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The difficulty spike: how would you address this situation?

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I'm running a test after having changed some of the commands, and I'm hitting an immense difficulty spike at the Esper Defense in Narshe (right after the scenario split).  I found myself spamming tonics between fights (each heals 25% in my hack) and several times I had a party wipe out, forcing me to quickly heal them and run them back into the battle.


I'm especially concerned because the Esper Defense battle poses a threat as a soft-lock; there's no way to leave Narshe and build some experience before attempting the fight again, and depending on the last scenario you beat you might not even have access to a shop to buy more gear.

As currently implemented, Gau is the most powerful character during the battle and Edgar is the weakest (his new cover command not serving much purpose but to kill him from the heavy strikes of the enemies, unless you park him in the back row... he was much more useful on the train).  The only characters with multi-enemy strikes are Terra and Celes (and maybe Gau), whereas the fights are designed with strike-all in mind.  So... how do I change the fight to make it more easily beatable?  Or rather, how would YOU change the fight?

What?! The Nerf Bat
I could reduce the battle power of the enemies to 75% or 60%, so that they're not hitting for 100+ damage each attack.  I'm not sure how much this would help... it might keep the dogs from one-shotting characters that aren't fully healed.
Alternatively, I could remove an entity or two from certain formations so that they don't get as many attacks on the party before defeat.

Wink The Buff Stick
I could give Edgar a Bracer (permanent Protect status) relic on recruitment.  Protect almost halves physical damage, and while a relic like that wouldn't normally be available it could make the difference with careful planning.  Alternatively, I could put it on the Coronet he starts with.  Unfortunately, this doesn't help with the soft-lock situation because it could easily be sold before the event.

Confused The New Contender
I could try to make an event tweak to add Mog to the player party for the event, and then remove him again.  He's set to a high level average and he's got natural magic in the hack, so it would evenly balance the three parties.  The trouble is making room in the event code to make that change; it's probably only a couple hex bytes to add him and a couple more to remove him, but the last time I did something like that I had to completely change the cinematic motion of the Falcon to make room... and that was just a palette swap.

Anyway, what would you do to smooth out something like this?
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Those are definitely some points to consider, but I'll start off by saying that in the worst case scenario, the player can avoid softlocks by just simply dodging every soldier, because it is possible unless you messed with that for some reason. Naturally, that's a terrible fallback, but it is a fallback nonetheless. In response to your three ideas:

1. Personally, I find RPGs are better when the difficulty is beyond simply high stats. Ideally, if high stats are present, they can be overcome by hard counters(such as, say, Image, as a relevant example). If you've given no options this early because, well, it is early in the game, then stats that are too high to overcome are obnoxious. If it's not in the cards to add things that would hard counter physicals(such as a couple sparse pieces of good armor that heavily reduce the damage dealt to a single character when stacked, a Rage that uses Image/Vanish, a Mirage Vest type thing for Locke), then reducing enemy stats is something definitely worth considering. RPGs like Dragon Quest 1 show their age in part because enemies scale in difficulty simply by doing "damage, but more" with not too much to reduce it, and this should be avoided. It's hard to offer more specific advice without a detailed look at everything the player must have access to(mandatory/obvious pickups), as well as what the player can have access to(secrets, optional things in shops, etc.)

2. Buffing Edgar in particular is an option I instinctively shy away from. It will have a butterfly effect down the road, and may potentially make him overpowered later. It's not something you can change in a vacuum as easily as the enemies here, which only appear here(I assume). It also runs the risk of making "an intended solution" in that if Edgar is buffed explicitly to counter these enemies, it becomes necessary to use him in a certain way if the buffs must be extreme to allow him to contribute. If Edgar ends up being the weak link in many other areas of the game(especially areas he's mandatory for, such as early WoR), then this becomes a more defensible option as it will adjust his viability more naturally instead of just disproportionately making him useful for one specific area/task.

3. This runs a similar risk to 2. in that if Mog becomes necessary to add to make the segment viable, he becomes necessary to use and thus the number of viable options to beat the segment becomes smaller. I understand that he's basically just an extra character and not a solution to the puzzle in this case, but if his strengths happen to be "just perfect" for the segment, it makes him disproportionately likely to be used and this is probably a downside.

With that in mind, I'll propose an option 4:

4. Add some tools in other chests that allow players to deal with the more powerful physical attacks that are thrown at the player. I recognize I'm making this suggestion rather lightly without knowledge of how the rest of the game is balanced or what effect that will have, but one advantage you have at this point in the game is having the three scenarios. It may be that each scenario has a couple pieces of gear that make things easier, but the true value doesn't become apparent until you start to get them all. A decent example is armor. As a hilariously oversimplified example, if the average defense is 150, and each notable piece of armor grants 20 defense over the average, then the first piece of armor which changes defense from 150->170 will reduce damage by ~20%, and then the next piece which changes defense from 170->190 will decrease damage by ~25%, and the third one(190->210) would reduce by 33%. Each piece of armor does comparatively more than the last, and thus the accumulation across the scenarios would allow for better combinations when the parties finally reunite(a similar argument applies to equipment increasing damage for the sake of one-shotting enemies, for example). It doesn't stop at gear either, as you could have additional ways to apply Safe, Image, Vanish, etc. instead, and these could be gathered throughout the game.

All that being said, it's definitely possible you may reject this solution straight away based on the balancing of the rest of the game, and that's fine. If there's a lack of purpose to parts of the early game, then this could be a useful cause to point them towards.

TL; DR: Options 1 and 4 are advisable in my opinion, option 2 could be done as long as it's done carefully, and option 3 is probably my least favourite option of the group.


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  • C-Dude (09-14-2019)

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Adding Mog is a good and fun idea, I went that route as well as adding Shadow so each party could have three people, and it really does help that whole battle a lot, allowing for the enemies to be tougher, or rather not basically forcing the player to rely on having an uber party of four. It is pretty straightforward event coding, a bit more than a couple bytes though. And depending on how you do it, you'd need to account for Mog's sprite possibly needing to do a pose like the other characters right after Banon says "They're coming!", if he is the leader of one of the parties. And a bit more challenging to have him there as a selectable sprite that you can change to and equip like the others, before the battle. I highly doubt you could fit this inline with the already existing event code, but if your ROM is expanded than this shouldn't be an issue to jump to free space.


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  • C-Dude (09-14-2019)

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I considered what you both said, and decided to try adding Mog first.  I spent a bunch of time futzing with the event code for the battle and finally got something functional within the existing event space.  Basically, I set two event bits true for the battle (Mog is found, Mog is current member of the party) so that he'd appear in the character selection screen.  I then turned those bits back off in the Esper cutscene that followed.  In doing so, I didn't have to nerf the enemies or buff any of the characters.  It's amazing what another party member does for the fight, even just as an extra body to take hits.  It even makes Edgar more powerful; with an extra body to soak damage his Cover ability is more effective.  The fight went from arduous to taxing but beatable, which is what I was going for.

I had gotten Mog to do a pose after Banon's quote, but for some reason the game would soft-lock if Mog was in a party and there were team members not selected.  When I removed all the 'ready' poses from the start of the fight, this soft-lock vanished, so I'm guessing I hadn't set his actor up correct or a pointer was going to the wrong spot.  I did use some free event space to give him dialogue during the fight, though it's just "Kupo-po!".

Likewise, for the "Terra takes flight" sequence, I deleted maybe four of her 'random flight' animations to make room for Mog removal and cleanup.  It's the same move I applied to the Falcon in the World of Ruin to change Character 09's palette to and from 01 during the tomb flashbacks.  Now Terra circles the globe before settling near Triangle Island (or if you prefer to interpret it differently, she's flying towards Crescent Mountain).  Since her flight starts with a listless soar to the west, the scenario is still valid and the player is free to fill in more flight shenanigans with their imagination (burning the house in Kohlingen, flying past Jidoor, landing in Zozo, etc.  It's not like Vanilla depicted any of that anyway, the sequence was pretty random as it was.)

With regards to Cecil's concerns, Mog isn't a solve-all mega character during the fight.  He's got Bolt magic, which is effective against armored opponents, but neither of the dances he knows by the end of the fight are particularly useful for the Esper defense (although CaveJun has Autocrossbow... if you get lucky enough to have it trigger).  His real advantage is that he's got a morningstar, which is a maneater weapon.  The player doesn't get the opportunity to equip him in advance (didn't have room or insanity to try to arrange THAT!), which is okay because he must have wandered out of the mines at the sound of the ruckus and not had time to prepare.  Additionally, being that his presence is completely optional (you don't have to put him in a party), challenge players are free to exclude him from the team if they so desire.

Anyway, thank you both for the input.  I may have lost a night's sleep over this (and I may have to do another full playthrough once this test run is done to make sure my event meddling didn't break anything), but at least the difficulty spike has been addressed!
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I'm a little late to the idea party, however something I've wanted to do to that battle (after ramping up the difficulty) was add a couple of guest characters. You could add a spider (Narsh guard or Figaro guard) and lock their gear. Giving them a cover skill and a protect accessory without hurting the rest of the game. Or just a general tank low attack high defensive gear.

Other than adding a temporary guest or two, you could just re-average the party level to something high enough to beat it at your desired dificulty level. Personally I always made a point to level up during the split scenario to make that fight easier, so if the player was over leveled then do nothing, if under leveled, reaverage them to minimum level. Can't remember the best way to d9 that in code, and no its not the best answer story wise, but bumping the levels up a touch wouldn't be noticed by every player anyway. (Some/most but not all.)

Guess you could also make the enemies give extra exp so they'd level up during the fight (doesn't leveling do a full heal too?). Then, they could struggle through a few, heal, and be strong enough to finish the boss by the end.

Tis a thought. Good luck,


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  • C-Dude (09-18-2019)

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(09-17-2019, 06:22 PM)Catone Wrote: I'm a little late to the idea party, however something I've wanted to do to that battle (after ramping up the difficulty) was add a couple of guest characters. You could add a spider (Narsh guard or Figaro guard) and lock their gear. Giving them a cover skill and a protect accessory without hurting the rest of the game. Or just a general tank low attack high defensive gear.
I think you should.  You said you wanted to expand the event space, so you can set up a few actor profiles on unused character slots (the ones with names before all the Kefkas), then load their data and names into one or more of the unavailable character slots: Strago, Relm, Umaro, Gogo, Setzer, Mog, and maybe Shadow, and then set those actors as 'recruited' with the event flags at the start of the battle.  Then the player can shuffle in Figaro ensigns and Narshe guards when they're forming their parties; it would work well with your other idea of endless attack waves.  That's basically all that the Moogle battle does at the start of the game; assign properties to as-of-yet unrecruited party members.  The Narshe esper defense even lists the event bits that would need to be used, as it disables those seven characters before the fight begins.  Just remember that you have to clean roster again after the fight, lest you wish to have these Narshe guards available for escort to Kohlingen.

I've been trying to fit everything inside of the standard ROM space, which makes such an action infeasible for me.  I could make room by hexing in PowerPanda's "Cyan Uneventful Dream", but I'm saving that space for plans in the next phase of my hack's development, plans you yourself inspired Catone (a scenario split in the World of Ruin post-raft and pre-airship Surprised Smile Sad ).
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(09-14-2019, 06:06 AM)C-Dude Wrote: I had gotten Mog to do a pose after Banon's quote, but for some reason the game would soft-lock if Mog was in a party and there were team members not selected.  When I removed all the 'ready' poses from the start of the fight, this soft-lock vanished, so I'm guessing I hadn't set his actor up correct or a pointer was going to the wrong spot.  I did use some free event space to give him dialogue during the fight, though it's just "Kupo-po!".

This is the second byte in the event code. Subtract 80 from the second byte of the action queue, so if it is [0A 84], change it to [0A 04]. A value of 80 on the second byte indicates that the whole event cannot move on until that character's action is complete. However, if Mog is not on-screen, the action CAN'T complete.

As far as the difficulty spike goes, it sounds like adding guest characters is one solution you're exploring.

Honestly though, if Edgar is too weak now, he'll be too weak later as well. Cover is a pretty lackluster ability, unless the player is set up as a damage sponge (high natural HP, high defense). To set Edgar up this way, you'd need to subtract points from his other stats, like his Magic Attack. The ONLY game I've ever seen that has made "Cover" worth it is Xenosaga Episode III, where Ziggy could double his own HP for the duration of the battle, then force enemies to lock onto him. This made glass cannons like Momo viable.

Other possibilities:
* Drop Sabin's "Fire Dance" to level 12. Most players will already be at Lvl.12 when this fight starts, and if they're not, the exp they learn from the battle will probably put them over the edge.
* If Gau learns Rages just by encountering enemies (I'm reading between the lines here), make one of the enemy's rages a healing ability.
* If Shadow ends up in your party, have Banon give him 2 of the scroll that causes "image" status.
* If I remember correctly, one of the enemies casts Ice. Change that to an enemy skill that is less powerful, or drop that enemy's Magic Attack. In my 3 scenarios hack, I had to drop Rizopas's MA since he is encountered at the beginning of the scenario and not at the end. In Divergent Paths, I had to majorly change TunnelArmr, since Runic is not there.
* Put in an event where talking to Banon mid-battle will heal your HP/MP.


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FFVI: Divergent Paths (In Progress) - a hack built off of the 3 scenarios that changes other events in the same, such as making Leo permanently recruitable, bringing Banon's story closure, and adding 1 more secret character.
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  • C-Dude (09-18-2019)

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(09-18-2019, 01:33 PM)PowerPanda Wrote: As far as the difficulty spike goes, it sounds like adding guest characters is one solution you're exploring.

Honestly though, if Edgar is too weak now, he'll be too weak later as well. Cover is a pretty lackluster ability, unless the player is set up as a damage sponge (high natural HP, high defense). To set Edgar up this way, you'd need to subtract points from his other stats, like his Magic Attack. The ONLY game I've ever seen that has made "Cover" worth it is Xenosaga Episode III, where Ziggy could double his own HP for the duration of the battle, then force enemies to lock onto him. This made glass cannons like Momo viable.

Other possibilities:
* Drop Sabin's "Fire Dance" to level 12. Most players will already be at Lvl.12 when this fight starts, and if they're not, the exp they learn from the battle will probably put them over the edge.
* If Gau learns Rages just by encountering enemies (I'm reading between the lines here), make one of the enemy's rages a healing ability.
* If Shadow ends up in your party, have Banon give him 2 of the scroll that causes "image" status.
* If I remember correctly, one of the enemies casts Ice. Change that to an enemy skill that is less powerful, or drop that enemy's Magic Attack. In my 3 scenarios hack, I had to drop Rizopas's MA since he is encountered at the beginning of the scenario and not at the end. In Divergent Paths, I had to majorly change TunnelArmr, since Runic is not there.
* Put in an event where talking to Banon mid-battle will heal your HP/MP.
Two of Sabin's moves inflict revenge style damage.  One heals him to full, while one does his missing HP in damage to all enemies.  Mantra also heals the party for Sabin's current HP/targets, so Edgar's cover pairs well when Sabin is in the party.  I was also hoping players would use the Cure Ring to boost Edgar's HP; it becomes available in Jidoor and gives Regen and MaxHP+25%.  ...Maybe I should restrict that relic to him (or at least a smaller party set) to encourage its use on him.  Edgar gets another upgrade in the World of Ruin after beating Vargas (former Brachiosaur), a relic that replaces Cover with X-Jump.
I have to see how it plays out, though; I'm still testing the mechanics in this phase.

Gau does not learn rages from fights; he has an opportunity to grab some during the scenario split but you can't get back to the Veldt until you have an airship.  Greasemonk casts Cure and he starts with it, though, so it's not a problem.  As is, he's the strongest character in the fight, in part because he can use the specials twice (claw weapons work like Genji Gloves).

I've been meaning to bump up Sabin's learning of Blitz 4 for the Phantom Train event, so that sounds like a good idea too.  Making Banon heal the party is shear brilliance, though; it's a pity I don't have the event room to pull that off.

(09-18-2019, 01:33 PM)PowerPanda Wrote:
(09-14-2019, 06:06 AM)C-Dude Wrote: I had gotten Mog to do a pose after Banon's quote, but for some reason the game would soft-lock if Mog was in a party and there were team members not selected.  When I removed all the 'ready' poses from the start of the fight, this soft-lock vanished, so I'm guessing I hadn't set his actor up correct or a pointer was going to the wrong spot.  I did use some free event space to give him dialogue during the fight, though it's just "Kupo-po!".

This is the second byte in the event code. Subtract 80 from the second byte of the action queue, so if it is [0A 84], change it to [0A 04]. A value of 80 on the second byte indicates that the whole event cannot move on until that character's action is complete. However, if Mog is not on-screen, the action CAN'T complete.
And for this, you are my hero!  Now the event is indistinguishable from its original version within the same event space, save that Kefka smiles instead of laughing (had to cut the Action 0E and the repeat to make room).

I'll admit the event editing is very frightening for me; I've been trying to avoid it until I can get out another demo, so that if I break the game I still have something to show for all the effort.  If possible I want to release Version 2 before I do any more futzing with the event script.
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Quote:Making Banon heal the party is shear brilliance, though; it's a pity I don't have the event room to pull that off.

If you use my hack, Cyan's Uneventful Dream, you will gain 1 kilobyte of space for events.

Cyan's Uneventful Dream


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Divergent Paths: The 3 Scenarios (Completed) - a redo of the 3 scenarios in the original game that gives equal time to each group. Meant to be a basis for future mods.
FFVI: Divergent Paths (In Progress) - a hack built off of the 3 scenarios that changes other events in the same, such as making Leo permanently recruitable, bringing Banon's story closure, and adding 1 more secret character.
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Just had a thought. If you don't have event space for Banon healing, what if you put in an object that could be interacted with, then just re-use the event for the recovery bucket in the tutorial building?


Projects:
Divergent Paths: The 3 Scenarios (Completed) - a redo of the 3 scenarios in the original game that gives equal time to each group. Meant to be a basis for future mods.
FFVI: Divergent Paths (In Progress) - a hack built off of the 3 scenarios that changes other events in the same, such as making Leo permanently recruitable, bringing Banon's story closure, and adding 1 more secret character.
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