Ruby District, Watch Your Step!

Ruby District, Watch Your Step!

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 Ruby, where Earth magic reigns supreme.

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Known for their rolling hills and gorges, Ruby is the heart of Astranar–not quite literally, but it is in the center of the country and shares a border with just about everyone else. Creating it, Ginny was inspired by her childhood home of Upstate New York. The further north you get, closer to the Whistleback Mountains, the more the district resembles the Catskills (though Ginny will make the argument that they are still hills, just really steep ones. I’m from Oklahoma, I don’t have a horse in this race). Whereas the further south you go, the hills are still there, just less dramatic and more reminiscent of the Finger Lakes region. Those gorges are home to picturesque waterfalls that feed the rivers and lakes, watering the tall trees that cover the hills…at least, those that haven’t been “civilized” yet.

It is a favorite place for farmers and ranchers because of the plentiful graze, even if sometimes the sheep wonder off and have to be chased down. Dairy cows also make an appearance, and some vineyards. With all the plentiful supplies, it’s no wonder that craftspeople enjoy the district as well. The local nobility leaves… some… okay, a lot… to be desired, but we can deal with that right…? Well, hopefully. It’s just one count, how bad can it be? The other local lords are more farmers and landlords than real nobility, so they have the farm sense they were born with….right?! Maybe the fact the fashion has a noted punk/rebel edge isn’t a coincidence after all…

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Alright, I’ll get to what you actually care about. Possibly because of all the ranches, maybe just because they are quirky, but either way, Ruby is the solace for Western riders in Astranar. Barrel racing, pole bending, shalom, and pony games, there is a wide variety to try, though some will be limited to you owning a pony in addition to your default magical horse. (Don’t at me, there’s a quest to earn you the necessary credits, or at least the majority of them if you are picky on color.)

Ruby is home to Chincoteague ponies in all varieties of coats that they come in. Not to worry if you went to another district first so your default horse is geared more towards another style of riding either, because the Chincoteague isn’t alone in Ruby. American Quarter Horses (which you can turn into American Paints with a few extra credits to add markings) and Tennessee Walking horses are also available for purchase, although because they are considered “extra” horses, purchasing of the initial game license doesn’t earn you credits towards them.

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Earth magic resonates with Do on the solfege scale. It is the base, the anchor that holds you safely down. Those who resonate with Earth are down-to-earth personalities that value security and order, and they are very intense about getting it. They are very efficient, and a good person to have in your corner. On the small scale, Earth magic can speed up plant growth and making tilling the fields neatly easier. On the large scale, it can raise or lower the earth itself or effect magnetism. Of course, if you don’t stay in control of it, you could also cause a mudslide, which is not only dangerous, but is going to have a number of people mad at you for property damage.

If you following Ginny’s twitter blog, you’ll know that all of the districts, including Ruby, 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 Ruby mentors depend on which side you choose. If you go with the Light, you will look to Vesper Leilament (profile pending), and if you go with the Shadow, you have options: Vanessa Ribbonmelody (profile pending) and Vivian Streetbeats (profile pending).

Roses,Vineyards, and…River Otters?

Roses,Vineyards, and…River Otters?

So one of the big things that both Ginny and I want to feature in our world is nature for the sake of nature. Almost always, flowers or birds or really any other type of animal is included in a game only if it is tied to a quest. Sometimes they might appear in a cutscene (despite not being in the area normally), but for the most part, aside from pets and mounts, it’s pretty much trees, grass, bushes, and dirt. When we were building Astranar, we came up with other plants and animals besides the horses and pets to see as you are riding around. So when you are riding through a forest path, you’ll see a bird flutter off or see a undergrowth of flowers where logically they would be, rather than just waiting for a quest.

When it comes to the variety, though, and to somethings that were created specifically for this country, we wanted to tie them to at least a little bit of a side quest. This way the programmers would get to do something with all of this flora and fauna that was being created, and the player could actually interact with some of it. While pets are great, and we obviously love our mounts, there’s more to the world and the player should get to experience it. As well as learn how things we take for granted either need to change, or are different than media portrays them as.

One of the characters that we hope to introduce you to is the source of the rose species of Astranar, from a creative stand point, because she named all of her horses after the breeds! (Trust me, there was a lot of digging around to figure out how to name her horses and thus the roses.) There’s one of every general color, plus an extra species of white, and they are highly prized in any Astranar noble’s garden. While most roses aren’t hardy enough to survive in the wild, thanks to Astranar’s weather patterns, some vines can escape the towns to try and grow on their own.

Speaking of vines, Astranar vineyards and their rivalry are near-legendary, at least among locals. Each district has their own specialty, and they are the pride of the district. Each year, a bottle of the year’s harvest is given to the royal family to go sit and age in their wine cellar, and then the rest is opened up to the locals…and the collectors. (I’m not saying certain vintages are rare and fought over between one particular baroness and three-quarters of the nobility and upper merchant class types… but yes, yes I am saying it.) They also get downright competitive about whose is really better. Sometimes it’s easier to just nod and walk away…

Farms will have all sorts of livestock, from cows and goats and sheep…to alpacas and black chickens. (We’re weird, you’ll get used to it.) And it isn’t just the mentors and the players that have such variety! Who do you think they bought their animals from? The local farmers and ranchers have a wide variety of animals to pick from for your character’s farm, and sometimes need help with managing their stocks and crops. They can give helpful recipes or even teach about rare plants or animals that are attracted to them.

But outside of livestock, what other animals are you going to see? Much like in other parts of the world, there are wild cats and wolves that are endangered, and so there are education programs about them. You’ll also hearing some crazy fishing stories around the docks, encounter several types of birds and owls among the trees, and all sorts of creatures. (Though watch out for swans, they are protective and mean as much as they are pretty.) There are deer and big cat sanctuaries in Citrine and Sphalerite, respectively, to offer some specialty homes to a wide variety of species.

There are two animal homes however that are a bit more controversial, so they tend to have quests tied to them as the player explores the areas involved. Sapphire district has a bull fighting arena that is considered traditional, and getting them to consider closing it is going to probably cause a minor war with the older generation. Right now, the younger ones are hoping they can quietly let it die in a decade or two, but some are a lot more impatient and want to carry something out now. Navigating around that landmine may take some serious work for the player…unless they decide to get involved anyway, which could be a new mess.

The second home, you  have less of a choice. The mentor of Emerald (again, who I hope to introduce you as we get further along and have artwork) has gotten a bee in her bonnet over the zoo. It is home to several animals, from the old falconry birds and peacocks that the royal family donated to wild animals that were considered endangered, like the river otters…that are nothing like the cute little ones you probably think of. These are giant river otters from Emerald, and they are huge, fierce…and desperately craving watermelon, despite hating the taste. The conditions of the zoo don’t meet her standards at all, and she wants it burned to the ground. But there’s a new director of the zoo who wants to turn the whole thing into a conservation program, he just needs time. Sounds like they need a mediator, and fast!

Okay, anyone who follows the twitter for this game concept (and if you aren’t, why aren’t you, you are missing out!), you know that this is a total bait and switch. So I promise next week I will talk about the Diamond Media Complex and their stars, including a very special rose.