Star Stable June Blog: Player Character Update

Hi StarFam! We have an exciting new edition of our monthly game blog! This time all about the new player character! 

Player Character Update

By Marie-Cécile Jacq - Producer

Hello folks! We have an exciting announcement! *drumroll* We’re ready to release the new player character! The update won’t happen on a Wednesday as per usual, but on Tuesday the 20th of June!

You should be able to have a sneak peek of it the week before, as the Ambassadors will have early access to it. Also, if you haven’t checked yet, you can play with some customization aspects on this page! 

Before launching such a huge update, we thought it was important to take a moment and address some of the main questions you may have. Especially concerning what has been modified since last year's beta.

The character will display updated proportions, and the six body shapes have been tweaked. For now, we’re not able to provide more than six, as we need to be able to support players on low-end and mobile devices (but our system allows us to add more in the future). We've chosen to limit the number of body types in order to support more of our players. There are still a decent amount of them that don't have graphic cards that can't manage the latest 3D technologies that are needed for the new character. So in this case we need to balance between choices and game accessibility.

All clothes are now fitted to every body shape. We will continue to update them especially if we find any glitches that were not caught testing but that will happen post release, and be done over time in several iterations.

The saddles have been adjusted to the new player character, and to whatever body shape you choose.

All hairstyles have also been slightly improved to have better looking and less pixelated textures.

The main riding animations have been updated (walk, trot, canter, gallop) but it is a very long process, so please bear in mind that most “secondary” animations (emotes, quest specific) are still the old ones.

What we call “additive” animations are just at the beginning of being integrated. One of their most obvious uses  is to “adapt” each animation to the different bodies (e.g. making sure the arms don’t collide with the hips), but they will be used more and more over time, allowing us to update animations on a more regular basis.

In order to benefit from the new animation technology and reach a level of quality that is higher than before, we need to take it in steps. So when we release the new avatar there we will have some of the animations using this technique and for each release you will see this improvement throughout the game. We focused on the main ones, while the more specific ones are similar or slightly better than the current ones. We didn’t want to delay the release because of this , while all the other aspects were finalized. The plan is to offer regular improvements, which is something that we weren’t able to do with the current player character, due to the old technology it was using. Of course, some updates will be small ones, like bug fixing and adding some new animations, but also, further in the future, new customization options and more diversity will be added.

Let’s also be fully transparent about what won’t be a part of the release.

The “next level” of hair and makeup customization will happen as soon as the inventory is remade. Currently, you will have the updated hairstyles and makeup we shared, but we have plans for even more exciting features, so if you were hoping for more,, it will happen!

We’re still working on more hairstyles, specifically short ones, and type 3 and 4 styles (curly, coily, kinky hairs). Our goal in the future is to reach a more balanced ratio between hair types, but it will take time.

The longer hairstyles are still colliding with the body, this requires a new hair rig which will be added to the current roadmap. 

Skin texture is planned, but will have to wait, mainly for performance issues, and won’t be available at this release. It will allow players to add muscle definition, stretch marks, scars, wrinkles, freckles, moles, birthmarks, etc.

More face types and face customization options. Similarly to body shapes, we are now limited to the facial options we have shown in the first beta. 

Also, we want to apologize for delaying the release of retrofitted tacks, we know how some of you were waiting for these. It wasn’t an easy decision. We know it doesn’t feel like horse gear and the player character are connected, but we really needed that window of time without another release for testing and stabilizing.

Before leaving you, we would like to share some testimonials from team members who worked on the project. It was a long, exciting, and complex journey for us, and we’re really looking forward to the release and to continue updating the character, adding all the amazing options we've already planned.

About a year ago, I was not working at Star Stable yet, but I had been reading EVERY single monthly blog to get updates about the new player character because I was really excited about this project! Having the opportunity to animate for the new player character was amazing and I put my heart and soul into my work. I have been working on the riding animations and it has been a great experience. I am a horse rider in real life and studying closely the movements of the rider was so interesting to me. I also had a wonderful time working with super talented and friendly coworkers <3

- Pauline

I joined Star stable as an intern and I have been extremely excited about the new player character project for some time. Being able to join the team and see the progress as it happens has been such a cool experience. I ended my internship last year by getting to show off my skills as a 3D character artist, helping out with making some of the new player hairstyles, like the pigtails for example. I had so much fun working with the team on that project! <3

- Alishia N

About a year ago, I joined the team working on the updated player character. My main focus was to work on the logic for our in-game character customization service. Giving the players the ability to swap between skin colors, eye colors, and more. Working together with so many amazing people, all part of different crafts, and finally seeing all the hard work put into the updated character come to life in-game, was a joyous milestone and moment!

- Yvonne

From the moment I joined Star Stable as a 3D artist, I have dreamed of working on updating the player character, and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in this project!
While there were certainly some bumps in the road, I am so proud of how we as a team managed to work so well together and overcome obstacles, in the end producing something we can be proud of and that also will serve as a good base for making the player character even more amazing in the future!

- Jojo

Sometimes it feels like I've been cheering on this team from behind the fence, providing them feedback. Sometimes I've been straight in the middle of it, sweating and helping solve issues. I am incredibly proud of what the team has produced. This has certainly not been an easy project. Updating the player is something I've wanted to do since I joined SSE 3, 5 years ago. I don't wanna say I'm happy it's done, because this is just the beginning. I am happy we have a great foundation to keep developing on for years to come <3

- Lotta

I joined the new player character project right at the start of it. I’m a technical animator and I’ve been working to add new features like body shapes to our player character while preserving everyone’s items and the art from Player 1.0. Doing both at the same time has been quite a challenge. Fortunately, I’ve had fantastic colleagues to work with solving one technical challenge after another. It’s hard to explain the kind of difficulties that come with updating and preserving 10 years of art and code. But just take my word for it, it’s hard . I’m so proud of what our team has accomplished. We’ve also done a lot of work to make it easier and faster for us to add to the Player Character in the future! It’s been hard. But doing hard stuff with great people is fun! 

- Scott

A Character Vision Grown from the Beginning

By Ullis Linder - Art Director

Hello, dear players, friends, and online family. My name is Ullis, and I am the Art Director for Star Stable Online. Thirteen years ago, I began my journey as an intern in a small company with five other team members, all sharing a dream. A dream about a game where girls could have adventure, experience exciting stories, form bonds with their horses, and do this together in an MMO which became Star Stable Online.

I put the first building in place in Moorland stable, and I made all the NPCs (the ones we did not reuse from older games, I'm looking at you Barney, Carney, and Marley.) Already then, when I used pieces of meshes and textures from Star Academy to create our current avatar, did I have a longing for displaying our avatar in a different way. I have been playing games since I was a little girl, and back then I couldn’t find an avatar that reminded me of me and my friends, my sisters, the girls I saw every day on the street. And I thought “I wish our players could look at our avatar and think: this is me! And not: I wish I looked like her. For me, being a hero doesn't come with a requirement of a typical body or face, it comes from the inside.

Fast forward a few years, and we took our first step in deepening our art style with Mistfall as our initial test. The art style of SSO has been a collaborative effort between the artists and me. It has evolved alongside the game and will continue to do so as long as the game lives. Now, we have reached a pivotal chapter in the game where I believe we are closer than ever to realizing the vision for the player avatar that I envisioned years ago. I might have been slightly naive, because there are as many body types and faces as there are people in the world and we could most likely never represent all of you! 

Although we are restricted to one height of the character in order for her to work with the scale of the game, I still think we can now offer a better overall selection for you with this update - of course, with more yet to come.
One of the most important missions to me is to align all of the art in the game, and now the new avatar has the same style and proportions as our NPCs, Soul Riders, and Dark Riders.

I finally feel that they are one unit together with the player, and that is the art direction we are going for. Since a few years back, we have set the proportions of our characters to be 6,5 heads tall, so they are cartoony but still very human. This is still the scale we will work with, more or less, and of course older characters don't necessarily follow this, but that is also the charm and challenge with SSO.  

This is an emotional and personal accomplishment for me and I am sure many of you are emotional as well. This will open a door for us to do so much more and I'm so happy to show you what we have been wanting to do for so long. Some of us have grown up together, and so much has happened since that day when we waited for our first players to join us in Moorland. Some of you have become my dear friends and some of you are friends I have not met yet. This is big for us and for this game. I'm so humble and grateful that you are on this journey with me and I hope you are as excited and happy as I am! I will be there on the day we release our new avatar, as I have been for every update we have done. And I will enjoy it together with you.

So exciting! We can’t wait for June 20th! Stay tuned for the next game blog for more amazing updates!