As you enter the living area of the former staff, you notice a variety of food container lying around on the cold and dusty floor. Not only does it look far from edible, but you get the suspicion that something must have living here this whole time. Considerably large paw prints cover the dirty tiles, and you wouldn't call Vyndfleisch in particular suited for human consumption. Your heart begins to race with your steps becoming more hesitant until you hear a distant grumbling. Maybe you should turn around, or maybe a new friend is right behind that corner.
Pet sites have been something I enjoyed a lot. With active and dedicated communities, I found myself enjoying creating web art under the umbrella of virtual creatures, and here I am sharing my thoughts around the places that sparked my interest. I have grown notably critical of them, and maybe this list ends up helping someone to get out of a pesky art block or just find a place to click around and look at funny pictures.
For every site I will provide my very biased and opinionated grading on several factors. These are guides for others to see where they might find a new home for their ideas. The criteria is purely based on the things I value in an online space where I love to spend my time in.
Activity refers to not only the user count, but the overall communication and relationship within the player base. I wouldn't consider a site to be active when it has extraordinary player count yet barely any interaction with other people. This may range from rich forum activity to simple gameplay anchors.
Innovation as the buzz word as it is, I consider within the scope of the medium pet site. I do not care about implemented gameplay mechanics or constant content stream, but the strive to improve and bring new things to the table.
Cohesion describes the on-going theme of the pet site. How dense is the lore? How much is it intertwined with the gameplay mechanics? How does this translate in the art presented?
Backlog I understand as the sheer quantity of content that has been presented over the years. These communities have lived over a decade now and for many it shows. The backlog describes what to expect when joining the party to prevent choice paralysis and feeling overwhelmed.
Expectations is a way to summarize how much time the game demands to remain fun and engaging. I don't want to use the word grind because for some sites, the fun comes form setting your own goals. How attainable those may be is another question and can be observed alongside the game's backlog.
Gacha has infested all kinds of video games and I despise its implementation as a core mechanic. Gambling addictions can eat shit.
Subeta has been my first real shot at pet sites. I was enthralled by all the amazing assets and creature designs, as well as a promising community that I feel could have turned into an amazing space for artists to express themselves. For my running theme I went for imaginary creatures that would represent some kind of materialization. How could I translate the design of a pet into a concept that I find interesting. How can we manifest emotions into matter and how far can we push a dated layout to look as fun as possible? I also created tribute pets for video game characters that I always loved and have them another twist. Here some profiles I feel fond of!
For a place that used to be THE haven for people sick of Neopets, Subeta remains to be a great place to seek shelter. Fun minigames, an obscene amount of very cohesive and interesting pets and a clothing market with steady additions brings joy to my heart every time I log on. Unfortunately, the love for the project seems to have dwindled over the past few years with a small and sturdy community manning the empty forums. The few helpful people who will send you gifts and love kept me going for quite some time until the lack of a roadmap, buggy infrastructure and the hope for a v e r y distant rewriting of the site gave me a severe feeling of emptiness. The site lacks in a main thread mechanically. Creating and caring for your pet feels unfinished and the money-making Human Avatar system is just not what makes a pet site for me. Still, the amount of incredible art work on the site keeps me checking in to this day, and leaves me hoping for a complete overhaul using all those assets. I imagine the artists to make an incredible job when the site finally moves past ugly bootstrap layouts to bring their ideas to life. The site suffers from content bloat and will most-likely overwhelm any new completionist. If you are looking for a place to collect funny jpgs without much thinking, this is definitely a place for you - if you can look past the pricey pet slots. Many items are very hard to get by. A constant stream of items which barely anyone can get use of underlines the lack of thought that was put into designing the overall gameplay loop. The high Gacha rating comes from the terrible terrible terrible CSC vending machines that will use the premium currency for a chance to get themed items. They are well-hidden and the items are affordable for on-site currency, yet a recent addition of a $1000+ lootbox made me feel like there is more to come.
I couldn't get past the fact that breeding dragons would be a feature people would feel most-drawn to in the VPS space. FR remains to be the most successful pet site to this day and despite the very 2015-esque aesthetic, I definitely understand where it all comes from. I love clicking my way through fresh hatches and crafting lineages for that one pretty offspring. I personally never went all-out on bigger breeding projects, but researching rarities and speculating outcomes definitely helped me get past some creative hurdles. I never got into the community aspect, yet the amount of work players put into their lairs is astounding and inspiring. Where this site shines to me is the standard they provide to the breeding-based pet site market without biting off more than they could chew.
If you have any more pet sites that you think I should take a look at, feel free to reach out to me! I know that there are so many wonderful and not-so wonderful spaces to check out. Which ones inspired you most?