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Love Colored Magic

FFX Blitzball team formation: a rant

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    Those who have gone through the FFX postgame are aware that obtaining Wakka's celestial weapon Sigil takes playing Blitzball. Lots and lots and lots of Blitzball.  While I was going through the many games to obtain the Sigil, I found that I never quite felt satisfied with my team.  Thinking it over, I feel that several design elements of this minigame make assembling a powerful team a chore and this writeup will go over them.


     For the purpose of this writeup, I'm defining a powerful team as one where the chosen players have the stats to perform in their positions effectively along with a robust selection of useful Techs relevant to their position on the field.  I will be taking the perspective of no guides and going off only what help and info is in the game itself.  Such as what someone playing the game when it was released before the guides are written would have experienced or someone who doesn't have access to guides or chooses not to use them.  If your only goal with Blitzball is to obtain the Sigil in minimal time investment, this writeup will not apply to your situation.  Most likely, such a player will be using Data Reset and not caring about the tech learning of their team.


Team Formation


    It is generally accepted among experienced FFX players that the AI is awful at Blitzball and a strong team will walk over them.  While I agree with the sentiment, the player would first need to recruit that team and the game isn't really going to give any direction on who to sign up.  First it involves talking to various NPCs and seeing if they're available as a player.  I won't criticize this part as it's no different than challenging people to card games in FF8 and FF9.  They're spread all through the game world but most of them will be located in Luca or the hangouts of one of the teams so finding possible players isn't a huge task.  Whether they'll be a fit for your team though...  At the start of the Blitzball career, the game only reveals the starting Level (which is mostly pointless) and the salary of the perspective player.  You won't be able to see their stats and Techs until after you've signed the player.  If you have no use for the player you just signed, congratulations you flushed some Gil down the toilet.  This has the potential to get really irritating if you're trying to fill a specific position on the team, say trying to find a goalie and you keep signing forwards and defenders.  Your Gil doesn't get refunded for a player you never use so there's a cost to all this scouting.

     But wait, the game will let you earn the ability to see more info on perspective players before signing them up.  Just got to win enough games.  But if you are having a bad time finding good players, it's difficult to win games reliably.  Thus creating a feeling of being stuck in a loop where one wants to win games to find good players and has trouble finding good players that win games.  Game, why?


    Still as some point, a persistent player will luck their way into a competent team.  It could take hiring over half the available free agents to get to that point but is reachable.with brute force.  The next hurdle to playing their best would be learning Techs suitable to the positions they fill.  Both because it raises their effectiveness in the sphere and also for satisfaction filling in those blanks on the Tech list.  Which leads to the next topic I want to cover.


Tech Learning


     Your players will never learning Blitzball Techs on their own, no matter how much they play.  They can only learn new skills either from Leagues and Tournaments or by Techcopy.  I'll go over winning first since there's less to cover.  The main gripe about winning Techs through Leagues and Tournaments is how slow it is.  Individual games are long and when it takes up to 10 to win a Tech, it becomes a tedious endeavor.  For one player at that.  Repeat for each player you want to teach a prize Tech to.  Some Techs can only be learned this way.  Blitzball prizes are randomly assigned and they're set upon entering the Blitzball menu (or simply interacting with the counter at Luca that asks if you want to play).  While this is favorable if you see a prize you really want but your team isn't up to the task yet, this can really blindside a player not aware of this since the only way to reshuffle League prizes are to finish one (takes ages) or Data Reset (also erases learned Techs).  Relying on prizes for learning Techs becomes a massive time sink.

     So most Tech learning is going to be accomplished through Techcopy.  Which is several degrees of random.  A player can only TechCopy off an opposing player they have marked.  If a different player uses the same Tech, too bad so sad no shot at learning it.  The opposing player needs to use a Tech to have a chance at learning it.  First off, AI Tech selection is random.  Then they need to decide to use it in the field, yet more randomness.  Ironically, having too good of a defense will hamper efforts to learn Techs.  I kept encountering situations where the AI tries for a shot or pass Tech only to have my defense keep stealing the ball.  But suppose they get to use their Tech?  Game asks to time a button press if eligible to TechCopy.  Which can feel random to anyone who has trouble with the timing. (and the timing on some Techs is quite strict)  And even after succeeding on that step, TechCopy can still randomly fail because the game says so.  There are also some copyable Techs that randomly activate, adding even more random to the stack of random, and others that rarely appear in normal play and often take contrived actions to get the AI team to use.  So good luck even seeing those Techs to have a chance at learning any of those.

    For added insult, players on other teams have much less trouble learning their skills, picking them up whenever the RNG decides to let them.


To be continued...

Edited by Love Colored Magic

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     Suppose the RNG decided to give you the middle finger and one (or more) of your players will not learn their Key Techniques.  Especially if it's the player's first one, that would make switching them out for a different player look attractive.  That's not the only reason one might want to change team members.  Maybe that player who looked awesome at Lv3 has slow stat growth and isn't that incredible at Lv25.  Maybe someone just isn't working out.  Maybe a player learned all their Key Techs and you're not happy with their selection even then.  Someone you want on your team finally got released.  It's likely going to be a chore to bring a new player up to speed thanks to another feature of the minigame.

Level scaling

     When the other teams sign on a new player, their level will be scaled to the rest of the players in the league after one game at most.  (Word is the AI players are scaled to yours but for the sake of discussion, I'll pretend it's based on the whole league)  When you sign on a new player, they won't have that benefit.  If it was a player that's played on a different team before, they'll already be leveled and almost always have learned a bunch of Techs so they have a good chance of being able to contribute.  If you're not happy with that selection though and try to train up someone who hasn't seen playtime before, the game will stack the deck against bringing that underleveled newbie up to speed.  A Lv1 player when the rest of the league is around Lv35 won't have the stats to be productive.  They'll never score unless the goalie is napping, they'll lose the ball in any encounter with an opposing player, and their tackles and blocks will be less than a bug bite.  A new Lv3 goalie is particularly useless against Lv35 forwards.  The new player will be dependent on the rest of the team to carry them.  Hardly a disaster given how exploitable the AI is, but still going to have that feeling of dragging around deadweight until their level gap closes.  And that underleveled players is not likely to learn new Techs because the programmers decided that level difference is the biggest factor in whether TechCopy will succeed.  It's possible (once had a Lv1 player TechCopy Spin Ball off a Lv20-ish opponent) but not likely to happen often.

Concluding thoughts: If I think of some and feel I want to post them.

Edited by Love Colored Magic

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