Review: RPG Maker VX Ace

I’m sure most gamers have thought, at some point in their lives “Boy, I’d like to make my own game, but I don’t have the programming know-how to do it!” Well, at least, that’s what I told myself.

Enter RPG Maker VX Ace, a program that is made of hopes and dreams–and rainbows, there have to be some rainbows in there as well.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with RPG Maker in general, it’s software that lets you make 2D sprite based RPGs in the same style as your average SNES JRPG, The main selling point for the software is that you don’t need to know anything about programming to use it (although you can change the script itself, it’s not needed and in fact is HIGHLY discouraged unless you really know what you’re doing). I had heard of RPG Maker before this, of course, but I hadn’t known that particular selling point. (For the curious, the original Corpse Party on the PC was developed with an earlier version of RPG Maker).

RPG Maker gives you all the tools a good 2D JRPG needs: map-making tools, the ability to design and tweak characters, enemies, skills, items, classes, all the way down to deciding the probability for item drops, to allowing your characters to continue the game after losing certain fights, to adding mid-battle dialogue. It’s all here, and you can access all of it with a few clicks. If you don’t want to sink a lot of time into creating your game, the database includes pre-made classes, skills, and enemies, and you can add or subtract from the list as you see fit. I can’t possibly devote space to talking about all the things it lets you do, because there are a whole bunch of buttons and i didn’t even scratch the surface to make my test game, but trust me, there’s a lot here.

Mimics! MIMICS EVERYWHERE!

If the program has one flaw, it’s that there’s so much stuff in it and no decent tutorial to teach you how to use all of it (the official tutorials, as of this writing, stop guiding the newbie at event theory, which is where you really need a guide. I would have also liked the ability to generate a completely blank database from the get go (which I can still do, but it requires going through all the lists and changing the minimum and maximum amount allowed). As it was, I found the stuff that was there helpful, but distracting. I also thought the character generator was very limited. Even though I can paint the character portraits myself, it would be nice to have a feature that lets you select a bunch of different colours on a colour wheel. (Note: I don’t have any of the content packs, for all I know, one of them contains the option to make characters blue-skinned). The lack of customization in that area probably won’t matter as much if you plan on using your own music and images, though. Of course, if you’re not a musician or an artist like me, what’s there isn’t bad (and you can DLC music packs for it).

The other issue I have with the program is that while it’s features are ultimately as simple as figuring out what you want to do and pressing a button, figuring out what all the buttons do can be daunting, and, as I mentioned, the tutorials on the official site are unfinished, so I had to do some looking around for free newbie guides (not hard to find). One of the things I really had trouble with was identifying what the different tilesets were supposed to be, I was only able to figure it out because I’ve spent that much time playing games of this nature. I’m sure there’s a guide out there somewhere, but I had finished making my maps by then. (Making a map is as easy as selecting the appropriate tile and drawing the map.)

I’ll give you an example. One of the puzzles in my game is a riddle puzzle where a door will open if the player picks the correct answer. This is how I did it:

First, I made sure I was in Event Mode (the two other modes, Map and Region, are used in map-making and restricting encounters to certain areas of the map).

Next, I created a switch, switches have two settings: off and on. When a switch is turned on, whatever you’ve set to occur when the switch is on will happen.

After creating the switch, I set up the riddle itself (the idea is that the player will interact with a statue) and I set the switch to turn on when the correct answer was chosen.

I went to the door itself, creating a conditional branch that said “If switch is on, open the door.”

Finally, i put in some text for the statue to “say” after the switch was turned on to prevent the player from solving the riddle again. (Something like: “You already solved this riddle, dummy!”

If it sounds very complicated, it isn’t, really, but it can be frustrating when you have no idea how anything works to find the best tool for the job. Once you get the hang of it, there’s nothing to it, but it is definitely daunting to newbies.

Overall, if you’ve ever wanted to make a game but thought it was impossible because you lack experience with programming, this is a great tool if you aren’t afraid to wade through a whole lot of information and if you don’t balk at the price tag. (I picked this up on Steam for around $25, but consider that you are also paying for the rights to use all the content, so the full price seems fair when you put it that way, it does seem like a lot at first though.)

In sum:

1) Gods, you sure can do a lot of stuff with this!

2) How do I use all these features?

As a final note, please feel free to download and play my test game! (See the linked post for more info.)

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