RPGMaker: Broad Strokes

The first step in any project is to identify what you’re trying to achieve.

“I want to make a game” is not sufficient, since almost anything could satisfy that. “I want to make an RPGMaker game” is a little better, but even then it’s not very specific.

Let’s see what I want to achieve. I’m pretty sure some of these will not be easy, and some might be mutually exclusive, and some might not be possible at all. That’s okay, I’m at the brainstorming stage.

  • I want to build something reminiscent of Echelon RPG, at least two of the three defining elements.
    • The tier system, where you have a notable increase in power and capability when you reach certain advancements. It might be possible to do this just by grinding, but I think I want to tie them to achievement.
    • The talent system, where you gain a talent and upgrade a talent at each level. This might be hidden, where the talents exist behind the scenes and are used to build other objects such as classes and skills.
    • The Advantage Dice System, though because RPGMaker does not usually work this way it might need to wait for a while.
  • I want to create a nonlinear sandbox setting.
    • I will create some story lines, but I believe plots exist for PCs to tamper with. I’ll use these story lines to see what happens if the PCs don’t get involved, and as a baseline for determining what happens when they do.
  • I want to automate some of the content generation.
    • Special items can be randomly created, of course. A Diablo-like mechanism is certainly possible.
    • Automated maps, either made of whole cloth or of component maps (geomorphs), could be viable.
    • If the Echelon talent system works out, I could possibly have some randomly-generated characters (PC or NPC).
    • Deities and other powers! I could implement something like this, no problem. I even wrote a book about it.
    • There could also be random quests and the like as well.
  • I want to have something like AGE System’s stunt system. “You rolled well and do extra damage” doesn’t do much for me.
    • I don’t want to bog down action resolution, so the player choosing how stunt points are assigned is probably out.
    • Instead, I think a decision tree that decides for the player would be better. I expect there would be ‘generic stunts’ that anyone can use, but that talents (and perhaps weapon qualities) would give access to new stunts not available to others.
    • The decision tree could look at value first (use the biggest stunt affordable on the expectation it will be the most effective) or specificity (item used, followed by talent used, followed by action taken, followed by generic).
    • Anything that could involve a resolution check could conceivably have stunts available.
  • Some other things I’m considering.
    • A crafting system, where you can combine items to make new or better items. This could work well with or take advantage of the random item system above (or vice-versa, depending how they’re implemented).
    • A knowledge or advancement tree… though I suspect this would be largely redundant with the talent system and thus not needed. Or perhaps not.
    • Probably multiple types of special power. This could mean multiple power subsystems (arcane spells, divine channeling, and so on), or multiple schools of magic (as Dungeons & Dragons has long had). Again, this might be a matter of how talents work.

From a project management standpoint, this is hugely risky, especially if you bear in mind that this is basically my first ‘real’ RPGMaker game… and I don’t know JavaScript well.

There are things in my favor.

  • Lots of plugins exist, many of which can probably address many of the things that aren’t baked into RPGMaker already.
  • Lots of YouTube tutorials available to answer specific questions.
  • Discord channels dedicated to RPGMaker, full of knowledgeable people who like to show off help answer weird questions.
  • Decades of experience as a programmer.
    • This experience will help me learn the coding environment and whatnot; JavaScript isn’t particularly hard, I just haven’t done it because I’ve been busy with C, C++, C#, Java, Perl, Python, PL/SQL, Delphi, FORTRAN, LISP and Scheme, LaTeX…
    • More importantly, I know that I’m going to have a series of small projects to build up to this one. I expect there will be a long line of small games to help me prove certain designs and components I’ll need before I get to the game I actually aim to make. I have no trouble drowning babies once I have learned what I must from them.

I don’t have a roadmap yet. I have a target (“I want to make a game“) and some idea of the direction and vehicle (this post). I can see some places I want to visit along the way, and I see some likely obstacles I’m going to need to work around.

Feeling good so far. Even though I’ve barely started.

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