During Club Penguin’s prime, several books were published that could be purchased in stores throughout the world, varying from guides to stories. One format of this were the eight Pick Your Path books, where you could dictate the story by turning to certain page numbers to continue your path.
In this month’s interview, I’m extremely fortunate to be able to ask the author of these books, Tracey West, a series of questions about the writing of them!
It’s been over eleven years since the first Pick Your Path story was released, yet in many ways, very little is known about the process in which the books would be written and published!
The first thing I wanted to ask was the process behind their publication, from who was contacted first to the flexibility regarding the plot.
I was hired by Grosset & Dunlap, who had a licensed agreement with Club Penguin to create the books. I had written several pick-your-path style books for other properties.
My sister, Katherine Noll, and I worked on guidebooks for Club Penguin so I was very familiar with the game before I began to write the narrative books. Club Penguin would let my editor at Grosset know what they wanted the theme of the book to be–puffles, for example–and I would work out the plots from there.
If you’ve read some of the books, it’s very clear that there’s a lot of details that most people wouldn’t instinctively be familiar with! The examples that immediately come to mind are depictions of puffle personalities, such as how the black puffle would be shown to have a grumpy personality and catch flames, just like in-game.
Such details seemed to indicate familiarity with the Club Penguin universe, but I wanted to confirm if this was the case, or if there were ever difficulties posed in keeping the content “true” to the game.
Thanks for noticing those details! Yes, before I began writing the guidebooks both my sister and I became very serious players of the game. I was given a member account and if I remember correctly, I would be given coins so that I could keep up with the new items coming out and test them out.
I played a lot of CP and so did my youngest stepson, Zane. So I played the games, completed the quests, went to the parties, decorated my igloo–and all of that really helped when writing the books, because I was immersed in the world.
One of the three Club Penguin guidebooks
Despite that, there was a lot of flexibility and freedom within stories!
I have to say that I am very grateful to Club Penguin for giving me a lot of freedom with the stories. When you write for a license, you have to stay true to the world and the characters and the experiences. Playing the game helped me do that, and Club Penguin let me have fun with these stories that I appreciate.
For those who are unaware how the Pick Your Path style worked, you could read through the book where you’d face an option. Depending on which option you selected, you’d be directed to a new page number to continue your journey.
I must admit, writing in that format always seemed really challenging to me! I was curious on if there were ever difficulties in maintaining this style.
The Pick Your Path style is definitely challenging, because you have to first come up with a plot that is strong enough yet flexible enough to go in many different directions.
When I write in this style, I use poster board and post-it notes to plot out each story and see how it goes. That help me makes sure that the reader is able to explore each storyline equally.
To conclude, I asked if there were any memorable stories or events that occurred whilst writing the book.
Honestly, nothing sticks out. I have great memories of playing the game, and Aunt Arctic was my favorite character. I have a little figurine of her that I look at every day. And I miss my puffles!
My favorite book to write was the Great Puffle Switch, because I loved the idea of a player getting to be a puffle.
I found it really interesting to hear about the Club Penguin books, and I hope you did too! I’d like to give a huge thank you to Tracey for dedicating her time in answering my questions!
Thank you very much for reading, waddle on!
Earlier this month, I shared that I was hoping to publish a very exciting interview soon, and this is it! It’s with somebody who had a whole series of roles at Club Penguin, varying from handling support tickets, to holding a leading role in the first series of Card Jitsu cards, to eventually becoming the Community Manager until his departure in the spring of 2015.
That person is Chris Gliddon, who you may recognise by his penguin name, Polo Field, and he joins me for this month’s interview in which he shares some stories, explains some events, but above all, provides an insight on what it was like to manage the community of a game with millions of players!
Before we begin though, I’d like to insert this little disclaimer from Chris: these are based on his views, and aren’t necessarily a reflection of the team’s.
First thing I should say here is that these are only MY opinions. I do not speak for the rest of the former team or companies, etc.
And of course I could be totally wrong about any of this, so take it with a grain of salt!
Coping with Different Demographics
I’m going to start with something that I suspect a lot of people reading this would rather forget: the Frozen Fever Party of 2016. Lasting six weeks, it was the third and longest Frozen takeover to hit the island.
Although this was just over a year after Chris left the team, I bring this up as it highlighted the difficult question of catering for demographics on the island.
The majority of older players found it to be a nightmare, yet there was that argument then that younger players requested and enjoyed it. And this posed a challenge…
Demographics were an interesting one for many of us to learn about. There was a constant tug of war between wanting to create something that our diehard, aging fans would love vs making accessible content that players of many ages could enjoy.
I can only speak for myself, but my goal was to make a Mario-like experience for players of all ages. And to make those experiences feel rooted in the lore and world of Club Penguin as much as possible.
The difficulty though was actually making that “Mario-like experience” which enticed everyone of all demographics, as Chris highlighted.
It did make it difficult as a team, as we did work hard to bring these experiences to life. There were plenty of girls who didn’t participate in the “Extended Universe” of the Club Penguin community on social media, but who loved experiences like the Frozen Party for example.
As any product ages, you need to find new ways to find an audience. Those ‘takeovers’ brought in new fans to Club Penguin.
So what was the alternative? Well, I was admittedly quite surprised to hear Chris say that the takeovers did go a bit too far into “cheapening” the island, but in retrospect, he would’ve preferred a different approach.
If it was up to me, I would have done much more fan service and deepening of the core CP lore. Then stick all those other brands into a special catalog and not run them as parties.
CP Island did something like this, and that seemed smart to me. It just felt a bit shocking when the whole classic CP Island got taken over by some other brand’s lore.
I get why we did it, but I felt like it cheapened the CP lore when takeovers reskinned all the rooms. Again – just my personal opinion.
A Global Community, a Global Team
Of course, demographics included more than just age. Although Chris mentioned age was the most the challenging one, Club Penguin had six available languages at its peak.
Bringing that content to all areas in the world required a team of translators, but Club Penguin managed to achieve it – with a lot of regular meetings too!
For a long time we had a team of in-house translators who worked really hard to bring the same tone and feel to the other language versions.
I would have regular meetings with all those amazing translators and they did a fantastic job porting that same sense of charming, friendly fun into their own communities. We’re still all friends on social media many years later.
But the global aspect of the game extended to more than just players: people worked on Club Penguin from all over the world, with offices in different timezones.
My second favorite thing about Penguin was collaborating with all these talented people everywhere. It was a bit like magic, really.
The downside for me was that I couldn’t be as random and spontaneous — I would have to warn the global teams if I had some crazy, random idea. And I had some truly crazy ideas, haha.
An example of people across the world collaborating together was the official Club Penguin blog, on which you’d have British bloggers such as Daffodaily5, and then a lot of bloggers in Canada too.
I wondered if this was all ever difficult to co-ordinate.
I really tried to make our social content process as nimble as I could so fans around the real world could get news at roughly the same time. The hard part of that was managing expectations with the teams around the world. At lot of times the global teams had it hard because they had to react and respond to stupid stuff we came up with at the HQ in Canada, which I think was frustrating for many of the global teams. So that was the hardest part.
It was really neat once we introduced more of the global team penguins on social. Then things started to feel a bit more diverse and interesting. For example, I loved watching Simon’s videos from the UK team. It all just worked better when we let people create freely with guidelines and independence.
The Mystery of Happy77
But since Chris was on, I did want to try and answer a mystery: in 2012, Happy77 announced her departure from the team. However, it was revealed a few years later that the person who initially owned Happy77, Holly, who you may recognise from the New Horizons documentary, actually left much earlier.
I was wondering why there was a decision to continue acting as Holly.
We always wanted CP to feel like it was small and humble. Having the original female penguin writing on the blog felt like the right move at the time in 2008 or whenever that happened. I wasn’t involved in that decision.
Personally, I just felt kind of uncomfortable with the concept and wanted to slowly move away from it. I pushed for more of an authentic approach, with the entire team writing or posting as themselves… their own penguin names. It was awesome! The beginning of Mod Mondays, the varied guests on the Spoiler Alert… I thought it was much more interesting to have a big cast of creative people. Because we did actually have a big team of very creative people! It just took some time to lay down a foundation before retiring Happy77.
For those who don’t remember what the Spoiler Alert was, it was a weekly series where some information would be given about future updates, but above all, it just provided a bit of fun; different staff members would come together, often playing mini-games, and having fun.
When I first received Chris’ response, I found it genuinely wonderful to read just random stories of joy within the team, and this was one of them!
When Johnny and I started the documentary, one of the first ‘mistakes’ I wanted to fix was the Happy77 story. We actually got some irreplaceable footage of Holly playing as Happy77 for the first time since she left — it was quite special.
We also captured this hilarious moment where Holly asked who was writing as Happy77 now, only to find out that it was… me and Johnny. We actually got her reaction on camera. How awesome is that? It was pretty funny. We all had a good chuckle. Those are the kind of moments that I would love to have in a documentary for you.
Interaction on Social Media
This was probably another major mystery involving the community. Overnight, the Club Penguin team stopped interacting with people on social media accounts such as Twitter, in a move that frustrated a lot of older players.
Fun fact: Chris even had his account suspended for unfollowing too many people at once that night!
So why was this?
Note: COPPA refers to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which imposes several restrictions and requirements on managing data for services and sites targeted at children
You know how last year every YouTuber was complaining about COPPA? I just laughed about it, thinking “welcome to our world ten years+ ago.” It was all about safety of the younger players.
I had to take a very black and white stance on the use of social media, particularly Twitter. Twitter at the time didn’t seem to know what age demo[graphic] they were for, with some of their terms saying 13+ and other places saying 17+. Because some external people would market Club Penguin as being entirely “for kids” (even though I don’t believe that was true), it meant we could really only interact with fans on our own platforms like our blog and the game itself.
The impact of that was frustration within older players: players from 2014 may recall the #SavetheClubPenguin hashtag that was partly motivated by a sense of feeling ignored.
Accusations flew about external intervention from Disney, perpetuated by the occasional reply from a staff member that would immediately be deleted. But in reality, the team did try incredibly hard.
But those weren’t the best platforms for teen communication… they were too restrictive for that audience. That’s one thing I really admire about Roblox — they realized that they needed a ‘graduated’ program that provides the right experience for the right age group.
We did our best but I think it was definitely frustrating for the older members of the community.
If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it?
Perhaps one of the most curious things is how things were constantly revisited: the major shift in artwork that many now class as “modern Club Penguin”, the changes in rooms, to name a few.
I asked Chris if in retrospect, would Club Penguin have benefitted from an attitude of “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”.
What if it was actually broken? In hindsight, yes, some things should have been left alone. But I don’t think changing rooms was really as big a deal as say the launch of the iPhone or iPad. Though I do suspect we spent too much time rethinking stuff instead of making new experiences.
The example that sprung to mind was the transition from the Stage to the Puffle Berry Mall. Ironically, it was heavily criticised by the older demographic, yet I vividly remember Chris explaining the switch back then as a result of the Stage being the least used room.
The Mall was slightly disappointing in terms of features at the time, but keep in mind that most people voted for a Mall over keeping the Stage. And players could still have their own Stages as igloos, which was actually much more interesting than a room with costumes and a script. And I’m actually biased towards the Stage since I worked on quite a few of those plays!
I thought his answer highlighted something interesting about the attitude and skepticism to change that, in hindsight, was probably overdone by players such as myself. And talking about change…
The Present: Private Servers
If I walked into a candy store, stole all of their candy, then opened my own store with the same name, and then started selling that candy… would that be okay?
There was curious symbolism in the recent Spike Saturday on Club Penguin Rewritten, with seeing Chris Heatherly (former General Manger), who was once so deeply cautious of private servers in 2014, playing a private server.
Of course, circumstances and times have changed, but I wondered if Chris’ views had too.
Taking all the CP assets and putting them up on your own server is the same deal. If it was truly an altruistic thing, these CPPS hosts would not have any ads up, would not make any new content or modifications, and would work with a museum to truly preserve the game. And of course, they would also seek official approval from the rights holder to do so. But that’s not what’s happening with the CPPS operators. Sorry.
The issue with a lack of altruism within current private servers has been a prevalent concern, emphasised by Chris’ remarks.
Don’t get me wrong, I love seeing CP going and the community still playing together. There are some talented people that play or operate these pirate servers. I get why people want to play the game, and I don’t like the idea that it’s closed down, either.
But at least with a company there is some accountability when things go wrong.
The Present, with Small Bursts of Imagination
You may remember Small Bursts of Imagination, which was something Chris and Johnny were working on – if not, click here for more information.
I just had to ask for an update about that!
Making a documentary or writing a book would be the easy part. Funding it and getting all the permissions needed? That’s the hard stuff.
I have faith that we will get it done one day. It’s just a question of ‘what is the story?’
Along with that, Chris mentioned a book a while ago with Emma (Bambalou) – again, this post has more information! – and I was curious about the progress of that.
On the book front, I do have a first draft of a book telling Lance’s story! It is quite rough right now, and need to spend a lot more time on it, but it’s got a lot of great stuff and learnings for you guys in there. Over 100,000 words to sort out, so it’s still going to take some time.
There are lots of great stories to come from the former Club Penguin team and players!
That does sound genuinely exciting, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated as more is released! I really enjoyed gaining the deeper insight through this interview, and I hope you enjoyed it too. I’d like to give a massive thank you to Chris for dedicating his time to answering my questions.
Without the community that formed around it, Club Penguin wouldn’t have been as special as it was. Many, many products are released around the world, and very few of them will have that same special spark that we had as a Penguin community.
A community that positively engaged with the content, and drove the direction of the product. We were all lucky to be a part of it. I am still so thankful.
Thank you very much for reading, and once again, a huge thank you to Chris!
Welcome to the first ever Club Penguin community post as part of Club Penguin Mountains’ monthly community profile series! We’ve got an exclusive interview with Echo006, some awesome artwork by Penny2415 and Sandor, blog posts, videos and way more! Every month, I’m going to be speaking to different people and hopefully we could feature some really awesome stuff! Before I begin, I’d like to welcome everyone to send in anything which they might like featured in this post. Without further ado, let’s get into this post!
In our community, there’s no shortage of great artists. So our first ever artwork to be featured in this Community Profile Series is from an amazing artist known as Penny2415.
Hey guys, so at first glance of my art you may notice a red penguin with a jet pack and wonder is that jet pack guy? The answer is yes, I just like to draw him with hair lol. I mainly just draw Penny and jpg, you may notice I like to draw gore and glowing effects on things. Well I don’t know what else to say so I guess that’s it. Enjoy browsing through some of my pieces!
I’m sure you’ll agree with me when I say that this artwork is amazing. Penny is also hosting a contest where you could get your very own drawing by writing a short Halloween Story. The details can be found on her social media accounts. These are only some of her pieces so if you’d like to see more of her artwork, be sure to support her on DeviantArt! You can also subscribe to her to see speed-artworks and follow her on Twitter!
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Penny2415′ show_count=’yes’]
Penny’s DeviantArt: http://penny2415.deviantart.com/
This week, I want to feature another amazing artist, and focus on his latest project. His name is Sandor, and you may recognise his name as the owner of the CPPS, Flippr. I’d like to share with you his Music Jam which he created. In my opinion, it’s better than Club Penguin’s work!
If that isn’t good enough for you, the above is only four rooms. Sandor literally re-created the ENTIRE island and made it into a simulation which you can view on his website. I would highly recommend you spend a few minutes touring his island by going to his website as it’s absolutely amazing. I believe that he’s also working on some more parties, so be sure to check him out on social media too!
[twitter-follow screen_name=’cpc_customs’ show_count=’yes’]
The Music Jam: http://clubpenguincustoms.com/new/music-jam/
On a smaller note, I’d like to thank DjSpinner13 and Bluey1709 for making some logos for me! I find these really awesome, and I’d like to give them a massive thank you for creating them! You may recognise them from the website, but now you know who made them!
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Djckerr’ show_count=’yes’]
[twitter-follow screen_name=’BlueythePenguin’ show_count=’yes’]
There are many talented players in our community, including video-makers! Now, some of you know that a very popular Club Penguin YouTuber is going to stop making CP videos soon, which is really sad. However, at the time of you reading this, he would have made his final video. For now, I can only show you the 13 second trailer of Pup1one’s “Goodbye, Hello”.
I would highly reccommend you to check out Pup1one’s channel. I’ve made a few posts about him before, and I really love his videos, particularly his Grey Puffle video. I’m sure that you will too! It’s a shame that he’s stopping his channel, but I wish him all the best of luck in the future.
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Pup1one’ show_count=’yes’]
On the topic of trailers, I’d like to share another trailer created by Blue21102, who has created some amazing productions such as “Hermit” and “The Phone Call”. You may have seen those in my DVD, but I suspect that this video will be his masterpiece! Judging from the trailer, it seems amazing!
Whilst we have to “stay tuned” for his next video, he already has some great content on both his blog and his YouTube channel, so go check him out!
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Blue21102′ show_count=’yes’]
Blue’s Blog: https://bluesblogcp.wordpress.com/
Our next video comes from another large Club Penguin YouTuber with over 600 subscribers! Around a month ago, Dadted made a new series called “The Club Penguin Show”. It’s a bit like “The Spoiler Alert” and I’m sure that there will be many more episodes in the future. For now, here is Dadted’s first episode!
I think that this idea is really awesome, and I’m surprised no one thought about it before! It’s a great way for people to have fun, and I’m excited to see what the rest of the show has in store for us!
There are so many amazing blogs in this community and I think it would take many months, if not, years until I cover all the amazing blogs in this series. So, instead I’ve decided to do something different. I’m going to feature a few of my favourite Club Penguin blog posts which I have read this month. If you’re interested, you can check out the rest of their content!
Now, I’ve kept this post a bit secret and as such, I can’t really have people send in their blog posts…but now I can! If you’re interested, please do send in your blog posts which you find interesting! Click the computer screen to read the original post!
There is some controversy surrounding this post by Riyita on Club Penguin Space, however I like it. He’s highlighted what we want to see this Holiday Party and I’m sure a lot of us secretly agree with his opinions. The fact that he is such a large blogger makes it more likely that the team will listen to him. I mean, I made a post requesting that the team returns the Holiday Party Train from 2013 but I doubt they’ll listen to me.
The fact that Riyita has put all of the community’s thoughts into one post for the team to see is the reason why I am featuring it!
Blue21102 is one of my favourite bloggers, and his most recent post is amazing, like all his posts. I think the idea of “Top 10 Memories” is so simple, but Blue has some great ones. I don’t really one to spoil it, but make sure you check out that post, along with the rest of The Blue Blog!
Community Event (#CPUnited):
Every week, at 9pm (UK time), dozens of players attend Club Penguin United, which is a themed meet-up. These events are HUGE throughout the community and sometimes even moderators attend! I would highly reccommend you attending one. It takes place on Monday at 9pm on the server Marshmallow. You can see theme details on their Twitter account! Just check out these screenshots, given to me by one of the hosts, Echo006!
[twitter-follow screen_name=’CPUnitedTeam’ show_count=’yes’]
And talking about CPUnited, I’ve spoken to Echo006, who is one of the hosts of this event. I’ve asked him a few questions, and he’s even shared some exclusive information about an upcoming theme. So let’s all thank Echo!
1. 2016 has been a year hated by many players in the community, including myself. It’s a time of uncertainty for Club Penguin, leading up to #. What are your thoughts regarding this?
As I’ve said many times in tweets regarding #, I am trying to be very optimistic about the future. At first, it was devastating to hear the news that our penguins and all our coins, igloos, puffles, items and stamps wouldn’t be transferred over. But I have come to realise that change is good and for anything to evolve, adapt and stay alive, it needs to change to its environment. Club Penguin is trying to do exactly this. They have recognised that flash games are dying and that flash CP won’t be sustainable anymore, and so are experimenting with newer things, such as Project Super Secret! I definitely think that moving away from desktop and onto apps is a good thing for Club Penguin, but I would be very upset if the desktop version of Club Penguin was shut down, as it has been a part of my life for so long! As for 2016 as a year on Club Penguin, it has been very different to normal years. The parties have been very basic, with little questlines and extremely long. I believe parties should be two weeks, to keep everybody interested and entertained. 6 week parties are boring and tiresome. I don’t even enjoy playing Club Penguin while the Frozen takeover is on. It’s not fun and it’s simply boring. Even Megg knows this. However, I completely understand why Club Penguin are reusing old parties and extending the time on them. It’s because their whole focus has shifted onto Project Super Secret. They’ve realised that flash CP is going to end sooner or later and they have to push forwards and get Project Super Secret released smoothly and quickly, so they have devoted more time to the app than they have to designing new party rooms and items. It’s a shame the Halloween Party and Holiday Party will mostly use rooms from last year, but I’m perfectly okay with this if Project Super Secret really is worth it!
2. How has Club Penguin impacted your life?
Club Penguin has impacted my life in so many different ways. I have been playing it for 8 and a half years now, and I have watched it grow and become an amazing place to hangout. Club Penguin taught me how to type, got me interested in computers and gave me access to Social Media. I made everlasting friendships on Club Penguin and I have become a well-known player amongst the community! I love chatting and talking to people on Twitter, and Club Penguin has definitely become a part of my daily-life. I used to blog about Club Penguin for 2 years and had an amazing experience. And now, we are attempting to unite the community in our weekly meetups, #. My life definitely wouldn’t be the same with Club Penguin.
3. If you were in charge of Club Penguin, what do you do?
If I was in charge of Club Penguin, I would make lots of changes. Firstly, I would change the rules regarding how the staff can interactive with the community and players. I feel that often we are not listened to, and our ideas are not heard or expressed. Luckily, we are very fortunate to have Megg as community manager who does listen and has returned many things that we want, like the Music Jam! I would also ensure that parties were NOT 6 weeks long, and that new interactive content was released every week, not every 2 weeks. I would definitely hide the pins in more obscure places, as well as improving the stability of the Club Penguin app!
4. Could you tell us more about #?
# is an amazing community project that involves the whole community and bringing everyone together. The sole purpose of # is to unite the community and the servers! We wanted to bring a unique and different twist to Club Penguin meetups, and so we decided that our meetups would be different. They would have different themes every week. We’ve had a complete range of activities and every week is unique! The project was thought up by myself, , and ! We run the @ Twitter account and host weekly parties on Marshmallow at 1pm PST! Our meetups are loved by the whole community and everybody gets involved with roleplay and enjoying the activities. It is a truly magical experience where everybody gets together and has so much fun! And, I can exclusively reveal here on CPMountains, that after this week’s meetup Ghosts vs Zombies, we will be having a Candy Scavenger Hunt theme for Halloween on October 9th!!
5. Is there anything else you would like to say?
I would like to say thank you for everyone reading this interview! (I know it’s quite long!) I hope you learnt a lot about what I think of the amazing community and the wonderful game, Club Penguin. I’d like to say a huge shoutout to the # team, and if you haven’t been to our events yet, you really should! Thank you everyone for making this possible, and everyone who follows me on Twitter, @ , you are all awesome!
Wow! I’d like to give a really MASSIVE thank you to Echo006 for allowing me to interview him! Every month, I’m going to aim to interview a member of this community. I think it’s awesome that Echo agreed to this one! Make sure to follow him and the rest of the #CPUnited team provided you do have a Twitter account.
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Echo006′ show_count=’yes’]
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Pingu15cool’ show_count=’yes’]
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Waddles4g1′ show_count=’yes’]
[twitter-follow screen_name=’Kannoo2′ show_count=’yes’]
[twitter-follow screen_name=’CPUnitedTeam’ show_count=’yes’]
To conclude, this has been an awesome post to make! It’s over 2100 words, but most of that was taken up by other people, which is what I’m really trying to do! I hope that there are many more of these in the future because there are so any people who I would like to feature. Thank you to everyone who is featured in this post and thank you for reading! 🙂