You might not have heard of Furcadia before, despite it being the longest-running MMO ever. It was initially released in 1996, long before many people had a steady internet connection. I wasn’t even on dial-up yet at that point. Despite the game’s history, it’s never really been in the mainstream spotlight.
Updating on a large-scale multiplayer game that has existed even before the likes of Ultima Online is not a small undertaking. The Kickstarter funded update, dubbed Furcadia: The Second Dreaming, is a project to take the ancient program and update it into a more modern web-based version. It includes graphical and feature updates on the surface, and technical improvements below. More features will be added as it progresses, based on backer votes.
Furcadia‘s fan base might not be the biggest in the online world, but the devotion among its fans can’t be questioned. Raising over $100,000 on Kickstarter back 2012, the developers almost doubled the initial goal through just 877 backers. This rocketed the campaign through several of its stretch goals, landing it at what they called the “super bonus level.”
And that’s just on Kickstarter. After the success of the campaign, the devs continued accepting donations directly through Paypal. This allowed them to announce hitting $250,000 last year. On top of that, an extensive cash shop offers bonus avatars, costumes, accessories, and so on.
It’s difficult to pin down just what Furcadia actually is. You could probably argue that it’s not a game at all, but rather a social program. A comparison to another social hub sandbox, Second Life, makes some sense. Remove both the goals and failure states of more traditional games in favor of endless user-created content to explore and socialize in.
But where Second Life centers around an economy of simulated currency, Furcadia’s primary focus is role playing. They’ve even provided a breakdown of the official canon for those who want it. Not that it’s a requirement, with user-made worlds or “dreams” taking place in all sorts of settings.
In case you couldn’t tell from its name, Furcadia is quite friendly to members of the “furry” subculture. While not necessarily aimed directly at them, this a game with a vast variety of animal people to dress up as, and an emphasis on role playing. Which is pretty much what the furry thing is, as far as I can tell.
Another game with fur appeal was Beast’s Fury. The appeal to this fairly niche group is possibly a big motivator for such a warm response to its campaign. The same possibly applies here, but that’s not to say it’s the sole reason for its success.
Beyond The Furry
It would be unfair to discount Furcadia’s achievements and the hard work put in to keep it running for actual decades as simply “because it’s furry.” Especially when you consider how many other MMOs have come and gone during that time. Instead, it serves to demonstrate just how powerful the effect of niche appeal is in crowdfunding. In this case, both for furries, and for non-hostile social worlds.
Rather than try to be the next big thing, like “the WoW killer” that many MMORPGs are hyped up as, it’s beneficial to find a specific audience. With the right group, the one that really wants to see something that appeals to their specific interests, you might strike gold.
It certainly seems that way with so much funding success. While it might not grow into a juggernaut of the industry, it doesn’t appear to be going anywhere anytime soon. What the future holds is hard to say, but I wouldn’t place too much doubt on something that’s already demonstrated an absurd amount of staying power.
Much of its persistence is owed to players who grew up with it. As those players move on, numbers might dwindle. I don’t personally see a huge amount of younger gamers, brought up on more modern titles, being pulled in by Furcadia‘s old-school visuals, updated or not. But if crashing and burning was inevitable for a project like this, it would have happened years ago.