Dreamside Maroon is a unique exploration game that follows Aster, a timid maroon on his journey to the moon. For travel, he enlists the aid of a hearty vine, which can grow indefinitely in all
directions–almost like flight. The landscape, dotted with floating islands, lanterns, hidden lights, and fireflies, is free to explore. The more of the world Aster investigates, the more experiences he will collect, told in a poetic, storybook manner. Similarly, the world will change as the player progresses: The music will shift, islands will move, swarms of fireflies will spawn. The sky is a canvas, and the player may paint it however they choose.
Initially, we drew inspiration from two sources: Le Petit Prince,
Harold and the Purple Crayon. We knew we wanted something dreamy; we
knew we wanted something dark. We wanted a world that each player
would interpret differently, with just enough poignancy to keep them
riveted. We wanted to go to the moon; we wanted to grow to get there.
Aster’s blue, vaguely humanoid shape was not a random decision: We
wanted to create a character that had a unique shape and flavor, but
whom anyone could identify with and see as an extension of themselves.
The emptiness of the world was intentional; we thought about adding
NPCs, but decided that the world would hold more mystery if it
followed in the vein of Ico or Shadow of the Colossus. Although the
vine mechanic was in place before we’d heard of Flower,
thatgamecompany’s latest title certainly had a degree of influence
over our final design.
In Dreamside Maroon there is no conflict, and there is no death. The
experience is dictated entirely by the player; the more they want to
get out of the world, they more they will get. Rather than a
pulse-pounding, stroke-inducing light show, Dreamside Maroon is a
charming, captivating experience that takes the player into a
different world–one that each will interpret differently–and shows
them a small slice of magic where, for a brief moment, nothing matters
but the subtle beauty of the twilight sky and the gentle creaking of
The design phase for Dreamside Maroon began in July, 2008, and the
production phase began in September 2008. Production was completed in
November, 2009–so, 16 months of designing, 14 months of programming.
Throughout development, we dealt with a vague design plan, had to work
around a full course load, debated over our conflicting visions, and
pushed ourselves through motivational issues. It’s hard to say which
of those was the biggest hurdle, though. Perhaps the hardest part to
cope with, of course, is the fact that ultimately we were unable to
put everything we wanted into the game.
Well, to the best of our knowledge, only a few players have ever
noticed that the music changes with each lantern that Aster
lights–sometimes a layer will fade in, sometimes a layer will fade
out, and other times a different track will replace an existing one.
Similarly, if the player listens closely, the sound of waves can be
heard as they near the beach-shaped island in the second area.
Finally, if the player reaches the moon by lighting two or fewer
lanterns, the game reprimands them.
Choosing the name of Dreamside Maroon was, perhaps not surprisingly,
one of the most difficult design choices we faced. We literally had no
idea what to call it; for a while, it was simply Project RS. Then, one
evening before class, we sat and brainstormed for nearly an hour. It
was ultimately Justin Whitney who conceived Dreamside Maroon, and it
was an instant hit. Dreamside is the place; the game transpires in a
world just as much fantasy as reality. Maroon serves the dual purpose
of describing Aster, who is lost and looking for home, as well as the
overall dark, evening aesthetic of the game.
I live in Redmond, Washington now. I moved from Kalamazoo, Michigan to attend DigiPen.
We’re currently seniors at DigiPen Institute of Technology. Well, not
Hamza, he just graduated in December.
My dad had some game system that just did Pong. My sister and I would
play that together. Birthday parties and sleepovers meant staying up
all night playing video games with friends. When I was a kid, that’s
all I wanted to do. Making games was an obvious choice. I got into the
level editor tools for Duke3D. My high school had a Visual Basic
programming class, I made a crummy, Wizardy-style rpg.
When college came around, I had a tough time deciding between
programming and art. I choose painting. After graduation, I changed my
mind and decided to go for it after all. I applied late, but managed
to get accepted at DigiPen. I started in the computer engineering
program, but really wanted to make games. Prodding from Prof. Erhardt
and Hamza pushed me over the edge, I switched majors to game
programming and didn’t look back.
Hamza and I rode the same bus to school during the first semester. Ian
and I were the same team freshman year, making a rhythm/horror text
based game. Ian and Justin were teammates sophomore year. They made a
shooter in the vein of Metal Slug called Founder’s Glory. Junior year
rolled around and Ian and Hamza formed Terraced. It took some
persuading to get Justin and I on board, but the team was too good to
pass up. Hamza and Ian convinced me over curry, then we set about
The motivation was probably different for each of us, for me it
started seeing Synaesthete rock IGF when we were freshman, but we all
wanted to make something awesome. Something that would get seen
outside the school walls. I think that’s what brought us together, and
kept us working hard.
Fat Princess, Gridrunner Revolution, Uncharted 2, and Demon’s Souls.
Equinox. Adding combat to Solstice was the worst idea ever.
Video games, recording music, collectible card games, and naps.