The RM2k saga

Well I guess I need to write something, even though I got far less sleep last night than usual (I don’t know why, it was just a bad night). I suppose I could write a little about the RM2k saga:

Waaaaaayyyy back around 1997 or so I came across the old Phylomortis website (now at http://www.phylomortis.com/) and found out about a program called RPG Maker 95. I played the original Phylomortis and a couple other RM95 games I came across for a bit, and then promptly gave up on them. RPG Maker 95 just wasn’t that great. Simplistic database, odd graphical layout (If you’ve played Yoda’s Quest or any of the old Lucasarts Desktop adventures, RM95 wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t much better) and there just wasn’t much there that I couldn’t accomplish with other things like Visual Basic.

Then in late 2000-ish, not long after Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition was released, I ran across Don Miguel’s RPG Maker 2000 site. Don Miguel was a Russian student who was studying English in college and apparently also knew quite a bit about Japanese and coding. His writing style was bit weird (hey, he’s filtering Japanese text through his understanding of Russian and English) but with a little thought you could figure out his translations of the RM2k program and help files easily. Don Miguel never made an RM2k game as far as I know, but he did have an extremely amusing RM95 game called “Niggaz vs. Satan” which apparently was set in his hometown and involved beating up rabid squirrels.

RPG Maker 2000 was similar to RM95 in a few ways, but in addition to the very nice upgrades there was one MAJOR difference: You could use RM2k to make games that looked exactly like old-school SNES/Genesis RPGs. This was back when I was also into the emulation scene and SNES emulators and ROMs and sprite comics were all also starting to become popular. So, for example, you could play Final Fantasy VI for free, then “rip” the graphics by saving screenshots from the emulator and use them in an actual RPG of your own making via RM2k. Plus, the graphics were simple enough that it was easy to mix and match the ripped graphics with your own graphics or sprites from other games and make something more-or-less original. For free. It’s no wonder RM2k became so extremely popular. There was just one problem with this:

It was all very, very illegal. To use RM2k legally, you had to buy a copy of RPG School 2000 (the Japanese name) in Japan or have it imported, which is expensive. Then, once you had your legal copy you couldn’t understand it unless you knew Japanese. Or you could buy a copy of RS2k and then ignore it and use Don Miguel’s translation. Or you could just use RM2k and wait patiently for Agetec (the publisher of Enterbrain’s stuff in English) to bring out an English version, publically promising that you’d buy a copy as soon as they published it in English in a place where you could purchase it. I chose the last option. I genuinely hoped that they would translate RM2k into English so I could pay them for it, but I wasn’t about to stop using Don Miguel’s version just because legal-RM2k wasn’t out yet.

Sadly, legal-RM2k never ever materialised. Enterbrain blamed Don Miguel for pirating it, but as far as I’m concerned Enterbrain is just as responsible because they just took too dang long and missed their opportunity (does it really take three years to translate RM2k? No, because Don Miguel didn’t take that long). I might not have bought RM2k if I hadn’t encountered Don Miguel’s crazy world, but I definitely would have bought it if I had tried Don Miguel’s version and Agetec had also brought out a legitimate version.

Anway, in 2003 several things happened. Don Miguel announced that he was taking down RM2k off his site (He had originally done it was homework for his English class, after all) and that he wasn’t going to support any more piracy. Elswhere, someone else successfully translated RPG School 2003 into English. Sadly, RPG Maker 2003 was a step backwards from RM2k, with a slightly expanded database (different Classes for characters and that was it) and a battle system that required ten times the work for something that just didn’t look like much. The fatal flaw of RM2k3 is that while RM2k had a very simplistic battle system that simply had still graphics of the monsters and backgrounds as well as animations for the various attacks, RM2k3 had animated hero characters… that didn’t look very good. Plus, the rest of the program was the same. Same tilesets, same facesets and so on, except the battle graphics were much more complicated and didn’t look as good as (for example) Final Fantasy VI.

So I gave up on the whole “scene”. Legal-RM2k was never going to happen, RM2k3 was inferior in my opinion (because it meant more work for the exact same or worse results) and I hadn’t even heard of RPG Maker XP yet. Besides, there was suddenly this new and exciting Savage Worlds thing I was getting into. (http://www.greatwhitegames.com if you don’t want to scroll down) So I kind of forgot about RPG Maker.

Then, last week I realised RPG Maker XP was out and I could buy an English version… and, well, you know the rest. I paid my $60 and I finally have my legal RPG Maker for the PC. It’s not RM2k, in fact it’s better in almost every way. The lack of support for facesets and an atrociously bare help file have me pulling my hair out, but it’s ultimately worth it. You can finally call common events from battles! That, a bunch of other “duh!” improvements, and the incredible potential of the scripts makes it all worth it.

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