When you begin your ROM Hack, where do you start?

  • Plot
  • Gameplay
  • Maps
  • Music
  • Other

0 voters

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I want to begin a ROM Hack but I don’t know how to start so I wonder what you start with to maybe take inspiration from it

You probably should start by having some kind of idea you want. Whether it’s telling a story, or using a mechanic in an interesting way, you’ll want to have some kind of structure towards your plans so you’re not just dawdling around.

In FE’s case, I’ve had the best idea planning stuff by trying to figure out how to tie a story to chapters, and having a skeleton to work off of. Story and general chapter flow are probably the most important thing, with gameplay taking a bit more priority if you’re doing something that’s not just a basic “FE8-engine-with-skill-systems” hack.

Otherwise, though, work with what’s best for you. I’ve found it easy to keep motivation going by working on portraits/music when the grind of eventing and balance is getting too monotonous, but YMMV.


Thanks for the reply, I appreciate your advice ! And what do you do for world building ?

When it comes to world building? Start with broad strokes, and fill in the details as you get more ideas. Don’t bloat your world with completely trivial facts, but don’t have them feel barren, either. It’s not a bad idea to look at other pieces of fiction that you’re getting inspiration from and seeing what they do and why they do it, if you’re struggling to come up with general ideas.

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it’s now a poll


Thanks !

The first time around I found myself jumping all over the place to whatever I was interested in doing at the time: making maps without clear objectives, inserting whatever music I thought was cool without actual purpose, coming up with an extremely bare bones plot, making custom weapons, etc. etc. Generally just doing whatever I felt like doing at the time; it was pretty chaotic, but a lot of fun. We’re going to call this ‘The Honeymoon’ phase.

The 'Honeymoon' Phase

You’re overflowing with ideas, real enthusiastic about your project, and you’re quite possibly working on your project every day at this point.

Eventually you finish the parts you enjoy doing and need to start allocating your time to the other stuff (typically the stuff you don’t like doing, because you saved it for last); We’re going to call this The ‘Finish The Damn Game’ phase. If you can tough it out through this part the project gets finished. :sunglasses:

The 'Finish The Damn Game' Phase

At this point, you may not be having as much fun as you did when you first started, but you’re determined to finish this; you’re probably not working on your project as much as you used to, but a little bit of work here and there makes you feel productive nonetheless.

This time around I’ve found myself doing the exact same thing and I regret nothing. So long as you’re having fun you’re doing it right, this is a hobby, not a job.


me writing supports rn:

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This is motivating to me.

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I fall under the “gameplay” category I’d say, but after I got down the basics of manipulating my buildfile, I started going through engine hack changes and ASM changes I wanted to make before doing anything else, and have spent three months or so working on learning and implementing ASM to set certain behaviours the way I want them. Just now starting my first map and vaguely thinking about some story ideas, as I’ve got the vast majority of the major changes in order.

I like building a technical foundation first so to speak, I find it helps things move smoother as I work on the rest of a project. In this case that ended up starting with what I found most complex, but I don’t regret it, learned a lot and feel confident that now that I’ve already gotten through a lot of the “hard scary barrier” type stuff, I’ll be able to actually make a lot of progress without feeling like abandoning the project.


World building is a topic I’ve gone into at length on the discord, and I’ve found that a trap many amateur writers fall into is overestimating how important world building is, as well as how much of it there should be. This is particularly a problem in fantasy writing, in part due to a lot of popular contemporary fantasy media receiving heavy praise for the world building they do, but more speculative fiction often has the same issues.

In short, world building can be used as a way to add texture to the setting of a piece of media, creating interesting and evocative ideas in the audience’s minds of what a life in this world would be like. It can also, more relevant to our purposes, serve as a way to form connective tissue between the plot, the characters, and the higher level concepts at play in the script. An example I like to use is how Dragon Age’s setting utilizes the Chantry, the world’s dominant religion, and the Veil, the central apparatus through which magic is done and which renders mages uniquely susceptible to demonic possession, to create several complex and (mostly) nuanced stories that wouldn’t be possible in a more mundane setting like, say, D&D’s Forgotten Realms world. In that franchise, you’re often introduced to complex world building that is looped back into the plot, with the early game asking the player to draw their own conclusions about the various unique elements of this world, and then in the late game providing an opportunity to act on those conclusions in impactful, meaningful ways.

The pitfall I often see is that several stories spend a lot of time on this world building stage, but without a clear goal. Elements are added to the world because they’re neat or thought provoking, but never acted upon in the script because, well, this is just a story about a blue haired dude that kills an evil emperor. This is assuming the script ever gets written, as I know writers who have lore documents hundreds of pages long, filled with character backstories, history, gods, detailed magic systems, dozens of races each painstakingly designed to not be analogous to a typical fantasy race, but not a single word put to page for the actual story they’re writing it all for.

Especially with how uneconomical script is in FEGBA (every sentence more or less comes with a pause for an A press, greatly slowing down reading speed and making dialogue scenes much longer than they could be), you honestly don’t have the time to loredump the player every few chapters every time you have a cute idea to impart. If you don’t want players to start skipping your dialogue, you need to be smart about what you choose to say and when, especially when it could be a loooooong time between each chunk of dialogue. Making sure important info sticks and is easily applied is important.

The best way to do this is to provide an anchor. In short, the player will have a much easier time consuming a piece of world building if they can tie it to something tangible in the script. It could be a character closely tied to this aspect of the world with strong opinions on it – now you not only have a face to tie this information to, but it’s been given context and emotion. It could be something the player witnesses firsthand, turning the world building from a thought provoking curiosity to a more directly engaging reality. On a simpler scale, it can just be making sure to bring things up as they become relevant, as this way the player is immediately shown the world building having a cause and effect on the real world, and can more easily conceptualize other ways that this same facet of the world building could manifest itself.

An example of bad world building is something like the ever popular FE intro narration, where you’re introduced to several nations, names, faces, concepts, and ideas before one can even find something to ground oneself in the world and make sense of the information given to them. Without context, information is meaningless, and the only knowledge that will stick for a player will be that which is made immediately relevant to them. Beyond that, the faceless, impersonal, and strictly informative nature of the info dump makes it boring to read. There’s no texture, no emotion, and so it fails both as story telling and as a way to efficiently impart information, as the vast majority of the info given is either entirely superfluous or restated later and better by an actual character within the script, now with the benefit of context.

My advice to writers first starting out, or romhackers who find the writing process intimidating, is to let world building come to you. As you find yourself adding new characters, new places, new complications to the script, feel what’s most interesting to you. You can always rewrite if you have an idea that conflicts with previous info but is too good to pass up, and my experience is that typically as you flesh out the world this way, the jigsaw slowly falls into place around you, as suddenly plot threads and character arcs become obvious and your ideas begin to criss cross. Don’t worry about figuring out the entire world before you start writing, just feel your way through the script and see what context comes naturally to you. Your plot, characters, and setting will begin to define each other symbiotically, and once you’re fully comfortable you can begin planning your setting further ahead, alongside things like character arcs and the twists and turns of the plot.


everybody gangsta until someone mentions world building in front of prolific hackrom writer xilerite


A few things I’ve done:

  • Since this is a crossover, it’s a matter of who goes where for me.

  • The opening cutscenes is one of the things I did first, since I wanna wow the player with the action going on.

The rest I can’t do immediately, I plan. Recruitment order, bosses, chapter goals and order, music, etc…

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Frankly, you can start wherever you want, but the order you do things in should be your foundation. Generally, I value story the most, because the story determines the themes and design of a map. Indoors? Mountains? What type of foes do we face?

Gameplay overall is also intertwined in the story. What mechanics will I use or not use? Why? How does it interact with the story? (see: ludonarrative dissonance). Maps are the stages set by which the themes of the story and the challenges of the gameplay exist for the player to interact with. They will be third.

Finally, music should be decided last. The song selections and themes used should complement both the story and the gameplay. If you choose songs first, you will inevitably have unfitting songs or go through the effort to insert music that will never be used. Just use vanilla FE8 tracks until you are confident what songs you will insert.


Thanks for all your great advice, I’m starting to see more clearly now !

the first thing I do when creating a romhack is laugh at the fact that the name for Artur’s palette is ass.

The NEXT thing I do though is create a story outline and create the most important characters, after that I usually begin to create the starting characters you get for the first chapter, the generic enemies for that chapter, the boss, rebalance weapons if I feel the need to, import any custom classes that are used in first chapter (usually lord), get the portraits and finally the map itself and beginning cutscene.

this is very true, if your story doesn’t focus on the world then don’t flesh it out as much as let’s say three houses, they had all those month openings expanding on world building in three houses because the plot was (mostly) about a conflict between two nations with one caught in the middle, what’s the difference between Faerghus and the Adrestian empire? Why should we care which nation rules the continent? These are the questions that should be answered in a game with three houses

In a plot that just doesn’t involve the different powers of the world or the world’s society as a whole then what reason is there to spend hours expanding on it if the information is useless?

it’s okay to not expand on aspects of your world if it’s never brought up in a meaningful way, the story of the hack I am nearly finished with doesn’t even name the nation it’s based on in the main story because it’s not about the continent or the nation, it could be set in ylisse, fateslandia, or archanea and it wouldn’t change anything about the story, it’s about the characters and their journey. You can come to the conclusion that mercenary work is the main way of making money in this world because the opening to the game is set in a mercenary school and a lot of the characters you recruit are mercenaries, it’s never outright said in game because it’s not important however it’s still there.

only bring up the information that is relevant either at that point or in the near future which is another reason why you should create an outline of your story before you start writing.

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I said maps but I would mostly consider that part of the gameplay. I just have more fun making the actual aesthetics of a map rather than the placing of units on the map.

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