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The Day I Became a Nostalgiaminer

Everyone becomes what they hate, and I am no exception. Here's what I learned from it.

It started as joking amongst the Somnolescent crowd; the idea that I, mariteaux, pigeonholed as I am, would give into my crusade against star backgrounds and <font> tags and come up with an old site of my own. How ridiculous. What would the Neocities kids think? (Million dollar answer: no one cared, but more on that later.)

Then came the 20th. My temper reached its boiling point, and I realized that everything I've said and all the essays I'd penned had gotten me nowhere. All I had done was rack up enemies who thought I was targeting them in particular. I quit the Districts Discord and penned my "I Fucked Up and I Give Up" essay an hour later.

Passion on Neocities has become a dead topic for me at this point, and while I still encourage it, I can't dwell forever. After that day, when I'd regained my resolve, I planned two things.

The result

How'd I do?

Getting into the part

I'm sure like most, I was inspired for this project by websites of my youth. I have vague memories of the HTML docs of ancient 90s CD-ROM titles and forgotten old university-hosted pages, with their faded textured backgrounds and basic styling, but something about it felt authentic and exciting. It wasn't like the Neocities kids doing Tumblr old, no. This was how they really did it.

Fake nostalgia is a weird little thing worthy of its own essay, but it's rampant on Neocities. And guess what—I feel it too. I would've loved to see the early days of the internet, and currently as a college student, I would likely have been one of the first to have high-speed access to it, or perhaps even hosting space on a campus server. I'm in love with the aesthetic more than people think I am, I just hate when it's done lazily, hence why I took it on myself.

I decided to cast myself as an AU 1998 mari, excited by the prospects of the 10mb of space offered to him by those wonderful people at Geocities. It was enough to host a low-quality RealAudio stream of one of his favorite songs. The original Pokemon games had just come out in the West. Maybe he'd grab one of those weird emulator things off someone's FTP server and play it for his site. Maybe he'd just ramble about the new Garbage record, or what he wishes they'd add to mIRC.

Most of the time, when I have a purpose for making something web-based, it's driven from a sense of frustration (see: all of my essays). This time, pure glee drove me to do it.

I was legitimately excited, for the first time in a while, about building a website.

Building the fucking thing

My only rules for building the site were that I was to test thoroughly in Netscape 4.50 and use no stylesheet. Everything would be done according to the HTML3.2 docs, and all in uppercase, because people used to do that for some reason. Luckily, support for everything here is still present in modern browsers, and only Firefox has minor rendering issues with some of the text.

[1:54 PM] capy: the caps man...
[1:54 PM] capy: old html is more enthusiastic...
[1:54 PM] capy: old html is hyped to be there
[1:55 PM] neo: i can just imagine it being yelled
[1:55 PM] neo: so loud
[1:55 PM] capy: FLAREON GIF HELL YEAH!!!
[1:55 PM] capy: modern html?
[1:55 PM] mariteaux: FUCK YEAH FLAREON GIF
[1:55 PM] capy: flareon gif.... alright... whatever...
[1:55 PM] neo: IMAGE SOURCE FLAREON GIF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
[1:56 PM] mariteaux: technically modern html is case insensitive still so if you wanted to get fucking hype you could
[1:56 PM] mariteaux: it's just not allowed in xhtml
[1:56 PM] neo: maybe i should
[1:56 PM] neo: or maybe not
[1:56 PM] capy: goddamn... html hype... I love it
[1:57 PM] neo: hyped up text markup language
[1:58 PM] mariteaux: i'm down

I decided to go with a <table> layout for the site, in order to keep the page relatively structured. The table is exactly 640 pixels wide, though I'm sure 1998 mari already had an 800x600 screen and was ready to center that shit.

For textures, I used a program called XFader. It's an mid-2000s ultra-customizable texture generator that produces exactly the kind of results that screams late 1990s. Page backgrounds, since no text sits on them, could be a lot busier and change per-page, but I kept the texture inside the text area the same for the whole site, so I didn't have to mess with color contrast and bits like that.

Text background

There's something about that greenish-bluish faux-marble background that struck me as very fitting.

[2:00 PM] mariteaux: for whatever reason, textures that are that aqua blue feel the most 90s to me
[2:00 PM] mariteaux: it's like the perfect embodiment of smooth fake marble texture and web-safe color palettes
[2:01 PM] capy: it is
[2:01 PM] capy: and blue = modern and shiny
[2:01 PM] capy: the future

By this point, the lack of stylesheet was biting me in the ass. Any design changes would have to be made across every single page, and not using AutoSite for further authenticity exacerbated it. (Ironically, this is exactly why I complain about people still using <font>.) Still, I pressed on.

I thought about what I would've been into at the time and gave a hard cutoff date of twenty years ago, in late 1998, for it. For my list of PlayStation games, none of my later collection would be included (sorry, Tony Hawk). My personal favorite Garbage record, 2001's beautifulgarbage, was nowhere to be found. I wanted to play through Pokemon Yellow, but it had only just come out in Japan in 1998, and the States wouldn't get it for another year.

For images, I refused to use any PNGs, as support for them existed at the time but was too new for comfort. JPEGs were encoded at -q 80 or so for extra glitchiness, and GIFs were saved using MS Paint, which scuffs up images quite well thanks to its unoptimized, fixed GIF color palette, rather than the optimized ones more modern programs use.

Absolutely crunchy

For my Quake maps, I took screenshots in the software renderer at the game's original resolution, 320x200. Quake's palette is so limited that MS Paint didn't even warn that I'd lose color information saving it like that. But no really, look how tiny it is!

If I had to play Quake like this, I would probably not

(Funny enough, the part about "Temple of the Strange" being used to learn Worldcraft isn't too far off. I built the map to learn J.A.C.K., which is a rebuilt version of Worldcraft, and it was the editor I stood by until TrenchBroom swept me away like everyone else. If TrenchBroom didn't come along, I'd still be Worldcraft faithful, hence the button in the footer.)

I was initially quite disappointed that the <blink> tag is pretty thoroughly unsupported in modern browsers, but then I remembered I could do it in an animated GIF.



Why, though?

It was this kind of obsessive detailing that excited me about building such a site. Striving for authenticity on a level that no one but me would notice, a totally unironic, obsessive, and loving look into what I actually like and not what the rest of the site is doing—it felt good. Really good. It started as a meme, but you know, I actually really like the look of it.

[4:12 PM] mariteaux: i dunno, maybe i'm like
[4:12 PM] mariteaux: trying to do this as a serious "how would i make a site in 1998" thing and not just go full meme?
[4:13 PM] neo: well yeah
its an authentic take on it rather than uh
[4:13 PM] mariteaux: basically
[4:13 PM] mariteaux: this is what i got atm
[4:14 PM] mariteaux: it does
[4:15 PM] neo: real genuine old shit
and its in Netscape 
and you have a netscape now button
[4:15 PM] neo: it's great

Partially, I also did this to gauge the reaction of the site to what would be perceived as a total 180 for me. People think I hate "old" sites, so what if I did my own "old" site? Surely, the reactions would be something special, but turns out, not so much. Even in the Discords, where anti-mari sentiment runs fuckin' rampant...nothing!

So I guess it's time to wrap up my point here then, huh?

Because we needed more paragraphs about passion, right mari

I dunno about you, but when you give a shit and spend all this time trying to convince others to give a shit, it tends not to work out. You just wear yourself out. In all my ranting, no one stepped up to improve their site, looks or content. I had muddled my point. Nostalgiamining was an irritance; a lack of passion was the real thing I hated, but to this day, people think I just really hate "old" sites.

I guess I should've seen it coming. Idiot kids make bad sites. More at 11. I just wanted to see people not be lazy. Laziness makes for a boring site, and I know Neocities skews young, but surely not all 210,000+ sites come from little kids, right? I don't know.

Thing about it is, building this kind of site is totally consistent with what I've said all along. This took me a while to build, a lot of research and care went into it, and it's the exact kinda site I would've built had I been around in 1998. If someone came to me with a site as ridiculously old as this one looks, but it took them a lot of time and it was a joy to browse through and read, I'd have no issue with it.

This is what people consistently get wrong about me.

For now, I've moved my nostalgiamining site over to minerteaux. I'm pretty much over Neocities at this point, so don't expect to see it updated, but it's there. And you know what—I still love it. It looks great. I absolutely nailed the vibe, and it gave me a newfound appreciation for textures all the same.

Mine away, I guess.

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