A new Animation Cycle

Since June 2011, Howrse has been livened up rhythmically by contests that appear on the game every three weeks or so.

We know you enjoy these contests; they liven up your game and amuse you. You often fancy their theme or graphic design and of course the gifts they provide.  However, we are conscious that you are becoming a little weary, especially our most senior players who have been taking part in all these contests since the very beginning.

On our side, the creation of a contest takes a huge amount of time. They use up most of the resources from the technical and graphic design teams into their elaboration … this is detrimental towards improvements for all the other game areas.

Nevertheless, Howrse cannot go without regular contests and animations, they are vital for the game, this is also true for the introduction of divine horses. Therefore, we’ve thought long and hard about a way to make things work so that you can have fun on the game and have things to do on a daily basis, without making you feel compelled to complete the whole contest to get the divine horse. All this, while giving us enough time and free resources to develop new features and improvement for the game, keeping it modern and making it fit your expectations.

It does not mean that your favourite contests like the Cards will never come back on the game. They will just be rarer, therefore more enjoyable.

Here is what we’ve got planned :

The Big Challenge

With the new system, everyone on Howrse will be able to take part in the Big Challenge.

All the players of a same Howrse version will have a common goal: collect a certain amount of tokens together. For example, the whole community on howrse.com has to gather several millions of tokens. The amount of tokens will depend on the versions, according to the number of players.

There will be many ways to collect tokens: UFOs, some competitions, the Grand Prix and 6 daily tasks. Those tasks will be randomly selected every day and they’ll be different from one player to another. Some will be similar to the missions we usually have in the contests (win a competition, give an apple to a horse, etc.) and can be integrated in your daily life on Howrse. Other tasks will be brand new, for example donate Equus and objects to a new player. This way we’ll focus more on the collaborative aspect of the game (and Ow isn’t the only one getting your Equus :p ).

The 100 objectives as they exist in the game now will disappear and the trophies will be available to everyone right after the tutorial. It would be redundant to have both the daily tasks and the objectives.

Also, you don’t need to participate if you don’t want to. There’s no obligation, you can still take part in what follows. However, the number of tokens you have collected may give you an advantage for the Festivities.

BigChallengeHere is a provisional mock-up of the Big Challenge.
Click on the picture to enlarge.

The Festivities

Once the community’s common goal has been reached, the Festivities are launched.

The Festivities are five days during which the community celebrates its achievement and is rewarded for its efforts. These five days are punctuated by a Lottery, a commercial offer and some advantages won by the best contributors during the Big Challenge.

The main gift you can try your luck for is a new divine horse. Some of the new tack items will also be introduced into the Lottery as gifts. During these Festivities it is interesting to keep one’s eyes open; you might be lucky and find tickets flying around as UFO’s.

In the same time, there will be a commercial offer which will allow you to try and get the divine. This commercial offer could be: Horns of Plenty, Titan’s Challenges or even new surprises ;)

The players who have gathered the most items towards the community’s common goal will be rewarded by some benefits in the commercial offer and even a divine horse for the very best.

Of course all the players who have taken part in the Big Challenge get a little incentive with Lottery tickets given according to how many tokens  they gathered for the Big Challenge’s goal.

When the Festivities are finished, a new cycle begins with a new Big Challenge to take on.

FestivitiesHere is a provisional mock-up of the Festivities
Click on the picture to enlarge.

 

The divine horses

One short word about divine horses: the divine horses that you’ll be able to win during the festivities will offer new benefits.

They will give their owner the pleasure of getting gifts that’ll be useful for his game.

If their owner is a VIP player, he’ll get an extra and specific VIP benefit from his divine horse. This benefit could be anything from making it easier to perform an in game action to increasing your usual possibilities on the game like an extra item exchange for instance. Anything is possible.

The divine horses will also give tokens that will be counting towards the next Big Challenge’s goal.

 

So this is it. We hope you are as excited as us about this new contest cycle and you will enjoy discovering it on the game shortly.

 

Alice, Julie and Maïté
Community Managers for the English, German and French versions

Review of the equestrian centers

As you mind remember, a few months ago, we asked what new features you would like for the equestrian centers.
Our plan is to refresh that part of the game. Indeed, we haven’t launched any new features for the equestrian centers in ages. And they really need it now!
So here are a few new features or improvements that we want to launch in the following months.

Refreshing of the equestrian center pages
Many among you asked for it, we will review the interfaces of some pages of the equestrian centers, such as the page where you manage your boxes, or the one where you manage your meadows. Looking after your equestrian center will become much more practical!

Removal of the jobs
Hiring employees for your equestrian center may be a difficult task for you; there are often more job offers than players who are searching for a job. Employees and particularly temporary employees can also be too expensive for beginner equestrian centers which don’t have large fertile meadows to grow crops yet. Moreover, having a job isn’t very interesting; you can earn much more Equus with your horses than with your job. So we have decided to delete the jobs. However, equestrian centers will continue to have the possibility to provide the horseshoes bonus, or saddle and bridle for their boarders by making or buying them and installing them in a box, just like for showers.

Beach, forest and mountain
Then we will add locations for the equestrian centers. That means you will be able to install your center either near a forest, a beach, or even on a mountain.
The presence of such locations will allow us improving the rides, which are currently very tedious for you. There will be only 3 types of rides, instead of the current 7: rides in forest, rides in mountain, and rides on beach. Yes, you won’t have to do a lot of short rides in a day to develop your horses’ speed skills anymore! One lengthy ride a day will be enough.
And thanks to forests, we will probably launch draught horses on the game in order to unload wood! We know you have been asking for them for a long time.

A new economic system
Forests and mountains will also offer another benefit; they will provide you with raw materials, in order to craft items or produce by yourself, instead of having to buy them. For example, you will have to get wood from the forest with your horses. And thanks to that wood you will create wood chip bedding or boxes.
Indeed, all the items that are available at the stores will be only created by players. And the price of these items will depend on the quantities you will sell and buy. So this economic system will be totally independent from us. There will be more interactions between you, players. This should make the game more strategic.
In order to launch such a system, we will have to realize some changes on the items we currently have on the game. For example, barley will be deleted, whereas wood will be added, as said above. But you will discover more details about all the items and the production lines in our next publication.

Merge of the reserves
As some items or produces can be used either for the equestrian center or for the breeders’ account, we have decided to merge your equestrian center inventory and Equus reserve with your breeding account ones. Thanks to that, you won’t have to buy some items on one side, and sell the same items on the other anymore. For example, to make manure for your crops, you will be able to directly use the droppings from your horses.

More interactions with the equestrian center in horses’ actions
We also want to make the equestrian center a more important part of the game. So we have decided to link more horses’ actions with them.
The best equestrian centers will enable your horses to get more energy or moral when they are fed, watered or groomed. Or they will allow you to do rides faster according to their location.
We are also thinking about merging the feeding action and the meadow, as they both feed the horses.
Riding lessons will be replaced by different missions offered by the equestrian center where your horses are boarded. And the reward for the missions can be different according to the mission chosen (Equus, wood, treats, or other things…). Of course any mission will increase your horses’ skills in their two best potentials, the same way as the lessons do.
We will give you more details about all the changes in horses’ actions in our next article. So keep an eye on this blog!

More secret market items
With all these new features, we will be able to add more secret market items. And maybe, we will offer some of them during our future contests.

VIP perks
With the introduction of the VIP account, we didn’t introduce advantages for the equestrian centers. The reason is that we didn’t want to offer you some advantages which will become obsolete when the equestrian centers will be updated. When all these changes we have in mind are launched, we promise to add some VIP perks for equestrian centers.

This is only the rough outlines for these new features. We will give you more details about them later. But we already wanted you to know that we have heard your wishes for equestrian centers even though we didn’t give you news about it until now, and that we are working on it.
Also note that these features are just ideas for now, and they can be adapted if necessary. So feel free to leave your comments and suggestions about them in the Event forum of the version you play and even give us new ideas that we haven’t thought about yet. Thank you.

Pamela, Game Designer

New coats and tacks to come

In our last publication, we told you we had other features than the immersive horse page in mind to offer your more immersion and realism.
Here they are!

Rework of the coats
Remember the survey we made a few months ago about the coats of horses. The result was not a surprise; the great part of you would like to see the coats from the parade contest instead of the actual ones. So we are working on all the coats so that they are more realistic and really fit with the real appearance of each breed. And, you know, it is a long-term job, as we have several hundreds of coats to rework!
We are sure you want a preview, don’t you? So have a look here:
v4horses

Diversification of the tacks

Then we will bring even more realism by introducing new types of tacks: the saddle cloth, the bonnet and the leg wraps. This will provide more diversity on the game.
Each of these new tack items will exist in several colors and patterns. So you will have a lot of possibilities to customize your horses and get very unique ones!

The saddle cloth will become compulsory in order to enter competitions, in addition to the saddle and the bridle. Yet the bonnet and the leg wraps will be optional that way you don’t have to buy too many items of tacks for every single horse.
And you won’t have to give them horseshoes any more. Indeed horseshoes can’t be customized much to the contrary of the other tack items. So they don’t really need to be displayed on horses. Thus, we have decided they will only remain as a bonus offered by the farrier of an equestrian center, making the farrier more interesting at the same time. Be sure that you won’t lose anything: you will receive a compensation for the horseshoes you and your horses have.

Like the already available tack items, the new ones will also give a skill bonus to the horses that wear them. And we are considering correcting the skill bonus of the existing tacks in order to offer the same bonus in all 6 skills. That way, there won’t be a competition which will be favored more than the others.
Even better, if your horses wear a saddle cloth, a bonnet and leg wraps which have a common color, then they will get an additional skill bonus. Try to find the best associations to both get the highest bonuses and have the best-looking horses!

The tacks displayed on your horses
The cherry on the cake is that all the tacks of your horses will be displayed directly on your horses’ picture, as during the horse parade contest last summer if you remember.
Imagine realistic horses, wearing customizable tacks and evolving in a wide beautiful landscape! You will almost have the feeling they are alive.
Don’t just imagine, watch:
tacks

Of course we can’t display tacks in some horses which have a special coat (such as divine horses or horses with a Golden Apple coat for example). But we are working on a solution to highlight tacks on these horses even so.

We hope all these features we are working on will please you. Feel free to leave your comment in this article.

Pamela, Game Designer

The horse page will become more immersive

You may wonder about the future features we are working on. Well, you have to know that our new guideline is to bring more realism and immersion on Howrse. And the first thing that comes naturally in our minds is to review the horse page, by removing the beige background on this page, like we have done during some contests.

Your horses displayed directly on the landscape

Indeed we already have a beautiful landscape on Howrse but it is almost totally hidden by this beige background, and the horses seem to float on the page. So we have decided to put the horses directly on the landscape of the background, the same way as the wild horses, you know, these horses evolving in magnificent landscapes! By this way, you will be able to see all your horses in their natural environment, leaving you the feeling that they are livelier.

You will also be able to resize the image of your horses, or move them in their landscape as if they had the Helios’ Ray.

And don’t worry! Your playing won’t be affected. Indeed, the actions blocks will remain at the same place.
Even better! The removal of the beige background allows us to display these action blocks a bit higher on the page. So you will have to scroll down the page less than now. This will be more comfortable for you to take care of your horses.

You probably want to know what the future new horse page will look like, don’t you? So take a look here:
howrsepage1 howrsepage2

What about the Helios’ Ray?

The landscapes of the Helios’ Ray will be enlarged in order to replace the landscape of the background when you are on your horse page. By this way, the landscapes of the Helios’ Ray are also better highlighted.

All the landscapes of the Helios’ Ray already in the game will be automatically resized. Yet the quality of these landscapes may be altered by this enlargement. So we will

  • let you change all the landscapes of your horses which have the Helios’ Ray for free
  • give a 3-month-period to the creators of all landscapes already in the game to send us a better-quality resized version of these landscapes.

After that time, all landscapes which creators won’t have resized manually will be deactivated from the Helios’ Ray sale. Yet they will be kept on the horses which already use them.

Of course we will give you more details about how to resize your landscape creations before the immersive horse page is launched.

What’s next?

The immersive horse page is not the only feature we have imagined to offer you more realism and immersion. Keep an eye on this blog!

Pamela, Game Designer

The VIP-Account

Hellow,

This month we will be introducing a very important feature called the VIP-Account!

Here is a short explanation of how we came to this idea:

The motivation behind the idea of a VIP-Account came from the fact that in the last few years, a lot of our work on Howrse was about making the game easier to understand for our newbie players because they felt that the game was too complicated in some aspects.

To give you an example:

We simplified the horse’s page (apple, salt block, 2nd riding lesson). We are well aware that those types of modifications may not be pleasant for more experienced players and that all these changes might give some of you the impression that the game has become too simple. Additionally, the choice we made to keep the “basics” of the game simple didn’t always allow us to realize a couple of the marvelous features ideas you might have suggested (yes, we read them ;-) ).

So in early 2013, our aim was to find a solution to the following problem: How can we satisfy these two dissimilar categories of players? On one hand, by keeping a certain consistency in the basics of the game, so that new players can easily get into it, and on the other hand, by offering a wider range of specific features for the more experienced players (by realizing the suggestions you made and by offering a more complete game experience), and by allowing them to go further in Howrse’s gameplay.

We decided to do so by introducing the VIP-Account, which will be added as a second subscription-type besides the Pegasus-Account. The main difference is that the VIP-Account offers more advantages than the Pegasus-Account. It also contains a base-package offering 21 perks (e.g. enjoy all the Pegasus-Account perks, save your search options in the private sales; sort the competitions by difficulty …).

On top of that, you can chose 10 more perks from a list of features in order to personalize the game so that it fits to your own needs (e.g. customize the positions of the different blocks on your horses’ page  [yes, you can move the horses' skill block down again ;) ], participate in feature test sessions, get a higher probability to get a unicorn, preselect the quantity of food for your horses, buy horses automatically, buy several horses with a single click, leave sticky notes on your horses’ pages, change your horses’ specialty etc.).

Not to mention that the VIP-Account was an excellent occasion for us to reinforce the links between all our players, by making the breeding partnerships between players on Howrse official. With this account, you can officially join a breeding team, have a common Affix for the team’s horses, lend horses to your partners, and make coverings available for all members of the team. Or even take part in the monthly Affix-rating allowing the best team to get awarded with stars and to win gifts. The creation of a team is reserved to players that have a VIP-account subscription, but each one of them can invite up to 3 other players. Accordingly, a team can host up to 4 players and each time another player with a VIP-account joins the team, the team’s size increases by four more players, up to a maximum of twenty players.

As detailed earlier, the account subscription is exclusively reserved for our well experienced players who have invested a certain amount of time or money on the game; accordingly, the access to the VIP-Account is determined by a player’s position in the rankings or by the amount passes he bought.

The VIP-Account’s cost is at 10 passes per month that can easily be balanced by the benefits from the various perks which allow you to pay less passes inside the game (e.g. additional objects with different packs, possibility to have BLUP 100 before a horse is 10 years old etc.).

Furthermore, we welcome several features on the game that will be available for everyone and that had been suggested by you!

In a few days, you will discover:

A brand new species, the winged Unicorns that can be bred by adding Medusa’s blood to your unicorns! Moreover, you can enjoy the possibility to grow; shrink and mirror flip your horses in order to make them fit perfectly on the background you chose for them.

You can join us in the Event forum of the version you play on to discuss this new feature.

Enjoy these new features!

Alessa, Product Manager

Do you want to know more about tests?

Remember our article about how features make their way into the game. One of the steps concerns the tests before features are online.  As these tests involve players, we thought you might be curious to know more.

A bit of history

Apart from a few tests we did in the early days of the game, we started the tests with the players on a regular basis in 2010. At the beginning it was mostly to report the glitches and it was only on the French version. As time went by, we began to ask our players their opinion about features. At the same time, we opened the tests to the players on the International and German versions.

How the tests are going?

The tests occur on a recent copy of the game hosted on a different server, that as no link with the real game. New features are implemented on this “copy of Howrse” and some players are invited to join.

These players can test most of the new features and the contests.  They have access to a test forum where they can give their opinion, discuss with others players and with the admins and report the glitches they meet.

The glitches are reported to the developers and corrected. The players review and interesting debates are reported to the product team. When possible, we make adjustments and take into account improvement suggestions.

We also follow a test plan to systematically test each step of a feature and check that there are no bugs. Unfortunately, it happens that bugs do not appear on the test server but appear on the real game. This is simply because it is impossible to reproduce identical conditions to the real version on the test server.

How are the players selected?

Depending on the Howrse’s version and the features, we invite between 40 and 100 players. Most of them are invited on a regular basis but we invite almost always new persons.

You probably are very curious to know how these players have been chosen.

So these are the criteria that we take into account to select new tests players :
* Players who are implicated in the game and in the community.
* Players who know the game very well.
* Players who go on the forums and give constructive opinion about what they like and do not like in the new features; players who give interesting suggestions.

So … Maybe one day it could be you?

 

Maïté,
Community Manager for French version.

Focus on the general ranking

The general ranking in Howrse is one of the most popular rankings in the game.
Become ranked first and your popularity will be increased tenfold!

A lesser known fact is that the formula behind this ranking has changed only once over the past five years.
This happened two years ago and was intended to restrict the number of horses used to calculate this ranking to 10,000 per player.
Besides this, nothing has changed.

Further details about this are that the ranking takes three parameters into account:

  • Horses (number, age, skills)
  • Player seniority
  • The number of passes bought by each player

First, we take the 10,000 most skilled horses for each player and multiply their total skill points by two :

2 * \sum (stamina + speed + dressage + gallop + trot + jumping + 1)

Next, we multiply this value by the sum of all these horses’ age (capped at 30 years old per horse) and apply a power to it :

(\sum age + 1)^{0.025}

Then, we divide the result by the number of horses owned by the player and apply another power to it :

(horses + 1)^{0.2}

Finally, we multiply the value by the number of passes bought as well as seniority:

(1 + {pass\ purchased})^{0.03} * (1 + {user\ seniority})^{0.01}

The formula as a whole looks like this:

\dfrac{2 * \sum (stamina + speed + dressage + gallop + trot + jumping + 1) * (\sum age + 1)^{0.025} * (1 + {pass\ purchased})^{0.03} * (1 + {user\ seniority})^{0.01}}{(horses + 1)^{0.2}}

In this formula (as in the rest of the game), we use powers a lot.

We use powers bigger than 1 to increase differences between the players, whereas powers smaller than 1 are used to reduce differences between the players.
We have exhumed this formula from the source code in order to write this article.

Furthermore, as we wrote it we had a new idea… How about we replace the number of passes bought with the number of trophies won?
This has two positive consequences. We remove a parameter that doesn’t depend on in-game actions and replace it with a parameter that truly reflects each player’s playing skills.

 

Vincent, Howrse founder

Did you ever ask yourself how Howrse features make their way into the game?

Well… here comes the answer!

 

In this article you will learn how we create content for Howrse.

There are about 30 people working on the game:

  • The product team, responsible for the elaboration of an action plan and the creation of technical specifications,
  • the design team, responsible for the production of illustrations, interfaces and other graphical content,
  •  the developer team (of course!) who develop the features
  • and last but not least, the communication team, who is in charge of the information flow between Owlient and you, our players!

At the beginning of the creation process, there is always an idea. Like for example “how about making a contest including cupcakes?” (the howrse team looooves sweets ;) ).  This idea is the first milestone in the creation phase. It might be a players’ idea, an idea that came out of brain storming or a suggestion of people working on Howrse.

Following, the all necessary details are written down on a 10 to 20 pages document, called the technical specifications. This document is then handed out to the dev team who will do their best in order to develop the feature (for example the different mechanics of the contest page).

In the meantime, our creative team is already working on the creation of design content. They work on the interfaces and all the illustrations you may find during the contest. Like for example the different ingredients for the bakery contest.

Once this desing content is integrated by the developers, the whole contest is put on our test servers, where the different features are tested for about 3 weeks. The bugs found by the testers, are corrected and the contest may be adjusted according to the testers  remarks.

And… that’s it !  The contest can be launched on Howrse.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It is, but it may sometimes take some time. In general, the creation process takes about 4 months (from the idea to the launch of the product). This means that today, we are already working on the features that you will discover in December and in January!

If you want to learn more about this process, you’ll find further information in the pictures linked beyond.  We hope you enjoyed this article and that you understand why it may sometimes take some time if you ask Ow for new features ;)

Have fun.


 

Alessa, Product Manager

A blog about Howrse?

Howrse?…  Of course you’ve heard about it. You’re even part of its community, boasting 2 million active players from all across the world!

So you might be wondering: “What’s this blog for?”

The purpose of this blog is to explain step by step the various stages of the process leading to a new feature on the game. To share with you all the questions  and challenges we can be confronted with to maintain the game’s balance in the long run, (why not even share a few of the secrets that we may have kept up until now…). Finally, it will also give us the opportunity of discussing important game evolutions with you.

We admit that in the past we have sometimes lacked transparency in our communication. This blog is the first of a fair few steps towards the new experience we wish to offer you, allowing each of you to live the Howrse experience with the intensity you prefer.

We’ll be writing this blog in English so that it can be read and understood by most of you. It would have been too complicated to make a blog covering every Howrse language, but you are free to translate it for the players of your version if you want.

The Ows from the different versions, the game designers, developers, illustrators and even the founders will take their turn to teach you as time goes by a little more about the game and go further in this community adventure.

Welcome to Inside Howrse!

Anne, Responsible for Customer Relationship