Releasing your game
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This is a guide on when and how you should make your game available for others to play. It also talks about game demos.

Should I have a demo?

This is the first question to ask. This guide will not provide an answer; however, here are some points to consider:

  • A demo proves that you're working on your game. You shouldn't need this proof, though, as you ought to be providing progress reports.
  • A demo can generate attention and hype, and boost your reputation.
  • A poor quality demo, meanwhile, will put people off and damage your reputation.
  • Putting something in the public eye makes you more likely to attract unwanted attention from Nintendo and their lawyers, which can result in Cease and Desist notifications that would put a stop to your work. This is all the more likely if your game has attracted a lot of attention (good or bad).
  • People who play a demo can spot and report bugs which you haven't found yourself. This is simultaneously a bad thing, of course, as the players are experiencing a buggy version of your game.
  • If future demos/the completed game are intended to let the player carry on from where they were, rather than requiring a restart, it will be more difficult to develop the game to ensure this can happen smoothly.
  • Conversely, if the player needs to start from scratch in each new demo and the completed game, they will end up playing the same parts of the game over and over, which can negatively affect them.

How long should my demo be?

Every game developer has asked themselves this at some point: how much game-play should there be in my game before it's "suitable" to be a playable demo? Alternatively, how much extra material/game-play should my game have compared to its previously playable demo in order to qualify as a new and worthwhile demo?

The answer, of course, is entirely up to you and your game. The only rule, really, is that a demo shouldn't be a complete game, because that's just weird.

A demo's length is typically rated in one or more of the following ways:

  • Number of Gyms - Many people rate their demos by how many Pokémon Gyms can be challenged in them. These people consider Gyms to be natural checkpoints, and thus are happy to end a demo straight after a Gym.
  • X hours of game-play - The amount of time a typical player will spend getting from the start to the end of a demo is another way people can rate demos. Of course, quantity is not the same as quality.
  • Percentage of total game - This is the obvious third measurement of how big a demo is. It specifically refers to the quantity of the game's plot and story actions that are in the demo, with 100% being the story climax and/or defeating the Elite Four (whichever occurs later).

Here are a few common guidelines for how to construct and end a demo:

  • Signal the end of the demo - Don't be afraid to put a clear fourth wall-breaking indicator that the player has reached the end of the demo. This will ensure that the player doesn't waste time trying to find out how to proceed further and become frustrated.
  • Don't interrupt the story - It's probably better to not end a demo in the middle of a plot event. A demo should end at a point in the game where the player is able to wander around naturally, not driven forward by the story.
  • Immediate end versus more bits and pieces - It is entirely your choice whether you have the playtime end as soon as you hit the end point in the demo (you may or may not force the game to close at this point), or whether you provide the player with some space in which to idle around or grind levels or perform little side-quests.

Note that, for the vast majority of fangames, a demo is simply the first part of the final game. Of course, your demo doesn't have to be the first chunk of your final game; this trend is simply being pointed out for your information.

Alpha, beta, demo, pre-release...?

In other words, what do you call your demo? Does it matter?

In the world of game development, each of these terms has a specific meaning. It's quite interesting; maybe you should read up on the game development cycle some time. Ultimately, though, it's probably not worth being fancy with your terminology. Just call any playable version of your game (that isn't a complete version) a "demo".

Similarly, don't go all fancy with version numbers either. You should have version numbers for your demos (how else can you tell which one is which?), but don't label them b.0.7.26c or anything like that. Just go with 1, 2, 3 and so forth. Sticking the date on the end is nice too - in which case, use the standard format of year-month-day to avoid confusion between which digit is the month and which is the day.

Once you have your completed game, restart your version number. It isn't "demo number 5 which just happens to also be the complete game", it's "version 1 of the complete game".

Is a completed game the end of development?

Once again, this depends entirely on what you want. Many games receive patches and updates after they have been initially released, either with extra content and/or bug fixes. However, you are not obligated to do any of that.

Should you call your game "complete" if you intend to provide more content in future? Well, if your game is an entire game in and of itself, then sure, call it "complete". Any future content should not be required by your game in order to call it a full game. On the other hand, future updates may well alter existing parts of the game, such as dialogue or events or item placement, if you so desire to change them.

Turning your RMXP project into an actual game

When you are ready to turn your project into a real game for others to play, you will need to compress the game's data into a format which others cannot alter. But before that, make sure your game is fully up to date by fully compiling it one last time (play it from within RPG Maker XP, and hold Ctrl when the game's window opens).

Then go to RPG Maker XP's File menu, and click "Compress Game Data". Encrypting the data is a good idea (although it is a fairly well-known encryption and some malicious people can find ways to break it and cheat or steal scripts/graphics/etc.). This will create a single .exe file, which you can run to extract the game's files to a folder - do so.

Note that RPG Maker XP may corrupt a compressed game if it is over 128MB in size. In this case, you should reduce the size of the project before you compress it. The easiest way to do this is to remove the Audio folder from the project folder beforehand, since typically music/audio is the largest part of a game in terms of file size. Afterwards, add the Audio folder back to the collection of files produced by the created .exe file.

Once you have your extracted files, you'll notice they look a lot like your original project. There are a few differences, though.

The extracted data will include a number of files which you won't need and shouldn't include in your download. Delete the following files/folders:

  • The PBS folder and everything in it.
  • The two AnimMaker files.
  • The two Editor files.
  • The two ExtendText files.
  • The three TownMapGen files (townmapgen.html, knownpoint.bmp, selpoint.bmp).
  • The MysteryGift.txt and MysteryGiftMaster.txt files, if they exist.
  • The Errorlog.txt file, if it exists.
  • The Game.rxdata file, if it exists.

Finally, add the remaining files to a compressed file (.zip, .rar, etc.), and upload it for others to download and play. That's it!

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