As we are making a game about being a horselike creature it’s only natural that we look at what games where horses are being featured. As we are more into the action/adventure games than simulation games the games we played usually has horse riding as a feature rather then the main selling point.
There is four different games that we in our team constantly discuss when we talk about the riding and the game feel of the game. Today i re-checked them all out to get how they felt.
Firstly The Legend of Zelda series has probably the most well known horse from a video game. Epona appeared first in Ocarina of Time (1998) (and as far as I know is the first time 3D horse riding existed in a game) but we usually refer to Twilight Princess (2006) as it’s the game in the series that put the most emphasis on her (yet). You move by moving the right analog stick up to get speed. Pressing A gives you a quick burst of speed. Moving the stick right or left turns Epona in that direction, however it just checks the direction and not how much the stick is moved off the center. Moving the stick down makes you quickly stop and make a 180 turn that feels quite nice to do. Epona’s movement is quite simple but it works, however I feel that Epona doesn’t feel like it’s own character trough the movement unlike the two below cases.
The most sold game ever with a big focus on horses is the wild west game Red Dead Redemption. The way to get speed is quite different here as you repeatedly press A/Cross to gain speed and then hold to keep that speed. Keep tapping and you can get greater speeds but the horse might throw you away. Personally i found this kinda awkward as you need to tap so much to get a decent speed and there isn’t much feedback for every single tap. The turning uses analogue stick horizontal position but uses how far it is from the center so you can more precise turn how much you want. To stop quickly to need to press Rb, and I find that kinda weird as it feels very separate from the rest of the inputs. Moving the stick down makes you turn right and it just feels really weird to me. Something interesting the game does is having every horse have different personalities that can affect horse riding. That being said I haven’t played the game nearly enough to notice it myself.
The game with my favorite horse riding is Shadow of the Colossus (2005). The horse Agro is put into focus on the start and almost all of the traveling is spent riding with great cinematic views. The way to gain speed is kinda similar to Red Dead Redemption in that you press X to gain speed. Here however you don’t need to hold down the button to keep the speed and when you press you go up one level of speed so you need to tap 3 times to get max speed. There is also a satisfying sound and animation accompanying it. Turing is quite similar to Twilight Princess but Agro is a bit slower to turn so it feels like he’s heaver and it to that makes it feel better. Stopping is also quite similar to Twilight Princess however instead of doing a 180 turn Agro start moving backwards. I like both approaches so I will probably try to use both in some manner. One thing the game also does is that it rumbles when on Agro that gives an extra sense of actually being on the horse.
Lastly Skyrim…. Unlike the above three Skyrim’s horses isn’t really known for feeling good to ride on but instead it’s power to defy gravity. You can with enough determination get up for 70-80 degree slopes with horses and that’s just silly. However otherwise Skyrim has kinda mediocre horse riding. The horse feels kinda similar to a traditional third person movement as in that the horse moves toward the direction you are pointing toward. The movement is kinda slow too compared to the rest as you move almost as fast by foot.
As you can see there is many different ways to approach horse riding. I know there is more like Witcher 3 and Metal Gear Solid V but these are the ones I’ve played. I expect the end result to have the most similarities to Shadow of the Colossus due to my fondness of it but nothing is set in stone. However unlike these games above our game you won’t be a rider on a horse but an centaur. That means that the inputs should be more direct than these games. Who know’s, maybe our game will be set as the standard for future horse riding to come!