Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ding-Dong! The Lich Is Dead!

It took 8 tries last night but I finally killed Lich. He killed me 4 times and his trash killed me 3 times but the 8th time I got him. The crazy thing is the 4 times he killed me he landed a slow at about half health and then I got to fight for a long time before he finally killed me. On the kill he didn't even get to cast slow. Several crits in a row coupled with him melee attacking (and failing to paralyze) did him in. (In retrospect it turns out I was using the wrong weapon against Lich the whole time and should have had 3 more damage and 40 more hit against him. That hit would be just for chance to hit and not extra swings, I think, so not a huge deal but every bit counts!)

So, now what? I need to level to 50, become a ninja, gather all the gear I want, and kill a bunch of bosses. Ninja is the first step I think since I need to do that before I hit level 43 if I want all my spell charges. I may need to gear up a little to pull that off so I should also look for easily obtainable treasure chests containing useful stuff. In particular, stuff I may need/want:

Katana - Floating Castle
Light Axe - Sea Shrine
Heal Rod - Castle of Ordeals
Mage Rod - Sea Shrine
Defense Sword - Waterfall
Thor Hammer - Mirage Tower
Masamune - Temple of the Past
Opal Bracelet - Sea Shrine
Black Robe - Floating Castle
Flame Shield - Volcano
Ice Shield - Ice Cavern
Ribbon - Waterfall OR Sea Shrine OR Floating Castle
Heal Helm - Mirage Tower OR Floating Castle
Zeus Gauntlet - Castle of Ordeals
Power Gauntlet - Sea Shrine
ProRing - Floating Castle OR Gaia

In order to change into a Ninja I need to do the Ice Cavern to get the airship and I need to do the Castle of Ordeals to get the tail. Mirage Tower, Sea Shrine, and Floating Castle all require the airship to access. I really want a ribbon so I think my plan is going to be head for the Waterfall, the Ice Cavern, and then the Castle of Ordeals. Then I'll kill some fiends by doing Sea Shrine, Mirage Tower, and Floating Castle. I'll stop to level if things get tough but I have a feeling once I get a ribbon and a proring that I'll be ok. I will have to make sure I don't level off of any of the dungeon bosses though (I am still scumming, after all) so I may just level to 50 after I become a ninja to be safe.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Ninja or Thief?

My intention was to try to beat the game as just a thief if it was at all plausible and only upgrade to a ninja if I felt it was going to be needed to win. Having found out that Chaos has twice as much health makes me really think I'll need to upgrade to a ninja but I want to find out for sure with a little napkin math. I need to make this decision soon since in order to get all your ninja spells you need to make the switch by level 42. I'm currently 37 and I'm spending more time scumming for good levels than I am actually leveling since I can defeat everything on the peninsula of power and most of the monsters there don't run away yet. So, what does Chaos have going for him?

Chaos has 100 attack, 100 absorb, 200 hit, 1 crit, and 100 evade. He has 200 magic defense if I feel like casting terrible spells. Half the time he casts a spell from the following list in order: ice3, lit3, slo2, cur4, fir3, ice2, fast, nuke. Half the time that he doesn't cast a spell he uses a skill from the following list in order: crack, inferno, swirl, tornado. The remaining quarter of the time he melees twice. (Four times after he casts fast.)

Crack is an instant kill which I should be immune from since I will have a ProRing. Inferno has a damage value of 96 but is fire so with the ribbon I should always take normal damage from it. Swirl and tornado have damage values of 64 but will do double damage 68 times out of 201.

Ice3 does 70 damage. Lit3 does 60. Slo2 will blow out the thief 100 times of 201 but will just force the ninja to cast fast again. Cur4 is a full heal so I either need to burn him out before he gets around to casting it or I have to live long enough to burn him out after he casts it. Fir3 does 50 damage. Ice2 does 40 damage. Fast doubles his melee damage. Nuke does 100 damage and does double damage 143 times out of 201!

(Note that when a spell does 'X damage' it actually does damage between X and 2X. So Nuke could very well hit for 400.)

If he melees then he swings twice with 168+200 hit. On the NES this would actually be capped at 255 before taking my evade into account but on the PS he gets the full hit. My avoid is likely to be 99 so on the NES I'd get crit 1 time and hit 156 times in 201. On the PS I get crit 1 time and hit 200 times out of 201. That's right, even if I max my agility the 'hard to hit' character is guaranteed to be hit. I could use the shirt to max my avoid at 255 if I wanted to waste time (say, if my plan was to win after he heals to full) which would eliminate all normal hits on the NES and lower them to being hit 113 times instead of every time on the PS. My absorb will be 55 if I wear ribbon, proring, fire shield, opal bracelet. (Ninja only for the shield. I can drop 2 evade and 4 absorb as a thief.) So each time he swings on the NES he does 74 damage and each time he swings on the PS he does 95 damage. But when he attacks he swings twice (4 times after fast) so he actually hits me for 148, 190, 296, or 380 depending on game and haste status.

The expected damage from his spells/skills is 144 for inferno, 128 for swirl and tornado, 105 for ice3, 90 for lit3, 75 for fir3, 60 for ice2, and 257 for nuke.

So his attack damage is actually scarier than his spell damage. (Nuke can only be cast after fast.) These swings all have pretty high variance though, so I while I will get hit by everything I may just take low damage from most of it. But most likely, I'm dead in 7 or 8 damage actions. Probably I have to just burn him out before he casts cur4 (and therefore fast). So I get 7ish attacks to win, more if I get lucky and he attacks me a lot. (But not much more, since if he attacks me a lot I actually die faster.)

Is 7 attacks enough? Well, I'll have equipped masamune at this point. (Or maybe katana?) Masamune has 56 base attack. I will have 54 strength, so I get an extra 27 from that. So I will have 83 total attack. It has 50 hit, for a total of 153 hit and 5 attacks. It has a crit of 40 on the NES and 10 on the PS. Katana has only 33 attack and 35 hit but it has 38 crit on the NES and 30 on the PS. Also, for what it matters, only a ninja can use katana but a thief can use masamune.

Plugging everything into my spreadsheet I have total average damage on the NES with a masamune at 54 per swing. On the NES with a katana is 21. On the PS with a masamune is 34. On the PS with a katana is 17. I have 5 attacks per round so I need 8 rounds to win on the NES with a masamune, 24 on the PS with a masamune, and 47 on the PS with a katana.

I can live 8 rounds for sure and I can definitely get lucky enough to have 8 actions before the full heal, so I'm pretty sure I could win as a thief on the NES. There's no way to win on the PS as a thief. Even if I had infinite life his full heals would come more often than I could deal 4000 damage. Now, I could certainly get lucky with infinite health and get a long enough string of crits to win but the likelihood of that happening seems pretty small.

If I become a ninja then I can cast both fast and temper to boost my own damage. I could try to get lucky and cast slow, dark, and lock to try to make chaos weaker. I have items to use to boost my evasion and to heal myself. Fast alone reduces the number of rounds to kill him from 24 to 12. (+1 for the one to cast fast.) Temper adds 14 to my attack which alone would take me from 24 to 15. Put them both together and I'm winning in 8. This actually doesn't seem unreasonable. I waste two rounds to cast them both so I need to get a lot luckier than on the NES but it just could work.

The debuff spells are essentially impossible to land since Chaos has 200 magic defense and resists status. I think I'd hit 1 time in 201 when I roll a 0 and that's it.

But I don't think I need them. (I guess if I thought I did then I could try over and over to land my 1 in 201.) I am convinced I need to be a ninja though, so I cannot power level to 50 right away. I pretty much have to ding 39, kill Lich, and rush to the class change quest. I think I might be able to kill Chaos if I can pull that off. I just hope I can become a ninja and kill everything before him!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

8-Bit Theater

Before I'd decided to run the solo thief I'd actually started a game up with a normal sized party. I used a party based on the webcomic 8-Bit Theater which is the best serial webcomic I've ever seen. (It loosely follows the plot of Final Fantasy and has finished. Go read it if you haven't. Read it again if you have!) The party featured in the comic is Fighter, Thief, Red Mage, and Black Mage but I got to name the characters in my game party. Now, these characters are taken to some real extremes so it's hard to match characters up to people I know exactly, but I was pretty happy with my overall choices. Can you guess who is who?

Monday, March 28, 2011

Lich Dropped Out And Got Big

I did a lot of digging yesterday (ok, I googled "how much health does Lich have in Final Fantasy Origins" and clicked each link until I found one with the information I wanted) and I figured out why Lich didn't die when I did way more than his max health to him. It turns out the people at Square who put out the remakes of the game decided to buff his health along with that of some other bosses. (I did notice Vampire didn't die when he should have but since I just hit him again and he died I didn't pay much attention to it.) So while Lich has 400 health on the NES he has 800 health on the PS and actually has 1200 health on the GBA and PSP. I'm not aware of any changes to the game that would justify this so I assume they just wanted to make it harder. Damage dealt in the PS version is actually substantially lower than damage dealt on the NES as it is, so doubling the health of a monster drastically increases the difficulty of the fight. (Crit percentages were a lot higher on the NES due to a bug and crit damage was a lot higher due to what I believe was a design change and not a bug fix as they fundamentally changed the crit damage formula.)

I'm currently working on leveling to 39 to obtain my 4th attack. My hope is the extra magic defense will help make the slow spell miss and coupled with the 4th attack I should be able to beat him, but I'm running out of ways to get more powerful. There is no 5th attack coming until either I become a ninja (and get a much better weapon) or obtain masamune. There is never a 6th attack. The level cap of 50 means my damage gain from strength, evade from agility, and magic defense from leveling is going to run dry real soon. I was pretty sure I could win with the NES values but can I win with PS values? Who else fatted up? I went into the pages at this site and looked through all the bosses. Most seemed to change between the NES and PSP version but only 6 look to have changed between the NES and PS versions.

Vampire - 156 - 280 - 280

Lich - 400 - 800 - 1200
Kary - 600 - 1200 - 1440
Lich #2 - 500 - 1000 - 2800
Kary #2 - 700 - 1400 - 3200
Chaos - 2000 - 4000 - 20000

Vampire was no problem. Lich hurt but I think I can surmount it. The remaining 4 I'm not sure so sure of. An extra 700 health on the second Kary seems like it might be a real problem but I'm hoping it can be done. 4000 on Chaos is shattering my will to go on. Doing 2000 damage at all was pretty daunting. 4000 seems off the chart, especially with the nerfed crit damage. I'm going to press on, of course, but I no longer feel like this is something I can accomplish. I am now wishing my dead idiots were also thieves so I could kill him with 2 thieves. Instead all my buddies were squishy black mages.

Oh, and Warmech has 1000 health on the NES and 2000 health with a 100 health per round regen rate on the PS. Yikes!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Lich is a Big Cheater!

I leveled up to 28 and made it to Lich. He has 400 health according to every FAQ I've been able to find. I'm sure I did well over 500 damage to him and he still didn't die. So I decided to level up some more and came back at level 32. I kept a running total of how much damage I did to him and it was only 457 this time but that still exceeds 400 by quite a bit so I really don't know what's going on here. Do I need to level all the way to 39 to get my fourth attack to be safe? I wish I knew what my actual goal was so I could work out if I needed to level more or just try again and get luckier.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Final Fantasy Marathon: What To Include?

A couple days ago my sister linked to the music from one of the zones in Final Fantasy XI (the MMORPG from 9 years ago). It brought back memories of playing it before I got converted to World of Warcraft and got me wondering... Should it be part of this marathon? If so, when have I 'beaten' it to move on to FFXII? Should I even be doing things in order? I have hand held versions of several of the games. Should I be playing those on the bus to work? How about true sequels that came out at later dates? FFX-2 and FFIV-2 in particular. What about spin off games? Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest, Final Fantasy Tactics, Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles. The old Gameboy Final Fantasy Legends games. Chocobo Tales. Something I've never heard of before for the DS "Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light"?

My initial thinking was to just play the true console games. I through X, XII, XIII. X-2 because wanting to play it in particular inspired playing them all again. But why shouldn't I track down other games I haven't played before? FFIV is my favourite game of all time, shouldn't I give the sequel a spin? And if I could find other people to play FFXI, shouldn't I? (Apparently the servers were shut down due to the tragedy in Japan but I imagine they'll be up and running again eventually.) I think things would get a little confusing if I was playing multiple games at once so the hand held ones will just be played once their time comes, but I think the MMO would be such a break that I shouldn't wait to 'finish' it.

I don't own any of the spin-off games except Mystic Quest and the Tactics Advance games but I may try to track them down if the mood strikes when I get close to the proper times. For my later reference in order, by initial release date. (Wow! A lot of stuff here!)

Final Fantasy- 1987
Final Fantasy II - 1988
Final Fantasy III - 1990
Final Fantasy Legend - 1989
Final Fantasy IV - 1991Final Fantasy Legend II - 1991
Final Fantasy Adventure - 1991
Final Fantasy Legend III - 1991
Final Fantasy Mystic Quest - 1992
Final Fantasy V - 1992
Final Fantasy VI - 1994
Final Fantasy VII - 1997
Final Fantasy Tactics - 1997
Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon - 1997
Ehrgeiz - 1998
Chocobo's Mysterious Dungeon 2 - 1998
Final Fantasy VIII - 1999
Chocobo Racing - 1999
Chocobo Stallion - 1999
Chocobo Collection - 1999
Final Fantasy IX - 2000
Working Chocobo - 2000
Final Fantasy X - 2001
Final Fantasy XI - 2002
Kingdom Hearts - 2002
Chocobo Land - 2002
Final Fantasy X-2 - 2003
Final Fantasy Tactics: Advance - 2003
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles - 2003
Final Fantasy VII: Before Crisis - 2004
Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories - 2004
Final Fantasy VII: Snowboarding - 2005
Kingdom Hearts 2 - 2005
Final Fantasy XII - 2006
Final Fantasy VII: Dirge of Cerberus - 2006
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings - 2007
Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core - 2007
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions - 2007
Final Fantasy Tactics A2: Grimoire of the Rift - 2007
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles: Ring of Fates - 2007
Final Fantasy IV: The After Years - 2008
Final Fantasy XIII - 2009
Dissidia: Final Fantasy - 2009
Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light - 2009
Final Fantasy XIV - 2010
Final Fantasy XIII: Agito - TBA
Final Fantasy XIII: Versus - TBA
Final Fantasy XIII-2 - TBA

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lich: A Real Problem

I don't have a whole lot of time to play on Wednesday and Thursday (sleep, work, and raiding all get in the way) so I haven't gotten a lot of shots in on Lich yet. Well, really I've only had 1 actual shot at Lich and about 7 deaths trying to get to him. (On top of mobs that paralyze there are mobs that petrify in his rather large dungeon.) I didn't even come close to killing him the one time I made it down to him. He's basically a bigger, badder version of Astos. Like Astos he has almost a 75% chance to cast a spell. His spells are a little tamer than Astos' are, but only slightly. He casts haste, slow, and sleep. He casts 3 of the level 2 damage spells instead of Astos' 2. He has a second sleep spell. And he has hold, which paralyzes me. It's not quite instant death like rub was, but it hits 15% more often. On top of that his melee attacks can paralyze as well. He has 14 more base damage and 7 more hit but 54 less evade. And the minor matter of 232 more hit points.

The one time I made it to him he landed his slow, stun, and both sleeps. I didn't get any crits and only inflicted around 140 damage total. I feel like this fight should be doable at my current level but I will once again probably need to get lucky. I don't really have any avenues to power up, either. If I get all the way to level 39 I get a 4th attack and every level does grant me .5% dodge, 1% magic resist, and .75 damage per swing so I can power up a little bit. Fortunately leveling isn't tedious at this point at all since I have access to the hallway of giants. The annoying part is going to be sailing back to the starting town to buy more potions every so many fights.

I think my current plan is to level up to 28 or 30 and give it another go. The extra avoid and resist from leveling will help survive the paralyze/petrify mobs on the way down as well so maybe I can fight Lich more than 14% of the time that I try to. (For an undead mob to paralyze me he first needs to land a melee attack and then roll equal to or under 100-MR on 0-200 to land the debuff. Theoretically if I went all the way to 50 they'd have less than a 1% chance to paralyze me assuming they even landed the attack in the first place. But if I did that I wouldn't get to cast ninja spells.)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Fighter vs Thief

There have been some comments about how a single fighter is probably better than most parties and a single thief is abysmal. I don't dispute either of those claims. My question is, at this point in the game (gearing up to fight Astos) just how comparable are the two classes? I haven't gone over the defensive numbers yet, but offensively the differences are:
  • Fighters can use the silver sword, thieves can use the sabre. The silver sword has 10 more damage, 10 more hit, and 5 less crit. Unless you're playing on the NES that is, in which case it has 5 more crit than the sabre.
  • Fighters get 3 hit per level. Thieves get 2.
  • Fighters are guaranteed a strength gain every level. Thieves don't, but I'm resetting every time I gain a level that doesn't include a strength so I actually keep pace here.
  • Fighters start with 15 more base strength.
  • Fighters start with 5 more base hit.

Assuming Tuesday's post was right I need 3 hits to win as a thief. (Turns out I actually won at level 25.) This requires level 28 to accomplish. A fighter, on the other hand, gets his 3rd hit at level 14. The thief has a base damage of 29 at level 28. A fighter has a base damage of 33 at level 1! He may or may not live as long at level 14 as a thief does at level 28 but if he does he deals way more damage. At level 14 he'll kill Astos in 11 swings on the PS and in 9 on the NES compared to 26 and 23 for the thief. Ok, so we need to delevel the fighter even more so he only gets 2 swings per round. Even if we knock him down to level 7 he still wins on both the PS and the NES in at least 1 fewer round on average. On the NES he actually doesn't even get worse than the thief until we take away his second attack. That's right, a level 4 fighter with 2 swings per round is better at dealing damage to Astos than a level 28 thief with 3 swings per round is. But he'll have a hard time living through 7 rounds... Or will he?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Suck It, Astos!

Last night was a long, tedious, but ultimately productive night. I loaded up at level 22 and plowed my way to level 25. At 24 I wandered around a bit to try to find a better place to level and found I could beat the weakest of the 'peninsula of power' monsters but ultimately decided I was dying too much to make up for the extra experience from the fights I could win.

I hit 25 and found I could barely get any experience at all (every level gained increases the chance a mob runs away by 4% and it still took 3 rounds to kill an ogre so they were often running away wounded). I decided there was a fight worth reasonable experience that I could probably handle... The wizards at the bottom of the marsh cave! Astos is pretty much on the way to the marsh cave so I figured I'd save outside his castle and give him a couple spins to see where I was at.

The first fight I got slowed as his second action but still managed to do about 70 damage before I died. The second fight I got rubbed out as his first action. The third fight I got rubbed out as his first action.

The fourth fight he opened with a melee attack while I got a good roll and hit him for 13. He missed his rub and I hit him for 9. He slowed me successfully but I crit him for 28. He then proceeded to melee attack me four times in a row while I hit him for one attack a round. He went through the rest of his spells and I got off a max hit of 14 along with some other decent hits. He missed the dark, the sleep, and his second rub. Coming into his damage spells I had 144 health left and he had 38 health left. He fireballed me for a mere 42. I attacked and crit him for 37. So here we are. He has 1 health left. I have 102 health left. His next spell is a damage spell which can hit for up to 120. I could miss my one swing. Will I win?!?

I ended up going first and hit him for 9, killing him off at level 25. Woo! Without realizing it I gave the D-X 'suck it' motion to the tv as he was dying, hence the title of the post.

The key you ultimately get as a reward for killing him let me get a weapon with 7 more damage and 10 more hit than my current weapon, opening up my third swing and practically doubling my damage output. The next town which was trivial to reach let me buy a new armor piece with an extra 10 absorb and 7 evade. Those changes coupled with the over 500 base health I have at level 25 have turned me into a practical god among men. I entered the next dungeon and monsters I'd never seen before were trembling in fear and fleeing at the sound of my approach. And then I ran into a group of 9 undead who can paralyze on attack and got hit before I could run, wiping out my progress in the dungeon. I really need to find a ribbon, pronto!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Final Fantasy: Damage Formula

All information summarized here was provided by this very in-depth FAQ. It turns out the original Final Fantasy on the NES had a plethora of bugs which were fixed on the PS version which I'm playing. This makes things easier in some cases and harder in others. (For one thing it's impossible to become practically immune to being hit with Ruse now.) The run away formula is one of those things. The game still rolls a number between 0 and 15+x and compares with your luck to see if you'll run away, but in the PS version x is your character level instead of some random number with no relevance at all. So on the PS the thief both starts and ends the game as the absolute best runner. (Woo?) But on the down side, the thief will always have a chance to fail at running now while on the NES he was guaranteed to get away as of like level 3.

The formulae I most care about are those dealing with hits and crits. Now, in the original NES version the crit chance was buggy. Each weapon was supposed to have a crit chance value innate to the weapon but instead the crit chance was based on the position of the weapon in the list. So the last weapon in the list had the highest crit chance which substantially boosted the power of Excalibur compared to Katana. Regardless though, that's not the important change for now. They actually changed what crits do. Typically a weapon swing does somewhere between D and 2D damage, with the enemy absorb subtracted. On the NES when you crit you add the random roll in again, without subtracting absorb, so you do at least double damage. If you rolled X then you do 2X-A damage. On the Playstation a crit merely ignores armor. So you do X damage. Now, the game actually forces X-A to be at least 1 regardless, so 2X-A is strictly greater than X. It also means crit don't scale with weapon damage. They actually scale with opponent absorb. Which is just plain weird, I think.

At level 22 I do between 26-52 damage a swing. Astos has 40 armor. So on the NES my crit would average 42 damage and on the PS my crit averages 39 damage. On the NES my weapon would have a 6% crit chance, on the PS it has a 5% crit chance. My non-crits would do 3 damage on average regardless of platform.

As far as odds of hitting go the game actually rolls between 0 and 200. A 0 is an auto-crit, a 200 is an auto-miss. Otherwise you check against 168+hit stat-evade stat. Note that on the NES they cap 168+hit stat at 255 regardless of evade which is why you can become unhittable with max evasion. Astos has an evade of 78 and I have a hit of 52. So 142 times out of 201 I'll hit. On the NES 12 of those would be crits. On the PS 10 would be crits. The difference isn't actually that extreme between the two versions (clearly it's harder on the PS) and as it stands I average a little over 4 damage a swing and need to attack 40 times on average to win. I'll look at incoming damage formulas later but as a rough feeling right now I can survive to attack probably 12 times if I'm lucky. For that to happen I need to have him miss me with Rub, both slows, and the blind. (Though I don't think blind affects crits so maybe that doesn't really matter.) Even still that's only 24 swings and not even close to the 40 I want.

What if I level up some? If I get all the way up to level 26 and keep using my current weapon I continue to only get 2 attacks per round. My average damage per swing will go up to almost 6 per swing and I will need only 30 swings to win. The extra 60-80 health will likely buy me another turn or two as well on top of what the extra 2% dodge and innate magic resistance gains will give me. I may be at the point where I can get lucky and win here. If I switch weapons I get an extra swing per round but actually lose 3 base damage and half of my crit chance. I end up not even averaging 3 damage per round and will need 57 swings to win. If I get all the way to level 28 I'll be averaging more than 6.5 damage per swing and will need only 26 swings on average to win. I'll get the extra swing per round and even more health and damage reduction so I'll probably get to swing 45 times before I die. This seems insanely good. I might need to get lucky to win at level 26 or 27 but at 28 I'm pretty much a lock to win after a few tries.

Unlike the wizards who lived at the bottom of a cave and required me to run from 4-6 fights each way before I could try them I can save right outside Astos' castle and get lots of tries on him. Leveling takes so long I'll probably take a break and try to win a bit at 26 and at 27 but after looking at the numbers I'm pretty convinced I can win for sure at 28 and will therefore keep slogging.

Monday, March 21, 2011

One Step Forward, Two Steps Backward

I made it to level 20 yesterday and decided to give the wizards another shot. My first encounter was with three wizards and I managed to kill one of them before I died. That gave me hope, so I went in again and ran into the optimal two wizards. I managed to beat them down with plenty of health to spare! Victory! I took the crown, drank to full, and went to leave the dungeon. On the way out I ran into some monsters who can paralyze me. They went before I did, paralyzed me, and then slowly beat me to death while I couldn't take any actions. I'd won the battle but not the war, it would seem.

That was discouraging, but I went back in again. A couple tries later I ran into two wizards and they beat me. I tried again. Two wizards, and I won! And then I got paralyzed on the way out and died. I made it down to two wizards twice more, and they beat me both times. At this point I'd spent a couple hours trying with nothing at all to show for it, so I gave up. I played some League of Legends games, watched some Battlestar Gallactica, and then came back. I looked up the stats for the monsters that were paralyzing me and determined another level or two and they'd probably start running from me before they managed to beat me to death so I went to level up some more. This would also help solidify beating the two wizard fight since I was only 2 for 5 as it was.

I gained one level, and then took note of how fast I was gaining experience at level 21. It seemed like it would take an hour and a half to level which was depressing. (It turns out anything I have a chance at beating is scared to death of me and runs away, so not only is my tnl going up by huge amounts but the amount of experience I get per fight is nosediving.) So I went and gave the wizards another shot. This time I beat the two wizard fight and actually ran away successfully from the ghouls in the dungeon and made it to the surface. Victory! I have my crown! I'm one trivial boss fight away from getting the mystic key and with it a huge weapon and armor upgrade, along with access to more places to potentially level up.

Only it turns out that one trivial boss fight is absolutely not trivial for one thief. Normally I have to level up to beat the marsh cave, so when a normal party is good enough to get the crown it's more than good enough to kill Astos. But he's nigh invincible against a thief. I'm not sure it's even plausible to win, though I will look into the numbers further tomorrow to see if I even have a shot at level 28...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Avoidance vs Mitigation

This is an age old debate that takes place amongst World of Warcraft tanks. Would you rather take less damage per swing or would you rather just get hit less often? In World of Warcraft regardless of the right answer in terms of total incoming damage the reality tends to be you should just stack mitigation and maximum health. The reason is in WoW you have healers pounding heals into you constantly. Depending on the expansion, all a dodge really meant was more healing became overheal. The situation is a little different when you're a lonesome thief in a Final Fantasy game. My only source of healing in combat is to drink a potion which restores such an inconsequential amount that any fight where it could help is by definition trivial. (The 9 pirate fight was a potential exception; I could have hit it at a level where I could burn out 6 of the 9 pirates and then drink to full. Instead I just gained an extra level and killed all 9 pirates with no worry.) So what I'm looking at here is a strict damage prevented amount.

In particular, lets pretend I'm a level 16 thief that failed to scum optimal agility. Fully geared up I have 59 evasion and 6 absorb. I could switch that up and go to 69 evasion and 0 absorb, or to levels in between. Wizards attack twice per round for 30-60 damage a swing. (As an aside, what kind of wizard knows no spells and hits like a truck?) With my gear on, I expect to get hit for 39 damage 77% of the time, for 30 damage per swing. With my gear off I expect to get hit for 45 damage 73% of the time, for 33 damage per swing. So say I stick with the 30 damage a swing setup. They swing twice a round and I have 366 max health, so the 7th swing kills me. I need to have only two show up and then kill them each in two swings to win.

Wizards have an absorb of 16. My attack is 23, so I do between 7-30 damage a swing. I do swing twice, so it is possibly to kill them in two rounds but not likely, especially since they actually have 66 agility for a very high dodge rate themselves.

I actually tried to kill them at level 16 and it felt like I had no chance. I'm sure if I got lucky and crit my first swing on a 2-wizard fight I might be able to win but as it stands I don't have much hope. So my current plan is to level to 20 and hope the extra health buffer, the extra 2-4 damage per swing, and the extra 1.2% dodge will be enough... But realistically, I'm going to need the third attack at level 26 with the bad weapon or level 28 with the good one.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Final Fantasy: Progress!

I managed to take Garland down without much trouble, but then ran into the problem that the random encounters in the next area were all harder than Garland was. So I had to grind on stupid goblins for several more levels before eventually running my way to Bikke and slaughtering his pirates mercilessly. I boated to the elf town and proceeded to get into random fights right beside town. About half of them would kill me but the other half I could barely win and they were worth 5-10 times as much xp as the goblin fights were, so it was a good deal. The only downside was the inn in the elf town costs 100 gil to use, I had to use it after every fight, and some of the fights I could kill were worth less than 100.

Eventually I hit level 10 (learning along the way that you can actually scum for good hp gain levels, for an extra 19+d6 health if I scum which has to be worth doing) and got my second attack. This enabled me to beat pretty much all the random encounters outside the elf town. At level 12 I was able to do a couple fights before resting and decided to give the next dungeon a shot. I ran my way to the wizards at the bottom (learning along the way that 19 luck is not a guarantee in the playstation version and that monsters that look fast like wolves are hard to run from) and got obliterated. I got to take 1 action before I was dead. Now, that was a group of 4 wizards and I didn't get lucky on dodges so maybe I could have a chance against 2 wizards, right? Wrong. I got to take two actions. A miss and a 1x hit for 10. A quick look at a FAQ shows they have 84 health each, so I was not even close to killing one of them, let alone two.

The problem now is leveling up doesn't make me appreciably more powerful. Do I need to wait until I have 3 attacks to kill them? If I switch to a higher +hit weapon that'll happen at level 26. I'll have more than double my max hp at that time too, so I should be able to win then for sure. Alternatively the wizards hit so hard I could just take off my armour for the extra avoid being naked gives and hope I get lucky. My tentative plan is to level up to 16, crunch some numbers on removing my armour, and trying again.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Final Fantasy: Scumming for Stats

In the original Final Fantasy there is only one way to get bonus stats: to level up. You can level at most 49 times, and can gain at most 1 of each stat per level so there is a very real hard cap in terms of how good a given character (say, a thief) can be.

The stats you gain on level up aren't really as random as you might think though. It turns out each level has a fixed set of stats you're guaranteed to gain (level 2 was a strength, an agility, and a luck for example) and then you have a chance (supposedly 50%) to also get the other stats. So theoretically I could save before every level gain and reset if I didn't get every stat, but that will take a long time. The question is, which stats should I actually scum for? What do the stats do? I did some digging and have a rough idea:

Strength - Every 2 strength increases the damage done per swing by an average of 1.5. I think I'll have 10 attacks at max level with fast up, so every strength is 7.5 damage per attack. This seems pretty good.

Agility - Your base evade is 40 + your agility. No one really knows what the evade formula is, but it seems reasonable to me that the attack rolls a number between 0-255 and if it's under your evade you don't get hit. If that is true, then an agility is worth 0.4% dodge. I'm not sure if the plan for killing bosses is going to involve the ruse shirt or not (probably yes) but if not then this seems good. Otherwise pretty irrelevant.

Intelligence - As best I can tell this stat has no game effect.

Endurance - When you level up you gain max health based on a formula. Either you gain 1 + (End/4) or you gain 20 + d6 + (End/4). So gaining an endurance at level 10 will likely get me 10 max health when I hit the level cap. The early couple endurance are probably worth scumming for, but later ones don't seem too important. I'm better off scumming for a better d6 roll on my big health levels, really.

Luck - Apparently when you're trying to run away the game rolls a number between 0 and (16+x) and then compares that to your luck. If the roll is less than your luck, you run away. But the game is bugged, and whatever they meant x to be it's something else entirely. If the runner is in the first slot then x is based on the status of the character in the third slot. In my case that status will always be dead, so x is 1. As such, if I have at least 18 luck I'm guaranteed to run away. I'm level 6 now and have 19 luck, so unless they fixed the bug in the Playstation version I'm guaranteed to run away.

So it seems like Int and Luck are worthless so I might as well scum for Str and Agi. Maybe End too if I feel like it at the time but I won't worry if I miss some.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Final Fantasy: Plan

First up will be the original Final Fantasy, though I will be playing the Playstation version since my NES doesn't work and frankly I like the ability to buy more than one potion at a time. And the run button! It's not as good as the walk button but then what is? It turned out I have my completed save game from 4 white mages on my old memory card and can start a new game from there if I wanted. I didn't know what would be different so I went to gamefaqs to see what the difference is. Turns out, not much. You can unlock some more pictures if you play a second game on the easy difficulty but I really don't see a reason to want to play on easy. I did, however, see a walkthrough on beating the game with one white mage. It did seem pretty easy with 4 white mages, so maybe 1 white mage would be cool. But why do what that guy did when I can be a little different? There were also guides on doing it with every other class, save thief. I'm naturally drawn to thieves anyway (Locke was the answer to yesterday's bonus question) so I'm going to try playing with but a single thief. It sounded like it was plausible but could require scumming for levels which I am not above doing, I assure you.

I started out yesterday, got my three black mage friends murdered, and started leveling. It turns out a single thief is really abysmally bad at level 1. Also at level 4. I pretty much can only kill goblins without risking death, and each goblin is worth 6 xp each. To get from level 5 to level 6 requires an extra 975 xp, or 163 goblins. Woo? I did just hit level 5 last night before I went to bed so maybe I'll try to kill Garland. If not, 163 more goblins it is!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Final Fantasy Marathon

I spent a good chunk of the weekend listening to music from the Final Fantasy games and got a real urge to play most of them again. I figure if I'm playing most of them I might as well play all of them. I never did finish XII or XIII and the other non-NES ones are all pretty great so there's a good reason to play them all again. Some to just watch the story and play around with the mechanics again, but others I want to do something different. Something like playing all white mages in FFI, or only using 3 characters total for the second half of FFVI. (The game forces you to pick up Celes, Edgar, and Setzer. (Who happen to be three of my four favourite characters in the game. Guess who the fourth is for a no-prize!)

But I've already done those. I've killed Sephiroth entirely with morph damage. I don't think I ever actually beat FFV at level 2 (someone saved over my game after 50+ hours of watching the same enemy run away for 1AP) so I might try that but man was that boring. I remember when I was doing that I would actually play three games at once. FFV on the little tv, FFVIII on the big tv, and FFII on an emulator on Josh's pc. I don't think I beat the challenge bosses in FFV either, so I may do that instead. I dodged the stupid 200 lightning bolts to build stupid Lulu's stupid weapon in FFX. I'm pretty sure I found every buried treasure thing in FFIX. I don't want to do the same crazy thing again, that would be silly.

I fell off the daily posting wagon recently. (The first day I missed in over 6 months came because my internet went down for 12+ hours one day and I hadn't posted from work. I went so far as to take my laptop out into the neighbourhood near midnight and plugged it into the electrical outlet outside Starbucks in the hopes I could find a wireless connection nearby but it wasn't to be.) Missing one day pretty much removed the incentive to post, which as you can see resulted in not a lot of anything. I'm still not sure where I want to go as far as content here and whatnot, but the fact I can't remember if I beat FFV at level 2 or not bothers me in a way that isn't even vaguely rational. So my plan is to start posting daily about my exploits playing Final Fantasy games for future me's amusement and we'll see where we end up from there.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


I got to play a new to me board game last Tuesday - Antiquity. This is a game that came out in the last decade but had a really limited print run which has caused it to be pretty scarce. (It isn't even listed on eBay right now. On BGG's marketplace it's in the $250-$300 range.) The game has a lot of little cardboard bits and new was probably around $100 but clearly it's gone up a lot. It seems to have a pretty limited audience in that it's a pretty hardcore game but after one play it seems fantastic.

The basic idea is you're building up an empire from pretty close to scratch. You start with a city on a hex grid and 6 wood and need to expand your empire by acquiring resources and turning them into more resources or into winning the game. There are 10 types of goods in the game as resources to manage along with needing to manage your population, your city real estate, your world map zone of control, and your pollution. Your first 4 dudes are free but beyond that if you want more people you need to pay an increasing amount of resources to unlock more dudes.

For example, to start the game you might spend 1 of your starting wood on a building in your city, the cart shop. This building lets you stick a man in it to gather resources on the world map. So you might put one of your 4 free guys in there with another wood and tell him to build a lumbermill. This will let you pick a tree hex on the board and chop it and all adjacent trees down. Each turn you'll get one of those wood until they're all gone at which point you'll get the guy back. So you can spend 1 wood and 5 turns of a guy to get 5 wood, which you will use in future turns to build more buildings or get even more stuff. Or maybe you want to send him fishing instead, so you can get some fish which you can use to get another guy and then send that guy out for wood. Or stone...

Using land for farming, mining, or fishing pollutes it, so you can only use it once. On top of that you have to pollute 3 hexes each turn, so you pretty quickly run out of usable space. Just like in real life the solution to the problem tends to be to just expand which will give you more hexes to pull raw resources from or just to dump your pollution. The over world map has a reasonable but not excessive amount of space, so you don't get to expand much at all before you run into other players. You can't really attack other players perse, but you do get to dump your pollution onto places they might want to use. Also if you build extra cities in your expanding you get to put even more pollution onto the board each turn!

Finally, every turn you need to have more and more food in storage or your people start to die. This isn't as bad as it sounds and at the same time is actually much worse than it sounds. When people die you don't lose population or anything of the sort, all that happens is you have to put a grave into your city for each dead person. This eats up space you were probably planning to use on buildings that do things to help you win the game, though, which could be a problem. You can fix this by storing excess food, or by building extra cities just to hold dead people, or by building specific buildings which can help with this problem like the granary (+3 food each turn for the purposes of famine) or the hospital (remove 5 graves from your city each turn).Run out of room for graves and you need to start stacking them onto your buildings which will disable them. Run out of buildings to disable and you lose the game!

So you have all these resources and things to manage... How do you win? That's the beauty of the game. You get to pick your winning condition! One of the buildings you can build is called the cathedral, and when you build it you get to pick a patron saint. There are 5 different saints you can choose and the one you pick determines what you're trying to do in order to win and gives you a special power that helps you accomplish your chosen goal. Your options are:

  • Build all 20 of your population houses. The bonus provided to help this along is whenever you build two houses at once you get the cheaper one for free. House costs range from free to 6 resources and you need to have room in your cities for all 20 houses.
  • Build at least one of every single building in the game. The bonus for doing this one is you can rearrange your buildings at any time. Some of the buildings have really weird shapes (think Princes of Florence) and a few of them need to actually connect together for optimal use. (There's a university and 4 faculties which together are so big they occupy an entire city. Build them apart and you need a worked in each faculty to operate them, but build them beside the university and you just need 1 worker to power all of them at once.) 
  • Own 3 of every food and luxury good in the game. There are 4 of each, so this amounts to having 24 specific goods on hand at one time to win. The bonus to help do this is you can store an infinite number of goods in your cathedral. (Typically you can't store anything at all, so you have to discard anything you don't use. You can build a storage building which lets you hold one good per square of the storage assuming you put a guy on it. So this bonus saves you a guy a turn, and a wood, and the space in your city that would have gone to storage.)
  • Completely engulf another player's zone of control within your own. Normally you control 2 hexes around your cities and inns but there is a building you can build to increase that to 3 along with one that lets you control lakes and such. The bonus for trying to do this one is you get 1 fish when you build your cathedral and you get an extra fish each time someone else builds a cathedral. So, at most, 4 fish. You use food to build extra guys and importantly for this victory condition you also use food to build the inns which expand your territory. This feels like the weakest bonus but it also seems like the easiest win condition if any of the other players are slow to expand.
  • Any 2 of the above victory conditions. As a bonus you get all of the above bonuses. As a balancing penalty you cannot change your patron saint. (Normally you can use one of the university faculties to destroy your cathedral and rebuild it but since you get a lot of bonuses for choosing this patron saint you can't blow it up.)

Also helping the replayability is the game comes with a large number of double sided hexes to use building the overland map so you end up with a different distribution of terrain to use each game.

I actually got to play the game a second time on Sunday as well and it was pretty great each time. I played the super saint both times and came close to winning the first time and won pretty handily the second time. Both games played out very differently mostly because of the way famine works in the game. Basically the number of people who die increases by one each turn. So the first turn everyone gets 0 graves. The second turn everyone gets 1 grave. And so on. But there are ways to raise or lower that number as the game goes on. The first game people aggressively spent resources to lower the number (which costs you resources and benefits everyone) and the second game no one did. On top of that in the second game I aggressively tried to raise the number as much as possible since I was the super saint and felt I could use the bonuses to mitigate the damage and also if people have to spend time dealing with graves it will slow them down and I wanted that time to get 2 winning conditions. It worked; two of the players got completely overwhelmed with graves. We even ran out of grave tokens and needed to use other things to sub in.

The game takes in the 2-3 hour range to play (and likely gets shorter as people get used to the mechanics). I think I'd like to play a lot more of it, but it would be a reasonable investment to pick up a copy. So the question then is: does it sound interesting enough that people would play it?