by: Volrath

Game: Antagonist by Nivlac

Summary: Antagonist is a fast-paced romp filled with fantastic art, which may have come at the expense of some overall polish.

12014 IGMC Winner – Best RPG (1st Place)!

Let’s be honest – an RPG Maker game poking fun at the clichés of classic RPGs is hardly breaking new ground these days. However, Antagonist is a distinctive twist on this concept, blending its parody of games with an amusing satire of contemporary filmmaking as well.

The lead character is an up and coming actor named D’Vil, who is psyched to have landed the role of end boss for the latest feature from Evil Productions, which films cutscenes to include in RPGs. However, a dangerous shoot on top of a volcano goes awry and D’Vil and Ralph, the actor playing the hero, separated from the crew. The problem is that Ralph is still determined to vanquish D’Vil for the good of the world even though the cameras are gone. Forming an uncomfortable alliance, the two begin to learn the truth about what’s going on.

This guy cares about acting much more than his namesake.

This guy cares about acting much more than his namesake.

Of course, the plot isn’t the only unique thing about Antagonist. The most striking feature of the game is that the player never sets foot on a traditional map – the entire game is depicted through wonderful backgrounds, character illustrations and battlers.  The game has a large cast and a lot of locations, all of which are beautifully rendered. With no exploration involved, the game is a fast-paced experience that keeps your attention.

I have huge respect for the amount of work that went into this art, especially when only a month of time was allotted for contest entries. While playing the game, however, I began to wonder if the game’s overall polish suffered as a result. During my playthrough, I encountered a handful of typos and instances of text being cut off, I learned a skill I wasn’t supposed to learn, and the final attack, used solely for purposes of the story, supposedly “failed” according to the battle interface, although the ensuing cutscene obviously said otherwise. None of this is game breaking, or even any sort of inconvenience, but I was surprised to see it in a game that placed so high.

I haven't seen a showbiz mishap like this since the Spider-Man musical...

I haven’t seen a showbiz mishap like this since the Spider-Man musical…

Battles have some element of strategy involved, mostly in regard to which spells you choose to learn. It’s rarely challenging, but the striking backdrops and colorful opponents make it a good deal of fun. Most adversaries are direct parodies of other RPG characters. Personally, I thought “Chefiroth” had most of the best lines.

There are a lot of battles to fight in Antagonist, but it still felt like it was over quickly. That’s a good sign that the fun factor is pretty high on this one. That and the unique presentation are more than enough of a reason to recommend it. What did you think of this game? What was your favorite character design? Are you fine with the lack of exploration when the art is this good? Tell us in the comments!


Hello everyone, I am going to walk you through a bit of my process today on creating Battlers(although really, it is my process for everything!).

So usually the way these things start out is with a rough idea, a name, or a design brief.  For this guy, I just was trying to think of a cool big bad at first, then it kind of morphed into what it is now along the way.


So first I sat down and just started fiddling with shapes in the Alchemy program.  Eventually I came upon what you see in the lower left: a big beefy armored baddie with a big sword.  I pulled that into photoshop and started doing some explorations and thumbnails.  Thinking about the character looking menacing in the RPGmaker battlescape led me to the majority of my poses, and likely the one I decided to flesh out in the end.


Now that I had my thumbnail I took that and enlarged it in my canvas to its final size and I started roughing out the value structure and texture on the character.  This is done with a couple of brushes, but primarily just one, set to varying degrees of opacity.  I knew I wanted the flesh of this beast to be properly rugged, something like rough, ancient bone mixed with armor.  Initially the design of the head and chest was slightly different, but I changed it to how you see it now to increase readability.  After bringing it properly up to a good range of values, I started messing with some colors.


This is where the ‘Flame’ part of the name really started to take shape.  I knew I wanted a hot core in the chest to really pop the values there, but I hadn’t necessarily decided I wanted it to be fire.  Once I started laying in the flames though, there was no turning back!  The surface colors I was thinking a charred bone, so they ended up pretty warm in color temperature at this phase; kind of a yellow ochre and ruddy brown.  Colors here are applied with a single brush, varying opacity, on a multiply layer above the value layer.  Once I was happy with how the colors were working with the value structure, I merged all of my layers into a new one to start painting.


On here I started out with the dodge tool and some high value colors to define my highlights.  Thinking about the specular properties of my surfaces, I wanted to keep the highlights pretty tight and hot, as that is how I imagined the bone armor would look.  This phase was done with the same brush as the other phases, but with generally higher opacity.  I started with the highlights and kind of worked my way out from there in terms of painting the character.  After a lot of painting, I was pretty happy with how he looked.


On top of my paint layer, I added a hard light layer to add some effects onto.  I really wanted that flame to be popping out and knocking back the values around it to appear as if it was glowing.  This was simply done with an airbrush on the hard light layer.


For the final I merged all of my layers once again and ran a sharpen filter over the whole thing, which gives it a nice finished look.  From this I will remove the white background, size it appropriately for RPGmaker, and save it out as a .png!

Download the battlers for RPG Maker use here:

Guardian of Void

Green Guardian

Guardian of Flame




There were a lot of entries, and only a few could be awarded, and only one could be considered “The Best”. This week, I got to catch up with the team that made that game, Remnants of Isolation, and ask them a few questions about their experience in the contest. Also, make sure to check out the Remnants of Isolation game page on RMN to grab Remnants of Isolation Deluxe! Featuring an enhanced and rebalanced version of the game completed after the contest was over!

Remnants_of_Isolation_Title1: So Remnants of Isolation won our grand prize. When you submitted it, what did you think of your chances? Were you confident that you would win something, or were you completely surprised?

unity: I certainly was hoping to win something, but given the high volume of entrees and the high caliber and skill of many of our fellow contestants, I didn’t in my wildest dreams think we’d go all the way to the top. It was possibly the biggest surprise of my life when I opened the site’s page and saw “Grand Prize: Remnants of Isolation” at the top!

Sooz: Oh man, I kind of briefly entertained the idea when we first entered it, because I felt like we made a pretty solid game. Then, we saw the number of entrants EXPLODE and I scaled back to, “Well, I hope maybe we win an honorable mention or something.”

Unity called me when she found out, and we spent a couple of minutes just yelling “OH MY GOD!!!” and “HOLY SHIT!!!” at each other like idiots. There were so many cool games, it was completely out of left field!

Red_Nova:  You know, I don’t think winning a prize crossed my mind when we started development, or even after the submission deadline. I didn’t go into the contest with the mindset of winning; I went into it wanting to make a game. Nothing more, nothing less. I mean, winning anything would have been awesome, but I told myself that with so many amazing developers, I had to be realistic in my expectations. So when I heard that not only did we place, but won grand prize, it was such an unexpected turn of events that I, frankly, am still in the middle of processing it.

Sooz: Yeah, I felt like the reward of making a good game in 30 days was great! The grand prize was sort of a fun daydream, but the fact that we got a result that people loved was really amazing.

2: How did the idea of Remnants come about? What inspired you to make this game?

unity:  Red Nova deserves the credit for the base ideas for RoI, but we all pitched in and bounced ideas and suggestions off each other until the story and game took shape into what you see here. A lot of thought and effort was put into portraying the game’s story and theme through gameplay, and I think it all worked out very nicely. I think that each of the characters and the castle itself has a bit of each of us in them, as we all put forth a lot of ideas and efforts to bring them to life.

Sooz: I joined in after Unity told me about the game, so a little after the initial idea. I know she’s a great designer, and she and Red seemed to have a good thing going on, so I volunteered my help, because it seemed like it’d be a fun thing to make.

Red_Nova: I had finished the 74th replay of my favorite game ever, ICO, and that was the only thing on my mind for a long time. I was in love with the way ICO bridged a gap between player and player character though its gameplay. I wanted to do something like that with a game for the contest: use gameplay to allow the player to feel attached to the characters.

That’s what I wanted to do, but I had no idea HOW to go about doing it. But when unity came forward with the idea for the MP charging mechanic for a battle system, I saw that as a jumping off point for the backstory. After that, we bounced ideas back and forth until it became the final result shown.

Sooz: It was funny, because when the idea was first pitched to me, I was like, “You’re basically describing ICO.” We worked pretty hard to move it away from that, but before we settled on a title, I named the folder of all my work “Not ICO.” ;)


3: How did you handle the workflow? One month is a short time to make a game, did you find it difficult to manage?

Red_Nova: We certainly had a few hitches here and there. For the most part, though, we all had our roles that we decided on in the beginning. While we constantly asked questions and made suggestions to each other to help improve the game, we mostly stuck to our own tasks. For me, personally, I was afraid of setting too unreasonable of expectations. This was the first time I had ever worked with a team to develop a game, let alone set the deadlines and such, and I was scared that I may have gone overboard.

unity: I’ll say it upfront: This was the hardest I’ve ever worked on a project before, and I forced myself to get the work done at a rate that I didn’t know I was possible for me. The looming deadline and trying to get everything into the game to make it what we wanted it to be was a daunting task, but had a sense of thrill to it.

Sooz:  I feel a little guilty, because I didn’t have quite as much work as Uni or Red. It was still a big push, though! I basically cleared my calendar– I had to suspend work on my webcomics for the month– and spent an entire month kind of living in the RoI world, no other projects. It was intense.

4: Since Remnants was made by a team, who did what parts? Did you have any conflict over the game’s design?

Red_Nova:  I wrote the story and laid out the framework for the game, as well as set specific deadlines when certain parts of the game need to be done. Unity designed the individual levels, mapped them out, and designed the battles. Sooz focused primarily on the character art and sprites. We had a sort of checks and balances system going on, though, and were in constant communication so we were still on the same page.

As for conflicts, you bet we had them. Plenty of them, in fact. They were the good kind of conflicts, though; The kind that were born when we loved what we were doing so much that we REALLY felt a certain direction would be best for the game, even if someone else said otherwise. However, we all knew to give ground when we had to, and no one thought anyone else’s suggestion hurt the overall game. So, even when we didn’t agree 100% on a direction to take the game, we continued to build off their ideas to make it as best as we possibly could.

unity: To put it in the strictest terms, Red Nova was in charge of the story and keeping us on track (so he acted like an editor/administrator), Sooz was in charge of the art, and I was in charge of the mapmaking and battles. But in all honesty, each of our roles bled over into the other domains. We all made sure we liked and approved of what the others were doing, and we were consonantly getting feedback, so it’s not as if we each did each part in a vacuum. Far from it, in fact.

As far as conflict goes, there were definitely times when we disagreed. But all three of us have a mutual respect for each other as creative people, and we all compromised when we needed to. Red Nova generally went with a “majority goes” approach when we couldn’t agree on things, but for the most part, we worked together surprisingly well. I chalk this up to having awesome and open teammates!

Sooz:  It was such a team effort that it’s a little hard to tell afterword who did what. We all had a hand in the concept, story, and gameplay- we figured out the main themes, characters, and basic storyline beforehand, and then implemented everything, so the whole thing had cohesion.

I was mainly in charge of the player characters: it started out as just doing the design, then I kind of got my tentacles into the writing when Red let me edit the script to punch up the dialog. I ended up taking over the characterization, and I’m really grateful he was OK with my revisions. I also suggested the dual facesets; the initial idea was for Celesta’s interaction to just be in the sprite, but I knew it’d make her more relatable and endearing if we could see more subtle, detailed expressions.

We had a lot of disagreements! Mostly just minor things, since we were bringing different attitudes to the table, but there were a few areas where there was a big sticking point. I particularly remember Red having a more downbeat ending in mind, where Celesta leaving the Palace leads to the monsters escaping; I felt like this made the characters a little too selfish and unlikeable, and we went back and forth on it until Red came up with what we’ve got now. It was mainly a matter of talking things out until we found a path everyone could agree on. And, y’know, respecting each other as people, so we didn’t get all dumb and emotional over anything. It was all about what worked best for the game, after all!

Castle_Tutorial5: What part of Remnants did you spend the most time on? Why did you devote so much time to that part?

Red_Nova: Celesta’s development as a character. As the player character, she couldn’t follow the same rules as Melchior when it comes to personality and development. Celesta was the player’s conduit into the game world, and goes through the same motions as the player throughout the course of the game. This means that she had to react the same way a player would react in different situations. Since each player will go through the game with a different mindset, she had to give enough personality to hold her own, but still leave plenty of wiggle room for players to feel comfortable stepping into her shoes, so to speak.

This is why, when the ending came around, Celesta’s actions would perfectly mirror the player’s mindset. Without spoiling anything, I feel like there is no “Good” or, “Bad” end. The ending is simply the summation of the player’s thoughts and feelings towards the characters and how much they really care or don’t care about them.

unity: My time was pretty evenly split between the maps and the battles, but in the end I may have spent more time trying to balance the battles than anything else. Both of these elements are crucial to me.

The maps need to draw the player in so they feel like they’re part of the environment and that they are tied directly to the game itself, and make, as much as possible, an environment they are exploring.

The battles were equally important in my opinion because most of Melchior and Celesta’s interactions take place here, through the gameplay, and the battles were meant to emphasize the power of them working together. Battles with just Celesta, for example, needed to feel much different and less whole. Not to mention, battles need to be fun to keep the player engaged so he/she will play the story all the way through.

Sooz:  I think it’s a tie between the facesets and the sprites, for different reasons. Celesta was really quick and easy to draw (especially because she’s so restrained in her movement and emoting), but kind of a pain to color. Conversely, Melchior was SUCH A PAIN in the drawing and inking stages! All those braids seriously gave me hand cramps.

The sprites were time consuming partly because I’m still a beginner at pixel art, so I was learning as I went. Another aspect of it was research: I spent a lot of time looking up movement for things like walking and jumping, so everything would look natural. After that, I had to translate everything to the “chibi” style of the sprites. It got complicated sometimes!

6: What would you say is the strength of Remnants?

Red_Nova:  Its ability to connect the player with the characters through gameplay. The moment the players uses their first Spell Fusion, a tiny bond forms between Celesta, Melchior, and, most importantly, the player. At first, the player may not be aware of it. However, that bond grows stronger and stronger with each Spell Fusion, and the three of them grow closer together as they become less like cooperating individuals and more like parts of a whole.

unity: I think the strength of the game is the interplay of the game mechanics and story, and the characters themselves. We also wanted the theme and atmosphere to feel solid, and I think we accomplished that. We wanted to show a little slice of these characters’ existence in an otherworldly place.

The highest goal I can strive for is making a game that I enjoy playing myself, and this definitely passes that test.

Sooz: Like Uni said, the cohesion of theme and gameplay. We worked damn hard at making sure that everything worked together, even to the point of having a lot of backstory that we never intended to use, just so we’d all know how things functioned and could keep it all consistent.


7: What is the one piece of advice you would give to other people trying to make their own game, with RPG Maker or otherwise?

Red_Nova: Take care of yourself. It’s one thing to pour your heart and soul into creating beautiful graphics, compose wonderful music, or design a series of maps. However, the moment you decide to stay up until three in the morning two or three times in a row adjusting pixels on your sprites, or skip a couple of meals to fine tune a boss fight, is the moment you need to step away from your computer and readjust your sights. Unless it’s two hours before deadline, in which case either you had your sights misaligned from the start or you’ve been taking care of yourself a bit too much.
You don’t run 100 Kilometers at full speed from start to finish.

unity: My advice is that follow-through is the most important aspect of game-making. So many people lack this and will start a project just to set it aside before completion. I’m guilty of this myself. To anyone who has this problem, contests like this one are a godsend as they force you to make a more manageable-sized game and have a deadline to keep you working on it.

Sooz: Seconding Unity: an imperfect finished thing is better than a perfect unfinished thing. As long as you keep making things, and you’re focused on improving, you’ll get awesome. Never give up!


Thank you to the Remnants of Isolation team for taking the time to answer our questions! What were your experiences with the contest? What parts of Remnants do you think stuck out as amazing? Join us in the comments section below.

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As we discussed in the first article of this series, Progression and Emergence: Two Modes of Play, there is desirable emergence and non-desirable emergence.

Desirable emergence is when the player discovers an in-game action or behavior that improves the overall experience and non-desirable emergence is when the action or behavior diminishes the experience. Examples of desirable emergence in RPGs are the player planning out strategies for enemies or maxing out their character stats (also known as min-maxing). Examples on non-desirable emergence would be using exploits or hacks to dupe items or generate infinite money.

For this article, we’ll focus on some specific examples on non-desirable emergence.Even though non-desirable emergence might seem bad at surface level, it can lead to some satisfying and memorable experiences.

Fable Lost Chapters

Fable – Money Exploit

Fable had a buy/sell system that calculated the price of an item based on how many were in stock. So if you had 1 diamond and the shop keep had 0 that diamond would be worth more than if he had say 100. This was fine for an individual transaction, but the game also allowed you to buy and sell in bulk without recalculating the price. This means you could sell 100 diamonds to the shop keep at a high price and then buy them all back for less than you sold them for. Rinse and repeat for infinite gold! Looks like the shop keep didn’t take business 101.

FFVI Atma Weapon

FF6 – Vanish/Doom Bug

FF6 had a lot of interesting bugs and exploits. One of my favorites was the Vanish/Doom bug (although I always used Vanish and X-Zone). Basically, you could cast Vanish on an enemy to inflict the Invisible status. The invisible status leaves the enemy open to magic attacks and also could override immunities like Death.

As a result, casting Vanish + Doom on an enemy would instantly kill them! This worked on bosses too like that pesky Atma weapon! Cheap? Yes. Satisfying? Very.

FFVII Item Menu

FF7 – W-Item Duplication Bug

Anyone familiar with FF7 will remember Materia which the skill system was built on. Some had unique effects in combat such as the W-Item Materia which allowed a character to use two items in one turn. If the player entered a battle, selected an item, confirmed it, selected another item and then backed out, the first selected would increase by 1. This could then be repeated until you have 99 of the item. Sephiroth is a push-over when you have 99 Elixers and Megalixirs at your disposal.

There’s obviously many more great examples of non-desirable emergence in RPGs. Leave a comment with your favorite RPG bug or exploit and if it’s a good one I’ll add it to the list!


by Volrath

Remnants of Isolation by Red Nova, Unity and Sooz

Summary: Clever, gripping and a lot of fun, Remnants of Isolation is a deserving winner.


2014 IGMC Grand Prize Winner!

Let’s deal with the elephant in the room – Expectations for this game will likely be sky high among a lot of players following the announcement of the IGMC winners. If you’re expecting to have your mind blown by a perfect gaming experience, you might be let down. But after spending a couple of hours playing Remnants of Isolation, I could see pretty easily why the judges enjoyed it so much. This is a smartly-made and efficient game that offers a lot of fun.

The lead character is a mute pink-skinned woman who can’t read or speak and the early scenes of the game offer no explanation as to exactly what she is or why she had been confined. Before long, she meets Melchoir, a chatty young man with green dreds. These are your only two playable characters, and when one of them can’t speak, it means that most of the dialogue is just Melchoir more or less talking to himself. This can get tedious at times – without being able to process their mysterious predicament together, you get a lot of awkward scenes where Melchoir asks a question and then winds up offering a possible answer a few seconds later. Ironically, the woman (nicknamed “Celesta” by Melchoir) becomes very endearing despite only communicating with head tilts.

I'd like to request the "Beverly Hill Cop" theme, please.

I’d like to request the “Beverly Hill Cop” theme, please.

The graphics, mostly RTP with what look like some original additions, aren’t necessarily breathtaking, but they successfully convey an otherworldly landscape where anything seems to be possible. Players traverse grassy mountaintops, ice caves and alien-looking worlds while hunting down the set of monsters that must be defeated in order to proceed. The other art fares better, with charming face graphics for the two leads and original sprites that are well-animated. Music mostly stays in the background, except for a beautiful and haunting melody that plays when Celesta pulls out her magic portable-keyboard-thing.

When it comes to battles, the two must work as a team and this is where Remnants of Isolation really shines. Strategy is based on the concept of “spell fusion,” where one character uses an innate skill and the other follows with a more traditional magic spell. Depending on the strategy, these combinations lead to stronger spells, spells that hit all enemies, increased resistance to an element or setting up an enemy to be weak against an element. Careful use of these tactics is essential against the bosses, who hit hard but can be taken down hard with the right combination of fused spells. When your strategy works and you rack up huge damage against a tough enemy, it’s incredibly satisfying.

Boom, baby!

Boom, baby!

Item management is also pretty clever – you collect “souls” from enemies that can be traded for items or equipment at certain points. Save them up and you can get some powerful weapons and armor or stockpile helpful potions. The game is generous when it comes to chances to do this, which is good because otherwise you would run through them quickly against some of the tougher enemies.

Remnants of Isolation is a very unpretentious game that plays very well and its selection as the top winner will hopefully demonstrate the value of the overall experience of a game, rather than just its potential for pretty screenshots. Newcomers to RPG Maker could learn a great deal from this game and oldbies like me will just have a great time.

What did you think of this game? Which battle strategies did you enjoy using? Which ending did you get? Tell us in the comments!

1 comment

Congratulations to all our entrants. With over 800 of you, it took longer than we expected to go through them all, so we thank you for your patience. This contest has ben more successful than we could possibly have imagined. We would also like to thank our internal judges, as well as our Celebrity Judges, Ed Greenwood and Sabre, and the entire Humble Bundle team for their participation in making this contest a true success.

We’re also pleased to announce an additional prize category: Humble Bundle Judge’s Choice! Winners of this category will receive gifts from our friends at the Humble Bundle store.

For more information about our winners, go to our IGMC main page!

Grand Prize Winner

Remnants of Isolation by Red_NovaRemnants of Isolation Grand Prize

RPG Category Winners

 1st Place: Antagonist by NivlacRPG 1st Place Antagonist

2nd Place + Celebrity Judge’s Choice: Last Word by MerlandeseRPG 2nd Place Last Word

3rd Place: Cope Island by ZdsRPG 3rd Place Cope Island

Humble Bundle Choice: Exeunt Omnes by Adam HasversExeunt Omnes

Non-RPG Category Winners

1st Place: Daemon Detective: Gaiden by YalNonRPG 1st Place Daemon Detective Gaiden

2nd Place: Oh! Ko! by mostly uselessNonRPG 2nd Place Oh! Ko!

3rd Pace: Little Briar Rose by FlameNonRPG 3rd Place Little Briar Rose

Celebrity Judge’s Choice: Goats on a Bridge by CabygonGoats On a Bridge

Humble Bundle Choice: The Vendor by GalenmerethThe Vendor

Prizes and results

  1. Curious about your score? We are in the process of refining comments for the games and will be offering scores to participants starting this weekend. All you have to do is e-mail and we’ll get back to you with your score(s) ASAP, starting Sunday.
  2. Details on participation prizes and other prize packages will be distributed starting this week. We will begin contacting the winners tomorrow via the e-mail addresses provides on the contest platform. If you have any questions, you can e-mail or PM Deckiller here on the forums.
  3. We also have a lengthy list of giveaway winners from the contest. Be sure to check your e-mail/forum messages for free product keys!
  4. Our team will be reviewing and streaming as many of the winners as possible in the coming weeks. Please visit the RPG Maker Web Blog for more info!

Lastly, we wanted to thank everyone again for your participation and patience: we couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.  We’re excited to see what everyone cooks up in our next event!


In the last article, Progression and Emergence: Two Modes of Play, we discussed the difference between emergence and progression in games. Emergence is when a game has few rules but many variations, and progression is when a game has many predefined challenges that are ordered sequentially. The forms of emergence and progression in a game are highly dependent on the game genre. Since we’re a RPG site, we’ll be focusing on RPGs!

Computer RPGs immerse the player in a fictional world. The player assumes the role of a character or many characters (a party) and develops them while progressing through the game narrative. Many elements of RPGs are that of progression, where the designer dictates the story and the challenges the player must face. But in RPGs, the player is often afforded many different resources with which to build their characters and face the challenges in the game. This leads to more emergent elements like player strategies in building their characters and also in encounters with obstacles and enemies.

To fully explore the two elements of play in RPGs, we’ll break them down into three categories: game mechanics, game world and game story.



In RPGs, the storyline dictates where the player has to go next, but the player has many different options on how to tackle obstacles along the way. These options typically come in the form of resources such as player level, equipment and skills.

Like chess, the complexity in RPG mechanics does not come from its individual parts. A steel sword or level 3 fireball spell are simple in themselves, just as a pawn on a chessboard is. The complexity rises from the many interactions between all the parts. These interactions usually take place in the form of combat against players and enemies.

In combat, the player’s goal is to defeat the enemies, usually by reducing their health to 0. To do this, the player must attack them using the actions available to them, while also mitigating damage received by the enemies. This is where feedback loops come into play.

In most cases, attacking an enemy is a positive feedback loop because it lowers its health. Being attacked by an enemy is a negative feedback loop, since it lower’s the character’s health. If the all the character’s health reach 0 the player loses the encounter. Negative feedback tends to prolong battles since the player has to mitigate the damage received either by dampening it, reversing it or avoiding it altogether.

The more resources available to the player in and out of combat, the more complex the game becomes, leading to more emergent behavior. Because there is often more than one solution to a encounter, RPGs have strategy guides instead of walkthroughs.



RPG worlds tend to be usually larger than most players can grasp all at once. So not to overwhelm the player, most RPGs begin with a tutorial section, where they can teach the player the rules in a relatively safe environment. More advanced mechanics are then introduced as the player progresses through the world.

Sections of the world will often be blocked off until a specific condition is met. This is to keep the player from experiencing the story out of sequence or from facing challenges they don’t have the resources for. As conditions are met by the player, the world will open up, allowing more exploration and story progression. In Western RPGs, the world is usually open from the start with fewer restrictions than Japanese RPGs. The open world creates more emergence since its difficult to define every path a player can take.

RPGs benefit though from having locations that are structured around completing a sequence of objectives, such as dungeons. Dungeons tend to have more interesting gameplay since they are more structured. Dungeons can also facilitate exploration on a smaller scale, with optional paths and challenges that reward the player.



RPGs can be thought of as spatial stories. Most of the plot unfolds as the player progresses through the game world. Some RPGs have temporal elements, such as a day/night system, but these rarely have a large impact on the narrative.

Most of the interesting elements of the story comes from the dialog between the characters. These sequences are usually static but when they are interactive they can form “dialog trees”. Dialog trees offer the player choices in how the sequence will progress. Sometimes these choices just come down to player preference. Other times it can open up new scenarios or close off others. The most dire can kill off a party member. These can be interesting interactions, but are not emergent since all choices are predefined.

In terms of emergence, there have been far less advances in game stories compared to game mechanics and worlds. RPG stories are tightly structured to offer a certain experience. Even in open world RPGs, the main story or quest line of the game follows a sequence that needs to be completed to “win” the game. Most emergence comes from the player’s story or experience and not the game narrative itself.


In general, Western RPGs are games of emergence and Japanese RPGs are games of progression, but combine aspects of both in their design to create a compelling game experience. Which do you prefer? Leave a comment and let us know!

In the next article in the series, we’ll explore desirable emergence and non-desirable emergence with specific game examples from series like Fable and Final Fantasy.


When you talk about a RPG, you often describe it as linear or non-linear. These tend to be general descriptions and don’t account for the fact that many linear games have non-linear elements and vice versa. It’s more useful to describe them as games of progression or games of emergence. Most video games fall somewhere in-between the spectrum of these two types of play. But what is the difference between the two?

Mass Effect

Mass Effect is an example of a progression game


Progression games are relatively new and did not appear until the rise of the video game. In progression games, the player has to perform a predefined set of actions set by the designer in order to win or progress. These games offer a controlled experience and are often seen in games with storytelling ambitions such as RPGs (Mass Effect, Final Fantasy) and adventure games (Secret of Monkey Island, King’s Quest).

Progression games have walkthroughs instead of strategy guides. Walkthroughs detail all of the player actions required to complete the game.

Since there is not much variation in games of progression they don’t have a lot of replay value. They also are usually single player.


Minecraft creative mode is an example of an emergence game


Emergence games have a small number of rules that yield a large amount of game variations. These games can be thought of as being larger than the sum of their parts. Emergence is the original game structure and can be found in most games that require strategy. Examples include Chess, Texas Hold-Em and Monopoly.

Video games that focus on emergence can be thought of more as “play spaces” than games. Goals are often set by the player and not the designer. As such, there is no win condition. Simulation games (The Sims, Minecraft) and sandbox games (GTA) have a lot of emergent play.

One way to tell if a game is a game of emergence or progression is whether it has a strategy guide or a walkthrough. Strategy guides offer good strategies for situations encountered during play. If a game allows for strategies that lead to interesting interactions, then the game is typically considered a good game. Games with “dominant strategies” become limited and dull since they narrow the amount of options down to a few. Extreme examples are games like Tic-Tac-Toe and Connect 4 where by using the best strategy the player can ensure they never lose. In this sense, those games have been “solved”.

In game development, emergence is also a term used for player interactions in a game that the designers did not expect. These actions or behaviors can be labeled either as “desirable emergence” or “non-desirable emergence”. Desirable emergence is when the player discovers an interaction that improves the overall experience. If this is found in the testing phase, it is often implemented into the game as a new feature. Non-desirable emergence is when the interaction makes the experience less enjoyable either for the player or other players. These can be referred to as exploits, glitches or cheats and can easily ruin an otherwise good game. There are lots of examples of theses in RPGs which I’ll cover in a future article.

Because of the wide array of options, games of emergence have high replay value. Many emergent games are also multiplayer and competitive.

In the next article in this series, we’ll explore PROGRESSION AND EMERGENCE IN RPGS.

Do you prefer games of emergence or games of progression? Post a comment.

For further reading, refer to Jesper Juul’s “The Open and the Closed: Games of Emergence and Games of Progression


When RPG Maker does Steam’s Mid Week Madness, we don’t mess around. We go all the way. So what’s in the sale? EVERYTHING!rmvxarmxpAlwaysSometimesMonsterslabyrinthineskybornlordoftwilightDeadlySin2comipo

Thinking about picking up the makers on Steam? Done and Done.

Want to grab some expansion packs? There are too many to even link in the sale!

All of our previous RPG Maker content is 75% off! And on top of that, we are introducing 10 BRAND NEW PACKS to Steam for 30% off!

Or maybe you want to play some games! We still have you covered.

Included in the RPG Maker Mid Week Madness are NINE  great games made with RPG Maker, from 50%-75% off!

Or maybe you want to make your own Manga? Well nothing gets past us!

We also have all things Manga Maker ComiPo! on Sale! Including 3 new packs!

Also make sure to keep your eyes on our Facebook and Twitter for some Mid Week Madness giveaways and contests!


I want to touch on something that is not DIRECTLY related to RPG Maker, but more about gaming as a culture. I mean, I believe its safe enough to assume that most people make games because they love games, so let’s get started.

There has been a lot of articles out there. Many of them telling us how its the end of the line for the gamer identity.

Let’s start by saying this: I’m a gamer. I ended up working doing this primarily because I am a gamer, and I love games and the design of games. Video games, board games, tabletop RPG games, I love them all. (I even like sports, which, are really just games with physical activity). One of the centerpieces of my house is the game room which has massive shelves full of board games, RPG books, and video game and other geek paraphernalia. I even have my physical box copy of RPG Maker VX Ace up there because I was so happy to see it come out in a physical box. The only things I’ve even done this week are work and absolutely destroying Final Fantasy X-2 HD.

You know, admitting this game might be one of my favorite of all time is probably going to catch me as much heat as the gamers are over guys got.

You know, admitting this game might be one of my favorite of all time is probably going to catch me as much heat as the “Gamers Are Over” journalists got.

And whatever gaming journalism wants to say, I’m not going to stop being a gamer or calling myself a gamer. And no one else should either.

This isn’t about being angry at people for criticizing individuals in gaming culture. I’m right there with them on that. There are people who have been legitimately harassed, and the people who do it should be ashamed. And shamed. In fact, I think if gamers as a whole spent half the time they do yelling “not all gamers” to anyone making blanket statements about us actually criticizing those who are giving us a bad reputation, we would probably be a lot better off. We can criticize opinions without harassing anyone.

Don’t we actually want debate? Don’t we actually want a climate where we can discuss ideas calmly and rationally and come to conclusions and have those conclusions challenged intellectually rather than with insults? Debate is wonderful, but there are some loud, hopefully minority, voices on all sides in nearly every online argument that seem to make any rational debate impossible due to their immature approaches.

And that’s the thing. I like to believe that the vast majority of us, though at times less loud when things blow up, are good, decent people. We have our bad eggs, without a doubt, but is it really any more than the rest of society? I’m not sure to be honest, but I’m hopeful in saying that it isn’t.

And its hard to be caught in the crossfire when you aren’t “part of the problem.” Like I said, I’m a gamer. I get it. I’ve been a gamer since the time when being a gamer was something the nerds did. I played D&D and spent all my time on a computer back in a time when that didn’t make you your standard imgurian/redditor, it made you the dork. I know how easy it is to want to circle the wagons when you feel like you are being picked on. And being told part of my identity is dead because everyone in that identity is a scumbag really feels like an attack.

Yes, I had the Black Border editions. Please don't make fun of me over it, Grognards. ;_;

Yes, I had the Black Border editions. Please don’t make fun of me over it, Grognards. ;_;

But instead of circling the wagons and firing on them, why not instead just let them in. We don’t have to yell at those who insult us. We don’t have to tell them how wrong they are. We don’t have to fill their twitter feeds and comment sections up with a bunch of vitriol. And honestly, with news pages, that is just what they want anyway, attention.

Instead, lets just show them who we are. Decent, normal folk whose hobbies just happen to be games. I would like for all of you to join us in our #ProudGamer initiative. On Facebook, Twitter, or whatever other online service you use, tell everyone something about your relationship with gaming and that you are a #ProudGamer. Lets not attack anyone over how wrong they are. Some bad apples gave them reason to think we are all bad, lets not sink to the level to prove them right.

And now back to Final Fantasy X-2. The game isn’t going to destroy itself.