Koen Witters Interview.

Koen Witters is the developer of RPG Playground, a tool that lets you create and share RPGs - no programming required. After working in the mobile games industry for several years programming games such as Rabbit Wars, and releasing his own game, he decided to make a tool that allows anyone to make their own games. Easier and faster than anything currently available.

How Did You Come to Make RPG Playground?

As a kid I was always creating things. It started with drawing, but I also liked making board games. That slightly turned into making computer games. When I was young, I always went to my uncle to play computer games on his Commodore 64. So of course, I wanted to make computer games myself.

My dad bought me a book about programming in GW-BASIC, and so I started there. The nice thing about programming is that you can create your own worlds without any real limitations.

What Is RPG Playground?

RPG Playground is the easiest way to make your own role playing games. You can use it inside your web browser, so you don't have to download or install anything. Which is also nice for anyone who owns a Chromebook, because they can use it too.

The programming and art is already there, so users only have to invent the story and bring it to life. Drag some scenery onto the game, add some characters, describe things that need to happen, and you're set to go.

Currently I support top-down 2D action RPG's. But lots of users have been requesting turn-based combat, and also the possibility to make Pokemon games. Another nice feature is that you can edit your game while you play it. So if you want to add or change something, just open the editor pane, do your change, and continue playing. No need to restart your game.

Once your game is ready, you can show it to our community members. It's a small community with really a positive atmosphere. Anyone is ready to help, and give nice feedback on your game.

If you want to look at a nice game, see A Lill' Girls Tale. But don't be intimidated by the level design, because another example is The Advice Fairy, which is the first game made by 11 year old Baz. And as you can see, people also play his game and he receives nice feedback on all of his games.

How Is RPG Playground Made?

I first made RPG Playground in Flash, using ActionScript 3. But since web browsers don't support Flash anymore, I ported it to Haxe.

Haxe is a really awesome programming language, because it can compile to any other language you want: Javascript, C++, C#, etc. I'm now focussing on the Javascript part, but in the future it would allow me to port it to any platform I want, including gaming consoles such as XBox, native mobile platforms, etc.

Haxe has many game libraries that you can use (which I described in detail in a blog post but I chose Kha because of its portability.

Another decision that I had to make was either to stick to HTML5 Canvas, or also make use of WebGL. Because all platforms nowadays have GPU's, including all mobile devices, I decided to also make use of WebGL. This allows me for example to draw heavily animated tilemaps really fast, and can make use of some nice shader effects. These features haven't made it to the online version yet, but you can expect those things in the near future.

As for my development environment setup, I'm running Linux Mint, and program in Visual Studio Code, which has a debugger that is linked to Chrome for HTML5.

Do You Play Many RPGs?

To be honest, RPGs are not my favorite kind of computer games. I'm more into first person shooters, and action games. But I do play the non-electronic role playing game Pathfinder every other week with my friends. We've been doing that already for years.

I guess I don't like the story element of games too much, I like the action stuff. Therefore I think it's great that I can make the technology for RPGs, and let my users come up with their own stories and gameplay.

A lot of games that I play incorporate RPG elements, such as Far Cry Primal and Assassin's Creed Origins, so I definitely enjoy all the RPG mechanics.

Any Advice for Someone Who Wants to Make an RPG?

Just start with something really small. Keep that big idea for when you already have a bit of experience doing small things.

I would suggest to make a small quest, show it to some friends or put it online, and get feedback. Then learn and improve. There are lots of ways on how to start making your first RPG, so pick one that you like and start doing it.

Use my own RPG Playground if you like it easy and fast. You can jump right in and start creating. If you have bigger plans, you could go for RPG Maker. Or if you want to become a programmer and have full control over your project, you should definitely check out https://howtomakeanrpg.com/.

If you are new to programming, I would suggest to stay away from Unity3D, Unreal Engine, etc. Even for experienced programmers it takes a lot of effort to get something going in there. But if you have programming experience, you can definitely check out Unity3D and go from there.

Where Do You See the RPG Genre Moving in the Future?

It's all about Virtual Reality nowadays, so I'm really curious if there will be any good VR RPG's in the future. Other technologies like Augmented Reality might add something extra to tabletop RPG's. The future is open to be invented! :)

I'm excited about all the RPG's made by my users, and lone game developers. You can't expect the really innovative things to come from big companies, it's too much of a risk for them. But small game developers, they have all the non-conventional ideas that they want to bring to life. All the power to them!

Where Can People People Find You?

If you have generic questions, the RPG Playground forum is the best place to start. But for something personal, you can always mail me at koen@koonsolo.com, or send me message on Twitter.

Is There Anything You’d Like to Give a Shout Out To?

I would just say to come and check out RPG Playground right now, and play with it for 15 minutes. You will get the idea instantly if it's something for you. I'm constantly improving things, so you can expect new features all the time.