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Messages - Callisto

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JohnnydarkPT: The slowdown issue you described seems to be related to a Windows 10 Update from May 2020. It has been reported by several users on the Steam forums, for example here, or here. There is no official fix yet, but if you follow the links, there are workarounds you could try. Personally, I am not affected by this, so I don't think it's caused by the mod.

The amount of Fastitocalon-F cards required to make a Potion is indeed a little mistake in Remastered that must have been there from the beginning. It seems to be the only incorrect Refinement though, and probably the one that matters the least, but it'll be fixed soon. Thanks.

Helm_Smasher: Yes, it should be possible to remove the SeeD Lv fluctuation, but I haven't looked properly into that yet. I guess I would rather reduce the amount of battles required to increase your SeeD Lv though. I agree that it always been a slog if you try to raise it that way. For now, I would recommend doing the SeeD tests from the menu, as it's way faster.

In regards to the Dollet raid, yes, it has some tough random battles here and there, but that's intentional so it's not too easy to get the max Attack and Spirit score shortly after SeeD graduation, pushing the urge to flee from battle, which results in a lower score. The Squeeze attack from the Anacondaur is admittedly a little too powerful though, so its base power will be lowered for Standard Mode. As for the Elite Soldiers, reducing the levels for those that appear in the Communication Tower should do (they are at Lv 12 there, compared to Lv 8 elsewhere in Dollet). Thanks for the feedback.

Replacing the demaster_exp folder is enough to update to the lastest version, since no changes were made to the .dll this time.

Also thank you for the kind words. I hope your playthrough will go well. If any more questions arise, feel free to ask.

Updated the latest version with a fix to the Left Orb enemy that appears alongside NORG (the game softlocked whenever it was trying to cast Tornado). Many thanks to JohnnydarkPT for pointing it out.

@Exlo: In regards to the game crashing occasionally when attacking with Squall, I tried to replicate the issue with no success.

If you are playing the game at 1080p fullscreen, try reducing internal resolution and/or enabling windowed mode from the launcher settings and check if that fixes it. I did the same some time ago and have never ecountered this issue again ever since (could be just coincidence though, not sure, as it always happened in my case only very rarily). You could also try loading the game with non-modded files, to rule out a mod-related problem.

@Helm_Smasher: There is a small variation in enemy levels in the mod, even if they appear in the same area. It is encounter-based and definitely not dependent on your own levels. In the case of Bite Bugs that appear on the Balamb Isle, all Bite Bugs that appear in groups are at Lv 8, while the single one is set to Lv 12. I don't know why you encountered one that is at Lv 14 though. That's not intended for sure. Will investigate.

No problem. I read about the issues you reported only after uploading the new version.

The weird texture glitch on the worldmap where Esthar appears later is normal in the PC versions of the game, unfortunately. The same goes for the minor graphical glitches that can occur when fighting the Tonberry King. I'm not sure about the Creeps, I fought them right now and let them cast Heartbreak - no issues. Summoning Tonberry against Abadon worked as expected too. Tested on both 2013 and 2019 versions.

As for the game crashing when attacking with Squall, I have experienced that issue as well. Only very rarely though, so it's difficult to tell whether it's caused by the mod or by the game itself. Which version are you playing (normal or hard)? It might help tracking the cause down.

Version 1.2a/1.1a is now available for both Steam 2013 and Remastered versions, further separating Standard Mode and Hard Mode difficulty-wise by making Standard Mode a little easier especially in the mid-late-game. A few general changes have been made to both versions. See below for more information (contains spoilers).

Standard Mode changes
  • Enemies that appear in the new scripted encounter at Centra Ruins are now at a lower level
  • Stop status infliction rate of Heaven's Wrath enemy attack has been reduced
  • Vit 0 status infliction rate of Ray-Bomb enemy attack has been reduced
  • Physical attack damage of high-leveled Creeps has been reduced
  • SAM08G's damage output has been generally decreased
  • Cerberus generally does a little less damage
  • Edea (2nd) has had her Magic stat slightly reduced
  • Maelstrom enemy attack no longer requires 100% protection against Slow to prevent its Slow effect
  • All enemies that appear in the Laguna flashback at LP Laboratory are now at a lower level
  • High-leveled Esthar Soldiers (Cyborg) and Elastoids now have lower Speed
  • Hidden bosses in Deling City sewers are now at a lower level
  • Propagator (red) uses Firaga instead of Flare
  • Propagator (orange) uses Radiance instead of Holy
  • All Propagators do less damage with physical attacks
  • Jumbo Cactuar has less HP and Strength
  • Bahamut's Mega-Flare does less damage
  • Adel has less HP, drains less HP from Rinoa and generally does less damage
  • Trauma's resistance against physical attacks has been lowered

Hard Mode changes
  • Many high-leveled common enemies have had their Vitality increased to keep Ultimate Weapon damage in check
  • General stat increase for several enemies

Changes to both versions
  • All -aga spells can now be drawn from high-leveled Elite Soldiers (G-Garden and onwards)
  • Most sub top-tier weapons have had their base power increased as well (only applies to Attack command damage)
  • Rinoa's weapons have had their accuracy increased
  • Initial Strength and Magic stats have been slightly increased for physically and magically orientented characters respectively
  • BGH251F2 in FH now also loses Vitality and Spirit over time, in addition to Strength, Magic and Speed
  • Edea (2nd) now also casts Dispelga in case the entire party is under Reflect (in addition to Maelstrom and Ebon Wave)
  • Elem Atk, Status Atk, Med Kit, Doc's Code, Barrier, Hungry Cookpot and Mog's Amulet have been removed from the Chocobo World item pool (mainly to prevent easy access to Megalixirs, Shaman Stones and Renew spells)
  • Mog's Amulet can now be stolen from high-leveled Tonberries as a rare steal

@tyler_will: Thanks for reporting the issue regarding Elnoyle. It is fixed now, sorry for the inconvenience.

As for editing posts, I think you need a certain amount of posts to do so. Not too many though, just 5-10 if I remember right.

Yes, the damage output of this boss is extraordinarily high, but it only lasts for a set amount of turns. It will peak on the bosses' 5th turn with the powerful Explosion attack, and becomes gradually weaker after that. So surviving until turn 5 is top priority.

All attacks execpt Beam Cannon do physical damage, so it helps to raise Vitality as high as possible before the battle and to equip Abilities like Vit+20%. In battle, quickly cast Protect on your team, prioritizing your lower Vitality characters, and use Mega-Potions or Siren's new Heal Ability to soak up some of the damage. Alternatively, you can use your GF as a shield, preferably those with lower compatibility values to ensure longer charging times.

Hi, Callisto.
Enjoy the mod very much.

Just Wondering how to get the sidequest "The lonely girl in Dollet" done.
Which needs to collect three ingredients for helping girl's sick mother.

As I see, two of them are Mystery Fluid and Remedy+.
But I can't find the last key item (an extract of a certain flower).
The only clue I found was the woman in Winhill who can also make medicine with flowers.

Any reply is appreciated.
Thanks and welcome to the forums.

The flower that is needed to complete this sidequest is received from a waitress at Timber Pub after the girl in Dollet gave the clues regarding the ingredients. I'll try to make it a little more obvious next time by making an NPC in Dollet Pub hint at Timber, in case the player visits Dollet Pub first.

FF8 Tools / Re: [PSX/PC] Field editor - Deling (0.10.1b)
« on: 2020-08-03 20:54:21 »
Just removing "TEMP" so the script looks like this should do the trick. In earlier versions of this tool, such additions weren't displayed and they aren't even needed in newer versions at all. They sometimes prevent successful compiling if they are present, so make sure to remove them if that happens. The same goes for "VAR" and "Model", for example.

@Murasame: Welcome back. As you already guessed, alternative outfits count as different models and they are unfortunately only available for a handful of fields by default. Adding them manually would require extensive hex editing of each of the 800+ fields in the game, so that would be very time-consuming. I hope that the Deling tool will support field model injection some day. I would gladly add alternative outfits then, as well as making Edea and maybe Seifer a permanent party member.

@Solodin: If you are on Lionheart Mode, it could be normal, yes. Especially without using Double from the BG Library Draw point. In Standard Mode however, Ifrit should be very managable even without any prior level or AP grinding. Just don't let your HP drop below 300 and heal with Potions or Cure from own stock - do not rely on Draw cast Cure, as its result is random and can heal only very little HP if you are unlucky.

Also reduce battle speed if you have set it to max - on higher settings, enemies will easily out-tempo your characters as they don't need to spend time on selecting commands and targets.

Both Draw Cast randomization and higher ATB speed settings will be addressed soon. Especially the latter can make the mod nearly unplayable unless you know exactly what you and the enemy are doing - it's just way too fast and can even make the vanilla game quite challenging at times. So for now, I'd definitely advise against using it.

Fixed the links. Thanks for the heads up.

Version 1.1 for Remastered has been released, porting over the following features from Steam 2013:

- Draw cap removal in battle
- Alteration to the Draw amount formula that allows for more Draws
- Alteration to the magic damage formula
- Alteration to ATB bar filling speed
- Removal of magic damage division for enemies
- Break Damage Limit for weapon attacks
- Rare Item Ability fix
- Return Damage improvement (now returns 1/2 of the damage)
- Phoenix Down and Life spell HP restoration change to 25% max HP
- Darkside damage multiplier change from x3 to x2
- Darkside HP loss change from 10% to 20% max HP
- Kamikaze damage multiplier from max HP x5 to max HP x2
- Angel Wing damage multiplier from x5 to x3
- Removal of damage reduction for Cover Ability
- Exclusion of X-Potion and Elixir from Auto-Potion Ability
- Penalty removal when using GF compatibility items

That leaves us with only a few features still missing (most of them are somewhat covered up by workarounds though):

- Some changed Draw point contents
- Draw points changing contents over the course of the game
- Angel Wing, Vit 0, and Dispel+Damage attack type patch by JWP
- SeeD Rank payment values
- Changes to Triple Triad elemental attributes and PuPu card buff
- Removal of Invincibility items from the Angelo Search item pool

A few balance changes and bugfixes have been made as well, for both versions:

- Elite Soldier no longer gains a Speed bonus at the top of D-District Prison
- X-ATM092 has more HP in Hard Mode
- Fujin and Raijin (Balamb encounter) are a little slower in Hard Mode
- Seifer and Edea (G-Garden) are a little slower in the combined Hard Mode battle
- Some enemy attacks (Shotgun, Counter Laser Eye etc) are less powerful in Standard Mode
- Esthar Soldier (Cyborg) has less HP in Standard Mode
- A softlock that can occur when fighting Behemoth has been fixed

Installation for the Remastered version has changed and now requires a patch to the FFVIII_EFIGS.dll file for the new changes to take effect. See first page for more information. If you already have the Remastered version installed and want to upgrade now, going through the installation process again is necessary, as the kernel.bin file has undergone some major changes. Feel free to ask if any help is needed.     

FF8 Tools / Re: [PSX/PC] Field editor - Deling (0.10.1b)
« on: 2020-07-26 02:01:51 »
Remove the "TEMP" so only the 0/7 remains, then it should compile again. Deling sometimes can't handle it for some reason.

Quote from: HeavensFury
It'd be cool if weak magic was easier/faster to draw, but for strong magic it's harder/slower to draw.
I think that'd be a nice balance.
Essentially taking more time and effort if you want the best magic in-game.
But that's just my personal preference.

Maybe create a magic tier system, where at the lowest magic level you can draw up to a max of 100, and as you go up the tier list you can only draw a certain amount. Example, for top tier magic you can only draw up to 9 or less at a time.
Maybe even lowering the chances of getting a high draw number as you go up the tier list?
This would make the earlier parts of the game quicker and less frustrating/boring, while keeping the later parts of the game more rewarding to achieve.
Capping everything at max 9 draw or at max 100 draw for ALL magic still have their own positives and "negatives".

Doing it the way i've mentioned up above would be a very nice middle ground. Taking the positives from both sides and putting them together.
Has anyone ever thought of this as well?
I feel this idea could of been overlooked. Or would it be hard to implement?! Idk lol :P

Hopefully it can come to fruition someday. I REALLY love this idea.
Even if it's just for the hard mode version or as an optional mod, i'll take anything.

Thanks for sharing your ideas. What you requested is more or less already part of the base game in the form Draw resist values for each spell. They determine how easy/hard a given spell can be drawn in battle, but this mechanic can't really be utilized because of the Draw limit of 9. In the 2013 version of this mod however, where this limit has been removed, the different Draw resist values show, and drawing 100 Ultimas in one go is not even possible with maxed out Magic stats, while for something basic like Cure, it's easily doable. More information on Draw resist here:

On another note, an update for the Remastered version will be released by the end of the week, and most of the missing features will finally be ported over. I just need a little more time to create a patch. Sorry for the long wait to everyone waiting for this update.

Thanks. I hope I can port over some of the missing features the next weekend, including the Draw cap removal.

The End still works on all bosses except Undead though, so I would say it kind of still is her ultimate finisher. For random battles, rolling for Calamity is arguably better, as it does high damage to all enemies, ignores enemy Spirit and causes Sleep, Blind, Poison and Silence 100% if enemies are not immune. It will also appear more frequently in the next version of the mod, but will receive a level requirement to keep it out of the early game. All in all, I would say that both spells are very good, depending on the situation.

Ok, I hope reducing battle speed to default will help. 3/4 of the bar already puts you at a noticable disadvantage in terms of speed. It's nice for drawing spells from regular enemies and all, but definitely not for bosses, as said before.

Starting a new game for the Standard version settings to take effect is not necessary. Also feel free to share some damage numbers from certain enemy attacks to make sure that everything is working as intended.

@aegisjester: Probably won't be easy to implement a swapping system similar to Chrono Cross for FF8, but I'll try giving the option to exclude Squall at least for specific points in the game, especially end-game.

@ShadowCloudX: I don't really know what could cause so much trouble that early in the game. The SeeD mission is balanced around being beatable without leveling up at all. Additional Stat-J Abilties (other than the ones your GF have already learned by default) are not necessary to progress either at this point.

What matters most is that all 3 characters possess basic spells. Make sure to get a good Cure stock for Selphie. It's generally helpful to make her your primary magic user and give her Quezacotl so she can make good use of her high natural Magic stat (at the beginning, Quezacotl is the only GF with the Mag-J Ability). This will help with dealing spell damage and also affects the amount of HP restored with Cure (Squall and Zell should heal with Potions at this point, as their HP restoration amount is usually below 200 when casting Cure).

X-ATM092 is weak to Thunder and should collapse after taking two Thunder spells from Selphie, until it stands up for the last time. It actually uses only one threatening attack (Ray-Bomb) which is used at regular intervals and never multiple times in a row. Its damage can be reduced with Shell which Zell came with when joining the party. The other attacks shouldn't be much of a problem but can be weakened with Protect (can be directly drawn from X-ATM092), just in case.

Other than that, are you perhaps playing with maxed out battle speed? If you do, then I would recommend setting the ATB speed back to default, as enemies will out-tempo you on higher settings because they don't need to spend time on selecting commands and targets (other than the player) - even the vanilla game becomes noticably harder with high ATB speed settings, so it's definitely not recommended for this mod, especially not for the boss fights.

Hey Nikito, and welcome back. The Remastered version is fully playable, but some of the 2013 version's features are currently missing, most notably the ability to draw more than 9 spells per Draw in battle and the revised Angel Wing mechanics. Check out this post for information about missing features and some compensations for them. If you are ok with that, I'd definitely give the Remastered version a go. Otherwise it's better to wait until the missing features are ported over, which shouldn't take that long anymore.

Oh, I see. That was not intentional, sorry. For some reason, the latest DL link wasn't set to be available to everyone before. Anyway, I removed the restriction so you should be able to download now.

@Tempest: All rare cards that need to be lost to the Queen of Cards can be reclaimed from her son who lives in a house near the pub, while all other cards lost to the Queen will be replayed by herself. So it's actually not possible to mess up with this quest to an extent where it can no longer completed.

The new Kiros card holder in Winhill inn even appears if you haven't lost the Quezacotl card to the Queen of Cards yet. She should always show up after ringing the bell on the counter to the far left of the room. The Kiros card refines into 3 Aegis Amulets in this mod, which can be used to make your physically fragile party members dodge physical attacks more often.

@ClownofSorrows: I'm not sure what access you're referring to. More information would help.

@aegisjester: Unfortunately, many scenes throughout the game rely on Squall being in the active party, so excluding him will result in glitches or make the game crash - at least without rewriting most fields from scratch. Could do it for disc 4 perhaps, as there's not much going on story-wise, but even that would mean quite a bit of work, as Squall is supposed to be the party leader in Chocobo Forests, for example.

I'll put a changelog that lists standard and hard mode differences to the OP shortly (a quick summary can already be viewed some posts back).

As for Card Mod results, I'm ok with most of them as they currently are. If you play Triple Triad regularly, you can still get many cards that grant access to spells and items that aren't available through other means yet. Even if it takes time to get full stocks for junctioning, getting a few for casting in battle alone is already worth it, as you said (the possibility of reliably getting Fish Fins from Fastitocalons at the beaches near Dollet was a mistake that will be corrected soon; the first opportunity to get them regularly was supposed to be at the beaches near Deling City instead).

I know that seeing something like Dino Bone having become a LV 7 boss card result can be irritating at first, but the value of items like these is usually completely different in this mod (in comparison to the base game), as most spells do much more damage or have useful supportive capabilities that are rather irrelevant in the base game (Double, Full-life etc).

Besides that, there are just too many cards in the game to give every single one a decent result if you want to keep things balanced and accessible right after the start of the game. An alternative would be moving the Card Mod Ability to the end-game so every single card mods into something really useful, but that's not very desirable, is it?

@Rikku: It's possible to use pretty much use any controller with the 2013 version. By default, there are no button icons shown in the game at all, but there is a button mod by Shunsq which is highly recommended to solve this issue.

The differences between 2013 Steam and Remastered are listed here. Note that "Updated animation effects in spells and command actions" is a bit misleading; there aren't any new effects in Remastered at all, some of them just look less broken compared to 2013 version (a good example would be Resonance and Sonic Wave enemy attacks). Also, a speed-up option is already present in 2013, and loading times aren't "significantly" faster in Remastered at all (only compared to original PS1 version). The other points in that list are correct though.

Infinite magic should be possible in Remastered as well, but I guess no one has looked for its address in the game code yet.

@Tempest: The inn is located at the southern exit of the village. Head to the counter to make a previously unseen NPC appear in the room, and select "No" when being asked about staying at the inn. You can then challenge this person to a card game to win the Kiros card.

As for Irvine's Ultimate Weapon, I have checked it myself and had no problems getting it. Are you sure you have all the required items? In the mod, it's Dino Bone x2, Shaman Stone x1, Star Fragment x2 and Screw x18.

Acquiring Tonberry is the same as in the base game, with one notable exception: Only 8 Tonberries need to be killed to make the Tonberry King appear, so make sure to save the game after killing the 7th one to avoid being ambushed.

Updated Lionheart Mode with the following:

- Seifer (3rd) no longer uses Drain on himself
- Garden Faculty dialogue after exiting Fire Cavern has been corrected (5 min -> 10 min)
- Some alterations to Omega Weapon's AI
- Some Elem-Def options have been toned down

@aegisjester: You've made some really good suggestions. Especially your idea in regards to the Shumi Draw point containing random spells sounds tempting. Not sure if I can make it work though, need some more time to check first, so I've put that idea on hold for now. An item shop somewhere in Galbadia Garden should be no problem, and will be included in the next version of the mod. More weapon stat bonuses have been requested quite a lot for FF8 mods, but it's unfortunately one of the harder things to do, so it probably won't happen too soon.

As for Seifer (3rd battle), he uses two scripted attacks on Squall that are auto-crits, so maybe your impression of him being stronger than before relates to that. Apart from those two hits, he is actually weaker than in the previous battle, especially defensively. It's also possible to poison him to get rid of him as soon as possible to fully focus on Edea.

@Nesouk: Well done Ifrit battle, but maybe the Fire Cavern challenge should be changed from "Beat Ifrit within 10 minutes" to "Beat Ifrit without Double". I guess it's the thing that makes the fight more than managable even in Lionheart Mode. Anyway, interested in seeing more of your playthrough, I hope all goes well and not too frustratingly.

@Zara9: Yes, a harder version of the mod was released some weeks ago. Check out the DL links and setup instructions if you want to try it out.

@warkwarth: If Cactuar has the Stat-Bonus Abilities, your save must be indeed from a really old version of the mod. Starting a new game after a new version has been installed is recommended to avoid issues like this, but I guess it's not a big deal and be corrected anytime with Hyne Save Editor if you feel like it (it would also unlock the replacements for those Abilities in Cactuar's Ability list).

If Adel's Energy Bomber one-shots everyone, you probably didn't remove the Vit 0 status effect from your characters, which is caused by Adel's opening move, Ray-Bomb. Always watch for its visual cue (a red-purple-ish tint on your characters) and remove it as soon as possible. The Doom status can be removed with the Treatment Ability, Elixirs or Megalixirs. If you don't want to use any of these, you can also use Zombie to stop the countdown. As for attacking, junctioning Wind spells to your characters' Elem-Atk is your best bet. Phoenix has recently been buffed in the 2013 Standard version - he now revives characters with 25% of their max HP (instead of 12,5%). That's all I can do to make him better at the moment, sorry. Hope you'll manage to beat her!

Hi warkwarth. Yes, you can convert from Standard to Lionheart anytime by just going through the installation process again and choose the Lionheart files instead. If you then continue using your previous save game, there can be minor issues with your GF Ability lists, but only if you are currently on a really old version of the mod.

A difficulty mod that can be put on top of this one is this Hard Mode, but I would not recommend doing so, as your physical attackers will be severely handicapped with it active, as mentioned above. I would try Lionheart standalone first to see how it goes (enemy resistances against Death are increased in this mode), and then maybe go for Hard Mode if you feel it's still too easy.

Otherwise congratulations on defeating Edea. Auto-Potion is indeed useful in that battle and generally often overlooked. Well done :)

@levantine: In Remastered, Angel Wing is pretty much the same as in the base-game, so it's quite broken if you set Rinoa up to only use Meteor. Ultima is quite powerful too, as it can break the damage limit, but still not as good as Meteor on a single target. I've been making some progress with checking Remastered game code though, so hopefully it'll be possible to tone it down soon, identical to Steam 2013 version. Physical attacks still can't break the damage limit at the moment, but you should be able to hit 9999 frequently with Irvine's Exeter weapon and a high Luck stat for Irvine. Darkside can help with keeping physical attacks relevant too, of course.

@Dealer1993: Thanks for elaborating on your impressions. So it was mostly the Limit Breaks that made things easy for you.

The issue with Selphie's Calamity still being relatively rare in the late-game is the possibility of it popping up in the early-game, where it can one-shot bosses easily. There's unfortunately no reliable way of keeping this spell exclusive to the late-game, so I was overly cautious of not making it appear too often. I could try making it weaker in the early-game though and make it appear more frequently in return.

As for Lion Heart, I think it's ok as it is. Omega Weapon is one of the few late-game bosses that are actually vulnerable to Vit 0, so against most other bosses with a decent Vitality stat (Jumbo Cactuar, Ultima Weapon, Griever etc), it's not quite as powerful. Angel Wing definitely needs a change in Remastered sooner or later, as even without knowing the game well, it's easy to abuse. If I can manage to make it work like in the 2013 version, then Rinoa's high base Magic should be no problem (damage average is about 20,000 HP per spell in 2013 Steam with Rinoa's Magic stat maxed out).

@aegisjester: Welcome to the forums and thanks for the feedback. I'm afraid that some of the frustation you've experienced so far is indeed caused by the Hard Mode launcher you linked. It decreases all player physical damage by a factor of 1.5, which explains your impression of random encounters taking too long. A Bite Bug should never take more than 2 weapon hits from Squall or Zell as long as they have access to STR-J and a decent spell junctioned to STR. Furthermore, enemy levels and enemy physical damage are also slightly higher than intended with the Hard Mode active, so all in all, I would advise against using it in conjunction with this mod.

As for the other points you made:

- I get that the cards/card mod was excessively over-powered in the vanilla version, but this makes it excessively weak. Playing cards feels like a waste of time with this "rebalancing", both because I am effectively cut off from all the decent spells and because I am completely cut off from higher-level equipment until the game "lets" me. What I loved about the card game originally it it let me "break the mold" and get things earlier than I was supposed to. I agree that I shouldn't be getting curagas before I leave Balamb, but the high-level boss cards shouldn't be as junky as they became. Nothing sparks joy like getting Punishment before leaving the Garden, or Lion Heart on disc 1. No, I'm not expecting to be able to jump up to that level as fast in a properly balanced mod, but I also don't like feeling held back either.
Some of the Card Mod results are quite weak, yes, but I wouldn't say excessively weak in general, as Card Mod still allows getting many spells before they become available by drawing from an enemy. For example, the Water and Bio spells that can be won from Fastitocalon and Tri-Face cards right after the beginning of the game are a great help with getting through the early-game. The same goes for cards that refine into Magic Stones to get early access to the -ara spells, or the Grendel card to get more Double spells that are very valuable until they can be drawn from regular enemies later in the game. I also think that the boss cards are in a reasonable spot, as they also provide the earliest access to high-level spells (-aga spells through LV 6 cards that become available from Fisherman's Horizon onwards, Tornado and Quake through LV 7 cards at the beginning of disc 3 onwards). Not sure if you have noticed yet, but all these spells are way more powerful than in the base-game if you cast with a magic-oriented character, so getting some through Card Mod should always be worth it - most of them aren't even very good for junctions to encourage free use in battle.

I didn't get a mesmerize blade to upgrade my gunblade until the scripted garden encounter, at which point it was almost insulting that the game was now "letting" me upgrade my weapon, rather than being something I earned.
So the weapon in question is the Flame Saber which is the 4th out of 7 weapons for Squall. One the mod's goals is to achieve a sense of progression in regards to become more powerful overall, something the base game is clearly lacking. So the earliest occasion of getting the Flame Saber is around mid-game after the Mesmerize battle in Balamb Garden, to make sure this weapon is easily accessible to all players, without playing Triple Triad or searching the world for materials, which I thought was important to keep in check the physical vs. magical output at this point. If the Flame Saber was available right from the start by just playing a couple of card games, that wouldn't be very balanced, especially not when considering the increased Strength bonus the weapons provide. I think the possible jump from Revolver to Cutting Trigger right after the beginning of the game by playing Triple Triad is fair enough.

Other than that, I understand that this kind of gating things can take away from the feeling of having earned something, but there are still enough weapons that won't fall into the player's hands automatically, among other things such as getting certain steals from bosses (for example, the Power Wrist from Minotaur is very good), looking for spells (drawing the Life spell in Deling City sewers as Laguna already etc) or the rewards from additional challenges like for doing the Fire Cavern in 5 minutes.

- Removing the enemy auto-levelling works great 90% of the time, but then I get railroaded into using one party because my B team is too weak to switch in. My Irvine and Rinoa are struggling to break level 20 because I can never justify having them in my party without spending hours on random encounters to beef them up - especially when Rinoa's Angelo limit breaks are now a pile of hot garbage.
Yes, the level gap between characters can become problematic for sure. For the next version, EXP for bosses are planned, so this should help mitigating this issue. Probably should have implemented this sooner, but I've been reluctant as it takes away the possibility of low-level runs (found a solution though) - sorry for the trouble. Some of the character starting levels will also be changed, which makes sense especially in the case of Quistis. Most of Rinoa's Angelo Limit Breaks are based on Rinoa's Strength stat, so if you raise it enough, they shouldn't be too bad.

- Ultima Draw point in Shumi Village: I think that having basically limitless to access Ultima that early would make most of the upcoming bosses too easy - even 15-20 would already be enough. This Draw point contained Meteor in older versions of the mod, and it was still too powerful according to player feedback, so it was changed to Quake which is still good in the hands of a magic-oriented character, and not easy to get through other means at this point of the game.

- Centra Ruins changes: I see that the instant Game Over after the time is up doesn't add much, so I'll probably revert that back to default, at least for Standard Mode. For Lionheart Mode, I'd definitely like to keep in the inability to leave Centra Ruins after a certain point, as just solving the riddles until the door to Odin's chamber opens, and then returning to the world map and save, kind of defeats the purpose of the timer. Of course, the timer could be changed to begin in Odin's chamber, so it's only relevant for the battle itself, but I like how the scripted battle along with the timer create a good degree of tension. If the Chimera that appears in the scripted battle becomes a problem, it can be easily dealt with using gravity-based attacks or Degenerator.

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