The History of Trench Wars/Printable version
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- March 15, 2002
The history of Trench Wars stretches over almost five years, from Trench Wars’ humble beginning as a hated “newbie” zone, to its current position as the most popular zone in all of Subspace. To present a fully accurate and complete history of all of Trench Wars is inevitably impossible. No, if few records survive from the early periods, or even a couple of years ago. The histories and stories live in the players, which unfortunately are never perfect as they are distorted by time, perspective and personal exaggeration.
Even with all of these difficulties, I will attempt to present a history as complete and accurate as possible. Unfortunately as I do not have the time to do a fully complete survey, I will rely on my own personal knowledge with some help from outside. If you do spot an error or omission, please feel free to let me know, as I apologize in advance for any errors I might have made. In fact in light of the fact that the history mostly lives inside all of us instead of having real solid written evidence, I will attempt to portray this history in the style of the great Greek historians Herodotus and Thucydides.
No history of Trench Wars is complete if we do now know about the history of the game and see how we got here, and how it was Trench Wars that ultimately became a leader in Subspace. This will be a bit long, and I’m sorry if you don’t like reading, but I feel that it’s necessary to have a lot of material in order to cover the complex history of the zone. Yet even though it is so long, I will not be able to mention every single player who ever played in the zone. I will concentrate on what I think were the greatest trends and events in the zone and focus on that, with mentioning names to humanize the context.
I would also apologize for the lack of history for the last year, but this is mostly due to my leave of the zone and so my lack of knowledge of events. Hopefully most of you know enough about this time that it doesn’t matter.
Finally I will have to state that this history is presented in my own view of things. This means a view centered mostly in Elim, in the Warbird leagues and in the workings of the middle levels of Staff of which I was part of for over a year. This by no means represents the view of an unbiased observer, but I have taken great pains to present both sides of the store. Yet for all of that, I will refer to myself in the third person, as this isn’t really my story, but the story of the zone.
As readers of the Trench Wars UBB undoubtedly know, I do like writing a lot, but I am by no means an English major. I also do enjoy history, and so my aim in writing this is to share all that I have learned in my years in this zone, and that hopefully after reading this, you the players of Trench Wars will learn a bit more about how the zone got to where it is today.
- Originally Written: February 23, 2002
- (December 1995 – October 1997)
Subspace itself began as a project by programmers Jeff Paterson and Rod Humble. They were attempting to create a demonstration product for their employer, Virgin Interactive Entertainment (VIE) to show the viability of Internet gaming. With a somewhat working program in the form of online asteroids, the alpha test for Subspace (then called Sniper) began for selected people in December of 1995. After a few months, on March 1996, the beta test began for the game. With the only advertisement for the game as a few messages on a games newsgroup, the early community rapidly expanded.
Originally with only one zone (Warzone, later renamed Running Zone when a new Warzone was created), four ships, and no squads Subspace became a hit among its small but loyal community. In those days, players would give suggestions directly to the programmers themselves and many even made friends with the programmers. In fact the idea of repels was a player suggestion. Soon it was time for the test to end. As word of the impending end of the VIE test was spreading, the players who loved the game so much begged and pleaded for it to continue. Happily the programmers complied.
Soon squads were added, and names such as Armageddon, Doomsday, Harvester of Sorrow and ReDS soon became the squads to strive for. Whereas ReDS eventually became the squad that everyone had been part of at one time or another, and was also the squad that won almost 40 resets in a row in Warzone, squads such as Harvester of Sorrow became a melting pot for only the best of the best. As summer 1996 rolled by, the game expanded to four zones with the additions of what is now called Warzone (SVS) and Alpha Zone. Pro League, which began as a weekend tournament was added as a permanent fixture to the game. Chaos Zone was added in the winter, along with such places as Turf Zone and Philosophy Zone (a private zone for special events). All the time more and more ships were added to the Subspace list. March 1997 saw the introduction of Dueling Zone and the first great dueling tournament in Subspace. As the sheep Dolly was cloned in real life, a new command ?sheep was added, and a new zone Sheep Cloning Facility was added (aka Philosophy Zone 2). Eventually this would be the original birthplace of TW. From the original four, ships were continuously added. There was even a special ship called the Nightwasp that the player with the most points in the zone would fly. Although not an actual ship, the Nightwasp graphic would cover up whatever real ship you were using and would ensure the guy who flew it bragging rights. In May 1997, the new graphical launcher for Subspace was made (still seen in SS 1.35) replacing the old very cheap version.
At this time, many rumors spread that Subspace was going pay. The general agreement was $10/month with a small initial fee for the software itself. The players were getting scared, but month after month, nothing happened. During the summer of 1997 the greatest days of the beta test (and even all of Subspace for the next three years) were happening. The population tripled in mere months, and now there were easily 1500+ people playing during peak times. Pro League made history by changing from a pyramid league, into a football-type league with seasons and schedules. That summer, 40 teams participated in Pro League Season 1. Subspace was saved from going pay during that time by Pepsi, which gave a bunch of money to sponsor Subspace.
- (October 1997 – November 1998)
In October 1997 Subspace changed forever, as the game finally went pay. The final plan was just the initial purchase of the game with no monthly payments. All of a sudden you could only play for free as someone named “~Demoxxx” (xxx = a number). Even with piracy being rampant, more than half the population quit forever never to be seen again. The pay version saw the addition of the Shark as a permanent ship (before it was the ship that only the VIE Programmers could use and was the super sysop ship), the removal of the Nightwasp and the replacement of that with the spinney shield icon, the addition of Rabbit Zone, King of the Hill, and the establishment of Powerball. And of course the biggest change of all, the addition of the server program free to all players.
This presented both a present and a major problem to the players. Players could now make their own zones and do the changes to the game they always wanted. But this also meant that VIE would probably depart soon, with the possibility of a central server also fading. As well, this provided a beautiful opportunity for cheaters to run rampant, although for the time being, the VIE servers with their more secure software would at least be safe. Finally this meant what the players feared most, a fragmentation of the community. The difference between Subspace and other Internet games such as Quake was most evident in the community. Whereas in Quake, players generally did not know each other, and people randomly played everywhere, in Subspace no matter what zone you were in, you were always able to talk to friends.
New zones started appearing quickly. Quickly establishing themselves was ZERO Annihilation and Hockey Zone. Over the next year, zones such as Star Warzone, A Small Warzone, Extreme Games, and Death Star Battle appeared on the stage. It was also during this time that Trench Wars made its debut. Created by a player named Silentdragon, Trench Wars was originally set up as a test zone hosted in the Sheep Cloning Facility. Silentdragon would go on to make all of the maps for Trench Wars up until late 1999 when the three-entrance map was finally added. Early players from this time include BobR, Louis XV, Sknox, Dgus, Akilla, and of course Silentdragon himself. In the early zone, Terriers couldn’t even maneuver when people were attached onto it and so as such LevTerrs were unheard of.
Several servers became the prime donors of bandwith in this time as well including Warzone (www.warzone.com), 2xT3 and iNet. In fact Warzone would become the host of Trench Wars, and MikeTheNose officially became the first moderator of the zone after a mixup left him on the moderator list as the server space which had hosted a zone called Warzone Chess had a moderator list that was never quite fully changed. Trench Wars would eventually move servers to 2xT3 and finally to it settled at the Finnish iNet servers. Also in Trench Wars, Ayden would become the first female moderator hired directly by akilla himself.
The new zones in Subspace were quickly denounced as “newbie zones” or “super zones” (a reference to the crazy settings of most of these new zones) by the old beta testers, who regarded any zone that did not follow directly with the old VIE settings as inferior.
Subspace at this time was on the decline. Although the new zones were slowly picking up players, the main VIE zones were slowly dwindling away. Players who had played since the beginning were moving on, and it looked as of Subspace’s days were numbered. In November 1998 the worst day in Subspace’s history occurred. Although the players were more or less prepared for it, VIE finally pulled the plug on their servers and with that Subspace changed forever.
The Dark Days
- (November 1998 – May 1999)
With no more central billing server, and without the more secure version of the server client that VIE used, SS was in shambles. iNet quickly asserted itself as the central billing server for most of the old VIE zones that were now housed in different servers around the world. The VIE zones were now called SVS or Standard VIE Settings. The population dropped, and the greatest of the new zones had stabilized around 80 players during peak times. At this time, there was no guarantee that any zone, even Trench Wars would not languish in obscurity. The population reached an all time low at around 450 people on peak times during early 1999. Without the VIE server, cheating was now rampant everywhere and some of the most popular zones turned inwards and towards the old Pro League policy of putting a private list of players allowed to enter. Eventually that very same policy allowed for these zones to forever languish in population size. The stage was now set: Subspace would die and fade forever into obscurity, unless someone stepped up and something miraculous happened.
That something turned out in the form of Baudchaser, a player from Euro League who started the SSCx project. With the additional creation of the SS Council, every zone in Subspace was asked to join under the banner of SSC under the central billing server of iNet. SSCE (Pro League server), SSCU (iNet), and SSCX (a US West Coast server) were created. A server upgrade was given to the SSCx participants and some of the major cheats were blocked. But still there were gaps. Then the second miraculous event happened. At mid-1999, a single programmer decided to step up, and single-handedly create something, which in effect saved Subspace. And this is where our story really begins.
The Archaic Age
- (January 1999 – September 1999)
(Backtracking a bit to get in more stuff)
The programmer’s name was PriitK, a player in Trench Wars. He had just created BanG, a system for banning players that cheated among other things. It was with this invention that Subspace finally began a turnaround.
At this time, the greatest zones in Subspace were Pro League (which could muster 200 players in the zone at times), Death Star Battle, Extreme Games, Star Warzone, and Trench Wars with the latter four averaging around 60-80 players at peak times and Trench Wars the leader with around 5-10 more during peak times. For a player beginning then it was hard to say what zone would ultimately become the biggest of them all.
The thing was, Trench Wars had some things going for it that all the other zones did not. First of all, the zone had great settings. By implementing a one-hit-kill system, Trench Wars became an instant newbie attractor because there was almost no learning curve to get a decent record in the zone. Also Trench Wars had a great invention, which was completely unique in all of Subspace, Elimination.
Now it’s time to backtrack a bit, back to January 1999. Elim was created before PriitK was even part of the Staff. Created by MikeTheNose, Elim began as a small arena hosted directly by the Mods and mostly by Arilou Lalee’lay, DoCk> and LordDoughnut <ER> (aka The Voodoo Child), one of the original ERs (ERs – another MikeTheNose creation) of the zone. At the time, the Mods which took care of Elim were called Elim Refs or <ER> for short.
In early 1999 Trench Wars Semi-League was created by DoCk>. This was originally a league with a set schedule although it did not last too long. The original Semi-League website was designed by Ethan Tabor (aka Kill_9mm). Later a collaboration of DoCk> and long-time Smod Live-Wire resulted in the creation of Trench Wars Dueling League (TWDL). Live-Wire would also create Trench Wars Basing League (TWBL) and have ideas for Trench Wars Javelin League (TWJL) although the latter never really took off until much later when it was started by Banzi. Although only an informal league with no formal standings or schedule, TWDL and TWBL managed to bring a lot of the fun of league play to Trench Wars. TWDL and TWBL relied on a challenge system where if you wanted to play a squad you would e-mail them, play three games, then have the results recorded on the webpage. There was no real goal to the league at all except to prove you were better than someone else on that particular weekend.
In the spring of 1999 PriitK added an entirely new and original invention to Subspace, Robo Ref. For creating Robo, PriitK was quickly promoted and shot up the ranks in the Staff.
The old sysop, The Ghost Ship who along with being sysop was also known by many as one of the worst cheaters and abusers the zone had ever seen had a strange way of running his zone. He even had on his staff Catid, a player who would later become famous for his continuous exploits in releasing critical Subspace server code to the public and for attempting endlessly to hack into servers all over Subspace.
In May 1999 The Ghost Ship finally left Trench Wars, and placed PriitK in power. With the promotion of DoCk> to sysop which had occurred a bit earlier, the zone changed for the better. The automated Bot idea quickly spread throughout Subspace, as the next great thing, and soon everyone knew where it came from, Trench Wars. Thing were looking up for the game as a whole, but also for the zone. It was after Robo was created that Priitk made BanG, and so we can return back to our timeline.
In terms of players and squads of the time, the greatest one in memory must be LAME, under Childrn of Light, TW Elites created by TOFU and Booyaa, and Backstab led by Flyzone which battled for supremacy to be the number one squad in the zone. There are endless stories about the intense hatred of the squads, and of Childrn of Light’s amazing skill, of him being able to beat anyone in a duel with only one hand. In fact Childrn of Light had already solidified his reputation much earlier as the leader of the famed Defcon1, along with other co-leaders Childrn of Darkness and Mad Green. Eventually Childrn of Light, Childrn of Darkness and Child of Misery (aka Ayden) created LAME as a sort of super elite version of Defcon1, while Defcon1 itself was left to Flyzone to run. Flyzone would betray his squad and run Defcon1 into the ground to start his own new squad Backstab which became LAME’s greatest enemy.
In May of 1999 KJW and Disqualifier created the squads Paladen and –Final- respectively. These would become two of the most important and influential squads in the zone. Paladen would eventually train many of the future leaders and Staff of the game, while –Final- would have on its roster some of the greatest players in the game in terms of skill and pure talent. A bit later the squad Rampage was created (by Static Burn and Sudden) as a domination squad, the first to pursue only Elim, and to only fight for record alone.
It was during the summer of 1999 that a player named Slowbob created Trench Wars League (TWL). Although TWDL and TWBL were around, they were informal leagues with no set schedule or formal record system. Slowbob’s TWL had its own zone (something which would eventually be copied by DSB, EG and Star Warzone), a seasonal format and a set schedule. The winner of TWL Season 1 in the summer of 1999 was TW Elites, the squad captained by players TOFU and Booyaa.
Also in the summer, some players of Trench Wars which included the zone’s own founder Silentdragon and Ayden started an alternate competing zone called Trench Wars Dark following disagreements with Trench Wars itself. Trench Wars Dark featured slightly different settings. It was hosted in North America and slowly gained a strong following. Fearing fragmentation of the zone, PriitK shut down the zone, and eventually got Silentdragon to give the map over to Trench Wars where it was used for a long time.
It must be noted that the Trench Wars webpage during this time was extremely horrible. The design was horrible, the information was old and rarely updated, and the crude message board was rarely ever used. It wasn't until much later that Trench Wars had a real internet presence outside of the immediate game servers in Subspace.
In other events, Crown of Thorns, the guy who played Subspace 20 hours a day and captain of the squad Babylon (spelled much weirder than that) became the Smod in charge of Staff along with MikeTheNose, and he started to mould the lower Staff to his image. With BanG, Robo Ref, Elim, <ER>s, TWDL, TWBL, TWL, some great squads, a motivated Staff and the second largest player base (behind Pro League) in the game, Trench Wars looked as if it would definitely be set for greatness, but yet if you were around at this time you would not say so. Even with all of this, Trench Wars really wasn’t that much better than some other zones such as DSB and Extreme Games the three which had quickly asserted themselves as the great zones of the game all informally vying for number one.
- (September 1999 – January 2000)
The main problem at this time with Trench Wars was that it was still primarily a great newbie zone. Even with all the efforts by Staff, the zone was still primarily people who did not even know all the basic controls of the game, and it was very hard to get anything serious going on in the zone. There were attempts of course, and some event arenas such as ?go racing and ?go turf existed where the Staff tried for some special events but they were generally rare. Meanwhile, special events hosted inside Elim began to appear at this time in the form of ER or Mod hosted team Elimination, where teams of 3-7 players would battle each other for supremacy.
With Crown of Thorns in charge of Staff it quickly grew, with the Moderators staying more professional and becoming the domain of the older and more mature players, while less mature or less well known individuals were trusted with what was viewed as the lesser job of <ER>. The Mods and ERs also had different chats and rarely conversed with each other, while the Mods shared a chat with the Sysops and Smods.
One of the problems with staff during this time was that few staff members would ever host any league games as many would pretend to be away or just flat out refuse. Arilou Lalee’lay must be given credit for single-handedly keeping the leagues alive by being at many times, the only guy who hosted the leagues.
Before the summer, Childrn of Light disappeared and his squad LAME promptly died. In an effort to salvage the group, the members of LAME created OBSiDEON which for a while played in the leagues as a competitive squad and was right at the top of the rankings. The squad would become less and less active until its final collapse in October 1999. This led to a lot of legends of the game including phalanx and NCrawler among others to quit the game. Meanwhile, TW Elites had stopped becoming a force in Trench Wars and somewhat paralleling what Childrn of Light and Childrn of Darkness had done with LAME, FRAKTURE was established also captained by TOFU and Booyaa as what they called “TW Elites Elite”.
It was during this period when Elim reached a peak point of competitiveness, with Rampage (formerly Burnt) players dominating the top of the standings, along with a few others such as FieryFire and Jeraden. New players desperately tried their best to enter the standings. One of the more influential newbie squads of the time were War Time… (later became –Knightz-), where the next generation of great players such as Sir> Elim Killer, Banzi Fuq (aka Influx_), Elicit and Skater hailed from. Slowly climbing the charts to the top were newcomers Jack Kiefer, Epinephrine, Fireballz, Digitalwave, and Eric is God. Also, antiwarp was finally added to the Elim arena, making the Warbird Elim much more fun to play in.
The old order was crumbling, and the new players were getting into positions of power. A number of people were newly hired into the staff as a whole. cROMe SolJa (who had started off with Prophacy) and Soul Burner both created new powerhouse Elim squads, Emerge and Deceit while Digitalwave, a former Paladen member created yet another elite Elim squad, eVox. In mid-October, Emerge and Deceit would merge to become Siege, the first Supersquad in Trench Wars.
Meanwhile back in the public arenas, the main public map, which had been a mainstay since the early days with few variations changed drastically. SuperDave (Postal) perhaps one of the greatest mapmakers in Trench Wars history, created a new maps for the zone along with Arilou Lalee’lay. Eventually the three-entrance base map was decided upon by the players after a very lengthy demonstration process and the dynamics of the basing game changed forever. Even the old main entrance - the main tunnel – changed as it now had two holes in the platform which blocked direct access to the tunnel. Before, it was guaranteed that whoever owned the tunnel owned the base, but now everything was different.
SuperDave (Postal) also created the first great event in Trench Wars in the form of Ghoul Games. A completely new map, with different and original graphics, and easy to learn rules for the many fun games led to an instant classic. Other events such as ?go rabbit and ?go turretwars would be added in this time.
In December 1999 to January 2000, the final changes, which finally put Trench Wars on the map, took place. At the end of December FRAKTURE and Rampage would merge, and along with the addition of eVox in January 2000 and a bunch of Pro League players, a new Supersquad under the leadership of Epinephrine called Elusive was created. Elusive quickly became the most hated squad in TW history as the squad filled with both egos, and generally insulting players. Siege quickly moved in as the arch-nemesis of Elusive proclaiming that Elusive would never last, and establishing itself as a favourite of players who knew that Siege was really the only other squad capable of challenging Elusive in both Elim and in the Warbird Leagues. Trench Wars veterans quickly took interest in joining these squads as they quickly saw that these squads would create history. They represented the old vs. the new; Elusive comprised of mostly veterans, whether from Trench Wars itself or from other parts of Subspace, while Siege was mostly composed of new talent.
In the leagues, TWL Season 2 was set to begin in January 2000, and the clash of these two Supersquads and of the old favourites –Final- and Paladen were greatly anticipated. Meanwhile the bulk of TW squads remained on TWDL and TWBL and generally ignored TWL.
During this period, Elim was reaching a highpoint of popularity and competitiveness. There were a great number of players at this time who all tried their absolute best to get better and better ratings. Elim was gaining more respectability and coming into its own from an obscure part of Trench Wars where few players played, into an arena where some of the most well known names in the public arenas would gather with the new class of mostly Elim-only players to talk and discuss all matters. From now on, half of the Staff would consist of mostly Elim-only players, and it would also be a staging area for most of the leagues except for the basing league. Elusive managed to claim the Elim crown in early January 2000 with the top 5 players, and 8 of the top 10, a feat which was never to be repeated by any squad ever again.
Over the Christmas break Digitalwave, created a new Elim map. The old map was basically the old pub map base for Javs on the top, with a big rectangular area for Warbirds in the middle. Jav games usually consisted of constantly bombing the middle tunnel, and thus getting into the base was almost impossible. Urged by a suggestion of Epinephrine to add in three different entrances to the Elim base, Digitalwave agreed, and made the three-entrance map, of which the modern Elim arena base is based upon. The dynamics of the Jav game were forever changed. Just like in pub, domination of the main tunnel was no longer as important, and popularity for the Jav game took off. It is also important to mention that with the new support for a serious Jav game, a serious complaint was raised. Random shrapnel with the doubly devastating effect of random damage was hurting the game, many asserted, a complaint, which would be ignored by the upper Staff even until today.
Also in this time, as was mentioned before, Team Elims were very popular in Elim as hosted events by the Mods. The friends and squad mates FieryFire and Epinephrine took it to the next level. With some of the greatest hosting ever seen in the zone, they managed to take the games to the next level. Constantly creating new games such as Dodgeball (by FieryFire) and Save the Queen, the games came to a highpoint when Epinephrine adapted from a scenario that he played in another zone, and thus managed to create one of the most popular games in all of TW, Zombies. Originally with differing rules depending on whether FieryFire or Epinephrine hosted it, Epinephrine decided to concrete the rules of the game.
With some nagging of the Sysop DoCk>, Epinephrine was able to convince DoCk>, to allow the creation of an independent Zombies arena. The first Zombies game in January 2000 was the single most successful event held in Trench Wars history up to that point. Almost 100 players turned out, so much in fact that many players lagged out due to the strain on the server. With a map which was borrowed from the old Running Zone, and the first sub-arena with ships that had different settings than the public arenas, the game was instantly loved by all and demands for the game quickly crept up. A rule that Zombies should only be hosted on weekends was quickly urged by Epinephrine and implemented in order that the game would never lose its lustre. This rule would later be extended into many other events in the zone.
Another event that was created in this time was Deathmatch. Team Elims were now pushed from the Elim map and onto the Deathmatch map. From now on, with some exceptions, Elim would stay dedicated to Robo Ref and the Elimination game. Deathmatch was a player and Mod classic, and was constantly hosted and enjoyed by players across the entire zone.
Finally with a real map Turretwars started to become a frequently hosted game as well, although it never took on the popularity of Deathmatch or its other contemporaries.
Finally at the end of January, the first great league game happened. The long awaited Elusive vs. Siege game happened as the first game of TWL Season 2. The game set attendance records for any league game in TW history, a feat that would be repeated by every single Siege and Elusive encounter for the next year. The game would be won by Elusive and would eventually go on to determine the result of the entire season. Unfortunately the next TWL season would not start for quite a while which left many restless. This was one of the only real qualms most had with TWL and it never went away.
All in all by the end of January 2000, Trench Wars was definitely on the rise. The population was at record levels with roughly 200 people on at peak times. Elim was now very established and would even be imitated by Trench Wars’ competitors. The new maps in Elim and Pub would change the game for the better. The first two Supersquads would appear in the zone to be imitated by many. Staff was getting bigger and better. A new generation of players had taken over the zone and were committed to it. Finally the greatest feature of all of Trench Wars, the weekly and daily events had begun in earnest with the start of Zombies and Deathmatch. The time was ripe for the picking, and Trench Wars was all over it.
The Golden Age
- (February 2000 – December 2000)
Records were now being set every weekend. The population of Subspace skyrocketed, and Trench Wars now made up roughly one-third of the game population. Populations were creeping up to almost 300, and for the first time ever Trench Wars was the most populous zone in all of Subspace, edging out the leader of more than two years, Pro League, when suddenly disaster struck. The server moved.
Being as it was still quite a newbie zone; Trench Wars suffered greatly when the SSCU server moved. Suddenly half the zone disappeared, and many would not find out how to or actually bother to update their server lists for another few months. Yet the system was strong, and Trench Wars managed to fully recover its position and reassert its dominance on top of the Subspace chain within a couple of months.
Many more events were added to the zone during this time. Sir> Elim Killer managed to invent the most popular event in Trench Wars to this day, a game which still draws over 150 people every weekend, the game of WW3. WW3 was based on a simple principle, Canada vs. USA vs. Europe. While the countries would change over time, the appeal would never waver, and WW3 has since been a mainstay in the zone. In addition, SuperDave (Postal) created updated the Zombies map to it’s current look. Other games such as Waldo, ?go blind (created by Jacen_Solo) and the cult classic, Trenchopoly by SuperDave (Postal) were added during this time.
In this time, Burial created the Trench Wars Magazine, a collection of articles, interviews and so on dedicated to Trench Wars. Although many players in Elim loved the idea and loved the site, unfortunately this did not go on for too long, as Burial lacked interest to continue after only a few issues.
In the Staff, Crown of Thorns left the Staff for personal reasons, and in his place YoMama!!! and KJW were put in. In March 2000, Dantax was hired to run TWDL and TWBL, and SuperDave (Postal) was hired to be the Smod in charge of events, a tribute to his efforts of map-making and creating new events. A few weeks later SuperDave (Postal) quit his position, and FieryFire was hired under the events coordinator position.
Once the newly minted Smods were firmly settled into their positions, major changes took place. First of all in the leagues, the sysop DoCK> completely reorganized how TWDL and TWBL functioned. He ended the old system, and immediately changed the leagues into a pyramid league system, where the teams would start randomly seeded, and then would battle it out for supremacy on the pyramid. DoCk> also contributed significantly to the organization of the league when he decided to use the service offered by eGroups (later Yahoo!Groups) as a forum/mailing list system for league challenges and informing the Staff of games and when to host them, and also as use for the Staff discussion mailing list. For the first time, there was a centralized and easy way for all Staff members to discuss about events, and for the upper Staff to notify the rest of Staff about developments.
Other changes to the Staff included merging the ER and Mod chats into one huge chat, which had its ups and downs. The chat was so big now that discussions about virtually anything went on non-stop including the overuse of huge and pointless macros that spammed the previously mature Mod chat, although it did provide a good way for all of Staff to communicate. Also in this period, ZHs or Zone Helpers were added for the first time as a training level for new Staff, and Elim Refs started to become known as Event Refs, stressing the importance of events to the zone. The new ZHs and ERs were trained by FieryFire himself instead of the old system where new Staff was basically directed to a webpage to read a manual, which was nothing much more than the BanG commands and the rules of TWDL and TWBL. Also added was the new ?cheater command (and later ?help command as ?cheater was being abused too much for help-related events).
After this brief reorganization the Sysops begin their slow disappearance from zone events of which they were previously very visibly involved in. And so with these changes in place for the Staff, the size of the Staff quickly bloated in size. From this point on, the Staff would start becoming extremely big, and in many ways unmanageable. It was hard to have a personal grasp on the Staff, and more and more the new names became anonymous users and abusers of power, which were fired and hired daily. Also in a transition that is still going on today, the lines of power, which were one time clearly drawn, began to blur as overzealous ERs and ZHs started demanding more and more powers in the zone.
In terms of league, there were some exciting moments in TWL Season 2. Roxy had possibly the best record ever of any player in a game, when he went 24-1 in a game for –Final-. Elusive became the second TWL champs with a flawless season as TW Elites had done prior to them furthering their legacy as a Supersquad.
To add to the new changes, a new league was started by Debasser. Trench Wars Extreme League (TWEL) was the first ever dueling ladder implemented in Trench Wars to find the best duelers in the zone. Using the Case’s Ladder system (www.casesladder.com), the league was a smashing success in its first month and even led to the eventual creation of ?go duel. FieryFire and Jack Kiefer, would prove their dueling prowess by quickly asserting themselves as the #1 and #2 duelers in the league as they exchanged between each other for number one. Dynasty would also reign as #1 on the ladder for the longest time of anyone. Eventually lack of any real support and dropping player interest ended TWEL’s short-lived success.
As you may have noticed, the title for this chapter was the Golden Age of Trench Wars, but it had a catch. Indeed the zone populations were turning the zone into a force to be reckoned with. The events, which increased in both variability and scope, turned Trench Wars into a game within a game, where players could claim that Subspace was Trench Wars and Trench Wars was Subspace because it really did feel and look like it. Yet there was a price to be paid for all of this.
In Elim, players had been used to a small size. There was a time when you could recognize virtually every single player in Elim, and know how he or she played. The atmosphere was extremely competitive and personal glories were paramount. With the increasing size of Elim, more and more completely unknown players would go in and try out the arena. The arena itself began to loose focus. After TWL Season 2 when Elusive players were comfortable with their victory, and Siege players were in limbo, two of the driving forces for competition in Elim slowly faded away. The arena increasingly became a hangout place for players more than anything else, with the actual games second fiddle to just being there. While it became a place where veterans spoke of upcoming games, personal stories, daily news, and where you came to get reacquainted with old veterans of your day, the old Elim rivalries and the serious competition that used to be abundant were slowly slipping away.
In mid-2000 something startling happened to the zone. Out of nowhere, the Sysops added in a feature, which was original, but never to be duplicated by any other zone in Subspace. The resolution restriction was added in. Previously, just like any other zone, in Trench Wars, you could use any resolution and play. But with the new restrictions you could only play with a maximum of 1280 x 1024 resolution.
A fierce debate ensued. On the side of against were the players who did have the necessary computer equipment to go over the new maximum resolution. On the other side, were the players without. One of the infamous events of the debate included when FieryFire, a Smod in the zone asked for players against the restriction to vote against it by typing “100”, which went on for a full half hour and was logged for all to see.
While the against side argued for freedom to use whatever they wanted, and how the low resolution forced them to relearn the zone, and how competition was going to be sorely effected because a lower resolution would effect elim and other areas, especially in dueling. Also the argument stated that the lower resolution effectively punished many Elim players without addressing any of the issues that plagued the public arenas including lev-turreting and team killing. On the side for yes, the argument was simple. Basically, you have better computers and we don’t and there are more of us so to make it fair you have to be lowered a notch. After quite a while of constant complaints the sysops finally made a statement when Priitk proudly pronounced that the resolution restriction was added in because Trench Wars was never meant to be played with higher resolution. Although the complaints remained, the sysops never bothered to look at the issue again.
For Elim itself, the resolution restriction was a disaster. Most of the most fiercely competitive players in Elim had high resolution and for many, the addition of the restriction meant a gradual withdrawal from the arena, and as stated before led to the change from Elim being a competitive arena to more of a gathering place. Still the resolution restriction in the end changed the arena to be more fair for many with lower resolution. As most veterans showed their distaste to the res limit, it caused them to adapt. Those that had true skill continued to dominate and were able to finally prove to newbies who now gained an equal playing ground to those with high resolution that they really were good. Heated discussion was brought between Siege and Elusive, as Siege quickly adjusted to the res cap while Elusive’s adjustment took a bit longer.
Even more interesting was the Elim identity, which began to seriously emerge during this time. Before players were players, but now there was a definite group of Elim-Players and Pub-Players. Both groups started heated conversations and name calling about the faults of the other group with the Elim players generally calling the Pub players newbies, and the Pub players generally countering with calling the Elim players egotistical, a general feeling that continues to this day.
In the summer of 2000, DoCk> reappeared after an extended absence, and created ?go warzone. This was the first time that moving flags were added to Trench Wars and the arena was an instant success. For a few weeks, many dedicated players played the unique flagging game religiously. But with failing Mod support to host the game, and the realization that scores would never be kept or reset in the arena (as they were originally promised to be so) player interested waned and disappeared into infrequently hosted special Warzone events.
In August 2000 a most miraculous thing happened. The battles between the squads Elusive and Siege were as strong as ever, and finally after many weeks Elusive and Siege were in a position to play each other in the TWDL Pyramid League. The game set an attendance record to about 94 players in one arena, and ended in victory for Siege. Siege had done the impossible. They had not only defeated the much-hated Elusive squad, but they also ended Elusive’s 10-month record (carried over from FRAKTURE) of 52 straight TWDL/TWL victories. The game even resulted in DoCk> quoting both captains of the squads Epinephrine and Crome after the game to put on the zone’s news.txt. With a rematch a little bit later, Siege won yet again reasserting their dominance.
Many of the spectators viewing the recent Siege and Elusive games had seen what league could be for the first time in their lives. Used to a disorganized game, which usually resulted in a crushing defeat for one of the teams, they witnessed for the first time a very close match up between the two greatest squads in the zone. They saw teamwork taken to the next level, something which most Elusive players being of Pro League origin took for granted, and which Siege players mostly from Trench Wars had worked so hard to achieve. Undoubtly other squads wanted the same success, but none seemed to achieve the dominance Siege and Elusive had accomplished.
Answering the call, many squads crept up out of nowhere to quickly ascend in the ranks of the Warbird league including Scrotal’s Horde and Shinobi. –Final- meanwhile was in a sort of flux as many of their best players had left to other squads, and the squad looked like it was on its deathbed.
TWL Season 3 started in September 2000, and everyone was looking towards the eventual last round match up between Siege and Elusive. With a shocking pre-season victory against Elusive, Scrotal’s Horde was a serious contender for the title as well, and a freshly invigorated <>–Final- looked like a long shot.
In TWBL there were also Supersquads, which were dominating the league, the best two being Paladen and Cripples. Yet there were also newcomers with the unknown Wildfire ready to make a splash. The leagues operated by Dantax were a success growing day by day, and competition likewise increased with it.
Sometime during this period, a new game called Speedball was introduced as a sort of separate entity within Trench Wars. Created by Mr Mike and Chainbreaker it caught the attention of some players, but it never really became part of the mainstream Trench Wars players. That said, arena sported its own league and very loyal following. Also introduced was the Warbird singles and doubles tournament. Created by Poozzman, on a map created by Skater modified by Poozzman, these hour-long tournaments are still a favourite today.
Unfortunately for events, there was a growing trend, which had slowly materialized itself. As the Staff grew larger and more unmanageable, the standards dropped considerably. The training days with FieryFire were long gone, and although PoU tried to do something, it was at most ineffectual. Most of the new Staff was thrust upon the job with very little training if any at all, and the events and leagues suffered. It was hard to find anyone to host any league games, and when they were hosted they were done half assed. For events the hosting was so horrible it was not uncommon for Mods and ERs alike to take more than half an hour to start a simple Deathmatch. This is not to say all Staff were bad, because there were certainly many who did a great and professional job, but the growing numbers of those who were inept was alarming.
The problems of the Staff breakdown stemmed from the system itself. First of all, there was no more Staff training as previously mentioned. Secondly, there was absolutely no system to ensure that the Staff was doing a good job. Only repeat cheaters/abusers on Staff would be fired, but the promotion process was a mystery to anyone who was actually on the Staff. It seemed as though, those who played the most hours got the promotions with absolutely no measurement of whether they were actually doing a good job or not. Indeed, the only way of measuring Staff effectiveness that the Smods ever used was to have Robo Ref log the online hours each Staff member had, although that system did not take into account AFK hours. Ultimately the blame fell squarely on the shoulders of KJW and YoMama!!! who both failed listen and act on every single suggestion made to rectify the problem. The crumbling Staff with its marked drop in professionalism was evident to anyone who cared, and there was growing concern among the players of the zone.
In November 2000, Elusive reasserted their power post-resolution restriction, and took home the TWDL Season 1 victory as the pyramid was reset with Elusive at the top after defeating Siege in the grudge match for the title, and then successfully defending the title from a challenge by Scrotal’s Horde. In TWBL, Wildfire came out of nowhere and in the very last week defeated Cripples to win it all. A major controversy followed where the entire system was looked at because of the TWBL victory as Cripples had easily kept the number one position for most of the TWBL season, and many felt the Wildfire victory was stolen from Cripples. Certainly something had to be changed.
In November 2000 a gift to the people of Trench Wars came from Crown of Thorns and Slowbob. A new forum was created for Trench Wars, the TW UBB, a place where players could now discuss and complain about all manner of things. The forum carried over from a similar simpler forum ran by Slowbob earlier, which provided a similar place of discussion. The new forum would grow in popularity and some of the great issues of the day would be debated on it. Some of the issues included ideas to improve the zone (many spearheaded by Eric is God and Epinephrine) which were unfortunately all but ignored, Staff concerns, fun messages and announcements and most famously of all, the battle between many of Crown of Thorns’ detractors (most notably the members of LAME) and his supporters which went on for quite a long time.
Finally the Golden Age ended in December 7, 2000. It was the final game of TWL Season 3. The champions would be decided in the last game of the season when the undefeated teams Elusive and Siege played their last game. After a long battle and another record crowd of close to 110, Siege won the game, and won their first championship title. Realizing their time was at an end, the squad leaders Epinephrine and Dead on Arrival (aka Adrenaline) dissolved Elusive a few hours later. One of the most feared and hated squads in TW would fade into the history books. An interesting fact was that Siege had won 3 of the 5 times Siege and Elusive met, each game a record setter, binding them together in excellence. A great grab of players followed with Siege, -Final- and newly created Cynical being the big winners.
Although by no means the end of Trench Wars expansion or popularity, the end of the Golden Age marked the end of real changes for the zone. Almost all changes following would be incremental and evolutionary rather than Earth shattering. The Golden Age was when Trench Wars established itself as the premier zone in all of Subspace. It was when events came into being and widely accepted and even anticipated by the greater part of the zone. It was when the leagues really took off. It was when an intense rivalry between two great squads became a common subject of discussion. It was when the Staff had its great upheaval and a great-centralized system was created to replace the more ragtag systems of old.
To end the era the dissolution of my own squad might seem a bit self-serving and perhaps it is. But yet the end of Elusive marked something important in the zone. Before, the zone looked towards the future, of greater records, of greater events to host. Competition was on the rise and there were many serious self-made contenders for top positions. Afterwards the zone would slowly turn more to a role of preservation rather than progress. The efforts of the later periods would be to preserve all that was great about Trench Wars, and perhaps unfortunately the effects of stagnation. With the dissolution of Elusive, serious competition was soon to be delegated to two squads in the Warbird and new Javelin leagues –Final- and Siege which themselves were mostly directionless without a serious rivalry, while with new changes to the system it seemed as if Cripples would easily dominate TWBL. Many fun days of Trench Wars would still lie ahead, but the pure fun and excitement of a constantly growing and changing zone would be lost to history.
The Modern Era
- (January 2001 – February 2002)
It is in this period where I more or less left Trench Wars. My knowledge of this period is not complete, but here are some highlights.
In January 2001, 2dragons and Mefod started up the second TWEL. This time around there was mandatory Staff participation, and so FieryFire helped moderate, but how much he did for the league was debatable. The league was successful for a while, but ultimately faced the same fate as the first one, as a combination of the fact that the people who actually ran the league weren’t even given extra powers to help the league, and of player interest that eventually disappeared. Unfortunately this represented more of the official TW practice of keeping all new things part of the Smod domain, and discouraging independent action which Trench Wars used to be so great at doing.
The early periods of the Modern Era began with the dissolution of Cynical, but not before Siege had beaten –Final- in TWL Season 4 game 1. And so as with earlier debates about whether Elusive would have won TWL Season 2 if they played Siege later, the same debate would flow between Siege and –Final-. With the dissolution of Cynical, most of the best players would move to –Final-, creating a squad that housed most of the remaining Elusive players who did not quit the zone or at least quit playing competitively. But –Final- was by all means a different type of squad. Disqualifier had done a great job keeping the squad together over the years, and now was really their time to shine. As the new Supersquad to enter the zone –Final- was both loved and hated by many. Leading the way on –Final- was long-time Trench Wars player, Sika who was definitely the best of the best, and helped created a squad competitive in all the leagues.
PriitK managed to work some magic, when Continuum was released in early 2001. As a long time project of his, Continuum was a completely new Subspace client, the first client upgrade in four years. Most amazingly it was programmed from scratch, yet it emulated the Subspace client perfectly. Many quickly changed over to Continuum, but many did not. Prominent at this time was the debate to change everyone over to Continuum as it was found that Sika had found a way to use a gamepad to create “thrustbombs” and “thrustbullets” in Subspace 1.35. Once revealed, many, to the dismay of most players copied this tactic.
TWDL and TWBL started their second season, along with the newly revived TWJL. TWJL was brought to Trench Wars by Banzi, with a map, website and rules originally made by Crome, but eventually only the map would be used. TWL Season 4 would be won by Siege, and so for the first time a squad would win back-to-back TWLs, an impressive feat by any measure, and then to top it off they had done each of their victories with flawless seasons. With that Siege was gone, the competition was not there and Siege decided to go out on top, making its undefeated streak stand at 48. –Final- thereafter began their complete dominance as the only Supersquad in the game except for some powerhouse squads in TWBL such as Disoblige.
Before the beginning of the Summer, an old idea was finally put into fruition by Path of Daggers. Draft league was his baby, and after an extended effort it appeared as though this completely player run league, populated by teams of players who were drafted from volunteers was finally going to take off. Unfortunately after the league started, Path of Daggers went on vacation and the leadership was thrust upon an unprepared Eric is God. With the sudden surprising change in leadership, and the existence of problems with the league which were already evident, Eric is God did not have the time or preparation to turn the league around, and when Path of Daggers returned from vacation a month later, the league could not be held together any longer despite Eric's best efforts.
PoU would be hired as a Smod, followed after by Left_Eye. In the summer of 2001 Dantax would end his long-time job in charge of the leagues but remain on Staff. Overstrand would replace him to run the leagues which he renamed the Trench Wars Tournament Leagues (TWTL). TWTL now included the addition of a points system where teams would earn points for a victory, and the pyramid league was abolished. –Final-, Disoblige and Zero Hour would quickly rise to the top of the standings. Poid would also be hired in this time to be a Smod.
A Trench Wars World Cup of Warbirds would also play out as Finland, Canada and the USA battled it out, a tournament which would result in Finland as the victor.
Kill_9mm would update the Trench Wars Website with an entirely new design, the design that is used today.
Elim saw its map changed over and over again, first with the addition of a bigger arena, and then with the disastrous circular arena, which many hated. Many people in this period complained of the increasing amounts of spawnkills and stray shot kills in the arena, and with the arenas almost unmanageable size there was serious talk about splitting the arena into two, once and for all. It was in late 2001 where the Staff finally listened to some suggestions from players on the TW UBB, and decided to add in the expanding Elim arena when more players were present and to change back to the old rectangular shape.
Really the year of 2001 saw Trench Wars stabilizing as an old and established zone. Not too many major changes happened and as stated before all changes were more evolutionary than revolutionary. The core events established in the preceding year were still very popular and the zone’s population continue to slowly grow. Finally the year 2002 rolled around. As we will see the zone will regain a slightly revolutionary tone as many changes occur.
- (March 2002 - ?)
March 2002 has been an exciting time for Trench Wars. After many years as the founder and head of Trench Wars League, perhaps the most respected Smod in TW, Slowbob quit his position. What followed was Crome taking over the leagues with many changes including the addition of the basing and jav to TWL. Meanwhile TWTL will finally change to a diminished place as a pure ladder-type format while the new TWL will take centre stage. This new change caused new Smods, new bots, new arenas, and a new website to take place creating, what seems to be, a Golden Age for TW Leagues. After winning both TWDL and TWBL, the end of –Final-, one of the most celebrated squads in Trench Wars finally happened as Disqualifier nears his compulsory military service. The reestablishment of Siege brings back one of the great squads to the zone. And with new people pulling the strings in the Smod positions things might finally come to change. Even the Sysops have become much more active recently.
Beginning in secret back in December of 2001, DoCk> with the help of Sphonk (Juiio) started a completely new Bot Development Kit project written completely in Java. The project involves creating a standard general Robo Ref type Bot which could easily be modified to do different hosting jobs. The first signs of this project are already evident with the establishment of ?go basing and Arilou Lalee’lay’s ?go Starcon. Eventually the goal of this is to completely automate the zone, a task which DoCk> has promised.
Also recently released was the long awaited Continuum .37 by Priitk. With many new features, Continuum .37 creates many new possibilities for the future of the zone and Subspace as a whole. So far this has included things like scoreboards for league games, and different ship sizes. We can only guess at what’s to come next.
The old Elim vs. Pub apathy has slowly eroded over the years and has really ceased to become that important as populations have started to mingle more. A new TW UBB has just be created which is very exciting to all. Populations hover around a record 500 during peak times, and indeed all of Subspace has peak amounts of people.
Even the old records of old are finally being broken. In the championship TWDL match between Melee and –Final- 134 people showed up for this historic event.
Yet many things still remain. The resolution restriction remains. Shrapnel in Javelins for Elim remain. Elim has been stuck at a low level of competition for a long time. Old vets still grumble about times long ago when people actually cared to try in Elim, but those times are long in the past. The Staff remains bloated, with Staff training a thing of the long past. Although there will always be some gifted hosts, on the whole events are still hosted in an extreme amateur manner. Hopefully of course the new Bots will take care of this issue. There is still no real support from the upper Staff for any real proactive solutions or suggestions for improving the zone by the general population. While the staff progresses to add more and more to the zone, old problems are not being fixed or even being acknowledged.
But still the zone has managed to keep many of its unique attributes, which have led to its success over the years. The many great events still go on, and the successful formula for the public arenas continues. The community remains more or less, and the squad rivalries will hopefully remain in the new leagues. With all that has been promised by the staff, it seems as though we might be headed into a new Renaissance era, but as always only time will tell.
Trench Wars has had a long journey from a newbie super zone to the most populous zone in the game. The changes over the years have added to what makes this zone unique and what allowed it to prosper. Will this continue? This is a question, which no one has been able to answer about any zone let alone about the game itself, about Subspace. Since March 1997 when the fear of Subspace becoming pay had connotations of the game dying forever, many have speculated when the last day will be. Yet that day must come sometime, but hopefully for the many who enjoy this game day in and day out, that day is far in the future, and many great events will happen in the meantime.
The Trench Wars community successfully campaigns to get Subspace Continuum on Steam.
Subspace was noted by media outlets as recently as February 2021, demonstrating a multi-decade culturally relevant longevity enjoyed by few games.
- "How Fans Revived 'Subspace,' a Forgotten 20-Year-Old Game About Spaceships" (in en). www.vice.com. https://www.vice.com/en/article/8qxjbx/how-fans-revived-subspace-a-forgotten-20-year-old-game-about-spaceships.
- "26 Games That Play Just Fine On A Laptop Keyboard" (in en-AU). Kotaku Australia. 2021-02-10. https://www.kotaku.com.au/2021/02/27-games-you-can-play-on-a-laptop-keyboard/.
About the Author
I, Epinephrine have been a player of Subspace since February 1997. I’ve been a long-time participant in Pro League among other SVS zones, and as such I believe I have a unique perspective of Trench Wars as a veteran of the game, never seeing it from the perspective of a clueless new player but actually witnessing the evolution of the zone from its humble beginnings to its current glory.
As a player in Trench Wars since August 1999, I was captain of the squad Elusive, and was a Trench Wars Moderator from November 1999 until February 2001. After the dissolution of Elusive I quit the zone for a long time but was later convinced to return and join the squad Vulch after a real life meeting with Crown of Thorns and friends.
From my history in Trench Wars, I believe I possess a unique inside knowledge of the game, and so drawing information from my many friends and acquaintances in the most influential positions of the zone including Crome, Crown of Thorns, and DoCk>, and also possessing a love of writing and history, I decided to write this all out.
It’s been a long time project of mine, and I hope that I’ve been able to teach you something about the zone, and if I didn’t at least entertain you.
I would like to send out the deepest of thanks to Crome, my editor and a major contributor to this history. He has always been a great competitor of mine and once we were mortal enemies, but now I’m happy to call him my friend.
Also thanks to Crown of Thorns, 2Dragons, and The Voodoo Child, who answered some of my questions and originally contributed to this history with information that I needed. Thank you to DoCk> for providing a long early history of which I managed to get a lot of information out of. Thank you to The Luggage for turning my original history into PDF and PS formats.
Thanks to those who replied to my original post with more facts that I had left out including Dantax, Blood Axe, Louis XV, Vykromond, Sky, Eric is God, Path of Daggers, Jacen_Solo, and Live-Wire.
Finally thanks to all of those people who have made Trench Wars such a fun and interesting place to play in all these years.