Today’s topic is one that is important for all sorts of game design: difficulty. There’s lots of ways to make your game difficult, but unfortunately most of those ways are shortcuts that don’t lead to appealing gameplay.
Lots of game developers will feel the need to make their game more difficult, so they add all sorts of “features” that only end up making the game more frustrating. “But the player is dying more often,” they say, “it’s a challenge.” Well, kind sir—is it really a challenge? Or is your gameplay just hard for no real reason?
Today we’re going to look at the difference between challenge and frustration, and how to add to your game’s difficulty curve while avoiding making your players feel bad about it. Read more
This article is one that I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I expect this article to be a big one (lengthwise, and content-wise)—and there’s a lot of stuff from it that might take some time to sink in. But this subject is something that I would very much like to introduce to the RPG Maker and indie game development community.
Today we are going to be talking about player psychographics, what they are, and how an understanding of them will help with game design. Read more
Welcome to the second part of my series on designing RPG puzzles. Last time, we went over some of the broad categories that different puzzles fall into. Today, we’re going to break things down a little further. Let’s talk about the elements that make up every puzzle in an RPG. Even the simplest of puzzles can be broken down into its core essentials. Read more
Howdy. This is the first part of my new article series on puzzle design for RPGs. The goal of this series is to encourage critical thought about puzzle design as well as provide inspiration and motivation for the puzzles in your RPGs.
Today, we are going to look at a few core types of puzzles that are often found in RPGs. These might not be the only types of puzzles that can be in a game, but these are broad categories that cover a wide variety of puzzles, and this article will serve as a starting point for a more in-depth look at puzzle design. Read more
Howdy! I’ve been playing and reviewing RPG Maker games for over a decade, and it’s an unfortunate fact that very few of them stand out. It’s rare for an amateur RPG to feel original—and ever rarer to find one that really offers a unique experience. Most games are simply forgettable.
The best way to ensure that your game is memorable is to create a unique identity for it.
This article is a follow-up to my previous article about game design, Fuck Your Features. In that article, I talk about how to recognize and cut down on excessive features that may harm your game—in this article, I’m going to discuss ways to isolate and implement positive features in order to create a unique identity for your game. Read more
Today’s topic is a good one (for me—maybe not for you). It’s a line that I’ve found myself repeating over and over again in response to many RPG Maker projects: “tone down the features”. A lot of amateur game designers will crowd their games with as many “features” as they can think of—the end result is often the opposite of what they expect: too many complicated features or systems can kill an RPG.
Before we get started, let’s make sure that we are on the same page. “Features” is a pretty vague word (and it isn’t one that I’m not using arbitrarily—my usage of the word “features” in this article is a response to the overuse of the term among users of RPG Maker). When I’m talking about “features”, I’m talking about nearly any kind of extra gameplay system that a designer can add into his game. This stuff is usually an add-on to one of the core gameplay elements: for example, your battle system by itself isn’t a feature, but that limit break system sure is.
In this article, I’m going to dive deep into the idea of adding features into your RPG: what purpose they serve (if any), when they are important to keep and when they are expendable. This is gonna be a fun one. Read more
Dungeons! Any RPG would be incomplete without them. The dungeons in your game are where the majority of the gameplay will take place—your dungeons are the meat of your game. You can expect your players to spend a lot of time—and a lot of thought—in your dungeons, so it’s important to make them stand out.
What is a dungeon? A dungeon is an area of the game that provides danger and challenge for the player. Typically, RPGs are split up into two types of areas: towns and dungeons. Towns are places where the player can relax and heal; where he can comfortably explore and upgrade his characters: towns are typically the resting places between dungeons. But just like town areas don’t need to be towns—a dungeon doesn’t have to be a temple or a cave—any setting you can imagine can be a dungeon area—as long as it provides the potential for danger. These area definitions are based on gameplay function.
So let’s get creative with our dungeons. Read more
Pretty much every RPG makes use of battle encounters as its primary gameplay mechanic. In some RPGs, battles are the only real gameplay in the whole game—I’ve seen lots of games where the whole purpose of walking around on some maps is to just go from one battle to another. Most of the time, your characters’ skills, stats, items, etc are all based around their uses in battle. The battle system is the core of nearly every RPG, but it seems like lots of RPG designers put relatively little thought into the battles themselves.
There are lots of ways to handle RPG battles; not just the battle system itself, but even elements of the game that surround and connect to them. This article is going to cover some aspects of battle systems that deserve more thought than RPG designers may realize. Read more
Most RPG Maker games take place within a fantasy world. Building these fantasy worlds can be one of the most fun and engaging parts of the RPG creation process! Drawing maps, creating cities, empires, and even unique races of people; developing your own fantasy setting is an integral part of creating your RPG. But if you want your setting to be believable, there needs to be a lot more going on underneath the fun stuff.
I want to look at some aspects of fantasy worldbuilding that are easy to overlook. In order to draw your player into your world, the world needs to be able to function in a realistic way. I’m not talking about geography or magic, but the culture of the inhabitants of your world. The economy of your world might not play a role in your story, but trade and commerce make up the glue that holds the world together—and it affects every aspect of culture in ways that you might not immediately realize. Read more