For the first time, RPG Maker 2003 has been given an official English translation and release! The classic, acclaimed engine that gave many community members their first taste of game-making has been updated and improved for its commercial debut in the Western world. Although the engine has taken over a decade to be released here officially, it was no secret that it made its way through the internet to users who otherwise would never have gotten a chance to check it out.
Many years and several engines later, many of those fans still hold it close to their hearts. Those “oldbies” will be delighted by this newest version of 2k3, an extensive project overseen by RM veterans Archeia Nessiah and Cherry. This 2k3 will work without incident on the newest versions of Windows and has dozens and dozens of new additions and fixes that aim to bring out its full potential.
We asked the members of rpgmaker.net (RMN), a community where RM2k3 is still held in very high esteem, to articulate why the engine continues to be so appealing. Here are some of their comments.
“It was an era of exploration and innovation. A time when people pushed past the boundaries of what they thought could be done and experimented, sharing their knowledge with their fellow creators. A time of expression and thought, when mapping wasn’t all that a game should aspire for, when graphical consistency didn’t matter so much, when you made custom menus just to prove you could. It was a time of discoveries; an era of moving ever-forward with design and forging rules and ideals that we now take for granted.” – Liberty
“Rm2k3 is just so comfortable, nostalgic, and – if you’re good enough and patient enough at it – can make so much more than just your plain’ ol’, typical RPG Maker games, like puzzle games and overhead action games.” – Addit
“I like the side-view, ATB-based battle system reminiscent of Final Fantasy VI.” – AubreyTheBard
“I love the graphics. I like the rough, unpolished, Super Nintendo look they have. It looks like it could have been on the SNES console.” – pianotm
“2K/3 just feels a bit more retro, for the retro lover in me, plus a person can learn a lot just from the events without having to resort to scripts. What y ou can learn to do yourself through events can easily be carried over from one maker to the next.” – amerk
“I think if you’re fully aware of the engine and how much time it actually takes to develop a project, you can more fully appreciate a developer’s creativity within the limitations.” – Blindmind
“If you can, I recommend hooking up a PC to an old CRT television, finding a gamepad, and playing an RM2k3 game. IT’S LIKE TRAVELING BACK IN TIME.” – kentona
You heard the man! Travel back in time and check out the new and improved RPG Maker 2003!
So its 4:33 AM on a Saturday morning while I’m writing this, and by the time it goes up, I’ll be on vacation. Not like actual vacation. I’ll probably just sit at home in my pajamas (like I don’t wear pajamas every day anyway) watching Daredevil on Netflix again, eating leftover pizza and playing board games.
Now, I love my job. Its amazing. I get to talk about video game design and just in general a program I like. For a living. Also, I get to try to hype up one of the cutest games ever when I’m taking a break from the RPG Maker stuff.
And when you gaze long into the cute the cute also gazes into you.
But no matter how much I love something, like say, you love working on your game, if I do it enough and do it hard enough, then I started burning out. It messes with my head. My quality drops. The same amount of time starts producing less work. There are even times that the burnout started affecting me even when I wasn’t working. I would be a hollow husk reloading the same 3 websites over and over because I literally could not enjoy anything knowing what I had left to do around the corner.
And for someone with a creative mind (which I like to think I am), there is nothing worse than feeling like you are doing nothing productive in your spare time. Not even getting to the next level in a game. At least that is getting somewhere in something. Just the occasional laughter from some screen on imgur to keep me warm.
But how do we avoid this? How do we balance things so that we can get everything done we want to get done, but we don’t turn into hollow husks that don’t even enjoy life, just push through day to day. I’ve come up with a few methods, and hopefully, they will help you out, too.
Avoid Procrastination Loops
The biggest problem with burnout is that loop of procrastination where I am avoiding work, but I lie to myself and say that I’m only taking a ten minute break, so I don’t want to do anything long, so instead I go on imgur and then spend an hour on there then loop back around and loop to every site and then nothing. Nothing accomplished.
This is the site that doesn’t end, it goes on and on my friend. Some people, starting surfing it without knowing it what it was, and they’ll continue surfing it forever just because this is the site that doesn’t end…
And I feel no better. I would have been better either COMPLETELY putting my work aside for a moment to truly recharge, or actually just doing the work. I’m not saying never go on imgur, I love looking at cute cats as much as the next guy, but keep it to when you really aren’t doing anything. Using it to avoid work just makes you feel worse.
Plan Your Time
Find a part of your schedule, and set it aside to do no work on anything. 2 hours a day. You don’t work on work work. You don’t work on your game. You just do something for fun that ISN’T creating something. Read a book. Read a comic. Turn on Netflix. Play a video game. Play a board game. Do something that RECHARGES your creative energies, not something that drains it.
We love game making, but it can be a strain on your brain as much as going to a job. Sometimes even more. No one has ever strained their brain stocking Cheerios (strained their back, maybe, not their brain). Give your brain some time to recover every day. Depending on your circumstances. 1-2 hours may seem small, or it may seem impossible, but you will be amazed at how much it helps.
Make Small Goals
Sometimes, burnout just comes because it never feels like you are getting anywhere. Don’t make your goals too big. Make them bite sized. Its like leveling in a game. If the levels are too far apart, the player starts to feel like it drags. Put your goals close together and you feel like you are making it somewhere.
Sometimes, when I’m going for a jog, Making it to the end of the block seems impossible (Guys, I’m terribly out of shape, working from home is destroying me). So I pick a spot as far as I can see. And that is my end goal.
That furthest tree in the distance. Ok I know that isn’t that far, I’m REALLY out of shape here.
But I don’t think of that as the goal. I look halfway between where I am, and where I am going, and that is my new goal. And when I get there, I pick a new spot, halfway between where I am, and that end goal I saw before. And again. And again. And finally, my goals get only a few steps apart, and I break through, and I’m there. And I need a shower badly and a giant glass of ice water.
But I’ve done it. And pacing my goals where the more tired I got, the closer they were to each other helped me push myself further.
Just Take Some Time Off
Sometimes though, no matter what you do with all the rest, it just all adds up. You’ve hit the end of your rope, and there is only one thing left to do. Take a week, and don’t touch what is burning you out at all. Don’t think about it. Don’t look at it.
Do like I’m doing right now and sleep in and watch movies and don’t give a single crap about any of the things that have piled up. Plan out something to do instead. I’m going to build a table. Or try to build a table. I haven’t done woodworking in so long, this might turn out terribly.
So I worked super hard to get enough articles done to take the week off. Found people to handle the social media for me, and told my boss I needed the week to recharge. And here I am. Well, not really. I’m not here at all. I’m at home sleeping maybe.
With my stuffed Grunty. He is name Mr. Wumples and he is wonderful.
Be nice to Rob while he takes care of the Facebook and Twitter. He needs the break too I’m sure. And hopefully a couple of our other team members get their breaks as well, like our Resource Manager, who I know is neck deep in work all the time getting packs out for you guys, and one of our other team members who is working on a TOP SECRET PROJECT I know you guys are going to be interested in that has been giving her the worst migraines, but hopefully its almost finished (you may actually be hearing about this one before I even get back!) and she can take a break, too.
So, I’ll see you all next Sunday, refreshed and ready to tackle the world of RPG Maker. Be sure to join Rob in the comments below discussing, well whatever. Burnout or something I guess. Not my business this time, I’m out of here.
So a little over a month ago, I wrote a pretty excellent piece on taking criticism. But what if you are on the other side? You’ve just played an RPG Maker game someone posted on our forums, another fansite, or maybe made by a friend.
Let’s assume you want to help. If you don’t… well, I don’t care. Feedback given directly to devs on a site like this isn’t really to inform people playing the game (it can have that side benefit), but to help the devs make a better game. So if you don’t want to help the dev, this post really isn’t for you.
And remember, we have a whole subforum of games you can give feedback on. That is like so many more than so many. Help a dev out today!
Anyway, you’ve played through the game and it has its ups and downs. It has some glaring flaws, and you want to tell the creator about it. So how do you go about doing it.
Before anything, you should always remember to be polite. Polite doesn’t mean sugarcoating. You don’t have to be NICE, you just can’t be insulting. Being polite is really a small thing. Just remember: Always address the flaws in the game, not the designer. Its okay to call a design flawed, or to say a single mechanic is overpowered, or say something doesn’t make sense, but you should NEVER say there is something wrong with the DESIGNER. With that out of the way, let’s get started.
Collect your Thoughts
When writing your criticism, the first step is somewhat similar to responding to criticism: Take the time to think about it. Don’t go in half cocked with vague feelings.
Break down the game into pieces. Every game is about how the pieces fit together, but its hard to address the pieces as a whole. Think about the problems you had, and try to identify the pieces that didn’t fit.
Did the gameplay and theme not integrate well? Which part do you think was the issue? Was the gameplay the part that was solid, but the theme fit badly, or was the theme right, but the gameplay weird for it?
Try to identify as many specific pieces as you can that have flaws, and identify whether the piece itself is flawed, or if it is flawed in connection with other pieces.
This game has three flaws in it… that is like. so many… Ok, no, the joke is dead.
So you have specific pieces, but you need to be even MORE specific than that. Pick individual mechanics are parts of the games, like a single skill, a single plot point, etc. that shows what you mean. For instance, say that we are going on the “gameplay and theme does not integrate well” part. I could say something like:
The plot point where I have to sacrifice a large number of troops to achieve a trivial goal to continue is counter to the overall theme of the game, which seems to be about being a commander who takes care of his men.
When writing criticism, make sure everything you are criticizing gives the designer knowledge of what to fix. The designer needs to be able to take your comments and KNOW what needs work. Just saying “this game sux” isn’t actionable. What can the designer do to fix that?
When talking about a flaw, always consider giving a possible solution to the flaw. If you see a mechanic that feels wonky, throw out a possible solution while criticizing it. Hobby game dev is a lot more freeform than a big company. He doesn’t have a team of people to throw out an idea that he hasn’t thought of yet. You can be that guy.
If something in the game is spot on, MAKE SURE TO TELL THEM! That little bit of encouragement goes a long way to keeping the designer from wallowing in despair. You don’t have to hunt for something, I don’t particularly follow the “poo sandwich” approach to criticism, in which you HAVE to start and end with something good, but if there is something good, make sure to say it.
On the other hand, if the game is just bad through and through… well, uh… I guess you can say you appreciate the effort. But you don’t have to do that. You don’t have to sugar coat. Just remember don’t be insulting.
Do you have any tricks to giving criticism? Do you review games often? Join the discussion in the comments below.
For this character, I was caught off guard by the community response, totally expecting the badass character I had listed to win handily considering the fervor with which they had championed a bounty hunter recently. I was surprised when the joke character won! But of course, my surprise had to give way to figuring out how to design it.
I started doodling and trying to figure out the core of the character, which I didn’t really list in the description other than he was a dunce. Well, just being a terrible bounty hunter seemed like it might be difficult to portray in a static battler, so I thought about a few other things I could do to push him into the realm of ridiculousness.
So I thought, well what if he was also really concerned about his ‘style’ and showing off that bounty hunter look.
And of course, my on-going fiction lent itself well to this; Shayde, my spited actual bounty hunter I wanted to draw, was going to try and whip this clown into shape… but even he fails and Felix just takes the pile of money and buys himself all the wrong things. So oversized guns, sword, boots, etc. Giant utility belt hung with a bright red mark.
And a giant scarf, because obviously why not. Oh, and spurs on his boots.
Color choices I was mostly thinking warms and browns. So I mixed up a palette real quick and started laying in color over the tonal.
The giant guns served me well with some additional rim lighting on the character. Expect some more ridiculous characters for him to go up against.
Aaaaand we’re back. The GameDevFort launch unfortuantely made me late, but this time, instead of being months, it was just a day late! I’m improving!
Anyway. last time I just got used to the scripts I will be using, but this time, I’m going to build Arglebar’s routine, as I defined it in the planning article.
6am: Wake up and fix and eat a breakfast
7am: Go to the field and work
12pm: Sit on his stool near his campfire and eat a light lunch
12:30pm: Go to the field and work
7pm: Come home, fix and eat a dinner
8pm: Sit in front of fireplace and rest
10pm: Go to bed
As the clock starts at midnight, we’ll need to start him in his bed.
Just a quick copy paste. Make sure you set the top part of the bed to passable!
My next step is figuring out how to reference the time. I go into the script and realize that I will need to change one additional thing. I need access to the MINUTE variable as well, so I add that in to the group of variables the time system dumps to on line 210.
We’ll also need one more variable, a variable to tell Arglebar what he needs to do next. we’ll make that Variable 5. Always, Always, Always remember to name your variables!
With his routine, he has actually 12 steps. 6 for each location he is at, and another 6 for moving to those locations. You might think 7, but he does the same thing twice in his routine, head to the field and work. So his variable will work like this:
0 = In Bed
1 = Go fix breakfast
2 = Eat breakfast
3 = Go to the Field
4 = Work in the Field
5 = Go to stool
6 = Eat Lunch
7 = Go Home
8 = Eat Dinner
9 = Go to fireplace
10 = Rest in front of fire
11 = Go to Bed
Now, each time we move him in and out of the house, we will have to pathfind him to the entrance/exit, transfer him to another part of the map, then pathfind him to where he is going in the new area. This leads to a problem when we look at it as dynamic, for instance in the “Go To Field” he can start in either his house or at the fire. That means we need to know whether he is inside or outside during this step.
And that is where the almighty RegionIDs come in. Just paint the outside all as one RegionID, and the inside part as all another! Then name the three variables after his Routine variable as Arglebar’s RegionID, Arglebar’s X, and Arglebar’s Y.
RegionID really needs to be able to use the fill tool… Also, I missed a spot… Luckily I don’t think he will be standing on hte bookshelf.
Now that we have that in place, let’s build all the different steps in his event. Because we are using a variable to determine the steps, each level will be mutually exclusive, your would think we won’t have to worry about the order of the pages. But because it always checks if it is x or HIGHER, you need to make sure that you order them so that the variable condition ascends as it goes right.
He is going to just ignore the player when moving, and just say what he is doing when he is at each location. This is easier than writing actual dialogue… and hey, this is just a prototype anyway.
On each of the steps where he is just doing something (all the even variables), just add a show text command that says what he is doing.
He sleeps aggressively.
On the odd variable conditions, where Arglebar is moving, we need to switch him to UNDER the players (so that players can’t block his movement), and switch it to a parallel process, and have the contents be a pathfinding call to put him where he is. If you would need him to go inside or outside, first put move him to the entrance/exit, then transfer, then pathfind again to get to the final spot. At the end of the movement, change the variable to the next variable in sequence. This will cover every condition EXCEPT variable condition 3, which has two starting points.
For the going to the field one, we need to drop his X and Y into variables, then use that to get the location info for the Region ID he is on. Then we use that in a conditional branch. You can see how this is organized below.
Next time, I’ll attach all of this to an event that will push between these states depending on the time. Do you think I made any errors? Can you think of a way to test this before I attach it to the time system? Tell me what you think in the comments below!
So, you are going to make a game. You’ve opened up RPG Maker, and done some planning.
But have you though about where you are going to do once the game is finished? Why are you making it? What do you want to get out of it once its done?
It’s something I’ve found most people just don’t ask themselves. I didn’t even ask myself this until I was much much further into the hobby. What is it, that I wanted to get out of making a game?
I’ve found that personally, I’m not as interested in making a game as I am just figuring out how to make things work. Its more of a puzzle to me and the mental exercise is what I want to get out of it. It changes how I approach the program knowing that that is really what I enjoy. I still have a passion for seeing other people make games, and providing the environment to help them do that.
To me, RPG Maker is a lot like Lego. The fun is in figuring out how to build something.
But I get really curious sometimes. Why? Why do people use RPG Maker? Why do they want to make games?
Knowing your goal, it changes things. It changes what you build, it changes how you respond to criticism. Once I realized that the puzzle aspect of building was what appealed to me, I stopped writing game outlines. Finishing games was not a goal for me anymore. I just started thinking up interesting mechanics, and implementing them in the program. I got my fun out of the program.
So what is your end game? Are you building your game to build up a portfolio? Are you building a game to build your own world? Are you building a game so that it can be popular? Or maybe you are like me and its the puzzle aspect of fitting together your own game.
This blog post is a bit different. Because I’m not trying to tell you something. I’m trying to get you to tell yourself something. And everyone’s answer will probably be a little bit different, and that’s OK! What are you making the game for? What is your dream for the game? What is your END GOAL? And how does thinking about it and identifying that goal change how you are approaching your game design?
Deadly Sin marks the third Steam release for Dancing Dragon Games, the studio behind the previously released Deadly Sin 2 and the sleeper hit Skyborn. Originally completed in 2009 on RPG Maker VX, the original Deadly Sin is actually arriving on Steam after its predecessor. Dancing Dragon Games developer Phil Hamilton agreed to discuss that and some other game-related points here on the blog. Read on to find advice on finishing a worthy commercial game, commentary on balancing old-school and innovation and news of what’s next for Dancing Dragon Games.
How did you feel about the response to Deadly Sin 2’s release? Was its reception on Steam the reason you decided to release the original?
I was actually a tad disappointed by Deadly Sin 2’s release, both its original release back in 2010, and its Steam release. I feel it is much better-designed than Deadly Sin 1, and even better than Skyborn in some ways, but it seemed to lack that “magic” that makes a game really come together. Deadly Sin 1 was my first commercial game, and I’ve had quite a few requests to get all of my work on Steam, and thus, here we are!
How much continuity is there between Deadly Sin and Deadly Sin 2? Do any issues arise from releasing them in reverse order?
There’s actually no continuity, other than perhaps some similar design choices and names. Narratively, the two games are completely independent. Releasing them in reverse order might strike people as odd, but it shouldn’t be an issue.
When working on a classic-style RPG, how do you find a balance between evoking an old-school feel and innovating enough to make the game feel like a fresh experience?
I will admit, I got better at this balancing act as I built up to Skyborn. But even in Deadly Sin 1 and 2, I made great efforts to leave behind some of the outdated RPG mechanics of the past, while still maintaining the core feel of a JRPG. I think the long and short of it is to simply go with what you know – lay the groundwork of an old-school JRPG, and pick apart its individual components. Are things like MP, save points, and game overs really necessary for modern gamers? These are examples of, in my opinion, outdated aspects of traditional JRPGs that would only serve to slow down and annoy players. JRPGs live and die on their narrative – no need to slow players down with mechanics that serve only as filler or delay.
What part of the game-making process comes easiest? What part is the toughest?
The easiest is almost certainly the building of the weapons and armor database. Coming from MMORPGs, it is definitely nice to be able to make your own gear, rather than waste away on WoW trying to grind someone else’s gear. The most difficult part, only by virtue of its paramount importance, is the narrative. This is one aspect that no JRPG can afford to put in 2nd place in terms of priority. I’ll be the first to admit, narrative design does not come naturally to me. I have to slog through it, erase days of progress and start over, basically dig through a mountain with a tiny chisel. But in the end, it’s enormously rewarding. In Deadly Sin 1, and much moreso in Skyborn, the narrative managed to come together pretty well.
The difficulty of actually finishing a game in the RM community has been well-documented. You’ve now had three full games that have been commercially released. What’s your secret?
When you’re young, you think you can go it alone. You think you can improvise, coast, and get by just on your talent. Once you learn that no successful person has ever gotten by just on their talent, that’s when you finally start to flourish. You’ve got to remind yourself of your purpose every day, maybe even every hour. You must never rest on your laurels – never think, “well, this is good enough.” Don’t settle for good enough. Only settle for your best. Delete “good enough”, start over, and make it better. Make yourself better, all the time. Be open to harsh criticism. Be open to failure. Beg for it, absorb it and use it to your advantage. It’s purpose that drives me, and perhaps, that would drive others as well.
What’s next for Dancing Dragon Games?
Skyborn’s popularity has really floored us and humbled us. We didn’t expect it, but now we want to build on that success. Echoes of Aetheria is coming soon, probably in May 2015. It builds on what we believe to be the succeeding factors of Skyborn, and makes it much bigger, much better, and much higher-tech. We think players who loved Skyborn’s whimsical high adventure will love Echoes of Aetheria just the same. We also think players who may have found Skyborn’s underlying systems primitive will be pleased to see the massive tech upgrades we will show off with Echoes of Aetheria.
With old school gaming going through a resurgence, there has never been a better time to be making games that harken back to those SNES era RPGs like Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI, or Dragon Quest V.
And in this zeitgeist we’ve had plenty of requests to bring back some of OUR classic makers. And today, we answer that flood of requests, to bring you, for the first time in the English Language: [click to continue…]
So for the Runic Hunter, I had a pretty decent description going in
Mt. Zurat Summoner/Hunter – These Summoners wield special rune magic to capture magical beasts and demons. Clad in white robes with tooled golden masks, their weapons are etched with sigils of capture and control.
I obviously tweaked the name a bit since I thought Mt. Zurat Summoner/Hunter wasn’t exactly amazing. So I just made up something based off my description and sketch.
So obviously the white robe and golden mask were a must, and I wanted to put lots of runes on things. I also decided to make it a lady, which I thought would be something fun and different for the community since I usually just have giant, gross monsters!
A rare mid process drawing, I wanted to show someone on the team where I was at with the character, so I took a photo pretty early on. Its easy to see how sketchy I am at the beginning.
A little further along and in the computer. I ended up doing a revision on the left sword to make it a little less flat to the viewer.
After a quick tonal I started to think about my colors. A friend suggested the use of red in the photo above, and I am really pleased with how it turned out. As you can see around the edges, I set up my palette with the blender brush.
Here I’ve pushed the values a bit more with some painting over the above layers I set up. Now its time to move onto effects!
Glows and rim lighting, go! This is my final, which was then posted on the site for download.
Hey everyone, the Living Town is back again after a long hiatus. Unfortunately, it kept getting pushed back for a variety of reasons, but from now on, we are on a regular schedule! A new Living Town article will be up every other Saturday, with the next one being on April 11th.
To figure out what is going on in this series that has been stuck in hibernation, you can check out the two previousarticles.
Now, the first step in getting this prototype built… is to immediately change my mind about something I said in the planning phase. I just keep looking at the idea of just using a tileset switch on transfer, and I don’t think it will work that well. I would have to put the event on move through to be safe, and I’m not sure how that would interact with pathfinding, so its probably best just to use the second solution: Splicing together the two different tilesets.
For part B and C its pretty easy, since our DE parts of the tileset are empty, we can just plug them in there. For the Tile A parts, we will need to combine them together. First, I’m going to decide which of the pieces will be the base. We use more of the outside tiles, so that will be the base we use. So let’s take the inside tiles, and using an art program with layers, mark all the ones that we need to copy over in a new layer.
Turns out we are only using a few parts of Inside Tile A2 and A4. All of which are marked above. So let’s copy those over into the Outside Tile A2 and A4.
Pro Tip: When using a Graphics Editor to copy or manipulate tiles, set a custom grid to 32×32 pixels, and set “snap to grid”. This will make aligning your new pieces MUCH easier.
Quickly remap it with the tiles, make sure all the passabilities are set, and now we have a map that looks right in the editor!
Also, I need to make sure to remove the change tileset command in the transfer events. It would really mess things up if I didn’t!
Next step to do is configure the time script. I go into the configurations and… well they are already set in a way that works perfectly for what I’m working on, so no issue there. The clock script is also configured to work fine with our current setup. Once we do more complicated stuff than the prototype, it will need to be adjusted, but for now, it is fine.
Well that was anticlimactic…
NOTE: I actually have a more up to date version of this script provided to me by Solistra that I will switch to later. I decided that including switching to a more up to date version of a script and checking for settings and such would be a good lesson to learn in the future, so I’ll start with this version, and then change over.
Last thing to do to learn all my tools is to make sure I understand how to use the pathfinding script. It operates by using script calls in move routes. And a script call looks something like this:
With X and Y are replaced by the coordinates of where you want the event to go. The other parts are explained in the script, but I don’t think I’ll need them at this point, so I’ll leave them at default. To test it out I just make a move route on Arglebar the farmer that will make him walk around the town to different places and wait 10 seconds before moving to the next place.
So I boot it up to test it and… He’s super slow (might want to change the speed in the pathfinding setting), and he doesn’t care much for the beaten path, which was expected, but it works!
Don’t rush me! I’ll get there when I get there.
I’ve had a mostly successful time of it so far. I’ve figured out how our scripts work. I’ve managed to get my interior set where I know it won’t cause any errors. Next time, I’ll start actually putting the prototype together with these pieces.