Tips: Writing and implementing a game plot

By: Lunarea

Sitting down and coming up with a really great story sounds simple in theory. After all, it really just takes some imagination and writing experience. There are some fantastic writing tutorials out there, as well as writing prompts that can really get you in the mood to be creative.

Yet, when it comes time to implement the story into the game, a lot of developers find themselves frustrated or stumped. How do you take a story and turn it into something that a player will not only enjoy, but want to keep playing for?

1. Plan out your plot

Story_Mountain

The concept of a story mountain is a good way to figure out the basic story structure.

 

One of the first (and likely most important) steps is to sit down and plan out the basics of your story – have a defined beginning, middle and end. I know, it sounds kind of boring, especially if you’re the type to feel at your most creative when you make up the story as you go along. Knowing exactly what your story is means that you can use a bundle of literary devices that can really push your story into the memorable category. It also means you have an excellent idea of how many maps and resources you’ll need – something that helps your development efficiency.

Still concerned that planning ahead will put a damper on your creativity? Start thinking about side quests and side stories. You can be completely random, creative and unfocused in side quests. It’s a great place to experiment and explore other parts of your game’s universe, without having to worry about how it fits into the main story narrative.

2. Figure out the pacing

Unlike novels and short stories, the story flow of a game plot is dependent on the gameplay itself. Dungeons, battles and exploration create natural pauses in storytelling, which is something that the developer needs to take into account.

On one hand, you don’t want the player to have to go through 3 hours-worth of play before they can continue on with the story. These large pauses can leave the player distracted or feeling like the plot is an afterthought in the game.

xs1shion

Though I personally love Xenosaga, a lot of players were annoyed at having to sit through several 20+ minute long cutscenes.

 

On the other hand, you are making a game and the player needs to be able to do more than just sit through a string of cutscenes. Showing scene after scene builds up great momentum, but it only works if the player is interested and paying attention.

Finding the balance between story (cutscenes) and play (dungeons, exploration) is challenging, even more so because different players will have different preferences. Some will want to just get through the story and will rush through the area, while others will explore every nook and cranny before moving on.

So, how do you figure out the perfect balance? Hearing feedback from your players will be tremendously helpful, as will playing games other developers have made.

3. Be adaptable

As you develop your game, you’ll come across challenges. You might not be able to use the character feature you really wanted, and suddenly it has no place in the narrative. Or maybe you have to scrap an entire area because you can’t find the right tileset. Then there’s the story-telling challenges… Maybe that long background story the character talks about would make a better playable flashback. Or maybe the revelations at the final boss lair are a little too “out of the blue”.

This is when you take out your pencil and make some changes to the planning you did at the beginning. It might sound intimidating, but making changes to the story can help you stay motivated and on course with finishing your game.

Likewise, don’t be afraid of making changes to your gameplay or your game format. A really elaborate story might be more manageable as a serial – where you release the game in chapters or acts. And writing the dialogue for a cutscene might just inspire you to re-map the entire area.

Do you have any tips on writing? Sound off below.

4 comments

Battler Art – Gluttony!

in Resources

For this seven sins Battler, I wanted to take a slightly different approach.  Initially I was thinking a more humanoid, fat character, but I wanted to push in a different direction so I started trying to think of how I could work in something like giant mouths.  From there a few sketches later I kind of had this giant toad-like monster with a demon tongue.  I then realized I had him “wielding a sword” in my description.  Obviously that wouldn’t work in his non-existent hands, so I thought it might be cool for the demon tongue to be holding it sort of like Sif in Dark-Souls.

gluttony_d1

So I sat down with my paper and a pencil and went to it.  I was on a slightly tighter timeline this time, so I decided to do all of my coloring digitally.

gluttony_t1

Here is my tonal comp, I have my broad light-scheme pretty much mapped out here.

gluttony_c1

Here I added color lightly underneath my tonal layer(set to multiply).  You can see my quick palette in the upper left; I was sampling most of my colors from here.

gluttony_p01

Here I’ve merged my tonal and color layers and started into that layer with some blender brushes, picking out details and detailing textures.

gluttony_p1

And here is the final with some more work into the dark areas, more detail work and highlights, and some fancy rim lighting on the right side.

Check out the time-lapse here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mtDx9k_BPdw

0 comments

Today, I plan on doing something a little different. I talk a lot about making games. I talk a lot about games to look at to get ideas about making games. I talk about games that are not even video games to get ideas about making games. But, when you get enough of that project you are working on done to show off a demo, there is going to be that next step.

That step where you have to put yourself out there. Every person who creates puts themselves out there. That thing you made, is a piece of you. So you take that piece of you, you package it up with a nice topic on our forums, or maybe one of the many other excellent fan sites, or maybe you just send it to a friend. And you tie it off with a bow. And you just know that people are going to love it. Because you love it. How can it be bad?

I mean, look at that topic header. You had to put like, 3 filters on that thing. That is like, so many filters.

I mean, look at that topic header for my game. I put like, 3 filters on that thing. That is like, so many filters.

And then the shoe drops. Someone has come up to you, and told you what you made is awful. Or maybe they just criticized a couple of details. But all the same, its a crash. We get it. It isn’t fun. No one likes hearing someone say something they made is flawed.

But what you do next is important.

Stop

Never, ever respond to criticism right after you read it. You could be a bit emotional at the time. Its understandable. Someone is criticizing your baby. And I’m sure you don’t need me to explain why responding emotionally is a bad idea.

What do you mean my mapping is bland, that map has 3 trees. THAT IS LIKE SO MANY TREES!

What do you mean my mapping is bland, that map has 3 trees on it. THAT IS LIKE, SO MANY TREES!

But let’s say you aren’t. Let’s say that you actually are perfectly calm. Still don’t respond yet.

If you respond right after reading, 99 times out of 100, you haven’t actually thought about what the person told you.

Think

Okay. You’ve taken a break. Had a Snicker’s (you’re not yourself when you’re hungry). And you’re back at the keyboard. Now, read what they wrote again. Try to identify what they saw as problem spots.

In well written criticism, it shouldn’t be too hard to find. They will tell you directly. Sometimes though, its not as obvious. Maybe they are really vague, or maybe they just are explaining themselves badly.

Either way, think about what in your game could make them come to the conclusions they did.

Ask Questions

Ask them questions to get a better idea of the problem they had. Always lead off by thanking them for taking the time to check out your game. Even if they really were behaving badly, showing that you are mature in your response will help you get more detailed answers, as people will really want to help you out. Detailed answers about why people had problems with your game is crucial to perfecting your project.

Thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback. I just was hoping you could give me a bit more detail on what you meant when you said that all the main character choices felt samey? I made 3 main character classes (that is like, so may classes).

Thanks for taking the time to give me some feedback. I just was hoping you could give me a bit more detail on what you meant when you said that all the main character choices felt samey? I made 3 character classes for him (that is like, so may classes).

Analyse

Now that you have that detailed description of their issue, look at it in the context of your game. Try not to think of your game as your game, think of it as someone just coming in. Does what they are saying make sense?

If it does, you have some work to do. If it doesn’t, why doesn’t it make sense?

Did they misunderstand something? Then maybe you need to work on having your game communicate that better.

Are they not part of the target audience? What attracted them to your game in the first place, and could your target audience be adjusted to include people with his tastes, too?

Respond

Now is when you can take the time to respond. Once again, start by thanking them for their time. You put that demo out to get feedback, and they came to help you out. More than likely, they really wanted to help. Or maybe they just are a jerk who likes to get people down, but I like to assume the best until they prove they are worse, and it never hurts to show you aren’t going to sling mud.

After that, it depends on what you think you should do with their advice. If you think they have a point, tell them so. You can tell them how you hadn’t thought of that, and man, its a good thing they came along to help you out. Tell them some plans you have for fixing it, see if they have any suggestions.

Ugh, back to the editor. They brought up 3 things I hadn't thought of. That is like. so many things.

Ugh, back to the editor. They brought up 3 things I hadn’t even thought of being an issue. That is like. so many things.

If you think that their criticism isn’t applicable, you can tell them so. You can even point out the reasons you feel that it isn’t relevant. But don’t try to make it a rebuttal. You don’t have to justify your decisions. You can explain that you appreciate their advice, but you feel your original design for that portion of your game best serves your intended purpose.

You aren’t bound to follow every bit of criticism you get, and no one reasonable is going to judge you for politely saying you feel confident in your current design. (Though if you find a large majority giving you the same criticism, you should probably take heed).

Of course, there is always the criticism you can feel safe ignoring. If it is laced with so many profanities it could OD a sailor, and says nothing meaningful and personally insults your mother, your third cousin, and your childhood dog, just roll your eyes and move on, don’t even bother responding (and hit the report button if its on our forums!(extra points if you include the eye rolling emoticon on the report)).

So, do you have any advice on taking criticism? Any fun stories of criticism that really helped you? Or maybe an embarrassing story about you having a bad reaction to criticism. Make sure to join us in the comments section below!

3 comments

emotion

First, I’d like to thank everyone for participating in our Emotion in Motion Contest. We had a decent number of entries, and it was fun watching through them all. Because of this, EVERYONE gets a participation prize. If you sent in an entry, make sure to PM me (Touchfuzzy) on the official forums to receive a credit on your account. $5 for each participant, and $25 dollars for our winner!

And without further adieu, our winner:

Hahn Deathspark (as he is listed on youtube), centered his video on the emotion HOPE. And I’ll be honest. There were prettier videos in the contest. There were videos that were converted to video better (there is some blurriness from weird upscaling). But there weren’t any videos that captured the emotion it was going for quite like this one.

The story is cute, if a little cliche, and possibly also a bit unrealistic, but its also told with some nice tonal shifts in the music, and really keeps the emotion going all the way to the end.

Congratulations!

Thank you again for everyone that participated, and we look forward to seeing what you all make next!

0 comments

Why We Game

in Gamer Thoughts

So the other day, before a we had a meeting, I was having a brief conversation with Mark, who on top of doing some great work working with designers on games we publish, writes some awesome articles for us over here at the blog, and we stumbled in on an interesting subject.

We were discussing the Borderlands series (I think I was mentioning wanting to grab the Handsome Collection), and he mentioned he didn’t think it would have been as fun playing solo. Which confused me because I almost exclusively played it solo, and consider Borderlands 2 one of the best games of the last 5 years.

Krieg doesn't need another player, he has the voice in his head to talk to.

Krieg doesn’t need another player, he has the voice in his head to talk to.

The part that was interesting about this is that we both play games for very different reasons. Which surprised me even more, because we had very similar opinions on a lot of design ideas, though I know we have disagreed on some things in the past (I believe I have a lot more love for traditional RPG mechanics than he does for instance), it never seemed like as broad of a gap in reasons to play as I thought.

Video games, for me, are a way to retreat away from social interaction. A way to recharge from having to deal with other people. Now, I like people, I just find them all a bit tiring. Things like MMOs, it just feels like stress to me to have to work on anyone else’s schedule.

Mark on the other hand, sees video games as a way to connect to other people. He likes multiplayer, even when playing single player games he will often stream the game for others to see. And of course, he loves just talking about games (to be fair, I love this part too, otherwise I wouldn’t have taken this job).

I did get to see a good peek at the PC HD version of Resident Evil while he steamed it. It looked awesome.

I did get to see a good peek at the PC HD version of Resident Evil while he streamed it. It looked awesome.

And other people I’m sure, play for many other reasons. They play for challenge. Or just to hear a good story. Or any combination of other reasons. I’m sure we all have a myriad of reasons, and sometimes, we can have conflicting reasons for why we play different games. When I sit down to play Sudoku on my tablet, it is absolutely for different reasons than I pop in Saints Row the Third.

And I feel like this is something we really need to be thinking about when designing: Why do we play? Why do other players play? Can we somehow use that information to make our games better? To be honest, I’m not really sure how to use the information this conversation brought to the forefront for me. I don’t really have all the answers. So why don’t you join the conversation below. Why do YOU game, and how do you think thinking about the reasons people game can improve our designs?

1 comment

So this creature was fairly straightforward in terms of design, I didn’t want to push it too extreme (although now I feel like I should have gone further) and have it be a ‘regular’ enemy.  After some sketches loosely figuring out the design I went ahead and made my drawing.

armoredskeleton_draw

After laying the drawing out I did a quick pass of acrylics to lay out some values.  Next time I think I will just start with my colors from here though.

armoredskeleton_tone

Now everything was in place to start with some colors.

armoredskeleton-paint1

I laid in the main colors pretty thinly at first, mixing them with a bit of linseed oil and odorless mineral spirits.  After that I gradually increased my opacity until I got to this point.  I had to let it sit for a bit before the next layer.

armoredskeleton-paint2

This is a shot right before I took it into the computer.  I’ve glazed on quite a bit of shadow and light over my initial colors here, opting for a cool blueish shadow, and a warm yellow light.  I also worked into the cool rim light a bit as well.

armoredskeleton_f2

I mostly kept my adjustments in photoshop to levels, since the photo I took turned out a little dark.  I also added a bit of glow to my cool rim light with a hard light layer.  It was then removed from the background and saved out as a .png for use in RPGMaker!

Go vote for the next battler here.

1 comment

One thing I’ve noticed a lot, is that in video games, especially turn based RPGs, there are some things that are just done, because they are done. They are implemented without a lot of thought, its just the default design. In this article, I’m going to focus on one of those individual mechanics: the standard resource economy of Magic Points.

Now, I’m not saying that it doesn’t work. MP or its equivalent is used in plenty of games that I truly like. But, its focused around the idea of attrition mechanics, and tends to create one style of gameplay. It does work well, and if looking at it, you decide its the best fit for your game, I’m not going to stop you. But I do think changing the resource economy of your game is one of the fastest ways to make it stick out from the pack.

Of course, we do have some other defaults, especially in RPG Maker, since we have the charging TP bar as well. Its a new twist, but it too has gotten a bit of the “Default” in RPG Maker just due to the mechanics being built in.

For inspiration, I’m going to look outside of video games, and reach for my other hobby: Board Games. Board games have a long history of turn based alternative resource mechanics. I’m going to talk about two alternatives myself, but there are plenty of them out there.

Dice Assignment

Two games I’ve picked up recently, Roll for the Galaxy, and Dead of Winter, use what I call “Dice Assignment” as the main driver behind the players available actions.

Also, the Roll dice look suspiciously candy-like.

Also, the Roll dice look suspiciously candy-like.

Basically, at the beginning of your turn, you roll a set of dice, and then you assign those dice to actions based on the rules. The two games work a bit different in the assignment part, and I’ll talk shortly about them.

In Roll for the Galaxy, each die has different sides representing each action. You can do that action once for each die you have assigned to that action (there are more rules on whether an action will even occur in that turn, if it doesn’t you can’t do them, but I’ll avoid that part of the discussion to avoid overcomplication).

In Dead of Winter, you have normal 6 sided dice. Characters will have attack and search traits written like “2+” or “4+” or any other number between 1 and 6. This means that you have to spend a die of that number or above to perform that action.

Now, I know what you are thinking: That sounds super random. And if that was all it was, it would be. But both games mitigate it to some degree: In Roll, your selection of dice effects likelihood of each side (different colors have different numbers of each side), and it also features a lot of ways to move dice to other actions. In Dead of Winter, there are options that you can always spend a die on, no matter the number, that are good, even if they are not 100% ideal, and also has special actions that can let you reroll dice at times.

This is a mechanic that I could easily see fitting into a turn based RPG. Roll dice, assign dice to character actions. Stronger actions need rarer die sides. Add in ways to manipulate the dice and you have a neat working system that is almost completely unique when it comes to video games.

Action Recharge

This is done in two games that I have in my collection, Space Hulk: Death Angel and BattleCon: Devastation of Indines, and I think it works really well to keep the game rounds from feeling “samey” each turn while not relying on a resource like MP.

dev

Devastation of Indies also happens to be the most intimidating game I’ve ever opened. Actual shot of me organizing it for the first time. Not all of the contents of the box are in shot.

In both games, it behaves very similar. When you play a specific card/card combo, you mark it in some way to prevent using it again for a set amount of time. In Death Angel, you can’t take the same action two turns in a row, in Devastation, the cards you play go into one discard pile, which then moves the two cards in that into another discard pile, which then moves the two cards in that pile back into your hand.

In video games, this has been implemented in minor ways. A few skills may have recharge times. But imagine a game with no MP costs, but EVERY action had recharge times, even standards like attack and guard. Imagine how much more dynamic the gameplay could be when you had to do different stuff every round. You would constantly have to think ahead to which action you would need next turn. As long as you kept each action similar in power, you could have all recharge times identical. Or you can take advantage of how much easier this mechanic is to do in digital space and have different recharge times for different skills based on their power.

There are plenty of alternatives to the normal MP/TP style system that everyone uses. Find your own. Pull inspiration from anywhere you can. Do you have any ideas about new ways to implement the standard resource economy to make it feel fresh? Share them with us in the comments section below.

 

15 comments

Review: Enelysion

in Games

Game: Enelysion by Yuna21

Summary: An epic traditional RPG enhanced greatly by fantastic presentation and wise gameplay choices.

en1I still have no clue how to pronounce it, but the name Enelysion has been familiar to me for a while now. Years in the making, the creator of this RPG Maker VX game did an exemplary job maintaining interest in the community during its long production. An unfortunate reality of the RM community is that a lot of the developers who put so much attention into getting thread views never actually finish these projects, but we have a major exception here. Enelysion is a massive game (about 12-15 hours) and the final product reflects well on all the hard work that went into its creation.

This game isn’t out to reinvent the genre and the story feels extremely familiar. A grieving, humorless mercenary named Laine finds a mysterious orb that begins to drive her to fits of rage and violent behavior. After recruiting her childhood friend Patrick, a former flame who chose priesthood over romance, they research the orb’s origins and find connections to a conspiracy by an evil cult. Eventually, two bickering knights fill out the party. The dialogue is articulate but often one-note – in particular, scenes where characters got angry just never seemed very convincing. However,  much more thought is put into the love life of the main character than is typical for a game like this, which is a nice change of pace.

The characters are actually far more interesting in battle. Each of them has a distinct role to play in combat and players gradually discover helpful ways to coordinate their unique skills. The impressive character artwork, which also shows up on the screen during cutscenes, was done by Ronove of Star Stealing Prince, a game which also seems to have had some influence on Enelysion’s combat. While not as ruthless as SSP’s famous boss fights, this game has some rough encounters in store for you in the second half where button mashing will get you killed. Careful use of elemental weaknesses and buffs becomes mandatory.

en2Laine was too shy to join the game of Orb Hero. Besides, the band already had a singer.

Sounds pretty standard so far, right? Well, the biggest surprise about Enelysion turns out to be how well it rewards exploration. Right from the start, several locations are available on the world map and the narrative, while linear, is not overpowering at all. Hidden items are everywhere and the combination of how pretty the maps are and the beautiful collection of Celtic/New Age music that the creator has assembled make you want to stay on some maps as long as you possibly can searching for goodies. A handful of side adventures will yield powerful rewards.

A lot of small touches come together to make this game very satisfying to play. The interface is near perfect with the equip screen being a particular highlight. Most weapons come with major stat improvements and with all the character information displayed neatly on the right side of the screen, you can immediately see the big difference between certain weapons. Another standout feature was the bestiary system, which can be used in combat to analyze an enemy’s vulnerabilities, even if its the first time you’re encountering a particular creature. If you take the time to use this feature, you can engineer a swift, brutal victory.

en3

It’s true. The store is out of amiibos. 

Did I mention that there are no random encounters? Clearly a lot of attention has been paid to the complaints people make about RPG Maker games because Enelysion dodges most of them. In fact, I would recommend this one the most to people who feel discouraged about the quality of games made with the engine. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

One final note: A highly unfortunate (although not game-breaking) bug shows up late in the game. The creator has released a patch meant to deal with it. You can find it here.

Has anyone played this game? What did you think of its approach to the classic RPG? How did you feel about the characterization? Tell us in the comments!

1 comment

So with the Wind Dragon we took a slightly different tact, getting descriptions from the community on what to do.  Here is what I ended up reading several times before sketching things out:

A dragon, turquoise in color, is hovering in the air on its massive, outstretched wings. The dragon’s scales are not jagged but instead smooth, giving it a bit of a sheen. Its body is muscular but lean; the dragon appears to be exceptionally aerodynamic. Its arms are slender and end in wicked claws suited for grabbing and slicing prey alike. Its head is small but proportional, and instead of a muzzle the dragon is sporting a beak-like mouth. Its eyes glow with a subtle white light. It has two horns that jut out the back of its head, and point directly behind the head to reinforce the aerodynamic feel of the dragon. Its underbelly is lightly armored with thicker, slightly discolored scales, as if to protect itself during its (very frequent) fly-by attacks. The dragon looks like it is ready to attack its potential prey, claws and beak at the ready.

So from this I had a color scheme and a good idea of what I wanted it to look like, and a good pose to shoot for.

winddragon-conceptsketches

I figured out a rough pose pretty quick, then I did a quick profile to figure out the main shape.  Then I pulled out some canvas and started drawing.

winddragon-tonal-raw

So I mixed together some raw umber, olive green, and black and thinned it down quite a bit with mineral spirits to make the wash you can see in the background.  After I had laid that in, I just started to build up the shapes more opaquely with paint and linseed oil.  After I had that mostly accomplished I started putting paint directly on the canvas opaquely to get the darkest spots.  I then went back in with some titanium white to do a few highlights.

winddragon-tonal2

Here it is after I got it into the computer and cleaned it up a bit.  I also dodged my highlights a bit in photoshop because I didn’t really have time to let them dry for another application of titanium white.

winddragon-glazes

At this stage I started to add color using overlay and hard light layers, my intent was not to obscure any of the underpainting but give it some rough color.  After I was pretty happy with my color choices I moved onto the final overpaint.

winddragon-f1

For the final paint I got a pretty textured brush and just started opaquely going over my previous layers, on a new top-most layer.  I will capture this process on the next character, but I didn’t this time since I was trying something new.  After I painted over most of everything I added some fiery effects as well.  And that’s it!

winddragon-f1_dark

And here was a quick color variation I did, mostly just using hue-saturation and then some additional glowy bits.

Download the files and vote in the poll here: http://forums.rpgmakerweb.com/index.php?/topic/37002-bi-weekly-battler-wind-dragon/

0 comments

Common Pitfalls in RPG Maker

A pitfall is a danger or problem that is hidden or not obvious at first. RPG Maker is fraught with pitfalls that many developers fall into (like our poor heroes pictured above).

How does one avoid many of these common pitfalls? Below I’ve listed out some that I’ve observed over the years. I’ve also linked resources to help navigate through some of these traps.

A) Lack of Customization

This section was becoming so huge that it spawned it’s own article. You can read it here: 5 Things People Don’t Customize In RPG Maker

B) Clashing aesthetics

Back in the 2k/2k3 days there wasn’t a lot of options in terms of resources. Developers had to rely on rips from other sources (often SNES era RPGs) to customize their tilesets. This led to a lot of clashing aesthetics that often made for visually dissonant games.

Nowadays, RPG Maker users have tons of resource packs to choose from. Many of them are designed with the RTP in mind like the Modern Day and Futuristic tile packs. You can easily plug them into your project with little to no editing required.

If you are going to use custom graphics for your game then you run the risk of having clashing graphics. I’ve seen many projects that have a few custom portraits for the main characters and then Character Generator faces for the supporting cast. This can ruin otherwise appealing art.

When selecting assets for your game consider how well they fit the artistic style. I’d rather have a game that mostly relies on RTP than a mishmash of  art styles.

C) Maps that make no sense

One of the major differences between a Good Map and a Bad Map is not just the mapper’s artistic ability. It’s whether the map actually makes sense! Many maps often have strange layouts that would be impractical for NPCs to move around in. They can be too large, too small. Objects can be located in weird locations like having a clock behind a wardrobe. When designing your maps, take the time to consider the layout.

erroneous-mapping

Poor use of depth can ruin a map

Another pitfall I often see is poor use of depth in mapping. This can most often be seen in Mountain locations. Because RPG Maker has a 3/4 top-down perspective it can often be difficult to design locations where the depth changes. Be conscious of the depth of your map when working on uneven terrain or you’ll end up with maps like the one pictured above.

D) Bad tutorial or NO tutorial

Often RPG Maker developers design their game with the assumption that the player is familiar with RPG Maker games. This is a pretty dangerous assumption to make. When designing the introductory section of your game, you should assume the player has never played a RPG Maker game before. You want to point out the basics like Controls (“Press X to access the Menu”) or how to navigate the menus. You should also give the option to skip these tutorials for seasoned players.

A common pitfall with tutorials is front-loading too much information. If your game relies on unconventional mechanics or terms, then you want to slowly roll them out so that the player can comprehend and retain them. If it’s a huge info dump all at once then the player will have difficulty remembering important details.

Adding a Game Manual to the project folder or putting one in-game as a key item is also a good idea and a useful resource for players. Just assume most players won’t read them.

E) Poor pacing or lack of engagement

One of the biggest pitfalls is poor early pacing in RPG Maker games. Many RPG Maker developers create introductory sections that offer no challenge or interesting mechanics. You don’t want to overload the player at first but you don’t want to bore them either.

When talking about RPGs, particularly commercial ones, you might hear someone say “The real game starts 10 hours in!” There are tons of other RPGs that are engaging early on. Just look at classics like Chrono Trigger or Earthbound for example.

Nick has written an excellent article on Pacing: How Is It So Good: Chrono Trigger. Consider reading it for tips on how to properly pace your RPG and keep your player engaged.

F) Frequent missing in combat

You know what’s not fun in RPGs? Losing a turn because you missed your opponent.

The high risk, high reward character or skill is fairly common in RPGs. You either have a chance to do high damage or no damage. Even if you crunched the numbers and the results are favorable, it still can give the player a bad impression of an character or skill if it misses often. If you’re going to have missing in your game make sure it doesn’t happen too often.

hitrate

The default HIT is set to 95%

By default, the HIT % of any class is 95%. Consider bumping this up to 100% and changing it for weapons/skills or have it affected by states instead. Otherwise, it will apply to all actions that can miss.

G) Too much RNG or “false difficulty”

RNG has become a fairly common term when griping about game balance. “Screwed by the RNG”. When players say something like that they’re referring to the “random number generator” that is present in many games. The root of RNG in RPGs can be traced back to dice rolling in D&D. RNG can make a game more interesting by creating unpredictable elements. It can also make games feel unfair when done poorly.

Many novice RPG designers fall into the pitfall of relying too much on RNG to make their game difficult. When designing the AI for your enemies, you should weigh the chance they will select certain actions over others and what results that can lead to. At some point it becomes almost impossible to predict every variation but even a cursory review can reveal potential balance issues.

dice

Does RNG improve your game experience or detract from it?

If your RNG is too wide in range it can lead to vastly different player experiences. In one of my friend’s early games, he had a final boss who had the chance to use a buff that would increase all his stats making him much more difficult.What made it worse was the buff could stack. If he didn’t cast the buff then the fight was fairly trivial. If he cast it more than once then it became almost impossible. It was completely random whether or not he would use the buff. It would have been better to have had him cast the buff at certain intervals in the battle (every X turns, HP < X%).

When designing encounters you want controlled randomness. The random factor should improve the overall encounter; not take away from it.

H) Too much exposition

Exposition is a tough balance in RPGs. You need to share important plot details with the player to give context to the game but you also don’t want to bore the player with walls of text.

Volrath has written an excellent article on this subject: Exposition: A Tough Balance. Make sure to read it for tips on how to balance exposition in your RPG.

I) Poor spelling/grammar

One of Nick’s 4 Ways to Turn Me Off Your Game Immediately. It’s worth taking the extra time to review your writing for spelling and grammatical errors. One here or there is forgivable but if it keeps coming up it’s going to start making your game look lazy.

poor-english

Engrish can ruin an otherwise good game

Hopefully this article revealed some pitfalls you might have missed in the past.

What are some pitfalls you’ve noticed on the path of RPG creation? Let us know in the comments!

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