The Games Within the Game

The Games Within the Game

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.

Bubble Shooter

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.

Puzzles

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.

Falling Objects

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.

Pet Puzzles

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.

Get to Know Your Devs: Top Fav Games

Get to Know Your Devs: Top Fav Games

Today we’re going to talk a little bit about what our favorite games are, and what you can see they mean for Mystic Riders as a whole. Why? Because our favorites are (inevitably) going to affect what sort of features we want to see in the game, and the kind of stories that we enjoy.

So to start with, Becca’s list is a little…all over the place. The most obviously vintage of the group is Barbie Riding Club from 1998, a PC game that in many ways started the girls’ gaming phenomena but is sadly no longer replayable. (Because yes, she would play it again, Becca will play any game she loves multiple times.) It was the best substitute for owning a horse a girl could have. There’s also Jak & Daxter, which is a console game of the fantasy, chosen one type variety, that she wasn’t able to finish due to the game mechanics being not in her favor. She grew up with the Legend of Zelda franchise, but the first one she played and her favorite still is Windwaker–it gave the characters such great expressions and had a story that was outside of the norm for the game while still being within the box that is Zelda. (And the new Princess Zelda from Breath of the Wild drove her bonkers.)

She has a hard time picking her favorite Pokémon game–Yellow was her first, Crystal was the first to let her actually play as a girl and has all of her favorite legendaries, Stadium 2 had the best mini-games ever, and Moon lets the Pokémon actually interact in the outside world more–but her favorite remains X. She just loves the world building too much, the region easily being her favorite with its French roots, and it was the first that allowed customization of the avatar to really let the player express themselves. Her last on her big list of favorites is Professor Layton and the Curious Village. While there are frustrating aspects to the game and some of the puzzles are harder than others, she enjoys the way the story winds through the characters and the “twist” ending that while mildly surprising, isn’t a complete shocker for the player either.

Ginny’s list is more easily nailed down to a theme (though Becca had to do some meshing to make this list, lol). With Caesar IV, she gets to make her own city and make it as pretty as possible (such as all the roads and the pattern tiles), as well as optimizing the layout to make everyone happy. Cooking games like Cake Mania gives her the satisfaction of getting the high score under the time constraints to unlock all the extras, and Cake Mania is particularly good about it because there aren’t a ton of micro transactions hiding in the levels. Roads of Rome gives her the satisfaction of doing things in the right order, especially since the later levels will punish you if you don’t, and the fact it’s repairing things rather than combat.

There was a lot that she loved about Ratchet & Clank. From the story, to the fact the original game’s worlds were just the right size to inspire wonder without getting overwhelming, but the first thing she mentioned was the fact the game was set up to be about exploring and collecting items, as well as a few well-timed explosions. Kingdom Hearts hits the nostalgia, the comfort of familiar stories and getting to interact with them as well as taking something old and making it new. (It was also her first platformer game.) With Okami, she loved the concept of using magic to heal the world and the mechanics that let the player see the impact their actions were having. She also found the puzzles seamless in their integration, and that you had to think on them.

What about games the two game devs share? There’s two sets of them. One is Final Fantasy X and its sequel, Final Fantasy X-2. For Becca, it’s all about the story. The characters are great (okay, Tidus is a bit grating, but he gets better), and some of the best parts of it are the fact you can influence the story in small ways to really make your mark on it. Becca really liked the callbacks to X in X-2, but that it was being it’s own story at the same time. For Ginny, her favorite part of X is pretty limited to Rikku punching Tidus in the stomach as a greeting. For her, X-2 was what really hit the mark because it focused on Yuna and Yuna’s grief and feelings about her journey and the aftermath. It also presented three very different types of girl, with girls having agency in their own story. And then the job system is her favorite, as imperfect as it might be, she liked it the best by far.

The other is the Sly Cooper series, though there are some strong feelings on them, especially the last one, lol. Becca likes that it isn’t about combat, it’s about sneaking and collecting items, and the importance of history to the present. (Once combat started happening, it started irking her.) There is character growth between games too, which is great. She just wishes they hadn’t done a cliffhanger ending with no follow through and that Carmelita had gotten a better treatment. For Ginny, the third game, Sly Cooper: Band of Thieves remains her favorite. Sucker Punch really hit their stride with the mechanics at that point, including different mini-games depending on the situation that made sense and fit the game play so the player wasn’t confused as to why it existed. It was also really about Sly’s ancestors and start delving into the lore of the world. She did miss the “tink tink” of the first two games though.

So what does all of this mean for Mystic Riders? Well, between the game devs, there is obviously an importance placed on story, which you already knew, but not just on story being the focus. It has to give the female protagonist agency, it has to be about their story as much as it is about the side characters, as fun as they can be. The mini-games have to be fun, and yet mesh well and make sense with the world, which can’t be so large it’s overwhelming or too small so you don’t have enough to explore. While the player has some influence on the greater story, it is within reasonable limits and gives in to their expectations rather than being surprising just to be surprising or not making sense. And rather than combat, it is focused on puzzles and improving the world, with some elements of time management but not enough to drive anyone batty.

Think this helped you understand what sort of game we are looking to build? Let us know in the comics or on twitter!

Target Audience: For the Player

Target Audience: For the Player

Mystic Riders is designed to be enjoyable for the person who loves horses no matter what their age. We want this game to be enjoyable and relatable for tweens, teenagers, and young adults to the older adults who are young at heart by providing an enjoyable story with challenging puzzles and things for players to do simply to relax.

We are you. We love Miraculous Ladybug, Love Live, Sailor Moon and PreCure. We adore Ever After High and Monster High. (Ginny at least played with Barbies the way they are supposed to be played with, and wishes they’d go back to some of the older style merchandising. Becca collected the horses more than the dolls.) We play horse games and farming sims and get lost in a good story about teens in impossible love. (Give us all the fanfic! Give. Give now!) We have a weakness for sparkly and pretty things. And to us, pink is just another color in a huge rainbow of colors. (Bring back Lisa Frank!)

We’ve created this game for people no matter their gender or age who love exploring, story based play and have a spirit of competition. If you like games like Barbie Horse Adventures and Star Stable Online, we hope that you’ll like our game—a game where you can ride and take care of your horse in a huge open-world-style map that includes mini-games like Disney Princess games, platforming elements like Sly Cooper and Okami, farming and building elements, dress-up, and as much customization as we can stuff into a game.

Customization is important. Our player character is a girl. There is no one type of girl. There is no one right way to be a girl and we want to provide enough options that everyone has a way to show who they are and be represented in the game! (Even if some of it may have to wait for expansions. Fingers crossed.) Representing you and the incredible rainbow of who we are is important to us. Prep. Goth. Boho. Retro. Punk. Hip Hop. Country. We’ve got you covered.

There’s a lot more to Mystic Riders than caring for and racing your horse. There are friendships to be made, a world to save, and a huge mystery to solve. Do things have to be the way they are? Can we all get along? Who is Rose Neptuna really? And why does the Bence have to be so cute anyways? Questions like ‘who am I?’ and ‘what am I going to be when I grow up?’ are balanced with silliness and fun. (Who knew that goats love pajamas?) And let’s be honest, sometimes those questions don’t go away even when you’re an adult. (Ginny can attest to this.)

There’s so much more to the story that it can’t all be contained in the game. There’s more to Mystic Riders (or we want Mystic Riders) to be more than just a game. We want books and webisodes and merchandise. Not to say that the story in the game won’t be complete, but who are Vesper Leilament, Charlotte Mistwaltz, and the other mentors? How did they come to Astranar? What are they up to behind the scenes?

And who doesn’t want a bit of their game to sit on their shelf? Dolls and horse figurines, outfits, make-up, and notebooks can mean that every player can have a little bit of Astranar and Mystic Riders in their day to day life. And given that Ginny is a fashion designer, well, maybe, if we’re lucky, there will be clothes from the game in stores with pockets (because clothes should be both pretty and functional). (Ginny and Becca are both serious about this pocket thing.)

Mystic Riders is a game created by those who love horses and are young at heart for those who love horses and are young at heart.