Hello Fire Emblem Universe,
Welcome to Fire Emblem: Call of the Armor (development name: Project Telephone Strategy), a [complete] Fire Emblem 8 hackrom.
The final release is 20 gameplay chapters w/ 3 Tear Ring Saga inspired character selection interludes. You can play with up to 65 units total, and 50 in any single run of the hack.
This hack was built in ~4 months by a team of 14 chapter creators, dubbed Team Distant Roads. It took just under 4 months to complete our first draft, and then we spent a few weeks playtesting, rebalancing, and polishing as needed prior to posting a public release.
We created the hack by modifying the game ‘telephone’, in which players would pass a message to each other in a line, and the goal was to see how much the message would modify by the end of the chain.
Please read the sections below for more details about the hack and how we built this.
Here is our FEE3 2021 video:
You can download the patch here via Dropbox.
Intro to Telephone
To apply the idea of telephone to hacking, each of us claimed one or two of the game’s twenty chapters, and added onto the story (chapter start and end events, talk convos, new characters, lore, etc.) to try and create a coherent narrative. We kept track of the hack’s chapters in a spreadsheet, passing builder patches and saves to each other for testing.
While we collaborated to ensure some degree of consistency (especially on matters of lore), we aimed to maintain the spirit of the game telephone throughout the hack’s development. This meant there was little communication or direction provided between creators about which units to add in, how the story would unfold, and what gameplay goals to achieve. Each of us would review the previous chapter(s) to get a sense of balance and the story, and continue building from there independently.
We’ve included a section below with our rules and methods if you’re curious to learn more about how we put this together.
While we would edit units and maps to help improve balance over time, we did not touch the script in order to preserve the author’s original intent outside of grammar errors or any major plot/lore inconsistencies that would’ve made the story incoherent.
Throughout the hack you’ll notice the varied styles in map design, unit balance, and writing, which was enjoyable for all of us as we played to get a sense of each designer’s style.
The goal was to see how we could create a group project that maintained a degree of consistency and quality seen by smaller or solo dev projects, while also taking advantage of the speed that group efforts often offer. Considering the short turnaround time and the format’s limitations, we are largely pleased with the end result and it was a fun exercise in hacking that allowed each of us to experiment outside of our solo works while also creating a game that we all ultimately enjoyed both creating and playing.
Below are some screenshots of the hack:
The story focuses on Princess Kuijia, a princess sent away by her father as a civil war between the recently split East and West Kotor heats up. She departs her homeland only with her aged retainer, Shale, a handful of rookie knights and refugees, and a harrowing plea from her father to protect the armor she wears at all costs.
Feeling guilt for leaving her father and country behind, Kuijia seeks to raise an army and return back to East Kotor to free her country and end the conflict.
Throughout her journey, Kuijia will learn more about the mysterious armor she wears and the secrets it holds, meeting an eclectic cast of characters who join her on her mission along the way.
Gameplay Changes + Features
For gameplay, to make it easy on all designers, we agreed to stick with vanilla numbers and systems across the board. The weapon triangle, vanilla items, and mechanics are all unchanged from base FE8.
We did add in a few of the QoL patches such as display range, show growths, etc. Full credits are down below.
The only mechanical changes from vanilla
- Lord classes were changed since we didn’t want to work with an Eirika or Ephraim Lord.
- Armors get 5 move, but promote to 5 move general
- Added Halberdier as soldier alternate promo (they can also go general).
- Summoners summon personalized green units. This was to nerf their usefulness, but primarily because we ran out of character slots.
We did add custom items as well to spice things up.
Team Distant Roads Staff
All team members here contributed directly to the game’s development across the board.
Chapter Creation & Writing
Art & Assets / Interlude Character Contributors / Playtesters
You’ll need to guess who built each chapter!
The Rules / How We Built This
This format worked really well for creating a group project, and if you’re curious to learn more about how we handled things, these were our rules and guidance as we built the hack.
Note that because this was our first time trying something like this, we agreed to stick with vanilla FE8 numbers and classes, barring Lords and adding halberdiers so we could use playable soldiers more freely. If you attempt something similar, we recommend establishing every mechanical change that would impact multiple chapters (engine hacks, class list, etc.) upfront, so everyone is only focused on what they need to build for their chapter (adding new units, new items, building their events, etc.)
We created a spreadsheet for everyone to sign up and link a patch and a save so that it was easy for all of us to pick up, test, and iterate the next chapter. This spreadsheet also contained our rules, as well as notes about characters added, supports, and everything we wanted to track for easy reference.
We also used FEbuilder because it was what the majority of the group is familiar with and supported the sequential nature of telephone by design, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do this with a buildfile. In many ways, it would’ve been easier to manage had we done so.
See below for the excerpts we used internally:
How does this work?
- We will take turns passing the patch back and forth to each other in the order on the previous sheet. Each person is responsible for building on the narrative as they see fit, adding in a new chapter and units, and continuing the overarching game
- The first person to start the patch will set up all of the agreed upon quality of life patches, as well as the only class changes to the ROM (new lord and halberdier). You may add 2 new units per chapter.
- Try to complete your chapter within 1 week to keep things moving. If you are busy when your turn arises, feel free to swap with someone else.
- In order for your chapter to be accepted, it must not break any of the rules and must be as bug-free as possible (ie you can start and end the chapter, playing as intended)
- The script is sacrosanct. Once you pass the patch, unless there are rule-breaking elements or the story’s coherence is too far gone to be considered acceptable, we do not want to make any edits. Your goal is to build upon the existing chapter and continue telling the story. Think improv best practice of “Yes, and…”
- Try to spoil as little about your chapter as possible. The goal is for this to build on itself as organically as possible and see how we continue working on this combined effort over time.
Tactical rules for sanity
- You cannot edit anything that is not directly part of your chapter. No adding or removing new mechanics or engine hacks. Once these are decided upon upfront, you cannot edit anything that would impact chapters that came before.
- Classes are to remain vanilla - no adjustments of any kind to classes beyond what was agreed upon.
- Use vanilla map tilesets when possible. If you have to use a new map tileset or palette, add it in, do not replace
- Same with music and items. Add in only new stuff, do not replace existing.
- No making fun of real world people, community members, or their works. Try to avoid using vanilla characters if you can - be creative! Memes do not age well and can be jarring - take things seriously and give it your best effort.
- No breaking class conventions. If the vanilla armor knight doesn’t use bows, you can’t make your epic self insert armor knight a bow armor, etc.
- Please add in chapters and characters in descending order from the top.
- Make sure that every chapter, your enemy levels only increase by 1 in comparison with the previous chapter. Adjust as needed and use prepromote enemies as you see fit, but ideally not until we are at the level 10 generic mark.
- As a general rule, please avoid arena grinding during playtesting, especially in situations where the save is being used to work on subsequent chapters.
Tier List Maker
|HP Bars||Tequila and Circles|
|Passive boosts patch||Venno|
|Show heal amount||Tequila|
|AI PRevent healer mistarget||Magrika Is Now Canon|
|Change easy and normal mode penalty into bonus||Shuusuke|
|Weapon Lock EX||7743|
|Status effect swords||Aera, Stein, 7743|
|Move after talk/support||circles|
|Fix prep store pricing||Aera|
|Continuous battle BGM||7743|
|Change battle BGM by chapter||7743|
|Steel Sword Icon||Beansy|
|Modular mini mug box||Zane Avernathy|
|VQ style mini mug box||Scraiza|
|FE6 Portraits with Fixed Frames||Obsidian Daddy, Lenh|
|Armor mage map sprites||WarPath|
|Armor Mage animations||Orihara_Saki, TBA|
|Baron animations||DerTheVaporeon, Leo_link, Nuramon, Iscaneus|
|HAlberdier animation and map sprite||TBA|
|Portraits||Laurent_Lacroix, Blade, RandomWizard, Lenh, Shin19,CanDy, SSHX, Zelkami, Levin, Epicer, KrashBoomBang, RandomPretzel, Zorua, L95, Nickt, Ken|
|GFE1R Oghma||CirclesEverywhere, NickT|
|Item Icon||Indogutsu Tenbuki, EldritchAbomination, Lisandra Brave, Gabriel Knight, Beansy, Zelix, Ereshkigal|
|Music||Saxor, Pandan, Jordan Davenport of VGMusic, Sme, SurfingKyogre, RandomWizard, Runa, Scraiza, Erik Menjivar of VGMusic, King Meteor of VGMusic, KHInsider, pieordie1 of VGMusic, Andrew Shand of VGMusic|
|Unit Battle Palettes||Epicer|
|Ice Shard Spell||Sme, Compile|
|Set Unit Status Patch||7743|
|Battle Stats w/Anims off||Tequila|
|Add event: send items to transporter||7743|
|Set unit condition||Tequila|
|Broken wall effect||7743|
|That Person’s name (Bravely Default)||Sme|
|Evil church (Clock Tower)||Dolkar|
|Person combat (Berwick)||RSflame|
|Female Mercenary Map Sprites||Agro|
|Female Mercenary Animation||TBA|
|Corrupt Eye Spell||Orihara Saki|
|Frostcalibur Anim||Shyuterz, Hiroto|
|Get units in range matching condition||7743|
|Set Preparation BGM By Chapter||7743|
|Add Event: GetKillerUnitID||Leonarth|
|Oathbringer, Stone Breaker, Charybdis icons||GabrielKnight|
|Stone Breaker Anim||Bonsai, Blazer|
|Conversation 1 (FE4)||SurfingKyogre|
|Phantom Map Sprite||Pushwall|
|Deathgoyle, Elder Bael, Gwyllgi Map Sprites||Pikmin1211|
|Corporealis X Animations||Arch|
|Many custom tunes & other MIDIs||Chair|
|Zain’s Blade II Icon||Zarg|
Thanks all for taking a look at this. Please share your feedback and we hope you enjoy.
Lastly, as a fun competition, see if you can guess who built each chapter - everyone here made 1-2 chapters. We’ll post a scoreboard in the first post after enough time has passed and you’ve made your guesses.
You can make your guesses here: Telephone Hack Predictions
Team Distant Roads