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This block of text spoils the game, it's recommended that you at least try out the game first before reading it.

I picked RPG Tsukuru 2000 since it's not very common nowdays to see anything made with it and because I wanted to finish a game with it for the longest time.

The game is a metaphor representing my struggles when finding internet forums and trying to join a community, the story starts in 2011 (since I discovered internet at that time) and ends in 2015 when I started being more active in RMN.

A few things can happen when you don't know how internet forums work.

You find a bad forum where you are shunned and you eventually quit.
You find a good forum where you are shunned and insist since there's something worthwhile.

In all forums you'll find people that don't like you.

In all forums you, the newcomer, will feel unfairly treated or wronged since most people already know each other and will either ignore your posts or attack you for having different opinions, these users will also gang up on you since they know each other and support each other, sometimes they don't even realise what they're doing since they never were on the receiving end.

It's frustrating and exhausting.

In a good forum you'll ultimately find some cool people you'll get along with, if you stay around long enough (that was around a 4 year wait for me).

This is the main setting for the game, now for what each "thing" means in-game.

Title Screen:
- ARRIVE > means that you arrived at the internet, starts the game.
- RETURN > return to the internet, loads the game.
- IGNORE > ignore the bad times you spend on the internet, exits the game.

The introduction shows the word "ALONE", you are then dumped in an oppressive environment in black & white, with limited visibility and "old movie" rain.

The game actually doesn't have a name, I decided the game wouldn't have a name, that's why you don't even get text in the game window, for the original event version I wanted to take out the icon too, but didn't have the time, for the revamped version I decided it would be better to have some sort of icon so the game launcher would be more visible.

The lack of game name was to reinforce the empty notion.

The "old movie" rain represents what you see as something old, a memory of the past.

The "black & white" shows how there's no happiness here, it's all dark and gloomy, these aren't nice places to be in.

The "limited visibility" represents how little you understand of this internet world you are now in.

The "background sounds" represent how empty and alien this place is, there is no music or melody, just weird ambient sounds, since it leaves the interpretation more open than using a music with a specific tone.

The main character "glows" to show it has some sort of light inside it even in such a dark place, and to make it stand out more in this black & white environment.

The revamped version has faceless humanoid statues which represent the many different faceless people observing you, it also complements the atmosphere.

The way the dungeon is presented was inspired by:
- The old "Zelda" games where each screen is played individually.
- "The Heroe II" an old Spanish RPG Maker 2000 classic game by "uva_r" which had a dungeon with a similar method of navegation, plus I love that game!

RPG Tsukuru 2000 won't allow you to remove menu options, so I had to think of something for all of them.

Game Menu:
- Display > "concepts" you display to others in a conversation, the item menu.
- Thoughts > thoughts you have and use in conversations, the skill/spell menu.
- Self > what you are and use, the equipment menu.
- Remember > memorize this point in time and return to it later, memories, the save menu.
- Stop > quit suffering through this abuse, you'll be asked "..." if you use it, meaning you won't say a thing and just leave, the exit menu.

The original event version had HP and MP because I couldn't think of anything clever to rename them and also wanted players to immediately recognize their function. You can only do so much in 8 hours :P

For the revamped version I named them "Energy / En" and "Passion / Ps" respectively, these words seem to serve their double function as gameplay and story context.

Self/Equipment Menu:
- Speech > this is the language one uses in conversations.
- Fact > a fact you can use to your favor in arguments.
- Me > you, something from you.
- Emotions > your emotions, I wanted to start the game with something equiped here, a negative emotion, but I though it would confuse the player even more so I ditched that idea.
- Motivation > this was supposed to the called "Inspired by/Inspiration" but it was too large and didn't fit with the character limit, so "Motivation" was the closest thing, this is why there's 3 different people you can "equip" here, people that inspire me through their works.
- MS > this is Makerscore, you have "0" throughout the game, since you're new here, this was currency.

In the same menu you'll find, ATK, DEF, MAG and AGL. In the original event version I didn't change them so the player could understand what they were.

I renamed these for the revamped version, INFLUENCE, TOUGHNESS, INTELLECT and READINESS.
They all have the same length to look aesthetically pleasing on screen, it took some time to find words with the same lenght which actually worked as a story and gameplay context.

Some of these "names" weren't changed in the original event version to favor gameplay and because I didn't have enough time to think of clever & functional cryptic descriptions.

Game Items:
- A Point > to "show" (relating to "Display" being the item menu) a point in a conversation, it heals HP since conversations decrease HP and making a point will give you the necessary "Energy" to go on.
- Idea > to "show" an idea in a conversation, it heals MP because it's related with "Thoughts" which are the MP consuming skills you use, ideas show your "Passion" for something.
- English > the language used in all the forums I visited, in order to better express yourself you need a better grasp of English, it's a weapon.
- Google > in order to back up some of your claims you need evidence/facts since some people won't accept what you have to say otherwise, google can sometimes provide that, it's an armour, a flimsy one though.
- Imagination > can make the worst situations seem better (sometimes), you need it to keep going, you need it to be creative, it comes from you.
- Joy > emotion to counter negative emotions, can be hard to find, elemental protection armour, protects from "Grief".
- Kentona > creator of "Hero's Realm", one of the greatest and most successful old school RPG Tsukuru 2003 games and several other impressive projects, and to think he managed to make an RPG epic from the get go! Enables the use of the "Perseverance" skill.
- Spoonybard > creator of "Final Fallacy", the original & best humorous RPG Tsukuru 2000 game/demo and several other impressive projects, enables the use of the "Irony" skill.
- Zydin > personal friend, creator of good books and several other impressive projects, enables the use of the "Explain" skill.
- Frustration > this item is only available on the revamped version, you get it by beating the last boss, like in real life, it serves no useful purpose.

Game Thoughts/Skills/Spells:
- Perseverance > don't give up, persist on your goal to achieve it, ATK buff spell.
- Irony > lightens up the mood with some humour to counter negative posts, attack spell.
- Explain > explains a point in detail, extends the conversation, healing spell.

I think the relation between each skill and their respective item is self-explanatory.

Irony and Spoonybard go hand in hand.
Perseverance is something Kentona has or he wouldn't have finished so many great projects.
As for Explain, you'd have to meet my friend to get it :P

Battle Options:
- Take Part > take part in the discussion, enter the battle.
- Don't Care > sometimes you just don't care, this is auto battle.
- Turn Back > don't take part in the discussion, in the original event version you could only do this with Bad Topic, I thought about taking out this option but it relates too well with the story, in the revamped version you can only run away from "Observers" and one special battle (not Bad Topic), you can't turn back from other battles to make it harder gameplay-wise and to force you into an X number of mandatory battles.
- Commune > attempt to talk with someone, can be ignored, usually ends badly or can be perceived as an attack, attack command.
- Thoughts > what's in your head at the moment, can change the outcome of a conversation, your idea about something, skills/spells.
- Stand > make a stand about a point you made, you should only use it against Darth Revan when he prepares an argument (accumulates ATK power), defend command.
- Display > "shows" something relevant to the conversation, item command.

- Anonymous > random people around the internet, you don't know each other, but they like to "attack" others in forums for the heck of it, if you don't pay them much attention or avoid them (there's no avoiding sometimes), they cease to be a problem. These encounters still take their toll on your well-being, you may not notice it at first, but you'll grow more tired each time you encounter them, even when you can deal with them fairly easily.
Looks like a ghost because of their fleeting nature.
- Darth Revan > a bad moderator from a bad forum, if you go unprepared into this argument you'll have a bad time, once you overcome this obstacle you will find there's much better forums out there. Just a minor evil.
- Bad Topic > you can post in them (even though you know you shouldn't), it can turn bad only after you post your dissident opinion or you can even create your own bad topic and burn for it. It causes you grief, you need Joy and Irony to counter it.
It looks like a tentacle-y thingy because of the different ramifications and posts it generates.
You may turn back from a bad topic, but chances are you'll have to overcome this forum phase too.
- Happy > the last boss, at the doorway to RMN (one of the last forums I gave shot at) was Happy, for some reason he was kind of a dick to me, I could've used someone else since there were others, but went with him, he has since apologised (he doesn't even remember it! :P ) and for me it's all water under the bridge now, I just used him because it made sense story-wise and for another cameo (an event rule). People change though, I don't think I've seen anything else of the sort from him ever since.
Happy isn't particularly hard, since it wasn't such a big deal, it was only the last straw.
But you need something from yourself in order to overcome this last obstacle, you need "Imagination" to keep going, to not quit before reaching a better place.
- Observer > new enemy from the revamped version, it does nothing, represents the lurkers in forums, they observe, but do nothing. I also used them to scare the player at times.

Small Bits & Pieces:
- Move on > when you "win" a battle, you don't really win, you move on from it, the revamped version added "Exhausting" to this message to make clear encounters are to be avoided if possible.
- Ex > you gain experience with each "forum conversation/battle" since that's what happens in real life, you gain experience, you actually level up, this is much clearer if you look at your posts years ago and compare them with your posts now. But leveling doesn't mean you get stronger, not when you haven't settled in, you'll grow tired and exhausted the more you try to participate and see your efforts brushed off, in the revamped version you level up your "fatigue" to make it clearer. Stats decrease with each level up in this game.
- Lurks > not in the original event version, finally got a chance to use it on the revamped version with Observers.
- Ignores > like evading an attack or skill, posts/points can be ignored.
- Stops posting > the user quits the conversation or forum, KO status.

Every item positioning was studied, you're only given the bare minimum necessary to beat each area, it's not a game about freedom, there's only really one way to beat it or very limited ways to beat it.
In order to advance you need specific items/equipments to beat specific bosses and figure out what route to take, while avoiding as many Anonymous as possible.

Using healing items or skills against Anonymous will severely diminish you chances to beat the game.
You should only use healing items or skills against bosses and when in dire need.
You need to figure out what items to use against each boss.

This is the puzzle aspect and there's a lot of trial & error as such, that's why you can save anywhere.

There's always some amount of luck involved, but very little, or at least I tried it to be as little as possible from my testing.

There's no critical attacks to further reduce randomness.

Each boss has a specific way to beat and there's very little room for error, still I tested so it was possible to beat them even with the lowest stats/higher level, what really makes Bad Topic hard is that most people have used up their healing items by then.

Still, if you reach Bad Topic with all healing items (HP x2, MP x1) and at least level 9 you can beat it.

If you can beat Bad Topic then you can pretty much beat Happy, even at level 10 since you are given everything you need after the battle (MP healing item, armour, healing spell).

Not leveling up just makes everything easier, but it's not necessary.

While using an RPG engine the game behaves more like a puzzle, where you need to follow a specific order to your movements and actions.

Approaching these battles like typical RPG battles won't do you good, each action is like a puzzle piece or puzzle action you need to use/do in a specific order.

Being confused about this is intended and I'll talk about that confusion in detail later.

How to beat the bosses:
- Dark Revan > needs "English" and "Kentona", in battle use "Perseverance" once, then attack until beaten, using "Stand" when needed.
- Bad Topic > needs "Joy" and "Spoonybard", in battle use "Irony", heal HP/MP as needed, taking care to heal as late as possible to maximise healing.
- Happy > needs "Imagination" and "Zydin", in battle use "Commune" and heal HP/MP as needed, use "Explain" for HP healing and the last healing item for MP, once again taking care to heal as late as possible.
Archeia_Nessiah managed to beat Happy in a different way: "I didn't use the healing and just kentona'd the way out of there."

There were screens with no enemies/and or only chests for balance and to give a feeling of false security/and or reward.

Once you beat the last boss you can access a new screen, all previous screens had the same size and graphics, this screen is different in both aspects to represent entering into a different place, still dark and gloomy, but different from the previous place.

You wander around the darkness looking for some light, looking for your place or something you can relate with. You need to move towards the brightest light in this screen.

You arrive to a different screen, there's people here, but they're not like the previous encounters, gradually the weird ambient background noise is replaced with a happier tune, there was no colour before, now colour starts to appear.

The short looping tune is from "Mr. Sandman", I picked this tune mainly because it's happy, relates with dreams and because of this sentence: "Sandman, I'm so alone".
Relating with the start of the game, we've come full circle.

You have found others who get along with you.

Everything in the game up to this point was representative of 2011~2012.
The dialog in the ending is made up of nice posts from people in RMN.
Some from my introduction thread, some from the Golden Week event where I got to meet a bunch of cool people.

I added a few posts to the revamped version and remade the ending screen to make it better and more colourful. I also added credits with an excerpt from "Mr. Sandman".

Notice however that I am still devoid of colour, I still don't feel part of the community, but this new place is different from those other places, I may not feel like I belong entirely, but there's "something" for me here and people are generally nicer.

I needed 4 years to start participating, I quit in 2012, became a lurker and came back now and then to make a couple of posts in gamepages, I don't do forums much.

How does this relate to you?

The confusion you feel about how to play the game represents the confusion I felt when coming into contact with forums for the first time.

Finding my way through the darkness with no one to help me or a comprehensive set of rules.

The game lacks explicit rules to portray the feeling of entering an environment you know very little about.

In this case the "internet forums".

This feeling of confusion, lack of visible progress and opression will drive most people to quit, just like I did in several bad forums, nothing you say or do seems to reach even one person (no visible progress), if you express a different opinion, people gang up against you for dissidence (opression), no one seems interested in helping out or show you the ropes, it's much easier to just drive you away (confusion, exasperation).

If you played the game you felt this frustration and exasperation, nothing you did seemed to matter, you got kicked around, nothing worked like it should, this system is broken! Your expectations ruined.

You quit, you've had enough of this abusive game, this represents me everytime I quit from a bad forum.

This outcome was expected.

But maybe you were curious, wanted to know if there was something else here, you're the kind that persists, or maybe you actually liked the challenge.

You may or may not notice that leveling is bad and change your method, retry the game, after all you've wasted what? 10 minutes?
In other words you start from scratch and behave more carefully, like I did while searching for better forums, not satisfied with the places I'd seen.

If you insisted in playing the game, even if you had to consult my hints or a video playthrough, then this represents me when I arrived at RMN, I was close to be driven away but insisted, gathered information, tried again and again and here I am today.

You tried, it was hard, frustrating, it even seemed unfair!
But you did it, you gathered everyhting you could (be it my hints or trial and error) and you're here now.

Both kinds of players are representative of my choices.

These design choices could only work in a short experimental game like this.

As intended some people quit the game and others beat it, the revamped version is less frustrating and makes the rules of the game a bit clearer to aid the player.

The original event version is by no means a perfect game, but for 8 hours it achieved all I ever wanted it to achieve.

I'm pretty proud of the revamped version, there isn't much change but there's a lot of details that add to the game atmosphere and setting. I worded some things better and improved other things like the ending screen.

There's also a secret to discover in the revamped version, which adds quite a bit of gameplay to the game and adds a new scene to the ending.


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That was... deeper than expected...
toiling away in the makerscore mines
Yeah. Woah.
RPG Maker 2k/2k3 for life, baby!!
Wow! You guys went through that wall of text!? Cool!
What did you think of the game? :)

Yeah, I kinda put too much thought into this game, maybe?
Haha, there is no such as thing as "too much thought" put into the game. It's your personal experience after all.
The fact it comes down to a simpler and still very coherent immersive experience is a good thing if you ask me.
RPG Maker 2k/2k3 for life, baby!!
Thanks, Kylaila!

It's just that when you compare the time you spend in the game with all it represents and this explanation page, it gets kind of ridiculous :P

Edit: But thanks all the same! What matters is how the end game plays! :)
Aye, agreed there :)

And it kinda reminds me of the tip of the iceberg idea in writing short stories. The story is short, but builds on something much bigger. It's good design for a short experience even if not all of the "big underlying stuff" comes into the spotlight.
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