Dreamblazers Update: Financial Hoopla


Unless my accounting is off somewhere, that’s the amount I’ve put into Dreamblazers so far. And there’s a long way to go; right now my best estimate is that for the entire game (let me repeat the words “the entire game” since I’ll come back to this point), I need somewhere between $28,500 and $37,500 to wrap everything up for art assets of the type we’ve been doing already. You see, that’s what I’d need for more of all this:

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Grid Mockup Part 1

And more of this:

Dreamblazers - Astrid Crys Alucia Dialogue Portrait Collection

But, of course, there are actually other types of art assets I need that we haven’t been doing yet. Like what? Like item icons and menu skins and magic effects and weapon effects and GUI elements and probably other things I’m not even thinking of right now.

And then on top of all that I still need music and sound effects.

Oh, and of course I can’t neglect to mention that Kickstarter takes a cut of funds raised…

I’ve had to come to terms with all of this while putting together a pitch and figuring out the budget, and it’s a major reason (probably the major reason) why my posting has slowed down since it’s not an easy reality to face. There are many unknowns and what is known isn’t pretty. How can I talk about this rationally?

If I were a pixel artist and could handle some percentage of the work myself, it would certainly make things much more affordable—and more time-consuming, sure, but I think it’s easier to ask people for less money and a longer wait than more money and a shorter wait.

At one point I started asking myself whether I should release individual chapters of Dreamblazers for some small amount of money each and go forward from there. (Later on I found out this is already a thing in the world called “episodic games.” No, even I don’t know how I managed to live this long never knowing about it!) Could I sell 8 parts of a game for $1.25 each—or whatever the amount is—instead of a single game for $15?

Then something hit me while writing this post. Yes, I was seriously taking this very post in a completely different direction, but putting it on digital paper spurred me to thinking:

Do I “need” to fund the entire game in a single campaign?

With a few exceptions, I’ve been very careful to hyper-focus the art assets on the early segments of Dreamblazers. So what if I don’t go for more tilesets and more character sprites and more enemy sprites just yet, since I already have a lot to work with on those fronts for the early game, but I “only” seek funding for the music (and not all of it), sound effects (and not all of them), menu skins, item icons, and battle effects? I could basically run a much smaller-scale campaign with the intent of getting to a minimum viable product, then I can go for the big home run swing later after the game gets to strut its stuff in public.

These are the kinds of thoughts I have at 6 AM, mind you, and I don’t know how I’ll feel after waking up, but that sure seems like a safer way to go about it.

…actually, yeah. I think I’ll end it there for now and see how I do feel after waking up, then come back and update again. (There you go, an episodic blog post! :P)

Dreamblazers Update Catch Up

I thought of many things I could write to start this post.

Would I talk about my energy level seeming different now than when I started at 29, then segue into a rousing round of rejecting all that noise, declaring mind over matter, and shouting “I”m back, baby!!!”—textually, of course? Would I start similarly to that, but go for a more humorous tone with a sidebar about coffee and not drinking it ever since I once mistook it for soda as a kid?

Would I play the sympathy card and write about stretching myself too thin, then try to justify myself by talking about how I hadn’t really taken a break for years, so in some weird way I “took a break” by nature? Would I take a more psychological bent and mention a discussion I had back in high school with a friend who insisted that I couldn’t force myself into a certain mood when I insisted that I could? (That was absolutely true for me, by the way, but I don’t know about him.)

Would I go for a high concept intro talking about the all-too-fast passage of time or about big projects and the expectations going into them?

In the end, Flora gave me a little push and helped me see what I should say:

I’m here. I screwed up. I overpromised because even now I constantly underestimate time commitments when I should know better. And then I missed a day and it turned into two and I felt like running away and, well, I did.

Is everybody like that? To some extent, yeah, probably. Is that an excuse? No. All I can do is apologize and also say that overpromising won’t happen again on my watch. “I’m aiming to have a post up tomorrow”—I’ll say something like that instead.

And with all that out of the way…

Let’s move on to happier things that I did actually tease last week. This is a new splash screen! I’m showing it here at a decreased resolution like usual, so it’s cleaner in the full art:

Dreamblazers - Title Splash 20 Percent Cropped

Will this be the title screen and move the previous image to being a game over screen or something else? Or will it be, perhaps, the other way around?! That’s a tough call, but what’s not a tough call is that I really wanted a promotional image like this with some key characters facing the camera. And I love this one and hope you do too!

A big difference between the new image and the other “title screen” is the addition of Jig and Tango and the disappearance of Cotelle and Minori. When I sat back and considered these two big factors:

1) who I’m expecting people to gravitate toward, and
2) who drives the story forward in Dreamblazers (and by Dreamblazers I mean Dreamblazers the first and possibly only game, not Dreamblazers the trilogy that I’d ideally like to create given time and resources (see, now I’m hedging and not overpromising :P))

I had to concede that Jig and Tango might be higher up the ladder. Of course, it’s not by much and ultimately both images will be in the game in some fashion, so people can decide which one is more fitting! At least it’s clear that Leaf and Celty are undoubtedly major players.

Let me call attention to the tablet in Jig’s hand, by the way. I insisted on including this because I wasn’t sure if I’ve made it apparent enough that the in-game universe’s highest levels of technology are actually well above our own. So why do characters walk around on foot and why they do fight with swords and throwing stars? Well, I’ve mentioned this before: they’re not human, but rather various humanoid species (though “humanoid” is an unknown word to them).

I’m gonna be honest here: it’s a pet peeve of mine when RPGs feature characters who are explicitly called humans and they’re getting stabbed, shot, frozen alive, poisoned, boiled alive, crushed by meteors, etc. and they don’t die to everything in one or two hits.

And no, even inventing a synonym for “human” doesn’t salvage it! :P You’ve gotta tell me these are beings composed at least partially of energy or magic or magical energy and, sure, then they can do all kinds of superhuman things and we’re cool.

Like my characters, for example.

Moving on! There’s actually a secret to this picture… I cropped the version above a bit, but there’s some more vertical space:

Dreamblazers - Title Splash 20 Percent Uncropped

You see, I wanted a title image that would change over time, expanding just like the in-game universe, so even starting up the game can give you something new to digest before you hop back into playing! A character who wasn’t there originally might appear somewhere on this screen, like Summer:

Preview 1

And I coyly wonder who this is:

Title Teaser

What else might appear? Well, if it’s used as the title screen, then of course a title—though I still need to find someone skilled at typography to handle that. Anything else I can tease? Nope. Perhaps you’ll find out in the future what this screen has to offer, but it won’t be on this blog.

By the way, that shot of Summer represents a slight design change for her that drops her center headpiece, which I sprang on Flora literally at the last second, so we’ll have to go back and tweak her dialogue portraits in due time. And Alex had also been drawing her sprite at this time, so I dug us all into double trouble here. :P (Got a few more important things to take care of than minor fixes to art assets right now, though…)

And speaking of Alex, here’s a preview of overworld sprites for Telia and Lash! These, of course, are shown at triple size:

Telia Sprites Preview Triple Size

Lash Sprites Preview Triple Size

I say “preview” because they actually have full and finished sprite sheets, as do Summer and another character I’m not showing here—hey, I can’t very well spill all the secrets up front. Every art asset in this post still has its mysteries. Anyway, like before, the characters are as expressive in their pixel art forms as they are in their traditional art forms for continuity and just because sprites emoting were always one of my favorite things in classic RPGs.

I’ll end this post here, but there’s always more to come in the future!

Update Tomorrow

I lined up at least a bit of work last week and I’m putting together a Kickstarter page along with all the administrative things that come along with it (making charts and graphs and now reaching out to a couple people for a few other things), so I’m kind of strapped for time, but just as a preview for tomorrow’s post…

Telia Preview Triple Size

Preview 1

Preview 2

Dreamblazers Update: Week of February 2, 2016

I promised a grand time with great art today—and we’re getting it! Remember this teaser from mid-January?

Dreamblazers - Mystery Fighter Animation Shadow

Well, unlike the last two times I showed off teaser versions of Liz’s sprites, this time I’ll go ahead and reveal who she is! After all, some of you may have already figured it out if your memories of material elsewhere on the site served you well:

Dreamblazers - Lash Dialogue Portrait Collection

Yes, this is Lash, also known as the Rogue of the Rose!

Dreamblazers - Lash Entrance Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Entrance Animation Triple Size

Ah, that grace and elegance… Like a rose with its thorns, but on a higher scale, Lash is a beautiful but deadly ninja. She wanders the wilderness always training to become stronger, acting largely of her own accord, and any confrontation with her reveals her to be a cool customer with a great poker face and a calm and collected demeanor to match.

And shown above is her entrance animation! When she first appears on a battlefield, time seems to come to a halt as the breeze heralds her arrival.

Lash is skilled in many forms of battle, so she can fight in melee combat without a weapon…

Dreamblazers - Lash Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Animation Triple Size

…or with one.

Dreamblazers - Lash Katana Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Katana Animation Triple Size

She can even fight with projectile weapons, as you might have guessed based on her dialogue portraits!

Dreamblazers - Lash Throwing Star Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Kunai Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Throwing Star Animation Triple Size Dreamblazers - Lash Kunai Animation Triple Size

As I’ve shown off before, among all the characters in Dreamblazers, Lash is one of the oldest of my creations along with Celty:

Portrait Collection Dates

Even though some of these portraits have been improved upon since they were first drawn, the dates when my characters were made are what they are—so I wanted Lash to stand out compared to other sprites! Most enemy sprites only have one animation, but the idea of giving Lash her own entrance and the usual idle and multiple visible weapon types definitely helps make her distinct.

By the way, even though the style of sprite that I have Liz drawing is obviously used for enemies, don’t read too much into that story-wise as far as who Lash is; I think you’ll be surprised which characters (and how many characters?) pictured above will eventually have enemy sprites. If I thought it was a big spoiler, then I would have kept her hidden like the two mystery monsters I linked above.

Before we go, I just wanted to comment that those of you familiar with the Super Smash Bros. series might find it a bit unfortunate that Lash can hold weapons, but doesn’t visibly attack with any of them—you know, like Ganondorf having a sword in his taunt but not using it in battle. Well, Lash is one of my long-time favorites, so I saw fit to correct that and commission even more for her!

Dreamblazers - Lash Katana Attack Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Katana Attack Animation Triple Size

This took a lot of work to figure out, by the way; one of the most underrated game developer skills might be getting the timing of animations to feel right. Even now I’m still not convinced it’s the best it could be! Liz can make super great art, but it’s up to me to use it well.

View post on imgur.com

Throughout several versions of her animation, you can get a sense for how I had been trying to make it feel fast enough to convey her ninja speed while not so fast that it was incomprehensible. Speeding up every fame, slowing down every frame, making her slash significantly faster than everything else, making her slash “hang” for more of a “bullet time” Matrix feel… there were many routes to go.

Of course, before I even commissioned this animation, I had already commissioned another earlier one to convey Lash’s speed!

Dreamblazers - Lash Teleport Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Teleport Animation Triple Size

Yep, it’s a teleporting classic! And I can even mix an attack right into the middle:

Dreamblazers - Lash Teleport and Attack Animation Dreamblazers - Lash Teleport and Attack Animation Triple Size

I hope you find all of these sprites as great as I do! And, hey, if you do, post a comment or let Liz herself know. =) Some ways to reach her are listed on the Team page, after all!

There’s actually still more to be drawn with Lash sprites considering that she can use magic, that we haven’t done animations for her other weapons, that she can fight by [redacted], and finally, just like [redacted], she’s capable of [redacted] when she cuts [redacted]! But those will have to wait for another time to be created since I can only cover so many expenses at this specific moment.

Speaking of waiting for another time, these sprites for Lash might represent the final art we see from Liz prior to the Kickstarter—many things are up in the air right now, including me hunting for another source of income (since I don’t intend for the Kickstarter to completely cover living expenses and paying for assets), Flora drawing something special that you’ll see soon, the grid battle system for ORK finally getting funded (this is the one I had wanted since the end of November), and even the ORK creator himself blindsiding all of us in the best possible way this past week by introducing multiple actions per turn into his framework, which I’ve been wanting for ages.

Honestly, just on that last point alone I could probably write another 3500 words about things I intend to do, never mind the other stuff that I also want to write about, but it’s 11:53 PM and I want to actually have this post out on the day that’s written in the title. :P And I have to save something for next week!

In any case, my point is that I don’t completely know where I’ll be putting time and money over the next few weeks and I especially don’t know where I’ll be earning money over the next few weeks, so pixel art from Liz may be on hold for a bit just as it’s been with Becca for about half a year.

And so with that I say thank you to her for everything she’s done, which has all been just fantastic, and we’ll meet again when that time comes—hopefully sooner than later!

Dreamblazers - Lash Entrance Animation Katana Dreamblazers - Lash Entrance Animation Katana Triple Size

Dreamblazers Update: Week of January 26, 2016

Okay, first of all, I’m pretty sure the next post on this blog will be awesome in the literal sense of inspiring awe, so if you’re looking for a grand time with great art, please click away now because that’s not today’s post.

Still here? Alright then, let’s talk some downer stuff. :P (And I want to repeat that I just said we’re having a great time next week! You’ll need to know this, even if subconsciously, while going through everything below.)

Remember the song “One Jump Ahead” from Aladdin—you know, the one with lyrics like “one skip ahead of my doom” and “one trick ahead of disaster,” among others? Sometimes I feel like that.

This week I feel like that! Somehow the replacement for the heating unit I just needed to replace to the tune of hundreds was itself installed incorrectly and that’s going to eat up a currently unknown amount of money. …oh, and on top of this, the part time work has dried up.

In October I said I was aiming for Kickstarter in February or March. Does this change anything? Actually, no. Not in and of itself. I’ve thought about this for some sleepless hours and, if anything, the best option is probably to move my timeline up even though the campaign might be less organized than I’d like if I have to rush it out.

But then, while I was figuring out some of the things I could say for my campaign, I hit a wall of unfortunate epiphanies. Let’s start with the least unfortunate and get worse from there:

  1. Either I need to scale back on everything to a degree that would frankly reshape the entire complexion of the game or Dreamblazers needs two more years to be completed—an amount of time I’m kinda not comfortable with thinking about. And yes, I know, I know, how hard can I really be on myself when I’m just one person plus freelancer artists, funding everything so far out of my own pockets, and meanwhile Keiji Inafune raised almost four million dollars and has an entire team of experienced developers and he still has to delay his own game time and again, etc. That’s why this is the least unfortunate epiphany on my list.
  2. I still haven’t done nearly enough (read: anything) to build a community because, well, I don’t know what I’m doing in that arena. So at this point I’d be almost entirely reliant for getting funding from A) a super minority of people like me who just subscribe to Kicktraq’s RSS feeds and back dozens of video game projects and B) Becca’s massive Twitter following.
  3. Last February I figured out that the type of game I usually back on Kickstarter raises around $33,000. The problem? At my current living expenses and rates of spending, even a full amount of $33,000 won’t last for the two-year period that I just said I need, never mind that taxes and Kickstarter fees get taken out.

It’s probably a good thing that Unity’s asset store doesn’t have an easy tool to make card games (other than one that’s been abandoned), because if it did then I might honestly hop into that market and create a Dreamblazers spinoff before making the actual RPG. You see, card games are made with traditional art, which can be produced 1) inexpensively and 2) even more importantly, quickly…

But pixel art takes time—a lot of it. And a lot of pixel art takes a ton of time. And me being me, of course I wanted not just a lot of pixel art, but a ton of pixel art, which takes… well, you get the picture.

I want to be clear that the fault here is 100% on me, by the way, for a blind spot in my planning. Becca’s great. Alex is great. Liz is great. This is me failing to recognize how much time I need and failing to account for what amount of money corresponds to that amount of time. This is also me failing to realize that the line of thinking of “first make it work, then make it pretty” is way more applicable to software projects that don’t involve pixel art than ones that do. I essentially bottlenecked my own game by concentrating too much on functionality at the expense of absolutely everything else.

Despite everything I’ve said, of course Dreamblazers isn’t going away and neither am I. Nope! But I might need to shift my plans. More specifically, I want to get a bit more money and stability somehow because right now even a successful Kickstarter (by 2D RPG standards) wouldn’t get me where I have to be. And yes, the campaign could exceed my expectations, but I want to be able to come to prospective backers from a place of more security than I have at this specific time.

That’s where things stand right now and I know it doesn’t sound pretty, but that’s the honest summary of the current situation.

But like I said, on a lighter note, next week you can get ready to see some greatness! I’m the one who has to worry right now, not you all. :P