Blog 562: The Balance of Y4 R02

I freely admit that Project Y4 has not been particularly well balanced so far. I don’t want it to be, necessarily — certainly not the point of eSports blandness like UT2k4 or Starcraft II — but on the other hand, comments about its difficulty have run the gamut from sheer impossibility to I-could-beat-Drizzt-with-both-hands-tied-behind-my-back.

The updates I have planned for R02 probably won’t help, but I’m going to try anyway.

(Half of this post contains SPOILERS for the finale, so play R01 right now if you haven’t already… or just don’t scroll down too far.)

In General

Too easy? Too hard? It’s a tough call when the only beta tester is me. That’s what you get for modding a 10-year-old game — your trusted pals that you’d have lumped this onerous duty on before have all moved on to bigger, better and more profitable things. You’re a dinosaur, a cracked monument from a bygone age, standing alone against the weather.

Drama aside, Project Y4 has a strong central mystery that beta testing would eagerly dispel — I did it for your sake, so you could play the story complete and correct and enjoy it unravelling properly. I’ve never been known for taking the easy road.

Underdrive

Overdrive is perhaps the most significant victim of rebalancing, though those of you that use it as intended won’t notice a blind bit of difference. Those of you that managed to abuse it, by combining it with the Repair Drone module, will find themselves out of luck — as the constant damage done by Overdrive is now governed by an ever-increasing multiplier. Switch if off and the multiplier decays over time (just like heat), but leave the ability on for too long and you’ll be dealing yourself more than just flesh wounds.

Don't worry, once the multiplier becomes dangerous your motors will start to visibly spark.

Don’t worry, once the multiplier becomes dangerous your motors will start to visibly spark.

The Price of Everything and the Value of Nothing

It all comes down to numbers. I’ve decided that, since things like the HoverCon Electro-fence Emitter Swords and Shields and the Aegis are basically side quests without the tassles that they should probably be cheap/free to get as reward for, you know, finding them. Plus the Aegis is pretty finicky so I’ll never be able to balance it from user input if nobody ever bothers to buy the damn thing.

(The Projector Kit upgrade is too obvious, though, so you’re not getting those precious 16 hit points for nothing. No such thing as a free lunch!)

This shouldn’t affect difficulty per se, but it should open up a few new avenues for exploration… And at worse, it’s a few more easily acquired dress-up options. Because Y4 really is just a mech dress-up game.

Cheap as chips.

Cheap as chips.

The Final Boss (SPOILERS)

The final boss needed work, there’s no two ways about it. I didn’t realise until recently that there are only three weapons in the game that can, on their own, deal more than 1 damage to Ikaris — two of the Countermeasure weapons, the Taschari Blades and Thaelite Axes, and the Pick Axes (which come with a crippling speed penalty). Maybe something went just a little bit skee-wiff there.

I don’t think the element of randomness provided by the power-up cannisters helped much either. Need some VDamage so you can hand out some hits? Nope, have a VBarrier. Need a VRepair to take the sting out of those plasma bolts he just landed? Nope, have a VBarrier. For a game supposedly about some level of skill, it’s too much — especially when those power-ups are finite and not endlessly spread by respawning drones.

Gee, it was the first iteration, give me a break. This stuff doesn’t design itself!

I can't think of a single pun involving the word "plasma".

I can’t think of a single pun involving the word “plasma”.

So the first thing I’ve done to the Vault for R02 is stop those cannisters from being random. The four in the top corners all give VRepair, the two in the bottom left give VBarrier (and its duration has gone up a tad), the two in the bottom right give VDamage. Solid.

Then I took Ikaris’ damage reduction down to 30. It’s not much, but it means that a few more weapons, like the Tarobium and Amberite Blades, can now have a slightly more meaningful impact (still, hell mend you if you go down there with level 1 or 2 equipment). It’s not a lot, but throw Overdrive on before he pulses and jumps away and you can start to chip away — and it means less of the VDamage bonus is wasted just getting over the reduction threshold.

The next problem is less one of hardiness and more of dynamism and interest. Ikaris has precisely two attacks: plasma bolts shot in your general direction and an omnidirectional plasma pulse when you get close. I figured he needed at least one more, and it’s one that had been on my mind but hid behind some technical aspects. You like beam weapons, don’t you?

Yeah, it’s a classic, call me cheap. The blocker was working out how to pick all units in the line of the beam to damage them, but Ammorth handily did that script already for his LineSegments module. Yes, somebody else’s code, but it’s mathemagic and I really don’t have the stomach for building that myself (plus, Ammorth is/was a cool guy so no qualms about using his stuff there).

As Always

… You’re right, all of the above should make the game easier. Ah well. Maybe I’ll explore that Industrial Espionage mode at some point, where you’d use another company’s equivalent of the AP-AM instead, which would always be minus some key capability like, oh, you know, being able to wear shields.

It seems increasingly like a vain hope, but if you’re got something to say about Y4 I’d rather you said it before I finished R02. Otherwise, I’ll take the silence as a confirmation of my perfection and we really really really don’t want that. (If you’re only going to say something nasty, mind you, feel free to withold it.)

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