Neopets (1999 – To date): Internet’s most Nostalgic Virtual Pets.

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This week, I will talk more about technological development and the revolution that has happened in the past few decades. The internet is one of the major indicators of technological development.

The internet is an excellent, beautiful, and sometimes horrible place. Have you heard of the saying that “the internet never forgets?”. Yes, it doesn’t forget, but that does not mean things don’t get obsolete. There is nothing more representative of the internet like the Neopets and Adobe Flash.

Back in the days, when adobe flash was the new thing on the internet. Web pages became interactive, and loads of games were designed that would just reside on the page with little or no load or bandwidth demands on the server.


Neopets: The classic virtual pets of the later 90s to 2000s.


It was around that time that Neopets came into existence. An addictive virtual internet pet. The concept behind Neopets was more or less similar to the idea behind Tamagotchis. Ohh…how I loved pets back then…both real and virtual. At least for the virtual pets, there was not messy cleaning to be done! A simple click on a button just achieved all!
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to the later 90s when the Neopets took over the internet with a storm. Technology has really changed, Adobe flash is no longer a viable component in the online world, but still, the Neopets have survived 21 years of being relevant to all generations.

Technology and the pace it advances affects our understanding of modern history. The first iPhone was released in 2007, and it was an absolute wonder for its time (do you still feel Old?). Now more than ever, anything older than a decade old is too easy to see as archaic and obsolete.

We believe we have sharp memories, but how many phone numbers do you remember off the head without checking your phonebook? Of course, our phones, computers, and servers remember certain things better than we do. Technology has rapidly changed in the past few years, and the internet is a real revelation of these changes.

Despite the uneventful termination of support for Adobe Flash, which was even made worse when Chrome also stopped supporting Flash, Neopets has still soldiered on for now 21 years straight. Neopets is a colorful, 21-year-old website about pets and mini-games. Neopets is close to and dear to many people who happened to have enjoyed their youthful life in the late 90s to early ‘90s – the generation that grew up on the internet.

When it was first published, Neopet used to run entirely on Adobe Flash. The whole site depended on Adobe Flash, right from its interactive maps to modify the pets and mini-games. There is some components of the site that could not be accessed without Flash. Although the team released a mobile-friendly version of the website, the progress was slow, and it doesn’t quite have the Neopets experience that we used to enjoy back in the 90s when it was full running on Flash.


A Brief History of the Neopets

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Image: Reddit, Neopets 1999
NeoPets is a virtual pet site where users can own virtual pets (called Neopets) and purchase virtual stuff for them using virtual currency (Neopoints). Neopoints is acquired on the site, and the other currency, called Neocash would be bought with real money or won in the game by chance.

Adam Powell and Donna Willams launched the website in late 1999. Two years later, an investment group led by Doug Dohring acquired a majority stake in the company, and Viacom purchased Neopets, Inc. for $160 Million in June 2005. Viacom sold Neopets to JumpStart Games for an unspecified amount of money on March 17th, 2014. NetDragon, a Chinese company, later acquired Neopets in July 2017.

NeoPets Gameplay

The site allows users to create and nurture digital pets known as Neopets in a virtual world called Neopia. There is no set objective for the user, but when they grow hungry or ill, the user should feed and care for their Neopets. If neglected, Neopets will not die, but their health can limit gameplay.
Neopets were of several species and colors. Users can get items like books and toys to play and read for their Neopet. You could also customize your Neopet and give it the clothing, brushes for painting, potions for transformation, and accessories. You can also build customized Neohome and put furniture, wallpapers, and a cute floor. Neopets can fight against other Neopets characters in a contest called Battledome, but they can’t die.

Neopia is a virtual planet where Neopets and other virtual creatures live. The lands have different themes, like pirates, prehistoric themes, shops, games, and various attractions. Neopia has its unique calendar, but some events like Halloween and Christmas would link to the real-world holidays.

They also have their Neopoints-based economy and the stock market. Users can earn Neopoints by various methods, including games and selling items that can be invested or used for the purchase of different virtual goods and services. Although no user target is set, interactive storylines can introduce changes to the planet like new countries, can be released.

Features like new games, items, and content are regularly updated on the site. Apart from the content added by Neopets staff, users also contribute to the site by submitting content that is verified and filtered by the staff. For example, Neopet’s weekly electronic newspaper called Neopian Times.

Neopets Games
Users should play games to earn Neopoints. Games come in many different genres, including:
  • Action
  • Puzzles, and
  • Chance and luck
Many games have set the highest revenue or playtime. Players will also collect trophies and other game prizes when they are high enough or better than other users. Many browser games for single play, and multiplayer is available. Users are allowed to take part in competitions and spotlights evaluated by staff to highlight the users' skills.

Searches for objects can also be conducted for some NPCs. Competitions for bonus pieces and Neopoints from jackpot can be created against other users or random users in a world Challenge for some Flash games. Monthly tournaments still occur with four-week elimination rounds for multiplayer games.

Neopets Economy
Neopoints are the basis of the economy. Users may also trade real money for neocash, which is used exclusively for the NC mall; users may purchase new items from play games, sell items, and other transactions.

Once purchased, they may save money in the bank, which will be used to:

  • Purchase items from other users or shops of non-player character (NPC), or
  • Used to purchase and sell stocks on the Neopian stock market called NEODAQ,
  • Purchase various other budget items.
Users are allowed to open their own shops for sale, sometime after they get these items from sources like other shops or charities at lower prices. Stuff could also be traded or auctioned.

The Neopets Community

Neopets has a forum with which users can talk and discuss amongst themselves. Each user has his own profile and can edit with basic HTML and CSS knowledge since users cannot upload their own avatars from the website.

Avatars could only be unlocked after completing specific tasks in the game like:

  • Winning a contest, or
  • Getting a high score on a game.
Gamers may also request Neofriends from other users or prohibit other users from contacting them. Members below the age of 13 years cannot access any of the contact features on the platform in order to comply with COPPA. For such members, they have to seek consent from their parents.

The game has an in-game contact device just like your regular daily email. Here, users can write to each other, and you can also block users that you don’t wish to receive messages from. Plus, there was a Neoboards, where discussions on various topics were held. Here, users could enter a BBCode from of their neoHTML to customize their posts and signatures. Users with common interests were grouped in one message board (guilds).
These features are minimal as they do not concern topics such as dating and romance or contentious issues such as politics and religion. Salaried Neopets staff were hired to moderate the community. Users would also volunteer to help moderate the community by reporting messages they find to be inappropriate or offensive. Messages are also screened automatically so that users do not post messages containing profanity or offensive material.

Why girls loved Neopets

Well, generally, girls tend to fall in love with cute pink fluffy things. Tamagotchi and Neopets allowed the girls to own a pet before owning a real-life pet. Neopets was the wireframe for girls back in the days; they could play it for hours on ends without getting bored or tired.
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It was an innovative framework for girls to explore what they love most – shopping! The purchase and sale of aesthetics enabled the community to grow so much that people started doing some DIY projects within the site.

Surprisingly, Neopets was not only the site for caring for your pets and playing mini-games. Many girls and boys from the days have learned most of their beginner coding lessons from Neopets. Customizing your page required some bit of coding and basics in HTML and CSS. This led to many people venturing into computer science and programming later in life.

Personally, Neopets was everything for me. I learned a lot from the site than anyone else would have taught me from UX design, graphics to basic coding, and web design. I also learned that I am a shopaholic and not good at saving! I even made some friends with whom we are still in contact until now. I could spend hours on ends trying to hit the highest score. The skills I gathered from the game are what I am still using now to make money and to make informed financial decisions.

People appear to underestimate how popular sites like Neopets created the internet as we know it today. I like to group it into sites like MySpace, Club Penguin, and AOL that have an equally powerful influence on the whole web culture even though a lot of people don’t know it.

What is new in Neopia? Is it dead?
Does the death of Adobe Flash automatically translate to the death of NeoPets? Well, Since its launch in 1999, Neopets soon became one of the most popular online children’s properties. Millions of people have visited the site for a while to gather virtual pets and play games online. Recently, only a few hundreds of thousands are visiting the site every day.

Although in the world of Neopia, not much has changed in the past two decades, there is a big upheaval around the corner. In 2017, Adobe announced its intention to kill Flash, which has been the primary platform for creating immersive Neopets games and videos.

The decision by Adobe was long overdue. Flash is an obsolete and unreliable mode of content delivery. Experts typically recommend that it should be deactivated due to its inherent security issues. It was even disabled on the Google Chrome browser. Better alternatives are available like HTML5, an open system that Adobe invested in as a replacement for Flash media. Users were given a two-year grace period to ensure a smoother transition. By the end of this year (2020), Adobe will stop ultimately supporting Flash.

For Neopets, the death of Flash is possible a death sentence. The best approach is to convert the elements of the website to the new platform, but this was not an easy task for the Neopets staff since the site had trouble updating past Web 1.0.

The interactive elements of the website – which is the core of Neopets – was designed with Flash when the service was launched in 1999 by Donna and Adma Powell. As the website changed hands, Neopets’ central structure remained unchanged from Scientologist Doug Dohring.

Most of our childhood favorites like Albino, Blacheep, Newgrounds was Flash-based. It is painful to see all you enjoyed in your childhood cannot exist anymore!


Final Thoughts

Unlike Pokémon, which has always updated its games to fit the latest hardware, Neopets relied mostly on nostalgia. Many generations of owners have failed to do something different with the platform and kept the service half-heartedly alive to make use of fond memories of the 90s.

What do you remember about Neopets? Did you get a chance to play?
















 

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Abizaga

Omega Geeze
Admin
Jul 13, 2019
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843
I miss the hell out of this game. I used to play it starting in 2002. I stopped around 2005. I got really attached to those little critters.
 
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Abizaga

Omega Geeze
Admin
Jul 13, 2019
3,339
843
Yes, it was awesome. It will forever be missed. The new platform does not have the experience we used to have back in the early 2000s.
Yeah but sadly the browser based game I guess wouldn't last forever. :(
 

Mprecious

New Geeze
Dec 8, 2020
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Nigeria
Interesting historical and analytical story of a neopet. I really enjoyed reading the story to the very end. I love such a intriguing stories, I pray for more of this, because emotional and interesting stories like this, keeps us going high.
 

Abizaga

Omega Geeze
Admin
Jul 13, 2019
3,339
843
Interesting historical and analytical story of a neopet. I really enjoyed reading the story to the very end. I love such a intriguing stories, I pray for more of this, because emotional and interesting stories like this, keeps us going high.
It was a wonderful game. I'm guessing you didn't experience it?