Update! If you want to spread the word, reblog this Tumblr post: http://ghostdunk.tumblr.com/post/65471128519/pesterchum-4-13-kickstarter
Pesterchum is a not-for-profit 90s style chat client inspired by the webcomic Homestuck. A version of the client already exists, and we want to give it a major update. We have a large user base that uses the client not just for talking about Homestuck and roleplay (RP), but a lot of people that use it as their primary method of talking to friends! Now we want to make it even better.
Some history: Almost 3 years ago now, I started working on the Pesterchum chat client. Back then, at its highest peak, there were about 250 people using it at once. It's been a labor of love, and I'm very proud at what the community has become: currently, Pesterchum gets anywhere from 55,000 to 60,000 unique IPs per month, an average of 2,000 concurrent users, and we maxed out at around 3780 users online at once (during the SBURB ARG, SBARG).
However, Homestuck is ending. When I started planning this, I hadn't realized the Gigapause was going to happen, but we are looking at the end of this. And we don't want Pesterchum to end with Homestuck. The Homestuck community is great, and we want to help keep us all together. But when I began this project, I was functionally unemployed, and had a lot of time. I'm sure you've all noticed that I don't have time to comment in the MSPA Forum thread any longer, and that it's been a long time since I updated the software. What's more is my provider recently changed their billing rates to charge me for total bandwidth. Pesterchum uses nearly 1 terabyte per month. So my costs are higher than ever, about $80-90 per month. All said, I've spent a total of $1440 of my own money just to keep the servers running.
So I'm trying something out: I'm using this Kickstarter to fund both the server costs as well as a huge leap forward in functionality. We know that there are a lot of bugs to be fixed in the current Pesterchum, and a lot of desired features still remain unimplemented. So rather than just make small fixes in my spare time, I'm going to rewrite the server code to provide more features, and update the software to be a mature chat client, as well as provide more support for other platforms. That's right, Mac users, we want to give you a fully functional version! Mobile users, we want to give you a version on Android and iOS!
But we also think this client has potential to be enjoyed across all fandoms! Homestucks aren't the only ones who roleplay, and we think Pesterchum is a good candidate for a Tumblr friendly chat client. The 90s-style chat client isn't dead, and we think fandoms will embrace it! Therefore, we are going to focus on making Pesterchum cross-fandom friendly, and announcing a stretch goal to make a Tumblr-compatible web plugin and a web interface to Pesterchum.
Here's a list of what we're planning:
Fix several bugs in Pesterchum, like UTF-8 problems, profiles getting corrupted, animated GIFs taking up a ton of CPU, Pesterchum ceasing to work after too many file handles are open.
Using SQLite instead of JSON text files to store configuration, allowing for automated fixes and moving configurations to other computers
Saved usernames and passwords so users can log in on client startup
A website to manage your username, password, and saved settings
More options for theme users to make prettier themes.
Possible in-client interface to other Homestuck RP networks
No more 512 character line limit
Memos will now save history (private rooms will be encrypted)
New "anonymous" random and group chat; will feature one-off RP rooms that act kind of like Omegle or msparp
Users can save several chumhandles under a single username
Canon handles will remain first come first serve, but alts will be done automatically rather than using stupid misspellings
Support for adding non-Homestuck canons
Increased efficiency, cutting down on bandwidth bills
Better Mac OS X support -- Mac users should be able to enjoy Pesterchum as much as everyone else!
An Android version, which is already in the works
And maybe more! (File sharing will not be implemented.) What's more is that we also have two big stretch goals! This Kickstarter is for $1500, but we also want to do:
$2000: iOS mobile app $3000: Web interface AND Tumblr compatible Firefox and Chrome plugins
The web interface will allow people with modern browsers to use Pesterchum without downloading anything. The browser plugin is to allow you to chat while browsing as well as integrate Tumblr into the mix. We think Pesterchum has the potential to become Tumblr's favorite chat app!
What this will buy:
Recoup and maintain server costs
Paying for programming time
Android and Mac devs programming time
Things that will NEVER be for sale:
Any handle, including official character ones
Mod or admin positions
Unbanning banned users
The beta is expected to be finished in December 2013 or January 2014. The final product is expected to be finished by March 2014. The final product will remain open source and completely free of charge.
Q: Aren't you using Homestuck intellectual property for your own gain? Won't Hussie and What Pumpkin be mad when they see this? A: This Kickstarter will not fund any creation of something infringing upon What Pumpkin IP. The client itself is inspired by Homestuck. All program assets using imagery from the comic have already been created in the existing version. The Kickstarter will not fund creating any new material of that. What's more is that I have emailed What Pumpkin several times over the last two years asking for permission to take donations for the servers with zero response. I emailed them a month ago asking for permission doing this Kickstarter with no response. And finally, with that all said, if WP wants me to take down the Kickstarter, I will.
Q: What if this Kickstarter fails? Will Pesterchum be over with? A: No. If this Kickstarter fails, I will simply ask for donations and keep the server running as-is. I might continue to update Pesterchum, but on a much less ambitious scale.
Q: Do you really think there's demand for non-Homestucks to use an old style chat client? A: I don't know! The idea of the Kickstarter is to show how much demand there really is out there for Pesterchum.
Q: What is the money even going towards? A: The money will go towards my server costs over the next year and into the future, and to other programmers working on the project. I will post on my Tumblr account regular updates of the project progress as well as exactly where the money goes.
Q: Can you give an example of what something cross-fandom on Pesterchum would look like? A: In addition to supporting any kind of RP you want, here's an example of what a Sherlock chat screen would look like:
I'm not an artist, so that is probably not perfect -- but Pesterchum themes are open for anyone to develop, which means you can get some really impressive themes from any of the fan artists out there!
Q: Why don't you just set up an XMPP server? A: I still might do so! It all depends on whether XMPP can do everything necessary to keep all the features I want.
Q: What if someone uses the reward tiers for something inappropriate? A: Inappropriate images and sounds will not be accepted for any of the rewards.
Q: Can smilies be animated gifs? A: Yes, but the animation may end up being off by default. I will try my best to fix it, but animated gifs suck up processing power, and they cause serious issues with the client. I may have to make animation off by default, which means users would have to turn it on to see your smiley. However, I think that with enough research I can figure this out!
Thank you everyone for reading! And a sincere thank you to everyone who has used Pesterchum for the last 3 years!
Possible risks include overreach -- if I'm overestimating the ability of myself and my fellow programmers, the project might be delayed. I think I've estimated a fair schedule -- the original Pesterchum took me 3 weeks to make and 3 weeks to beta test, but then again I could devote more hours to it. But now, I also have help. If it helps, I'm a 31 year old professional software developer with 8 years of professional programming experience.
So how I think it's going to work is this: you can choose to broadcast your PC username publicly, so when you use a chum handle, ppl can see whos behind it or not. In that case, you'd have to have that option turned on if you wanted all your handles to do that. Otherwise it would just be a chum handle.
Implementation is still sketchy! If this turns out to be a bad idea technically, we won't do it. But we'll try to accomodate people as best as we can. And you'll definitely get your icon next to one of your handles.
Be a beta tester! Beta testers not only get to try out the new network and software before everyone else, but they'll be the first to register their personal chumhandles. All higher reward tiers also get this reward.
Add a smiley image and trigger (e.g. :duhjohn:) of your choosing to the official Pesterchum release! Limited by file size and technical limitations. (This means Pesterchum users will see your smiley when the trigger is typed.)
SUPREME ROYALTY OF PESTERCHUM. Your name will appear at the top of the About -> Thanks page, you will get the custom icon, and a short sound (5secs or less) will play every time you enter a memo. Will be limited to once per minute. Users can turn this off in their preferences, but it will be on by default.