18 Oct Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch: an equestrian game made by and for horse enthusiasts
With a large peaceful world to explore, dozens of different resources to collect and use for building and challenging races to compete in, Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch is a game that appeals to a lot of different people. But there’s no doubt that the game is a very special treat for one particular type of player: horse people.
Blog post written by: Alice Ruppert, Creative Producer on Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch
Loving horses is something of an absolute: for us “horse people” these animals are not just cool creatures. They represent a sense of freedom and beauty, and they fascinate us with the majesty of their movements.
With Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch, we wanted to make a game that takes this love for horses seriously and gives players ways to not only admire and enjoy digital horses, but to meaningfully interact with them and find a variety of engaging gameplay mechanics in a gorgeous open world.
By giving horses personality traits and genetic patterns, we strive to make Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch a can’t miss proposition for more demanding horse enthusiasts, while keeping the game accessible to younger players. Today, I’d like to provide some insight into how we tackle that!
Making a game for different age groups
Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch is an adventure for horse lovers of all ages, because we know the “horse bug” isn’t something you simply grow out of. To ensure that children, teens, and adults can find their fun in the lush open world, many of the game’s mechanics are easy to get into, but quite tricky to master if you want to explore their full depth.
This applies even to the horse riding itself – an absolutely central part of the game, considering how much time is spent in the saddle: Young or casual players can easily steer and sprint to move through the world and follow the story, but those looking to reach the top of the leaderboards will find advanced interactions like sliding around corners and managing speed by matching the rhythm of their horse’s stride with their button presses.
Creating Horses with Personality
All too often, horses in video games feel more like neighing motorcycles than living creatures. Anyone who has spent time with real life equines, however, knows just how different their individual personalities can be. In Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch, we represent this using complementary systems of traits and stats.
Stats like Agility, Strength and Endurance dictate how fast a horse can gallop, how far it jumps, and how quickly its stamina recovers. Traits, on the other hand, determine how your horse reacts to the world around you: Some horses like forests more than open fields and will run faster in their preferred biome. Some horses may be afraid of the dark, or uneasy with heights, which may limit which areas you want to visit on which horse.
A horse with the Clingy trait will follow you when you dismount and walk away to explore on foot. Some of the traits in the game are objectively advantageous, while others come down to personal preference – what one player may not consider a “good horse” might be endearing or an interesting challenge to another.
Horse Breeding: Traits, Stats and Genetics
Much like the riding system described above, breeding horses in Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch can be as casual or as involved as players wish to make it. Once you have built enough shelter, food resource, and activity buildings – including a special breeding stable on the Emerald Valley Estate – you can start your very own breeding program.
For the young or casual audience, breeding is simple enough: By pairing two horses with similar stats, you easily get a slight improvement in their offspring, and the new horse will inherit some traits and coloring from its parents. For players wanting to dive deeper into breeding, the color of each horse’s coat is where it starts to get very interesting.
Every horse in Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch has a genetic makeup that is very closely based on real life horse genetics, which determines whether a horse and its offspring are Bays or Chestnuts or one of the many other possible coat colors. For some enthusiasts, Horse Tales – Emerald Valley Ranch may be an engaging entry point into the complex topic of coat color genetics. Meanwhile, fans of other horse breeding games may already know what they have to combine to get exactly what they want.
In true sandbox fashion, the game will let players set their own goals: One could be happy with a fast and strong horse of any color and breed for the stats alone, whereas someone else might be motivated to keep breeding until they – for example – have their perfect Grulla mare who loves forests.
To get new blood into the breeding program, the player explores the wide-open world of Cape Emerald. Some NPCs will put their own horses out to stud in breeding stables across the map, and herds of wild horses can be found in various areas. The stats, traits and genes of wild horses and NPC horses are intertwined with the player’s progression in the world and story: as you complete the main quest line to restore the Emerald Valley Estate and gain the respect of the prestigious Félix siblings, you will gain access to areas with wild horses that have higher stats, rarer genes, and more desirable traits for you to add to your breeding stock.
The combination of these different biological features – looks, genetics, stats, and traits – makes for an incredible variety of unique horses and gives the player a lot of freedom to choose what to focus on in their horse breeding and training. Once you’ve achieved your own personal perfect horse – be it particularly pretty to look at, or particularly good at sprinting and jumping – you’ll be able to enjoy exploring the vast open world of Horse Tales: Emerald Valley Ranch even more.