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Games: RPG Creation 101 – Starting Off (maps and basic event scripting)

Posted April 29, 2013 by Ciarán O'Brien in Games

Given how much I loved RPG Maker VX Ace, it was inevitable that I started making something with it. We at Ramp.ie thought a wee series on using it wouldn’t be a bad idea. So here’s part one of RPG Creation 101. You WILL be quizzed at the end of the series.




So, you’ve played through [insert JRPG here] and realised that you can actually make money out of a pretty map, an annoying string of random encounters and a main character who mostly says ‘…’, and you figure you could do just as well. Good show; having guts is an important part of creating something. There’s way more to producing a game than that, of course. Thankfully, when one gets right down to it, most of it is optional. I mean sure, pre-rendered cut-scenes can look fabulous, but the story they convey is told just as easily (and a damn sight less expensively) with words on a screen. Workarounds abound; rather than spend the GDP of a small country on music, sounds and artwork, you can find loads of high quality stuff on Creative Commons where the only cost is usually crediting the creator.


The most obvious question you should ask yourself first is ‘What’s my game going to be about?’. As you may have guessed from the clue in the genre name, RPGs are about playing a role in a story, and in order to create an RPG you need a story. This is actually the hardest part of the whole thing. A story carries most of the weight of an RPG. It needs to be well-paced to keep a player’s interest, and original enough so that people don’t already know how it turns out (and so nobody sues you for stealing their story). There’s usually a protagonist who travels through the story, overcoming evils and challenges. They need special attention. Who are they? Young girl/boy whose idyllic childhood is shattered by some evil gribbly? Jaded ex-soldier tormented by their past? Wise-cracking demon-hunting jackass with a big sword, red coat and no shirt? What are they battling against? Why them, and not the police/militia/king? What makes them special?

The game world, in all its 25×25 tile glory. More ambitious games will have much, MUCH bigger maps.

It’s perfectly ok if you don’t nail every aspect of the story beforehand. I’d encourage it actually, as better ideas can come along and cause you to re-write sections, so a little vagueness means less work fitting things in. This isn’t a writing course, so I’m not going to go into detail about story structure, pacing, dialogue, world-building or any of that. You can figure it out yourself, or find someone who knows, and use them as a sounding board. The important thing is that after all this scribbling and crossing out and re-writing and getting sighed dreamily at in cafés by girls who don’t realise you’re only making a game, you have something like a plot, and somewhere for it to happen in.

For Project Ramp, I’m ignoring most of the above advice and sticking to nice, straightforward clichés. The general story goes something like this:

It has been a thousand years since the Kingdom of Seamieland was defeated and its ruler, the evil wizard Seamie, destroyed. Peace spread throughout the land, and all was well. But Seamie cast a spell before he died, hiding his soul until the day it could be reborn in a suitable form. That day has come. The evil wizard Seamie is about to have his revenge! The world’s only hope rests on a surly drunken manchild and his small group of friends. Together they can unite the broken weapon that first killed Seamie and defeat him once and for all!


The world is going to be similarly unimpressive, being more or less a small circular island with a half-dozen locations. A frozen North, a Fiery South, A Forest-filled West and an Oceanic East, with a small town in each for plot to happen in. The idea is for the player to go to each town, collect a new party member and a piece of the original weapon that defeated Seamie in the past, and once they have all four, go to Seamie’s tower and defeat him.

To start off, I created the world, imaginatively entitled ‘World’. I began with a background of ocean, and drew a circle of land in the middle. I coloured in the cardinal directions with different land tiles, and added appropriate looking hills, trees and mountains both for look and to limit player movement (It’s worth noting that you can set whether a tile can be travelled through or not in the database menu). Second, I drew up a little town area where the player will start off. A very simple affair, a house and a pub, as our hero clearly lives the dream. When creating a new map, you get to decide which tileset it will use. ‘World’ uses the field tileset, while ‘Townsville’ uses exterior. There are plenty more bundled with the package or available online.


Our humble town of Townsville. It has a duckpond, pub and some basic event scripts.

You’ll notice a little dwarf ghost standing in the crossroads of the town- that’s the player starting position in the game. It’s an event: a special condition attached to a map tile. Switching to Event Mode puts a grid on the map and lets you select tiles to attach events, such as starting position. By right-clicking a tile you bring up a menu for assigning events. A useful event to get the hang of is the transfer, which immediately teleports the player from the triggered tile to anywhere you want. This is what we use for entering towns or buildings. Right click on the town in the world map, select Quick event/Transfer… and you’ll be able to choose the town map, where it’s a good idea to have the player appear somewhere near the town gate. You can do the reverse for leaving the town.

NOTE: make sure the event for leaving the town is positioned so that the player won’t accidentally trip it after just arriving or wandering about!

The transfer event laid bare! Simple text commands + trigger options = massive flexibility.

You might have noticed that if you have your player exiting the town to appear on the town in the world map, he’ll just trigger the event that transfers him into town again. Most awkward, but easily solved: double click on the event in the world map to bring up the script editor. There you can see the code for the transfer event, and a host of other options you might tweak sometime. For now, all you need to do is head to the trigger option at the bottom, and select ‘action button’. This means that even if our player is standing on the event, they won’t trigger it unless they push the use key. Sorted!

There are many other options available for event triggering, such as the presence/absence of certain party members, the possession of specific items, or the altering of some variable by the event itself or another event entirely. This forms the basis of accepting and completing quests and a whole lot more, which I’ll talk about a little more in another installment.

Since we’re only starting out, that’s enough for today. Here endeth the lesson. You should now be able to create a bunch of maps and set up transfer events to allow a player to move from one to another. Next time, I’ll talk about adding people, conversations and quests.

About the Author

Ciarán O'Brien

Ciarán has been gaming since the days of the Amiga 500, all the way up to the latest tabletop RPGs and wargames. A friendly, gentle soul who wouldn't harm a fly right up until the point where you touch his whiskey.

  • http://www.ramp.ie/ Lisa McInerney

    *takes notes*
    *opens new bank account for many predicted millions*

    Joking aside, this does make writing/scripting basic games look really pleasantly easy. If you’ve got a great idea for a story, why not give it a lash?

    • http://twitter.com/Sarklor Ciaran O’Brien

      Aye, it makes things shockingly easy. If you want to do something totally original you still have to create your own art and music, or find someone to make them, but once you have those, stringing them together into a game is really simple.

      Still a bit time consuming though. It took me about 5-6 hours to design 2 small maps and add some dialogue, quests and make sure they worked properly. Then again, I’m still only starting out myself, so the next batch of quests won’t take nearly as long.

  • Seamus Kennedy

    Wait wait wait, Seamie is the villain? Well this game just got crazily unbelievable

    • http://twitter.com/Sarklor Ciaran O’Brien

      You’ll have to play it to find out!

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