Let’s take a quick look at RPG Maker MZ, shall we?
After recently accepting the RPG Maker series for what it is, I find myself eagerly anticipating using the latest version, RPG Maker MZ.
Instead of a classic review format, I’m going to journalise the writing of a short and simple no-combat game using only the assets available in the base release, to give you a good idea of what you can expect from the latest entry in the RPG Maker series. However, this will include the Character Generator DLC that I received for pre-ordering MZ, so just bear that in mind.
I will then have a link to the game available at the end of this article so you can try it out for yourself
Sound good? Let’s go!
Note: I’ll be using the letters MV to denote the previous RPG Maker, RPG Maker MV, and the letters MZ to denote (wait for this you won’t see it coming) the current RPG Maker, RPG Maker MZ.
RPG Maker MZ: First Impressions
The software looks similar enough to the previous version that I’ll be able to easily navigate the program, but different enough that learning it will remain interesting for a good while (possibly weeks or months).
The first thing I want to do is see if I can use my older assets, so I don’t have to remake them. This means I need to find out what the asset standards (the size of certain graphics etc) are. I pop the help menu, and am taken to a handy help website. It bothers me that it’s a website and not, say, a PDF file, but the information I want is easy to find.
I can use my old assets!
Just for fun though, let’s try to remake my character from Con Fusion:
Literally the very first thing I’ve done, and I’m already impressed. See the arrows in the top right there? You can now position the facial elements. This is awesome, because now a character can have a beard AND a mouth without needing to open a paint program (unlike with MV). You’ll notice I’ve also changed the facial structure a bit.
I’ve decided I’ll use the MZ version of the character(s) instead. It’ll be a bit more work but – to be completely honest – I want an excuse to play around with this new character creator.
Plus, MZ has a furlined jacket option for me to use, and I always use furlined jackets wherever I can in video games. This is because the two toughest guys that I know wear them too: My dad, and Wolverine.
RPG Maker MZ: A handy Mapmaking addition
So I’ve got my four characters now – 2 NPCs, 2 playable characters for people who prefer to play males/females – and I’m ready to make some maps.
The mapmaking has barely changed, apart from one major difference: I now have layers to use.
Sadly, I’m not what you’d call a master mapmaker so I probably won’t be able to demonstrate that, but I can imagine how handy it would be for other users (or perhaps for me to experiment with on my next game). Apparently RPG Maker XP (four versions ago) had this ability, but I never used XP.
Anyway, I’ve got my first of the three playable maps done, check it out:
Note the paths, so the player can tell at first glance where the enemies will be patrolling. You might be thinking how simple it looks, but that’s by design. Remember – this is just going to be a short and simple game.
Exploring the different tilesets (the graphics that make up the maps) I can see that the MZ tiles are very similar to the MV tiles. This is good for me, because it means I can mentally design the next two maps and have a good idea of what to expect.
RPG Maker MZ: Playtesting the game so far
During my first playtest I discovered two important things.
The first thing I noticed was that the game loads a LOT quicker. This is handy because it’s very possible that you’ll playtest a game literally hundreds of times, and every little bit of time saved is more time you can spend working on the product (especially for hobbyists such as myself who have limited time).
The second is that MZ, unlike MV, has excellent mouse controls. In MV, the player needed to click on something to select it, and then click it again to actually operate it. This confused quite a few of my beta testers for my previous games, so I’m glad they’ve changed it to be more in-line with how Keyboard+Mouse games should work on PC.
That will also make the game easier to play on touchscreen devices, but I don’t own one so I can’t really comment on that. That’s right, I don’t have a smartphone. Sue me.
RPG Maker MZ: The joy of enemy patrol routes
Now it’s time to place some enemies on the first map.
The idea is that the player has to get to the exit point of the map, and they’ll need to avoid the enemies along the way. If the player touches an enemy, they’ll simply go back to the start of the map. While that’d normally be a lazy design choice to pad out the game time, this game will only last around 5-10 minutes and it’ll be quite easy as well, so I think we can justify that there.
Because this map is a nature-based map, I should probably pick a nature-based enemy. MV had a character sheet (which is exactly what it sounds like) with animals, so I check to see if MZ has one as well – which it does.
MZ HAS FOXES! I wrote a similar game featuring a fox a few years back and I had to find fox graphics online, so I’m stoked that I won’t have to do that this time. Foxes are awesome, especially digital ones!
I make the event (interaction block), place a fox graphic on it, and input the patrol route. As I input the patrol route, I notice a new button on the movement page which says ‘Preview’. I click on it.
MZ has the ability to preview custom movement routes. This is a huge deal for me, because a good third of my playtest time involves testing the enemy patrol routes. It means I can produce this game in literally half the time I’d originally thought!
Either I don’t understand it properly, or it’s not working at the moment – the movement route preview doesn’t appear to always start at the correct point – but even broken, it’s still going to be quicker than doing the same thing in MV.
As well as this, MZ also has an event list. This means I can pick an event to edit directly from the list, instead of having to remember where I placed them on the map, or searching for them with the in-app Event searcher
RPG Maker MZ: Finishing the game
I complete the enemy patrol routes, and add some filler/clutter graphics to the map. I then make two more maps and place the enemies and filler/clutter graphics.
I then go through and fill in the game mechanics (making the character respawn at the start of the map if they touch an enemy, things like that).
I also replace the music with a few tunes I’ve written specifically for the game, which means I’m not technically using base game assets. I’m fine with that one change.
During my own playtests, I become frustrated that my two biggest issues with vanilla (unmodified) RPG Maker games still persist: The user still has to manually go to fullscreen themselves, and there’s no ‘exit’ button on the main menu. Sure, community-made plugins will solve those issues (just like they did with MV) but I will never understand why these industry standards are missing from the RPG Maker series. Frankly, even if I could understand I’d still choose not to on principle alone.
Still – I’m done! All that’s left is playtesting the finished game, and this is where I’m going to act like a real Triple-A game developer and just let the public do it for me.
I’M A REAL GAME DEV NOW!
If you’d like to be a real game dev too, you can grab RPG Maker MZ on Steam here.
You might think it’s pricey, but you’re not just buying the software, you’re also buying a license to use all the assets as well. Considering the number of assets included, that’s a bargain!
The game can be found here. Let me know what you thought of it in the comments below!