Club Penguin is arguably one of the most popular MMOs of all time. No other game has ever had such a want, or need, to recreate it or its success. Today, we, at Club Penguin Armies, sit down with the man who started it all: Rocketsnail.
Rocketsnail, real name Lance Priebe, is a game developer. He is the man behind Club Penguin – the MMO that almost everyone in the community played, either as an army troop or regular player. He has been developing worlds, mostly in his mind, since he was a child. Lance dreamed of creating an online world where players could explore and make friends. The funny thing is, the first feature ever thought out in Club Penguin was snowballs. That’s right, snowballs came before, well, penguins! The original idea was to create a snowball-fight game called Snowblasters, though the game was never finished.
Sometime in 2000, he launched Experimental Penguins, which was later rebranded to Penguin Chat. In Penguin Chat, players could customise their penguins and send messages to one another. There were also multiple rooms to explore, though they were hardly decorated. Shocked by the success of Penguin Chat, Lance continued to create online worlds. Below is a screenshot of a single-player version of Penguin Chat.
In 2003, Penguin Chat continued to evolve. New features such as emotes, dancing and chat bubbles were implemented. Most importantly, players could throw snowballs at each other! By the time 2004 rolled around, over 1,000,000 penguins had played Penguin Chat. The foundation for Lance’s biggest hit yet was there. In late 2004, Lance, alongside Billybob and several others, began working full-time on Club Penguin. The goal was simple: create a safe, open world for kids to play in and explore.
In August 2005, the beta party for Club Penguin was held. 15,000 beta testers took to the server and they loved it! The developers gave party hats away and this started the tradition of parties, something Club Penguin is famous for. Less than a year later, 1,000,000 players had registered an account. A year after that, the number became 12,000,000. Lance informed us that by this point, the team needed help. They needed experienced manpower.
Two years after the launch of the game, the most controversial move Club Penguin could have made was announced. They had become part of The Walt Disney Company. Under Disney’s guidance, Club Penguin became more than a game, it became a brand. Toys, video games and merchandise were all released and the money was rolling in. The player base, especially towards the end of Club Penguin’s lifespan, was unsatisfied by this move. But Lance still praises Disney to this day and is thankful for their guidance in the growth of the game.
Disney kept Club Penguin alive for over 10 years. Sadly, though, the game shut down in March 2017. It rebranded to Club Penguin Island, a disaster of a rebrand. This is something players are still salty about over six years later. This may largely be due to the fact Disney ended Club Penguin Island after less than two years, and to this day no official version of Club Penguin is playable – Island or the original.
I love the story of Club Penguin, it’s a game that many of us hold dear, or at least we should. After all, six years after its death we’re all still playing it in some form. Curious, I had to learn more. This is where the idea popped into my head: could I talk to Rocketsnail? Or better yet, could I interview him for Club Penguin Armies? The answer was yes, and he was more than willing to talk to me.
Below is my interview with Club Penguin’s founder, and personal hero of mine, Rocketsnail.
What led to the creation of Club Penguin?
The entire story of Club Penguin can be found on my website. Click here to view!
Looking back, how do you feel now about selling to Disney? Any regrets?
No regrets selling CP to Disney. Disney did an amazing job expanding the game worldwide so millions of kids could play. I am sad that it was closed.
Have you ever heard of Club Penguin armies?
Yes. I have heard of the CP Armies!
What are your thoughts on Army Players?
The player base and fans are amazing. What is funny is my original design was to create a snowball war game. I never got it done. The armies would have loved it.
Did you ever hear of, or perhaps supported, any specific armies?
No. I never heard anything specific.
What are your thoughts on Club Penguin Private Servers? Are you happy or upset that they exist?
I love that fans want CP to continue and that they keep it alive. I am very concerned about the safety of children playing. A number of the private servers were not safe.
What are you currently up to? Either in your personal life or career-wise?
The last couple years I have focused on my health. I had a serious accident that stopped me from walking. Then I had surgery to remove cancer. Professionally I am coaching a number of game startups.
What do you have to say to modern-day Club Penguin fans?
I look forward to seeing what you create. Waddle on.
When I went into this interview, I knew the three questions I wanted to know. The first thing I wanted to know was if Lance knew, or knows, about our little community. The second thing I wanted to know is his thoughts on Private Servers – the fan-made recreations of Club Penguin. Finally, I wanted to know what’s next for Lance in his career and life.
I’m really satisfied with his answers. To begin, he knows about us! Not only that, he wanted to give armies tools to fight with snowballs, perhaps similar to the way OldCP did in 2015/16. Secondly, Lance seems to support the idea of Private Servers, which I didn’t expect. He raised a good point about many not being safe, and this goes against the core idea of what Club Penguin was meant to be: a safe environment for kids. If a Private Server was 100% safe, I think Lance might support that. In regards to his personal life, he shared some sad news about his health. I am glad at the very least he seems to be doing better now and is still achieving his dreams of creating worlds.
And there you have it folks, words from the man himself. He knows us! Back in the old era, Disney made their thoughts on our community very well known: they did not like us. Or rather, they didn’t like what certain armies were subjecting children to. But the creator supported us, and isn’t that what truly matters?
Thank you to Lance for letting me interview him.