Monday, December 27, 2010

Interviews with Runescape Fan Sites: RunePlanet

Today's interview is with Aaron, one of the founders and developers of RunePlanet (formerly known as RuneAddict). RunePlanet is very dear to my heart. Not only it's one of the oldest Runewise's partners, but it's also the only fan site that features Runescape Reader's Digest posts, which I am very grateful for. It saddens me that Jagex decided not to include RunePlanet into their fan site support program (for some "historical/personal issues", I am afraid), but it does not make the site less safe and friendly.

How would you describe your site in a few words?
A: Friendly, interesting and a family.

Q: Can you tell us about major milestones of your site? A little bit of a history?
A: Certainly, our biggest milestone was the tracking signatures, we were the first website to offer them, this initiated a huge interest in our site.
RunePlanet/RuneAddict was setup in April 2007, the site started out as RuneAddict, however since we did not register it was eventually bought by a RWT website, we did not like this bad image for RuneAddict, so we changed the website to RunePlanet. The design of the website that is used now was created by the co-owner of RunePlanet Da Legend369, who was previously one of the most popular signature creators out there.
A more complete history of RunePlanet can be found here.

Q: What inspired you to start a Runescape fan site?
A: I was a part of many fansites, however all of them were very...big, so no one really knew, or cared about each other, I wanted to change that with RunePlanet.

Q: What were your original goals for the site?
A: Our original goals were to have interesting content, good signatures, and a friendly, helpful community.

Q: Had your goals changed over time? If yes, how and why?
A: Partly, once JaGeX started providing support for fansites, we tried very hard to become one of the approved fansites (to the extent of changing our name to not be confused with RWTs), but after awhile we no longer felt the need to have approval from them, we'd rather provide the best service for our users, our friends than to be censored by another company. (but to clear it up we do NOT support RWT).

Q: Was it the first web site you ever created?
A: No, I created quite a few before this, I actually created a few other (RuneScape) fansites before this, however RunePlanet was the biggest success.

Q: What technologies were used to create the site? Did you add new technologies into the mix after you created the original version?
A: The site relies heavily on PHP and SQL, as the site progressed we had integration with more Javascript and AJAX (mostly from Da Legend).
The signatures use the GD library, and cURL.

Q: Is there a unique feature/service your site provides to Runescape players?
A: Not really, at least not anymore, I feel that our signatures are very unique and beautiful, we were the first to offer tracking signatures and one of the first to offer Adventure Signatures, however other sites now offer these, which is always good, we need competition :).

Q: Which feature/service took the most time and effort to create?
A: This is tough, I'd say the tracking signatures, they were such a massive hit that I had to redesign some of the code because they were getting so much traffic, at one point we were getting ~10 requests per second.

Q: Which feature/service was the most complex from the programming stand point?
A: I'd say the adventure signatures, we started using cURL to get the adventure logs, I had never used it before and it took awhile to get used to it, but it is very awesome :P.

Q: Is there a feature/service of the site you are most proud of?
A: The community, people that would have never met are now great friends because everyone there cares about one another.
I'm also proud that I inspired other sites to offer services we had.

Q: Did you start the site alone or with friends?
A: RunePlanet was an evolution of one of my older RuneScape fansites, so most of the users from that site came over, a few of them still visit to this day. After a few years I also decided to partner with a fellow site owner, Da Legend369, (and Topper4125 was also promoted to site owner).

Q: Are you the only developer of the site's code?
A: Lets see here:
The website was designed by Da Legend369
The original stat signatures were designed by Topper4125
The modern signatures were all designed by me, excluding the Da Legend signatures which were designed by Da Legend369, and modified by me.

Q: How much time do you normally spend supporting the site? A few hours a day? A few hours a month?
A: As I have become less interested in RuneScape I spend very little time working on the website (however this will be changing soon...I'll be providing you with more info on why at the end of this interview).
When I first started RunePlanet I worked on it daily, I spent many hours each day working on features.

Q: What is the most difficult/challenging task you have to do to maintain the site?
A: The hours I spent working on the signatures were pretty challenging, however I really enjoyed it, it made me think, "how am I going to do this...what will it look like, will this look good?"

Q: How many staff members do you have? How did you find/chose them?
A: We have about 10 moderators, 2 "Lead" admins, 6 site editors, and 3 site owners.
They were all picked by their performance, and their activity on the forums.

Q: Are there aspects of web site management you were able to completely delegate to others?
A: Yes, I previously did all of the interviews on the site, and did a lot of site content, we now have an entire staff that provides guides, interviews and news to the site :).

Q: Did you even had to deal with hostility and/or attacks from other fan sites?
A: Not really hostile, however we have had sites steal images or information, we were not happy about this to say the least, however everything worked out.

Q: Did you ever consider making money with the site or is it just a hobby?
A: We do have ads on the website, however we do not make much money from these, the money goes to support the server.

Q: What do you think about the current Jagex's fan sites support program? Do they do too much, too little? Is there something you'd wish would go differently?
A: Well I'm sure most people know my feelings on this program, but I will state it again, I honestly believe it is a popularity contest, RunePlanet worked very very hard to get on this list, however we then decided we'd like 100% control of the aspects of OUR community. It was a good idea from JaGeX, but it should have been executed better.

Q: Do you still play Runescape? If yes, how often?
A: The simple answer is No. I was a VERY active user for many years, I managed to get ranked 19 in Cooking at the height of my RuneScape career. I did many interesting things, including becoming a Player Moderator, but that is all in the past, I no longer have interest in the game itself, I was on yesterday for the annual RunePlanet Christmas party.

Q: What's you Runescape goals, if any?
A: When I played my goal was to obtain 200m cooking XP, I had 3 or 4 friends do so while I was doing so, one of them, the highest rank was Neeko74.

Q: What kind of Runescape player are you? Which Runescape aspect is most appealing to you: quests, role-playing, skilling, pking, minigames etc.?
A: Skilling, I never had interest in PKing, other than to kill time with friends, the wilderness was great fun.

Q: Are there other Runescape fan sites you personally use as a Runescape player?
A: I do visit a few as they are owned by friends, Draynor, RuneWise, and sometimes

Q: Do you follow/read Runescape blogs and news papers from other sites?
A: I do not really follow them, but I do read topics from RuneWise ;).

Q: Is there something you don't mind revealing about your RL (age, country, hobbies etc.)?
A: Sure, I am 22 (started playing around 16-17?), I live in the United States, for hobbies I enjoy programming, hanging out with friends or my girlfriend, I do make YouTube videos about technology which is always fun.

Thank you very much, Aaron!

P.S. A little "insider info" about upcoming updates at RunePlanet :)
If you are using RunePlanet signatures, you'll be pleasantly surprised soon. The signatures are being totally redesigned now: each signature, foreground, background, the generator etc.


Aaron said...

Thanks again for the interview Vaskor! This was a great idea and I've enjoyed reading the other interviews, I'm sure some people have had a problem with RunePlanet, but we try to get along with everyone ;P. Thanks again for the interview and the interesting reading :).

Austin said...

Oh. How near and dear RunePlanet is to my heart. <3 Must admit, I've been around to countless numbers of Runescape fansites. Many that are very popular, but for some reason the Community and etc. kept drawing me back to RunePlanet. I must say, if it wasn't for RunePlanet and the friends I made there I wouldn't be interested in Runescape anymore. The best fansite out there in my opinion and I'm sure many can agree with me. =P

YakHunta said...

Aaron is one of the nicest people that I've ever met, although I haven't been able to talk to him extensively, just over Twitter :P. It's a pity Jagex has been unfair and unjust to RunePlanet, but give credit to the RunePlanet staff for speaking out against it!

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