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Monday, February 18, 2008

Game Project Update: About RPG Maker 2003 System

As February gets closer to March, I’m trying to work out a couple of kinks in the authoring software I had chosen to build this game in. Just small tedious things like the animation and the mapping and a little bit of programming.

I guessing why a lot of folks haven’t heard of this tool probably because it was originally in Japanese and it took hackers and crackers to translate it into English (now you know which kind of copy I have).

Let me give you a little bit of explaining on what this authoring tool can do so you can expect what kind of game I’m making.

Actually, it’s a hell lot of explaining (I blab a hell lot less in real life).

Can’t hide the Japanese anime on this program!

My subject is about a program authoring tool called RPG Maker 2003, an English translation of its Japanese original RPG Tsukuru 2003. It is a multimedia based software which its primary function is enabling users to create and develop a console role-playing game (rpg) on their computers. The program provides a beginner’s resource package that consists of PNG images, WAV sound effects, Midi music and at least one AVI movie to help users get started.

RPG Maker 2003, or RM2K3 as it is more widely known, is the third generation authoring tool developed by the Japanese software company, Enterbrain.Co. Previous installments are RPG Maker 95 and RPG Maker 2000. The latest product is the RPGVista, which is currently still in beta-testing mode.

This tool creates programs in reminiscent of the early rpg computer games such as Final Fantasy Tactics, Pokemon Blue or Secret of Mana games. RM2K3 starts the project by providing a basic map and starting chipset. “Map” is the canvas/drawing paper/file page in which your “world” is created, the place where your playing character will explore and interact with objects such as NPCs (non-playable character: Mother, shopkeeper, wizard), enter through doors, cross bridges and converse with dancing trees).

Mapping and world-building isn’t as easy as it looks.

“Chipset” is the paint plate for the user to design the map with. Just as MS Paint provide an array of colours to paint, chipset consists of sets of 16x16 pixel images like a staircase, a bedroom or a dancing-singing tree for user to design their world as they wish.

Other image-map files are battle animation, faceset, charaset, systemset and many others. Resource package also include an image temple to encourage users to design their own image-sets for a more original gameplay.

Music and sound effects in RM2K3 is acceptable only in Midi and WAV files, though with a little bit of thinkering, MP3 files can be used for better quality. Movies can only be played in AVI format, though for many users in the GamingW forum, it isn’t necessary nor expected for many movie files makes up for most of the filesize.

Tell this green-haired dancer to do anything you want her to do... *click to see command menu*

Learning to code in RM2K3 is not difficult as the software provides a menu bar for players to choose their event commands. Some of the most commonly used commands are Switch Operations, Variable Operation, Loop, Branch-If, Change Event and many others. Switch/Variable Operations are assigned to an array to control the gameplay. If the player interacts with another character, users can assign a switch to be turn on/off so that an event, such as a movie/sound effect/animation can be played accordingly.

Next to the mapping interface, the operations interface is the backbone of building the game.

Loop and Branch-If commands controls the time and conditions of the player, interactions and animations, changing the Switches and Variables in a timely manner. Change Event, a huge menu set, are the effects of the Switch/Variable cases, such as making the hero ill, entering and exiting an airship, making the screen dark for a nighttime atmosphere or the most common command, engaging the player into an enemy attack.

No matter how hard it gets, there’s always a bit of Help.exe...

For many users, the variety of coding commands, resource, arrays, events, etc is off-putting, especially when the user is a beginner, more so if the beginner had no prior programming experience. RM2K3 program itself includes a highly detailed graphical help file for such situation.

There is also a web community dedicated to open-source games,, is dedicated to exploring and helping the variety of uses for all products of RPG Maker, along with outher open-source games such as Sphere, Flash and GameMaker. provide tutorials, support and even help spread the end-product so that both game and resource can be enjoyed and inspire many.

I discovered RM2K3 from the internet. I had wanted to look for free, downloadable adventure games in lieu of the expensive, high-performance RPG from the computer stores. I found many awesome yet simple games but they were made by inexperienced programmers, leading to a enormity of coding bugs.

On the advice of the forum moderators (because these inexperienced programmers had long-left the community to graduate into high-performance RPG), I sought the authoring tool and corrected the program bugs accordingly.

Eventually, I began to explore the program and dissect other finished free games to look through the coding. I explored many RPG2K3 tutorials and made some basic shooter-style games, maze games and in 2006, I embarked on a one-man project called The Frog Princess (based on a Russian folklore).

The simple 5-hour game was met with less-than mediocre reviews as compared to the other released free games of the same year, which are longer and more complex, made by seasoned game makers. However, I was, and still am, very proud of my first attempt and had learned much.

Title Screen of Old Project.

Interactivity between hero and NPC characters.

Combat mode in ATB (Active Time Battle).

At the moment, in between my studies, I am creating a longer, more complex project called Unlocking Pandora. It is the adventures of a young girl named Keea who had been plagued with strange dreams of a golden-haired goddess playing a harp. While visiting a temple ruins to recover her late adopted father’s items, Keea accidentally unleashed a horde of monsters into her world and she must locate 2 guardian spirits before evil destroy her world.

I plan to complete and release my game at the end of 2008, in conjunction with the Misao Awards 2009. It is a non-profit group that gives out awards to open-source programmers based on an open voting by forum members. Hopefully, I can win some titles and use them as credentials for my job resume when I graduate.

Important links: (community) (REFMAP sprites and tileset resources) (Helpful tutorials on how to start building your game or make it even better.)

PS: Downloads for this authoring system is illegal so I won’t post an open link. If you really do want to try building your own games, you can ask me where I got mine. You can also ask me for any help concerning RPGM2K3 graphic or programming (except side-scrolling; I hate side-scrolling).

Game Reviews: Fatal Hearts by Hanako Games

This is going to be one of the last entries I’m going to post in a long while (a week at least). You’ll still see me around (check your comments, shoutboxes, MyBlogLog, Nuffnang community, etc) but I’m taking a break to complete the 1001 things I’ve left out while playing games.

Yes, shame-shame on me...

Out of the Four Commandments of Games, there are two that I really dig; Storyline and Visuals (if you don’t know what’s the other two, it’s Gameplay and Music/Sound-Effects). I had second thoughts about reviewing this one, mainly because I kept forgetting/not-bothering to Print-Screen while playing it.

Heh. So prepare to be slightly disappointed though.

Enemies - and allies - come in many disguises.

The second concern was the poor visual environment (and I did say Visuals is my bias!) as this game is a simplistic, Flash-style interface in which its scenes were drawn by a collaboration of various artists and their own art styles. The end result is mismatched anime plus paintbrush, which was painful to view as the tale progresses.

Another point to remember is that although storyline is essential, it doesn’t make the game that moves the concept of the game (which what I believe the designer forgot to take note of). This game follows the visual novel styles of which your actions at certain events determines which of the game’s 14 endings you’ll encounter.

Thus, if you’re not a reader (unlike me) this game will definitely bore you.

With all this and that said, Fatal Hearts is really cool.

Some nightmares are just harder to wake up from.

You play Christina Robinson, an overly sensitive teenager fraught with strange dreams that may or may not have a connection with the sudden outbreak of murders amongst young women in your neighborhood.

Things are already bad enough with your best friend’s parents behaving strangely around you, encounters with a gang of werewolves-cum-vigilantes and a centuries-old vampire pining for his lost girlfriend.

The only way this story can get any cheesier is if they added a macaroni-and-cheese cooking puzzle.

Oh wait, they did (hahaha...).

Bullies always target those who think they’re strong.

What really, really stand out in Fatal Hearts is its big step away from all the conventional visual novel gameplay. Unlike Azada or Hidden Secrets or Mystery in London, this game uses some new puzzle challenges that are a new breath from the repetitive.

Be warned though, many of these puzzles are mighty challenging, - like the clock puzzle, the cultists’ hooks, etc - preferably targeted for veteran players (preferably veteran players with some inkling of German culture).

Ack! Does anybody know which one was the symbol for Fire again?

Overall, I liked Fatal Hearts as much as I like reading a new book by a favorite author (duh! Visual novel genre). Good, engaging, lots of replay potential without a doubt, but it kind of fails overall as a game.

I recommended this game for a rainy afternoon with no money, no car and lots of free time (which is not a bad thing to play actually).

Ripples in your fragile reality.

PS: Downloads for this game can be found in Reflexive Arcade. If you want the cracked version, ask me nicely.
PPS: Download for Fatal Hearts’ Walkthrough can be found here, or better yet, you can visit the designer’s website at

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