Wandering Skyrim



Last night was a bit of a strange night for me.  Originally I had plans to get together with some of my friends and work on Karazhan attunements…  of which I have not even started running the dungeons.  However I had apparently forgotten that last night was the RiffTrax live show.  By “live” I mean streamed to theaters around the country as the original show is going on in Nashville.  This time around we got to see two shorts and the really bizarre feature film “Carnival of Souls”(which is apparently up on youtube in its entirety).  The film is apparently by the same guy that did another RiffTrax classic… the “Shake Hands with Danger” PSA from Caterpillar.  This literally is probably one of the more bizarre movies I have watched because really from the entire moment it started… it felt like this strange meandering film about nothing.  The RiffTrax send-up however was great, the movie itself just ended with what was supposed to be a shocking reveal…  but largely felt like maybe the director was the only one not in on the secret?  In any case by the time I got out of there, and drove home I was a little out of it.  I existed in that state of too tired to do anything serious, but not tired enough to actually head on to bed.


Instead I decided to install the Skyrim Special Edition and check it out.  I have to give Bethesda a lot of credit for giving it out for free to anyone who already owned the original game and all of the expansions.  The install was roughly 9 gig so I am guessing that the improvements were more or on the processing side of the equation rather than just pushing a lot of upgraded textures.  Whatever the case the game looks gorgeous, if I had been thinking I would have installed the base game on this newer machine and done some side by side comparisons.  It is enough of an upgrade to make me happy, and I am always willing to have a new excuse to roam around Skyrim being a murder hobo.  Once again however I am torn between sword and shield and bow… ending up mixing between the two quite a bit based on the fight.  As is always the case I had trouble staying to the actual missing and instead have already cleared out the first barrow while retrieving the golden claw.  In theory I think I probably should have gone to Whiterun, but whatever the case I am wandering down my own path once again.  The game doesn’t really feel that changed, more like you installed a graphical upgrade mod.  Whatever the case it looks pretty, and runs well so that pretty much ticks off the boxes I needed.  At some point I might check out the mods available, but for the time being I am largely running vanilla.



Archon’s Forge Love



This morning I am going to talk a little bit about my love of the Archon’s Forge area in Destiny, and we will see where things go from there.  I know I have talked a bit about this in the past, but the Archon’s Forge for me personally alone is worth the price of the expansion.  You have to understand that I love milling around in patrol zones, as in that is pretty much my default “I want to play some destiny” mode because it allows me to putter around.  So far my favorite patrol zone to date has been the Dreadnaught, because in many ways it felt like an old school MMO dungeon.  Back in the days of Everquest and Dark Age of Camleot, dungeons were these sprawling places with no clear path that you were supposed to travel.  As a result the community developed designations to break apart an otherwise huge zone into “camps”.  The Dreadnaught was similar, with various sections of the map labelled as you zoned into them, with the coolest area being the Court of Oryx.  This was an area where you could summon groups of Hive and Taken in the form of mini-boss fights, with the chance of there being decent rewards at the end if you were the person that summoned it.  What I liked about it was the fact that three or four players who were not actively grouping, could work together on a shared objective and get pretty reasonable rewards as a result.


Archon’s Forge is very similar but also manages to work in one of my OTHER favorite areas of Destiny…  the Prison of Elders.   The backstory behind the area is that this is the place where the Fallen come to prove their worth in combat.  We as players collect Siva offerings, that you can get by doing various things including Public Events, Patrols and occasionally off Majors.  It is a random chance sort of thing, but I wound up getting one pretty quickly.  From there you go into the Archon’s Forge area, and there is a terminal that you use the offering on.  These come in Green, Blue and Purple varieties which denote how difficult the mobs are that are going to spawn as a result.  Unlike the Court of Oryx, the Archon’s Forge actually locks down while the event is going on, so you have to be fairly quick to duck inside in time to participate.  Essentially you end up fighting waves of mobs, culminating in some sort of a boss like encounter… generally centered around a major or handful of majors.  The two things of note that make this extremely awesome are that first…  it seems to be equally rewarding for the players just hanging out and participating and those that are actually giving up the Siva offerings.  Secondly it seems to be self perpetuating, in that the encounters themselves drop a fair number of new SIVA offerings…  allowing you to pretty much keep the process going indefinitely so long as you have three or four people.  Essentially everyone keeps key trading, summoning the next round to keep the loot machine rolling.


The other night after the Final Fantasy XIV raid, I poked my head into Destiny and then spent the next hour and a half at the forge doing short events.  What is awesome about it is that not only is this a flood of greens and blues, but I managed to pick up eight legendary engrams during that time period.  Additionally I’ve gotten several pieces of armor, ghost shells, artifacts and I am pretty sure at least one of my recent guns dropped in the forge because I have no recollection of getting it otherwise.  The big loot comes from killing the mini-bosses and just appears in your inventory much like the end of strike/crucible items do.  My only concern is that I believe there is a limit of 20 items in the mailbox… meaning I really need to head to orbit more often while doing the forge.  I am probably loosing a ton of loot as a result.  I also probably should strip down myself to only the items I need to participate to create more room for said loot, and spend time between matches deconstructing greens.  In any case regardless of those logistics… this is one of my favorite places to hang out because it is so simple to just hop in and start doing stuff.  I SHOULD be doing strikes… and I managed to finish one of those last night that I had two quests for.  The problem is right now my Destiny time is pretty sporadic, and Archon’s Forge seems to fit the perfect amount of “engagement” for me.

Issues with Quick Join



The last several days I have spent a good chunk of my time idling on this riverbank out in the Western Plaguelands…  while often roaming around a completely different Plaguelands over in Destiny.  However that is not what I am going to talk about this morning, I simply needed a screenshot to post and grabbed this one.  What I am going to talk about is the 7.1 patch in World of Warcraft, or at least a small part of it.  I acknowledge ahead of time that this post is probably not going to make a lot of sense to many of you, because you have to really suffer with anxiety brain to get it.  Yesterday as part of 7.1 a new feature called “Quick Join” was patched into the game.  To quote the page announcing this feature on the World of Warcraft site

So whether it’s your guildmate, your Battle.net friend, or your Real ID friend, you’ll be able to find each other and take part in a variety of game aspects without the need to ask the age old questions of– “What are you doing?” “Any room in your group?” “Can my other friend join?”  You’ll just be able to see all of your friends, see what they’re up to, and ask to join with just a couple of clicks. It’s so easy, a drogbar can do it!

It is hard for me to adequately explain how much anxiety this causes me.  In Diablo 3 there is a similar Quick Join feature that is designed to let you easily get into games with your friends.  How it works in practice is that folks randomly join into your game usually without actually talking to you first.  After the generally jarring experience this causes, I wound up going into the settings and flipping myself to private so that I would not show up in the Quick Join list.  My fear with the World of Warcraft feature is that it would work like this, but I guess fortunately that is not the case.  What it does instead is whenever you are queued for content, you show up in the Quick Join list allowing folks to request to join your queue.  From there you have to accept or deny that request, so no ninja joining.  Unfortunately it still makes me deal with the guilt of turning down friends, and the possible social ramifications.  What I really wanted to see was a sort of “opt out” private mode built into the system, or maybe this would have been the perfect time to roll in the much requested “Appear Offline” or “Invisible” mode to Battle.net.

Anxiety Brain

I am generally a fairly gregarious person, and I try and go out of my way to welcome folks when playing the guild cruise director role.  I am also known for driving a van full of candy… that gathers people up and convinces them to join whatever guild I happen to be a part of.  This is absolutely one side of me and I love being that person whenever I can.  That said there is another part of me that comes out when I am overly stressed or just simply worn out from having to “act normal” at work or day to day societal constraints.  This part of me just needs to duck my head into my turtle shell and hide from the world… and these are the moments when Battle.net scares the shit out of me.  I love having easy access to my friends, but sometimes I cannot handle appearing to follow basic social norms.  There are times I need to fade into the background and pretend that the rest of the world exists.  Essentially I need my alone time, and it is important for me to recharge my batteries so I have the strength to confront those times when I need to be around others.  The thought that at any moment someone could ask to join me in whatever I happen to be doing… and that there is now a system to make that easier…  is completely terrifying.

Yesterday a friend who I know was not getting this equated this to “you’d rather group with strangers?” and that is not entirely it either.  There are times that I queue to be an anonymous blip in someone else’s radar so I don’t have to think… or be concerned about anyone other than myself.  There are times where I simply need to complete an activity, and I am not necessarily up for the burden that comes from grouping with people I know.  When I group with people I care about… I feel responsible for their safety, happiness and enjoyment.  Maybe this is just the gut reaction from playing tanks all of these years, but I feel like when I am in group mode I need to be fully there for the folks who are with me.  Essentially I have to psyche myself up to be able to take on this mantle of responsibility and do the things I need to do to make a group happen.  Having that whole thing thrust upon me, is just jarring and abrupt…  and how exactly do I explain to someone who I legitimately care for… why I am going to click that deny button?

Ultimately I am going to deny a lot of group invites that happen through this system, and I apologize ahead of time.  Sometimes when you say “It’s not you, It’s me” it really means “nope it is absolutely you”.  However this is not one of those cases because in all seriousness there are just times when I cannot handle being a responsible adult.  In theory I could start deleting people from my Battle.net friends list until I only had the people who understood exactly what this means, but that is also a bad solution.  I use that thing for grouping, and especially lately I have been pinging folks to try and find a fifth for mythics or keystones.  My Battle.net list is largely there for cross realm grouping options, and I shouldn’t have to give that up just because I cannot handle the thought of getting randomly grouped with people when I am not prepared for it.  Of note…  this isn’t even an issue yet because all last night I didn’t see a single item show up on my quick join list.  That unfortunately is not the way runaway anxiety works… instead I am stuck thinking through all of the possible things that COULD go wrong… before they actually have.  There are so many times I get mired in the feedback loops of “what is the worst possible thing that could happen” and I am certain this is one of them.  I just find it frustrating that after all these years of asking for an invisible mode we still don’t have it.  I know all of this is “all in my head” but that doesn’t necessarily make it any less valid either.


Plus Anxiety



Me and this chest do not get along well.  It is not so much that the chest itself offends, or the items that come from it…  but instead the process of getting it to unlock.  When I first heard about Mythic Plus dungeons… I thought it was pretty freaking great.  It sounded a lot like the Greater Rift system in Diablo 3, and I was completely on board with it…  until I actually set down to do one.  I don’t handle timers well, namely they cause me so much more anxiety than they should.  Literally if you put the easiest quest in the world on a timer… I will avoid doing it like the plague because it feels like every fiber of my being has to be concentrated on beating that timer.  I mean I should have know this going into Mythic Plus content given that Greater Rifts in Diablo 3 cause the exact same sort of roller coaster of stress.  To make matters worse… the first several keystones that we attempted we failed at miserably, which made me feel like the biggest failure of a tank in existence.  This mental block against timers goes way back in my psyche, and it isn’t something I can entirely control.  Once upon a time when I was a youngin… I went from being in the highest performing mathematics class to the lowest performing one… all because of a timer.  There were these worksheets called mad minutes, where you were judged on how fast you were able to do math problems…  not how correctly you worked them.  The grading scale was skewed in a way that not making it to a problem was twice as bad as missing one.  I’ve always been a fairly pensive person, and even though I push myself not to be…  that is my nature and when you put me on the clock it puts me into panic mode.

All of this said…  last night we ran two Mythic Plus dungeons and we were able to complete both of them before the keystone expired.  So I guess I am managing the panic mode, well enough to push through a dungeon in time to get progress.  Now I will probably NEVER go for the whole multiple chest bullshit, because I lack the drive to attempt to get multiple chests… when the loot in said chests is more than likely shit.  On the positive last night I managed to pull a 5 item level higher version of the trinket I like, getting it at 845…  which still seems really low to me given the effort.  That however is a completely different rant for a different day because honestly I feel like every tier of mythic plus is 5 to 10 item levels too low for the effort spent in running it.  What is the tale of today however is that apparently I am working through my anxiety with being on the timer.  I still over prepare for this process and try and make sure there is nothing that could possibly interrupt my focus while running the dungeon.  It was a huge boon last night when we got revenge on Halls of Valor… which is one of the early pluses that we attempted and failed at least twice.  The entire goal of last night was simply to get the chest from our order hall unlocked that you can see above in the screenshot from Skyhold, however I will absolutely walk away with two victories that beat the timer…  one of which was good enough to absorb a wipe on the final boss and still managed to pull out a win.  Plus will likely always be a stress factor for me, because that timer… feels so insanely oppressive.  I tried my best NOT to watch the timer, because it is one of those situations that so long as I didn’t think about it I was largely fine.

Journey Completed



This weekend represents quite possibly the quickest I have “finished” the Diablo 3 seasonal journey.  I say finished with quotes because there is still a lot more that I could be doing, but I think I am ultimately as far as I intend to go.  Of note… when I logged in this morning I got an anniversary achievement and  the above Diablo pet so if you are interested you might check it out and make sure you log in within the next few days.  For lack of a better word…  Season 8 completely caught me off guard.  Unfortunately the rotating three month schedule means that this is going to happen more often than not these days.  Season 7 released during the Legion pre-launch event… so it too was a fairly truncated effort.  I know my friend Grace managed to make it in on the day before Season 7 ended and push hard enough to get her extra bank tab.  It would have been a great season to do that for, given just how good the hunter set was for pushing content.  I however just let my attempt at getting that bank slot slip away because I couldn’t bring myself to push any further.  This time around… we have a new set and a new optimal build.  We started the season once again on a Friday night, logging in and beginning the push within moments of the season going live.  Generally speaking we make it pretty close to 70 on that first night… but this time both Grace and I lost our “oomph” at around 54.


I managed to pick up the next day with another group and we ground together from the 50s through to 70 making it to roughly paragon 20 before needing to bail and get some dinner.  Yesterday afternoon I focused on getting the various achievement bits needed to get the first four chapters of the seasons journey and unlock the cosmetic options, and finished gear set.  This time around with the Demon Hunter it was Natalya’s set, which is a bit of an odd one given that it focuses on dealing damage with rain of vengeance.  This is the basic build that I followed, substituting a few abilities for ones I prefer, namely I found Stampede way harder to control than Shade for Rain of Vengeance.  I played a little of both but given how much I was in constant motion having the stampede actually pointed in the right direction was always a thing.  Towards evening yesterday though I finally started to feel like I was getting a handle on the play style and soloing my GR20 was actually far easier than I had expected.  The biggest problem is that this build just clears so much more slowly than the equivalent Multishot build did last season.  If I were to actually push for the full compliment of seasonal achievements… I would more than likely try and farm up a full set of Unhallowed Essence again and just go back to the tried and true multishot.

However it is highly unlikely that I will spend much more time on this season.  There was just something lackluster about it, given that nothing had changed since the previous season.  All of the same builds worked as we left them in the previous patch.  I was one of the people cheering on the three month seasonal cycle, but having been through it a few times now…  I am thinking that maybe it is just too short a time period between them.  Previously enough time had passed for me to start to miss the seasonal grind… enough to be truly excited for another opportunity to hang out and push to 70 together.  This time… it just felt like we were doing it to get shiny cosmetic baubles instead of to really enjoy the experience.  This makes me a little sad given just how pumped I have been in the past for the season to roll around and start anew.  This time around I literally had no clue it was happening until Grace told me.  In the past I almost marked the date on my calendar and started to get excited for the whole process.  Who knows maybe in a weeks time I will feel differently and want to pick up where I left off… grinding out more seasonal achievements.  That said I am perfectly happy leaving Season 8 as is, because I feel like I did what I set forth to do…  collect another batch of exclusive cosmetic appearances.


Seasonal Bits



Tonight begins the next season for Diablo 3, and I have to admit much like season 7 this one completely snuck up on me.  Were it not for my friend Grace the beginning of the season would have passed me by completely.  For the last several of these we have done a Friday night vigil as we attempt to grind our way up to 70 on a brand new set of seasonal characters.  Once again I think I am going to go with a Demon Hunter, largely because they seemed super easy to push through the seasonal process and at least get high enough to collect the cosmetic goodies.  I am just not super into Diablo 3 right now, the evidence being that it just got removed from my side bar.  The challenge is that I can only have so many games that I actively care about at one time.  Right now I am spending the bulk of my time playing World of Warcraft, and attempting to steal as much time as humanly possible to feed my love of Destiny.  From there I am also juggling in some time for Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV…  while at the same time trying to keep a foot in Rift for when the expansion lands there.  This scattered approach at gaming has a lot to be desired at times, because it ends up leaving me feeling like no one game is getting the attention it deserves.  Diablo 3 fell off the radar once I managed to get last seasons cosmetic items, and I had not even realized the season had closed until Grace talked about merging in her seasonal inventory.  This in itself is one hell of a chore, but I find myself getting significantly more mercenary about this process as the seasons go along.  Pretty much any legendary that is not ancient quality or part of the actively equipped set of gear… gets sharded.


The above screenshot is just because I wound up setting up a new outfit in Rift, and thought it was cool.  I’ve loved the whole shade touched effect since the very first world event, and this time around for their “fall” event they are offering a shade touched skull that I could add to my wardrobe collection.  I also picked up the scythe made of bone… because I kinda have a thing for scythes.  The other interesting thing that I learned this morning is that apparently FRAPs does not handle DSR well.  Dynamic Super Resolution is a thing that Nvidia cards can do, where they essentially run the game in 4k on a 1080p resolution.  That is an oversimplification of what it ACTUALLY does but we are just going to go for that simplistic definition for the time being.  I am going to need to go out hunting and see if I can find another all purpose screenshot program, because fraps apparently only takes a single 1080p panel of the larger image.  This wound up with some rather comedic screenshots while trying to capture something for this mornings post.  I finally wound up doing Alt+PrintScreen and pasting it into photoshop to get the results this morning…  which also caused the FRAPs framerate counter to come along with it.  DSR works great for a game like League of Legends or Diablo 3, but it does some weird stuff as a result.  I guess I need to do some experimenting with the nvidia screenshot tool that comes with the new version of “Experience” and see if it works well enough to kick fraps to the curb.  Thing is that is really all I use it for… dumping screenshots from every game into a single “gameshots” directory for me to sort through for the purpose of this here blog.  In any case… the plan is to hang out in Diablo 3 tonight and do another grind ritual with the start of this brand new season.  I always have a blast doing it, even when I am not exactly prepared for it.

Two More Fall



Last night was a pretty great night.  For the last several weeks since Emerald Nightmare released, Wednesday nights have been raid night.  At this very moment we are just raiding one night a week, and at first that probably held us back a little.  However given the last two weeks I think overall gearing was a bigger issue.  Last week we went from only being able to take down Nythendra to adding Elerethe Renferal, Ursoc, and the Dragons of Nightmare to the list.  Though admittedly both the Ursoc and Dragons kill felt like sheer dumb luck and bursty dps.  This week however we largely added to the mix what felt like repeatable versions of those kills.  Myself and Art the other tank finally sorted out something resembling a workable taunt rotation on Ursoc, and the fight went from being insanely spikey…. to pretty damned easy.  Similarly with Dragons of Nightmare we just straight up did the fight like we knew what was happening this time… and it went down in a single attempt.  Elerethe would have been a one shot were it not for both of us tanks getting knocked off the platform.  That was not my proudest moment.


However I am in fact super proud that we managed to get things together for Il’gynoth and added our very first kill this week.  Overall it felt like our dps increased between the two weeks, and with it a better sense of what needed to die when.  Instead of leaving the Horror up for quite a while we had nice gaps to burn it in… and while we cut it a little close for comfort at around the 10 seconds until wipe mark, it was still a victory.  From there we decided to take a stab at Cenarius and actually extended past our normal run time because we made decent progress on the fight.  It still feels like there are a lot of levers we could and should tweak to make sure that fight is more repeatable, however we got the kill and hopefully will begin work on Xavius next week.  I realize this is “just normal” as the chorus of the more serious raiders might say… but screw it I am happy with our progress.  I feel like we are even probably going to start mixing in some heroics before too much longer.  Especially with the release of Karazhan on the 25th and it adding some additional gearing options for folks.  I am hoping to get a team going there pretty quickly, because I am more excited about that place than pretty much any content in any MMO.  I loved the original Karazhan and good or bad, ran it quite literally every Sunday afternoon for what felt like two years to help gear folks and their alts, only to later be replaced by Zul’Aman runs.  I think more than anything… most of us are simply going to be happy that before long we can complete the balance of power quest step and move on to the next batch of mythics.

Light Rising



I’ve been on a bit of a Destiny kick lately, and that has involved trying to do at a minimum all of the Rise of Iron bounties that Shiro hands out each week.  These largely involve running around the plaguelands and doing “stuff” like specific patrols and participating in world events.  I’ve also recently discovered the bounty that is the Archon’s Forge.  I admit I was a little intimidated for awhile, given that when you enter the forge it essentially locks you out of leaving.  My ultimate fear is that this place would murder me with great prejudice given my relatively low light levels.  That fortunately was not really the case, and I was also pleased to see that the same sort of “key trading” behavior exists in the forge as it did in the Court of Oryx.  I’ve been playing entirely solo so far since the launch of Rise of Iron, mostly because I am playing in short bursts rather than hanging out and making myself available to the clan for shenanigans.  However pretty much any time I have rolled down to the Forge, there have been people there waiting and willing to summon stuff for us to fight.  I still have trouble with the “purple” quality keys, but both green and blue ones seem largely feasible.  Unfortunately it seems like you have zero control over what sort of key drops for you, and at this very moment I happen to be sitting on a purple key myself.

The forge is quite literally a modern day version of the “loot cave” because after thirty minutes or so of running keys back to back… you end up with a full mail box.  This is not actually a screenshot from last night, but one I had laying around from one of my previous trips into the Forge.  Last night however it became significantly more lucrative for me personally.  Patch 2.4.1 did some juggling of things in preparation for the release of the Heroic Mode raid.  As a result the light economy of items got bumped up a bit, allowing folks a slightly easier time catching up.

  • Rare Engrams will now decrypt up to 365 Light
  • Legendary Engrams will now decrypt up to 385 Light
  • Exotic Engrams will now decrypt up to 400 Light
  • Faction packages will now provide drops up to 390 Light

So as a result to these tweaks… I entered last nights play session at 554 and exited at 560 and on the cusp of pushing over the line with several 361 items.  In the first screenshot I am decked out in Future War Cult colors… because I picked up some quest asking me to do a bunch of content both PVE and PVP repping the FWC.  I have no clue what that actually will lead to but I am interested to see.  The moment to moment gameplay of Destiny still feels as great as it ever did, and I am pumped that I can pop in for an hour and do a few things and feel like I moved the needle forward.  I am super loot centric in my games, and so long as I am progressing my gear levels I feel like I am making meaningful progress.


The ultimate short term goal is to get to 365 so that I can join in all of the reindeer games…  namely have access to the normal mode of the raid.  I’ve heard amazing things about it, but I have just lacked the drive to grind things out in the strike play list.  In fact I have yet to run a single strike since the implementation of Rise of Iron…  which seems a little odd given how often I used to run them for nothing more than burning Three of Coins.  I feel like I am torn in a bunch of different directions right now and trying to juggle actively playing four different games:  Destiny, World of Warcraft, Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV.  As a result I am doing a somewhat shitty job of keeping up in any of them other than World of Warcraft, where I seem to be spending most of my time.  That said in WoW I feel like I am bumping up against the ceiling for the gear levels I can realistically achieve other than through my Wednesday night raid… so some of my drive there is siphoning off.  At the very least I am not really doing the world quests like I used to, because I know there is shit for gear out of them at my levels.  This excess time seems to be getting funneled right back into Destiny, but I do need to steal a little bit of it and work on my gearing in Final Fantasy XIV as well.  I am absolutely holding our group back from doing some of the new content because I am about 15 item levels short of being where I should be.  If only I could clone myself… and keep those clones at home all day long playing all the things I want to be playing.

FFXIV Early Decisions



Last weekend was the 2016 Final Fantasy XIV Fanfest in Las Vegas and with it was the reveal of the brand new expansion…  Stormblood.  Also with it has come a brand new renewed interest in the game by folks who have yet to play it, or never really got a stable footing in the game.  Yesterday a friend of mine started asking his twitter timeline a bunch of questions about the game, and it made me realize that a post explaining some stuff might be a timely thing.  In traditional MMO terms, there are a bunch of decisions that you make at the beginning of any new game that can often times dictate your options later in the game.  The most common of these are things like choosing a faction, or even sometimes a starting race.  Final Fantasy has far fewer trip ups like this but those that do exist I thought I would explain a bit, namely from the perspective of someone who has played other MMOs.

Data Center

One of the first questions you are going to be asked is to choose a Data Center.  For those familiar with World of Warcraft as I am guessing most players who are interested in MMOs are… this relates to your Battlegroup.  While the individual server you are going to play on is super important because that limits your day to day interactions… equally and sometimes even more important is the Data Center you are part of.  Data Centers are the pool of players that you draw upon any time you queue for anything in the Duty Finder, meaning the population of the servers in your Data Center is going to greatly effect queue times.  I personally play on the Aether Data Center which is one of the ones suggested for North American players, and it also happens to have a whole slew of high population servers to pick from.  So this data center contains the following servers…

  • Adamantoise
  • Balmung
  • Cactuar
  • Coeurl
  • Faerie
  • Gilgamesh
  • Goblin
  • Jenova
  • Mateus
  • Midgardsormr
  • Sargatanas
  • Siren
  • Zalera


Inside of the Data Center you are going to choose a server.  I for example am on Cactuar which seems to be a high to medium popultion server in the grand scheme of things.  Square has a mechanic in place that keeps players from rolling on higher population servers during prime time.  That means during the evening hours specifically servers often time lock down for new character creation.  There is a thread on the forums that is updated every few hours with the status of these servers for new character creation.  So at this very moment at 6:30 in the morning Cactuar is open for new character creation, but by the time evening rolls around it is likely going to be locked down.  Still using Aether as an example, right now Balmung and Gilgamesh are already locked down barring new character creation.  In World of Warcraft terms most players try to find a place on the higher pop servers, thinking they will have more options.  However in FFXIV that absolutely means any time you have a major patch or the rollout of a new expansion, you are going to be locked out behind a pretty lengthy queue.  With the launch of Heavensward Cactuar experienced some queues, but nothing along the line of the hour or longer queue times that say Gilgamesh did.

Sadly FFXIV does not offer cross realm play in the way that World of Warcraft does, so that means for doing FATEs or any of the raiding options that are not accessible through the duty finder, you are going to be limited by the active population on your server.  I am completely biased about Cactuar, because I love the community there.  However my ultimately suggestion would be to find a similarly medium to high pop server… rather than one of the “always locked” servers to play on.  These communities still generally have active raid groups, but allow you to skirt some of the negative aspects of the end game community, as well as mostly allow you to skip the queues.  Additionally the higher the population of the server, the less likely you will ever be able to own housing.  Final Fantasy XIV housing other than apartment is non-instanced and has a limited number of houses available per realm.



In creating a new character you are going to be asked to choose a race.  For anyone who has played a faction based game this is immediately going to cause some anxiety because generally speaking that locks you into a subset of the population.  Races however in Final Fantasy XIV are cosmetic choices in nature, as is the “god” that you follow… and your characters birthday.  These are all flavor options, that really do nothing to limit your ability to play with your friends.  Final Fantasy XIV is a game with no firm walls that ever segregate you from parts of the population.  In fact Races are pretty fluid in this game, given that most folks change race at least once due to the fact that the game gives away Vials of Fantasia at a few points in the main story quest.  I started out a Hyur Highlander, before ultimately finding my true calling in life the Dunesfolk Lalafell.  I could extoll upon you the virtues of playing a Lalafell… but then again I have friends who feel equally passionately about pretty much all of the races.  This essentially is about finding your own groove in the game, because you are going to spend a lot of time looking at your character.


The other big decision you are going to be asked to make immediately… is what class you want to play.  Normally speaking in MMO terms this is one of the more important things you have to decide.  However in Final Fantasy XIV is is really not that big of a deal.  This is a game where each character, can be every single thing in the game.  I started the game as Marauder the class that ultimately becomes a Warrior… and I am still “maining” Warrior to this day.  However I also have a reasonably functional Bard and Dragoon… and literally every other class/job combo in the game at least started.  This is a game where it greatly benefits you to have a single character, that just happens to have a bunch of jobs because of cross class abilities, which are a sub set of class abilities that you can then use on other jobs.  Of note a lot of this is changing, but it will still function in some form or another with Stormblood.  Crafting works essentially the same way allowing you to be every possible crafting profession on a single character.  The only thing that your class really does is lock you down to a starting city, because it takes awhile in the main story quest before you unlock the ability to travel between the three main capital cities.

  • Gridania
    • Archer – Ranged DPS
    • Conjurer – Healer
    • Lancer – Melee DPS
  • Limsa Lominsa
    • Arcanist – Ranged DPS/Pet Class
    • Marauder – Tank
    • Rogue – Melee DPS
  • Ul’dah
    • Gladiator – Tank
    • Pugilist – Melee DPS
    • Thaumaturge – Ranged DPS

Grand Company

At some point in the Main Story Quest…. you are going to choose to join a Grand Company.  These represent factions within the three main cities of Gridania, Limsa Lominsa and Ul’dah.  Unlike factions in other games… they don’t really lock you from freely grouping with other players, but they do have some ramifications.  For starters they dictate the capital city that you are going to be by nature spending a lot of time in, as you interact with the various vendors associated with that faction.  Secondly they dictate what the appearance of your grand company weapons and gear looks like, as each of them has a very specific style… that trickles down to even chocobo barding.  Finally there are a few PVP modes that are Grand Company based.  However at any point you can swap grand companies… for example I started off as Immortal Flames the company associated with Ul’dah and decided at some point to switch to The Maelstrom the company associated with Limsa Lominsa.  Swapping essentially throws you back to the beginning ranks with the new company, but also saves your previous progress with the one you are leaving.  That way if at any point you decide to swap back again… you can pick up where you left off.

Permanent Ramifications

Ultimately Final Fantasy XIV is a game with a bunch of flexible boundaries.  The only ones that are “permanent” are your choice of Data Center and Server… and even then there is a construct in place for paid server moves.  Once you have chosen a server however… literally every decision you make can be undone and changed pretty easily.  This is a game that expects you are going to want to “be all the things” and ultimately rewards you for doing so.  For those looking at getting started in the game, I am hoping this run down of the decision making helps.

Breaking Routine



This weekend was a bit of an odd one, namely when it came to Sunday morning.  Generally speaking I have the process of finishing up an AggroChat episode down to a fairly regimented process.  Saturday night before I crash I try to do what I call the initial edit, which is most of the actual edit work.  Then Sunday morning I write the small bit of copy, and upload and syndicate the podcast to the various sources where it gets put.  However this week was the first week doing all of this on the new machine… and I was not prepared.  For starters we recorded a really long show mostly about the Final Fantasy XIV 3.4 main story quest.  We did not unfortunately ONLY talk about that, and that meant we had almost three hours of recorded audio to process… and didn’t actually finish things up until around midnight my time.  Instead of staying up further, I decided to crash and deal with it in the morning.  Then Sunday it was a carnival of errors, as the version of audacity on my new machine was apparently slightly newer than the version I had been using which means a lot of the filters had different options… or at least were arranged in different ways.  Additionally there was the process of trying to find all of my source files off of the old machine, which is thankfully still accessible over the network.

The worst part of it however was the changes to the Truncate Silence filter…. which is a crutch we lean on heavily for AggroChat.  We are fairly pensive folk, and as a result there are a lot of lengthy pauses in conversation.  With truncate silence that 3 hours of audio becomes 2 hours…  but on my first attempt it maybe clipped a little more than actual silence.  For whatever reason it was clipping the hell out of anytime Kodra talked, giving his speech a record skipping characteristic.  However this is not something I realized until I was just about to upload the files to our host.  Thankfully I caught it in time and was able to redo that portion, lowering the granularity of the filter.  This mean’t what is normally a couple hour process… ate up I think four hours in total.  Admittedly I was piddling around in Guild Wars 2 during much of it, so there were probably moments when I didn’t notice a filter had finished here or there.  The positive however is that every filter applied went massively faster than on the previous AMD FX-6300 based processor.  That was really my hope with the new i7 based system, is that it would be able to chew through rendering tasks far more successfully.  As with any system there is going to be an adjustment and moving in period, and I am hoping that now that I have finished a single podcast on this machine additional ones will be much quicker.


As far as the weekend itself went, I was all over the place.  I played a significant amount of Destiny, completing a bunch of bounties and discovering the Archon’s Forge… or more so how easy it was to get a pick up group.  Much the same way as the court of Oryx, you seem to be able to just show up and folks will either be doing it… or quickly swarm when they think anyone else is.  I also played a lot of World of Warcraft, completely a few mythic dungeons as well as successfully completing my first Mythic+ keystone.  I’m looking forward to seeing that upgraded loot in the weekly order hall chest.  In addition to that I completed the five time-walking dungeons on both Belghast and Exeter, and on the later I used it as a way to gear him up.  I am now sitting over the 825 cap needed to get into LFR so my hope is tonight I will be able to run the two parts available and potentially get more upgrades that way.  Generally speaking on Belghast the 835 rewards are not super enticing, but I still ran it this week for the purpose of getting some rune stones.  I also need to do a bunch of fishing, as I now have the pattern to turn the 300 versatility food that I spent a chunk of the weekend crafting… into a 375 version.  I am only using this stuff for raiding and mythic+ attempts, as I keep a bank full of Faronar Fizz for other stuff.

The biggest take away from the weekend is that I am actually finding myself legitimately enjoying Guild Wars 2.  Recently it had been a game that I was dipping my toes into for the sake of my friends that were also playing it.  However before the podcast we ran several of the story mode dungeons and they were pretty enjoyable.  Enough so that when I sat down to decide which game I would play during the podcast, I decided to go ahead and stay with Guild Wars 2.  That means that I spent the next three hours roaming aimlessly completing little objectives here and there, and mostly finding my way to the next story mode dungeon.  The post 80/ Heart of Thorns mastery leveling is pretty slow.  In all of that time I only managed to get about half of a mastery level…  and then I ended up wasting a bunch of experience because I didn’t notice I needed to click through and train it.  I am pretty not sure what my purpose in game is, but I am still fairly dead set on the warrior… and more importantly hammer warrior.  That makes me the make shift tank for the group, and I have been using rifle lately as my dps weapon because it allows me to have something that I can hit things with at range.  At some point I want to pick back up where I left off in attempting to level armor smithing, but right now my craft window looks somewhat like madness to me.  All in all I feel like I have come to terms with the game in accepting what it is… and more importantly what it is not.