Category Archives: Dreamblazers Trivia

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of May 4, 2015

Pixel Artists

The call to arms is out for pixel artists along with the help wanted page earlier this week! So exciting times are ahead on that front as we’ll see who applies and what comes of it all. Actually, as I type this I already have a handful of applicants, all interesting… one in particular has a very, very nice FFVI-style character.

I’ll give it at least a couple days to fully consider my options, though!

Battling in Style

On the development side, lots of spreadsheet-based insanity over the past week after I discovered that my power scale had gotten out of whack. I didn’t mention this over the past few months because art was more visually interesting to post, but when I explained on the Dreamblazers main page that wearing certain outfit styles will boost stats, I only had that idea as recently as February or March. After all, back in November even I didn’t know the ultimate purpose of the fashion system.

After I implemented the outfit bonuses, though, I hadn’t put them through the ringer of playtesting battles until recently. I was happy with battle balance ten months ago since that was the first thing I did—and with formulas based on Pokémon but on a weakened scale, how could I possibly screw it up just with some minor bonuses? It’s not like Pokémon items such as the Life Orb or Soft Sand fundamentally change the game.

But, well, I screwed it up anyway. =P

The bonuses I gave were just too strong, especially three-style bonuses and barefoot fashions for hand-to-hand combatants (and I have several hand-to-hand combatants because martial arts are for girls).

Regarding barefoot fashions, this was basically the same dilemma that many RPGs face with monks who can use weapons but also don’t need them. If you make their bare hands too powerful then why bother with the option of weapons (Final Fantasy style), but if you make weapons too powerful then why bother with a unique ability to fight with their bare hands (Etrian Odyssey III style)?

Dreamblazers doesn’t have swappable weapons, so I used shoes for a similar effect and wound up with the first option: shoes just weren’t worth wearing. In the end, though, this dilemma was pretty easy to resolve once I saw it in action and did the math.

Regarding three-style bonuses, this was and still is a more complex dilemma about stacking. It’s significantly more difficult to get a girl into three styles than only two, so I wanted a three-style bonus to be noticeably stronger than a two-style bonus… but having a three-style bonus also usually means having three other two-style bonuses.

To illustrate, let’s say you’re a player and you believe there might be three-style bonuses for Dancer+Formal+GirlyGirl or for Cool+Speedy+Sporty. (I’m not going to say whether there are!) While assembling these outfits, you’d also naturally be assembling Dancer+Formal, Dancer+GirlyGirl, Formal+GirlyGirl, Cool+Speedy, Cool+Sporty, and Speedy+Sporty, which could have their own bonuses! So potentially you’re getting up to four total bonuses from a triple combo, not just the one.

I still haven’t quite hit the mark on balancing out this power, so that work continues for now. I want players to explore and to feel rewarded for exploring the outfit system because it’s certainly unlike anything I’ve seen in an RPG, but I do have to keep it from getting out of control.

Veteran Characters

I noticed that these past few weeks of devlogs have been mostly business, so I’ll end with the return of some trivia—in a sense! One thing I appreciated about the most recent Super Smash Bros. was the All-Star mode that grouped characters according to their years of creation to give a sense of history, so I’ll follow suit with my own characters.

Portrait Collection Dates

These are only the characters who have finished dialogue portraits, so each of these groupings of years will expand in the future to include some characters you can see on the Characters page and a few who aren’t visible anywhere yet! =)

(Flora, if you’re reading this: when I look at this I’m reminded to say thank you again, thank you still, and thank you always for teaming up with me and bringing my characters to life. Some of them have been waiting on me for a long, long time! )

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of March 16, 2015

I wavered on whether or not to post this week; it was a bit of downtime with a midweek crisis, so I can legitimately say I don’t have anything interesting to show for Dreamblazers this time. I’m also at an awkward place where, because I’m mostly plugging away at story elements, progress feels a lot less tangible to me as a gamer and I also can’t say much about it publicly without giving spoilers.

Still, I’ve been posting these consistently for over a year, so I might as well keep up the tradition!

Financial stuff:

My tenant moved out, so that’s going to eat into my savings to the tune of another $700 per month until I get a new one—and this isn’t even what I was alluding to last week when saying that I’d been thinking about a time crunch. This doesn’t pose any real threat, so no worries there, but maybe tax season will bring me some good news on the financial front.

Game stuff:

Just for fun, let me go ahead and toss out more trivia this week! Since not all of the characters will be getting face portraits until after a successful Kickstarter campaign, I can say a little about them. While my Celty predates the Celty Sturluson from Durarara and isn’t even remotely related to her, some of my characters are tributes.

My Minori, Minori Tsukimiya, was initially conceived as a tribute to Minori Kushieda from Toradora!, an eccentric genki girl athlete. After finally starting to watch My Little Pony I wound up concluding that Minori Kushieda and Pinkie Pie are pretty much the same character living in different universes and sets of physics, so I also incorporated some of those elements into my Minori’s character. At one point I was going to have my Minori’s stage name be Pink Kamen—a takeoff of Tuxedo Kamen from Sailor Moon that also visually looks like “Pinkamena,” Pinkie’s full name, she’d come out in a pink tuxedo and top hat to perform at the coliseum.

And speaking of things that are pink, Star is based on Kirby: a cutesy character in pink who can adapt to any type of fighting and changes outfits when she changes styles.

And speaking of Kirby, my mascot Jelly’s coloring is based on Pitch from Kirby’s Dream Land 3!

Miscellaneous stuff:

MLP season 5 starts in a little over two weeks and I’m thinking about doing blind episode commentaries for YouTube; if I’m going to be watching the episodes anyway, then maybe I can get even more out of my time than just entertainment—things like an audience! I’m a little tentative about the idea since I have a kind of on-again off-again lisp that I can’t hear when I speak and only sometimes comes out when I talk, so I might not go through with this, but I do believe it’s probably worth it.

This isn’t only tangentially related to my game, by the way, but something I’ve very seriously considered. I have a list of over 300 websites, blogs, and YouTubers covering indie games, but until I have a playable demo, which requires a lot more art assets, I (justifiably) can’t get any exposure from them. The speed of assets is out of my control and in the hands of pixel artists, so it’s a legitimate question what I can do if I want to earn any kind of following before any of that stuff is done.

That’s not to say this is the correct route, but only that my line of thought about this is another entry in the series of questions I’ve been facing recently.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of March 9, 2015 (Crossroads Edition)

Slightly delayed post, but I wanted to wait for these faces!

Portrait Collection 3

Shown are Sakura Park, Summer, and Telia Evenway! Although it’s not visible on a white background, Summer has a faint white glow around her. Not much trivia this week; Telia’s original 2000-2001 name was Jeria, but in Japanese katakana that’s indistinguishable from Jelia, so it had to change. I’m definitely hoping to one day be able to release Dreamblazers in Japanese; if a bunch of people throw money at me to have it in Spanish or any other language then of course I’ll do that too for the sake of catering to my own audience, but speaking personally, I’d love to give back to the country responsible for ~95% of my favorite RPGs.

Anyway, the first reason I wanted to wait for these portraits is that I want to keep posting faces while I still can. As crazy as it might seem since I’ve only been putting up Flora’s portraits for a few weeks, we’re almost at the end of new characters getting faces. More faces will be filled in and posted in the weeks to come—for example, seeing Telia’s wide range of faces makes me want to give some similar ones to Celty—but in terms of characters who have no faces at all yet, there are only a tiny handful more. Out of all my (finished) characters, Cotelle, Minori, Berry, Star, Hikaru, Misty, Mina, Faray, Kylie, Eris, Autumn, and Winter aren’t needed at this time since I only want a minimum to put out my playable demo as a proof of concept.

…and that’s also the second reason I wanted to wait since everything I’ve said is a perfect segue to my next point!

When I first decided on this crazy journey for my life in 2012 after learning about the existence of Kickstarter, I initially wanted to put out a pretty massive demo to the tune of two or three hours long—a demo encompassing all of Miharu, the entire first continent of Dreamblazers. My instinct was that since I’m an unknown and technically unproven developer, I needed to deliver a ton of value up front. It would be like the archaic shareware days and that’s how I grew up: playing the very meaty demos of Spiderweb Software’s Exile series (later remade as the Avernum series).

Besides, the adventure on Miharu happens to conclude with a really nice teaser—not a cliffhanger, but a cool thread of narration that’s the verbal equivalent of the title image in terms of making people excited for everything to come. So as long as people actually played through the demo, they’d really want to fund it to completion. ;P

To put into perspective how many locations all of Miharu would require, I’ll take a look at my placeholder version. Note that these are free tiles from OpenGameArt, not Becca’s sure-to-be-far-more-professional tiles, and since they’re just placeholders I don’t always have the applicable art; as one example, the big cluster of houses in the northwest is just my stand-in for a pixel art castle that I don’t have yet. Also, the scale and shape of the continent are going to change for the larger.

Miharu Very Initial Overview

(Click for full size.) Places circled in black are fairly big, places circled in red are very small (e.g. one house in the middle of nowhere instead of a town), and places with an X are suspicious-looking areas that were never going to be possible to enter even from the beginning. Small locations are vital, by the way!

As time went on, I realized that if I gave away the first two or three hours, then it would be boring for people to play the final version and play those identical scenarios again. Theoretically I could just make save data carry over, but I don’t want to count on that compatibility, so I decided to trim some stuff:

Miharu Later Initial Overview

The areas in blue used to be part of the concept but would now be cut. I’d just toss up a fun fourth wall dialogue box like “For no particular reason (other than this only being a demo), Celty and company decided not to enter this town for now.”

As it currently stands, that leaves a total of eight areas still in play, but I’m considering cutting still a couple more. Why? Two main things have put me at a crossroads. How much do I need to do? And why am I doing it? These are the questions I face because of some thought-provoking stuff that happened to me last week—so let me go ahead and zoom in on those two main things.

1. A lot of the reason for a massive demo is obsolete now.

I always told myself that I’d have great pixel art, great art, great music, and great everything and that I wouldn’t settle for less. It’s one thing to hold these beliefs and another to see them come to fruition before my eyes. I don’t have a composer yet, mind you, but as I see Becca’s pixel art…

…and as I see Flora’s title image…

Dreamblazers Title Image

…I realize that as my game has grown, so have I. Of course the 2012 amateur who had never done or spent a single game-related thing outside of Word and Excel would feel a need to put out a huge demo—I had so much more of myself to prove. If I said “I’m absolutely going to finish Dreamblazers” in 2012, no one would have any reason to buy into that. In fact, the most important detractor who I had to convince might well have been myself.

But now I’ve coded some game scripts (actually coded, not just tweaked settings in ORK Framework or 2D Toolkit), I’ve put in over a year of time, I’ve assembled a wonderful team (and one that’s still to grow!), and I’ve spent a little over $10,000. Without even realizing it, I just so happened to fake it ’til I made it, trusting without any preceding evidence to go on that every dollar spent would pay off for me and everything would come together. And I’m not on my own anymore. I’ve gathered professionals; both Flora and Becca have created art for other games as well.

When I say “I’m absolutely going to finish Dreamblazers” in 2015, it carries weight. I don’t need a three-hour demo to back that up. It would still be great, no doubt about that! But maybe a one-hour demo will suffice.

That’s a decision I’m facing. I haven’t made the call, but those are my thoughts going in. (Make no mistake, though: there will be a demo. I’ve backed dozens of games based on concept alone and I’ve even been burned two or three times by it, but I want to hold myself to a higher standard.)

2. The time factor is creeping up on me.

If I’m being honest, I should have gone after pixel artists months and months ago. Not doing so is by far my biggest blunder throughout this game dev process—and it’s not like there was no competition among my blunders.

I put off the quest for pixel art because I wanted to do everything that I could on my end for the gameplay and story fronts, but I inadvertently created a bottleneck this way. Right now it’s a trifle for me to add the gameplay of as many areas of Miharu as I feel like, so I can go as big and bold as I could ever want; the story is a bit more difficult, but not at all an issue by my soft deadline of July. As for music, I could probably get by with only having three pieces for towns, dangerous areas, and the overworld, then fill out the rest later.

The trouble is that the more caves, forests, or mountains I include, the more pixel art environments I’ll need and the more pixel art enemies I’ll need. Money-wise this is no issue, but time-wise it’s getting increasingly uncomfortable to push up against a deadline (soft or not). This is more psychological than tangible, I suppose, but I’m definitely feeling a crunch now and I don’t see any way to take shortcuts here. Because nothing is and nothing will ever be more important to me than gameplay, I’d much rather cut an entire area than put it out there with a third as many enemy types as it should have.

Thankfully the indie-supporting community is very generous, including myself, and always throws the famous Shigeru Miyamoto line at developers who are apologizing for the inevitable 3-8 delays they’ve hit…

A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad. -Shigeru Miyamoto

…but it’s one thing to see another person having to delay and another much tougher thing to be the person doing it. And I’m not even at that point! I don’t have to delay yet! I’m just facing the fear that it could happen depending on my choices going forward.

I’ll wrap this post up here. What’s the scope I should aim for? Why? How? After overcoming almost all of the gameplay-related obstacles (AKA understanding-how-stuff-works-in-Unity obstacles), these are the new challenges I’m facing and this is the snapshot of where I’m at in the process.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of March 2, 2015

Let that serve as my introduction to what’s been a whirlwind week of art. :D And it applies not only to characters, but also to pixel art—so first up, because it takes less vertical scrolling, here’s a pixel art preview from Becca!

Ah, look at those lovelies! ♥

This is her mockup, not the actual in-game layout of one of the early areas—I need to convert my placeholders to this real tileset, with colliders and all—but it’s a good thing she made it since I see a couple ideas here that I wouldn’t have realized were possible just from looking at the tiles.

This tileset is for the first cave the player will enter (no matter how “out-of-order” they take the first continent, there aren’t any other caves to enter first), so the friendly and warm feel of the color palette sets the tone for the rest of the game. All the beach-related tiles will also show up later on the second continent, the Grand Isle of Lumina—but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. ;P

The inspiration for the rock walls comes mainly from Final Fantasy VI, including the fact that they come in a different color not shown here that will be used for other caves, while the shallow water layer on the floor was inspired by a few areas of Chrono Trigger. That layer animates, as does the deep water on the lower left. The inhabitants are pretty adorable, so there are also some cutesy objects around their living quarters!

The next tileset will be the overworld and I’m gathering the remaining references for those today. =)

Next up: tons of new faces from Flora!

Portrait Collection 8

Today’s notes:

* When I have a big enough audience, I’d really love to play a game of “Guess Which Of These Characters You Don’t Fight” with this image. =P Top to bottom are Celty, Evelyn Castillo, Jelia, Jig Starlight, Kelly, Lash, Recca, and Spring.

* Compared to last week’s selection of Ardis, Astrid Crys Alucia, Besarre, and Leaf, these characters have fewer expressions each. This is partly because of their personalities or roles in the story, but also because sometimes I realize only after seeing the exact number of expressions that I asked for that I do need more than expected. Look for almost all of these characters to get 1 or 2 more faces in the coming weeks. Incidentally, the number of faces per character (and especially the current number) doesn’t say much about their story importance; nobody has more screen time than Celty or Recca.

* Random trivia time about Jelia! Her original name in my 2000-2001 documents was Jelly, but that obviously couldn’t stand since Jelly’s now the name of my mascot. Her original incarnation was significantly more colorful, if you can believe that, but even on paper it looked like a pretty disgusting level of non-coordination. =P

* Random trivia time about Jig! She and her brother Tango were always going to have musical names, but going through different music-related terms was quite an ordeal. A lot of the good names were taken by Mega Man—in fact, as I would realize only later, the name Tango was one of them.

My original idea was Twist and Tango, the T&T twins. For an inventor like Jig, Twist would have been an interesting name that carried a musical connotation while also implying things like twisting wrenches or turning gears. They would also both be named for dances, just as they are now. Only problem? My Little Pony ruined that for me with a Twist who’s more of a geeky character—the antithesis of Jig. Running through all the names of dances, Jig stood out as a pretty upbeat name that could also be taken as part of a jigsaw puzzle, a fact that Flora picked up on without my even mentioning it since puzzle pieces ended up in her design.

* Random trivia time about Lash! Along with Celty and one other as-of-yet-unrevealed (and undesigned!) character, Lash is one of my oldest surviving characters harkening way back to 1997. Many of my other characters back then were pretty dubious in quality, not to mention being ripoffs of whatever I was playing and watching at the time, but Lash has endured.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of February 23, 2015

This week I can mostly let the artwork speak for itself… but only mostly!

Portrait Collection 4

Shown here are Ardis, Astrid, Besarre, and Leaf and there’s all sorts of stuff to mention related to this collage:

* These lovely face portraits were drawn by Flora at 512×512 as I asked, but I’m showing them as 256×256 here so that big enough monitors can see an entire row on screen at once. =) 256×256 is what I’m most likely to use in the actual game as well. (I haven’t had menu skins drawn yet, but since I’m not going above a 1920×1080 resolution, full 512x512s would be huge relative to the screen no matter how the menu borders turn out.)

* As seen in games like Fire Emblem 9 and 10, Bravely Default, and Tales of Graces, having the faces at an angle means that I can flip them horizontally to have characters talking back and forth on different sides of the screen. Of course, doing that would result in some clothes being on the wrong sides and such, but those games didn’t worry about it and they’re made by companies with much bigger budgets than me, so I’m cool with it. =P

* Starting tomorrow, I’ll tweet at least one face each week plus a line of dialogue that goes with it. And I’ll call it Talky Time Tuesday! :D Since this site is a more comprehensive collection of Dreamblazers-related material than Twitter, I’ll also add a new Dialogue page here that will embed all those tweets.

* A small Easter egg here is Leaf’s nail polish. Leaf’s a pretty mysterious girl; her magical-musical skirt plays tunes according to her will, but her nail polish made from a liquid rainbow changed colors randomly until she experimented with chemical catalysts to control it. Blue and green are her usual colors!

* While this is the full collection of expressions made so far, the number of expressions per character is subject to go up; for example, I might see a face for a later character and then realize that Leaf should have the same kind of face and doesn’t. Right now Besarre is the most likely to get one or two extra expressions.

* Random trivia time about Ardis! When I was my younger 2000-2001 self who first dreamed of creating my own game, Ardis was a name that I picked out and thought I was making up—just like I’d made up Celty as my even younger 1997 self who was toying around with Blades of Exile. As it turns out, Ardis is an Irish name for girls, which completely changed her character. Her description from my early files says that she was a half-elf with tanned skin who wore a halter, miniskirt, and sandals, so I’m guessing that I conceived her as more of a harem dancer type of character. Although it is just a guess, I did love Dragon Quest IV (localized back then as Dragon Warrior IV), so maybe I thought of Ardis as a girl more clothed than fellow dancer Mara but less clothed than her sister Nara:

Dragon Quest IV - Mara and Nara

Possibly my inspiration for the original Ardis?

We did try darker skin for her during the design process, but my knowing that her name was Irish led me to stick with lighter skin. And while Ardis is technically still a half-elf, she’s now also a half-sylph, fitting in with Irish lore. She was one of my least developed characters back then, basically a glorified set of stats who filled a party slot and faded out of existence at the end of the game (because for some reason all the great RPGs on the SNES had people fading out of existence at the end of the game), but the modern personality I’ve come up with for her has made her one of my top five favorites to write for now.

* Random trivia time about Besarre! Like Ardis, I thought I was making up a name in 2000-2001, but it wasn’t Besarre at the time; he was named Bestiary and wouldn’t you know that’s a real word. He was also underdeveloped just like Ardis and even more than her, but his importance jumped massively in 2012 when I was penciling out the rough progression of the plot and figuring out how to tie different story elements together.

* Random trivia time about Leaf! Yet another tale of 2000-2001: Leaf was the name of a talking orange cat who was one of the 17 main characters instead of a girl who happens to carry a kittyara with her. But fear not! The talking cat is still in the story with a different name, color, and gender—and she’s coming soon!

More faces will be posted here as progress continues. =) And the trivia will roll in with them!