For the past year I’ve been working with artists to create my own custom assets to use in future games. My goal is to re-use these characters over and over in a series of games. This accomplishes several things
- It forces some restriction (focus) to my designs. That may sound counter intuitive, but like art it’s very difficult to work with a blank canvas.
- I can begin building a brand
- They are unique to me and my games. There’s lots of fantastic premade 2D asset and 3D asset packages you can buy for very very cheap (3-4 models, dozen textures for $100 is very cheap in game development costs) but don’t be surprised when you see shovelware using the same assets as your cool game.
- They are freaking cool! I mean come on those characters are so cute and cool!
The Slow Transition
One thing I have had to come to terms with over the years is that Board Game Designers make games. Video Game Designers do not. Video Game Designers influence games, they can have major or minor impacts on the overall direction, story, mechanics, systems and art of a game. At the end of the day however; it’s the Developers and Artists that make games not the Designers. I’m not trying to persuade anyone else to not be a designer or crush your dreams of being a designer. I just wish I had known a lot sooner in life that if you want to make games, you really should learn how to code. Without it you are forever dependent on others, with it you can lead a team or run solo.
So if I really want to make my ‘own games’ I’m going to have to transition from being a Designer and become a Developer/Producer. To that end I’ve decided that this year I will work with genre specific editor software instead of an open ended game engine so that I can fully focus on the task of mastering a set of tools instead of being a hub of communication. With the follow up goal being that next year I will learn to program; so that eventually I can work with more open ended game engines and create my own tools instead of relying on someone elses.
Enter RPG MAKER VX ACE
I love Final Fantasy and Phantasy Star series. I loved stories, the artwork, the fantasy world and even the turn based strategic combat. (Side note: Now that I’m older turn based combat seems slow and boring now) My favorite JRPG of all time was not FF7 it was Final Fantasy 4 (US2). My favorite character from FF4 was Rydia the summoner. 4 Years before Satoshi Tajiri created Pokemon we had a Final Fantasy class that could summon monsters to fight for her, after beating them in combat. Honestly I probably had a bit of a crush on her, even if she was a bunch of pixels. Plus the ‘battle cut in’ art each time she summoned monsters was so freaking cool!
So when RMVXA + Luna Engine + DLC went on sale in the HumbleBundle.com Maker Bundle for $13 I went all in. I don’t know if there is a god but I certainly feel like fate/destiny throws clues and signs are me once and awhile. It’s worked for me so far!
RPG Maker certainly has it’s limitations but it’s a much better starting point than an open engine like Unity3D. I wish I would have started using it years ago! It comes with tons of backgrounds, tiles, items and features that you would want when making your own JRPG. It would be great if I do end up making a good game with it, but for now my main goal is just to master the tools of editor. To treat RPG Maker like an artist treats a set of brushes. Day after day I watch tutorials and follow along. Not because puzzle X or event structure Y is going to be perfect for my game, but so I can master the toolset that is RPG Maker. Create something that people can actually play, begin building up a fan base even a small one, and most of all know what kind of tools and shortcuts I will need when I make my own editor in the future.
BAM! It came out of no where! It is kind of funny and ironic though. Now that I am working on my own game, at my own pace and just starting to feel like a developer; I have run into a mental road block because I don’t know what to work on next. I mean I have a list of things to implement and accomplish. But I didn’t make a GDD I just dove head first into the deep end. So I don’t have a real road map just a list of destinations. Where do my players turn next, who do they talk to, what is their purpose for going into the next dungeon? I don’t know!!
My game has 3 hours of gameplay so far. A loose plot thread with missions leading to the next area of the game. So why is it that for 2 weeks I didn’t/couldn’t touch the game anymore? Where did this roadblock come from? I suddenly feel like I wish I was a full-time developer and had someone else’s design and GDD to follow along with so that I could keep up my momentum instead of slowing down to think about the big picture. Ugghhh!
Perhaps it’s time to start fishing for user feedback?
To be continued….