Reviewing games is one thing, but reviewing a “program” that lets you literally make your own games is something else entirely. I had to approach this project a bit differently than usual, but I will try to be as thorough as possible. First, a bit of a history lesson is in store.
The RPG Maker series has been around for years. Dating back all the way to the SNES in Japan, but in 2000 North America got a game simply titled “RPG Maker” released on the PS1. This game also saw two PS2 sequels released in 2003 and 2005. However, RPG Maker 95 was the first Windows release. This was succeeded by RPG Maker 2000, 2003, XP, VX, and finally now: RPG Maker VX Ace.
My experience with the franchise is limited, as I have only messed around with the PS1 title years ago. However, I have used Game Maker, a program that is similar in that is simplifies the game making process for beginners. It is not perfect, however, and lacks even the most basic of tutorials when you open up the program. Now, the rest of this article will focus on why all of you clicked this review: RPG Maker VX Ace!
Purpose of the Program
If you can read, you probably already know this. The purpose of this program, simply put, is to help you build an RPG. More specifically, a 2D RPG in the vein of early classics, such as Final Fantasies 1-6. Generally, the default functions of this program make this process surprisingly easy, especially when combined with the vast amount of tutorials and walkthroughs the community has already created. If you get stuck, a quick Google search will yield the answers that you seek.
The thesis of this program is to make the creation of RPGs easier for beginners, but flexible, deep, and customizable for veteran developers. And as far as I can tell, they have very much succeeded. So, a lot of people might ask you: “Well, exactly how much can you really change, how customizable is it, really?” The answer to that is two-fold: 1) If you are a beginner, you can tweak and play with just about everything you could imagine to make it feel truly unique, and 2) If you are experienced, you could literally create all of your own material and make an entirely unique game from scratch, with this program as your creation foundation.
Within the basic interface of the program you can create the various maps that players will traverse in your game, make events (these will be covered more later,) and tweak the various different features of your game.
In addition to this basic interface, are many other interfaces that allow you to interact with and change your game to your precise likings. From the “Database” (shown above) you can change, create, and delete entire classes for characters, skills, items, weapons, armor, enemies, and so much more. This will serve as the information hub for your game for the most part, and you will have to be very familiar with it.
This is probably one of the more complicated facets of the program, and understanding just how much you have control with here is hard to wrap your head around. Thankfully the tabs are laid out well, it’s just really overwhelming to dive right in head first from the start.
Furthermore, for the first time in the series’ history, in addition to the vast amount of premade characters, is a built-in character generator.
This allows you to create an entirely custom and unique character, without having any graphic, artistic, or sprite creation experience. You simply select and change the features as you see fit, and the generator does the rest. It will automatically make your character portrait (used in the menus and in conversations) match the in-game character sprite.
The character generator is probably my favorite feature of this entire program, because it makes a process that a lot of people dread so much easier. Using this generator to make all of your main characters is extremely easy now, and combined with the bevy of premade characters it already comes with, you really don’t need to create any yourself, unless you are so inclined for your given project.
Also, if you have your own sprites you want to use in the game, you can easily upload them into the Resource Manage with no problem.
This process is a lot easier than you might think, because of the in-depth, yet simplified, features of RPG Maker VX Ace. When you first open up the program, you are presented with a small little ocean in the wide map area, and what are called “Tiles” on the left side. Like puzzle pieces, you place these on the grid to create the landscapes of your game. In the image above, the tiles shown are just one section of the ones that would be used to create an “overworld” that connects the different areas of the game.
Thankfully, RPG Maker VX Ace makes this process even simpler than it already is by providing you with not only a huge amount of tiles to mix and match to create the perfect environment, but also a massive list of premade maps to draw inspiration from. And if you have your own tiles, or background images, or anything like that you want to use, you can upload them into the Resource Manager as well.
This program also has many advanced features for those true budding game designers out there. It features the Ruby programming language that offers a deep and expansive amount of possible alterations. Interested in changing the battle system to a side-view turn based system? There are plenty of scripts for that other users have already made. Do you want to include some type of stamina meter so battles are more active and fast-paced? There are plenty of different scripts for that as well.
Even though the game has only been out a short while, chances are, if you are interested in implementing a new feature – it probably already has been implemented. In fact, the above image is a preview of the project I started while reviewing this software. In it, you can see a custom sideview battle script I adapted to fit into my game! Even the most complicated features, like using scripts, aren’t too complicated to learn. At least, using others isn’t!
All of these advancements are great, and really make this program just as customizable and deep as you want it to be. As soon as you open the program, they have embedded enough resources that you could easily create a fully-fledged unique experience without ever opening any type of editing or creation software. All of the built-in features offer an endless amount of customization for any RPG project.
It can be extremely daunting at first, though. Without patience, expect to give up pretty early on. However, if you have a strong vision of what you want to create, keep your expectations grounded, and have the patience and dedication to learn the program – chances are you will have a great time.
The program could have definitely used a built-in introduction tutorial to walk you through the basic processes, but at least Enterbrain and the RPG Maker Community have provided a lot of documentation, forum threads, and even how-to videos for new users.
RPG Maker VX Ace is available for on the full site, which you can also visit for the free trial, and check out this handy info page for some additional official information. Also it is now available on Steam!
Let us know what you think in the comments below!
This review was based on a retail download copy of the program for the PC provided by Enterbrain.