The Let's Play Archive

Vampires Dawn II

by TheMcD

Part 23: Behind The Fangs Part II: - RPG Maker Basics: The Database, Part II

Behind The Fangs, Part II - RPG Maker Basics: The Database, Part II

♪ BGM: Beautiful Dead

Welcome back! If you're reading this, that means that you didn't run away screaming from the first part! That's good! Now, we've started digging into the Database in the first part, and will continue doing so for the next few parts, as there is still quite a wealth of shit to go through. So without further ado, let's move on to Items. To note, before we go into items, a quick definition: There are two kinds of items - either they're "in inventory", which means they're in your pack or whatever it's called and can be used both outside of combat and in combat, or they're "equipped", meaning you have to go into the equipment menu and equip them before they do anything. I figured I should clarify this because "in inventory" could also mean "equipped" from a certain point of view. Anyway, on to items.

When it comes to items, the most important part is the Type of item we have. There's a fair share of options, which are as follows:

- - - Common Item
- - - Weapon / Shield / Armor / Helmet / Accessory
- - - Medicine
- - - Skill Book
- - - Seed
- - - Skill Scroll
- - - Switch

We'll go over these in greater detail now, since every type has different things that can be set.

Now, first, let's go through what every type of item has.

- Name & Description: These should be obvious by now.

- Type: In this case, we're set to Common Item.

- Price: How much the item costs to buy in shops. Selling items will always net you 50% of the price that is set here, from what I can tell. I've looked around, and I can't see a way to change this. A price of 0 means that the item cannot be sold.

Every other type of item has more options to set, but Common Item just gets the basic ones. So, what is a Common Item? Well, you might already be able to tell from the example. They're quest items, basically. They are items that cannot be used in any capacity by the player. The system can then use the presence or lack thereof of that item in order to proceed in branching events, or only open certain things up if you have a particular Common Item. So we have Nyria's throwing knives, which we needed to find before we could proceed. Same with the Strong Soul that Asgar got from Alyda - it was an item we couldn't use from inventory or equip, it was just there to be there and then eventually removed when we "used" it as part of a cutscene.

Next, we have the assortment of Weapons, Shields, Armors, Helmets and Accessories. These all generally work the same, so we'll go over them by the example of Alaine's Blunt Claws weapon. You can see quite an assortment of new options here.

- Hands Required: If it's set to Both, you can't use a shield with the weapon - or another weapon if you're doing the "two weapons instead of weapon and shield" thing. I think that's all this does, basically.

- Invoke Skill When Used: This is interesting. This allows you to make weapons (or shields, or armors...) that you can equip, but also use as items from your inventory. When equipped, they'll function as you'd expect an item of that type to function. If you don't equip them, however, you can use them in combat or outside of combat as items, which then use a certain skill. So to take an actual example from VD2, there's an artefact weapon that puts the status effect of regeneration on you if you use it from inventory. Alternatively, you can do something similar to Final Fantasy V where you have staves that cast a powerful spell on enemies when used from inventory. However, if you use this option, the item will not be used up by using it from inventory. I don't think you can do something like staves breaking from overuse that easily - it'd probably revolve around something similar to Sarabian Fire back in Unterwegs in Düsterburg, which was something that had supporting code baked into every potential battle it could be used in. We'll see where we can do that when we get to Monster Groups.

- Usable By: Pretty self-explanatory. You can set the usability by both the particular hero and the class - in our case here, the usability is managed by hero, so it's just set that all classes can use it, since the hero setting overwrites that.

- Statistic Change: Also pretty self-explanatory. You can raise and lower stats with this, so you can have items that raise some stats but lower others.

- Options: Most of these are self-explanatory as well, with one exception: "Cursed" applies the regular "cursed equipment" state - once you equip a cursed item, you can no longer unequip it unless it is forced by an event.

- MP Consumed: In case you want your attacks to constantly use MP.

- Hit Probability: In VD2's case, almost all weapons are set to 95% with the exception of some "surestrike" weapons that have a 100% hit chance and Ignore Enemy Evasion.

- Critical Bonus: This just adds on to the base critical chance the class/hero already has.

- Attack Attribute: This sets an attribute for the attack that this weapon has, so for instance, if an enemy has weakened resistance to fire, then a weapon with the fire attribute would deal more damage to this enemy. Can also make weapons useless (see VD1, where weapons would frequently become useless against bosses because they had an elemental attribute and bosses in the endgame were frequently immune to most of them).

- Conditions: This sets if a weapon should inflict or remove a condition. This, from what I can tell, refers to the enemies both times. So, Marlex might have a set of claws in the game that is supposed to protect against blindness, but it doesn't work that way. It will only remove the blind condition from enemies instead. Whoops!

- Attack Animation: This will play over the enemies when you use this weapon. Finally...

- Animation: This is another one of those that opens a new window, so away we go!

Alright, so there's a lot to process here, and part of it is particularly hard to explain because VD2 completely bypasses the combat animation system for its own system using battle animations, but we'll get to that later.

- Movement Before Attack: This describes what the character sprite does before attacking. It can do nothing, step forward, jump forward and move to the target. I think VD2 primarily makes use of "jump forward" and "move to target".

- Number of Attacks: Self-explanatory. You can pick between once, twice and thrice.

- Animation Type: OK, this is more complicated. So, we have two options to pick from: Weapon and Battle. This simply sets the animation type that should be used - weapon animations or battle animations. We can't really go over the details yet because we don't know these animations yet. So we'll have to put this on the backburner until we get to animations.

- Ranged Weapon Properties: If you use weapon animations and the weapon is ranged, you can do some additional stuff setting the projectile animations here. Again, this will make more sense after we've gone over animations, and I'd say that it's probably self-explanatory once you actually know the animation stuff.

- Monster Group Shown: Like before, this is just for the little preview image.

Now, that was a lot to process, but we're not done yet. Now, let's take a look at the other part of the group - the shields, armors, helmets and accessories. These have different options, but amongst themselves they are all the same apart from the slot it takes up in the equipment screen.

Ultimately, not a lot is different. The options have changed, but they're largely self-explanatory. Don't ask me how exactly "increased evasion" works. It increases evasion, but there's no real numbers that I can see for that. It just kind of makes you dodge more. In this case, the conditions that can be inflicted or resisted are referring to the character equipping the item, so this is where you want to make items that protect you from some status effect. Furthermore, you can inflict status effects constantly with an item, so if you want to have an item that gives somebody +100 Attack and constant Berserk status, go right ahead. In the end, this stuff is mostly similar to the weapons, though, just kind of inverted in spots. Let's go to the next one.

Medicine is basically what you'd expect for healing items, though VD2 actually approaches things differently - almost all healing items are actually Skill Scrolls, which we'll look at later.

I don't think I need to go through all of these options in detail - they should all do exactly what you imagine they'd do.

Skill Books are also pretty simple. They teach a certain skill to the characters you allow it to, and do it either once, twice, thrice, four times, five times, or infinitely.

Seeds are another simple affair, they're stat-boosting items that boost stats the way you set them.

Skill Scrolls are technically also very simple, but VD2 uses them to an interesting effect, by essentially making a whole bunch of items that would normally be of the medicine type into skill scrolls instead. Now, from what I can tell, the reason Marlex did that is because if you have them be skill scrolls, you can associate battle animations to them. So you can have customizable sparkles appear for healing items, for the revival item, for the status effect clearing item, and so on. From what I can tell, this is the only reason this was handled in such a way, because ultimately, there's little difference between using medicine to heal or a skill scroll to use a skill that heals.

Finally, items can also simply be used to trigger switches. This can then be used in connection with common events to do different stuff, like saving, in this case. Opening that extra menu is also done with a switch item. We'll see more of this when we get to common events proper.

That's it for the items, and it only took so long I've already crossed the threshold where I normally consider when to start cutting the update, but let's ignore that and instead knock out the monsters and monster groups as well, so we don't just have one thing in this update.

Monsters are a relatively simple affair. I'm just realizing that I'm calling a lot of stuff simple, but it really is quite simple.

- Name: In certain configurations, this name will actually never be shown. VD2 uses a configuration like that, and as such, even in this English version of the game, the Elras novice still has a German name. Furthermore, Marlex put numbers after a ton of enemies to note the level recommendation for this enemy. So these enemies, which I was fighting with the majority of my party at level 1, were recommended for level 3. I suspect this disparity will only get worse.

- Base Statistics: Here, you set attributes for monsters just like you set them for heroes.

- Spoils: What does the enemy drop when you kill them? In VD2, enemies are set to never drop money, and *almost* always drop a Soul item with 100% rate. There are exceptions, but generally that's the rule.

- Critical Hit Probability: Crit rate. Can be anything from 0% to 100% in 1% increments. In VD2, I can't really see a rhyme or reason behind which creatures can crit and which can't, or their rate, for that matter.

- Option: Not sure why "attacks often miss" was considered important enough to make it into a proper option, but hey, here it is, in case you want it.

- Monster Graphics: Here, you can set some options regarding the graphics of the monster. There's settings to make the sprite transparent (similar to how it was with the hero sprite), and make it fly (which basically means it just kind of floats a bit up and down). Furthermore, there's a bit of an interesting thing in the "Set" menu:

Primarily, you can just pick a monster sprite, but you can also fiddle with the colors on a basic slider.

So moving the slider around allows for easy palette swaps. Might come in handy!

- Condition and Attribute Resist: We've been over this multiple times now, I think you know how this goes by now.

- Behavior: This is the most important one. This allows you to set the different things that the monster will do in combat. This opens up a new menu, so let's jump in there.

We have a fair share of things to set here.

- Preconditions: This is what has to happen before the monster will consider using the attack. There is a fair share of options here too:
- - - Switch: The attack will only be used with a specific switch on. Note that you can't check if a switch is off - just if one is on.
- - - Turns Elapsed: Pretty simple. You can set the first turn it will be used on, and then the interval until it is used again. For instance, you can set the first number to 3 and the second to 5, meaning that the attack is available on turns 3, 8, 13, etc.
- - - Monsters Present: The amount of monsters that have to be present for this attack to be available. So for instance, you can have a special attack that only gets used once the monster is alone.
- - - Monster's HP: Pretty simple. Set as a range, where you can choose any percentage between 0% and 100% as the lower end and the higher end of the spectrum.
- - - Monster's MP: See Monster's HP.
- - - Party Level Average: This can be set as a range, with numbers between 1 and 99 available. Not exactly sure how you'd use this, to be honest. I guess you can have stronger attacks that only get used if the party is overleveled as an anti-grinding measure?
- - - Party Exhaustion: This is kind of tricky. Again, we have a range where you can go between 0% and 100% on the spectrum. Now, what is exhaustion exactly? Well, the help file defines it as follows: 100 - 100 x ((Current HP/Max HP) x 2 - (Current MP/Max MP) / 3). I don't know if that does some sort of average for the different party members, or adds them all together, or whatever the fuck it does, and this isn't something that is easily tested, given the obtuseness of the formula. So let's just accept it as allowing for "use attack if party is fucked up" cases.

- Priority: Oh, fuck. And thus comes the point where I have to admit I don't exactly know how the fuck this works. Well, first, what does the help file say about priority? "If 2 or more actions have the same preconditions, the one with the higher priority will be used." Well, that's great, except... it doesn't seem to work like that. I've read through a discussion from 8 years ago on GameFAQs (because this is the kind of shit you have to dig through if you want to figure out this kind of stuff), and poster Sky Render had the following to say about a poster that had three attacks with the same preconditions and priority, where one attack seemed to be used a lot more than the others:

"The priority system isn't quite as simple as it should be. Even if you have all skills set to the same priority level, the AI will still favor whatever is at the top of the list more than anything else. To get it to use the lower skills, up their priorities by 1 (ie. have skill A at 50, skill B at 51, and skill C at 52). The numbers are close enough together that they will happen more or less as often as each other."

Note that this also means that skills with a slightly lower/higher priority have a chance to be used. What chance is that? Fucked if I know! To elaborate on that "favor whatever is at the top of the list" point, let's look at Alyda for a second:

Remember how I said "man, she sure seems to be using that fireball spell a lot, even though I figured that she should be using her regular attack more"? Well, now we know why - it's because they're close to the top of the list and are therefore prioritized. What does this mean for my listings of boss attacks and their probabilities? Well, they're completely wrong. Go me! So in the future, I'm just going to be putting down the behavior list in that particular order, since it's more of a representation of what is most likely to be used. Anyway, so that's basically the priority setting. You can use it in order to force enemies to use specific attacks in certain situations by jacking the priority really high for certain ones under certain circumstances, but otherwise, it's a really temperamental fuck to deal with. Here's another bit from the help file to hammer home just how futile it is to try and understand it:

"The action the monster will take is determined by the following.
1. The possible actions are sorted into those whose conditions are met and those whose are not. For identical conditions, the actions are sorted by priority..
2. The effectiveness of the action in the current situation is calculated. This value is compared to all the other actions and produces a probability of each action being used.
3. The executed action is chosen randomly based on the probability calculated above."

So basically, MATHEMATICS AND PROBABILITY happens in a big-ass black box, and it spits out an attack. Fun!

EDIT ALMOST A FUCKING YEAR LATER: Well, thanks to resident Welsh tyrant of the LP Discord, JamieTheD, we finally have an answer as to how priority basically seems to work.

JamieTheD posted:

Oh, and, reading over the VD thread in an effort to understand RPG Maker more, I can clear up the mystery behind Priorities, @TheMcD ... It's procedural. So things higher on the list get checked first, then next one down... So, by sticking the fireball at the top, well... It always gets checked first, so it's more likely to fire. This is also why things you want to have a similar priority should be next to each other, but incremented in priority as you go down the list...

So in this example, the chance for Alyda here to attack is something around 0.5 * 0.5^5 (the first item in the list and the fifth), and Fireball would be something around 0.5^2 + 0.5^3 (the second and third item in the list). This is incredibly unintuitive, and I can guarantee that basically nobody understood this system at the time, because it's not documented at all. We still don't know what exactly goes on with the last item, and what happens if it decides it doesn't want the last item. RPG MAKER!

- Action Turns Switch ON / OFF: Again, fairly simple. Attacks can turn on and off switches, allowing for some fairly complex scripting if you really want to get into it. It'd probably be an insane clusterfuck of switches, but hey, you do have a maximum of 5000 switches to play with!

- Action: Oh hey, right, this thing we've been fucking with all this time should actually also DO something. Anyway, here we have three options. Skill allows the monster to use any skill you've previously defined, MP costs permitting. Transform allows the monster to change into any other monster, which is most commonly used for multi-phase fights. Finally, we have Basic, which ironically is the least basic, as it has several options we need to go through.
- - - Attack: Just a plain attack.
- - - Double Attack: A plain attack, but twice! Zounds!
- - - Defend: Defending, with the boost to physical damage resistance we know from when the hero does it.
- - - Observe Battle: To quote the help file: "The monster does nothing. A message is shown." This will differ from a later option.
- - - Charge Up: The monster does nothing for a turn, then uses a regular attack the next turn, dealing double damage. This is apparently useful?
- - - Self-Destruct: The monster blows up, killing itself and dealing damage.
- - - Escape: The monster runs away. This seems to basically always succeed unless the monster is surrounded - surrounded being a special battle state that we'll get into later.
- - - No Action: To quote the help file: "The monster does nothing. No message is shown." See, crucially different to Observe Battle.

And with that, we've gone through the Monster part! So with that, we've gotten... 5 parts out of 17. Fuck me, this is going to take a while. Then again, it's not like this game is going to go by quickly either, so we've got plenty of time. However, since Monster took so god damn long, I'll save Monster Groups for the next time.