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.

Please help us make this game a reality and Buy us a ko-fi. (Goal: Graphics Logo)

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!

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.