September 4, 2010

Planet Lara: Gone But Never Forgotten

As many of you probably know, Planet Lara, one of the most beloved Tomb Raider fan sites and communities, shut down on August 6. In an interview following the site's closure, I talked with webmaster Chris Ridgeon about the site's history, the reasons behind its demise, and what he'll be up to next.

Fans pining for the good old days can still find a few Planet Lara remnants using the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.


Planet Lara's Chris Ridgeon
Stella: Planet Lara has been around for 10 years, correct? And the TR fan site that eventually evolved into Planet Lara Interactive (PLi) was founded a few years before that? What made you decide to stop now?

Chris: PlanetLara.com was registered back in 2001 but before this I ran a site called Lara Croft 2000 UK, and before that (1998) it was a small site called 'RidgeonNet' which had a Tomb Raider section amongst other things. So all in all I had been publishing Web content about Tomb Raider for over 12 years. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and it taught me pretty much everything I know about designing and developing on the web. The time just came where my other commitments left me with little time to maintain the site and I didn't want it just to go completely stale.

Stella: A few people have mentioned money possibly being an issue in PL's closure. I'm guessing you must burn through some serious bandwidth, but if you do run your own servers, it may not be as big a problem as it might be for others. Was money an issue or was it more about the demands on your time?

Chris: I'm happy to clarify this. Money was not the reason we closed. The demands on my time from my other commitments meant I wasn't able to give the site the attention it needed and after giving 12 years to the franchise I thought it was a good time to move on. All good things must come to an end :).

Stella: Is it true that you hosted the site on your own servers? That must require a fairly large time commitment, compared to using a commercial service.

Chris: Yes, Planet Lara was a huge 'resource eater', it was approximately 25GB in size when running and at its peak was serving 12,000 visitors a day – this is a huge burden on any hosting. I had so many people email me when I closed the site saying "why don't you just run it on free servers?" but over 12 years we'd had to move the site from free servers, to shared hosting and then dedicated equipment. But, having to move the site showed us how popular it was!

Stella: I assume your bio on PLi is a bit dated now. Are you still into bushcraft and software engineering? How old are you now? (If you'd rather not give personal info, that's cool, but readers might be curious to know how old you were when you started PL and how your interests have evolved.)

Chris: Yes that bio is a good few years out of date now!, I'm currently 24 and started the first Tomb Raider pages when I was around 12/13. I did my degree in Software Engineering at Coventry University here in the UK, and since then I have been running my Internet Services business "Ridgeon Network." So, yes, I still have a huge interest in computers, so much so, it has left me with little time to run Planet Lara, but it was time to move on :). As for bushcraft, I have always been a big fan of the outdoors because that's where I grew up – and it also gives me a great break from the computer screen!

Stella: Naturally everyone's curious about what you'll be doing next. What are your plans?


Click to visit Chris's site
Chris: My main focus is running my Internet Services business "Ridgeon Network" (www.ridgeon-network.co.uk) which provides services such as FTP Hosting, Online Storage and Website Design to businesses worldwide. I also have a new project on the go that is currently in testing called Internet Shout which is a new 'voice based discussion forum), it is still in the early stages but when I launched the initial testing version we did get coverage on the BBC which I was really pleased about. I'm currently working on new features and improvements to it but you can have a peek over at www.internetshout.com.

Stella What do you feel has set Planet Lara apart from other fan sites?

Chris: I think most people think about PL as the site dedicated to the Core series because this is when the site was at its peak. We were always a site about having fun, this is why I developed PLi and the various games we had on the site. Thanks to the fans, we had probably the biggest collection of fan-made content which really brought people to the site and made people want to be involved – we had a great community.


Planet Lara, Where the World Once
Revolved Around Lara Croft
Stella: Any particular highlights or milestones you'd care to reminisce about? Appearing in the Anniversary credits, etc.?

Chris: Ooo, Working with the great guys at Core Design, trips to Eidos, lunches with Core and Eidos, surprise packages in the post with rare bits of merchandise. I have also made some fantastic friends over the years, many of which I stay in touch with on a regular basis.

Stella Which Tomb Raider game (or games) are you especially fond of and why?

Chris: The answer to this is always Tomb Raider 2 – Venice. To me, it sums up what Tomb Raider was all about and a great time in gaming.

Stella: Will you be playing future Lara Croft/TR games but just not covering them on the web, or have you given up on raiding altogether?

Chris: I'll always be a fan but finding time to play games these days is pretty hard. I'll have make sure I make some time for the new games as they come out.

Stella Anything else I should have asked but didn't? Anything you'd like to say in closing?

Chris: I'd just like to thank everyone who worked on PL and PLi with me, namely Daniel Barnes, Abigail Hirst and Susie Hampton.

It's been a fantastic time and I look forward to seeing what other sites pop up over time with the new games.

Stella: Indeed. It's been a great ride, and you've been a huge asset to this community. You and Planet Lara will certainly be missed. Thanks so much for doing this interview and giving the fans a little closure. And best of luck post Lara. :D

Chris: It's an honour to be interviewed by Stella. You really are a veteran of Tomb Raider – I remember visiting your sites when I first started! Good luck with your future endeavours.

Raid on!

10 comments:

  1. u will be sadly missed chris :o( but i hope that ur other ventures r entertaining n best of luck :o)

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  2. Planet Lara was the first TR fansite I ever joined, it will be greatly missed for sure :(
    Good luck with anything you do from now on!

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  3. Lol, he considers (the town) Venice a Tomb:)
    Kinda fail...

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  4. Shall PL be missed greatly it was the best site ever time for new starts in honor of PL

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  5. Like the Eidos Tomb Raider:Lara Croft and Rhona Mitra as the first offical LC model, PL will sadly missed.

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  6. the real reason planet lara closed down is because i spammed it :)

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  7. A great site...what a shame. But good luck with your new escapades, we all loved PL, it will be missed.

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  8. I still miss this site, it was one of the ones that every Tomb Raider fan had in their list of favourites. There was alot of things on the site that I didn't get a chance to save onto my harddrive, so cannot refer back to. The site truly was a work of art.

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  9. The new Tomb Raider is Coming Out, why not just remake Planet Lara?

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