ADVICE FOR BEGINNERS IN RPG MAKER
Many indie game developers decide to craft their first games using RPG Maker. It is a simple tool, but sufficient enough to help them catch a glimpse of what’s working in a game industry about. The tool offers us a plethora of premade game assets, sprites and plugins that we can incorporate into our game without the need of searching for them throughout the Internet.
Without a guidance, however, we may be quickly lost in a variety of options. Despite the simplicity of the tool, some people seem to encounter a number of problems that may discourage them from continuing their work. In this article we will tackle some of the most common mistakes people make when using RPG Maker.
DON’T BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW
One of the first things we tell students in our online video game development course, is that they need to remember when starting an RPG Maker project is that they should not bite off more than they can chew. In other words, don’t let your dreams of making another Final Fantasy swallow you up because let’s face it, the chances you will create another ground-breaking game of this scope are not really huge.
At this point, you probably don’t know the tool very well. It will take you some time to get acquainted with all its possibilities and assets. Start off with what you got and don’t experiment with too many plugins at the beginning, because you will only get lost in a whole plethora of possibilities and that’s an easy way to get discouraged. Also, there is a risk that certain assets won’t be compatible with your project and that may lead you to even bigger frustration. Only after you have learnt all the features of the standard version of the tool try to expand your knowledge by downloading custom assets.
When launching your project, you will face plenty of possibilities that may lead you straight into a pitfall if you won’t know your priorities. Start small and aim small, but dream big, and expect to fail. A lot. Only by knowing your place you will be able to improve. Try to make a small project but also the one that you will be proud of. It can be a 20 or 30 minute long game. It doesn’t need to have music or advanced mechanics, but if you finish it and if a glimmer of satisfaction appears on your face, then you know the whole endeavour was totally worth it.
People tend to focus too much on too many things at once when making their first game in RPG Maker. The moment you will lay down your first game assets will surely create a huge avalanche of ideas in your mind and that may lead to a complete hotchpotch. This is why it is safer to stick to one idea rather than combine assets belonging to multiple universes, hoping that somehow it will all work well together.
The vision of bringing a game that draws upon many genres and universes may be a risky idea, so don’t try to make another Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts, but instead focus on one universe or a genre, whether it is a fantasy, sci-fi or steampunk. In indie games, people value minimalism and coherence above a mixture of different genres, so unless you are 100% sure that your idea of making a crossover game will succeed, rely on a single, but clear theme of your game.
Back in the days, people had to rely on custom assets derived from other sources, but today, the newest versions of RPG Maker provide you with a whole variety of assets that belong to a given theme. Before laying down the very foundations of your project, think about what do you want to achieve with your game and what kind of emotions you want it to evoke in the players, and then choose an appropriate pattern of colours, shapes and themes that will become a backbone of your game. If you can’t find the exact game assets you want inside the game engine, take a look in our RPG Maker game asset store.
STORY BALANCE IS KEY
Once you have chosen a theme for your game and you have a plan for its development, a next big aspect that may cause you some trouble is story balance. We’re not talking here about the mechanics, but more about the division of the story. What kind of information will be provided to a player and when it will be provided. Casual game makers may not be quite aware of dangers that come out from revealing too much or too little of information to the player.
Some game makers make mistakes when it comes to the pacing of their stories. They either try to fill up the player with all the information from the very beginning, even the one that is not relevant, or give them too little to grab their attention.
Whereas providing your players with a well-crafted lore is important to make them understand your world, you don’t want to swarm them with a whole bunch of unnecessary information that will cause an instant turn-off. Think about what do you want to achieve with your story and how much of information you really want to provide your players with, not to bore them but to hook them.
A golden mean here may be an introduction of books, scraps of texts or simply rely on storytelling through landscapes. If you want to make your players learn about the lore you have created, you may simply want to introduce readable books that will fill them up with the side information, not really relevant to the main story but the one that makes it somehow complete.
Another idea by providing your players with side information is by telling the tale through locations, landscapes and structures they may find on their way. For example, if a player discovers an empty ruin, he or she may begin to wonder what happened in this place and what caused it to turn into a ruin. After looting the location, they may eventually stumble upon an ancient writing that can fill them up with some side information that will widen their knowledge of the game.
On the other hand, if you give your players too little of the relevant information, there is a risk that they may be equally bored because the game did not manage to hook them in any manner and the story you provide them with will be bland and unattractive in the process. Think about the key thresholds during your story at which you want to reveal an information to the players.
When sharing an information about your world or the plot, you also want to remember of doing so with regards to what a player and an in-game character knows about a particular aspect of it. In other words, if a character was born in the world you created, he or she will probably know much more about the world than the player does. Equally, the same rule of the world awareness should apply to other NPCs. An old scholar will probably have much more to tell than a youngster who spent his entire life in a village.
DON’T RELY TOO MUCH ON RNG
When it comes to the in-game mechanics you will most likely have to deal with a system of RNG, also known as “Random Number Generator”. It originated from the old pen & paper games in which scoring a critical hit, defeating your opponent or successfully sneaking behind his back was up to the result on your dice. If you decide to employ RNG system to your game, keep in mind that it can be an asset, but it can also break the balance of your game if done wrong.
When introducing RNG system to your game, remember about balancing the chance for the actions to happen, unless you want particular situations appear more often than other. For instance, if you’re designing a rogue character which specialises in dealing critical hits, you may want to bestow him or her with a higher chance of dealing higher damage than other classes do, but it has to be done with reason. You want to avoid a situation in which one of the characters becomes overpowered to the level that it can’t be beaten by the player’s character(s).
RNG can be a highly rewarding system because it introduces a certain unpredictability of the game, but it is also a tricky one. To find a happy medium, you will have to spend a lot of time testing and balancing the chances for actions to appear. But don’t get discouraged if you fail to do so, because even the professional game developers struggle with that feature.
START WITH MVP
Speaking about testing your game, if you want to be sure about its functionality and that it is free of glitches and bugs, you will have to prepare yourself for a lot of patience. A good way to test if everything goes according to your plan is starting with making a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), in other words, a minimal framework allowing you to play and go through the game.
Creating a prototype of your game, or its alpha version if you will, allows you to supervise your progress and test different concepts without the need of putting too much of energy and effort into an unfinished product. In such a way, you will keep track of what your game lacks, what needs to be improved, added or removed.
Before you will put an effort (and perhaps money too) into your game, you want to test if it looks the way you wanted it to look, but also if the locations are playable, characters are diversified enough and whether the story will hook your players. It doesn’t hurt to make the maps smaller, less detailed and based only on the core elements. Once you will realise that this is the concept you want to stick with and want to improve, you will have a green light to start investing into your game.
DON’T GIVE UP ON DREAMS BUT ALWAYS BE READY TO LEARN
If you’re just beginning your adventure with indie game making, whether it is RPG Maker or other engine for beginners, you have to keep in mind that you’re not an exception to the rule. Get ready for sweat, blood and plenty of sleepless nights (and perhaps several packs of energy drinks as well!) Don’t begin your journey with a belief that you’re another Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of Final Fantasy series) and that you will make a change for certain, because you may be quickly brought down to earth.
There is a clear difference between believing that you CAN make a difference and that you WILL make a difference. Don’t give up on your dreams, but be humble and always be willing to learn to expand your knowledge, and in the process get closer to your goal. After all, Rome wasn’t built in a day. If you will show some patience and dedication to your game, then who knows, maybe the success will find you sooner than you expect it?
If you’re interested in learning how to make games consider enrolling in our online video game making course.