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Working (and Playing!) with RPG Maker MV

bmweygant profile image Brandon Weygant ・5 min read

So self-isolation affects us all differently. One of the biggest issues for me has personally been work/life balance. I'm either spending too much time being "productive" (or worrying if I'm being productive enough) or too much time doing recreational activities (recently put in about 40 hours into Fallout 4 in under a week) and neither state is good to be in. Add in that over the last 1.5 years I've been neglecting my creative side to learn new skills and pursue new job opportunities, and you have a 3 headed beast of unfulfillment I had been struggling to satiate. Insert into my life RPG Maker MV!

What is RPG Maker MV

RPG Maker MV(RPGMMV) is a software for developing 16-bit 2-d games, think SNES style of RPG's like Chrono Trigger. Relative to many people's understanding of game development, RPGMMV does an excellent job streamlining the process and making it as simple as possible to make your own game. Map building is simple -even for the designed-ly challenged like myself-, character generation is very straight forward, and you can freely adjust your games database from items to battle mechanics to what the game will identify your stats as. It is a very thorough program even out of the box, with a couple of drawbacks.

The Limitations Out of The Box

  1. Out of the box, it comes with a frustratingly limited amount of options and features, most noticeably when you try to build your first map. At first glance, the tilesets appear to be loaded with options, but you will quickly find they will never be able to fully realize your vision and are mostly for practice purposes. PandaMaru has some good free tilesets for you to work with, but if you are anything like me you'll be considering searching for an artist to fully customize your in-game artwork.

  2. Event/NPC creation has a steep learning curve compared to the other basic features of the game. This is relative though as RPGMV is development software and not a game, and any new software is bound to have a learning curve.

  3. Character creation is a breeze, and it feels easier than it should be because the standard character parts don't allow you to create many unique looking characters (for my tastes anyway). I guess while simple, it does come off as uninspiring.

  4. Other miscellaneous annoyances for me were how they made door generation an event rather than part of a tileset, the base tilesets don't really complete any modern/sci-fi theme, and my in-game tutorial was unreadable.

For me, none of these issues were deal-breakers, although if you go into this trying to bring an idea to life these hurdles can be an inspiration killer. My recommendation is to take that great idea you have for a game and put it on the back burner until you complete some tutorials and can get some basic/slightly advanced functions down in a practice project.

What's Not In The Box

The most appealing feature about RPGMMV is that despite the limitations out of the box, there are tons of opportunities to customize your game under the hood however you see fit. This is primarily done with plugins, which the dev community has made sure there is no shortage of. The underlying code in RPGMMV is JavaScript, and as such all plugins are written in JS as well. Plugins come in all shapes and sizes, from complete core system overwrites like to more complementary plugins that may enhance a single particular feature. Unless you are determined to make a game with only the basic components and features (or much less likely you have a severe deficiency in imagination/creativity), plugins will be some of the first things you research to expand your realm of possibilities. Fortunately, the software is very accepting of this and welcomes third party additions with open arms. The plugin manager tool has a very visible and accessible shortcut right in the main taskbar on top.

Many plugins come with additional commands called note tags that can be used to access the game code and further customize specific features of the game. You place these note tags inside a box in the database called "Notes". For example, if you have Yanfly's "Level Up Growth Effects" plugin, you gain access to a nifty little note tag <Level Up stat Growth: +x>. If you put this note tag in the notes box of a particular class in the Database under "Classes" and replace stat with say ATK and x with 25, this will cause Attack to grow +25 per level up. There are hundreds of other note tags that are just as simple or way more complex, but each one allows you to customize your game as you see fit so you can stand out from the crowd even more.

Side Lesson: The Notes box was originally designed to take notes in. Somewhere in RPG Maker's existence, some clever people realized they could access and alter game code through this box! And the revolution started from then on!

Some of the plugins I've found most useful can be found at these links (not all are free):
Yanfly - Yanfly has a massive library of plugins, but all of their plugins are designed around Yanfly's Core Engine, so make sure to install that before the other plugins to prevent compatibility issues.
SumRndmDde - In addition to these awesome plugins, this guy also has a great tutorial series her to get you up and running quickly.


RPG Maker MV has been an awesome work/life balancer for me. It has been incredibly fun learning to develop games on this platform, and it has just the right amount of tools available to help maintain and sharpen my existing skills in JS. It's a bit of a steep price when not on sale ($79.99 on Steam), but if you are at least semi-serious about game development as a hobby (or more) then it is worth the price as you will likely put more hours into this than a standard game and not even realize it.

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