Creator Reminiscences

December 16th, 2006        4pm FST


Though Talzhemir was unable to attend in person due to ill health, everyone on Furcadia could listen in to Felorin's reminiscing about Furcadia's birth, ten years ago. Silver Sponsors got to attend the event live, and in person, through the portal in the Vinca.

Silver Sponsorships are available here through Digo Market.



The Reminiscence log

Felorin: Ok, hi everyone, and welcome to our Tenth Birthday! It still doesn't feel totally real to me. (smile)
Felorin: My Talzhemir sock-puppet says she is very excited about our tenth birthday too. Isn't that right, Talzhemir sock-puppet?
Felorin: In a way, though, it's not such a big surprise... It just feels odd actualyl reaching this moment. I've been planning to do something like this long, long before we actually sat down and started making Furcadia.
Felorin: I'd always been mildly obsessed with playing games of every kind I could get my paws on. Board games, pinball, videogames, card games, roleplaying games, miniatures battles - anything.
Felorin: When I was 14, my dad got me a computer, and I immediately started programming games on it. Actually I wrote my first one before it arrived, on my mom's electric typewriter, so when the computer got there I could just type it in and it would work. (smile)
Felorin: I never DID get that game working. Ever!
Felorin: Talzhemir started learning her skills early too. her father taught her how to paint when she was young.
Felorin: While I started out in the computer game business, she spent some time first working on boardgames, pen & paper roleplaying games, and comics, among other things.
Felorin: She's also spent time working in a bookstore, as a magician's assistant, a legal aide, apprentice to a master kitemaker, taking martial arts lessons, helping crack codes, and studying marine biology.
Felorin: One thing Talzhemir and I share in common is an interest in almost all areas of knowledge. We're cats, so we're very curious and we like to know as many things as we can possibly manage. (smile)
Felorin: Both of us had played the earlier Ultima games and really liked them, then ended up getting jobs working for Lord British making more sequels. That's where we first met, at Origin. At the time they were the most advanced and talented game company in the business, I felt.
Felorin: I got to be head writer on Ultima 6 while I was there, which was a lot of fun, and of course I put my Dr. Cat character into the series. Talzhemir was "Penumbra" in the Ultima games.
Felorin: I also got to be totally in charge of the Gameboy adaptation, Ultima: Runes of Virtue. Talzhemir composed some original music for that one, as well as doing level design and art.
Felorin: I thought that was the best game I'd ever done. Nowadays I say it's my second best, and Furcadia is the best. (smile)
Felorin: That's saying something - I've worked on three dozen published games over the years. And a few more that got cancelled before they shipped!
Felorin: Talzhemir can tell you how many games she's worked on when she gets over her fever and can come give a postponed talk with me. (smile) Let's wish her all a speedy recovery!
Felorin: I also want to apologize to everyone for not having a more organized and more fun celebration for our tenth. We have the best Event Manager and all-around Giant Party Planner in cyberspace, I think. But Emerald Flame is in the hospital today recovering from minor complications from some outpatient surgery she had on wednesday. Let's all send some best wishes her way too.
Felorin: Especially 'cause she's my sweetie. (smile) Every online game has its players find someone they fall in love with and marry in the game... I think we may be the only one where one of the creators did too. Just shows our philosophy here even more. Here we're one of you, and you're one of us, sorta. (wink)
Felorin: Some of you who've been here a long time might even remember the day I proposed to Emerald over a system broadcast. And she said yes the same way, lucky me! (smile)
Felorin: Anyway, back when I was working on Ultima with Talzhemir, I already knew I was going to make games like this. Before Origin, in 1985 I was writing up a proposal for a Commodore 64 RPG for Electronic Arts.
Felorin: Suddenly this vision came into my head of a big online version of this same world, with thousands of players connecting to it. Questions would form immediately about one aspect or another of the game design, or the technology. And immediately I'd figure out the answer too. It was unspeakably exciting.
Felorin: The possibilities of the technology weren't new to me - I'd gotten my first modem when I was 16, and before that I'd seen some of the very first graphic multiplayer D&D type games, predating even the text-only game MUD that most people think started it all. They were on the Plato system, which I could use at the university my mom taught at.
Felorin: I indulged the thoughts for a while, that day in 1986... And set them aside to finish my other proposal. By I decided to watch the marketplace and the technology like a hawk, and better to start too soon than not soon enough, and try to be FIRST on this.
Felorin: I guess in a number of ways, I kinda was. Guess I was paying attention? (big grin)
Felorin: Though I want to acknowledge the games that did some of the things we do that went before - Regenesis, Alpha World, Meridian 59, and of course the amazingly before its time Habitat.
Felorin: I left Origin right when they were starting up Ultima 7. Talzhemir left with me, and we started trying to create the ultimate online gaming service for a company called Tangent Online. The service was going to be called Atlantis.
Felorin: It didn't work out at all like we had planned. Though after we left the company, they renamed themselves, started over, got venture captial investment, and became Total Entertainment Network. We worked for them in 1991, T.E.N. came out around 93 or 94, I think.
Felorin: Later they changed into a totally different kind of gaming service yet again, which exists to this day as pogo.com (smile)
Felorin: Talzhemir worked out some initial design ideas for a game called DragonSpires, and some artwork to go with it.
Felorin: We also did some shareware game development for Apogee, the company that pioneered the idea of having a free downloadable version of your game to convince people to buy it. They go by the name 3D Realms now.
Felorin: If you can find the old 16 color game Monster Bash, where a kid in pajamas shoots zombies and monsters with his slingshot... Talzhemir did artwork for that game, and I did level design. It was fun to work on. (smile)
Felorin: Anyway I spent some time on the west coast and on the east coast, pitching DragonSpires to the two companies I thought worth talking to. Sierra had innovative online gaming with The Sierra Network.
Felorin: They were busy trying to sell the company to AT&T though, and all the staff were just trying to make sure that sale went through. Much to the frustation of the one producer that wanted to sign a DragonSpires deal with me. (smile)
Felorin: Also I talked to my friends John Taylor and Kelton Flinn in Virginia. They started one of the first multiplayer game companies anywhere, Kesmai.
Felorin: They did games on the dinosaur online services of the 1980s, where it cost $5 to $12 an hour to play.
Felorin: When Origin decided to try and make an online version of Ultima in 1990, they were going to have John and Kelton make the server, the client was going to be based on Ultima 6, and I was going to be in charge of it on the Origin end.
Felorin: America Online ended up never signing the contract with Kesmai for them, but they did fly out to Origin in Texas, and I heard some great stories about drake hunts in Island of Kesmai, and enjoyed talking to them a lot.
Felorin: Kesmai had just been bought by Rupert Murdoch, the communications mogul who owns Fox TV, tabloid newspapers in England, sattelite television services in India, etc. So they had more funding to make games, but needed to get approval for projects from their new bosses.
Felorin: So I'm spending all this time trying to pitch this project and get a decision and some funding so I can start making DragonSpires...
Felorin: And it's clear that it's going to take a while. So I thought hey, I have some usable art from Talzhemir (thank you, Talzhemir sock puppet!) (you're welcome, Dr. Cat!), why not just start programming it?
Felorin: I knew that a partly working demo would probably speed up the decision making process at game companies. And if they didn't decide, well, I could just finish it and put it out, or something.
Felorin: Well, that's pretty much what I ended up doing. (smile)
Felorin: Lord British and one of his producers wanted to see our demo, so I went back over to Origin... They were eager to sign a deal, but then their in-house Ultima Online demo suddenly appeared, and they did that instead.
Felorin: They hired a college student named Rick, thinking it would take him a year to make a demo. He thought it would take him a month. It took him a month. (smile)
Felorin: Wired Magazine ran a paragraph about DragonSpires, and I could emails from 9 or 10 venture capitalists who wanted to talk to me about funding it.
Felorin: This was 1994, and there was nothing like this on the Internet at all before.
Felorin: I looked into it, decided that I didn't want to give up that amount of ownership and control, or to run my company that much like a normal business either. Paperwork, ick! (smile)
Felorin: To this day, I own 51% of Dragon's Eye Productions. Talzhemir wanted it to be that way, for one of us to have a majority so we wouldn't get stuck on any decisions, there'd always be someone with final say. I think she let it be me because I have half an IQ point more than her, or am a tiny bit less weird, or something.
Felorin: Talzhemir sock-puppet, you won't tell the real Talzhemir I said any of this, right? Good. (smile)
Felorin: In 1995, it was time to move the game from DOS on the PC to Windows, because Microsoft invented a NEW version of Windows that had a remarkable new feature in it that Windows 3.1 and before didn't have. Which was, namely, it didn't totally suck. (big grin)
Felorin: We could tell this was going to catch on. I had never programmed Windows before, so I got a Windows programming book, and in a week and a hald I had DragonSpires working under Windows.
Felorin: Talzhemir said "I think it's time to do the furry game". And I said "ok".
Felorin: After working on so many standard medeival fantay games like Ultima, I think we'd had enough of that, we needed to do something different, something more original. (smile)
Felorin: I took my life's savings, bought us a couple of blazingly fast 133 Megahertz Pentium computers (better than our old 486s!), and we spent a year working on it.
Felorin: The rest of my savings went mainly towards food, rent, and the occasional movie ticket or pizza, stuffed animal or comic book - the basic necessities for a modern game developer. And of course for our blazingly fast ISDN internet service! (big grin)
Felorin: (Actually I think that was a bit later, in 1995 we still used dialup modems.)
Felorin: Talzhemir prototyped some of her world and setting ideas in a text mush, also called Furcadia. I had gotten us on the Internet in 1992, figuring we'd be doing our online games there, and got us playing the biggest text muds of the day. I thought we were going to make graphics versions of those - which in some ways Furcadia is, in other ways not. Strongly inspired, in any case!
Felorin: Ok, 1 point for sense of humor to whoever just created the character "Talzhemir Sock Puppet". If any of you see them, feel free to thwap them gently with foam nerfbats. (smile)
Felorin: Nerf weaponry is a major tradition throughout the game industry at many different companies, by the way. When I was doing contract programming on the Playstation 1 and Sega Saturn, the company I did it for gave everybody a free nerf gun, crossbow, cannon, or something. Lucky for me, they included outside contractors too, all 1 of them! (big grin)
Felorin: But I digress. (That's my way of life, actually.)
Felorin: Talzhemir sock-puppet is nodding. She knows all about that.
Felorin: Talzhemir and I sat in an office in the second bedroom of the two bedroom apartment I rented, to work on Furcadia. She lived right next door.
Felorin: I prided myself on the fact that we were the only game company where sometimes the entire staff would get up spontaneously and dance to music that was playing. (smile)
Felorin: When Emerald Flame joined us in texas, she got up and danced with me sometimes soon, so I knew the tradition was continuing. (smile)
Felorin: Everyone who works with us on Furcadia, including our two new business partners, Emerald Flame and sanctimonious, is someone we met in Furcadia itself. Nice how that works out. (smile)
Felorin: In the early years, anywhere from one fourth to one half of Furcadia's tiny population was in Emerald's dream, so it was hard not to notice she was good at running events, making dreams, organizing groups of people, helping out, and showing people a good time. (smile)
Felorin: Of course I say tiny, back 100 logged onto Furcadia seemed like a lot. Well it is a lot, have you ever been to a party with 100 people there? U have, I don't know how they all fit into that one house.
Felorin: Er, I have. Sorry for the typo.
Felorin: Anyway, Talzhemir and I used this cool feature in Windows where you could run a whole bunch of programs, all at the same time, to test the Furcadia server I made with 70 logins, all of them Felorins and Talzhemirs. (smile)
Felorin: Total number of people on the first night we were officially open was something like 3 or 4. Talzhemir was creted first, then Felorin. I went on the Ultima fans IRC server to tell people there first, and a girl from Germany named Marith was the third one on Furcadia.
Felorin: I remember wandering around that first week lokoing at dreams people were making, being amazed and delighted at all the unexpected beautiful things people made with our tools, our toy, our world.
Felorin: I hope to have some screenshots up soon that I took that week. Dreams by Josmykatiana, who became our first Guardian (they were called Owsla then). And Baron, a ferret. Of course everyone was a ferret then, till we put out the canine and feline avatars. We used to have updates every couple of weeks back then, there were so many small basic things to add in!
Felorin: It's been a long, and colorful experience ever since.
Felorin: I remember late one night tracking down a girl who'd threatened suicide and logged off, so the local police could try to save her. Only to find out she wasn't really interested in suicide - and wasn't really a girl. But you can't take chances when lives might be at stake, right?
Felorin: I remember Carrie O'Kaye stacking up the walls to make what looked like a 3D tower, and making the first dream that had puzzles you needed two furres working together to solve.
Felorin: I remember people sparring in Xaa's Village, I remember exploring the Reverie dreams, and Ithika, and Water City, and Lost Lakes.
Felorin: I've made friends in Hong Kong, Slovenia, Guam, Africa, the Netherlands, Canada, Mexico, Finland, England, Germany, all over the USA, and many other countries around the world. That's one of the best parts of doing this for a living. (smile)
Felorin: Some of the events I mentioned tonight, and some I didn't, are listed on the Timeline we put together at http://www.furcadia.com/tenth/timeline.html
Felorin: Anyway that's all I'm going to say for today. I hope we can reschedule some time with Talzhemir, we always get into interesting subjects when we talk together. We might even talk about Furcadia some too! (big grin)
Felorin: We're going to do our best to still hold our Celebrity Auction tomorrow night if we can. work everything out. You'll need to bring DragonScales with you to enter the auction area & to be allowed to bid, so get 'em beforehand! (smile)
Felorin: There's a party room to the Northeast in our Celerbration dream, where you can dance and whoop it up to celebrate our anniversary. (smile)
Felorin: For those that haven't heard, we're also selling kiwi avatars for a month, this december only, as a special anniversary thing. (smile)
Felorin: Er, that's northwest then northeast to get to the dance floor. This dream was made, along with several others, for the 1999 Virtual Worldcon in Furcadia, that went along with the 1999 real life Worldcon in Australia. We'll tell you more about that another time during this week. (smile)
Felorin: Remember that Digo Market items make great Christmas gifts, as do DragonScales - and thank you all for keeping us going. (wink)
Felorin: We've only been able to see a fraction of all the dreams uploaded in ten years, friendships formed, guilds founded, roleplays roleplayed, the artwork, parties, quests, romances, stories, poems, the dreams you all dream here together.
Felorin: There's such an outpouring of creativity here, from so many thousands of people,. that no one person can possibly see it all.
Felorin: But we look at a lot of it, all the time, and we love it! Thank you so much to all of you, and we hope you'll keep coming here and blessing this place with your presence for many more years to come. Thanks again, and goodnight. Let's go dance!




 

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