Friday, October 21, 2011

History of the Interguild, Part 3: Finding the Right Home

At last, we've reached the final installment of this series. In Part One, we saw how the Interguild community was formed by players who fell in love with the game Hannah and the Pirate Caves (HATPC), and in Part Two we saw how TNT, the creators/owners of the game, nearly destroyed this community through their repeated neglect and mismanagement of HATPC.

In this post we'll look at the story behind the various websites that have housed our community throughout the years, how they've affected the course and identity of the Interguild, and how we found our ultimate home in

This was a very difficult post to write. The major challenge was in figuring out how to properly organize these ideas together into a coherent article without confusing you with various jumps in chronology. It was because of this design dilemma that I finished this post so late, along with the fact that school is getting very busy lately. At one point, I tried staying up until 5am one Saturday night to see if I could finish this, and I still didn't finish. But now the wait is over...

The Guilds' Competitions

As I explained in Part One, the Interguild was originally formed as an alliance among multiple HATPC-related guilds on Neopets. While the Interguild would soon find a home on the HATPC Interguild Forums, the guilds themselves already had their own individual homes on

It was during our time in the guilds when we started the tradition of holding periodic competitions. We were originally going to call them "contests", but we decided "competitions" would be safer as TNT strictly prohibited holding contests where you could win prizes, which had become a popular form of scamming people.

Fragments of the PCCA front
page taken from shos' video.
The PCCA guild in particular held competitions according to a schedule: one week for players to submit entries, another week for the entries to be judged by three non-participants, and then a new competition would start on the following week. Eventually we changed the schedule to give players two weeks to make their entries. While we haven't always followed this pattern as strictly as we would've liked, it definitely helped us maintain a steady pace of user activity. It was mainly thanks to this competition system that the PCCA was able to outlive the other guilds. The system proved so important to the Interguild that the series slowly became the Interguild's official competitions.

These competitions encouraged players to keep making levels even when there wasn't much inspiration. They also gave us an easy way to measure activity depending on how many people would join. And so entering in a competition was one of the best ways that members felt they could contribute towards keeping the Interguild alive.

Not a Neopets Community

Even after we moved to the HATPC Interguild Forums, we still viewed the Interguild as a neopets community. This was problematic because some of us were ashamed of this fact. No matter how much we loved the community, we hesitated to bring our friends onto the site because it was potentially embarrassing to be playing a kids game like neopets—or worse, to be taking one of its games so seriously.

It's surprising to see how dependent we were to neopets at the time. Our very survival hinged on how TNT managed HATPC. And because we were getting most of our new members from the guilds on, we had to keep the guilds updated, despite the fact that most of us went straight to the forums instead.

The uploader glitches of 2007 and 2008 (explained in Part 2) were some of the most significant forces that pushed us to stand alone as our own community. As we built up resentment against TNT, the us-versus-them mentality created a clear distinction between the Interguild and Many of us no longer wanted to associate ourselves with that website, and we started to realize that we didn't need to rely on them in order to keep the Interguild alive. So in May of 2008, we formally abandoned the guilds, leaving them as a sort of shrine that will point future generations of cavers towards the Interguild forums.

Personalizing the Forums

In November 2006, two months after the Interguild was created, the HATPC Interguild Forums opened at At the time, the Interguild didn't seem like it was worth the trouble of getting a new domain name, and so I decided to upload the forums as a subdirectory of another domain that my father had been using. I also solicited the help of my twin brother Haily to help me install and configure phpBB 2.0, a popular forum management system. While Haily wasn't a very active Interguild member, he would frequently help us with building our website.

The great thing about phpBB was how customizable it was. Haily made it even more flexible by installing an add-on called EasyMod, which allowed us to efficiently install more add-ons. Because we were able to personalize the forums to such a degree, we were able to turn it into a great home for the Interguild.

Here are some examples of how we customized our forums:

The Cave Galleries - We had a forum board in which players could start their own topic dedicated to holding all of the levels that they've made. While most new caves would have their own discussion topic in another board, the cave galleries served as another method for browsing and searching for caves.

Ranks - The forums had a built-in rank feature that gave members titles based on their post count, and we gave these ranks HATPC-related names such as Caving Enthusiast (75 posts), Hidden Gem (2000). Towards the end of our time on the forums, we started giving out custom rank titles. These were mostly named after usernames, but there were also some unique ones, such as "The Zero", "Pineapple!", "A Staff Member", and "Dando Love".

Dubloons - One of the mods that we installed was a currency system. Every time a member posted, they would be awarded points, called dubloons, based on how long their post was. Coincidentally, posting a level code would give you quite a lot of dubloons because of how big the average cave code was. We also had a ranking on the forum index that displayed the three richest users.

Gems - We added two more currencies on top of the dubloons, but rather than giving these out automatically, the only way to earn one would be to have a staff member award you with one. Gems in particular were awarded for extraordinary work in contribution to the Interguild. For example, you could earn one by finding a new HATPC glitch, writing a tutorial, or by getting new members to join.

GAWAs - The second additional currency was the Gingerandwhiskers Award (GAWA), an award named after the founder of the HATPC Guild for being the very first person to make a HATPC video before the Interguild was created. Members would receive GAWAs for making particularly impressive caving videos. Our YouTube videos became an important recruitment tool for finding new members, and so we wanted to incentivize the creation of great videos.

Effects Shop - Almost all of the items in this list were implemented by January of 2007, but in August 2007, Haily came back to add the user effects shop, where we could finally put our dubloons to use and buy the ability to customize the colors of our individual posts. It was the end of decent web design as we knew it. Some members protested the feature by doing evil things with it, like shos who set both his background and text color to white. Fortunately, you could choose to not see any of these effects, and they were not visible to logged-out users.

The crazy things we did on those forums.
(This is a screenshot of Count to 5000, by the way)
The Old Interguild Website

If the forums were located on, then what was in The Interguild website, of course! Just like the PCCA front page, the old Interguild website didn't have very good web design, but it was definitely flashy.

Fragments of our old hompage taken from shos' video.
Theoretically, the Interguild could have survived without a website and relied solely on its forums, but we believed that having a website gave us more credibility while at the same time making us look like we were a larger community than we really were. The website was awkward mainly because we were a community with a website, rather than a website with a community. While we tried to display the community's major accomplishments, ultimately no one really visited the website, because all of the content was on the forums.

The purpose of the site was mainly to serve as our community's public image. This was the place where we led new members to in order to have them find out what the Interguild was all about. Literally everything on the site served that purpose, including the news updates, which no one even followed because most members would just read the relevant forum topics instead.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the website, however, was the Video Archive. After Jebby made the Interguild's first HATPC video, he unwittingly sparked a video-making craze during June 2007. We started to keep track of these videos on the forums, but during that summer, Haily decided to make us a video database where we could search through the videos, organize them by categories, and have them all embedded onto the website. This was the first time Haily had used PHP and MySQL, and he would later use these skills to build the framework for our current website.

The Interguild's first caving video.

The New Game and the New Interguild

By Spring of 2008, we had abandoned the guilds and were focused on the New Game, now known as the Aeon Project. We were now faced with the question of what the Interguild would become if the New Game was completed.

Would we abandon HATPC? If not, what kind of website would we be if we were dedicated to two games? Our history had taught us that keeping our community as accessible and attractive to new members as possible would be a key part in whether or not we would survive. So the solution that we came up with was to dedicate the new Interguild to all games that featured user-created content, mainly custom levels. This is where the idea of making a multi-game level database first appeared.

The most interesting thing about this decision was the fact that we held this discussion openly as a community. Everyone was involved in what the new Interguild would be about, and we were all concerned about making sure that it would be successful while still staying true to the community.

Now that we had a new purpose, we needed a new website. Construction of the new site began in Summer of 2008 and this time, we purchased the domain name. I again asked Haily to help me build the site.

The Making of

Ever since his work on the Video Archive during the previous summer, Haily had been hard at work building his website At the time of this writing, is running on a content management system, but back in 2008, almost everything about the site was hand-coded by Haily, including its forums. The plan was to take the code that Haily had already written and use it to make the Interguild's new site. Meanwhile, I focused on the design and basic coding.

Haily thinks I'm
client from Hell.
While it sounds like we should've been able to finish the site fairly quickly the New Interguild wouldn't be finished until December. Perhaps the most significant factor that delayed the project was the fact that Haily and I formed a pretty bad team together. After seeing how much Haily could procrastinate on the project, I eventually formed a habit of perpetually nagging Haily to work on the new site. As a result, his productivity sank to new lows.

One day I got fed up with the stagnant progress, and I finally decided to start learning PHP and MySQL myself. To my astonishment, I was able to learn it in less than a day.

I only took the time to learn the basics, however, and that's pretty much why my understanding of PHP isn't all that great. As a result, the site isn't as efficient as possible and there are quite a lot of glitches. But as Quirvy once pointed out to me, glitches are okay because if it weren't for them, HATPC wouldn't have been so great.

The Evolution of

The new site finally opened its doors on Saturday, December 13th, 2008. If I remember correctly, Haily hasn't worked on anything significant for the Interguild since then. From this point on, I had to maintain every part of the site's programming myself.

The original website had a blue and white color scheme mostly because I had decided that a dark color scheme was the most difficult to design for. By this point in time I had taken a few courses on graphic design, and so I was starting to realize just how bad my earlier designs had been.

From the glory days of staff power abuse (more on this later).
The level database was originally called "the level galleries" after the board on the old forums, and it took us quite a while to change that name. The video archive was simply ported in from the old site, and I have yet to revamp it. To this day, the video archive is one of the most horribly coded and least user-friendly features on the Interguild.

We were still strictly a HATPC community until April 2009, when I finally implemented features throughout the site to support the addition of multiple games. This too is another feature that I have never gone back to polish, especially given how restrictive and clunky the process is for adding new games into the system.

Then in the following July, I finally made a darker color scheme.

It was also at this time when we held the first Interguild Olympics, a strange tournament with about a dozen rounds. The IO would grow to be one of the most iconic and looked-forward-to events at the Interguild, especially with the addition of teams during the following year.

In September of 2009, I made another small design change to the layout.

Looking back, this was a pretty ugly idea, but its purpose was to put an ad at the top of the page, which my dad and brother had been trying to get me to do for quite a while. This design change also made the site easier to navigate.

But the biggest upgrade came in April of 2010, which gave us our current, more professional design:

After a little over a year of designing, implementing, and living in these different website layouts, I had finally become satisfied with the way the Interguild looked, which is why there hasn't been any design upgrades since.

Why is Our Dream Home

I can't stress enough how important it was that was hand-coded. It allowed us to customize this site to an extent that simply wouldn't have been possible on the old site. Here are some of the most significant personalizations we made:

Embedding the Community Everywhere - Haily's forum system allowed us to create the perfect marriage between the "website" and the "forums". Today, almost all of the content on the site automatically has its own forum topic, regardless of whether it's a news post, level, video, tutorial, etc. You can't even load a single page without knowing who's online at any given time. It's beautiful to see how intertwined the community is in all aspects of the Interguild.

The Karma System - Ever since the old forums, we've had this idea of making a karma system, which is similar to a reputation score that many other forums have. We basically wanted a way to give members feedback on the quality of their posts in hopes that certain members would learn to behave and stop writing awful posts. Under the karma system, members can choose to anonymously give a post positive or negative karma, which would either add or subtract a point from that user's overall karma ranking. While it did improve post quality to an extent, it was also fun to be able to gauge people's reactions to posts so easily.

Staff Powers - The respected members who are in the staff have access to some dangerously powerful pages and features. While this has allowed the staff to properly maintain the site even when I'm not there, it has also allowed them to stage some hilarious pranks throughout the years. For example, consider the Censor List below.

The DIE smiley originated as a censor
The Censor List - This staff power was designed to dynamically replace bad words with good words on every page load. There was no need to do it this way, but the old forums had a similar feature and we knew it'd be more fun. For example, that Sprout for Prez stunt was pulled off by setting a wildcard (.) as the bad word, effectively replacing every character on the site. But the censors have also been used for the good of the Interguild. This power has allowed the staff to add a lot of useful features to the forums, such as new smileys and new BBcode.

The Fake Members - Over the years, the Interguild has generated quite an interesting cast of characters and mascots. All of which are fake member accounts started either by the staff (usually Quirvy), or by other members which are then commandeered by the staff. Here's a brief list of them:
  • Dando52, a vicious tyrant whose gender is Classified and who took over the Interguild one summer while I was on vacation.
  • Interbot, the official test dummy account of the Interguild, who has currently been renamed to AdBot.
  • Captain Obvious, who occasionally appears to save the day and reclaim his lines from people who have stolen them.
  • Captain Oblivious, a hopelessly confused individual.
  • KarmaBot, the official Livio harrassment account of the Interguild, and the ruthless leader behind the Karma War of 6/6.
  • a_neezles_a - Neezles is actually a real member. She was a notorious troll that plagued our community by signing up as fake members for months. However, there was a time when we took over the account and then we staged our own troll run.

April Fools - April Fools Day is one of the most important days of the year for the Interguild, and it's one of the best examples of how we've been taking advantage of our ability to fully alter the website. In 2009, we abused the censors in order to put invisible Rick Rolls on every page. In the next year, every member became Anonymous and completely indistinguishable when posting on the forums. And this year, we completely changed the colors to be as annoying as possible where every page load had a random background color.

With great power comes some great pranks.
We've really been exploiting this site in some really creative ways. And this is why I believe that has truly been the Interguild's dream home, because isn't it appropriate how our website would let us mess around with its features and glitches just as much as HATPC?


It's always difficult to describe to others just how much this community means to me. Our story is not one that can be properly told within a few sentences, and you certainly can't compare us to anything else either.

In the past five years, we've all played the same game, shared the same struggles, and laughed at the same shenanigans. We've really grown up together. It's amazing that we've been able to make it this far, and I'm sure you are just as excited as I am to see just how far this community can go.

Long live the Interguild!


  1. I can't believe I missed this year's april fools X__X damn university lol. Long live the Interguild :)

  2. Long live the Interguild!

    Also the wildcard censor is . and not * which you should know...I am proud to be the finder of this useful censor.

  3. Man, I can't believe that I thought that that old homepage (the original one) was so cool! Reading this whole thing made me so happy and proud.

  4. lol I really should've looked up what the regular expression wildcard is rather than trusting my gut. I guess I was too busy fact checking the important stuff.