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.

Platformer Mechanics

Platformer Mechanics

Some of what we do as we think about Mystic Riders is try to answer the question, what does an MMO look like in 2025? What is the next step in the MMORPG experience? Games such as World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV, and Elder Scrolls Online started the “mount” system for MMOs that is becoming more and more standard.

So, where do we go next?

In Mystic Riders, we want to use a more three dimensional level platformer gaming type of experience that Guild Wars 2 is flirting with in their jump puzzles and huge battle arenas. Make the map of an MMO a more dynamic exploratory experience and use magic and mini-games to enhance the experience.

Games like Sly Cooper, Ratchet and Clank, and Okami allowed the player in a single player mode to explore the map and reach places in varying ways. Sly Cooper can climb ladders and pipes, and sneak along ledges. While Ratchet and Clank gave the character the ability to swim and gadgets to fly, walk on magnetic surfaces, and even change the state of liquids to solids (and back.) In Okami, the player used magic to cause the wind to blow up banners, become small, or even slow down time so they could make that tricky jump.

A platformer by definition has the game set up as a series of ‘platforms.’ So, I’m not going to say that we aren’t going to crib from these games in places, because why mess with what works.

The easiest use of a platform mechanic is to provide places for players to jump between. Whether this is across rivers or up in the mountains or in the marshes.

The next step is because we have a dedicated mount system is to merge these platformer style mechanics with the different racing mini games. Instead of the races being on flat ground, they maybe be more three-dimensional. Having the player doing a dressage routine, but that routine as they turn takes them up a hill or down into a pit.

They don’t want to mess up the routine, because that means they fall and falling is going to hurt.

Or maybe they’re in the mountains on a pony and there is a very thin gully that they have to get through in a set amount of time. This gully could be set up as a clover leaf pattern going up or down or it could be a pole bending pattern where the player has to move quickly in a zig-zag shape.

Or, they’re in a marsh on their draft horses and parts of the marsh are too deep even for their drafts to traverse and instead there is a show jumping race in the middle of the marsh to get them from point A to point B.

There are also other standard platformer game options, like rebuilding bridges. (We have a puzzle game for that.) Unlocking different doors in various ways. Or you might have to own a specific type of horse in order to move the tree that blocking the path. (That is if you don’t have rot/disease magic.)

Using platformer mechanics in the environment will give the player something to puzzle out and more places to explore once they gain more magic and unlock districts than simply riding from point A to point B and hope for some hills or mountain paths.

Now how can we utilize magic in our platformer mechanics? For this, we need to look to Okami and Ratchet and Clank. You can lower and raise water. Turn water from liquid to a solid. Use the wind to turn a windmill and move bridges. Summon lightning to power a door or a dam. You can use magic to grow plants and make a ‘natural bridge.’ You can use magic to lift and lower rocks. Or to grow big and small. Or even to tame a pegasus and glide between extra long platforms.

The possibilities of how to make a map more dynamic with magic and mini-games really in only limited to the imagination of the game devs. Having different areas of the map only accessible if the player has mastered certain types of magic will hopefully encourage the player to explore the map multiple times.

They never know what they might discover and the secrets they could unearth.

Even if that means they have to become tiny like a bug or tame a pegasus.

The Last Bastion of Magic

The Last Bastion of Magic

The premise of Mystic Riders is that Astranar is the last country on Earth where magic still works and affects people’s daily lives. Every girl (player) that is invited to Astranar has a bit of magic attached to her soul, a shard if you will, that gives her the ability to manipulate magic and survive in the Mirror World. Each district in Astranar is dedicated to teaching one type of magic. The shard might be one of Light, or a shard of the Shadow. The larger the shard attached to the player, the potentially stronger in magic they are. The player’s shard is large enough that they might be able to master more than one type of Light or Shadow magic, giving them incentive to explore the other districts of Astranar.

Do they have the ability to use the long lost magic of Harmony?

No one knows why the magic of the world broke and why only Astranar can still touch the Mirror World. Perhaps that’s a mystery the player can resolve? Though it is unclear if magic can ever be fixed. Or if it even needs to be fixed.

The magic of the Light is the magic of the elements, of illusions, and of the mind. While the magic of the Shadow is the magic of decay, absence, and negative emotions. (Death stays out of it.) There is also easy magic that every caster on Astranar can use such as calming animals, cleaning and mending objects, sparking fires and summoning water.

All types of magic are controlled through three statistics: accuracy, cast time, and power.

Accuracy controls if the magic hits what it’s supposed to hit or does it explode with unintended results. Cast time controls how long it takes to cast a spell after the player finishes drawing it with magical energy. Power determines how big of an effect the spell has. The more powerful a player is, the bigger the impact and range of their spells.

It’s known that Light magic is more stable than Shadow magic especially if Shadow magicians try to use Light magic. It tends to explode in their face. But on the other hand, Shadow magic may be more powerful than Light magic.

Magical patterns are stored in books that the players can keep with them in their saddlebags or store in their libraries. There are four books, three for each level of magic, easy, medium, and difficult, and the fourth is holiday magic! A special book that holds the magical power of the special times of the year and can only be used during those days.

The player accesses their magic by equipping a book in the magical book section of the user interface, and then they can open the book, flip through the pages, and trace on the screen the pattern of the spell, either by holding down the mouse and hitting each dot in order or clicking on each dot individually.

The more magical powers they’ve studied, the more magic they have at their disposal and the more things they can do, and quite possibly (undoubtedly) the more places they can explore on the map in Astranar.

The player will have a magical meter that they use when they cast a spell. They can only cast so many spells before they’re out of magic and they have to wait for it to fill again over time. (Or maybe there are some snacks for that.) Cast a spell and it backfires, it might take away a bit of magic. The more magic they cast, the more magic they can use as they level up.

The player’s jewelry can help them get better stats in their magical abilities. Earrings, necklaces, rings, and bracelets can be equipped. The player can buy these at stores or make them by learning forging, or thread crafts. Different pieces of jewelry may take up more than one slot in their character equipment bar.

Decorative, function, and allows the player yet more control over customizing their characters!

The player will find many uses for magic in the game, whether it’s to acquire a pet, or make small chores go faster, exploring the map, or using it to thwart the other faction’s plans. Magic is integral to the story.

What type of magic do you want to learn to control?

Statistics! The Game Character Sheet

Statistics! The Game Character Sheet

Every good RPG has statistics. These statistics are numbers assigned to the player that determines their various levels of expertise in different skills. They’re assigned points when they first create their character from the type of racing they chose in their placement quiz, and are given more as they ‘level up.’

One of Mystic Riders goals is to have as much customizable content as possible and one of the basic customization types that we want to give players over is their own statistics. That way they can choose what type of rider that they’re going to be! They will also have control over the statistics of their horse, and how they want their magic to work.

Statistics are the game version of a character’s player game sheet in a table top RPG. They determine the strengths and weaknesses of the character. But instead of rolling dice, they are applied to how well the character does things in the game.

The player has five basic ability stats: Speed, Stamina, Strength, Command, and Agility.

Speed is how fast can your character move at a walk or a run. Stamina is how long can your character ride without eating, run, or withstand the heat and cold. Strength is how much can your character lift or pull. Command is how well do animals obey them. And Agility is how quickly and how tight does your character turn.

There are three magical ability stats that the player also has control over and can change when they level up; Accuracy, Cast Time, and Power.

Accuracy is how on target the cast spell ends up being and if it works or not. Cast time is how quickly the player can cast the spell. And Power is how much oomph goes into the spell.

The horses also have five basic stats that the player can customize: Speed, Endurance, Strength, Discipline, and Agility.

Speed is how fast can the horse go. Endurance is how far can the horse go without care, and how well do they adapt to heat or cold, and how far can they walk through a boggy marsh. Strength is how much can a horse pull or carry, and how high can they jump. Discipline is how well does a horse take commands and how fast do they change their paces or stop. Agility is how quickly and tightly can the horse turn.

Certain breeds of horses will have higher stats in different things depending on if they are good showjumping horses, or good western horses, or good dressage horses, etc.

When the horse levels up, the player will be prompted to put the new points they’ve earned into the different horse statistic slots.

The player will have skill tracks that level up as they do things in the game. For instance, they have three skills that are related to horses. Ride, Jump, and Care. The more they ride, the better they’ll get at it as the more points they’ll accumulate. The more jumps they take, the better they’ll get at jumping with their horse. And Care, the more they clean stables and care for their horses, the faster they’ll get at it. Arts and Crafting skills falls under this kind of leveling.

The player’s statistics and the horse’s statistics will be able to work together to do certain things in the game better than others. A player with a good level of command is going to get better results out of a horse with low discipline and outstanding results with a horse with high discipline for example. Better ride stat, the more balanced you are on the horse and the faster it can go.

Players will be able to create characters with vastly different skill sets and abilities by playing the game in different ways. A player who spends more time in crafting is going to be a lot faster at it and have more items to craft than a player who primarily plays for racing. Creating a more customized and hopefully enjoyable experience that will want to make them play the game again so they can try out doing different styles of play and different story lines.

Let’s Talk Racing!

Let’s Talk Racing!

As a horse themed game, one of the most prevalent mini-games that we feel should be in Mystic Riders is the different types of races. We don’t want the game to be focused on one type of race. We want to have different types of races to reflect different horse disciplines and give them different mechanics in the mini-games.

To be clear, when the player is out and exploring the world on their own, we don’t really care how well they clear a jump or how fast they get from one area to the other. They are discovering the map of the game and such things shouldn’t matter. When they enter a story race, or a competition race, or a daily race to train their horse, then the mechanics matter.

In Mystic Riders, we have decided on four different racing tracks: Agility, Dressage, Racing, and Show Jumping. Each of these tracks require different stat combinations between the horse and the rider.

The Agility track is Western riding including gymkhana. This is slalom gate racing, pole-bending, and barrel racing with pony flag racing as an experienced skill. The mechanics of these are doing them quickly and not hitting the equipment. The player would be using their standard movement keys. Just because there is no extra mechanics doesn’t mean that it is going to be easy to take those tight turns.

The Dressage track is cavaletti, dressage, reining, and trail riding as an experienced skill. These are skills that require the horse to have discipline. The player would be prompted to go at certain speeds and to follow a mini-game where they have to hit keys in a certain sequence in order to complete the moves. To get from one area to another, there can be arrows on the ground to tell them where to go and the colors could indicate speed.

The Racing track is flat racing, endurance racing, cross country, and steeple chase as an experienced skill. In the racing track, they’d have to learn to conserve their horse’s strength by keeping watch on an endurance meter. In cross country racing where there are jumps, they would have to jump by hitting the space bar in the right spot on gauge meter.

Lastly, the Show Jumping track is about the different types of show jumping: basic, six bar, faults, and for the experienced, faults converted. (We can cover what each of those means later.) In the show jumping mini game, the player would be required to approach the jump at the right angle and the right speed. As they approach the jump, there would be spots on the ground that they’d have to hit with their mouse at the right time. If they don’t, they miss the jump.

Hopefully, these mini-games will be familiar and at the same time, have a balance of being challenging enough to be interesting and easy enough not to be frustrating. Having seen similar mechanics in other games, these mechanics are possible. They’ve simply not been used in a MMORPG setting before.

We want the mechanics of the races to show how these different races take skill to succeed. And at the same time, give the players freedom to explore the world on their own at will. (Getting from point A to point B shouldn’t be a frustrating endeavor.)

The Core Game Loop

The Core Game Loop

The core game loop is the backbone of gameplay in any game. It’s what the player is going to experience and how the game progresses. In an MMORPG, the basics of a core game loop is the player receives a quest from an NPC, they leave to fulfill that quest, and return to the NPC with the objectives. This gains them experience and unlocks more quests.

There are main story line quests and there are side story quests, and these quests may have different requirements for unlocking.

A lot of time in MMOs, especially if they are combat oriented MMOs, quests end up being one of two types. There are the ‘kill’ quests and the ‘fetch’ quests. Then a third type, the occasional ‘escort’ quest gets thrown in. The kill quests are quests where the player is asked to kill so many NPC enemies. The NPCs may be threatening something or they have drop items the player needs to fulfill the quest. The fetch quest is the player is asked to go from one place to another to acquire an item. The items may be with another NPC or they may be scattered around the map. The escort quest is when the player is asked to accompany an NPC and protect them from enemy NPCs.

This obviously gets tedious after a while. Thus, there are sometimes a few castle defense quests to hold a particular spot. As you can see, a lot of quests in most MMORPGs revolve around violence.

With Mystic Riders being a non-combat oriented MMO, this takes any type of combat oriented quest off the table and ends up leaving mostly fetch and escort type quests. Having played an MMO that is mostly fetch and escort quests, these can get boring rather quickly. In Mystic Riders, we desire to create new types of quest requirements within the greater game loop, basing them off of mini-games and platformer adventure mechanics. (Like Guild Wars 2 has incorporated jump puzzles into their environments.)

The main question that we’ve asked ourselves while we try to develop quest type ideas for this game is what should an MMO look like five years from now? Bearing in mind that there is a very set idea in this day and age on what a basic MMORPG looks like and what features it should have.

Because Mystic Riders is a horse themed game, there is going to be a story line and an entire subset of quests and mini games that are devoted to racing and leveling your horse. Thus, in the core game loop there would be races against NPCs, and races to get from point A to point B. These races can be tailored to the specific race specialty of an areas.

Meaning, if you’re in a Western racing area, your races from Point A to Point B may have super sharp corners and having to weave through trees. Or if you’re in a show jumping area, the race may loop over itself and there will be lots of jumps. In a dressage area, there would be less running and jumping and more having to follow a set pattern at a set speed in order to make it out of one area to another in one piece. The clock wouldn’t be the biggest factor.

Proposed Mini Games include using environment shaped puzzles like platforms, ledges, land types, and even magic to manipulate the game in order to get places or find out clues to the story. Platform style mechanics are a more interactive style of game play and give the player more control and ability to play with their surroundings. Thus leading to more engagement from the player. See Okami or Sly Cooper.

Other mini games are games can be considered games on their own, like bubble shooters, jig-saw puzzles, pattern matching games, fishing, and stop and go style games. Using magic itself is a mini game where the player would use their mouse to trace a pattern on the screen to cast the spell.

These mini-games would hopefully be built into the game in a seamless style manner that they would make ‘sense’ to the player. And that there would be enough variety in the mini-games that they wouldn’t get bored. In fact, we’d want them to want to replay the game over and over again because they find it exciting and/or challenging. (Plus, it is a non-linear choose your own adventure style story where their actions and reactions can shape how the story plays out and what side they are on with them choosing their own character’s motivations. More enticement to play again.)

Hopefully, by using platformer mechanics and mini-games there will be exciting and new ways to proceed through an open world style MMO in the core game loop.

Mystic Riders: The Proposed MMORPG

Mystic Riders: The Proposed MMORPG

There are certain features in MMORPGs that are considered standard and no longer optional (unlike back in 2006). If you want your MMO to be a full AAA type product, you can’t skip on these features. It’s more than having a full story (and in a combat MMO it’s having a good combat and PvP system). So, here in brief are some of the features we want Mystic Riders to have.

A Mount System.

Mystic Riders is a horse themed MMO focused on story. We have to have mounts for our players. These will be horses based upon real world horses, and horses that are completely magical! We want the horses to come in three types: ponies, regular warmbloods, and draft horses. The horses would come in different coat colors and each breed would have their own set of basic statistics based upon what their breed is well known for doing because we have skill system.

The Skill System.

The Skill System as it pertains to horses is the type of rider your player character can be. There are four horse based skills that correspond with different racing type minigames. Your player can be a dressage rider, a western rider, a showjumper, or a jockey type. Or, they can balance their stats to be an all around rider. As they player gains levels they will get points to put towards skills and be able to customize their character and story.

There are also different skills that go with a crafting and farming system.

Crafting and Farming System

We want the players to have the ability to make and customize their own items in the game. Different items would have different stats and would be available for different seasons. (You don’t want to wear a summer blouse in the winter!) The player could use these items to decorate their house and some items would only be available to different factions or professions.

Housing System

In a housing system, or as we call it in Mystic Riders, My Farm/My Stable, the player has control over customizing and growing their own little farm area. They have a house, rooms inside the house dedicated to different types of crafts, and a stable to house their horses. The more they learn, the bigger their stable and house will be, the more animals and gardens they’ll have, and thus the more horses they can own.

Factions System

The players have to make a choice in the game, what type of magic are they using. Are they Light Riders or are they Shadow Riders? There are exclusive items, horses, and pets to each faction. And they can only learn the magic of light or shadow depending on which faction they choose.

Magic System

There are two types of magic in Astranar, Light Magic, the magic of the elements and thought itself, and Shadow Magic, the magic of decay, disease, and depression. (Death keeps out of this.) Once the player advances beyond basic magic in the tutorial, they can learn spells associated with their faction and depending on what area of Astranar they are in.

Professions System

Once the players reach the capital zone of the Diamond District, they can choose a job. These jobs come with extra quests and more items that they can buy, craft, or grow.

Reputation System

As the player goes through the story they will be given options on how to respond to the different quests. How they respond will affect the NPCs and their groups view of the player, thus earning them reputation. If they don’t earn enough reputation with a certain group to advance that story, they will be given ‘catch up’ type story quests to get enough to proceed.

Pets

In Mystic Riders, we want the players to be able to own one or more several cuddly pets. They can keep their extra pets at the My Farm.

Map

We have several plans for the map. We want our map to be a 3D style Google earth map with the options of having a Randy McNally style roadmap to go over it. That way the player can zoom in and zoom out of the map and be able to find directions to where they are going if it is hidden by ‘fog of war’ because they haven’t explored the area yet.

We also want to have free map travel from train junction points that once the player discovers them, they can travel between them instantly and for no in game money. These train stations are manned by the Station Master Cats. You may feed the kitty, pet the kitty, or take the train.

Riding Clubs

In the game, the players will be able to form their own riding clubs. In their riding clubs, they can have club gear and equipment, their own club house, and do club events as well as participating in club vs. club racing and eventing PvP.

Player Versus Player

PvP in Mystic Riders is completely optional. All group races and championship style events are up to the discretion of the player whether or not they want to participate. PvP can include races against your friends in groups. Or racing in large championships that you can only enter once you’ve beaten the racing story line of your area and are a “champion.”

Chat System

In the game there will be a chat system for players to be able to talk to each other. The Chat system will be locked for players under the age of thirteen. We hope to have a system in place where if you try to use a word that would be censored, it will turn red and you won’t be able to send the chat without changing the word. This will help with compliance with acts such as COPPA.

There is one system that we won’t be implementing into the game and that is an in game player economy. Players will be able to sell items to NPCs but they won’t be able to sell them to each other. As this is one of the  most tricky systems to work into a huge game, and is one of the most easily abused, we don’t want to get into it.

These are a good many of the different systems that we have hopes to implement in Mystic Riders MMO, along with our mini-games, in order to make it an enjoyable and fully realized gaming experience.

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!

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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?

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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.)

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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! If you want to see this game happen, stop by and leave us a ko-fi if you have the funds (though obviously don’t deny yourself either)!

What Do You Want to Be?

What Do You Want to Be?

We all heard that question growing up. What are you going to do when you grow up and go to college? And it’s asked from ages 8 to 20. Since it is such a heavy part of the preteen and teenage experience, we decided to modify a common MMORPG element to suit. (Or is it old Final Fantasy? This was a Ginny thing, my knowledge of the source is vague.) That’s right, we’ve got professions.

The player has eight professions to pick from to start with, and the way I look at them is sort of like base Dungeons and Dragons sub-classes. While you can use stats and gear to identify as your main class, a.k.a. what kind of rider you are and where you put your skill focuses like a fighter picking strength and fighter feats and a rogue focusing on dexterity and ways to be sneaky, a profession lets you add an additional level of flavor (and lets you do something with all those reputation points you are hopefully earning), like being a specific type of rogue like a shadow walker or being a teamwork oriented fighter.

So what professions do we offer? Well, let’s do a short little breakdown…

Jockey

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Now, jockey is a bit of a catch-all term here. What this is really meant is someone who wants to compete with horses professionally. This could be dressage, show jumping, endurance, barrel racing, or pole bending. All that matters is a competitive spirit and a horse is involved. If you take this profession, you will always be on the look out for the best gear, the best horses, and the next race. The mentor you’ll want to seek out is Lottie in Morganite, since…she’s pretty much the only one with experience in both English and Western disciplines for more than a year except Var, and unless you share Var’s culture, that’s a no go (and Lottie has a surprising competitive streak if you can bring it out).

Entertainer

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Again, this one is a catch-all term, but the idea is this profession is for anyone who is interested in the entertainment/performance arts. From dancers and singers to actors and instrumentalists, it covers all the bases. There are opportunities to hone your dancing, singing, and other skills throughout Astranar, as long as you seek them out. As seems obvious, the Diamond Media Complex and all of its various agents and principals are the folks to seek reputation with, but there are smaller theaters and venues too, and your own mentors (whether Light or Shadow) have a camp idol group that you can help. For all of this, the person you’ll want to seek out is Viva in Citrine, who knows all about the hard work to break into the business and will be ready to offer that advice, plus she might have some cool tricks to work into dance routines from her rhythmic gymnastic days.

Farmer

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Whether its working with plants or animals (or both!), the farmers are interested in taking care of the land. Their customizable farm and stable is their dream come true to help collect different farm animals and types of crops. The local farmers are more than happy to offer tips and tricks to find rare plants or animals, and there are grannies, bakers, craftsmen (and women) and smiths with recipes or skills to help market your goods depending on your fancy. There are even rare plants and animals to be found in the Mirror World, giving you a wild new world to explore! Regardless of your focus, Len is the girl to seek out in Emerald if this floats your fancy. She’s always interested in a cause for the environment, and she even has a bonsai tree that she’ll show you if you promise to be careful.

Spa Owner

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With avatars this customizable, you know someone is going to want to be a makeover queen. Well, do we have the profession for you. Spa owners take the hair, nails, and other physical customizing to a whole new level. If you love playing with hair and make-up, you’re going to be on the hunt of Fashion Week for what is the new cutting edge. Besides playing around with every hair and character base in the game, the spa owner is going to want to get the favor of certain members of the Style Secret Service who deal with hair and make-up, such as Eden in the employ of Rose Neptuna or his brother Cain. Your mentor is (oddly) also going to be Len for this profession, she is really big on green and vegan products being used in spas, but she knows her stuff about what’s good for different skins and bodies.

Interior Designer

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If you prefer your decorating to the rooms, whelp, we have you covered there too. This profession is for the collectors of every type of wallpaper and rug we come up with, trying every combination to see what works, regardless of personal preference or style. (And there’s a lot to go around.) There are various shop owners, artists, craftspeople, and others to find, not to mention you could always learn how to make your custom furniture yourself and dye the rug the specific shade of blue to go with the tin ceiling. There are also public decorating events that could definitely use your careful eye! The mentor for this careful work is Izzy in Amethyst, whose level of matching and theme thrills the Style Secret Service and while she’s odd about her personal colors, she is always sure that her designs match people’s personalities.

Fashionista

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While spa owners may have dibs on hair and make-up, the fashionista is all about the clothes and the gear. From mixing and matching patterns and colors to perfectly working with people’s skin tones, they are all about the whole look. It doesn’t matter if they want to wear the clothes, make the clothes, or take pictures of people in the clothes, they are interested in some element of it. They also work closely with the Style Secret Service, with many designers keeping Astranar’s Fashion Week afloat–and you can imagine that Fashion Week is this profession’s Christmas! Some noted designers and stylists to meet up with are Arabella Threadsnip, Capucine, and even hip-hop artist Hi-Fidelity (supposedly). Head over to Ruby and ask for Ves if you want her advice on fashion, whether its her own punk or any of the others in Astranar–after being dorm mates with Lottie, she can handle anything.

Archaeologist

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This is definitely the hardest of the professions, and for those who are really invested in the lore and world building, so be warned! Archaeologists go everywhere and anywhere to help solve the mysteries of the world. While the player is always going to find the answers they seek to Astranar’s current problems, archaeologists are interested in the past ones and what they did to shape the current Astranar. (A.k.a. this is where Ginny and I get to hide all the Easter eggs, mwuahahah.) There are several explorers throughout Astranar who share this passion for history and exploration, including Trader Trouble who keeps getting himself stuck into odd problems, though at least when he gets really stuck, he pays well for help getting out of it! Sharing this love of history and exploring is Minnie in Sapphire. While you may have to deal with everything ending up on her vlog, she’s full of great places to start your adventures.

Chef

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Last but certainly not least is those who are drawn to the culinary arts. From cooks to fine dining to patisseries to bakers, the world needs more people who are willing to cook! Astranar has cuisines from all over the world and secret recipes in both the normal and Mirror World for some seriously good treats. Whatever you want to specialize in, there’s bound to be someone who can offer you advice. Some of Astranar’s top chefs include Edith Yeast, a slightly-mad food scientist, and Helen Highfoam, who helps everyone learn how to cook. The mentor of cooking is Kitty, because unlike some people *cough*Lottie*cough*Len*cough*Izzy*cough* she remembers to pack her lunch, and she knows all about nutrition and the industry from her grandparents who run a traditional inn back in Japan.

These professions just scratch the surface of the things someone can do (and we have plans for that, but remember, these are the core sub-classes, we can go into prestige classes later), but we hope can help girls realize some of their potential. Some of these professions in reality, like fashion and entertainers and chefs, are very male oriented and its hard to make it in those businesses. But by introducing some of the basic concepts of those professions, the groundwork that goes into following them, we hope we can prepare girls to succeed no matter what direction or obstacles might happen.