I previously took RPG Maker MV to task for its advert blurb ‘Powerful enough for a developer, simple enough for a child’. Was that, perhaps, a little harsh of me?
One of the marks of being a good person is being able to admit that you’re wrong. Fortunately for me, this ability is not inherently tied to goodness – I’m more of a Chaotic Neutral type of person.
One of the best parts of being a creator (published or otherwise) is looking back on your older works, because it raises interesting questions. What would you do differently now? What have you learnt since then? What did you get right? What did you get wrong?
While re-reading my previous articles, I came across this one here. If you’re allergic to links for some reason, here’s a summary of the article: RPG Maker MV is way too complex for a program that says it’s ‘simple enough for a child’.
That’s it. That’s the article in a nutshell.
However, a conversation with an actual game developer made me change my mind. Sure, it’s complex for a program that says it’s ‘simple enough for a child’ – but that’s WHY it’s a great program.
Defining ‘Game Developer’
Quick question: If someone writes music but never shares it, can they be called a musician?
The obvious answer is ‘Yes of course they are – they can play an instrument so they’re a musician‘. The less obvious (and much more relevant) answer is actually another question: ‘Is there any proof they’re a musician?‘
See, I’ve written many RPG Maker MV games, mostly for my family and friends. My most recent game, Con Fusion, was going to be released for free, mainly because the concept behind it is so unique. It didn’t test well (it will surprise nobody to find out that it was ‘too wordy’) and I haven’t gotten around to fixing that aspect of the game, so I’ve never released it
The idea behind Con Fusion is simple: The player has to make a music track. They need to produce four different tracks: Drums, Bass, Backing, and Vocals. They have two different styles to choose from (Country or Electro). They earn production rights to the tracks by completing themed missions.
So, the first mission is for the drum tracks. If they choose Country drums, then they do a farm-themed mission. If they choose Electro drums, then they do a Sci-Fi mission involving hacking.
They do four missions and then end up with the four tracks, and at the end of the game they get to hear what it sounds like, meaning they can create their own Country/Electro song mashup based on what missions they chose to do.
Sounds awesome, right?
But remember, I never released it. So am I a game dev?
Technically, yes – but there’s no proof of it, so the answer is sadly ‘No, you’re not really a game dev, Liam‘.
So that’s the definition of game developer we’ll be using: Someone who has successfully released a game. It doesn’t matter how big the game is, or if it cost money to play: It only matters if the game is released.
Imagine being politely called out by an actual RPG Maker MV game developer
I’m friends on Steam with a few indie game devs. This particular one goes by the handle of JohnDoeNews. To be clear, that’s not their Steam name, but it IS their game dev name, so it’s the one I’ll be using here.
One of the things that I really like about JohnDoeNews’ work is that they don’t make typical RPG Maker MV games. You can see this for yourself on their itch.io (a popular site for indie games) page here, and you can check out their personal website here if you want to see some behind the scenes stuff.
There is, of course, nothing wrong with using software named RPG Maker to make RPG games, but it just goes to show how creative that JohnDoeNews’ work is. It’s like using a guitar to recreate a ukulele or banjo track – sure, you can do it if you’re creative enough but that’s not what it’s supposed to be for.
Some time ago, JohnDoeNews messaged and asked why I’d given RPG Maker MV a bad review on Steam. I replied with my reasons and shared a link to the previous article about RPG Maker MV with them.
Their response floored me. I can’t remember the exact wording, but the general vibe was that RPG Maker might be complex, but it couldn’t really be any simpler without taking power out of the users’ hands.
I politely disagreed and thought no more of it, assuming that there were better, simpler game makes out there. Spoiler alert: Nope.
I found out that RPG Maker MV is more well designed than I thought
One of the issues that bothered me about writing Con Fusion was that, due to the limitations of the RPG Maker MV engine, I couldn’t just load music files on the fly and have them synchronise automatically.
This meant that I needed to mix down (manually engineer) every single possible variant of the final song.
That’s okay if it’s just two types of music, because there’s only 16 variants. Adding one more musical style (which I wanted to do) would mean I’d need to engineer 64 different versions. I think. I don’t know, I’m not good with math. I just hear the phrase ‘square root’ and start giggling, sue me.
So ‘Screw that for a game of soldiers‘, I thought to myself. ‘I’m going to use some other game making software where I can just sync them on the fly‘.
I thought it would be that simple. WHAT. A. MORON.
I’ve been trying to get to grips with other game makers for around a year now and I’m going to be completely honest here – I don’t understand how most of them work, because even the beginner-level tutorials are beyond me.
Let’s take GameMaker Studio 2 for example. GameMaker is a great bit of software and there are many well-regarded games made with the different versions of it. Games such as Spelunky, Hotline Miami, and Undertale (and the sequel, Deltarune).
But do you think I could get my head around it?
I followed the Drag-n-Drop (the version of the software which doesn’t require actual coding) video tutorial perfectly, twice. And both times I had the same ‘Why doesn’t this work like it should?‘ issue.
I go to the forums for support and I’m basically told ‘Yeah, most of us code instead of doing the Drag-n-Drop stuff, but we’ll try to help you out.‘ Which is great, and I really appreciate that, but that meant I had to turn the Drag-n-Drop stuff into code and then upload it to the forums. I JUST WANT TO MAKE MY STUPID MUSIC GAME, NOT MAKE MULTIPLE ACCOUNTS FOR SUPPORT AND THEN CONVERT RANDOM STUFF!
And yes, if I put the time and effort in, I probably could get to grips with it – but I don’t want to. I could say this is because I’m lazy and/or not very bright, but I honestly think it’s because RPG Maker MV has coddled me with its user-friendliness (which is literally just another way of saying I’m lazy and/or not very bright, but let’s ignore that).
In RPG Maker MV, when something doesn’t work, I can usually work out why on my own (it’s usually a simple logic problem), and if I can’t then someone in the Steam forums can usually help me with a simple reply. That’s how I met JohnDoeNews.
RPG Maker MV also allows you to code things in if you want to – but you don’t have to understand coding – at all – in order to turn out a playable game.
My youngest child has also made a game on RPG Maker MV. Well, it’s more of an open-world experience but she 100% made it on her own. Point is – it’s DEFINITELY ‘simple enough for a child to use’, which means I was objectively wrong about RPG Maker MV.
RPG Maker MV: The End of an Era
Some of you might be wondering if I’ll ever rework and release Con Fusion. I certainly plan to, but I’ll be using the next version of RPG Maker, which is called RPG Maker MZ. It’s going to be released in about 10 hours of this post being published, and I’m planning on reviewing it as I remake my game. I will finally be a real-life actual legit bonafide game dev!
Speaking of real-life game devs – congratulations to JohnDoeNews who has, this very day, reached 10,000 hours in-app time with RPG Maker MV! While the whole ‘10,000 hours makes you an expert‘ thing has sadly been debunked, nobody can deny that it certainly makes them a dedicated game developer.
For the record, I’ve changed my RPG Maker MV review on Steam too. Comment below to search for the hidden hip-hop track (not really)!