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Cutscenes & Title Screen
 

Like enemy graphics, you don't need any special techniques to be good at cutscenes, you just need to be good at art in general. The only non-battle full-screen background that you -must- have is a title screen. Here are mine.

This one is simple to the point of inanity. It's a large ampersand (&) in blue, with a red word in front of it saying 'AND'. It doesn't even have a copyright notice or the name of the author.

This one is also simple, it's also words on words, but unlike the one above, it does have a copyright notice, making it not only words on words, but (as Charbile put it) words on words on words.

This title screen, unlike the others, has a background (of sushi), although it's nearly too dark to be seen. And the title of the game itself contains a lot of the copyright information in and of itself. Also note the unorthodox font, and the dark colors (red on black) getting the tone of the game going right from the start.

These examples show only my style of title screen, and each person will have their own style. The title screen is the first thing people see when they start your game, so don't lower their expectancies by having, for example, misspelled words, or a mosaic collage of seemingly random graphics from your game. Remember that the atmosphere of the game begins with the title screen. Each of these title screens begins to set the wa of the rest for the game.

*

Cutscenes themselves are things like these (drawn by Harlock for the game Harlock's & Rinku's Game Which Includes the Game Bill's Never Go West).


Three clowns.


Azukari.


Pazuzu and Xian.

Note how each is used to progress the story, each creates an image in your brain of what is going on. Cutscenes are usually the only place you get to see your characters outside of the hero graphics and walkabout graphics, which can be undetailed. In cutscenes, you make up for this, giving your characters as much detail as you can, so that they player better knows them. Azukari's cutscene exudes from her facial expression her confusion and shallowness, for example.

Here are some more from Tilde and the Mask of :P
 


Mr. Strand and Santa Claus.


Caduceus on the train.


The Altruist Banner.

Note the improvement from the last game (due to Harlock's leveling up in cutscene skill). Each of these tells a story, and has no need for explanatory textboxes to go along with them. The Santa/Strand one reveals a lot implictly. Strand is relaxed, with a cigarette, and a cunning smile that says 'I have everything under control'. Santa is faceless, turned away from the player, and listening passively. In the second cutscene, the train speeds on its path (emphasized by it going off into the distance on a mountain), while a stranger, with a sword, sits atop it. It has the feeling that there is going to be some trouble. In the third cutscene, we see a kind-hearted healthy person pulling, via a neck bind, a sleigh-full of others, with extra weight on it for no reason, being happily whipped by a leperous cyclops, and doing all of this totally without regret. It immediately leads one to ask oneself: "Why is he doing that? What gain could he get from it? How can he possibly be admirable? He's a moron," and at once the absurdity of the philosophy of altruism is made evident.
 

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FMV
 

FMV - Full Motion Video. The difference between FMV and cutscenes is arbitrary, but I define FMV as long sequences when you don't do anything and just watch, and cutscenes as short pictures that you look at, like the kind you see between stages in Ninja Gaiden. FMV moves and has frames, cutscenes don't, and even when they do move, it's just a shifting from left to right or up to down.

There is a large amount of freedom here, but FMV-time is not usually part of the game, it's a break from the game. The exceptions to this are the FMV + gameplay mixes seen in Final Fantasy 8 (that part where Squall fought that soldier with the FMV playing in the background being the epitome of this). You can't actually do that in the Ohrrpgce -- have FMV playing while you have sprites moving in the foreground -- so I'll ignore this type.

FMV is most commonly seperated into Anime type and 3D type. Both require special skills to make. To make anime-style FMV, you need to know how to animate Anime. To make 3D type, you need to know how to create rendered 3D movies. Since I don't know how to do either, I'll focus on a third category: special effect FMV.

This type of FMV is rather easy to make. You get some picture, and you distort it or change it in a sequence of stages. This is especially good for 'entering battle' effects. Lolsidothaldremobine used this type of FMV right before boss battles. I use this type of FMV in Knight of the Ages where the player enters the dream area of the game. Here are a few frames from it.

Simple looking enough. Each frame is a step in a filter, often you use more than one filter for each step.

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Font

"~"

Font appearances  are editable, although few authors take advantages of this. Best way to understand fonts is to try and make one, and to look at other fonts, so here I present a bunch of my favorite Ohrrpgce game fonts. The only important principles of font design that I can think of are: 1) make the font consistent, with each letter in the same style and around the same size, so you don't get bickering between them. 2) Make the font have something to do with your game in some way (a sci-fi game with a futuristic font, etc.).

These three examples were provided by Charbile. The top is from Phantasmo (you've probably never heard of it, but look forward to it). The middle is from Sword of Jade 2 (you've probably heard of it). The bottom is from The Last Job (see reviews section). Phantasmo has a nice stable font, readable yet interesting, with the capital letters proudly standing up, and the lower class of letters leaning to the side, as if needing support from the greater letters. Sword of Jade 2 has a more cartoony look to its font. The Last Job's font is distinctive in its smallness of its small letters. Note particularly how well done the symbolic icons of Phantasmo's font are. Also note that the numbers became roman numerals in The Last Job.

This one is from Ergintandal 1/5. It has gone through several revisions, and this is not the latest, but it is recent. It looks rather italicised, with the font seeming to rush foward, and eminate flexibility and stength at once. Notice too how the sword icon uses two font spaces, and how there are parts of other icons that can be mixed (a spear head plus the diagonal line would give a two-font-sized spear icon, etc.).

This is the font of And&. A rather simple idea: cut a line through each letter of the default font. This emphasizes the broken nature of derived memories (the theme of the game), as if they were pieced together like a jigsaw puzzle (rather, pieced together from pieces of many many different jigsaw puzzles).
 

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Functional Graphics
 

Most rpgs don't only use graphics to show actual things in the game, a lot of them use graphics to help the control of the game... icons, menu screens, pointers, and so on, don't really represent anything like a hero or a monster or a piece of land or an item, they are functional graphics. Here is an example from my game Ergintandal 1/5.

The pointer (sword) is a functional graphic. The border between the text menu and the time window is a functional graphic, as is the border between the left and the right sides of the screen. The little blue and red health & awareness status bars are functional graphics.

Making functional graphics is pretty easy... you just try out different line designs until you like the format. Making icons can be a bit more involved, but is really not very different from making icons in the font; the only difference is that you get to use a slightly larger size and more colors.

Note: that time is a playtesting time. The actual game length is much less than 53 hours right now. Also note that that is the only facial portrait I've made so far, you don't really get four Lesifts on your party at once in the game. In fact that portrait could be better, and I'll probably decide to replace it when I do all the facial portraits for the characters. Also note that facial portraits are not part of functional graphics, only the letters, the lines, the red and blue bars, and the sword icon are the of concern here.

The menu itself is obviously inspired by Final Fantasy,  in particular, Final Fantasy IV. The commands themselves, though, are usually different. Also, to save space, I didn't use numbers to indicate 'HP' and 'MP', I used mini status-meters.

As for how the submenu was made... that goes off the topic of this section of the article, but a few quick hints as to how I made it for the less plotscripting-inclined. There are two parts, stable parts and unstable parts. The stable parts include the boders and the names of the commands, the unstable parts include the time, the pointer, the faces, and the status bars... each of those 20x20, put there by plotscripting (in the case of the faces, 9 20x20's each, for a 60x60 total). That's 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 + 2 (pointer) + 2 (each half of the time is one npc) for a total of... 48? But, you say there are only 36 npcs per map? Forsooth. However, remember that maptiles themselves can be adjusted by plotscripting. The faces are actually made up of unstable maptiles, each time the plotscript enters the menu, it changes the tiles for the faces based on who is in the party at that time. That way I don't have to break up the faces into 20x20 chuncks and reduce them to 16 colors, I just have to put them on the maptile set, and let hamsterspeak do the rest.

Important in making functional graphics is consistency of style, which means, the overall look. It isn't important that each line or font letter look good, what matters is that they look good in conjuction, so that when you look at the whole screen, you aren't confused by what is what and what means what. Go for clarity over anything else. That goes for all graphics, of course, but moreso here.
 

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Graphics: Summary
 

You'd think that since we are making games on an engine not known for its graphical abilities, graphics wouldn't be that important. People sometimes say things like "Look at all those 8-bit NES games. They didn't need good graphics."  ...but they overlook that within the confines of the NES, most of the games had very good graphics! It takes a lot to make npcs out of 3 colors and 16x16 pixels and have them recognizable as a slime or a knight or a dragon or even the difference between 10 different knights. Sometimes it seems to me that the NES had better graphics (overall) than the current generation of video games, judging by the raw time and effort that was put into creating them. And also I feel it necessary to make the best graphics one can within the limits given to one, and not be complacent with less than that. Professional or no, the difference between the creator of a good game and the creator of a weaker one is what they feel 'good enough' to be.

Sometimes people say and "I play Ohrrpgce games for originality, not for graphics. If I wanted graphics, I'd play a Playstation 2 game" ...as if graphic design isn't a part of originality! How can one show one's creativity, if not through ever means available? A creative story needs creative graphics and creative music. Just look at The Last Job. Would it have been as good of an experience if the graphics were like those seen in the types of games parodied by Arfenhouse? Or if the music was taken from Chrono Trigger? It isn't just the story that made that game original, it was the graphics and music as well. A game doesn't need to be cutting edge have a million colors and artists to have good graphics. I see nothing wrong with claiming that the original The Legend of Zelda had better graphics than the first generation of Playstation 2 RPGs, and in claiming that Chrono Trigger had better graphics than Chrono Cross. Technology and millions of colors don't make good graphics, the artist does, just as musical instruments don't make good music, the musician does.
 
 
 

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