Kelowna Visit Part 3: Okanagan Centre for Innovation with Emma

Was I in for a surprise! After visiting the awesome folks at Hyper Hippo Games, I was going to meet Emma Bullen (also known as Bambalou from Club Penguin) at the Okanagan Centre for Innovation (OCI)! This was a delightful, unexpected addition to my trip to Kelowna. How was it arranged in such an impromptu fashion?

Recall my meeting with Chris Gliddon and Nathan Lige at the Kekuli Cafe. Shortly after leaving the cafe for Hyper Hippo, I received a message from Chris. He asked me if I had time to meet with his girlfriend, Emma, at the OCI. She had offered her time to take me around the building. I asked my dad if we had time after the Hyper Hippo tour, and he approved! So I told Chris that yes, I could meet her at the OCI an hour after the start of my Hper Hippo tour.

I will always be fortunate for this opportunity. Anyway, my dad and I walked to the OCI and waited for Emma to arrive.

The bike stands and mural in OCI’s lobby.

Very soon, we met and introduced ourselves. No doubt about it, Emma is genuinely nice and welcoming! We walked up the stairs to several floors and their rooms.

You immediately get the impression that you are in a modern, advanced, and almost-futuristic office building.

In one of the rooms, who did I get to meet? Deanna Kent (also known as Deamama from Club Penguin)! She was sitting at a desk and got up to say hello. It was a nice pleasure getting to meet her in real life. Did you know she and Neil Hooson are releasing a book series called Snazzy Cat Capers?

We soon entered the offices of FreshGrade, software offered to schools to help teachers and parents better understand their students’ academic performance. You may know that Lane Merrifield (Billybob on Club Penguin) co-founded FreshGrade and is the company’s CEO. He was currently on a holiday somewhere so I did not get to meet him. Oh well, I am sure he is enjoying himself. Lane’s a busy man after all!

You might be wondering what Emma/Bambalou is now doing for work. She is FreshGrade’s marketing manager.

Swing if you need a break or inspiration. Just don’t swing it too hard like you’re at a playground. You can’t see it, but there are ceiling beams up there that don’t agree with rigorous swinging.

Such an inviting and clean kitchen. I really like their mentality of a pleasant and cozy workspace.

At this time of day, almost everyone left work.

Throughout the OCI tour, we ran into more former Club Penguin staff. You may remember them by their penguin names, Chill Nye and Bad Stink.

The last stop was the rooftop. On it, there is a charming restaurant called the Perch Cafe, also owned by Lane. And just look at the view from above!

Emma/Bambalou has a lot of experience in and out of Club Penguin. We had some very fascinating chats about all sorts of things!

  • Kelowna is the main source of inspiration for original Club Penguin’s rooms. For example, CP’s Ski Hill came to mind from Big White Ski Resort. Also, the dock you see in the above picture led to CP’s Dock and Hydro Hopper mini-game. When you visit Kelowna, you are in a real-life Club Penguin!
  •  Furthermore, it can get very snowy in Kelowna’s colder months. I think you see it now… Club Penguin’s endless snow has got to come from life in Kelowna! Emma is originally from the United Kingdom. What was thought to be a temporary visit in Kelowna turned out to be her permanent residence. In the UK, they take snow conditions very seriously. Just some snowfall and everything’s closed and everyone’s home. On the other hand, Kelowna does not have any snow days. Businesses are running and people go to school and work, regardless of the snowfall.
  • And fun memories of Club Penguin days!

I can’t say it enough. Thank you so much, Chris and Emma, for this fantastic surprise. Emma, you are a wonderful tour guide and friend! Since it was the end of a workday, you may had to compromise time at home to take us around the OCI. We appreciate it very much.

We say our goodbyes and headed out of the OCI. We walked by the Okanagan Lake and Downtown Kelowna on the way back to our car.

The Ogopogo, a mythical sea monster supposedly living in the Okanagan Lake. Do you think it exists?

Unfortunately, the Club Penguin HQ could not fit me in their schedule that day. Anyway, I asked my dad to drive to the Club Penguin HQ to look at and take pictures of the exterior you have probably seen many times.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure if I was in front of the actual CP HQ since there were a few buildings that looked identical to each other. But at least I got to CP’s location.

Maybe one day, you too, can take a holiday to Kelowna and meet the fantastic people who call it home.

Kelowna International Airport (YLW) where you may fly in someday.

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Interviewing Hyper Hippo Games about Club Penguin

While I was at the office of Hyper Hippo Games in Kelowna, I conducted an interview with some of the Hyper Hippo and Screenzilla employees. They previously worked at Club Penguin. All of the following questions pertain to Club Penguin. If an interviewee is titled as “Staff”, that means I don’t know who exactly answered.

@BloxorzCP asked, have you tried Club Penguin Island? What do you think about CPI?

Shrublove: I feel like I tried downloading it and it didn’t load.

Me: Oh no! That’s not good.

Lance/RocketSnail: I had my daughter play it. Diehard Club Penguin player. And she had the same outcome I thought, which is… she enjoyed it, but she ran out of content too fast. Was asking people, um what do I do next? And I think, that was the struggle Club Penguin Island’s had, is this, what’s next? Club Penguin the browser always had a… there’s a character coming, there’s a thing coming. Island has never told that story well of… well, what’s next? They’re starting to, I saw their pirate thing just come out. That was pretty cool. But it’s still struggling with… is there enough content?

Cody: The funny thing about Club Penguin, the original, was that it wasn’t quite like anything else. And that was sort of the point. The chatting with the kids… and just go there and talk to kids. Isn’t that kind of dangerous and scary? That’s why we need lots of people working on it. And the Club Penguin Island, when it first came out, it had a bit of a rough launch. But I remember, it kind of more like other games, it felt like it was a step in a weird direction for what made Club Penguin unique. But I remembered being really worried that Herbert wasn’t in the game anymore. I remember messaging my friends that still worked on it and I’m like, “Herbert’s so coming back, he was my favorite character by a long shot.” So they said he was coming but I know he eventually got…

Me: Yeah, he’s there. Now he’s wearing some kind of black sweater and now has bigger eyebrows. Still stuck in recluse. That polar bear. He’s still there.

Cody: If you go back to Operation: Blackout trailer, I did his voice. I did his evil laughter.

Me: Really?! Wow.

Cody: *performs Herbert’s signature evil laughter*

Me: You’re like the guy behind everything in my childhood, man. Like Aunt Arctic, Herbert, AdVenture Capitalist! Oh my gosh.

*laughter all around the room*

@mistermayank asked, are the events of AdVenture Capitalist inspired at all by Club Penguin’s parties? If so, what are the parties that inspired the events?

Tristan: Awesome, thanks Mister.

Lance: I can’t speak for the inspiration, it’s you guys [AdVenture Capitalist team]. I know events, the idea of events, like creating events in games. All of us from Club Penguin know that events drive people to come back, something to look forward to, and something reminisce about. As for inspiration for each event, you guys [AdVenture Capitalist team] have leaden the creative side. I have no idea. I look in and go out. That’s cool.

Tristan: Yeah, the events have been popular in mobile games. But we definitely felt more comfortable building events, knowing what we knew about how players reacted to those things. How to provoke them and… similar to Club Penguin where we were starting to build events and the audience really loved the events and they became so looked forward to, we needed to put out more events, more often. And the base game actually… people played the base game less after events came out because they were just really excited about what that next new balance, new things to discover, new items to collect, which is pretty much the same idea that Club Penguin created with events.

Cody: You’re both right. It’s just that, we felt comfortable getting into this because of like, Club Penguin. This is how we would do it so we didn’t exactly run them like how another game went. AdCap’s a ridiculously simple game, and so we were like, whatever! Just splash paint, more jokes, and we’ll just run with it and see what we can do. There’s a whole bunch of psychology we had to learn from Club Penguin, how users interact with it, how you can do proper conveyances with it. Definitely influenced it and it would be hard to say, this is exactly what we learned from Club Penguin. This is what we learned from other mobile games and it all kind of went askew. It was interesting.

Me: It was!

*laughter*

Staff: There’s Club Penguin references legit in the game, as well. So the themes we were thinking about, we didn’t draw on so much, like what we did in Club Penguin influenced the events we came up with.

Cody: No, just our understanding how our players might react with them.

Me: Cool, very cool. Ok, my favorite event is the Christmas one, where we had that story about the suit guy going through like, some kind of Christmas carol.

Staff: Ad Capitalist carol?

*laughter and comments of exclamation*

Me: Yeah, just like every time I unlock some more, ooooh I get another chapter of the story!

Cody: That’s good, because I thought really hard for that stupid story!

Me: But I remember it really well. Oh my gosh.

Cody: At the time, we had to be very careful of how much we added to the game before it got too big and I remember I was just like, I wanna tell a story. I wanna tell a Christmas carol story. I wanted it to have Die Hard in it. That’s not really going to add much in terms of the metrics and things like that. I’m just writing that stupid story and my stupid Christmas carol!

*laughter*

Me: And it worked! It worked, man. Look, I’m here to talk about that! It should work. Oh man.

Cody: We were like, we don’t have scope for that, Cody. AND I’m like, we’re making scope for that.

*various laughter and chatter*

Staff: Spoiler alert: Tomorrow, we’re going to the printer at some point for a few people and might be just a personal gift for the studio and we’ll probably print some extra copies to send out to some fans.

@PurpleAngry2 asked, does Rsnail have a REAL Red Viking Helmet in real life?

Lance: I do not own a Viking Helmet.

Me: Really?? Oh wow.

Lesley: Whoever gets the first Secret Santa this year… 😉

*laughter and chatter*

Lance: When we were in beta, I just told Chris (he was making all the items)… I just rambled off a list of items to make. I said, Viking helmet. RED. Sombrero. Snorkel.

*laughter*

Lance: Just ridiculous things, cuz I thought that penguins should eventually… we never got to it… like there’s tons of designs in the thing. But I wanted the vikings to raid the island. I had all sorts of violent ideas. VIKINGS NEED TO RAID THE ISLAND.

*laughter*

Lance: Oh, we got pirates.

Me: True.

Lance: Nope, never owned a hat. Not a baseball cap either.

Me: Really?! Any hats? At all?

Lance: Nope.

Me: Ooh, now we know the real truth behind Rsnail, huh? The red viking helmet guy doesn’t have one. Okay!

*laughter and chatter*

@Dialga22239 asked several questions…

First one, do you play Mancala in break time?

Various staff responses:

“I haven’t played that since I left Disney.”

“I was terrible at it while I was in the game”

“I don’t think I remember how to play it!”

“We had set up like a little space at Disney.”

“It was more foosball and ping pong.”

Lance: I played a couple thousand times before Club Penguin, but not at Club Penguin. I just took the code from my RocketSnail game, just dropped it into Club Penguin, because it was faster! Add more mini-games! But people loved it. It went on a little long. If you actually read the statistics, a lot of players didn’t finish the game.

Shrublove: I just remember people quitting, like, right before I was about to win. Like I had SO many of the stones and they’d be like NO! Because I think you’d only got like half coins or whatever and they’d quit and was like, NO!!

Me: I was more of a Find Four person.

Cody: I was more into System Defender.

Staff: Self-promotion!

*laughter*

Cody: Lance practically designed every game but I helped design System Defender.

Me: Oh really?

Cody and staff: That was Hib‘s game.

Me: Oh, Aaron?

Staff: Yeah.

Cody: I remember, the first version of the game, he launched it, it was so hard and we couldn’t do anything. And they’re like, why is it so hard? And he’s like, woah watch. And he just did it. He’s like, I could do it. It’d like, YOU could barely do it! You freakin’ played a billion times!

*laughter*

Second, did you draw classic Club Penguin mascots in the artstyle of your other games? If yes, could you show us some?

NOTE: I think the air-conditioning kicked-up really hard at this point and so I couldn’t transcribe all of the responses to this question.

Staff: Other games? Hmm. Not a whole lot. Just pretty much on the… cuz I was in marketing. So my job was to sometimes just reconcept the… different depth to the image. Did the takeovers and whatnot.

Lance: There is references to pop culture. We never really knocked anything off.

Finally, if you could be in the early age of Club Penguin (CP) again, which other CP villains would you sketch and add?

Shrublove: There’s a whole, like, crab mob.

*excitement all around the room!*

Cody: We made it into a silhouette on the main homepage. And there’s a silhouette character where they had.. Herbert and the villains and in the very back, there was a one that was this little, that was Claudius. He was like this ancient, gnarled crab. And we had this whole, like, storyline planned where there was going to be other colored crabs that would show up and we had a blue crab show up at one of the events on a really limited timer. And we had this whole storyline planned and then it got scrapped.

Staff: But eventually, it was lead by Klutzy, right? A crab syndicate.

Shrublove: Klutzy seems like the defector of the family.

Cody: Cuz Klutzy just likes Herbert. And every time there would be a story plot in point, Klutzy happened to be *something something I couldn’t hear 😦 * with Herbert.

Me: Oh yeah? Ugh, I feel like he is always distracting Herbert. Sometimes more of a distractor than a sidekick. But that’s what I love about Klutzy.

*chatter and laughter*

Cody: Actually, yeah it’s funny, cuz is the character sheet I originally wrote from. When I started Club Penguin, we didn’t really think very in-depth about the characters. And so, when I was decided Herbert, I said that Herbert was the brain AND Bowser from Mario. So that was exactly, like, what I was going for.

Me: Oh wow, Okay, cool. Alright, well, that’s all the Club Penguin questions I have. Yep. And now I have some Epic Snails questions.

I was about to start the Epic Snails interview but then…

Lance to me: “So what did you like about Club Penguin? We had you decide, and we always had to go to meetings. So, you the player. Now you grew up, and you stayed loving it. Why are you still loving it?”

Me: I basically said that for a few years, I wasn’t very social in school. Club Penguin was MY social place. A place where I didn’t have to feel lonely.

Lance: Now you played AdVenture Capitalist. Cuz you know you just have to turn it on, and then turn it off.

Me: I play it mostly on Steam though.

Lance: Steam? Interesting.

Me: I’m more of a computer user. I just love the physical interactions with the mouse and keyboard. I might be retro! I grew up with computers. I wish I knew about Club Penguin earlier. I think I knew about Club Penguin because my uncle bought the DS game for me as a birthday present. I don’t think he knew what Club Penguin was.

Lance: A weird gateway. I would have never guessed that. Never guessed that it went the other way.

Me: Well, I’m one of the backwards people, I guess.

Lance: No, no, that’s good insight for all of us here.

To everyone who attended the interview, thank you so much for your time to share many interesting thoughts and facts about Club Penguin-related stuff. I learned so much, and I bet whoever is reading this interview is, too! The fans of Club Penguin and I appreciate you all for this wonderful opportunity to learn more about a game we will never forget.

I will be posting my Epic Snails interview at some point within the next few weeks. Keep an eye out. It will be posted not on this blog (after all, this is a Club Penguin blog!) but on my new Hyper Hippo fan blog.

Kelowna Visit Part 2: Getting Hyped at Hyper Hippo Games

My father and I just had a memorable lunch with Chris Gliddon and Nathan Lige at West Kelowna’s Kekuli Cafe. Stomachs full, we set off for… Hyper Hippo Games!!! Crossing the bridge spanning over the Okanagan Lake, we immediately reached downtown Kelowna.

We witnessed lots of traffic and activity on our way to the headquarters. Once we found parking, we walked to their entrance.

Hyper Hippo Games’s office was on the second floor. After a short elevator ride up, we were first greeted by Lesley, who is part of the support team. While warmly welcoming us into the studio, more staff came to greet us. One of them was Lance Priebe, aka RocketSnail! You know him as the co-founder and creator of Club Penguin, but he is also CEO and a founder of Hyper Hippo. Lance and I have known each other for a few years now. After all, we communicate through social media and his new games. It was very exciting to be meeting him in-person! We also met Tristan Rattink, who is the head of the studio. Very soon, he handed a present to me… the extremely rare Viking Penguin plush wearing a gold viking helmet! He was giving away one of his most prized collectibles in his penguin collection. I am now a happy owner of the Viking Penguin, but I valued Tristan’s generosity more than anything.

My father and I were very impressed by the office space. They had a clean, spacious kitchen, as well as a relaxing outdoor patio. I wish more companies shared this ideal and open workspace layout.

What a nice kitchen to cook your meals and dine in.

Looking from inside, their outdoor patio. How lovely.

Lance took us around some of the office rooms.

One of them was his very own. He collects all sorts of toys and collectibles from his adventures over the years. I’ll say no more about it, take a look at them!

Among his shelf… a Mech Mice book, figure of his penguin, figure of early RocketSnail, Mech Mice character figure, and Michelangelo from Ninja Turtles. Looks like we may have a turtle fan here, guys!

This bunny figure “Engineer” was made by a Wild Warfare fan, Riyita. Wild Warfare was Hyper Hippo’s prototype FPS that didn’t make it into a finalized game, unfortunately.

After a picture with Lance and Tristan at the well-known Hyper Hippo mural, we all took the stairs to the third floor of Hyper Hippo Games. There were more office rooms and cubicles. There, I met all the staff of the game publishing company, Screenzilla. I knew all of them from the fun meetups on Epic Snails. I even met Shrub, a Screenzilla employee’s pet dog. She also happens to be the Hyper Hippo mascot, no surprise there. That’s because she is so adorable! It was fun getting to play with and pet her.

I also met Cody Vigue, who is the creator of that addicting-as-heck idle game that everybody knows, AdVenture Capitalist. Fun fact: he used to write for the Club Penguin Times. He was Aunt Arctic at some point in Club Penguin’s history! You can read more about his role by clicking here.

The man to your left is Cody. Known as the AdCap guy, Aunt Arctic, and someone who really knows how to do voiceovers. 😉

I recalled my many experiences testing and playing the games of Hyper Hippo since 2013 or so. Their previous games include Mech Mice (strategic tactics), Wild Warfare (FPS), I Eat Bananas (infinite climber), and Abracabacus (abacus game). When I mentioned Abracabacus, one of the staff called for Kevin Yockey, who created this rather modern abacus game. I learned the basics of using an abacus because of him and his prototype game!

I could be one of the last people on Earth (excluding the Hyper Hippo team) to remember Abracadabacus. Move the beads to show a certain number, earn points, and redeem them for different beads. I found a screenshot I took back in 2014.

Former Club Penguin staff and Epic Snails Screenzilla team were interviewed in an open discussion. They are pretty detailed and long, so they are in separate blog posts. I will transcribe the voiced-recorded interviews sometime later.

Here are some pictures of the third floor. Like the second floor, it was a comfortable work environment.

When you make games, you gotta make time to play!

For Epic Snails fans… on the left, see that grey wall in the middle of the room? Behind it is the cubicle of the Epic Snails Screenzilla team! Jerd, Thirdheat, Nerdy, Shrublove, and Tieguy works there.

After the interview, the staff’s work day had ended. We all said our good-byes. Plans after the Hyper Hippo visit were changed for the better, as you’ll learn in part three of my Kelowna visit. It was a nice surprise from Chris Gliddon/Polo Field. What was it? You will have to wait!

Thank you to ALL the Hyper Hippo and Screenzilla staff. Again, my father and I felt so welcomed by your hospitality. We also appreciate you taking time off of work to meet and talk with us. I will never forget my time at Hyper Hippo. One of the best experiences of my life!

Kelowna Visit Part 1: The ABC’s of West Kelowna: Arrival, Bannock, Cards

This summer, I had the exciting opportunity to visit the city where Club Penguin is headquartered and where many former penguin staff reside, Kelowna. This hip, forward-moving, and entrepreneurial city is located in beautiful British Columbia (BC), Canada’s westernmost province. It is also one of the major establishments along the Okanagan Valley and Lake. (That’s a lot of geography, haha.)

Upon arrival by car. First stop? West Kelowna (and bannock!!).

I’m about to throw some more geography at you. Sorry I can’t help it, I like geography! My first stop in the area was West Kelowna, a separate city from Kelowna. They are on opposite sides of the Okanagan Lake.

In a local First Nations cafe called Kekuli, Chris Gliddon (aka Polo Field from Club Penguin) and Nathan Lige were waiting for my father and me. I recognized both of them instantly. After introductions, we had ordered some authentic Canadian food. Kekuli specializes in a baked good called bannock. We ate bannock lunch sandwiches and bannock desert, which had a nice layer of mocha on top. It was one of the most delicious meals of our trip!

Honestly, I’m craving this right now. For real.

We all had lovely, casual, nostalgic, and insightful chats about various things, from Club Penguin, to life in Kelowna, to CollectorQuest, and so on. Frankly, I had more than Club Penguin on my mind. I will go over a little about each.

Our friendship and meeting was only possible with Club Penguin. I had asked Chris for his thoughts on Club Penguin Island. His preference? A modernization of original Club Penguin, not necessarily a new and different game. Furthermore, we talked some about Card-Jitsu, Chris’s and Nate’s experience as penguin staff, and the newest adventures of some former staff. For example, Bobbi, aka Megg, is currently working at Yeti Farm, an animation studio based in Kelowna. Sure, our days at Club Penguin were super fun and memorable! But fueled by Club Penguin, many people, whether they were staff or players, moved on towards incredible ideas and endeavors.

What is entrepreneurship? That basically means beginning and managing your own business. Kelowna is widely realized as Canada’s entrepreneurial hotspot. Later in the day, I would firsthand experience the city’s vibe in entrepreneurship. It is, without question, a fast-growing and prosperous city, where people can freely create new business and project ideas.

Speaking of which, I had the exciting chance to speak with Chris and Nate about their recent project, CollectorQuest (CQ). I enjoyed listening to their progress and goals with CQ. At the moment, they are finalizing their card game, which cherishes the spirit and devotion of collecting… just about anything you want! They even gave me their finalized concept cards! What a cool surprise! I will own these cards for as long as I live. The topic of my cards are landmarks and points of interest around Kelowna and the Okanagan Valley. I not only had collectible cards, but also a trip guide written by locals.

I truly appreciate Chris and Nate for taking time off work to visit my family and welcoming us into Kelowna. It couldn’t have been a better meeting and welcome than that. Also, thank you for the CollectorQuest cards. The best souvenirs are not mass-produced, but rather, passionately created by the locals of that community. It was fun getting to know you two more, and learning about your latest experiences.

Chris Gliddon (Polo Field, as most penguins regard him as) giving my penguin a touch of a pen. Reminds me of this classic Club Penguin joke: What bird can write underwater? A ball point PENguin!

Readers, I invite you to learn some more about Chris and Nate’s projects. They are friends who make up a team called Tiger/Wolf Games. They could be vlogging or podcasting about cool, old-school games, or working hard on CollectorQuest. Click here for the CQ website, and click here for their Reddit forum. You are welcome to join us on Reddit.

Back to the Kelowna visit. Chris and Nate had to go to work sooner or later. So my father and I headed off for the second part of our trip… Hyper Hippo Games! Expect my post and Club Penguin-themed interview at the Hyper Hippo HQ to launch next week.

Grabbed my iced coffee. Time to cross the Okanagan Lake into Kelowna.

Have any questions? You can post them here, but I would prefer you tweeting me. I am on Twitter often and can respond much quicker.

Thank you for reading! See you next week.

Fossil Four Tournament Results and Outcome

Event screenshots, Tech70’s stats, why I hosted it in the Sea Caves entrance, and more…

Today, I hosted a Fossil Four Tournament. It was a humongous success! We played LOTS of Fossil Four, I gave away a lot of party blasters and food (pretty much emptying my party supply inventory), we sled raced at the unofficial end of the event, and I was touched by everyone’s generosity and best wishes.

Many penguins attended. Thank you to each and every one of you (even if I did not get a chance to play Fossil Four with you).

Below are my personal stats with everyone that I played with:

TECH70’S FOSSIL FOUR STATS

  • C0mputerguy (I won 4 games, lost 1)
  • 1Constance1 (I won 1)
  • Wicked Wickz (I won 1)
  • Kimberlou (I won 1)
  • IceWizard (I won 1)
  • X Tina X (I won 2)
  • Bluey1709 (I won 1)
  • Ski With Me (I won 1)
  • TheBoardDude (I won 3)
  • Blue Thing102 (I won 1)
  • Babycrier (I won 1)

TOTALS: Won 17, lost once

Special thanks to C0mputerguy, Ski With Me, Blue Thing102, and TheBoardDude for staying even after the event officially ended!

Fossil Four Tournament Screenshots

Why did I host a Fossil Four tournament in the Sea Caves entrance? I wanted to somehow tribute it to the old Ski Lodge and Attic. It is cozy, quiet, and has two floors.

I am going to guess this is the last CP/CPI event I will ever host (but that could change). Next week, during the festivities of Club Penguin Island’s first anniversary, I will release my post that talks about my Club Penguin retirement.

Waddle on!