Interview With Adam Powell, the Creator of Neopets
Adam Powell, who is the creator of Neopets, sat down and chatted with us in July of 2008 to tell us about his latest adventures! Contrary to popular belief, he and Donna do not work at Neopets (they left in back in 2005) even though their names still remain on the Neopets About page. Anyway, without further ado, we give you Adam - the creator of Neopets!
1. Can you give us a brief bio?
I started programming my ZX Spectrum aged 5, and since then have been absolutely obsessed with computer games and role-playing adventures. I used to make my own choose-your-own adventure books in school, but they weren't very good. I wrote my first text adventure in QBasic, you had to go around our University halls of residence and battle piles of toxic rubbish and evil cleaning ladies, but I ran out of RAM before you left the dorm to go outside.
In 1996 me and a friend worked on a MUD called Dark Heart on our university network, and I nearly got thrown off my course as a result. My experience making these types of games helped Donna and myself create Neopets at the end of 1999. We left in 2005 to go back to the UK (via Canada for a few months, drove up there with our cats). We returned to the US in 2007 and founded Meteor Games shortly after.
2. What do you consider as your accomplishments up to this point?
*checks PS3 online* *checks Steam* Ummmm, I'd say Donna and myself are extremely proud of what we accomplished at Neopets :)
3. Can you tell us something funny that happened at the office before you left?
We used to have lots of eating competitions. Probably not the best thing to do in the corporate environment, but nothing gets your co-workers more excited than watching somebody eat 12 McDonalds cheeseburgers in 10 minutes, or drink a gallon of milk. The best one was where one of our flash developers tried to eat a Subway sandwich that was the height of one of the artists. That did not end well.
4. What lead you and Donna to (really) leave Neopets in 2005, explain?
I've been reading some comments lately, and people seem to think that Donna and myself sold out and left to the detriment of the site. It really wasn't that way, we hadn't been happy there since 2004, for a variety of reasons. We were really pushing for new content, but it seemed that all our efforts accomplished were more ads, more sponsor games and more corporations taking over Neopia Central. The management did what was right for the company, but not for the site in my opinion.
We had absolutely no say in the sale of the company at all, we just took the opportunity to move on with our lives because we hadn't really done anything constructive for Neopets for about eighteen months at that point. It was quite sad really.
5. What were some of the requirements left for Viacom to abide by when they purchased Neopets.com?
They didn't really have to abide by anything. Donna and myself left lots of guidelines for content, and they've been pretty good about managing the site and keeping to the original plan since we left. They're bringing back a lot of merchandise now which we think is great news. We almost thought they'd forgotten at some point :)
6. What is your opinion about Neopets 2.0 (layout) and the "customisation" part of Neopets?
I think it would be so much better if the Neopets walked around in a 3D environment. I personally think that you'd get a lot more out of the items purchased from the NC Mall if people could see your Neopet on more than just your user lookup page.
As for the Neopets 2.0 layout they should eliminate all that whitespace from the source code (pet peeve!) I think it may be a bit too wide. I liked the fact on the original layout that it felt like you were "exploring" the world, especially with the world-themed header images. I know those images were a pain to create, but it was worth it. I don't get the same feeling browsing Neopets these days.
7. Has Neopets become what you and Donna had hoped/dreamed it would become after it was sold, explain?
Obviously we both still have some sort of attachment to the property, and we're both the first to point out any mistakes or things we don't think are up to standard. I guess that comes with working on Neopets for 5 or so years. I think they're doing fine, there's still too much advertising, but I dont think that's avoidable now. The flash games are really improving in quality.
We're very glad they finished the Sloth plot, even though that the whole point of the story originally was to tell the Neopets community why the purple Neopets had orange spots. Oh well, that secret will be lost forever now :(
8. What are you and Donna up to nowadays?
We work full time at Meteor Games, don't really have time for anything else. Lots of walking around, coming up with ideas for the site, and somehow managing to cram in time to play all the latest online games. We play a lot of Rock Band too, Donna's doing most songs on Hard on the drums, and I'm usually singing or playing the bass, like Flea or Celine Dion respectively.
9. What is your projected audience for Meteor Games, and are you willing to expand it to a broader or more restricted audience in the future?
When we started Neopets we didn't intend for it to be a kids site. It had this dark, tongue-in-cheek humour, many in-jokes and many references that younger kids wouldn't get, but you probably know all that. The site just seemed to attract a younger audience over time, I think our Happy Meal promotion had a lot to do with that, and the cute pets and faeries may have played a minor role.
Anyway, our new game is a lot more grown up. I'd say more Harry Potter meets Roald Dahl meets Labyrinth. A fantastic world that isn't dumbed down for the younger players.
10. When will Meteor Games' new game become available for the public to play?
I can't really tell you when it's going to be launched. All I can say is that we're all working very hard and I really hope we'll be able to give you a more precise date later this year. That sounds like every other MMO company, I know, but its such early days at this point we just dont want to disappoint people.
11. Is Meteor Games going to be free or will it cost money? If it's going to cost money, can you give us an estimate of how much it is going to cost?
Well, all these online games have to cost something (or be supported by ads). We're aiming for a monthly subscription, but we're setting the bar very high on quality and support so it will certainly be worth it. I'd say probably in the $5-$10 range per month.
12. Since Meteor Games is just in its early stages, you must have a relatively small staff (around 40). Can you tell us about them? Do any of them like cookies, or evil things?
Wow, these questions really are going to get me into trouble. Our staff are great! Lately some of them have been slowly accumulating an arsenal of NERF weapons, although they lack the dexterity, grace and pinpoint accuracy possessed by the myself and other members of the management.
13. Can you give us any fancy screenshots or teasers for Meteor Games' new game?
Well, it really will involve Meteors, we weren't joking about that. When our site goes live we intend to put quite a few screenshots up, especially ones of bugs or weird graphical effects. We're very willing to share the crazy stuff that happens during development with our players!
14. What lead you to post on TDN Forums and even go as far as answering these questions? Just curious.
Everybody still thinks we work at Neopets! :)
15. Is there anything else you would like the world to know, about you or Donna, Meteor Games, Neopets, etc.?
I don't want to give anything else away. Keep watching our site at http://www.meteorgames.com for updates!
1. Windows or Mac
Windows, sorry! I would extoll the virtues of UNIX for a web-based development environment but that would just be too boring for this interview.
Ian Note: Badbadbad, Adam! BAD!!! *thwacks*
2. UK or USA
It would have to be the USA, been here too long!
3. Pirates or Ninjas
Vikings, their frosty demeanour, grim determination and heavily muscled torsos give them the brute force and stamina needed to defeat both Pirate and Ninja alike.
4. Phone Call or Email
5. Chocolate or Vanilla
6. Pepsi or Coke
Fresca, which is made by Coke, so I guess Coke.
7. Meepit or Asparagus
Well, I can use asparagus in our new game without attracting the wrath of lawyers, so it would have to be the latter.
Thanks so much to Adam for answering these questions!
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