Monday, October 24, 2011

Aaaah, Japan, Learn to Trophy Design!

I believe I've mentioned it here a couple times, but it bears repeating, especially for this post; lately, I've been playing Dynasty Warriors 7 again lately to pick off the last few trophies I need for the game before Xtreme Legends comes out.  I imagine Xtreme Legends will have it's own Trophy List and when I get it, I'm not really going to want to play vanilla 7 because, well, with Xtreme Legends, I can load in vanilla 7 and make it more with Xtreme Legends.  That's how the whole thing works and has worked; you put in Xtreme Legends, set it up to 'mix' with the base game, switch disks to load it, and switch back.  It's a convoluted process that hasn't gotten any better, unfortunately, but the end result is generally worth it, since Xtreme Legends on its own tends to not be 'enough', whereas, after you've played with it, going back to the base game without it is a bit rough.

The rough thing here is that Dynasty Warriors 7, like a lot of games right out of Japan, have the philosophy that you have to do literally every single thing to get all of the trophies.  To the extent that some gamers look at Trophy/Achievement lists and scoff, going "Welp, never going to get a Platinum or 1000/1000 on that game!" because it's honestly just too much.  In the example of Dynasty Warriors 7 here, the few trophies I'm still hunting down are:  Audio Collector (Bronze), Consensus Builder (Gold), Meticulous Collector (Gold) and Seal Collector (Bronze).  (and the Platinum, of course)Notice, two Golds, Two Bronzes and I'm going to tell you right now that the amount of work involved with three of them is roughly the same among each other.

Let's start with the descriptions/unlock conditions for them, shall we?  Audio Collector:  Unlocked all Officers' voices in the gallery.  Consensus Builder:  Maxed out your bond with every officer in Conquest Mode.  Meticulous Collector:  Unlocked all possible items in the gallery.  Seal Collector:  Unlocked every seal.  I'm sure you can understand which ones are the ones roughly equivalent with one another, but if not, I can point it out in so many words.  Meticulous Collector is the outlier here as it's pretty much going to be the last thing I unlock before the Platinum, I'm sure.

How you unlock these things is clearly the issue here, really.  To unlock all the voices in the gallery, at this point, I need to make sure every character learns all the skills they can possibly learn, which is a harder task than it would sound, as some skill trees include skills that take 840 Skill Points to unlock.  For one skill.  Just to give you a rough estimation here on how much of a grind it becomes, I've worked out the most efficient way for me in running "Sishui Gate Defensive Battle" (I think that's what it's called) in which I can take out 9 Enemy Generals to complete the level in just under five minutes.  I say enemy generals because they're the only ones that matter, as they're the only ones to drop Skill Points.  At base, they drop 10 when you defeat them.  (Recall, I said 840 skill points.  For one skill.)  However, everybody has a skill that, when purchased, adds two more points to that, and then you can have a seal on your weapons, appropriately called "Skill Points Up" that adds another two, which you can have on both the weapons you take into battle to stack.  So instead of 10 points per general, you get 16.

Nine generals.  Sixteen points each.  One Hundred and Forty-Four skill points every five minutes.  Works out to just under six if you divide 840 by 144, so I have to run that one level, basically, six times to get enough for just one skill (if said character has that skill), and at five minutes a pop, that's, well, half an hour.  There are 62 characters in the game.  I won't bore you with the math there, but trust me, it makes big numbers.  Now, it might sound incredibly daunting here, and rightly so, but it's not quite that bad.  For one, going through story mode, all skill points accrued go into a 'pool' so that, towards the middle or early middle of every story, you'll end up having enough SP to pump every character (that you can't switch, unfortunately) full on their skills at the start of their battle.  Which means, a good few officers already have had all their skills bought by me.  Additionally, if you have a second controller, you can pop in a second player in Conquest Mode to stand around in a safe place while you, player one, runs around and does all the work.  In Two-Player Mode (Offline at least, not sure about Online) every time one defeats a general, both get the skill points, so you can, essentially, grind for two characters at a time, effectively cutting that grind in half.

Mind you, the above I've talked about for unlocking skills?  That's just for Audio Collector which is, as you saw above, a Bronze trophy.  Of course, its completion goes towards Meticulous Collector as well, since the voices are for the Voice Gallery, so there's that at least.  The other thing in question here for Meticulous Collector?  Getting all the characters bond up to max, which unlocks either a final Wallpaper or their other Voice Gallery (yes, they all have two Voice galleries, one for general things, one for Conquest Mode phrases) I forget.  Remember the other gold trophy, Consensus Builder?  Yeah.  This is why Meticulous Collector will likely be the last trophy, as it literally requires you have to have gotten other trophies for collecting, well, everything.  Meticulously.

Upping bond requires you to either fight alongside the officer you want to gain bond with (either by selecting them as your Sworn Ally (read: Bodyguard) or by happenstance of ending up with them in a Conquest map) and win, or fighting against them and winning (which only gives you a little fraction of bond, but it's still something.).  Unfortunately, the above method for skill grinding cuts out your ability to have a Sworn Ally, and you don't gain bond with whoever the second player is.  Still, you can get enough with the right seals and by ending up with them on random maps.  (For instance, the Sishui Gate map I mentioned will always have four unique Commenders that you can bond with (read:  Non-Generics) one on your side, three to defeat)  So at the very least, you're grinding more than just one thing at the same time, but that doesn't make it happen any faster.

So, the outlier here now is the Seal Collector trophy that I mentioned earlier.  Seals, which I should've really explained better earlier than now, are enhancements you put on your weapons to, well, enhance your character.  Attack/Defense/Speed Increases, the aforementioned Skill Points Up, Congeniality (which increases the amount of bond you get), the 'Master' skills, etc. make up the entire list.  At this point, all I have are some Master skills which, when equipped on a weapon, means you treat that weapon as if you had 3 Stars (out of 3) in handling, regardless of whether you did or not.  Having 3 stars and "Master" basically makes it so you treat it differently; either your attacks do more damage, are faster, you can dash, etc.  They're useful, but not useful enough to throw on as a seal unless you want to have Xiao Qiao using Lu Bu's Sky Scorcher effectively for the laughs.  Most characters end up with "(Weapon) Master" skills in their skill lines for their chosen weapon anyway.

Still, I have to get them and, wouldn't you guess, they take the longest out of all the seals to get.  If you've ever played Final Fantasy Tactics Advance (Perhaps Final Fantasy IX used the same method?  Thought I heard that somewhere), then the concept isn't -too- foreign; you equip and use the weapon and the more you use it, the closer you get to unlocking it.  (Random Mooks and Generals alike give 'AP' towards 'learning' the seal, and once you've learned/unlocked it, you can equip it to whatever weapon you want)  So keep in mind, at the same time as I'm grinding skill points and, inevitably bond, I'm also trying to get these last few seals that I've yet to unlock.  (For my own sanity, I have five different weapons languishing at the Blacksmith's which give them a little more towards unlocking said seal with every battle, cutting the amount of eventual work I'll have to do down dramatically.)

...Anyways, the point in all this was to discuss the different 'philosophies' that seem to be in place where it concerns trophies/achievements for games from the west and games from the east, not whinge exclusively about my current situation.  What I was trying to establish is that everything I've said for Dynasty Warriors 7, all this effort and the like, is largely the same across other Japanese games.  Take Star Ocean:  The Last Hope (International) for example; we all know I have something of a fondness for the Star Ocean games, but there is a goddamn line, alright?  Looking through the trophy list, I see "Dutiful Deliverer (Silver) Complete 100% of all quests.", "Arms Addict (Bronze) Collect 100% of all weapon data.", "Monster Master (Silver) Collect 100% of all monster data.", "World's Biggest Welch Fan (Silver) Create 100% of all possible items.", etc. etc.  Like I said, Japanese games seem to want you to do everything possible in a game which, on one hand is kind of understandable.  If I made a game, I'd want the players to experience everything about it, but on the other hand, I wouldn't 'force' them to do it.

That's not to say that Western design philosophy is any better, of course, because Western design offers a lot of 'fluff' as well, just in a different way.  Where Eastern games want you to experience/collect everything, Western games want you to get ass-deep into their multiplayer that's oftentimes tacked on integrated into what, in a different age, would be a wholly Single-Player experience.  The flaw here being that some people just straight-up don't like Multiplayer by-and-large, and thus don't really want anything to do with it.  And the other issue at play here is that, Multiplayer Trophies/Achievements are essentially on a timer, as developers don't leave their servers up forever and once a server's gone, your ability to get that Trophy/Achievement goes with it.  Didn't get 10,000 kills in Ranked Competetive Matches in Resistance 2 before they take the servers down?  Too bad.  If anything, I'd argue that this is actually worse than these "Unlock every.  single.  thing." trophies since, well, at the end of the day, the possibility to get the latter exists roughly indefinitely.  EA's already rendered swaths of games 'uncompletable' by taking their servers down for them (Old Madden versions, NBA, etc.) and while Developers on the whole seem to be a to the quandary, they're not going to keep their games up forever.

I guess it's hard to say what the happy medium is, really, since in the end, you have to have at least a good portion of Trophies/Achievements mean something beyond "you beat the game, have a gold star", or else those of us that care about them will, well, stop caring.  Trophies/Achievements should be the prize at the end of a long road, not the carrot on a stick attached to your head just out of reach.  All the examples I've mentioned her, in one way or another, more closely resemble the latter, whereas the other 'widespread' trophy, I.E. the Chapter/Game Complete trophy seems not even the former.  I'm unfortunately not in a position to suggest what the perfect in between would be, as I can't remember any trophies I thought were 'just right', but I'm sure there's some out there.  Hopefully, developers will continue to work on it and really figure it out.  Until then, we all have a bit of grinding to do yet in some form or another.

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