The In Game You: Player Character Customization

The In Game You: Player Character Customization

At Mystic Riders, we want the players to have as much control over their character as possible, and this includes a commitment to diversity. After the player registers for the game, and takes their quiz to determine their starting district, the player will go through the character creation process.

They will have at least 8 different options to customize their character.

Body Type:

Mystic Riders wants to have three different body types for the game. The difference in body types is going to be the measurements of the hips, bust, and a little bit the waist. We’re giving them shape names so there is hopefully no negative connotations.

The Flower Body is body type with a smaller bust and almost no hips. The Star Body type is the medium body type with a medium bust and some hips. While the Heart Body type is a larger bust, slightly wider waist and big hips. All of these bodies are beautiful and normal!

Skin Tone:

We’ve chosen 20 different skin tones to use in Mystic Riders. 5 Caucasian, 5 Olive, 5 Asian, and 5 African. We want to embrace as many skin tones and undertones as we can from light to dark.

Face:

They can choose their face shape from the standard face shapes like round, heart, square, oval, etc. They won’t be able to choose makeup because they’re arriving on a plane!

Eyes:

They’ll be able to choose a selection of eye colors. Eye colors would be taken from our color palette. In an ideal world, we’d like each section of the face, eyes, lips, and nose to be separate choices. The player would have the options of 5 different eye shapes; almond, round, down turned, up turned, and deep set.

Lips:

If each section of the face is a separate choice, there would be 8 different lip options to choose from. The player would be able to choose lip shapes from a “natural” mouth, thin lips, to “bee stung” and thick “glamour.”

Nose:

Noses would have 6 or 7 options depending on how the noses are sculpted. (Finding good nose references isn’t easy.) Style would include upturned noses, down turned noses, narrow based noses, wide based noses, hook noses, button noses, and hopefully a ‘nubian’ nose.

Hair:

In hair they’ll be able to choose from a selection of “normal” colors (no dye jobs) and from ten basic styles.

 And their 1st Outfit:

Every camp has a camp store with clothing selections available for the player to purchase in the style of their district. The player would be able to choose an outfit from a dress with leggings, 2 blouses, a skirt or a pant and between the district hat or a riding helmet. They wouldn’t be able to show up to camp in the district coats or the muck outfit.

As the game progresses, the player will unlock new clothes to wear and be able to make and buy jewelry. They’ll be able to visit spas to change their hair style and buy makeup and nail polish. They’ll be able to store their new hairstyles, hair colors, and makeup in their vanity on the My Farm/My Stable and keep new clothes and jewelry in the wardrobe.

When a player visits the spa, they’ll be able to play mini games, such as facials, manicures, and hair treatments and hair styling after selecting their new look if they desire. Lip colors and eye makeup will all be drawn from the colors of the color palette. The players will also be able to dye their hair with the same colors. Each district of the game has 7 new hairstyles for the players to buy. This means there is a total of 66 hair styles in the game.

We have 14 clothing store brands planned for the game with clothing styles from basic to vintage to niche styles like steampunk. Each of these store will have mix and match sets for the players to buy. These brands are in every district across Astranar and the island of Argentum. If they go to Ruby, they’ll be able to learn fabric crafts and how to make clothes that much faster.

Clothes, thusly, are level locked rather than zone locked.

Because customizing your character and fashion is so important to the game, we are hopeful that clothing updates to add new styles will be one of the common ‘updates’ to the game. Hopefully, we’ve thought of enough options so everyone can find a look that represents them and things they like to wear.

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.

Can You Hear Me Now? (Main UI)

Can You Hear Me Now? (Main UI)

Astranar is a rather magical place, so much so that cellphones from out of the country don’t work! When the player arrives at camp, they’re given a cellphone that is connected to Argentum’s cellphone network and works in the magical area. This cellphone is the main user interface for Mystic Riders.

The cellphone looks like your typical smart phone. And it has different icon apps that open up different functions in the game. In short, the cellphone is the game’s main menu. So, what features are in our main menu? A lot.

interfacewithmenu

(Rough Idea of Menu design)

One of the biggest functions of the cellphone is that it contains the game map. The player is going to need this map to be able to orient themselves around Astranar. The map will be a 3D style map they can zoom in and out of, and hopefully, will have a road map overlay. There should be marked locations where there are important NPCs, train stations, and shops and restaurants, etc. As the player explores more of the map, fog will lift on the 3D map for them.

interfacewithmap

(The Map While Riding Around; Not Full Screen)

The menu also has the Quest Log Book. Here the player can bring up the quests available to them, select which ones they want to do (markers will appear on the map) and the gold calculator will tell them how many coins they’ll earn from doing those quests. (Always helpful if you need to buy something.)

The player can also access their inventory. The player has two saddlebags on their horse. One saddlebag is for their pet, and the other saddlebag is for their inventory. They can keep everything from feed, to different crafting kits, to their brush, pick, and foldable shovel.

There will be the character menu and the horse menu. These open up interfaces that show the character or horse and what they are wearing. These menus also keep track of the player’s level, care status, currency, and statistics. The player can look at their skill menu, track their achievements in the achievement sticker book, and see how each group in the game feels about them with the reputation tab.

They also will have a friends menu to invite and manage their friends. There will be a club management section if they are part of or run a riding club. They can keep track of their competition results in another menu. They can take pictures with the in-game camera, open the chat function, or send private messages in the in-game email. Lastly, they can access their game settings or get their questions answered in the game help with a report function to message customer support.

If there is an in game radio, the player should be able to access and control what channel they want to listen to through the phone. Channels might include things like orchestral epic soundtrack music, Rose Neptuna’s channel, or channels dedicated to her rivals like Hi-Fidelity (or even an Astranar’s Top 40 that’s a mix of them all? Future thought to chew on).

The player would have the options of being able to customize the phone wallpaper background with game art pictures or pictures from they’ve taken on their in-game camera and to be able to customize the phone case with in-game patterns and colors.

We hope that this style of user interface will be easy to understand and flexible enough that things can be added to it with little trouble if needed. (Maybe we need a game news function for updates, or a section for the game credits.) There are a lot of things going on in an MMO and the in-game phone is the hub for a great deal of it without cluttering the player’s view of the game itself!

Character Spotlight: Bence Mezzohue

Character Spotlight: Bence Mezzohue

Bence (Single)
Artwork courtesy of Ashante Johnson (@earthsong9405)

Name: Bence Mezzohue                                                         Nickname: None
Age:  17                                                                                      Country of Origin: Astranar
Birthday: May 28                                                                      Pet: None

A mysterious boy that you meet in your first week of camp, Bence seems like a pleasant guy with a ready smile who is serious about horses, photography, and not much else. He doesn’t seem to get along too well with the district mentor, but that could just be a clash of personality, since not all of them are easy to be cozy with.  To you, he always seems like a gentleman interested in helping you make the best of your time at Astranar, exploring and finding a sense of freedom and competition.

Effortlessly charming and congenial, Bence is a bit of a flirt, but he treats his friends seriously. Most of his friends are members of the same riding club, but he appears to have a few elsewhere, some from his school, since he attends AEFPS. (Whether or not this includes his cousin Benny, well, that involves finding Benny wherever he is holed up in the mountains to confirm.) He visits people frequently, taking pictures that he develops himself. Bence is also a bit of an explorer, found in some of the wildest parts of Astranar, though what he’s seeking is a bit of a mystery.

An excellent horseman, Bence owns two horses. One is an English Thoroughbred mare named Llamrei that he uses exclusively for dressage and agility events. She is sweet and prim, if snobby. His primary horse is an Astranar Wild stallion named Passelande, who is skilled at cross country and flat-style races. Watch out for him on the turns, because he will bowl you over if you get in his way! Otherwise, he is a stoic but well-trained horse that suits Bence well. Even if it’s rather odd for Bence to own an Astranar Wild Horse, they are rather notorious for preferring girls…

Bence is a member of the expansive Mezzohue family who own a chain of businesses throughout Astranar via his father. His mother attended one of the district camps when she was younger and met his father then, so the rest of his maternal family still lives in India. He gets along well with his younger cousins on that side of the family, particularly one named Mia who he exchanges letters with. He also has a passion for genuine Indian food from his mother, and will instantly pay attention if kulfi is on the line.  While unable to attend the camps himself, that doesn’t stop Bence from visiting them whenever he has a chance.

This summer, Bence can mostly be found hanging out with his friends in the Enchanted Owl Order, who tend to travel among the districts as they find something that interests them. Mostly he seems to be taking pictures of various cultural events or nature. Sometimes, he’ll even help with deciding if someone has the dedication and talent to join his friends’ riding club. He does show an interest in a particular horse who comes in with the spring round up as a possible third horse for his own riding, but they don’t care for him! Perhaps Bence will have better luck with you, that horse’s chosen rider?

Favorite Color: Navy blue
Favorite Horse: English Thoroughbred
Favorite Camp Activity: Photography
Favorite Gemstone: Black opal
Favorite Race: Cross Country

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.

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