[ Legacy of Kain: The Lost Worlds ]

The History of The Lost Worlds

article by Ben Lincoln


The Lost Worlds was brought on-line for a limited preview on the 20th of February, 2002. A week later it was made public, and it has been available continuously ever since.

The first location of the site was on the webserver for The Peak, the student newspaper of Simon Fraser University, where I used to work. In October of 2002 The Lost Worlds was relocated to its own domain, both to make the URL easier to remember and because it was consuming a disproportionate amount of The Peak's network bandwidth.

This version of The Lost Worlds was created using an entirely manual process - all of the HTML was hand-coded and copy-and-pasted as necessary using a text editor. Even thumbnails were manually created for each image on the site.

In 2005 and 2006 I began to realize that this was approach was not scaling well and it was becoming increasingly difficult to maintain the existing content and add new material. The site was also aging less than gracefully in terms of its graphic design. In late 2005/early 2006 I began to conceive of a complete overhaul which would automate the repetitive parts of the site maintenance and provide a brand new look for The Lost Worlds. However, issues unrelated to the site kept me from doing more than planning the eventual work.

When November of 2006 rolled around, I finally had the time to make the overhaul a reality. I had also worked extensively with C# in order to create many of the applications in the Software section, and began working on an automated site build tool.

Simultaneously, I gave myself a crash course in the HTML and CSS technology which had greatly matured between 2002 and 2006. One of my main criteria for the new system was that it would not stored the primary site content in a database. While I think dynamically-generated HTML is great for frequently-updated websites I don't think it's worth the overhead for one like The Lost Worlds which is updated in spans of time measured in days or weeks. I also didn't want to deal with potential security issues related to global use of public-facing scripts which would serve up the content. So the new build system does all of its work in a batch process, where it processes plain text files with optional HTML formatting for the content and creates images with thumbnails automatically. I named this build system "Charon" after the boatman who would ferry the dead into Hades, since The Lost Worlds could be seen as a "land of the dead".

Although the main site is static HTML, I felt it would be necessary to have some limited program code on the site to deal with two problems I'd experienced over the life of The Lost Worlds: getting spam due to my email address being listed on the contact page (no matter how obfuscated) and a small minority of users abusing the free downloads (in particular a vindictive Russian who literally downloaded the same files thousands of times in an attempt to increase the monthly bandwidth charges I pay to host the site - I never found out why he was upset, I just noticed the spike in the logs). Because The Lost Worlds is hosted on Linux, I couldn't code up any ASP.NET using C#, and I had to teach myself PHP. This ended up being an interesting learning experience, although I think that PHP sorely needs to be cleaned up and bugfixed. It's hard for me to believe that a language which powers so much of the web has a function like strpos() which returns 0 if a string doesn't contain a particular substring, but also if it contains it at position 0.

After three months of building the tools for the new Lost Worlds, I began converting the large amount of old material for input into Charon. Even now I am hardly a good writer, but I was struck by how poor most of the writing in the older articles was and how many of the articles contained outdated information. I rewrote nearly all of the content, and in addition went back to the source images wherever possible so that higher-quality copies could be posted. I also dug up many previously-unused images for inclusion, and reorganized the site for easier navigation.

I also added information on all of the deleted elements of Defiance with which I was familiar. I had known about them for some time, but wanted to wait until the game was more of a historical item in order to discuss them. Previous revelations about Soul Reaver, Soul Reaver 2, and Blood Omen 2 had not been taken well by some other fans of the series, and I was hoping to avoid repeating the mistake of discussing such things before the time was right. Because no official imagery of these elements was available, I announced a call for fan artwork depicting them. Many people had emailed me over the years requesting a fan art section, but I never felt like a general gallery would fit in with the theme of the site. At last I had an excuse.

Finally, I changed the logo for the site. Previously, I had always used Turel's clan symbol, since to me he was one of the ultimate examples of something which had been removed from the storyline. Defiance restored him and most of the other material as well, so I replaced his symbol with a stylized pair of spread wings. The wings were very loosely based on the "Fire" meter from Capcom's cancelled Dead Phoenix game - which I felt would be appropriate on a number of levels.

On February 25, 2007 (two days before the "true" fifth birthday of the site) the new Lost Worlds was released.

[ The original logo ]
The original logo
[ An unused version of the second logo ]
An unused version of the second logo
[ The second version of the logo ]
The second version of the logo
[ The very first public release of the site ]
The very first public release of the site
[ The last version of the site before the 2007 redesign ]
The last version of the site before the 2007 redesign
[ The last version of the site before the 2007 redesign ]
The last version of the site before the 2007 redesign
[ The last version of the site before the 2007 redesign ]
The last version of the site before the 2007 redesign
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