RPG Maker WV
RPG Maker WV

RPG Maker MV: Simple Enough for a Child, Powerful Enough for a Developer?

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Does RPG Maker MV live up to its motto, ‘Simple enough for a child, powerful enough for a developer’? We review.

I love it when software has a motto so long that I don’t even have to bother writing a first paragraph. I can now get straight to my customary second-paragraph snark. Thanks to Degica, publishers of RPG Maker series!

For those of you who haven’t heard of the RPG Maker series, it’s an app that allows amateur developers to start making 2D JRPG-style games, get halfway through them, and then move on to another 2D JRPG-style game to begin repeating the process ad infinitum.

The RPG Maker series has turned out many well-known games, such as To The Moon and – uh – well, I lied when I said ‘many’ earlier in this sentence.

I’ve been following Gaia’s Melody by Echo607 when I don’t feel like a weird old man for following the works of someone who’s young enough to be my – uh – much younger cousin, but those two are literally the only RPG Maker franchises to ever appear on my RPG radar.

So here’s my carefully-worded question: If RPG Maker is ‘simple enough for a child, powerful enough for a developer’, then why aren’t we currently drowning in good RPG Maker games?

Let’s take a look at the latest entry in the series.

Simple enough for a child powerful enough for a developer? Pffft.
(RPG Maker MV Splash Screen)

What Do You Get When You Buy RPG Maker MV?

  • the software itself
  • a license to legally release any game made on the engine (within reason, more on this later)
  • a license to use the game assets

The MV part stands for ‘Mobile Version’ because it was specifically made to make game sharing easier (specifically to Mobiles and Webpages).

Given the price of the app, I think this is a bargain. It comes with a life-long game engine license built into the price. That is amazingly convenient, I must admit.

But that’s where the convenience stops: The support for the software is a complete joke.

Considering that this is sold as legitimate game-making software, I expected to be able to contact support regularly while they helped me through certain issues.

Instead, I’m invariably sent to various forums so that other users can tell me that the thing I’m trying to do isn’t possible (even though I could do that in the previous version, and yes that is an amazingly specific example).

If I wanted that kind of support, I’d just punch myself in the face.

I'm just going to write my own little stories in the alt text, I think.
Title screen from Marioball: A New Supersonic which is totally a game which exists and not just some stupid thing I threw together in GIMP 2 over the space of like 3 minutes or whatever. It should be out by the eleventh. Of Never. (RPG Maker MV, all pictures come from the Heroes Wikia)

Want to Make Fan Games? Good Luck. You’ll Need it.

Think you’re going to release a retro-style Final Fantasy, or do a Fallout JRPG and rake in all the cash?

Think again.

Let’s go back to where I said “a license to legally release any game made on the engine”.

You can legally release any game you’ve made, but you don’t automatically have any rights to any assets apart from the assets which come from the software.

In other words: Your Fallout JRPG game cannot be sold, because you don’t own the rights to the Fallout franchise.

Could you release it for free? Sure!

But if it gets too popular – which is kind of the point, is it not? – then expect to be hearing from Bethesda and being asked to stop. Only they are legally allowed to kill the Fallout universe, and they clearly don’t need your help to do so.

Oh, and the DLC for the app is mostly official game assets which you can also buy.

For my money, I think I’d rather work with an artist and pay them directly.

One day he wanted to eat a different type of pizza.
“OOH MATHS! DADDY, CAN I PLAY MATHS?” – the average child, last Tuesday. (RPG Maker MV)

Simple Enough for a Child?

RPG Maker makes it easy to make a basic game. There are even default characters, skills, weapons, items, and so on. But it makes it very hard if you want to be creative – which is basically all that kids want to bring to the table.

For example, my daughter once asked, “How do I make the writing appear above this person’s head?” while she was using RPG Maker MV.

It took me many many hours of research to find out that she’d have to learn a whole new computer language to do that.

Maybe a child could use it, but they won’t be able to be very creative with it unless they do a bunch of extra homework. Frankly, if they’re going to put that much effort into it, they might as well learn to code from scratch and have all the power to do everything they want.

I mean, come on – ‘words above heads’.

Simple, surely?

A 2-minute job on the previous iteration (RPG Maker VX Ace, which I still use) is now a whole new field of study – an unwanted extra addition to a process which is marketed as ‘simple’.

I think it’s more than a little disingenuous to say that RPG Maker MV is “simple enough for a child to use” until they add the disclaimer “unless they want to do anything with any flair or basically be creative at all”.

Once upon a time there was a young boy who liked pizza very much.
To be fair, kids might enjoy making characters like this jokerized version of me. Not that specifically though. That would be weird. (RPG Maker MV)

Powerful Enough for a Developer?

Sure, an amateur developer, or anyone who has entire weeks to wait until the people in the forums deign to answer them, assuming they ever do answer them.

But a professional games developer who has to budget time and money in order to release a game would be either brave or stupid to use this engine.

Rarely we do get masterpieces made from RPG Maker, such as the classic Barkley, Shut Up And Jam: Gaiden – except wait, we didn’t even get that one. To quote the wiki page for said game: “The game was first developed on the RPG Maker 2003 game engine, but was later ported to Game Maker 6.1

I wonder why they didn’t stick with RPG Maker?

And that’s my point: if it was actually “powerful enough for a developer” to use, we’d be drowning in good RPG Maker games. Instead, we get to experience the work of the people that find RPG Maker is simple enough for themselves to use – child or not.

Sometimes though, we do get to experience stuff like Gaia’s Melody – which is what happens when someone’s prepared to put in the effort to make a great game.

Also, that’s a link for the game on Steam. Any followers of my work know that it figuratively killed me to link to Steam, but good work should be rewarded.

Speaking of Steam, check out this screenshot:

Then, one day, he got a new type of pizza, called 'Super Supremo'. The end.
This guy is one of the official Degica Steam Forum moderators. Truly, this amazingly professional approach has impressed me to levels which don’t even exist. (RPG Maker MV Steam Forums.)

Why Even Buy RPG Maker MV?

As game-making software, it really only serves one purpose: To make simple small games as gifts to friends.

And it truly excels at this one thing.

For instance, I once wrote a silly little game called Bubble Dragon (a mash-up of Bubble Bobble and Double Dragon) and shared it with some of my friends, and I haven’t had any complaints yet.

I just wish that they marketed RPG Maker MV as a fun gamemaker for amateurs – instead of hiding behind a demonstrably false motto.

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