P&C RPGs - Chapter 4, "The Icing"

P&C RPGs - Chapter 4, "The Icing"

A Chapter by dw817
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Most programmers and game writers today believe that both the graphics, still images and animated, and audio, both music and sound effects, are the "icing" on the cake.

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PROSE & COMMS OF RPGS
Chapter 4: "The Icing"

Some details, ideas, and musings I've had experiencing effective RPGs and RPG Makers

© March Written by David Wicker
Please do not reprint without permission


Hello and welcome back, 4th week running !

Okay, this will be an important chapter to cover because most programmers and game writers today believe that both the graphics, still images and animated, and audio, both music and sound effects, are the icing on the cake.

And I will not disagree with this. No, I won't. But I =DO= want to point out that years ago, when computers first came out, there was no sound nor were there any graphics, or any to speak of.



Because back then, adventure games and RPGs relied heavily on the player's own imagination. The computer would spin the quest, relay this as text to the player, and the player would need to decide what to do, where to go, and how to do it.

Today video game consoles number their polygons in the millions if not billions. RPGs like Final Fantasy 7 or even higher relied heavily on superior graphics and music and sound effects.



And that's fine. They were rightly deserved. Final Fantasy 7 was not just a cupcake with a ton of icing but a full-sized wedding sheet cake with just the right amount of frosting to make it sweet and delectable. The game length in a blind play could go on for months at a time.

Today though, there are a great many games that rely heavily on graphics, to show extremely violent scenes or intended to arouse the male audience. And audio not only included music and sound effects but spoken dialogue of the players and characters in it.

And - that's fine. That's fine. There's nothing wrong with that - provided the game engine is just as if not stronger than the "icing" presented.

And unfortunately today, there are a great many games which are just that, some simple sequentially-driven adventure game of incredible brevity with drop-jaw graphics, kinky elements, bloody violence, and heart thumping music.

And if that's what you're after, good for you. But no, not for me - and not for a great many of you.



Consider one of the most popular RPG Makers today, the "MV" engine.

Yes, it has incredible depth and detail but NO, the graphics are designed in such a way that no less than 12-images are requested for each of the players in order to build something of use with them.

And that's fine if you're a sterling sprite artist. But chances are, you are not, and you are expected to pay EXTRA to get those extra sprites, monster images, and what have you. Extra meaning your credit card to RPG Maker inc and their resources.

And where does this leave a RPG Maker ? Well, yes, you have a character generator program that builds sprites and faces, but it is terribly limited and most sprites and portraits look quite similar to each other.

So what would I consider to be a good thing ?



To use a single image. Something anyone can find on the internet. Steve Jackson in his Sorcery series, for instance, uses the image of a single standing player perched on a pedestal and that is the image used to denote the player's position and definition.

Sure it's possible to sit down and draw up 11-more images so the player is facing and walking left, right, up, down, shows surprise, shows weakness, shows this that and the other. But in order to maintain the "correct" size with existing tables of this kind, they are no more than 32x32 pixels in size.

Use a single image as a base for a player ? They can be any size at all, even bigger than the default screen if you so choose.

A WELL DONE system, a really good RPG Maker would take advantage of that single image and let you crop/cut/paste elements from it.

Portrait ? Specify square from near top of image.

Sprite ? Use entire image. Place on silver or gold pedestal as a kind of game piece, shrink to fit map.

Emotion ? It's not that difficult to use exclamation bubbles, question mark, exclamation mark, teardrop, angry symbols, frustrated scribbles, etc. all appearing above the head of the portrait. No need to import or create new and extra facial expressions through modified pixels.

Combat ? Remove pedestal and place image directly in combat field. Scale to fit. Tilt left or right according to attacking and showing weapon, dodging, raising in the air with shadow (to represent magical spell being enabled), etc.

There is NO NEED to have multiple images per character. And for a RPG Maker of your design, this will be a greatly appreciated trait as it won't require the Worldbuilder to either purchase new sprites, wait for some artist to render them, or to try and find a matching set Online from a list of other 32x32 sprites.

If you can do it all with just ONE image, your RPG Maker or adventure the Worldbuilder is building is that much further along to completion.

Now let's talk about audio. While there are indeed a great number of .WAV sound effects out there for the taking, be aware of .Mp3 music. You must be careful to not use any music that is copyrighted or belongs to any number of other existing RPG Makers out there.

Fortunately, at least in Youtube, there are a great number of copyright-free songs that can be used for just about anything, including commercial use. Check with the notes and details to be certain. Some musicians just want to have credit and a page linking back to them - and you can still use them in a commercial creation of your own, such as your RPG Maker engine.

That's pretty good when you think about it !

Another possibility is MIDI music. Always allow your audio importer to work with the following files. .WAV, .Mp3, .OGG, .WMA, and of course, .MID. For a bonus your importer could also allow .IT, .S3m, and .MOD music which was popular before Mp3 came out.

You should already allow import image types of .BMP, .PNG, .JPG, .GIF, and possibly some non-standard ones like .TIFF. Bottom-line, the more flexible your engine is, the better it is going to be appreciated.

Allow the Worldbuilder to do a great many things with a single image. rotate in free space. flip, mirror, X, Y, squash, flatten, glow, levitate, place a pedestal beneath for mapping, crop, zoom, tint, fade, shadow, morph (fade one image out to be replaced by another).

All of these effects can be done with a single image and SHOULD be allowed in your program. Make the absolute BEST possible use out of the most minute of media and graphic/audio elements.

For audio you should be able to play, pause, stop, repeat at, restart, loop, play from position, change volume, add/remove echo (when player is in a cave), change pitch, change rate, fade in, fade out, change channel (fade to a different song or audio).

Focus your engine to have the biggest amount of abilities that can be done with a single media file, as listed above, and your Worldbuilder will be that much further along in completing their world file because of the wide variety of methods, implements, and features you have for that select media datum.

Don't worry so much about providing dozens or hundreds of sample game sprites to begin with. The Worldbuilder is mightier than you know. They can pluck images from Google Image Search or music and effects from Youtube and Sounddogs. Let THEM provide their own media so then YOU are not responsible for the copyright or infringement of it in its use.

Remember, graphics and audio are the icing to a cake. In your cake if your engine is weak, inflexible and unmanageable, no amount of icing will save it.

. . .

Next week the chapter is called, "Use Me But Be Gentle" and will cover such elements as the limited number of uses an item can have, the pros and cons of this. Is it a good idea to limit weapons and armor by number of uses or should they be infinite ? How is this good or bad ?

Until next time ...






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