Game: The Visitor by SnowOwl

Review by: Volrath

Summary: The Visitor is a quick, entertaining game with interesting visual elements that don’t always mesh together well.

Nothing scary here, nope.

Nothing scary here, nope.

Let’s make one point clear right away – this game is very good for being made in a week. The short horror/puzzle game The Visitor was produced in seven days for a contest…and I feel like I’ve been using similar explanations for many games I’ve reviewed so far. The growing frequency of contests with strict deadlines has resulted in a lot more finished games that I remember seeing in the past. There’s something to be said for having to keep your game’s scope in check, and ArtBane is currently discussing the possibilities of this approach in his own ongoing series.

Set in 1913, The Visitor follows one family as they move into a gigantic mansion left behind by an uncle who died under mysterious circumstances. Taking on the role of the son, and later his father, the player wanders the halls solving little puzzles and looking at the paintings on the wall (presented to the player in all their grim glory, this is one of the game’s visual highlights) until it becomes clear that something very sinister and very large is lurking in the creepy forest behind the house.

Come on now, let's not act like old people are exempt from foolish behavior!

Come on now, let’s not act like old people are exempt from foolish behavior!

The game could be finished in less than an hour, but plan on spending a little more than that as you do laps around this mansion frantically investigating every object as you try to figure out what you missed. Yes, the game’s puzzles can be obtuse at times, but tenacious players will eventually find the item they need to continue through sheer thoroughness. It’s worth completing the game just to see the spectacularly grim ending, which has a fantastic visual effect that I wouldn’t dare spoil.

Speaking of visuals, The Visitor is almost entirely made up of non-RTP assets, which is astounding for a game that was under such a tight deadline. The moody tileset reminds me a lot of stuff people made for RPG Maker 2000 – they emphasized dark colors and were a striking contrast to the bright atmosphere of the RTP. I also like how meek the sprites look. It emphasizes how puny this family is compared to the dark forces lurking just beyond their backyard. However, I’m not sure the sprites mesh well with the mapping. There’s a bit of a scale problem when you have these little sprites walking these absolutely massive hallways. The amount of empty space in many of the rooms doesn’t help with this. This is only a problem in the interior maps, the forest maps outside are more convincing.

What could go wrong?

What could go wrong?

Only requiring a small time investment, I can’t think of a reason not to recommend The Visitor. The creator has shown a lot of skill for working within strict conditions, but I’d be excited to see what SnowOwl can do when rushing isn’t a factor, and with that name attached to several other games available to check out on the forums, perhaps I’ll fire a different one up sometime soon.

Has anyone played this game? What was your opinion on its unique art? How about that nightmare of an ending? (Discuss that one with spoiler warnings, please). What should we review next? Sound off in the comments!

2 comments

In general, though not always, the second most important character in any story is the primary antagonist. So why does it seem like so many RPGs put so little effort into creating them? Let’s bring up the average then, shall we?

In this series of articles, we will look at different types of antagonists, and point out why they work. To do so, I will pull an example I know of from some piece of media, be it novels, movies, comics, or maybe even video games and examine their character. Inspiration can come from all sources though, so I have no intention of limiting myself to one medium when pulling examples. Also beware, I WILL DISCUSS SPOILERS OF THE ANTAGONIST I AM EXAMINING. Please, don’t blame me if you read it and get a spoiler for something you haven’t experienced but would like to at some point.

In this first article, we will look at a personal favorite of mine: The Well-Intentioned Extremist. Yeah, he does evil things, but its for the greater good! Or at least he thinks so. [click to continue…]

13 comments

INSPIRATION

by Artbane

One of the keys to developing quicker is to act on your inspiration! When you are struck by a great idea, don’t ignore it! If you do, your excitement will start to pass and that emotional fuel will evaporate. Inspiration can make developing a game seem almost effortless. I’m running on it right now writing this article!

But what if you actually need inspiration first? Here’s a few things that have helped me in the past when I needed to spark an idea.

Week2-1

Play other games

Obviously the more games you play, the more sources you have to pull ideas from. But don’t just play the game. Think about how you might be able to incorporate part of it into your project. When you see something you think you can use, write it down!

Don’t just limit yourself to games that are similar to yours either. You want to think laterally. Sometimes that’s where the best ideas come from. It doesn’t even have to be a computer game. For my last project, Labyrinthine Dreams, I picked up a book on mazes at a local book store (those still exist?) that helped inspire a lot of the puzzles I actually used in the game.

Week2-2Soak in a variety of materials

Game ideas don’t just come from games. You can get inspired while listening to music, watching a movie or reading a book. Just yesterday I was reading a self-help book and suddenly the theme of one of the games I’m working on finally materialized.

This is more of that lateral thinking. If you’re just getting your ideas from one source or subject, you might start to develop tunnel vision, and this can limit your creativity. Exploring other mediums and fields can give you a different perspective on things and lead to more ideas.

Week2-3Do new things

Sometimes we get stuck in a rut. Our ideas start to become old and stale. When this happens, it can help to change things up. Get out of your comfort zone and experience new things. Travel somewhere new. Try a new activity.

It doesn’t even have to be something major. Maybe you just change something slightly that you do all the time. On your way to work, maybe you take a different route. If you always type, maybe you write on paper instead. If you’re feeling crazy, you can even try writing with your non-dominant hand!

The goal is to experience things differently. It can open up your mind to new ideas.

Week2-4Exercise and sleep

Exercise increases blood flow to the brain and reduces stress. It clears the mind so that you can think clearly. This might just be what you need to get that lightning bolt of inspiration. You don’t have to hit the gym or run a marathon. Just a 15-minute walk every day can help.

You won’t be able to develop efficiently if you’re always tired. Lack of sleep will affect your productivity, as well as your creativity. Make sure you’re well rested.

Exercise: Write down 10 ideas

Reading about inspiration can be… inspiring. But sometimes you need to actually do something to get the creative muscle pumping.

Here’s something I started doing that’s helped immensely. If I’m working on something and I’m drawing a blank, such as coming up with puzzles for a dungeon, I try to list at least 10 ideas for the task at hand.

Why 10? Why not just 1 real good idea? I find there’s less pressure to come up with 10 ideas rather than 1. The ideas don’t have to be good. That’s why there’s 10 of them. But it will get things onto paper and out of your mind, so that you can have even more ideas!

I find it best to do this regularly. Like exercise, if you keep doing it you’ll become an idea machine.

One last thing: make the games you want to make. I know it sounds like a no-brainer, but I’ve seen a lot of amateur developers violate this rule. If you’re just making a game to appease someone else, then it’s going to be a struggle to develop it. When you’re actually making something you’re passionate about, it will be a lot easier.

In the next article, we’ll work on building good game developing habits to help increase your productivity. In the meantime, I’d like to hear what inspires you guys. Please share in the comments what activities you do to get inspiration for your projects.

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By: Lunarea

The world in which your game takes place is very important. It is a frame for your plot, characters and visuals. It can provide you with a wealth of details you can use in NPC conversations. And, more importantly, it makes your game feel more “real”.

This information isn't very useful. The player can tell it's cold from all the snow on the ground.

This information isn’t very useful. The player can tell it’s cold from all the snow on the ground.

Now this is more interesting information! This NPC is not happy with the new King, and he's not afraid to say it. This gives us insight into politics, society and history.

Now this is more interesting information! This NPC is not happy with the new King, and he’s not afraid to say it. This gives us insight into politics, society and history.

But how do you tackle planning out an ENTIRE world? There’s history, geography, politics, sociology, economy and more to worry about. Do you start at the beginning with how the world was created? How much information should you include and how do you incorporate it into the game?

Planning an entire world in one sitting is a daunting task. There are far too many details to cover, and it becomes counter-productive to develop everything at once. Instead, use a building block approach..

Start with what you know – in this case, your basic story/plot:

BuildWorld3Using the example plot, I can come up with the following questions:

  • Who were the ancient gods and why were they imprisoned?
  • How and why did the 3 ruined kingdoms fall?
  • Who are the leaders of the 4 thriving kingdoms, and why do they have the crystals? Why would they give the crystals away?
  • Who wrote the prophecy and how did they come about that knowledge?
  • Who crafted the magical artifacts and who used them to imprison the ancient gods?

The answers to these few questions become the building blocks of the game’s world development. I can choose to leave them: The kings and queens have the crystals because they’re too powerful together. They give them away to the hero because he convinced them of his trustworthiness through completing quests.

Or I can build up on them: the ancient gods were terrible beings that used humans as playthings. They were imprisoned because humans grew to be intelligent and brave. The current religious system puts faith into the Great Consciousness – the place where all ideas and feelings of humanity are born from.

Once you’ve started jotting down the concepts and bits of information, it’s time to organize them.

First thing you might notice is that a lot of your information will fit more than one category. For example, that ancient gods were cruel rulers who oppressed humanity is the kind of information that fits religion, history and politics. Good information tends to flow well together and overlap in many areas.

How do you keep track of it all? One thing that might really help is to create a mind map. There are several free online tools available, but you can also use a notebook or a whiteboard. I, personally, put information on cue cards and tape them to a big poster sheet (or the wall, for the more elaborate worlds). As the world starts to come together, I can move the cards around or replace information that doesn’t fit anymore.

The last step is to figure out ways to implement this information in your game. A lot of the details are useful for enhancing NPC dialogue, or simply including in books on shelves the player can interact with. But you can also take it a step further and incorporate it into visual elements (architecture of buildings, paintings/statues, etc) or gameplay elements (history quiz puzzle, hints for a maze puzzle hero travels through).

Do you use any tools and techniques to keep your world building organized? Tell us in comments!

7 comments

Game: Blood Shard by Gorlami

Review by: Volrath

Summary: Blood Shard is a moody, polished game with some top-notch atmosphere.

Just the title, ma'am.

Just the title, ma’am.

War. Betrayal. Revenge. The demo of Blood Shard is small, but the themes are big. For about an hour, this game transports you to its grim yet beautiful world. It’s very polished stuff and I suspect the creator has quite a challenge ahead in maintaining this level of quality throughout.

After a brief, highly efficient intro (more on that in the video), we join a shifty operative named Cyril as he fights his way through a city under siege. His motives are very mysterious and this first section gets rather dense in terms of intrigue. Later, the story shifts to who I suspect is the game’s true protagonist – the deposed prince Drake DeLancy. The player has the opportunity for some enjoyable sidequests before Drake has to face his most hated enemy – the psychopathic warlord Miranda.

Blood Shard maintains its deadly serious tone well, even while allowing some silly banter from Drake, whose character class is listed as “charmer.” The lore is also quite convincing and introduced at the right pace, although a few lines left me a little bewildered. For example, one character makes a reference to another being “almost as far West as Esterwyn,” which has no impact for any player who hasn’t seen a world map. We’ll just have to assume that Esterwyn is pretty West.

Footsoldier A made the outrageous claim that he invented the question mark.

Footsoldier A made the outrageous claim that he invented the question mark.

For the battles, the game uses the front-view system but don’t let that fool you. Button mashing will get you killed – these fights are the thoughtful, deliberate ones that seem to be becoming very popular in the RM community these days. The first battle comes with no tutorial, which I usually don’t mind, but in this case a little explanation of some of the more unique mechanics would have been nice. It took me until almost the end of the demo to figure out that taking a few turns to increase my “Vigor” led to devastating physical attacks.

There’s a lot of creativity in the battles and all the unique skills can be highly useful in the right scenario. One especially interesting touch is that most of the items can be used without ending a character’s turn, meaning you can fix up your party without losing an opportunity to attack or cast another spell. All of it takes some practice, but the learning curve is pretty satisfying. You’ll have to be at least a little proficient with the system by the time you get to the battle that concludes this demo – a very specific strategy is necessary to avoid being completely helpless.

It's hard knowing you have to go back into the office on Monday.

It’s hard knowing you have to go back into the office on Monday.

The game’s major strength, however, is its art and atmosphere. Right from the first scene, where the scenery is being pelted by the most vivid-looking rain I’ve ever seen in RPG Maker, the visuals in Blood Shard are immaculate. All the different settings explored in this demo are rich with detail and just a pleasure to look at. The fact that it meshes so well with the RTP-style sprites makes it even more impressive. I would recommend the game just based on its looks, but thankfully the rest of the package isn’t bad either.

Has anyone played this game? Did that cliffhanger leave you wanting more? How did you feel about Cyril and his complex mission? What game should we review next? Sound off in the comments!

0 comments

COMMIT

by Artbane

How many members here have talked about developing a game but never did? Or started a project only to have it rot on their hard drive never to be released? Probably more than a few. Many members here do have a game in them. The problem is many want to have made a game, but not many want to actually make one.

Probably one of the biggest killers of game projects is time. The longer your project is in production, the less chance it has of being finished. I can understand that some people want to work on epic 30-hour productions (Believe me, I’ve done it and it took SIX YEARS!!). And I’m not going to dissuade people from doing that. Make the game you want to make. But consider first working on a vertical slice of your game that you can get out to players to help validate your ideas.

Master of the Wind took 6 years to develop! Talk about commitment.

Personally, I don’t plan on making big games (again) anytime soon. They become bloated and messy as production goes on and usually by then my inspiration is long dead. The last project I worked on took about a month and it’s probably my most cohesive work yet!

Developing a game fast gets it out to other people faster. Not only do you get feedback earlier but also the satisfaction of having something completed. As you boost your confidence in game making, it will become easier to tackle bigger projects. Or maybe you’ll be like me and want to produce more shorter games.

A fast development process also is usually good for the quality of your game. When you can just flow your subconscious mind starts to take over. Distractions just melt away. You’re no longer overanalyzing things. It’s like the game is making itself.

If you want to make your goals, then stay focused and develop quickly. Staring at the map editor and making a few tile changes per hour is simply not productive.

This article series will be about helping to foster a new outlook on game making. The goal is to develop fast and quality games. I wouldn’t consider these shortcuts. You still need to do the work. But once you have a process, game making should become easier, quicker and even more fun!

In the next article, I’ll cover inspiration to help get you started. In the meantime, why not share about some projects you’re working on or want to work on in the comments section below.

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Challenge 4: Wildly Impractical!

So in our last challenge, we created something in a way that while a bit more difficult, actually had practical use. This time, we are going to do something completely and utterly impractical.

Why? Because even though its impractical there are cool things you can learn from it that can be applied to practical pursuits.

So first, let’s talk about what we are creating!

challenge4-1So here we have our hero. He stands at the opening of cavern, to his left is a merchant, to his right is a pool of water that refills his health and mana (I’ve never figured out how drinking random water in caves does this by the way, all I ever got from it was dysentery.)

From there he travels forth:

challenge4-2Traveling through the caves to confront the evil villain. Along the way he will travel through 10 connected rooms filled with monsters he must fight to reach the evil mastermind preparing to destroy the world!

challenge4-3And then in the end, he confronts the villain, fights him, and emerges victorious.

I know what you are thinking. “What, that sounds easy, its standard RPG Making 101, do you think I’m an idiot?” Well hold your horses there! Let’s get on requirements and restrictions.

Requirements

  1. You must have the player travel through ten 17×13 rooms. They don’t have to be linear, but they have to all exist. They CANNOT be identical.
  2. The first room must have a merchant selling items and a pool to regain health.
  3. The final room must have a boss fight.

Still sounds easy right? Wrong.

Restrictions

  1. You can only use ONE 17×13 map in your project.
  2. You can only use ONE event in your project.
  3. You cannot use scripting.

Think you can figure out a way to get around these restrictions? Tell us your plan in the comments below! Good luck.

 

20 comments

So you start to make your cutscene. The event is triggered (either through autorun, player touch, or action button), and it started.

The first NPC had his little speech, and now its time for the next NPC to do something. So you may be asking yourself “well how do I trigger that NPC, do I use a switch and pages?”

dontneedWell, you need an event, but you don’t really need it to have any COMMANDS or to trigger. To explain this, let’s first talk about WHAT IS AN EVENT?

Too often, people fail to see what an event really is. They think of events as their NPCs. They try to move them from map to map, have them be autonomous, and many other weird things that come from viewing events wrong.

Events aren’t NPCs, they are representations. Instead of being actors with their own autonomy, they are more like action figures. Instead of the event that starts it being a director, its more like a kid playing with his figures.

So how do we do this?

moverouteSee here on the move route command? Move route can move ANY event (or the player) from the first triggering event. No reason to trigger another event to have it move, just tell it to move.

Like I said, think of it like a kid playing with his action figures. He moves them all, he talks for them all. Talking you say?

showtextYou’ll notice that the show text command has ZERO connection to the event that triggered it, you can select any face graphic you want. There is no reason that it has to originate from the same event that is the graphical representation of the person talking.

And that is the thing. Events are only graphical representations. In fact, you can use the same event to be 8 different characters (if none of them show up at the same time).

eventsSee those two events in the upper left corner? Those are completely blank. Nothing in them, no graphic, nothing.

I know what you are saying: But Nick, what are they GOOD for then? Those are my action figures guys!

A cutscene starts, and I need two guards to come out. What do I do? Easy, using the original cutscene event, I use “Set Event Location” to move both of them just off of the visible area for the player where the guards would come in, then I use “Set Move Route”. You’ll notice in the move routes there is a “Change Graphic” command. Using that, I can set them to guard graphics, walk them onto the scene, have them do their part, and then do the whole thing in reverse, moving them back up into the corner when I’m done.

Time to do another cutscene on the same map? Use the same blank events. They are just action figures. And unlike a real life action figure, you can completely change what they look like!

So let’s go over the points I made here:

  1. You only ever need one event issuing commands in a cutscene.
  2. You can reuse blank events to represent as many NPCs as you want as long as they don’t appear at the same time.

Hopefully, these tips will help you out. Any questions? More tips on common mistakes? Another way to cut down on event and switch clogging? Check in on the comments section below.

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headerHey guys! We got picked to be Today’s Deal over on Steam! 66% off on all our Steam offerings. Everything from the program itself to a plethora of resource packs!

Pick up a new pixeled style for your fantasy game with our RPG Maker DS Resource Pack
DS
Or maybe your game needs some Mythical Japanese flair, so you pick up the Samurai Resource Pack.
SamuraiOr maybe your inspiration runs more towards Ultima and less towards Final Fantasy. Well we even have options for that, check out our High Fantasy 2 Resource Pack.
high-fantasy-2But what if your tastes go towards something a little less 1600s? We’ve STILL got you covered. Why not grab our Modern Day Tiles Resource Pack or our Futuristic Tiles Resource Pack?futuristic-map-1modern-day-tiles-03It isn’t graphics you are looking for? Well, we can hook you up with the audio too, with great packs like The Cinematic Soundtrack Pack, The Nothing Battles, and The Blackheart Power.

Whatever you are looking for, pick it up today! The sale lasts 48 hours, don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

8 comments

In this tutorial, we will be going over information storage and flow control, and all the types used in the VX Ace Event system. It also includes a small demo showing an event more complex than any we’ve done so far for you to examine.

If you would like to read the full version, right click save as the pdf + demo version HERE But now, let’s get on to the preview!

[click to continue…]

4 comments