Deserts, harsh weather, and the like in Fire Emblem maps

I’ve been thinking a bit about the oft-maligned mechanics of deserts, rain / snow, and their associated movement penalties in Fire Emblem maps. I’ve heard a good few people say they’d rather the series simply doesn’t include these elements at all, and while I can certainly understand that perspective, I’m not really one to be easily convinced that any given game mechanic is flat-out inherently unsalvageable. So, I’ve been pondering on and off how to design maps with these features in a way that makes them interesting and additive rather than just annoying.

The biggest idea that comes to mind for me, that applies to both of these two things, is to include “safe paths” on the map that aren’t desert tiles (or affected by rain/snow), while still including incentives for the player to choose to hoof it through the harsh terrain anyway for extra rewards and such things. Essentially, they’d be used not unlike, say, a wall of Forest tiles, but without as much (or necessarily anything) in the way of terrain bonuses. Units can still pass through them, but it’s not as fast as taking the “safe path”. This might be especially interesting with rain/snow, since those maps often include the weather abating temporarily every so often, which could serve as “openings” to move through outdoor sections much more freely and easily while still knowing that, if you aren’t fast, your units may find themselves stuck out in the cold with limited options in a few turns.

Following from this, there could also be specific sections of map that require you to push through a sort of “barrier” of desert or rain/snow before you can continue on. A sort of “point of interest” on the map where you have restricted movement and have to plan your approach more carefully, since otherwise your units may not be able to get to where you need them to be in time.

There are all kinds of ways to do this, and these are just a few of my own ideas. It’s just always seemed like a bit of a shame to me for these gameplay elements to be given up on without effort being put into finding ways to make them work. What a given gameplay element is by itself is just one part of the equation, after all; how it’s actually used in-game is just as big a part in how fun it is.

I think part of why they are hated in the first place is due to the movement penalties obviously, although the reason for that has a nuance to it that can be solved potentially.

As FE tends to stick to rather deflated numbers to the point were threshold are so much more valuable. Take for example if instead of having 6 move, you have 3, while you could say its only half the movement. This is a game that is both grid & turn based. So the major consequence to that is with six move, you can fully wrap around an enemy, but with 3 you cant.

And the threshold mentality also applies to terrain, were if forest costs 2 move then you can move on say 3 forests or 2 forest and 2 plains or 1 forest and 4 plains. But with 3 move you can only do 1 forest and 1 plain or alternatively 3 plains tiles.

So if for example you covered a map in desert which only costs two move in say GBA, all units would only be able to move 2-3 tiles at most, which inherently makes the gameplay slower and less complex.

So I think there is one particular way that you probably could solve that just in terms of general map design. Which if i ever do non hacking i will for sure try to do it in a project. Which would be to essentially make movement thresholds less drastic.

And the way i would do this is to make the average movement of units a bit larger like say 8-12 move or something like that, but that might not actually be nessecarily as the more important bit is terrain cost itself needs to be smaller and also skew in both directions.

For the idea to work you pretty much need 4 types of terrain:
Normal Terrain
Defensive Terrain
Offensive Terrain
Negative Terrain

The first two exist in every fire emblem more or less, and the third exists in one game with a sideeffect from the fourth one, but in general.

-Normal Terrain is completely neutral, which in this case would be grass or a meadow tile as ill call it.

-Defensive Terrain simply does two things, it gives the person standing on it a statistcal boost of some kind, such as healing, avoid or defense. But costs a little bit of extra movement

-Offensive Terrain pretty much works like FE4 or advanced wars, it gives a movement boost and perhaps even an attacking boost which ill get to in a sec. But would potentially give you no bonus cover. And this could be Roads, Floor, Wood etc.

-Negative Terrain is the one we all love to hate in one way or another, however the point of different is that individual tile types in this category would vary a lot. For example, one terrain might just give stat debuffs for standing on it, and another could be just a turn or so because you walked through it, but the terrain itself doesn’t allow you to stand on it. Some could be stats, others could be movement.

You might ask “Hey apricot, were does weather factor into this?” well rather than giving flat debuffs to everything like it does in vanilla generally. It would change the properties of how the map plays. For example the amount of cloud cover would determine a small hit and damage decrease on fliers. The wind speed could slow or speedup fliers. Rain and Blizzards might give defensive buffs. Hail might slowly chip at everything. If the map is winter than ice would essentially be a more extreme version of roads that are so suicidal an idea that you would be mad to use it to your advantage.

I guess the more I talk the more this turns into “how to make fire emblem maps more like an RTS but still keep it Turn based” but the underlying thing is that they either favor offense or defense at any given time and these effects would transition on a phase basis rather than a turn one. So if you made a charge on a defense condition and then next turn it becomes normal, then you potentially screwed yourself.

Actually maybe this concept is just getting worse and worse. But the whole thing here is that you need the thresholds to not be as drastic as they are now. By upscaling the movement you can… Wait a minute that’s not actually the point, i think the final conclusion i was gonna make is to do things in decimal values rather than a full tile cost. Like for example roads allow you to move 33% more but with 15 less avoid while say a bog or mud slows you down by 33% move but gives 15 more avoid, just something less drastic so that if you have say 6 move then its down to 4 instead of it being half your move or worse.

Another thing would be to introduce height mechanics and charging mechanics but that’s another topic for another day.

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It’d be cool if the movement penalty only applied when switching terrain.

Walk through 3 plains, then 3 forests? Costs 7 mov (instead of 9)
Walk through 1 plain, 2 forest, 1 plain, 1 forest? Costs 7 mov (instead of 8)

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FE4 ch7 does something like that iirc
Still one of the worst maps to ever exist imo, if not outright the worst one.

I think the number of terrain maps in the series i found inoffensive at best were like…2
I think PoR desert map and RD Part 1 swamp map where yo rescue the prisoners (i actually love that one)

Other than that, i honestly am in the ‘‘delete terrain maps’’ faction. Or atleast make them as non-annoying as possible.

Example: What if there was a magic that you can cast, that makes your units hav on normal mov on Terrain? Or Magic that can change terrain? Stuff like that could work.

But in it’s current form? nah

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I don’t know why people hate weather so much. I personally think that it’s more a fault of the chapter designs and enemy layout than the weather.

FE7 Chapter 10 takes forever for you to get to the middle of the map because of the rain but we wouldn’t necessarily notice or hate it as much if there was actually anything going on for most of that time. The problem is that it’s a lot of moving and ending your turn until you get to where you’re going because there are so few enemies until you get to the middle of the right side and the rain lets up.

Look at Chapter 25A/B for example - while the snow is a bit of a nuisance for the units that go north on Kenneth’s map, you’re at least more actively engaged while out in it so it doesn’t come across as as much of a slog. And, outside of the first couple of turns of Jerme’s map, once you get into the middle, there’s plenty of action going on and the snow actually helps control what’s going on IMO.

I don’t know if it’s the “gotta go fast” attitude or what that causes people to dislike weather so much, but I enjoy the atmosphere and, as long as you don’t have cases like FE7 Ch 10 (or 14 to a degree because the rain’s timing always sucks), it’s almost always sat well with me. (Fog of War would be fine too if the enemy didn’t cheat and attack units that they couldn’t previously see, but the cheating to know where you are at least helps speed up the map…)

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Hard disagree on Jerme’s map. That map is the most egregious example since it shows exactly the failure of weather in that it does not slow the pace of enemy approaches and change the flow of the map, it just blanket forces both sides to move slower, so it’s all basically the same map flow, just drawn out for way too long on what’s already a reasonably large map.

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I think a good way to use the deserts maps should be something like good but with the flaws.
Parts of a desert in real life have dirt paths, that means it will be easy for most persons like in the middle east to travel with I dunno… camels, jeeps, whatever.

Dirt paths exist for some reason, and that is to make those areas more “easy to travel”.
There’s some dirt path tiles in the map editor, so people should do something like:

You could travel without move penalties… but the “easy” road is full of strong bad guys, while the desert has nearly no enemies…but you’ll go slow.

As for the harsh weather like rain in FE7, It’s not that bad, actually, it was a barely even used feature by the creators. I could create maps where I desire rain for a period of time, or maps where all day is raining like England (just to be especific, a short period of time rains, stops, and starts again).

Or even fog, 5 squares of vision to let the player know that this map is fog of war but less bad, but in the end, is up to you how to use the map and create something that flows and does not cause grief when someone says: “Ah ****… here we go again, desert maps”.

What you do with the desert maps is up to you, but if someone is hacking the FE7 and wants to use rain, don’t abuse the time of the rain. Use it as a surprise factor.

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Today on Bottum Gearh.

Jeremy will show you how to utilise a Jeep,

In Scorched Sands.

Meanwhile, Valter and Hammond will be escaping from the Israeli Border Patrol in a new brand Ferrari, the Ferrari Canto+.

And James finds a Guiding Ring in sand.

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Weather isn’t objectively bad. It’s just that people have bad experiences with it and usually don’t know how to use it well.

Weather inhibiting movement isn’t interesting. Weather inhibiting movement in a way that changes how the map is played is. I’m reminded of two of the three chapters I made for Void’s Blitzarre Adventure back in the day, which I’d like to explain because I think they hold up as good conceptual examples of weather use.

The first chapter is basically a horizontal march across a field to the boss. It snows on and off along the way, and the reactions I saw back in the day were always “waah wah weather bad”. But the thing is, there’s a path of road tiles (the ones that the game specifically calls Road and not Plain) that the player can go along. Road tiles not having any movement penalties in weather is an underutilised feature of the vanilla games. Several tiles out into the field, there are buildings that enemy reinforcements appear out of, and normally they’d be able to just run over and attack the player in one turn, but thanks to the snow, the player has time to react. Taking a look back at the actual map, I could’ve implemented this idea a lot better, but my intention with it was clear.

The second map I want to talk about is a boat map, which happens to have a “seize throne” objective and sends the player on winding paths across various boats. “But that’s a terrible idea! The player will just use fliers to skip the whole chapter. There’s a reason why boat maps are all ‘survival’ objectives in the vanilla games!” But this is another place where I used inclement weather to change the way things work. As with road tiles, there’s no extra cost for moving on ship floor tiles in rain. However, any units flying over the sea will still have to spend the extra movement. This means it’s not a big deal to fly your flier over a one-tile gap between ships that are close together, but try a wider gap and you’re a sitting duck for archers/mages. Again, my actual implementation of this wasn’t perfect, but in this case it was good enough. The rain didn’t make it impossible to take a flier and fly around the whole periphery of the map to end up at the throne, but actually playing the chapter is more efficient/rewarding/fun/etc than going through that tedium.

So if you can think of some fun maps in which the player has to change the way they think about movement, or where the weather encourages the player to play the map the right way, etc, use weather! If you don’t have anything like that planned and just want weather because vanilla FE7 had it, don’t. There are plenty of potentially rad, puzzle-y uses for weather out there, and it’s unfortunately usually ignored because “weather make movement go down so weather bad”. People generally liking huge maps doesn’t do it any favours, either.

There’s a solid concept of having to pace your time spent outdoors/indoors buried in Pale Flower of Darkness. I just can’t remember if it’s actually done well.

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