yeah, I’m making quite a bit of design threads so I’m compiling the two I’ve already made into one thread! I’ll only really bump this thread once every two to four new design rants.
Doors are Based
Doors! One of the least interesting things in fire emblem’s map design, or is it? My argument is that doors are one of if not the most interesting and versatile tile in the base gba fe games. Just to refresh you on what a door does in case you’ve gotten a sudden case of memory loss
doors are impassible terrain that your character can open with a doorkey or a lockpick (thief exclusive) while rogues can open doors naturally.
doors can also be opened through events since it requires a map tile change
so what’s so special about doors? For one, it’s one of the few if not the only terrain type that can be modified by the player as well as through an event, this can give the player more control over the situation or suddenly tear that control away from them
doors can also present a way to block too many enemies from hoarding the player without the need of reinforcements, unless you specify within the enemies AI red units will not move until they can actually reach you, meaning that the player can move at their own pace and see upcoming challenges and prepare for it.
Doors can also be a good way of making maps more interesting
Example from chapter 7 of my own hack which you can play for yourself
here (FEU doesn’t allow hyperlinks in summary headers)
as you can see there are three doors, you open each of these by killing each of the three bosses, the elder bael, the wight, and the cyclops to obtain doorkeys. While the formation in the prep screen highly encourages the player to split their army up into three main groups the fact that you need to kill bosses on two sides of the map pretty much requires you to split your army to play efficiently, while it isn’t the most innovative of map ideas it still goes to show how adding doors to maps can prove to aid unique maps objective. It’s also important to note that at this time in the game the player has no lockpick or extra doorkeys, stopping them from blitzing the chapter within a few turns.
While doors can be very versatile and useful for map creators, it does come with a few issues that may arise from poor choices.
1.) it is surprisingly easy to put the player in a softlock position with doors that are required for map objectives, so easy in fact that Thracia 776 infamously has a few moments where you can be softlocked because you don’t have a thief or doorkeys. Always be sure that the player has methods of being able to unlock important doors, whether that be giving the player a thief or having doorkeys drop from enemies in that chapter. While yes it is technically still possible the player could softlock themselves when giving them a thief if they are recruited the same chapter the doors need to be opened, it mostly falls on the player’s own lack of foresight for letting them die.
2.) Thieves and doorkeys are hard to keep track of. If you’re many chapters into your hack and you want to create a fun map using doors it’s important to consider what the player may already have on them, how many thieves to they have, how many lockpicks should they have maximum, how many doorkeys are available to them before the chapter starts? It’s a lot to keep track of in order to avoid easy cheese however there are a few ways to make it easier on yourself
a) limit the amount of doorkeys the players can obtain to the exact number of doors required to open in previous chapters as well as making doorkeys unbuyable
b) make lockpicks infinite use. If designed around making lockpicks infinite makes keeping track of possible number of keys easy
c) don’t give the player any thieves.
d) keep a spreadsheet, track how many doors are needed to be opened to proceed in a every map and subtract it by the number of lockpick uses and doorkeys you get to get you max number of tools and subtract every openable chest and door by the number of doorkeys and lockpick uses to get your minimum number of tools.
doors are pretty based so use them effectively when designing maps.
How to Create a Main Character
This was originally a comment on a community thread about what makes a main character, I figured I would throw it in here along with an original rant, enjoy
it’s important to consider the role the main character fills when deciding how they should act, they have to be charismatic or important enough to have an army, they are the only playable character that can have a consistent and permanent character arc due to always being in the story, and they need to drive the plot forward.
I think the best example of what I mean is looking at how Dimitri is handled in Three Houses. Looking at the Azure Moon route, Dimitri is only able to push forward thanks to the people that were already with him before the time-skip, Byleth, Gilbert, Felix, and Rodrigue. Without having those people around or being as crazy as he is pre-time-skip would make it incredibly difficult to justify why anyone would follow him and how he would drive the plot forward.
Dimitri’s character arc was intertwined with his role in the story, neither was an afterthought, this is what you want to aim for when creating a main character.
You also don’t want your lord to have certain traits that would make it difficult to justify how they get into conflict, an example of this problem would be Chrom from Fire Emblem Awakening, overall I think Awakening’s story is pretty good but there are certain points where it feels like the story is bending over backwards to give Chrom a reason to move forward, the most obvious example is how Virion is used as a metaphorical sacrificial lamb to give Chrom and co a reason to actually go to Valm, and how Maribelle seeing Gangrel’s army and Gangrel himself happening to be there was used as the inciting incident for act one.
despite what many believe having a ‘generic’ lord personality of noble and purehearted isn’t inherently a bad thing, my mind immediately turns to the amazing storytelling of FE8, Eirika, the purehearted lord is shown consistently to believe that Lyon can be saved, even going so far as to relinquish the renais sacred stone to him and she eventually overcomes her weakness and is able to accept that Lyon is dead and can not be saved and fight him alongside Ephraim, the noble lord who is shown to be the person who accepts that Lyon is gone, most people think that Ephraim is boring because of this and I tend to disagree
The entirety of FE8 deals with how people deal with loss, Eirika and Ephraim are merely two sides of the same coin in that regard, Ephraim ignores his sense of loss and pushes forward with unflinching resolve, while Eirika can’t accept the loss and keeps telling herself that Lyon can be saved, neither are shown to be greater than the other, Eirika finds it in herself to accept the loss and move forward, while Ephraim is able to face the reality that he simply ignored.
Strong character writing is essential for a lord, be sure to allow for situations that allow the lord to both show their strength and weakness, and give them an actual stake in the story, give them something to care about and something to protect, and have the protected be threatened or even taken, allow the lord to reach an all-time low before allowing them to rise up once more and overcome the challenge in their way, or don’t, as long as it’s done correctly, a story where the lord fails can work.
anyway I’ve been typing long enough, just do what you feel is best and you’ll be able to make a main character you’re proud of!
What is Your Hack Gimmick?
Gimmicks are something that are in every game, romhack or otherwise, a gimmick is simply put a selling point of a game or a unique feature of it, think Wii Fit with the balance board and the promise of making you ‘‘healthy’’ or the N64 with it its stupid, stupid, stupid three pronged controller.
romhacks in particular need gimmicks in order to stand out, just to name a few examples, Iron Emblem was built around you having a limited amount of faceless soldiers as well as being built around a true ironman playstyle, even going so far as to remove the save feature entirely.
The Last Promise was the first notable fully custom FE romhack
The White Feather is based on real world history drawing us in with enticing graphics and an interesting story
If any of these interested you, congrats, you proved that gimmicks are necessary for hacks to shine, by the by go check each of those hacks out, they’re pretty popular already but just in case you’ve never heard of them just search them up in the search bar at the upper right corner of FEU.
As you can see gimmicks add variety to hacks, it also opens the door to new design and gameplay challenges.
I believe the best example of a gameplay gimmick that enhances gameplay is Fate’s low HP gimmick, throughout the game most of your characters will never get above 30-35 HP, this allows for even the bulkiest of tanks like Camilla and Xander be in danger of death when used in tandem with debuffs like ninjas and skills like poison strike, this is the ideal of a gimmick, something that enhances gameplay while helping it stand out.
I personally am biased towards the gimmick of ''keep the player from having a really helpful resource until way later on than it normally would be kept for", my favorite variant being the ‘‘no healer’’ version
anyway that’s about it this time, I’ve been slacking on this thread but I’m hoping to add more to it soon enough.
Gunter and Why Skills are Important
Yep I’m back with Fates! Although this time it’s less so about Fates itself and more so an analysis of one unit and how it can apply to romhacks that use skills.
So Gunter, he’s available in 2/3 routes of Fates, he is available from the route split on in Revelation and from chapter 15 onward in Conquest, while he either starves to death or is murdered in Valla in Birthright. Gunter has access to both the cavalier class line as well as the wyvern and mercenary class line, in addition, Gunter essentially has the effect of two eternal seals, letting him level to 30 instead of 20 and has faster exp growth due to his internal level. Gunter’s growth rates are atrociously bad, having even lower personal growths than generic captured units, his bases also stop him from keeping up with your main army even through the next chapter.
So what’s the big deal with Gunter? He seems like an awful unit that dramatizing the gimmick of the Jagen, that’s what most people initially think anyway, I’m here to tell you that any notion of Gunter being bad is wrong, Gunter is, in my opinion, one of the strongest characters in Conquest due to two things.
- Gunter’s available skills and reclass options
- Gunter’s ExP yield and level 30 cap
Let’s break each of these down.
Starting with Gunter’s reclassing options we can rule out the mercenary paths due to the ill suited skills for Gunter such as rally skill and good fortune, that leaves us with Butler/Strategist from Jakob and whatever class female Corrin is.
Butler is a decent option for Gunter, he has decent strength for a sizable portion of the game, can give a bonus to magic and speed as well as +15 hit and +3 damage dealt due to his personal to Corrin when they’re paired up, Gunter’s personal also activates when Corrin and Gunter are adjacent so he can be quickly unpaired and can heal Corrin while still providing a damage and hit buff.
Malig knight though, Malig knight is where it’s at. At first glance this is inferior in every way to Wyvern Lord for Gunter since his magic is essentially non-existent, however this is when we get into the main meat of this analysis
the skills from Malig knight, combined with other offensive skills like defender and elbow room can boost Gunter from a nuisance to a player-phase nuke that can deal heavy damage with Elbow room, Defender, and Trample to non-mounted units on a non-terrain tile (that’s +9 damage) and deal great burn damage with savage blow (20% hp within two tiles)
but let’s not stop there
Gunter can go even further
depending on female Corrin’s heart seal choice Gunter can gain a huge boost to his usefulness, if you want to focus more on debuffs, have female Corrin choose spear fighter so he can get seal defense and speed then reclass back to butler for even more damage and debuff stacking, if you want to focus on raw damage and power, have him go berserker for axefaire and gamble and give him a Beruka’s Axe, he’ll have 60+ crit.
now then, how about that ExP yield and level 30 cap?
this doesn’t take long to explain, essentially these two things make sure that Gunter will be able to get all the skills he needs within a few chapters at the most and the increased level cap ensures that he’ll be able to get as many skills as he wants.
now let’s see where we can apply this design philosophy to our own works.
nowadays it’s simple enough to add a second seal option for every class as well as have the skillsystem patch installed so we have a good foundation, now we just need to balance it around that foundation.
In order to create a unit similar in Gunter you can simply increase the exp on that unit, give them poor stats, and incredibly easy access to second seals and skills that other units do not. There are also many other innovative ways to apply this philosophy though so do your own testing and see what sort of units you can make!
Anyway I believe this is all I have to say on this matter, I mostly created this just to express my new found appreciation for Gunter as well as address the surprising lack of creativity when it comes to using skills in GBA-emblem, even default skillsystem is so incredibly versatile that these sorts of fun units should be common-place yet the skillsystem is used so sparingly in hacks that mixing and matching class skills is horribly rigid in most hacks.
innovate with skills, make more Gunters.