Category Archives: All Text

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of February 9, 2015

True story: when I took the SAT—the big important high school test here in the US that determines one’s college-worthiness—I didn’t read the instructions, so I didn’t know that answering wrongly deducted points while leaving a question blank didn’t. I still scored 760/800 on the writing section, but I took what I’m assuming was a substantial hit in the math section, where I distinctly remember filling in random numbers to a few questions that were beyond my level. I got 620/800, so according to the scoring system used in my time my overall score still landed upwards of the 93 percentile.

Here in the indie game development world, however, reading the instructions is apparently compulsory! Now that I’ve finally listened to what some might consider common sense and looked more deeply into ORK tutorials, I’ve gotten my scene transitions going (i.e. stepping onto an overworld cave to leave the overworld and appear in the cave) and I’m decently underway with dialogue. The ORK directions are aimed at 3D games, so I do have to adjust as I go, but the sense of progress is palpable. =) After these things comes the undertaking of translating the battle system into 2D—much more interesting to me than dialogue and slightly more interesting to me than exploration, to be sure, but everything has a proper order to it.

Equally as good (or maybe even better yet), pixel artistry is moving along and I just received some wonderfully exciting early stuff this morning! :D The fundamentals like floors and walls are now in play for two of the earliest areas (they share most of the same tile set) and the fine details are up next, like stuff that breaks up the repeatable tiles and gives visual variety to the ground. I do love seeing other people’s pretty pixel art during #screenshotsaturday on Twitter, but I’m looking really forward to being able to participate myself. =)

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 January 19, 2015

The long and short of this past week is that the pixel artist search is underway. I have Becca for environments, but I still haven’t found someone for characters (monsters included). Ideally I want to find someone who specializes in characters; I purposely look for specialists. Becca says she likes drawing environments, so that’s what I want her for. With the character designs, I asked Flora if she enjoyed those or enjoyed other types of art more; since she said she likes designs, that’s what I had her do. I always look to help people do things that they’re good at and that they enjoy.

I want to continue to uphold that standard, but I don’t know if I can. Because pixel art is such a specific medium, pixel artists are pretty rare, good ones are even more rare, good ones who draw in styles that I prefer are still more rare than that, and and good ones who draw in the style that I prefer and also aren’t backlogged from being heavily in demand are still more rare than that. This isn’t like promotional art where tens of thousands of artists for any conceivable style are available at any given moment, so even amazing ones are posting “looking for work” notices.

Hopefully I’ll find someone soon. As always, work progresses on the Unity side as well, but now it’s at the grind point instead of the regular-massive-breakthroughs point, which is why I’ve dropped the old devlog format.

Whatever the case may be in this upcoming week, the day that I’m able to show off screenshots of actual art assets instead of placeholders will be a landmark for these devlogs, so I really look forward to it. :D

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of January 12, 2015

This is what we call an ideal past week. :D

* I went back to the basics and watched many Unity tutorials—something I should have done months ago, frankly—and picked up multiple new ideas for handling things more effectively.
* Because I went back to the basics, the camera works now!
* The collisions work better than they did before (and I figured this one out myself). Because my placeholder sprite was larger than the other sprites around it (in the vein that Final Fantasy VI‘s sprites are slightly taller than a tile), my character was occasionally being pushed around to coordinates like 15, 12.034 instead of even integers. Got that taken care of.
* I finally resolved my earlier computer issue for real this time so it doesn’t happen at all. =)
* And, totally unrelated to Dreamblazers, after three months of SolForge ladder tournaments I finally won one!

Yep. A great week!

So two core parts of the game are now functional: RPG gameplay mechanics (battle system, stats system, etc.) and most of the 2D physics. However, so far I built each component in a vacuum: the RPG gameplay operates in a 3D setting and the 2D physics operate without any of the RPG elements. Now I need to put them together and hope nothing breaks.

I’ll also be concurrently searching for pixel artists. In July 2014 I told myself that I aimed for a playable demo within a year. So far I can’t tell if I’m going to make that goal or not, but in order to have any chance, the pixel art ball has to get rolling immediately. Environments, characters, menus: the whole works.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of January 5, 2015

The last Metroid is in captivity. The galaxy is at peace.

And in other news, the last in the string of visiting relatives left here at 5:00 AM today and things can get back to normal. I did have time to give feedback on the initial title image sketch, which is looking really nice and will definitely pretty this site up a bit when I can use it as a background and a banner. =)

Aside from that, my issues with getting the camera to follow the character have been making me feel inept. With collision detection, I knew I wasn’t alone since searches turned up hundreds of people with the same issues, but it seems that nobody has trouble making a camera follow correctly in Unity. Of course, most people making 3D games could use Unity’s default camera; even I can get that to work, but it doesn’t handle 2D well and keeps zooming in and out on the Z plane. What baffles me more is that nobody has issues with 2D Toolkit’s camera; either they’re all great or I’m missing the obvious.

(Probably the latter at least, if not also the former. =P This is where inexperience on the programming end comes back to bite me: ORK Framework is a genius piece of software that even I can make great things with, but 2D Toolkit is a genius piece of software that demands more of its users.)

Back to tinkering it is!