Secret of Evermore is a role-playing video game for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. We recently got a chance to talk with the lead programmer of Secret of Evermore and found out some very interesting information regarding the development of this unique Super Nintendo RPG title.
The man behind Secret of Evermore speaks!Brian Fehdrau was the lead programmer on the Squaresoft USA team that developed the Super Nintendo rpg hit Secret of Evermore.
Outside the bijouBF: SAGE was a custom Mac application that allowed you to edit all graphical components of the game, including tiles, maps, characters, animations, effects, that sort of thing.
Time to get moving!Anyway, the common belief is that resources were re-allocated to develop Evermore, rather than to bring Seiken Densetsu 3 to North America. Your dog looks unhappy!As an aside, even though it's not an RPG, I have to say I loved Rock & Roll Racing for the SNES. Prehistoric swampsThere were two fairly simple reasons for swiping some of our systems from Mana. Carltron the butlerBF: The single-player-game choice was actually an attempt to reduce complexity. The magma volcanoI also got a little personal thrill when a few people from Japan came around to visit and looked at an early version of our map editor, and then went back and made one of their own that looked just like it. I hope that cage holds!What was really great about Jeremy was his ability to economize and yet still produce great sound and music. Sweet music, but one creepy dudeFor a very long time, I was actually reluctant to go back and play Evermore. Taking a rideBF: I've only had a Wii for a short period and I haven't actually used the Virtual Console yet, but I've looked at the library, and I really like the idea. We were recently able to catch up with Brian and he was kind enough to take time out of his busy schedule to take part in an interview with Nintendo Life. That was practically our Prime Directive, so to speak, coming straight down from Starfleet Command over at Square Co.
It was also capable of hooking up with some simple SNES test hardware so the artist could run around the map with a real character and test things. We were a brand new team, many of us new to the industry, and it just seemed wise to eliminate risks.
We really did everything, absolutely everything, with little or no prior experience and no outside help, and that's something to be proud of, all by itself.
Imagine being a guy who is used to full-featured midi keyboards with huge banks of digital instruments, to the point that you can almost single-handedly produce a vast orchestral piece. I had developed a feeling like the game had turned out poorly, and I didn't want to have to look at it. I don't know exactly what it does under the hood, so I don't know how well it could emulate Evermore. I think it's safe to say that those of us who played the games back then remember them, and that time of our lives, fondly.
Secret of Evermore is one of Squaresoft’s biggest sins, and if you know how much I love Super Nintendo games and Squaresoft, you recognize that my feelings about Evermore are proof positive of its bumbling mediocrity. That also allowed them to see their work on a real NTSC television, whose colorspace is a strange and wicked thing, quite unlike their computer monitor.Conceptually, SAGE wasn't terribly complicated.


Why were these recreated being that they already existed in Secret of Mana, and why was it decided to make them so similar in look and function?BF: There was some reason why we had to develop from the ground up, but, to be honest, I can't remember what it was. Having two or more players independently controlling characters on a large scrolling map is a bit of a minefield. I'm also proud of the fact that we managed to mimic the Secret of Mana engine pretty faithfully, to the point that most people think we inherited the code and tweaked it for our own purposes.My personal, specific favorite is probably SIGIL.
Were you impressed with what he was able to create for the game's soundtrack given so little experience at the time?BF: Oh, hell, yes. Then imagine you get a job writing low-fidelity SNES sound and music, with strange and klunky proprietary software, fitting into memory smaller than a single cluster on a modern PC's hard drive. If it's a straight-up emulator like we use on our PC's, then I suppose it would just be a matter of Nintendo striking a deal with Square for the rights. I often miss working on racing games, but at least now I can play them without feeling like a gynecologist on his wedding night.These days, I work for the Seattle-area Foundation 9 Entertainment studio, one of about a dozen worldwide. As I said earlier, I'd played RPGs before, but games like Mana were the first ones where I felt like I was part of the story, rather than simply moving a colored block around a grid of other colored blocks and making numbers go up. There are so many options available these days, be it carts off of eBay, or emulation on everything from PCs to MP3 players, that there's really no reason why everyone can't experience the full heyday of 16-bit RPGs. What was it like being part of a group that was responsible for creating one of the first fully US-developed console rpg titles?BRIAN FEHDRAU: It was actually pretty exciting.
Typically, you'd collect a small palette of tiles on the left from the larger set available to the whole game, and then arrange those somehow in a large work area on the right.
I think it was one of those strange we're-wholly-owned-but-separate-for-tax-purposes sorts of things.
Early on, we had experienced a couple of instances where we managed to get our characters stuck in Secret of Mana, and had to reload the last save. We had different ways of compressing nearly everything: maps, map tiles, sprite tiles, scripts, dialogue, etc. I'm the chief engineer on one of our in-house cross-platform game engines, so I don't generally work on specific titles myself, though I do get to put my name somewhere deep in the credits of every title that uses it. It's nice to relive that discovery, a sort of nostalgia thing.There's also the fact that many of the games really were that good, in today's terms or otherwise. In fact, I'm getting the urge myself, as I speak.To the Evermore fans specifically, I want to close by saying thanks for all the kind words and support. It was my first job in the industry, and to get dropped into a major new foray by one of the world's best RPG developers was a real lucky break for me.
On a map, you'd have a palette of 256 16x16 tiles that you could place in various layers of a large gridded map, and have them sort in clever ways to make things like fences or waist-deep water.
All of this made it much easier for a novice to work in the language: you didn't need to be a trained programmer, and you usually didn't need numbers. Regardless, we did indeed end up writing absolutely everything from scratch, both on the tool side and on the game side. I'm sure many people would gobble it up, even people who've never heard of Square's SNES titles.I think it's a great idea for people to discover what they missed back in the SNES days. Back then, it just wasn't feasible to make a very pretty game that played like complete crap.


Since we built the team, the tools, and the game from the ground up, in unfamiliar territory, it was kind of like being a pioneer in a big new world. The exact details of how we did it were up to us, but what we did had to be infused with that essence. If an experienced and clever team in Japan hadn't quite gotten it right, it looked bad for us. In fact, other than your artists' efforts, and some time put into the obligatory Mode 7 flyabout, there wasn't a whole lot you could do to go above and beyond what your competitors were showing.
Putting in alchemy, for instance, might have been difficult, and that would have been a shame.
Every now and then, I'd have to go and tell him his budget was a littler smaller than we'd hoped.
Why do you think that is and what do you have to say to those who believe this?BF: Well, you can't really blame people for thinking that. I think that was a real failure on our part.Size-wise, the game was originally rather different, aimed at a smaller world and a shorter period of gameplay with somewhat simpler graphics. People simply had to write games that were fun, if they wanted to sell games, not have them returned to the store, and then go on to sell the games' sequels as well. I didn't take much to Final Fantasy, but Mana was great.I only played other SNES RPGs in dribs and drabs for reference and research.
Was there a growing concern as the game's file size continued to grow, finally ending up being twice as large as originally planned? Over time, we came to believe the original game was simply not worthy, and we ended up doing a near-total redesign.
He actually took the apartment across the hall from me for a while, and I think the ratio of music equipment to furniture in there was something like 20:1. I was also disappointed when Seiken Densetsu 3 didn't get the US nod, but I had a chance to play the Japanese version, so I know it had some bugs.
I've enjoyed seeing people discover Evermore via PC emulation, so it would be great if even more could encounter it on their Wii. It didn't actually drive the cart size.As I recall, it was actually more to do with falling manufacturing costs and rising interest in a bigger game. One day, out of the blue, we found out we had been bumped to 24mbits, and I don't think we'd even been asking for it, at least not with any real hope. We started looking at what we could do, but then the corporate folks decided that the SNES market was on the decline, so we abandoned that.
We were all relieved, to be honest, as we had just been on a six month deathmarch to finish Evermore, and we weren't terribly eager to revisit the material at the time.



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