Programmer / Web Developer

San Antonio, TX

January 1996

Learn Unity/C#

Awesome Thoery Idle


This site is under construction. Don't mind the mess - maybe someday this will be worth reading!

Welcome to Derp...Derp...Code!, my programming journal/blog. This site is more for me than anyone else, but if you are here and reading, that's great! You might wonder about the name - I might be good at programming, but I am a bad programmer, so I tend to derp a lot before producing worthwhile code.

Avatar1 May 2019

A History of The Awesome Theory

Tragedy or comedy?

In 2007 I moved to a new shop and quickly made friends with Chaz. We hit it off mostly because we both had a similar wacky sense of humor. At first, this was just conversations around the office. Then it led to interesting whiteboard charts, graphs, and pictures. Eventually, someone had the bright idea to make a website out of the crazy ideas and shortly thereafter The Awesome Theory was born. We brought it online in September of 2007 and at first, it was simply a vehicle to share our pseudo-science nonsense like how the Universe's fundamental particles were Awesome and Stupid particles that looked like ninjas and pink elephants. We had a whole bunch right from the get go and we called them "Axioms of Awesome."

A sample Axiom of Awesome
It wasn't long before we decided that wasn't enough and we brainstormed new features. First up in early October was voting. We allowed people on the site to vote on how awesome or stupid a wide variety of things were. We started out with only a few dozen things and eventually got up over 500. This feature necessitated a login system, which we cribbed from phpBB, which in turn gave us a forum.

My forum signature image
Next, in mid-October, was the Awesome Quiz - a randomized set of 25 questions about all things awesome and stupid that was chock full of jokes and randomness. This led to the idea of having a rank system (especially since one was already built into phpBB), with requirements based on site activity. For example, you had to get a certain score on the quiz among other things to rank up on the site. Shortly afterward, since it was the political primary season, we made a candidate section where people could vote on how awesome or stupid the Presidential candidates were.

The rank structure breakdown
Just a couple days later, we created a battle system where 2 to 4 things would battle to see what the most awesome and stupid thing of the group was. Whatever got the most votes would move upwards and whatever got the least would move down. Battles would be on things like what Mario character was the best, or the best soda - we came up with dozens. Group winners would face off against other group winners, and group losers would face off against other losers, creating a double-sided bracket toward ultimate awesome and ultimate stupid.

One of the header banners
In late October we launched a blog to better tell people about the new stuff happening on the site. On Halloween, we launched the question of the day feature, where users could answer whatever wacky question we came up with. In mid-November, we added a currency system, and the currency was, of course, mullets. Why? We brainstormed on that for a while and somehow we landed on that as the most ridiculous thing and it stuck. We offered a variety of things to purchase on site, like extra votes for battles and banner messages that said that someone was stupid or whatever. You earned mullets by doing just about anything interactive on the site.

Just a couple days later, on November 24th, we released the feature that would really allow the site to take off: duels. We used the 1v1 duels of the Suikoden series as an inspiration to create a turn-based RPG-themed 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or 4v4 user vs user rock-paper-scissors duel system. Users faced off with each other with 3 options each turn: attack, wild attack, and defend. Attack beat defend, which beat wild attack, which beat attack. Elegant. This feature proved very successful so we expanded on it. The first step was introducing equipment. We made a store people could use their mullets to buy equipment and now instead of everyone having the same stats, people had different stats and could dominate.

The War Between Awesome and Stupid
The biggest problem with these duels was that if no one was online to duel with you, you couldn't participate at that moment. So the next big feature, and by far the most popular one throughout the history of the site was monsters. We made monster icons show up randomly on pages and when clicked, started an RPG style duel with one or more monsters. Monsters dropped loot, making it very worthwhile to hunt and kill them. From here we made materials and a blacksmith to use them to improve your gear. We gave rewards for killing all monsters in a family.

Losing to a Monster
Other features included a picture upload function where people could vote on your pictures. We added a bunch of Flash games. We made a guild system. We gave people special abilities that could help themselves and their friends or hurt others (like by causing them to drop their weapon during a duel). I created an acronym game called Acrophobia. We made a link exchange, we made a class system, we had a real-time chat window, we made a wiki, we had random good and bad events, and we had tons of in-jokes and out-jokes and just jokes. It was just amazing and fun and goofy and weird.

Killing a Monster
Probably more than 50% of users were made up of people I worked with, and a good chunk of the activity on the site was happening while people were at work (naughty, naughty!). Sometime in mid-2008, a coworker of mine, who had been brought into the moderator team and had admin privileges, got into a feud with another user and used a combination of techniques to make it so that the other user was unable to do anything on the site. While we were ok with users messing with each other and making progress more challenging, we were not ok with basically completely locking someone out. So we made a couple rule/policy changes to prevent it. This apparently pissed off my mod, who became an enemy of the site almost overnight. We had to lock him out of being an admin after we noticed some database modifications that were not legitimate. Then, he went to the network admins at work and got the site blocked so people could not access it from there anymore. This was the first step towards the demise of The Awesome Theory.

A Bumper Sticker I Designed
I was initially undeterred. After this workplace banning, most of my mod team stopped participating as much on the site, but I still used most of my free time cranking out code and features. And a new feature that I released in late 2008 is probably the straw that broke the website's back. I completely revamped the equipment system, making it far more complex. Equipment was not just a simple thing that had stats anymore - now it also had slots that you could put "mulleteria" in. The slots had types and could only accept certain types of mulleteria and also had levels which affected their usefulness. All these things could be upgraded through the use of items or the blacksmith. The problem, though, was that many of my users were not hardcore RPG types. This system was just far too complex for people not steeped in a history of playing RPGs and thus they lost interest and stopped coming to the site. Eventually, by late 2008 or early 2009, the site was effectively dead, with almost no one showing up except for just the once in a while hang out and kill stuff for a little bit kind of thing.

My Complex Stat System
I was then sent to tech school to retrain in early 2009 - I thought I would use the time there to totally reboot the site and make it awesome again. I was almost immediately derailed by the fact that the wifi in my room was so bad I basically could not sue it - in order to get online, I had to take my laptop to a common area that was often crowded. Not an ideal way to work on a site. So I played a lot of PS2 instead. I next thought I might get back to making it great again in 2011 when I posted about plans for a new Awesome Theory. I did a little work, but then quickly dropped it again. In 2015 I checked back in thinking that I needed to remake the site using Unity, but I did not actually really do anything about it. Next, in 2017 I noticed that php updates had permanently broken the site, so I had to make a new landing page that just had news and the old Awesome Theory was dead.

Exploring a Random Dungeon
Finally, in December of 2017, after more than 8 years of doing basically nothing, I started developing AT again. It was great and I had a lot of fun! I was taking Master's Degree classes, but they were easy so I still had time. That was not to keep up, though, as those classes eventually killed my ability to work on the site more. I discovered, though, that my HTML-based approach just wasn't going to work. At least, not without an enterprise level server which I am not going to pay for.

New Look Duels
And that brings me to today. Now the plan is to learn Unity and C# and make Awesome Theory into an idle game. I've seen the success of the genre to include monetization and I know that I can follow in the footsteps of others. If it succeeds, I will use that success to build a website that brings back some of the old AT magic. But until then, I need to get learning.

Tags: Awesome Theory design development failure history humor weird

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