The Stigma attached to RPG Maker Titles

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Posted: 28 Sep 2018 00:21

The Stigma attached to RPG Maker Titles

RPG Maker (RM) has been around for a long time and has recently seen a bit of a reboot in popularity through the Steam network. The best thing about RM is that it lets anyone develop a game but this is also the worst thing about RM because this tends to invite a bit of laziness. Most RM games are easily identifiable from the moment the game is launched and having seen so many crappy RM games flood the market has turned off a lot of people that assume that all RM games are the same.

Default Assets

RPG Maker includes a fair amount of assets that come pre-packaged with commercial rights. This includes art such as title screen images, battle backgrounds, tiles, and character sprites as well as other animations. This also includes sound assets such as sound effects, background sound, and background music too. A developer with a game composed of these commonly used assets is often dismissed without any consideration. You can't realistically blame the general public in this regard because they've seen enough bad RM games to last them a life time so as soon as they see those familiar graphics, they often hightail it out of there.

I'm not saying that you can't make a good game using the default assets, you can! I'm just saying that you have to accept the reality that by doing so, you will have a harder time promoting your game.

Custom Assets

Custom assets can be just as bad as the default assets, or even worse. If the assets that you come up with are poor quality, then that too can ward off players. But what if you're an artistic genius and can create your own assets? Then it depends on how you approach game design, if you burn out spending so much time creating custom art that you lose interest before your game gets off the launch pad, then what's the point?

Bad Design

Most RM games, have little (if any) thought put into them. I can understand why: When a new user purchases the suite to get started, there is a bit of a learning curve involved. Most users will throw something together just to get a feel for how to use the editor and to get an idea for how things work. After building something obvious and boring, they then proudly publish their "hello world" game as an example of what can be done. But these games are just samples and the game they really want to build gets put on hold forever after realizing how much time is required to build something decent.

Shallow Design

A shallow design is on equal terms with a bad design. By shallow, I'm referring to using the more obvious functions of the RM editor to only go 'skin deep' with their design. The truth is, you can do a lot with RM but it requires a lot of effort to learn, research, and commit to a quality game. The sheer amount of work needed to pump out a good RPG can be exhaustive and just because it's a top-down 2D game doesn't really make it any easier.

As an example, I want to have some of the NPC's that you see in towns go to their homes at night. This means that there has to be a night time as well as a day time. In RM, you can't just pull down a menu and click "create day/night cycle". You have to fist create a time system by hooking a wait period to frames and then add control variables, conditional branches, triggers, switches, and common events that run in parallel. With that in place you can then decide on details like just how long you want a day to be when compared to real life. If you're like me, new to RM and don't know JavaScript, then you will have to learn a few things first.

Then once you hammer out a time system, you have to hook it to a day/night cycle and of course you can't just say "it is now night"! That's not the feedback a gamer will expect. They want to see it getting darker and hear the things that you might expect to hear at night depending on where in the world they are located. Then once you do this you can finally talk your NPC's into heading home at night, of course this too is going to take some effort, just as it does to create the NPC's.

Once it is realized that it takes a lot of planning and preparation to include something seemingly so simple, you quickly gain an appreciation for RPG's that have a lot of attention to detail and it suddenly becomes easier to just skip all of that work and go without. And once you start canceling features in favor of a life away from the keyboard, you've doomed your game to mediocracy, at best.

The hurdle

So even if you have the patience and the skill necessary to build a good RM game, you still have to somehow communicate this to your audience because all of your good effort is still buried deep within this stigma that's been created by an army of would-be developers that preceded you. If you're an RM developer then good luck, I know you will need it because I know that I need it too.