Many people prefer the proportions of the taller RPG Maker XP sprites to the smaller, chibi-styled sprites of later engines. It’s very easy to convert XP sprites to the new format, by following a few simple steps.
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The easiest way to use XP character sprites in later engines is to remove the entire first column of the character sheet and save it into your new project’s Characters folder, with a $ at the start of the file name.
Let’s take a look at the two character formats to understand how they work and why that first column of sprites can be removed, then go through the steps in a couple of graphics programs. Finally, we’ll look at why the newer engines use $ and ! at the start of the file names, so you’ll know when you should use them, too.
According to the Terms and Conditions, you can use the default resources from any RPG Maker engine, in any other RPG Maker engine, as long as you have a license for both
The Differences Between the Character Sheets
An RPG Maker XP character sprite has four columns, and four rows. Each row represents the character facing different directions, and each column is a different animation frame. When the character is moving, the game cycles through these frames in a left-to-right order. When the character is not moving, the first frame is shown as the idle pose.
In later versions (RPG Maker VX, VX Ace, MV and MZ), an individual character sprite has only three columns, and four rows. The rows also represent the character facing different directions, and the columns are different animations frames. However, instead of cycling through frames in a left-to-right order when the character is moving, the game zig-zags back and forth, starting at the center. When the character is not moving, the middle frame is shown as the idle pose.
Why did they change from four columns to three? If you look carefully at the XP sprite, you’ll notice that the first and third frames are identical. The frames cycle from the idle pose, to one foot forward, back to idle, then the other foot forward.
The newer format simply combines these two identical columns, and uses the middle column as the idle pose.
The result is that the image size is smaller with three columns than with four, which reduces memory usage, loading speed, and project size. But the characters still animate correctly.
How to Remove the First Column
Now that you understand why the formats are different, let’s look at the steps to make it happen. It’s quite easy, and you only need a basic image editing program to do it. Note, your program must allow transparency in images, so Microsoft’s Paint program is out.
GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free graphics editing program, which you can download from http://www.gimp.org
Open your RPG Maker XP character sprite image in GIMP, then choose Canvas Size from the Image menu.
Now work out the correct width by multiplying your image width (128 in this case) by 0.75 (to get 96). Enter that as the width, then drag the image in the preview all the way to the left, so the frame is around the three columns on the right. Hit the Resize button, which will crop away the area outside the frame, leaving you with what’s inside.
Finally, choose Export from the File menu to save your new image. Put a $ at the start of the file name – we’ll go into the reason for that a bit later.
Paint.net is also a free graphics editing programs, which you can download from http://www.getpaint.net – this is actually my preferred image editing program as it has a very simple interface and does almost everything I need. I only resort to GIMP if I need to use a grid.
Open your RPG Maker XP character sprite image in Paint.net, then choose Canvas Size from the Image menu.
Now work out the correct width by multiplying your image width (128 in this case) by 0.75 (to get 96). Enter that as the width, then click the center right anchor, which will keep the 96 pixels on the right side of the image. Hit the OK button, which will crop away the excess area on the left of the image.
Finally, save your new image. Put a $ at the start of the file name – we’ll go into the reason for that a bit later.
How to Add your New Character to your Project
You can use the Resource Manager in your new project to import your new character sprite. Just choose Graphics/Characters or img/characters depending on your RPG Maker version, hit the Import button, and go find your image.
In RPG Maker VX and VX Ace, you will have an option to set transparent and translucent colors. Right-click and then left-click on the background of the image, otherwise it might import without the transparency.
I find the Resource Manager clunky, and some people have problems with the files not showing up after importing. I also don’t like having to set my transparent color when I’ve already done that in the image. So I like to use use the Windows File Explorer to move things around. If you want to go this way just drag the image into the Graphics/Characters or img/characters folder, depending on your RPG Maker version.
Now your image is imported, you can use it for actor or event sprites.
Why the File Name is Important
RPG Maker XP character images don’t have any special symbols in the file names. There is one character per image, and they just work.
But if you were to format the image as shown above and just drop the file into your later-version characters image folder, you’ll see some funny stuff happen when you try to use the sprite for a character or an event.
Only a small part of the sprite is displayed!
Here’s why …
What’s Special about the $
RPG Makers after XP actually have two formats for character sheets. The first one is a single character, as shown above, and the second one allows a character sheet to have sprites for eight different characters.
By putting a $ at the start of the file name, you’re telling these programs that this character sheet is the right size for a single character, and it will use the entire image.
By leaving off the $, you are telling the programs that this character sheet is big enough to hold eight characters (even if some of them are empty), and it will divide the image up and let you use a portion of the image for each character.
If you only have one character in your image, and it’s only large enough for that one character, but you leave the $ off at the start of the file name, the program is going to think there are actually eight characters and will divide the image up accordingly. Then each of those eight segments will be further divided into four rows and three columns, which is why you end up with a tiny partial-sprite.
What’s Special About the !
So we’ve sorted out our NCP character sprite. Now what about that door?
Notice how it’s no longer aligned with the bottom of the building! This is because RPG Maker XP draws its characters aligned with the tile grid, but later versions of the engine draw characters a few pixels higher. This is to avoid the appearance of the character standing right on the edge of things:
In the second image, I’ve temporarily renamed the file for the character on the left to have a ! at the beginning. The file for the character on the right has no ! at the start of the file name.
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If you have a character image that needs a $ as well as a ! at the start of the name, it doesn’t matter which one you put first – it could be $! or !$ – they will both work the same way.
Putting it all Together
So it’s pretty easy to use RPG Maker XP character sprites in later versions of the engine. Just remember to:Change the canvas size to crop away the first column of spritesPut a $ at the start of the filename if it’s a single character, and no $ if you’re allowing for up to eight charactersPut a ! at the start of the filename if it’s an object/scenery sprite that needs to line up with the grid, and no ! if it’s an actor/NPC