How do you go about planning your projects?

Do you draft up a doc? A spreadsheet? How do you go about writing the characters/story? How do you balance your game around that, or vice versa? Or anything similar.

I’m really curious to know what your creative process.

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I don’t. Send help.

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Write the story then just throw things at the wall and see what sticks.

I do like to manage everything on a spreadsheet, though.
(jeez welcome back after a 2 year long hiatus)

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[name of project] notes.txt

Making this simple text file is usually the first step of any thing I make. It’s where I write the story synopsis, gameplay ideas, various technical things I’m tinkering with in the rom, everything that isn’t part of the build file. The more concretely written-out stuff gets put at the beginning of the file, things that need to be refined or are being worked on are somewhere in the middle, and the most nebulous ideas and scatterbrained notes are usually at the end.

The original main purpose of these “notes” files is actually obsolete: they were originally for the purpose of noting down the offsets of everywhere I inserted stuff so I wouldn’t accidentally overwrite anything. I no longer actually need to keep track of offsets in project roms ever since build files were created, but the practice of having a huge text file has survived. It’s just too darngosh useful having all my notes in one place!

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I’m bad at planning tbh. But normally I start with the end, think of the beginning and go from there.
So I know who the main villain is and their goal, the steps they need to achieve it, then the heroes and MC gets thoughtabout. After that backstory etc etc etc.

For FE’s in general after I got a basic concept of the story I write out all the chapter names and their general guideline for what happens. Every chapter I complete I go through the list again and make any adjustments that need to be done.

For detailed stories and character backgrounds, I start with a general idea and then start writing the dialouge. As I write the dialouge whatever comes naturally to me is what I put down. So entire scenes change from my initial thought, to what is in my head once I start writing it.

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Here’s how I go about it.

Step 1: Create a base so that I can start working on it.
Step 2: Begin filling the base with locations, characters, etc.
Step 3: Start adding lore to the more important parts.
Step 4: Start adding too much to everything.
Step 5: There’s too much things but you get attached to these things and you refuse to let them go.
Step 6: It collapses on itself.
Step 7: Erase everything.
Step 8: Start back from Step 1.

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Before I started I wanted to be committed to a general story/gameplay idea. So my first phase of planning was creating short chapter by chapter outlines for stories that could take place in the world that was built.

Once I found one I liked, I thought through general map concepts, players, and how the story would flow chapter to chapter.

I did occasionally use spreadsheets for stats but since I was working in builder I mostly winged it and adjusted as needed.

Spreadsheets were a huge help for managing the art with multiple stakeholders (description of details as well as links to mugs and palettes all in one place), and also for visualizing supports and planning/tracking those.

My advice is plan enough so that you can execute without needing to think a ton, but keep it loose in case you get inspired or change your mind.

Good luck!

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The way I go about it is the following:

  1. I make a general sketch of the story. No huge details, just the overall main story concept, central theme, and protagonists. Then I divide it in smaller story arcs.
  2. Based on this, I write a word document with part of the story step by step and check general concept to make sure there are no plotholes. It is usually ridiculously detailed, with all the dialogue from every chapter, how the map should be designed, and character sheets with their stats, growths, portraits, personal skills and even promotions and starting inventories. It’s probably not very efficient, but it works for me XD. Also, since you have an idea of the direction the plot is taking, you can even throw in some foreshadowing.
  3. Once I have a big chunk of the story written down (A third in my case, every third constituting an arc), I start throwing it together in FEBuilder. The big advantage with having a previous draft is that you can check what works and what doesn’t, so you can actually use that chance to improve further on that document and rework some of the ideas!
  4. Once I have exhausted my script, I go back to the writing phase. Basically this means I redo steps 2 and 3 until I finish the final arc!

Usually this comes with the advantage of the final idea being way more fleshed out than the original draft. If you are trying to work on a project, good luck!

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If this is referring to me, thanks lol. I’ve just been lurking most of the time.

Always nice to know more people who do “backwards” writing.

I’m similar to Mug, but I’ll try lol. How’s balancing for you? I would think winging it could get hectic. I’m sure you have experience, but even then it would still be hectic at times.

Thanks. I think it’s cool how you can plan that much from just an outline. How’s managing the numbers side for you?

I actually have an extremely nerdy formula for that. The way I do it is that I basically assign a number of “stat points” to a unit.

At level 1, regular units have 50 “points”. Then, I add 3 points per level, 15 points if it’s a promoted class, 15 extra points if it’s T3, and if it’s a boss, then 15 more points.

For example, a level 4 earlygame fighter boss would have 50+9+15=74.
Once I do that, I split the points among the stats, following the next rules:

  • Every point is roughly equal to a stat. For example, I can “buy” 1 STR with 1 point. If the boss has 12 strength, you have now 62 points left to spend in other stats.
  • Movement costs 2 points. This helps when balancing mounted units. So, you substract from the point value MOV*2. Since fighters have 5 MOV, 62-10=52!
  • HP, Constitution and Str/Mag (Whichever the unit uses less) cost half a point each. So let’s say our fighter boss is super beefy and has 32 hp, 12 CON and 5 MAG. That means you have 49/2 points spent, which rounds to 25. Meaning you have other 27 points left to spend between SPD, SKL, DEF, RES and LCK!
    So you would end with something like:
    HP 32
    STR 12
    MAG 5
    SKL 7
    SPD 6
    DEF 8
    RES 3
    LCK 5
    Mov 5
    CON 12

So, our chapter 2 boss is complete! He hits hard, but he gets doubled easily too and is vulnerable to magic.

For growths I do something similar, where I distribute a value between 230-250(If it’s a jagen) and 350-375(If it’s an Est), with most units ranging around 300, late-game, mounted or generally overleveled units around 280 and lords around 320. This time levels don’t matter.

Then I do something similar where every point is worth a +1% growth on most stats, and a 2% on HP and STR/MAG (Again, the one you don’t use).

Sorry if it’s scary, but I hope it helps :laughing:

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Using Github’s Kanban.

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For Avenir, it’s kind of a weird process since there are two of us. We have a whole google drive with sub folders and individual documents pertaining to things (in general, each route has a subfolder for scripts, the “art department” has a subfolder for all documents pertaining to music/spriting, etc)

I wrote up a ton of world lore stuff in a google doc, mainly because its easy for Snek and I to collaborate through google docs. This was an important basis for us because we knew we wanted any key gameplay elements and story elements to tie into the lore, since Avenir is more about the world than the individual stories.

From there, we started planning how the routes would work. We decided on how many chapters would be in a playthrough and how many sub-routes there were for each of the three main routes.

Then we just kinda started going. I took it one route at a time. Generally, if I have a big idea or he does, we’ll discuss it in DMs over Discord and just pin anything relevant so we don’t forget it. Having someone to bounce ideas off of is a big part of the process for Avenir. We had a few routes that we knew we wanted early on when we were first designing the hack so those ones generally came first. It’s a pretty simple process but just remembering to jot your ideas down when you have them and then pulling them together in some organized way is a fantastic start to planning these things.

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I like to start by thinking of big story setpieces first, and sort of designing my story around those things. Maybe I want a big tower to rise out of the ocean, or a marksmanship tournament where the prize gets stolen, etc. I tend to think up everything in my head first before I even start writing anything down, which works for me, but may not be the best idea for other people. Then once I got all my ideas in my head, I just start writing the script, with gameplay ideas and concepts just coming as I write the story.

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I use the notepad that is my brain for story concepts. No wonder why J&P’s story is so maligned.

But I do use notepad+ to write notes down.

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Do to the fact i have zero writing skills my approach is a little different, but ill ellaborate on the process for my latest project.

I once had a project planned that only had maps, music & an idea of a plot. Due to the music not being midi’s that part is no longer a thing. However the maps i still have and so some of them get remastered for this new project. And so taking advantage of the original story for those maps, i rebrand them a little bit, albeit the function is similer.

Anyway:

  1. Vibe with some proper music in the middle of the night to brainstorm map ideas
  2. Remaster old maps from a previous project and make/alter some
  3. Spend too much time in febuilder resorting an entire class and weapon structure
  4. Insert those maps and tell the narrative by the map to map progression and also the unit placements
  5. Don’t bother with any dialogue and also avoid designing characters until about two weeks ago
  6. Polish the heck out of the thing and do the bare minimum of dialogue.
  7. Work on a video for it
  8. Release the version

I am currently on step 6 and the process somewhat repeats itself for presumably the next chunk of chapters.

Edit: Oh and also another thing to note is while i have not finished the map for it, the whole idea of the hack is based around what the final chapter is, so conceptualize the end first does apply here.

Edit 2: Also forgot to mention that i have a master spreadsheet for when i had to plan out that whole restructure determining bases, caps, and also just generally there utility which i like to keep balanced. And what i mean by that is if your going to promote from say Mercenary > Hero > Vanguard, then each promotion needs to give the alternative of a crit boost, a mount, an extra weapon or a skill. not to mention a folder system with the animations, sprites & generic portraits for every class i planned to have in the hack.

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500 .txt files

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5TB HDD, 5 Unlimited Google Drive Account for the whole team to use

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The way to design your project should be:
1.- Start witht the end of the story rather than the beginning. If you know how it ends, it should be easy to do the main story and beginning.

2.- When creating a character, don’t make him overpowered. People like to feel the work of the units is something rather than being so good to deploy every map. Cough Seth Cough.

3.- If you create a boss, give him weaknesses. Is so common to make this hard boss and the player will not beat him or it will break his weapons and no stores are in chapter to buy. Give him weakness like being doubled, magic vulnerable, etc. Skills made this more easy.

4.- Finally, make chapters with objectives according to the story plot. If you played a lot of FE, you can easily tell how should a map be desing. Objectives give a new perspective.
FE1 to FE6 were purely base on cap the throne. FE7 to actuals, have different goals; like rout all on your path, protect a certain unit, survive.

Don’t get frustrated if it’s not going your way, play your hack and from a perspective see what problems it has, make the dialogue and plot is easy to understand but leave some mystery.

And finally, when you create your maps, please, don’t be a Kaga, don’t spam a thick forest because people hate to move in forest so big that is not worth the time.

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Think about the possibilities though. You can put an annoying siege tome mage in the middle of the forest and force the whole gameplay to slow down.

Fliers also exist, but I guess carrying everyone isn’t exactly fun either.

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I’m more concerned I’ll make my characters “too balanced” lol.
I watched Markyjoe’s vid on map design and picked some stuff up from various other sources through the years such as reddit (shout out to Conquest ch. 10). However, actually making it and unit placement on the other hand… Same goes for boss design, but I’ll keep your advice in mind.
I already write “backwards” so I got that covered.

Now that’s ludonarrative! Just like Gaiden/Echoes with Rudolf’s castle, Nuibaba’s Manor, and the archer fort!