Category Archives: Dreamblazers

Dreamblazers Update: Week of November 16, 2015 (RIP Edition)

RIP to my grandfather, who passed away today on November 17, 2015. He had been in and out of the hospital for the past two weeks, so I was prepared for this five, six, seven—probably even as many as ten days ago. He was 86, which is obviously a very full life, so it wasn’t a surprise that his time had come. 1929 to 2015: all things considered, a pretty long stay on this planet.

Normally I wouldn’t mention this sort of thing here, but he was one of the first seven people who knew that I was making Dreamblazers. It’s not that I was the closest with him, but he knew me well enough to guess.

What do I mean by that? When I first quit my job, several family members naturally found out, but I didn’t mention exactly what I was doing; I just said I was working on a certain project and that I’d tell them more when it was a little closer to completion.

I’m a pretty private person and didn’t want to be bothered with questions and discussions from relatives who, however well-meaning they might be, don’t know anything about games and don’t know all that much about computers. To this day, some family members still don’t know what I’m doing. But my grandfather guessed correctly one day and said he wouldn’t tell anybody if I let him know if he was right, so I did let him know.

Today—and for the better part of the last two weeks—I’m glad I did.

So this one is for you.


Like I’ve been saying, I’ve been in somewhat of a funk recently because of financial concerns and uncertainty about my trip in December—I always half-dread these trips because ~18-20 hours of travel (factoring in preparation and time spent sitting around in airports) and three hours of jet lag has never failed to throw me off schedule for weeks afterward.

An actual loss puts everything into perspective, though. In a strange way, this has been like my grandfather’s parting gift to me. I was distracted while he was in and out of the hospital, but at this time, far from being distracted, I feel more focused now than I have in weeks, possibly even months.

I can be somewhat of a distant and logical person much like my grandmother, who wasn’t shaken up even slightly from what I can tell on the phone, but even I could use the reminder that we’re here for a short while and better make it count.


I’m actually going to leave it at that for today, but as I get back on track, expect a bonus post later this week.

Dreamblazers Update: Week of November 9, 2015

Before we get to this week’s new pixel art…

Up to this point, I’ve generally shown off an enemy sprite, then used it as a launching pad to explain that enemy’s unique traits and how it teaches and guides players as they go. To recap some highlights:

  • Slimaries teach that you can’t always rely on physical attacks
  • Elemental slimes teach elemental weaknesses and resistances
  • Greatwolves teach that monsters might be stronger than they look
  • Harpilures teach about status effects that throw your plans into chaos
  • Vivavines teach that sprites with variations sometimes have different AI patterns or stats
  • Ogres teach that monsters might be exactly as strong as they look
  • Griffinaires teach about two-turn setups for extra powerful attacks
  • Archweavers teach that monsters might be weaker than they look

As for today… Today I get to talk about something that I only briefly hinted at before with the Centaur Warrior’s week.

Dreamblazers - Kobold Chief Animation Triple Size Dreamblazers - Kobold Rogue Animation Triple Size Dreamblazers - Kobold Warrior Animation Triple Size
Dreamblazers - Kobold Chief Animation Dreamblazers - Kobold Rogue Animation Dreamblazers - Kobold Warrior Animation

These are, from left to right, a Kobold Chief, Kobold Rogue, and Kobold Warrior… And you had better not expect to ever run into one of them by itself! These dogs thrive in packs—no, more like in tribes. For decades, kobolds have been one of the species considered most on the verge of sapience without being there. The Empire developed a keen interest in their future development, but nonetheless saw fit to leave them alone and restrict the common species’ access to their dwellings. So why are you, the player, encountering them? Well, obviously either they’re coming out into your world or you’re going into theirs. Time will tell which!

Regardless, things have changed since last the Empire looked into this species. For one thing, they wear clothes now. For another, they’ve developed character classes learned division of labor and how to maximize their unique talents and abilities. For a third, they now know how to (briefly) exceed the speed of light.

Because, ya know, if you’re making an RPG then you better go big. Now let’s talk about the meat: how do they fight? I won’t go into too many spoilers here because I love the way these battles have played out too much in testing to disrespect them by explaining everything, but I’ll give a couple snippets…

The most important thing is that, while there are only three types of kobolds, you’ll usually run up against a half-dozen of these creatures or more. Suppose you run into two Chiefs, two Rogues, and two Warriors and you don’t know anything about what they do in battle other than their names. Which kobold do you go after first? Most people would probably say one of two things:

  1. Obviously you go after the Chief. Once the leader has backed off, the rest will be easier to battle.
  2. Obviously you pick off the Rogues. Rogues are swift but not durable, so you can chase them away to reduce the kobolds’ number advantage.

(Note my careful wording; there’s no killing enemies in Dreamblazers.)

That’s just your general common RPG knowledge! Even putting that aside, you might notice from the different animation speeds that the Rogue is the fastest, the Chief is almost as fast, and the Warrior is the slowest. So it makes tons of sense to leave the Warrior for last, right?

Well… no. Why would I make it that easy? ;P I have a chart just to make sure that the enemy designs are interesting enough to battle against:

Enemy Diversity Chart

After all, turn-based battles (and arguably even real-time battles) get old fast if they’re only about slugging it out with damage numbers on both sides. Kobolds fight with style and intelligence and the bottom line is that there’s no right or wrong choice of which one to go after first: they’re all high priority targets, so take them as you see fit.

Let’s end on a brain teaser. I’ll give away one ability for one type of kobold: the Chief can call 1-2 extra Rogues or Warriors into battle and they’ll show up that very same turn. Given that fact, how could I ever say that it’s not necessarily right to battle the Chief first?

Dreamblazers Update: Week of November 2, 2015

Upcoming Title Image Do-Over

Hey, remember the full size version of the current banner on this blog? You know, this picture that was meant to be the title screen for Dreamblazers:

Dreamblazers Title Image

Well, I’ve been speaking with Flora recently and we’re going to make a totally new image at some point! While this one is still fantastic and does convey a nice sense of adventure (and will no doubt be in the game somewhere), we both kind of thought that it doesn’t draw the audience enough toward the characters or express them well enough.

And, besides that, I want a couple more characters in the new title shot. ;)

It’s not coming “soon,” but it is coming and we’re sorta thinking through that, so look forward to it!

Other Traditional Art

Fire Emblem - Introducing Florina

Aside from being ironic for all the wrong reasons (more on that later), this post from June might have been the first time I mentioned the possibility of using other full illustrations. The question is how many! That post also references Dragon Quest IV and Mother 3 as inspirations for the story structure with alternating characters as the heroes, but what I didn’t mention at the time is that Dreamblazers also uses something similar to their chapter system.

The game is divided into eight chapters, each of which acts to a certain extent like a self-contained story while also building on what came before it. (If you haven’t played a game in this vein before, then a good analogy would be something like each movie in a trilogy.) Each chapter has its own climax and then ends either on a resolution, a cliffhanger, or something else that either closes the door on the past or opens the door toward the future.

And so the question: how many additional illustrations should there be? Some options include…

  1. Total of 9: The prologue and the end of all chapters
  2. Total of 9 in a different way: The prologue and the climax of all chapters
  3. Unknown number, but single out the most important events that will be meaningful to future events
  4. Just go with whichever scenes feel “right” to illustrate

If I were a millionaire then I’d probably want 80+ illustrations because I’ve written the story in a very specific way to make virtually all characters and all scenes feel significant and carry weight. Sometimes people compare modern RPGs to movies, but as I wrote three and a half years ago, 16-bit RPGs—the era I’m mimicking—actually might resemble movies more closely in the sense that they basically have no filler and move things right along as if they had screentime constraints.

I tweeted the above regarding dungeon design, but it applied to the stories too. Dialogue didn’t ramble! On the one hand, characters didn’t have as much time to develop and establish their personalities, so a writer might need to go completely out of their way with something like this right off the bat (this is from the 2007 remake, not the 1994 original)…

Final Fantasy VI Advance - Celes Introduction

…but on the other hand there was also no “wasted” time. Every scene in an old-school game truly had to be in there; it wasn’t filler to offer a selling point about 80 hours of gameplay. And so in that vein, even for as many characters I have, pretty much all of them get their moments. No way I can afford to have absolutely all of them illustrated on my own, though, when important things like the entire soundtrack still need to be created. :P So it’s a matter of deciding priorities.

“Hey, Where’s My Pixel Art?!”

“I demand pixel art every week or else I’m not reading.”

Well… then I guess you’re not reading. ;) But you probably should since the next time pixel art is posted should feature a 3-for-1!

Grid System

Over on the ORK forum some of us have been talking about commissioning ORK’s creator to put a grid system into the framework and we’re getting close to the point of pulling the trigger. I’m not completely sure that the grid system as proposed will be possible to incorporate into Dreamblazers‘ traditional turn-based battle system, e.g. a system identical to stuff like Dragon Quest except that enemies and/or characters can also move around to physically dodge attacks instead of only rolling numbers through a random number generator to find out whether they dodge…

…but I thought I’d mention this anyway because I’m really hoping that it will. I have a lot of neat ideas that could easily fit into it. We’ll see. :D


Okay, finally ending this big post on kind of a down note, but you’re welcome to back out now. :P

At this rate maybe I should officially move these updates to Tuesday. I won’t, but just saying that I woke up super early yesterday to an emergency phone call/email about yet another entry in the lengthy string of money sinks, this time to the tune of a broken heating system exactly when the weather’s getting cold—which wiped out a week’s worth of work. It’s kind of turning into a comedy of errors, to the point that 1) I couldn’t make this stuff up and 2) if I listed out the details of all the things that have happened, you’d probably think I was making this stuff up.

I don’t want to scare anyone and I also don’t mean to sound all woe-is-me here, so in the spirit of maximum transparency I’ll say that I’m still hovering at about $15,500 in savings. Also, assuming that the house ever stops having problems popping up, I’ll take this time to give the reminder that I do theoretically collect rent from it. (I probably should have given that reminder back when I was talking about the possibility of selling the house off, by the way. :P)

So to some of you that might sound like a lot and you might think I’m panicking over nothing because you have $X in savings and your X is significantly less than 15,500. But maybe you’re renting or living with your parents… Or maybe you have a spouse and you have either two incomes or at least the potential out to go get two incomes as necessary… Or maybe you have a job with a bit more reliability than part time contract work.

For me, it’s not so much the current amount but the rate at which I’m burning through it. I’ll see what I can do with every contact available to me to plan my way out of this mess, but right now the only way to go is down.

In the meantime you might wonder if anything’s changing for you, the reader. The answer is… Not directly. Pixel art will continue at exactly the same rate. These updates will continue at exactly the same rate.

But indirectly it does affect you because right now I’m so distracted by finances that making real progress on Dreamblazers recently has been very difficult. I’m not even going to front here: I haven’t touched Unity at all in 10-12 days because I can’t keep my head clear enough. I’ve still kept up with my artists and with the ORK posters, as I said, but at exactly the time when I should be making the most progress on every front because the contract work has been on and off lately, I’m shaken and I’m definitely not making the progress that I should. That’s my brutal honesty.

This is one of those times where being a solo indie dev hurts most since everything bottlenecks with me. Hopefully I’ll get my groove back in short order since I do have a nice reassuring check coming in soon, but it’s just been mentally rough lately and you all do deserve to know what’s going on.

Dreamblazers Update: Week of October 26, 2015

Another New Enemy Approaches!

Dreamblazers - Ogre Animation Triple Size

Would you like to mess with an Ogre? This dude’s pretty buff. Actually, make that massively buff! Comparing the ogre with other imposing enemy sprites we’ve seen so far…

…the ogre has the greatest power and the greatest durability out of all of them, with only the Grisly Bear being within 25% of the immediate threat level of an Ogre. But that’s no big deal, you might think. All you have to do is blast an ogre with magic, right? Wrong! Ogres are at least twice as resistant to magic as any enemy currently on the Art Assets page!

They may not be the biggest creatures around in terms of physical dimensions, but ogres are up at the top of the charts for “ordinary” monsters that you really don’t want to mess with—and if their raw might isn’t enough, wait until you experience their combat techniques.

Do they have any weakness? Hmm… maybe you’ll have to discover that for yourself in the future.

Delayed Update

Speaking of ogres, the reason this week’s update is a couple days late is because an “ogre” also known as the tax man started bearing down on me for two years ago, which is another round of unexpected and time-consuming fun. A group that I was working with (not working for) at the time had a software malfunction that sent out an incorrect report of the financial transactions between us.

That company was rather poor with documentation and has since gone out of business, so I’ve been figuring out how to prove that I reported all transactions that year correctly (and yes, based on bank statements alone I absolutely did get it correct).

I’m sure that’s horrifically boring and meaningless to all of you, though, so let me bring this back on topic…

Kickstarter Timeline

Considering everything that’s happened these past couple months—house emergencies that were narrowly averted, house emergencies that weren’t averted, family members suddenly needing some money, paying for and preparing for family-related travel in December (and I’ll probably lose 8-10-ish days on that, by the way), and now this tax situation that will hopefully be averted—I’ve come to realize that it was probably too optimistic to assume that I could delay and delay and delay heading off to Kickstarter until I finally got into the exact situation I wanted so I could get a perfect storm of a launch.

So my new goal is to launch on Kickstarter in February or March 2016. No matter where I’m at by then—will I have a playable demo or not, a composer, sound effects, UI skins, or anything else I’m missing—at some point I just have to bite the bullet.

I’d guess that I’ve put in $22,000-ish (I haven’t crunched those numbers for a while) which is enormous when it’s only one person paying out—and I’m not involved in any relationships, by the way, so when I say one person I really mean one person. The bottom line is that the more I think about this…

…the more I think the answer was and has always been “pride”—and I don’t mean the good kind of it. Even if I can’t put out a 2-hour-long fully-featured demo (and I’d still like to), would that be a huge shame or fault on my part that I couldn’t pull it off by myself? Is it really as unacceptable as I’ve made it out to be in my mind? Maybe I could be faulted for too much ambition; that’s a perfectly legitimate criticism that I’d hear out. But I’ve finally reached a point that it seems fine to ask for money after putting in as much of my own money—and my time, and stress, and fixing bugs, and opportunity cost of not making money, and everything else.

Besides, the worst-case scenario is that I fail on Kickstarter and come back with more experience.

So… whether the result is glorious or blows up in my face, I’d rather know that one way or another than continue on with as much uncertainty as I’ve been living with.

Early 2016 is go time.

Dreamblazers Update: Week of October 19, 2015

This one’s a bit late, partly because I was running on limited sleep for the last few days, but mostly because I don’t have all that much to talk about…

For reasons that are 100% my fault, I don’t have any new pixel art to share this week and not much else that’s new jumps out as especially worth talking about. (Well, at least nothing about Dreamblazers itself; I’ll talk about what’s going on with my life right now at the bottom of the post.)

So first I wanted to share a blurb of dialogue! This was based on the tweet from a couple weeks ago and I wanted to expand upon it. This is just for fun and is an immaterial side conversation that you can fully skip over in the game, so don’t read anything into it related to the main story. :P Plus I realized while putting it together that there’s still a certain face for Jig that I’m missing and is needed to complete this conversation. Jig vs. Jelia Dialogue Sample Portraits

Now that we’ve had our fun, let’s talk some more financial hullabaloo if you’re up for it (and if not, bail out now).

Like I said a few weeks back, I recently took on part time work. When this opportunity was first offered, they anticipated wanting me around anywhere from 15-25 hours per week. And that held up for a while! Rather than calling it part time work, though, contract work is probably the more accurate term I should have used. You see, things have slowed down over the past ten days or so, to a point that last week they effectively didn’t need me at all. Work has picked back up this week, but my point is that it’s unpredictable how many hours they’ll need me at any given time.

So the bottom line is I’m back to money concerns. Exactly how concerning are they? Well, there’s a 0% chance that I’ll give up on funding continued monster pixel art, but there’s a, uh—let’s just say not at all a 0% chance that I might have to release a rougher initial demo than I had hoped.

Of course, Flora’s art and Becca’s art and Alex’s art and Liz’s art is all just perfect, so for the reader it might look like we’re doing fantastic. But remember what we don’t have: GUI elements like menu skins and item icons and so forth (thus why the above dialogue isn’t done in a long sequence of in-game screenshots), visual effects like magic and sword slashes, music, and sound effects.

“But isn’t that what Kickstarter is for?”
Well… kind of. It’s not what I was hoping for.

Obviously I love the idea of crowdfunding and I’ve supported 150 other projects, so if anyone could permissibly show up with a demo where everything that’s actually in the game looks amazing and everything that’s not in the game seems like the craziest omission ever, it’s probably me. People have showed up with a lot less, frankly, and I’ve been there for them.

I’ve honestly asked myself recently if I should sell my house. Unless the value has fallen in the past three and a half years, it would be a windfall of something like $30,000-ish after taxes, though obviously that huge short term gain would come with the enormous lost opportunity of—ya know—an entire house.

I—I don’t think that selling it is the correct answer. I think that going for crowdfunding with an admittedly rougher-than-expected demo is. But in all honesty, I don’t like that, so it’s been demoralizing. Still, I suppose I have to do what I have to do…