Far from being maligned, the RPG Maker series should be held as a custodian of internet-based creative works.
My first RPG Maker project was a Dragon Ball Z game. It is probably more than fair to say my first five RPG Maker projects were Dragon Ball Z games, really. I was convinced that the statistical nature of the series’ “power levels” could translate to a turn-based RPG like those I enjoyed. Trying to make that happen without any knowledge of game development in any form was my introduction to RPG Maker.
RPG Maker 1995, to be exact. Released only in Japan, the program was cracked and translated by the notorious Russian hacker “Don Miguel” and it, and its equally illicit successor, RPG Maker 2000, spread quickly through the community of English-speaking RPG enthusiasts. A simple tool at its core, the ASCII-developed software allowed users access to a tiled map editor and a bare-bones Dragon Quest-esque battle system. Through the uploading of images, or use of the engine’s preloaded graphics, maps could be created. Events, from NPCs to stores, could be then added through rudimentary menus. RPG Maker 2003, and its successor RPG Maker XP, would be translated and cracked by “RPG Advocate”, at least until RMXP’s official English release in 2005.
By the year 2000, the use of RPG Maker by fans crossed over very nicely with emulation and other forms of game preservation, such as the cataloguing of sprite sheets. The ease of importing graphics into RPG Maker encouraged those without graphical nous of their own to repurpose graphics from their favourite titles. Final Fantasy VI, Lunar, Chrono Trigger, Phantasy Star, Suikoden and many more titles were used as source material for hundreds, if not thousands, of abortive RPG titles.