Here we are, describing how this project was born and has evoluted through almost ten years of life.
It was 2000 when a guy, Pasquale Congiustý (aka Squake) started looking for a game to download, Civilization 2. "How come a
turn based strategy lover like I am never played the second episode of the great Sid Meier's masterpiece??".
It passed several years from it was produced and was impossible finding the game on the shelf, so why do not try internet?
It was the first years of this magic communication media we now use every day, and the speed was not so fast as today ( dear
56K modem...), anyway, tens megs in a couple of hours are more than a worth. The challenge was where to find it!? so, after
some time spent in that anonimous Google, Yahoo and other search engines... here it was! After downloading and installing the
game an idea come in his terrible mind: "If i did it for one, I can do it for every game available in the net! and wait a minute,
why don't helping any other old gamer like I am!". So the guy started working on a project, Squakenet, whose goal was to find
and help people downloading old games. He was not aware about abandonware phenomenon, and he started to approach this wonderful
world rich of old fascinating games: Alone in the dark, Monkey Island, Doom... all those games that in nineties made a lot of
people enjoy and pass whole days playing games.
Squakenet grew up becoming one of the most important resource on the abandonware scene and today is one of the most important
point of reference for gamers. We arrived at version 9, more or less one each year and in the section below a description of
each one. Of course, the first ones were not what it could be called nice to look, but what made great the project was the passion
behind the scene, a continous work to help people like you finding their games.
Before version 1, Squakenet was online with a beta release in a free hosting space (http://web.tiscali.it/squake).
The graphics was similar as well as the features. It was November 2001 when this version 1 was released in the internet
as www.squakenet.com. There were a great number of users. The site was italian, written in italian and most of the
users were italian too (I would never guessed this last sentence!). Well, that was a golden age for the site, with
a forum, a mailbox, and day by day update on the status of web sites. Basically we started as abandonware ring and
we helped users every day looking for games and resources on internet to be the first to have that game. There were other
sections like emulation and a first draft of the real meaning of the portal: the search engine. At that time
it was a mix of crossed searches using the other search engines and Go!Zilla, a file resource manager. Nothing compared
with the actual technology used here at Squakenet.
We were working hard but we did not expect such a fame. After the release on the new domain, the site collapsed due
to heavy load of users. So, for a while we've been switched again on the old free hosting. It was the beginning
of 2002 and we started working on a technology to make easier the search of games. In the while we started reviewing
games weekly, with the survey Week Games and Bomb Games: we added polls and votation to make the users choose which games to replace
the week after. The community were growing up as well as Squakenet version 1.1. In that year we did fall for a short
period in being a warez resource: the lack of experience and the will of looking new game in the site made us make
this mistake we paid with great discussions on the forum with people arguing for following that path or going back towards
pure abandonware (finally you know we moved in the second one). In the same period we had some collaborators help finding
games on the net.
Something was in the air... the success of the portal was recognized by an italian editor that did decide to create
a new gaming portal where Squakenet was the resource of old gaming. The project known as Mondogiochi.net gave us
the possibility to use this platform. We moved very fast and catch the occasion. We changed completely graphics and
we started being a "more serious" web site. It was summer 2002 and this platform gave us the possibility to improve the platform
and to have a first powerful search engine. We still were "too italian", in particular after this collaboration, and we
decided to remove part of the old portal, like emulation to focus on abandonware only. We created the basis for the big
challenge we would have in the following years. Also the forum was removed to aim directly on a solid technology useful for
user to find games and download.
Unfortunately, Mondogiochi.net did not have the success expected. A part Squakenet, the other resources were not able
to collect a good user experience, so, we decided to move in 2003 in our own way. We went off the platform mantaining
a similar technology. Version 3 was very similar to the previous one: more spartan graphics but same palettes. The
features remained extactly the same as before and we moved more in the direction of collecting resources and adding
games in our list. We reached 2000 indexed games in that year and we realized we had to move to an international audience
instead than focusing only in Italy. Finally the big challenge of internet was exactly this: bringing the same content
Also 2004 was not a great year for Squakenet. During this year university was going to finish for Squake, so not too
much time to dedicate to the project. Nevertheless a new version was created, version 4. Minor changes in graphics,
same feature as version 3 and the tentative to coniugate old games with promotion of Java games. In those years mobile
application and games promised a great gaming experience, so we did follow the folks. A more international fingerprint
was given to the site, but still something needed to be changed to reach the goal that in 2000 Squake gave to himself.
The great idea came in 2005, it was May and it was a revolution for the site. A complete review was needed after two
years of very minor changes, so, first of all the new concept of the graphic: we decide to come back to the original blue
palette, finally we have switched to grey just for Mondogiochi. Then we thought a complete reorganization of contents to allow people
have a better browsing experience. But the really big change was in the new platform adopted: a powerful B2B system
created with the collaboration of the best abandonware resources (Abandonia, LostGames, CGN, XTC). Now Squakenet was
the best service to find old games on the net! The old features remained, but it was evident since the release of version 5
that the originary goal had been reached. In fact users started having a different experience, more search oriented thanks
to the new great technology thought by Squake during the complete reengineer of the portal.
The new approach of the users toward the portal made us thinking again on a better usability. So we did change again
taking in consideration our users. They've been always the real thing that moved the passion of the people working
for Squakenet, Squake in particular. Version 6 developed in 2006 and released at the beginning of 2007
brougth a new layout, in particular for games,
following the great success of Youtube and its idea to allow user to produce and consume video.
In the while a lot of other abandonware resources were adhering our system
giving us the possibility to index up to 6000 games. Moreover we did improve our technology and platform to best
collect information on old games from the web: the integration with DosBox is one example.
2007 gave us another version, the 7th. Still following one per year, very good average for a web site! No big
changes here in the interface just some tweaks. We did continue following a deeper integration with external resources such as
video, reviews and amazon. Our index arrived to more than
10'000 games, more than half downloadable: it was possible to a great improvement brought to our B2B engine, switched
from version 1.0 to 2.0. A continuous integration to reach user satisfaction. Moreover we started
introducing the voting system, allowing users to select which are the best games.
Version 7 had different reviews during 2007 and first part of 2008, when finally in May we switched to version 8.
Again, no big changes and a more deeper integration with external resources. The greatest things version 8 brought
to the user was the possibility to review the games giving opinions about them. Another important changes was related
to the list of games, switched from a table view to a list view with the possibility of having a snapshot browsing
the lists. Again, what we were doing was meshing up more information possible for every abandonware
game in the net. Our work of finding out other resources did continue day by day.
That palette and layout was indeed too old to follow the great revolution of web 2.0, so, in the middle of 2009
Squakenet came out with a complete new dress: it's version 9. It was a great change after several year with the
same colors, but it went in the direction to make easier the search and download of games in Squakenet. We did
introduce the integration with the died H.O.T.U. web site, the greatest abandonware site ever and also GOG possibly
one of the best idea in abandoware scene in the last years.
2010 is a very important year for Squakenet since we turn 10. Ten years are a quite a lot of time for any project.
We are so proud that we decided to add some new features and a little change in graphical aspect and usability. Home
page has a very nice slider that want to replace the beloved Bomb games section. Then a very nice change hase been done
also in each game page with an improvement in usability and the introduction of modal windows. As new features we decided
to add more integration with GOG and Amazon in order to allow users to find the games that are still on sale. Since version 10
is the actual running we may introduce some little changes along the year.
Now you know the history of Squakenet, of how hard has been carrying on for all this years the project. We always did
and continue to do because our passion for games is the same you have and we really want those masterpieces never die in the
forgiveness. Our mission is the one that I gave myself when looking for Civilization 2: try to make available something that
can be compared to art and that the time and the hardware and software obsolesence could make disappear.