Here is a guide on things you’ll want to consider when planning a hack project. Oftentimes when we are just getting started, we just want to dive in and make stuff. This is great, but it can lead to problems down the road as you learn more, your vision changes, or if you bring in others to help you.
What I’ve been trying to do more of lately is plan ahead and keep track of the things I’d like to do. This provides a clean workspace for me to think through ideas across different dimensions before implementing them in the game, whether in FEBuilder or Buildfiles.
The goal of this document is to create a single place to scribble down ideas that cut across the project so you have a single point of reference as you make changes. While each of us will have different processes, having a place to plan things out and “see the big picture” more easily will help out as you go through development. I added a few sample notes to better illustrate how I mean, as well as a quick description of how I use each tab below.
Below is a brief description of each tab and how you may want to use it:
This is arguably the most important tab. This is where you can lay out the outline summary of your story and events, as well as note when characters join, which flags you use, and boss notes.
I find this to be the tab I look at and edit most since it shapes the entire arc of the project. Being able to have a goal in mind when building w/ clear notes allows me to build faster. I frequently change and adjust depending on what I learn through building.
This can also help you remember everything you wanted to do and help others review and share feedback on your ideas more easily.
Everyone’s favorite. There are a lot of names, histories, magical items, and ways your world will work. Keeping track of them here makes it easy to reference. I know I’ve forgotten when I named a historical figure or what I had them do, and this reference helps ensure consistency when I am writing.
High level list of all characters. I focus on the basics here - not stats - just to get a rough gauge of how the cast is shaping out. I’ll manage stats directly in builder or buildfile, but keep general notes here on the unit, class, and their general function.
More detailed story notes on characters. Particularly useful for the plot important characters, such as villains and NPCs. Helps me keep track of everyone in the world, their goals, and when they may become more relevant in the main plot.
Similar to character list, provide a high level list of the classes and what they are like. Their names, promotions, type, and weapons all listed here to gauge holistically what this may look like.
Adjust as you see fit to accommodate for branching, promo items, etc. I kept it basic for my own purposes.
This is a list of items. I like quickly scribbling general stats to gauge how the strength of each looks to each other, but you can skip this and just write in the items and their effects. Ultimately, how you use it is up to you, but I like keeping track of the items I have, when they are available, and what they do.
The guide is a useful place to store details about the changes you’ve made to the hack from vanilla and to ensure the player has easy reference to difference mechanic tweaks you’ve made. I use this to story details about entries I will write in the guide.
I use this to generally list out the types of mechanics I am including and how they work, including things like the weapon triangle, formula changes, new features (biorhythm, fatigue, etc.) and generally provide an overview of what the gameplay will feel like from a mechanic standpoint.
Various Idea Template
I make copies of this all the time to organize list of different ideas I want to explore or write out, such as creating a list of status effects, staves, or equippable items I want to scope and consider. I adjust this template as I see fit to easily lay out and review what I am planning and get feedback from others. These lists are basically napkins I write on when I have an idea so I don’t lose any thoughts.
This is not an exhaustive list. There’s plenty other things you can add (skill lists, aesthetic ideas, notes from other games to steal shamelessly for your own work, etc.) - but this should be enough to get you started and thinking holistically about the nature of your project before you dive in and find yourself wanting to redo a lot of it later.
I hope this is helpful - threw it together quickly. Good planning will help you stay on task and deliver a stronger project. Having the mechanisms to plan and articulate your thoughts effectively will help drive consistency.