that the next few quests will expand into short quests that everyone can do to earn item or gold, and we're also planning for longer and harder quests.

Got a chance to play with another updated demo of the Battle System last week. More of the first stage is now completed and I hope that a demo would be ready by next year.

The Gaia team had been growing to cope with the demand for new features and changes to old features for less bugs and lower lag time. Our team has a mind boggling 50 people working on every aspect of the Gaia world. To help me in organizing our effort, Craig had been working closely with me as Gaia's CEO, who helps me in anything where I never had experience in handling. Three years ago, most of my time was spent working with moderators, today, just the co-ordination of all the Gaia team members already take most of my attention.

Great new artists had been added to our creative team also. Soon we will be able to show some new designs of what the new Barton Town might look like. We will be posting new designs and asking for everyone's preferences soon.

Lastly, our admin team had just been expanded. For those who had been waiting for a way to contribute as a moderator, we will be greatly expanding the moderator team. Stay tuned!
I'm really glad this month's collectables are well received by everyone. We were really troubled by last month's release of collectables as the sale of the items weren't even able to cover our equipment and operating costs. sweatdrop The idea of having three items this month was to raise the chance of having at least one great item for the holiday. At the same time, the idea allowed us to be more creative with our choices. For example, if we think of one item for guys, we'll then force ourselves to think of something for girls when we can only release two items.

As much as I'm happy that everyone like the items, I don't think that we should continue releasing 3 collectables each month. The cost for this month's collectables on the market place is very high, making the cost for collecting all the monthly collectables too difficult... sad I'd like to know what everyone think, so there will probably be a poll setup to collect everyone's opinions.

Christmas is only a week away, and I hope that everyone have plans for a great way to spend the holiday. December is a busy month for us, and I hope to see my family early next year. But for the rest of you guys, don't forget to send presents to your friends and family! wink We have a great Christmas event planned so far, and the fun will begin in the middle of next week.
Botting activities had kept us busy banning accounts and shutting down gold selling sites recently. We've been planning a lot of things to discourage botting, and some of these changes will be made very soon.

Hope everyone enjoyed the New Year event. We are already planning for the Valentine's event and the Gaia anniversary event. wink

Meanwhile, I've read through thousands of posts from the front page feedback thread, and I wish to address people's concerns even more. Though for now I think that the new front page definitely looks better than the old one, so we'll be putting the new page online this week. We'll continue to work on it and making changes on the weeks to come.
We've made some tweaks to the registration system (mostly to make it look pretty) but turns out there are quite a bit of trouble making things work for all browser types out there. As a result, the new frontpage design is delayed for another week or so... confused

Been planning on bringing out a few new forums later this week. Been collecting feedback from the mod team, and we have a lot of great categories, though laying out the rules and moderation needs will take time.
Happy Valentine's Day! I'm saying it a day late because I caught a fever yesterday and I spent the whole day in bed. Never slept for this many hours in a day before. It was quite scary. eek

We're preparing for the Gaia Anniversary this very moment, and there will be a new feature release during the anniversary also. wink Nothing spectacular, but I'm sure all seasoned Gaians will appreciate.

With convention season fast approaching, we're preparing way ahead for the big 4 conventions we'll be attending. This year we plan to have a better panel, more activities, a lot more merchandise, and a better booth for some of the conventions. whee
We have been receiving a number of requests for Gaia to help promote products and services lately. It's kind of strange to be in the situation where others noticed that we're big enough to catch people's attention.

Since the first day we opened, I had always wanted to make Gaia a totally free site, and the cost of running the site would be handled by advertisers and sponsors. Though at the beginning, Gaia was too small to make any money from sponsorships. There was no one to help pay for the cost of running the site, and we thought that Gaia would need to close down permanently.

If not for the support of users contributing by purchasing the Monthly Collectables, there wouldn't be a Gaia today. Contributions from Gaia members have allowed us to grow and get more and more staff to develop for the site. Similarly, when we receive payment from sponsors, every single dollar goes back to buying more equipment and getting more staff members.

Since we announced the sponsorship, there seem to be a lot of concerns over the direction Gaia is headed. And I must stress that we share the exact same concerns. As creators, we're all Gaians at heart, and we wouldn't do anything to ruin your experience as fellow Gaians.

I think that most users would notice that we only have banner ads on 20% of the pages on Gaia. Even though we can make five times more money, we know that it sucks to see ads everywhere, so we made the decision to have fewer ads. Meanwhile, the same thought had went into all our sponsorship promotions, where we will make things that are fun and meaningful, but not invasive in any way. Gaians who wish to participate will get a good experience, while others who are not interested will not be bothered by them.

I think that what we have planned is a good balance between getting further support for the development of Gaia and maintaining a free environment. Once the promotion is launched next week, please give us as much feedback as you please, and we'll try our hardest to shape promotions in the future to cater to everyone's likes and needs.
This week started off really roughly with the age restriction system in place. Since the beginning I had never studied safety laws closely to realize the potential risk that our community site can have towards minors. In the past few months I had been educated on all the COPPA related issues and found out that there isn't a good way for Gaia to be free of censorship yet available to pre-teens at the same time. I don't think that denying services to our users is ever the right way to do things, and I'm still looking for ways for us to provide safety and privacy for all users yet not harming the freedom of speech and expression for all users.

Aside from the big issues, I've been hearing over and over that the marketplace have had problems for quite some time now. Just want to let everyone know that a re-write is taking place. Hope to have a bug free marketplace within a month.

This week we also launched the mobile payment system. It seems like we're doing a lot this week, but the mobile payment was actually a project we started in August of last year. We had went through so much trouble with cell phone carriers and compatibility problems that months were spent just to meet the basic criteria. Imagine that we couldn't even charge $6.99 because the price points must be odd numbers like $5.99 or $7.99.

Meanwhile, everyone's hard at work on fixing a lot of areas such as the journal and profile systems. The changes to how the systems work will be minor, though they'll make sure that these features work fine when we have 2 or 3 times the users accessing them.

Another big thing we did was launching the first sponsorship with Last Mimzy. Overall I hope that everyone enjoy the free item, and that the promotion isn't intrusive at all. A lot of people had been asking Gaia about sponsorships on a lot of different brands and products, and we had been picky on only working with people who would only offer something that Gaia members would be interested in.

Ultimately, sponsorships will be a part of what keeps the Gaia development team running. Support from everyone in getting monthly collectibles had allowed us to get to where we are today, though the cost of development is still higher than what the monthly collectibles can cover. Hopefully, with the help of sponsorships, we will actually be able to cover all the cost of development.
We've spent a lot of time planning to have a lot more events this year. When we sat together as a group, we thought that having as many events as possible would be great. Even though our team had spent tremendous time planning to make a lot of great events, it seems like we're planning for more events than we can handle. It's time to throttle back and focus on giving everyone even more time to plan and create our next Gaia event.

It's been a while since the Mimzy sponsorship. We're really happy to see the amount of users invovled with the sponsorship event, and now we have more sponsors who wish to work with us. It's very exciting to be able to think through fun events, though at the same time we're very careful not to put in too much sponsorships, and to make sure that most of us continue to work on Gaia features.

Even though we want to make a lot more Gaia features, half of our team is still working to make sure that our systems are scalable. Meaning that if 100,000 users are online at the same time, Gaia will still be fast and responsive.

I feel sorry to disallow blank spaces and other symbols in usernames upon registration. We really want to make everyone's usernames safe to be used as a part of URL or email address. We hope to have at least a nice and short URL to point to each user's journal or to have email like services in the near future. Without the changes that's going on, features like thoses would not be possible.
We're really excited about Gaia cinema, and we hope to find not only public domain content, but possibly anime and actual movies to show in the theater. Stay tuned for more details. wink

After a lot of engineering work, we're finally able to have a username system that is safe, compatible with potential features, and allow special characters. We're still looking into which other characters we're safe to have and they will be added to the system.

We're also working on a lot of improvements to the site navigation and design. Nothing drastic will be changed, but expect to see minor improvements in the coming few weeks.
So much happened in the past few weeks it felt like a blur eek

Fanime was a ton of fun, our booth was way bigger than I imagined. Though it'll probably be one of the smaller ones at AX and Otakon. smile I was kind of bummed out that we can't hand out Nerf guns for the panel because of convention rules, but I'm so glad that many users got themselves armed with Nerf guns this time. biggrin

Marketplace re-write is looking really great. New searching functionalities and more sorting features will make shopping easier, while a lot of server side changes will make things more safe and secure. We're aiming to have zero lost items or gold in the new system.

There's also been a lot of discussion on what we can do to lower inflation on Gaia. We're talking to economics students and professionals for advice, in hopes that monthly collections can still be reasonably affordable.

We've been making a lot of progress on Gaia's site re-design lately. The new changes are way better for navigation and are much closer to what Gaia was like since day one. This time we'll definitely post for comments before pushing any changes out.

Just found out that Gaia was mentioned on Clickable Culture as a site that has a very user-friendly TOS agreement. It brings a lot of joy to me as I remember all the time and edits we went through to ensure that we have a fair TOS that protects all Gaians more so than protecting our own rights. In most cases, we don't expect anyone to really know that we're doing all these things in the background. It's nice to know every once in a while that people do notice. ^^

Blog on Clickable Culture
Wow, Gaia is a top 10 winner in the Webware 100 award! Kind of surprising since there are so many big and established services out there that Gaia would get such overwhelming results.

The Webware announcement mentioned that:
"The greatest disparity was in the Community category. Gaia Online won a staggering 91,293 votes--60 percent of the votes in its category and 19 percent of all votes cast in the awards."

And 45% of all votes are for the top 10 winners. Which means Gaia voters account for 42% of all votes in the top 10! eek

A big thank you to everyone who participated. It feel so great see such overwhelming support from everyone. Now this just mean we all need to work harder on bringing out new features and games. whee
When reading through a thread, for all the posts where the avatars are on the right hand side, they're supposed to face the left. That bug had finally been fixed. sweatdrop Sorry it took so long...

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