April 17, 2015

How Club Penguin Should End

Filed under: Club Penguin — Screenhog @ 10:09 pm

I started working on Club Penguin almost exactly 10 years ago (May 9, 2005, if you’re curious). At the time, I didn’t know how big it would become… I figured it’d be a game that I’d work on for a little while, it’d be enjoyed by around 100,000 people or so, and then it would drift away and I’d be on to something new. But then, Club Penguin got huge, and I started to think that this odd virtual world of clothes-wearing neon-colored penguins would last forever.

Yesterday was a reality check for that, as a significant number of Club Penguin employees – including many close colleagues of mine – were laid off work. Never more than now have I needed to remind myself that all worlds eventually pass away, and while I think Club Penguin will be around for years to come, it won’t be the exception to the rule. So, I’m asking myself the question: how should Club Penguin end?

To properly answer that, I should explain some things about the business of making virtual worlds. Most virtual worlds do not get popular. Club Penguin beat the odds and got very popular, as seen in this super scientific, ultra-specific graph below:

For the first few years, Club Penguin grew in popularity, users, membership, and income. (In some ways, it actually grew too fast… there was more than once in 2006 when it looked like Club Penguin’s servers would crush under the weight of their own popularity.) Like all popular entertainment franchises, it flourished, but also like all popular entertainment franchises, the growth curve couldn’t last forever. Eventually, the curve started to look like this:

The curve began to flatten out. It wasn’t growing as fast as it used to. If left unchecked, it would soon start to slide, but this wasn’t worrying by itself. In fact, it’s completely normal. Many forms of entertainment have this kind of curve of rising and falling popularity; musical groups, TV shows, movie franchises. The question is, what do you do about it? If you keep everything going as normal, the curve was going to fall, and we didn’t want that to happen, so Club Penguin was given a bump:

What was this “bump”? Well, if it was a TV series, it would be some shocking development or cliffhanger ending to an episode. For an MMO like World of Warcraft, it’s the yearly expansions of content that bring people flooding in again. In the case of Club Penguin, there were many bumps designed to extend its life, popularity, and revenue: the addition of more languages, the higher emphasis on membership during parties, merchandise in stores, console games, going to mobile phones, etc.

These are all wonderful things in the life of any product, and they do work… for a while.

Eventually, though, the bumps don’t help as much as they used to. More drastic measures need to be taken for the game to survive. Sometimes people even lose their jobs, like they did yesterday.

So, now what? Is Club Penguin going to die? Yes. Not any time soon, but like I said, all worlds die, it’s just a question of how and when. So what is the best possible way for Club Penguin to end? Well, what we don’t want is this:

Unfortunately, many virtual worlds do die this way. They get to a point where the publisher simply decides that it’s not worth maintaining or supporting them any more, and the plug is pulled.

Do I think this will happen to Club Penguin? No, I don’t, and what I truly desire for Club Penguin is for the company to start planning its long term strategy, so that instead of the plummeting graph above, it looks like this instead:

Other sites are in this same situation. Webkinz, a frequently cited competitor of Club Penguin, is nowhere near the height of its popularity, but it hasn’t died. Neopets, even older, is still up and running. Ultima Online – an MMO that began back in 1997 and almost disappeared – is not only still going, but has some months where it gains in popularity.

How? How is this possible? How can Club Penguin stick around for years and years to come? You. The community of Club Penguin fans. The thing that keeps a game like this going, more than anything else, is a committed audience. As long as there are enough people who care about the existence of something, it would be financially foolish to let them go.

I don’t know exactly what the future of CP will look like, but here’s how I would do it: First of all, the weekly updates to the game would have to be smaller, in proportion to the income of the game. Some of the parties from a few years ago would be brought back exactly as they were before; no new content would be in them, but at least you could experience them again. Many old clothing and furniture items would be available again.

And if I looked even farther ahead, in the final years of CP’s life (whenever that turns out to be), the population of penguins would be smaller, but the audience would be more dedicated. A much higher percentage of penguins would be “old-timers”, players who’ve been around for a few years. The big, news-making events would be less frequent, but replacing them would be parties with a sense of quirky humor; goofy events that happen because “why not have a party about cowboy astronauts this month?”. And if it finally came time for Club Penguin to close its doors, that final month would be sad, but joyful, as memories are shared and new worlds prepared to be born.

That’s what I would do. That’s what I hope for it. But no matter how it ends, I am comforted by the fact that I was part of something big that helped millions of people worldwide to waddle around and meet new friends.

October 28, 2014

Happy 9th Birthday, CP!

Filed under: Club Penguin,Comics,Sketch — Screenhog @ 9:17 pm

On Friday, last week, I posted this little image on Twitter. It was retweeted over 130 times. I’ve never had a Tweet go that popular before, so I’m putting it here, too.

It was drawn in about 5 minutes with a Sharpie. In case you were curious.

July 1, 2014

Art Academy: Sketchpad (Wii U)

Filed under: Digital Painting,Sketch — Screenhog @ 9:44 pm

Doing some doodling lately on Art Academy: Sketchpad for the Wii U. I have a lot to learn about painting, but here’s my attempts with it so far:

June 13, 2014

Fact Friday #16 – The 1983 Corvette

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:16 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about the 1983 Corvette.

Named after the corvette warships of the French Navy, the Chevrolet Corvette was a sleek sports car, built for speed, and perfect to take advantage of the newly forming American Interstate System. Since the first Corvettes were manufactured in 1953, Chevrolet has produced thousands of cars nearly every year… except 1983.

You see, every few years Chevrolet would make changes to the design of the Corvette, and 1983 marked one of those changes. However, there were significant production problems and scheduling issues that year. In the end, only 43 of the 1983 Corvettes were ever made, and none were ever sold to the public. So what happened to them? Well, most of them were destroyed, either in crash tests or safety experiments from the Chevrolet R&D department. Today, only one lucky 1983 Corvette remains. It’s white, its license plate proudly reads “83 VETTE”, and it sits today in the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

Just how lucky is this car? Well, in Feburary 2014, the National Corvette Museum experienced a major sinkhole in the middle of the room where the Corvette was being shown. The lucky car was less than 30 feet from the edge of falling into the hole, and when museum staff had the opportunity to save some of the cars in the room, it was the first one to be rescued.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

June 6, 2014

Fact Friday #15 – Braille

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:12 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about Braille.

The French army of the early 19th century had a problem. It wanted a way to communicate written messages in the battlefield at night without lighting lamps and giving away the troops’ position. So, a captain in the army named Charles Barbier de la Serre invented “night writing”, which used raised dots on a piece of paper. A soldier would only have to run their fingers over the surface of the paper to read the message.

The system was never actually used by the army – but it was great inspiration for a boy named Louis Braille. Blind since the age of four, Louis was incredibly intelligent, but there were very few books printed for the blind, and they were slow and tedious to read. Night writing was fast, and after a few years of refinement by Louis, it was perfect. The system was taught to other blind students, and was eventually named after him.

Today, Braille has enriched the lives of many people. The Braille alphabet has been printed in thousands of books in over 100 languages. It has been used to write music, and a similar system appears in the corner of every new piece of Canadian paper money. Blind author and social activist Helen Keller once said “Braille has been a most precious aid to me in many ways. It made my going to college possible… I use Braille as a spider uses its web–to catch thoughts that flit across my mind.”

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

April 18, 2014

Fact Friday #14 – First Meal on the Moon

Filed under: Christianity,Fact Friday — Tags: , , , — Screenhog @ 4:01 am

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Hello, and welcome to a special Good Friday edition of Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about the first meal eaten on the moon.

The first men to land on the moon were two astronauts from NASA’s Apollo 11 space program: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. In July of 1969, their lunar module landed on the surface of the moon, but how did they get their nutritious energy before taking that “giant leap for mankind”? One word: bacon. Well actually, it was more than that… the official first meal on the moon consisted of peaches, sugar cookies, pineapple-grapefruit drink, coffee, and bacon squares.

But was it the first food eaten on the moon? Actually, no. Only a few minutes after the Apollo 11 lunar module touched down on the moon, Buzz Aldrin pulled out plastic packages containing a small wafer and a vial of wine. Aldrin was about to perform the Christian ceremony of Communion, and before doing so, spoke this message to the millions of people watching the live broadcast of the Apollo landing:

“This is the LM pilot. I’d like to take this opportunity to ask every person listening in, whoever and wherever they may be, to pause for a moment and contemplate the events of the past few hours and to give thanks in his or her own way.”

Four hours later, Aldrin and Armstrong stepped out on the surface of the moon and into the history books as representatives of one of the greatest scientific achievements of all time.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

April 11, 2014

Fact Friday #13 – Thirteen

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:10 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about the number thirteen.

The number thirteen is, of course, the number between twelve and fourteen, but for many people, it has a darker side. People around the world are scared of the number thirteen; so many people, in fact, that there’s a name for this fear: triskaidekaphobia. Why is it an unlucky number? No one knows for sure. However, there are plenty of things people have done to make sure you don’t see the number 13 very often. For instance:

  • Many planes don’t have a thirteenth row. They go from 12 to 14.
  • Many hotels don’t have a thirteenth floor. The elevators also go from 12 to 14. (Some of those hotels also don’t have a fourth floor, since 4 is an unlucky number in China.)

Now, there’s no real reason to be scared of this number. It’s a number, just like any other. However, if you have a major fear of the number 13, you might want not want to take a trip to Disneyland in your lifetime. Why? Well, it has to do with the letter M. You see, the letter M is the 13th letter of the alphabet, and Mickey Mouse, Disney’s mascot, has the initials “M.M.”. Because of this, Disneyland’s street address in Anaheim, California, is 1313 S. Harbor Boulevard.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

April 5, 2014

Iron Man

Filed under: Sketch — Tags: , — Screenhog @ 9:37 pm

April 4, 2014

Fact Friday #12 – Mahouts

Filed under: Fact Friday — Screenhog @ 1:09 am

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Hello! It’s time for Fact Friday with Screenhog. I am Screenhog, and today we’re talking about mahouts (pronounced ma-HOOTS).

For all of recorded human history, man has been training animals to help out in jobs, whether it be donkeys carrying supplies for a journey, oxen helping to plow a field, or dogs helping to keep herds of sheep under control. But perhaps the most interesting relationship between a man and an animal is that of the Asian elephant keepers known as mahouts.

At a young age, a boy from India or southeast Asia would be paired with a young elephant. It then became that boy’s job to take care of the elephant – to feed it, to look after it, and to train it. As the boy grew, so did the elephant, both of them reaching adulthood at around the same time. At this point, the elephant became the young man’s partner in work, which usually involved cutting down trees and then carrying the logs to where they’d be used for construction. By this time, the elephant and the mahout had bonded to one another in friendship, and since elephants can live to be over 60 years old in the wild, that friendship could last a lifetime.

While mahouts have been around for thousands of years, the mahout traditions are starting to fade away. Most of the forests where elephants would work are not allowed to be logged any more, making it difficult to find work where elephants would be useful. So now, mahouts have turned to entertaining tourists by teaching their elephants to play music or paint pictures. And as far as we can tell, most of the elephants do seem to enjoy it. After all, it’s a lot easier to hold a paintbrush than a 400-pound log.

This has been Fact Friday. Screenhog out.

March 31, 2014

Hyper Hippo Games – I Eat Bananas, Prism Break, and Rain Drop

Filed under: Hyper Hippo,Video Games — Screenhog @ 9:49 am

Last week, I started talking about Hyper Hippo’s game projects. I started with Mech Mice, but lately, Hyper Hippo has been branching into smaller games too.

I Eat Bananas

In this game, you’re a monkey, climbing an endlessly tall vine and eating bananas. The only thing stopping you are falling objects; bathtubs, forks, garbage cans, blue whales… you know the usual stuff. As you climb, you go faster and faster. Can you handle it? Can you get into space… or beyond?

Tip: If you get hit with an object, you still have chances to save yourself. If you see a leaf, grab it, and you begin to climb again. Or, if you collect enough bananas while falling, you’ll have the strength to save yourself.

Prism Break

Before you lies a grid of marbles of all different colors. You can click any of them, but the only way to score big is to find large combos of colors. Can’t find a large color combo? No problem; change the colors on the marbles to make big combos! Red, yellow, and blue combos change the colors of surrounding marbles (for instance, clicking a red marble will change a neighbouring yellow marble into an orange one).

Tip: Big combos also fill the “prism break” meter. Fill it up, and a prism falls. Click it for a huge effect on the game and your score!

Rain Drop

Have you ever gone up to a rainy window pane and touched your finger to the drops, making a bigger drop that falls down the surface of the glass? This is a game about that. It’s a relaxing puzzle game, where you bring drops toward one another with the goal of getting all of the drops off the glass.

Tip: Try and arrange the drops in a line below the spot where you want the large drop to fall. Getting every single drop is a requirement for solving a puzzle with 3 stars.

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