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.