🎉 It’s Up!
Last month polyhaven.com finally went live!
It’s been about 9 months since we started work on the project as a whole, and I’m really happy with how things turned out.
We’ve learnt a lot along the way and are looking forward to working on new content for the platform 🙂
These Dev Logs may not come every month from now on, as we may not always have that much to share, but for now there is in fact quite a bit to catch you up on.
Migrating the Old Havens
Although polyhaven.com went live on the 15th of June, it was only this week (more than a month later) that hdrihaven.com was finally redirected to polyhaven.com.
This was to ensure that the new site had all the same features as the old Havens. When you work on a “sequel” to anything, everyone expects the new thing to be the same as the old thing, only better.
Since the new site is built completely from the ground up, it’s not just a matter of copy-pasting code to get the old features back. They have to be written from scratch again, and usually you want to take that opportunity to improve them as well.
One of such features is the interactive 3D preview for all asset types. Previously we only had this for HDRIs, but now you can view textures and 3D models interactively as well. This is primarily thanks to a patch from chippieTV who donated his last few weekends to work on this feature 🙂
Another migrated site feature (yet to be completed) is the Render Gallery.
On HDRI Haven we had a system where users could share renders they’d made with our HDRIs. This was amazing to see – even being fairly strict with the quality of renders we accepted, we still have over 1600 renders approved.
Some of the best ones we choose show up on the gallery page linked above, while the rest will appear on each individual asset page.
This system has not yet been fully ported to Poly Haven – we only show the renders we currently have, but do not yet accept new ones. I just need to finish up some other priorities before working on this again.
Another (also yet to be completed) feature I’ve been working on is giving our patrons their rewards according to their tier directly on the site itself.
- Disabling ads on your device
- Monthly asset sponsorships ($10 tier)
- Sending yourself an invite to the Nextcloud folder ($5 tier)
- Viewing early access content ($3 tier, coming soon)
Previously most of this had to be handled manually, requiring patrons to contact me directly so I can give them access to various folders or add them as sponsors to their chosen asset.
Spending a few days on fully automating this not only saves me time, but provides a nicer, faster experience for patrons.
I did enjoy one part of the old system: getting a chance to meet and chat to each patron personally. My biggest fear when starting Poly Haven was that we’d start to be seen more as a “big soulless company”, and not so much as people anymore. This automation and loss of contact doesn’t help with that, but I’m hoping we can make up for it by engaging with patrons in other places (like this blog) and on Discord.
Back in February Google AdSense abruptly cut us off for reasons we still don’t know, gutting Poly Haven of a third of its monthly income and leaving us to seek alternative methods to survive.
We decided on running our own ad server and trying to sell ad space directly to advertisers, but if you’ve had your eye on our Finance Reports for the last few months, you’ll know this didn’t work at all.
There are two primary reasons for this I think:
- The world doesn’t work this way anymore. Invasive personalized advertising from systems like AdSense and Facebook are so effective, advertisers have no interest in wasting money with classic site-specific banner ads when they can turn a bigger profit another way. We’d need to price our ad space so low to get any attention that it’s almost not worth doing at all.
- I suck at selling ads. I’m not a salesman, and I need to spend my time on other things like web development and pipeline support. To have any hope of gaining reasonable funding from a self-run ad system, we’d need someone dedicated to this job. That person needs to be paid, and the only way we could afford to do that would be by commissions. And then if we’re paying commissions to some middle man, we may as well make AdSense our middleman if we can.
Running our own ads wasn’t working, and I really didn’t want to go back to AdSense after they screwed us over.
I struggled with this decision for several weeks, getting feedback from almost everyone at Poly Haven, as well as all my friends and family about the idea of dropping ads entirely. But ultimately we agreed that the decision was already made last year when our Patrons voted to show ads on the site in the first place.
So now that Poly Haven is live, AdSense is back.
Whatever caused Google to dislike us back in February is not likely to happen again I think. Although we don’t know what it was, I believe it was a false-positive flag in some automated system, and with Poly Haven being built with completely different technology I think we’re safe.
But it was a lesson in what can go wrong and how quickly things can change, so we’re making sure if something like this happens again, we can deal with it.
The good news is, because of the way Poly Haven is built, we can show significantly fewer, smaller ads than before and still generate roughly the same revenue.
If you’re a Patron of Poly Haven, you can of course still permanently disable ads.
That’s all folks! See you next time 🙂