The History of Serenes Forest (via History of the Emblem)

History of the Emblem is a growing YouTube channel that explains the stories and lore of the Fire Emblem games, among other topics. As it happens, our very own website is featured in their latest video!

The video, which is just under 6 minutes long, outlines the history of Serenes Forest all the way from its conception to the present day. Oh boy, seeing the older versions of the website really brings me back…

A big thanks to History of the Emblem for spending the time to gather and present all the relevant information. If you’d like to support them, please do give their channel a visit. From what I’ve seen, their videos are informative and pretty funny.

On a related note, our website reached its 14th anniversary last month. I am really grateful to everyone who visits this site–no matter how often–and to all my staff members for helping to keep the site running smoothly.

This year, on top of the all the regular Heroes and Cipher news coverage, Three Houses is going to be a huge focus for us. Both pre-release and post-release. If you’re interested, I hope you stick around for all the good times to come!

Below, you can find a write up of this website’s history that I provided to History of the Emblem, for their video.

History of Serenes Forest

Officially, the website was created on 1st February 2005, a few months after the Japanese release of The Sacred Stones, but before the Western release. However, the foundations of the website existed a while before that–probably very close to The Sacred Stones‘s Japanese release, so near 7th October 2004.

Around this time, I had been in the Fire Emblem community for nearly a year, I imagine. I generally frequented the biggest FE forum at the time–Fire Emblem: Sanctuary of Strategy, aka FESS. While I was there, I learned a great deal about the Fire Emblem series and many other things too. It’s not an understatement to say I owe a lot to that forum.

When The Sacred Stones arrived in Japan, it was a huge deal in the community. I won’t go into the details, but many fans rushed to play the game ASAP. But the game was brand new and there was the language barrier, so many got stuck with the finer details. That’s when I thought I’d be helpful by compiling some webpages for things like character recruitment, weapon data–simple stuff like that.

To start with, I was hosting my pages on Geocities and/or FreeWebs. At that stage, there wasn’t a proper website, just a couple of pages. I used to link to the pages from my signature or when somebody asked for help. At some point in time, I branched out by adding pages for Thracia 776, one of my favourite games then. Eventually, around 1st February 2005, I created a proper front page so you could reach all the pages yourself.

Initially, the website was known as “Angel Sword: Memories”. At first, it was primarily my personal home page where I threw together random things, mostly related to a fantasy RPG I was creating in my head called “Angel Sword”, hence the name. My online alias was–and still is–VincentASM, so I randomly added “Memories” at the end, to make the acronym match with the end of my name.

By then, the website had adopted the rather infamous sky blue colour scheme. The layout and construction was incredibly basic because I never properly learned web design. I was a content writer foremost, so I focused my efforts on that instead. Still, the general layout remained basically unchanged. Inspired by many other sites, we had a header image at the top, a navigation bar on the left and updates on the right.

The website itself was hosted on the free webspace provided by Tiscali (now TalkTalk), my ISP back then. To keep things simple, I chose “angelsword” as the name of the main directory. The good thing about the webspace was that there were no ads and I had a fair amount of freedom as to what files I could upload. However, there was a monthly bandwidth limit, although I never expected to ever reach that.

Later, when The Sacred Stones released in the West, I was pretty quick with changing all the pages to match the English localisation. As a result, people started to point towards my website for information. From what I recall, a lot of people were surprised to find English information so fast–and that really stuck with them.

Around the same time, Path of Radiance had launched in Japan. People were generally less interested in it, since it looked kind of bland from the previews and wasn’t on the GBA. That included myself. However it turns out Path of Radiance was actually the more interesting game, compared to The Sacred Stones, which played things a little too safe.

Anyway, since it was new, I added pages for Path of Radiance as well. As time passed, I really started appreciating the game. Also, it was fairly obvious that the story hadn’t concluded, what with all the loose ends. Then during E3 2006, the sequel–Radiant Dawn–was announced. I think that’s when I started getting the idea to properly grow the website.

To be honest, before that, I hadn’t really planned things properly. But since the Fire Emblem pages I made seemed pretty popular, I figured I should steer things in that direction. So I started working on a new look for the website, removing all the non-Fire Emblem stuff in the process.

On 7th November 2006, a few weeks after Path of Radiance came out in North America, I switched the website over to a new name and layout, based on the Serenes Forest location in the game. When I was thinking about how to develop the site, I knew I’d have to do a lot of work, so I opted for a more gentler, green colour scheme for the sake of my eyes. I was also a fan of the heron siblings, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

For the new site, I moved it to another free webspace, named “elaice”, after Ilyana’s Japanese name. There wasn’t really a special meaning behind that, although I figured I’d choose something short. We were allowed up to 5 free webspaces, I believe, so I took advantage of that perk.

As a joke, I put “a pretty good Fire Emblem fan site” at the end of the front page’s title. A lot of other Fire Emblem fan sites were boasting about being the best at this or that, but we were just a very humble site. That and I wanted “Fire Emblem” in there somewhere so we appeared in search engines.

I believe this was when I started to work backwards, adding pages for the earlier titles. Fortunately, I had played most of the older games, so it wasn’t too hard. For the more recent games, like The Sacred Stones, I got most of the information from playing the game. But there was some stuff, like the growth rates, which I got from DarkTwilkitri–one of the leading data-miners back then.

In fact, he taught me a lot about data-mining the games, and answered a lot of my questions. Eventually, from Path of Radiance onwards, I started data-mining the games myself–and I still do it to this day. Although to be honest, Heroes is out of my league. Except for Heroes, pretty much all the games have similar data structures, so it’s actually fairly easy–so long as you’re looking for basic things.

For older games, since there was such a huge backlog, I borrowed a lot of information from reliable foreign websites like Pegasus Knight and ChinaFE. Back then, we were so small, we didn’t think it mattered. But we probably should have asked! On the other hand, I’m totally fine with them using my data–in fact, I think they may have used some of our growth rate data, especially for the games (New Mystery and Awakening) where they were encrypted.

On 20th June 2007, we moved the website to its own domain and hosting. This was all thanks to Jyosua, who’s currently our technical admin. Funny story, Jyosua was a bit of a troublemaker back on FESS. But we all knew he was a good kid at heart. Earlier, following Radiant Dawn‘s Japanese release, the website started to reach its bandwidth limit on occasions. Jyosua noticed this and stepped in to lend a hand.

However, a couple of months later, an unforeseen accident happened and we lost our domain and hosting. Sadly I had to move everything back. All of the webpages were saved locally so those all survived. But we did lose our forums, which was a major blow.

Soon afterwards, Radiant Dawn came out in North America. By then, the floodgates completely broke. Thanks to our coverage of The Sacred Stones and Path of Radiance, many fans came to our website in search of information. The activity surpassed expectations and the monthly bandwidth was exceeded by at least double.

The situation was so dire, I had to spread the entire website between multiple webspaces. At first, the Path of Radiance and Radiant Dawn sections–the most popular ones–were moved into their own webspace. From what I remember, things got so bad I had to split the entire Radiant Dawn section into two webspaces.

Just when things were going out of control, Jyosua came back for another go at hosting the website himself. On 27th December 2007, we moved to our current domain–and things have thankfully been pretty smooth ever since. I think at this point, we changed the title to “Fire Emblem Resource” to make it a bit more professional.

A while later, on 7th January 2008, we opened our new forums as well. For the most part, the forums have been running without major issues. However, during early May 2008, I opted to turn off the forums while I was busy with real life. That was because we didn’t have a proper moderating team, so it was just me checking that everything was safe.

What happened next caught me completely off guard. During the 5 months since the forum’s opening, a sizable community had settled on the forums. When I made the forums go offline, I hadn’t considered the community’s response at all. Several members appealed against my decision and after much thought, I decided I could trust the members to handle things.

So I re-opened the forums and created the first moderating team the next day. It might seem obvious in retrospect, but I never expected that we’d birth such a big community. So the thought of having actual moderators never really occurred to me. Anyway, despite all the confusion, I’m really glad that incident happened.

The next important event was on 14th November 2008. This was a few months after the Japanese release of Shadow Dragon. Regrettably, FESS decided to close down. Prior to this, I believe many smaller fan sites started becoming inactive as well, and activity in general was down compared to the glory days of Blazing Blade. Because of our close connection, we invited ex-members of FESS to join our forums.

This period up until 2013 was somewhat of a dark age for the Fire Emblem community. I think what had happened was that the fans who grew up with the GBA games didn’t really adapt to the console games. To add further insult to injury, Shadow Dragon, which was expected to be a return to form, ended up being a pretty bland and ugly remake.

It wasn’t just the community, it seems the sales and general feelings towards the series were on a downward slope. Perhaps partially because of this, the latest game–New Mystery of the Emblem–was never announced for a Western release. For a few years or so, most fans were twiddling their thumbs, waiting for something, anything.

Still, even though times were grim, that didn’t stop us from working. On 24th November 2010, thanks to the help of a good friend, TheEnd, we completely revamped the website’s layout. Now it started to look somewhat professional! The colour scheme and background from this iteration are still used to this day.

Around March 2011, we also added a wiki so users could contribute to various projects, like support conversations. The wiki is perhaps best known for its illustrious Cipher card game section, which is currently run by TheVinceKnight and multiple editors and translators.

On 13th September 2011, a new Fire Emblem game for the 3DS was announced. This was a bittersweet moment for fans, because there was hope for the series, but it also meant New Mystery was never coming out. Fast forward to early 2013 and the game–Awakening–turned out to be a blockbuster hit. More so than any game in the past. Things were starting to look promising once again.

Finally, on 20th August 2014, Jyosua–with the help of his team–moved the entire website to its current version, based on WordPress. We started posting Fire Emblem-related news on the front page, since there was suddenly lots to talk about–thanks to the announcement of Fates and, eventually, Heroes.

At the time of writing, we’re fast approaching the 14th anniversary of the website. Although the website is quite big now, I’m aware there’s still a lot of room for growth. But one thing at a time… In any case, I’m very thankful for everybody who’s used the website over the years. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet everyone’s expectations when Three Houses comes out.

(A special thanks to Wayback Machine, where I got some of the snapshots from.)

About the Author: VincentASM
Author Website: http://serenesforest.net
  • VanguardRaven

    Good, writeup, and a nice video. I subbed to her channel.

  • Suicunesol

    *sigh* Very nostalgic write-up. I wish I could do the same for Fire Emblem Planet.

    Another reason why many Fire Emblem fansites never recovered despite the success of Awakening was that mass social media sites like Twitter and Reddit became much, much bigger. Fansite forums were becoming a thing of the past, and any new traffic they might have gotten was funneled into other social media outlets. Only Serenes Forest seems to have survived.

  • Chaz Aria

    History of the emblem is the poop. Love her.

  • CombatMagi

    Oooof those early images takes me back I was here probably less then a month after PoR came out digging for info or looking for the Desert treasure map for whatever game I was playing 😀

  • Miles Christen

    Hey, been coming here since I was about 14 or so. I can’t remember if it was spritesheets or galdr/heron font that led me here first. Reading this post brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for being such a constant in the community. <3 Much love.

  • ultimate patrician

    Love this

  • 100%B-Type

    That´s wonderful~ This site and Fire Emblem.de Sword of Seals (German site) are my main source for informations!
    And yes, Cipher cards are soooo detailed here and looks tasty~

  • MegaTheGamer

    Man, I vaguely remember the 2007 layout from back when I was first getting into the series back in late 2008. It’s the 2010 look that really takes me back, though… yeah, the site still looks largely like that, but I think it’s the legacy sidebar, lol! The lack of the WordPress news widget, too, just some lines on the page; the updates are definitely for the better, but I won’t say I don’t miss it at times :P. This site has been a huge boon to me and while I didn’t really engage with the forums/community for a long time (and these days I’m largely a lurker, so as it was…), I hope you know that this site really did keep the fanbase going in the Dark Age. This is still the one place I go when I need to fact-check myself (or figure out wth I’m doing in TearRing Saga, lol).