You Are In Charge: Parental Control System

You Are In Charge: Parental Control System

MMOs have a well-deserved reputation for being addictive. Here at Mystic Riders, we want to make sure that the players and their parents can agree on how much time they can play in the game and give parents a feeling there is a measure of safety they have control over. Thus, we’re giving them parental controls.

The parental control menu will be part of the games loading area where the player chooses which character they’re going to use for their session. Off to one side outside of an office would be Billie, the camp director, with her clipboard. She and the office door would be the interface for parental controls.

The parental control menu has its own password and Billie will give password advice, like it not being a common password the kids know or something like your birthday.

There are at least three very important controls the parents can implement.

First off, if their child has stated they are under the age of 13, the parent can choose whether or not to turn on chat for their child. If the parent chooses not to turn on chat, the child will be limited to a set number of emotes and a list of commonly asked questions to get help.

Players should be able to get help in playing the game from the game help manual in the phone of the user interface. If they can’t find what they need to know there, then the help manual needs to be rewritten.

The parents can also control how long their children can play the game before they’re kicked off the servers. We desire that Mystic Riders have a system where the game story is set out over half an hour to forty-five minute bites. This would give the player enough time to do chores, maybe run a few races, and advance the plot. The parent would be able to turn on and off or decide if their child can play an hour, two hours or unlimited number of hours should they want to spend more time racing or crafting.

Kids can be overloaded with after school activities, homework, and chores. Setting a time limit for how long they can play the game leaves time for these activities and visiting with their real life friends.

This also gives the option of the players having to choose what type of content they want to do for the day and making the content available last longer. If the player wants to spend their hour crafting or leveling their horse, then that adds an extra day of content where they aren’t progressing the story.

There is a “stay the night” function in the game. This function allows players to spend real money currency (credits) to advance the game’s story by another day if they finish that days story. If the parent has the ‘can only play 1 hour’ selected, this function will be automatically turned off. Otherwise, the parent can choose whether or not they want to opt-in to this function. (All functions that require real world money, should be opt-in, not opt-out.)

Lastly, and almost in correlation with the chat function, parents can choose whether or not their children can accept friend/group invites and join clubs. These will be separate check boxes. We know that some parents will simply desire to have their children be able to play the game without fear of social pressuring or bullying. Letting them choose to turn off these functions so the game in essence becomes a single player game is an option we want to give them.

We hope having these parental control functions will make parents feel easier about having their pre-teens and teens be part of an MMO that will no doubt draw all age groups.

Cashey Money: In-Game Currency

Cashey Money: In-Game Currency

There is a potentially large disconnect between game production companies (those financing the games) and game players about what in-game transactions should look like. The latest trend to try and wring as much money out of players as possible is to include a large amount of real world micro-transaction exchanges inside a game they may or may not have actually paid for a ‘complete’ gaming experience.

Players, as a general rule, are becoming more and more vocal about their dislike of micro-transactions. Companies are continuing to see money in these in-game purchases and impulse buys or additional downloadable content, so they don’t want to end micro-transactions.

We hope to try for a compromise.

Mystic Riders as currently envisioned does have a two system currency going on. There is Coins, an in-game currency the players can earn through quests and selling items in their inventory, and there is Credits, which is a currency they play real world money for through a ‘credit card/paypal’ transaction. Coins and Credits should have a verifiable exchange rate that makes sense and possibly relate to the real world.

Let players see they are getting their money’s worth in the game and it’s not a completely made up system!

We desire to keep the Credit Only items in the game to an absolute minimum. We want players from lower income families to be able to enjoy the full experience of the game without having to spend more than purchasing the game. In fact, we want to have quests that will let them earn enough Credits to be able to purchase a basic draft horse and basic pony.

Credit transactions would include things like buying the game or buying expansions of the game, extra horses, customizing your horses appearance, and to ‘stay overnight’ which would speed up crafting times and story line quests.

If the player buys a horse and wishes to sell it back to the game instead of trying to rehome or exchange it, then they can sell it back for full price including any markings. A horse that has been trained is technically more expensive than a green horse because the player has improved the horse. So, there shouldn’t be a mark down or punishment of the player for choosing to decide on a different horse.

Buying a new horse means getting a green horse, while exchanging a horse with a breeder or stable means they might get a horse that’s closer to the level of the one they have in the district racing specialty.

Another way to earn Credits is by completing extraordinary achievements such as completing the map, or feeding every animal type in the game.

Credits wouldn’t be used for opening districts in the game, moving the My Farm/My Stable, riding the trains (map travel), stable care, any in-game equipment (clothing) or gear (horse tack), or other in-game items.

Most of the in-game transactions we want to be done with Coins, our in-game currency. There will be a level cap for how many coins the player can carry around with them. Thus, the player should be able to store coins in a ‘bank’ at their My Farm. This bank would have an extra password so only they can access it.

Gear and Equipment come in sets. A full set of gear or equipment shouldn’t cost any more than the Coin cap they can carry around in their inventory. For example, if the Coin cap is 10,000 coins, then a full set of gear (horse tack) at 9 items or a full set of equipment (clothes) at 6 items shouldn’t cost more than 10,000 coins. A full 10,000 coin set would be a high level, high statistic set to make the player and horse have the best combination stats for whatever district or event they’re trying to achieve.

Gear and Equipment with the highest known stats in the game would be items the players would make through crafting.

Coins can also be used to customize their character by changing their appearance through hair styles and makeup, in-game items and extra decorations, buying some of the pets they can’t tame in the wild, and forming clubs.

Hopefully with this system, the players will feel challenged to be able to earn the money they need through playing the game and may only need to pay for extras with credits. Thus, they can learn how to manage their money wisely.

Trains: The Transport System

Trains: The Transport System

Now that we’ve talked about the map (3D with Fog of War/Standard Road Map), let’s talk about the other standard to MMORPGs, map transportation systems. Or the ability to jump from one side of the map to the other in a short amount of time. Guild Wars had the ability to jump anywhere in the map to the nearest city or town. Star Stable Online uses a network of horse transports, ferries, and boats (and one hot air balloon). World of Warcraft had flying mount stations. In Mystic Riders, we have trains.

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Yes. Trains!

The continent of Argentum is cut off from most of the world by a complex system of storms that no one is quite sure of their origin. (They think they may be magical in nature.) And it takes a lot of engineering know-how for planes and boats to make it to the continent. So, the natural resources of petroleum are very limited, while horses are much easier and much more renewable (along with wind, sunlight, and water). All horses require are things that the farmers can grow! (And pets, lots of pets.) So, there aren’t a lot of cars in Argentum or tractors for that matter.

In Argentum, backed up traffic isn’t cars, it’s horses and carts.

So it is much more cost effective for the people of Argentum to put their fuel resources for hauling cargo and people across the continent into trains.

Of course, they don’t have just any old types of trains. They have Victorian style trains that have been updated to be top of the line and comfortable for today’s travelers. Smaller trains with a few cars behind them have been converted into electric trains, while larger trains that haul cargo from one side of the continent to the other have been converted to diesel.

trainstation

Scattered across the map in every district there are train platforms that are guarded and proctored by the adorable station master kitties! All the player has to do is “discover” the train station. (They’re marked on the map, the player simply has to go there and find the platform.) The more train platforms they find, the more train stops the player can use. The player can then make friends with the station master kitty by casting a calm animal spell. (That is if the kitty doesn’t come to them first.)

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There are two ways that the player can use the train stations. They can open their map, click on a discovered train station and ‘jump’ to that train station. Or, they can go to the train station, talk to the station master kitty, and ride the train to their desired destination from there.

They also have the option to pet, play, or feed the station master cat as well. (Some riders carry kitty treats in their saddle bags just to feed the station master kitties they befriend.)

Riding the trains in Argentum is free. That’s right. There is no charge to ride around the map quickly in Mystic Riders.

Once the player has found all the train stations in their district, they’ll be granted an achievement. And they’ll get another achievement for finding all the stations in every district. There may also be achievements for feeding all the station master cats or playing with them. One can’t be sure.

All in all, getting from one side of the district to another is easy on an Astranar train… as long as they’ve discovered the platform!

Target Audience: For the Parents

Target Audience: For the Parents

With so many games out there from so many studios on mobile, PC, and consoles, it can be really tough knowing what games are suitable for your children, especially if you haven’t played them for yourself. We, the devs, of Mystic Riders want to be transparent about who our game is for and that we’re doing everything we can to both provide a great game experience while protecting the children and young adults who play the game.

First, age. We are specifically writing for the twelve and up set in terms of content. From issues they face to the genre tropes they adore, we are writing with them in mind and what they will enjoy, though some of us also indulge our inner twelve-year-old a lot, so it balances out (Becca has a habit of binge watching PreCure. It’s bad). That all being said, we are also keeping common fears and phobias out of the game such as spiders, darkness, etc., and there will be censoring (and moderators watching for back door maneuvers) of any swearing or inappropriate subject matter, so younger children may be inclined to play.

Safety is our highest priority.

We definitely want you, the parents to be aware of this age-bracket, and we want to have a solid relationship with you. That’s why we have taken a lot of care with figuring out our parental controls. But we are hoping for some consideration in return. While we won’t be any worse than the old Sailor Moon dubs that many of us grew up with, we still aren’t responsible if the subject matter isn’t what you want your child to be learning, and in fact we will be quite vocal about our game aiming for 10+ children at minimum. Some of the mini-game mechanics and plot points might be of higher difficulty than a younger player can play through on their own, so if parents of younger children let them play, they need to be aware that their child might need help for them to advance the game.

So besides age, who else are we targeting? We are 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.

As for the other two types, well. Some of the male games are tolerable, but if you try and play them, you run into toxic communities that can drive a girl away from gaming for life. Gender neutral games are puzzles or some adventure games, with a few specific genres that are trying to branch away from their original male demographic, but even some of those that tout having female players are designed almost purely for the male gaze aesthetically. We want visuals that are appropriate for pre-teen and early teens without sexualizing their avatars (and therefore adding a certain unwelcome element of online gaming). We are hoping to create a safe environment that encourages them to enjoy video games and the type of community an MMORPG can create.

Finally, what type of gamer are we looking for and is that your child? We want explorers, creators, and any who would appreciate a good story. Mystic Riders was approached from a unique standpoint in the gaming industry—it was built narrative first! (Okay, loosely, and then we figured out what all we wanted in there and the branding. We still aren’t building levels before we know what is even happening in those levels.) There is an emphasis on customizing, exploring a large, open world, and allowing different levels of cooperation based on personal comfort. Some people aren’t happy unless their riding club has over a thousand members, some people don’t want anything to do with clubs, thank you. We try to appeal to both.

Where cooperation really isn’t optional is with the horses. Our type of player loves horses and wants to interact with them in several different ways and with their favorite breeds. We want to meet that need…as much as is reasonable. We understand that your wallet isn’t always open. We need money to sustain and expand the game. At the same time, if the game price is too high then it drives the exact players we want away from playing. That’s why we have set limits on number of horses and the prices of (very limited) micro-transactions. (We’d love to do away with them entirely but aren’t sure if we can or not.)

We have even made it a priority in our game that everything that the player needs to have an enjoyable experience can be earned in the game through quests. (Yes, there are quests the player can play once to earn the type of credits needed to purchase one draft horse and one pony, if maybe not the specific breed or color that they desire.) On top of that, we have limited the number of breeds of horses in our games.

Some breeds are so similar to others, or effectively are the same breed outside of some specific color patterns, that they aren’t going to have separate listings. (Becca has a story about a horse whose grandfather was a leopard Appaloosa, father was an American Paint/Thoroughbred, and then the poor stallion couldn’t get registered as anything but a Thoroughbred.) But if you want an American Paint horse, you can certainly get an American Quarter Horse and customize the coat!

Becca and Ginny are also putting their foot down as far as some elements of horsemanship are concerned. Not to be mean or to make their job easier, but because they require years of experience to do properly and, more importantly, safely. The player character is set up by the story to be only a few steps above novice in knowledge and skills with horses. We’re too honest.

If you or your child don’t exactly fit this target market, does that mean you won’t enjoy the game? Considering Becca and Ginny both have whined about wanting to play the game rather than just make it, it’s pretty safe to assume no. But like with book genres, by knowing who a game was intended for, you can go in with a clear understanding of expectations and not be disappointed.