The history of Trench Wars began with a 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. 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.
Early Subspace (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 began for selected people in December of 1995. After a few months, in 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, four ships, and no squads, Subspace became a hit among it's 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. At this time, many rumours 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 were happening, the population tripled in mere months, and now there were easily 1500+ people playing during peak times. Subspace was saved from going pay during that time by Pepsi, which gave a bunch of money to sponsor Subspace.
^topThe Downfall of VIE (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), and of course the biggest change of all: the addition of the server program free to all players.
Players could now make their own zones and make 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. This provided a beautiful opportunity for cheaters to run rampant, although for the time being the VIE servers with their more secure software would 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 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.
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 who would go on to make all of the maps for Trench Wars up until late 1999. Warzone would become the host of Trench Wars, and MikeTheNose officially became the first moderator of the zone. Trench Wars would eventually move servers to 2xT3 and finally to it settled at the Finnish iNet servers.
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.
^topSubspace Council (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 policy of maintaining 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 something miraculous happened.
That something came in the form of Baudchaser, a player 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. During 1999, a single programmer decided to step up and single-handedly create something which in effect saved Subspace, this is where our story really begins. 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.
^topThe Growth of Trench Wars (January 1999 - September 1999)
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. 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. 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. 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. It was during the summer of 1999 that a player named Slowbob created Trench Wars League (TWL).
In May 1999 PriitK was given control of Trench Wars. 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. Things were looking up for the game as a whole, but also for the zone. 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. 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 in the game, Trench Wars looked as if it would definitely be set for greatness.
^topTrench Wars Innovation (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>. 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 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. SuperDave (Postal) also created the first great event in Trench Wars in the form of Ghoul Games, a completely new arena with original graphics and easy to learn rules. Other events such as ?go rabbit and ?go turretwars also appeared during this time.
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. Constantly creating new games such as Dodgeball 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. 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 implemented in order that the game would never lose its lustre. This rule would later be extended to 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. 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 well established and would even be imitated in other zones. 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.
^topThe Golden Age (February 2000 - December 2000)
Records were 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, 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 as top of the Subspace chain within a couple of months.
Crown of Thorns left the Staff for personal reasons, YoMama!!! and KJW were enlisted in his place. 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.
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. Also added was the new ?cheater command (and later ?help command as ?cheater was being abused too much for help-related events).
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. 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 was 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. 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.
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. 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.
^topThe Modern Era (January 2001 onwards)
PriitK managed to work some magic and 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 players copied this tactic.
New Smods, new bots, new arenas, and a new website created an ever exciting environment. Beginning in secret, back in December of 2001, DoCk>, with the help of Sphonk, started a completely new Bot Development Kit project written completely in Java. The project involved 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 base and Arilou Lalee'lay's ?go Starcon. Eventually the objective was to completely automate the zone, a task which DoCk> had promised. Also 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.
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. 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!