Q. What is this FCOM/FranOOOMMM thing? Why not just use OOO? Are you nuts?

Yes, definitely nuts. 

First, I should say that if I had to play with just one mod, I would pick OOO. For me, OOO is the foundation for my continued enjoyment of TES4. This doesn't mean there's anything wrong with any other mods. It's just that OOO is the starting point for me. But if OOO were all I could use, I would've probably grown quite bored with Oblivion by now. Fortunately, I don't have to pick just one. And even better, you don't have to agree with me to enjoy FCOM: Convergence.

This leads to the second point: variety is the spice of life. FCOM: Convergence is all about variety and choice -- empowering you, the player, to configure the experience you want out of your game. Doing the same thing every day, fighting the same monsters repeatedly, finding the same loot repeatedly, etc. -- gets extremely boring after a while, no matter how well-balanced it is. Maybe some people enjoy that. I don't.

FranOOOMMM originally started with a simple premise: add more spice to my life in Cyrodill by making Martigen's wonderful Monster Mod work well with OOO -- without breaking the immersion provided by OOO. We've already mostly achieved that goal, and the results are evident in the MMM for OOO plugin that comes standard with MMM now.

But along the way, FranOOOMMM expanded in scope considerably -- in part because I just can't get enough of all the great new stuff modders keep creating, and in part because Wrye managed to finally bring merged lists into TES4 (a much missed feature of modded Morrowind).

So, with MMM for OOO being close to final and Wrye Bash supporting automated merging of leveled lists, where does that leave FranOOOMMM?

The answer is that FCOM focuses almost exclusively on the very points that many people have long believed to be impossible in Oblivion: cohesion among multiple overlapping mods. It seeks to bind Fran+WarCry+OOO+MMM together in a logical and coherent way, preserving all the same challenge and reward balance you've come to expect from these great mods, while at the same time exponentially increasing the variety of dangers you face and rewards you reap.

In addition, FCOM seeks to provide a template for how others can add their own new work to this structure -- so it can keep expanding and growing as long as the community keeps pumping out new enemies and sweet loot.

So in the end, for me at least, FCOM: Convergence is nothing short of a revolution. It seeks to destroy the old barriers that forced us to choose one "overhaul" versus another by combining the best aspects of them all.

Here's a short summary of what you get when running FCOM:

  • Everything that OOO has to offer (great difficulty, expanded gameplay, static rewards, complete immersion);
  • Incredible added variety of items from Francesco;
  • Amazing added variety of enemies from MMM;
  • Even more added enemies and items from WarCry;
  • Possibility to add anything else you can imagine;
  • Preserves as much balance and immersion as possible;
  • Provides numerous configuration options to tailor the experience you want in your game;

So, how well does FCOM: Convergence deliver on this lofty goal? The answer is highly subjective, but we can extract at least a few concrete facts. The big one is that it succeeds dramatically at increasing the variety of enemies and loot you will find. Here's some raw stats:

1417 New Armor Variants
1267 New Weapon Variants
255 New Clothing Variants

1151 New Creature Variants
2199 New NPC Variants

It also makes things a lot less predictable than with OOO alone. In part this is due to the wider variety of enemy types, but also because MMM promotes more random variation in the enemies you will meet. It also means those enemies will be using much broader selection of gear you can loot from their corpses if they don't obliterate you.

It also specifically seeks to keep powerful items very rare. The leveled lists for each of the source mods have been adjusted to make sure they merge in a consistent way, with common low-level items dominating the lists. A lowly bandit will never be found sporting a full set of glass armor. By the same token, a high-level marauder will have a small chance (very small chance) of having found a rare item to use against you.

Hopefully this gives you a bit better understanding of what FCOM does, as well as how and why it does so. 


Q. How is loot rarity handled in FCOM: Convergence?

Unfortunately, the way Bethesda implemented leveled lists is a bit odd and quite confusing until you get the hang of it.

See How Oblivion engine deals with NPC levelled equipment for some details.

Basically, what it boils down to is it's very difficult to make the game spawn loot above the level of the player. In fact, the only way it can be done at all is to place high-level gear into a "static list", but this approach isn't practical for widespread use in random encounters because then it is not at all linked to the level of the enemy

See, the leveled lists do not not working properly in an upward fashion. However, they do work properly in a downward fashion.

What this means is that level caps are applied correctly when calculating the gear an NPC will have. A lowly bandit with a Lvl-6 cap will never get any high-level gear no matter how powerful the player is.

What does not work correctly are level minimums. If a lvl-5 player meets an enemy who has a lvl-15 min offset, then the enemy will have lvl-5 gear rather than the lvl-15 gear he should have, which really sucks.

Still, the lists I designed will work properly for preventing high-level characters from gaining too many rare items, no matter how high the player's level is.

Here's a test mod you can use to verify my results if you like. It uses new NPCs and new gear lists so it can't be affected by anything else you've used before or have currently loaded. The gear lists are copies of vanilla LL0NPC lists to make verification easier.

akmtestinghall.rar

Just load it up and use the console to "coc akmtest" with a low-level character and then repeat the test with a high-level character.

It's seems really stupid on Bethesda's part that they did it this way. Sotobrastos got around the problem in OOO by designing specialized static-random lists for boss-type enemies, which works fine because those enemies have a high minimum level and can thus carry lists that will never produce lower-level results.

The lists that I have altered for FranOOOMMM are ones that need to work for a wide variety of enemy levels, so I can't implement the same sort of workaround that Soto used in OOO.

I hope some of that makes sense and didn't put you completely to sleep in the process.

*snoring*

If not, here's a bit more background on the thinking behind the list design I used for FranOOOMMM.

I feel strongly that the best possible items you can get at a given level should be very rare at first and only gradually become more common -- except for the very highest levels, which should never become more common. For example, when you first get a chance to find chainmail, it's not good to suddenly have it appearing 20% of the time. Fighting one battle against a group of bandits will give you a complete set of something you've never seen in the game until your last level-up.

I love the way the loot system in OOO works, but it doesn't really address some of the broader issues of how loot should work when other mods are added to the mix. Also, I found that even with OOO, once I was high enough level to find a certain type of item, I could fill out a whole set of those items fairly quickly because their frequency is quite high as soon as they are available. I don't think this is realistic and it breaks immersion -- and perhaps more important, it piles up the rewards too quickly (just like vanilla Oblivion does).

In other words, within a few hours of reaching a new level plateau, the player can achieve everything there is to be seen at that level (i.e., too much like the vanilla experience of instant gratification for everything). This leaves long gaps where the player already has everything they can get, especially with the slower leveling rate of OOO. The combination of these factors is demotivating for the player, leading to boredom because the reward for adventuring is over too quickly and it takes so much longer to reach the next plateau.

With dramatically increased initial rarity of items, you shouldn't be able to collect an entire set of things so quickly -- and this should spread the rewards out better during the progression of your advancement toward the next plateau. This is the type of structure I've attempted to create in the FranOOOMMM lists.