Neopets Founder AMA

Neopets topics not covered by the other forums go here.
Post Reply
User avatar
Cranberry
Posts: 1871
Joined: 30 Jan 2006 10:04 am
Gender: Female
Human Avatar: 183848
Location: Canada

Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Cranberry » 27 May 2014 09:44 pm

Donna (and Adam, a little bit) did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. There are some great tidbits in there!
Xweetok and Ogrin were my parting 'gift' to Neopets. I thought they were the most hideous pet designs and worst names I had ever heard, so I approved them...
There I said it...
Basically the first group of investors (who were the guys that had spare office space in Glendale as their automotive firm was being downsized) were scientologists.

When we realised it was a bit of a shock. Somewhat awkward moment when you realise you started the biggest entertainment site visited by millions of children and teens, but the upper management you just signed the company over to are part of some weird religion that is banned in some countries...

The company was structured like a scientology org. It didnt really change anything that I noticed apart from some odd test that interviewees had to take consisting of questions like which straight line seemed friendlier and stuff like that. We also had a lot of obscure celebrities coming round the office for tours.

At one time there was some talk about putting scientology education on the site, but we killed that idea pretty sharpish.
Adam and I made sure that it never made its way onto anything site related. Religion and politics were two big no nos for us as far as site content went. Can't say the discussions we had to keep it that way were much fun though!
Names.. Adam and I hate naming things. It always has been the bane of our life. Our 2nd kid was 5 weeks old before he had a name! The names come from all over. Wocky is from Jabberwocky, Scorchio is from a Fast Show sketch, Aisha is from a Death in Vegas song we were listening to. I don't know why, the lyrics are "I am a murderer, Aisha, etc" doesn't really fit with cute cat-like creature when you think of it.
Ok.. here goes...

Nov 2010 Meteor Games was doing well, it was profitable with no debt.

Dec 2010 Neopets came to us as they wanted to do something on Facebook. We didnt want to make the Neopets FB game, we thought it was a very bad idea. In fact I cannot stress how much we really did not want to do it. It was only after weeks and weeks of being tag teamed by our senior management that we faltered.

They convinced us it was the best thing to do for our company. So, yes it was our fault for a) hiring them and b) listening to them.
Adam and I agreed to make the game with the understanding that it wouldnt be your standard simple FB click, stars, spam friends thing. It would be something designed to grow slowly and last for years. It would not be an overnight success, it would take months and months of updates to start seeing real growth. Neopets GM said she was totally on board for this.

We hired a lot of people to make the game and spent a lot of money upfront on servers to run the game. Yes this was also stupid, but we were being assured by people on all sides that this was totally fine.

Viacom wanted the game launched ASAP so we agreed to do a cut down version with the understanding that the other features would be added over time.

Initial version of game goes live, a couple of months of minor updates go by. As expected the playerbase was building slowly.
Neopets GM decides to can game as not performing as they expected.

I had to lay off over 80 people, who hadnt done anything wrong just a few weeks before Christmas. Never felt more shitty in my entire life. Company was in debt as we had bought all these now useless servers and paid a lot of people's salaries for months of development time.

Game over for Meteor.
One of the early fan encounters I remember was in a toy shop in Santa Monica. This lady came up to Adam and I and was quite annoyed. Apparently her account had been frozen and she had driven across the country to confront Adam about it. After venting for a bit she reached into her handbag to pull something out. Adam was totally petrified she had a gun. Fortunately it was just a piece of paper with her username on it.

Still cracks me up to think about it.

It all turned out ok. They had a computer in the toy shop and Adam unfroze her account there and then.
And much more! It was really interesting to read through.
Image

User avatar
Runic
Posts: 182
Joined: 23 Apr 2011 10:37 pm
Gender: Female

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Runic » 27 May 2014 11:03 pm

That was a great read overall! I'm glad to know they're both doing well. =)

User avatar
Kantark
Posts: 1926
Joined: 18 Jan 2006 08:59 pm
Gender: Male
Location: UK

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Kantark » 28 May 2014 12:11 am

I was watching the Fast Show special episode earlier (which featured a brief mention of 'Scorchio!')

Wow, there was lots of that to read, took bloomin ages! I vaguely remember that a long time ago I used to suspect that the DIV single 'Aisha' was the inspiration for the pet.

They've certainly been on a bit of a rollercoaster what with the shenanigans at Meteor. Sad how that turned out, but it's interesting to hear about their new project which sounds like it'll be a more virtual pet-orientated thing.
Image
Neopets: sparkygoesforth, decommissioned, nightfall, LiveJournal:kantark, Last.FM:Kantark

User avatar
EofS
Posts: 1741
Joined: 07 Jan 2006 09:16 pm
Gender: Female
Location: In your mind, eating the mental chocolate

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by EofS » 28 May 2014 02:26 am

Also, whose brilliant idea was the Brain Tree? It's such a weird, original concept for a Halloween creature. Was there ever any explanation or story behind it we never got to see?
I think it was just drawn by one of the artists and I came up with a backstory and a (frankly, awful) activity for it. Also it's a place in Essex.
Mind. Blown.

How have I not noticed that in thirteen years. This feels like when I realised that the Esophagor was named after the oesophagus, except there I had the excuse that a) it was based on the American spelling and b) I realised that years ago so it took me much less than thirteen years.
Image

User avatar
thelonetiel
Posts: 1063
Joined: 07 Jan 2006 08:56 pm
Gender: Female
Human Avatar: 15268
Location: Nuevo Mexico, Estados Unidos

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by thelonetiel » 28 May 2014 06:50 am

The Meteor Games story just made me want to hit things. What awesome concepts, and terrible, terrible management.

I also found the mentions of featheralley interesting - apparently she was a monitor and was using/abusing admin privileges? I kinda wish that had been expanded on more, I was always curious as to how hrobi and etc got so rich and powerful, and from the comments here, it was because there was not a sufficient system in place to prevent abuse of power by admins.

The Ogrin and Xweetok thing is *hilarious*. Although I think both are good additions to the site now, it's worked out after all.

User avatar
Madge
Posts: 1539
Joined: 19 Jan 2006 05:05 am
Gender: Female
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Contact:

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Madge » 28 May 2014 07:15 am

I am so fucking vindicated the Ogrin was meant to be hideous because I HATE that thing.

User avatar
Cranberry
Posts: 1871
Joined: 30 Jan 2006 10:04 am
Gender: Female
Human Avatar: 183848
Location: Canada

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Cranberry » 28 May 2014 08:25 am

Me too. I laughed out loud when I read that.
Image

User avatar
Madge
Posts: 1539
Joined: 19 Jan 2006 05:05 am
Gender: Female
Location: Perth, Western Australia
Contact:

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Madge » 28 May 2014 08:49 am

Seems the Ogrin was released before 2006 because I so badly wanted to find the original thread and quote choice parts of it. :(

It's really scary to think that the Ogrin is like 8 years old as a species. It's almost scandalous!

User avatar
Faun
Posts: 358
Joined: 02 Oct 2009 04:11 pm
Gender: Female
Location: Avalar

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Faun » 28 May 2014 01:54 pm

The bit about the brain tree made me laugh. I live really close to Braintree in Essex but I never made the connection.
Neopets || Subeta
formerly known as fluffy-emo-wolf
Tumblr ||Twitter

User avatar
Jazzy
Devil's Advocate
Posts: 1936
Joined: 04 Jan 2006 06:06 pm
Gender: Female
Location: a g-orbital
Contact:

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Jazzy » 28 May 2014 03:20 pm

How have I not noticed that in thirteen years.
Like Faun I live(d) nearby, so I'm sure I must have mentioned the place!

When I saw the Scientologist question I thought it was a ridiculous conspiracy theory (because California == Scientology). I was astonished at the answer!

User avatar
Color Wheel
Posts: 385
Joined: 06 Feb 2012 02:53 am
Gender: Female
Location: Neovia
Contact:

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Color Wheel » 28 May 2014 09:14 pm

I can always appreciate how honest Donna is! Good to hear her and Adam are doing fine.

The Scientology thing will never not make me laugh. "Which straight line seems friendlier" indeed.

User avatar
Kantark
Posts: 1926
Joined: 18 Jan 2006 08:59 pm
Gender: Male
Location: UK

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Kantark » 28 May 2014 11:14 pm

I'm surprised few of us UK-ers had got the Brain Tree/Braintree thing. Ever since I noticed that I've been over-alert to potential place-name references. Roxton Colchester and Clara Chatham (and to a lesser degree Mr. Krawley) all set off my 'we just stuck a pin in the south-east page of a UK road atlas' alarm. Although I think those three are all Viacom-era characters.

My favourite mid-90s pop-culture reference disappeared during the site revamp - the header image for the Pet Central page which had a picture of a Uni and in the background 'my lovely horse', totally a reference to Father Ted's legendary Eurosong entry.

RE: Scientology - Doesn't anybody remember the Doug Dohring(?) years?
Image
Neopets: sparkygoesforth, decommissioned, nightfall, LiveJournal:kantark, Last.FM:Kantark

User avatar
Jazzy
Devil's Advocate
Posts: 1936
Joined: 04 Jan 2006 06:06 pm
Gender: Female
Location: a g-orbital
Contact:

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Jazzy » 29 May 2014 09:34 pm

I had genuinely blocked Doug Dohring out of my mind until you mentioned that. Memories!

User avatar
Ailiel
Posts: 481
Joined: 19 Jan 2006 11:13 pm
Gender: Female

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Ailiel » 31 May 2014 06:05 pm

I'm on reddit and this has all been fascinating to me.

I remember the scientology thing came up all over again for me back when I watched Veronica Mars the first time. When the movie came out earlier this year I was so excited! Jason Dohring... still as hot as ever.

I loved the pic of Donna and the baby. I feel so old right now. My Neopets are older than I was when I started playing. :shock:

User avatar
Fury
Posts: 584
Joined: 30 May 2007 01:55 pm
Gender: Female
Location: England
Contact:

Re: Neopets Founder AMA

Post by Fury » 31 May 2014 07:59 pm

Ahaha thanks for sharing this! I'd never heard about the Scientology involvement before, that's fascinating.

(Also HI, I haven't visited here in forever - how are you all?!)

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests