Undercooked: The Origins And Evolution Of 8bitrocket.com

In The summer of 1996 we started a site named WheatMedia.com, dedicated to web design and development (one and the same at the time).  This was our first domain name, and first real foray into tackling the World Wide Web.

Wheat Media

Wheat Media lasted for a couple years, but while were doing it noticed a lot of web sited dedicated to things like Mentos and CHiPs, so we started our own “Gen-X Nostalgia” web site. This was the first site we made that was “entertainment related”.

Gen A Notstaligia Site

We kept various sites going like this until about 2002. That is when we started working on a book about Atari. We received some advice at the time to start a blog about Retro Games to make the book look better to publishers. We decided to go with the name “RetroHello” because it sounded vaguely Japanese.

This was our first attempt at a logo.  It did not last long.

This was almost “too retro” for us, so we designed another site.  It had the title “RetroHello”, but a little Bee from Galaga would appear and land on the final “O”, blinking it out to say “RetroHell”

This site was supposed to be a blog about Retro Games, but our hearts were not really into it.  We mere making games at the time, not just reliving old ones.   However, just about the summer of 2006 we were inspired to start all over again.  We came-up with the name “8-bit Rocket” because it sounded neat (to us) and it reminded us of the old rockets we used to create on our friend’s Apple IIe computer.

However, our first idea was FAR MORE retro than even RetroHello.   This first screen was based on the BBS modem days of the 80’s :

This one did not last very long.   Instead, we went in completely the other direction to make a site that was 100% Flash.   This was the “Rocket Site”

We really liked this and we were going to go with it, but by December 2006, cooler heads prevailed.  Instead, we decided to take our love of “Retro” and marry that with a different idea:

This one was OK, but then we though that creating a logo on a black background might be a better idea.  When we started to put it on black, we also decided that we hated the rocket, and redesigned it again:

This did not last very long either.  As December 15th, 2006 approached (our internal deadline),  we spent the weekend on new ideas and came-up with this:

This one went through about 100 variations, and by the 15th of December, we launched the site and it all looked like this:

We used this design for about a year.  In that time we nursed about 20 visits a day, and that grew to about 100.  We thought that was great.  Then in January 2008, Jeff wrote a story named “Am I Midcore Gamer” that picked-up tons of press, and drove the site to 1000’s of visitors a day for a few weeks.    This looked like the future, so we started a new site named “Midcore Gamer” that we felt was the future.  We were wrong.

There was high interest for a while, but it petered out and we could not find a good way to keep the momentum going.

Instead, we re-focused on 8bitrocket.com on game development and tutorials, then  launched a new version in November 2008.  The main idea behind the new look was that people complained to us about the “white text on black” because it was hard to read.  We tried as hard as possible to inverse the colors to work for more people.

And that leads us to now.   Traffic is 10-20 times larger than it has ever been before, and the hosting company needs us to move so that we don’t use too many of their resources.

We’ve had to redesign again, and you are looking at that new design right now.  We have moved off of “Steve Press” (the name we gave the custom homegrown CMS Steve wrote in .NET for the site) and have adopted “Word Press” as our new base.  We hope to write another of these in 4 years when traffic is 10-20 times larger again, and our plans for world domination are complete.

Next time we will discuss Word Press and the various modules we used to create the new site.

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