How This Old Geezer Sees Customization
The events of April 2007 stunned the people of Neopia. After years of using Paint Brushes as the only means to customize your Neopet, we can now give our pets clothes! But this change has sparked passionate debate over whether or not such change is needed or even desired, especially because of the changes required to make all Neopets uniform in shape and posture. Although many Neopians have embraced this change, many mourn the way things were. Never has such a change occurred in the history of Neopia!
Actually, changes in the way our Neopets look and how we view them have evolved throughout the history of Neopia. Although such changes were never so sudden, they certainly have been as drastic. Because I have been a user of Neopets for nearly seven years, I can remember many of these changes first hand. I want to help the people of Neopia take a look at modern customization in perspective of the past changes Neopets has undergone. First I will take a look at the very early days of Neopia, long before plot pets and paint brushes fired our imaginations. Then I will show you a major, but slower change that took our Neopets from just virtual pets to full-on characters and even people. I will finish by comparing these changes to the Big One—modern customization. It is my intent to help you understand how changes in customization have been occurring for years.
Everyone knows that you can view your pets in one of two ways: as your pets, or people who run their own lives. Is your Lupe a puppy whose bowl you fill every day, or is he a knight, living in Meridell like Jeran? Many Neopians may be surprised to know that in the first years of Neopets, anthro, or human-like, Neopets were banned. That’s right, Sir Jeran of Meridell could not exist. You could not submit a picture of your Lupe standing on his hind legs in knight armour to the Art Gallery or Beauty Competition. Your Neopian Times entries could not include such characters, either.
This seems almost unbelievable by today’s standards. The most popular paint brushes often change the way your Neopets looks into an anthro-type posture. (Take, for example, most of the Royal Paint Brush jobs.) Just take a look at the older paint brushes: purple, sketch, cloud, disco; all of them changed the color of your pet, never its posture!
For further proof, do you remember the original Sloth plot? Who were the characters? Doctor Sloth, the Space Faerie, and lots of Grundos. Where were the Jerans and Nabiles and Yurble Foremen? Pets were not yet thought of as independent people who could go on adventures of their own, so as to be a part of a plot. Instead of using anthro pets, the plot used Sloth and the Space Faerie as the human-like characters.
Some of you may also remember a time when some of the characters throughout the site were human instead of Neopet. Doctor Death’s predecessor was a woman, Edna of the Haunted Woods used to be depicted as a human. Again, anthro pets were not used as characters.
Obviously, these views of Neopets changed. But how did the change occur?
In my mind, one of the landmark events that began to change the way we think about Neopets was the Faerie Paint Brush. It was the very first PB to change a Neopet’s shape and posture. This may seem minor today, but at the time, it was the first glimpse of the wide range of possible customizations. Of course, we were still years away from modern clothing customization, but the Faerie PB and other shape-changing PBs opened the way for artists and writers to change the way their Neopets looked and acted. However, a much more dramatic change would occur.
Have you ever wondered why Jeran is so popular? There have been dozens of site plots with even more plot characters, and yet, Jeran remains one of the most popular characters in Neopets history, years after his debut. Jeran and his Meridellian co-plot characters were among the first truly anthro characters used by TNT in a plot. (The Lost Desert plot including Brucey B. was technically the first plot including anthro pets, but the quality of anthromorphing and humanizing took a dramatic step with the Meridell plots.) Jeran was more than a great character; he liberated all Neopets from the bonds of pet-hood! Around this time, human characters began to be weeded out of the site. Edna became a Zafara and Doctor Death took his duties at the pound.
Beginning at around this time and continuing on today, restrictions on anthro Neopets appearing in artwork are lax, prohibiting only characters whose species cannot be clearly identified.
Another event in the humanization of Neopets could be the creation of Petpets. Just think about it: would you give your dog or cat a hamster to take care of? Definitely not! The creation of Petpets reminded us that Neopets are not simply virtual pets, they are people, capable of caring for their own pets.
Over the years, the range of shape-changing and anthro-type paint brushes has mushroomed into many types at the time this article is being written, including Royal and Maraquan. The Royal Paint Brush I consider to be of particular interest, because it was the first paint brush to actually clothe an almost always fully anthro Neopet. This was our first taste of being able to clothe our Neopets. This went hand-in-hand with the development of better and better designed plot characters. Sure, Hannah had a dress, and that was neat. But Nabile of the Lot Desert had dazzling ethnic clothes, jewelry, and hair pieces. Because of the elaborate costumes being put on these plot characters, very often their skin colors were plain and single-toned, such as brown, green and pink; their clothes were vital to give them flair.
These new plot pets had many Neopians craving more unique and customizable pets. Artists and writers alike continued to give Neopets more elaborate clothing and humanized posture. The Neopets Team was surely aware of this as their plot pets became iconic among Neopians.
For years, Neopians begged and pleaded with TNT to let them put that Leather Jacket on their adventurous Shoyru, or a Meridellian skirt on their Eyrie. TNT listened, and shocked us all with the sudden transformation of Neopets customization—an actual Customization option had appeared.
It’s no secret that many Neopians cringed at the sight of their redrawn pets, aghast to see their expensive paint jobs drastically different. This change is the greatest leap in the history of Neopets, and change is never easy. But let’s look to the future of our ever-changing world and Neopets. Although things are different, in the long run, they will get better. Maybe you’re upset that your tomboy Kougra has eyelashes, but soon she may be able to wear those boots you always imagined her in! That Krawk can now wear that rain coat he’s always wanted. A Royal Grarrl can take off her crown when she feels like it. Or even better, your Shadow Shoyru can wear that wicked Royal Helmet.
Look on the bright side, Neopia—your Neopet is no longer bound by the limits of TNT’s imagination. Put your own to work!