This year has brought a lot of change to the site, and that trend is continuing.
I had planned to revamp the forums for a few weeks at this point, removing all of the old code and basically starting from scratch, although of course keeping the database intact (so all threads, users, and more was still there). It wasn't an easy choice, there were a lot of modifications made to the code over 13 years and many I would not be able to reproduce myself.
However, it had been a frequent request and after some recent performance issues, I realized it was time to bite the bullet rather than keep it going. To update the forum required about 3 hours of downtime, which would be used to update the database (this doesn't factor in the weekend prior I spent working on the forums in pre-production). While I originally figured this would just be a normal update, it kind of dawned on me that I had nothing planned for April Fools.
So I decided to merge the two. Throw together a prank that the forums were closing while using the downtime to update to the new forum architecture. Before getting into the prank, though, I would like to bid farewell to the old forums first. They had a lengthy run from 2003 to 2016, although the database was wiped during a site transition... the code on the forums itself remained.
In saying goodbye, I would like to take a look at the old forum styles, which I had quite an affection toward. These were one of many elements that we simply could not take with us toward the new forum architecture. As some know, I hate throwing things away when it comes to web properties, so below is a bit of an archive of what the old styles looked like, how many used them and my thoughts. I sadly don't know the exact dates of when they came out, only that the last one was in 2010. Because of that, I will order them based on popularity as of March 29th, 2016. Images can be clicked to expand them.
Gotengo (Purple) ~ 1,371 users
This theme enjoyed a pretty healthy run as the default theme, which gives it a user base edge. Personally, though? This one was my favorite and the one I used. It shared the most with the original forum design, back before styles were introduced, but updated it for a slightly more modern take. The colors were a bit unique and your eyes gravitated to the orange, which was perfect since that's where the board title or thread name would be found. The light purple was also the closest to the main site colors of the lot.
Mecha-King Ghidorah (Blue) ~ 626 users
The second most popular style, and with a devoted following. When the new boards were taken down, this was by far the most requested style to return. I do vividly recall struggling to design something around King Ghidorah, and ended up going for one on the mechanized form after realizing how perfectly he fit in the header area. The blue design was also pretty attractive, and I really don't know why I gravitated toward multiple blue styles when the main site is more of a dark purple.
Godzilla Fire (Dark Black) ~ 510 users
In retrospect, it's kind of surprising that the forums only had one true dark/black style. Consequently, it's not too surprising to see this style rise through the ranks, being the only game in town. The inspiration for this style is actually based on the Kirin Fire ("Godzilla Coffee"). The ad campaign featured baseball player Hideki Matsui, who was nicknamed Godzilla and also appeared in Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla himself (circa the Kiryu era design). If you have never seen the commercial, take a watch here, you might be surprised how faithful the design for this style was for something so obscure.
Godzilla (Dark Blue) ~ 345 users
I was always shocked when this board, which used to be at the top, started to sink over the years. Even though my favorite was the Gotengo one, I tended to identify the board with this look the most. Because I was pretty pleased with the design, I also set it as the default board when someone wasn't logged in. Visually, I loved the slow fade of the Heisei Godzilla head in the header. The radioactive icons haven't aged that well, though, but otherwise an appealing design.
20th Century Boys (Classic) ~ 31 users
There was a small but vocal group that really wanted the original forum style to return, which was abandoned once more colorful styles were added. The group got their wish with a style that harked back to that 2003 design, even with the same Xilien UFO icons. The header image was retooled, though, and the theme based off a nostalgia angle harking to 20th Century Boys (2008). This was my least favorite style, but it did what it set out to do: replicate the original look.
Bloodthirsty (Black) ~ 30 users
God bless the 30 mavericks who choose this theme. I do recall this being the last of the themes I designed, and also being discouraged at the lack of use it got as it can be quite time consuming to create a style. A few switched it on for Halloween, but it never really got much use. The actual theme is based on the 1970's vampire films in what is called the Bloodthirsty trilogy. The films are: Vampire Doll (1970), Lake of Dracula (1971) and Evil of Dracula (1974). I absolutely love Vampire Doll (1970), and the design had most in common with this film with both the house in the background and the title character with the blade. However, the roses were an element owed to Evil of Dracula (1974).
Pokémon (Orange) ~ 7 users
...And at the bottom of the heap we find the site's only anime style, which was based on the Pokémon films. The actual Pokémon selection was on the 3rd generation, Pokémon Ruby and Pokémon Sapphire for the Game Boy Advance, which appeared in films such as Pokémon: Jirachi Wish Maker (2003). The actual design kind of reminded me of old school Macs. It was never really popular, although I do remember it for being Miles Imhoff's style of choice for the forums.
April Fools 2016
So back to the topic at hand, as mentioned I did not plan an April Fools joke for this year. That's not too shocking, as in years past I would lean on Miles or ask something to come from the K.W.C. crew to see if they could fill the void. However, felt that the K.W.C. angle was tried too recently, so racked my brain to come up with something as a gap filler.
The eventual resolution was to just say the forums were closing.
As previously mentioned, it was going to take a bit to update the database to the new architecture, and so the timing was right to take advantage of it. Now my normal mantra for April Fools jokes is that I want them to occur only within the period that falls on April Fools, I told some other members of the staff and they wanted to drum up a minor storm on the forums to sell the idea more. I gave it my okay, and one of the actions was Derzerb's resignation, as seen to the right.
With that in place, I crafted a fairly long message to go up on the main site while the boards would be disabled, allowing for the database update to occur in the background. While there was no truth to the message in regards to the forums being closed, there was a degree of real reflection to it. Mostly that the forums are an area where the staff isn't really given much kudos. However, as said in the message, it's understandable as it's user generated content, although it does hurt the ol' motivation for it at times.
Anyway, for reference, below is the original message that was posted on the front of the site:
After a lot of thought, I have decided to close down the forums as sort of a "contingency plan". This wasn't an easy choice. The forums have been with us for a long time, since 2003. In many ways, it is part of what defines the website. However, it has been kind of a thankless component of the website as well, and you can't really blame that mentality. By nature, it's user generated content. When I updated the monster bios, Baragon's in particular, I got a lot of praise for that. While I don't seek praise, it does help drive my motivation around the website.
The forums have never really offered that. People expect it to work, and again I don't blame others as I would have the same approach on other forums as well. However, the forums are old. It's 13 years now and that's 13 years of code. Code that has accumulated over time and with the departure of Miles Imhoff, it's something that I'm not familiar enough with to "fix". So the forums have lamented a bit. My free time is not what it once was and I will attest that nothing bums me out more than working a long day in the office only to check my phone afterwards to read emails calling me out for a lack of involvement in the forum or for current events there that I need to fix.
It's hard. It's draining. I don't like to close things down, as the site's blog section will show as that has become a catch all area for abandoned ideas in the past, but the forums are something that I have decided it's finally time to close this chapter of the site's history. A recent exodus there as well made this choice somewhat easier too.
I do deeply want to thank everyone who has participated there over the years and the admins and moderators who have helped as well. It's all been much appreciated.
I'm still deciding what to do with them, leaning toward archiving it all and linking toward it in the blog section, but right now I have just disabled it.