You are in Control: Player Settings

You are in Control: Player Settings

In another post, we talked about the settings parents have over their children’s accounts. It’s important to us the game devs for not only the parents to have control over settings in the game, but also for the players to have control over the settings in the game. That’s why we want to have a comprehensive game settings menu.

First, the settings that affect game playability and lag. The player should be able to control things such as if they’re full screen or not and be able to tell the game what size their screen is. Maybe they want to set a max FPS setting. Or want to adjust the ‘field of view’ and thus how close they have to be to assets for them to load completely.

Games like MMOs also have a lot of ‘back end’ style filters that may or may not affect the loading time of the game, like vertical sync, bloom, post effects, or even shadows. Whether or not these back end programs are  actually helpful to the player depends on the player. (Game dev Ginny finds they tend to make the game blurry and hurt her eyes, and Game dev Becca’s current PC can’t handle them.)

If we have more than one camera angle in the game, such as third person, first person, or bird’s eye view, it could be changed in settings. Some players like to be close behind their characters. Others want to see from overhead. And yet others might want a first person view where they don’t see their character at all but the top of the head of their horse.

Players should also be able to control whether or not they want to deal with friend requests, group requests, club invites, and any other type of ‘request’ that’s put into the game. If the parents have blocked these controls in the parental menu already, then they’ll be grey and unable to be changed.

Sound would also be controlled in settings. Games often have two or three layers of sound. Players should be able to control the volume of all the layers. Maybe they don’t want to hear the music. Maybe they need to hear the ambient noise in order to find an object! If the game has a radio function, they’d be able to change the station from this menu. (Or another feature could be added into the phone somewhere too so they can flip through radio stations by pressing on a button on the phone.)

We also want to be inclusive of all players and well, customization can be fun. In the settings, the players would be able to change the color of glows for ‘active quest’ objects, arrow indicators between racing gates or on the ground, and race markers such as wooden arrows or trail pillars to tell players where to turn or go on the race tracks and trails. Maybe there can be a setting for custom colors for health, magic, and faction bars.

Sometimes, standard set glow colors can be hard to see, especially if your glows are candy colored and the environment is brightly candy colored. We hope to negate this problem some by having a game environment color palette that is more muted in shades and tones than extreme bright colors. (Game dev Ginny finds bright colors everywhere without any differentiation and depth also make her tired because they give her eyes no place to rest. Resting is important!)

Lastly, we have some ‘fun’ and optional game settings that have been in demand in other horse games. For instance, whether or not you want to see your character’s hat. Maybe, you want to hide your character entirely and play as a ‘wild’ horse.

Other options in this section would be turning the grazing animation for your horse on and off, turning on and off emotes, turning on and off other player names (good for making videos), and the dialog boxes for things such as changing your clothes between the Mirror World and the normal world, or ‘are you sure you want to spend real world money?’

There are probably other settings we just haven’t thought about yet! While we don’t want to overwhelm the player with so many settings they don’t know what to do with them, we want to give them enough settings they can play the game easily and find everything they need to find. This also has the benefit of if someone is color blind to a particular spectrum, they can adjust the game to where they can see things clearly. Because everyone should be allowed to play the game if we can make it so.

The In Game You: Player Character Customization

The In Game You: Player Character Customization

At Mystic Riders, we want the players to have as much control over their character as possible, and this includes a commitment to diversity. After the player registers for the game, and takes their quiz to determine their starting district, the player will go through the character creation process.

They will have at least 8 different options to customize their character.

Body Type:

Mystic Riders wants to have three different body types for the game. The difference in body types is going to be the measurements of the hips, bust, and a little bit the waist. We’re giving them shape names so there is hopefully no negative connotations.

The Flower Body is body type with a smaller bust and almost no hips. The Star Body type is the medium body type with a medium bust and some hips. While the Heart Body type is a larger bust, slightly wider waist and big hips. All of these bodies are beautiful and normal!

Skin Tone:

We’ve chosen 20 different skin tones to use in Mystic Riders. 5 Caucasian, 5 Olive, 5 Asian, and 5 African. We want to embrace as many skin tones and undertones as we can from light to dark.

Face:

They can choose their face shape from the standard face shapes like round, heart, square, oval, etc. They won’t be able to choose makeup because they’re arriving on a plane!

Eyes:

They’ll be able to choose a selection of eye colors. Eye colors would be taken from our color palette. In an ideal world, we’d like each section of the face, eyes, lips, and nose to be separate choices. The player would have the options of 5 different eye shapes; almond, round, down turned, up turned, and deep set.

Lips:

If each section of the face is a separate choice, there would be 8 different lip options to choose from. The player would be able to choose lip shapes from a “natural” mouth, thin lips, to “bee stung” and thick “glamour.”

Nose:

Noses would have 6 or 7 options depending on how the noses are sculpted. (Finding good nose references isn’t easy.) Style would include upturned noses, down turned noses, narrow based noses, wide based noses, hook noses, button noses, and hopefully a ‘nubian’ nose.

Hair:

In hair they’ll be able to choose from a selection of “normal” colors (no dye jobs) and from ten basic styles.

 And their 1st Outfit:

Every camp has a camp store with clothing selections available for the player to purchase in the style of their district. The player would be able to choose an outfit from a dress with leggings, 2 blouses, a skirt or a pant and between the district hat or a riding helmet. They wouldn’t be able to show up to camp in the district coats or the muck outfit.

As the game progresses, the player will unlock new clothes to wear and be able to make and buy jewelry. They’ll be able to visit spas to change their hair style and buy makeup and nail polish. They’ll be able to store their new hairstyles, hair colors, and makeup in their vanity on the My Farm/My Stable and keep new clothes and jewelry in the wardrobe.

When a player visits the spa, they’ll be able to play mini games, such as facials, manicures, and hair treatments and hair styling after selecting their new look if they desire. Lip colors and eye makeup will all be drawn from the colors of the color palette. The players will also be able to dye their hair with the same colors. Each district of the game has 7 new hairstyles for the players to buy. This means there is a total of 66 hair styles in the game.

We have 14 clothing store brands planned for the game with clothing styles from basic to vintage to niche styles like steampunk. Each of these store will have mix and match sets for the players to buy. These brands are in every district across Astranar and the island of Argentum. If they go to Ruby, they’ll be able to learn fabric crafts and how to make clothes that much faster.

Clothes, thusly, are level locked rather than zone locked.

Because customizing your character and fashion is so important to the game, we are hopeful that clothing updates to add new styles will be one of the common ‘updates’ to the game. Hopefully, we’ve thought of enough options so everyone can find a look that represents them and things they like to wear.

Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

Black Lives Matter: Our Stance

I’m speaking as Becca here, so excuse me as occasionally I break the plural “we” I try to use to reference Ginny and I in prior posts. We have had discussions about not only where we stand, but also what we should do with this blog. And of course, how we can help.

Both of us believe in the Black Lives Matter movement and protests. Both of us want to support it.

Of course, we are two writers who are running a gaming blog to try and get sponsorship–there isn’t any money to speak of right now, and neither of us are comfortable going to the protests for health reasons. So we had to look at what we could do. The first thing, obviously, is this blog post showing that we stand with them and support the protests.

Next, we looked at what we could control, that being the characters in the game and representation. We knew we had covered our bases with the playable character creation, we have twenty different skin tones. You will be able to play with all options of skin tones available right at the get go. While right now how many features are set and how many can be customized are in flux because we don’t have an engine, we hope that we are going to continue to be able to provide a wide range there too. Whenever we create “sample” or filler player characters, we always go middle of the road–i.e. olive skin, brown hair, brown eyes–not white.

The next step beyond the player character is the characters you interact with the most. For our game, that’s the mentor-characters. There are seven Light Riders, five Shadow Riders, and because the Diamond District is “neutral” and not claimed by any set mentor, I count the younger prince and princess twins as the district representatives since they will be your source of info in terms of what’s going on and how to do things. So that puts us at fourteen characters to check our ratios on.

Keep in mind, this is our starting area. In an ideal world, there’s three other countries to unlock. For sake of sanity, each has their own, global influence. Astranar’s influence is Europe. But because it’s our starting area, I felt like we needed to push the ratio farther than what most racial statistics tell me the ratio is for Europe, not only to be fair for representation, but also to be realistic to the fact this is one continent, some crossover is going to happen more.

Upon review and some mapping of the characters by Ginny, we decided that yep, we needed to do some adjusting, which had a minor ripple on to another character who wasn’t adjusted. But thankfully we are now happy with it. Since I don’t remember who all has been mentioned where in what context, and editing past history can be viewed very badly in these turbulent times, I am instead going to list out our district representative characters and their current, possibly new backgrounds as well as the thinking behind it all.

Light Riders:
Vesper “Ves” Leilament–American and white, no change.
Shizuka “Kitty” Sweetsong–Japanese and Asian, no change.
Vivienne “Viva” Streetbeats–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Elena “Len” Treeharmony–Brazilian and olive complexion, no change
Minna “Minnie” Opuswright–German and black, she is the one who changed the most and the least at the same time. Minnie’s original character for a different project was German and black, we switched her to Middle Eastern when we changed projects before the Shadow Riders existed…and now we’ve changed her back.
Charlotte “Lottie” Mistwaltz–French and white, no change.
Isidora “Izzy” Silvertreble–Russian and white, no change.

Shadow Riders:
Vanessa “Nessie” Ribbonmelody–changed from German to Swiss since Minnie is now (back) to being German, and white, no other change.
Victoria “Vickie” Blackpiano–English and changed from white to being of Indian descent. She grew up in London still, but her family would have immigrated. I wanted us to have more representation from Asia, and it fit the character really well to make this transition. I’m sure we’ll find further edits down the road that will need to happen. (Like my scripts for demo weeks. I literally just realized that. Next on my to do list!)
Veronica “Roni” Highflute–Greek and olive complexion, no change.
Vivian “Viv” Streetbeats (no, not a typo, I swear)–Tahitian and mixed (Polynesian and black-French), no change.
Varteni “Var” Heatforte: Armenian and olive complexion, no change.

Royals:
Princess Rowan–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.
Prince Elowen–Astranaran and mixed (black and white, presents black), no change.

Hopefully this ratio makes sense, covers everything well for the start and then we can build it up as we go to other countries to keep things equal. I obviously will have to review our current characters and our new characters as we build them, and make sure each group fits this ratio. Most of the groups aren’t finished yet, which makes it harder to see where we are at, but obviously as the game continues to develop, we will keep a sharp eye on our ratio.

Ginny and I haven’t talked much about the police, but we have talked about having small mounted police, and they will be spread out. We are definitely not going to have any kind of military present in the game, aside from guards in the palace (which is like the Secret Service) and you may run into one cop in an area. Interaction will be limited with them.

Hopefully these steps will show that we are committed to equality and we want to help. If you have any thoughts for how we can further make adjustments, please let me know in the comments or to our e-mail, and we will see what we can do. Change is needed, and we will do our best to speed it along.

A Place of Your Own

A Place of Your Own

A large part of Mystic Riders involves the ability to grow and make your own items. And in order to do that, you need a place of your own to be able to grow your own ingredients or store things that you’ve foraged. Plus, you can’t keep all your horses at the camp forever. You need your own place and that is the My Farm/My Stable.

The My Farm/My Stable is available to players who buy a pass to leave the camp (or in essence, buy the game). Once they have a pass, the mentor of their camp will show them their own Farm and Stable and walk the player through choosing a set up for a Farm and Stable of their own.

The My Farm/My Stable exist in well, magic space. What the player needs to access their farm and stable is their magical key, and a special gate. When they put the key into the special gate, a portal appears to their bit of land in Astranar. They can either keep the key with them, or set it up in one of permanent gates on the map. (Going home to your stable is always a free transportation jump that doesn’t require using a train.)

The key to their farm and stable is a snow globe! (Snow globes are very magical in Astranar.) The player has the opportunity to customize their snow globe key by choosing one of the districts symbols for the middle and a color from the color palette. (These can always be changed later.)

snowglobe4

When the player drags and drops their key onto the gate for the first time, they’ll be prompted to choose a style of farm that they want. While the player won’t be able to choose the placement of the buildings on their farm, they’ll be able to choose whether or not they have a cottage or a tree house and about a half a dozen styles ranging from French Empire, Queen Anne, Modern Eco Victorian, and so on and so forth to choose from, and they can choose if they want stone or stucco or painted clapboard. There will also be decorations to make or buy so they can decorate to their heart’s content.

The player will also be prompted to name their My Farm/My Stable.

The player will start with a small 1 bedroom cottage, a stable with 3 stalls that looks like a country church without a steeple, and a patch of dirt. As they do quests around the districts, they’ll be able to upgrade and add buildings and animal enclosures to their farm. Some of the first quests after the player acquires their farm will be to fill the stalls of their stable with a draft horse and a pony!

For example, as a player does farming quests around the district, they’ll be able to upgrade their patch of dirt so it has less rocks, or they learn how to improve the soil, thus letting plants grow faster or yield more. By learning about animals from farmers and veterinarians, they can build enclosures for bunnies, chickens, and an animal pen for bigger animals like sheep, cows, alpaca, and goats. (This is going to depend on their crafting specialty what animals they find more important. A player that takes up doing clothing is more likely to have an alpaca over say a goat, unless the goat is a cashmere goat.)

Once the player goes to the Diamond District and learns about hot houses, they’ll be able to build a conservatory in their farm if they so desire. When they learn forging, they’ll be able to build a forge on their farm. And if they want a pony cart, they can build a building specifically to hold their pony cart.

tumblr_olp854s0fh1sd8v2vo1_540

When they complete a quest to make friends or capture one of the fantasy horses in the mirror world, they’ll be able to open a gate to the mirror world from their farm to a magical glade. This magical glade will have a pavilion for them to take care of their magical horses, a garden, and enclosures for magical animals.

The My Farm/My Stable is intended as a place for the player to be able to continually improve as the game progresses. It is “their” space in the game to make it look the way they want. They can use the farm to grow plants in order not to have to buy them at the stores and as a place to keep extra inventory and pets. Lastly, the My Stable is a place for them to house the completely optional horses (outside one draft and one pony) they can collect in the game.

The Magic of Magical Holidays

The Magic of Magical Holidays

If there is something I love about MMOs, it’s holidays. (Becca can attest to how much I love holidays.) And Mystic Riders is no different. If you follow my twitter @Ginnyzero, you’ll find that I’ve been the last several months tweeting about different holidays. Astranar loves holidays as much as I do and they like to go all out with decorations, activities, and things to eat and things to collect!

There are a lot of holidays that we want to add to Mystic Riders. So many, that it may seem that holidays last all year long. All holiday quests are extras and don’t contribute to the main story line quest. They may reveal character relationships and surprises about important characters in Astranar.

Some holidays will require a little more experience and story progression than others. This is to preserve some of the story’s secrets before they’re revealed in the main story. As the year progresses, the character can jump into the holiday stories at any time as long as they have unlocked the necessary districts.

In Mystic Riders, we’ve decided to do things a little differently. Every holiday has quests, and these quests contribute to their own special holiday experience bar. Doing quests also rewards you with Holiday coupons to turn into holiday NPCs in order to get special clothes and decorations. Get enough holiday experience and there will be big rewards.

What type of holidays should you expect in Astranar?

Christmas is one of Astranar’s favorite holidays. They have lights, huge trees, and big displays. Every district has their own holiday theme and each mentor of the district has been charged with setting things up. They need the player’s help, stat! Santa also needs help. His suit has been destroyed. The Elves are revolting. And he’s lost his naughty and nice list! On top of that, his horse and the reindeer don’t want to get along. His daughter wants to date. There is far too much to do. How the player can fit this around decorating, parties, sleigh rides, and ice skating, she just doesn’t know!

After Christmas is Valentine’s and love is in the air. There are love notes and flowers to deliver. The carriage rides need to be arranged. Everyone has a special someone. But Valentine’s won’t go off as well as it could if Cupid doesn’t stop moping and make up to Psyche. Not that Psyche thinks she deserves him after hurting him so. She’s a bit silly and needs the player’s help to prove her worth.

Luck Day is all about Rainbows and parades. Too bad the rainbows aren’t as vibrant as usual. What possibly could be wrong? Headmistress Thyme has a suspicion. It may or may not involve alicorns. Luck Day also celebrates the Deer Princess who came to Astranar to marry their prince long ago. Of course, no one told her there was a wedding in the offing! There’s a merry chase before the parade can begin.

The next huge festival is the Spring Festival to celebrate all the blooms in Astranar or at least eight of them. Each district is ready to outdo the other with huge flower displays and spring time decorations. It’d be nice though if the Easter Bunny hadn’t gone missing! Mother Goose won’t stop speaking in rhyming riddles. And Little Jack Horner is causing more trouble than he’s helping. His sister Jill is enthused with kittens who have mittens who keep chasing after mice. And Queen Katherine wants your help throwing a gender reveal party, but she won’t tell you who for! Is she having a baby?

Then is the Midsummer Festival and the wall between the regular world and the Mirror World is thin. It’s a time of portents and in the heavily agricultural Astranar, the Nokk, a water sprite that can turn into a kelpie, comes to make mischief. But somehow between the feasting and the bonfires, more than one maiden has fallen in love with him. Could there be a happy ending?

The next huge festival is Harvest and Halloween. Every district is celebrating the Harvest Bounty. The player needs Pumpkin Spice Magic to decorate the district! They need to go to Pumpkin Spice Mountain to learn how to make it. There’s going to be a barn raising and old fashioned ho down too. Plus, it wouldn’t be fall without hay rides! Things are going well until the Pumpkin Queen turns up with her Squash Ladies and other minions. She’s looking for Jack the Pumpkin King and it will be mischief until he’s found or at least caught. He’s having too much fun riding around with his Turnip Footmen holding his head up high in the air. Will things ever settle down with all these magical beings?

There are a couple other holidays that depend on the game’s opening schedule. Patriotism day will celebrate the founding of Astranar and be the birthday of the game. There’s to be a huge carnival and fireworks. As usual, there has to be a parade! Perhaps there will be cake?

Lastly, there’s Fashion Week. The Stylist Secret Service is ready to induct you into their ranks as a very junior member to make sure everything goes off without a hitch! The different designers of Astranar have all submitted fashion lines that have to be previewed, photographed and of course, styled! There are so many things that can go wrong with all the huge personalities in the fashion world.

This is just a short overview of the ideas we have for extra holiday fun in Astranar to make the magic last a bit longer and the world feel more real. Don’t mind the fairies!

 

You are the Hero

You are the Hero

In Mystic Riders, your player character is the hero of the story. It’s your journey and you are the star. The story pillar for the game is “growing up.” And we want you to feel like you’re in charge of the story and what you do matters. We want you to be the star. So, we’ve come up with some game mechanics and story elements in order to customize your journey.

Character creation in Mystic Riders is more than about customizing your avatar and your magical color changing horse. It’s about choosing the best starting magic for your character. The quiz will help decide what district, your first racing skill type, what type of magic your character has, and other cool things like if you live in a dorm room, a tiny cabin, or in a tree house while at camp. (You can choose if this carries over to your farm and stable or not.)

There are seven different magic types in Astranar (and the elusive eighth type, Harmony) and each district specializes in a different magic. Each district is a different chapter in the story that can be played in any order depending on what type of magic you want to learn next. Because story wise, your character is the next wielder of Harmony magic, the first in centuries.

Helping you on your journey are the mentors of each district. Your mentors are only a year or so older than your character, and can only wield one type of magic. They came to Argentum the year before and earned their spots in the Royal Riding Academy. If you get into a great deal of trouble, they can help you out. Maybe. If you get into too deep of trouble, you’d need someone with a great deal of magic experience, like Headmistress Thyme to get you out of a jam.

There are choices to be made all through the game.

After customizing your character and choosing a district with it’s racing skill tracks, there are other skills to be learned such as crafting and arts. Learning different skills in the game like hiking or gardening will help in your journey to discover Astranar’s secrets. And being able to make clothes and equipment not only will allow you to outfit yourself in better gear, but earn some extra coins along the way. The more skilled you are, the better things you can make and the harder obstacles you can take on.

When you level up your character and your horse, we want you to have the ability to customize your stats to what you feel is important. There is going to be a certain amount of strategy in choosing where to put your stats to be the most effective depending on where you are in the game. Not every horse is going to be the fastest horse or the most agile or most disciplined. Different horses are good at different things.

Answering questions is going to affect how your story proceeds and how characters in the game perceive you as a person. You want to put your best foot forward. How much effort you put into completing your goals in the game is going to reflect on the skills and abilities that you have and how good you are at them.

There are factions to choose. Do you want to control the power of nature, create illusion, and read minds? Or do you want to explore the natures of rot and decay and the nightmares of others? It’s up to you. Each of these factions will alter your story. And give you access to different areas, equipment, and gear. Depending on if you choose to be in the Light or Shadow Faction, there are specific pets and horses you can get that are exclusive to those factions.

As you progress in the game, you’ll be given an opportunity to take the first steps in a profession. Do you want to be a jockey? Entertain the masses like Rose Neptuna? Or even explore the far reaches of Astranar searching out secrets? Professions will give you special quests, extra items, and access to special areas.

Most importantly to us is that the story is about your character as the heroine who is there to train and learn the secrets of Astranar and Argentum in order to make the Light and Shadow Magic of the world harmonize again.

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 own farm, and sometimes need help with managing their stocks and crops. They can give you helpful recipes or even teach you 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.

Please help us make this game a reality and Buy us a ko-fi. (Goal: Graphics Logo)

So Why a Girl Protagonist Again…?

So Why a Girl Protagonist Again…?

Time for some delving into our decision making paradigm here as I address what is sure to be a question we get a lot, and while I’ve touched on it, I really want to talk about it in-depth. Why did we decide that the player character in Mystic Riders had to be female?

I’ll get the mechanical aspect out of the way: yes, it is easier when you are going as highly-customizable as we are to only do one physical sex. Especially because we are doing three different body types, and lots of different hair styles and options for personalization and style choices (even if we are limiting how many are available at release and adding to them as the year goes on). By eliminating having the option to play as a boy, we’ll be able to make the player characters that more variable with the same amount of time and resources that normally go into supporting both physical sexes.

Since you can easily twist the mechanics into an argument for why we should do a male option, let me go into the marketing side of it. Our age demographic is 10+ girls, ideally 12-16. Those girls are going to want to play as themselves, to be as much like they either are or want to be. Our job as game developers is to cater to that market. Particularly because it is wildly under-represented. There are very few, high quality games with a female only protagonist that can be customized beyond using your own name. About the only two games I can think of that fairly let you play as male or female for that age group are Pokémon and Wizards 101, and they have to limit how much customizing you can do because of the engine’s ability to handle it all.

I use the word fairly in two senses: one, there are (roughly) the same number of options for both the male and female players, and both are presented in the same way. Counting the number of hair styles is easy, it’s the second that trips developers up. The female character has to have to have the same variety of options as the men–this means that they can’t be designed to only appeal to the male gaze. (I have heard the arguments that the overly buff men are supposed to be for the female gaze, I am here to tell you it’s garbage. It’s a masculine fantasy all around, folks.)

One common complaint you’ll see, even in female-forward games like Overwatch, is that the faces all look the same for a female character, despite different nationalities and body types, but the men have at least a nod towards diversity. By focusing all of our efforts into female characters, we can avoid those types of slips and actually bring true variety and diversity to the options for characters and for NPCs. We can also feature interesting fashions without presenting teenage characters as a lot older than they are and creating unrealistic expectations.

Which leads to the moral and emotional reasons why we want to focus on a female character. I grew up with Zelda and Mario, both rescuing princesses. Pokémon: Crystal and Final Fantasy X, my first games with female protagonists (or close to it), didn’t come out until I was already ten or eleven, and I’m younger than Ginny! And while games have worked to include female options for characters, there still aren’t very many that focus entirely on a female protagonist, even as other games such as Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Red Dead Redemption 2 focus on male protagonists entirely. (I’m still annoyed we haven’t had a playable Zelda yet when she is the name of the franchise.)

Girls have just as much right to be the focus of a prophecy or the hero of a story. But they don’t get that opportunity unless it is alongside a male option. We want to create a game where the focus is devoted to showing that a game like this is possible, rather than feeding into the loop that girls won’t play games even if you create a game for them. It’s the same study they tried to feed us about female super heroes, and Wonder Woman blew them out of the water, and Carol Danvers is showing signs that she might do the same if given a fair chance.

That’s all Ginny and I want to do, really. Offer a fair chance for girls to be the heroes of their own stories, offer the type of games that we all enjoy without fighting through pop-up ads and bad graphics. By proving them wrong once, we give a foothold for others to try, and for us to keep trying and pushing for more. Because if all of us succeed, the ones who really benefit are the girls out there who start to believe that they can do what they dream.

Astranar’s Secret Gem: The Mirror World

Astranar’s Secret Gem: The Mirror World

Hidden beyond the next tree. Over secret paths only a few can see. Through the arches of branches and flowers. There is a world of magic and wonder. Teal skies. Vivid greenery. Unique flowers. Maroon earth. Only on the continent of Argentum, in Astranar, can people cross over and discover the enchantments and peoples of the Mirror World.

A simple name, perhaps, while others over the world may have slipped through cracks, they called it different things. Underhill. Wonderland. The Never Ending Wood. Ever After. In Astranar, the natives know that names have power and the true name of the World is best left to those that live in it. They simply call it the Mirror World for it mirrors our own.

When Astranar is in the heart of summer, the Mirror World is in the deepest folds of winter. And while in Astranar, it takes a powerful spell caster to work anything beyond basic spells, in the Mirror World, magic is as easy as breathing—for better or worse!

If one could see both the Mirror World and the mundane world at the same time, one would be able to see the towns co-existing in the same places! The people going on about their lives doing everyday things. For the people of the Mirror World have the same wants and needs as the people in the mundane world no matter how different their appearance.

And oh how different they are! Those that live close to humans can be breathe taking and magical. Fairies in their tiny snow globe sized bubbles. Elementals that take on the shape of humans or giant birds. Griffons that share a passing resemblance to eagles. Deer with colorful coats and exotic antlers like flowering branches and crystal. And many different types of sheep.

Then there are the magical beings that only choose to share the shape of humans. Though their skin is anything but human looking as if someone took liquid metals, and glowing paints to create abstract and fantastical designs. Some may have wings to mock the humans and their tales of fairies (or is it mockery?). Take care of those that live in the ponds.

Those that live deep in the Mirror World have names and faces we are familiar with; Santa Claus, Cupid, The Pumpkin King/Jack Frost, Mother Goose, and the Green Man. They come closer to the mundane world around the solstices and holidays when the veil between us is thinner. The ways to their towns and castles are only available for a short time each year as they are celebrated (or appeased.) Perhaps, if you help them enough they will open special places, special towns for the player to visit them all year round.

Then there are the horses! Horses in the Mirror World are the horses of every rider’s fantasy. The most prolific and easiest to find, because often they find you, are the magical color changing horses. Reminding outsiders of a Fjord horse, in the mundane world they come in all shades of dun and have bi-colored manes. In the Mirror World, their coats and manes become an array of bright, muted, or pastel colors. And in the Mirror World, they can talk to you. (This may or may not be welcome depending on their personality.)

One can make friend with unicorns, tame the wild pegasus, help the rainbow alicorns, and even discover beautiful nymph horses that take after plants and trees. They can take you to places no normal horse can reach (much to your main horse’s displeasure.)

A word of warning, as with the magic of Astranar, in the Mirror World there are places of Light and places of Shadow. Woe betide those who are of opposite sides stumbling into places they shouldn’t be. Those of the light, beware the arches of dead branches covered in moss. And those of the shadow, beware the arches of living branches covered in ivy. If caught inside, you’ll have to flee to avoid capture or bargain for your freedom. Some can be convinced to let you go if you make them something nice or if you entertain them. (Though this brings to mind playing with your food…)

Explore carefully.

But in order to explore, you’re going to need a winter coat. Don’t think you can pass a raincoat off as winter coat. Your horse is too smart for that to work…

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.