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Discussion A comprehensive list of things that make a great ROM Hacks

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Old January 15th, 2017 (10:23 AM).
doge_man doge_man is offline
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    Hey everyone! I am a random Pokemon fan, not a lot to know about me so I will jump straight to the topic.

    Starting off, I have been playing a lot of ROM Hacks lately and honestly, I absolutely love some of them. Before proceeding, I would like to state that I have a complete understanding of the effort it takes to make a ROM hack and also, I hold a special respect in my heart for people who put that kind of time in making something truly lovable and enjoyable for the community. So, getting to the point, here's a comprehensive and a little detailed list of things that make a ROM hack stand out and in general, a richer/better experience.

    EVERY TOWN/CITY HAVING IT'S IDENTITY: Now this is one of the major issues for me. A lot of ROM hacks out there simply throw town/cities around with nothing memorable or even slightly unique about them. Here, I would like to suggest hackers to take core games as an example, especially black and white. Most places had an identity and it was reflected by the place's NPCs and buildings. Take castelia city for example, a bustling busy city. It had streets with people hurry to somewhere, giving it a metropolitan vibe whereas places like the village bridge were executed with near perfection. The music was perfect and it had a story to tell. Another great example would be Old Cheatu or the famous lavendar town (whose feels was ruined in future generations) Doing this just increases immersion of the hack and greatly contributes to its quality. I would also like to mention Pokemon Life here, the hometown was mapped to near perfection and really had that scenic country village feel.

    This isn't the major turn off but sprites do matter. Now, I love how people try to put their creativity and carve a completely new character out of scratch. But, it often just doesn't feel polished. For people like me, who savor on every minute details of a game, OW sprites matter a bunch. *I am looking at you Dark Rising 2*

    AVOID GENERIC NPCs: Now again, who doesn't hate the NPC being at a place just as a filler. I believe NPCs dialogues makes a hack a lot more engaging. This point is self explanatory and I really won't bicker a lot about this. But what I will say is even if you can't come up with something, NPCs can always say something witty, funny or make popular references and who doesn't love memes anyways?

    NON-EDGY PLOT/ PLOT DETAILS: Now I feel this is just an issue for me but I feel some ROM hacks have story like "SAVE THE WORLD! SAVE THE WORLD!". Well.. but again this is also a part of core game plots, Don't get me wrong, I love intense stories but it's never good to overdo anything to a point it feels like the story is really out of place and doesn't make a lot of sense. But unlike this, the next part is vital. Majority of hacks follow the good ol' Pokemon styled story and while some try to increase the difficulty curve which feel is good, it's almost never executed like it should. Grinding is the number one thing that sucks out the fun. I believe it can be avoided in bunch of ways. Coming back to the point, there are points in a lot of hacks where I feel "This really doesn't make sense!" and tying the plot together is a delicate subject, which if executed just right, radically affects the hack.

    TILES: I have always felt that nintendo's tiles were 'meh' or 'fiineee' at best. And to a majority of players, the tiles and graphics in general is the major concern of the hack. Games like Light Platinum and Glazed perfected this and thus, received the attention they deserved. Now to me this isn't the major concern and I tend to focus on the plot. But most people don't. Again, Pokemon Life has excelled in this criteria too.

    Physical and Special split. *nuff said*

    Now I know a lot of talented spriters display their creativity and craft some great fakemons but unless this too is executed perfectly, this causes absolute major turn off for the majority of core game players. It's better to stick to the main series Pokemon in my opinion.
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    Old February 11th, 2017 (2:41 AM).
    Fluorescence's Avatar
    Fluorescence Fluorescence is offline
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      I agree, I'm trying to do that too in my Pokemon game plan.
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      Old February 11th, 2017 (4:09 AM).
      Derxwna Kapsyla's Avatar
      Derxwna Kapsyla Derxwna Kapsyla is offline
      Derxwna "The Badman" Kapsyla
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        I'm going to have to refute quite a bit of these points, as someone who's been in the scene for a long time, and fancies themselves an amateur game developer at best. But let's go over your points one by one.

        Every location should feel unique, like there's a reason for them to exist. A location shouldn't feel like it was crammed in at random, but it should feel like it fits the overall aesthetic of the region, and the game at large. You want the player to go there, and have a reason to be there, a reason for them to remember the location, even if it's a little one-off spot. It doesn't need to be fancy, it doesn't need to be elaborate, it just needs to be defined cleanly.

        Sprites are indeed important, and you should want to keep them polished. However, above all else, you want to keep them consistent. Nothing is more important than maintaining consistency within your game. Generation 5 overworld sprites do not look good when placed against Generation 3 buildings. A generation 4 interface probably shouldn't be present if you're using Generation 2 assets. Everything should remain consistent with the style, it reflects a certain level of professionalism, and respect for your own project.

        NPC dialogue is... complicated. Not every NPC needs to be a humor machine, but your NPCs should be varied when it comes to what they talk about. Sometimes they can be generic ("The weather sure is lovely today, isn't it?"), they can be topical ("Hey, did you hear the news? They say that Team Rocket has returned! I don't believe them, but... what if they have?"), sometimes they can be humorous ("I tried to challenge the gym leader, but I realized I left all my Pokeballs at home..."). I will say, you should use external references and memes sparingly. Memetic Culture changes so fast, and memes quickly become outdated (If you want an example of this, you can look at Watch_Dogs, which had memes in it that are considered ancient in comparison to The Memes of Today), and people will generally find them tacky, pointless, extremely unfunny, and overall will reflect poorly on the game. If you absolutely must, then be subtle.

        I have a lot of words about plot, a great deal of words. But, to save the length of this post from going infinitely long, I will try and summarize it as best as I can: in short, anything can work, any type of story or plot, so long as the writer puts forth the effort to make it cohesive; make it feel like the events move the plot, not the plot moving the events. We in the fangame community are given a special luxury- we're able to make whatever story we want, and it doesn't have to be limited to what the traditional games have done. Experimentation with the genre and medium should be encouraged, not shunned. I've always been an advocate for stories that are a bit more attuned to the older audience, and it's seldom done right, but when it is it's really, really good. If you want more on my thoughts about the concept of darker plots, I do have a post about it here. I will say, I do agree- grinding sucks the fun out of a game, and using level inflation as a supplement for difficulty almost never works.

        In my opinion, Tiles are a non-issue (unless you want custom tiles), and are entirely preferential based on what the developer wants, and what the potential player is looking for. Creative use of the stock tiles can make for beautiful scenery, and if done right, can really enhance the experience. Conversely, a game can have custom tiles and turn out a mediocre game (I'm pretty sure I could point out a few examples...). This all goes for graphics in general, too. And similar to graphics, consistency should be key here. Gen 5 buildings on a Gen 2 terrain? Not gonna fly.

        I think we've advanced far enough in the community that any game that doesn't have a Physical Special split is an oddity. It's like the Command & Conquer Modding Community; If you're modding Red Alert 2, using ARES is an unspoken mandatory now, just because it enhances the engine so much. The DPSS is the same here, especially since it's canonically in future games.

        As for fakemon... you're not entirely wrong, but it's not entirely right either. People are easy to accept new Pokemon when a generation is announced, yet are quick to chastise a fangame when it adds 50 new Pokemon, or an entire region of them. The only difference is that one is official, while the other isn't. But why should that matter? If it's because Custom Pokemon are seldom balanced, it's a valid point but the official games have some pretty skewed stuff as well. Ill conceived designs? Subjective, and even if they are poorly made, it's an area for improvement. I'm going to go back to my earlier points: anything can work, so long as the person making it puts forth the effort to making it work. However, you could have the perfectly designed Custom Pokemon, and people still wouldn't play it. Which is fine, people are entitled to their opinions and preferences. But I wouldn't say an ideal fangame is one that lacks them.

        My overarching opinion is this: the ideal fangame is one that the developer and their team put hard work into, making sure it's the best possible game they could make, to the best of their abilities, with a team that is willing to learn and grow as time progresses, and let their knowledge be reflected in the game as a result. I feel like that's what truly enriches a fangame, and delivers that better, more enjoyable experience.
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        Old February 15th, 2017 (12:41 PM).
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        Seliph Seliph is offline
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        There are a couple things that usually annoy me (as a player) a lot. The two most annoying ones are:

        1. features with fatal flaws
        Like, I know you people like to throw in as much stuff as possible, but you should also be able to fix any issue that comes with those. If you can't fix the script, at least limit it in such a way that that issue doesn't happen. Last thing you want is the player unintentionally softlocking the game because they tried to catch a plot encounter with a Master Ball that you gave them before and now they lost all their progress and have to do all the walking again.

        2. bad balancing
        I know balancing is hard and upping opponents levels just seems way to convenient as a way to create challenge. Fact is, however, when I encounter an opponent whose levels suddenly increased by a lot and that happens way to often, then I'll just drop the game and look for something else.

        There's so many options to add challenge to a game, without artifically raising levels: restrict what Pokemon the player can encounter, restrict what items he can find, use different battle styles (doubles is a thing), scripted battles (enemies with some sort of strategy), removal of features (like halting EV gain entirely, setting IVs to 0), level scaling (player and opponent have the same level), limit of usable Pokemon (1v1s), etc.

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        Old February 24th, 2017 (5:17 AM).
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        GreatFlameFTW GreatFlameFTW is offline
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          I would like to disagree with the fakemons. Lots of hacks keep on appearing with the same Pokes. We have seen since the original games. Fakemons offer more new mons. However I prefer fakemons with neat sprites. Give a play to Life of Guardians.

          Modern Techniques : For those hacking Fire Red and Emerald. It's good. But what about me, Destined Jagold and ~Andrea?

          Sprites : Can you draw a neat sprite? Its over worlds? Its back? It's front?

          Although it feels easy creating, But it ain't that easy.
          Hacks I am waiting for :

          Gaia, Fat Kid, Discovery,

          My hack : Pokemon Fantasy
          Progress to Alpha-1 : 50%
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