Final Fantasy VI: Repetitive Activity Revisited

I wish I could say that I made some real progress in my last session. I put together a team that could beat the ninjas and dragons of the floating continent — and I emphasize that these are not just your garden variety IronFists or WireyDragons or any of the other qualified variations encountered earlier in the game, but Ninjas and Dragons, the definitive versions, as befits the guardians of the secret source of all the world’s magic. But they’re not the only things keeping visitors out. The whole floating continent is a maze with trigger-spots that change it when trod on, and I managed to get into a position where a crucial trigger-spot for moving forward seemed to be no longer accessible. I had no idea that was even possible.

I had no choice to go back to the airship, and while I was there I figured I might as well check up on a sidequest that I hadn’t managed to finish, and that took me near the Veldt, so I figured I should take Gau and Strago out for a spin to see if they could pick up any new moves. 1I’ve described the mechanics around Gau and Strago in previous posts, but to recap: Gau is a wild-boy who attacks by imitating monsters. In order to learn how to imitate a monster, he has to observe it in the Veldt, which is kind of like a retirement home for things you’ve defeated elsewhere (even things that are highly location-specific, like security robots). Strago is a Blue Mage who can learn specific monster attacks as spells. Unlike Gau, he doesn’t have to learn them in the Veldt, but it’s a good place for him to pick up things he missed. Within three or four encounters, Gau learned the secrets of the Ninja. But the Dragon I encountered shortly afterward bested my party. And once that happened, I didn’t want to leave. Not until Gau could do the Dragon.

To change topics out of the blue for a moment: The first computer I ever programmed was a TRS-80 Model 1. One of the first simple BASIC programs I came up with was one that filled in randomly-selected pixels in an infinite loop. The slowness of TRS-80 BASIC (considered slow even in its day; serious TRS-80 programmers used assembly language) meant that you could sit there and watch it fill in the pixels one by one. Eventually it would fill in the entire screen, 2Years later, I tried replicating the program in GW-BASIC on an IBM PCjr, and was horrified to discover that it did not fill in the entire screen. The random number generator was so bad that you wound up with a bunch of neat diagonal stripes instead. but you could spend a while waiting for it to randomly select the last unfilled pixel. In fact, you could spend a while waiting for the second-to-last pixel to fill in, and then you’d spend on average twice as long waiting for the very last. 3Or, hm, maybe not. What I really mean is that the expected number of random choices to fill in one specific pixel is twice the expected number of choices to fill in either of two specific pixels. But the ratio of the expectation values is not necessarily the expectation of the ratio. But I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader.

Such were the amusements we found for ourselves in the days before JRPGs. At any rate, I spent some time in the Veldt, doing the things that were tedious when last I played, but which just now seem lazily relaxing. (Such is the effect of context on one’s gaming experience.) Everyone’s learned more of the standard spells. Strago picked up a couple of blue spells that I didn’t know existed, in one case by watching Gau use it in animal-rage mode. I’ll have to remember that that can happen. Ironically, Gau is probably the character to benefit the least from the exercise. Yes, I did eventually meet the Dragon again (or maybe a different one), but the entry for it is so far down on Gau’s list that I doubt I’ll have the patience to scroll down to it often. Gau would be so much more useful if I could rearrange that list.

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1. I’ve described the mechanics around Gau and Strago in previous posts, but to recap: Gau is a wild-boy who attacks by imitating monsters. In order to learn how to imitate a monster, he has to observe it in the Veldt, which is kind of like a retirement home for things you’ve defeated elsewhere (even things that are highly location-specific, like security robots). Strago is a Blue Mage who can learn specific monster attacks as spells. Unlike Gau, he doesn’t have to learn them in the Veldt, but it’s a good place for him to pick up things he missed.
2. Years later, I tried replicating the program in GW-BASIC on an IBM PCjr, and was horrified to discover that it did not fill in the entire screen. The random number generator was so bad that you wound up with a bunch of neat diagonal stripes instead.
3. Or, hm, maybe not. What I really mean is that the expected number of random choices to fill in one specific pixel is twice the expected number of choices to fill in either of two specific pixels. But the ratio of the expectation values is not necessarily the expectation of the ratio. But I’ll leave this as an exercise for the reader.

3 Comments so far

  1. Mark on 9 Mar 2009

    Don’t worry too much about running a lot from battles on the Floating Continent, or using powerful expendable items (having Shadow toss shurikens seems to work rather well, as I recall). It is something of a difficulty spike.

  2. paul on 9 Mar 2009

    I guess that point is explicated by Sabin’s Inequality, which states that the magicite transformation of an esper is less than or equal to the esper after magicite transformation.

  3. Carl Muckenhoupt on 12 Mar 2009

    Hm, so it’s possible to have Shadow in your party on the Flying Continent? So far, he’s only shown up in a few special contexts, and left afterward. I’m guessing he’d join more often if I left a gap in my party for him.

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