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Furcadia's news blog -- Get all the latest on Festivals, events, Second Dreaming, contests, and more!

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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

Jemmion's Rameen Festival!

Good morning again! Jemmion's Rameen Festival opened last night and I thought you all might like to hear the history of this celebration. While Talzhemir was writing the backstory of the Primes in 1995/96 and her and Felorin were creating Furcadia, things were a bit lean. Lets just say they ate a lot of ramen! So she wrote of a festival for Prime Jemmion that celebrated good eating, the oceanside, summer nights and fun and named it after the always plentiful ramen noodle.Â

In Furcadia, this was the first official festival that we celebrated. I used to hold the party in Sanctuary and at some point Zephyr and I borrowed a Dream the early Beekins made for one of their parties and fixed it up for the festival. No one could get the surfing, one the main attractions early on, to work right until Ryhn came in to help. He was always the one who got the complicated rides and games to work on main maps. He did the turtles in SS Showcase, the barge in the Sun Fest, and the flowers in Naia too! A few years later when Gar and I created the Festival Grounds map, we didn't move the Rameen into it like the other festivals, because not even Ryhn could get the waves to work in the new map. I think it is Prime's magic! After all you can often catch site of Prime Jemmion, himself, attending the festival.

Each year we add something new to the festival! Indigo Nightfall made the lovely skin we use one year and Gar made the Parrot Trivia another year. Very early on the Pixels lead by Mara~Fae FireHeart made the Underwater Dream with all the fishy avatars. Nommad put in his awesome Guitar Hero-like game some years back and another year Gar added a message in a bottle quest with the help of Kaelin'yFaie. This year Crunchward, Althia, and the Masons updated the DS and added a few of the 32-bit patches, including the Bouncy Castle pictured, which Talzie made and Rat turned 32-bit! I even added in the lovely nighttime lighting for this summer night beach party!

It takes a whole community to make a festival. Muun moved the Rameen page into the new CMS Site this year. Re-jin, Xxy, Epitome, and other Eventers ran the events last night and should have more of them planned for the coming weeks. Majas and Treeki helps get the 32-bit patches in and Majas also made this fun little gif of us on the Bouncy Castle with the lighting shown. And of course, it isn't a festival without the community there so come party with us!

rameen bouncy gif

Furcadia.com

Woooo! We are so excited to announce the official release of the new website funded by The Second Dreaming! It is still in development but we have many pages ready or close enough to release! The home page is live and even shows different things if you are a new player (not logged in) or if you are logged in. Most of the new player and help links are already to go. Now you can be proud to show them off to your friends! Any pages that are not on the new site are still linked on the old, so all the content is still available as we refurbish.

Muunokhoi is the main drive in this project and runs the Scribes that are working on the pages. Muun, Majas, Tigger Fellini, Crunchward, Kamata, Kitasu, Koolpin, Kedessa, Ceus, Elso, Ani and others are doing the work to move the old pages over. They update the code and content while they are at it, creating contemporary and fresh pages! Cironir does much of the writing for the new pages, keeping the voice and style consistent. We had over 900 pages on the old site, all of which needed to be sorted and evaluated as to which we would move to the new site. These guys have done a really kickass job of putting this together! Be sure to watch every week for more new pages that are ready!

Can't have webpages without art and our new pages are gorgeous! The initial template design was done by Majas, Gar and myself. We kept the branded Furcadia colors, toning them down a bit and modernizing the interface. The base UI tells a story of Light and Dark woven together with the breath of The Dragon to encompass our content and community. Many of the artists in the Pixels have lent their time to create all the lovely interface pieces and the treasure trove of Prime art and Butlers which decorate the pages!

Of course, none of this would work without our awesome Coders! Frostyfrog is the main guy doing the front end coding and making sure all the Joomla modules are working. He's a very busy frog and even just fixed the bug that was causing troubles uploading custom tags! Kashi Commodore is the power behind the backend of the system. He is the one who does most of the coding and maintenance for the engines. Yasabu and most of the other Coders also help with parts of the page code. Watch for better services, improved Groups, Character pages, Howl and much more coming soon!

Can you find the page with the art below on it? :)

butlerpics

Encryption!

Hello! Just a short note today! Treeki told you a bit more about the new sprite sheet Fox format the Coders are working on. They are coming along nicely on that and in fact, Dewi has just made the new way we will be encrypting art. I thought you all might like to see! First one is a new sprite sheet of item3.fox. The second image is what that sprite sheet would look like after encryption! I'm , of course, not going to give you any details as to how! This does take care of a huge worry we've had with images being encrypted on the Web Client. It will also work nicely on the windows client to tighten security for your patches!

I will have more pics of the new Default Avatars, a bit on the new Jackalope, the latest of the 32-bit default patch work and a piece on the restart this week. Be sure to check back often! :)

item3 sprite sheet

item3 sprite sheet encryp

FOX Editor Updates!

Treeki here with some news about patches!

My current project involves getting support for Sprite Sheets into the Horus library that underpins our Windows client and editors. Emmie talked about this a little last month, but I thought you might want to know a bit more!

Sprite Sheets are what we call the latest version of the Fox format, which Farrier/Dewi has designed with input from the rest of the Coders. Of course, we wouldn't have made a change like this without good reasons, and there's quite a few: faster loading (especially in the new web client), smaller downloads, and various updates to prepare for releasing features like lighting effects and double-size art.

The latter introduces a new component to Fox files, which we're currently calling "Aspects". Each Shape can include multiple Aspects - for instance, normal-size and double-size versions of a pillow or table - and Furcadia will automatically pick the correct one. This has required a redesign of the way patches are handled behind-the-scenes, and that's what I've been working on over the past month. I'm quite proud of my efforts so far - even though this new system supports more features, my new code is smaller, cleaner, and faster! Or at least I think it is... I may be a little biased ;)

The Dream Editor and Furcadia client can be moved over to this system fairly easily - I've already got the former up and running with spritesheets! - but the FOX Editor has proven to be a little more difficult, because its editing features use so many parts of Horus that the other tools don't need.

This isn't the only issue: We need to make some changes to the interface to add in support for features like Aspects and the settings used for the lighting system. Gar has been lending a very helpful paw with interface design for these, but all of this stuff needs to be programmed as well.

In order to make this easier, we've decided to rewrite the FOX Editor using the Qt framework. This is a system I've worked with a lot in the past, and it allows us to develop a modern and user-friendly interface with much less work than the older libraries we currently use - which is a boon with our limited resources, and means we can get these updates done faster and create a better end product!

You can see a prototype of what this looks like here! It's still very much a work in progress, and the final version will look much more like the editor we have now - I've only been working on this version for a couple of days - but nevertheless I'm quite excited about it. The difference between developing with Qt and the older framework we were using before is like night and day!

The new FOX Editor in Qt!

I think I've rambled enough now ;) Time to dig my grubby paws back into C++ code!

~ Treeki

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