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I'm going to say XP.
VX was the worst. Ace had a few improvements, but every maker since has carried over birth defects. I think it's because the developers don't actually use their software to notice. Or because the Degica staff are over zealous in their moderation. Like I'll post a bug report, it'll pend approval for a few days. And then they'll move my post somewhere else because they can't decide if it's technically a "bug" - missing the point that it's a feedback forum.
I'd raise more hell about it but I don't believe the developers are really that attentive in the first place. I suspect "for developers" they mean 3rd party developers. Like oh, something is wrong with the snow tiles? Guess it's an opportunity to make DLC. Or have their overrated Re-Staff address it. Like. NO! I want someone to fix it properly and update the Steam Version. So that there's not 101 things to replace every time you make a new project.
Its a bit of a three-way-tie between xp, 2k3, and vxa for my top spot.
I like all three of them for their own purposes.
I have a soft spot for xp's wild (spaghetti) west scripting and layered mapping, but I do feel like vxa is the most competent and brimming with potential of the bunch, if only because it has a cleaner back-end than xp and has a robust set of tools in the database that seem to actually care about adding depth to the battle system. Despite this, vxa doesn't quite feel like home.
2k3 is my first love, but I recognize that despite its bells and whistles, it has its limits. Limits I adore, and limits I could stand to work around. The upgrades it got with the steam release definitely make it a contender though. Its fantastic when you don't wanna mess with scripts and wanna make an agile walking simulator, but the battle system leaves a bit to be desired in terms of variability. At least it has built-in side-view battles and actually works well for parallaxes..
2000, I managed to actually get a chance to work with in a recent floppy event, and after a while I just started missing 2k3's quality of life upgrades. its alright, but 2k3 is an upgrade in every sense of the word. Had to write a bat file to make the games run in windowed mode on newer machines due to its reliance on the old directdraw.
MZ sounds like an upgrade of MV, but still has a couple of the draw-backs that MV has, and requires the use of a complex effects system for animations. For those working in high-production values, it sounds like a good option, but for a hobbyist with a freaking day-job, it sounds like too much trouble for something that worked just fine in earlier iterations. (I also use animations for a lot of things that can't be easily put together in 3d!!).
VX I can't give a fair assessment because I've avoided it like the plague (as someone who actually tries to avoid the plague :b ), but hearing about the obvious downgrades it has, it'd prolly find a place low on my list.
2k3 was always the better engine and much was lost when they made XP that even when requested was never replaced back in the new editors of the future. I don't think they ever got any better after that.
... hmm and itd need to throw the multi tileset system in the bin too cus thats too restricting
... hmm and fogs should probably make a return too
... hmm and the animation editor should run at more than 5 fps or whatever archaic rate it uses
... hmm and the-
What I would say is MV has a few plugins/tweaks that are absolutely necessary for any game - replace the "Now Loading" screen, replace the two-clicks-per-menu-item mouse system, and then install the entire Quixos library of plugins... (OK, the latter isn't necessary, but still, it's a game changer).
If you were asking me to rate the MV-Quixos combination, it would come above ANY other engine. If you were asking for out-of-the-box MV then there is much lacking from the start.
My personal favorite is RPGmaker MV. The ability to have a resolution that isn't basically dos-box, the performance upgrades (which kind of matter when you are making action battle games via eventing like I do) and the RTP being not shit for once (in my opinion, ofcourse) are just some of the reasons.
Why do I think the RTP was bad in rpgmaker's prior? Well, mostly because of the artsy pirple shading and the gross attempt at performing a middle-ground between anime and western realism which for the most part just... looks bad. But this is all my opinion so don't take it personally because that would be incredibly irate and pointless.
But wait! Isn't the RTP for MV also a bit of a middle-ground between western realism and anime and the answer, is yes... kind of. But the thing is the coloring is so much more pleasing to look at (because they don't do the ghastly purple-red shading on everything) and its less western and more anime.
You may wonder why i give a shit about this considering as a creator with nothing but free time and money to burn to the point that I make my games entirely with custom resources anyway, how much did this really sway me? Well, not much. I just felt it worth noting.
Oh also the music is the best it's ever been in MV and possibly MZ (I forget but I don't recall MZ's ost being below the par MV introduced)
I started using rpgmaker VX and went forwards, i did use XP for a while too and there's a reason i never released a single game with it and that is because... it, is shit.
The primitive version of rgss combined with the lack of experience most coders had at the time (considering rmxp was the first rpgmaker in which you could code at all without very sus third-party overhauls) meant doing much custom was always a bit of a rigmarole, the other problem lies in that support for it and it's scripts is basically defunct as the engine is from a bygone age of rose-tinting and excaption errors... so many exception errors.
There's also the fact a lot of the availability of the vast library of scripts of XP is kind of just GONE as a result of RPGmakerWeb's gross monopolization of the engines and community making most outward forums like this rather redundant and communities fell apart one by one, to this day only very few remain at all and fewer still are active so there's been a blackhole of information as a result.
Furthermore the RTP of XP is by far the worst of them all. You have the more painterly style for the maps, backgrounds and sprites that XP is known for with its round corners and endlessly flaunted as an excuse of using this old engine, the tileset/mapping editor... but then you have the battlers which are irrevocably inconsistent, brandishing the jenki urban funk cartoonish artstyle with these much more soft environments and a complete lack of divergence between the two and you can see why i say the RTP is inconsistent (kind of like people's arguments to keep using the engine) but i digress.
As for 2000/2k3 they're okay but i wouldn't use them. Given that I event most thigns i make it might seem weird for me to say that but my reason for not using these 19-22 year old game engines is just that, they are grossly outdated.
It's like trying to use MsPaint as an artist who has been using a drawing tablet for years it makes no sense to use these engines which are even more respective of the msDOS era.
Thanks for uh... coming to my TED-talk i guess ahaha
I'm going to have to go with XP since that was the best maker with mapping. since you can do a lot with three layers plus the event layer the fact to this day still use it over the other rpg makers.
XP RTP really has aged well before the change to the VX to MZ style. But 2k/2k3 certainly has it share especially the steam versions on what was changed. As well as still being the most used engine of them all. with using the events to make custom stuff.
I have to say mapping really got bad after XP till MZ brought the layer mapping back.
For me there's not really any worse rpg makers just the cons of each.