You may have noticed when you arrived at Zelda Universe tonight that the site is looking a little different.

For the past few weeks, we’ve been hinting around Twitter and Facebook that changes are coming, and at long last we’re officially launching those very changes, which include not one, but several new layouts, just in time for Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference. And to top that all off, we’ve joined forces with another long-running Zelda fan site: The Sacred Realm, to make ZU better than ever. It’s the start of a brand new era of Zelda Universe, so if you want to know all about it, hit the jump!

A brand new temple for a brand new ZU.

When we launched the original Temple layout in 2008, it was visually stunning, but not without faults. We’ve spent the last several months redesigning the ZU Temple from the ground up, inspired by several other web projects our staff members have been working on recently. We’ve introduced a wider content area, so we can display more content and make better guides, in the same amount of room as the original Temple. And we completely revamped the header, improving navigation by orders of magnitude.

In addition, we’ve put all of our Zelda content and guides front and center – you can now access all of our guides from any page on ZU using the new scrolling game menu. Click on a game icon, and a popover appears containing the game’s information, links to help and guides, and even a full table of contents for its walkthrough – all without having to refresh the page.

We also added a featured news scroller on the front page. It’ll always rotate with the top five news stories of the moment, so if you don’t have time to scan the front page for everything that’s going on – especially this Tuesday when we cover Nintendo’s E3 2011 press conference – you can just check the featured news scroller for the most important news.

In addition to all of that, we’ve coded some secrets into Temple 2.0 that we’ll be unveiling soon, including an even wider version of the site that drops the sidebars and creates a fullscreen content area for big, complex walkthroughs with tons of images and formatting.

Since this is our first release, keep in mind that there might be a few bugs! We can’t catch everything ourselves, and we’re going to tirelessly work to improve Temple 2.0. We think it’s the future of ZU – and of presenting Zelda content and guides – so look forward to tons of improvements over the next few weeks while we shore up the layout and make it ZU’s best ever.

ZU: Now pad-friendly.

Several times in the last few weeks, we teased that we’ve been working on an iPad version of ZU. It’s true, and it’s awesome – visit Zelda Universe on your iPad and you’ll be greeted with a magazine-style view of our front page, complete with 3D animated page turning. Tap on any article to view it, leave comments, and more, and tap outside the article to return back to the magazine page.

What’s more, we’ve integrated all of our guides into the iPad layout, so you get the same popovers on your iPad as you do on Temple 2.0. We’ve used it for guides while playing some Zelda games, and it’s really like having an infinitely large Prima strategy guide in the palm of your hand.

You can even add ZU to your iPad’s home screen, and it becomes a full-screen, native-style app. And, since it loads stuff directly from ZU, you never need to update it to get app updates – it always just works and has the latest version of the iPad layout. Like Temple 2.0, we’re absolutely committed to improving the iPad version of ZU and ironing out all possible bugs over the next few weeks!

What about the tiny pads?

“Now, Zelda Universe!” you may begin to ask. “What of my smaller, pocket-style pad-like touchtronic devices? What wilst ZU do for them?”

Excellent question! We are working on a mobile version of ZU to complement the iPad version, but it’s just not ready yet. We’ll have more to say about this soon, so keep an eye out. We’re also investigating the possibility of native iPhone apps for our forums, and have semi-working prototypes already on hand.

The Sacred Realm + Zelda Universe = The new Zelda Universe.

So, if you’re wondering by now who this “Lysia” person is, posting such important news pertaining to the site when you’ve never seen me post here before, it’s because I’m actually the new webmaster! As I mentioned earlier, arguably the most major change happening today is Zelda Universe’s official merger with another Zelda site: The Sacred Realm. This was my own Zelda fan site that I’d been running since 2001, and had grown into one of the biggest Zelda fan sites online at one point. For a long time now, it’s been far too big for me to run on my own, and this has been my primary motivation for this merger. I was considering a large and lengthy overhaul to my site, while at the same time Jason and Cody were thinking that a third webmaster would be useful. We got to talking, and eventually it all happened! I’ve been working in secret for the past few months moving content across from my own server and also helping to code up this fabulous new layout.

(Jason’s note: She’s being really modest – she practically coded the whole thing! Without her, this layout wouldn’t even be here.)

Although we’re calling this a site merge, not a whole lot is going to change on the Zelda Universe end. We’ve decided to shift The Sacred Realm into Zelda Universe’s setup because it’s already working quite well. It’d be a lot more work to build a brand new site from the two, and Zelda Universe already has such a well-established brand that from a webmaster’s perspective it’s silly to throw it away and build up something new like Zelda Realm or The Sacred Universe. For regular visitors to The Sacred Realm, everything that you love about the site will be coming across to Zelda Universe, including the strong fan and community focus.

I will confess that we’ve rushed things a little in order to have this ready for E3, so there’ll be a bit of a settling in period where we finalize a few things. One major task that still needs to be done is to merge the forums from both sites. This will require a bit of downtime, which we’ll announce in advance. Therefore The Sacred Realm’s forum – Legends Place – remains open in parallel for the time being.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with me from The Sacred Realm or other parts of the community, I’ve been a Zelda fan for almost 20 years. The first Zelda game that I played was the original on the NES, and I was pretty much hooked on the series from the start. When I played Ocarina of Time, still my favorite game to this day, and discovered the online Zelda community at about the same time, it really took my love of the series to a new level. Suddenly I could talk about Zelda all the time, whereas prior to that nobody that I knew in real life liked it quite as much as I did. The Sacred Realm came about because I was never totally happy with any one website that I visited, and so I started gathering all of the things I liked about Zelda and putting them in one place. Away from Zelda and gaming in general, my other interests include sports, especially adventure sports, cosplay, writing and travel. I geek out over sci-fi, fantasy and video games. I hail from Melbourne, Australia, but have been lucky enough to spend some time living in other places such as Japan and Sweden.

After working in secret on this for so long I’m excited to finally join Jason and Cody on the Zelda Universe bridge and get back to doing one of the things that I love the most and that is sharing my passion for the wonderful Legend of Zelda series with its fans. I’m going to work hard to make sure that Zelda Universe is the number one site that fans turn to for all their Zelda needs, and all these changes are just the start!

Watch out for our E3 coverage!

We launched Temple 2.0 to be optimized for covering big events – and Cody and Jason are also live in LA covering Nintendo’s E3 press conference this year! Our news staff is also pumped and ready for massive coverage. So enjoy the new layout, the new The Sacred Realm, and the new ZU! And as always, thanks to you guys for making ZU such an awesome place for Zelda info by visiting and making an amazing Zelda community to be proud of – we wouldn’t do this if not for all of you.

~ Lysia, Jason, Cody, and the rest of the Zelda Universe staff.