Congratulations, you’ve gotten your hands on the newest RPG Maker, MZ! With all its new features it’s tempting to just dive right in and start working on your dream game, but do your best to hold off on that right now. Whether you’re brand new to RPG Maker or a user who’s been around since the old days of 2k3 and XP, taking some time to explore MZ will improve your time playing with it. Here are a few things to do before starting your first big project.
1. Do the in-engine tutorial
Before you start on your first MZ project, open up the built-in tutorial. Not everyone realizes a tutorial exists since there are so many other more attention-grabbing options to look at, like the Layer section in the menu bar, but if you look under Help you’ll find a wealth of info.
If you’re new to RPG Maker, this tutorial will give you an engine overview and walk you through making a simple game. From creating your first map to ending the game after defeating the big, bad boss, the tutorial will help you jump into game making. Even if you’ve used previous makers, checking out the tutorial can give you an easy refresher on certain parts of the engine. Have you forgotten how to make a pushable boulder or an on-screen enemy? There are tutorial sections for that. Spending some time going through the tutorials can really help get you ready to make your own game.
2. Check out all the default resources
After you finish up the built-in tutorial, you’ve probably already gotten a look at some of MZ’s resources. MZ has a mix of fantasy and modern (with a sci-fi twist, because we all need more neon in our games!) tiles, sprites, and enemies that can inspire you. So take some time to look through the image folder and see just what you can use in your game. If you prefer to see images during cutscenes instead of using facesets, the pictures folder has you covered with a number of default busts. And with a variety of battlers, from wolves to mecha robots to an evil demon pot, there are so many enemies that can inspire unique attacks and moves in your game’s battles.
Don’t let the folders dictate what you use the resources for though! An enemy graphic can find a home in the pictures folder if you want an NPC to show off what your heroes are meant to be hunting for a bounty, or a title screen could be used to show off a town before entering. If you’ve looked through all the resources, then even if you don’t use parallaxes in your maps you can still find new and interesting ways to use them to improve your game.
3. Hunt for some of the new features
MZ has some great additions to take your game to the next level, so make sure you check them out before planning your game. If you’ve ever wanted certain actors to have their own normal attacks, now you can thanks to an addition to the Traits list. When the player uses Attack, let your wolf companion take a bite out of enemies or give a mage a magic missile instead of having them whack an enemy with their wooden staff. The Attack Skill trait also works with weapons so start thinking about all the different ways you could create unique equipment, from giving an electric sword a shocking slash to creating a heavy club that strikes a random enemy.
The database isn’t the only place with new features though. You’ve already seen some of those features in the MZ previews, but have you thought about how you can use them in your games? Additions like Last Used in Control Variables means that it’s never been easier to check what item was used last or which enemy was targeted. Storing that info into a variable makes creating some item-related events or attacks simpler, so get ready to make that evented system you’ve been imagining into a real thing!
4. Download Effekseer and try your hand at making animations
How animations are handled has been changed in MZ (if you missed that announcement, you can read more about that in MZ’s first preview), and with Effekseer it’s possible to make almost any animation you can imagine. So now is the perfect time to try to make your own. Effekseer does take some getting used to but it’s worth it to learn how to make custom animations to fit your game. It takes less than two weeks to learn how to make amazing attacks with it, and how do we know that? Because Driftwood Gaming hosted a contest a few weeks back that challenged brand-new users to make their own animations with Effekseer in two weeks.
If an animation like this can be made in a weekend, nothing can stop you from creating the perfect animations for your game!
5. Try making a short game and have fun!
It’s a common piece of advice over on the RPG Maker forums but a reminder never hurts: try to make a short game before working on your dream game! Learning how to finish a game is just as hard as learning how to balance battles, and sometimes it’s difficult to know when to call it done. With a new engine there are always new things to learn and if you jump right into making your dream game you may end up having to go back and remake everything as you find better ways to accomplish what you want. Before making a game where your heroes save the world, why not make a smaller one where they just have to save a prince/princess/royal puppy trapped in a tower?
And don’t forget the most important rule: have fun! Game making can be stressful, but make sure that you’re enjoying your time with MZ. Take breaks, reward yourself with your favorite tasks after finishing something challenging, and ask for help when you need it.
RPG Maker MZ is a new engine, and even if it shares some similarities with previous makers it’s important to know just what has changed. Taking some time to explore and learn about MZ’s features now will save you time later on. Future-you will thank you. Once you’ve introduced yourself to MZ, what do you plan to do with it first?
About the Author: hiddenone enjoys creating sprites, making games with an unhealthy number of puns, and hitting her head against the keyboard until RM events behave.