RPG Maker - The entire series reviewed

RPGMaker, one of the best examples of a tool used to learn how to make your own game, long before all of these high tech engines like unity, blender and many more but is it still relevant? When today you can get a free engine and tool to start making games right away why should we bother with a paid tool that out of the box which seems restrictive and finicky? Well my friends that is what we are going to discuss here today.

Now first things first we will only be discussing the PC versions, there were console releases that allowed you to create 3d games with the pre-made assets but i have been unable to get my hands on these as they are pretty rare and expensive, especially outside of japan. (Though i would love to get my hands on these so if you see any around let me know ok? ;))

So let's start with a little history lesson, Originally created by a company called ASCII it was later bought out by Enterbrain, The very first "RPGMaker" was actually called "Mamirin" and was only available on the PC-8801 which was a "Zilog Z80-based home computer released by Nippon Electric Company (NEC) in 1981 in Japan" Mamirin was released in 1988 and marked the way for the RPGMaker franchise!

After Mamirin came over 32 other games! I won't bore you by detailing all of them so let's skip a bit ahead to the name we recognise, mainly those actually titled as RPGMaker, the very first RPGMaker (as in the title saying that) was on the PS1 but like I said before I haven't played the console versions sadly so I can't say much about it other than it was a hit as they kept producing English versions of RPGMaker after this one and nobody is ever selling a copy!

After the playstation version there came the GB version and then RPGMaker 2000, a PC RPGMaker game which is very similar to that which we use today. 2000 brought better graphics to the table which trumped games like Pokemon Crystal that came out the same year, it also had a more user friendly interface but being self taught was still a big task and back then there was no YouTube, so you couldn't just look up a how to video.

(Yes someone actually made a game on RPGM2000 where you can punch your grandmother)

After RPGMaker 2000 came the 2003 edition which did little more then improve the graphics further and make the user interface a little more user friendly, this was the version my school used to teach us about. Actually i have no idea what they were trying to teach but they used RPGMaker 2003 to teach it to us, I can't talk much about how easy it is for someone to pick up and play as i was actually shown by a teacher how to do just about everything but it did seem straight forward as most options were laid out clear as day; "Show text" allowed you to show text on screen, "Show picture" showed a picture of your choice on screen, "Set move route" allowed you to set a route for a character to walk on... Pretty self explanatory.

(RPGMaker 2003 map example)

Then RPGMaker XP arrived on the scene in 2005 (2004 in japan) and focused more on big set pieces and amazing looking environments, with massive pre-made buildings and natural scenery (a huge tree or really big rock) but some thought this took away from the gameplay and creativity since that meant there was less tiles to use for grass, stone, ice, etc etc though it was still a big hit with the fans and it was indeed very beautiful.

(A custom scenario on the XP engine)

Next there was RPGMaker VX, now around this time I had moved on to other game engines but I couldn't help but get the latest RPGMaker whenever they came out as my love for the series was still strong... though VX almost killed it for me. The engine was released in 2008 and changed a lot of the visuals, including the overall size of things as XP had a lot of huge set pieces and tall characters VX decided to go in the opposite direction making everything smaller, perhaps going back to the older style of RPG's like the original FF's and Pokemon that basically had a block with arms and legs.

Sadly with the updated graphics it looked odd, even downright ugly at times though the scenery did get a major revamp as they included a lot of new tiles with so much more variation as opposed to XP, I couldn't bring myself to do much with VX.

(A custom map on the VX engine)

RPGMaker VX got a second version in 2012 called RPGMaker VX Ace, the update seemed minimal at the time though looking back there were some nice changes including: A character generator so you can make your own custom character for the game, the choices were limited but it was nice to have for those who couldn't create custom art for their game, it also added character abilities in battle like having a modifier that when active gave the party extra Exp or extra Gold when they win a battle as well as many others. Another nice improvement was the music and sound effects, Ace had a much larger library of music and sound effects all of which were incredible.

Ace drew me back in, even though the characters still all looked like they have dwarfism it was such a nice experience that I had to use it and I did in the 2014 game maker contest (my entree was "Manor" the horror game that used- oh sorry i shouldn't be talking about my games!) and found it to be much easier to use then the previous instalments. Heck when you wanted too, there was a deep and rich layer of customisation options for those who had mastered the basics, such as being able to set tiles numbers and then having those numbers represent an action or an event that would occur only on those tiles,

I used them to add walking sounds over the different types of floors ranging from wood to stone and metal, very useful tools for those who wanted more from their games than the basic options allowed for... Though some of these advanced options were indeed available in XP and some even in older instalments, I say this so nobody jumps down my throat for forgetting to mention this ;).

(A screenshot advertising RPGMaker VX Ace on the main website)

That's it for the PC releases, sure enough there will most likely be another version in the next couple of years, though I'm not sure what else they could really add to the top down RPG genre, maybe it will just look even prettier or maybe they will fix all the ugly characters!

Now to list all of the RPGMaker games including PC and Consoles just so you know how many there really are.

Dungeon Manjirou
RPG Construction Tool: Dante
Dante 2
Chimes Quest
RPG Tsukūru Dante 98
Dungeon RPG Tsukūru Dan-Dan Dungeon
RPG Tsukūru - Super Dante
RPG Tsukūru Dante 98 II
RPG Tsukūru 2
RPG Tsukūru 95
RPG Tsukūru 95 Value!
Simulation RPG Tsukūru
Enterbrain Collection: Simulation RPG Tsukūru 
Simulation RPG Tsukūru 95
Simulation RPG Tsukūru 95 Value!
RPG Maker
RPG Tsukūru GB
RPGMaker 2000
RPG Tsukūru 4
Uchūjin Tanaka Tarou de RPG Tsukūru GB 2
RPGMaker 2
RPGMaker 2003
RPG Tsukūru Advance
RPGMaker 3
RPG Tsukūru for Mobile
RPG Tsukūru DS
RPG Tsukūru DS Plus 
RPGMaker VX Ace

And that's all of them! by the way "Tsukūru" means maker in case you were wondering... well technically i think it translates to "creator" or "to create" but it's close enough. SO! Is RPGMaker still relevant in this day and age? well that's a bit of a loaded question, while yes there are a lot of free game engines out there most of them are horrible for new developers and explain nothing to those who want to get into the art of making games. As well as most not having a very big library of pre-made content like character models and levels to help ease you into it, you have to get models on your own or even create them which can be a real daunting task for a beginner.

I remember when i first ran into that wall, I ended up taking a college course in games development just so i could learn how to 3d model and put those models into the engine, though I doubt most people could do that.

RPGMaker, no matter which one you chose to start with is a great way for people to get into games development without needing any prior knowledge of development, they learn naturally over time what everything means and can even learn how to code! i know a few people who even made completely different games on the RPGMaker engines including racing games, platformers, 3D real time RPG's and more! so I would say yes RPGMaker still holds up in today's market as a great beginners tool.

Available to buy through the main Website
- Article by David Green

1 comment:

  1. This is a fantastic write-up on the history of RPG Maker, David! It's really interesting to see the evolution of the engine from the early days of Mamirin to RPG Maker VX Ace.

    For those who are curious about getting started with game development, RPG Maker is a great choice, especially for beginners. The pre-made assets and user-friendly interface make it a lot less intimidating than jumping straight into complex engines like Unity or Unreal.

    While RPG Maker might not be the best fit for every type of game, it certainly excels in the 2D, top-down RPG genre. The fact that people have been able to create such a wide variety of games (including racing games and platformers!) using RPG Maker speaks to the engine's versatility.

    One minor point - while it's true there are free game engines available, some excellent options like Godot and Construct 3 offer user-friendly interfaces and growing libraries of assets that can be valuable for new developers.

    Overall, this is a great resource for anyone interested in learning more about RPG Maker! Would you be open to sharing some of your experiences creating games with RPG Maker? It would be fascinating to hear about the process and any challenges you encountered.

    And for anyone interested in learning more about RPG Maker, you can check out the official website here.


All comments are moderated! Constructive criticism allowed, but abusive comments will be removed and you will be IP banned! Banned users will not show up in my comment feed, you will be gone for good as will all of your posts! - Play nice and enjoy IndieRetroNews!