FURALITY: Fandom founder Sy Sable looks at the virtual convention with 15,000 furries.
by Dogpatch Press Staff
1980’s furry fans first gathered with room parties at science fiction conventions, until Sylys Sable helped co-found the first convention for furries in 1989. Sy was there from the birth of a worldwide subculture to a new kind of experience with virtual furry conventions today. These offer many of the features of live cons, while accommodating more members across geographic and social isolation. The premiere virtual con, Furality, started in 2020 and soon beat the live furry con attendance record. Sy is the guy to tell us why!
Editor note: Sy submitted his story after the latest Furality event in June 2022, but it was delayed. Since then, a situation with VR as a community (of several platforms) could use explaining. In late July, VRchat implemented a security update that seriously upset their users, causing massive backlash and review-bombing. A statement from the company addressed the situation: cheating and Griefing by malicious users was out of control, and their solution was removal of game modding. But many good-faith users depended on mods, including for accessibility (like for disabilities) and felt their creative work was sabotaged by the update.
Meanwhile, furries talked about jumping ship to other platforms. A friend of Sy (another old school furry fan and VR user) said that Second Life isn’t officially supporting VR, NeosVR is having a tragic fall from “crypto BS” (a feud between owners, would-be investor control and creators), and ChilloutVR is in “very early days… They are in that scrambling to scale stage.” This makes a cloudy future, but Sy’s story highlights what stands out as the best of the community.
Furality in the eyes of Sylys Sable.
VR Chat, the free cross-platform virtual reality social multiplayer system has attracted the attention of the furry community… and why not? You can build worlds and create avatars and interact with others as YOU. It’s like a furry meetup/convention that never ends, and everyone has a fursuit (or several)! (with the same limited field of view. How realistic!)
In 2020 some enterprising furry folks decided to create an actual furry convention with VR Chat as the venue. The big difference in their concept was the convention venue would be separate from the open worlds that make up VR Chat. Worlds where any player can show up (public worlds) often attract antisocial types who enjoy irritating others. (Great hobby…) You can create “instances” where only your friends, or their friends can show up, which makes them more private; and you can always block/mute the abusive types. But what these guys wanted to do was create a “virtual” hotel/convention center, with stages, meeting rooms, events and dealer dens. VR Chat was willing to “rent” them space for a limited time, and the team created custom worlds to host the convention. Charging a membership fee, like RL conventions, would cover the costs. Furality was born.
From Danny Grey – a very nicely produced music video from the Furality Community Showcase
This sort of thing was new to VR Chat. How would it be possible to make worlds that only convention members could enter? The VR Chat website could create “invitations” that would show up to VR users that would allow them to jump to that specific instance. There was a problem of scale, however, so the team created their own website, the F.O.X. Portal (Furry Online Xperience) where attendees could view the schedule of events, see a list of the world instances and select one. An invitation would appear in their VR menu and they could jump there. Con-Ops was a Discord channel, where attendees, presenters, dealers and staff could communicate. If this sounds complex to you, you’d be correct. Furality happened, bugs and glitches included. Was the team discouraged? Well their decision was to organize another Furality… 6 months later! So it seems even virtual furry convention organizers tend to be masochistic.
Some furry VRC users complained: why should we pay for something that is free? Other conventions retreated to VR and online venues during the pandemic, including EuroFurence. They created a duplicate of their RL venue, with help from the actual hotel/convention center. It was so accurate that the elevators even broke down occasionally! The EF Online convention happened in open worlds, with events broadcast on Twitch and YouTube, and shown in a VR theater. Griefers were a common problem, however, as other furry conventions that followed the EF example discovered.
Furality 2000 came next. As the Furality team chased down bugs and improved their system, more people realized that their concept was superior to having conventions in open worlds. The Furality worlds were also amazing! Since they were created from scratch for each convention, the theme encompassed the entire design and experience. From beautiful world designs and special effects to original soundtrack music, they had creative control of every aspect of their virtual venue. The retro (Disney?) future of space luxury liners in orbit around Earth, with space-age cocktail lounges and conference rooms with views of space was great fun!
Then came Furality Luma. Since the creative team could literally do anything they could imagine, they decided to go all out and create a new beautiful, mysterious world as their venue. You could customize your avatar to respond to lighting effects in Luma worlds. The opinion of most of the attendees is that they “knocked it out of the park!” Luma attendees know what I’m talking about, and though there are pictures online of the convention, they really don’t do it justice. Luckily you can enjoy a small piece of the Luma world in Fynn’s Room in VR Chat. By this time, the team had added new features to the F.O.X. Portal, including a process to load your friends list from the VR Chat website into the portal so you could join your friends in various event instances. RL furry conventions don’t have this feature. We’re stuck trying to coordinate with our phones and message apps…
Next up: Furality Legends. This convention happened in a super-hero comic! You could customize your avatar to look like they stepped off the pages of a color comic book, and choose to be a hero or a villain. Convention event spaces were also tailored to the good guys and bad guys. The dealers den was the Infinity Mall, a huge glass-roofed shopping mall with a 5 story aquarium as the centerpiece. The (160+) dealers each had a storefront on one of two levels. By this time the furry community had embraced the concept of a virtual convention, and attendance increased. You may think this would be a tough act to follow…
Made this music video for for #FuralityAqua creators showcase and took me ages.
It's a synthwave Max Headroom video for the amazing @decobanduk's cover of Bittersweet Symphony.
It took me ages. #VrChat #Furry #Furality #VrFurry #Vtubers pic.twitter.com/wDn6mTcBmu
— Changa Husky (@Changa_Husky) June 19, 2022
Furality Aqua: Of all the previous Furality conventions, the beautiful, mysterious, glowing world of Luma remained a favorite of attendees and the creative team. At the closing ceremonies of Legends, a short teaser video introduced Furality: Oceans of Luma. Attendees were once again blown away by the images of underwater views of Luma. Anticipation was high. At Furry Weekend Atlanta (and Biggest Little Fur Con), the Furality team set up a two-way portal for RL convention members to see and speak to furs in VR Chat visiting the Luma world in Fynn’s Room. Then on the night of June 16th 2022, starting with DJ sets in Club Fynn, Furality Aqua began, and it was Amazing! Over the weekend over 15,000 registered members enjoyed presentations, concerts, meetups and nearly round-the-clock DJ sets, all in a beautiful underwater world. You could customize your avatar, adding translucent wings, fins and flippers, and even small sea creature companions. The F.O.X. portal worked nearly flawlessly, so getting to events and finding your friends was easier than ever. Of course, just like RL conventions, there will be many that suffer from Post Con Depression. It’s another aspect the VR conventions share with the RL ones.
So, after some rough spots and learning experiences over a few years (I still can’t believe that they did this twice a year!), it seems that the furry community embraced the idea of virtual furry conventions. They just have to be run well, and fun! Chuck Jones, the WB animator once said “Animation takes a lot of work, and a lot of love. In the end, only the love should show”. It was obvious that the creative and technical team of Furality really loved what they do! Furality Aqua raised over $20,000 for their Save A Fox charity, and had over 15,000 registered attendees, making Furality the largest furry convention ever!
– Sy Sable
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