In The Beginning: The First Three Members
|The original LunarNet. Click the picture to relive history.
RPGFan originally came to life under the name of LunarNET when GhaleonOne launched the site in December 1997. Not long after its launch, GhaleonOne started getting help from two fellow Lunar Thread members. The Lunar Threads was a message board that was hosted on Dave's Sega Saturn Page where a bunch of people with similar interest in the Lunar series went to post about Lunar and eventually everything else that came to mind. As a sidenote, Dave Zdyrko from Dave's Saturn Page went on to work for Working Designs as well as IGN and is now working for Visual Concepts (Sega's sports division). The people at the message board there became really close, and a lot of friendships were formed there. Webber was the first to offer to help G1 (which is how I will refer to GhaleonOne at times in this article) with the site, and not too long after, yours truly (Rudo) also asked G1 if he needed some help with the website. I had started collecting screenshots of Grandia on the internet, and I thought it would make for a great gallery. However, I didn’t have a website of my own, so I asked G1 if I could put my gallery on LunarNET. I also wanted to perhaps start a column where I would talk about a different videogame soundtrack every week and give some samples for it, though I never actually started this column of mine because I became too busy with other aspects of the website. In any case, G1 accepted the offer and I joined the site. I didn’t know at the time that it would change my life the way it did.
The First Big Project: The Grandia Petition
Right at the beginning, LunarNET got its first plug thanks to our Grandia Petition. At the time, many gamers were pretty mad at Sega for not releasing some games (Phantasy Star Collection, Grandia, etc) on the dying Sega Saturn console. Grandia was the one that GhaleonOne was irked about. So was Webber who e-mailed GhaleonOne to suggest that we start a petition to get Sega to release Grandia here in the US. Thus the first major project of LunarNET began. We quickly gained a ton of support for the petition, which in turn elevated LunarNET into a decent sized website. We even got two separate links from videogames.com (which you can view here and here) thanks to Webber having a connection with Chris Johnston, now one of the leading EGM editors. Unfortunately for Saturn fans, the petition failed as Sega decided not to pick up Grandia for stateside release. Fortunately, Sony picked up the port for the PlayStation, and we got the game after all.
LunarNET's First Facelift
|The 2nd version of LunarNet introduces a new kind of pain.
It didn’t take long for me to get hooked on the website; I just loved working on it, improving it, and working with my fellow editors to come up with various ideas or ways to make the site better and better. I had no experience working on a website, didn’t really know much HTML, but I found it exhilarating and started to do more and more work on the site. G1 and Webber probably felt the same way because they were working tirelessly as well, and all three of us were making regular daily updates. During this period we all had the same level of devotion, and it was a great time to work on the site. Unfortunately, despite our hard work, the site basically looked like crap. In March 1998, I decided to try to improve the look a bit and started making some graphics for the site. Unfortunately, with no previous experience making graphics, what I came up with REALLY lacked polish, as you can see for yourself by looking at LunarNET Version 2. G1 was handling most of the HTML tasks and created the basic design while I created the graphics. I know, it’s painful to look at, but hey, we gotta start somewhere!
We kept that design for quite a while because, quite frankly, we didn’t exactly realize how bad it was, and we didn’t have the ability to make it any better. After all, we were pretty much newbies to this sort of thing, and we were still learning how to create a good website.
LunarNET's First Encounter With Plagiarism
At the beginning of May 1998, LunarNET got its first break. Webber managed to get his hands on the first ever Final Fantasy VIII screenshots. I can’t remember exactly how he got them, but no other site had ever shown screenshots of the game, and all that was available up to that point was artwork from the game. We quickly put the LunarNET logo on those screens and put them up on the site. Obviously excited about the prospect of all those big sites linking to us because of those exclusive pics, we started telling other sites about them. That same night, another RPG website (which shall remain nameless) put up the exact same pics of Final Fantasy VIII, but somehow the portion of the pictures where we had put our logo was missing. It didn’t take a genius to realize that they had taken our pics and cut off the bottom portion of them so our logo wasn’t there. To top it off, in their update, the writer had said, “Thanks to GhaleonOne for the pics,” without a link to LunarNET. Not long after that, GamePlayers (the website of the magazine of the same name) ran a story about the pics and linked this other site, giving them credit for the pics. When Webber found out about this incident, he, understandably, became pretty angry, and he made an update about the situation, telling our readers that it was actually our pics that they had taken from us, etc. He also sent a letter to GamePlayers about it, which made its way into their website’s “Letters” section.
We got quite a few new visitors because of that link in the letters section, but it wasn’t even close to what it would have been if it had been a link on their main page, such as this other site had gotten. Also, the GamePlayers letter guy didn’t really take sides, simply saying that he didn’t know who was right but that we were both great sites; the usual song and dance.
If that had been the end of it, this story might have had less of an impact on us, but unfortunately, (or fortunately from an experiential standpoint) this was not the case. After the letter was posted, this website contacted Webber and threatened to sue LunarNET for defamation of character, or whatever it was they were accusing us of. Being new at all of this, with the writer claiming he had lawyers in the family, we backed down and retracted our story so that we wouldn’t get in trouble, even though we were right and we got royally screwed over. We were young and inexperienced, and we panicked. We didn’t want to get into any legal trouble, so we complied; we simply deleted our story that accused them of taking our pics. However, a lot of people had already seen our update or had seen the letters section from GamePlayers, so they didn’t walk away completely unscathed from this. To add insult to injury, after they got the link from GamePlayers, they immediately removed the “Thanks to GhaleonOne for the pics” comment from their update and claimed it was never there. While I am not pointing any fingers at their website in general, as I believe that this was a one-man job in which the rest of their staff just took his side thinking that WE were lying, LunarNET had suffered from its first screw-job and we certainly didn’t like the experience. To my knowledge, this particular RPG website no longer exists.
Despite all this, we did get more visitors out of this incident. Our daily hit rate went from 200 unique hits a day to about 2,000 in one day. Of course, that was a one-day thing only and the hitrate slowly went back down after that, but when all was said and done, we had still gained a few hundred regular readers out of it.
LunarNET's First E3
Not long after this incident, Webber and I had the privilege of going to E3 for the first time. I took a plane from Montreal to Washington, DC, where I met with Webber, and then we drove from there to Atlanta. E3 was pretty overwhelming for 2 guys who had never been there before and were only part of a very small fansite. At first, we really felt out of place over there, but after a few companies, unaware that we were from such a small website, started to suck up to us when we were visiting their booths, we gained some confidence and started asking more questions and acting more like journalists. That was a great experience. The high point of our E3 trip was the interview that Victor Ireland gave us in Working Designs’ booth. We sat down with him in an office and talked for quite a long time with him and asked a lot of questions. Vic was really easy to talk to, very friendly, and gave us a lot of information. I also remember when somebody came in during the interview to tell Vic that some people from GameArts were here and he made them wait while he finished his interview with us. I thought that was a great sign of respect to us that he didn’t just ditch us when bigger fish came along. You can read the full transcript of the interview here.
Another high point of the trip was that Webber had managed to talk to Square before the show by e-mail and got us into a private unveiling of Final Fantasy VIII given to the press. Attendance was restricted and limited so it was great to be there to see it, and we got lots of goodies from Square in the “gift bag” that they gave everybody who attended.
In June of 1998, in the hopes of making LunarNET bigger and better, we started something called the LunarNetwork. Basically, this would be a hub of great fan sites being affiliated with one another on one network, sharing our user base and directing people to the other sites when appropriate. We wanted to have a site for every aspect of the gaming industry: one Sega site, one Nintendo site, one Sony site, etc. In retrospect, this Network wasn’t exactly a success. It was good for a while but never really lived up to our expectations. The idea was eventually dropped sometime in the fall of 1998, I believe, although we continued to be affiliated with a site called Gamenet. Gamenet had been started by a friend of ours from the Lunar Threads called Segaboy, a.k.a. Steve Thomason, who, last I heard, worked for the magazine Gamer’s Republic.
Our First Big Movie
In August of 1998, LunarNET moved off of its Simplenet account and onto a more serious hosting company (I can’t remember the name). This obviously came with a higher price, but we gained more flexibility and performance. This also gave us the opportunity to move from http://lunarnet.simplenet.com to our first domain name address: http://www.lunar-net.com.
Not too long after the move, in September, new editor Zone Pharaoh bought a Hong Kong magazine which included a CD with footage of many games inside. One of them was Sonic Adventure. Now, at the time, there had only been one video of Sonic Adventure released on the internet, and it was pretty small in resolution and lacking in quality. The video we put up was a pretty high quality video and ZP did a great job capturing it and making it look great, even adding some Sonic music to it to make it even better. We immediately put the movie up on RPGFan, despite the fact that it was out of our normal coverage, because we knew we had something good on our hands. We e-mailed tons of Dreamcast and Sega websites about the video and even big sites like Gaming-Age, Videogames.com, and Gamer’s Republic. Almost all of the Sega sites linked us for the video. Even Gaming-Age and Videogames.com mentioned it, although Videogames.com didn’t provide a link to our site because, at the time, they had a policy of never linking to a site that had advertising.
In November of 1998, LunarNET launched its first “news” script, which allowed us to make news stories without actually changing the HTML manually and re-uploading the file afterwards. We slightly modified the layout of the site too but nothing major, and it was mostly just the sidebar (got rid of those ugly buttons in favor of simple text). The script was the work of GhaleonOne who had taken the code from a message board and modified it to work as a news script.
Warez 4 U
During this same month, we also got dealt another blow. Our Simplenet account, which we had kept to host our growing video section was cancelled without notice. After investigating, we found that somebody had started a Warez site under one of our subdirectories on that server. We had no idea how this had happened, but by browsing around on the FTP, we found a directory, which had full versions of Windows 98, Office 97 and TONS of other software. There was about 15 gigs worth of illegal material in there. I assumed that Simplenet noticed all the bandwidth that this took, and upon looking in there, noticed the warez stuff and cancelled our account. Originally, we thought it was a hacker that had found its way onto the server, but later on, we discovered that it was probably done by the owner of a smaller site that we had agreed to host for free on our server as a favor. We were pretty sure who it was, but with no proof whatsoever, we couldn’t really accuse him. In any case, after this, we decided never to host any other sites as a favor because we didn’t want to get burned again.
LunarNET in Print
In December of 1998, LunarNET was listed in an issue of EGM as a “Gaming Site Hot as Lava”. You can check out a scan of it right here. This was the first time that LunarNET was in a magazine like that, although one of our editors, E-Chan, was given a link to his own personal website from GameFan’s review of Grandia for Saturn (written by ECM) for his great translation/walkthrough.
The End of LunarNET
Near the start of 1999, we were informed by our hosting service that their “unlimited bandwidth” policy actually meant “Unlimited… unless you use too much bandwidth”. This was pretty silly. Anyway, we had to find a new server, and after looking around, we settled with a company called U2ME3 which was actually located in England. The cost was pretty high, but the service was good, and we REALLY had unlimited bandwidth. Around the same time this was happening, we had started working on a pretty big project in earlier months and were almost ready to make the big switch.
At this point in time, LunarNet had grown quite a bit from its early days, and the fact that we were covering all RPGs while still being called “LunarNET” seemed to be holding us back. It made us look biased towards Lunar and Working Designs, and I’m sure many people didn’t really go to our site because they didn’t KNOW that we covered all RPGs, basing their opinions strictly on our name. Anyway, after much discussion between staffers and some regular message board readers, and after looking at the domain names that were actually available, we decided on the name “RPGFan,” which was actually my first choice since the beginning (I had always been a big fan of the magazine GameFan back when it was new and called Diehard GameFan). Since this would, in essence, be some kind of “rebirth” for the site, we decided to do a major site redesign. After finishing all of the preparations, we launched the new version of the site under its new name on March 3rd, 1999, and RPGFan was born!
The HTML and design was made by GhaleonOne, and the graphics were done by Zone Pharaoh. With the website now having a new design, new graphics, and a new name and address, we felt like it was time to grow even more. With Webber having slowly disappeared over time and GhaleonOne mentioning to me that he was going to be very busy in the coming months with school, something had to be done. After all, I couldn’t run the site by myself, and the other editors at the time were all reviewers and didn’t really do HTML work, picture updates, news updates, etc. It was then that I decided to make offers to Stahnmahn and Parn to join RPGFan. Both of them had websites of their own and they were very good, but they were both “one-man jobs,” and I thought that they might like to join a bigger site and help out. Both of them accepted the offer and they joined RPGFan on April 14th, 1999. Stahnmahn went on to become RPGFan’s “picture” editor, and under his reign the picture section of RPGFan grew very rapidly. He was very dedicated to his section and a perfectionist, so his work was pretty much always impeccable. He eventually branched out to work in other sections of the site too and became a big part of the site for quite a while, until he decided to call it quits in the spring of 2001. Parn, originally called Synbios on the site, is still working on RPGFan even now, and he’s been doing various things over the years. From music to videos to editorials to server work to CGI and script work, Parn has been very versatile and helped RPGFan quite a bit through the years..
|RPGFan in its original form. Clicky clicky.
With those two new editors in place, GhaleonOne still helping out quite a bit despite his busy schedule, and Sensei Phoenix starting his new role as “Review Editor” (which I gave to him because I didn’t have time to take care of it anymore with my other responsibilities on the site), RPGFan continued to grow and things were looking pretty good.
RPGFan Gets to the Next Level
Things would only get better, because on June 20th, while having an e-mail discussion with ECM from GameFan (the Editor-in-Chief of the magazine back then), he offered us an opportunity to join their upcoming network called “GameFan Network” and told me to contact the people in charge of this Network. Since I had been paying for the server out of my own pocket with absolutely no revenue whatsoever, the offer of free hosting along with a share of ad revenues and the potential exposure and legitimacy that this network would give us made it a pretty hard offer to turn down. As I continued discussing this with the people in charge of the network and the fellow editors at RPGFan, I stumbled upon a small website about RPGs by a guy named Michael Salbato. The website looked pretty good, better in some ways than RPGFan at the time, and the guy seemed to know the RPG scene pretty well, so I decided to offer him a job at RPGFan. He accepted, and that’s how current RPGFan staffer Chronologist came to be with us. His graphic expertise sure came in handy as I immediately put him to work on a new design and graphics for RPGFan. For the first time, RPGFan had somebody on staff with very good graphic skills (something we had been missing since the beginning), and every design of RPGFan since then and almost every graphic you see on RPGFan is the work of Chronologist.
With the details out of the way and the contract signed with the GameFan Network, we moved to their server in July of 1999. Although we were already on their server, the Network wouldn’t launch until September, so this gave us time to continue working on the site’s redesign. On September 26th, RPGFan Version 2 was born. The network also launched and a new era started for RPGFan.
Also in September, 2 new editors Ramza and Sumire Kanzaki joined the site. Many of you will remember Ramza from his extensive work on the soundtrack section and his multiple reviews still available in that section of the site. He is no longer working at RPGFan though. I’m sure pretty much everybody who follows RPGFan knows about Sumire from her posts on the message boards, her presence in the unofficial RPGFan IRC chat, and her multiple news stories on the site. She was originally hired to work on an Anime section for RPGFan, which eventually became Anime Dream, which you can access from our navbar. Sumire now heads the news section of the site alongside Feena, as well as being our Public Relations guru. She has also done a lot of freelance writing for IGN, Pocket Games Magazine, and worked on the Zelda: Oracle of Seasons strategy guide for Expert Gamer.
|RPGFan gets a new look. Green vinyl siding and all.
RPGFan grew a lot on the GameFan Network. Not only could we finally concentrate on the website without worrying about hosting, bandwidth, and money, but we now had a pretty good-sized staff which helped to make the site grow bigger. Our hitrate continued to climb every month, and in the span of one year, RPGFan quadrupled its reader base. One of the reasons for that was, as part of the GameFan Network contract, an RPGFan banner was circulating on other sites of the network as well as GameFan’s main site itself. This gave us a lot of exposure. You can view a sample of RPGFan's banner being displayed on GameFan's main page by clicking here.
RPGFan Enters a Golden Age
For the next 6 months or so, nothing really happened on RPGFan apart from us continuing to work on the site and continuing to grow. It was a great time for RPGFan. On January 19th, 2000, RPGFan launched Anime Dream, the Anime affiliation site headed by Sumire and staffed by many of RPGFan’s editors. It is still in operation today. Also, around that time, Feena joined RPGFan and brought her website (she has created many successful sites dedicated to Grandia, Sakura Taisen and many others) and magazine expertise (she’s written for a number of French gaming and anime publications) to RPGFan. Her Japanese knowledge, HTML skills and perfectionism have been a great help to RPGFan ever since. She currently heads the News section alongside Sumire, but has helped in various aspects of the site through her stay at RPGFan.
At the same time, the review section was continuing to expand rapidly. Sensei Phoenix has been the head of the reviews section since Spring 1999 and has been one of the most consistent editor on the site, making the reviews section of RPGFan THE biggest repository of RPG reviews on the net. I firmly believe that RPGFan’s reviews are the best you can find anywhere. With reviewers like Esque, E-Chan, Commodore Wheeler, Woojin and Tortolia over the years and all the new reviewers we recently acquired, I think you’d be hard-pressed finding a better group of reviewer anywhere else on the net. Since taking over that section, Sensei Phoenix has been doing a great job with it and has been doing more and more work in other parts of the site as well, making him an invaluable asset to the site. You’ve probably seen him do some news updates on occasion when we were short on news, and have no doubt seen his many unique review updates and his comic strip updates. His growing presence on the site was surely beneficial as we lost some editors through the years. For example…
In February 2000, the creator of the original website, GhaleonOne, officially quit RPGFan. I will use one of his quotes here: “I eventually lost interest in games, and I'm still not really sure why, but eventually quit in March or so of 2000”. Nobody at RPGFan will forget everything that he did for the site through the years as he was the originator and the creator of the site in the first place, and his dedication is one of the main reasons why the site is still here today. GhaleonOne eventually regained interest in gaming and restarted LunarNet, which you can visit here.
March of 2000 marked a sad day in RPGFan’s history. Our relationship with Working Designs was ruptured and has, still to this day, not been re-established. With RPGFan originally being called LunarNET and the editors being big Working Designs fans, we had always been one of their strongest supporters and our coverage of their games had always been unparalleled. RPGFan was often associated with Lunar, just as RPGamer was often associated with Square games (especially Final Fantasy) since they originally started out as Squarenet. As such, a breach with Working Designs was definitely not something that we wanted to happen. The company had been a big part of our history, and we had interviewed President Victor Ireland twice at previous E3s and had a good relationship with him (especially GhaleonOne, who had won the $10,000 Shining Wisdom contest before he started LunarNET).
Anyway, to make a long story short (because this could be discussed for hours), Vic felt that RPGFan had become “anti-Working Designs”. This sentiment arose because some of our editors had been very vocal about their disagreement with how Working Designs was being run, and were very critical of Vic himself. This was going on at Working Designs’ message board, on their website, and at the message boards at RPGFan. The result: Vic blacklisted us from Working Designs reviewables, previewables and media. He said that he didn’t feel like dealing with a website that was comprised mostly of “Working Designs haters”.
Personally, I tend to disagree with his decision. Maybe in his view he felt that way, but I was working with everybody at RPGFan and I know that there were only 2 editors that did not like Working Designs (Parn and Sumire Kanzaki) and everything that they said on message boards was on their own personal time. They never took shots or voiced their dislike of Working Designs on the website in articles, news stories, reviews, etc. I wouldn’t have allowed this, and I would have been angry at them if they had done it because it would have been unprofessional on their part. It was simply never done. Whatever they did, they did as their own persons, not as RPGFan staffers. I can’t control other editor’s feelings and actions outside of the website, so I don’t think that it was fair that RPGFan as a whole was being held responsible. Then again, that’s MY opinion and Vic is entitled to his own opinion in the matter.
In order to get back in Working Designs’ good graces, we would've had to get rid of 3 of our top editors whom Vic deemed to be “Working Designs haters”. I wasn’t ready to do that, especially since one of those 3 was actually a fan, and I don’t think it would have been fair to do it. So, RPGFan has had no relationship with Working Designs since then. It’s unfortunate, but things like this happen in life, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Relationships go bad all the time, and this time it just happened to be between Working Designs and us. I personally do not have anything against Victor Ireland. He made his decision, I made my decision and our decisions just weren't compatible. That's all. End of story.
Summer Brings the Winds of Change
May of 2000 marked the first E3 in which more than 2 editors of RPGFan attended. The first year, it was Webber and I and the second year was me alone. This time, there were 5 of us (Sumire, Chronologist, Zone Pharaoh, JediLeroy, and myself. We had a great time and met a lot of people from the industry and interviewed a lot of companies.
During that summer, RPGFan started being very slow. Things were not looking good for the GameFan Network and our movies were always down because the server that hosted our movies crashed and it seemed like they had a lot of problem bringing things back up the way they were. We also hadn’t been paid our share of the ad revenues for a while, and it was only a question of time before the network went belly-up. In August, GameFan Network sent us a new contract to sign (even though the old one was not expired yet), which would have given us a lot less money for one thing and was definitely not to our advantage overall. This was our chance to leave the network, since if we didn’t sign the new contract, they would let us go from our previous 2-year contract with them. Sensing that the Network was having a lot of problems, and that it was only a matter of time before it went down, we decided to leave and find another place.
Unfortunately, I only had one week to find a server to go to, so we had to make a quick decision. After talking with the owners of another network, we moved to the GameGlow Network. It seemed promising, the guys I talked with seemed great, and we were promised a lot of involvement in this new network since it was a network made by gamers, not by a company (like GameFan Network). So, in September, we moved the site to this new network (with free hosting and a portion of ad revenue). We took this opportunity to change our layout once again, and thus, RPGFan Version 3 was born. You can check out this design right here.
|Another network, another look.
As far as the GameFan Network is concerned, just as expected, they went down for good about a month after GameFan was purchased by Express.com. We never did get our last 3 months of revenues, and after seeing TONS of websites everywhere complaining about not getting their GameFan money either and seeing their failed attempts at getting it, I gave up on pursuing this any further. Let’s face it, a small website can’t beat a huge corporation like Express.com. Apparently, they were able to find a way out of paying all the sites with some small technicality or some kind of escape clause in the contract or whatever else it was. I heard about it, but I didn’t feel like getting into all this, so I just let it go and concentrated on this new network.
A Downward Spiral
In November of 2000, 2 months after joining the GameGlow network, we were told that the Network was shutting down. We never got paid for the 2 months of advertising we had on the site, and when I tried calling the owner of the network, I never got an answer, so he probably moved out, changed his phone number and ran with the money. Thankfully, we got some unexpected help from a guy called Steve. You see, this guy (Steve) was hosting all the sites on the GameGlow Network through his small hosting company called EasilyHosted.com, and most probably, the owner of the GameGlow Network was paying him for the server space. Anyway, since our site was already on his server, he offered to host us at no charge in exchange for him putting ad banners on our site. He was confident that with a lot of good sites, he could find some advertisers, which would allow him to keep us on his server without us having to pay him for the server space and bandwidth. Since the network was closing down right away, we didn’t have time to find another place and were pretty much in deep shit, so I agreed and he kept us on his server. For the next 2-3 months, we stayed on Steve’s server and things weren’t looking too bad. However, in February 2001, we started having a lot of problems with the server. It all culminated with the whole server going down and RPGFan unviewable for 15 days.
What happened is a pretty long story that I’ll cut short because I’m not even sure of all the details myself, but from what I gathered from Steve, his bandwidth provider decided to shut him down with no prior notice because he had apparently failed to pay his bill. However, the bill that they sent him was not right and he had been trying to call them to fix their mistake. They never got back to him and shut him down instead. Since Steve’s server was actually located at this bandwidth provider’s location, he didn’t have access to the server first-hand, and in the end, he had to get all the data from an old backup that he had thankfully made a week before the crash. If not, we would have lost everything on the site, apart from the stuff that we had backed up ourselves before, which wasn’t the whole site. In the meantime, Steve arranged to put us up on a friend’s server until he could resolve things.
Despite all this, we stayed there instead of leaving because I owed it to Steve. He had helped us out when we needed it and I KNOW for a fact that he didn’t make any money with us, since the internet ad market was in a bad shape, and networks and websites were closing left and right because of it. Add to that the amount of bandwidth that RPGFan requires, and there was no way that he made enough money to cover the cost of hosting us. However, he kept hoping to get better deals in the future with other advertising agencies, and he needed us since we had a lot of impressions on the site, which would be useful in trying to get a deal. So, we stayed on at his friend’s server from March to July. However, the guy that hosted us was almost never available and the server was always having troubles, going up and down continuously, being slow, etc. At one point, despite my e-mails, I hadn’t heard back from the guy in 3 weeks, and with the site being constantly up and down, we had to do something.
Nowhere to Go But Up
With everything that happened from the time we left GameFan Network in August 2000 to July 2000, the server problems, the constant moving from one server to the next, and the lack of updates because of all those problems, our readership went down to what it was before we started on the GameFan Network. Things weren’t looking good. That whole period could be considered the “dark age” of RPGFan. After E3 2001, when we had a lot of editors going, we got sort of a second wind. We had a chance to talk quite a bit at E3, we had good coverage at the show, worked really well as a team and we started thinking we could really get back to where we were before. This started with a major redesign of the site to make it look more professional, as well as adding a completely new updater script for our site, which would change the way the main page worked and how we updated. The script was the work of Parn, who did a great job, and the new design was once again by Chronologist. Everybody helped in some ways and in June 2001, RPGFan Version 4 was born. This is how the site currently looks like.
Now, we had a good design and a good script so the next part was getting more updates on the site. We had an open call for editors at the end of June, and we received a great response from our readers. We picked a lot of new editors from the applications and the updates really started to pick up. Now, all of this was great, but we still had a crappy server which kept going up and down all the time and was very slow. We couldn’t really go anywhere without a good server so the decision was made to move to a new web hosting company; a good one, a serious one. No more little servers from networks that will fail in a couple months, anyway: we needed something better. We signed a one year contract for our own dedicated web server over at CIHost. Of course, this came at a price, that price being that it’s costing a lot of money and we don’t have any revenue on the site, so we currently have to pay for our server space out of our own pocket. So, right now, not only do we NOT make money from this website, we actually PAY to give you this website. Obviously, this is not a good thing for the future of RPGFan. We obviously won’t be able to continue losing money like this. Something will have to be done in order to ensure RPGFan’s survival. And it’ll have to be sooner than later. To learn how you can help RPGFan, click on the following link right (link removed since it's not needed anymore).
In any case, since moving to this new server at the beginning of August, with our new design, new editors and renewed passion, the website has grown steadily every month, and we are now bigger than ever and our readership is the highest it has been in its history. I'd like to thank all of our readers who continue to visit the website, and I hope that you enjoy reading the site as much as we enjoy working on it. I also hope you all enjoyed reading this article about the history of RPGFan, and hopefully it gives all of you an insight into the evolution of a little fansite, to a big semi-professional site. It took 4 years to get here, but we're happy to be here, and even though we had a lot of ups and down, I think that it was all worth it in the end.
**** Update from 2008 ****
Since this article was written in early 2002, a lot has changed at RPGFan (6 years later). Our call for help in 2002 helped us stay alive thanks to the generosity of a lot of our readers. We were then able to recover from our financial problems and continued to grow at a steady rate.
Some additional pages and their evolution over the years: