Early Access Release and Acknowledgments

This will be an interrupted post from my monthly updates (I’ll still write one for the end of January), since we’re at a bridge. This post will be a bit more personal than usual, since I imagine there will be an influx of new members to the RPG Architect community who have no idea what the goal is and who I am (as well as the other prominent people who have been helping). I want to make sure our community really does start off correctly and grows.

Long ago, I had played with RPG Maker 95, 2000, and 2003. I had been involved in many communities (Don Miguel, Gaming Ground Zero, Gaming World, and so forth). I was studying at university when RPG Maker XP came out, but I didn’t really get the opportunity to play with it (the irony was that I had a course involving Ruby, the language RPG Maker XP allowed custom scripting in, around the same time it came out). I told myself I’d write my own “MMO” engine as lofty-idealed youngsters often do. I actually had a framework that was in the works, but I didn’t have a community or help to support it. I was going thru a rough break-up and dropped it, losing heart. Not too long later, the idea spurred again, but this time — I’d make an awesome editor to go with it — and in C#! It went alright, but the idea of making an endless MMO (procedurally-driven!) was a bit daunting… and eventually, I shoveled it to the side for whatever the flavor of the year was.

Since then, I’ve been involved in rewriting and building engines off and on. I used the Tao framework (which I believe got absorbed into OpenTK), and finally arrived at MonoGame after meeting a colleague at work who was big on it. I really enjoyed working with it. MonoGame is a port of Microsoft’s XNA, a game engine framework they built around the time of the Xbox 360. MonoGame, however, offered the promise of porting to different platforms and the like — as well as being open source and built on some of the frameworks mentioned above. I played a little bit with building a procedurally-driven Metroidvania, but ultimately dropped that project as well. The framework was there and working, but it just wasn’t fun anymore — and again — no support.

After nearly twenty years, I came back to RPG Maker. It hadn’t changed much, truthfully, from back in the day. Rewriting the engine in Javascript was interesting from a porting perspective, but not from a performance perspective. There still wasn’t even simple 3D. MV had been out for a while (and I had purchased all of the RPG Maker engines on Steam from prior, since I enjoyed them in my youth), and the promise of MV3D had me very interested. Is this finally the way the engine should have evolved?

I played around with it for a while — and was working on ripping out the battle engine and pushing in my own. It was going alright, but I noticed a big problem. The JavaScript engine just wasn’t good enough. It was slow, the load times were bad (Disclaimer: I have a beast of an Alienware — 8 cores, 3080 RTX, 32GB of RAM, SSDs), and it felt like I was constantly fighting the engine to get the results I wanted. Even worse, any hopes and dreams of ever making a game and porting it to Nintendo went out the window when I saw that Nintendo was anti-Javascript and HTML (and also, these still aren’t great platforms). Full disclaimer at this point, MV3D and MZ3D have made monumental strides and improvements. The hiccup, it seems, truly is the native RPG Maker engine they’re running on — not their framework.

Why hadn’t anything evolved to support a simple 3D format? It’s really not TERRIBLY hard to do simple billboards and basic 3D geometry. MV3D proved that. Transforming 2D into 3D could be done.

So I decided to build my own in MonoGame. That was roughly a little over two years ago.

I had a few friends from the MV3D server, Tolin and Rikyu, who had been around quite a while in that space. I gave them very early builds, probably about 6 months after I had been working on RPG Architect. I constantly got feedback, reworked things, and iterated on the design. There were tons of bugs, since I’m not the best 3D programmer, but we worked thru a lot of them. I outsourced a bit of help on shaders from Ravendarke, who has been instrumental in helping me learn how to do these as well. I’m almost dangerous with them at this point. We’d had some comings and goings with other folks as well in the process.

Around this time, I also forged friendships with Jason (Final Boss Blues) and Bert (Bit by Bit Sound). We all have similar backgrounds in the overall RPG community, with a lot of opinions on where things should have gone. You’ll note that they’re also contributors to our official resources. It has been very fun working with them (I helped FBB with his “Time Elements Character Generator”). They’ve been encouraging along the way. I also happen to be a patron to both of them on Patreon. I highly recommend it! They put out regular updates with good content.

Fast forward to June of 2022. I decided to finally open a Patreon to offer RPG Architect to some “early backers” with the intent of getting more feedback and shaping it for the community. It was an Early Access to the “official” Steam Early Access. We’ve had roughly 35 people who supported us on Patreon, with about 25 whom eventually got access to the Steam builds. Not everyone has given feedback, but I’ve worked with the feedback given.

The very limited influx of cash was used to try to cover some of the upfront costs for RPG Architect that I had incurred (I’m still not out of the red on it, just yet) — costs to start a business, costs for good shader code to cover up where my skills were deficient, costs for publishing to Steam, costs for the hardware to test on, and so forth. I also tried to compensate some of my help along the way for their efforts, though it may or may not have been in silly things, like the most amazing mug in the world.

I may have exaggerated a little bit on the greatest, but it’s pretty special to me.

In this phase, we also gained another Jason (Noob), baz, Mondune, and Saint Edwards Games (Anthony) who have contributed in various ways. Some people had to take a step back for life-reasons — totally respectable — but have been supporting us otherwise.

It’s time for actual acknowledgements — I’ll be using a lot of online handles rather than actual names. Tolin is responsible for helping with a lot of graphic and print design. Do you like our logo? He did that. He makes all of our Steam banners and several internal resources. A large amount of the internal administrative work was done by him, as well as constant feedback on finding bugs and overall workflow issues. Some of the documentation has been written by him as well. If you see us on twitter, it’s probably him! Rikyu put out several video tutorials and will hopefully continue supporting us in the future. He has given lots of excellent feedback in regard to 3D — and had contributed many early images, sampled from his 3D models, to test out many of the systems. Ravendarke has had a lot of patience in helping me learn shader language, and building/optimizing the engine. It is sometimes a thankless job.

Final Boss Blues was originally only going to contribute a little bit — but ended up contributing a lot of his old material from Time Fantasy to us with an exclusive license for distribution. Originally, it was going to just be a couple of the free characters and sets from his itch site and eventually his OpenRTP, but he believes in the project — and wanted to contribute more. We have a ton of resources from him. He also helped give a lot of feedback on how the editor for RPG Architect should feel/interact. Bit by Bit Sound (Bert) also has been instrumental (pun intended!) in things. Originally, his contributions were going to be about seven songs to be included with RPG Architect. Eventually he decided that seven wasn’t enough — so he gave us two soundtracks that he normally sells — and made every single sound effect that was included — over 200 of them! I had contracted him to do our trailer theme, but then he decided to make the entire trailer for us with samples from a lot of the people in this list.

Noob joined through Patreon and decided that he really wanted to contribute. If you’ve seen any of the “Monster and Robot” branded resources, that’s all him. He’s a phenomenal pixel artist. He has been one of the biggest power-users of RPG Architect, constantly testing (and breaking) features. If something is working better, it’s likely because he was vocal about it needing to be fixed (or to quote him “I don’t care about your feelings and you will hear every one of my stupid opinions!”). He has also done a lot of thankless jobs to help me have time to focus on coding. He ported a list of bugs/features from one site to another, built out explanations in the wiki, offered suggestions on verbage, and all the like. baz came along with Jason. Both have done a number of games with Pixel Game Maker. baz is responsible for some of the video tutorials coming out. They are quick-and-easy, get-you-to-know RPG Architect-type videos. Mondune showed up late in the development cycle — really only in the past few months. However, he did a lot of the same work that Jason had been with getting to know the engine, building things out, and offering feedback. He helped test out several of the systems and build them out, as one of the other big power users. Several clips from his game are in our trailer. Anthony (of Saint Edwards Games) showed up and started showing things he was doing in the engine… and then sent me a bunch of fonts and user interface elements, asking me to include them.

I’ve met a number of really helpful folks in the MonoGame/FNA community as well. Ethan Lee is the beast who wrote FNA and has been very helpful in getting me ported from MonoGame to FNA (it wasn’t too much work). He is a big part of why RPG Architect runs so smoothly now — and on all of the platforms that it is. He’s also the reason that we will be able to go to consoles. MrGrak and prime31 have both been very helpful as well, each hailing from either MonoGame or FNA (or both)’s communities. A lot of the performance improvements and suggestions were by them. When you’re going as fast as you can, you miss these things sometimes — so a second set of eyes are always helpful.

There are other folks who I’ve probably missed — and there are others who left us. Thank you to all of your contributions!

To come full circle, it has been a crazy journey. When I originally wrote my engines, frameworks, and games, it was always me alone. RPG Architect has been my baby for the past two years. As a recent father, I can firmly say that, without support, you’re going to have a very hard time with raising that child. The saying of “it takes a village to raise a child” is absolutely true. Without a community, you’re going to have a very hard time moving forward. Without the support of the folks above (mentioned and unmentioned — and a BIG acknowledgment to my wife and kids who have been incredibly supportive of this endeavor for two years), RPG Architect wouldn’t be possible.

To all of you from the bottom of my heart: Thank you so much.

This is also why RPG Architect is going to be successful. As it was developed, there was so much input from the community. Even back in the old times when I was fiddling with older game tools, it was clear — the community made the engine work. Without community, nobody really cares or is involved. I’ve made so many friends on the way, even if it’s just thru the ether. My goal (and hope) for the community is for many of you to have the same realization and connection as you start working with RPG Architect.

My goal is to grow that community, and I’ll reiterate my plan. I want you to buy this engine exactly once. I want to continue putting out updates for as long as it is feasible to upgrade it. I have no interest in rewriting it (or adding a few minor features) and making an “RPG Architect 2” in a few years. I’d rather continue building RPG Architect for another ten years. There are a core set of features (publishing, ambulation, better animation/action sequence editing, better save states — just in the coming months) that I personally want and think are needed for our official release onto Steam, post-Early Access. In the meantime, I hope that you’ll work with me to spot any bugs or workflow deficiencies that can be improved. After that, I want to add community-driven features, such as a strategy battle system, randomized maps, and more.

While not everything will be able to be addressed right away, I really do hope that RPG Architect will meet all of your needs and support your creative process in making games.

It’ll be a little bumpy at first, but as the community grows and bugs get patched (look at all of the Steam notes on every release — you’ll see they happen frequently, just as they did before Steam), things will get better and better. Thank you for your support and I look forward to working with you.