When we talk about great maps, we often talk about atmosphere – the way all of your efforts come together and make the player feel like they’re completely immersed in the experience. Atmosphere can be achieved through the use of graphics (from tiles to characters, lighting and fog), as well as music and sound. The right tune can make your map come alive and stick in your player’s mind for a while to come.

Knowing that music can be such a fantastic helper in creating atmosphere, we’ve created a brand new contest that merges music with mapping – altogether promising to create a truly unique experience.


Create an area and set the audio that accompanies it. You can choose any theme for your work. The judges will be looking at how well you’ve mapped your area and how the music and sound contribute to its atmosphere.

The Rules:

  1. Only one entry per person.
  2. You are limited to using RTP, any of the store packs or anything in the Re-Staff or Member+ releases. Your own composition or art is also welcome.
  3. Your area must be 51×39 tiles in size or smaller — this is 1632×1248 pixels, or 9 basic 17×13 maps. You can create the area as one map or a series of maps. If you are creating multiple maps, please limit them to 3.
  4. Your entry should be in a compressed game, without the RTP. If you are using store resources, please make sure your entry is encrypted. If you are using Lite as well as store resources, we know you cannot encrypt, so please send a link to your entry privately to me via pm.
  5. Include a list of credits.
  6. Post your final entry in the contest thread, found here, with the title “Final Entry”.


To help you out with some extra music options, we’re currently running a 40% off sale on 7 of our music packs (click on the image to be taken to the sale page):


The Prize:

  • 3rd place will receive a music pack of their choosing.
  • 2nd place will receive a music pack and graphic pack of their choosing.
  • 1st place will receive a music pack, a graphic pack and RPG Maker (or IGM) of their choosing.


Monday, January 26th and 12:00 EST (GMT 5:00pm)

We hope you’ll have fun and take part in this contest!


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RPG Maker VX Ace allows for customization of almost every element of your project. For those who have the artistic and scripting resources, you can edit your game to the point that players won’t even recognize it’s a RPG Maker game.

Often developers focus on having custom tilesets, character sprites, portraits, battlers and music. But there are several elements that even the more customized projects seem to overlook.

A) The title screen

The title screen is the first thing the player will see after starting up your game. It should set the “tone” for your game. The last thing you want to do is give the impression that your game is another generic RPG Maker title. It doesn’t take that much to customize the title screen to make it stand-out. Consider the Remnants of Isolation title screen:

Remnants of Isolation

It behaves very much like the default Title screen but the aesthetics have been customized to create a unique feeling for the game. The title and menu have been moved to the bottom left quadrant to allow the picture to take up the rest of the screen space. The window border and background color is customized to match the color palette of the game. There’s also a haunting track playing in the background that tells you this will be an emotional game experience. Overall, it’s a great title screen and gets me excited to play it!

Before releasing your game, consider putting effort into customizing your title screen to quickly get the player in the mood to play your game.

B) Default Menus/User Interface

Considering how much time you spend in menus in RPGs, you would think most developers would put some effort into editing the default interfaces. Unfortunately, that is often not the case.

The default battle menu. Oh, my favorite!

The default battle menu. Oh, my favorite!

In the past it was excusable since if you didn’t have any scripting experience it was difficult to edit the interface. Last year, RPG Maker released the Luna Engine – a series of scripts that would allow anyone to customize the RPG Maker interfaces.

Luna Engine Sample

That’s more like it!

The Luna Engine doesn’t just allow you to make aesthetic changes to the interfaces. You have total control over all the menu options, allowing you to edit them to fit your in-game systems.

The window skin and font are also overlooked elements of the UI. Even if you don’t customize the window skin and border, you can edit the background color in the Systems tab of the Database to fit the color scheme of your game. When choosing a font, make sure it’s readable! A bold sans serif font is usually best. Save the decorative fonts for titles.

C) Sound effects

Even the most aesthetically customized RPG Maker games still seem to feature the default sound effects. While this might seem like a minor detractor, consider how often you hear that cursor sound effect. Quite a bit! And while RPG Maker does come with a rich library of fantasy sounds, it’s lacking in terms of modern and futuristic effects.

Fortunately, our talented staff has picked up the slack. We have a wide array of Music and Sound resources available in our store. You can also find many free sound effects on the forum and through Google searches. Just make sure if you plan on going commercial that you have permission to use them.

D) Battle Animations

The default battle animations that come with the editor are quite extensive and aesthetically pleasing. They’re also used in just about every RPG Maker project! Once you see an attack animation a few hundred times in your own project or others, you rather just turn them off than see them again.


Yes, my projects are guilty of using the default animations too


Battle animation resources aren’t quite as plentiful as tilesets and music. If you can’t find custom battle animations to match your game, you can still make good use of the Animation editor in the Database of the engine. It can allow for some visually impressive effects. Pair your custom animations with new sound effects to really make them memorable!

E) Terminology

RPGs have their own terminology that you hear over and over again. Levels and HP are such key elements of RPGs that is hard to imagine one without them.

RPG Maker has its own set of terms and while some of them are RPG basics there are others that are unique to the engine. When creating a project, consider customizing as much of the terms as possible. Go through the database and see what names you can change to make them more closely fit your game world. It will give your world more weight and make it standout from other RPG Maker games.

The Database interface is where you’ll change most of the game terms. You can also change some of the default messages by opening the Script Editor and clicking the Vocab module which stores many of the battle messages.

When naming objects, try to focus on things that already exist. It can be cool to have terms unique to your game but overuse of jargon can confuse or bore the player.


Example of jargon from Dictionary

Small changes to your project can add up to make a huge difference. The next time you look at your project, consider what elements can be changed to make it standout more.

What other aspects of RPG Maker games do you think are often overlooked? Please discuss.



This article series is going to be a little different.

Its going to be sort of a tutorial series, but not really.

Its going to be sort of a dev diary, but not really.

Its going to be sort of a showcase for what can be done in RPG Maker, but not really.

Its basically going to be a bit of everything, and this is how it is going to work. I’m going to take a feature as a high concept, and week after week, work on that concept and walk you step through step in how I accomplish it. You’ll get to learn, as I walk through the steps, not just parts of the editor and eventing, but at least one persons ways of planning, note taking, and methodology.

The Inspiration

So, during the last Steam sale, I picked up a copy of Skyrim: Legendary Edition. I know, I know, I’m late to the party.

I put this up on my personal Facebook about half a week after getting it.

I put this up on my personal Facebook about half a week after getting it.

And between sleeping, eating, working, and New Years celebrations, I’ve been playing a good bit of it. And usually, with each game, I latch on to one or two things about the game and really geek out about it. For instance, back when I was replaying Chrono Trigger last April, I geeked out over the absolutely stellar pacing.

The Elder Scrolls series in general, which I had first played back when Daggerfall came out, was a series that I really enjoyed for its ambition, even when its actual technical ability was woefully under-powered for that ambition (this is really, a description of Daggerfall in general: a superbly ambitious game that was supremely flawed in almost every way). And I loved that amazing ambition.

Each dot was a location you could visit. This was just ONE REGION of the area you could explore in Daggerfall.

Each dot was a location you could visit. This was just ONE REGION of the area you could explore in Daggerfall.

With Skyrim, as much as I loved it, I looked at what I loved most about it: The Immersion Factor, and it is ambitious. And for the most part, it succeeds wildly. But it gave me an idea: What if I took one small part of it, the whole idea of a city having NPCs with routines, shrunk it down to a single town, and amped up the immersion. Don’t just give them routines, give them needs. Give them variable routines based on their current needs, and allow semi-random events to mess with them. Disease, weather, bad crops. And then have those needs and events affect how they interact with the player.

Its ambitious. Its stupid ambitious. If someone asked me on a scale of Final Fantasy I Remake to Daggerfall how Stupid Ambitious is this idea, I would probably be forced to say it is probably closer to the Daggerfall level of Stupid Ambitious, especially as a lone developer on the project. But it sounds really fun, and really neat. So why not.

If you reach this part of the scale, you may need to rethink your life choices.

If you reach this part of the scale, you may need to rethink your life choices.

The Plan

So, as my first step, I need to outline my endgame. What am I really working towards? I may end up scrapping some things by the end, but what is my ideal idea of this system manifested. You should always have an end goal. Without an end goal, a game or project can become aimless and lack cohesion.

So here is the plan:

The Living Town will have ~24 inhabitants. Each inhabitant will have:

  • Needs and Supplies: Food, Materials, Water, Gold
  • The ability to barter their supplies for other supplies
  • Routines that are based on time of day, day of week, season, weather, current needs, supplies, and wellness
  • Relationships with other NPCs, who they will interact with dynamically.
  • The ability to get sick, based on current needs, sickness prevalence in town/household.
  • The ability to dynamically provide quests to the Player based on current situation

The Town itself will be a rural village, featuring farming, hunting, fishing, a blacksmith, a small tavern with a few rooms available for travallers, and a trader who makes weekly trips to the nearby city.

The Play area will encompass the town itself, and the surrounding areas. Allowing the PCs to hunt, gather, and other odd jobs for the NPCs as needed.

So now that I have a plan. Its time to get started. Next time: Proof of concept.

Notes and Materials

Each article, I will provide every bit of notes and materials that I used in that stage of the process. Some will be insightful. Some will be cluttered messes that I used to jog my memories. The main idea is just to provide you with all the random things I generate while creating the system, and let you get an idea of the process. This week, the only materials I have are my notes on the plan, which you can find here.

Any extra ideas on the plan? What do you see the challenges being? What do you think would be the most fun thing about this system? Join us in the comment section below.


Battler art Step by Step – Envy

in Resources

I came up with what I wanted to draw while I was writing the description for the vote:

Envy – Shadows wreath this veiled demon, a black corpse shroud only pierced by the glaring green eyes behind it.  Her sinuous form rests atop a bulbous carapace lifted by eight arachnid legs; the blackest widow, ready to strike.

So, spider lady.  Sounded pretty badass, so after a couple sketches in my sketchbook I sat down to draw.


Here is a early look after I’d roughed out most of the forms and basically figured out where stuff was going to go.


Here is the final drawing after I’d gotten it into photoshop and cleaned it up a bit.


Trying to figure out surface materials, textures, and general light and dark on this tones pass.


I’ve hidden my tones here and figured out the colors I want.  She is very cool, save for just a couple warm spots.  At first I wanted to do warm and cool, but the warms just weren’t feeling right, so I pulled them out and focused just on the cool colors.


Here I’ve merged my color adjusted tones with my initial colors to get a decent base to paint over.  I start working in some lights and darks into the colors.


And here I’ve done my final pass of lights and colors, and added an effects layer.

You can check out a time-lapse of the digital painting here

And you can download the files, and vote in the poll here

Thanks for reading!


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Game: Little Briar Rose by ProGM and Flame

Summary: Little Briar Rose is a simple, gorgeous adventure game that will leave you wanting more.


2014 IGMC Winner – Best Non-RPG (3rd Place)!

If you were paying attention to the IGMC this summer, you probably remember this game, even if you didn’t play it. The gorgeous stained glass-themed artwork grabs your attention immediately. From beginning to end, Little Briar Rose is truly gorgeous and is also a pretty fun adventure game. Based on the classic tale of ” Sleeping Beauty,” a prince must navigate a thicket of thorns to reach the castle where the damsel is imprisoned. To get through, he will need to befriend the local “smallfolk,” i.e. gnomes, fairies and the like, and earn their favor to clear up sections of the path.

The artwork does wonders to sell the dialogue as an old-fashioned fairy tale, which is good cause the dialogue can be spotty. Most of it is your classic flowery medieval language, but every now and then someone throws in a modern-sounding word like “bummed” or “materialistic.” Still, it’s captivating enough to leave players wanting for more – the story ends at a moment that seems more like a midpoint than a true ending. For a contest entry, this is understandable, although if the developers continue to work on this (and they really should!) some additional content would be excellent.


Extreme Makeover: Gnome Edition

In terms of gameplay, Little Briar Rose is a point-and-click adventure game. All your movements, item use and interactions with NPCs are done by the mouse. As someone who has worked on games with mouse interaction, this is a hard thing to do well and this game does it well. The movement is consistently smooth and you’re never blocked by random objects. If you’re looking for something that doesn’t look or play at all like a typical RPG Maker game, this one is for you.

The puzzles are mostly based on memory and noticing details in the landscape. They lead to amusing conclusions, even if some can be obnoxious. There are a couple puzzles in particular that seem designed to fool the player into screwing it up at least once…and in this game, annoying the smallfolk means death. The creators seem aware of the trial-and-error nature of these puzzles and in a playful touch, there is no game over after you die. A new prince merely walks on the scene and resumes the quest. Good thing there are so many princes available.

That brings us to the end of our coverage of the IGMC winners. I’ve enjoyed the chance to experience all of them and while we’ll all inevitably disagree on which ones are better than others, all of them had something fun to offer and the creativity and  ingenuity of the RM community was on full display. Well done, everyone!

What did you think of Little Briar Rose? Did any of the puzzles have you stumped? What would you rather be, a gnome, a fairy, a merman or a spriggan? What should we review next? Tell us in the comments!


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


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.


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.


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.


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!



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?






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.


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!


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.


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.


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


rendering with the blender brush


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.


So I changed it up pretty thoroughly!

Check out the video timelapse here


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.


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.


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.


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


And here is the final!

Check out the time-lapse!

Go vote in the poll and download the assets here!



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