Monthly Archives: July 2015

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of July 27, 2015

I guess one downside to having a bonus post, especially on a Friday, is that I don’t have much to update on Monday. :P Mostly just plugging away at maps and waiting on some art in the whopping one (work)day since I last updated. Once I have real finalized monster art to put in the game, testing battles using 2D sprites will become the next big project, so that will be a more exciting time.

One other thing: now that we’re up to five different people working on the Dreamblazers project, within the next couple weeks I’m aiming to put up a Team page with mini-bios of each person. =)

And I think that’ll actually do it for today. Short update this week, yes, but to be honest I probably need to cut back on these things anyway; with my time split now between making a game and my normal job, it’s a bit tougher to put up substantive weekly posts than it used to be for multiple reasons.

Bonus Post: Miharu Continent Work In Progress

MiharuFull1 Cropped

This is a bit rough around the edges—literally—because it’s still a work in progress and because there’s one very specific tile type I neglected to ask for, but I hope the beauty of Becca’s pixel art shines through regardless!

Compared to the old public domain placeholder tiles, you can easily see the upgrade in quality. The beach tiles that fade into the sea are noticeably larger than the sharp drop-off cliffs of the placeholders, though—this is merely a faithful recreation of the placeholders, but obviously I need to figure out how to expand the continent since Becca’s real grasslands need to fade into the beach more accurately. In some areas this is easy, like the area around Deltaru Tri-Port going from this skeleton layout…

Deltaru Beach Cutoff

…to this more fleshed-out terrain:

Deltaru Beach No Cutoff

But in other cases the beach is close enough to important terrain landmarks that instead I’ll be revising the area entirely, such as the forest just to the south of there: the Unicorn Forest, where it’s rumored that a rare unicorn lives! (Of course.*)

Unicorn Forest Area Cutoff

Normally I don’t show off such work-in-progress stuff, but I’ve gone so long delaying on sharing Becca’s pixel art because a lot of it would be spoilery—giving away dungeon layouts and so on—that I didn’t want to hold back any more. =) This is where we’re at now!

Oh: and in other news, I’m pretty sure our prospective monster artist Liz will be great based on her early samples. Look forward to that post coming soon!

(*Unicorn Forest used to be named Den of Kobolds and the Unicorn, but that’s super clunky and had to go. There are still kobolds hanging around all over, though!)

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of July 20, 2015

Earlier today Becca sent me some new overworld tiles, so I’ll do a take two on putting up a bonus post later this week with some updated images. =) Until then, though, I realized over this past week that even though I can’t show things like dungeon layouts for reasons of spoilers, I can show off Becca’s pixel art in another way…

Battlefield screens!

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Mockup

Dreamblazers - Cave Battle Mockup

Look, look, it’s some of Becca’s artistry. :D I could put it to much better use than I have so far, believe me, but these are works in progress after all. Actually, in a way I’m worried what Becca might think when she sees this—I bet there are at least a dozen neat little visual tricks I could do with her pixel art that I haven’t figured out. Nonetheless, even for what I have so far they’re some beautiful environments, right? ♥

A lot of the vertical space at the bottom will also be eaten up by menus when I have real art for that instead of ugly placeholders meant for testing (not shown here :P), so the layouts are 100% subject to change. Also, each of these screenshots has a lot of empty space toward the left side since that’s where the enemies are going to be and I don’t know how much space they’ll take up.

Speaking of that…

Final Fantasy VI - Battle

…compared to this Final Fantasy VI image, you might notice that there’s a lot more visible horizontal space. Perhaps too much? Yes, I’d say so! To be honest, I’m not totally decided on what resolution or even aspect ratio Dreamblazers will be in, so I just designed a much larger space than needed. If I aim for a more SNES-like style, it could look like this:

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Mockup SNES Resolution

A GBA-like style would look like this:

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Mockup GBA Resolution

And a widescreen resolution would look like this:

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Mockup Widescreen Resolution

But what if I end up going for the full 1920×1080? I could take that widescreen shot and crank it up to 400% size:

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Mockup 1080p Resolution

Or I could go back and use a larger battlefield so that I only have to turn the pixels up to 300%:

Dreamblazers - Forest Battle Mockup 1080p Resolution Triple Size

I don’t know what I’ll end up with, but we’re one step closer to finding out if the prospective monster artist lives up to her samples! Being able to put in real non-placeholder creatures will help give me a better sense of space.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of July 13, 2015

Pixel Art Characters

Back in September 2012 the indie team behind Two Brothers mentioned to me that their characters’ sprites were designed before—well, before what would normally be called concept art, but since it came second in this case, I’ll just call it their traditional art. The biggest reason to go that route is to lend a certain feel to the visual aspect of a game.

I do everything for the sake of gameplay, though, so I started from the standpoint that most characters should have 6-8 outfit slots filled up at first and characters with 9-10 pieces of clothing or 2-5 pieces of clothing would stand out and feel different! Jelia is an example of a character who I had intended to fill every outfit slot except her legs (waist and legs are different slots) because part of her initial design was that she couldn’t change clothes.

(Now that I think of it, I’ll have to go into more detail about this topic later this month in a Dreamblazers Cutting Room Floor post on the Musings side of the site. Just wait until you hear my (now-canned) radical idea to make an all-gameplay-no-story mode and an all-story-no-gameplay mode! (Spoiler alert: it’s super pretentious indie meta nonsense!))

So when you see a character with a visually busy and complex outfit design like Jig (left side)…

Jig and Berry

…or her brother Tango…


…it’s usually because I had very specific ideas for the gameplay functionality of their clothing. Characters are even balanced partly by their clothes. For example, the Characters page shows over five times as many clothes that boost Magic Power as clothes that boost Power.

An unintended consequence, though, is that I’ve made it more difficult than it should be to convert certain character designs into their 16-bit forms. Jelia turned out well because of Alex’s skill, but nothing guarantees that it’s going to keep up considering some of the designs yet to be pixelized. So that’s something I’m thinking about at this point in time.

Why am I thinking of this? Well, because of my second topic for today…

Pixel Art Monsters

Got a promising application from someone wanting to draw the monsters and other enemies of Dreamblazers! :D Actually, I got this application nearly a month ago and it nearly got lost by not forwarding to my email… so my own blunder nearly blew this opportunity, but now things are looking up. I won’t say anything more until it’s officially official (!), but—well, I’ll just say I’m really hoping on this one. =) And you’ll know the details when I have them!

Pixel Art Cohesion

With a third pixel artist potentially on the way—and knowing that my goal for the monsters is to approximate a Pokémon style—I started thinking about the cohesion of all the pixel art. Right now Becca tends to draw fairly realistic environments (to the extent pixel art can be realistic) while Alex is faithfully recreating Flora’s artwork and color choices in pixel form.

I’m usually constantly pushing toward brighter and brighter colors and so far I’ve been fortunate that nothing seems to blatantly clash, but I began to wonder if that can continue. Will I eventually break everything with the monsters? What about the special effects (like magic)? Will the menus do it?

And then I realized something just this past week. Look at this Final Fantasy VI image:

Final Fantasy VI - Battle

I’ve played thousands of games and I’d have to think about it, but my gut feeling is that Final Fantasy VI is probably still in my top ten of all-time. It’s a masterpiece and always will be in my book.

That said, the more I look at this picture, the more it seems like a visual mess despite each individual element looking very nice. The background clouds, lake, and trees are hyper-detailed to the extent that it wouldn’t surprise me if I found out they took a photograph by a real lake and did their best to trace it with pixels.

The heroes are a colorful animeriffic bunch with the green-haired Terra, Edgar’s pastel blue and green outfit, and Mog the cute fantasy creature, but the enemies use earth tones and darker shades for a more gritty feel. If that wasn’t clashy enough, the menus are a basic blue gradient.

And the perspective is extremely skewed in a way that I can best illustrate visually:

Final Fantasy VI - Perspective

The background is basically a flat-angle shot from the side of that lake, but the rest of the ground is a tilted aerial perspective looking down and forward. Either of those on its own is fine, but put them together and it’s a disjointed effect of two cameras being mashed together.

But—and here’s the key thing—I never noticed any of this until now. I didn’t notice, I didn’t mind, and although I do notice now I still don’t mind. So I’m going to plow forward without concern! Apparently I’d have to mess up super badly for any lack of cohesion to be as big a deal as I’ve made it out to be in my mind and in my worries.

Game development is a pretty fascinating thing, huh?

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of July 6, 2015

21,008: that’s the number of spambot IP addresses now blocked from this site. But enough whining: on to more interesting things!

Dreamblazers - Ardis Dancing 200 2

Much like Flora’s character portraits push me forward to do them justice with the writing and dialogue, Alex’s character pixel art pushes me forward to do justice to the animations. It’s not my natural strength, in all honesty—that would be writing, imagining, and especially crunching numbers—but I certainly love what I see from Alex and I hope you all do too. :D

Speaking of crunching numbers, I’m feeling pretty satisfied now with the fashion system rebalancing I talked about last week. I’m changing my thinking on how to handle earning new outfits, though; because several of the main characters are fairly isolated from society and have little or nothing in the way of money, originally the primary way to get new clothes would be when new characters join the party. One interesting side effect of this design is that players could appreciate new characters for the tangible benefits they bring to the table even if they don’t like their personalities. However, if it’s harder to get fashion bonuses then new clothes can also be handed out a little more frequently than before.

The enemy rebalancing, on the other hand, isn’t quite where I want it to be yet. This took a long while to get right the first time around before I decided to change the fashion system, so I might just revert the enemies to what they were before and live with a slightly easier game.