Hi! I’m a new user here who will be graduating from high school soon. I’ll likely have about 3 months over the summer without a huge amount to do and I’m looking to start an FE8 ROM hack. I have no experience with this sort of thing besides watching Markyjoe’s video on FEbuilder, a few videos on Fire Emblem game/map design and some ideas about characters and a story. Any sort of tips or advice would be greatly apprieciated!
I have a few specific questions about designing a ROM hack that I haven’t been able to find answers to:
- How many playable units should I attempt to include in my ROM hack?
I find it easier to think of ideas for units that appear earlier in the game but a cast of 20-30 sounds pretty challenging to integrate well, both from a story and gameplay perspective.
- What are things to consider when introducing new units?
From what I understand, introducing units that are worse than their existing counterparts is done either for replay-ability or as replacements if the original unit gets severely stat screwed or dies. Should I aim to have new units be a mix of better than their existing counterparts (better bases?), similar (a mage with better speed vs better mag), or try to have them fulfil a different niche (can’t think of examples off the top of my head for this one)
- If they require balance changes, how should I consider changing armour knights?
I haven’t completed any of the GBA games that I’ve started, but armour knights seem pretty underwhelming. This trend also seems to exist in Awakening, Fates, and 3H. Should I try to implement changes like giving them 5 mov? More control over the weapon triangle or access to bows like in Order of the Crimson Arm? Or would it be fine just keeping them the same but with better bases for their join time or access to a pre-promoted one early.
- Should I come up with bases/growths for my units by adjusting existing units?
This seems like the easiest way for me to go about this without something going horribly wrong. Does anyone have tips regarding this or things to avoid? E.G I’m aware that Seth is very, very good and using him as a reference point may not be the best idea.
- How many chapters should a ROM hack aim to have? And how long would a chapter of average size and complexity take to develop (assuming the project would be done entirely by me)?
I’m aware that the answer to the first question here is dependent on how well I can integrate my story into each chapter, the length of a chapter, and how much time I’m willing to devote to this project. Is there a point where hacks begin to feel too long or short?
- Do cavaliers need rebalancing and are there effective ways to go about it?
So far in my GBA playthroughs their extra movement are extremely useful and they make for strong combat units as well. If they need to be weakened slightly, how do these solutions sound: more difficult terrain, more horse-slaying weapons, either making infantry stronger or cavalry weaker in terms of stats, less weapon ranks/control over the weapon triangle.
- Should I assume the average ROM hack player is better than most new/casual fans to the series?
This may impact whether or not implementing some kind of tutorial is important to me, or if I can try to immediately have more of a challenge than earlier chapters of some FE games.
- This one is more specific to my hack and its story, but is a mounted Oifey a viable archetype for a main character?
There is going to be a Lord type character in my hack, but the Oifey would also be a main character and maybe have marginally more story relevance. I was considering making him a Jagen at first but I don’t have an answer to the dilemma of either making him too strong in the early-game or making him fall off so much that he would be a burden in the mid-late game. What growth spreads/bases should I look at for reference?
- Best methods to prevent turtling?
The main piece of advice I found on map design was to prevent turtling. A lot of suggestions either revolve around using a carrot (towns to visit, chests, recruitable characters) or the stick (reinforcements, strict turn timers). Is there any advice you have on how to balance the use of these methods? In other words, how to ensure that the game won’t be too easy if I frequently use good weapons and stat boosters as rewards, or too stressful and unenjoyable if every map pushes the player to play fast and aggressive.
- Is this a viable concept for a prologue chapter?
The prologue is meant to simulate an endgame chapter (final stage promotions, grand looking battlefield) while not being too complex or having too many moving parts. I’m thinking of doing this by including minimal units and enemies (for story reasons), and a map that is small for an endgame chapter. More importantly, would players be frustrated if the prologue chapter doesn’t provide much (if any) rewards? The concept is similar to the prologue of the hack “Justice and Pride” where the main lord dies in the prologue and unless you give the Jagen unit that tiny bit of EXP there won’t be any rewards from the level.
- Should I try making a hack if I’m not entirely confident that it will ever be finished?
I’m aware that the 3 months of summer vacation I have provides me with a good amount of free time but I won’t be anywhere close to having something closed to a finished product. A gripe about fan-hacks that I keep hearing is the community will get frustrated if a hack either takes a very long time to complete (e.g Staff of Ages) or is dropped by the creator (Midnight Sun maybe?). If there’s a fairly good chance that I’ll drop work on this project once I enter university, should I try making a hack and maybe asking for playtesters on a V1.0 in a few months time?
Thanks a lot for answering as many of these questions as you can! Or reading this huge wall of text…I don’t have any experience with game design or ROM hacking but I’ve really grown to appreciate Fire Emblem these past two years and I’m eager to try my hand at making something like this. If you have any other sorts of advice or things you may want to see in a hack (keeping in mind that I’m a guy with no experience) please don’t hesitate to tell me!