Preserving Poptropica post-Flash 💥

Hey, Poptropicans—welcome to 2020. As you may have heard, this year will bring about the end of Adobe Flash, the engine that much of Poptropica runs on. The implications are huge for this game, and we’ve already seen it affecting 29 of the oldest islands and many more features.

Here on the PHB, we’ve mentioned the Flash issue here and there, but now we’re taking the opportunity to make a whole post hashing out what’s happening, what it means, and where it’s all going. So let’s get started!

1. Where are the old islands?

In July 2019, Poptropica removed 29 islands from the map. They were all considered “old school islands”: Poptropica’s earliest islands, created and released from 2007–2013, which were built using ActionScript 2 (AS2), a programming language primarily used for the Adobe Flash Player platform.

The good news is, you can still play the old school islands using the Old Island Directory created by the glitcher idk. Although they’re currently inaccessible from the game itself, it’s possible that the old islands will return. Poptropica’s reason for taking them down, for the time being, was because they were “causing a lot of problems for players.”

2. Poptropica’s Promises

On the first day of the new year, Poptropica posted the following on Instagram: “2020 is going to great [sic] — a non-Flash version of the game, new islands, the return of some old islands, and so much more!!!” (Our emphasis added.) So, there’s hope yet that the old islands will return—but as the Instagram post indicates, it may not be all of them.

A fan-made Poptropica map with most of the islands, created by idk.

We’re not sure which ones are coming back and which ones might not make it, nor do we know why, but perhaps there’s only so much they can work with. Still, in addition to directly playing them via the Old Island Directory, you can also relive their memories with the PHB’s collection of Island Guides.

3. What does it mean that Flash is going away?

Adobe Flash Player was an instrumental engine for a lot of the early internet, particularly for games, video, and animations. Poptropica is among the many websites that used Flash, just like other popular game sites of the 2000s and 2010s, like Club Penguin and Neopets. For those of us who’ve grown up playing these games, losing Flash is not just saying goodbye to outdated technology, but watching whole worlds from our childhoods crumble away. RIP. 😢

And yet, Flash is going away simply because tech has evolved for the better—modern web browsers have adapted to HTML5, and the end of Flash also means better security and battery life. So, if Poptropica is to continue, they’ll need to keep up with the tech and move off of Flash… which is what they’ve been working on for the past few years, even though this has meant fewer islands and more cosmetic changes—and yes, even the seemingly odd creation of Poptropica Worlds, built with Unity and launched in 2017.

Newer islands, which have a larger screen and ambient music, were built with ActionScript 3 (AS3), which is more compatible with current desktop standards as well as the rise of mobile applications. We started calling these islands SUIs, which stands for Sound-Updated Islands.

In 2013, Poptropica launched a beta version of 24 Carrot as an SUI called BETA Carrotene, and after fixing up some bugs, they were ready to roll out Virus Hunter, the first official SUI. From then on, all islands were released as SUIs, and sometimes the Creators even went back and re-made a former island, like Time Tangled or Mythology, into an SUI. Unlike older islands, these newer SUIs are able to survive without Flash, which is why islands now come as SUIs.

4. Poptropica’s Progress

Poptropica Worlds was intended to be Poptropica’s solution to the post-Flash dilemma, but for some reason, things didn’t quite pan out. By 2019, it wasn’t being updated anymore and was even actively hidden from the homepage. Instead, many of Worlds’ standout features have since been integrated into the original Poptropica, like device syncing and player clubhouses.

Poptropica even wrote in their recap of 2019 that many of that year’s updates were “a really important part of the conversion process for getting the game off of Flash” suggesting that their post-Flash solution will focus not on Worlds, but on the original Poptropica. Some more of these updates over the past year include a new layout for friends and the store, SUI-ified common rooms, and plus, who could forget the adorable pets?

However, the shiny new things are eclipsed by the loss of many beloved classic features that may or may not be compatible with the future of technology—such as the old school islands.

We’ve also lost a lot of old costumes and items, mostly from the store, though some are gradually coming back through each new monthly rotation of store items. We’ve lost friend features like the ability to add by username, viewing medallions, and even the Multiverse (and tribe!) party rooms. Island photos were replaced by Photo Booth pics, but even the Photo Booth is currently down, with no word on when it may return.

Still, if Poptropica’s previous statements are worth their salt, perhaps there’s still hope yet for a brighter Poptropica post-Flash…

5. Poptropica’s Future

As Poptropica has stated here and there, they are working on porting the game over to newer technology, so that it can live on even after the plug is pulled on Flash. Poptropica Original is here to stay, continuing its legacy both in the web browser and now on mobile devices.

We’re likely to see at least some of the old islands return, based on Poptropica’s Instagram post mentioned above. And they’ve mentioned working on “new islands” as well, including, most recently, the announcement that Zomberry Island will be back—with a new level!

Also, though Poptropica hasn’t confirmed anything specific, perhaps we can still hold out some hope for the return of some of the beloved features we’ve lost, or at least see them morph into viable alternatives.

After all, even Realms disappeared for over a year before it finally returned in late 2018. Meanwhile, Multiverse may be gone, but now we have player clubhouses (introduced in late 2018) to meet up with friends. While they’ve still got some work to do to really make clubhouses as big of a hit as Multiverse was (namely, being able to easily find specific friends whose houses you want to pop into), it’s a promising start to a new era for Poptropica.

Whatever happens, we’ll be here to watch it all go down.

With cautious optimism,

—the PHB 💙