When I don’t really feel like necessarily playing a console game, Virtual Worlds are probably one of my favorite kinds of games as they tend to feature the two things I love most:
In general, if your game has at least those two things, I may be tempted to check it out. Virtual Worlds often get a reputation for being “just for kids”, but I think that’s a poor generalization (and is also part of why some do not get moderated properly) and people should try them more often. That said, there’s a lot of bad Virtual Worlds that are not much more than Flash Games, but there’s also good ones too… Unfortunately, most have closed, but I want to talk about those a bit first.
Wiglington and Wenks was a really cute site–it was both a bit educational and involved traveling around the World to collect and discover things (based off a book series). The site ended due to lack of funds which is disappointing as I think it probably could’ve gotten somewhere if it was sponsored a bit more.
Disney Virtual Kingdom is a game I didn’t get to play very much, but was kind of similar (different avatars and games, but it was the same “Go around the Kingdom approach”) to Disney’s Magic Kingdom game over on Japan’s Disney website (which is the game that Disney Magical World is based off of). I don’t think I’ll ever understand why Disney closed it (it’s not the first of Disney’s many virtual worlds they have closed either).
Some of their other virtual worlds that closed by Disney are Pirates of the Caribbean Online (I played briefly, but didn’t stick to) and Pixie Hollow which I actually enjoyed quite a bit. The main issue with Pixie Hollow was the fact that you needed to spend -a lot- of time on the site for things. There were many limited time badges (Some that required earning thousands of little gatherables that you’d also be competing with many others for) and high score badges among other things and most of the quests were member’s only. I think Virtual Worlds really need to find a good balance when it comes to member stuff and most really didn’t. Pixie Hollow at least let you gift friends which was a cute feature–especially as one shop actually required you to give one to friends which kind of helped encourage sharing (or just brightening someone’s day with a random gift).
That said, the site was still pretty popular even when it closed–the reason being given to put more time in Club Penguin (which I honestly feel hasn’t been as great since Disney has gotten it unfortunately–I love Disney a lot, but I know they aren’t perfect.
Club Penguin is another game I’ve played for quite a while and still check into every so often:
Unfortunately, my favorite things to do in the game were the missions to earn all kinds of neat awards and things like so:
And those missions really don’t exist anymore which kind of stinks. There’s still events (most of which have items limited to Members only :/), but it’s not really the same.
Despite being Virtual Worlds, most of the games are more like Solo Adventures. You can see others playing, but interaction is incredibly limited (due to, again, generally being aimed at younger kids). Some games may have gifting, but most of the time it’s just you earning everything which has good and bad points.
Not to mention many have incorporated the “make real life merchandise for codes in the game” tactic which isn’t necessarily bad (it’s not like it doesn’t work–I have a ridiculous amount of Neopets merchandise… Of course, most of the online stuff I no longer have (including the special limited t-shirts T__T) due to having been hacked when I was younger :/), but I find it’s rare I’ll want the items that are for the items I’d like in the game which makes me feel bad for the kids who probably do want the real life equivalent too.
One of the nice things Club Penguin did with that is you could buy nearly any item and just get a general code which let you pick what item you wanted. This meant you could buy a plushie or figure you really liked versus needing to get that specific one for an item. Not to mention this meant you could continue getting certain items until they changed the online stock versus things like Webkinz where it would be the plushie you got and many have been discontinued (you do not want to know how many Webkinz I have from the brief time I played) or just some games where the items just aren’t really around anymore even though the site is (Poptropica has this problem with many things, but we’ll get to that).
The main problem with Webkinz is that your account could become inactive/be gone if you didn’t register another pet fast enough which was one of the biggest reasons I stopped playing. I don’t know if it’s still like that, but I know that any site that makes you keep buying things to even stay playing isn’t really one I wanted to be apart of. I really hope that isn’t still the case as I’d have liked to check into Webkinz every so often, but that was a big reason as to why I didn’t. Webkinz is also probably the inspiration for getting a special item with the Plushie you bought that Build a Bearville did as well. Similarly, a game that has a membership structure on top of a game where you need to literally keep buying stuff for it is a bit disheartening.
PetPet Park was Neopets’ mini flash game. It’s cute and something I still have fun checking in, but also went really focused on lots of limited things and member’s only stuff. Member’s features can add onto things, but when they restrict so much of a game (Kind of like how you could only do one world of Toontown) it feels kind of forced/like there isn’t any other option. I did make my Petpet look pretty cute though:
Going back towards Club Penguin for a bit, one of the big things is so many items are member’s only. They’ve made more that aren’t restricted to members, but with so many items being limited time and can only be purchased by member’s… well… It doesn’t help that their special events tend to feature NPCs wandering around that will give a special background if you click of them. Of course, the servers fill up fast and usually people are crowding around and/or dressing up as said NPC which can make it feel kind of frustrating.
And now, onto Poptropica! If you’ve read my Twitter, you’ll know I’ve started playing a bit again. Unfortunately, finding other people who still play to talk to has become a lot harder than I expected. You can’t really chat with anyone while playing Poptropica which makes friend making kind of hard. Regardless, Poptropica is an adventure game where nearly everything is controlled with your mouse. This also means it’s not the most easily controlled game
The game tends to feature many limited time games and items which wouldn’t be too bad if this didn’t also mean you could easily miss out on a lot (Items I am saddest about: Puppy Pal (from a Barbie Ad), Woodstock Follower, and the Nessie hat). The Puppy Pal is not on that list, but is from a Barbie Ad (with like the perfect hair too–I wonder if you could colorize from the NPC ) that actually opened a few months after I stopped playing. I AM STILL KICKING MYSELF AS AN FYI.
That said, one of the things with Poptropica is it can actually get pretty challenging (which may be in part due to the controls). You can’t trade or gift items in the game, but you can “Costumize” most things which essentially is a feature that lets you copy an item someone else is wearing. You don’t own the item, but you can save it to switch to it whenever which is pretty neat. Most of the outfit I wear is actually Costumized versus what I own:
One of the neat things is you can actually colorize your skin and hair to be nearly any color. Unfortunately, not all items will pick up said color (like the Barbie wig T__T Though, whether that’s because it’s stuck blonde or because I’ve constumized it from a player versus the NPC, I don’t know and I can’t really find anyone who would’ve been around then and still plays to ask/experiment). I think it’d be nice if you could colorize clothes as well (so many nice tops and skirts that are in colors I don’t care for), but there’s a lot of options in general which isn’t too bad.
Membership in Poptropica is an interesting thing due to the fact that it’s pretty cheap and you really get a lot out of it. For one, all items are free… which actually can be a bit frustrating in a way. I have over 2,000 credits just sitting there doing nothing because I already bought everything I wanted as a member. Member items stick around even when not a member (which is awesome), but I wish I felt a point to the credits as a member. There’s a LOT of exclusive items for Members including Bonus quests on the newer islands–some of which are quite hard (I AM LOOKING AT YOU, WIMPY BOARDWALK. I WILL CONQUER YOU). The reward is usually just an item which is nice as it doesn’t really take away from not doing it–that said, it cuts off a part of the story which isn’t as nice.
I think it’d be nice to see some of the older items back for credits (regardless of membership–maybe cheaper for members) just because then maybe Members would actually have something to spend them on. Right now, it just feels if you’re a Member, credits are worthless and then there’s kind of wondering what’s really the point in that sense–especially if you stick around as a member. My Poptropican may be pretty cute (see picture above), but I will always be sad she will probably never look like this:
(please ignore my terrible editing skills)
Anyway, to finish off the Virtual Worlds talk, I’m going to end with Imagine Town. Imagine Town was based off Ubisoft’s Imagine series and was run by them. The staff was friendly, the events were fun, and it just finally had it’s grand opening in North America (it had been opened in France for quite a while–many users, myself included, were very excited for those items to come over) before suddenly closing. It had collecting, quests, and various other things. The only big issues I can think of are a few people’s behaviors and inventory limits (always a bad idea in a game where you collect things–people aren’t going to spend as much if they don’t get to get the items the buy because inventory limits! This is an issue in Build a Bearville as well). Besides that, it was a neat game and I really wanted to see where it was headed so it makes me sad it was closed so soon. Even the Lifetime membership was a great price (I bought one) and while they refunded me, I really wish the game was still going.
Before it closed :/
As for Flash games, I don’t just mean adorable games like this (I love that song so much to this day), but also the kind of games on Facebook. In general, the only thing I used my facebook for was games and most of those games no longer exist now. Pet Society and Restaurant City (the latter to a less extent, but maybe because it was closed first) both went downhill after EA bought them (way too money hungry with the prices) and never really recovered from that and thus, closed. They were two of my favorites.
Treasure Madness is probably one of the first facebook games I really liked–you go around adventuring and collecting treasure for a museum. Unfortunately, it also got a bit too into the money hungry areas with the very limited time maps that you could really only finish if you paid or gave up doing anything else. Similarly, while all Facebook games have the “hey, friends, yay!” features, there is a difference between being able to help friends and being forced to rely on a friend to continue and whenever a game does the latter, it’s really frustrating.
Fanglies by Playdom was another cute game, but was given a very short life despite how much was money focused and how much they probably ended up earning from various people (which of course was not refunded–I get that people get what you pay for, but when you close a game that fast, it’d be nice to be considerate of those who tried to support you in the first place :/
Neopets also did a cute game with Treasure Keepers which was a collaboration between Neopets and the original founders [of Neopets]. It makes me sad that it closed so quickly as there really hasn’t been many other games like it. More or less, you went around a board game (kind of similar to how you’d do Treasure Madness–going around a map and clicking) and you would earn items for quests and that you can sell for money. You could also collect these items and display them (though, they really needed a proper “not for sale” feature). It was a cute game that let you both collect, customize your shop, and also play games and I just wish it was around more. I really enjoyed it, even if some of the items that cost real money were pretty overpriced (especially when, again, sudden closure).
I’d like to say maybe I’ll see another game I’ll enjoy in the future, but at this point I think I’ve just given up on those kinds of flash games altogether and I’ll just stick to the cute bunny hopping one.