Tag Archives: Etrian Odyssey

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 December 15, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Finished art feedback for Jig and Berry
* Sent some ideas for tweaks to Celty’s design
* Designed initial layouts for Spring Lake Valley and Winny Spring
* Wrote flavor text for enemies I hadn’t written it for previously

Current focus

Back to the animation grind!

Sample stuff

Jig and Berry

Here are Jig and Berry, the final character designs to be added before I finish a playable prototype! Jig, shown on the left, was going to be the very last one, but Berry emergently popped into existence during my coloring process when that red jacket looked amazing but didn’t seem right on Jig. But who is Berry and why does she look so similar to Jig? Find out on the next exciting episode of Dragonb—uh, I mean, Dreamblazers devlogs!

Weekly goals

* Integrate animations with ORK
* Make the 2D camera follow the player


Ah, all the art is finished… 2014 is ending and a new beginning is upon me—one without a steady flow of character designs coming in, but hopefully with a steady flow of pixel art. I actually don’t know what I’ll do with these devlogs in 2015; after I’ve got animations and the 2D camera down, my efforts will go to cutscenes and writing, but updating with “wrote 14 scenes and tweaked 3 old scenes” every week sounds dull at best. However, I do assume that making characters automatically move around exactly when I want them to will give me all kinds of trouble, so maybe it’s fine and I’ll be able to complain about roadblocks all the time again. =P

I also hope that writing isn’t a slog. As a creative person, I do love my characters (10 hours playing with the fill tool for Jig, 2000 words of feedback for Cotelle…). As a gamer, I realize that others will mash through cutscenes without caring just like I do. It’s a tough balance. Bestiary flavor text is/was my favorite, though: I draw a lot of inspiration from Pokémon, so I consider it important to ask what monsters do when you’re not fighting them. Answering that question brings a sense of cohesion to the game universe, but it always feels iffy to insert that into mandatory dialogue, so bestiaries are where it’s at.

Finally, my earlier Dragonball line wasn’t only a throwaway joke. =)

Since today concludes the character designs other than small tweaks, at some point in the next few weeks I’ll have an organized picture with characters grouped according to their relationships instead of shown in the order they were completed as they are now. They’ll also have mini-profiles with stuff like character classes and species, plus more characters will be showing their nicknames (“Hikaru Wilder, Cerulean Cleric”), not only the seraphic sisters, Imperial agents, and Kelly.

I might even have fun facts and trivia about some characters’ creation and what they’ve meant to me over the years! For example, today’s Berry was inspired by Dragonball Z way back in the late 90s and she’s been a part of my Dragon Quest IX and Etrian Odyssey III parties. That kind of stuff used to go on my wiki, but somehow my own wiki has locked me out of editing it right now, so until I get that resolved, I can put it here instead.

Why do this all of a sudden, though? Because once the title screen image is finished, I’ll be taking things more public (very slightly more public) and posting in the Showcase section of the ORK forum!

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of June 2, 2014

Last week’s achievements

* Finished creating moves used by Miharu overworld enemies: Energy Siphon, Pounce, Pummel, Radiant Flare, Rush, Seize, Silk Wrap, Siren Song, Slash, Smash Takedown, Spiky Vines, Super Hammer, Super Tackle, Swiften, Tackle, Tempest, Thunderbolt, Trap Wrap, Vital Fang, Whiptail, Wild Charge, Wild Thrash, Zap
* Assigned Miharu overworld enemies to learn their moves
* Created and assigned battle AI to all Miharu overworld enemies
* Put together all enemy groups for the Miharu overworld

Current focus

Balancing and testing enemies and enemy groups.

Sample stuff

AI for Kobold Chief (ability names blacked out)

AI for Griffinaire (ability names blacked out)

Weekly goals

* Send in art feedback for everything that comes in
* Finish creating early-game moves used by the original player party
* Test a range of player party attacks against various early-game enemy groups and vice versa


I achieved everything I expected to this past week and a bit more; instead of only covering 25% of overworld enemy AI, I did all of it, which is great. I owe a lot to ORK Framework for making battle AI sensible to a designer. =) Just need minor polish for the early party, then it’s time to begin testing!

I’ll end with a few words (or a few hundred) about battle patterns…

Even Year 1999 Me (or so) understood in some primitive sense the value of challenge and battle AI, but today I’d say I was a bit heavy on the challenge at the expense of the AI.

For example, in a document that looks like it’s from 1999 or 2000, I have a paragraph about a battle with a single powerful boss, two archers who use a lock-on ability and then get guaranteed criticals on their target for the rest of the battle, two mages who boost enemy party stats twice each per turn, and a warrior who can attack twice per turn. The idea was that since the main boss has too much health to take it down first, the player has to chip away at the weaker foes like the mages and the archers while the main boss runs wild.

I can tell exactly which games my younger self borrowed most ideas from, but this particular battle seems incredibly forward-thinking. It’s a lot like a Bravely Default or Etrian Odyssey boss fight, but BD and EO didn’t exist at that time and I can’t name any RPGs of that era that could have modeled a battle of that complexity for me. If anything, I probably ported player party dynamics over to enemies.

However intricate it might be, though, I believe the battle is flawed: just like certain EO bosses who use their ultimate attack every fifth turn, it’s too consistent. Five of the six enemy party members do only one thing and four of those six only do that one thing to one specific character; the archers pick a target and stick with it while the mages will only target unboosted allies.

With no random chances modifying the sequence of events, winning the battle boils down to identifying a pattern and then going through the motions. For all its moving parts and hard-hitting enemies, it’s not especially more exciting than Final Fantasy VI‘s Whelk, the tutorial boss. Remember not to attack when it’s in its shell. Remember to target the mages and archers first.

To my credit, at the time Star Ocean: The Second Story was my newest Top 5 Game and the idea would fit much better in real-time action battles, which emphasize player execution instead of player comprehension. Any turn-based PvE (Player vs. Environment) battle system, however—even halfway real-time Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger ATB systems—requires a degree of randomness to feel dynamic.

This boss fight will still exist in a new form, but winning won’t be as simple as figuring out the “trick.” The enemies might use the pattern above or they might do something different. Status effects will come into play. Critical hits will be likely instead of guaranteed, but they won’t be limited to one singled-out target. The enemy side will have healing. Compared to the original full aggro DPS idea, the battle will probably be less challenging, but definitely more unpredictable and engaging.

For me that comes a little later, though. I’ve got an overworld and normal encounters to take care of before I get to dungeons and boss battles!

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of February 24, 2014 (Cosmic Coincidence Edition)

Unusual edition today! Didn’t get much accomplished but took a master course in RPG design—in a sense—so this is in blog format below the jump. Lots to say!

Continue reading

May the Fear Be With You

Your average gamer doesn’t break a sweat upon seeing a Balrog in Moria; we’ve been slaying giants for so long that it might as well be a rabid bunny. There’s no sense of fear—not from appearance alone. Titles don’t convey power either; Dragon Quest VI features Mortamor, the King of Demons, but who shudders at his name without personally battling him? No one. Your average gamer hears “King of Demons” and says “Oh, please.” DQVI and Dragon Quest IX themselves make sure that he’s no big deal by introducing a bigger and badder dude who mocks the poor sap. Direct quote from DQIX describing one of the bonus bosses:

“Brutal bad-dream demon from another dimension. So strong that he makes Mortamor seem more like Snoretamore!”

Hey Dialga, can you work on your time control? You keep getting hit by the other trainer's attacks and it sure seems like Rayquaza and Lugia and Mewtwo and Mew and Latias and all kinds of other legendaries are faster than you. I'm almost starting to think the time control thing is the real legend here. Palkia can control space, but can it see why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch? Also, does this mean that it can shrink itself so that the living space inside a Poké Ball becomes gigantic relative to the Pokémon? That was a problem for the Genie in Aladdin, you know! You have to think about these kinds of things.
Dialga and Palkia may be capable of destroying the world, but breaking out of a tiny ball is a tough order.

After killing Death a dozen times in Castlevania and enslaving creatures who control time and space in Pokémon, we’re all Gimli from DM of the Rings. We see an elder dragon the size of a whale and our first thought isn’t “AAAHHH!!!” It’s more like “you’re going down” or “huh, pretty cool-looking dragon” or “I’ve seen better.” Or maybe it’s something else entirely.

So after I came back as a megastar who saved the village from the ultimate threat like the superhero I am, the first reporter who interviewed me asked what was going through my mind when I first saw the Ceadeus. Was I marveling that his teeth were taller than me, she asked, or was I worried about drowning before I could slice him up, she asked, or was I terrified of being crushed by the water pressure, she asked. No no no! Not at all! I was thinking that with the lack of underwater lighting and the way my photographer suddenly swam off to a distance, I couldn't properly show off my adorable new sandals. The girl from the guild 'recommended' them just before I left--well, I mean, I happened to see her wearing the cutest shoes and had to buy a pair for myself. You know how it goes. Or maybe you don't. I'm always on the lookout for new clothing to accentuate myself because I am, of course, the best picture of beauty on this planet. My legs are to kill for. My shoulders? Sublime. My eyes are amazing and my form--just divine! My arms are toned and impressive; my hands are pure grace. My hair is finer than silk, the only touch worthy of my face. But even with the quintessence of cute right before him and even with his camera zoomed in all the way, my photographer wouldn't come close enough to get the right shots. It just ruined every photo op. This was the best picture we got, which is kind of sad, and--oh, what's that? The Ceadeus? Oh, him. He was a pushover for me. You should know by now! I'm unstoppable. Simply unstoppable. Now, let me tell you about the most perfectly photogenic, spectacularly stylish sword and shield I've ever seen...

A monster hunter takes a dive in her best swimsuit only to swim across the Ceadeus. Not pictured: shortly afterward, she shrugged and continued enjoying her tropical vacation.

A monster can be memorable simply for its size, but imposing fear on players requires substance. Just like movies, stories, and plays teach the audience what to expect as they go along—a comedy usually opens with humor and makes minimal use of dramatic moments; a drama does the opposite—the challenge in a game directs players’ expectations. A monster’s real fear factor is rooted in gameplay.

You're brave enough to keep reading. I can see it in your eyes.