Enough about action movies for a little bit. Other than action movies, the other main thrust of this blog, at the moment, is a collaborative (and something of an experimental project instigated by yours truly that I didn’t think would really get that much enthusiasm) project on Rebecca Horner’s and my part, a diary of the thoughts of two teenage girls as they embark on what is supposed to be summer camp and turns into an adventure based on the events in the game of Star Stable.
Let’s get this confession out of the way. I am a bit of a nerd. I like reading (and writing) books. I like comics. And I like video games. My father bought me Reader Rabbit (2nd grade edition) when I was a child. From there it went to the original Sim games (I loved SimFarm) to city builders (thank you Caesar III) and war simulations (yes, Starcraft!), I had a brick of Nintendo Gameboy (in retrospect how sexist), and in college I finally bought my own game system, a PS2 (Kingdom Hearts and Sly Cooper broke my willpower) after having been occasionally being able to play Mario and Street Fighter on other people’s systems. When I finally got a laptop that could handle a MMoRPG, I started poking about in those. Now, when I bought my laptop, the only available MMOs where things like Everquest, World of Warcraft (and as much as I liked Warcraft and Starcraft, World didn’t do it for me) and Guild Wars.
I’m somewhat fussy when it comes to my games. I like realistic graphics, a decent story, and the ability to customize as much as I can. I like crafting. I want to be able to play by myself as much as possible. I don’t want to battle other people (PvP), if I must battle anything I’d rather be fighting computer monsters (PvE) and most of all I want to have consistent fun. To have consistent fun, you must be able to level in a regular manner and get to new areas without extreme obstacles. At the time, this left Guild Wars.
I enjoyed Guild Wars. There was a certain amount of fun factor to it. However, I quit playing as it soon became apparent that they’d build the ‘group’ dynamic so heavily into the game that a single player couldn’t get from point A to point B easily even with a computer AI group with her. It became so frustrating that even when I had a computer group and a character whose class was about creature population (A necromancer or a Ritualist) I couldn’t get to new areas of the map. I gave up. It wasn’t fun anymore. The most fun I was having was in the very first area of the first game before the Char. It just wasn’t worth the time.
Let’s fast forward.
The MMO landscape hasn’t changed much. World of Warcraft is still going strong. Guild Wars has moved onto the sequel Guild Wars 2. There are now Final Fantasy themed, Lord of the Rings themed and I swear there is a Star Wars themed MMO out there, everything from Age of Empires Online to Zombies Ate My Pizza. The primary attribute of most of these games is still fighting. Which is disappointing. And then there is Star Stable.
Star Stable is an MMO put out by a Swedish company who has put out a string of horse games (and one dance game) based in the fictional island of Jorvik. Their other horse riding games were all single player. The primary focus of these games is to ride around on horses, complete errands for other people and ride in races. In return, you get in game money, experience and an interesting plot to follow. In Star Shine Legacy, some of the races were in fact getting from one area to the next before something bad happened. In Star Stable Online because it is multi-player you can ride races against other players, which is as close to player versus player that this game gets.
Let me be clear, this is not your typical point, hack and slash, MMO. You don’t get experience from killing enemies, because there are no enemies to kill! You gain experience by doing quests, which end up being running errands mostly and fixing things for them, and you gain experience for your horses by running them in races. In return you can get in game money, which you can spend at the shops on clothes for your avatar and gear for your horses and these shops are in every town. A lot of these quests open up what they call daily quests, which are doing the errands over again once on a specific day of the week to earn in game money without experience.
There is a very specific target demographic for this game, girls. Girls of any age who love and enjoy horses. Now, boys are welcome. And there are probably a lot more men and boys playing than I would suspect, but this game was definitely created in the mindset of what is appropriate for a twelve year old girl. The avatar creation system doesn’t have a gender option, you play as a female, whether you like it or not. There is a specific plot related reason for this, which many overlook in the outcry of wanting gender diversity.
But, for boys and older men who want to play war games all the time, there are a lot of hack and slash MMOs with both male and female avatars where they can do that! Not even mega superstar Barbie has her own MMO. Disney has a multi-player Fairy game for their Tinker Bell Fairies, but it is more like a collection of strung together mini-games. I can’t really think of any other game quite like it. Now, as a female who has been mocked for wanting to be left alone in “war” games and told to go play farming games, Star Stable is a breath of fresh air.
In Star Stable, I won’t be attacked physically for merely existed. No one can steal my things so I can acquire pretty things such as horses and clothes without worry. And I can ride around in the environment as much as I please without being attacked by random NPC monsters (or other players) and I don’t have to kill or hurt anyone. (Though some of things the quests have the players do is definitely in the morally grey zone.) Let some folks ridicule it for being different, but in my estimation it takes a lot more imagination to come up with scenarios to gain experience in a game like Star Stable than it takes to gain experience purely through monster grinding!
In fact, it’s a lot of fun and really relaxing not to have to kill things every few minutes. The dialogue is suitable for twelve year olds, but has enough nudges to an older audience to make it hilarious. I’ve counted at least three times that the players have helped match make a couple, often unintentionally. I want a merit badge for this stat! During Valentine’s day when the notes are going around, the hilarity knows no bounds, especially when Justin’s maternal grandfather turns out to have a crush on his paternal grandmother and how exactly are you supposed to explain that one to Justin. (Both are divorced or widowed.) There is a certain satisfaction from thwarting the bad guys, helping people find lost things, matchmaking and solving little mysteries (who stole those chickens anyways.) There are even several points where the player goes undercover to advance the plot. So, it’s like being a spy!
Okay, in summation, Star Stable Online is a horse riding based MMORPG for girls made by Star Stable Entertainment AB and often called World of Horsecraft. And guess what, that’s okay! Not every MMO has to be a hack slash game made for boys. It updates once a week with new content and is free to try/play until (now) level 5. After which, one can pay for the full version of the game in one month, three month, six month or a lifetime package. Lifetime membership costs about $70, comes with 2000 Star Coins and 100 Star Coins a week (a five dollar value.) There are daily quests to earn Jorvik Shillings, once you reach the upper levels of around 15 or 16, it is possible to earn upwards of 2500 Jorvik Shillings per day (if you put the effort into it). That’s a great deal of money in a week just by doing dailies and chores.
So, thank you Star Stable Online for daring to be different. Thank you for realizing that there is a market for games such as this and that not everything has to involve endless rounds of senseless violence. If anything, the popularity of My Little Pony just proves there is a need for this type of game. There just aren’t a lot of games, good games, especially good multi-player games for girls. I would also recommend this game for little boys who also love horses (and little boys who have been asked to stay away from violence.)
This review got a little long. So long that I’ll have to split it up into three or four parts over several days. In Part two of this review; I’ll review what I like about Star Stable a little more in depth, and in Part Three; I’ll review what I don’t like and if it got too long, I’ll put what I’d like to see into a Part Four.