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Tutorial - 'Procedural RPG Maker' by terrafire

An item about RPGMaker 2000 posted on

Blurb

An article-like RM2K3 tutorial that explains the introductory pocesses for making an RM2K3 game.

Body

After seeing the successful attempts of so many people to write good, interesting and valuable tutorials, I decided to join in. Unfortunately I haven’t perfected good, interesting or even valuable just yet, so I’m working on the tutorial part. If this looks too much like an article instead, slap me. Or you could just say nasty things in the Comments box below.

This tutorial works on the basic premise that all the advances in programming languages and strategies over the past few years have been A Waste Of Time. That’s right. Say it with me: “Object Oriented Programming Is A Waste Of Time”. What am I talking about?

I’ll simplify. Most people create their RPG Maker games, by, say, first creating the maps, then the characters, then the dialogue, then the monsters etc. That way is all very well, but it doesn’t allow you a feel for how the action of your game is developing. But what if you only created everything as it was needed?

That’s what this series of tutorials is about. When you start a game, what’s the first thing you see? Come on genius... ... ... ... ... yes, the title screen. So the first thing you make is Mr. Title Screen. You also need to make Lord Title Music, Mrs System Boxy Thingy, and Miss Text Strings. So let’s get started!

In these tutorials I’ll be using RPG Maker 2003, simply because it is a superior program all round to RPG Maker 2000 and doesn’t have a noobish Russian translation complete with spelling mistakes. I will be including RPG Maker 2003 code, which can easily be changed to RPG Maker 2000 code with a bit of common sense. If you are using another RPG Maker (such as Game Maker, RPG Toolkit, Sphere, RPG Maker 95) then you should be able to change the code with a lot of thinking and intelligence (I’ll lend you some if you need it). As I have most RPG makers if you need these tutorials adapting for them email me and I’ll see what I can do.

Right, open up RPG Maker 2003 and click the Project menu, then New Project. If you have a game open then you will need to hit Close Project first. In the box that comes up the most important field is, quite logically, Game Name. If you haven’t decided this go and bathe in some sulphuric acid to speed your brain up.

Being serious, many people, me included, find it hard to come up with non-cliched names for RPG’s. The adjective-noun formula is always a winner, but people will be attracted more if you come up with something different. Try something like nouns-of-noun. Don’t worry if your name sounds too mundane - to others it will sound original - go for subdued rather than over-the-top, unless your game is a comedy. Whether you alliterate (Final Fantasy style - words begin with same letter) is up to you, in the right hands it’s a good tool, but don’t emphasise the alliteration.

For my example, I’m going to use the name Skies of Chaos. When you’ve typed your name in, choose the folder to put your game in and name the directory of your game. Giving it the same name as your game is always a good idea.

Now you need to make your title screen. You can’t do this inside RPG Maker, so exit and load up the nearest image-editing software (I’m using MSPaint, so don’t moan if you don’t have fancy tools). Your image needs to conform to the following specifications (copied from the RPG Maker 2003 help file):

(16) Title Screens
Folder: Title
Image size: 320x240
· A title screen is composed of a single image.
Data format: PNG, BMP, XYZ (Raw material)
Colours: 256 (8-bit)

This says a few things. The folder part says where your image for the Title screen must be stored. Don’t worry about this - when you import the image a copy is automatically placed in there. The image size is important - the game will reject your image if it is even a pixel off the required size. The reason the size is so small is because RPG Maker games run at this ridiculously small resolution, so be aware that pixellation could become a problem if you are not careful. The next line is self-explanatory. What the data format part means is that only bitmap, png, or ASCII’s own format XYZ images are allowed for the title screen. What you’ll usually have to save your image in is the too-large bmp format, but don’t worry, because when you import your file it will be converted into either png or xyz format by RPG Maker 2003. Finally, your file has to be a 256-colour image. This is the bane of most people’s life - 256 colours doesn’t give you a lot of room to make an attractive image.

If you understood all that, well done, if not, don’t worry. Just follow what I say next. You have five options, ranked in order of difficulty (5 - easy, 1 - hard):

5. Use an off-the-shelf ready-made title screen, such as the ones that come with RPG Maker 2003, or download a screen someone else has made. If you do this, then you are done creating your image before you’ve begun. Well done. ;) Probably best for people new to RPG Maker 2003.

4. Take an existing title screen for RPG Maker 2003 and modify it, perhaps by placing a logo over it or by writing your game name over the screen. This is good for people who want a nice-looking screen with the minimum of effort.

3. Find an existing image with proportions of roughly screen size, e.g. of ratio 4:3. Then change it to 256 colour and 320x240 and modify it. This technique can produce stunning pictures, as long as you can get over the headache of converting to 256 colour without too much loss. This is what many people would do to create good-looking pictures with a professional style.

2. Take a few pictures and convert them to the correct format. Arrange them to create a collage-style title screen, complete with background and title. This is what most serious RPG Maker game developers would do to get a good screen.

1. Take a blank 320x240 canvas on an image-editing program. Draw your title screen. Save in 256 colours. If you wish to do this, good luck. If you have _a lot_ of time it may even be easier than cutting and pasting. Beware: many people would produce childish and frankly bad title screens using this method. Probably best for artistic people.

Options 4-1 require you to edit your title screen, so load up MSPaint. This would work much better in a more up-market image editor, but many people only have Paint, and I’m writing this for everyone.

If you chose option 4, you have got to do some shuffling. All your RPG Maker title screens will be in png format, which Paint cannot open. So go to your file in Windows Explorer and open it. Your desired screen should now be open in Internet Explorer. Right-click the image and click copy. Now go back to Paint and drag the bottom-right handle until the canvas is very small. Now go to the Edit menu, click Paste, say Yes at the menu, and you should have yourself a canvas the same size as the picture - 320x240. Just one small problem - go and save your picture AS 256 COLOUR! What do you see? That’s right, the pic’s gone crappy, and unless you upgrade to a better image program, there ain’t nothing you can do about it. You now have three options for the title - you can use Paint’s crappy text tool, you can draw your text, or you can paste it in from elsewhere. The last two are fairly straightforward, but again, the first needs some tweaking. Hit the A button on the side, then from the two options that appear underneath those buttons choose the second one to stop the background being obscured. Then type your moronic little title, and there’s your title screen. Hard, wasn’t it? You picked the easy option.

For option 3, see above. Basically open your image in Internet Explorer just the same, and paste it in the same. Then, resize the canvas so it is slightly larger than the picture. Click the dotted-line rectangle at the top of the paintbrush stuff selector, and then drag a box around your whole picture. Resize your picture using the handles that appear to 320x240, and then resize the canvas to fit. Make sure you get it exact to the pixel. Then modify, blah blah. Beware of colour loss! Actually, don’t bother, because you can’t stop it.

For option 2, see 3 + 4, but this time resize your canvas to 320x240, and keep it that way whilst you rsize pictures to fit around each other. Should be fun...

Option 1 don’t need much explaining. Just draw your picture, prepare for the loss of colour when you save as 256 colour. Needless to say, make sure your image is 320x240.

Whew! Now you should have your title screen, albeit a strangely-coloured nowhere-near-photographic quality one. Never mind, now you need to import your image. So long as you’ve saved it as a 256-colour bmp you should be alright.

Go back to RPG Maker 2003 and click the Tools menu, then go to Resource Manager. Go down to Title and click Import. Find your bmp file you just created and click Open. Now go back to the main screen and press F8 to get into the Database. Click the first System tab, and go to the Title Screen display and click Set. Find your title screen in the list and click OK. You’ve made a custom title screen and put it in your game! _^

But wait... we want some title music! Please don’t cheer all at once. You have four options, but I very much doubt any of you will take any apart for the first one, unless you are Music students:

1. Find some existing music and use it in your game. Best if you don’t want to beat your brains out with a butter knife.

2. Using a MIDI editing program (try Microsoft DirectMusic - available free from www.microsoft.com - music theory knowledge a bit handy) open an existing piece of music and arrange it to suit yourself, handily avoiding copyright infringement if you were planning on selling your game as well.

3. Using said MIDI program compose a totally new piece of music. Some hints:

Scales and arpeggios are good to go up and down for accompaniment.
Brass fanfares never go amiss.
If you go in for the fanfare thing, make the tempo slow and the dynamics loud, in a crescendo.
Otherwise make the tempo fast and the dynamics quiet for a Final Fantasy sort of thing.
You can have a climax in that type of music too though.
Drums can work surprisingly well in a 3/4 rhythm.

4. Using musical instruments *gasp* and a microphone, record, multitrack, mix and master a theme in either MP3 or WAV format. Good luck.

Now I’m assuming you have either a mid, mp3 or wav file. If you have any other format you can’t use it (If you have RPG Maker 2000 you can’t use MP3’s in your game either). In RPG Maker, go to the Tools menu and click Resource Manager. Go to the, yes, you guessed it, Music folder. If your music is RTP it should be in the list, otherwise click Import. Find your music and click Open, then click Cancel to go back to the main window.

To actually make the music your title music, you need to go back to the System tab on the Database (F8). Click the ... button next to the Title Screen field in the System BGM area. Find your music in the list and select it. Change Fade-in Time to alter the amount your music plays before it reaches its full volume. 4-7 seconds is good for a title theme. Volume is how loud (bet you never knew that) your piece is played. Usually you would want this at about 70%, so you can play it either louder or quieter later in the game. Title music is generally loud though, so feel free to make it louder. Tempo is how fast your music is played. Be aware that pitch changes when you change tempo - as you make the music faster it goes higher, and vice versa. Keep this at 100% unless you want to play the same music much higher or lower later in the game, or your music is really too slow or fast. Finally, balance determines what proportion of the music comes out of which speaker. I really can’t see why you would change this for the title music, but feel free if you are so inclined.

Click OK when you have finished editing your settings.

Now you need to make your System set. What’s that, I hear you ask?

(14) System Sets
Folder: System
Image size: 160x80
· The system set determines the appearance of numbers in the game and the colours available for messages.

^_^ The system set gives the outline for message boxes, determines how the menu looks, what the pointer looks like, blahdyblah...

As the information says, it’s a 160x80 image, again in 256 colour. That image can be split up into sections. Assuming (x1-x2, y1-y2), where x1 is the horizontal start point, x2 is the horizontal finish point, y1 is the vertical start point, y2 is the vertical finish point, and 0,0 is in the top-left corner, the image breaks down like this:

(0-31, 0-31) - [32x32] - The background colour of any menu or message box. Can be a plain colour fill, a gradient or a picture and will be stretched to fit the menu.

(32-63, 0-31) - [32x32] - The border for all text boxes and menus. Draw a border around this area, and it will become the border for all menus. Also, the arrows at the end of a message when there is more to be read are drawn here, in the centre of the box. Draw them dead centre, so that they are not off-centre in your game.

(64-95, 0-31) AND (96-127, 0-31) - [32x32] - Both of these contain the two borders for commands. Whenever the user enters a choice on a menu, such as the options to the side of the main menu, these schemes are used. They are stretched to fit, so pictures will distort.

(128-135, 0-7) AND (136-143, 0-7) AND (144-151, 0-7) AND (152-159, 0-7) - [8x8] - The four frame animation pattern for the icons that appear next to your party in weapon or armour shops. These tiles should have the arrow that indicates a particular weapon would improve a character’s statistics in them.

(128-135, 8-15) AND (136-143, 8-15) AND (144-151, 8-15) AND (152-159, 8-15) - [8x8] - As above, the four frame animation pattern for shops, this time for if a weapon or armour would leave the character’s statistics unchanged.

(128-135, 16-23) AND (136-143, 16-23) AND (144-151, 16-23) AND (152-159, 16-23) - [8x8] - Again, a four frame animation pattern for an arrow, this time the one that appears when a weapon or armour would decrease a character’s statistics.

(128-135, 24-31) AND (136-143, 24-31) AND (144-151, 24-31) AND (152-159, 24-31) - [8x8] - This is also a four frame animation pattern, this time for the symbol that appears if a character already has the selected weapon or armour equipped.

(0-15, 32-47) - [16x16] - The background for the main menu. If you enter the menu, then behind all the boxes there is usually a blue background - the background is whatever you put in this square.

(16-31, 32-47) - [16x16] - This is the colour of the shadow the letters make. Don't try too much fancy stuff here or your messages will look slightly strange and a bit pretentious. Of course, if it’s originality you’re looking for, then go on, and while you’re at it find a good tutorial.

(32-39, 32-47) AND (40-47, 32-47) AND (48-55, 32-47) AND (56-63, 32-47) AND (64-71, 32-47) AND (72-79, 32-47) AND (80-87, 32-47) AND (88-95, 32-47) AND (96-103,32-47) AND (104-111,32-47) AND (112-119, 32-47) AND (120-127, 32-47) - [8x16] - These are the numbers that will appear on any timer in your game. Their order, from right to left, is “0123456789: “, with a space at the end.

(128-143, 32-47) AND (144-159, 32-47) - Two airship shadows. Use your transparent colour as fill, and use a dark blue-black for the airship shape.

THE REST - [16x16] - The rest of the picture (the bit below) is divided into 16x16 blocks of colour. They are the colours denoted by the tags \c[x] on a message. Also, the first 5 have other uses:

0 : Default text color.
1 : Status text color.
2 : Statistic rise color.
3 : Statistic lower and command failure color.
4 : HP/MP decrease color.

After you’ve made your picture, save it as a bmp file in Paint. Then go to RPG Maker, and on the Resource Manager, import it. If you can’t do it by now you’re a moron. Anyhow, after that go to the Database. Under the System Graphic area click Set. Then find your graphic in the list and select it. Usually you would pick Stretch to Fit in the Graphic Pattern area, but if you’ve made a pretty pattern and you want it to be tiled, click Tiled Display. Due to bad translation, it does not matter which Text Font you choose - MS Gothic or MS Mincho, it makes no difference. Finally, press OK. This behemoth of a tutorial is nearly finished!

Only one thing left to do for our dream title screen - the text strings. What they are are the words inside the choice box that appears on our title screen. At the moment they say, rather boringly:

> New Game
> Load Game
> Quit Game

Or some such rubbish. Anyway, that’s all very well, but it’s slightly unoriginal. Most people don’t mind that, but these tutorials will show you how to make a completely custom game, so in we go. Click on the String tab in, yup, it’s the Database again. All of the text fields detail all the default messages in the game for when certain things happen, and we’ll change them later. Right now we need Page 5.

At the very right of the screen, the top three boxes alter New Game, Load Game and End Game. So click them and type your desired messages in. You could say Begin! or Commence Playing for New Game, although to be honest I don’t recommend it :). Load Game could be Continue or Restore Game, while End Game could be Quit or Run Away!!!!?!?!?!?! You get the idea.

So that’s it! I really did not expect this tutorial to be so long, but it seems to have swallowed up these past two nights. Oh well. I really hope you learned something from this document. I tried not to stray too much from the point, and on the whole I think I succeeded. Most of the time I write walkthroughs instead of tutorials, so forgive me if my instructions insult your intelligennce.

Feel free to comment below. If there is enough criticism about any aspect of this tutorial I will re-write it, so don’t worry. Email me if you have any problems, and remember, Object Oriented Programming Is A Waste Of Time!

The Definition of a Tutorial: A document that helps somebody when they are stuck with a certain technique.
The Definition of an Article: A really long tutorial that nobody can be bothered reading.

Looks like my document falls firmly into the last category... All 3,392 words of it. So...

Someone better slap me
Before I start to rust
Before I start to decompose...
I’m overcome in gratitude
I’m overcome in gratitude
It’s easy when you’re sad to be...
It’s easy when you’re sad... sad like me!

Terrafire ~ July 2004