Pet Spotlight: Dogs

Pet Spotlight: Dogs

Our first pet post has to be about man’s best friend. Or rather, in this case, girl’s best friend. These friendly balls of energy and fur are all smaller breeds, convenient to keep in your dorm rooms, your saddle bags, and to follow you along on foot. Dogs 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.

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So what kinds of dogs will you have to pick from? Well, all kinds, but we’ve created a “starter” list that we’ll open the game with, and different coat colors and breeds will come along as part of an update schedule. They will always be of a small or toy breed though–we want you to be able to carry your friend with you in your second saddlebag, after all. Though there will be puzzles that you can train your pet to help you solve as they can get to places that you can’t. But for them, it’s just fun!

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The initial grouping hopefully leaves something for everyone. There are tough-looking dogs (that we all know just want to lick our faces), frilly dogs with lots of curls, silly dogs that just want to run and play, and no real nationality gets favoritism. (Except maybe Corgis because we are biased.) 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.

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Whatever your speed, these pups will be with you the whole way. Whoever you take home is a best friend for life. Of course, hopefully your horse agrees and doesn’t get jealous! (You never know, they get so fussy…)

Let’s Make Something

Let’s Make Something

Now that the player has someplace to live and keep their horses, well, they’re own little farm. They need something to do on their farm. That’s right. Crafting.

In combat MMOs, crafting is now considered one of the basic features of the game. It doesn’t matter that in a combat MMO you’re probably just getting materials to make new armor or put together some potions, crafting is there and part of the experience. In Mystic Riders, crafting is part of what drives the story as the character chases after the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

As the player unlocks camp locations, they can choose to learn new skills. In the beginning, they can learn 3 different skills, one racing, one ‘craft’ skill and one ‘arts’ skill.

The racing skill they choose is determined by their district and the answers they gave to the quiz. (If they don’t like that type of skill, they can always take the quiz again to get a different district.) And then once they are at camp, they can choose two other skills from the different activities offered.

The Craft skills are hiking, running, swimming, gardening, cooking, photography, archery, and fishing. The Art skills are cloth crafts, leather crafts, wood/paper crafts, ceramics, and lastly, metal crafts. As the player uses their skills, they’ll get better at them. The more they craft, the better they’ll be at it. (Exactly the same mechanic used for riding, jumping, or caring for your horse.)

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Some of the craft skills and all of the art skills have trees of knowledge that increase in difficulty. When you first start sewing for example, you’ll be learning to make curtains and pillowcases, but when you become more advanced, you can make tailored clothes! As the player increases in skill, new quests to learn more advanced techniques will open up for them to play, and new items will be available for them to make.

After you learn to hike, you can learn orienteering and eventually go onto geocaching and archaeology. Running leads to the skills of yoga, dance, and fencing or martial arts. Once you learn to swim, you can learn to row a boat. After you learn to garden, you can learn how to take care of animals, and mine responsibly. (I’d consider gardening to be the most basic skill to take and strongly urge players to get it started first.) Once you learn to cook, you can learn to bake, make candy, and brew things such as potions, lotions, and perfumes.

After you learn to sew square things, you can learn to make clothes, and then advanced more tailored clothes and knitting. In leather crafts, first you make belts, handbags, and shoes, and then you can learn to make bridles and saddles. In woodcrafts, you first learn to make paper items, and things such as picture frames. Then you can learn to make furniture and musical instruments. In ceramics, first you learn poured ceramics (like plaster) and slab style ceramics, and then you can learn the pottery wheel, and eventually go onto glass making. In metal crafts, you learn to make jewelry and simple things like nails and decorative objects, then later forging.

Some of this obviously is going to need to be worked out and is subject to change.

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The crafting system is meant to tie in with the story, the professions, the My Farm/My Stable, and even the factions in Mystic Riders. During the story, the character will be asked to use certain skills. And how easily they manage them is going to depend on how much time they’ve put into that skill.

If you want to take part in a certain profession in the game and get the special items, you’re going to need skill and reputation with the groups related to that profession. The more work you put into your skills, the bigger and better your farm and stable can become. If you want better horse shoes, it’s going to be much cheaper to learn to forge your own than to buy them. And there are certain items you can only make if you’re with one faction or the other.

The items they make and grow can be food for them or their horses, it can be clothing or gear, or jewelry to help with their magic abilities. They can create items to decorate their My Farm/My Stable inside and out.

As the player runs around the world and does the quests and as they level up in their skill levels, they’ll discover, be given, or can buy different crafting recipes or patterns. These they can keep in their library at their My Farm/My Stable for reference later.

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They can grow the items they need at the My Farm/My Stable, forage them from the world around them, or be able to buy items in shops if they’re pressed for time. Just because one player is going to want to make their outfit from growing the cotton to finished product, doesn’t mean another player is going to want to do that, and we can accommodate both.

Because crafting is going to be a large part of the game, we have set some limits on how long things will take to grow in the garden for instance. Nothing should take more than fifteen minutes and when the server resets, everything will be instantly ready. We don’t want to frustrate our players or make them babysit the game waiting for things to finish. Certain areas of the game will have items the player can forage. The items will be refreshed when the player leaves that area and returns. And so it’s not all drag and drop mechanics, we hope to use different mini games to liven up the experience.

For instance, in sewing you could trace the pattern on the screen. For forging, there could be a slide bar mini game where you need to hit the mouse at a certain time. For cooking, you could take the ingredients and make sure each row of ingredients has the right number of them and possibly in the right order.

We want people to have fun and hopefully relax during the game. Farming and crafting and using the items that result to decorate your My Farm/My Stable can be very relaxing activities! Crafting is yet another way we want to give the players more control over their experience to enjoy the game they want to enjoy it without making it a grind or tedious and mind numbing.

A Place of Your Own

A Place of Your Own

A large part of Mystic Riders involves the ability to grow and make your own items. And in order to do that, you need a place of your own to be able to grow your own ingredients or store things that you’ve foraged. Plus, you can’t keep all your horses at the camp forever. You need your own place and that is the My Farm/My Stable.

The My Farm/My Stable is available to players who buy a pass to leave the camp (or in essence, buy the game). Once they have a pass, the mentor of their camp will show them their own Farm and Stable and walk the player through choosing a set up for a Farm and Stable of their own.

The My Farm/My Stable exist in well, magic space. What the player needs to access their farm and stable is their magical key, and a special gate. When they put the key into the special gate, a portal appears to their bit of land in Astranar. They can either keep the key with them, or set it up in one of permanent gates on the map. (Going home to your stable is always a free transportation jump that doesn’t require using a train.)

The key to their farm and stable is a snow globe! (Snow globes are very magical in Astranar.) The player has the opportunity to customize their snow globe key by choosing one of the districts symbols for the middle and a color from the color palette. (These can always be changed later.)

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When the player drags and drops their key onto the gate for the first time, they’ll be prompted to choose a style of farm that they want. While the player won’t be able to choose the placement of the buildings on their farm, they’ll be able to choose whether or not they have a cottage or a tree house and about a half a dozen styles ranging from French Empire, Queen Anne, Modern Eco Victorian, and so on and so forth to choose from, and they can choose if they want stone or stucco or painted clapboard. There will also be decorations to make or buy so they can decorate to their heart’s content.

The player will also be prompted to name their My Farm/My Stable.

The player will start with a small 1 bedroom cottage, a stable with 3 stalls that looks like a country church without a steeple, and a patch of dirt. As they do quests around the districts, they’ll be able to upgrade and add buildings and animal enclosures to their farm. Some of the first quests after the player acquires their farm will be to fill the stalls of their stable with a draft horse and a pony!

For example, as a player does farming quests around the district, they’ll be able to upgrade their patch of dirt so it has less rocks, or they learn how to improve the soil, thus letting plants grow faster or yield more. By learning about animals from farmers and veterinarians, they can build enclosures for bunnies, chickens, and an animal pen for bigger animals like sheep, cows, alpaca, and goats. (This is going to depend on their crafting specialty what animals they find more important. A player that takes up doing clothing is more likely to have an alpaca over say a goat, unless the goat is a cashmere goat.)

Once the player goes to the Diamond District and learns about hot houses, they’ll be able to build a conservatory in their farm if they so desire. When they learn forging, they’ll be able to build a forge on their farm. And if they want a pony cart, they can build a building specifically to hold their pony cart.

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When they complete a quest to make friends or capture one of the fantasy horses in the mirror world, they’ll be able to open a gate to the mirror world from their farm to a magical glade. This magical glade will have a pavilion for them to take care of their magical horses, a garden, and enclosures for magical animals.

The My Farm/My Stable is intended as a place for the player to be able to continually improve as the game progresses. It is “their” space in the game to make it look the way they want. They can use the farm to grow plants in order not to have to buy them at the stores and as a place to keep extra inventory and pets. Lastly, the My Stable is a place for them to house the completely optional horses (outside one draft and one pony) they can collect in the game.

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

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 Emerald (no wizards or tin men here, though lions, hmmm), where Air magic inspires action.

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The closest thing to a tropical jungle that Astranar has, with lush greenery and a mangrove forest, Emerald is on the northeast side of the country up against the low point of the Whistlebacks and the coast, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Sapphire, and Citrine districts. Ginny looked to the interior of Puerto Rico for how the district shaped up. The forests are one aspect, covering hills and low mountains, parting to show some bits of green land and lakes. There are also underground caves of beautiful stone. Emerald is home to the Astranar Zoo, which was recently purchased by a well-intentioned conservationist, and is home to several crazy species.

The mountains and forest are dense enough to prevent an invasion, so there are no knights in Emerald, but there are a handful of nobility, with a count helping organize the four local lords, who do a fast pace in trade of the tropical crops that can only be found in Emerald. This is slightly problematic because there is a strong eco-savvy movement in Emerald that detests “stealing from nature.” They set the tone for the fashion, which is fairly bohemian in style as they work to inspire lack of waste.

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Sometimes to get where you are going among the dense trees and water, you need to be in the saddle a long time. And with space at a premium, smaller arenas are for the best. As a result, the district specialty is dressage, and the local horses are a mix. For those who favor tradition, you have the Andalusian and Persano. However, if you would prefer something a little different, there is a South American horse who is actually an ambler rather than the usual trotting style: the Paso Fino.

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Air magic resonates with Fa on the solfege scale. A bridge between fire and water, air is the path to goals, though it may jump around from time to time. Air magicians are intellectuals who seek wisdom…they just may be all over the place trying to find it. They are good at helping ease conflict between friends by talking it out. On the small scale, Air magic can summon a fresh breeze or help you see or hear something from far away. On the large scale, it can be a summon special types of wind, changing it from direction to properties, and manipulate the weather. Of course, if you bring a cyclone down on everyone’s head’s, you’ll have a lot to answer for!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Emerald, 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 Emerald mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Elena Treeharmony (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

What Do You Want to Be?

What Do You Want to Be?

We all heard that question growing up. What are you going to do when you grow up and go to college? And it’s asked from ages 8 to 20. Since it is such a heavy part of the preteen and teenage experience, we decided to modify a common MMORPG element to suit. (Or is it old Final Fantasy? This was a Ginny thing, my knowledge of the source is vague.) That’s right, we’ve got professions.

The player has eight professions to pick from to start with, and the way I look at them is sort of like base Dungeons and Dragons sub-classes. While you can use stats and gear to identify as your main class, a.k.a. what kind of rider you are and where you put your skill focuses like a fighter picking strength and fighter feats and a rogue focusing on dexterity and ways to be sneaky, a profession lets you add an additional level of flavor (and lets you do something with all those reputation points you are hopefully earning), like being a specific type of rogue like a shadow walker or being a teamwork oriented fighter.

So what professions do we offer? Well, let’s do a short little breakdown…

Jockey

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Now, jockey is a bit of a catch-all term here. What this is really meant is someone who wants to compete with horses professionally. This could be dressage, show jumping, endurance, barrel racing, or pole bending. All that matters is a competitive spirit and a horse is involved. If you take this profession, you will always be on the look out for the best gear, the best horses, and the next race. The mentor you’ll want to seek out is Lottie in Morganite, since…she’s pretty much the only one with experience in both English and Western disciplines for more than a year except Var, and unless you share Var’s culture, that’s a no go (and Lottie has a surprising competitive streak if you can bring it out).

Entertainer

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Again, this one is a catch-all term, but the idea is this profession is for anyone who is interested in the entertainment/performance arts. From dancers and singers to actors and instrumentalists, it covers all the bases. There are opportunities to hone your dancing, singing, and other skills throughout Astranar, as long as you seek them out. As seems obvious, the Diamond Media Complex and all of its various agents and principals are the folks to seek reputation with, but there are smaller theaters and venues too, and your own mentors (whether Light or Shadow) have a camp idol group that you can help. For all of this, the person you’ll want to seek out is Viva in Citrine, who knows all about the hard work to break into the business and will be ready to offer that advice, plus she might have some cool tricks to work into dance routines from her rhythmic gymnastic days.

Farmer

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Whether its working with plants or animals (or both!), the farmers are interested in taking care of the land. Their customizable farm and stable is their dream come true to help collect different farm animals and types of crops. The local farmers are more than happy to offer tips and tricks to find rare plants or animals, and there are grannies, bakers, craftsmen (and women) and smiths with recipes or skills to help market your goods depending on your fancy. There are even rare plants and animals to be found in the Mirror World, giving you a wild new world to explore! Regardless of your focus, Len is the girl to seek out in Emerald if this floats your fancy. She’s always interested in a cause for the environment, and she even has a bonsai tree that she’ll show you if you promise to be careful.

Spa Owner

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With avatars this customizable, you know someone is going to want to be a makeover queen. Well, do we have the profession for you. Spa owners take the hair, nails, and other physical customizing to a whole new level. If you love playing with hair and make-up, you’re going to be on the hunt of Fashion Week for what is the new cutting edge. Besides playing around with every hair and character base in the game, the spa owner is going to want to get the favor of certain members of the Style Secret Service who deal with hair and make-up, such as Eden in the employ of Rose Neptuna or his brother Cain. Your mentor is (oddly) also going to be Len for this profession, she is really big on green and vegan products being used in spas, but she knows her stuff about what’s good for different skins and bodies.

Interior Designer

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If you prefer your decorating to the rooms, whelp, we have you covered there too. This profession is for the collectors of every type of wallpaper and rug we come up with, trying every combination to see what works, regardless of personal preference or style. (And there’s a lot to go around.) There are various shop owners, artists, craftspeople, and others to find, not to mention you could always learn how to make your custom furniture yourself and dye the rug the specific shade of blue to go with the tin ceiling. There are also public decorating events that could definitely use your careful eye! The mentor for this careful work is Izzy in Amethyst, whose level of matching and theme thrills the Style Secret Service and while she’s odd about her personal colors, she is always sure that her designs match people’s personalities.

Fashionista

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While spa owners may have dibs on hair and make-up, the fashionista is all about the clothes and the gear. From mixing and matching patterns and colors to perfectly working with people’s skin tones, they are all about the whole look. It doesn’t matter if they want to wear the clothes, make the clothes, or take pictures of people in the clothes, they are interested in some element of it. They also work closely with the Style Secret Service, with many designers keeping Astranar’s Fashion Week afloat–and you can imagine that Fashion Week is this profession’s Christmas! Some noted designers and stylists to meet up with are Arabella Threadsnip, Capucine, and even hip-hop artist Hi-Fidelity (supposedly). Head over to Ruby and ask for Ves if you want her advice on fashion, whether its her own punk or any of the others in Astranar–after being dorm mates with Lottie, she can handle anything.

Archaeologist

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This is definitely the hardest of the professions, and for those who are really invested in the lore and world building, so be warned! Archaeologists go everywhere and anywhere to help solve the mysteries of the world. While the player is always going to find the answers they seek to Astranar’s current problems, archaeologists are interested in the past ones and what they did to shape the current Astranar. (A.k.a. this is where Ginny and I get to hide all the Easter eggs, mwuahahah.) There are several explorers throughout Astranar who share this passion for history and exploration, including Trader Trouble who keeps getting himself stuck into odd problems, though at least when he gets really stuck, he pays well for help getting out of it! Sharing this love of history and exploring is Minnie in Sapphire. While you may have to deal with everything ending up on her vlog, she’s full of great places to start your adventures.

Chef

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Last but certainly not least is those who are drawn to the culinary arts. From cooks to fine dining to patisseries to bakers, the world needs more people who are willing to cook! Astranar has cuisines from all over the world and secret recipes in both the normal and Mirror World for some seriously good treats. Whatever you want to specialize in, there’s bound to be someone who can offer you advice. Some of Astranar’s top chefs include Edith Yeast, a slightly-mad food scientist, and Helen Highfoam, who helps everyone learn how to cook. The mentor of cooking is Kitty, because unlike some people *cough*Lottie*cough*Len*cough*Izzy*cough* she remembers to pack her lunch, and she knows all about nutrition and the industry from her grandparents who run a traditional inn back in Japan.

These professions just scratch the surface of the things someone can do (and we have plans for that, but remember, these are the core sub-classes, we can go into prestige classes later), but we hope can help girls realize some of their potential. Some of these professions in reality, like fashion and entertainers and chefs, are very male oriented and its hard to make it in those businesses. But by introducing some of the basic concepts of those professions, the groundwork that goes into following them, we hope we can prepare girls to succeed no matter what direction or obstacles might happen.

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 baroness 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.