As I go to put this into the blog, it is 11:23pm on December 30th, and there is only a little more than 24 hours left for me in 2014.

It has been a crazy year for us. So much happened, and we are glad that we got to share it with our fans. So, while thinking forward to what we can do to make next year even better, let’s take a look at a few of the highlights from the year.

Steam Workshop

SteamWorkshop

The first big hurdle we leaped this year was getting Steam Workshop integrated into RPG Maker VX Ace. The international RPG Maker Fanbase has always been big on communities. We’ve seen web forums come and go, resources and games hosted on many different sites.

But Steam Workshop was something different. Never had we brought RPG Maker to the masses rather than the masses having to come to us. Almost all PC gamers are already ON Steam, so getting Workshop integration gave RPG Maker fans the chance to reach out to the largest possible RPG Maker audience.

RPG Maker Recognition

The next hurdle wasn’t jumped by us on the RPG Maker team, but by our users. RPG Maker has, in the past, been seen by a lot of indie game fans as a toy. Not a real engine to make real games.

But this year, RPG Maker users proved them wrong.

abssitebanner-freebirdhome

With games like A Bird Story, we proved that RPG Maker could be used to make games that pioneer new storytelling techniques, and execute them superbly.

header

With games like Always Sometimes Monsters, we proved that RPG Maker could be used to make games where players choices mattered, where they had emotional weight.

Just all around, RPG Maker games have been making great strides at being accepted as real games. And that is something that you guys did, not us. And we couldn’t be happier.

The Indie Game Maker Contest

And then we get to this monster. No discussion of the year in RPG Maker would be complete without taking a look at the single largest contest (at least that I know of) ever run by an RPG Maker site.

As a judge in this contest, I was personally floored by the number of entries. Nearly SEVEN HUNDRED games were entered into the contest, and we had to judge them all. I’ll admit that I lost a lot of sleep getting through them all, probably as much sleep as the developers lost making them.

But it was worth it to see such brilliant games as Oh! Ko!, Remnants of Isolation, Cope Island, and so, so many more.

IGMC

Resource Packs. So Many Resource Packs

This year, we’ve had so many releases, I can’t even remember them all.

From great tilesets like Pixel Myth Germania

pixel-myth-germania-bannerto amazing new Character and Facesets like the Fantasy Hero Character Pack

product-banner-fantasy-hero-character-packWe provided stunning graphics for our fans to make great games.

And with those great graphics, you could provide some wonderful music from the many music packs we offered, like the Inspirational Music Packs

inspirational-vol-1-productor the Adventurer’s Journey Pack

the-adventurers-journey-productBut we didn’t stop there. We also ventured into scripts, and made creating versatile custom menus and HUDS in RPG Maker VX Ace super simple with the Luna Engine!

luna-engine-product

 

The Coming Year

This year has been wonderful. It was always exciting to see what we could make next, and what our fans would make in response. And with the new year ringing in for me in just a few hours, I like to think of how I can make the next year even better. So let’s finish one more project than we did this year. Let’s start something grand.

What are your plans for the coming year? How are you going to make next year even better than this one?

 

 

 

3 comments

tldr

Exposition is tough. At least some of it is necessary for any video game with a story, especially ones as story-heavy as RPGs. However, seasoned RPG players know when it’s done badly and have no use for stories that bore us with excessive lore details. The “white text on black screen” intro cliche, once a staple of classic RPGs, has since fallen way out of favor and is considered gauche. But unlike other potentially unpopular elements of a game, such as random encounters or escort quests, you can’t very well decide “well, I just won’t have any exposition” unless you’re making something like Tetris. Long ago, when the land was once called the Soviet Union, there was a kingdom of blocks…

So how do we balance a story’s basic needs while avoiding “infodumps” that bore players? I’m going to try my best to answer that question while using some personal experience to add some detail. The first point to make is that what we call exposition typically divides into two categories – plot exposition and world building. Plot exposition is what players need to know to understand the story. As an example, take the treatment of mages in the Dragon Age series. You have to lay out the beef between them and the Templars because that tension plays a major role in the storyline. World building is the detail that makes the world feel more believable and complex but is not essential to the story, like the tales of famous heroes from the world’s past. The cumulative effect of world building can greatly increase how invested a player is in a game, but people don’t like all that detail shoved in their faces.

It sounds simple enough, but a lot of times writers and developers confuse the two. I’ve done it. In the very first demo of Master of the Wind, released almost a decade ago, there was an optional sequence where players could learn about the history of Solest (not even named at that point). This sequence did not have black backgrounds, but it might as well have since the overall effect was the same. On the one hand, I had enough sense to make it optional, but on the other hand, it was still just an onslaught of text, only some of which was crucial to the story. Needless to say, that little feature didn’t survive for very long afterwards. I continued to struggle with how to convey all the lore I had come up with to the players – MotW’s dialogue has a lot of exposition and not all of it is essential. Towards the end, I came up with an answer that I really liked and that I’ve used in other games since.

book

From “World Remade”

Having books that can give world building to players upon request is nice because it allows me to write freely about the world without worrying about whether it’s too much for the player. After all, now they’ve chosen to read this so it should be substantial. Other games often forego having the player even read it on the spot, instead sending the information to a “database” that can be sorted through at any time. Only the most invested players will take the time to actually read this stuff, so you have to make sure it’s not information that they absolutely need to know. Still, having the player seek out the world building themselves, rather than forcing it on them, makes a major difference. Books aren’t the only way to do this. As pointed out in the article I linked earlier, places like ruins or monuments can also accomplish this.

Now what about the plot exposition? How do we give the essential information without being too obvious about it? This is the part that’s hardest to do well. The reason it’s hard is the difference between what the character knows about the world vs. what the player knows about the world. For information that also happens to be new to the character, it’s a lot easier because you can incorporate memorable character reactions, making the information all the more memorable to the player. The basic information about the world, however? That’s harder. Unless you’re doing a “fish out of water” story, the character lives in the world, he doesn’t need a primer on basic stuff. You don’t want a situation where an NPC walks up to you and says “As you know, our world has three moons.” Of course the character knows that already. He’s grown up looking at them!

The other side of it is to insert enough details into character dialogue that the players slowly absorb it. If you can pull this off well and make it feel natural, this is ideal. Unfortunately, it is also very easy to make it feel unnatural. Case in point:we're l'cie

A drinking game for how often he repeats this phrase would lead to alcohol poisoning.

When I played Final Fantasy XIII, I was alienated fairly early on by just how heavily the characters relied on goofy-sounding jargon about “l’cie” and “fal’cie” and whatever else. Sazh in particular kept using the exact same phrase – “We’re l’cie! Enemies of Cocoon!” Why did he have to define “l’cie” every time when everyone around him is already familiar with how things work in Cocoon? Because the writers were dead set on making sure the players remembered it and it showed. Granted, I am a writer myself and more sensitive to this sort of thing. My complaints may come off as overly nitpicky, but I still would have liked to learn that crucial information in a way that didn’t leave me muttering “Yeah. I know. You’ve said it like 100 times.”

Balancing all these factors is a major writing challenge. I still don’t feel like I’ve totally nailed it yet. But we have an ideal to shoot for – character interaction and exploration that educates players about a world without feeling forced or annoying. As long as we keep reaching towards that goal, we’ll all slowly get better at exposition. Happy writing!

5 comments

So this project came about as some promo art for the holidays, but of course I couldn’t just do a ‘normal’ santa.  My Art Director suggested something like a “heavy metal santa”, so I took that idea and ran with it.

metal-santa_draw

I knew this was going to be a promo image and a battler, so I had something in mind almost immediately.  I knew I wanted Rudolph to just look absolutely nuts and Santa to be riding on a spiked sleigh of some sort.  As I got down to drawing (11×17 smooth bristol) it came together really well.

metal-santa_colors

For the colors I tried to keep them pretty Chrismas’y.

metal-santa_p1

rendering with the blender brush

metal-santa_f1

At this point I decided that I wanted to make some pretty serious revisions, as the red background just wasn’t doing it for me.

metal-santa_happyholidays_600w

So I changed it up pretty thoroughly!

Check out the video timelapse here

0 comments

Battler Art Step by Step: Lich!

in Resources

I was a bit surprised when this guy won, but I had a pretty good description written in for him so the creation of his assets wasn’t too difficult.

Lich – A necromancer wielding immense power, it carries a crystal topped stave that emanates with energy, unlike its shifting corpse-like body barely covered by threadbare rags that may have once been regal robes.

lich_draw

A pretty good description I thought, it won the poll after all!  After a bit of fiddling in my sketchbook I had a pretty decent idea of where I wanted to go so I put some pencils down on 11×17 smooth bristol.  I got it all scanned in and leveled, and after some slight adjustment to the size of the staff I got down to some colors.

lich_flats

A primarily cool color scheme was what I had in mind and I feel it worked pretty well, with a few warm bits to catch your eye.

lich_p1

Here I had most of the blended values in place, then it was onto the final overpaint and effects.

lich_f2

And here is the final!

Check out the time-lapse!

Go vote in the poll and download the assets here!

0 comments

Banner

Its the final day, and the sale bag is empty, let’s take a look at the last few items to come out!

zombie-survival-graphic-pack-productZombie Survival Pack: 50% off

pixel-myth-germania-bannerPixel Myth Germania: 50% off

tarot-battlers-productTarot Battlers: 60% off

sci-fi-battlebacks-productSci-Fi Battlebacks: 60% off

the-simple-life-music-pack-bannerThe Simple Life: 75% off

0 comments

Banner

Santa’s Sale bag is starting to get light, its day 4 of our Holidays Sale!

sci-fi-tiles-productSci-Fi Tiles: 30% off

high-fantasy-mega-pack-productHigh Fantasy Resource Bundle Mega Pack: 60% off

tales-of-the-far-east-productTales of the Far East: 40% off

evil-castle-tiles-productEvil Castle Tiles: 50% off

comipo-casual-wear-productComiPo! Casual Wear: 50% off

Also don’t forget to vote for tomorrow’s sales HERE!

0 comments

BannerWe are digging into the sale bag once again for Day 3! Let’s take a look:

product-banner-fantasy-hero-character-packFantasy Hero Character Pack: 50% off

sinister-hollows-productSinister Hollows: 40% off

the-agency-productThe Agency: 30% off

program-logo-manga-maker-comipoComiPo!: 60% off

program-logo-ig-makerIG Maker: 50% off

Also don’t forget to vote for tomorrow’s sales HERE!

0 comments

Banner

Let’s check our sale bag for day 2!

product-banner-dark-hero-character-packDark Hero Characters: 30% off
dungeons-volcanoes-tile-pack-productDungeons and Volcanoes: 40% off
product-frontier-works-futuristicFrontier Works: 50% off
dungeon-music-pack-productDungeon Music Pack: 50% off
modern-day-music-mega-pack-productModern Day Mega Music Pack: 60% off

Also don’t forget to vote for tomorrow’s sales HERE!

0 comments

BannerIts the time of year for fun, friends, and family! Whether you are lighting up Christmas lights, Menorahs, Kinaras, or any other holiday observance, the RPG Maker Web would like to wish you a wonderful holiday season. The holidays are a time of joy and celebration, and we would like to join that celebration with you.

So, to go along with our holiday well-wishing, we bring you a SALE. From today to the 17th, new items will be on sale every day. And the best part? After today, you get to vote on what goes on sale! You can cast your vote on the forums HERE.

Also, keep an eye on our Facebook and Twitter so that you don’t miss out on our Holiday Giveaways!

Now, let’s take a look at what we have in our sale bag for day 1!

fantastic-buildings-medieval-productFantasy Buildings Medieval: 30% off!

luna-engine-productLuna Engine: 40% off!

rpg-maker-ds-plus-resource-pack-productRPG Maker DS+ Resource Pack: 50% off!

classic-fantasy-music-pack-bannerClassic Fantasy Music Pack: 50% off!

inspirational-vol-1-productInspirational Vol I: 60% off!

Remember, the sales change every day, so come back tomorrow for an all new line up, voted on by the fans. And don’t forget to vote!

Happy Holidays from the RPG Maker Web Team!

 

0 comments

Ice beast, ice warrior, guardian.  These were some of the descriptors bouncing around in my head when I started doing some concepts for this enemy.  Initial sketches landed pretty much where I expected

hoarfrost-guardian

After loosely defining what I had in mind I jumped into drawing.  This is done on 11×17 bristol

hoarfrost-sketch

My main shapes are established here and I have a pretty good idea of the direction I am heading.  I switch over to my fancy mechanical pencil and get down to the real drawing

hoarfrost-guardian_draw

So now it is scanned into the computer and I’ve cleaned it up a little; mostly just levels and erasing a few stray lines.  I’ve had a good idea for the color scheme since the beginning so I lay in some flat midtones.

hoarfrost-guardian_col

Cool blues turned out to be a good base.  I laid those in and colorized some of my lines as well.  From here it was down to rendering the final!

hoarfrost-guardian_p1

I worked into my blues with white highlights quite a lot and then added a bunch of cool icy smoke.  Pretty happy with the way this guy turned out!  I also did a quick color overlay as well to make a variant.

hoarfrost-guardian_crystaline

I’ve also recorded a video of some of my render process, check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hg-RAJRFcDw

You can download this enemy battler and vote in the poll for the next one here!

1 comment