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Gacha, gacha, gacha pon! Banner rolls and pity pulls

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Thorns is pretty good! He's on my shortlist to build next. His S2 being permanent on second use (plus it's expanded range) makes him a pretty solid choice for long maps.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
If you pull Surtr off the new mini-event banner build her; she's basically one of the best guards to murk things with due to the combination of her skills and doing Arts damage by default.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
If you pull Surtr off the new mini-event banner build her; she's basically one of the best guards to murk things with due to the combination of her skills and doing Arts damage by default.
15ish pulls and no such luck yet. I got duplicate Elysium on my guaranteed 10th, haha.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Yeah, I burned most of my accumulated pull tickets/currency but I got one copy of her which is good enough lel. Thankfully you can do pretty much anything and get event currency this time around since it's a mini-event, so that will let me grind out the promotion stuff on sat/sun.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Yeah, I burned most of my accumulated pull tickets/currency but I got one copy of her which is good enough lel.
Congrats! I did another ten-roll and got nothing above four stars, but oh well. I don't really get hyped for banners, so I'm hard to disappoint.

Thankfully you can do pretty much anything and get event currency this time around since it's a mini-event, so that will let me grind out the promotion stuff on sat/sun.
Yeah, that's been nice! One widget per Sanity you spend on anything outside of Annihilation. You get a better Sanity:clockbits payoff if you play the event stages, but you don't need to farm them specifically like you did with the Gavial event. I also like that you can pick up unlocks for the story vignettes from past mini-events, given I started the game too late to have seen any of those when they debuted.

Meanwhile:
  • Got Exusiai's S3M1, which with a bit of help from other sources of DPS was enough to get me past that FrostNova stage. Phew!
  • E2'ed Texas. Next up is Amiya--I accidentally ran across a spoiler somewhere saying she's all but required to duel the boss of Chapter 7, mechanics backing up the story, so I figure I'll get a head start on that. Also prepping Siege and Projekt Red.
  • Speaking of Red, I've moved her into my main lineup instead of Istina. She's fun to use! Drop, retreat, drop, a much more active play style than your typical fire-and-forget stationary Operator. I've been using her to intercept those Lancer enemies in the event stages, as her stun resets their acceleration and thus their damage buff.
  • I also wrote two short fanfics. Because I'm silly like that, when I get deep into a game.
In SaGa re;UniverSe I'm hitting a wall at 4-2-4 Very Hard, which has scads of "Impala" enemies that hit like trucks, do AoE, and have a zillion HP to boot. Not sure yet what my strategy should be to get beyond that. Part of the problem could certainly be my equipment; I have only one S-tier body armor, and no greatswords better than B. But for now there's roughly eight hundred other stages I can play instead, so I'll circle back to the problem later.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Congrats! I did another ten-roll and got nothing above four stars, but oh well. I don't really get hyped for banners, so I'm hard to disappoint.
With the start-of-month turnover of the certificate shop, I picked up a few more headhunting permits and... two back-to-back 6*! No Surtr, though. +1 Potential for Saria (no complaints here) and my first Aak, who I hear is really good if you build a squad around his quirks. Still chilling out and E2'ing people, I'll get around to playing through chapter 7 eventually! Amiya and Projekt Red promoted, working on Siege.

Meanwhile, an effort post on auto-battle:

One of the conceits of the "widget-based advancement" trope, or maybe a trope of its own that also shakes hands with "stamina", is the ability to replay stages to build up materials. Some stages might have a guaranteed +X to one of your widget piles, and/or have a percentage chance to drop a particular more valuable thing. Thus, gameplay stages are a step in the overall in-game economy: Stamina purchases stage replays, which in turn pay out widgets at whatever rate.

In games where playing a level is fairly hands-on, though, this would swiftly become so exhausting as to burn players out en masse. Thus, gachas provide "auto battle" features, where you can say "redo this stage, please," and then set your phone down and let the game play itself for however long it takes for that stage to complete. The variety of implementations here is pretty fascinating! In some cases, there's a sort of battle AI that does its best with whatever lineup you feed it. In others, your units act according to transparent predefined rules; in Romancing SaGa re;UniverSe, for instance, you can choose between "always use normal attacks" or "always use the strongest skill you can afford". You can tinker with your party composition and skills to hit optimal auto-battle rotations, a subtle system that YangusKhan knows way more about than I do!

Use of auto-battle can have hard or soft requirements. "Hard" requirements (e.g. Arknights) involve the auto option only coming available to you if you achieve a threshold of performance on the stage. A "soft" requirement (e.g. RSrU; overall common in games with a lot of RNG) might have auto battle available before you even play the stage for the first time, but your lineup needs to be strong enough to consistently defeat the opposition for it to be usable without manual intervention.

I find the design of Arknights' "Auto Deploy" to be really clever. Because the stages are mostly (more on that weasel word in a minute) deterministic, and require more decision-making than would be practical to code in an AI, Auto Deploy is a sort of recorded macro of your successful mission. When you achieve a three-star victory--i.e., you don't allow any enemy units to reach your defense points--your sequence of actions is saved. Auto Deploy then places your units with the same timing you used, fires their active skills at the same time, and so forth. Even some random elements, like "when you deploy this unit, another random unit gets +X HP and +Y ATK", will select the same targets.

However! The playback is not completely infallible. For one, there seems to be some stochastic factor, whether a very subtle RNG component to the way unit interactions play out, or something more esoteric like rounding errors in a clock function or imperceptible rendering slowdowns due to background activity on your device. This means that if your margins are particularly thin when you achieve your three-star victory, you might find that e.g. one of your Operators is forced to retreat during Auto Deploy when they didn't on your active playthrough, allowing damage through (drastically reducing rewards) or even failing the mission. So there's a bit of soft requirement, sufficient stats to pad your damage and defense beyond the margin of error, on top of the unlock!

Auto Deploy can also play out in unexpected ways if you upgrade your units between when you unlock Auto Deploy and when you engage it. Your stats aren't snapshotted--only your inputs. Some ways this might work to your detriment:
  • A promoted unit might cost more to deploy, making them unavailable at the instant you originally played them
  • A unit with improved HP, DEF, and/or RES might not be forced to retreat when they previously were, causing a later deployment to their square to be blocked (I'm not 100% sure on this one; see below) EDIT: I was mistaken here. See Mightyblue's reply!
  • An enemy might die sooner than previously due to higher damage output from your units, meaning they don't reach a unit who needed to target them with a "hit enemy, get bonus" kind of skill
  • A skill that activates automatically might be updated to a faster charge time, giving it overall greater uptime but also possibly shifting it so that it misses a window when you needed it to be active
When Auto Deploy is unable to enact one of your scripted moves, a warning "Error risk detected" appears. The game does a little bit to try and correct--if a move was simply delayed, rather than made outright impossible, it'll fire at the earliest opportunity. (Sometimes it looks like it will retreat an operator that wasn't KOed on schedule, but who needs to be replaced according to macro? not sure) If that doesn't affect the overall flow of the mission, the warning banner goes away. But sometimes a cascade of things go off script, and you need to seize manual control to salvage your rewards! If you do so and keep a three-star result, you get the option to save over your recording.

Ultimately, Auto Deploy gets into this interesting space where most of the time, you can rely on using it again and again to farm what you need. But if you only cleared the stage by the skin of your teeth, and/or make major changes to unit timing, you may have to replay the stage for real to tune things back up. Heck, if you really want to optimize things, you can manually replay to shave time off the recording and make future farming a little faster! Overall it's a fascinating interplay of design decisions and technical constraints that produces a unique gameplay mechanic.
 
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Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
If a unit died in your auto recording but is later built to not die the game will autoforce a retreat to keep the macro valid, yeah.

The best use of your yellow tickets is to buy the tokens for 5 and 6 star operators (rotates every standard banner) you don't have; yes, it's expensive, but if you don't have the unit yet you get that unit. Once you have all the units (or all of the headhunting ones, anyway), you can save up 270-ish yellow tickets to buy out the headhunting tickets entry, which will net you 10 or so individual pull tickets and 3 10x pull tickets.
 

YangusKhan

does the Underpants Dance
(He/Him/His)
Auto Deploy then places your units with the same timing you used, fires their active skills at the same time, and so forth. Even some random elements, like "when you deploy this unit, another random unit gets +X HP and +Y ATK", will select the same targets.
This sounds awesome. I have hope more gachas will start including more macro-like features, because people can already achieve this with phone/emulator software even though it's nominally going against the Terms of Service.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
The best use of your yellow tickets is to buy the tokens for 5 and 6 star operators (rotates every standard banner) you don't have; yes, it's expensive, but if you don't have the unit yet you get that unit. Once you have all the units (or all of the headhunting ones, anyway), you can save up 270-ish yellow tickets to buy out the headhunting tickets entry, which will net you 10 or so individual pull tickets and 3 10x pull tickets.
That's an obscene number of yellow cert, given I obtain maybe two in a day if I'm lucky. 😅 I don't know that I have that kind of patience, given that filling out my Operator collection to 100% isn't really a thing I'm ambitious about. But at least now I can purchase what looks fun or convenient knowing it's non-optimal, and can shout "NOT PRO STRATS!" like a friend of mine does.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
Yellow tickets are a long-term sort of thing; once you max out the common 4* draws you'll start getting more when you do headhunts/recruits and trade in the excess. But since 5 and 6 stars are tied to mercy rates for acquisition and thus much rarer buying the tokens can get you good units you don't have yet as a catchup mechanic.
 

DFalcon

(he/him)
If not for auto deploy... well, an Annihilation stage takes something like 12 minutes at 2x speed, so Arknights' current form of auto deploy seems like the minimum it could possibly have retained people with, the way it demands farming. Having not failed a farming auto deploy in months, I do wish for something more, like an instant option. Especially right now since I'm trying out an orundum factory, which means ~40x runs of 1-7 a day to keep orirock stocks up; it's not something I see myself tolerating long-term.

Yellow tickets are a long-term sort of thing; once you max out the common 4* draws you'll start getting more when you do headhunts/recruits and trade in the excess. But since 5 and 6 stars are tied to mercy rates for acquisition and thus much rarer buying the tokens can get you good units you don't have yet as a catchup mechanic.
A small extra tip here is that even the recruitment permits on level 2 of the green cert shop are profitable in terms of certs, if you're recruiting often enough to use them (at least for 9h recruits). It's not a huge profit, but that's on top of increased chances at operators.


But forget all that for now - as briefly discussed earlier, today I wanted to talk about Contingency Contracts.

Contingency Contract is a recurring event in Arknights that contains the most challenging content in the game. They've been on about a three-month cadence and the fourth, "CC#2" (really), ran in February.

The core mechanic is that for a given map, you have a set of mix-and-match options ("contracts") for making the map harder. Each contract taken increases the score, referred to as "risk". You get rewards not per run, but based on your highest completed risk level, and runs don't have any stamina or practice-plan cost. That's important because some of these maps you will probably be attempting quite a lot.

Mightyblue explained the event's map cycling upthread; for anyone who's been using the inter-season practice setup, one thing I'll add is that the events give you much more flexibility in which contracts to actually take than you might guess from practice. A daily map is usually max risk ~14 against its max reward at 8, while the permanent map is max risk ~30 against its max reward at 18. While daily maps are a little bit more about forcing a particular set of conditions because of their reuse, this actually understates the flexibility of the permanent map. Most permanent-map contracts and a few daily-map contracts come with level options (e.g. friendly ATK -10% for 1 risk, -30% for 2 risk, -50% for 3 risk). A successful risk-18 Contingency Contract run isn't just about finding the right squad and deployment order, or very precise timing, though it is all those things - it's about evolving contract selection in concert with your approach, until you have a well-honed machine that can squeeze out a win against a very particular flavor of the map.

The structure of the event does make it naturally a big stat-check. But crazy stuff like max-potential max-level max-mastery squads can generally be left to those chasing extremely high-risk clears; for Risk 18, breadth is more important than going so deep. Even players who don't have a lot of high-rarity E2s yet can get a lot out of the event; the reward structure is skewed in a friendly direction, where clearing risk 1 is typically worth as much as going from 14 to 18. FWIW, anecdotally, my CC preseason risk-18 clear had E1 Cuora and Melantha in important roles, though they were filling out a squad that was mostly high-rarity E2s. ("Preseason" refers to the first CC event - the one which was so popular they decided to make it a regular thing, which then started with "CC#0". I appreciate 0-indexing, but come on.)

Choose-your-own difficulty isn't exactly unique, but the first reason I think this works unusually well is that Arknights has a lot of tactical depth. If I'm making a choice between, say, "4 specific spaces on the map cannot be deployed on", "Snipers cannot be deployed", "Duration of the Cold debuff is doubled" (Cold is a status inflicted by certain enemies and terrain features that slows attack and, if stacked a second time, freezes the affected operator temporarily), "Agents are invisible" (cannot be attacked unless blocked), and "Enemy units' ATK +40%", to pick a few at random, those are all things that can make a significant difference to how I play the map. CC maps are usually also designed to have three or so types of serious threats in at least two lanes, plus some attrition/deployment pressure, generating opportunities for a variety of trade-offs.

The second reason is the roster variety and balance. No Snipers and you need to deal with aerial enemies? You have a selection of off-type options: Glaucus actually prioritizes aerial enemies; you can try ordinary Casters, Supporters, or certain Guards, who can hit aerial if they don't have a higher priority target; or against a weak swarm, maybe it's enough to deploy Hoshiguma (Skill 2) in the right way, and watch the counterattacks flow. Of course Arknights isn't unique among character-collection games in having a large roster, but it has done a good job so far of keeping a lot of it relevant, even below 6*.

Fungimist was cool, but it hasn't displaced Contingency Contract as my favorite event - though who knows, we'll see what the devs come up with in future.
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
I think Fungimist would've been better if there was a wider variety of event and combat tiles; what was there was neat, but the small variety of possible encounters sorta held it back (despite the mode being a real pain to actually clear a run).
 

DFalcon

(he/him)
I think Fungimist would've been better if there was a wider variety of event and combat tiles; what was there was neat, but the small variety of possible encounters sorta held it back (despite the mode being a real pain to actually clear a run).
In Fungimist as we got it, I think this was in tension with the huge knowledge benefit you got from having seen a combat map before. Roguelikelike mode or not, I didn't think going into maps blind at high stakes was a great fit for Arknights.

But yeah, if they did something about that, improving the variety would be nice. I would also like to see some rework of character selection.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member


First one of these I’ve sub 30ed. Had an AO left on Edge and a Dyad finishers left on PCecil. Not really considering trying Dragon King yet, but here or IX should be a good starting point.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
A small extra tip here is that even the recruitment permits on level 2 of the green cert shop are profitable in terms of certs, if you're recruiting often enough to use them (at least for 9h recruits). It's not a huge profit, but that's on top of increased chances at operators.
Yeah, the typical result of a recruitment permit is 10 green cert, so getting back 2/3 of your stake in the many cases when you don't score a yellow cert isn't too stingy.

But forget all that for now - as briefly discussed earlier, today I wanted to talk about Contingency Contracts.
Thanks for the detailed explainer! It sounds like I can look forward to getting my clock cleaned by full-size CC circa May, then. I've managed to get full rewards out of a few more of the practice contracts since I last posted about it, so I should be able to clear some low-risk boards at least.

Funny that it's not consistent with the term "risk". In the practice missions it calls it "contingency level". Kinda like how zero-Morale Operators in the base are "fatigued" on one screen and "distracted" on another. Localization! It's hard!

First one of these I’ve sub 30ed. Had an AO left on Edge and a Dyad finishers left on PCecil. Not really considering trying Dragon King yet, but here or IX should be a good starting point.
whoaa. That's Zeromus versus... Edge, Cecil, Rydia... somebody I don't recognize, Rosa maybe?... and Edward? See, that's the nonsense I wanted when I installed the game, but I didn't get over the early game grind to witness it. I guess Edward is actually good in FFRK? He was such a meme character in the original IV!
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
Yeah it's Rosa, and it's Zeromus's Malice specifically. We've gotten Zeromus EX once as a superboss, but most of the final fights still aren't in FFRK. Just Chaos, Cloud of Darkness and Kefka, I think.

Bards are absurdly good in general, my Edward tech is like 4.5 years old now and he still earns his spot on this team because just being a bard is good enough. If I had any of his modern stuff he'd actually be a top tier support like Orran and Mog (he's the only one who can give entire teams free turns, but that's on a gatcha locked relic I've never gone after). I'd love to sneak Kain into this team instead, but there's no way to make that work; Kain's a physical DPS while Edge and Cecil are hybrids (and are both dealing magic damage here) while Rydia's a mage and the entire point of this team is abusing how much Edward can boost magic damage and cast speed. And because all three of them can kinda just ignore the fight's worst mechanics: a massive Atk/Mag/Def/Res debuff for the first 7s of phase 3. Edge's ninjtsu does absurd damage and almost ignores stats, summons do so much damage Rydia can tank the massive magic debuff and still be effective and P.Cecil's DPS stat as a mage is Mind, which is not being debuffed.
 
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MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
zeromus is so smol
It's more that the vertical screen is so big and the party composition is so spread out.


That said, counting the pixels in the eye it does look like Zeromus was shrunk down to 2/3rds of the size of his original sprite. Not sure why though, there's certainly enough space even horizontally...though I guess maybe a lot of that's used for the player's attack animations.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
Yeah, I can't think of many fights with enemies farther to the right than Z here, may be supporting other resolutions and aspect ratios though iOS is the widest I've played on (Android is a lot taller).

I've been waiting for them to ditch the coin/chest/orb counter outside the powerup dungeons for years since they're no longer relevant for any endgame content to reclaim a bit of space, but it hasn't happened yet... even though I know some stages add a greens counter up there.
 

Destil

DestilG
(he/him)
Staff member
Okay, yeah, the space between the party and the enemy is reserved for animations. Here's Cardia Bahamut, a FFRK Original so you know they drew him to fit the enemy bonding box, and the free opening Sentinel's Grimoire Dr.Mog drops in. On Android to really drive home how tall the battlefield can get.



Zeromus has a really wide sprite, which is the main reason his malice needs to be shrunk down so much.
 

DFalcon

(he/him)
Funny that it's not consistent with the term "risk". In the practice missions it calls it "contingency level". Kinda like how zero-Morale Operators in the base are "fatigued" on one screen and "distracted" on another. Localization! It's hard!
This is the term the community uses, but now that you mention it, I don't remember if or where it appeared in-game. It might've been just in CC preseason, or even someone's translation from the original Chinese event. "Contingency level" is kind of a mouthful though, so I don't foresee the usage changing.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
The "Conquering the Prefecture" event in re;UniverSe is pretty generous! There are several ways to get a ticket that fishes up seven guaranteed SS styles. It's a bit overwhelming, even! Styles with Fired Up IV are more common than those with less, now, and I found my first V: [Squid Sashimi Is the Best!] Rocbouquet. She seems pretty strong! +damage vs Weak resistance on top of that Fired Up, occasional free wins via a "charm all opponents" passive, and a boss-melting random-targets spell at the top of her BP list. There's even a convenient S-tier staff that boosts her elements available in the Exchange shop for the event. Such power!
 

Mightyblue

aggro table, shmaggro table
(He/Him/His)
I forget half the time because I turn my emulator sound off when I'm farming, but the Arknights soundtrack is really good. The event-only tracks in particular tend to be the real standouts though.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
T260G! That's the first one that's shown up on a banner since I started playing. It took me rather a lot of free Gems, but I did finally pull it. I don't know if it's good, ha, but it is funny. A counterattack that hits all enemies seems interesting, at least?
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
Detox + Fired Up IV? I do love Detox, I've used Coppelia [Imperial Waltz] quite a bit, and it's a great feeling to shrug off things like Paralysis and Confusion before they can bring a quest to a halt. I could definitely see making an anti-ailment party for bosses that like to dump a lot of those conditions: Detox robots, +WIL formation, etc.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I was referring to the attacks. Flame Thrower is a column Fire attack and Pop-Knight attacks all with Blunt/Pierce, giving T260G some pretty nice multi-target coverage.

But yeah, being able to have status effects go away is pretty nice too.
 

SabreCat

Sabe, Inattentive Type
(they/them)
I was referring to the attacks. Flame Thrower is a column Fire attack and Pop-Knight attacks all with Blunt/Pierce, giving T260G some pretty nice multi-target coverage.
Oh, I see. Having Fire, Blunt, and Pierce all covered there also seems good! I didn't twig to Flame Thrower being remarkable because I've been using [Behold My All-Foes Magic!] Myriam for dishing out fire damage, which, well, it's right there in the name. All-targets Heat Wind at 5BP is a lot more spammable than column-target Flame Thrower at 8.

My perceptions of what characters/styles are strong is kinda warped, though, because the styles I've been using habitually are so built up versus the content I'm engaging with that a new incoming style needs to be really OP to catch my attention. (Hello, Squid Sashimi Rocbouquet.) Eventually I'll run enough Expeditions and whatnot that promising newbies will catch up, though.

Speaking of damage types: the elements of an attack I get, but what's the deal with the little elemental markers on styles? There's cold damage, and then there's a water element, that's associated with styles and weapons instead of skills? I'm guessing that I should equip a +Water weapon to someone who has the water element on their style, but what does it do mechanically? An across-the-board damage buff? A damage buff to specific skills? (cold damage? skills native to a water style but not those inherited from non-water? spells as opposed to weapon skills?)

Meanwhile in Arknights: I got Blemishine! Pretty sure she's the first on-banner 6-star I've ever obtained. My guaranteed 5+ was random off-banner (Ptilopsis, hey, I'll take the +Potential), but I had enough yellow certificates to buy a pack of 5 headhunting permits and bam, rainbow duffel. Take that, optimal certificate expenditure! 😜 I had Nearl already, so it could be fun to make a squad containing the whole Nearl family.
 
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