RPG Maker MV - PC Review

The latest RPG Maker MV has both a familiar focus and a new feel. Rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, it is more akin to improved accessibility and streamlining processes. While a less dramatic change than moving from RPG Maker XP to Ace, there are enough changes here to merit an upgrade for those who enjoy spending their time creating RPGs. As with any new release in the series, there are multiple things that users are excited about.

One of the most notable changes or additions to this version of RPG Maker is the attempt to make it more widely available - both to those building the games as well as those who would play them. For one, the creation tool has expanded to the Mac operating system, branching out from being PC-only. Additionally, the different ways you can produce your game is truly impressive, offering you the usual .exe files for windows, but also outpus for Mac, Android, iOS and even HTML for use in we browsers. The production process is the same as before, a mattering of packing your game up and choosing platform, making it an easy task.

While I personally enjoy those kinds of features, for me it is more about the systems employed in actually making the games. As the longest running user of the RPG Maker software on our team (dating back to the untranslated RPG Maker 95 by ASCII Corporation), I have seen the series change a great deal over the years. The basic structure remains largely the same. You use tilesets to create maps and fill them with characters and events to help build a playable environment that includes common RPG functionality such as character conversations, turn-based combat and exploration.

Sometimes the series makes incremental improvements, such as the jump from RPG Maker 2000 to 2003 which had a change in how the combat system was viewed while largely relying on the mechanics of the 2000 version. Other leaps such as to RPG Maker XP included completely reworked visuals and the introduction of the Ruby scripting system that allows potential RPG creators increased flexibility. Where does RPG Maker MV fall on those two scales? Somewhere in between. While certainly different from RPG Maker VX Ace, the number of changes are not as substantial as the leap from 2003 to XP. The end result is a familiar-feeling piece of software with a good number of improvements that do not completely change how you make your RPG games, but should by and large streamline how you go about it. The trend of having things conveniently located in the panels or as a right-click context menu continues for making speedy additions to your map.

Most game development these days comes from teams, and several people on our team had a chance to kick the tires on this software and share their thoughts with me. So, this review will be somewhat different - a collaborative effort in the spirit of making an RPG if you will. In many ways, Chris' sentiments most directly reflect my own, so I will lead off with those.

To me, RPG Maker MV is not about changing how you create RPGs, but it adds enough quality of life improvements to make the process more enjoyable. One of the most difficult things about making a game of any kind or length is that it is too easy to get lost in the minutia and wind up buried under all of the little odds and ends that go into it. As a result, I would be willing to bet that over the years, for every game in RPG Maker that gets made, there are at least twenty that never even reach the halfway point. 

I think RPG Maker's story will be one of more games that reach completion because time is saved and steps are streamlined. While shifting my completely unsubstantiated figured from a one to twenty ratio to maybe one in ten or fifteen might not seem like a great deal, given the lifespan of this software I think the end result will be more RPGs that see the light of day than ever before.

- Chris

I find it hard to argue with that logic. Over the years I have started at least two or three dozen RPGs and probably finished... two or three. Those few were usually for contests and they were small, narrative-heavy productions that I was able to complete in a relatively short amount of time. When the project becomes larger in scope, that is when I inevitably find myself getting off-track and wind up with a series of ideas that fail to reach completion. Some of that was perhaps due to the tool, most of the time it just had to do with changes in priority with life (work, family, this whole reviewing games gig, etc), but the end result is the same.

So what are some of these notable changes that streamline the process? For one, combat is now easily switched between the Side-view Battle System and the First-Person perspective. In the past people have always had a preference and often adopted one of several community created methods of applying whichever one was not the default. Right off of the bat, this gives you a nice chunk of visual flexibility in the combat. Like other RPG Maker programs, you also get resources that come with the game. The RTP files might not be everything you want in your game, but they certainly help you to take your first steps while learning how the software works - or if you are just interested in getting something completed.

Next up is the code system that backs up the software. Gone is the Ruby that has been in use over the last several releases and in its place is a JavaScript backend. As I am not a developer by any means, time will tell how readily the community adopts and adapts to this shift in the programming language, but I think it makes sense as I certainly know more people proficient in JavaScript than Ruby and it makes content easily usable in the HTML5 output. Additionally, Ruby tends to run more slowly than JavaScript, so my hope is that this cleans up performance in heavily modified games. Even though I am by no means a programmer, I was able to find my way around the JavaScript interface and change things and fix the mistakes I made relatively easily. However, I know that concepts like prototype have been harder for me to grasp than the classes used in Ruby and I suspect that might hold true for others new to the language as well. The system is making use of modules to import new code. I suspect that there will be conflicts just as there always has been with scripts, but in terms of implementation, this is a quick and easy process that unfortunately I have had limited ability to test as the community around this product will start to spread its wings over the coming weeks and months. Still, with the ones that were out there, I found their plug and play nature to be quite agreeable and certainly faster than trying to work with the various classes in the prior versions of Maker.

Designing maps is probably the most time-consuming part of making a game, at least for me. I have found myself touching up and tweaking maps on a regular basis. In terms of visual style, I will admit that RPG Maker XP has always been my favorite. The taller characters and doors better matched the environments. The shift to the squarer, squatter visuals in RPG Maker VX was not my favorite, and unfortunately that style is still present in RPG Maker MV. I understand that this is a matter of preference, and I certainly understand the thinking as the layering in RPG Maker XP was anything but a streamlined process and map making could become a slog at times. Here RPG Maker MV does have an automated top layer that smooths out how graphics look. I hated lining up something like the trees all on one layer in the past, piecing together the tops and sides where as now you can actually set them over top of one another more easily. PY had some thoughts about the map editing as well in his impressions.

I’ll be honest in that the first thing that I did after looking at the brand new and comfortable interface (when compared to VX Ace, because it is larger and easier to make out details), was dive straight in for the Character Creator. I wanted to know what was in there and what I could do. This process lasted for at least a good hour and resulted in a slew of different characters that I could use for a demo.

The versatility of the character creator alone was amazing in its options. Finally it has become a lot easier to make multiple characters without having to leave the RPG Maker program. This means that using the likes of software like Game Character Hub might not be needed any longer to create a wide variety of characters. There was definitely some thought behind this feature, as any change to the character’s physical appearance is also reflected within their profile picture. The profile pictures can also have a variety of expressions making them easily exported to add a bit more life to your RPG as opposed to static faces.

One of the bigger changes that I noticed was the removal of the Zone Editor from the main menu bar. It has been moved over to the Tile Placement window. I’m not sure if it’s something that really needed to be moved or not since it was simple enough to access in the past few iterations, but it certainly will change experienced users’ workflow. Some may find it useful to have it more visually apparent with their tilesets.

In regards to the tile placements, the one thing that I noticed quickly and fell in love with was the move away from requiring exact number of squares in order to build a map. Instead of selecting how many squares the map is horizontally and vertically, it’s more of a calculation of how many pixels the user wants. This allows for smoother maps instead displaying halves or thirds of tiles, thereby creating a more organic look and feel than having squares cut off if they do not fit the maps dimensions.

It is quite clear that RPG Maker MV is not simply just an upgraded RPG Maker VX Ace. Between the use of JavaScript instead of Ruby and the more three dimensional approach to the sprites without taking away that classic looking feel, it’s worth transitioning over to MV, even if exporting to both Android and iOS platforms is not a priority.

- Pierre Yves

There are a handful of items that feel like they are bullet points - interesting but far from pivotal to most users. The database has been doubled to allow a max of 2,000 in the different tables. Of course now that you can output to mobile devices, touch support has been enabled as has mouse controls. This is primarily used for selecting items in a menu or getting your characters to walk. One of the oddities I discovered in my usage of the touch controls was that the smart pathing was not always terribly smart. Usually you have to tap more frequently at shorter distances from your character. Frankly, that makes a lot of sense as allowing someone to tap a long ways away might allow them to navigate a dungeon in ways the map maker might not want, but it was a quirk I took not of all the same.

The 50% uptick in resolution is also a welcome change. You can see more detail in the environments and characters and like the addition of video files with VX Ace, the increased resolution feels like one of those modern changes that was simply due. So expect your screen resolution to be at 816x624 now. There are some plugins already that help to change the size of the screen resolution, and I have read that 1920x1080 has been tested.

One of my favorite additions to MV is not something that is new, but something that was old and came back again to grace us with its presence. Let me just say that the event searcher was one of my most frequently used features back in RPG Maker 2003, and having it back now feels like a borderline godsend for someone like me ho makes a ton of variables and switches that get referenced repeatedly over time. I seriously had to keep a notepad document of my switches and variables for larger projects over the last few releases and I do not miss having to do that at all again.

I admittedly do not have as much time sunk into the RPG Maker series as either Nick or Pierre-Yves however this makes me a wonderful, yet objective judge of RPG Maker's latest offering, RPG Maker MMV. While I spent some time in RPG Maker VX Ace last year for my review, due to time constraints and life in general I did not have the chance to spend as much time in it as I wanted. With RPG Maker MMV I was bound and determined to spend as much time as possible with the product and I can say that it is far easier, yet incredibly familiar, than past iterations of RPG Maker. With new outputs for mobile devices, better layering for maps, and an overall sense if ease and "completeness," RPG Maker MMV is a breeze to use. Where I spent hours upon hours working on a single village map in VX Ace, MMV's new (and larger!) simplified user interface (UI) is an absolute Godsend. 

Rather than digging through menus or working with the tiny toolbar buttons in VX Ace, MMV has all of the important tools in large, easily identified buttons right at the top of the window; switching from the pen tool to shadows is a quick and easy process that happens with a single quick click. Adding plugins, scripting, and other more detailed features are chosen through simplified menus that speed up the navigation process and make working with the application as easy as one could hope out of a game engine. On top of it all the character creation hub in game is one of the most intuitive and creative additions to MMV and one that I admittedly spend an absolute ton of time in. Needless to say, RPG Maker MMV is an application I intend on spending more than my fair share of time in due to its ease of use and readily navigable options.

- Robert 

Software performance is a two-pronged conversation. The editor itself is actually very resource efficient. I was able to work with it on both my PC and my laptop without any slowness at all. The PC is something of a powerhouse - it runs Witcher 3 and Battlefield 4 at maximum settings without any issue. The laptop is considerably older and sometimes struggles to play a YouTube video at 1080 resolution as a point of comparison. The produced games however, play differently depending on the system. As one would expect, scenes with a ton of events had the potential to slow down quite a bit on my laptop, while my PC handled it far better. The executables run ad 32-bit programs, it is worth noting.

From a stability standpoint, everything seems to be going well. For whatever reason, I had some crashing issues early on with the original VX and some of the much older RPG Maker titles, but this one never once crashed on me despite hours of use and fiddling with things.

RPG Maker MV will no doubt go as far as the community takes it. Over the coming weeks and months I have no doubt that oodles of code, resources and ideas will start to be shared and discussed. The core of RPG Maker remains unchanged, but with a focus on the different outputs, greater accessibility, a new scripting engine and more inputs, RPG Maker MV breathes new life into the creation genre while retaining a familiar, comfortable design to fans of the series. If those features - or the ability to work on a Mac appeal to you, then the upgrade should be a bit of a no-brainer. The decision could be a bit more difficult however, for those who are perfectly happy on their current version of the software and don't have an interest in leveraging any of those above features and improvements.

Platform PC

Developer(s) Kadokawa Games
Yoji Ojima
Publisher(s) Degica
Genre(s) Design & Illustration
Web Publishing
Mode(s) Single Player
Other Platform(s) None

Article by Nick