Category Archives: Video Game Writing

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of October 20, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Got a 3D model mostly functional on a 2D tile map
* Various story writing done (more than usual)
* Wrote flavor text for Impini, Gigarat, Greatwolf, Kobold Chief, Ogre, Vivavines

Current focus

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

Sample stuff

Flavor text for Kobold Chief:

Kobold chiefs best exemplify evidence of the common races’ belief that this species could develop and become one of them, like the florauna in the past. Chiefs exhibit multiple high-level combat tactics like body mastery, well-timed reinforcements, and even magic. Although their strategies are slightly let down by their middling strength, all kobolds serve exactly the right masters.

Flavor text for Vivavines:

One side effect of the Shield Our Surface mage rotation, instituted centuries ago, was an upswing in vivavines. These plants always existed in small number, having become carnivorous and more animated by absorbing latent energy from the natural mana flow, but they truly flourished with access to barriers and healing magic continually pumped across the planet. Vivavines primarily aim to trap beasts and siphon energy from them for extended periods, but their own success actually keeps their population in check; after draining a beast for a while, they cease to absorb mana and return to being passive vines.

Weekly goals

* Write bestiary flavor text for remaining enemies
* Figure out how to use 2D Toolkit (and other Unity assets if needed) to get basic top-down map movement functional


One step closer. Previously I couldn’t even make a 3D model (the kind more natural to Unity) operate in a 2D space since it was unmovable or would go through things, so, even though functional 2D still eludes me for now, I’m one step closer. That made me happy enough to focus on that for the week, but I’m still not there quite yet. =P

One bright side of this 2D bottleneck is that I’ve never looked forward to writing the storyline more than I do now. I’ve always enjoyed writing flavor text, of course, but the entire beauty of flavor text is that it’s optional and therefore gets to break all the rules. For example, Metroid Prime is proof that “show, don’t tell” doesn’t apply in video games—it earns the right to tell because the telling is both the reward for and a process of discovery. There are entire backstories about the space pirates and the Chozo and you’d never have the tiniest hint of either one if you don’t seek them out in two ways: physically examining each room for scan points and mentally piecing together the scattered information you’re given. That’s the kind of writing that excites me.

Well, that kind and getting cutesy with alliteration and rhyme and rhythm and homophones.

But the player has to see the main storyline.* So my usual free-form fun with writing feels extra pressure to get all the details right, convey few enough to keep things moving at a good pace but also convey a sufficient number that people know everything they need to know, and so on.

That said, pressure is preferable to not knowing what in the world I’m doing for weeks on end. =P Looking forward to finally figuring this 2D thing out…

* Given infinite resources, I’d make a Gameplay-Only Mode where the story is turned off and even the antagonists join the party as playable characters, kind of like the Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones post-game. After all, if they have no story then they have no character, so there are no moral conflicts or personality incompatibilities. Anything goes and the player who turns off the story is rewarded with superior character choices. But given finite resources, well…

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. =) )

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of April 28, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Wrote ~9,700 words of story
* Sent art feedback for Telia and the Team Jig outfit; finished art feedback for Princess Leaf

Current focus


Weekly goals

* Send in art feedback for everything
* Get five distinct attacks functional and balanced (e.g. until now I’ve just been testing single-hit single-target, but start with multi-hit single-target, single-hit multi-target, multi-hit multi-target, etc.)


This past week took an unexpected turn: I was in the mood to write dialogue, so that’s exactly what I did to the exclusion of all other possibilities. “What’s so unexpected about that?” one might ask. “After all, Dreamblazers is an RPG.” And I took creative writing courses in college and you might even say I studied under a Harvard professor—I could elaborate, but who cares? This is a video game, yo. More in a moment.

I very rarely watch movies or TV. However, I’ve constantly heard from movie and TV buffs, through cultural osmosis, that Hollywood is “cynical” in how producers follow market statistics. They include love interests to serve sales, not the story, and the same goes for the placement of action scenes.

I guess I’m “cynical” too, though. If I believed I could sell an RPG without a story, that’s what I’d make. I don’t sink 4000 hours into Pokémon and 1500 hours into Monster Hunter and 400 hours into Advance Wars and 200 hours into Kirby because of their stories, but because each one is fundamentally the same kaleidoscope: throw me a wide array of abilities and enemies and I’ll go wild trying endless combinations of the two.

Truth be told, I’ve been writing dialogue all along in these devlogs in a more minor way—200 words here, 300 words there—but haven’t mentioned it because it’s unimportant to me. I play games for gameplay. Shocking! Writing is not my focus; in fact, the main joy I get out of stories in games is usually sifting through all the ways in which they don’t make sense.

…yet… I’m writing a story. And if I am, then it gets my full attention and my best efforts. May others dig it more than I. =)

Tales of Symphonia Text Review and Story Breakdown: Part 5

Originally a script for a video review, so some parts may stick out and, without visual aids, I recommend having played the game already! Note: this is for the original Tales of Symphonia, so if anything changed in the re-release, I haven’t touched on it here.

Quick links to other entries:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

23) Dual Duel Duet

In Meltokio we meet Sheena’s fellow ninja Kuchinawa and some scientists who agree to prepare a boat. The party stays a night at Zelos’ place, where Sheena gets flustered and embarrassed over Lloyd finding out that she likes flowers. Gotta give her that soft side. The next morning, Colette’s shoulder is stiff


but the boat’s ready. They head to the docks where Colette sees the bridge for the first time

Note: Colette couldn’t see anything without her soul.

and calls it gross-looking and Zelos tells her that’s not an appropriate thing to say, even though he didn’t care the last time he saw it. Everyone also laughs at Lloyd for being uglier than The Great Zelos Wilder—I can’t make that up—and then they’re off.

His face loses out to mine, though.

You be the judge!

The boat can be shrunken and transported in a capsule like in Dragonball, which amazes Lloyd. …wait. If shrinking things into capsules is new technology to him, then Noishe can’t be—no. No, I’m done with that part. Not thinking about it anymore.

Before our next destination, the most interesting skit in the game pops up. I remembered it not showing until Flanoir, and even the official manga places it there, but if it can show up here too, let’s go. The Two Chosen skit! The only skit to make it into the sadly-rushed manga.

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Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of March 10, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Added new fashion effects
* Implemented ~60 more of them and wrote flavor text for all of those
* Ordered a new computer

Current focus

The equipment system followed by battles.

Sample stuff

Flavor text for “Enchanting Evening Warrior”:

“She’s the dapper girl who wouldn’t feel right without her katana hiding under her spiffy attire. If she disappears from the gala floor for a moment, expect that she’s cut down an assassin in a single elegant strike and returned just as swiftly, leaving no one the wiser.”

Flavor text for “Doubly Dolled-Up”:

“Even small highlights can help create flow from head to midsection and then on to toe. Earrings up top for a smiling face, fingernails painted for hands near the waist, and toenails done likewise for feet down below.”

Weekly goals

* Rethink various hidden stats
* Finish off implementation of the remaining fashion effects and test all of them
* Write flavor text for at least 60% of the fashion effects
* Begin testing battles: damage formulas, battle text, etc.
* Set up new computer (if it arrives this week)


Mostly the same weekly goals as last time, I realize! I missed two main things last week: I underestimated how long it would take to order a computer (over ten hours of research) and I figured there’d be a linear time scale for testing new fashion effects. Not the case! The more I add, the longer it takes to save changes, among other things.

I back a lot of Kickstarter video game projects and I’ve repeatedly seen developers start giving weekly updates and eventually move to monthly or bimonthly because not enough is happening on a weekly basis to report on. Now I understand why. It’s the sane thing to do.

…but I’m an indie developer. I don’t need no stinking sanity! …at least not yet. Weekly updates will continue because I’m pushing myself.

As part of the fashion system, I have various hidden stats like Shoes, Fashion Theme, and Femininity Confidence that I might need to redo following a recent discussion with the awesome developer of the framework I’m using. Changing them would mean redoing all fashion effects, among other things, but if I’m ever going to redo them, it would only be tougher in the future. If penciling out a new hidden stat system tells me this is the way to go, then it’s best to rip that Band-Aid off now.

In much better news, my new laptop is coming, so it’s onward and upward in a matter of days! My current 2007 laptop is a 2.27 GHz dual-core with 4GB memory while my new one is a 2.7 GHz quad-core with 8GB memory and a solid state hybrid drive, so it’ll be a huge performance upgrade all around.