This sounds familiar to something I wrote about our mini-games in our MMO. Hmmm….
Phanto on Twitter:
A Skyrim-style game but instead of constant combat you solve puzzles. #MakeAVideoGameBetter
This may be demand?!
This sounds familiar to something I wrote about our mini-games in our MMO. Hmmm….
Phanto on Twitter:
A Skyrim-style game but instead of constant combat you solve puzzles. #MakeAVideoGameBetter
This may be demand?!
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 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?
Mini-Games. I have touched a lot on mini-games while talking about every other mechanic thus far in the game! Part of our vision for the next stage of MMOs is incorporated mini-games inside the game itself. The biggest examples I can think of is the different hacking style mini games in Sly Cooper and Ratchet & Clank. The biggest mini- games that most MMOs have are their fishing mini-games. (Almost every MMO I know about has a fishing mini-game in it one way or the other. The original Guild Wars being the weird exception to this.)
Our target demographic, being female, really enjoy smaller style app games like bubble shooter, connect three, and puzzle style mini games. Women love hidden object games as well. When a single player game is made for little girls like oh, Tangled, or Disney Princess Adventures, a huge part of the gameplay is integrated mini-games and puzzles. We want to take this out of the single player game and put it into the MMO style game.
MMO games don’t have to be 100% fetch and escort quests, and drag and drop items into glowing sparkling fields. Because, that gets tedious. We know it does. We’ve all been there playing a game for the story or hoping to get to the end game for the PvP battles and been stuck endless grinding in fetch quests in order to level our characters and get new gear. And even in a combat MMO where there are NPCs around that want to hurt you, this gets mind numbing. (And so does the combat depending on the mechanics.)
And horse games, well, the type of horse games there usually are include mini-games such as currying your horse, cleaning the hooves, mucking the stables, and sometimes you get washing your horse and styling your horse with different mane and tail styles and fancy gear.
Feeding and watering your horse usually isn’t involved enough to be turned into a mini-game. With many of those horse games, that’s actually all there is to the game at all! (Which is so disappointing.)
So, here are some mini-games we’re thinking about for Mystic Riders.
Trace the Pattern/Connect the Dots
On your screen would be a pattern, or a set of dots. The player uses their mouse to trace the pattern or to select the dots in the right order to complete the pattern. Examples where this can be used: casting magic, doing hair in the hair salon, sewing a garment. Magic is the biggest place where we expect to use the trace the pattern mini game.
The player has to shoot groups of bubbles in the right order to clear the screen. Mostly for magically locked places, such as the Mirror World.
Find the pieces in the area and fit them together. Good for making bridges, restoring artwork, or putting furniture and musical instruments together.
Pattern Match Mini-Game
The player is given rows and columns of items. There is a pattern, set number of items they have to match in each row. They need to move the items around before they’re put together at the bottom of the screen. Good for cooking and brewing, possibly cloth making, and so on.
The Slide Bar Mini-Game
The player watches a bar on the screen with a slider that goes back and forth. When the slider is in a specific spot of the bar (often a different color) the player clicks the screen to stop it. Useful for anytime that timing and accuracy is important. Could be used for forging, archery, and fishing.
Light Pattern Mini-Game
Sometimes, things just need to be a certain color. Whether or not it’s a set of lamps keeping a gate closed, or a group of Christmas Spirits that got caught up in the fun of Halloween, they need to be changed. Make the lights the right color, doors may unlock, secret places may reveal themselves, and Christmas can be saved.
The sky is falling! Oh my. Oh, it’s just fruit and nuts you say. Well, carry on then. In the falling object game, the player runs around the screen to catch items before they hit the ground or direct falling items to specific spots. (These games should be easy. Easy I say!) Usually there is some sort of catastrophe going on. Or maybe the farmer needs your help to catch their apples before they hit the ground.
The player guides their pet to go through mazes, push levers, press buttons, and sit on different pressure points in order to unlock certain gates and doors. Pets don’t do that you say? Well, this is Astranar and there’s magic. Mostly for having a good time with your pet, or Mirror World people don’t think the same we do about locks.
Clean the Screen
The player has to clean the screen with their mouse to reveal what’s under the dirt and grime. Mostly for archaeology.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of the mini game options that are available to us as game devs. These are the ones that we think would be the most entertaining and make the most sense. For mini games such as horse brushing and hoof picking, I’d want to consult with experts to make them more “realistic” and also make them completely optional.
Without a combat system, it is imperative that we give the players a variety of ways to advance the game, so they don’t become bored with what they are expected to do to continue the story. Thus, our answer is mini-games.
Now that the player has someplace to live and keep their horses, well, they’re own little farm. They need something to do on their farm. That’s right. Crafting.
In combat MMOs, crafting is now considered one of the basic features of the game. It doesn’t matter that in a combat MMO you’re probably just getting materials to make new armor or put together some potions, crafting is there and part of the experience. In Mystic Riders, crafting is part of what drives the story as the character chases after the question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
As the player unlocks camp locations, they can choose to learn new skills. In the beginning, they can learn 3 different skills, one racing, one ‘craft’ skill and one ‘arts’ skill.
The racing skill they choose is determined by their district and the answers they gave to the quiz. (If they don’t like that type of skill, they can always take the quiz again to get a different district.) And then once they are at camp, they can choose two other skills from the different activities offered.
The Craft skills are hiking, running, swimming, gardening, cooking, photography, archery, and fishing. The Art skills are cloth crafts, leather crafts, wood/paper crafts, ceramics, and lastly, metal crafts. As the player uses their skills, they’ll get better at them. The more they craft, the better they’ll be at it. (Exactly the same mechanic used for riding, jumping, or caring for your horse.)
Some of the craft skills and all of the art skills have trees of knowledge that increase in difficulty. When you first start sewing for example, you’ll be learning to make curtains and pillowcases, but when you become more advanced, you can make tailored clothes! As the player increases in skill, new quests to learn more advanced techniques will open up for them to play, and new items will be available for them to make.
After you learn to hike, you can learn orienteering and eventually go onto geocaching and archaeology. Running leads to the skills of yoga, dance, and fencing or martial arts. Once you learn to swim, you can learn to row a boat. After you learn to garden, you can learn how to take care of animals, and mine responsibly. (I’d consider gardening to be the most basic skill to take and strongly urge players to get it started first.) Once you learn to cook, you can learn to bake, make candy, and brew things such as potions, lotions, and perfumes.
After you learn to sew square things, you can learn to make clothes, and then advanced more tailored clothes and knitting. In leather crafts, first you make belts, handbags, and shoes, and then you can learn to make bridles and saddles. In woodcrafts, you first learn to make paper items, and things such as picture frames. Then you can learn to make furniture and musical instruments. In ceramics, first you learn poured ceramics (like plaster) and slab style ceramics, and then you can learn the pottery wheel, and eventually go onto glass making. In metal crafts, you learn to make jewelry and simple things like nails and decorative objects, then later forging.
Some of this obviously is going to need to be worked out and is subject to change.
The crafting system is meant to tie in with the story, the professions, the My Farm/My Stable, and even the factions in Mystic Riders. During the story, the character will be asked to use certain skills. And how easily they manage them is going to depend on how much time they’ve put into that skill.
If you want to take part in a certain profession in the game and get the special items, you’re going to need skill and reputation with the groups related to that profession. The more work you put into your skills, the bigger and better your farm and stable can become. If you want better horse shoes, it’s going to be much cheaper to learn to forge your own than to buy them. And there are certain items you can only make if you’re with one faction or the other.
The items they make and grow can be food for them or their horses, it can be clothing or gear, or jewelry to help with their magic abilities. They can create items to decorate their My Farm/My Stable inside and out.
As the player runs around the world and does the quests and as they level up in their skill levels, they’ll discover, be given, or can buy different crafting recipes or patterns. These they can keep in their library at their My Farm/My Stable for reference later.
They can grow the items they need at the My Farm/My Stable, forage them from the world around them, or be able to buy items in shops if they’re pressed for time. Just because one player is going to want to make their outfit from growing the cotton to finished product, doesn’t mean another player is going to want to do that, and we can accommodate both.
Because crafting is going to be a large part of the game, we have set some limits on how long things will take to grow in the garden for instance. Nothing should take more than fifteen minutes and when the server resets, everything will be instantly ready. We don’t want to frustrate our players or make them babysit the game waiting for things to finish. Certain areas of the game will have items the player can forage. The items will be refreshed when the player leaves that area and returns. And so it’s not all drag and drop mechanics, we hope to use different mini games to liven up the experience.
For instance, in sewing you could trace the pattern on the screen. For forging, there could be a slide bar mini game where you need to hit the mouse at a certain time. For cooking, you could take the ingredients and make sure each row of ingredients has the right number of them and possibly in the right order.
We want people to have fun and hopefully relax during the game. Farming and crafting and using the items that result to decorate your My Farm/My Stable can be very relaxing activities! Crafting is yet another way we want to give the players more control over their experience to enjoy the game they want to enjoy it without making it a grind or tedious and mind numbing.
One of the main buildings in the My Farm/My Stable is the farm house, or, well, in the beginning, the farm cottage. When the player first sets up their My Farm/My Stable after purchasing the game, they receive what is essentially a 1 bedroom cottage. They have a choice over whether or not the cottage is on the ground or is a tree house and what architectural style the cottage is going to be or at least, grow into.
Because as they play through the game and go through quests learning different skills, the player will be able to upgrade and expand their cottage to have more rooms for different crafting skills. They’ll be able to buy or create decorations and plants so that they can choose how their cottage is going to look on the outside.
They will also have the option of decorating their cottage on the inside. This starts when the player gets a room or a cabin at camp. They are allowed to choose from the district’s basic colors and patterns on how to decorate their room. Once they buy the game, they’ll be able to choose from every districts colors, patterns, and mix and match from the different Victorian style wall paper and furniture themes available. And by learning crafting skills, they can make or buy at stores, drag and drop decorations to personalize their home even more.
The cottage begins as a small one bedroom cottage with a bedroom, living room, kitchen, and bath. Your living room may have a small area for whatever your first crafting specialty that you chose at camp. If you chose clothes, there might be a body form and a sewing machine for example.
As the player learns more about their skill they’ll be able to add onto the cottage by adding an entire room for the skill. They might want to add a wardrobe room to keep all of their clothes. (Like, they’ll want to add on a display tack room for their horse’s equipment in the stable.) They might want a room for paper crafts and wood working or to put in an art room for their pottery wheel and kiln or glass blowing supplies. Maybe, they’ll want to collect books and have a library. Or they need a case for all their findings in archeology. They might want to upgrade their kitchen so they have better ovens or more than one counter in order to do cooking and baking in one area, but making dyes, paint, and spa products (and other inedible things) on another counter.
One of the most useful rooms in the player’s cottage is their bedroom. The bedroom contains several mechanics of the game that deal with their inventory and game progression; the wardrobe, the vanity, the safe, the computer, the bedside table, and the bed.
The wardrobe is where the player can keep their clothes, hand items outside of pets, and jewelry. The wardrobe will allow them to organize their clothes and to create outfits if they desire. When the player enters the wardrobe, they should be able to see themselves and their clothing inventory. They can either double click on items or drag and drop them to create outfits. There should be an option for them to be able to see their total stats depending on the outfit that they’re wearing.
The vanity is where the player can keep their hairstyles and makeup options. If they desire, they can play a mini game in order to do their hair, nails, and makeup, after they decide what they want to do, or they can opt out of the mini-game and do a ‘magical’ quick change.
The safe is where the player can keep extra credits and coins that they don’t want to carry around in their inventory. This lets the player save coins and credits beyond the maximum limit. The safe would have an extra password that the player would set as a double protection just in case. This way, if the player doesn’t have anything they want to buy and are almost maxed out on the credit or coin limit, they can store those currencies and keep earning until there is something they do want to buy in an update, or dare I say it, the next expansion.
The computer is similar to the phone user interface for the player. The computer does everything that the phone does, as well as gives the player options to replay story arcs for coins (not experience), keeps track of story progression, allows them to replay story cinematics, and gives them the option to change their My Farm/My Stable/Cottage/Dorm appearance. Here they can keep track of their skills and skill trees, have a database of met NPCs, horses, and district information, see the webpages for different in game riding clubs, and unlock game concept art. And because a computer should also be fun, they can also practice the mini games such as bubble shooter and whack-a-mole, etc.
The bedside table is important for its large stack of magazines. These magazines form a dress up game for both the player and the horses. These magazines are advertisements for clothing, hair styles, makeup, and horse equipment items that they can either buy in the shops or create themselves. They can use the magazines to plan outfits for them and their horses, and the magazines can tell them where to find the items, if they have restrictions, the stats, and how much the entire outfit is going to cost.
Lastly, there is the bed. The bed is simply a place for the player to sleep. If they’ve finished the quests for that day, and want to progress to the next day’s quests, then they can pay a fee to sleep and wake up “the next day.” When they wake up the next day, all their items in the garden will be grown, and they’ll be able to proceed in any story or crafting quests. Mystic Riders is going to be designed so the player will spend at most an hour every day doing horse care and quests. If they desire to spend more time in the game foraging or farming or shopping outside of quests, that is on the player and if they desire to do more quests outside of the 45 minutes to an hour, they can sleep in their bed to progress the game.
While the cottage at the My Farm/My Stable isn’t going to be a place where the player spends a huge amount of time, it is designed to let them have as much control over it as possible and assist them in their farming and crafting endeavors.
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.