Housekeeping is a concern of mine. My work process involves the hasty creation of new folders to stack documents that I want to save under names already in use. "Sublevels1" is a popular tag. But, not to let my library of images and files get out of hand, I do a regular spring clean, organising the dishevelled mess into something that won't later suggest the services of an experienced admin assistant.
The most recent was particularly vigorous, however, and turned up some of the project's very original tilesets.
In the beginning, soon after I'd decided to make an RPG demo, I told myself that I would rely on as little of the software's default material as possible. In leaped stages I've improved upon this plan, refining methods and facing up to the enormous amount of work that is entailed in an almost wholly custom piece.
My first tileset for the Solis train - my first custom one - was an ugly collage of shapes that I'd cropped from Google Images and shoehorned into the 32 by 32 pixel structure. I can only presume I thought that cannibalising photos would give the game photo-realistic graphics not commonly associated with retro RPGs. Never before has Photoshop's abundance of resizing and reshaping tools been put to such ill effect. Looking back at the early days of development, the truth is much lazier. It seemed to have appeared then that there were short cuts available to producing something in a personally tailored image.
It is testimony to the advances of my skills (and work ethic) so far that these before-and-after shots of the Solis maglev stand with such a satisfying contrast in quality:
The first iteration:
(this tileset's only saving grace is that it does not look its shittiest until compiled into an in-game map)
The current, nth iteration:
(above: exterior - below: interior)
I'll proudly say myself that what looks like the difference between a toddler's and an adult's work is actually less than a year of persistent tinkering and improvement.
The problem with producing something that is truly your own game is that it takes huge swathes of time to prepare tilesets (pre-rendered or not), sprites and battle backgrounds. Which is why so many of the games made in RPG Maker have such a samey quality. It is not the appearance of these titles, but rather the limitation on creativity that still exists even with software like the RPG Maker series; despite its huge range of options, exactly realising your vision still requires a ton of work that casual users are never going to want to invest.
Because it's so much easier, in my opinion, RPG Maker actually kind of suggests the "late for the first day at the warrior academy" or "hero's village attacked by evil empire whilst he was off fishing" story lines. The templates for these done-to-death plots are what's readily available. And you cannot so much design a character as invent one that fits a default sprite. When you pick up RPG Maker, you want to start building a game that you can play - which is, after all, the whole idea. But, unless you're extremely dynamic, creative or willing to create a satire of the now tired classic arcs, RPG Maker is merely a bare framework. An excellently versatile one, but not one that can be truly customised without heaps of extra work.
And that's not to be pre-emptive or preachy, it's just an observation.