The History of the Panzer Dragoon Community
The article takes a nostalgic look back on how the online Panzer Dragoon community evolved from its humble Yahoo! Club origins and arrived to where it is today.
The Origins of the Panzer Dragoon Community
It is difficult to determine exactly when the first Panzer Dragoon fan site came about. Perhaps it was Lagi: The Art of Panzer Dragoon (which, at this time of writing, remains online and serves as an excellent art resource for fans of the series). Lagi’s site was certainly one of the first few, being founded in 1997. However, several other websites existed in the nineties, including The Panzer Place, Sky Rider: The Panzer Dragoon World, and a site called Panzer Dragoon: Realms of Fury (no longer online), all of which could be considered contenders for the title of “the original Panzer Dragoon fan site”.
The Panzer Dragoon Club
Perhaps the earliest form of the English speaking online Panzer Dragoon community can be traced back to the third of January 1998, when Aitrus founded the Panzer Dragoon club. The club was hosted on Yahoo! Clubs (later replaced/updated to Yahoo! Groups), a collection of simple message board communities hosted by the Yahoo! corporation. The messages were ordered one after another, like a set of separate emails with no threading, but the low volume of messages in the Panzer Dragoon community at that time didn’t make the lack of structure an issue. The smallness of the Yahoo! Clubs logo pictured here reflects the limited bandwidth available back then; when it came to download speeds, every pixel mattered.
The first message of the Panzer Dragoon club was simply:
Welcome to the only panzer dragoon club on the net…here we can talk about PD and Dreamcast stuff i guess and well if you want some info on PD go to my homepage… -aitrus…
Aitrus also had a website, hosted on Yahoo! Geocities, called Sky Rider: The Panzer Dragoon World. This may well have been the first Panzer Dragoon website, presumably started in 1997 since the post was only written a few days into 1998, but we cannot know for certain. The site was an all round, general Panzer Dragoon site containing information about the three Saturn games.
The next message on the Panzer Dragoon club wasn’t until over a year later. But, slowly, the number of posts began to build up, and a community began to develop.
I joined the Panzer Dragoon club either in late 1999, or some time in 2000. It wasn’t long after that when I decided to give the idea of building a website a shot. First, I constructed a general SEGA fansite on Tripod, and then learnt HTML and created a site called Soul Calibur Community which had far more “Under Construction” pages than I care to admit. However, with neither of these sites did I have a strong passion to keep updating them, so I decided to go ahead with the creation of a new website about the Panzer Dragoon series. This site was called Azel Online and started off as a simple page with a black background and white text with links to reviews of the three Panzer Dragoon games. Everything was written in the Hoffmann font, which wasn’t the most pleasant thing to look at.
Azel Online was not directly linked with the Panzer Dragoon community, although I began to add fan art and fiction that members of the Panzer Dragoon club had sent me, turning it into one of the main sites hosting content created by the community.
A Community Website?
By this stage we had several Panzer Dragoon websites across the Internet, and a simple Yahoo! Club which united their webmasters and other fans of the series. The idea of creating a “club site” came up, and a few of us (Aitrus, Lord Craymen, and myself among them) started discussing ideas for a potential combined community website that would act as both a replacement for the Yahoo! Club while at the same time acting as a site to host contributions and run by members of that community.
However, no consensus could be reached about what this community site would consist of. I was very keen on the idea of a general purpose site containing everything and anything about Panzer Dragoon, whereas Lord Craymen was more interested in creating a more focused (and arguably more polished) multimedia site. Eventually, Lord Craymen started on his own project which was created as a new home for the Panzer Dragoon community. For the message board, I was fond to the idea of single posts, one after another, as the Panzer Dragoon club had been presented, whereas Lord Craymen was keen to implement a threaded forum system. Eventually, Lord Craymen offered a compromise and implemented a flat view (unthreaded topics) forum called The Excavation Camp using the Phorum software (later changed to phpBB) and launched it with his website which was called Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon.
Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon
Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon, which is German for “The World of Panzer Dragoon”, was the first self-hosted home for the Panzer Dragoon community. It launched prior to Panzer Dragoon Orta’s release, and covered the game with news and rich multimedia content. The game’s impending release drew in an influx of new community members from various corners of the web.
The forums were split into two boards. The Excavation Camp, known as “the camp” for short, was home to discussion relating to the Panzer Dragoon games, while The Town of Zoah hosted off topic conversations. A third forum was added later to separate discussion about Panzer Dragoon Orta to avoid spoilers, appropriately titled The Forbidden Zone. A Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon chat room was also set up on IRC called Juba’s that some of us used to frequent regularly.
In July 2003, not long after Panzer Dragoon Orta’s release, Lord Craymen decided to shut down Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon. Luckily by this point, The Will of the Ancients had come about and had recently acquired its own webspace, opening up the possibility of moving the Panzer Dragoon community to a new home.
Other Panzer Dragoon Websites
Around this time a number of new Panzer Dragoon websites had begun popping up. These included Panzer Dragoon Zero, a site dedicated to Shadow’s fanfic of the same name, The Temple of Sestren, a general Panzer Dragoon site which featured the beginnings of an encyclopaedia for the series and the temporary “Excavation Camp 911” forums, as well as The Panzer Dragoon Language Dictionary, a project aimed at translating the fictional language of the game world into English.
Later came sites such as The Panzer Dragoon Saga Oasis and The Panzer Dragoon Video Project, dedicated to Panzer Dragoon Saga, The Panzer Lagoon, and Draikin’s site Panzer Dragoon Legacy, dedicated to Panzer Dragoon Orta. We later merged Panzer Dragoon Legacy into The Will of the Ancients, creating an encyclopaedia out of much of the content. Some of these sites still exist, while others are now hosted as subsites on The Will of the Ancients.
The Will of the Ancients
In June 2002 I recreated Azel Online as a new site called The Will of the Ancients. You can read more about the specific history of this site on the About the Site page. Consequently for the community though, The Will of the Ancients provided a new location to host the Panzer Dragoon community when the Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon was closed down. In some ways, The Will of the Ancients became the community site that had originally been envisioned, with content from fans and their discussions all on the same site.
In keeping with the tradition of Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon, the forums were named after places in the Panzer Dragoon world. Although first tentatively called The Tower of Uru and Uru Underground Ruins, the two forums were soon split into three and renamed to The Seekers’ Stronghold and The Liberal District and The Holy District for Panzer Dragoon, casual off topic, and serious off topic discussions respectively. These two off topic boards were later merged back into one called The Town of Zoah, a reference both to the game location which consisted of the two districts and to the old Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon forums. Later, a gaming forum was added called The Village of Cainus, and recently the community was expanded to cover Crimson Dragon with a new forum called Genesis Chamber.
In 2012 we overhauled The Will of the Ancients, and also created a new project called Panzer Dragoon Revival, a petition to have the Panzer Dragoon games re-released on modern day systems. Fans have posted numerous messages to Panzer Dragoon Revival, so it doesn’t look like the Panzer Dragoon fan-base is disappearing any time soon. The Will of the Ancients has been online for ten years and has hosted the community for almost as long. Over that time we’ve discussed the ins and outs of Panzer Dragoon’s unique art style, pondered the mysteries of the series’ detailed storyline, and created real life friendships. But this would not have been possible without the community being built up on the Panzer Dragoon club and Die Welt von Panzer Dragoon’s forums.
Here’s to another ten years of the Panzer Dragoon community.