RPG Maker: U and I aren’t working…

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen!

I’ve been doing some thinking about the recently announced version of RPG Maker. I shared a few of my thoughts about the information I could glean from its features page in my previous RM post, but there have been other ideas and musings rattling in my brain. These thoughts aren’t exclusive to just RPG Maker MV, however. So, the focus of this post will be the design of user interfaces, some of the issues that I have experienced with the interface in RMVX Ace, and the ways I thought these issues could have been rectified in a future version of RPG Maker. Given what I have seen of the UI in RM MV, I figured I would address some of these ideas and hope that an update will be made to MV in the future. Barring that, one could always hope the next iteration of the software will use some variation of my ideas.

In my previous RM post, I commented that the user interface in MV would be retaining some of the rigidness that has persisted in previous iterations of RPG Maker. I made this claim because I don’t feel the developers have really done enough to modernize the interface in such a way that emphasizes ease of use. There are some aspects of the UI in VX Ace that can be rather frustrating. These frustrating UI elements make it difficult to enjoy developing a game. The sad part is, a lot of these things that I find frustrating are rather basic, and have some really simple fixes, but these particular elements are used almost to excess during a game’s development. Unfortunately, it is apparent the developers of RPG Maker haven’t quite noticed the lingering problems in the construction of the UI elements that I am going to be referencing.

To illustrate some of the issues that exist in the UI of RPG Maker VX Ace, I will use the screenshot below of the “Weapons” tab as seen in the features page for RPG Maker MV. The image is nearly identical to the “Weapons” tab interface in RMVX Ace, which will make it easy to do a direct comparison of the current and future versions of RPG Maker.

RMMV - DatabaseMax

blank space

Database Maxima

The first feature I will discuss is the “Change Maximum” button. This feature is tied to the database list located above it, and it is completely unnecessary. According to the image above, though, the RM developers are praising an increase in the maximum size of the database. First, there shouldn’t be a cap on how many weapons, armor, items, etc., that users are able to create, because the title they’re building may require a multitude of items, or very few. The point is, users should be able to determine how many items their game requires in a more natural manner. Second, the use of the database list is not very intuitive, and lacks flexibility in its management. Using the database list is almost as restrictive as using an excel sheet. Each space on the list must have its data inputted on an individual basis. Users can copy the data of one space and paste it to another, but the list cannot be rearranged in any way. So, for users who do intend to have several hundred items in their game, they will need to spend some time in a word processor planning out this list beforehand. If you make a mistake somewhere, you’ll have to shift every item on the list using only the copy and paste functions. Good luck!

What are your best Traits?

The second feature I’m setting my crosshairs on is the “Traits” list. This feature isn’t as bad as the database list, but it does suffer from the same lack of flexibility. Each element users place in the list is clearly displayed, but if they want to rearrange it to read each element quicker and easier, or for the sake of their OCD, they are totally screwed. Hilariously, this feature didn’t exist before RPG Maker VX Ace, and it was put in place to make it easier for users to adjust various aspects of the items in their games. It’s interesting that no thought was put into something as simple as a drag and drop function for rearranging elements within the list.

Her name is General Settings

Next, I will discuss the section dubbed “General Settings.” This feature is simply a collection of data inputs that are common across every item within a given category. For weapons, this collection includes a name, description, weapon type, base price, an associated combat animation, and an icon to represent the item. The issue with this particular section isn’t with the elements within, but the way in which each element is composed. The two elements that are the worst are the name and description. The fault lies with the scale of these two elements, because they were clearly setup without taking into account the use of custom/modified in-game interfaces, or the use of text modification codes (ex. \C[x] or \V[x]). These elements are too constrained for users, like myself, who adjust the in-game font to allow for more text, more detailed descriptions, and make sure that the text accompanying each item has a unique color to separate it from other bits of information. If I wanted to, I couldn’t look at the full written description of an item at a glance.

Parameter Changes

Finally, the last feature I will discuss is the “Parameter Changes” section. This is one of those features that I have grown to dislike, and, unfortunately, the RM developers are bringing back the incredibly limited, frustratingly fixed class parameters (aka, character stats). This could have easily been an element added to the Traits section, or made into another list very similar to the Traits section. My issue with this doesn’t fully lie with the section itself, but the very fact that every single user of RPG Maker is forced to use the same six parameters. While these parameters can be renamed and there are ways to use them that go against their default parameters (hee hee), the simple fact that users are incapable of easily modifying the number of parameters that define a character in combat is annoying. Personally, I’d like to be able to add more, so that I can define the parameters of my characters the way I see fit, as opposed to being limited to the restrictions placed upon me by the RM developers.

As excited as I am about the next installment to the RPG Maker series, I can see myself holding out for a number of months before getting my hands on it. I just want to be sure that I’m not paying for features that could have easily been added in a patch through Steam. If I look at the versions that I own now, the first that I got in recent years was an Xcellent Purchase, while the features of the next version I bought were Very Xciting, but, at first glance, and when compared to what I’m used to, the next RPG Maker installment seems like a Minor Variation. Hopefully, more information will be released to help alleviate my worries.

This post is getting a little long, so I will be cutting it short and returning to this topic next week. Next time, I will discuss the various ideas that I have concocted for fixing some of the issues, changing some bad/unnecessary design choices, and just making RPG Maker better. That’s all I really want; for this software to become better, and that isn’t going to happen with the expensive, piecemeal updates that the RM developers keep feeding the community.

Follow this link to the second part, “U and I could use some work…”

Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you’ll be back for the next one.

War Fist out.

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