Missed the actual day by that much...
HLP was founded 18 years ago by Setekh and Thunder. What started out as a small board on UltimateBB hosted by 3DActionPlanet has grown into an enormous self-sustaining community with thousands of remarkable achievements. I bet none of the original members had any inkling the site would be around this long.
It is pretty incredible to look through some of the threads over the years and see how FreeSpace, HLP, and even the Internet in general evolved over time. Consider that in 2001, we didn't have YouTube, Facebook, or even the source code. We had mailing lists, such as the FreeSpace Developer List -- sadly defunct when Warpcore lost its backups. And we also had web-rings, with some prominent sites -- such as VolitionWatch and Descent Network -- and many personal sites of varying quality. (RIP GeoCities, though I'm pleased to say that Angelfire
is still hanging in there.)
Modding has come a long way. The original Descent: FreeSpace encoded its table and mission files with a "top-secret Canadian encryption program" to discourage players from hacking the game. Later VPView32 was created with the ability to decrypt files, and in any case the encryption was removed in FreeSpace 2. FRED has been around ever since the original release, and now we have the source code -- it's hard to say which of the two has contributed more to the longevity of the game. Now we have Knossos, which makes installing and running mods stupid-easy, especially to someone who remembers juggling mission and table files when changing campaigns.
I'm not sure what the next few years will bring. HLP and FreeSpace are still going strong, but Internet activity these days seems to be geared more toward video and social media than text and forums. That's why we've enlisted the talents of Iain Baker to improve our social media presence and community engagement. Once we solve some of the problems with the main page, we'll have more featured content there as well.
I would encourage people to post a comment or two to mod creators to show your support for their hard work. Most of us create art for art's sake, but it is also tremendously rewarding to see feedback and comments from players who have enjoyed it. And consider checking out something you haven't played before, such as one of the hosted projects or even one of the short missions or campaigns in the Releases
board. There are a lot of up and coming FREDders producing great stuff.