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Abandonware Ring

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Note: This was written from the point of view of Fringer, the original founder of HotU (all *I* refers to her).

  • August 1998: Arrived in the United States to begin my MBA education. Eager to catch up with old friends on the rec.games.int-fiction and comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.marketplace Usenet newsgroups and rekindle my game collecting hobby which had floundered during the two years I spent in Thailand working after graduating from a US college.
  • September 1998: Came across The Abandonware Ring while looking to replace my bad Sword of The Samurai copy (like many others, I had contacted MicroProse only to receive a curt "sorry, we no longer carry this title" reply). Finally found it on a small but very well-designed site [I'm not sure what the name is-- if anyone knows, please contact me. I remember the name being something like The Ultimate Oldies Domain, and it had only 15-20 games but all with good screenshots and descriptions. The games include Knights of Legend, Sword of The Samurai, King's Quest IV AGI version -- all of which are now on this site. I'd love to know the name, and hearing from the former webmaster would be great :)] Needless to say, I was very intrigued with abandonware as a well-intended way to help collectors acquire games that are hard to come by, or whose copies on original disks have gone bad.
  • Late September 1998: Dismayed at the lack of mention of abandoned games from my favorite companies, e.g. Infocom, Telarium, and QQP, I decided to start my own abandonware site to honor underrated games of all ages while supporting the abandonware ideal. Began working on a very primitive (by anyone's standard) HTML site, written entirely with MS Frontpage Express without any knowledge whatsoever of HTML, webhosting, or dealing with dozens of e-mails a day [EG]
  • 2 October, 1998: Home of the Underdogs opened its doors, hosted by Xoom since everyone else seemed to be using it. I have unfortunately lost this design in a hard drive crash, but I remember that there were around 15-20 games featured on the first day of the site. Among them are games that were, I believe, available for the first time on the Internet (and which became, of course, "common" on many abandonware sites): Nomad, The Fool's Errand, and Sea Rogue to name a few. The site's design is very primitive, but quite organized: games were categorized by genre. Every game featured a small screenshot and a brief review.
  • November 1998: Received many encouraging e-mails from visitors, many of whom became friends. Rascal, a fellow die-hard collector, introduced me to IRC channel #Oldgames on EFNet. Pleasantly surprised to meet many others who share the same passion :)
  • Late November 1998: Xoom erased all my files. I expected this, but not that it would come so soon. By now, the site had mushroomed to around 80 games, scattered across free accounts at Xoom, Fortunecity, and Geocities. At the same time, Interplay's long-awaited Baldur's Gate was released....
  • December 1998: Played Baldur's Gate in most of my waking (and non-studying) hours. Discovered some great, forgotten classics in the attic at home during Christmas Break (e.g. Hidden Agenda and Challenge of The Five Realms). Determined to bring the site back from the dead to bring these games to light (oops, sorry, too melodramatic here :))
  • 12 January 1999: Home of the Underdogs re-opened, HTML pages hosted this time by Fortunecity. The games were still scattered around major webpage providers. Started renaming all abandonware .ZIP files to .BMP to avoid detection.
  • February 1999: Site deleted by Fortunecity, after less than 3 weeks following the re-opening. Moved the site within 3 days to Xoom and re-opened it for the third time.
  • March 1999 - April 1999: A very good (in terms of rapidly increasing number of games) but very frustrating (in terms of accounts being routinely deleted by free providers) period for the site. By the end of April, the number of games had gone up to around 400 or so. Had over 60 free accounts scattered across major free providers, as well as (then) lesser-known ones e.g. The Globe. Had over 50 free e-mail accounts from those same providers, which I used in a systematic pattern to register for yet more accounts. The "master file" --the list of all the HOTU games and which account they were in-- was roughly 15 screens long.
  • May 1999: Xoom deleted the site-- again. Several hosting offers were received from sympathetic visitors. Finally took Output's offer to host the site on his Surf Solutions network. The new site, with URL of http://underdogs.gamingdepot.com, was opened in late May, 1999. The decision to move away from free servers came from the fact that free accounts were now being deleted more frequently than ever, probably due to the site's increased exposure and bandwidth, which attracted free providers' attention to investigate and discover abandonware files (which are illegal-- read our FAQ for more detail). The site's IRC chatroom, #Underdogs on EFNet, was opened around this time.
  • June 1999: Went home (Thailand) for summer vacation. Finished the second design of the site, which was heavily inspired by GameSpot in terms of layout. This design would last until our facelift in July 2000. [Note: the HTMLs of this design will be up for viewing soon]
  • August 1999: Contacted by GoneGold, asking me to remove the medieval shield graphics I used from the menu bar since it was their design. Had no idea at all since someone else did the menu bar for me. Quickly came up with the new menu bar, which looked similar to the old one except for the replacement of the shield by a cute spacedog animated .gif my brother got from a free .GIF site. At first we thought this dog was from Tintin, a famous Belgian comic strip, but I found out later that it is actually an original work done by Havana Street, a "retro clip art" site. So I decided to spend $5 on the dog to use it legitimately :) The dog therefore became more or less the site's mascot to this very day.
  • September 1999: Noticed the disturbing trend of link-stealing going on in the abandonware scene (i.e. linking directly to someone else's file, not the HTML, without the webmaster's permission). Dismayed to find that HOTU itself was the target of many link-stealing sites. The site by now, largely thanks to Output's hospitality which allowed me to upload games without the fear of being deleted, had grown to over 700 games.
  • 20 October, 1999: Decided to suspend the site in protest of link stealers, and to work on CGI scripts that would foil their attempt. Also wrote the first, quite random editorial about abandonware. You can read the announcement and editorial here. Please note that I have updated the links, and removed the name of link-stealing site, since they have publicly apologized and stopped this villainous practice.
  • 30 October, 1999: Re-opened the site, There was still no protection against link stealers, but at least heavy criticisms all around seemed to deter their efforts for now. By now, I had made a lot of good friends on IRC, many of whom are now instrumental in maintaining this site, e.g. oldwolf (our sysadmin), Sugoll (with his amazing want list), Duglis (historical gamer extraordinaire) and Krovax (who taught me how to make good .PDF manuals)
  • December 1999 - January 2000: A tranquil period for the site, quite hectic in my real life as I was going through the final rounds of interviews for post-MBA jobs. Finally accepted an offer to work in Hong Kong, and work on the site picked up pace again.
  • February 2000: Bought the www.theunderdogs.org domain name, and decided to move to a dedicated server due to the site's increasing bandwidth needs and traffic. The site was opened in the middle of February 2000 at the new URL, still with the same (second) design. In that same month, work began on the complete overhaul of the site, driven mainly by huge monthly server and bandwidth costs. The main objective was to put each game on its own page, so that the site would have many more pages, and hence more banners. This way, HOTU will earn enough pay-per-impression revenues to pay monthly costs without requiring extensive banner-clicking ;)
  • 8 July, 2000: The new, third design of HOTU launched for the first time, with many new features in addition to a completely new look. If you are interested in what the old design looked like, click here for a blast to the past ;) Needless to say, the download links won't work, and you have to manually get back here ;) [Read Design Notes for more detail on how the new design differ from the previous one]
  • September 2000: The exponential growth in site traffic (file transfers now totalled more than 35 gigabytes *daily*) created significant burden to our MySQL database. We decided to order the second server to relieve the server of this load.
  • 6 October, 2000: The second server was set up, and the site's speed dramatically increased... but for how long? Only time will tell.
  • 2 November, 2000: CC'd an e-mail that the IDSA sent to our domain registrar. To comply with their intentions as implied in the e-mail, we took down downloads of titles that we think are copyrighted by IDSA members. The deluge of letters (such as these) that fans sent to the IDSA convinced us to continue the site for as long as possible Work on "Free the Games" campaign has begun.
  • 21 October, 2001: Reached and surpassed the 3,000 mark of underdogs reviewed. That translates to an average of 2.23 games reviewed per day since the site's opening on Oct. 2, 1998. That probably means we're insane ;)
  • 3 March, 2002: Our old domain www.theunderdogs.org is "lost" to a cybersquatter called UltimateSearch who apparently does nothing except snapping up expired domain names to direct people to a dodgy search engine/portal (as a side note, many well-known companies including PriceWaterhouseCoopers (who lost pwc.com to ultsearch) have sued ultsearch.com over this practice and failed, because what they do is still considered a "legitimate business" under WIPO arbitration rules). It was all a result of my own stupidity for thinking that my account at Register.com works for all domain names, and therefore never got the warning e-mails from Register.com telling me that our domain was about to expire. I had to change the site address to http://www.the-underdogs.info/ as a result of this.
  • 2 June, 2002: After almost 3 months, we finally got the domain name www.theunderdogs.org back from ultsearch.com - by offering them US$400 (which many people told me is considered "cheap" as far as relatively popular domain names go). The old URL now redirects to this one, so tell every HOTU visitor you know to update their bookmarks :)
  • 17 November, 2002: Reached and surpassed the 4,000 mark for the number of underdogs reviewed. That translates to an average of 2.67 games reviewed per day since the site's opening on Oct. 2, 1998 - 1,507 days ago. We're beyond insane, apparently ;)
  • 6 February, 2003: Launched a brand new design, dubbed "HOTU v3.0." Registered users can now submit comments and reviews of games, in addition to a number of new features described in the Design Notes. We also launched HOTU Store, our very own shareware store set up to promote shareware/independent games :) Our v2.0 design has been archived here.
  • 6 August, 2004: Reached the 5,000 mark for the number of underdogs reviewed. This means I have added an average of 2.34 games per day for the past 2,135 days (5.8 years) the site has been online. Scary :) This magic number means this site is currently one of the largest game review sites on the Internet by my count... and probably the second largest among "hobby" sites, right behind MobyGames. And if you narrow the definition a bit further, HOTU is probably the largest hobby gaming site on the Internet without user-submitted content :) (although we do have a lot of user-suggested content, thanks to all your suggestions). We also added BitTorrent as a download option for large files.
  • March, 2009: HotU is down due to (traditional) problems with server providers, all code is lost but the content was preserved. Fringer resigns while releasing the content and granting permission for others to recreate the site, several resurrection projects emerges (all of them, except the one you see now, disappeared or stopped being maintained/updated by year 2014).
  • 24 March, 2009: The site as you see it now was recreated from scratch following the old look & feel. Traditionally, we have a new domain now www.HomeOfTheUnderdogs.net.
  • 12 July, 2014: The site reactivation started in order to modernize it and make it more active (Updates, Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, etc) while preserving the nostalgia feeling.
  • 28 December, 2015: The first HotU Council was approved by the community. We are on the way to switch from a one man job to a team effort. Also additional staff was selected and we opened the doors for editors and other kind of helpers.

Thanks to everyone for reading this far :) This page will periodically be updated with significant events as they happen. I hope that, if nothing else, this page may serve as a reminder to everyone that every undertaking, however large or small, begins with a dream. It then takes a lot of patience, tenacity, and (sometimes superhuman) determination to see it through. Here's hoping that our little history may inspire someone to start a site dedicated to oldies, and never give up. Cheers!



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