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Maptiles
 

Maptiles are perhaps the trickiest part for me. There are excellent maptile tutorials online (see references section at the end of this article), I suggest using those, so you can learn from people who actually know how to make good maptiles. But I can speak of what is in my experience. You are -not- going to learn everything you need to know about maptiles here.

Here is one of my (non-finished... I still need to improve the trees and bushes and make the rock-connection system) maptile sets for Ergintandal 1/5.

Note how the maptiles are made. Ignore for now that there are duplicates (those duplicates will be used for animating those glowing blue things). 

First notice the top two rows. There is a brown patch of dirt, which is your basic floor (Always put your basic floor in that spot, since it's the default tile). Then there is a pile of rocks. There is a small rock on that dirt and a large rock on that dirt. Usually you want to draw your basic floor first, and then anything you want to draw on top of that floor should be drawn on top of that first tile (you can copy tiles by going on that tile and pressing Ctrl + C, then to a blank space and pressing Ctrl + V). After that you see two green (grass) things, one with some acorns on it. I wound up not using those maptiles, but I didn't want to delete them, because I might use them in a different maptile set (or maybe in a different game). Then after that, notice that there are four rocks (in a square pattern). Notice how each of them has grass to a certain side of it. This brings up the importance of making tiles connectable. You don't want to make the maps seem square, even though you actually are working with squares. A certain amount of the 'grid-look' is unavoidable to perceptive eyes, but avoid it whenever you can. This particular maptile set is less grid-looking than most, but not as good as I would have made it if I made it today (this tileset was made about a year and a half ago). After those four rocks you see a bunch of things that 'connect' the grass floor and the dirt floor. The first two have dirt on the bottom and grass on the top. The next two are just dirt floors that I may add to later. The third two also have dirt on the bottom and grass on the top, in fact they are repeats. I do not know why I did that, so just ignore that. After that are two tiles with dirt on the right side and grass on the left, and directly next to them are two tiles with dirt on the left side and grass on the right. After that are two tiles with dirt on the top and grass on the bottom. So that's it for the '3 sides dirt, 1 side grass' ones. Now for the 'two sides dirt, two sides grass' and '1 side grass, two sides dirt' ones. As you can see above, every combination is there. There is a tile with the left and up sides dirt and the bottom and right sides grass, there is a tile with the left side dirt and the three other sides grass... every combination you would need.

Ignore the rest and go down to the two rows, near the bottom, beginning with the two tree trunks. After the tree trunks are tiles that have all sides dirt but the middle grass. They look like islands of grass. After those you see two grass tiles with dirt on the top and bottom. Then you see two identical looking bushes (small trees) which are a bit too round for my taste. After those are different types of grass tiles, two without rocks and two with rocks on them. After those are the 'corners' of the grass... four different types. After that are the 'sides' of the grass... four different 'sides'. And finally at the end there is a 'hole' in the grass.

Now for the final two rows. The first things you see there are 'points' or 'penninsulas' of grass. After that are four more 'corners' of grass, but slightly sharper (less round) than the four corners of grass shown before. After that is a 'penninsula of dirt'. After that are the bottoms of two trees. Then there is a square of nothing. Then you see another 'penninsula of grass', then you see a 'grass with two sides dirt', then you see a 'grass with a diagonal gash in it', and finally, you see 'basic grass'. 

This entire tileset is basically about dirt, grass, and how they merge in different ways. The 'theme' of this tileset is what 'borders' or 'edges' between grass and dirt look like in this particular forest. Borders are where two things meet. Shorelines are borders of the land and the ocean. Skin is the border between you and the rest of the world. Wherever two things, fields, or people interact, there is some border.

Here are how the maptiles fit together.
 

Here you see Lesift. But more importantly, you see how the tileset fits together to make a section of a map. From a few simple tiles, you build a place to explore. Here you can see three places where dirt is entirely surrounded by grass.

Here you see the use of the 'diagonal gash' tile to make something that looks like four fingers. You also begin to see the grid-like nature of the rocks. This isn't good, and I will take steps to remedy this (by combining the rocks into a type of rock mass, itself having borders. There is enough room left in the tileset to do that).

Here you see a tribute to The Legend of Zelda in the pattern of the seven trees that Raft is looking at. Note the 'islands' of grass in the upper left hand corner. Each is different. In tile-based games you have to be wary of making everything look the same, so that it looks like you've been somewhere or seen something before when in actuality it's a new vista.

In the left side of this screenshot, you see a complex shape made of grass. Notice how it doesn't look very grid-like at all.

Anyway, that's a mini-lesson in maptiles. The lesson is, don't think of maptiles as objects... don't think that each maptile has to have a picture in it of something (floor or chair or desk or tree), and that a map is a collection of those tile-sized pictures. Thinking like that will get you Dragon Warrior 1 style graphics. A maptile set will look grid-like unless you understand the idea of making things out of more than one tile. It's an easy mistake to make... in the above maptile set, the bushes are tile sized, the largest rocks are tile sized, and the 'doors' (caves) are tilesized. This gives the tileset a dated look in those respects. 

The second (sub)lesson is to make borders interesting. Don't assume that borders have to be straight lines... look at the screenshots above. They curve in, out, like a squiggled line. This may be an extreme example of this idea but extremist squibbles don't look too much worse than extremist gridness.
 

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Walkabouts
 

There are many walkabout styles in use, but the key to making good walkabouts is consistency. Don't make all your walkabouts look like clones, but don't make up a new walkabout style for each. Unlike hero graphics, you want your walkabouts to look slightly similar to one another: this is because from a distance, humans do look similar to eachother, but up close they do not. For example, if you use eyes with whites in one walkabout, use it in all your walkabouts. Don't have someone with eyes one pixel big and another person with eyes 12 pixels big. One of them will look deformed. Don't have someone with a head twice the size of the head of someone else. Don't have someone with hands size times as big as someone else. Keep a general consistency to your proportions (except for monsters).

Walkabouts are perhaps the smallest thing you'll have to draw for your game, and so you'd think they would be the least work. Not so. It is their small size that means you have to draw them really well. Make every pixel count. More than half the game is spent staring at the main character's walkabout graphic.

Walkabouts are perhaps the easiest way to spot people who don't put much time or thought into their graphics... some people make walkabouts that don't move their arms, others make walkabouts that walk by extending the front leg and keeping the back leg in place. Some people just don't make walkabouts that work at all, and simply make things that float. Some people make walkabouts with heads so small that they can't even fit eyes in there. Some people don't even bother shading, or outlining in a dark color, thus causing their walkabouts to be confused with the tilemap... in a recent game I saw someone who was made mostly of pink, without outline, walking on a solid pink floor of the same color... they just seemed to disappear into the floor as they walked over it.

The way I make walkabouts (and I suspect the way most do) is to make a basic form and use that as a template to make walkabouts. The first thing is to look at how walkabouts walk in various games, and gain an idea of how walkabout forms work and what different forms or out there. Or, just notice how you yourself walk. Notice that when you put your left leg forward your right arm goes forward. Spend a lot of time making the basic form, keep adjusting it until you like it, and once it's done, the rest will be easy, since they'll just be different variations from that one. 

Here is an example of what a basic form for Ergintandal 1/5 looks like. 

It is similar to what a basic form of Wingedmene: Part One would look like (the face shapes are identical (although the eyes different here), and the hand and leg shapes are very similar). Note that you may want to make more than one of these (one for adult, one for child, for example).

Now, after you have the basic forms, the difficult part is giving each one distinction. Here are six of the main characters in Ergintandal 1/5.

The main thing to recognize is that these all have the same 'feel', but they don't 'all look alike'. They are quite varied in most ways, colored differently, are varied in height, etc. I'll go through them one at a time, top to bottom.

Raft's walkabout's colors are green and red (which contrast well), and like a few of the others, he has some type of headwear. Just having hair, without anything on it, gets old and can cause everyone to look alike. He also has a quasi-cape. Thentagast is almost the basic form, except that she has longer hair with something tiara-esque around it, and the cloth of the shirt is longer on one side than the other. The colors (green, blue, and purple) don't contrast that greatly, so I used a very bright green and a darker blue/purple and made two bright dots on the boots to add color variety. Risuwist is different from the basic form in having a different style of clothes, and two crystal-like ornaments were added to the hair for variety. Paste has a large hat (with a rim of blue for contrast), and large cloak, so he is easily distinguisable from the others. Note the shadow under the hat, which gives the hat its feeling of depth. Lesift is a bit wider than the basic form (being a knight-type character, this makes sense), and contrast is found by using dark colors for clothes and hair and bright for shoulder plates. Ynepth's contrast comes from the greyness and paleness of the hair and clothing contrasted with the decorations on the clothing (of blue, red, and purple).

Another important thing to notice is that the shading always goes in one way (bright on the left, dark on the right). So when you flip the left and right walkabouts make sure you take this into account and re-shade (you can see that I forgot to reshade Risuwist's facing left frames).

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More About Walkabouts
 

Walkabouts are not just for walking about. You use them as props: treasure chests, as items to pick up, as blocks to push, as switches to pull, as bushes to cut down, as boxes to explode, and on and on. Learning to draw these is basically a matter of knowing how to draw each of those individual things. Above, from top to bottom, you see a triangle block pointing up, one pointing down, a bat, three sizes of slime, a slime being cut in two (using plotscripting, you can make 'npc animations' such as this by simply changing the direction of the npc), and a mushroom (mushroom courtesy of Charbile).

Another often neglected part of drawing walkabouts is drawing walkabouts which do more than just walk. Think of Final Fantasy 4-6. The walkabouts there could wave goodbye, nod, bow, lie down dead, sleep, be surprised, raise their arms up in anger, blink, look up, kneel down, and so on. In Chrono Trigger, they can do even a larger variety of things (although doing all of those things in the 20x20 pixels the Ohrrpgce gives you would take work). Now that it is trivially easy to use 'change hero graphic' in plotscripting to show such effects, there is no reason not to do this for your game. It gives the characters more of a feeling of life. 

Above, we see a simple way of graphically indicating different expresions: the question mark and exclamation mark. Appearing over a character's head, these marks (along with "ZzzZzz" and "..." and that tear drop sometimes seen in Japanese RPGs and Anime) can be used to add to a scene.

Below those we see Thentagast's (in a younger form used in flashbacks, note it uses a different 'basic form', since it is child-sized, not adult sized) normal standing frame, and then a blinking frame (very easy to do, just change the eye shape). Then you see a nodding/bowing frame (move face a bit lower, cover with hair, make the round-point lower, move hands behind back), a sitting on the floor frame (hold Caps Lock, lower the frame, change the legs), a dead on the ground frame (May have to redraw this one from scratch), a surprised frame (add whites around the eyes, move arms somewhere), and two arm moving frames (for saying hi, giving signals, beseeching, etc.). The last row is just a 'looking around' set: looking down, looking left, looking up, looking right, each just made by turning the head (although the lookig down and up ones are tricky, and I don't think that mine look that good). Other frames you may try to make include laughing animations, drawing weapon animations, casting spell animations, climbing ladder animations, swimming animations, and whatever else your game calls for. Final Fantasy 6 and Chrono Trigger are good places to get ideas for different types of frames that you may want to give your characters.
 
 

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