The story behind VahkiPower
Saturday, April 10th, 2004 at 7:24pm by Kelly, BZPower Co-Owner
More than a week ago, the familiar blue hues of BZPower were replaced by red and orange and avocado shades, along with a new masthead proclaiming VahkiPower. Most people figured it was an April Fool's day joke, which it was, but we discovered a few interesting things during the 24-hour experiment. Based on the feedback and how the site responded during the time VahkiPower was online, we're planning on some changes to BZP.
First, a little background on where VahkiPower came from. BZP has always been a fun place where the staff likes to involve viewers and forum members. April Fool's is a great time to actually pull a prank. Last year we didn't do a site-wide prank, but this year I decided to go all out.
One of the phrases that caught my eye from the latest Bionicle Adventures books is the "Vahki enforcement squads" which were very loosely described. A couple of months ago I mentioned in passing to some of the moderators that BZP mods really should be called Vahki - prowling the city of Metru Nui, maintaining order, basically helping the inhabitants. But as time went on, it looked like the Vahki were turning out to not be nice characters, which didn't fit the image of BZP volunteers responsible for moderating the forums. So permanently changing them to Vahki wasn't the direction we wanted to go.
But how about for a day...?
So I started playing with Photoshop. Grabbing some of the images we'd displayed from Toy Fair last February, I came up with a blood-red shell with a Vahki head replacing Hapori Tohu at the top of each page. Most of the rest was dinking with CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and some forum settings. In all, the transformation took about 8 hours to design. I also spent a massive $8 to register "vahkipower.com" for the day. (Going there leads straight back to BZP.)
I also decided to add a focal character, which took off well beyond my expectations: Hapori Dume, a merger of the benevolent Hapori Tohu who watches over BZP, and the mysterious Turaga of Metru Nui. This character set up a warning in the Calendar. "VP is coming - are you ready?"
Anticipation was high. On midnight, I shut the site down and put VP is coming page up while I switched the settings and backed everything up. After release, the forums were rife with speculation and, let's face it, a ton of spam. Our own little Vahki Squads got quite the workout - when they could get on the board, of course.
Below are some screenshots for those who missed out.
One of the side effects that hadn't been anticipated was the load on the server. For a few days before 4/1/04, and all during that day, many people were continually hitting the site, causing it to overload for a significant portion of the day. That was unfortunate, and has caused us to do some research into how to increase performance.
Caution: geek talk ahead. Feel free to skip. It appears that we're currently at about the limit for concurrent forum visitors (about 300) that our machine can handle. We're on a dedicated server, which means BZP is the only site on it (there are actually a couple of others run by BZP admins as well, but nothing as big as BZP). But our 1.7GHz Pentium IV isn't burly enough for the load our visitors put on it. We consulted with our hosting company and the company that makes the forum software, and both agreed we need to upgrade our server. We're currently reviewing several options, the most likely of which is to get at least a 2.4GHz P4 optimized for the forum software.
We'll also be upgrading the forum to the latest version of the software (going from version 1.1 to version 1.3), and getting some speed boosts from that. We may not be able to preconfigure it, so some of the niftier custom features we've implemented (like the spinning icons for staff, quick reply, online/offline indicator, and a bunch more) may have to be added back in later. Oh well.
OK, end of geekspeak.
Another thing that came through loud and clear during the April Fool's gag and its immediate aftermath was a loud cry for forum skins. The look of BZP has been unchanged for quite some time, and now that we've followed the story to Metru Nui, now is probably a good time to incorporate some new artwork and features into the site. So over the next month or two we'll be playing around with some new designs and perhaps a few optional skins that can be user-selected. A lot of people seem very happy with the current look, and we don't intend to radically change it, but others would like options, and we're happy to do so when we can.
A final observation on the effects from April Fool's Day: the appearance of Hapori Dume sparked a flame that blew into a wildfire of "who's side are you on": Hapori Dume (presumed evil) or Hapori Tohu (known benevolent). It was actually kind of frightening watching that happen. Our members are an intense bunch at times, passionate about what they believe in (including their favorite Bionicle fan site). This knowledge is something the staff will keep in our back pockets. Just in case. If nothing else, it would make an interesting psychology study.
So to recap the changes we intend to make, here are the points in order of importance:
- Upgrade the server so it can handle the load better
- Upgrade the forum software and re-customize it
- Update the site's look and feel to incorporate some Metru Nui elements
- Add various skins and customizable looks, including one reminiscent of VahkiPower.
There'll be other stuff, and this will happen over a matter of months not days, so please be patient. You'll also have your chance to chime in with what you'd like to see, but since there's a limited amount of time anyone can spend on this (BZP is completely volunteer, remember) only the big ticket items will be considered. Something that has a lot of bang for the effort.
And let's all welcome back Hapori Tohu. He was missed for the day.
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