[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.



Science Viking


A Good RPG Character is Defined by What They Cannot Do. No, Really!

I’ve written before about how to make a working game in RPGMaker VX Ace, but this time I’m going to talk about what makes a game fun.

When you’re thinking about a game you like, you generally aren’t thinking about the things that you can’t do. In fact, it’s usually the opposite, you usually think about that time in Halo when you killed two Hunters with one pistol bullet each, or in Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga when you ended a random encounter on turn one with Megidolaon. These are the moments that are memorable, but they are memorable because of limitations. Restrictions on your actions will generally not be what you remember from a game, but they are the reason why you remember the things that you do.

To illustrate this, I’ll use the case of Final Fantasy XII. Final Fantasy XII was released twice, once just as Final Fantasy XII, and once as Final Fantasy XII: International Zodiac Job System (Quite a mouthful). These two versions were nearly identical, with the only difference being in their ability system. In both games, there is a License Board, and before you can use an ability or piece of equipment, you have to spend License Points (earned by killing enemies) to purchase the corresponding License. In addition, in order to purchase a License you must already have an adjacent License.

The point where the two games diverge is that, in Final Fantasy XII there is one license board, which is used by all characters. While the manual encouraged you to specialize, in practice it was more effective to have everyone learn the same abilities. By comparison in Final Fantasy XII: International Zodaic Job System, there are twelve classes (Called “Jobs”) each of which has a unique License Board. When a character joins your party you choose which job they will have, and they are locked into that one License Board for the rest of the game.

What makes this an interesting case is that pretty much the only change that was made between the two games is that in the International version, every character has been made less powerful. Instead of being able to teach every character every ability, now only some characters can learn healing abilities, only some can wear heavy armor, only some can learn effective crowd control magic, and so on. With this change, the characters need each other and are forced to work together. Physical characters can survive sustained attacks, but need White or Red Mages to keep them healed while Black and White Mages are too fragile to survive an enemy’s attention for long and need Knights or Samurai to hold the attention of enemies. This inter-dependency forces the player to make choices about which jobs to choose, how to develop each character, and how each character will act in battle. This relatively simple change caused the International version to be a much more enjoyable game.

A common mistake RPGs make related to this is the handling of money. Quite often, you will quickly accumulate enough gold, or gil, or shillings, or whatever, to allow you to buy anything you want as soon as you find a shop that stocks it. You might deal with limited funds at first, but quickly price becomes no object. The problem with this is that, when you can afford as much as you want of whatever you want, money is not a factor in gameplay. The purpose of money as a mechanic is to force the player to choose which items they will buy, and which they will do without.

In summary, while restrictions on choice are not what you remember about a game, they are the reason why you remember what you do. You remember when you can erase a group of enemies from existence with a gesture because you can’t normally do that. You remember when you brought down a tough enemy with a single perfect shot because you had to learn their behavior and position yourself carefully to make that shot. What you should take home if you are making a game, in RPG Maker or otherwise, is that it’s important to think about what restrictions you are imposing on the player and what choices you are forcing them to make, because really, that is what determines whether they love your game, or just pass it by.


Science Viking

I guess I have a blog now

This is the post excerpt.

I’ve been a fan of RPGs for as long as I can remember, and I’ve wanted to make my own for pretty much all of that time. Recently, I acquired RPGMaker VX Ace and started learning to use it, and I even have a blog now. Does that mean I’m a real developer?

Not really, but it’s a start, I guess.

Please join me gentle reader, on my quest to learn how to design RPGs and become a real game developer. As I go through this process I’ll post my ideas and what I’ve learned, along with information about the games I’m working on.

Will this humble neophyte survive the perilous quest to become a real developer, or will I be forced, my spirit broken, to surrender and get a real job? Only time will tell.


Science Viking