Animated Map 2016

Nearly four years ago, one of my early projects was to put the CP map into a new style, one that made it easier to make customs. Here’s what that looked like:

Animated Map 2012

Lo and behold, bloggers took that and ran with it, and it became possible my most widespread custom ever. Now, given how much the island has changed, I thought it was time to give it an upgrade.

Animated Map 2016 HQ.png

Feel free to use for whatever and enjoy, just don’t claim to have made it!

-Sandor

 

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The Fair 2016 – Ultimate Outcome

Hey y’all,

The Fair has been out for a few days now, and I hope that everyone has taken the time to enjoy it! As you’re about to read, it was a lot of work to complete, so I hope that it had just a little something for everyone.

My original goal in doing this Fair was to expose a major issue facing Club Penguin right now: the fact that parties keep on getting smaller and smaller, even if the decorations are lovely. We’re currently in the midst of the Finding Dory Party, the second very long party with very minimal decoration. We have six rooms total to enjoy, and each and every one of them is lovely. However, this is comparatively smaller than what parties used to be.

Thus, I sought out to create an island-wide party. I wasn’t planning on decorating every room as much as possible; every building and room didn’t need to be radically transformed and redrawn from scratch. I went with the older mentality of actual decorations, changes to rooms that already exist and are enjoyable. I’m not ashamed to say that it’s primarily reused assets with only some drawing.

The explanation for CP’s current lack of decoration is that they only have two 2D art designers working. Well, I’m one person. So what I am able to do in one week, they should be able to do much better in the seven weeks that the last party ran.

All in all, I’m happy with the product that I created. It’s the right balance, in my opinion, of new CP concepts and classic designs that old players remember and love. It was certainly not my easiest task, nor my hardest. I faced challenges in the fact that most of the ‘classic’ fair designs are now antiquated and outstyled. I had to rework a good amount of things to keep up with how Club Penguin looks these days. But I put in everything that I had, and the result is a good party.

It’s pretty funny, actually. I started this Fair on something of a whim. I didn’t have it planned in advance, and I didn’t have any ideas set aside for a long time. Unlike a lot of my premeditated projects, I just decided to do this one and then planned it out in a night. I worked on no other projects for a week. I dug my heels in and strove to grind out a nice set of artwork in a week. It reminded me that sometimes, it’s good to do things spontaneously.

Then, as I was a mere few days into this enormous load of a project, I got a call from a friend in need. Not anyone online, not someone from this community. Things from real life. I dropped everything to go and be where they needed me to be for a few days. Was is the best thing for The Fair? No. There could certainly be some more polished rooms if I hadn’t taken off for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday. But that’s not the point.

I know it seems very random to mention this, but hear me out. I know that this is just Club Penguin, and that I just decorate rooms. Well to me, there’s no just. It’s a bigger deal to me than you may realize. It brings me a lot of joy to see you all get something out of my designs. And I enjoy putting it all together. What I realized, however, is that it’s such more of a channel for emotion than I realized.

I knew this issue with my friend was inevitable, so I was essentially waiting for the shoe to drop before I would have to go help them. It never occurred to me how it might reflect my work. Yet now, looking back, I see that the artwork before and after it happened are hardly comparable. On the surface, they don’t seem to have any discrepancies, but looking at them I can see the shift in my mood. The sadness, the pain, it was all poured into the later-designed rooms in the party. I’d set the party at night, and slowly the ominous moon in the background of every outdoor room became an all-too-real reflection of how I was feeling. My real life tragedy was soaking into these things I was making online.

I didn’t know how much I needed that. This party; this tiny, silly, goofy, online, stupid party. It was a sponge for everything that I was feeling. So thank you, to all of you, for giving that to me. Whether I knew it at the time or not, thank you for giving me something to throw myself into, something to catch the guilt that I was feeling all at once.

I truly appreciate it, and I hope you all appreciated the Fair just as much.

Regards,

-Sandor

Me vs. Club Penguin – A Challenge

Recently, Club Penguin’s parties have been getting smaller and smaller. Yes, the rooms are decorated gorgeously, but six or so party rooms is now the average. Years ago, this would be unthinkable.

Yes, I know CP is preparing for Project Super Secret.

Yes, I know the 2D art team is down to two people.

But you’d be amazed at what two people could do. If you don’t draw everything, but you’re clever about how you use old things, you can create parties that seem brand new. And I’m going to do just that.

So to prove that Club Penguin is slacking, I (one person), will be designing a full party in one week. Maybe, just maybe, this will show CP that we aren’t okay with seven week, tiny parties.

The party will be entitled The Fair: Rock of Ages, and different parts of the island will be drawing inspiration from different time periods and settings that former parties have focused on. Here’s a map:

The Fair Map.png

Now, I’ll be doing all of the planning and designing. But I want all of you to help get the word out! Because I can design and design for a whole week straight and make an awesome party, but if no one sees it, then we haven’t proved anything.

So tell your friends and buddies! Post it on your blogs and Twitters! Let’s get this out there and do something awesome!

Waddle on,

-Sandor

Let’s Talk: The Old Flippr, the New Flippr, and I

I’ve wanted to talk about this for a very long time, but I just never seemed to be able to find the words. After several days of writing here and there, I think I have an acceptable view of what happened.

The old Flippr, the one which I owned, was … something extraordinary in my life. Allow me to explain. I did not get into design without a reason; it was an escape, something of which I had total control. I wasn’t good to begin with. I wouldn’t allow a single one of my original creations to be allowed within 10 feet of a CPPS these days. The thing is though, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to make things. I wanted to have an influence, a say, an ability to create something out of nothing.

Flippr gave me that and then some. The only limit truly was my imagination. I had an inexplicable determination to break down barriers. No one had ever added new puffles, but I wanted them. I wanted them so very badly. My team and I pushed hard until we got them. This was a repeating process; everytime there was something we wanted, we went out and got it. Some of it wasn’t easy. When I finally got my new puffles, we discovered that CP’s puffle adoption system was stubbornly against any new additions. So I recoded it (albeit modified) from the ground up. I wouldn’t take no for an answer.

More than this, however, there were the fans. The fans kept me driving when nothing else did. Because as I learned, large ambitions bring with them large stress. I had built Flippr into a monster machine, something larger than myself. It became harder and harder to meet weekly deadlines; I was becoming unable to resolve simple issues as they came up. When we needed a scapegoat for this, we decided that the language was the answer, and closed for a few months to switch to AS3. A few months later, we reopened again, only to close by Halloween. The lifestyle was unsustainable. I felt an uncontrollable need to make everything bigger and better than what proceeded it, and it drove the original Flippr into the ground.

A few months later, after I had regained my bearings, I thought I would be able to bring Flippr back. March 2015, I promised! Then March became Spring, and Spring became Summer, but eventually, we did launch. In hindsight, bringing it back was not a good idea. I just had too many ideas, even bigger than before. This time, I wanted stamps and igloos and igloo locations and mascots and EPF missions; I was unstoppable. Everything I saw, I wanted to change. And do you know why? Because of the fans. Everytime I flipped something around, people went crazy. I loved it. I was drunk off of the feeling of fandom. It seems incredibly lame, almost pathetic, that a mascot meetup where people followed you was something that brought me such joy, but it did. It wasn’t about being liked, it was about creating an environment where I was. Flippr, a whole world where I was king; a world that I had designed from the ground up, that bore my name, that lived and breathed all of the ideas that I had wanted for Club Penguin.

This light, though, existed in a dark place. The CPPS community is not the most kind, by far. There are so many good people, don’t forget that, but there are also enough that are not. I’m not going to rehash the story bit for bit. To be perfectly honest, the wound is still very raw. The only thing that matters is that suddenly, making Flippr was no longer fun. It was very, very scary. Scary for my real life. Scary for all of you. Bad things happened. I couldn’t take the burden. At one point, everything was wiped. I could have rebuilt it. We could have started fresh, again. I was just too hurt to do so. I had to leave. I ran from my problems.

At the time that I left, we still didn’t have the whole picture of what had happened. Some people were even pointing to me; the whole thing was so unrealistic, almost dreamlike in a way. I don’t blame them for thinking that this was my fiery exit from the world I had so loved. I promise you, I had no such plans. I only wanted the best for Flippr. In trying to get the best, I had just made one too many enemies, I suppose. I still haven’t forgiven myself entirely for severing ties, running away, and leaving everyone in the dark. But the world that I had made from fantasy was all at once too real to handle.

It’s sad to say this story can bring me nearly to the brink of tears. I look back with such regret. If I had been nicer, would I not then have been destroyed? Some days, these questions echo in my brain. I still long for some of the plans I had. I would have loved to see the fan reactions when I finally cracked some long locked puzzles. It’s funny, sometimes. If I play a song that I had acquired while designing Flippr (or designing period), I can perfectly recall making the room. We Are Young by Fun? That was playing when I designed my first room ever, the Pet Shop upstairs. I Dreamed A Dream? That was the song that played on loop as I finished the Puffle Party. Gloria? That was when I redrew all four main igloos. Most songs from ABBA stick out somewhere along the timeline, humorously denying the theme of the party I may have been designing.

I truly have many, many fond memories of designing and playing Flippr, and I always will. It was a unique and important part of my life for a long time. Yet at the same time, I understand that I cannot go back to. I have to move on to other things, even if they are in the same well. It’s time that I learned that the name Flippr isn’t what solves my problems. It’s designing for you, the fans.

Thus, I wanted to talk about the new Flippr, with which I am not involved. I have known the owners a long time, and agreed to pass over all of my old Flippr assets to them so that they may seek to obtain the same type of moment that I did. To be totally honest, I don’t play it much. That’s for no reason other than I have little time for games these days. I do intend on doing some meetups soon, and I’ll be sure to tweet about them when I do.

People have asked me if I am upset by some of the new additions, like Puffle Creatures (which I historically opposed). My answer is this: I willingly gave it up. If that is what they want to do, let them do it. The fun thing about Flippr is that owning it is what you make of it. No one is stopping you from adding what you please. Would I have personally added them? No. Am I glad that they are continuing to innovate and create new things? Absolutely. So hold nothing against them out of what you think I would have felt. They have my full blessing to make the experience that best suits them, and I will be glad to see where that leads.

Overall, I came out of this community very different from how I came in. I was hopelessly new and useless when I entered; now, I’ve picked up more than I need to be successful in this admittedly useless field. This group of people will always be somewhat of a home to me, and I just can’t wait to see what my next adventure will be with it.

Let’s Talk: Disney Infinity Closures and Project Super Secret

This is a very relevant topic in our community right now, and it is actually was inspired me to get a blog on here so that I can talk with the people of the community about it in a way more conducive to thought than 140 characters. I plan on using this blog to talk about lots of big community topics going forth in a (hopefully) intellectually stimulating way; let’s go on to it.

For background, Disney has announced the closure of its video game production line, including the cancellation of the here-to-now-upcoming Disney Infinity 3.0 video game, considered to be the division’s largest success. From this point, the community has grown worried of the ultimate plan that Disney has for Club Penguin after or even prior to the launch of Project Super Secret.

I’ll start by saying that as a designer, and as someone who has owned even an admittedly tiny-by-comparison server, I think that the idea is fundamentally flawed. I started Flippr two years ago with a mission of customizing everything possible – I wanted to find out what makes Club Penguin tick, and change everything that I possibly could about it. Although I had big dreams about what I could do, I did not learn until much later what the true limiting factors were with this. Though it has since been joined by many, extremely well-crafted others (including the fabulous LimitlessCP and Pengur, owned by good friends of mine), Flippr was the first ‘Club Penguin Custom Server’. As a result, I got a front row seat at some very unique data that taught me a lot about this community as a whole.

There were many lessons presented to me in running this server, but one of them became quickly apparent: Club Penguin has a very strong core userbase that is extremely happy with things the way that they are. I learned this in a few ways. If I made a feature that corrected a well-known CP problem, such as not decorating many rooms for parties, then it was almost always very well received. If I made a decision that contradicted what CP had done or does, such as removing Puffle Creatures in their entirety, the feedback was normally split about 50-50. So what then is the point of me telling you this? Basically, the community is happy with the large brunt of Club Penguin as it stands today.

I know there are a good deal of prevalent and popular complaints. Trainman has been an incessant advocate for more storyline and EPF action, while we’ve all see Riyita’s (extremely merited) push for a new chat filter. I personally wish that Puffle Creatures had been better developed and not released in such rapid succession, but I’m most likely in the minority. Regardless though, these are not Club Penguin’s bread and butter. Players keep playing because they like the game as it is; there is a certain appeal in the general style and framework in which the game appears.

I think Project Super Secret is a very risky offshoot from Club Penguin’s core value. Remind you that there were people protested up until the last minute with the Coffee Shop was renovated, a relatively minor change in the grand scheme of things. I believe that by attempting to ‘reinvent’ the game into an entirely new system, CP is running dangerously close to alienating a good portion of its core audience.

However, allow us now to connect this all back to Disney-Video-Game-Division-Gate, a scandal named after a reference that many people in this community are too young to get. The point? Disney Infinity, in the long haul, was young. It came and went because it belonged to a generation that is aging out of traditional video games. It lived on the Wii U, a system that has struggled to gain traction for years now. Now I’m not saying that everyone who played Infinity has grown up, absolutely not, but the audience that the first edition was aimed at are now advancing into their 20s. The audience that it is aimed at now is one that is increasingly less likely to buy video games now than ever before. Even Nintendo, a staunch opponent of the phone-gaming-phenomena, has begun development of mobile endeavors after realizing that this is now the new most profitable market to which to cater.

Now, this is where things get unfortunate, and I’m sure a number of you are going to dislike my dark prognosis. Disney Infinity, despite its shrinking potential audience, has indeed been successful for Disney, and they have been able to make a profit off of the games they have released. One of the primary arguments going around right now in favor of CP is that Disney is unwilling to close it anytime soon because of the time and resources that it took to develop. I’d have to disagree. PSS was all about moving towards unification – decorating one file, and boom, it showed up all over the island. The purpose for moving to 3D was to make the development weight smaller while keeping the same audience. What does that mean exactly then? It means that most likely, Club Penguin already has a budget surplus this year. I’ll do a quick explanation.

A budget surplus is just what it sounds like – extra money in the budget. Now, all of the numbers I’m about to say are purely imaginary; they’re just nice whole numbers that I’m using to illustrate my point. Say that Club Penguin made $10 million last year from memberships, sponsorships, whatever. We’ll say that that is on a budget of $8 million. So that would equate to a profit of $2 million. Now, Club Penguin has been pretty steady for the last year in sponsorships and such, although some report declining membership sales, we’ll say it is all and all the same. This year, we’ve seen massive changes at Club Penguin. They’ve lost lots of offices, staff, and languages. Now, let’s say it takes them only $5 million to make the same game that it used to take $8 million to make. That would mean that CP would have to lose $3 million dollars before Disney ever lost a penny. Again, the numbers are hypotheticals meant to make it easy, but the concept stands.

By slicing down staff and pushing all development to 3D, as evidenced by recolored items and recycled or tiny parties, CP has been stashing away cash to cover their deficit if PSS fails. It’s a big business plan; whenever you put an investment into a radical new concept, you also need to set aside some backup money in case that fails. But Club Penguin is setting aside that money to operate if it fails – it’s setting it aside to cover the losses, then close with a balanced budget. The unfortunate reality is that PSS is hit or miss. It needs to do very well to prove its worth, because I’m sure there is nothing more that some Disney executives want to do than close down another office, another division, and repurpose that money elsewhere.

I think that the closures today ultimately send the message that this community needed to here. I’m sorry to say, but Disney isn’t operating to make anyone feel better. It is a business operating for profit, and it has every right to do so. It isn’t going to stand around pouring money into a video game industry that some say is on its final breath, and who knows, maybe it won’t stand around pouring money into a mobile game clumsily adapted to work on the desktop. Only time will tell. The only constant is that a radical change is about to hit us, the popularity of which will determine the survival of “the game we love”.

I put that last part in quotes intentionally, because I have one final point. I think PSS looks very good, honestly. It is high quality art, and there are some very good features. However, by its very definition, it is not Club Penguin in the least sense of the word. It’s a totally new ballgame, more on a Club Penguin 2 than any kind of major update. I see no appeal in it. Club Penguin dragged me in years ago, and I’m long past the time of playing it for entertainment, but I have a hard time seeing my past-self being intrigued by this new game entirely. It looks like another sheep edition in a flock of 3D open-world social games. Maybe that’s just me, and for Disney’s sake I sure hope so. But to me, there would be no additional sadness if PSS caused Club Penguin to close. In my eyes, Club Penguin will have closed the second that it launches. If you’ve never before the witnessed the end of an era, you’re about to do so.

Club Penguin is putting all of its eggs into this basket. So let’s hope that it’s a damn good basket.