I'm starting to make my first fangame. What are some do's/dont's for new creators?

gamerweeb1

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Sep 27, 2022
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I'm just beginning to make my first Pokemon fangame in RPG Maker.

I would like to know: what are some common mistakes made by new creators? What are issues you have with many fangames that creators need to avoid?

I would also appreciate any tips for the early stages of making a fangame.
 

SkyArmyRecru1t

Pokémon Master
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Aug 25, 2017
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Long response incoming because as someone who made a lot of mistakes and had a lot to learn, I have a lot to say about these questions.

I stayed in that "new creator" phase for way too long and it caused me to scrap my game and start from scratch multiple times, and I only just now feel like I'm halfway competent at this and leaving that beginner phase behind. So from experience, I would say your #1 biggest mistake can be going in with no planning or very little planning. I'm not saying you have to have every little thing figured out before starting, but it's good to think about the important stuff. The main things I'd consider important being:
  • Plot details, even if just a loose plot to start with, having that helps a lot more than just winging it like I did for a while. That just results in the game feeling like a mess and fixing it later isn't easy.
  • Your map, as in like the regions town map. Sure it sounds like something that can wait for later, but trust me when I say having your map already designed (even if just a rough sketch) will help immensely when creating your maps and figuring out how to design them.
Another common mistake is a lack of testing. Don't just assume something works because it's simple or you copied an event in Essentials because somehow, it might not work as intended.

As for things to avoid:
  • Overloading yourself. It's tempting to throw every cool resource you find into your game and having as many mechanics as you can, but then you have to try to manage it all and make it all fit in your game (otherwise it just comes across as you're using more mechanics to make your game look good imo).
  • Building off the last thing, as a beginner, you should definitely avoid trying to do more than you're capable of. Making something small and simple is a good way to learn and practice. Or you can do as I do, where you have one big main project, but you also work on other smaller side projects and you can take the knowledge or skill you learned from that to make your main project as good as it can be.
  • Boring map designs. Making everything too straight and square leads to a meh map design. Looking at some official Pokémon maps or taking a look at this and this can help give some ideas on how best to make a good map.
  • Some personal issues, but avoid having bad grammar or tons of spelling mistakes. I don't think that'll apply to you specifically, I'm just stating it here for people in general reading this.
I only have a few tips for beginners. Don't ignore NPC's. Sure they seem largely unimportant but when I compare my project now compared to when I first started, everything feels so dull and lifeless because the NPCs just said whatever one sentence line I could think of. Not saying you have to give them all a unique personality with multiple lines of important dialogue or anything, but just keep in mind how NPCs can really affect an area.

Secondly, I recommend taking some time to learn some of the more important parts of game creation. Before diving in, take some time to learn how events work, learn what PBS files are and how to set up encounters and trainers. Figuring out the important stuff will get you in gear a whole lot quicker than trying to figure it out as you go. Looking at events within default Essentials maps and looking at the wiki are a great way to get the ball rolling, and once you start diving in, you can see how working with Essentials is so much simpler than it first appears. More importantly, if something confuses you or you can't find the answers you need on the wiki, never be afraid to ask questions. After all, learning more is the most important thing you can do when it comes to game creation. Relic Castle is full of people who might be able to help (I'm always down to try and help if you shoot a DM my way).

And finally, and most importantly, going back to what I said earlier, but test, test, TEST. Try what you just made and ask yourself, "Does this work as intended?", "Is there anything weird that I can fix up?", "Is there anyway that I can make this event look or feel better?". You don't have to look for perfection, but if you can see anyway to make your events or your game look or feel better, if it's within your skill range then it's worth doing. Sure, that stage of development can be boring and tedious, but it's so important for the player who will eventually try your game (I'm on my fifth-almost sixth- week of polishing my game before demo release and I'm in pain, try not to leave the entire polishing section of development at the end 😅)
 

Willow Hallowes

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Member
Joined
Jul 1, 2021
Posts
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18
Long response incoming because as someone who made a lot of mistakes and had a lot to learn, I have a lot to say about these questions.

I stayed in that "new creator" phase for way too long and it caused me to scrap my game and start from scratch multiple times, and I only just now feel like I'm halfway competent at this and leaving that beginner phase behind. So from experience, I would say your #1 biggest mistake can be going in with no planning or very little planning. I'm not saying you have to have every little thing figured out before starting, but it's good to think about the important stuff. The main things I'd consider important being:
  • Plot details, even if just a loose plot to start with, having that helps a lot more than just winging it like I did for a while. That just results in the game feeling like a mess and fixing it later isn't easy.
  • Your map, as in like the regions town map. Sure it sounds like something that can wait for later, but trust me when I say having your map already designed (even if just a rough sketch) will help immensely when creating your maps and figuring out how to design them.
Another common mistake is a lack of testing. Don't just assume something works because it's simple or you copied an event in Essentials because somehow, it might not work as intended.

As for things to avoid:
  • Overloading yourself. It's tempting to throw every cool resource you find into your game and having as many mechanics as you can, but then you have to try to manage it all and make it all fit in your game (otherwise it just comes across as you're using more mechanics to make your game look good imo).
  • Building off the last thing, as a beginner, you should definitely avoid trying to do more than you're capable of. Making something small and simple is a good way to learn and practice. Or you can do as I do, where you have one big main project, but you also work on other smaller side projects and you can take the knowledge or skill you learned from that to make your main project as good as it can be.
  • Boring map designs. Making everything too straight and square leads to a meh map design. Looking at some official Pokémon maps or taking a look at this and this can help give some ideas on how best to make a good map.
  • Some personal issues, but avoid having bad grammar or tons of spelling mistakes. I don't think that'll apply to you specifically, I'm just stating it here for people in general reading this.
I only have a few tips for beginners. Don't ignore NPC's. Sure they seem largely unimportant but when I compare my project now compared to when I first started, everything feels so dull and lifeless because the NPCs just said whatever one sentence line I could think of. Not saying you have to give them all a unique personality with multiple lines of important dialogue or anything, but just keep in mind how NPCs can really affect an area.

Secondly, I recommend taking some time to learn some of the more important parts of game creation. Before diving in, take some time to learn how events work, learn what PBS files are and how to set up encounters and trainers. Figuring out the important stuff will get you in gear a whole lot quicker than trying to figure it out as you go. Looking at events within default Essentials maps and looking at the wiki are a great way to get the ball rolling, and once you start diving in, you can see how working with Essentials is so much simpler than it first appears. More importantly, if something confuses you or you can't find the answers you need on the wiki, never be afraid to ask questions. After all, learning more is the most important thing you can do when it comes to game creation. Relic Castle is full of people who might be able to help (I'm always down to try and help if you shoot a DM my way).

And finally, and most importantly, going back to what I said earlier, but test, test, TEST. Try what you just made and ask yourself, "Does this work as intended?", "Is there anything weird that I can fix up?", "Is there anyway that I can make this event look or feel better?". You don't have to look for perfection, but if you can see anyway to make your events or your game look or feel better, if it's within your skill range then it's worth doing. Sure, that stage of development can be boring and tedious, but it's so important for the player who will eventually try your game (I'm on my fifth-almost sixth- week of polishing my game before demo release and I'm in pain, try not to leave the entire polishing section of development at the end 😅)

Not gonna lie - reading this is kind of helpful for me because I had to take a long break from pokemon to work on something new plus i still need to work out things anyway like a pokedex layout if i want to post it on a website or something since I'm sort of stuck.
 
  • Everyone's first time doing anything new is bad. You can design your ultimate dream game, but if you start your game development journey making that game, it's gonna be bad. Get comfy with the process first with some practice and smaller games
  • If you're asking yourself, "Why aren't there any fangames with [open world/all the pokemon/Player can pick a starting town/character customization/literally any feature]?" The answer is probably that it's a load of work to do properly, compared to very little payoff. Time is a resource and you'll get more games done if you treat it that way.
  • Don't put a game project on hold while trying to recruit a team to make it. Recruiting is hard and it's better to build your skills while making slow progress than no progress.
  • You can develop solo, but don't develop alone. Using the community to share your progress, get feedback, and ask questions is insanely valuable when you're starting out.
  • Join a game jam. The amount you can learn and the confidence from completing and releasing a project is so powerful.
  • Playtest. I'm guilty of not doing longer playtests of my games honestly...but you need to at least test individual pieces as you go. There are so many times I've broken a game within minutes because of like, character's path being blocked during a cutscene and the game can't continue, or a misspelling in being given a mandatory item/pokemon makes the game crash. Playtesting even once would have revealed these problems.
  • If you're going to do something complicated, like gym puzzles, start working on it early on. It's easier to design around something complex than to build a good chunk of your region and then realize you don't actually know how to make, or like making, a core feature of the game. The sunk cost fallacy is killer.
  • A game doesn't have to be everything all at once. If you're torn between gen 4 or gen 5 artstyles, or maybe there's a cool plugin you really wanna use just once, relax! You can make different games with each of those things.
  • It's okay to just make a map, or just make sprites, or work on any other part of "game development" without it being part of a game. Your hobby is suppossed to be, you know, fun/relaxing/stimulating personally fufilling for you, not a source of stress and forced productivity
  • Try not to compare yourself to other games/devs. We're free games in a fandom space, the audience we have is shared, not one we're competing over.
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