I used to say Maple Story was my first MMO, even though it was quickly discarded for World of Warcraft. But before I picked up a staff and collected squishy liquid blobs in Maple Story, I played Neopets. I didn’t think about it as an MMO for a long time, but one day I must’ve had MMOs on the brain and saw something related to Neopets, and it clicked.
was is an MMORPG.
Note: I’m not sure what tense to use here. Neopets still exists and the owning company has made some very small strides to attempt to move the flash-reliant site to something people can still play in modern browsers. But the experience is nowhere near the same as what it used to be. All this said, I’m going to go with “is” since it’s still technically around and parts of it are playable.
In case you’re not familiar, Neopets is a virtual pet website where users take care of digital pets called Neopets, buy and sell digital products with the in-game currency Neopoints which could be earned by playing flash games, and various other activities.
When I started writing this, blog post, I eventually realized I’d written over 1000 words about Neopets (the history, how I played, current drama) and thought it might make sense to attempt to split up my thoughts into multiple posts. But first, I want to continue the argument that Neopets is an MMO. I think it’s not usually categorized this way because you’re not moving a character around in a 3D space. You don’t really create a “character” per-say, instead you create and adopt Neopets and act as their caretaker. I still argue it fits the definition of MMO.
It’s massively multiplayer. According to this undated Neopian Times article, there were, at one point, 60 million accounts. I have no idea if these were all active, or even what the peak active players was for the game. I remember active forums, guilds, and a steadily flowing economy. You compete with other players for game trophies and can duel them (or, your Neopets can dual their Neopets–it was more like Pokemon) in the battledome.
It is definitely online: the whole thing is played from a browser.
Neopets didn’t have roleplaying, per say, but there are likely forums and guilds dedicated to it. (It wasn’t something I participated in.) Like modern MMOs, it has as much or as little roleplaying as the player wants to put into it. It also has other features you’d commonly associate with MMOs: quests, battles, guilds, housing, and even daily activities users can do to earn Neopoints.
And it’s obviously a game. It’s a thing people play.
I think modern MMOs could learn a thing or two from Neopets. The game was sticky. I might do an entire post about the Neopets economy, which is above and beyond better than any other MMO I’ve played to date. The customization options are beyond the usuals like housing to teaching an entire generation HTML. (One way to tell the difference between an older and younger millennial is if they learned HTML on Neopets or MySpace.) It offers so much to do that you can pick and choose which aspects of the game interest you–there was something for just about everyone.
Perhaps that last part should be past tense–I’m not sure what you can still actually do in the game. I’ve poked around the revamped site a bit. It looks like Neopets finally adopted the Web 2.0 aesthetic with all the overly rounded corners and drop-shadows. It seems to have gone the way of other old MMOs, owned by a company that doesn’t really care about it and is ready to let it slowly decay with a few half-hearted attempts to keep it kicking.
I think Neopets deserves better. I’d love if Neopets were something I could show my 5-year-old, as a way to slowly introduce him to the internet. Neopets is like an old friend, one where you’ve both changed so much you hardly recognize them. One that you miss, even though they’re still around, because you miss the people you both used to be.
Cover image: Faerieland, one of the many zones (yes, let’s call them zones) in Neopets.
The screenshot of the old Neopets site I found at this blog post from someone who worked there for 12 years. I never played the poker game. Sorry.