Do you want to make your own art for your game? Maybe just want to import this cool thing you found but the maker is giving you an error? Yeah this guide will explain most things you need to know. And also provide templates ready to go.
Import Tool, Colour Depth, File format etc.
How to import?
To import your resources into the game there are two ways:
- Simply drag your file into your project’s folder. However, this requires your file to have some things set or it will just appear plain black in the maker, or the transpency won’t work.
- Easier and “simpler”. Use the Resource Manager in the maker, it’s the import tool that allows you to choose the category and then import the file you want. After importing it it will show a preview. During this preview 1 color will flash, this will be considered the transparent color in the game. Click another color to change which one is transparent before moving on.
The trickiest thing with the maker is that it only accepts files capped at 256 colours. “Well that’s fine, mine doesn’t have that many different colours!” you might say. But unfortunately that won’t help.
In Photoshop, or GIMP, or Aseprite or any other pixel editing tool there is usually a choice to “index” the colours, or to “create a pallette from present colours” or simply to “change colour depth”. That’s what you need to do.
I personally used IrfanView, a free photo editing software originally designed to remove the old school red eyed blare that was caused by old school cameras, all ye youngsters who only take photos with your phone probably don’t get it.
The game prefers that you save your pictures as PNGs, BMPs also work. But never ever use JPG if you want something with transparecy. JPGs will jumble colors around to make the file smaller, this is fine with large pictures, but for sprites – which are essentially small pixel based graphics this sucks.
Templates, size etc:
The maker uses preset formats for the different resources. Meaning that a charset for example has a “static pose” and then two cycling “moving poses”. And then repeat this for each of the 4 directions. The size for each frame is also set beforehand, limiting you in what you can make – but there are some workarounds mentioned at the end of the guide.
- A charset is 288×256, meaning that each frame is 24×32. 3 frames for each “direction”
- A tile on a tileset is 16×16. The entire sheet is 480×256.
- Facesets are 192×192, so each face is 48×48
- Battlechar sheets are 144×384, so that’s 8 “stances” of 3 frames. So 48×48 as well.
- Battle animations are 480×480, so each frame for the animation will be 96×96
320×240,so an entire screen
No cycle, just a static image.
Battle backgrounds, or backdrops are static images that are present as background during battle, pretty straight forward. The battle background is the lowest layer of combat, meaning that it will be affected by shaking and flashes etc.
Note that depending on the battle layout you use the bottom might be covered by ATB bars, character stats etc, meaning that in practice only 320×160 will actually be visible.
Want a moving battlebackground? It can be done!
There are two general ways to do this.
- In the battle events, (Troops tab) use the “Change Background” command to cycle between backgrounds. So you import one background image for each “frame” of the animation you want playing. Then you change the background in the correct order to give it the appearance of moving.
- Use pictures. Use the Show picture command to show a picture that you have set up with an animation in mind. (More on this later in the picture section). Just make sure that its layer is below everything else in battle except the background.Template:
This one shows the correct size. The lower bluish portion shows what will be covered by the battle menu if you choose layout A or B. B is transparent.
The red and yellow sections shows the position of the Hero portraits and bars if you use Type C.
- Battle animations are 480×480, so each frame for the animation will be 96×96
- The Battle 2 (big) version is 640×640, meaning each frame is 128×128
- Battle animations don’t cycle, you need to set them up in the “Animations” tab in the database.Battle animations can play during battles or on the overworld. Each set of battle animations consists of 25 frames that can be used in the database to set up the animation you want. You can change color, transprency, size etc in the animations tab while making your animations so there is still plenty you can do.
Just some advice, when making battle animations that are supposed to play on the overworld, make a dummy enemy that is just a square of 16×16 (the size of a map tile) so the animation lines up correctly to how you want it to look on the overworld. Because the overworld playing is based on tile to tile coordinates.
Note. Battle animations are played exactly as you make them. So if enemies uses the same animations as the player for example, shooting an arrow, then the arrow will be fired from left to right just as the player animation. If you want to change this then you can go to the “System 2” tab and check the box “Flip assets if facing the other direction”.
Doing this will flip the animations to go in the opposite X direction during combat. Why is this option under System 2? No one knows, why is it so poorly worded? No one knows.
The template is 5×5 frames, I divided these into 16x16tiles, this is just a personal choice. The maker doesn’t do anything with this. Here’s a blank version as well:
Battle Charset (CBAs)
- Battlechar sheets are 144×384, so that’s 8 “stances” of 3 frames. So each frame will be 48×48.
- Most will go Left, Middle, Right. And repeat if applicable to the animation.
The exception to the cycle here is “Guard”. It starts at the Right frame, then cycles Left and Middle when taking damage before returning to Right.
Battlecharsets are setup in the Animations 2 tab, create a new entry for a new hero and assign the different Poses to a “row” in your sheet.
The first 12 poses are set by default to specific battle actions. But you can add more if you want a specific animation for a condition, attack or whatever.
First one divided into 3×3 16pixel tiles just for my own sake, the second blank. 48×48 is the size you can do here, but there is a way to expand on this, more on that down in the tips and tricks section.
Battle Weapon (CBA weapons)
- It would make sense if the weapons were the same size as the battlechars. But they are instead larger 192×512. Still 8 rows of 3 frames. Each frame is 64×64.
- All cycles Left, Middle, Right.
When it comes to the weapons, they are about 8 pixels in each direction from the animation of the battlecharset. So try to position your battlechar’s attack animation far back if possible to give you more toom to make the weapon show.
In the Animations 2 tab you set all weapon animations for each character and can preview how it will look (thankfully). You can also change how it would look when using right handed (behind character sprite), left handed (in front of character sprite) and both hands (first right handed, then left handed in succession).
Each character can have up to 32 different weapon “designs” added to them, just keep in mind that in the Items tab you need to assign which of these will be used by the character using the weapon. So the settings for a weapon for Hero 1 is not neccessarily the same as for Hero 2.
The first version is blank, the second one shows the size of a battlechar (48×48) inside it. So copying a battlechar into it can easily be done to see if you’ve lined it up correctly.
- A charset is 288×256,each sheet contains “8 actors” with 4 different “facings”. Each frame is 24×32. 3 frames for each “facing”
- If used as an NPC on the map or as the Hero’s sprite then The middle is used as the static pose. When moving in a direction the maker will cycle Left > Right > Left …etc until you stop or change direction.
This is the same for choosing an event to be “Walking Animation”.
Events will reverse to the Middle frame when not moving normally. When using the “Fixed Graphic” choice for events you can simply assing which frame you want to be shown. And that frame will keep on being shown forever, essentially allowing you to use a charset for extra objects on your map if you want. (96 extra to be precise), charsets are also global meaning that you can use this to get out the limitations of a chipset.
The first one just shows the size and limitations of each frame. Two rows, 4 “actors” on each row. 3 frames for each “facing”.
The second one shows small arrows for the facings that the maker uses, so your characters won’t be facing the wrong direction. Also a 16×16 tile in the middle to help you line up your sprite with the tiles they will be placed upon.
- A tile on a tileset is 16×16. The entire sheet is 480×256.Cycle:
- Yeah, some of these tiles have a “water animation”. I just don’t know how to explain this in a coherent manner.
Chipset is where things get weird. The entire sheet is the only thing you have access to on your map and consists of both the bottom and top layer. The bottom layer is the stuff your character usually walks on, the lowest point of the map. (Except for panoramas but more on that later).
The top layer can either be below, on top or above the player, and usually consists of objects and details. But always above the bottom layer.
The water tiles are animated, shown in the top left of the sheet. Likewise the grey, pink and white nearby also cycle between the 4 frames.
There is also a secondary water tile (marked in red in the template) and its interaction with the primary water tile.
Next we have some tiles (3×4) that is actually a single choice in the maker itself. This one expands if you place more of the same nearby, much like the water. Therefore you can add a “border” of “normal” tiles around it to make it blend into the normal ground better.
Just gonna try explain this with a picture instead:
After that comes single tiles for the bottom layer (red) and then single tiles for the top layer (pink). Just note that the bottom right of the bottom layer should be transparent so that you can have a parallax background (panorama) below the bottom layer.
Also note that the top left tile of the top layer should be transparent since this is the tile that will be automatically placed on each tile of your map. Also make it “Above player” in the maker to avoid getting stuck or flying and ignoring all the traits set to the bottom layer.
The properties of the tileset, including cycling order and speed are set up in the Tileset tab. You can also assign terrain numbers to the different bottom layer tiles here and precise movement direction etc.
First one is “simple” second one is more detailed.
- Facesets are 192×192, the sheet holds 16 faces. Each face is 48×48
Facesets are shown in the menu for your heroes, as well as in battle if you choose battle layout C. You can also add a faceset before showing messages to make it clearer “who’s” talking.
When using the Change Faceset event command the face will remain for that entire event unless a Change Faceset “Remove” is added to the event. Then it will go back to show nothing.
The message box will become smaller if a faceset is used for a message, there is a border thingy shown in the maker of where the message will cut off, but it’s not perfect.
You can also specify on which side the faceset is shown and if it should be flipped.
Just a single template here, nothing much to keep tabs of except the boundries.
Frames & Panorama (Parallax)
- Frames: 320×240,so an entire screen
- Panoramas: 80×80 to 640×480
- No cycle, just a static image. However, a panorama can be setup in the Map properties to pan in different directions.
Frames are basically just a picture shown at all times, at the topmost layer while on the overworld. They’re kinda useless.
You set these up in “Systems 2” and just make sure that you have them with transparent colour.
Panoramas however are useful! You can display these at the far bottom of a map. Why? Well you could add water so you don’t need to use the water tiles. You can have a background and then change it, such as the far off hills you’re traveling towards now changing because it’s evening.
You can also use them instead of a map like old school PS1 games.
If the size of the Panorama is exactly the same as the map it’s used on, the panorama can be shown in the maker without the need to test play. Just note that you need to use a Bottom layer tile that is transparent for the Panorama to show.
In map properties you can set a panorama and choose if it should “loop”, meaning that if the panoama is smaller than the map, it will start over.
If you also choose “Auto scroll” it will move in the background towards the right and/or down.
This can also be added using the “Change Parallax background” event command.
- Not gonna add one here.
Game Over & Title
- 320×240,so an entire screen
- No cycle, just a static image.
Not much to say here.
A game over message will appear at the top of the screen for the game over. And A box of choices will appear in the lower middle for the title screen.
In the System 2 Tab you can change so the game calls an event instead of automatically going to the gameover screen.
In the System Tab you can change so the game skips the title screen and goes straight to the map in which the Player Starting Position is. This way you can make a map based or picture based title screen of your own instead of the default one.
This is a template for the title screen, showing you the title screen box of options and the 3 choices there to help you position your picture well.
- Nearly any size you want.
- 16×16 to 200×240
Monsters are straight up pictures that you display during combat.
First you need to import them, then you need to add a new Enemy in the enemy tab and choose your graphic. On this screen you can also check boxes to make it “fly” which means the sprite will move slowly up and down. As well as “Transparent” and some RGB colour swap with a slider.
To actually fight the monster the monster needs to be added to an enemy group under the Troops tab by choosing it from the list and placing it where you want it to be in combat.
- Don’t really need one, just make sure that you have a colour in the background that can be transparent.
- Nearly any size you want.
- If you want it to.
Pictures! This is where the biggest freedom comes in the official version of 2003.
By using the “Show Picture” event command you can display a picture of your choice. You decide the “index” of it, size, transparency, colours, if it should be wavy or spiny etc. You can also choose to use or not use the transparent background colour and on which layer the picture should be displayed.
Speaking of displayed, this is where things get wonky.
When you display the picture it will show up relative to the player’s current “screen”. So it’s good for something that is shown to the player in this instance, such as a pop up notice, or custom menu etc. Less useful however for showing a UFO hovering above a city when you enter the map and can’t see the city yet.
There is an option to “Scroll picture with map”, but well it’s not really working like you think it should. Or well it choose wether or not the picture should pan with the screen when the player moves or not. But it’s just not that helpful if you want something to just stay in one spot on the map rather.
When choosing the picture graphic you can choose to replace the last X characters with the value of a variable. This might seem weird at first but stay with me.
Let’s say you have a time system and a variable called Time is keeping track of the time in hours (1-24)
If you have a picture imported named “clock_00” and one called “clock_20” then those last 2 characters could be replaced when the game is looking for the file. So let’s say the variable of Time is currently 14, then 00 would be replaced with 14, and the game would look for a picture called “clock_14”. Just keep in mind, if your variable for some reason has the value 34, and you don’t have a picture called “clock_34” the game will striaght up crash because it’s trying to load a picture that isn’t there.
Another thing you can do is to check the box “Spritesheet”, this will allow you to divide the picture into different frames much like all the other resources mentioned above. So if you would import a Battlecharset as a Picture for example. The you can set the vertical and horizontal to 8 and 3, meaning that you now have a eight 3-frame pictures. In “Sprite to display” you choose which one to actually display. You can choose if it should be animated which sadly just makes the entire thing loop from top left to bottom right. So if you imported that battlechar, it would play each row in turn.
However, you can choose “Variable” instead of “constant” and use the value of a variable to decide which sprite (of your sheet” to show.
Just remember that when using the event commands for pictures make sure you are showing and changing the correct “number”, the index. If you are currently showing picture 3 and then does a new command to show picture 3, the old one will be replaced. If you show picture 4 when 3 is out, it will be above picture 3 if they are on the same layer.
Also make sure to erase pictures when you are done with them, or at least check the box to remove pictures on map change etc.
- Nope, no need here.
System & System 2
- System 1: 160×80
- System 2: 80×96
- Some parts
System 1 is a graphic that specifies the text and window display colors (gradation).
System 2 is arrows for the cursor, battle gauges, numbers etc.
System 1 is what decides the look of the menues and borders. It also decides some icons in the shop window, equipment window, the numbers in the Timer event command, the shadow of the airship (why?) as well as the colours displayed using the /c message command.
This can be changed in the Systems tab.
System 1, the big colour to the left and the two under decides the color of message windows, menues etc.
The following 3 boxes are the border for the menues, the cursor’s design and color of the “choice” cursor showing where the player’s current option is.
System 2 decides the displays during combat. The first cursor is for choosing enemy target, the second is for choosing ally target (such as who to act, healing).
Then you have gauges for the 3 different stats in combat, HP, MP and Time (ATB), the graphics that fill the gauges depending on how full the bar is. And finally the numbers shown in the hero’s stat display in combat, once again HP and MP.
However, if you use Layout A or B, the normal font will be used for the stats and only the gauge for time will be used in the display. So you will mostly see these when using Layout C
The colours of the gauges indicates if the stat is maxed or less than maxed
Tips, Tricks and Workarounds
Larger and Longer Battlechar Animations
In the third tab of the Animations 2 tab you can choose “Animation type” the default setting for each pose here is “Charset” but you can change it into “Battle Animation”.
If you do, you can use a Battleanimation instead of a Battlechar for your character.
This effectively means you have a lot more frames to work with when setting up your character’s animations than 3 that cycles. It also means that the size is effectively doubled if you want it.
Just note that this can get wonky when using the normal Battleweapons option.
Copy Paste to place tiles without changing surrounding tiles
When adding tiles next to tiles that are made to change look depending on nearby tiles you may screw things up. Such as placing a waterfall in the water will add the “ground borders” around it. Frustrating!
But if you place the tile, copy it and then paste it into the map you can move it and put it down wherever you want. This will not trigger the surrouding tiles to adapt to its presence since it wasn’t “placed there”.
That's everything we are sharing today for this RPG Maker 2003 guide. This guide was originally created and written by prpl_mage. In case we fail to update this guide, you can find the latest update by following this link.