Discussion What should my process be when making a fan game?

This thread is for discussion and opinions.

Mega Greninja

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(Warning: I'm from greece, so my english might not be the best out there. You have been warned.)

At the start of summer I was so excited to get into making my own pokemon fan-game. I just finished my last year of high school and I couldn't wait to make the most of my free time. I already had an idea in mind and went straight into developing, my target being to make a demo in order to enter the eight RC game jam. But then I got overwhelmed at the amount of work needing to be done. I had to write down the story, learn how to properly use RPG Maker and essentials. All that + covid made me lose motivation. I don't want to give up tho. But I need guidance. Any tips on how I should go about making my game are welcome!
 

AenaonDogsky

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(Warning: I'm from greece, so my english might not be the best out there. You have been warned.)

At the start of summer I was so excited to get into making my own pokemon fan-game. I just finished my last year of high school and I couldn't wait to make the most of my free time. I already had an idea in mind and went straight into developing, my target being to make a demo in order to enter the eight RC game jam. But then I got overwhelmed at the amount of work needing to be done. I had to write down the story, learn how to properly use RPG Maker and essentials. All that + covid made me lose motivation. I don't want to give up tho. But I need guidance. Any tips on how I should go about making my game are welcome!

Hiya, your English is fine. Hope the national exams went well 😎. And even if they didn't, there's still a lot of time ahead of you.

1) So the first general suggestion is to watch Thundaga's tutorials at a steady pace (preferably while also applying what you see on screen). Some parts might be deprecated due to recent Essentials updates (assuming you are on 19+), but overall you'll get a good idea.

2) Another suggestion would be to take a look at jam games and see how they do things. Some projects are "open", some aren't. Open projects usually have a PBS folder inside the main folder, which means you can compile the project yourself and learn how those files are used. If not already inside the main folder, simply add an .rxproj file from any of your essentials projects, and open the project as normal.

3) Yet another suggestion: don't overextend your efforts - take one area (let's assume mapping or eventing cutscenes) and focus on that. With time, you'll get the hang of other stuff, like spriting, writing etc. But if you start doing EVERYTHING right from the get go you'll get overwhelmed.

4) Following from no. 3, make a very small game. Let's say - a starter town, a bigger town with a Gym, a maximum number of two routes, and a "dungeon" (could be a cave, building maze or whatever). Try to make a small story out of it.

5) Once you got that out, be prepared for feedback. Naturally it won't be the next big hit (yet), because experience is everything. Take feedback to heart and fix any bugs / adapt your game to the feedback.

6) Enter as many jams as you can with small games, especially early on. It's better to have a small, complete, finished and polished experience, and try something new next time, than to release something that will always remain half-finished. This will give you the overall experience to tackle bigger projects, and understand your limitations - as well as learn how to manage your time. It will also help you seek out team members for bigger projects with a realistic scope and expectations in mind.

7) Go to the tutorials section under the Resources tab and read a bunch of them.

8) Find the one area where you're your best at (you'll know based on feedback), and then build a game around your strength as a developer. Your game doesn't need the best gen1240 graphics, it doesn't need 5.000.000 mons from 4 universes, and it doesn't need a Hollywood soundtrack. If you are good at spriting, center your game around showcasing that. If you are good at writing, don't worry about the graphics that much. If you are good at mapping ,don't waste all your time trying to make the perfect story. With time, you'll get good enough at those areas that you won't have to worry about them - but most likely, you'll always have one or two areas where you'll excel far more than others.

And that's it from me. The one thing that hinders the progress of newer devs, more than anything else, is fear of getting a game out - and receiving opinions on it. Don't worry about that. The vast majority of all devs (even pros) have had... uh, weird first games. So, yeah, get your game out there, unleash your creativity, and most of all, have fun and love what you do!

Take care, and have fun!
 
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Mega Greninja

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Hiya, your English is fine. Hope the national exams went well 😎. And even if they didn't, there's still a lot of time ahead of you.

1) So the first general suggestion is to watch Thundaga's tutorials at a steady pace (preferably while also applying what you see on screen). Some parts might be deprecated due to recent Essentials updates (assuming you are on 19+), but overall you'll get a good idea.

2) Another suggestion would be to take a look at jam games and see how they do things. Some projects are "open", some aren't. Open projects usually have a PBS folder inside the main folder, which means you can compile the project yourself and learn how those files are used. If not already inside the main folder, simply add an .rxproj file from any of your essentials projects, and open the project as normal.

3) Yet another suggestion: don't overextend your efforts - take one area (let's assume mapping or eventing cutscenes) and focus on that. With time, you'll get the hang of other stuff, like spriting, writing etc. But if you start doing EVERYTHING right from the get go you'll get overwhelmed.

4) Following from no. 3, make a very small game. Let's say - a starter town, a bigger town with a Gym, a maximum number of two routes, and a "dungeon" (could be a cave, building maze or whatever). Try to make a small story out of it.

5) Once you got that out, be prepared for feedback. Naturally it won't be the next big hit (yet), because experience is everything. Take feedback to heart and fix any bugs / adapt your game to the feedback.

6) Enter as many jams as you can with small games, especially early on. It's better to have a small, complete, finished and polished experience, and try something new next time, than to release something that will always remain half-finished. This will give you the overall experience to tackle bigger projects, and understand your limitations - as well as learn how to manage your time. It will also help you seek out team members for bigger projects with a realistic scope and expectations in mind.

7) Go to the tutorials section under the Resources tab and read a bunch of them.

8) Find the one area where you're your best at (you'll know based on feedback), and then build a game around your strength as a developer. Your game doesn't need the best gen1240 graphics, it doesn't need 5.000.000 mons from 4 universes, and it doesn't need a Hollywood soundtrack. If you are good at spriting, center your game around showcasing that. If you are good at writing, don't worry about the graphics that much. If you are good at mapping ,don't waste all your time trying to make the perfect story. With time, you'll get good enough at those areas that you won't have to worry about them - but most likely, you'll always have one or two areas where you'll excel far more than others.

And that's it from me. The one thing that hinders the progress of newer devs, more than anything else, is fear of getting a game out - and receiving opinions on it. Don't worry about that. The vast majority of all devs (even pros) have had... uh, weird first games. So, yeah, get your game out there, unleash your creativity, and most of all, have fun and love what you do!

Take care, and have fun!
Thank you so much for the advice! Truth is I tried to do many things at the same time at alarge scale. I already have an idea for a smaller project that could serve as a learning experience. I appreciate you taking the time to answer. (Also exams went fine, thankfully)
 
my target being to make a demo in order to enter the eight RC game jam
I feel like a lot of newer developers tend to take this path, for some reason. (I think it's because there's usually a bit more attention drummed up for the jam, especially since people like to make a point of playing through all the games and streaming them, so it seems like a good time to promote it?)

Personally, I think this is a bad idea for a few reasons -
  • Jams require that all custom assets be made during the Jam period, so not only are you working with a deadline, you're also working with a restriction on how much time you can have to prepare. (Well, okay, technically any deadline is also restricting how long you have to prepare, because you can't know about the deadline until it's announced, but like,
  • If you plan on just making a demo, you're limiting how far you can go in certain areas - you can't really reach the climax of your plot, you can't have very complex battles because you're planning for an 8-gym level curve, you don't get to show the designs of final evos, etc.
  • I get the sense that these demos don't really have a planned endpoint, just "Get as far in the story as we can". That tends to mean both an abrupt ending and not being able to polish content as much.
Not sure how helpful any of that is to you, though, since you've already tried this and learned from the experience 😅. (Also I kind of just assumed that you were doing a standard 8-gym game, which might not have even been the case!)


One thing I would personally throw out is that I think it's best to finish most of your story elements first - not just the plot, but also setting, characters, fakemon, new mechanics, etc. It's easy to come up with new concepts, but harder to actually implement, especially when that means reworking what you already have, and you definitely want to avoid designing something just to scrap it.
 

Mega Greninja

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I feel like a lot of newer developers tend to take this path, for some reason. (I think it's because there's usually a bit more attention drummed up for the jam, especially since people like to make a point of playing through all the games and streaming them, so it seems like a good time to promote it?)

Personally, I think this is a bad idea for a few reasons -
  • Jams require that all custom assets be made during the Jam period, so not only are you working with a deadline, you're also working with a restriction on how much time you can have to prepare. (Well, okay, technically any deadline is also restricting how long you have to prepare, because you can't know about the deadline until it's announced, but like,
  • If you plan on just making a demo, you're limiting how far you can go in certain areas - you can't really reach the climax of your plot, you can't have very complex battles because you're planning for an 8-gym level curve, you don't get to show the designs of final evos, etc.
  • I get the sense that these demos don't really have a planned endpoint, just "Get as far in the story as we can". That tends to mean both an abrupt ending and not being able to polish content as much.
Not sure how helpful any of that is to you, though, since you've already tried this and learned from the experience 😅. (Also I kind of just assumed that you were doing a standard 8-gym game, which might not have even been the case!)


One thing I would personally throw out is that I think it's best to finish most of your story elements first - not just the plot, but also setting, characters, fakemon, new mechanics, etc. It's easy to come up with new concepts, but harder to actually implement, especially when that means reworking what you already have, and you definitely want to avoid designing something just to scrap it.
Yeah, I can for sure say that pushing myself too hard in order to make a demo for the jam, just for the sake of promotion was not the brightest idea. That's why I've resolved to start small and gradually build up my skill. Also yes, I think I will finish the story elements first, its probably for the best. Thanks for answering!
 

AenaonDogsky

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Tech just dropped a very important piece of advice, and to add to it - with this kind of demo approach you kind of forego the time limitation of the jam (and the creativity and scope control that surrounds, or that is born from this limitation).

What I mean by that, is, since the scope of the non-demo project is that of a fully-blown standard pokemon rpg, you don't end up with a creatively robust, or "complete" jam game. With the end goal being to have a demo up to X gyms, it's like you've just been working on a non-jam game for the first 40 days, and then released it. Demos are demonstrations, usually vertical slices, of what the full game can offer - this is salvageable, obviously, but the majority of standard pokemon rpg games just can't do that, and end up being horizontal slices (which are unfinished in more than one ways).

The eventual non-demo version might end up being an abandoned future project that never comes into full fruition, since staying along the ride for such big projects is a long-term commitment, one you might not be able to stick to if you don't have a lot of previous game-making experience. Obviously, if you are a veteran dev with a number of games under your belt, and a lot of free time during the summer, you can pull an entire region off even during the jam, but that's obviously a matter of experience.

Furthermore, how much can you learn from such a project? Managing time? No. Telling a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end? No. Making an overall satisfying experience? No. Implementing a new idea? No. Coming up with an interesting gameplay loop? No.

Paradoxically - or perhaps not - a small, "complete" (in the sense of its scope and aim) jam game, offers you a creative output and experience paralleling that of a much bigger game... because it's complete in the sum of its small parts, rather than incomplete in its huge parts.
 
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