Note: This was written from the point of view of Fringer, the original founder of HotU (all *I* refers to
- August 1998: Arrived in the United States to begin my MBA education. Eager to catch up with old
friends on the rec.games.int-fiction and comp.sys.ibm.pc.games.marketplace Usenet newsgroups and
rekindle my game collecting hobby which had floundered during the two years I spent in Thailand working after
graduating from a US college.
- September 1998: Came across The Abandonware Ring while
looking to replace my bad Sword of The Samurai copy (like many others, I had contacted MicroProse only
to receive a curt "sorry, we no longer carry this title" reply). Finally found it on a small but very
well-designed site [I'm not sure what the name is-- if anyone knows, please contact me. I remember the name
being something like The Ultimate Oldies Domain, and it had only 15-20 games but all with good
screenshots and descriptions. The games include Knights of Legend, Sword of The Samurai,
King's Quest IV AGI version -- all of which are now on this site. I'd love to know the name, and
hearing from the former webmaster would be great :)] Needless to say, I was very intrigued with abandonware as
a well-intended way to help collectors acquire games that are hard to come by, or whose copies on original
disks have gone bad.
- Late September 1998: Dismayed at the lack of mention of abandoned games from my favorite companies,
e.g. Infocom, Telarium, and QQP, I decided to start my own abandonware site to honor underrated games of
all ages while supporting the abandonware ideal. Began working on a very primitive (by anyone's standard) HTML
site, written entirely with MS Frontpage Express without any knowledge whatsoever of HTML, webhosting,
or dealing with dozens of e-mails a day [EG]
- 2 October, 1998: Home of the Underdogs opened its doors, hosted by Xoom since everyone else seemed to be using it. I have unfortunately lost this
design in a hard drive crash, but I remember that there were around 15-20 games featured on the first day of
the site. Among them are games that were, I believe, available for the first time on the Internet (and which
became, of course, "common" on many abandonware sites): Nomad, The Fool's Errand, and Sea
Rogue to name a few. The site's design is very primitive, but quite organized: games were categorized by
genre. Every game featured a small screenshot and a brief review.
- November 1998: Received many encouraging e-mails from visitors, many of whom became friends. Rascal,
a fellow die-hard collector, introduced me to IRC channel #Oldgames on EFNet.
Pleasantly surprised to meet many others who share the same passion :)
- Late November 1998: Xoom erased all my files. I expected this, but not that it would come so soon. By
now, the site had mushroomed to around 80 games, scattered across free accounts at Xoom, Fortunecity, and Geocities.
At the same time, Interplay's long-awaited Baldur's Gate was released....
- December 1998: Played Baldur's Gate in most of my waking (and non-studying) hours. Discovered
some great, forgotten classics in the attic at home during Christmas Break (e.g. Hidden Agenda and
Challenge of The Five Realms). Determined to bring the site back from the dead to bring these games to
light (oops, sorry, too melodramatic here :))
- 12 January 1999: Home of the Underdogs re-opened, HTML pages hosted this time by Fortunecity. The
games were still scattered around major webpage providers. Started renaming all abandonware .ZIP files to .BMP
to avoid detection.
- February 1999: Site deleted by Fortunecity, after less than 3 weeks following the re-opening. Moved
the site within 3 days to Xoom and re-opened it for the third time.
- March 1999 - April 1999: A very good (in terms of rapidly increasing number of games) but very
frustrating (in terms of accounts being routinely deleted by free providers) period for the site. By the end
of April, the number of games had gone up to around 400 or so. Had over 60 free accounts scattered across
major free providers, as well as (then) lesser-known ones e.g. The Globe.
Had over 50 free e-mail accounts from those same providers, which I used in a systematic pattern to register
for yet more accounts. The "master file" --the list of all the HOTU games and which account they were in-- was
roughly 15 screens long.
- May 1999: Xoom deleted the site-- again. Several hosting offers were received from sympathetic
visitors. Finally took Output's offer to host the site on his Surf Solutions network. The new site, with URL
of http://underdogs.gamingdepot.com, was opened in late May, 1999. The decision to move away from free
servers came from the fact that free accounts were now being deleted more frequently than ever, probably due
to the site's increased exposure and bandwidth, which attracted free providers' attention to investigate and
discover abandonware files (which are illegal-- read our FAQ
for more detail). The
site's IRC chatroom,
#Underdogs on EFNet, was opened around this time.
- June 1999: Went home (Thailand) for summer vacation. Finished the second design of the site, which
was heavily inspired by GameSpot in terms of layout. This design would
last until our facelift in July 2000. [Note: the HTMLs of this design will be up for viewing soon]
- August 1999: Contacted by GoneGold, asking me to remove the
medieval shield graphics I used from the menu bar since it was their design. Had no idea at all since someone
else did the menu bar for me. Quickly came up with the new menu bar, which looked similar to the old one
except for the replacement of the shield by a cute spacedog animated .gif my
brother got from a free .GIF site. At first we thought this dog was from Tintin, a famous Belgian comic
strip, but I found out later that it is actually an original work done by Havana Street, a "retro clip
art" site. So I decided to spend $5 on the dog to use it legitimately :) The dog therefore became more or less
the site's mascot to this very day.
- September 1999: Noticed the disturbing trend of link-stealing going on in the abandonware scene (i.e.
linking directly to someone else's file, not the HTML, without the webmaster's permission). Dismayed to find
that HOTU itself was the target of many link-stealing sites. The site by now, largely thanks to Output's
hospitality which allowed me to upload games without the fear of being deleted, had grown to over 700 games.
- 20 October, 1999: Decided to suspend the site in protest of link stealers, and to work on CGI scripts
that would foil their attempt. Also wrote the first, quite random editorial about abandonware. You can read
the announcement and editorial here. Please note that I have updated the links, and
removed the name of link-stealing site, since they have publicly apologized and stopped this villainous
- 30 October, 1999: Re-opened the site, There was still no protection against link stealers, but at
least heavy criticisms all around seemed to deter their efforts for now. By now, I had made a lot of good
friends on IRC, many of whom are now instrumental in maintaining this site, e.g. oldwolf (our sysadmin),
Sugoll (with his amazing want list), Duglis (historical gamer extraordinaire) and Krovax (who taught me how to
make good .PDF manuals)
- December 1999 - January 2000: A tranquil period for the site, quite hectic in my real life as I was
going through the final rounds of interviews for post-MBA jobs. Finally accepted an offer to work in Hong
Kong, and work on the site picked up pace again.
- February 2000: Bought the www.theunderdogs.org domain name, and decided to move to a dedicated
server due to the site's increasing bandwidth needs and traffic. The site was opened in the middle of February
2000 at the new URL, still with the same (second) design. In that same month, work began on the complete
overhaul of the site, driven mainly by huge monthly server and bandwidth costs. The main objective was to put
each game on its own page, so that the site would have many more pages, and hence more banners. This way, HOTU
will earn enough pay-per-impression revenues to pay monthly costs without requiring extensive
- 8 July, 2000: The new, third design of HOTU launched for the first time, with many new features in
addition to a completely new look. If you are interested in what the old design looked like, click here for a blast to the past ;) Needless to say, the
download links won't work, and you have to manually get back here ;) [Read Design
Notes for more detail on how the new design differ from the previous one]
- September 2000: The exponential growth in site traffic (file transfers now totalled more than 35
gigabytes *daily*) created significant burden to our MySQL database. We decided to order the second server to
relieve the server of this load.
- 6 October, 2000: The second server was set up, and the site's speed dramatically increased... but for
how long? Only time will tell.
- 2 November, 2000: CC'd an e-mail that the IDSA sent to our domain registrar. To comply with their intentions as
implied in the e-mail, we took down downloads of titles that we think are copyrighted by IDSA members. The
deluge of letters (such as these)
that fans sent to the IDSA convinced us to
continue the site for as long as possible Work on "Free the Games" campaign has begun.
- 21 October, 2001: Reached and surpassed the 3,000 mark of underdogs reviewed. That translates
to an average of 2.23 games reviewed per day since the site's opening on Oct. 2, 1998. That probably means
we're insane ;)
- 3 March, 2002: Our old domain www.theunderdogs.org is "lost" to a cybersquatter called UltimateSearch who apparently does nothing except snapping up expired
domain names to direct people to a dodgy search engine/portal (as a side note, many well-known companies
including PriceWaterhouseCoopers (who lost pwc.com to ultsearch) have sued
ultsearch.com over this practice and failed, because what they do is still considered a "legitimate business"
under WIPO arbitration rules). It was all a
result of my own stupidity for thinking that my account at Register.com works for all domain names, and
therefore never got the warning e-mails from Register.com telling me that our domain was about to expire. I
had to change the site address to http://www.the-underdogs.info/ as a result of this.
- 2 June, 2002: After almost 3 months, we finally got the domain name www.theunderdogs.org back from
ultsearch.com - by offering them US$400 (which many people told me is considered "cheap" as far as relatively
popular domain names go). The old URL now redirects to this one, so tell every HOTU visitor you know to update
their bookmarks :)
- 17 November, 2002: Reached and surpassed the 4,000 mark for the number of underdogs reviewed.
That translates to an average of 2.67 games reviewed per day since the site's opening on Oct. 2, 1998 - 1,507
days ago. We're beyond insane, apparently ;)
- 6 February, 2003: Launched a brand new design, dubbed "HOTU v3.0." Registered users can now submit
comments and reviews of games, in addition to a number of new features described in the Design
Notes. We also launched HOTU Store, our very own
shareware store set up to promote shareware/independent games :) Our v2.0 design has been archived here.
- 6 August, 2004: Reached the 5,000 mark for the number of underdogs reviewed. This means I have
added an average of 2.34 games per day for the past 2,135 days (5.8 years) the site has been online.
Scary :) This magic number means this site is currently one of the largest game review sites on the Internet
by my count... and probably the second largest among "hobby" sites, right behind MobyGames. And if you narrow the definition a bit further, HOTU is probably the
largest hobby gaming site on the Internet without user-submitted content :) (although we do have a lot of
user-suggested content, thanks to all your suggestions). We also added BitTorrent as a download option
for large files.
- March, 2009: HotU is down due to (traditional) problems with server providers, all code is lost but
the content was preserved. Fringer resigns while releasing the content and granting permission for others to
recreate the site, several resurrection projects emerges (all of them, except the one you see now, disappeared
or stopped being maintained/updated by year 2014).
- 24 March, 2009: The site as you see it now was recreated from scratch following the old look & feel.
Traditionally, we have a new domain now www.HomeOfTheUnderdogs.net.
- 12 July, 2014: The site reactivation started in order to modernize it and make it more active
(Updates, Twitter, Facebook, Patreon, etc) while preserving the nostalgia feeling.
- 28 December, 2015: The first HotU Council was approved by the community. We are on the way to switch
from a one man job to a team effort. Also additional staff was selected and we opened the doors for editors
and other kind of helpers.
Thanks to everyone for reading this far :) This page will periodically be updated with significant events as
they happen. I hope that, if nothing else, this page may serve as a reminder to everyone that every undertaking,
however large or small, begins with a dream. It then takes a lot of patience, tenacity, and (sometimes
superhuman) determination to see it through. Here's hoping that our little history may inspire someone to start
a site dedicated to oldies, and never give up. Cheers!