What do you think the countdown clock is for on the homepage? Use this thread to speculate THE STORY SO FAR:2009
(Posted Tuesday 18th June)
The year is 2009, and Landwirtschaft Simulator 2008 has been released for about a year. Oli asked me several times to help him build a website for his online community “LSEF”, based around helping English-speaking people play Farming Simulator, which was only in German. The forum had about 3,000 members. I refused to help Oli because I didn't really know him and I was already busy with working as a software developer full time and on 24/7 on-call.
Eventually, after someone else helped him and made a bit of a mess, I gave in and we built the original ls-uk.info website together, which was based on off-the-shelf software. We chose the .info domain because it was only 49p and we didn't have any money. FS was still called LS at that time, too. The software originally ran on a single windows server. By the end of 2009, we had something like 50,000 members, and our server was constantly going down because we couldn't cope with the traffic.2010
(Posted Wednesday 19th June)
Growth of the site continued. We started earning a small amount of advertising revenue from people visiting the site, which in turn helped us to fund the development and add new features. GIANTS emailed me and asked if I wanted to meet them at the launch of Demolition Company. We had a roof-top BBQ where they told me they were quite impressed with what we’d done with the site and how popular it was. At the time, it was far bigger than their official forum.
I met GIANTS again when I helped out on the Farming Simulator stand at Gamescom in Germany. I got to BETA test FS2011 with featured multiplayer for the first time, and I had many 3am multiplayer games with the GIANTS team and other community leaders like Face and Madmax. When I reported one particular bug, the CEO of GIANTS joined my multiplayer game to verify it himself.2011
(Posted Wednesday 19th June)
Having a full-time job and managing the website, which was frequently crashing, was killing me. We were serving out about 1.5 terabytes of mods each month. There was so much activity on the site that it was killing server hard drives and I was often up all night copying data to new servers. I decided to quit my software developer job to work on FS-UK full time. I also developed a new version of the website - a completely custom web application for hosting mods, with our forum software as the back-end membership system.
Oli and I met for the first time in real life, in Oxford, and we flew to Gamescom together to meet GIANTS. We chatted for hours about FS-UK, and we had grand ideas about the future. We also met with some other game publishers who were interested in having a version of software like FS-UK but built especially for their game. We decided not to do that in the end, and focused just on Farming Simulator.
We also supported the Mod Contest this year with a 500 euro contribution for the prize fund - when I went to the bank to make the transfer, they thought I was being scammed because it seemed a bit suspicious. Our forum team helped test the DLCs that year, too.2012
(Posted Thursday 20th June)
Personally, I was back working, this time in agriculture. After the release of our new software and all the work we put in to make the website and servers more stable, I didn’t need to be around FS-UK 24/7, so I went to agricultural college and then took a job at a farm. We flew to Zurich to meet with GIANTS in April and again in September to spend a week playtesting FS2013. I remember helping to find and fix a bug that was holding up the launch of the game.
In the autumn we released another version of the site’s software, which brought back the original blue theme from the 2009 version. During the software updates the site would sometimes be down for a few hours while content copied across to new servers. During that time the homepage would display a chat room and people would pile in and chat about FS-UK and other stuff. It was some of the coolest times, and I made some great friends from those chat sessions! I think this was also the year that we changed from LS-UK to FS-UK for good.
We also helped put GIANTS in touch with Dural so they could ship his Blender exporter on the GDN. I think our relationship with GIANTS was at its peak here and we were communicating every week. GIANTS convinced us we should appoint a community manager, and bring in mod testing to push the standards up. Modhoster overtook us in terms of traffic, but we decided to aim for quality over quantity rather than compete on traffic figures.2013
(Posted Thursday 20th June)
By this point, we had appointed a new forum team, with faces like Napalm, Siddo, Dave Boughen and such running the forum. We were having weekly team meetings on teamspeak but they were lengthy and difficult to manage. I also started a contracting business and more of my time was taken up with that.
With the huge success that we had and the high levels of traffic to the site, we also had problems keeping the forum safe and tidy. We were banning a lot of people for griefing, trolling and breaking the forum rules. Looking back, I regret us taking such a hard line. But at the time it felt like these members were ruining the website for the majority.
Our relationship with GIANTS started to become rocky. Originally, if you wanted to play multiplayer but needed a mod, you could click a button to search for the mod on FS-UK and a few other sites. FS-UK was removed from this system because we didn’t have the mods people were searching for (less than 3% apparently), and I wrote an angry email to GIANTS which I now regret. I then refused to play ball when GIANTS wanted to work with us on other projects, and I think my ego got the better of me.
GIANTS had also convinced us to implement mod testing and quality control, but this was causing a whole load of issues in the community. We had fewer mods compared to sites like Modhoster, and it was taking longer to get mods published on the site. We were also losing modders, because they didn’t want to jump through the tester’s hoops. I wrongly blamed GIANTS for this, but it was our own doing. When GIANTS launched ModHub, they had the exact same problems as we did. They could have learned from FS-UK to make their testing system a lot better.2014
(Posted Friday 21st June)
Around this time, I’d grown so annoyed with our relationship with GIANTS that I’d fallen out of love with FS. I was still really busy with my contracting business, too. Me and Oli decided one night that we’d build a new farming sim, and that was that. We started talking to manufacturers, building models, working on a simulation engine. We did extensive research into the dynamics and functionality of each machine. It would be a simulator just as Flight Simulator is - clickable everything, real physics...
We made some significant progress, but then a bomb hit us - Cattle and Crops was announced, got crowdfunded and greenlit, in what seemed like a flash. They had a bigger team, a million euros in crowdfunding, and were supposedly further ahead than us. We never officially gave up, but we both stopped working on the new game.
Given that it took CnC so long to actually get anything out, and most of their promises were nothing more than hot air, I wish we’d continued with our game’s development.2015
(Posted Friday 21st June)
The main torpedo to hit us this year problems within the team. The relationship within the FS-UK forum team was terrible, and infighting was a regular thing. I stepped down as admin because I didn’t have time to do a proper job of it, and then Napalm quit in a huge bang, partly because of arguments between him and Oli.
Several other team members quit, some of them formed competing sites. We lost a lot of “mod partners” because of this, although some of them had become inactive because of the huge changes to the game each year. There were continuous arguments about how we should run things and how we should moderate, both within the team and in public.
GIANTS’ own mod site, ModHub, had launched a while ago and was now gaining popularity. We didn’t consider it much of a threat at first, but it became clear that they would overtake us at some point. At first they said that mod makers could only publish to ModHub exclusively, they then backtracked and said the mod had to be on ModHub “first”.
This felt like a huge kick in the teeth for us, and it felt like GIANTS were directly competing with us. Some people who used to be community leaders on other sites had gone to work for GIANTS. We didn’t always get along with other FS community leaders, through both cultural differences and differences in opinion of how community sites like FS-UK should operate. It started to feel like those people who joined GIANTS were conspiring against us by putting ModHub first. I’m not sure if this was true, but GIANTS did very little to reassure us.
I also feel like we lost the confidence of a huge chunk of the community because of the infighting in the team, and I don’t think we ever really recovered. Before this, it felt like the only way was up, but now the community was shrinking. It was probably the end of all the good times for a while. 2016
(Posted Monday 24th June)
I was exhausted from running FS-UK and my contracting business. One night, while messing around with a game engine, I had an idea for a game which later became Concrete and Steel. I had such fun building and testing a quick and dirty prototype of it, that I decided I wanted to go back to software development, to build games and other software. So I packed up contracting and focused on that full time.
I got back in touch with GIANTS by chance, and I remember one night having a great call with the CEO who taught me all about game publishing and distribution to help me with my game. It felt like my relationship with GIANTS was repaired temporarily, but I was still out of love with FS.
FS17 launched towards the end of 2016, and with that came direct integration with ModHub. Players could now install mods directly from the game. GIANTS would later enable mods on PS4 and Xbox, and mod makers could only publish to those platforms via ModHub.
GIANTS also started paying modders to publish on ModHub, and at that point, I realised that FS-UK’s days were numbered. We simply couldn’t give away free money - the cost of running the site was already getting difficult to manage. The servers running the site were costing over £600 per month and traffic was steadily dropping. So there was no way we could give out money to mod makers.
This really killed me inside for a while, because I felt that we had always put the mod makers first. They had dedicated forum areas, we helped them through testing, we provided fast and reliable hosting for their mods. This whole site was born from mod makers and had given birth to mod makers too. It was the life and soul of a lot of modding for the game.
GIANTS didn’t have that, they hadn’t spent years nurturing a place for mod makers to thrive, but they did have cash and it felt like they were going to buy mod maker’s loyalty. Essentially, they succeeded, and we lost nearly all modders from the site.2017
(Posted Tuesday 25th June)
I’d moved to Scotland to build up my company, and I was out of touch with Oli for a while. He was busy with work, too. I teamed up with another guy I met to found Bad Dinosaur, a software development agency in Edinburgh.
FS-UK became the property of Bad Dinosaur, and I worked on a new version of the software (first since ~2013) that would support huge files (over 2gb) and added the homepage social feed. It didn’t save the site, but it prolonged its life just a bit longer. Within 6 months the homepage had over 10,000 images posted to it - a great success. However, our overall traffic was plateauing and sometimes dropping, so it was bittersweet.
It proved that the era of forums was nearing an end and that social-media style communication was well and truly established. So much had changed since 2009: everyone now has smartphones, parents weren't watching over their children’s shoulders while online any more, and everyone expected things to be in an app. I don’t think that many young people know what a forum is any more, and I certainly don’t think the old stereotypes of “forum wars” and “grammar police” hold up with today's internet user. Forums are only still here because some website owners have not transitioned to a better way of discussion yet.2018
(Posted Tuesday 25th June)
We’d never fully solved infighting within the team, and there were still constant arguments over how FS-UK should be run. The original community was getting tired of modding for FS, too, and things kept blowing up on the forum - everything from mod criticism to attacks of the forum. Every time there was an argument, our traffic dropped lower and lower as key members of the community left. And with less traffic, came less advert revenue, and slowly we started to near the point where the advert revenue didn’t cover our costs any more.
It became quite clear to us that FS-UK was rapidly running out of time, but we weren’t sure what the plan would be. When we founded Bad Dinosaur the year previously, we made assessments about all of our various products and we realised FS-UK only had a few years left at best, due to both traffic decline and obsolescence of the software running it. It was approaching 10 years of FS-UK, and we had 250,000 registered members. We couldn’t just let FS-UK die, but we didn’t have a clue what to do.2019
A rocky start to the year. Oli and I are desperate to bring FS-UK into the modern era and to keep up the momentum. This causes friction in the team, and several of the team quit including Yelibam, who had been invaluable help over the previous few years. We’re pretty much at rock bottom: no team, no mods, and a dwindling community. It felt pretty sad to see everything we had worked for over the years become a barren wasteland.
But it was not just our community dwindling. Modhoster “forgot” to renew their SSL certificate for nearly 6 months causing their English site to be down, and LS-Network turned into a homoeopathy website. It’s clear to see that the leaders of Farming Simulator communities have taken their eye off the ball, or have moved onto new things - In LS-Network’s case, Face became head of development at GIANTS’ Erlangen office.
However, the number of FS players wasn’t decreasing. Groups and communities like FS Empire sprang up from nowhere - just in Discord servers or Facebook groups. It was clear that there was a whole group of FS fans who didn’t have a place they could call home - both new players and players that have been in the community since day one.
We were intrigued by these new communities and began to speak to Benji/WBF from FS Empire, who had the same feelings about the community: we need something which brings the community together, and something fit for the social-network era. We’ve done too much looking backwards - it was finally time to look at the future.THE FUTURE
After a LOT of planning, we’re really REALLY excited to finally announce that we’re starting something new. We’re launching a new site which will be a hub for Farming Simulator players and creators. Whether you’re a casual player, a virtual farm, a mod maker, a streamer or even an esports player - you’ll be welcome to what we think will be the central point of the FS community for years to come. We’re building on our combined experience with FS-UK and FS Empire - the old and new - to bring the whole community together and make a great place to hang out. Think of it as a social network, but just for FS players.
You can read the whole story here: https://www.fs-uk.com/forum/index.php?topic=206201
Thanks for everyone's guesses, memories and kind messages! Feel free to carry on posting your memories of FS-UK in this thread!