Whenever a new indie retro RPG comes out, a few reviewers ask if “this was made with RPG Maker“. The latest cases were Anodyne, Cthulcu Saves the World, and To The Moon. Sometimes, the devs don’t care. Other times, they act offended. The same is true of other commentators. The assumption behind this type of commentary is that a game in RPG Maker isn’t a real game. This is specially apparent when one looks at comments from Eric Shumager, creator of Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden, who stated that “RPG Maker doesn’t allow for mechanically good games”. In an interview with PCgamer, he stated that:
“A big part of Barkley was gently making fun of the RPG Maker community. At the time there were a lot of games made with RPG Maker that took themselves very seriously. They had this self-important attitude, but at the same time they were made completely out of graphics stolen from famous SNES games like Chrono Trigger. It was a bizarre juxtaposition that we thought was really funny. We did the same thing: our game is clearly not serious, but we’re taking it very seriously.”
If one looks at a recent Escapist poll, it seems like these anti-RPG maker attitudes are rather widespread. In this survey asking if people would pay for a game made in RPG Maker, 32% of those surveyed voted “No. Use a real engine, pleb.” And there is the problem with the assumption that RPG Maker games aren’t real games – it has to do with the engine not being considered a “real” engine.
Now, Mr. Shumaker’s game was ultimately created with Game Maker, but it might as well have been an RPG Maker game. It has all the conventions of a default RPG Maker game, and its battle system is just barebones borrowed straight out of RMK2003.
So, what’s the problem with RPG Maker? I honestly don’t know.