What is Mystic Riders MMO?

What is Mystic Riders MMO?

Who do you want to be when you grow up? A jockey, a police officer, a fashion model? What can you do in your wildest dreams? Do you want to fly, read minds, create illusions, and draw power from the elements themselves? Or do you want to explore the vacuums of space, the nightmares of others, and use the darker powers of Nature?

In Mystic Riders, the choice is yours.

Set on the continent of Argentum, you, the player, is visiting the country of Astranar for the summer. Famous for their music and equestrianism, you’re one of several recruits offered a chance to train at the riding camps scattered throughout the countryside. The reward for all this hard work is extremely valuable—a full scholarship to the country’s academy. The Royal Riding Academy is one of the most elite boarding schools in the world.

Astranar is more than just a haven for horse lovers. Magic is tied to you and to these lands. You’ll have to learn how to use your magic, choose a side. While magic is supposed to be in harmony, the light and the shadow aspects have gotten jarringly out of tune. To bring them back together, you’ll have to shed light on ancient secrets.

There’s also fun to be had along the way! Meet new friends (on either side of the feud) and explore the varied lands of Astranar. Find hidden treasures, lost adventurers, and maybe even a pop star! Your avatar’s appearance is highly customizable, including a variety of skin tones, body shapes, and hair/eye color. There are a variety of horses to ride, different styles of riding, gear and clothes, and not to mention all the food. You can also build and customize your own farm and stable.

Plus there is a mysterious boy who seems tied to your fate…

An urban fantasy MMORPG, Mystic Riders is a non-combative, PvsE play game, with optional elements of cooperation and competition between players. Players have a high level of choice in the game, with two possible endings and eight ways to get there. Crafting and customization is encouraged, and cooperation is the name of the game – the only best that matters is your best.

The player is often face with ethical dilemmas and choice. These are challenges designed to immolate the fears, responsibilities, and excitement of growing up. From choosing sides, helping or not, and even making tentative steps towards a career, the player will transition from childhood to the world of a young adult. Not only that, but there are mechanics built into the game that can help encourage the player to find a healthy work-fun-life balance.

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Roses,Vineyards, and…River Otters?

Roses,Vineyards, and…River Otters?

So one of the big things that both Ginny and I want to feature in our world is nature for the sake of nature. Almost always, flowers or birds or really any other type of animal is included in a game only if it is tied to a quest. Sometimes they might appear in a cutscene (despite not being in the area normally), but for the most part, aside from pets and mounts, it’s pretty much trees, grass, bushes, and dirt. When we were building Astranar, we came up with other plants and animals besides the horses and pets to see as you are riding around. So when you are riding through a forest path, you’ll see a bird flutter off or see a undergrowth of flowers where logically they would be, rather than just waiting for a quest.

When it comes to the variety, though, and to somethings that were created specifically for this country, we wanted to tie them to at least a little bit of a side quest. This way the programmers would get to do something with all of this flora and fauna that was being created, and the player could actually interact with some of it. While pets are great, and we obviously love our mounts, there’s more to the world and the player should get to experience it. As well as learn how things we take for granted either need to change, or are different than media portrays them as.

One of the characters that we hope to introduce you to is the source of the rose species of Astranar, from a creative stand point, because she named all of her horses after the breeds! (Trust me, there was a lot of digging around to figure out how to name her horses and thus the roses.) There’s one of every general color, plus an extra species of white, and they are highly prized in any Astranar noble’s garden. While most roses aren’t hardy enough to survive in the wild, thanks to Astranar’s weather patterns, some vines can escape the towns to try and grow on their own.

Speaking of vines, Astranar vineyards and their rivalry are near-legendary, at least among locals. Each district has their own specialty, and they are the pride of the district. Each year, a bottle of the year’s harvest is given to the royal family to go sit and age in their wine cellar, and then the rest is opened up to the locals…and the collectors. (I’m not saying certain vintages are rare and fought over between one particular countess and three-quarters of the nobility and upper merchant class types… but yes, yes I am saying it.) They also get downright competitive about whose is really better. Sometimes it’s easier to just nod and walk away…

Farms will have all sorts of livestock, from cows and goats and sheep…to alpacas and black chickens. (We’re weird, you’ll get used to it.) And it isn’t just the mentors and the players that have such variety! Who do you think they bought their animals from? The local farmers and ranchers have a wide variety of animals to pick from for your own farm, and sometimes need help with managing their stocks and crops. They can give you helpful recipes or even teach you about rare plants or animals that are attracted to them.

But outside of livestock, what other animals are you going to see? Much like in other parts of the world, there are wild cats and wolves that are endangered, and so there are education programs about them. You’ll also hearing some crazy fishing stories around the docks, encounter several types of birds and owls among the trees, and all sorts of creatures. (Though watch out for swans, they are protective and mean as much as they are pretty.) There are deer and big cat sanctuaries in Citrine and Sphalerite, respectively, to offer some specialty homes to a wide variety of species.

There are two animal homes however that are a bit more controversial, so they tend to have quests tied to them as the player explores the areas involved. Sapphire district has a bull fighting arena that is considered traditional, and getting them to consider closing it is going to probably cause a minor war with the older generation. Right now, the younger ones are hoping they can quietly let it die in a decade or two, but some are a lot more impatient and want to carry something out now. Navigating around that landmine may take some serious work for the player…unless they decide to get involved anyway, which could be a new mess.

The second home, you  have less of a choice. The mentor of Emerald (again, who I hope to introduce you as we get further along and have artwork) has gotten a bee in her bonnet over the zoo. It is home to several animals, from the old falconry birds and peacocks that the royal family donated to wild animals that were considered endangered, like the river otters…that are nothing like the cute little ones you probably think of. These are giant river otters from Emerald, and they are huge, fierce…and desperately craving watermelon, despite hating the taste. The conditions of the zoo don’t meet her standards at all, and she wants it burned to the ground. But there’s a new director of the zoo who wants to turn the whole thing into a conservation program, he just needs time. Sounds like they need a mediator, and fast!

Okay, anyone who follows the twitter for this game concept (and if you aren’t, why aren’t you, you are missing out!), you know that this is a total bait and switch. So I promise next week I will talk about the Diamond Media Complex and their stars, including a very special rose.

Please help us make this game a reality and Buy us a ko-fi. (Goal: Graphics Logo)

What in the WORLD is Victorian Edge?

What in the WORLD is Victorian Edge?

So we keep describing Astranar as having hung on to the Victorian Era a little longer than the rest of the world. What does that even mean? Well, I’m going to describe the over all feeling of the world that will hopefully help, and then Ginny has folders upon folders of inspiration pics to provide visual reference.

While a lot of the districts have their own influences and styles (we’ll get into each one eventually), there are some things that have carried over across Astranar, developing either concurrently with the rest of the world or arriving with the latest shipwreck. For those who have no idea what that means, think about how pyramids appeared in both South American and northern Africa, and numerous other ideas that develop across the globe in different countries that have no contact with each other at the time.

As for the lasting footprint of Victorian influence, it’s a mix of the Gothic cathedral style, then it goes into things like French (or Second) Empire, Queen Anne, and Gothic Revival. Mostly, it is a hodge-podge of the over the top “gauche” type of decor they favored, though the fascination with death and spiritualism will be centralized to one area or one time of year, since our focus is more on healing and balance.

Some key things that you will see are gingerbread trim on houses and buildings, scalloped pattern roofs, and intricate iron work on both the houses and the streets. (We have some beautiful and easily specialized ideas for the street lamps and manhole covers, I’m excited.) The roads around the farms and forest paths are dirt, because roads are expensive, but the ones in town are cobblestone rather than pavement, which is better for horse hooves and much better to adjust to the town size as needed. They work around or over hills rather than digging through and leveling, the same for the railroad tracks.

Interior wise, we drew inspiration from the Morris wallpapers and vintage or even just vintage inspired furniture pieces, in both American 1950’s and more traditional Gothic. Not only do we want to provide a variety for players to really customize their experience, but we want things to work together without fighting each other in terms of style. You can have your goth or punk rock room, or you can be as frilly and princess like as you desire, or you can splash loud colors all over the walls, but the goal is to make the visuals all flow for the sake of the game.

Alright, now to the part I’m pretty sure everyone cares the most about. What are the characters going to look like? Well, fashion wise, we tried to cover all the genres—hip hop, preppy, vintage, punk, fancy, and even androgynous. But we pushed them to fit within our idea of Victorian inspiration and what Ginny calls the blocks that we have built into the game without getting…ridiculous. You’ll see a lot of the classic shapes of the 1950’s, as well as modern casual fashion. Okay, and yes, there’s some Lolita-and-or-school girl aesthetic going on, and that’s my fault. I have a lace and ruffle addiction.

Other countries and styles are hopefully going to make their way into the game, such as hijab and Hindu forehead markings, but those are additions rather than something we’ll be starting with. While we want to be inclusive, we made categories to make it easier to implement the needed fashions and blocking and sheer levels of programming that it will require. So stage one is basically the bare basics, and then adding some variations of that. Hopefully by the time we’re finished with the basics and their variations, we’ll have the support we need to make the rest happen.

As for why we went down this way… This really fits Ginny’s and my shared aesthetic. While sometimes we are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as color and decorations go, the bones tend to fall in this direction. This also serves as a great point-of-difference for us, since most MMO’s are either directly in the modern setting only, or they are medieval fantasy…ish, though the historical accuracy of the fashion is usually questionable. By going in this direction, we circumvent the problem of potentially having fashion trends age the game, as well as provide a unique experience for the player. Sounds like it’s all coming up roses. Speaking of roses… See you next week!

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The Barbie Horse Riding Adventure Phenomena from Ernest Adams

“I used to work at Electronic Arts for EA sports, and about 1995 I went to one of the Big Shot Executive Producers at EA Sports. I said, ‘I’ve got a brilliant idea.’ I said, ‘Let’s make a game about horses. There are a lot of horse sports. There’s rodeo and dressage and show jumping and cross country and flat racing and all kinds of other stuff like that and if we do that, we will own every little girl between the ages of nine and twelve in the world. And he, of course the Executive Producer was a he, he said, ‘No, no, no. Girls don’t play video games.’ And I said, ‘They might play video games if there were some games they wanted to play.’ And he said, ‘No, no, no. We don’t like girls. We don’t know about girls. We don’t care about girls. We’re not interested in girls. Go away. Shut up. Do your job.’ And so that was the end of that. That Christmas what happens? Out comes Barbie Horse Riding Adventure. It is colossal, and one week it was the biggest selling PC game on the charts outstripping all the shoot em ups and everything else…”

~ Ernest Adams; “Girl Games of the 1990s: A Retrospective” GDC 2018

So Why a Girl Protagonist Again…?

So Why a Girl Protagonist Again…?

Time for some delving into our decision making paradigm here as I address what is sure to be a question we get a lot, and while I’ve touched on it, I really want to talk about it in-depth. Why did we decide that the player character in Mystic Riders had to be female?

I’ll get the mechanical aspect out of the way: yes, it is easier when you are going as highly-customizable as we are to only do one physical sex. Especially because we are doing three different body types, and lots of different hair styles and options for personalization and style choices (even if we are limiting how many are available at release and adding to them as the year goes on). By eliminating having the option to play as a boy, we’ll be able to make the player characters that more variable with the same amount of time and resources that normally go into supporting both physical sexes.

Since you can easily twist the mechanics into an argument for why we should do a male option, let me go into the marketing side of it. Our age demographic is 10+ girls, ideally 12-16. Those girls are going to want to play as themselves, to be as much like they either are or want to be. Our job as game developers is to cater to that market. Particularly because it is wildly under-represented. There are very few, high quality games with a female only protagonist that can be customized beyond using your own name. About the only two games I can think of that fairly let you play as male or female for that age group are Pokémon and Wizards 101, and they have to limit how much customizing you can do because of the engine’s ability to handle it all.

I use the word fairly in two senses: one, there are (roughly) the same number of options for both the male and female players, and both are presented in the same way. Counting the number of hair styles is easy, it’s the second that trips developers up. The female character has to have to have the same variety of options as the men–this means that they can’t be designed to only appeal to the male gaze. (I have heard the arguments that the overly buff men are supposed to be for the female gaze, I am here to tell you it’s garbage. It’s a masculine fantasy all around, folks.)

One common complaint you’ll see, even in female-forward games like Overwatch, is that the faces all look the same for a female character, despite different nationalities and body types, but the men have at least a nod towards diversity. By focusing all of our efforts into female characters, we can avoid those types of slips and actually bring true variety and diversity to the options for characters and for NPCs. We can also feature interesting fashions without presenting teenage characters as a lot older than they are and creating unrealistic expectations.

Which leads to the moral and emotional reasons why we want to focus on a female character. I grew up with Zelda and Mario, both rescuing princesses. Pokémon: Crystal and Final Fantasy X, my first games with female protagonists (or close to it), didn’t come out until I was already ten or eleven, and I’m younger than Ginny! And while games have worked to include female options for characters, there still aren’t very many that focus entirely on a female protagonist, even as other games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption 2 focus on male protagonists entirely. (I’m still annoyed we haven’t had a playable Zelda yet when she is the name of the franchise.)

Girls have just as much right to be the focus of a prophecy or the hero of a story. But they don’t get that opportunity unless it is alongside a male option. We want to create a game where the focus is devoted to showing that a game like this is possible, rather than feeding into the loop that girls won’t play games even if you create a game for them. It’s the same study they tried to feed us about female super heroes, and Wonder Woman blew them out of the water, and Carol Danvers is showing signs that she might do the same if given a fair chance.

That’s all Ginny and I want to do, really. Offer a fair chance for girls to be the heroes of their own stories, offer the type of games that we all enjoy without fighting through pop-up ads and bad graphics. By proving them wrong once, we give a foothold for others to try, and for us to keep trying and pushing for more. Because if all of us succeed, the ones who really benefit are the girls out there who start to believe that they can do what they dream.