The most succesful version have all been created entirely in Game Maker 6.1, the last version used Ultimate3d a DLL providing some much needed 3d features. Additionally the very first Game Maker version was actually in version 5.0, one of my first creations using that engine.
[2d version download here]
Other attempts were made on VERGE 2.0 and Visual Basic, but didn't develope and I moved on to other projects.
After losing -all- of the data for the 2D version (the version I have left was kind of in the middle of the total progress), I created a proto type called C.O.W RPG, which means nothing really. Except maybe that it was kind of slow. Levels were created with objects in Game Maker's room editor and rendered from GM 6.1's native 3d functions. A large map was used as a reference for rooms with pre-created heighmaps, mostly shorelines and rivers. Forest and field areas generated random height and texture coloring maps for a nice effect. Wanted to break away from flat land whenever possible. Quite abit of rooms were created, NPCs were setup, combat introduced, working stat and leveling, inventory system. However a lot is unfished like the character creation at start up. I'll go into details about the developemental ideas on this one some other time, though.
[prototype download here]
Reguardless of the positive aspects of that project, like ease of creation, it was seriously in need of speed and memory improvements. So I decided to create a map editor and eventually all around game editor. This later had me going to the direction of making a 3d dungeon crawl game maker...in game maker. When you think about it, its kind of funny, but I won't be the first person to do it. It also isn't my first attempt at creating an RPG Maker. In the past I made one, ironicly called 'Game Maker', in visual basic. I hadn't known what RPG Maker was at the time, but the concepts and catagories of data were similar.
Still using GM 6.1's native 3d features, which uses DirectX, I created a small engine that would translate a 3-d matrix with several flags for textures, texture layering types and some other third thing. Still going the way of a grid like the old 2d FPS's made it easy to control the enviroment and keep the old style.
To make things less flat I created all objects with routines that put together polygons with colored vertexes. Additionally centers of walls and floors were raised slightly to truelly create dimension. I don't have the editor packaged with the demo. It got pretty far as an engine, more than the previous version. It had its own collision system(buggy), gravity system(water included), some overlay effects, interface compass, day and night cycles, and shaded vertexs based on neighbor.
[demo here for gm3d version]
Speed was pretty good and the effects were nice. Then I came across several 3d dlls for game maker. Irrlict, Ultimate3d, and Xtreme3d. After looking through examples, docs and playing around with things, I ended up going with Ultimate3d mostly because I liked how some things fared over the others. That and Irrlict was abit complex for me. I wanted to keep things simple for two reasons. Lack of time and keeping bugs down. If code gets too complicated it leads to bugs and slow downs. Of course to get more speed you complicate things.
I played around with the new features, but due to the new system I could no longer create my on tile objects in-editor. So began using anim8tor to create some basic objects. With no ability to color vertexs without creating some kind of complex routine, I utilized a new feature at my disposal, multi-layered textures. This opened the door for a variety of possibilities. Aside from applying a shade layer, it also allowed me to create overlays of textures to have things like grass growing over dirt or leaves up walls. The engine is less developed though. This version has the editor and a bunch of resources to play with.
[u3d version demo download]
Next time I'll eleborate about the C.O.W prototype's story, world and general concepts.