Software Review: RPG Maker MV (Game engine)

We obviously love playing games and writing about them here at Infinite Frontiers. We’ve been doing it since 1989! But we’ve also been making games lately. Our editor-in-chief Simon has been working on a text adventure for 8-bit computers, and I recently published my review of Construct 2, an HTML5-based game engine, as well as an interview with the developers.

I’m currently working on an RPG, and I’m developing the game with RPG Maker MV. Since you seem to have enjoyed those features, I thought I’d give you my review of RPG Maker MV, after using it for around 50+ hours.

EXTRA: I’m actually making a game with RPG Maker MV! If you want to read how it goes, you can read my dev diary entries:

The Good

  • Ease of use: RPG Maker MV is, most definitely, one of the easiest game-making tools out there. There’s no coding needed, and you can have a playable game in an hour. The new version can even be used on Linux systems, so anyone and everyone can have access to it.
  • Cross-platform: This is one of the huge selling points for me in terms of why I use RPG Maker MV. Previous versions of RPG Maker were only able to export to Windows computers. However, because RMMV is based on HTML5 and JavaScript, it can export to a multitude of platforms, including Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS and XBox One.
  • Expandability: Much like it was with previous versions of the engine, there’s a huge scene of developers dedicated to creating plugins to enhance and extend the functionality of the core engine. From added event variables, to custom cutscenes, sprite behaviors, etc., there’s almost nothing you can’t do in terms of creating an RPG with it, and it’s largely thanks to the community-driven development.
  • Affordability: While RPG Maker MV is usually around the $80 mark, it’s often on sale for around $40. And that’s not a recurring license like most software makers are pushing; it’s a one-time fee and you own the software forever. Also, you don’t have to pay extra to export to other platforms, like you do with, say, GameMaker. There are limitations to exporting though, and I’ll cover those in a bit.
  • DLC aplenty: If you’re like me, and would love to make a game but aren’t a talented artist or musician, or don’t have the time to compose original music or draw original sprites, worry not: there are plenty of DLC packs on Steam that will give you anything from extra characters, to animations, music, intro screens and anything else you can imagine to make your game more yours. Sure, it still isn’t custom made, but it will be different to most of the stuff that goes out. And it’ll give you the liberty of creating pretty much anything you want.
Tons of DLC and plugins make RPG Maker quite flexible, despite its reputation.

The Bad

  • The community: while I don’t like hating on any community, and certainly generalizations can’t be made in any case, I’ve found the RPG Maker community to be much less welcoming than that of Construct 2. While Construct 2 users are happy to even look at your project file and send you the fixes for something you’re stuck with, you’re lucky if you get a response on the RPG Maker forums (either on Steam or on their own official forum). And when you do, I’ve found that at least in my case most of the replies I got were either snarky remarks about how I should know how to do that in the first place, the odd “Google is your friend” nonsense, or, when lucky, an actual reply with a solution to my problem, but written in such a way that it’s utterly complex and beyond comprehension for a beginner.
  • Limited console support: of the current-ish generation of consoles, only the XBox One and the Wii U have support for HTML5 based games. If you want to export to PS3, PS4, Vita or Switch, you’re out of luck. And there’s no easy way to convert them into Unity projects or GameMaker projects, either.
  • Difficult export options: Remember that I told you that you can export to a host of platforms? Well, you can, but you’ll need to access third-party tools to do it. You’ll get all the files ready, sure, but not the binaries. For that, you’ll need something like Cocoon, which creates native binaries for different platforms using HTML5 exports. It’s far from ideal and it’s really, really confusing for someone who isn’t familiar with the process. If you want to export to Windows, it’s a single-click affair. Everything beyond that, though, is quite a headache.
  • Limited possibilities for other genres: As you might imagine, RPG Maker is great for making RPGs, and even some visual-novel like things. But don’t expect to be making platformers or somehow tweaking the engine to make any other type of game. It can’t. It won’t.
Nope.

There you have it: my thoughts on RPG Maker MV. Definitely the best of the RPG Maker engines, and a solid choice for anyone wanting to make a role-playing game for the platforms it supports. If you want to make any other kind of game, or if you want to export to most of the current gen-consoles, however, look elsewhere. 

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