Spreading out playable characters?

What is your opinion on how often or early the player should get new playable characters? Disregarding story for a moment, do you think there a “correct” pacing for giving the player new units to work with?

As an aside, do you think there is such a thing as too many playable characters? Personally I like having a lot of options, I think 35+ is a solid amount.

4 Likes

I would say the highest density should happen during the earlygame and endgame. It just feels bad to be undermanned at the start and having to wait, but it feels equally as bad having nobody on the hardest chapters because everyone died before.(Of course, this is assuming the difficultycurve is somewhat linear)

4 Likes

There is no one correct solution and you can’t disregard story in considering the issue.

Three Houses frontloads its cast because the nature of its story requires there to be whole classes of students from the beginning of the game.

Shadow Dragon lets new units trickle in over the course of the game because it focuses more on being a game with permadeath where the player may need a constant influx of replacement units.

Radiant Dawn starts you with a small, shitty group because it wants you to feel that you’re a bunch of scrubs opposing an army.

For replayability, getting as many characters as possible as early as possible is preferable. But for the sake of development and immersion, it is good to be able to introduce new characters over the course of the story.

11 Likes

Thanks for the input, main reason I was asking is I was planning out chapters for my hack that Im working on, and I was adding a couple characters a chapter for the first 7 or so, and felt that maybe I was adding to much at once. I guess Im not even really sure why that would be a problem but it was just a feeling I had.

1 Like

I think you gotta figure out what type of cast you want first. a smaller / medium or large size. My hack was that of a smaller size so you get access to every promoted class, but not all prepromoted ones. So I decided to see how FE8 did it. And I figured out usually 1-2 character every chapter early game was good.

At like chapter 8-9 it stopped and usually every 2-3 chapters you get one more person to keep it fresh. But by the end of the game you can have every promoted class which was my goal

Usually I prefer to give the player a handful of units at game start (really, as many as I can get away with without the opening cut scene dragging on having to introduce too many characters), then several more for the next chapter, then ease off on giving units except with a recruitable here and there until the next batch of several. What I try to avoid is the “typical” structure of giving the player only one or two units at first and then one unit per chapter. There’s nothing actually wrong with it, but to me it’s boring and predictable and there’s no reason to skimp on giving the player units when it’s not an official game needing to spend ten chapters teaching the player how to use each one of those units.

I suppose the “correct” way to mete out units would be to do so generously until the player’s party ends up above the typical deployment cap. That way, the player has backup if a unit dies instead of feeling like they need to play perfectly and restart the chapter every time. Having empty spaces on the prep screen map even though you only let a few units die is never a good feeling.

2 Likes

To me, it’s important that the player feels like they have enough units to actually do things in the chapter(s). If you don’t have enough units then you don’t feel like you have choices, you’re rail-roaded into very specific small choices with no proper agency, which feels really bad – Look at how even Lyn mode ramps you up into five units, how Eliwood mode gives you four to start with, and so on.

Giving the player a starting group that has enough units to play with (3-5) and then quickly adding more and slowing down recruitment rate over time works well, but completely stopping later army additions doesn’t work because of how impossible it can get to train up units later unless you have some way to soak enemy ire while letting the low-level ones chip – and that impossibility becomes necessary to perform if you don’t give the player units with sufficiently competent starting stats.

3 Likes

Personally, I like to give to player a steady flow of units throughout the entire game, though obviously putting more units early into the game. One of my biggest issues with FE8 is that not only is the cast fairly small, but after Syrene, you just don’t get anymore units, which I really hate. There’s barely any variety in units either, making repeat playthroughs even more boring than the first.

Heck no, the more units the better. Ram that 50 unit cap, I say. Heck, if I could have a cast as big as Radiant Dawn or New Mystery’s, I absolutely would.

4 Likes

Lot of good things said here, and I don’t think there’s a right answer here. There’s definitely a continuum on how you approach this issue, and it should be tailored to the experience you want your hack to be.

That said, I’ve found that I tend to give units in chunks of 3-4 every 3ish chapters as opposed to making it steadier. Part of the reason for this is that it’s just how the story panned out. But another thing I’ve found is that it emboldens me to perhaps have a slightly bigger deployment chapter after dumping a bunch of new units in the player, as I know they’ll have the “horses” to compete there having just been given a bunch of competent units. How well this design is executed in practice I can’t be sure of, but that’s my thought process at least.

2 Likes

Damn, Knight_Moris really do be spittin straight facts.
Of course, the more playable characters you have, the harder it will be to balance them, but that’s a whole other problem with countless other topics covering it. I tend to focus more on the story aspect of things, so I feel like as long as you keep making characters you think are really interesting and not just filler units, your hack can only benefit from it!

As for spreading units, I generally dislike how some hacks or mainline games throw out 5+ units at you at once. FE6 does this at least once and I’ve always disliked that (Remember the chapter where you get Lilina, Astol, Barth, Gwendolyn and the boring mercenary?). Same for the way Three Houses handles this. I understand the story demands that you get your units before midgame, but come on, absolutely no NEW unit past that point? That sucks.

I’d say the best way to handle this is to give around 20% of your cast during the first five chapters so that the player has the choice to use some characters or not, and then spread out the remaining 80% during the rest of the game, with the last unit being given as late as possible (So basically, NOT replicating the Syrene situation explained earlier).

1 Like

That’s not true actually, you can recruit some units past the

Spoiler

timeskip.

On a hack I’m working on you get all the units on the first chapter… (The hack is 5 chapters long, I’m not crazy)

1 Like

Not really, though. The only characters you can recruit without having already recruited them pre-timeskip are Lysithea and Gilbert depending on the route you’re going for, and they’re both introducedpre-timeskip. As for Lorenz and Dedue, both have to have been fighting by your side before re-joigning. There is not a single new playable unit introduced post-timeskip, even though some NPCs would have all the reasons in the world to actually fight with you. (Like that girl in the Golden Deer route, though I can’t even remember her name. Judith I think?)

To keep this in-topic : never pull a 3H in your romhack ever, please. (if it’s a full-length hack, that is)

2 Likes

I don’t think there is something such as too many playable characters. I love my 60+ casts. Makes it better for replaying and Iron Manning.
Personally i think nearly every chapter should have recruitables like SD or Fe6 and that early maps should give you 3-6 characters per chapter.

2 Likes

I think the amount of characters you get should should be based on how many chapters you want to make as well as the story going on at the time.

As a general rule, I like to have 3-7 units given to me on the first chapter, then about 2-3 units in each of the following chapters until around 1/5 of the way through the game (~Chapter 4 in a 20 chapter hack, ~Chapter 6 in a 30 chapter hack, etc.)
After that, 1 or 2 units is good per chapter with larger groups of 3-4 in story important missions. You can even have chapters without new units, I don’t think people will mind too much.

Basically, I like frontloaded casts with a couple of stand out units in the mid-late game. I also don’t worry too much about unit balance, having a bit of usable filler or mediocre growth units is perfectly fine if you can beat the game on a lower difficulty.

1 Like

It depends on the tone/difficulty you want to capture for your hack at different points for sure.

RD captures this well with how small the early dawn brigade maps are to emphasize how not powerful you are. Especially compared to the decked out starting RD Greil Mercs.

Personally, I think having too many playable characters can damage the story. Especially if you aren’t iron manning. The more units you have the less story time can be devoted to each one. For me, it’s pretty common to reach the final chapter of a game with 50+ characters, to scroll through the pick unit list and see 10 or so characters I forgot even existed. In other words, the more characters the harder it is to remember each one. As far as I’m concerned a forgotten character just drags down story quality, wasting time.

Personally, depending on the size of the game I think 35-40 characters is ideal. 45 isn’t too bad, but once you start going past 50, I think it lowers the quality of the overall cast.

I’m sorry, but I wholeheartedly disagree with that. If Fire Emblem was structured like, say, your typical JRPG where each of the main character has to be plot relevant or at least must have ties with the MC, then yes of course then too many playables would hurt the story.

However, in Fire Emblem you get to choose who joins your army and who doesn’t. By virtue of supports and optional talk convos, you also get to choose who gets screen time and who doesn’t. The lords and maybe a few other important, non-lord units (Like Merlinus and Guinivere in FE6 for example) are the only one to actually get the spotlight in-story.

Of course, if you’re making characters just for the sake of making characters, you’re gonna end up with a gigantic but boring cast with maybe a dozen of memorable characters at best. But if you keep pouring good ideas into them, I believe no matter how big your roster is, every character is gonna find a player who genuinely like them and will remember them.

5 Likes

I don’t know, more characters takes more time. Time that could be spent adding additional world building, fleshing out already existing characters, refining existing support conversations, adding base convo’s like PoR. The whole reason why I think too many characters hurts the story is that the time could’ve been spent elsewhere (that and I usually forget half of them anyways). I would assume the ROI for creating character #58 would be pretty low.

Regardless, if time is unlimited none of this matters.

Another thing you should think about is what the character can do in his joining chapter.

He should have an obvious way to contribute even if the player doesn’t plan to use him.

The joining character should idealy have a little niche he’s the only one/one of the few able to fill at least for the joining chapters.
You can do this via placement or weapon/class match ups

1 Like