What are the "unwritten rules" of going commercial?

Slimsy Platypus

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I'm new to RPG Maker and have set the ambitious goal to make a game for commercial release.  I'm trying to guage my bearings a bit and understand what the exact hurdles I need to jump are to even give me a shot at a minor success.


Are edited default tileset resources a complete shot in the foot here (i.e. do I need to create all my tilesets from scratch to achieve any level of success)?


Should I avoid using the character generator pieces (i.e. make my own map sprites and SV battlers)?


Animations, sound effects, etc., do the defaults all need to go?


What else are some general traps I should be aware of?  


I'm working on getting a demo of my game out now, and I'm trying to do everything I can to put it in a good position.  Unfortunately, skill wise, I'm not sure I can do it all myself, but I'm committed to doing what I can.


Thanks any and all for any feedback!
 
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Zalerinian

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If you want to run a kickstarter or something like that, edited resources will be fine. The main thing about getting a kickstarter to grab attention once people see the page is to show them you put effort in and that you have a plan for improvement. Editing tiles to better fit your game at least shows people that 1. You have an idea of what you want it to look like aside from what's been given to you, and 2. You put in the effort to change things to better fit your game. 


Defaults should be fine for a commercial game if you're planning on improving them before commercial release. Some places, like steam greenlight, recognize RPG Maker default assets due to the stream of sheep people submit, and therefore hate games that use the default resources as their primary art source. They see it as another cash grab that isn't worth their time, no matter how good your game really is. They simply won't play it because they perceive it to be the same trash they've seen before. 
 

Andar

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In my "Starting Point" tutorial (link in my signature) I also give some advice about going commercial - about things that a lot of new users forget when they dream of making money with games. Things like you need money for legal parts like business licences, or that you should not go commercial with your first game because you need to learn how to make a game before you can make anything of commercial quality and a lot more...
 

Seriel

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[..]that you should not go commercial with your first game because you need to learn how to make a game before you can make anything of commercial quality and a lot more...
I prefer to set a "goal" of commercial first even if I won't go through with it, just because switching from commercial to non-commercial is easier than the other way round.
 

GrandmaDeb

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Unwritten rules? lol, You'll stay pretty busy with the written ones. But I would say that to go commercial you probably should make some good games to start (non-commercial) and save your best work for your commercial efforts.


Jackus' point is good from a resources standpoint. Starting non-commercial and then switching is an awful chore from resources perspective.
 

Parallax Panda

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Well, I've seen commercial games that use the pre-packaged tilesets and music do at least "okay'ish" on steam. Most people here probably know which games I'm talking about. But I wouldn't recommend it because to get sales you need to attract attention and the pre-packaged assets won't do that for you, because well, it's standard and have been done to death.

On the other hand, I don't think it's necessarily worth it to make your game 100% custom either. It can cost a lot of money and time and you might not make that money back. How much original graphics and music should you do? Well, it all depends on what you can do on your own and how fast you can do it.
If you need to hire a bunch or people and pay a lot of money, it's not guaranteed that you'll get those investments back. Same thing if you do everything yourself and spend years on your game. When you sell it you might find that what little money you do get (divided by the number of hours you spent working) makes the game a commercial failure.

There is so much to consider when going commercial and I don't even know if you just want to make some money on the side and don't care about your hourly wage or if you want to make a living out of it. But then again I suppose I should give you some firm advise as well since you asked for it. Just consider that I haven't released a commercial game myself yet so I might be wrong about some things.

Well then, regarding your questions...

Tilesets - Use some of it, but try to edit or add some exclusive tiles as well to make your game less of a generic RM game.
Animations - You can probably get away with using the pre-packaged ones unless you need something special.
Characters - You can use the generator but I advice you to at least make your heroes look as unique as possible. Try to draw or commission character portraits etc.
Music - I would try to get at least some original music if you can. Next best thing would be to buy a license for some non pre-packaged music pack.
Sound effects - Use the pre-packaged things. Play around with the pitch and volume and try to be creative. Most people won't notice, I can almost promise your this.

 
 
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Slimsy Platypus

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In my "Starting Point" tutorial (link in my signature) I also give some advice about going commercial - about things that a lot of new users forget when they dream of making money with games. Things like you need money for legal parts like business licences, or that you should not go commercial with your first game because you need to learn how to make a game before you can make anything of commercial quality and a lot more...




Thanks for the reply and this is great feedback.  I'm not quite ready to give up on prepping my first game for commercial release, even if it is admittedly a bit naive.  


I see where your comment is coming from, as nobody in the community wants to see more poor quality commercially released stuff.  I've set a plan in motion to get a demo out to the community to hopefully get some feedback on whether the quality is appropriate.  I'll be ready to squash my dreams of commercial release if unanimously the feedback on the demo is to keep it non-commercial.


And just FYI - my goal for commercial release is by no means to get easy money.  Realistically, I'd like to recoup some of what I've invested into the software, music, and (maybe) tilesets.  Additionally, (maybe this perception is wrong) but I think having a (modest) pricetag on your game might open up the potential audience as it's taken a bit more seriously.  I love my game, and as a primary goal, I want it to be percieved as successful.
 

Kyuukon

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Never make a commercial game your first project.
I disagree with this one. You're setting senseless limitations to yourself that way, and your motivation/work can get affected by them. It may apply to most developers here, but it's not something I'd call "a rule" to success by all means.


I'd fix it by saying: Never make a commercial game if it doesn't have commercial quality.


Sure, it's way too redundant you could say, but it works. It keeps the fire going and prevents you from making an embarrassment of yourself, at the same time. You gotta build a name, after all.
 
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Indrah

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Or you could make your first game, it will of course, suck, cause we ALL have to learn, and it will be a commercial game that at best will make you look bad and make the community cringe a bit :/


Would you pay to listen to someone's first violin playing? I would not, personally. I'd like them to get some experience and know what they're doing first.
 

bgillisp

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I personally prefer Kyuukon's approach. At least keeping it in your mind as a commercial game might help with the motivation aspect. But, it doesn't mean that in the end you have to go through with it. In fact, I seem to recall when I started out reading a post (somewhere) that pointed out that it is easier to go from commercial to non-commercial than the other way around, due to the issues with resources/scripts and such that you suddenly have to replace, as all free to use commercial resources are also free to use non-commercially, but it is not true the other way around.  


So due to that, I started out my game with it listed as commercial. Will I finish with it commercial? Dunno. But at least this way I can aim for commercial quality, and knowing that someday it (might) have a paying audience has made me a little more critical of what I've allowed in the game. If I had gone non-commercial though I might have said Eh, forget it, this doesn't matter, and end up with crap in various points.


There's an old saying that you should shoot for the stars. If you set your expectations too low, then you get low quality. It's as simple as that. At least aiming for commercial quality will give  you a shot of achieving it.
 

cabfe

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If you make a commercial game, whether it is your first or not doesn't matter.


Is it good enough so that people would pay for it?


Do you think, with hindsight, that you would pay for it yourself?


@Indrah: A first game doesn't necessarily suck. Yes, knowledge is required and it comes with making games, but some people are fast learners and don't need to know everything. For example, there is no need to master the database and combat elements for a horror/adventure/dating sim game.


What you need is time and dedication (and talent). There are first time projects that do not suck, trust me. But I agree that they are not the majority and, as an advice, I also agree that it's best to try making small games first.
 

Ms Littlefish

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Also, your first project doesn't have to be a long-winded project of passion. Many people complete short projects in a couple of months, which I think is a pretty small investment for how priceless that experience and feedback will be.
 

Indrah

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Even if they do not suck they will ALWAYS have flaws. There generally three outcomes for first finished games:


a/ it's pretty bad


b/ it's decent but has a lot of easily fixed flaws a first timer had no time to learn about


c/ it's good but there are a lot of half-made projects behind it that did the learning (so it's not really a "first project" anymore)


Ultimately, finishing is a skill very few people have, and starting off with the aim of commercial is bad in itself since you will be hampered by the constant pressure of "it has to be good enough" or "i don't have time to bother with this, this has to happen". Overall pressure that's just negative for the learning process and that you should overcome BEFORE getting tangled with commercial problems.


Do some free stuff first. It doesn't have to be an epic. Just learn your way around some game making.
 

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@Indrah

Or you could make your first game, it will of course, suck, cause we ALL have to learn...
I do get your point and what you are trying to say, but I also disagree. Most peoples first game suck, but it's not a universal rule. Your first complete game does not have to mean that you're completely green to game development and don't have the skills you need to make a good game. A person who is a competent programmer, hobby-artist and successful novelist might very well make a fantastic first game because they do know what they are doing, to some extent. Yes, if they make a second, third and forth game it's very likely those games have potential to be even better - but that is irrelevant. The first one can still be good.



You don't need the experience to have finished a game to make a good one. And regarding your violin argument, if you're going with that then might I add that there is a chance that person playing the violin have practiced on their own for many, many years? This violin lesson might just be their first real lesson, aye? Not all people go into game creation with zero skills and experience what so ever. ;)
 
 

Makio-Kuta

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I have to wonder if people are having different opinions on what a 'first game' is. My first complete RM game (Castle Chase) is not what I would count as my first game. My first games were on paper. Hand drawn dungeon crawlers and dating sims and pokemon rip offs. A murder mystery made in basic where all the logic was clicking on things to reveal information and then clicking on the murderer. I would certainly NEVER tell my younger self to make those with 'commercial game' in mind. They were learning processes.


I think it's a lot better to treat first games as a learning process. The stress from thinking about making something a commercial game is not a good learning environment.


OP says they are new to RPGmaker, which means we don't know how much experience they have outside of it. But I'd still advise making some dummy practice games with the program before jumping into commercial dev. How 'new' is 'new?' It's hard to give advice not knowing that.


Rather than worrying about how the game LOOKS though (what resources you should and shouldn't use), do you know what all the event commands do? Do you know how to avoid simple pitfalls that happen to a lot of newbies? Like forgetting to set direction fix, not knowing to use a self switch (or equivalent) on a chest, autorun loops - whatever whatever.


I think it is a bit ... misguided to tell this person "yes, dive into commercial" without any knowledge of their knowledge of the program or game dev history...
 

bgillisp

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@IndrahYou forgot one:


d) It had a demo released, was ripped to shreds by a veteran, then it was rebooted and (hopefully) fixed.


On that note, back to the OP: My thought on this is if you want to make a big commercial game for a first game, do the following:


1: Play some of the good RM games. See what can be done in the engine. I'd suggest the good commercial games myself (ask around to find out which ones are considered good).


2: Release a demo of your game early on, and get feedback! Be advised that since it is your first game it may take a long time to get feedback (I think I counted what...350+ projects in early project feedback last time I looked. No one can play them all).


3: Prepare to spend 3 - 5 years on the same project. Reason is about 4 months or so in you'll start it over with all that you learned (putting you in case C Indrah mentioned above). And, prepare to do that a few times over while you learn. Somewhere around attempt 5 or so if you've been learning and paying attention to feedback you might finally have something that is not grade A suck. Then, use the remaining 1 - 3 years to actually make the game start to finish.


Now, if you want to take the suggestions of make a game to get started on, my suggestion is to pick ONE item and focus on it for the entire game. Want to focus on battles? Make a dungeon crawler. Can even use the generator as the mapping will not be the focus here, and this way you can focus on balancing battles and finishing. Use it to try out your battle engine for your big game, that way motivation stays with you throughout. And, no one says you have to release it. After all, I've never released the game I made over the course of a week when I was 12 (and let's just say there's good reason for that).
 

Seriel

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*I have two years of RPG Maker experience and I don't really have a "First game" unless you count one I made in an hour with rtp for fun.
 

Makio-Kuta

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And if I told my child self to sell her first game on steam, she'd be flamed to death and give up on life. lol (or at least never game dev again)


That's a fine enough quote, but I don't think he's saying to publish your first works. I'm sure that author has plenty of practice writings that he wouldn't show the world - at least not published as an actual product. Encouraging someone to put their first ever project up for commercial sounds like throwing them to the wolves to me. Maybe you're all looking for that sort of entertainment???


Eh, but I don't have a commercial game either. So what do I know. *shrugs*

*I have two years of RPG Maker experience and I don't really have a "First game" unless you count one I made in an hour with rtp for fun.
I feel like I missed where OP said this?
 

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