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How important is it to have numbers go up over the course of the game?

Started by Ramza Stan, March 11, 2021, 04:32:51 pm

Ramza Stan

As the title implies, I'm curious how important it is to have things like stat growths and increasing weapon power over the course of the game.  I know it's, like, a constant in RPGs, but how important is it for say a mod of FFT?  You and your enemies are both growing, so functionally the number increases are largely a matter of keeping up with the enemy.  But it also causes the balance of the game to unavoidably shift over time.  Status effects change in efficacy as speed grows, and the viability of spells is similarly impacted (Particularly egregious IMO because in theory the late game is when you need the stronger but slower spells and simultaneously they become inviable or very hard to use due to the speed) and certain skills and such don't grow as well as others due to growing slower with stat increases (Namely any PA or MA times constant divided by 2 then multiplied by PA or MA, as well as any MA times constant)

The above things have been giving me some woes in the effort to balance things in a satisfying way for the mod I'm working on.  There's a similar situation with weapons as well, I had fun designing weapons that I hope will be interesting and fun and balanced, but getting a good array of numbers both for start of game to end and for weapon type vs. weapon type was a pain.  And I hate making what I think is a cool weapon only to know that it's going to become inviable before too long as the numbers march on.  Examples from vanilla and 1.3 of this idea are the Blood Sword, Sleep Sword, Parrying Sword (1.3) and Knight Killer (Not that crossbows are good in vanilla to begin with).

And all this has me thinking that a game of only sidegrades would be both simpler to balance and allow a wider variety of options because weapons and skills don't become outdated.  There would still be number variance between equipment, classes, and skills of course, but it would be all about tradeoffs rather than an increasing baseline.  (MP is an area that would require attention, but I don't think it's as bad as it looks initially.  JP cost will restrict stronger but pricier spells unless you grind, and said spells will still take a big chunk out of your MP unless you make a notable sacrifice to HP to wear a high MP robe)

And on that note, the big argument I could see against zero growth is that grinding isn't rewarding/there isn't a sense of growth, but I think there absolutely still can be.  Unlocking sidegrades and more/better skills (Because yes, some skills can still be overall better than others without ruining the concept, it just requires care to make sure other skills still are useful or have a tradeoff that makes them viable like MP and CT) is still enjoyable growth IMO, and grinding can provide the JP to do just that. (And of course Jobs would still have multipliers to distinguish them).  From what I recall the Monster Tactics mod goes for a sort of zero growth approach in equipment, focusing on sidegrades, I don't think it's too unreasonable to extend it to other areas as well.  That said part of the reason I'm asking for feedback is I want other people to be able to play and enjoy this mod, so I'm concerned about making such a drastic change.
  • Modding version: PSX

Ansehelm

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 11, 2021, 04:32:51 pmAs the title implies, I'm curious how important it is to have things like stat growths and increasing weapon power over the course of the game.  I know it's, like, a constant in RPGs, but how important is it for say a mod of FFT?
Totally up to you.  It's your party and you can cry if you want to It's your mod and you can change whatever you want.  There are multiple viable ways of reducing the importance of growths and increasing PA/MA items/skills in such a way that most items/abilities scale well, and I imagine a lot of people here prefer that method of balancing a mod.  I'll leave it to them to make that argument, but I'm going to play devil's advocate and argue in favor of growths/increasing WP items:

-First off, a lot of players (myself included) do like the feeling of progression that comes with increased levels and stats.  There's something satisfying about reaching level 99, especially with a unit that you've optimized for a particular role. Which leads to...

-Greater character variety: Highly variable class growths offer greater potential for customizability of characters in that they offer different rewards based on the history of the unit's training.  You can optimize a unit for whatever growths you want, and have the option to mix and match (e.g. 50 levels as knight, 50 as thief, which provides for a faster knight only slightly weaker than a 99 levels knight). While I understand the rationale that some mod creators have for standardizing growths between classes, the drawback is that it results in all units being more fully generic, with all characteristics being determined solely by their class at a given moment.  This is one of those cases where customizability is sacrificed for balance, but you're certainly free to do this.

-To some degree, there will inevitably be progression/power creep that makes earlier skills/items/jobs less appealing in certain situations, but there are enough other skills/items/jobs that the game can still be interesting and full of variety.  For example, in base FFT there are something like 19 swords/knight swords that you'll have access to by the endgame.  When you're preparing to fight Vormav, Do you really need (or want) your knight unit to choose between 19 equally viable swords, plus a comparable set of every other piece of equipment? For me, that's neck deep in "analysis paralysis" territory: it's fine to have 4 or 5 equally viable swords to choose from (for sake of argument, let's say that there can be 5-6ish swords that are roughly viable from lvls 1-33, 5-6 from 33-66, 5-6 from 66-99). For the same reason that you wouldn't necessarily want to remain a squire all game, you wouldn't necessarily want to use your level 1 sword all game.  Low level gear still has a purpose, for sale, or ammunition for your ninja.  And from a design perspective, I would struggle to find a unique role for every item if the majority of them were intended to be equally useful at every stage in the game. 

So that's my take on why I prefer highly differential growths on jobs and PA on weapons.  I get that balancing can still be an issue, but there are some pretty good solutions already out there.  For example, my mod uses Glain's "Speed reduces CT" hack so that spells don't take forever to cast and are still viable at high levels.  (Also currently testing magic growths to achieve smooth scalability).  I also use Pride's Item Attribute Rewrite hack, which allows items to grant R/S/M abilities, so that it's not just a matter of which helmet gives the most HP - you can have a high HP helmet, a low hp helmet that provides a good status (e.g. protect), a low Hp helmet that provides the Defense Up or CT Save ability, a medium HP helmet with good status immunities...all of which could be good choices at any point in the game. 

Anyway, I'm not trying to discourage you from making your mod in any particular way, and I'll leave it to others to make the argument for low stat/item differentials, which is certainly viable.  Hope this gives you something to think about.   
  • Modding version: PSX

Ramza Stan

Quote from: Ansehelm on March 11, 2021, 06:33:42 pm-Greater character variety: Highly variable class growths offer greater potential for customizability of characters in that they offer different rewards based on the history of the unit's training.  You can optimize a unit for whatever growths you want, and have the option to mix and match (e.g. 50 levels as knight, 50 as thief, which provides for a faster knight only slightly weaker than a 99 levels knight). While I understand the rationale that some mod creators have for standardizing growths between classes, the drawback is that it results in all units being more fully generic, with all characteristics being determined solely by their class at a given moment.  This is one of those cases where customizability is sacrificed for balance, but you're certainly free to do this.

That's fair I suppose, I've never really thought of this as a... preferred facet of customization myself, and I always felt like it made physical/magic hybrids trickier to have than they need to be, but I can definitely see why people might prefer it.

Quote from: Ansehelm on March 11, 2021, 06:33:42 pm-To some degree, there will inevitably be progression/power creep that makes earlier skills/items/jobs less appealing in certain situations, but there are enough other skills/items/jobs that the game can still be interesting and full of variety.  For example, in base FFT there are something like 19 swords/knight swords that you'll have access to by the endgame.  When you're preparing to fight Vormav, Do you really need (or want) your knight unit to choose between 19 equally viable swords, plus a comparable set of every other piece of equipment? For me, that's neck deep in "analysis paralysis" territory: it's fine to have 4 or 5 equally viable swords to choose from (for sake of argument, let's say that there can be 5-6ish swords that are roughly viable from lvls 1-33, 5-6 from 33-66, 5-6 from 66-99). For the same reason that you wouldn't necessarily want to remain a squire all game, you wouldn't necessarily want to use your level 1 sword all game.  Low level gear still has a purpose, for sale, or ammunition for your ninja.  And from a design perspective, I would struggle to find a unique role for every item if the majority of them were intended to be equally useful at every stage in the game. 


That does make a lot of sense, I could see it being a bit much.  And this is essentially what I'm trying to do with my mod when it comes to the weapons, I'm trying to make it so that all item categories stay viable throughout the game while also expanding the equipment options of many jobs to make certain weapon types less obscurely used.  As such there should be a good degree of viability at any given point, and also there is little difference in strength between the weapons available at the start of Chapter 4 and the ones obtained after Bethla (Which will be all the weapons for the rest of the game) which means there should be at least two "sets" of viable equipment for that portion of the game.

And yeah, seeing the numbers go up is enjoyable, something I couldn't quite deny even as I typed out my reasoning lol.  I'll have to check out those hacks too, I had kind of glossed over the speed CT one.  And the armor/helm RSM one sounds great, I remember Monster Tactics utilized that but didn't know if there was a hack available for it.

Thank you for your input!  Definitely is plenty to think about.

EDIT: Another question I'm asking myself in this vein is how much JP jobs should require to master.  I am aiming to make this mod to not require a lot of grinding, and to that end I was aiming to have every job take 2000 JP to master (Except Squire and Chemist, they're only 1000 each).  I feel like jobs taking more than that to master would be more grinding than what I really want for the mod but also it's tricky fitting all the abilities into that JP cost for some classes without feeling like I'm making some skills too cheap.  This does make me wonder though, considering something I read in another thread I wonder if maybe I should be cutting some skills from classes like Mystic and possibly removing one or two abilities entirely (Like Speed Save and Teleport)
  • Modding version: PSX

Nyzer

If you start getting away from rising numbers, you start approaching the New Paper Mario problem, in which one of the main draws of the whole RPG genre is sacrificed in favor of something experimental at best (or outright nothing at all).

The idea of comparable sidegrades rather than any upgrades is also going to have severely diminishing returns after a certain point. If you have eight different breastplates with different kinds of elemental protection, half of them basically become useless unless you're in a niche fight against enemies that only use a specific kind of element, at which point it becomes just a tedious process of resetting in order to match colors. Because at that point, there's no specific need for any one of them in particular, unless you're sending in some mages and you want your group to be immune to or at least resist the splash damage from those spells. But then there are almost no Earth, Water, Wind, or Dark spells available to the player, so you may as well stack your favorite from Fire/Ice/Thunder, or Holy if you're going the CT4Holy route. And that decision in turn impacts your choice of elemental boosting equipment.

Or how about different kinds of stat boosts? Well, a thief-like character is going to go for the +SP equipment, because the +MA, +HP, +MP, +PA equipment is going to be actually subpar for them. Your tanky frontline fighter might go for +HP (or elemental resistance). Your monk will go +PA. Your mages would probably go for a mix of +MA/+MP; basically, MP to a specific threshold, then pure MA. That's not quite so much of a choice, either, as it is that different jobs will have different Best In Slot equipment.

Now, things aren't quite as simple as that, but that gets most of the point across, I think - there really isn't much of a concept of "sidegrades" to begin with. It just means that there's a lot more of a difference between each job's BIS item rather than having everyone who uses Armor using the same Breastplate while everyone who uses Clothes uses the same Pants, etc.

And yeah, that kind of versatility is nice and all, but without any actual progression, it's more suited to the type of game that only has a few options for equipment to begin with, allowing you to make those differences big and meaty. It's also far more suited to an action game, one in which the lure of character progression & customization is not as central as the direct gameplay is, and/or has more of an effect on the actual gameplay (such as heavy weapons changing the character's weapon attack speed).

Even an RPG with limited equipment options, such as Paper Mario, doesn't have a lot of particularly equal badges, despite the high amount of variety across said badges. Lots of badges, in fact, only have an overworld purpose. Honestly, thinking about it, despite Paper Mario being a "simple" RPG, those overworld badges highlight how relatively complex it actually still manages to be compared to the turn based RPGs around it, due to its inclusion of more action/platformer elements.

Turn-based RPGs lacking those elements simply don't fare well by further lacking RPG elements, too.
  • Modding version: PSX & WotL
  • Discord username: Nyzer

nitwit

RE Skill Sidegrades vs Upgrades: If you consider sidegrades to be more options, then it's easier to balance.

For example, I never use Attack with Agrias once I have Lightning Stab unlocked, because why would I? But if it costs MP, has a charge time, is weaker than Attack, more enemies resist Lighting element, or its debuff is in some cases helpful to the enemy, then I have a reason to use Attack sometime.

Design skills so that no skill completely obviates any other. Sure, there can, should, and will be overlap depending on a lot of things (a vanilla-but-upgraded Knight would probably still focus mostly on breaking things), but if you do it right then it means you have a tool for most situations.

With that in mind, someone who has a tool for every situation should have all their tools limited in some way.

I want to make the Summoner a generalist powermage. A spell for every situation, with a large AoE and decent power, but absurdly expensive. The metagame for Summoner is MP management.

I want to improve the Priest by slightly tweaking their buffs so they are a bit faster and don't miss as often, and give them a pair of holy elemental offensive spells roughly equivalent to Fire 2 and 3 in power. Their limit is Holy elemental resistance, which will based on my monster/gear systems be as common as other resistances (one or two in every battle).

Wizard becomes an elementalist blaster, which in conjunction with the system below means they can do limited healing.

With more classes having access to limited means of healing, buffing, debuffing, and of course damaging, you're no longer stuck lugging around Item, White Magic, or Calculate in every battle. Now you have freedom to  experiment, and design synergies into your teams. However, designing around a synergy (absorb Holy, for example) may create a weakness that a lot of your team shares if you're not smart about it.



Here's how I intend to organize the head and body slots of heavy armors.

heavyArmor.png

For the elements:
Absorb:  3
Negate:  2
Halve :  1
None  :  0
Weak  : -1

Monsters get something similar, but with 1 point to put towards another element halve, and I intend to spend points on weaknesses for anything more than that.

It has a synergy with skills, since I intend for all HP damaging spells (and maybe half of all HP damaging skills) except meteor to have an element, and for element to affect only damage and not hit rate. Since elements are much more common, and the spread between them more even, it works out. To make such a system and leave the vanilla element occurance and spread intact is a waste, as Nyzer says.

Note that the defining feature of my (extremely) WIP mod is that all gear slots are almost always randomized, though this randomization is less variable than vanilla in a way because I'm limiting the types of gear for each class. I'll probably randomize skills as much as possible too, and have enemy levels scale.

Weapons get a similar do-over with a point-buy system, through I doubt I'll have anything as OP as a sword that inflicts death. Points buy:
  • WP
  • W-Ev
  • Status Inflict Proc (cost varies on utility)
  • Skill Proc
  • Element (free)
  • Element Strengthen (not free)
  • And so on...

You could add range, two-handed (forced to earn points, optional to gain points), dual wield, and other stuff to the list, but I intend to give every class access to ranged weapons with various tradeoffs on handedness and shield-bearing for them. The support skills for handedness wouldn't exist.

Each class archetype (PA, PA*SP, MA, MA*SP, [PA+MA]/2) gets:
  • A weapon type that is 1 handed and allows free two-handed, free dual wield, and free sword+shield
  • A weapon type that is mandatory two-handed only and 2 range, but more powerful than the one above.
  • A weapon type that is mandatory two-handed only and 3-5 (and possibly farther) range.

I wasn't thinking so much about balance as you were when I came up with this; instead I was trying to route around how poorly the AI selects gear. There are hacks that fix most of that, so a pure gear upgrade system is very viable now if you want to go random gear choice on most enemies.

If everyone is immune to 4-7 debuffs max, then your goose will eventually be cooked if you don't either stagger them, have multiple redudant ways to remove them, or you don't think tactically while you play. No total immunity to debuffs buffs skills and classes that debuff, and those that remove debuffs.

Tying gear to debuff immunity buffs Break and Steal. Depending on your team, it may make more sense to break or steal than attack, at least for a while.

And if everything can be broken, nothing should be missible or irreplacable. Doesn't mean it should be easy or cheap to replace something; just that the metagame for an enemy breaking your stuff should IMO go from "automatic reset" to "severely harmful in battle, and very annoying afterwards".

You could have an item that provides total immunity to debuffs (or elements), but it would need a lot of drawbacks to compensate for this. Something that is univerally useful should have things that are drawbacks for everyone.

The limiting factor here is item attributes. I wouldn't have many left for weapons - probably just 8 that strengthen an element - but there are other ways to vary weapons so it's not an issue.

Analysis paralysis is prevented by making everything viable for people whose gameplay consists of "I see goblins, I slay them. Simple as." while also allowing for enough variation by ranking all possible single option in a point buy system, and creating things that lend themselves to certain synergies. Dual weilding low WP knives that proc Attack is perfect for something that is hard to hit but lacks HP, and not a terrible option for something that resists physical HP damage.

I guess what I'm saying is use point-buy to give every weapon at least one upside, and few or no downsides. Even something like "good ole reliable steel sword, can't be echanted" is perfectly valid and useful.

Such a system obviously requires most of the gear to be available from the start.



HP is the only defensive stat, though MP, Brave, and Faith can be defensive stats depending on your RSMs (Reaction, Support, and Movement skills).

PA, MA, and SP are directly offensive stats, and SP is indirectly one because it determines how often you act. Making it less direct - reducing it's impact on bows, knives, throw, and so on - is a good option if you want to minimally affect vanilla mechanics. It will be harder to code though.

(PA + SP) / 2 * WP
Becomes:
(PA + PA + SP) / 3 * WP
Or maybe:
(PA + PA + PA + SP) / 4 * WP

The commonly accepted fix for quadratic unarmed damge is to change it from:
current PA * current PA * Brave / 100
To:
base PA * current PA * Brave / 100

The best fix IMO for Brave and Faith is to set a floor and ceiling, and give them divisors.

Unarmed/Katana/Knight-Sword damage. Change from:
XA * Brave / 100
To:
((XA * (Brave / 3)) + 67) / 100

Reaction Rate. Change from:
Brave / 100
To:
((Brave / 3) + 34) / 100

Faith modifier. Change from:
XA * Faith / 100
To:
XA * ((Faith / 3) + 67) / 100

The simplest fix for SP/PA/MA modification in battle (besides removing them) is to set a floor and ceiling for the skills that modify them.

Stat Min/Max = Base Stat + Stat Gear Bonus +- n

The best value of n IMO is 2 for SP, and 3 for PA/MA.



What degree of upgrade is acceptable depends on the minimum and maximum differences in power you intend to have.

Do you want to have a Dragon Slaying (in the D&D sense) battle, where your team many vs one's something that is far beyond the abilities of even a maxed out PC? Are the differences innate to the class of the Dragon, or because it is much higher level then you?

Do you want to have fights where the enemy is 50 levels higher than you? Do you want a battle where you're the dragon, and your enemies are the pipsqueak wanna be draon slayers, trying to pinprick you to death as you fly around the battlefield?

If you want battles with major differences in power and they aren't grindfests or 1.3 tier Perfect Kaizo rage-quit inducers, then you should limit the difference between level min and level max power to 1.5x to 2x. That is, at level max, you are 1.5 to 2 times as strong as you were at level min.

For spell CTs, limiting SP from 6 to 9, with potentially +2 from Yell and +1 from gear largely fixes it. Glain's hack does the rest.

If you're doing a mod where everyone's numbers always go up, or everything is fixed and planned in advance, then IMO you have more freedom in power level differences.

As always, everyone has their preferred game, and their preferred metagame. These statements are rules of thumb, mostly, not set in stone.

"I like to watch the numbers go up because it feels good," is a valid argument.

You could mix and match upgrades and sidegrades, with several viable options on each upgrade.



JP costs, class levels, and especially class level requiremnts are how you set the skill options for your enemies. Level 8 (or 9 if it's a thing) is for me 9999 JP. If I want an enemy to master a job, I set it's unlocked job level to 8 (or 9) and call it a day.

This creates issues with Crystal learning scumming. Crystal is already annoying because its metagame is "win battles without losing your investments", so I intend to remove crystal and treasure chest. Units would still be removed from battle after their time is up, but they would just be unusable in battle for a number of days equal to their level. The metagame then becomes "Win battles, or reset if I don't have a backup character or the patience to walk back and forth for 3 months"; given that it's FFT, you probably have an entire roster of backups.

99% of my ideas are me fixing something in vanilla, and then needing to fix something else to fix the thing I fixed. It's less of a hassle to work within the framework the game designers made for you, or to avoid it altogether by removing/fixing stat growths.



The midway path between fixed/no growths and unique growths for each class is fixed growths for each class archetype.

The way I see it, these are the class archetypes. Note that these aren't actual stat values, just ratings based on your desired min/max for growths and multipliers.

SP: 4, 3, 2, 1. Or Very Fast, Fast, Normal, Slow
?A: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1. Or Excellent, Great, Good, Poor, and Terrible.

Then for PA and MA you have a point-buy system for your achetypes.

Bard and Dancer are fire-and-forget skillsets powered by their dominant stat, so they get the best for their dominant stats and the worst for their irrelevant stats. The number of turns they get is mostly irrelevant.

Let's give them Slow (1) SP, and for the other two Excellent (5) and Terrible (1).

Total: 7

Then you have the speedsters, where their speed is far more important than any stat, as their skillset capabilities are largely determined by how many turns they get. Calculator (I intend to nerf their spell lists), Chemist, Ninja.

Their SP is Very Fast (4), and their dominant/irrelevant stats are Poor (2) and Terrible (1).

Total: 7

Then you have the fast but decents, whose skillsets benefit from SP about as much as their dominant stat. Priest, Oracle, Thief, and Lancer. Mediator if you keep them around, since their skills suck so bad that turns are about as relevant as MA.

Their SP is Fast (3), and their dominant/irrelevant stats are Good (3) and Terrible (1).

Total: 7

After that, the regulars. Knight, Monk, Wizard, Time Mage (at least when Demi 1/2/3 is improved to use current HP * (MA * 1/2/3)% for damage), Summoner.

They're Great (4) at one thing, Terrible (1) at another, and Normal (2) speed.

Total: 7

Last but not least are the average joes. Geomancer, Samurai, arguably Squire since you don't want them to swing too much one way or the other. I intend to replace Mediator with a Scholar, whose skills/spells are all based on transfer or modification of current HP and MP as percentages (determined by (PA or MA * 1/2/3)% for amount), and put them here.

They're Good (3) at anything (3) and Slow (1).

Total: 7

With these, you can mix and math level gains to get the final stats you want. I would make a support skill that disables experience gain if possible though.



Ways to deal with grinding.

1. Make it almost impossible.

Ensure that you can't do anything indefinitely (except Attack, of course). Give everything at least a minor MP cost, and make at least minor CT costs more common. Granted, my elemental system means that you could give half your team elemental weapons and beat something with them to heal it, but that also seems like a great way to make half your team less useful against a real threat so it will eventually come back to bite you.

Make it hard to heal or do minor damage indefinitely. Give everything at least a minor MP cost. Make the few minor damage weapons proc something that is semi-random, so they can't easily be used to beat chocobos almost to death (the chocobos wouldn't be able to heal indefinitely in an ideal world). Only being able to grind for 1 and a half levels at a time in a perfectly won battle is a victory over grinding.

Make total incapacitation of an enemy without victory impossible. Floors on stat breaks, floors on Brave/Faith modification (either hard limits of some value, or soft limits as I outlined above). Every class has some skill it can use even when it has no gear. Give every class at least one thing it can do that's outside it's vanilla purview so they have a chance to recover from what you do to them.

Make total protection of yourself impossible to make battles harder, and attempts to grind risker.

Reduce the severity of debuffs. Make blind a subtractive penalty to hit rate rather than division by half.

Reduce the severity of buffs. Make transparent just add 20 to evasion and maybe hit rate, and remove all other hardcoding.

Give more debuffs CTs, so they can't be used to permanently weaken an enemy.

Make more debuffs cancel each other out or unable to stack. Charm, Confusion, Sleep, and Berserk are good candidates for debuffs that cancel one another out. This example is very nice for any class that can inflict Berserk or Sleep, as they have a way to do a limited debuff removal of Charm and Confusion. This is what I mean by giving classes a limited capability outside what they can do in vanilla.

Give some debuffs upsides, like increased accuracy, speed, evasion, or damage. Oil could halve water damage. Frog could be immune to water damage and have improved evasion due to size. Chicken could improve evasion.

Remove some downsides from debuffs - grant more of them the ability to trigger RSMs, let frog cast all spells and maybe continue to use some or all skills.

Stagger debuff immunities so you aren't guaranteed a way to totally incapaciate everything.

2. Increase the random variation in battles.

Optimizing a team for grinding may not always be the same as optimizing a team for winning. If you never know what you'll encounter, and you'll eventually bite off more than you can chew. If you're not always as prepared as possible to win, then grinding by fighting becomes a better metagame than grinding by abusing a Treats always:regen or whatever.

If someone eventually makes a hack that places traps randomly onto a legal tile and makes them always trigger (and I hope removes degenerator), then that helps too.

3. Make non-grinding activity more fun than grinding/powergaming.

4. Remove the necessity to grind.

Reduce JP costs to reasonable levels.

Allow classes a degree of viability with a few cheap skills anyone can buy at class unlock, and synergy with the previous classes' skillsets.

Remodel the game such that everything is obvious from the start, and there are many viable playstyles. Tooltips, informative naming schemes, sprite/palette clues. Good balance, slap on whatever you find and fight, or plan for a while to win with slightly fewer game overs.

The reasons for failures should be obvious and easy to parse. Solutions to simple problems should be simple.

Remove soft-locks, and warn of the ones you can't.

5. Don't obligate completionism, and make rewards for it not too major.

Getting access to a wide range of a large items should be useful, but not necessary unless you're doing a certain playstyle - like a team of Samurai, Chemists, and Ninjas.

Don't make anything permanetly missible, though it makes sense to not make it too easy to get everything.
  • Modding version: PSX

Ramza Stan

@Nyzer Thank you for the input, the excessive options argument is a solid point.  I think I get a bit hung up on a desire to give wide access to potential elements and status effects, but thinking about it that's something skills will be much better suited to providing.  I just like cool weapons with varied effects darnit. XD
Also I am attempting to make the full spread of elements more available to the player, which to that end I also need to make sure that a variety of elements actually, well, matters.  Elemental affinities aren't used much in Vanilla outside of monsters.

@nitwit Holy cow, I was definitely not expecting such an... expansive reply.  I immensely appreciate it.  To try and reply to some of the main points, I am indeed trying to balance out skills and that does indeed include some skills that did not previously have an MP cost now having one.  This was actually part of the spark for the idea of nixing growths, wanting to avoid making MP costs essentially irrelevant, which would double up with presumably better access to MP healing.  Your reply did make me realize though that notably reigning in growth rates is a definitely viable option.  You can have growth without it shaking up the meta too much, as it were.  Which of course if I do that I might need to alter my weapon progressions, as I have the numbers tuned to vanilla-ish growths...  I'll definitely have to look at some specific numbers.  And honestly, unless I can very much boost EXP gain such that hitting level 99 by the end of the game isn't that hard then I honestly don't intend to tool the growths with too much mind towards the very top levels.  Rather a reasonable range you're likely to hit in a playthrough.

All that said I think a growth retool might just be beyond my ambition.  I will have to see.  I don't want to make drastic changes too often to this project lest I end up spinning my wheels and losing motivation. (I know my initial proposal of removing growth is a drastic change as well but it's one that would require less redoing by me to make happen)  What you seem to have with your equipment there isn't entirely unlike what I might have done with weapons, basically having a large variety of permutations covered with an eye towards more or less everything being represented close enough to equally.  With growth being a thing though it definitely limits what I have available at any given point in the game (And I have very limited item slots)

I am trying to at least keep relatively consistent themes with most weapon types though.  Swords are bereft of special qualities but have the best overall stats for a one handed weapon, daggers are weak but have a 100% proc rate for some status, ninjato are stronger than daggers and do status stuff but with far lower chance, katanas now use the PA and MA formula and focus on elements and spell procs, etc.  So while you may not have access to all elements and stats at each tier you do have access to a base weapon, a stat weapon, a semi stat weapon, an elemental weapon, and more.  Basically trying to make all weapon categories plenty viable so there's still a variety of good choices at any time (Also expanding class equipment options) And also as a space saver I sometimes combine fire and earth, ice and water, wind and lightning, so I can represent six elements with only three items.

As far as reducing grinding I am definitely focusing on the reduced JP angle.  I'm aiming to have all classes take no more than 2000 JP to master (1000 for Squire and Chemist) though I may tweak that number if it's too low.  Some classes had trouble fitting without feeling like I was making something too cheap, Time Mage being the prime example but that's due to having Meteor, Short Charge, and Teleport, all of which I believe warranted a significant price.  So maybe I'll move one of those off. (Thinking about it, Short Charge on Mediator would make sense cause they could talk faster!  And then Short Charge and Half MP are on opposite sides of the tree too.  Thanks, I might not have thought of that without all this!)

I'm also aiming to have the game keep up with the player, having storyline battles scale with level but giving them fixed equipment and skill sets so that you can't put yourself in an awful spot with enemy equipment being like two tiers ahead of you like in 1.3.  This makes grinding still useful for getting better skills but limits effectiveness by not having it push you above the enemies.  That reduces the ability to beef up for a tough fight, but I would aim to balance the mod well enough that you don't need to majorly grind (I'll be honest, I usually see notable necessary or near necessary grinding in an RPG as bad game design)  Random battle enemy equipment can grow ahead of the player still, but I'm removing stealing from the game so incentive to grind for that would be taken down as well.

Thank you for the idea of making more stats incompatible, that's actually a great idea!  As is giving more stats CTs, that was something I considered and it's probably a good idea.

Also I think I am going to make shields entirely sidegrade.  I don't think evasion is something that needs to scale like it does, namely because there's no accuracy stat to raise in tandem with evasion.  Evasion will vary, but it'll be in the balance of physical vs. magical evasion shifting as well as sacrificing evasion for other boons. (Mantles will receive similar treatment)  Also I may make some non-shield off-hand items for non shield users.  I'll definitely be overhauling accessories.  So yeah, I think shields and accessories will be where I do a lot of the sidegrade implementation while weapons and armor are an upgrade trend. (Also I'm giving non-mantle accessories evasion but to a lesser degree.  Mantles always felt nigh-necessary to me because of how good they get)

I think that was everything I had to say, but it's 5 AM so heck if I know.  Also I'm going to make a topic for this mod soon explaining my plans and progress in more detail.  Thank you so much for all the input, it's definitely given me some points to refine my plans.
  • Modding version: PSX

nitwit

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amHoly cow, I was definitely not expecting such an... expansive reply.  I immensely appreciate it.  To try and reply to some of the main points, I am indeed trying to balance out skills and that does indeed include some skills that did not previously have an MP cost now having one.  This was actually part of the spark for the idea of nixing growths, wanting to avoid making MP costs essentially irrelevant, which would double up with presumably better access to MP healing.  Your reply did make me realize though that notably reigning in growth rates is a definitely viable option.  You can have growth without it shaking up the meta too much, as it were.  Which of course if I do that I might need to alter my weapon progressions, as I have the numbers tuned to vanilla-ish growths...  I'll definitely have to look at some specific numbers.  And honestly, unless I can very much boost EXP gain such that hitting level 99 by the end of the game isn't that hard then I honestly don't intend to tool the growths with too much mind towards the very top levels.  Rather a reasonable range you're likely to hit in a playthrough.
Unarmed damage is a good model for all weapon damage, just replace PA with WP values in your point-buy system when making weapons.

You can implement the 1.5x or 2x ratio in HP and MP. I intend to raise the floor on class HP and MP, and leave the ceiling mostly intact (except for Monk, who gets hats/clothes and slightly high but not godlike HP). Everyone starts with between 90 and 180 HP/MP, and gains the same between level min and level max. Head and body gear slots are each worth IIRC 240 total H/MPs (divided between HP and MP depending on if it's warrior/light/mage gear), but which can be reduced for point-buys in other things.

So starting HP/MP fully geared is (90 to 180) + (90 to 180) + (90 to 180). 240 for mages, 540 for warriors, most classes being somewhere between that. And then they gain another 90 to 180 when they reach level max.

I don't think it's perfect, or even good, but it's the best I've come up with so far. I've neither put a ton of thought into it or been struck by inspiration as I was elsewhere. The synergy with Break/Steal is very nice, especially with staggered/distributed elemental affinities and debuff immunities - Break/Steal is crippling.

Still, that's a massive MP pool. 540 for fully geared up mages, 240 for warriors. The issue I suppose is the HP to MP ratio for the 3 gear types (warrior, light, mage), the HP/MP floors/ceilings for classes, and the HP/MP pool for gear.

I should make a spreadsheet to plot the math with various inputs for floors, ceilings, and ratios.

Things to consider:
  • Mage squishiness.
  • Mage MP pools (and costs).
  • Non-mage MP pools/costs.
  • How many hits it takes to kill someone.
  • How many characters you need to put on someone to get the best odds of killing them without wasting characters on overkill. Most IRL self-defense training says 3x1 is optimal, but the early FFTA route (your entire party is needed to quickly kill 1 guy at a time) is excessive. If the number is too low, then it's battle of the glass cannons; too high and every skirmish is a slugfest.
  • How many points HP/MP is worth in a points-buy gear creation system, especially when you intend to trade them for various debuff immunities. Gear that protects against Vampire should have a smaller HP/MP pool than gear which protects against Blind.

As you can see, it's a lot easier to do upgrades than sidegrades. Not easy to make everything viable when combining pure sidegrades in one area with mixed side/upgrades in another.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amAll that said I think a growth retool might just be beyond my ambition.  I will have to see.  I don't want to make drastic changes too often to this project lest I end up spinning my wheels and losing motivation. (I know my initial proposal of removing growth is a drastic change as well but it's one that would require less redoing by me to make happen)  What you seem to have with your equipment there isn't entirely unlike what I might have done with weapons, basically having a large variety of permutations covered with an eye towards more or less everything being represented close enough to equally.  With growth being a thing though it definitely limits what I have available at any given point in the game (And I have very limited item slots)
Removing growth cuts the Gordian Knot fastest. If you want to ship a mod ASAP, do so. I've been dealing with one conceptual problem after another for years, don't do what I do lol.

The gear system is easy when you think about it (and you have a good visual metaphor like a spreadsheet. You want to have X total debuff immunities, spread across Y slots. There will inevitably be collisions in your debuff immunities, so design them so that:
  • Everything is roughly equal in utility.
  • No two items of any slot share the exact same debuff immunities.

So rate the debuffs, categorize them based on their ratings, decide on the total number of points in the debuff pool, and give every item however many debuff immunities you want each item to have while keeping their total points spent per item roughly equal and avoiding more than 1 collision between head/body slots (and any other slots you dedicate to multiple debuff immunities).

Excesses and deficits in total points per item can be fixed later in HP/MP, or stat boosts and starting buffs if it's especially bad.

If you have a visual metaphor (spreadsheets) with easy to see symbols (color coded cells), then detecting excess collisions is easy - just look for patterns, and (assuming you use 1 to indicate immunity in a cell) sum columns/rows to easily see if you screwed up something somewhere.

Elemental affinities is even easier, as the screencap in my previous post indicates. Keep the elemental pools the same, and vary the pattern for each item type in each item slot.

No crazy permutation/combination math, just the adult equivalent of a coloring book and the pattern recognition skills of the average 9 year old.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amI am trying to at least keep relatively consistent themes with most weapon types though.  Swords are bereft of special qualities but have the best overall stats for a one handed weapon, daggers are weak but have a 100% proc rate for some status, ninjato are stronger than daggers and do status stuff but with far lower chance, katanas now use the PA and MA formula and focus on elements and spell procs, etc.  So while you may not have access to all elements and stats at each tier you do have access to a base weapon, a stat weapon, a semi stat weapon, an elemental weapon, and more.  Basically trying to make all weapon categories plenty viable so there's still a variety of good choices at any time (Also expanding class equipment options) And also as a space saver I sometimes combine fire and earth, ice and water, wind and lightning, so I can represent six elements with only three items.
Primary issue here is that the AI isn't smart enough to pick the best gear for it's class and skill, and you are.

I'm limiting classes to the weapon types that suit their stats, and trying to hit the essentials and wing it from there. The essentials being:
  • 1 Element, Elemental Strengthen
  • 1 HP Absorb
  • 1 Double Strike (proc Attack) - optional
  • 1 Healing - optional
  • 1 Utility (cancel debuffs, procs a useful spell like Osmose, whatever is good for the classes that use it)
  • 1 W-Ev Optimized

Remember, Attack is all you have when you're out of MP, you can't charge anything, and maybe when you're debuffed. It should be something that's good for this class or set of classes. Even something that's just equivalent to an orison/cantrip can be very valuable, like a very weak 2 range MP Absorb (currently doesn't exist) formula weapon for a mage.

If you're stacking elements you make weapons much less useful in combat, especially with the armor elements above.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amAs far as reducing grinding I am definitely focusing on the reduced JP angle.  I'm aiming to have all classes take no more than 2000 JP to master (1000 for Squire and Chemist) though I may tweak that number if it's too low.  Some classes had trouble fitting without feeling like I was making something too cheap, Time Mage being the prime example but that's due to having Meteor, Short Charge, and Teleport, all of which I believe warranted a significant price.  So maybe I'll move one of those off. (Thinking about it, Short Charge on Mediator would make sense cause they could talk faster!  And then Short Charge and Half MP are on opposite sides of the tree too.  Thanks, I might not have thought of that without all this!)
RSMs are a topic in themselves, the vanilla ones mostly suck even if you redistribute them so the more niche ones are available sooner.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amI'm also aiming to have the game keep up with the player, having storyline battles scale with level but giving them fixed equipment and skill sets so that you can't put yourself in an awful spot with enemy equipment being like two tiers ahead of you like in 1.3.  This makes grinding still useful for getting better skills but limits effectiveness by not having it push you above the enemies.  That reduces the ability to beef up for a tough fight, but I would aim to balance the mod well enough that you don't need to majorly grind (I'll be honest, I usually see notable necessary or near necessary grinding in an RPG as bad game design)  Random battle enemy equipment can grow ahead of the player still, but I'm removing stealing from the game so incentive to grind for that would be taken down as well.

Scaling all battles with average (?) party level will help out a ton with XP gain.

Challenge dungeons could be XP grinding spots, give them party level + 5 to start and increase with the difficulty.

I want to make at least one random battle on each spot a dedicated, guaranteed challenge battle. Like, every time you will get the maximum number of enemies, who are always at least your party level.

I also want to have one enemy in each spot be the a "boss". That is, one of the enemies in every battle may be replaced by one enemy that is slightly stronger than the others.

There are a ton of ENTDs, you'll eventually run out of ideas and have a solo party level +10 Tiamat and its party level -4 dragon cultist minions.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amThank you for the idea of making more statuses incompatible, that's actually a great idea!  As is giving more stats CTs, that was something I considered and it's probably a good idea.
I don't like Faith/Innocent statuses either, since they remove a combat role for whoever gets the talk skills. There are a few of useless statuses, and IIRC some of their hardcoding can be edited with a spreadsheet somewhere. At least the animation/sprite hardcoding.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amAlso I think I am going to make shields entirely sidegrade.  I don't think evasion is something that needs to scale like it does, namely because there's no accuracy stat to raise in tandem with evasion.  Evasion will vary, but it'll be in the balance of physical vs. magical evasion shifting as well as sacrificing evasion for other boons. (Mantles will receive similar treatment)  Also I may make some non-shield off-hand items for non shield users.  I'll definitely be overhauling accessories.  So yeah, I think shields and accessories will be where I do a lot of the sidegrade implementation while weapons and armor are an upgrade trend. (Also I'm giving non-mantle accessories evasion but to a lesser degree.  Mantles always felt nigh-necessary to me because of how good they get)
I hadn't thought of making non-shield items for the shield slot. Could be useful. I think you'd have to overcome some hardcoding to force perfumes into the shield slot, but once you do you could give them item attributes.

Along with making shields pure sidegrades, consider using whatever item attributes you have left on them in a point-buy system in exchange for evasions. Just remember that whoever has access to all shields also gets access to these enchanted shields, and give them appropriate buffs (no +1 MA for a warrior only item type).

It would be nice if we could remove all hardcoding for item slots and make it based on the flags in FFTPatcher and some new flags for gear slots. I'd love to have mage and light shields, or the option to use rings/gloves in the shield slot instead of shields or weapons. It would further reduce your defense and (in my handedness situation in my previous post) Attack abilities, but you'd get nice buffs out of it.

My accessory breakdown, gratefully stolen from someone else, is:
  • Mantles - Sidegraded evasion boosts. Not as many mantles as vanilla.
  • Rings - Mage only accessories. Always +1 MA, always +5 M-Ev, always immune Silence, and then 1 other thing (halve element, another minor debuff immunity, etc).
  • Gloves - Warrior only accessories. Always +1 PA, always +5 P-Ev, always immune Blind, and then 1 other thing (halve element, another minor debuff immunity, etc).
  • Shoes - +1 Move, +1 SP, then 1 other thing (halve element, +1 Jump, minor debuff immunity)
  • Perfumes and Bracers don't exist.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 12, 2021, 05:11:30 amI think that was everything I had to say, but it's 5 AM so heck if I know.  Also I'm going to make a topic for this mod soon explaining my plans and progress in more detail.  Thank you so much for all the input, it's definitely given me some points to refine my plans.
Our plans are similar enough that you might benefit from my mod planning document. Do you want it? It's just a few text files with all my ideas and analysis, and a spreadsheet or two.
  • Modding version: PSX

Ramza Stan

Quote from: nitwit on March 13, 2021, 02:18:18 amI think you'd have to overcome some hardcoding to force perfumes into the shield slot, but once you do you could give them item attributes.

My plan for now unless I find a good way to do that is to simply take any shield slots I don't use (14 Shields is a lot when they're all sidegrades) and change the item type to ring or glove and change the graphics.  That way it will have the graphics of a ring or glove and be equippable by anyone who can equip a ring or glove, but it goes in the hands because it used a shield slot.

"Our plans are similar enough that you might benefit from my mod planning document. Do you want it? It's just a few text files with all my ideas and analysis, and a spreadsheet or two."

I would be very grateful, thank you.  Do you mind if I also post my notepad document with the current draft of my weapons rework?
(Pardon the short reply, it's why am I up this late hours once again, lol)
  • Modding version: PSX

nitwit

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 13, 2021, 03:59:23 amMy plan for now unless I find a good way to do that is to simply take any shield slots I don't use (14 Shields is a lot when they're all sidegrades) and change the item type to ring or glove and change the graphics.  That way it will have the graphics of a ring or glove and be equippable by anyone who can equip a ring or glove, but it goes in the hands because it used a shield slot.
Issue here is that you can't limit your ring/perfume palette-swapped shields to specific classes. If you make them suitable for mages or non-warriors, then you're in a pickle because the AI will equip them. You need a separate category of items that you goes in the shield slot but can be set usable for classes separately from shields.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 13, 2021, 03:59:23 am"Our plans are similar enough that you might benefit from my mod planning document. Do you want it? It's just a few text files with all my ideas and analysis, and a spreadsheet or two."

I would be very grateful, thank you.  Do you mind if I also post my notepad document with the current draft of my weapons rework?
(Pardon the short reply, it's why am I up this late hours once again, lol)
Go ahead, I'll do a once over cleanup on mine then edit this post and upload it.
  • Modding version: PSX

Ramza Stan

Quote from: nitwit on March 13, 2021, 03:52:30 pmIssue here is that you can't limit your ring/perfume palette-swapped shields to specific classes. If you make them suitable for mages or non-warriors, then you're in a pickle because the AI will equip them. You need a separate category of items that you goes in the shield slot but can be set usable for classes separately from shields.

I would change their type to one of the accessory types, then change any actual accessories of that type to a different type (So say I did rings, any shield slots I use will be set as rings and any existing rings will be changed) then set it so only the classes meant to use them can equip rings.  So it would be a separate category from shields while still using the shield slot. (My cursory testing seems to indicate this will work as I think it will)

And here's the Notepad doc:
  • Modding version: PSX

nitwit

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 13, 2021, 03:57:30 pmI would change their type to one of the accessory types, then change any actual accessories of that type to a different type (So say I did rings, any shield slots I use will be set as rings and any existing rings will be changed) then set it so only the classes meant to use them can equip rings.  So it would be a separate category from shields while still using the shield slot. (My cursory testing seems to indicate this will work as I think it will)
Making the hardcoding work for you. Clever. I'd never think of that.

Quote from: Ramza Stan on March 13, 2021, 03:57:30 pmAnd here's the Notepad doc:
Downloaded. I uploaded mine in the previous post. Enjoy!

edit

Looking at your weapon setup, you intend to give each weapon group a specific W-Ev, crit proc, damage formula, and in some cases handedness, while only varying weapons within each group by element, status/skill procs, WP, and healing instead of damage. If you also intend to give each class a very limited selection of weapons (most classes get 1, maybe 2 or 3 at most) then your system is IMO too simple and not very flexible.

If each class has multiple weapon options - all of whose damage formulas suit their stats - then it's less of an issue.

I suppose it makes it easier to categorize weapon groups - if i want to do turtle up then I should use a weapon group with high W-Ev - but unless all classes have access to several groups of suitable weapon groups then you're forcing a meta-class system on them.

Axes. Much easier way to read the formula is:
PA * WP * random( 3 ... 5)  / 4
Though that doesn't leave much room for randomness (it will usually be 75%, 100%, or 125% of base damage). If you double or triple the last 3 numbers, you get greater variation but the same ratios.
PA * WP * random( 9 ... 15)  / 12
Now the damage can be 75%, 83%, 91%, 100%, 108%, 116%, or 125%. Not counting crits, of course, which add more variance with a different formula.

Rods. Unless you're using one of the spreadsheet hacks, you won't have enough item attributes to do this and everything else for weapons. IIRC the spreadsheet hack in question doesn't allow previews in the formation menu. Unless that's changed, you'll want to update their item descriptions to tell players what they do, as concisely as possible.

Also when considering mage weapons - especially when lots of skills have elements - you should consider which classes most need weapons that enhance elements, and what elements they need. A weapon group for Priests and Oracles won't need any elements besides Holy and maybe Dark if you make Drain/Osmose Dark element, but those two classes definitely need utility weapons that synergize with their skills and stats. Something SP+MA based and with good W-Ev; which offers options to heal, remove debuffs, add debuffs, add buffs, and cast useful low level spells suitable for them (like Osmose).

Don't forget to consider the classes that come after them, as they'll likely have their skillsets on a random secondary selection.

Compare to a Wizard, Time Mage (who is likely to use Black Magic as a secondary), or Summoner, for whom the utilities are useful, but who can make better use of elemental strengthens. While a Wizard might get weaker versions of the same utilities, they could use the elements too.

You should really use a spreadsheet for your weapon balancing instead of a text file, it's so much easier to think when you don't have to hold everything about weapons in your mind. Especially if you're doing point-buy. Plus you can make tables for your points and chat or make threads to get feedback on what people think every possible variation (buffs, debuffs, neutral statuses, stat boosts, W-Ev, WP, procs, etc) is worth. Until I have some measurement - even just the average of what everyone thinks, which is usually good enough - I can't really think of how to balance something.

Plus if you're the sort of person who thinks best via analysis of inputs, getting input from other people helps you understand what you think, feel, and believe. As you analyze, react to, and criticize inputs, you determine what you are/want and why.

Lessons in abstraction aside, you could make flails the optional dual wield, random damage, 1 range weapons - and axes the optional 2-handed, random damage, range 1 weapons.

Or you could mix and match these things within axes, flails, and other non-ranged weapon categories. There's no reason all weapons of a category must have the same handedness, it's not hardcoded IIRC. You could call one axe "Great Axe", make it twice as powerful as the others, and make it forced 2-handed; then make another "Hatchet", disallow 2-handed, allow dual wield, and make it less powerful than the others.

There's a bug with dual wielding ranged weapons, where I think the first weapon determines the range of the others. I think someone wrote a fix for it too, not sure where it is.

Consider how skillsets like Charge and Jump will interact with weapons. Are you sure you want all spears to be basically the same, given that Lancer's weapons are pretty much the only way they differ between one another? What qualities would be useful for an Archer or Lancer to have in a weapon, both to enhance their skillsets and to do something useful when they can't use them?

Given that SP is a big factor for Jump effectiveness, should it determine the Jump damage formula, and/or the spear weapon formula?

Archers are kinda screwed because their stats seem to indicate that they're meant to get lots of turns, but their skillset sometimes requires you to skip turns. A hack to make the Charge skillset use SP somehow seems to be in order.

Cloths being WP*SP seems like it doesn't work well with the Dance skillset. With Dance, turns don't matter much, so they want to optimize for PA instead of SP. Yet your idea of Cloths does the opposite. Plus anything WP*SP will always be very OP especially at higher WPs, because SP is already used to determine how quickly you get a turn. This risks becoming a god weapon group.

Arcing is useful in more circumstances than direct, though I'd check to see if it's hardcoded to the arrow animation before I use it for books or harps.
  • Modding version: PSX