Archeia & Cherry Interview

RPGMakerInterview

Every gamer will at some point speculate on what kind of game they would make given the chance. Those who play RPGs are particularly susceptible to this urge because at heart we’re all channelling the pen and paper roots of the genre where campaign building and character creation are important tools for expression. ASCII is the company at the fore-front of scratching this itch, creating a series of game creation tools that, along with Enterbrain, have become a staple for aspiring gamers everywhere. Coming to the attention of the masses with RPG Maker 95, as well as producing a number of creation tools for various generations of consoles, the RPG Maker series is known for its easy user interface, flexible systems and the ability to quickly create JRPGs of workable quality with no prior coding or spriting knowledge.

Officially only products from RPG Maker XP have been made available in English, but internet heroes have been translating and sneaking out unofficial copies of earlier models all the way back through RPG Maker 2003, 2000 and even 95. As of the time of writing, with announcements of RPG Maker MV being on the way, there are seven mainline RPG Maker products on the PC and with each iteration they become more flexible and powerful tools for budding creators.

Not every game is a masterpiece however, there are as many failures as there are success stories and people will always underestimate the depth of planning and commitment required to make a fully fleshed out RPG. However some true gems have emerged that not only look and play well, but have stood the test of time wonderfully. UK magazine ‘PC Gamer’ even published a list of the top five games made with the series in their eyes and titles such as ‘Legion Saga’, ‘to the Moon’, ‘Hero’s Realm’ and ‘A Blurred Line’ hold up even today as labours of love.

However online resources and communities such as RPGMaker.net have kept the use of the earlier models alive and play host to a massive collection of games made across the full spectrum of ‘Makers’. It looked like the western world would have to make do with unofficial use of these earlier products forever, but then something wonderfully unexpected happened. ASCII and Enterbrain dropped full English editions of RPG Maker 2000 and RPG Maker 2003 into stores, finally giving those who slaved over personal masterpieces on these earlier platforms the validity to share their masterworks.

My Boxed Universe has managed to grab a few moments of time with Archeia and Cherry, one of the community members at RPGMaker.net who helped make this possible and worked on the English editions.

MBU
Thanks for taking the time to answer these questions, you must be very busy. Can you tell us which version of RPG Maker you prefer to use personally?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: RPG Maker VXAce. But if it’s between Rm2k and Rm2k3, it’s RM2k3.

Cherry: I don’t really “use” any RPG Maker anymore. I tried making games many years ago, and I started with RPG Maker 2000 and later upgraded to RPG Maker 2003, and then I did some experiments with RPG Maker XP. Depending on the use case, I would probably use RPG Maker 2003 or RPG Maker XP. I guess the newer versions would be even better, but I don’t have any experience with them.

MBU
Which version of RPG Maker did you first encounter?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: RPG Maker PS1 version!

Cherry: RPG Maker 2000, through the German gaming magazine “Screenfun”. That’s how many German-speaking users came into contact with the RPG Maker.

MBU
How many games have you personally completed and how many fell by the way-side?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: I have two games that were completed but got killed in a HDD crash. Back then I didn’t have enough space in my floppy disks to backup. They were both made in Rm2k and 2k3. I do have more games completed now, and one flash game, but the amount of projects I have on the way side outnumber that. I have yet to release a game I’m super serious on.

Cherry: Two fell by the way-side. I never completed anything I would call a real game (not a technical demonstration or something like that), except for a very short Sokoban clone with 5 levels which I built for my High School Thesis (German “FBA”, “Fachbereichsarbeit”) whose topic I chose to be “The RPG Maker”. However, it appears that I’m just more the tech guy than a full game designer.

MBU
How did you become involved with the official versions of these earlier Makers?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: I pitched it to Degica and in turn asked EB. Then we tried to start a petition. I asked Cherry to get involved with the project but it took a while before we finally had a go signal.

Cherry: The idea to do an official English release existed for some years already (there was also an online petition about whether people would buy it), but there were lots of bureaucratic hurdles. I was approached by Degica about technical support with the translation and in order to evaluate what kind of upgrades we could add, since I am probably one of the foremost experts at hacking the RPG Maker 2000/2003 series, having developed countless tools and patches in the past, such as DynRPG. The reason why “hacking” is involved in the first place is because the source code of RPG Maker 2003 had been lost over the years.

MBU
Was there a large group involved in the process and what was your main job?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: During the localization, only Cherry and I were involved. After a while, I asked Cy to help with the translations because it become too much for me. I had some great friends that helped with testing. But major props to Andar for helping me with Rm2k when Cherry was too busy. Seriously, these German guys are awesome and made it possible.

Cherry: The team consisted mainly of Jasmin “Archeia” Toral and me. Archeia was the main translator of both the UI and the documentation and also responsible for changing the UI layout where needed, which was a particularly cumbersome, lengthy and frustrating task – a big “thank you” to her at this point. My job was the technical side: Beginning with dealing with character set issues – the RPG Maker 2000/2003 series were from the pre-Unicode era –, over fixing old bugs to thinking of and implementing new features and improvements, such as the recently added “Custom Title Screen” feature. Of course there were other contributors, partly Degica employees, party independent contractors, involved – for tasks like marketing, beta testing, managing Steam, etc.

MBU
2000 and 2003 were both re-released, which do you prefer and do you think there will ever be a release of RPG Maker 95 for completion’s sake?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: I prefer Rm2k but Rm2k3 is something I would use due to a superior set of features. I have no plans of pitching Rm95 as it is highly outdated and I don’t see the need for its rerelease.

Cherry: Personally, I prefer RPG Maker 2003. That’s mostly because of its superior set of features. The only thing RPG Maker 2000 has which RPG Maker 2003 hasn’t is the front-view text-based battle system. Also, RPG Maker 2003 is far more popular in Europe (unlike it was in Japan) and will therefore probably receive more updates and maintenance.

MBU
Have you experimented with any of the console editions of the Maker series?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: Yup. My first finished game was in PS1 RM.
Cherry: No.

MBU
These Makers aren’t just re-released in English but upgraded, what are the changes?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
As a brief summary, we fixed a lot of bugs which were around for years, aligned the terminology with the other English RPG Maker versions such as RPG Maker VX Ace and started adding features for which there was a high demand by the community. Also, we worked on a better integration with the latest Windows versions.

Full changelogs can be found here:
RPG Maker 2000: http://tinyurl.com/rm2000cl
RPG Maker 2003: http://tinyurl.com/rm2003cl

MBU
Did you enjoy your experience?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: The process is exhausting and I learned a lot. I have to say mixed because during that time, I have other things worrying about. But it overall it was great.

Cherry: Of course. Since the RPG Maker got me into reverse engineering many years ago and it is still one of the things I most enjoy tinkering with. It has the added bonus that it feels like I am actually helping users while doing so. Unfortunately I have almost no time for it anymore due to other obligations. That’s also the reason why updates are progressing a bit slowly.

MBU
What has the reaction been like since launch?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: The Rm2k/3 community was amazing. I received a lot of steam gifts all of a sudden and I was just blown away haha. There were some issues we really want to fix but I would love to thank the fans for making us feel like we did the right thing! The only annoying ones were those who kept saying it was freeware.

Cherry: Mostly positive, because it allowed people who were working with the unofficial versions over the last years to finally “legalize” their copies of the software. Many users would have bought the software in the first place, but there was no English version of RPG Maker 2000 available for purchase, and no version of RPG Maker 2003 at all, in any language, because this product had been discontinued a long time ago. However, there were a few people who either didn’t understand what the point of releasing such an “outdated” engine was, or thought that RPG Maker 2000/2003 were “freeware” just because they were illegally translated and published by third parties, and therefore thought users were being ripped off.

MBU
Do you have any words of advice for aspiring game designers?

ARCHEIA AND CHERRY
Archeia: From personal experience,
• Deconstruct your favorite games and why you love them. Understand what makes them tick.
• Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and release ‘terrible’ games. Get them out of your system. If nobody plays them, that’s cool, keep making games.
• Make short ones. I truly believe that short stories are the best way to refine an idea and learn a lot.
• Play other people’s games and befriend them! I don’t believe in the term ‘one man army’ or ‘lone wolf’ anymore. I think that there’s only so much you can focus your attention to. Part of the fun of creative process is working with and working for people. If I didn’t work on Skie’s Sacred Earth stuff, I doubt I would’ve experimented and strived to be good at something.
• The process is neverending and ad tedium, but if you love something you’ll stick with it anyway. Give your best on an aspect but learn to say, enough is enough. It’s really hard but it’s the only way to finish games and move onto something better.

Cherry: Hm, that’s a hard question. I’d say: Don’t reach for the stars. Start slowly and go on learning, don’t think you will be building the next World of Warcraft in a month. And don’t be upset if people honestly tell you what you are doing wrong – learn from it instead. But creating your own games using RPG Maker can be a very fun and joyful experience, and if you take it seriously and invest enough and thought, you can do amazing things with.

MBU
Thanks again for your time here today. For those interested in RPG Maker we recommend you explore the series at its official home HERE, and check out the RPG Maker community at RPGMaker.net HERE where thousands of games, tutorials and more await you.

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