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Article - 'Planning your RPG' by AutumnDragon

An item about Game Design posted on Jul 8, 2004

Blurb

Everything you need to know about planning for your game.

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Planning your RPG

Ah, my second article. This article will discuss planning your RPG, however it will be mainly focused around RM2k(3). What I will try and demonstrate is how to get your game's storyline in motion, what are the best techniques when creating your RPG and amount of time you spend on it.

Firstly, you need an idea. Most of my ideas come from other RPGs or strange dreams I have. However you get your idea, it's up to you.
Your idea will be your basis for a storyline. For example, your idea might be:
"What if a boy in his twenties suddenly had the power to call animals to do his bidding?"

Okay, not a very good example, but that is a start. Now take this idea further.
To do this, consider these questions and answer them.
1. How do other people act around this character before meeting him?
2. What is the world he lives in like?
3. Is there anyone else like him?
4. Who were his parents and do they have a purpose?

Of course, these questions all revolve around the character, but the way your character sees the world is very important.

So you have an idea- a character. Not much eh? Like I said, this is a basis for a storyline.
From the way the character sees his world, that will help develop a storyline.
Why?

Say the character is a very low/lonely/dark person. He will obviously not see the good side of the world that easily. Of course, if he continues like that, then he will probably become a bad guy if he can find the motivation. But a low character is mostly likely to have a storyline where they change is some way, whether for good or bad.

The best way to create your storyline from here is to create a beginning, middle and an end.
E.g.
Beginning - Character receives magic powers and finds a rare crystal.
Middle - Character has met friends and falls in love with someone.
End - Character defeats evil enemy who wants the crystal. The character is a better person from his experiences.

Of course, you can create as many outcomes as you like.

Once you have you character's storyline and motivation, you can build on this.

Okay, you've done your main idea and plan.

What do you do now?
Write it all down on paper or type it up on computer. That way, you can look back at it any time to keep to your storyline - don't wander off or your audience will lose interest.

What do you do now before you start your game?
You should decide on the features of the game, what maker it will use, whether it needs Custom Menu or Battle System etc. Again write down a list, you can look back at as your 'to do' list.

Design your world map.
I find that creating games where the hero needs to go to another town which you just made up as random will not work. I designed my world map on paper. I drew on the continents, the major cities before dividing everything up into countries. Then I added towns, shrines and giving them names. This way, I can look at my map whenever a hero needs to go some where and it will be a lot more efficient.

Create your main characters.
Make a list of your characters, their own personal experience, history, feelings, attitudes and motivation. Decide on their role in the story and what importance they have.

Create extra characters.
By extra, I mean any characters that will be only briefly in your party or are only in 4% of your game in total. These characters won't really develop during the game, but they are still of some significance. Of course, these characters are optional.

Create the Bad Guys
Write a list of the bad characters that will be enemies of your heroes or allies if you prefer but generally are up to no good. They are very important to the storyline. You can't have your characters go on a journey across valleys and mountains to find that somebody at random is the final boss. Like the main characters, bad guys must have motivation too. Write down the part they will play and where they will make appearances in the game.

Create the series of events.
By this I mean, write down where the character begins, where he goes next, whom they meet and so on. E.g.
-Character wakes up in desert
-Characters journeys to town
-Character meets Bob, the warrior.
-Character goes on quest to get back a stolen necklace
-Bob joins character
-Character goes to the next town.

This will help you realise what you have to next in your game without making things up at random.

Gather resources.
You don't have to gather all your resources, just important ones. You will need your characters templates (E.g. character set and faceset) as well as music, picture etc.
Before you begin progress, make sure you are content with your characters looks and appearance. Otherwise, you will find that you will want to change it during your game.
It's a right pain to have to go back through events and change your character.

Finally...
Before you begin, go to a message board or forum, e.g. Gaming World or Skytowergames and ask other of what they think of your plan and their suggestions. Remember that they might be the ones playing your game later!

Keep all your notes, plans and drawings safe, as they basically are your game, whether they are on paper or computer. You will need them as reference to keep your game on track.

Thank you for reading, I hope you have found stuff useful in this article. I apologise for any spelling mistakes.

-Autumn Dragon