Cores and Pillars: The Foundation of Mystic Riders MMO

Cores and Pillars: The Foundation of Mystic Riders MMO

As part of me taking a course on game design taught by Brenda Romero on Lynda.Com, we are working to make sure that even though we are approaching the game our own way, we have an understanding of what developers and the gaming industry at large looks for in a game proposal. Ginny posted a work-in-progress of our thought processes to piecing out the core and pillars from our (massive) design documents, and now that we’ve had a chance to talk about the differences (and the similarities), I am going to explain the “official” core and pillars…at least for now. While the core of our game isn’t going to change, the pillars may need adjustment as we continue development.

If you look at the work in progress documents, you’ll see that for the core, Ginny and I had different approaches to roughly the same idea. For me, I was focused on this being an MMORPG game. The point of any MMORPG is character development, gaining levels and gear to fit your style of play and advancing the story. It’s how you go about it and what your story is that separates them. Ginny, however, came from a more narrative, and therefore a more specific direction, and used growing up as her core. While still about character development, it is more about how as a player character, you are making decisions on how this specific character, a young teen girl, is going to grow up, both on micro and macro levels. It also gives the first nod in the direction of our narrative, which is important since we’re starting there rather than with systems.

Neither  of “cores” is necessarily wrong, but due to Ginny’s being more specific and in-line with the narrative of the game, I definitely thing it is the stronger of the two. So Mystic Rider MMO’s core is growing up.

Now, what about pillars? These are sort of supporting structures to the core—important statements or concepts in their own right that need to be just as prevalent as the core itself. This is where we had some very similar concepts and some differing opinions. Admittedly, I applied some limitations to us to try and you know…keep us from having twenty, but I honestly think that helped more than hindered us because it made us prioritize what we found important.

For example, both of us want the game to be driven by narrative. We’re writers, we come for the pretty, we stay for the story. Not only that, but from what we are finding, most female gamers feel the same way. There’s also a lack of games that let you focus on exploring, crafting, and racing without making it a money grab between players or involving combat…or making it where you have to babysit the game. Ginny has the collection of posts about people wanting something else, I’ll let her share those images on her own time. I worry that despite our ideas and focus being more likely to bring in female devs, we’ll end up with some guy who goes off the deep end and forgets our game is for girls, and I really want us to keep that a question in everything we do. Ginny has spent a lot of time investigating what sort of graphics and mini-games we can include, specifically ones that often get made into flash games that so many of us love to play, but are buggy or limited as all get out, so we can bring them into the fold.

So where does that leave us in terms of pillars? For Mystic Riders MMO, our pillars are to be (1) Narrative Driven in a world that at times challenges to be (2) Unconventional Fantasy, to have (3) Exploration, Crafting, and Racing that is easy but dependent on practice and skill, utilizing (4) Platformer and Mini-Game Mechanics to (5) Customize the Player Experience for (6) Female Gamers.

It’s a lot to live up to, especially for our first major project. I’ve done smaller games, though without any formal training. But I think together, we have the knowledge on what we want and how to implement it in a plan. Now we just need to start getting the resources together!

Astranar’s Secret Gem: The Mirror World

Astranar’s Secret Gem: The Mirror World

Hidden beyond the next tree. Over secret paths only a few can see. Through the arches of branches and flowers. There is a world of magic and wonder. Teal skies. Vivid greenery. Unique flowers. Maroon earth. Only on the continent of Argentum, in Astranar, can people cross over and discover the enchantments and peoples of the Mirror World.

A simple name, perhaps, while others over the world may have slipped through cracks, they called it different things. Underhill. Wonderland. The Never Ending Wood. Ever After. In Astranar, the natives know that names have power and the true name of the World is best left to those that live in it. They simply call it the Mirror World for it mirrors our own.

When Astranar is in the heart of summer, the Mirror World is in the deepest folds of winter. And while in Astranar, it takes a powerful spell caster to work anything beyond basic spells, in the Mirror World, magic is as easy as breathing—for better or worse!

If one could see both the Mirror World and the mundane world at the same time, one would be able to see the towns co-existing in the same places! The people going on about their lives doing everyday things. For the people of the Mirror World have the same wants and needs as the people in the mundane world no matter how different their appearance.

And oh how different they are! Those that live close to humans can be breathe taking and magical. Fairies in their tiny snow globe sized bubbles. Elementals that take on the shape of humans or giant birds. Griffons that share a passing resemblance to eagles. Deer with colorful coats and exotic antlers like flowering branches and crystal. And many different types of sheep.

Then there are the magical beings that only choose to share the shape of humans. Though their skin is anything but human looking as if someone took liquid metals, and glowing paints to create abstract and fantastical designs. Some may have wings to mock the humans and their tales of fairies (or is it mockery?). Take care of those that live in the ponds.

Those that live deep in the Mirror World have names and faces we are familiar with; Santa Claus, Cupid, The Pumpkin King/Jack Frost, Mother Goose, and the Green Man. They come closer to the mundane world around the solstices and holidays when the veil between us is thinner. The ways to their towns and castles are only available for a short time each year as they are celebrated (or appeased.) Perhaps, if you help them enough they will open special places, special towns for the player to visit them all year round.

Then there are the horses! Horses in the Mirror World are the horses of every rider’s fantasy. The most prolific and easiest to find, because often they find you, are the magical color changing horses. Reminding outsiders of a Fjord horse, in the mundane world they come in all shades of dun and have bi-colored manes. In the Mirror World, their coats and manes become an array of bright, muted, or pastel colors. And in the Mirror World, they can talk to you. (This may or may not be welcome depending on their personality.)

One can make friend with unicorns, tame the wild pegasus, help the rainbow alicorns, and even discover beautiful nymph horses that take after plants and trees. They can take you to places no normal horse can reach (much to your main horse’s displeasure.)

A word of warning, as with the magic of Astranar, in the Mirror World there are places of Light and places of Shadow. Woe betide those who are of opposite sides stumbling into places they shouldn’t be. Those of the light, beware the arches of dead branches covered in moss. And those of the shadow, beware the arches of living branches covered in ivy. If caught inside, you’ll have to flee to avoid capture or bargain for your freedom. Some can be convinced to let you go if you make them something nice or if you entertain them. (Though this brings to mind playing with your food…)

Explore carefully.

But in order to explore, you’re going to need a winter coat. Don’t think you can pass a raincoat off as winter coat. Your horse is too smart for that to work…

Target Audience: For the Developer

Target Audience: For the Developer

The target audience of Mystic Riders is a female gamer ages 12 to 16 with the optimum target market going as low as 10 to as old as 25. The content and story of the game is geared towards teens. From issues they face to the genre tropes they adore, we’re writing with them in mind and what they enjoy. Mystic Riders is being approached from a unique standpoint in the gaming industry—it is built narrative first! It’s meant to be a ‘safe’ game and steer away from excess skin, common fears and phobias, politics, religion, and sex. (While all sexualities and skin tones should and will be represented in the game, the story doesn’t hinge upon the player being a lesbian for example.)

In basic mechanics, Mystic Riders is a standard MMO and racing game. We’re aiming for girl players, thus why the Player Character is a female-only option. There is a distinct lack of games that target girl gamers, even now, for a real gaming experience. Most games fall under boy-centric or gender neutral in terms of tone. What few girl games there are tend to fall into gendered “safe” types, so basically makeovers, fashion, and playing house like cooking and home decorating. There isn’t much investment in other types of games because girl gamers are seen as a group who don’t spend money, which creates a chicken-or-the-egg problem. Girls don’t spend money on games because there aren’t any good games for them, so no one makes a good game deliberately for girls.

If boys want a horse game, they have Red Dead Redemption (2). It’s past time that girls got something with that amount of investment and care put into it.

This means that Mystic Riders needs to take the next step forward in MMO gaming by focusing the mechanics on games that girls like to play that are catered to mostly by the mobile market. This means featuring mini-games seamlessly into game play (instead of making them different screens). Mini-games like trace the pattern, clean the screen, falling objects, follow the keyboard pattern, red light green light, bubble shooters and matching color patterns, etc. are a very large part of Mystic Riders along with actual jigsaw style puzzles and environment puzzles that involve magic or using pets.

Mystic Riders is an MMO Racing Game that is stepping towards platformer gaming style mechanics. Whether it is having the player change size, or jump from “platform” to “platform.” Mystic Riders is set up to be a multi-level map with places that are exclusive to certain “class” types. At the same time, it is also a horse competition game, and the mechanics of the races are geared towards the players using skill to hit the buttons at the right time and using the correct speed to make it over obstacles or do the right steps.

There is even a choose-your-own-adventure feel to the game as the story is set up for the player to be able to choose sides at several points in the game. As a result, there are 8 different ways the story can play out. We want the player to be able to play past story lines, and have extra character slots in order to be able to play the game all 8 ways if they choose.

Because Mystic Riders is aiming for an older audience, at least in terms of where normally girl-exclusive games stop, the graphics are chosen to appeal to that older player by being more realistic. We desire the graphics to be in the vein of Black Desert Online, Moonlight Blade, or Guild Wars 2. This will make the game stand out from competitors like any Barbie horse game or Star Stable Online. The level of graphics in Ostwind are about par for what we are looking for.

Being just a game in today’s 24/7 social media atmosphere isn’t possible. That’s why Mystic Riders is geared towards being highly merchandisable from dolls, make-up, clothing, to notebooks and calendars, to novels, comics, and webisodes. We understand that to survive in an over-saturated market, you have to be a brand.

Mystic Riders is a brand created by female story driven gamers for female story driven gamers. That is the market we desire to tap.

Target Audience: For the Player

Target Audience: For the Player

Mystic Riders is designed to be enjoyable for the person who loves horses no matter what their age. We want this game to be enjoyable and relatable for tweens, teenagers, and young adults to the older adults who are young at heart by providing an enjoyable story with challenging puzzles and things for players to do simply to relax.

We are you. We love Miraculous Ladybug, Love Live, Sailor Moon and PreCure. We adore Ever After High and Monster High. (Ginny at least played with Barbies the way they are supposed to be played with, and wishes they’d go back to some of the older style merchandising. Becca collected the horses more than the dolls.) We play horse games and farming sims and get lost in a good story about teens in impossible love. (Give us all the fanfic! Give. Give now!) We have a weakness for sparkly and pretty things. And to us, pink is just another color in a huge rainbow of colors. (Bring back Lisa Frank!)

We’ve created this game for people no matter their gender or age who love exploring, story based play and have a spirit of competition. If you like games like Barbie Horse Adventures and Star Stable Online, we hope that you’ll like our game—a game where you can ride and take care of your horse in a huge open-world-style map that includes mini-games like Disney Princess games, platforming elements like Sly Cooper and Okami, farming and building elements, dress-up, and as much customization as we can stuff into a game.

Customization is important. Our player character is a girl. There is no one type of girl. There is no one right way to be a girl and we want to provide enough options that everyone has a way to show who they are and be represented in the game! (Even if some of it may have to wait for expansions. Fingers crossed.) Representing you and the incredible rainbow of who we are is important to us. Prep. Goth. Boho. Retro. Punk. Hip Hop. Country. We’ve got you covered.

There’s a lot more to Mystic Riders than caring for and racing your horse. There are friendships to be made, a world to save, and a huge mystery to solve. Do things have to be the way they are? Can we all get along? Who is Rose Neptuna really? And why does the Bence have to be so cute anyways? Questions like ‘who am I?’ and ‘what am I going to be when I grow up?’ are balanced with silliness and fun. (Who knew that goats love pajamas?) And let’s be honest, sometimes those questions don’t go away even when you’re an adult. (Ginny can attest to this.)

There’s so much more to the story that it can’t all be contained in the game. There’s more to Mystic Riders (or we want Mystic Riders) to be more than just a game. We want books and webisodes and merchandise. Not to say that the story in the game won’t be complete, but who are Vesper Leilament, Charlotte Mistwaltz, and the other mentors? How did they come to Astranar? What are they up to behind the scenes?

And who doesn’t want a bit of their game to sit on their shelf? Dolls and horse figurines, outfits, make-up, and notebooks can mean that every player can have a little bit of Astranar and Mystic Riders in their day to day life. And given that Ginny is a fashion designer, well, maybe, if we’re lucky, there will be clothes from the game in stores with pockets (because clothes should be both pretty and functional). (Ginny and Becca are both serious about this pocket thing.)

Mystic Riders is a game created by those who love horses and are young at heart for those who love horses and are young at heart.

What is Mystic Riders MMO?

What is Mystic Riders MMO?

Who do you want to be when you grow up? A jockey, a police officer, a fashion model? What can you do in your wildest dreams? Do you want to fly, read minds, create illusions, and draw power from the elements themselves? Or do you want to explore the vacuums of space, the nightmares of others, and use the darker powers of Nature?

In Mystic Riders, the choice is yours.

Set on the continent of Argentum, you, the player, is visiting the country of Astranar for the summer. Famous for their music and equestrianism, you’re one of several recruits offered a chance to train at the riding camps scattered throughout the countryside. The reward for all this hard work is extremely valuable—a full scholarship to the country’s academy. The Royal Riding Academy is one of the most elite boarding schools in the world.

Astranar is more than just a haven for horse lovers. Magic is tied to you and to these lands. You’ll have to learn how to use your magic, choose a side. While magic is supposed to be in harmony, the light and the shadow aspects have gotten jarringly out of tune. To bring them back together, you’ll have to shed light on ancient secrets.

There’s also fun to be had along the way! Meet new friends (on either side of the feud) and explore the varied lands of Astranar. Find hidden treasures, lost adventurers, and maybe even a pop star! Your avatar’s appearance is highly customizable, including a variety of skin tones, body shapes, and hair/eye color. There are a variety of horses to ride, different styles of riding, gear and clothes, and not to mention all the food. You can also build and customize your own farm and stable.

Plus there is a mysterious boy who seems tied to your fate…

An urban fantasy MMORPG, Mystic Riders is a non-combative, PvsE play game, with optional elements of cooperation and competition between players. Players have a high level of choice in the game, with two possible endings and eight ways to get there. Crafting and customization is encouraged, and cooperation is the name of the game – the only best that matters is your best.

The player is often face with ethical dilemmas and choice. These are challenges designed to immolate the fears, responsibilities, and excitement of growing up. From choosing sides, helping or not, and even making tentative steps towards a career, the player will transition from childhood to the world of a young adult. Not only that, but there are mechanics built into the game that can help encourage the player to find a healthy work-fun-life balance.