Tumbling Down in Amethyst District

Tumbling Down in Amethyst District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Amethyst, where Consciousness magic is the end-all be-all.

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Set in the very center of Argentum, Amethyst is mostly mountainous and bordered by Sphalerite, Ruby, and Emerald, as well as both Zablana and Nospos. Ginny used the Swiss Alps as inspiration for Amethyst, looking for ways to situate towns and farms into the mountain side that goes vertical more than it does horizontal. With pocket valleys creating ideal places for villages and high steeps covered in snow for the rest, Amethyst is great for everyone who enjoys their snow year round.

In addition to the villages and high hills that lead into Ruby, Amethyst is home to winter sports of all varieties, particularly ice skating. In fact, a huge Olympic-sized facility has been built in Amethyst to try and attract ice skaters of all types. With all those twisting roads, though, travel can get tricky and there’s always someone who is in need of rescue. Perhaps as a nod to the home of winter weather, Russia, there is a definite imperial/military inspired style in Amethyst.

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With all those mountains and the specialty of dressage, you might need a new horse. While Amethyst doesn’t provide you any funds for new horses, there are some to take a look at if you don’t mind spending some of your own cash. The Vyatka and the Akale-Teke are horses built for extreme weather and elegant looks, both being considered rare breeds. If something a little more solid is your speed, there is also the Orlov Trotter for your consideration.

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Consciousness magic resonates with Ti on the solfege scale. Consciousness is magic of the mind and will, with many of its abilities similar to that of psychic abilities. Magicians of Consciousness will push their minds and their bodies as hard as they can to achieve their goals. While they are usually empathetic enough to pick up other’s emotions and maybe manipulate them, they aren’t as wise to their own feelings and can come across as a little cold. On the small scale, Consciousness magic is telekinesis and emotions or thought sensing, relying on the environment or others as well as their own will. On the large scale, it can grant its users knowledge of the past, the present, or the future, and even allow for astral projection. However, you have to be careful about going too far from your body or into time–they don’t play fair–and if you push yourself too far, you’ll get a nasty headache for your troubles.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Amethyst, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Amethyst mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Isidora Silvertreble (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vivian Streetbeat (profile pending) and Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending).

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

Gears Are Turning in Sapphire

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sapphire, where Ether magic brings out the power of the celestial in us all.

A twisting hill land of grasses and sand that is close enough to the Highwind Desert to affect the local climate, Sapphire is on the northeast side of the country up against the foot of the Whistlebacks, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Emerald, and Amethyst districts. Southern Spain was the inspiration for this district of Astranar (which makes sense considering the location of the equator for both countries). With tall, gleaming white buildings set in mazes among hills and winding dirt roads, Sapphire seems a lot more sparse than it is, with a rich history and ancient runes that hint at the past for Astranar. Of course, if you can find them is the trick there, since some of those ruins are quite out of the way.

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The nobility find Sapphire a welcome change of pace, and so there’s a heavy collection of them around. Some are lords, there’s a count and a local knight… Why so many flock can also be nailed down to the “exiled” prince, Sebastian, who makes his home at his family’s estate in Sapphire. Why he was removed from the line of succession is a mystery that the royal family has kept private… Some of the lords may also be by because Sapphire has a large bull fighting arena. (For those of you who have read Emerald‘s entry, you can imagine how big of a problem that can be!) Fashion in Sapphire is just a bit kooky–steampunk is the name of a game, perhaps as a nod towards formality for the gentry?

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With all the grassland hills and valleys, horses that do well on the straight and on dusty terrain are best suited to Sapphire. Good thing they have the breed books for Arabians and Barbs! In addition, they have the Hackney Horse for those who might be more inclined to their high speed trotting and delicate lines. The racing specialty around these parts is the straightforward flat race, though of course nothing is ever that simple, right?

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Ether magic resonates with So on the solfege scale. Ether is magic of the spirit, and in many ways is closer to “traditional” forms of magic. Those of the Ether don’t really take the beaten path, as they serve as bridges between Earth, the heavens, the spirit, and the body, though they value safety with their independence. They are deep thinkers who you can often find holed up in a lab of some sort. On the small scale, Ether magic can tolerate dualities, like hot and cold, have higher endurance of thirst, fatigue, or hunger, or converse/interact with spirits or ghosts. On the large scale, it is the power of alchemy, changing one element for another among other things, and space magic. Be careful not to form a baby star in your backyard!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sapphire, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sapphire mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Minna Opuswright (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Veronica Highflute (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

Emerald District, Here Us Roar!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Emerald (no wizards or tin men here, though lions, hmmm), where Air magic inspires action.

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The closest thing to a tropical jungle that Astranar has, with lush greenery and a mangrove forest, Emerald is on the northeast side of the country up against the low point of the Whistlebacks and the coast, and sharing a border with the Ruby, Sapphire, and Citrine districts. Ginny looked to the interior of Puerto Rico for how the district shaped up. The forests are one aspect, covering hills and low mountains, parting to show some bits of green land and lakes. There are also underground caves of beautiful stone. Emerald is home to the Astranar Zoo, which was recently purchased by a well-intentioned conservationist, and is home to several crazy species.

The mountains and forest are dense enough to prevent an invasion, so there are no knights in Emerald, but there are a handful of nobility, with a count helping organize the four local lords, who do a fast pace in trade of the tropical crops that can only be found in Emerald. This is slightly problematic because there is a strong eco-savvy movement in Emerald that detests “stealing from nature.” They set the tone for the fashion, which is fairly bohemian in style as they work to inspire lack of waste.

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Sometimes to get where you are going among the dense trees and water, you need to be in the saddle a long time. And with space at a premium, smaller arenas are for the best. As a result, the district specialty is dressage, and the local horses are a mix. For those who favor tradition, you have the Andalusian and Persano. However, if you would prefer something a little different, there is a South American horse who is actually an ambler rather than the usual trotting style: the Paso Fino.

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Air magic resonates with Fa on the solfege scale. A bridge between fire and water, air is the path to goals, though it may jump around from time to time. Air magicians are intellectuals who seek wisdom…they just may be all over the place trying to find it. They are good at helping ease conflict between friends by talking it out. On the small scale, Air magic can summon a fresh breeze or help you see or hear something from far away. On the large scale, it can be a summon special types of wind, changing it from direction to properties, and manipulate the weather. Of course, if you bring a cyclone down on everyone’s head’s, you’ll have a lot to answer for!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Emerald, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Emerald mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Elena Treeharmony (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Victoria Blackpiano (profile pending) and Varteni Heatforte (profile pending).

Skip Over to Citrine District

Skip Over to Citrine District

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Citrine (the gemstone, not citrus fruits), where Fire magic sparks the imaginations.

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Continuing the hill country with a few plains mixed in instead of forests and gorges, Citrine is on the southeast side of the country with coastline, and sharing a border with the Diamond, Ruby, and Sapphire districts. The point of inspiration from Ginny was Scotland. Not just the moors, but also the lochs and woods rather than full forests. While water isn’t as plentiful here as it was in Ruby, there are a few stand-alone lakes and streams. The grasslands of the moors seem to stretch on and on at times, with hidden hills creating surprises around corners. There is some hard pebble type beach shores, but a good portion of the coastline is also jagged rocks and steep cliffs.

With the sweeping plains of grass, most of the “farming” that happens is that of animal husbandry, though some grow grains or nightshade variants like potatoes and eggplant. A wildcat sanctuary is kept among the hills, where a wide variety of big and small species of wild cats have a safe place to live and education on conservation can occur. They even have a traveling group that rarely has orphaned kittens they could use some help raising. The coast is home to plenty of fisherman who scour the sea for bountiful seafood, while the vineyard does its best to compete with the other districts.

The local nobility is small, with their presence not being felt much. A count, a baron, and a few lords and a knight, they could use a reminder on how to socialize with each other and with the populace. Perhaps because of having lots of space, perhaps because Citrine is so close to Diamond District, but no matter the reason, Citrine has plenty of flourishing dance studios and other types of training that performers dream of. It fits with the creativity and passion that is used to combat the sameness of the view and weather. The fashion reflects this, with some hip-hop inspired styling that somehow manages to make it work with the gothic aesthetic.

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Sweep hills of grass are great for not only cattle, but horses. Specifically flat-style racing, which is all about speed and endurance. The horses that are collected here reflect the more tumbling sides of speed. The Brumby, the Camargue horse, and the New Forest pony all make their homes here (or rather, their breeders do), and they are sure-footed to help if you need a new horse for speeding through the flats. Please note, the expectation is that the game will provide you funds for two extra horses in addition to your initial horse, one of which includes a pony. This is not the district that supplies you the credits for purchasing one.

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Fire magic resonates with Mi on the solfege scale. It’s all about the creative energy and passion for life. Fire-inclined people are energetic, brave, and vivacious, with personality just oozing out of them. They can’t help but show their creative personalities, being very assertive and strong in themselves. On the small scale, Fire magic can light a candle or a campfire, making a matchbox or tinder a theoretical exercise. On the large scale, it can be a purifying force, as well as provide inspiration depending on the spell. The downside is that an irresponsible or out of control spell can lead to a raging forest or grassland fire faster than you can sneeze.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Citrine, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Citrine mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Vivienne Streetbeats (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vivian Streetbeats (profile pending) and Veronica Highflute (profile pending).

Take a Hike in Sphalerite!

Take a Hike in Sphalerite!

We keep mentioning our wonderful districts, so now we’re going to start introducing them. Astranar has eight districts, each with their own individual flare, and they can be quite competitive with each other. In Astranar, the districts are named after gemstones. This week, we’ll be discussing Sphalerite (yes, that’s an actual gemstone), where Water magic is the all-the-rage.

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With gentle hills, some low-level mountains, and deep forests, Sphalerite is on the northwest side of the country, sharing a border with the country of Nospos, and the Morganite, Amethyst, and Ruby districts. The inspiration for this district was the Black Forest of Germany and the surrounding countryside, with a little of the Bavarian Forest. The further north-northwest you get, closer to the Whistleback Mountains, the more the terrain is mountainous like the bits of the Alps that Germany lays claim to. Whereas the further south you go, the countryside is more like hills covered with thick trees, from evergreen pines to oaks and elms. It is also home to the highest number of castles, though many are no longer home to the nobility.

In addition to the plethora of castles, Sphalerite has a deer sanctuary, home to several species of deer from both Astranar and other countries. It serves as an education platform on environmental stability and invasive species. (Because red deer and sika deer have taken over every area they are in, and let’s not mention Yellowstone Park in America before the wolves were reintroduced…) Because of the plentiful forests, many craftspeople come to take part in the forestry industry that the local lords are very careful not to take too much of the trees at any one time. Speaking of nobility, the local higher ranked baron and duke are a bit…stuck in the past. Unfortunately, they are being dragged into the future kicking and screaming. The fashion of the district reflects its ties to the past, with a retro flare from the 1950’s.

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Once again, I’ll get to what you actually want to know about. With the flourishing forestry industry, the extra horses available in Sphalerite are heavier, with strength for pulling, though these breeds are also featured in show jumping, the district specialty. If you are coming in from a different racing district and would rather buy a new horse than try and adjust any of your current horses to show jumping, American Cream Draft, the Black Forest Horse, and Vanner horse breeders sell some of their stock to players. While you will get credits for a draft horse through the course of the game, Sphalerite is not the district with that quest. Once you have one in your stable, however, special quests unlock.

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Water magic resonates with Re on the solfege scale. If Earth is the base, than Water is the flow that pushes and pulls you where you need to go in its own time. Those who are in touch with Water are also in touch with their dreams and their feelings, sometimes coming off as a little moody, but a devoted friend regardless. They don’t see problems, due to them having no concept of boundaries, and can go anywhere in anyway to meet their goals. On the small scale, Water magic can summon water, or raise or lower the water level of a pond or stream. On the large scale, it is cleansing and healing magic, with regeneration possible, as well as a bit of scrying through the reflective surfaces of still pools. If you don’t keep a handle on it, however, it can cause avalanches, floods, and overall bad weather news that will ruin that picnic plan with your riding club!

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Sphalerite, have their own little specialties and symbols. I won’t bore you with all of them, and I want you to get to enjoy finding them out on your own! (The name is one giant clue to one of them, fyi.) I will mention that the Sphalerite mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Kitty Sweetsong (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Veronica Highflute (profile pending).

So, Boarding Schools Are a Thing Here…

So, Boarding Schools Are a Thing Here…

(In our defense, boarding schools is at least one of my favorite tropes, I am endlessly amused by them if they are done right.)

One of the goals of the core game from the player standpoint is getting a scholarship to attend the Royal Riding Academy of Astranar. It is considered one of the most elite riding schools in the world, and for good reason! Besides giving its students a quality education, it always turns out quality riders. (And you know, witches technically, but that’s a whole ‘nother story.) So what’s up with this world-famous school?

Besides the collection of winners from the different districts and from the group competition at the end of the summer who win scholarships, other students are also able to attend, provided they can pass the entrance exam. Besides high-level academics, equestrian skills, and active recreational activities, the board also looks for what many think is an X factor for who will be allowed entry into the school. While you don’t have to have all three of the other requirements, you definitely have to have the mysterious factor that they look for. Some of the girls from camp make it in anyway, despite not winning the scholarship, and some locals also attend. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge of people, but that’s part of what makes the environment so much fun.

And for another thing, well, it takes place in a palace. Literally. The Old Palace, as it’s called, makes up a large portion of the campus, with sections being converted to classrooms, practice rooms, lounges, and dorms rather than the spaces they were previously, and the grounds being converted in some cases to courses and the stables deeply expanded. But some passages remain nearly inaccessible…except if the right person goes looking. Dating back to the same time period as medieval Europe, the palace was closed for a few decades after the new palace completed construction, which has not helped stop the rumors of ghosts at all.

(Don’t tell those stories to Lottie, though. She’ll go running to Ves, and that’s not someone you want on your tail.)

There is a uniform that you’ll see some of the characters modeling as we start to gather artwork, but the school does allow some personalization in the forms of accessories and hairstyles. Where the school gets a little quirky is for riding competitions–it’s easy to spot who the scholarship students and who are the normal students, because they get given specific colors to wear. Rather than the small clubs of friends you experience in the summer, the school has “official” clubs that are mandatory participation in at least one because they signify your equestrian training. They have dressage, show jumping, cross country, racing, endurance, agility, and all-around, with one member each being representation on the council that serves as the leadership for the competitions. At the end of last spring semester, Jim Westhorn and Lottie Mistwaltz were made President and Vice President, respectively, so you may see them away from their districts and around the school grounds trying to work out what they want to do this upcoming school year!

Your mentors from the light side and the shadow side of the divide both attend the Royal Academy, and are happy to show you around when the new school year starts. Some other noted teachers include Mademoiselle Whistlesteel, the Russian ballet teacher who has a private dance studio in the city as well, Adelaide Gemstring, the French violinist who teaches all the music classes, and several industry specialist from the fashion world tend to poke their noses into the classes.

If you make it to the Academy though, don’t think you won’t have rivals outside the school. There’s a second boarding school, and their requirements are much more simple. They seek to excel at competition–test scores, media industries, but especially horsemanship. Sponsored by the Astranar Equestrian Federation, AEFPS (Astranar Equestrian Federation Preparatory School) is a school meant for those who want to succeed. The follow the rules to a t, just to prove that when they win, it’s because they are the best. (Now if only they would stop driving their horses into the ground to do it…)

Much like the Royal Academy, they have a uniform that is much more universally applied. To them, it doesn’t matter if you are there on scholarship or not. You are there to compete, not to work together as a team. Because of their federation ties, there is no magic in the curriculum here, so they don’t know what you are talking about in that regard (even if some of the members do have magic, they just have their heads too deep in the sand to see it). For them, it is all about placing at competition, and in fact they’ll even sabotage each other if it helps them. As a result, how well the school actually does in competition versus what they brag… Well, we’ll let you be the judge.

Some notables who attend AEFPS? Well, Rose Neptuna can sometimes be seen walking around the Diamond district in their uniform, but actually confirming her attendance is nearly impossible, the same for her best friend, Loki Tenderlily. We can confirm that Hi-Fidelity is a recent graduate, and there are conversations about perhaps world violinist Renart Mistwaltz will come to teach a special class. And you may have interest in knowing that the secret leader of the shadow rider mentors also attends…

Funny story, we were trying to decide if AEFPS was an all-girl school, and then realized two characters needed separated or there would be a dead body, so there are boys in both schools! We have a small collection of boys, but they make there presence known. Sometimes, loudly… Hopefully you’ll enjoy getting to poke around the schools and meeting the different people. (We promise not to make you attend any classes, lol.)

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.

Diamond Media, Darlings

Diamond Media, Darlings

Those of you who follow us on Twitter or listen in on Ginny or I tweeting about the game have probably heard about Astranar’s pop icon and international star, Rose Neptuna. Did you know that Astranar has a recently flourishing music and media industry? No? Well buckle in folks, because today we’re doing a (pseudo) tour of the Diamond Media Complex.

Think of the media complex as a bit like the lots of Hollywood Studios and the music studios of LA thrust together. While Astranar has several outdoor theaters and stages for performances, the media complex is where movies are shot on sound stages, music albums are recorded, TV programs have their interviews, and much more. A sprawl of buildings, studios, and a limited number of outdoor sets and storage sheds, it still manages to blend in with the Capital’s architecture style (lest they wear out their welcome!). While the public is kept out by a guard and gate, you almost have to know where you are looking to know what you are looking at.

The complex is a bit of a catch-all for everyone who is anyone in the media business. There are some noted folks who you are going to have contact with:

  • Your mentors, of course! Both the mentors for the Light Riders and the Shadow Riders have formed girl groups: Doe Re Mi and HOOT, respectively. In addition to that, the Citrine Light mentor, Viva, has a special interest in dancing, and the Shadow mentor Var has an interest in acting and modeling.
  • The SSS, or the Style Secret Service, these are your dressers, hair stylists, wardrobe assistants, and fashion designers. With something as important as costumes and appearances on the line, you know they make their appearances! Most big names have at least one attached to them, though some seem to have difficulty keeping them. While Fashion Week is their Christmas, the media complex is home to most of them and their bread and butter for their daily lives. There’s a bit of an internal conflict though–Rose Neptuna brought French agents with her when she moved, and the local agents aren’t sure how they feel about that.
  • Agents and managers are the white blood cells of any media industry. They keep the schedules between different projects, different stars, and all the legal paperwork coordinated so jobs can function! Rather than having a separate firm, the agents and managers are actually worked into the structure of the complex. Less issues with paperwork and agency rivalries, but sometimes that makes it hard to get the agent you want! Some noted agents include Yvenne DuNoir, Anna Highflute, and Jillian Pearlchord. They manage some of the top industry professionals…or a few summer girl groups that the mentors are involved with.
  • The talent! Besides Rose Neptuna, there are other celebrities in Astranar to meet. Hip-hop artist and fashion designer, Hi-Felicity, the boy band the Heartbreakers, and even some talent comes in from outside of the country. In the acting world, you have Jameela and Harumi Softreed as the top actresses in the country, and you can’t forget the models, where Harumi has to compete with her twin sister, Miyuki, and there are always shenanigans where Sydney Azureballet goes. Besides just meeting these actors, actresses, dancers, and singers, we do offer a chance for the player to experience being a minor talent themselves and all the hardwork and practice that goes into it. (But more on our professions ideas in another blog post.)

So what all does the Diamond Media Complex put out? Astranar Fashion Week is one of their big productions, but summer in Astranar promises some huge blockbusters, from continuations of popular franchises to new premises, and that’s before you get to the TV shows. All these side stories are horse centric (and honestly are movies/TV shows that Ginny and I would go to see, not gonna lie). We took our inspiration for these Easter-Egg type media from some of our own favorite movies and books. It can be a little odd (like the one that is basically the premise of The Black Stallion…but in space), or it can be something more familiar that will bring to mind Horseland or the Saddle Club. In addition to all this, there is going to be an all-out summer smash concert before school starts again, bringing together talent from all over Argentum to participate.

We didn’t necessarily have to build a media complex into the game. But by doing so, it helps us centralize a lot of odds-and-ends that the player may need, both for professions and for story advancement within the capital. It also gave opportunities for the players to just have fun, including with their friends.

What in the WORLD is Victorian Edge?

What in the WORLD is Victorian Edge?

So we keep describing Astranar as having hung on to the Victorian Era a little longer than the rest of the world. What does that even mean? Well, I’m going to describe the over all feeling of the world that will hopefully help, and then Ginny has folders upon folders of inspiration pics to provide visual reference.

While a lot of the districts have their own influences and styles (we’ll get into each one eventually), there are some things that have carried over across Astranar, developing either concurrently with the rest of the world or arriving with the latest shipwreck. For those who have no idea what that means, think about how pyramids appeared in both South American and northern Africa, and numerous other ideas that develop across the globe in different countries that have no contact with each other at the time.

As for the lasting footprint of Victorian influence, it’s a mix of the Gothic cathedral style, then it goes into things like French (or Second) Empire, Queen Anne, and Gothic Revival. Mostly, it is a hodge-podge of the over the top “gauche” type of decor they favored, though the fascination with death and spiritualism will be centralized to one area or one time of year, since our focus is more on healing and balance.

Some key things that you will see are gingerbread trim on houses and buildings, scalloped pattern roofs, and intricate iron work on both the houses and the streets. (We have some beautiful and easily specialized ideas for the street lamps and manhole covers, I’m excited.) The roads around the farms and forest paths are dirt, because roads are expensive, but the ones in town are cobblestone rather than pavement, which is better for horse hooves and much better to adjust to the town size as needed. They work around or over hills rather than digging through and leveling, the same for the railroad tracks.

Interior wise, we drew inspiration from the Morris wallpapers and vintage or even just vintage inspired furniture pieces, in both American 1950’s and more traditional Gothic. Not only do we want to provide a variety for players to really customize their experience, but we want things to work together without fighting each other in terms of style. You can have your goth or punk rock room, or you can be as frilly and princess like as you desire, or you can splash loud colors all over the walls, but the goal is to make the visuals all flow for the sake of the game.

Alright, now to the part I’m pretty sure everyone cares the most about. What are the characters going to look like? Well, fashion wise, we tried to cover all the genres—hip hop, preppy, vintage, punk, fancy, and even androgynous. But we pushed them to fit within our idea of Victorian inspiration and what Ginny calls the blocks that we have built into the game without getting…ridiculous. You’ll see a lot of the classic shapes of the 1950’s, as well as modern casual fashion. Okay, and yes, there’s some Lolita-and-or-school girl aesthetic going on, and that’s my fault. I have a lace and ruffle addiction.

Other countries and styles are hopefully going to make their way into the game, such as hijab and Hindu forehead markings, but those are additions rather than something we’ll be starting with. While we want to be inclusive, we made categories to make it easier to implement the needed fashions and blocking and sheer levels of programming that it will require. So stage one is basically the bare basics, and then adding some variations of that. Hopefully by the time we’re finished with the basics and their variations, we’ll have the support we need to make the rest happen.

As for why we went down this way… This really fits Ginny’s and my shared aesthetic. While sometimes we are on opposite ends of the spectrum as far as color and decorations go, the bones tend to fall in this direction. This also serves as a great point-of-difference for us, since most MMO’s are either directly in the modern setting only, or they are medieval fantasy…ish, though the historical accuracy of the fashion is usually questionable. By going in this direction, we circumvent the problem of potentially having fashion trends age the game, as well as provide a unique experience for the player. Sounds like it’s all coming up roses. Speaking of roses… See you next week!