Final Fantasy VII 2D Remake

the way you speak about rm2k3, like “modules, arrays, pointers” sounds like
you’re some badass c++ programmer stuck in the past and only has rm2k3 to
work with

Gutts

Final Fantasy VII is probably the most responsible for the enthusiasm many had in the RPG Maker community as a whole. Even RM2K’s default menu resembles a menu eerily familiar to anyone who’s ever played a Final Fantasy game. While the gameplay template was more akin to Dragon Quest, it was very clear users wanted to make their own Final Fantasies. Fan games, fan sequels, fan remakes, you know it. But even if you weren’t interested, no matter how original a game in RPG Maker was, FF7’s influence and DNA could be felt in all of them.

The top popular games on RMN as of writing

The idea of remaking a Final Fantasy game was always brought up in idea feedback forum threads. Of course, anything past FF6 would be more considered a “demake” because RPG Maker is 2D. Questions would arise at the dilemma of remaking something so close to or above the capabilities of the engine you’re doing it in. Remaking the NES Final Fantasy games made sense, but that had already been done before by Square themselves, multiple times. Doing the SNES games was about on par what RM2K3 was designed for, but even that still has its issues. As we get further out into demake territory the purpose of remaking starts to evaporate. What’s the point? What is the logic in doing this?

Let’s assume for a moment that the question has been answered. Then there’s the problem of the RPG Maker community often being very amateur. There are a lot of choices to be made on what exactly your goal is. Is it to pretend that Squaresoft had actually made a 7th game on the SNES? Or is it to render everything FF6 styled as a substitute instead? Would you use the character sprites that look like RTP? Would the goal then be to do whatever is humanly possible in RPG Maker? There are a lot of directions and intentions to go in, and very few would realize a consistent process. But one such game got very close to being consistent, and that is Vanit’s Final Fantasy VII 2D Remake.

The goal is pretty straight forward: What if FF7 was 2D and created in some kind of alternate reality? The author’s intentions are documented pretty well in the game-page description. Reading through this, it’s easy to realize how subjective this can all get. Vanit is very clear about preserving even the flaws of FF7, however those flaws may be interpreted. For instance, do you fix the typos of the game? Or would the typos still exist in the proposed alternate reality? Vanit recreated all of the UI as best he could, while the over world graphics had to be completely different. Animations, however, were timed out in-sync with the original game as much as possible. Simple details like Cloud popping back into position after attacking were implemented.

Of course PS1 Cloud decides to crit when syncing this up

Liberties still had to be made though. The angle of the pre-rendered backgrounds means that everything had to be locked at a top-down angle that worked well with the grid-like movement RPG Maker came with, a default characteristic. Speaking of RPG Maker defaults, what is most notable about this project is the solution to forgo the default battle system and remake it from scratch with event programming. This means using the point and click tools RPG Maker gives you with no proper coding. It’s one of the more bizarre instances as CBSes were often rare, let alone used for a fan project. Most people who were capable of making CBSes were computer science students who made you wonder why they weren’t just making their own engine with C++ or curing cancer.

Probably more impressive than the CBS is the custom menu. The menu has been fully recreated and is the closest thing to the real game. Visually, the menu does bring out some very specific nuances in how PS1 displays video to the TV screen. As most know, RPG Maker is rendered at 320×240. FF7 actually has 3 different resolution modes, 320×240 for the battles, 320×224 for the maps, and 364×240 for the menus. This makes it difficult to recreate everything pixel per pixel as there has to be choices in how to best to constrain the widths as faithfully as possible. Not only that but the way you would copy the colors based on the original console is up for interpretation.

As I compare the two screens, small things start to crop up. Why is Cloud’s MP at 54/56 at the very start of the game? What about the 240 gil? He’s also about to level up, likely intended for the first incoming battle. Many of these choices are probably arbitrary, but maybe not, it’s hard to say. You’ll notice that Cloud is named instead of being the mysterious Ex-Soldier. It’s mainly due to Vanit running into limitations and deciding to just name Cloud by default, which he details in the best way to own someone online over CMSes. The auto-scrolling is another detail that’s been studied. The CMS was even known for some breakthroughs. If FF7 was only its menu, the 2D Remake would technically be feature complete. The only thing left to do is to actually build the scenes, the story and the battle sequences to support it. Which is the hardest part.

Loading up the game, it’s surreal to hear the bombing mission midi (ripped straight from the PC version) play as Cloud hops out of the train like old times. The chibi-fied nature of the RTP charasets blends pretty well with how you’d remember the pop-eye 3D models. Though, it is hilarious to see some of the stiff 3D animations faithfully recreated in sprite form. Even the way the AVALANCHE NPCs moves on ahead of you demonstrates the nuances behind FF7’s direction. There’s also the text boxes being displayed in a custom fashion that lets them appear anywhere on the screen, and where and when they pop up is faithfully recreated. There are some slight differences if you’re paying attention, like the steam coming out of the train right before Biggs jumps out. Barret voices his distrust for you, and that’s about as far as the demo gets. You can wander around a bit and fight some battles and mess around with the menu, but sadly you aren’t able to blow up the reactor. Vanit eventually gave up on completing the bombing mission and the project as a whole.

I think it does answer the question of why to “demake” a game, though. It strips away the technological/professional differences between RPG Maker games and the games they’re inspired by. It highlights the vision FF7 had and what it meant to so many people. It’s also a craft, in that there have been many many many many attempts at demaking or remaking FF7, but I would say Vanit’s attention to detail highlights that there is an eye for noticing even the most arbitrary of things. However incidental or slapped together a lot of choices in FF7 may have been, there is plenty that can go wrong even in recreating many of these things. That by itself, I think, is interesting. It makes you question the fabric of any creative choice. When things get more subjective on how best to interpret and handle things, a back and forth conversation tends to happen. You see, FF7 was made by humans, for humans, and you can’t really “port” that.

However, being on the frontier of remaking a beloved franchise without any money or credit for originality might not be too liberating for most people. It’s a very arduous task with very little pay-off. There might even be a DMCA in it for you when you do complete it all, and your hard work has to be hosted on torrent sites. Assuming, that is, you don’t get a C&D letter before the project even finishes. There’s also the fact that maybe only the people in the RPG Maker community would appreciate it, and even then as a novelty. It’s a weird curiosity niche that satisfies the what-ifs but not really an entertainment product. As detailed in his blog posts, Vanit moved onto other things and decided to release the source code for all to see. People are welcome to expand on the project or use his findings to further their game development endeavors but it’s pretty much a closed chapter.

It’s easy to look down on fan efforts and wonder why anyone would take it seriously, but that applies to most things that aren’t necessary to your survival. It’s only because an endeavor is accepted by communities that they seem more valid. Even the commercial FF7 Remake could be considered a fan effort, just an officially endorsed one. At the end of day, just go after what you think is cool, after all that’s how Final Fantasy VII was made right?

Final Fantasy VII 2D Remake Gamepage + Download

Final Fantasy VII 2D Remake Topic on Gaming W

REAL cms autoscroll in Rm2k3 Tutorial

FF7 2D Intro Youtube Video

FF7 2D Remake Youtube Channel

Another Hiatus Post (and my game)

I thought I’d plug what I’ve been working on these past months. It’s not an RPG per say, nor is it even made in RPG Maker. Though it does contain a lot of aspects of those things (Top down perspective, tile based, dialogue text, exploration oriented). It’s a Survival Horror game with an emphasis on inventory management and navigating through underground areas:


>> Click Here << to check out the Steam store page (Wishlists appreciated)

The core gameplay is a huge love letter to Resident Evil (the original specifically). Past the first game I never felt they really nailed the balance of having just enough ammo to defeat the necessary enemies. Obviously as Resident Evil rose in popularity there were other gameplay avenues and trends to consider. But as someone came into the series really late (2015) first picking up the REmake on gamecube, I couldn’t find any other game that matched the way item pick ups changed the way you explored the environment (even games way before RE4 barely bother with this). I realized most other Survival Horror games really just cared about the story, pacing or puzzles (which is fine!).

My goal with this game isn’t merely to scratch an itch relating to one specific game. There are a lot of ideas I mixed in because I thought they’d change the flavor of the typical genre I’m working in. The setting is very much a post-apocalyptic underground scenario in which you just wander around and discover the history for yourself. A big inspiration is the manga BLAME! In which the plot is somewhat scarce with some intrigue throughout, but the substance is in the background, the strange spaces that unfold in the panels.

BLAME! A manga that has developed a cult following over the years

There’s a certain feeling I can’t describe that I want to recreate in an interactive fashion. Though I don’t know if I’ll be successful or if it’s even possible to convey. It falls somewhere in the camp between appropriating German Expressionism and wandering around abandoned areas IRL.

If this sounds like a value proposition to you then I hope you’re one of many. I want to find out that I’m not isolated in my search for a game like this, it just so happens I decided to make it myself. Somewhere along the way a lot of Sci-fi RPGMaker games have probably influenced my sensibilities in how the maps were constructed and laid out.

Anyway I’m pretty close to release and things have been busy. So that’s why I don’t have much extra time other than to promote it and constantly think about the launch.

Appreciate any support and don’t forget to wishlist!

Small Hiatus

I wrote a big tldr of my hiatus situation, then wordpress decided not to save as a draft in the middle of it. So tldr: I don’t want to have people thinking an article will spring up randomly any time soon or give the impression that the site’s dying. Rest assured I’ll get back to this blog in a few months after dealing with business.

Also check out Villnoire, Country of Snow, Pilgrim’s Road, and Theia – The Crimson Eclipse, if you’re looking for any 2019 rm2k3 games to try out. They’re quite cool.

Finding Forever Eden

Author: Nerow_Alexangelos / Rowen
Released: January-November 2006
Engine: RPG Maker 2003

The title of this game probably says more about its development than getting an idea of what the story could be about (zing, still got it kids). It barely got past the status of being a notable proof of concept demo and always seemed to be re-iterated on over and over. The last incarnation of this game doesn’t even have the same title (on RMN it’s known as Ghosts of the Arcanum), at some point the author was compelled enough to share the history of the game’s development through screenshots. Through the several UI changes, the swapping of ideas and scenarios, it’s hard to remember which of these screenshots represent what I remember of this game.

My mind conjures up a haze of a saturated maps with a semi advanced DBS showing off potential features. There’s a deliberate noir-like tone enhanced by the charsets dressed in garbs that would fit in The Matrix. That’s probably apparent in all 4 of the demos, but it does beg the question of how one compartmentalizes game releases. The creator of Arafell likely wishes to bury the 2005 demo in favor of the newer refined commercial 2016 release. That’s 11 years of conjuring what Arafell was eventually going to be before the full release finally concluded it. There’s a similar discourse on how a certain popular TV show based on a set of fantasy novels should have ended. But what if the media in question never ends, and what if it’s split in multiple re-attempts?

The first demo named Finding Forever Eden – Intro contains a whopping 2 maps that feature a cut-scene introducing the game with a voice over followed by a slow text crawl (that’s still faster than l i t t l e m o n e y) explaining the lore of the game with terms that would make for good metal band names like “Celestial” which refer to angelic beings tied to the titular “Forever Eden”. I won’t go to much into the story as it kind of is what you’d expect from an RPG lore dump, but there is something about it that focuses a lot on biblical interest and spiritual connections.

The second demo released in around March 2006 simply titled “Finding Forever Eden”, features a battle training area complete with a scrolling abstract white grid background. A mysterious character tells you about how battles work and you’re thrown into a fight with 6 beings known as “Glitched Shado” there’s not a whole lot to the fight really as they have really large HP pools that can be dispatched with a strong AOE. But then the fight just resets again. The load file does have a NPC reference to the game Eldritch, a game made by Legion which is cemented in ancient forum history.

Onto Finding Forever Eden 4.0 (May 1st 2006), though not quite the 4th game in the series it was common for many RM creators to never have a consistent way of numbering versions. We can at least assume it came before 9.0 though. The title screen no longer features a hand drawn anime character and leads into a rather abstract menu backed up by the signature white grid. There are many menu options and seperate story cutscenes. Much of the dialogue is rather hard to understand. As evident by the music, it feels like being thrusted in the middle of a Kingdom Hearts cutscene with no context for what’s going on. There’s a dream sequence that resembles the beggining of KH too, but there’s a more mature slant to the world that gives this game its own voice. It steers clear of any common RPG terms like “Potion” or “Magic” and instead has a lot of abstract replacements for what you’d typically see in most other fantasy affairs (for example the poison status is called “Impurity”).

The battles are slightly improved this time around, featuring a context command that allows you to perform moves in specific situations. For instance in a battle surrounded by two enemies you can jump up in the air to let the enemy hit the other. It’s not complex to use at all, but it does add a cinematic flair to the combat filled with black robed figures. It concludes with more monologues from a mysterious robed figure, and our amnesic hero is left with a lot of questions before a Coming Soon message appears. In my own way, I too want answers. None of the demos really resemble what I remember of this game, and yet the game’s themes is very bent on memories and illuminating the truth in darkness. I certainly don’t remember this much story, so it’s still a treat. Perhaps 9.0 will shed some light.

This is the first shot I see and it basically confirms what I remember. A foresty cabin area with a combat demonstration. By now the aesthetics of the text boxes have become a muted black with a thick white border. What’s also apparent are the custom symbols that became widespread when hacking into the RPG_RT became common knowledge at this point. To be able to witness the subtle UI color differences between builds is an exercise of realizing how re-iteration is sometimes a slow gradual process.

The funny thing about the schizophrenic nature of the story in the 4.0 demo is that it’s analogous to how much the story-line and presentation keeps changing ever so slightly in development. The main character Rowen is subjected to dream-like sequences with the drive to find out why he is in the situations he is in. There’s a large focus on memories and anthology style of story telling where details are obfuscated in favor of ramblings about light and darkness. It’s not to say that the development having setbacks is some kind of avant garde way of making this more than it is, it’s just that the tendency to wander in ideas seems to correlate with the game’s unwillingness to sum up anything concrete.

The screenshots section on RMN tells a story that the game’s development started as early as RM95. The game also went through some unreleased progress on the author’s youtube channel. Some time in 2016 the author asked about engine recommendations. One day it might return in some form, but at this point it’s not really about remarking on the shoulda couldas or hoping that this game would be released, but to at least derive some admiration for what made the tiny snippets of this project so memorable. It’s not that the demo has any compelling gameplay or moments, but that the shell of what it wants to be can lead to a pretty cool set of ideas. The Matrix meets Kingdom Hearts is a rough way to sum it up, but I can’t think of any other media that tries to attempt that either. Only in a strange niche part of the RPG Maker community could a thing like this appear in the void.

For more thoughts on the game I’m doing an experimental commentary video over the demo gameplay footage. Let me know what you think of the format:

One correction, the intro demo actually came before the first battle demo

Download (All 4 Demos)
Ghosts of Arcanum Game Page
Youtube Development Footage
Youtube Playthrough (Commentary)
Youtube Playthrough (Gameplay Only)

Seekers of the Sun

Author: Remains of Scythe / Remainaery
Released: June 2004
Engine: RPG Maker 2000

In the early 2000s, CBSes (or Custom Battle Systems) were all the rage among RPG maker users. At the time RM2K was only able to do Dragon Quest (first person perspective) battles that were quite plain. There was an unspeakable notion in the scene at the time: that almost everyone wanted something akin to Final Fantasy 6. Give us chibi sprites standing on the side of the screen delivering blows that pop out numbers and all of our problems would be solved (except for motivation, limitations of time, and responsibilities). However Seekers of the Sun is notable in that it didn’t just rest at making a side view, but decided to tackle a Chrono Trigger styled battle system. Where the battles would happen on the actual map you were just walking around on. There have been “tech” demos that attempted this, but this is the only actual playable RM game with a CT styled CBS that I can recall.

The game is set in a cold dystopian underground complex. You play as the edgelord of edgelords, an artificial being known as Abyss. Much like the start of Elfen Lied (or the more kid friendly Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back) you’re going on a rampage on those responsible for creating you. Abyss spouts lines of dialogue about how powerful he is and pathetic the things he’s going up against. Although this is all quite self-indulgent and angsty I kind of welcome it these days. Anecdotally I come across a lot of modern RPGs and games that are a bit too afraid to go down this route, or are too self-aware to fall too hard into this trap. The strength of this game’s grim dark tone is that things just feel IMPORTANT in ways that are hard to explain. Probably due to the various biblical references and showy philosophical musings. Ultimately this feels like an in-media res intro ala Breath of Fire 4 where you play as a powerful being at first to get a taste of the battle system while things are still easy. It’s likely you’re meant to play a more optimistic protagonist later on.

The graphics are mostly CT edits that are cohesively put together. There’s this dominant blue hue added to a lot of the assets and makes the world rather cold and unwelcoming. Some places look really great, and even if they’re a slog to navigate sometimes, they sure work well as a backdrop for when the battle starts. Speaking of the battles, there’s sadly not much to say. You can spam attack, defend, or use an item. The author’s note says he was persuaded to just release what he had even if the battle system was still basic. Still it’s really cool to see what the result looks like when put into an actual game with story. The execution is simply making the attack animation be a picture that moves to whatever xy coordinate the monster is, and play effects over the target. The challenge compared to other CBSes is mainly figuring out how to organize events on the maps themselves without things getting too messy. Taking a peak into the editor it seems like a lot of copy pasting is done in an organized fashion on the maps to pull this off. Every possible target and charset setting/animation is placed on the map even if you’re only fighting way less than the maximum. There are interesting design challenges to consider as far as how they’re initiated and where the space ought to be. There aren’t a ton of a battles to experience as a result of this.

The CBS programming was done by Kokibi, and in true collaborative fashion, Remains of Sycthe helped with the art on Kokibi’s own project: A Gate into Eternity. Seekers of The Sun garnered way more attention despite both projects featuring elaborate battle systems. Notably this was a German made game (seems only to be in English as far as I know) that was featured on Gaming Ground Zero alongside the likes of Velsarbor. It’s interesting to look into the author’s history and his origins being that of a webcomic circle. A lot of the faceset/portaits are his and seems very much in tune with the angsty dark anime aesthetic that plagued many deviant art pages and webrings. It gives the impression that RPGMaker wasn’t just for making “your own Final Fantasy” but also to bring imagined adventures to life that you had in drawings and in your mind. There’s a blend of rips and custom art that really adds character to the game and even though this only got as far as a proof of concept, I’m glad it exists.

Estimated Length: Less than an hour

Download Here (English)
RPG Maker Quartier Download (Mirror)
RMArchiv Page (Download Mirror)
Author’s Deviant Art
GGZ Archive and History + Download
Youtube Playthrough
Interview with Kokibi and Scythe (Google Translated from German)
German Site Page (RPG Atelier)
Trailer (Youtube)

Crossbone

Created by: Daniel Olsén
Released: August 2003
Engine: RM2000

It’s got pirates, robots, explosions and an old man who talks to birds! What more could you want? Back in the Gaming Ground Zero days I would occasionally browse the main site. There was no way to know of an upcoming game release or anything, no notifications or popups. You’d just go through your daily sites and hope to see an update. Games weren’t user submitted on GGZ you see, they were often approved and placed by the webmaster. One early morning, I happened across a game called Crossbone with only a couple of sentences and a title screen to go by. That was the thing about GGZ, you never really knew what you were going to get. Yet the games from that site were always a step above most RM games due to the curated nature of the members and the community.

Replaying this for the first time in 15 years, I realize this game still has a lot of heart. While the battles are a bit rough (enemies are sometimes higher HP than they need to be), the sequences are just so imaginatively crafted. A lot of the scenes often take a page out of a Final Fantasy’s idea of comedic relief. Where nameless henchmen have just as much personality as the main characters. A lot of the events play out like a Saturday-morning cartoon with a pint of seriousness. You play as Breeze, an anchor wielding (swords aren’t cool enough for him) freelancer who always has trouble following him wherever he goes. After getting entangled with some pirates he gets knocked out by a wave caused by an unknown being. This spirals into further crazy adventures.

“I was planning to pack so much into that game that it would have been unwieldy. I did learn a lot about being creative within limitations thinking back on it, even if it creeps up on me from time to time. Now my problem is usually the opposite, I tend to over-plan so I end up exhausted before I even begin haha.”

Daniel Olsén

The art is comprised mostly of original art overlayed on an RTP chipset framework. For example you might see the standard RTP ship tilset, but covered in metallic tiles made by the author himself. A lot of the scenes are accompanied by drawings that act as comic book panels of sorts. They give a really good cinematic emphasis in the flashbacks and important segments. I could talk about the individual aspects of this game, but it really comes down to it feeling like an adventure. I think RPGs always have that problem of sometimes starting out with hometown + chores or like fighting rats in a sewer dungeon. Crossbone just says screw that, you’re fighting a robot with an anchor in the first 6 minutes. There’s a sequence where this old man summons a giant owl god thing with a sword to fight this giant bug thing. There’s another section where a ship you’re on gets raided by dragon people using a slime infested coral reef that stops the ship from moving, but like, it can also turn into a mech? AND A UNICORN LOOKING BOAT ALSO TURNS INTO A MECH TO STOP IT.

“The ship battle sequence for Crossbone is made by the creator of Mog’s Adventure, in return I created the maps and such for the final dungeon of that game. A lot of the non-sprite art in the game is embarrassing looking back since I tended to draw the heads before the body so the proportions came out all janky. But it is what it is and every experience is valuable for the future. After Crossbone I went to college, I experience various things and worked as a freelance illustrators for a few years.”

Daniel Olsén
The dungeon in Mog’s Adventure that Daniel worked on

The author Daniel Olsén still works on game projects from time to time. His passion for fiction and art has never faded and mostly does art and comics. It’s easy to see the connection between how bombastic and theatrical Crossbone was and his current artwork. Although that can take a lot of effort and time, sometimes leaving an impression is worth it in the end. It certainly added to the surprise of browsing through RPG Maker games all those years ago.

Check out Daniel Olsén’s portfolio!

Estimated Length : 2 hours or so

Download Here (Archive)
GGZ Archive and History
Youtube Playthrough (Chapter 1)

RM Historia March 2019 Roundup

Since I’m in the habit of doing a lot of record keeping, here are some article recaps for the previous month. It’s been half a month in starting this blog, and the rush of realizing the need and potential for this… thing, this project, is easy to get overwhelmed by. I decided to pace myself more and keep some articles on the back burner instead of uploading them as soon as possible.

To summarize what this is, RM Historia aims to go through the RPG Maker games that time has forgot and provide context behind the communities they were made in. It also dwells on the connections prevalent in our media in order to try and better make sense of this fast internet high-way. Secretly it’s just an excuse to post screenshots/video coverage and keywords of rm2k/3 games for the giant search machines to latch onto.

Here are the games covered last month:


Wings of Origin

An emotive and vengeful story combined with the use of Brave Fencer Musashi tracks made this small demo stick with me. It’s a ride full of twists and turns all in 18 minutes.


Shattered Samurai

I recall this topping a lot of download lists on various sites probably because of the title or its liberal use of Rurouni Kenshin images. Regardless, it’s a pretty subpar action game with a story that focuses heavily on the death of the main characters parents (and by heavily I mean literally every NPC references it).


Fatal Limits

That’s the cool thing about RPG Maker, you didn’t need high caliber assets or talented skills to convey a dense dystopia. There’s just an aesthetic to this that’s hard to resist.


Redmoon Saga

Created 2 months after the RPGMaker 2000 translation had been released, clocking in at around 1 hour squeezed into 15 maps, this demo managed to impress people at the time.


Zeara – Tales of the Matrielle

Zeara’s charsets and monsters are custom while the chipsets are heavily edited RTP to match with the style. There’s a very cute aesthetic to the entire game, and it looks rather unique as a result.


Tetris

The real question though, is it THE Tetris? Very likely not. The aesthetics are somewhat charming though, and it feels in the vein of CD-i Tetris and how it’s more interesting to look into the background/music choices than the actual programming.


The Rose Chronicles

This started just as a side project Legacy001 worked on to take a break from doing the Naufragar series. Though it’s understandable why the project took too much effort to continue working on. In the end it ended up being one of the more memorable demos of the mid-GW era.


NigSek: A Monster’s Tail

This homage really interacts with the lore and ethos of Zelda, given that it came out before Wind Waker, there’s an interesting context from what material was available back in 2001.


Huey the Kid

Why did I remember this game? Why did I pick this game to review? I dunno. There doesn’t have to be a crazy meaning to everything, media doesn’t always have to go through holding up against the test of time. What matters to me the most about this game was the simple context of when and where I was playing it.


Solar Tear

The perfectionist mentalities were rampant, but so were the expectations and the standards. It’s sometimes hard to release with so much pressure on the line. In any case I was glad I got to experience this cyberpunk landscape once more.


ALEX : A Two Days Collaborative Game

This was a chance to witness many different development skills people possessed and put them together. Outside of this event, some members would never release a game of their own due to their motivation, but the event was a chance to just put something out there. There was also a guarantee that everyone would be playing each others maps, leading into something to talk and reflect about.