Skip to Content

Journal: A Development Blog

Beta Release Success

Did you miss the beta release for Stranger Dreams? Don’t worry, we took plenty of photos, and best of all: You can still play the game!

The beta release night went great for the Dreamfed team. We had plenty of traffic through our station, and especially the booths. They were occupied nearly the entire night with a line of people waiting. The booths we created had individual sectioned off playing areas surrounded by black curtains. They were really allowing people to get sucked into Stranger Dreams! We know that many people didn’t get the chance to play our game due to long waiting times, but don’t worry, if you sign up for our news letter on the home page you’ll get an e-mail for a beta code.

There was plenty to do while our guests were waiting patiently to play the game, though. We had many friends, family, and other supporters come by to see our setup. We had a re-creation of Ben Carpenter’s desk and hand outs of a replica of the Mabel brochure and train ticket you pick up in-game! The tickets featured the beta-code and we also gave away Stranger Dreams stickers as well as some exclusive Dreamfed stickers to those who managed to get through the beta! Overall, it was a very successful and fun night and we want to thank everyone who came by and made it special!

You’re Invited!

you’re invited to the…

Stranger Dreams: “The Watch”
Beta-release viewing event

@ the 2012 Media Arts and Science Capstones

Friday, April 27th, 2012
4 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Informatics and Communications Technology Complex (ICTC)
535 W. Michigan Street


We’re holding a Beta-release viewing event for Stranger Dreams: “The Watch”, our mystery, point-and-click adventure game, and you’re invited! Save the date. We’ll have booths set up for you to play the game (experience the story we’ve created), chat with the Dreamfed team, and grab some limited edition swag. There will even be a speaking session where Jackie and I will talk about our trials and tribulations, what we’ve learned about game development, etc. etc., and Q & A.

We’ll have plenty of goodies to handout, so come and get some ultra-rare keepsakes you won’t be able to find anywhere else – except for ebay. If you’re looking for things to sell on ebay, make sure and bring your detachable mustache and plenty of different colored hat’s and coats. No slacking, we’re keen eyes.

It’s really going to be an exciting night. Formally, the event is taking place at the 2012 IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University) Media Arts and Science Capstone Event (details here -edit as of right now this link has yet to be updated from last year-) which takes place from 4pm to 8pm on April 27th, 2012. This year’s capstones promise to be one to remember as it’s the largest capstone event ever with 70+ young professionals showing off their hard work. There’s bound to be a few gems with such a large sample size as that.

If you can’t make the event, you’re a total xenophobe or you just want some extended time to play the game at home make sure you’re signed up for our mailing list (Subscribe to our Mailing List). The day after the event we’ll be sending out an email to all of our subscribers with instructions on how to download a copy of the game for you to play at home.

Did I mention we have a mailing list?

Artist Callout

With around a month and a half left until capstone night, time is running short. I’ve fought it as long as I can, but I can’t multiply time or myself to get everything done.

This is a callout!

If there are any artists willing to create posters for Stranger Dreams please email me at [email protected] for details.

Who is Ben Carpenter?

In the development of Stranger Dreams the name “Ben Carpenter”, apparently the main character in Stranger Dreams, keeps popping up again and again. Who is this person? I feel like the answer is always one step ahead of me. I decided to assemble some clues and hopefully learn more about this mysterious man.

A top secret game design document provided by someone with an obsession with making small black rectangles prompted my curiosity:

According to my super secret development notebook:

“The motivation for the player to want to solve story goals should be primordial. It should not be merely because the ‘main character’ needs to for some abstract purpose. The player should have something in common with the main character, the impulse to unravel the mystery.”

This and a candid post caught on the Stranger Dreams Facebook Page revealed a possible player/playee relationship:

Other passages written on loose pieces of sketchbook paper give more clues:

“[illegible] catacombs. Man with a suit. Dingy faint lights…”

We can only wonder whether this is the truth, inane babble, or outright lies.

I’m afraid the picture isn’t any clearer. I suppose for now we’ll have to settle with the rosy concept art on the scrapbook page.

Painting A Scene

Today I just wanted to share a little about the my process for painting frames in Stranger Dreams. This also gives me an opportunity to give you a sneak peak of one of the new frames from the next segment of our game. It’s the door to your room in the local hotel in Mabel, Spark & Oats.


My general approach is to do a very rough thumbnail of whatever may be in the particular frame, paint in values, then do color in overlay. My tool of choice is Sai for a good portion of the painting with additional things done in Photoshop such as the wallpaper pattern and any text that we may need. This portion of the game has really been exercising my ability to draw buildings and outdoor scenes, so I’ve been enjoying delving into something I don’t normally do. I can’t stress enough how helpful it is to go and observe things!


Multi-Lingual Support

This is just a short note. we’re deep in the trenches now, and our excitement is building. We can’t wait to flip the switch and make the “Stranger Dreams: The Watch” demo live. Even in these final stages we’re still improvising – adding to the experience and the depth of meaning. The thing is still growing – still evolving. The purpose of this post however is to talk about a feature that has been a major consideration from the beginning of development. Stranger Dreams will support multiple languages in so far as the community that enjoys the game would want to localize our game script.

Individuals or groups interested in translating sections of script (text, dialog, captions, etc…) from our game should get in contact in order to receive text documents and instructions for making sure your text documents with translated content work with our game. Email [email protected]

Localization at this point is entirely up to the support of a global community that enjoys the game, but the framework is there. If you want to play Stranger Dreams in your native language don’t hesitate to get in contact.

Essential Tools for Collaboration

When it comes down to it, if you strip enough layers off of this project, right before the final layers, you’ll reveal a layer meaningful collaboration. Stranger Dreams would have remained little more than scattered ideas if it wasn’t for collaboration – little more than unguided and valueless effort if not for a solid foundation of collaboration. For our friend, Ordet, collaboration is an integral part of how he develops sound & music for Stranger Dreams. When we collaborate, especially at the same time, we’re sharing and multiplying energy and producing things we wouldn’t couldn’t have done otherwise. Good collaboration feels like a concert of ideas. Is the concert a symphony, a jam-band, or a séance? It all depends on the spirit of your collaboration.

So you’ve found your concert partner and you’ve created a ‘meeting of the minds’. What now? If you have the luxury of being in close proximity with each other than maybe you can story-jam with little more than an notebook/instrument and a willingness to share. This isn’t always enough and you may not live in the same geolocation as the ones you want to work with. In any case moving to a digital and synchronized work format is often a good move increasing the speed, structure, and manageability of your collaboration.

Here are some tools we’ve utilized to strengthen and leverage our collaboration at different times in our pre-production and production stages of “Stranger Dreams: The Watch”:

  • Dropbox – An Absolutely essential file sharing program [link]. You’ve likely heard about it or used it before. It basically gives you the ability to instantaneously and effortlessly share folders and files with the people you choose.
  • Google Docs – Collaborate on documents in real time with the poeple you choose [link]. It’s more than just a microsoft office clone, the first time you see watch buddies making real-time changes to the file you’re working on (they can see your changes too) is a fun experience. Experience the energy multiplying effects of working on a game design document right long with your collaborators.
  • XMind – Presentation, Brainstorming, and planning/logic tool [link]. Lay down tons of ordered and meaningful information from your head in a manageable, smooth, aesthetically pleasing way. Jackie and I employed this tool for the development of our branching story-lines and dialogue trees in Stranger Dreams. *Extra points if you use Dropbox to share your mindmaps*
  • Basecamp – Easy, logical, lightweight project management with features you actually want to use [link]. Sometimes using project management software can become a project in itself. Basecamp allows you to use only things that make sense to you. Create todo lists, milestones, events for you or your work-mates and place them on a calendar. You basically have the ability to see everything people are working on in the same place and manage your project as extensively as you want.

So there you have it. You can use these online/free services as a framework for collaboration to happen. Now all you need is some inspiration, a purpose, And some friends to jam with.

Trespassing for Inspiration

A good indication that you’re invested, engaged, and inspired by something is when you take it with you in your head throughout the day. You might be holding problems or challenges in your mind so that outside data you pick up could present you a solution. When you’re doing this you’re engaged in whatever you’re doing – probing deep into things that appear to hold something of value. Anything could give you the answer or hold the inspiration you were looking for.

You might be so intimately involved in whatever project you’re working on that the things you see can freely turn into things in your project and vice versa. You’re seeing things or experiencing things, and you’re saying “that’s this thing!” or “oh! there’s this thing that I left out of the [x location or place in project]”. In process of developing the story for Stranger Dreams – the indie game development project you’re eagerly following – I’ve had countless experiences that have inspired me or fed me something i needed. I quickly take note, as if I’ve had a prophetic vision, with short, succinct, self-contained statements.

One of these experiences happened on a trip to an abandoned quarry in Bloomington, Indiana. It wasn’t the first piece of inspiration I received from Bloomington. As I was walking, slightly anxiously because we were trespassing through an unfamiliar place (to me), I knew that the rocky, aged, path full of artifacts with lingering memories (there’s always some forgotten sorrow clinging to surfaces and the space of abandoned places) – slowly becoming reclaimed by natural things – was so similar to what I had been thinking (having never seen or heard about the place) that I couldn’t ignore it. It simply was a certain part of the setting of our story – at least parts of it were.

I decided to come back with Jackie to let the scene feed into the mental images she had already been developing. We waited for a day that was sufficiently rainy and eerie to go attempt to rediscover and photograph, the abandoned, Sander’s quarry which was featured in the film “Breaking Away”.

Thankfully, we found it.

You can see some more pictures we took on our tumblr blog.

I think an important point is that field trips, or journeys for inspiration, whether it be for game development or another type of project, are valuable even if they don’t relate or translate into something in your project. Just the act of taking some time to explore someplace new is worthwhile. I felt so enlivened and refreshed after hiking around that I stayed up most of that night developing and diagramming, using the online tool:, the game engine I’m creating for Stranger Dreams.

Bonus Blog Post: Concept Art

Since there was a brief hiatus on the blog I bring you a bonus heap of concept work from the earliest phases of our game. This spans from almost a year ago to up to what we’ve been doing recently.

There are two items in particular in the gallery that are of special interest. These show the progression from concept to finalized work. Make sure you click the thumbnails to see them in their full glory.

Game Dev Tip: Staying Mentally Organized

I think that one of the most challenging and fun parts about making art for games is the conceptual stage. No matter what your skill level is when it comes to drawing [making the finalized work], if you have a well planned out concept or executed idea, a viewer will notice. My job is to make the places, things, and people feel real in Stranger Dreams. Lately, because of this, I have a million thoughts going through my head at any given moment. Sometimes when I’m in a place I feel like my head is in the clouds because my mind is in perpetual motion and it’s not until later that I realize I wasn’t all there. So, today I want to talk to you about the conceptualizing phase of Stranger Dreams and how it goes hand in hand with organization of thoughts.

Most of the work I’m putting into our game right now has a lot to do with thinking about things. And we all know intense thinking is taxing. Not only is that, but it becomes even more difficult when you have so many tasks to complete. It can seem overwhelming at times and this is when people become stressed and disorganized. These things make an artist feel hurried and sometimes discouraged and then it’s a continual cycle. After realizing that an extra day in the week will never happen no matter how hard I wish, I decided to get very organized and ration out my thinking spaces.

I think being organized physically comes more naturally to people than being organized mentally. It’s easy to put things into folders or on a hard drive, but you have to do this in your brain as well. For a second, think about a large storage device and all the things you may have on it that you’re working on. When you go to sit down, if you’re working on a painting, you open it and work on it. Imagine sitting down and trying to open everything on your hard drive at once. It would be so overwhelming and daunting that you would never get anything done and eventually the hard drive might crash [don’t work directly off your hard drive, kids!].

This is how my brain was thinking. Of course, it’s up to the artist to realize when your brain is getting foggy which can be difficult because we are such wonderfully complex creatures, but if you happen to notice: Slow down! Simply enough…just take a breather. Even if you only have .005 seconds to do anything but work, work, work, use those .005 seconds to clear your mind. Then, THINK about what you want to work on when you sit down. Have a clear goal in mind when you go to do something. Thinking about it all at once will not get you very far and you’ll use twice the brain energy making you feel tired and overworked with half finished thoughts about 30 different things.

Despite going slightly crazy, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking and some concept work. Right now, my two main goals are getting the look of our menu system finalized, and creating the frames which will make up our main character’s apartment in the tutorial level. I’m feeling optimistic about my workflow, so expect more art soon! So, in your creative endeavors, stay mentally organized and the ideas will flow naturally.