Centrenauts: The Beauty and struggle of RPG Maker

Hello everyone!

The main goal of The Centrenauts, was to make video game and to do that we need software that could help us. RPG Maker was what we picked, and it has been one of the most frustrating but also rewarding learning processes. For all of the limitation of RPG Maker, there are so many cool things that can be done with the program. From the small victories such as learning how to add a new map, to the huge victories of having intricate dialogue, it’s been a step by step process.

The program is extremely overwhelming at first, and honestly, it still is even after sinking hour after hour into it. The first step was to learn how to create a map and design it. I remember getting excited when I randomly right clicked on something, and the “new map” option appeared. It seems almost laughable now that I struggled with that, but I still find issues with the most trivial things. Tilesets for example are still a pain. Tilesets are the sets of blocks and design options for the maps. There are hundreds and hundreds of “tiles,” but you must assign the sets to a map when you start it, meaning that you cannot just pick and choose any tile you want to use. It took me a while to figure out that you can mix and match the sets to fit your needs, which was a major victory. With this, map design finally felt more manageable. Jordan did most of the map design and did a great job. He quickly learned how to take advantage of what the program offers and exceeded my expectation of what we could do. Now with map design down, we had to learn how to add events.

Adding events to our game has proven to be the most difficult learning curve for us. Once again it took randomly right clicking something for the magical word “insert” to pop up. With this we could now get our character to teleport somewhere, have dialogue, and a ton of other things. The problem is to correctly order all the events, making sure they flow together, and to not crash the game. Recently, after a couple hours of frustrating trial and error, I learned how to get an NPC to lead our character somewhere. The problem is, I cannot get the NPC to stop! Every time our character talks to the NPC, he exclaims “Follow me!!” and then leads us right into a wall, making the game freeze. I’m positive that it is an easy fix, but like everything else in RPG Maker, you have to figure it out. This has been frustrating, but when I do finally figure out that small thing that’s been oh so annoying, its incredibly rewarding.

Looking back now at everything that’s been a pain and struggle in RPG Maker, it makes me more appreciative of the game that we have made. The game is not even close to being a full game, but every time I move our character and play what we’ve created, I’m proud of it. I know what went into every aspect of its creation. Through all of the struggle, I am proud to say that we made a video game.

 

Alex Wright

The Centrenauts: Introductory Thoughts and Details

To kickstart the development of our video game, our team met and had three objectives in mind: to name our team, to choose a topic, and to select our software. Naming a team is hard, but creating a game is harder, so we decided to pick a simple team name so that we could save our brainstorming for the actual project. So, our team decided to throw out name ideas until someone said, “Oh, that one sounds cool.” Thus, Jordan Cordoba, Yue Feng, Clay Hundley, Alex Wright, and I became The Centrenauts.

With our first objective met, we moved on to brainstorming a topic for our game. This step was crucial, as our overall goal for the day was to select the software to use for our game, which we couldn’t do if we didn’t know what kind of video game we wanted to create. So, our group began forming ideas. Out of the many we had (including, but not limited to, a Chernobyl survival horror game, a counter-factual Native American Revolution RPG, and a story-based Cold War espionage game), our group was really struck by one idea in particular: a role-playing game that follows a spy working for the Allied Powers in WWII-era France.

While our team discussed the possibilities of puzzles, code-breaking, multiple endings, and body counts, it became obvious that we only had one choice for software: RPG Maker. While the Twine software would have been useful for the storytelling of our game, our team wanted a game that focused on action and player-involvement just as much as the story itself. So, Alex downloaded RPG Maker and began the free trial that would carry us through the creation of our spy-thriller RPG.

Today’s objectives met, we hope to move on with the development of our storyline, creating a timeline, and familiarizing ourselves with RPG Maker. We’re very eager to begin creating our game and we all look forward to keeping everyone updated on our progress!

Sometimes Always Monsters and the Escapists Series: Effects on Our Plans

As mentioned in our earlier update Group Desolation has decided to focus our game on survival and the consequences of the character’s choices. To fit with this some of us have looked into similar games for inspiration, two of which are Sometimes Always Monsters and the Escapists. Both of these games were made in a similar style, with pixelated graphics and relatively simple mechanics. From Sometimes Always Monsters we are mainly looking at how the game maintained its intense mood, and we are mainly looking at the Escapists for game play ideas.

For those of you have not played, or heard of, Sometimes Always Monsters it is a rpg in which the player character is a struggling author who has become estranged from the love of their life. Despite its cartoonish graphics and lack of voice acting it remains tense throughout because of the choices it forces the player to make. One of the starting scenarios tasks the jobless player to scrape together enough money to pay rent which they could do by working odd jobs, but potentially missing an important call due to the hours they are assigned, or by robbing their elderly neighbor. Both tasks are easy to accomplish, but having such divergent options encourages the player to immerse themselves in the game’s world and makes them more fearful of what the potential consequences are. This is an effective way to naturally increase immersion and if an early game choice was to be set up to punish the player no matter which task they chose, then the player would pay more attention and think through future decisions in much more depth to avoid failing again.

In the case of the Escapists we are primarily looking to adapt a similar game play. The main goal of the Escapists is to escape whatever prison you are placed in, which has clear parallels to our game, and in the process of escaping you must follow a strict daily schedule. The daily routine is a good way force players towards a certain play style, with various punishments discouraging certain actions and rewarding the actions the developers want the player to commit to. This retains the illusion that the player is in full control of their situation while guiding them towards the important choices of the game. However, implementing it in RPG Maker could prove rather difficult as the mechanics are a bit complicated with AI daily routines and a responsive reputation system.

Throughout this week we will hopefully find more games, or other media, to draw inspiration from and more fully explore how we could effectively implement the mechanics we come up with.

Group Desolation Progress Update

On Friday, through the weekend, and bleeding into Monday we have read to better understand the conditions within internment camps in the United States during WWII and begun to work through the RPG Maker tutorials. As of Monday afternoon we have also officially begun working on the map for the game and are continuing to look into RPG Maker’s capabilities. Specifically, we are going through the tutorials and wiki and the like to see what kind of survival/resource management elements we could include in our game. Our current vision for the game is for it to be a somewhat survival focused RPG which will follow the life of a 19 year old Japanese-American who is tasked with not only obeying the restrictions of the internment camp, but also must help care for his mother and younger siblings.

The main themes we wish to explore through this are what it was like to be a citizen of a country one moment and have your life torn asunder the next, along with the conflicts within an oppressed group this change could cause. That has been our primary motivation for making the protagonist a second generation immigrant, as it seems natural that they would be more conflicted about what the United States had done. To keep the focus on these themes the game play will be largely survival and choice focused rather than combat focused, as the goal is to make the player worry more about the consequences of their actions rather than the rewards. Overall progress is going well.