|Never Judge a Creation By Its Tools
Whenever I mention a really great RPG to people, they show interest. When I mention that it was created using the RPG Maker software, their reactions become crestfallen. Why is that? Is it that RPG Maker is not perceived as a "real" tool the way something like the Unreal Engine is? Is it that somehow an "indie" DIY project is perceived as less credible than something churned out of a corporate factory? Whatever the reason, a game should not be written off solely because of the tools it was created with.
I do not think it is fair to dismiss a game simply because it was made using RPG Maker. To me, that's like saying that a guitarist who uses a $400 guitar bought off-the-shelf at the local music store is somehow inferior to the guitarist who uses a $4000 custom instrument from a luthier. All it says is that the latter guitarist was wealthy enough to buy an expensive guitar. It says nothing about skill. For all we know, if we were to close our eyes and listen to both guitarists play, the one playing the $400 off-the-shelf guitar could very well be the superior guitarist.
In much the same way, RPG Maker is accessible and affordable software, but what's more important is how the tool is used than what the tool is. There are some very talented developers out there creating fantastic RPGs using the RPG Maker software. I've often enjoyed these creations more than many offerings from the major big-name developers. Some RPG Maker games I've played are just as refined, if not more refined, than the classics I played in the 16-bit days and certainly worth their prices of admission. Developers glean professional grade results from this software, results I am sure would have been considered professional grade back in the day.
Having access to software such as RPG Maker is wonderful for independent developers to ply their craft and offer something to audiences that the more corporate big boys do not. Not everyone can afford to create their own game engines from scratch or purchase the rights to something like the Unreal engine, but they still yearn to create games. Thanks to software such as RPG Maker, these ambitious peoples' creative endeavors aren't stuck on the sidelines and can actually get a chance to shine.
Speaking of shine, it is also obvious that I think making money with games created using RPG Maker is fine. I never understood why people decry that developers should not make money off of RPG Maker games. Is it that warped sense of entitlement I've seen so often when I played in local bands? People will readily shell out money for the latest Guns 'N Roses album at a record store, yet balk at the thought of actually shelling out money for a talented local band's album from their merchandise table at a show. To me, if a band's music is good I will support their efforts and buy their album. In much the same way, if a developer's game is good, I will support their efforts and buy their game. It's as simple as that. Besides, Enterbrain allows RPG Maker games to be sold for profit, provided a license is bought. It's no different from a major developer buying the licensing rights for the Unreal Engine or some other such toolkit, save for the one being insanely more expensive and less accessible than the other. So why should the business aspect of, say, Amaranth Games be thought of any differently from Square-Enix? The former bought the licensing rights to create and sell games using RPG Maker. The latter bought the licensing rights to create and sell games using the Unreal Engine. Both deserve to make money off of their creations to at least recoup development costs.
It is therefore that I think that RPGs should not be dismissed by gamers simply because they were created using RPG Maker. Just like developers create games worth the money using the Unreal Engine, there are developers that create games with RPG Maker that are worth their asking prices. A good RPG is a good RPG, plain and simple. Some people may argue that there are a ton of garbage games out there made using RPG Maker, but the same could be said of games from big-name developers using the expensive tools. So look past whatever biases you may have toward RPG Maker, take some time to play a few of these independently developed RPG Maker games for yourself, and let your gaming senses be the judge. You just may be pleasantly surprised.
To conclude, here are a few independent developers whose RPG Maker creations have struck a positive chord with me. Believe me when I say that there are a good deal more out there, but these are the ones whose games I am most familiar with:
Amaranth Games - makers of the Aveyond series, Ahriman's Prophecy, and some other cool stuff.
Aldorlea Games - makers of Laxius Force as well as the Laxius Power prequels and Blades of Heaven.
Blossomsoft, makers of Eternal Eden and who have a bunch of future projects in the works.
- Neal Chandran