Happy March! This month we have lots of goodies, so let’s get into it!
By Ida Andersson-Junkka & Nicklas Andersen – Senior Game Designer & Senior Level Designer
Championships are arguably part of the oldest and most delicate systems we have in the game. There is a lot of what we’d call “legacy” content, both within and around them! Needless to say, taking on the project to update three (!) Championships at the same time was a bit of a scare to us and the team. But it was a project we all felt very passionately about, and it was also long overdue. Championships are what we’d consider the “peak” of our competitive multiplayer content. In a Championship, your skills and efforts are put to the test in the ultimate challenge with other players! But the way our old Championships played, our hopes and ambitions for thrilling and exciting multiplayer experiences weren’t realized. We wanted to change that, we wanted to breathe new life into our Championships and show them the care and love we felt they deserved!
We had a bold vision, so revamping the track itself and changing art assets was not enough. We wanted to do more, to re-brand Championships and really make them a big deal in the world of Jorvik. That’s how JERC came about (insert fun joke about me not being the jerc here). JERC is the new organization responsible for fulfilling our goals for Championships. They ensure that high standards are applied to the three new and improved Championships as well as any other Championships to come! JERC cemented Championships in Jorvik and gave them a reason to be, providing us with a cohesive concept which was easier to grasp. Introducing the Jorvik Elite Racing Committee wasn’t enough however, we also wanted each Championship to feel unique and distinctive! This is where our Championship representatives came in; Charles the Pony enthusiast, pirate duo Harriet and Larry and finally, Tamika the bobcat. Each of them sets the tone for the Championship they host, making them the embodiment and voice of the vision we had for each Championship.
We really hope you enjoy playing them as much as we enjoyed making them! Shall we continue this work with our other Championships? That’s for you all to decide!
Not only did we want to ensure we had established themes and a unique identity for each Championship, we also wanted to improve their navigation and flow! In this image, you’ll see an example from the Moorland Championship as it was before. From a player point of view, it is unclear where to go from here. There are a lot of conflicting signs and obstacles, adding extra cognitive load. In addition, the assets that were used didn’t feel natural to the environment. Improving this area might result in this part feeling “easier”, but “difficulty navigating” was never an intended part of the challenge. (Above: before, Below, after)
We wanted everything within the Championship hubs to feel unique and tailored to that specific theme. Even the shops were dressed in the colors and symbols of the Championship they represented. Left is an image of our standard vendor stalls and on the right the Fort Pinta Championship Vendor Stalls.
Whenever we revamp an area in the game, we do so because that content maybe hasn’t aged all that well and is deserving of a touch-up to fit the surrounding environment and gameplay.
We also took the liberty of updating some content relating to quests that were happening around the Championship areas; did you notice any of the changes?
So, for the championship revamps we wanted to update the championship themes to fit their environment. We decided that Moorland should have a riding camp and Bobcat theme. The Fort Pinta championship has a nautical and pirate theme. And lastly, the Pony championship has a family-friendly theme with a lot of balloons and confetti. To do this, we updated all the obstacles so that they all fit these themes. Championships usually have more challenging obstacles than regular races, and we felt that the Moorland and Pony races could also benefit from some of that to make them more interesting to play and to set them apart more.
Another thing we did was to move the Fort Pinta championships’ starting position further up the beach. This was primarily done for two reasons. The first is that the championship theme didn’t fit the nice beach vibe we have down there next to the café. Moving it a little bit further away from there made it easier for us to give the championship its own vibe but still respect the surrounding environment. The second reason was that we wanted to create more space and opportunity for us to create new content that fits that area well. Perhaps expanding on the festival content, which sometimes takes place on the beach.
The new Championship race board, we took inspiration from sketch-books and notice boards often found in stables; A space where passionate riders may add their own personal touches such as photos of their adventures, stickers or scribbles, mixed with informative notes from organisers.
We also spent time on making the racecourses easier to navigate. So, we played them over and over and identified a few potential improvements. We created more art assets and moved checkpoints to indicate the path forward in a clearer way.
Myths & Legends
By Stacy Place – Game Director
The slow journey down to the cold, barren lands of the Valley of the Hidden Dinosaur is accentuated by the memory of dense fog and slow-moving horses. That was a time long ago, when navigating the confusing landscape led you on a frustrating journey with insufficient excitement or reward. There was a promise here, a promise of fresh snow, new adventures, and an area worthy of exploration. For now, it remains quiet.
Your storyteller returns this month with another tale; that of the infamous quest team and the production structure at the place beyond Jorvik (Star Stable Entertainment Headquarters). My name is Stacy, and I’m the Game Director for Star Stable Online.
THE MISSING “QUEST TEAM”
I still see comments to this day about how much trouble I must have gotten into after divulging in an interview with The Mane Quest that there is no “Quest Team” at Star Stable. I’m not sure who would have scolded me or why, but I smile a little bit every time – and wish I had explained it much better.
There is not now, nor has there ever been, a “Quest Team” at Star Stable. But I absolutely see how people have been confused. We’ve always stated that the team that works on quests is not the same as the team that works on horses (I responded to all of our social media comments and messages for many years), which is still true. However, the team that works on quests doesn’t only work on quests, and the team that works on horses doesn’t only work on horses, either.
The team that works on quests has previously been known as the Jorvik Team (they are receiving a new name soon, the Continuous Experience Domain, as we’re currently in the middle of some reorganizing). This is because they handle most of the content that fills our world. Races, quests, area revamps, festivals, and so on. As I write this (probably long before you are reading it), that team is currently working on the next Primary Quest (Storm Over Devil’s Gap), the next Primary Festival (Equestrian), Horse Progression, and a Secondary Quest (Anne’s Horse Training). So much falls under their umbrella, giving the team various content they can work on.
The horse team is actually the Horse and Character team (soon known as the Creatures & Features Domain). They deliver not only all of our amazing horses but also NPCs, pets, and new types of tack, and they are in charge of the retrofitting process (again, just to name a few things). They don’t have to tackle quests since that team currently has no game designers. I’m not entirely sure the artists and animators there would be so excited to work in an area without experience in it, although, everyone is always welcome to learn something new if they want to!
I could go on because there are certainly other teams within the company (many not even directly involved with creating the game or tech – IT, Legal, HR, Accounting, Analytics, etc.), but I hope this quick overview has shed a little more light on a small part of our organization!
By Alishia Nossborn – 3D Artist
My name is Alishia and I am one of the 3D artists who get to work with the horses of Star Stable Online. I have had the honour to create a pair of special upcoming magical horses. “What’s so special about them?” you might ask. Well let me tell you, these horses are not just any magical horses that we create over here, they are made by some of you in our community! These are the Magical rainbow horses that we, last year, held a design competition for.
Our team announced the winners on our social media in September last year. I was not a part of picking the winners, but I saw many of your beautiful ideas, and you are such a creative community. I am constantly amazed by your creations!
Where to start?
When starting a project, we need to consider what constraints we have. We had no tech animation support for this project, so we could not make any 3D changes to the horses. Therefore these designs will be new colour variations on the existing horses that we have available.
Since we already had the ideas from the competition, we started out by discussing how to work with the designs. We really wanted to honour the designs made by our winners, so making bigger changes was out of the question. Starting from there, I sat down and examined the winner’s designs.
Interpreting your designs
We wanted to stick to the designs as closely as possible. Still, it would be impossible to do 100%, so minor changes have to be made with our constraints taken into consideration and to get the regular and magical coats to work together. Two designs were picked from the four winners to inspire the magic coats and two to inspire the normal coats.
We looked at all the art pieces, pointed out the essential features we wanted to keep from them, and discussed how to interpret them until the leads and artists were aligned. The breeds we chose for these horses were decided by looking at your designs, their features, and what available breeds could bring these features to life. For example, the Jorvik Wild felt fitting because it has the troll mane style.
Next, we tried to pinpoint what coats the horses had. After examining them, we chose a blue dun with a blanket and a dark silver bay as inspiration. I then made a quick visualisation in photoshop of the horses to see how the designs would work with our chosen breeds.
An example picture with minor changes. These are not the final horses and pets, and we kept referencing the winners’ art when creating the horses.
Seeing the feathers in the markings of one design and the rainbow connection made it evident that these horses needed a flying pet, and the most fitting one was the raven. The ravens are designed with similar features as the horses, using the same colour palette to match one another. In both of the magical horses, we saw a Holographic and Iridescent theme that inspired the ravens’ coats, giving them a nice fitting sheen.
When we had figured out what it was that we wanted to create, it was time to move on to the extra fun part, creating them for the game! A few changes might happen outside the concept during the texture creation process. These changes can happen because it is easier to see how the designs actually work within our game and in the 3D space.
See you around StarFam!
By Karin, GM Nova & GM Ylva – Fashionista Team
Hey there! We’re the Fashion Team, aka the style gurus of Star Stable. Our small but mighty squad currently consists of GM Ylva, GM Nova, and Karin.
Typically, we work in the Marketing department, but thanks to our collective passion for trends and equestrian fashion, we were nominated to take part in the creative process of item production at Star Stable. Our mission? To create the most fabulous outfits for this year’s Rainbow Festival! And let’s be real, who doesn’t love a good fashion challenge?
For this year’s Rainbow Festival, we’re so, so excited to bring the fun with some out-of-the-ordinary outfits that will make you stand out in the crowd. And we’re not talking about just any outfits, we’re talking about a tie-dye rainbow bonanza that is sure to turn heads!
We drew inspiration from your amazing Rainbow Horse concepts that our lovely Alishia was bringing to life, and we really wanted to try and match the incredible creativity demonstrated in your concepts, as well as the Rainbow Festival and Cloud Kingdom itself – creating dream-like and psychedelic patterns that will take your festival experience to the next level!
Prior to the concepting process we collected feedback from our favourite source, YOU!
What we learned was that many players are very keen on getting more pastels into the game. The Rainbow Festival felt like the perfect time and place to implement that, so we worked closely with Alishia to come up with a palette of popping pastels that we could all use as a frame of reference.
So, get ready to celebrate bravery and being your unique self with our Rainbow Festival outfits. It’s time to spice up your wardrobe and have some fun!
These wonderful horses and spectacular outfits will come alive in the Rainbow Festival on June 7th. The Cloud Kingdom awaits!
Stay tuned for next month’s edition of our blog!