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Tearing at AW1's The Final Battle

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Tearing at AW1's The Final Battle

Post  Master Knight DH on Fri Jun 08, 2018 3:59 pm

(Just for reference, this is an X-Post; there is snark near the end towards the Advance Wars subreddit's bull, granted, I don't find AWBW's userbase to be squeaky clean--of course, Xmo1 is cool, but either way...and yes, this is going to be an angry post anyway.)

Map of TFB for reference:
http://gbwn.main.jp/Mission21_GBWA.htm

Climactic battles are what stories like to build up toward, making sure the audience is left with a feeling of awe when the denouement starts. With gaming, what is particularly done is to make the climactic final battle hard enough that overcoming it leaves the player with a sense of satisfaction. In theory, The Final Battle would be this show of blowout, but in practice, it ends up being a burnout.

What makes it relevant to Days of Ruin? Copy it onto a custom map and try to play it out. Unless you deliberately set the BH units' AI to Assault, you'll be wishing THIS is the level of kiting you'd be putting up with:
https://2img.net/h/s25.postimg.cc/v4gigsihr/AYMHAAACAAAYUKl_QKk_Eykw.jpg

I'm getting ahead of myself, but people would no doubt say I'm just complaining about the difficulty. Thing is, if difficulty is well-designed, I actually welcome it for being satisfying to overcome. This video exists because of that:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0mXiEdQ7mE&list=PLO2o0_k4kOryzPNrI-UEOXTN6NTTTF-cx&index=29
(Yeah, I complain about given mooks being annoying, but the boss itself is well-designed.)
When problems arise is when the difficulty is set up in an arbitrary enough fashion. And The Final Battle likes to get VERY arbitrary.

Starting forces? More like Starting Farces

I'm going to start with what would be the least idiotic part on its own, except believe me when I say everything is going to add up in aggravation. Besides, I could always complain about the Guide Dang It nature of the way your COs are set up, but I'm here to call out the design of the map itself.

Let's get the logistics of the starting forces going with a list of each CO's predeployed units:

*Sturm: 4 Fighters, 4 Bombers, 4 Battle Helicopters, 3 Light Tanks, 3 MD Tanks, 6 Anti-Air Tanks (24 units, total cost 321K)
*Andy: 2 Battle Helicopters, 2 MD Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Tanks, 1 Anti-Air Missile Launcher, 2 Infantry, 1 APC, 1 Transport Helicopter (11 units, total cost 90K)
*Max: 2 MD Tanks, 3 Light Tanks, 4 Anti-Air Tanks, 2 Infantry (11 units, total cost 87K)
*Olaf: 2 MD Tanks, 2 Light Tanks, 2 Rocket Launchers, 2 Anti-Air Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Missile Launchers (10 units, total cost 116K)
*Grit: 2 Light Tanks, 2 Artillery, 2 Rocket Launchers, 1 Anti-Air Tank, 2 Anti-Air Missile Launchers, 2 Infantry (11 units, total cost 90K)
*Sami: 2 Light Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Missile Launchers, 3 Infantry, 3 Mechs (12 units, total cost 56K)
*Drake: 2 MD Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Missile Launchers, 3 Infantry (9 units, total cost 75K)
*Kanbei: 4 MD Tanks, 2 Light Tanks, 4 Anti-Air Tanks, 1 Recon (11 units, total cost 136.8K)
*Eagle: 2 Fighters, 1 Bomber, 2 Battle Helicopters, 2 MD Tanks, 2 Anti-Air Tanks, 1 Infantry (10 units, total cost 129K)

Obviously the player has a starting headcount advantage at a minimal 30 units to Sturm's 24. This, however, is a Hope Spot, as the same can't be said of the combined unit prices. The only CO combinations that breaks Sturm's 321K are Olaf/Kanbei and Olaf/Eagle. Olaf has the problem that even if Blizzard wasn't counterproductive to his allies barring Sturm pounding Andy hard enough AND the side CO being Sami or Drake, he doesn't even start with any Infantry. Doesn't seem like a big deal on a map this big? Believe me, it's an aggravation I will really get into, and you'll agree with me when I say this: So much for rewarding the player for actually directly defeating an easily avoidable navy.

Even if Grit/Kanbei allowed for reaching 321K, Kanbei has his own problems as well: once again, he doesn't have any Infantry at the start. Not only that, you want to know what his 120% costs, the reason he has a higher total cost value than even Eagle, are multiplying off of in general? Freaking MD Tanks that can barely do ANYTHING against the Fighters OR Bombers. Also, one of Kanbei's starting units is a Recon. ....okay, I can buy that Intelligent Systems are bringing up Kanbei being an idiot, but this sort of thing hasn't been an excuse for Olaf not having 2 Fighters added to his forces, since players would remember being introduced to plane units witnessing Olaf's planes crash because Olaf forgot to refuel them, and actually buy a freaking APC. Sure the starting units fit both for character and story, but I'm here calling out TFB's reliance on flash over substance. The clincher is the degree by which Kanbei's forces are more competent than Drake's or especially Sami's. At least Kanbei gets more Anti-Air Tanks, instead of wasting anti-air power on freaking Anti-Air Missile Launchers, the same things that a beached whale can outmaneuver. That's obviously the game's misbalancing that only drunks and idiots get hit by them, but dear GOD couldn't Sami and Drake simply involve more methodical gameplay instead of having completely gimped economies? Also, with only 3 anti-air units, as well as weakened directs in general, Grit ends up being underwhelming.

This makes the desirable CO combination Max and Eagle, at least on NC where Rivals isn't THE definition of That One Level. Of course, TFB AC is even more disgusting and not worth covering. I'll leave a URL with a picture that tells anybody in their right mind everything I could ever need to about that mess:
http://gbwn.main.jp/Mission21_Hard_GBWA.htm

Of course, you can claim that I'm just "whining" about having fewer resources. Yeah, well, notice how I kept bringing up competence with anti-air ability? That goes right into my next point.

The Air Farce

The Advance Wars series already has a subpar at best track record with level design involving air units. In fact, *THREE* of the 4 Advance Wars episodes in whoisthisgit's Worst Levels Ever series incidentally involve air unit shenanigans:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89FYEUlCgbI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LXhfxsyox-4
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ocg1084FUI
This isn't a coincidence, because all 3 of those levels give the enemy force plane units at a dime a dozen in convenient terrain, while the player has very bad starting resources as well. I bring up starting resources because I have been noting how level design in the Advance Wars games actively involves them instead of the minor amounts of money, no starting units aside from player 2 getting an Infantry for FTA counter, and the deployment points spread between multiple fronts that Advance Wars By Web standardized. Notice how infantry are drastically weaker because tech units are already long out before the infantry congestion can happen? Granted, it's still notable that Anti-Air Tank VS Infantry doesn't KO on significant terrain without an attack/defense mismatch, but that's just talking about the metagame.

Where I am going with this is what Advance Wars 2 recognizes: how absurd plane units ultimately are when they aren't suffocated by infantry spam. Do you notice how WITG didn't make a WLE episode for AW2? Maybe because when the enemy gets enough planes, your starting forces are actually competent. Sure there are WLE candidates like Show Stopper, but they just stand out for being WLE candidates, and even then, they're not so absurd to handle if you don't care about Speed, plus there are enough levels you can choose to skip, Show Stopper among them.

All of the WLEs I linked to don't care about that. Kanbei's Error AC provides Kanbei with 3 Fighters, 2 Bombers, and 2 Battle Helicopters, totalling 146.4K, to the player's 1 Fighter, 1 Battle Helicopter, 1 Anti-Air Tank, 1 Anti-Air Missile Launcher, 2 Infantry, and 1 Transport Helicopter, a sum cost of 56K. Rivals AC is, of course, even more disgusting: 4 Fighters, 4 Bombers, AND 3 Battle Helicopters, in addition to the land units that can reach, but even the air units alone have a sum cost of 195K, to the player 1 Infantry and 2 Mechs at only 7K. Waylon Flies Again is actually the tamest with Waylon's 3 Fighters, 1 Bomber, 2 Dusters, and 2 Battle Helicopters (124K) to the player's 2 Infantry, 2 Mechs, 1 Bike, and 1 Anti-Air Tank (17.5K) in addition to AI support that is *BARELY* halfway competent support in light of Waylon having limited starting firepower against the Anti-Air Tanks, but even then, unlike Kanbei's Error AC or Rivals AC, the player doesn't start with any deployment points under their control.

This brings up another strike against those 3 maps: the terrain. Kanbei's Error completely locks your land units other than infantry to a small piece of land. If only we could use navy to transport our tanks around, so that maybe we could smash that Anti-Air Tank that whoisthisgit resorted to a flagrant AI exploit to fight back against. But oh wait, navy is innately stupid. The Stop Having Fun Guys say so. As for Rivals AC and Waylon Flies Again, land units do get options to move around, except.....they suck. They're so long, because clearly what we need is machines built to move in THREE dimensions wanting to move in only ONE instead of considering this incredibly complicated concept called flanking. Speaking of, look at the "optimal" player formation in Rivals AC (the one that the game screams at you to have to get the Perfect S-Rank). It's not only dumb for gameplay reasons, including the concept of flanking itself as you'd realistically have your air units get hit by THAT, it's also screaming masculinity contest, if you can even call it that. And Waylon Flies Again? It is an unavoidable grindfest that has drawn a lot of well-deserved ire.

I spend multiple paragraphs to talk about those WLEs to point out the underlying summary of where I am going with the involved idiocy in TFB: that plane units are meant to be expensive because they can pull brain-dead kiting. Even AW1's AI, known for making APCs a priority over HQ capturing infantry, recognizes as much. Let me point to this pic AGAIN:
https://2img.net/h/s25.postimg.cc/v4gigsihr/AYMHAAACAAAYUKl_QKk_Eykw.jpg
Yep. All a Bomber needs to be obnoxious is a *SINGLE* tile barrier of Mountains or some such and it's instantly safe from grounded anti-air. Don't say Anti-Air Missile Launchers either, because even if they could hit more than drunks and idiots, they are still so slow that they can't properly support the frontlines in time. Did you also notice how the only CO who gets any Fighters at the start is Eagle? Andy does start with his own air units....except the combat ones are freaking Battle Helicopters, which can't attack Fighters *OR* Bombers, and would easily get swatted by the Fighters as well. What kind of sick joke is giving the center CO units that just amount to target practice at the critical part of the entire battle? We get it, Andy's an idiot, but you'd expect he'd have tanks instead if we're going by that logic, especially when his infamy is over not knowing what an airport is. Seriously, if you want him pounded the whole fight while Eagle--...er, sorry. MAX, beats Sturm...do it right.

Oh, and this is bearing in mind AW1 AI. Let's talk about the Days of Ruin AI. You want to know what happens with it? The air units do exactly the obvious solution: camping across the river. There's no shooting them down as a result, so what you end up with is the, neutral at the start, forward deployment points being sieged with disgusting ease. Notice with that in mind how the only available Airports for the player are AMONG THE FORWARD DEPLOYMENT POINTS. That's right: your precious method of getting more Fighters gets snuffed because of the very terrain you would need them for. Because yes, there's a LOT of Mountains on the map, oh will I get to that.

It's abundantly clear why planes deserve to cost as much as they do. But once again, people can say that the superior starting resources of the enemy is just the challenge, it's not supposed to be that easy, especially with The *FINAL* Battle, and I should just play defensive until I end the initial attack. Yeah, there's more than starting resources.

Attrition fest? lolnope

I'm going to get an AW1 exclusive point out of the way because while it's idiotic in its own right, it doesn't apply in Days of Ruin, but nor would it need to--far from it.

Yep, I'm going to talk about Sturm's Meteor Strike first. This thing drops a meteor on a cluster of enemy forces based on their expenses, knocking off 80% of their health. What cements it as obnoxious is how Sturm will get to use it just for losing a few units. The first Meteor Strike will easily come out of the destruction of those air units I just complained about, which as I made clear are already miserable in its own right. It would do that even with AW2's or AWDS's chargeup rates and whatnot, such is the immense price tags on the air units. Later Meteor Strikes will also be made easy by Sturm's 28K income.

Now you could tell me to shut up and be your ***** because there's an obvious solution of spreading out units. Yeah, guess what? With how confining in general the map is, in addition to Sturm already having powerful units breathing down your neck, this isn't reasonable. What people had to come up with, to make sure things wouldn't become even worse for Andy than they already do, is to have a side CO, typically the west one, cluster their own units to magnet the Meteor away. You want to know what's ironic? The west CO's area is actually the most open area of the map. Period. This means they would have the chance to spread out at all. But oh wait, they can't do that. Instead, they have to spend most of the battle rendering themselves useless just so their allies aren't so horribly suffocated.

Surely, though, since giving up one ally doesn't result in a Game Over, sacrificing them could be fine and dandy, right? *RIGHT?!?!?* **PFHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!** Yeah right. May I point out the next reason why Meteor Strike is only a chunk of the idiocy, and what I am going to bring up DOES carries over to Days of Ruin. Namely, the income comparisons. The starting incomes are Black Hole's 28K to the allies' total of 21K. Sure the neutral properties are ALL on your side of the river, but BH has completely safe Airports. You can barely get your income to 30K getting just the more secure Cities, but BH is guaranteed 3 Cities by suffocating the center front as easily as they do, increasing their income to 31K. It wouldn't sound so bad if not for BH's blatant air superiority. You get no leg room for giving up a front completely.

Days of Ruin, while subtracting some stupidity, also adds its own. Know what starts on Black Hole's HQ? A MD/War Tank, which even if you don't have it defaulted to CO status, is a guaranteed CO Unit because the 8K cost isn't going to DENT Black Hole's funding. Consider that Campaign Sturm in AW1 was a Glass Cannon, having an actual defense deficiency. Now consider that even a CO like Gage, the analogue to Grit, would have the War Tank boosted objectively. Yeah, Days of Ruin's War Tanks are slower and the COs don't have 1 Movement Cost units, but again, there's little room for evasion against the power boosts, and of course, I went with using Gage as an example. Imagine the Caulder CO War Tank on this map. When you do, at my behest, you will run screaming in the other direction at the mere thought of the brokenness.

And the clincher is, I'm still not done with providing the reasons why the map has problems. There's one more general reason to tear at for those who think I'm "salty" (God that term is stupid) about difficulty.

The sucky ability to attack Black Hole

So let's say that Black Hole's offense can be rendered inefficient enough, despite my complaints. You still have to finish things by attacking their home base, and therein lies the rub. Remember how I complained about the map being riddled by Mountains? Well, it's particularly aggravating on Black Hole's side of the river. Literally the only way for vehicles to get into Black Hole's HQ area is to break through the 3 frontmost Cities owned by Black Hole at the start.

This is absolutely stupid. Any remote premise of flanking to be had by controlling the map is arbitrarily restricted to units vulnerable to Anti-Air Tanks. This in turn prevents any notion of countermeasures to flanking that would have their own drawbacks being used by Black Hole. Oh, but wait, there IS flanking against Black Hole. I'm just an idiot because apparently I didn't notice the paths the side COs could u- no, that doesn't work. Not only are the paths narrow leaving the units using them susceptible to air strike, but the 3 Cities still can't be flanked because there's Mountain tiles covering against that idea. And if you claim air units can just move onto those Mountain tiles, I'll just point out that both of them can be attacked from the north, right on Black Hole's side of the mountains.

What we are left with for the cleanup phase is a freaking grindfest. And the clincher is, there's already a lot of Forests on Black Hole's side of the mountains for Sturm to exploit with his 1 Movement Cost on traversible terrain, so why is it the game makes it impossible for vehicles to enter from the sides? It's quite possible for the tanks to get sniped by Bombers anyway, but at least this way the side COs' forces don't have to amount to surplus units that just aggravates the grindfest by justifying claustrophobia.

Really, if the developers would have to make losing ANY faction an instant loss result to stop ranking exploitation by Yielding with Andy's front on the last Day--which by the way also cuts down on the Stop Helping Me resulting from controlling different factions--I'd rather have that than the inability to flank Black Hole's base drectly. More options that still require some strategy in a strategy game (IMAGINE THAT) would appeal to people better than ONE option that is gimmicky beyond belief.

Oh and yes, speaking of ranking, I am left wondering: why does Power count for only 1 CO? Sturm isn't ever going to approach 50 units if you want a shot at clearing the map in 14 Days. And yes, 14. DAYS. With how the map slows you down as much as it does, I'd be wondering why the Par Time couldn't be something more reasonable like 16 Days, but then again, Advance Campaign has maps that are absolutely impossible to clear within the Par Time as early as It's War. There's a reason Advance Wars 2 was a lot less idiotic with the Par Times--to this day, I don't even know the Par Time for Great Sea Battle without looking it up and I still would have no problem getting full Speed when I set up around getting Yellow Comet, using freaking Kanbei on a map where the added costs absolutely sting, to snipe the Pipe Seam with a Rocket Launcher. (And actually, the aspect of knowledge does bring up how Battalion Wars 2 had a QoL improvement in reviewing ranking by getting to know the Par Time for a given mission, among other data.)

And yet....

Somehow, the map doesn't suck as bad in Shattered Throne

A couple of people were uploading Advance Wars maps onto Shattered Throne's workshop. The Final Battle is among them, under the name "Sturm Reborn":
https://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=1377341695
There are some changes to the map because of how Shattered Throne works. Just to clarify, the opposing CO is Lilith the Fallen, the de facto Big Bad of ST, leading Dark Cabal units, but you can choose *ANY* CO. This brings me to how even though the map copy designer gave Lilith a fortress wall to work with to make offense harder, it is far from unreasonable to clear this rendition of TFB within 10 Days even with a slow CO like Alera, as shown here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xH9kcxWfH8U
Oh, and there's some misplaying around with Turn 8 where I could have ended the battle with a Banner snipe, even if the Banner had been put on a Fortress tile for the defense boost. Yes, I calculated: I had enough Seraphs and Town tiles to work with. Oh, and what makes Alera underwhelming as a Shattered Throne even though she has a D2D of 1 turn capture of enemy settlements? Her CO Powers are bad for a more simple offense. Contrast to Oakhart:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69onGWKHQ8I
Yes. *ONLY FOUR DAYS.* Oakhart's SCOP arguably contributes even though it's actually a weaker Lightning Strike aside from how CO Powers can be repeatedly used on the same Day in Shattered Throne, but really, it's the pseduo-Sturm movement that makes his offense nuts. Sure the only real benefits provided for non-horse units is non-friendly Fort tiles being low costing, but the easier time Unicorns have getting onto Forests makes SCOP usage MUCH more powerful. Clearing the fortress wall faster also allows for harassing the newly deployed units as well as the Banner.

Oh, and here's another CO who stands out:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U29Dm6bf0p0
5 Days. With a CO built to be defensive, as Morghast's abilities are all built around deployment, rather than any sort of active offense. Even if the mobility boosts on newly spawned units were lower, I would still have the option of using Necromancers' Energy Overload on max boosted Wraiths to quickly smash the Banner on Day 5.

In fact, this brings up that there's a whole host of reasons why Shattered Throne plays out faster:
*Units move faster when Plains aren't involved--and by the way, TFB doesn't have a lot of Plains to begin with. Mountains can also be traversed by land units, albeit for a high movement fee.
*Price gaps are significantly smaller than in Advance Wars. Even with deployment point settlements not providing money, there's quite a number of possible combinations of units within 100G that doesn't involve Defender units.
*Warlord-type units, as a special mention, not only fly, but have *VERY* good abilities when used right. Seraph's Chainstrike being a Chain Lightning effect using Combo Points as the conductors, Wraith's AOE that gets bolstered by megaton ATK especially after being enough killed units, and of course Gryphon's extra turn for scoring the kill can bring about no shortage of devastation to enemy frontlines when given the chance to do so.
*Capture phase is faster with neutral settlements being taken in only 1 Day (enemy settlements still require 2, though the handling there is changed up), as well as ANY unit being able to take settlements. (Defender units get combat abilities to keep them from being left in the dust.)
*Range units can move and attack on the same turn, at the cost of attack power--keeping in mind that ST is a game with subtraction defense.
*ANY target within range is viable for attacking, even if it's as nonsensical as War Engine against a flying unit. This keeps not having an Academy for your own (non-Sprite) flying units from being a painful disadvantage.
*Combo Points incentivize methodical offense against even the tank units, as targets get weakened by Combo Points, and defeated targets with more Combo Points active on them cough up more Mana to use for CO Powers.
*CO Powers themselves can be used multiple times in a single phase without limit beyond Mana. There's a good number of extra turn powers, although with significant additional restrictions that provide blind spots. The COs who don't have extra turn powers generally still have CO Powers that are still solid in their own right, especially for their costs.

Now Sturm Reborn, where it stands, still has problems, ones that are inherent to the map with little Shattered Throne can do to fix them, even if we change the Abyss tiles back to Mountains, which I want to say is more Oakhart's fault than anything. There is, however, clear improvement with a much faster pace and even some semblance of flanking and anti-flanking ability at key areas. If there was one quick fix I would do to Sturm Reborn besides the Abyss stuff, it would definitely be to add gates onto the fortress wall (gates being like the tile at the very center of the fortress wall), so that there would be far less need for a CO like Alera to hold out at the center.

Oh, and just for reference, YOUR STARTING FORCES DON'T FREAKING SUCK. All of your units, including the lowly Defender-types, can actually do something useful. If you're wondering what the biggest difference is, those Battle Helicopters I complained about? They're replaced by Gold level Warlord-types. Meanwhile, because of the smaller price gaps, the opposing forces' starting units total cost is about 820G, when even Dark Cabal's exceeds 900G. You could actually have an active offense during the second half of the battle that only slows down because of a terrain change that ultimately just does what was already done in vanilla TFB.

Of course, you might argue that besides being very different (as if that's an innately bad thing at all), it's because Shattered Throne is much faster than Advance Wars that would be why I could be talking out my butt with pacing, that I would, in all the farce of an argument I could ever hear against my own disposition, forget about the story of the tortoise and the hare, with Shattered Throne being a hare to Advance Wars' tortoise. This would work as a comparison with Advance Wars having the capture phase be slower, range units not being able to move and fire on the same Day, and of course the unit RPS composition, but if we're going to work with that, I'll just bring up the air unit mobility, because Shattered Throne's flying units are actually slower, even if they weren't slowed down by Mountains. They're still powerful, but even Vampire, for all that he personally bugs me with his enemy phase friendliness from healing off of melee attacks and generally having synergetic benefits for his own attacks mixed with his 7 Movement Power, actually has to worry about overextending due to par at best HP *AND* underextending because all 3 factions can answer him specifically without much flow loss if given the breathing room. By contrast, Fighters and Bombers in AW have well-deserved price tags for what they can do, and even then, anti-air balance is sketchy anyway, providing reason for the Missile Vets in Battalion Wars.

Lesson learned: when you balance a game, be aware of what can disrupt your theme, and ESPECIALLY consider the Counter Play much better.

In closing

Now this whole thing is at this point clocking in at over 4500 words, and for what? A single level in a game which has communities that will happily claim that they've been trying to get rid of the troll for years but apparently I wouldn't be getting the hint--claims they'd be making while my bottom screen would be showing these two things:
https://pastebin.com/PUG8qA85 (a chat log showcasing the results of their behaviors)
https://pastebin.com/g5wZd2AL (testimony against the communities)

Even if we got past the politics that stain the Advance Wars communities and their general progeny like the Tiny Metal and Wargroove developers beyond belief, why care about TFB's design anyway? AW1 is over a decade and a half old, and the series has long been abandoned by Intelligent Systems. Anybody interested in taking the reigns of a Spiritual Successor either gets bashed so mercilessly destroying any chance of halfway workable PR through no fault of their own (Checkmark Games, the makers of Shattered Throne), don't give a damn about innovation (Area35, the makers of Tiny Metal) or only care to throw in clearly half-efforted mechanics and call that "balance" (Chucklefish, the makers of Wargroove).

But yet, Shattered Throne has people using the Workshop feature to add AW maps, which is why I was visiting the subject of TFB in the first place, because it's as I pointed out: TFB plays out *MUCH* faster in Shattered Throne. And even then TFB still ends up with clear problems, but at least now they can be pinpointed. I might be able to tolerate Andy getting pounded the whole fight while Max--er, sorry, EAGLE beats Sturm and takes us to a nonsensical "friendly spar" because we went to the trouble of defeating Green Earth 4 times in a row with Sami to mitigate the damage done by having the west CO be a meteor magnet. What I can't tolerate is railroading that arbitrarily lengthens the cleanup phase, in a strategy game.

The whole thing boils down to history lessons on level design or especially game design, made particularly blatant BECAUSE this is talking about the climactic battle. If you need a bulleted list, here you go:
*Avoid Fake Difficulty such as Guide Dang It getting involved in even starting your level
*Have your difficulty settings based on actions in earlier levels be freaking consistent (yes, I'll keep tearing at arbitrary punishment to the player for doing the obviously harder option on one level for this, especially when it contrasts how Sami and Drake have awful forces in TFB)
*Provide the player freaking functional options that would allow for overcoming the involved disadvantage
*Make land units VERY able to punish air units that overextend, as well as able to consistently advance without getting ruined unconditionally by the damned kiting
*Compliment your game's pacing and theme as best you can, ESPECIALLY handling counterbalancing well
*Don't make the cleanup phase an atrocious nightmare with a grindfest
*For God's sake, *ALLOW COMPETENT FLANKING LIKE WHAT YOU'D EXPECT IN A FREAKING STRATEGY GAME*

Here's to hoping aspiring designers will listen, instead of continue to make similar mistakes.

Edit (June 29, 2018): the Advance Wars subreddit's membership think they're so smart, but guess what? I have the pastebin of their atrocities on a Notepad file. They can never truly get the evidence against them deleted. I imagine the only way they were able to get the original pastebin deleted was because of a point I was making about GipFace's flimsy motivation for mocking Matthew Pyke. I do not know for sure because pastebin did NOT message me with any specifics on why the pastebin entry was deleted. Here's what it says in case it gets deleted again, spoiler tagged for length (assuming Spoiler tags do work here):

Spoiler:
So as you may have noticed, I recommended a Fandom Files episode for the Advance Wars communities. You'll have to get data from other sources and ultimately do your damndest to find an actually unbiased source--the user Sarumarine might be able to help, but you'd have to take with a grain of salt anything from zealous supporters of GipFace, such as XenesisXenon and lazernerd (the more "sane" ones, no less), for reasons I will explain--because multiple AW sites have shut down. I particularly point this out when I'm not so transgression-free, and I do have a habit of being glass half-empty which you might be able to guess from me being the one to YKTTW Savvy Guy Energetic Girl--yes, I know I sound like a broken record saying that at this point but you get where I'm going with that. I should point out that nevertheless I would want to make my own sort of Spiritual Successor to Battalion Wars as I outline here:
https://www.patreon.com/MasterKnightDH

Either way, how I work doesn't change how abhorrent the communities' behavior have managed to get.

Let's start strong with one of its most prominent members: GipFace, cited to be Advance Wars Days of Ruin's best player, because clearly that means a lot. The resulting ego of his has led him to mock the victim of a murder:
http://forums.warsworldnews.com/viewtopic.php?t=13109
Keep in mind that for all we knew, the victim's fiancee, who has already proven to be not a saint herself, could have been the real culprit with the motive of being a Black Widow. Maybe it's too unlikely, but even if we do take things at face value, we're not focusing on the behavior of the members of the crime, definitely not right now. No, we are focusing on GipFace seeing fit to blame the victim for being killed by--once again assuming face value--a guy who would had to clear freaking water to do the deed.

Where I got really infuriated when first viewing the topic (I have to admit) is GipFace's explanations for his reasons. He did it because he didn't want to adapt. The reason he even got linked is because his real name, David Lim (you can find proof of that here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CvfUiQwLLfo ), happens to be the same first name as that of David Heiss? May I point out that my own real name is David Harlow and really I'm pointing out the stupidity involved in claiming the same first name results in the same freaking person. Equally infuriating is the railroad analogy. You want to know how I feel about a VERY mentally crippled person I had known IRL who I can point out about to compare notes?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9EdVoiHUVLE
Just for reference, with what had happened over the past year, I don't know the current status of that particular situation but I have told various higher-ups about the red flags. Unfortunately, complicating things was my crush on the Statuesque Stunner of a Genki Girl that was the worker in charge of handling the client, by the way regarding the client as her favorite person in the place. To this day, I still can't very well imagine mentioning to *ANYBODY* IRL about that little detail would go well, especially when those same higher-ups already proved themselves so seeped in their structure for its own sake that it becomes clear they won't try to hear me out anyway, a showcase of how big a problem the communication breakdown in my real life gets which is particularly grating in light of ANOTHER issue in my real life.

But enough digressing about RL issues, even though yes dear GOD do I want to scream out loud about them. The problem I have with GipFace there is, simply and as you can see, how he doesn't treat other people's lives with care. But surely he's just being a case of Teens Are Monsters and will become a better person who would feel bad that sort of thing, right? Ahaha, you wish. Let me provide some URLs to make my point:

https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/5fijwf/shattered_throne_released_on_steam/
Comments by Gippy (yes, he's the same person) show his continuous contempt for attempts at AW Spiritual Successors, not to mention the mere existence of navy units. He also pulled similar crap on the first thread about Shattered Throne on the AW subreddit, but unfortunately, his messages were deleted, not because of action by the moderator, but because he closed his first account which he was using to write the messages. The topic is here if you're still interested anyway:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/3rgasi/fantasy_advanced_wars/

https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/5wpah3/wargroove_looks_like_the_only_thing_closer_to_aw/decfpax/
Mindless bashing of Wargroove, much as I detest Chucklefish's own arrogance, ho boy will I get to that. If you read through the comment thread, he mindlessly bashes other attempts at AW Spiritual Successors too, such as Warbits, and also made the comment "I've been a superfan of AW since 9/11" that got mocked here for its insensitivity toward the 9/11 victims:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/5wyavr/the_king_of_advance_wars/
Oh, and by the way, the deleted comment was by another user, GoldenJoe24, and it was his tier list of obnoxious things in the AW community, having literally anything I say as the sole item in S Tier while GipFace's general material was only in A Tier.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/643nzf/pvp_a_tale_of_2_metagames/
There's an insult toward AWBW's map committee in the primary post. Also, a user named GeneralChanTzu suddenly appeared there and then acted like a parody of the AWBW members, while incidentally showing belief that m*a*cromanagement and tactics are the same thing. Interesting.

https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/69qv0u/updates_to_the_radvance_wars_sidebar/dh8qlbu/
Bashing of Custom Wars Tactics for focusing on AW fancomics Totally Flaked and Totally Lashed. ctomni2 goes into detail why this proves stupid. Oh, and remember this quote by GipFace for later: "The fact is that you and others are unable to debate me when it comes to AW so you resort to personal attacks."

https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/861xm3/regarding_sea_units_and_sea_combat/dw6vdo9/
More navy bashing and it's recent. GipFace also mindlessly bashes on Battalion Wars--may I point out he has claimed before that Battalion Wars is just a cash cow, despite evidence to the contrary, though I don't know where to dig up a URL proving as much.

So you see from those URLs how I'm not the only one who suffers at GipFace's hands--far from it. Will the admins do anything about it? Not by a long shot. May I point to this thread:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/3s4i2o/advance_wars_map_design/cwxtanu/
You can see how the responses by Mangs (Margull being his handle) is clear-cut trolling. By the way, people celebrate him on the Fire Emblem fanbase precisely because he's an unabashed lecherous asshole. I wish I was exaggerating, but there was also this user named SuperBus...ah, but that's a story for another day. Anyway, may I point to the deleted response to Mangs' second trolling pic, actually made by lazernerd and saying this:
"Someone reported your two image comments. As a note to anyone who reports comments, I'm not the type of moderator who will remove posts or comments for stupid reasons. Don't waste your time reporting something just because you're butthurt."
You can see how lazernerd enables and even feeds trolls like Mangs, and GipFace and rwbonesy by extension. And yep, I'm getting into the attacks on my character now when you can tell that The Life And Times Of David Harlow isn't the only story making it clear that this mess is an issue. Even though GipFace does his damndest to try to make people think I'd believe that, to the point that this exists:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/67dqsg/just_played_my_first_ever_pvp_game_of_famicom/
Just for reference, the remark about the stereotyping I made in one of the earlier URLs (the updates to sidebar one) was referring to a moment in the accomodating video. Yes, the "you just got Juigi'd" thing would be referring to me. Incidentally, there's a user in that URL's comments who likes the Game Boy Wars 3 FAQs by Juigi and hates the behavior displayed in that topic. I recommend getting testimony from him too because, especially considering how the likes of GipFace would prove willfully ignorant of the past games' mechanics, dated or not (I'm looking at the way resupplying is handled in Famicom Wars), the supporting user definitely agrees the general behavior of these people is abhorrent.

Unfortunately, morality doesn't change the subreddit being a rage-inducing dictatorship in the name of the drunks.
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/6h776e/ceo_of_chucklefish_here_developers_of_wargroove/diz3o4c/
I obviously got angry, but you can tell how GipFace, as well as AnemoneMeer who herself (yes, her) is a nasty piece of work who would later go on to harass me to defame me so arbitrarily where she could as indicated here:
https://postimg.org/image/v6b12j5dn/
Going back on topic, may I point to how you can tell I was being calm posting this:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/6h776e/ceo_of_chucklefish_here_developers_of_wargroove/dj1glz6/
GipFace made a comment that none of my points were valid because somehow I'm still an amateur, despite clear evidence to the contrary. That in tandem with AnemoneMeer exploiting that my Karma was shot to hell because of all the arbitrary downvoting, led to this The Reason You Suck Speech to the Advance Wars subreddit:
https://www.reddit.com/r/Advance_Wars/comments/6h776e/ceo_of_chucklefish_here_developers_of_wargroove/dj68i78/
https://pastebin.com/SxDi5xGY (just in case that URL doesn't show the stuff on that Pastebin)
That post is what got me banned from the Advance Wars subreddit, for "disrespecting other users" even though that's exactly what people like GipFace are doing. GipFace had not been punished for his own garbage as you can see from *HIS RECENT TROLLING*. I called lazernerd out and he didn't consider trying to give valid arguments. As a result, I got this up:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XoP1L8evwDc
And yes, Rivals AC is a case of That One Level. More than that, it's *INFAMOUS* for its general cheapness, so much so that it got an episode of whoisthisgit's Worst Levels Ever series to itself.

By the way, if you're wondering about this in case you decided to look:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=esiexCYcmyA
That video was in response to my mother getting hit with a stroke. I would go on to directly mention about that mess a month after because she ended up losing her life to the lung disease responsible.

I wish my troubles with the Advance Wars subreddit ended with that mess with Wargroove, but that was not to be. AnemoneMeer wasn't the only one to harass me after the banning issue. There was also Xenesis, who picked a fight with me on romhacking.net's Discord when I mentioned GipFace indirectly while talking about some user's lack of faith in the RHDN Patreon calling it a show of greed. To begin with, I was on RHDN's Discord server to try to learn about game programming, using a Game Boy Color as a base, to be able to learn to make my own game more efficiently. Unfortunately, Xenesis aggravated the mess and then accused *ME* of harassing *HIM*. The RHDN believed that crap and banned me. As a result, I retracted my pledge of $10 to RHDN's Patreon and shifted it to whoisthisgit, who by the way I was already pledging another $10 monthly. This video happened because of the pledge change:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Ocg1084FUI
Yep, I used my pledge to suggest a Worst Levels Ever episode. Thankfully, whoisthisgit agrees the level deserves to be called out, but since he already did *THREE* WLE episodes on the AW series, the AW subreddit's elitists think it's a joke anyway, that he'd need to "git gud" even though the problem with the level isn't that it's hard, it's that it's *ANNOYING* because of the damned mountain ranges.

There's probably even more scumbag behavior from the Advance Wars subreddit just waiting to be dug up, but needless to say that you see why those members are an issue. Of course, I spent so long tearing at the Advance Wars subreddit's garbage, which brings up the question: why not just go to another Advance Wars community? Unfortunately, there are problems with that, because the other AW communities are, yes, better, but that's unfortunately being relative. Advance Wars Net has shut down, before the Mangs episode in fact (it's the defunct community I was referring to there), Wars Central--even ignoring it too has shut down--has JoJo be unpleasant, and the Advance Wars By Web community has its atrocities too.
http://awbw.wikia.com/wiki/Net_Attack
That was deleted because it was "not needed." One look at my Contributions page and the responses provided by checking page histories should tell you the actual intent of the users and it was clearly anything but altruistic:
http://awbw.wikia.com/wiki/Special:Contributions/MasterKnight
Oh, and I put the Net Attack page up here:
http://advancewars.wikia.com/wiki/Net_Attack

I also need to point out how Advance Wars already has had a niche fanbase even in its heyday. And guess what? The bloodbath in this topic happened:
http://www.amarriner.com/awbw_forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=11940
Why did it happen? Because *****GENERALLY, THE ADVANCE WARS COMMUNITIES, DESPITE THE FANBASE'S ALREADY SMALL SIZE, ARE FRACTURED AS SIN.***** I have to emphasize that as the root problem behind the Advance Wars communities, something I have called out repeatedly in the past to no effect, because among the few things they CAN agree upon is trying to have a scapegoat for the bloodbath, even though I had absolutely nothing to do with things like the topic I pointed to. Even if their claims that I'm a troll were true, the toxicity existed from the start, with or without me.

If anything, what I've been doing was provide talk about things like the series' history and the games' general balance. I've actually done a bit of game hacking toward GBW3 as well, in spite of the bullshit with romhacking.net's Discord:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8VSYQgfjVE0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tGWu74mdcUk
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ww1MjgFORHU
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zZVvhD-b_6s

And of course, I helped to balance Shattered Throne, which can be bought here:
http://store.steampowered.com/app/469710/Shattered_Throne/

I do not claim to be perfect with game balance--in fact, I do not doubt there are more game balance concepts to learn out there. Helping to balance games like Shattered Throne would be a definite reminder of such. However, I can say with utmost confidence that I have a firm basis to provide for helping with future game balance:
https://pastebin.com/j4DfY77j

Add to it that I am not without my own creativity, even if it's only moderate, and you see how the Advance Wars communities had been needlessly nasty toward somebody who wanted to sufficiently call out the metagame problems of Light Tank spam, infantry spam, and Artillery spam at the very least.

Of course, the Advance Wars series is pretty much dead, so why care? Well, it's as I mentioned: I'm wanting to make a Spiritual Successor of sorts to Battalion Wars. I would inevitably need proper support in order to accomplish that. Unfortunately, the Battalion Wars community is even smaller with only a subreddit and Discord to work with, and AnemoneMeer, in her nasty harassment, had invaded the Battalion Wars Discord to further discredit me, leaving the Discord a broken mess because some of the members on the Discord are already darwinistic trolls in their own right, trolls who simply flared up the minute AnemoneMeer invaded. Reporting these scumbags to higher-ups doesn't work because apparently they're not breaking any rules, even though it becomes increasingly obvious they are.

Needless to say, I have ideas, and they get shafted by a fanbase so toxic I'd probably be wishing I was dealing with the nonsense in the Sonic fandom. I can't turn to either big name companies or IRL people either, because both are so believing in structure for its own sake that I have to live a paranoid wreck.

I don't doubt if I ultimately have biases, but I do hope I have at least provided viable starting points. I would be VERY glad if you would do an episode of The Fandom Files on the Advance Wars communities. Good God they are awful.

Oh, and by the way, RPG Monger, while this Pastebin entry is done, I'm not. I'll be providing footnotes for reason I'll explain when talking about them.
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