If you have been on the Internet for any period of time, you probably know what RPGMaker is. Maybe you know of it from various horror game lets-plays from the early 2010’s, or maybe you know of it because of recent cult classics that are nothing like their horrific counterparts.
For me, I guess I’m somewhere in the middle!
I’ll be real with you; yes, I definitely was watching my favorite youtubers playing Witch’s House and Misao back in the day. But did I really understand /what/ rpgmaker was..? Did I know that just anyone could make a game? Well, I probably didn’t think about it very much.
My deep-seated enchantment with the software came later. I took to itch.io to play free games about people who were like me, with cute color palettes and stories you wouldn’t really find in the “mainstream” rpgmaker classics (at least, any I knew of). To put it more bluntly, I was playing cute games where gay people got to have happy endings.
I eventually decided I really wanted to make a game too. I snatched up VX Ace during a steam summer sale and got to work making my masterpiece.
And then I got bored, and starting working on my NEXT masterpiece!!!!
....and then I got bored. And then I had school. And then I had other projects I wanted to work on. And then I didn’t know how to continue the game’s story. And then...
Well, developing games at 16 isn’t exactly easy when you have too many ideas and no programming experience, okay?
For every one game I've finished, I've made about 4 bad unfinished games. (That's 1 and a half full games and 7 unfinished ones, for you people counting at home). From what I understand, this is absolutely the most common RPGMaker development experience. Consider it a grueling bootcamp of sorts. One where you have to learn how to fight off scope creep and when to give up on those great ideas that you can only execute poorly. I’m still working on both of these things, however.
Eventually I did end up finishing a game; one that was made out of growing pains and the sadness inside my carved-out highschooler heart. It wasn’t perfect, and it maybe leaned a bit too heavily on its inspirations... but it was mine! I was so happy... Or was I sad? Scared? Maybe a bit of each.
I remember getting messages shortly after releasing this game. People told me it really resonated with them.... It was sort of powerful: I thought I was alone in a lot of my feelings! I guess maybe that’s part of why I wanted to keep doing it; outside of the fact that I just find that blockish form of programming really fun.
I like telling stories, and the walking-sim flavor of rpgmaker games was a nice way to tell them. Of course, I'm getting into more complex things now, but it's nice to remember your roots!
Back to the RPGMaker classics, though. I know I mentioned watching some of these games as a preteen, but there were still plenty of ones I hadn't experienced myself until recently. I'm not commonly one to play horror games (watching a gamerdude scream at them in 2014 was just different, y'know?) but I eventually got the motivation to try out some of the other options. To be specific, I only first played Yume Nikki and OFF for the first time in 2022. Despite being late to the punch, I'm really happy I experienced them at all. I'd like to try out more of the big names at some point, whenever that'll be.
I've found community in devs who are like me, just wanting to make silly stories and maybe even recall their favorites together. It's been a lot of fun, bonding over this broken and janky software. I hope I can continue making and playing things like this for a little longer.
of course, i've played more than just these.. But i'd say these are some of the games i enjoy or am inspired by the most!
there are some others, but... i'll add them later!