By Tom Tolios / February 11th, 2016
|Title||RPG Maker MV|
|Release Date||October 23, 2015|
|Age Rating||ESRB – Everyone|
(This isn’t a traditional review because this isn’t really a video game, but a tool for building video games. Therefore, this writeup is more about what to expect out of RPG MAKER MV and whether it is a good tool for making a quality production with the assets provided.)
We all love video games. That much is certain. Some of us have even thought about designing our own games. But how many of us have ever thought about the process of doing so? We can all generally surmise that “it’s a lot of effort,” but there are still surprisingly few of us that actually respect or appreciate just how much goes into it all. And I’m not even talking about the nine-figure production costs for the AAA market, but the myriad parts and mechanisms involved in the (seemingly) less sophisticated retro domain.
Let’s scale it back and look at the 24-bit generation, or the 16-bit generation. Even those games aren’t a walk in the park to develop. On its own, even developing the tools needed to make the game can be a steep hill to climb. So, let’s presume somebody made those for you already so you can get to actually making the game. All you have to do is drag, drop, fill and click until everything works just how you want it to.
This was my takeaway from the 20 hours my nephew and I spent with RPG Maker MV, the latest entry in the long running series (handled by numerous publishers over the years and most recently by Degica). It wasn’t necessarily that I specifically wanted to make a great retro RPG, but more that familiarizing myself with RPG Maker MV was educational and informative in understanding the cycle of game development.
There is a lot you can do with RPG Maker MV, and, depending on how ambitious you are about bringing your story to life, you could be entrenched in it for a very long time. I did not complete the game I was working on (a Berserk side story, if you must know), and I’m not sure I’ll ever have the time to do so, but my efforts gave me a newfound respect and admiration for those brave souls that use these tools — and similar ones — to bring it all to life, whether solely for profit, to give enjoyment to others and both.
RPG Maker MV truly gives you everything you need to make your own retro RPG, and it can be as vast and epic or as modest and quaint as you desire. And it all starts with building the world that the story takes place in. This, in and of itself, can be a daunting task because when you open the client, you’re given a clean slate and a set of graphics tools and that’s it. When I looked at the application in its initial state, I realized that I was as blank on the matter as the canvas being provided. Most people never really take the time to think about the geography of a fictional setting.
What were my continents going to be shaped like? How many islands would there be? Are there any volcanoes or areas blocked from conventional travel? What about perilous mountain paths, haunted forests, burning deserts and the like? Where would the dungeons, cities and towns be, and why would they be in the specific places I chose to put them? How big did I want the world to be? How far was I going to require my protagonists to travel? Other worlds? Other dimensions? How do they get there? I found myself really examining the nuts and bolts of the creative process in a broader sense.
And none of this has anything to really do with the actual story of the game, which is what most people play RPGs to experience. Well, I’m pleased to tell you that RPG Maker MV makes all of these things possible so long as you’re willing to take the time to learn how to use the resources provided and then actually get them to work. There’s a bit of a learning curve, but by experimenting with the interface you’ll soon be placing treacherous mountain ranges, lakes and floating cities wherever you want them. Now be warned: this client doesn’t hold your hand and you pretty much have to learn everything through trial and error (there are no guides built into RPG Maker MV), but don’t be intimidated. By jumping in and making mistakes, and then figuring out how those mistakes happened, you’ll understand how to place, remove, modify and adjust the world you’re creating. And don’t be afraid of screwing it up. By saving frequently and timestamping those saves with slightly altered file names so you don’t accidentally overwrite progress you may, in the end, wish to keep from a previous file, I was able to get adventurous without losing the progress I actually wanted to keep.
So, you have an overworld now. You have a big map with objects for characters to bump up against and interact with. You have dungeons, towns, cities, even boats and airships if you want to go that way. Now you have to take a look at all those smaller environments and design them too. So one at a time, dungeon by dungeon, town by town, city by city, you have to go into each one and lay them out. Where are the shops? Where is the inn? Where is the tavern? Secret doors and treasure chests, pots and dressers to examine and loot? Are there gambling emporiums and battle arenas for the players to interact with and profit from?
Well, intrepid game designer, now you have to place these objects and establish their individual behaviors. You have to set prices for each weapon or piece of armor in that shop, what items can be looted from chests and crates and so forth. And what about objects that provide interaction but aren’t inventory related, such as the lore you can learn from reading books on shelves and the like? You have to set the behavior of those objects so that dialogue windows appear that provide the desired information. Which, of course, you have to populate with the verbiage you want to see displayed when the players interact.
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