Crystal Vision: How to Win the Lottery

Crystal Vision is a series in which Caroline documents her “annual humiliation” in a fun but difficult charity fundraiser: Four Job Fiesta, a Final Fantasy V run with randomised character job roles.

My friend Tyler Howard is a software engineer. He’s done Four Job Fiesta several times and helped me understand the special runs before I signed up this year. Our gameplay styles are totally different, but we both like this fundraiser, and I chatted with him to learn more about his experiences with it.

Do you remember how you first learned about Four Job Fiesta?

In an IRC channel. Most of [Tyler’s FFXIV] raiding group was there, though more people were in the channel than played FFXIV.

When was that?

2013. It’s especially memorable to me since I had just graduated and landed a job in the game industry. The start of the Four Job Fiesta run coincided with my move out to California.

Aw, I love that! And you told me before that 5 was the first FF you played too? I like that you had a reason to replay that very old memories game right when you were starting a new chapter of your life! Do you remember that first run? Does anything stand out about it in hindsight? Like, I literally have no idea how I made any progress in my run where I had White Mages.

I hit the lottery with an absurdly good team that didn’t require much trickery. It was a gentle introduction with similar tactics I’d use in the normally ‘optimal’ way of playing.

Ha, what’s the normally optimal way of playing?

Spellblade + X-Fight is a common and absurdly powerful tactic. And in my run, I (think I) got Black Mage, Mystic Knight, Ranger, and Dancer.

“Absurdly powerful” is the opposite of my play style and ability level in any video game, it turns out.

I still had a problem to solve regarding healing, and I think that’s what made me initially really interested in the Four Job Fiesta? It was a gentle and nontrivial introduction, and I wanted harder problems.

You’re very into the part of FJF that involves having to study, basically. Right?

Yeah. I liked finding things to explore about the game that I hadn’t realized when I played through it casually: all these weird properties that items had or vulnerabilities that bosses had that normally didn’t matter, but were crucial in succeeding with some teams.

Which jobs have created the most interesting problems for you?

Berserker and Beastmaster. And I think there’s a lot of difficulty at the beginning of the game with White Mage or Thief, before you unlock the water crystal, but their difficulties don’t extend into the lategame.

Why thief? I guess the available weapons are pretty bad and there’s no strong ability to learn.

Galura especially, the Water Crystal fight. You might have noticed he’s really vulnerable to magic, but resistant to physical attacks. Daggers also don’t scale as well as swords due to a bug, and depending on what level you are, your damage output could actually lower. It was just a slog when I went through, and I went through all my Potions. Maybe there is a better way to beat that fight as all thieves? But I haven’t found it yet.

He didn’t seem real vulnerable to MY magic, ha!

I think part of it is that he counterattacks physical attacks, and he hits hard. And sometimes he hits twice.

That was my problem, he just knocked everyone out repeatedly and I had no healing. So in just a few turns he could KO my entire party. BUT. You helped me and I got past him! Bless you. Have you finished this year’s run yet?

I did! I beat Exdeath, at least, though I still plan on going back to try the superbosses, Omega and Shinryu. I also donated some without tying it to anything about the run itself. I guess the run acts more like a reminder to donate to the charity. I don’t want my actions to be conditional there.

I think that’s really smart! I’ll do the same thing, but because I’m bad at games and probably won’t be able to finish. When you told me what your party was, I blanched, but you were excited. What’s some of the stuff you learned and had to strategize this time?

My party this year was Blue Mage, Red Mage, Bard, and Chemist. Blue Magic and Mixes are abilities with a lot of different useful options hidden away. Bard also really surprised me with abilities like Requiem or the damage output of the Apollo Harp (or how harps worked in general).

If you’re anything like me, you typically find the harps and random songs and then forget about or sell them.

Yeah, when I played casually, that’s exactly what happened. I may have tried Bard, but nothing immediately big or impactful came from it, so I never willingly used it. But when the Four Job Fiesta forced it on me, I had to look at it and glean some usefulness from it. I learned that harps do a percentage of a target’s max HP in damage (like a really weak demi or gravity effect), and I looked into what songs actually did.

Can you imagine a scenario where you’d “sell back” a job [the FJF bot] gave you?

It’d have to be something like if I got the exact same party as a different year, something where I already explored that space.

Interesting! What job do you want but haven’t gotten?

If you asked me before this year’s run, I would have said Blue Mage in a heartbeat! I’ll need to look over stuff now, though. I think the list of jobs I haven’t gotten is really small at this point: Knight, Time Mage, Dragoon. Maaaybe Time Mage, maybe Dragoon. Knight seems straightforward and good, but doesn’t really tickle the things I like about the FJF.

Knight is something we all typically have in our party, given the option. So [I see why] that’s kind of boring in this case. Which other FF games have you played?

Out of the mainline numbered series? I’ve played all of them, though I haven’t finished 3 or 15, or the sequeled spinoffs (X-2, XIII-2, XIII-3).

Oh wow, awesome! Which ones are your favorites?

I really like VI and IX. I tend to think of my favorites in terms of story and how I felt when playing them, not just mechanics.

I like both of those a lot too. IX catches a lot of flack for being sort of a throwback to the feel-good medieval setting, but I love that about it.

I can probably dissect precisely why I like them later on, but I don’t have an off the cuff answer as to why.

Oh that’s totally okay! You’re very thoughtful about this stuff, and I am like Captain Off The Cuff, so that contrast is interesting. What are some other games or franchises you really like?

I’m having to think about this, oh gosh. This is the Worst Question for people like me!

Haha, what is “people like you”?!

The contrast of Captain Off The Cuff!

We’ll call you “deliberate.”

That’s precisely it.

I can ask the question in a more specific way, if that will help. What’s a game (or plural) you’ve played this year that had a story or feeling you liked?

I liked Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon a lot! It’s a spiritual successor to the older Castlevania games. I didn’t really get into them, so I don’t really have a nostalgia factor for it, but B:CotM shows off some interesting character and level design. It feels like there’s a unique use for every character and every subweapon.

That sounds similar to why you like FJF.

Just a bit, yes. I also like the replayability and the decisions you can make, and I like how it explores the protagonist’s motivations.

I’m sure I heard about this game, but it’s only for PC and I have a Mac. But I love this art! I think my Uncanny Valley is more like an Uncanny Grand Canyon and 3D and realistic graphics just do not do it for me At All.

I know what you mean. I don’t mind realistic graphics, myself, but I don’t think it’s the one true thing to seek after in games. I like stylized graphics a lot, too! Not necessarily 2D (drawn or pixel) art, but weird stylized stuff in 3D. Okami’s one of my favorite games of all time, and it’s why I gained an interest in graphics programming.

I’ve never thought before about what it would mean to program graphics. Literally every time I talk to you I learn some entire new area of knowledge exists. Okay, we can talk another time about how I am a nerd and you are a bigger nerd though. If you were trying to sell someone on signing up for FJF, what would you say?

Try it if you want some challenge and a fresh perspective on an older game! Or if you want something else to make your decisions for you, which can be freeing and relaxing in a way.

I am in that second group, wow! You summed up our two perspectives almost scarily well. Okay, here’s the last question. If the game is called Final Fantasy, why do they keep making them?

I once heard that game development is really like buying a lottery ticket, in terms of breaking even and being a success. It’s like saying “Double or Nothing!” and they keep Doubling.

Isn’t buying a lottery ticket one of the side quests in FFXV? SICK BURN! That was a joke about the structure of the game.

Check out the rest of the Crystal Vision series!

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About Caroline Delbert

Caroline Delbert is a writer, book editor, grad student, researcher, and avid reader who lives in Chicago. She's also an enthusiast of just about everything.
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