A lot has been said about the creativity of Indie Games vs big budget games, and I think that being mostly hobbiests with a spattering of commercial indie devs, we need to really be taking advantage of that advantage we have.
One of the biggest advantages to creativity I think in RPG Maker, and one that is used regularly in the Indie environment as a whole is the concept of a Living Game. I’m making this definition up myself, but I’m taking the terminology from something that already exists: Living Documents.
Here is the thing, though it is more feasible than it used to be because of downloadable updates and such, but for the most part, once they ship the game, a big box commercial game (especially console games) are pretty much what they are going to be and can’t be changed. You have your internal playtesting, and your focus groups, but for the most part you have an educated guess on how the game as a whole will perform in the wild. Now, if you have GOOD QA it will be a pretty good educated guess. Don’t take this as a bash against QA guys, because I know a couple and they are really awesome people and know their job.
Living games on the other hand, get out in the wild and aren’t necessarily in their end state. A lot of indie games do this, and RPG Maker games almost always do this. You can release an early demo and get tons of feedback on what works, and what doesn’t. Even if you release the full game, you can always go back and touch up areas that people have issues with… or even completely rewrite them.
While we of course, probably won’t make a game with the same reach, just think about the whole debacle with the ending of Mass Effect 3 for instance, or the outsourced boss fights from Deux Ex: Human Revolution. Now, both of these got changed to varying levels later, but it wasn’t as easy as a living game. Mass Effect 3 had an ending DLC added, with varying levels of success among fans.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution on the other hand released an entire new version of the game with the director’s cut to fix their mistake. I rebought the game myself, its a brilliant game and the director’s cut fixed most of the issues, but in reality I’m still kind of peeved at the approach. That to get the game really how I think it should have been to begin with I had to completely rebuy it.
RPG Maker games don’t have to deal with this. They can be revised as often or as little as you want, you can even tweak something repeatedly and get feedback on it. Take advantage of the way your release medium and RMers expectations work. Incorporate the fans into the polishing of your work.