STBannerMaking a slightly different type of RPG

By: Maddie the Paladin-Cleric of Awesome

Ok, so you’ve heard all this before right? You know how it all works. You’ve read all the tutorials and you know how to make an RPG. Am I right?

I’m not doubting that, there are so many helpful tutorials out there that help you get a handle on how to use RPG maker Ace, that show you how you can make the game you always wanted to.

This is not one of those. I’m not here to tell you how to make a game. I’m not going to explain how the program works. What I am going to do is share my experiences in making a game. If this includes handy tutorials of things I have discovered that I wish to share, then more the better.

And if you find the concept of the game I intend to make interesting enough to want to try it yourself then I will feel very accomplished.


While clearing out the dreaded bottom shelf of my bookshelf, the one stacked with old DVD cases and that Manga I haven’t read since I was 12 (and seriously, what on earth was I reading at 12), populated with dust bunnies of near ferocious size, I uncovered a game.

Heroes Chronicles: Clash of the Dragons

Clash of the Dragons, The most addicting game I have ever played!

Clash of the Dragons, The most addicting game I have ever played!

I had not played this game in nearly 10 years, and feeling a tad whimsical (and nostalgic) I put in my laptop. I was surprised to see it actually worked as the game was so old, and the disk so scratched I was convinced it wouldn’t. And suddenly three days flew by me as I fought my way through 8 maps, and thousands of monsters to beat the game.

Now, if you have never played the Heroes Chronicles, you have been missing out. It is a timeless sort of a game where your decisions influence how hard or easy the game will be, and no matter how many times you play it, nothing is ever exactly the same (that group of monsters that joined your party the first time seems to have taken a dislike to you on your second play through).

It’s all about managing time and resources. Of building an army of numbers, or one of skill, all the while knowing that your enemy was doing the same, that the longer you spend building your forces, the more of them you would need to face.

And I thought (sometime around the middle of my second play-through)… Could I make something like this using Ace?

(There are no words to describe how odd I was at 12... I mean seriously...)

There are no words to describe how odd I was at 12… I mean seriously…

STBulletFirst Steps

Now comes those first few days where my room becomes snowed under with scribbled over paper where I seem to repeat myself a thousand times while trying to work out how I could make a Heroes Chronicles style game in Ace. My new game project becomes bogged down with my attempts at actually eventing what I want to see.

And then, at long last, I managed to put all of my hastily scribbled notes into some semblance of order (after wrestling with my cat for that one piece of paper he has decided makes a better bed than his actual one), and actually sat down and set to work on the game.

Being the super organised person I am (and make no mistake, I am being both very serious and very sarcastic when I say that), I now have myself a basic plot, some basic characters, and the list of all the game-play options I want in the game.

Most people have to bribe their cat off their important sheets of paper with food... my cat wanted something a little different

Most people have to bribe their cat off their important sheets of paper with food… my cat wanted something a little different

STBulletSo, now that I’ve had my bit of a rant and creative craziness, I find myself curious. What is your own inspiration for game making? Have you ever played a game and found yourself thinking “I could totally do that using RPG maker”? And once inspired, how do you turn that inspiration into the beginnings of a game?

Next time on Spiders Thread: Basic Plot

Offered for your amusement by Maddie (aka Paladin Cleric of Awesome): novelist (in spirit), game developer (in progress) and owner of one too many cats (Though as my family tells it, three too many).



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By: Artbane

Writing about your own project can be difficult for a lot of developers. But writing good copy can be the difference between whether people will download your game or pass it on. So if you’re going to be doing the writing about your game, it’s probably worth investing some time in becoming better at it.

There’s one key principle to understand first… People DO NOT CARE about your game! Your job is to make them care! There are 1000s of games to choose from – both paid and free. Why should they spend their valuable time playing your game?

The goal is to let people know why your game is interesting! You need an angle that sets it apart from all the other games. Think of it this way: If I picked you out of an audience of indies, would you be able to intrigue me in 20 seconds? 10 seconds? If I had to write a news story about your game, then what would the headline be?

Here’s an example of a hook: Labyrinthine Dreams – Written by a professional journalist! Already this makes the game standout. It can be something about one of the developers, a new mechanic or interesting twist on an old narrative trope!

When writing your copy, make sure it’s casual. You’re not a large scale company so don’t act like one. It shouldn’t read like every other press release. You’re an indie – show your passion for your project! Inject some personality. You want to avoid being vague or redundant, sounding fake cool, or like a robot.

Here’s a tip to help you get in the right writing mode. Pretend you’re in a booth with your friend. In your own words, explain to your friend why your game is so amazing! Afterwards, go through it again and try to remove any jokes that are too clever or obscure. You want to be clear, not clever. It’s not necessary to be humorous either. Write for the tone of your game.

If you need help creating a template for your game copy, use the AIDA formula. AIDA stands for Attention, Interest, Desire and Action. I’ll be using Seita’s project You Are Not The Hero in the examples (referred to as YANTH).

yanthFirst, you get their ATTENTION with your game name or a hook. Make sure the hook isn’t too long. YANTH is a great title. The name grabs your attention as typically in games you ARE the hero. So it instantly comes off as new and novel.

Once you got their attention, you need to capture their INTEREST. This is where you tell them interesting facts about your game. YANTH tells you that you’re not playing the traditional hero bent on saving the world, but an innocent bystander that gets swept up in their affairs.

Now make them DESIRE your game. By now you should have made them want to play your game. Right after explaining the hook of the game, YANTH goes right into the details of what will keep the player entertained. These include sidequests, minigames and an awesome train sequence!

Finally, show them how to take ACTION. Tell them where to download your game or how to support it. Describe it in detail. YANTH has very detailed instructions on how to support their game.

You can see more examples of great copy at work on their Kickstarter page HERE.

Here are a few more tips to get in the right mind space when writing you game copy:

  • Have a beverage nearby like coffee or tea. Nothing gets the mind fueled like caffeine! But if you’re not into caffeine, just a bottle of water can be good.
  • If you’re feeling inspired, WRITE! There are certain times of the day where we just seem to be in more a creative space. Find out when yours is. You probably only have a few hours of “good writing” in you each day.
  • Make note of how you’re feeling. It will affect the tone of your writing.

Got any more tips for writing good game copy? Let us know in the comments!

Storyline is Good, But Remember Gameplay thumbnail

Even I’m not immune to it. When describing Nier, one of my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii generation, I’m much more likely to spout off about the deep storyline and amazing characters and dialogue than to describe it as an action RPG primarily focused on melee with ranged magic spells and occasional forays into completely different game genres.

RPGs have historically, especially starting in the early 90s, been known for their strong drama, deep characters, and epic storylines. A lot of us growing up with that legacy, moved to wanting to make video games in the genre, inspired by those features to create the same. Like aspiring authors, we descend on RPG Maker to create games that tell the grand stories that circulate in our heads, dreams of dragons and castles and heroes.

And that is good. There is nothing wrong with that. Very few people will find a strong storyline a detriment to a game, and those that do? Well, I’m pretty sure they weren’t in your target demographic to begin with!

"ZOMG WHY IS THERE SO MUCH WORDS ON THE SCREEN!?" "Why are you playing a Final Fantasy again?"

“Why are you playing a Final Fantasy again?”

But never forget your medium. Video games aren’t books. Video games aren’t movies. Characters, dialogue, atmosphere, and all those other little tidbits aren’t there just to tell the story, they are also there to provide CONTEXT to the gameplay. And gameplay is what makes a video game, a video game, rather than just a poorly animated cartoon.

If you ever take the time, go to our official forums, which are a great community by the way, and read through some of the project topics. Is there anything you notice? 99% of all the discussion in opening topics are about the same thing: story, story, story. Now, I’m not saying none of these games have good gameplay! A lot of the users designing are still very good gameplay designers, but it shows the emphasis we place. The first thing everyone wants to tell us is “This is the story, this is how cool my writing is” rather than “this is how the game works, THIS IS WHAT YOU DO IN IT.”

Even I'm not immune to it. When describing Nier, one of my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii generation, I'm much more likely to spout off about the deep storyline and amazing characters and dialogue than to describe it as an action RPG primarily focused on melee with ranged magic spells and occasional forays into completely different game genres.

Even I’m not immune to it. When describing Nier, one of my favorite games of the PS3/360/Wii generation, I’m much more likely to spout off about the deep storyline and amazing characters and dialogue than to describe it as a 3D action RPG primarily focused on melee with ranged magic spells with aspects of bullet hell games and occasional forays into completely different game genres (One entire section is literally a white text on black screen text adventure).

So what does that really tell us about the RPG Maker community as a whole? We value story over gameplay. And hey, that isn’t the end of the world in and of itself, everyone has their different reasons for liking games, but we can’t forget that story is a cog in the overall machine that is a game, or the games will get stale. So first, let’s talk a little bit about…

…What is Gameplay?

This might seem like a dumb question, but in all honesty, it isn’t as much as people think. So what is gameplay? Gameplay is MEANINGFUL INTERACTION.

So let’s look at it as two parts.

1. Is there interaction?

Can the player do things differently? How does he interact with the game. Can he equip different items to change the playstyle of his characters? Can he choose to do more than one thing at constant junctures in the game? Games are generally filled with choice: Do I attack this turn, do I heal? Do I equip my character with the weapon that does the most damage, or the one that gives the best secondary boost? Should I level a few more times, or go down to beat the boss now?

The thing the game needs to do though, is REACT to the choices, and that is where the second part also comes in:

2. Is that interaction MEANINGFUL?

Does it make a difference in the game? Is the game REACTING to your choice. If I choose to hit attack or use a skill, is there going to be a DIFFERENCE to how the game plays? If I can beat the entire game without doing anything other than the attack command, the entire combat system lacks meaning. There is nothing for me there but a delay while I mash that A button. That isn’t gameplay?

Conversely, if I get to make storyline decisions and nothing in changes to reflect that, then those decisions don’t constitute gameplay.


Persona 3/4 Social links: Gameplay or not?
1. They create interaction between you and the game. You are making choices, both in your reactions and who you hang out with during your limited time allotted.
2. Those choices make differences to the game, both in further story sections of the social links, AND in the bonuses you can receive when fusing personas. And in Persona 4, they can also affect your party member’s personas.
Conclusion: Yes, definitely gameplay!

A bit of Homework

So, what do I think we should do about this? Put some emphasis on the game part of Role Playing Game. As a challenge, instead of thinking of a new story for a project, think of a single mechanic. It doesn’t have to be unique, but bonus points if it is, and then try to think of a hypothetical game project to fit around it. Come back and post yours in the comments, or on our Facebook post linking this blog.

I’ll go first to show you what I mean:

Game Mechanic: Time Manipulation

OK, I want to make time manipulation an important way the player interacts with my world. What if you made a puzzle game, with tons of puzzle rooms, but part of how you solve some of them is to go in them more than once at the same time? What if the goal of the game was to activate 3 spheres, but you had to do it using the same number of “moves” while using time jumping to start the puzzle over to reach each one.

Maybe you get to the 1st sphere in 3 moves, then after you jump back you would need 4 moves to get to the 2nd one, but if you do a 2 move action that unlocks a door at a certain time, you can jump back again and cut getting the 2nd sphere down to 3 moves. And if you did it right, you would unlock a way to get to the 3rd sphere in the same number of moves as well.

The player has to think. The manipulation of time gives him choices that he has to make, and if he doesn’t make them correctly, the game doesn’t move on. Maybe even include multiple solutions, and different tools to be used, allowing the player to approach the same problem in different ways.

How good is this idea? Well, its rough, but I think it could be fun. This portion was literally written off the top of my head, just brainstorming how you could possibly use Time Manipulation as a mechanic in the game.

So why don’t you spitball up a mechanic? How can you make it fit into the game, and how can it be used? Join us in the conversation in the comments section below!




Hopefully by now you have a stack of notes or text files with ideas for your game. It’s time to start organizing all those ideas into a PLAN.

Why create a plan? Why not just jump into the editor and start hacking away? That’s because if you sit down with the editor open and you don’t know what you’re going to do next, it’s going to be difficult to do anything. You need to create a plan so you know what you’re going to do next. Without structure it’s going to be laborious working on a RPG.

Yay new project! … now what?

Yay new project!
… now what?

So, before you even start developing, you’ll want to create an outline. Some people might refer to this as the GDD or Game Design Document but that’s not what it really is. A GDD is a very descriptive document that is used to coordinate efforts among a large team. This is also often shared with a publisher for approval. You don’t need anything that technical.

So, first, you want to open a new doc. Put a working title at the top of the page. Then, try to imagine different ideas you want to put into your game. Try to get the BIG IDEAS into the outline first: story, characters, gameplay. The order doesn’t really matter now. Just try to get them all on there. Hopefully you have a lot of notes to refer to at this point.

Game outline template.

Game outline template.

Once the major ideas are down, you can start writing supporting ideas. Then, you can clean up the outline and organize it into sections. If sections get too large, you might want to make a separate document. I often have a few documents for a project organized into a folder on Google Docs. It makes it easier to reference something quickly or share it with teammates.

With a plan you’ll be able to develop more in less time because you’ll have structure. At the same time, you don’t want the planning stage to be a bottleneck. While it does help to have an outline, you can find yourself paralyzed trying to plan out your entire game first. You really just want to get the broad strokes of your game down. You don’t need to plan out every map and scene. It’s good to be detailed but it can be taken too far.

And sometimes, ideas that looked good on paper don’t work so well in implementation. Or you might just come up with entirely new ideas organically when working on your game. So don’t feel beholden to your outline. Game development is an iterative process. Consider your outline a living document.

Once you got your plan more or less outlined, it’s time to finally start developing! Hopefully this and the preceding articles prepared you for this. While the title of the articles might be “How to make a RPG in less than a week”, the idea behind the articles is really how to develop more efficiently. If you follow an established process, then you’ll be able to develop more in less time.

Do you find a good outline helps you with your game? Have some questions about how to create an effective one? Join the comments section below! Good luck with developing your game!

1 comment

Everyone knows: Playtesting is important. And they are right: Playtesting is one of the most important steps in creating a polished game. Devs everywhere should praise their playtesting teams, but that is a subject for another day.

Today, we are talking about checking your math, both to fix issues before they get to playtesting AND to fix issues that playtesting would never catch. Don’t leave it all to your playtesters to fix your broken mechanics, they will not appreciate it. It turns out your math teacher was right when she said this stuff is important!

Say hi to the bell curve.

Say hi to the bell curve.

Math checking is a pretty simple thing to do. Think about white room examples of how the game should be played (which is a bit easier in video games than say, Tabletop RPGs where expected situations can vary widely) and crunch through the numbers. Let’s look at two examples of odd math quirks that could have been eliminated from popular games from big budget studios had they just run all the math: [click to continue…]


For the last couple of years now, the driving force behind what is on this blog was whatever I thought would be a good idea at the time. I like to think that I still came out with some really nice stuff, but there have been a number of associated downsides with that. I know a good bit about RPG Maker, but there is still a lot of skills involved that I don’t have. I don’t know Ruby Script, and I don’t know how to create art or music. And I have a feeling that these are things that everyone wants to learn more about. On top of that, when I think of blog ideas, I generally gravitate towards ideas similar to ones I’ve had before.

So instead of trying to come up with more ideas, that will more than likely inspired by my old ideas, I thought I would open the floor to the fans: What do you want to see more of on the blog? Tell us about it! From vague ideas, to specific article concepts, fire away into the comments section below.

But what if you want to do more than that? Do you think you have knowledge in RPG Maker that could help our fans everywhere? That is why we are looking for…

Guest Bloggers

If you would like to create a guest article for our blog, you can email us at with the title “Guest Blog”. Included in this email should be a bit of information about yourself, and what you would like to write articles about. If your articles sound interesting, we will contact you so that you can begin the writing process.

Guest bloggers will also be allowed to provide links to their own games or blog to help promote their other works.

Together, I hope we can raise this blog to even higher standards. Please comment below with what you want to see us write!


Extra Life Stream!

in Uncategorized


Hi! My Extra Life Stream will be starting at Noon today (EST)! Make sure to join me! You can watch the Stream here.

There will be a few changes to the stream based on previous announcements.

  1. The Stream will be continuing until 1pm EST tomorrow, as I forgot it was 25 hours and not 24.
  2. The percent of RM material will be lower than I previously announced. I will spend time in RPG Maker VX Ace, and will also be judging the Fall Festival entries, but with it being a marathon of 25 hours, I just found it a bit too daunting to spend all that time mostly doing one thing. I’ll be talking on all kinds of subjects on my opinions on video game design, and hopefully we can get some good talking going on in the chat room.


You can find my page to donate HERE!


Everyone has had some experience with this, the boogie man that we all face from time to time when the work we are doing isn’t just mechanical, but requires us to stretch our creativity. Writers, Artists, Game Designers, we all get faced with this from time to time.

Actually, I’ve been faced with this recently myself. It’s sometimes hard to come up with another idea for another post to make that would be useful and informative for you guys. But its very important I keep trying. So, how do you deal with Creative Block? I can’t give you the perfect answer. In all honesty, there is no perfect answer, because we are each individuals who react in different ways. I can though, tell you different ways I deal with Creative Block. Keep in mind that some of these answers will seem contradictory! That is because no one approach ever seems to work for me all the time.

Break your Routine

Too often, its really really easy to fall into a routine. My general routine for instance, because I work from home, is also very isolated. I wake up in the morning, sometime between 10am and 1pm, grab some quick breakfast, sit down and do a bit of work, usually starting with the Facebook page, and then moving on to other things, pick up my son from school at 2:30pm, take care of the kids and maybe watch some TV or play a few games until dinner, make dinner, get my son to take a bath, get them to clean up the play room, send the kids off to sleep, work a bit more, go to bed in the wee hours of the morning. Imgur browsing usually makes it in there a few times a day, but literally, 90% of my days looks like that.

Its OK, little buddy. I understand.

Its OK, little buddy. I understand.

The problem is that that keeps me in the SAME routine looking at the SAME problem in the SAME way. Break that routine. Maybe invite some friends over, or head to a gathering somewhere else. Go get some Waffle House at 3am. Anything. Just break the normal routine of your life. By doing something different, you can get out from under your problem for a bit, and maybe come back with a different perspective.

Consume Creative Media

There is only so much you can do by throwing yourself against that brick wall repeatedly. Sometimes, the best way to work out how to complete your own creative work, is to look at other peoples. Now, you can stick inside the genre you are working in if you want (are you writing? read books, designing a video game? play video games, etc), but I find reaching into lots of different media is even better.

With having problems thinking of new blog posts about video game design, I reached for a number of different things. I watched two TV shows that I had never seen before (Parks and Recreation / Fringe, I would suggest both), played a bunch of board games (Space Hulk: Death Angels is an excellent 1-6 player experience by the way), and even watched a bunch of board game review videos.

Seriously, this game saved me from a nervous breakdown, especially since its playable solo. Its also hard. Still haven't won.

Seriously, this game saved me from a nervous breakdown, especially since its playable solo. Its also hard. Still haven’t won.

While you are consuming these experiences, keep in mind WHY they work. Be looking at what can you take from each one, not rip off obviously, but what parts make them enjoyable to you. The character based storytelling from Fringe is a great example, and can easily translate to most types of media you could be working on. Space Hulk: Death Angel has a neat case for limited action options (each combat team of 2 space marines only has the ability to choose 2 of 3 actions each turn), and how it enhances the game, a GREAT lesson to take back to you making video games.

Just Create

Sit down with your chosen medium, and just make. Don’t even think about what you are making, don’t question, just go. Free doodle, write a rambling story about an anthill, make a dungeon with no purpose, ANYTHING.

Just get stuff down on ‘paper’ and out of your head. Don’t wait for it to be perfect. What you are creating this way may never see the light of day to anyone else, that isn’t the PURPOSE of it. It will probably be awful, but that’s OK, too! But look through what you are creating, and find the parts that interest you. Ask yourself why your subconscious mind picked up specific patterns in your creation. Find what WORKS.

Export what works for your real project to there, eject the rest, rinse and repeat. Sometimes, you just need to get going and do something to free your brain up.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Reach out to your friends, reach out to strangers if they will listen to you. Put up a thread on our forums. Just say “hey, this is where I am, where do you think I should be going”. Even if you don’t like the ideas other people throw out, deciding why you don’t like them will help you identify what you do like!

While facing my own creative block on the blog, I talked to a good bit of the RPG Maker Web team, and I even made a post in our staff boards asking for help. And people responded. Sometimes it wasn’t even direct help, it was just support, and support is good too. Feeling better about your work overall can sometimes break that funk that is preventing you from getting the work done.

Don’t give up

Creative Block is a huge issue. And it can come from nowhere and sit in our brains like a festering cancer. But don’t give up. Remember, to break those routines, experience other creative works, just create, and don’t forget you can always ask for help!

Have your own methods of dealing with Creative Block? Or maybe you are suffering from Creative block yourself and need to ask for help? Join the conversation in our comments section below!


Ever thought of creating your own tilesets? Either for yourself or for sale? Why don’t you check out this very candid discussion of what it takes from one of our more accomplished tileset artists?

I’m Celianna, known mostly for the resources that I create for RPG Maker. To this date, I have created three full tilesets for RPG Maker. The first one was simply a collection of all the resources I’ve made over the course of three years that I spent making free resources for the community. The second one was my first real tileset, in the sense that everything was 100% made by me, and also included a TileE. The funny thing is, when I assembled my first tileset together, it took me about two weeks (since I did end up creating new resources for it, and I had to fix autotiles) to wrap it up. Not bad, I thought. I can easily do a tileset on my own in a month!

Or so I thought.

Creating your own tileset from scratch probably takes four times longer than you had originally estimated. And even then some more, just to be safe. When I started, days trickled by as if it was nothing, and before I knew it, I was only half-way done and already two months had passed. I eventually managed to finish it up after three months. That’s not to say I worked every single day (I did take breaks to prevent myself from going insane from drawing), nor did I work in a consistent schedule (some days I’d work 12 hours, other days it was 3 hours). All in all, I’d say I spent around 200 hours creating this tileset.

So I had finally managed to finish one tileset, I figured I’d be better at estimating how much work goes into creating them.

For my next tileset, which hasn’t yet been released, I wanted to create more. I wanted to create an exterior and interior tileset for the B-E tiles, not to mention different seasons for the exterior tiles. That, and I was going to create fitting icons, and bunch of character sets. All in all, it was more work than my previous tileset. I estimated I’d be done in four months.

Creating different seasons for exterior tiles is actually quite a lot of work.

Creating different seasons for exterior tiles is actually quite a lot of work.

But four months passed, and I wasn’t even half-way done. In fact, I even managed to scratch some things I had made because I wasn’t satisfied with them and restarted from the ground up. This set me back a lot. Not to mention real life bothered me quite a bit (not only did I go on vacation to another country for two months, I also spend a month and a half moving out into a new place), which made sure that my tileset’s progress dragged on forever.

To this date, at least as far as this article goes, I am only about 93% done with my newest tileset, and I’ve been working on this since March. It is now November. That’s almost 9 months. Honestly, either I’m terrible at estimating, or I’m severely underestimating the amount of effort and work that goes into creating a tileset. And that’s not just me, it’s what a lot of people do.

It’s not about skill, or finesse, or how good of an artist you are—though those things will certainly help you out—it’s all about managing your time, and realizing that completing these tiny images will eat up a huge chunk of it. More than you’d originally thought. A lot of budding artists, much like myself, think it’ll be easy to create their own tileset. After all, they can already draw, so it shouldn’t be hard making their own tileset, right?


This is why a lot of artists still end up relying on the default RTP, or resource packs already made available to the public for their tilesets, with maybe an edit here or there, but never almost 100% custom. Because it’s simply faster this way, even if they could, theoretically, make their own tileset. But no one wants to spend six months on only the graphics when they have to make the actual game as well. Because, well, creating a tileset takes a lot of effort! Way more than you’d think if you looked at the finished product. And that’s a mistake a lot of people make, and they end up underestimating the effort it took to finish it.

This is showing not even 1/4 of the entire tileset. That's how much work there is.

This is showing not even 1/4 of the entire tileset. That’s how much work there is.

I’m still looking at my own tileset from time to time and think out loud; “How did I spend several months working on this!?”. But I really did. I’ve put in more than over 350 hours for this tileset (I use a handy dandy program called ManicTime that keeps track of this for me)—probably closer to 400 hours as the creation of a tileset doesn’t only include the use of an art program—and that’s all spread across those several months I’ve been working on it.

Other artists, who underestimated the effort it takes to create a tileset, get discouraged because it’s taking so long, and then they stall their work, or never complete it. Or people who are looking to hire artists to create a tileset for them, don’t realize they’re underpaying their artists because they’re under the impression that creating a tileset is easy work. It all looks so easy when you see the RTP, and you think: that’s not a lot of art at all! But it all takes its toll, it all takes a lot of work—tileset making isn’t easy.

Making sprites is even more time consuming than drawing tiles.

Making sprites is even more time consuming than drawing tiles.

First and foremost, it requires you to be able to draw, the better you are at art, the better the result. If it’ll speed things up? Not so much. A crappy artist might actually spend less time on a tileset than a very good artist, because the better you are, the more you’re able to see flaws in your work and the more time you spend on fixing them. But then you also need to factor in the time it takes to create an autotile. Obviously, you first need to know and understand how autotiles work. Fortunately I know perfectly well how they work, but it doesn’t make it any less time consuming. It’s easy to create a square bookcase in a few minutes, but animating a water autotile with corners? That’s going to take more than a couple of hours to get it right. Autotiles in general will always take longer, so be prepared to spend more than a month on finishing up those pesky TileA1-A5 tiles.

Even coverart needs to be drawn.

Even coverart needs to be drawn.

Well big deal—autotiles are only half of the actual tileset, and that is correct. But good luck planning out an entire sheet so that it fits in perfect 32×32 squares, and so that all your objects take up the appropriate amount of space, and that there are no stray pixels from one object bleeding into another object, and there’s no empty tiles left that you might have missed. Not to mention you have to set it up in such a way that people can use it without any instructions, so tiles have to look like actual objects, and not like jigsaw puzzle pieces. You’ll probably end up spending a lot of time playing tetris with your tiles to try and fit them into the tileset since it’s all so rigid. And forget about adding shadows to your objects! Those will fall out of the grid and get cut off, so you’ll probably end up with either a very wonky shadow, or no shadow at all.

And then, when your tileset is full, you realize you still have objects left—but there’s no space for them anymore! No amount of playing tetris can make these tiles fit in the image. So you have to decide; do you create an entirely new image that only takes up a few puny tiles while the rest is blank, and risk people complaining about how ‘empty’ your tileset is (or worse; they think it’s an error, or they’re missing tiles), or do you turn it into a characterset (which means doing math, and people might not ever think of looking inside that folder for tile objects)? Or do you throw your hands up in the air, and say; well I’m just not going to include this?

There are many tiles that don’t make the cut in my own tilesets. I tend to include these as extras for parallax mapping (but then I still risk getting complaints because people don’t know what parallax mapping is). But plenty of times, I simply do not add them. I’ve created a lot of autotiles that I end up editing, or fixing, or simply replacing with newer ones, and they’ll never see the light of day. Fortunately, I can always use them for something else, but it won’t end up in the tileset due to its rigid formats. I’d rather not have an entire image for only one autotile (since RPG Maker VX Ace now allows you to use multiple tilesets), so I cram everything I have in one image. There are a lot of artists out there who actually do this—keeping the space empty I mean—but they also get the backlash of the community who will complain about ‘missing parts of the tileset’ or ‘there’s an error and my tiles aren’t showing up’ or simply ‘wow what an empty tileset’, so I decide on full images. And what doesn’t fit, gets cut off.

All in all, tilesets require lots of planning, lots of correcting, lots of testing, lots of tetris, lots of idiot proofing—honestly, only about 60% is actually about drawing the tiles. The other 40% is getting it to actually work.

Drawing art? That’s easy. Finding the time to finish an entire tileset? Good luck with that.

Drawing art? That’s easy. Finding the time to finish an entire tileset? Good luck with that.

Making tilesets is a lot of hard work. So remember that artists, in case you’re thinking of creating your own tileset. Or for those commissioning artists; don’t underpay them. It takes far more effort than you could ever imagine.