I’ve always been interested in the production side of video games – the colossal problem with that being that I have absolutely no knowledge of coding or any of the other things that go into creating a video game. Naturally, when I saw an opportunity to review RPG Maker MV, I thought, “Why not?”
I wasn’t expecting any miracles. RPG Maker games tend to get a fair bit of flak. The most common criticisms are that most games created are practically clones of each other as they utilise the same assets and that there is a limit to what you can accomplish. Still, I was optimistic. I wasn’t looking for something that I can use commercially (though RPG Maker MV does allow this). I just wanted to be able to spend a couple of hours in the evening building up my own little world from scratch. We all have our pet projects, and I thought this had the potential to be mine.
The RPG Maker series dates back to the late 1980s to early 90s, depending on what you class as an official addition to the franchise, and is developed by Enterbrain/Kadokawa (formerly known as ASCII). Originally released in 2015 for PC, RPG Maker MV is the most recent entry in the series, except for the 2020 release of RPG Maker MZ, and made it to PS4 and Nintendo Switch in Japan in 2018. It is set to release in the UK on September 11th, although it will be available in other areas on the 8th.
Don’t Skip It
RPG Maker MV starts with a mini-tutorial that shows you the ins and outs of the software by placing you in an RPG full of problems. You play as Harold, a young man with some errands to run. Harold needs to water the flowers outside his house, but oops – there are no flowers, so your first task as a creator is to plant some. The next task is a little more complicated. Harold needs to visit his neighbours, but to do that, you need to create a transfer event to allow him to move from one map to another – it’s important to repeat this process a second time to allow you to return to the previous map, or you’ll be trapped. That’s what the playtest function is for though. At any point, you can leave the editor and jump into your game, which is probably the best way of picking up on any glaring flaws.
The tutorial was a little brief, and there was a lot that it didn’t cover, but in fairness, it would take hours to go over everything, and you’d probably forget most of it within five minutes anyway. I hate tutorials. When I start a new game, I just want to jump right in. Usually, I’m one of those people who skips tutorials in the hopes that I’ll figure out the controls as I go along. I know I’m not the only one, but I’d strongly advise against that in this case. Unless you have experience with the RPG Maker series, you’ll probably be lost. YouTube was honestly my saving grace. There are some great tutorials available over there – they’re for the PC version of the game, but the only real difference from other versions is the controls, so I still found them incredibly useful.
Creating Your Game
You’ll spend most of your time on the Create Game screen, and while it might look a little daunting at first, you soon get the hang of it. It’s split into three main sections. The first is the Tile Palette where you find all the physical components for your game from floor tiles to objects. You then position them in the Map View Screen – you see the blue highlighted box in the picture above? That’s the Map View Screen, and it is where you actually build your game. The final section is the Map List, which is self-explanatory. It lets you move between all the different maps that make up your game. This area can get pretty busy. As you can imagine, an RPG features a lot of maps. Take a village for example – the village itself is one map, and then the inside of each house is a new map, if you want them to be accessible, that is. You can make things a little easier to manage though by grouping smaller maps, say, the houses in the village, under a parent map, which in that case would be the village.
One of the most enjoyable parts of RPG Maker MV is map creation because this is where you can really be creative.
When you want to create a new map, you’re given a number of properties to adjust. The Map name is what shows up under your map list, and the display name is what shows up in the game itself when the player enters that area. On this screen you can change the size of the map and the tileset, which allows you to create different types of maps – the indoor tileset allows you to make the insides of houses, etc. – and the encounters section allows you to set enemies in that area. You can then go about creating maps like the one you can see in the Create Game screenshot above. If you don’t fancy making maps yourself – I can’t blame you since you’ll need to make a lot – you can choose from a catalogue of pre-existing maps. I actually used the pre-made maps while I was coming to grips with the software before applying what I’d learned to my own maps.
Once you’ve created your map, you need to actually make things happen, which is where the Events tab comes in. Events are probably the most important thing you need to know about in this RPG Maker. Events are how you create doors and transitions between maps. It’s also how you create NPCs and make them interact with things. Everything is set out for you though – you don’t need to worry about coding, you just need to understand what each thing does, and as I said before, there are plenty of tutorials to help you out. As I’m writing this review, there is still a lot I need to learn before making anything substantial.
Should you feel confident enough, RPG Maker MV, much like Dreams, allows users to upload their creations, – a feature I always like to see. There are only a handful of games available at the moment, and they are mostly in-progress works, but I figure there will be much more to take a look at once the game has officially been released, and I’m looking forward to seeing what people make. Who knows, I might even share my own project at some point.
You Can’t Have a Game Without Characters
RPG Maker MV has a pretty substantial catalogue of pre-made characters, animals and monsters, but it also features a character generator that allows you to make your own creations. I could honestly spend hours in this generator – I always do when a game has any sort of character generator. Admittedly, it is a little hard to judge what your character looks like from their sprites, but you can at least be pretty precise when it comes to their faces – at least as precise as you can make a face using preset characteristics. You can then use any of the characters you have created as main characters in your game, or you can just use them as NPCs.
It is important to go into RPG Maker MV with an understanding of its limitations, or you risk being disappointed. It’s basically what it says on the tin, an RPG maker, but you’re obviously not going to get the same sort of results as you would if you were using Unreal Engine. Considering you don’t need to be able to code, though, you can’t expect miracles.
You should also know that users have less creative control with this than with something like Dreams too – another more accessible game creation tool – but I found RPG Maker MV to be much more user-friendly.
Experienced developers can make use of code to make more complex games, but for most people, the extent of what you’re going to make is a 2D pixel-style RPG. That doesn’t mean you can’t make a really awesome game though if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. My biggest problem was that I found the tilesets to be somewhat limited, so there was only so much I could create. On Steam, there are plenty of DLCs that can be purchased (buying these DLCs can be pretty pricey), and it makes me wonder if some DLC packages will make their way to PS4. I hope so. It’d be nice to have some more variation.
Simple enough for a child, powerful enough for a developer – that’s the slogan for RPG Maker MV, and in my opinion, that’s definitely a selling point. I’m sure the software will be utilised to the fullest extent by developers, but it’s still accessible enough that pretty much anyone can make a pretty decent game.
I’ve enjoyed playing around with the software, and I think I’ve got the basics down. I know how to create fully explorable maps and NPCs that the player can interact with. I know how to fill an area with enemies and adjust the frequency in which they attack, and I’ve started to play around with skill sets and stats, though there’s still plenty left for me to learn.
I suppose my final takeaway is that with RPG Maker MV, you get out what you put in. If you don’t see yourself pouring hours upon hours into the game, it probably isn’t worth picking up. So far, I’ve spent around twenty hours with the game, and while I’ve only created a few different areas, I’m loving seeing how it’s all coming together, and it is definitely something I’ll keep coming back and adding to.
Developer: Kadokawa Games
Platforms: PS4, PC, Switch
Release Date: 8th September 2020
Gaming Respawn’s copy of RPG Maker MV was provided by the publisher.