Planet Horse is a horse game, as the name suggests. You play a girl who trains to become a horse-riding champion. To do so, you get to choose a horse and train it through 2 sorts of competitions : show jumping and cross country. There are also rides in which your elusive mentor sets you tasks to accomplish in the open environment.
The game takes place in 2 separate environments, Europe and America, that you get to explore as you please. While the first missions are fairly linear, earning the later gold medals will require quite a bit of orientation. Some overarching side-quests (like the infamous horse-shoe hunt) prompt you to explore every nook and cranny of the settings.
The game features an RPG dimension, as both the character and the horse have to gain experience to take on the new challenges. This is done naturally as you ride the horse in a competition or a mission. You also get rewarded with money, which is used to buy new equipment to be faster, stronger, better at jumping, and, most important of all, prettier. Yup, looks matter, even for horses.
This was either the 3rd or 4th horse game made by Dancing Dots. While some team members were getting weary of the genre, this also meant I had a great number of knowledgable people to help me design the game.
I was the main game designer for Planet Horse, so anything not working is probably my fault. We had two level designers on the team, who also helped me out with some dialog (and did QA).
Apart from the levels, I designed pretty much everything (apart from anything sound related), but here’s the list anyway :
- Controls / Camera : We wanted to innovate with Planet Horse – as opposed to previous games, we adopted a mouse only control scheme. An early prototype allowed us to test different approaches, and we refined that throughout production. Some playtest feedback suggested the players had the feeling of holding the reins, which I found pretty gratifying.
- Game mechanics : The different mission rules, the endurance-based exploration and the experience system were the most complex of the tasks here.
- Game structure : We had a semi-linear progression in the game, trying to give a choice in levels to the player at any point. The game’s tutorials were integrated in that progression, and introduced new features on a regular basis for the greater part of the game.
- Interface : I designed the menu flow and worked with artists to define the game’s hud.
- Story : While the game isn’t exactly rich story-wise, we still tried to put a bit of life into the world. The dialog we used as mission briefs was the main vehicle for our story. We wrote it together with one of the level designers.
- Playtests : I didn’t organize them, but assisted so I could act on the findings.