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Behind the Scenes - A Neopets HQ Tour


by mayathegreat

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NEOPETS HQ - Neopets.com is an increasingly popular website, with over 88 million members in many different countries. Most have enjoyed the site, and a lot have wondered about who is behind it. A few of us even paw through fan sites in hopes of uncovering more information about The Neopets Team. This December, I took a tour through the Headquarters with the art contest winners (from the 2004 mall tour) and learned a bit more about this company.

When we arrived, the first thing that I noticed was the Neopets art everywhere. I was told that the Neopets team orders them especially for the headquarters.

After a short introduction, I started the Grand Tour. One thing I was surprised about was the office environment. Although there were cubicles, they were very low, leading to an open, friendly and informal environment. Everybody seemed to be in their twenties and was dressed in casual clothes. I thought that it was very cool how everybody’s cubicle was decorated with Neopets merchandise and artwork.

Every Wednesday, a jar full of pennies is wheeled around the office and staff members toss pennies in. According to J Boogie, nobody is sure what to do with the pennies once the jar is full, but they’ll decide eventually…maybe something like the spicy chili-eating contest they had once.

A cool fact about Neopets headquarters is that on the table at Neopets headquarters conference room, there is a big bowl of jellybeans. This is because a Wizards of the Coast marketing director (Elaine) comes to the headquarters often and loves jellybeans. “Every time I go there, I eat lots of jelly beans, and when I come back, the bowl is filled again!” she told me.

Another surprise was the fact that for such a huge website, there were only 125 staff members. Everybody was hard at work, making new features for the site, working on the new covers for next issue of Neopets Magazine, or dreaming up new products.

Speaking of new products, or at least relatively new, did you know that the Neopets Voice Activated Petpet plushies voices really belong to staff members? That is, except for the Noil, which is the voice of a staff member’s friend.

Every holiday season, every staff member gets a huge, 15” tall Christmas plushie. In 2003, Christmas Scorchios were given out. This year, Christmas Kougras are the gift. They are given in a box with sketches done by Neopets artists on them. About 200 of these plushies are made each year.

We also got a look at some of the games that will be released soon. There is one that I did not get the name of, but looks really cool and has nice-looking graphics. Castle Battles had just been released a few weeks ago. When I saw the earlier version, instead of knocking a treasure chest out of a square, you knocked a ball out of the square.

The highlight of the day was undoubtedly having our pictures taken on the Neocam. For a few months, you could see us on the web site! The picture is not in the archives, but some fan sites have pictures of all the things ever shown on the Neocam, so you may be able to find us there.

Unfortunately, I did not see Adam or Donna because they weren’t in the office that day. According to Elaine, Adam is the “Big Ideas Person” and is in the office somewhat unpredictably. I’d love to have his job. (Sitting on a beach somewhere, drinking a soda, dreaming up “big ideas”…)

Neopets has expanded into a trading card game, manufactured by Wizards of the Coast. Many of the artists there were creating art for the upcoming expansion, Curse of Maraqua. The artists showed us some of the cards coming up in the new set, and the set looks really, really cool. You can now buy the cards in stores near you!

The trading card game is a huge part of the website. Lots of new plots for the website are based on it, and Neopets is doing lots of promotions using the card game, including one with McDonald's and one with General Mills. One reason for there being so many more staff members than there were a few years ago is because the trading card game created the need for more people to create and draw all of the cards.

Some of the different jobs at Neopets include market research, merchandising, programming the actual website, coding and testing games and drawing art. In market research, you analyze surveys that users take about who buys the merchandise and why, who uses the website, and what parts the users enjoy the most about the site. They then use this information to help make decisions about the site content. The people who work in Merchandising come up with ideas for new products to make. There are some very cool things in store for all of you merchandise collectors in this upcoming year. If you decide that programming the website is your thing, you get to do lots things like program new games and update the day-to-day content. You also get to test the games to see if they work, and work out the bugs in the site.

Artists spend a lot if time on the TCG art, but they also draw the pets and all of the pictures that you see on the site. They use a special tool called a Wacom tablet, which is a small screen you can draw on with an electronic pen. When you draw on the tablet, your image shows up on the computer screen. Artists also draw using a program called Flash. Artists never sign their name on the trading cards they draw because Neopets wants to have all of the cards united under the common theme of “Neopets”. Still, it was exciting to meet the artists who had designed specific cards.

After seeing all this, I realized that this was the place that I would like to work at for the rest of my life. I still haven’t quite decided whether I want to work on the artwork, the trading card game, new products or programming the website, but whatever I pick I know that I will enjoy it.

 
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