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COGA: What a Pile of Crit

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Commander's Opinionated Gaming Articles

What a Pile of Crit

On the topic of RNG and Difficulty


Want to know one of the most controversial topics that's not about politics? No, it's not abortion or whatever Twitter is doing. Seriously, I kind of am getting really, really ticked off about how far people are going to go with Twitter with those possibly false allegations or getting people hell for things they said years and years ago. Now you know why I don't like social media as if you have a face people will use that against you. People are weird and that's what this topic is about. I'm sure if you've played any RPG especially Pokemon then you are aware of how "luck" based it can be which leads to quite a bit of frustration. Why is this system used in so many RPGs if it leaves so much frustration? Surely it'd be a better game if it didn't exist in the first place. While my main focus will be on the crit factor, I do think it's now a good time to talk about difficulty.


Let's start with the basics: what is a crit? A crit is the term often used for a critical hit. This is a random chance of a damaging move doing a multiplied amount from what it would normally do. This usually is double the damage but sometimes can be 1.5 or even 3 times. While it varies across the genre, we can use roughly 10% as a baseline to give an estimate of when this occurs. So 10% of the game will be experiencing this. That's not quite rare, but not uncommon either. Now how much of a factor is a crit in a game? Well it really depends as often times you'll just be getting some big damage but it really won't change the fight all that much or really shouldn't. Sometimes a lucky crit can change the outcome of your side, but these cases are rare and far inbetween. What happens if an enemy gets a crit though? Things can go absolutely downhill fast like in Pokemon it can phase through any multipliers and buffs and potentially one shot you or in Fire Emblem your unit is probably going to die. In other words, crits are unfavorable to the player more than favorable. So why is it still used so often?


We have to take a step back and look at the mobile market or more specifically the gacha market. This market has grown so big due to one factor: gambling and the addiction people have. I'll admit it is thrilling to see the results of using the mobile game's currency to see what you get, despite it more often then not being something undesirable. It's confusing why people would be into something which brings more disappointment then enjoyment. It's frustration and it absolutely makes 0 sense why people do this to themselves especially when it probably isn't healthy. There's actually a bit of science behind it though. It has to do with some philosophy stuff called pleasure. The best way to describe it is that you have two foods: a candy bar and some dry chicken. The candy bar tastes better but will only fill your stomach for 10 minutes. The chicken is not quite as good, but will last for an hour. The mind often wants to go for what is best at the moment over what is more enjoyable over time. It's a chemical sensation that is quite hard to keep in check due to the craving of that candy bar. Those sparks often end up being more enjoyable than a full 40 hour game. It's crazy, I know, but it's important to understand.


From a piece of paper, there is no benefit to critical hits, but it's the experience that really makes it such an important part of the game. These actually immerses you into the game and you don't even know it. The less common an unexpected outcome is, the greater the reaction is to it. It's like missing a 99% hit and getting hit by a 1% crit in Path of Radiance making you lose your Boyd. I wanted nothing more to yell and scream in frustration having to restart the entire chapter being so close to the end. These instances give us both a thrill and a sense of danger. Every action in Fire Emblem is always a risk as things can go very, very badly very, very quickly. Luck plays a part in every Fire Emblem playthrough, but...there is also skill. There's a lot of terms used for this, but the best way I can put it is that high skill is minimizing RNG factors that cannot be determined beforehand. Take an axe fighter for example. Say they have reliable, but a bit shaky accuracy. You could invest in raising their skill to hit more often than not. Missing less means you do more damage meaning you have more chances of being successful. Sometimes things can't be controlled which is why it's always good to have a stock of items in case one of your allies takes the fall unexpectedly. You will eventually prepare for and adapt to these systems.


Now begs the question: what if a game doesn't have critical hits? It is impossible to make an RPG without RNG, but there are two games I want to mention that do not use the traditional critical hits. The first one you may be familiar with which are the first two Paper Mario games. The original Paper Mario had a near 0 luck involved only being on dodges for attacks by equipping badges. Everything was in a very controlled environment where as long as you approached the battle properly you were guaranteed to win. TTYD is a bit more interesting. It added many mechanics a player could take advantage of on top of random occurrences happening in the game. The results were the same as Paper Mario, but you had to keep an eye on many more things such as the audience. The other game series I want to talk about are the Kiseki games. I'm a huge fan of this series, but I'll leave my bias at the door. I'll be using Zero no Kiseki for this but I want to bring up a screen from in battle:




(There's a lot of things going on here)



There's a lot of things to be looking for here, but I'll help you out. The most important thing to look at is the turn order on the left. This is the most crucial thing to know about when playing the game. You also may see some icons to the right of the character pictures which are bonuses. An exclamation mark is a critical hit. I'm early in the game so I don't have a lot of healing powers so you have to be a bit careful since I can only heal six times before I need to start using items to heal MP. I really don't want to be hit by that critical hit but too bad, right? Wrong. The turn order can be manipulated. You see that wheel in the middle. Every action has a lag time called delay until you can take another action. Items and move give a much less delay over attacks and crafts (each action has a certain amount of delay). The shortest delay are artes which takes one turn to charge then one turn to use...like this:




(Oof so close but not cigar)


I...unfortunately don't have any artes on her other than this one so that's no good. It doesn't matter what action I take with Elie can't snatch that crit from the enemy...or can she. You may have noticed some red diamonds at the bottom of the screen. Those are indicators when a special craft called an S-craft can be use. It's usually a characters most powerful attack costing them all of their CP. That's awesome, but how does that help me? Well if I press the S key...




Huh? You mean I can use any of them.


You are able to select anyone's S-craft. The most important thing about an S-craft is that it's your ultimate weapon allowing a character to immediately take an action the very next action. So if I used someone's S-craft now, the enemy would still get the crit since everyone goes before it. However if I had a character take an action then use an S-craft, Randy (the ginger) would get the crit. The turn order is something you can manipulate and often using all the mechanics will allow you to make full use of it gaining bonuses or nabbing those crits. These are some weak enemies so I'd probably just heal a character and take the crit over wasting my most powerful strike since I'd have to build the CP counter up again.


What both these game series have in common is that crits aren't random and you'll often know what is going to happen in battle. I personally prefer these types of RPGs as you are more often then not thinking about your actions ahead of time instead of hoping something might or might occur. Pokemon has started to get better about this by reducing the crit rate but those low numbers do have a price to pay. But I think the crit factor really doesn't leave that impact like being in much more control of how a battle turns out. These are more long term type systems which better reward you for learning over making risks like in Fire Emblem. Each game is different and you'll often find yourself more interested in some over others.


Now let's step into difficulty and how you should approach it. Here's the answer: there's no one single definite answer. I think the best way to describe difficulty is the descent into the stages of Pooh's Home Run Derby which can be played here:

https://lol.disney.com/games/winnie-the-pooh-home-run-derby (Yes, it's on the actual disney site). You start out against Eeyore who is easy enough that anyone should be able to beat him once you figure out how to actually hit the ball. Each stay gets harder and harder until you get to a point in which is succumb and admit defeat. The few that do defeat Christopher Robin are the ones who are wiling to take on anything. The game truly is the work of the most sadistic man who wished torture on humanity as I barely got past Tigger myself. I already accepted I cannot defeat Christopher Robin. Basically, I can take on a very hard challenge, but I'm not willing to go past my limits for glory. Probably could beat SMT if I worked towards it for example but I just am not that interested in the system (Social Links and the story are why I played through Persona 3).


Anyways, difficulty is not a straight answer. If something is difficult that does not mean it's good. It's actually more of a sign it's a bad game like Pooh's Home Run Derby. What was designed as an enjoyable game for little kids has become a torture device and a meme across the internet. There are three factors that go into difficulty: progression, variety, and cinematography. If you say difficulty is simply hard or easy, then you kind of only understand the basic concept. I'll try to go into each of these the best way I can, but you kind of are going to have to define your own terms what is difficulty to you since it's on tastes on how important each of these things are to you.


Let's start with the one that is important for all games more or less: progression. Progression is based on two things: scaling and learning curve. It's hard to explain but a harder RPG can often be easier than easy RPGs due to how they are designed. It's often why people felt intimidated to even pick up the Redux mod I created simply because the idea of harder means more struggle. It's also why I'll go into why I think Intense mode for Rejuv is easier than the normal mode. Scaling is important because not all fights should be treated equally in difficulty. When all fights are at the same caliber, difficulty becomes nonexistent since you are doing the same thing over and over again which you pick up the patterns and plow through it for the most part. My advice is to just pick 10-20 bosses (no more than a quarter). Those will be a much, much bigger threat then anything else in the game though only 8 should really halt the player at all. 4 is the best number, but 8 is safe to do. That's not really a command but a good suggestion to anyone building an RPG. As for learning curve, it's pretty much how you tell if an RPG is bad or not. A good RPG is one which will slowly guide your hand to learning the mechanics to be successful. Not gonna lie in saying Reborn and Rejuv kind of do a really bad job at this...especially Reborn. You're kind of expected to know how all of this works including field effects which learning all that information about a field really can be difficult as even I forget about them. Rejuv Intense is a bit more balanced on this as while these things do get shoved down your throat, you are given a lot more room for error allowing for a much bigger team to be raised to be able to swap them out. While a fan of these games may not understand why people dislike them, it's actually pretty understandable why people would dislike the games due to the lack of a good learning curve on them. You hit an unexpected wall and you might not be able to do much other than grind for an hour because the game really doesn't give you much guidance.


Now let's go onto what my favorite topic about difficulty is: variety. Reborn kind of mastered this trick while Rejuv does a pretty good job with some misses here and there (way too much feels the same on intense). Variety means to simple shake things up to keep players on their toes. This is what I was talking about on the focus on a small amount of bosses. Putting the time, the emphasis and the investment into a smaller amount is more successful than focusing on everything. I'll admit some bosses in Redux I spent no more than 10 minutes editing like all the Dev corp fights and actually Solaris (might work on buffing him though). It's mostly just for a bit of a lull time not being as focused as you would for key bosses. The more important thing is to give a unique feel and touch to the big fights of the game. Gimmicks like field effects help, but they don't really create a solution. Reborn I feel has something really iconic in every fight such as Sigmund with his discharge boosts, Charlotte with her Heat Wave spam from the pits of hell themselves, Ciel with that surprise Mega at the end, though I do feel like the mono drops did lose some of that distinction and uniqueness (I really need to do a replay of it). Gonna stop here for a minute but I could probably spend hours on this topic alone.


The last topic to talk about is cinematography or basically why are you fighting this boss? This both part of the other two and its separate category. The difference is the other two are used for actual difficulty, while this one does not effect it at all. When you hear the term hardest boss, a few names might pop into your head. I think the most infamous one being Sephiroth from the original Kingdom Hearts who by all means is far from the hardest fight in the series. It's due to some simple facts: design and motive. There's nothing wrong with being flashy which I think some people will say graphics aren't everything. Gotta admit when a boss does something cool like destroy the field it really sticks in your head even if it's a joke. Most of my favorite boss battles often have a cinematic moment whether it be their attacks or just their design in general. Sephiroth looks cool which is why I loved him as a kid even though I kind of hate him in FFVII. Anyways, the other part is the motive or the story behind the fight. If a game has a story, there is going to be a buildup towards certain characters. My favorite to talk about is Lloyd vs Kratos from Tales of Symphonia (the series has plenty of good 1v1 plot driven battles). I'll be putting it in a spoiler:



So at the end of Arc 1 Kratos betrays the group and leaves them due to being aligned with the main villain of the game. However you'll find out over time that Lloyd is Kratos's son so Kratos often helps Lloyd despite being on opposite sides in so many ways. This slowly leads to the main villain finding out how his friends betrayed him and it gets kind of ugly, but nobody dies. This eventually leads to a final clash between Kratos and Lloyd as Kratos is the key to getting the final summon...at the cost of his life. So instead of it being a battle of enemies, it's more of a battle for Kratos to make sure Lloyd is ready.


"I'm not holding back this time"

"I know...I won't either"


Not the hardest fight but damn has that fight stuck with me after all these years after playing Symphonia.


If you set up a delivery, you really need to make sure to deliver even if it means going too far on a fight's difficulty. I feel like these fights get talked about more when a fight is set up then delivers. KH2 Final Mix Roxas battle anyone?


Here's the funny thing: what I set my standards for a fun and difficult fight is completely different from the next person's. The same goes for luck and random unexpected outcomes. I often care more about the cinematics and buildup of big fights over the challenge and while I like things to be challenging I can keep my attention even when things get easy. Heck even with Kingdom Hearts III I've been having a real easy time after the Toy Story world since there's no giant robots that 2 shot me. At the end of the day you are climbing a mountain which you could climb a small hill for the same result yet that's not what people like to do. It's because it's difficult climb that people want to do it even if it's for the same view. What kind of mountain they want to climb changes from person to person but you probably could pick up some patterns what people like to see. 

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