The Two-Year Revolution
One Planet, Two Years, and millions of Quakers...
If you hunt around PlanetQuake even today, you'll still sometimes see our original grinning skull planet logo staring out at you...
This article was originally posted in October of 1998 in celebration of PlanetQuake's two year anniversary. We are reposting it now to give you all a taste of how and when PQ got started. We're getting ready for PQ's fourth birthday now, and I hope you enjoy this gaming community flashback.
Pappy-R - Oct. 12/2000
Most revolutions start with a voice in the wilderness. Often, even the participants don't realize how much they're changing things, not until they themselves are caught up in the wave they started. So it was with PlanetQuake.
The online gaming revolution began, in part, thanks to one bastard and to one incredibly cool game.
Bastard: PlanetQuake started when I grew tired of the best Quake websites and resources constantly disappearing for one reason or another, and either reappearing at another URL or not at all.
That bastard was of course Mark "Bastard" Surfas, who'd earned his Quake nickname by ruthlessly pounding on high-ping chumps using a T1 and an in-house server. Quake was already changing his life (although he never suspected the degree to which it would alter the course of his personal history.) A published author and founder of an Internet consulting and hosting service, Mark got sucked into Quake like a moth trapped by a streetlamp.
Fargo: In late September of 1996 I'd written an article for Blue's Quake Rag about the QuakeWorld Launch event in New York City. It was the first writing I'd done for the so-called community and it was my first taste of being a part of it -- I was deluged with letters from other Quake fans and we all started talking.
The most interesting note I got was from some "Bastard" guy who was starting up a Quake site and wanted me to help out. I guess I became PlanetQuake's first staff member--I was the news guy. Suddenly I was working on a website about my favorite game, and I had only just learned HTML! I was stoked. I also had no idea what to do next. I just sorta covered Quake news and did my thang.
"PlanetQuake" was almost named something else...
Bastard: I registered the name Quakeworld.com, and it was rejected because one of the DNS servers listed was down (this was back when the Internic still checked this stuff we didn't live under the current domain name free-for-all). By the time I resubmitted 3 hours later the name had been taken by some guys in the Netherlands! I was furious! The bitter irony being that the guys who registered quakeworld.com ended up being ridiculed by the entire quake community for having the audacity to use that domain. At that time there was a site at an obscure url that called itself quakeworld. Why that site hadn't didn't registered that domain name, I'll never know. The Netherland boys subsequently purported to transfer the name to id software and basically shut down. Did planetquake narrowly avoid an early demise? You be the judge. I don't think that tide of anger would develop today. The community is too large and domains too easy to come by.
The original PlanetQuake design was universally held to be a bit unwieldy. Imagine going to a new website and being confronted by a huge image of a grinning skull-planet. ("Hang on!" the image said while loading. "It's worth it!") Assuming the skull even loaded, (it was bigger than most Quake mods at the time), another 100-Megabyte sound file of a thunderclap was in store for you, as well. All this before you even got to the main page! Back then, a 14.4 modems were still pretty common.
Bastard: At the time we (Critical Mass) were designing really high end
sites that focused on business applications and business people with T1's
etc. The designers HATED designing for low bandwidth situations. Now
these guys could literally do anything, but it would always end up huge.
They all ended up moving on.
Fargo: I didn't know what to make of the design. Well, okay, honestly I thought it was terrible, but I was on a T1, and all the little blinking doo-dads on the main page were kinda neat. I mean, back then, nobody had any pre-conceived ideas about what a gaming fan site should be. And it had such a great in-your-face attitude ... the tagline was, "TOTAL DOMINATION OR COMPLETE HUMILIATION." That cracks me up. Like, if Quake didn't kill you, our website would.
PlanetQuake didn't launch as soon as we wanted it to. I have a news update in my archives dated September 30th that says, "PlanetQuake to open its doors tomorrow!" followed by one on October 11th that says "Fargo Gets Ready for the Grand Opening!" followed by, finally, an official announcement.
PlanetQuake opened its doors to the public on October 14th, 1996. Let the carnage begin!
The Early Days
When PlanetQuake was announced to the public, it was like a bomb going off, right? Well, not really. It got a mention in a couple of the news pages, though.
"I'm informing you that you need to go check out Planet Quake." reported Redwood's News page -- short but sweet.
Blue's news dedicated a whole paragraph to the enterprise:
After threatening to get underway for some time, Planet Quake is finally
up and running in its early forms. New home to some fine established
pages (][ronman, QuakeX), and some new content (I told you
yesterday's about Fargo's page--now reachable through the "front door").
Planet Quake is also running a bunch of servers, and is going to try and
stay at the cutting edge of QuakeServer technology, both in terms of
Quake C mods, and lag reduction, both over the net, and with direct dial.
My buddy Bastard, who runs the place, has put a lot of work into it, and I
wish them good luck and congratulations on their grand opening." -Blue's News, Oct 14, 1996
Other pages didn't even cover the story at all! Of course, as you can see from Blue's description, PlanetQuake was a little unfocused back then, and wasn't concentrating on the hosting/content side of things like it does today. The original PlanetQuake offered many services:
- It ran a ton of Quake servers
- Allowed ISDN direct-dial for "The ultimate gameplay"
- Offered site hosting
- Covered news. Sorta.
The "news" was just as often a collection of miscellaneous ranting as it was solid Quake news. Bastard would go off on how cool his friend's new GPS was, or Fargo would go into a long discussion of how much fun it is to camp.
The sheer volume of Quake servers PlanetQuake ran was important back in the day.
Bastard: I believed then and still do that there is no more important
service one can do for the Internet community than simply running a server.
I loved finding a cool new mod, running it and watching the rush of new
users. I made a lot of friendships that last to this day. I had a lot of
the servers named after various Star Trek characters... and people still
surprise me with comments like "Dude - remember when you were running
Originally, Quake fans were supposed to be able to subscribe to a direct-dial service to dial right into PlanetQuake's servers -- sorta like an instant low-ping bastard, just add water. As the story goes, PlanetQuake only offered a limited number of these connections and eventually shut the deal down due to lack of interest. Well, it's been two years, so it's time to air a little dirty laundry here...
Bastard: Damn. Turned in by my friends. Okay - The short story is that
we advertised a dial in service and it turned out that we probably could
have made some money - but that we would be moving into an area that we
didn't really want to be in.... that of tech support. We try to do things
here that are fun - tech support just isn't one of them.
Among the many experiments, the hosting aspect of PlanetQuake really took off. At the time, there was really no place for Quake sites to go once they were kicked off their ISPs or campus computer systems for generating too much traffic. The most famous example of this was one of the great pioneers of Quake sites, Quake Will Rule The Cosmos. The site was shut down when the maintainer’s university forced him to remove the page due to bandwidth overload. So the page died. End of story.
Bastard: I think I really woke up to this reality when ][ronmans server list (which at that time was the only reliable server list (IMHO) lost its home. We then started the concept of hosting sites, and I think we continue to innovate.
Next up: The growing pains. Going from a "website" to what some people called an "empire..."