Monthly Archives: August 2015

Dreamblazers Update: Week of August 31, 2015

New Pixel Art and Worldbuilding Talk

Behold, in triple size, the mighty Felossus!

Dreamblazers - Felossus Animation Triple Size

And now let’s compare sizes of all monsters to date except the spoilery one.

Dreamblazers - Slime Animations Normal Size Dreamblazers - Harpilure Animation Dreamblazers - Felossus Animation Dreamblazers - Slugwall Animation

As you can see, a Harpilure is about three times the size of a slime, a Felossus is about three times the size of a Harpilure, and a Slugwall is about twice the size of a Felossus. Nonetheless, putting aside the massive scale of sea creatures, the Felossus is certainly one of the largest land creatures! It’s especially noteworthy for being a common large creature. It’s powerful, agile, and can even fight pretty evenly with the raging ogres that sometimes plague the land. But is size everything? Not at all. In a direct confrontation, a Felossus would shoo a Slugwall with relative ease, but even with all its physical strength it would be unable to harm a Slimary, the weakest slime that has no elemental power. Liquid creatures, shapeshifters, and others are pretty safe against this giant kitty!

Well, the Felossus has brute force alone as long as nothing crazy goes on, like someone putting destructive elemental magic into its claws for reasons, but why would something that absurd ever happen in a video game? This is the Dreamblazers universe, where the global Empire long ago established the Shield Our Surface (S.O.S.) group dedicated to layering healing and barrier magic over the planet of Peremene so it doesn’t get destroyed by nutty individuals with a lot of magic to spare and a desire to see the world burn. It’s a peaceful world—and, in fact, one that a couple of our heroines like Leaf and Celty find too peaceful! Why else would they seek adventure? But for more ordinary citizens, well, the mornings of Peremene shimmer and its evenings are simply divine and its people know for absolute certain that everything is perfectly fine.

Yes. Perfectly fine!

On to other things…

Let’s Talk Music

I recently got someone inquiring about whether he could compose music for Dreamblazers and I actually still have to reply to that email—I’m way too late about that and I’ll definitely have to apologize when I send that reply, but this is a difficult subject for me. Music is in a weird place with me, which is why I’ve never talked about it in detail despite writing on here for over a year and a half. In fact, I did a search and here’s everything I’ve ever said on this blog about music (as it relates to the game):

  • I want it to be good. (Thanks, Captain Obvious. :P)
  • If I had a hundred million dollars (and I don’t) then I’d want a Musical Mode where various scenes are portrayed in song!
  • For the sake of a demo, I can probably get away with only having three pieces of music: towns, dangerous areas, and the overworld. (Today I’d say four, adding battles!)

The truth is that other than gameplay—which in this case means choosing your team, choosing your moves, creating your own play style, finding fashion combos, and so on—music is the aspect of an RPG that I value the most highly. And yet I’ve never said much about it; why not? To be honest, I consider this the scariest aspect of the entire game development process. The very scariest.

You see, I’m responsible for the gameplay and almost every other element of Dreamblazers also stems from it. Monster designs like the Felossus, Slugwall, and of course the elemental slimes were inspired by making creatures do certain things; I knew what to ask for. Character designs like Leaf, Jelia, Celty, Astrid, and Star stemmed heavily from the characters’ abilities and attributes; I knew what to ask for. Even the story stems from the gameplay and has since, well, pretty much forever. I said this over two and a half years ago and 1,105 tweets ago, when nothing existed of the game other than design documents:

Music, however… Outside of the rhythm genre, music is a completely isolated element of games. I don’t know how to give direction. I don’t know how to communicate what I’m looking for. Or even if I do know how, it must be subconscious since I don’t know that I know how. Sure, I took a single music theory course in college, which is more than I can say for art—but I look at art and color and the visual world almost every second of every day. You pick things up from that, you know? Can’t say that about music. I can go to deviantArt or pixiv or wherever else to glance over about ten pieces of art per second, but with music it’s multiple minutes invested just to truly get into a single piece. In fact, sometimes I can hear a piece dozens and dozens of times before I feel like I’ve even begun to understand it.

So how can I feel comfortable talking about what I’m looking for from the music? I can’t say “this piece should have flutes” and “that piece should have trumpets” and “that piece should have a rest that cuts off all instruments at 0:25, then reintroduce each instrument one by one over the course of five stanzas to convey a sense of X…”

Regardless, since the issue did come up, I resumed looking over music and even tossed some updates in the ancient Musical Inspirations segment of the wiki. I know what I like when it already exists! …but can I express how to create what I like when it doesn’t yet exist? Hmm. That’s the challenge.

Dreamblazers Update: Week of August 24, 2015

Here’s an animated Harpilure from Liz!

Dreamblazers - Harpilure Animation

Dreamblazers - Harpilure Animation Triple Size

Let’s talk about this lovely beauty.

Just like the slimes are an early monster type there to teach about the need for magic and different element types and the Slugwall is an early monster type there to teach that size isn’t everything, the Harpilure is also an instructive monster! This one doesn’t have a bloated amount of HP or near-immunity to physical attacks, but instead is a classical annoying creature that swiftly throws status effects at the player party. Although Harpilures aren’t especially powerful, their elusive prankster nature and the obvious advantage of flight allows them to make homes in many areas of many continents.

By the way, one perk of the entire gamedev process is getting to look up the beautiful creatures and locations of our own world. Just look at some of the cool Earth birds I got to sift through. :D Better yet, how about a few of the sea slugs?

What’s another perk? Well, the people I get to work with! Here’s the brand new Team page with over 1,200 words describing every current member of Team Jelly Paladin. :D Be absolutely sure to check it out: that’s the big attraction for this week’s post!

I’ll leave it there for today. I’ve only just recently fully recovered from last week’s 10-hour Disneyland extravaganza (or 16 hours factoring in travel and leaving the park… or 21-ish hours factoring in preparation!), but even putting that aside, I’ve noticed these posts are beginning to take more time to put together than is beneficial, so I’m trying to cut back and go with more of a teaser route.

Dreamblazers Update: Week of August 17, 2015

Stuff I could post this week:

  1. A new monster design and accompanying discussion of monster AI
  2. Team profiles
  3. Anomalies in the world of Dreamblazers and some worldbuilding talk
  4. Tango’s walking animation and a discussion of battle party differentiation in Dreamblazers

For now I’m going to hold off with 2 and 4 since this would be a bit much to write up for a single post. 1 and 3 happen to fit together very well, though, so let’s rock. :D

Today’s new monster from Liz is…

Dreamblazers - Slugwall Animation

A Slugwall!* Your eyes don’t deceive you: unlike most of the pixel art I show off here, this is shown at its normal size!

Mega Man Zero - Too Big To Be A Slug

Go away, Zero. This is a fantasy world and I’ll make as big a slug as I want. :P Anyway, this giant sea slug can survive in or out of water and often turns up on beaches—so it could be one of the very first enemies you encounter in the game if you head toward the sand and surf!

Below is a super-basic mockup of a beach battle screen that I whipped up in like 15 minutes for this post, but let’s look at the size difference between a few of our heroines and a Slugwall—or between a Slugwall and slimes!

Dreamblazers - Early Beach Battle Mockup

As you can see, monsters will have very different sizes. =) These are the extreme ends of some of the smallest and largest monsters in Dreamblazers. Showing off proportionate differences between enemies wasn’t done very often in RPGs from the 16-bit era or even many later 2D RPGs, so I’m very happy to be able to feature pixel art in this way. Even game franchises that did their monsters justice relatively well like Pokémon (my favorite series, by the way!), which clearly showed a Pokémon within its species getting bigger as it evolved, still normalized sizes quite a bit when comparing between species…

You can probably guess which of these is the tallest, listed as 6’07” in the Pokédex (though you might be surprised it’s only that tall!), but just try to guess which one is 1’00”, which one is 2’04”, and which two are 3’03”.

So we’re all doing something interesting here at Team Jelly Paladin with the sizes. =)

Anyway, what exactly does a Slugwall do in battle? And what was that * for earlier? Since slugs are pretty simple creatures, a Slugwall has some of the most rudimentary AI of any monster:**

Dreamblazers - Slugwall AI

Translating this into English, the Slugwall picks a random attack out of Muck Shot, Whiptail, and Half-Shield as its first move, will usually use Muck Shot (a hits-all-protagonists move) afterward if the first move was Half-Shield, and will always use either Muck Shot or Whiptail if it’s built up enough Burst. (Burst is the equivalent of a fighting game meter and builds up as a character takes or receives damage. As far as I can tell, Lufia II: Rise of the Sinistrals was the first RPG to incorporate that kind of mechanic.)

The * earlier is there because I’m not sure this creature will continue to be called a Slugwall! It might become a Slugigas, Slugoliath, Sleviathan, or something along those lines. =) The name Slugwall was meant to convey that it would block your way for ages because of its size and shell… until I looked up references of slugs and remembered that they rarely have shells. (The move was always named Half-Shield, though; I never had an image of a slug that could fully retract into a shell.) Whoops! There went that aspect of the design, but it remains a gigantic creature, so the name might change to reflect that.

My Mega Man Zero image wasn’t merely an in-joke; one thing the Mega Man franchise did superbly was throw gigantic yet easy enemies at the player early on to build up confidence that the hero could do anything. My favorite example is Mega Man X2‘s intro boss, which is probably three or four screens big and keels over in about as many shots. The Slugwall is made in that vein, an early creature that’s more for show than anything else.

Of course, the other way to use gigantic monsters is to make them as intimidating as they look. Don’t you worry: I’ll be all over that too! (Hidden in the post I just linked: some dialogue that later turned into a mini-song in Dreamblazers.) In fact, the ** from up above is because there may or may not be later sapient beings raising pet Slugwalls and cranking them up to new levels of AI. Oh, I wonder…

And speaking of wondering, you might be wondering two things:

  1. How can our protagonists take a hit from such a big creature?
  2. How can a slug take a hit from our protagonists?

These are sensible questions! Even if it’s huge, it’s still a slug and should get destroyed by one jumping slash from Leaf’s Sword of Eternity, right? And a Slugwall’s tail alone is like five times the heroes’ size, so if the ladies of Dreamblazers were the kinds of elves and half-elves we’re used to, they should get knocked out in one Whiptail. It’s like this:

So I’m glad you (I) asked! In the Dreamblazers world, the vast majority of living things—including the heroines—aren’t beings of “flesh and blood,” but beings of flesh and pure energy. They can direct their energy to any area of their body, essentially shifting around their body mass to increase their offensive and defensive capabilities.

What does all of that mean? For one thing, even though death is still a looming threat, losing limbs isn’t. If a person has enough energy to protect a targeted part of her body, she’ll shift it there either consciously or unconsciously. If she doesn’t have enough energy, then she’ll lose it all by trying to shield herself and be killed in the process, dissipating into the air without leaving a corpse—like Obi-Wan Kenobi.

For another thing, even the weakest creatures are capable of massively superhuman feats! (Though they’re not human.) Weapons are used for personal preference, style, and simply extending the range of one’s attacks, but aren’t strictly needed for survival. I may or may not have hinted at the high power level of the Dreamblazers world before on Twitter. ;P

Finally, the flesh-and-energy composition of the characters explains several questions that a person might have about Dreamblazers character designs, like why so few of them wear armor (unnecessary and worn mostly ornamentally) or how Celty can be a globetrotting adventurer with no shoes (worn for style and cleanliness, not protection).

Group Shot 32 - Final Before Demo

All of this is a natural result of designing Dreamblazers starting with the gameplay instead of starting with the story. Most of my worldbuilding was done with a mindset toward explaining things like how people survive getting hit repeatedly with lightning bolts or why the surface of the planet hasn’t been destroyed by all those fireball-flinging mages. Unusual things can happen with the setting when you do it that way, but I’d much rather have an unusual setting than get people wondering how Superman gets by in his world of cardboard.

That brings me to the last part of today’s update! Every Tuesday I tweet out a dialogue snippet as a teaser. You can find them all collected here, but last Tuesday’s dialogue was this:

Even in a world of a high power level, certain beings exist who can manipulate energy in exceptional and sometimes strange ways! These are classified by the Empire as Anomalies and known as Type A, I, M, N, S, and a hypothesized Type R that hasn’t been observed. These aren’t power rankings, incidentally—i.e. Type S isn’t the strongest—but each letter is short for a word that you’ll find out in the game itself. =)

Oh, and lest anyone think I’m about to pull something out of superhero comics or One Piece where suddenly everyone in the world has superpowers, nope, not at all; Dreamblazers Anomalies are indeed anomalies and extremely rare! The unique abilities of most characters come from their species, like Ardis being a half-sylph or Minori and Misty being respectively plasma and water elementals, or from their own ingenuity, like Evelyn, Jelia, and Star.

As intriguing as that might be, I do have to reserve some talking points for future posts, so that concludes things for today! I’m hoping to get up the Team page later this week since I have what I need to write one, but it might not happen since I’ll be hanging out at Disneyland with some family for one or two days before they head back home to Hawaii. I also have catching up to do from last week’s time with them, but no matter what I’ll be back with more next Monday!

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of August 10, 2015

As I said last week, here we go! Let’s show off the talents of everyone on Team Jelly Paladin in one post. :D Going in chronological order of when they joined the party, first up is something new from Flora. It’s not actually going to be in the game (probably), but it’s my profile picture for the upcoming Team page!

Profile Pic

Yes, as it turns out, the clothes I wear in my own life are in fact as colorful as the crazy rainbow character designs I’ve pushed Flora toward. :P That Team page will be coming soon, but for now let’s move on to Becca!

Dreamblazers - Miharu Work In Progess August 2015

Here’s my current work in progress of the continent of Miharu! It’s looking loads better than a couple weeks back, naturally, but I’m still shuffling things around and considering what I can do with layouts.

Oh, by the way, the water tiles are animated too. =)

Dreamblazers - Miharu Animation Test

Now I can actually screencap this stuff courtesy of 1) ScreenToGif and 2) an update to Tiled. Actually, that update happened almost a year ago, but I didn’t realize that Tiled—at least for now—doesn’t notify when updates are available. Whatever the case, it’s a great program and I’ll probably have to add a Tools page too so I can give credit to all the excellent software I’ve been using.

Third up is the Tango sprite sheet I mentioned last week, coming from Alex:

Dreamblazers - Tango Sprite Sheet Triple Size

I spent a lot of time getting the continent ready as well as some other things yet to mention this post, so showing off his walking animation will have to wait for next week. Besides, who cares about a male protagonist in this female-heavy universe anyway? :P
(I’m kidding. Tango actually has an extremely meaningful role! It’s not a coincidence that he’s in the top row of my early character profiles group shot.)

Last up is Liz! But how can I do this when her newest art is technically a spoiler? Ah, I know. We’ll do it Pokémon style!

Who’s that Pokémon?

Dreamblazers - Mystery Monster Animation Silhouette

Dreamblazers - Mystery Monster Animation Silhouette Triple Size

I’ll give an additional hint with washed-out colors:

Dreamblazers - Mystery Monster Gigantic Ghost Silhouette

Wish I could show this mysterious creature off in its full-color glory since it turned out beautifully, but I just can’t give away spoilers! Look forward to another amazing creature that I can actually show coming soon, though. :D

That’s it for this week, shining a little spotlight on everyone. I don’t anticipate having much if anything to show off next week since family events are going to occupy the upcoming Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday, but you never know what might be in store.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of August 3, 2015

Dreamblazers - Slime Animations

Do the slime shuffle! These are new team member Liz Pulanco’s slimes shown at triple size and normal size. =) From left to right, top to bottom, they’re a Slimary, Slimectric, Slimercury, Slimerime, and Slimelty. These are some of the smallest creatures in the game, so we’ll get to see her work for Dreamblazers for bigger and more detailed sprites later on, but these are still adorable! And you can check out her overall talent on her website here.

Actually, it’s a little tough for me to believe that I’ve had these sprites since last Tuesday… time has been passing very quickly both because of my day job and some exciting things that are coming up in future posts but not quite ready for today’s post. I could put up the most up-to-date Miharu continent today along with the character sprite sheet for Tango that was finished last Thursday, but with the way things are going I’m hoping everything lines up so that next week or the week after I can do a nice mega-post spotlighting the talents of every team member so far with artwork both new and old. That’s something I really want to do in one big swoop; it’s been a while since a mega-post and I’ve mostly been posting more incremental updates recently, including today’s.

Enough about that and more about slimes, though! With a name like, you know I love these little blobs. :P Of course, our mascot and cover (kind-of-a-)girl Jelly was the model for the Slimary:

Jelly Wink

Even when I conceived a very, very basic version of the game back in 1999-2001, I always had the notion of using slimes as a form of tutorial (and I don’t mean the kind that flashes twenty text boxes at you; those didn’t exist back then).

The basic Slimary in Dreamblazers, as relatively helpless as it is, has one significant thing in its favor: the damage it takes from physical attacks is reduced by 95%! That teaches players very early that they can’t power through the game on physical attacks alone, then the elemental slimes (who also have that physical damage reduction) come in to teach about different types of magic!

An unfortunate fact is that many RPG series have virtually no gameplay depth and will allow just mashing “Attack” or “Fight” or hitting your strongest move turn after turn. That’s not something I can accept! You can expect more enemies than not to come up with at least one surprise, whether it’s a simple quirk of their stats like the slimes or a whole lot of AI options. (And the scary part is that I’ve given the Sylph Mage more options than she had back then due to new features added to ORK—but I’m not about to spoil everything!)