With a little under a month until the release of Dreamscaper, there’s so much to learn about regarding this new action rogue-like. Luckily, we were able to reach out to Robert Taylor from Afterburner Studios. However, as he wasn’t available for a one-on-one video or audio interview, he was still gracious enough to answer some questions for us.
For starters, how did you and the team land on the idea of Dreamscaper? Was it always the “Dream-like Rogue-like” when you 3 started production?
The fiction of “dreaming” was settled on fairly early on in development. But was one of the final things we decided on during the brainstorming phase. From the beginning, we knew we wanted to build a 3D top-down Action Roguelike with a stronger emotional core. Because of our interests and belief that there was a market opportunity. The idea of “dreaming” emerged because it was the perfect vessel for introducing story to the fundamental core loop of roguelites.
When starting as Afterburner Studios what was the… atmosphere around your development? Because going indie after being in the AAA scene for so long can be a very major risk, do you still feel the same going into 1.0?
Honestly, we started Afterburner Studios thinking of it more as a short-lived passion project than a real business. We were burned out on big-budget games and wanted to go small. Since then, our game, our community, and our brand continues to grow substantially every few months. Going into 1.0 we’re surprisingly relaxed. Dreamscaper was successful for us in Early Access, so while it would be great for things to blow up in August. We’re already proud of what we’ve accomplished and look forward to putting a bow on Dreamscaper, so that we can start brainstorming new ideas for a second project.
Last year was clearly the best year anyone could’ve asked for, as remote developers, what were the challenges you 3 faced?
We were probably one of the least impacted studios. As you mentioned, we’d been working remotely for two years prior to the pandemic, so it really didn’t impact our day-to-day operations. I think the bigger struggles were the more personal ones that most humans had to experience: not being able to see loved ones. It also bummed me out that the three of us couldn’t get together to celebrate any of our launches. Hopefully we find time to meet in person again over the next year.
I know Paul is the art director, but can you offer any insight on how the art style of the game came to be? Because I do remember surrealism came into play, but how did that mesh with the creature and boss designs?
I believe one of the first things Paul worked on was how the environments sort of fade out into the background. The edges in particular were based on how Paul sees and remembers his dreams. I can’t speak to surrealism as a non-artist, but I know that the bosses always started with an emotion. Ian and Paul had a story they wanted to tell through the bosses, so they would give each boss a name (Fear, Negativity, Isolation, etc.) and work with our concept artist Hanzo to create designs that embodied those emotions.
What was the inspiration behind the protagonist Cassidy? Were their similar inspirations for any of the characters in the waking world and who would you personally feel is your favorite of them all? (Bruce is clearly a fan favorite)
Cassidy was definitely a fusion of a lot of different people. Cassidy is an artist and introspective, like Paul. While I’m quite different personality-wise from Cassidy, I did move from a small town to a big city, and so there are some similarities there. Finally, Paul and I both have sisters we’re very close with and I know those relationships ended up influencing the story.
I’m coming from the perspective of early access around November last year, what can you say to people who have heard of the game that might’ve been added in the Phoenix or Awakening updates that could grab anyone’s attention and pick up the game on steam, or be excited for until it arrives on the Switch?
It’s pretty wild to look at the list of what we’ve added to the game throughout Early Access and it’s hard to pick just a couple to “grab attention” because so many of them could be headliners on their own. I would say this: during Early Access we fully fleshed out The Waking World into a very compelling roguelite persistent progression system, we refined and expanded our combat substantially, and we arguably doubled the amount of content to experience in the Dreaming portion of the game. I think even at the Early Access launch, Dreamscaper was regarded as one of the better Action Roguelikes out there (at least according to the reviews), but thanks to the feedback over the last year, I think a case could be made that it’s now one of the best. Obviously I’m biased, though. Haha
There have been seasonal updates, like Halloween or Holiday themed, will updates like this persist post-launch? Because I really wanted to give Bruce some flowers for Valentine’s day.
That’s a good question. It’ll really depend on how Dreamscaper does at 1.0 launch. We’re committed to a 1.1 content update a month or so after launch, but additional updates will only be possible if the game is generating enough revenue that we can afford to do so. That said, holiday updates are often smaller in scope, so I won’t rule them out.
Speaking of updates though, will there be any post-launch updates that compare to Reflections, Pheonix, or Awakening?
Yes. There will be the 1.1 update that focuses on adding a bunch of items we’ve been wanting to get into the game for a while. It won’t impact story, so holistically 1.0 is the complete experience, but it will be a nice collection of new things to experience in your runs to keep things fresh for even the most seasoned Dreamscapers.
What is your favorite weapon design in the game currently? Because I still cherish the FF7 inspired heavy blade and earth bending to this day. Will there be any new weapon at launch that you’re personally excited for?
For me, the Finger Gun will always be my favourite weapon. We really wanted to avoid using literal guns in our game, and so that forced us to be creative. The idea that Cassidy just shoots these powerful energy blasts from her finger is just so much fun, and with flyback it’s ended up being one of the most powerful weapons in the game. We mentioned in our announcement that with all of the new features and content added for 1.0, adding new items was deferred until 1.1, but there is a weapon coming called “Red Beard” based on one of my best friends and it’s absolutely hilarious.
To start winding down though, I need to know: Is Dreamscaper 1.0 exactly how you and the team envisioned it when you thought about it all that time ago?
I think Dreamscaper 1.0 is a lot bigger now than we expected. Having epic boss fights with polished cutscenes, 6 very distinct biomes, the huge variety of items, translated in 8 languages, 30 FPS & 60 FPS modes, are all larger in scope than we’d planned. Three years ago Action Roguelikes honestly weren’t super polished, but within the last couple of years, a couple of our competitors really raised the bar, and luckily we were up for the challenge.
One final question though, what is the release date and expected price of Dreamscaper on Steam, Nintendo Switch, and the Epic Games Store?
We’ve actually increased the price of Dreamscaper as of July 5th from $19.99 USD to $24.99 USD to reflect the improvements and additions we made to the game over the last year. This price will be the same across all storefronts, although it’s worth noting that there will be a substantial discount at launch.
And before you go, I just wanted to say, thank you so much Robert Taylor of Afterburner Studios for graciously allowing me to ask you all of these questions about your debut title. Is there anything else you would like to say?
Thank you! I will say: if you’re on the fence about Dreamscaper, do yourself a favour and pick it up. Trust me. What we have built transcends genres in many ways, and based on the feedback & reviews we’ve seen from players over the last year, you don’t need to be a fan of Roguelikes or Action RPGs to appreciate the experience that we’ve crafted for you.