Is it too late for new assets?

Tenebre

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Hi there, dear makers. First, english isn't my native language, so please excuse some mistakes.

I need some tips from experienced makers. I've never done a game before and just got basic IT skills (no scripting). As many of you say, it's not adviced to make the first game commercial, but contrary to all opinions I still give that a try with big effort.

I'm relatively familiar with RMMV. My game has 1600+ hrs developement time and 25+ hrs of gameplay, 40+ plugins (yanfly's not even counted) and it's a long way to finish this game, maybe 2-3 years.

With this experience comes the knowledge of my former inexperience; and that a commercial game with just standard assets will not really earn any attention. So I plan to pay artists for sprites, battlers, tilesets and so on. My graphical skills are extremely bad, so parallax mapping etc. is not an option to me, unfortunately (I've got some payed generator parts as well as the extended generator, for example).

Now comes the point why I've created this thread and why I ask for your advice:
Makes it any sense to implement (big) sprites, custom battlers or new tilesets at this stage of developement? Or do I have to do all the work again? Or, to get concrete: is it too late and much better to finish this game with standard assets, uncommercially? It would make me sad because of the whole work (all items, classes, subclasses, enemies, formulas, level progressions etc. are well balanced imo), but if that's the truth, I have to face it and maybe start another game from scratch. The balancing work isn't lost, and all I've learned was invaluable for future progressing.

So, beat me down with your bitter sword of truth. Any opinions and answers are appreciated!

Thank you very much! :LZSsmile:
 

Andar

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I have a saying:
A titanic list of features is the surest way to go Titanic (=to the bottom of the ocean) with your project.

A limited number of carefully coordinated features makes a game better than simply adding everything you can add - for a lot of reasons, including that you can't please every type of player, but you can offend everyone.
Every player usually has only two or three things they are interested in - everything else distracts from their fun. So adding everything will cause problems if everything is required - and be a large black hole for working hours if it can be ignored by the player.


As for replacing art resources - it depends on how you do this.
It's almost impossible to replace everything in such a game, but selected replacements can improve a game a lot. To give any advice we would have to see some screenshot examples of what you have.
 

Sparky89

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If you were to make a game as large as the one you have you ought to have sat down with yourself and thought.. hmm do i want this to be a commercial success? do i require custom art to achieve this?
Your so far into your build i don't feel it's impossible to replace your artwork with -Re-Work but it's painful process to now do. I would release your game anyways and properly work on a - remaster edition with new art, in a few years time. I personally am not put off if the work your using isn't your own or custom. if the content is great the game-play is great then why should i worry about ART ? the ART grabs you or implies a theme but it's not detrimental to your game ideas. Alot of my friends would question ( ERUGH THE GRAPHICS ) they did this on mine craft and it turned out to be the most popular game EVER. so this means don't worry about ART. You have a choice release game as is.. and make a remaster edition or re-work it. and release it as intended.
 

TeiRaven

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I'm going to come at this from the "do I have to do all the work again" side, and the answer is still "it depends." There are definitely ways to use stand-in graphics that you wouldn't have to redo everything...but it will require some planning.

For things like Characters and Portraits, as long as you're consistent in the way you name your files, it wouldn't be a terrible thing to change your art later--at least as of RMXP, which is what I have the most experience with (so take this with a grain of salt if you're using something newer.) As long as your stand-in file had the same name as your final file, you wouldn't have to go through and manually replace every instance.

For example, if you have a folder of "Temporary Character Facesets" and a folder for "Final Character Facesets." You'd give your temporary faceset (even if it was just an MS paint smiley face, which is what I've been using as a stand-in XD) save it as Character1Faceset.png in the Temporary Character Facesets folder. When you get your final artwork, put it in the other (Final Character Facesets) folder, but give it the same name--Character1Faceset.png. When you import the new one, because it has the same name as the one that's already there, it should replace it in all instances and save you the trouble of having to go back and change every single line of dialogue. The same premise applies to character graphics, picture graphics, etc.

Something like tilesets is a bit trickier, but the premise still applies. As long as you make sure your final tileset has all the same pieces in all the same places (you put all the floors where you have the temporary floors, all the trees where you have the temporary trees, and so on) you should be able to import the new tileset, change the tileset used for the map, and not have to redo all the mapping. Like I said, this would take some patience (and again, I use XP, so it might behave slightly differently in a newer engine) and you might have to do some minor tweaks if it turns out something didn't layer right, but you wouldn't be starting from scratch.

---

As far as art goes, though, I both agree and disagree with Sparky--I think it's worth having nice* art, because that's what's going to grab a lot of people's attention first. They're not going to be able to see all the neat features from screenshots alone. However, I definitely agree that not everything has to be custom! There's no shame in using the RTP if you like its style, that's what it's there for. If I was going to pick two things to commission, it would be the title screen and the facesets. With MV's character generator, the odds of having a hero that looks just like someone else's are lessened significantly--having those main character sprites be unique goes a long way. Otherwise that would be my third thing to have done special for you--your hero party sprites, and possibly your main villains.

*Mind you, "nice" art is extremely subjective, and I personally think the biggest factor in making a game look "nice" is that it looks cohesive. Undertale comes to mind--its style isn't super-detailed like, for example, Celianna's painted tilesets. But it's a very nice-looking game, because it embraces its style.

Art is an extremely subjective thing, so feel free to take all my opinions with as much salt as you'd like--but in terms of the technicalities of replacing your graphics down the road, I hope I was of some help!
 

Tenebre

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Thanks for your detailed replies!

@Andar: Yes, I totally agree. I hopefully chose plugins that fits and synergizes well together, like Frog's "Signature Skills" together with Yanfly's "Absorption Barrier", Victor's "CounterActions", what gives depth to battles, or SRD's "Skill Extender" / LNM's "LightingTool" for overview/aesthetics, just to name a few. You totally can put too many together, but I think it's extremely important that one may take plugins that fit's the game, and not vice versa. ;-)

(Did I understand this right or did you mean something else?)

And Screenshots of what, do you mean? They're just the standard tilesets and sprites (with custom clothing), but personally I don't like the chibis - or the chibi-trees. =D


@Sparky: You're right. I think I've explained the point with the "art" misleadingly. My point is to have bigger sprites and more beautiful tilesets, as like Avery's/Pandamaru's (?) bigger trees are out of the question much more beautiful than the standard trees, at least for me.

The custom art has not to be something special for me. Undertale or Minecraft have their very own styles. My game is very oriented on the SNES Final Fantasy- / Breath of Fire-series, or Chrono Trigger. Nothing THAT special, even if absolutely beautiful and barely achievable for my 1-man-project.
Your point of view (gameplay/fun > aesthetics) gives me hope, I see this very similar. Nevertheless I think it's very hard to promote and position a game that looks the same like thousands of (unfortunately, often crappy) games.

You think that I have to start as soon as possible with "better" assets, right?


@TeiRaven: That's a good point with the temporary folders, I've never thought about that! As to the tiles, I think it comes to issues when I want to have big trees (like 16x8 instead of 4x4, for example). But then, it's logical when I have to deal with this and yes, it's not even close to begin from scratch.

Do you think it's better to start with these assets right now, or is it better to do the rework later when the game is "finished" (when it's the time to do some rework anyways)? Do you personally use placeholders or is this just unnecessary effort?


@All: Again, so much thanks for your replies. I really like this forum and the absolutely stunning community within it.

I have to go to bed now. See you soon!
 

bgillisp

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The thing is, there is a market that will buy games made with the RTP. You will get some flak from some yes though, but you can still sell it if you want to.

As for the rest, you can probably replace the facesets the easiest, music the 2nd easiest. Tiles will depend on how you did your maps, same with the sprites on the map.
 

TeiRaven

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For tilesets, I don't use a lot of placeholders. Really, I probably should, because that's where I'm stalled on my current project--what do I want the world to look like? Do I want it like this? Like this? Like that?? So your plight is familiar XD

However! For facesets and sprites, I am very much a user of placeholders. Which is how I came to discover that it makes a lot more sense to name a folder "temporary" than to include it in the filename. I had several projects with "_temp stuck in the filename of the very much not-temporary assets.

I am right there with you, I vastly prefer the look of taller sprites! That's why I never gave up XP. Changing the sprites from short to tall won't, I think, be too big of an issue as long as you use the filename trick. However, I think you might have your work cut out for you changing the tilesets to match with maps that are already made. Not impossible! The bones of your maps will be intact, and all of your events, but you might have a few hours of adjusting to make everything fit.

At the end of the day, it is your game that you're making to your vision. Especially working as a one-man team. If you want to try it out before you commit, make a couple of maps in a new project using the assets you've got your eye on and see if you like the results! Is it one more thing to do? Yes. But if you aren't relying this game to pay your bills, then your deadlines don't have to be carved in stone. Yes, it will be more work for you, yes it will push your launch date forward--but if it gives you that feeling of yes, THIS is what I wanted to create! then I'd say it's worth it.
 

Andar

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And Screenshots of what, do you mean? They're just the standard tilesets and sprites (with custom clothing), but personally I don't like the chibis - or the chibi-trees. =D
Which resources you use doesn't say anything about the quality of your maps - just as an example.

As said above there are people who buy RTP-based games, but to get into that market you have to show that you can put the RTP into good use - I've seen screenshots of a lot of games that didn't. I just shudder with horror on the thought of the one user that was proud to have made fifty maps in a single weekend - because they were all mostly empty auto-generated dungeon maps.

If your maps do not have the required quality, then you're either looking at a major redesign of the maps or you'll have to replace the tilesets in ways that cover any mistakes. Both things are more difficult than just akzenting a good map with a few carefully choosen improved tiles.
But we can't judge that without seeing some of your work (your best and your worst map in your opinion would be enough, no need to spoiler the entire game).

And same goes for the rest - are you only using face or have you added busts? A few custom busts for main characters go a long way to add quality, but only if they don't stand out as extreme examples. and so on.
 

Tenebre

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@Andar: Busts are definitely one of my must-haves (not implemented yet).

Here are some screenshots of my, admittedly, better maps.

(I'm not experienced with forums; it may be that the formats of screenshots are false. If not, ignore this text.)

1605174733337.png

1605174883198.png

1605175015260.png

1605175203265.png
 

jkweath

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This is kind of a cop-out response, but I think the only person who can really answer the question, "is it too late for me to buy assets?" is you.

Take my opinion with a grain of salt (I'm not an expert), but I will say this: without knowing anything about your game, my recommendation would be to go ahead and commercialize it without new assets. Going off your screenshots alone, I'd be willing to bet the Aldorlea community would love to check it out.

As for Steam, do some research on how to craft a compelling Steam store page with a good screenshot lineup, trailer and cover art (actually, you might want to commission some good cover art - it helps *a lot*), and make sure your game has a good hook that can reel in potential buyers--a plotline? a gameplay mechanic? Anything that's not "SNES-style jRPG like Final Fantasy/Chrono Trigger/etc" because I 100% guarantee you it won't work (speaking from experience and from the hundreds of other devs who've tried that hook with RTP graphics too).

Craft your store page with love and care, because--and this is the hill I'll die on--if you can't nail your presentation, the quality of the game itself is 100% irrelevant. Drill this statement into your head, because there's way too many devs around here who've made games that sold less than 10 copies in their opening week and lamented, "Why isn't anyone interested in my game? I put so much work into it!"

You probably won't make a ton of money--maybe enough to break the $1000 mark on Steam if you're lucky--but you can use whatever money you earn to help get your next game off the ground, one that's made with commercial success in mind from the very beginning.

Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I think most indie devs trying to make a serious attempt to break into the market do something like this:

1. Make enough content for a strong demo (possibly buy just enough assets to cover this)
2. Show it off, see if anyone's interested
3. Start a crowdfunding campaign to fund the rest of the assets
4. If campaign fails, go back to the drawing board - your game didn't have a sufficient hook to interest people
 

Tenebre

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Thanks for your post jkweath, your answer is very relevant to me!

It's good to know that this many people here don't put away a game just uses the standard assets.

I don't care for the income of this game; of course I work on it like to earn millions, but that's just a (unrealistic) goal that encourages me and remind me to do the best I can. If I earn $1000 with it to invest in future projects, I'll be absolutely happy.

If I've understand you correctly, you meant "marketing > quality". Sadly, thats my other weakness (the other one is graphic programs), so I have to concentrate on my strengths that are character progression and storytelling, as far I can tell. I have to work with someone who covers this weaknesses.

As for Steam, do some research on how to craft a compelling Steam store page with a good screenshot lineup, trailer and cover art (actually, you might want to commission some good cover art - it helps *a lot*), and make sure your game has a good hook that can reel in potential buyers--a plotline? a gameplay mechanic? Anything that's not "SNES-style jRPG like Final Fantasy/Chrono Trigger/etc" because I 100% guarantee you it won't work (speaking from experience and from the hundreds of other devs who've tried that hook with RTP graphics too).

With the SNES-style games I meant especially the character centric (the focus of FF are definitely the twists and problems of the characters; their evil emperors are cool, but not the hook of these games), the character individuality (FF6 Espers - Skill learnings) and battle (at least for me).

My plot should be comparable with Death Note or Code Geass, with many turns and a very intelligent protoganist. What is surprisingly not that difficult like I thought at the beginning. =D

The most difficult thing imo is to get the attention of players from the very beginning. "Wow, this looks cool and I give it a try / want it to play" is the primary filter most people can't pass.


All of you could give me even more motivation for this. Thanks a lot!


EDIT: Oh, I've got a trophy for my first like. Didn't knew that this funktion exists here xD
As I said, it's my 5th time that I wrote somethin in the forums, so please excuse. Of course I've liked all of your answers, so don't be unhappy :)
(Is this important to someone?)
 
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jkweath

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Glad to see you're still motivated! That's a good sign!

With the SNES-style games I meant especially the character centric (the focus of FF are definitely the twists and problems of the characters; their evil emperors are cool, but not the hook of these games), the character individuality (FF6 Espers - Skill learnings) and battle (at least for me).

My plot should be comparable with Death Note or Code Geass, with many turns and a very intelligent protoganist. What is surprisingly not that difficult like I thought at the beginning. =D

Let me clarify what I meant when I said not to use the "SNES-style RPG" hook--or more accurately IMO, the "nostalgia hook". I don't doubt that you can craft a story with gameplay that's similar to that of the big SNES RPGs. The thing with the nostalgia hook (or any hook, really), is that you need to be able to show it to people--i.e. the old "show, don't tell" rule.

You need to invoke that feeling of nostalgia as the customer is browsing your page, much like how porn games (even ones of questionable quality) can get their customers turned on before they've even bought the game.

Here's the problem: RTP graphics don't invoke nostalgia. That might be a point of debate, but I think it's safe to say considering the hundreds of RTP RPGMaker games sitting in the Steam Dumpster who tried going for the same hook and failed.

That's why I recommend not going solely for the nostalgia hook, especially if it's your only hook.

I don't care for the income of this game; of course I work on it like to earn millions, but that's just a (unrealistic) goal that encourages me and remind me to do the best I can. If I earn $1000 with it to invest in future projects, I'll be absolutely happy.

You might not be too worried about the income, but I'd still encourage you to learn how to market your game as best as you can, not just for the income, but to build up an audience. Part of why my RPG making career has been (relatively) successful is because I've built up an audience over time.

Anyway, regardless of what you do, I'd also recommend looking into getting your game published on Aldorlea before Steam. The Aldorlea audience loves long, high-quality RTP games, and they're quick to point out any bugs or flaws too. Release it there first, make some extra cash and improve your game with the feedback, and maybe in the meantime learn how to set your game up on Steam and craft a compelling store page.

Good luck!
 

mlogan

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I've moved this thread to General Discussion. Please be sure to post your threads in the correct forum next time. Thank you.

 

TeiRaven

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Here's another one of those anecdotes from the Life of Tei that I hope might be of some interest or perhaps even help--

Games were never a big part of my life growing up. I never owned a console, most of the games I played were puzzle-type games (Bejeweled, Chuzzles, Luxor, etc) that I found on Yahoo Games and played on trials. Then one lazy afternoon in 8th grade, I found Aveyond. RPGs were a completely new concept to me. I had no idea what to expect. I didn't have the nostalgia factor--it was mentioned that "if you like classic RPGs, you'll love Aveyond!" but that meant very little to me, since I didn't have any exposure to classic RPGs.

What drew me in was the art. Art has always been a big part of my life. The screenshots on the Aveyond page I linked aren't the same as the ones that were on the long-dead Yahoo Games page. Or rather, they were there, but there were others as well. But that title screen was so pretty, and the little pixel-bean people grew on me, and.............I fell in love. I was hooked. I wound up majoring in game design.

The number witchcraft part of marketing--advertising and social media presence and that bit--eludes me, I'm dreadful at it. My rule of thumb is "would I stop scrolling to check this out?" And for me, the #1 thing that'll make my slow my scrolling is pretty art to get my attention, and then an interesting elevator pitch to get me to click "download." (And confession: tall sprites make me about 500% more likely to stop scrolling! I never could get used to the little chibi sprites. Which brings us back to your initial question: is it worth it to add new assets now? Depends if you're like me, and 500% more likely to look at a game with a particular style of graphics.)

Whatever marketing you do, put your best work forward. Feature your most beautiful or most interesting maps. Show a screenshot with a compelling line of dialogue, to help showcase not only the writing but the art in your facesets (since you mentioned busts being important to you, I can only assume that's what they'll be used for.) If you have a unique battle system, show a screenshot of that. Not only will it give people an idea what to expect (trigger-based or turn-based combat? A touch of comedy, or dark and serious? etc.) it will give them something to look forward to.

And as usual, take that with as much salt as you'd like--I've never tried to go commercial with any of my projects, so I'm definitely not a marketing expert.
 

Tenebre

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First things first:
I've moved this thread to General Discussion. Please be sure to post your threads in the correct forum next time. Thank you.

Sorry for that! It's definitely not that easy to choose the correct forum. o_O :stickytongue:
I'll take care to do it better next time.


@jkweath: The nostalgia is an important point I've never tought about, thanks for that - and for Aldorlea, I'll surely go over there first.

About the "hook", I understood it that way that the hook is every special feature of my game that makes the player to want buying it, and not just scrolling over (so every thing that are different to other games, like battle mechanics, subclass-system, a few of my best maps etc.). You may correct me if I'm wrong, otherwise don't worry to leave me without an answer. ;-)


@TeiRaven: The tall sprites are definitely my number 1 priority. Then comes the busts and lastly the tiles. I think this should now be sorted by the effort of how time consuming and easy these changes are to implement to me. Worst case will be that no newer tiles makes it into the game (or just a few that can polish the game at the right moments), even if I would like this to achieve. With the placeholders, bigger sprites are not a problem anymore to implement, just minor adjusts like put a "$" before the name, if I remember right.


Great! I've got more clarity now and can set these priorities in the right order. All of you have helped me a lot with this decisions, thanks! Hopefully I'll get some time left to give my tips and advices in this forum for return.

See you soon!
 

MichaelRIR

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I just wanted to drop by and say that last screenshot is impressive. Huge building, looks cool to explore. Nicely done. Figured some supportive words on your current maps might help keep the fire burning. Good luck!
 

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When you thought you'd be finished with the grid, and spend ~8-9 hours on an arrow. How is this more difficult to than player movement?

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I'm having it strictly follow the path a user draws, because there will be booby trap and other similar mechanics where you want to avoid specific cells.
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