I cannot effing stand the FE8 GBA Skill System!

Title is exaggerating. But seriously. Here comes a game design rant. Context - I’m from 2013 onwards and i still fuck with fe7 so my bias is there.

FE8’s skill system was a technical marvel and I’m glad it exists as a testament to how far my wizardly peers have gone with hacking. Its pretty incredible that this community is continuing to push the engine to do some pretty wickedly impressive stuff in FE8.
Edit: For clarity, this is a criticism at the use of skills in projects, not the system itself.

But I’ll be honest, if there’s one thing I wish 99% of people would reign it in HARD on. Is the implementation of these ridiculous custom skills I’m seeing pop up everywhere. There are several reasons why i strongly dislike this system, but I’ll try to break them down into the few reasons that really stick out to me.

  1. Lack of accessibility slows down pace.
    Consider the games that had “icon” skills in the past. FE4-5, fe9-10, the 3ds games and most recently, 3H. Many hacks I’ve played so far stack more than one skill at the same time. And the more complex and hard to remember they are, the more I need to go into the unit menu, go to Personal Data, scroll to skills and THEN read the text. That’s like 4 steps needed to view a skill.
    The pace obstacle that skills in other provides falls imo into two camps with the other games - “Check menu” or “hover”

Check Menu:
games like fe4, 5, 9 and 10 require you to also check the unit menu, jump a couple pages and then check the skill being used. but these games can get away with this because the skills in those games are INCREDIBLY easy to understand. Miracle, Vantage, Paragon, Adept… etc. They are like 1 sentence long and very easy to apply in battle. They’re not stacked with Fire Emblem Heroes levels of conditionals that make it hard to remember. This makes them really easy to remember how they work and mitigates the need to return to the menu to remind yourself of what they do. In Personal Data, you can’t efficiently check a unit’s skills without first hitting R and then going all the way down to the bottom. multiply the need to do this dozens upon dozens of times in a long map and holy heck it gets tedious.

The UI for FE games that have more complicated skills that deal with AoE passive status affects, damage reduction, HP thresholds are VERY easy to view because their games are designed to make them super easy to access. in 3ds, you could simply view the skills on the bottom screen and tap the icons to get their description. in 3h, simply hovering the cursor over any unit will cleanly show you what their PRF, class and custom abiltiies a unit has. Again, its extremely easy to view and doesn’t slow down the pace of play because of… how extremely it is to view. Heroes has the most fucking absurd skill text I’ve ever seen in my entire life, but again, the UI considers this and lets you read these skills in the unit profile whenever you tap on a unit.

FE8’s skill system by its design is limited to the Check Menu camp, but projects treat them otherwise. I recently played a project that had HP threshold skills and a skill that gave passive Hit% boost.
Designers, when you place these skills in your projects, you’re asking the buddy playing to interupt their game to constantly check in on what these actually do again. Its annoying enough to try to remember even 3 skills at your disposal, let alone having to check on enemy skills as well. So, you leave the player with 2 options: slow down their play for the sake of “strategy” or have them completely ignore the skills entirely, say “screw it” and keep playing. The majority of players are going to pick the second thing. The GBA’s screen is too small and the graphics are too limited for it to work like it does in the hover camps. its really annoying. I’ve seen the implementation of inventory icons being able to be viewed when the cursor hovers over a unit, and even that’s pushing it since you can’t reduce the scale of the graphics.

  1. More “innovation” doesn’t make your game better
    This is a pretty common thing I’ve seen around this discussion so this point isn’t anything you haven’t read before. In the same way adding a fuck-ton of flower text in your essays is a sign of bad writing, tacking on skills for the sake of “innovative gameplay” is a sign of not knowing what makes shit fun to play. IMO, if a map can be fun by getting by on unit placement, chapter goals and good pacing, then you don’t need to give me a skill that gives me a ridiculous +30 to my avoid if my HP < 50%.

  2. Don’t be like Fire Emblem Heroes
    The more specific your skill ends up being, the more situational its going to be. The more situational it is, the more useless it becomes. This is why “innovative” skills in Fire Emblem Heroes like Close Call, Repel and idk fucking Null Follow-Up are generally understood to be OK skills, but outclassed by others. There are already established good skills in mainline FE and FEH, i get the urge to innovate (trust me), but the more conditional i see these new custom skills, the more I want to avoid them. Remember why there are some skills that never made it to another title, and why there’s a meta in FEH at all. I know I’m reigning on some people’s parades here… but sometimes you just gotta stick to what works instead of making up random nonsense skills that sound cool in your head.

Actually, that’ll do. Those are the main reasons why I’m not a huge fan at all of the use of this system. Remember what game made what work and why. And for aspiring hack creators, reign it in. Yes, I know Not All Projects, but you get my point.

Thanks for reading.


big facts
skill spam is just not applicable to a standard fe game experience. you look at heroes, notorious for skills with literal paragraphs in it. but what’s that? there are only 5 units i’m dealing with at a time? maybe 5 more with reinforcements?
now you look at any standard fe game, where you’re easily going to be fighting like 15+ units by the time you’re at chapter 2 or 3. that’s far too much.

tl dr: this mf spittin no :billed_cap:


true saaaay


I agree with a lot of these points. I think skill bloat can fatigue the player, and obfuscate gameplay. This is to be avoided, especially on enemies. Skills really need to be applied carefully, as a conscious design decision, and not “slapped on” for the heck of it.

I do not prefer skill emblem, and my hack itself does not use skills. However, I do think with intentional design, skills can add a lot to gameplay, enriching the experience while not adding unnecessary complexity. I’ve seen some really cool projects that use skills in a very intentional and beneficial way, such as Bloopy’s Faith and Blood, and Pandan’s VisionQuest.

Are these implementations perfect? No, of course not. A mechanic rarely is. But through careful thought, iteration, and playtesting, projects can achieve a balanced and enjoyable experience using skills.

And herein lies the real problem: the skill system is a shiny piece of tech, and it’s tempting for budding hackers to apply it to their projects, not understanding the full scope of what they’re doing. I’d liken it to a lot of other common hacking pitfalls: making maps too large or empty, creating maps with “one true solution”, giving the player a means to snowball with a certain unit.

I’m gonna level with you here, Ghast. I don’t know you, but this post comes off as a bit confrontational. Your concerns are valid, but we all start somewhere, and I implore you to be patient and overall constructive/encouraging to those just starting out. I am not innocent of design rants myself, but it’s something to be mindful of when presenting criticism- the point is to build up, not tear down.


disagree, for the following reason:
skill system also includes tons of quality of life changes that are insanely useful, that imo it offsets the whole “using skills” thing
of course, nobody’s actually done the thing where you remove skills from skill system, i should probably make a modular stat screen without skill display so people can still use the qol/calc loops without the skills :OOO


so which mafc submission prompted this


The skill system itself is amazing,. However, the way many hacks just throw it in without any thought easily become very frustrating and annoying or, on the other end of the scale, a breeze.

11 herbs and spices are all you need to make a great fried chicken recipe… Don’t go throwing every ingredient you find into the mix. Slow down, take your time and see what works.

When used carefully the skill system can: add diversity and interest to your unit selection; add more game-play options; give the player more tools to work with and change the traditional formula in interesting ways.

If used poorly, it can: totally ruin the flow of the game; allow teams to snowball or hit massive difficulty spikes, and over-complicate the game to a point where it’s not even worth trying to do the maths anymore.

TL:DR: It’s an amazing system, so long as hackers use it in a careful and considered way.

Edit: Grammar.


While I can understand the sentiment of your post and also agree that way too many hacks haphazardly use the skill system, it’s important to consider your position in the community and the folks you’re delivering feedback to.

The timing of this post makes me think it is related to MAFC entries. I’m guessing most of the people who submitted chapters are novice hackers who enjoy your YouTube content and look up to you or admire you in some way. If I am mistaken, then I apologize.

When you say something, people will listen to you, and some will parrot that opinion. For example, whenever Mangs plays a hack, there is an influx of interest in that project. “Mangs said it was good, so it must be!”, etc. Or if Mekkah makes a video about X unit being bad, you can bet that opinion will be shared broadly in the community. “Well, Mekkah said it was bad, so it must be!”

I have a small channel and I’ve seen people say “don’t do 1-2 range shortbows in your hack, or pandan will yell at you” - The last thing I want is for people to not pursue hacking because of something I said, or feel intimidated that if I have an opinion counter to what they want to make, that their work will be seen poorly by the community.

Seeing these comments about me have made me reflect on how I deliver feedback in my videos to hack creators, as that message can be taken out of context and potentially produce negative impact in the community. I don’t want to inadvertently discourage people or make them feel anxious about their work. FE ROM hacking is a hobby.

My point is that when you say you “cannot effing stand the FE8 skill system”, there are going to be people who listen to you - and who share that viewpoint, but maybe not with the same nuance that you meant when you said that. It’s clear you don’t hate the skil system itself, but rather how people are using it in their hacks, but not everyone will pick that up. I would lament to see people here or on the discord say “well, ghast said the skill system was bad, so you shouldn’t use it” - when so many folks have worked hard to make an incredibly powerful system that can help creators make some unique and fun gameplay.

How you deliver this message is important when you are a leader in a community. It can be discouraging to the people who look up to you that just wanted to see you play their work on your channel hear that you “strong disliked” what they did.

I think you make some good points for sure, and I largely agree, but I hope you consider how its delivered when you’re sharing direct feedback with the hack creators.

My advice to hack creators regarding skill system:

  • Keep it minimal and avoid randomness.
  • Don’t make the player have to do too much math
  • Does the skill effectively do the same thing as a crit? You probably don’t need to use it then.
  • Do the numbers you’re using for passive skills impact the balance heavily, or does it fit with the overall gameplay? For example, +4 spur defense in a game where that will cut an attack in half is probably too overtuned.
  • Limit how many skills and what skills you give on a class basis, especially to generics. It can impact how a player approaches even a basic enemy.
  • If you’re going to use Capture, you need to design everything around it. It is not a feature you can slap in and expect to work well - it can break the economy of your game very easily.

Good luck!


fe8 skill system meme

Skill bloat bad


This was a spicier post than usual, but I don’t need a lesson from you folks in delivering criticism especially when I’m speaking broadly. reviewing single projects is of course handled differently because it personally affects them. This is not the same thing.

edit: that was mean. My bad pandan/war path. but yeah. as far as individual projects go, its always more focused and less profane. Just had to rant


The title makes it sound like these are flaws with the skill system itself.
These are issues with how the people use the system.

I’m also not sure what “FE8’s skill system by its design is limited to the Check Menu camp” means, you can have your skills in the minimug box in the map, is that not what “Hover” is? Sure, it doesn’t show the text, but you can see which skills a unit has without opening any menu.

The skill system is a tool with many options, if people choose to use them poorly that doesn’t concern me. An option being part of the skill system does not mean the people that added it even thought it was a good option, many skills are there for completion’s sake, nobody is forced to use them.

You can use map making tools or events to make aboslutely dogshit games and we don’t say these tools are terrible because of it.


I would argue that the prevalence of problematic skill system usage is very different from something like eventing or making maps. There’s a huge time factor involved in the latter while the former is essentially advertised as “gib skillz to everyone”. This is not an equal comparison.


I understand sometimes there is a need for people to rant but to be completely honest I don’t think doing it in a space like this is the best way to go about it. Your points are good and I agree with a lot of it but I think people will reciprocate much better if its not delivered as a rant. Also yeah to echo what others have said, you say its ‘broad’ criticism but it comes off strongly that its down to mafc entries tbh. Also just because its broad doesn’t mean it isnt affecting people, especially from such a big voice in the community.


From the projects I’ve played, this isn’t here. Unless this is an option in the menu itself. I’ve only ever seen this for inventory items.

Yeah because that’s not what I’m arguing. Its pretty clear from the entire body of the post that I’m not ragging on the system and tools.


you eventually get all your units decked out with skills in heavens bloom, but cool thing is that you don’t get many units in it (always just enough for the deployment slot limit) so you learn/remember them slowly as you go and start associating the bald knight with doing bonus damage to hurt enemies, and the younger knight with doing bonus damage to full hp enemies, etc…

now a pretty low quality hack i’m currently playing which shall not be named, is giving me characters and skills like every 2 levels, so… huge mess

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I just felt the title conveys something that is then not delivered in the post itself.
People come in expecting one thing, then find another, probably could have picked a better title but it’s not a big deal either way, just wanted to make known that’s what I felt.

Also, the hack used for the inventory items is completely modular and can be customized to display anything you want. I’m pretty sure there are already hacks using it to display skills. There’s certainly versions of it with skill display.


I get it, and there’s fair points (which maybe it’s good to hear about accessibility/Recall, bloat, and etc. since the first time Skillsystems rolled around), but I feel it’s better directed specifically towards a project so they can actually do something tangible about it. Many of the points you gave can be corrected one way or the other but the how really boils down to the presentation a project is trying to make.

I personally prefer to keep a more minimal set of features to remember for my short attention span, but if someone wants to go after a big complicated Emblem and implement all the tools/features they have as a beginner, and they enjoy the process and playing the product, more power to 'em.


I think that a big part of why the FE8 GBA Skill System ends up being implemented rather poorly in hacks comes from four main problems:

  1. It’s an easy way for newcomers to do something “awesome”;
  2. The mass use of the skill system makes having skills more or less a standard for modern hacking;
  3. There’s just so much stuff contained within the skill system (to the credit of the authors, of course) that it’s difficult to “reign it in”, and;
  4. The FE8 Skill System was not designed with the intention of being “balanced” by default, leaving that up to the individual hackers. It’s problematic because among more inexperienced hackers there might be an assumption that because the Skill System is so expansive that can be used out of the box exactly as it was designed, thus resulting in poor implementations of an inherently imbalanced system.

It’d be interesting to have a discussion and maybe dive into some case studies of good implementations of the skill system in hacks, so that people can learn from positive examples rather than being told “thing bad” without really understanding what makes “thing good.” @Pandan had some good pointers in his post up above, but I think a case study would be legitimately interesting and a lot of people could benefit from a more in-depth look at how to use the skill system to enhance gameplay rather than bloating it unnecessarily.


Honestly, I’m with Ghast on this one. A lot of FE8 hacks feel a little too trigger-happy in regards to skill implementation. It’s a great system when used well but I do think a lot of people could take it down a notch when incorporating it into their romhacks. It’s still a GBA game we’re all working with after all, which are fondly remembered by the general gaming public for their easy-to-pick-up nature. I think it would benefit all of us to keep this in mind when laying out the blueprints to our design. Just my two cents in the matter.


I’m somewhere in the middle of this opinion wise. I personally prefer no skills at all because I find that more often than things lead to skill spam/overload and I’m the type of person who plays to just pick a game up, play a few chapters, and be done with things. I’m certain that there are great hacks with skills that use them well, but I personally feel like most hacks with skills that I’ve played through have either used skills so insubstantially that I stopped caring, or I had to try my hardest to ignore them because it becomes tiring to play through FE while keeping skills in mind. That’s not to say I haven’t thought of implementing skills whenever I go through making a game, I think the system has a lot to offer, especially in giving units niches, but I find that it’s so easy for skills to reach the extreme of not worth because it barely affects things, or that it’s more annoying than it’s worth.

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