Mostly title. I’ve ended up having Tactile, Lex Talionis and FEBuilder installed on my computer one way or another when ending up trying it, and although I’ve played around with all of them, I haven’t really gone in-depth. Is there any comprehensive list of pros and cons between choosing an engine and moving forward with it?
Pros for hacking: You can play it on official hardware.
this is the biggest deal for me lol
GBA hacking has been around a lot longer and has a lot more documentation. Certain aspects are easier (for example, I hear doing reinforcement events in Tactile is a pain in the butt). On the other hand, there are hardware limits that cannot be broken (number of objects allowed, number of palette banks, total amount of ram, etc) that (presumably) the other two don’t have, and features that would be, at the very least, difficult to implement on GBA (multi-target spells, dual guard) may be easier elsewhere. I’ve never used either LT or Tactile, so I cannot say how user-friendly or not they are.
If you want to stick to something close to a vanilla GBAFE game, romhacking’s probably better. If you want to add fancy new features (or use an feature you already know exists in LT/Tactile), one of the others may be a better bet. You’re also more likely to have someone actually play a romhack, since there’s multiple emulators available and it’s quite easy to make and distribute a ups patch.
There was one, but it’s outdated now. As LT is through a lot of changes right now ; and Tactile released a few months ago.
Though imo, LT is clearly the superior engine when the new engine will be over. There are updates almost every day ; and it’s much more easier than Tactile.
I’ve followed Tactile since the FEXP days, and it’s not that attractive now if we want to compare. Less liberty and the installation is a pain…
For GBA Hacking, I saw there was a lot of things much easier thanks to FE Builder? Forgot the name as I’ve never touched it.
gba: it’s quick, it’s easy, and it’s free
I haven’t used tactile or lex talionis mostly because of a lack of something known as ‘money’ and ‘a good computer’
I agree with Teq but you certainly can make something that differs in significant ways from vanilla in a fegba hack, especially if you are willing to learn buildfiles.
Personally I’d start with febuilder as the most user friendly. It can ultimately inject any of the same code as a buildfile, but if you’re making/using complex hacks and want greater configuration & revision control, a buildfile may end up being easier in the long run.
In my opinion working with LT is by far the best option, it gets updated daily, the community on its discord server is very helpful, its open source so people can contribute their own changes if they want, and get them added to the vanilla engine. Also one major thing i prefer is that you’re actually creating things as you go in LT, while you’re changing up data that already exists with GBA hacking. Makes it much easier to pin point errors or just know how everything is connected in general, since you make the connections yourself. LT also has no portrait colour limit and is highly customizeable. I haven’t tried Tactile yet but i’ve heard some bad things about it.
I’m biased towards hacking because I enjoy seeing how people operate within the confines of the gba engine. I’d argue it looks the best at base and it’s more accessible because of mobile emulation.
The question Id ask is “what gameplay features or mechanics do I want and which systems enable me to achieve these goals in the most straightforward way?”
Also messing around and figuring out what is most fun for you as a designer is key, too.
I quite like GBA hacking personally but last I checked neither Tactile nor LT require some sort of payment. I’m also fairly sure neither requires much computing power, so I’m not sure what you’re getting at here.
I recalled one of them having a cost (maybe I’m thinking of something else). You don’t realize how much of a brick my computer is, also FEbuilder is surely less storage intensive, you know 30mb rom limit and all that
Yeah, Lex and Tactile don’t have any costs, I downloaded Lex for free recently and Tactile also is free as well, but I could see both taking up space.
Well, the ROM limit is 32 MB… And the maximum operational size of a GBA ROM doesn’t have much to do with the space that development software should occupy. If your computer can run FEB and anything else you’d want for development, I’d imagine you could also run Tactile or LT.
You may be thinking of SRPG studio yeah.
Ive been using LT for the past couple of months and it has pretty good documentation on most of its features and is pretty user friendly.
The main problem is that your hack prob wont get much attention sadly if its not a gba hack.
As someone who has used all the different methods of making FE fangames, I think I’m probably the most overqualified person here to give my thoughts on them.
Here are (some of! I can’t possibly name them all) the pros and cons of each engine:
GBA Hacking via FEBuilder:
Pro: Long established, lots of existing hacks, lots of support.
Pro: You can play a romhack on any device which has a GBA emulator.
Pro: You always get a stable FPS with a romhack. I’ve never played one where the FPS dropped to like 5 or some crazy slow number.
Con: Strict limits on specific things. Want to use more than 255 items, classes, or characters? Too bad.
Con: Want to use portraits with more than 16 colors? Too bad.
New: I just found out the halfbody additions are in GBAFE now via FEBuilder, but they are a bit limited and you can only have two halfbodies onscreen at once. Proof. If you have to have halfbodies, Tactile is better, but GBA can make them work.
Con: FEBuilder is a solid editor in terms of versatility but the UI is clunky as heck.
Con: Romhacking has a lot of things that can simply break your rom and you have no idea why.
Con: Rom is limited to 32 MB’s of filesize. You can’t go higher.
Pro: Roms are only 32 MB’s, so they’re very small and easy to trade around.
Romhacking via Buildfiles:
Con: All of the generic limitations to romhacking still exist. This means portrait limits, number of items/characters/classes, etc.
Pro: All the generic pros of romhacking. This means usability on many devices, a small filesize for ease of transfer, etc.
Con: Takes quite a bit of work to learn in my experience.
Con: Fewer people who know how to use Buildfiles, harder to get support.
Pro: Buildfiles, once learned, are incredibly easy to edit and get working.
Pro: It’s extremely easy to fix bugs with a Buildfile. No more permanent random screeches of death.
Con: No UI interface to make edits, you have to type all the code out.
Pro: Once you learn how the code/eventing works, it’s pretty easy to whip up chapters.
Making a custom game with FEXNA/Tactile:
Pro: The engine is extremely fluid. 60 FPS, and I don’t recall the last time I saw it dip below that. Yeti has made Tactile buttery smooth over the years.
Pro: The system’s base goal is to perfectly emulate but also improve on the GBA interface/gameplay experience. The cursor behaves exactly like in GBA, as one example.
Pro: Way more supported filetypes. Much easier to add music and other such things.
Pro: No limits on portrait sizes; you can add halfbodies, you can add tons of ‘emotions’ for characters, or you can even use the GBA hackbox. Tactile is king in this regard. Only the limit of 32x32 pixel blinking+mouth flaps exists, and I’m 90% sure you can edit that.
Con: Cannot use on most non-computer devices, though Yeti did show a fantastic tech demo of getting FE7x to run on Android and Apple phones. I have no idea how this works though. This is still a lot more effort to build .apk files than romhacking which just supports that stuff innately, though as a cool pro, the controls look way better ingame than for romhacks.
Con: VERY slow development cycles. Expect one big update every several months.
Pro: You don’t have to worry about lots of teeny little updates. You just get the ‘big ones’ every so often.
Con: Setting up Tactile is an absolute chore and you can break things during the install process very easily. Don’t even get me started on the seemingly nonsensical file structure inside the folders.
Pro: Tactile DOES support multiple promotions, and you can add as many as you want. This is the same as for LT, and also better than GBA FE8 hacking.
Con: Tactile does not have the simple option of yes/no and choice branches. Yeti insists on not adding them and this is extremely frustrating for everyone involved.
Pro: Tons of FE7x-specific features are included with Tactile at base, including using many of Yeti’s FE7x animations.
Con: Importing new GBA animations is a pain in the ass. You can do it and it’s not hard, but the act is extremely tedious.
Con: Importing map sprites is also annoying and tedious. Funnily enough, it became a lot easier when I formatted them with LT first, then ported them to Tactile.
Pro: FEXNA’s game creation interface is beautiful and well thought-out. I vastly prefer it to FEBuilder. The event editor, specifically, is amazing. The ‘unit placer’ is a lot of fun to tinker with too, since you place units down in the engine.
Making a custom game with FEXP:
FEXP is the older version of FEXNA. Don’t use it. It sucks.
Making a custom game with Lex Talionis:
Con: The biggest con of LT is that it’s currently unfinished, though Rainlash is constantly adding new features and patching bugs literally every day. If you need to make a game right this instant, don’t use LT. But a few months from now? It’ll be great. You can also start working with it now to learn how it works while you wait for more features to get added.
Con: While Tactile is extremely hyper-accurate in emulating the intricacies of GBA… LT often misses the mark by very slight deviations. The games are all perfectly playable and enjoyable, but some aspects feel a bit clunky. For example ,the cursor doesn’t quite feel like it moves the same as GBA, and you can tell when you move it around. Not a big con, but when you stretch this over many different aspects of the UI, it does feel ‘quirky’.
Pro: Setting up LT is -much- easier than setting up Tactile.
Con: It’s still more annoying than GBA.
Pro: No color limits on portraits! The same as Tactile!
Con: No halfbody support (currently! It may get added later).
Pro: While LT does use the ‘hackbox’ like in GBA romhacking, it does not have the ‘edges’ of the portrait get cut off.
Pro: The interface is just as clean and easy to use/work with as Tactile, therefore it’s automatically better than FEBuilder.
Con: We don’t yet have a full editor for battle animations, events, and a few others.
Pro: They will come soon! Rainlash works very quickly and gets lots of feedback.
Pro: Importing new assets is pretty much always easier in LT than in Tactile, and roughly as easy as FEBuilder. Maybe even more so. For example, importing a set of map sprites takes 4 seconds in LT but something like a minute each in Tactile.
Pro: LT’s file structure is way, way, WAY cleaner than Tactile’s. I cannot emphasize this enough. That means you don’t have to hunt all over the place to find code, assets, graphics, songs, etc. Having dedicated ‘project folders’ really helps here.
I could honestly add way more. Overall, my rating of preference goes like this:
LT > FEXNA >>>>> GBA >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> FEXP.
However, I have a few biases. For one thing, I value versatility in my (future) projects. I do not like romhacking’s limitations. I do not like being unable to bugfix gamebreaking issues on occasion. That shit drives me up the wall.
I also value certain types of features more than others. If you just want to make a simple FE fangame, I think GBA Hacking is undoubtedly the best because it’s so easy to get into and you can play your project anywhere. If you want to make a wacky and out of this world feature-filled game with huge maps or tons of characters or 1000 items, you can’t do that with GBA and should consider a custom engine.
I would like to take a moment to talk about Tactile and LT-specific features, though.
Tactile’s unique systems:
Base training which replaces the idea of BEXP in FE7x. I don’t know if this is actually included in Tactile, though.
FEXNA has a lot of enhancements to the GBA formula which LT does not have, at least as of yet. These enhancements are numerous and amount to hundreds of minor but satisfying QOL fixes. Yeti’s youtube channel is a good source for these.
However, some of these have gotten ported in various ways to GBAFE via FEBuilder patches and ASM. Therefore, they’re not as exclusive as they used to be.
Another feature is that Tactile is currently the only engine which gives you a MUCH bigger playing screen, mostly for the sake of adding halfbodies, but it also allows you to see more of the game map. You also get 3 lines of dialogue by default instead of 2 like in GBA. (Tequila did just release a patch recently adding 1-3 line support to GBA though, along with other enhancements!)
LT’s unique systems:
Fixed growths mode, hybrid growths.
Easy-to-add AOE magic and attacks.
A really, really, REALLY verbose and intuitive item/skill creation system. I cannot even put into words how incredible this system is. You ‘craft’ items and skills out of ‘components’ such as these: Example 1. Example 2. Example 3. Example 4. Once LT gets further along in development, this UI will look much more visually understandable, so I will be able to provide a better explanation/tutorial at that time.
LT allows you to pick a theme for the editor. I use the dark theme. FEXNA doesn’t have this
LT has several contributing developers. They have added all sorts of systems from FE1-5 and 9+, including crafting of items/food, BEXP from FE9/10, FE5 FoW, Laguz Transformations, FE5 Fatigue, Skills set up like Awakening/Fates instead of classic titles, all the stuff in this menu, and so on!
Essentially, I would categorize the two engines as such:
Tactile: Countless small-scale additions that drastically enhance the playability of GBAFE while adding a few new features, but lacking many huge, unique, big-hitting features.
Lex Talionis: Lots of big features, more than I can even keep track of, but a bit clunkier on the execution sometimes. Needs more polish overall, but still very playable/enjoyable.
So, yeah. Enjoy my huge-ass wall of text, lmao.
Exactly what I was looking for, thanks! Seeing all the pros, cons and features of each in one place really helps.
Thats a lot of knowledge you just dropped. I know this could be outdated before long but this post could honestly get linked or be apart of the Getting Started thread, its pretty nice info to have.
Also if anybody is looking to use LT, I recommend joining the official Discord for it.
You get to talk to Rainlash and other developers directly.
Also, as far as an information post goes, I honestly missed a TON of stuff unique to the engines. I just don’t have enough time in the day to list everything, and some of the things I missed are worthwhile considerations for picking them.
I ought to write a genuine comparison post at some point. I’m probably going to do so in a few months when LT leaves active rapid-development and moves into stable releases.
I guess if I had started on GBA hacking, I would’ve stuck with that. But back then, FEBuilder wasn’t a thing yet (or was in its infancy) so GBA hacking looked very daunting. So I decided to wait for FEXNA to become public.
It never did (not in the intended way at least), but then LT showed up and finally gave me the chance to somewhat easily make a fangame. So I did.
GBA hacking is far more accessible now thanks to FEBuilder, and FEXNA (now Tactile) did finally came out. But I started with LT, so I’m sticking with that as it’s the one I’ve become most familiar with.
GBA is a solid and easy to use beginner option. It has a lot of advanced features and possibilities if you put in the work.
Tactile is essentially a highly improved GBA game creation system with tons of awesome QOL features built in that don’t require any work to get going. Highly polished and professional, but also lacking a few important things GBA has, such as the goddamned yes/no and choice branches.
LT is like a somewhat volatile but very freeform system with tons of room for experimentation. In a year it will probably be just as polished at FEXNA, but it’s also hard to predict. It doesn’t have all of the awesome QOL features FEXNA does, but they could conceivably get added in time, especially as the code base is F2E and there are multiple devs, instead of just one.
I personally am sticking with LT because I see it being the best option by far in a year or so, when I’ll finally have time to work on a game. That being said, all the options are great and this is a fantastic time to get into FE game design.
That thing about Tactile not having simple Yes/No options is really weird. On the other hand, thank you for typing all of this up. :]
It was very informative and convinced me to try Lex Talionis.