How to Get the Most for the Least

in Advice

by Lunarea

So, you’ve found yourself facing the exciting world of game development. You’ve done your research, crunched the figures and now you’re ready to jump into those little visual and auditory details that will really make your game stand out. In other words, you’re ready for art. But where to start?

Most developers will start with what’s easily available: the RTP.

Example of an RTP-only map.

Example of an RTP-only map.

The RTP has a lot going for it. It’s essentially free with the purchase of RPG Maker, it’s done in a single and cohesive style, and it’s got a huge variety of edits from many community members. If you’re creating a classic medieval-style game, it’s got most everything you’ll need. As a style, it’s bright, cheerful and reminiscent of adventure.

However, RTP also has some downsides. It’s very commonly used – which can make it difficult to establish a unique identity for your game. Though it fits a general medieval fantasy game, it offers very little in terms of other settings. It’s more challenging to create more tense atmospheres – such as horror or darkness.

At this point, a lot of developers turn to hiring artists to create custom and unique pieces.

An example of a map with a variety of custom content (find the mushrooms here).

An example of a map with a variety of custom content (find the mushrooms here).

Custom content has the advantage of being unique to your game, as well as being tailor-fit to the story and setting you’re working with. On the other hand, custom art can quickly get very expensive – not to mention very time-consuming. Custom art and music of the same size as the RTP could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and take a year or longer to complete.

There may also be a shortage of high-quality artists – especially those who are not currently undertaking another project or commission. All together, this makes the alternative to go completely custom in graphical resources something to be wary of.

So, what’s a developer to do?

Well, the first step is to take a long and close look at the RTP as well as the very affordable add-on content you can find in our official store. Together, they can create a strong base for your game without breaking the bank. Look at everything you can use, and be creative in how you use it. Take time to learn how to make good maps. Push yourself to take the resources at your disposal and use them to their full potential.

Step 2 is to start editing and rearranging the RTP. You may not be an artist, but you can still layer together different tile pieces or experiment with changing colors. Putting some books on top of a bookshelf adds a personal touch of detail to your tileset and these little details are the beginning of what can set your game apart. Look at recoloring and rearranging tutorials, as well as various screenshots other developers are posting. This clumping tutorial by Indrah is a great example of how to get started in tile editing.

Lastly, invest in buying custom pieces for the most iconic or easily-recognized pieces:

  • For characters, invest in custom sprites of your party – as well as their facesets and/or portraits.
  • For tiles, invest in custom pieces that are repeated throughout various maps – trees, windows, flowers/plants, rocks, basic furniture such as beds, and small objects that can accent different areas.
  • For music, invest in an introduction theme, main character theme, game over theme and battle theme. These are the themes the player will be hearing most often, so you really want to make them memorable and unique to your game.
  • For scripts, consider hiring a scripter who could create and/or integrate a series of script systems that are unique to your game. Have a detailed list of features you want to implement and look for things that can be accomplished via eventing alone.
  • Finally, invest in custom title, game over and large cover art (ex. 2000×2000 pixels) images. Cover art in particular is important because it gives you a base you can use for any art assets distribution platforms might use. For example, Valve’s Steam expects you to have banners and images in a specific size. Having cover art that can be quickly resized to fit is a huge time-saver.

Do you have any advice for developers starting out in the commercial world? Sound off below!

2 comments… add one

  • Irili April 8, 2014, 1:36 pm

    Quality over quantity folks. I’m more likely to drop $5-$10 on a short but polished game that is memorable and unique than I am to pay $15-$20 for a 40 hour epic that doesn’t define itself in any particular way (or worse yet, is poorly made).

    On polishing games: Polish that baby till you go blind from the shiny. Word travels fast on the internet. This works for you (if you have a quality product) or against you (if you spat out your ideas, slapped them together with a bit of super glue, and called it a day).

  • Traveling Bard December 10, 2014, 5:29 pm

    Thanks for the article! It was quite informative :)

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