Club Penguin and CPPS — frostburn
An entire generation was put on red alert on January 30th, 2017. After more than 11 years, it was announced that Club Penguin, an extremely popular Adobe Flash based MMORPG, would be shutting down two months later, on March 30th, 2017, in favor of its mobile 3D successor, Club Penguin Island. For many, it was the ultimate gut punch after 5 years of watching Disney turn their childhood into a puppet designed to increase profits from things ranging from the Star Wars party to the Teen Beach Movie Summer Jam. Needless to say, these loyal fans weren’t going to let their childhood be taken away that easily.
On February 11th, 2017, more than a month before the scheduled shutdown of Club Penguin, a new player stepped into the ring: Club Penguin Rewritten. Created by two friends, Club Penguin Rewritten (CPR for short) was a recreation of the original game using the original game’s assets, their own assets (both custom-made and remixes of original Club Penguin assets), and a server emulator. Thanks to the timing of the release, the well-chosen name, and the accuracy of the recreation, they had thousands of registered users within a month. CPR is an example of a Club Penguin Private Server (CPPS).
CPPS have been around since long before the shutdown. The first CPPS, known as iCPv1. was made all the way back in 2010. While it was shut down due to legal concerns, the creators publicly released the code that made it possible, which spawned numerous other CPPS. While some of them did offer custom content, most of them were geared around providing things that the official game couldn’t, such as free memberships, unlimited coins (the in-game currency), and most importantly, looser rules. While Club Penguin had strict rules such as no foul language in the in-game chat, most CPPS allowed this content in the chat.
One of the biggest questions surrounding CPPS was the legality. CPR was no exception. Because they were using Disney assets, they were at risk of Disney filing a DMCA. To combat this, like most other CPPS, they provided memberships for free to all members so that they weren’t making any profit from it, and they stated that the use of the assets was fair use, as it was only used for “educational purposes”. That kept them off Disney’s radar, besides a DMCA on their domain in late 2017 that forced them to change their domain name from ‘clubpenguinrewritten.pw’ to ‘cprewritten.net’.
While CPR was focusing on recreating the authentic 2009–2012 Club Penguin experience, by the time the official shutdown of Club Penguin happened, several others popped up, all with different goals. A couple examples were Club Penguin Generations, focused on custom content, and Vintage Penguin, which, as the name implies, focused on recreating the original Club Penguin experience from 2005.
In the middle of 2017, I was invited by a couple of friends I made on CPR to work on a new CPPS project: Penguin Remix. It was something I hadn’t done before, and I was interested in seeing what the administration side is like, so I joined. At this point, with every CPPS focusing on a specific time period of the original game and staying true to that, I had a more unique idea. I wanted to “remix” all those eras together, hence the name Penguin Remix. Rather than catering to a specific group of players, I wanted something everyone could enjoy. I’m not going to tell the full story of everything that happened early on at Penguin Remix, as it’s quite long, detailed, and irrelevant. But long story short, I eventually climbed the ranks to become an administrator for the project. Soon after that, I was put in as the owner. I was effectively in charge of the whole team and that eventually turned into becoming the one managing the server emulator entirely. Early on, I was quite trusting of offers to help me with that. I learned the hard way that wasn’t going to work…
By this point in the CPPS community, there were so many options for what CPPS you could play, though CPR still reigned supreme as the most secure and most popular. It was also stayed very true to the original game. You might think that having all that variety would be a good thing so that everyone has something they like. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. It ended up being a bit too much variety. What started as a fun way for people to relive their childhood turned into a full blown internet war. It was a battle to see who could stay on top and become the most popular.
It was horrific to watch. CPPS owners were making up false accusations (in some cases framing) about other CPPS to try and get people to stay away from them. The original owner of CPR was no exception. All talk about any other CPPS was banned at CPR, and the owner regularly sent out “warning announcements” that made unsubstantiated claims about other CPPS and told users to avoid them. Eventually, the owner of CPR was removed from his position by the other team members. But that only made the problem worse. This removed owner resorted to harassment of the team, including doxing them, and even worse, SWATing them. For those of you unaware, SWATing is a term used to refer to when people call a SWAT team to someone’s house on a false report. It is extremely dangerous and innocent people have been killed because of it. This led to the eventual closure of CPR, as the team just couldn’t handle it anymore. However, after community support, they relaunched a few months later.
Besides the war on other CPPS, there were some CPPS that were outright dangerous. One of them was requesting explicit images from minors in exchange for moderator permission. Absolutely disgusting.
Although I wasn’t affected as badly as others (and I’m thankful for that!), I didn’t escape unscathed. Early on, when I was maintaining Penguin Remix, I received numerous offers to help me out with administration of the server emulator. At the time, I was new and unaware of what was going on in the community. So I accepted. However, that led to my server being vandalized and destroyed. After this had happened multiple times, I lost trust. Even after getting numerous offers, the only other person I gave access to was a friend who goes by the name earthing. He more or less taught me everything I knew on CPPS administration, and I trusted him. But even with him having access, I was left doing most of the work. And there’s more. The previous owner of Penguin Remix tried to take back ownership from me, and he did that by constantly harassing me. With his friends as well.
By this point, I was struggling. To give you an idea of how much dedication I had to Penguin Remix, here’s what my day looked like every day I didn’t have school: I’d wake up, check in on Penguin Remix, make sure it’s okay, eat for a few minutes, come back, continue to work on the server and make improvements, eat, and go to sleep. I was spending quite literally all day on Penguin Remix. And when I did have school, I spent most of the day stressing about what could be going on. Penguin Remix took over my life. I was struggling in school. My academics dropped in a way they hadn’t dropped before. And I was seeing minimal results. Penguin Remix wasn’t growing. It was dying. And I kept mindlessly pouring everything I had into it.
Over the next year or so I bounced around. I owned a couple of other CPPS projects. But they all suffered the same fate. Low activity leading to death. I stood no chance against the bigger CPPS out there like CPR, and the toxicity of the community was taking a toll on me.
In early 2020, I tapped out. I decided that my desire to own a CPPS and relive my childhood wasn’t worth the toll it was taking on me. This quickly became one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I began to understand that the CPPS community isn’t worth it. Club Penguin was shut down years ago, and it should stay that way. People’s desires to save a part of their childhood memories overpowered their judgement. As they say, too many cooks spoil the broth.
To provide a little closure, Disney heard about what was going on with the CPPS owner soliciting explicit images and immediately took action. They were sent a cease and desist and the owner was arrested by local authorities. That CPPS has since shut down. This sparked a major wave of cease and desists sent to CPPS from Disney. A large majority of them were forced to shut down. CPR, however, still remains. Due to the discontinuation of Adobe Flash, they have since completely rewrote the Club Penguin client in HTML5, and they are still active to this day.