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RPG Maker VX Ace: Pros and Cons

So I’ve been working with RPG Maker VX Ace for almost three months now. In that time, I’ve gotten fairly used to how it works and what it can do–and certain things it does poorly. In the interest of other folks out there who might want to use it in their game-making endeavors, here’s my take on the thing.

RPG Maker VX Ace is… okay. If I only wanted to make typical JRPG-style games that only run on Windows, I’d likely think it was awesome. But since I want to do more than that, for me, it’s just okay and often kind of frustrating when I run into its limits.

Certain things that seem like they should be built-in options (more than four selections from “choice” menus, having your characters’ sprites show on the battlefield, an obvious way to add a condition for “Make this special thing happen when this technique is used in this battle”, options to animate enemies–or your battle sprites, for that matter, etc.) can only be done with scripts. And it can be quite an adventure finding scripts you’re allowed to use in commercial games. Moreover, the scripting language RPG Maker uses 1)might as well be Martian to me and 2)is pretty much useless to me outside of RPG Maker. Twine uses JavaScript, CSS and HTML. Unity uses either UnityScript, Boo, or C#–it’s your choice. But to use RPG Maker’s capabilities to the full, I’d have to learn this new language from the ground up that, as far as I’m concerned, is only good for that one thing: making RPG Maker games.

Also, RPG Maker games only run on Windows. There are ways to port them, apparently, but I can’t figure out how they work other than “Hire Someone.” If you want to get serious about game development (and “Hire Someone” isn’t in your immediate budget), this is a definite handicap.

Then, there’s the issue of how it packages completed games. Basically, in addition to the game, it expects people to download the Runtime Package, or RTP. The idea is that once it’s been downloaded, the user will never have to download it again and the game files themselves can technically be smaller. The only problem is that 1)I think the program was made with the assumption most people who play RPG Maker games will be people who have RPG Maker(!), and thus won’t need to download anything and 2)anyone else would want to download that 200+ MB file in addition to a game in the first place instead of just the game, especially if the game doesn’t use everything in the RTP. To make a game work without the full RTP, you have to make modify its .ini file and painstakingly make sure to include any and all assets you’re using that come from the RTP in the game’s imported asset folders. Otherwise, when someone tries to run it, the game will crash. It would’ve been MUCH more practical to give the user the option of doing all that automatically.

There are other issues, too, but those stand out the most for me and are easiest to explain.

Overall, I have the same issue with RPG Maker that I had with WYSIWYG editors when I was first learning web design: it looks–and can be–so useful when you’re just beginning, but once you start getting bigger ideas, it feels extremely confining. I also think I’m a coder at heart since I typically like to know why a thing is doing what it’s doing and like looking at raw code. I find myself wishing I had just jumped into Unity since that’s where I plan to make most of my future games. I also keep thinking about a big reason I like Twine, namely that it’s so flexible and good at staying out of the way.

The program’s slogan says it’s “Simple enough for a child; powerful enough for a developer.” Which, I guess, is true if you want to put all your efforts into learning a program that:

  • Is lacking some features that really, REALLY seem like they should be built-in
  • Is only good for producing one genre of game and within specific parameters
  • Relies on Ruby-based scripting (which, as far as I know, no other game maker/engine uses) with no other options
  • Doesn’t create cross-platform games without a great deal of outside effort.

That said, its interface is fairly easy to learn and the program IS helping me finish my first non-Twine game fairly quickly. So if you just want to get something done fast and don’t care about the rest, it’s quite good for that.



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