The Three Horse Categories

The Three Horse Categories

Game Dev Becca has been posting about the different horse breeds we want to have in Astranar. Some of them are more special than others, such as your starter horse straight out of the Mirror World.

There are three different horse types in Mystic Riders. While each breed of horses will have their own set of special starting stats that align with the type of racing they excel at, they are separated into three distinct groups. We have what are considered regular horses, those horses that have a sport or Baroque body conformation and are in general considered warmbloods. We have draft horses, those with larger or cob body conformations and thicker barrels. Lastly, there are ponies. These are smaller than regular horses and in some cases are the origins of the bigger ones.

To get the full experience of Mystic Riders and to be able to explore the map completely, the player is going to have to own a regular horse, a draft horse, and a pony. (Don’t worry, we’ll help them out to get the currency they need.) The magical starter horse is considered a regular horse even though its closest normal world cousin is the Fjord Horse.

There are 4 draft horses and 3 different pony breeds for the player to choose from and 17 extra regular horses for the player to buy. (Plus some magical horses they can befriend and tame in the Mirror World.) There is also one breed of carriage horse in Astranar that the player will interact with but can’t buy.

The regular horses in Astranar are like the horses of the rest of the world, they’re good for eventing, showing, and for doing trail rides. These are the pleasure riding horses of the world. In Astranar they are commonly seen doing the different races around the districts, being transportation, and are by far the most common horse type in the country. Regular horses excel at dressage or flat racing. They can also be seen doing circus events.

Draft horses are available and are better suited to do farm work and forestry. They have the special ability of having higher endurance and can traverse deep into the marshes of Astranar where regular horses and ponies would get far too tired to go. If the player needs to move a tree trunk, or a bunch of rocks, or go into the marshlands, they’re going to need a draft horse. Draft horses are also better suited to show jumping.

Ponies are the smallest type of horse and are much sturdier than the average person would believe, though they are slower than a regular horse. The ponies are the agilest of the different horse types and thus have the special ability to be able to climb high up into the mountains where regular horses and drafts simply don’t have the footing. Ponies are best at western riding such as pole bending and barrel riding. They can also pull small two wheeled carts and participate in driving competitions.

We want to be able to have all types of horses and ponies in the game, and at the same time, we want each of these horse types to be necessary instead of just yet another horse mount skin. The player will have a reason to use each horse on a semi-regular basis and to train their horses to do different things. A regular horse, a draft horse, and a pony are going to be the foundations of starting their own stable. And really, ponies help calm the other horses down.

Horses need friends!

As the player levels up and builds their My Stable, they’ll be able to purchase more horses to put in their stable. What type of horses and what they train them to do, is up to the player. Thus, once again, giving them a more customizable experience.

Each horse will come in an array of standard solid colors, and players can add markings to them if allowed by the breed in the horse stylist. (Unless the horse is a special breed like the Friesian or the Knabstrupper, in this case they’ll have special coats of different shades of black or different arrays of spots.)

There are so many horses, drafts, and ponies that could be added to Mystic Riders either through expansions or updates. So, there is a lot that can be done.

Get to Know Your Devs: Top Fav Games

Get to Know Your Devs: Top Fav Games

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what our favorite games are, and what you can see they mean for Mystic Riders as a whole. Why? Because our favorites are (inevitably) going to affect what sort of features we want to see in the game, and the kind of stories that we enjoy.

So to start with, Becca’s list is a little…all over the place. The most obviously vintage of the group is Barbie Riding Club from 1998, a PC game that in many ways started the girls’ gaming phenomena but is sadly no longer replayable. (Because yes, she would play it again, Becca will play any game she loves multiple times.) It was the best substitute for owning a horse a girl could have. There’s also Jak & Daxter, which is a console game of the fantasy, chosen one type variety, that she wasn’t able to finish due to the game mechanics being not in her favor. She grew up with the Legend of Zelda franchise, but the first one she played and her favorite still is Windwaker–it gave the characters such great expressions and had a story that was outside of the norm for the game while still being within the box that is Zelda. (And the new Princess Zelda from Breath of the Wild drove her bonkers.)

She has a hard time picking her favorite Pokémon game–Yellow was her first, Crystal was the first to let her actually play as a girl and has all of her favorite legendaries, Stadium 2 had the best mini-games ever, and Moon lets the Pokémon actually interact in the outside world more–but her favorite remains X. She just loves the world building too much, the region easily being her favorite with its French roots, and it was the first that allowed customization of the avatar to really let the player express themselves. Her last on her big list of favorites is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. While there are frustrating aspects to the game and some of the puzzles are harder than others, she enjoys the way the story winds through the characters and the “twist” ending that while mildly surprising, isn’t a complete shocker for the player either.

Ginny’s list is more easily nailed down to a theme (though Becca had to do some meshing to make this list, lol). With Caesar IV, she gets to make her own city and make it as pretty as possible (such as all the roads and the pattern tiles), as well as optimizing the layout to make everyone happy. Cooking games like Cake Mania gives her the satisfaction of getting the high score under the time constraints to unlock all the extras, and Cake Mania is particularly good about it because there aren’t a ton of micro transactions hiding in the levels. Roads of Rome gives her the satisfaction of doing things in the right order, especially since the later levels will punish you if you don’t, and the fact it’s repairing things rather than combat.

There was a lot that she loved about Ratchet & Clank. From the story, to the fact the original game’s worlds were just the right size to inspire wonder without getting overwhelming, but the first thing she mentioned was the fact the game was set up to be about exploring and collecting items, as well as a few well-timed explosions. Kingdom Hearts hits the nostalgia, the comfort of familiar stories and getting to interact with them as well as taking something old and making it new. (It was also her first platformer game.) With Okami, she loved the concept of using magic to heal the world and the mechanics that let the player see the impact their actions were having. She also found the puzzles seamless in their integration, and that you had to think on them.

What about games the two game devs share? There’s two sets of them. One is Final Fantasy X and its sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. For Becca, it’s all about the story. The characters are great (okay, Tidus is a bit grating, but he gets better), and some of the best parts of it are the fact you can influence the story in small ways to really make your mark on it. Becca really liked the callbacks to X in X-2, but that it was being it’s own story at the same time. For Ginny, her favorite part of X is pretty limited to Rikku punching Tidus in the stomach as a greeting. For her, X-2 was what really hit the mark because it focused on Yuna and Yuna’s grief and feelings about her journey and the aftermath. It also presented three very different types of girl, with girls having agency in their own story. And then the job system is her favorite, as imperfect as it might be, she liked it the best by far.

The other is the Sly Cooper series, though there are some strong feelings on them, especially the last one, lol. Becca likes that it isn’t about combat, it’s about sneaking and collecting items, and the importance of history to the present. (Once combat started happening, it started irking her.) There is character growth between games too, which is great. She just wishes they hadn’t done a cliffhanger ending with no follow through and that Carmelita had gotten a better treatment. For Ginny, the third game, Sly Cooper: Band of Thieves remains her favorite. Sucker Punch really hit their stride with the mechanics at that point, including different mini-games depending on the situation that made sense and fit the game play so the player wasn’t confused as to why it existed. It was also really about Sly’s ancestors and start delving into the lore of the world. She did miss the “tink tink” of the first two games though.

So what does all of this mean for Mystic Riders? Well, between the game devs, there is obviously an importance placed on story, which you already knew, but not just on story being the focus. It has to give the female protagonist agency, it has to be about their story as much as it is about the side characters, as fun as they can be. The mini-games have to be fun, and yet mesh well and make sense with the world, which can’t be so large it’s overwhelming or too small so you don’t have enough to explore. While the player has some influence on the greater story, it is within reasonable limits and gives in to their expectations rather than being surprising just to be surprising or not making sense. And rather than combat, it is focused on puzzles and improving the world, with some elements of time management but not enough to drive anyone batty.

Think this helped you understand what sort of game we are looking to build? Let us know in the comics or on twitter!

Quote

Core Value Wisdom from Brenda Laurel

“… It’s such a tough time of life for girls being a tween. They suffer from a lot of difficulties. One of the patterns we saw over and over was a sense of social inevitability about what happened to them that you have to work to get over as a young girl. We learned a lot of things about social status and play patterns and things and it then became more my mission to create emotional rehearsal space for a lot of different types of girls to get over that hump of being a kid and being a teenager. And we were really interested in recognizing and representing the diversity of the girls that we interviewed.

– Brenda Laurel, GDC Girl Games of the 1990s: A Retrospective October 2, 2018

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…

Game Core & Pillars (Under Construction)

Game Core & Pillars (Under Construction)

Neither Becca nor I (Ginny here) have gone to school for game design. So we’re learning about how game designers talk and the lingo they use as we go. Becca is going through a video course about game development and texted me the other day about putting together our game’s core value and the pillars. Her text was short with the explanations.

Core: What word(s) is the game about.
Pillars: Answer the questions how, what, why and include the 3 most important features of your game.

But think shorter than that.

I got onto Google and poked around a bit to see what I could find there about Core values and game pillars. And I challenged Becca to put together her thoughts and then we’d share them with each other.

Becca came up with the Left Image and I came up with the Right Image. (And yes, I made them pretty on purpose. EVERYTHING MUST BE PRETTY!)

This is the difference in how Becca thinks given what she learned and how I think given what I learned. You can see her core word is Character Development and my core word is Growing Up. Which… is pretty much the same thing in different languages. They’re synonyms. We both want narrative driven game play and talk about exploring, racing, crafting and learning.

We’re very close to the same page and as usual are sharing each other’s brains. Now comes the fun part of meshing our thinking together in a cohesive core and pillars document.

What do you think about our core values and pillars? Is this a type of game you could see playing now or in 2025? Share your thoughts in the comments. Have a mystical magical day!