The Title Screen you see when you first start up Obama RPG. Fitting that it should be the first thing you see, here.
Hi. I'm Marche100. I don't usually blog, but I feel especially compelled to, today. I'm sure no one knows this, but I've been creating a game over the past few years that I've recently renamed Obama RPG: Magical Quest 3 HD - Future Legend of Superhuman President Starring Barack Obama. Obviously, it's heavily influenced by Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. It has been through multiple long hiatuses and a flurry of changes during its development. I just picked it up off of a long hiatus just a week or two ago, and I've reflected on some things that I've learned while making it that I'd like to share. And yes, it's being made with RPG Maker 2003 (let's get that out of the way first before anything else).
A bit of background information on myself is worth hearing, I believe. I've worked with RPG Maker since 2007, I believe, when I was in seventh grade. I remember seeing it before and thinking I'd never know how to use it. Well, I taught myself through trial and error, and over 6 long years, I made many a game (unfortunately, most are lost to the ages, since they were all hosted on Megaupload, which pains me greatly). Most fell within the lines of "attack this enemy a billion times until it dies" and "big empty open spaces galore". That sort of shoddy RPG making, although it did have its charm. Now, I feel comfortable enough with it to call myself advanced, skill-wise.
The "aliens" introduce themselves.
And now some background information on Obama RPG is in order. It's an RPG I thought up two or three years ago after hearing of Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden. The story concerns President Obama finding that the White House is under attack. Naturally, he goes to investigate, and finds three aliens: Saturos, General Guy, and Balrog, who are searching for the fabled Philosopher's Stone. Obama ends up on a quest to find the stone before them and to put a stop to their plans, meeting a large cast of characters on the way, with a mysterious group called the Advisors stepping in from time to time. It has plenty of twists and turns before the story reaches its end, and the ending is not one to be expected.
Not the most original story, I realize, but the twists, the characters, and the humor more than make up for it (I think). If that's really a true statement is up to the people who actually play the game besides me.
I don't know if anyone cares to hear what I have to say. Heck, I don't know if anyone will even read this. But just know, I'm pouring out my heart here, so these are some things you may want to take to heart if you ever find yourself making a game.
A battle midway through the game.
The Story Is the Easy Part
Writing the story for Obama RPG was undoubtedly the easy part. Taking everything into account, the story must have taken me a few days to write. Granted, I've tweaked it here and there as I've made the game, adding new villains, new characters, new environments, etc. But still, the story was quite easy. Case in point, last week while I was at work, I was bored, so I spent the 8 hours I was stuck at work working out the story point by point from where I was at (maybe 30% into the game) to the end, along with what bosses there will be, what the music will be for each boss, and so on.
The actual RPG part was difficult, and still is to some degree. It's one thing to come up with a funny, interesting story, but another thing to have balanced, fun gameplay to tie it all together. I'll admit, I have a wealth of difficulty in making enemies for Obama RPG. I constantly worry that the enemies are too weak, or too tough, or that they use too many similar moves like those of enemies from early on in the game. It's a real struggle. Mix that in with coming up with spells and abilities for the heroes to use and balancing those, and dealing with enemy weaknesses and resistances, and you've got a huge jumble of stress.
That stress hit me like a wrecking ball yesterday when I made that dungeon up there that the screenshot is from. I made the enemies, but I absolutely did not feel comfortable with them. I was practically pulling my hair out over it. I tweaked and improved them, but it's still hard to feel good about them. They can withstand plenty of your attacks, they bring new moves to the table, and they have different weaknesses, but is it enough? I don't know.
Frankly, I don't know how actual game developers do it. I'm not sure that I'll ever feel totally comfortable with my work, but it's definitely a process.
Morpheus-I mean Lawrence Fishburne-gets his share of the action.
Think Something Will Take 30 Minutes? Think Again
That scene up there is one that I made just today. It was not originally part of my plan for this section of the dungeon in Obama RPG. It was spontaneous. I thought it would take maybe thirty minutes to make. It took me approximately 2-3 hours. Yesterday was another good example. I spent all day yesterday working on Obama RPG, trying to get through development of two dungeons. I didn't make it, even after working on it for what must have been 12 hours straight and I'm still working on the one. I was exhausted from it. I hit the hay almost right afterwards.
One big part of making an RPG is time. RPGs are long games, that's a given. So, of course it would take a long time to make an RPG. Well, it takes longer than a long time. Over the years, as my skill has increased, I have found that making polished, well made sections of an RPG can take a very, very long time. It's important to manage your time well and to make good use of the time you have. But on that note, that's not to say that if something that could take a long time, it should not be implemented. A good idea, like that fight up there, can go a long way into making an appealing game.
Persona 4 is an RPG that can take 100+ hours to complete, but retains its excellence! Phew!
Another side note that goes along with me overdoing it yesterday is to not overdo it. It's a bad idea. It makes you exhausted, and as you try to push forward, the quality of your work just plummets. It's important to take breaks and to stretch once in a while.
Once again, I must think back on commercial games. Think Persona 4, a game that can take 100+ hours to beat. How long do you think something like that took to make? Granted, it was a team effort, but by golly, it must have taken ages. You have to appreciate the commitment such developers have to making not only such long games, but to make those games really good and polished.
You can pick up vinyl records in Obama RPG and add them to an MP3 Player you get early in the game. This is used to change the battle theme.
And a video showcasing the feature.
It's Never Too Late To Change Something For The Better
You might feel like you're done with an area in a game you make, but you aren't truly finished until the whole game is finished. Meaning, if you come up with a good idea that changes something way back in the beginning of the game, then you should do it. So long as it's a positive change, it's worth messing with some things to get it working.
My personal example for this is the MP3 Player feature of Obama RPG. In the past, the Golden Sun Battle Theme was the only battle theme there was in the game. That's fine and all, but starting late last year, I became very obsessed with Persona 4 and the Megaten franchise in general. I got to thinking, what if someone doesn't like the battle theme, or wants to change it? I knew that I would have to mess with stuff I made years ago to get such a feature working, but I went for it. Now, the MP3 Player is fully functional, and you can pick up songs from all walks of RPGs to fight enemies to. It was so worth it.
In fact, I'm going to go change a dungeon I made two years ago, because I came up with an idea to make the atmosphere all the more better. Point is, nothing's set in steel, and if it sounds like a good change to old material, go for it. You might just end up patting yourself on the back for it, later.
Like clowns, we are here to entertain!
Don't Forget Your Purpose / Creativity Is Key
I'm mashing two points together, here. It's important to not forget your purpose in creating a game, whether it be to convey a message, to tell a story, or to entertain. Your game might be the crappiest game you have ever seen, but as long as you don't forget your purpose and tell the story you set out to tell, or say what you mean to say, you've succeeded to some degree.
I can talk as much as I want about how I pull my hair out over how sucky I am at making enemies in RPGs, but the purpose of Obama RPG is to entertain through humor, just as Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden sets out to do (I think), and I try my darndest to deliver on that front. I pull out subtle humor and sarcasm in tons of places, and although there are certainly some serious scenes, I never forget my purpose, and it's very important to never forget it as you're making a game. Lose sight of that, and you lose the very thing that makes your game special.
The world map screen in Obama RPG is basically a giant map of the world that you can walk around on and access different areas of the game from.To that effect, as I'm creating a game heavily influenced by Barkley, Shut Up and Jam: Gaiden, it's immensely important to have a good dosage of creativity throughout the game. I think this is true of many RPGs, but especially ones relying on humor and wackiness to carry them through the game.
I don't think this one needs much explanation, but my example here is the world map you see up there. While I was coming up with how I would do the world map, I thought that perhaps I could do something that gives the player freedom from the get go. You can see every area (save a few) you'll go through in the game on the world map, although you can't access the majority of them at first, and you can explore at your leisure. This kind of creativity is very important, and it allows me to express some creativity through creating those little icons for every area up there.
It's important to take every chance you get to express your creativity and let it shine through your work, as it serves only to enhance it and to make a more enjoyable game.
Obama and the Doctor have two very different personalities. You can see them shining through, a bit in this clip.
Characters are the Paint
Hang in there, I've got a few more points to cover. Thank you very much for reading this far, if you're still with me. Just as story, gameplay, and creativity are key elements of a good game, characters are the paint that gives the story an extra layer of, shall we say, interest and enjoyment. It's highly important to have a good cast of characters, whether you have only three characters in a game (as one game I made once did), or a huge cast of characters.
In Obama RPG, you have a wide variety of characters. You have Obama, who's arrogant, reckless, and thinks he's some sort of superhuman. God's gift to the world. Then, you have The Doctor, who is a voice of reason, and tries to keep Obama on the right path through all this and is always happy and willing to help. There's also Keanu Reeves, the third party member, who's mopey and serious most of the time.
Talking of villains, one of the major villains, Saturos (from Golden Sun) is very pompous and condescending. General Guy (from Paper Mario) speaks like a stereotypical general in an army and is absolutely obsessed with tanks. Balrog (from Cave Story) has a bubbly attitude, seemingly always in a happy mood and almost immature. But not only heroes and villains should have such personalities. The supporting cast as well. For example (only one example this time), Samuel L. Jackson is an important NPC who constantly swears (it's censored), is very assertive, and always jumps right into the action.
Just as with characters and character development, character relations are vastly important. General Guy and Balrog share an almost child-like relationship throughout the game. Side note: I need to replace that 'irregardless' with 'regardless'. I thought I got all those from when I used to think that 'irregardless' was a word, but I guess not.
It's very important to have a good cast of characters in a game, but character development is just as important. Two quick examples are that Obama gets a wake up call later in the game and sees that he's not invincible, so he matures into a character that is strong, confident, but not over-confident, and aware of the risks involved in big decisions. Keanu doesn't lose his serious face, but he stops acting mopey and depressed after The Doctor tells him he should shape up.
Many good games, especially RPGs, have a great cast of characters that are likable and grow on the player, whether it be Mario and Luigi, Persona, Final Fantasy, or Tales Of ___. Many also have excellent character development, which is equally important. It took me a year or two of RPG making at least until I started making characters with distinct personalities that grew as a character over the course of the game, but now I realize the importance of it all.
Richard is Obama's "biggest fan", who shows up midway through the game and ends up joining you, giving you information that would otherwise be on a boss titlecard.
As Long as One Person Likes It...
One last thing I want to say. I've found over the years that I make RPGs primarily to satisfy myself. It feels good to make a game. It can be a crapfest, but I felt proud of even my first RPG. In fact, I put my first RPG on a blank CD, and I remember bringing it in to my seventh grade class, beaming and handing out a list for people to sign out the CD and play it. I was proud of my work, even though my work was awful. (Ironically, that RPG is one of the two RPGs I still have as mementos from my 6 years of RPG making, since I still have that CD.)
Rather than satisfy myself, over the years I've started to put my RPGs out there. My first one was Cell 17, a game I made for a contest. The contest's theme was to make a game about genetic modification. It had three characters and was about a guy who wakes up in a cell in some laboratory out in the middle of nowhere and has to escape. In the process, he finds a guy who wears a mask to hide his horrific genetically modified face, who impedes his progress.
At the end, the man hands the main character his sword and tells him to kill him with it, as he has no control over his actions. He does so, and the man's mask falls off, revealing a perfectly fine face, only dirtied by the large gash dripping blood across it. The main character says something to the effect of "You aren't disfigured at all", and the man replies "Aren't I?" before dying peacefully. It was a horror game, and a good game, with good characters, good atmosphere, and a good story. I won the contest with that game, and I got 10+ people who said it was great. It felt good to win, but that's not the point.
It really does mean a lot when someone says they like your game. It means the world to me.
A more recent example with Obama RPG is that some guy commented on my Obama RPG page (that I'll link to at the end of the blog) that he loves the game and the Golden Sun things I put into it. You know what? That makes it all worth it. These countless hours of toil and stress. So long as one person likes my game...So long as one person takes the time out of their schedule to download my game, sit down, and play it, it's all worth it. And I think the same can be said of mostly any game.
Aliens: Colonial Marines was awful, no question, but someone out there liked it, and I think that the people that poured their time and work into it can get at least a little satisfaction from that. Now, it's different because that game needs to make a profit and everything, and it has a much wider audience, but my point remains that it's all worth it if at least one person likes the game you're making and encourages you.
It's time to end this crazy blog.
I know, I know. This must be the longest blog ever published on Destructoid, but it's also the most heartfelt piece I've ever written. It sums up everything I've learned and many of the experiences I've had over these past six years, since the very first time I sat down with the trial version of RPG Maker XP in 2007. It also allows me to recount some painful memories (getting all of my games erased when Megaupload went, gosh darnit) and some sentimental ones (Cell 17 was a very important game to me, and a staple in my development as a developer).
I hope some of you made it this far and stuck with me the whole way through. I know RPG Maker may be like the most basic training wheels imaginable when it comes to game development, but it has transformed my life and touched my heart, and I hope that this blog touches some of your hearts, in turn.
Obama's adventure begins with a dream, just as I have a dream to complete this darned game that I've been working on for years.
I don't want to make this sound too much like an advertisement for Obama RPG, but if anyone is at all interested, I inquire you to check out the game where I'm currently updating information on a frequent basis, here: http://rpgmaker.net/games/4087/
Just be forewarned, that while a demo is available, it's outdated, and if you plan to play the full game, you'll have to start over, anyways, otherwise the music will get all wonky due to the inclusion of the MP3 player feature (and you'll also miss other features).
So, I hope I was able to spin a somewhat interesting yarn, here and touch a few hearts along the way. If anyone has their own story of game making experience, I'd love to hear it. I'm just glad to get this all off my chest. Thanks for reading. Good night.