The Dawnstar Chronicles

The Story

Meet Raju, an aspiring business student from Mars that was tired of his old life and wanted something new. Throwing everything behind him after some family drama, he took to space and found himself on the frontier. Four years later an accomplished freelancer and escort pilot, he runs into a young lady by the name of Haley Grumman who is on the search for her father, who has left an unusual frigate-sized vessel in her care. After she mysteriously vanishes as well, Raju tries to get to the bottom of it all, finding some new faces along the way and commandeering the frigate dubbed Dawnstar.

Eventually finding Haley and with the goal of still on the search for her father, Raju and company wander the galaxy for search of adventure and jobs to pay for their expenses.

 

Game Features

The game is played in typical VN style. This first installment does not pick up from the beginning, rather from a further point in time after Haley is found. Along with reading with the story, the player is presented with choices that will affect certain outcomes and the course of the story. Choices are made based on facts presented and any “stats” is kept under the hood out of sight for more reading enjoyment and simplicity.

A “classic” version of the game is bundled with the main version, reflecting an older pre-alpha that features a full voice cast and utilizes the current art assets. Finally you get to put a voice to the characters!

Lastly a title score and other music will be composed by none other than Kenny Chow. Known as Kenny Chou and CC Catch, this is the same composer for old DOS game classics Zone 66 and One Must Fall: 2097.

 

Project Background

It was Spring 2011, I had just gone through six different types of classes that pushed me further in graphic and game development than I had ever come on my own understanding previously. I decided to try to create my own game project.

As a writer story-driven games were always what I leaned to, and after playing a few and starting into things like Mass Effect and some indie game developers that were starting projects (like Downgrade). I wasn’t sure if this was the path I wanted to go for a future career but definitely wanted to flex my muscles with the new skills I learned.

Originally it was a game going to be programmed either in PHP, HTML or Flash. I had settled on this method as I wanted it to be more of an interactive novel type. Strangely I was aware of “Japanese Dating VNs” but didn’t make the association with this. Rather, I drew my definitive gameplay from a very old rogue-like game that used to be included on the Microsoft Encarta 98 CDs, in which you wandered around different rooms and talked to people with just the click of a mouse.

The story was something I had started to cook up after I had graduated in 2009 and stopped visiting and showing interest in the anime community. I was penning something that connected with my sci-fi roots, exhibiting and interlacing my futuristic aspirations of what I originally wanted to be and what I could’ve been doing. It stemmed from a lot of personal background and was my main subject for NaNoWriMo in 2010. I felt this was the perfect platform to jump off with and use as a story; it was new, it had room for development and had my attention at the time.

dawnstarlineup
My original concept for Dawnstar’s crew. Some of these characters have changed or were added/removed later on.

Production was rocky at first but took a giant leap forward when a classmate (who later turned out to be a participating voice actor) suggested a free-form VN game engine that ran on Python. Taking a look at this my game had the capability of coming together much more easier thanks to how specifically tailored the engine was. I primarily focused on the story and trying to get a basic working script done.

In my last week of school before I was supposed to leave my apartment in 2011, I chased down several people and asked them to help me voice lines in a new upcoming game I was making. I had a working demo to show my case; an old anime-convention connection had drawn some free art of some of the characters, which I let them play to further my cause. They were a wide cast of people; ranging from buddies I went to class with, my Japanese teacher and even a cousin of mine. It was harrowing and in years to come I face-palm myself at what I could’ve done differently but I was glad I chose then than later. I could not have asked for a better set of participants.

Come spring 2012, the script was basically done for my game. All the lines had been recorded except for the main character. I was slowly starting to add the audio in but I was running into a big wall; artwork. I could wing it with the static free art that I got but lacked backgrounds. I wanted more out of it. It was a personal project then and a possible portfolio piece for the future so I did have some pride for it looking good at least. I regrettably shelved it with the promise that I would “improve” my art.

That time came and went. So did my Portfolio. In honesty I did show it to my advising professor but he didn’t understand it, suggesting that I leave it out instead in case nobody else did. I agreed and the game started to slowly drift into obscurity. I continued to write out further adventures, expand on the universe and even make the timeline. I was clearly invested with this but was running into the roadblock of slow art development of my personal self and not having art assets to continue the game. But my school days were done. I graduated ETSU in 2013 and entered the workforce.

Come May 2014. I met a young woman by the name of Hannah Clark after a resolution to get my game going once again. She found the project fascinating and agreed to start doing character art for my game. I dusted everything off and once again started to put updates into the wild about my project. Suffice to say her work is stellar and more than I could ever ask for.

haley_dev
Graphic showing an example of the different art styles Haley has gone through. The latter on the right has been rendered by Hannah Clark.

As of 2015 we’re still getting art out but its starting to slowly come together how I envisioned it. It’s back on track.

 

Art Showcase

This is some of the completed art assets for Dawnstar. Includes backgrounds and character artwork.

Backgrounds

bar_backgroundhallway_resized

landing_site_resizedlounge_resized

 

Character Sprites

shinako_expressions_resizednova_expressions_resizedsophia_faces_resized

shinako_outfits_compilation_resized

haley_outfits_resized

 

 

Future Plans

Aside from the VN games I will release, I plan on publishing novelizations of the Dawnstar’s voyages and possibly stories to further the idea already held.

I also am looking into the game being carried for Android and Apple Markets if possible. The game will be published through Steam’s Greelight program.

 

Release Date

As of April 2016, there is no set release date but an aim is being made for mid-summer of 2016. Sound assets and music are finally finished and artwork has been completed as of mid-November of 2015. As soon as the game reaches a beta stage and passes the Steam Greenlight process, a solid release date will be announced.

 

Team Members

These are additional people who are working alongside with me and/or contributed to Dawnstar.

Hannah Clark: http://www.ihazart.com

Christina Weinman: http://www.christinaweinman.com

Kenny Chow: http://soundcloud.com/neoj1n