Virtual Magic Kingdom

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Virtual Magic Kingdom
Virtual Magic Kingdom logo.png

Developer(s)Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Sulake Corporation
Publisher(s)Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Designer(s)Seth Mendelsohn, Jeremy Malillin
Platform(s)Cross-platform
Release date(s)May 23, 2005
Genre(s)Massively multiplayer online game
Mode(s)Multiplayer
 
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Virtual Magic Kingdom
Virtual Magic Kingdom logo.png

Developer(s)Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Sulake Corporation
Publisher(s)Walt Disney Parks and Resorts
Designer(s)Seth Mendelsohn, Jeremy Malillin
Platform(s)Cross-platform
Release date(s)May 23, 2005
Genre(s)Massively multiplayer online game
Mode(s)Multiplayer

Disney's Virtual Magic Kingdom, also known as VMK, was a free massively multiplayer online game run by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Online. It was a virtual representation of the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom theme parks, containing areas and minigames which were based on real park scenery and attractions. It was launched as part of the Happiest Celebration on Earth promotional campaign to commemorate fifty years of Disney theme parks.

The beta version opened publicly on May 23, 2005 with three virtual lands to explore: Main Street USA, Fantasyland, and Adventureland. This "beta" designation was removed on June 27. The Tomorrowland game area was made available on October 5, and Frontierland opened on December 12. The rest of Tomorrowland opened on April 4, 2006, and New Orleans Square, the final land added, opened on January 8, 2007.

VMK initially launched as an attachment to the Disneyland 50th Birthday Celebration, without long-term intentions, but it gained popularity and eventually became a long-term venture on its own. The target audience of the game was children between the ages of 8 and 14, although VMK was designed to be enjoyed by guests of all ages. Due to the young age of the game's target users, it was patrolled by paid staff who watched out for inappropriate behaviour and language, keeping the virtual world safe. Because of the need for human monitors, the time that the game was open had to be limited; it was open to the public daily between 7:00am–10:00pm PST (10:00am–1:00am EST, 3:00pm–6:00am UTC).

On May 21, 2008, the Virtual Magic Kingdom game was closed by Disney. Many fans asked Disney if VMK was going to reopen. This prompted Disney to post a message on the VMK homepage that the game was a promotion, and was closed, and that there were "no plans" to reopen VMK in any form.

The VMK homepage now redirects you to Disney.com Games.

The VMK game engine used Adobe Shockwave, a multimedia platform used to add animation and interactivity to web pages, first developed by Macromedia, released in 1995 and later acquired by Adobe Systems, and was created by The Sulake Corporation, who also created the online multiplayer game Habbo Hotel.

Gameplay[edit]

Central Plaza in January 2008, 5 months before the whole game closed

The Virtual Magic Kingdom consisted of "Disney Lands", each depicted in isometric projection, and each with a distinct theme.

No more than 15 characters could occupy a room at any time. If a player tried to enter a guest room which already contained fifteen characters, he or she would be put into a queue to wait to enter. A player could request a free "VMK pass" if there were more than five people in the queue for a room; this allowed him or her to walk around freely in other rooms until it was his or her turn to enter. The public rooms all had multiple "instances", named after compass directions (such as the "North-East-East" instance), and each instance could have up to fifteen characters in it. When moving around the public rooms, a character would be randomly placed in an instance of a room unless the player checked the "Advanced Mode" box, in which they could select a specific instance for his or her character to enter.

During October, all the rooms along Main Street were decorated for Halloween. In 2005, the decorations were left up until December; in 2006 and 2007, Christmas décor appeared immediately after Halloween.

Players whose characters met in the same room at the same time could become "friends": one issued an invitation to the other, and if the other accepted, then each player would always be able to see when the other was online and in what game location, and would be able to jump instantly to the other character's location (unless blocked by a 'friends only' flag on the room, the presence of the friend's character within a game, or a 'special entrance' room). Either player could remove someone from his or her friends list at any time.

Guest rooms and awards[edit]

When a player first created his or her character in the game, he or she was given one free "guest room", which they could name and decorate with items. If the player was creating their character in a real-life park, then they were given another room (one of each available choice), as a bonus. Several other kinds of rooms were also available; a player could purchase/get them in the game. Players could set some of their items to be movable by their guests, a feature added sometime in late 2007 or early 2008.

In-game shops sold a wide variety of items, such as posters, couches, water fountains, and rugs, which could be used to decorate guest rooms. Some of these items were sold only for a limited time, and some could only be obtained as prizes for completed quests. Pictures taken with the in-game camera could be hung on guest room walls, or put into a photo book for public view.

Players could also create games in their rooms (as long as the games followed VMK guidelines of appropriateness), and award some of their own items to players. Among the most popular of these were "Cute or Boot", best described as a beauty pageant/fashion contest, "Falling Chairs", a game where the owner of the room dropped chairs while other players raced to them, and "Don't Hit the Floor!" in which a maximum of 6 contestants stood on boxes. Two variations of "Cute or Boot" were "Dress Like Me!", a game where players tried to dress like the game's owner, and "Wear that hat!", where players wore the same hat as the owner. Another popular game was "Design a Room!", where the owner filled rooms with items that could be moved, and the object was for players to design the best room. A less popular one was "Survivor", where the owner asked a question and the first person to answer it correctly wins a point.

Guest room owners had the ability to remove ("boot") a player from their room if the player was causing problems. Players that were "booted" had to wait set period of time before returning to the room.

If a character was in his own room, then he or she could be found by the Guest Rooms "search" button (which searched on the names of room owners as well as the names of rooms). Other than this, there was no way within the game to find out whether a particular other character not on a player's friends list was online or where they were located.

In the New Orleans Square land, there was an exclusive room based on the VIP Exclusive Disney Club, located in the real New Orleans Square, Club 33. This room was used for staff events and open to some guests who had won the best guest room award.

Each week, VMK staff awarded a Best Guest Room Award, Best Game Room Award, and a Best Quest Award pin to the owners of guest rooms chosen to be superlative in originality and creativity. Winners of Best Guest Room not only got the Best Guest Room Award, but they also were allowed to "rent" Club 33 for a party, which a VMK host helped the winner organize. Several players earned the Best Guest Room, Best Game Room, or Best Quest award more than once; the VMK staff awarded the VIP pin to these outstanding players.

A player could set his/her guest rooms so that only people on his or her friends list could enter. On January 8, 2007, "tickets" were added; a room owner was then able to sell (for 10 credits) or trade tickets to allow entry to his or her rooms. The tickets appeared as single-use pins.

In March 2007, VMK Staff began "Room Makeovers", where VMK staff would go into randomly selected guest rooms, or guest rooms submitted by online players, and give the room a makeover if it was in need of one. Before and after pictures of the players' room were then posted each week on the VMK Newsletter.

During the Month of April, VMK Staff Awarded a 'Best Pirate Room' award because April was 'Pirate Month.' Prizes included a "Seagull Nest Hat", a "Crow Barstool" and the seat that went with it, and a "Flaming Ransacked Window".

Some rooms were available in the Virtual Magic Kingdom from the shop button, others were available from quests, and some had limited availability built-in. Players were encouraged to get guest rooms when quests came out, because that could be the only time they would ever be available. For example, the Tron Guest Room was from a quest that was available only for a time, so players who did not finish the quest by a certain date, never received the Tron Guest Room. There were also codes for certain guest rooms.

In June 2007, "pay-to-play" guest/game rooms were disallowed because it was considered scamming, though games like "Pirates of the Caribbean" were still allowed to ask for the minimum 21 credits.

In January 2008, three new guest rooms were added to Main Street: Main Street Magic Shop in Central Plaza, Main Street Magic Shop Checkers (a new game at the Magic Shop), and the Penny Arcade on Main Street.

Mini-games[edit]

The following minigames were available to play throughout the lands in the Virtual Magic Kingdom:

There were also several places in Tomorrowland where credits could be earned. In Nautilus Grotto and Shipwreck Graveyard, a player could collect shells that randomly popped up under water and receive one credit for every pearl they found. This game required the Diving Suit magic pin, which could be obtained from an in-game quest. Another place to earn credits was the Autopia Space Race and the Mars race tracks. In this game, a player drove over trophies to collect them, while also driving over gas cans to keep from running out of gas. For every trophy collected, a player received one credit. This game required one of the four available Autopia car magic pins, which could be obtained from an in-game quest. It also required an Autopia Driver's License.

The following minigames were available to play in the Tomorrowland Arcade until waterpark overlay:

Events[edit]

The Virtual Magic Kingdom occasionally held special events at which prizes were given out. Special events included:

Quests[edit]

In-game[edit]

In-game quests involved a series of tasks for a player, such as finding a specific room or an item in the room, changing one's outfit, saying a specific word, or winning a certain number of points in a minigame. There were two types of in-game quests: 'Q Button' quests, which players could start from anywhere in the game by pressing a button marked 'Q' on the game's taskbar; and kiosk quests, which were linked to a 'quest kiosk' item owned by a particular player or staff member. Successful completion of a quest usually awarded a prize. Each character could only complete each quest once.

In-park[edit]

For the first two years of the game, there was an in-park quest program which permitted players to earn special in-game prizes at Disneyland and Walt Disney World resorts. These quests were mostly eliminated in mid-2007, with the exception of an activity sheet and quest which was handed out to guests waiting in line at the Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage attraction at Disneyland until around January 2008.

Hidden Mickeys[edit]

There were fifty Hidden Mickeys in the game, appearing as mouse-eared logos embossed onto scenery in rooms. Hunting for Hidden Mickeys could be a difficult task, as they were faint and rather difficult to see, and it could take time to earn enough credits to buy film to photograph the hidden Mickeys in-game. Almost every room had at least one, and some contained two.

Credits and pins were awarded after finding certain numbers of Hidden Mickeys (a Bronze Mickey pin for finding ten, a Silver Mortimer pin for finding thirty, and a Gold Oswald pin and 500 credits for finding all fifty). Completing this hunt originally awarded a printable PDF coupon with a code for the Gold Design set of items, which could be obtained by redeeming the coupon at Disneyland or the Magic Kingdom.

The locations of the Hidden Mickeys were changed on December 12, 2005. The new hunt was called "Hidden Mickey Quest Part II", and the new prize pins had "Part II" appended to their names.

Character profiles[edit]

A new player began by registering an account at the VMK website. The player then set up a character (an avatar) and selected the character's gender and appearance (shirt, shoes, pants, hair, hat, face, and colors for skin and hair). The player chose a name for the avatar, but until the VMK staff approved the name they requested, their name was "Guest" followed by the number of player that they are (e.g. Guest7402548). If the name was not approved, the VMK staff would let the player create another name. The player also selected a "guest room", his or her own themed area which could be decorated with furniture, posters, a boat canal, train tracks, game items, or other material. One room was provided for free, and additional rooms could be purchased later with in-game credits. The player could enter a few lines of text, known as a "signature", which were displayed in the character's publicly visible profile. The character was then given a few tradeable items (mostly T-shirts), and was placed in the game.

A player could also choose from a list of randomly selected "adjective-adjective-noun" names presented to him or her; if he or she chose one of these names, it did not need undergo staff approval.

Items[edit]

There were many items. There were in-game items which were buyables. Other could be won or gained from the parks. These items included furniture, clothing, and pins. Most were tradeable, some were not.

Badges[edit]

Badges were icons that appeared at the top of a player's information window and were visible to other players. Badges could not be traded.


Pins[edit]

A character could "wear" up to fifteen pins so that other players could see them in his or her profile. Some pins could be purchased from shops in the game; others could only be obtained by completing in-park or in-game quests, by winning host games, or from a Non-Playable Character (NPC) such as Esmeralda.

Usually a new pin was released on weekends of a certain month in the Emporium for a limited time. These pins usually cost 500 credits and were often a part of a set. For example, during October 2006 a set of Halloween themed pins came out, and a new pin was released every weekend. However, by Monday the pin was no longer available, making it high in value. The next weekend however, a new pin in the set was released and it started all over again.

"Magic pins" could also be worn. When activated (from the magic wand icon at the bottom of the screen, or by typing the pin's magic word), they displayed a visual effect, such as the character driving a car or turning into a snowman. Each effect had a duration of only a few seconds and had to be allowed to "recharge" for a minute or so before another use. If a player had two or more of the same kind of magic pin, they could be combined for a longer effect and shorter delay between uses. There were also single-use magic pins which disappeared after being used once (or after a specific "expiration date"). Some magic pins were very expensive and only available for a short period of time; for example, the "Turn Into Bat Magic Pin" (only available in October) was priced at 10,000 credits.

Some pins were not tradeable and could only be obtained through quests or host events. These pins included all single-use magic pins and all Tomorrowland quest pins. Any award pin, such as the best guest room award or the VIP pin, was also not tradeable. A player could check if a pin was tradeable by clicking the pin on a player's profile, which not only revealed whether a certain pin is available for trade or not, but also revealed who owned the pin and what effects (if any) the pin might have.


Clothing[edit]

When a player joined the kingdom, he or she received a pack of clothing along with a room and some furniture. Players that signed up at a Disney park sometimes received extra rewards.

Occasionally, the VMK shops sold special clothing items (or entire costumes). Some of these were seasonal, and some could only be purchased during a specific weekend. These items were usually expensive; due to this and their limited availability, they soon became valuable items in trading.

Some clothing items were only available to one gender. For example, boys could not have princess outfits (excluding the Princess Minnie hat), and girls could not have the Wildcats outfit.

Full costumes included spacesuits, princess outfits,(came in blue, yellow, pink) Haunted Mansion dress clothes, an Expedition Everest hiking outfit, baseball uniforms, and football uniforms.

Costume items included Mickey ears, and a variety of caps including baseball caps and a Sorcerer Mickey hat.

Credits[edit]

A player could earn credits, purchase them in one of Disney's Parks (the game's currency) also by visiting the Disney Characters (see Disney Characters above) or by playing minigames.

Another popular way to amass credits was called "Nedding". It consisted of playing the Shrunken Ned's Jungle Cruise game but trying to end the game as quickly as possible by crashing repeatedly and running out of fuel. Each time the game was played it awards 20 credits, so the credits that could be gotten from this game were limited only by the length of time someone wanted to put into it.

Accounts used specifically for getting credits and items, known in other games as multis, were called "mules" (sometimes called "clones"). Since the game let a player create new accounts freely, players created mules (named after the beast of burden) to enter multi-use codes and collect credits by visiting Disney Characters. Players could buy items with a mule's credits, and then trade these items from the mules to their main characters. Players who used mules were said to be "muling", and in the game mules were called "done keys" (donkeys) due to the limited vocabulary.

Purchased items could be "sold back" for 20% of their purchase price, but some items were not able to be sold. For example, a quest kiosk could not be sold back or traded.

Trading[edit]

Players could trade various items. Each player could put a maximum of fifteen items into a trade.

Clothing items that were only available for boys or girls could not be traded to the other gender. For example, a girl could not trade her princess outfit to a boy.

Some players tried to take advantage of the trading window to scam other players, but most of the trading window scams were short-circuited by game developers adding confirmation notices. VMK stated that if a person agreed to all of these notices, any issues a player might have with the trade were due to their own negligence.

A player could report a scammer with the "Report" button in the game, or by using the "Contact Us" link on the web site.

Safety[edit]

The game's rules were posted on the VMK web site as "VMK Values", which were intended to help the game stay "a safe, non-threatening environment" for the many players between the ages of eight and fourteen. The rules prohibited sexual or racist language, harassment, divulging personal information, and attempts to hack the system. Violations could result in a permanent ban, which prevented users from using VMK from the ISP the violation occurred on. Despite this, attempted violations were quite common, and people attempted to get around the edited speech by formulating single words out of multiple words (e.g.: saying "I'm Tree Ears Hold").

Every player had a report button on their profile. If one player thought of something that another player did as against the VMK values, that player could report them. The report was immediately sent to the VMK staff for review, and any necessary actions were taken against that player's account. Players could also send "emergency" messages to staff without clicking the report button on another player. The main reason for this was if something was wrong with the game. (e.g.: "I logged in the morning, and all my credits were gone.") Action would be taken against a player's account for sending false or unnecessary reports. (These were usually made in an attempt to bring a VMK staff member to their room, or in an effort for revenge.)

Disney prohibited sharing personal information in the game (and its limited dictionary also added a technical obstacle to this). Disney's stated intent was to protect the safety and privacy of its members, but this also prevented members from having a legitimate way of reaching each other outside the game. Members of some Disney internet discussion forums got around this by indicating in their in-game signature a discussion board through which they could be reached.

Closure[edit]

On April 7, 2008, Disney announced that VMK would close on May 21, 2008, at 1:00 AM EST. Immediately after the press release, changes were made to prevent the creation of any new accounts.

Online petitions were created to attempt to change Disney's decision, and some players attempted to arrange a protest outside of the entrance to Disneyland, although fewer than 20 showed up. On Thanksgiving weekend of 2008, suspicion arose when emails from VMK's server were sent out saying they were testing the player's account. These emails were proved to be false.[1] Ultimately, these actions had no effect, and VMK was shut down as scheduled. The VMK website was updated with information to quell repeated rumors that the game would be resurrected, (and at one point, provided promotional [free] subscriptions for other Disney Online games,) but was taken down entirely in November 2008; the VMK URL currently directs users to the "Games" section of Disney.com instead of the VMK homepage. Though Disney has shut its doors to the Virtual Magic Kingdom, a team of developers have been hosting a public server called MyVMK since September of 2013[2]

In modern culture[edit]

VMK has been a frequently used device in The Kingdom Keepers series, written by Ridley Pearson. It serves as a rendezvous point for the main characters, as well as a communication device as the kids venture through the Disney parks. After VMK closed down in real life, Pearson incorporated the closing into the books.

References[edit]

External links[edit]