P&c RPGs - Chapter 7, "Atmospheric Ambience"

P&c RPGs - Chapter 7, "Atmospheric Ambience"

A Chapter by dw817

Consider having the audio of water dripping, perhaps add even a randomly occurring breathing sound. Heavy staggered and random footsteps, or crumbling of stone - whatever you want.




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Chapter 7: "Atmospheric Ambience"

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

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

Face it, if your game doesn't actually "put" the player in your work, then no amount of great music or graphics will be able to compensate for this loss.

One of the simplest ways to do this is to focus on what the player would hear depending upon where they are.

Sure you can draw up the map for a spooky cave and have creepy music, that's a good start, but you should go further than that.

Consider having the audio of water dripping, perhaps add even a randomly occurring breathing sound. Heavy staggered and random footsteps, or crumbling of stone - whatever you want.

And visually you shouldn't just have the player sprite in the middle as the map moves about them. No, consider the AMBIENCE. Maybe show water dripping from the ceiling, have dust shift from inside caves. Have a creepy fog waver across the screen.

For the actual screen itself you could restrict the view of the player to a smaller circle, to give them more a feel of a torch-lit environment.

S2 has a good example of this.

On the line of ambience, I did want to take a moment to reflect on music. Music in RPGs if they are done well do nothing but add a positive feel to the overall game. The music chosen should never sound rushed or really even familiar.

That is, the music you choose for your RPG should not be something everyone is familiar with, for instance, the soundtrack to Final Fantasy 7. Not only do you not have the right to use this music without violating their copyright, it also won't sound as well as if you handpicked or wrote original compositions yourself.

I also wanted to point out animation of elements. For instance, let's say you have been swallowed by a whale. Okay, the view for the player will definitely show pink walls but to add ambience to it, you could have the walls pulsate in and out, like the insides of a real whale's throat and body.

If you are inside a flying saucer, you could have walls flicker different colored lights to show a futuristic setting. You should seldom ever have the player in any room where there is not some degree of animation. Whether it's torches flickering from their walls, water moving in a fountain, or even a simple flag flapping in the breeze.

Above all consider the floor. Sure you can choose a 32x32 tile and layer the floor with it. That might be fine for anywhere industry is considered. But let's say you're in a deep forest. You definitely don't want the grass and flowers to appear patterned.

So it's up to you to break up the patterns either by using a drawing of the "room" you are in or using other tiles to disjoint the continuity of the ground.

You can further add to a game by having the people you talk with to react in different ways according to not just the position or status of the player but the choices they make. A really GOOD RPG might even have the player regret some early game decisions and thus miss out on something good they would've gotten if they did something else that was positive.

Human speech.

Just because games today are massive doesn't necessarily mean that they all need to have real human speech in them. Some of the best RPGs like Chrono Trigger, even seen today for PS3 and Gameboy DS.

Chrono Trigger, for instance, is a game that is nearly 25-years old but considered one of the very best RPGs of all time. It uses simple graphics, panels for text, and originally came from Super Nintendo.

Aside from adding a few animated cut-scenes, the game today is as fresh and vibrant as it was those many years ago. What's the secret to it's success ? Well, aside from an outstanding plot, it features AMBIENCE. And a lot of it.

You can enter rooms where light is trickling in from above showing rays hitting the floor.

Combat special effects that darken the screen before spells are cast, and even a way of changing the music so it has an eerie echo to it - once again, all adding to the AMBIENCE of the game.

With this, the game becomes immersive and the player is that much more in tune in contact and enjoying the game. When you design yours, do your level best to ensure there is great AMBIENCE in your game.

Through sound, graphics, design, and animation. All of these elements together can build a mighty and powerful RPG. And if you are building instead a RPG Maker, you should have optional weather effects.

Earthquake, snow, rain, and glow.

Earthquake is a simple matter of playing a rumbling sound in the background and shaking the screen left and right or up and down.

Snow are little pinpoints of light that trickle down from the top of the screen in a lazy curve independent of all other particles - very much like real snow does.

Here is SNOW from S2.

Rain is different from this. Rain are slashes that cut through the screen rapidly, usually at a slight diagonal angle. The sound in the background can be from a true rainstorm, punctuated both with audio and effects of lightning, in RPGs, simply flashing the screen white. Visually maybe even seeing raindrops hit the ground.

The "Legend Of Zelda - A Link To The Past" for the SNES does this admirably.

Fog can also be useful. You may want to give the player a sense of foreboding about an area. It could even have earlier been a friendly and thriving town. Merely lowering the lights and adding a 
creepy fog is more than enough to put the player in a misty haze.

For the most part, fog or MIST does not prevent the player from sight, usually it just lightens the screen in patches that float about. It once again, adds AMBIENCE to the area.

Here is the fog being used here without the other graphics so you can examine it:

And it just swirls around on the screen, very lazily, in no hurry. And this definitely adds a spooky flavor to any map.

. . .

That's all for today ! Next week the chapter will be called, "Two Heads Are Better Than One" and will focus on having more than one player in a game. How they can be cared for, grow in strength, and ultimately become the greatest of allies to the player and his or her cause.

Until then, bye for now ...

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