An interview with RocketSnail, the creator of Club Penguin.
In March 2012, I e-mailed Lance Priebe – also known as RocketSnail, the creator and co-founder of the classic Club Penguin game – asking to do an interview with him for an English assignment. At that point in time, RocketSnail was working on a new game known as Mech Mice and had launched a book with the Miller Brothers based around it. I had been playing Club Penguin for just over three years and loved the game, and for my assignment I decided to write an article about Club Penguin based upon the interview made up of 20 questions with RocketSnail.
As the closure of Club Penguin and the launch of Club Penguin Island both loom closer, I thought it would be nice to share this never-seen-before interview with the original creator of the snowy online world which captured the hearts of millions across the world.
Lance Priebe founded RocketSnail Games in late 1999. He started making games at 11-years-old and first created Ballistic Biscuit, which has since been transformed into Hydro Hopper, a mini-game available on Club Penguin.
Work on Club Penguin – an online virtual game where you can waddle around and meet new friends – started in 2004. Before this, this world of penguins was known as Experimental Penguins and several versions of Penguin Chat up to 2005. At the end of 2006, the Club Penguin team actually crashed the entire game and started to look for help. In 2007, Disney offered $350 million for the game and Club Penguin successfully joined The Walt Disney Company on August 1st 2007. Lance says, “Club Penguin had become too popular and we needed to grow the company. We started talking with Disney in early 2007. This wasn’t a hard decision, Disney is a fantastic company.”
Lance says you can never guess success and continues to talk with Disney, the current owners of the game, all the time. Lane Merrifield, one of the other co-founders, runs the entire family and children’s games for Disney. On names for his games, Lance says, “A name is only cool if you can attach an emotion to the name”. Penguin Chat, the experiment for Club Penguin was not moderated, however Club Penguin was created with a commitment to safety and therefore is. Only three rooms were in the original Penguin Chat, but now there are more rooms in Club Penguin due to its larger audience.
“WHY DO YOU NEED MORE ROOMS? THE MORE ROOMS YOU HAVE, THE LESS PEOPLE ENCOUNTER EACH OTHER.”
A version of Lance’s original Penguin Chat remains online, hosted by Contact Music. “I sold many versions of Penguin Chat to other companies. Contact Music is the only version that is still online”, Lance shares with us. Party hats are some of the rarest items in the Club Penguin game; however Lance reiterates that they will never return. Lance Priebe left Club Penguin in October 2010 to pursue new ventures.
RocketSnail met the Miller Brothers, authors of popular series Codebearers, around two years ago and became a fan of their books. Lance became good friends with the pair and then called them, asking if they would write a book for Mech Mice, an upcoming game from Lance’s studio. For those looking forward to the Mech Mice game, a beta is planned for October 2012. Lance’s team currently have five games in production, with the new Snail Chat announced last week.
“ANYONE CAN MAKE A GAME. JUST START SMALL.”
Lance says anyone can make a game; all he advises is to “just start small”. His company, RocketSnail Games is still small to him; stating he “needs to grow the audience to 100,000 players”. In a series of blog posts, Lance showed fans how to make their own small virtual world, using rubber ducks as an example, however when asked about whether it could potentially be released by him, he said that there were “no plans to launch Rubber Duck Chat. It is just a tutorial for people wanting to learn how to make a Virtual World”. Making games started to become his hobby when he was 11. When he comes to work, Lance says that he “loves going to work to make games. I like the challenge”. “Don’t start from scratch” is Lance’s advice to those who would like to try building games. “Start small!” he continues to say. “Start small.”
I would like to thank Lance for answering my interview questions in 2012 and I hope you enjoyed the article I produced from it for our very first interview feature on The Islanders. If you’d like to see more interviews, feel free to leave a comment below. Until next time…