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Offline Proxima

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Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« on: December 07, 2018, 05:06:29 pm »
19 December 2018: Updated to version 0.1.5!

So a long time ago, inspired by the fun I was having playing namida's RPGMaker game, I decided to have a go at a project of my own, and ccexplore asked me, when I'd got far enough, to post a demo of my project. Well, I've now finished the first dungeon. I'd hoped to get further than this before posting a "demo", but given how long it's taken even to get this far, I feel I may as well post what I have so that you can see what I'm working on. It should take around half an hour to reach the end of currently playable content.

Adventure School is a not-very-serious game set in a school where young people train to be adventurers. In the playable content so far, you go through a couple of training dungeons, and there's some interaction between the characters, but not much in the way of plot. It won't stay like that for the whole game -- the plot is planned to get much more intense and intricate -- but only faint glimpses of it are visible as yet.

As with namida's game, you will need to get the VX Ace RTP from here.

And finally, the download link for the game itself: right here.
« Last Edit: December 19, 2018, 05:32:13 pm by Proxima »

Online namida

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 10:17:02 pm »
I had a go at this, completed the tutorial dungeon and started on the real dungeon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dSywUiISdHs (Still uploading at the time of posting this)

I'll continue this later in another video, but so far, I'm quite impressed. :)
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Online namida

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #2 on: December 10, 2018, 11:10:08 am »
I finished the demo (I think). Not 100% sure because there was no clear indication, just a door that had been opened but I couldn't pass through, and the timing of this fits with you saying the other day that you had finished the first non-tutorial dungeon.

I go into more detail in the video (Part 2 of which is uploading as I post this), but in short - overall I'm impressed, but there are a few things I think need attention:
- My absolute number one criticism - the lack of any turn order display. As far as I can tell, this game is working off some kind of CTB system (or possibly an ATB variant where time passes instantly between turns, and not at all during turns - which I would in turn argue is just a very simple form of CTB), and generally, knowing turn order is quite important in such systems, as manipulating turns is often a big part of strategy. (Or maybe I've got the wrong idea altogether about how the battles work?)
- The teleporting under bridges / through doorways that don't lead to other maps, seems weird. With a little bit of eventing, it's quite simple to make them appear either under or over the character depending on which way you come from - basic setup (using a top-to-bottom bridge for the example) is "on touch" events on the four surrounding squares, with the above and below tiles turning a switch off, and the left and right tiles turning a switch on; then, the bridge tile itself will have two pages, the second of which is activated by that same switch; neither does anything, but the first page has the display set to "below hero", the second to "above hero".
- The regular encounters seem a bit unbalanced.

That aside, I also noticed a couple of bugs:
- I don't know what triggered it, but fairly early in the 2nd video, the game crashes.
- There doesn't seem to be any logic as to when Poison damage gets applied or doesn't get applied. I had one case where an enemy attacked and inflicted Poison, and then the character took Poison damage immediately after this, for example.
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Offline Proxima

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2018, 02:56:47 pm »
Sorry about that. There is a "you've finished the content so far" message when you pass through the now-opened door in the top-left... it's just that you couldn't actually get there in the uploaded version because of a tile passability issue.

I've started working on the next dungeon, but I'm also fixing issues in the first dungeon, so some of these criticisms will be addressed with the next upload :)

Offline Dullstar

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2018, 05:39:38 am »
    First impressions:

    Unsurprisingly, it's very standard RPG Maker content, and doesn't really stand out from generic RPG Maker projects. In the bullet points below I'll go into more detail about how that can be fixed.

    Here's some thoughts on the game. Apologies if anything comes across as harsh. I've tried to avoid mentioning anything problematic without also suggesting a change.
    • The tutorial isn't clear about item conservation. The starting equipment for the main game appears to be intended to be entirely identical regardless of what you do in the tutorial - for instance, the consumables I used during the tutorial were replenished. The text stating that you still get items and experience from the tutorial if you skip it almost suggests that it's detrimental to use consumable items during the tutorial.
    • The Niblick is missing from the equipment granted to you if you skip the tutorial. It looks like you are given an extra shield for the second character as well - so make sure skipping the tutorial gives a shield for each character. I didn't check if it did.
    • Why is a status recovery item worth more than a revive?
    • Some switches can be activated from above. I'm guessing that was not intentional.
    • Too much money management early on before the player really knows what equipment/items are useful and necessary. I'd say either fewer choices or more starting money would be a good idea. Consolidating some of the item categories into a smaller number of shops might also help (e.g. one shop for weapons, rather than a bow shop and a sword shop).
  • I see Ace Message System in your scripts list. I highly recommend adding
Code: [Select]
\n<Name goes here> to all dialogue. You can nest in the RPG Maker default actor name display commands in this structure as well, e.g.
Code: [Select]
\n<\n[x]> in order to display a box containing the name of actor x. This will make it easier to associate character names with their graphics.
  • The regular encounters are incredibly overpowered. Several enemy types in the first dungeon are capable of defeating player characters within two rounds, and often occur in large groups. I found it necessary to heal after EVERY battle just to survive, even in the tutorial. This is bad when your heals are finite!
  • If you run out of healing items in the first dungeon, you can't leave to go get more of them. I'm not sure if that's still a problem later because I gave up.
  • Continue practicing your mapping. Your current maps are fairly boxy. This can be okay for manmade maps, but, for example, the first dungeon looks like it's a mix of natural and man-made structures. If you want it to be that boxy, consider replacing the tiles with something that looks more man-made. These boxy maps are fairly common among beginning RPG Maker users, so if you share your game with the community, you can expect a lot of people to pick up on it very quickly.
  • An easy way to make your game look a little less like a generic RPG Maker game is to change the font.
  • I'd recommend lowering the transparency of the text window. The text is currently a bit hard to read in some spots.
  • It does appear that some effort has gone into making the database items customized from the default. This is good - it makes the project less generic!
  • Definitely follow namida's suggestion for the teleporting bridges/doors.

I can't really comment on the full length of the demo currently. The enemy balance is too poor right now for me to be willing to work through it all. That said, there is nothing here that cannot be fixed - while there's nothing here that really stands out, there's also not much that stands out as bad other than the enemy balance, and enemy balance is fixable. I think there's three main approaches you could take here - you could make the characters stronger, the enemies weaker, or implement more healing between battles. These are not mutually exclusive options.

It does appear that some effort has gone into this project; I've seen some RPG Maker projects that look like someone just slopped it together. For someone's first project (your post makes it sound like this is your first go at it), this is good. It seems I've lost my first project by this point, but mine was quite bad and I doubt much of it would be salvageable if I could find it!
All in all, I do recommend attempting to finish this project, taking into account some of the critiques in this thread. If you keep at it, I bet you can make something really good!
« Last Edit: December 14, 2018, 05:47:43 am by Dullstar »

Online namida

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2018, 06:12:15 am »
Quote
It does appear that some effort has gone into this project; I've seen some RPG Maker projects that look like someone just slopped it together. For someone's first project (your post makes it sound like this is your first go at it), this is good. It seems I've lost my first project by this point, but mine was quite bad and I doubt much of it would be salvageable if I could find it!

Compared to my first attempt at using RPG Maker (and the next 50), this is extremely impressive. :) Of course, one factor there may be that I was still in the single-digit ages when I first discovered RPG Maker... not such a valid excuse for later (but prior to LoaO) ones.
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Offline Proxima

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #6 on: December 17, 2018, 04:10:49 pm »
Hi Dullstar, thanks for having a look at the game. I will disagree with some of what you say, but I hope you understand that your feedback is welcome (although at points I wish you would adopt a less patronising tone).

I'll use italics for any point where I agree that something needs to be changed -- that will make it easier for me when I look back at this post while working on the project 8-)

The tutorial isn't clear about item conservation. The starting equipment for the main game appears to be intended to be entirely identical regardless of what you do in the tutorial - for instance, the consumables I used during the tutorial were replenished. The text stating that you still get items and experience from the tutorial if you skip it almost suggests that it's detrimental to use consumable items during the tutorial.

I agree, the tutorial needs to point out the importance of healing in between battles. I will have Ken (the instructor) explicitly state this after the Roach + WG fight. You don't actually get items replenished as such -- I wanted to make sure the player wasn't penalised for playing rather than skipping the tutorial, so I assumed you would emerge with 5 Garnets and 1 Amethyst remaining, and set the post-tutorial inventory to double this (since you team up with Stephanie). I accept this may be confusing, and I'll think about how I can explain this more clearly.

Quote
The Niblick is missing from the equipment granted to you if you skip the tutorial. It looks like you are given an extra shield for the second character as well - so make sure skipping the tutorial gives a shield for each character. I didn't check if it did.

I'm not sure where the extra shield is coming from -- must be a bug in the eventing. I've had another look while writing this post, and I don't see anything wrong with the event, but I'll try to find and fix the bug. You are correct about the Niblick.

Quote
Why is a status recovery item worth more than a revive?

Uh... why not?

Quote
Too much money management early on before the player really knows what equipment/items are useful and necessary. I'd say either fewer choices or more starting money would be a good idea. Consolidating some of the item categories into a smaller number of shops might also help (e.g. one shop for weapons, rather than a bow shop and a sword shop).

Very good point! This would actually kill a few birds with one stone: I need to find a natural way to get across the information "Erika is an archer, her unique equipment type is bows" without pushing the player too hard towards buying a bow (which is actually a bad idea because the Branch, stealable from the Wood Golem, is better in the first dungeon). Having a single weapon shop, and the shop owner ask which type of weapon each girl uses, would solve this.

Also, because I had split shops, I felt I needed to include second-tier equipment (Flatbow etc), so that vendors weren't selling just one thing each. This meant I had to set the price of second-tier stuff at 100 mon to make it a possible choice, but in the long term this may feel like it's too cheap. Much simpler to leave second-tier stuff out completely at this stage -- and then, as you say, there's less choice to overwhelm the player.

Finally, I was having trouble with the shop after the first dungeon, where two more equipment types (wands and earrings) are available. Combining the weapon shops into one, and the clothing shops into one, would solve all of this.

Quote
The regular encounters are incredibly overpowered. Several enemy types in the first dungeon are capable of defeating player characters within two rounds, and often occur in large groups. I found it necessary to heal after EVERY battle just to survive, even in the tutorial. This is bad when your heals are finite!

Okay, seems like this is your biggest criticism, and also the one I disagree with the most :P

Did you notice that Stephanie has a healing spell? I will add dialogue to make sure the player knows this.

The only troops with more than two enemies are (3, 4, 5) x Roach, which should not be a problem (they deal about 7 damage to Level 2 characters) and Roach Queen + 2 Roaches, which is specially highlighted as a dangerous encounter.

It is absolutely intended that the game will focus on acute difficulty (individual encounters are dangerous) rather than chronic difficulty (encounters gradually wear down player health / resources over time). I might slightly tweak some enemies, but after playing through the dungeon and watching namida play through it, I think the balance is close to what I'm aiming for.

One thing I will definitely do: there will be four colours of slime icon to indicate varying threat levels, so the player knows which troops to take seriously (fully heal before challenging). In the tutorial dungeon, 3 x Slime Cube will be green, and I'll put the information about what the colours mean at that point as well as its current location. In the first dungeon, Roach Queen, Spider and 2 x Slime Baby will all be green; Roach Queen + 2 Roaches will be yellow. None of the troops so far will be red, but later dungeons may have red wandering monsters as a signal that the player should try to avoid them (or particularly challenge-minded players may attempt fighting them, like the Midgar Zolom in FF7).

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If you run out of healing items in the first dungeon, you can't leave to go get more of them. I'm not sure if that's still a problem later because I gave up.

Stephanie's healing magic, together with 4 Amethysts (2 initial, 2 in a chest) and two full-healing crystals, are definitely enough resources to get through the dungeon. However, I agree that the first dungeon should have more leeway because even if the player is unlikely to run out of resources, they should feel comfortable even when they don't know how long the dungeon will be or what else will come up. I've given this some thought, and I think the best solution is to allow using the healing crystal three times (with the crystal changing colour to show how many times it's been used). In effect, that gives the player another 20 uses of Stephanie's healing spell (as well as fixing the problem namida had, where he wasted the crystal before understanding what it does).

Quote
Continue practicing your mapping. Your current maps are fairly boxy. This can be okay for manmade maps, but, for example, the first dungeon looks like it's a mix of natural and man-made structures. If you want it to be that boxy, consider replacing the tiles with something that looks more man-made.

Assuming you mean the real dungeon (after the shop), the walls are all brick, so I thought it was pretty clear it's man-made (by digging out a space in the rock below the school, hence the rocky floor).

Quote
An easy way to make your game look a little less like a generic RPG Maker game is to change the font.

I don't see the point in trying to hide that it's an RPG Maker game -- you can always tell. I'm not trying to make something I will market, just a game for myself and to share with friends.

Quote
It does appear that some effort has gone into making the database items customized from the default. This is good - it makes the project less generic!

"Some" effort, right. All the skills, equipment and enemies that appear in the game are customised. Sure, there are still default ones in the database, because the database comes with over 100 of each category and I haven't bothered to clear out more space than I need.

Anyway, now that I've finally finished playing through namida's game -- at least, I've got to the end of the main video series, although I still have the LLG and a couple of bonus videos to finish -- I'll get back to working on this, and try to have the next update some time before Christmas :D

Offline Dullstar

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2018, 08:31:07 am »
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I'm not sure where the extra shield is coming from -- must be a bug in the eventing. I've had another look while writing this post, and I don't see anything wrong with the event, but I'll try to find and fix the bug.
If I recall correctly, I think the tutorial contains one in a chest somewhere. My best guess is that this wasn't taken into account.
Probably the simplest way to handle the tutorial items, under the assumption that playing and skipping the tutorial should result in starting the game on equal footing, would be to completely clear the player's inventory after the tutorial then add in the intended starting items (though I don't remember if there's an easy way to do this).

Quote
It is absolutely intended that the game will focus on acute difficulty (individual encounters are dangerous) rather than chronic difficulty (encounters gradually wear down player health / resources over time). I might slightly tweak some enemies, but after playing through the dungeon and watching namida play through it, I think the balance is close to what I'm aiming for.
Fair enough. This can be a bit RNG-vulnerable of an approach, however, so be careful with it. If there's a VX Ace version of the Yanfly AI Core plugin, that might be a good idea to use to get a little more control over how enemies behave to try to avoid players getting completely destroyed by AI roulette having an above-average run of choices (one risk with this is that you could make enemies too predictable). Alternatively, you could add an option to flee and restart the encounter if things go too south too quickly. Healing often doesn't keep up in these types of games. Another option might be to consider booting the player from the dungeon upon defeat rather than restarting from the last save. Feeling the need to save after every encounter gets old quickly, and there were multiple enemy groups where the first time I fought them was a total trainwreck, while the next time everything was just fine despite no major change in strategy.

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Stephanie's healing magic, together with 4 Amethysts (2 initial, 2 in a chest) and two full-healing crystals, are definitely enough resources to get through the dungeon.
This strategy is common with lighting in horror games, and I can't say I agree with the approach. The issue isn't really the amount of resources you're allotted - usually, if you know what you're doing, there's plenty to go around. But for a first playthrough, you don't really know how much you can afford to expend your resources, and because they are finite, using resources now means I have less resources to use later - and what if I need those resources more later?

It is my opinion that resource management approaches like this are best left to individual level-based games in which nothing carries over from one level to the next. These games are better for the approach because the amount of progress you lose if you don't properly ration your resources is limited, and a player who struggles through Level N will start Level N+1 on equal footing as the player who has no issues with Level N (other than the differences in their skill). When resources from Level N carry over to Level N+1, then the struggling player who finds themselves needing to burn through a lot of their resources is given an objectively harder Level N+1 than the player who breezes through Level N.

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In regards to the font and boxy-looking maps, for what you're doing here it's fine. It is something to keep in mind if you do a more serious project. It's mainly advice for how to set your project apart from the hundreds of other RPG Maker projects out there.

As before, I apologize in advance if some of my statements come across harshly. That is not my intent.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2018, 08:38:56 am by Dullstar »

Offline Proxima

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2018, 10:51:35 am »
If I recall correctly, I think the tutorial contains one in a chest somewhere. My best guess is that this wasn't taken into account.

I see what's going on :P The Casual Clothes were originally item 1 in my armour database, and the Buckler was item 2. I decided to rearrange with all shields first (leaving 10 spaces for shields I'll create later) followed by clothing. So every event that referred to the Buckler had to be updated. I must have fixed this bug at the same time on my local copy, which is why I can't find anything wrong now :)

Quote
Feeling the need to save after every encounter gets old quickly, and there were multiple enemy groups where the first time I fought them was a total trainwreck, while the next time everything was just fine despite no major change in strategy.

Do you happen to remember which troops? I can definitely have a look to see whether I want to change their stats.

Quote
It is my opinion that resource management approaches like this are best left to individual level-based games in which nothing carries over from one level to the next. These games are better for the approach because the amount of progress you lose if you don't properly ration your resources is limited, and a player who struggles through Level N will start Level N+1 on equal footing as the player who has no issues with Level N (other than the differences in their skill). When resources from Level N carry over to Level N+1, then the struggling player who finds themselves needing to burn through a lot of their resources is given an objectively harder Level N+1 than the player who breezes through Level N.

That's a very good point -- with a fixed number of touch encounters and no randoms, there is no "grinding" option to allow players who fall behind to catch up. I don't have a good answer to this, but I might start a topic on the RPG Maker forum to ask about it.

For this dungeon, as I said, I will make the healing crystal allow three uses rather than one, giving the player more resources that are confined to this dungeon and don't carry over (40 instead of 20 uses of Stephanie's healing spell, without using Amethysts). In addition, throughout the game, monsters will gradually give more money, so gems become relatively cheaper.

Offline Proxima

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2018, 03:24:42 pm »
- The teleporting under bridges / through doorways that don't lead to other maps, seems weird. With a little bit of eventing, it's quite simple to make them appear either under or over the character depending on which way you come from - basic setup (using a top-to-bottom bridge for the example) is "on touch" events on the four surrounding squares, with the above and below tiles turning a switch off, and the left and right tiles turning a switch on; then, the bridge tile itself will have two pages, the second of which is activated by that same switch; neither does anything, but the first page has the display set to "below hero", the second to "above hero".

I have to correct you here -- this is simple enough for bridges, but not at all simple for doorways, which is why I wasn't doing it to begin with. Still, I think I can get it to work with a lot of patience and installing a new script. I'll let you know how I get on.
« Last Edit: December 18, 2018, 04:41:37 pm by Proxima »

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2018, 07:36:35 pm »
Quote
I have to correct you here -- this is simple enough for bridges, but not at all simple for doorways, which is why I wasn't doing it to begin with. Still, I think I can get it to work with a lot of patience and installing a new script. I'll let you know how I get on.

A few edits to the tileset (adding extra copies of these as non-base-layer tiles, possibly with some very minor edits) should be a lot simpler than trying to do fancy stuff with scripts here. Once that's done, you can do doorways much the same way as bridges.
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Offline Proxima

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2018, 07:38:27 pm »
The problem is that if the arch has "star" passability so that the player can move behind it, the top half of the door also disappears behind it.

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2018, 10:58:46 pm »
The problem is that if the arch has "star" passability so that the player can move behind it, the top half of the door also disappears behind it.

So, what's needed here is:

- The door remains as standard tiles
- The wall tile behind, and any wall / ceiling tiles above it, must be events (or if you can't get on top, star tiles will work, except for the one overlapping the door). The rounded top of the door must actually be edited out (made transparent) in the first wall tile.

This should achieve what you're after.
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Offline Proxima

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Re: Adventure School: my RPGMaker project
« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2019, 06:40:36 am »
So, it's been a while. I've been busy with other things (Hollow Knight in particular has taken up a lot of my time lately) but also, I haven't released an update because I want to get the first dungeon to a point where I'm satisfied with it before moving on.

So I thought I should at least let you know what I've been working on, by listing the changes you can expect to see with the next update.

Changelog (click to show/hide)