Concept: Preparations Screen Revamp

#1

An interview with the developers behind FE14 was recently published in Famitsu, and one line stuck out to me in particular.

Higuchi: From the start until “Radiant Dawn,” we built up the view that those games are the “ideal FE style.” But with that sort of game, one new problem was born: we reached the logical conclusion that it was always difficult for newcomers to pick up.

BwdYeti’s response summed up my thoughts quite well: “yeah that means you aren’t teaching your players well enough, it doesn’t mean make it easier.”

I think that, by and large, a lot of these learning-curve issues can be solved with GUI improvements.

Which leads me to what I’ve been thinking about all day: the preparations screen. In all FE games, the focal point of the main prep. screen menu are the options; GBAFE in particular devotes a large amount of screen space to the “Command Help” box, which offers a lengthy description of the menu options.

To me, that seems like a terrible waste of design space. By using the prep. screen to summarize key information for the player, we could make strides in easing that aforementioned learning curve.

These are mock screenshots, so I figured I’d post about it or sth. Cuz I’m sure people in the skype chat are tired of hearing me talk about it.

  • Pick Units: This offers a visualization of your party distribution, grouping them together by “Class Type.” Shows # Deployed/Total in Party. It would help new players perhaps realize that their party is too weighted in favor of one class type, or that they’ve managed not to train members of another entirely. Additionally, in the Pick Units screen itself, it would be helpful to add a display of the party’s Average Level. The underlying gauge displayed compares a rating of allies and enemies (sum of main stats + 5 for each support + 1 for each weapon rank / # of party members, then square the result). Credit to the Yetiman for coming up with the gauge.
  • Trade: The focus here is on making inventory management more intuitive. As your total Net Worth (sell value of all items and weapons + total gold) fluctuates, the player could infer that their weapon supply/durability is running low as their net worth drops closer to the fund total, or realize that they have a surplus and should consider selling off extra equipment. Putting the Stock (supply inventory + items in unit inventories/max carrying capacity) total here also helps make the information more complete; you can tell if you’ve just got a few valuable things, or a lot of worthless things with that context. Displaying Healing item uses would also help the player keep track of that important bit of stock. It could also contain a notification of Armories/Vendors on the map (and could allude to a Secret Shop with some cleverly-placed ellipses). Another thought was that, in the Trade menu itself, an exclamation mark could flash over the map sprites of units who have a weapon in their inventory < 30% of its max durability, to flag units in need of new equipment.
  • Fortune: At first I wanted to display the Rank stars here, but after thinking about it, I believe it would be more beneficial to the player to receive a representation of the numbers behind those ranks. Largely, these numbers should help incentivize players’ formulating strategies to adapt for their short-comings. Seeing the Win:Battle ratio, for example, helps a player strategize around that number (perhaps they’re happy to maintain it, or strive to improve it). Seeing an Average Turn Count would provide players with a “score to beat,” in a sense, and similarly incentivize strategy tailored to that goal, while keeping track of Casualties would help inspire more caution as the body count rises. Average EXP Gain (EXP per ch/# of units deployed averaged) would offer a numeric benchmark for making adjustments to EXP distribution; if the average is 120 EXP per unit per chapter, a player can strategize around that to balance the levels of party members by emphasizing their usage for kills. We want to avoid “numbers overload,” but at the same time, give players numbers that make them better players.
  • Save: Basic information about the save file. Perhaps, if there were hacks that allowed for the free toggling of difficulty/gameplay modes, this would be more useful for keeping track of current settings.
  • Difficulty Toggle: zahlman suggested disabling “Start to Fight” on the main screen as as a safety feature. In its place, I think that would be a good place to put a difficulty toggle. Allowing players to freely change their difficulty level, and perhaps even freely toggle Casual/Classic modes too, gives incentives for players to challenge themselves. So long as the rewards increase with the difficulty; say a player, who is suited to Normal mode, decides to tackle Hard for two chapters with the promise of more gold, an additional rare drop or two, etc. Even if the player goes back to Normal for the rest of the game, there was an incentive to increase the difficulty, to challenge the player’s abilities, in order to make the game easier in the long run for them. With a Casual mode toggle, something like that might be better suited as an on/off feature, rather than a 30-chapter commitment. In its current implementation, Casual mode essentially creates two different styles of gameplay within the series, rather than acting as a crutch. As players develop their feel for the game, and less of their units hit 0HP, they’ll see that they’ve gotten better. Then, perhaps, the threat of permanent death won’t seem so scary anymore?

Thoughts? Have other ideas on improving the GUI? I’m interested in hearing what people have to say.

Considering Potential Fatigue Mechanics
#2

I’d caution against dumping tons of information on the screen, because that ends up making things more confusing rather than simplifying things.

When hovering over Pick Units, I think it would be more helpful to just pull up the deployment list on the right hand side of the screen to indicate what units are currently slotted for deployment… That would be an issue if there are more than 12 deployed characters though.

1 Like
#3

Honestly, this the way to do it, and I thought of implementing something similer in my own hack.

That said, information overload is a threat to most people, and I know for a fact that a good deal of video game players,myself included, ignore all advice given to them in games, and charge right in,and get pwned like scrubs.

What IS is doing in if is a good way to compensate for this type of player who wants to utterly destroy everything, like me on a bad day, and still allow veterans of the series to have their “classic” FE challenge.

However, in our situation as hackers, this method of providing information is the way to go. After all, anyone who plays our “creations” is highly unlikely to be a newcomer, and knows how to use the information given to them.

In short, don’t get mad at IS for trying to cater to everyone, they are a company. Thats what they do. It worked in Awakening, but they aren’t forgetting the old fansNohr Campaign anyone. Fan hacks are not for profit however, so we can cater to whoever the heck we want too.

Dear God, I did not mean to type an essay. Sorry for the long read. I’m just trying to explain IS’s logic

A sugesstion for your troubles tho, less is more, most casual players like myself 6 months ago would still have no clue what Assets or Recovery mean just by glanceing at this. Maybe remove those two altogether, or replace assets with item value or something for easier understanding

No clue what to replace recovery with tho

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#4

We’ll see about that, I still have my doubts.

My assertion is that you can cater to a wider audience without making the game easier or removing core elements. The goal with this concept is to give players numbers that could help them improve (hopefully R-button bubbles could be assigned to explain some of the more difficult ones). Obviously ROM Hacks aren’t the best place to test this, since not many people play them who haven’t played FE before, but it could be beneficial to both long-time fans and newcomers alike by offering more details about how the player is actually doing, because having those numbers would help them learn the game.

That’s the basic idea: an interface that teaches you how to play the game, instead of simply being taught to use an interface. Most of the improvements from recent FE games, in my eyes, have been GUI tweaks.

EDIT: Updated the first post’s screenshots; I don’t know, do “Net Worth” (instead of Assets) and “Healing” (instead of Recovery) seem like clearer terms to use?

#5

I think this is a waste of time. Most people playing ROM hacks are experienced FE players who already know the vanilla versions like the back of their hands. Why would we devote ostensibly precious resources towards this when the same minds could be put towards doing things like a skills system?

The reason FE can be so hard to pick up and play is because despite tutorials and the like, lots of gameplay mechanics are simply left to the player to figure out on their own and if they don’t, they get left behind. What in the world is telling the player how many wizards or horses they have going to do? If anything the suggestions you’ve put down would complicate things further by overloading the player with information that they either already know or that doesn’t really matter in the long run.

3 Likes
#6

I do want to see my total turncount at any given moment, though, but that’s because I’m a dirty, filthy LTCer.

3 Likes
#7

That’s my point, hahaha. This information that’s being presented isn’t actually useful to anyone who’s new to the game.

#8

id say this would be very helpful to the average fire emblem player, but i don’t think this would work for new players, because new players will presumably not know about the micromanaging aspects of fire emblem, and presumably wont care. i wont deny that this idea for the prep screen i am totally for, but what needs to happen is the game teaching the player to micromanage, not just expecting the player to micromanage.

#9

Mattypoo, you wound me. I spent like a whoooole daaaaay on this bro.

I’ve included explanations for why each piece of information would be useful to a player in the OP; visualizing the party composition would help players make adjustments (maybe you see 3/5 cavs, 1/6 unclassified units and say “I need to train someone else without a class type”). The exact point is to not provide useless information, or an overburden of information (I think we see “numbers” and instinctively assume new players won’t understand; I almost think we give them too little credit sometimes). With the Win:Battle ratio being disclosed, I know that it takes me an average of 3 battles for 1 victory, so I can strategize around that knowledge, either to improve my score or to maintain it while improving in other areas. It’s a useful thing in general to know that I should expect one kill for every three attacks; that knowledge could also help a player plan for the enemy phase better, for example. There are all sorts of ways for players to digest and utilize these numbers. Most of these are simply making numbers the game already tracks visible to the player, it’s not like I’m pulling tons of complicated formulas out of my arse. The numbers and the math behind them are simple enough that a player should be able to analyze changes over time and infer useful conclusions.

I just think it’d be better to use this space to summarize important information for the player (instead of a read-it-once paragraph); information which, because they see it in a summarized fashion before each chapter, can help players improve at the game. I don’t think this one thing “fixes FE,” just that something like this could be part of a larger GUI solution to Fire Emblem’s accessibility issues. My interest is in exploring how those GUI improvements can improve the game, and I feel as though I’ve already made my case for why this is an improvement on the player’s end.

Also I’ll burn my money on whatever I choose to burn it over; it’s all set ablaze either way when it’s spent on ROM Hacking so I don’t see much point in saying “why have X when you could have Y” since X and Y aren’t mutually exclusive. We can have allllllll of the things! Plus, FE8 already has skills.

I’d say that teaching players micromanagement would be greatly improved if players were able to track basic information about what they’re supposed to be managing. By giving players access to the numbers they’re being assessed with, you are giving the player further means to improve by providing for the self-assessment and self-adjustment of their gameplay performance. But also, they’re things you can blatantly ignore and charge forward throwing caution to the wind (just like the performance ranks themselves were easily neglected). Obviously there will always be new players who don’t care; nothing can be done about players who choose not to learn, but I feel that providing this information to players, and making that more of a focus point for the game as a whole, would give them more feedback than gold stars on a rank screen ever could. By giving players an overview of their management, you’re teaching them how to micromanage through observation of changes on a chapter-by-chapter basis, and basic trial-and-error approaches.

You’re not only teaching them micromanagement, you’re teaching them strategic planning and how to form conclusions from numbers and probabilities (all integral parts of Fire Emblem’s gameplay). When players are given numbers, they generally try to see value in the information provided. By offering these numbers in this format, I believe we can teach players how to play more effectively. That seems like an unquestionably more useful application of the prep. screen, in my view.

#10

holla

this whole thing sounds a lot more like [Tact] or [G] abuse than swi 0x12 GUI manipulation which means it should be easier than slapping icons onto the screen so I don’t know it’s a waste of effort per say, although I will agree with the consensus that the current projected form is information overload and a lot of it seems like useless or easy to get information.

#11

I honestly don’t think that most of these are useful things to know, nor do they help illustrate the player’s ability. For example, class diversity isn’t indicative of a good player; you’re not really helping the player by pointing out that he’s deploying too many cavaliers or mages or fliers (if the player is deploying too many cavaliers and fliers, I’d say he’s on the right track!). Additionally, parameters such as total assets and win-to-battle ratio are only useful in the context of ranked play but really mean nothing in standard play. If you were to include such displays, they would do better as completely replacing the silly ranking system that already exists in FE7, but I don’t like the ranking system in the first place because it encourages bad play.

With regard to your proposed suggestions, I’d only recommend keeping or changing the following:

  • On “Pick Units,” display the current deployment roster on the right. I think this is obviously useful so that the player won’t have to select “Pick Units” to see what he has deployed.
  • On “Trade,” funds and supply/stock are all I’d bother with. The issue of the player not having sufficient healing can be more easily circumvented by implementing a base armory that sells basic items at a mark-up a la FE6 normal mode.
  • On “Fortune,” whatever. Ranking-related data probably fits here, I suppose. All I care about is turncount. An alternative is to populate the right hand side with augury-related text regarding the chapter.
  • On “Check Map,” it would be great if you can get a mini-map to populate the right hand side.
  • “Save” is fine. Maybe total turncount can go here instead.

I am elitist enough to assert that I’m probably the best FE player around, and I can assure you that information general enough to be displayed in an HUD never helped me to improve. I know that you’re getting at concepts such as item management with your idea, but not all items are created equal and it’s impossible to gather these statistics in a way that is both helpful and succinct.

1 Like
#12

i just don’t feel that this would actually help new players get more into the micromanaging aspects of the series, and instead would tailor a game to seasoned players. just giving the player the info doesn’t help, you need to teach the player through natural organic game play to create the most satisfying feel for the player when they play the game, at least in my opinion.

#13

Goal of this: Come up with a newbie friendly GUI.
What’s happening: Veterans are trying to design a GUI that works for them instead.
What we should be doing: Asking players new to the series what issues they’re having with the GUI, and addressing those issues.

5 Likes
#14

In the interest of continuing the discussion, I’ll write out and summarise what I said to @Arch in the Skype chat.

The reason FE’s popularity has dwindled is that the game requires a certain amount of experience to play, because FE is traditionally a very punishing game where you have to live with the consequences of your decisions. Tutorials can teach your the basics; More complex things, like “Don’t use Marcus because in the long term your party will suffer for it” or “you can actually give all your items to Ilyana and have her transfer them over to Ike’s party!” are not things that the game teaches you, and, for what it’s worth, it really can’t.

You need to give the player a good understanding of how the system works, and what they can and can’t do, and teach them how their actions influence how the rest of the game is going to go. We, as veterans, take that experience for granted, which is why we now find FE so easy, and we enjoy being challenged when it isn’t. I posit that people have enjoyed the FE13 experience because if you’re playing Casual mode, there are literally no consequences to your actions, and you can train everyone because there are unlimited battles and unlimited resources. Of the number of newcomers who had that experience, how many went on to play Classic mode? Hard mode?

In fact, you only have to look at the sales to know that the “traditional FE” experience is in direct competition with its popularity - and, arguably, its general enjoyment. Look at the SNES series, and how the sales dwindled as it got to FE5, which was Kaga’s last game, by the way, and probably the closest thing we ever got to his dream game. Then with FE6, a brighter, more casual game, the game sells like crazy again. The FE directors have admitted that they tried to steer the game towards a more traditional experience, but once again, the sales show that with every game that gets closer to it, the sales drop. The numbers speak for themselves - hardcore FE is in direct competition with popularity, because hardcore FE is difficult to get into.

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#15

I agree with the sales point, but Thracia is kinda a special case, it was one of the last SNES games released, and was originally a download only game (kinda like “digital only”). It’s part of the reason actual physical releases of Thracia are so expensive compared to the other FE SNES games, it didn’t get a true physical release until 2000, though it could be downloaded to fancy SNES carts in 1999.

[/irrelevant][/trivia][/whatever][/IhopeIdidn’tgetanyofthiswrong]

#16

I can’t speak for anyone else Agro, but Awakening got me into the series, and I went on to play every title shortly afterward and on higher difficulties. Yes, I started on Normal Casual, but I did go on to harder modes and prefer Hard Classic in Awakening nowadays.

But people will still call me a filthy casual cause I started with Awakening

You are right about what sells tho, and I honestly feel that the Nohr campaign exists to cater purely to classic FE fans.

#17

This is very much a point I was about to make. (Honestly, the decline becomes apparent with the GBAFE era, not what came before it). Let’s look at some numbers, eh?

Top 20 FE Sales Numbers (broken down by region; NA/Japan/PAL):

  1. FE3 (0.70m, Japan)
  2. FE13 (0.63m, NA)
  3. FE4 (0.58m, Japan)
  4. FE13 (0.52m, Japan)
  5. FE7 (0.49m, NA)
  6. FE8 (0.42m, NA)
  7. FE6 (0.39m, Japan)
    8. TRS (0.37m, Japan), if it were included
  8. FE8 (0.30m, Japan)
  9. FE7 (0.29m, Japan)
  10. FE9 (0.29m, NA)
  11. FE11 (0.28m, NA)
  12. FE10 (0.27m, NA)
  13. FE11 (0.27m, Japan)
  14. FE12 (0.27m, Japan)
  15. FE5 (0.26m, Japan)
  16. FE7 (0.18m, PAL)
  17. FE10 (0.17m, Japan)
  18. FE9 (0.16m, Japan)
  19. FE8 (0.16m, PAL)
  20. FE9 (0.08m, PAL)

A Fire Emblem game, even with Awakening’s commercial success, has still never surpassed 1M sales in any given market. What sells? FE4, one of the more complex entries in the series, has still sold more copies than most of the rest of the series. FE3, the definition of “classic FE,” and FE4 both outsold FE13, and that was a game designed to sell copies. Keep in mind that top-selling FE3’s remake didn’t fare that well either, the series was basically stuck with a “core audience” of roughly 0.30m per title from FE7-12.

The case that FE’s sales dip as it goes in a more “hardcore” direction? That claim by @Agro a bit more dubious. Aside from the SNES era’s dominance and Awakening’s money-printing machine, FE7’s NA release (a very traditional “classic FE” game) clocks in 5th place. FE8 sold almost as well. Consider that these numbers were likely inflated in NA by the hype surrounding Marth/Roy in Smash and the allure of mysterious games we’d never gotten to play before. FE9, with a low install base, and FE10, one of most inaccessible titles in the series, represent a “core audience” of roughly 0.28m players in North America. That’s an attachment rate of about half the audience attracted from the series’ debut. FE9/10 are the west’s only taste of “hardcore FE,” and it didn’t “flop” in the way people want to assume because it fits their narratives. Likewise, the “back to the basics” FE11 sold on par with 9/10, further indicating that it only appealed to that same core audience.

FE9/10 really flopped in Japan. They were actually commercial disasters, and a clear low-water mark for the series. FE11/12 brought the series back up to roughly where the sales numbers were for FE7/8, both of which were also under-performing periods for the series in Japan (compared to the SNES heyday). The series has basically been in decline since FE5 (but we can’t attribute it to FE5 because of the nature of that game’s release), the bleeding became apparent in Japan during the GBAFE era, and bottomed out with GCN/Wii.

tl;dr: Fire Emblem has not come close to reaching, let alone exceeding, its sales potential (0.70m units in a given market, set by FE3) in a very long time. Awakening is the closest they’ve gotten, and even tailoring a game to casual appeal and fan nostalgia wasn’t enough to actually break the series sales record.

“The numbers speak” fallacy. You can make numbers say anything; that doesn’t mean you’re taking away the right lessons.

I don’t know how else to put this; I believe you’re buying into a narrative based on a false choice. It is not that case that something “for veterans” must be inherently “bad for newcomers,” or vice versa. Making the game more accessible doesn’t have to mean making it easier or changing its fundamental philosophy. At this point, we’re basically asked to “pick a side,” classic or casual (Nohr or Hoshido). The way IS has approached these problems has basically created a gameplay dichotomy; the version that “sells,” based upon freedom from consequences and restrictions, and the “old Fire Emblem,” which is based largely on the micro-level impacts of a player’s decision-making.

Why can’t we change our design philosophy to incorporate considerations for both, without stripping away the core element of finite resources, but instead making these decisions more manageable for all players? That’s my approach, at least.

#18

I don’t know, dude, I once made something “for veterans” and the newcomers wouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole. This trade-off definitely exists to some capacity.

You also have to consider that the market in FE3’s time is much different than the market in FE13’s time.

#19

Let’s look at the numbers as a percentage of total consoles sold.

  1. FE3 JPN (4.08%)
  2. FE13 NA (3.84%)
  3. FE4 JPN (3.38%)
  4. FE13 JPN (3.12%)
  5. FE9 NA (2.31%)
  6. FE6 JPN (2.30%)
    7. TRS JPN (1.91%)
  7. FE8 JPN (1.77%)
  8. FE7 JPN (1.71%)
  9. FE5 JPN (1.51%)
  10. FE7 NA (1.21%)
  11. FE8 NA (1.04%)
  12. FE11 JPN (0.82%)
  13. FE12 JPN (0.82%)
  14. FE10 NA (0.60%)
  15. FE11 NA (0.50%)

FE9 actually did quite well when you adjust for the install base (second best sales relative to console sales in NA), and FE5, even with its limited release, did better than FE7/8 did in North America. FE10 was a relative dud, even though it sold comparably to FE9 in North America, because the Wii had such a larger base of console users. The DS games were also sales flops. If you look at the top ten, 5/10 “hardcore FE” to “casual FE” (including GBAFE in the casual grouping). I don’t think you can so cleanly derive the conclusion that old FE “doesn’t sell.” Could it sell better? Yes. Could it be more accessible to new players? Abso-fuckin’-lutely. But I think that the premise, of discarding the old like a broken husk, has been hastily arrived at (due in large part to dependence on things like raw sales numbers as an indicator of success).

Recall also that FE13 was developed under the threat that if the title didn’t break 1M in sales world-wide, the series would be cancelled. Until FE13, no title in the series had accomplished that feat. It was very much made to sell copies, because that was the ultimatum shaping its development cycle. My hope is that, in devoting more time to considering the issues of accessibility through GUI improvements, that we can solve these accessibility problems in more constructive ways.

#20

Wellll… it’s pretty damn epic!
Honestly I’d like this in any hack hahaha
(but it also means you’d have to code 3 different modes per chapter, which is a pain in the ass)