The State of the Blitz
An essay on the blitz format, by Darrman
On the 4th of July, 2017, the original Fire Emblem Universe Chapter Creation Blitz was announced. The idea was simple: create 31 chapters within a week, and regardless of what happens, release the hack when the deadline comes, even if the hack is a broken mess. It went well and created a new model for creating romhacks, known as the blitz. Along with being a method of creating hacks, they also resulted in things I'll call "resource blitzes", where instead of creating chapters for a hack, artistic resources such as portraits were created. Over the past year, many such blitzes were attempted, but none reached the heights of the original. Why is that the case? This essay is an attempt to look at that.
Void's Blitzarre Adventure
Where blitzes got their start
Void's Blitzarre Adventure was the original, the concept for the blitz formula, and where it all began when Circles wanted to do something "way too ambitious". I then jokingly replied with a suggestion to create a 30 chapter hack. The initial plan was to start the hacking on the 8th and 9th of July, though schedule clashes for some members caused development to start early and become a one-week affair. A special channel was created on the discord to organise the blitz, along with a spreadsheet to manage chapter claims and characters, and a Github repository, where the submitted chapters and other files were placed, using the buildfile system.
The buildfile system had existed for a few months, with the first hack formally using them being Fire Emblem Destiny, the FEU forum hack of 2016. However, it didn't exactly catch on, and NIghtmare and Feditor were still the dominant tools among the masses, and Blazer's Ultimate Tutorial was the must-read document of its day. Void's served as a sharp contrast, being an open-source buildfile that was free to use, not getting mired in Feditor bugs or installing conflicting ASM hacks to the same place, losing weeks of progress because the author never backed up their rom. If an ASM hack bricked a buildfile, one could just comment it out without issue.
In a way, this was somewhat of a "renaissance", to steal Arch's terminology. Many people announced their own buildfile projects, but not everyone was optimistic. Some considered Void's a mere flash in the pan, and all these proclaimed buildfile projects would just fade away. But the naysayers were few, and over the next few weeks the game was polished from a quick project filled with placeholders into an actually polished and somewhat balanced project.
The rules of Void's were simple. I've bolded what I feel are some of the most important parts of the blitz philosophy here.
⦁ Everything is flexible. We'll figure out the details as we go since this is the first time.
⦁ The base rom will be the FE8 Skill System.
⦁ Communication will be in the Discord server.
⦁ Quantity over quality. Just make the chapters as quick as you can.
⦁ Plot/writing is optional.
⦁ Assume the player has 0 gold at the start of each chapter if you're going to add shops/whatever
⦁ Each eventer or team of eventers works on a chapter. The first chapter gets 5 units, every subsequent chapter can add one more.
⦁ Maps can be custom or free-to-use maps.
⦁ Expect this to end in disaster and/or hilarity.
⦁ Afterwards we'll release whatever we come up with and organize some kind of LP to show it off.
In addition, perhaps the most important ingredient of all for a good blitz is to have strong leadership. Circles was always there keeping things together and running smoothly. Though Github mishaps gave him much frustration, he still pressed on, with the final patch, 1.16, releasing in November. For quite a while after Void's released, just saying "the blitz" would instantly mean "Void's Blitzarre Adventure" in the mind of the community.
Mekkah's LP of Void's also helped popularise it. His interview with Circles is linked below.
The Christmas Blitz
A failed experiment
December 2017. The festive atmosphere engulfed FEU. What better than to make a Christmas Blitz for the Christmas season? Circles stepped up to the plate again, but there was but one fatal flaw in the blitz. He reduced the chapter count, and gave more time to create them. As emphasised in the rules of Void's, short time frames force pressure to complete chapters rapidly, and in my own theory, strong leadership adds to the pressure even more. Circles was quite casual about it all, not really forcing any pressure on anyone to get to work.
Christmas came and went, and the community accepted that the Christmas Blitz had failed. Nnadnerd hijacked a chapter to force in more Jojo references, most chapters went incomplete, and no patch was ever released. There was no Christmas miracle of a successful blitz, and instead, Santa just delivered upon the community some coal. Some believed that it was solid proof Void's was just a one-time success, and that lightning didn't strike twice. However, most of the community quietly let it go.
Fire Emblem Resonance
A great mishap, or a misunderstood success?
Fire Emblem Resonance, initally the Vanilla Blitz, headed by Kirb, had a simple aim. However many enemies were in the chapter in Sacred Stones, would be the amount of chapters Vanilla Blitz would have. Although initially set to last one week, there were still unfinished chapters by the initial deadline and it was pushed back to Valentine's Day. Close to the end of development, the project received it's final name. Valentine's drew near, and even though the game was not playtested, Kirb followed the blitz philosophy and released the game.
At first, people were excited. A new hack was completed, and there was some nifty ASM hackery in giving every chapter a different statscreen. But Kirb was done. He had released his blitz, and as far as he was concerned, that was all he had to do. He fixed a handful of early game issues, and then went off to work on another of his myriad projects. With the leader gone, Resonance fell into chaos. Several chapters were unwinnable. Balance was an utter mess. And worst of all, the project lapsed from the buildfile.
In September 2017, FEBuilder showed up from nowhere, overshadowing the newly released Emblem Magic and thorougly obsoleting Nightmare and Feditor. The face of the community was transformed, and the old ways were a thing of the past. With new tools came new people, and the bar of entry was lowered dramatically. It truly was a revolution. However, revolutions have consequences. The old guard of Void's didn't participate much in Resonance, and those who did weren't interested in helping to polish it. Instead, it fell to a group of new members.
These members were new, green, and had little experience hacking, and all entirely with FEBuilder. "Procrastinators Extrordinaire", as Kirb dubbed his group, attempted to repair the broken mess of Resonance with Builder. However, by Builder's very nature, only one person at a time can have the rom, and awkward passing back and forth resulted in regressions frequently happening, new bugs appearing to replace those fixed, and worst of all, drama erupted frequently between the members of Procrastinators Extraordinaire.
The new crew also indulged in the art of self-inserting. While Void's had its fair share of injokes, Resonance opted to lean even heavier towards them, with many characters being explicit self-inserts and declaring themselves "canon" to the "Blitz Universe". While Resonance was abandoned before much plot was inserted, an outline was prepared, where people who styled themselves writers made up material that was going to be included in a future game. Said game, "Blitz Chronicles", is nothing but a concept.
The current state of Resonance has made most of its developers disown the project. They treat it as a steaming pile of garbage to be forgotten about, to be ignored forever. Although Natsumi is attempting to continue development in the old Resonance server, few seem to be aware of this. In the end, Kirb summed it up best.
To be fair to Resonance, it was completed. Almost unplayable at times, but it was completed. That's a lot more than can be said for some later attempts at blitzes, and for hacks in general. It doesn't matter how good stuff like Midnight Sun could have been were it finished. It never will be finished. Resonance set out to make 22 chapters, and 22 chapters were made. In that regard, it could be considered a success.
A Resource Blitz Interlude
Graphics are important too
Not all blitzes are Chapter Creation Blitzes. Some of them are Resource Blitzes. Though not particularly influencial, they are still blitzes and should be noted in this essay. Over the past year, there have been three portrait creation, or "Mugging" blitzes, two statscreen blitzes, a music blitz, a map creation blitz, a map sprite blitz, a vague "general graphics" blitz, and a stats blitz. These have seen varying levels of success.
All those blitzes will be listed with creator in chronological order below. I did not participate in most of these, so I do not have much to say.
(Void's Blitzarre Adventure)
⦁ Map Creation Blitz "Round 1": Circles, September 2017
(There has not been a Round 2 as of yet.)
⦁ Mugging Blitz Round 1: Circles, December 2017
⦁ Statscreen Blitz (Round 1): Peerless, January 2018
(These statscreens were used for Resonance.)
⦁ (Fire Emblem Resonance)
⦁ FEU Stats Blitz: MC, Feburary 2018
⦁ FEU General Graphics Blitz: Peerless, Febuary 2018
⦁ Mugging Blitz Round 2: Peerless, Febuary 2018
(This followed up straight from the last blitz.)
⦁ (Weekly Blitz Announcement)
⦁ Mugging Blitz Round 3: Natsumi, May 2018
⦁ Music Blitz: Sme, May 2018
⦁ Statscreen Blitz (Round) 2: Peerless, June 2018
⦁ Map Sprite Blitz: Ganzap, June 2018
⦁ (Present Day)
As a rule of thumb, since these blitzes are for creating and adapting graphics for insertion, these are all generally successful enterprises. The General Graphics Blitz succumbed to vagueness, and nobody particularly noticed the Stats Blitz or Map Sprite Blitz, but all the others got a healthy amount of entries. My participation within these blitzes amounted to converting a joke statscreen MC made in Statscreen Blitz Round 1 into a functional one, so I can't really fairly analyse the psyche of them outside of postcount and submitted entries.
The Weekly Blitz
Mired in delays
April 2018. Being a veteran of both Void's and Resonance, Zmr decided to host a blitz of his own. His innovation to the formula was to split development into two distinct halves, each taking a week. Hence, "the Weekly Blitz". The first half developed well, yet the second half imploded. I will admit to not participating in the Weekly Blitz, and so most of my analysis is going to be second hand information gleaned from the sheet. I believe Zmr kept delaying the deadline due to exam trouble. This begs the question; why host a blitz during exam season? People are just studying.
Examining the sheet reveals that several classes have been split, with the cavalier, mage, and the fliers broken up into weapon type equivilants. This causes problems: class expansions are notoriously buggy and replacing other classes can result in nothing but trouble should a used class be replaced. Several new items were planned as well, though the Github reveals that most of these new items planned to be included were not implemented in the final build available there.
This issue often cropped up in Resonance, but the scale of the proposed weapon revamp would have made it much more prevalent in Weekly. Say someone drops in and wants to give the player a knight crest. However, the knight crest's ID gave way to a wind tome instead. The eventer doesn't notice the file buried in the back of the Github that has the list of what was replaced with what, leading the player to end up annoyed because they had to put in a lot of work to reach this hypothetical village just to get a basic tome.
Class replacements are worse. Debates that cropped up while Weekly was active included arguments over definitions for the new classes to use. Getting caught in such pointless debates does nothing but waste time and get people annoyed. Quantity over quality, after all. It doesn't matter how immaculately your halberdiers and axe knights are worked into the buildfile. If no chapters even use them, you've just wasted your time.
Eventually, development stalled. Roughly two months had passed before people started to concede it had met its demise. A significant portion of the game was complete, and I feel like the Weekly Blitz crew could have cut their losses and released Part 1 along with the completed Part 2 chapters, and it would be considered to be quite a bit more successful. The rules of Void's say to release what you get afterwards. If they did that, they'd have a decent enough hack to play with.
One year on...
So, it's been a year. When Void's came out the blitz was the latest and greatest hacking style. However, the recent onslaught of low-quality to explicitly failed blitzes is making me weary. The blitz is growing stale. It needs reform. Reform from lazy self-inserts and unoriginal character ports from previous hacks. Reform from shoehorned in memes.
Recently Peerless is attempting to run a blitz, where he has barely lifted his fingers and extended the deadline, instead of actually focusing on his blitz, was goofing around in Mystery of the Emblem instead. In his initial week, the github was silent for around six days. He's completely missing the point of blitzing, as he's said it's a "plot-based blitz". Plot/writing is optional. It says it in the rules of Void's, and I will reiterate that here. He has not created a forum thread for his venture, so nobody outside the discord has any idea that it exists.
The idea of overarching "blitz lore" is one that is firmly ingrained in many newer users. This is my biggest issue with blitzes right now. The idea that such and such has to jump from one game to the next or that character X is related to character Y is forced and should not be the case. We don't need Tye in every single blitz. Tirado shouldn't have his face plastered across everything. And it certainly should not be top priority. The question Leonarth posed recently is a simple one, and that motivated me to write this. What did Peerless respond with?
That someone who claims to lead a blitz is spouting that shows that the state of the blitz has deteriorated significantly. Overconfident leaders who constantly preach about how many projects they have planned out are not what the concept of the blitz needs. I don't know if there ever will be a blitz that can truly live up to the legacy of Void's Blitzarre Adventure... but I don't have much confidence the way things are going. Was Void's just a flash in the pan all along?
Useful links for further detail:
Void's buildfile and sheet:
Mekkah's interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wB5-pcecejk
RHDN pages for Void's/Reso:
Reso sheet and it's planned timeline:
Christmas blitz sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GmcBsXIoq_HY_wxxrU9RUEjjRgd7Fzq-X5vnbFOKFDA/edit#gid=1015133763
Weekly buildfile and sheet: