Tyler Warren is back with another set of whimsical battlers. Inspired by classic games such as Dragon Quest, these battlers are a great addition to any fantasy game. This time, we’re battling dragons! And slimes! And other things that are as weak or as powerful as you can make them.
Magnificent Quest is a truly magnificent music pack. Inspired by classic anime and jrpgs, this pack is filled with themes for every area of your game. Composed by Joel Steudler, each theme is of the highest quality. This pack also includes 3 bonus music themes and a whopping 20 MEs.
The Emporium of Copper and Steel is a music pack inspired by the Steampunk era. Composed by Murray Atkinson, this incredible pack features themes for any Steampunk adventure, as well as a few hidden gems for the Wild West adventure. Pst! If you’re eagerly awaiting PVGames’ new Wild Steam pack, you will want to be owners of The Emporium of Copper and Steel – they’ll be a perfect fit!
At the time of writing this article, the 2014 Indie Game Maker contest is still underway. There is a $10K grand prize for the best game of any genre. Then prizes are broken down into 1st, 2nd and 3rd between two categories: RPG and Non-RPG. Before the contest I never thought of games broken down like that, but when you’re in a RPG Maker community most of the games you get are going to be RPGs. When I first started following RM that was all there was. But over the years, there’s been a rise in the amount of Non-RPG RPG Maker games coming out.
Horror, adventure, interactive fiction, even shooters! With the addition of the RGSS, almost any genre is possible. Amazingly enough, a lot of the top Non-RPG games were developed before the RM code was even editable! It really demonstrates the versatility of the engine. Many of these games are not very technically advanced. They utilize the map editor and some of the event functions but little else. What usually sets them apart is their excellent narrative and aesthetics. But still…
Why are these developers using RPG Maker?
This probably warrants a deeper analysis than I can give. But if I had to guess, it would be that RPG Maker is a very popular and accessible engine compared to say Unity or even Game Maker. It requires little to no programming experience and most games can be coded entirely through event functions without ever having to break up the script editor. This allows designers, artists, writers and musicians the chance to make a compelling game experience without a huge barrier of entry. The RGSS allows savvy programmers even more freedom to make the game they want.
It didn’t take long for developers to realize that RPG Maker could be used to make more than just RPGs. While the database is setup for RPG style gameplay, it is not necessary to create RM games. You can focus most of development in the map editor. Maps can be crafted using custom tilesets or even parallaxes and pictures created in image editing software like Photoshop or Gimp. Dialogue and cutscenes can be coded via events which give you most of the functionality you need to create a compelling narrative experience.
I’ll discuss why RPG Maker is such a great tool for crafting these types of games in a future post. For now, let’s move on to some actual examples of Non-RPG RPG Maker games!
HORROR RPG MAKER GAMES
Horror is the most popular Non-RPG RPG Maker genre. It’s also the most common search related to RPG Maker games. It might be surprising to an observer who hasn’t played these games. One would think it would difficult to create an effective horror game experience in a 2D game engine. But some of these titles illicit more horror than even their high-budget counterparts.
We start with…
Yume Nikki is a surreal psychological horror adventure game developed by Kikiyama in RM2K3. It was released in 2004 and is one of the most downloaded if not THE most downloaded RPG Maker game of all time.
Players explore the dreams of the character Madotsuki and encounter surreal and disturbing scenes. It’s a real weird and imaginative experience and one of the most influential in the community. It even has its own manga series!
Ib is a horror game created by Kouri with RM2K. This game follows the nine-year old Ib on a visit with her parents to a local art museum. Things soon takes a twisted turn as the lights go out and the pieces of art come to life. The game focuses on exploration and puzzle-solving and has multiple endings.
There is a massive fanbase around this game; especially revolving around one of the protagonists named Garry. Just google image search Ib and see for yourself!
A more recent horror game is Dreaming Mary. It was developed by accha in RPG Maker VX Ace Lite which has very limited features. The developer says the game was inspired by Ib and Yume Nikki but is not exactly a horror game. It also has multiple paths that the player can take and it’s possible to circumvent almost all of the horror elements. There is some unsettling subtext for those who are more sensitive.
Horror RM games are very popular not just within the community but on YouTube as well. Unlike their RPG counterparts, they’re shorter and more entertaining to watch. The entertainment value might have something to do though with the player often being a total wuss. Pewdiepie and Markiplier are two of the biggest YouTubers and much of their success is due to their very vocal reactions during horror playthroughs; including RM horror games. Last I checked, Pewds was playing Corpse Party which is a horror series originally created in RPG Maker.
WHAT MAKES AN EFFECTIVE RM HORROR GAME?
Most of the RM horror games I listed above are very subtle in their creep factor. They play up the dark atmosphere and ambience. Much of the horror comes from the unknown or the uncanny.
In some of these titles there is also a sense of hopelessness or inevitably. Once the mystery is known, the games tend to be less effective. But some titles are so surreal and abstract you are never quite sure of what you’re seeing. And that can be very unsettling.
I’d suggest playing the games listed above and making your own conclusions about why these horror games are so popular.
CRITIQUE OF HORROR RM GAMES
While I do love RM horror games, there are a few tropes that keep popping up in them that I wish developers would rely less upon.
Monster Chases are a popular mechanic in many of these titles. I used to make these back when I first started using RM2K. All the developer has to do is set an event on follow path and player touch, and then when the event touches the player, trigger a game over. Since these are very easy to design they tend to be overused and can be very frustrating. Ao Oni, The Crooked Man and even the commercial version of Corpse Party rely heavily upon these.
Hidden in the Shadows
Overuse of spotlight filters is another common problem. I do like these when used well like in SnowOwl’s Rust and Blood and It Moves. Lower visibility means you’re not seeing everything on-screen which taps into that primal fear of something dangerous lurking in the shadows. When used poorly though it becomes fatiguing to figure out where you are going.
Jump scares. Cheap but effective; at least when used in moderation. Typically how these work is the developer takes a disturbing image and then adds it as a picture to overlay the map. I have seen them used in clever ways like in It Moves with one disturbing image that continually gets less transparent and obscures your vision slightly. But really these should be used sparingly.
As I mentioned, there are A LOT of RM horror games out there. If you need more ideas for horror games you can check out the following video
In the next article I’ll cover more genres of Non-RPG RPG Maker games.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you guys. What do you think of horror RPG Maker games? What are some of your favorites? (If they’re not listed here make sure to leave a download link for other readers to check out!).
We are proud to present an amazing new resource pack that will completely blow you away. Pixel Myth: Germania was created by one of our very own forum moderators, Sharm, and it contains amazing new tiles and objects in a charming pixel style.
Just look at these tiles!:
If you’re using software other than RPG Maker, we’ve got some good news! You can pick up a copy of Pixel Myth: Germania for non-RM use, too.
What good are heroes if they don’t have their own amazing epic theme? Jonnie comes to the rescue with a brand new music pack that it a must-have and very affordable.
The adventure continues in Kairi Sawler’s 3rd installment: Adventurer’s journey 3. The variety of themes grows as the adventurer is exploring new areas – and maybe coming to terms with some feelings. Another must-have for all kinds of incredible projects.
Click here for samples and to download a few free tracks!
We’ve all seen it. Load up a game made by a friend, random stranger on the internet, company, whoever, and instead of starting to play, you are greated with this:
Castlevania: Symphony of the Night by Konami
The dreaded info dump. Now your eyes glaze over and you are force fed names and places and events that you will probably forget in about 5 minutes because they lack any context in the game world. You haven’t seen these place, these people, to understand any relationship with them.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of good games that start with an info dump scroll text: Xenogears, Final Fantasy VI, the above example of Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, and many more. But they sure weren’t made better by having this done.
But now that we’ve cut our info dump, how will we get all that information to the player? Organically through the game, and here are five ways you can do that:
If you were to ever wander around any part of the world, you’ll run across pieces of history. Castles in Europe, Cold War Era nuke shelters, the Sphinx! Need to talk about some important battle to make the current story make sense? Why not just have your party have to travel through the remnants of a town that was destroyed in the battle. This gives the characters plenty of time to talk about what had happened there in the past, without it just feeling like an info dump for info dumps sake.
Final Fantasy VII by Squaresoft
Take the Northern Crater in Final Fantasy VII. It is a physical part of the world that illustrates the landing of JENOVA on the planet. It is a place that exists in the world that has the history tied to it, allowing discussion of that history to come up much more organically, even when most of the discussion happened before you got there, it’s existence as a destination fueled that discussion.
Phantasy Star IV by Sega
Memorials share a lot in common with remnants, but instead of being left over from the past, people built them specifically to remember the past. A statue to a hero in a location they did something amazing, or where they were born, gives you plenty of opportunity to talk about them without breaking the flow of the game.
In Phantasy Star IV, for instance, you can find a statue of Alis Landsdale, the hero of Phantasy Star I. This gives the game an opportunity to tell you about past events naturally.
#3: Character Reactions
History, especially recent history, has impact on characters. If two countries have been at war off and on for the last 100 years, how do you think a character from one country would react to a character from another? Take Knights of the Old Republic 2 for example. Think about the very different reactions that Atton Rand and Bao Durr have to Jedi.
Knights of the Old Republic II by LucasArts
Both of their reactions inform the player about the events that took place during the player character’s exile. Bao Dur has respect for you because of his personal experience, while Atton is distrustful of Jedi because of what he ended up doing during the Jedi Civil War. Their reactions to things in the galaxy helped tell the story of the history that is effecting the current events.
You have to be a bit more careful with books. Books, just like opening scrolling text, ARE infodumps. But you can use them in a lot different way than opening scrolling text. For one, books can be scattered throughout the game, meaning it doesn’t happen all at once. Second, books are generally OPTIONAL encounters.
Because of that, books are best to deliver supplemental information to the player. Don’t use them to tell information necessary to understand the plot, use them instead to fill in details about the backstory of the world that help shape the world, but don’t have a direct impact on the story. Ever read all the books in the video game Fable? Some of them are just silly, other ones impart stories about various characters in the game, such as Twinblade or the main character’s mother. Tons of extra knowledge about how the world works is buried in there. Its a great place to put all that worldbuilding you did that isn’t part of the main story.
Infodumps are tempting. But nine times out of nine, there are way better ways to deliver the backstory of your game. Providing context around the backstory while including it organically in the game will not only be more natural, it will help the player remember it better.
Have any questions? Or maybe you have your own ideas on how to organically share information with the player! Join the conversation in the comments section below.
So, we wrapped up our RPG Maker Humble Bundle last week, and really, I know we’ve mentioned it before, but there is no way I can avoid mentioning it again. We are floored by the reception we’ve had. We’ve set the record for a Weekly humble bundle. Over 1.5 million dollars, and a good bit of that going to charity. We are grateful for not only the support, but the opportunity to help out these charities.
Did you miss out on our Humble Bundle? Have no fear! You can still get a great deal on RPG Maker VX Ace, XP, the Game Maker Hub, Several games, and 14 DLCs for only $24.99 through the Humble Bundle Store!
And with all those new toys you picked up in the bundle, don’t forget to check out our huge month long game making contest! There are still almost three weeks left in the competition, its not too late to join in. With a chance to win up to $10,000 dollars in cash, plus publicity, I wish I could participate! I suppose I’ll just have to deal with getting to judge all the great games you guys send in.
And now, we have a few prizes to give away! First the Always Sometimes Monsters Giveaway. Due to the low number of entries, rather than pick our favorite, I’ll just say: YOU ALL WIN! If you posted a story in our comments, go ahead PM our Facebook page, or if you don’t have a Facebook account, email us at email@example.com with the topic of “ASM Giveaway” and I’ll get you your prize.
We also had a Game Character Hub Make Yourself Challenge, which has three winners! Brett Hourston, Simon De La Cruz, and Daniel Strife, PM our Facebook page to collect your prize. And speaking of the Game Character Hub!
Have any questions about our contest? Want to talk about the awesome deal of our Humble Bundle? Join us in the comments section below.
If there is one thing that drives how much I will hype a game to my friends, its how much I’m thinking about it outside of playing it.
Nine times out of ten, when I’m around other people, I’m not at the same time playing games. So your game has to last in my head for longer than while I’m playing it. Sometimes when I hit that game that hits just the right spots in my brain, I get obsessed, and I will eat, sleep, and breathe that game for the next few months.
When you want word of mouth advertising. I’m the kind of mindset you want to target. So what kind of things trigger my obsessions? There are four things I can think of off my head, and I’ll provide an example game that does each.
Planning your Party
Look, in some games, planning your party takes about five minutes. There isn’t much to choose from, just which three characters out of seven do you want to take with you. Not a lot of thought there.
But then there are games on the other side. The epitome of this type of game is a series that everyone knows: Pokémon.
Pokemon gives you 100s of different “characters” to use in your party, and each one can have slightly different stats based on personality, how you train it, and just for being individual. And then you can teach them different moves… there is just so much going on in how you build a team in Pokemon.
When I’m playing a Pokemon game, I almost spend more time with online pokedexes than I do with the game. Planning out what I should catch, what types I should try to cover, what personalities I should have on each one. In all likelihood, the Pokemon team you field will be different from every other team that has been used before. It’s like shuffling a deck of cards, there are just so many different combinations.
A Deep Game World
In some games, the world is pretty much what you expect. Fantasy world, old wizards, pious clerics, savage orcs, and graceful elves.
Then there is the other type. The game where everything was made up for that world and you can’t even fit all the explanations into the game itself easily. Or there are tons of parts that you may not see, or tiny details that aren’t necessarily obvious until you think about it later.
Nier is one of those games.
Nier is a world created by an event that is talked about only so briefly in the end. Combined with some New Game+ dialogue and some loading screens you can piece together a lot of what happened, but there is just so much to tell, because the world itself has so much history outside of the game.
I can spend time looking up fan conversations about what really was happening, or find the translated Grimoire Nier Japanese only guide book that talks about the full history. There is an entire history to talk about, to dissect, to discuss with your friends.
Reflecting on Strategy
Sometimes in games, you lose. You can’t quite finish out the boss or you just can’t beat the climactic rush of enemies near the end of the game.
When that happens in this type of game, your brain immediately fires in trying to think of what you could have done differently. It wasn’t that your reflexes just weren’t good enough, it was that your strategy wasn’t that great, and you can improve it.
The game I always think of that has this aspect, is Persona 4.
Every time I lost, my brain would think “If I had just switched to this Persona at that point” or “If I had been a little more aggressive here” or ” Had I not taken this risk here”.
Even after I turned the game off, I would still be thinking about what I could have done better, what mistakes I had made. Some of those thoughts could have been wrong, and sometimes I come back and prove myself right, but the most important thing is that I’m constantly thinking about the game, which is what you want me to be doing.
Morally Ambiguous Characters
This one might be a bit more personal to me, though I’ve seen it a lot with others as well. It’s also a bit more specific. With the last one, I think about if I made the right choice strategically. With this one, I’m left to wonder if the characters made the right choice morally.
One of my favorite characters from any game embodies this question. Delita Heiral of Final Fantasy Tactics.
I’ve spent hours and hours on message boards discussing whether Delita was a selfish man, driven by revenge, or a righteous man who utilizes questionable means to achieve what he desires. He spends the majority of the game lying, manipulating, and killing, but the purpose of all of that is to create a better kingdom. Or so he says. Does he really mean it? Or is that just one more lie to get people to follow him in his crusade to destroy the system that killed his sister?
We may never know. I know what I think, but my opinion on it is no more valid than the next, though I’ll still defend it to the end.
You want your game in peoples heads. Even when they aren’t playing it. THAT is what forms word of mouth advertising. And there are tricks to keeping things in peoples heads. The above work for me, do they work for you? What in a game makes it stick in your head long after you put down the controller? Join the conversation in the comments section below!
Always Sometimes Monsters is a game about being at the bottom, and what you would do to pick yourself back up. What decisions would you make? Are there lines you wouldn’t cross? And right now even if it’s hard to pick yourself back up, you can easily pick Always Sometimes Monsters up for 10% off, with an extra 10% off if you own RPG Maker VX Ace through Steam!
Want a chance to win a free copy? Have a tumblr or blog? Write a story about when you went a bit too far to get something you wanted or needed, and link it in the comments section below. End your story with a link back to this post and the sentence “We are Always Sometimes Monsters.” Remember to keep it PG, and don’t admit to any crimes!
Our favorite three stories will receive a Steam key! Good luck and make sure to check out Always Sometimes Monsters on Steam!
When RPG Maker heroes aren’t battling evil, they enjoy setting their eyes on new horizons. Journeying across space and time, they can take a brief moment to relax and enjoy new experiences.
As summer approaches, many of us are finding ourselves planning for a summer vacation or a holiday away from our responsibilities. Maybe you’re also thinking about taking a break from the astonishing game you’ve been working hard on. Or maybe you would rather shut out the world, pushing through that last stretch of work that will make your demo ready to release to the world!
We want to encourage that adventurous spirit, so we’ve planned a lot of fun for the coming week!
Next, we have what was revealed through our puzzles on Facebook: a fantastic new sale! Each day, we will be exploring a different location or theme, and all the while give you major discounts on our products. Whether you’re just looking to complete your collection of resources or you want to get the best deal possible, this sale is not to be missed.
Also, as an added bonus, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter for RPG Lightning Trivia, with a chance to win even more prizes! At random times throughout the week, we will post trivia questions related to RPGs, and the first person who answers correctly will be entered into our end of sale prize drawing!
Recently, we had the chance to get to know Justin Amirkhani and Jake Reardon of Vagabond Dog, the minds behind the upcoming game Always Sometimes Monsters. We were also pleasantly surprised when we learned that Always Sometimes Monsters was made with our software! Fast forward a bit and I got to ask them a bit about what makes them tick, the game, and even RPG Maker in general. Let’s see what they had to say!
What was it that led you to want to make games?
Jake: I’ve been enamored with games since I was a wee lad. Ever since first beating Donkey Kong and Cosmic Avenger on my Colecovision, games have been my main source of entertainment. Over the years I’ve tinkered with many experiments and half games that I never finished. The creation of a game is something so rewarding that I think everyone should try it. It’s incredibly satisfying to see people playing something you made and enjoying a world you created.
Justin: I grew up with games like pretty much everyone else in the industry, but professionally I first got into the industry as a journalist. I spent years writing reviews and interviews, but never actually making anything myself.
Eventually I grew restless with that path and decided to try something different. I began a project that let me backpack across America visiting game developers and that experience inspired me to start working on Always Sometimes Monsters when I returned home.
What kind of games do you generally like? Which ones do you think influenced this game in particular?
Justin: My tastes are pretty widely ranged and I find myself frequently playing a little bit of everything. Funny enough, I tend towards action games more frequently than narrative ones these days, but if a game is good or doing something interesting it’ll end up on my radar regardless of genre.
It’s hard to say if there are any specific games that Always Sometimes Monsters is directly influenced by, but there are several scenes from a variety of games that inspired content in our game. One weird one I like to mention is the warehouse scene in Mafia II as it helped create the box moving segment we showed off at PAX East. For some reason the monotony of that sequence stuck with me and it was something I wanted to play with design wise, so it was a pretty big contributor.
Jake: I don’t have a specific type of game I play. I pretty much play them all. I do enjoy games that allow you to be wrapped up in their world and lose yourself for a few hours. One of my favorite games is Beyond Good and Evil. Everything in that game just seems like it belongs and is part of the world. From the characters, to the enemies, and locations, that world sucks you in. I’ve enjoyed games like Resident Evil 4, and spent countless hours playing more mindless games like Borderlands 2. As far as influences for Always Sometimes Monsters, there are probably too many to count. A few of the first items we created in the game were a bank card and a little white dog (Earthbound anyone?). I think the original Legend of Zelda is one of the most perfect games ever created. Stick me in a world with an old man and a sword and tell me to go find adventure.
And on the subject of your Always Sometimes Monsters, why this game?
Justin: It’s funny you ask that because I’m still not 100% sure. Unlike most developers I didn’t want to make games, and then decide to make this one. This game (or at least similar versions of it) have been in my head since I was a kid and I think it’s because I’ve always wanted to play something like it.
Knowing that nobody else would make it was a big part of the reason for making it. I’d waited for a long time to see a game reflect the world and reality the way I saw it, but it never came. Eventually after the influence of my experience on the road, I decided it was time to quit waiting and just make it myself. I suppose the answer as to why we made this game is simply because nobody else did.
Jake: For me, I think it was really Justin’s passion about the concept of what the game could be that sold me on it. It sounded like a cool story that could offer people a wide range of experiences. It hearkens back to building a world and systems for people to be let loose in and explore. There is also an opportunity for the game to be a very personal story for every person who plays it. Some friends I’ve watched play craft an entire back story while my wife just wants to make as much money as she can and feed the dog liver treats.
What would you say your game is about? Not just he plot, but what themes will a player get to enjoy with it?
Justin: There’s a lot in there, and it’s a pretty wide range too. It’s fundamentally a story about life and figuring out how you define life for yourself. There’s the basics of course – love, friendship, betrayal, hardship – but then there’s this subtle, almost metaphysical layer as well.
When writing the content I spend a lot of time thinking about choices, both as a game mechanic and as a fundamental principle of the universe. In ways the game asks you to decide for yourself if choice is even real – whether we get the opportunity of choice in life or if circumstance and the momentum of consequence have more control over things than we think.
Jake: Its about life, love, and the lows and highs of the human experience. That probably sounds pretentious, but its not meant to be. It’s about the common human experience we all share. At the end of the day, everyone can identify or has experienced a lot of what we deal with in the game.
What part of making the game did you enjoy the most? Do you have any funny stories to tell about making the game?
Justin: Jake’s probably going to disagree with me here, but there was a period when making the game where I’d spend night after night in my local Tim Hortons making the weirdest stuff during our concept phase. For me there was nothing more fun than watching all the freaks and weirdos of the 24-hour coffee joint while having total freedom to create and experiment with whatever I could think to add into the game world.
Of course that meant every morning Jake’d wake up to the frustration of finding my half-baked code that would completely fall apart under certain conditions and on top of trying to figure out the method behind my madness, he’d have to repair it. I honestly believe this process led us to having great faith in each other’s disciplines.
Jake: I think for me, I enjoy crafting the world and creating the dynamic systems for players to discover. We have something really stupid in the game where you can invest in Sandwich stocks. You could theoretically put all of your money on the Sandwich market, and then monitor the prices daily to maximize profit. We also have a sort of day/night system, where certain events happen on certain days. You actually can’t experience all the game has to offer in one play through, because part of making choices is about deciding what or who is most important to you.
What is it like to try and sell a game in the current indie market? Any advice for other indie hopefuls?
Jake: I can’t really say yet what it’s like, but having the tools and the ability to bring a game like this to millions of potential gamers is something that maybe didn’t exist 5 years ago. It also helps that all of the other developers I’ve had the pleasure of meeting at events like PAX have been incredibly supportive. We all want each other to do well and share our creative visions with as many people as possible. As for advice, all I can say is that if you want to make a game, go make one! It’s as easy as that.
Justin: Today’s gaming market is all about freedom and independence for developers. We live in an age where digital distribution has made games of all sizes viable products. The tools to make games are more affordable than they have ever been in history. Right now you can start making your dream game with no formal training or experience and actually see it to release thanks to all the free information and tutorials available online.
The only advice I’ve got for indie hopefuls is to never forget what a glorious age we live in. The only barrier between you and your dreams is your personal will to succeed. If you want it, it’s there for the taking – all you have to do is work hard and believe in what you’re doing.
What was it like pitching your game to Devolver Digital? What is the relationship like there?
Justin: When I was travelling around America, I had an opportunity to meet with Nigel from Devolver in a seedy little bar in Austin, Texas. There we talked about games and I gave him the basic idea for the game that would become Always Sometimes Monsters would become.
Later that next year, Devolver was seeing games at GDC and so Jake and I flew out for the opportunity to show them. We couldn’t afford to actually get into the show, so we met outside the convention and sat on the floor with our prototype. To our surprise, within a few months we had paperwork and a deal to get the game rolling.
Jake: It was actually pretty nerve racking. When Justin mentioned he had met a few publishers during his travels and suggested pitching our game to them, I really didn’t know what to think. We took a two month prototype out to GDC in San Francisco, and met with Devolver in the hallway outside the show floor. We pretty much spent the entire night before tweaking and perfecting our demo. Our meeting lasted about half an hour but they really only saw about 5 minutes of the demo. It was the only meeting we had and a month later, we ended up signing a deal to work together. I think the best part about Devolver is that they are all good human beings trying to do cool things and aren’t afraid to take a chance on a couple of Canadian yahoos who’ve never made a game before. Their faith in us has helped propel us to the product we have today.
So you made your game with RPG Maker, what is your history with the series?
Jake: Building the prototype for Always Sometimes Monsters was actually my first real experience using RPG Maker. I had build a prototype in XNA and was going back and forth showing Justin and our artist at the time a guy walking around an empty world. It was really slow to create anything of substance. On a whim, I figured I would give RPG Maker a try. We were able to get a few scenes up and running in a much shorter time period, and it’s a great tool for experimentation. Once we started crafting the world we didn’t look back. Of course, every week we would learn something new, or find a new technique so things evolved fairly quickly. One thing I love about RPG Maker is its a great tool for highly technical people like myself to tinker with and get under the hood, but it’s also simple enough for anyone to start prototyping ideas or experimenting with gameplay. What I am finding more and more as I go along that it’s not about the tool you use to create your game, but about the game you create.
Justin: In its various forms, RPG Maker has been part of my life since elementary school. I was 7 or 8 years old when RPG Maker ’95 came out. Between it and RPG Maker 2000 spent a decent amount of my childhood mucking about in the engine, learning the basics. By the time I hit high school, I’d sort of given up on making games and didn’t really touch anything else for years to come.
Now it seems life has come full circle. The tool I trained with as a kid grew up with me and happened to be a fantastic environment for Always Sometimes Monsters. We dove into VX Ace to build a prototype and I was honestly shocked how much of the tool set I remembered. If you’ll pardon the cliche, for me working in RM was like riding a bike – I never really forgot how.
Thanks so much Jake and Justin for taking the time to talk to me, and good luck with your upcoming release!
A train pulls into the station, and our hero flips from on top of it, after defeating two guards, we discover he is a former member of a group known as SOLDIER and now a mercenary working for a group planning to take down the evil corporation Shinra for the damage it is doing to the planet.
So why am I telling you the opening to Final Fantasy VII? Have I just gone so mad that I’ll resort to nearly anything to have something to put up on the blog? Will you tune in next time to see a 300 page synopsis of Persona 3, or do I actually have a point coming?
What this is, is a hook, and every game needs one.
What is a Hook?
The hook is the part of the opening of your story that gets the players interested. Bored players don’t keep playing.
And I know what you are thinking: “Give it some time, it gets better!” And hey, that very well may be true. You might have the greatest story ever penned, but each and ever one of us has a million different options for entertainment in front of us. If your game doesn’t interest me in the first 20 minutes or so, I doubt I will play it much longer.
Its not a lack of patience, its a lack of time. I have a job, and a family, and if statistics hanging around the internet are correct, I’m not alone. Why would I spend more than 20 minutes playing something I don’t find interesting when I only have about an hour or two of spare time a day, and about 30 games I bought on Steam Sale that I haven’t even touched yet?
Now, hopefully, I don’t get any of the “but if people just had patience” lines, so let’s look at some ways to craft hooks.
Go Easy on the Exposition
Look. I know that you have spent the last decade of your life carefully crafting the world I am exploring, so how about you have some respect for your world and try not to explain the whole thing with ten minutes of word vomit at the beginning.
Also known as Naruto Fightscene Syndrome
Only give the player the information he needs to do what he is doing at the moment in the world. You will have PLENTY of time throughout the game to flesh things out through the natural interactions of the characters.
Please, PLEASE, just don’t start your game with a ton of scrolling text. A few lines is OK, but I don’t actually need to know every nuance of the ongoing war to get started.
In Medias Res
In medias res, latin for “in the midst of things”, is a writing term that means just that: starting in the middle of things.
Try starting your story in the middle of the first big dungeon. You have plenty of time to scoot back and tell more about what happened before, starting with a bang means people jump into the excitement as soon as possible.
Get People Asking Questions
Another thing you want to do to create a good hook is get people asking questions. This one really goes back to the first point. Give just enough information for the player to be curious. Why does this character hate that character? Why is this group trying to do this? Where did he learn to do that?
“Who was that masked man?”
Make sure to lead your players into asking questions. You can even have a character start to explain something but be interrupted, or just trail off. Mystery makes people come back for more.
Give us a character we can empathize with in a bad situation
The thing about a hook is that we have to make the character CARE. And what better to make a person care than a person, albeit a fictional one. Put a likeable character in a bad situation that the player has to fix, and watch the player jump like a marionette.
A small child with a disease, and only you can travel to get the herbs to save him. A friend of the main character is in trouble with the law and you have to find out what really happened.
There are a million other ways to hook in a player. But what you really need to be asking yourself is one thing: Why should the player care? It can be a character, a mystery, because the game started with a blast of awesome, but it has to be something. And it has to be given to the player right at the beginning.
What do you do in the beginning of your game to make your players care? Join us in the comments section below.