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A Beginners' Guide to RM2K3
A Beginner’s Guide to RPG Maker 2003
Written by GoldenGriffon
Difficulty level: Beginner
Author’s note: Throughout this series of RM2K3 tutorials, you will find loads of information that you can undoubtedly find elsewhere on the web. However, instead of merely presenting a solution for the reader to copy directly into their game, these RPG Maker guides are centered on helping the reader to understand how and why these solutions work, effectively enabling them to create advanced code on their own. However, I do tend to ramble on at times, and you may end up getting all sorts of information that doesn’t quite relate to the topic you are reading, but is useful to know nonetheless. Also, these tutorials are not only directed towards those beginning with RPG Maker, but to anyone who feels they could benefit from reading them. If you have any questions, suggestions, or comments, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Note: There are several different translations of RPG Maker, and therefore the names and expressions I refer to might be different on the version you are using. However, most terms are at least similar to each other, so you should be able to figure it out without too much trouble.
- This Tutorial
- Starting a New Project
- Maps, Layers, and Chipsets
- Basic Events
- The Taskbar Buttons
This is the first of all my RM2K3 tutorials, directed towards all you who have downloaded RPG Maker 2000 or 2003 and don’t know quite where to begin. Before you can get into advanced RM2K3 programming, you have to know the basics of the program. This includes knowing how switches, variables, pictures, battle animations, X and Y coordinates, event movement, key input processing, conditional branches, and other such daunting-sounding functions, work. And the more familiar you are with the all the basics of RPG Maker, the more complicated and eye-pleasing solutions you will be able to make. So even after you’ve finished reading this, you may want to hang on to it to review again later. In fact, you may want to cherish it as a prized possession and read it every morning and night until you have it memorized. I wouldn’t personally, but then that’s up to you. I use pictures whenever I think they would be helpful, which does make this tutorial a bit less printer-friendly, but then again, I also try to just get the bits I think are important.
Starting a New Project
To create a new project, press the “New Project” button. You will be presented with the following picture:
Generally speaking, the directory name and game name should be the same thing, as it provides less confusion when trying to find files. You may call your game whatever you like - for the purpose of this tutorial I will call my game “Tutorial Project. The project path is the place on your computer where RPG Maker will store all your game files. (For future reference, the default directory is, I believe “My Computer/Drive C:/Program Files/Enterbrain/RPG Maker 2003/Projects”.) Unless you specify differently, this is where a folder with the directory name you supplied will be created. Any new resources you add will be imported into the subfolders it contains. When you have everything set as you want it, click OK and it will create and open your game.
Maps, Layers, and Chipsets
Just look at all that water! Perfect if you want your game to take place in the middle of the ocean. However, if you're like most people and want something other than a bunch of maps filled with nothing but water, you'll want to experiment a bit with the current chipset. That box of to the left filled with various pieces of walls, houses, rocks and whatnot, contains your current chipset. The chipset is made up of all the 16 x 16 pixel graphic squares that you will use to make maps. To use a different tile from the chipset, just click on it and then click over on the map to place it. So let's add some grass to all that water. Click on one of the grass tiles from the chipset and make yourself an island. If you need an example, check out the beautiful work of art I have provided as an example below:
Now, up at the top toolbar you will find three consecutive icons: a cursor in a green square, a cursor in a blue square, and a cursor in an orange square.
These icons indicate the three "layers" of the map: the lower and upper tile layers, and an event layer. If you click the second one, (upper tile layer,) you will see that the available tiles have changed. Now, you see other objects such as trees, mountains, and ruined castles, surrounded by a nasty pink color. The pink is just the chipset's background color, and will not show up when you place the object on the map. Everything you put onto the map from the second-layer will be shown over what you already have on the first layer. Experiment with these two layers and see what you can do with your island. (Tips: You will that when you place a lower-level tile in the middle of the water, it will have a grass edging around it. If you want to place a tile without these edges around it, hold shift while you place the tile. Also, right-clicking a tile on the map will select that tile in the chipset window. Double right-clicking on the map will switch the event layer you are on.) If at any time you want to save your project, simply press Ctrl/S.
This is my map. Look at all that majesty.
Once you are satisfied with your results, how about testing it out?
Before we play, we need to set a place for the player to start. Click on the events layer. You will notice that the map is now divided into squares surrounding each tile. Right-click on a square where there is only some type of ground tile, and from the menu, click "Place party starting position". A small blue icon with a tiny "s" will appear on the spot you indicated. Please note that if you set the hero to start on a water tile, you will not be able to move.
Now test out your game. Either click the yellow arrow in the upper toolbar or press the F9 key. If you have not saved recently, RM2K3 will prompt you and ask if you want to save. Click yes, and it will proceed to take you to a menu screen with the options New Game, Load Game and Quit Game. Choose new game, and there you are, in your very own map! Use the arrow keys to direct your character around, and notice that there are some things that you can walk through and some things that you can't.
When the glory of this wears of, press backspace to bring up the menu and exit the game.
Now that you've worked so very hard creating this island, you'll want to give it a proper name, and maybe edit some of its other features. Down on the lower-left corner of the screen, below the chipset box, you will see a folder with your game's name, and branching off below it, a green box called MAP0001. Right-click this and select "map properties". The window that pops up lets you edit the various features of this particular map.
A) Name: Lets you change the map's name. If you are planning to include a lot of maps in your game, then it is best to give the map a distinctive name, such as "Paradise Island - Upper Level" rather than "island".
B) Tileset: This lets you change which chipset your map will use. Each chipset contains different tiles, and lets you make a variety of different maps. The standard version of RPG Maker comes with five default chipsets: World Map, Town, Inside, Dungeon, and Ship.
C) Dimensions: Here you can change the size of your map, the smallest possible map being 20 tiles by 15 tiles and the largest being 500 by 500. The first number will be the number of rows (horizontal), the second the number of columns (vertical).
D) Wrapping: RPG Maker lets you create maps that repeat endlessly, so that if you walk off one side of the screen you will come out on the left side of the map. (The screen will stay centered so it appears to be an endless map.) You can set the screen to repeat vertically, horizontally, or both.
E) Enemy Encounters (Monster Groups): If you wish the hero to encounter monsters to battle against while he is walking, set the possible groups of monster here. When the hero enters a battle, a random group of monsters will be chosen from the choices you set.
F) Enemy Encounters (Encounter Rate): This controls how often you will encounter monsters. The lower the number, the more frequent the random encounters. (An encounter rate of 25 means the hero will enter a battle somewhere around 25 steps.
G) BGM: You can set background music (BGM) to play while you are in a certain map. As soon as you teleport into the map, the background music will start playing. If you select "Same as Parent Map", the music that was playing before you entered the map will continue to play. (This will not be available if there are no maps before the one you are working with.) Selecting "Entrust to Event" will turn any previous music off and not play anything while you are in the map, unless you trigger the BGM later. If you want to select a new song especially for the map, select "Specify" and choose one of the available songs.
H) Battle Background: If you want to set a specific background for your hero's battles, choose "Specify" and select a backdrop to use. Setting it to "Use Terrain Settings" will mean that the battle backdrop will vary depending on where the hero is standing when the encounter starts. If you want it to keep the same settings as the previous map, click "Same as Parent Map".
I) Settings (Parallax Background): You may have noticed that on all chipsets, there is a ground tile that is just the background color (in this case, the nasty pink). When you use it in a map, it shows up not pink, but black. However, if you set the map to use a parallax background, or panorama, it will display the background scene in place of the background tiles. If you select "Use Parallax Background", it will allow you to choose which panorama to use.
J) Settings (Scrolling): This option is only available if you already have panorama set to the map. Checking the "Horizontal Scroll" and/or "Vertical Scroll" boxes will make it so that as you walk along the map, the background will scroll along with the ground, instead of remaining fixed in the same position. The "Autoscroll" options will have the panorama constantly scrolling in the background (a nice effect for clouds and such). On the horizontal autoscroll, setting the speed to 1 would make it scroll slowly to the right, while setting the speed closer to 8 would make it scroll quickly. If you want the panorama to scroll to the left, set the speed to somewhere between -8 (fast) and -1 (slow).
The Teleport, Escape and Save boxes are pretty self explanatory, and the Random Dungeon Generator is fairly easy to figure out. (Not something that gets used much, though.)
Now that you know something about maps and map properties, let's make a new map using a different chipset. Exit out of the map properties menu and right click on the name of your map (in the bottom-left hand corner still). Select "New Map" and give it a name. This time, let's choose the "Town" chipset, and let's use a more workable map size - 25 x 20 should be good. Hit OK and notice that your map has been created as a branch off the first map. This is what is referred to as a "nested" map, and the first map you created would be the "parent" map. Nesting maps is a good organization tool, especially when you may end up having over a hundred maps to be dealing with.
When you've created your map, try messing around a bit with this new chipset. See if you can make a scene similar to the one I have here:
When you like what you've got, we will proceed to make a way for the hero to reach the new map. Click back into the first map you made, and select the event layer. Find a space where, when the hero steps on it, you want him to be taken to the new map. Right-click that space and select "Place Teleport Event. In the "Select Teleport Location" box that pops up, select your new map and click the spot where you want your hero to be taken to. I will make a teleport from here:
The "Character Facing" option lets you pick which direction you want the hero to face when he teleports to the new map. I will keep mine on "Retain Current Facing" so, the hero will be facing the same direction after he teleports as he was facing before. Click OK and test play your game. Walk down to where you placed the teleport event and, lo and behold:
The hero has teleported from one map to the other! However, you will see that teleporters are not two-way events - you cannot yet go back into the other map. To solve this, exit out of your game, and create another teleport event, this time from the second map back to the first map. Test your game again, and see if you can now teleport from both maps. When you think you've got that down, we'll spice up the map a bit by adding an event.
So what exactly is an event? In a nutshell, events are the objects, people, and pieces of code that will make your RPG worth playing. Examples might be a character that sits in the road and greets you as you walk past, or something that makes your theme song play every time the hero presses the up button. The teleporters used in the previous section were events. The easiest way to grasp the concept of an event is to see one. Right-click somewhere on your map and select "New Event." For now, ignore everything except the "Event Graphic" (pink) and the big, white "Event Commands" box. Down near where it says "Event Graphic", click the "Set" button, and from the graphics box that appears, pick a sprite. (I chose the balding man in green from char4.) Hit OK and the character's graphic will appear where the pink box was before. This is what the event will look like on the map.
Now, in the "Event Commands" box, right-click and select "Insert". You will see a four-page list of event commands.
Select "Message", and in the dialog box that pops up, write some message like "Goodbye, cruel world!" Sorry, I just always hated that "Hello world!" message that beginners' tutorials always tell you to enter. Anyway, once you've got what you want in the textbox, click OK and the event command will appear in the event commands box as <>Message: Goodbye, cruel world! Click OK to finish the creation of your event. A smaller version of the event graphic you chose, set inside a little box, will appear on your map, signifying an event in that space. Test play your game, walk up to the man and press enter.
You've created your first talking RPG character! If you reopen your event, add a new event command and click "Face Graphics" (page 1, column 1, row 3), a new box will appear that lets you pick a face to display along with the message. You can set it to display the face picture on the left or right side of the textbox, and you can flip the image horizontally. This is what it will look like in-game:
Now let's look at some other event options. Open up your event again and look at "Trigger Condition" to the right of the event graphic. Whatever you have selected here will determine how the event commands (the stuff in the big white box) start. Right now it is set to "Action Key", meaning that if the player is standing next to the event facing towards it, and hits the action key, (enter or spacebar,) the event commands will activate. "Touched by Hero" sets the event to trigger if the player runs into the event. "Collision with Hero" is similar, but it will trigger if the event runs into the hero as well as vice versa. Setting the trigger condition to "Autostart" will make the event happen as soon as the player enters the map, making it useful for cutscenes. While an autostart event is in progress, everything that would normally be moving (like a person walking around the screen) will be frozen. WARNING: An event set to "Autostart" will repeat itself until something else tells it to stop, like the "Erase Event" command (page 3, column 2, row 11). "Parallel Process" is pretty much like autostart, except that it runs in the background, still letting the player and other events continue as normal.
Under "Event Layer" You can set whether the event will exist on the lower layer, the middle layer, or the upper layer. Normally, events will be made on the middle layer, meaning the hero will not be walk through them. If the event is "Below Hero", it will be able to cross underneath the hero and upper events, but not be able to move through other lower-level events. "Same Level as Hero" events will be able to go in between lower and upper events, but cannot go through the hero or other middle-level events. "Above Hero" events will be able to go over the middle and lower-level events, but not through other upper-level events. Checking the "Forbid Event Overlap" will make the event unable to exist in the same space another event, even if they are in different levels.
If you look at "Movement Type" you will see that you can set events to move around the screen. The options are "Stationary" (stays still), "Random" (walks randomly around the screen), "Vertical" (down as far as it can go, then up, repeat), "Horizontal" (right as far as it can go, then left, repeat), "Toward Hero" (moves toward wherever the hero is), "Away from Hero" (moves away from wherever the hero is), and "Custom Pattern" (Follows a route set by the programmer). Underneath "Movement Type" you will see a "Speed" option, with choices from 1-8. This sets how frequently the event will move along its route, 8 being movement without pauses and 1 long pauses every step.
The "Animation Type" option will change how the event looks in-game: Non-continuous means it will turn and change graphics when it walks around, continuous will make it have walking graphics, fixed dir/ will set it so that the event always faces the same direction, fixed graphic will set the event to always have the same picture, and spin around will make the event change directions constantly in a circle.
Setting the "Movement Frequency" will change the speed at which the event moves.
The Taskbar Buttons
A) Create a New Project: Creates a new project. Only available if there is no project already open.
B) Open an Existing Project: Opens a project you have already on your computer. You can only open games made in RPG Maker 2003 and RPG Maker 2000.
C) Close Current Project: Closes your project. It will ask you if you want to save before closing if you have made any recent changes.
D) Create a Gamedisk: This will allow you to compress the files in your game and make a folder containing everything it needs to run. Checking "Include Runtime Package in Game Disk will ensure that your game can be run on computers without the RPG Maker RTP already installed.
E) Save Changes Made to Maps: The save button. You can also save quickly by pressing ctrl/z.
F) Revert to State When Map was Last Saved: This button will take away all changes that have been made to the map since your last save, accomplishing the same thing as closing and reopening the program.
G) Map Layers: The lower tiles, upper tiles, and event tiles.
H) View: You can view your map at different sizes, ranging from 100% to 1/8%. This is helpful when drawing or editing large maps.
I) Database: The database stores all the information that remains constant in your game, such as hero information, chipsets, title screens, and items.
J) Import/Export: This function lets you add new material to your game, as well as save material onto your computer.
K) BGM: You can listen to any of the music in RPG Maker while you work, as well as music you have imported from your computer.
L) Find: This is a helpful tool in designing games that lets you search any map, event, or your whole game for what you're looking for. Switches, variables, and events become much easier to find.
M) Test Play: When test playing your game, you will have several options open to you that will not be accessible in the actual game. During test play, hold control to walk through anything, hold shift to show dialog instantaneously, and press F9 to toggle through and change switches and variables in-game. Pressing F12 will take you back to the titlescreen immediately.
N) Fullscreen: Having this selected will play your game in fullscreen mode rather than windowed mode. In game, you can use F4 and F5 to change the display size.
O) Title: If this is selected, your game will display a title background instead of a blue screen when the game starts. The titlescreen can be changed in the "System" section of the database.
P) Help: Some versions of RPG Maker come with help files, and some do not. The help file is available for download online if yours does not appear to have it.
Q) Undo: If you have made a mistake mapping, press this button or simply press ctrl/z to undo the last change. You can only undo up to three changes, and there is no way to redo what you have undone.
R) Select: The select tool lets you choose a rectangular area of your map (both lower and upper layers) so you can copy, cut, or clear it. You can select the whole map by pressing ctrl/a.
S) Zoom: This lets you pick specific areas of your map to zoom in on. Left-click to zoom in and right-click to zoom out.
T) Pencil Tool: This is the most-used mapping tool, allowing you to place tiles where you click on the map. Notice that you can choose and place more than one tile at a time by selecting more than one in the chipset box.
U) Rectangle Tool: This allows you to click and drag to create a rectangular box of whatever tile you've selected on the map.
V) Circle Tool: The same as the rectangle tool, but allows you to make an oval instead of a rectangle.
W) Fill Tool: Clicking on a tile with this selected will fill all nearby common tiles with the whatever tile you are using.
These are most of the basics of RPG Maker 2003. Knowing these, you will be able to make at least the semblance of a game, though if you want to make a game that people will like, it is imperative that you learn more. It would be good for you to experiment with these and get the basics down before you get too into the hard stuff, but I recommend next learning about switches, variables, fork conditions, and perhaps the database. All of these are important in creating a game, but it is best to take learning to use a new program one step at a time.
A Beginners' Guide to RM2K3
Mon, 09 Jun 2008 11:05:48 -0700