Tag Archives: Pokémon

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 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 26, 2015

Dreamblazers Title Image

We have ourselves a title screen! Finished mid-week, this was Flora’s final image for me and is about the grandest sendoff I could ask for. =) It’s even thematically appropriate! …but this artwork was always destined to use this concept. Besides the obvious adventure theme, Leaf, Celty, Cotelle, and Minori are who I call the “Big Four” of Dreamblazers, the mainest of main characters—I wanted to emphasize from the very title screen that there’s no “Goku” who dominates the spotlight.

There’s another subtle bit here with the character groupings. In a game about people’s hopes and dreams for the future (and I’m not talking about the story only or even the story primarily; the most important thing to me is that the gameplay is about the player‘s style), characters are bound to have different dreams. Leaf and Celty are united here, as are Cotelle and Minori, but the two pairs don’t share the same vision for what they want to bring to their world, so there’s a slight physical gap between them.

The completion of this picture also means that I’m getting my stuff together and ready for posting in the ORK Showcase section like I mentioned last month, including more fleshed-out character profiles than the previous time, so I’ll finally be fielding a little bit of feedback. =) Flora gave me a positive reception for the colorful and eccentric characters when we first started together and the same is true for Becca, but I did after all hand-pick people whose artwork I liked, so we’ll see if the next rounds of unfiltered feedback are any different. =P

Speaking of Becca, let’s get to the other big front! Here’s a quotation from Flannery O’Connor:

I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.

I actually do know what a story is—but I found that I knew what pixel art was until I sat down to explain in detail what I wanted. It ate a good lot of time to hunt down references and think through how much is too much or how little is too little. Do I want three frames of animation for water or do I want five? How many types of edges do I need for sand? What small details would give the ground visual variety? Should I go for complete-looking tile sets now so that I can make a more earnest attempt at raising money from other people? On the flip side, given that I don’t know if I’ll be able to raise money or how much, should I do more minimal tile sets now?

In the end, the answer is often “I don’t know, so I’ll just play it by ear.” I refuse to say “this is more art than science,” partially because I don’t care whether video games are art and mostly because I don’t believe there’s any legitimate divide between art and science in the first place, but the idea does stand that there might be no right answer in terms of how to handle pixel art.

Either way, the point is that pixel art is just about underway and I couldn’t be happier with that. ♥ The long run of character design art has concluded, but we’re making like Pokémon: hitting Baton Pass and pursuing another horizon.

Dreamblazers Devlog: Week of December 29, 2014

The end of an amazing ride of a year is here and what can I say about it? I’m half-inclined to write a recap post or an overview of where I’m at, but I just did that last month. I also don’t have much to report on progress since it’s been a busy Christmas period on the family front. However, I do have this…

Character Profiles Second Draft

While it’s still not totally complete, creating it made me realize how little I’ve written on this site about so many aspects of Dreamblazers, like worldbuilding and even what a character’s stats mean. I’ll name a few take-home points based on this image:

*A character’s species has no effect on her stats and only affects equipment options for winged characters. Elves have historically been the dominant species, but heritages have become very mixed over time and half-elves are most common at the game’s point of time in its universe.

* Sylphs and the falician can have different types of wings within their own species. Both can produce offspring with elves, half-elves, and norians via magic, but the falician are much more desirable; half-sylphs like Ardis can’t shrink themselves enough to fit perfectly in a sylph village nor can they grow enough to imitate the height of even a falician.

*Berry is a bio-being and one might wonder why she’d be classified as that or how it would be different from any other character. To that I say: I’ll leave that unexplained for now as a teaser! One thing I’ll explain, since I said I would, is that her clothes are designed by Jig and Jelia. Jelia’s pretty active on the designer front, by the way: she also made Tango’s kilt!

* One might notice a general lack of armor in these character designs and there’s a very simple reason for that: the characters don’t need it. They all have super strength, are made of water, are made of plasma, are angels, or for some other reason don’t need armor, so whenever it’s around it’s mostly ceremonial. That’s also why Telia can have a diamond axe without being too powerful! One exception to this armor situation is Leaf, whose coreplate is indestructible, but looks aren’t everything: the adamanvine armlet on Celty’s arm is also indestructible and so are Hikaru’s bracelets. (“What’s a coreplate?” one might ask. “And what’s an ‘adamanvine’?” I’ll leave those as more teasers!)

* The gold flower symbol worn on Mina’s armband is the symbol of the Empire, but the red flower symbol shown on Mina, Lash, and Faray indicates a special status for them. Mina’s uniform is a standardized Imperial uniform for mage-class fighters; physical fighters have full-length pants instead because they don’t need as much exposure to the mana flow. (I continue rolling out all sorts of lore just as a sidebar!) Evelyn and Sakura are also members of the Empire, so they often wear the uniforms too, but since the uniform only needed to be designed once, they’re shown in their civilian clothes.

* Like in Magic: the Gathering, I’ve loosely grouped mana affinities by color, but I’ve also broken them up by shade. Pure magic is purple, Light magic is white, Life is light green, Genesis is deep green, Fire is red, Wind is light yellow, Lightning is deep yellow, Cold is light blue, Water is mid blue, and Wave is deep blue. Most characters can only use two colors, but might have access to multiple shades. As another thing that’s like Magic (or Pokémon for that matter), certain colors are more likely to pair up than others. Any shade is likely to pair up with another shade of its color (such as light yellow and deep yellow) and other common pairs include blue-white, blue-yellow, green-white, and red-yellow. Uncommon pairs include blue-red, green-red, and red-white. Just as a Fire/Ice Pokémon would seem unusual, Ardis’ ability to use Fire and Cold magic surprises others.

* There are two types of stats: primary stats and secondary stats The primaries are HP, Speed, Power, Magic Power, Defense, and Magic Defense. Like in Pokémon, a score of 80-90 is passable, 91-100 is good, 101-120 is very good, and 121+ is great. (And yes, I’ll have to make bar graphs and such to show all of this visually at some point.) The secondary stats are Skill, Evasion, Spirit, Energy, Luck, and Charm. Of these, Skill, Evasion, and Charm are on a similar curve as the primary stats, but slightly lower. For Spirit, Energy, and Luck, the numbers tend to be much lower on average; anything at 70 or above is excellent.

* But what do all these stats do anyway? HP is your basic life total, Speed controls turn order, Power and Magic Power determine the strength of your physical and magic attacks, and Defense and Magic Defense offset the strength of enemy attacks.

As for the other stats, I call them “Secondary” because I don’t want players to worry too much about them; they’re fairly complicated. For the sake of completion, though… Health regeneration is based on Spirit, move usage regeneration is based on Energy, and critical hit rate is based on Luck. Resistance to physical status effects is based on a combination of Spirit and Charm. Resistance to magic status effects comes from Energy and Charm. Hit rate is based on Skill, Charm, and Luck in that order of importance; dodge rate is based on Evasion, Luck, and Charm. Damage done by energy-based attacks depends on Spirit and Energy as well as some of the primary stats. Skill and Evasion give minor boosts to attack power and defense respectively (both physical and magical). And, finally, Spirit and Energy contribute to a pretty novel battle mechanic I have that only kicks in during certain boss battles… Another teaser.

Well… I suppose that’s enough for now!

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!