After the conclusion of another successful FEE3, the now 8th(?) consecutive year, I wanted to make a post to summarize my feelings on the event. As someone who was more involved on the back-end this year, recording roughly one in four projects of the 40+(!), I want to talk about what I thought went well, and where I see opportunities for improvement. MK404 also asked for feedback, so I’m glad I thought to write this up.
Before we go section by section, I do want to thank MageKnight404 for hosting, Arch for coordinating the event, all of the volunteer LPers, and most importantly, the hackers who submitted projects this year. This does not happen without all of our combined effort, and it’s impressive that as a collective FE hacking community, we’ve done this event 8 years in a row.
This post is not meant to be a call out to anyone or their hard work, but rather looking at the event as a whole. I broke down my thoughts by section, which will have a summary and a recommendation. I’m curious to get others’ thoughts so we can have a discussion as we start to plan for FEE3 2020.
We have the potential to generate a lot of buzz, interest, and most importantly, showcase our work to a larger audience to help grow the community.
Timing (Dates/time of day)
FEE3 2019 was hosted during the first half of November. Each day, there would be videos released staggered throughout the day, typically starting at 12 EST / 9 PST. With ~4 videos per day, and the varied length, we would often have 3-5 hours of content each day. From what I saw, the videos would start at 12 PM EST, with the last one premiering at 7 PM EST.
Two things I want to discuss with timing - the time of year and the way videos are staggered. I know that in years past, FEE3 was hosted over the summer, and was pushed back due to outside events. This year, FE16 was released in July, and so the event was pushed out to November to accommodate the hype of Three Houses.
For next year, do we think November is the right time to host the event? I’d be curious if we think shifting next year up to July/August would be beneficial to help. I know this perspective is American, but given that the majority (albeit not a huge one) of the community, hails from the US, there may be benefit to hosting the event over the summer, where students typically have more free time to work on projects and record.
Similarly, with time of day, with projects premiering on the daily, I wonder if there is more consideration we can premiere videos at a time that would be more conducive to getting live viewers. For myself, I am at work during every premiere, and I’m sure many other folks on the west coast of the US are in the same boat. I’d be curious to understand the demographics of the FEE3 audience to determine the ideal time to reach the largest viewerbase at time of premiere.
At the very least, I recommend that next year we submit which timeslot we would want for our projects to premiere at so that creators and LPers can participate in the chat and view live. I was fortunately able to see my project live and answer questions as they came up. However, it would’ve been nice if I didn’t need to sneak away at my job to do so (priorities!!)
tl;dr - Potentially push up event to July/August, consider premiering videos at times that will either a) gain greater number of viewers live and/or b) be conducive for creators and LPers to participate and view live as well.
This year, FEE3 experimented with YouTube’s premiere formatting, which enables the first view of a video to play like a live stream at a set time, with a chat available to those watching the event on the first ‘premiere’ of the video.
This has come up a few times as there was negativity spread during the chats, aimed at projects and LPers, and both Arch and MK404 needed to remind people of the purpose of the event, and to stop spreading negativity.
While opening up the chat and the premiere formatting are nice adds that help engage viewers who make the live recording, it can also create a fear of missing out if you are not able to make the video, similar to missing a live stream. And while it can be nice to see questions and see feedback in real time, it can also be a cesspool of mean comments. I noticed that this was only the case on a few videos, and people became more respectful towards the latter part of the event post-warning.
Overall, I think the format has potential and we should continue weighing the pros and the cons of using it. I’d be curious to see the impact that it has on views of videos and overall engagement with the projects.
tl;dr - what are your thoughts of the premiere formatting? Don’t have a strong opinion here, but I’d lean more towards keeping it, but premiering videos at times more conducive to get views (whatever they may be)
Quantity of projects per day
With FEE3 expanding to what I believe is the largest number of projects in its history, and poised to continue growing in the coming years, the number of projects per day has historically increased.
Given that we have so many projects, do we think that it makes sense to have 4 or 5 videos premiere in a single day? As mentioned earlier, with 4 videos generally leading to 3-5 hours of content, is that too much for the viewer to handle and consume? Does it allow each video its proper time in the sun?
I would argue that extending the schedule so that the event is longer and that there are fewer projects per day could help create more hype, and also mitigate the tradeoff issues of making time to watch. For me, I know that I have to pick and choose what I can try to watch live at work, but also what I will prioritize viewing when I am home - more content per day than I have time to watch! (not that this is a bad thing)
tl;dr - consider extending the event and spreading out the number of videos each day to help drive more views to each video per day. Would want to see how others feel about this and how much content they’re able to consume.
How Projects are Submitted
One issue that I’ve noticed that doesn’t get talked about much, is the quality of the submission itself. Not the quality of the game, but the information posted on the sign up thread. In cases where the hosts or LPers know less about the hack, the hack does not get a proper showcase, and the LPer is left to guess what to call out about the hack besides their raw reaction. This can lead to LPers seeming to be confused or frustrated at the game, which does not bode well for the project on FE romhacking’s biggest stage.
I propose we make a more detailed sign up form that calls out specifically what people want to have shown off, a link to the .sav file (or equivalent), a short list of notes to send to the LPer for specific mechanical changes or things to call out about the hack, and a brief description of their project to put in the description of the videos when they go live.
I received feedback that there were things I missed in the showcases that I did. This could’ve been solved by a bit more information. There were other instances where hack creators didn’t get the chapter that they requested to show off get shown, or cases where they’d say “play up to X chapter”, and it didn’t happen (I am guilty of this too).
tl;dr - have hack creators provide more info up front so LPers can give their games better showcases.
Since 2018, with the arrival of FEbuilder and the explosion of new projects, the prior format of having a single or a few select LPers go through each project was put to the wayside, and creators were asked to find their own LPers, record themselves, or be assigned a volunteer LPer by Arch. This helps with streamlining the video production aspect of FEE3 and helps bring more voices and commentary styles to the table.
A challenge with this is coordination. There were at least two instances this year where one person recorded a video, only to find out that someone else had recorded the same video. This was typically after a lack of communication with Arch, leading to him needing someone to pinch hit and record on someone else’s behalf, only to have their work not used because another LPer ultimately sent their video in.
While having multiple LPers is great, it can also create frustration when videos are recorded and then not used, especially when most showcases tend to land around the hour mark. It can also be sensitive if a more well-known LPer records a video that replaces that of a lesser-known player, leading to dissatisfaction and potential resentment - in short, being upstaged isn’t fun!
How can we solve for this? I propose three solutions:
An LPer chat is created ahead of the event, and a spreadsheet with project ownership is shared among all volunteer LPers. This will allow for communication between LPers, while also removing the onus on Arch to contact people individually. This will also help create a sense of responsibility, as multiple LPers ghosted this year, creating confusion. By having a group chat and shared visibility into the projects, it can help reduce duplicate efforts across projects and (hopefully) increase the likelihood things get done on time.
More stringent timelines. Every year projects are submitted late. While this may be solved by adjusting timing FEE3 is hosted (if only partially), the videos that get submitted on time should be the ones that are used. I also am biased towards punctuality, and dislike when deadlines are disrespected by others. I think even the idea of a more stringent timeline would help ensure we get things done on time, preventing a last minute scramble for backup videos, or at least mitigating it.
Double (or triple) features. If we have multiple videos in these cases, can we not use them? Tales of Ternon had three videos, and while it is unique both because it is a community project and has three routes, could multiple features work for other projects as well? This could prevent negative feelings if one’s work is replaced by another’s, by simply leveraging both pieces of content made. This is something that we arrived to on each occasion that it happened, and I want to call this out as a good solution.
tl;dr - Have LPers in communication with each other to avoid duplicate work and help with coordination to create more transparency while reducing Arch’s workload. This will also hopefully mitigate the likelihood of LPers completely ghosting, which ties into my next point.
Collaboration with larger Fire Emblem YouTube community
As FE has grown over the years, from a niche SRPG to one of Nintendo’s most profitable IPs, Fire Emblem YouTube has grown tremendously alongside it. There are a lot of ‘big’ personalities that play Fire Emblem, many of whom also play hacks and fan projects on their channels. This helps build interest in these projects, and by extension, the hacking community.
However, the overall engagement in the event from more known YouTubers is sadly low. For example, there was a breakdown of communications with Mangs that lead to him posting his own showcase on his channel after missing the deadline. Mekkah and Ghast (who previously hosted an FEE3!) were nowhere to be found - this shouldn’t happen.
This limits the potential reach FEE3 has as an event. We can argue that hacking is a niche corner in the community, but part of it is due to a lack of exposure. We have a terrific community working on lots of neat stuff, and also plenty of resources and support to help would-be hackers get started.
Mekkah streamed TLP to an audience of 200-300 viewers each week recently. Mangs did an LP of Order of the Crimson Arm which garnered thousands of views per video. Ghast obviously made Bloodlines and would showcase hacks on his channel regularly (which is how I learned about quite a few!) - there is interest, but if the fandom isn’t aware - how do we reach them?
My question - how do we drive engagement from other YouTubers to get them involved in the event to help drum up interest and grow the community? Both FEE3 and FEtubers have something to gain from the interest in the event, whether it be reaching a new audience at the event, or supporting a game that they could play on their own channels down the road.
Even my paltry youtube channel had a spike in subscribers during the event. Maybe the same can be said for other LPers? I’d be curious to find out.
One idea could be to host different videos on different channels and keep them in a master playlist so that one could see videos cross-channels. This would help expose the videos to a wider audience, but also provide some tangible benefit to the channels hosting the event by being linked into a larger collaboration (and getting sweet youtube $$).
I don’t have a clear answer for this, but I think it is something worth considering.
tl;dr - Fire Emblem YouTube is growing. We should find a way to partner with more content creators to help build each others’ communities.
Cross-Promotion on other FE Sites
FEU is a niche community. We predominantly hack a gameboy advance game from 2004. We are the biggest and most productive community that does this in the world (I do not think JP’s hacking scene is larger).
However, there are many other places where FE fans hang out and where there may be an interest in hacks. Serenes Forest, r/FireEmblem, Fire Emblem Amino… There are a handful of other major pockets of FE activity where hacking is not the primary focus, but where interest can be built.
I’d recommend we do more to promote FEE3 in these circles. We should be contacting moderators or leadership and ask them to help us promote the event. We should have a thread where videos are posted daily. We should be in their discords. I’ve seen this happen ad hoc, but I think there is an opportunity for a more coordinated promotions effort.
tl;dr - Let’s post stuff on other sites, not only when the event is live, but also to build hype leading into the event. While FEE3 is hosted by and made by FEU, it can be enjoyed by a larger audience. Let’s make a plan to engage them next year.
Expansion into new markets
My last point, on a similar note, is expansion into new markets. With the advent of FEbuilder by Japan native 7743, the western community and the Japanese community had a bridge that did not exist before. With more prominent translation projects, such as the collaboration with Ken and Pikmin1211 on the Nameless Heroes and now the Yggdra UI patch for English, there is growing interest in projects built by other communities outside of our own, primarily English-speaking audience.
We’ve also had submissions from the FELatino hacking community and some collaboration with Chinese hackers as well. Is there an opportunity to more proactively engage these communities and bring them into our event?
While it is easy to argue that language differences can be a challenge, there are so many other projects not part of this event - what can we do to more proactively engage these other groups, and make FEE3 a celebration of romhacking around the world? The Olympics of FE romhacking.
tl;dr - Let’s make FEE3 2020 a global event and proactively engage other FE hacking communities to help showcase their work. Also, who wouldn’t want more land boat at FEE3??
If you’re still here, thank you for reading. FEE3 is a fun event and I enjoy playing a part in it. As our community grows we have lots of opportunity to make the event larger and bring our work to a broader audience.
What are your thoughts? It’d be great to have the discussion.