PHB Specials

Poptropica at the Game Developers’ Conference!

Hey Poptropicans! 😀

I recently came across a couple of interesting Poptropica PowerPoint presentations by Christopher Barney, a Creator thought to be Triton. These were made for the Game Developers’ Conference (GDC), the largest annual gathering of professional video game developers.

In 2013, Chris spoke on the topic of Poptropica Friends, and in 2015, the talk was on Poptropica Realms. As you go through these PowerPoints, you may already be familiar with some of the info presented, but keep in mind that this was for other game-makers who may not know much about Poptropica. While there are a lot of slides to sift through, it’s still worth a look!

GDC 2013 | 100 Million Friends You Can Never Know

In this Poptropica Friends presentation, we see the inside of the Creators’ process in creating the Friends feature. Below are some of the more interesting slides (it looks like a lot, but this is only part of it!). Click to enlarge the images, or click here view the full presentation!

Interspersed between some neat graphics, we can find a lot of information:

  • Pop Quizzes were originally going to be text-based.
  • Photos were made to reward progress as players went through islands. More than that, they were originally going to be Badges! This explains (as we can see on one of the slides) a sneak peek of Badge Albums we uncovered years ago.
  • The Creators carefully considered our experience with ads, and decided to spare us from bad ad placement. We appreciate it!
  • One slide shows a scene that appears to be from Shark Tooth Island, but there’s a hay tipi beside an “Enter Poptropica” sign that goes to the blimp. Is this an early idea for account creation?
  • Early designs for the Friends feature was Facebook-like with several vertical screens, and a player room with platforms was also considered (not sure how this may be different from common rooms).
  • The Map was originally going to have zooming, but it was too disorienting.
  • Girls are likelier than boys to change their mood on their profile. Happy and excited are the most popular moods. Bashful is the least popular.
  • Some Poptropicans choose a different country identity than where they’re from. (Side note: Why do they recognize Hong Kong as its own ‘country’ here, yet Hong Kong is not an option in the actual game when you select your country on your profile?)
  • Tribe members’ “play habits” conform to the theme of the tribe they’re in.
  • Tribal home pages and challenges may be coming in the future.

2015 | Turning 100,000,000 Friends Into Game Developers

A couple of years later, Chris presented a sequel to the previous talk, this time focusing on Poptropica Realms and how it adds user-generated content to Poptropica. Check out some of these noteworthy slides, or click here view the full presentation!

Some interesting takeaways from this presentation include:

  • There are about 8 million active users on Poptropica per month.
  • “Success makes innovation harder.” Hmm, food for thought.
  • Realms was created in part to give a new gameplay experience that still felt “Poptropica”.
  • Poptropica has to prioritize COPPA standards (children’s online privacy) when they allowing any form of sharing/user content.
  • Realms was originally thought of as a single infinite random world, and eventually became many worlds.
  • There’s some technology jargon in there for those interested.
  • Not everything went right the first try: prototypes had no tutorial, intros were too long or short, etc.
  • They sure got this right though: “Raising our (under age) players’ desire for membership does not increase their parents’ desire to buy it for them.”
  • Earlier Realms designs lacked a strong art style, player progression, motivation to build, and narrative direction.
  • Limited features meant there was not a lot to do for the less creatively-inclined player.
  • On average, Realms players spend over twice as much time on the site than those playing islands. Among the stats, 1.4 million players use Realms.
  • Sharing Realms would take more time to implement, so they held off on releasing that feature. Lots of public Realms have been visited, but only by about 30,000 users (not a lot compared to the other statistics).
  • Future plans include tying Realms with Friends, catering to more player types, multi-user Realms, tying island gameplay to Realms, and more.
  • Out of about 40 developers at Poptropica, the team dedicated to Realms is capped at 4, so that others could work on other Poptropica projects outside of Realms.
  • Chris Barney thinks it’s funny to end his presentations with an image of the Jersey Devil, often cited by players as one of the scariest Poptropica moments.

Well, that concludes these fascinating Poptropica presentations from a game developer’s perspective! Hope you enjoyed these insights! 😀

Stay popping, Poptropicans. 🐠🐠


16 thoughts on “Poptropica at the Game Developers’ Conference!”

    1. Tall Cactus actually posted a comment about it yesterday, but the PHB doesn’t owe anyone “credit” for making discoveries. Our team is just as capable as anyone in finding news, so for all you know, we may have seen it beforehand and just hadn’t had time to post yet. We do like to give credit if it genuinely helped us in finding something we hadn’t noticed, but we don’t appreciate the attitude that we somehow “owe” it to you.

  1. You are SO right, Popular Wolf. It’s like an awesome sneak peek at Poptropica Headquarters… sorry for the spy talk, I just finished Spy Island 😛

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