The fun I had last week: RPG Maker Fes!!

OK, to be honest, the past week was … too hot, exhausting, and all I did was work and sleep. Friday, of course, saw the release of Ever Oasis and RPG Maker Fes. I have not played Ever Oasis yet, but RPG Maker is a lot of fun!

RPG Maker Fes has its limitations, compared to the PC versions, which allow for a lot of customization. But that’s understandable, isn’t it? After all, you can share your games online, so there probably needs to be a limit to file sizes and a way to make sure no one contributes inappropriate or copyrighted images, sound files etc. Limitations are also good for creativity, because they make you try to figure out what you can do with the things you have at your disposal. And let’s not underestimate the following factor: Since there’s no option of custom graphics or sound, there is no pressure to use them. You fall into this trap where you think you have to create unique graphics before you can actually start making the game, and don’t end up stuck in the planning phase. Well, at least that’s what I imagine it’s like for many people, especially those that do not have an actual talent for pixel art …

I’ve been surprisingly productive with RPG Maker Fes over the weekend, although I started without a plan. Not that I don’t have game ideas, but I let myself be inspired by the available character designs and chipsets and came up with a completely different idea. And … I don’t really have a proper plan for the game. Right now, I am stuffing a small town full of details and interaction possibilities. I made a first little “sidequest” which took hours and was really complicated because it required several switches and I am easily confused!

There seem to be a lot of RPG Maker veterans who are disappointed by the limits of this version of the program, but it’s probably a really good RPG Maker for beginners, exactly because of these limitations. Obviously, you have to look for tutorials elsewhere, since the program itself contains no detailed explainations, but you can build a nice little game without getting bogged down with the pressure to avoid standard chipsets and use custom scripts and all sorts of fancy things.

I hope this first game turns out well, because I’d really like it to be good enough to share online. After all, I am curious to know what other people think. But first things first. I must figure out the structure of this game. It shouldn’t be too long, but it needs to be able to tell some kind of story. Tricky, tricky. I have not really done anything with battle yet. It’s all town exploration so far. And one pretty elaborate cut scene, which I am very proud of.

 

 

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Will RPG Maker Fes take over my life this summer?

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.