2014 in CP – Critical Review!

Greetings Penguins!

There’s much debate about which year has been the best year (ever) in CP. Some prefer the simplicity of the 2006/7 days whilst others appreciate the rich content and gameplay of the 2009-2011 years. Whichever your preference, there’s little debate about which year has been the worst (or at least the most unsuccessful) year on the snow covered island. That year is of course 2014.

Content

2014 has been interesting. We’ve had the usual 12 months of main parties, including new mini-events inspired by the game in its’ youth. Not only this, but CP gave us a plethora of Puffles, pins, items and quests to enjoy – not to mention a stop-motion animated TV show and a couple of mobile applications. On paper, this would sound like a very fruitful and successful year. How can the release of so much content result in a disappointing year when the likes of 2005-7 brought nothing special outside of the game itself?

The fundamental issue is not the content itself, but rather the quality of said content. Sure, we got a lot of new stuff this year, but little of it was actually worth the player’s time. More on this later however. The point here is that this year was disappointing. Maybe not to new players or when compared to other virtual worlds, but definitely a major let-down in terms of Club Penguin’s famous standards.

Parties

The major issue throughout the year was the parties. These events are one of the major selling points of the game as each unique party – whether sponsored by another franchise or not – are original due to the fact that they take place on an island inhabited primarily by penguins. Parties aim to attract players, both old and new, to log in and experience the event and hopefully purchase a membership for all those nifty extra features. This has always worked for CP due to their ability to completely re-design many of their virtual rooms in a rich, contextually aware setting. For example, a Pirate Party is likely to contain many pirate ships and pirates.

The issues don’t lay within this business model. Instead, they lay with the context of the party, as well as the decorations, gameplay and sometimes items available. In the old days, the team would simply design most of the rooms available with small but contextually-relevant decorations. One Christmas tree at the Forest was enough to make their point and it worked well. After Disney purchased the game, parties became more advanced. The small “free item” stands were replaced by challenges and quests in order to earn the exclusive item(s). Decorated rooms were plentiful and incredibly well thought out. The artwork is something we appreciated back then, and certainly do even more so today.

Coins for Change became an instant controversy after many speculated that the grand total of coins donated had been altered in the company’s favour. A total of 26 billion coins were apparently donated; despite the charity not really being advertised as much as other parties. Add to this the fact that fewer penguins logged in when compared to 2013’s version and how we struggled to even reach the goal and it all seems a little Fluffy the Fishy.

Lack of effort from the team due to the mobile app, parties have seriously declined this year. We’ve had the old favourites such as the Halloween party, Music Jam and the Holiday party under a new name. However, none compared (with the possible exception of the Halloween Party which certainly wasn’t the worst to date) to past versions. The Music Jam failed miserably, sparking many to complain and dub it as the worst party ever – if not easily the worst of 2014. The Merry Walrus event fell flat and caused the #SaveTheClubPenguin trend on Twitter. This was the year penguins hit breaking point. Sure, 2013 wasn’t the best year either; but it certainly topped 2014.

Puffles

Penguin’s favourite pets are of course Puffles. These furry, fluffball creatures have been fan favourites since their debut in 2005 (and adoptability in 2006). Typically, one Puffle per year was the norm. Each version came in a new colour and had its’ own personality that hoped to match some of the target audience. Because of their annual release, a new Puffle was an exciting event. Those old enough to remember the first appearance of the Yellow, White and Orange Puffles in particular will know what I mean. CP never released them instantly for adoption. Instead, they would have them appear in certain places on the island at certain types – usually during a party or event. The release of a Puffle then resulted in furniture matching the new colour and real-life merchandise.

2013 introduced multiple Puffles. 2014 however, saw a huge increase in our fluffy friends. We’ve also seen the introduction of Puffle Creatures – Puffles inspired by real-life animals such as dogs, cats and mythical creatures such as the unicorn (and whilst never adoptable – the dragon). I personally was never a fan of Puffle Creatures as they seemed too odd-looking and not exactly very creative. The release of a Puffle was once a celebrated event. Now however, it seems to annoy more than it does please. With one seeming to appear ever other party as a selling-point (rare Puffles for Members – buy now!), many are sick and tired of them being released almost every month. Either they need to be released less-often, or they need to possess much more unique abilities and personalities. Either way, I can’t see the Puffle-apocolypse ending in 2015.

Quests & Tasks

“Come back tomorrow for another item!”. The phrase that haunts many. A cheap way of getting players to log in every day; CP has adopted this formula for a few years now – but none worse than in 2014. Sure, not every party possessed this horrific message, but those that did had extremely slow, repetitive, boring and easy to complete quests that would take the average player much less than a minute to complete. If you are to have players clicking on obvious, gigantic-sized snowflakes to earn an item (Frozen Party), why not just allow them to claim it instantly instead? Oh yes, to make them stay online longer and hopefully send their money Disney’s way in return for an exclusive item.

The Pirate Party had us sword-fighting other penguins in an effort to save the island from pirate crabs, and of course earn items whilst doing it. This was all players had to do throughout the entire party. Sharing the gameplay with that of the Star Wars Party, Rock Paper Scissors and Card Jitsu, this has become incredibly tiresome already. Having players do it for an entire week (the time it took to complete all the tasks) and boredom is bound to rise due to the same-old repetition. At least involve some strategy like Card Jitsu did!

Items

Items were often the main reason one would log in during a party. An item that could someday become rare was incredibly popular back in the early dates. Each party had only a few items and almost all were available for everyone. Almost all the items were also memorable. The Inflatable Duck (both Green and Yellow variants) and the Anniversary Party Hats are all incredibly memorable items. Ask me in 2009 which items were given away at which party and I could’ve written you an essay. These days however, we get a selection of uninspired items that are often re-coloured versions of those released previous years.

Non-Members are unfortunate in the respect that they get either hand or head items. This limits players in ways that it never did back in the early years. Body, feet, neck and face items seem to be a Members-only privilege at parties which is incredibly annoying. Would fewer players not purchase a Membership because everyone got a free hoodie at a party? I think not. The main point here is that the majority of items are lacking in creativity and functionality. The Hard Hat/Mining Hat series were effective for role-playing as a construction worker – complete with a special dance animation. Likewise with the Inflatable Ducks and Water Wings – players could pretend they were swimming.

Much fewer animations are added for items too. Special dances were once a very common addition to an exclusive item at a party. Now, when these do actually get released which is a rarity in itself, they’re reserved for Members. Heck, even the newer Puffles lack a unique dancing animation that was once guaranteed with a new Puffle. I’d happily take much fewer items if they were more memorable, quality in terms of creativity and design and of course possessed some special animations. Will we ever get that? I doubt it. I really doubt it.

Apps

With CP’s move to mobile well underway, we have seen a few spin-off apps released. Sled Racer was a decent Temple Run-style game complete with appealing 3D graphics and relatively fun if not repetitive gameplay. However, the app has not since received any updates to make me want to open it again. Puffle Wild, a Candy Crush-clone, is simply an attempt to release a huge amount of Puffles exclusive to Members. If you’re not a member, have fun with the incredibly repetitive and frustrating game. I’m damn sure I did(n’t).

The main CP app had its’ very own moment this year as it was finally released for (some) Android devices. Although it took about a year, it is a decent port that’s almost the same in every way to the iOS version. However, I still never actually use this app as its’ still incredibly slow and clunky, requiring plenty of 3D rendering which can cause even the faster devices to lag when in popular rooms. Sure, the graphics are nice and the 3D models and animations are great – but it needs some performance upgrades before it becomes my default way of logging on the island.

Another issue with the main app is that its’ restricting the desktop version. The features of each party must work on both devices to ensure the experience is equal on all platforms. This is the fundamental reason behind the disappointing parties this year. Something must be done about this – the app is supposed to assist the desktop version – not limit its’ features. I’d happily take the quality of other years over a half-working mobile app any day.

Merchandise

2008 was a revolutionary year for CP due to the major release in merchandise. Plush toys, figurines, Card Jitsu cards, playsets etc you name it were available worldwide and were instant successes. The first series of the plush toys – especially a Rockhopper plush – were exceptionally popular. So much so that they had sold out in the US before they reached other countries. The exclusive code in which unlocked items online was the likely reason behind this.

CP now seems to only sell Membership cards. I’ve not seen any CP-related toys in any toy store for a long time as production of these items has now ended. I’d of liked to see the introduction of some items this year. Perhaps some Puffle-themed toys to go with those released in-game. Perhaps CP doesn’t feel the demand for such items is strong enough anymore? Or maybe they cannot think of any more items for the Treasure Book?

Broken Promises

Broken promises? What now? You may remember Spike Hike mentioning the likes of CPNext and Server Jumping, as well as Project Super Secret (PSS) – all of which are to change the game in a massive way. With CPNext being initially announced in 2013 and PSS in 2014, we haven’t heard much since. The most optimistic of us may argue that 2014 was lacking in many areas due to the team’s hard work on all these new features. Whether this is true or not doesn’t change the fact that 2015 must be a better year. We need to see these features sooner rather than later otherwise the company will suffer financially.

Overall

To conclude, 2014 was a year that oozed disappointment. There were hyped-up events that many, including myself were looking forward to. The Music Jam, Future Party, Pirate Party and Merry Walrus Party all seemed exciting when initially announced – but it quickly became obvious that they all followed the same recycled pattern – easy, boring and repetitive quests, few decorated rooms, little to no storyline and forgettable items. Takeovers are still ongoing as is proven by this month’s Star Wars Rebels party. Lets just hope that there’s no Yoda Puffles lurking in a galaxy far far away.

Not all was bad however, we did have some original and slightly memorable parties such as The Penguin Cup and all those mini-parties. Some Puffles such as the Ghost and Blue Crystal weren’t exactly bad ideas, and the Sasquatch mystery is certainly something that’s still interesting today. 2015 needs to be better however, a lot better. Otherwise more and more penguins will become tired and eventually leave the game for good.

Random CP Fact #36: Despite the speculation, 2014’s Coins for Change grand total of 26 billion coins is approximately 1 billion more than 2013’s total – and an incredible 24 billion more than that of the first Coins for Change in 2007.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson

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About Jimbobson

Virtual World & Tech enthusiast. 3D Artist.

Posted on January 7, 2015, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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