Sometimes Annoying the Player is a Good Thing

You probably balked as soon as you saw the title of this article. After all, if the player gets too frustrated, they might abandon the game. Too many players abandoning the game could lead to bad word of mouth and people passing up your game without trying it. So why would I tell you to annoy your players? The answer is tension.

Remember, plenty of popular and well liked games punish the player quite a bit for failure. In Persona 3 and Persona 4 save points are scarce and a single random encounter that you handle badly can cost you hours of progress. In the Dark Souls series dying causes you to lose your souls (currency used to buy items and upgrade your character), and places you in a weakened state that it takes work to recover from. In any of these games, one mistake can cost you hours of progress. This seems like a textbook example of how to frustrate the player into leaving, and yet these are extremely popular games. Why?

Once again, tension. In Persona 4 if a tough shadow ambushes me at the end of a long dungeon delving session, I will be at the edge of my seat for the entire fight. In Dark Souls if I manage to accumulate a large number of souls, I’ll be looking over my shoulder every few seconds with my heart pounding until I manage to make it back to a bonfire to spend them. The adrenaline that you get in these situations adds a huge amount to the excitement of the gaming experience. The moments you’ll look back on when you think about the game will be the times you just barely avoided losing progress, or the times you just barely failed to avoid it. I’ve talked before about making the player make interesting choices, and consequences go a long way toward making choices interesting.

There is, however, one very important thing to remember when implementing a form of annoyance, and that is fairness. I mentioned Dark Souls specifically because the combat in that series is extremely well balanced. I die a lot every time I play Dark Souls, but every time I die, I know that I did something wrong, and I generally have an idea of what it was. This is important. The player will be far more forgiving of frustration if they can tell that they could have avoided it. Avoidable irritation motivates players to think about what they could have done differently, and makes them want to work hard to master the game.

 

Regards,

Science Viking

[Tutorial] Introduction to RPG Maker VX Ace

So, you just got a shiny new copy of RPG Maker VX Ace. You fired it up, opened a new project, looked at the page and thought “Wow, I have no idea what I’m looking at”. Well, you’ve come to the right place. In this tutorial I’ll walk you through how to create maps, how to set up area transitions between your maps, how to create NPCs, and how to put random encounters in an area. That should be enough to get you started on the road to making your own RPG. By the way, this tutorial does work mostly if you’re using RPG Maker 2003, but there will be a few places where you have to figure things out that I haven’t explained.

First start up the software, and click File–> New Project. It’ll ask you for a file name and game title. Just go with “Practice” for now. You can change it later. Your starting screen will look like this:vx-ace-intro-1

Before we do anything else, we need to make sure that our character doesn’t start the game standing in the ocean. We need to place some tiles. In order to do that, we need to switch into tile editing mode. To do that, click here:vx-ace-intro-2

If you click on the button I’ve circled in red, it will switch you into tile editing mode. Now just select a tile from the top-left corner and spread some of it around, like this:vx-ace-intro-3

Now that we have some land, let’s give our hero someone to talk to. To do that, we need to be in the event editing layer. Click here:vx-ace-intro-4

Now that you’re in the event layer, double click on a square that is on land other than the square where your hero is. A box will pop up that looks like this:vx-ace-intro-5

There’s a lot going on here, but we don’t need to worry about most of it right now. In the upper left corner, you can give your event a name. This isn’t a bad idea so you can keep track of what your event was supposed to do.

Now, we need to decide what our new NPC looks like. Double click on the tiled section under the word “Graphic” here:vx-ace-intro-6

A new window should open up that looks like this:vx-ace-intro-7

Choose a suitable appearance for your new NPC and click OK. You will go back to the menu you were using before.

Now the NPC has an appearance. You can choose under the panel labeled “Autonomous Movement” whether they will move or stand still. For now let’s leave that alone and instead give the character something to say. Double click on the first line under “Contents”vx-ace-intro-8

In the window that pops up, click on the first button in the upper left, labeled “Show Text”. You should see a window that looks like this:vx-ace-intro-9

Just type in what you want your NPC to say and click OK. When you get back to the original window, click OK again. Now, let’s playtest this, to make sure that everything worked. Click on the green play button here:vx-ace-intro-10

Create a new game and you can talk to your new NPC.

Once you’re done doing that we can move onto the next step. We’re going to make a dungeon. You should already be in the event layer, now just double click somewhere to place the entrance to your dungeon. Select a graphic appropriate for the entrance to a dungeon, like a cave entrance. Once you’ve done that you… actually can’t make the entrance yet, because you haven’t made the dungeon. You need to make a new map, and then you can create an entrance to it.

On the left side under the tile selector is a list of all the maps in your game. Right now there should be a folder labeled “Practice” and under that is “MAP001” which is the only map that exists right now. Right click on either of them (it doesn’t matter) and click “New Map”. That will bring up a window that looks like this:vx-ace-intro-11

In general, it is a good idea to change the name to something that you’ll remember. That will make it easier to find this map in the future. For now, just call it “Dungeon”. The next thing to do is change the tileset. Otherwise it will use the same tiles as the previous area, which is not right for a dungeon. For your tileset, select “004:Dungeon”. You should also increase the size of the map since the default is quite small.

The next thing to do is to choose the background for any battles that happen in this dungeon. Check the box labeled “Specify Battleback” and then click on the three dots under it. Choose a background that you think looks good.

The next step is to give your dungeon some music. Check the box labeled “Auto-Change BGM”, and select background music that you think is appropriate for a dungeon.

The last thing we need to do on this menu is to set up some random encounters. Double click on the top row of the “Encounters” window and select a troop. RPG Maker comes with some of these pre-made, which should be fine for this tutorial.

Once you’ve done all of these things, click OK. Now, place tiles on your dungeon the same way you did for the other map.

The last thing we need to do is make a way to travel from one map to the other. Go back to “MAP001” and select the dungeon entrance we were working on (remember, you need to be in the event layer to do this).

Under “Contents” go to the second tab, and the option at the top under “movement” will be “Transfer Player”. Select your dungeon and a map of the dungeon you made will appear. Just click on the tile you want, and that’s where the event will drop your character.

Click OK, and there’s one last thing you have to do. Look at the sections labeled “priority” and “trigger”vx-ace-intro-12

Priority can be “above characters”, “below character” or “same as characters”. The important thing to remember is that if the priority is “same as character” then you can’t walk through it, and it will be triggered by either walking up to it and using the action button (usually Z), or just by walking into it. If priority is set to “below character” then you can walk right through it.

“Trigger” refers to what needs to happen to trigger the event. The possible triggers we are going to pay attention to for this tutorial are “Action Button” and “Player Touch”. Setting the trigger to “Action Button” means that the player has to either stand next to the event while facing it (if it is the same priority as characters) or stand directly on top of it (if it is below characters) and press the action button to trigger the event. This is fine for NPCs and switches, but if the entrance to a dungeon is triggered by the action button and has a priority of “below characters” (which it has right now), then the player could walk over it without ever knowing it was there. The last thing you should do for this tutorial is to switch the trigger to “player touch”. That way your character will be transported into the dungeon whenever they walk over the entrance.

And, now you know enough to get started with RPG Maker VX Ace. Spend some time messing around and see what you can create. Tutorials are great, but you won’t really master the software without practice, so get to work.

 

Regards

Science Viking