The 3DS has been a revelation for me as a JRPG fan. New installments of old francises like Zelda and Dragon Quest, remakes of games I hadn’t previously had the chance to play, and completely new stuff like the Bravely series or Fantasy Life … The thing about being a thirty-something gamer is that you are always, to some extent, tying to recapture the excitement you felt as a child, when everything was new to you – but I’m glad that my 3DS RPG experience so far hasn’t been just about replaying and rehashing familiar games and concepts. The genre is living and developing, including on the 3DS.
So, I’m thrilled by the announcement of RPG Maker Fes, set to be released this summer in North America and Europe. I’ve always dreamt up all sorts of RPG ideas in my head, but I’ve also never had the discipline and long-term commitment to turn any of them into an actual game. Compared to the previous PC versions of the software, RPG Maker Fes might end up a bit limited in its abilities. Being able to use one’s own art and music is something experienced users wouldn’t want to miss. But having to work with limited, pre-made resources actually sounds a bit … freeing to me. It sounds like a good idea for beginners like me, who’ve never made a game before, to just focus on the game itself without also having to worry about creating all the art (and make it look nice!).
OK, to be honest …. looking at RPG Maker communities, I think that using one’s own art over the standard chipsets and sprites is a little overrated. First of all, it often leads to people combining mismatched art styles, with an end result that was probably a lot of work, but looks incoherent. The other issue is that it’s not just about having great, unique resources, but also about how you use them. Good mapping is an art, and a constant challenge. It can go wrong in various ways: sometimes maps look empty and boring, sometimes they are stuffed full with distracting, pointless details. Maps are usually too big (which is probably why they end up either empty or purposelessly crowded with random nonsense). The challenge is to create towns and dungeons that are no bigger than they have to be, interesting to look at and never confusing.
The most exciting thing about the 3DS RPG Maker is that you don’t have to own the software to play games created with it. There will be a free, downloadable app for this. I wonder how this will play out in real life. Will there be a lot of games worth trying? Will there be some kind of rules concerning the content of games hosted online? Will people have access to games created worldwide or just in their region? Questions, questions.