Origins and History
When The Gladiator Program (formerly, The Gladiator Project) was first conceived back with RM2K, I started creating a simple game based around fighting in a gladiatorial arena. Back then it was simply called Arena. The project was quickly abandoned due to 2K’s limitations; there was just not enough scope – even with advanced eventing – to achieve precisely what I wanted to achieve.
With the advent and subsequent (unendorsed) translation of RM2K3, my interest in TGP was rekindled. The project title was changed to Arena Gladiatorium, which was an expanded version of its original hack-and-slash concept. It had a sense of renewed purpose, fuelled primarily by 2K3’s richer features and versatility. I also had a clearer vision on its direction.
Arena Gladiatorium was halfway finished – replete with customized graphics, a unique Custom Menu System and a fertile storyline – when disaster struck. A virulent, insidious virus attacked my system that eventually destroyed my hard drive, and I lost it all! Or so I thought at the time. Suffice to say that put a huge damper on the project and it died, along with my interest in RPG Maker as a whole.
I stayed away from the RPG Maker scene for some time, except to produce tutorials and mini-games for my own entertainment, and focused on writing instead. One of the writing projects was a set of short-short stories under the umbrella title Ars Mechanicum. Although I’d written about a dozen in total, some of them had very distinct gladiatorial undertones.
In time, I settled down and got married, so I thrust these projects aside.
As fate would have it, Arena Gladiatorium was not completely gone, as I was able much later to extract about 90% of the project and its material from the near-dead hard drive they were stored on. I then uploaded it to somewhere online as an additional backup so no matter what, it would not become lost again. Married life took precedence and there the project stayed, all but forgotten about.
At the same time as discovering the archived materials, after this long hiatus of marital bliss, RMXP had just been released. I downloaded a copy of the trial version and once again became instantly hooked on RPG Maker. Back then my knowledge of Ruby and RGSS was nil, so I took it upon myself to learn as much of it as I could through various sources.
It so happened that the first game I started creating on XP contained a scene revolving around fighting in an arena, which was elaborated within the game as the project continued.
RMVX was soon released, so the game was ported to this RPG Maker, despite its limitations and omissions from RMXP. The gears shifted once more onto the arena scene and the skeletal form of a gladiatorial arena emerged, returning to the simplistic original concept of the one initiated with 2K3.
Inspired by this change of direction, I reopened the original 2K3 archives relating to Arena Gladiatorium. The theme for a game based specifically on gladiatorial games, with the slant on the Roman ludii, emerged. The underlying plot developed after I watched a movie – I can’t remember the name of it now – and the foundations for TGP were laid. Following several intense plot twists, the project itself was born proper.
Development on the game progressed quite well for awhile, but the well started drying up, slowly but surely. This was not actually caused by any lack of inspiration or imagination, but the full realization of VX’s tileset limitations became apparent. Aside from using the ambiguous Tileset E or one of the Tileset Swapper scripts (which I don’t think were available then), there seemed nothing further I could do. Again this dampened the enthusiasm though it still didn’t dry up completely.
I continued writing and rewriting the entire plot, as well as several short stories based in the TGP world.
The integrated menu system still needed attention, too many kinks and cross-script incompatibilities, and although proficient enough in RGSS/2, my knowledge of it was still limited. I couldn’t quite manipulate it to its full potential. That aside, it was also a little over-complicated and integrating the different scripts – achievements, factions, arena levels and ranks, experiential titles and names, and a quest log – became overwhelming.
Never any good at spriting or creating world map graphics, etc. only some of the original charsets were converted and used. Taking all of these things into consideration, enthusiasm for TGP started waning.
And at the same time, I was elaborating on some old plot ideas for a novella – or maybe a series of novels – entitled Ars Magicum. Concepts for the game – retitled Ars Magia, and then later officially renamed to Ars Mechanicum again – started burgeoning. Development of the tie-in novellas started forming therefrom. But that’s another story entirely.
Shortly after I purchased RMVXA, I decided to try and convert TGP to this new RPG Maker to take advantage of its new functions and features, as well as its newly improved RGSS. This went quite well, but due to the structural changes in RGSS3, there were certain things I couldn’t quite figure out as easily as I thought I’d be able to.
A new job – and a series of life events – eventually took much of my time away from any major RPG Maker projects, so work on TGP once again lay dormant. I focused on scripting in VX for a while, learning all I could about RGSS2 from various sources, extrapolating other peoples’ code to see how certain things were done, then applying that to my own methods and scripts, especially the Q-Engine script.
Life then dealt me a series of blows from which recovery was slow. One of the knock-on effects from that was that my self-confidence had been hit very hard. This was further compounded when, after finally asking for help on one of the forums, I was met with condescension and ignorance and just left them all. And continued working on RPG Maker projects on my own, in private and behind closed doors, not willing to release anything I created publicly.
Although the project itself was deferred for quite some time, it still burned in the back of my mind, despite working on other projects, MV plugins and Smile Game Builder.
Development on the project – as The Gladiator Program: Cabal – started again.