TSSZ actually did start as TSSZ News.
Before we adopted the Sonic Scene name for our news division, we were The Super Sonic Zone, in a bit of a limbo phase, in the Summer of 1998. Tristan, the founder, was only 13. He grew up and discovered an expanding Internet with a generation of fans that had Jeff Read’s Sonic Doom patch, JD Harding’s musical genius, Johnny Wallbank’s Sonic Robo Blast, and Zifei Wu, the founder of Sonic HQ.
In August of 1998, TSSZ began, and its news division assumed the TSSZ News name. Back then, it was just Tristan….and it just wasn’t working out. Server woes from the VGHost service forced the site to become nomadic, just trying to find a place to be hosted. But the site wasn’t nearly as aggressive or revolutionary in its first phase than what was to come.
It took several months searching for another web host and a re-concept of how news involving Sonic, Sega, and the community would be covered for TSSZ to once again get off the ground.
On April 2, 1999, TSSZ relaunched on Wheres.com. We consider this the site’s official birthday. The logo would become indicative of the still infant technology age: brackets in between an OCR A logo, all in 3D type, with motifs indicative of streaming information. But with style (?) came much more substance. The news division was renamed TSSZ Action News and then quickly to The Sonic Scene. Not long after launch, a monthly audio report debuted, on May 23, 1999. All the kids these days call such things Podcasts now. Tristan did it with RealMedia streaming. For only being once a month, the experiment was successful, and quickly put TSSZ on the map for constant, continuously updated news coverage of importance to the Sonic community. Eight months after the launch, the site had 10,000 hits–nothing to sneeze at for its time. Special Public Scene spinoff shows were produced, also in streaming RealMedia.
On August 31, 1999, a new version of TSSZ launched, dubbed version “2.000” (Get it? 2000? Yeah, we gave in.) Not long after, Sega Zone picked us up. We moved to their server, and brought our coverage with it. Sonic Scene’s recognition as a fast source of relevant information was quickly catching on.
Back in those days, it wasn’t just about news (though we were the only site at the time to have a dedicated Sonic Adventure section!) Twin Seeds was a whole area dedicated to NiGHTS Into Dreams. Fan Stuffcompletely consisted of user generated content before the term was ever coined–and that included Tristan’s BOSS fanfiction episodes.
On April 2nd, 2000, the site’s true first anniversary, version 3 of TSSZ launched. Much of the site’s design remained black, much of the imagery incorporated various screen caps from Sonic Adventure. We continued forward. But we never settled down.
A few months back, in January of 2000, Tristan began with weekly radio duties, in addition to the monthly RealMedia podcasts. The reports were made for AJ Freda’s WSSN Radio. AJ would occasionally fill in, as did others, including Andy Wolan. A classic TSSZ component also began during the weekly reports–News that Didn’t Quite Make the Headlines. When written by Tristan, they were mere representations of an especially offbeat story in the news. When Johnny Wallbank and company came along with their own spins on them, they were sometimes the only reason to listen.
Andy Wolan had big dreams for TSSZ. In the July of 2000 he offered Tristan programming duties for the weekend component of WEMU Radio for EmulationZone.org. The weekend component would be called Seven–it’s not a Seinfeld reference, it was Tristan’s perception that Seven was the seventh streaming radio station for Sonic fans. Weekly broadcasts then moved to Seven. The station would become a 24/7 operation later in the year.
Later in the month, Sega Zone suddenly went dark…sound familiar? In trouble, Wolan offered Tristan space onEmulationZone.org. The new site, version 4, went live on July 30th, 2000.
On August 11, 2000, TSSZ launched the ambitious and…well, mostly mocked 24 hour automated news system, dubbed InstaNews. The system was a quick way to respond and update in breaking news situation, as it required no HTML coding, just CGI. It easily brought TSSZ News to the forefront of news gathering for the Sonic community. You’ll note the simple plain “tssz” font began to evolve around this time–first in rings (as you see here with the Sonic Scene treatment), then as standalone.
Here’s one such Sonic Scene article, verbatim (spelling / grammar errors and all) from December 6, 2000:
FIRST @ TSSZ: Sony Blackmailing Retailers! Tristan @ 12.6.2000
We have received confirmation from several sources, some from the DC Tech Pages, one even from a TSSZ visitor who E-Mailed me with the information, that retailers are being told by Sony to take down X-Box promotions, or face potentially severe financial consequences.
Here’s the breakdown in the US: Sony approached Barnes and Noble, owner of #1 video game retailers Software Etc. and Babbages, and Electronics Boutique, the #2 retailer. Sony has obviously noted that promotions for the Microsoft X-Box, slated for release in 2001, have popped up in stores across the US. Now, the company demands that those promotions be taken down immediately. If they are not, Sony will not ship Playstation related products to those retailers. That would mean Playstations, PS2s, Sony manufactured memory cards, perhaps even first-party software would not go to EB and Software Etc. Both Barnes and Noble and EB have folded under the pressure, and have given in to Sony’s demands.
Was Sony’s hardball good or bad? For Sega fans, it’s good, because the Dreamcast can be promoted even further. But from a company’s financial perspective, such a threat is very dangerous to the well-being of that company. Sony’s Playstation and PS2 are still selling out fast (if you can find them, that is!), and if those products are pulled off store shelves, retailers will be in for a major loss in profit this crucial Holiday season. Is this Sony threat legal? We don’t know, but we’re sure to find out soon. Will the Dreamcast be Sony’s next target. It’s likely. Stay here for the absolute latest.
2001 was, in some ways, the golden age of TSSZ. Radio operations were stable and popular. The Sonic Scenewas one of the top resources for Sonic fans. In June of 2001, another visual makeover launched, which was simpler and much more text based. With the help of Shayne Thames, once a prominent Sonic site webmaster herself, TSSZ.COM was donated. One major innovation came in the Summer–live news.
On June 27, 2001, Midweek Midday launched on Seven. The fifteen minute program was anchored by Tristan and his longtime friend Vladimir Bien-Aime. The program was exclusive to the Summer months and was the first live news program for the Sonic community, and one of the first live specialty news broadcasts in the world that was regularly scheduled. The program ran Wednesdays at 1PM ET. Two days later, Live at Fivedebuted. Tristan and Vlad came back for half an hour–half of it news, half of it roundtable discussion and commentary. Later that night, the Sonic Scene at Ten had its first airing. Meant to be the newscast of record on Seven, Tristan delivered the week’s news with Mike Paprocki (“Ocky”) filing reports. The news at ten survived beyond the Summer, but TSSZ was truly on course of being the Sonic News Station, with well over 100,000 hits registered on the page.
Then, September 11th.
Many cliches profess that September 11th “changed everything.” For TSSZ, many things did change. Suddenly having a sole “Sonic Scene” didn’t seem relevant. The flexibility to adapt to any other significant changes in the world seemed more important. With that in mind, Sonic Scene became TSSZ News, and the news output on Seven also followed with a name change, first to Seven News, then to TSSZ News. In the transition, Sevensimulcast the telethon for September 11th victims on September 21, 2001. We expanded our focus to keep it Sonic centric, but have more wiggle room for general gaming news, and anything else happening in the world.
The back end of 2001 and 2002 were times of transition. The focus of TSSZ became more on delivering a full plate of news to its audience. As such, sections such as BOSS and Twin Seeds were neglected, and eventually closed or ceased updates in a consolidation effort on August 1, 2002, when news became the new focus. Monthly and eventually pre-recorded weekly podcasts were discontinued in favor of “appointment” listening of live news on Seven. By this point, a quarter of a million hits were registered on TSSZ.
On the radio side, the station was still enjoying success. Live news returned in the Summer of 2002 with TSSZ News at Midday on Wednesdays and TSSZ News: The Latest at 11 becoming the news output. The station also had live coverage of the semi-annual Sonic Amateur Games Expo (SAGE), in 2001 and 2002. In 2002, Seven had begun airing original programming. Another longtime friend of Tristan’s, Adam Lizzi, developed the limited competitive series of Round Robin, as well as the live variety show Random Hour. By the end of 2002, after experimenting with three live programs a week, live output on Seven was limited to one newscast a week, first at 11PM Fridays, then at 10PM.
Seven would not last long from there in name. In early 2003, Seven became tssz|one. Only one live program aired, aside from TSSZ News at Midday with Dylan Wilbur, which only aired during the Summer of 2003. However, the doors opened for a spinoff station, and tssz|two soon followed, created by Andy Chantler.
Another time of transition came for the site in 2003. As Tristan began his time in college, site maintenance was not exactly…well, instantaneous. The Big F’n Project was born. As part of the reorganization effort, TSSZ content moved off Emulation Zone. As Live365 was becoming a paid endeavor, tssz|one moved to private ‘ZRN servers and stopped running news. Andy Chantler took over the L365 stream for tssz|two. The project, ultimately was not successful upon its launch in 2004.
The project abstract was as follows:
Phase I – Web
On January 31, 2004, TSSZ will relaunch as the TSSZ.NETwork at tssz.net and tssz.com. The network will house tssz|news at a seperate domain (tssznews.com), as well as dedicated sections for radio properties (one.tssz.com / two.tssz.com / nightzone.tssz.com / tonight.tssz.com–all tentative) and a corporate section (corporate.tssz.com) with information on staff, site history, and advertising information. A return of BOSS: Battle of the Sonic Stars is questionable at this time. Nearly all aspects of web content will be updatable on the fly, with seamless intergration of interactive features, such as live polls, news talkback, et cetera. The site will be supported by advertising from other fan sites and affiliates, as well as donations.
Phase II – Radio
As previously mentioned, Phase II is partially complete. Radio properties of TSSZ have seen expansion in past months on the FM radio front, with Tristan heading five hours of live video game news, talk, and music programming each week on two Boston FM radio frequencies. The Internet radio division will see major restructuring through January. tssz|one will see a complete move to the servers of the ‘Zone Radio Network along with enormous expansion of its music library. Andy Chantler will head tssz|two, the counterpoint to tssz|one. Both will launch simultaneously with the web relaunch on January 31st, 2004. After the re-launch of Internet radio properties, Tristan will work to better the FM radio properties; among the improvements, he will be working on getting both programs in better timeslots.
Phase III – Television
Beginning in April of 2004, Tristan will draw up a proposal to submit to Emerson College Television. Ideally, the draft will propose a 30-minute video game news and roundtable discussion program under the tssz|news name. The show would be produced in the college’s Parkervision newsroom studios, and given its generic content, potential would exist for syndication, either to other colleges and universities or online viewing. If successful, the program’s debut would occur in October 2004.
With the bad came some more good. Night Zone debuted with Tristan in the overnight on WERS-FM in Boston in late September of 2003. The three hour program promised the best of video game and Japanese ANIME music weekly, along with gaming headlines at the top of the hour. The show was featured in the Boston Herald. (Article coming soon!) At the same time, Tristan had two more hours of radio to fill. TSSZ News Tonight ran late Friday nights on on-campus station WECB-FM from September to December 2003. In early 2004, the secondary program ran Sunday mornings, and became TSSZ News Sunday. Both shows were simulcast on tssz|one occasionally. When TSSZ.NETwork relaunched, copies of what aired on Night Zone were typically available on the web.
In 2005, the axe fell. On January 5th, Tristan announced that TSSZ and tssz|news would cease oprerations on May 30th. Later in the month, Night Zone had been cancelled from WERS to make way for a 24 hour format on the station. For Tristan, this was the last domino to fall. For the next year and a half, Tristan’s involvement in the community would be nil. He continued his graphic design work in television, eventually accepting positions at two Boston television stations. Looks like the man finally grew up.
In the Fall of 2006 Tristan began advertising for a TSSZ News revival, and late in November 2006, the new page had launched, along with a revamped podcast, The Update. This incarnation only lasted a few months. Taking on a more casual blogging approach (and having a radically different logo than in years past,) the site could not find an audience, and Tristan let the site die off.
On March 28, 2008, TSSZ News launched again–with a slightly polished but still original logo, as well as a renewed commitment to covering the community we love. We kept the grey “tabloid” look for nearly three years, covering everything from Sonic Unleashed to Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, to the leaks of and reaction to Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, and everything in between with the same passion and attitude you’ve come to expect. When the Sonic Amateur Games Expo rolls around, we’ve committed the full resources of TSSZ News to covering the fan game expo each year since the relaunch. And in February 2009, TSSZ News was the first site of its kind to bring specialized coverage of the New York Comic Con to readers, including audio interviews. That tradition continued in October 2010. To date, more than 5 million people have visited the website since the relaunch.
On January 17, 2011, TSSZ News relaunched with a colorful new look and a new commitment to its audience to go beyond the main story, and go, as the slogan says, “Beyond Blue.” It’s an evolution built upon with the launch of the modern TSSZ era’s third look in 2015. We hope you enjoy it all as it unfolds.