For our third article in the Game Maker series I decided to go for something a bit less known and settled on Ren’Py. Ren’py is a game making tool for creating visual novels. Visual novels are normally associated with Japanese gaming, dating and high school sims. In this Game Maker article I’ve also had a shot at making a kind-of-game with the program.
Ren’Py comes as a self-extracting file about 20MB in size, it’s probably one of the smallest tools we’ll be looking at in the series. Upon first launching the program the currently active project is the tutorial, which is presented as a fully playable game for you to work your way through. Which I think is a pretty neat idea as it shows you what the coding looks like in action.
Yes coding. However do not be put off by that word. Ren’Py uses a rather simplified coding language similar to Inform 7, which we will look at in later weeks. A large part of the game making process is creating the Visual and Novel elements of your visual novel so coding is maybe about 5% of the overall game making process.
So I’ve made a short game, and that’s pushing the definition, with this program. We’re talking a few hours work last night. So you can see how quickly you can knock something together. When you first make a project it goes through a short wizard, asking what theme and colour scheme you want and getting you to give it a name. Most features such as preferences, saving and loading is all pre-built for you, so no need to dabble with that. The coding is fairly simple, and for most occasions you can probably just take the template and work from there, just changing character and file names. You can add in images of various types, as well as sound and video files. Just be aware this can push up the file size and the Open Source license means some commercial formats, such as .mp3, are not recommended.
I’d say the main issue is that at the moment they seem to be in a transition period with the tutorial, so it’s not all there. I had to do a bit of experimentation to get images to show where I wanted them as the tutorial wasn’t very clear. I would imagine when the tutorial is complete then it should be easier to follow.
Distribution is pretty simple. Ren’Py will compile the game for you, for several platforms (I only made a Windows version though). If you go the extra mile you can make an Android compatible version, but this isn’t supported by the standard compiler. Then upload to your site or some file hosting site for others to play and enjoy. They have a list on their site too that you can submit your game to so others can download it. And if you’re so inclined you can download other peoples games too, for inspiration or just for fun.
If your skills aren’t too great but you have a story to tell Ren’Py is a pretty good tool, especially if you’re a fan of Visual Novel type games already. If you want to dig into the coding side you can make some pretty complex games such as RPGs. I didn’t have a story to tell, but my few hours with it have been pretty fun, and given I have a fair few photoshopping skills I could probably make some okay artwork for a game too. If all you have is your story and drawing skills then Ren’Py is a great springboard and pretty fun to boot.
Download my test game here (6.7MB zip file)
As with all entries in the Game Maker series if you make any of your own games, no matter how big or small, with these tools contact us and we’ll put in a mention for you. We’d love to hear your experiences.