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Experimenting With RPG Maker VX Ace Trial

My confession for the day is that I’ve been playing around with RPG Maker VX Ace (RMVXA from now on) ever since its official Japanese release. Curiosity just about killed me, so I couldn’t resist downloading the demo. Of course, it was all in Japanese and I was totally lost for a while, but I had some fun guessing and experimenting.

However…the wonderful folks at RMVX Ace Games Net have provided an English translation patch for the trial version specifically for the short RMVXA game provided there too (the first one for RMVXA!). That means that I’m able to delve into it a bit more. Just for the experience.

Now the ONLY reason I did it this way, rather than wait (aside from “grasshopper syndrome”), is for review purposes and to deliver what we can expect from RMVXA IF Enterbrain deigns to bring out an English version. And they would be idiotic not to (but of course they are! *Wink*).

So what’s it like? (By the way, no screenies here at the moment; they’re on the RMVX Ace Games Net website.)

Demo Version Limitations

Virtually everything is fully functional, but it does have some serious limitations, which are listed below. Some of the items are a result of my own delving and some are based on the Googleated Enterbrain/Famitsu website.

  • “Open Projects” is not available, although when you open a New Project, it’ll preload the sample map already provided, which you can play and from within the editor.
  • You can edit the map, including events, which are essentially the same as with RMVX, although only 10 maps and 10 events per map are allowed in the demo version.
  • There is a limited number of materials and graphics in the demo version. You cannot export materials, although you can import them.
  • Compress Data (for making a standalone, executable game) is disabled in the trial version, which means that while the games can be saved and played from within RMVXA, saved data is erased after RMVXA is closed.
  • In the Database, Actors, Classes, Items, etc. have a predetermined Max. Amount. You can edit them, but you can’t add any more if they go above the predetermined upper limit.
  • You can view (and edit) the scripts, but saved script edits are automatically purged and returned to default once RMVXA is closed, essentially disabling the Save function.
  • Tne built-in Character Generator is limited to a minimum amount of options to choose from, allowing you to create basic characters, which have the element of sameness to them after a while.
  • All of the events commands work in the demo version (as far as I can determine), except for the “Play Video” event command according to Enterbrain’s website. I’ve not had a chance to actually try this because I’m not sure how to convert movies to the OGV format yet.
  • The updater feature is not functional or compatible with the demo version.
  • The RTP (Runtime Package) in the demo version is limited to a pre-bundled package is only for “data collection relevant to the current session”. In other words, as I’ve mentioned before, saved data is not actually saved but is reset each time RMVXA closes. The actual [official] RTP is provided separately, available after purchasing.

Yet, despite such limitations, you can still see its complete range of capabilities and you can definitely have a “feel” what the full version will be like. (For the impatient ones, I wonder how viable – and legal – it would be to purchase the Japanese version and use an English translation patch. Enterbrain would certainly want to avoid the “Don Miguel-RM2K/3 love affair” again. This is especially in light of the fact that Enterbrain has not officially announced an English version yet.)

So here are my first impressions of RMVXA, focusing specifically on its features and functionality. It’s rather long, but gives a rough, certainly not comprehensive, idea of what RMVXA is all about. The following part is a bit long, though I hope not long-winded.

New Functions & Functionality

Icons have an index, displaying the icon numbers, which was lacking in RMVX. Very useful. I use Zanfly’s Icon Viewer script to determine RMVX icon indices since I tend to use huge iconsets.

Database » Actors

  • In addition to a character’s Name, they can now have a Nickname.
  • A Description is also available (used as bio information on the Status screen).
  • The addition of Traits, where you can define various strengths, weaknesses and other characteristics, is definitely a welcome addition.

Database » Classes

  • There are 8 parameters now instead of RMVX’s 6 – Max. HP, Max. MP, Attack, Defense, Magic, Magic Def., Agility and Luck.
  • The Classes section is essentially the same as RMVX, but with the additional option of class-specific traits, for example, the Soldier class has an Additional Ability of Critical Rate + 4% or is able to equip Heavy Armor.
  • The Experience and Parameter Growth Curves have been relocated here rather than having them under the Actors tab as they were in RMVX.
  • Class Skills have their own mini Notes box, in addition to the existing Notes.

Database » Skills

  • The addition of TP Cost for skills (since TP is now an integral part of RMVXA) has been added and is used in the same way that skills/spells are.
  • You can define the Skill Type, based on particular traits.
  • You can define the Hit Type, determining if it’s a physical or magical type, as well as the number of hits the skill allows, and a finisher animation for TP-based attacks.
  • It has a Weapon Requirements section, where particular skills are attached to one or two types of weapons. For example, the skill Radiant Blade requires a Sword to be able to use it. In RMVX, there were a plethora of scripts to emulate this feature.
  • You can assign attributes to skills, create your own damage formulae, and add buffs/debuffs (On Use Effects).

Database » Items

  • As with the Skills, you can define your own damage formula and On Use Effects for each item.
  • Also as with the skills, you can adjust the number of hits and weapon requirements as necessary.

Database » Weapons/Armor

  • Weapons and Armor are pretty much the same as in RMVX, except with the addition of the new Traits feature, accommodating the additional parameters too.

Database » Enemies

  • As with the Weapons/Armor, it’s remained the same but for accommodation of the Traits and additional parameters.

Database » Troops

  • This is the same as with RMVX, but with one distinct feature: the ability to change the battle background (floor AND ceiling). You can create some interesting combinations too.

Database » Steps

  • Aside from the Traits, there are some additional Recovery Conditions, namely Automatic Timed Release and Released by Steps Taken.

Database » Animations

  • There are no changes here that I can determine.

Database » Tilesets

  • This contains the welcome return of multiple tilesets, including autotiles, plus additional passability fuctions: Stairs and Floor Damage.
  • An additional Mode lets you set the map types, whether they are Field or Area specific, or VX Compatible.

Database » Common Events

  • The same as before, but with additional commands: Display Scrolling Text and Item Selection Processing (for Messages), Change Nickname (Actor), Play Video and further Map settings including changing the Tileset and acquiring information about a characters’ position on the map.

Database » System

  • You can change the default Window Color from within System rather than relying exclusively on manually changing windowskin colours and having one per colour. Windowskins are still available in RMVX format.
  • You can toggle whether or not the Game Title is drawn.
  • You can change the Title Graphic, using two – yes TWO – graphics files. One is the regular background and the other is an optional frame border.
  • There are 7 more options here, such as Initialize MIDI on Startup in case you wanted to include MIDI files (otherwise there’s a slight pause as it loads MIDIs on the fly), or the option to toggle the party caterpillar style.
  • There is one added option that, to me, is essential – Start with Transparency – which makes the character “invisible” on startup. (In RMVX you had to resort to changing the lead actor’s graphic in the Database to None to prevent him from appearing during initial cutscenes and then adding the graphic through an auto-event.)
  • The Game Title can be changed here too (lacking in RMVX without modifying its INI file, but present via the menu in RMXP).

Database » Terms

  • Everything’s here from RMVX and, of course, there are additional terms. You’re able to define the Attributes and Weapon, Skill and Armor Types here too. (Incidentally, you can change the Max. Amount here, up to its maximum of 99.)
  • As with RMXP/VX all terms used in the game can be redifined here.

Mapping

There have been some welcome additions to the mapping capabilities. This was an area I was most sceptical about given that RMVX was limited to one tileset and I spent a while going through the Tileset portion of the Database.

There is another feature (from the right-clickable maps area on the right) in the form of sample maps. These are conveniently pre-generated maps, from regular field maps to Zelda-esque world trees to pyramids. There are 120 of them!

The Generate Dungeon feature from RMVX remains in place too.

Tilesets

The return of multiple tilesets is certainly embraced. RMVX’s tileset limitations, bluntly, just pissed me off. That said, I still used it so go figure! Anyway, in the Tileset editor, there are 9 changeable settings, again using tilesets A through E, but with 5 additions to A. Layers ultimately depend on how many of the tilesets have been predefined in the Database, essentially up to 5.

Regions

Regions define the terrain settings for certain areas on the map. I remember in RM2K3 and RMXP this was done via the Tilesets tab in the Database. This is now apparently definable from the map co-dependent on how they’re set up in the Database. Regions affect movement speed on the map, for instance, marching through foothills is slower going than normal ground.

Character Generator

You can create your own characters, replete with matching faces. You can either randomly generate them or create your own by tweaking a plethora of different options.

First impressions of this creator is that it’s an excellent feature that potentially saves a lot of time, but sadly because it’s the demo version, I’m assuming there are limitations here too. In the options, while plentiful (from changing skin tone to additional accessories), the dropdown options really only have one or two options to choose from. You can export both face and character sets, although there’s no facility to import resources actually into the generator. Any characters you generate will automatically be added to the Actor’s sets so you can choose and use them right away.

Map Caterpillar

The party will roam the map caterpillar-form, but only 4 characters will appear on the map at one time, despite having scope for additional party members.

Status Menu Enhancements

  • Items, Skills and Equipment are all categorisable.
  • Status has additional bio information for each character (as defined in the Actors tab in the Database).
  • The number of actors in the party has increased to 10 (not sure if this amount can be increased since that’s the maximum allowable in the Database demo version), but only 4 can be active at once. (Others can be switched with the new Formation feature.)
  • Formation can be used to change the positions of party members, including any additional actors in the party, but (as mentioned above) only 4 will be active at any given time.

Battles

Battles include the TP, where each time an actor is hit by an enemy it increases by a certain amount. TP can then be “exchanged” for Special Skills usage. I haven’t really delved too much in this, as I wanted specifically to test the TP. From what I can tell there’s no real difference between RMVX’s battle system, more aesthetics, but it runs the same.

Scripts

I scrutinised the Scripts (RGSS3) section long and hard, going through each one to see how things have changed. There are a LOT of changes and enhancements, including DataManager, SceneManager and BattleManager. And in addition to Scene_Base and Scene_Item are Scene_MenuBase and Scene_ItemBase respectively (quite self-explanatory). There are plenty new methods to play around with, that’s for sure. The RGSS system seems to have been completely overhauled, meaning that the major drawback of RGSS3 is potentially that many RMVX scripts will not function in RMVXA without compatibility tweaking.

Conclusion

Since this is the limited Trial version, I don’t think it’d be fair to judge RMVXA as a whole, so I’m only basing it on my experiences with it so far as I’m able.

The additions and enhancements actually do improve development. It’s not as limited as RMVX was, especially with the limitations on the tilesets. Most of the functions previously omitted in RMVX have been reimplemented and, on the surface, it almost has a feeling of familiarity to it. Delve deeper and you can see more differences than parallels.

Although I suspect the resources for the Character Generator has been limited for the purposes of the demo version, the possible combinations for creating characters are still pretty high given that there are a lot of options to choose from. Even if the Character Generator is the same in the retail version, with the use of Chibi styled characters there’s an online Chibi Character Maker already in place (an updated version is on Enterbrain’s website; I’ll see if I can find the links later). Nevertheless, regardless of my personal sentiments regarding squat Chibi characters, I’d have to say that the addition of a Character Generator is a marked and welcome addition. Anything you create is automatically added and can be exported for use in other games.

I like the idea of defining character and class traits. It personalises them more and allows a lot more flexibility and indepth-ness, creating a much more dynamic feel overall.

Combat hasn’t changed that much from RMVX. It has the feeling of a combination of RMXP and RMVX, with the addition of the TP to add a little more dynamism to it without the need for external scripts.

One of the things I did notice almost immediately were two additional scripts for horizontal commands. I don’t see why they needed to do that particularly, since RMVX has the useful shortcut of adding an extra parameter to the Window_Command to accommodate multiple columns). There’s obviously some logic behind Enterbrain’s decision to do this.

Another thing I noticed was the addition of a few “managers”, in particular the Data Manager, which contains the routines for preloading the .rvdata (reformatted to .rvdata2). That means the load_database and load_bt_database methods are superfluous in Scene_Title. They’re preloaded when the game starts. There’s also SceneManager, which compliments Scene_Base and adds more functionality to it.

In conclusion then, preliminarily it seems that RMVXA is a decent improvement on its predecessor(s). I would have to say that my initial scepticism started melting away the more I experimented with it and delved into its inner workings.

Now the big question is: Would I buy it?

Well, it’s hard saying. Features and functionality wise, I’d have to answer “Yes”. Just when I thought I was getting somewhere with mastering RGSS/RGSS2, along comes a totally overhauled version, RGSS3, so on that basis, I’d say “No”, but it probably won’t be that hard to learn or re-learn any of it anyway.

The major clincher will be price. IF – big if – Enterbrain releases an English version (they have yet to announce an officially translated version as of now), as much as it shows potential, ultimately the price will be the deciding factor for me. If they charge around $60, as they did with RMXP and RMVX. I’m not as affluent as some, so money’s somewhat of a problem. $60 is a bit of a stretch but I can manage that, but anything above that, I will NOT be willing to buy it regardless. So, we’ll just have to wait and see what unfolds.

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