After several console versions and an earlier release in Japan, Enterbrain's RPG Maker series is finally ready to make its first North American PC release with RPG Maker XP. Just like the name says, RPG Maker XP is a program designed to let players create and then play their own RPGs. As the newest addition to the series, however, its developers boast that RPG Maker XP will offer even more freedom and improved features than its predecessors.
The whole RPG making process begins with the creation of a map, which will act as a staging ground for all the characters, monsters, treasures, and events of the game. Almost like a box of puzzle pieces, RPG Maker XP provides players with hundreds of different graphic tiles, representing everything from flowers and trees to rocks and buildings, that can be put together to create a basic gaming environment. Maps consist of at least eight tiles placed side by side, horizontally; but if a player wishes for a landscape that is bigger, there is no limit to the extent by which tiles can be pieced together vertically. Gentle forests, dark caverns, and bustling castles are just a few of the different types of environments that can be created by using this system.
|" Names and statistics for each game character is also entirely up to the design of the player."
There is also a series of different graphic files that can act as primary, secondary and tertiary images depending upon which element the player is focused on in the game's creation. Panorama files can be used to give scenes distant and fitting terrains. Layers, such as fog, can overlay maps for an extra ambient effect. And there is also a list of 640x320 image files that can be used as backgrounds for battle scenes and a list of 640x480 image files that can be used for Title and Game Over screens.
Characters (as well as enemies) will each have their own file, and can be chosen from a list of ready made graphics or drawn right from scratch. Names and statistics for each game character is also entirely up to the design of the player. Animations will consist of a basic, four-frame rate movement for each of the up, down, left, and right directions; and when in battle, characters will have their own graphic icons that can range in size from 1x1 pixels to 640x320. Visual effects, such as magical spells cast during battle, are accomplished by cells, which consist of at least five seperate 192x192 pixel horizontal frames and a potentially infinite number of vertical ones.
Battle in RPG Maker XP can be described as a simple turn-based system that utilizes a full-frontal point of view. Monsters face players head on for a sense of immediate action, while a window menu featuring character graphics and status information, for the hero and each of his or her party members shows up in a seperate row right beneath. Should a player choose, the game also allows for battle animations, such as casting spells and taking damage, to effect both groups on the field.
Event Commands lie at the heart of creating the plot and conflict elements of an RPG in RPG Maker XP. The game contains a large list of texts and graphic displays for NPCs, dungeons, treasures, and boss battles that can be strung together for a single or multiple set of adventures that players can put their newly created characters and enemies into. And for further customization on just about everything,a brand new function has been introduced to the series called Ruby Game Scripting System (RGSS), which allows players to edit, add to, or remove basically every function in the game. A certain knowledge of programming langauge, however, is required to use this tool successfully.
Data encryption is also available in RPG Maker XP, so that the original game files can be kept private, but if the inclination hits them, players also have the ability to save their created games to disk and share them.
As for the more technical details of RPG Maker XP... The screen resolution for the game has quadruapled in size from previous titles to stand at 640x480 pixels. Portable Network Graphics (PNG) image formating offers a full-color mode and alpha channel, that can be adjusted for graphic translucency and color transparency; and an additional map layer has been added to the traditional two for even greater precision and versatility in creating gaming environments.
Sound and music is accomplished through an array of five different file formats:
- Background music - usually in MIDI format, but can also comprise OGG, WMA, MP3, and WAV.
- Background sounds - usually in OGG format, but can also comprise WMA, MP3, and WAV.
- Music effects - usually in MIDI format, but can also comprise OGG, WMA, MP3, and WAV.
- Sound effects - usually in OGG format, but can also comprise WMA, MP3, and WAV.
* MIDI files can be used for the background music and music effects, only.
And just like with every other aspect of the game, players get to decide from a diverse list of files, which music samples and sounds will be implemented in their games and where.
With its vast offering of customizations and ready-made elements, RPG Maker XP proudly continues Enterbain's unique and successful franchise of making game developers out of normal RPG enthusiasts. Its North American release is scheduled to go out on September 16. Keep in touch with RPGamer for any future developments.