Category Archives: Video Game Art

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of April 20, 2015 (Dialogue Portrait Blowout Edition)

What time is it? Why, it’s… 71 new dialogue portraits time! Yes, that’s 152% as many faces as the total of what I’ve shown on this blog before today! <3 What can I say? Flora's pretty fast at this drawing thing. =) Dreamblazers Dialogue Portrait Collection No Spoilers

Wow, is that a boatload of faces. It fills me with joy just to look at it, especially in full-size. :D And especially especially in the real full-size that only I can see—I can’t upload the full 512×512 resolution here because it would eat my bandwidth alive, so these are the 256×256 versions of each face that I’ve used in previous posts. But how many faces is it? Let’s run down the increased numbers (aside from Summer and Spring):

  • Leaf: 11 faces -> 18
  • Celty: 7 faces -> 15
  • Recca: 4 faces -> 8
  • Jelia: 10 faces -> 18
  • Ardis: 11 faces -> 13
  • Jig: 9 faces -> 17
  • Astrid: 13 faces -> 15
  • Tango: 11 faces -> 15
  • Evelyn: 10 faces -> 13
  • Sakura: 14 faces -> 19
  • Telia: 16 faces -> 20
  • Cecille: 9 faces -> 15
  • Kelly: 3 faces -> 5
  • Lash: 5 faces -> 8
  • Besarre: 3 faces -> 8
  • Summer: 5 faces
  • Spring: 4 faces

Actually, there are still more finished faces than these, but I left them out because how could I bring myself to reveal spoilers? Nobody wants to know in advance who dies, gets horribly disfigured, turns out to secretly be another character’s sister, cuts their hair to symbolize inner change, gets transformed into a dog, swallows a cake whole, or disguises herself as another character.

(Just kidding. None of those things happen. =P …or do they? Or do some of them?)

Special notes on faces, separated by character:

Leaf previously had not one but two base heads that were each only used for a single expression, so they’ve been repurposed for extra fun.

Celty got a new base head with a few expressions. She’s the character with the most screen time, after all, even though Leaf is the game title name-dropper, so she needed a little variety. =)

Along with Jelia, Jig got the biggest face count upgrade, nearly doubling her faces—which is appropriate since I felt that the faces I’d asked for previously only captured about half of her personality! The new face with her goggles down is one of my favorite additions in the whole collection.

Sakura sure does a lot with her hands—so much that she even makes a cameo interruption in Tango’s portraits! Her new salute and victory sign can actually be used with any of her expressions (and her hand in Tango’s portraits can also be used with any of his), so I only picked two to use as examples.

As embarrassing as it is, I actually forgot that my own Cecille is an elf when giving her description, so her ears have now been updated along with her new faces. Even aside from that, I’d say she gained the most of any character when comparing her current range of emotions to her first draft range, which was a bit one-dimensional.

Similar to Sakura, Lash‘s kunai can now be used with any of her faces.

This is very, very likely to be the last time that I share faces for at least the next several months, so I’ll leave this to stand in its own post. <3 Game development is an ongoing process that often makes great leaps of progress but rarely feels like anything has been finished, especially an entire major component like dialogue portraits—but this feels very complete to me. It might actually be the biggest landmark I’ve had for Dreamblazers to date. =)

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!

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of September 29, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Sent character feedback for Tango (final) and Jig (round 2)
* Updated AI for various enemies to make them more aggressive and/or more likely to summon partners when alone
* Wrote bestiary flavor text for Archweaver, Dryad, Griffinaire, Kobold Rogue
* Wrote pixel art requirements for Seaside Slime Cove

Current focus

Wrapping up character art, starting pixel art, and the transition to 2D.

Sample stuff


Character design for Tango Moonlight! As a bard, he’s a good support mage and a “narrator” who’s present within the story.

Other stuff…

Flavor text for Kobold Rogue:

With their mastery over basic transcendent-speed techniques, kobold rogues can exceed light speed in small bursts. By taking advantage of the surrounding territory of their preferred environments, heavy forests and caves, a single rogue uses tricky movements to intimidate aggressors by appearing as multiple kobolds lurking in the shadows. However, like all other kobolds, their bark is worse than their bite. If forced into direct combat, they’ll back off quickly from experienced warriors.

Flavor text for Dryad:

“Which came first: the dryad or the tree?” This famous riddle hints at the popular assumption that every tree has a guardian dryad; hurricanes, earthquakes, and tidal waves may devastate the hardest of rocks, but a fallen tree has almost never been observed. Dryads themselves are rarely observed even inside forests, but usually the appearance of one of these female forest spirits signals a disturbance in the natural order. With her excellent magical talents, a dryad quickly corrects problems—and sometimes that problem is the traveler who sees her.

Weekly goals

* Send character design feedback for Winter
* Send pixel art requirements for Miharu overworld, Den of Kobolds, Deltarei Tri-Port, Spring Lake Valley (and more of Seaside Slime Cove if more detail is needed)
* Write bestiary flavor text for at least ten enemies
* Figure out how to use 2D Toolkit (and other Unity assets if needed) to get basic top-down map movement functional


With the impending release of Super Smash Bros. 4 on Thursday night (Pacific time advantage!), I thought it would be nice to get something rolling that will be productive even when I’m not: time to start paying for pixel art!

…but gathering references for that makes gathering character design references look like a breeze. =P For one thing, character art is always widely available because it’s used as promotional material, but tile sets or at least area maps have to be ripped by someone who cares about the game.

For another thing, now I see why RPGs are often loaded up with generic locations like “ice cave” and “port town.” I’m specifically aiming to avoid that because I want memorable areas, but that also means the things I want to create either haven’t been done or haven’t been done in numerous popular games that I can cite for references. For example, in my Spring Lake Valley, I want a forest area where the land rises up like a hill and then curves downward to form an elevated “bowl” that contains a lake. Here’s a crude diagram:

Spring Lake Valley Concept

I’ve never seen this in an RPG; usually the water level is below the ground level, not above. I don’t even see this in photographs of Earth (which is what I had to resort to for my Seaside Slime Cove)—the closest thing would be some of the lakes inside volcanoes, but that’s steep rocky terrain and I’m going for a curvy grassland.

One way or another, though, I’ll figure out how to convey info on what I need art-wise. Interesting locations or bust!

(…except for the Den of Kobolds. That’s just a heavy forest—it’ll be memorable, but not because of the environment. Consider that a teaser. =) )