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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Developing an H-Game: Getting started.

I love games. I love H-Games as well. I enjoy seeing people happily produce new things. There's a strong financial incentive that let's people do this in Japan if they're good enough at it, but in the rest of the world, this isn't really the case. It's almost exclusively the domain of hobbyists, and you'll see most games halfway finished, then abandoned by the wayside.

I'm also a hobbyist. So take my advice keeping that in perspective. I won't tell you how to make a game on the level of a professional studio. I will, however, help you get a start as a hobbyist. Overwhored was started because I love these games and don't see enough of them. I wanted to inspire other people to create their own games, and to an extent I've been successful. I can point to at least one project inspired by Overwhored that's out there now. That makes me happy. Overwhored is far from finished, but I intend to continue working on it, and as I do, I hope others come to make their own games in turn.

I want to continue that process here and now.

If you're thinking of making an H-Game, that's great. But you need to consider why you're doing it. You probably won't get a lot of IRL credit for it (more likely you'll get the opposite), and you probably won't make money off of it either.

My inspiration is simply that I love RPG's, I love H-games, and I love making things. When I get the chance I simply enjoy tinkering with the system to make new stuff, try new things, and enjoy making something. Even if no one else would ever see it, I'd probably keep making it. Most of the stuff I've made in my life is like that. Much of the adult content I've made in my life, be it stories, games, and so on, have simply been deleted when I finished them, and I was content knowing they were made. Other people getting to see my stuff is a strange idea I've only recently come to be comfortable with.

Other people use other things. A supportive spouse who helps you out, making something with friends, and so on. Whatever it is, you need to find something of your own; something that drives you to make your game.


It's important for this reason:

You have to be capable, ultimately, of starting and finishing a project yourself. If no one else supports you, if you never make money off of it, you still have to be willing and capable to push through and finish it. If you start as a team, you need to be ready to finish the project when your partner wigs out.

That means you have to know what you, personally, are capable of. Do you write? Do you draw? Do you program? What is your specialty? Knowing that is half the difficulty.

You'll want to select an approach that utilizes your own talents as best you can. Renpy is good if you can draw and write. RPG Maker is good if you can understand a bit of basic programming logic and write. Making your own system is good if you can program.

Still, there's a bit of a problem before you begin working with your system. Before we start a story, we'll build up a perfect vision of a fairy tale castle of a game. It'll be perfect! It'll have flashing lights, and animated cutscenes, and the best art! It'll have the best story ever, and if you just give me the money I'll hire a team to make it and no I don't have experience, why do you ask? Wait, why won't you give me money?

Remember; in the end, it has to be something YOU are capable of beginning and finishing yourself. I hired artists for Overwhored, but I paid for every single picture out of my own pocket until Overwhored gained enough popularity that people donated. If people didn't donate, I'd still be paying out of my own pocket. It'd take much longer, but I'd damn well do it. The game would be progressing no matter what. I did my darndest to learn how to draw, so I could one day do some art for my own work. And I started with placeholder pictures. You have to be willing to take responsibility for your own project and show people what YOU can do. Once you've done that, THAT is when people are willing to help.

I didn't start with Overwhored, though. When I began, I knew how to write, and nothing else. I didn't know how to use RPG Maker, I didn't know how to draw more than a stick figure.

More than likely, you'll start off in a similar situation. So what should you do?



GETTING STARTED WITH YOUR SYSTEM

 First step, select your system. I selected RPG Maker, so I'm going to use that as my guide. Much of this advice is going to help you get started in any system, though.

I like RPG Maker, but it has flaws. I have a friend who swear by older versions of flash. I know some people who love Renpy, or one of the many other game making systems out there. Once again, this depends on your own talents. My friend that prefers flash is an amazing artist; his work is great because of his amazing quality art. I'm pretty much entirely a writer. I'd love to make a visual novel, but at the time my art was stick-figure tier. Plus, I'd played around a bit with RPG Maker on the playstation back in ye olden days, hindered primarily by the fact that I had no keyboard for the Playstation and text had to be painstakingly pecked out bit by bit. In the end, I decided I'd go with RPG Maker VX.

At this point I did not start on Overwhored. There is a very important lesson you should learn right away. You should NOT make your fist project your big dream project. As we play games we love we build up a dream of the game we'd like to make. We imagine big, perfect stories that have a huge backstory and elaborate setup. I could have started right away on such a project.

Instead I made about 20+ games designed around one thing: Learning the system. That's precisely what you should do.

These games were not complete; they were never intended to be. The stories were often very simple and cliched. Recruit a party, rescue the princess, kill the evil boss. But they fulfilled a very important function.

When you imagine your perfect story, you do so lacking something very, very critical. Knowledge of your system. You imagine cutscenes you have no idea how to make, you imagine stories with backstory you don't have the capability to show or make relevant to the main plot. You imagine elaborate magic systems you can't implement.

If you go in trying to make your dream project before you know the system, you will rip out your own heart and stomp on it. That is when most people give up. They start with a big story idea, a perfect dream of a game. Then they realize it's a lot of hard work to make one, their story is hard to tell in the system, and much of the cool stuff they imagined is impossible to pull off with the tools and skills they have. Disillusioned, they give up.

That is why you do the many, cliche little game projects. It's hard enough to learn the basics of a system; if you also burden yourself with the stress of trying to reach an impossible ideal it will crush you. If the story is cliche, you know it by heart, which means you don't have to think much about it. If it's something you're not attached to, you'll have no problem abandoning it once you realized you screwed up with something basic. Your first few games with ANY system are going to suck. Period. That's true of everyone, and it'll certainly be true of you. Making very simple games where you're not attached to the story is important. This is not your dream project. This is not your perfect vision of a game. This is you messing around and learning what you're doing. You don't have to feel bad when you mess up on a test project.

I made a recreation of my house, with a short game where I fought off zombies invading. I made a typical 'rescue the princess' story more than once. I played with minigames, events, and so on.

And so I came to learn just how the system worked. I was able to adjust my writing style to the system, and I knew what I could and couldn't do.

This is precisely what you should do no matter what your system is. Learn how to do it first, mess around with stuff that's inconsequential and you feel no attachment to. Keep it simple, keep it direct and linear and cliche. There'll be plenty of time for great stuff later. But you can't make good games without having the proper foundation. There's an extra bonus to this, of course. You have an excuse to play a ludicrous amount of games like the one you're trying to make so you can try out stuff in them and see if you can make them in your own system. It's often difficult, but very satisfying to realize you can pull off some stuff you've seen in one of your favorite games.

One of the first things I did was work with this RPG Maker VX Tutorial file.

http://www.4shared.com/office/9nuSqPnj/beginners_guide_to_rpg_maker_v.htm

I did every step in it several times. I did it exactly according to the guide the first time through. Later I changed the course of events, changed the items, changed the actors and played around with every aspect I could. But I still gladly held to the format. It's an excellent document if you want to start with RPG Maker VX.

I looked at websites for tutorials, I played around with every aspect of the system I could think of to try and learn more.

And I still sucked.

But the important thing was this: I knew how it worked now. I was ready for a big project.



HYPNO MASTER:

Hypno Master was a short, fairly crappy game about a fellow that runs around and mind controls girls. It's extremely simple, very basic and pretty short. But it's something I'm very proud of for all that it sucks, for one reason.

It's a completed project.

That's vital. Before you tackle a big game, make at least one complete, short game. Even after learning the system, you'll be surprised just how tough it is to make even a very short game.

Before you start a project like this, you'll need to make a very clear outline, with a defined beginning and end to the game. You don't need pages of backstory or volumes of character references here. There's precisely one purpose to a project like this: Getting a finished game out. An entire, self-sufficient game. You won't believe how much that will boost your confidence. More importantly, it'll help you learn just what you need to actually do to create a finished story. When you want to make something bigger, it'll tell you just what you need to do to make it happen. It puts everything into perspective.

After you've learned the system, this is your goal. A finished project with a defined beginning and end. It doesn't matter if it's short or crappy. You want it done. That's the most important thing. Prove to yourself you can finish a project in this system. Learn precisely what it takes to actually do that.

I didn't even consider starting Overwhored until after I was done with Hypno Master. Overwhored was not my dream project; it was something I wrote up AFTER I made that game. I have no dream project. If you make it this far, feel free to pull the writing you did for your old project out and look at it. You'll understand why you'll never make it by now. But that's alright. You'll make something better.

Be proud of that.

If you want to play hypno master, feel free to click on the link to the Copper Edition below. The Copper Edition has no lolicon content; the regular game did. I'm not interested in distributing the version with loli content at this time, but on the plus side the Copper edition is funnier. Also: Check the forest for an extra bonus.

http://www.4shared.com/rar/DWkVApj6/Hypno_Master_Copper_Edition_-_.html


Next time I'll talk a bit about story writing and structure, as well as game resources. Hope this helps you get started!


7 comments:

  1. Very inspiring reading!
    I started my own H-Game Dev not long ago and i really can relate about the importance knowing your system first and the will to finish a project.Starting small but often is more valuable for experience than swallowing a whole big game project.
    I just fell in love with Construct the first day i installed it, just like you i start making little game(non H-game), but it makes me know what i`m facing with(Construct can be a pain when comes to big project though).
    Can`t wait for another article, oh, can i post this on my blog?Of course i will show credits and the original link to yours.Good Luck!

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    1. People can link to this or post it anywhere they like, with credit. That's the whole point of doing this, after all. Glad you found it useful!

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  2. Where would one find the version with loli content?

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  3. To add an additional $.02 worth...

    Trying to create your magnum opus on your first try is a trap that a lot of people fall into, but there's another, equally problematic trap that you have to watch out for.

    At one point, very early on in Megatokyo's life cycle, I had the opportunity to speak one on one with Fred Gallagher, and he said something that's stuck with me through the years- Concepting is good, planning is great, but sooner or later you have to put your balls on and actually make something.

    Over-planning can be a problem for any project because while concepting and brainstorming is usually fun, actually making anything is work. Lots of work, combined with the stress of actually putting yourself out there where people will examine and criticize your project, can stop any project before it properly gets started. More insidiously, you can be stuck in that endless planning/pre-production stage forever, without actually making real progress or moving on to a different project.

    Another problem which I recently tangled with is project bloat. Once you actually get rolling, it can be easy to keep planning, adding on more and more features, story, and work to your game while you struggle to keep up. So, my advice is this- once you get started, know when you should stop.

    My final piece of advice is this: read every review, piece of feedback, and bit of hate- and fanmail you get. It is very gratifying to hear positive things about your game, and it can be very tempting to listen only to your supporters. But you never know where good advice will come from and frequently negative reviews will contain the best idea of where you need to improve. Also, learning how to take what you need from a negative or hateful email while discarding the rest is a very useful skill to have in life.

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  4. Excellent post. I can testify from my own experience that it relates to many other types of projects and to achieving success in many other fields than H-games.

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  5. Hahahhaha! I cound't resist and I played the game, it's awefully clear where you cut off the loli parts, it almost kills the storyline, but good enough for a testing template.

    But about the important part, I think you are right in your way of thinking. It's impossible for people to actually understand this until they pass through it. I mean, almost everyone who will try to make a game will commit those mistakes, and if the maker "survives" it, he or she will end up becoming something better.
    I also like to encourage the production of games like this, and more when the author is commited to it. So far you are doing a good progress with your game, but it makes me wonder what kind of game is your "dream project". I'd imagine that's is far from being a simple quest-based RPG? Or maybe you are looking more into the graphics quality rather than plot?

    Well, thank you for taking your time and write so much about an interesing topic, it was a good read.

    Good luck man!

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  6. Can you please post the game on mega also? my antivirus don'r feel comfortable downloading from 4share...
    tnx anyway! :)

    ReplyDelete