An interview with the creator of Grimm's Hollow

  • Cap_H
  • 01/19/2020 10:00 AM
Hello and Welcome,
to this very belated issue of regular series of interviews on rpgmaker.net. The goal of the series is to further promote featured games and their authors.

This month I talked to someone I had known nothing about previously. Ghosthunter is a new player and Grimm's Hollowis a very impressive for a first game. The game is way more than another lousy 15 hours long RTP epic with its custom graphcis and overall tight package. It feels like a mature project. The game's a short rpg with many cute ghosts. You find pictures to adore and a download here.

Thanks for letting me interview you. It took its sweet time, didn't it? Could you introduce yourself?
Hey - I go by ghosthunter online, and I’m a developer currently based in the Middle East. I love drawing, but my interests migrated to game development when I made a new friend at school and I found out that we both enjoyed RPG horror games. I got RM2k3 on sale and started pouring pixel art into it, before learning how to create puzzles, switches, cutscenes, etc. Eventually, I started saving inspiring pixel art and drew dungeons, ghosts and characters into the back of my notebooks so I could make a game one day. I used to lurk on rpgmaker.net for tutorials, resources and game design articles - so I send my sincerest thanks to the RMN community for creating such a good wealth of resources for new RM2K3 developers!
My other interests include art, cartoons and the animation medium in general. I’m at high school now, and I’m mainly applying for a degree in Computer Science. I’m hoping for the best!

What does it mean for you to get your game featured?
For the game to get featured ... it means that the RMN community decided I made something worth looking at, so that's a really nice feeling. As I mentioned before, I've been lurking on RMN long enough to see games like Oneshot or Dreaming Mary featured, so to see it up there holds a strange emotional value. It's great!

Grimm's Hollow is a visually distinctive game. That's not common for a first project. How did you decide on going full custom and what was the initial impulse to make a game like Grimm's Hollow?
Using many original graphics just made sense to me since making pixel art for RM2K3 was one of the first things I did with the engine. I’m heavily inspired by visuals and art for game ideas, especially colour palettes - it helps me think about what the world, story and characters of the game is like. There’s also just something exciting about creating pixel art that you can interact with and make it say or do things.
With Grimm’s Hollow however, I kept the overworld sprites simple to avoid becoming overwhelmed by the amount of complex chipsets and charsets I would have to make (on top of other custom assets, such as battle animations). The urge to make a game with custom graphics also meant I had to think of graphical constraints that would reduce development time and prevent myself from getting carried away in drawing. Most of the game uses the same 5 shades of purple, so I tried to make those shades easy on the eyes since it’s what the player will be seeing for a while.
There were a lot of things that drove me to make Grimm’s Hollow. I didn’t want to leave high school without making … something. I felt like I had a lot of ideas in my head. Whilst I had fun playing in RM2K3 now and then, what I wanted was to work on something and see it come to fruition so others could play and enjoy it. The idea of making an RPG motivated to me draw and write a lot that I would often daydream.
So I started planning a game that would be small and achievable in scope and length over the course of high school, and I just drew in inspiration from things I liked and enjoyed at the time (as well as other RM2K3 games!). Ghosts and haunted spirits kept reoccurring in my ideas, mostly because they were pure fun to design. That’s how Grimm’s Hollow started.

How long did it take to make Grimm's Hollow?
I started late in the summer of year 2018, so slightly over a year.

Do you think you achieved your vision with the game?
Looking back on it, I think I’d say yes. There were times after development where I felt sad or embarrassed by some of the game’s obvious flaws, and disheartened that I didn’t get to expand on certain character or story aspects. But it doesn’t bother me anymore, and I see it now more as a learning curve. At the end of the day, I’m happy that there are players who enjoyed it and had fun.

What is your favourite part of the game? Is there any part of the game, which gets overlooked by its players?
My favourite bit of the game would probably be the endings. The moment where I sat back and watched the last cutscene play, I think, was the first moment I felt a bit of pride in my work. In that holiday I only spent a few days creating that last ending, but in reality the way the endings would be orchestrated, drawn and written had been stretching out in my mind for months - so to finally see it completed was something else. I think I was afraid that I would have to cut corners to make those endings, because they felt a little ambitious to code and make in comparison to everything else in the game - but I’m happy to say that I didn’t.
As for what players overlooked, it’s understandably things which are super easy to miss in game - such as optional dialogues with side characters. There’s one specifically in the end game, where you’ll unlock the ability to talk to a side character whenever you want - but because the end game area isn’t too large, I think it’s easy to march straight to the ending and forget that it’s there.
I’ve also never seen anyone use the “Mork” item in game so far - an item which essentially lets you use plenty of abilities if you consume it either before or during the battle- but I suppose it’s because most players would rather prioritize healing or upgrading. Not that important though.

Grimm's Hollow

Can you talk about music some more? I know you collaborated with two composers. How did that go?
Working with Nat and Bruno was very fun! Initially it was just Nat, but eventually I asked Bruno to help out and compose some original tracks for the game as well. Honestly, I could never have imagined that I would have the opportunity to not only work with one, but two composers when I started this - but I’m immensely grateful that I did! I’m really happy with the OST Nat and Bruno put together.
When I first started working on the game, there weren’t any plans for custom sound since I still thought of Grimm’s Hollow as just a tester first project. But when I finally started to look for free music libraries, a lot of it didn’t seem to suit the game’s style or the mood of the cutscene. Even if I did find a matching track in terms of tone and length, the next issue was consistency - having too many clashing musical genres. I didn’t want the effort I put into the battles, artwork and cutscenes to suffer from poor BGM choice, and it dawned on me that the sound I was looking for was very specific. I realized commissioning music would be a good decision, and it would mean I would get to spend more time working on other aspects of the game.
So I discovered Nat’s soundcloud by chance through IGMC game Moon Tree, and I took a chance and sent him a message after listening to his original work! I met Bruno on tumblr since he’s composed many great soundtracks for other RPGMaker games, like Black Crystals, Midnight Train and Purple.

Would you like to return to the same setting and make another game in it?
The idea is fun and I’ve definitely considered it! But I wouldn’t want to make a sequel (or prequel) of sorts with different characters, at least not at this moment. Instead, I’d prefer to expand on the characters, world and story which is already there if I were to choose to return to the game.
That said, Grimm’s Hollow was made as a somewhat tester of my abilities and what I could do, as well as to gain experience and learn from my mistakes. I’d like to try doing something new or different for a while, and after that I’ll see how I feel about this game from there. As of now, I’m worried I’ll just regurgitate if I don’t improve my skills or take a long break.

So, what are you cooking up now?
Right now, I’m just slowly wrapping up work with Grimm’s Hollow after release. I’m currently working on an OST release with Nat and Bruno, and I’m thinking of making a small paid artbook as a way to get some support. After that I need to sort out translations, and since some people have requested it, I may make some small merch.
As for game development, I believe the best thing for me to do is to think about it after my studies, since I believe it’s best that I explore other things before I decide to come back to it. I might decide to switch mediums and do something like a webcomic, or do short stories - honestly, it’s hard for me to tell at this stage what I want to do. So really, the answer is that I’m thinking about it!

Do you plan going commercial with it? What's your take on that?
With Grimm’s Hollow? I could, but I’m not sure if that would make me, or anyone, happy. After a couple of years, I’m not certain if anyone would be interested in the game anymore. In any case, if I were to go commercial with the game I would prefer to work with more people to extend and polish it. Making Grimm’s Hollow is fun, but I can easily see myself slipping into intense burnout and emotional exhaustion that I may not want by continuing as a solo indie developer. I have no idea how commercial indie developers do it, but I have mad respect for them anyway.
But if you’re speaking about being a commercial game developer as a career, I’m not sure? I think it would be fun to do for a short while.

Being part of RMN has been a huge thing for me and playing games from others and being able to engage with their creators is important in my own creative process. How about you? Are there any other developers in the community, who inspire you?
So many! I would definitely say other people’s games play a pivotal role in inspiration and learning about the engine’s capabilities and limitations. But since I discovered this website when I was a kid, I was too shy to have directly engaged or talked to any of the developers here first hand. I’d also say it wasn’t just RMN, since - whilst there are a good deal of great games and articles here - there are other communities with RPG Maker developers, such as itch.io, tumblr, twitter, etc. I’m going to quickly list some developers and projects which helped me learn about the engine before I made my first game.
I think RPG Maker 2003 developers with strong art styles generally had a strong influence. For example, Joseph Seraph is a developer who has a blog full of beautiful custom assets that are compatible with RM2K3. I remember playing through Project HEAVEN’S DOOR and being really inspired by their use of the new Show Picture function to make menus!
I also enjoyed Bleet’s Huntress of the Hollow, and thought it was cool how despite the fact that the turn-based combat was simple, it was still fun for the game’s duration. I think that was part of the inspiration to do a short RPG, and where I got the idea to start off with a limited palette so graphics creation were easier.
Mouth Sweet by L.O.V.E Games is another good example of a short, creative game made in the engine. I don’t think it took me more than an hour to complete, but it’s still pretty memorable for me today.
Momeka is a god of RM2K3. I have no idea how he does it.
Although there’s no demo, Punkitt’s Happup is wonderful visual inspiration. It’s just good vibes all around with that game.
Finally, Qui Domi and Ollimio. I think I spent hours pouring over the demo for Ollimio trying to figure out how Point4 managed to make the game look so good, and it taught me about animated backgrounds during battle, something which I used in a particular boss fight in Grimm’s Hollow. Qui Domi by Koi … I can’t think of any direct influences, but it’s just a super inspirational RPG Maker project.
There are many other projects and developers here on RMN that I look up to, but if I were to list all of them it would go on forever. I’m just going to dedicate this final thank you to the people who wrote everything in Game Design Highlights - specifically, the articles on getting started. Thank you!

Grimm's Hollow

Do you follow more closely any upcoming RM projects?

Definitely! I have my eyes set on Black Crystals, which has so much love and care poured into each of its many (and I mean many) fluid hand drawn animations. It’s just full of charm, and it’s releasing for free on Steam this April according to the store page. The modern Middle Eastern setting, shown so far through Arabic street art written on the walls and the game’s architecture, also admittedly has me biased considering where I grew up. I love it.
Similarily, there’s a game called Roji’s Room which also sports a charming hand-drawn style, and whilst there’s no demo out yet, I heard there’s one coming out very soon so I’m excited!
Orangeblood, which isn’t on RMN but certainly is RPG Maker, looks fantastic. ZMakesGames, who helped provide a lot of feedback on Grimm’s Hollow, is also aiming to release her RPG Horror game Mare sometime in early 2020. I’m looking forward to it! I’m not sure if She Dreams Elsewhere is still being made in the engine, but I’m keeping my eye out on that indie RPG as well.
There’e also LunarLux, a Mega Man Battle Network inspired RPG being made entirely on RPG Maker 2003 by CosmicNobab, and it’s gorgeous. It’s on twitter, and if you’re a RM2K3 fanatic please have a look at it. Same goes with Melon Journey 2 - some of the best 2D game-boy inspired graphics I think I’ve seen in an indie game.
Again, there are a lot of RPG Maker games worth checking out. I wish good luck to these developers for their game release!

Do you have any advice for developers working on their first game?
I’m still new to this game development thing, but what helped me is to start small. Try and focus on making a polished short game, rather than a long 10+ hour one. There’s no definitive rules on how to finish your first game, but what worked for me was to make a 10-20 minute game that I could play from finish to end using some simple core mechanics and the basic RTP - with little consideration of plot or art direction. From there, it was easier to build those other things (story, art, music direction, etc) on top of that. The first game is always a learning curve that also teaches you about how you work as a developer, so think of it as a stepping stone. Above all, have fun with it!

Is there anything else you would like to share?
Thank you to everyone on RMN for having me!

The pleasure is mine! I wish you luck with your degree application and Grimm's Hollow in The Misoas. And you, might dear reader, should be able to vote for it in several categories right now!


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This was a very enjoyable read! ♥
Thank you for doing this guys!

It's really neat to hear how a lot of the tutorials and game design articles folks have made here, have gone to good use, and in some cases really laid the groundwork, so new users would be able to get these things faster than we did.

Like I even remember, back in 2002 and 2007, I think the biggest hurdle for me was struggling to figure out how to get Charsets to work in rpgmaker2000/2003, just so I could start bringing the stuff I was drawing on my spare time, into rpgmaker - this was a real struggle for a lot of people here using rpgmaker. In fact, I remember a lot members had moved onto other engines like VX Ace at that point, because it offered more creative control - just so they can finally bring in the gorgeous artwork they were doing outside of rpgmaker, into rpgmaker, without having to downrez or foreshorten their work.

...But now, you see something like Grimm's Hollow, in 2019 and thanks to a lot of things that have happened over the years, the artwork in Grimm's Hollow, the portrait facesets during those cutscenes, the battle animations, these art assets, they look just as good as the artwork GH is doing in her sketchbook - No, It doesn't just look just as good as the stuff she's doing in her sketchbook - It is the artwork she's doing in her sketchbook!

The fact that we're finally able to bring this stuff into rpgmaker, with a lot less work now, feels nothing short of a landmark achievement. And I have a feeling that from now on, rpgmaker games are going to look, very very different now from what we had in 2007 - which was just RTP and rips from SNES games. It's a great time to be an rpgmaker.

This was a very cool read. Definitely worth the wait! Thank you Cap_H!

Looking forward to more of your work GH!
I wanna marry ALL the boys!! And Donna is a meanc
Wow, I didn't realize there was a Melon Journey sequel coming out and never heard of LunarLux. I'll have to thank ghost for introducing me to those because they look great.

This was great as usual, Cap. Ghost gave some pretty great and well articulated responses too. Hoping they decide to stick around, they're very welcomed on RMN.
Thank you so much again for the interview Cap_H! <3 (even though I was so slow at answering) xD

Like I even remember, back in 2002 and 2007, I think the biggest hurdle for me was struggling to figure out how to get Charsets to work in rpgmaker2000/2003, just so I could start bringing the stuff I was drawing on my spare time, into rpgmaker - this was a real struggle for a lot of people here using rpgmaker.

This is so sad. But nowadays I still get questions from people about what engine I used or how I did this or that in RPG Maker and I always find myself just linking back to this site to help give advice / tutorials. So, like you said, it's great that it's so easy to access and learn these things now because of this site. :)

Hoping they decide to stick around, they're very welcomed on RMN.
Some truly great advice here, especially in regard to starting small. I agree. When I first started making my game, it was VERY small in scope. I wanted to make something that I knew I can finish. As I became more aware of what I'm capable of, I expanded the game in scope, story, and added more and more features.

Grimm's Hollow is truly great, and I think will influence my next game quite a bit, as all great RM games tend to.
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