ALEX : A Two Days Collaborative Game

Organized by: RPG
Released: February 2007
Engine: RM2003

In the early days of RPG Maker it was actually quite common for “teams” to form up to make RM games. As time went on however, many games that would go on to be released were usually just done by one author with friends maybe contributing assets. There was just something about the way RPG Maker was built and the lack of any sort of proper source control that lead to authors simply solo creating stuff on their own. You didn’t need to know how to program and all of your visual/audio assets were borrowed anyway… Which made for some awkward credit sequences when all you put is “Yourself” a bunch of times and of course, “Nobuo Uematsu”.

Throughout RM history, community based games became the main way creators would actually collaborate without strings attached or clashing visions. It was a chance to insert something funny or endearing and ride the chaos that is creation. A popular method was to simply start a project and then hand it to the next person until every participant in the collab had their turn. Another method was to actually utilize the flexibility of map files (IMUs) in a typical RPG Maker project folder. As long as you weren’t referencing something from the database like stats or battles you could actually make the maps independent of each other until they needed to be sewn together through teleport events. The most notable of collab games was ALEX. A collab game series featuring the default hero in which many jokes about the RTP canon and forum culture in general were welcomed. The consistency of the main character also gives an origin point for every contributor to pivot from.

The story goes that the RTP crew is sick of Alex hording all of the glory, so they tie him up and drop him to the ocean. What follows is a sort of limbo dream sequence where community members are free to insert their ideas of what that “dream” would be like, each map eventually fades out and ends as if to pass the torch. The premise reminds me of An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge though the conclusion is a bit reversed.

So it’s really hard to review this game without simply reviewing each map individually. There’s a huge blend of different tones and directions this game goes through. The ‘gameplay’ ranges from mini games to simple NPC fetch quests, to just flat out joke maps or cutscenes. The thing that really gets me, are the really good looking maps that would fit well in a screenshot topic, but the creator decided to just go all out visually instead of making something interactive. The result of this is actually pretty fun. You’d think the game’s quality would be pretty low when knowing the context of its creation. But the variety is the games biggest strength. There are a lot of RPGs out there that can feel really mundane even if its game mechanics are rather polished and professional. RPG Maker games are kind of at their best when they flow in such a way that doesn’t feel entirely cohesive, sometimes you just want a random mini game or a fetch quest thrown in to shake things up, or a cutscene to mellow things out. Ultimately you don’t want these parts to take too long though, and that’s where the event limitations really shine. You only had two days to put it together, and everyone had the same engine and framework to do it in. While some maps are a little difficult, the organizer thankfully added some cheats or shortcuts to make the entire game beatable.

It’s also just a great snapshot of the Gaming World community for the time. As many of the entries actually did try their best to make an impression and weren’t entirely shitposts. When you think about game communities in general, there isn’t actually a whole lot of interaction that goes on as far as game development goes. Usually it was best to pass the time by discussing other topics or getting to know the members in other ways. 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.

Many GW members that didn’t participate were impressed by the success of this project and wanted in on the next one. Alex 2 never ended up happening, but a much much bigger sequel ended up happening known as ALEX III. Which I’ll likely also cover at some point.

Estimated length: 1-2 hours

Download Here (Archive)
Original Release Thread (Archive)
Full Youtube Playthrough

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