Star Stable October Blog: Halloween & Hollow Woods

The leaves are changing color and the air is getting crispy! Perfect time to get cozy and read our latest monthly game blog!

Design of the Halloween Festival 2023

By Harri Jokinen (Content Game Designer)

Hello there! I’m here to talk about the design of the Halloween 2023 festival. Previously I have contributed to the design of primary quests such as ‘Storm Over Devil’s Gap’, ‘Fripp’s Agents’ and ‘Through the Vala Portal’, and I have also worked on lots of festival content, such as the Yeti quests from Winter 2022. 

This year we focused more on maintenance and bugfixes, than bombastic new activities and questlines. Due to this decision, you will find many of the classic and returning activities to be smoother experiences than before. We put our efforts into the “smaller fixes” this year because we are currently working on other big updates, such as the upcoming Hollow Woods and Winter updates. Because of shifting resources and focus onto these other projects, Halloween this year was not as huge as it has been during the previous years.   

We have also talked about moving away from the huge, multiple year spanning questlines during festivals, and Halloween this year is a reflection of that. We have brought back the Galloper story quests from previous years, but we did not add a new chapter to that story.

Players will be happy to hear that this year’s Halloween maintenance includes removing the portal unlocking from last year. We heard the player’s response and understood the frustrations that it caused, and felt like it was not a good way to gate the content. The Soul Shards will also be returning as a secondary currency to the Autumn tokens, contrary to what was discussed last year. 

You can now exchange the shards for tokens, but grinding them will not be as necessary since the portal unlocking has now been removed. Both trying to get rid of the Soul Shards, while at the same time requiring them for content felt too clunky for us. There are small fixes all around Halloween, and we’ve made sure the old activities still hold up. 

In general, we’ve aimed for an overall theme of “Witches of Jorvik” with this year’s festival. We’ve sprinkled little bits of that into multiple different content. 

One of the new activities this year will be the Witch’s Gambit, which will act similar to Galloper’s Gambit from previous years. After you accept the challenge, a ghostly witch will appear to haunt you after an undetermined time. If you survive the challenge, and manage to evade the witch’s obstacles, you will get a reward. 

Another big thing this year will be a completely reworked version of the classic Scarecrow Hill Race. We’ve really put all of our art efforts into making this more witchy and spooky. The new race will be more challenging as well, taking some pages from the magic-infused races that you can experience during ‘On the Trail of Anne’ and ‘Storm Over Devil’s Gap’ primary quests. 

After all, the original Scarecrow Hill Race was heavily inspired by one of the old story quests, so we are continuing that tradition, while bringing something new to the table. 

While this festival was being worked on, there were also other big projects either in production or on the horizon. One of the biggest releases this year will be the completely revamped Hollow Woods with all new gameplay and story accompanying it. Stay tuned! 

Hollow Woods

By Bretton Hamilton (Lead Game Designer) & Oscar Carlsson (Art Lead)

Hello again, riders! My name is Bretton Hamilton, you might know me as Game Master Bee, and I’m the Lead Game Designer at Star Stable! Today I want to talk about our upcoming Hollow Woods update! 

First things first!

Before I get you all hyped up, let me start with some tricky news. To start, we are removing the Valedale Championship in this first Hollow Woods release. We want to remaster it and release it in the future, but the team doesn’t have the time to give you the entire Hollow Woods release AND remake this championship. But don’t worry, we’ll bring it back early next year in a way that REALLY feels like it makes sense for the new area and gameplay. 

This is a pretty huge project; involving remaking an area containing a lot of quests, races, and dailies, while at the same time creating new gameplay for you to enjoy. The team's health is important to us, so to ensure we have a good work-life balance and still deliver content we’re proud of, we made adjustments to the release plan to give them more time to finish all the amazing content. One adjustment is to release the area revamp first, and then the new gameplay will be released in the following two weeks. Another is that we will release more fun activities for you to do early next year. For you experienced players, you will be able to explore the forest before the magic really begins. While this is not what we initially intended, you will get to enjoy all the magical things that will emerge once they are ready!

The Hollow Woods

Hollow Woods is an enchanted woodland at the heart of Jorvik. The nearby townsfolk of Firgrove and Silverglade prefer not to enter these mysterious woods for fear of unusual glowing runestones and the occasional encounter with the odd druids who live in Valedale Village. But surely the forest is no more magical than those of Firgrove, Greendale, or Goldenhills right? 

Well, to the common outsider the forest is dense and misty, but otherwise quite normal. To those who are initiated by the druids, the true magic hidden in plain sight will be revealed! Riders can follow any and all of the druidic paths to grow their connection to the Hollow Woods. 

The Path of Whimsy is all about embracing fun and letting your curiosity guide you!
Fireflies humming with the very light of Aideen dance through ancient glades and groves. Those trained by the druids can learn to capture and collect this light! (Without harming the fireflies of course!) And those that unlock the magic of the druids can even attract the fireflies from afar! Further training can reveal wisps disguising themselves as fireflies! Once revealed, these startled spirits will dash over branches, dip under logs, and dart through the trees to return to their favorite hiding spots! Riders who can keep up and spot where the wisp is hiding can collect light from its hidden stash! 

The Path of Runology is for the study of magic and unlocking the secrets of ancient runestones!

Lastly, anyone seeking a challenge is sure to enjoy some of the new runestone puzzles being added in Hollow Woods. Runestone Glyphs is a memorization minigame where players must remember a short sequence of runic symbols and hunt around the environment in search of them, while avoiding the incorrect glyphs. Our other new puzzle is Runecarving! This second puzzle is a short logic puzzle that requires you decipher a sequence of commands to correctly identify the required glyph! Players following the path of Runology will unlock new difficulty options that offer some of the best rewards in Hollow Woods!

We’re also working on a third path revolving around gardening! But that needs a bit more time before it’s finished and perfected. Fellow plant lovers and cozy gamers, get ready to garden away early next year!

Magic Horses and Pets!

As you learn to see and channel the magic of Hollow Woods, you will slowly earn the trust of some of our classic magic horses that live in Hollow Woods. These creatures offer quests to those they trust, and can be discovered hiding in the forest. When these horses learn to fully trust you, they will unlock permanently for a discounted price near Valedale Village! Now that they have finally returned home, they are leaving the magic horse rotation.

Progression System!

“But Game Master Bee,” I hear you cry, “This all sounds amazing, but how will I unlock and earn all the new activities, items, and rewards in Hollow Woods!?” 

A great question, my dear reader! 

For Hollow Woods we want to experiment with putting the power of choice in YOUR hands! As you complete activities around Hollow Woods, you’ll earn the Light of Aideen. This light can be channeled into the Motherstone, a runestone of immense power, to unlock upgrades, items, and more! This means you get to pick what, when, and how you’ll unlock everything! If you prefer to solve puzzles but crave a greater challenge, then you can progress through the Path of Runology first! While those who love collecting fireflies and chasing wisps can unlock improvements through the Path of Whimsy!

I’m sure this all looks a little overwhelming, but we’re going to do what we can to make this as fun and intuitive as possible!

Now without further ado, I’ll hand you over to my dear friend and wonderful colleague, Oscar!

Bringing Hollow Woods to Life!

Hello! I'm Oscar and I am one of our Lead 3D Artists here at Star Stable. My focus is on our environments.

For Hollow Woods, we are very excited to improve the quality of our assets in this area, it is something that has been on our to do list for quite some time, several years actually, but we have always had to change our focus at the last second. Now, finally, we have been able to put our attention into Hollow Woods.

I don't know if you have thought about this, but Hollow Woods as it is today does not feel like a big area. I know that I did not think about it as a big area, due to the lack of points of interest and the lack of variation. With the changes we have done and those we are currently working on, the whole area feels like a much bigger place! We have been able to put in quite a few points of interest! To help with this, we’ve also divided the massive forest into smaller biomes! 

We have a new large lake, a deep overgrown forest, a stony mountainous area, small flowery meadows, and new waterfalls feeding into the Silversong River!

Something else that we have been working on is the integration of the gameplay and the environments to hopefully bring a more cohesive experience to you! To do this, we worked very closely with our game designers and collaborated to make sure that the new gameplay really feels like it's part of the environment!

For this release, we are putting all our focus into the forest surrounding Valedale to give it the time and care that it needs, we are not making any big changes to the architecture type of the village, but that is something that could be looked at in the future!

The team and I can’t wait to get this into your hands and we hope you will be as excited as we are!

Hollow Woods 2024?

Hey! Game Master Bee again! Thanks for reading about our upcoming Hollow Woods update scheduled to release November 15th! We have more exciting plans for Hollow Woods planned for 2024, which will include lots of stuff we wanted to release with this update but didn’t have time for. This will include more gameplay, secrets, items, and more! 

Tell us what you’re most excited for, and when we release this big update, let us know what you most like or want to see!

See you soon, riders!