Monthly Archives: January 2016

Dreamblazers Update: Week of January 26, 2016

Okay, first of all, I’m pretty sure the next post on this blog will be awesome in the literal sense of inspiring awe, so if you’re looking for a grand time with great art, please click away now because that’s not today’s post.

Still here? Alright then, let’s talk some downer stuff. :P (And I want to repeat that I just said we’re having a great time next week! You’ll need to know this, even if subconsciously, while going through everything below.)

Remember the song “One Jump Ahead” from Aladdin—you know, the one with lyrics like “one skip ahead of my doom” and “one trick ahead of disaster,” among others? Sometimes I feel like that.

This week I feel like that! Somehow the replacement for the heating unit I just needed to replace to the tune of hundreds was itself installed incorrectly and that’s going to eat up a currently unknown amount of money. …oh, and on top of this, the part time work has dried up.

In October I said I was aiming for Kickstarter in February or March. Does this change anything? Actually, no. Not in and of itself. I’ve thought about this for some sleepless hours and, if anything, the best option is probably to move my timeline up even though the campaign might be less organized than I’d like if I have to rush it out.

But then, while I was figuring out some of the things I could say for my campaign, I hit a wall of unfortunate epiphanies. Let’s start with the least unfortunate and get worse from there:

  1. Either I need to scale back on everything to a degree that would frankly reshape the entire complexion of the game or Dreamblazers needs two more years to be completed—an amount of time I’m kinda not comfortable with thinking about. And yes, I know, I know, how hard can I really be on myself when I’m just one person plus freelancer artists, funding everything so far out of my own pockets, and meanwhile Keiji Inafune raised almost four million dollars and has an entire team of experienced developers and he still has to delay his own game time and again, etc. That’s why this is the least unfortunate epiphany on my list.
  2. I still haven’t done nearly enough (read: anything) to build a community because, well, I don’t know what I’m doing in that arena. So at this point I’d be almost entirely reliant for getting funding from A) a super minority of people like me who just subscribe to Kicktraq’s RSS feeds and back dozens of video game projects and B) Becca’s massive Twitter following.
  3. Last February I figured out that the type of game I usually back on Kickstarter raises around $33,000. The problem? At my current living expenses and rates of spending, even a full amount of $33,000 won’t last for the two-year period that I just said I need, never mind that taxes and Kickstarter fees get taken out.

It’s probably a good thing that Unity’s asset store doesn’t have an easy tool to make card games (other than one that’s been abandoned), because if it did then I might honestly hop into that market and create a Dreamblazers spinoff before making the actual RPG. You see, card games are made with traditional art, which can be produced 1) inexpensively and 2) even more importantly, quickly…

But pixel art takes time—a lot of it. And a lot of pixel art takes a ton of time. And me being me, of course I wanted not just a lot of pixel art, but a ton of pixel art, which takes… well, you get the picture.

I want to be clear that the fault here is 100% on me, by the way, for a blind spot in my planning. Becca’s great. Alex is great. Liz is great. This is me failing to recognize how much time I need and failing to account for what amount of money corresponds to that amount of time. This is also me failing to realize that the line of thinking of “first make it work, then make it pretty” is way more applicable to software projects that don’t involve pixel art than ones that do. I essentially bottlenecked my own game by concentrating too much on functionality at the expense of absolutely everything else.

Despite everything I’ve said, of course Dreamblazers isn’t going away and neither am I. Nope! But I might need to shift my plans. More specifically, I want to get a bit more money and stability somehow because right now even a successful Kickstarter (by 2D RPG standards) wouldn’t get me where I have to be. And yes, the campaign could exceed my expectations, but I want to be able to come to prospective backers from a place of more security than I have at this specific time.

That’s where things stand right now and I know it doesn’t sound pretty, but that’s the honest summary of the current situation.

But like I said, on a lighter note, next week you can get ready to see some greatness! I’m the one who has to worry right now, not you all. :P

Dreamblazers Update: Week of January 19, 2016

I could share a little bit more pixel art today, but I think I’ll save that for when it’s fully done, so instead I’ll talk about something I very rarely touch on: character motivations!

While continuing to gather references and notes for the new promotional image I mentioned last week, I wound up creating a Venn diagram. This was the start (and yes, I know the circles aren’t centered correctly or even close to it):

Dreamblazers Venn diagram base

I’ll fill it in a little bit down below, but you can’t see the finished version since it would ruin too many things. :P Why would I classify things this way? Well, bear with me for a bit!

When I was thirteen years old, my characters and stories were simple good and evil. But by 2009 that wouldn’t cut it anymore with me; my characters had grown enough that they didn’t fit on a sliding scale of good to evil.

So then I tried to classify them with the classic Dungeons & Dragons character alignment system. By that metric, though, the story seemed like it was primarily a clash between lawful good, neutral good, and chaotic good—or maybe it was lawful neutral, true neutral, and chaotic good. Or maybe it was lawful good, chaotic good, and another set of chaotic good. Or lawful neutral and two sets of neutral good?

Or maybe, just maybe, it was a clash of lawful evil, neutral evil, and chaotic evil.

Classifying my characters this way just didn’t work out. You might be familiar with this image showcasing why:

But, as the title implies and as the main promotional page says, the story in Dreamblazers is about the dreams that people have, their values, their visions for the future, and the conflicts they inevitably have when those visions have to butt heads.

So eventually I settled on defining characters by their highest goals and values. This way it doesn’t matter whether they’re good or neutral (or even evil), but instead focuses on why they’d clash! I’ll fill in just a couple example faces and leave the rest to your imagination:

Dreamblazers Venn diagram sample

Note that although I’ve only labeled three groups, there are seven here: green, aquamarine, white, yellow, blue, magenta, and red! And, actually, even within their groups a character could be closer to one color or another, but here I’ve intentionally centered them to obscure that. :P

I emphasized above that these circles represent their highest values because most characters will value all of these things to at least some degree. For example:

  • Leaf in green values friendship, but if a friendship kept her from freedom then she’d let it go.
  • Tango in yellow loves peace, but he values friends much more even though new friendships mean opening himself up to fighting with them or being involved when they fight with each other.
  • Cecille in pink wants more knowledge, but not if it takes too much time away from her task of protecting people.
  • Lash in aquamarine likes having influence, all else being equal, but won’t chase after it if that means giving up one her other values.

Although I didn’t explicitly put it in a diagram until these past few days, this sort of thinking has given me a better grasp on my characters’ motivations, helping me out a lot while writing for them. Even if you only look at these four characters and the small teasers I’ve given on the Dialogue page, you’ll probably see it shining through. :D

Dreamblazers Update: Week of January 12, 2016

Hey, it’s been a while, huh? Hope everyone had great holidays and a happy new year. :D Mine were pretty good, but after getting back from Hawaii I had to recover with over a week of sleeping nine or ten hours a day. That jet lag can suck the life out of you, especially when you’re headed somewhere for nonstop insanity instead of a real break.

Anyway, after all the crazy holiday times, I also didn’t have anything to share last week, so I took time off, but we’re back now! Here’s a silhouetted preview of not-fully-finished enemy pixel art

Dreamblazers - Mystery Fighter Animation Shadow Triple Size Dreamblazers - Mystery Fighter Animation Shadow

I wonder who this could be? You’ll see the full color version here when she’s done, but I don’t have any particular timeline for that and you’ll find out why in future posts. ;)

Today I also wanted to share a look into the creative process. In the one game community that I’m decently involved with, I’ve noticed that its players can severely underestimate how much work the developers put in if they (the players) don’t see the direct fruits of that labor. The players might wonder what the devs are doing or even think they’re resting on their laurels.

I’m leaving details intentionally vague because I’m not trying to call anyone out here; in fact, I think it’s completely reasonable for the players to jump to conclusions. Actually, when I’m not spending what I would consider “enough” time developing in Unity, even I can get a bit down about myself—and that’s when I know exactly what I’m doing! As a solo indie, though, it’s difficult but also necessary to recognize that my time is productive even when it psychologically feels less tangible than something like implementing new AI patterns or testing battles.

So let’s get into the situation. Together with Flora I’m pretty much on board with making a new promotional image for Dreamblazers. Initially we were thinking about it in the same lane as a title screen, but now I’ve shifted to considering it possibly more like box art or simply a fun group shot. All of this meant gathering and commenting on references, so let me show you just a glimpse of how back-and-forths with artists can go:

View post on

View post on

View post on

View post on

View post on

For various reasons I normally wouldn’t give this much of a look into how I communicate with my artists, but in this case I had to gather so many images that it wasn’t feasible for me to go with my usual routine and using Imgur albums made a lot more sense. And since those can be publicly available, I figured I’d show them off here too!

It probably took me about 15 hours to hunt for pictures, filter out the ones that I didn’t think would contribute anything helpful to know about, organize them into categories, put up the albums, and most of all take the time to examine the pieces and comment on them. And all of this is in service of creating one new picture! Plus I still have to reflect on and give feedback for the work in progress versions at some point in the future.

So even though it’s a very important new picture and even though I’m completely aware of that fact deep down, my natural inclination is still to feel like “I’m spending too much time on this” when that same number of hours could have done A, B, C, or X other things. But everything is progress and everything is necessary. Even I need a reminder of that.