The stay at home order seem to create a time capsule out of my home. Weeks felt like days, and I'm starting to feel like I'm in Groundhog day when we're not going anywhere. Hope everyone continue to stay safe as the second wave of infection grows.

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2003 was an amazing time for me and my dear friends who started Gaia with me. Never did a ragtag group of anime fans dream of actually starting a business that would actually work and make a living.

Every step was new and an adventure. From working 7 days a week, spending every waking moment talking about new ideas and what we can do for fun, making new servers and building out a server farm, forming a corporation, and finding an actual office space. Everything was nothing short of exciting.

Gaia’s first office was a tiny office that can host no more than 12 people in the shape of a square. We visited a store that specializes in selling used office equipments and had a bunch of cubicles built out along the office walls. Back in 2004 everyone worked in cubicles because that’s the “proper” way to run an office. In the middle of the office is my ping pong table. Ping pong was a daily activity at Gaia HQ. L0cke taught me how to play ping pong and he is easily the best ping pong player I’ve ever met.

One of the first members to join Gaia was Darknrgy. One of my best friends, Zoid, is an amazing programmer who worked on games like Quake CTF and Metroid Prime, referred me to his roommate at the time to help me with Gaia. Darknrgy simply took my idea of what I wish to build “Ebay for Gaia”, and completed the whole project all on his own. Recognizing his talent, I made a short trip to Austin, Texas where he lived, and it didn’t take much convincing to have him join us and work in California. Outside of building the amazing community, it’s the ability to help shape people’s lives that I really treasure for having started Gaia.

When we moved into our office, we only only had 2 programmers. Me and Darknrgy. Luckily it was the year 2003, a year after the tech bubble crashed and recession was in full swing. I posted an ad on Craiglist’s classified section, and I got 60 responses the next day. It was amazing. We had a lot of quality candidates, and I got to hire 2 very talented engineers right off the bat.

Our very first hire was 72Squared, who is this amazingly talented… chef who specialized in French cuisine. His wife doesn’t want him to smell like fish every time he came home, so he started learning how to build web pages. 72Squared quickly became the head of programming and help rebuild all the ugly code that was written by me. It took me 10 years to eventually fully understand and appreciate the architecture and concepts that optimized Gaia’s codebase. We also hired Kaia9, who is this 6 feet tall, athletic guy who claimed to have broken his bones 5 different times in sport. He was a blast to work with. smile

Gill was an old friend who used to work in tech support, just like me. With Gaia he got to become an IT manager specializing in building out our servers. He often get annoyed by me because his office would have BB pellets scattered everywhere because I had setup a shooting range for my airsoft rifle inside his office. It was his fault to have an office opposite to my cubicle. smile

Everyday we would take 2 cars and drive to the nearest restaurant, or the food court of the shopping mall for lunch, at 5 we would start playing ping pong, and most of us would work till 2 in the morning because we were at the age where we’re happy giving all our attention to the success of Gaia. In another words, most of us were single. smile

Often we have 6 people and L0cke would volunteer to take the ride in my car’s trunk. Somehow we thought that would be a great idea. biggrin One day while riding in my trunk, L0cke found a lighter, as well as some left over paper lying around. He thought it would be funny if he start a fire right before we opened the trunk, and smoke would come out to surprise us. What he didn’t know was that we also decided to pull a prank and pretend that we forgot about L0cke and left him in the trunk. So we closed our car door, and pretend to walk away. What we heard then was a muffled voice shouting “FIRE, FIRE!” We leisurely walked back to the car, opened the trunk, and L0cke jumped out with a giant puff of smoke that really did surprised all of us. biggrin A security guard was just driving by behind us with this weird look on his face. It was priceless. Darnknrgy caught his on tape too, if I every recover that footage we had to put it online. (And by tape I mean video tape!)

What we did for Gaia was equally fun and exciting. Vo and Bill built fishing for Gaia, and quickly moved to designing Gaia Towns. It was an ambitious project and we needed to hire a contracting team to help build the servers. Vo didn’t want our idea to be shared, so he called it “Cube Builder 2000” or something. It was hilarious. The contracting team immediately figured out what we wanted to build and said “Don’t worry, your secret is safe with us”. smile

Meanwhile, we came up with the weirdest ideas for events on Gaia, such as the NPC race where we would have little NPC sprites run around the Gaia maps, and had Edmund lose his lead in the race because he got busy with Vanessa. L0cke and Vo would always be spilling jokes in the office, and coming up with the weirdest descriptions for Gaia items. Then we came up with the zombie event, which was one of my favorite events as we came up with an event where the outcome based mainly on the actions of the participants.

Gaia grew quickly and so did the size of the Gaia Staff. Soon there were 14 people at the Gaia office, and we had to give up the ping pong table for more cubicle space. This theme of trading fun for productivity seem to be a theme that will slowly creep up on us.