How do you manage Magi as general?

jade_angel

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On the one hand, I like Mana as a balancing mechanic: the idea is that mages can use powers that are much stronger than what others can do, but they have a limited supply. So far, so good. Where the concept falls down, though, is when it gets linked into the idea that the only thing a spellcaster can do is cast spells, and when they run out of Mana, they're stuck ineffectually flailing at monsters with a sad stick.

The flipside of this is that, in the D&D-derived paradigm (which Final Fantasy brought forward into video games, and we all know the history from there), physical fighters can keep doing their thing forever.

I'm working on a system mostly based around the typical fighters-and-mages idea where mages are fueled by Mana, but with two important deviations. One is that every Mage has some ability related to their magical skill that doesn't require Mana and still does something useful, and/or they have "wizard weapons" that are still effective. These are generally weaker than, say, a knight's axe or a musketeer's musket, but they can still be effective - some can exploit elemental weaknesses, most are ranged - thus giving the mage a role even when they are out of Mana or want to conserve it.
Second, fighters and most fighting skills are fueled by a resource called Vigor (a modified TP) that works like AP in Four Heroes of Light. You can fight every turn, but if you want your fighters to deliver their strongest moves, you'll have to budget your Vigor. The big difference is, mages don't really have many limits on their Mana consumption rate - they can deliver their best spells and go OOM in a single fight if you get in big trouble and need to - while fighters don't suffer from attrition as much. You start with full Vigor every fight, but if you use it up, you have to back off and play it safe while regaining Vigor. Also, some fighters have Mana-fueled skills and some mages have Vigor-powered skills, too.
 

M.I.A.

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I totally forgot. Four Heroes of Light has an AP system where every action (other than guarding) costs AP but you regenerate 1 AP per turn (and attacks cost 1 AP). AP is then planned ahead for, but you never truly 'run out'.

I enjoyed FHoL and the battle system, once I got used to it. The AP system was interesting and infuriating. But I liked it so much, I'm incorporating a similar system in my main project, where any Physical action uses AP and any Magical action uses MP. Some mixed skills (Fire Slash) will use both! :)
 

fireflyege

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@kirbwarrior true, mana should indeed be for extras like super duper destructive spells since they need to be limited in some way. I always thought it would be unfair if a warrior would deal huge damage with his sword without using mana, why would a mage have that restriction? Mages cannot deal damage with weapons since most of the time they have either staves or daggers and most of them are not daggers suited for battle but instead ritual daggers, nothing compared to warrior's arsenal of sharp things.

I have even more of a hate about religious characters because all they do in any fantasy world is sucking up the ego of their gods the whole game with the only real challenge being keeping the alignment intact.

@jade_angel I like mana as a limiting mechanic too but it ends up too limiting. Mages have no real way to get mana whatsoever. Normally you can focus your energy, tap into some ley lines and sustain your mana costs unless you are casting utterly cataclysmic spells, but the mage weapons are not really satisfying enough. You play the mage for having the option to use magic, and the magic is the most versatile thing. That is why mages have so many spells that they can use. Of course you can use the weapon and do something, but it is not enough considering a warrior can still do its thing with full efficiency forever.
 
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jade_angel

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<snip>

@jade_angel I like mana as a limiting mechanic too but it ends up too limiting. Mages have no real way to get mana whatsoever. Normally you can focus your energy, tap into some ley lines and sustain your mana costs unless you are casting utterly cataclysmic spells, but the mage weapons are not really satisfying enough. You play the mage for having the option to use magic, and the magic is the most versatile thing. That is why mages have so many spells that they can use. Of course you can use the weapon and do something, but it is not enough considering a warrior can still do its thing with full efficiency forever.

That's the reason for the Vigor mechanic - warriors don't just get to run flat out all the time with no limits. In fact, in a given encounter, the warriors almost certainly peter out first and have to back off to regain Vigor. They have a small gas tank, but it's constantly being refilled. The mages generally have more options (buffs, debuffs, heals, condition removal, etc in addition to just blasting), but the tradeoff for having more options, and for their damage-dealing options usually being stronger, is that they have to pace themselves so that their larger, but non-refilling gas tank isn't empty by the end of the dungeon. OTOH, they can keep going bananas for as long as their Mana holds out if they need to.

I have seen some alternatives to this sort of system, like the entirely cooldown-based skill system of Guild Wars 2, where everyone has a "just mash attack" option, and everyone has a bunch of skills, and only flavor/fluff distinguishes between a magical or physical attack, but IMHO, that doesn't work especially well in a turn-based system. If your cooldowns are refreshed at the start of a battle, then there's rarely any good reason not to just go bananas with your best stuff every fight. OTOH, if they aren't, then the best move is usually just to basic-attack through every fight, not popping any cooldowns until you absolutely have to (especially if you don't know how far from the boss you are, or if there even is a boss, or if there's more than one, say). Either there's little reason to pace yourself, or skills become too awesome to use.

However, there are two other factors with Mana, and this is tricky to balance out - one is restoring it. If there's no way to, you end up having to save all your spells for a rainy day (the too-awesome-to-use disease rears its head again), or hope the boss fight, when it comes, won't require you to go all-out just to stay alive. (Final Fantasy, the first one, had this problem, especially with a mage-heavy party.) OTOH, if you can restore it too easily, then you may as well not have a limited supply, and especially if your healing is Mana-based, you might not feel the impact of attrition at all. I found that to be a problem in later Final Fantasy games: between healing items, magical healing and Mana-recovery items, there weren't many dungeon dives where I felt much pressure: either the monsters would mash me in a single fight, or I could survive without much trouble. Dragon Quest 3, for contrast, was different - fights could be tough enough that I couldn't just mindlessly attack through every fight, but if I used magic too freely, I'd end up going OOM, and if that happened, there was a very real risk I'd get sanded down by the fights and die, or not be able to beat the boss, or not be able to get out after beating the boss.

Balancing that part is tricky - I'm hoping I can use some Vigor-based skills to get around that.
 

acidhedz

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In my last game I made a store where they could buy spells.
Since I prefer to start by making sure none of the spells are too OP, and balancing all the skills/spells out, it doesn't matter when or what they buy.

That way they can spec the dude out however they want. Damage with different elements, high damage (at the cost of hurting himself), status effects, buffs, debuffs, etc.
Make'em offensive, defensive, support, buffet style... whatever's clever.
 

fireflyege

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@acidhedz so you basically make spell shops and make your nukes hurt the mage. I do not know about your game system but I would consider making nukes not harm the mage.

In my older designs my mage was based on nuking too but the nuke had a crippling cooldown so you used your other offensive spells to reduce that cooldown. It was fun to play with, but the element system on my game was crippling the mage so I had to take a different route. I would suggest a system like that if you do not want your mage to nuke everything in sight but still want that nuke to be viable because ''Is my nuke off cooldown?'' is a better question than ''Do I have health for it?'' unless the said mage is a blood mage.
 
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acidhedz

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@acidhedz so you basically make spell shops and

I will the your nukes hurt the mage. I do not know about your game system but I would consider nukes not harming the mage.

In my older designs my mage was based on nuking too but the nuke had a crippling cooldown so you used your other offensive spells to reduce that cooldown. It was fun to play with, but the element system on my game was crippling the mage so I had to take a different route. I would suggest a system like that if you do not want your mage to nuke everything in sight but still want that nuke to be viable because ''Is my nuke off cooldown?'' is a better question than ''Do I have health for it?'' unless the said mage is a blood mage.

Yes on the spell store. His element is Wind, so he gets all four Wind spells right off the bat. The rest you pay for.

Example on the spells...
The strongest fire spell is called Pyromancer's Rampage. It does a.mat * 9 - b.mdf * 2, and has a 40% chance of causing a DoT called burning. It costs 85 mp and 8 tp. It hits all enemies. However, a lot of baddies reduce fire damage.
Other elemental spells only do a.mat * 8 - b.mdf * 2 with their strongest spell. With other effects.

The strongest "nuke" called Sorcerous Violence, does a.mat * 10 - b.mdf * 2, hits all enemies, and has no element. It causes a DoT on the caster called power burn, and has a 50% chance of causing it on the targets as well. It costs 70 mp, and 8 tp. And unlike all the other damage dealing spells, the group this one's part of can crit.
So it's not so much a nuke as a slightly cheaper, slightly stronger spell that has a chance to hit really hard. At the cost of taking some DoT. a.mat * 3 for 2-4 turns, to be precise. Narratively speaking the mage is shoving unfocused magickal power at the baddies, which can do a lot of damage, but you get burnt for doing it.

Spells like Charm, Cloud Mind, and Slumber only have a 55% chance to proc, and most of those effects can be stopped by taking damage. Buffs and Debuffs are based on a % by default, so they stay at the same level of effect.

The idea is that nothing is OP at any point.
Since damage is based on stats, with no solid numbers, the damage they do scales through the game. And, since they cost both MP and TP (I prefer SP) you can't just cast them willy nilly. The fact that the baddies are using the same spells and skills, and usually hit harder than you do, means you really have to think about what you're going to use each turn for.
That way the player can buy whatever spells they want, whenever in the game they want. And it simply doesn't matter. The spells stay at roughly the same level of utility throughout the game, and you can only cast so many during any given battle. It's up to the player to decide if they want the mage, or Wizzzzzard in this case, to be offensive, a buffer, a debuffer, do status effects, or be a swiss army knife.

Generally, my goal is always to put the player in a position where they have to make a cost-effect judgement call during battles. For every character.
 

fireflyege

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@acidhedz I corrected my writing mistakes on the last message. That is the price you pay for making ''time is of the essence'' your motto when writing things I guess. :D

Do not get me wrong, but unless all your characters have a massively high health a spell with a %800+ magic attack scaling will always hurt. A lot. Even if the targets have huge magical defense it will not matter. So in order to balance it you will maybe give everyone high health but that will make magic defense very obsolete unless magic defense is a lot compared to other stats for example a usual person having 100 magic attack but 200 magical defense by default, equipments roughly having the same ratio. So what am I saying is, making it like that will make magic defense very useless. What is the point of checking the monster's defensive stats if you can simply pay some health and nuke it like nobody's business. Do not get me wrong, my nuke on my mage was named ''Arcane Cataclysm'' which was a spell with %750 magic attack scalling and it silenced the enemies for a short duration. I never had a problem with its silence since my mage actually rained down large explosions of mana energy like 10 times in a rapid succession so severing one's connection to the arcane forces after an attack like that is quite likely, when you get blinded by the light you cannot look at it when you are restoring your vision after all but the problem was the skill having %100 enemy magic defense scaling so it was pointless what the enemy's magic defense because skills like Arcane Cataclysm will always hurt.

I would not make effects like Charm stopped by taking damage but would give them a short duration so that you would not be punished for debuffing the enemies you focus.
 
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acidhedz

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@acidhedz I corrected my writing mistakes on the last message. That is the price you pay for making ''time is of the essence'' your motto when writing things I guess. :D

Do not get me wrong, but unless all your characters have a massively high health a spell with a %800+ magic attack scaling will always hurt. A lot. Even if the targets have huge magical defense it will not matter. So in order to balance it you will maybe give everyone high health but that will make magic defense very obsolete unless magic defense is a lot compared to other stats for example a usual person having 100 magic attack but 200 magical defense by default, equipments roughly having the same ratio. So what am I saying it, making it like that will make magic defense very useless. What is the point of checking the monster's defensive stats if you can simply pay some health and nuke it like nobody's business. Do not get me wrong, my nuke on my mage was named ''Arcane Cataclysm'' which was a spell with %750 magic attack scalling and it silenced the enemies for a short duration. I never had a problem with its silence since my mage actually rained down large explosions of mana energy like 10 times in a rapid succession so severing one's connection to the arcane forces after an attack like that is quite likely, when you get blinded by the light you cannot look at it when you are restoring your vision after all but the point was the skill had %100 enemy magic defense scaling so it was pointless what the enemy's magic defense it because skills like Arcane Cataclysm will always hurt.

I would not make effects like Charm stopped by taking damage but would give them a short duration so that you would not be punished for debuffing the enemies you focus.

It's not just some health though, it's 2-4 turns of 3* their Magic Attack stat. Which can end up being more damage than they did to any single enemy.
Enemies, especially latter in the game, do have high health and high M.Def.
At level 40 the Wizzard has a M.Atk of 133, most of the enemies you fight around that level have a M.Def of around 300. And HP starting around 8,000. Depending on if I have them fighting in singles, or groups.
Plus, they aren't just standing there letting you do whatever you like. They fight back.

Think of it this way. Most enemies can hit you for a solid quarter, to a third, of your health per hit. Sometimes a lot more if they hit someone who is weak to their element. This is without even using skills. You have 6 characters. One bad turn can wipe out one, or even several members of the party.
Do you use your Wizzard to try to debuff the baddies, so the rest of the party can hit them harder?
Or try and buy you some time with a status effect, maybe use an electrocution damage spell and try to paralyze them? Or try to blind a few so they will miss more? Maybe slow them down so your peeps go first?
Perhaps try a Mass Charm to TRY and turn them on each other for a bit, while your party guard's and build TP, or recovers HP?
You have to ask yourself... will you risk suiciding him with one of those higher damage spells, hoping they don't just shrug it off and kill you all, while you're having to spend time on resurrecting him?
Choices... choices... choices...

Every character is important, and what you do with them in the first couple of turns of a battle is vital. More oft than not, trying to "nuke" the baddies isn't going to be the best way to use those turns. Especially if they are faster. And if you start with no TP, you can't cast anything at all.

I make those spells removable by damage, usually at 25% or 50% chance, because I want the player to think tactically. You can't outdamage the enemies quickly in most cases, so you have to find ways to slow them down and tie them up. They really aren't about trying to get them to kill each other, they're about keeping them from killing you.
When an enemy gets charmed, or paralyzed, etc... you attack someone else. Or use it as an opportunity to recover HP/build TP (SP).
Trust me. When I did my final playtest run, I had to keep tweaking the baddies to make them killable, because I kept running into ones I'd made impossible to beat.
I wanted to make a comedy game, with fairly difficult battles. Because I'm funny like that. Tee Hee.

I'm not trying to tell you how to make your game, I'm just telling you how I solved the issue of letting the player buy whatever spells they want, whenever they want. And how I made my magick user more versatile.
The first thing I did was to not see him as just a glass cannon, but a character that can fit whatever niche the player wants him to.
 

fireflyege

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@acidhedz I see, my mage is also a flexible one so I understand what you mean.

I still suggest halving the MAT ratios on your mage's abilities and then doubling the MAT ratios on your mage's stats and equipment. So that the damage numbers will be still the same but it will not misdirect the player. Most players would think ''What the heck?'' when enemy has 300 MDF and your character having only 130 MAT instead of looking at the ratios of those abilities.
 

acidhedz

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@acidhedz I see, my mage is also a flexible one so I understand what you mean.

I still suggest halving the MAT ratios on your mage's abilities and then doubling the MAT ratios on your mage's stats and equipment. So that the damage numbers will be still the same but it will not misdirect the player. Most players would think ''What the heck?'' when enemy has 300 MDF and your character having only 130 MAT instead of looking at the ratios of those abilities.

Well, since they have no way to know what any of the enemies stats are except for HP, it doesn't really matter. I don't give the player any information they don't need to know. And in the case of enemy stats, there is no reason for them to need to. They can learn how to deal with enemies the proper way, through trial and error.

Plus, the game is already finished, playtested and released.
 

acidhedz

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@acidhedz really? What is its name and is it commercial?

Jack Hoth: The Legendary Journey, and yes. But it's only 2.99$.
You can see some Let's Play of it here if you'd like. Fair warning, it's NSFW. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfbEvsqsSRdPVDqaS5M6nmw
It's just the first area though, and you don't even find the mage till area 4. So you wont really be able to see anything we've been talking about. Still, if you like a good laugh I'd say it delivers.
 

kirbwarrior

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That's the reason for the Vigor mechanic - warriors don't just get to run flat out all the time with no limits. In fact, in a given encounter, the warriors almost certainly peter out first and have to back off to regain Vigor. They have a small gas tank, but it's constantly being refilled. The mages generally have more options (buffs, debuffs, heals, condition removal, etc in addition to just blasting), but the tradeoff for having more options, and for their damage-dealing options usually being stronger, is that they have to pace themselves so that their larger, but non-refilling gas tank isn't empty by the end of the dungeon. OTOH, they can keep going bananas for as long as their Mana holds out if they need to.
I'm not saying this is a bad thing, but it sounds like with this system Mages are just better but have a long term cost system.
Spells like Charm, Cloud Mind, and Slumber only have a 55% chance to proc, and most of those effects can be stopped by taking damage. Buffs and Debuffs are based on a % by default, so they stay at the same level of effect.
I usually dislike abilities with such a huge chance of missing to give a status effect (then again, I avoid things that have 95% accuracy if I can). To use Pokemon as an example;
Razor Leaf is quite strong for a long part of the game, but that 95% destroys me way more than it should.
I just don't use Hypnosis or any of the related spores with 55-75% accuracy. I do use Thunderwave because it will paralyze them 100% of the time if I'm paying attention (since it doesn't work on ground or electric types).
Thunderbolt, Icebeam, and Flamethrower are awesome. The status is merely a side effect of damage so I don't have to think about the tiny 10% chance because the damage happens regardless.
you can only cast so many during any given battle
I love games where mana is refilled between battles (and usually HP). It makes juggling mana fun.
You can't outdamage the enemies quickly in most cases
I like the idea of a game where you can't outdamage the enemy group (they are just better than you) and you have to be smart. However, I've only seen that done as bosses. A full game that did it with every battle would be incredibly difficult and absurdly annoying if it had anywhere close to the random encounter rate of most jrpgs.
 

acidhedz

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I usually dislike abilities with such a huge chance of missing to give a status effect (then again, I avoid things that have 95% accuracy if I can). To use Pokemon as an example;
Razor Leaf is quite strong for a long part of the game, but that 95% destroys me way more than it should.
I just don't use Hypnosis or any of the related spores with 55-75% accuracy. I do use Thunderwave because it will paralyze them 100% of the time if I'm paying attention (since it doesn't work on ground or electric types).
Thunderbolt, Icebeam, and Flamethrower are awesome. The status is merely a side effect of damage so I don't have to think about the tiny 10% chance because the damage happens regardless.

I love games where mana is refilled between battles (and usually HP). It makes juggling mana fun.

I like the idea of a game where you can't outdamage the enemy group (they are just better than you) and you have to be smart. However, I've only seen that done as bosses. A full game that did it with every battle would be incredibly difficult and absurdly annoying if it had anywhere close to the random encounter rate of most jrpgs.

1. The baddies use the same selection of spells, so it goes both ways. Plus there are attack spells that also have a chance to cause most of those effects. The combat in the game is set up to be pretty white knuckle, so making it too probable something will proc, would run the risk of it being OP. For either side.
IE, when enemies can hit the characters for 1/4 - 1/3 of their HP and every action matters, getting your whole party hit with a state, even blinded, is pretty much a KO waiting to happen. While hitting them with it too reliably would take the tension out of the fights.

2. I meant that more in terms of time. You usually only have 1-2 turns before the baddies start using their more powerful skills, and when they do you can get into trouble very quickly. So what you choose to do every turn matters.

3. I don't use random encounters. I always use evented encounters. In this case, I made the whole game based around 3, 9 and 27. So there are 9 areas in the game. made of 9 main map segments, each with 27 main enemies (there are enemies that pop out when searching, but I consider them side content) who all say something unique.
One boss per area. 3 main dungeons after areas 3, 6 and to finish the game after area 9, with 3 levels each, 18 enemies and 3 bosses. They all say different things as well, so... there's something like 315 encounters, who all say something different. Ranging from a quick quote or reference, to a complete Epic Rap Battles of History parody rap battle. And an Honest Game Trailers parody doing a trailer of the game its self.
I produce my own music, and put in a decent selection of battle tracks, that change randomly, often. Plus quite a lot of the encounters will randomly give you an easy, medium or hard battle. And with over 200 different enemies, things change up pretty often. Keeping it from getting too repetitive.

The combat does get difficult. But that was the point. It's a comedy game, that has pretty rough combat. Because I find that funny.
On the other hand, every Inn has a teleport key you can buy cheap, to take you right to the desk where you can stay for the night. Complete with recovery and resuscitation service. Massage optional.
 
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Kes

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@acidhedz The discussion of your game is beginning to hi-jack this thread, which is meant to be wide-ranging, not discussing a particular game, which is not even the OP's game.

If you want to draw attention to your own game, please post a game thread in Commercial Releases, if you don't already have one.
 

acidhedz

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Sorry, but in my book not answering people's questions is rather rude. And I like to give thorough answers.
I guess since I can't do anything right anywhere, I'll just leave and save you the trouble of banning me.
 

Kes

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@acidhedz No one was suggesting that you could not reply, but maybe you could have said either let's continue this in a pm or you could have linked to your game thread, or done a range of other things. Also, this is not a bannable issue, so there is no need to get worried about that.
 

CleanWater

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My game have no Mage characters, instead, magic is equipable through the super original MaComBa System (not related to Materia system by the way... ¬_¬' ).

I didn't understand the question well at first and my first post was not much detailed about how I handle the Magi in the game.

Well, just take the original game system I'm parodying with this system (Final Fantasy VII).
  1. Magic is more powerful than common attacks and deal extra damage when used against enemies weak to said element.
  2. You can have many magic skills you want as long your character can equip then, the drawback is that they become less powerful in melee combat if too many magic is equipped.
Taking these in consideration, you can decide if you want a full mage character, a balanced one or a full melee. Every choice have your advantages and disadvantages and will affect the gameplay based on which enemies you are facing.

So you can have:
  1. A Full Fighter - That can melee attack with no drawbacks and deal considerable damage (but less than with magic)
  2. A Full Mage - That deal heavy damage as long you have MP to cast spells, if MP is over, character becomes a wimp
  3. A Fighter Mage - Moderated melee fighter and moderated magic damage, can handle most situations
But what defines the use of each character is not the stats and skillsets only, what kinds of enemies they are facing? Strong melee fighters? Heavy magic users, but weak to melee attacks? Balanced enemies? Enemy groups with members with different weakness each?

You must consider all these questions before designing your magi characters and how magic will affect the overall gameplay.
 

kirbwarrior

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The baddies use the same selection of spells, so it goes both ways.
That sounds even more painful. If everyone in battle is looking at 50% chances of success, it's hard to anticipate or plan for anything.
The combat does get difficult.
There's a large difference between skill-based difficulty and luck-based difficulty. It's hard to win at slots.
Magic is more powerful than common attacks and deal extra damage when used against enemies weak to said element.
This is cool and makes mages very fun in my book. Final Fantasy 2 actually made mages pretty fun because there was a good balance between mp costs and mp healing.
 

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Swag collecting in the new randomly generated area. Now the mini map also shows the randomly generated features... And even illustrates the whole "bubble" system" that I made to manage memory... Though that part's inadvertent. We'll just call that "the fog of war"... Yes, that's what we'll do. Nobody will be the wiser! :kaopride:
not me being not lazy for 5 seconds and drawing another char portrait (her name is hazel)
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Been a while since the last time I made a song remix. Had a blast making this

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