The story of The Looking-Glass Girl centers around Kacey, a young lady with a penchant for imagination – and trouble! Too quirky for her classmates, Kacey doesn’t fit in with the crowd, and spends most of her time daydreaming to escape the difficulties of life. She has but one friend; her classmate Theo, the only son of a demanding family. Despite the mounting pressure that Theo’s parents place on him to succeed, the unlikely pair are inseparable, flouting the expectations of the world by engaging in their own private make-believe sessions after school. When their friendship and budding romance is threatened at last with separation, it is up to them to find a way to keep their dreams alive – but the magic mirror in Kacey’s ordinary attic is the last place they expected to find it!
The Looking-Glass Girl is a turn-based, Japanese-style RPG (JRPG) inspired by the many great games that came out of the 80s and 90s. Heavy anime and visual novel inspiration is everywhere, because that’s the kind of thing I enjoy. As a game-loving writer still learning the ins and outs of the coding business, I chose to create this game using RPG Maker VX Ace. It first began life as a project for an EXPER3 game jam, but since the end of EXPER3 2015, I have taken several additional months to improve and edit the game – both on my own, and through the help of some incredible folks whose advice I trust. The end result is something that has blossomed from a wish to complete a project start-to-finish, into something that I’m proud to stand behind and share with others.
While I do not have the knowledge to open up the RPG Maker engine and redesign everything from scratch (yet), I have done my best to make a game that has interesting features, a fun combat system, and enjoyable areas for players to explore with the resources at my disposal. That said, I am first and foremost a writer, and I played to my strengths. The main feature of TLGG is its strong narrative experience that centers on characters’ relationships to each other and to the story, not its graphical prowess, boss difficulty, dungeon length, or revolutionary systems. A single completion of TLGG averages around 5-7 total hours of play time, and most of that will involve advancing the story through cutscenes. This won’t be an appropriate or enjoyable experience for everyone. If story and characters are your thing, you’ll feel right at home.
As a means to keep this game a reasonable length and depth for an EXPER3 project, I chose to limit myself to exclusive use of the RPG Maker VX Ace RTP graphics and music. Everything you see was provided by one of the RPG Maker team’s amazing creators and included with my purchase of an RPG Maker VX Ace software license – only the text and game design were my doing. Intensive scripting is kept to a minimum by design; most of what you see was created using only the RPG Maker basics*. Due to this, you will notice odd discrepancies at times; for example, a plate with a pie on it may turn out to be a plate of cookies, or a house that looks medieval may turn out to be quite modern. Until a day comes where I have both the ability and the budget to create a fully-custom HD remake, some suspension of disbelief will go a long way!
While I am aware that exclusive use of RTP resources is verboten among RPG Maker fans/detractors, I intend to release this project as a 100% free game. I agree that any future commercial release would require a ton of additional work, including the necessary customization fans expect. That said, I am planning some form of allowance for donations after final release, so that folks who enjoy my work can help contribute toward more customized future projects.
*As of the time of this writing, some scripts have been added for the sake of better functionality:
- John Bruce Tweaks by John Bruce. I enlisted my husband’s help for a few specific fixes and behavior tweaks. All of them have been additional coding lessons for me. Some of these were written by me with his guidance, but I’m not willing to consider that “mine” at this early stage!
- ATS: Face Options and ATS: Message Options, both by ModernAlgebra. The former enables me to make some tweaks to the default face portrait behavior, while the latter enables me to include the ever-popular “talking” sound effects that populated most of the traditional RPGs of yore.
- Yanfly Ace Battle Engine, Yanfly Ace Core Engine, and Yanfly Ace Debug Extension, all by Yanfly. The Core Engine clears up some VX Ace bugs, and the Debug Extension gives me some better testing tools. The Battle Engine was added to serve folks who were getting overwhelmed by the default battle system’s limitations.