I'm breaking down and working more on my RPG Maker game now. I've put a lot of thought into what I did wrong, and what I've done right. This all appears below.
Things I regret:
1. Not doing better at statistics so making character level growths balanced on my first try was easy, as well as making it so that I had a better intuitive feel for numbers [the first few weeks were spent demo battling over and over again tweaking numbers until the combat felt fair].
2. Making my first game learning RPG Maker involve two player parties with a non-shared inventory, along with a major branch split in Chapter 2.
3. Having a cast of 22 PCs [11 for each player party.]
4. Being so married to the original plot outline that I can't bring myself to edit out whole plots and subplots to bring down the cast.
5. Not taking a lot of programming courses. Granted, RPG Maker is fairly intuitive, but I feel like a lot of my early problems could have been solved if I had a bit more knowledge of how computers worked.
6. I think I should have approached RPG Maker at first with "What will be easy to make and fun to play?" Not: "What story do I want to tell?" After working on this, the next time a game dev says "We thought about giving players that option, but decided it would take too many resources," I'm going to give them the benefit of the doubt that that is exactly what happened. I've already scrapped Ending Variants 4 and 5 because I'm just one person, gosh darn it, and I'm very tempted to narrow it down to just one ending. But, since the central themes involve people accepting and dealing with reality, idealism, cynicism and such, taking away the player's ability to meaningfully effect the game's reality is kind of cheap, even if it will save me months of development time.]
Things I don't regret:
1. Sticking in lots of little Easter egg dialogues/events that most players will never see. These are relatively low investment time [just scripting text and an event flag], for a lot of pay off for players.
2. Deciding that the game math is less important than getting it done. The first draft of the game [after Chapter 2], will probably be stupid easy, and I'm kind of OK with that [enemies will probably have about 20-30% too little health to be a reasonable challenge, and once the party hits level cap for each chapter, should take negligible damage.]
3. Arbitrary chapter divisions. I really like these in games, because they allow players to divide up the game, mentally. In Suikoden, for example, certain recruitment events are only available during certain time periods. The game, however, gives you no indication, other than the plot moving forward, that some arbitrary period has happened, potentially locking you out of characters.
4. Accepting place holder art and music. This has saved a ridiculous amount of time on my end that I can't help but love the fact there are loads of people who love sharing free resources online for use in my not-for-profit endeavor.
5. Level caps per chapter. This is just a cheap game balance cop out. I accept that, nay, I embrace that. Cheap game balance cop outs are what I'm all about.