Compatibility is always an issue where older games are concerned, and especially when it comes to older indie games. Though I’ll be covering plenty of new games where compatibility (usually) isn’t a concern, a good number of games will require a trick or two to get working. That said, two programs in particular (well, one program and one set of programs) are all you’ll need to get most of this stuff working properly.
Games made in really old versions of Game Maker just will not work on any remotely new version of Windows without some tweaking. While it may be possible to get some of these working by playing around with compatibility options, the easiest way I’ve found of fixing this issue is to use the ‘Game Conversion Program’. This is a small download and the program itself is easy to use. Launching the Game Conversion Program will pop up a small window into which you can drag an old Game Maker game executable file. After that, it will make the new, updated copy of the program which you should be able to run without any issues and it will add “_orig” to the end of the original program’s name. In short, if a game made with Game Maker won’t start, taking a few seconds to make an updated version with the Game Conversion Program is usually all you will ever have to do in order to fix it.
If you want to play games made in any of the numerous RPG Maker programs, you’re probably going to need to get what are known as the Runtime Packages (RTP). Every version of RPG Maker has its own RTP and this is basically a package containing all of the default assets which come with RPG Maker. These RTP packages are somewhat large, usually a few hundred megabytes, but having the appropriate RTP package means those assets don’t need to be packaged with the games themselves and it significantly cuts down on download sizes in the long run.
For example, let’s say a game made using RPG Maker VX Ace has a size of 30 megabytes, another game made using VX Ace has a size of 25 megabytes, and the VX Ace RTP is roughly 200 megabytes. As all games made using most versions of RPG Maker must either include the respective RTP assets in their download or assume you already have them, you can either download a single 200 megabyte copy of the RTP files in advance and then download the 30 and 20 megabyte game files or download versions of each of the games with the RTP files included specifically for that game, resulting in a 230 megabyte download on top of a 220 megabyte download just for two games. On top of this, the vast majority of freeware RPG Maker developers assume that players have downloaded and installed the standalone RTP files and usually don’t even offer ‘with RTP’ versions of their games. Basically, you’re going to want to make sure to just download the necessary RTP files in advance so you can avoid potentially having to deal with multiple large downloads later on.
Installing the RTP files is as simple as installing pretty much anything else. Just launch the program, choose the directory you want to install to, and that’s really all there is to it. The catch to all of this is that it’s a bit cumbersome to actually find the RTP files in the first place. If you want to play a game made using the XP, VX, or VX Ace (which has a different set of assets from VX despite the name) versions of RPG Maker or the new, official version of RPG Maker 2003 you’re in luck as they are all easily available through the official website; RPG Maker MV does not have an RTP. Unfortunately, the original versions of 2000 and 2003 (now labelled as RPG Tsukuru 2000 and RPG Tsukuru 2003 respectively) were never officially released in English and the games made with these programs require unofficial RTP’s to function. These fan-made RTP’s are not identical to the RTP’s for the much newer, official versions of these programs and fall into an odd legal grey area where they are technically illegal, but openly tolerated by Enterbrain (the developer of RPG Maker) so, while I cannot provide links to them, they are both easy enough to find with a little bit of searching if needed.
Not every issue with freeware indie games can be solved with the Game Conversion Program and the right RTP files, but downloading these programs as soon as possible will likely save you more than a little bit of time and effort down the road if you’re interested in entering the miraculous, nightmarish, and bizarre world of freeware gaming.
The Game Conversion Program can be found at: http://help.yoyogames.com/entries/26992537-Troubleshooting-Legacy-GameMaker
Most RTP files can be found at: http://www.rpgmakerweb.com/download/additional/run-time-packages