The current domain (www.megadrivechamps.org) is over 13-years old and we have held a presence on the Internet for 2-years prior to that. Our website is older than Twitter, Youtube, Myspace, Reddit and Facebook. So it is with some moderate pride we look back at the history of the Mega Drive Championships, our website and to the future.
It isn't just the fact we existed before numerous internet behemoths that makes us so awesome, part of the allure and appeal of the Mega Drive and the surrounding tournaments is in the enduring longevity of the 16-bit colossus. During our extensive time on the Internet we have seen the rise and fall of numerous net giants. Geocities, our former home, no longer exists. The once popular Alta Vista search engine (in which we used to rank near the top for a quick search of the term "Mega Drive") has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Friends reunited, a popular UK site predating Facebook as a way to stalk people from school has also announced its end. We have even outlasted the original Pylon of the Month website, although, fortunately it has returned in a new guise: http://www.pylonofthemonth.org/ Not bad, at all, for a website that the infamous Sega Sucks website (now also defunct) once tiraded as a bunch of European nerds playing ancient video games.
Our website success, belies a truth that, the tournaments themselves have had a turbulent history that have twice seen the English tournaments end! Our adventure started in 2001, 2 videogame console generations after the epic Nintendo Vs Sega 16-bit era war. Sega was struggling after the dismal Saturn and the awesome, but outmanoeuvred, Dreamcast, but the Mega Drive still remained a beacon of awesome of this failing titan. The First Mega Drive Championship was certainly nothing spectacular. Three college students in one of their bedrooms playing Golden Axe, Sonic 2 and World Cup Italia '90... for some reason we did not bother with Street Fighter 2. The event lasted for approximately 3-hours and ended abruptly, as one of the students had to return to their geography class (the only one of the 3 to attend University straight from college - in many ways, he was the true winner). Our 10-year anniversary article hyped the First Mega Drive Championship beyond all recognition, but it was a modest yet enjoyable event, which gave the participants a desire to fight once again for the honour of being crowned Mega Drive Champion.
Just like the First Mega Drive Championship, the tournament website also began life being a little bit shitty. The Tournament Website is a touch younger than the tournaments themselves. Although there was an "off-line" website that featured stats, tables and a Blaze Fielding tribute page, it was not until the summer of 2001 when the competitions established a foot-hold on Geocities. These were the days when websites, generally, vomited as many different colours and animated gifs as the user could handle...
Geocities Replication Alert!!
The below is a reminder of how crappy Geocities sites generally were:
(without the shitty backgrounds and annoying embeded music that could never be stopped)
We moved on from Geocites and to our own domain in 2003.
Many mistakes, in both how the competition was run (democratically) and the games used (the same ones), turned the Mega Drive Championships into a series of turgid and predictable events... there are only so many games a person should have to play of World Cup Italia '90 before it constitutes a type of torture. Slowly initatives came about to rejuvinate an ailing contest: a game draw system (which finally included Street Fighter 2), a knockout, a second division with promotion and relegation and removing the democratic element that saw members voting on changes (and ultimately any remote change being rejected) freshened up the Mega Drive Championships, but it was not until the Fourteenth Tournament that things evolved to the next level... although, the details of which, I shall leave with a link to a contemporary article which highlight the changes to the competition.
The tournament website was also busy going through an aesthetic overhaul, as faster internet speeds allowed for more graphics based design and the miracles of CSS started to create a more visually pleasing web browsing experience. The megadrivechamps website became more streamlined with designated pages for "news", "members", "games", "competitions", "tournaments" and "history", but the biggest change came when we realised that we were not alone... In 2005, Portuguese visionary (also: genius, wizard and maybe emperor) Alberto Campos became the architect of the First Portuguese Mega Drive Championship.
The next few years saw the competitions expand internationally! Portugal, Brazil, Germany and the United States all found themselves under the Mega Drive Championships umbrella (although, obviously, the United States held a Sega Genesis tournament). The tournament website, in its old format, became a massive, cumbersome and time consuming project, a proverbial black hole sucking in light, time and small blue hedgehogs, in a constant churn of reasonably amusing, but irrelevant stats that changed with each passing tournament, from 5 countries... seriously, did anybody need to know that Lord Dilks averages 58 rings per zone in Sonic 2? The volume of information was immense and pointless!
Website challenges were compounded with the emergance of the European Mega Drive Championships, where teams (made up of the best domestic players from each nation) assembled to see which one would be victorious... with the answer being Portugal. While trekking across Europe to engage in 16-bit competitions was insane and awesome (not insanely awesome as the first draft of this article suggested), it posed a problem with the Tournament Website, which had been designed to focus purely on the English domestic league, around which the new Mega Driving nations were tacked on. By 2010 it was decided that the Mega Drive Championship website needed a complete re-design... Ugggggh!
Our first year living at the megadrivechamps address saw just over 5,000 hits, which was pretty awesome and doubled during the second year... in December 2015 we received over 300,000. The 2010 re-design focused on placing the European Tournament stats and figures at the top of the tree and with these statistics requiring only annual updating, the labour intensity of the website dropped dramatically. The old news section from the English tournaments was expanded into the article archive: Old domestic tournament pages, which once featured so prominently, were slipped into the archive using their original designs and giving a browse through the archive something of a Mega Drive Championship retrospective! The very earliest articles feature plain white pages, times new roman font and dark blue league tables used on our Geocities site showing how far we, and webdesign, have come in 13-years. The new 2010 style, with it's article focus, allowed us to inject the sense of fun and tongue-in-cheek homour that comes with playing 16-bit games long after the rest of the world has moved on. Old guides, profiles and stupid pages lost under the sands of time, were re-discovered and re-inserted into the archive.
So, now into 2016, the tournament website has just received its first cosmetic overhaul in over 5-years. As usual, the faithful have ignored the new design's awesomeness, plaudits have been lacking and it has generally slipped under the radar. However, that does not mean we should take a moment to reflect on the history and journey of the megadrivechamps website and pay homage to its sturdy resilience against apathy, sometimes contempt and generations of more advanced video games consoles. It is, with a reasonable amount of pride, that we gloat we have stood the test of time. A recent valuation of the website, puts years of hard work, toil and accumulated misery at over $4,000... but realistically it, and the tournaments that it represents, are priceless.
Although if somebody wants to offer me a couple of quid...