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Live Webchat with Club Penguin founder, Lane Merrifield on Monday 5th July between 1.30 and 2.30

(61 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Wed 30-Jun-10 14:36:55

Club Penguin is one of the fastest growing virtual worlds for children aged 6 - 14 and many parents will be familiar with the sight of their children's Penguins waddling through the virtual world, throwing parties in their igloos or chatting with other penguins.

Lane Merrifield, alongside colleagues Dave Krysko and Lance Priebe, co-founded Club Penguin in 2005. The site development was self-funded and designed as a safe, ad free, online playground for the children in their lives to explore (then site was later bought by Disney in 2007).

Lane as a father of two, co-founder of Disney Club Penguin and executive Vice President of Disney Online Studios is joining us and able to answer any questions parents might have about Club Penguin. Whether it's starting a business, setting online boundaries and making sure your child is safe online, what Club Penguin membership means or why your kid's Puffle ran away, Lane can take your questions and provide answers to questions that might not have been fulfilled through Mumsnet Talk. Join Lane here next Monday at 1.30 and if you're unable to join us but have a question you'd like to ask him, post to this thread.

MathsMadMummy Wed 30-Jun-10 18:04:15

Hello and congratulations on the success of your site.

I don't know much about Club Penguin, but I don't doubt that it is very safe and fun for children, and certainly better than alternatives like Facebook etc.

I was just wondering though, how you feel about the prevalent headlines these days, about children being so wrapped up in the Internet that they are failing to learn real life social skills?

MathsMadMummy Wed 30-Jun-10 18:05:20

Sorry just realised that may have sounded quite rude - it isn't meant that way.

islandofsodor Wed 30-Jun-10 19:53:51

I would like to know if you can temporarily suspend an account to stop a particularly beloved puffle running away whilst on holiday/break from the internet.

Also any tips so that my ds can meet Rockhopper!

Katisha Wed 30-Jun-10 19:54:45

DS (8) would like to know whether you can really get to Rockhopper Island?

Is there a secret t-shirt you can unlock?

Is there a background of BillyBob like there is for Rockhopper?

paisleyleaf Thu 01-Jul-10 00:32:29

Hello, do you need to be an online member to play the nintendo DS game? or rather, to get the most out of the DS game?

islandofsodor Thu 01-Jul-10 09:33:39

You don't have to be an online member to play the ds game it is more vice versa - if you have the ds game you can unlock certin things on the online version.

trice Thu 01-Jul-10 10:09:55

Yes - I would also like to stop the puffle blackmail. "Please let me play club penguin or my puffle George will run away!" The tears over the loss of a puffle in this house are terrible. Please can we introduce a puffle sitter for when you are away. Or puffle boarding kennels.

PlumBumMum Thu 01-Jul-10 10:27:57

Congratulations on Club Penguin, It actually got mentioned on ds's school report he loves it that much and the teacher threw an Island adventure party last week.

I do understand that you are there to make money but why can the children not access the stuff they purchased when they were members? I think it is a little unfair as I am sure most children will renew their membership in time as they won't be able to buy any more stuff!

If I buy a membership card 3 months before current membership is due to run out, will the membership add on to the end?

dd1 would like to know how to meet Aunt Artic?

deepdarkwood Thu 01-Jul-10 11:53:42

Any plans for Club Penguin minis? Dd wants a slice of the action having watched ds play - but can't manage the complexity yet.
I'll take a mere 10% of revenue for suggesting the idea smile

lottiejenkins Thu 01-Jul-10 14:16:56

Hi Lane, can i say on behalf of my son Wilf a HUGE thankyou for CP! He is profoundly deaf and has aspergers syndrome and due to his deafness finds mixing with children difficult sometimes and finding things he can play with and interact with them with. He adores playing on his CP especially at school, he will tell me who of the children at my children he has been puffing with! Any plans to bring out a CP Wii game???

Bear Thu 01-Jul-10 14:34:04

Why oh why oh why oh why!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Do Puffles really die if not fed or is it just DS's cunning ruse / blackmail to get more screen time?

Oh, and: Why oh why etc.

lottiejenkins Thu 01-Jul-10 14:57:59

that should read children at my children school!!

TheFoosa Thu 01-Jul-10 15:01:22

Puffles 'return to the wild' hmm - I know, having to console dd when she lost 3 of the blighters

A Puffle Sitter is a very good idea

PlumBumMum Thu 01-Jul-10 15:11:41

But I think I read puffles are maintained until you go online, if your dcs don't look after them every time they play then they run away
dd1 had all 8 gosad I always tell mine to feed theirs etc first before doing anything else

PlumBumMum Thu 01-Jul-10 15:12:35

note. I do realise they are not realgrin

SagacityNell Thu 01-Jul-10 16:50:10

Is there actually any point looking for Rockhopper? My children are timed online and only get to go on if their behaviour is good enough (*yup - evil mummy!) They have not yet met him and DS2 doesn't understand that he will be in different servers at different times on different days. That means nothing to him - he just clicks on the top server in the list!

Agree with the puffle sitter thing.

WHy are items not carried over if membership ends? We can't always afford to top up each month and DS2 works really hard to get them - its literally the only thing he has shown an interest in (ASD)

Finbar Thu 01-Jul-10 19:05:16

Hello and thank you for your entertaining site.

My DS (8) is struggling on EPF field ops to find the designated item and is getting very frustrated. He tells me that once he even searched the whole island for a field op item.
Please help!!

PlumBumMum Thu 01-Jul-10 20:09:27

Finbar which one my ds has completed them I think

Lilyloo Thu 01-Jul-10 20:45:58

Agree with the puffle thing my ds was really upset when his left.
Ds says it should cost less to buy a puffle and restrictions are too much for non members.
We have bought him memberships for birthdays , xmas but it doesn't seem fair to loose things when they are no longer members.

treacletart Thu 01-Jul-10 21:53:50

Puffles only run away if you don't look after them when you're on club penguin. I think its 5 mins for every hour.

If you're not online or not on club penguin they're fine.

Thanks Lane, DS adores club penguin and I'd like to think managing his virtual money is teaching him a bit about saving up for things and spending wisely. I also insist he can only be a member of Club penguin or Moshimonsters but not both so he has to choose every month - CP wins mostly but now he's a secret agent he's more interested in the missions than kitting out his igloo.

Now, he has asked me to ask you...
"Please, please, please, can you tell me about a secret trick nobody else knows about yet?"

Lane, Club Penguin is the one thing that has made life for my ds (aged 7) bearable this year. He has been in and out of hospital, lots of absence from school, lots of detachment from friends, and not being able to join in physically with things to vent his enthusiasm for life. So I would like to say a huge thank you to you and your colleagues for designing and maintaining the site.

Can I just ask, are the club penguin trading cards coming back? I tried to buy some yesterday and was told they were withdrawn a couple of months ago. He loves playing card jit-zu (sp?) with anyone who will sit long enough!

Is it possible for non members to do some of the extra challenges/games/or buy from catalogues, when they are not so new and novel. We can't afford the membership and so he just plays on the free elements, and is sometimes frustrated that he can not interact with all the aspects of the site. I appreciate you have to make it work financially, but perhaps to unlock something extra for non members when you introduce something new for members?

Thanks again. smile

stoppinattwo Sun 04-Jul-10 22:01:16

DS has had a lifetime ban from CP....I have emialed to find out why as he genuinely doesnt know why he has been banned??

Could you advise please? [smile[

stoppinattwo Sun 04-Jul-10 22:02:19

sorry should add I emailed over a week ago

islandofsodor Mon 05-Jul-10 11:56:27

Ds aged 6 wants to know why Rockhopper never visits his favourite server Cold Snap.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 12:50:38


RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 05-Jul-10 13:29:29

Thanks to all those who have sent in advance questions to Lane. He's about to join us and aims to get through as many of your questions as possible over the next hour. A big welcome to mumsnet, Lane Merrifield...

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:32:11

Hello everyone, thanks for having me on today. I am very encouraged to see so many "penguin parents" on today.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:33:42

I'll start by answering one of the more popular questions about Puffles that was asked by a few of you.
Puffles are the "pets" of Penguins in Club Penguin. They can be adopted from the Pet Shop and will "run-away" if they're not cared for (feeding, exercise, sleep). This is important because we wanted to teach the children the responsibility of caring for a pet. One element to note is that the "timers" we use for determining the health of the Puffle are only activated when the child is logged into Club Penguin. Therefore, if a child goes on vacation for two weeks, their Puffles status is not depreciating at all. Their Puffle will also send them a reminder post card that they're not being cared for before running away. Unfortunately sometimes some Puffles will still return to the wild, in which case, the child can adopt them again at the Pet Shop.

OneMoreMum Mon 05-Jul-10 13:35:45

Hi Lane

My son is off school sick today and is playing club penguin as we speak!

I've asked him if he has any questions, he want to know if he'll ever be able to design the actual igloo as well as decorate it.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:38:44

Hi OneMoreMum, I hope your son feels better soon.

For now, the only way to design your own igloo is to send in a drawing to us, which we do use as often as we can. We hope to add more features like this in the future, but technologically it is a challenge. It also poses a bit of a safety challenge as well because the designs would of course have to be moderated.
That said, we always want to encourage more creativity so we are constantly adding new designs and features.


LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:41:41

Another question some of you asked was about Rockhopper and making him easier to find.

I'm happy to say that when Rockhopper visits the island he does spend time on all of the servers. We make a very special effort to ensure he spends an equal amount of time on them. Unfortunately he does bounce around so he can be difficult to find. As Rockhopper is operated by actual trained staff-members in every time zone around the world, he can not be at all places at all times. We do train more and more of our team for every visit so we can make him easier to find, but unfortunately it can still be difficult.

OneMoreMum Mon 05-Jul-10 13:42:55

Thanks Lane

He's finishing a game and then he's going to draw an igloo to send in to you (headache mysteriously disappeared!)

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:44:30

Lol, yes, funny how that happens. My mom used to call those "mental-health days" rather than sick days.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:53:54

Lottiejenkins mentioned that your son, Wilf, has aspergers syndrome and you have no idea how happy I am to hear that he enjoys Club Penguin. We recieve letters from numerous parents every week who have children with similar difficulties who all say that Club Penguin has provided them a new opportunity to socialize. To be honest, it is one of the realities I am most encouraged by.

You also asked about a Wii game and we just recently announced that we'll be releasing it in September. It's called Club Penguin: Game Day and has a whole new collection of minigames that are designed for kids and parents to play together. I've tested them with my own kids and we really have a lot of fun together.

lottiejenkins Mon 05-Jul-10 13:55:40

Thankyou for answering my question Lane. Wilf has his birthday on Saturday and has asked everyone for money so he can by Herberts revenge!!!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 13:58:32

Thats very exciting, tell him "Billybob" says hi!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:01:16

Some of you have asked about the membership items not being available after the membership expires.

We made the decision a long time ago to have a very liberal refund policy on our membership in an effort to build as much trust with parents as possible. Unfortunately this meant that some people would take advantage of it by purchasing a membership, aquiring all the member-items and then canceling and refunding their membership.
In order to dissuade this behavior, when a member cancels, we simply put their member items into storage and all will be activated again once the membership is renewed. No items are ever "lost" or removed, they just can not be used until the membership is reactivated. It is no different than your cable subscription or magazine subscription. Hopefully that makes sense.

PlumBumMum Mon 05-Jul-10 14:06:04

Ok understand, but dd1 got 6 month membership for christmas, if I had bought her another 6 month card for her birthday would it add on to the end or does she need to wait until nearer expiry date, if so would the card still be valid, iyswim?

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:08:55

MathsMadMummy asked about the importance of social skills and weather or not virtual worlds were impacting that.

First off, it wasn't a rude question at all, I get it all the time.

As I parent myself, I know how important it is to regulate "screen-time" of any sort. My son has an allotment per day that he can choose to use watching TV or playing games like Club Penguin. Personally, I prefer him playing games (even if its not CP ) because at least then I know his brain is engaged in reading, problem solving, communicating, etc. The truth is that most of our audience spend less than 10-20 minutes per session so that means the vast majority of their day is focused on schoolwork, socializing, playing outside etc.

That balance was so important to us, that we were one of the first childrens games to install a parent timer on our site. Which gives parents the tools to determine exactly how much time they want their child to spend on Club Penguin. This can be found in the parent log-in on the site.

I've seen some research by Jackie Marsh who has some articles that would be worth looking at if your interested in more detail on the subject.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:11:18

Thanks PlumBumMum, I'm glad you asked. All of our memberships are additive meaning you can enter the card anytime you want and the time just gets added on. You do not have to wait for it to expire.

PlumBumMum Mon 05-Jul-10 14:12:53

Sorry I know we are only allowed 1 question but ds is soo excited that I can ask you a question, he wants to know when/where/how to find Gary the Gadget guy?

Many Thanks Lane for a safe fun place for our children to play and practise their computer skills.

pugsandseals Mon 05-Jul-10 14:13:21

Question from DD (age 7):-

Why does Herbert P. Bear always get upto mischief?

(Have no understanding of this question myself but I trust you'll know what she means wink )

deepdarkwood Mon 05-Jul-10 14:15:25

Wow, I'm amazed your figures suggest kids are usually on for less than 10-20 mins at a time ... how is that average calculated - does it ring true for you?

I guess ds is still at the stage of using it to play games> as a social tool ... and they (esp the wonderful spy games) take him forever!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:19:21

Hi SparkleRainbow, thanks for the message. I'm so sorry to hear that your ds has been in and out of the hospital this year. I'm glad to know that Club Penguin is helpful even in a small way.

Regarding your question about the trading cards, they are still availible, although the store you were looking for them in may not carry them anymore. I believe they have them at ASDA or WH Smith here in the UK. You can find more info at our website under "Toys" section.

Regarding membership, we do always try to have free elements for everyone and actually launch several free items every month. They are not always launched at the same time as the catalogs, but usually at parties and events so that everyone can feel included. Do you mind providing your sons "penguin name" (no password please). I'd like to give him something for being such a trooper.


LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:22:39

Sorry PlumBumMum, I don't know when Gary will show up next, but I am sure we'll announce it in the blog before it happens next.

For Pugsandseals, Herbet is the only antagonist on the island. He is a vegetarian polar bear who hates the cold and is angry that he is stuck on Club Penguin island. He's a bit like our "Grinch" who doesn't hurt anyone (being a vegetarian and all) but he is grumpy so the secret agents do need to help keep him in line.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:25:18

Yes, deepdarkwood, obviously that is an average across all of our players who span a fairly wide age range (6-14) so the time online does vary.

My DS-8 will usually spend about 30 min at a time, but he's also been playing it for a few years, so he just logs in to see what is new.

Rafi Mon 05-Jul-10 14:27:27

Hi Lane

Herbert is my 9-year-old DD's favourite villain - she loves the spy missions but hides behind her fingers when he appears!

Thanks for giving her a lot of fun.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:30:02

You're very welcome, I'm so glad to hear she enjoys it!

Tell her not to worry though, he's more afraid of her than she is of him.

Rafi Mon 05-Jul-10 14:33:25

Thanks, I'll let her know grin

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:34:51

Katisha had a few questions.

Unfortunately Captain Rockhopper doesn't let any other penguins sail with him on his ship so none of them have ever been to Rockhopper island.

Yes, there are plenty of secret items all over the island, hidden in various catalogs, as well as within the world. We always work hard to make sure a certain percentage of items have to be "discovered."

Regarding the background, Billybob doesn't have one yet, but hopefully in the future.


LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:36:29

Regarding your question, paisleyleaf, Islandsofsordor is correct. You do not need to be a member to enjoy the Nintendo DS game to the fullest.

pugsandseals Mon 05-Jul-10 14:38:01

Thats made DD very excited - thankyou!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:39:39

Thanks for the idea deepdarkwood, we do consider making a younger version at times (and I'll have to ask the folks at Disney abou the 10% ), but we have usually landed at instead, trying to find a way to make the existing experience more accessible so that siblings can play together and not on separate worlds.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 05-Jul-10 14:40:38

The hour is over - Many thanks to Lane Merrifield for joining us today to answer our questions.

Katisha Mon 05-Jul-10 14:42:54

Thanks Lane - DS will be delighted to get your answers!

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:43:13

Finbar, I'm sorry to hear about your sons experience with the EPF Field Ops.

As that was only launched a few weeks ago, it seems we still have a few bugs to work out. I was told this latest mission was easier to locate and we will work to make sure the experience continues to improve as we recieve feedback from kids and parents.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:47:44

stoppinattwo, I'm not sure why your child was banned. If you haven't heard from us after a couple of days, feel free to resend the email. Like everyone, our email servers aren't always flawless. We also recieve 5,000-10,000 emails per day and although we attempt to answer all of them the same day, sometimes that isn't always the case.

LaneMerrifield Mon 05-Jul-10 14:48:59

Thanks everyone for taking the time to ask questions. I really appreciate the opportunity to connect with so many parents in one place.

Dear RachelMumnet

I missed the live chat with Lane yesterday, as I had to go to the hospital with my son. Lane asked for my son's club penguin name so he could give him "something". If it is not too late, could you let him know that my ds name on clubpenguin is nikkicassie. I appreciate that this may not be possible, and I am being a bit cheeky asking, but it was such a nice gesture, and my ds would be thrilled.

Many thanks for you time.

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 06-Jul-10 17:55:52

Hi SparkleRainbow, Sorry you missed the chat - I'll certainly pass on your message and the name of your son on CB - fingers crossed something turns up smile

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