Hope you’re having a great summer! We’ve got a little treat for you! Our great Game Designer Ida Andersson-Junkka is here to spread some more summer vibes and give an update on Summer Festivals. The incredible Emily Thomas talks all about our Game Master Program. Finally, our skillful Technical Animator Scott Clary is here with a new Player Character Update! Enjoy!
The Festivals of Summer
By Ida Andersson-Junkka – Game Designer
Greetings, Jorvik Adventurers!
My name is Ida Andersson-Junkka, I’m a senior game designer here at Star
Stable Online. My specialty right now is Festivals, and thus, I’m here to talk to you all about Festivals! At the time of writing this, we have just finished re-launching the Midsummer Festival and wrapped up the last bits of the Rainbow Festival. Right now, we’re working on the new and improved Beach Festival.
As you’re reading this right now though, you will have already experienced all of these summer festivities, and I can only speculate on how everything turned out! Did we manage to surprise and delight you with our new Beach Festival activities? Were you excited to face off against the Dark Rider Katja and did you find all of the colours of the rainbow? Were the midsummer celebrations as traditional and ceremonial as you remembered? I can’t wait to find out! One thing is for sure though, (I’ll let you in on a secret) I will have read ALL of your comments on our social media posts and I’ve also played the content alongside you as it went live. There is no moment more rewarding for a game designer than seeing a player react to and experience something we’ve been part of creating. We observe, gather feedback, evaluate and we learn, every time!
This was especially true in terms of the Equestrian Festival, released earlier this spring. We received a ton of valuable feedback from you, mostly positive but also some important and justified critique (yes, those balloons may have been a little pricey). Our ambition is to continuously improve our festivals and deliver a better and more engaging experience with every single release. There are a lot of different variables to consider in a world as big as Jorvik, and the inhabitants often have different interests and goals; different reasons for playing. We do our best to find a good middle ground. One angle we’ve taken recently has been to establish a clear focus for each festival. As you may have noticed, the Equestrian Festival had a bigger focus on races and competitive elements, while in the Rainbow Festival, the focus shifted to the single-player story and worldbuilding. This is a path we want to continue to follow, ensuring each Festival feels unique and has its own touch.
The Festivals of Summer
With the summer festivals, the keyword for our team has been “experiment”! In the Rainbow Festival, we introduced a new system to interact with our daily activities and content. We wanted our players to have more control over how to progress the main story, to find their own way to complete the story. It was a challenge to ensure fragments could be earned and collected in whatever order the player chose, while still telling a linear story. We hope you felt empowered!
As for the Midsummer festival, you may have noticed we did not commit to any major updates. This may very well have been the last time we hosted the Midsummer Festival. To honor our old tradition and say our goodbyes, we wanted to keep this experience mostly the same. We hope you could tap into the same feelings of nostalgia as we did and that our newer riders were able to create some fond memories of their own!
The Beach Festival has gone many years without really feeling like an actual festival. The first thing we did was demote Tim (the bartender), we felt he had his chance at hosting the festival. Instead, we invited two experts to turn the festival into a proper beach party; Mel and Thalia! We spent a lot of time thinking about what this festival “wants”, how it feels and what kind of activities you would do there. We took inspiration from summertime activities from around the world and turned some of them into game mechanics. We also reached out to our ambassadors, looked at player feedback and ended up with a list of very promising old features which we could infuse into our new gameplay. Maybe you recognized some of it? Our skilled writers worked everything into a main narrative and made the experience feel complete.The Beach Festival was never meant to become such a big project, but we actually ended up overhauling the whole shebang!
The Summer Festival of the Future
We want to be creative with our Festivals and explore new ways of introducing and interacting with our content. Our ambition is to deliver new surprises and go beyond expectations, every time we launch a Festival. You’ll have much of our regular gameplay as is to be expected. Sometimes, you may see completely new mechanics, other times, mechanics return with a unique twist. We have to keep in mind that some of you have never experienced a festival before, in that case the experience needs to make sense and not feel out of place. This is particularly tricky as festivals should fit in with our timeline and the narrative told with our Soul Riders… Another challenge lies in building festivals with compelling stories, characters, and activities which fits everyone perfectly. We all have different tastes and playstyles, ensuring we offer different angles in each Festival, we can all find our personal favourites!
We’ve hosted three minor festivals this summer, all very different and unique. We will learn all we can from these and listen very closely to the feedback we receive from you. We are eager to know which ones you liked the most and what you liked about them. Next year, our ambition is to go further and host a larger festival which lasts a little longer and feels a little grander. It will be THE festival of the summer to go alongside spring’s Equestrian Festival, autumn’s Halloween, and the winter/new year celebrations. We hope you’re as excited as we are!
Game Master Program
By Emily Thomas – Community Moderator/Game Master Lead
Hey there, StarFam!
My name is Emily (aka Game Master Wilma) and I work a dual role as a Community Moderator and managing the Game Master Program. I’d love to share some fun insights about our GM program, what it looks like to encounter a GM while you’re in-game, and some plans for the future.
From the moment I started at SSO two years ago, I immediately recognized how passionate the StarFam is about our game. Seeing Game Masters in Jorvik is a special event in and of itself for players! Apart from having a great time hanging out in-game, it’s also a wonderful opportunity to gather the opinions, feedback, and suggestions of our players – which we can then share with our team. While we can’t make every suggestion into a reality, we absolutely can pass along what players share during our time in Jorvik with the right team to consider.
What even is a Game Master? We are employees of SSO who volunteer our time to hang out in Jorvik and have fun with players through a plethora of ways. When you meet a GM it can be anyone from the company, a Game Dev, a Community Moderator, a Game Designer, a Writer, etc. We play through all the quests/reputations on our accounts just like any other player, so we’re able to answer your questions about Star Stable Online. You may actually see a GM that is a lower level than you for this reason, so some of our team may not have all the locations unlocked, but we will always try to answer your questions the best we can or help find the answers. Game Masters are as unique as all our players, so we’ll interact with players in our own special ways. Some may log onto a server to gather feedback on what projects we’re working on, while others may hop in to start a trail ride through Jorvik, conduct a Q&A, or even play some good old fashioned hide-and-seek!
How do I know when I see a Game Master? You can spot us by our unique name and color of chat while in-game because it will show up as “Game Master ____” in yellow. This may be startling for your first encounter, but fear not as we are not robots….beep boop…! Some of us may be wearing our exclusive (and some personalized) gold and black GM apparel, too. These differences are put in place for everybody’s safety, so you can be sure you’re interacting with a true Game Master.
Since we don’t have Game Masters across all regions, a goal of mine is to continue increasing our presence across diverse servers so that as many players as possible can have an experience with us in the future! Have you had a chance to meet one of us in-game before? We’d love to hear your experiences and see your photos. You can always share your stories or feedback with us via social media by utilizing our new hashtag: #GMSSO across social platforms and reaching out to our support team through our website’s contact form. We can’t wait to hopefully see you in game one day!
Player Character Update
By Scott Clary – Technical Animator
Hello all. I’m Scott, a technical animator working to help bring the new player avatar to you. For those curious what a tech animator is: I do some programming; I do some work with 3D art and animation; and I spend a lot of time discovering things we cannot do with our current system, then working with the team to figure out ways around the problems to do it anyway.
For us developers the updated player character is not only an opportunity to deliver a new avatar that we hope you will enjoy. But it’s also a chance to change how we make our player avatar art assets so that we can do more in the future (releasing more options and features)!
One such workflow improvement is how we organize our clothing assets. Previously, all the player avatar’s 3D assets were stored in one file. This file has become cluttered and heavy. The only way to update the current player avatar is to update this one large file and reload the entire avatar including every clothing asset in SSO. This has made us hesitant to add new 3D assets to the player character because making a mistake in this file can create bugs in the player’s avatar without us realizing it before the bug reports come in.
One of our goals for Player 2.0 is to empower our 3D artists to add new 3D assets for clothes without having the stress of working in a large fragile file. So, we have split every clothing asset out into its own file and programmed tools to update the player avatar from these separate files. Before, a mistake while trying to add a new clothing mesh could result in other outfits breaking. Now, such a mistake can only affect the clothing mesh that is being added. This not only saves our art team time and stress, but our QA team as well!
We are also being careful to build the new avatar so that we can add more to it in the future. For example, we are building our body shapes system in such a way that we could potentially add more body shape variations in the future. Normally, it takes a lot of effort to add a new body shape to a player avatar that has as many clothing options as we have in SSO. However, we have been building tools to automatically refit our player’s clothes to fit any new body shapes we decide to make. We still need to be careful not to add too many body shapes to avoid affecting the game’s performance.
Changes like these end up being tricky to implement because the new player avatar needs to be able to do everything and equip everything the old avatar can in SSO. Everything we add needs to be able to play nice with how everything currently works. And there are 10 years of quests, environments, and character interactions that the new avatar must work with the same (or better) than the current avatar. It’s a lot to keep track of!
What a lovely read! Hope that made your summer day even better! Stay tuned for more next month! Keep shining!