Guide to Making a Top Down ARPG
As with all of our guides, we are assuming you are using Unity to build your game. Also, you understand the power and value of the asset store. We often link to purchasable assets. This is in the best interest of you the developer and streamlining your project.
The Hack and Slash/Top Down RPG genre
If you grew up on such classics as Diablo II, Titan Quest, Torchlight II, Path of Exile, you’ve come to the right place. Thanks to huge advances in modern indie development, and access to nearly unlimited assets, it has actually become possible to build your very own RPG in this style.
Start with a level
Level editing use to feel daunting. Now a days, the level editors are built for ease of use, and optimized for smooth run times. This is great for either prototyping, or the starting point for a complete game. We recommend getting started with Tile a Dungeon – Sewer Kit.
Tile a Dungeon – Sewer Kit
Is there a more suiting starting point than a sewer? We highly recommend this asset not only because it’s high quality work that has been put into it. 3D Forge has released a plethora of other snap-able grid themed RPG tile sets. They have been tirelessly developing this system for years. And their stellar 5 star rating is further proof. Their support is amazing. They could definitely get away with charging more. So if you find this system works well for you, they have all the other main themes covered. You don’t need them all to start with, just reference back to this page when the time comes to really filling out your game with different level types. Be prepared for the next few paragraphs to reference a lot of this developers hard work.
Village Interiors Kit
One thing to keep in mind if you pick up the Village Interiors Kit, it is actually the following three packages all wrapped into one! So just keep that in mind if you plan on doing a large variety of levels. Might as well get them all together at once. If you reached this far in level design, your game is coming together in a great way.
If you really end up on a roll, and we hope you do, they have some amazing outdoor assets to complete your game as well. These things have everything you could need! Taverns & Inns, Magic Shops, Town Halls, Guild Halls, Blacksmith Forges, General Stores, Jeweler Shops, Potion Shops, Herbalist, Banks, Armorer, Fletcher, Stables, Keeps, Barns, Store Rooms and more.
Village Exteriors Kit
They are the developers that keep on giving. Let’s complete the list of outside level builders that work in perfect harmony with all the previous.
Might as well tackle this while we are on the 3D Forge train. Unity’s built in camera is a little flimsy and tricky to manipulate with out much programming knowledge. 3D Forge has the answer. It takes care of this natural overhead view in a nice tidy package. An obvious choice for your hack and slash.
Action RPG Top Down Camera Controller
Half the fun in these kinds of RPG’s is the loot. Endless amounts of items, gear, and more loot! So we will be delving into multiple systems to bring it all together in one cohesive inventory/item management system.
The bones of the system you will use to manage your in game items. As with all of our asset recommendations, we steer towards very thoroughly used and documented assets that have plenty of support. Which leads us to the obvious choice of Rucksack – Ultimate Inventory System. This incredible asset does the following and more.
- Multiple inventories
- Advanced currency system
- Controller support
- Full mobile support
- Extremely optimized
This new inventory system has been built from the ground up to not become outdated with any version of Unity. As well as adding multiplayer compatible.
Rucksack – Ultimate Inventory System
One of the obvious mechanics that will be in almost all RPG’s is the ability to take on quests. A great way of awarding your players with more items. Choosing the right questing system is key for a great gaming experience. Look no further than the best questing solution available.
With benefits to numerous to list here, we’ll rattle off some major selling points.
- Procedural-generated quests
- Very flexible UI system
- Add your own hand-written quests
- Supports multiplayer games
- Versatile quest control components
- Save and load games, persist data across scene changes
- Works seamlessly with many other packages across the asset store
The amount of features packed into this quest system is extremely impressive. If you want to read the rest of it, click onto the package and click read more on the description.
Weapons and Gear
Here we get to the meat and potatoes of a loot based game. The gear. Especially a ton of weapons. And swords, axes, shields, bows, staff, daggers, etc. Over 330 actually. Major variety is the clear winner in this category. If you’re going to buy one weapon pack, we have the perfect suggestion.
MYFG – Weapon Pack
There is a Lite version by the same publisher that only contains 20 weapons if you just want to dip your feet in a bit before getting the full package. In fact, there is plenty of smaller free packs of weapons and RPG type armor, items, etc. But keeping a coherent style is almost impossible if you don’t buy everything in one large pack. So just something to keep in mind during development.
Typically we would be including armors next. Unfortunately armor in almost any game is not that simple. It’s something that attaches to what ever character you input into the game. There for you can’t really just buy armor packs and throw them into the game and onto your hero. They are much more rigged too your character during the creation of the rig/3d object. Essentially connecting to the bones and animation of said character. Therefore, we will try and cover this better in our next category.
Beyond your typical gear that you equip to your main character, there should be a lot of variety in other items in your game. Quest items, gems, potions, scrolls, gold, artifacts, crafting reagents, treasure, etc. Really, your imagination is the limit. A great starting point for items is Fantasy Treasure Loot Kit. This will really help kick things off.
Fantasy Treasure Loot Kit
You’re going to need a lot of icons to represent these items in the inventory. This is one area of the Asset store that isn’t lacking at all. A quick search reveals an immense number of full icon sets. The best icon set you can get is the Fantasy Icons Megapack. They have outdone themselves with the number of icons available, but also the quality.
Fantasy Icons Megapack
Usually you’ll want at least some form of customization of your players main character. Especially if you decide to implement multiplayer.
This is one of the hardest packages to find on the Asset Store. You want to be able to change armors and customize the character. A full character with animations and the ability to equip armors and change gear is near non-existent. Thanks to a ton of time and effort, we have the incredibly well developed Adam and Eva Adventurers.
Adam and Eva Adventurers
If you find that these characters are a bit too realistic of a style for your main character, there is a great alternative. Maybe not as complex customization, but they would be quicker to implement. The aptly named RPG Human Male Character and RPG Human Female.
RPG Human Male
RPG Human Female
Hit Effect Shaders
One very very underappreciated effect added to games these days are the visual cues of attacks. We aren’t talking about sword swinging animations or the particles in a spell. There is a very real satisfaction of having a landed hit visually trigger an effect on the object itself. This is in addition to the animation from what ever is being hit or effected. Normally it’s subtle enough players don’t even realize its happening. Things like the entire enemy turning a white for a millisecond on impact. A slight shaking of the screen for a big spell or critical hit.
Hit & Slashes Vol.3
Health and Mana
There are many ways to represent how many hit points or casting energy are presented for your hero. A quick research on the asset store will show a large number of existing health and mana type bars. This gem that we just have to share in this instance really brings out the traditional hack and slash style visual reminders. The classic health and mana globes. Popularized by Diablo originally, these have gone on to make many appearances in similar type games through out the decades. And if we’re going to suggest one, this is our favorite. Very aesthetically pleasing.
Leveling and Experience
A pretty obvious part of any good top down RPG is gaining experience to grow in strength. Presumably to challenge even harder enemies and obtain stronger and more rare items. Oh, and of course, progressing the story line. There is already an existing tool that handles XP fairly elegantly. Simply named XP Manager.
Most RPG’s have a skill tree. A visual lay out of each skill you can work your way towards unlocking. Sometimes requiring you to unlock the lesser skill before moving on to the more enhanced versions. Other times simply requiring a certain level or amount of stats. Talentus Pro is the tool you are looking for to achieve any and all of this.
Enemies and NPC’s
It would be a very empty world if there was no enemies or random computer controlled players for your player to fight or interact with.
Much like your loot, enemies should be numerous, frequent, and a huge variety. Keeping them in similar graphical style, you’re going to want to choose a publisher who has a huge existing library already built. Including animations. Which will save you thousands of hours of development. Also, since the enemies are viewed from above and will sometimes be in large numbers, technically they shouldn’t be very high in polys. There are some absolutely incredible looking monster packs on the store. But unfortunately most of them are very high in poly count which will cause the average PC to lag when too many are present on screen. Which bring us to the very ideal publisher, MeshTint Studio.
Dark Creatures Pack
Their library of published work is very extensive. And all of these creatures come with 10+ animations each. Which is incredible. As you can see, if you get through this first pack, there are a huge variety of additional enemies to implement into your game.
Forest Creatures Pack, Fire Creatures Pack, Cold Creatures Pack.
If need be, other publishers have creature packs that are very close to this in style. Just something to keep in mind as your game grows. A great example of another publishers work that fits fairly well with this look of creatures and enemies is GrigoriyArx. Check out his work below, or even click on the name to check out the rest of his work.
Fantasy Characters & Creatures Pack
Also known as non player characters. Which you would think would include enemies as well. But in today’s gaming, it usually means all other friendly characters that are not played by you or someone else. Your town villagers, blacksmiths, quest givers, etc. These characters should stand out with some difference in looks. But not too much. So a pack that allows for some variation is preferred. Fantasy Horde – Villagers achieves all that and more. Even including bonus items.
Fantasy Horde – Villagers
It goes without saying, that if your planning on having NPC’s in you game, chances are they are going to have some sort of dialog. Some could be complicated stories with actual input from your player on how to respond. Sometimes it’s a small text quip from a much less important villager or the town drunk. What you need is a system that allows you to choose how you want this displayed. Choosing a system that ties in with Quest Machine. So on that note, the most solid choice that we could recommend is Dialogue System for Unity. This really is by far the top choice by developers on Unity.
Dialogue System for Unity
Attacks and Spells
To keep your game fun and exciting, we’re going to assume you will be including a progressive system. As you level you will be unlocking new attacks and spells.
Most of the recommended enemy packs already come with animations. If you chose the recommended ones here. So you won’t have a lot of extra work involved with setting them up. Maybe a few gaps you might want to fill in. More importantly is your main character. There will be a wide variety of actions and animations you will want to eventually rig to your main. Casting spell motions, attacking, and generally interacting with the world around them. Animating used to be tedious and time consuming. Luckily for you, there’s a great solution for that as well. Mechanim by Explosive.
RPG Character Mecanim Animation Pack
Magic and Spells
When it comes to spells, there’s a plethora of options for packs and individual assets for Unity. There is no one glove fits all situation here. What we’ve done is compiled a few we find most suiting to the top down perspective. The Spells Pack was created specifically for the top down genre. Magic Arsenal is another great considering. Also the MOBA / ARPG Effect Pack is a very comprehensive spells pack.
Spells Pack, Magic Arsenal, MOBA / ARPG Effect Pack
Systems and Templates
Most of everything up till now has been more so the fun parts. You will have to implement multiple systems behind the scenes for some obvious reasons as you continue your development journey.
From the launching of your game, to the many character windows, you will have a considerable amount of UI. There are several very well put together UI systems. Fantasy GUI Package was specifically made to be used in RPG’s. Very responsive, customizable, and the exact right look. Makes it much easier to tailor the game you want to build instead of tinkering around in the back end.
Fantasy GUI Package
Controls and Controller Input
You’re going to be inputting a way for players to control their character. Obviously keyboard and mouse are going to be obvious first choices. But as development continues, you’re going to have to decide if you want hand held controller support, maybe even a console release at some point as well. Rewired is an amazing asset that speeds this up. Yes, there are manual ways to do this in Unity, but a clean, all-in-one solution is so much more preferable. The earlier you get it in the better off you will be. It even handles mobile controls, if you wish to go down that rocky path with an RPG.
Work Flow and Game Creation
Everything you will be creating in game, from level progression, to enemy item drop chances, to unlocking new areas, has to be set up and saved somewhere. A visual editor is an elegant solution. As with almost any of these systems, this can be hard coded. But without having some in depth knowledge on this topic, you’re going to want an easier solution. Playmaker is the ultimate solution to this. With over 3000 five star reviews, it;s obvious they have an absolutely dynamite tool for developers.
The amount of features packed into this is absolutely incredible. Playmaker integration, which is extremely important. Cross platform. Web and cloud options. AES encryption. This really is the number one choice as far as saving games goes on the asset store.
Save Game Pro – Gold Update
If you’re planning to have an extensive enemy and item list, and have certain drop rates, ranges, etc. You’re going to need a tool that handles that for you. Something that’s easy to input into behind the scenes. Game Data Editor is that tool. Great for a rewards system i.e. determining random drops for chests, mobs, boss fights.
Game Data Editor
Music and Sound FX
We have searched music pretty extensively in our development history. Typically we find something that matches the tone and feel our game every time. You could technically make your own. But without a lot of experience in this industry, typically it’s better to go with creators who have been doing this for years and have top notch quality.
Some times we get lucky and find the right sound right away. Some times it can take weeks of searching the internet. Luckily for you, we have found what we consider to be one of the best track listings for a top down RPG game. There’s even comments on SoundCloud calling some of the tracks Diablo-esque. Everything from more calm eerie tones, to a little more up beat battle music. Plus it includes a lot of other genres of music that could perhaps fit into future projects or other games you are currently working on.
Colossal Game Music Collection
A very overlooked topic until enemies, characters, and attacks start getting implemented into your project. From hack and slash sounds, spells, and the howling threats and death noises of the creatures you put in the game, you’re going to have to input a lot of sound FX. Some Medieval Combat Sounds is a great place to start for generic attacks and combat noise. To cover your spells, RPG Magic SFX pack is an excellent addition. A little known gem, and very hard to find on the asset store, Monster Sound FX has an excellent array of grunts, death cries, creature sounds, and monster sounds.
Medieval Combat Sounds, RPG Magic SFX Pack, Monster Sound Fx Pack 1
One thing we learn project after project, is there is a lot of tiny sound FX we take for granted in games. Almost everything you click on or select should have some sort of reactive sound. Even moving items from slot to slot usually sound like their base material. Fantasy Interface Sounds is incredibly suited to RPG games.
Fantasy Interface Sounds
Those packs should pretty much cover 90% of the sound effects in your game. But for the few gaps you need to fill, we have been purchasing sounds from this company for over a decade. They have an extensive library of single sound FX at affordable prices.
Aside from the many different thoughts that come with choosing to implement multiplayer. Balancing, item sharing and trading, chat and voice options, etc. The main thing to decide is which service to use for multiplayer. Our research and experience lead us to Photon. We’ve been using their service for over two years as our multiplayer solution. So far so good!
Photon PUN+ Classic
We hope that our guide has served as a great starting resource. There are a lot of different aspects to consider when building a game with this many types of systems. We can only hope this points you in the right direction and helps you consider the full scope of your project.
As with all of our guides, this is an evolving work in progress. Comments and discussion is more than welcome!