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RIP HotU

February 13th, 2009 by Troy Goodfellow · 41 Comments · Industry

EDIT: Since this post still gets a lot of traffic, I thought I should direct people to the new HOTU. May they prosper.

All the notice we had was a February 9 Twitter from the proprietor.

“Home of the Underdogs webhost went bankrupt T_T.”

And with that sad note from Sarinee Achavanuntakul, one of the most enduring (if illegal) tributes to gaming history came to an end.

The site attracted a global community and, for a while, had a very active and knowledgeable forum. I used to spend a lot of time there. Other so-called “abandonware” sites are out there, so nothing has really been lost in a material sense, unless you include the site’s thorough cataloging by theme, publisher, genre, sub-genre, etc. For a while, HotU was a key part of my professional development, letting me fill in the gaps of my gaming history.

Sadly, the site hadn’t been updated in years. Achavanuntakul decided to put her Harvard degree to good use in championing noble causes in her native Thailand. Sustainable development, fair markets, small business, that sort of thing. So her long labor of love fell into disrepair, though the files were all there. Given her new interests, I don’t think it’s likely there will be any revival of HotU from Achavanuntakul.

So drink a toast to one of the finest intros to great, good and crappy games of the past. It was nice while it lasted.

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41 Comments so far ↓

  • Morkilus

    I always meant to really give Star Control 2 a good go. What a shame.

  • Elton

    You can download the open-source remake here: http://sc2.sourceforge.net/downloads.php

    As far as I know it’s pretty much identical to the original (delightful) SC2.

    I’ll also miss HotU.

  • Eduardo Gabrieloff

    I hope I find another way to get my once a year Crush! Deluxe fix now.

    HotU was, as you mention, an amazing resource for people interested in what you call gaming history. I think that as time goes on, we’re going to regret not keeping better track of older video games.

  • Alan Au

    HotU has encountered some troubles before with domain renewal and such, but the loss of its webhost is pretty dire. It was one of the best historical archives, and its loss will be sorely missed.

  • JonathanStrange

    I loved going there but I have to admit, the last year or so, I pretty much forgot about it. I liked knowing some of the older video games were around somewhere I could access them if a passing nostalgic feeling came.

  • George Geczy

    It’s quite a pity that HotU has declined and now died – there is often a disturbing lack of interest in the history of our industry. Especially these days with debates on DRM etc, very few publishers seem to care about questions like “what about playing your game ten years from now when your internet activation is no longer running” etc.

    Just a few weeks ago we wanted to play a game of Balance of Power in the studio as a research exercise, and couldn’t locate our old Windows copy… it wasn’t on HotU for some reason, so we sent Chris Crawford an email… he responded “I cannot imagine where I would find a Windows version of BoP. I know I had one on my website about 8 years ago, but I removed it because so many people were having problems with it.”

    We did end up finding BoP in an internet backwater somewhere, but the point exists that our “art” is in a fragile form that is very easily lost to the passage of time. Without a site like HotU it is likely that many titles will be “lost” forever.

  • Alan Au

    The good news is that the IGDA does have a preservation special-interest group. It’s currently being run by Henry Lowood, who also maintains Stanford’s game archive.

    The bad news is that access to old games is still difficult. It’s one thing to have games archived and quite another to make them available, much less get them to run.

  • Jason Lefkowitz

    Our “art” is in a fragile form that is very easily lost to the passage of time. Without a site like HotU it is likely that many titles will be “lost” forever.

    This actually reminds me a lot of the movie industry. There are tons of films from the 1890s to the 1930s that were lost forever because the then-young film business had no interest in archiving its work. I saw one that was nearly lost the other day — The Mysterious Island, one of the first talkies; it only survives because some local TV station made a kinescope of it in the fifties. Because TV was black and white then, they didn’t bother paying for a color copy; so the original Technicolor version is gone for good, and all we have left is B&W.

    It’d be interesting to look at how the film industry evolved archival mechanisms over time, and see if there are lessons there for the game business…

  • cheeba

    This is a genuine tragedy. HOTU was about as close as we got to some genuine attempt to archive (and most importantly, bring attention to) a whole load of forgotten classics. Hell, more than a few of them were all but forgotten even shortly after release. I only hope someone else is able to try again.

  • Tim McDonald

    Does this mean I don’t have to activate accounts on the forum anymore?

  • Tim McDonald

    Okay, that was slightly too facetious, even for me, so as my own brief tribute – HotU was the first “major” abandonware site I came across, after dalliances with a few smaller (but only slightly less mourned) sites, and I spent far, far, far too much time there over the years. It helped me a lot, not only – as mentioned by Troy – in filling in a lot of blanks and introducing me to far too many aged classics, but I also met a lot of people and had a great time. In recent years it’s barely limped along but despite my lack of involvement in the community lately, save keeping the forum ticking over, it was still a special place to me. If I had alcohol with me now, I’d drink to it.

  • Eumel

    Too bad.

    The one thing I’ll miss are the manuals. A lot of these are really hard (or even impossible) to find now. I hope they are still archived somewhere.

    Here’s to the old times.

  • Gonchi

    Very sad if it’s gone for good. There was a time in which I would drop by the forums almost on a daily basis for the old school gaming discussions or to show off my recent purchases in the Newest Acquisitions thread. The quizzes are also fond memory…

  • Alan Au

    There’s a nice collection of manuals at http://www.replacementdocs.com/although I have no idea how comprehensive their collection is (or isn’t), especially when it comes to older stuff.

  • Timpsi

    Oh, rats.

    HotU is/was the only online community I ever really bother participanting in. Good times, dear memories, great characters.

    It’s sad to see it go.

    /weg

  • Ethan

    Damn, but this is tragic. I discovered HotU toward the end of my college years, or maybe shortly thereafter. It was wonderful to find so many favorite, long-forgotten games, and uncover a lot of their contemporaries.

    Achavanuntakul, thanks for the hard work. It was really appreciated.

  • Lancaster

    I don’t suppose she’d be interested in giving everything to someone else willing to do the job?

  • Alan Au

    I don’t have specific details, but the IGDA preservation group is examining the possibility of rehosting some of the metadata and editorial content.

  • Del.icio.us op 19 februari 2009 | Michel Vuijlsteke's weblog

    [...] – RIP HotU All the notice we had was a February 9 Twitter from the proprietor. “Home of the Underdogs [...]

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    [...] that Achavanuntakul, an Harvard graduated, is currently interested to rather different issues compared to videogames still protected by copyright but that no one is selling anymore, it’s [...]

  • Matt

    Ahh imagine the glee upon the first visit to a site known as Home of The Underdogs. T’was truly the materialistion of the life long dream of trawling the disc box for that long lost game of yesteryear. Now, but another lost dream itself.

  • Ozku

    I will miss HotU. I used to download some very old adventure games I played as a child. This is a great loss for gaming.

  • Snowpuff

    Man, HotU was my favorite site back in the day, when I first got my computer and wanted games. RIP Home of the Underdogs -cry-

  • russ

    this is definitely sad – for the reviews and the forums. I know she developed other interests, but to abandon so much work…I can only hope they preserve the content somehow. does anyone know of another major retro gathering place?

  • Mike

    I hope HOTU will be resored at some point. There were alot of great games to be found there.

  • Chase McBride

    well im 14 and i just want to say even I will greatly miss the Under Dog. Classics will always mean more to me than greedely made modern games.

    PS:I will always remember you with pride HOTU.

  • Justy

    I think I’ll start a site just like HOTU. I’m gonna do it right now. Anyone wanna help?

  • Tommie

    Dont fear!! I’m already working for some months on a classic gamers network, console- handheld- and pcgames.

    It’s a lot of work especially the detailed database. That would be a work in progress. Because I tried to contact the HotU to obtain a copy of their database, but till today I haven’t received any reply… My network is quite comprihensive… Containing a social networking site, a news site and the main gamersnetwork site with gamesdatabase with retro games (already containing 15000 entries and downloads) , a reviewdatabase for new games, 3000 online games flash and in the future NES and lots more.

    And this is no BS, im working on this network since the demise of HotU at the end of last year. I hope togo beta before the 1st of may.

    If anyone wants to lend a hand or got some extra gamesdatabase records for me. Please mail me!

  • Bulldancers

    I have a set of the games from A – D or so- plus a print out of the games list…. adventure, rpg etc…
    Would be willing to share. Email me or any of the bulldancers.com membersites and they will contact me.

    path less traveled
    homesteading and country living
    “whatever happened to all that good old hippie $h*t”

  • Eumel

    An update on her blog:

    http://www.fringer.org/?p=416#more-416

    The revival project:

    http://groups.google.com/group/hotu-revival/

    Dead, but not forgotten, or so it seems.

  • tyler

    aw god damn it! RIP hotU :(

  • JJ

    I’m sorry but I read in the HoTU formus many times how sarinee declined to let other gamers interested in running the site…she could at least given the community a chance of preserving the site we all love. HoTU was much more than an abandonware site it’s apity it was left to rot

  • lb

    hotud.org ….

    it returns!…?

    let’s hope it’s for real.

  • Sonnabend

    If many of the same HOTU members are involved, this will be shortlived.

    The denizens of that forum chased off a lot of new users, ran off members who had been there for years (anyone know bill22?..you should)

    He wrote a lot of their support manuals and fixes….he left after a massive load of abuse, and their forum had the reputation of being newbie hostile.

  • Leishtek

    newbie-hostile forum? Sounds like my old website, Labyrinthos.org. We really _earned_ that title too, so don’t try too hard HotU. Oh btw, anyone can get a new host. This whole “bankruptcy/bail-me-out thing” has gone too far. When will the madness end??

  • Chris .

    The Lord giveth, and Sweedish treaties taketh away…

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  • RBT

    HOTU, was one of my favorite websites before it shut down. But it’s legacy lives on in other sites like my other personal favorite Abandonia. R.I.P.

  • csb csb

    The site is reborn at http://www.hotud.org