Room and Building Visibility: What Do?

Hey all,

Chair here starting another design discussion.

What’re peoples’ thoughts on having the contents of rooms/buildings hidden until their door is opened?

Personally, I’m not really a fan given:

  1. Ambush Spawn Lite: If there are enemies and you don’t have anyone to dispatch them immediately they’re practically ambush spawns and they’ll B-line it for the one who opened the door. So what you end up doing is put a tank on door open duty (also kinda robs your thieves of some of their utility if they aren’t opening doors?).
  2. Player Expectations: For the player, there isn’t much room for surprises. They expect chests in a room/building that’s away from the main objective; the chest isn’t a surprise but its contents are. They expect green units in a prison cell; the units aren’t the surprise, whether or not they’re recruitable is They expect a boss on a throne if the win condition is defeat boss/seize; the boss isn’t a surprise, their stats and inventory are.

Anywho, I’ll open the floor to anyone else who feels like throwing their hat into the ring; as with the other threads in the What Do? series, all opinions are welcome! There’s only been one other thread so far but I’m trying to make this a thing.

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Enemies in a locked room that you can’t see is a given for me. If it’s a problem for other people, you can extend the range of the unlock staff to give that thing better purpose.

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I think they’re fine personally, as long as you’re able to safely withdraw yourself from any new attack ranges in the same turn the room is opened.

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Theoretically and conceptually, I love the ‘surprise’ element of finding something cool inside a locked room. In practice, the payout is never as fun as what I imagined.

There is only one exception to this rule: The FE5 Manster Prisons. The first time I ever popped open that first door and saw the horde of enemies inside, I about shit myself. Naturally, I lost and had to restart the chapter, but still, it left a deep impression on me and I consider that well worth the cost of restarting the chapter. It gave me an “Oh, aren’t you funny, developers? You sons of bitches!” feeling, one I wouldn’t trade for anything.

I then mimicked this in FE7CM in the final Nergal room, where you open it up and there are a shitton of enemies inside. It got similar reactions from players.

But otherwise? The locked rooms usually aren’t very interesting and are either just barely hard enough to force a restart (annoying) or they aren’t hard at all and just sort of make me say “oh ok so that was what was inside” (useless).

On the other hand, if EVERYONE starts having locked rooms with 300 enemies inside, it won’t be a surprise anymore when I open one, so… maybe the shitty and boring locked rooms are essential for that once-in-a-blue-moon Manster Prison feeling, eh?

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New surprise:

  1. Player opens door
  2. Room is empty
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  1. Player opens door
  2. Room has room with door in it
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I would disagree with that heavily; the reason ambush spawn is considered unfair is due to nothing that you’ve done, random enemies appear and are now moving to attack you before you have any chance to react. In the case of doors, you chose to open the door, and once you did, you were given a layout of what was inside and have the rest of the turn to prepare how to deal with it.

I don’t really understand what you’re saying with this one tbh

as for my thoughts, I think they’re fine. what is not though is what fe6 did by having unit ambush spawn randomly after you’ve opened the door, but that’s ambush spawns being stupid.

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I feel like the best you can get out of this is slowing the player down because they will absolutely spend turns overpreparing sitting just outside the room to make sure when they go in there they don’t get fucked by some surprise enemy that can delete them.
So basically, nah. Unless you have long range unlock or you feel like actually making that scrapped “see under rooves” staff

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I fully expect enemies waiting behind any locked door or wall I bust open. So I always prepare accordingly, and tbh I’m fine with creators putting enemies there.

What I’m not fine with is traps dropping your HP to half or lower and then enemies. Or Eclipse mages, or like 4 cavaliers behind that door. I know there is foes, but I at least except it to be fair for the player. Having one maybe two enemies in range of the door opener is a given, anything more is excessive.

One of my favorite things in FE is listening to the enemies/boss talk amongst their soldiers. Giving players warnings etc etc. Like in a hack there is a room of chests, you only get two chest keys, but the boss tells his soldier that cavaliers are outside waiting to rush it. Without the players knowledge, when they open the locked door the cavaliers appear from outside ready to rush your backline. One of them carrying a chest key. BUT the cavaliers are far enough from your party you have 2-3 turns to prepare for them if you are where the room is.

But Ambush spawns / same turn reinforcments is one of the worst things any FE game or hack can do IMO. next to GBA slim swords but that’s another thing.

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What if enemies in a closed room don’t start moving until the next turn? Gives you a turn to react and get your thief out of the way

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Shadow Dragon’s Fane of Raman map where you open doors revealing either a chest or a sniper who your thief is already standing in range of

Start a new map when opening the door

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You could just give a warning through dialogue that there are enemies inside the room. Same for any kind of reinforcements, warnings always help. Though I think seeing a closed room like that should be enough for a player to be cautious about opening it without a second thought.

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Sometimes I’m not the best at articulating my ideas (probably not a surprise to anyone lol); what I’m getting at is that there doesn’t really seem to be a point in hiding obvious information from the player. Like how in RD ch1-7 the prison cells’ contents are hidden until opened. What else are you going to find in a prison cell besides prisoners? Seems kinda pointless to withhold that info.

Well those hid who was in them, but given they were all npc soldiers idk
Could have been also to keep the ai uninterested in them
But generally yeah you could have different recruits in each cell, so hiding it makes it somewhat of a surprise to who you get. Or what, since there could be a treasure chest in a cell as well (prisoner items that were taken that have intrinsic value).

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I have no issues with doors/ceilings hiding things. (In fact, I personally feel like interiors that you’re not inside of or don’t have a line of sight on should be obscured even if the door has been opened (or if there is no door to begin with), preventing other factions from seeing unit movements inside of them.)

In fact, I honestly kind of welcome them, since it (temporarily) protects the hidden units inside from siege magic, staves, or, in the event of the target objective (throne, boss) being in there, one more step that needs to be done to get access to that area, preventing warpskipping somewhat (or at least requiring more resources to be invested if you try to do it that way).

I do feel like unlocking a door with a key should enable that unit to Canto away from the door afterwards though.

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Hadn’t even considered this! Thanks for pointing it out!

I’d also welcome this. They could also use it to Canto in like a true madlad.

Not a huge fan of concealing what’s behind a door in FE. Pretty much the only thing you can do as a blind player to strategize around it is “use caution”, which I don’t find makes for compelling gameplay, as I can’t plan around it.

Fog of War also hides information, but I can be proactive about torching/using thieves to mitigate risk and uncertainty. My only options typically when opening a door to mitigate risk are:

  1. Have some way to whisk the door opener out of trouble if needed. Not a huge fan of encouraging running away.
  2. Have a unit(s) ready to plug the hole that can withstand basically anything, which could be unlikely to impossible in a game with strong enemies.
  3. Be ready to clean house once the door is opened, which may require a significant amount of resources or be untenable.

And if you tell the player or strongly hint to the player what’s behind the door, or make it so the player has more time to react to what’s behind the door… why not just have that information viewable from the start? The mystique of the door is often gone on subsequent playthroughs; if a design element of a chapter is significantly easier to manage when playing not blind, I question its inclusion.

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From such a standpoint, are you also against recruitment conversations, as you know once you’ve played through exactly who can recruit who? Same with chests or villages. I’m aware I’m being a bit extreme, but I don’t really see the point in trying to “adjust” around non blind playthroughs.

Hence the word significant, which I understand is absolutely subjective. To me, it comes down to risk. I don’t know what’s in a chest or a village in a blind playthrough, to be certain. But I hopefully have sufficient strategic counterplay to mitigate my own risk while going for these objectives. If I already know what the reward is, could I make an informed decision to not push for these objectives and avoid risk at the cost of reward? Sure. But in a blind playthrough, I can still hopefully take varied steps to mitigate risk, even if the reward is lackluster.

In the case of doors, there is little in the way of interesting or varied counterplay when blind - largely only what I listed above, if I want to mitigate risk. Nearly every chapter, ever, will be easier when not blind. You’ll know what works, and what doesn’t. But I think the difficulty induced by doors also has a chance to be nearly entirely trivialized on subsequent playthroughs, as a lot of the difficulty comes from simply not knowing what’s in the box whatsoever. When I’m playing blind, my only true counterplay is extreme caution, which I find to not be compelling; when I’m not blind, I’ll probably play vastly differently, maybe to the point of trivializing the difficulty, knowing what’s behind the door. It’s not compelling to me in either case.

I realize, again, this is subjective. I’m a big fan of attempting to allow the player to make fairly informed choices, and avoiding unfairness or anything that I perceive to be trivialized by trial-and-error strategies. This is motivated in part by my notion that nearly all people playing a hack will likely be blind or mostly blind; if a player will likely only play it once, I’d like to maximize their single experience. You mention recruitment convos - to be transparent about my own design tendencies, I am also not a fan of hiding who can recruit certain units either. But in the end, design philosophy is subjective, and execution really ends up being everything.

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