Doing a lot with a little: Enhancing the RTP

in Tips and Tricks

By: Lunarea

So, you’ve found yourself facing the exciting world of game development. You’ve done your research, crunched the figures and now you’re ready to jump into those little details that will really make your game stand out. In other words, you’re ready for art. But where to start?

Most developers will start with what’s easily available: the RTP.

The RTP has a lot going for it. It’s essentially free with the purchase of RPG Maker, it’s done in a single and cohesive style, and it’s got a huge variety of edits from many community members. If you’re creating a classic medieval-style game, it’s got most everything you’ll need. As a style, it’s bright, cheerful and reminiscent of adventure.

However, RTP also has some downsides. It’s very commonly used – which can make it difficult to establish a unique identity for your game. Though it fits a general medieval fantasy game, it offers very little in terms of other settings. It’s more challenging to create tense atmospheres – such as horror or darkness.

Faced with the downsides of using only the RTP, a lot of developers turn to hiring artists to create unique pieces.

Custom content has the advantage of being unique to your game, as well as being tailor-fit to the story and setting you’re working with. On the other hand, custom art can quickly get very expensive – not to mention very time-consuming. Custom art and music of the same size as the RTP could easily cost tens of thousands of dollars and take 6 to 9 months to complete.

There may also be a shortage of high-quality artists – and among them, there aren’t many who are currently free from another project or commission. All together, this makes the choice of going completely custom with resources into a risky venture.

So, what’s a developer to do?

Well, the first step is to take a long and close look at the RTP as well as the affordable add-on content you can find in our official store. Together, they can create a strong base for your game without breaking the bank. Look at everything you can use, and be creative in how you use it.

Step 2 is to start editing and rearranging the RTP. You may not be an artist, but you can still layer together different tile pieces or experiment with changing colors. Putting some books on top of a bookshelf adds a personal touch of detail to your tileset and these little details are the beginning of what can set your game apart. Look at recoloring and rearranging tutorials, as well as various screenshots other developers are posting.

The next step is to develop your game as close as you can to completion. Graphical and visual resources are fairly easy to plug in at any point, but there’s nothing that can replace dialogue, cutscenes or battle balancing. Use placeholder art where you can. Not only will it allow you to progress with development, but you will be able to give the artist you hire specific details on what you’ll need.

Lastly, invest in buying custom pieces for the most iconic or easily-recognized pieces:

  • For characters, invest in custom sprites of your party – as well as their facesets and/or portraits
  • For tiles, invest in custom pieces that are repeated throughout various maps – trees, windows, flowers/plants, rocks, cave walls, basic furniture such as beds, and small objects that can accent different rooms
  • For music, invest in an introduction theme, game over theme and battle theme

How much of a difference can a few details really make?

Here’s a screenshot that uses mostly RTP:

The setting is a magic school, but there’s very little that actually says “magic” in the screenshot.

Here’s a screenshot of the same area, using objects from the RTP and from Celianna’s school tiles:

The area is now more memorable and distinctive.

Both screenshots make use of the RTP, but the second screenshot illustrates just how much a variety of those custom details can enhance a map.

3 comments… add one

  • Aeonspark May 13, 2013, 2:25 pm

    This is a great article!

    It’s advice rings true too, as long as it’s different, unique, it’ll be memorable!
    Anyone can learn pixel art too!!

  • Andre Guerreiro May 17, 2013, 4:21 am

    Great article indeed.
    Sometimes I do have the tiles I need but I just can’t use them correctly to make the rooms feel distinct. Thanks.

  • Fernando November 24, 2013, 8:21 am

    Thanks for this article, it is simple but it communicates a solid advice for those looking for a unique identity for their games.

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