VO: A Short History in Pictures
THE LOOK: When you've been working on a website for decades, you have to change the look every now and again as the technology changes, but also to keep you from getting extremely bored with it. For those of you who have been around since 1994, there have been several different looks. I unfortunately don't recall them all, but thanks to a few screen shots that appeared in magazines over the years, and a few old files I still have on my hard drive, I have been able to reconstruct a few:
Some old images. Recognize any of them? ;-)
I used MS Paint to create the above graphic, in all it's 16-bit (?) colour glory. The original premise of the site was an after-hours room of sorts, a place where only vampires were allowed -- so this graphic was supposed to represent a sign posted on the front of a door.
Now the site name finally makes sense, doesn't it?
This was sent to me by a kind visitor to my site who obviously had better command of graphics editing programs than I did at the time. I'm sorry that I've forgotten his name, but the picture remained part of the site for quite some time.
Here I was experimenting with bloody-type fonts.
At this point I was finally getting good enough at using graphics programs to lay fonts over pictures! W00t! (I hadn't yet discovered photoshop).
During this phase I experimented with image maps, an old HTML coding technique that generally required using an external program specifically made for assisting in creating the maps.
- Good things come to those who prey
- For the blood is the life
- Fear not, we do not bite... hard
- Undead and kicking since 1994
- Dress: casual; Fangs: optional
- Welcome creature of the night
- A vorld vide veb original
- Bleeding the web since 1994
- The original vampire website
It was also one of the first set of graphics I created after learning the basics of Photoshop...
I always liked this graphic; it stood on the entry page and was a simple entry point.
This one also involved a java-script based mouseover event, which would turn the graphics red when the mouse pointer moved over top.
THE CHAT ROOMS
The chat rooms and other "conversation areas" had quite an auspicious start at VO. If I recall correctly, the genesis of the conversation areas started with a simple Guestbook (the typical kind you see here at VO, or at most other sites) -- this was probably in late 1995. As it turned out, people started conversing using the Guestbook!
As a result of this, the Guestbook file would exponentially increase in size over the course of a day, which made it quite difficult to keep my site within the bounds of the disk size I was alloted, which back then was probably 5 megs or so. So as a means to better maintain this new "conversation" format, I basically duplicated the guesbook script, but called it something different. For example, there was "The Eternals", "Fang Central", "Newly Undead", and author/book chats such as "Brian Lumley" and "The Vampire Chronicles". I think I had, like, eight categories, which ended up to be overkill.
These eventually evolved into more distinct flavours of chats: "Theatre of Shadows" (serious role playing), "The Black Raven Inn" (casual role playing & conversations), "The Dark Grimoire" (user message board), "The Crimson Quill" (poetry and prose), and finally, "The Eternals" (an ongoing story). However, they were still a Guestbook styly, which required very high maintenance, and if I didn't get around to cleaning them up, it meant a serious download time for any VO users (this was back when 28.8 and 33.3 baud modems were the norm).
It should be noted that one of our dear members, Crystal Star, came up with the name Black Raven Inn.
Here's an example of the old chat style we were using; I've tried to approximate the original look based on the browser capabilities back then -- all backgrounds were grey, text was black and links were blue.
(BTW those teeth became quite popular, they were lifted repeatedly from my site and showed up on many others. I didn't mind -- but it took me a hell of a long time to make them from scratch using MS Paint. Yes that blood is just a series of dots...one red dot at a time...ugh.)
Eventually I got ahold of a pretty good "Webchat" script, which was a web-based, CGI chat script. I believe that the Black Raven Inn was modified to use this script, but the rest were still Guestbooks. Unfortunately, several events happened that led to shutting down all the conversation areas in early 1996 -- they were too much a drain on the host server, and more importantly, several individuals were making offensive posts, and generall making the chat rooms unpleasent for all. Since I couldn't rely on everyone to govern themselves, the rooms were shut down.
Later that year, the chat saviour, Elyza, came along and created a method to make the rooms viable once again. The chat rooms were reinstated under the "Charnel House" banner, from 1996-1998. Elyza transformed the old rooms into what I consider were the most popular vamp chat rooms on the internet, and with the help of Dark Savant, we were able to create a user support and other automated systems whiched helped the chat rooms immensely.
During the course of that time, I was trying out a number of different "front ends" for the chat rooms. Here's an example of one:
(that "v-mail" coffin graphic also began to appear on many sites after I made it...)
But alas, even though we were able to keep most of the riff raff out, our membership began to split into factions, and we soon found that there was a great deal of in-fighting. Well, we couldn't take it anymore. At this point I had been working for almost four years on the chat rooms, and Elyza and Dark Savant had been at it for two, and all of us had become frustrated with what was going on. So I officially shut down the rooms once again in 1998.
I was burnt out, and even though there were numerous complaints about the shut down, I just couldn't re-open them. After two years had gone by, I was ready to once again look at the conversation areas, but to a lesser extent than what they had been. I decided to start up one room once again: The Black Raven Inn. It would not be part of the glorious system that we once had, but it would at least be a place for some of the old gang (and new blood) to talk if they wish. By that point I had little involvement in the new BRI -- I really couldn't be bothered to take an active part in it; I've been burned too often in the past. Even though some remnants of the old Charnel House still remain (the new BRI and The Eternals storytelling), it has never returned to its former glory.
Of course, this only takes us to the year 2000! Much has changed in the years since then, and when I have a moment (or few months of free time), I'll work on continuing this article.