How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to...
I (Daniel Cullen) recently contacted the maker of RPG Architect, which is currently in Early Access on Steam. Locke, the head developer, was gracious enough to respond to my queries about their game engine, and on top of sending us review keys for the engine, for which we will be providing a complete review, he requested and we were happy to grant an interview to learn more about their engine.
Before we continue, I want to make it clear that, aside from formatting needed to make it appear legible in print and any needed grammatical adjustments, this interview is formatted exactly how I sent the questions and how Locke responded.
1. First, ChristCenteredGamer would like to thank you, Locke, for consenting to this interview. We've reviewed products like RPG Maker, which provides a full suite of options to make turn-based role-playing games, and we are curious about what will make your product stand out by comparison?
Hi Daniel, thank you for reaching out. Y'all will be the first official curators to review RPG Architect!
RPG Architect is going to be massively different than other makers for several reasons. As a RPG Maker veteran, I was frustrated that RPG Maker never really evolved -- it feels like it has been constantly adding features and removing them, never appending them -- and as soon as plugins were added, they relied on the community to "fix" the problems they had. Further, once the latest version or [sic] Maker is released, it never really adds features -- just bug fixes (if you're lucky).
RPG Architect is largely a response to this. You shouldn't have to upgrade an entire edition to get a "new" feature. RPG Architect is planned to be updated for a decade after official release. I'll be obviously sorting out the bugs, but also adding features. Once the core feature set is built, the big ask from the community has been a tactical or simulation RPG battle system -- so that'll be next. After that, it'll be up to the community to decide. My goal is to make RPG Architect the last RPG creation engine you will need (within reason). Since I'm the only developer, I can respond quickly to the community's needs/asks without any red tape. If you look at our reviews and comments in our forums or discord, you'll see that is one of the strengths many have noticed already.
Further, I have no desire to make RPG Architect 2. The goal is to have continual iteration on RPG Architect. If there is desire after a decade and a new engine rewrite is warranted, I might consider it, but only with the blessing of the community.
2. Your product is currently in early access, so some teething pains are inevitable, but your Steam page already advertises it can be used for more than just making RPGs if needed. Ultimately, will this become a more general framework and SDK for game development, or will it still primarily be devoted to role-play gaming?
This is a good question. Most games ultimately have RPG elements in them -- even Mario. Mario collects coins and can "equip" power-ups. The same could be said of action/adventure games as well. Since RPG Architect boasts a fully-fledged physics engine, it's not impossible to make these types of games and track different scores, power-ups, etc. We actually have an internal "Platformer" sample that is in the works (coming soon)!
The better question -- is RPG Architect ideal or suited toward this? I think that will be for the community to ultimately decide. I certainly don't mind adding other features to make other game types possible.
3. You provide native support for Microsoft Windows, and experimental support for macOS and Linux. Will this be supported for Steam Deck or other third-party operating systems?
Actually, we're a bit past experimental support for macOS and Linux -- we have full-fledged support for them. Steam Deck will be supported for published games (as will consoles, and the aforementioned platforms), but I don't know that it will be ideal for an editor. If there's enough interest and compelling arguments for it, I could be agreeable to try it eventually.
The only piece missing for support on Steam and consoles at the moment is controller support -- which the platform supports, but RPG Architect doesn't have implemented/connected just yet. Coming soon!
4. Currently, your engine is generally 2D based with 3D support. What kinds of 3D support do you anticipate providing via your engine ideally?
The physics engine (and everything internal) is all represented in 3D, so the sky will (mostly) be the limit. I plan on supporting 3D models in glTF format. Maps will still ultimately be built from tiles. However, with Doodads and Entities supporting 3D models, you'll be able to build non-blocky houses, cliffsides, trees, and so forth.
I hope we see (at best) some PS3-era style games in the lifetime of RPG Architect.
5. The system requirements for all supported systems are quite modest at present. Do you anticipate this changing over time, or is the intention to keep base requirements geared for more modest requirements as a baseline?
The editor itself doesn't need a whole lot -- and neither does the engine. When you start pumping in larger resources with higher polygon counts, etc, it might change. At the end of the day, though, the engine is highly optimized and the goal is to make something that works with really bad and old hardware.
Fun story -- before I released into Early Access, I actually borrowed a friend's laptop from 2008, which had Windows 8, 2GB of RAM (not even enough to run Windows), and no disk space. My internal 3D test project ran at 40 FPS with lighting turned on (though it did take a while to load). At that moment, I knew that RPG Architect had the potential to be something really accessible and special.
6. We at ChristCenteredGamer understand some stock resources will ship with your current program, and we were wondering what ages they would be most appropriate for? We also would like to know how freely we use and adapt resources from other engines and what general limits this will include for the immediate future.
I think most of the resources are suitable to all ages, minus small, small children. Inherently, RPG's have violence (there is a battle system, after all). However, there are no scantly clad men, women, or monsters, nor do I really anticipate there being any of such.
Adapting resources from other engines is a very nuanced question/problem. Some engines and resources are distributed to be used with a specific ENGINE only (the licensing terms). RPG Architect is similar -- you cannot use our resources in RPG Maker, etc. That said, the format is largely similar to other RPG Maker tilesets/character sets (we do support user-defined frames of animation, as well as 1, 2, 4, and 8 directional sprites). We have an import tool on our website and Steam (under Tools) that will help you import RPG Maker-style tilesets for use with RPG Architect, since the format is a little different.
RPG Architect's volunteer resource makers are all pretty wholesome -- Final Boss Blues (Jason Perry), Jason Martin, and Bit by Bit Sound (Bert). We're always looking for more volunteers!
7. Your Editor uses C# and AvaloniaUI. The Engine uses C# and MonoGame. Is the product going to remain proprietary or will some or all of it it eventually become open-source? If it will become the latter, to what degree?
Some of the verbage I have listed may be old -- the engine actually uses FNA now (it is comparable to a "cousin" or "sibling" of MonoGame, as they both are implementations of Microsoft's XNA). The core engine is abstracted enough to be easily ported (part of the strategy to support consoles, if necessary, though FNA seems to port natively on all of them right now).
I have no desire to let RPG Architect go open source -- except for maybe at the end of its life (see above -- that'll be in the 2030's sometime, perhaps later). It needs to remain closed source and generate revenue in order for it to get the active development it deserves.
In fairness, though, the engine isn't obfuscated whatsoever.
8. Finally, what are the future ambitions you have after this product reaches a mature state? Do you foresee other types of development software you might develop, or is it too early to say?
That will ultimately be up for the community to decide. I'd like to work on RPG Architect full time, but that'll depend on the community's support/investment of it. If it gets community investment comparable to other big-name makers, it wouldn't be hard to make it my full time job. Pie in the sky, for me.
As far as other tools -- it might be something I eventually humor. However, it has to make sense to do such, since the goal of RPG Architect is to make ONE tool that you'll buy and use for years. I don't want users to have to pay someone to port their game to a console -- or pay money for a plugin to fix a shortcoming of the engine -- that seems contrary to what an engine should do. I imagine we'll see little features pop up here and there (or Templates) that will help the engine tackle a different genre of game.
One idea I've humored with some of the resource makers -- I may eventually release a DLC for a Character Maker/Tool (this would need the blessing of the community) to basically fund resource development to the artist volunteers I have. The revenue for that would basically continually flow to the resource makers to push content out, not too dissimilar to what Final Boss Blues does with his Patreon account -- but you would buy-in once. As people do that over the months and years, it will pay for resource development.
The financial goal/strategy for RPG Architect and its sub-products will ultimately be volume. If we can get enough support to do things, then that will fund other endeavors, features, and upgrades. Kind of like the world's longest Kickstarter, but hopefully without the stigma of missed deliveries (and awful pitches).
However, this all requires me to repeat this again -- it HAS to be supported by the community. If there is no community, there will be no volume of sales -- and there will be no good input/ideas on how to grow the engine.
Ultimately, having a connected, involved, passionate community is paramount to RPG Architect's success.
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