It's not just the battle system, it's how the battle system "feels". Even if two games both implement a turn-based battle system with action timers, both would be implemented differently, and feel different, even if they result in the same output. Two artists painting a bowl of fruit produce two different paintings that have different "feels" to them, even if the result is still a bowl of fruit. If twenty games share what "feels like" the same system, I honestly think it can affect how the game is perceived and experienced.
If one game "feels like" another game (because of art style, GUI interface, character art that happens to look similar despite created by two completely different artists, similar storyline, or any of dozens of other things), it can tarnish the original feel of the game.
The human mind is designed to note similarities, to help rapidly identify patterns or things it has encountered before. [Warning: pseudo-psychology] The uniquenesses of the game gets tuned out to help you recognize the similarities to other games you've played before.
This is fine! It can actually be beneficial and designers can take advantage of it (Movies do - there are languages to movies, that movie watchers understand subconsciously but aren't aware of consciously).
So similarities between games, and even having components (art, some combat mechanics, some color usage, some audio usage) "feel" like components from other games are fine... as long as one game doesn't have too many of it's components feel like too many of the components from another game (instead of their components feeling like they are from a wide variety of other games). If two games (or a group of games) line up in multiple categories, one game subconsciously reminds you too much of the other game.
I'm not saying any one part of RPG Maker is bad - it's a great tool (so is the Source Engine), but that the combination of all those parts (or most of them) feeling similar to the same combination of parts in a wide group of games makes alot of those games "feel like" an "RPG Maker VX game" or a "Source Engine game" or a "Unreal Engine game" or a "Gamemaker game". So games using that tool should work extra hard to make sure they don't "feel like" other games using the same tool.
This is me trying to provide words to something I feel half-intuitively and half-theoretically, and is heavily opinion-based. Take with a grain of salt and a teaspoon of sugar, and don't swim for at least an hour.
The thread topic title says, "Why do game designers and players look down on RPG maker games?"
One of the "rules" of game development that many developers know is that the average player doesn't care what a game looks like under the hood. They don't care that you used engine X or engine Y, that you used language A or language B. They care about what they have right in front of them. Sometimes, hype-relatedly, they think engine X means a game will be better or worse. "Unreal Engine? Didn't Gears of War use that? I like Gears of War! This fantasy game that has nothing to do with Gears of War, I'll probably like also!" (irrational train of logic, because the things they liked about Gears of War weren't tied to the engine, and use of the same engine won't force the other game to include those unrelated gameplay features).
That aside, sometimes people group together wide categories (humans love to categorize, even when it doesn't make sense to do so) of games to help them understand what to expect from a game. We need things to compare it to (marketers are aware of this. "Compare to Vaseline!", "Similar to Saint Ive's", "Chocolate-flavored"). If your game lines up in 15 out of 40 different categories to fifty other games that used RPG Maker VX, people will compare your game to those other games, and come to conclusions before playing your game, or while playing your game. Even if they like your game, if they hated those other games, they might biasedly have a subconscious distaste for your game, because your game reminds them of games they didn't like. (Note: More pseudo-psychology. Just leave the box of salt next to your desk so it's within easy reach)
Imagine eating a food product that tastes good, but A) looks like mold, B) smells like raw sewage.
The chef can complain all he wants about how good it tastes and that you just don't understand fine dining, but really, presentation is part of the meal, and he served a meal that wasn't presented well.
To be fair, RPG Maker games don't look like mold or smell like sewage... but they look like something that reminds you of one game you didn't like (even if they both looked good), and smells like something that reminds you of a different game you hated (even if they both smelled good). You bring your past experiences of everything you've played before into whatever game you are playing now, and if that game triggers your subconscious biases, you'll bring that into your opinions of this new game.
When people look at the RPG Maker VX community (or other communities of sufficiently specific scope) they see the similarities, and it all blends together.
They see RPG Maker games like this:
People inside the community have tuned out the similarities, and have subconsciously adjusted themselves to see the differences, and the differences stand out.
You see RPG Maker games like this:
But you, as a game developer, have to recognize and plan for the fact that people playing your game won't have immersed themselves in the RPG Maker VX community before playing your game, and will bring different perceptions that you will. It's part of your job in making a game to be aware of the perceptions they are likely to bring, and to take advantage of it to improve your game by using players' feelings and the "language of
movies games" to make a more satisfying experience.
This was a bit rambly and long-winded. I'd love for some real psychologists to study this and present their findings in a more layman-friendly way for your average game developer.
Edited by Servant of the Lord, 03 July 2013 - 08:26 PM.