How to Make an RPG in Game Maker
By Kyle Turpin
Updated September 22, 2017
The creation of an RPG, or any computer game, can be an arduous but extremely rewarding process. Large software companies can spend months or years on a single game, so making one by yourself--even a simplified one--is no small task. The finished product, however, can make the hours of planning and days or weeks of programming worth every second. Not only will you create something that you can share with friends and family, but self-driven projects are also a great way to gain experience and skill for novice programmers. The gaming industry is accepting of self-promotion, and being the producer of an indie game looks great on a resume.
Preparation and Planning
Plan out your game, inside and out, before you even think about starting Game Maker. There is no such thing as programming on the fly, especially not in this type of application. You will need to carefully, and in great detail, plan your story, settings, towns, characters, monsters, abilities and leveling system. Draw character sketches, design dungeons and write scripts until you essentially have your entire game on paper. Addition and changes will be possible, but you must try to keep them minimal once you start programming.
Begin making your artwork. You can choose to create your images in Game Maker itself, but it would likely be easier to use an image editing program. For 8-bit style sprites, MS Paint would work fine, but what program you use depends on your preference and game style. Make sure to keep all of your sprites organized as you create them, so you can locate them easily. Keep in mind that you can either render your settings as one large image and add invisible walls and objects in Game Maker, or you can draw individual tiles and make these into objects later.
Download and install Game Maker, and create your new game project. Save this project somewhere, and begin incorporating your sprites, keeping them organized. Once all of your sprites are in Game Maker, you are ready to begin building.
Building the RPG
Convert your sprites into objects and add the appropriate programming to them. If you have planned accordingly, you can do this all in one step, or you can add objects as you need them. Some programming challenges you will need to overcome will include: an experience counter, with diminishing returns for too-easy or too-hard encounters, flags for learning new abilities and algorithms for stat increases; flags to prevent the character from moving during cut-scenes and dialog; a save point system, or autosaves.
This will be the most frustrating and arduous part of your experience, even more so than adding the sprites, as you will constantly have to fix bugs and tweak behavior.
Being building the "rooms." Rooms are the game screens as used by Game Maker, such as the inside of a house, a dungeon or the battle screen. Each room will have to include various objects, such as transitions to other rooms, the playable character and other nonplayer characters. If you chose to draw your background images as complete pictures, you will have to use invisible walls to make certain areas "unwalkable," as you will not be able to make different pieces of terrain into different objects. If you drew individual tiles, then you can make some of them solid and others not as need be. Make sure to test each room extensively.
Test your game from start to finish. Explore each room carefully, looking for game-breaking holes or defects. Ensure that conversations work as expected, that battles play out properly and that the leveling system is in ideal working order. As you make changes to objects, be aware that other bugs may come up as a result. Enlist your friends and family members to try to break your game, and when they do, fix it. Remember that if you are doing this for yourself, you do not have a budget or timetable, and it is worth taking the time to fix any problems. Many great games have failed because of poor, rushed testing.
Distribute your game. Post it online, send it to your friends and promote yourself as much as possible. If you are trying to make profit, a simple "Consider donating if you enjoyed this game" message with your PayPal info will help. Many people will support a game they enjoy, either monetarily or through other means, especially if their support might influence a sequel.
Use other RPGs are reference when coming up with your mathematical algorithms, such as the ones for leveling and loot.
You can use invisible objects as controllers and flags. Simply create an object with no sprite and place it in a room, and you can use it for odds and ends such as checking other party member's stats while swapping them.
Kyle Turpin has been writing for eight years. He has written articles for publication on eHow that cover topics such as customizing operating systems, level and game design, and science and technology. He specializes in informative writing, as well as fiction and poetry. He has studied Physics as well as English at the University of Victoria and is aspiring to become a published author.