Newbies Guide to Shards
Welcome to Shards! This guide is an effort to allow new users (presumably you) to get up and running quickly. As such, I wont be covering all the options here, but just the essentials for operating Shards. If you want more detailed instructions, please see the Handbook.
Shards requires you to register a user account before you can participate in the chat. The registration system is different from what you are probably used to. In Shards, you get ONE master Out of Character account under which you can create special "character" nicks. When you register, pick a name that you will use OOC. Registration is a simple process. You must have a valid email account to register with Shards. When you register, the account information, including your temporary password will be emailed to the address you put in the registration form. If you don't have an email account, you can't get this information and won't be able to get into Shards.
Once you get your password, just enter your name and password in the login form at the bottom of the page. You password is case sensitive, so you must type it EXACTLY as you see it. Don't worry about the "warp" button for now; this is an advanced feature you can learn about later. Once you log in to Shards, you are initially dumped into "The Courtyard." This is the central interface to Shards. Printed here are various important annoucements under the MOTD (Message Of The Day) heading. Under the MOTD is the interface for signing into the chat proper. From here, you can also access the user preferences screen, the character editor and the room editor. To go to one of those sections, just click the link at the top of the page. I'll go over each of those briefly next...
The user preferences area is one of the more important features of Shards. From here you can modify various settings controlling how the chat is presented as well as make changes to you account information. The user prefs are split into subsections dealing with specific aspects of your account.
Global Options adjust settings that are universally effective - that is, no matter what alias you log into the chat with these settings will have effect. HTML Compatability adjusts the type of HTML the chat outputs. The default setting (HTML 3.2+) should function in most browsers, including all 3.0 browsers. HTML 4.0/CSS only works in Internet Explorer 5.0 or higher for now. This mode should also work in Mozilla (aka Netscape 6.0) but there are still a number of bugs in this browser that prevent it from rendering this mode correctly. "HTML 3.2 for maximum compatability" will work in all browsers (including text only browsers, though status lines may wrap unless you set your console to be wider than 80 characters). Message Box Size adjusts the size of the message box in the chat. Again, the default setting should be fine for most people. Experiment with this setting to see which size best fits your tastes. Image Display determines what graphics will be displayed in the chat. The default setting is Icons Only, which disables to display of background images. Backgrounds + Icons displays everything. Backgrounds can slow some computers down, but should be fine for most people. You should check chat sessions open in new windows if you want to be able to use more than one handle simultaneously in the chat. Note that at this time, this option does not work in Mozilla due to a bug. The Ignore List is used to ignore offensive users. You shouldn't worry about setting this for now. Once you selected the prefs you want, you MUST hit send for them to take effect. If you click out of the screen without first saving your preferences, all your changes will be lost!
Master Account Settings is a page that allows you to adjust specific settings of your OOC master handle (the one you registered with). From here you can change your account email (useful if you need to request a new password), change the account gender and activate or deactivate invisibility mode (this is a special mode that allows you to enter the chat without anyone realizing you are there). Also, you can fill in a description for your master account. This could potentially be an IC description, or it could be a rant, or really anything. Some HTML, including IMG tags is allowed in this description. When you are in the chat, people will be able to access your description by clicking on your icon or typing .look YourName. Again, you must click the save button before exiting this screen or all your changes will be lost.
Set Password is the only other Preferences function you should pay attention to right now. Use this to set your password to something easier to remember. Just type the same password twice and hit submit...your new password will be effective immediately. Your password must be at least 5 characters long and should probably consist of a mixture of letters and numbers and punctuation for better security.
Character Editor and Room Editor
These functions work pretty much the same and will only be discussed briefly. Both sections will present you with an initial name selection screen. Just enter the name of the room or character you wish to create or edit and submit. Checking the delete checkbox will of course delete the room or character instead. The next screen you see will present you with all the various options you set for you character or room. If creating a new room/character, the room or character won't actually be created untill you hit save. If you make a typo in the name or change your mind, you can back out at this point and nothing will have been done.
You should have noticed this group of names posted under the front page. Pathfinders are this site's version of the venerable chat guide or mentor. Pathfinders are volunteers who help out the site by acting as the "go to" for people with questions. They are Shards advocates devoted toward the goal of preserving and promoting highest quality roleplay in Shards. If you have a question with site usage, policy, or just need help with roleplay, you should contact them first. Pathfinders are not moderators. They have no banning authority and have no ability to directly deal with abuse complaints. They will advise you on such complaints, and forward their advice on to me, nothing less, nothing more. Only I, Starfyre, have final authority in deciding who is banned from the site as a whole.
Once you've set your preferences (you did set your prefs, right?) and perhaps created a character or room, you are ready to enter the chat. Just select the nick you wish to use, the room you want to enter and the icon you want and hit enter. (You can also write in a room that isn't on the entrance pulldown, but it's advisable not to do so for now) If you've checked New chat sessions open in new windows in your user prefs then a new window will open with you chat session. Otherwise, you'll just click through into the chat. You can only log into the chat with a specific name once. Loggin in again will disable any currently open windows.
The chat screen is divided into two sections (not frames, though). The top section contains the input form and status line. The bottom section contains the message scroll. The first thing you should notice is an indicator near the top of your screen. This will say something like "Freeplay Zone" or perhaps "Roleplay Zone - Fantasy". This is the room zoning indicator and is probably the most important thing to pay attention to in Shards! Rooms marked Freeplay Zone are intended for general purpose use and can be treated just like any other room. Rooms marked Roleplay Zone are intended only for roleplaying and you are expected to be "In Character" at all times in these rooms. For now, if you've entered a Roleplay Room you should switch to a Freeplay room (The Void would be a good choice). Rooms marked Harcore Roleplay have even stricter requirements and should absolutely be avoided untill you are clear on what will be expected of you in these rooms. The easiest way to do this is to selected a different room in the Room pulldown list and hit send.
Okay, with that settled - Shards is what is known as a post-refresh style chat. Shards does not update messages in real time. To see new messages, you have to send (post) a blank message and the chat will then refresh with the latest submissions (posts) if any. The message scroll holds up to 15 messages, the most recent messages being at the top of the scroll and the oldest at the bottom. To say something, just write stuff in the large box (the message box) and hit send. You should see your icon, followed by a timestamp (in West Coast USA time), your name and then your message.
You can direct a message to specific people if you like (this is called PMing). Just enter the name or names of the people you want the message to goto in the Private to box. Separate multiple names with commas. Just type the message in the large message box like normal. When you send the message, you won't see it displayed on the screen (unless you've PMed yourself). The user you sent the message to will receive the message when they next send. If they aren't logged in, they will get the message next time they log in. So for instance, to send a message to me, you'd put Starfyre in the Private to: box, type your message in the large box as normal and click send.
To find out who all is logged in, click on the who's here link. This should open a new window diplaying the who list. You should see a list of rooms with names under each room.
Click the build link to directly access the room builder if you need to make quick changes to one of your room. (This should also open in a new window)
As alluded to earlier, to change rooms, select a different room in the room pulldown and hit send. Make sure you don't have anything in the message box or the system will assume you really meant to post the message and cancel the room change. There is a faster way to directly go to rooms you know the name of that I will tell you about later.
When you are done chatting, you should exit the chat. Just click the exit link and you will be logged out. It is important that you log out so people won't mistakenly think you are online and so you won't have problems getting back into the chat later. If you haven't elected to open chat sessions in new windows, you will be given a link back to The Courtyard at this point. Otherwise, just close the window. Nothing bad will happen if you leave it open. Someone hitting back to try to get into your handle will be presented with a nasty session error message instead. ;) Still, it's a good idea to close it right away in case there are any PMs you don't want other people seeing in your cache.
This completes the newbies guide to Shards. You should know all you need to know to use the chat at this point. Keep in mind that there is a LOT more to Shards, however. If you want to learn about the advanced features, please read the full the handbook.