Adam and Donna's Reddit AMA
Back on May 25, 2014, Adam and Donna, the original creators of Neopets, took to reddit.com to host an "AMA"—an "Ask Me Anything"—allowing users to ask questions and get answers on anything they wanted.
Below are some of the highlights from the AMA.
FoxPee: I feel that most people who play Neopets now are those who grew up with it, not children. Do you agree and think Neopets would benefit from focusing a bit more on its loyal adult players? I'm not expecting anything drastic, but you know... maybe not silence people for saying they are pregnant in a neomail to a friend because it might offend the children somehow. :P
Donna: Totally agree. Cant have a site that prides itself on people playing for years without expecting to have adult players who do grown up stuff like marry and have kids.
I think its just one of those challenges where context needs to play a bigger part. If we were still running Neopets, we would have posted on New Features when I was pregnant. I can see how they may not want to be the teen pregnancy chat hangout, but...
macteazle: This question is extremely important to me. Do Blumaroos have nostrils?
I dont think they do on any of the art I have seen. Maybe they are hidden in that curled up bit at the end of the nose though...
Adam: Donna, stop playing around. You know the answer, so tell them.
Donna: Yes, yes they do!
MKandtheforce: Thanks for the magical childhood memories! :)
What was/is your favourite neopet?
Donna: Thanks for playing, it may sound cheesy but the thing Adam and I miss most about not running Neopets anymore is the community. The Neopets fanbase was so diverse and interesting. Its just a shame that most corporate folks think Neopets was just a game for kids.
Anyway back to your question, its a tie between the Chia and Wocky I am afraid. Chia, because that was the first Neopet I ever drew so that will always have a fond place in my heart. Wocky, I don't know why, but I just really liked drawing those. I dont think I could draw one now though, I am extremely rusty!
Fluffaykitties: My friends and I were discussing what wockies evolved from. One said jujubs, and had a diagram as proof. I dunno if I'm convinced.
I'll ask you, then. Where did the wockies come from? Did they evolve from a specific other pet?
Donna: Nope, Wockies were just something I doodled. They are sort of a cat/lion mix.
NigNogPaddiWog: Is it true that scientology played a role in the organizational structure of the neopets staff at one point?
Donna: Yes. Although we were not aware of it at first as we were totally naive.
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!
Xelquin: Any chance you can shed some light on the whole purple pets having orange spots? I know this was supposed to be revealed in a Return of DR. Sloth plot, but with the whole customisation and update of the site 6 years ago purple pets just lost that orange-ness to them. So it doesn't seem like we will ever get an answer through Neopets anymore and I am just really, really curious. Just one of those big mysterious that I wish we knew a bit more about.
Donna: Oh Adam should answer this one. Not that I don't want to, I just don't think I will remember it correctly. I know it made sense at the time.
It was something about one of the Grundos zapping the other on the bum although that is really making it sound lame now...
Adam: Hi there
So, the purple and orange thing, honestly it's been a while. I'll try and tell you what I think I was thinking at the time. I can't really remember what was conveyed to the players though. These things tend to lose a lot in transation.
The spots were a creation by Anthony/Tiger Catcher. He drew them and I told him to keep them because it was funny or cute. Then they sort of stuck, and we drew them on all purple pets. There's something, I think it's Battlestar Galatica the original series where they talk about a purple and orange squadron (the pilot's just making it up to scare the enemy over the radio waves). Let me find it ...
Couldn't find a video, this is all I got - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0519749/quotes [search for purple]
So that's why I personally found it funny. Because we had red/blue/green/yellow but where do you go from there? Anyway, we're stuck with this for a couple years then I finally get the chance to re-visit Dr. Sloth (who was my favourite villain) when we did the trading card expansion. I think we did a comic strip on the site (not too sure), but the whole point behind that expansion was to tell the story of why purple grundos have orange spots (and vice versa?).
I think it was to do with the fact that purple and orange grundos were friends all along. These two warring faction leaders who had been trying to kill each other for a decade suddenly realised they were friends when they were kids. The reason the argument started was when one of them shot the other on the butt leaving a funny-coloured scar. Something like the Hatfield-McCoy feud with a little bit of racist tension thrown in. Who knows what I was thinking?
That's all I got, appreciate anything that could jog my memory!
Pittielynn: Hi Donna! Thanks for this!
My question is, what do you think of the way Neopets has changed since you sold it? How different is it from what you thought it might become, or if you hadn't sold it (What might you have done differently)? I suppose that's technically three questions... Hope you don't mind! :)
Donna: No probs, at the moment I am replying on my tablet so excuse me if I type gibberish or post mid answer. Honestly, I don't think that Neopets moved with the times. There haven't been any major changes (aside from messing up the navigation, the neopet style update and the mall). When we created Neopets believe it or not, it was cutting edge.
There are so many technological advances that have come along since 1999 and the site hasnt really embraced any if them.
When we left back in 2005 I gave the GM of Neopets a very long wish list of things that Adam and I had wanted to do, but hadnt managed to get round to and how to implement the changes. I dont think they even read it as none of that stuff materialised.
our original plan with the company we started after Neopets was to make a new virtual world that had moved with the times. Free to play, web and mobile, with built in chat and a more solid fantasy story behind it. That is what we would have wanted to do had we stayed at Neopets. Whether that would have been spinning off a new property using some of the main characters or something completely different I am not sure.
sorry for the long answer
erpascal: You said that you gave Viacom a list of things you and Adam wanted to do. Anything you remember off that list?
Also, I know you can't login to your old account. Have you ever made a throwaway Neopets account to browse the site?
Donna: I can try to find the list, I probably still have it somewhere. I know it was the unfinished space plot, battledome revamp, updated pound, think there was some bigger stuff too.
yes, I had a throwaway account but I think it got deleted :)
stitchesandlace: do you ever regret selling?
Donna: I regret what we did immediately after selling. We were so annoyed and frustrated after the sale we wanted to get as far away as possible. Maybe if we had stayed around a bit longer things could have been more positive for the site and we wouldnt be residing in the "where are they now" category :)
eldaeron: Donna, have you ever had any ideas of actually letting our neopets interact? I've always thought the site was to let our neopets play their world, not us playing for them. Maybe us taking care of them, yes. But in terms of buying items and shopping, or even chatting, it would be neopet to neopet. In a way, like you said, it would be more fantasy, rather than user to user interaction.
Donna: The original idea for Neopets was not a website, it was a virtual world where you were the Neopet moving around.
We designed this java applet which sort of looked like Zelda, only trouble was the guy we hired to make it turned out to be a complete failure. The app was taking so long to make that Adam and I got bored and started making the website around it. Needless to say, the applet never materialised and the site just took over.
To be honest the whole are you the Neopet or are you an owner thing was always a bit awkward. We just didnt really think about it until the site was too big to really change it. I think we were too focused on adding new stuff to stop and think big picture about whether this was a fantasy world or a virtual pet site. It ended up being a weird cross between the two.
JJTheJetPlane5657: Were you hoping that Neopets would end up like the modern-day Runescape? Google Image search if you're not familiar with how it looks now, basically it's a fully functioning in-browser Java RPG. It's 3D and has some pretty great graphics considering it's a browser thing (although there's also a desktop client).
Donna: Wow they did a nice job updating it. No we didnt think graphics like that were possible back in 1999 (don't think they were even for pc titles). We had more modest goals, more like a cute zelda style game really, only multiplayer.
JJTheJetPlane5657: Now that this exists, would you like to see Neopets go in a direction like Runescape?
Donna: I would need to play Runescape to really answer that. There are some older tile-based games that I always liked the look of like Dofus. That is where I think Neopets should have gone back in 2006/7 either that or explored Unity options post 2008/2009.
Adam: In some ways, but it's hard to answer with an emphatic yes because people would be like "omg Runescape Neopets" and open a whole can of internet worms.
Anonymous: What would you say is your happiest/funniest memory with regards to Neopets?
What would you say is your worst? Were there ever any crises/giant mess ups hidden from the regular user?
Donna: Happiest/funniest. Wow there are a lot. Some site related and some not. Some of the funniest have to be the staff eating contests that were going on circa 2002-2003. The aftermath of the milk and cookies challenge is pretty vividly etched in my memory.
Running the Usurper puzzle and watching how quickly people were solving the insanely difficult clues was one of my most enjoyable website memories.
Going to Singapore for a mall tour was amazing. That really hit home how Neopets was no longer this little project anymore.
The worst. Well there were a lot of those too I am afraid. Probably back in 1999/early 2000 when we accidentally deleted the entire site and had to upload it over a modem. That was pretty terrible.
There were also some pretty rough disagreements with the corporate side of Neopets that were kept hidden. I think I may have quit once in 2004 until Adam talked me out of it. Let's just say we weren't fans of most of Neopets' resources being spent creating 'wheel of spinbrush' or some other sponsor game rather than actually on making the core game better.
JJTheJetPlane5657: Is it at least funny when you look back on it? Because it sounds pretty funny to me now.
Donna: Oh it was funny as soon as the upload finished and people still wanted to play :) Just wasnt so fun at the time when Adam had to convince his mum and two sisters to not use the phone for hours as he was doing something pretty important.
ThisWasATriumph: What's the story behind the Root Canal Champion award? I've been wondering ever since I was a little kid!
Donna: I had to have a root canal. It was particularly nasty (not that they are ever pleasant). I came back from the dentist and bam there was the award. I think it was just Adam and the guys being nice to me :)
penisshmenis: How much has your life changed since Neopets? Do you ever look back and wonder what it would have been like if you guys didn't sell?
Donna: Our life has gone through a bit of a rollercoaster to be honest. We have moved around a lot, had some amazing experiences and some not so amazing ones. The biggest change has definitely been having kids. Ours are awesome, but wow they suck up so much time.
I don't think there would have been a future where we could have stayed at Neopets indefinitely. We were just getting burnt out. We didnt instigate the sale, but we didnt try to stop it either. I think if we hadn't have sold then, Adam and I would have parted company with Neopets one way or another within a couple of years anyway.
NightLuxx: I always played Thyssa when I was obsessed with Gormball growing up. It lead me to think recently about all of the characters you, Adam and the original team created, and how you feel about them still being 'used'.
I'm curious, how you feel now that you are no longer with Neo, about your likeness still being used in games (TNT Staff Smasher, for example)? I understand this is something that you could not escape, but I'm interested to hear your opinion about always being 'present' within the site.
Donna: At first I think it was really weird to see characters that we had created being taken in different directions. It was more the plot lines than anything else as that is really where the characters' personality gets to be seen. We knew that we would have no say in that after Viacom took over anyway, so we can't really turn around and be annoyed about it.
I didn't know I was in the staff games anymore. That is a bit odd. Not sure how I feel about it to be honest. I think I am more sad that I can't log in to my old account than they use an old caricature of me though.
cleanup141: Hmmmm, is Thyssa Donna's middle name?
Donna: lol no it is not!
genazmama: Why did you and Adam decide to sell neopets, and was Viacom the only interest or where there other companies?
Donna: We really werent involved in the decision. I know that may sound strange but we were pretty much excluded from all decisions regarding investment or the future of the company. On the flip side, we had total free rein over what we put on the site (aside from the odd restraint from the legal department).
It was a very odd situation. Our role within the company was utterly downplayed publicly. I think the management would rather we were just regular employees rather than the actual founders and the people who were up until god knows when fixing things when they went wrong. We were extremely naive and our only focus was what we thought was best for the site. If we could do it again, there would definitely be things we did differently.
There may have been other companies, but we weren't told about them. I know we had a couple of companies interested in film rights, but I can't remember there being multiple businesses interested in the actual sale. We could probably have vetoed the sale or at least made it difficult to go through, but it isnt like we were able to put any special terms in for ourselves or anything.
This lack of control was part of the reason we wanted to leave. We knew what would be best, but were not able to take the company in that direction. After years and years of fighting a losing battle, you just give up.
Sorry that makes it all sound so miserable. We really loved the creative side, and the community aspect. There were just a lot of very frustrating elements.
Pittielynn: Forgive me if this is too personal, but does that mean the two of you didn't see much financial profit from selling even though you were the founders?
Adam: I can draw you a graph of our wealth from the time we cashed out to now ... /\
Adam: Tell them about the Xweetok name, Donna!
Donna: Not unless they ask
lizduck: Tell us about the Xweetok name, Donna!
Adam: I think they just asked
Donna: I do feel rather ashamed about it now. I was really, really frustrated and annoyed by years of frustration and then the whole post-sale experience. That doesn't really justify it but at least you may get where I was coming from.
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...
I am sure someone is going to come after me now, that was my deepest darkest secret, I never told anyone other than Adam that before now...
SkyUraeus: I was wondering about what you think about websites like this: http://antineopets.weebly.com/the-truth-about-neopets--how-to-quit.html
Seems like a lot of them were created around the same time, I think around the peak of Neopet's popularity. They basically talk about how Neopets tries to "trap" you and how TNT helps featheralley cheat at everything and something about some hacker called Ad0? Some parts of those sites seem kind of ridiculous, and I'm not sure why they get so upset. I didn't play Neopets at that time, so I was wondering what you thought about it.
Adam: Oh I remember ad0 * quivers with fear at his l33tness *
Donna: Haha wow thats funny.
There were a lot of script kiddies and "hackers", it was almost always cookie grabbers though. We were actually happy when we found someone had found a proper exploit (ok after the initial oh crap moment). It was good though, helped us make the site stronger. i dont remember any of the stuff that site is claiming ad0 did though.
There were some over zealous freezings, that much was true.
Featheralley etc wasnt so much favouritism as not keeping a close enough eye on what people were doing with their staff admin priveleges. As soon as we realised what was happening we cracked down, but a lot of damage had already been done.
Rest of it, I have no idea about. Seems like someone got their knickers in a knot to me.
cheesecanman: Featheralley had staff admin privileges? Did she work for you? Also how many icons does the Darigan Sword of Death actually do?
Donna: Featheralley did work for Neopets, she was a monitor.
I am really sorry I can't remember the number of icons for the sword. It was probably ridiculously overpowered when we launched it as it was so hard to get. I would imagine over time TNT had adjusted it downwards.
dancethehora: What inspired neopets, where did the idea come from? How did you find/learn the knowledge and skills necessary to build something so complex 15 years ago?
Donna: That is all Adam. It was his idea, he had to force me to be part of it. He nagged me for weeks on end until eventually I gave in and got obsessed with his dream too.
He is honestly the only person I know of that could have pulled it off. He is self taught and it was pre-google, it was just a lot of work, lots of bugs, lots of bug fixes and lots of very late nights fuelled by corona.
DiaperedGirlWannaBe: Why is cybunny so rare and cute?
Donna: Cuteness = all because of Anthony one of the first artists we hired. Sure talented nice guy! He is still at Neopets now but is art director or some such now. His username was Tiger something if I recall.
Rarity, hmm... You will probably hate me for saying this, but I think it was one of those things where Adam and I thought it would be cool if some of the pets were harder to get than others. Cybunny was just next in line so it was the one that got made limited edition.
Anonymous: How was the Neopets business structured in your time? How did this affecting getting loans and funding? How did this affect the sale to Viacom?
Donna: At the beginning there was no business structure, it was just Adam and I.
We had an office in Guildford, UK and we must have set up the basic limited company then. This was a long time ago! We found a group of investors who bought the majority of the company for a small sum, which was actually out of company proceeds (genius us!). That was FSD LLC. When Neopets started to do well it became NeoPets Inc LLC. (God knows why it was NeoPets, as that isn't how we used to write the name of the site) I think they were both Delaware corps for tax reasons.
As to how that affected investment rounds and the sale. Honestly we were not part of those discussions. We weren't part of the sale talks whatsoever and nobody from Viacom ever spoke to us directly pre-sale.
LordHayati: 1: What do your kids think of Neopets, especially you two made it?
2: Is there anything that Viacom did right during their time?
3: Do you think Jumpstart can do a great job of redeeming Neopets?
4: On scale of 10 to 10, how awesome are jelly neopets? ' v '
Donna: 1. They are too young to know. One is 4 months, the other is almost 2 years. Will be interesting to see what they think when they get older.
2. They kept the same staff and trusted them to let them know what was going on. If they hadn't done that, it really would have been Nick Neopia.
3. I dont know enough about who Jumpstart are to say. I dont know what their motives are, I hope so. I still very much feel like Neopets is our responsibility.
kasmee: When Neopets first started becoming crazy popular and people were getting obsessively invested in it, how did you react?
Donna: Run around screaming OMG OMG OMG! Actually we were excited and scared. Excited as it was awesome seeing how the site was growing, but scared as we could only afford one machine to run it all on.
kasmee: What kind of measures were undertaken to make sure it would remain fair, safe and creative?
Donna: We really tried hard to do that. Adam created a whole ton of admin tools to track various cheaters and just keep tabs on people who were gaining a lot of NP very quickly or getting super high scores. That helped a lot on the fair side. We did slip at first by not having rules for our admin staff to follow so there was some uncontrolled giving out of items that was regrettable.
Safe, well we implemented all the COPA/COPPA regulations, had some pretty swish word replacement/filters and had live monitors. I think we should have had more monitors on different time zones personally, but we had limited resources (or rather limited funds were spent on the resources).
Creative, well we just tried our best to have as much user input and user created contests as possible. The rest of the time it was just Adam and I having fun, basically playing with a huge community of players. It really didnt seem like work most of the time, it was just our life. We thought about what to put on the site constantly. Some of our most interesting ideas came from talking on the drive to and from Vegas!
kasmee: Do you remember when someone became the first billionaire?
Donna: Sorry no :/
brieoncrackers: I remember reading somewhere that Neopets was originally a virtual pet simulator for college students who couldn't keep pets in their dorms. How much truth is there to that, and how do you feel the changing focus of the site (for a younger audience) has affected how the site can fulfill this role?
Donna: Wow, no truth in that I am afraid. Neopets was designed to be a virtual pet site with a world you walked around. It wasnt designed with any demographic in mind, it was just whetever Adam and I thought was fun.
The changing focus just meant that a lot of things that made the site unique had to be changed or removed. It just alters what you can do, it isnt neccessarily a good or bad thing. I think it does put off a lot of potential players though.
Hoteske: Err, the only question I can think of right now is how you feel about the change in the art. For example, an Aisha character in a plot or something would have more humanoid proportions rather than cat-like, even though your actual Aisha pet looks the about same as the original art.
Also, did you guys come up with the ideas and puzzles for the plots? They were sooooo difficult haha.
Donna: Yes we loved the puzzles and plots! That was my favourite part to be honest. I had to storyboard and script all the plot comics (which was good for a laugh as I used stick figures mostly).About the changing shape, it was something that Adam and I did. It just makes it easier to portray a storyline without being stuck to the constraints of the original drawing. For example, holding items, walking, talking etc.
Shaydie: What was the supposed "school" that was supposed to be made in Neopia? For years I've been hearing about it but no details, except "maybe someday." I know it had something to do with the school supply shop.
Donna: Oh we had this plan to make it something you could choose to do with your pet. There would be terms and various classes you could send your pet to. I think we were going to have some of the mini games like Maths Nightmare and reading books. Honestly I cant remember why it didnt happen. We probably didnt have the people to make it. That is why a lot of our big plans didnt materialise. I am pretty sure this was part of the list I gave Viacom when we left.
MonPetitRaptor: My question relates to the PC (Pound Chat). What do you think of the current adopting/trading community that exists on Neopets? What changes would you make, seeing how it is now?
Donna: The pound was one of the things on my list of unfinished business that I gave to viacom when I left. Trading is something that is a big part of the community and it should be made easier and safer for players to do it. I don't know of the current system has been updated, but the pound when we left wasnt really designed with trading in mind.
Having a secure trading pet area would be top of the list if it isnt there already. So people can list pets they want to trade and other people can put up offers. Also make it easier to find pets that are in the pound, sort by age, time in pound etc.
Apologies if some of this is already implemented, I havent logged into neopets.com in years, so it may have changed.
mlpzaq11: actually they have implemented that, not organizing or anything but there is a transfer system now so when trading pets they dont have to be dropped in the pound and hope that the other person gets it. I think pound chat is pretty much a pet trading post already.
Donna: Just not having the "pop in pound and pray" system is a huge improvement!
I am so sorry we implemented it that way. The pound just wasnt designed for that. It was only created so people that had 3 Chias (or any of the early pets, not hating Chias here) could put one or two in the pound so they could create some of the new species.
At the time we didnt think trading would be such a huge thing - doh!
mallycat1026: Hi! I have so many memories of my sisters and I playing all the games and finding all the secrets. If you had to choose, which "world" in neopets would you want to live in? :)
Donna: Mystery Island. Far away from Neopia Central, nice and sunny, no huge disasters or evil overlords. Oh and there was a huge statue of me there :)
theakiakierasu: I would count Mumbo Pango as an evil overlord of sorts. You know, gobbling up the staff and all. Although you were the only one to survive Sacrificers.
Donna: Exactly, I have no issues with the guy.
silicapowder: Throwback question, but something I've always wondered - in one of the first giant battledome plots, it all came down to a very famous user/pet battling the big boss. My memory wants to say it was Hynfaerie or mahal_kita. Is this just how things shook out, that it came down to the strongest user/pet in the verse, or was it a planned collaboration?
Donna: There was no collaboration, was this the Monoceraptor plot? Like a lot of the earlier stuff we probably didnt think it through enough to consider how everyone would feel if it was just one pet vs the boss. In hindsight we probably wouldnt have created just one Monoceraptor Claw...
jenyabee: If you can remember - where did the name Fyora come from? My 15 month old is named Fyora (thanks!) and people ask me all the time if it's Irish or Italian? I just say it's from a video game! Is there anything I should tell her about her name when she's older?
Donna: Wow that is amazing to hear. It is a very pretty name. Congratulations too!
I can't remember where the name came from. We were trying to think of names and it just popped into Adam's head. As a side note, Fyora was going to star in our movie plot but it never got made.
jkRollingDown: I remember several years ago, after you left Neopets, you started a company called Meteor Games. I recall you were planning a game called Twin Skies, and also released a web game called Vikings Pirates Ninjas as well as a few Facebook games. However, now it seems that all those games and the website are gone.
If you don't mind me asking, what happened to the company? Is it closed for good? Are you ever planning to return to game development?
Adam: I'll just chip in because Donna's on child duty. Twin Skies was postponed basically because it got too complicated, the project wasn't going according to plan and then the stock market crash of 2008 nearly wiped us out financially. Really, really bad timing.
We decided to pivot the company into making social games for Facebook, so after a few months of false starts we released VPN. Unfortunately it was built on a bit of a wonky PHP foundation and we had so many issues with it. Also - the target demographic was split. Facebook users expected one thing, and our VPN fans wanted another, and the game was sort of ripped in half as a result.
We refocused our efforts and launched Island Paradise which was a success. Unfortunately we stupidly got in with a really bad bunch of people, hired a new CEO, brought on new management. Really bad decisions were made, and Donna and myself went along with it because we believed these new guys had the experience to make the company succeed. A year later we had failed to raise investment, the company ran out of money, and we had to shut down the games. The sad thing is that we couldn't tell our players what was going on for fear of being sued by our investors and management. So we ran away from America, and decided to start a family. Yes, we're working on a new game now, but it's a verrryyy slow process!
bellissimae: What's your least favourite neopet and what is your least favourite paint colour for neopets? :)
Donna: Ogrin, its just horrible. Hmm.. I think possibly disco or split, when done badly they look particularly awful.
Ummy: 1. What do you think is the most important skill to have when working on a site like Neopets?
2. Where do you think virtual pet games will go in the future?
3. What advice do you have for people who want to make virtual pet games?
Donna: 1. Personality wise I would say a sense of humour and a thick skin. Things you worked on will go live and people will inevitably hate it and be very vocal about it. You can't let that upset you. Actual skill-wise. It is changing a lot now. Used to just be HTML and Flash, but they are pretty much obsolete now. It really depends where you want to be in the company.
2. Hopefully far. I think they need a bit of a kick up the backside as all the ones I have seen recently are just doing stuff based off the Neopets formula but with a small twist. I dont think they are dead by any means, but I think that something different needs to come along.
3. Do it, go ahead put something live. Dont be afraid to do something different. DOnt stress about squeezing money from people straight away. If you have a good product, you can work out how to make money later. (Ok Neopets is a bad example of that, but we wanted to make it subscription and focus on content)
Fuzio: 1. Who was behind the design / idea for the Grundo species?
2. What was the original "plan/story" in regards to the orange spots on purple pets. Since that plot never came to be, can you give me some insight on the lore that was going to be?
3. Wayyy back in the day, you guys had volunteer monitors. Users who were chosen to help monitor the neoboards and what-not. What was the reasoning behind ending that?
Donna: 1. I think that was Tigercatcher/Anthony. We wanted an alien race for the Space Station but he drew it.
2. Ooh that is a question earlier on (no idea how to link to previous comments). Adam needs to answer that as I cant remember. I will bug him when he gets back with food. (He has gone out to get takeaway so I can sit and answer more questions)
3. The all knowing legal department. We didnt agree with it, but we were overruled.
Ummy: What happened with the Neopets Movie? I heard that it had a title, and a movie was mentioned on the Jelly Blobs of DOOM game page, but beyond that it never went anywhere. I always thought a movie would've been amazing, and I was sad when nothing about it ever surfaced.
Adam: Well Donna and myself spent weeks working on ideas, wrote it up in a document, gave it to the Neopets management who promptly filed it under R for Rubbish.
PandaBearVoid: I was wondering, what went into the creation of the pet species? Where did you get the inspiration for the names, designs, colours etc.
Donna: Haha. It really varied. The first few pets were really easy to come up with. We didnt have an existing fan base so we could just do what we wanted. Didnt have to consider if the new design was too similar to something we already had etc. The latter pets were a real headache. I think that was why we didn't add a new pet unless we had a land or major storyline to go along with it at the end.
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. Colours either came from an idea Adam and I had, or something one of the artists drew and looked good.
Noonsa: You mentioned that there were lots of things you and Adam wanted to do with Neopets, but never had time. What was one of the coolest things you wanted to do but had to shelve, and why?
P.S. Finally have a chance to complain to you- I was really disappointed when my Brucey stopped being photorealistic!
Donna: Haha the old Bruce was amazing. Blame the legal department. The old Mynci was our friend Chris Mellish who was notorious for spilling his cider, bet nobody can remember that Neopet :)
We really wanted to do something like Day of the Tentacle/Sam and Max. This was back in 2004 before Telltale made those games cool again. We almost convinced the suits it was a good idea, but then it got canned. We also wanted to make the site more multiplayer, starting with baby steps like multiplayer flash games, but with the goal of actually doing the virtual world we originally set out to make. That also got canned.
HeavyNettle Whats your favourite pet colour?
Donna: Hmm that is a tough one. There are some paint brush colours that look great in certain combos but not so great on some pets. I'ld have to go with Green I think.
BoredGoat: So... care to spill the details about the Neopets Facebook game fiasco?
Donna: 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 worse 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.
lebzeit: Who was behind the design / idea for the Eyrie species?
Donna: Originally I think Eyrie was one of the winners of a contest that Adam and I ran where the players could design the next Neopets. This didnt go down too well with the legal department when they got bought on so it was changed to something that our artists drew.
HarleyQ: Do Neopets not have brains? On every transparent pet you can see their organs...everything but the brain.
Donna: Oh wow. That looks like a legal department fail to me. Yes Neopets have brains.
I would say that should be a Zombie Paint Brush, not Transparent only they aren't allowed to use the word Zombie for some silly reason.
In that case it would make sense that they don't have brains as Zombies eat brains so in theory to become a zombie your brain should have been eaten. I guess it depends which school of zombie-making you follow though, you could just be bitten and then turn. In that case yes they should still have brains.
erpascal: There is a Zombie paint brush now too :)
Donna: weird, those transparent pets look pretty zombified to me...
redheaddreadhead: Have yall every thought about going back into the biz?
Donna: Yes we have thought about it. Got a bit burnt with the whole Facebook thing so needed a break. Only trouble is the gaming industry has been infiltrated by marketing types masquerading as people who actually care about games and content. The type of game people are used to has changed and we just can't/don't want to make that type of game.
So the answer is yes, we have thought about it, but it would have to be on our terms, making a virtual world that we love, not what is currently popular. Adam is working with TPOSG on a teeny part of what could be a huge game. To say I am working on it is bending the truth a bit as I have no free time due to our kids really. I will get back into it though... hopefully in the not too distant future...
keyhan: One of the mysteries of my childhood - where did the Spoppy III come from? How was it made? And also in regards to the Darigan Sword of Death (the main plot prize given in the Darigan vs. Meridell war), did it really do 70 icons? Or does it just do the measly 4 earth icons some claim? And lastly, what is the coolest most special item ever made in your opinion? Thanks for reading!
Donna: Sorry I honestly can't remember about the sword's damage. Spoppy III I have a vague recollection it was testing the Cooking Pot. Coolest, most special item, hmm... Meepits are pretty cool and special. I know technically its a Petpet not an item though.
Adam: Yeah Spoppy III was just a placeholder item when we were doing the cooking pot. I don't think the ingredients for whatever it was going to be were done in time, so I just left it.
peronium: What's the story behind the Meepit? Regardless of what anyone else says I always found them rather funny and adorable.
Donna: It was drawn by one of our artists and we just thought it was too cute. Anything that cute has to be hiding something. I think they are the evil geniuses that secretly run Neopia.
mortalstampede: Hey Donna, do you ever have any regrets about leaving Neopets? I think you said before that you felt it was the right thing to do - but is that really the case? And also do you have any upcoming projects?
Donna: I think the sale and the stuff that happened after the sale could have been handled better by both us and Viacom. We really didnt feel like they were at all interested in what we had planned for the site. They didnt actually try to stop us leaving or even contact us at any time after we left to get our feedback on anything. That seemed really strange for us.
We didnt leave on bad terms or anything. We just said we wanted to leave and they said OK. Yes we have a new project, but its a long way from being launched or anything. It has the working title Moglings and we have a reddit for it.
bruyere: My question is, if you could bring back any single feature of past-era neopets, what would it be, and why?
Donna: I loved the live chat feature we had in the very first few months. That was awesome, although it would have turned into a monitoring nightmare. Sadly we didnt really know how to set it up to handle that many people at one time and it just kept blowing up. We had to take it down after just a few months.
JJTheJetPlane5657: Hey Donna! Just wondering, do you have an opinion on the Neopets: The Darkest Faerie PS2 game? Some questions for jumping off points: What was your involvement with it? What was the idea for the game when it was first conceived? How does the end product compare to the original concept? Reading some of your responses, it seems like you always imagined Neopets to be a sort of 3D world like a combination of Pokemon and Runescape (and other games in that vein). Would you support another Neopets video game coming out, or do you feel that there's no need for it if your original idea for the site was implemented?
Donna: We were super excited at first. Originally it was meant to be a PS1 game, but it took so long to get the deal figured out that it was changed to a PS2 game. That was great as it meant better graphics and more people were likely to play it.
We came up with the story, the characters and the names. It was meant to be an action/adventure/puzzle game but we were told by the Sony guys that just wasnt possible. Games have to fall into one category only and cross genre games just wouldnt work. The game concept just got chipped away a lot so it would fit neatly into one of their little boxes.
We had approval over the art, but we had to work within certain contraints. There were limited changes we could make and we never directly spoke to any of the art team. I think it was all handled overseas. The game play we didnt get that much say over. For all we know Sony could have had a game that was canned that they just wanted to reskin. It certainly seemed that way at times. They didnt seem that concerned about making a Neopets game, more just making an OK game that would do OK sales-wise.
The experience was definitely eye opening, but I dont think the game was really as good as it could have been. I woudl support a Neopets video game if it added something that you couldnt get from the site, or took something you could do on the site and made it radically better.
wooitypreptime: Hi Donna! I've always wondered - why are the images for the rotten omelette and the cheese omelette the same, and not this? How much asparagus does your household go through and what is your /Adam's favourite way of cooking it? It's my favourite vegetable and I have some cooking on the stove as I type :)
Donna: I think the omelette may just be an oversight. It was probably a case of us using the normal image until the proper one was drawn, but we never replaced it.
We dont have asparagus that much anymore, maybe once a week. I think Adam's favourite is wrapped in proscuitto with parmesan on top, then baked in the oven. I like it steamed personally, but that is because I look at the amazing gratinee version and just see a bajillion calories.
ruingaraf: How do you feel about the fact that you confused an entire generation of American children about the spellings of 'gray' and 'fairy'? While they were at the age they were taking spelling tests with these words on them, no less.
Donna: Haha we loved teaching an entire generation of American children how to spell :D
Sorry if you got into trouble with the tests. It wasnt really an intentional thing at first, it was just how we wrote as we were British. Later on, it was just funny to mess with people though :p
akatora: How do you feel about unconverted (aka UC, pets with the original artwork that existed before the NC Mall redraws) pets? Do you think all pets should have been converted, leaving no UCs? Or are you glad they still exist? And what are the copyright measures for that anyway? TNT claim that they can't create new ones because of copyright rules, and that's why they won't give us an option to make new UC pets.
Donna: I think the UC pets are better and I think that the conversion could have been handled in a much better way personally. As far as I can tell the whole reason to change them was just to make money through micropayment clothing sales in the mall, I dont see why you would risk annoying your entire user base to implement something that the site wasnt really made for.
A better solution may have been to reboot Neopets in a different format. Using unity maybe? Then you could offer far more customisation options, and you arent just changing the look of the pet, but you are letting people get other benefits like being about to move around in a virtual world, actually see your pet fighting in the battledome etc. If people wanted to have that, then they could move to the new Neopets, otherwise they can stay with the old site. Obviously things would have to be thought through more carefully than I am doing now. You would have to offer existing players something to make them want to move over although letting them start with a level 300 pet wouldnt make sense, but I am sure a solution could have been found.
UCs just sound like something they would like to automatically update, but can't due to database limitations, which is why some still exist. I wouldnt think that they have any way to make a Neopet be an UC so I wouldnt bank on that UC paint brush coming out just yet. I could be wrong, but it doesnt sound like an option they would have to hand. I dont see how there is any difference in copyright of a UC or a new look Neopet. The images are still 100% owned by Neopets. That just sounds like fluff to make people stop asking about them.
lizduck: What happened with the lamameeah/gnorbu? Everyone voted for an awesome looking Llama, and then we got this weird looking thing. No disrespect to gnorbus (that looks wrong), but I'm still bitter I didn't get what I voted for.
Donna: I dont really remember that too clearly. I remember having a public vote, but I dont know why that one was used if it wasnt the winner.
TraderVaderHater: What is your thought(s) on users not being able to send the word "peanuts" or really a majority of safe, normal everyday words in Neomail due to the very strict filters?
Donna: Ahaha peanuts? Thats amazing! Well Adam and I did start it, in fact I was the one that made Adam change hot tub to swamp, bikini to cardigan on the forums. No idea if that still happens anymore, but I got so sick of "hot blah blah blah sitting in a hot tub wearing a bikini".
I'm more a fan of switching potentially bad words rather than banning people from talking though. There are some that need to be banned, but there really is no reason to block non-offensive words. There are so many sophisticated ways to do filters now, the peanuts thing just sounds like laziness to me.
SirCabbage: I have a few if you don't mind...
1) Was there ever a plan for the "Magic Key" item, if so what was it meant to do?
2) Who invented and what was the story behind the marvelous negg?
3) Can you tell us more about what was meant to happen with the return of doctor sloth plot? If so, please tell us more :O
4) What ever happened to those single items which only adam had? Are they still locked away in your old unaccessible accounts or what?
Donna: 1) I think the Magic Key was part of a plot line, or it may have been one of the early items we created when we didnt know what we were doing.
2) Sorry I dont remember a Marvellous Negg, maybe it was after my time :/
SirCabbage: I meant in general that neggs were amazing.
Adam: I copied the idea from the game Bloodwych. But added my own unique flair.
Donna: 3) Oh gosh, we were really excited about it at the time. I wrote it up and sent it to Viacom to use after we went. I can't remember it. That is terrible. I'll have to talk to Adam about it once the grandparents have cleared out of our house and see if we can remember it. We came up with it in 2005 if that is any excuse for being so forgetful...
4) Yes they will be stuck there, totally inaccessible. Unless the Neostaff decided it wasnt fair and deleted them, although I doubt that.
Anonymous: What do you think of Neocash, and how it's implemented into Neopets?
Donna: I honestly don't know much about the implementation so I can't really speak much about that. Looking back, Neopets just shouldnt have been a micropayment game. It would have been much better to go free to play with optional subscription and focus on content. Adding more functionality like a world you could walk around with your pets (the original design for Neopets), live chat, multiplayer games etc.
Anonymous: What are your favourite and least favourite games?
Donna: Neopets game or just in general? On Neopets probably Meepit Juice Break is one of my favourites and Meerca Chase is one of my least favourite.
In real life, my all time favourite game is probably tied between Gauntlet Dark Legacy and Dungeon Keeper. My least favourite is probably the Star Wars game where you had to master and then forget all the skills in the vague hopes of becoming a Jedi. I can't remember the title now, but it was awful.
ThBurninator: What would you say is the best thing that has come from your time working on/with Neopets? Any majoy life developments or times where it shaped major life decisions?
Donna: The best thing was being able to do what we wanted creatively and put it live straight away. I can't say how rewarding it was to have an idea one weekend and then have it on the site by Monday afternoon. Just seeing how everyone reacted to our crazy thoughts was an unforgettable experience and I am very grateful that I have been able to do that.
We didnt go on holiday or take a break during our time making Neopets. We would go back to England to visit our families but we were still updating the site, managing everyone's to do lists and giving feedback constantly. Looking back we must have been the worst kids ever for our parents. Hadn't seen us in months and we barely see them even when we are in the UK...
Neopets was the reason we moved to the states in 2000. If we hadnt done that, we wouldnt have found our two awesome cats (who we still have by the way), met all the people we did or had any of the crazy adventures we have had.
ThBurninator: How old were you guys when you started everything up (if you don't mind me asking)?
Adam: I was 22, Donna was 20.
Fizzyotter: I do have one question. Hannah, Nabile, or Lisha?
Donna: Well we almost called our daughter Hannah... but I think I liked Nabile's character the best. Lisha was a bit too goody goody for my liking :)
misterfeather: Do you have any cool Neopets merchandise? If so, what's your favourite item?
Donna: Do we have any cool Neopets merchandise... I am a terrible hoarder. We actually just gave a lot of the plushies to a children's charity and threw out a whole ton of other stuff as it is probably ridiculous how much we kept. Especially given we have moved internationally an awful lot (US - Canada - US - UK - US - UK)
My favourite pieces
- An upopened box of the Neopets cereal. That has got to be pretty nasty by now.
- A huge Aisha pillow. Its just the head with these enormous ears. My daughter loves it. We used to have a Bruce chair but I gave that to a friend before we moved back to the UK the first time. (The guy who wrote NeoQuest's wife to be exact)
- A ton of big prints of the TCG art that used to be on the Neopets office walls. They are just residing in our garage right now, but they may come out into the open again once more.
escargotlover: I'm wondering if you guys are still in contact with some of the past or present Neopets staff, especially the past well-known ones (i.e., the ones who participated in past AC Staff Tournaments, TNT Staff Smasher, and so on)? I know Ollie is still working with you, but just curious if you still occasionally talk to some others.
Donna: We were in touch with a lot of the ex-TNTers, but not so much anymore. Its really just Ollie and a couple of the database guys now. Its just hard to stay in touch when you live so far away.
HodorUsedHodor: Which April Fool's Day joke was your favourite?
Adam: I like the first 'fake pet one', especially Chyonko. Also Nick Neopia was pretty funny as we were working with Sony at the time and they totally fell for it. They phoned us up and begged us not to do such a massive change to the site mid-way through creating the PS2 game.
angelfatal: Can you tell us more about any specific fan encounters? - Is there a specific point in time where you feel that Neopets peaked? - So was it actually called Bottle of Beer or Neorona?
Donna: 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.
I would say 2002-2003 was the peak. It was pretty insane then. The beer was Neorona, but then the legal dept found it and freaked out.
alexislightus: my question to you Favourite game and if that has already been asked Favourite Gallery of evil "bad guy"
Donna: Favourite game I did answer earlier, but I am too much of a reddit newbie to know how to link to it. As far as bad guys go, it may be predictable but I woudl have to say Dr Sloth. He is the one we have had the most fun with.
pink3rbellx: Do you keep up with the site since it was sold? And more importantly - if you do, what's your least favourite change?
Donna: I haven't I am afraid. We did for a bit, but ended up getting annoyed with some of the things that were being posted. I think the final straw for me was that ugly blumaroo character with glasses that they used for TV ads and the like. I think he was something to do with a game challenge if I remember correctly. It just wasnt our baby anymore, which is fine. They bought it from us, we couldnt very well turn round and complain about it. It was just better to move on and let them do what they wanted with it.
NeedleBeetle: Out of all the games produced by meteor games, which were you most proud of, least proud of and why? You don't happen to have any of the old VPN gameplay art do you? I wish I had taken screenshots, that was my favourite.
Donna: Twin Skies would be least proud. The concept was cool and I think if we had not become deluded, it would have been very successful. Sadly we listened to people we shouldnt have, employed people we shouldnt have and went down the wrong path. We basically wanted to create the next evolution of Neopets, and should have stuck to that instead of being sucked down the 3D path. We were so happy at PAX when we were showing off the game, completely unaware that our tech team had lied to us and it was all smoke and mirrors. It was a very expensive and painful lesson that almost wiped us out completely and made us feel extremely foolish.
VPN was a lot of fun, although we should have just made it a web game. Making it for both web and FB just tore the game apart. I am proud of what we did with IP. We managed to turn the whole company around with Island Paradise. No the game wasnt the type of game we originally set out to make, but we did try to make it unique and it was definitely way less pushy than the other FB games out there. The crafting systems were pretty cool too. I do have some of the VPN art and screenshots lurking around somewhere I am sure.
attackofdameepits: Do you guys have a favourite PetPet?
Adam: Kadoatie. I can't stand Angelpuss.
mualulu: what did exactly happen with featheralley and why is she so famous?
Donna: I am not sure what the big thing is that was supposed to have happened. She was a monitor and I think there was some hoo ha about a Gelert but I really can't remember details. I vaguely remember finding out some of the staff (not just monitors) were being a bit generous with the 'give item' feature on their own accounts. This was stopped pretty swiftly, but unfortunately a lot of players had already been annoyed by it. Totally understand why. It shouldnt have been allowed to happen. We just took our eye off the ball.
pulexirritans: 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?
Adam: 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.
flarn2006: This may seem trivial, but I always wondered when I was a kid: what did the admin control panel look like? Do you have any screenshots?
Adam: A large white page with lots of Times New Roman links across the top. It said NeoAdmin v0.0.1 and had a link to logout. Not very exciting. In 2004 it got upgraded with Futurama quotes and everything. We did have some mildly-amusing names for the different pages though. Gates was the page that showed the richest Neopians and had a picture of Bill Gates at the top. Oh how hilarious we were.
StarFireLiz: I was wondering how you felt about how 'kid safe' they try to make the site? I realize kids play it but I think how strict they are on interacting with others is kind of crazy.
Donna: It is tricky running a site that has any chance a kid may play it, there are so many rules you have to follow. Neopets is a site that existed before COPA or COPPA and has had to adapt to follow every rule and regulation governing communicating to children that has been thought up as the internet developed. With that in mind there is a lot of legacy stuff that may make it stricter than a newer site would be.
I am not saying I agree with the filters and rules in place, but I can see how they developed. That said, I dont agree with limiting who you can friend and from other people's comments it sounds like a review of the neomail filters is well overdue.
thoughtbath: What was your proudest Neo moment?
Donna: The Hamleys merchandise launch in London was pretty awesome for us (other than there were spelling mistakes on the promotional posters). That was great for us as our family really didnt have a clue what we did for a living or what Neopets was. I think it really surprised them that people actually wanted to queue up to see us.
yugioh899: Were Draiks and Krawk meant to be so rare?
Donna: Yup, they were meant to be really tough to get
celestialmae: If Krawks don't have ears, how do they hear? I've always wondered this.
Donna: I always assumed they had little hearing hole things towards the back of their heads, but it can be covered by their hair so it doesnt look freaky.
DrowWithSkadi: Why do you think Neopets has become such a global phenomenon and do you think there is any way to bring its former success to the current site that is losing users on a regular basis thanks to Neocash and other neglects to the former fanbase?
Donna: I think Neopets was so successful because it was different. There wasnt really anything else like it out there. It constantly changed, every day we would add more to the site. I am not talking about another 4 books or some Korbat shaped cookies, but proper interesting features. New games, worlds, stories etc.
I am not sure there is a way to do relive that with the current site. Things are just different now, there aren't as many people wanting to play a web-based game. Especially one that cannot work on apple devices. It may be time to say goodbye to the site as we know it. Maybe the Neopets idea can be relocated in a different format, but I dont think the website will go back to the beast it once was.
Anonymous: I want to know why was Punchbag Bob so hard to defeat?
Donna: He is a punchbag... You are just supposed to vent your rage on him, not defeat him :)
KageBloodfang: I'm not sure if this has been asked before, but why did you and Adam decide to create Neopets in the first place, and how did you two go about putting it all together? How'd you come up with all the designs for the pets, and all of the thought that went into creating the world and all the stories? And I'm sure this will be asked a thousand times, but what led to the final decision to sell Neopets to Viacom, and what was the process behind it?
Donna: The idea was all Adam. He was definitely the driving force behind the creation of Neopets. We basically had a computer each and not much other furniture. We stayed in our apartment and worked constantly until we had a basic site. We got some help for the side bar and the logo, but the rest was Adam and I just slogging away. It really didnt take that long to be honest, we got bored after a couple of months and put it live anyway. The rest is pretty much history, we just added more and more each day until our server died and we had to get other people involved.
Coming up with the ideas and stories was basically Adam and I's life. It was all we talked about when we went out for food/drove in the car/walked round the block etc. The fact we lived and worked together meant that Neopets was always on our minds. We also loved it, maybe we were just really, really weird. We must have been very boring to anyone that met us and didnt know about Neopets :)
The process to sell to Viacom wasnt something we were involved in. The company was very much divided between the creative and the business side. There was hardly any communication between the two. It was a very strange situation, which is part of why Adam and I jumped at the chance to get out.
brennenxr: What role has Ollie had in you and Adam's lives post-Neopets? How has he contributed to your businesses then and now? What role does he currently have?
Donna: Ollie is just an awesome guy. I think we told Ollie we were having a baby before our own family if that is any indication of how much we like and trust him. He was the main Flash developer at Meteor Games. He was Mr. Island Paradise really. Now he has learned Unity and is doing that for our new game. He doesnt have a role as such as there is no formal company, but chief Unity dude will suffice I guess.
beepborpimajorp: Do you guys play any other petsites?
Donna: I dont have time to play any games anymore I am afraid. I have two young kids and a cat that requires medication daily so that is pretty much my whole time taken up there.
vmkplayer1993: If you were still running neopets or would like to give advice to jumpstart on how to get the player base back, what would you do/tell them?
Adam: I think Neopets needs to be rebooted, like Spiderman. New database, new graphics, mobile devices. I don't think they're going to significantly increase the playerbase without doing that.
shcrane92: What happened to the neopets movie that was supposed to be released in 2005?
Donna: 2003 or 2004 we were told there was going to be a movie. I think it was with Warner Bros. Adam and I were super excited and wrote a script for it assuming we would have some say in the thing. As far as we know our ideas never went out of the Neopets office (I think Adam described it as being filed under R for Rubbish in another post). We were told a writer had been assigned to it. Never spoke to them or anyone from the studio. Then another writer was assigned to it. Same deal.
Then the sale came up and I think Paramount bought the rights from Warner. Its a bit fuzzy so I can't remember the exact details but it was something like that. Whichever one is owned by Viacom bought it off the one owned by Disney anyway. Then another random guy was assigned as writer. That was the last we heard of it. Talk about crushed dreams...
iMarty: Donna, do you or Adam ever plan on trying to buy Neopets back? Kinda like a Steve Jobs take over of Apple - do you two want to come back and make everything right again?
Adam: This would hinge on us being able to afford to buy Neopets, but yeah, why not - it's possible.
ychirea1: How do you feel about what your creation as become as a corporate possession? Do you want to be remembered for the "old" neopets or prefer to be associated with the "new" one? Do you have any regrets about selling or about how "big" your game got?
Donna: I'ld prefer to be remembered for the things we actually did with the site. It wasnt all perfect I know, we made mistakes along the way and openly admitted to them to everyone, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. I am sad about what happened to Neopets after we left, but we can't have it both ways. We wanted to move on, so it obviously wouldnt continue to be our creation after we parted ways.
Sorcerour: Was there ever a feature you were really excited to develop and launch but the users didn't care about?
Adam: No, that was the problem :P
Elemental2: When Maraqua first came out, it featured a game called the "Sub Game". However, by the time I joined this game had been taken offline (it was down temporarily, which ended up being permanent). Do you remember anything about it, like if the game was ever released. In early-mid 2000, before you came out with custom guilds (the guilds that exist now), there were guilds, like the Thieves Guild, or TAP, or the Police Guild. What were these? What is the story behind the Pikachu Eater creature that apparently used to be in the Gallery of Evil (and was it actually part of the gallery at one time)? I've always found it interesting how the various maps evolved over time. You wouldn't happen to have any of these saved anywhere, would you?
Donna: Sub Game - I can't remember this one. It was probably rubbish if we just removed it and didnt even add it to the graveyard. Thieves Guild we wanted to do something more interesting with. I guess like a faction that you could earn status with. Then we released guilds that players could run and we just forgot about it. We may have had a message board called the Thieves Guild, but it wasnt like you could actually be part of the guild.
When we first set out to make Neopets we jokingly said that we wanted to beat Pokemon (modest goal!). Even our kitten was on board, she slit the throat of her Pikachu toy and everything :) That pikachu eater image was just a throw back to then, it wasnt ever anything on the site. I dont think I have any of those images but you can probably find them online somewhere.
LordHayati: what do you think would've happened if you DID NOT sell to viacom?
Donna: We would have sold to someone else... I dont see a future where Adam and I would have regained total control of the company which is what a lot of people seem to be wishing for on here. We had made mistakes earlier on that really made those last few years a challenge for us.
Sorcerour: Adam, what Neopian world would you want to live in?
Adam: Probably Neopia Central because I love McDonalds and enjoy that deliciously chocolately taste I get with Nestle Cocoa Crunch.
aqualisier: I wanted to ask about Neoquest. Aside from the general "what exactly inspired you guys to create a Neopets RPG," are there any fun stories from its creation? Were there any plans for a Neoquest 3? (3D doesn't count) Also, what ever WAS behind that locked door in the Techo Caves? It's been 13 years and still nobody has figured it out.
Donna: Sorry Neoquest was the brainchild of a programmer called Matt. We just let him have complete say over the design and story so I can't tell you anything much about it. I know that's not what you wanted to hear, but...
babyespeon: I was wondering what kind of age groups you had in mind for neopets over time.
Donna: We didnt think of an age group or really care about who would actually like what we did. We just did what we thought was interesting or fun. I guess that is what made Neopets so different. It wasnt designed for a specific demographic and we did stuff that no sane corporation would ever allow.
AntmanIV: Any way you can share the story about how some of the early pets got changed? For example: Bruce.
Donna: When we got the initial investment, they bought on a legal lady. She went balistic and made us change Bruce (was Bruce Forsyth), Mynci (was our friend Chris Mellish), Kau (Was Macy Gray, I dont have anything against Macy, I dont think she is a cow or anything, we just had that art work ready to go), I think there were a couple of others but I can't remember off hand.
henryledore: What did/do you think of the neopets happy meal toys? And was that after your time, or did you have anything to do with that? Also, did you know the Ski Lodge Murder Mystery game, last time I checked, is still up on the site? You have to get there by link but it should totally still be there.
Donna: I was the person who had to approve the toys and argue with McD to spend that extra fraction of a cent so the toys would actually bear some resemblance to the actual Neopet... To be totally truthful we probably shouldnt have done the Happy Meal promotion as it really was appealling to a much younger demographic than should really be playing the site. I think we got dazzled a bit by the possibility of seeing our creation distributed across the states that way. Adult me thinks it was a bad thing overall for the site, but childish me thinks it was kind of cool.
Oh and all the plots should be live. We hardly ever took anything down, just took the links away.
lepraphobia: What are your thoughts about school? What were you studying and what did you like to study most? Are you going to go back to school for any reason? What ambitions do you hope your children will have? Have you been following events on Neopets? What has been one thing you really liked that has happened on this site since 2005? What has been your least favourite event/change?
Donna: School, erm. Well I went to a school affectionately referred to as "stab school" by those that went there... Then I made a terrible decision to go to University to study costume design and special effects. Switched to Marketing after long serious chats about post-degree employment prospects. Hated it. Dropped out. Started Neopets.
I loved Art (specifically 3D art, sculpting, costume design, set design), Geography and Chemistry (although ever practical experiment ended with something on fire or a mysterious brown substance). I did drop my Chemistry A-Level when my safety goggles and white coat arrived though. It freaked me out that it could be my future. I have thought about going back to do an MBA or something like that, but we always seem to end up starting companies or having kids. I think that will just be something that never gets ticked off my to do list :)
I haven't followed events in the past few years to be honest. Once we started Meteor that was my main focus. I guess my least favourite change is homogenising the Neopets for the mall and the new layout. It is too wide! Oh and the altador cup...
Dani212M: Wait, do you think of the Altador cup as good or bad?
Donna: I dont like it personally, its just not something I would have done. I know it is pretty popular though.
Adam: We liked to keep the Neopets worlds separate. That's why there weren't too many stories that jumped around too much between the space station, Lost Desert, etc. At least not after 2001. The Altador Cup is just a big homogenous mass of Neopets content all lumped together without a lot of thought. Plus it's like watching American football which I find painful.
Tawreh: How do you feel seeing that neopets had essentially regressed so far into being child friendly? It was started for college kids, now the children who did play are adults, but on the flip side you have children who, I assume, might one day know the thrill of defying their school's internet fillers to access the site, too.
Donna: That was always something that bugged us. On the surface Neopets looked like a kids site (bright colours, cute images etc) If you didnt dig down a little, you would be unaware that it wasnt really designed for kids. I think Viacom bought it as a kids site and have treated it as such ever since. I dont think it was their fault. Even the Neopets business side didnt really understand what Neopets was. They probably told Viacom it was a kids site.
misingnoglic: Hey! I have two questions: What do you think about the fact that the site design is still the same as it was several years ago? Like everything is still reminiscent of the MySpace era in internet history, is that just a lack of need to update or a way to appease old players or something else? (No offense of course)
How do you feel about the fact that the neopets HTML guides and customisable shops/pet pages inspired several people to get into coding/computer science professions? I made a post asking how many people this was true for and the response was overwhelming (I'd link to it but I'm on phone)
Donna: It was updated from the old version by Viacom so what you see now is their new version. I think the whole site needs an overhaul personally. Adam put it well in another answer. A HTML website just isnt enough anymore. I am actually super proud that something so simple had such a huge impact. Ok I know it was the shoddiest guides and templates ever. I really barely knew any HTML when I wrote them (and I am not exactly much better nowadays). Had I realiised how significant they would be, I would have spent more time keeping it up to date.
nohartandsole: What was your proudest moment when you were working on Neopets?
Donna: I think I answered this question before. Site related, it would probably be one of the puzzles. Usurper and NPV2 were particularly fun to do. It is hard to say really. We had so many good times back in the day. Thanks for letting us basically play around :)
AwesomeYears: What did you think about the TCG?
Donna: Loved the plots and the characters. Coming up with those was a lot of fun. Filling out the whole pack could get a bit tough though. The actual game wasnt exactly what we wanted, but it was a hell of a lot better than the original concept which involved ripping up cards and throwing them against a wall from what I remember. The people we worked with at WOTC were really nice, but we only had limited flexibility when it came to the actual game design. Kind of a shame as Adam was a huge MTG player in his youth.
stupidtimelimit: In 2001 Neopets was the fourth largest website on the internet. How big was it at its peak? How many visitors?
Donna: I think it peaked around 2002-2003. I am not sure of the actual numbers, to be honest we were too busy with keeping everyone entertained. I will try to dig up some of the old stats. I am sure I have a press kit lurking around somewhere.
- Back then, you could not use programs or hacks to cheat. Understanable. There is also another rule that said you can not buy items/accounts/etc. with real money. What is your point of view in that?
- I missed the Lutari Island mobile app. Is it possible to still get it somehow? The games and rewards were awesome and the Lutari Paint Brush colours were the best.
- What college did you graduate from and what is your degree in?
- Did you plan neopets to have a slight meta-game behind it or was it an unforeseen event?
- Since I self froze my account, is there a way to get it back from years ago and if so what is the ratio?
- I think it was just something that we couldnt be seen to condone as there was no safe way to transfer an account or items for actual money. I am pretty sure there were some complex legal reasons too although I can't really comment on those as I am not familiar enough with them. I vaguely remember something about the players not ever being the owners of the items so they can't actually sell them or something like that.
- The Lutari Island mobile app was so long ago, I wouldnt imagine it still exists now. It wasnt for Iphone or anything like that. I think it was for some tiny motorola phone back in 2001 or so.
- I am a drop out, same as Adam. We both left mid university course to start Neopets.
- If you are referring to the item rarity driving a huge economy, that was definitely intentional.
- I have no idea. I don't know what you mean by ratio. We never had a quota of how many account to freeze or anything like that. We only froze people we were pretty sure were actually doing something wrong.
potatosmasher12: Do you think neopets is still relevant?
Donna: Good question. I think the concept of a virtual world with diverse creatures having adventures in is timeless. As far as Neopets.com goes, honestly I think that a html website with flash games is not really relevant anymore given how people now access the internet and what they do when they are online.
pippyfish: Is there anything about the site that's a lot different to how it used to be, but you think is a change for the better? Or something that's been added that you like the idea of.
Donna: I am not trying to be all bitter and negative and I hope I don't come across as that. I really haven't followed what they have done with the site. It seemed pointless as it wouldnt be like they would listen to any advice we gave anyway.
Houtz96: Were there any, not including personal, issues between the creative team during development of neopets during the time of Neopets inc and Viacom owning neopets? And secondly, you mentioned earlier that your meteor games tech/Dev staff "lied" to you guys. What do you mean by that? Were things not going the way they were though? Or were they just bad at their job?
Donna: First question - I dont remember any huge issues. At one point the artists wanted to join the union, which they did, and I think most of them wished they hadnt afterwards, but that wasnt a big deal. Sorry if that is pretty boring, but for the most part we all got on well. I think it helped that we were all pretty young and childish. If anyone had any issues, out came the Nerf guns and issues were solved :)
Second questions - I was specifically referring to the Twin Skies/PAX demo stuff when I said that. It wasnt the whole dev/tech team, just the people we put in charge. We specifically said that we didnt want the PAX show to detract from the actual game development. If we didnt have the game in a state where it was functional, we just wouldnt do the show. It turns out that the stuff shown at PAX was just a demo specifically made for PAX and none of that actually worked in the game. Exactly what we didnt want to happen as it meant our team had just spent months working on something completely useless. It was our fault. We didnt hire the right people at the top. Its our nature to believe that people can do what they say they can, even if they haven't proven it yet. After all we could... It just bit us in the butt.
taximals: What do you personally think of competing pet sites such as Subeta, where a lot of players who grew out of Neopets have gone to find a more mature and not as heavily policed community?
Donna: I just hada quick glance at Subeta, wow its pretty similar isnt it! I can't really comment on it to be honest as I dont know enough about it. The players will go where they feel most welcome, it is up the site owner to make their game the best imo.
Butterfly: Donna, Adam, do either or both of you have any advice for the current users on Neopets? Either for us decade+ plus long term addicts, or for the newer members? Advice on how to best interact with staff, or perhaps any super top secret tips or tricks?
Donna: Secret tips and tricks? We didnt build any back doors in or 'get x NP by typing in the code' things if that is what you are asking. Most of our 'secrets' we told people about through plots or new features anyway. We are pretty bad at keeping things we are excited about to ourselves :)
PoisonThorn: Knowing how the site is now, or getting a few ideas of how it is now from this AMA, would you ever make a new account to play on Neopets, or would that cause a bit of trouble if word got out you did so?
Donna: I dont have the time I am afraid. Even if I did, not I wouldnt play. I would just see too many things that would make me feel either sad or annoyed as I wouldnt be able to change it.
Frenchie1003: I am a huge fan of everything faerie on the website, so I just had a few questions regarding them. What led to the revamp of them? From the faceless ones to the newfangled ones with different outfits?
Donna: I think the revamp happened because we wanted to include the faeries in plots. It seemed really weird to have a faceless image close up. Also we hired people who could actually draw rather than my abysmal efforts.
Laserbeam2: I was just wondering who designed/programmed the original battledome. Were they happy with it? And what do you guys think of the new battledome? My final question is what do you think about them leaving the new Battledome with these errors for about 18 months with very little communication to us as to what is going on/their timetable to fix them?
Donna: Our friend Dave designed the Battledome. It was his first gaming project that he did as a favour for us. For his first game I think he did a great job, and yes I think he was proud of what he did. For a normal site it would have probably been totally fine, its just there wasnt ever anything normal about Neopets :D
Over time there were lots of issues that arose due to the sheer number of people playing and the complexity we wanted to include. It was also apparently written in a very 'Dave' way so was pretty hard for subsequent programmers to make changes. I didnt know there was a new battledome... Not communicating to your fanbase for that long is awful. Even if you have no chance in hell of fixing it, just let them know. Out of courtesy if nothing else...
erpascal: Are there any tricks to dailies? Like the myth behind 1,000,000 np at Tombola. Basically, are there optimal times to do dailies?
Adam: Yeah, I put a time check in the shrine. I don't think I ever made the prizes vary on the time of day though. That could be different nowadays. The only time-related thing was usually when you could do the activity (like the snowager, or some other shop I can't remember but it closed a lot in the day)
Dortho: Have you met the weekend/holiday mods on the site, when you were working there, or what's up? Do the mods have a quota? Is there a certain amount of warnings and silencings they MUST give to make it look like they are doing their job?
Donna: Back when we worked there we met most of the mods. Sometimes it wasnt possible as they lived really far away, but the local ones we definitely did. When we were there, moderators didnt have a quota or anything like that. It was just a case of a 'keep it clean, Adam and I had better not see anything bad when we randmly log on' type of deal.
I highly doubt a quota was introduced. It is more likely the case that people have taken things out of context. Some of the tools only highlighted part of the conversation, so you would have to do some digging to get the full context. They may just not have time to do that. Those were ancient tools though, I am talking 2005 here. I am sure they have more sophisticated means now.
This article was written by: Chesu