Character Creation

Posted by brilokuloj on Mar 21, 2024

Welcome to the first installment of Dreamhopper! This is a series of retrospective articles touring Furcadia, the decrepit furry chatroom from the 90s. I’ll be showing you its rich and zombified culture, the kinds of people who played it – and most importantly, the bizarre architecture and interior design choices of the average mapmaker – all through the critical lens of someone who got seriously traumatized as a child on the platform.

If you want a real look into 90s virtual world nostalgia, smiles and tears and terrifying events and all, this is the series for you. Today I’m exploring the character creator as the means to introduce the platform as a whole.


What is Furcadia?

The Furcadia title screen

I wrote the entire rest of this article before I even let myself think about writing this intro.

Dude, I do not want to write this. Here’s what I got so far:

Furcadia is a game where . Once upon a time, there was a MMO called Furcadia

Okay, fine. I’ll give it a shot.

Furcadia is a game. It was made in 1996. It is a game where you roleplay as a furry. It is a social game, and has very little gameplay to speak of, but the primary hook of it is that you can make your own maps.

As a child I was effectively unschooled, and with not much else to do during my days, I played Furcadia from 2001 to 2011. That’s a whole decade of my life, during my most formative ages, sucked into a black hole that I cannot easily share with other people. When most people talk about their time at school, gym class or sports or studies or cliques, I can only think about Furcadia… and I have very few memories of Furcadia to share that wouldn’t be, quite frankly, random horrifying traumadumping.

On top of that, where most people drifted apart from school friends but maybe met up from time to time or even just became passive Facebook mutuals, I had no choice but to burn all of those bridges for my mental health. Even my closest friendships from then were unsalvageable. How could either of us move on from that? All good friendships are based on what you’re capable of sharing with each other, and in this case, what we both had was our history of being mutually traumatized by some dude named Kevin showing us furry porn and asking about our masturbation habits. (I was serious about the random horrifying traumadumping.)

It’s only through the event of other people sharing their experiences, like the short film Wereawolf and the unfiction story Luvkitteh, that I have even begun to think about unpacking this chapter of my life. Even then, those people chose to do it through the lens of fictional characters, people who went through experiences similar to but not quite identical to their own. This decision seems to have worked out much better for them than sharing their stories directly. It makes me think that, even if I am ready to share this aspect of my life, it might be easier for myself and my readers if I do it through an abstract perspective.

So let’s make a character!

Creating a character

I have quite a few copies of Furcadia on my hard drive – one I downloaded myself back in 2013, one I grabbed from the Internet Archive circa 1996, and plenty of game files (maps, graphics, etc) from the 2000s – but since my clients are so horrifically out of date, they hang on the startup screen before I can even think about making a character. So this screenshot of the initial character creator is from a miraculously still-online Furcadia site. This will hopefully be one of the only screenshots NOT taken by yours truly.

The character creator for Furcadia

Wow, what an interface, huh? That lovely misshapen squiggly fellow at the bottom-left is apparently named Tesslefox, on account of his ability to be a tessellated pattern, if you take away his hair and his cape. I’m not certain if Tesslefox is the name of the unit or the species, but whatever.

So let’s imagine it’s an ordinary day in 20XX, and we’re trying to make ourselves a character…

Species

As you can see, when Furcadia first began, it started with a mere 5 free playable species: Rodent, Equine, Feline, Canine, and Musteline. They eventually rounded that out over the years into a solid 10 species, and then probably more but I had stopped playing by then.

Due to the small pool of species to choose from, and the long span of time at which the core 5 existed, public opinion on them calcified into some clear categories – almost like classes, if this was a game with gameplay. I will try my best to delineate these.

Some of the playable species, described below.
Some of the playable species, described below.

Sorry, I have to say it: rabbits aren’t fucking lapines. I felt so betrayed when I learned this as a kid. The term ‘lapine’ actually comes from Watership Down, derived from the French word lapin. To fit the name scheme, they should have been leporines. And at this point, the commitment to the pseudo-scientific naming makes rodents stand out like a sore thumb – would they have changed it if they could have? Did they just not care? I guarantee they did not think as hard about this as I did. AUGH

Being a Furcadia player was a unique kind of social hell. Imagine being Johnny Cow-lover, age 8, unaware that your self-motivated choices will propel yourself towards being the target of misplaced hate and weird-ass interactions that you don’t even know yet are homophobic microaggressions.

Colors

After that riveting and horrifying mental exercise, you were given your next challenge: what are your colors?

Lest you think that the random button is an easy way out of this, the RNG inexplicably and without fail would find the ugliest combination of browns and neons known to man. And then you would look like a troll, because you hadn’t put effort into your avatar.

Yes, Furcadia was a world of invisible, barely-communicated aesthetic rules - a nightmare for any autistic person, to be sure. And yet autistic kids (like me!) made up the bulk of the userbase, all struggling to make heads or tails of these social structures. The universe works in strange ways, I suppose.

Anyway, you’re given about a couple dozen or so colors to choose from per body part, and the fun thing about them is that they are all pretty shit. You’ve got your purples, your blues, neon shades that inexplicably have less shading, and then you’ve got Brown and Brown and Brown and Brown and Brown

A lot of shades of brown

Welcome to Brown Town

And somehow you’ve got to make yourself a good character out of this selection of colors. And make sure that you look like you put effort in.

There’s the expected things you can color, like your fur, your markings, your hair – you know, obvious furry character stuff, every kid knows this – and then you get into your clothes, and that’s where it gets fancy. You’ve got your vest, your trousers, your cape, your bracers. Imagine being a little kid and not knowing what any of those things are[2].

This wouldn’t even be a problem, because Furcadia was absolutely not intended for children, but many of them were and the staff did very little about it. So little 8-year-old Johnny was just going to have to learn what a vest was.

Once you had exhausted all of those options, you were left with the Purrsonal Badge. What was the badge? It was a little brooch that amounted to 4 pixels on your avatar. Why was the badge? I don’t know. It was a single color, so it wasn’t even particularly useful in custom textures. It did take up a disproportionate amount of space on your chat icon, so I think for most people it was a place to pick your personal favorite color – if it didn’t already occupy most of your fursona.

Other choices

Hey, in that screenshot, I notice you have an option to pick your markings – plain, spots, stripes, rosettes, or blotches. What’s up with that? I don’t remember that at all. I’m going to guess that was an unimplemented feature, but now I’m really curious as to if it did anything.

Anyway, most importantly of all on a platform like this: choose your gender. You can be male, female, or… unspecified. Yes, they had a choice for h– erm, that is to say, a totally-not-furry-fetish Gender Not Specified– oh, who am I kidding. If you picked Unspecified you were seen as a pervert, a troll, and/or deceitfully hiding your gender.

Not that this stopped me, because I was a blissfully unaware child and didn’t want to choose a gender. Yes, Furcadia was the first platform that actually offered me the option to aggressively not choose, with even third-gender icon art for your character and a chat icon that sat in the middle instead of on the left or right.

And if you really, really couldn’t make up your mind about any of this, you still could just change it all later. Furcadia offered a much more comprehensive character editor once you had picked your initial username. Not only that, but it had a character manager making it trivial to make dozens and dozens of extra accounts, not even needing to verify your email address.

As you can imagine, Furcadia was an amazing environment to learn that you were transgender and had a dissociative disorder. This is one of the few ways that it psychologically benefited me.

Character created!

Sippy the cat

In the process of fucking around with the character editor for this article, I eventually realized I had already accidentally made a character without even trying to. Here’s “Sippy” the black-and-white ungendered cat, whose profile merely states “graham crackle”. Perhaps this is the new persona of Johnny Cow-lover, too young to understand that their character looks like they’re running around naked, too afraid to be called a gay guy for being a bovine, just wanting to fit into the background and enjoy their furry game.

My drawing of Sippy the Cat, looking very stupid, with the text CLUELESS pointing to them

Good luck out there, Sippy.

NEXT UP: The Vinca!


  1. Look, I’m sorry, bug fans. I probably would have played as the bugs at least once if they had been around from the start. ↩︎

  2. Well, I guess British kids were probably mostly fine, on account of their culture being built on an extended medieval-era LARP game, but you know what I mean. ↩︎

Tagged: furcadia