Be the Creator of Your Universe
We’ve all been there. You’re sitting in front of your screen, frustrated with a game that’s full of what you think are dumb design decisions, wondering why someone got paid to write those silly lines of dialogue or design all those enemies that just aren’t fun to fight.
“Surely, I could do better, you lament, images of clever twists and creative combat dancing in your head. But I have a day job! I don’t have time to learn coding, animation, and all about those complex game engines! Egad, if only there were an easier way to show the world my creative light.”
Well, for quite a number of years now the famous (infamous?) RPG Maker series has been around, checking people’s egos by presenting an easy (well, easier) way for laymen to make some pretty awesome RPGs, but, with a few exceptions, folks have been pretty out of luck if they’ve been interested in testing their skills in another genre. Enter Pixel Game Maker MV, a new piece of sister-software to the aforementioned RPG Maker that allows burgeoning creative types to play game developer and create top-down or side-scrolling shooters and platformers.
First, make no mistake about it. While the program is touted as an easy way to let anyone make a game, it’s absolutely not something you’ll immediately be able to just crack open on a Friday to throw together a weekend project. Like any other piece of software designed with the ability to create professional-grade end-products, there’s a significant learning curve to Pixel Game Maker MV. As it turns out, creating a game worth playing isn’t quite as easy as coming up with a few good ideas.
Let me be clear about my perspective here, because, depending on your background, your experiences and opinion may vary. I’m someone with no experience in RPG Maker or any other type of game development. I’ve played lots and lots of games over many, many years, but I’ve never made one. That being the case, I can’t comment on how familiar the UI will look to someone with various levels of experience, but, to this review, the amount of options and menus is alarmingly overwhelming. That isn’t a bad thing. There are plenty of other complex programs I am quite experienced enough in to know that ease and flow come with time. Fortunately, there are a few good options available to help you get started creating the game of your dreams.
First, there’s a fairly decent set of tutorials that can walk users through most of the game’s basic tasks. It’s more than you’ll see in most software, but it’s also pretty easy to get overwhelmed running through it all. Furthermore, and surprisingly, they actually aren’t always correct. There were a few times in which the arrows pointed to the wrong spot, and while I was able to figure out what to do, I shouldn’t have to. There’s also a robust help page that’s nicely laid out and does a pretty nice job of explaining different functions of the program. Because of its static, text-based nature (though there are also screenshots intermixed) I don’t think it’s a great way to learn something for the first time, but it is a great tool for refreshing your memory if a sequence or tool location has slipped your memory. Third, and, in my opinion, most helpful, is that there’s already a few really, really nice YouTube video series out there that do a really fantastic job walking through the program and helping new users build something basic. It’s here that I’d recommend most users start, as there’s just something extra helpful about watching someone actually go through the steps and explain what they’re doing. This isn’t surprising, as most programs and creative platforms come to live or die on the support of their users and community.
What You Can Do
If you’re looking for a top-to-bottom run-down of everything this program can do, you’ll want to look elsewhere. With thousands of menus, screens, and options, it would be a fool’s errand to try and explain everything. What is important is whether what’s there feels limiting or not, and I’m happy to report that the engine seems solid enough to support just about anything you’d like to do as long as it’s in-genre and somewhat reasonable. I have no doubt that users with programming knowledge will get even more out of Pixel Game Maker MV, but even someone like me who can’t/won’t delve into anything beyond the capabilities of the vanilla software (except custom made graphics assets, which is closer to where my expertise lies) found my fancies easy to tickle.
The long and short of my comments on the capabilities of the program to create varied elements of a game boils down to this: the program isn’t so much the limitation, the user is. It’s completely up to you, the designer, how fancy you want to get and how many wild ideas you want to try to work out. You can create a basic platformer with a moving character, some enemies, and a series of levels in a quick afternoon. Want fancy particle effects? Complex animations? A detailed, complex user interface or long fancy cut scenes? You can do it all, to whatever degree you’d like. You’re free to dive in deep and make something truly unique, or you can focus more on learning the basics and leave all the particularly fancy stuff for another time. The program also supports custom plug-ins, so if you’re a bit more programming-savvy you’re welcome to import or create your own instructions to fill in any gaps you might find.
Like I said above, this probably isn’t the review for you if you’re a serious, experienced game maker looking for the finer points on some of Pixel Game Maker MV’s more advanced, difficult features. What I am is a regular dude who loves games and wanted to try and put something together that, at minimum, functioned and was fun to play. I was able to do that. After trying a single, simple level with some free resources a generous creator posted online I used a few of my own assets to create some simple branching experiences, and I couldn’t help but feel proud while running around with my own character, reading my own dialogue, fighting my own enemies. This is not a game that I’d recommend for someone that wants a quick way to jump in and create something over a weekend, but, by all accounts, it’s an awesome tool for those that understand the program will give back as much as you’re willing to put in.
Flexible program with enough built-in resources to get started, relatively easy UI once you’ve gotten used to things, solid help menu that makes it easy to look up specifics you may have forgotten, no bugs or crashes that I encountered during my review.
Tutorial’s errors leave something to be desired.