Dev Journal #2 - Making RPG Maker Suck Less

Hey everyone!  Here's the next entry of the development journal posts from the Patreon feed.

Dev Journal #2 - Making RPG Maker Suck Less
Original version published on Patreon, September 21, 2014




The topic I'd like to talk about this time is the lovely platform called RPG Maker, how I ended up choosing to start a full project utilizing it, and some of the complications that I've overcome so far to bring it closer to the 21st century.

When I started this project I really didn't plan for it to grow to where it has now. I don't think many people start RPG Maker projects thinking they will spend multiple years on them, but so far it's been a pretty solid experience as I've gotten the chance to practice my development skills in Ruby (a completely new language to me). The major catalyst for the project's growth was the art. I personally didn't think I'd be able to create a detailed, unique art style that I'd be happy with while being able to produce large amounts of artwork in a limited time. As the quality of the artwork increased, so did the seriousness of the project. As it turns out, the platform was not such a bad choice after all as it has provided an existing framework and community whose scripting efforts have made mine a thousand times less painful.

The areas where this platform suffered severely were of course complexity and visuals, and as the project progressed I felt I wanted to improve upon those areas.  The image I've posted is a pretty good reference for some of the visual improvements I've made to the game in the last six months. The most obvious change is the resolution, which has been raised significantly past what you'll see in other RPG Maker games. This alone was easily a two month project (and probably more as the cascade of broken mechanics this created was seemingly never ending), as core classes had to be rewritten to allow for the expanded resolution. This change naturally led to a decrease in performance, but what *really* surprised me was how massive the drop in performance was. As I looked into the matter I quickly became aware of how amazingly unoptimized the engine was, as it was doing things such as rendering sprites and running unnecessary events that weren't even on the screen during the map scene. This of course led to huge issues when I tried making maps of any significant size. These things of course needed to be fixed, and more rewrites to classes involving events, the cache, and rendering ensued. It was probably August by the time I had overhauled the engine to the point that it performed well at a resolution i was relatively pleased with. That being said, it was just a couple of weeks ago that I spent a week further improving upon the way the game handles bitmaps due to large (dimension-wise) images adversely affecting framerate. The struggle will no doubt go on.

Since I'm sure the question will come up at some point: I definitely did investigate pushing the resolution higher! I opted not to due to the certain mass hardware casualties that would ensue. As hard as it is to believe processors would be in flames and what not... an ugly sight for sure. This probably has something to do with the nature of Ruby and it being an interpreted (and thus inherently slow) language for making a game with, but I chose not to research it further.

The drastic choice to enhance RPG Maker's resolution of course meant I had to re-render all of the graphical content I had created for the game up to that point, but really it was fun to do so as my improved skills with the software meant dramatic improvements to the quality in most areas.

Comments

  1. That sounds like a lot of work. More amazingly though, is that you stuck to it for so long.

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  2. Have you looked into any other engines besides RPG Maker? I've heard from other developers that endlessly shit on it.

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    Replies
    1. This being my first game project it's actually proven to be a pretty invaluable learning experience to have to fight with it to push it past its limitations. If I choose to do a similar project in the future though I'll probably build an RPG framework in Unity.

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    2. I wish you luck. It is frustrating to read how developers have to wrestle with engines for what should be basic features such has higher resolutions.

      Unity is a good engine also check out the lesser known Godot Engine http://www.godotengine.org

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  3. Yeah, I gotta admit, working with RPG Maker can be an...experience...once you try to get around it's rather limiting screen space. It's one reason why I opt'ed for a work around instead of a full rebuild for my projects. But awesome towards you for getting that working in such a way~! It'll be pretty nifty to see how well this runs once you've released it out on the public!

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