Monday, October 31, 2011

Dancing With The Stars Scoring

Dancing With The Stars is a 'reality' tv show where they pair up celebrities with professional dancers and have them do various dances. There's a panel of judges that assign scores to the dances each week and they get people to call/text/vote online for who they like best. Then they combine the votes with the scores somehow and figure out who came last in a given week. That pair is fired. Repeat until you have a winner.

This is different than other reality shows like American Idol which is entirely vote based, or The Apprentice which is entirely judge based, or Survivor which is determined by the contestants themselves. Now, I actually don't watch any of those shows and for the most part never have. (I watched some of Survivor when it first came out but got annoyed when they wouldn't let Canadians play.) But I understand the scoring systems for all of them despite only seeing most of them while visiting family in New Brunswick...

I actually watch Dancing With The Stars, but had no clue how the loser was actually determined. How is voting combined with judges scores? What does voting actually do? I turned to my good friend Mr Google and he hooked me up with the answer in a really short amount of time. It turns out to be a pretty simple system. They add all of the judges scores together and work out what percentage of that pool each pair received. Then you separately add up all the votes and work out what percentage of those each pair received. Add the two percentages together and see who has the lowest total.

I was thinking I'd crunch some numbers to see what votes actually had to happen for different possible outcomes to happen but it turns out they don't release total vote totals anywhere that I could find. Also, I found a site that already crunches the numbers in terms of votes per million... It's interesting to think about the consequences of such a system...

One other interesting site I stumbled across in my search is Vote For The Worst which apparently watches all voting based reality television, picks someone who is really bad, and then encourages people to vote for them. I can't help but wonder if these people actually accomplish anything. And if they do, how bad is it?

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Final Fantasy Legend II

Next up on the list is another game I've never played before: Final Fantasy Legend II. From what I've been told about the game it's actually very similar to the first Final Fantasy Legend with the addition of a new class: ROBOT!

Now I haven't done very much research at all but I believe the human, mutant, and monsters classes work pretty much the same way as before. Robots scale entirely with the gear they have equipped. I'm torn with regards to how I feel about this. On the one hand it actually seems like a great way to design a game such that the characters are always at a good spot against the enemies. Their power is strictly capped at gear from shops plus what you can loot from dungeons so there's always an upper bound so things don't get out of hand. Assuming you tune the enemies properly they can always be capable of winning fights. Maybe you need to grind a bit for cash to buy the new gear from the shops but that's quite reasonable.

On the other hand I have no faith at all that the game is actually balanced in such a way. After my experience with monsters in the original game I really worry that a full robot party will either be trivial or a real pain. I'd like to play a game with that system which I was confident was designed with just that system in mind but this game has four leveling systems and I fear the robot one was just tacked on at the end.

That said, what should my party be? With four leveling systems and four character slots it seems like one of each type would make a lot of sense. Unfortunately I really soured on monsters with my four monster party last time and really don't want to write another leveling program to work out how to optimize one character. Even worse, if I did optimize a monster in the same way it would mean some mindless searching for meat at the start and then trivial random encounters the rest of the way up until eventually the monster became bad and I'd just have to hope the other characters have caught up.

I do want one of the other three though and I think I will make the fourth a robot because robots are awesome. I wouldn't be surprised if they ended up being worse characters in general but I hope they should at least be competitive most of the time. Time will tell!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Second Time's A Charm!

I plowed my way through the final dungeon to the final boss who behaved differently than every other boss fight in the game in ways that made my initial plan bad. Unfortunately it took me a few rounds to figure out what was going on and by that point it was almost too late. It turns out the final boss has two tentacles which take actions as well and aren't taunted along with the main boss by my viking. They still follow the rule of one spell per monster no matter how many actions they take in a round but there are 3 monsters so they can cast three spells. One of the tentacles always seemed to cast a spell which did about 80% of my black belt's maximum health. The main boss sometimes cast a spell which did about that much as well. Eventually I realized the tentacles existed, just let my black belt stay dead, put a shield on the ninja, and just threw shuriken at the tentacle casting lightning. I managed to kill it but then timing worked out poorly and the boss got two turns in a row, used the massive AE both times, and managed to kill everyone.

I did learn that the protect spell is actually also the shell spell in this game. (It wore off of my viking in the middle of the fight and he started taking a much larger amount of damage from the AE spells.)

Ok, 3.5 hours gone... What to do? I decided I probably wanted to get my job level high enough on the viking to get into the 90% chance to land taunt bracket. So I spent a couple hours yesterday watching a Criminal Minds marathon on A&E while grinding on random idiots that couldn't possibly kill me. Then I started killing them off before my viking even got to take an action so I just decided to put him in tanking mode and taunt all the time. (Vikings are very slow so they go last but taunt is rigged to always go first so it isn't useless.)

I also knew in advance that my ninja was going to take a beating if he wasn't wearing a shield so I put the shield on and put him in the back row from the start. I also used protect casting consumables in the first round to try to cut down on the number of insta-gibs on the black belt. (Probably I should have changed to a different job entirely but I thought I could win as is.)

I get into the fight and it turns out the boss only starts casting his AE spell after he's taken a bunch of damage. Since I started the fight this time by killing the tentacles that never happened so they never actually cast enough spells in a single round to kill anyone. I had one scary turn where taunt missed and the boss almost killed my ninja (good thing he was in the back row) but other than that the fight was actually really easy.

There were a bunch of cutscenes after the final boss where we learned what all of the NPCs we met along the way were going to do with their lives. Nothing was learned about the four actual player characters. As far as I know they're just brutally powerful killing machines with no lives to return to. I wouldn't be surprised if one of them took over the world at some point. (Probably Bung...)

In all, a really great game. Part of me actually wants to start over again with a different party setup (all casters the whole way) instead of moving on to a different game. Also there's apparently a challenge dungeon that gets unlocked via the Mognet thing I didn't do so I kinda want to do that too. This is going to move to the top of the list of games played so far but I wonder how much of that is because of the changes made on the DS compared to the original game...

Friday, October 28, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Final Dungeon

Last night I made it into what I believe to be the final dungeon in Final Fantasy III and I have some issues with the design. The first issue is one with the game in general which is that you simply cannot save anywhere except on the world map. This is annoying in the sense that you can clear out a dungeon, find all the treasure, and then lose to the boss of the dungeon and have all the previous progress thrown out. I want the bosses in dungeons to be a challenge but it's frustrating to find one that actually is a challenge if you lose an hour of progress because of it. I've dealt with this so far by leaving a couple dungeons after clearing out most of the loot and then saving so I'm risking less when I fight the boss. (This has also meant doing more fights than I normally would which makes the challenging fights less of a challenge. I don't know if this is a good thing or not.)

The second problem, which links into the first one, is I can't leave the final dungeon. There is no exit and the teleport spell is greyed out. This makes sense from a story point of view as my party has been transported to another world where I'm supposed to team up with the warriors of dark to vanquish the big bad. But from a gameplay point of view it really sucks. From the last point I can save until when I expect to meet the final boss will be around 3 hours of gameplay, a dozen or so treasure chests, and at least 9 mid-boss fights. The random encounters have a chance to get a sneak attack and possibly wipe me out and the bosses can certainly get lucky and kill me as well. (Action order in the round is based on agility and job level but has a random component as well. It is very possible the boss will get 2 turns between actions from my healer which could be very bad news.)

I'm not opposed to the final dungeon being long, or to it being hard. I want the final boss to be tricky and to require building a good party for the task or leveling a bunch. I feel like I should die while I get the hang of the fight. But when I'm probably going to lose 5+ hours in the process? That's not cool. (If I die then I lose the 3 hours it will take me to get back to that point and probably I'll want to grind out a couple hours worth of levels before I do if I died for power level reasons.)

The last time I played Final Fantasy III, after buying it for the DS a few years ago, I actually didn't finish the game. I died in the final dungeon, lost a couple hours, and got fed up. I don't remember if I just took a break to play something else or what but I never did go back and finish up. Andrew bought the game on DS at the same time I did and I'm pretty sure the same thing happened to him. It's just so demoralizing to lose a couple hours worth of progress because the game simply doesn't let you prevent it from happening in any way except by being perfect and lucky in every single fight in the final dungeon.

I don't have a clue what the final boss is going to be like but I think my current party set-up is going to be pretty good for winning no matter what it ends up being. Viking, black belt, devout, ninja is working out pretty well. The black belt and ninja take way too much damage from melee hits and from spells but I've leveled enough that it should take three hits to kill them. The devout casts a full heal spell on the whole party every round and the viking taunts 80% of the time. Bosses so far have only ever cast one spell per round so the only way I can lose someone is if the taunt fails AND the timing works out poorly such that the boss goes twice between devout rounds AND he actually casts two spells AND he targets one of the squishies with his attack. Then I have to spend an arise spell on them which prevents the party from getting healed so things do get dangerous but I can probably survive. I'll probably get to find out tonight if I'm going to have won the game or if I'm going to be very bitter...

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Xecti Signal Repeater

It's time for the next temporary mission in Galaxy Legion: The Broodmind Hunt. This mission returns to the old standard where each button press is worth 55 xp and costs 25 energy. You have to do the mission 75 times to get a reward and you can get the reward 15 times total. The reward, for a mere 1875 energy, is a planetary building of size 1 which increases research produced by 10%.

At first glance this seemed pretty good. My top plasma planet makes 390 research per hour so adding 10% onto that would be 39 research which seems awesome. But then you need to consider that it takes up a space so that number goes down a little. You need to actually consider how good it is not so much in terms of raw production but in terms of how space efficient it is. (That plasma, for example, has 52 base production. Assuming I have to replace a 2 research for 1 space building then this new building is worth 5 research for 1 space.) Ok, in that light it's simply amazing. But that's on my best research specific planet. How does it fare elsewhere? I jiggered my spreadsheet a little to work it out...

I could put it on my artifact specialized dyson planet for a gain of 68.35 research points but it would only be worth a little over 3 research per space. My 15th best gain in terms of actual production is 18 points per hour and is worth around 3.6 research per space.

I'm pretty sure the right answer is going to be just putting them where they make the most actual stuff but it doesn't really matter. If I put it where the building is most efficient or where it makes the most stuff it's still an excellent building and really worth getting.

This mission chain has rarely given me something I really wanted all the copies of but this one has managed to do it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Dungeons & Dragons: Vampire Hit Value

My D&D group finished off our second module last week and decided to shake things up a little for the next one. Sky seemed to be getting bored with his overpowered but very straightforward tanking character and built a sorcerer instead. This caused a bit of a chain reaction and I think we're all building brand new characters for this weekend. On the one hand this is a little overwhelming since we're making 11 levels worth of decisions at once with no real idea of party composition or what any of our new abilities actually do. On the other hand building characters is a lot of fun and trying them out will be too. I have tons of ideas but who knows if they're actually as awesome as they seem or if they'll just never come up.

At any rate, I wanted to pick a new class and role. I've been the healer for the last two modules and have spent a lot of that time letting other people attack and tracking all the hit point totals. That was fun but I want something different. I figured I'd take a look at the DPS classes and try to make something fun. I looked at the list of classes and one immediately jumped out as being different and cool... Vampire! Now, I'd assume vampire would be a race and not a class but I gather they recently released a 'Heroes of Shadow' book which has both a vampire type race and a vampire class. It doesn't matter if vampires are good or not they're definitely cool so I was pretty much sold without even looking at what they do.

It turns out they're a mostly melee attacker pretty similar to a rogue but with an interesting resource mechanic and fewer abilities. (Most of my 'choices' were fixed as there is only one vampire class power at most levels.) It turns out they use healing surges as a resource to power up a few abilities. They also drain healing surges when they use at-will powers which seems interesting. They definitely have a lot of flavour.

As an added bonus they use two stats: dexterity and charisma. What's a race with both of those stats? Hobbit! (Ok, Halfling, please don't sue me estate of JRR Tolkein.) I've looked at some of the other races but none of them quite have the coolness factor of being a hobbit vampire. One of the hobbit racial bonuses is to get +2 to AC against opportunity attacks and I found a pair of boots that lets me walk through enemy occupied squares. I was thinking that would be a great way to set up flanking... Stack AC so they couldn't hit me and just walk through the enemies even if they're blocking a hallway or something. So I tried building a character with all the AC stacking I could find and ended up getting up to 37 AC against opportunity attacks. Considering my shaman had 22 AC... That's huge!

And then Sky pointed out I can't actually buy those boots since they're not common and that whole plan went out the window. There's actually a hobbit feat which provides a similar effect but only lets you walk through spaces of enemies 2 sizes larger. We've been tipped off that there are lots of large monsters in this coming module so this could still work... But the feat prevents opportunity attacks from the monster you're walking through so the whole point of super AC is kinda moot.

We get one magic item of level 12 and it's the first level of item with +3s that can have a bonus. They need room for better +3 items all the way up to 15 so the bonuses at level 12 tend to be weak or unexciting. One really stood out for me in the super AC build which was an extra +1 to hit while at full health. Hobbits get a racial power which forces a re-roll of an attack which hits you and vampires put up 7 temporary health with their main at-will attack so this actually seems like it'll stay up for a reasonable amount of time. And I could really go out of my way to try to keep it up all the time if I tried. So the question is, how good is that +1 to hit and is it worth trying to keep it up?

My basic at-will attack (the one that puts up the 7 health) hits for 25.5 damage at +18 vs fort assuming I have combat advantage. That won't be hitting on a 2 so +1 to hit should be worth 5% of that damage, or 1.275 damage. Better than +1 to damage for sure but not super exciting. The first 3 times it hits I get to tack on an extra d10 damage which boosts the gain up to 1.55 damage. Seems pretty good and gives me a baseline for evaluating how important it is to take 0 damage over the fight.

As I said vampires have very few power decisions to make so pretty much my only choices are which feats to take. I could try to find a bunch of pure damage feats or I could try to take some damage prevention feats and roll some of that extra 1.55 damage per round into those.

One of the feats I took in the super-AC build was a multi-class rogue feat which let me add my charisma bonus to my AC after being hit by an opportunity attack. That's obviously terrible now that I'm not planning on taking a ton of opportunity attacks but there was a hobbit feat that unlocked when I took it which turned my free re-roll of a hit into a free re-roll with -5 that can't crit which seemed reasonable. I wanted to pick that up so I needed another multi-class feat from a martial class. My first thought was the rogue feat which lets me backstab once per fight. An extra 3d6 seems pretty great. (In fact, 10.5 damage is better than +1 to hit if the fight lasts 6 or fewer attacks so I probably want this even if I'm not trying to keep my +1 to hit up.) Of course I eventually noticed that you need to be using a light blade to backstab and I use a holy symbol so that got thrown out. Then I found a ranger multi-class feat which takes a minor action but gives 2d6 damage twice. (This requires attacks to land in specific rounds instead of just one ever so this isn't actually 14 damage but it's still pretty sweet.) This seems worth taking.

I didn't really find much else in the straight damage category worth taking. I took straight +1 to hit, of course, and decided to try the weird feat which gives +1 to hit, damage, and ac when beside a wall. I don't know how often it'll come up but it seems great for all kinds of reasons when it does. Making sure I have combat advantage is worth +2 to hit on its own so I'm giving the cunning stalker feat a try (it gives combat advantage on any enemy who is standing alone). Then a flat +2 to AC seems like it'll help keep my weapon buff up especially with my re-roll ability.

My last feat had some interesting options. I could take a boring but useful +2 to reflex, fortitude, and will defenses. I could take +2 to ac if I'm beside two larger enemies. I could take the feat that lets me walk through large enemies. But I found something really cool that is probably terrible but might be a lot of fun... If I'm standing beside an enemy, and have combat advantage on them, and they shift... I get to shift too. So all I need to do is get beside an enemy caster and then they need to either stop casting brutal spells or let me get free attacks. +1 to hit is like 5% of an attack so if this gives a free attack every other fight it's probably better than +1 to hit. If it shuts down brutal spells it won't do any damage but might help us win. Probably it won't do anything at all and I'll wish I had +2 to ac when I get ganked.

I'll probably end up making lots of changes after getting a week actually playing the class instead of just thinking about playing the class but I'm pretty happy with what I have. Though after I read the rules about stealth I'm really thinking a shade vampire could be intriguing...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Earth Crystal Jobs

It's go time! Three different airships later and I've finally reached the final crystal and unlocked the remaining jobs. It's time to pick what I expect to be my final party for the rest of the game. The earth crystal has 6 new jobs...

First of all, the black belt. In a sense this is the 'upgraded' monk job. It attacks barehanded like a monk. It has a useless special ability like a monk. (You can spend an entire turn charging up so you can do double damage on the next attack. Or two turns to do triple damage. Maybe useful on enemies that split but pretty much a non-factor for the most part.) On the plus side the black belt has way more strength, agility, and vitality compared to the monk. In fact it has the most vitality of any job in the game and is a must use if you want to max out your health. With a high job level and high melee proficiency I imagine these guys do pretty good damage. Part of me wants to turn my tank into one of these for a while just to build up maximum health.

Next, the magus. This is the ultimate black magic caster. I haven't purchased any black magic spells since the start of the game when I had some red mages. This job might be pretty good but it doesn't really fit in with what I've been doing so far.

Now a real choice: the devout. This is the upgraded white magic caster. The white mage can never cast level 8 spells and gets substantially fewer casts of the higher level spells. On the other hand the white mage gets significantly more casts of low level spells. And is already job level 58. And will gain job levels faster than the devout. If we look at the healing spell formula every 2 mind is worth an additional base healing of the spell and every 4 job levels is worth the same amount. At level 50 the devout will have 12 more mind than the white mage which is nowhere near enough to make up the job level difference. I'm pretty sure in the short term the white mage will actually be significantly better both in terms of total amount healed across all spells and in terms of throughput over a short period of time like a boss fight. On the other hand arise is a level 8 spell and it's awesome and devout only. And if I end up leveling enough that the white mage gets job level capped the devout will eventually pass her.

Next up, the summoner. This is the upgraded evoker and actually gets different affects from each of the summons. The evoker was random, the summoner is fixed. And better. Summoner is tempting to play around with for sure but I don't have any of the summon spells yet so he's going to have to sit on the bench for at least a while.

Sage is an interesting option. Take the magus, the devout, and the evoker and squish them together. You can't learn all the spells but you get to choose which spells you do want to have across all three schools. Their spell progression is pretty bad, unfortunately. The devout gets twice as many level 8 spell casts as the sage. The sage does actually get more level 1 spells though if I want more cure spells...

Last but definitely not least... Ninja! The ninja is simply awesome. He has a very useful special ability: throw. This lets you chuck old weapons for big damage. Eventually you can get shurikens which do even bigger damage. Even when you're not throwing weapons they have high agility and strength so they do a ton of auto-attack damage. They get to use some spicy weapons. They're pretty much guaranteed to go first each round. The only downside is they're rather squishy, especially against spells.

I think next time I play this game I want to try ignoring melee attacks for the most part and just use spells and cool abilities but this time through I've been running tank+healer+melee DPS and I don't see any real reason to stop now. Especially with the way melee proficiency works it really feels like I should keep on beating down at this point. My plan is to use a party of viking, black belt, devout, ninja and see how that treats me. I'm also going to try scumming for health by tracking when my viking is going to level up and switch him to a black belt for the bonus vitality. I'll get punished by the weakened debuff a bit by doing so but viking and black belt are similar enough that the debuff won't last very long. (5 fights total for the 2 switches I think, and it'll only get lower as I gain job levels.) This party will be worse in the short term but once I find a vendor for level 8 spells it should get better.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Water Crystal Jobs

The party of knight, knight, white mage, knight ended up being better and worse than expected. I definitely didn't have 6 quality swords to use and really only had 3 which meant one of my knights was awesome, one was ok, and one was pretty weak. In random encounters they were all fine but on bosses if they didn't have top swords they hardly did any damage to the boss. On the plus side just standing around and casting cure every round meant I simply couldn't lose either. Boss fights took forever but I wasn't in any real danger of losing. I did decide to job level grind before tackling the water crystal boss to get my guys from 6 swings a round to 8 swings per round. It turned out doing so also leveled up melee proficiency in one hand so they were swinging 9 times. (I bet they'd start swinging 10 times after just a couple more fights.) One thing I did notice is that having lower agility meant they went after the white mage pretty much always. And she still does more damage with her lightning staff than they did with auto attacks so often she'd kill the monsters before they could get their job level experience. Sigh.

At any rate the town after the water crystal doesn't sell any gear for knights at all so I really want to swap out at least 2 of my knights for other things. On the plus side I have 5 new options to consider!

First of all there's the viking. He's an interesting job and doesn't at all do what you'd think he does from the name. When I think of vikings I think of crazed killing machines on boats. Maybe my view of vikings are just different than reality though as I remember being extremely disappointed by the board game VIKINGS! since it had a lot of vikings doing non-combat related things. There was no raping or pillaging involved. But I digress... The viking job in this game is the true tank job. His special ability is provoke which forces one enemy to attack him in the next round and also lowers the enemy defense in the process. Unfortunately they decided to scale both of these abilities with job level so you really want to level a viking a whole lot to make his ability useful and it takes max job level to make it a guarantee. But having the ability to make bosses focus their attacks onto one target is insanely powerful. Unfortunately compared to the knights I have now he actually has worse vitality so while he may be a 'tank' he won't have as much health. He does have higher strength so he'd probably do more damage at equal job levels?

Next is the dragoon. Like Kain in Final Fantasy IV he has the jump ability as his special ability which causes the dragoon to disappear from the fight and then come back next turn to do a bunch of damage. Unfortunately the damage done is worse than just attacking twice would have been until you get the dragoon's job level up pretty high. Max it out and it does a ton of damage and it also does double damage to flying monsters. Beyond that he has less strength and vitality than a knight but more agility. And if you recall earlier when discussing the thief I said there was one item in the game that you needed a very high level thief to steal? It's the best weapon for the dragoon. Yeah, I didn't level a thief the whole way which pretty much excludes dragoon from being a top end game option for me this time around.

Then we have the dark knight. Like Cecil in the first part of the harder versions of Final Fantasy IV he has the souleater ability which is a massive AE attack which hurts all the enemies and the dark knight. The damage from this ability scaled pretty crazily with job level, current health, and weapon attack. It seems pretty great at wiping out random fights filled with dudes but I like using those fights to level up my job levels and my melee proficiencies... Like the dragoon he has more agility than my knights but less strength and vitality. I don't know that I want to use a dark knight the whole time so the fact that using his ability costs me melee proficiency in the long run really sucks. Also less max hp than just staying as a knight, so I think I'll be passing.

Next up is a new spellcaster job: evoker! This job gets to cast summon spells for cool and powerful effects. Unfortunately there are a few drawbacks here... For one, there is no place to buy summon spells that I can access right now! Switching to an evoker immediately is just kicking myself in the junk for fun and that doesn't actually sound like fun at all. Then like the geomancer you don't get to decide what the summon does, it picks from 2 options each time. 2 very different options one of which you probably don't want. It also has pathetically bad vitality. Yeah, there's pretty much no reason to want to switch to one of these guys.

Finally there's a unique job: bard. She has the special ability to sing a song with her equipped harp which does something cool to the party. Small defense buff, or attack buff, or damage, or an ae heal, or a damage taken debuff. All of which sounds kinda cool but they can't all be done right away since you can't get all the harps right away. As far as stats go they have bad strength and vitality so she probably does bad damage and has lower maximum health. I can definitely see bards being good with some setups (the AE heal combined with the dark knight's souleater seems pretty spicy) but that doesn't really fit in with the way I'm playing right now.

So, what am I going to do? Well, none of these jobs can take the place of my white mage yet so I'm keeping her around. I really want to ditch some knights for sword related reasons but dark knights also use swords so that doesn't help. Evokers and bards don't fit my party plan. I do like tanks and vikings use different weapons so I think I'll switch into one of those. I could switch into a dragoon for the short term but since I can't get their best weapon I'm not going to stay with them forever. I think I'm better off keeping the higher vitality knight around. As such I believe my party for now is going to be viking, knight, white mage, knight.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Fire Crystal Jobs

Friday after work I cleared out the fire crystal dungeon and was rewarded with 4 new jobs. My job levels in my current jobs are in the 20-23 range so I'm going to be giving up an attack or two per hand and a couple damage per swing if I switch out so these new jobs better be pretty special to be worth making that leap. What are they?

First up, the ranger. Rangers are basically an auto-attacking job that uses a bow and arrow. They can wear pretty good armor and can stand in the back row so they take significantly less damage than my current damage dealing jobs. They have a special ability which does less damage than an attack unless you're at a pretty high job level so it's not really worth considering. As far as stats go they have less strength than either a monk or a red mage. They have the same agility and vitality as a monk and more than a red mage. They use a different damage formula entirely (and I think only level 1 melee proficiency hand instead of both) and actually consume arrows with each attack. I've always hated archer characters in Final Fantasy games that consumed arrows so even if I thought switching to a ranger was a good idea I probably wouldn't. As is they don't seem good enough anyway. Pass.

Next up, the knight. It turns out there isn't a paladin job in the game and the knight does most of the things you'd expect a paladin to do. They act a lot like Cecil does in Final Fantasy IV, actually. They can cast white magic spells but only at level 1 so they're pretty much just a cure battery from a spell point of view. Their defend action is modified to be based on job level instead of a flat 50%. It's actually worse than the base defend until job level 50! They have some sort of 'auto-cover' ability of weak allies. They can wear a lot of the good armor so they're pretty tough and can use all of the swords except the onion knight stuff. They have the same strength as a monk which is substantially more than a red mage at my current level. They have lower agility than both. They have higher vitality than both. Vitality determines hit point growth each time you level up and is the only real permanent result of being in a job so having high vitality is a big plus. I'm really considering switching at least one of my red mages into a knight and might do all 3 of my damage dealers if I have enough swords.

For laughs, we have the scholar. These guys are terrible. Ostensibly they can cast both black and white magic spells up to level 3 but their spell growth is really bad. The knight actually gets more spell casts at my level than the scholar does! They do have more strength and agility than my red mages so they might do more auto-attack damage but they have substantially less vitality so in the long run I'd be losing permanent max health by being a scholar. Scholars do have the special ability to peep an enemy like Cid in Final Fantasy IV. I already have that spell for my white mage so I don't care. Scholars also double the usage of any items they use, so if I was glitching the game to have a lot of combat spell items that could be useful... But I'm not cheating so that doesn't help all that much.

Finally we have the geomancer. These guys are weird. They're mediocre in combat but they have a special ability you use every time they get an action. They cast a random wacky spell based on the current environment. (A lot like Mog in Final Fantasy VI!) Each environment has its own list of abilities that can be chosen (with lots of overlap) and they can be pretty powerful. The damage done is based on job level so I think these guys can eventually do some pretty crazy damage. I remember last time I played the game I used one of these and was generally happy with that choice. Not being able to control specifically what attack is chosen can be annoying though. (Monsters that resist fire tend to be found in fire caves, for example. Fire caves tend to generate fire damage attacks.) They have lower vitality than my current characters so I would be losing max health by using one. They can't cast any magic at all so I lose my off-healing ability if I switch a red mage into a geomancer.

Part of me wants to use a geomancer again like last time but part of me wants to be different and there are some real drawbacks to being a geomancer so I think I'm going to pass. None of the new jobs can cast cura so I'm going to keep my white mage around. I don't actually think I'm going to keep a red mage or a monk into the end game so accumulating more job levels on them isn't really an investment in the future. Getting more maximum health from the knight job seems like a good idea so I'm going to try swapping into a party of knight, knight, white mage, knight. The going will probably get a little harder in the short term as I lose those attacks from my old job levels but the extra healing from a 3rd off-healer should offset that a little. On the plus side I should be able to keep leveling all my melee proficiencies and if I have to grind a little to be able to move forward I'm ok with that.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Job Level

I keep mentioning how the game strongly encourages staying with the same job and punishes you for dabbling in lots of jobs. The punishment is pretty simple: you suffer a decrease to all stats and everything you do for a set number of fights each time you switch. The encouragement comes in the form of an increasing job level and all the things it impacts, which are:
  • Number of swings when using the attack command.
  • Crit chance.
  • Damage done per swing.
  • Damage done when casting black magic spells.
  • Healing done when casting white magic spells.
  • Damage dealt by summon spells.
  • Attack power of monks and black belts when bare handed.
  • Special abilities of some jobs get better. (Thieves steal different things, warriors do slightly more damage and take slightly more damage, etc...)
  • At max level you unlock a cool item assuming you've done the Mognet stuff.
Or at least so a FAQ on gamefaqs claims. It later lists the critical chance formula which doesn't contain a job level component so I'm not sure which one to believe there. Even if it doesn't the rest of that stuff is all pretty important stuff I would think. Well, depending on how exactly job level impacts those things. It turns out the total damage done formula for a normal attack is actually pretty complicated...

damage = (1+A/7+J/14+(M-1)/7-W/6)*(K+S-V/2-D/2+J/11+M/9)*MIN(K/D, 2)*(80+H+A/10+J/10-E/20-V/6)/200*RANDBETWEEN(.5, .7)*MIN((A-E+105)/100, 1.1)

A = agility
J = job level
M = melee proficiency
W = weight of equipment
K = attack
S = strength
V = enemy vitality
D = enemy defense
H = weapon hit rate
E = enemy agility
V = weight of weapon

I love numbers and formulae and my eyes are glazing over just looking at that. And that's for the 'simple' case of one weapon! Using two weapons means doing something where you do that calculation for both weapons, add them up, and multiply by .6. And because that formula is just too simple there are also complications when using a bow, a harp, or bare hands. Yeah.

One thing that jumps out is that in the portion that calculates damage per swing 11 job levels are worth the same amount as one strength. So switching to a job with a better strength progression is definitely worth it from a damage per swing standpoint.

In the number of hits section 14 job levels is the same as 7 agility. I actually need a much better agility progression switch to make this worthwhile but it's very believable that it could happen.

Chance to hit? Agility and job level are equivalent. Chance to crit? Agility matters and job level doesn't seem to.

I also notice that melee proficiency is actually a bigger deal than job level in both number of swings and damage per swing. This is a number that just goes up as you attack. You have a different number for each hand which is a little weird and means you should either never use a shield or always use a shield. (Melee proficiency actually seems like a much better way of doing number of swings than the way FFI of FFII handled it.) It's unfortunately a completely hidden stat so I can't find out what it is. But on the plus side it doesn't really matter what it is... I can only make it bigger by attacking and I want to do that most of the time anyway! It does mean that my white mage is a much worse attacker than the rest of my team right now. So I should keep her in a caster role if possible.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Mognet

One of the things Square added in the remake of the game is a mail service called Mognet where they retconned moogles into the game and had them deliver letters between your party and some NPCs. On its own this does nothing at all. Provides some random story background maybe. It also lets you send messages to other people who own the game via Nintendo's terrible wi-fi communication service. Send 7 such messages and you actually unlock a whole bunch of quests to get unique stuff!

The final job in the game can only be obtained via these quests. It is in some senses the worst job in the game so it doesn't matter at all that you can't get it without using the wireless communication stuff. In other senses it is the absolute best job in the game. It has a very interesting stat progression where it's absolutely terrible until character level 95 or so where it skyrockets into being the best.

The best weapon in the game can only be obtained via these quests. I may not want to be an onion knight but I can't imagine not wanting the best weapon in the game!

Every job has a good to awesome job specific item which can only be obtained via these quests. You also need to have hit job level 99 in a job to get the item. A monk would take 678 actions to hit max job level which seems like an awful lot just to get a set of arm equipment with +20 strength.

For the most part this stuff seems extraneous. I kinda want to get some of it just to say I have it (I don't really have a schtick yet for this game... Maybe it should be to build a party of maxed out onion knights!) I would like to get an ultimate weapon though.

Unfortunately as it stands right now I can't access the Nintendo Wi-Fi network. It turns out they set it up so the DS could only connect via a bad wireless security protocol (WEP?) and my router gets very angry when I try to enable it. As such I've been unable to get my own friend code to even try to start the process of sending out 7 mails. Part of me is frustrated that there's stuff I simply can't do for technical reasons but maybe it's ok that I just ignore this junk and play the game normally. Of course I am going to try to see if Andrew or Andrew's neighbour has an outdated security protocol this weekend... And maybe I'll even hook up my own router and see if I can't make it work.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Final Fantasy III: Wind Crystal Jobs

I've put a few hours into the game over the last couple days and have obtained the first set of jobs. (You start the game with only the 'freelancer' job which is like a bad red mage. It can use all the early gear and cast level 1 white and black magic spells.) I died a few times in the process as I ended up skipping a room with the only early copy of the cure spell which made surviving in the early couple fights rough. I had to grind up a couple levels in order to press on without it but that's pretty reasonable I think. At least I was getting better by fighting!

The wind crystal granted 6 jobs which should be very familiar to anyone who played the initial Final Fantasy. They are warrior, monk, thief, white mage, black mage, and red mage. These jobs are very similar to the classes from FFI but the balance is shifted pretty drastically in comparison. Warriors scaled in a ludicrous fashion in that game, thieves were truly terrible, and red mages couldn't even cast all of the spells that white and black mages could. Quite a few things have changed here...

  • You're not stuck in a given job for the whole game. Even if one of the jobs scaled a lot better in the end game it wouldn't matter since you're probably not going to be that job anymore.
  • Red mages can cast all of the spells that the other mages can cast though they get to cast them less frequently. They cast the spells at the same power level as the other mages.
  • I got an item already which can be used to cast fire which is the best action any of my characters can take.
  • Warriors actually have the strictly worst stats at level 10, though not by all that much.
  • I've found one item thus far that a warrior could use that a red mage couldn't.
  • Monks have the highest strength, thieves have the highest agility, all jobs have the same vitality.
  • Warriors get a unique ability which isn't terribly useful unless you hit max job level.
  • Monks get a unique ability which isn't terribly useful ever.
  • Thieves get a unique ability which lets you steal stuff. What you can steal is based on job level and there are very few items worth stealing. 
Right around when you get the ability to change jobs you also find a magic shop willing to sell you level 1 healing and damage spells. Since red mages looked to do the most auto-attack damage, and had the ability to do the most damage to bosses, and had the ability to have the best healing throughput I figured I should use some red mages. I went with red mage, red mage, white mage, monk. The white mage heals for the same amount as a red mage but gets more casts per rest so it seemed like a reasonable way to go. Having a fire staff so she can just cast fire every round is pretty sweet, and seems like a reason to auto-include a white mage in the party. I went with a monk to punch things because punching things is awesome though I did have to switch him into a black mage at one point when I was minied.

Maybe I should have a warrior to use the viking axe I found but since it hurts to switch jobs and there's no way I'm going to be a warrior for the whole game (pretty sure there are paladins and ninjas to come) it's just going to get to sit in my inventory and rot. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Final Fantasy III

Final Fantasy III is the final installment of the main series published for the original Famicom. It didn't make it out of Japan in its original form and actually took more than 16 years before it was officially released in English with a DS remake. I played a fan translated version of the original Japanese ROM back in 2003 when I did my first Final Fantasy marathon but I have since acquired the DS version which is what I'll be playing this time around.

Final Fantasy III was the first game to use the job system which has become a sporadic feature in the series. (FFIII, FFV, FFX-2, FFXI, FFXIII, FFXIV, FFTactics, FFTacticsAdvance, FFTacticsA2...) For those who may not know, in a job system each of your characters gets to pick a job and earns both character level experience and job experience towards the chosen job. If you chose white mage then you'll get better at casting healing spells. If you chose fighter you'll get better at doing damage. The difference between a job system and between a game like Final Fantasy I where you got to pick a class at the start of the game is that you can switch jobs at any time in a job system. Chose a bad party at the start of the game? That's ok, you can just switch people around! Run into a dungeon filled with elementals and wish you could cast more damage spells? Switch everyone to a black mage! Find a twinky bow in a treasure chest? Switch someone to a ranger! They tend to keep some of their power from their character level and lose some from their job level but they can quickly build up points in the new job. As the game progresses you unlock new jobs which tend to be more powerful so there's an incentive to swap things up as time goes on both for variety and for power.

Personally I think job systems are awesome. They've evolved into systems that provides a lot of interesting decisions. There are advantages to specializing in one job. There are advantages to branching out into a bunch of different jobs. You can combine features of different jobs together to make a character do what you want. The game can throw fights at you which are particularly suited for one job or another which enables you to use smarts to beat fights instead of just throwing more levels at a problem.

Unfortunately since FFIII was the first to include a job system it isn't quite as awesome as I'd like. They revamped it a little between the original and the DS remake but it still has some flaws. Instead of encouraging you to switch jobs it has a system in place that discourages switching. (All your stats get lowered for a number of fights after making the switch depending on how similar the two jobs were to each other.) There's no way to carry any skills or power over from a previous job so there's no 'build your own class' thing going on. The damage formulae heavily incentivize sticking with one job. It is still a fun system, don't get me wrong, and it had to exist in order for them to iterate on it to get to the even better systems in future games. I'm really looking forward to playing it a bunch. And as an added bonus I can play it on the subway and bus!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Melt!

Last night I reloaded an older save state near a town and filled my inventory with elixirs. Then I headed back up to Ashura trying my best to turn into a pudding or a sandworm on the way up. I didn't turn into a sandworm but I did get a pudding and I figured I'd give the fight a shot with one pudding along with the rest of my team.

I don't know the math behind it, but melt seemed to do around 5 times as much damage as a normal attack and more than twice as much as the best attacks I could find. It has no damage type and isn't a melee attack so it can't be halved or negated by any resistances so on Ashura it would do about 10 times as much damage as some of my other characters and 4 times as much as my best attacks. Couple that with the fact the pudding has 20% more health and takes half damage itself from any melee attack and you can start to see how a team of puddings could win. But one pudding? How did that happen? I mean, he needs to attack probably 6 times to kill Ashura and likely dies in 3 swings. A couple of his attacks do nothing so I could maybe see getting lucky but this seems worse than some of the solo thief fights.

Wait, what's that? Melt heals the pudding for an amount equal to the damage done? So not only does he do 10 times as much damage as some of my damage dealers he also heals for 180% of what my healer can do? Oh. Ok, yeah, I can see how the pudding can trivially solo Ashura.

It's like I was playing vanilla World of Warcraft with a party of 3 fury warriors and a ret paladin healing between fights. And then a death knight showed up and was bigger, tougher, did way more damage, and had a silly amount of self healing. He was going into the dungeon to solo some bosses and decided to let some of the other people tag along for achievements.

I then plowed through the final dungeon leveling each of my guys up to tier 14. (The level designer apparently went on strike during the creation of the final dungeon since it consisted of the exact same floor repeated over and over.) I ended up just fooling around and got stomped by the final boss since it turns out he hits the team for about 400 damage every round. So I had to reload a little earlier and build some tier 14 monsters that had melt which made him trivial.

Overall I was not a big fan of this game, but I think the problem is more with how I chose to play the game than it is with the game itself. Random encounters that can't help you progress in any conceivable way are annoying and the 4 monster party is pretty much set up to play the whole game that way. I didn't want to wander around in dungeons to look for treasure because I couldn't use the treasure and it only hurt to get into fights... And if you're not going to look for treasure and kill stuff why are you even playing a jRPG?

Monster balance is atrocious. Melt in particular is a real problem. It was rare to find a random encounter that was not either trivial or dangerous which isn't terribly fun, but with consumables the dangerous ones weren't so bad. If there was a reason to fight them it might have been ok.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Ashura

I plowed away last night getting up quite high in the tower. I discovered that one of my characters actually had a healing spell which meant I could actually fight the guys that hit for a quarter of my health each swing without too much trouble. (I also had to burn an elixir I found to get to the boss. It turns out elixirs restore ability points and have 3 charges so I could get an extra 30 healing spells out of my Titan.)

I got into a fight with the boss and his first action was to attack for more than my maximum possible health in one swing. Meanwhile I was trying out different abilities and she seemed to be immune to almost everything. When I did attack her for damage it would be for around 40 damage. She has 2000 health. So I need to get in around 50 swings when she likely kills one character each round. In short, I have no chance with my current party.

What I need to do is figure out if he can be hit with any spells and otherwise I need to figure out if I can find a monster that either does a lot of damage or can possibly survive her attacks. Fortunately someone reverse engineered the stats for every creature in the game and posted it on gamefaqs!

ASHURA    [c6] 
hp  2000  6ARMS   5        
          3HEADS 10        
str.  90  GAZE   10        
def.  90  FLARE   3        
agi.  90  BLIND  10        
mana  90  HEAL   10        
          oDAMAGE -        
au  9999  oCHANGE -        

rFIEPSPW- w--------        

The bottom row that starts with r indicates what stuff she is resistant to. In this case she is resistant to Fire, Ice, Electricity, Poison, Stone, Paralyze, and Weapon. Being resistant to the first 6 means being completely immune to spells of those types. Being resistant to weapon means taking half damage from all physical attacks. The only resistance she doesn't have is to Quake, so maybe I should try to find some monsters with quake attacks?

The stuff on the right is her ability list. oDAMAGE and oCHANGE are the things which add on all those resistances. Beyond that we can see how she can attack. 6ARMS attacks 6 times with an attack multiplier of 4. 3HEADS attacks 3 times with an attack multiplier of 12. Both of these seemed to do around 600+ damage to my characters who have maximum health around 600. GAZE seems to have multiple entries. I'm not sure if that means one cast of the spell does 5 things or if there are 5 different spells all named GAZE. They all inflict various negative status conditions. I vaguely recall getting cursed by her and not any of the others so I'm going to assume the spell she has is just a curse. What does curse do? I don't know! It seemed to decrease the damage I did. FLARE is a massive AE spell. It is a mana power 8 attack and seemed to do around 200 damage to each of my characters. It also seems to be non-elemental damage which means I can't defend against it but also means she can't defend against it either so if I can find a monster that can cast flare I may have a way to hurt her reliably. BLIND unsurprisingly tries to blind someone. It halves the damage done and is of spell type Paralyze so I can't hit her with it. HEAL seemed to heal her for around 250 or so and pretty much meant I couldn't plausibly win.

So, it seems most of her damage can't be negated and she's pretty much immune to everything except maybe Quake and FLARE. Huh. I know the monster transformation FAQ I read earlier to work out how meat worked said she could be beaten by a single monster (pudding type) so there has to be something going on here. What does pudding have going for it?

PUDDING   [6a]

hp   729  MELT   10
          BOTHER 10
str.  57  P-SKIN 25
def.  56  GAS    10
agi.  55  STEALTH -
mana  94  oPAR/WP -
          oQUAKE  -
au  2400           

r-----PWQ w--------

MELT is a generic physical attack and seems to have nothing special going for it. It doesn't have a stat associated with it which seems a little strange. BOTHER looks to be an agility reducing spell. P-SKIN is a self-buff which paralyzes people that attack you, but she's immune to paralyze so I can't see this doing anything. GAS is a poison attack spell which will do nothing to her. STEALTH gives you a chance of getting a surprise round at the start of combat. The two o abilities give resistance to paralyze, weapon, and quake. Curse and blind are both paralyze element and weapon should cut the damage she does in half so this monster does seem well suited to being tough against her. But unless MELT does something pretty spectacular I don't see how it wins.

What about getting a quake element attack? Well, there's only one of those, the QUAKE spell. And of all the possible tier 13 monsters only the Sandworm can cast it. I've been avoiding that monster as he is weak to ice but since Ashura doesn't seem to have ice attacks this seems ok. I may die on the way up which would be unfortunate but I probably need to stock up on revives and elixirs anyway.

I do know this has been done before but I'm having a hard time understanding how a single pudding can kill Ashura. Something weird has to be going on with MELT (or maybe reducing her agility somehow completely ruins her ability to do damage?) but I figure I should give it a try and see what happens. I probably need to leave the tower and stock up first. I'm thinking my party should probably end up as Pudding, Pudding, Sandworm, Titan.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Power Curve

So my party is 4 tier-13 monsters. I can't get more power until I eat meat from the powerful end bosses. The monsters on the first world couldn't hurt me. The ones on the second world couldn't hurt me once I figured out to pick races which couldn't be crit for instantly dead. The ones on the third world practically couldn't hurt me, sometimes swinging for 1. The monsters in the current world are swinging for over 100. It feels like there should be more of a curve in monster difficulty. Where are the monsters swinging for 20?

My max health is around 600 so I'm in a bit of trouble in terms of staying alive with current random encounters. I've had to eat some meat to heal to full and transition to races I may not want to be, but that's ok. It's certainly not a big deal right now. My worry is if there are more worlds to come... On the current curve the next world's monsters will be cracking for a really worrying amount. Like, probably enough to one-shot my dudes...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend: Crits

Ok, it turns out I haven't been able to find specifics on how crits work in the game. The best I can tell is most people simply can't be crit. The only way you can be crit is if you're weak to a type of damage and you get attacked by a melee attack which has that damage type. Then there's a very high chance of a crit which instantly kills you.

Yes, kills. A crit is a one-shot kill, as I discovered earlier this week when my invincible team had someone die. It turns out bakus are weak to ice and a phantom attacked with an ice based attack. So my main character lost a heart... Frowns!

I teleported back to town and it turned out I had enough money to buy the heart back and also buy a revive which will bring someone back to life without costing a heart which should come in handy.

One final thing I found in my search... Here's a Minecraft video that made me really want to finish up and get on to FFVI:

Friday, October 14, 2011

Crazy Final Fantasy Legend Bug

Final Fantasy Legend has less of a following than Final Fantasy does, at least in terms of availability of information about exactly how things work. I'm trying to find information about how critical strikes work since they seem really brutal and have come up blank so far. I'm going to keep surfing the web since I'm sure it's out there somewhere, but I did stumble across an awesome bug that I wanted to share...

Humans can use a bunch of different types of weapons and they coded them all differently. There are weapons based on strength, some based on agility, and some based on mana. Some do fixed damage, some scale with your stats. All weapons have limited uses just like my monster skills and you need to go buy new ones when the old ones run out of uses.

One type, martial arts, has two weird components to the amount of damage it does. First of all, you subtract the number of uses left on the item from the damage. As such, the more you use an item the more damage it does. I guess this is supposed to simulate getting better at punching? The second part is that on the attack that lowers your uses to 0 you do triple damage. Ka-pow! I've mastered punching and go out with a bang!

The bug comes in with how the game determines the number of uses left in your item... It doesn't store the uses in the item when you first use it. Instead it iterates over your inventory to find the item again and looks up the number of uses that way. (The programmer apparently started with swords and made the rest of the damage routines based on the sword one. Swords don't care about uses left so it wasn't stored?) Ok, that seems dumb, but what does it do? Well, the look-up is based on the name of the item and you can actually have multiple items with the same name in your inventory. So it checks the number of uses left in the top item in your inventory even if you actually used one lower down. Since uses left is subtracted from damage done you can do extra damage by leaving a punch with 1 use at the top of your inventory and actually attacking with another one.

Ok, we can do an extra few damage per attack this way... But what about that triple damage? It turns out you can get that too. When you fully use an item it disappears from your inventory but they didn't actually delete it from your inventory. They actually wrote in code to hide empty items from view in the menu! They're still there until you put something new in the empty slot. And the iteration to find the used martial arts item? It knows the spent item is there. Welcome to triple damage!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Hull vs Shields

Hull and shields are two stats in the game Galaxy Legion with essentially the same purpose: they increase your maximum health. The two stats have a couple important differences but it really feels like one or the other should be superior most of the time. Both ships and bases use the two stats but they use them in different ways so it's possible what's right for one is wrong for the other. So, what are the differences between these two stats? Which should we use?

At any given level of research hull is more efficient on a per-space basis than shields are. For example, in a mid-high range (best one with an upkeep less than 1M) you can get either 222 shields in 39 space or 470 hull in 29 space. At the very top tier you can get 559 shields in 52 space or 1105 hull in 43 space. Hull is just better at increasing your maximum health. Is there something else going on to make shields better?

First of all there are artifacts which can temporarily buff each stat. I get enough of them that I can pretty much have both up the entire time I'm fighting if I want to. The shield buff is +100%, the hull buff is +50%. That chews up a lot of the gap between the two for sure, but not the entire thing. And to mitigate some of that advantage I actually have special modules which give me a flat +10% hull off the top...

The actual important difference is how you heal up damage to the two. Hull can be repaired to full by paying 1/6th of your upkeep cost. (You pay a proportional amount so if you were only half damaged you only pay 1/12th of your upkeep cost.) You can make this repair once every 5 minutes. Shields can't be repaired but instead recharge naturally. By default you recharge 2% of your maximum shields every 2 minutes but you can get modules which decrease the time between shield recharge ticks. (I'm down to a tick every 74 seconds.) So I can spend around 200M to repair my hull every 5 minutes or I can wait 62 minutes to heal my shields to full for free.

Also there are consumable artifacts that restore all of your hull, or all of your shields, or all of both. And when you level you get all of both. Optimally you'd probably focus on one of hull or shields and trade consumables with someone focusing on the other one but I'm too lazy to bother with that. I just use both when I feel the need to do so. (Typically when fighting a powerful enemy base!)

Which of those is better? Well, it depends on how you're playing. If you tend to do a lot of combat in a short period of time then paying for that repair is probably pretty good for you. The shields will probably only tick a couple times before you're done so they're really not very good at all. On the other hand if you're attacking sporadically throughout the day (say, for example, you're killing players off and on for red and yellow badges) then the shield recharge is a really substantial thing.

Personally I don't have any researched shield or hull modules equipped at all. I do have a bunch of mission reward stuff of both types equipped and would be more apt to equip a shield module than a hull module at this point because I tend to do a lot of periodic attacking throughout the day. Mostly I'm just making both of those numbers bigger with one-shot artifacts that permanently add to those stats without taking up any space at all.

Bases work a little differently. There's no way to speed up the rate their shields charge. Hull is always 50% better than shields are in terms of raw maximum health. There are no consumables to instantly restore either hull or shields. You can still repair to full but it has a 4 hour cooldown. You have an extra ability to heal hull, but not shields, based on how many fixer professions are in your legion. And perhaps most importantly you don't get to choose when the fight is happening. They do. It takes 50 minutes for the shields to charge up enough to break even with hull if you don't repair at all. If you do repair it takes 200 minutes for the shields to break even. Note you can actually repair a second time after 240 minutes so there's a pretty small window where shields could possibly beat hull. Nevermind the fact that pretty much every time our base has died most of the damage has come in a very short window of time, much smaller than 50 minutes. Massive shields can be demoralizing to legions that don't plan ahead and therefore get Bunged when they start attacking without realizing that they could win but they don't actually keep you alive better than equivalent level hull would.

So while I think shields vs hull is an interesting decision when it comes to how you build your ship I think it's a no-brainer when it comes to building a base. Shields are terrible. Unfortunately no one in my legion has researched hull high enough to build anything good at this point so we're stuck with shields. (Shield research helps defend planets and as such I've actually almost finished off the shield tree.)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Base Defense

Yesterday my legion finally finished off the level 5 base upgrade. This ramps up our daily production and increases the number of defensive buildings we can build. To this point our defense has been pretty haphazard so I want to take a look at exactly what the different defensive structures do so I can say one way or another that we've built the 'right' defense.

There are four options for defensive structures and different values for each type. (Essentially we can pay 10x the cost and upkeep in order to double the values.) The four options are shields, hull, defense, and attack. Shields and hull both provide maximum health with slight variations. Defense reduces the amount of damage done per enemy shot. Attack increases the damage the enemies take per shot.

It's impossible to build a base such that the top legions can't disable it. What defending it does is increase how much it will cost them to do so in the hopes that they'll be persuaded to attack elsewhere. All the defensive stats work together to increase the cost to attack in either energy, money, or both.

Having a base get disabled doesn't actually do all that much. It's a little demoralizing to have your base get disabled and it decreases the amount of artifact points produced each day. Basically for every day you go without being disabled you get 10% more stuff, to a maximum of 100% more stuff. We're set up to get about 8k artifact points per person per day after we've been disabled and could get that as high as 16k if we were never disabled. I'd say we'll probably average around 10k if we stay with our current defensive configuration, so we're trying to earn an extra 6k artifact points per person per day. Byung says he values artifact points at about 50k each, so we're trying to earn about 300M per person per day if we can fully defend the base. We'd be paying an extra 225M per module we upgrade to the top tier so it is plausible that going up to the most expensive defenses could make sense...

In order to get an idea on how we should mix the different stats we need to throw some example attackers up against different options to see what the potential results could be. I'll take myself as a first example though I'm pretty weak for a level 446 person. For attacking a base I have 5200 attack, 3000 defense, and 7500 hull. Repairing to full costs me around 180M, and I have a damage cap of 859. The questions that need to be asked are: how many shots does it take me to kill a given base and how many times do I have to repair in order to shoot that many times.

Right now, with our random bad configuration, the base has 3250 attack, 13255 defense, and 55725 health. It has a damage cap of 300. This would take me 2643 shots to kill and I'd have to repair 64 times. Now, I'm not going to be doing this on my own. Split that load 20 ways and all of a sudden those numbers aren't very big at all. A couple of repair nanodrones and 600 energy and we're dead. No wonder our base seems to explode whenever a decent legion so much as looks at it!

Of course, as I was writing this we actually got locked onto by a semi-decent legion. They're the 36th strongest legion by strength score and were starting to make short work of our base. So I quickly threw together a quick spreadsheet and tried to find a way to spend some money to make the base better. (I built some 3rd best modules quickly when we leveled up but I could add a lot of defensive stats to the base by replacing those with some 2nd best modules.) I didn't have time to take shield regen into account, sadly, and just fixed our shields as where they were and tried to find a good mix of attack to defense in order to maximize the amount of times I personally would have to repair. I arrived at a total of 9982 attack and 16690 defense which would force me to shoot 4026 times and have to repair 255 times. That's a pretty big gain from where we were before though it did cost me a lot of money and really raise the base upkeep.

The changes did cause the attack to slow down for a bit and our massive amount of shields did actually regen a fair bit while they stopped attacking but they seem to have regrouped and are making steady progress. I wish I could find out if they'd invited in more legions to help out and kill us.

Mike let me know that base shields regen at a rate of 2% every 2 minutes. I will need to take that into account, use some bigger examples, and crunch some numbers more to see if there's a better set-up and if it could be worth going up to the top tier defensive structures.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Galaxy Legion: Xectiphage Tower

Today saw the launch of the next 2-week mission in Galaxy Legion. This mission finally broke the experience ratio pattern that has been true for the last few missions... It's up to 70 experience for 30 energy. This makes it a slighter better experience return on energy investment than has been the case. (2.33 vs 2.20) Unfortunately it has the additional requirement of needing an engineered virus artifact along with the 30 energy. It takes 20 shots to get a reward and you can get the reward 15 times.

The reward itself initially seems really weak. It's a planet building with no production value at all. It is 2 space for 300 defense which is really bad. (You can ultimately research planet buildings which are 1200 defense for the same 2 space.) It also has the added bonus that you get to pick one of three lists of races and then the planet is immune from invasion by those races.

How good is this? Well, the top legion in the game has 60 people in it. 20 of them are in the first list of races. 16 are in the second list of races. 24 are in the third list of races. (The third list also has the two races which get bonuses to invade planets so they're the odds on best choice.) Even still, if someone in that legion finds your planet they can just share it with the rest of their legion and still have a full 60% of their membership capable of invading your planet. If someone really, really wants the planet they can even race change into a different race from the list to take it from you.

In short, this building is terrible when it comes to long-term defense. There are ways around it and it's too weak on its own to justify building.

But what else can be done with it? Well, you could keep them on hand and then when you notice a planet is being attacked you can build it to make it immune from the attacker. He'll still be able to share it but you can be annoying with it... I guess that's something?

Another thing you can do is use it as a temporary defense when you invade a planet. You can prevent the original owner from attacking back which does have some value. Chances are you're going to build a ton of defenses on the planet and then temp flux it away in a week. This building will prevent the original owner from pinging it every week to prevent you from fluxxing it. They could keep sharing it to get someone else to ping it but I bet they get bored in a real hurry.

For that reason alone I think I want to get a couple of these to keep on hand. I can always mylarai extractor them back off once I finish fluxxing them away!

It's a good thing I only want one or two of them because the virus clause is actually a huge problem. You may recall an earlier mission which required 500 flux probes. I still haven't completed that mission. 300 virii sounds easier than 500 flux probes but it turns out you actually get 2 flux probes at a time so these are even harder to get a hold of. I hope I don't want the final reward from this mission chain since it's going to take many months to build up to 300 virii!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Glitch Achievements

Glitch has a lot of good things going for it, but it does not have a good achievement interface. I can get a list of achievements I've earned in a pretty random order. I can get a list of all achievements in the game in alphabetical order. But I can't get a list of achievements I haven't earned. I can't get a list of achievements by type. World of Warcraft probably spoiled me in this regard but I really find what they have lacking.

So, I did what I'm want to do and built an achievement spreadsheet. I had to build my own categories for the achievements but I have the list in a sortable format. I can paste the list of earned achievements into the first sheet (paste as text into cell A1) and then it will populate the rest. The second sheet has #N/A in column C for an achievement I have yet to earn. The third sheet summarizes all achievements by type and what percentage of those I have.

The sheet is hopefully available at the following link: Excel File

The biggest category, other than miscellaneous, is cooking. One of the bigger ones is eating (which pretty much chains from cooking). As such it seems pretty clear that if I'm going to really challenge for the achievement leaderboard I'm going to have to get a lot of the cooking skills. But the problem is I have a lot of skills already so my learning penalty is starting to rack up. I'm thinking it might make sense to actually grab Better Learning V now. I'm just about to finish learning Animal Kinship VII and am strongly considering spending the next 5 and a half days on BLV. I could sink a ton of junk into the Lem shrines and power learn it... Hmm...

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Glitch: Game of Crowns

There's a mini-game in Glitch that you can buy tickets to play in a few different spots. The mini-game is a pretty simple 'king of the hill' style game where someone starts with a crown and if another player runs into them they steal the crown. First to keep the crown for a cumulative 60 seconds wins the game. It's cute and short but not terribly interesting.

The name was a little interesting though. It sounds very similar to Game of Thrones, the fantasy book series by George R R Martin. I thought that was a nice coincidence... Until earlier today when I went through the list of achievements in Glitch (if I want to get to the top of that leaderboard I need to know what I should be doing) and found the achievements related to holding the crown in the game of crowns...

The Imp - 101 seconds
Ranger of the Night's Watch - 1001 seconds
Knight of the Kingsguard - 5003 seconds
Kingslayer - 12007 seconds
Hand of the King - 25013 seconds
Monarch of the Seven Kingdoms - 100003 seconds

Yeah, guess it wasn't much of a coincidence after all, huh? Of course, to get that last achievement would require holding onto the crown for almost 28 hours! You'd have to really like playing keep-away or collecting achievements to get that one!

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Innistrad PTQ

There was a PTQ for Honolulu in town today using the new set. It isn't out on Magic Online yet and I avoided playing in the pre-release a couple weeks ago due to my extreme dislike of huge crowds. (401 continues to claim it will cut off entrants at 64 people but actually took money from 129 people... It's generous to say they have room for 64.)

I spent some of yesterday and I bit this morning actually reading the card list for the set and hoped that would be good enough. How good are werewolves? Who knows! How do they even work? I don't know! Realistically I shouldn't have expected to do very well but I think I'm pretty good so I expected to go in and win. Smash!

At any rate, I went to bed very early yesterday since I was tired (7:30ish) and ended up waking up at 3:40 this morning. Plenty of time! I finished reading the set list and headed out to Matt's house to snag a ride.

They ended up getting 84 people which meant 7 rounds of swiss with a likely record of 5-1-1 needed to make top 8. The deck I registered had two foil rares in it which meant the card pool actually had 8 rares compared to the usual 6. A couple were dual lands but it also had a couple bombs. Sadly I didn't get it back. Instead I got what seemed to me to be a pretty weak card pool. I had one card which seemed like it could be a bomb (skirsdag high priest) and not a lot else going on. The rest of my black seemed pretty weak but it looked like I had a lot of cheap white and green humans. I had a black/green dual and a land searcher so I decided to spash the priest and an unburial rites into an aggressive white/green deck with three pieces of equipment.

Round 1 I have 1 land in the opener and mulligan into a 1 lander and mulligan into 2 lands. I end up getting flooded after that and only cast 3 creatures which all met creature removal. Games 2 and 3 my opponent stalled on mana and I beat him up with a bunch of cheap dudes. (He was playing double coloured spells in 3 colours I think so I'm not too surprised he got colour screwed a bit.)

Rounds 2 and 3 are very similar. I curve out in both games and quickly kill my opponents. My deck doesn't feel very powerful but an aggressive deck will sometimes just beat the opponent up when they don't have a good way to deal with the pressure.

Round 4 I have 1 land in the opener. I have a 1-drop (though it is equipment) and 3 2-drops including my bomb which I have yet to play. It's pretty unlikely I'll draw a black source to play him (I have no green so the land searcher won't help) but I decide to go for it. I tell my opponent I feel like losing and keep. I don't draw a land for 6 turns and unsurprisingly die. Game 2 I draw land and spells and demolish him with a fast start. (Turn 1 mana elf, turn 2 2/3 flyer, turn 3 5/5.) Game 3 my draw isn't quite as fast but I do play out my high priest. I'd sided in some removal which kills spirits and was able to use those to proc the priest. (Tap the priest and two other creatures to put a 5/5 flying demon token into play. You can only play this ability if a creature died this turn.) I used the Death Star and the Ace of Spades as demon tokens and blew him up with demons.

So I've started 4-0 and likely just need one more win in order to draw into the top 8.

Round 5 my opponent plays an early mayor. This is a flip werewolf that makes a 3/3 wolf every turn. It's a real problem if it ever flips. So what do I do? Decide to not play a spell on my next turn so I can keep tapper mana up. His mayor flips and destroys me. In retrospect I might win if I just play out a spell on that turn but it isn't clear. Doh. Game 2 he plays a cagebreaker (3/4 dude with a trigger that goes off when he attacks which puts a 2/2 wolf into play attacking for each creature in your graveyard) and that alone is enough to kill me. I don't have cards nearly as good as the mayor or the cagebreaker and have little in terms of removal so I got blown up. He was also playing a green/white beatdown deck but he had bombs, in colour, and they were less situational than mine. Also he drew his and I didn't draw mine.

Round 6 is essentially another mirror. He is playing white/black/green. None of the colours seems to be a splash as he has double coloured spells all over the place. He has 2 tappers, 3 rootwallas, 3 black kill spells... Basically his deck is like mine but a lot better if he draws the perfect land mix. He does so in both games and we frequently end up trading a bunch with him playing double-regrowth to generate enough card advantage to win both games.

Round 7 probably shouldn't matter but it turns out there are nine people at 13 points or more. Two of them have 13 points and one got paired down. If he looses then a 5-2 makes it. My breakers aren't spectacular but they aren't terrible either so there is an outside chance. Especially since my opponent is one of the people with better breakers than I have. Like the last two rounds this is essentially another mirror. But while the last two opponents had better cards than I did this guy seemed more on par with what I had. Game 1 I stall on lands and he gets me down to 5 life. He has 2 creatures in play and a +3/+0 equipment so any creature he draws is a threat. I have a tapper. Each turn I play a dude, tap his bigger guy, and trade with his equipped dude. Then we both cast another dude. This happens over and over and over. He has an empty hand so if he ever draws a land I'm free and clear. If I ever draw a land I can start doing multiple things each turn and get free and clear. Neither of those things happens for about 8 turns. Eventually though he runs out of gas and I kill him with my juggernaut.

Game 2 featured my making a misplay right out of the gates. He equips a 1/1 deathtouch creature with an equipment that gives first strike (also +1/+1 if the creature is human). For some reason I think it gives +1/+1 (also first strike if human) and attack into it with my 3/3. He blocks and my guy dies and I'm behind as a result for a lot of the game. I do end up getting my high priest out though and he doesn't really have a way to kill it. I throw a creature away to get my Death Star online, and I equip it with silver inlaid-dagger and inquisitor's flail which makes it into a 7/5 flyer that both deals and receives double damage. I crack him for 14 the turn I equip this stuff and he's in real danger. Unfortunately he has his +3/+0 equipment and a 2/1 flyer which he holds back on defense. I have a 2/2 flyer so I figure I can throw away the Death Star, hit him for 2 (he's at 2) and win. Instead he has a spell which gives +2/+2 and lifelink which gains him 14 life when he kills the Death Star. (Stupid flail making him take double damage... I probably should have equipped something else just in case.) At any rate, I build a new Death Star because that one died. He has 14 life so I can't alpha strike him down anymore so we end up playing draw-go for a while. He gets a tapper online to shut down the Death Star and makes a couple 1/1 flyers. Then for some reason he attacks with them. I block one with my 2/2 flyer and he has another +2/+2 to kill it. Ok, fine... I replace it with The Ace Of Spades and he gains 3 life. Seems like an ok trade to me. A couple turns later he gets bored and attacks with his 5/1 first striker... So I kill it with a spell that only targets attackers and build an Acrobatic Ninjas because it died. Now I have a trio of 5/5s and he doesn't have a first striker to kill them so I start beating his face in and win.

The 13 pointer who was paired down won his game so it was all for naught. I got some planeswalker points out of it and had fun so it wasn't a waste of time by any stretch but it's a little disappointing to start 4-0 and not manage to make top 8. Oh well! There's a PTQ in Waterloo next month and I may try to head to that for a second shot...

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Final Fantasy Legend Monsters: Not Fun?

I've done a little bit of playing recently and have maxxed out one of my 4 monsters at tier 13. There are tier 14 monsters but the only way to get to them is to eat the meat from some of the final bosses so for all intents and purposes that character is done getting better. He can still eat meat and if he transforms he's guaranteed to stay at tier 13 so he can't really get worse, either. Presumably the abilities at tier 13 are different and powerful so figuring out which tier 13 monsters to use will be a thing but by and large that character is simply done getting better. I found some non-random encounters (talk to a guard and get an instant fight) which spawn monsters frequently used to get to tier 13 so the remaining 3 characters will likely get maxxed out in an hour or two whenever I get around to putting that time in.

And then? There will be no possible way to get better. It will be a matter of muddling my way through the 'plot' until I either beat the game or reach a point where I need to find the right mix of top tier monsters to beat a hard fight. Money has practically no use to me either (I can pay to stay at an inn but since I can just eat practically any meat for full health and abilities I'm not sure that's going to matter) so there's really going to be no reason at all to fight. Running from fights can fail so I guess just holding down the attack button might well be faster in the long run. At this point I'm either going to win, or not, and there's not a lot I can do about it. (And since other people have won with 4 monsters I have to believe I'll be able to do it, too.)

Working out how the mechanic worked was interesting and fun. Writing the Java program was fun. Even wandering around and figuring out the path to tier 13 was fun. But I'm really dreading actually playing the game now. Part of the reason RPGs are so compelling to me is the ability to make numbers get bigger. Another is the story/cutscenes. A third is to get challenged. I'm pretty much done the first part and really don't have high hopes for story or cutscenes. Since there's no way to really get better challenge is pretty much out the window too at this point. I win or I don't. I'm going to plow my way through this, honest, but I don't know that I'm going to enjoy it much...

Is the problem with monsters themselves, or with a party of all monsters, or just with the way I've approached it? Maybe a party with a single monster could be interesting since you could still level up the other characters in more standard ways and just feed the monster when it made sense to do so. But then it feels like either you make a plan for the monster and probably make him awesome compared to your party for most of the game or you don't make a plan and he constantly languishes at low tier since there are way more transitions backwards down the chain than there are ones forward.

It's a little like the Dynasty Hockey Facebook game. It was fun while doing random matches was actually progressing my team, but I reached the point where I had to do a bunch of trivial matches for basically no reward except paying the upkeep on my buffs. Grinding out stuff when I can make progress is fun. Grinding out stuff for no reason is just tedious. I stopped playing that game as a result and have pretty much lost interesting in playing The Final Fantasy Legend in the same way. But maybe the plot will get better after I rebuild the statue...

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Glitch Leaderboards

Sthenno pointed out to me earlier this week that there are a few leaderboards for Glitch. I now have something to shoot for! There are 15 leaderboards...

Most experience - Currently 3247/35169
Most achievements - Currently 224/24826
Most rooms explored - Currently 407/26509

Then there are 11 leaderboards for reputation with each of the giants. My highest ranking is 924th on the tinkering giant leaderboard. This despite having nearly twice as much rep with the experience giant.

The last leaderboard isn't a personal one at all. It totals up all reputation for each of the giants and shows how they rank against each other. One of the giants has almost twice as much as the next closest giant, and that's the experience one. I'm thinking an awful lot of people have been rep grinding with that giant in order to rush research the better learning skills. The second highest one is the mining giant who is about 33% higher than the third one, which is the animal one. The rest are way behind with the dirt giant at the bottom, at less than 16% of the experience giant's total.

Sthenno is up to 3rd on the animal giant rep leaderboard. The two people ahead of him are vastly higher level so I wouldn't be surprised if he passes them soon.

Personally I think I'm going to work on the exploration leaderboard. One of my focuses on Aardwolf was exploring all the zones to make that number bigger and I'd started doing that in Glitch even before knowing it was tracked somewhere. (I got an achievement for fully exploring one zone and decided I wanted more of those.) Maybe instead I'll try for the achievement leaderboard since it's the one I'm highest on right now. Probably I can work on both at the same time since I'd want to get the exploration achievements either way!

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Better Learning

There was a discussion in the comments of an earlier post regarding the learning skills in Glitch and if/when they're worth picking up. It was hard to figure out if I should be getting them or not since it wasn't entirely clear what they do. I've done some exploring in threads on the internet and it seems the developers aren't really sure either, but I do know what the intention is and what is currently happening.

By default your first 20 skills can be learned for their standard base cost. From the 21st skill forward each new skill you learn costs an extra 3% per skill over the cap. So if you haven't taken any of the better learning skills your 21st skill costs 103% of the normal time. Your 22nd costs 106.1%. Your 43rd skill would cost more than double.

So going over the cap a little bit doesn't actually seem like a big deal. My question yesterday was if I should learn up to the cap or not and the answer seems to be it wouldn't have hurt that much if I had. An extra 3% time on the 12 hour skill I was going to learn would be 21 extra minutes. The optimizer in me dislikes it but it wouldn't have really been a big deal.

In the long run the compounding aspect will really start to hurt. Paying more than double for skill number 43 seems like an awful lot, but even then it doesn't seem truly terrible. I was worried from talking to Sky that it was going to quickly become a 6x multiplier and that's really not the case.

Now, what does Better Learning I do? (Hereafter referred to as BLI, and assuming the very first things you ever learn are the BL skills if you're ever learning them.) It raises the cap of skills you can learn before the penalty starts kicking in from 20 to 21. It also knocks 2% off of the cost of all future skills. (The support rep claims that BLI isn't supposed to count as one of the 21 skills either, but right now it does. Unclear if that is a bug or a misunderstanding. For now I'm going to assume it is working as intended and BLI should count as a skill.) Since BLI counts as a skill and the cap only gets increased by one it doesn't matter when you learn it. All it does is knock 2% off of the cost of future skills. It takes 10 minutes to learn it will have paid for itself in 500 minutes, or less than 9 hours. After that it's pure profit and I think everyone should learn this pretty much as soon as they can.

How about BLII? Well, it takes the cap all the way to 24 and changes the 2% discount into a 5% discount. Given that you already have BLI this means that learning your first 20 skills actually takes 3.06% less time. Skill 21 takes 5.88% less time. Skills 22 and beyond take 8.63% less time. BLII takes 176.4 minutes to learn, so with the best saving ratio it will pay for itself in 2044 minutes, or 34 hours. This still seems like a very worthwhile investment.

BLIII bumps your cap to 28 and converts the 5% discount to an 8% discount. Compared to BLII it saves you 3.16% on your first 22 skills, 5.98% on skill 23, 8.72% on skill 24, and 11.38% on all future skills. BLIII requires an emblem of Lem (and therefore a fair amount of time spent in game) and 11.4 hours to learn. Again using the best ratio it will pay for itself in 100 hours. So you can be half a day worse for 4 days and then better forever after that. Depending on how you feel about getting rep with Lem this may or may not be feasible but it seems very strong.

BLIV bumps your cap to 32 and changes your 8% discount into a 12% discount. Compared to BLIII it saves you 4.35% on your first 25 skills, 7.13% on skill 26, 9.84% on skill 27, and 12.46% on all future skills. It takes 33.12 hours to learn and will pay for itself in 266 hours. That's a fairly long amount of time to get into the profit but it isn't terribly unreasonable.

BLV bumps your cap to 37 and changes your 12% discount into a 20% discount. Compared to BLIV it saves you 9.09% on your first 28 skills, 11.74% on skill 29, 14.31% on skill 30, 16.81% on skill 31, and 19.23% on all future skills. That's a really substantial discount! On the downside it does take 4.4 days to learn so it only pays itself off after almost 23 days. It will take way more than 23 days to learn everything in the game so if your plan is to do it all then it certainly makes sense to dive down this far since it's a really substantial saving across the board.

Personally I just learned my 24th skill and that skill was BLIII. This means I can now learn 4 more skills without the penalty approaching, and while BLIV is always good it gets better when the cap raise actually helps you out. I'm clearly not just playing for the long term since I want to explore around and do things on top of being efficient so I'm not sure I should plunge into BLIV and BLV right away. I am currently learning BLIV while I work out the math since I'm pretty sure I'll want it in 3 skills even if I don't end up wanting it right now. But I think it would be worthwhile to map out the next few skills I want and then see how long it would take to get them all with or without each of BLIV and BLV.

My main source of both money and experience right now is fondling animals and there are three more skills to more me even more efficient at doing so. Those are at the front of my list of things to pick up for sure. I also want to level up tinkering more so I can maybe start actually making things. There are 5 such skills left in that tree, though the last one has 4 low level prerequisites elsewhere. I've almost finished off Bureaucratic Arts II. I kinda want 3 more tiers of teleportation. I also feel like getting the last meditation skill would make sense. And if I get that then I can grab piety... Who knows what that will do!

Getting all the animal skills will cost me about 70 hours right now. With BLIV it will take 100. With BLV it will take 200. Clearly if I just want to go all animals all the time then I should stop where I am. On the other hand it is useful to look at when these things will finish. 70 hours from now is the middle of the day Saturday and I am likely going to be playing Magic all day, and then probably D&D on Sunday. By the time D&D is done (when I'll get to play again) BLIV and all the animal skills will be done. That seems ok. 200 hours is a more than a full week and seems less ok.

But that's an awfully short term view... What if I want all the tinkering related skills, too? Well, as is I'd get there in 228 hours. With BLIV? 244 hours. With BLV? 328 hours. BLV still isn't looking very good. BLIV still can't pull ahead but the gap is closing.

How about everything on my list? To go beyond this stuff would pretty much mean branching out into other types of things entirely. As is it would be 493 hours (TPV actually costs 4 days base!), with BLIV would be 476 hours, and with BLV would be 515 hours. BLIV pulls into the lead and BLV remains worse than neither!

I think BLV is getting excluded for now. I'm not convinced I'll be playing the game long enough for it to pay off. I'm not sure delaying everything I currently care about so I can get stuff I don't care about faster makes sense. BLIV is the same thing, only a lot less extreme. I can see it paying off right away. And I think the way the timing works out as far as when the weekend hits is actually enough to put it over the top.

I worry that excluding BLV now means I'm never going to get it, and that they'll end up adding in lots of new skills and I'll get left behind by not having it. But it just takes sooooo long to pay off.