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Game Creation Station: City Bound

I ended my last column by discussing my intentions about starting a game design document. I’m still working on that, but it isn’t something that is completed yet. This week I think I’ll forgo talking about story and game design and dive back into the RPG Maker XP toolset. I’ve been itching to get back into this anyway, so why not take a break just see what happens?

Building a City…or is it a Village?

As I’ve stated before, I want to have three separate town/city areas with connecting rural areas. However, I wonder if I want the first area to be a small to medium sized village or a more urban city? It seems that there are many times in RPGs where the main character starts out in a small village. The village, of course, subsequently gets destroyed and sends the main character on his way. I don’t want this area to be destroyed. In fact, I plan on giving players the ability to return to the area in the future. I also think Dave is the type that lives in a city and not a small town or village. So the decision is made: I will make it look like a city and adjust the size to fit the story.

Laying down the Foundation

I don’t want this city (Small or otherwise) to have a look of a small, rustic village. All the included tilesets with RPG Maker XP reflect a typical fantasy RPG theme. Since I’m not creating art from scratch for this project, I’ll have to find a modern or futuristic tileset to match my desired look. I don’t have anything I like for this city in my own files so I started looking around the internet for modern tilesets that work with RPG Maker XP. This program has been around many years and there are some amazing sprite graphic artists that have generously released their tilesets for free. Most of the tileset authors have stipulations on their products such as “This tileset can’t be used for commercial products.” Since this first game isn’t going to be commercial, I’m good to go. I decided on the “Super Modern Outdoor Tileset” by a creator called Supercow. I like the retroRPG aesthetics that remind me of some of my favorite RPGs like Earthbound.

Now what?

I now have to import the new tileset into my project. As is often the case with a new process, importing tilesets seems hard until the user becomes familiar with all the steps. That is after and now I’m drawing a blank on how to get the new assets into my project. I looked online for instructions, but it still took me a bit of tinkering before I figured out how to import these new assets. The downloaded content comes in a zip file and the first thing I did was extract it into its own folder. Supercow has put each piece of the Modern tileset into the corresponding folder, so it was easy to figure out what went where.

RPG Maker XP has what looks like an import function under the materials icon on the toolbar of the program. I tried importing the file like some online instructions suggested, but my new modern tileset wasn’t usable. I soon found it wasn’t in the graphics area of my game folder either. I decided to manually move the content I needed from the Modern tileset folder over to the folder of the same name in my game files.

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(As an Aside: RPG Maker XP defaults to putting the project creation folders in the Documents or My Documents area of Windows. I’m using Windows XP for this project so my game project folder is in My Documents under RPG Maker XP.)

I moved the contents of the tilesets folder from the Super Modern Outdoor Tileset zip file in my Search for Dave game folder. This allowed me to access the contents inside of RPG Maker XP.

But wait, there’s more!

For me to be able to access this new content in RPG Maker XP, there are a few more steps I have to take. In the lower right hand corner of the RPG Maker XP Screen, there is a section with file tree and the name of the maps that I’ve created for my project. Since all I have now is the default map that is what I’ll be working with. To go into Map Properties, right-click on the map name and choose “Map Properties.” This area lets me rename the map, make the map bigger or smaller, look at the encounters and chose the tileset to go with the specific map. This is an area that will be used frequently as I build maps for my project so I know I’ll become very familiar with the area. Right now I just want to choose the new tileset for this map. Unfortunately, although I know I correctly imported the tileset into my project folder, I don’t see my new “Super Modern Outdoor Tileset” in the drop down menu. What do to do?

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I know that the software sees the tileset because it appears in the Matrialbase panel. (This can be accessed via an icon on the shortcut bar above the map screen or via the Tools menu at the top of the RPG Maker XP program or just by pressing F10.) I tried accessing it through the map properties a couple of times after making sure the new tileset was seen by the program, but I still had no luck. It was after this I realized I was looking in the wrong area of the program.

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Most of the instructions I found to import items into RPG Maker XP assumed knowledge that I didn’t have. This happens in many tutorials that I’ve used online for various products, from Photoshop to 3D Studio Max. A person that is so used to using a specific function might not realize that a new user just doesn’t know about a certain step or an area of the program. I think that may be the case for most of the tutorials I’ve found for importing content into this game creation tool.

After sitting in front of my screen for a while, stumped, I realized that the Database for my game probably had all the information for the entire project locked inside. Under the tools menu, there is a Database option and it brings up a very detailed view of everything associated with my game. This is an area that I’ll be spending much more time with in the future, but right now I just wanted to look in the tilesets tab.

I still could not find my new tileset even after scrolling through the fifty preset tilesets that come with the game. However, there is a button down at the bottom labeled “Change Maximum.” I clicked on that and was able to increase the maximum amount of tilesets from fifty to sixty. This allowed me to add more tilesets to the database.

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After clicking on a newly created blank tileset space, I can name the tileset and add the actual tileset graphic to the database. This adds the imported tileset to the group I already have available in the map preferences screen. I can now just hit apply and go check if the tileset is available.

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The tileset is available in map properties and when I click on it, the whole screen changes. I now have a white grid with the tileset that I imported on the left. Of course, the top tiles are white and I remember that the first row is made up of autotiles, which I haven’t imported yet. Whoops.

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An End of the Beginning

At least I now know how to import tilesets into my project. This means that I also know how to import other pieces of content into my project as well. I’ll get the autotiles imported and start creating a map as soon as I can. However, I think I’m going to end the column here for this week. I didn’t expect to spend the entire time talking about importing tilesets, but it is a skill that will be needed throughout the game design process.

Next week Jessica “Allahweh” Brown will be here to continue her project using the Zelda Classic tool. I’ll be back the week after with a bit more about my game design document and, hopefully, a map I built with the RPG Maker XP program. Also look for a Game Creation Station recommends article this Sunday. Until I see you again, stay creative and keep on building.

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Warren C. Bennett

Warren C. Bennett

Gaming is one part of his life and writing is another. Warren has been doing both since Atari was king and computer games came on multiple floppy disks.