10th Anniversary: A look back at the last decade

Posted by Moogie on 5th May 2006 at 8:56am
On this day in 1996 - a full ten years ago - I uploaded the first (of what would become many) of my Shining sites... Moogie's Ultimate Shining Force II Guide. It was not only one of my first sites, but also one of the first Shining sites on the web. The web was much smaller (and tidier!) back then.

It started as a single page, very basic in design. Yellow text, blue background, SFII logo at the top and not much in the way of pictures or screenshots. Back then emulation was not an option, and in order to obtain screenshots I invested in a rather expensive video capture card. I set up my VCR to record me playing SFII, and slowly managed to gather some less than perfect quality screenshots.

The site continued to grow, as did the amount of emails I received asking for help. A FAQ section needed to be started, and an enquiry form to ensure I received all the necessary information to be able to help. Then came the problem of users who didn't have their own email but still needed to receive a reply. Thus, the 'Replies Page' was born, and dutifully every Saturday I would post responses to questions from users without email.

As the site expanded, the design changed several times - not to mention the dodgy screenshots being replaced with nice quality emulator screenshots. Soon enough I found out about Matt Wright's WWWboard script and went about setting up my first Shining Messageboard. It's great to see that so many of the original posters are still around at SFC today :)

The SFII site may not have had much in the way of updates for some years (it sucks how busy adult life gets) but it's still going strong and despite the game being over a decade old, The Ultimate Shining Force II Guide still receives well over 150 visitors a day.

It would take me hours to type up the entire history of my Shining sites, and I'm not really sure anyone would want to read it. Suffice to say that over the years I've started up a variety of Shining sites - some more successful than others.

Shining Force Central has without a doubt been the biggest success story of my online 'career', and in all honesty I am really quite proud of this site. I'm delighted that so many people still love the Shining series and frequent this place. It's great to know that people still want to see content for games from consoles long dead. We're a dedicated fanbase and we should all be proud of the community we've developed here. What we have today is exactly what I'd hoped for all those years ago when SFC (or TUSRL, as it was originally named!) first started.

"What is TUSRL?", I hear you cry! It was The UnOfficial Shining Resources List a Shining directory site, linking to all the Shining sites I could find on the web and also with a little bit of an introduction for each game. Today the directory is but a small section of the monster that is SFC, so much has been added... and there's so much more I'd like to add.

I miss the days when I had so much free time, and I could work on whatever part of the site I wanted to; add new things; chat with other fans; do a redesign on a whim... those days are gone. Adult life has taken over and I no longer have the time I'd like to be able to keep this site as fresh as I used to :( The last year has been blatant evidence of this.

However, I shall perservere! Although I have not had the time to do much on the SFC site update panel (which selected members of SFC staff will be able to use to update areas of the site), it will be done. I know, that's been said about many things - SFII site redesign, SFI site overhaul and update, SSII site... I could go on ;) I still intend to do them, but it's all about time. I'd be lying if I said there aren't occasions when I think about just deleting the site and putting it behind me, not having to worry about keeping it updated. Don't worry though - I know that's not the right thing to do. The site is still thriving despite the lack of updates, and no doubt this is due to the SFC Forum Community. I know that even if the main site never had another update, the content would still be valued and the forums still active, thus SFC remains. That's not all the SFC Forum-goers have to be thanked for though - so far we have raised almost US$250 towards the US$360 hosting bill for the next year, and this takes a lot of pressure off of me financially.

Over the years the SFC community has achieved quite a lot:
  • Translations - we've seen scripts for Shining Force III and Shining Force Gaiden III translated and even inserted into the games to some degree. Fantastic work, and a real community effort.
  • Campaigns - gathered postal letters, online signatures, printed emails and made professional campaign packages to raise awareness of the desire for a new Shining game. Some very positive responses were received from Sega, and we have indeed seen the continuation of our beloved series... even if it's not quite as we hoped.

  • Relationships - SFC has formed a relationship with Camelot Software Planning, which has allowed fans to ask questions of the staff there in an interview and also been a source of contest prizes. Not only have Camelot provided prizes, but also the kind folks at Working Designs and Half Quarter.

  • Praise - SFC has been complemented by various respected companies and peoples - Sega Japan and USA have commented on the quality and dedication of the site. Camelot Software Planning considered it worthy of a site link, as did Sega Europe for a time. Hiroshi Kajiyama (artist for SFCD and Scenarios 2 and 3) was impressed by the site and wanted to arrange to sell Shining artwork through it (sadly this never came to fruition). There may be more that slip my mind ;)

  • Assistance - Atlus were so kind as to allow me to advise on some translation/consistency issues within the scripts of Shining Soul I & II. I also had this opportunity for RotDD, but unfortunately due to my other half's hospitalisation, I was unable to have this done in time for production. They were also kind enough to provide pre-release review copies, exclusive news and allowed me to post the first good quality shots of RotDD at SFC.

It's been so long... there's probably much more that I've forgotten to mention. Most importantly of all though, SFC has created a great many friendships. Some of us have met up in real life, and I'm sure more of us will do so over the years. We're a great community, and even those who leave will always end up dropping back in at some point. You know it's true ;)

I could write so much more here, but I think I'll leave that for you guys - this is a good place to discuss days gone by, both here and at my other sites. Let's not let this turn into some kind of oldbie/newbie war - not that I see that sort of thing going on here these days, this place seems to be quite well under control (thanks to the forum staff and sensible members :)). Let's just see some fun reminiscing... maybe someone wants to crack out the WayBackMachine? I wish it had my original SFII site in it, I don't think I have a copy of that anywhere :( ... except maybe a few print-outs!

Some things you might remember if you're from the very early days (Pipex, Dragonfire, Geocities):
-Arc Valley, my alternate SFII site which used a rather tacky navigation system & design
-The Tavern chat system
-An impersonator posting that they were me, and that I was pregnant
-JKM coming out
-OddEye1982 (did I remember it right?) and his flame wars
-Dark Zombie's death

Some things from the middling days (Zophar.net):
-WWWboard at SFC
-The return of OddEye1982
-Dark Zombie's return!
-The Campaign: Phases I & II
-Board Wars ...and the subsequent SFC shutdown

...and more recently (Practical Hosting [boo, hiss! stole my money!] and SmooveNET [so good I could kiss them]):
-Buggery hosts causing over a month of downtime
-phpBB & the RPG system I built for it
-The newbie troubles that came with the RPG system
-Item collections, screen/avie changers
-Members sneaking in to the new forums before they officially opened

What do you remember?

Whatever you remember, remember this: other sites have come and gone. SFC remains :) ...and it's because of you... nay, we, the community :D