I’m sure that like most gamers, you’ve had an idea for your own RPG. There’s always been that glimmer of a world that only you could come up with and perhaps you’ve even penned a few details down. It’s only natural to be inspired by the games we play these days. Take Mass Effect for example; the entire galaxy you explore started life just like the world in the recesses of your mind. Someone was inspired and came up with a masterful saga full of energy that just had to be brought to life. You’ve probably thought that about your world and you’ve probably wanted to share your world by the means of today’s most popular media, gaming. Have you ever really tried to make an RPG though? It’s freaking complicated!
There is a small, not well known series that offered gamers an outlet for their creativity. Surprisingly, this series was called RPG Maker. Just like all the good stuff, Japan saw the bulk of this series. It debuted in 1992 but it wasn’t until almost a decade later that we received the original PlayStation version. The company Enterbrain has been gracious enough to publish the more recent PC versions of the series but that pretty much sums up America’s exposure to RPG Maker. There were two incarnations on the PS2, one of which was good but exceedingly complicated and the other was utterly useless. If you find yourself bitten by the creativity bug after reading this article and want to try your hand at it, then check out Enterbrain’s website and get yourself one of the PC versions. They have the easiest interfaces and being on the PC, you have a ton of resources available to you.
The greatest feature of the RPG Maker series is that it allows you to craft a game without learning anything about programming. For those that do have programming knowledge, the game lets you use this to add extra “Scripts” to the game. Some have used this option to program their RPG to have a more Legend of Zelda (original) style battle system instead of the traditional Dragon Quest style the game uses by default. While the interface makes it considerably easier to put together an RPG, one has to have the fortitude to actually complete this task. When I say this game has a lot of menus, what I really mean is that every menu has its own menu and that menu also has its own menu and etc… If you want to use this software to its fullest advantage, you’re going to have to read any manuals it comes with and then toy around with it. The later was what taught me the most about RPG Maker on the original PlayStation.
Enchanted with the idea of creating my own RPG, I purchased RPG Maker, popped it in, and immediately thought “What the Hell?” I had no idea where to start. After reading the novel sized (slight exaggeration) instruction manual, I then set aside a day where I could figure out this coagulation of options. I ended up crafting a small fight with a skeleton and succeeded in creating a scene I envisioned being in my final project. Having no use for this test bed, I let my brother use it for his own tooling around. Combined with this small project and the knowledge I shared, he created a world strangely convoluted and maybe a tad offensive but it was, in fact, a RPG. The world map alone looked like someone had taken a ruler and randomly traced lines to certain points on the map that ultimately crisscrossed forming a maze that would have even the Riddler in tears. I should note that this RPG was titled PIG because of a test that was done with the title screen. PIG stands for three little words; Pork Is Good. This game became legend in the household, ladies and gentlemen, I kid you not.
When I say RPG Maker gives you control over everything, I mean EVERYTHING! You make the towns, the worlds; you make the items and give them effects. One of the things I hated most was mapping out towns. I did learn something about myself; I will never be an architect. Another aspect that stumped me at times was the math of the game. Math and I have never got along but I tried my best to figure out how armor negated damage and just how much experience was fair. One of the enemies in my brother’s RPG had the potential to kill the party in one shot; all you could do is hope the enemy went second giving you a small opening. If you did manage to defeat him, the player would go up several levels.
This series really put the game creation process into perspective for me. Anyone who can create a game from scratch, alone, has my respect. I decided that for the creation of my real project, I was going to need at least one other person to help me out. Granted my project never saw the light of day, I did learn the system for the most part. As is customary, the later entries would expand the game’s abilities but the base knowledge I learned made the transitions easier. So next time you get the urge to delve into the world of RPG making be prepared; you’re going to be busy, and you’re going to be busy for a long time. I can’t imagine the blood and sweat that went into making the Final Fantasy or Mass Effect series. They didn’t have a simplified drag and click interface… Or did they? How cool would it be to have Mass Effect Maker?