None of the information on this page is necessary to understand the Gaian Spirits.

This is merely for those who wish to peek behind the curtain and learn about the creation of the species.

Get comfortable, you're about to be here awhile...

When I first began using the internet back in the early 2000's, my experience was one similar to most kids my age at the time. I spent my free hours after school spinning the Wheel of WOW, attempting to snatch rare items from Neopia's Giving Tree, and waddling over snowy landscapes with my fellow penguins. I hadn't yet discovered the concept of "fandoms", and my only forray into the world of forums was an old long-dead website called "Otakuzone"‒though this was long before I had actually discovered anime or manga. Google Images, Wikipedia, and the scarce personal blog were where I found information on whatever I happened to be interested in at the time. In fact, I distinctly remember spending hours copying "Phineas and Ferb" Wikipedia articles into a notebook by hand, simply because I wanted to further interact with one of my favorite pieces of media. It was through this aimless searching that I first stumbled upon an artist's Blogspot, where they would post their colored pencil drawings and comics of a plethora of cartoon characters‒Phineas and Ferb included. I recall falling in love with a massive crossover comic of theirs, set in the world of "Camp Lazlo"‒but that's another story entirely, and this introduction is already rather long.

Finding this artist's blog first introduced me to the concept of scanning and posting my art online for others to see. I did make my own Blogspot in an attempt to follow in the aforementioned artist's footsteps, titled "Ard and Friends"‒Ard being my childhood nickname‒though it didn't last overly long, nor does it exist today. But my interest was piqued, and I continued to dig deeper into the concept of fanart, of fandoms, and of online artist communities. At the same time, a new friend of mine had introduced me to YouTube, coincidentally doing so through a channel called "TopHatsHomeVideos", which posted hand-drawn parodies of the game "Left 4 Dead", animated in Windows Movie Maker. One thing lead to another, and I went on a journey of first discovering animation memes, which introduced me to the concept of werewolves (thanks petplayer976), then furries (lookin' at you, HinaUchi), which ultimately lead me to where our story truly starts: DeviantArt.

I found myself drawn to DeviantArt. I loved being able to share my artwork with others, and surround myself with like-minded people. I even managed to rally a small fanbase around myself and my first fursona, Cobalt. DeviantArt's culture at the time really shaped how I viewed my art, interacting with others in an online space, and collaborative creation‒for better or worse. It was on DeviantArt that I was introduced to the concept of an "Original Species", and subsequently, the "Art Role-Playing Games" that often surrounded them. Games where users could obtain their own characters‒either through real or "in-game" currencies‒and engage with the broader community through way of drawing or writing, often following prompts given by those behind the scenes. There were elements of fandom, of RPG-like mechanics, of collection, trading, the sharing of artwork, and collaborative storytelling. I was hooked.

The very first original species I became aware of were the Bagbeans, created by DeviantArt user griffsnuff, and the core focus of the Kingdoms of Griffia ARPG. Back then, these games were hosted through DeviantArt groups‒a feature that has recently fallen by the wayside in favor of the company's rebrand. One would need to send in an application in order to be accepted into said groups, though they often required one to own a character from their species before entry was permitted, which simply wasn't feasible for everyone. Being a young teen at the time, I wasn't exactly in the position to purchase a character with real-world currency, and so a lot of these ARPGs, especially surrounding "closed species" (meaning you could not make your own character unless you bought a "Make-Your-Own" ticket), were inaccessible to me. And yet, I loved them.

Whatever your stance on closed, semi-open, open, or original species as a whole, one cannot deny their prevalance, nor the hold they had over both the furry community, and the adoptable market. They were everywhere, and everyone wanted to have a character from each of the most popular species. Bagbeans, Sushi Dogs, Water Dogs, Chimereons, Pacapillars, Foxfans, Impims! When I say they were everywhere, I mean, they were everywhere. So, you're 15 years old, you're surrounded by talk of the Cool Exclusive Thing that you and everyone around you wants to be a part of, and yet is woefully inaccessible. What could your next step possibly be?
You make your own, of course!

                     ("Nuffen" the Piraku, 2011)

While I didn't immediately dip my toes into creating an ARPG, I did hop onto the original species train pretty quickly upon fully understanding what they were. I've always been a huge fan of planning, preparing, and hosting activities that others could participate in, and the thought of other DeviantArt users creating and drawing characters based on a creature that I made up all on my own? That seemed almost irresistable to me. In all honesty, I think I still have some of that in me

The very first original species I ever created was the Pirakus. They were fuzzy little creatures with pitch black eyes, elemental powers, and limited speech that consisted only of the sounds found within the name "Piraku". They were definitely, totally, 100% not based on any other creatures or characters, and certainly not something I just happened to have been very much interested in at the time. Of course, this is sarcasm, and the similarities to a certain electric yellow mouse are blatant. Yet, I was very proud of the Pirakus. So proud, in fact, that I made my first secondary fursona a member of this species‒a dark purple Piraku with a hilariously ironic Pokéball collar named Nuffen.

It's funny to look back now at the artwork I posted of this species. I made bases for others to use if they wanted to make their own Piraku characters. I made adoptables that I sold for 5 entire DeviantArt points (roughly 5¢) each. But people bought them, and were excited to receive them! We were kids passing pocket change back and forth in exchange for coloring pages filled in with MSPaint and I lived for it.

(Piraku Bases, 2011)

Piraku Species Info

ORIGIN: No one knows where they came from, or even how they came into the world. All we know is that the Piraku is a very rare and unique species.

HABITAT: The Pitaku's [sic] habitat ranges from deep in the forests, to high up in the mountains. The little creatures are tough, and adapt easily.

DIET: The diet of the Piraku ranges, also, depending on where they live. They can eat berries, types of plants, grass, fruits and vegetables, and kind of [sic] meat they can catch, and, if tame, Human food.

ABILITIES: Pirakus have the power to control the elements. Water, Fire, Lightning, Wind, Earth, ect. [sic] are all at their fingertips. In the wild, they can be vicious and dangerous, but, once tamed, they are the sweetest things alive.

FREATURES / CHARACTERISTICS: Pirakus are very different from one another. There are no two Pirakus alike. Pirakus sometimes have horns, big or small, and wings on their backs. These features are NOT on all Pirakus. A Pirakus [sic] eyes are pitch black with a glowing white pupil. The pupil color can be a different color, but the eye is ALWAYS black.

GOOD PETS?: Pirakus are amazing pets. Loyal, Cute, Fuzzy, Love to be cuddled. Also, being very strong creatures, they will protect you with their lives. A Pirakus [sic] favourite treat is a spoonful of Natural Honey, and they will love you for it. Also, it may be hard to understand your Piraku, for their speech is limited to "Piraku", "Pira", "Ku", and whatever name you have given it. It will also split the name up like it does with "Piraku." Pirakus are onnly [sic] two feet tall, three inches at birth, but they are full of love and loyalty.

Did I end up ever really doing anything with the Pirakus outside of making a batch of 12 adoptables? No, I did not. But the excitement I felt after receiving such positive feedback only fueled my interest in original species all the more. Piraku were the start. I had gotten my taste of the Cool Exclusive Thing, and I wasn't about to stop there.

(Piraku "Lore", 2011) (Piraku Adoptables, 2011)

After the Pirakus came the Mirror Beasts. The idea behind these demon-like creatures was that they were, and I quote, "what you really see when you look in a mirror." This time, not only did I design a species with lore (or at least a loose sense of the term), I had also planned a partner comic that would explore the story of a Mirror Beast‒Detnawnu‒banished from his realm, and the human that discovered him. The comic never did come to be, which, ashamedly, was pretty common for me. I had far more project ideas than I had motivation to finish them, and not nearly enough sense to refrain from announcing them before committing. But I was an undiagnosed autistic 15-year-old, so, what can you do?

Just like the Pirakus, the Mirror Beasts were met with excitement from my online friends, which in turn translated into further excitement in me! I again made adoptables for the species‒this time two groups consisting of 5 and 6 characters respectively‒and sold them for 5 points each. Save, that is, for the very last character, which was supposed to be a rare variant and sold for a whopping 10 points! It sounds a little silly now, but back then, this genuinely felt like I was making it big!

     ("Detnawnu [Detti]" the Mirror Beast, 2011)

(Mirror Beast Adoptables, 2011)

Reading these old "lore" posts make me
long for the Oxford comma...
Mirror Beasts

Mirror Beasts are what you really see when you look in a mirror. Each person has their own personal Mirror Beast in the Realm of Reflection, or, The Mirror World. But, they really look nothing like you. Nor do they act like you. They are only responsible for portraying what you see in the mirror.

The Realm of Reflection is not an exact copy like everyone thinks, but actually a dark void. There are forests, and lakes [sic] and different things of that nature, but they are only neon outlines.

Mirror Beasts look like small demons. They have small horns on their heads, a lean build [sic] and a long tail with a spear-head-shaped point on it. They are usually very dark colors, and have many color-coding markings. Their small hands and feet are clawed. Some can walk on two feet, but most walk on all fours. The only Mirror Beasts that do not have markings are the Shamans.

Mirror Beasts will eat pretty much anything they can find. They sometimes venture out into the real world to gather food, but they usually get what they can from the Realm of Reflection.

They reproduce sexually, and carry babies like another [sic] other animal. They are mostly cat-like in nature.

They are mostly very rude and grumpy. They will not show this as much toward each other, but they are never very kind to anyone.

There are two types of Mirror Beast. The Shadows, who act as reflections, and the Shamans, who are the healers, and protectors. The Shadows worship the Shamans, whom they find holy. You can tell each apart by the markings. A Shaman will not have markings. A Shaman is also given a jewel, which is literally implanted into their heads after birth. The jewel will glow while healing a Shadow.

This is what Detti (Detnawnu) is, for all of you that are wondering.

Small Facts:

-They speak backwards

-Their names are ALWAYS a backwards word that somehow describes them.

Detti's real name is Detnawnu, or "Unwanted"

(Mirror Beast "Lore", 2011)

With two original species under my belt, and my confidence heightened a little too high, I decided it was time to attempt the next step: the ARPG. All of these original species were cool, yes, but the really big dogs all had that one thing in common‒one thing that made them stand out and gave them more appeal than those without‒and that was, undeniably, their respective online worlds. In the age of the petsite, the thought of creating a completely original character and using them to traverse a digital realm alongsite other people like me sounded like a dream come true. Surely, with my extensive experience, running one of these worlds would be easy. Right?

"Don't Fear the Reaper" was born not terribly long after the creation of the Mirror Beasts, though the group no longer exists, thus I have no record of the actual dates. Let's say ~2011-2012. While not connected to an original species, it followed a similar premise. Set in a world that I had been slowly building up over the course of a few years for a couple of characters of mine‒the physical embodiments of both Life and Death‒"Don't Fear the Reaper" was an ARPG wherein users could create their own Reaper, and work alongside mine under the domineering Council that presided over the soul-collectors. The plan was to release prompts each week that members would then use to create a drawing or written piece involving their characters, with the goal of leading them through a story. While I don't doubt that someone with actual experience could make a setup like this work, a 15-year-old with internet access was certainly not that someone.

A few people did join in the very beginning: Mostly close friends who wished to support me and my endeavors. They entered the group, drew their new characters, and filled out their character sheets. I was alight with anticipation as I waited to post the first prompt‒the push that would really get the ball rolling. I could see grand visions of artwork and stories all following along while I wove them all into a seamless web. Unfortunately for me, I didn't realize how close I had flown to the Sun‒or, perhaps more simply, how overconfident I had become. Engagement was minimal, and I was discouraged. After all, the ARPGs with entry I so desperately coveted had hundreds of active users! Why didn't mine? What was I doing wrong?

It wasn't long before I gave up on the thought of an ARPG. It all may sound a little melodramatic, and I agree! With hindsight, I can clearly see a child‒who, admittedly, was struggling in the real world at the time‒attempting ambitious projects with no actual knowledge of how to pull them off. Projects that, ultimately, would go on to be nothing more than stepping stones in a journey of self-expression and artistic growth. Or, more simply and succinctly: it was never that deep. Kids are just Like That!

("Buggy" & "Flik" the Kizan, 20??)

Fast forward, say, a couple of years, give or take. I've left my old DeviantArt (SelfProclaimedCobalt) behind in favor of both Tumblr, and a new DeviantArt account (PlatypusShit at the time, now Turbuggy). Some time has passed, I'm a little older, a little better at art, and I decide I want to give this species-making thing another go. Not only that, but I wanted to do it right this time. An ARPG with an original species attached.

I wish I could recall the exact date on which I announed the Kiza species, but sadly most information on it was deleted when I removed my artwork from DeviantArt. On top of that, due to this species, too, being (spoiler alert) inevitably discontinued, I don't have much outside of my favorite character artwork saved.

What I do know, is that I really did give this second attempt my all. I set up a group, I set up character sheets, I set up shops and a bank, all with artwork depicting their Kizan shopkeeps attached. There were two "tribes", each with their own maps full of plots where members could choose the location of their character's homes and places of work. There was an in-game currency called "koins" that could be used in the shops, stored in the bank, and traded in place of real-world dollars. Members could buy MYO tickets, traits, accessories, and pets. I was feeling that confidence again, certain that this time I could get an ARPG off the ground. I liked the Kizan‒tiny shapeshifting sprites that wore clothes made of leaves and lived deep in the forest‒and even decided that my (at the time) fursona had been one all along, and had simply taken an animal form.

But, once again facing little engagement‒this time due in part to having left my followerbase behind upon choosing to depart from my old account‒I allowed the project to fizzle out. The Kiza's DeviantArt group, "Abanaphne Grove", disappeared far more quietly than "Don't Fear the Reaper" did. Though, also with a little less of an impact on my mental health.

(Kiza "Lore" / Reference Sheet, 20??)

As much as I did like the Kizan, they taught me something about what I was doing wrong when designing a species‒or building a world in general: they were far too simple.

The sheet on the left was the only actual information about the Kizan that I had. Everything else consisted of how the group worked. Rules, where to find links, what to fill out. But what was there to actually grab anyone's attention? What was there for them to get invested in?

How can one be expected to bond with or develop a character whos world is foreign and unknown to them? That was part of my problem. I always jumped into things far too quickly. Didn't actually pause and take the time to truly think about who these characters were, what kind of environment they lived in, what made them interesting, and what could be built upon. I tried to think: "What is it about my favorite characters and their worlds that draws me to them?" The first thing that came to my mind was lore. There's nothing better to me than a world rich with lore for me to discover. Secondly: appealing design. That much was a given, but I knew I wasn't taking enough time to truly test out and tweak my designs to mold them into their best versions. Putting out the very first thing that I drew and calling it a day didn't produce a satisfying result‒not even for me. There was a reason I, too, seemed to lose passion for my own projects, after all. Some things about my actual creation process needed to be changed, and it would start in the initial design stage.

It was with these two things in mind that, some time around 2018, I began brainstorming what would eventually become the Gaian Spirits. I recall sitting in the backseat of my parent's car‒where I often find my mind wandering‒when I began to get an inkling of an idea for the Gaian lore. I liked the idea of characters that could combine to become an entirely new character, à la "Steven Universe" Gem fusion. Of course, Steven Universe wasn't the first property to utilize the idea of fusion, but it was certainly the one that popularized it‒or, at least, the version that I liked the most. I started trying to think of other ways that such a concept could be done. I felt, for it to work, the individuals had to have some sort of incorporeality, thus allowing whatever they were made of to combine and be remade. Something spiritual or energy-based seemed appropriate, and, as I already had a love for fantastical element-based powers, the conclusion felt like a no-brainer. That entire drive was spent crafting this idea, slotting bits and pieces into place. Looking back on it now, it's kind of funny to see some small details from my previous species attempts unintentionally resurface in the Gaian. Element-based powers like the Pirakus, some form of stone set into the foreheads similar to that of a Mirror Beast Shaman, and the small scale and whimsical genre attributed to the Kizan. It was like all the work I had put into lorebuilding and species design in the past was finally culminating into something new, and I was determined to take my time with this one.

They could be some form of sprites or spirits, I had thought, based on each of the four elements. I recalled an old alchemy-based game‒I believe it was for the iphone‒wherein you began with the four base elements, and could discover new ones through the process of combination. This concept seemed perfect for a fusion-based "evolution" system, and thus I set out deciding the results of each elemental combination. Some were obvious: clearly Earth mixed with Fire created Magma, and the addition of cooling Air would make Glass. But others were more complicated, and it took me more time to reach their logical conclusions. In the end, there is a meaning or reason behind each combination outcome, though I won't list them all here. Though perhaps, if the interest is there, I may in the future.

Assigning elemental powers came next. Though the species wasn't really meant for battle, necessarily, I did want them to have abilities based on the element they represented. Imagine, if you will, a little bit of "Pokémon", and a little bit of "Avatar: the Last Airbender" (though I hadn't actually watched the latter until the year of writing this, 2024). I think this stage took me the longest to complete aside from the physical design stage. I ended up not only choosing appropriate powers that matched each element, but also strengths, weaknesses, and habitat. I'm not entirely certain why I decided to add the extra details, but I suppose, seeing as their powers could be used for battle and protection, it made sense to list what may be least and most effective against them. Mostly for those individuals who might want to write or draw their characters in certain senarios. I know that I, for one, always appreciate as much information was possible, as it makes it easier to craft my own stories.

Finally, after much deliberation, I had settled on the elemental information, and it was time to design the appearance of the species. This was a tricky step for me. I wanted them to be both simple enough that they wouldn't be a pain to draw, and not too rigid as to be easily customizable, while still remaining visually appealing. My usual design philosophy leans into the idea of less is more, and that a character's overall look doesn't need to be busy if they're interesting enough as an individual. Catching someone's eye may momentarily draw interest, but substance will keep them around. On top of this, I very simply just don't enjoy drawing overly-complicated designs. If I want to make a character with the intention of drawing it often, or creating narratively-driven artwork with it, I need to make something that won't be tedious to recreate more than once. To combat this, I decided the best course of action would be to make the base design simple, and allow others to make their designs as simple or as complex as they wished through customization.

(Gaian Spirits V1, ~2018)

The first design was exactly that: simple. Too simple.
In my efforts to create something unassuming, I had created something I felt was far too bland. When I looked at them, I saw very little personality in their designs‒though I had attempted to add some into their posing. There wasn't much to catch the eye of a viewer, and I wondered just how much customizability they even had. Especially considering that, at this stage in the design process, I felt that each element should have the same features (ears, tails, & fluff) in order to tell them apart. But how easily could one create an interesting or personalized character out of these base designs? These guys just didn't fit the vision I had for the species as a whole, so it was back to the drawing board‒literally!

Design #2 stuck around for much longer. When I drew the first element‒Air ("Wind" at the time)‒I felt instantly certain that it was perfect. I thought it was cute, distinct, and honestly, I was simply proud of how it had come out. This was the most excited I had felt about a new project in quite some time, and I really felt like I was starting to "get it". That this could be something. So, with the initial sketch complete, it was time to go digital.

I ended up using this sketch to make an example of all 19 elements, which included a main color, and specific features that were meant to be exclusive to each one. The idea was that each Gaian had a base color that correlated to their element‒though their coat, including markings, could be any shade of said color. Each element also had a set of features, as mentioned above, that only that element possessed. Otherwise, further customization was up to whomever designed the character.

I was afraid that the different elements would be too difficult to distinguish from one another, so I attempted to remedy this by adding restrictive specifics to their designs. Of course, I didn't realize this mistake at the time, and went ahead as planned.

(Air Gaian v2, ~2018)

(All v2 Element Designs [Including Life & Death], ~2018)

My ultimate goal with the species was to make a DeviantArt group that people could join and create a community within. So, over the course of a year, I prepared all of the assets I would need. Including the examples pictured above, I wrote out all of the lore I had created so far, as well as information on how creating a Gaian worked and what rules to follow. When the official Gaian Spirits group opened in roughly 2019, it contained the open species, the first version of the overall lore, the Life and Death folklore, the Gaiash alphabet and font, a base pack featuring all 19 elements, and the aforementioned guide on creating a Gaian character. At this point in time, the group had no ARPG elements.

The opening was quiet. I hadn't gained much of a following on my new DeviantArt account, thus hadn't many people to show my new group to. I tried joining and submitting my Gaian information to "original species promotion" groups, which were intended to aid in spreading the word about new original species still trying to get off the ground, but it didn't seem to help. I can't say that no one made Gaian characters during this time, but I believe there were only two users, one of which went on to cause a bit of drama and ultimately had to be politely removed from the group. Not long after the opening, I did a small revamp of the graphics used, as I grew quickly dissatisfied with the first set. Nothing much else changed outside of this for a while.

(Gaian Creation Guide v1, ~2019)
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(Gaian Creation Guide v2, ~2019)
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This was the group's stamp
while using the v2 design!

(First design for mascot "Sardine"
[named "Pigeon" at the time], ~2019)
Sardine, the species mascot even saw his first appearance during the use of the v2 design! When he was first introduced, his name was "Pigeon", and they wore a yellow spotted bandana. I honestly couldn't tell you why I changed their name or removed his accessory in the new design. Perhaps I may give his bandana back in future artwork.

A few months passed with little to no interaction within the group, and yet I couldn't get my mind off of them. I felt really confident that this idea was good, and desperately wanted others to feel the same way. I agonized over what I might be able to do, what I might be able to change. I scoured other original species groups in an effort to see what made them work, and ultimately, I decided that I needed to rework how the group functioned, starting with yet another redesign of the Gaian themselves.

That was when v3‒the design that I finally stuck with, and is still used to this day‒was born. I wanted to make them look a little smaller and more "cute", in the hopes that it would make them more appealing. Along with this new character design, I felt it was time to introduce some ARPG elements into the group. I felt that this would help people to get engaged, and that they would be more likely to join in if there were actual things for them to do or work towards. This entire revamp shifted the open species into a semi-open species, meaning that upon first joining the group, members would get one free MYO ticket that would allow them to create one Gaian character, but any subsequent tickets would have to be purchased with either real-world cash, or in-game currency. Traits were no longer exclusive to each element, but instead categorized by rarity, which correlated to a MYO ticket tier, and required the correct ticket to utilize.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the original species/ARPG format and how they tend to run, allow me to take this time to explain it a bit. I'll also use this opportunity to show off the little graphics I made for the Gaian Spirits ARPG, as while I don't use them anymore, I do really like them! If you already know how this stuff works, feel free to skip forward!

(All 5 Gaian Spirits MYO Tickets, ~2019)

Most commonly in semi-open species groups‒though occasionally also seen in closed species groups‒when a user first joins, they can apply to get themselves a free beginner or starter "MYO ticket". MYO stands for "Make Your Own", and these tickets simply act as proof of purchase, kind of like a gift card or receipt. It's a way for the administrators of the group to prove that a user has bought the rights to make a new character within the species, or to use certain traits. Traits are often characteristics like the shape of the ears, tail, or eyes, certain markings or patterns, additions like wings or horns, or sometimes special abilities or physical differences. Each trait is often categorized into a list of tiers, usually consisting of basic, uncommon, rare, and legendary. This just means how likely it is to "see said trait in the wild". Think of them like gene mutations such as albinism or melanism in animals.

Each ticket tier allows the creation of a character using all trait tiers up to that which matches the ticket. Meaning, a rare MYO ticket would allow a user to use any traits from the common, uncommon, and rare tiers, while a legendary MYO ticket would allow a user to use traits from the common, uncommon, rare, and legendary tiers. A beginner MYO ticket usually allows for the usage of basic and uncommon traits, and perhaps a fixed number of higher-tier traits, depending upon the group. Because of the nature of the Gaian Spirits as a species, I also had a ticket for creating a Soul-Bonded Gaian‒referred to as simply "fusion" at the time‒as this meant the user was technically getting to create more than one character when taking into account the participants within the Soul Bond. Each ticket's price increased with its rarity.

Once a character is created using a MYO ticket, users have to send them in to an admin for approval. This genereally just means that said admin will give their characters a look-over and determine whether or not it adheres to both the species lore and the tier of MYO ticket used in its creation. Users will be asked to change characters that break lore rules, or use traits ouside of their ticket tier (say, adding a legendary trait when they only have a rare ticket). If a character is approved, it will be added to a Masterlist‒a big compilation list of all official characters created within the species, along with proof of their approval, who designed them, and who currently owns them.

(All 3 Gaian Spirits Trait-Change Potions, ~2019)

After the approval processes is complete, and one's character is made official, no more changes can be made to their appearance. If one wants to change something about their character, or upgrade them, they need to purchase some form of trait-changing item or separate trait-change ticket in order to do so. In the Gaian Spirits group, this item came in the form of a trait-change poiton. A potion existed for each rarity tier, excluding the common tier, and could be used to change one trait of either equal or lower rarity into a trait from the potion's tier level. An example being the changing of uncommon ears into rare ears with a rare trait-change potion.

Ultimately, while these trait mechanics may seem silly or restrictive, these ARPGs are intended to be collection games of sorts, on top of their social and roleplay aspects. The idea is to begin with a starter character made with low-tier traits, just as one would begin a classic RPG with a weak character kitted out in low-level armor. Over time, as users play and earn in-game currency, they can buy themselves rarer traits and make their characters more unique, or stronger. It's certainly not for everyone, and not every ARPG handles it perfectly, but a well-run game tends to work pretty smoothly with these systems, and many artists find it engaging and enjoyable.

While not all ARPGS have the option of "in-game currency", a large number of them do. Collectibles like MYO tickets, trait-changing items, and, in some groups, accessories or pets, all have monetary values. These values are usually in both real-world dollars and fake currency exclusive to the ARPG world‒Gaian Spirits had "Creation Coins". In-game currency is most often earned through participating in the game, and sometimes through passive events or minigames. Participation can be the creation of artwork or written pieces‒which are usually worth a certain amount of in-game currency dependant upon the medium‒or by joining in on prompt-based events‒where completing each prompt rewards a certain amount of currency, and sometimes even items! This not only makes the game an actual playable art-based game as opposed to simply a club to join, but it also incentivises members to participate and get to know other members, as many groups reward more currency for pieces including other user's characters.
(Gaian "Creation Coin", ~2019)

(Beginner MYO Ticket Claim Post, ~2019)
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(Gaian OC Approvals Post, ~2019)
(Click image for full resolution)

With all of these new graphics made, the group revamp went live, and officially became an ARPG. I was hopeful that this was what the group needed to really get going, and honestly? It did not too bad at all after this. It was still slow-going, but new members began to trickle in, submitting their character sheets for approval. I was even able to sell a couple of adoptables! It was nice, really, and I was happy that things seemed to be going well! But, even with some new members coming in, there really wasn't much interaction going on, nor was there much art being made outside of the initial character creation. I attempted to host a Halloween event, writing up the lore behind Spirit's Emergence and creating prompts based on it, but it went unnoticed. It was at this time that I was also beginning to become less and less happy with DeviantArt. Not only did they implement a complete site-wide revamp that was unfinished and broken, but it also made groups more difficult to engage with. It was like they had completely forgotten about the feature entirely, and allowed it to fall by the wayside. I created a Twitter and a world on Toyhouse for the Gaian Spirits, hoping to perhaps preserve the ARPG on different platforms, but that idea saw no success whatsoever.

This time, however, I didn't feel the same disappointment I had felt so many times before. It was while I was working on making a Weebly site to host all of the species information that a realization started creeping up on me. It was the realization that, while ARPGs are fun, running one wasn't actually what I wanted out of the Gaian Spirits. I had put so much love and effort into their creation, I simply wanted to be able to share them with others. I didn't want them to be tied to the feeling of longing for interaction. I just wanted to build a world with as much lore as I desired, and release it onto the web for those who may happen to stumble upon it. So, I ultimately made the decision to remove all ARPG aspects of the group, and open the species again.

As of now, I've recently removed all of my artwork from DeviantArt. I no longer agree with their practices, as they've been boosting AI-generated art more and more. The original group no longer exists, and the Twitter account is inactive. The Toyhouse world remains, though it functions as more of a repository, and perhaps a place to host adoptables, if I decide to make more in the future.

Building my own website, going back through my old art in order to create my gallery, it all got me thinking about this species again. I really love these little guys, and felt dedicating a section of my site to them and their information would be cool! That way, I'll always have a place to store all of the lore tidbits I come up with, and if anyone stumbles across this area, maybe they might like reading about it. Maybe they'd even like to create a Gaian Spirit of their own! That would be cool, too.

I guess I should say that the takeaway from all of this is supposed to be "don't do things for the sake of impressing others, and instead do things because you enjoy them", but really?
I just like yapping!  

If you made it this far,
thanks so much for reading!

And have a great day!

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