Minimum Viable Product? (AKA: Starting Small)

SilentSword

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Hey RPG Maker community!

I'm entirely new to RPG Maker with some experience in Javascript. Because of this experience, I've been able to craft some pretty cool combat skills, ones that are, in my humble opinion, ten times more complex than the basic skills RPG Maker gives you by default (which isnt saying much :p). That being said, I'm also a big fan of the YouTube channel "Extra Credits". In particular, and in reference to the game I'm trying to create, I was drawn to a video about minimum viable product that I've posted here.
One thing that I notice when I'm looking at RPG Maker forums with people asking for advice on games is that it seems like a lot of people have strengths that come in the form of great art and amazing ability for storytelling. For me, as a person who has always played traditional MMORPGs like WoW and others, my strength on RPG Maker has always been creating these really complex skills that provide nuance to the battles. My problem, and what I posted this for, is that minimum viable product is described as stripping out those extra nuances and just testing things at the base. That being said, I have 3 questions: Being a game that's combat-centric, how do I come up with a minimum viable product? How do I gradually add these extra contents to the game without sacrificing the base foundation that minimum viable product provides? And, finally, how do I make a WoW-esque combat system (in terms of complex skills) without making the player feel overwhelmed?

Thanks in advance!:kaoluv:
 

JtheDuelist

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I can't really answer your questions since I just usually dive in first after the sketching stuff down phase, but gods, I LOVE Extra Credits' videos...
 

SmashArtist

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Well, I have to say I love Extra Credit's videos, but this one is hard to apply to RPG Maker, especially if you're starting out. How I started with RPG maker is making one personal project where I can play around with the engine, test every single plugin ever, and learn to make maps, cutscenes, battles, etc.

I think It'll be a while if you're completely new to game making before you'll be able to come up with a game that isn't just filled with experimentation of the engine. I've have around 15 RPG maker projects, most of the first ones just being jumbles of multiple games and concepts stuck into one project and only recently have I thought that I seriously want to actually complete a game and have lowered the scale of my projects. (although I still have huuge projects which I hope I can complete)

This is just from my experience however, so don't think it is the right or only way to do it!
 

Kes

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The problem with multi-question queries is that it can be difficult to put the thread into the correct place. Certainly your first two are not mechanics, and the third might be, or might be a "How do I...?" (implementation) question. That's why it is usually best to have one question, one thread, rather than a bundle.

I am, therefore, moving this to General Discussion.



As you are completely new to RPGMaker, and do not mention having experience making games in other engines, my strong advice would be - don't try and do this for your first game. You need to get familiar with what the engine can do, learn the basics of balancing, bug testing etc. etc. etc. Doing that while at the same time trying to do a complex game is often the reason for the many abandoned games that are around. Just do a simple, learning game first, perhaps testing out some particular aspect of your system, then use that experience to help inform you on how to approach something with complex skills etc.
 

SilentSword

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As you are completely new to RPGMaker, and do not mention having experience making games in other engines, my strong advice would be - don't try and do this for your first game. You need to get familiar with what the engine can do, learn the basics of balancing, bug testing etc. etc. etc. Doing that while at the same time trying to do a complex game is often the reason for the many abandoned games that are around. Just do a simple, learning game first, perhaps testing out some particular aspect of your system, then use that experience to help inform you on how to approach something with complex skills etc.

I should mention that I dabbled a lot with C# on Unity. One of the problems I have with this MVP concept in relation to RPGMaker is, after I strip every thing down, after I drop all content except for the core...What do I test? For the most part, I was testing plugins, especially things like Yanfly's DEF scaling so that I could get a good idea of what the actually numbers would be. I tested things like Blocking with shields through plugins and stuff, I'm not sure what I should be doing. Other than that though, I'm lost on where to starting making a foundation aside from going into game and pressing the "Attack" button. I feel like there's a fog that's stopping me from implementing all the things I want to implement, things that I've written down and planned and everything! But I dont know how to get past it, I dont even know where to start.
 

TheoAllen

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On the last question, you don't. At least, not yet. Your first two questions are valid though
The last question is maybe too much for you, just yet. Don't think about it.

I've watched the video and it's a great video. And I always kind of start with MVP. Develop your core first, develop how the game is played, then put a little 'content' on it to test that out. A idea might be good on how it sounds, but on the actual content, it might be frustrating. So, you test it on that part.

You want to put yanfly's armor scalling, together with shield blocking. Alright, so what you do is to make the enemies, one dungeon, or one stage. Story can be basically anything, or even nothing. With those things only, will the game fun to play? Simply testing how the plugin works won't do anything, you need to make a 'real' game, implementing those plugin on a small proof of a concept.

Now, it might sounds advertising. One of my MVP project is one I released for Release Something event. You can try to check it out here (you need RTP VXAce though). It just a small game with 15 minutes of gameplay, trying to test my battle system idea. Maybe, this is what you want to do to test your concept
 

SilentSword

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You want to put yanfly's armor scalling, together with shield blocking. Alright, so what you do is to make the enemies, one dungeon, or one stage. Story can be basically anything, or even nothing. With those things only, will the game fun to play? Simply testing how the plugin works won't do anything, you need to make a 'real' game, implementing those plugin on a small proof of a concept.

Now, it might sounds advertising. One of my MVP project is one I released for Release Something event. You can try to check it out here (you need RTP VXAce though). It just a small game with 15 minutes of gameplay, trying to test my battle system idea. Maybe, this is what you want to do to test your concept
You're completely right. For the sake of convenience, let me get my analysis of what I just experienced out of the way so I may tie it in to how it's helping me reassess my own game. The "Timeline Order" battle system....I hate it. Well, at least I did when I got into my first battle. I think it took me up until the third battle to finally understand the genius of the system and how it benefits the player and the gameplay.

Firstly, one of the things that really struck me while playing was when I had the epiphany that this was a system that rewards the player for putting in effort. The fact that "Guard" allows you to sort of "skip ahead of the line," if you will, allows you to rearrange the turn order in ways that are more advantageous to yourself while sacrificing some immediate payoff. So if you want the one gun lady to be able to do her AoE attack unhindered, it might be a good idea to have her guard first so that she isn't immediately behind the next enemy who can potentially attack her and interrupt it. The second thing that struck me was that it fixes a problem I noticed harshly affects gameplay: mages, or, at least, AoE Magic damage classes. The big problem I have with these is that without anything to hinder them in a regular game, they can just wipe the field with AoE damage, in this, you can bombard a mage with damage and interrupts until they are dead, it's a very effective way of remedying the issue and giving a game more room to create AoE mage classes without the fear of them wrecking havoc everywhere.

Now, how this relates to my game is the fact that you were right. I think that, ironically, focusing on minimum viable product is thinking too far ahead because I don't even have a battle system that's neither engaging, nor flashy enough to warrant it. I suppose my first step is looking for ways to make a turn-based battle system as robust as the one I found in your game.
 

TheoAllen

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Hey, thank you for playing. But I'm not continuing that here since it's not my game thread. If you wish to continue to talk about it, you can put the comment on my thread instead and we can talk about ideas there.

But yeah, this is what you should do. I tried with an approach of making a huge list of skills on excel, but it got me nowhere, and I overwhelmed. And that concept is never implemented. But a battle concept that basically just throw off complex skill list, and strip most of the content is meaningful, you know what is wrong, why the concept is not like what you've expected in mind. It happened quite a lot of time, so making a proof of concept is important. Start from there first, after it works, try to make a bigger game.
 

ChampX

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A minimum viable product in RPG Maker?

I would strip anything that isn't combat, so you can probably use test battle for this actually. Map gameplay and events aren't important as you want to focus on making combat engaging.

Then I would focus on each option the player can do in battle. These typically are: attack, guard, skill, item, and escape. You want to fine tune the basis behind each of these to get them to feel fun. So for attack as an example, you have one weapon made with one class, and one enemy. You fine tune how damage is dealt, maybe different formulas. When I simulated basic attacks in my game, I actually wrote a damage formula in a console application outside of RPG Maker where I faked turns and just displayed numbers. This gave me an idea of how damage was dealt at various stats and levels or the probability of say getting a critical. Seeing only numbers and only working on just basic damage being dealt helped block out a lot of noise and while yes, it is just a numbers game, did it feel fun? How did it feel to run 10 simulations of an attack spitting out numbers? When I got this feeling good, I then implemented the formula and logic into RPG Maker and tested it there where I saw practically the same results.

You probably could stop a minimum viable product there, but as I said, having a basic implementation of the other options will help you a bit more. Doing the attack option first and how damage is calculated can (though not always depending on your mechanics) help with determining the other options. What about guarding the opponents attack? Does the reduced damage feel like a solid decision? Would I maybe want guard to function a different way? Do I even want guard? I actually dropped it because it didn't feel good, but making a MVP helped with that. You could then make one skill and one item to get an idea of those. Simple ones though. Then you just play through the battle using various options and see how it feels. Can you get the basic RPG Maker combat to feel fun and how much tweaking of it at the core level does it need until it feels fun? Once you do that, then you can build off that and players will thank you for it. If you can't, well at least you didn't spend 300+ hours on story and mapping prior first only to then scrap the concept.

While not required in newer RPG Maker engines, having scripting knowledge will make this far easier and give you way more flexibility in how you can achieve a good MVP.
 
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Make a combat demo that's very bare bones on other elements. Like have a very short but funny premise that will give testers/players something to chuckle about in a 20 minute demo. "You control a villager at his wit's end battling rude jrpg adventurers raiding his house", "jrpg battle arena WWE style", or "Tim the gardener has to fight against the weed monstrosities accosting his flower bed".

And as for more intricate combat systems, I always found alternate resource systems to be refreshing and easy to grasp. Like have rogue energy and combat points or warrior rage instead of MP. These resource mechanics are nearly universally understood but still fun to play with.
 

Milennin

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That's basically what I did with my latest game. Spend minimum effort on the mapping, graphics, story etc, and pretty much go mainly combat. Surprisingly, it did get positive reviews for the most part, so it can definitely work. With the base game complete, I can always come back to it and make it actually look nice with custom graphics, or expand it in some way or another, if I'd want to.
 

LaFlibuste

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You need to find what the core gameplay really and focus on it. For JRPG, as others have said (the video included) it usually is combat. But what is your core combat mechanic(s)? In most classic JRPGs (FF4 for instance) it's mashing the attack button while actors boringly take their turns, healing every now and then (okay I'm over simplifying but still). Others have some variations on those core mechanics: the characters take their turns but there are some key elements to take notice of. Some examples:
- Legend of the Dragoons with the key-timing combos-things to attack;
- Legend of Legaia (ok I might be slightly off on that one since I actually ahted it and barely played it) with different attack options resulting in combos;
- Chrono Cross with each character having an associated color and abilities "coloring the battlefield" which could have an effect;
- Or even simpler-seeming games like Chrono Trigger which, IIRC, had three basic strategic mechanics to its battles: triggered effects (for example hitting dinos with thunder lowered their def), retaliation periods (a lot of ennemies adopted "stances" or presented periods of time when interacting with them caused an effect, either some nasty retaliation or whatever) and multi-part ennemies (mostly bosses).

As for your last question, introduce them gradually. Start with the basic system and present your core elements as the game goes. I heavily suggest you read this game design page. Although They're all interesting the one on Chrono Trigger mostly illustrates what I'm talking about. But yeah it is applicable to much larger projects and might not fit for a first game. That's your call though ;)
 

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MVPs are a little less important when working in engines (like RPG Maker) where a lot of the basic input/graphical functionality is handled for you, but it's still not a bad idea to make one.

As far as how I would go about making an MVP on RPG Maker - create two dungeons, one town, and one of whatever other types of areas (like a world map) that you have in your game. Use RTP graphics (or placeholder graphics you can draw in MS Paint in 60 seconds or less) only. Don't decorate things much. Don't spend more than a few seconds selecting sounds for things. Give most characters, NPCs, and scenes dialogue only if dialogue plays an important role in your gameplay or if your game is more focused on its narrative than its gameplay - otherwise, write just the bare minimum so that the player knows what he is supposed to do.

Create the entire core of any game-wide systems (like skills, skill learning systems, character alignment, really simple monster AI, consumable items, etc.), but only create the minimum amount of content necessary so that the player will be performing the same kinds of activities, and thinking through the same kinds of things, that you expect them to in the full version. For example, you implied that using complex skills will be a core engagement of your battle system. Having only one or two skills for each character probably won't properly simulate the experience - but you don't need 40 skills per character in your MVP, either (even if they will have that many to choose from in the real thing). 8 skills per character, and only for the maximum number of characters available in your battle party, should be plenty for the MVP of a game where skill usage is a core engagement.

Create debug events that will help you and your playtesters test things quickly - for example, an NPC you can talk to in order to receive a huge stack of consumables, or a crystal that allows you to warp to any part of any map (and set all of the appropriate switches, variables, etc. as if you had played the MVP through to that point).

Depending on how unique your game is, you should be able to complete an MVP for an RPG Maker game, as a one-man team, within a few weeks (think 40-120 hours of development time).
 

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