DCFFVII Research Thread

I was reminded today of a weird way in which the clock/timer of DC functions.

When I reached the second checkpoint of Chapter 1 (after Vincent runs down the stairs and says "Now where am I supposed to meet Reeve?") I checked the menu and saw that the timer read 1min 31sec. This is about as good of a result I can get for Segment #1 of the chapter.

Now when I loaded the second checkpoint after booting up the game again, the timer instead read 1min 26s. Five seconds had been cut off! :D

What I think this has to do with is that when you are playing from one checkpoint/segment to the other, the clock will still be running even during some of the loading times. However when you load a specific checkpoint, the clock will only start running AFTER the aforementioned loading times.

I actually presented this discovery earlier in this thread. Five seconds being cut in my Chapter 1 playthrough is merely a welcome reminder. I can't emphasize strongly enough just how important those five seconds may end up being. They can mean the difference between an S rank and an A rank in completion time. I hope the later checkpoints will cut away seconds too, thus increasing my odds of achieving a perfect run.

Segment #2 of Chapter 1 is roughly 7 minutes long, compared to the 1 minute of Segment #1. This bad boy is going to take a long time to master...
I'm at a point where I have to admit that I don't know if I will achieve my goals with Chapter 1. =/

Let's repeat what the conditions are for S rankings on Chapter 1:

Targets Destroyed - 100 or more
Accuracy Rate - 75% or more
Damage Sustained - 599 or less
Critical Hits - 90 or more
Killchains - 80 or more
Items used - 0
Limit Break Used - 3 times or more
Mako Collected - 90% or more
Times KO'd - 0
Time Expired - Less than 20 minutes​

Stage Missions:
Saved Civilians: 24 or more out of the total of 25 civilians.
Save the girl, Rio: Yes
Retrieve Cardkeys: 5 out of 5 cardkeys. Easy and Normal only demand that you find 4 cardkeys.
Help/Save the WRO Members: 12 out of 12.​

You can allow one civilian to die and still get an S ranking. I expect that IF I get to the end of Chapter 1, I will have indeed saved only 24 civilians and not 25. Dirge of Cerberus is way too random and 1-3 civilians will often die regardless of how good you are at the game! This is especially true in JORG because of how slow Vincent runs (even slower when his gun is raised) and his slow firing rate.

Exhibit #1: The first four civilians


Four civilians, four DG soldiers. Four times out of five, one civilian here will die under the heavy fire. Even if you manage to headshot the first soldier as he comes into view, the other three soldiers will quickly come into view and ruin your day. Keep in mind that in JORG Vincent's firing rate is so slow that you have to wait roughly one second between shots.

There is no going around the randomness. Normally the soldiers will fire immediately upon spawning. Randomly a soldier might wait one-two seconds, so you can imagine yourself how unlikely it is that all four soldiers decide to be patient with their triggers. You also can't employ some trick like headshotting two DG soldiers simultaneously because by the time two soldiers line up, they will already have started killing civilians.

Exhibit #2: Civilians #12-#15 under Dragonfly fire


As soon as the civilians spawn the Dragonfly will be firing at them. Your goal is to get around the corner and fire at the belly of the Dragonfly so that its barrage ceases.

If you are unlucky, one or two civilians will die before you have even made it around the corner!

If you are lucky, one or two civilians will die by the time you have hit the belly of the Dragonfly at the earliest possible time.

If you are very lucky, everyone will survive.

None of this is fair. In most runs, I have one civilian die at Exhibit #1 and one civilian die in Exhibit #2 regardless of how awesome my play is. That is one civilian death too many. Although less frequent, civilian deaths from bad luck in these moments is still pretty common in the post-JORG versions.

I haven't even raised the unfairness of how likely you are to get hit by enemy fire no matter how skillful, strategic and knowledgeable you are. Throughout the whole chapter I must not receive more than 599 damage. My goal is to clear this 7-minute segment of the chapter receiving 200 in damage or less. At best, I have managed to get through with about 400 damage! There is too much randomness involved. TOO MUCH RANDOMNESS!

Even if luck wasn't involved, I still have the choices to weigh as to how much I plow through the stage due to the strict clear time requirement and how many enemies I defeat if I am to destroy a total of 100 targets. There is the risk that even if I am blessed with a miracle and I clear this segment of the chapter with less than 200 damage, I may have ended up killing too few DG soldiers for the final result.

Post-JORG, you will get an S ranking if you receive less than 950 in damage. Oh how I wish that this was the requirement in JORG. I will keep trying but the odds are so stacked against me that I can't promise I will achieve what I'm going for.
What do you say to doing this challenge in a more sane version? :monster:
My spirit has to be broken far more in order for me to "surrender" and do this challenge in post-JORG! I want to be the one who proved that top results are possible, albeit ridiculously difficult, in the original version.

Also I'm stubborn about this stuff. TONIGHT I DINE WITH CERBERUS IN HADES!!!
New record in the segment #2 run: I only received 318 in damage!

Unfortunately I can't even consider to save this run because one civilian too many died.

EDIT: Managed to clear segment #2 with overall decent results, albeit receiving 367 in damage. Despite only being allowed 232 more in damage, I will test the waters and see how well I fare in segments #3-#7. In the end I might be forced to retrace my steps to segment #2, but the experience will be worth it and I know for sure that no other segment in chapter 1 is as difficult as segment #2.
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The Twilight Mexican

Ex-SeeD-ingly good
Does it ever feel like Dirge's game design foretold the problems within SE that would come to light after FFXIII? That is to say, the culturally insular view of the older people and their assumed superiority ("because we are Japanese") in making games?

I mean, here they were making a game from a genre they had never worked in before, which is also a genre that's immensely popular outside Japan -- but not so much within it ... and they couldn't find the time, resource or care to get somebody with experience in making such games to provide consultation on balance (or at least leaving room for skill to matter more than luck), but they could engage in an overblown, overhyped partnership with a J-pop star past his prime?
I haven't played enough games in the Square Enix library nor read interviews detailing to each title so to spot any trends one direction or the other. If I were to say anything about Square's apparent lack of consultation with designers of shooter games, I do think that Square let their pride get in the way.

"NO! We will make great J-RPG Shooter alone and on the first try! Just you wait!" is what I picture the company sounding like in 2004-2006, when they made DC. With consultation, Square might have created a great J-RPG Shooter, validating the sub-genre and spawning more titles like it.

After my suffering through chapter 1, I have come to long for the feature to raise a shield against incoming fire. Now, you DO have some defense against bullets with your melee attack. Time your melee attack properly, and the enemy bullets will bounce off and cause no damage. This feature isn't limited to missiles, you can do it against normal bullets too.

But this shield isn't reliable enough for you to trust upon it as a game mechanic. If ever I deflect bullets with a melee strike, it's purely because of luck and not because I planned it.

Imagine for a second though if holding down the melee button meant that Vincent kept his golden-clad arm raised. (Or if having shield and melee combos attached to the same button would worsen the controls, then assign the shield to a different button.) If this acted as a shield that you could keep up indefinitely, just like the Blades of Chaos in God of War, THEN bullet-deflection would become a trusted mechanic to diminish and sometimes even remove the unfair randomness in Dirge of Cerberus. Obviously this shield would not work against more powerful projectiles and missiles would still have to be deflected with a swing or dodged, so not nearly as "PROTECTS AGAINST 99% OF ATTACKS" like the Blades of Chaos.

I imagine that with the shield raised, Vincent is immobile and can't move or change direction until after he lowers the shield.

This is also another one of those things that Vincent can perform in cutscenes and that the player should be able to do as well. :monster:

Example from when Vincent is fired upon after defeating the Dragonfly GL:

On the topic of game design, in an episode of Mark Brown's "Game Maker's Toolkit" I learned the classification "Hitscan Weapon".
Mark Brown said:
This is when the enemy does an attack and, if you're in line with their gun, you'll immediately take damage.
In other words the bullets from the DG soldiers' guns are hitscan weapons. They are too fast for you to dodge, thus removing an element of skill that would otherwise have been involved.

I recommend you listen to the whole video: How Games Do Health | Game Maker's Toolkit.
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Double Growth
I mean...I have to say that when you put it the way Tres did...I'm impressed that I found Dirge as enjoyable as I did. Many Call of Duty enemies are hitscan as well. And while they hadn't really attempted the TPS before, their attempt at a shmup, Einhander, was absolutely fantastic.

That said the shield idea is a solid one.
I am now confident that I will get All S Rankings in this run of Chapter 1. There will be no need to redo segment #2 (even though the current recording has me make some embarrassing mistakes :P)

All the ranking categories are accounted for, as I played ahead to check that my results will be good enough. Two categories I worried about, Targets Destroyed and Critical Hits, are well within good margins. Even the normally stressful category of Time Expired isn't a problem. In fact there is a good chance my clear time will be below 19 minutes! :D

Now I just have to redo segments #5 and #6 until I clear both of them without sustaining more than 232 in damage.

Segments #3 and #4 were both short. The former is about one minute long and the latter about a half minute. Yeah, pretty great disparity between the length of segments. Thanks to how brief these segments are it is not nearly as frustrating to replay them until you receive zero damage.

Segment #4, the office where you meet Shelke and Azul, deserves to be mentioned as another example of DC's randomness.


After the cutscene with Azul and Shelke you are instantly brought to this screen with three DG soldiers in front of you. No matter how many times you try this segment, ALL THREE SOLDIERS will fire upon Vincent before he has a chance to do anything. This is inevitable and not random.

Ironically, randomness is your only savior against this highly unfair scenario. As with all bullets from DG firearms, and to some degree Vincent's weapon too, the trajectory of the bullet is random. They may aim straight ahead, but the probability of the bullet's trajectory is more akin to a cone that extends from the firearm. Meaning there is a chance that even when a soldier is at arm's length when shooting at you, he CAN miss.

Approximately 1 tries out of 9, all three DG soldiers that you start out against here will MISS. So if you want to clear this segment with zero damage, you just have to retry and retry and retry and retry and retry... Until all three of your foes misses and you can defeat them in a skillful or strategic fashion. After that you just have to pray that you are fast and lucky enough against the subsequent stream of soldiers.

YouTube won't let me upload clips longer than 15 minutes, probably because of all the copyright claims against my other FFVII videos. One time I managed to upload a 58-minute clip from me streaming Dirge of Cerberus. Maybe I got lucky or maybe that clip was spared because it was uploaded from Twitch.

Just as well I guess that I can't upload long Dirge of Cerberus clips since most people don't want to watch videos from this game anyway. Even less so the long videos! :monster:
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Setting the stage for Chapter 2: Showdown in the Wastes. Here are the S Rank requirements for that chapter, as transcribed from the DC Complete Guide.

Targets Destroyed - 65 or more
Accuracy Rate - 15% or higher
Damage Sustained - 999 or less
Critical Hits - 15 or more
Killchains - 35 or more
Items used - 0
Limit Break Used - 2 times or more
Mako Collected - 100%
Times KO'd - 0
Time Expired - 11min 39sec or less

Stage Mission:
Eradicate the Guard Hounds: 50 or more out of 70

The key concerns here are Accuracy Rate and the Stage Mission, both of which are deeply linked. There are two segments in which you defeat Guard Hounds specifically for the Stage Mission: The first segment is with the stationary gatling gun and the second is when you control Vincent on the roof of the Shadowfox.

If I'm reading the DC Complete Guide correctly, the gatling gun segment has a total of 45 Guard Hounds. If the cap is at 70, like the Stage Mission screen in-game suggests, then the remaining 25 Guard Hounds can be killed when you are on top of the Shadowfox.

From past playtests I confirmed that the Guard Hounds you fight during the miniboss battle later do NOT add towards your total count of defeated Guard Hounds. You can't compensate a poor performance in the Stage Mission by killing the Guard Hounds at this later part of the chapter.

When using the gatling gun, DO NOT hold down the firing button all the way through this segment. By doing this your Accuracy Rate will plummet so far that no amount of high accuracy later on can save your result. Fire in brief and accurate bursts. Thankfully the game has accounted for the inevitable low accuracy rate from this section and generously demands no more than a 15% accuracy rate.

A tertiary concern is the "Targets Destroyed" requirement. If the Pegasus Riders count as targets (which I think they *should*, but then again the Dragonflies in Chapter 6 don't count) as well as the Crimson Hound, then that's 5+1 targets accounted for. Thusly, if you manage to defeat 59 Guard Hounds in the Stage Mission, then you could completely ignore the Guard Hounds later on during your fight against the Crimson Hound. Will report back if my assumptions are incorrect.
Remembered just now that a telltale sign an object does not count towards the "Targets Destroyed" meter is when its destruction does not add to your killchain. This was true for the choppers in Chapter 6, which can never at all contribute to your killchain.

Remember that drumcans, boxes and missiles do not count for your score of destroyed targets, even though these things all can contribute to a killchain. So there is some diversity here in what properties the objects are programmed to have.

If you want to achieve a really high kill count then make sure that no enemy is killed from an exploding drum can because then their deaths won't count, except for your killchain. Also make sure that the WRO members don't steal your kills! All these facts have been brought up earlier in this thread. I am merely reminding my audience!

Thanks to the following video, I confirmed that the Crimson Hound and the Pegasus Riders indeed add to your counter of killed targets. Ergo, as long as you defeat a minimum of 59 Guard Hounds in the chapter's Stage Mission, you are perfectly set for an S ranking in the Targets Destroyed category.

- Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII Any% Normal speed run - 1:49:57

This can be quite a humorous video to watch especially for a completionist like me who is not used to seeing SO MUCH of the game's content skipped for the sake of a speedrun. XD It is just lovely.

I posted a comment to the video, asking the uploader if he might boot up his savefile and see if Cait Sith's line on the Shera is the "Number 7" variation, and not "Number 5" or "Number 6". Doesn't look like I'm getting a reply. XP

Clement Rage

Pro Adventurer
Does it ever feel like Dirge's game design foretold the problems within SE that would come to light after FFXIII? That is to say, the culturally insular view of the older people and their assumed superiority ("because we are Japanese") in making games?

I mean, here they were making a game from a genre they had never worked in before, which is also a genre that's immensely popular outside Japan -- but not so much within it ... and they couldn't find the time, resource or care to get somebody with experience in making such games to provide consultation on balance (or at least leaving room for skill to matter more than luck), but they could engage in an overblown, overhyped partnership with a J-pop star past his prime?

I think that's a bit harsh. I mean, if it stopped you from completing the game that's one thing but a bit of randomness making it more difficult to do something that is meant to be insanely difficult anyway and is totally optional, (get all S ranks on the hardest difficulty) which a vast minority of players will ever try to do doesn't seem like such a massive failure of game design.

Skill does matter more than luck, except in the very narrow circumstances of trying an insanely difficult challenge like this one (although there are borderline impossible stage missions sometime)

If this was a game you were meant to be able to get through with no damage, then the S rank would only be unlockable if you took no damage.
There is merit in what Clement is saying. Due to the randomness of a bullet's trajectory (be it from Vincent's gun or from an enemy) and the inability to shoot EVERY enemy before they can shoot you, it is justified that the S ranking for Damage Received does not demand that you clear the chapter with little to no damage at all. Apart from the ridiculous strictness of the demands in Chapter 1, the game is (mostly) pretty lenient in its demands for the highest rankings.

What I will argue however is that the random elements in Dirge of Cerberus contributes to the feeling people have that they never learned how to play the game. This in turn hinders your enjoyment and sense of progression, leading to a playthrough where you will mostly be shooting wildly and chugging restorative items. For these reasons, I am still inclined to defend the idea of a shield function being added to the game.

I still have to see what it feels like to play Dirge of Cerberus with a mouse and keyboard. Being a shooter, supposedly the controls *should* feel less clunky than with a PS2 controller. I anticipate that even if this is the case, there will be a long adjustment period for me since I have never mastered any shooting games using a mouse and keyboard. After my All S Rankings quest is over and I've had a long break from this game, I'll try to remember to play this game in the PC fashion rather than the console fashion.

I was reminded of this upon listening to The Completionist talk about the gameplay of Dirge of Cerberus (08:02 - 11:36). Nevermind the incorrect parts of the commentary in the video, which is only natural given how much work is put into each video in such a short time. I have the benefit of having played this game for years now, writing commentary along the way.

Before talking further about your lack of incentive for gaining top rankings, I'd be super grateful if hito or Tres (or wild hero translator who pops up from the field of grass) could look over the summary of rankings in page 51 of the DC Complete Guide. Just like I have observed in-game, the cap for the post-chapter gil reward from your ranking reads as 5000 gil. What I do not know is how your "main" rankings and the Stage Mission rankings interact. Can an otherwise low gil reward from a bad average ranking be compensated via high performance in the Stage Missions? Are you given EXP for achieving a higher average stage rank? I am very curious to know the subtleties of the reward mechanics.
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