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Furcadia's 'Second Dreaming' meets first funding target

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Furcadia's AngelCat avatarDragon's Eye Productions, creators of long-running social MMORPG Furcadia, have set up a Kickstarter project to fund a web-based overhaul of the service, entitled The Second Dreaming.

On the morning of 28 November, the project met its its base funding goal - $55,000 - for which DEP and spinoff Catnip Studios pledge a web-based client (to be offered on Facebook and elsewhere), and a new Furcadia website. All backers may choose a new feature and avatar from a list: the winning choices will also be added to Furcadia.

Upgrades are sorely needed; the current Windows client was designed in 1996 and lacks support for modern platforms.

While the sale of virtual items (or digos) provides sufficient funds to keep the service running, development has slowed to a crawl; according to DEP, core team members have not been paid in two years, and most have found other jobs. *

Furcadia's creative director Dr. Cat (Felorin) is to host an "Ask Me Anything" for potential backers on Reddit at 2PM CST on Wednesday November 28, and will be a guest on Twitch TV's TopWizard channel on Saturday December 1 at 3PM CST. Funding ends December 14.

Furcadia Second Dreaming mockup
Artists' mockup of the proposed Furcadia web-client interface

The new web client is to be written in Haxe, a language which can compile to bytecode using the Flash runtime. It also has varying support for a variety of web and desktop languages, offering the potential for use of the new client on other platforms.

Flash support will allow the game to be be distributed through online game websites, though this may impose a width restriction.

The Kickstarter project still has over two weeks to run. However, as game producer and designer Emerald Flame notes:

[...] the 55,000 base goal is a bit short of what we actually need to produce the product. The first few stretch goals will help make up the difference for that and give secondary projects the funds they need

Initial stretch goals cover the creation of a new Furrabian Nights map (animated preview [18Mb WMV]), a system for mixing avatar attachments, personal user pages, social network integration, paid packages to support groups, online editing and a new iOS app. More has been proposed; a new central area, bonus content creation tools, visual script editing, a music editor, and a HTML5 version. However, reaching these funding levels seems unlikely.

A team of third-party developers will be working on the project, although if sufficient money is raised, it may be possible for the original staff to quit their day jobs and return to work on Furcadia. These young developers - featured in the project's Kickstarter video - may obtain part-ownership in Catnip Studios, currently owned and run by DEP partners.

Many pledge rewards are on offer; from test access, a digital print (sketch), the Angelcat avatar and varying levels of golden dragonscales (in-game currency; $1 store credit each), to personal in-game visits, one-on-one chats with Dr. Cat, heartbonding ceremonies and opportunities to add custom avatars or entire dreams (locations) to the game. At least eleven people had pledged $1000 or more prior to base funding.

Dissenting voices

Not all are keen to open their wallets. Even on Furcadia's Facebook fan page, some comments are not entirely complimentary:

Yayyy, everything we were promised like.. 5 years ago. xD I would be happy if it finally happened, honestly.

Y'know what annoys me about the kickstarter project? They promised us all of this regardless of their funds. Why do we have to pay for it now when we were told we'd recieve [sic] it all without paying anyway?

Some furs are also critical, calling Furcadia outdated or overpriced:

I remember trying this AGES ago... and felt it was a dying game. That it's still struggling is a surprise. I would be tempted to say to put it out of it's misery. [...] It has barely changed in years. It is a clunky interface, poor graphics, little functionality... it's using technology that're basically ancient relics in internet time. It's basically a chatroom with poor graphical avatars... with nobody talking, limited graphics, and overpriced additives in your shop.

Furcadia needs to do more than just add more sprites and a web-client, they need to bite the bullet and go write a whole new game with a new engine. I'm sorry, but you can only go so far with retasked ultima online code.. :P That, and dem prices, yeeesh.

This doesn't surprise me to be honest. Their avatars are way over priced, $100 for a small pixelated image just to be certain species for 6 months to me at least is a bit absurd.

While accepting that not all see value in Furcadia's paid offerings, DEP's president has little time for those who deride paid users.

The majority of users on a freemium game won't buy stuff, and that's fine. I should know, we invented freemium in 1999. But the people who don't want to pay shouldn't rain on the parade of the minority who do choose to pay. Those people are essentially subsidizing everyone else getting to play free.

Furcadia has long been promoted at furry events, but while its creators acknowledge its heritage, they prefer to bill it as "the magical world where the animals have learned to speak and walk upon two legs" and "the premier Social MMO", due in part to the size of the furry audience:

We started Furcadia as a business venture, as well as wanting to make something good for people to enjoy. We knew that the furry fandom was too small a market to make a living from. All our previous games were aimed at a larger audience, so this one was too. We also knew that a significant percentage of our players would come from the furry fandom, and that's fine too - we enjoy furry conventions, furry websites etc. ourselves. But we don't want people to think it's only for that fandom, or that furry fandom's what it's all about.

I think we brought a large number of new people into the Furry Fandom in the 1990s, and nobody realizes that. [...] We had a lot of our regulars come to our table and our room parties and tell us their Furcadia names. Some people found Furcadia through the fandom, but a LOT found the fandom through Furcadia too. (online chat)

Discussing the Kickstarter in-game, Felorin was optimistic:

We need more platforms, more features, and most importantly, a way to play directly on the web. [...] I think once we have Facebook support & attachments we'll be fine. [...] Most people don't want to download software and run installers, they just want to hop onto a web page and start playing. [...] While we're building a web version initially, if the codebase gets good enough, we might eventually look at building versions for Mac, iOs, Android, or even do builds for Windows native using the Haxe version. For now, though, we're going to stick with the C/C++ client we already have for Windows, which is pretty high performance, optimized and tested code.

He also highlighted the need for a viable third-party economy:

We always needed more player-driven economy. We have some art commissions for portraits going on here, and a few other things, but it's small.

Indeed, a few already make real money from portrait commissions:

Freelance furc art is my full-time job.

One regular user had mostly positive words for the service:

I like Furcadia. The editors are fun to play with. The community is friendly, and there's lots to discover. The upgrades are a bit pricy for what you get out of them, though.

I joined Furcadia because I'm a furry. It's hard to find good furry communities that aren't heavily yiff-oriented. Furcadia is one of the few.

In fact, Furcadia has a variety of areas and dream standards, from E8+ to Adults Only. The provision of segregated areas for erotic discussion (Furrabian Nights), mature roleplaying (Hawthorn) and socialization (the Acroplis, and the new Olde Town) helps to reduce player friction, while the strong force of 'beekin' volunteers decreases the need for paid staff to address issues.

Read more: Furcadia Kickstarter newsletters - Kickstarter forums thread - Reminiscences on Furcadia's creation

* LOLapps later cut all development staff. Felorin/Dr. Cat has since worked as lead game designer at Idle Games and a senior server engineer at Kixeye.

Lede submitted by ranchu. Additional reporting by GreenReaper.

Comments

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Very good article. I'd love to see more like this. I've never played it though and I probably won't. I do disagree with the commenter who said, "It is a clunky interface, poor graphics, little functionality..." I can't comment on functionality or interface but the graphics don't look poor to me. Just because something isn't in full 3D doesn't mean it's bad. I like the way it looks and prefer that look to Second Life.

"If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind."
~John Stuart Mill~

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (6 votes)

I'm sorry, what? They "invented" freemium? No, no they didn't. That is an absolutely arrogant statement. Second, the paid players aren't subsidizing anything. This game is nothing more than a modified MUD engine that could be easily run from a business-class reliable cable connection. Chastising those who are chastising the paid services is also arrogant. One shouldn't complain about something they get for free, right? No. Your free players are what you want to turn into paying customers. You therefore make the game on equal grounds for all and provide better incentives for people to give you money, not $100-$200 "for life" avatars and other pointless junk. The stuff is still way overpriced for what it is and no real noteworthy improvements have been made to the game that would make me want to pay for anything or donate money to it. My money isn't going anywhere that I'd like so I've no reason to care about this thing.

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

Dr. Cat's "ask me anything" is now live.

Your rating: None

Dr. Cat's TopWizard interview is up. Can you handle all nine hours? (You probably want to skip to 33:33, when he arrives.)

Your rating: None Average: 5 (1 vote)

Furcadia ultimately raised $106,835 from 877 backers, almost twice its original goal.

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