The Endless Forest

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Video game fandom
NameThe Endless Forest
Developer(s)Tale of Tales
Publisher(s)Tale of Tales
Release date15 Feb 2006
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows
External link(s)Official website
Related articles on Fanlore.

The Endless Forest is a free online multiplayer game developed by Tale of Tales.[1] Players control a human-faced deer wandering a repeating map with other players. The game spawned a small dedicated community that reached other social media platforms, such as DeviantART. Despite minimal gameplay, the community remains active.

Players call their community "The Endless Forest Community," mirroring the name of their main forum. Some players shorten this to "TEFc," and those within it may be called "TEFers," however TEFer may not be overly common.[2]


Gameplay is minimal in The Endless Forest, with the game instead effectively acting as a 3D chatroom. However, players cannot communicate directly through typing or voice chat, instead relying on commands that make their deer bellow or perform full body animated emotes. Instead of having usernames, players create a "pictogram," shortened to "picto," which is a combination of rune-like characters they choose to combine into a unique image.

Though players start out as identical fawns, after several days, the fawns grow into adult deer, which can be customized with pre-made skins and objects. This makes it common for players to have the same or very similar appearances.


The Tale of Tales Endless Forest website was accessible as early as 2005, but not all Wayback Machine captures remain viable, instead displaying as blank white pages. The website would begin to display for The Endless Forest in 2006. [3]

In 2015, it celebrated its 10 year anniversary, and the forum admin went into detail about TEF's beginnings. The post revealed its long history with art gallery financial support.

[snipped] ...As the game continued to draw players (20,000 registered deer by 2007, 50,000 by 2009, and almost 170,000 today), we've had to add new generations of pictograms to identify players in this wordless game. In 2010, the second generation was added, in 2012 the third and last year the fourth.

Post by Auriea, Sept 10, 2015.[4]

Tale of Tale's main developer has been working on a re-make of the game (TEF II, or The Endless Forest The Second Decade) since 2017, which he has constantly given updates on via both his personal blog and TEFc.[5] The remake was funded by donations from the community. Donors would receive rewards such as in-game cosmetics or 3D printed deer based on the game's models.[6]

In 2011-2012 academic Debra Ferreday published a paper in the journal Feminist Theory and then an edited book chapter, both about The Endless Forest and its community.[7][8]



  • Abio- Shortened name for the Abiogenesis
  • Big Zombie Deer/BZD- Nickname for a Halloween character played by the developers, named Velocity.
  • The Blue Bowl- Community name for a patch of blue flowers/berries in the birch forest area
  • M&A/The Gods- Nicknames for both of the developers, Michael and Auriea
  • Peacocking- A prank/game played on a sleeping deer. Players cast spells on the sleeping deer to see if they can decorate them in the "peacock" cosmetic set before the sleeping player wakes up.
  • Pictos- Shortened form of "pictograms," the rune-like icon that represents individual players.
  • Picos have spread- a phrase used to mean the game has loaded in enough for the player to see other player's pictos.
  • The Playground- The oldest community named landmark
  • Set- The word meaning a combination of cosmetics, including horns, masks, and pelts, that come together to complete a single outfit.
  • Spells- Animations and actions under the "Forest Magic Actions" commands in game. Spells can give other players cosmetics, worship the gods, or remove cosmetics from yourself.
  • Spell-Spamming- When someone casts spells on a deer repeatedly, for any number of reasons


The Endless Forest Community forum is the main official location, outside of the game itself, where players congregate and roleplay. Players also communicate outside of official sources, such as through Discord servers and Toyhouse. In the earlier days of the community, players also used MSN and Skype.[2]

The Endless Forest had a fan group created on DeviantART in 2008, which as of Mar 2022 has 1,710 members. When it moved to a new group in 2019, it did not recover the same popularity it once had, only having 106 members. Group members would make fan art of their deer characters, share real deer photography, and concept art of in-game skins they came up with. It also hosted group events, such as its 2011 TEF fan art calendar event.[9] According to Wikipedia, 1 of 5 players discovered The Endless Forest through DeviantART, however the reference for this data has since been lost as the website source has gone down, leaving it unproven.[10]

Some players have credited DeviantART as being a "great place to find folks" and player wyldflower said "The fanart of people’s characters posted there had a big role in introducing me and many others to the game."[2] At least one player, named sighthoundlady on DeviantART, had a piece of The Endless Forest fanart chosen as a daily deviation on DA in Feb 2013, which is an art piece chosen by staff to be featured prominently on the website.[11] As of Mar 2022, the piece has over 900 favorites and 11k views.

Some players who played The Endless Forest went on to create their own deer-based communities, mainly Ehetere, who created the popular Fawnlings DeviantART ARPG in 2012.[12]

When asked how the community had changed from the early days to 2022, players had a wealth of opinions, with one of the main consensus being the community had actually become more active with time, particularly outside of the game. This contrasts with other animal based MMOs like FeralHeart and Furcadia, which in 2022 are considered to be "dying."[2]

It's a lot more populated, and more roleplay-centric. I used to go weeks without seeing anyone else logged into the game.


It used to be a lot more interactive in-game. My pet theory is that moving spell data server side helped disincentivize interacting with other players. There are other factors, such as the proliferation of text based messaging apps. TEFc is used a lot less for text interactions and biographies because there was a prolonged period where it was nearly unusable, and more useful alternatives exist.


10 years ago, there weren't things like Discord, Toyhouse, or any other live-text/instant-messaging around. Maybe you'd chat with your peeps on Skype or DeviantART (one of the first places I found out about TEF), but even then that wasn't until some years later after the community rose in popularity. So the pace of things felt a lot more slow, but also a lot more based on in-game activity. The limited ways of communication of the game in the absence of voice or text encouraged you to get creative, and interact with lots of deer. The roleplay aspect may take place later when you'd log out of the game and go in the community to see if you can find the player behind the deer... I remember many "who is this?" posts with screenshots so you could identify yourself or someone else, lol.



Roleplay is one of the main ways players interact with one another, often using a combination of the client game and a 3rd party text or voice chat (the usage of which would have been less common during the early years of the community). Players will often upload "blog" entries on TEFc as bios for their characters, including drawn images and detailed information on their deers.[13] These biography pages on TEFc go back to 2008, leading to pages full of old, broken embedded images.[14] DeviantART and Toyhouse are also depositories for character images.

Characters aren't always human-faced deer, despite this being the only character model in game. Character profiles often depict sphinxes of various other animals, such as human-faced dogs, human-faced antelopes, and regular deer without human faces. Player Jacklo discussed the unique aspect that roleplaying sphinxes gave them.[2]

I think one thing no ones really hard touched on here is that I am only here and only remain here because I love sphinxes, I love human faced animals greatly and they make up most of my characters overall. I think theres nowhere else on the internet to my knowledge I could roleplay a sphinx character without people in some way commenting or thinking it is weird to do so. I could go on FH for instance and play a deer using the wolf model, and no one really cares. But I could go on and say I’m a sphinx but I reckon it’d only be a little while before someone is like ‘what is that? Ew I looked it up, its weird’


The Endless Forest was known for having community-driven roleplay events. One such event was "The Fairytale: Interactive Storytelling." This was an event run in Aug 2010 by a player named Terabetha that had several other players invested in the interactive story.[15]

Another was an event run in Feb 2013 by player Iaurdagnire. In this event, players fought off carnivorous "minions of Velocity" through art and storytelling. Specific in game animation emotes were used to signal who was pretending to be said minions, and to "kill" one in game, other players had to hit the "creatures" a certain amount of times with their antlers. In the end, 131 creatures were killed, which Iaurdagnire touted had increased from the previous year's kill count of 60.[16] According to the blog post, the game's developers changed the weather in game for the event both years, showing their support to the roleplayers. A significant amount of art was made by players for the event.


While some players are reluctant to discuss past controversies, other players from the TEFc forum briefly listed a few. Most players seem to believe the bulk of community discourse has been centered around the difference between how players have roleplayed. Another much more specific controversy was related to players giving away, trading, swapping, and otherwise "hoarding" rare pictograms.

Player Uitleger gave an overview of a few past issues.

Again, there were more, but I'll mention the one that bothers just me, likely.

Thing is, over time the way the game was played strayed from its original concept (albeit a conveniently vague one), and became a roleplaying tool. Along with that, the names of the accounts - the pictograms, lost their original meaning and acquired practical value, instead. Which is gauged from the generation (the older the better) and/or aesthetics. Possibly other individual factors.

They were given away, traded, swapped and renamed, hoarded whenever a new generation came out, and, if I recall, at some point the name registration script got messed with, just to procure more rares. Also, if I recall, an older player had to come back from a hiatus to say they were not giving away theirs, because somebody bugged them about it, through email or sth. I think the community drew the line at selling pictograms for money, but the rest is still considered to be fine.



Archives & Links

Meta/Further Reading

  • Ferreday, Debra. "Becoming Deer: Nonhuman Drag and Online Utopias." Feminist Theory, vol. 12, no. 2, Aug. 2011, pp. 219–225, doi:10.1177/1464700111404288.
  • Ferreday, Debra. "Affect, Fantasy and Digital Cultures" in Digital Cultures and the Politics of Emotion: Feelings, Affect, and Technological Change edited by Athina Karatzogianni and Adi Kuntsman. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.


  1. ^ See: Wikipedia:Tale of Tales (company)
  2. ^ a b c d e Help: Information on TEF Community for Fanlore Article, The Endless Forest Community, blog post. Mar 12, 2022. (Accessed 3/15/2022)
  3. ^ The Endless Forest main page. Jun 22, 2011 (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  4. ^ The Endless Forest is 10 years old today!], blog post. Sept 10, 2015 (Accessed 3/12/2022) (Archived 3/12/2022)
  5. ^ Category Archives: The Endless Forest, Michael's Blog. (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  6. ^ Fundraising. (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  7. ^ Ferreday, Debra. "Becoming Deer: Nonhuman Drag and Online Utopias." Feminist Theory, vol. 12, no. 2, Aug. 2011, pp. 219–225, doi:10.1177/1464700111404288.
  8. ^ Ferreday, Debra. "Affect, Fantasy and Digital Cultures" in Digital Cultures and the Politics of Emotion: Feelings, Affect, and Technological Change edited by Athina Karatzogianni and Adi Kuntsman. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.
  9. ^ 2011 TEF Fan Art Calendar! theendlessforest DeviantART. Jan 8, 2011 (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  10. ^ The Endless Forest, Wikipedia. (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  11. ^ We'll See, DeviantART. Jan 8, 2013 (Accessed 3/15/2022)
  12. ^ ~Ehetere's Commissions Store~ .:open:., blog post. Oct 27, 2013 (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  13. ^ Whispers In The Forest, character profile for Athwardra. Jan 12, 2022 (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  14. ^ Biographies, last page. (Accessed 3/12/2022)
  15. ^ The Fairytale: Interactive Storytelling {CSS}, The Endless Forest Community Forum. Aug 6, 2010 (Accessed 3/18/2022)
  16. ^ V: Your Supremacy | War Drum, The Endless Forest Community Forum. Feb 18, 2013 (Accessed 3/18/2022)