About this website
Hello everybody! Thanks for visiting my website; the last active Space Quest fansitesout there. Let me introduce myself. My name is Frans van Hofwegen (22 years old). I live in the fine, but boring, town of Nijmegen in the Netherlands close to the German borders. Let me tell you how I bummed into Sierra and their great games.
The Early Days
My dad bought our first computer (a 80286 with an ega card and colour monitor) back in 1988. My three brothers and I spent many hours on this machine, doing nothing more than staring at the screen and pushing those buttons. We played games like Paratrooper, Alley Cat and King's Quest 3. But I really liked one particular game that came with the computer namely "Space Quest Chapter I: The Sarien Encounter". Back then, I was five years old and didn't understand much English. It was my two older brothers who helped Roger through his first adventure and it took them months. But I was right there with them when they played, watching their progress on the Arcada. I didn't understand anything of the texts but the pictures sure looked neat. It must have been that "X-factor" Sierra games had at the time, but that game fascinated me somehow. I wanted to play my own Space Quest, so whenever the computer was free (rare occasion) I would enter the same words as my brothers did, with a dictionary as my only help.
Two years later (1990 I guess) we got a copy of Space Quest 3, my favorite Space Quest (I consider it to be the best computer game ever made). Space Quest 3 was a great challenge for my brother Tijn and his friends Guido and Daan. It was sure great to watch them play during those rainy days, when playing outside was no option. I remember the first time I saw my favorite character Fester Blatz and his spiffy shop World O' Wonders. Once again, I was intrigued by the great science fiction graphics. This SQ had a certain style - and a certain "je ne sais quoi" - that got me hooked. Do I need to mention Monolith Burger and the Arnold Schwarzenegger spoof? To me at that age, these things were fantastic. In fact, I'm still fascinated by certain screens of the game, even after playing SQ3 for a few thousand times (no bull!) So anyway, I continued to learn more and more English. I just had to know why my brother and his friends were laughing.
A few years later (does this guy never shut up?), I got to see Space Quest 5. Sadly, I didn't play that one myself because it was removed from the computer after some nasty computer virus. Too bad! I did have the chance to watch Tijn play on several occasions.
As the years came and went, it became clear that my brothers lost interest in Space Quest. It never had a special place in their hearts to begin with. It was just another game to play. For me, obviously, this was not the case. I couldn't forget how much fun I had watching and playing it myself. I couldn't forget all those fun hours behind the computer with family and friends. It might be a bit over-done to say this now - after all, who plays computer games with family and friends these days? Well, we did in the early days before cheap Doom shooters. For days and nights on end! As I was saying, it might be a bit over-done to say this now, but Space Quest and the memories that came with it have become essentional key experiences of my youth. It is this story that made me a SQ junkie for life. So, a chapter of my SQ experience ended effectively when I got to high school. But it turned out to be just the beginning.
It must be somewhere around 1996 when I stumbled across Space Quest 2 on a computer at school. I had played it for a few times only before the computer was removed. As I recall today, I didn't get to play that game again until two years later. It was in the summer of 1998 when my good old friend Menno and I played it for an entire day on end, finally finishing it at the dead of night in a drunk state. For me, those memories are what SQ is about. They will remain with me until I die.
Around August 1997 or so, the buzz called "the internet" finally hit the Netherlands. It hit good. My dad realized it was time for a new computer (and that's saying something!). In those days, everybody except my family had a CD-Rom player, a soundcard and a modem attached to their computers. Even I couldn't impress my friends anymore with our trusty old 80286. I was still playing Space Quest 1 over and over again. I think I must have played it over a thousand times, really! Anyway, our second computer was a fine Pentium 200 MMX. And sweet mother of God, look at the size of that screen! It must be at least 17"!
The Dawn of SpaceQuest.Net
Moving on to the summer of 1998, my oldest brother - Pieter - and I both got into HTML together. We used Fortuncity (the ultimate free website host for us back then) and he asked me the other day:
"Waarom maak je geen website over Space Quest?". For our non-Dutch visitors (nobody's perfect):
Why don't you make a website about Space Quest? He hadn't forget my Space Quest passion or so it seemed! This wasn't strange I recall now, since I used to compare new games we got with the old SQ games. Anyway, I replied: "GREAT IDEA!".
So the next few months I was working day and night on my very own website. I started The Frans and Bart Homepage along with Bart Stadelmann (best friend and classmate at the time). I got myself a nice easy to remember free redirect URL, namely http://beam.to/sq, and the first version appeared online somewhere in the winter months of 1998 (probably late October).
I must say I can't remember exactly. There isn't any evidence, just my flaky memory. I can say with a high probability that the website was first launched around October 1998. Later on, the official date was set to the 25th, so that I could start celebrating website anniversaries. Anyway, I've started ranting here!
Our website featured two chapters: Space Quest and Gabriel Knight. Our favorite Sierra games. The website was extremely crappy, made with the cheap HTML-editor Frontpage2000. That site was screaming: "I'm made by highschool students without HTML knowledge, I look crappy!" What's worse, the website contained content copied directly from the mother of all SQ sites, the Virtual Broomcloset (which I thought was "the official SQ site", really). Yes, dear reader, I didn't even knew how to make game screen shots. So I simply copied information I found on existing SQ sites. How else could I find information about SQ? In my defence, I had to start somewhere, hadn't I? I was young, foolish and naive. I'm not proud of it now, but that's how it all started. Possibly the only cool feature about that design was a WAV file about Kielbasa, who said "Computer, on screen" when you entered the website.
A few days into February 1999, Pieter came home with.... * Drum role please * .... The Space Quest Collection! Aaah, I can still feel the excitement. Today, by merely sniffing at that box I still get a strange twitch in my heart. It cost me 45 bucks to buy it from him, but it was worth the money. I finally had all the Space Quest games in one cool box! I had never played SQ4 and SQ6 before, they sure looked cool! And would you look over here! The manual stated Space Quest 7 was going to be released in... In 1998? Hey but wait, that meant it was in stores right now! But where the hell was SQ7? It was nowhere to be found in Nijmegen. Not on the internet either. What the hell had happened? Did Sierra postpone the game?
Unknowingly to me (I found out a few weeks later) "Chainsaw Monday" had hit. Named by Scott Murphy, February 22nd 1999 marked the end of the Sierra facility located in Oakhurst California. Sierra's HQ was located there since the beginning and it was in Oakhurst where the entire SQ Series were made. Many good people, including Scott Murphy, lost their jobs thanks to "corporate consolidation".
Just to give you some background information, you can image what this news did with my motivation. I got into the world of SQ right when it was going to the sharks. Unkowingly to me back then, many webmasters had already called it a day when the SQ7 project was cancelled the first time (December 1997)! Anyway, there I was, trying to get booted up in the world of SQ. It was breaking down under my noise. I had missed the bus! I got there after the gold rush! Homes were deserted and people had left. Funny thing is, looking back now, it was in June 2000 when I finally realized this in full!
Moving on with the story about my website, the site got hacked around December 1998 by a computer nerd in our class. Yeah, we bullied the socially-challenged guy and this was his revenge. Don't pin me down on the exact date though. It was in my puberty and besides the website there were interesting girls, boys, friendships and booze to explore as well. Soon after the hack, we (meaning Bart and me) went our seperate ways. To add salt to the wounds, every single binary digit we made was lost. We didn't do no pussy back-ups back then. I convinced Bart it made no sense to have a common website about both SQ and GK so we restarted independently. His site died out rather quickly. He couldn't push himself to re-create all that was lost. I almost stopped too, but I got around re-doing a lot of work and I put together a new version which was only slightly better than the crap I had before the hack.
The pictures you see here are one of the first images I did for the site (promotional banners, obviously), and the only two to survive the hack. A funny note: The fanfiction about Monolith Burger was one of the first pages I made. It's still online to this date. Ok, so that one survived the hack too.
Jumping ahead to July 2000. I was in the middle of redesigning the website using the Trellix webeditor for Fortunecities, when work came to a sudden stop: putting a halt to 1.5 years of continuous hard work on the site. The main reason why I stopped updating was the lack of visitors I was getting, the fact Space Quest 7 was cancelled months earlier, the fact that the fan community was bleeding to death and most notably because I had overwritten a HUGE chunk of work on my harddisk by accident. I just couldn't make myself do get work done.
Growing and Expanding
Almost a year later (in June 2001) I had this urge to revive the site (after not having touched it for a whole year). I guess I just couldn't let it go! I must admit, I did have huge amounts of free time back then (summer holidays). I didn't knew what else to do. So I worked the rest of the summer making a new design. Yeah, the picture you see here on the left, obviously. The design was online from July 2001 to March 2002.
I decided Trellix and Fortunecity weren't going to cut it anymore, so I used Dreamwaver 4 and a Geocities website instead. Some weeks later, college term started, but I continued to invest huge amounts of time in the website. All the hard work was not in vain, as the amount of visitors increased tremendously from 105 per month by June 2001, to 699 per month by July 2001!
The site began to crossing the three gigabyte datalimit from Geocities, causing the entire site to be shut down. Asthonished by the fact my site was getting popular so quickly, I was thinking about the possibility of having my own domainname. Geocities was just starting to offer "professional packages" which included a domainname, extra server space and more bandwidth. All for a very reasonable price too. Another advantage was an ad-free site, and it could be accessed using the geocities address AND the domainname. It was just what I needed.
The domainname SpaceQuest.Net was bought on September 17, 2001. I decided to go for that particular name because .com, .org and http://www.wiw.org/~jess/roger.html were already taken. A funny note: I was owner of spacequest.nl for a very short time, but I cancelled it because I thought the name spacequest.net had more future. Additionally, I had serious plans to do a Dutch-only fansite instead of an English fansite.
A few months after that, even the "pro package" from Geocities couldn't keep up with the growth of my website. Traffic increased as I added manuals and complete soundtracks. So I start looking for another server. I found out the hard way that most hosting companies are thieves. Unknowingly, I signed a contract with a rogue webhost called Featureprice. 140 dollars down the drain, nice feature price, indeed. For the poor student I was back then, that was almost the end of SpaceQuest.Net. I persevered and managed to make some money to buy a server account at a great company, called Eperfect.Net.
Finally Getting Some Recognition
Inspired by a Harry Potter fansite, I released a new design on March 9, 2002 (the picture here on the left, obviously. Click on it for a close up). The same date marked the name change from "Frans' Space Quest Page" (or was it "Frans' Space Quest Site"? - nobody knows) to "SpaceQuest.Net - Slippery When Wet!". This design took the website to an even higher level. I was getting over 5000 unique visitors a month at the end of its lifetime. Quite an achievement, don't you agree? Who says Space Quest is dead?
Good old Troels Pleimert, founder and maintainer of the famous SQFAQ document and webmaster of the once popular fansite "Wilco's Domain", left the community around this time period. I guess it just was his time to pick up real life. Troels is considered by many the biggest SQ fan of them all, and for good reason! His legacy? He gave me total ownership and free reign of his FAQ. I got to work right away to implement "the bible for SQ fans" into the website.
With over 40 major updates in one year, my website was without a doubt the most updated Space Quest fansite on the internet. It even won its first award! - True recognition, finally! I'm still very attached to the simplicity of this design, but it had served for over 18 months. It was time to scrap it and look ahead. It must be noted that SpaceQuest.Net really established its name during this time period. It took me long enough, don't you agree? :)
Hitting It Big: The 5th Anniversary
When SpaceQuest.Net reached its 5th Anniversary - at October 25th, 2003 - a new design was introduced (the picture here on the left, obviously. Click on it for a close up). Fellow Space Quest fan Danny Bloks worked his ass off during a four month period and got up with a terrific design. Sq7.Org was THE new buzz around the community, so we introduced a unique design based upon that fanproject (which still wasn't released a full year later, but they'll get there!). We also launched several truly unique features. Think about the neat pop up windows containing online QuickTime videos. But also content-wise, like the awesome design sketches from the cancelled SQ7. We definitely made sure SpaceQuest.Net was ready for the future. It turned out quite differently as the design served for 7 months only. The menu was one of its coolest features, but it was the be the main bottleneck too. If I wanted to introduce a new article, it took me hours just to update the menu. This couldn't go on so I decided to replace it prematurely.
Total Space Quest Hegemony
By May 2004 SpaceQuest.Net spanned over 1250 MB (!!!) of Space Quest material and was updated around two or three times a month - Undoubtedly the most active and largest Space Quest website on the internet! Managing and maintaining it became more and more difficult. The decision to change design - once again - was made literally overnight. While the previous design took months to create, the new one (which you're looking at now) was created during one long night. Mind, I don't want to go back to that night EVER. But it was worth it. The website was launched soon afterwards, after a thorough compatibility test. It loads faster, is easier to navigate and allows complete SQFAQ integration (which was only partially done up until now) and a better help system. The new design might be a step back if you're into cool graphics and animation thingies, but it's a HUGE step ahead in content management. And high quality content is what this website is all about after all!
Probably THE big thing of this design was the launch of a new feature. You could actually download all the Space Quest games from the website! A feature much criticized and feared by regular visitors (they didn't want SpaceQuest.Net to turn into some trashy abandonware shed), and welcomed by many newcomers.
With the coming of the year 2004, it became clear that the Virtual Broomcloset (world's first Space Quest fansite) run by Jess Morrissette, unofficially stopped updating. A sad realization just crossed my mind: I'm running the last active Space Quest fansite. Can you remember the days of 1997 and 1998? There used to be tons of Space Quest fansites out there! News about the Series and its creators with every week that passed! Okay, most fansites were shite, but that's another story... I set out to build a website using that free Fortunecities account back in 1998 to become the largest and most visited Space Quest fansite. But to be honest, I never had any hope of actually fulfilling that goal. Nor could I have foreseen that it would be me running the last active fansite. And thus, if you don't mind me saying, being burdened with the task of keeping Space Quest alive. It's a burden I happily take in, let me tell you. But it does remind me that all good things come to an end. What about SpaceQuest.Net, you ask? The future shall answer that question and the future will come soon enough.
There you have it, dear reader. My life as a Space Quest nut and the story of my website. From Fortunecity to Xoom to Geocities to Featureprice to Eperfect.net to Lavahost to AffordableHost to SQ7.Org's private server and back again to Eperfect.net. From hacks to Chainsaw Monday to the end of the Space Quest fan community and even the end of Sierra itself. SpaceQuest.Net has seen it all and outlived it all. In the process, SpaceQuest.Net has been around longer than most websites out there. Some achievement! Six years of answering e-mails, making many new friends, making some enemies, having a lot of fun and not regretting one single moment!
Since this website is such a big deal for me personally, I can safely say the last updates aren't insight yet... But this is where the story ends... For now. Please keep the dream alive. Space Quest will stay alive.
... I'm getting sentimental now. Yo, Ali! Pass me the towel.
- | To be continued | -