RPG Maker VX Ace

Just yesterday I remarked that, of the 500-plus games on sale on Steam this week (including the excellent Hotline Miami and They Bleed Pixels), a fair few of them are cutesy anime games. Apparently "a fair few" wasn't enough to satisfy publisher Degica Games, who today added dozens of other cutesy anime games to the list via Steam's Midweek Madness sale

Degica's massive sale runs through 10 am Pacific (1 pm Eastern) this Friday, November 10 and boasts discounts north of 80 percent. And while the bulk of the publisher's library is distinctly Japanese, the sale does include more than visual novels, dating sims and inordinately pink shoot-'em-ups—if that's not your thing. 

RPG Maker, the entry-level, do-it-yourself game engine, is arguably the star of the sale. Both the VX Ace and MV versions of the engine itself are heavily discounted, and there are also dozens of media packs (like this one) up for grabs.

RPG Maker VX Ace is considered the 'greatest hits' edition of the engine by diehard fans. At 80 percent off, it's available for $14. The MV version, meanwhile, is the latest version and the first to feature tools for mobile development. At 70 percent off, it goes for $24. Both are excellent tools for prospective game developers or artists who want to dip their toes in the industry without spending a lot of money or burying themselves in code. (It also has a surprising and colorful history, and saw a huge uptick in popularity this year in particular. 

Naturally, quite a few RPG Maker-made games are included in Degica's sale—too many to count, frankly, so allow me to instead point you toward the criminally overlooked OneShot. At 33 percent off, it isn't the sale's biggest discount, but $6.69 is still a steal for such an evocative adventure game. As Luke said last month, it's a bizarre, fourth wall-breaking romp that its two developers call a "metaphysical puzzle game." 

RPG Maker VX Ace

RPG Maker dev Degica has announced the release date for its latest game-making tool, Visual Novel Maker. It’s close, too. The tool will launch on Steam on November 16, only a few weeks away. Time to start thinking about that magical murder mystery set in a Japanese High School that I’ve always wanted to make. 

Like RPG Maker, Visual Novel Maker will contain a multitude of tools that will, hopefully, let you make the visual novel you’ve had bouncing around in your head, including free-to-use assets for characters, environments, music and sound effects. 

Here’s a summary of the features announced so far:

  • Free assets
  • Dynamic creation tools
  • Live2D and voice sync support
  • Scripting and extensions of user-integrated functionality
  • Multiple resolution support
  • Easy game localisation support
  • Multiple exporting options 

Got any good ideas that you fancy turning into a visual novel? Share them in the comments so that I may steal them and finally become rich. 

RPG Maker VX Ace

RPG Maker has been used to make games as diverse as weird sidescroller LISA, heartbreaker To the Moon, and plenty of other games worth recommending. It gives users a basic scripting language, a map editor, and a combat editor with which they can create whatever they want. And yet, if you look into using it, you're bound to find people saying RPG Maker is a bad engine.

The truth is more complicated, and can only be understood by knowing the full history of RPG Maker. It's a 17-year odyssey, featuring dopey teenagers, mangled translations, cease-and-desist letters, and every known form of piracy. None of this was ever supposed to happen.

RPG Maker 95, 2000, and 2003

The RPG Maker series was created by Enterbrain, a division of Japanese company ASCII Corporation that initially had no interest in translating its product for a Western audience. But in 2000 a Russian student nicknamed 'Don Miguel' released a completely illegal and somewhat wonky English translation of RPG Maker 95/2000. It spread like wildfire.

RPG Maker was easy to use, and promised the opportunity to recreate, without coding, something akin to the glorious JRPGs of the SNES era. Flocks of teenagers downloaded the engine, dreaming of making the next Final Fantasy.

By contrast the WOLF RPG Editor, a freeware alternative to RPG Maker, never got much attention due to the lack of an English version. A proper translation project only started two years ago.

Being teenagers, many of those first users weren't skilled artists. They resorted to "ripping," taking graphical assets from commercial games and assembling them into spritesheets the engine could digest. They mixed and matched art from games like Chrono Trigger, Secret of Mana, and Suikoden to create their own fantasy worlds.

It was completely illegal, of course, but the Internet at the time was still a wild, wild place, and at first nobody cared. Enterbrain eventually issued a cease-and-desist letter to Don Miguel, but it was too late: his creation was out of control. As he closed his own website dozens of others popped up. Further legal actions never managed to eradicate the problem. RPG Maker in English was here to stay.  

An example of RPG Maker assets ripped from Sword of Mana (GBA).

RPG Maker XP

In 2004 a new version of RPG Maker was released in Japan—and promptly cracked, translated, and released to the Western market by Don Miguel’s successor, 'RPG Advocate.'

RPG Maker XP featured a higher screen resolution, a shiny new map system, and most importantly, a scripting system. By tinkering with the base library, all written in Ruby, it was possible to change core functions or add new features to the games. If the library had documentation, though, it was never translated. 

A small game called To The Moon was also made with RPG Maker XP. You may have heard of it.

The community faced a schism. Those who already had programming experience grasped the system; most others were left in the dark. But the good part of having an engine with so many pre-scripted features is that the code you write for your own game will probably work on someone else’s project.

"Scripters" began to release their work to the public: adding a fancy new menu to your game became only a matter of copy-pasting a few lines of code. New users joined forums looking for those assets and scripts, but remained for the company. Communities grew.

In 2005, the impossible happened: RPG Maker found an English publisher in Protexis. However, the people who already owned a pirated copy were unwilling to support the official version. After waiting for so long for an English release, many ignored Protexis's work. 

RPG Maker VX and VX Ace

Two years later, Protexis localized the newest version of the engine, RPG Maker VX. Unfortunately, it wasn’t very good. With a reduced resolution and a simplified map system it was seen by many as a step back. A newer version called RPG Maker VX Ace addressed those complaints, and Degica stepped in as the new publisher. 

Degica not only translated the engine, but made an effort to build a community around their product. RPG Maker finally had official forums, a support network, and someone willing to listen to the community and relay their feedback to the Japanese developers. Most importantly, Degica put the entire RPG Maker series on Steam, greatly increasing the engine’s popularity. But with new perks also came new rules.

No piracy, no ripping, no more fan games that used copyrighted material. The days of glory and plunder were over. It was time for the community to grow up—but a large part of the community was still not great at creating original art.

Degica published more art packs in the same style as their standard assets (also called Run Time Packages, or RTPs), and encouraged the community to make new assets using the same art style. The idea was to encourage the use of RTPs, building a free large library of tiles and characters available to everyone. It was a noble intent, but also produced an unfortunate side-effect.

Steam Greenlight and experimental games

The release of RPG Maker VX Ace coincided with the birth of Steam Greenlight. RPG Maker users started to consider themselves real game developers, and realized they could actually try to sell their games. The result? An explosion of RPG Maker games on Steam Greenlight, often made by teenagers with big dreams but limited skills. And all those games looked the same.

Players began to associate RPG Maker's RTPs with mediocre, "lazy" games. The engine got a bad reputation. In a 2016 Reddit thread about why people had begun to hate games made with RPG Maker a community manager who worked for Degica said, "I really wish people who weren't ready for the big time would stop submitting to greenlight. It would make my job easier. Because the perception of RM is already bad enough without people trying to throw their 10 minute effort game on greenlight."

On forums and in Steam user reviews the same comments about RPG Maker games recur over and over. They're "low effort and low quality," "look more or less identical," use the same "stock resources." It's enough to put you off using the engine entirely.

But outside of Steam, experimental RPG Maker games thrived. Artists with cool ideas but basic programming skills had found the perfect tool for them. Not interested in selling their products, they used RPG Maker to make weird games that reached cult status even outside the community. Japanese horror games like Yume Nikki and Corpse Party kickstarted an entire "horror RPG Maker games starring cute girls" movement. Other notable games include Space Funeral, Gingiva, Ib, Ao Oni, Oneshot, and OFF.

Without OFF, we probably wouldn t have had Undertale (which, contrary to popular belief, was not made with RPG Maker).

RPG Maker MV

In 2015 Degica published RPG Maker MV. The engine looked similar to the older versions, but had been completely rewritten in Javascript. New features included proper porting options, a debug console, and touch and mouse support.

After 20 years, RPG Maker was finally starting to resemble a proper game engine. It was a huge step forward. Though troubled by some serious bugs at release and a lack of documentation, it works well nowadays. In some corners of the internet that's never enough to repair a damaged reputation, however. 

 Comparing their Steam forums, the older engine has more discussion threads in every category except one—Tech Support, where the newer version has overtaken it handily. Two years after its release opinions are still divided. Some say the choice between MV and VX Ace comes down to which programming language you prefer, Ruby or Javascript, while for others it's about MV's ability to port to mobile versus the older engine's wealth of available assets. It's not a conversation that's likely to end any time soon. 

The future of RPG Maker

While RPG Maker’s community is pushing for more professional features, the developers themselves seem to consider the engine more of a toy than a proper engine, as the various console incarnations prove. We have to remember that RPG Maker is a Japanese engine at heart, and indie development is seen differently there.

RPG Maker FES was recently released on the 3DS. Versions of RPG Maker were also released on PS1, PS2, GBA, and DS.

Strangely enough, RPG Maker 2003 remains extremely popular, especially among Japanese developers. The limitations mimic those of a retro console, and help solo devs prevent overscoping their projects. The engine is still well supported, and even received some Steam updates this year. Vgperson’s translations website is the best resource about those new games made with this 14-year-old engine. 

Should you use RPG Maker? 

At this point you may be asking yourself, "Should I try RPG Maker after all? Should I give this much-maligned engine a chance?" If you're looking to make a professional game and actually sell it, probably not. It's still not a terribly good engine, and lacks many features its more professional counterparts like Unity and even GameMaker have. However, I think RPG Maker could be the perfect choice in some very particular cases.

  • Returning devs: Maybe you fiddled with RPG Maker when you were a teen. Maybe you want to make games again, but don’t really know where to start. Rejoice! The engine works exactly like you remember, and the community is incredibly active and helpful. A small RPG Maker project can help you flex your muscles before tackling a more complex engine like Unity. 
  • Artisans: By "artisans" I mean a very particular kind of game developers who like to focus on art and writing, and are making a game just because it’s the best medium to express the particular story they have in mind. They usually don’t have strong programming skills, nor do they care to—they just want to have characters walking around, some dialogue, and maybe some minigames or a battle here and there. If you fit this description, RPG Maker can take care of all your needs. 
  • Children: Historically RPG Maker has done surprisingly well with the young. Give it to some bright kids, and they might well love it. RPG Maker's eventing system is much more complex than Game Maker’s drag-and-drop commands, and can teach them a great deal about programming logic while they have fun. 

And always remember: an engine is just an instrument. Sometimes a 'bad' engine can be exactly the right one for you.

Special thanks to community manager Archeia for advice and additional information.

RPG Maker VX Ace

Making games is hard. The more you know about the process, the more miraculous it seems that games get made at all. As former PC Gamer writer Tom Francis described programming when he was making Gunpoint: "The most useful way I've found to think of it is this: Your game is fucking insane. It is a mental patient. It has completely lost its mind, and to make it behave in any kind of reasonable way, you have to be expecting every sensible instruction to be met with screaming, preposterous bullshit."

While it's easy to feel paralyzed by the thought of learning to design and program your own game, we asked quite a few indie devs for their advice and they all offered the same advice for beginners: just do it. Jump in, no matter how scary it is. To help you take that first exhilarating (and inevitably frustrating—but also, probably, rewarding!) dive into game development, we've devised this handy list of 2D game engines for developers who are still new to programming. Paired with developer recommendations, hopefully this will serve as the push you need to get started.

GameMaker Studio 2

Price and License: $100 for permanent desktop license; Free trial availableBest for: Short-format 2D platformers and RPGs; cross-platform gamesNotable games: Nidhogg, Hyper Light Drifter, Undertale, Risk of Rain 

GameMaker Studio 2 is your one stop destination if you want to get into game development. The platform allows creators to use the tool's easy-to-learn drag-and-drop interface, or work hands-on with the engine's own scripting language, GML. We talked to several developers who've made popular games in GameMaker, who shared their own experiences with the tool.

The Pros

Mark Essen, creator of Nidhogg and Nidhogg 2, says GameMaker is great for beginners because scripting is pretty open-ended, and Yoyo Games has a wealth of tutorials and guides to help folks get set up quickly. A marketplace also offers add-ons to customize the engine to build a platformer or top-down RPG.

Alx Preston, the mind behind Hyper Light Drifter, says that the GameMaker community is a huge asset. He notes that young developers should be "...learning the best places to get support in the community and the best tricks to use for the engine to achieve what you want—usually by going to the community as a resource." 

The Cons

Of course, you might not be making a Steam-ready game right off the bat. "Because GameMaker is so forgiving with its code, projects can get messy very quickly," Essen says. "I like that in the beginning stages of a project you can iterate quickly and focus on the game design, but down the line this will bite you in the butt if you don't maintain some personal organizational standards!"

Duncan Drummond, the creator of beloved roguelike Risk of Rain, also noted that GameMaker's ease of use can come back to haunt developers. "It's very easy and fast to develop, but does come at a performance cost if done incorrectly," he says. Drummond also noted that GameMaker doesn't translate to any other engines, so if you're looking to make the jump to Unity or another engine down the line, this might not be the tool for you.

Beginner's Advice

"Don't forget to delete your work! Starting over frequently is a great way to work your design muscles." — Mark Essen, Nidhogg

"Get started! Get involved, get as much help as you can. Just make work, even if it's bad. The more mistakes you make the more you'll learn." — Alx Preston, Hyper Light Drifter 

"Just start! It's fun and relatively easy—and doesn't really cost you much but time." — Duncan Drummond, Risk of Rain

Unity

Price and License: Beginner's package is free, $35/month for Unity Plus, $125/month for Unity ProBest for: Pretty much everything indieNotable games: Ori and the Blind Forest, Galak-Z, West of Loathing, Cuphead

Unity is one of the main platforms for popular indie games, and while it has impressive 3D capabilities, there are dozens of fantastic 2D games built in the engine, too. Unity has more of a learning curve than the other engines on this list, but with a huge community and bountiful tutorials, there are more than enough resources out there to get you off to a solid start.

Unity's asset store also includes a wealth of add-ons that customize the engine for 2D development. There's Unity's free 2D Platformer asset, and tools like Corgi Engine and Rex Engine, which offer platforming physics, controls and abilities out of the box.

We spoke to both inkle's Joseph Humfrey and Asymmetric Publications' Victor Thompson about jumping into Unity as a new programmer. 

The Pros

Thompson may have been used to making games the old-fashioned way, but has quickly grown to be a fan of Unity, the engine he used to create the team's latest game, West of Loathing. "After 2-3 years of using it full time, the most exciting thing for me is how quickly you can put together concepts and prototypes," he says. "Despite having used many engines, both small and simple for personal projects as well as big and complex in the AAA industry, Unity is by far the best designed engine I've ever used, and allows me to be the most productive I've ever been."

The Cons 

However, there are some limitations when using a single platform for all of your development needs. If you encounter a bug in Unity, you're often at the mercy of the engine's designers to fix the problem, which can involve some waiting. "Despite publicly saying that they've put bug fixing at the top of their list of priorities, we still find editor and debugger stability a big problem at inkle," Humfrey says. 

Beginner's Advice

"Whatever it is you want to do, try to shape it in your head as a thing you want to make, rather than a skill you want to have. It's useful and rewarding to know how to do things, but in the long term I think people get more out of setting a goal, learning the things that they need in order to achieve that goal, and then reaching the goal." — Victor Thompson, West of Loathing

Ren'Py

Price and License: FreeBest for: 2D Visual Novels, SimulationCompatible with: PythonNotable games: Long Live the Queen, Analogue: A Hate Story

Ren’Py is an easy-to-learn open source engine. While the tool does require some programming, you really only need to know how to use a text-editor and photo editing software to get started. It’s a useful gateway to Python for newcomers.

Here’s what Georgina Bensley, creator of Long Live the Queen, had to say about Ren’py. 

The Pros

"Ren'Py is open source and cross-platform, which opens up a broad range of opportunities for dedicated users," Bensley says. "I also consider it a plus that it is beginner-friendly but still requires looking at and editing script files, rather than a graphical drag-and-drop interface, because I think it's useful to get people over that hurdle of thinking that code is scary."

Ren’Py is also a good tool if you feel overwhelmed by the sheer prospect of building a game from scratch: "One of the biggest roadblocks faced by people who've never made any sort of game before is simply the belief that coding is 'too complicated' and not something that they would be able to do. Being able to get a simple game up and running quickly helps get new developers over that hurdle, even if visual novels are not something they intend to make in the future. Once you've made something that other people can play, even something simple, it can change the way you feel about yourself and your ability to do things."

The Cons 

Ren’Py is a bit limited in support for graphical and mechanical features. If you’re looking to create games with 3D, Live2D, collision detection and other bells and whistles, you might want to look elsewhere before getting started. 

Beginner’s Advice

"Don't be afraid to try, it's easier to get started than you think. Don't be afraid to ask for help, there are a lot of other people out there who have been where you are and can offer tips, or who are looking for projects themselves and might want to join you. Don't assume that something is impossible until you've at least talked about it."

ink

Price and License: FreeBest for: Text-based adventure games Compatible with: Unity, C#, HTMLNotable games: 80 Days, Sorcery! 

ink is a good, free supplement to Unity if you're seeking an easy way to write branching dialogue and narratives. It's easy to learn, using markup instead of script, and it integrates with Unity smoothly thanks to the engine's built-in integration. ink was built as "middleware," according to inkle's Art and Code Director Joseph Humfrey—after writing an ink script, it's expected you'll plug it into a larger game within Unity. However, developers are also welcome to use the Inky Editor to export a game to the web.  

The Pros

Writing extensive narrative with branching paths can get messy, so ink is an excellent tool to ensure you don't get lost along the way. "This allows writers to use Inky to write their dialogue and narrative text in a format that's a lightweight interactive markup," Humfrey says. "The ink engine running within Unity can then read these scripts, and produce text that can be presented by the game."

Its open nature also comes in handy when creating more ambitious projects. Humfrey notes, "The text that's produced by the ink engine doesn't even necessarily need to be presented literally. For example, in Heaven's Vault, the ink engine produces a dynamic film script that's interpreted by the game and presented more like an interactive graphic novel or adventure game." 

ink also happens to be a great tool for people who are more interested in writing stories for games, as opposed to pure programming. "...There are increasingly a lot of interactive writers who have been using ink," Humfrey adds. "Where The Water Tastes Like Wine is a game by one of the makers of Gone Home and is using ink. It has a large team of well known writers including Leigh Alexander, Emily Short and Cara Ellison. So increasingly, if you're a writer interested in game development, ink could be a good way to get started."

The Cons 

ink is best used to complement games made within Unity, rather than as a standalone engine. Humfrey says, "ink isn't an alternative to Unity—it's complementary. In fact, ink is one of the only interactive fiction authoring languages that was specifically designed as middleware." 

Beginner's Advice

"The most common advice is that you should make a demo game, and I still believe that to be best advice. For artists, make sure you've got an awesome portfolio that shows what you're good at, and hides what you're not good at—only show your best stuff. So, get out there and make stuff!"

To the Moon

Can a game engine as old as the Super Nintendo remain relevant in 2017? If we're talking about RPG Maker, the answer is a resounding yes. After two decades of relative obscurity, the game-making software has exploded in popularity in recent years, leading to gems like To The Moon, LISA, and Always Sometimes Monsters. Since its first release in the early '90s, RPG Maker has mostly avoided mainstream attention, trundling along as a hobbyist tool for hardcore 16-bit JRPG fans. It wasn't until 2007 that the community even established a central repository for sharing advice and distributing their games. Dubbed the RPG Maker Network, it hosted more than 50 games in 2008, and another 74 in 2009. Many of these games were tech demos and proofs-of-concept, small projects made more for the developer's sake than for the player's. Others were fan games, lifting sprites and lore from established properties. Almost no one was selling their games.

All that changed in 2013. 188 new releases hit the RPG Maker Network. ModDB, the popular modding site, saw 74 stand-alone RPG Maker games added to its database. The next year, Steam got in on the action, adding 30 RPG Maker games in 2014 and following it up with 99 more in 2015 and 135 just last year. RPG Maker has quietly become the go-to tool for aspiring developers who want to make a game and sell it, too.

Why, after more than 20 years, has RPG Maker recently seen such an explosion of popularity? It's the most accessible game engine around, but recent iterations have added the depth needed to make serious games. And, perhaps most importantly, it's on Steam.

Accessibility and customization

From the moment he heard the first stirring notes of the original Final Fantasy, Phil Hamilton fell in love with video game soundtracks. For years he dreamed of scoring an RPG of his own, something in the vein of Chrono Trigger or Secret of Mana. Unfortunately, his style of music never seemed to fit with other people's games, so he decided to take matters into his own hands. Diving into RPG Maker VX, Hamilton began building and scoring his own game, and he was so enamored with the process that he rounded up other like-minded developers and formed Dancing Dragon Games, going on to release standout RPG Maker games like Skyborn and Echoes of Aetheria.

Hamilton attributes much of his studio's success to how user-friendly recent editions of RPG Maker have become. 

"From RM2k [RPG Maker 2000] to VX Ace," he says, "there have been a few peaks and valleys but generally speaking I believe VX Ace to be the apex of 'casual' game development. It takes the best of all previous iterations put together."

RPG Maker's mapmaking tools have come a long way since RPG Maker 2000.

RPG Maker VX Ace, released in the west in 2012, was essentially an enhanced version of RPG Maker VX, incorporating a number of improvements that had kept its predecessor from reaching its full potential. Support for multiple tilesets (the source of a 2D game's sprites) and the addition of numerous DLC resource packs released by Enterbrain, the developer of RPG Maker, made VX Ace the most approachable version of RPG Maker yet. Combined with its release on Steam—the first time RPG Maker had been available on the platform—VX Ace marked the start of a new, more inclusive era for RPG Maker.

Increased accessibility isn't the only reason RPG Maker has taken off in recent years. For as welcoming as it is to beginners, the software packs a lot of depth for those willing to sink their teeth into it.

"RPG maker is just great as an entry-level software, but not in a way that's restricting," says Ross Tunney of New Reality Games, makers of the Data Hacker series of RPGs. "There's a much steeper learning curve for Unity, and Game Maker I've found that that is limiting in terms of scope for what you can create."

Key to RPG Maker's depth is how open to customization it is. Though the engine comes packed with basic art and battle systems perfect for first-time developers, it's the support for user-made plugins that studios like Amaterasu Software, makers of the Unforgiving Trials games, find invaluable. From New Game+ modes to character subclass systems, plugins creators like Yanfly have saved Team Amaterasu plenty of development time with their ready-made solutions.

To the Moon showed RPG Maker could be used for more than traditional JRPGs.

Community

"RPG Maker offers an excellent foundation for game development along with many possibilities for customization," says Martin Matanovic of Team Amaterasu. "Many mundane tasks of game development have been made easier with the tools provided in RPG Maker." 

Even with all those advances in approachability, RPG Maker's software is still only half the story. As the engine has evolved, so too has its community, growing from a ragtag group of hardcore JRPG fans into a diverse body of talented developers more than willing to help each other out. 

"The RPG Maker community greatly increased both in size and in expertise," recalls Matanovic. "We found many talented artists and developers that helped us along the way."

When I first came on the project, it was me and one other person, and I was just part-time. Now? We have an entire team that handles RPG Maker. It is definitely an entire different ballgame.

Nick Palmer

Much of the community's growth can be traced back to the efforts of Degica, the western publishing partner brought on to help Enterbrain in 2011. In addition to establishing an official RPG Maker forum and staffing it with knowledgeable moderators, Degica regularly updates its blog with tips and tutorials from experienced developers, as well as offering free monthly resource packs containing new art, audio, and scripts for anyone to use.

"We worked to provide more support, more tutorials, and a bigger official community atmosphere for newcomers to join and learn," explains Nick Palmer, community manager at Degica. "When I first came on the project, it was me and one other person, and I was just part-time. Now? We have an entire team that handles RPG Maker. It is definitely an entire different ballgame."

Echoes of Aetheria

Perhaps most importantly, Degica sees RPG Maker as a product of its users as much as its developers.

"We are always, always listening to the community," says Palmer. "We are with them every step of the way, trying out new games people have made, talking about game design on the forums, or about projects we’ve dreamt up. Being a fan of the product you release is by far the most fun you can have in this field of work."

The rise of indies and RPG Maker stigma

Just as instrumental in RPG Maker's recent popularity is the changing attitude towards indie games. With the success of Braid, Limbo, and Bastion in the late 2000s, the dominance of AAA started to crumble. Sites like indieDB found an audience eager to explore the humbler, more intimate side of gaming. Even Valve sat up and took notice, releasing its Steamworks SDK in 2008 that allowed developers of all sizes to sell their games on Steam without a major publisher, though you still needed a Valve contact to get on the store. Valve followed that up with the launch of Steam Greenlight in 2012, providing developers with an affordable, if not always effective, means of self-distribution. 

This shift in public opinion, combined with the rise of crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter, was a huge win for games with small but passionate audiences—RPG Maker's bread and butter.

"Both the release of RPG Maker on Steam and the opening up of the platform to be easier for indies has let more people than ever discover that the dream of making a game isn’t out of their reach," says Palmer. 

"Players are beginning to understand that a great game doesn't need to be a 3D FPS about shooting tanks with your gun," adds Francesco Ficarelli, designer of parody RPG Doom & Destiny. "Now, more players are looking for RPG games like those made with RPG Maker, so if your games looks fun and good, it's likely going to pass Greenlight."

Doom & Destiny in 2011 was an early success for an RPG Maker game on Steam.

For as little as labels like triple-A and indie mean these days, the RPG Maker branding still carries a nasty stigma. One look at the comments on the Greenlight page for a game like Fantasy Symphony reveals the enmity some people still have for the engine. Frustrating though it can be, Data Hacker developer Ross Tunney understands why.

"I think that community members are very quick to judge now," Tunney says. "Proposing an RPG Maker game with any stock assets on Greenlight is a bold move, even if it has a cool mechanic or premise. It's a shame, but I can understand why so many users are getting tired of seeing the same old artwork and hearing the same music."

For as little as labels like triple-A and indie mean these days, the RPG Maker branding still carries a nasty stigma.

Nevertheless, Tunney believes that the benefits of RPG Maker far outweigh the stigma it carries. "With some custom artwork and soundtrack, anyone can still make a unique-looking game, and if that's coupled with a decent story and characters, then there's still appeal."

The rising popularity of RPG Maker also feeds into the narrative that Steam is being flooded with samey, low-quality games—more than 5,000 games were released on Steam in 2016, according to SteamSpy. But even though new RPG Maker releases seem like a daily occurrence on Steam, they still represent a tiny slice of the total pie. 2.6 percent of Steam's new games, in 2016. That may change with Steam Direct in 2017: it's possible that the fee Valve settles on will lead to fewer RPG Maker games and fewer games in general. But if current trends are any indication, RPG Maker releases will continue to rise on Steam. 

That explosive growth.

Phil Hamilton, too, sees signs of the stigma fading. "The 'not real games' thing is a thing. I don't know how big it is—I suspect it is a loud minority. Skyborn has seen enough success that it simply doesn't get those comments anymore. People still criticize it, but because of legit things, not because it's made in RPG Maker."

With games like Oneshot and Actual Sunlight redefining what RPG Maker is capable of, the humble engine has a bright future ahead. Behind its simple pixel art lies tremendous depth, and developers are only getting more creative with how they use the engine.

"It really is a circular thing," concludes Nick Palmer. "The more games made, the more people learn it exists, and then the more they make games. More games, more innovation. And hopefully, more people discovering that they can fulfill their dreams of making a game."

RPG Maker VX Ace - Valve
We're celebrating the launch of RPG Maker MV on Linux/SteamOS with a huge sale on all RPG Maker titles. Save up to 75% during this week's Midweek Madness*!

*Offer ends Friday at 10AM Pacific Time

Oct 23, 2016
Community Announcements - degicagames

As an extension of our previous Learning Together event, it is time for the Learning Together Game Jam! Put that knowledge you gained to the test to make a small game, starting today, and ending November 3rd!

All the details are here:
http://steamcommunity.com/app/363890/discussions/2/333656722967583026/

Degica Weekend Sale
In case you hadn't noticed, RPG Maker VX Ace is currently a whopping 90% off. There's never been a better time for game making! You can also pick up the DLC at a pretty substantial discount.

http://store.steampowered.com/app/220700/

Plus there's deals on tons more Degica Games content here:
http://store.steampowered.com/sale/degica/

Giveaway!
We’re also running a giveaway this weekend with $1000 in Steam Wallet Codes up for grabs! You can get all of details and enter here: http://promo.degicagames.com/weekend-deal-giveaway/
Community Announcements - RM Dev
Fix to the version number in the Japanese version, to prevent confusion with the offline version.
Note: There is no difference except language in all version.
Community Announcements - NickPalmer
Community Announcements - NickPalmer
We've just added a new crossover pack to RPG Maker MV: The Deathsmiles Character Pack!

http://store.steampowered.com/app/453160

With assets from CAVE's hit shmup game:

http://store.steampowered.com/app/314180/

Featuring all five characters, with sprites, and emotion set busts and facesheets. This has all you need to bring Deathsmiles to your game.

BONUS: You also receive busts and facesets for all the girls' familiars. Who do you want in your game? You know Hoo.

Pick up this pack, and Deathsmiles, today!
...

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