Why Representation (Still) Matters

Why Representation (Still) Matters

A couple of weeks ago, a member of my DnD group made comments about video game characters. I’m paraphrasing to cut the cussing, but he basically said that he doesn’t care and it doesn’t matter what sexuality characters are or gender identity. He just wants solid, fun characters to play with and play against. I’m not going to explain any more of the situation, but I will leave the thoughts that his comment stirred up for me, because I feel like they are important thoughts for our future audience to know about our mindset for creating this game.

We all want solid, fun characters to play as and play off of in our game. No arguments there. The problem is, anyone who is part of the LGBTQA+ community, or even someone who isn’t but is a girl, has to fight for equal representation. Not just representation–because then you can argue that we are there. There’s female options in Overwatch, in World of Warcraft, in Pokemon. The problem is, they aren’t equal to the male characters. It’s why arguments that we don’t still need to push representation drives me nuts. Yes, it’s better–I can play as a girl when I make a Pokemon run. No, I’m still not satisfied because where is my Zelda equivalent of Link? Why are there still more than 75% of the fleshed out characters being male and most of the remaining females don’t have as much dialogue or action?

Most women don’t pass what I call the 50/66 rule. What’s the 50/66 rule? It means that 50% of the dialogue and actions in the game–not bios, not in guides, but in the actual game–belong to a female character. The 66 part of the rule is 66% of the character’s skin has to be covered, minimum, and they have to still be dressed practical for what they are. For example, I don’t expect bards to be dressed from head to toe in armor, but I don’t want them to be naked or effectively dressed in underwear and scarves (if that) either. I do expect my knight to wear real armor, not chain mail bikini’s by any other name or literal breast plates. True fact, there isn’t a single GOOD dollmaker out there that lets you create a female knight that doesn’t ruin the armor to do it. NOT ONE. (I’ve looked. If you have one, feel free to share!!!) And those are simple flash dollmakers, much less a more serious game.

Aside from a few exceptions, LGBTQA+ content is over fetishized or just not there. If it is there, it’s mentioned in a character bio and that’s about it. A lot of the reason why the Dragon Age games and the new Fire Emblem game are being cheered as hard as they are is because they reach to so many normally ignored demographics, and while other games are picking up on this trend, it’s an uphill battle. (I will say that this is getting better faster than the issue with female characters, but again, we still have a long way to go, so I don’t want either to stop or get more focus than the others.)

The only thing this person didn’t bring up is race, but even there, I wish there was more variety to the characters. I don’t want to see American interpretations of Eastern cultures, I want to see people authentic to those cultures create those characters, to actually show us what they see. I want the ratios to be closer to what they actually are in the world. I want exposure to the real culture, the real way things are done, not the way that is portrayed in cartoons or the occasional art film.

So how is Mystic Riders any different? We do try to include a wide variety of countries for background, with a heavier focus on Europe only because that is the country we start with. Why? Because that’s where Ginny and I have the background. Will we stay there? Ohhh no. We have plans. But we want the people to have joined us who have the real, in-depth knowledge we can never have before we carry out those plans. Do we make representation the center most core of the game? No, because then it does what I was rallying against earlier–it makes it done just for representation’s sake, meaning it’s superficial and frequently not as enriching and engaging as I want.

But what I really want people to take away from this post is representation still matters. We still need to fight for those good, solid characters who are female, who are gay, who are trans, who are from another culture than American, and every combination in between. Trying to deride a game for working on that as well as bolstering the strong story hooks isn’t being an activist, it’s you actually trying to erase the small steps have been taken, when we need to be working on taking bigger ones.

Get to Know Your Devs: Top Fav Games

Get to Know Your Devs: Top Fav Games

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what our favorite games are, and what you can see they mean for Mystic Riders as a whole. Why? Because our favorites are (inevitably) going to affect what sort of features we want to see in the game, and the kind of stories that we enjoy.

So to start with, Becca’s list is a little…all over the place. The most obviously vintage of the group is Barbie Riding Club from 1998, a PC game that in many ways started the girls’ gaming phenomena but is sadly no longer replayable. (Because yes, she would play it again, Becca will play any game she loves multiple times.) It was the best substitute for owning a horse a girl could have. There’s also Jak & Daxter, which is a console game of the fantasy, chosen one type variety, that she wasn’t able to finish due to the game mechanics being not in her favor. She grew up with the Legend of Zelda franchise, but the first one she played and her favorite still is Windwaker–it gave the characters such great expressions and had a story that was outside of the norm for the game while still being within the box that is Zelda. (And the new Princess Zelda from Breath of the Wild drove her bonkers.)

She has a hard time picking her favorite Pokémon game–Yellow was her first, Crystal was the first to let her actually play as a girl and has all of her favorite legendaries, Stadium 2 had the best mini-games ever, and Moon lets the Pokémon actually interact in the outside world more–but her favorite remains X. She just loves the world building too much, the region easily being her favorite with its French roots, and it was the first that allowed customization of the avatar to really let the player express themselves. Her last on her big list of favorites is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. While there are frustrating aspects to the game and some of the puzzles are harder than others, she enjoys the way the story winds through the characters and the “twist” ending that while mildly surprising, isn’t a complete shocker for the player either.

Ginny’s list is more easily nailed down to a theme (though Becca had to do some meshing to make this list, lol). With Caesar IV, she gets to make her own city and make it as pretty as possible (such as all the roads and the pattern tiles), as well as optimizing the layout to make everyone happy. Cooking games like Cake Mania gives her the satisfaction of getting the high score under the time constraints to unlock all the extras, and Cake Mania is particularly good about it because there aren’t a ton of micro transactions hiding in the levels. Roads of Rome gives her the satisfaction of doing things in the right order, especially since the later levels will punish you if you don’t, and the fact it’s repairing things rather than combat.

There was a lot that she loved about Ratchet & Clank. From the story, to the fact the original game’s worlds were just the right size to inspire wonder without getting overwhelming, but the first thing she mentioned was the fact the game was set up to be about exploring and collecting items, as well as a few well-timed explosions. Kingdom Hearts hits the nostalgia, the comfort of familiar stories and getting to interact with them as well as taking something old and making it new. (It was also her first platformer game.) With Okami, she loved the concept of using magic to heal the world and the mechanics that let the player see the impact their actions were having. She also found the puzzles seamless in their integration, and that you had to think on them.

What about games the two game devs share? There’s two sets of them. One is Final Fantasy X and its sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. For Becca, it’s all about the story. The characters are great (okay, Tidus is a bit grating, but he gets better), and some of the best parts of it are the fact you can influence the story in small ways to really make your mark on it. Becca really liked the callbacks to X in X-2, but that it was being it’s own story at the same time. For Ginny, her favorite part of X is pretty limited to Rikku punching Tidus in the stomach as a greeting. For her, X-2 was what really hit the mark because it focused on Yuna and Yuna’s grief and feelings about her journey and the aftermath. It also presented three very different types of girl, with girls having agency in their own story. And then the job system is her favorite, as imperfect as it might be, she liked it the best by far.

The other is the Sly Cooper series, though there are some strong feelings on them, especially the last one, lol. Becca likes that it isn’t about combat, it’s about sneaking and collecting items, and the importance of history to the present. (Once combat started happening, it started irking her.) There is character growth between games too, which is great. She just wishes they hadn’t done a cliffhanger ending with no follow through and that Carmelita had gotten a better treatment. For Ginny, the third game, Sly Cooper: Band of Thieves remains her favorite. Sucker Punch really hit their stride with the mechanics at that point, including different mini-games depending on the situation that made sense and fit the game play so the player wasn’t confused as to why it existed. It was also really about Sly’s ancestors and start delving into the lore of the world. She did miss the “tink tink” of the first two games though.

So what does all of this mean for Mystic Riders? Well, between the game devs, there is obviously an importance placed on story, which you already knew, but not just on story being the focus. It has to give the female protagonist agency, it has to be about their story as much as it is about the side characters, as fun as they can be. The mini-games have to be fun, and yet mesh well and make sense with the world, which can’t be so large it’s overwhelming or too small so you don’t have enough to explore. While the player has some influence on the greater story, it is within reasonable limits and gives in to their expectations rather than being surprising just to be surprising or not making sense. And rather than combat, it is focused on puzzles and improving the world, with some elements of time management but not enough to drive anyone batty.

Think this helped you understand what sort of game we are looking to build? Let us know in the comics or on twitter! If you want to see this game happen, stop by and leave us a ko-fi if you have the funds (though obviously don’t deny yourself either)!

Character Spotlight: Rose Neptuna

Character Spotlight: Rose Neptuna

Rose Neptuna (Single)
Artwork courtesy of Ashante Johnson (@earthsong9405)

Name: Rose Neptuna                                                              Nickname: Rose
Age: Appears 17                                                                       Country of Origin: France
Birthday: Unknown                                                                 Pet: Unknown

Rose Neptuna is the biggest pop star in all of Astranar, and is quickly spreading to the other countries in Argentum too. Originally a rising star in France, she moved to Astranar last year after taking a summer sabbatical in Diamond District, and has been the biggest thing since then. Not only because of her catchy tunes, but also because of her sweet personality. She is a lady of the highest order, though her image seems to also hold a deep sadness, something that is echoed in her lyrics.

In addition to singing, Rose is well-known for playing the violin, even while she’s dancing! She says she looked to Lindsey Stirling as inspiration, and added that she is also classical trained in both violin and ballet. There’s also elements of Indila to her sound, perhaps because Rose is also a deeper toned soprano than most pop stars. She composes her own music, and this makes her widely sought after to work with–she can blend her sound with other music stars, even if they are different styles like country.

If you see her in parades and not on floats or around the city, she can sometimes be seen with her horse, a white Percheron stallion named Papillon Blanc. He’s a giant push over, though watch out if you are eating anything sweet by him. He has a reputation for stealing candy apples from those who come up for a photo op. While not the fastest horse, he’s trained in dressage and show jumping and is very careful with his feet, so he’s an excellent mount for the city streets and for a rider who deals with the public like Rose.

Her agent is Yvenne DuNoir, who came with her from France and often is your first point of contact with Rose before an event. A haughty blonde, it’s…hard to miss her. Otherwise, not a lot is known about Rose, such as who her family is, or even what her natural hair color is! She lives in the penthouse suite of the largest hotel in Diamond District, but good luck making it past security to see her there. There are also rumors of her attending AEFPA, but the administration is very hush-hush about it. But all that mystery just adds to her charm. The only one who seems to be upset about her being here is the hip-hop star, Hi-Fidelity.

Her summer tour is an anniversary special for her first year in Astranar! She’s touring all over Astranar, leading up to the big summer blow out with every big musical act in Argentum joining her. There’s also a competition to sing a song with her on stage that has some of the locals eager to impress her. Maybe the player will have to give one or two a helping hand…

Favorite Color: Rose pink
Favorite Horse: Percheron
Favorite Camp Activity: Dancing
Favorite Gemstone: Topaz, pink or blue
Favorite Race: Show Jumping

 

The Mysteries of Diamond District

The Mysteries of Diamond District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing our final district, Diamond, where the mystery of Harmony magic haunts all of Astranar.

(Note: Diamond can only be accessed after you complete one of the other seven districts, and you will need to return to it after each district before you can move on to the next because each district unlocks more story within Diamond.)

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Set on the coastline and towards the middle of Astranar, Diamond shares its borders with Morganite, Citrine, and Ruby. Ginny used different cities and boardwalks to pull together for Diamond from all over Europe. While there are outlying villages and stables, the biggest (and only really big) city in Diamond is the capital, which over time has absorbed a few other larger towns to form six parishes within the city. Don’t think all the green is gone, however. There are plenty of open fields to run through, though the grounds and woods are probably much more manicured than anywhere else, and make sure you don’t stumble on private property! There’s a lot of nobility in the capital for government purposes, so there’s a possibility…

With a beach and boardwalk, the capital is an even mix between casual tourism and the elegant prestige of the nobility and royals, all depending on which district you are in. The capital is also home to both elite riding schools of Astranar: the Royal Riding Academy and Astranar Equestrian Federation Preparatory School. One of the two schools actually uses the Old Palace, the original palace of Astranar for the royal family and other key figures. While both used to be housed together, as the school grew, the royal family moved their seat of government and themselves over to the New Palace, making everyone much more comfortable. The fashion of the capital is a blend of seaside apparel, school clothing (or at least what Morganite hasn’t claimed), and formal wear, but you can find a little bit of everything as many fashion designers have stores, either in the mall or in the base of a famous hotel!

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While there aren’t any specific races in Diamond District, there are horses. High bred and highly trained, these are horses of the nobility and they have the paperwork to prove it. Friesian, Lipizan (or as we know them in America, Lipizzaner), and English Thoroughbred are the three types of horses you can find here. Each of them has a different type (or types!) of race they do well in, so it’s a great place to pick up a spare horse if your stats are off before going into a new district. However, these are all considered extra horses, so you will have to pay out of pocket for them.

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Not a lot is known about Harmony magic. It requires a very special person to use it, and they are very rare. While a Light magic rider is skilled with one element very strongly, a Shadow magic rider is skilled in two side-by-side elements. With Harmony riders? They have skill in many elements. It’s the first sign to look for in a Harmony user, and since they can need training in all the schools, it takes a while for them to be able to access their own spells! Now if only they knew what that one spell was…

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Diamond, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! Unlike the other districts, Diamond is probably not as obvious with its clues. Also unlike the other districts, there are no specific mentors tied to Diamond! Instead, Diamond is a meeting place where you can run into several different mentors all in one place, and each time you finish a new district, there’s more people available in Diamond for you to meet.

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Tumbling Down in Amethyst District

Tumbling Down in Amethyst District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Amethyst, where Consciousness magic is the end-all be-all.

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Set in the very center of Argentum, Amethyst is mostly mountainous and bordered by Sphalerite, Ruby, and Emerald, as well as both Zablana and Nospos. Ginny used the Swiss Alps as inspiration for Amethyst, looking for ways to situate towns and farms into the mountain side that goes vertical more than it does horizontal. With pocket valleys creating ideal places for villages and high steeps covered in snow for the rest, Amethyst is great for everyone who enjoys their snow year round.

In addition to the villages and high hills that lead into Ruby, Amethyst is home to winter sports of all varieties, particularly ice skating. In fact, a huge Olympic-sized facility has been built in Amethyst to try and attract ice skaters of all types. With all those twisting roads, though, travel can get tricky and there’s always someone who is in need of rescue. Perhaps as a nod to the home of winter weather, Russia, there is a definite imperial/military inspired style in Amethyst.

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With all those mountains and the specialty of dressage, you might need a new horse. While Amethyst doesn’t provide you any funds for new horses, there are some to take a look at if you don’t mind spending some of your own cash. The Vyatka and the Akale-Teke are horses built for extreme weather and elegant looks, both being considered rare breeds. If something a little more solid is your speed, there is also the Orlov Trotter for your consideration.

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Consciousness magic resonates with Ti on the solfege scale. Consciousness is magic of the mind and will, with many of its abilities similar to that of psychic abilities. Magicians of Consciousness will push their minds and their bodies as hard as they can to achieve their goals. While they are usually empathetic enough to pick up other’s emotions and maybe manipulate them, they aren’t as wise to their own feelings and can come across as a little cold. On the small scale, Consciousness magic is telekinesis and emotions or thought sensing, relying on the environment or others as well as their own will. On the large scale, it can grant its users knowledge of the past, the present, or the future, and even allow for astral projection. However, you have to be careful about going too far from your body or into time–they don’t play fair–and if you push yourself too far, you’ll get a nasty headache for your troubles.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Amethyst, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Amethyst mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Isidora Silvertreble (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vivian Streetbeat (profile pending) and Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.

Shine a Light in Morganite!

Shine a Light in Morganite!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Morganite, where Prism magic shines.

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A combination of lush beaches, sweeping fields with craggy water ways, and one very boggy marsh, Morganite is on the southwest side of the country on the coast on the border with Nospos, and it is also surrounded by Sphalerite, Ruby, and Diamond districts. With input from Becca, Ginny looked to southern France for imagery for Morganite. Fields of lavender are home to wild horses, the big bulls needed for Sapphire, and wineries. There are bits of French charm around every corner or stream

Unfortunately, all that water historically leads to problems in the spring and summer, as the influx of rain can cause flooding. The locals are used to it, but preparations still have to made. Unfortunately, the local nobility, in particular the baroness, and the local higher class merchants aren’t seeing eye to eye. (Beware of sandwich jokes, there’s hidden meaning around here…) The only help for all of this? An elderly knight, tucked away in his tower among the marshes. If only you could reach him, you might be able to get everything ready on time! Despite the weather, the atmosphere of the hamlets and the beaches have brought out the classically cute style in terms of fashion.

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Seeing as how there is a huge marsh to deal with, you’re going to need a second horse if you hope to navigate it. Morganite is home to the special quest that gains you in-game currency to purchase a draft horse. If you’ve only unlocked Morganite at that time, your option is the Percheon. In addition, the area’s specialty is show jumping, but there are a handful of ranches that raise cattle or horses, so a good all-around horse in the Selle Francais is available. And considering how adorable the rest of the district is, of course there’s a pony running around: the Welsh pony, specifically.

percheron

Prism magic resonates with La on the solfege scale. Prism is magic of the light, literally, and is the definition of jack of all trades, master of none in terms of spell range. If a person aligns with Prism magic, they tend to be very transparent, but watch out because that doesn’t mean there aren’t hidden depths. They are the definition of optimism, and always see the best in others–even where others can’t. On the small scale, Prism magic summons light–from that of the stars, the sun, or the moon, or in different colors with each color being capable of a different thing. On the large scale, it is the power of illusions, making the mind believe something is there that isn’t or appearing different. It’s very handy for some quick costume changes! However, perhaps to balance it’s versatility and stable nature, very little Prism magic directly impacts reality.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Morganite, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Morganite mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Charlotte Mistwaltz (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending).
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Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sapphire, where Ether magic brings out the power of the celestial in us all.

A twisting hill land of grasses and sand that is close enough to the Highwind Desert to affect the local climate, Sapphire is on the northeast side of the country up against the foot of the Whistlebacks, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Emerald, and Citrine districts. Southern Spain was the inspiration for this district of Astranar (which makes sense considering the location of the equator for both countries). With tall, gleaming white buildings set in mazes among hills and winding dirt roads, Sapphire seems a lot more sparse than it is, with a rich history and ancient runes that hint at the past for Astranar. Of course, if you can find them is the trick there, since some of those ruins are quite out of the way.

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The nobility find Sapphire a welcome change of pace, and so there’s a heavy collection of them around. Some are lords, there’s a count and a local knight… Why so many flock can also be nailed down to the “exiled” prince, Sebastian, who makes his home at his family’s estate in Sapphire. Why he was removed from the line of succession is a mystery that the royal family has kept private… Some of the lords may also be by because Sapphire has a large bull fighting arena. (For those of you who have read Emerald‘s entry, you can imagine how big of a problem that can be!) Fashion in Sapphire is just a bit kooky–steampunk is the name of a game, perhaps as a nod towards formality for the gentry?

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With all the grassland hills and beaches, horses that do well on the straight and on sandy terrain are best suited to Sapphire. Good thing they have the breed books for Arabians and Barbs! In addition, they have the Hackney Horse for those who might be more inclined to their high speed trotting and delicate lines. The racing specialty around these parts is the straightforward flat race, though of course nothing is ever that simple, right?

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Ether magic resonates with So on the solfege scale. Ether is magic of the spirit, and in many ways is closer to “traditional” forms of magic. Those of the Ether don’t really take the beaten path, as they serve as bridges between Earth, the heavens, the spirit, and the body, though they value safety with their independence. They are deep thinkers who you can often find holed up in a lab of some sort. On the small scale, Ether magic can tolerate dualities, like hot and cold, have higher endurance of thirst, fatigue, or hunger, or converse/interact with spirits or ghosts. On the large scale, it is the power of alchemy, changing one element for another among other things, and space magic. Be careful not to form a baby star in your backyard!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sapphire, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sapphire mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Minna Opuswright (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Veronica Highflute (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Want those profiles to come sooner? Consider buying us a ko-fi.