The Games Within the Game

The Games Within the Game

Mini-Games. I have touched a lot on mini-games while talking about every other mechanic thus far in the game! Part of our vision for the next stage of MMOs is incorporated mini-games inside the game itself. The biggest examples I can think of is the different hacking style mini games in Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank. The biggest mini- games that most MMOs have are their fishing mini-games. (Almost every MMO I know about has a fishing mini-game in it one way or the other. The original Guild Wars being the weird exception to this.)

Our target demographic, being female, really enjoy smaller style app games like bubble shooter, connect three, and puzzle style mini games. Women love hidden object games as well. When a single player game is made for little girls like oh, Tangled, or Disney Princess Adventures, a huge part of the gameplay is integrated mini-games and puzzles. We want to take this out of the single player game and put it into the MMO style game.

MMO games don’t have to be 100% fetch and escort quests, and drag and drop items into glowing sparkling fields. Because, that gets tedious. We know it does. We’ve all been there playing a game for the story or hoping to get to the end game for the PvP battles and been stuck endless grinding in fetch quests in order to level our characters and get new gear. And even in a combat MMO where there are NPCs around that want to hurt you, this gets mind numbing. (And so does the combat depending on the mechanics.)

And horse games, well, the type of horse games there usually are include mini-games such as currying your horse, cleaning the hooves, mucking the stables, and sometimes you get washing your horse and styling your horse with different mane and tail styles and fancy gear.

Feeding and watering your horse usually isn’t involved enough to be turned into a mini-game. With many of those horse games, that’s actually all there is to the game at all! (Which is so disappointing.)

So, here are some mini-games we’re thinking about for Mystic Riders.

Trace the Pattern/Connect the Dots

On your screen would be a pattern, or a set of dots. The player uses their mouse to trace the pattern or to select the dots in the right order to complete the pattern. Examples where this can be used: casting magic, doing hair in the hair salon, sewing a garment. Magic is the biggest place where we expect to use the trace the pattern mini game.

Bubble Shooter

The player has to shoot groups of bubbles in the right order to clear the screen. Mostly for magically locked places, such as the Mirror World.

Puzzles

Find the pieces in the area and fit them together. Good for making bridges, restoring artwork, or putting furniture and musical instruments together.

Pattern Match Mini-Game

The player is given rows and columns of items. There is a pattern, set number of items they have to match in each row. They need to move the items around before they’re put together at the bottom of the screen. Good for cooking and brewing, possibly cloth making, and so on.

The Slide Bar Mini-Game

The player watches a bar on the screen with a slider that goes back and forth. When the slider is in a specific spot of the bar (often a different color) the player clicks the screen to stop it. Useful for anytime that timing and accuracy is important. Could be used for forging, archery, and fishing.

Light Pattern Mini-Game

Sometimes, things just need to be a certain color. Whether or not it’s a set of lamps keeping a gate closed, or a group of Christmas Spirits that got caught up in the fun of Halloween, they need to be changed. Make the lights the right color, doors may unlock, secret places may reveal themselves, and Christmas can be saved.

Falling Objects

The sky is falling! Oh my. Oh, it’s just fruit and nuts you say. Well, carry on then. In the falling object game, the player runs around the screen to catch items before they hit the ground or direct falling items to specific spots. (These games should be easy. Easy I say!) Usually there is some sort of catastrophe going on. Or maybe the farmer needs your help to catch their apples before they hit the ground.

Pet Puzzles

The player guides their pet to go through mazes, push levers, press buttons, and sit on different pressure points in order to unlock certain gates and doors. Pets don’t do that you say? Well, this is Astranar and there’s magic. Mostly for having a good time with your pet, or Mirror World people don’t think the same we do about locks.

Clean the Screen

The player has to clean the screen with their mouse to reveal what’s under the dirt and grime. Mostly for archaeology.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of the mini game options that are available to us as game devs. These are the ones that we think would be the most entertaining and make the most sense. For mini games such as horse brushing and hoof picking, I’d want to consult with experts to make them more “realistic” and also make them completely optional.

Without a combat system, it is imperative that we give the players a variety of ways to advance the game, so they don’t become bored with what they are expected to do to continue the story. Thus, our answer is mini-games.

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.

A Single Player MMORPG

A Single Player MMORPG

Game Dev Becca and I want Mystic Riders to be a Single Player MMORPG. Bear with me, this isn’t an oxymoron. It comes from both of our experience playing games and the type of games we enjoy, plus, some game marketing research I discovered about solo players.

The common thought around MMO player games is that they are designed to be social games that are played cooperatively where players form groups to complete tasks that are usually “defeat this mega boss.” Personally, I think this is a rather limiting way to view the MMO experience. And my desire for a MMO game that I can finish by myself drives this opinion. Especially since I play for story!

GDClonervideo48

MMO means massive multiplayer online, and that doesn’t mean that players should be forced to be social and form groups to cooperatively figure things out. It simply means that there are a lot of players online in the game at the same time. The idea of standard cooperative play comes from the popularity of one of the first MMOs, World of Warcraft. Everyone (sans a couple of games) has jumped onto that cooperative MMO play model because WoW did it and was so successful.

However, even in the original MMO gaming experience, there were 8 types of players. (Some even defined 16 players.) They were labeled free spirits and consumers. They were looking to get the most out of the game on their own with as little interaction as possible. And as MMOs and Games as Services have taken over the gaming community as each MMO tries to grab as much of the fanbase as possible. There has been a backlash over it. Remember this Meme?

e32018meme

People want single player games. (But I doubt the industry is going to give up on MMO Games as Services any time soon.)

Girls prefer narrative play. In an MMO geared towards girls, it simply makes sense to have the narrative story option of the story be single player. They can still form groups and play and experience the story together, but that is optional. A game that has done this quite successfully is Star Stable Online. (Though there are some players that want cooperative play and the day they do that, is the day I stop playing SSO at all.)

GDClonervideo30

But there are other reasons why having a story line that a player can finish by themselves without help from others is better than a cooperative story function. And this deals with those free spirit and consumer type gamers. Since, in an MMO, a person who wants to be a social gamer will be able to be a social gamer no matter if the story is “single player” or not.

GDClonervideo8a

1. People have less time.

Kids. Adults. We’re all over scheduled. We don’t have time to sit down and coordinate with our “friends” all over the world when we’re going to get together and run a dungeon. Mystic Riders is geared towards teenagers. Teenagers have school work, after school activities, and hopefully friends they’re hanging out with face to face. Having a single player story mode lets them start and stop the story whenever they need to get off and have dinner without worrying that their leaving is going to inconvenience someone else. If you have to schedule your gaming time, it becomes work. And no one really likes their fun becoming work!

GDClonervideo4

2. Communities are Toxic.

MMO communities in games that force grouping also come with the huge downside of people simply being cruel and mean to one another. There is a lot of gate keeping. People who aren’t as good at the mechanics of the game get bullied. When you’re going into a game to relax and have fun and find the community hateful, it’s not fun. It’s not relaxing. Forced socialization turns people off. With a single player story mode, players can figure the mechanics out on the their own. They can take the story at their own pace. See everything they want to see. And they can shut out the community if they want to for their own peace of mind.

GDClonervideo46b1

3. People Have Anxiety/Don’t like Strangers.

Some folks aren’t extroverts. Somewhere along the line, society has determined that being an extrovert is “normal.” Well, no, it’s not. Being an introvert isn’t a bad thing. Being an introvert is normal too! Socializing is stressful for some gamers. When they play a game, they don’t want to socialize. They want to have fun! So, in a game designed for a younger audience, having the ability to monitor your child and see who they are playing with or even turning chat off so they don’t have to interact with strangers if they don’t want to interact with strangers. (Or you don’t want them interacting with strangers.) Is simply another tool to have peace of mind that you’re going to have a fun, safe experience in a game.

GDClonervideo6a

4. It’s more immersive.

Playing by yourself allows you to take the story at your own pace, to explore the world and discover the lore at your own leisure. There is no pressure to get through someplace quickly or have more mastery of the game mechanics than you do. If you want to craft, you can craft. If you want to decorate your house, or change your avatars clothes, you can. It makes the world more alive.

GDClonervideo25

Players who are loners in the game often play because they want to really be in the game’s world and MMOs offer a variety of activities (questing, crafting, farming) and customization options that single players simply don’t, everything from avatars, to clothes, to housing. Forcing players into groups is restrictive and really limits the amount of players that will play your game long term.

GDClonervideo47

Social players will always find a way to group. Solo players will give your game a pass if forced to group up.

All pictured comments in this post are from a GDC Video about Loner Players in MMOs. The video was nonsense, the comments were enlightening, including that 70% of Black Desert Online’s player base (an MMO known for it’s grind and endgame PvP) were Solo players and didn’t care about grouping or end game PvP content. It’s time to stop catering to the 30% who get to the end and cater to the 70% that make up the core of the game’s players. Let’s make video games better!