Sudden Inspiration

in Gamer Thoughts

It’s a little passed midnight here, and I’ve been struck with it. A sudden burst of inspiration to work with RPG Maker and make a game.

I’ll be honest. I love RPG Maker. I love what it means to the average joe who wants to make a game. But if you asked me the last time I had actually used it to make a game myself… I couldn’t answer you. It has been that long. It was before I started working for RPG Maker in an official capacity I know for sure. I just had gotten to where I wanted to talk ABOUT RPG Maker and see what other people were making with it more than wanting to make something with it myself.

But here I am. Wanting to make a game again. Now my last serious attempt was ended by a hard drive failure and a failure to backup (also known as the writer is a moron)…

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

… But I am willing to admit that one of the largest reasons I’ve only finished a single game is because of myself. I lose interest. I wander around and have great ideas and then just can’t get myself to commit enough to actually finish the game (A trait, I share with a large portion of the RM community, to be fair).

In spite of all that, here I am, about to embark on a fun journey once again in an attempt to make a game. And this post is a stream of conscious walkthrough of my decisions to make it and how I plan a game. Will it be useful to you? I hope, maybe. Its always interesting to see an inside look at how other people do what you want to do. Especially someone else who is also an amateur, which I most certainly am when it comes to making games.

The Game

The first thing to establish is what is the game about. Who are the characters, what are they doing, and what is their story.

And here is where I am a bit surprised at myself. This entire game idea is an homage to the first game I actually finished. A game I finished and showed to no one (and subsequently lost myself) and thought was terrible. The story was told badly, the mechanics were atrocious, and there was very little that was actually good about it. This game was made probably 16-17 years ago with RPG Maker 95.

A maker that is so out of date, I couldn't even find screenshots of it on the internet.

A maker that is so out of date, I couldn’t even find screenshots of it on the internet.

I’ve forgotten more about the game that I can remember, which is probably for the best, but at its core was a basic concept, and one that I will utilize in the game I’m making now.

This is a world that runs on six Elements. The classic four (Earth, Fire, Wind, Water) and an additional two (Light, Shadow). A infinitesimally small number of individuals in the world have an affinity for one of the Elements, and are hunted down by six existing schools of magic, one for each of the elements, and trained to become magic users.

The schools themselves belong to no nation, ruled by a ruling council of mages, one from each school. The mages themselves return to their homelands after being trained, becoming advisers, teachers, and protectors.

The sixth school, Shadow, has seen the rise to power of a mage who does not wish to advise the world, but control it. And that is where the story begins. With this powerful mage having executed a coup of the Shadow school, and in a series of surprise maneuvers, leaving the other five in shambles.

Within each school, only one mage survived. Each barely trained, and escaping the culling for various reasons. These are the player characters.

A bit cliche, I’ll admit, but the whole setup is something I want to use, and part of the reason for using it is the way I want to tell the story.

The Presentation

The game will be told in six parts.

First, there will be the prologue. The prologue will set up the background, and take place during the Shadow school’s culling of the others. Here, you will play as several members of the council, letting you learn a bit about the magic system I will put in place, and how the game will play. In the end, this is meant to introduce concepts of the world, how the culling happened, and how to play the game. In the end, none of the characters you play here will be alive, but it will set up some of the villainous characters as well.

The next four sections will star the survivor of the Fire, Earth, Water, and Air schools. They all chronologically in the game occur about at the same time. Things that happen in one section might affect things in another. For instance, in one section you might find yourself caught in the outskirts of a battle, while in another you learn how the battle happened and be fighting directly in it. Or a landslide caused by the Earth mage in his section might cause you to have to travel a different route in another.

Each of these four sections will star its own cast of playable characters, and will have a fairly self-contained story, though it will still end with the world in turmoil, and the Shadow school still in control.

The sixth section will be the main story. In it you will begin with the surviving student of the Light school, who will gather together the other four, who will return as playable characters. The rest of the playable cast from earlier chapters will remain as valuable NPC allies. In this section, players will confront the villainous leader of the Shadow school, and “save the world.”

The overall layout of the presentation I will use.

The overall layout of the presentation I will use. Also, yes I know, I misspelled Prologue. I am ashamed.

Each section will play almost as if it is its own game, and you can choose to play, or not play, any section. Of course if you choose to do the main story without first doing one of the previous chapters, you will get a “defaulted” hero from the previous chapter, and will lack some form of bonus you get from having played it.

Overall, I’m hoping this presentation will be interesting for several reasons.

  1. Its a presentation that I haven’t really seen used much, and I’m hoping that because of that it will appeal to players.
  2. Because each can be entirely self contained, it allows me to work on smaller chunks at once rather than attempting to make one long game and risk boredom before I’m finished with anything.
  3. I can release the prologue and get feedback earlier than if I was doing a full game, and I think the feedback can also really help in driving my desire to finish.

Next time, I’ll talk about the preparations I’m going to make to plan out the story, and how the story is going to present some gameplay challenges for me.

Interested in the game concept? Just interested in hearing how someone else walks through making a game? Or maybe you have some suggestions for me on what you think I’m doing wrong? Sound off in the comments section below.

12 comments… add one

  • Robert April 9, 2014, 5:20 pm

    Actually, I tried something like this before. I was basing it on Zelda: Ocarina of Time’s ocarina songs. Each song would be its own game. So, I really like this idea. I love stories that intersect with each other like you had explained. You’ve got a good concept so far and I’m interested in seeing more. ^_^

  • ZarroTsu April 9, 2014, 5:46 pm

    The part I’d be most interested in is starting in the antagonist’s point of view. It’s always within your best interest to establish the goal within the first 30 minutes of the game, and what better way to do so than start from the villain’s perspective?

    As for each of the four elements and their own heroes, how would it be done so that the ‘main story’ doesn’t overshadow any equipment they could be passed down with? It’s a novel idea for worldbuilding and establishing cultures for each school of magic (a la Avatar), but not so much for game design if it leads to an incline where everything merges together anyway.

    Aside from that, some small reminders:

    1) The Villain does not need to be an individual.
    I could say ‘shadow = villain = obnoxiously cliche’, but that’s your own idea for design, so it would be rude of me to complain it. But I will say that there’s no real reason a single person turning villainous should be the only final confrontation. Could there not be others who agree with him? Others that want to try to use him? Setting one dude up as the final boss from the get-go just raises the question of “Why isn’t anyone else doing anything about it?” — doubly so for multiple elemental counsels that presumably keep tabs on one another through diplomacy (and spies).

    2) Everything has its flaws.
    Another villain inclusive, but nobody is perfect. As a party of individuals, they should be there to cover one another’s weaknesses. It might even be a good idea to design character skills specifically to cover their ally’s flaws, both on the protagonist and antagonist fronts. It might help balance the schools of magic out as well.

    3) Organizations don’t have to be evil, but they will be corrupt.
    Even the most shining of civilizations will have its flaws that root back to its core. Any school or government has a leader, and that leader is human. Humans make mistakes, and through the school or government those mistakes avalanche into different disasters in different ways. Even one aspiring to be ‘Light’ will have its flaws. Order is not good, and Chaos is not evil.

    [Of course I typed this before double-checking to see that they’re all completely totaled. What does the villain gain by destroying something that could be used? Why wouldn’t they strive to master all the elements to aid in their ulterior motive? Is their flaw in their inability to plan long-term? It makes the villain seem like an idiot more than anything, really…]

    • Nick Palmer April 10, 2014, 1:56 pm

      One of the surviving “heroes” is actually someone who agreed to work for the Shadow for personal reasons, so there will be some focus on the other side in that section.

      And there is actually a reason for the total destruction of all the other schools, I might talk about it when I have it more fleshed out, but it has to do with the overall goal of what the person who took control of the Shadow school is trying to do.

      As for the way the story is organized, its based around one of my favorite games (Dragon Quest IV), with the way the chapter system works. Also the way the magic will work, skills scale with level, so learning new ones broadens what the character can do rather than being more powerful. There isn’t a Fire 1, Fire 2, Fire 3 type thing going on, and there will be specific spells that could only be learned during the individual stories. So even though you could technically just not play them, your party will be slightly weaker for it.

      • Nick Palmer April 10, 2014, 1:58 pm

        Also, the person who seized control of the Shadow school has more going on than just him. He may not even be the final boss by the time I get done, I have more ideas in that area.

        Also, yeah, parts of the story are cliche, I don’t really mind that. Some of it is even intentional.

  • Momochon April 10, 2014, 6:26 pm

    Question: what is that little gear thing with the japanese characters on
    that RPG maker 95 pic? You know, in the lower right-hand corner? I saw it on the opening of my games after the Enterbrain Logo. tell me plz. :S

    • Nick Palmer April 11, 2014, 8:15 am

      … You know, I’m honestly trying to figure that out now that you asked me, I never even thought about it before. I’ll get back to you as soon as I have an answer.

      • momochon May 5, 2014, 8:05 pm

        figured it out. it means “ASCII MAKER SERIES”.

  • Momochon April 12, 2014, 6:19 am

    NEW QUESTION:
    whenever I battle test, It says my attacks do no damage.
    How do i fix it?

    • Nick Palmer April 12, 2014, 7:39 am

      More than likely something wrong with your formulas or stats. Does it do the same thing if you battle on the map in game?

  • Momochon April 12, 2014, 12:57 pm

    But how do I fix it? i dont know how to do stats or formulas!

  • Zendar April 15, 2014, 12:03 pm

    This game sounds amazing! I have a set of “stories”, I am trying to turn them into games, that do something very similar. The set is called “The Four” and takes place in five parts, one for each group of characters and the collision where they all meet. I am very interested in how you make them feel like they fit together, because that is the one problem I’ve had with previous endeavors. After a while, it feels like there is just too much happening and becomes dragged out and desperate.

    • Nick Palmer April 15, 2014, 12:49 pm

      I really like multiperspective storytelling, especially if you get a Rashomon effect going.

      In general, the protagonists are going to be dealing with slightly different things in their own stories, but it all ties back to the big problem in the setting. I’ll be talking more about this in the next article.

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