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RPG Maker VX Ace: Your Files and You

Posted on March 5th, 2014

A week or so ago on As the Pixie Turns, my demo for She Who Fights Monsters was delayed for a couple of days due to a technical mishap. What happened is since there’s no “Save As” feature in RPG Maker, I copy-and-pasted my game project files into another project directory, and I planned to edit THAT project to make the demo.

For reasons that I now forget (probably wanting to tweak the map data in the master project and use the improved versions in the demo), I decided to delete the maps in the demo project. Which, in case you missed it, was a completely separate entity from the project I copied it from. So I did the deletions, saved the project, closed it and opened the master project… only to find that all the maps were suddenly gone from there, too.

Now, if you haven’t used RPG Maker, maps are where the program stores ALL your layout data: where things are positioned, what events/scripts are triggered and where, what areas look like, etc. Basically, if a map is deleted, the area is gone forever. If all your maps are gone and they’re not supposed to be, well…. That’s a freak out-worthy event. And somehow, messing with a completely separate project did this to the main one. My best guess is it happened because the master project and the would-be demo were stored in the same directory at the same level, even though they were in different folders. Don’t try to make sense of it. It’s just what the program does.


How to Copy and Backup RGP Maker Files Safely

First off, a usage note. If you delete a map from your RPG Maker VX Ace Project, you can’t undo it. The menu’s Undo option will be greyed out. So when the dialogue box asks you if you’re sure you want to delete it, it’s being completely serious.

Now on to the copy and backup stuff. Here’s the safest way to copy a project:

  1. Start a new project in RPG Maker. Save and exit.
  2. Go the the folder for the project you want to copy. Select the Audio, Data, Fonts (if present), Graphics, Movies and System folders and copy them. Do NOT copy the Game.exe, Game.rvproj, or Game.ini files. For one thing, you don’t need to. For another, I haven’t tested it (and don’t intend to), but copying those files might create the same situation I wound up in above. Better to err on the side of caution.
  3. Go to the folder for the new project you created. Paste the folders you copied into that folder, and it’s okay to overwrite the files that are already there.

You can also use this method to create backups. Just periodically copy and paste the original project’s folders into the copy’s directory. You could also copy and paste the whole project to a separate flash drive or something.


Oh, NOW you tell me.

Okay, so what do you do if your maps are gone or damaged and it’s too late for all that? Or your project isn’t opening due to a corrupted data file? Well, if you have Windows 7 or Vista, you might (emphasis “might”) be able to pull up an older version using the Previous Versions tab. You might be able to do it in Windows 8, too, if you follow this tutorial… and you knew beforehand to activate System Protection. Which I didn’t.

What I wound up doing was downloading a program called Shadow Explorer that lets you do pretty much the same thing: find previous versions of files. If you’re super-duper lucky (which you probably won’t be), you’ll find a very recent version of your project with all your data intact. If you’re moderately lucky (which I was), you’ll end up piecing your project back together from multiple old versions. Either way, here’s how to do it:

  1. Copy your project’s folder and put it somewhere it won’t be overwritten by accident. A flash drive is a good choice. Apparently, so is any location that’s far enough away from the original file, such as a directory that’s a couple of levels up. But leave the original folder in place so you can work on putting its contents back together.
  2. Install and run Shadow Explorer. Use it to navigate to the most recent version of your project’s folder BEFORE things went south.
  3. Right-click on the folder and choose “Export.” Export that folder to your desktop or wherever else is convenient as long as it’s NOT in the same directory as your original project.
  4. Navigate to the exported folder’s Data folder. If the problem is corrupted Actor data or something like that, just copy and paste the appropriate data file into the original project’s Data folder. If all your maps are missing or damaged, copy and paste all of them there. (It’s fine to overwrite.) If only some maps are missing, copy and paste the numbered maps that are missing into the project and see what happens. If some maps are damaged and you have no way to tell what’s what…. Well, you may be in for a bit of trial and error. That’s what backups are for.
  5. Test the project file you’ve repaired. Note you can only open it from RPG Maker itself, not by double-clicking the project file. If everything works more-or-less-properly, great! Get on with debugging the project (there probably will be new bugs or old ones you thought you’d fixed, but at least everything’s not gone) and re-adding/editing any scripts if necessary. If not, close the file (assuming it opened) and go to Step 6.
  6. If the file didn’t open at all, something in the Data folder was probably corrupt and you probably got a pop-up message telling you what it was. If it was working before your restoration attempts, go to that backup you made and copy/paste the functional file from there to the main project’s Data folder. If it was broken to begin with, you’ll need to go back to an even earlier date in Shadow Explorer and export the folder version before the one you’re using. Be sure to give it a different name from your other exported folder. Then, copy/paste the needed file from there.
  7. Keep on exporting, copying, pasting and testing until you’ve got a patched-up version of your project you can work with. You might need to do a lot of “Copy over this one file and see what happens” type of experimentation to get as much back as possible, as close to its previous state as possible. In my case, I wound up with a mixture of data files from three different past dates plus what was still usable from my original project. The process took a good 3-4 hours total, plus time for debugging, further map repairs due to missing Events/Switches and such, and having to completely reconstruct one map I couldn’t get back. But this was still worlds better than having to start from scratch.
  8. It’s now safe to delete the folders you pulled out of Shadow Explorer. You can also delete that backup you made of the original project. But please be sure to make a proper backup of your reconstructed project first and make proper backups regularly so that you don’t have to deal with all this mess again.

And that, as they say, is that.

4 thoughts on “RPG Maker VX Ace: Your Files and You

  1. I’m curious if you are aware of version control systems like Git. They’re a little messy for projects with generated files, like RPGMaker, but they’d seem like they’d be useful in this situation.

    Let me know if you want to know the basics that would be relevant to you.

    1. Never heard of it, but I have the situation under control now by just saving any significant changes to a flash drive. It might come in handy for the future, though (I want to work with Unity), so thanks and share away. 🙂

  2. Version control is basically a good way to store previous versions of files in case you need to undo a destructive change.

    If you’re comfortable with the command line, you basically install git, and input a couple of commands “git add . (add all your files), git commit (Remember this version of my project)”. A lot of people use git with github, which is a kind of like a social network for git projects. Its very simple to export git repos, usually done with just “git push (move the repo) master (The main branch of your project) (Branches are cool, but you don’t need to know about them to get started.)”

    Github makes it pretty easy to look through github projects. You can check out some projects I’ve done like:, but I wouldn’t hold it up as an example of best practices.

    If you’re not comfortable with the command line, you can use something like Atlassian Sourcetree to manage git projects, but its a little finicky (It likes to start projects in empty folders, but you can get around that)

    You can also use Dropbox to get some limited version control:

    1. I pretty sure Git has a GUI, as when I installed Git, it asked me if I wanted a fancy GUI to go with it, which I took then ended up with both Git Shell and the GUI on my desktop.

      Maybe GitHub takes care of all that. All I remember it was was drag and drop easy.

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