Tag Archives: Chrono Trigger

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 2, 2015 (Existential Crisis Edition)

I could talk about many different things this week, but one stands above the rest. During the pixel art reference gathering process, I was comparing Final Fantasy VI, Chrono Trigger, and a bit of Lufia II and somehow reached an existential crisis.

I had always envisioned that Dreamblazers would resemble FFVI but with a Pokémon-esque color palette to kick up the appeal. For me there’s always been a certain charm to obviously grid-based pixel art like in FFVI and Lufia II. I also believe that it serves the gameplay; I remember when Pokémon Black and White finally created the illusion of a “broken” grid and I suddenly had occasional trouble judging whether a strip of water-to-ground edge tiles could be walked across or were merely there for visual credibility.

Grid-based pixel art, though arguably worse in terms of visual appeal (but only arguably), does come with precision for an intuitive feel.

Up until now, every decision I’ve made has been firmly in the interest of gameplay with no regard to anything else. That would make it obvious that I should stick with the grid.

Only one problem: one thing is even more crucial than gameplay and that’s financial viability. With all my tax stuff coming in week by week recently, I took stock of my spending and found that I’d put nearly $5,000 into Dreamblazers in 2014. And this isn’t even counting the hidden opportunity costs of having no part-time job, no contract work, and absolutely nothing else except a tenant in a rental house.

This isn’t worrying in and of itself—and by that I mean I freaked out for a couple of days and wondered if I was the craziest idiot on the planet. How could a game that I intend to sell for $15 or less (probably less) recoup all the money I’ve sunk in, never mind the pixel art costs that I’m about to run into?

…but then I consulted my spreadsheets. Years ago I crunched the numbers of Kickstarter projects that I’ve backed and I’m still crunching them today. After taking away outliers that skewed the numbers upward like insane media hype, known franchises, famous developers, re-releases, and multiple games in one project, taking away outliers that skewed the numbers downward like very small-scale projects that raised $2000 or less, and taking away successful things that were game-related but weren’t games, the average Kickstarter project I back raises $64,317.78. That might seem a bit high, so if I factor out all six-figure success stories and all four-figure success stories, that still yields an average of $32,985.99—more than enough to justify everything I’m doing.

Ah. Relief!

That figure is only the average, though. In my ideal world I’m better than average, but the worst-case scenario is missing even the average mark. So what would make me more likely to be considered above average? What make me less likely to be considered below average? These were the questions that faced me while I had a picture of the FFVI overworld and the CT overworld open next to each other.

Philosophically speaking, it’s not true that perception is reality. In fact, one way of defining reality is that which is true regardless of whether anyone perceives it—but that’s philosophy. In the world of economics, perception is consumer behavior and consumer behavior is reality.

I’ve watched more than enough indie RPG projects to know that obvious-grid pixel art tends to draw criticism about an RPG Maker look—and that’s the “reality” even if the game is made with Unity, Cocos2D, Moai, anything else out there, or just created from scratch in C++. There’s also a pretty big glut of C-level 16-bit-style RPGs flooding mobile devices, which is another type of “guilt by association” that I don’t want to deal with.

So there I sat, pondering whether I should trust my gameplay preference as I always have or whether this was the one situation where I had to draw a line and make a call about what tiles should and shouldn’t look like for financial reasons.

And you know what the answer is?

I’m now leaning toward the Chrono Trigger style, but ultimately I’ll wait for one tile set (or at least some sample tiles) and go from there. I need to judge as I go—because the target audience is me. The target audience is people with tastes similar to mine, AKA the people who back the same Kickstarter projects that I back and provide all the numbers that I’ve been using for my assumptions in the first place.

Shockingly enough, I might just for this once be a great judge of how to progress with my own life.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of December 1, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Made functional ally-summoning enemies
* Tested out EarthBound-style HP drain and inadvertently figured out how to do Pokémon-style HP bars
* Tested out one-turn-delay priority attacks

Current focus

Touching up various features.

Weekly goals

* Send art feedback for final Winter design
* Integrate animations with ORK
* Make the 2D camera follow the player
* Design layouts for Seaside Slime Cove, Den of Kobolds and the Unicorn, Spring Lake Valley
* Write bestiary flavor text for remaining enemies


Since I’ve been on animation for a while, I jumped back into tweaking the battle system for the past week (aside from visiting family for Thanksgiving). Somewhere in the ether exists an incredible RPG, simply waiting to be created, with priority attacks that change turn order on a one-turn delay, but I feel that the entire game would have to be built around that mechanic with methodical and strategic battle pacing. It’s kind of like Flamberge, a recent Kickstarter strategy RPG where both sides take their turns simultaneously: a very interesting idea that demands an RPG’s full attention and commitment.

(I will say this: if delayed priority was going to make sense in any game, then it might have to be one with physics like mine where everyone has super speed; mechanically it feels sort of like the turn-based version of bullet time.)

And then there’s EarthBound HP drain. Though it’s a great mechanic for adding some real-time flavor to turn-based battles, it turns out that most of the reason why it works is because that series, like its inspiration Dragon Quest, has very easy decision-making. My decision-making is more akin to competitive Pokémon, so rolling HP either puts too much pressure on players if it’s fast or looks silly if it’s slow.

It also conflicts with my Last Stand battle mechanic, where a character at 0 HP loses EP until finally going down (basically like a certain showdown in Final Fantasy V, but active in every boss battle); because they’re similar concepts, Last Stand gets lost in the shuffle if HP also drains that way under normal conditions. I still love the idea of HP drain, but like with delayed priority, an RPG needs to be built around it. The good news is that now I know how to do justice to Pokémon HP bars!

That brings me to the bigger success of the week: enemies can summon allies now! They’ll mainly come in two varieties of summoning multiple fragile enemies or single strong ones, but a certain puzzle-esque “boss” also has her own spin on the idea. I didn’t keep many ideas from 1999-2001-era Me without major tweaking—not even my magnum opus boss battle—but that one’s staying mostly unchanged. =)

Anyway, of the first continents’ enemies, Kobold Chiefs are the best at summoning because they can give party-wide stat boosts to whatever they summon. Kobold Rogues used to outshine them since they could (and usually do) blind the player party, but now there’s real choice in deciding whether to go after Chiefs or Rogues first. And worse yet are the Chiefs who have tamed Greatwolves. Greatwolves only call more of their pack when they’re weak, so one might try to leave them alone, but their stats are almost as good as party members, they can be buffed by Chiefs too, and they can pin party members to take away their turns and feast on them for massive HP recovery like those cannibalistic hydras in the final dungeon of Chrono Trigger.

Ahhh… If it isn’t obvious, this is the stuff I love talking about in these updates. ♥ If I had any good business sense then maybe I’d find somebody and pay them to figure out all the animation stuff and create maps while I do what I like, but I do appreciate knowing what is and isn’t difficult in this process. So back to that I go!

One last note:

It’s a crazy thing to find yourself singing along to a piece of music when you’ve never heard it before, but I actually have heard it before. : D Going back to things from an earlier era that I’ve thrown away, the story of my RPG’s 2001 version opened with the heroine wondering whether people dream of adventure for a reason and launching into a solo musical number about loving her steady life but still wanting more.

I was 16 and so the lyrics are mostly embarrassing and I’m not posting them now—except for the ending. I haven’t thought of that song in years upon years, but the first time I heard 0:20 of that Pokémon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire theme, the two repeated choruses came rushing back to me:

And I think I will find—no, I’ll find out, I know
What awaits me if I just move on

There is loving and living and so much I’ll never know
Until I’m out exploring what’s beyond
And so very soon, I’m sure, I am going to find
What awaits me if I just move on

The bold part has almost the same cadence as the Pokémon piece except that it pauses before “no” instead of before “me”; the notes and scale of the first line in particular are exactly what I had in mind way back when. <3 It also fits even better with the “And so very soon, I’m sure” line other than having one fewer note. Sometimes I write lyrics for pre-existing game songs for fun, but this might be the one and only time where things happened in reverse. =P

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of November 3, 2014 (Overview Edition)

It would be a little silly to give a regular update two days after my last one, so instead I’ll recap everything I’ve done and look forward toward what’s still to come.

What’s Done

* Stat growth balance – I based my stat growth and experience point scaling loosely on Pokémon as a familiar starting point, but altered to my own ends. Stats are slightly higher across the board to compensate for the absence of an EV system. (And no worries: there’s no IV equivalent! A character on her first playthrough will always grow to be exactly as strong as herself on her second.)

* Core battle mechanics – Damage formulas, status effects, passive abilities, elemental resistances, and pretty much anything in the foundation of the battle system does what I want from it!

* Move balance – Another thing I loosely based on Pokémon. As a marginally competitive Pokémon player, a decision between Icy Wind, Ice Beam, and Blizzard is one of the clearest examples of good game design, so I adapted their principles and it’s turned out great. I don’t feel like I have any filler moves, especially in conjunction with…

* Enemy AI and balance – Of the 42 enemies I’ve tossed in so far, I’m happy with at least 35 of them in terms of how they act and how weak or strong they are. Since most of the enemies recur across many continents at different levels—yet again, Pokémon inspiration—the important ones are all really solid. Most importantly, they feel distinct: ogres are vastly more threatening than kobold rogues, but kobold rogues are quite a bit more annoying. I’ve played entirely too many RPGs—even RPGs that are among my favorites of all time!—where enemies are interchangeable pretty models, which is right near the top of my list of things to avoid.

* Equipment system and fashion subsystem – Inspired by Dragon Quest IX, but a lot more visible, the way you wear your clothes can give you hundreds of possible fashion bonuses. What you can wear also depends on your body type; a character like Evelyn who has wings can wear wing accessories but not a cape or cloak.

* Equipment and status menu layouts – Granted that they’re only boxes and alignment right now since I haven’t paid for any art assets here, but I’m pretty satisfied with how cleanly they’re laid out.

* Controllable animated sprites – I just wrote about this, but yes, now the player can actually move a character sprite around and it’ll animate properly. <3 Like in Chrono Trigger or Final Fantasy VI, I’ll only do four directions of sprites, but diagonal movement is still possible. (FFVI had that on staircases in the Fanatics’ Tower and Zozo; I bring up the comparison because, for budget reasons, my sprites will look a lot more like that than huge CT sprites.)

* First continent layout – The first few (mini-)dungeons and one or two towns are still to come, but the main continent itself is all set up. I might increase or even double its size, but the layout’s not changing much if at all.

And, of course, I’ve written a myriad of flavor text and dialogue. But that’s not gameplay, so it doesn’t count. =P

Still Upcoming

* Battle timing – Although I’m making a turn-based RPG for several reasons beyond the scope of this post, action RPGs are technically my preferred genre, so I’ve been trying to figure out how to keep battles flowing. Multiple attacks per turn with a limited window for inputs like Valkyrie Profile? EarthBound style HP drain? Reduce the battle party size?

* The point of the fashion subsystem – Okay, so dressing great increases your Style stat, but what does that do? In DQIX it didn’t accomplish much pragmatically. Do I pull a Zelos from Tales of Symphonia and have NPCs throw goodies at you for looking fabulous? How about borrowing from Dragon’s Curse (AKA Wonder Boy III: Dragon’s Trap) and locking out some obtainable items until you look good enough to earn them? Should Style affect battles in a minor way like the Luck stat in Fire Emblem?

* Extra battle mechanics – Celty’s battle gameplay is… different from most of my other characters. Without giving away any spoilers past the first 10-15 minutes, she has a hero code and never uses overwhelming force against her enemies even if she significantly outlevels them, so her visible stats don’t reflect her real battle performance. I haven’t finalized figuring out how I’m going to accomplish that code-wise, but it’s vital—and not only from a story perspective! Everything I do goes to the good of gameplay somehow. Other than that, the one major aspect of battles that I didn’t get rolling yet is enemies who can summon allies or reinforcements, like greatwolves calling more of their pack or kobold chiefs calling underling warriors. I know it’s possible in ORK Framework since others say they’ve done it, so I only have to figure it out.

* Priority attacks – This, on the other hand, is impossible in ORK right now—at least as far as I can tell! Priority attacks are moves like Quick Attack in Pokémon or Mercurial Thrust in Dragon Quest that always attack first but are weak as well as moves like Dragon Tail that always attack last but have a notable effect. One option for me is to outright commission the development of that feature. Another is to try out a delayed priority effect; instead of an attack going first and dealing weak damage, it could deal weak damage and make the next turn’s attack go first. I can’t remember ever seeing that in an RPG, so I might give it a shot just to see how I like it. This sort of thing is a perfect example of limitations drawing out creativity. =)

* Animation integration – Just because I can animate sprites in a vacuum doesn’t mean I know yet how to integrate them with ORK. I think I do know! …but animation is the one and only thing so far that’s been more difficult than I anticipated, so I rule nothing out.

* Full-fledged environment movement – Player characters need to interact with the terrain and the camera needs to follow them, so for as much trouble as it was, simply getting a character moving is only a first step! …so to speak. =P

* Cutscenes – I haven’t even touched the idea of making cutscenes happen since they’re one of my lowest priorities, but they’re certainly coming up!

* Additional environments – Like I mentioned above, I’ll need a few dungeons and towns. (Don’t interpret that as tons of work; SNES classics often had one-room “dungeons” or “towns” like Guardia Forest and Gau’s father’s house to create scenery variety—and I’m certainly learning from that mold!)

And, of course, I’ll need art assets and music and so forth, but the bulk of those efforts will be on other people rather than me.

Final Words

I’m probably forgetting a few things that I’ve done and a few things that I still need to do, but overall this is a pretty good review of where I’ve been and where I’m going. Good to regain some perspective after a long challenge and a recent breakthrough. : D

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of October 27, 2014 (Success Edition)

Positive reinforcement, I thought. As soon as I manage to create a functional overworld sprite, I’m going to In-N-Out Burger and I’m ordering a 4×4 and that mass of beef will be the only thing I eat all day, but it’ll be worth it.

That was around ten or twelve days ago.

Negative reinforcement, I thought—and that was four days ago on Monday. No matter what, I haven’t been able to get past this hurdle. Until I do, I won’t write any devlogs. I don’t get to do that until I prove myself worthy!

And now… I’ve got it!

As I solved issue after issue, at first it seemed like everything was wrong except the sprites.

Chunks of the tile map somehow ended up on the wrong Z plane—something impossible to notice by looking at it from a 2D perspective—so it wasn’t that I was passing through them, but passing in front of them. I noticed it mostly by chance when I got so desperate that I started looking over every individual setting of everything.

When I finally had sprites bumping into each other, triggers were working but collisions weren’t even though they’re pretty much the same thing. I chalked that up to differences between Unity’s current 2D physics and the tutorials I dug up using older versions of Unity. (I’ve gotten colliders functional since then, though; this was another matter of individual settings and nothing wrong with tutorials or videos elsewhere.)

Throughout this process, my antivirus programs’ real-time scanning kept blocking permissions to save or access data and Unity doesn’t give any indication of why permissions are denied; Dr. Google resolved that one. I still don’t know why that hasn’t been going on forever or at least consistently since I didn’t change anything with my programs, to my knowledge.

And all of this to say no, not only did I have these tangential problems, but on the direct front, I can only string together a C# script for character movement and animation if my life depends on it. =P (To my credit, I actually did put together some of the code on my own. I went through many a resource to get the basic gist of it, but most of them avoided diagonal animation for simplicity’s sake, so I had to figure out that much on my own. (Not that I intend to have eight-directional sprites; like Chrono Trigger and certain cutscenes of Final Fantasy VI, they’ll move diagonally even if the sprites only face four ways.))

But now it’s done! At very least a sprite can move and collide with itself. I told myself that I’d have everything working by Sunday’s end, but I’m pretty sure that character-to-character collision detection was the third hardest part, sprite animation was the second hardest part, and the random surprise errors from left field were the hardest part, so character-to-terrain collision detection should be comparably easy.

…I hope!