Our latest blog tells you all about Halloween, how we’re keeping our players safe, and the latest on the player character update.
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By Ida Andersson-Junkka – Game Designer
Greetings, Jorvik Adventurers!
I’m back to share some insights and thoughts on our latest festival in SSO; the Halloween Festival. This was a difficult beast for us to tackle, we felt really nervous taking it on! Not only was there a ton of content and new features for us to get acquainted with and learn about their inner workings, but there was also Galloper Thompson and the anticipated continuation of his story. Looking back though, I think the biggest challenge for us was actually the heavy weight of expectation, set by the success of Halloween festivals from previous years… We knew the Halloween festival was everyone’s favourite, even amongst our colleagues! The stakes were indeed high… but you know what they say, take the beast by the horns.
One of the first things you’ll notice with Halloween this year is the brewing narrative around Galloper and the complete lock down of his Keep. Upon arriving through the portal to Galloper’s domain, players discover that the portals have all been shut down and a distraught Kasper asks for aid to open them back up. This type of mechanic was a new experience for all of us, game team and players alike. It might sound bananas now, but we were actually really excited to put power into the hands of our players, to let you decide when and in what order you wanted the content to be unlocked. We wanted it to feel truly impactful, to give player actions meaning and consequences in the game world. For us, the portal mechanic meant balancing and planning around the soul shard economy was especially tricky. We wanted an even pace of opening up the portals. If it is too fast, we miss out on the challenge and you won’t be able to feel that continuous sense of progression and accomplishment (which are very rewarding feelings!). However, if it is too slow, you will instead feel like no progress can be made at all and thus the challenge does not appear achievable. Obviously, nobody wants an unachievable goal, it’s simply not fun for anyone! Another important aspect we had to take into consideration was that we didn’t want anyone to be locked out of our updated content within the portals for too long; we spent a lot of work and effort in building the Halloween experience, we want as many as possible to see it and have fun with it!
We made sure to open up new activities and more ways to collect soul shards as the Festival progressed; For example, after opening the Scarecrow Race portal up, soul shards will randomly spawn inside the race track. In the second week of the festival, Galloper’s Gambit is made available, which rewards more soul shards if the player succeeds in escaping him. As a side note, we made improvements to all of the content you unlock with the portals, even if it may not be immediately noticeable! Galloper’s Gambit specifically was improved in functionality and text (Galloper will no longer hunt you if you’re in a cutscene). Furthermore, as a finale to the festival, all of the portals will be unlocked after completing Galloper’s story quest chain, if you hadn’t already unlocked them.
Enough about portals, we’ve done so much more for Halloween this year! Karin’s Brewing Cauldron for example, a completely new feature inspired by cooking. You may use her cauldron to mix and match your own “potions”, but first, you have to find and collect ingredients! The idea was to encourage curiosity and exploration, to reward players who investigate and frequently visit Gallopers Keep. Some ingredients were designed to be more rare than others, they’d also give better rewards when placed into the cauldron. You might even have come across a particularly pestilent new friend? Speaking of exploration, we built an entirely new island this year! We named it the Isle of the Hopeful based on the island’s intent; We wanted to provide a space which was a little more relaxed, less creepy and more towards the beautiful, but with a hint of something sombre.
When we started to investigate the previous year’s Halloween content, we came across an old feature called “Ghost Hunt”. This was a feature that hadn’t aged too well and was removed quite a few years back… However, a lot of players still remembered it and longed to play it again. We wanted to give something special back to our community and so we prepared something very special for you this year; Ghost Hunt 2.0! We’ve taken the original concept of the ghost hunt and expanded on it with new mechanics and some puzzling gameplay, we hope you’ll enjoy it just as much as the original version.
There’s one more thing I’d like to touch on, something entirely new we introduced in the third week of the festival; Because what is Halloween without trick or treating?! We recognize trick or treating might not be everyone’s cup of tea, however, a lot of care and thought has gone into crafting it into something unique to us, our very own SSO-experience. Characters across Jorvik will have their own ways of reacting to you and the Trickster’s visits, we wanted it to feel varied and organic with just the right amount of humour. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone’s reactions to it! So much hard work from the entire team was put into crafting new and innovative ways of interacting with our world and characters (speaking of which, let’s give a special shout out to our amazing sound team, their music and sound effects really make everything come to life!).
Finally, let’s briefly touch on the continuation of Galloper’s story… We knew how important the characters and the narrative was to everyone and so we did a lot of research into the history of Jon Jarl, the druids, Gunnar Thrymson and his mighty mare (dare I say her name…?). This year’s storyline not only builds on the backstory of Galloper, it also expands on the history of Jorvik and offers some extra insights for those of you who enjoy the latest main quest developments… We were not quite ready to say goodbye to Galloper just yet, as you may have noticed there’s still more of his story to reveal. The type of storytelling in our larger festivals is something we’re currently planning on keeping up with; Key characters, story arcs and themes will return, be expanded on and progress over the years. We hope you’re excited to see more of it in the future.
Now, I’d best be off, I have more soul shards to collect… As I mentioned in my previous blog post on Festivals in SSO, we will keep gathering feedback and insights from you, our playerbase. We will keep learning and we will always strive to improve. Inspired by your feedback, we’ll create better content with every festival release. Happy Halloween!
By Mark Shaw – Community Experience Manager
My name is Mark and I work with Star Stable’s Social Media and Community team – so nice to meet you!
The connected world of the internet gives us an amazing ability to connect with other players in our favorite video games and build incredible communities, just like the one we are so lucky to have here at Star Stable. ❤️
But it unfortunately also introduces risks of different types of bad behavior. We’ve been seeing questions in social media around how we ensure the safety of our players in game, especially with chat. This is both very important and a complicated challenge – so I’m here today to remind you all of what we are doing to make sure chat stays safe for you and the whole StarFam!
Before we get into the details, we urge any of our younger players who feel they have experienced bullying on Star Stable or elsewhere, to speak with a parent or trusted adult to help.
How do we keep chat safe and friendly?
We have technical solutions:
- In our chat, it isn’t possible to share photos or videos.
We have rules:
- To get access to the game, all players are required to comply with our Terms and Conditions. If players violate the rules, they risk being banned from the game.
- For example, you are not allowed to share any kind of personal information such as usernames, passwords, real names, addresses, phone numbers, email, etc.
We get help enforcing the rules:
- We have robots helping us.
- We use an advanced AI service that monitors and moderates our text-only chat to keep our users safe. The security system is set up to prevent players from sharing prohibited personal information. It also blocks words that are not Jorvik friendly! The system works in real time, speaks all our supported languages, and is great at understanding what players mean.
But even smart robots aren’t perfect, so we also have humans helping us:
- Any reported content is checked by human moderators who then take the appropriate action. And then those humans teach the robots how to be smarter and better by sending information about their decisions back into the AI system, so it can learn.
But what if the robots and moderators don’t catch bad behavior, like a bully?
- That is a super important question and our Support team is on standby to urgently investigate any report we receive. So if you see something that seems like bullying, we strongly urge you to report it to our Support team at the link provided. We look into every single report and take appropriate action. You can report a player here: https://www.starstable.com/en/support
- It’s most helpful if you take a screenshot of the chat where a player has said something inappropriate. Make sure to attach it to your report as well as the name of the player and the server where this has occurred.
Keep in mind that actions we take to investigate reports and enforce our policies may not always be publicly visible and that our social media team doesn’t have access to player account information.
- We know some players have concerns that we have not acted as they would have hoped. If you have a specific instance where you believe we did not fully address an issue, please write back to our customer support team so we can confirm that the proper process was followed. (And remember that we can’t share details about other players due to privacy rules!) We will continue to work to improve our processes, so your feedback to our Player Safety team is incredibly helpful!
We follow rules, guidelines, and advice from the experts
- Star Stable follows the strict requirements set forth by PRIVO, an independent, third-party organization committed to safeguarding children’s personal information collected online.
- Star Stable has established Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) compliant privacy practices.
And what are we doing to continually improve this?
- We are working on a report function in the game that makes it easy to report any inappropriate behavior. We have rolled this out in some supported languages and are working to expand it as soon as we can!
- We created our own anti-bullying initiative, including contributing to an anti-bullying charity our players helped select. (You can learn more in our social media channels!)
- We will keep sharing information on our website and in our channels with our players about how to be kind to others, and also to make sure they themselves stay safe.
Thanks for joining me today on this journey through Player Safety! We will keep doing everything we can to make the space safe for all of you wonderful players in our incredible community!
And if you want to know more, you can read more about player safety and security here:
Player Character Update
By Marie-Cécile Jacq – Producer
We’re living in exciting times! The beta is now over, and we are spending October reviewing your feedback, which has been so plentiful and interesting. The whole community has shared a lot of strong opinions through social media, and our amazing beta testers provided an incredibly detailed analysis of what they liked, what they didn’t like, and what they want to see more of in the future.
As we’re still hard at work going through everyone’s responses, it is a bit too early to share the next steps with you. But don’t worry; next month’s blog post will be a deep dive into a beta retrospective and our future efforts.
We are also still progressing on the original plans, including fixing all the clothes (making sure it doesn’t clip anymore and making them fit the body shape, as now, unfortunately, they are giving the wrong visual information). We are also developing a system to sync horses and character animations (so animations will look good on any horse, even though they are horse-specific). It’s only after this step that we will be able to implement any new character animations. Right now, the new player character is using the animations from the current character, which were automatically retargeted without any manual adjustments.
We would like to thank our ambassadors and the beta testers again for the fantastic content they have produced and for all the thoughts and ideas they have shared with us. Also thanks to our lovely StarFam who have been following the hashtag #NewPlayerNewMe with great enthusiasm and sharing their thoughts and feedback through our social media channels
What a great read! So many insights and goodies! Stay tuned for the upcoming November blog!