• Welcome to Final Fantasy Hacktics. Please login or sign up.
 

The Shrike Patch: Optimizing for fun

Started by Shrikesnest, July 04, 2019, 02:02:33 pm

Shrikesnest

July 04, 2019, 02:02:33 pm Last Edit: July 04, 2019, 07:58:24 pm by Shrikesnest
Special thanks to Lennart, DeSgeretjin, bcrobert, AGodDangMoose and any others I'm not aware of for developing the excellent tools I used to make this patch. Likewise, special thanks goes to Kuro for helping me iron out some problems I was having and answering my newbie questions.

So, in my opinion FFTA2 is a good game. Unfortunately, there are a few things about it that drive me a little bit crazy. It's not really that the game is too easy, it's that there's a lot of interesting potential that goes untapped. It's a game about exploring lots of cool builds but a couple of first-order strategies crowd everything else out.

When I discovered that there were excellent modding tools available for the game, I got an itch I couldn't ignore: could I make a version of the game I'd enjoy replaying more? One where a lot more strategies were viable and interesting? I couldn't rest until I figured it out.

I want to state up front that this is not a difficulty patch, or at least is not intended to be. Yes, it is harder than the base game, but I'm not trying to make a Kaizo hack here. I want the game to be enjoyable in both Normal and Hard mode, and cater to both kinds of player. The goal here is to optimize for fun.

A zip file with the patch and some notes is attached. Please note that my information is not exhaustive; I wasn't perfectly assiduous in my note-taking. I'll be happy to answer any questions to the best of my ability.

WHAT'S DIFFERENT?

For starters, I rebalanced all of the stat values and growths in the entire game, as well as most of the abilities. I tried to give different jobs and monsters different reasons to exist: strengths to leverage, weaknesses to exploit, choices to make, etc.

I tried to create a wider gulf between offensive, defensive and support jobs. I allowed units like Assassins, Snipers, Summoners and Cannoneers to do their thing, but balanced them out by making them easy to one-shot if they get caught out. As a result, positioning matters a whole lot more, and defensive jobs like the Paladin, Defender and Lanista see their stock rise considerably.

I added or altered a lot of MP costs. The game actually has an interesting MP system but doesn't use it as much as it could. I tried to explore a broader range of MP costs and make stronger use of MP breakpoints. My goal was to allow powerful abilities to exist, but to effectively limit how often they could be used.

On the same note, I neutered MP restoration across the board. I didn't remove it from the game, but it is now much less effective at trivializing the cost of spells. The only exception is the Cannoneer's Ether Shell, which appears to be hard-coded. (If I'm mistaken and somebody knows how to fix this I'd be very grateful if you let me know.)

I also play with evasion and accuracy much more than the initial game does. Jobs now have inherent evasion values, and Moogles, Gria and Seeq have evasion bonuses or penalties across the board. This makes fights more exciting and swingy, and alows for things like physically frail Thieves and Assassins that rely on their evasion instead of their HP to get by. I understand some people find this kind of RNG completely unpalatable, and to them I'm sorry. They are probably not going to find this patch very enjoyable.

To compensate for the increased evasion, I made the tools to fight it stronger. High-accuracy abilities like Blitz, Featherblow and Take Aim now deal full damage instead of half. This gives jobs like Fighter, Gladiator, Fencer and Archer a niche at taking out stuff like Assassins and Jugglers. Likewise, enemies gained more pronounced typing. I'll let the player discover this on their own (there's some fun surprises in there, let me assure you.)

I played around a lot more with elemental reistances and weaknesses. I gave a lot of monsters elemental interactions that didn't exist before. I tried to keep things consistent across types; plant enemies are weak to fire but absorb water, winged enemies are weak to wind but resist earth, etc. In addition, player characters interact with the system now, too. Bangaa are weak to ice (due to being cold blooded), Gria are weak to wind (due to their wings), and Seeq resist ice (due to their thick blubber.) It's not Pokemon now, but I felt that the system was underutilized in the base game, and I feel playing around with elemental effects makes the game more interesting.

I also changed almost every single piece of gear in the entire game. I cut the amount of stats gained from gear across the board so that players no longer easily outscale monsters as the game goes on. I also lowered the effectiveness of defensive gear across the board, especially as regards the resistance stat; this makes faffing around with MP more rewarding since spells are now more generally useful. Clothes and hats now grant very low defensive bonuses but boost other stats, while heavy armor almost exclusively is used for its high defense and robes for their high resistance. Many accessories had their stats shuffled around. Boots now all grant at least one point of Move, for example.

As for weapons, I flattened the attack growth curves quite a bit. This is a game where gear is used mostly for learning new abilities, and yet the base game gives weapons and armor a progression like it's a straightforward RPG. I kept some of this intact to keep a sense of growth and progression and maintain the excitement of new gear drops, but I limited weapons and armor to specific breakpoints to keep things more manageable from a stat growth standpoint. Gear now has effective upsides and downsides, and different kinds of weapons serve different purposes. This makes gearing up more interesting while the player is not learning new abilities, and allows for different kinds of builds as the game progresses.

And on that note, I cut AP costs across the board. This is a really psychotically grindy game after the player unlocks the Auction House, and I don't think it's fair to assume every player wants to use Bonus AP 3 in every single fight. This also cuts down on the dead time where units are stuck in the "wrong" class on the way to something else, as well as the early game doldrums when your whole party is stuck as Soldiers, Black Mages and Thieves. The only job I was unable to do this for was the Bangaa Warrior, since the editor I was using kept mistaking their skillset for the identically-named Soldier skillset. (Once again, if anyone knows a fix for that I'd be very grateful.)

I reimagined the Tinker. It now hands out AOE buffs and debuffs in a big area instead of its original design. I actually think the OG Tinker is pretty interesting from a purely theoretical standpoint, but uh... did anybody actually use them?

I reversed the baffling decision to put all of the key Animist abilities on gear locked behind late-game missions. Tail Wag, Sheep Count and Catnip now show up on much earlier weapons, while 100% Wool got pushed to the Conch Shell.

Special jobs also got some work. Hurdy and Penelo's abilities now cost MP but affect your whole team like the Bard and Dancer from the original Tactics. Vaan's skillset got some buffs, mostly because I feel sorry for him. I didn't bother with Al Cid because I've never even unlocked him. If there's enough demand maybe I'll revisit the idea. Also, the Heritor got a few buffs but no major overhaul. I'm planning to revisit it at some point.

And lastly, although this is not a balance or challenge patch, I did nerf some first-order strategies to make player choices a little more interesting. Hi-Potions and X-Potions now heal for less. Mirror Potion/Hi-Potion/X-Potion now check resilience instead of evasion. MP restoration is nerfed across the board (although I also nerfed MP damage by half to compensate a little.) Absorbtion shenanigans got nipped in the bud through the nerfing of elemental shields and robes. The Ravager's abilities are now balanced through accuracy nerfs to sell the feeling of a devastating but wild berserker. The Raptor's crushes deal half damage. The Juggler's abilities now have a range of 3, and Smile Toss grants Haste instead of Quicken. Super high-range weapons like guns, cards and hand-cannons got various nerfs to make them less totally busted.

There's probably a little more that I missed, but that's the gist of it.  Feel free to explore the patch and peruse my notes. I welcome feedback.

WHAT'S NEXT?

Here's some stuff I'd love to do but either haven't found the time or haven't figured out quite yet. If anybody knows some of this stuff I'd welcome some guidance:

- I've heard you can turn the Keeper job into a playable job? Because I have this idea for a new Gria job...
- I want to put Blue Magic abilities on weapons. I'd keep them learnable the old way and give them high AP costs, so there would still be a point to all the rigamarole, but as it stands acquiring Blue Magic is such a pain in the ass that it's not really worth it.
- I'm planning to do more shuffling of which weapons teach which abilities like I did for the Animist, but that's going to be a big project.
- I want to make Hi-Potions and X-Potions more expensive. Does anybody know if there's a way to change their cost?
- I'd love to alter the amount restored by Ether Cannon and change Warrior JP costs, but unfortunately if they can be changed I can't figure it out.
- I'd like to alter a lot of unit names, but boy oh boy are there a lot of them to alter by hand. I'll probably grind this out over time.
- Likewise, I want to mess with enemy formations, but for right now I'm leaving them as the base game until I can develop a comprehensive game plan.

The patch and my notes are linked below. Eagerly awaiting any responses!
"Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right."
- Hillaire Belloc, The Pacifist

SoloCross

You can sorta fix the Warrior problem by renaming their skillset. Anything will do. You can even change it back after you are done editing it.
  • Modding version: Other/Unknown

Shrikesnest

Ooh, dunno why I didn't think of that.  Thanks for the tip!
"Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right."
- Hillaire Belloc, The Pacifist

Nyzer

QuoteI reimagined the Tinker. It now hands out AOE buffs and debuffs in a big area instead of its original design. I actually think the OG Tinker is pretty interesting from a purely theoretical standpoint, but uh... did anybody actually use them?


Nope. They're not even good for attempting to debuff enemies while your units are equipped with status protection, because even then, casting on your own team is just a wasted turn. There's no reason to do that as opposed to just using single-target debuffs. At least there's no risk of shooting yourself in the dick with them.

It's kind of interesting how, despite the way FFT features more jobs per unit and has a much tougher time with balance in general, there aren't any skillsets as bad as the Tinker's.
  • Modding version: PSX & WotL
  • Discord username: Nyzer

Madeen

I can get a keeper with ar code ... its probably easily found around? Gamefaqs and the likes.

If you cant find it and are interested I'll give you the one I have.

Zeke_Aileron

Quote from: Shrikesnest on July 04, 2019, 02:02:33 pm
- I've heard you can turn the Keeper job into a playable job? Because I have this idea for a new Gria job...


it is possible if you learn where the job table is assigned to within the Hex Editor that you/you're using, i'll provide the table below as a .txt file.

Quote from: Shrikesnest on July 04, 2019, 02:02:33 pm
- I want to put Blue Magic abilities on weapons. I'd keep them learnable the old way and give them high AP costs, so there would still be a point to all the rigamarole, but as it stands acquiring Blue Magic is such a pain in the ass that it's not really worth it.


A lot of the weapons Blue Mage use don't have anything corresponding to their Job besides Learn, so it'll be a nice way to make it lenient for the Player if they're having a hard time trying to get a monster to use a specific ability on them if they don't have a Beastmaster to use.

QuoteOn the same note, I neutered MP restoration across the board. I didn't remove it from the game, but it is now much less effective at trivializing the cost of spells. The only exception is the Cannoneer's Ether Shell, which appears to be hard-coded. (If I'm mistaken and somebody knows how to fix this I'd be very grateful if you let me know.)


From this, did you just nerfed the base game MP items/MP recovery? or the Natural MP Regeneration along with the clan privileges around MP? Also Ether Shell can be changed since it's using a fixed value for it's MP recovery amount.

Quote---------
Blue Mage
---------
+- Magick Hammer: Half damage (down from full); range 4 (up from 3.)
+- White Wind: Range 4 (up from 3); MP cost 22 (up from 20.)
+ Angel Whisper: Buffed output by ~200%; range 4 (up from 3); MP cost 18 (down from 28).
+ Screech: Range 4 (up from 3)
+ War Dance: Also grants Move Up.
- Roar: MP cost 16 (up from 8).
+ Matra Magic: Checks resilience instead of evasion; full accuracy (up from quater accuracy); range 4 (up from 3); MP cost 18 (down from 22.)
- Bad Breath: MP cost 12 (up from 8.)
+ Unction: MP cost 4 (down from 8.)
+ Self-Destruct: Buffed output by ~100%.
+- Quake: Buffed output by ~50%; MP cost 16 (up from 12.)
+ Expose Weakness: MP cost 6 (down from 8.)
+- Mighty Guard: Now a 2 AOE buff that grants Protect, Shell, Regen and Haste for 24 MP.
+ Dragon Force: MP cost 6 (down from 8.)


From your notes for Blue Mage changes, i'm assuming you did the same changes to the base monster abilities as well? Cause most times the Monsters are the ones that have their main abilities way more proficiently mastered than the Blue Mage....
  • Modding version: Other/Unknown
  • Discord username: Zeke Aileron™#0606

Shrikesnest

Quoteit is possible if you learn where the job table is assigned to within the Hex Editor that you/you're using, i'll provide the table below as a .txt file.


Thanks a bunch! Actual hex editing is outside my capabilities right now, but I'll take it as a chance to learn.

QuoteFrom this, did you just nerfed the base game MP items/MP recovery? or the Natural MP Regeneration along with the clan privileges around MP? Also Ether Shell can be changed since it's using a fixed value for it's MP recovery amount.


Ah, sorry, realize I was unclear about this. I just nerfed MP restoration abilities. I didn't realize it was possible to nerf the game's base MP regeneration or the related clan privileges.

QuoteFrom your notes for Blue Mage changes, i'm assuming you did the same changes to the base monster abilities as well? Cause most times the Monsters are the ones that have their main abilities way more proficiently mastered than the Blue Mage....


Yes, I did. Thanks for checking, though; it would have been easy to miss. I didn't put it in my notes, but I did quite a bit of refactoring on non-Blue Magic enemy abilities as well.
"Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right."
- Hillaire Belloc, The Pacifist

Kuro

Glad to see your mod posted. I got a question:

QuoteI played around a lot more with elemental reistances and weaknesses. I gave a lot of monsters elemental interactions that didn't exist before. I tried to keep things consistent across types; plant enemies are weak to fire but absorb water, winged enemies are weak to wind but resist earth, etc. In addition, player characters interact with the system now, too. Bangaa are weak to ice (due to being cold blooded), Gria are weak to wind (due to their wings), and Seeq resist ice (due to their thick blubber.) It's not Pokemon now, but I felt that the system was underutilized in the base game, and I feel playing around with elemental effects makes the game more interesting.


I released a patch when I got back to work on the mod with elemental weakness to playable races but I regretted and now I won't include it in the next one. Reason was that even when it seems the number of elements match very well with the races, I felt it could be easily exploited by jobs with abilities that hit all units or large areas. To solve this what are going to do? Or don't you think it will be an issue? I'm interested in your perspective.

QuoteThanks a bunch! Actual hex editing is outside my capabilities right now, but I'll take it as a chance to learn.


Hex editing is easy as hex. I'm terrible with puns but I mean that you just need the addresses of the offsets and change the value there to get a different outcome.

Download hex editor, open rom, Go to adresss, change byte there in hexadecimal and save.

Example.

Jackknife. Adresss - 0512B7C8 = 01 - 00 - 02 - 00 - 00...

01 is the weapon type standing for Knifes check the spreadsheet and you'll see 02 is the one for Swords, change it and your Jackknife will be listed as Sword instead.

02 is the name, the last 00 there is the element affinity for the weapon. Obviously we don't know what everything do but we are trying to find out. I'm specially interested in the right addresses to break Discounts because it is what it is stopping from balancing the gil economy. 

We got a spreadsheet of addresses that I'm not going to attach because mine is messy with notations of different explorations but you can find in the forum an updated one I think.

Quote- I want to make Hi-Potions and X-Potions more expensive. Does anybody know if there's a way to change their cost?


Check my post there with my findings -maybe I wasn't the only one but I didn't see a post about it-, I didn't find Item and Loot values in the spreadsheet but I found them in that address.

http://ffhacktics.com/smf/index.php?topic=12244.0
Quote
- I've heard you can turn the Keeper job into a playable job? Because I have this idea for a new Gria job...
- I want to put Blue Magic abilities on weapons. I'd keep them learnable the old way and give them high AP costs, so there would still be a point to all the rigamarole, but as it stands acquiring Blue Magic is such a pain in the ass that it's not really worth it.


1. You can do it in the Job Editor making it available? I don't remember well I had a time where I tried to make new jobs with sprites inside but I let it for later on.
2. I thought of doing that recently and I felt it would be like breaking what made FF Blue Mage so unique but if I understand why you want to do it. Uncheck Already Mastered in Job Editor and add it in AP index for Hume and in text editor with a Max AP. Also uncheck Learnable or something in those abilities for monsters.

  • Modding version: Other/Unknown
  • Discord username: Kuro#3991

Shrikesnest

If hex editing is as easy as referencing a spreadsheet and altering some variables then you bet I'm in.  This may take awhile now just because the scope of what I can accomplish is going to expand so much, I might have to reevaluate some of what I want to do, hahaha.  Exciting!

Quote2. I thought of doing that recently and I felt it would be like breaking what made FF Blue Mage so unique but if I understand why you want to do it. Uncheck Already Mastered in Job Editor and add it in AP index for Hume and in text editor with a Max AP. Also uncheck Learnable or something in those abilities for monsters.


I agree with you that it's a tradeoff.  Blue Magic is a unique and fun concept, and I am losing quite a bit by shortcutting things so much.  I just love the Blue Magic spells but I never actually use them because getting the right abilities on a Beastmaster and then wrangling the right monster is such a time-consuming ordeal.  I have a toddler to take care of, and another baby on the way.  I want to be able to play with it, so for my purposes the tradeoff is worth it.

The actual problem I was having with putting Blue Magic on weapons is that they're not indexed in the Equipment NMM.  Could I just add them to the list and it would do the rest, or are there hex values I need to track down to link those to the actual abilities?

ETA: Just realized I never answered your initial question.  Sorry, scatterbrained today.  Got a lot on my mind.

Quote
I released a patch when I got back to work on the mod with elemental weakness to playable races but I regretted and now I won't include it in the next one. Reason was that even when it seems the number of elements match very well with the races, I felt it could be easily exploited by jobs with abilities that hit all units or large areas. To solve this what are going to do? Or don't you think it will be an issue? I'm interested in your perspective.


To be honest I'm not 100% happy with the outcome.  It's a bit of a remnant of an earlier version of the patch where Bangaa and Gria felt pretty overpowered.  Elemental weaknesses seemed like an effective way to deal with it, since Nu Mou served as an effective counter.  However, as I shaved off the rougher edges of the stats and itemization, the situation is a little more uneven.

I have two potential counters to the issues raised by elemental weaknesses on playable races.  The first is to try to mix things up enough that a single Illusionist or Summoner can't trivialize the whole fight.  If blanketing the whole battlefield in Ice kills the Bangaa but heals the Ice Flans it's at least strategically interesting as a tradeoff.  If some fight can be trivialized through the use of elemental effects, well, that's smart tactics and I don't mind rewarding it from time to time, provided it doesn't turn the whole game into a cakewalk.

The second counter is itemization.  Ice Shields and Robes become more valuable to a Bangaa, and a sword that absorbs Wind becomes a huge asset for a Gria in the right circumstances.  I changed a lot of Absorb effects into Immune effects, but the result is the same without allowing Blood Price shenanigans.  I think this makes itemization a little more interesting and rewards the player for using all the tools at their disposal.  I can use the same tricks when I get around to altering the encounters.
"Pale Ebenezer thought it wrong to fight,
But Roaring Bill (who killed him) thought it right."
- Hillaire Belloc, The Pacifist