The Impact of FEBuilder

So, I’m probably going to say some negative things about recent projects. To preface, I have nothing against any of the people involved nor do I wish to inspire any spite against any of the projects. This is simply to make examples of my points, and what I think could be observed from the hacking landscape going forwards.

What am I talking about? Well, this is something I’ve thought about for awhile, and think I have something to say about how the community has changed as a result of FEBuilder. FEBuilder is a fantastic tool; it’s the reason I was able to get into hacking because of the immediate feedback from making changes and ease of use. This ease of use, I feel, is what has changed and will continue to shape the hacking community for a long time to come, likely in unpredictable ways.

Whether a hack is completed or not decides if the project lives or dies. Projects with a ton of promise with a great deal of followers can suddenly be abandoned or cancelled by their creators, like Elibean Nights. Or, perhaps they are legendary for their polish, uniqueness, and quality and still hold on despite being in development for half of a decade, like Bloodlines or Staff of Ages. Yet, they’re still not finished, no matter how many people hold their breaths anticipating the next release. These projects are not inherently better than others because of their amount of polish. That’s a matter of opinion. What can be stated for sure is how much love, work, and passion clearly went into these projects. The Last Promise, a cringefest featuring Shadow the Edgehog, is an inspiration for many because it is not only decently polished, but also complete, and clearly taken good care of by its creator. Road to Ruin is another project much like Last Promise, in that it is complete, polished, and loved. Even if it does not garter the same attention as The Last Promise, I would argue that it is deserving of the same level of respect, perhaps a little more because it’s not as easy to make fun of.

All the projects aforementioned were first unveiled to the world prior to the release of FEBuilder. So, what changed? We were graced by the presence of more completed hacks from people that clearly enjoyed being behind their projects. It cannot be understated how much FEBuilder has made hacking easier for newbies that want to show off their full-length projects. An age of buildfiles and FEEditor that scared potential newcomers has ended, and I was among the first newcomers to learn about and take advantage of the technology when I heard of it on the wind, back in late 2017. At that point, FEBuilder was tricky to utilize, and it was still something of a barrier to overcome. Personally, I’ve managed to corrupt multiple ROMs before finally releasing an extremely half-baked yet completed, full length PME I was nonetheless proud of. Born of love.

There were hurdles to get over that newcomers had trouble with, and I’m sure many would give up. Yet, 7743, the saint he is, never gave up, and to this day is optimizing FEBuilder and allowing more people to do more insane things with it. Because of FEBuilder, the community flourishes more than ever, even if buildfiles will likely be the medium of choice for pros forever.

Yet, the problem with ease of use introduces itself. I am happier that these projects exists than they not, but I feel it is worth close examination. The date is January 31st, 2020. A newcomer introduces himself, and this newcomer grants upon us the holy gift that is The Dragon Herald, a 100% completed hack. I do not know how many others shared the same reaction I had, but the concept of a completed hack just appearing out of nowhere is something I had thought of but dismissed as very unlikely. Possible, but why would anyone choose to release a full completed hack before rallying to gather a team in the community first, or at least testers? Although I’ve not played The Dragon Herald, and likely won’t at any point, I can safely say that there is indeed a lack of polish within the project. I cannot say if there was passion without understanding the project better, but I’m sure the creator cares about it, especially after seeing they’d keep updating the project, humorously updating the title to increase the percentage (It’s 101.01% completed as of writing). Still, the project is nowhere near as pretty as Staff of Ages currently is, and while that’s no fault of the creator, I feel as though, with more experience, the creator could reach that level. The fact alone that it receives updates makes me believe it’s possible, because the creator isn’t giving up. Even if they aren’t interested in being the next big thing, they can inspire their good work ethic, and that’s all I can ask.

There is a large influx of modern hacks that aren’t as pretty as their predecessors and likely inspirations, which is only understandable. The creators haven’t undergone the same tribulations or gained as much experience as those that inspired them. With time and hard work, the newcomers may sometime stand as those that can inspire others. I find beauty in that, although the tragedy in that is the simple truth many creators may become complacent with their current position. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it would mean a steady stream of inexperienced hackers releasing a stream of decent but ultimately mediocre projects that will be forgotten, when they can grow beyond where they are. The new stream of less than stellar hacks is inevitable; the best that can be done is to inspire the value of hard work, and to pass on the methods that work for us, in the hopes of a more capable and powerful community overall, instead of one where newcomers potentially give up after completing what may be the hardest part: finishing.

Addendum: This is not by any circumstances saying that less polished hacks are bad. Please do not interpret it that way.

I wonder how long it will take before we realize our limits are not where we stand, but the stars just within sight. Only through our passion can we reach them.


You also have to consider that these “completed” hacks are often done by a single person with minimal feedback, and these hacks of yore that you speak of fondly were often done with teams at their back, even if today we remember only Blazer as the man behind TLP, Prime behind TRTR, and so forth.

Builder definitely makes creating a hack on your own possible, but it deserves no blame if the gameplay or aesthetic isn’t as polished - that’s not the fault of the tool or the method.

The issue you’re describing comes from a lack of playtesting and feedback, which is what happens when you build a hack, project, game, tool, anything really, in isolation and without having anyone give you feedback so you can continue to drive improvements. These old hacks took years of development and went under tons of scrutiny to get to the state they’re in today. Look at the credits or the threads for those games - there are lots of people involved and chiming in.

The types of hacks you’re describing are (usually) the result of one person working by themselves without having many people play the project in development to catch bugs or annoying gameplay elements. Additionally, it’s a lot easier to slap in F2U resources now than it has ever been, versus in the old days where people were more protective of their assets and didn’t really share anything. It is so much easier to progress than it was before. You can make something relatively custom all on your own - which is awesome.

Finishing a hack is easier in 2020 than it’s ever been, but the process of creating art or designing good maps, while perhaps technically easier, still requires skill, care, and feedback to get right - that’s independent of the tools to build the core of the hack itself.

Every hacker starts out as a novice, and no one’s first release looks spectacular or plays wonderfully. It takes time, and you’re bearing witness to that process with these newer projects, especially as someone who has been in the community for a few years.

It is dangerous to present ease of access to a tool as a bad thing (and I apologize if I am misinterpreting the intent of the post by saying that). Builder and 7743 are community treasures. If you want new projects to be better, I recommend you offer to help them look prettier or play better. The tools are not to blame.

IMO, the romhacking community is at its best when it functions like a rap collective - groups of individuals with common creative interests and diverse skillsets that partner to make art (art being Fire Emblem in this context).

Fostering this environment is important if you want to create quality projects, and offering to help out or share feedback is one of the easiest ways to get started.


That’s basically what I’m trying to say. Everything you said is compatible with the original post.
It’s not a complaint, it’s an observation of the status of the hacking scene as is.

Hey there! Creator of The Dragon Herald here! I try to just lurk outside my own thread, but I felt I should address this post as my project has a lot of very specific context which may be lost when examining it in the context of FEBuilder.

First of all, I’d like to propose what I think is your interpretation of polish. The Dragon Herald has a full game, completed supports, and is as bug-free as I could get it without bringing on additional testers besides my lonesome self. Thus, I would interpret polish to be the finer trimmings: a more professionally written story, commissioned graphics with a unified aesthetic, and perhaps more intentional map design, as I definitely just sort of slapped some shit together.

I had two goals in making Dragon Herald. The first was obviously to finish a game. Everyone dreams of writing their book, but I wanted to try and do it, y’know? The second was to finish a game while adhering as close to FEGBA aesthetics as possible, and with as little skill or outside intervention as possible. This meant forgoing a lot of stuff like big ASMing and the Skill System. It meant not learning ASM and all despite the fact that I am a programmer for my day job. It meant not asking for help for portraits or assets or anything and just doing the best I could with the community resources that the community so awesomely grants. Most importantly, it meant not soliciting any feedback from others until I was “done”, meaning “this is more stable than a modern AAA game”.

Why did I do this? I believe that creative efforts do not have to be “good”. You can make shit for the sake of it. I’m not going to pretend that my hack compares to things like Staff of Ages, because it doesn’t. It was never meant to. It was a personal proof of concept that “hey, anyone can finish a hack totally with a minimum of talent or developed skill”. And yeah, a hack not vetted by the community will not appeal as strongly to the community. This makes so much sense it’s practically a tautology. But ask yourself: what would the community have thought of Blazing Sword if it was a fanhack of Binding Blade? I’m not even proposing an answer to my hypothetical because I think it speaks for itself.

I also think it’s nice to finish things. While relying on feedback is nice for making something good, it is the opposite for finishing things. It’s common artistic advice that you do not share your projects until they are done (or very close) because you lose steam once you get positive feedback from your project. Hacks that finish and are ‘polished’ are legendary for a reason: it’s fuckin’ hard. It takes a lot of discipline and commitment from the hacker/team which not everyone has.

Finally, I wanted to address my point about outside intervention in a different light. A lot of people are socially awkward. I think it’s amazing that the community has made enough resources and guides and support that a total social shut-in can just conjure a game up for themselves and, boom, there it is. I believe the condemnation of games that do not solicit feedback (it’s not just you that’s done this, this ain’t a callout, everyone does this) spits in the face of the magnanimous spirit that asset creators have in releasing their works for anyone to use, regardless of project quality, theme, completion, or polish.

Anyway thanks for coming to my Ted talk and, uh, play my hack broskis! It’s at least hard. I could do that much on my own.


I apologize if the tone of my post came across as problematic, I was aware it could seem that way.
I understand that you’re pleased with where you’re are, and I wish you the best in all your endeavors. Please understand when I say “polish”, I do not mean “quality”. I simply mean “general prettiness” in the vaguest way possible.

Wow you are pretentious.

Who would complain about hacking being more accessible to newcomers? The fact that you think FEBuilder was “hard to wrap your head around” just shows how out of touch you are with the hacking community pre-Builder lmao. You yourself only joined after its inception so idk why you think you’re qualified to talk on this.

I love how the hack you cite, Dragon Herald has 120 replies and NONE of them are you. Rather than offering constructive feedback to a hack you think needs work, you would rather sit back and rant about how “hackers these days” aren’t INSPIRED like you.


I think aesthetics are kind of subjective in regard. One reason I haven’t played Staff of Ages because, while the mugs are nicely designed, they’re too different from FEGBA for me personally, even if the aesthetic itself is unified.

In contrast, I tried Dark Lord and the Maiden of Light because it fully had FEGBA aesthetic.

This is likely a minority preference, but I wanted to give some insight into why “polish” is potentially less absolute than what you might imagine.


This is an observation of what I am currently witnessing and what I believe from what I have seen.

There is no complaint here, despite what my tone may convey. I am happy with where we are. I do not want to involve myself within it, I only added my personal experiences to compare with how others might have gotten into the scene.

I’m going to just start deleting posts that add no value and/or are purely insults.


I appreciate you outlining your goals and thought process, as it feels like so few of the recent “complete” hack creators have explained why they released their projects shortly after announcing them. I myself am much more a fan of the process and quality that can come from rigorous testing and feedback, and I think many others are the same, but I can also understand the appeal of just wanting to be done with something!
I think the thing that bugs both myself and some others (I don’t mean to speak for Zoisite or anyone in particular though), is that the process of wanting to make changes and improvements based on feedback is a natural part of the FEU community, and when hack creators say nothing and don’t explain their reasons for why they create the things they do and how, it leads to a miscommunication and conflicting expectations.
No one should ever feel expected to change their work due to the pressures of outsiders, and I believe that strongly, but communication of goals for any and all future projects would only serve to help the community at large imo, even if that communication is a brief, polite, “no thank you, I appreciate your feedback but I have no plans to make changes to my project, unless a major bug is found”
Thanks again for sharing, I really do think it will help with understanding and communication moving forward.


I think to some extent it’s better to accept a shift in outlook, at least personally. I would rather see creators continue to improve themselves, whether that means dwelling on a single magnus opus hack with mentor inputs, creating projects iteratively leaving a wake of incomplete (but progressively better) hacks and learning from community feedback, or just choosing to specialize in any of the fields this community focuses on.

Making hacks (books for my allegory) easier to publish means there’s going to be more and of differing quality, and draws more authors into the pool. I think the key is to find what suits your taste and rewarding the instances that do, or assist these authors in bettering their work. An author here has to wrangle teambuilding, art, storytelling, gameplay design, and technical expertise (or really deliver on certain aspects) to make a project AAA. You can’t really control when epic breakthroughs happen on a creative level, so imo just nurture a good environment for it.

I’ve found that I don’t have interest in a lot of hacks that’ve been released (more just due to time constraints and personal tastes than ‘lack of polish’), but some other people still seem to find and enjoy them. Glad there is enough community that such happens.

Back in the day the community was much smaller and it was easier to group specialists together to create something. Even so, you had a lot of failed projects and only the big names are remembered. Just my thoughts on the matter.


I can’t see how an “age of buildfiles” has ended and as long as they’re around they’ll keep scaring people I guess. FEditor isn’t even scary. I always thought it got a bad rap and thought it was easy to use, but its bugginess and inability to work with the buildfile method were what eventually killed it to my understanding with the development of alternative tools (CSA, AA.exe, textprocess, etc). Just thought that was worth pointing out. Otherwise… tbh I can’t really derive a point from this post. It’s no secret there have been many new FEB projects that lack polish.


Yes, and as the ease of use continues to grow we get to see more personalities. The only thing I fear is the rise of a series of generic hacks because that’s what newbies think they need to make. Yet, if they make their generic project their own, there is value to it in the end, and I can be happy with it.

Cool edit, but surely you’ve realized by now this is an apparently poorly-worded essay meant to describe my thoughts on the changing landscape. I do not mean to say that FEBuilder is problematic, or that Dragon Herald is bad, especially after all the creator has done for it. I watched silently, but I had nothing constructive to say in the thread, so I never said anything.

I don’t get the point of this thread. Maybe there’s too many words and I’m shutting off here.
Let people do what they want even if they’re new. Everything is a learning experience and it’s up to them to figure out how to perfect and polish their work if it’s more than experimentation. Most people haven’t seen me around for a while but I’ve been lurking around and there’s quite a few projects that are going to come out without any hint of feedback - and while that sounds stupid, that’s their way of wanting to get more “polish”. This includes me, in fact, and honestly the fact that FEB is more accessible is a very good thing. You look at Pokemon hacking for example and its a cluster of random tools that people coded just so that they could get clout, honestly.
I don’t know if I missed the point of the thread but even if there’s going to be a lot of mediocrity it shouldn’t affect the ability for others to share. This type of thread might turn new people away from sharing. That’s exactly what made me stop something from being released back in my Cave Story days.


This part I don’t really understand because it’s hard to judge the “polish” in a project just based on a few screenshots and not actually playing the game. Yeah I guess “polish” could mean how well the game looks visually/graphically, but looking at the screenshots the maps look fine and while some of the mugs are F2U, the game still looks different from vanilla FE8. A big part of the “polishing” phase is gameplay fixes and bugs and after I have looked at the changelog in the thread it’s clear that the creator cares about their project and is continuously working on it to create an enjoyable experience. Being “pretty” subjective, and I don’t think visual pleasure is what makes or breaks a hack. I don’t think it is fair to judge a game’s polish, merit, or passion without actually playing it. But that’s just my opinion


I personally don’t think there’s anything wrong with FEBuilder. It’s quite the useful tool for GBA hacking and makes hacking more accessible to pretty much everybody. The fact that a lot of newcomers to hacking can now share their ideas with the community is a good thing. Sure, their projects tend to lack “polish,” but considering that most of their efforts are by themselves and the newcomers are unlikely to have contacts that can help them out in the art department, it should almost be expected to see these sort of projects. Many high-profile hacks are made by people who have been in the community for a good while, with lots of others willing to help them out since they have gained notoriety.

I feel that this thread is accentuating the negatives of FEBuilder, when it should be focusing on the many positives. Sure, there have been a lot of new hacks being released and many of them aren’t as “professionally” made as the high-profile ones, but I see it as more of proof that FEBuilder is inspiring others to create what they love rather than drudging up terrible hacks onto the community.

I just think that we should encourage hackers of any sort to release content of any sort. If the product is deemed “low-quality” then we should be encouraging them to improve upon what they have. I’ve felt like not sharing what I spent my time on many times, simply because I felt that it would be judged as sub-par. I feel that many members of the community have become quite judgmental on new projects rather than encouraging or giving proper critique to the hackers. Pleasing the community shouldn’t be a hacker’s primary goal, but to many people here, it almost feels that way.

I definitely agree on the fact that visual aesthetics are unfairly seen as indicative of the hack’s overall quality. My advice is to play at least some of the hack before making any clear judgments known to the community.


I say polish in an extremely vague sense. In truth, I mean something akin to going over it again, and again, and again, and constantly improving to strive for perfection for love of the project, not visual or aesthetic appeal, necessarily. I apologize for confusion, but I nonetheless agree with what you said.

I still can’t say Dragon Herald is good or bad, I just know a handful of the maps were fairly simplistic in structure, from looking at it, and it’s otherwise fairly simple. Whether that’s good or bad, I do not know, I’ll have to play and see.

Interesting. I’ll keep my nose out of the meat of this post, but there is one thing I’d like to bring up.

For clarification, you’re saying that a hack which initially comes out with a partial release and gets gradual feedback from the community as it grows would be preferable to the release of a completed hack that is fully playable off the bat? While I can see the logic regarding your points on testing and feedback, the release of something “fully playable” doesn’t necessarily connote that it is set in stone and immune to feedback as well…

Or perhaps I’m just misunderstanding what you’re saying lol

There’s an in-joke in the LISA fandom: “your fangame isn’t a fangame unless it gets cancelled at some point.” People get busy, life and schedules rear their ugly heads. Every work-in-progress hack has an overlooming danger of being shelved because the person in charge just didn’t have the capacity to finish it. It’s a rather common thing, at least from my experience.

As you said yourself, whether a hack is completed or not determines whether it lives or dies. The cancellation of such a project ultimately ends up being a whole lot of buildup for no payoff to the people who were following the project. With that in mind I’d argue that completion followed by flexible polishing would be more impactful for any given hack in the long run, rather than gradually rebounding a WIP project off the community during its development, at the constant risk of the creator cancelling things.

(not to complain about people cancelling projects of course, often times the cause of this is real life stuff and that’s understandable)


This is a great point. Ultimately, we hack as a hobby (or at least I do. If any of y’all are getting paid, hook me up with that haha). I started my own hack as a fun outlet during a tough time of my life, and released it on the off chance someone else might enjoy it. Slowly, I learned I really enjoyed the nitty gritty of map design, of balance, of polish, and I’ve since gone down that road, to improve my hack!

But if I had not, my hack was also still 100% valid, because I had fun doing it. Not everybody wants to dive into polish though, which is perfectly fine. Sometimes you just want to hack and make something and not spend 3 years on it. If you’re not having fun, why bother?

I think the tone we need to take as a community is to offer feedback and help as we’re able to those who are interested in it. I try to play as many budding releases as I’m able, although my work life has made that limited as of late. I’ve also started to release a lot of the assets I’ve created as F2U. I’d encourage others to do the same. A projector t looks like it’s new and could use advice? Reach out and provide feedback! A palette looks a bit sketchy? Offer to help make a new one or give advice on how to do so! This is how we can make a difference and lift up new members, if they so desire; I’m not sure how much a post like this will accomplish, as a new hacker is neither likely to see it, not likely to be able to understand the context to parse through it.

Finally, Zoisite mentions art polish; I have had a hack in development for 1.5 years, and it still features a fair number of vanilla recolors. It’s not that I don’t see the value in portraits- I simply neither have the skill set to make decent mugs, nor have reached out to anyone for assistance. I don’t think my hack’s lack of mugs or pretty custom assets means I haven’t undergone the “same tribulations” as anybody else. I’ve sunk hundreds of hours into this project. I think it’s very dangerous to conflate fancy art or presentation with effort or experience. I realize this is (hopefully) not the intention of your post, but as someone with a hack with less than stellar mugs, it comes off to me as such. Solo dev is hard. This is true whether you use Builder, a buildfile, or Blazer’s Ultimate Tutorial.

TL;DR Hack for the fun of it, not for the opinion of others or any other reason. Support new projects and members as you’re able. A hack isn’t “mediocre” or lacking effort/experience because of lack of assets.