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.
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:
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
Interview with Kokibi and Scythe (Google Translated from German)
German Site Page (RPG Atelier)
Created by: Daniel Olsén
Released: August 2003
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 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.
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:
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.
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).
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.
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’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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Created by: BusterManZero
Released: June 2003
So what if I told you people not only made fan games in rpgmaker, but people made fan games of rpgmaker games in rpgmaker? Really makes you think doesn’t it? The catalyst for such a project came from the Legion Saga series by a user called Kamau. These were 3 full games made in RPG Maker loosely inspired by Suikoden and other RPGs. What made Legion Saga special was that it was proof that you really could make a “numbered” series with RPG Maker provided you had the motivation and drive to pull it off. The original Legion Saga was going to have a remake made in RPG Maker 2003 (though there’s even another still being made), and there was even a spinoff game featuring a side character that had an ABS. It was everything you’d expect from a “franchise” even having its own lore wiki before wikis were even a thing. Enter in people wanting to make fan games to further expand on this potential universe, 9 of them in fact. Many of them were never finished, but the most prominent was Legion Saga Zenith (Not to be confused with Legion Saga Zero) as it was one of the first.
This is a strange combo of things. At first, the system sets, the Roco facesets, the Luca Blight Battle midis and the political dialogue involving kings and assassins are all there to feel like Legion Saga. Now most common wisdom would say if it looks and quacks like a duck then… but wait – the wide open mapping with no concern for proportions, the constant spelling mistakes, dialogue prose that of a robot… this is a noob RTP game! It may be far from RTP in terms of resources, but the application of everything makes it feel very rudimentary. It’s not to say the actual Legion Saga series doesn’t always have its shortcomings, but there’s just something about the cutscenes in Zenith that feel “off” as if there isn’t any coherence to the narrative.
Important events will just happen and then resolve moments after. Typically a known Legion Saga character will come in to save the day only to leave faster than that. As if these characters were actors with limited billing to do a cameo in a straight to VHS sequel. The writing overall really does sit in the realm of Shattered Samurai. Instead of awkwardly appropriating Asian tropes though, it’s weirdly appropriating itself while collapsing in on the source material. When both the source game and fan game are made in the same engine and only mere years apart, it becomes interesting to separate the standards and differences between the two, a microcosm of fandom vs creator interaction.
“Okay that’s great and all” you interrupt, “but is this game deemed CANON?”
Looking at the handy rules and regulations, you wouldn’t even be considered a fan game if you set the events after Legion Saga 3. But what does it matter at this point? Star Wars is by all accounts being made by fans these days. Just about any long lasting franchise will be recycled into eternity thanks to copyright extensions (Several NES games would be entered in the public domain by now to give you an idea of an alternate history). RPG Maker 2k/3 pre-2013 was a wild west though, the Legion Saga games were made on an illegal program used along with illegally used graphics. There is no real jurisdiction to refer to, nothing was enforced except from the culture of the RM community itself. That’s what I like about the situation of Legion Saga fan-games, they just did not give a shit about the outside world, yet stood by these invisible rules by Kamau’s word anyway. One thing that’s for sure though… is that Space Funeral 2 and 3 are definitely canon.
I have no clue what I’m going to write when I get to like, the 10th Final Fantasy RM fan game…
Organized by: RPG
Released: February 2007
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