Category Archives: DreadStar

DreadStar: The Quest for Revenge is a retro styled rpg shmup coming in late 2016 on PC/Mac
The retro mix of a shmup and a rpg you’ve always wanted to play!

DreadLog: The challenges of interesting level design.

workflow_dreadstarWe’re going to be talking about how the game design and the level design changes enemy patterns and behavior based on what we want to achieve.

In DreadStar, we chose to set the levels in distinct places (space, an invaded planet, an abandoned temple, a robotic IA complex, etc.) and the visuals already give the levels a strong sense of identity but we wanted them to “feel” different as well, when you play them.
To achieve this goal, we decided that each level would play differently and that means that the enemies need to act a different way.

The first available level is pretty straightforward, space invaded by pirates that must be taken down. Most enemies go forward, some of them firing , others don’t. To still have an interesting level, some enemies are faster than others and some fire targeted bullets toward the player ship. As in most shoot’em’ups, we included a midboss to break from the monotony and add a sense of danger. Both the midboss and final level boss are simple in their patterns and don’t go overboard. Think of this level as an introduction to the game’s mechanics.

The second level is very different and is situated in a robotic complex home to a deadly AI that rebels against its creators (humans!). The visual setting being cold and mechanical, the enemies needed to be as such. Since it is the second level, we also decided the enemies would have much more movement and so it was only logical to use mathematical patterns in the movement of the enemies (such as sinusoidal movement (sine and cosine), circles, and that kind of AI type of logic). Less enemies are firing but they are trying to directly hit the player ship, sacrificing themselves in the attack. This level has 2 midbosses and 1 boss that consists in 2 different parts.

The third level is a bit less interesting, design-wise, since it consists in an asteroid field that is generated using a pseudo-random algorithm. Since it is an asteroid field, it didn’t really make sense that the level would always be the same. Therefore, we decided to create an algorithm for randomly spawning asteroids, using several constraints so that the more you advance in the level, the more asteroids you’ll encounter, with higher chance for bigger, slow asteroids (with more hit points) and tiny, faster asteroids (less hit points but harder to avoid). There is no midboss for this level.

The fourth level was very fun to design as we kind of went overboard with silly ideas and themes. It is situated on an infested planet where the inhabitants have woken up an ancient race of alien-like parasites. You must now save the survivors by eliminating the infesting aliens and the corrupted humans that have fallen prey to them.
In this level, we went for classic shoot’em’up planetary elements: enemies that can be hit by bullets but don’t damage the player’s ship when you hover over them. They are on the ground and therefore represent no threat to your ship. To counter this fact, however, they shoot at you and killing them will make avoiding being hit much easier. For the rest of the enemies, we have a mix of what was available in the first 2 levels, each with their own movements but overall based on the same kind of ideas. The midboss is an enemy generator and will spawn more enemies (forcing you to manoeuver in order to be able to hit it) and the final boss is, again, a 2 part boss that will probably surprise the players (we won’t be talking too much about it to keep that intact).

Finally, the fifth level is an abandonned temple, in a derelict space station. The level’s graphic design draws inspiration from ancient cultures with a mix of alien technology. To give a sense of size and emptiness, this level has no “enemy” but rather obstacles that you will have to avoid. This level has been designed with a key feature in mind: it plays like a race. You will encounter speed-up and speed-down bonuses that will make it harder or easier to navigate through the giant crumbling walls, flying platforms and tunnels that make up most of this enemy’s level. Your score will be higher if you finish the level faster.
The midboss and the boss for this level use magical attacks and will require a lot of movement from the player in order to kill them.

So, as you can see, the enemies were all designed with a specific goal in mind, adding to the level’s atmosphere and giving it a sense of purpose.
We have also used background elements to help the player remember when a boss will soon be incoming and the different parts of the level.

We hope you found this insteresting and thank you for reading up to this point.

November 22nd Dev update!

Hi everyone!
I haven’t posted here lately but i haven’t had much to show because i have been working on improvements and tweaks all around.
Basically, i have tweaked the hitboxes for all the player ships, changed the tooltips and worked on small UI improvements.

I have also been working on the last enemies that still need to be made (the new level 2 ones). They are among the last enemies to be worked on (we still need to finish a few bosses as well).
This means the programming is nearly complete and we are approaching one of the final stages of the game’s development: the final level design and game balance. Once this is all done, the game will go into beta status and we will improve the game based on player feedback. This will also be the last hunt for bugs before integrating the game with the Steam API and getting ready for release.

We are planning for an early 2017 release but we are still a few months away from that so stay tuned and in the mean time, enjoy this space dragon boss animation !

Space dragon animated gif
Space Dragon !! Roaaaaaaarrr! (click for a better view)

October 25th Dev update!

Hi everyone!
It’s been a while since i last posted here but i have been quite busy working on the game.
I am happy to say that everything is going fine even though i did understimate the amount of work still needed to complete the game.
As a result, the game will probably not be coming out until early 2017 at best.
However, this is good news, as the enemies are nearly done and most of what is left is bosses and then finishing the level designs. The next part will be balancing the game out while looking for any bugs, before we get the game to beta status and allow people to help us fight off bugs and balancing issues.

Here is a preview of one of the latest boss i have been working on… the “Prophet”.

And another little animated preview of the maintenance bot that built the AI base in the Cylon sector (he’s the midboss):

DreadStar midboss preview
Maintenance Bot animation

Stay tuned !

Who said ugly?

Today I don’t want to show you entire image of what I am working on. It is too ugly ^ ^

… uh… what is it? Can you guess it? I can’t myself. I wonder where it comes from – and where it goes. No, I know where it goes: nowhere, because you will kill when playing Dreadstar!

And that’s good news. I don’t want it arriving on Earth.


Details and adjustements

It is time for last graphics, and also for details and adjustements. It is not the most interesting part, but it gives the feeling that all small details are okay. I am a bit of a perfectionnist, so I have often to stop myself of refining graphics, I should say.

However, last week I did some adjustements on level 2 graphics, because I have new and old graphics – existing before I take part to the project, or that I did at the beginning, 6 months ago.

I had to adapt old graphics a little bit to fit my new graphics. Here is a view of old and new graphics together :


Another frightening boss

Last week I told you graphics for levels 1 to 5 were finished… my mistake, I forgot one boss!

(no laughs, please, it was written on my planning, but I didn’t read it properly, these things happen on Friday, don’t they?)

It was a pleasure to do this one, as I never really drew dragons until this one. I did sometimes, but didn’t really finished them, if I remember well. I may change it a little bit, I’m still working on it and on its background, but for the big picture, that’s it.


It’s some kind of space dragon. I don’t want to be bitten by it, and it should go to the dentist. So, male or female?


Sept. 21st dev update

Hi everyone ! It’s time for another dev update…
I’ve been working on level design since the start of the week and had to change the way some things worked in the levels. I also added a way to add an object or enemy at a precise point. That way, calculating the position of the background, i can add a background element in the exact spot it is supposed to be at.
However, while it was working well, i thought that it would be better to have a view of the exact background in the level editor…especially since in this level, there are background enemies (enemies that are on the ground and don’t collide with the ship but fire at it).

So i made those changes as well and i must say it is pretty fun to have a good view of the background as it will be in game. I wish i had the time to put all the graphics into the editor to have a 100% accurate view of the level but i really don’t. I’ll maybe do it in my free time (if i can find some).
I am really looking forward to seeing people use the level editor to create new levels but that will have to wait until after the release!

level editor
DreadStar’s Level Editor!

So far, i only have started on the overall design of this level, however so i must now hurry and finish the level before working on the Mazinger sector’s enemies.
That’s all for now.

Level 5 images finished

Level 1 to 5 graphics are now created. There will probably be some little changes, but I see the end of drawings slowly pointing the tip of his nose, which is great.

I let some surprise for the game, so I am not going to reveal all from this level, but you are going to face this sorcerer playing with energy :


In this level, I have done some animations with light energy. I find that moving energy renders well, and I guess that it probably is because of the contrast. I would like to do more, as usual, but I have to carry on.

So next week, another sprint, another subject. See you!

Sept 14th. dev update

Hi !
It’s time for another dev update as i finally finished the 4th level boss. Some gameplay from the boss turned out to be more complicated to program than anticipated and i had to change a few things in the core game engine.

As everything is now complete on that boss, i can start working on changes to the level editor and start the level design (the fun part!).
I need to make those changes because this level’s design is particular. We are using a lot of background elements that need pixel perfect placement, something the current level editor can’t do well except on fixed locations (useful for enemies, but not so much for background elements). It will also be useful for the 5th level (and if/when we release the level editor as well).

I’m hoping i can make those changes and have a good first rough of the level by the end of the week.
I’ll then start working on the 5th level’s enemies and bosses, along with the core mechanics of the level.

Stay tuned!

Dreadstar level 5 images in progress

The atmosphere of level 5 is dark and shadowed, with a feeling of  greatness, to change from level 4. For the depth, I took my inspiration from Carthago, a french comic with very nice big drawings giving a feeling of immensity.


It is a style that I like very much and I would like to do more and more, but I have to carry on, the next bosses are waiting for me!

Don’t tell it to anyone but I think I have more inspiration for this level than for the last one – that I really enjoyed also when I was doing it… it is good news for the following.

I enjoy what I do from the beginning, but I enjoy it more and more, I hope you feel it in the results.

Let’s carry on, then 😉