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Answering your questions we didn't get to! RMCOLA S02EP20

#036 Season 2 Episode 20: lordbluerouge, Shweep - Listen here!
---Twitch Stream of Steamed Hams, Final Fantasy Dog, Chrono Uncanny, YS3: Wanderers of RMN

Darken's Games
---Twitch Stream of Nemoral, (RMN Fairy Tale Event winner 2018)
---Nemoral part 2
---My girlfriend turned into a sword (A must see if you like Xenogears ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°))
---and Train Trip (Chill 3D on 2D game based 2020's famicom art cover exhibition)

To coincide with the recently release of RPGMaker Cola, I decided to put together this blog post - during the episode while recording this back in January, I was way too nervous behind the mic, and we were sort of strapped for time (Cash was recording 3 episodes in a row that day!). But you guys asked some really good questions about Steamed Hams. So I wanted to use this opportunity to not only give better answers, but to properly answer them. If you like what you read here, Leave a comment and definitely check out the latest episode of RPGMaker Cola when you have the chance. Cashmere Cat is building something truly great. Thanks for asking these really great questions!❤

What do you think the most under-appreciated feature of 2k3 is? - @riggbass

Video, definitely video. I think it's because not a lot of people know how to really use it, in an effective way. One of my favorite games of all time is Lunar the Silver Star Story Complete, which came out for the Playstation in 1999, because it sort of combined my two favorite things growing up: Disney Animated Feature Films and JRPGs - It's actually a remake of their 16-bit rpg that was released previously for the Sega CD in 1993, but what made Lunar stand out originally, was how it was one of the pioneers to first start pushing the audio and video capabilities of these video game systems, in order to create full motion animated cutscenes - where we first started seeing that storytelling and character development potential of traditional animation, being pushed into video games.

Lunar: The Silver Star (1992) Sega CD --------- Lunar:The Silver Star Complete (1996) SS/PS1/PC/PSP/iOS

On the Sega CD, it was just 16-bit animated cutscenes with really great audio. But on the Playstation, because they were now actually working with video, the lead character designer Toshiyuki Kuubook was finally able to bring his experience from working as an animator on stuff like Wings of Honneamise(1987), Gundam 080: War in the Pocket(1989) and Giant Robo: The Day the Earth Stood Still(1992) and start incorporating that talent and create something truly dynamic into these video game cutscenes.

What was really interesting about these animated cutscenes was how they were being used: while you're playing Lunar, because of the technical limitations at the time, like most jrpgs, the game is mostly seen from an overhead perspective - that's how Ultima originally did it, that's how the first six Final Fantasy games did it and that's how Lunar does it. It's just the easiest way to create a very large world, with depth and character, that the player can interact with, very quickly in the least amount of time.

But in terms of drama and emotion, there's not a whole lot you can do from this perspective, it's very restricting, it's very hard to make it look interesting. So, in order to sidestep this problem, in Lunar, they incorporated facesets, abstract versions of what the characters looked like in the animated cutscenes, into the dialogue, showing these characters reacting, in order to convey these emotions:

But if it was something that goes beyond dialogue, something so powerful, that could not possibly be conveyed any other way. That's when they would bring the player into the world of Lunar, that's when they would use full motion video. Now, it was never an incredible long video. Often it would just be something short but significant, either introducing a character or a place, but it was always something that could not be shown in any other way - that's when you use video.

Like when we see Alex at Dyne's Monument - an important place that's introduced very early in the game - the cutscene shows us how he has finally acquired the strength to pull out Althena's Sword on his own, with his bare hands, showing this dramatic change in character. Or when the Magic Emperor reveals himself for the first time, the game switches to a cutscene to retain that shock and confusion for the player, but at the same time revealing the Emperors new power and character motivation.

These are the ways you should be using video in rpgmaker2003. because that overhead perspective is always going to be an issue with this engine.

If you have the talent and experience, using video in rpgmaker2003 not only saves a lot of time, but it provides a lot more freedom and creative control, over the sort of emotion you want to invoke for a particular scene. Even something as simple as making a credits video, or even a trailer for your next game, is so much easier to do, outside of rpgmaker2003, rather than trying to figure out how recreate those elements and getting the timing right in rpgmaker2003 through constant test plays, - video is just another creative shortcut, that people really should be using more of in rpgmaker2003.

S-----C------R------O------L------L ----- D-----O------W------N


I think one of my favorite full motion video cutscenes I've even seen in a video game, ever, is that giant fight scene near the end of MegaManX4 by Studio Xebec (1997). Not only did it feel like a huge reward for getting so far in that game and was really neat to watch, but the production values felt like something you'd see out of an animated Bruce Lee movie, something that you'll want to watch over and over again and get just a bit more story out of it and it's only 3 mins long.

MegaMan X4(1997) Xebec -------- Zero vs. Sigma

What was really interesting about this cutscene though, was how, it goes beyond the in game dialogue and game design, to tell it's own story, while revealing so much about a fan favorite character that these two components simply couldn't do alone. Arguably, I don't think this moment would be as powerful or as memorable, if it was done any other way; it probably would've been too frustrating to playthrough. This was just something you had to sit down and watch as an award. (...and upon maybe the 13th viewing, you realize, from the subtle gestures they're doing throughout this scene, there was no way this character was ever going to win, this character was going to lose, from the very beginning) - I think that's how you should be using video in rpgmaker2003, It's storytelling through video. But not a lot of people really know how to do this, or have the creative experience to put something like this together in rpgmaker2003, which is why I think this feature is so under utilized. Nowadays in video games, everything is sort of made in ingame engines, which not only provides a lot more creative control, in terms of editing and special effects, but the player can actually interact with these scenes, unfortunately making FMV sort of obsolete now. So FMV is kind of seen as a dying art these days, but rpgmaker2003 was made in that era, where not only was video playback still technically feasible, but as long as you're using rpgmaker2003, you're still stuck making these games from that overhead perspective. So video in rpgmaker2003 really should be seen as an opportunity to escape from that perspective, and explore it in new and interesting ways, ways that previous games and games of that era couldn't.

It would be really cool to see something like that fight scene from studio Xebec in rpgmaker2003 one day. Because that particular scene is something you can essential watch by itself, but also works in relation to the game that you're playing. It's that kind of storytelling, that sort of mix medium that's sort of unique to video games, that make the heart of this feature worth trying and exploring.

What was the most difficult part to put together in Steamed Hams? Just how much R&D went into getting Steamed Hams but it's RPGMAKER2003 up and running? - @VisitorsDreams
(I answered this in the podcast, but this is the more elaborate, less nervous answer.)

I think Simpsons memes, make great memes in general because, a lot of people who are making these memes are viewers who grew up watching the show. Even as a kid, I remember my friends trying to recreate a lot of the jokes from the Simpsons, immediately after seeing it air on TV, even before we had the means to recreate and share like we do now. But I think what made Steamed Hams such a great meme is how it takes the idea of that one particular 2 min sketch and tries to recreate it in another format, my favorite probably being Steamed Hams but it's Metal Gear Solid by Adam Davidson, because of how committed the creator was to retelling this joke in that particular narrative - He didn't just recreate Steamed Hams in Metal Gear Solid, he does it, even going so far as to include stock footage of hamburgers in between cutscenes, just like Hideo Kojima did in the original Metal Gear Solid, when talking about genetic engineering therapy or nuclear deterrence.

Like, a great meme, isn't always necessarily a throwaway joke, sometimes it becomes art. It's understanding two mediums well enough in order to create something new and I think that's why this particular meme persisted as long as it did back in 2018, because everyone really just wanted to see what else could be combined with this thing.

So yeah, back in 2018, there were a whole bunch of Steamed Ham memes I really liked, but I think the one that actually convinced me you could recreate Steamed Ham in rpgmaker 2003 was Steamed Hams, but it's MegaMan Battle Network - not only was it really funny, but after watching it over and over again, you can actually see the structure, you can see how the battles work, how cutscenes would work, how the field map stuff would work and how it would all fit in rpgmaker2003 from this video.

So from using that video as a loose outline, I bought season 7 of The Simpsons, 22 Short Films About Springfield, recorded it, uploaded to Final Cut Pro 7 and started lining up Yota Kitagami's Rpgmaker RTP music files with footage of Steamed Hams, just to see if it was actually going to be funny - I didn't know if it was gonna actually work, but the more I laughed, the more I wanted to try this.

The difficult part however was probably the beginning, when I first started putting this together in rpgmaker2003. I wanted to do it exactly like how everyone saw it in youtube videos; Chalmers ringing the door bell and saying "Well Seymour I made it despite your directions". Now here's the problem with that - from the moment the show fades in, to when Chalmers rings the door bell, to when he says his line; that's at least 200 frames of animation, running nonstop in rpgmaker2003.

But every time I tried to do it this way in rpgmaker2003, the audio would eventually desync from the video and after trying to do this, over and over again it was at that moment I realized, there's a very real limit to how many frames rpgmaker2003 can handle at any given time. And it was very clear from watching this over and over again in rpgmaker2003, that not only did this not work, but it was not funny. The joke was Steamed Hams running in rpgmaker2003, but it didn't work, because every time players would see this, they would only see the errors. So the question became how do I work around this issue, while still trying to make this funny?

Well, the first thing I wanted to do was to cut the frames in half, from 200 down to 100, just to see if that would actually work or change anything. But the problem with cutting it down to 100 frames, is that it cuts right in the middle of Chalmers ringing the door bell. So then I thought "hold on, instead of cutting it right in the middle of the doorbell, Why not just have it stop before the doorbell and have the player interact with it instead?" So that's why the z button is there at the beginning of the game. Not only did this solve the problem of the audio desyncing at 200 frames, but it provided that much needed player interaction, that every game sort of needs to help get the player become engaged - and in turn, this sort of became a running joke by the end of the game.

(the z prompt was made to fix a problem within rpgmaker2003, but it sort of became a reoccurring joke.)

But through exploring this, from the way I was doing it, I eventually found out that, 90 frames was the limit to how much animation rpgmaker2003 could process at any given time, without lagging or desyncing. Like, the lag and desyncing is always going to be there, regardless - but as long as you gave rpgmaker2003 a chance to pause between these animations, like a z button prompt or message window the player could read, you were controlling when they would happen.

I think the reason why Steamed Hams, But It's An Rpgmaker2003!, works so well is because it's an illusion: It's impossible to play Steamed Hams all at once in rpgmaker2003, but by hiding these errors, that rpgmaker2003 can't get around, through smarter player interactions, you're able to still achieve the same effect without breaking that immersion and still be able to tell a great joke - But yeah, that's how I generally made it, in rpgmaker2003.

So once I got that down, everything else was smooth sailing. However, I think the most difficult part of the game, was the dreaded kitchen scene, up to where Skinner says "delightfully devilish Seymour". So as I mentioned before there's a 90 frame limit right? Well, from "Egads my roast is ruined" to ""delightfully devilish Seymour" " that's 58 frames, with a 2.0 Wait Command, followed by another 157 frames - No matter how many times I tried to edit this scene and bring it into rpgmaker2003, throughout making Steamed Hams, It would always lag.

Eventually, while playtesting this, over and over again. I found out that, the lag would disappear if Steam Hams was played multiple times; in other words, the lag would only show up, if rpgmaker2003 was loading up for the first time, but after that first time, it would run fine. So that's what the loading screen at the beginning of the game is for. By loading everything all at once at the beginning, it tricks rpgmaker2003 into loading all the resources it needs, thus eliminating the lag, and then calling said resource only when it needs to - I don't know if this will work in other rpgmaker2003 games, but in this particular instance, it did.

But yeah, after everything was finished, this was a bitch to record and upload to youtube, lol.
The error screen at the end of the yt video was actually edited in, because it was impossible to record.
But I wanted to make sure that it looked like, exactly what it would look like, if you were playing the game for real on your computer.


Was there more you wanted to achieve but couldn't due to the limitations of the engine? - @VisitorsDreams

The hard and fast rule I had made for myself, while making Final Fantasy Dog and Steamed Hams was everything needs to be completed within a month, because if it doesn't get finished within a month, it will never get done. So when I was originally trying to create the secret ending for Steamed Hams, being an rpg and to save time, I wanted to re-purpose the sprites from Final Fantasy Dog and have a Final Fantasy version of Chalmers have "Jump" and have a Final Fantasy version of Skinners, but everytime you used "STHams", a wave of hamburgers would fire out, similar to Cecil's Dark Wave.

The joke was gonna be that, for the secret ending, when Skinner says "YES" the game was gonna originally send you to the last battle of Final Fantasy IV, with Skinners and Chalmers as Final Fantasy Sprites going up against Zeromus. It was going to be this fully playable recreation of the final battle from Final Fantasy IV in rpgmaker2003, but Skinners forgot to level up. So when Zeromus uses "BigBang/Aurora Borealis you all die instantly and Chalmers berates you for it.

I think I got as far as trying to recreate the background of FF4 before realizing I couldn't finish this in time. There's probably a way to create wrapping images in rpgmaker2003, to make it easier to recreate that final battle scene, but I didn't have enough time to figure it out.

So I started thinking about alternatives and the one thing that kept coming up in my mind while trying to research and recreate Steamed Hams in rpgmaker2003, was just how hard it was to recall and find all the Steamed Ham memes I really liked. One of the memes that kind of got lost, back in 2017 when the trend was still growing, was called "Steamed Hams but every time Skinner lies it drops a resolution/losses quality" (I think)? What I really loved about this one was, because of this rule they had put in place, by the time you get to the dinner scene, it was almost like you watching a 16-bit video game version of Steamed Hams, then an 8-bit version, than a 4-bit, than a 2- bit. I loved it, it was simple, but brilliant. Years before even trying to get SH into rpgmaker, for awhile whenever I was bored, I'd keep watching the last 30 secs of this particular video, at least 50 times, because this is where you really see the unbridled creativity of this meme in full effect. Unfortunately I can't find the original anywhere, I can only find a variation of it (time stamped):

(A lost Steamed Hams meme inspired the secret Aurora Borealis ending.)

So, being strapped for time, I figured, there were so many of these back in 2017 that have disappeared or removed, people probably have never seen some of the betters ones, the ones I've come across. So for the secret ending, I decided instead, to turn it, into a sort of tribute, by combining two of the more unfamiliar memes together: Steamed Hams but with chill music(Music by Aurora Principal) and Steamed Hams But Skinner Never Lies To Chalmers I felt like this one, especially, could've lasted a lot longer, because the best moment in this meme, only lasts for a few seconds when it really should be a lot longer, it should be the punchline. I'd argue it's one of the best Steamed Hams because it's the one where Skinner actually sees the Aurora Borealis in his kitchen. So yeah, that's why I decided to turn this one into an ending, so more people could see some of these great memes.

Note:I can't stand the sound of my own voice, so I can't remember what else I said on the podcast. But if there's anything I wanted to add to this episode is that, I really want to thank Cherry for continuing to work and add new features to rpgmaker2003 to which these games would be literally, impossible without. I also want thank Cash for having me on the show. You're doing more for rpgmaker than you realize. Please keep up the good work! I also want to thank Darken for joining me. He's such a cool talented guy more peeps should know about. If you liked Steamed Hams, please check out My girlfriend got turned into a sword. it's a short throwback to 2D on 3D games like Xenogears and Grandia, made in Godot, but it is absolutely hysterical.

If you like what you read here, leave a comment and definitely check out the latest episode of RPGMaker Cola when you have the chance. I'm blown away by how great Season 2 is turning out. Thanks for asking these really great questions!❤


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Gonna update this with posterity links Cash graciously provided. Thanks again Cash, this whole thing has been a real morale booster, I'm sure for a lot of peeps.
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