I was talking on a Discord server and I saw that split promotions aren’t that popular. I always thought they were fun, and even if they aren’t well balanced, I think making them balanced doesn’t seem too difficult. The mage promotions for example, would have been more fair if the promotion gains were less lopsided and Mage Knights didn’t get staves. And even then, sometimes it’s fun to just pick the “bad” option, but I think when designing a hack you should probably try to avoid that.
I’m curious to hear other people’s thoughts on the matter.
Achieving perfect balance isn’t possible and I feel like that’s a point people really focus in on for no good reason. Like everything else involving units, the choice is really up to the player and if there’s a “sub optimal” option, having it there isn’t really taking anything away from the player. You really only have something to gain which is more options with replayability and more options for the player to choose from.
I think I would rather have character-based “split” promotions where the same base class promotes into different things depending on the character (a la Swordmaster vs Hero in FE4), since it makes the character feel a little more unique and keep their traits intact. Sure, choice of options for classes is great for replayability, though I would rather try out a different unit for replayability than use the same unit and make them a different class.
I agree with Pik in that perfect balance will never be possible. But I do think you should strive to make every option, whether it be a split promo option or a unit to use, fairly usable, and hopefully not strictly outclassed by something else without having a real niche of its own. Unique, even if suboptimal, classes are fun- classes that are near clones of each other, or just a worse version of a different class, tend not to add much imo.
I decided to nix split promos because I was having a really hard time making each option feel unique. I felt that, for me, forcing myself to have split promos just introduced an excess of classes that were pretty similar or didn’t have any niche. It didn’t really make the game more fun to have a glut of classes that all felt the same (like assassins vs. swordmasters) or that were essentially inferior versions of other options with no meaningful niche (like summoners vs. druids).
It’s worth noting I don’t use skills, Str/Mag split, or some of the other more expansive engine hacks out there, so my options in differentiating classes are a bit limited. So if you want to make split promos and can think of ways to make the classes feel and play different, even if one path is probably more optimal than the other, I say go for it.
So, uh, after all that word salad, my take is that split promos should ideally actually “split” in some way lol
I don’t see the problem with split promotions at all, since you can choose which class to specialize in on different playthroughs, depending on how units develop. For example, if you randomly get a lot of speed growths on that armor knight, he might do a better job as a great knight rather as a general. If your wyvern rider got rng-screwed and has terrible speed, you can promote to wyvern knight to compensate, or go full tank with wyvern lord, if your mage dies, you can consider promoting a priest to sage instead, etc.
Bottom line: Player choice is never a bad thing IMO.
Player choice here isn’t a bad at all, of course you should try to get the best balance for the game, but perfect balance (or perfect anything really) isn’t possible, but you should try to get as close a possible to perfection. Though, if you’re doing third tier classes and doing split promotions (possibly even splits at the first and second promotion), those class trees are going to look as messy as a my room (pretty damn messy in other words.) I advise not mixing third tier classes and split promotions.
I keep telling people the vanilla games aren’t balanced, there’s no point in trying to balance your project.
This is what I’m doing in my new project. For example there are 2 archers and 2 cavs:
Archer 1: Ranger (sword/bow) | Warrior (axe/bow) | Unnamed armor hybrid (bow/anima)
Archer 2: Adventurer(bow/staves) | Catapult (unique weapon type) | Unnamed mounted hybrid (bow/dark)
I feel like you need to go out of your way to make the classes different enough that you make the player think when they promote units (bonus points if you have 3 or more options with one or more of them being the obvious meme option).
Edit: Also, having growths determined by char + class growths creates even more diversity between your split promos.
Depends on how they work. If it leads to everyone getting a mount, it’s often not a compelling decision.
Since most people will want to rework what vanilla does, split promos create a lot of extra work that you can avoid by not having them. But again, it depends on the goals of your project and how much you’re trying to balance it (single promo is easier to balance since there are fewer variables for you to account for when designing maps).
I kept on pondering classes while making a hack. How many split promotions should I include? Which classes should they promote to? What about a reclassing system? I wanted to give the player a lot of freedom.
But eventually I realized I didn’t need any of this if the player can simply have (some) captured enemies join your forces. Although I went in the full-on pokemon direction, it may be possible to thematically integrate the capturing and utilizing of enemies into an actual fire emblem themed game. Yes, my solution was “let’s do something else instead”, so it’s not really sound advice on the topic.
Still, though, I would like to see how other hacks allow freedom of player units’ classes. Legends of Avenir has a very cool avatar creation, for example. Trainees or villagers also allow for a quick branching of classes, so they can be fun to use.
The main roadblock is the lack of animations. There’s just not enough animations/established classes to provide all classes with a compelling branch promotion choice. Giving some classes branch promos but not others is certainly possible, but most people just don’t want to bother I feel.
Generally, I’m not too big a fan of split promotions. It seems that, most often, when they’ve been done in the past, the player is given the choice between one good option, and one muuuuuuch worse one. There are some exceptions to this but they’re far and few between. However, that doesn’t mean that split promotions cannot be done well, in fact, they could make for a really fun addition to a hack.
See, fundamentally, they exist to provide the player with a choice, but when it’s done so that one is just simply better than the other, then the players choice is kinda already made for them, ie, defeating the purpose. So I’d say that, in order for split promotions to be worthwhile, both promotions have to be worth a consideration, they both have to provide something unique that’d make the player seriously consider using one or the other, in essence, they both have to be good. That seems simple enough but the problem here is that of balance, which is another issue entirely though.
So, in summary, no I don’t normally like them, yes I think they can be done well, and no it’d not be an easy task to undertake
Split promotions can be done well but doing so isn’t an easy task since it requires the ability to make each promotion path have a meaningful niche instead of it being X or X but worse. I believe most people can agree that when getting a mount is an option, 9/10 times the promotion path with a mount is the superior one.
Hence, I believe that if you intend on including split promotions, the first thing to be done would be to shrink the amount of available T1 classes to avoid class bloat so we don’t have instances where there are two classes but both of them essentially do the same thing. Sure there are samey classes like Sage/Bishop/Druid which are basically different flavors of magic + staff but you can at least attempt to differentiate them via promotion bonuses/skills/what their magic type offers and so forth.
Another thing you can consider would be to make it so that most infantry units don’t get mounts on promotion (so basically the non lord classes). While mounts do dominate FE, if you restrict the amount that’s available and put in the necessary countermeasures, it may be possible to make it so that the footies don’t feel left out that their horse/flier brethren have 2/3 more movement.
There’s usually enough classes within the series that such a system would be possible anyway, for example taking a page from TMS FE, the playable archer had the ability to promote to Sniper or Assassin. In a regular FE game, Sniper could be the combat oriented option with better offensive stats and critical bonuses while Assassins could get Swords, +Vision and Locktouch which gives them an enemy phase and some utility in exchange for worse combat and possibly even the loss of Longbows depending on what your weapon set is like. Going back to the old days, Myrmidons could easily promote to Swordmaster or Hero, with SM being the faster option with more resistance while Heroes are the physically bulkier option with 1-2 range and weapon triangle control (as long as 1-2 range doesn’t dominate the game, Swordmaster not being able to use Hand Axes wouldn’t be a crippling disadvantage).
All in all, it just depends on how much effort you’re willing to put in to make it worthwhile.
I was more meaning the split like Scáthach and Larcei have where they both start in the same class but the class “branches” and you don’t have the option in what choice to take on the branch - the character has made it for you (one a Hero, one a Swordmaster). So, branched promotions are effectively there, just each character has a locked promotion path along the split. The hypothetical idea being that you pick the character to get a different Personal Skill, set of Class Skills and Caps, etc. and then you try someone different out if you play again to get something different instead of just rolling with the same unit but building them out differently.
(That said, this would be more for a typical long-form FE in length. If you’re doing something short and you want to give the player options to have fun, go hog wild with branches and choices.)
It’s fine to have sub-optimal choices as long as they feel sufficiently different from each other. But usually as a consequence of one promotion being significantly better than another is that the worse one just plays like the better one but without the added advantages. It’s like Ranger vs Sniper in FE8 for instance. The two classes will effectively do the same thing but Ranger will also have an enemy phase, Canto and reduced terrain costs. As a consequence, Sniper can just feel like using a Ranger but without the mentioned advantages. More choices can be nice but if the choices play out similarly to each other then it doesn’t add any extra depth to the game and for a strategy game this is no good.
If you gave Sniper something like longer Range, Hunter volley or useful skills/combat Arts, i would rather go sniper.
The problem aren’t the split promotions, but how the options aren’t different enough. And skills and combat Arts can be both done in FE8 hacks, SRPG Studio and other software as well, so it’s how you implement them.
If we are talking vanilla GBA however, then yeah you can’t do much.
There’s always going to be an “objectively better” option for branching promotion, so I always try to make the other option be as wacky and fun as possible. A fighter promoting to a warrior will make him a better fighter, no question about it. But what if he could also promote to a general? Imagine the random woodcutter your army picked up at the start of the game turning into a tank that can wield all the weapons! How about the choice to promote a myrmidon into either a swordmaster or a trickster, in a game with access to lots of interesting staffs? Mercenary into a hero, or a new class entirely specialised for magic swords? Do you want a wyvern lord with good combat stats or a supersonic wyvern mailman with 9 movement? These promotion options aren’t really meant to win the player over on gameplay merits; it’s all about the “lmao let’s go for it!!!” factor. And if the game gives you two units of the same tier 1 class, you can even choose the “superior” option for one and splurge on the “wacky” option with the other.
I personally think branching promotions are a lot of fun, and “fun” is something I tend to prioritize over rigorously-tuned game balance where the two conflict.
That said, I also don’t think they’re necessary and I acknowledge that they can very easily end up lopsided. For example, the Sniper versus Ranger / Bow Knight choice that Archers are often faced with. It essentially amounts to “Do you want Sword access and an extra 2 Movement or not?” The only thing Snipers have really got going for them is Sure Strike, which is rendered largely moot and excessive by FE8 using the 2RN “True Hit” system plus Snipers having among the highest Hit of all classes. Ranger is the superior class according to every objectively-quantifiable metric. This is probably the most egregious one, since they gave the mount and the new weapon type to the same class and stuck the other one with nothing but a crummy skill that’s redundant with its stats and only weapon type.
As mentioned above, I’m not overly concerned with things being balanced past a certain point, but I do wanna at least offer some incentive to, say, pick Sniper over Ranger. One idea that comes to mind is offsetting weaker “class properties” with significantly-higher promotion bonuses, so, say, your Archer could become a Ranger for a horse and sword access, or they could become a Sniper and get a huge boost to their stats, making them super deadly with a bow but not giving them anything else to use. Nothing broken or anything, but enough to make it at least worth considering.