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On the State of Relations - by Anthadd

On the State of Relations

Note from the author to the readers: I'm not insulting your intelligence when I explain more than you think I should -- I overexplain on the offchance that someone who's played very few video games sees this article. Moreover, don't think this gives you carte blanche to do whatever you want at EarthBound.net. If you do, you're wrong.

It began in 18... wait, it didn't begin then. It began in the late 1980s. Shigesato Itoi created a roleplaying game. Under the auspices of Nintendo of Japan, he created a game. It was not exactly as graphically powerful as most games then were, but it entertained. And that's all that matters in video games. What's the name of the game Shigesato created, you ask? Mother.

Now, let us cross the Pacific to the United States of America. Imagine yourself in the western state of Washington, in Redmond, a suburb of the state's largest city, Seattle. Welcome to Nintendo of America, the American distributor of games for the NES, known in Japan as the Famicom. Many games came across the Pacific to Redmond then, and many still do today. In fact, the most popular at the time was the Mario Bros. series; and the RPG was an untested genre in America. The only games that had been released so far were Phantasy Star [on the Sega Master System], one or two Dragon Warrior games, and the first games in a series called Final Fantasy.

In the inner sanctum of Nintendo of America, a decision was made to import Mother to see if a release would be feasible. It was brought over, but many issues quickly arose: there was religious collision. For example, the desert area -- seemingly one of many staples in the RPG genre -- was named "Advent"; there are a few churches in the game; one city is named "Easter" -- and although it stops there, there were other roadblocks. Prayer was essential to defeat the final boss; it was changed to song in the English translation.

That is, some editing to inappropriate images [smoking crows, zombies with bullet holes in their bodies] had to be made. But time passed as the editing was made. The NES and Master System were no longer the systems du jour. Both Nintendo and Sega had developed more advanced systems. Instead of the 8-bit graphic capabilities of the NES and Master System, they came up with 16-bit graphics capable systems: the Super Famicom or Super NES [Nintendo] and the MegaDrive or Genesis [Sega].

By this time, EarthBound, as Nintendo was calling the American translation of Mother, was reaching the full translation stage. The official games magazine of Nintendo, Nintendo Power, had covered EarthBound sparingly in its games to come section. EarthBound reached the 100% development stage, and was ready to be released. But it was not to be. The NES was now passé, and Nintendo felt there was no point for it to be released. The story of the NES as it relates to the point of this article does not end here completely, although its relevance will be minimal for some time.

Around three years passed. Now the bastions of 16-bit technology were beginning to give way to 32-bit systems: Sony's PlayStation [based on technology Nintendo could have used for its vapourware SNES CD] and Sega's Saturn. However, the systems were not dead yet; and they would live another two or three years before complete abandonment in America occurred.

Now, we once more return to Japan; but this time, it's the year 1994. Shigesato Itoi is once more planning a video game. He chooses to create a sequel to Mother, which has attained popularity in Japan: many manga, 4-koma or not, had been created in memory [sic] of Mother. Of course, the game is called Mother 2; but it gets a subtitle: Gyiyg Strikes Back. The heroes are different this time around; and the game is as popular as its prequel.

This time Nintendo actually decided to bring it over and release it. Chances are very good that there was more editing performed on Mother 2 than was performed on Mother; yet, for some reason Mother 2 was released in English in North America. And it, like Mother, was named EarthBound.

Then Nintendo had to advertise. They chose a minimal advertising campaign: limited to gaming magazines, and with a simple motto: "This game stinks." As any sane person could assume, that advertising campaign backfired. The sales were probably not what they intended. Or they were, and Nintendo had intended to drive EarthBound into the ground so they wouldn't have to release another RPG. And yet, no matter what Nintendo's reasons for the advertising campaign being what it was, EarthBound [Mother 2] did not sell well. But for all it was worth, that game, with its oversized box, childish graphics, and off-the-wall humour... It touched the destinies of hundreds of people across the continent, across the world.

The Internet grew in popularity. Nintendo, which skipped the 32-bit stage, jumped straight to 64-bit. Its system, the Nintendo 64, still used cartridges, which minimised the size of the games for it; but plans for a bulky disc drive [the 64DD] that would increase the storage capacity served as atonement.

Webpages sprouted up for SNES and Genesis games as a way to remember them, I suppose. One such site was one erected on Geocities by a person known as Ness (insert various accents on every single letter, including the s's). It concerned EarthBound. And from a forest begun by that one seed-site, humble site sprouted a grove of EarthBound sites, run by Striker164, reidman, and Ms. Saturn among others. And they all remembered their EarthBound roots.

A year or two beyond that passed, and a Canadian emigrant to the United States now living in Phoenix registered a domain name for the fledgling EarthBound community so it would not have to rely on unpredictable ISPs and free site hosters. He registered earthbound.net. But nothing happened on there: it remained static, nothing more than maps of EarthBound. Then from the same state the emigrant now lives in, came a very computer-savvy person: Tomato.

He proposed to reidman and Buzz Buzz, as the founder of the domain name was then known [he was known by a different name before then and now], that a redesign be made. He was given permission. And the first real layout for what was then EarthBound.net was born. Soon after, Buzz Buzz enlisted in the army so he could earn money for the movement, as he called it. While he was gone, Tomato -- who claimed he would only be with the site for a short time, then leave for overseas studies in Japan -- slowly grew closer to the site.

Quickly digressing: the day after I began writing this article [the day can be discerned from a SM.net Discussion topic concerning reidman's and Tomato's articles on The Reappropriation], I contacted reid on the staff channel [on DynastyNet]. Here's what reid's got to say about the old early 'years' [note: his text has been rewritten as normal dialogue, but the actual text has been maintained; generally comments in [these brackets] are stuff I'm adding.]:

"Before I came, EarthBound.net didn't really exist. [Notice to certain people: key word is really.] It was only an under construction page. There may have been something before, but if there was, I don't remember it. I started work on the site about mid-late 1998: I was going for the motif Buzz Buzz has miserably tried to implement himself.

"The original design was just a bunch of clickable imagemaps [like the present-day EB.net]. I had a list of people with the claims, like Ness' house, the Onett drugstore, etc. We were going to have mayors for each city, elected by those with webspace in each city."

[Note from Anthadd: I suppose this was abandoned because it would not be feasible -- with a 10 MB account maximum, and no limit on registering, chances are very good that opportunists could/can wrangle a good amount of the memory. And ignoring the fact that the site itself takes up some level of memory, they could host 25 000 sites. However, that's not the case. The actual site takes up memory and it's quite likely that it's a good few megabytes [or perhaps even a gig].]

"Anyway, updates were rare: I'd update from time to time with a new map or whatever I'd have made; and we'd go down occasionally because Buzz or the hosting company would screw something up. One day Tomato saw it and I remembered him [he'd sent reid MIDIs for YANEB (reid's old site) in the past]. He suggested that he help me out with the site -- even though we hadn't spoken to each other in a year. All I remembered was that he had a very well organised MIDI page. In the usual Tomato style, he came up with a design quickly; and he had it operating before he knew it. We tested a little before the release. He did all the updates: once daily, but sometimes twice if something big happened. Eventually he taught me how to do things. I was always busy with graphics; I'd just gotten Photoshop, or maybe a few months after the site opened.

"Anyway, I sucked at graphics; but I got a little better and eventually learned how to update. Until then I was a product of Frontpage. But I started learning HTML beyond the basic knowledge I had. So I began updating myself and the two of us [Tomato and reid] started 'hiring' other people to update. EBounding was one of the first choices, if not the first: he'd helped me a lot with YANEB; and I thought he was funny. I can't remember just where Ultimoo came from: I don't remember him being on YANEB if at all, so you'll have to ask Tomato. But that's where Team TRUE came from. We were the first four staff on the site."

However, Buzz Buzz was soon diagnosed with a mental disorder that meant he would no longer be able to serve in the army. He returned to EarthBound.net, but it wasn't how he'd left it. The site he'd left was, as I earlier said, a static one. Updates were sparse, if there were any. [I was there in the later early days, so I can't accurately state whether this was a fact or not]. When he returned, updates were at least thrice daily. It wasn't just what there was when he'd left. There were contests, like Plo's HARD Trivia; articles were very popular -- in fact, for a short time previous to then, there had been a forum for articles themselves on the fora. And the annual EB no Matsuri [Festival of EarthBound] had begun its first incarnation.

But all was not right to him. The navigational maps -- what I guess he felt were necessary for the Movement -- were no longer there. And only a few people were updating. This was not what he wanted! He wanted everyone to be able to update; and he wanted everyone to have their site hosted on EB.net [or at least have a redirection alias]. Although this was a nice idea, it was not palatable to the de facto administration of EarthBound.net at the time: reidman and Tomato. After all, if each community member were given 10 MB per signup, as they are today; and if that 10 MB, piled upon itself for every 10 MB given out, were combined with the site's content itself, the webspace would quickly run out.

Something else that angered Buzz Buzz was the apparent [to him] irregularity with which the first tier [that is, the staffers, mods and operators; and which he also found to be improper and against what the EarthBound Movement stood for] enforced the rules: the new people would be kicked out for breaking the rules, yet family [which I believe would be limited to Plo's sister Meeellla and to a rather minimal extent Umi's sister Sakura now] and friends of the ops would be allowed to stay on, even though they themselves were breaking the rules. Having been an op [and still one, although now on Dynastynet] at the time, I struggle to recollect any instances at that time in which I performed my duties with a double standard.

A third issue was the fact that he had received complaints that people were being kicked from the chat room for saying such "childish things [as he put it] as 'Luna is a hottie.'" That is not a childish thing to say -- it's a sexist thing to say; and, had I thought of it at the time, I would have asked him what he would have said if someone had said a male visitor was a "hottie".

Then, finally able to visit our chat channel, #earthbound, [then on Undernet] he was shocked to discover that we silenced the regulars for the purposes of the meeting [with the exception of a questions section later on, and the occasional game(s)] and "spoon-fed" [again, his words] the helpless peons our ideas. The reason we muted the chatters was so we could talk without having to sift through the approximately three or four conversations that would simultaneously take place if the chatters weren't muted.

Revulsed by this and other instances in which he felt we had "forsaken the Movement" [which had by that time become a Community], Buzz Buzz became desperate. He entered into clandestine negotations with the higher-ups of Earthbound.net, to perhaps find a compromise that would not end with him doing something I'm sure he did not want to do at all. But for all their work [and how much was there, anyways?], the negotiations failed. Buzz Buzz wrote an e-mail and sent it to reidman and MoldySpore. The ColesNotes version: "I don't like what you're doing with the site, so I'm going to make you move. You have a week."

He felt he was doing this for the good of all EarthBounders; and soon after, there was a massing of support. But not for him: the support was for reidman. Arguments ensued. Buzz Buzz claimed he would follow the wishes of 75% of the community. It's been estimated that on one topic, the number of posts telling Buzz Buzz that he was making a mistake or begging him to reconsider was 300 or more. Taking 300 as a minimum, and thus 25% of the population of EarthBounders, that indicates that for Buzz Buzz to have been justified in Reappropriating the site, there had to have been 1200 people visiting the site. Then, if we take the 56 e-mails Buzz Buzz received giving the e-mailers' support for reid, and assume half of those were not of the 300 minimum posted, that gives us 328.

I'll be generous here, and subtract 50 of those e-mails/posts to account for posts supporting Buzz Buzz [there was a stark minimum, as Buzz Buzz says 10 beyond those 56 e-mails supported him and not reid -- then again, these were lamers who tended to hate reid more than the way he ran the site]. As a note, the approximate logical relevance of e-mails to posts that supported Buzz Buzz would be 10 to 45/46. And even with that, there would have to have been 1112 people (328 times four, making 25% of the site support reid if everyone else supported Buzz Buzz) visiting the site and only 328 of that 1112 who supported reid.

However, reidman tells me that then, the population of the fora numbered less than 1000 [at least 112 below my adjusted-for-Buzz-support number; but it was probably muuuch higher than 1112 and much lower than 1000 -- probably under 900]. And here I suspect Buzz Buzz maintained his outward reason, but changed the inward one: he saw that the majority of EarthBounders opposed what he was doing; and because of that, he inwardly changed why he was taking it [he did not quite like what reid and Tomato were doing, even though the regulars supported them] yet kept it the same on the outside. Oddly enough, I noticed few people raising this point beyond the fact "he was doing something the majority of EarthBounders [little clarification here: EarthBounders visiting the site] opposed".

Secondary note: checking with an archive page, I found that there were about 450 people who were registered on the fora at about that time. Most people register on the fora as soon as possible, from my experiences, and therefore 450 should be an accurate estimate for the population of the community at that time.

How do I know this? I don't. However, I find it hard to believe that there were 900-plus people who supported his decision to Reappropriate. And if I were to assume reid were right [and yes, I know there's technically no way to prove it unless someone had taken a picture of the forum main page at about that time], that would mean the 3/4 minimum Buzz Buzz said he would listen to was not met by either side: there was no less than 30% supporting reid, and even less supporting Buzz Buzz. [And it would be rather sneaky to only accept the minimum after he'd Reappropriated the site; after all, we'd be all nestled into, probably "forced" as he would have put it, into our jail cells at Starmen.net and cowed into blind submission by reid.]

Perhaps the belief that "Hindsight is 20/20" is true here.


Other Submissions by Anthadd

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