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.