Introduction: Making a Lisa-Styled RPG Maker Game (Based Off My Project: SOLACE)
Before I start this I would like to thank everyone who helped me with this process, meaning my family and my engineering teacher Ms. Berbawy. I did this project as a part of Ms. Berbawy's Principles of Engineering class which can be learned about at this link All screenshots or drawings in this instructable are either made by or shot by me.
This tutorial is designed to help people who intend to make Lisa-Styled RPG Maker games like me. This will go over a variety of topics and ways to work on a project like this. Even though it is possible and many developers (Especially Lisa game developers) have done solo game dev (including me) I do not recommend doing this process solo. However, regardless I intend to provide resources that will help with the design process regardless of what you choose to do. This instructable is meant for people who want to make a project that looks similar to the one above. Because making a game is such a involved process with tons and tons of creative freedom my instructable will not be as cut and dry as most others.
(Left picture is my project [SOLACE], right picture is LISA: The Painful)
Beginning the Process:
An important part of making a Lisa game or any game for that matter is having a clear vision of what the project is supposed to be. When doing this sort of project solo I would recommended having a schedule of every goal so that steady progress can be chipped away at in this long arduous process. Since working solo is a lot more effort it is also essential to understand what skills need to be learned throughout the process such as art or coding.
RPG Maker VX Ace:
This tutorial is for this specific version of RPG Maker and for this specific niche of games in RPG Maker VX Ace so this tutorial will not be able to teach the use of RPG Maker traditionally. The engine is relatively expensive when it is not on sale so I recommend buying the engine on sale if you can.
You will need:
- RPG Maker VX Ace
- Aseprite (or any other preferred pixel art program)
- A vision of a Lisa-Styled game that is desired to make
- Lots of time as this is an incredibly time consuming endeavor
Step 1: Pixel Art
Pixel Art Programs:
There are many programs that can be used for pixel art which is the specific style and niche that the game I made fulfilled but this is optional anyone can pick any sort of graphics that they want. The tool I personally used most was Aseprite because I found it the most intuitive but everyone has different preferences. All the programs I am about to recommend are free to use or freeware so that is not something that anyone has to worry about when starting pixel art.
Some other programs I used which Graphics Gale is less user friendly but still a good program for making sprite sheets and such.
Another program is Grafx2 which is very traditional and uses layering concepts from photoshop and such and implements them into pixel art.
Paint.Net is pretty similar to other pixel art "paint" programs but quite a lot more easy to use and intuitive, I recommend checking most of these out just to see what is preferred.
Tile Studio as said in the name is more focused on making tiles for pixel art in games which is definitely a big part of making a Lisa game.
Photoshop is the only program I will include that costs money because many people have it for their job and such. Most people don't think of photoshop as a pixel art program but it can definitely be used that way and it actually works very well for pixel art.
Learning Pixel Art
I used several tutorials which cover a variety of programs and go into so much more detail then I ever could on all of the intricacies and details of pixel art. Of course working with another person for the art process of the game is also a great idea. Huge thanks to all the amazing artists that made these tutorials because they helped me so much in my game development and art process.
Tutorials that I used:
The Pixelblog is something that I would recommend checking out because it covers a variety of niches with nifty pictures to go along with it.
The Pixel Grimoire is a great introduction to pixel art as well covering most introductory pixel art topics that will help any newbie. (The screenshot I added is a screenshot from this tutorial)
This tutorial by Niklas Jansson is another great tutorial that introduces his own style of pixel art and shading that anyone can take influence from.
The incredible Derek Yu's tutorial is incredibly impressive and even if someone just like his games I would recommend checking it out.
This tutorial by Miniboss (creators of Celeste & Towerfall) provides specific and more complex information for people who already know the basics of pixel art.
This pixel joint tutorial is incredibly comprehensive and provides insight from pixel art community members on more complex pixel art topics. Note that despite providing all these resources this is not a spriting / pixel art tutorial, my intention is to help start a Lisa-styled project. So I will not be teaching how to make animations for attacks, tilesets, or parallaxes.
Step 2: Setting Up
Before starting working on the game there is a lot to set up and many things that need to get working. A lot of developers make their graphics first and get very annoyed (understandably) with how rigid and difficult to work with the engine is.
Movement is the most complex part of specifically a Lisa-styled game because it goes against what the RPG Maker VX Ace is designed to create. The screenshot I added shows a traditional RPG Maker type game that I created quickly for this tutorial. As seen in the image the arrows point in all four directions moving the character from a top down view. The left and right movement are very simple as I show a default character model that can move left and right as well as look behind itself and in front of itself. As we can see there is a simple animation that places for both left and right movement and there is simply a change in where the character is facing for forwards and backwards. There is no actual easy built in design for verticality that requires an animation trigger and falling off any cliffs. There is no easy way to set up movement but first I should explain how movement actually works in base Lisa: The Painful as well as most of the other games people have played.
Step 3: Jump Events
Every single tile in which a player would be jumping up would have a jump event on it as seen in the screenshot (from Lisa: The Pointless). What will happen is a sound plays and then the animation plays as the player is set on a move route up one tile. This is copied and pasted for every single instance of verticality, Lisa: The Painful chose to have three different versions of this depending on what choices were made. This is obviously an incredibly tedious process which can be kind of mind numbing for a lot of developers who want to work on this kind of project. Most past games used this exact strategy but a new one has recently arisen that can alleviate a great deal of this tedium (shown below).
Step 4: LCM
Recently a script has been created that can be setup to save time that would spend placing jump events over and over again. The script was included with a few others in a project called Lisa The Tech Demo and allowed for a much easier job that Lisa developers could have. Some recent projects have utilized the script in all of its glory. There are so many scripting issues that could arise while using scripts like this so a link to the scripting discord server is included in the script link. The script is not incredibly difficult to set up but if help is needed there is a technical support discord that is relatively active and the writer of the script "Liam" usually responds to people.
Step 5: Combat
Combat is something that many do differently and even the basic Lisa combat system was relatively bare bones so it really is based on what vision is had for the possible game. It is important to establish some sort of gameplay loop involving combat because most people find combat less RPG Maker games especially boring. Most people use the yanfly battle engine especially for Lisa games but this could differ completely if that is the intention. Some advice I could give to any aspiring developer is to make sure to stand out as much as possible with the combat and try to do something new. This is of course relatively difficult as there are only so many states and moves that can be added. I don't believe that my tutorial is the best place to learn about states and skills as that is easily accessible information that is not really unique to Lisa games. Here is a tutorial with some basic information about states and what are some good general states that users can use to create some variety. Here is a quick forum about skills and differentiating them and making them mesh well with other actors if that kind of combat system is desired.
Step 6: Regular Events
There are so many different things that can be done when a player walks over an event box that the best way to learn could be just experimenting with them or looking at how other games use them well. There are many event tutorials but I recommend just testing what kind of events are wanted for the game and how they will be used. These will be placed constantly throughout the game so this is like learning the "language" of the RPG Maker VX Ace engine and once adapted to any project can go much smoother.
Step 7: Referances
When creating this sort of game it is important to be able to look at what other games did well or not so well so as not to repeat. Some great references that I can offer are Scholar of the Wilbur Sin which can give developers a reference whilst using the LCM script as well as many other scripts that they used incredibly well. Another is Lisa: The Bashful which is a relatively short game that was actually completed and is liked relatively well being a good example of a game created right. Obviously there are other much more popular great games that can be references but if someone is already aware of the original LISA I would assume those would be known as well. Lastly I present the The Fan Project Archive which gives many examples of what did not go well with a lot of these projects for good references as well as many of these games allowing their assets to be used by developers who wanted to.
Step 8: Conclusion
While this is a long tedious process that many, many people have not seen to completion I hope that this tutorial can alleviate some of the stress and wasted time that can come from trying something this ambitious. I heavily, heavily recommended working with a team of people or having a clear vision if someone wants to go through with creating a project like this. Thanks for reading to the end, I really hope this tutorial was helpful and able to alleviate some of the stresses that may come with game development!