So you may have noticed that I haven’t been posting regularly. In fact, for the past few weeks I haven’t been doing much normal gaming period. Part of this was because it’s the end of the semester & I was finishing up my research paper for class. But another reason was because I’ve been messing around with the RPG Maker VX Ace program.
What is it? As the name suggests, Ace is part of a series of programs that allow people to make their own videogames. Specifically, they’re to make old-school, 8-bit games. Think of games like the original Dragon Quest. Although originally intended to make old-school RPGs, complete with turn-based combat systems, the programs have also been used to create very story-driven Indie games. Two particular games created with these programs that have been successful are To The Moon, a game developed by Freebird Games & now available on Steam, & Corpse Party, a J-horror game whose sequels & remakes were later commercially released.
Obviously this isn’t going to be a normal game review, because Ace isn’t a game. But I’ve been interested in making my own game for a while now. However, despite feeling comfortable understanding a lot of game mechanics & being a reasonably competent computer user, I’m not a programmer by any means. I highly doubt I could use an engine like Unity or Unreal. So what is the experience with Ace like for the average person?
Pros: Firstly, a lot of the systems you would need to make an RPG are already written for you. You don’t have to write any combat scripts. The system already comes with a lot of things preloaded. For example, you already have a variety of music, avatars, maps, weapons, items, skills, classes & enemy types already in the game that you can choose from. But at the same time, you can customize a lot of these systems to your liking fairly easily. Want to change the skills in a vanilla class? Want to recolor a monster? You can even change the combat animations. The game also allows you to export existing resources, customize them & re-import them. The scripting of the game, once you learn how to do it, is pretty powerful & intuitive. I won’t attempt to explain scripting an event, but once I learned the basics I’ve been able to get the results I want fairly easily. Also, there are a lot of online tutorials & community forums to help teach you what you need to know, as well as free resources if you can’t create what you want. If you’re able, you can also use advanced scripting to customize literally every aspect of how the game runs to your liking. But I’m nowhere near ready to tackle that.
Cons: The system does take some time to learn, of course. Unfortunately there are no tutorials in the program itself, & the Help section doesn’t actually tell you how to do anything. I also wish you had the ability to customize resources within the program. As I said above, you can export resources to customize in other programs, but you can’t really change any of the resources in the program itself (with the exception of the music & sounds). For instance, you can generate your own sprites & avatars, but you won’t be able to use any of the preloaded animations for it without using an outside editor. To make the most of the program you’ll probably need at least something like Photoshop or GIMP. While it is entirely possible to make a game with all the resources as-is, if you’re dead set on making your vision you’ll probably need some outside help.
Personally, I’ve had a lot of fun learning the RPG Maker VX Ace program, but it’s clearly not the sort of thing that will appeal to everyone. It’s obviously only for people who want to make games, whether for commercial or just entertainment purposes. While it won’t make games with super fancy graphics (although I believe there are resource packs available as DLC that gives you better graphics), it seems like a good system for beginners who want to make a game. There’s a lot of depth to it & it seems really complicated at first, but once you learn the basics you have a powerful system for making your dream game.
Below is a video I recorded of me playing through a test game I made over the weekend while learning the system. It demonstrates what you’re able to do with the system in a short amount of time.