Pet Spotlight: Ferret

Pet Spotlight: Ferret

Fluffy and yet elegant, ferrets and stoats have a reputation of royalty, playfulness… and just a bit of mischief. Since the Light magic users have exclusive rights to the rabbit, it seems only fair that the Shadow magic users have exclusive access to ferrets. Ferrets in all their limited variety of colors and patterns are available in every district, or you can find them in the wild to be tamed though be careful not to try this on babies or their mother, the magic won’t work on them.

Ferrets are a long noodle of play and adorable behavior at its finest. While they can sometimes get into everything and anything that their heads can fit into, they are also remarkably sweet and can be very well mannered pets. Many even have “rules” for how they play, and they can act very dramatic if they accidentally break those rules. The ones Astranar offers to players (and that are willing to be bespelled by the magic) are those that confident enough to handle being on a harness and leash and go for a walk as well as content to ride in your saddle bag rather than climbing all over you and your horse.

Much like their rabbit friends, ferrets have a cartoon reputation, but that’s as villains and tricksters. And okay, their curiosity might get them into trouble occasionally, but look at those little faces. How can you stay mad at them? As long as you keep a close eye on them, they shouldn’t get into too much trouble, and they can be good deterrents of pests in your rooms. Of course, if you have a roommate who has a rabbit, you might have some problems getting them to behave around each other…

Despite their reputation, ferrets are elegant pets that are much beloved by their Shadow rider owners. Maybe their insistence on rules of engagement will rub off on them a bit… But this is the last of our mundane pets, and before we get into the more limited edition options, we need to get back to horses. See us next week as we reveal more of our horses!

Pet Spotlight: Rabbit

Pet Spotlight: Rabbit

Cute and fluffy, these snuggle buddies are sensitive to their surroundings in surprising ways. Because of the frequent explosions that are part of the instability with Shadow Magic, they tend to be Light Magic practitioner pets only. Rabbits in all sorts of colors and patterns are available in every district, or you can find them in the wild to be tamed though be careful not to try this on babies or their mother, the magic won’t work on them.

Most think of rabbits as being shy and not the most friendly of pets. This really depends on the rabbit. Some can be very affectionate, and in their comfort of their homes, they have no sense of boundaries. (They can, and will, wake you up in bed if they have decided you’ve gotten enough sleep.) They have very distinct personalities and will let you know what they think. The ones Astranar offers to players (and that are willing to be bespelled by the magic) are those that confident enough to handle being on a harness and leash and go for a walk.

Cartoons would have you believe that all rabbits eat are carrots. But that’s not true! They are herbivores, and the pet store will help you make sure that you have the right foods to fit your rabbit’s needs, as well as tell you what makes good treats for them. You can also get them harnesses and crates for your room to make sure they are adequately taken care of. Just keep an eye on them if you let them out of your saddlebag to wander–they may wander into someone’s garden and cause all sorts of mischief!

These little rascals are very cute, but can get into trouble. Maybe that says something about Light Riders! (Beware the quiet/sweet ones…? Becca just has the paella episode of Good Eats in her head now…) But maybe they are a little…too cute. You want something that seems a little tougher. A little more energetic. And while cute, it is also a bit more elegant. Check out the Shadow Rider’s exclusive pet next week! (And then it’s back to horse breeds. Soooo many horse breeds to do still.)

Pet Spotlight: Wild Cat

Pet Spotlight: Wild Cat

These cats, much like their wolf friends, aren’t so much pets as fosters. Much like with the wolves, once they learned of the situation for these wild cats, the educational program started a second in an effort to keep these wild cats’ population settled and thriving, without infringing on humans. Kittens are cared for and made used to humans (as friends, not potential enemies) before they are released back into the wild. They look like fuzzy kittens at this stage, but it doesn’t last long. Wildcat kittens are available in every district, though you’ll have to catch the program as it cycles through, but they cannot be tamed or caught in the wild or purchased in a shop.

Wild cat kittens can and will get into everything and anything. It’s a big world to explore, and they don’t really have an understanding of how small they are in it. As troublesome as any kitten and just as cute, these kittens will fight for themselves though and sometimes need rescued before they get in too deep. They’ll want to examine anything new they encounter and climb every tree that they find. This could lead to them getting stuck high in the branches, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on your friend.

Common Wild Cats, kittens / (Felis silvestris)

The education group fosters kittens out for six months. After that, it’s important for the kittens to be returned to the group so they can continue with their work to integrate the kitten and allow it to manage a territory without infringing on farmlands or being threatened by humans. Very rarely, someone will have a kitten for longer, but that’s usually because of either a health issue with the kitten that is still being treated or because the kitten was orphaned and the program is figuring out the best placement. (Possibly as an animal ambassador at a zoo.)

As cute as they are, it’s important to remember that these are wild cats, not domesticated tabbies, so they are still wild animals. They are meant to be temporary friends at best, but they will teach you so much about the instincts of nature. Now, there are some pets that are going to be uniquely available to you depending on the faction that you pick, Light or Shadow. Next week, we’ll start introducing them!

(AS A NOTE: Ginny and Becca are offering a wild cat option to appeal to players in a way that is at least making a nod to the true situations of wild cats that find themselves in the pet trade, who are in desperate need of sanctuary as people don’t know how to raise them and end up way over their head. Wild cats, from the Bavarian wild cats we reference to cougars to tigers, are not meant to be household pets, which is why wild cats aren’t a pet you can keep in the game. Exact mechanics are up for debate with a programmer…when we get one.)

Pet Spotlight: Wolf

Pet Spotlight: Wolf

These wolves aren’t so much pets as fosters. In an effort to keep the wolf population settled and thriving, without infringing on humans, an educational program takes the pups around to be cared for and made used to humans (as friends, not food) before they are released back into the wild. All paws and curious noses, they get into as much trouble as they get out of. Wolf pups are available in every district, though you’ll have to catch the program as it cycles through, but they cannot be tamed or caught in the wild or purchased in a shop.

Wolf pups take a lot of work, including a specialized diet that would mimic what their mothers would provide for them. Their heightened sense of smell and hearing means they have a high play drive like a puppy… they just aren’t nearly as obedient. They’ll want to examine anything new they encounter. This could be running off at any time or it may mean chewing on something they aren’t supposed to, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on your friend.

The education group fosters pups out for six months. After that, it’s important for the pups to be returned to the group so they can continue with their work to integrate the pup back into a pack and allow it to manage a territory without infringing on farmlands or being threatened by humans. Very rarely, someone will have a pup for longer, but that’s usually because of either a health issue with the pup that is still being treated or because the pup was orphaned and the program is figuring out the best placement.

As cute as they are, it’s important to remember that these are wolves, not dogs, so they are still wild animals. They are meant to be temporary friends at best, but they will teach you so much about the instincts of nature. Oh wait, you’re a cat person instead? No worries, the wolf education program has a sister-program that may be right up your alley.

(AS A NOTE: Ginny and Becca are offering a wolf option to appeal to players in a way that is at least making a nod to the true situations of wolves and wolf-dogs, who are in desperate need of sanctuary as people don’t know how to raise them and many hate them illogically on sight, even when they haven’t done anything to livestock. Wolves have a place in our ecosystems, not in our homes, which is why wolves aren’t a pet you can keep in the game. Exact mechanics are up for debate with a programmer…when we get one.)

Pet Spotlight: Otters

Pet Spotlight: Otters

No, not the massive river otters we talked about before. Those are a problem in Emerald to deal with (they steal the watermelons), not pets. These are the frankly adorable small river otters that you frequently see on zoo documentaries. While they are trouble-making, curious little urchins, they are also very sweet. Otters are available in every district, and if you stumble across in the wild, you can use spells and bribes to tame one.

Otters eat fish, clams, and other river denizens they can get their hands on. Their small claws mean they are excellent at solving puzzles, but their curiosity can frequently get them into trouble. They’ll want to examine anything new they encounter…which may mean chewing on something they aren’t supposed to, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on your friend. But if they offer you some of their spoils, that’s a sign of true companionship between otters, so you should take it with grace.

If you want to tame your own, you can find otters along river banks, particularly ones with lots of trees or tall grasses for them to hide in from larger predators. The better the fishing, the more likely an otter tribe or two can be in the area.. Alternatively, there are breeders (like you’d find for dogs and cats) that can adopt you a otter if you’re either in a not-particularly wooded or river-clad district, or it sounds like more work than you want to invest.

While they are loud and get their noses into everything, there’s just a lot of enjoyment in watching an otter play and explore. They can make the best of companions on your adventures through Astranar. Or perhaps they still aren’t wild enough for you? Well, we could have you covered next week with something that’s less of a pet, more of a foster situation…

Pet Spotlight: Badgers

Pet Spotlight: Badgers

…Yes, we mean badgers. (Look, it’s only going to get stranger as we go, so you know, brace yourselves.) There are lots of children’s books that include badgers as major characters, either as kind dears or… well, cranky, “get off my lawn!” guys. For some people, they are their favorite characters and while having a badger isn’t normal anywhere else, this is Astranar (and a video game). Badgers are available in every district, and if you stumble across in the wild, you can use spells and bribes to tame one.

Badgers (and badger kits) may look super cuddly, but beware–they are browsers, so their breath may not smell particularly sweet. English badgers tend to be a bit more shy and mellow than their American counterparts, but some people like the gruff old men. (Okay, Becca likes the old grumps because of a certain Disney movie about foxes and dogs…) Either way, they are forest critters.

If you want to tame your own, you can find badgers in the woods with heavy brush fall to get through, since they like their sets to be well hidden. Alternatively, there are breeders (like you’d find for dogs and cats) that can adopt you a badger if you’re either in a not-particularly wooded district, or it sounds like more work than you want to invest.

Astranar is sometimes not quite as culturally the same as anywhere else, and the badgers are perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. For some, they appreciate the weird and want to adopt one of their own. For others, they’d prefer something that didn’t have a tendency to be cranky…and maybe a little water proof. For that, you’ll want next week’s pet!

Pet Spotlight: Piglets

Pet Spotlight: Piglets

Okay, we know this one is weird. But there’s a lot of us who grew up on Charlotte’s Web, including Becca who is terrified of spiders, and so piglets remain cute little friends. Since the pigs are babies, they fit inside of your saddlebag, but also can be carried or walk alongside you (for now). Piglets are available in every district, and they aren’t a pet you can tame so you’ll have to pay the adoption fees for one. (They can’t exactly live in the wild, and taking someone else’s pig is stealing.)

Piglets are omnivores and eat anything, making them excellent companions if you are someone who likes the kitchen…as long as you aren’t cooking bacon, ham, or BBQ. (Don’t encourage cannibalism, or risk offending your friend!) They may be small and cute to start with, but they grow up to be a lot bigger! So if you do invite them into your kitchen, make sure you plan for a big enough seat for them.

Since pigs are notably difficult to domesticate and keep domesticated, we’ve decided to stick to the varieties of pig that have at least a few generations of domestication in them. So no wild boar piglets or warthogs–though if you go to the Emerald Zoo, you may see a few on exhibit (and one walking around on a leash that you can pet). Some farmers keep the larger cousins to your pet, and would be willing to take him on if he gets too big for you to handle and they always have new piglets to sell.

Definitely not the cute pet that used to appear in photos (oh God, Becca just showed how old she was), Astranar is home to stranger things than a girl riding past with a piglet in her saddlebag. Is a pig the right pet for you? If it isn’t quite what you had in mind, too cheerful maybe, check at the cute (albeit cranky) pet next week!

Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

I’m speaking as Becca here, so excuse me as occasionally I break the plural “we” I try to use to reference Ginny and I in prior posts. We have had discussions about not only where we stand, but also what we should do with this blog. And of course, how we can help.

Both of us believe in the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. Both of us want to support it.

Of course, we are two writers who are running a gaming blog to try and get sponsorship–there isn’t any money to speak of right now, and neither of us are comfortable going to the protests for health reasons. So we had to look at what we could do. The first thing, obviously, is this blog post showing that we stand with them and support the protests.

Next, we looked at what we could control, that being the characters in the game and representation. We knew we had covered our bases with the playable character creation, we have twenty different skin tones. You will be able to play with all options of skin tones available right at the get go. While right now how many features are set and how many can be customized are in flux because we don’t have an engine, we hope that we are going to continue to be able to provide a wide range there too. Whenever we create “sample” or filler player characters, we always go middle of the road–i.e. olive skin, brown hair, brown eyes–not white.

The next step beyond the player character is the characters you interact with the most. For our game, that’s the mentor-characters. There are seven Light Riders, five Shadow Riders, and because the Diamond District is “neutral” and not claimed by any set mentor, I count the younger prince and princess twins as the district representatives since they will be your source of info in terms of what’s going on and how to do things. So that puts us at fourteen characters to check our ratios on.

Keep in mind, this is our starting area. In an ideal world, there’s three other countries to unlock. For sake of sanity, each has their own, global influence. Astranar’s influence is Europe. But because it’s our starting area, I felt like we needed to push the ratio farther than what most racial statistics tell me the ratio is for Europe, not only to be fair for representation, but also to be realistic to the fact this is one continent, some crossover is going to happen more.

Upon review and some mapping of the characters by Ginny, we decided that yep, we needed to do some adjusting, which had a minor ripple on to another character who wasn’t adjusted. But thankfully we are now happy with it. Since I don’t remember who all has been mentioned where in what context, and editing past history can be viewed very badly in these turbulent times, I am instead going to list out our district representative characters and their current, possibly new backgrounds as well as the thinking behind it all.

Light Riders:
Vesper “Ves” Leilament–American and white, no change.
Shizuka “Kitty” Sweetsong–Japanese and Asian, no change.
Vivienne “Viva” Streetbeats–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Elena “Len” Treeharmony–Brazilian and olive complexion, no change
Minna “Minnie” Opuswright–German and black, she is the one who changed the most and the least at the same time. Minnie’s original character for a different project was German and black, we switched her to Middle Eastern when we changed projects before the Shadow Riders existed…and now we’ve changed her back.
Charlotte “Lottie” Mistwaltz–French and white, no change.
Isidora “Izzy” Silvertreble–Russian and white, no change.

Shadow Riders:
Vanessa “Nessie” Ribbonmelody–changed from German to Swiss since Minnie is now (back) to being German, and white, no other change.
Victoria “Vickie” Blackpiano–English and changed from white to being of Indian descent. She grew up in London still, but her family would have immigrated. I wanted us to have more representation from Asia, and it fit the character really well to make this transition. I’m sure we’ll find further edits down the road that will need to happen. (Like my scripts for demo weeks. I literally just realized that. Next on my to do list!)
Veronica “Roni” Highflute–Greek and olive complexion, no change.
Vivian “Viv” Streetbeats (no, not a typo, I swear)–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Varteni “Var” Heatforte: Armenian and olive complexion, no change.

Royals:
Princess Rowan–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.
Prince Elowen–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.

Hopefully this ratio makes sense, covers everything well for the start and then we can build it up as we go to other countries to keep things equal. I obviously will have to review our current characters and our new characters as we build them, and make sure each group fits this ratio. Most of the groups aren’t finished yet, which makes it harder to see where we are at, but obviously as the game continues to develop, we will keep a sharp eye on our ratio.

Ginny and I haven’t talked much about the police, but we have talked about having small mounted police, and they will be spread out. We are definitely not going to have any kind of military present in the game, aside from guards in the palace (which is like the Secret Service) and you may run into one cop in an area. Interaction will be limited with them.

Hopefully these steps will show that we are committed to equality and we want to help. If you have any thoughts for how we can further make adjustments, please let me know in the comments or to our e-mail, and we will see what we can do. Change is needed, and we will do our best to speed it along.

Pet Spotlight: Roosters

Pet Spotlight: Roosters

We have to cater to the people who have birds as pets, right? But there’s the issue of them flying away or what if someone else’s cat tries to eat them… We needed a bird that was big enough to be seen and could at least…sorta…fight back. They fit inside of your saddlebag, but also can be carried or walk alongside you. Roosters are available in every district, and they aren’t a pet you can tame so you’ll have to pay the adoption fees for one. (They can’t exactly live in the wild, and taking someone else’s rooster is stealing.)

Independent and protective, roosters are a good replacement for a guard dog. Their feathers come in a beautiful array of colors. Assume, of course, that with our roosters, the spurs have been cut so they aren’t fighting roosters, though those beaks and feet can still hurt if they get into trouble. Rather than specific breeds, we are going by the color of plumage or interesting quirks for our roosters, since they come in a wide variety. With a few exceptions.

With chickens and roosters, there’s always going to be some option that we missed, but we try to cover the basics. We had a starting grouping of colors, from blonde to red to brown to black and mixes of different colors. Unlike dogs or cats and future other pets that we’ll get to, the roosters will occasionally have true-red, blue-green, or similar bright colors that let them really stand out in a crowd.

While not a “normal” pet to those from the city or suburb, roosters are familiar to a rural setting and therefore make perfect sense in Astranar. Will you invite this colorful feather duster into your home? If they aren’t quite to your liking, well, maybe their barnyard companion next week will be more your speed.

Pet Spotlight: Cats

Pet Spotlight: Cats

If we have dogs, of course we have to have cats. It’d be the end of the world otherwise. Of course, sometimes cats tend to pick the girl rather than the girl picking the cat, but that makes them a bit like the Astranar Wild Horse, doesn’t it? They fit inside of your saddlebag, but also can be carried or walk alongside you. Cats are available in every district, and they aren’t a pet you can tame so you’ll have to pay the adoption fees for one. (Stray cats become station cat conductors!)

Tabby Cat

Much like with our dogs, we’ve created a “starter” list that we’ll open the game with of different cat varieties, including both long hair and short hair. Other colors and specific breeds will be available through updates, but there’s a catch. Most of the “flat” faced cats won’t be available unless there’s a more humane option, since we are aiming to promote healthy animals over breed specifics with breathing problems. (Becca already has to freak out over her 1-year old rescue kitten since his nose is just flat enough to concern her.)

Orange Tabby

The initial grouping hopefully leaves something for everyone. We had a starting grouping of colors, from blonde to red to brown to black and mixes of different colors, with each breed having one of these colors or patterns to start with. Long or short hair, the patterns will initially be the same regardless, though of course, with further updates, we can change it up. Personality wise, there are always shy cats, adventurous cats, witchy cats (and I don’t mean the hat, just the personality), and many others who will be happy to sit in your saddle bag and purr as you go along.

White Cate

Whichever cat you end up adopting, they will see you as the center of their world…or at least, the one who opens the cans of food, which is basically the same thing. Will you bring one home, or will you hold out for some of our…less conventional…pets that are upcoming?