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Fox and the Demon!

Hey there, we often talk about Furcadia and The Second Dreaming on this blog but I'd like to give you some news about Digo Market as well.

As you probably know, Digo Market is the Furcadia 'store' for all your Digos, subscriptions and items. With all this focus on The Second Dreaming it may seem that Digo Market is being overlooked, but I assure you thats not the case. Digo Market is just as much a part of The Second Dreaming as the rest. Recently, we experienced a few bugs with Digo Market, caused primarily by all the upgrades we've been doing to it behind the scenes. Subscriptions were not getting renewed correctly, the site was getting slow, and some emails were not getting sent when they should. Sorry to all those who experienced any problems (and if you did I hope you told us in a Support Ticket!)

I got to work alongside a good friend and local legend in Furcadia, Fox (also known as sanctimonious). He designed the original Digo Market, and also ran it for several years. So he was a natural choice of a person to work with us correcting some of the problems we noticed. Within a few hours we had the market totally upgraded to a new webserver software to tackle the delays. And we figured out the email and subscription problems were the same problem! It seems the Nightwind server wasn't processing the notifications properly! No wonder we never noticed, we were looking at the wrong place. Most Digo Market functions are processed on the Golden Hour server that runs the Digo Market site, the Dragonfalls server that runs the databases or the Lightbringer game server.

You'll be happy to know we've got all those things resolved. As a reward, we have also fixed Fox's infamous lamp post in Naia Green.. say 'Hi' to him if you see him there! (Emmie: His lamp post was what inspired our Exclusive Turf Dark Dreaming reward! Oh, and Fox is currently single! >.>)

Dgo market

Soon, we hope to upgrade the Digo Market to better support our wonderful Gold Sponsors. I've been looking into the code that handles Sponsorship benefits and hope to write back here soon with more good news about that. Oh yes and we did fix the bug with the incorrect Gold Sponsorship tag being shown in your description. Thanks to Artex, Treeki and Dream Dancer for that one!

I mentioned Support Tickets earlier. Well they are very important to us. By filing tickets we become aware of problems much faster. And we are able to track issues, how they were resolved, and help out others with the same problem faster. So if you have an issue, or find a bug - please do file a support ticket! It helps us to help you all, better and faster!

Webpages Galore!

Have you all noticed that furcadia.com directs you to the new CMS site now ? More and more pages of the regular website are being redirected to the new site instead. That is because the Scribes have been hard at work converting nearly 800 webpages into Joomla. It's nearly halfway done too! Every item in the sticky bar/service menu at the top of the site has been completed. The Community section is only missing a few beekin pages, and the Explore section is just about ready to go. Roleplay and Creations sections are coming up next, and will all be available very soon.

webpage

Kamata and Kitasu have been a huge help in converting all of these pages. Majas has been helping as well, and just recently has been pumping out pages like crazy ! Majas has also been going through and updating art, screenshots and content for the pages she converts. Just look at the difference between the old and new versions of the Dream Editor tutorial. We are still working hard on the new 32-bit editors too. Head to Meovanni to see just what they will be capable of. I have also been converting a lot of the pages myself, as well as perfecting, editing and approving the pages that everyone else makes. Emerald Flame and Cironir have also been going through to read, edit and approve every single new page that gets put live. Pye is the recent addition to the Scribes, and already she has been so amazingly helpful. She has not only just helped with adding entries to the Wolfhowl contest pages, she is working very hard to stay up to date and add new entries as they come in. The entries this year are especially exciting. Frostyfrog and Crunchward have been a huge help in combing through and debugging the CMS site. It is looking better and better every day. Frosty has been helping Kashi Commodore answer support tickets related to the website for a while now, and Kashi is continuing to code and develop our new web features every day!

The webpages are moving along nicely though. There is only a little bit of fine tuning left to do on the Community and Explore sections, and they will be completed very soon. Tigger Fellini has updated the Scribes class, and created a brand new Joomla Class for all of our Scribes, and now work is just flying along. The CMS site is looking great so far, thanks to the Scribes and all of the TSD backers!

Support Center

When we share information and news about The Second Dreaming, it's often about exciting features, fresh designs or gorgeous art. But TSD is really more than "just" a revolution on the technical level. There are also numerous community-related improvements, and one of them is the new Support Center. I'd like to talk a bit about how it works and what we've planned for the future.

We launched the Support Center in January already, a joint effort by Kashi Commodore, who worked the server and script magic, and myself, but it took a little while longer until it lost its generic, fresh-out-of-the-box look and got custom art and skins! Majas, Seley and Muunokhoi provided art. Crunchward and Muun helped with the skinning process. Â If you haven't looked at it in a while, you can visit here: http://support.furcadia.com.

The new Support Center (we often call it "ticket system") is the one-stop for all your inquires about Furcadia that can't be solved directly in-game by contacting one of our Beekin volunteers! (Refresher: You can contact a Beekin volunteer by typing: "help" followed by your question or inquiry, minus the quotation marks.) It is also the replacement for ALL of our previous contact e-mail addresses. Most of them are no longer monitored, so it's important to only use the Support Center when you're looking to get in touch with us.

Support suite

It is quite popular already, and thanks to its intuitive design many players have successfully used the Support Center for getting help. Over the past months, we had about 1500 individual support cases that resulted in more than 10,000 staff and player interactions. This represents much higher activity than we had registered in the previous support system. Let's look at how it all works!

From the front page, you can access the Knowledge Base, which features several categories that are filled with useful answers to questions that come up often. Kitasu, Gar, and Emerald Flame contributed to these. Please always check here before submitting a support request. There are already many FAQ articles here, and we keep adding new ones! Eventually, we hope that the Knowledge Base will have answers to the vast majority of questions that players are looking for. If anyone would like to submit a help article, please feel free to talk to me.

If your question isn't answered in the Knowledge Base, or your situation is rather individual and specific, e.g. you have an order-related issue, or you're looking for advice on a social matter, you can submit a new support request by clicking on "Open a New Ticket". After filling out the form, you'll receive an email with your ticket ID. Using this ID and your email address will allow you to look up answers to your ticket by clicking the "Check Ticket Status" button. You'll also get an email notification when your ticket is updated with a staff response (but you can only read the answer, and respond to it, through the Support Center, not via e-mail!).

Most of the tickets are responded to by me directly, though Kashi Commodore often swoops down to snatch up technical inquiries and reports. We try to answer every ticket within 24-48 hours, except when I'm off (usually one day a week), though sometimes it can take an extra day if it's very busy or if I have to get an answer for you first. But occasionally you'll also get a response within minutes! In very urgent cases, especially those related to payments and orders, you can of course also whisper me in the game. Similarly, for general inquiries, please consider using the Help channel and requesting help from a Beekin volunteer.

The future plans for the Support Center include a stronger tie-in of the ticket system into the CMS and our accounts database. You'll be able to log into the Support Center with your Furcadia account, which will open up a whole new world of possibilities. For example, you will be able to submit a ticket directly from within the game or the CMS, and when there is an answer, you'll receive a notification in the game. This will make it even easier to get help, though it's already fast and hassle-free -- but that doesn't mean we can't make it even more fun and consistent!

It is one of our goals to not only improve Furcadia's graphics, client(s), and feature sets, but also provide you with customer service that matches or exceeds that of much bigger companies. I believe we have made excellent progress toward this goal already during this year, and we'll keep up the work! If you have feedback, or ideas how we can improve in this area, please drop me a note. Right at http://support.furcadia.com! :)

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Kitsukin Kindling!

Winner for best ears ever on an avatar... Kitsukin Minkin! :) We are having the Kindling Party today for the Kitsukin Minkin! Majas and I worked on the design and Am'God is the artist that worked on this cute, little fennec fox kitsune. Degu did the adorable Butler and Gar did a final positioning pass. Majas and Rat did the exclusive desctag that comes with the presale! This is the second in our Minkin series of avatars and I hear that the Primes Jujinka, Beekin, and Syndira will come again to gather more magic for its making! A big 'Thank you' to Althia for helping to DragonSpeak the magic gathering game and to Juliet for getting the advertising graphics together! The event is tonight at 8 pm FST and we hope to see you there!

Majas has been leading the Pixels in getting yet another version update on the 32-bit default art ready for this party too! Arialonomus has been working on the floors and the new wood floors and cobblestones are amazing. Sylvernight has been working on the water, but I don't think that is quite ready for you all to see. Akoi Meexx has just joined the team and is learning our methods. The Shadow Rider and Degu have been heping Majas with the plants and trees. Suzy, Allen, Pye, and Muse have been busy with all kind of bits and bobs. You've got to come see all the loveliness! I can't wait until Treeki finishes getting the Double size working in the editor so we can see them that way too! Be sure to come see and thank the artists for this awesome work they are doing for all of you!

Kitsukin kindling

Some concern has been expressed about us continuing to put out new avatars when we don't have The Second Dreaming finished. I'll do a post soon about the state of TSD, but I wanted to explain again the difference between new Avatars and the development work. Money from Digo Market sales goes directly to Dragon's Eye Productions to pay for the day to day running of Furcadia. That would be new avatars and desctags and such. We have a minimum amount we need to run the company each month. Those sales pay for community staff, customer support, tech support, maintenance, events, health insurance, office expenses, taxes, accountants, server machines, softrware and everything else it takes to run a company. That is a lot more money than you might expect.

Since the recession, we've had to cut expenses over and over. That's why Gar, Felorin, Fox and Talz work elsewhere now. We could no longer afford them. While I have continued to work for DEP and Catnip, I haven't taken regular pay from either for over 3 years. Digo Sales have continued to drop though. Recently we also had to let Rei-jin go because we could no longer afford to pay her. Felorin had already been supplementing DEP funds from his own paycheck, but this month sales fell low enough that he needed that money to pay for the servers instead of Rei-jin. She also has a really excellent offer to work at another game company and I think this move will be wonderful for her. We will miss her so much though and it does add more work to the rest of the Team. However, we NEED to put out new avatars to keep sales up enough to keep the game running while we finish The Second Dreaming. DEP pays for the few artists who work on those avatars.

The Second Dreaming donations are actually kept in a totally separate bank account and are only used to pay for development on the new things. We have two full time contract Coders (Always our biggest expense), several part time staff members, and many lovely volunteers who are helping to save Furcadia using your donations. Felorin, Gar, Talz, and myself have not used any of TSD money for ourselves, even though we volunteer our time to the project as well. We also have to pay for taxes, accountants, software, fees and much else since this side of things are a business too. We are being very frugal and stretching the money as far as we can so there is time to finish everything! All of the staff works for way under the going rate for what they do, if they take money at all. Like those of you who donated, we do this for the love of the Furcadia community and all it has given us. We are confident that we will get TSD client out and Furcadia will grow again, but until it does, we need to keep the Digo Market bringing in money and donations to TSD fund help as well! Felorin likes to say, everyone wants to have fast, good and cheap, but you can only pick two. We have chosen quality and inexpensive, which means it will take longer to get work done but never fear, we are making excellent progress!

Streaming and Laptops and Feathers, oh my!

Hi everyone, Felorin here with a quick update. Some of you may remember I did a lot of video streaming last year, while working on various parts of the Furcadia programming. Well, I\ve been wanting to stream some more, but my computer won\t seem to work with any microphone any more.

Luckily, I figured out a MacGyverish but workable solution! I often bring a Macbook home from my day job on evenings and weekends. Tonight I tested using it as a \MicBook\ by getting on one Skype account, calling myself on my other Skype account, and letting my streaming software on my desktop computer listen in. Now the Mac is the most expensive, over-powered microphone I ever used, but it works!

I'll be streaming soon to finish up Parnieq's Feather, one of our Consulting Creator items we're adding for Second Dreaming backer Parnieq. Her character is a shape-changing vixiecorn who loses control of her shape-changing powers when she sneezes. Here's a picture of her character.

parniq

Some of you may remember I got the basics of Parnieq's Feather programmed last year while she was my special voice-chat guest on the video stream. Well, this summer she got us a list of dozens of random messages to put in to finish the job! I'll be live-streaming sometime soon while I put those in, and I can chat with you folks and answer questions while I'm working. Watch for announcements about the stream on Furcadia as well as on Twitter and Facebook!

Here's a couple of the messages from Parnieq I'll be adding in, to give you a preview:

"You eat the feather. There's a small parchment in the quill with Parnieq's favorite riddle scrawled on it: Why is a raven like a writing desk?"

"You use the feather. The birds go silent, time seems to stand still, and everything that creeps holds its breath. The air around you is charged with a strange energy! And nothing happens. It's just a feather."

I'm pleased to say that she put some Monty Python references in some of the messages as well. Parnieq's Feather should be available to everyone after our next server restart. And we'll be giving Parnieq a lifetime supply of them, so watch out or she might tickle your nose with one!

Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Arrr Mateys! It be Talk Like a Pirate Day in ye ol' Furcadia! All ye scallywags better be gitten' yurselves into da gamer tur 'elp celebrate! We be thankin' der lovely Juliet and da Eventers fer 'elpin'! Ye land lubbbers can come ter da Rameen Festival an' get practicen bein' yon mightee pirate! Donna yer ferget ta be voten' Pirate on yonder duel wit ta Ninjas or we be splitten' yer gizards!

talk like a pirate day

Double Size!

This week has been all about double size! As you all know, if you've been reading the blog, while the Pixels are busy fixing up the default art into 32-bit objects, they have also been making a 200% version of the art as well. Everything is so beautiful and detailed in these pieces! The Pixels are kicking some major butt! I foresee the default objects getting used a lot more after this. I've included some of the newer pieces below.

Now you might be a bit confused about the double art and how this will work. When Furcadia was new, we had a lot smaller screen resolutions and the game filled up the whole screen at 640 x 480. As time went by and screens could handle larger sizes, we could not change our size to match because pixel art does not look nice stretched to odd sizes. Pixels can stretch nicer if you double them though, that would be 4 pixels for every 1 we have now. However, even now, many screens do not support double that at 1280x960, especially on mobile and tablets. So that we can double size the art for The Second Dreaming, we are only double sizing the graphic screen and making a pretty, modern interface that is not double sized.

This of course means that we can either do the art in an automatic stretch or take the time to redraw it with more colors and details. We've chosen to do the extra work involved in redrawing the art for default. However, anything that doesn't get done before the client is released can be auto-stretched. This will be the same for players. They will have several choices. They can redraw their patches for 32-bit and double size, they can let the client stretch the art for them automatically, or they can choose for their Dreams to remain the same as now in 'classic mode'. We will make sure you have access to the new editors ahead of the double size release so you can work on your own 2x patches!

This also means that our clients and editors have to be able to support this new way of doing things! With so much art and Dream work going on, it has been getting hard to test things in 1x mode, so I asked the Coders this week to start focusing on 2x! Farrier is very busily working on getting double size art to work with the new fox file format. That is harder than it sounds because some sprite sheets with all the art at 200% are too big for PHP and other languages to handle. The last few days he's been figuring out how to break apart those huge sprite sheets and still make sure the Web Client can read them!

In the mean time, Treeki is working hard on the Fox Editor, making it support not only the double size but all the other fox format changes. Felorin has been helping out with the Dream Editor, fixing bugs, getting Live Edit working and also looking into the 200% Dreams! Ninja will also be helping to get the Windows Client ready, but we are not expecting full double size, 32-bit art there until Update 32!

There's a lot of little details that have to be ironed out as well. Gar has been working in how to double size floor tiles smoothly, for instance. Because the edges of floor tile now are over two pixels and up one, a straight double size means over 4 and up 2. That makes for ragged edged floors. We can fix that by hand and make them the right size and pretty, but since we *must* allow for auto-sizing, the fixed floors won't match the stretched floors. This can cause holes in the floors and we've all seen what happens when your floor tiles are the wrong size! Gar has also been helping Rat the Unloved to figure out all the technical details to 2x avatars! To make it all more difficult, we cannot use the FoxEd yet to get all this working!

So you see this is keeping everyone pretty busy! Often in the evenings you can watch the Pixels or Coders working on some of these things on live streams! Just watch for announcement in the game and on Facebook and Twitter! Thanks to Degu for putting this graphic together! :)

32-bit Default Art

New Allegria Island!

With the new FurN getting so much attention on our adult side, we felt that our next map focus should be on the T+ Allegria Island. AI was the first upload map in Furcadia and the only one for the first few years. You couldn't even upload in your own Dreams until the early 2000's! This simple island off the coast of Kasuria is the home of so many interesting Dreams, with a mixture of Social and Persona Play. You can find build-a-homes, dog pounds, help groups and large social communities along with many other themes. Many new players find their first home in one of the Dreams there. It is time to get AI ready for The Second Dreaming!

We have decided to go Ancient Greek Island themed with it, along the lines of how you see the Acropolis. In fact, we will be combining it with the old, unused Acropolis main map and our ideas for a social area there too. Heimdall helped with the initial design, but I will be taking over the map weaving and project management. Althia will be taking point on patch management and Crunchward on the Dragonspeak. Dream Dancer is working on a lovely new wall set. The Pixels and Masons will also be lending a paw on the patch and DS! We are really excited about this theme and it should be a lovely addition to Furcadia, without taking away from the simplicity of the old AI.

You can see by the blueprint and inspiration art the look and feel we are going for! There will be a big Dream Hall, a Bathhouse, a secluded cove, a stream running down the hill and a lovely island backdrop. We will be adding plenty of easy to use arches for uploading along the paths to help unclutter navigation to your favorite Dreams. I'm even hoping to get in a mosaic of the Primes in the bathhouse! We will be showing you more as we get farther along on the Dream!

AI BlueprintAI influences

Updates to 32bit Meovanni

Hey guys, Majas here again!

I wanted to show you how AMAZING the Pixels have been lately! We've been working hard on remaking all the default art in Furcadia (6000+ assets!) into a fresh, clean, 32bit style, which will be available for everyone to use eventually. We are using Photoshop to make the art into two different sizes: one at the current Furcadia size, and the other size at 200% size for the Web Client! Meovanni has been the first main map to receive this polished art, and if you scroll down you'll see the original 8bit version compared to the 32bitized one. We've made a lot of art since the last time you saw Meovanni, and soon this week the new version will be loaded into Furcadia for you guys to walk around in!

This is still a work in progress though, as some of the items shown in Meovanni haven't been converted to 32bit yet. But we've made a huge dent in the workload lately! The lovely artists involved in this project so far are Allen, Arialonomus, Deathdog, Degu, Dream Dancer, Farren Dustfur, Gar, Goregoat, Heimdall, Dainilli, Juliet, Kono, SylverNight, Rew, Linnet, myself, Intellectual Music, Rat The Unloved, Suzy, Tarra, The Shadow Rider, Tiponya, and Wani! Talk about a group project! ;)

Click to see a bigger version:

Meovanni 32bitMeovanni 8bit

Jackalope

Happy September! I thought you all might like to know what goes into a new avatar and its promotion! As you may or may not know, the money from Digo Market goes directly to pay for servers, payroll and business expenses. The Second Dreaming money is kept separate so it is important for us to keep the sales up and new avatars coming out.

The Jackalope is a great one to talk about! This bunny started its conception as a snow rabbit or hare. Easter was coming and the tiny Rabben needed a larger, more detailed version. Majas assigned the making of it to Darling. As the concept sketch was being made with the longer proportions, it reminded us of a jackrabbit. Darling asked if antlers could be put on it. Well then, we had to have a discussion! If we added the antlers it became a Jackalope, which is a Mythical being, one we had actually considered making before. It was just too cute with the antlers though, so our minds were made for us. Lope

Most of the avatar, portraits and Butler were made early last Spring, but the main artists got busy with other things, so it got put on a back burner. Sync took the avatar over in late Spring to finish it all up. All Furcadia avatars are really a group project. Majas often does the concept sketch after she and I have talked about what we are looking for. Usually Lobsel Vith does the Butlers, but sometimes Degu helps too, as was the case with this one. Often different artists do the portraits. In this case Darling started them and Sync did the backgrounds and polish work.

After being assigned, the main artist does a 'first standing' (SW facing) pose. This is the hardest frame of the avatar! Majas and I work closely with the artist to get the style as we envisioned and make sure the avatar is in correct isometric perspective. Back standing is probably more difficult though, because we have to break isometric perspective a bit to make it look appealing. The 'Lope hops, so its animation frames were especially challenging. Hopping avatars have a different frame order, stand-stretch-stand-bunch-stand, with the avatar always landing on standing. So after standing, sitting, hopping, back standing, sitting and hopping, there were four laying poses to do. Each frame has multiple checks by both Majas (sometimes Rat) and I to make sure it is on model and perspective. After all of that, it still needs its markings/clothing done and propagated to all the frames, as well as shadows. Often another artist will help with those, but Sync did all the 'Lope ones. Then there's final polish and tweaks, and then Gar does the final positioning. It takes a lot of patience and tenacity to be an avatar artist!

Mythicals always have some kind of magical power, although Mythical Ferians usually fly. Obviously a Jackalope wouldn't fly, so Team Dragon brainstormed for ideas. Gar thought of the 'Lope changing places, but several other ideas were considered too! Then I needed to ask the Coders, Ninja specifically, how hard the new 'magic power' would be and if it would require client or server code. We can add server code with a restart, but client code would need a forced client update. We had an issue though because Ninja had a lot of Second Dreaming work to do and didn't have time right away to program in the Magic effect.Erigon

In the mean time, Rei-Jin and I brainstormed about the promotion and release of the avatar. The Primes Heros vs Villains promotion was so popular this Summer that we thought it would be fun to bring in the community on the Jackalope too. Since we had several ideas for the magic effect, it just made sense to have those buying the avatar help decide which power it would have. After we talked it through, Rei wrote up a backstory for the 'Lope that included the Primes. Dark Prime Erigon was an obvious choice, being a sneaky rabbit character, but we didn't want it too dark, so we brought in some Light Primes to offset that. Pye did the color job for Erigon really fast for us. Then Muun worked her web magic and put the versus page together! A Coder put in the pre-sale Dragonsbreath Orbs and Rei puts in the new sales.

Now it is almost time for the release party for the Jackalope, or Kindling Party, as we call them these days. The new magic power is not yet set in stone, so you can still influence the outcome by getting a pre-sale Lope! Ninja is currently programming both effects into the server, so we can attach the winning on to the avatar, and they will go live during the restart later this week. Bugge Hunters will need to test the code to be sure it works right in test world. Gar just needs to do final positioning and then the avatar will be ready. Rei and I still need to decide what fun game we will do at the party, so people can win a trial version of the new avatar. And finally, after months of work and the whole Team in on it, this week the Jackalope will hop into its place in a long line Furcadia avatars!Â

Wevvn and Sek

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