Almost five years and 500 actual articles later, TheLifestream.net takes a look back at where it all began. Join us.
As we stroll through the history of TheLifestream, we’ll also look over comments from site members new and old as they reflect on their feelings about where we came from and where we are going.
TheLifestream has grown a lot back from when it was just an idea between a few of us determined to build a new location to host translations, obsucre information, thoughts and other content that we’d worked on putting together in the past but which had lost a central home.
Since then, there’ve been more developments and I’ve learned more things about FFVII than I’d ever thought possible. We’ve established a fantastic group of folks who dig deep into every little aspect and pull out the most amazing details or bring them to life in ways that we’d only ever imagined.
On top of that, I’ve gotten to know folks via our boards who have impacted my life in a number of ways. It’s just been so rewarding to see the little corner of the Internet that we put together blossom into a better version of what we’d always imagined it would become, and to watch it grow into something new as others move to carry the dream we set out to achieve.
Like a phoenix
Our first article was posted September 25, 2008, by site owner Cthulhu, announcing the birth of TheLifestream.net. Born almost literally from the digital ashes of AdventChildren.net, the new site was intended to be focused first and foremost on news and official content related to Final Fantasy VII — a vision of what the defunct site should have been, one might say.
As such, TheLifestream.net went without a community forum for a couple of months, attention instead going to news about the upcoming Dissidia Final Fantasy and salvaging translations from the FFVII 10th Anniversary Ultimania that had previously been hosted at AdventChildren.net. Due to an abundance of requests from site visitors, however, it wasn’t long before the forum went live. With that, a new plan came into focus, though with the same vision of providing a fun, stable community for fans of Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy in general to learn more about the games they loved.
The original plan was for there to be seamless synergy between the site’s front page content and its forum, such that neither seemed isolated from the other nor felt like it belonged to a different site altogether. Due to technical limitations, real-life obligations and frequent cases of CBA-ness — as well as that sort of thing being a generally tricky business to begin with — things haven’t always gone according to plan.
I’ve been inhabiting Final Fantasy forums since 2003. They have been my homes on the Internet, the first and last places I check into whenever I have spare time, and often when I have none. I haven’t left a single one of my homes out of choice; they have all been demolished or repossessed. Perhaps that’s why I feel the need to invest so much time in maintaining my fourth home, my current home: TheLifestream.
I’ve only been living here since January 2012, but I already know that I want to stay here for a lot longer. I’ll admit that the place isn’t perfect — the floorboards are a bit creaky, the curtains need replacing and some of my housemates are a little on the eccentric side — but all that really matters is that I feel welcome here.
Thanks to that, I’m trying to do my bit to make this a nicer place for everyone. Perhaps we can even squeeze in a few extra residents — we’ve got room to grow.
In the interim
We settled into a routine, accepted the front page as “good enough,” and went about our business for quite a while. That’s not to say nothing was done in that time, though. Certainly not.
The following three years would see a great host of unique and valuable content find a home on TheLifestream: Pixel’s amazing On the Way to a Smile audiobooks series; Schala-Kitty’s 10 Days to Dissidia countdown; Ryushikaze, et al.’s ever-entertaining Fan’s Eye View commentaries; translations from several other official guide books, including the FFVIII Ultimania, FFIX Ultimania, Dissidia Ultimania and others; the memorable Mog’s Fantastic Journey series; ForceStealer’s engaging THE ENDGAME series on FF final dungeons; and S and G’s summaries of game content exclusive to Japan that many FFVII fans may have missed out on, including Before Crisis chapter summaries and the history of Deepground from Dirge of Cerberus.
We also came to host a number of stand-alone articles that would become important resources to the fandom in their own right, such as an article on FFVII canon; more than one article on the ever-controversial FFVII Love Triangle Debate; an analysis of the similarities in plot between FFIII and Kingdom Hearts; our own Ultimania Omega guide for the Dissidia series; a summary of Kazushige Nojima’s official FFVII spin-off novel, The Kids Are Alright; and predictions on where the future of FFVII’s story may take us.
We certainly weren’t doing nothing, but in some ways we were still standing still. We had a lot of great content, but a cluttered, disorganized interface for it. Finding past articles was no easy feat unless you already knew where to go, and site navigation lacked clear directions.
TheLifestream was still a good site, but it had the potential to be a great site. It just had to move past its stagnancy.
These issues were not unknown to us — but other obligations and chronic CBA-ness reigned supreme. That is, until …
I joined TLS about two or three weeks after it started up. While I wasn’t part of the crew that got it absolutely started, I’ve basically been here since the beginning and I’ve been working as a mod and occasional site contributor since.
I’ve seen some of our best times and I hope to hell I’ve already seen our worst. I’ve enjoyed contributing my voice in a figurative and literal sense to TheLifestream, especially with the various audio commentaries, Let’s Plays (including the one I need to get back to) and our newly formed podcast.
I hope we’ll be around a lot longer, and I plan on contributing for a while yet — even if I get distracted by other projects from time to time. I like this place and I definitely want to help make it the best site and forum it can be.
Incidentally, I’m still amused our most popular articles are the most banal and trivial ones in the grand scheme of things.
New life from fresh blood
Throughout 2011, content contributor Shademp (author of the illuminating Unused Text series and other articles on FFVII’s development) began to envision a redesign of TheLifestream.net’s front page that would organize its content, streamline locating it and improve both the aesthetics and navigation. After proposing his ideas to the rest of staff just before year’s end, he was soon appointed to the position of Content Coordinator and set about reimagining the site layout, officially putting forth a declaration of new site goals on February 5, 2012.
The following months would see a drastic shift in presentation from confusing clutter to magnificent organization. TheLifestream was finally becoming that which it not only had the potential to be, but that which it needed to be.
Though one individual’s suggestion served as the spark that gave fire to this overhaul of site design, Shademp himself is the first to acknowledge that it would have never been possible without numerous hands getting involved. From his own words on his history with TheLifestream:
As you can read, I joined TLS in December 2008, immediately after spotting that the site existed. I had been a member of the Adventchildren.net forums, where I was known as “Watcher”. The loss of this site was very unwelcome to me, because I liked its news coverage and translations.
I was happy when I found TheLifestream.net, because that meant a decent “centre” for FFVII news. I didn’t care so much (initially) for the guide book translations as I did for the magazine translations and the related news.
It was an exciting time because of news about Advent Children Complete, On the Way to a Smile and Dissidia. Even when the flood of news settled, the site’s content grew on me over time. I already considered TheLifestream to be the “forum home” for FFVII fans. It wasn’t the place with the most FFVII info or media downloads, but it was (and still is) a place with exclusive translations and exclusively intelligent discourses about the FFVII franchise. This is why TLS has always been a more important FFVII fanbase home to me than FF7citadel, GameFAQs or the FFWiki.
The love for the site was what made me settle on making it the home for the Unused Text series instead of a more wiki-style site like The Cutting Room Floor. I have never regretted this decision.
My love for the site was also partially fueled by an observation of what the site *could* be. I always expected the site to grow even further than what it did. When it seemed to be in a still state, both due to a lack of news and with its imperfect site design, my old wish to lead “my own” FFVII site stirred. With the influence and respect gained through my UT articles, I seized the opportunity and became the site’s content manager.
But I feel that I can only take a tiny bit of credit for how the site later evolved. Without Fangu, the frontpage project would never have taken off. Without Prince Lex and Flintlock, the redesign would not have benefitted as much and the site would not run itself so smoothly as it does now. They really are the trinity that made TLS 2012-2013 possible: Fangu, Prince Lex and Flintlock. (Me, Cthulhu, Pixel + whoever-I-am-forgetting were also very important too, of course)
There are so many pages and features I have envisioned in my head that never materialized, further confirming in my head that I was not nearly as worthy of the title “content manager” (alternatively, “site director”) as I once thought. I hope that I’ll reach that point in my life where I can write up massive contributions for the site and feel no loss of life energy while doing so.
A shining future
Where does TheLifestream go from here? Well, that’s up to you and everyone else out there who wants to take part. We’re always eager to feature new content and meet other fans, and there’s never a week that goes by without someone pitching a great idea on the forum.
The only limits are time and availability, but with so many passionate fans already hard at work around here, it’s hard to imagine that there won’t be something going on. Whether it be a translation project that’s already in-progress, our latest Weekly Roundup (a relatively recent innovation for our site from the brilliant mind of Flintlock) or the inception of our brand new monthly podcast, there’s surely something to wet your whistle — and maybe even something you want to get involved with.
You’ll never know until you look, so take a peak at TheLifestream forums, won’t you? Even if you don’t see something in the Active Projects section that suits your fancy, you might spot a discussion somewhere that tickles your pickle.
To close out our look back, let us peruse more comments submitted for this article from members of TheLifestream community, as well as some statistics for the front page articles that Flintlock wished to share. Starting with Shademp’s chosen successor, newly appointed Site Director Prince Lex, let’s take in his sentiments as concern the future in particular:
I love this place. I originally came from a forum called Qhimm.com, named for its owner. The Qhimm forums are a place dedicated to unravelling the programming behind the PC Version of Final Fantasy VII. To date, they’ve produced countless mods that are incredibly impressive. From allowing you to replay VII with orchestral tracks to playing the game in HD with remade character models, the level of dedication is amazing.
I’ve loved VII since I first played it in 1997 — it was and still is my favourite game. So the attraction to Qhimm (where I’ve been a member since 2000-ish) was to be around people who loved VII as much as I did.
After a while I began to realise that while enhancing the VII experience on PC was cool, what I loved about the game were the characters and story. When Advent Children was announced, I checked Adventchildren.net almost daily for news. I even joined the forum, but my post count was something like 3. It wasn’t until recently that I realised “ACF” as our members describe it was said forum (mind was blown).
I joined The Lifestream in mid-2009 and I was immediately struck by the awesome content and design of the site — it wasn’t until a year or so later that I noticed Aerith in the site banner. I lurked for a really long time, reading the awesome in-depth analyses and translations posted to the front page. This was when I really started to think about spending a lot of time here.
Here there were people who were fanatics — they were as obsessed as I was about this story and the canon — and, most importantly, about everything beneath the surface. The mistranlations, the missing scenes, everything that was unused.
To this end, Shademp is truly a standout. The Unused Text series is one of my favourite things about this place. Lets not forget his acquisition of the FFVII Toshiba DVD FMV — what an amazing thing to discover fifteen years after the game’s release. There’s also the audiobooks. They sound like they’re professionally done and they’re so enjoyable to listen to. Not to mention the exclusive translations from some of the most dedicated VII fans ever: Tres, hito, etc. Truly amazing stuff.
I started writing for the site in late 2011 (franchise guide pages for each game, index pages, news reports) and it’s something I love to do. There’s a ton of content on the site already — exclusive stuff that can only be found here — and the sky’s the limit with future content.
I recently became the site director, and although our goal is to become the best source of all Compilation information on the net, it’s now hard to think of another site that has us beat. There isn’t one. We’re awesome! Now, I think it’s about maintaining that and pushing for more content wherever we can.
Last year we had the awesome redesign championed by the phenomenal programmer Fangu, we have some amazing members who’ve been providing content for years (Tres, Mako, Ryu, Force, etc.) and to keep us current and updated at least once a week, the Weekly Roundups launched and run by Flintlock. In terms of look, content and community, we’re doing incredibly well. Onwards and upwards!
What’s really special about this place is the people behind it. The dedicated fans that love to geek out with each other, that love to debate about the most minute or major plot points SIXTEEN YEARS after the game’s release. It’s a priviledge to know the people on the forum, and I’ve met some lifelong friends here that I’ll never forget.
One of my personal goals as site director — in addition to ensuring the maintenance, integrity and completion of our content — is to more actively involve the entire memberbase. Some of the discussions we have are worthy of their own immortalised space on the front-end site, and fan works from across the board are encouraged for an all new fan works section that will be developed over this coming summer.
So stay tuned: The only way is up!
More comments from members
Oh yeah, those guys did a great job adding stuff to my site.
I’ve been a member on TLS for 4 years. When I first joined the site, I wasn’t really interested in it outside of hanging out and having fun with my friends. I never thought I would’ve stayed in the forum for long, and while I did have some long periods of inactivity, I could never bring myself to leave for good.
Eventually, the site started growing on me. I became a more active member of the community and came to care for the members — and through the ups and downs, I now consider this place a home online. It might not be perfect, but I love it and I’m happy to say I consider a lot of the members my friends; some even close friends.
Congratulations, TLS, on reaching 500 articles. Looking forward to your next 500.
I’ve been with TLS since November of 2011, so about a year and a half now. Another member, ForceStealer, used to make a lot of front page posts and would often recommend that I read them. I remember in particular his excellent series on the final dungeons of the FF series (really, if you’re just joining us on TLS, you should look them up!).
After reading one of his articles, I found myself clicking on the link for the forums … and then I was hooked. It certainly made the time at work go by more quickly.
It definitely seems like more care and more effort is being put into the site now than it was a year ago, especially anything concerning Final Fantasy. We definitely still get together as a community to share our personal gripes over crappy days and appreciation for the days that just go beautifully, but there is also a TON of community conversation pertaining to things related to Final Fantasy. I think that’s a move in the right direction, considering that we are a forum of Final Fantasy fans.
We’ve had several members really start to stand out in terms of contribution to the site in general. We’ve had great writers make themselves known, and a wonderful group of people who know how to manipulate code and formatting in a way that I’ll never be able to understand. All I know is that they really know how to make our site look great.
The front page overhaul was much needed, and I really like the results. I also like that the front page has become more of a community effort. Everyone is encouraged to find news worthy of our new Weekly Roundups, and things that we do in the forums are often cited and publicized on the front page. What better way to draw in new members? I can think of several who made their way into the forums after having read a front page article or feature.
As for what I hope TheLifestream.net becomes? I hope that it becomes a place that many more people think of when they need a resource for reliable and interesting information. We have so many really well done fan-made translations of sometimes hard to find resources, as well as thorough essays on hot button topics and links to scans of things such as the Ultimanias, which you’d certainly be hard pressed to find elsewhere. We have audiobooks of works such as the On the Way to a Smile stories, which were directed and produced by one of our own members. We have commentaries out the yang.
We really have a lot of stuff, and I want people to know that.
When I joined the forums in October 2011 I didn’t have any specific intentions of getting involved as a mod or tech. I’d already done the mod thing and I was already doing a lot of the tech stuff at college and at my part-time job. TLS just seemed like a chill place with a lot of interesting people. My first impression of the content part of TLS was that this is a place with a lot of resourceful people who produce very interesting articles — articles that are unique and continuously add something new to a 14-year-old game.
As time went on, I got to know Ryu and especially Yop/Cthulhu/Hodor through the IRC channel, and I realized there wasn’t really any ongoing development on the site. Yop had ideas of how to better maintain it, but due to work he didn’t have time or energy to take the chance of breaking something and then having to spend unknown amounts of time fixing it. Shademp was appointed as Content Manager around that time, but didn’t really have a sparring partner for any ideas he came up with. The old WordPress design had a lot of ad hoc fixxes which I knew would take time streamlining, and I knew this was too much work for one person to take on. So I signed up for duty on February 26th 2012 for what we decided to name The New Front Page Project.
Shademp was the man with the vision and brought out the PM whip when the rest of us snoozed off. Yop functioned as owner and tech, moving TLS to a dedicated server so we could use the old one as a test environment. Flintlock came into the project during springtime and came up with a great design that was possible to implement with WordPress without too much hassle.
Because that was the goal all along: To not completely restructure the site, but to upgrade the existing foundation to work on the newest WordPress version, so it would be easier to maintain (update, add plugins, etc.) without breaking anything. We had a lot of discussions on whether to keep WordPress or use something else (WikiMedia, something self-written, etc.), but landed on utilizing WordPress’s team of developers to handle the bugs we’d never think of and serving us with new updates. I also wanted the Content Manager to be able to manage as much as possible (like the menus) without having to ask a tech to do it. That, along with writing clean code that worked with any WordPress standard and didn’t introduce any ad-hoc haxxes — plus making the design responsive to work well on pads and phones — was my primary focus.
Shademp and I both felt very strongly that, in order for this project to happen, we needed a deadline — which we only broke with a few months. The launch of the New Front Page was first set for sometime during the summer — the relaunch happened November 3rd, 2012, after a couple of weeks of public review. Even after the relaunch, Yop in particular kept working on fixing small stuff.
I had a great time working on the front page project, though tempers did run high at points (I certainly got to say hello to my Inner Queen on a few occations). However we managed to solve any conflict without major drama, and we did manage to publish the finished result, which I think is quite good considering nobody got paid and everyone’s real life was a constant danger to the project. Especially thank you to Shademp — it was a pleasure working with you and getting to know you during this process. Thank you for the work you put into TLS during your time as Content Manager.
So, what are our plans for the future? The team, which now includes Prince Lex as Content Manager, are making a list of prioritized tasks which we’ll start implementing on the test server this summer.
There’s a lot more I could say about the process and progress, especially content-wise where a lot of great work is being done. And there’s many people I could give special credit to, but I’ll end this by thanking everyone at TLS for their feedback, both during this process and now. Especially thank you to the authors for being patient about the new features they’ve had to get used to when writing articles, like the Featured Image. The cool thing is, when WordPress decides to make features like the Featured Image easier for authors to use, all we have to do is click the “Update WordPress” button. And it works! Which to me is a pleasant reward — when you write shit resilient enough to live a life on its own. I want TLS to live on for many years, even if I won’t have time to contribute. Happy 500th!
Back before I first joined TLS, I was a regular user at GameFAQs who had recently played FFVII and was somewhat obsessed with it. Immediately after beating it, I watched Advent Children, played Dirge of Cerberus, replayed Crisis Core and replayed the original game multiple times. But that wasn’t enough for me.
I started poasting in the FFVII boards on GameFAQs, as well as reading articles about it there. One particularly interesting GameFAQs article I found was the FFVII Ultimania Omega Translations FAQ by Ryu_Kaze. When I saw it I was like “Hey, this looks interesting. I’ve heard about the Ultimanias and I heard they’ve only been released in Japan. Maybe now I can finally know what they say.” At the end of the article, it recommended a few other articles, one of which was the FFVII AC Plot Analysis by Squall_of_SeeD.
I read said plot analysis and it really helped me understand things about the Compilation. One particular part that piqued my interest was the “Who was Cloud in love with?” section. I had thought it had always been obvious Cloud was in love with Tifa and was surprised people were actually debating whether or not he loved Tifa or Aerith. I ended up becoming quite interested in the FFVII LTD and started reading old LTD topics on GameFAQs.
One particular LTDer, Ryushikaze, especially piqued my interest, and for three main reasons:
1. He was much more sensible and logical than the other debaters, even his fellow Clotis (I also found “Cloti” to be weird portmanteau couple name at that time; I had figured the couple name would be Clifa, but I digress)
2. His username was extremely similar to that of the guy who had written the Ultimania translation article
3. His name had been mentioned a few times in the SoS FFVII plot analysis
I learned much from him, took what I learned and started participating in LTDs myself. One thing I noticed was that Ryu hadn’t participated in a LTD on GameFAQs in a long time. I wondered where he was now. Now, as I was still obsessed with FFVII, I stumbled upon TheLifestream.net while looking for translations of the other Ultimanias. I started reading the popular articles and one that especially caught my interest was the “This just in: The LTD over” article, as it was about the LTD and was written by Ryushikaze. I started reading the comments, which — unsurprisingly — had a LTD going on.
Ryu kept asking a particular Clerith to please debate on the forum, providing links. I clicked the links and discovered TLS Forums. I looked at Ryu’s profile and noticed he had been fairly active over the past few years. He was even recently active, and I realized that this was where he had been. I noticed Squall_of_SeeD was an active user here as well under the username of Hawkeye. The forums themselves were also quite interesting. I ended up joining soon after, and I’ve been a regular member ever since, even neglecting GameFAQs for these forums.
tl;dr: You have Tres and Ryu to thank for bringing me to the forums, albeit indirectly (well, sort of directly in the case of Ryu).
Looking through folders on my computer is like looking through the history of TLS. I stumbled upon the planning of a new site rising from the ashes of AdventChildren.net. It was great to get back in touch with so many great people after that site fell apart. We knew we wanted to create a new place to hang out, a place without all of the bullshit that had come before.
And so, TheLifestream.net was born. It didnt have much content, and had even less style, but we knew we were on the precipice of something great. We quickly threw together a banner and layout. Looking at it now, I dont know what the hell I was thinking. It consisted of a really awkward swirl that just didnt work, but we knew it was only temporary.
Once our amazing team had started writing the great content and translations for the site, it was time to put together a better design. I had ideas, so figured I would pitch them, hoping someone with talent and experience could flesh them out, but eventually I kinda fell into the role of designer, and with the help of the community, we refined the design until it became what you see today.
It has been an honour to be here from the beginning, and to see the site flourish into one of the best fansites out there. The talent and dedication of everyone who has made TLS what it is has amazed me, and long may it continue.
I gave a lot of thought to what it was that I would say in regards to TLS’s 500th article. The only thing that I can really think of is that it is quite an awesome achievement, and everyone who has contributed to TLS getting to this point should be very proud. There is so much content on this site that is worth reading, whether it be a long, thought-out, well-researched article or a hotly contested opinion piece. However you feel, you can’t really deny how much effort and passion has gone into making this site what it is.
It is a bit strange to stop and think that I first became a part of this site back in 2008; around five years or so (give or take, I can’t remember the month). There are a lot of memories here, and we’ve all made and lost friends in the process. I still remember the first time I ever did a commentary with Ryu and Force. I think that may have been the first time I had spoken to either of them outside of text-based posts on the forum, and we’ve done so much since then, and other people have joined us along the way. It’s crazy how time flies when you’re having fun.
Most of my history with TLS (and ACF before that) has been around providing rare information and translations for Before Crisis and Dirge of Cerberus Online. As one of the world’s leading FFVII sites, I felt TLS.net would be the best place to host details about these Japanese-only releases where fans could visit and learn. The debates stirred by my articles and threads have helped keep my joy of the Compilation alive and I hope it has done so for others too. For me, it has always been THE place to go to learn and get sensible discussion on all things FFVII.
I have seen many people from all walks of life come together on this site to undertake some fantastic fan-made projects. From translations and fanfiction novels to the OTWTAS audiobooks and some members’ (including myself, until recently) participation in the forthcoming FFVII web series. It is a delight to have so many dedicated fans in one place, and for so many to have become friends. Long may it continue. I hope that the next FFVII Compilation installment will bring us all back together the way it has done many times before.
—S and G
It’s going to be difficult to put into a few paragraphs what this site has meant to me over the years. I remember AdventChildren.net, as I was a member there from nearly its beginning, and then I observed TheLifestream as a lurker for about a year after it went live.
I’ve observed the whole gamut of the site’s history, even if I wasn’t there every step of the way. I am grateful to say I have been here for most of it, though, and it has been one of the most rewarding endeavours of my life. That may sound sad, but I don’t care.
I’ve met genuine friends here — cried with them, laughed with them, gotten angry with and at them. This site has been a big part of my life.
Not just the articles I’ve written or the translations I’ve done, but the bonds I’ve made. The discussions I’ve had. The ideas that have been exchanged. Consideration and compassion that has been shared. They’ve played a role in shaping who I am today, and, so, all of us here are part of each other now. That’s a community. That’s a family.
Thanks, you guys. I’m looking forward to our shining future.
—TresDias/Squall of SeeD/Glenn Morrow
- Translations — 108
- General Final Fantasy — 107 (includes Dissidia Final Fantasy)
- Compilation of Final Fantasy VII — 62
- This just in: The Love Triangle Debate- over — 774
- On the Way to a Smile – Lifestream Black and Lifestream White — 348
- The Love Triangle of FFVII – An Analysis by Squall_of_SeeD — 288
TLS front page posts by year
- 2013 — 26 (in five months)
- 2012 — 67
- 2011 — 62
- 2010 — 90
- 2009 — 180
- 2008 — 75 (in four months)
Flintlock’s note: it’s clear that we’ve been getting less active, but there are two mitigating factors. Firstly, we used to publish a lot of small articles that might feature in a roundup nowadays, and secondly, there is a lot less Compilation news than there used to be. That’s why it looks like we’re getting lazy!