September is here! We have three new exciting topics for you!
By Bretton Hamilton (Lead Game Designer)
Hello and Happy Birthday Starfam!
I hope you’re all enjoying our 12th Birthday celebration! So much has changed since last year, so we decided to return to our roots with this festival. We wanted to focus on levelling up some small areas around the event, give away lots of goodies, and give players a reason to explore some of their favorite haunts around Jorvik!
As I’m sure many of you know, with our first release of the Birthday Festival, we made visual improvements to some of our iconic locations like Demascus Mine and the Moorland GED Site. We saw how much players appreciated the updates to Firgrove from Camp Western, we decided to continue this experiment by updating areas when an event occurs nearby.
I hope you liked the work of our artists, they worked very hard to improve the visuals without losing the nostalgia of some of the older areas around Moorland.
This year, the word ‘giveaway’ was at the top of our priorities when we began work on Birthday. Many of you have noticed that we’ve given away a ton of fireworks this year, but did you notice that every time someone launches a firework, everyone nearby gets a little bit of HXP? This had the upside of getting players to congregate and use the fireworks we gave out, but also led to some server stability issues as hundreds of players went AFK near the Festival Hub. This won’t be our only time doing this share HXP reward, but we may use this more mindfully going forward! Aside from this though, we stuffed more items into the gameplay than we have in past years, and we decided to crank up the XP rewards from quests! This has helped some of our highest level players reach level 25! A milestone to be sure!
We knew early on that we wanted to add new Free Riding characters to the Birthday Festival. You’ve ridden with the Soul Riders before, so this time we wanted to give our players what they REALLY want, Dark Riders. Just as we neared the end of the project, our Lead Writer, Anne Bullock, messaged me in a panic!
“WAIT! The Dark Riders would NEVER ride with the player unless they were tricked!”
So I dug through our item files and quickly set it up so they will only ride with you if you’re wearing a mask or moustache! I hope a few of you have figured this out, and have kidnapped the Dark Riders to weird and wonderful places. I’ll be keeping an eye on social media for screenshots!
Lastly, we have been talking for years about how we can bring back an often requested experience, CarStable and SmallStable. These were originally April Fools activities, but we decided Birthday would be a good opportunity for us to bring back these limited activities. What other limited-time events or activities would you like to see brought back to Jorvik for next year’s Birthday Festival?
I hope you all have been enjoying this celebration. I hope you all enjoy the spooky, upcoming Halloween Festival! Because after that you’ll have your hands full for most of November with some exciting things coming to Hollow Woods. We are working on something big, new, and experimental! Keep your eyes peeled over the next month as we continue to tease what is to come! >:D
By Lotta Sörensen (Character/Creature Art Lead)
Hello again, it’s me, the Character/Creature Art Lead Lotta! :D
Today I will speak about NPCs and old ladies!
We have over 300 characters in SSO, Most of them still have the old style and need an update. This is a huge task and it’s one of the biggest challenges I face in my work.
A character team usually consists of 5 disciplines
Concept Artist - Creates the design
3D Character Artist - Creates the 3D model and textures (this is where I usually do my work)
Tech Animator - Rigs and skins the model
Animator - Animates the model
Designer - Replaces the old character with the new one in all quests
It can sometimes be hard to get a whole team together to do all these things. So when creating characters, we need to be smart about it. We need to be able to reuse assets and take a modular approach.
You might have seen the so-called “SilvergladeGeneric” NPCs. They are created with a modular approach in mind. We want to expand on this approach and use this all across the game.
But we want to modernize it! And make it much more inclusive. The Silverglade characters can only make thin people with a caucasian face structure and wearing a shirt and pants. We want to have much more diversity than that!
This is why we have started to create characters in “archetypes.” An archetype means that you build character models who use the same building blocks, such as the same models, skeleton, animations, or the same textures. These can be combined and exchanged between characters, one face texture for example works on all other faces, and one animation works on all characters within the same archetype. When working with archetypes we can reuse bits and pieces between the different characters.
We are planning on making several archetypes for different body types and ages. Thick, thin, strong, old, young, and adult. I have a document containing all 300+ characters where I have them sorted on everything from purpose in the game to body type and ethnicity. This way, I can plan our way forward and keep track of statistics so we can make informed decisions when making new characters in the future.
This year, most character resources have gone into making the new player character, so the NPCs had to take the backseat for a while. Luckily, we had some time to work on setting up a new archetype called “OldThinWoman.”
When we created this archetype, we chose to update 3 central old ladies in Silverglade and Moorland. The Baroness, Mrs. Holdsworth, and Big Bonny. Big Bonny is extra close to my heart, as I got to do the redesign and create her new model.
Some people have asked why we changed Mrs. H from being a small old lady to a tall one, and that was because it made the most sense to have her there from a production standpoint. If we want to update all 300+ characters we need to sometimes redesign them to fit a new skeleton. We don't have resources to make all characters 100% unique.
These three old ladies use the same skeleton and rig, and they can all use the same animations.
But these three characters are quite different from each other, and we definitely don’t want them to move the same all the time! So, we made some unique animations for each character, such as the walk, to enhance their different personalities. This way, we are building a larger library of animations that several new NPCs can use and we can pick and choose what animations fit their personality and mood the best.
Now that we have a working archetype skeleton and animations in the editor, we can also focus on creating less important characters using the same building blocks.
These are some work in progress images of some faces for old druid ladies. When we are making the new archetype models, we are focusing much more on making inclusive models with more ethnicity options. I hope that soon we can start to populate Jorvik with these old ladies.
As a last note, I want to show you some work in progress images of this lovely druid character made by our talented Character/Creature Artist Alishia which will be featured in some future quests.
I can safely say that I wish I could adopt all these old ladies as my new grandmothers.
By Stacy Place (Game Director) & Dan Pavel (Producer)
My name is Stacy, and I’m the Game Director for Star Stable Online! Part of what I do here at Star Stable is ensure that our work has a unified vision that fulfills the needs and desires of our player base and team.
For many players, starting Star Stable Online was a familiar experience, welcoming those who had played the Starshine Legacy games back to the incredible world of Jorvik. It’s still nostalgic when you restart the game on a new character; it’s cozy, and all makes sense. However, the experience can be entirely different for a brand-new player - even unenjoyable.
We track how players progress throughout the entire journey of Star Stable Online, from the moment they sign up to opening the game for the first time, and where they are throughout their whole Jorvegian lifecycle. This information helps us identify pain points, problems, and opportunities to improve the experience we’re offering, and it was overwhelmingly apparent that when new players drop out, it’s most often by level three.
We needed to conduct some research and look at the start of our game with fresh eyes! What exactly are we offering new players, and more importantly, what is it that new players are looking for? The world of Jorvik is an exciting and welcoming place, right? Well, we thought so.
By updating and changing so much in later parts of the game, we neglected to ensure that the beginning of the game reflects those same beautiful adventures. What you experience when you log on to Star Stable for the first time isn’t what you experience further along! And where were our game pillars? The beginning of the game certainly didn’t capture the values and foundational core that make us who we are - Horses and Bonding, Story and Fantasy, Player and Community - and honestly, it didn’t excel at teaching players how to play the game either. Many players join Star Stable Online as their first MMO experience, if not their first video game experience entirely. We also needed to make sure they felt comfortable.
Based on observations and feedback, we’ll continue adjusting the early game (and the middle, too). We hope that by bringing more of the spark that makes Star Stable Online what you all know and love to the beginning, the entire experience will start to feel more like one cohesive and enjoyable journey!
Hey there, fellow adventurers! I'm Dan Pavel, and I'm thrilled to lead the incredible team behind the transformation of your early-game experience Star Stable Online. We've been on quite a journey of soul-searching, guided by valuable player feedback and performance data. Our mission is simple: to make the early game as captivating as the middle and late game, ensuring that every moment you spend in Jorvik is filled with excitement.
So, let's dive right into what you can expect from us in the near and far future.
Redefining Our Approach
How do we create an amazing early-game experience for our players? To get there as soon as possible, we decided to break down our work into smaller, more manageable chunks. This approach will allow us to share our progress with you, the heart and soul of SSO.
A Closer Connection with the Community
Our primary focus is on building a stronger connection with the SSO community. We value your feedback immensely and are committed to making the necessary improvements based on your insights.
We also want to emphasize the importance of welcoming new players into our community. To achieve this, we invite our existing players to reflect on what initially drew them to Jorvik. Your insights can help us recreate that magic for others. Our goal is to not only attract new players but also support them as they join our community.
Realigning with Our Game Pillars
In our quest to revamp the early game, we've also taken the opportunity to revisit our game pillars. We're trimming away content that no longer resonates and crafting an experience that can be enjoyed across multiple platforms, ensuring you can explore Jorvik your way.
Introducing the New Tutorial Quest Chain
Soon, we'll unveil what we affectionately call "the new tutorial quest chain." As the name suggests, we've reimagined the tutorials to ensure you master the game like a pro. Over the past decade, SSO has evolved, and in this initial release, we're focusing on the most crucial lessons you need to embark on your Jorvik adventure. But that's not all!
A Fresh Narrative Awaits
Get ready to dive straight into the world of Jorvik where countless epic adventures await you! We're crafting an experience that builds upon the existing storyline, ensuring that your adventure begins right away, rather than waiting for the main story to unfold further down the line.
Discover New Horizons
We're not stopping there! Alongside the tutorial revamp and captivating storylines, we're introducing a brand-new area for all players to explore.
What Lies Ahead
Our journey to enhance the early game experience doesn't end here. Here's a sneak peek into what the future holds:
Reimagined quest chains that will keep you engaged and excited
Fresh perspectives on familiar characters and locations, breathing new life into the world of Jorvik
Ongoing updates to tutorials, ensuring every aspect of the game is crystal clear and easy to grasp
The sky's the limit for what we can achieve together!