The process of making a decent game is long and arduous. It requires skills in a number of disciplines – none of which I am particularly proficient in – and a lot of free time and dogged determination. Attempting anything on your own is quite the undertaking – so what kind of RPG can you make in just 3 hours?
Mercifully, there are a bunch of game-making applications out there which attempt to make the process more streamlined. Selling themselves on the idea that anyone can make a game, regardless of coding or artistic ability, just as long as they have the will and the time to do it.
One of these packages is the recently released RPG Maker VX. It’s been around for a while of course – but I heard the most recent version – on steam for £49.99 – is particularly good. If you want to see what kind of games can be made using it, I highly recommend you try this weeks little horror game ‘Ib’ – available here.
Anyway, this week, rather than ranting like some lunatic again, I thought I’d set myself a constructive little challenge. So I downloaded the free ‘Lite’ version and asked myself – ‘if this application is so easy to use – what can I possibly achieve in just a few hours?’
These days, by the time I get home from work, have my dinner, watch a little TV, the most free time I have in any given evening is about 2-3 hours. I was curious to know what, if anything, I could make in RPG Maker in just that small window of time – and, well, show you what was, or wasn’t possible.
Loading up RPG Maker Lite and you’ll notice there’s no tutorial. You’re faced with a pallet of tiles and a work area and, actually, a not too intimidating GUI and set of menus.
The most obvious first step is to make yourself an overworld. I only had three hours, so I played it safe and just made a little island – with three points of interest. A house for me (hero!), a house for a girl (love interest) and a house for some kind of antagonist. Don’t know why, but I made his house an igloo.
So I had an overworld. Now I needed characters. There’s an easy to find Character generator on the top bar. I’m assuming the full version has like a ton of options here – the Lite version just has 2-3 choices per category, like hair, face , eyes and so on. There’s also a random generator you can hit to make your characters – which is what I did, given I only had three hours.
I made a bald Antagonist with a red eye in the middle of his face and called him ‘Evil’. I then made a Hero and, called him ‘Man’ and a girl to be the object of my affections and named her ‘Girl’.
I am nothing if not imaginative!
With the characters and world set, I figured the next thing I needed to do was to make the interiors of the three locations I made. It took a few minutes of nosing around the UI to figure out how to do this.
You can make a new map just by clicking in the map box to the left. You can then set properties for that map – like whether it’s the Field (overworld) , Exterior (village/town), Interiors or Dungeons. This will dictate what tile options you get to create your map.
Creating my initial interior scene took up a lot of time. There are a whole bunch of tiles you can choose from – even in the Lite version – and playing around with what worked or looked right – particularly walls and the perimiters of your map was initially tricky.
There was a lot of fiddling around with the size of things so windows sat properly on walls for example, or getting bookcases to look like they were set against the wall and not embedded into it…
All trial and error stuff, but I found the process quite theraputic and very enjoyable. After maybe 15 minutes of a little confusion – like how to set furniture that can or can’t be walked over – you can build a nice interior very quickly.
Then came the problem of how to link the inside of the house to the overworld map – allowing me to travel between the two.
Turns our any sort of ‘happening’ in the game, like moving from the overworld to a house interior is triggered by ‘Events’ – you click a tab, choose Events, click a square you want that event to happen in and then up pops a menu asking you what kind of event you want that to be.
It’s an easy process as it happens. You select a transition event and then choose a map to link to it – in this instance the interior of my Hero’s house, as well as where you want your character to appear when you’re in the new area. In this instance the doorway to my house.
Events prove to be the backbone of your RPG. If the maps are the stages (in the theatrical sense)- the events you add to your maps are the actions of your actors. These can be as simple as hitting the action key to investigate a piece of scenery, or more complex tasks like having a character approach you in a scene, or dialogue options, branches and questions, or have your hero receive an item from an opened chest.
It was at this point that I realised that, even in the Lite version – the range of options open to you are mind-bogglingly deep. I didn’t have time to set up anything massively sophisticated, so being the pervert I am, I designed my love interest’s bedroom and then went about setting up an event where I inappropriately proposition her in her own home.
In a nice touch you can launch into your game in seconds to test out any tweaks and edits you’ve made to an event… like so…
I’m a classy guy, make no mistake.
So with two interiors made – one with explorable furniture, the other with a minor (but utterly filthy!) cut-scene, I decided to turn my attention back to the overworld and, specifically battling. I wanted to set up random encounters with low-level enemies to get a feel for how it worked.
This was just a touch more complicated actually – as well as the maps and events tab -I noticed there was a ‘regions’ button. Here you can sketch out zones on your overworld map – which I figured I could use to isolate different enemy types to various areas of the island.
Once you’ve drawn up these zones you can populate them with enemies. The amount of stuff you can tweak here is just ridiculous. How many steps you take before the possibility of an encounter comes up for example, or in the enemy database itself – how much HP and ememy has, what it drops, the probability of those drops – as well as tinkering with how much gold or EXP it will give.
For this RPG, I decided to spawn a bunch of Slimes and Hornets – all with a 100% probability of dropping the most powerful weapon available in the database.
By this point, I only had another 15 minutes left on my timer, so I decided to just explore the various game menus to get a handle on what kind of options were open to me in this free trial. It’s really, very, very impressive – and well worth investigating if you’ve ever wanted to try your hand at an RPG.
Even in the Lite version, you can mess around with EXP and level progression curves. Populate towns and cities and houses with a good range of NPCs and orchestrate some pretty intricate scenes – it’s really a very generous package. I would recommend you look at this before you fork out £50 for the full version – as, with a little poking around, you’ll realise that the options available to you are quite overwhelming.
But for a lone user, without much free time to spare? It’s absolutely possible to create something decent – and it’s something I’m going to pursure further. I think if you kept your ambitions manageable (like, NOT launching into a 60 hour FFIII-beating RPG!) and were happy to simply work within the graphic options available to you – you could create something simple you could be proud of.
I would also like to add that the process of creation was very enjoyable. I was found myself chuckling away as I scripted some outrageously filthy scenes between my love interest for example. Or wrote some amusing dialogue boxes for when players explored my home. Even if you removed battles and leveling up from the equation altogether, you could make a great little graphic adventure, or perhaps a simple telling of a story fairly easily.
In fact, I was really surprised by just how easy it was to feel your way around RPG Maker without looking at any tutorials. It helps if you’ve played a classic 16-bit style RPG, as it’ll help you along with some of the logic perhaps, but well done to RPG Maker’s devs for creating a tool that’s both simple to use and unbelievably versatile.
If you do get stuck – there’s an insane about of online help to be found via forums and also some amazingly well produced user-made .pdf manuals too. Regardless of your skill level though , it’s safe to say you’ll be surprised how much you can achieve in very little time.
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