Creators' Blog Guest Posts

Interview with Slanted Fish from the Poptropica Creators 🎤🐠

This interview was originally published on the Poptropica Creators’ Blog along with a call to go vote in the 2021 Poppies. Enjoy!

1. How were you first introduced to Poptropica?

My younger brother found Poptropica on Funbrain and introduced it to me. Back then, we would go on Funbrain to read Jeff Kinney’s Diary of a Wimpy Kid before it became a printed book series!

2. Who do you think is the most underrated character? Overrated?

  • Most underrated character: Elf Queen from Twisted Thicket. She doesn’t seem to get mentioned much in the fandom, but her leafy design is absolutely magical, and her storyline very fitting for our modern climate crisis.
  • Most overrated character: Dr. Hare, who might just be the most marketed Pop character (he even had a whole LEGO campaign at one point!). But we love him anyway.

3. What are your favorite scenes, aesthetically and to play through?

It’s hard to pick a favorite scene as there are so many that are visually stunning! But to highlight a few, I love the aesthetics of the Imperial Garden on Red Dragon (especially the cherry blossom trees), and the various interactive puzzles on Nabooti, such as the mancala game and the fox-chicken-cornfeed conundrum.

4. What was your inspiration in creating and furthering the Poptropica Help Blog (PHB)?

I was inspired to create a blog after seeing lots of fan blogs for other online games I enjoyed at the time, especially Club Penguin (rip). I stumbled into a Poptropica focus somewhat accidentally when setting up the site on WordPress: while thinking about the URL, I discovered that poptropica.wordpress.com was untaken, and it felt like too good of an opportunity to pass up. So that was the PHB’s first URL, which illustrates the dearth of Poptropica fan sites at the time, and how we were able to fill that gap on the internet.

What inspired me to keep going was everything else that followed. I was amazed by how quickly the site grew in readership, fueled by all the amazing things Poptropica has been doing, especially in the heart and depth of storytelling through gameplay in its myriads of island adventures. Even as the game changes and people come and go, what I enjoy about the PHB is how it continues to be a space for Poptropicans to share their ideas, fan art, and friendships. If you’re interested, I’ve written more about this on the PHB’s Philosophy page.

Poptropica Creator Dr. Lange’s drawing of the PHB team (2014)

5. How has your PHB career surprised you?

As the previous Q&A touches on, I’ve been surprised by the rapid popularity of the PHB (it reached 1 million views in its first year, and 13 years later, has over 35 million). But I’m not too concerned about the statistics—I’m more interested in cultivating the quality of people’s visits, and to that end it’s been a blessing to hear from so many Poptropicans over the years who’ve enjoyed what the PHB offers.

Another surprise is the creativity and intensity of so many fans’ Pop-inspired passions, which help shape what the PHB brings to the fandom, from personal My Place in Poptropica stories to discoveries of Pop Places IRL. It’s definitely not a one-person operation—credit goes to the many, many Poptropicans who make it all possible!

Banner Day: Let your freak flag fly.

6. What does the Pop community mean to you?

To me, it’s as simple as a gathering of people who enjoy Poptropica. They can be of all ages — some are even in their twenties like me. Poptropica fans are creative (just look at all the fan art, blogs, and videos), clever (we enjoy solving puzzles and finding trivia), and concerned (we support each other and sometimes critique for the good of the game we love). Above all, we’re united in our passion for Pop!

7. From your perspective, how has the community changed over the past 12 years?  

The biggest change I’ve noticed personally is that the kids have gotten older. Though Poptropica has always been aimed at kids, it’s fascinating to see how teens and young adults (myself included) still participate in the fandom, often returning from childhood nostalgia and sticking around for the community and inspired storytelling (perhaps even creating some of their own). Of course, young kids are still around. From my perspective, even children are capable of enjoying Poptropica’s more sophisticated stories, particularly those from the classic islands.

Friendly Folk: All so nice and polite, for a while at least.

8. How have your experiences with the community and Poptropica influenced you IRL?

Poptropica’s many whimsical worlds — from the medieval madness of Astro-Knights to the genie glamor of Arabian Nights — have inspired my art and writing, and widened my appreciation for digital storytelling and cultural connections.

As for the PHB, it has given me a space to write about something I care about, to carefully consider how to express ideas, and help the blog’s staff and guest writers do the same. Having our content read by so many fellow fans is a responsibility, privilege, and a great encouragement to keep building the blessing.

The skills, friendships, and passions developed over many years of playing and creating carry over to other areas of life too. For me, that has included earning my undergrad degree in English and pursuing a career in communications. With all the diversity in Poptropica and its community comes great potential for many more Poptropicans!

Fish Face: These ocean-dwellers are getting animated.

Favorites

  • Costume: Fish kimono from Red Dragon
  • Island: Shark Tooth
  • Backstory/Lore: How islands appear in the world of Poptropica through a central spot in the sea called the Nexus, as described in Poptropica graphic novel #4: The End of Time.
  • Hero: Max McGullicutty from Survival
  • Villain: Scheherazade

Thank you, Poptropica Creators, for hosting this interview with me (and for calling the PHB “the leading fan-run Poptropica blog” in the original post 😁). Keep on popping on, Poptropicans! ✌️

~Slanted Fish 🐟🐡🐠💙

Creators, Creators' Blog Guest Posts, Fairy Tale Island

Interview with the Poptropica Creators: the creative process of making a game 🎤✏️

Hey Poptropicans, it’s Slanted Fish here with a behind-the-scenes look at the Poptropica Creators’ creative process! 👀✏️

Operating System: When technology meets talent, anything is possible.

About a month ago, I sent the Pop Creators several interview questions, and this week, the questions were answered! You can catch the full interview on the Creators’ Blog as well as below, along with some additional notes (in italics) here in the PHB edition:

Where do you get your ideas from?

We get a lot of ideas when we’re together talking about our favorite things. That inspires a lot of creative fun ideas. Pets came from the idea that almost everyone on the Poptropica Creators team [h]as pets and the types of pets varies from dogs to cats to rabbits and more.

We also get a lot of ideas from players. Poptropica players are always sharing super cool stuff that they want to see in the game. We get awesome fan mail and see people’s ideas on social media too.

(PHB’s note: We share ideas from the community here on the PHB as well — check out our Pop Petitions for things we want to see in the game!)

What does the process of making something on Poptropica look like from start to finish, whether it’s an item, island, or character?

We’ll use the new store we’re working on as an example! First, everyone on the team does research. We go through player feedback on what people have and haven’t liked about the Poptropica store over the years. We also look at other stores, including stores IRL. Then we start to concept what we want the store to be like. We have to come up with designs that will be easy to use both on your computer and on mobile.

After the sketches are done, some of the artists will start to design the actual scene with color and place items, so we get an idea of how big it needs to be. Once everyone feels like it has what it needs, it goes to the developers.

The developers are the ones who bring the whole thing to life. They code the entire experience and that’s the first time any of the Poptropica Creators can actually play what they’ve designed! We just did our first play-through of the new store and were psyched with how it’s come along.

Everything we make requires the whole team and takes a lot of time. It’s totally worth it though!

(PHB’s note: Check out these sneak peeks for the upcoming interior of the store! Also, it’s cool to hear about how different parts of the team work together to create the game’s designs.)

Can you share some snapshots of what you’re working on?

Here [are] some more sneak peeks [for] the new Fairy Tale Island!

(PHB’s note: Nice pics! We’ve also shared more sneak peeks of Fairy Tale Island on this blog. Stay tuned to the PHB for the latest news on this upcoming adventure! Also, thoughts on this new hands-on-hips pose?)

What kind of stories do you hope to tell?

We love unique stories with a fun twist. Elements of surprise are always super fun too. When we’re brainstorming new ideas or choosing winners for the Dream Island Contest, we’re looking for things that we think we would love to read as a book. If it would make a good book, then it would make a great island!

(PHB’s note: Interesting. We love a good book too, but a Poptropica island is not a book — wouldn’t it be cool to explore more on the affordances of Poptropica’s platform? Interactivity, non-linear storytelling, social interaction, and more are all possibilities with digital storytelling that you would not find with a book. Still, there are certain elements that make up a good story no matter the medium, and we always look forward to what stories will be told through Poptropica!)

How do you gather player feedback and how does it influence the game?

Players share their feedback in a lot of different places, from actual mail to videos online. There is always a lot of feedback and it ranges from super fun ideas to questions about why we’ve made changes to Poptropica. When we get a lot of the same feedback from different players it can definitely influence what we do. For example, there have been a lot of requests for more ways to customize your character now that New You is gone. We’re already incorporating that into the new features we’re working on. 

(PHB’s note: Why is New You gone, anyway? BTW, if you have feedback for the Creators, you can send them through their submission form!)

What advice do you have for young creatives who want to work on a game like Poptropica one day?

If you’re passionate about making games, start learning no matter what age you are. One of the newest developers on the Poptropica Creators team started learning how to code when they were 12, and that was before there were so many amazing online courses! Always be open to learning new things and be willing to put in the hard work and dedication to become really good at it. Sometimes starting something new can feel hard, but with practice, anyone can become great!


That’s the end of the interview! Thank you, Poptropica Creators, for taking the time to answer these questions and give Poptropicans everywhere some insight into the game’s inner (and outer) workings. It’s hard work building this space to be quality fun, but well worth it! 💙

What are your thoughts on the Q&A? What questions do you have for the Pop Creators? Share them in the comments here, and/or on the original guest post on their blog, and they may be addressed in the future!

~🐠