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Animated Monsters & Interactive NPCs: Cosmic Drifter

Animated Monsters & Interactive NPCs: Cosmic Drifter

In Part 2 of my series, The Making Of Cosmic Drifter, we add support for animated monsters and add NPCs that you can chat with to learn about the game in the Starter Zone.

Cosmic Drifter?  What's That?

Cosmic Drifter is a sci-fi computer RPG inspired by the Traveller RPG game.

It is a mash-up of my own homebrew system (called FutureSpace) and the Traveller SRD.

You can follow the Design Document here.  This is updated every time I make changes to the program.

You can see a Demo Walkthrough here.

You can follow The Making Of Cosmic Drifter here.


The Core Of Every Game: Conflict

The nugget of every good story is conflict.

Conflict doesn't necessarily mean there is violence., but in most RPG games players are going to expect to have conflicts with 'monsters'.

Whether they are fighting horrible harpies, feeding demanding faires, or tickling forest creatures, players want a way to overcome one-on-one 'battles'.

For my Cosmic Drifter sci-fi RPG, I want to have animated mine worms, rogue mining drones, and other things to fight and I want them to be animated.

Thankfully, there is an RPG Maker plugin that adds support for Dragonbones animated monsters.

This plugin not only allows you to add animated monsters, but it lets you add a whole bunch more animations than what comes in the stock RPG Maker program.

Now my monsters can have a variety of attack and defense animations, instead of just breathing.

Interacting With NPCs

We need a way to interact with the game environment in a meaningful way, so let's add other people to talk to.

In this case, we will add an "Info NPC" inside each building to explain what that building is about.  These NPCs can help dole out info about various aspects of the game world.  This will help players begin to learn the game lore in a natural way.

I want the Starter Zone to be a semi-safe place to experiment and learn about how things work.

I used Events located on the counter and set them so the player just needs to stand in front of the NPC then move towards the NPC in order to activate the chat.

I found this was a good way to get chats started right away, rather than have a dialog first ask if I want to chat, or having to press the action button.

When creating complex dialogs, it can be handy to draw the branches out by hand, or using a program like XMind or TalkTree.

Feedback Surveys

It's hard to create a game in a complete vacuum; it's better if you have a sounding board to test your design ideas against.

The best kind of feedback comes from your target audience.

To help out with this, I installed a polling module to collect opinions and posted links around RPG computer gaming groups and Traveller RPG groups on Facebook.

Gaming Surveys can be found here.

Sci-Fi RPG Surveys can be found here.


Tips And Tricks

Dragonbones- I made my own animated monster and imported it into RPG Maker.  At first, everything seemed like it was working.  The IDLE animation was playing correctly, but when the monster played its ATTACK animation, it didn't go back to idling; it started looping the attack animation instead.

Turns out that Dragonbones' default animation settings set Play TImes to 0 which means to loop.

Dragonbones needs to have its idle animation set to loop and the attack animations set to 1 in the Dragonbones program, otherwise, your sprite will keep playing the same attack action over and over instead of playing it once and then returning to the IDLE animation.

Dialog Trees - Dialog trees can get crazy fast.  I found a cool tool that is free to use it's called TalkTree but has been discontinued by the author (use Twine instead).  It's made to output to GameMaker but is generic enough that it can be used for a variety of applications. It helps you make dialog diagrams that help a lot.  You can make notes about where the voices branch to, and if any variables need to be changed in the game.  You could also use something like Visio or Xmind to get the same result.

Mind Mapping - Mind mapping software is a great way to work out your ideas and brainstorm design options.  You can download Xmind mind-mapping software here.



These are the tools we added to our toolbox in this episode:

Dragonbones - Free sprite animation editor

TalkTree - Free dialog tree editor (Use Twine instead)

Xmind - Mind-mapping software


How Much Does It Cost To Make Your Own RPG?

Running Total

I already own Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, but you can use GIMP and Inkscape, both are free.

So far, this is the cost breakdown:

$69 - RPG Maker MV

$30 - Yanfly Full Collection

$ 5 - Aekashics Librarium Bundle Ultrapack (Drogonbones Monsters)

$ 0 - Dragonbones editor

$ 0 - TalkTree dialog tree editor

$ 0 - Xmind mind-mapper
$104 total

Your Turn. What Do You Do?

Do you like to have battles with monsters?

Do you like to chat with random NPCs in the game?

Tell me about it in the Comments Section.  I'm interested in what you have to say about common and expected methods of game interaction.


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I'm an RPG maker and game designer who builds tabletop and electronic RPGs for fun in my spare time.

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