Hey Poptropicans! This is a special post where I, Slanted Fish, have written an open letter addressing some improvements that could be made to Poptropica. As a longtime player and owner of a Poptropica fansite where I see comments from confused players daily, there is much I feel is worth saying here. Discussion is highly encouraged in the comments section. Enjoy!
On the whole, you are a wonderful, whimsical world, full of adventure and brimming with excitement around every corner. For that, you have garnered a community of loyal fans, eager to pop in and explore, collect, compete. And yet, for the newbie and seasoned veteran alike, there are still some areas that leave something to be desired. That’s what this letter is about. This is what we need.
Part I: Improve Tutorial
When we first arrive on Poptropica, we are greeted by Tutorial (Home) Island, a quick little quest that introduces us to the world of the game. But is it enough? While playing through it can certainly give any new player a handle on some of the basics, there are still some things left unsaid. For example, how did this world come to exist? Some kind of back story would give us a bit more purpose.
What are the main points of Poptropica? We can tell that “saving the world” on this island is important (finding all the medallion shards), but what about the myriad of other features that Poptropica offers, like the Costumizer or meeting friends or the Daily Pop, that are never explicitly explained in the tutorial? For players, they must slowly figure this out on their own, yet going through this info would be of great help to a new player. And finally, what about explaining how to save your account? Some players have reported making a new account every time they played, because they didn’t know the save button even existed! Such a simple yet important step is surely worth bringing to attention. In other words, the tutorial should be more clear about all that Poptropica is.
Part II: Teleportation Within Island
Then we look to actually playing islands. On the old islands (the ones without sound), we had maps that would tell us where we were if we were feeling lost. Newer islands (sound-updated islands, also known as SUIs) have done away with this feature. While maps themselves don’t affect gameplay much, there is something that would make them a lot more helpful: teleportation.
In a lot of island quests, a lot of time is spent walking back and forth between different areas, which feels very tedious after a while. This is especially true when you are stuck in the game and are just going around trying everything you can think of. On newer islands (SUIs), where areas are much bigger, all that walking around is made even worse. On older islands, where there is no blimp button on the menu to take you back to the map, some players have reported getting lost trying to find their way back to the blimp! Vampire’s Curse is one such tricky island where it is difficult to get back. On Astro-Knights, many have also wondered how to get back into space, unaware of the spaceship that waits for them atop the castle of Arturus. It would ease quite a bit of frustration if players could use a map to teleport to areas they had already unlocked on the island. (For example: the exception, Mystery of the Map Island, which does this.)
Part III: Removing Ads
The only issue this teleportation would really affect are the ad streets that sometimes appear in between places. However, all these ad streets are often quite annoying to players who are in the middle of an island quest and only find the ad to be in their way. We can already see ads on Main Street of every island (which are fine and often engaging). But to have extra areas we are forced to pass through for the sole purpose of displaying an ad is simply a disturbance in the Poptropica experience. In addition, the ads that occasionally display on the sidebars are often quite glaring and sometimes unappealing, and its position makes it all too easy to have an accidental click into a separate site right in the middle of our Poptropica-exploring.
It’s understandable that ads bring in money for Poptropica to continue as a business, but while the Main Street ads are done well, the others are a bit of a nuisance. It might be a worthwhile idea to remove the extra ads (those not on Main Street offering prizes) for paying members of Poptropica who are already funding the site with their memberships. Many other places on the web offer this feature (paying to browse with no ads), and this perk would make membership an even more attractive option for players without affecting too much.
Part IV: Thoughts on Membership
Speaking of memberships, it should come as no surprise that Poptropica wants you to buy them – but how can they sell themselves effectively? Considering the target demographic of the game, for many players the struggle is not that they don’t want membership, but rather convincing their parents that it’s worth paying for. Because Poptropica is a computer game and not quite as physically tangible as a toy, some parents do not see it as something of enough value to throw their money at. While Poptropica does a great job flaunting the benefits of membership to kids, they may also want to add some sort of presentation aimed at parents and perhaps even teachers, focusing on educational benefits like reading, learning about different environments, building friendships, and more.
In addition, what about more ways to buy membership? Poptropica used to sell membership game cards at a variety of stores in North America, but for some reason this has become rarer. Perhaps there are complications we do not know about, but if this is something financially feasible, it should still be considered. A physical game card, like a gift card, enforces the idea that Poptropica could be a worthwhile investment for parents’ money. Another idea is to allow PayPal – just another method of electronic payment, but one that is widely used and may well be the only option for someone who for some reason or other doesn’t have a debit or credit card. More ways to buy membership increases the likelihood of more membership purchases.
All that being said, Poptropica would do well to remember that no matter what, many of their players are still not likely to buy a membership. As last summer’s scandal of seven islands becoming members only suggests, many players are here because Poptropica offers a fun-filled, but more importantly (mostly) free, world of adventure. Many kids would simply find something else to entertain them if Poptropica did not remain mostly free. Poptropica should continue to be very careful about how much they give and take away to those who can pay and those who cannot. At least for the most part, they’ve done a good job.
Part V: More Outside Advertising
I would estimate that the number of paying members right now is about a few thousand. This estimate comes from my rankings on various World Champions Player Maps after finishing islands within a day or so of the islands’ release to non-members (suggesting that the majority of finishers before me were members who would have played during early access). I am not sure what this means for Poptropica’s budget, but Poptropica could definitely benefit from more outside advertising. Wherever kids look, Poptropica needs to be waved in their faces – some places to start might be TV ads, cereal boxes, or kids’ online gaming websites (branch out from Funbrain!).
Part VI: Glitchy Gameplay
Another major issue that has been bugging (heh) some players is game glitches (and not the ‘good’ kind, to be explained later). There have been many reports from players, for some reason or other, encountering problems like never getting the safety helmet on Mocktropica that hinders them from completing islands. Although you can contact Poptropica support for help, bug complaints are still somewhat frequent. It has gotten better since the early days of SUIs, but it still has a ways to go.
A game’s smoothness (or lack of it) can make or break the game for some people. However possible, Poptropica needs to be more vigilant about fixing glitchy gameplay (perhaps by expanding their team of developers so that these issues are not so easily overlooked, and more quickly fixed?). We don’t really know all that goes on in Poptropica HQ, but with so many projects on Poptropica’s plate these days (islands, graphic novels, animations, etc), an expanded team of workers might help to speed up the processes of producing content for Poptropicans to enjoy.
Part VII: Do Something About the Uncostumizable
Now to explain “good glitching”: as some Poptropicans are aware, the art of taking advantage of Poptropica glitches to obtain rare, otherwise uncostumizable costume parts has been around for years. Many “glitchers” have made it their hobby to specialize in collecting and trading various different costume parts, particularly in places like the PHC. It has become such a big thing within this part of the Poptropica community that to take this away would leave many Poptropicans with less desire to play the game. In an attempt to make this less exclusive to most players, here at the PHB we’ve released things like the Avatar Studio Gift so that all could enjoy such costumes.
However, there’s something off about having to obtain cool costume parts from a glitch, something that was never intended to be part of the game. The solution is not quite as simple as removing such a glitch – as mentioned, doing so would turn many away from the game – but rather in making it obsolete. Players want those cool costumes, and Poptropica is doing them no favors by making them out of reach without the intervention of glitching. Instead, Poptropica should find a way to make certain “rares” obtainable, yet not as common as the average costumizable garment. They could make challenges such as mini-games with prizes or Store items that would encompass desired items like beards, special eyes, robots, animal parts, and so on.
Part VIII: Hints & Walkthroughs
Finally, Poptropica could seriously benefit from a hint system. When players get stuck on an island quest, what can they do? While some may cleverly turn to the internet for walkthroughs, for others the thought may not even cross their minds. Instead of losing players because they couldn’t figure out what to do next, or what they were even supposed to do in the first place, a hint system could remind them of who they’ve talked to and what the current missions of the island are. It could also offer up vague-to-specific hints about what to do next, so as not to completely spoil the adventure unless the player was absolutely stuck.
Poptropica has also somewhat recently started making its own walkthroughs, with videos and blog posts from Captain Crawfish. However, these currently only cater to some of the newer islands, which means that players still sometimes look elsewhere for guides. That’s a good thing for the PHB, of course, but it could still be better. Even with all the promotion on Poptropica’s own site, there is a noticeable disparity between the amount of views on official Crawfish walkthrough videos versus those of popular player Thinknoodles. While Poptropica’s walkthroughs have been decent, many players have shown preference for the likes of Thinknoodles and, not to brag, the PHB. The point is, fans of the game are able to produce good Poptropica help to fellow fans, and – though this may be a bit far-fetched – perhaps Poptropica might like to use this to their advantage by enlisting our help with creating such help resources.
We have suggested that Poptropica can help us with helping them through hopefully officializing a Poptropica Wiki, starting with providing high-quality images (although we can obtain them ourselves, Poptropica should already have them and it would be much easier if they shared them there). Officializing and promoting the guides of a fansite such as the PHB would also allow for more help to reach more Poptropicans who might otherwise be unaware of the tools available.
Anyway, that concludes this long letter of suggestions. You made it to the end! Thanks for reading!
–Slanted Fish 🐠🐠
Poptropica Help Blogger
P.S. Please continue this discussion in the comments! Your thoughts matter! 🙂