Tag Archives: broken images

moving on

Well, most people who will care already know this, but today was officially my last day working for Terralever. They’re a great company full of wonderful people. I learned a lot while here and worked on a lot of interesting projects. They’re actually hiring ActionScript developers (real programmers to do real programming, that is), and I’d recommend the job wholeheartedly.

I wasn’t actually looking for a new job. I’ve got a 3-month-old daughter and a mortgage only slightly older than that ๐Ÿ˜› But, I also stumbled across an opportunity that was entirely too good to ignore.

Areae Logo

No, I can’t pronounce it either. Nobody can.

See… I’ve always wanted to work in the video game industry (some times more than others), and I’ve been a big fan of Raph Koster‘s work for a while now. I’ve read his book and agree with most of the things he says in it.

I’d actually read the news on the day Raph and John announced the company and was intrigued. I looked at their job postings and didn’t see anything that fit me very well, so I passed it up.

Then, a little while ago, a new list of job postings went out and I actually matched two of the positions… after a bit of bullying from friends, and a lot of agonizing over the potential heartache, I figured I may as well apply for both of them. I interviewed with the team shortly thereafter, got along great with people, liked the environment, and am absolutely in love with the project. It’s gonna be awesome.

I’m not doing this for any sort of perceived financial gain that might come from it. I have no illusions that I’m getting any measurable pay raise out of this. I’m doing it because it’s about as close as I can realistically get to my dream job. I’m doing it because I believe in the project’s goals. I’m doing it because I’m a great big dork who’s never really taken a chance like this before. I’m doing it because I don’t think I could ever forgive myself for not doing it.

Our house is 90% packed. We’ve done some minor repairs and painting in order to make the place more attractive to renters. We have a short lease on a medium-sized apartment in Escondido. If the place works out, great. If not, we’re not tied down to it.

We pick up the U-haul next Tuesday morning. If all goes well, we arrive in California early the following day.

I start work on the 30th. ๐Ÿ™‚

evolution of warcraft – zones and professions

It’s time for another one of my prediction posts re WoW. This time around will be several shorter predictions and may or may not be my last post of this type for a while ๐Ÿ˜‰

Prediction: The next expansion will focus on expanding Azeroth

I don’t think the next expansion will be the Emerald Dream – that’s expansion the 3rd. This time around, we’re going to come back to Azeroth and fill in the holes in the map. And there are numerous holes in the map of Azeroth right now.

There are at least 3 more continents we’ve not yet gotten access to: Northrend, Undermine, and Pandaria. There is also lore surrounding the Maelstrom and the associated bits of sunken Kalimdor.

Even on our existing continents, we’re missing several areas. A few of my favorites:

  • Grim Batol is a potential overland zone with at least one high level instance east of Loch Modan and the Wetlands.
  • Mount Hyjal is where the final battle of WC3 took place. It’s been a big closed off zone since the beginning of the game. In the last patch, they released two new flight paths essentially adjacent to the mountain border with Hyjal.
  • Uldum is a big instance gate in southern Tanaris that taunted me every time i drove past it. Everyone’s expecting this one, just don’t know when it’ll happen.
  • Dalaran is another obvious place for expansion. It’s the big purple bubble that all Undead players bump into on their way to Taren Mill for the first time.
  • Gilneas is another big gate next to Silverpine. There were some pretty funny rumors going around before the Draenei and Blood Elves were announced that the zone was entirely peopled by werewolves… ๐Ÿ™‚

Northrend (Image borrowed from WoWWikiรขโ‚ฌโ„ขs scan of _Lands_of_Mystery_ p84)

Most of the smart money is on Northrend as the primary focus of the next expansion, and I tend to agree. There have been hints in the past that Arthas might be a level 80 raid boss. People have been begging for it for a while now – we’ve wanted this more than we wanted Outland ๐Ÿ˜›

It also does nice things for bringing people back to Azeroth to do more than just shop or powerlevel alts.

How do we get to Northrend? I suspect that there will need to be boats installed. Viable locations for these ships might be eastern Azshara, Undermine, and northern Tristfal.

I actually really like the idea of establishing a settlement on one of the tips of Azshara, but it would be weird for a new city to magically appear out there overnight. Tristfal has the same problem, but to a much lesser degree – it wouldn’t be terribly difficult to imagine the Forsaken setting up a naval base out there to lead the charge in taking the war back to Scourge territory.

Undermine, and the island it lives in (Kezan), are the most logical choice… unless they open up Gilneas.

Gilneas is fun. Since there’s no communication with the place, it’s entirely possible that everyone inside’s been killed and turned into zombies or what-have-you… or that it’ll finally be willing to join with humanity in the fight against the Scourge. Maybe the Scourge broke through the wall and they came crawling to Southshore for help? This would give the Alliance a potential starting point to get out there. But I doubt it’ll happen. If I had to bet on the fate of Gilneas, though, I say they’re the new Southern Plaguelands by now – especially since the Alliance already have a much more probable city up that way in Dalaran.

Undermine really is the most logical choice. Probably. It’s a sizable island dedicated to commerce. The goblins certainly would see a profit in allowing both Horde and Alliance navies to set up shipyards on their northern shores – so long as they behave themselves and don’t kill each other in goblin territory (just like any other goblin controlled city).

I’d like to see Undermine become the new Shattrath. It makes the most sense to connect it to Steamwheedle Port (esp since no other boats use the dock atm), but that’s a pretty inconvenient location for such an important travel route. It wouldn’t be unreasonable to also connect it to Ratchet or Booty Bay somehow. Possibly tie it into the zeppelin network and give the Alliance a boat out of Southsore?

By connecting Undermine to lvl 20-40 zones, it would be quite appropriate to make the Isle of Kezan actually contain a good bit of content suitable to that level range. Make it into several (4-5) areas that provide a viable alternative to Stranglethorn and Desolace. The game is currently weakest in the lvl 30-50 content range right now, this is a good solution. With no new races, there’s no need to introduce new pairs of newbie zones – that effort should be bumped up to mid-level content ๐Ÿ˜‰

So, if we allow Undermine to become a large travel hub and allow it to connect players to Northrend, what do they have to do up there? High level content. Mid level content. Max level content. Several new instances. Northrend is big – really big. The map shows 11 zones plus plenty of spots for instances. Perhaps it could be made suitable for levels 50 and above – or even levels 45 and above. The continent is big enough that they could easily add another 45-55 zone in addition to zones all the way up to level 80.

But… we need a lot more lvl 70+ content in the next expansion, right? Well… TBC introduced a total of 11 new overworld zones in addition to instances. If they considered 7 zones sufficient new high level content for this expansion, I don’t see why the next expansion should be any different. Add an extra chunk or two of lvl 70+ content to Outland, leave the rest in Northrend, and we’ve still got room to resolve the dearth of mid-level content.

Suggested overworld zone level breakdown:

  • Kezan – 30-40, 35-45 x2, 40-50
  • Northrend – 45-55, 55-60, 60-65, 65-70, 70-75 x3, 73-78 x2, 75-80 x2
  • Outland – 70-75, 75-80

This is a total of 17 zones – 6 more than TBC introduced. As a reasonable trade-off, I’d like to think that not every zone needs unique world PvP objectives and multiple instances in the initial launch. They can do with these what they did with Ghostlands and Zul’Aman – that is, the instance needn’t be launched at the same time as the zone containing it. There is plenty of other precedence for this.

I think it is entirely reasonable to focus new instanced content on lvl 70+, so perhaps none of the lvl <70 zones get new instances? Either way... I predict that the world will be getting a lot larger and that most of the growth will be on Azeroth this time. And I hope I hope I hope they do something about the lack of good mid-level overland zones in the game. They needn't be huge zones, just interesting changes of pace for people hoping to get their 6th alt over lvl 50 w/o repeating the same blasted quests over and over again.

Prediction: Access to Outland will be improved

Since low level players can already get to Shattrath with a little help from a friendly mage, the level 58 restriction on going through the Dark Portal feels really arbitrary. Especially since it’s possible to enter the Ramparts at level 55, and the level requirement for Master crafting professions is only 50 but they must be trained in Outland. I’d like to see the gate opened to all players capable of driving across the Blasted Lands in the first place. That’s good enough of a restriction already.

Perhaps they’ll eventually add some easier transport methods direct to the Dark Portal? Maybe a portal from Dalaran? Maybe one each from Stormwind and Orgrimmar? Perhaps a faction-neutral zeppelin path from Booty Bay?

Prediction: Woodworking will finally be made available to players

They released Jewelcrafting in TBC with … interesting results. It was an expansion-only profession that was still able to benefit players who were too cheap/uninterested to grab the expansion. It is terribly useful to lvl 65+ characters, just like Enchantments and Alchemy have always been important to high end players.

However, launching a new profession also made for an awful glut of cheap goods on the market. I am a lvl 367/375 jewelcrafter now, and I have yet to break even. I doubt I ever will. I spent hundreds and hundreds of gold to get from 250 to 300. The economy is terribly wrecked as a result of the new demand for jewels, but shrug. It’s not like the incredible inflation from Outland didn’t have a huge effect on prices either ๐Ÿ˜‰

One of the most requested features from players has always been that they let us make our own bows and arrows. I think a profession that makes bows, arrows, staves, and shields would be great. This would fill the gap left by other crafting professions and make it possible to finally craft every type of equipment in the game.

The big problem with releasing woodworking is with the gathering aspect of things… do you add trees to herbalism? Do you make lumber drop off of certain common NPC varieties like cloth does? Do you make trees harvestable by anyone? Do you add a woodcutter/lumberjack gathering profession? Do you make woodworking a combination gathering/crafting profession? None of these options by itself is very ideal.

Enchanting and Jewelcrafting are already combination gathering/crafting professions, with the exception that improvement in the gathering aspect of the profession is only possible by improving the crafting aspect. I think this is a good starting point for Woodworkers.

Allow Woodworkers to break apart bows and staves in order to get special materials – but not their own work (you can’t DE something you just enchanted and expect to get the shards back). Allow them to harvest wood from certain npc corpse types just like miners and herbalists can now. Make plant type mobs likely to drop wood in addition to flowers. Make the numerous lumber mills around the game actually spawn piles of lumber that any player can loot – similar to treasure chests.

I think adding some basic types of lumber (reusing the enchanting wand and campfire materials) to common vendors would not hurt at all – every other crafting profession has to buy some of their reagents already, why not these too?

And if Blizzard does all of that… I think it might work. I don’t like the idea of generically choppable tree nodes like mines and flowers. There’s something about the size of things that just doesn’t quite work for me. Perhaps there could be a class of largish flowers that herbalists can gather if they carry a tool with them. Or, perhaps they could just go ahead and add small trees to the world map that can be cut down. Shrug.

Prediction: The crafting skill cap will be raised to 450, others skills will only increase to 400

This isn’t much of a logical jump here. They need a new tier to make equipment for lvl 80’s. They’ve actually caught themselves in a pretty vicious cycle by bumping character levels out of sync with the crafting levels. When the game launched, both combat and crafting skill caps were 300. When TBC launched, though, they only added 50 levels to combat skills while crafting caps went up by another 75.

If they make the next tier of crafting skill also have a cap of 450, they’ll have gotten 50 ranks out of sync unless they surprise everyone and bump the level cap in the game to 90 ๐Ÿ˜‰ My money’s on increasing the imbalance between the skill numbers.

As far as other skills go… I don’t know. Adding another tier or two of riding skill works well, but what would they add at that point? Aquatic mounts? Mounts that work in certain underground Nerubian zones? I guess the current disparity between crafting and normal skills AND riding skills shows that they don’t much care about the actual balance between the numbers. But I wish they would – it would make things pretty again ๐Ÿ˜‰

Prediction: Secondary skills will get some love

First aid can do precisely two things right now. It can make bandaids and it can make antivenom potions. Mostly, it just makes bandaids since the antivenom is quite inconvenient. I’d like to see first aid have an easier time of curing poisons and have options for treating disease based debuffs – make healing poison easier and make healing disease about as difficult as healing poison is now. They also need to add some additional tiers to the poisons. Right now, the only way to make lvl 60 antivenom is through an Argent Dawn recipe. There is no lvl 70 antivenom – and besides, the ingredients they’d probably use for them are currently being monopolized by people who want to defect over to Scryers ๐Ÿ˜›

I’d also really like it if they could give inoculations that act as long-term disease/poison prevention buffs. It would give priests a reason to train first aid. But a 30 minute buff with say 5 charges of poison curing? Good stuff. Rogues would probably throw a fit, but shrug, I play a hunter. I dislike rogues ๐Ÿ˜‰

At present, cooks can only manufacture food. The skill can’t make drinks – even if a handful of cooking recipes do give +mp5 from their well fed buffs. I think allowing players to manufacture their own drinks would be fun and would entice more people to drop time into the skill. Right now, if people rely on secondary skills for out-of-combat healing, they’re 99% likely to be using bandages anyway…

Besides, it’s not like adding drinks to the skill will in any way unbalance things. Mage water’s still free, ne? ๐Ÿ™‚

Currently, the worst secondary skill is fishing. It requires an insane time commitment to level and is actually quite dangerous at times. This makes it terribly unattractive to anyone but hunters and cooks. And since there are very few people who train cooking in any meaningful way… fishing gets even less attention. I like fishing, but… I’ve not really engaged in any fishing since hitting 300 a while back.

I want to see net fishing. I want to see more fish that come out of the water and attack you. I want to see fishing with dynamite and shotguns and traps. Fishing could easily be made into an interesting mini-game. All crafting could. EQ2 did a great job with that, and WoW could really use a new type of gameplay right about now.

weewar reflections and ideas

My friends and I have been playing a lot of Weewar recently. It’s like multi-player online Advance Wars on a hex grid. The game is both eerily similar and entirely different than AW at the same time.

In the games we’ve watched, discussed, and played over the last week or so, several interesting observations have been made:

  • Infantry are way overpowered.
  • The game is all about money, but then again, lots of games are.
  • Light artillery is useless.
  • The RNG hates me.
  • Alliances win.
  • It’s dangerous to be identified as the big threat.

infantry == free money

When we say infantry are overpowered… there really is no easy way to describe just how overpowered they really are. Light infantry cost $75 and heavy infantry cost $100. The difference is that light infantry move 2x as fast as heavy and heavy infantry hit vehicles 2x as hard as light (the game says that heavy have 4x the offensive power vs vehicles as light do… but that doesn’t seem to translate to 4x the damage potential). Infantry can capture bases. Infantry can cross mountains. Infantry get substantial offensive and defensive bonuses for being in heavy terrain. They suffer penalties in swamps, but then again, so do vehicles.

Compare this with your basic light tank. The tank costs $300 to produce, moves like light infantry, cannot cross mountains, suffers offensive and defensive penalties for being in heavy terrain, and will come out hurting very badly if it tries to solo a heavy infantry unit. Two heavy infantry who get the drop on a tank are assured a win. And it’s entirely possible that both units will survive – allowing them to heal up and fight something else.

This is where the game comes down to money. If $200 worth of infantry can beat $300 worth of vehicles, then the player with the infantry has tipped the money scale dramatically in his favor. To further illustrate the scenareo (which is not 100% realistic, but still illustrates my point), I present the following detailed example. Much of this example is just an extension of ideas Adam expressed a few days ago, so I take very little credit here ๐Ÿ˜‰

Player A and player B are playing a game on a very small map consisting entirely of basic grassland, no fancy terrain bonuses here. Both players control two bases and the battle front is incredibly close. Each base produces $100 per turn. Let’s begin the scenareo with $300 per player and no units.

Turn 1: Player A moves first and creates two heavy infantry, bringing his money down to $100. Player B creates a tank for $300, wiping his money out.

Turn 2: Player A moves his two heavy infantry forward and creates two more. He is spending exactly as much money as he is earning, so his balance remains at $100. Player B had $0 coming into this round, earns $200 for his bases, and decides to keep that money in favor of producing a tank next turn.

Turn 3: Player A attacks the tank with his two foremost infantry and almost kill it. He then moves his second pair forward and creates a third pair of heavy infantry. Player B gets his second tank, dropping his balance down to $100. He attacks one of the infantry that attacked his first tank and kills it, but also takes some damage in the process.

Turn 4: Player A moves his injured infantryman back and attacks the injured tank with one of his fresh units. The tank dies, barely scratching the full strength infantry unit. He moves his 5 other infantry forward and creates two more. Player B attacks the unit that just killed his first tank and injures it fairly badly, dropping it down to 4/10 health, but not after taking 3 damage himself. He creates another tank and is back to nothing in the bank.

Let’s take a moment to count score. Money in the bank doesn’t count, but it doesn’t really matter anyway, since both players have similar amounts of money on hand and coming in. However, compare the monetary value of their units on the board.

Player A has 7 full strength heavy infantry worth $700. He also has one more unit at 40% health for a total value of $740. Player B has one full strength tank on the board worth $300 and one unit at 70% health for a total functional value of $510.

Turn 5: Player A swarms the injured tank with 3 of his uninjured units and kills it. He then moves his 4 remaining uninjured units forward, they are on B’s doorstep by now. His one previously injured unit rests for +1/10 health. He creates two more heavy infantry, bringing his population up to 6 uninjured, 4 moderately injured infantry.

Player B has one solitary tank now. He cannot afford another one. He cannot reach any of player A’s injured units to attack them, his only choice is to attack one of the uninjured units, which he does, injuring it heavily, but not enough to destroy it, and not without taking damage himself.

Turn 6: Player A stomps the injured tank, clearing the board of player B’s units. He moves one of his remaining uninjured infantry ont o each of player B’s bases and begins capturing. All of his injured units rest for +1/10 health. He creates two more units, just to be cheeky about the whole situation. Player B earns $200 more, bringing his money in the bank up to $400, but he can’t do anything with it since both of his bases are occupied.

Turn 7: Player A creates two more units, finishes capturing player B’s bases, and wins the game.

The final tally shows player A having not even broken a sweat. He has 14 units on the board and $100 in the bank, compared to player B’s zero units on the board and his useless $400 in the bank.

So… while it was a slightly unfair example, the point stands. Hordes of infantry are worth way more than their equivalent weight in tanks. Put them in rough terrain and the difference becomes even more marked, the infantry may move slightly slower through rough terrain, but they become significantly tougher. Of course, infantry through rough terrain are usually faster than vehicles through rough terrain anyway… What then, is the counter to heavy infantry? An equal or greater quantity of light infantry. They cost 25% less, move faster and hit heavies just as hard as the heavies hit them back. No contest.

Resting is free money. Remember, the only money that really matters is money that’s already been spent to produce units. If you can get more use out of your units… ๐Ÿ˜‰

There are only two other unit types in the game worth discussing.

Raiders (recon bikes) are the fastest units in the game, they cost $200, and they hit infantry as hard as light tanks. They are great at closing gaps, blocking bases, and picking off solitary infantry. A small group of raiders can hit and run a poorly organized group of infantry into oblivion w/o taking any permanent casualties.

artillery

And then there’s artillery. In basic games, there are only two varieties of artillery. Light and heavy. Light artillery cost $400, move rapidly, and have an attack range of 2-3 hexes. Heavy artillery cost $600, move slowly, have a range of 3-4 hexes, and hit much harder. They have very little defense, so once a normal unit gets next to it, the artillery unit is pretty much dead. “Pro” games have a few more types of vehicles, including more two more varieties of artillery, both of which are quite nifty.

A wall of cheap infantry takes time to carve through, especially if they’re rotating their wounded out to heal. Stick a few heavy artillery pieces behind them and they’re unstoppable.

Why did I say that light artillery is ~useless? Well, for one, it only has an offensive rating of 4|4 (vs infantry|vehicles). Heavy infantry have an offensive rating of 3|4 and you can field 4 of them for the price of one light artillery, or you could get yourself a pair of 5|2 raiders for the same money. The other problem with light artillery is that they have a short range and cannot move and attack on the same turn. Thus they must get very close to the enemy to attack anything at all. That, and despite their speed, they’re pretty much incapable of attacking heavy artillery w/o getting blown to pieces along the way.

Heavy artillery have 5|5 offense, 2x the range, and 1 more armour than light artillery for only 50% more money. Thus, for $1200 you could either field three light artillery and have a hard time positioning them in such a way that all 3 can attack on the same turn w/o being exposed to attack themselves… or you could field a pair of heavies and slowly creep across the map flattening all who oppose.

Artillery Positioning What’s the solution to heavy artillery? Raiders. Large quantities of infantry. Anything that can close into short range and kill w/o being killed first.

How do you keep your artillery from being killed? Keep a thick wall of cheaper units in front of them. Remember, you can buy 8 light infantry for the cost of one heavy artillery. Nothing in the game has AoE attacks… so 8 cheap units take a very long time to carve through… especially if you’re able to cycle the injured ones back to rest.

unbalanced dice

One gripe I have about Weewar is that the random factor really is a bit too random for my taste. I like my tactical games to depend more on tactics than luck. Right now… it is too easy to have a run of bad luck and get knocked out of the game for a few bad rolls.

In Advance Wars, the attacking unit always gained an advantage. Healthier units always did more damage than injured units. Not so with Weewar. It is not unusual for a pair of fully healed infantry to attack a raider and both wind up taking the same amount of damage.

Infantryman 1 attacks the raider, does 3 damage, takes 4 damage.

Infantryman 2 attacks the raider – which should now be operating at only 70% power, does 2 damage, takes 5 damage.

To compound the situation, the game’s official documentation says that multiple units attacking the same target from multiple angles get bonuses.

With small numbers like this, slight variations due to a fickle RNG are still large enough to make any such advantage very hard to notice. It is there. It must be. I’ve convinced myself that it is. But the numbers only occasionally support this.

If you could see the dice, maybe? At least then you could brag about the crits when they happen and blame losing an attack on obviously poor rolls.

I don’t mind randomness… but the game doesn’t even keep a text log of attacks and their results (much less the numbers involved), and I think that makes the occasional spot of ill fortune seem even more pointless and arbitrary than it might otherwise. It’s not unheard of to attack a unit that you should by all rights be able to kill with minimal injury and wind up losing your attacking unit in the process – despite supposed terrain modifiers in your favor, etc…

Shrug. For now, the wide range of possibilities from the RNG are just one more reason that infantry are superior. You don’t feel so bad when the game throws your infantry away as you do when you lose a heavy tank to bad dice ๐Ÿ˜›

strength in numbers, sometimes

Another thing we’ve noticed about the game is that teamwork really makes a difference. Not only does an alliance mean you don’t waste your time killing each other’s units… it typically means ~2x the units pointed at your enemies.

I recently lost a game rather soundly because I was winning. Yup. Lost because I was winning.

See, it was a four-man match on a square board. Each player started in one quadrant of the board. I started in the NW and made a tentative peace with the player to the NE while I built up units along my southern border. The SW player provoked both myself and his other neighbor, the player to the SE. Meanwhile, NE and SE had some minor tussles but nothing too major.

SW made a mistake and I sort of crushed him up against SE and took most of his bases. This left me in control of something like 10 or 12 bases while NE and SE only had 6 or 7 each. This worried them, so they stopped their minor border conflict and charged west at me. Every turn for 4 turns in a row, my line was pushed back by one hex. I didn’t have time to repair any units, the push was too strong.

When I finally surrendered, I had captured SW’s remaining bases but had lost several of my other bases along the border. Between the two of them, they held 15 bases compared to my 11 – a 36% advantage in production capacity. I had started the conflict slightly depleted because of my successful campaign against SW (who had actually held the biggest army before I overtook him), and their collectively superior income were sufficient to give them an overwhelming majority of numbers.

It doesn’t pay to be too big. One-on-one, I could have mopped up either one of them. Unfortunately, because I had such an enormous lead on either one of them individually, they realized the obvious and allied against me. Like lobsters in a tank who can’t stand to let another one climb out… ๐Ÿ˜‰

I think I could have had a chance at the game if I hadn’t taken all of SW’s bases. In stead, I was greedy and took off a bigger bite than I could keep down.

ideas

So, aside from the issues discussed already (infantry need a good nerf batting and the RNG is too random), there’s only really one problem with the game. It’s written in clingy, needy, zero self-esteem sort of AJAX. It’s the kind of code that feels the irrational compulsion to phone home to the server every time you click a unit to select it. I mean… if you’re going to wait for the server to do all of the thinking, why bother with any sort of client-side logic at all? The game could be so much faster, and the server could handle so many more players if they moved most of the incessant click management logic to the client where it belongs and only sent final moves to the server for validation.

And, aside from that little gripe… I’ve a few other things I’d like to see in the game.

Namely, I want to see a greater variety of units. The game is already a paper-rock-scissors contraption, let’s make units even more specialized, eh wot?

A few new types of infantry, perhaps?

  • demolitions squad – normal movement, 1.5x cost of heavy (bazooka) infantry, 1 defense, 0|6 offense (useless against infantry – death to tanks), unable to capture bases, ability to “sabotage” enemy bases. Sabotage destroys the demo squad and reverts the enemy base to neutral – instantly, in stead of having to wait 2 turns for a capture by a normal infantry unit.
  • flamethrower squad – slow movement, 3x cost of heavy infantry, 2 defense, 4|2 offense, deal splash (reduced, indirect) damage to the two hexes behind and to either side of their primary target. Splash damage always happens and attacks any units in the area, regardless of team affiliation.
  • mortar squad – slow movement, 2.5x cost of heavy infantry, 1 defense, 3|5 offense, attack range of 1-2. Attacking adjacent units still counts as indirect fire. Only artillery that can cross mountains. Do not get offensive bonuses or penalties for terrain.
  • recon team – fast movement, 1x cost of heavy infantry, 2 defense, 2|1 offense. Reduced movement penalty for moving across otherwise slow terrain.
  • engineering team – normal movement, 3x cost of heavy infantry, 2 defense, 1|1 offense. Ability to build bunkers that act as immobile 3|3 retaliatory units until destroyed. Building a bunker costs the team 6 health. Bunkers have 2 defense and cannot be repaired once damaged.
  • skirmishers – normal movement, 1x cost of heavy infantry, 3 defense, 2|2 offense. Can use any remaining movement after attacking.

Of course these numbers aren’t really balanced. At least, they’re not balanced any more than the current ones are ๐Ÿ˜›

If we allow flamethrower infantry, we probably want flame tanks as well. Perhaps cluster bomb artillery that randomly hit 2 or 3 hexes adjacent to their target? Maybe some type of AoE that is good vs vehicles but not against infantry? Maybe give a unit the ability to deal damage that tunnels on to the unit behind it, but only on a kill? Rail gun? ๐Ÿ˜ˆ

How about special map restriction options or victory conditions? No artillery allowed, no infantry allowed, no recon bikes allowed? Game ends after 10 turns, with whoever controls the most of the map wins? First player to cap 7 bases wins? Etc…

Fog of war? Probably not. It could work, it does in Advance Wars… but I don’t see it working very well in this sort of environment. It’s too easy for players to share intel, it drags the game out too long if they don’t, etc…

I like the idea of adding shallow water to the game that only infantry are capable of crossing. It would slow them down just as much as mountains would and it gives an offensive and defensive penalty worse than swampland.

If we’re allowing infantry to move in water, how about naval units? That would require a whole new set of maps, but no harm there. Air units? Those would be nice too.

Other terrain types? Jungle is thicker than forest and is the ultimate entrenched position for infantry. Artillery cannot target units in the jungle. Roads give vehicles a bonus to movement but make you terribly vulnerable to attack. Bridges function exactly like roads except they make you even more of a sitting duck.

Could possibly allow engineering units to terraform the map, changing forest to plains to roads and building bridges across rivers, etc…

Mobile factories? Very slow, non-combative units that can only move along roads and over grass. Able to build units wherever they are for 50% extra cost. Can’t drive and build on the same turn. Possibly cost resources to maintain?

But, what I’d really like to see would be troop transports. Infantry are slow. APC’s are not. They’ve got no offense and minimal defense, but they’re cheap and they’ve got movement like a raider. What better way to deliver your bazooka wielding guerrillas to the jungle outside of your enemy’s base ๐Ÿ˜‰

ffx2

A few days ago, Penny decided that she wanted to pick up FFX-2 again. We’ve had it since its release, but, as with most RPG’s, we got distracted partway through and never actually finished it.

I found a save, at the beginning of chapter 5 (out of 5), and we played. Well, Penny played. I sat in the room and watched most of the time. And tonight, we finally beat it.

I’m not entirely sure why the game wasn’t better received. It’s got a good story, some interesting and unique gameplay mechanics, great hooks for the pokemonstering numberchasers out there, and a ton of mini-games. Granted, the whole ‘girl power’ theme comes off a bit strong early on, but it becomes increasingly unimportant as the game progresses. Shrug.

We had 74% completion (Penny had skipped over most of the optional content in chapters 2 and 3). Yuna had mastered black mage. Paine had mastered warrior, dark knight, and white mage. Riku would have mastered the singer class, had we been able to acquire its hidden abilities. All three girls were one sphere away from being able to complete their special classes as well. The party was lvl 57-59 by the time the finall boss went down.

I liked the ending – it was just as serious and emotional as the ending to FFX, but much happier. And, yes, we saw the good ending. Not sure whether we’ll ever try for the “perfect” ending, but I think Penny’s planning on doing a New Game Plus replay with a walkthrough checklist now.

I have two comments about the end-game experience.

  1. The final boss is wimpy compared to some of the stuff you fight shortly before him.
  2. Mana becomes obsolete.

Cactaur

One of the hotspot missions in chapter 5 has you hunting little cactuars from all over the planet. Once you’ve gathered them together, there’s a wimpy boss fight followed by a big monster attack on the nearby Al Bhed camp. The boss is sufficiently tough that they actually warn you – and ask if you want to evac to your airship and leave the poor desert mechanic guys to their doom (and maybe come back later).

We were about lvl 36 at the time. We left. We did other things. We finished every other sidequest in chapter 5, except one. One that requires access to the little desert camp that was being occupied by big evil nastiness incarnate. I ground some levels and skills and walked into the boss fight at lvl 50.

TWO AND A HALF hours later… the boss finally died – giving us another 1% toward our completion counter, a ribbon, some other equipment we never wound up using, and 5000 xp. Yup. 5000 xp. At lvl 50 you can one-shot mobs worth 1000 xp. Turns out, that boss had over 330k hp. We hit him for 750-2500 hp a swing, depending on how badly debuffed the attacker was at the time. Most attacks were for 1000 damage a pop.

Our reward from the Al Bhed for saving them from the ancient sand demon of ultimate destruction? They made us dinner. Specifically, they acknowledged that the fight took a while and the food was prepared while we were getting slaughtered out there ๐Ÿ˜‰

Cross reference this to the final boss. It is a sequence of five fights, each against mobs that are similar in damage output to the desert monster but don’t do aoe status effect attacks. These final boss fights also only have around 30k hp each, and you can save after the first two. There are some optional mobs during one of the boss fights, but since you can’t take the XP with you this late in the game… why bother?

After watching the ending and making a backup of our saves, it was time for Alanna to take a bath. Penny and I had some confusion about what exactly had happened during the ending, so I beat the final round of 3 bosses again in time for her to watch the last few rounds of the final boss with me after bathing the baby.

So… where’s the balance? I understand that it is traditional for Final Fantasy to have optional bosses of immeasurable power… but they usually at least give a reward commensurate with their degree of difficulty. Ultimate sword of doom, biggest summon spell in the game, materia containing every spell in the game, that sort of thing. For this ultimate boss of doom, you get a ribbon. Now, granted, the ribbon is a nice enough item… it still gives immunity to all negative status effects in the game, just like it has since FF1, but there are much easier ways to get status effect resistances, and those much earlier on in the game too.

And I don’t remember any of those fights being 150 minute long marathons – some are even timed to guarantee you finish them in under half an hour, etc… 2.5 hours in a game that took us less than 40 to complete? I spent over 6% of our entire playtime in that one fight.

Meh.

The other thing I noticed was a result of my gearing up to fight the desert monster. Mana is pointless in the endgame. Alchemists are where it’s at. There’s no way that we could have survived anywhere near long enough to beat this boss if it weren’t for my party’s ability to regen 2000 damage in waves that occur every few seconds… forever.

When an alchemist is combined with a pair of dark knights using their darkness attack (fairly quick to perform, aoe non-elemental hit for good damage, costs hp in stead of mana)… you can just hold the kill button down and watch things die. Yojimbo? Anima? Last five bosses of the game? No problem. Ok, actually, not Anima. I sped things up just a touch by swapping one of the dark knights out for a warrior using excalibur since she was weak to holy damage, but it was the same procedure.

And even if you do use abilities that cost mana when traveling with your alchemist, they can get free ethers. Yup, infinite supply of mana heals during combat. It’s neato.

The only thing that prevents the alchemist from being a complete and total game breaker is their lack of natural status effect resistances and their lowish hp. But that’s easily remedied, and they do have an infinite supply of remedies – so they really only have to worry about equipping resistance to the debilitating status effects ๐Ÿ˜› It also helps that they can’t use their abilities to heal the party outside of combat, otherwise mana really would be pointless.

So yeah. Fun game, should have done better commercially. People who liked FFX and dismissed FFX2 for the initial girliness are missing out on the rest of the story.