capsule review

RPG Maker XP

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder RPG Maker XP

RPG Maker XP is a powerful tool which allows a user to make "Console Style" RPGs, akin to older versions of Final Fantasy, with the look and style of the 16-bit game era. The program is certainly easier to use than, say, firing up C++ and starting from scratch, but it suffers from minimal documentation and limited active corporate support.

Games are played on a top-down map, where an animated sprite representing a party of adventurers wanders, running into Events (programmed game actions) and random monster encounters. RPG Maker comes pre-stocked with all of the cliches of console fantasy RPGs, such as wizards, swords, and dragons, but all of these can be edited, added to, or deleted. There is no need for a game made with RPG Maker to be fantasy-themed; sample games include science fiction and contemporary settings.

The main issue with RPG Maker is not its flexibility--if you are happy with the basic framework of console RPGs, you can do a lot with the tool--but its documentation. There is a very basic help file which is primarily a reference to the RGSS programming language (which is the foundation of RPG Maker), and that is it. There is no structured tutorial, and RPG Maker sorely needs one. It is not easy, for example, to figure out how to design even a simple map so that it looks good and takes advantage of the layers. Setting up Events, the heart of plotting a game, is barely covered.

Fortunately, there's a very active community of developers and fans of the product, but it takes time to find a good forum which is newbie-friendly. People have done amazing things with the engine and tools, and the program is not difficult once the various terms and procedures are explained. RPG Maker XP can be worth the effort to learn, but it will take effort.

Note: This link takes you to the vendor's site, where you can download the latest version of the software.

--Ian Harac

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder RPG Maker XP

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