Callum’s CV: The Game! is one of those long gestating ideas that I have been slowly tinkering with in the background for the past six months or so. I have managed to fill a notebook with everything I want to do in and with the game and I have only just really got to the point were I can really start putting things into practise.
Two things have been learned from this longer than planed planning phase:
- I need to get off my arse and do more game dev stuff outside of my work as a games tester. (Gotta build up that portfolio!)
- I really need to incorporate a method digitising the scribbles, notes and doodles I make in coming up with game concepts. Especially considering that a notebook crammed with game and game mechanic ideas decided to go walkabout earlier this year.
Still, I have managed to get everything back on track and I’m sure the missing notebook will resurface at some point, so here is the first “proper” update post for Callum’s CV: The Game!
This week’s update is all about creating the small but crammed with stuff (S.B.C.W.S is an “Official” game design term 😉 ) World Map for the game.
I am currently using two programs to make Callum’s CV: The Game! The first is RPG Maker VX Ace the engine for the game and then articy:draft. Something I bought instantly after watching a couple of videos of it on the Steam Software Store. Basically it is the game design software I have spent the past four years looking and yearning for. It is awesome and built from the ground up with making games as the number one aim of its toolset. It kicks serious ass and if I had this back in Uni I would have overcome so many issues I had with the traditional GDD approach to game design.
The process of creating the World Map started with drawing a very basic shape of the island that the game is set in. I came up with the idea of giving it a similar shape to a human head in the early, doodles in my notebook stage of the game concept. The game is about me and everything that makes up me both professionally and non-professionally. Everyone on the island would enthusiastically spout knowledge about me to the player when prodded and all the buildings would have something to do with a part of my boring paper CV. It is basically a huge outpouring of my ego in the form of a game. So it made a weird sort of sense that the island be shaped like a head. a big head crammed with stuff.
So I took the basic shape made in RPG Maker VX Ace and imported it into articy:draft. From there (as seen in the image above) I carved up the island into various zones that are focused on parts of my CV. After that I lost the RPG Maker file for the title due to a catastrophic iMac death which resulted in me being given a shiny new 27″ iMac (you know, the awesome looking ones) for free by Apple out of the AppleCare agreement for the now dead iMac. (Result!) So I was forced to start from scratch. Which wasn’t too bad. I had managed to back up the articy:draft project file so I was up and running again in no time. And let’s be fair, the first basic map looks more like a lightbulb than a human head!
So from the ashes of a dead iMac World Map 2 was born! Sleeker in design and the early stages of adding detail began, which in RPG Maker can be both a pleasure and a pain. A pleasure due to the simple nature of it all and once you master layering tiles you are off into adding dizzying amounts of detail to a map. A pain because of the faff and the fiddle of adding and organising additional tile sets into the engine. A process that is as simple as it can be but still manages to go horribly wrong 50% of the time.
One thing I picked up from throwing together Portalus Inferis which I used to great effect in making the island was to have a palette area in a corner of the map that I knew I would not be using. I used this space to try things out and to help layout some of the more elusive tile variants to copy and paste into the full map. You could do this in a separate map screen but I found having it to hand on the same screen as the map you are currently working on a huge help. Once you are done making the map all you have to do is delete the palette area or incorporate it into the final design.
Another useful tip for making maps in RPG Maker or any isometric (or in this case semi-isometric) viewpoint is that if you look at the map and it looks too flat, then it is way too flat. Add some extra levels of height and variation to the landscape and it will improve it immensely.
After getting the basic layout and buildings down on the map I started adding detail. I moved some bits and bobs around and refined the design a bit more. All while adding in set dressing to make the place seem a bit more alive and less empty. This involved digging down into all the tabs of the tile sets I am using and a certain element of trial and error to get things looking just the way I wanted. The above image is pretty much how the map still looks, give or take a few minor tweaks dotted around the place.
At this point in the design process I also started blocking out the interiors of the buildings themselves and linking them to doors placed on the map. As it stands I need to do a few more sweeps of all the doors to make sure they are working as they should be and an overall graphics and collision sweep to make sure the player can’t do anything stupid like walk on water or through walls. Yes you would think a wall would always be a wall but when you start using floor tiles as wall tiles and impassible surface tiles as ground that will be walked over you have to start checking every square to make sure it is all working properly. (Pro-tip: Test, test and test again then get someone else to test it for you)
The next step in the World Map creation process was fairly simple. All it involved was taking a completed Event View image of the map,
to give it an easily understood grid overlay and then import the image back into articy:draft.
From there I re-zoned and mapped out the buildings with the toolset, ready for linking and contextualising in a living GDD. It is also worth noting that the Event View overlay grid from RPG Maker VX Ace lines up perfectly with the background map grid for articy:draft. So in future I know that I can design 1:1 ratio maps in articy:draft then build them quickly in RPG Maker square by square. Incidental synergy is the best kind of synergy!
So that’s it! The full circle of creating a map with articy:draft and RPG Maker VX Ace. I normally would not do things in this order but the island setting of Callum’s CV: The Game! is crucial to the final title that will be put into players hands so I wanted to get it out of my head and in a playable form before doing anything else. Mainly so I can add, tweak and change it as I go on with the rest of the design process. It also helped a lot in remembering my RPG Maker skills and learning the basics of articy:draft.
Next time: More specifics on articy:draft.