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Spike Hike: The end of an era!

Greetings Penguins!

Earlier this week, Spike Hike announced he would be leaving Disney.

It would be safe to say this shook the Club Penguin community. During this difficult period  of Flash CP – Project Super Secret, users needed stability and comfort. This is where Spike came in. Long-running General Manager of Disney apps (and of course, Club Penguin), he replaced Billybob and faced a massive swarm of attention due to this – whether praise or criticism.

Many believed Spike was “evil”, a replacement to Billybob which never quite settled too well with the games fanbase. Any issue or problem occurred on the game – Spike Hike was to blame. Whilst terribly unfair, Spike Hike continued the legacy left by the original CP founders. It was, and still is to this day, in very good hands. Even during the announcements of Project Super Secret, losing all our items and the new experience being mobile-only, Spike Hike was undoubtedly behind this. Solely? No. With the interests of everyone at heart? Absolutely.

Replacing a member of the community of which existed from the very beginning – and fast-tracked the games’ development since its early days was no easy feat. Spike took the role of a leader, someone to admire and look up to when times turned dark. Today’s meet up with the legendary purple-mohawk bearing penguin showed just how much of an impact this man had upon CP’s legacy. Sure, Billybob was the original manager, but absolutely nobody could argue Spike was significant and upmost the man to thank for CP’s continuous – if not somewhat declining – existence.

He lead us to PSS. For whatever reason, he now decides to leave this island and begin adventures anew. Is this because he was fired? Is this because of CP’s almost dramatic decline into barely-existence? I don’t believe so. Many of us feel the need to move on eventually. As did Rocketsnail. As did Screenhog. As did Happy77. As did Polo Field. As did Businesmoose. And so on. Many of us dislike too much comfort and decide that a new challenge is the most beneficial to our lives. As the overused cliche of 2013 says: You only live once.

We begin a new chapter very soon where we start again. Our current accounts are almost meaningless. Our new adventures await in the form of PSS. Mobile is undoubtedly the future (despite our battery life woes!), and CP on the desktop will continue to exist until Flash ceases to exist. What we can do now is simple: Look to the future. As a player since 2007, I can say – for the first time in many, many years – that I am excited for this new experience. I probably should’ve left this game years ago – just as my friends did. But something maintained my interested in this game and I believe PSS is just that.

Spike Hike, you were and are a truly great leader. Sure, the recent lack of communication was somewhat frustrating but we always knew the you – a long-lasting familiar face upon the CP scene – existed to keep us calm and motivated. You claimed that us, the fanbase, are actually the “new CEO of the game” but we need a familiar face to guide us – just as you did upon Billybob’s resignation.

With a new version of CP (in the form of PSS) rapidly on its’ way – what fans of the game need is familiarity and stability – something in which Spike Hike could’ve delivered during these admittedly difficult times for the game. If not, who will? The community! We exist regardless of the current manager and staff members. But we need someone to provide our faith too. Will this be Megg – a refreshingly young woman able to connect with the majority of players? Who knows. But please, give us something. We need as much support as possible during the transitional period.

A general manager leaving at this point is simply unsettling..

Until next time, Waddle on. And thanks, Spike Hike. For everything over these past few years. Here’s to your future! As well as ours.

-Jimbobson

What is wrong with Club Penguin?

Greetings Penguins!

Lately, many players including myself have been expressing our concerns and worries regarding the current state of the game. Whether raging over unfixed bugs or complaining about less-than-satisfactory parties, it is agreed amongst most players (veterans in particular) that the overall quality of the game has gone downhill; particularly over the last couple of years. But why is this? In this post I’ll express some of my own complaints, as if they weren’t already obvious within the monthly critical reviews.

Technology Limbo

Club Penguin is currently in what seems to be a state of confusion. Firstly there’s the desktop version of the site in which is the main focus; including all rooms and features the game has to offer. The mobile app however is still lacking in certain areas. This means that parties and quests must be suitable for both platforms – something in which is not only a difficult process, but also a time-consuming one. The team have to make two versions of pretty much everything, simply to enable both platforms to work in unison. Or rather, as close to as possible.

The solution to this of course appears to be CP Next. Or at least that’s what we think. We don’t hear much about it anymore; something of which has many pondering when we will see a release date for this new tech. Even if it’s not quite ready yet (which I’m sure it’s nowhere near), some updates by Spike Hike or other members of the team are required. Until then, expect small-scale parties with the same-old type of quests.

Bugs & Private Servers

I’m not going to focus on this section to much as its’ fairly self-explanatory.

Every game has bugs – especially with a game as big as CP. The only issue is many aren’t resolved, despite how many emails are received highlighting them. This quests whether our feedback is answered at all – but more on that later.

Private servers are, as the name suggests, servers in which are uploaded online by fans in which try to create a custom version of our beloved game – often including free membership and other perks. Using old CP .swf files, some code and a database to create such things is of course against CP’s rules.

Whilst private servers have been online for a fair few years now, they have rose in popularity recently because they ironically offer more than the game does in its’ current state. Those who want free membership, less-strict chat filters and to experience ‘Old CP’ will likely try these unofficial versions of the island and quickly make friends (due to the chat filter – again more on that later). Some private servers even allow swearing and other adult language; attracting the more mature audience.

I’ll admit I’ve tried a few during my time – but who hasn’t? Being curious of all-things Club Penguin leads one to want to experiment with other adaptations. Would I ever create one though? No, I’d prefer to create my own virtual world. Ultimately, these private servers need to either be taken down faster by Disney or else players will begin to look for something new – and what better than to play a game you already know better than your Great Aunt (but with a twist of course). Weird example, but you get the idea.

The “Did that show?” Problem

Likely the most asked question on the island ever. Where’s the new pin? Where did you find that? Wanna be friends? All popular phrases. But amongst those actually wanting to have a non-safe-chat conversation, this is a very very common question. Simply put, the chat filter is extremely strict. Of course, it has to be. During the 2005-2008 era, players found creative ways to talk inappropriate or even share their personal phone number (2005-2007 only, when numbers were allowed). This meant that more strict filters had to be put in place.

The negative side? Nothing shows. Well, not nothing – but very few things. Even common terms can find themselves unable to bypass the filter. It’s like one of those antiviruses in which blocks everything you download. Only you can’t turn it off..

For a game in which was built to enable a safe chatting environment for kids, it works well. But also not so well, as the kids cannot chat properly. It’s a broken feature in which has haunted the island for several years. Sure, the chat prediction and safe chat can be seen as a way through this, but it is extremely limiting to the social experience of the game.

What do I think should be done? Well, I’d firstly like a ‘chat filter strictness’ feature in which parents (and older players) can control to suit their needs. Standard chat and Safe chat is the same principle, only simplified. Strict would be as currently is, whilst Not-so-strict could be more like 2007. There could even be an anything-goes option, in which allows pretty much anything (except the obvious like swearing, sexual and drug related words/sentences). Sure, the island would be fairly fragmented, but each player could have an indicator on the player card showing which strictness they chose – to avoid this annoying question being asked so much.

But how do we remove this question ENTIRELY?! Simple-ish! (Simple to explain, maybe not so simple for the team). The Moderators can see what every player says – even what doesn’t bypass the filter (they see it as a faded out bubble). CP could implement something similar for players. Once something is typed and sent, said text bubble could be faded – or even include an icon like a ‘!’ indicating that said message did not bypass the filter. Simple, but effective.

Small-Scale Parties & Giant Pins

It’s no surprise that the recent subpar parties and the growth of the fortnightly hidden pins makes this list. Parties are what encourages the player to continuously log in every month, and has been the same since 2005. We know why the parties are getting smaller, as the team has too much work to do in other areas. The game has far too many features and far too many of said features are being ignored. Stamps, old room designs still existing, the EPF, mascots? All of which contribute to an uneven game in which is becoming more fragmented month by month.

The worst part is, CP has openly criticised the amount of rooms in the game. Due to the plethora of rooms, penguins are spread out over the island, rather than in a community. This not only hurts the social aspect of the game, but also the discovery of pins and items – thus why most parties take place over a few rooms, particularly the most popular ones. The only issue is, CP keeps adding MORE rooms. What?!

As for pins, they’re getting huge. Nobody wants them so huge. But they’re still huge. That’s pretty much it, and brings me to my next point.

Finance over Feedback

One thing Rsnail stated was a pivotal thought when creating the game was that feedback was necessary – designing without feedback is “dangerous” as he quotes. This is true, though was more so when he was creating said game. Still, CP prides itself by claiming that feedback is always received and listened to, i.e “passed onto the team”. For example, the Frozen Party was requested by many. Same with the Teen Beach Movie, everyone wanted that to happen, right? Wrong.

The thing is, if an idea has any financial potential – they will consider it. When a few players want a particular takeover, Spike Hike or Polo Field will openly say that “if that’s what the community wants, we’ll do it!”. Yet when mentions of a more traditional approach to the next party – such as a history event for example, neither CP iconic staff members are anywhere to be seen. Spike says that nostalgic ideas aren’t the way to go – but why not? If that’s what players want – surely they should at least consider it?

We ask for less Puffles – they give us more.

We ask for smaller pins – they get bigger.

We ask for island-wide parties – they get smaller.

We ask for parties that include a plot, and more focus on the EPF – Get neither.

Many, many veteran players want a tribute to old CP – get nothing (I don’t count the new ‘Mystery Attic’ as a tribute).

Players ask for no more takeovers – several per year.

Some players ask for a Frozen party – sure!

See a trend here? I realise CP is a business and needs money. But ignoring feedback is going to damage the game more so than a loss in profit. However, this is of course Disney we’re talking about.

What can be done?

Whilst I’m not the CEO of CP and highly doubt I ever will be; I have my own ideas and opinions. Whilst I do try to make my posts fairly objective at times – they’re still mostly subjective. Here’s the key areas I want to see fixed, not necessarily in order:

New Technology – CP Next is needed ASAP. It should also bring the desktop site and mobile app together as one, finally.

Better Chat System – Everyone agrees!

Feedback being listened to – Evidence of this would be fantastic.

Bigger Parties – Even if they happened every few months, with mini-parties filling the respective gaps.

Difficulty – Quests, Pins etc should be a little harder. Even the youngest of players can throw snowballs or click on a giant pin. It’s not difficult and takes away the “can you help me?” aspect of the game. It’s a game based around helping each other and being a community. 

So how is all this achieved? I’d personally like to see CP take a few months break. Forget major parties and Puffles and all that. Throw small-scale events whilst a second Club Penguin Improvement Project (CPIP) takes place. Maybe it takes place on the actual site or even a separate one like the original CPIP did. The team needs time to fix the game, and the “party monster” needs too much feeding according to Spike.

A plot could even be incorporated. Maybe a giant blizzard covers the island and we are forced to ‘rebuild’ from the ground up – much like the team would be behind the scenes. Okay, I’m getting carried away a bit here. Regardless, I hope the team does what needs to be done – and sooner rather than later. Here’s to the rest of 2015!

Random CP Fact #41: The Club Penguin Improvement Project (CPIP) was simply the testing of several features on a separate site to the original CP, before said features were fit for official release. It occurred in 2008 and hasn’t occurred since.

Until next time, Waddle on!

– Jimbobson