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Article - 'A guide on how to make a good RPG' by Rusty

An item about Game Design posted on Aug 8, 2003

Blurb

This article tells you how to make your game stand out from the crowd, and how to avoid it from falling into the forgotten bundle of hundreds of amateur RPGs that are released each month.

Body

There are millions of amateur game makers. There are millions of amateur made games. You have to remember that people who play games do so in their own free time. If the game doesnt interest them from the start, they wont play on. The objective of all game makers is to make a game that other people will play, and enjoy. Will your game just fall into a bundle of countless games; a game to be forgotten in a couple of weeks when many new games have been released? Or will it stand out? Will people play it and remember it? This is a brief summary of how to make your game stand out from the crowd.

Familiarising yourself with your game maker

No matter how many times someone says it, there will always be those who; once they have download their desired game maker, will get straight to work on making one of "the games they always wanted to make as a child." What will happen? Their dream will turn into a nightmare. Before you start to build a game you must familiarise with the game maker! This basically means learning how to use all the functions that are available to you, and finding out the applications capabilities.

A good technique is to build a small test game. Nothing serious no story or anything like that. Just simply learning how to use the different commands, trying things out, seeing what works and what doesnt. It is a trial and error stage. Dont expect to get everything right first time; you wont! That is what learning is about; you only learn from your mistakes after all! If you are having problems with certain commands, check the internet for tutorials, there are plenty of them out there. Trust me, it is much better finding out you don’t know how to use a function while learning to use a program, rather than while you are in the middle of building a game!

If you find out the game makers capabilities, you will be able to plan your game round them. The number of "newbie" RPG Maker 2000 games I have played whose introductions consist simply of "Show Message" commands on top of a panorama. If only they had learned the capabilities of RPG Maker 2000, they would have been able to make their introductions so much more interesting!

Planning

If you ask any true RPG fan what the most important thing in an RPG is, you will get the reply "the story." So, to make your RPG as good as possible, you must give it a good and interesting story. Now, it is a FACT that to have a good story, you must plan it! If you decide to make the story as you go along, it will show. The story won’t be as interesting nor as clear as if you plan it.

Usually you have a rough idea in your head of the story. You know what the beginning, and also what the ending, will be. However, the big chunk in the middle is not always so clear. Before you start on your game, you should have a good idea of all the towns that you will visit, the dungeons that you will explore, the people you will meet, and how the plot will unfold as you progress through the game.

It is a good idea to do what is called "brainstorming". Sit with pen and paper, or Notepad open, and write down all the ideas that come into your mind. Once you have done, look through your list, and scrap the ones you don’t like, and try and expand on the ones that you do like. Finally, you should put them into order of when they occur during the game (numbering is always useful). Voila! You should have a list of all the important parts of your game. Now, as you work through your game, you will be able to refer to that list, meaning your game will have a clear plot and will not be "higgeldy piggeldy" like many other amateur RPGs that have been released.

The introduction - Catching your attention

Having a great story isn’t everything however; you need to be able to tell the story in an interesting way. This rules out 15 minute introductions where the user sits and reads text. As I have tried to say before, people who play amateur games aren’t nice; if the introduction bores them, they won’t play your game right through to see if it gets better (and they might be missing one of the best games ever made!). To them, they are plenty of amateur games out there, and if a game doesnt interest them within a few minutes, they will quit it and delete it. (Trust me, I do it all the time =P )

As a game maker, your job is to make the game player want to play on. For example, if you release a demo of your game, when the demo ends, the player should want to play on. If they didn’t enjoy your demo, they won’t download the next one. (That is why it is never a good idea to release a demo until it is in a fit state to play.)

A good technique to catch the players attention from the very beginning is to start with an action scene. However, you may think this is overused, and want to try something else; that is fine, but try and make sure it catches their attention.

Again, as I have said before, trying to tell your story in a 15 minute introduction will most likely result in boring the player. A good technique is to reveal the story in small snippets over the first hour or so of game play.

Multi-media

All computer games are what is known as "Multi-media". This is the mixture of text, audio, graphics and video in a computer program. With a game maker, you have all these things at your fingertips; you should use them! All of these are very important to your game. The graphics are obvious (and the video isn’t always necessary), but the text and audio are not always considered as important; but in truth they are.

Dialogue is very important in an RPG. Spelling and grammar errors detract from the game. If you are not confident in your English, it is good to first type the text in a word processing document, and spell check it (some WP documents allow for grammar checking too). Once you have fixed any mistakes, you can copy and paste the text into your game. You should try to make your dialogue interesting to read, but going overboard in the amount of dialogue can get very frustrating. There is nothing more annoying than talking to someone who just doesnt seem to want to shut up!

Music is also very important in an RPG. It is a great way of indirectly stating the emotion at a certain point during your game. If used correctly, music can be very powerful. However, if used badly, it can ruin your game. You should spend time choosing the correct music for scenes in your game, not just picking the first thing you can find on the internet. Many famous RPGs popularity is partly due to the music in them. Nearly all Squaresoft games have great music in them, and if you play them with the volume muted, you will notice just how less alive the game seems.

Some things you should remember

- Give your game an interesting and original title. Quite often people who download amateur games download them from a site that has a long list of games. If your game name stands out, chances are people will download it.
- Try to put in fairly regular save points. If a player dies in your RPG, and has to go back to where they were half an hour before they died, there is a good chance they will say something along the lines of: "Screw this, I’m gonna go play Final Fantasy X instead"
- If you are using random encounters, dont make the rate too high. There is nothing more annoying than trying to get to the other side of a room, but having to fight a battle every 3 spaces.
- Puzzles are good to include, but try not to make them impossible! (Kill Exile... Kill Exile... Kill Exile...)
- Mini-games can also add to the fun of an RPG; but of course, aren’t necessary.
- Adding a comedy character can add to the fun of a game, but if you don’t think you can pull it off properly, dont. An attempted comedy character that is not funny can get very annoying.
- The most important thing of all is that you, as the game maker, enjoy yourself making the game! (What? Dont all serious articles have to end with some cheesy comment or other?)