Developer Appreciation Week 2015 – Part 1

A few days ago my good friend Rowanblaze tagged me in his post about Developer Appreciation Week 2015.  To the best of my knowledge this event was actually started by Scarybooster, but I cannot for the life of me remember if I actually got a post in while it was going on.  If not then this is something I absolutely need to remedy.  This morning as a result my post is going to be a little contorted but I really enjoyed the format from Ravanel of Ravalation… so I am rolling with that.  Thus begins my super contorted and rambling Developer Appreciation Week post.

Funcom Games – The Secret World Team

TheSecretWorld 2013-06-04 06-15-22-12 This game is absolutely phenomenal.  I was lucky enough to get on board early and do one of the lifetime subscriptions and I have to say I have never once questioned that investment.  Knowing that it is always waiting there for me to return to the world of the Templars and the Illuminati…  makes me happy inside.  While there are a lot of interesting things about the game, the part that always floors me is just how well written the quests are in this game, and how well the whole cinematic feel of them works.  I greatly prefer silent protagonist games, because they allow me to substitute my own inner dialog into the scenes.  What is awesome about TSW is they manage to do this is a way so that the silence feels like an answer.  I desperately need to poke my head back in and try out the new combat changes, because the nightmare level content was ultimately what crushed the hopes of my group.  From what I hear a lot of these rough spots have been ironed out.

Square Enix – Final Fantasy XIV Team

ffxiv 2015-03-28 20-48-43-91 I am constantly amazed at just how damned good this game really is.  Every detail of the game has a loving care applied to it.  Once again it is the storyline that first sold me on the game.  It gave me a series of characters that felt like my party in a traditional Final Fantasy game… and then made me care about each and every one of them..  yes even Thancred.  What has kept me coming back however is just how good their content is, and how frequent their updates are.  I’ve heard that the team is only around fifteen people…  and that they are doing both the live patches and expansion development at the same time.  I am floored that they can manage to crank out a new patch every month, and major patch every few months…  all the while working on a brand new expansion?  The way they manage to make content remain relevant to the players is pure magic, because I really enjoy running low level content with friends… and making it feel like it matters again.  Last night they patched in the 2.55 content… and I am completely amped to log in and play it.

Turbine – Lord of the Rings Online Team

ScreenShot00004 If there was a list of games that I wish I played more of, Lord of the Rings Online would be near the top.  There is so much for me to enjoy in the game, even not factoring in the fact that I love the franchise behind it.  The gameplay is a bit of a throwback to an earlier era, and more than anything it has always reminded me a bit of a modern updated Dark Age of Camelot.  That said the part that has always stood out for me is just how well they have managed to create the world of Middle Earth…  everything is how I had imagined it while reading the novels.  There are so many moments like the above picture where I reach some fabled destination and I have to just stop and sit in awe that I am in this or that place.  Another strange thing that I love about this game are the horses.  They have the absolute best horse movement of any game.  As you are moving around the horse feels right, which adds so much to the feeling that you are in a living breathing world… and not just a themepark.

Trion Worlds – Rift Team

rift 2013-06-24 21-10-59-03 This was the game that finally came along and successfully dislodged me after playing seven years of World of Warcraft, and that in itself is no small feat.  What makes me love the game however is its class system.  I love being able to mix and match bits and pieces of class trees to make something unique that does exactly what I want it to do.  Especially from a tanking front, this game will always hold a special place in my heart because it was the first game to give me both charge and deathgrip in the same build.  The raid content was absolutely insane, and I greatly enjoyed the times I was able to experience it.  This is one of those games that I boot up every few weeks to poke my head in, especially now that it is free to play.  I’ve spent a lot of its four year history with an active subscription, and there is just something about the world that keeps me coming back.  With the impending release of the new Wardrobe system I am looking forward to popping back in and playing some more.  Trion was the first team to make me believe that a company could keep a monthly content release schedule, and through it all they have created some very impressive work.

SOE/Daybreak – Everquest II Team

EQ2_000009 Everquest II for me is a tale of the path not taken.  With EQ2 and WoW releasing at the same time, some of my friends went to EQ2, and I and the majority of my friends went to WoW.  That said this has been one of those games that I keep coming back to so that I can re-experience this ball of nostalgia that is Norrath.  This game has hands down the best world building of any game on the market.  I love the world of Norrath 2.0 with all its detail and quirkyness.  Sure it is not exactly how I remember it from the original Everquest, but that is part of the charm for me.  Every now and then you will be knee deep in a dungeon, and you will see some little call back that makes you realize “oh my god this is that place” that you recall from your memory, changed over time and presented in so much higher fidelity.  While I have issues with the combat system and likely always will… this is a game that I cannot seem to keep myself away from for long.  Even today EQ2 is a sort of comfort food for me… where I will hang out inside and vege out on the couch dusting off my Shadow Knight and exploring Norrath with new eyes.

To Be Continued…

I feel like I have so many developers that I want to show my appreciation for…  that I had to break these up into multiple posts.  Tune in tomorrow as I talk about several more developers.  Hopefully this will cause your own upwelling of nostalgia and end up with you posting your own thoughts in blog form.  If you don’t have a blog, feel free to use my comment space for that same mission.  There is so much negativity out there, that I believe completely in this notion of the Developer Appreciation Week.  Reach out and show your appreciation to those games you love.

Moggle Mog Extreme

Bowling Aftermath

It feels like I have been on this sequence of strange posts lately, so this morning I am trying to get back to the normal swing of things.  This weekend was spent mostly recovering from Friday night, and not in the way that you might think.  We had a “team bonding” outing with my co-workers to go bowling, and it had been about a decade since I had last attempted to hurl a large marble down a wooden plank.  We bowled three games, and it feels like that was one too many for me.  The biggest issue I had was the fact that the shoes were absolutely awful.  At some point they changed from what I knew as the standard bowling shoes to these strange velcro things that I never could get to fit well at all.  I have a size 13 shoe, but my foot is not all that terribly wide at least not anymore.

I am not sure if they handed me a wide width or if they just make them insanely wide to accommodate lots of different feet but in any case my foot was sliding around like crazy in them.  Normally I would be able to fiddle with the laces to get it tight enough to work for me.  However the hook and eye velcro strap mess just would not synch terribly tightly.  Leaving my foot sliding around in the shoe most of the night.  At the end of the evening I had what felt like a stone bruise and it still hurts to flex my toes.  Other than that the evening was rather enjoyable, apart from the fact that I have zero skill at bowling these days.  The absolute best game for me was around 100, and I am not sure if I got any strikes.  The thing I did learn is that I apparently throw the ball exceptionally hard.  The lanes had a miles per hour readout saying how hard you threw each ball, and most of my coworkers were in the sedate range of 10-13 mph.  The hardest I saw from me was 22.5 mph, and the slowest about 18 mph…  apparently I was angry at the lanes.

Moggle Mog Extreme

ffxiv 2015-03-28 20-39-39-78 From an accomplishment standpoint, the highlight of my weekend is definitely Saturday night before the  podcast when we pulled together a raid.  One of the fights that we held in almost a state of reverence is Good King Moggle Mog Extreme.  It seemed like the pinnacle of difficult fights because it was so different from the normal version.  Anytime we brought the fight up, it was quickly ushered away as being too much of a pain in the ass for us to try.  Maybe it is the progress in turn 9, or maybe it is something else… but when it was brought up this weekend there was more of a chorus of “might as well” than anything.  What makes Moggle Mog extreme so difficult is that you have a very limited window to perform the fight.  At roughly 90% Mog stops taking damage from player attacks.  Instead when any member of his “court” of Moggles dies, he saps his own life healing all Moggles to full health.

From a functional standpoint this means that you need to drop the health of every single Moggle before finally finishing one off.  Two make this more complicated there is a tank swap mechanic, and at certain points during the fight the White and Black Mages will cast a spell that needs to be interrupted by dealing a damage to them.  You get three rounds to lower Mog’s health, before he starts channeling Ultima, which will wipe the entire raid if it casts.  Mog is also immune to any damage while any member of his Moogle court is alive.  This means that on the final turn you have to make sure every single Moogle is down low enough to be able to finish them off in a few hits, and jump straight on the boss and burn like hell.  I am not sure if it was on our third or fourth attempt but we managed to get everything to work just right and finished the fight.  It feels extremely good to have beaten a fight that all of us had declared was “complete bullshit”.


ffxiv 2015-03-28 23-14-40-50 I spent most of the rest of my in game time alternating between two activities…  World of Darkness and Botany.  In World of Darkness I have once again had zero luck in getting one of the two pieces of Dragoon loot that I need to drop.  Right now I am down to the boots that drop from the very first boss, and the chestpiece that drops from the second boss.  This makes for some demoralizing gameplay late in the instance when I know I have zero hope of getting anything cool apart from maybe a puff of darkness minion.  Sunday is a notoriously bad day for running raids in any game, but it seems like this is doubly the case in Final Fantasy XIV.  The worst was a dungeon where we ended up having to fight the Cloud of Darkness boss five times before we finally did things well enough to win and get our loot.  That run was fraught with other issues however so it was not a huge surprise that we were failing at the end of the raid.  I spent more than my fair amount of time tanking adds a a Dragoon.  Hopefully I can get in tonight and maybe just maybe pick up a chest piece before the raid.

Saturday during the podcast and last night during the 90 minute season finale for The Walking Dead I worked on leveling Botany.  My goal with trade skills thus far has been to brute force my way to 25 without the assistance of leves, while I have my recruit a friend helm experience bonus.  Once I hit 25 I start working on leves allowing me to shoot up quickly from that point on.  During the podcast I managed to hit 25, and then last night I started working on leves in the South Shroud area.  Botany has one of the best named leves I have encountered called Appleanche where you are asked to pick a bunch of Sprite Apples from this grove within a set amount of time.  Not sure why but that quest just makes me happy, and overall there is something amazingly calming about harvesting flowers and chopping down trees in this game.  After a few hours of Botany I found it rather easy to get to sleep last night, so maybe that is something I should indulge at the tail end of the night every night.

The Patreon Thing

AggroChat 50 – Game Club 2 – Trine 2

trine2_32bit 2015-03-27 23-40-16-99 Last night we recorded our 50th episode of AggroChat and I have to say that is a bit staggering now that I think about it.  We’ve almost recorded a full year of AggroChat, and we only “missed” a single week.  In fact now that I think about it two weeks from now will actually be our one year anniversary show.  It is insane how an entire year of recording gets away from you like that.  Things are going to be a bit strange over the next few weeks as Kodra has accepted a new job and is moving out to Seattle to join Tam and some of our other friends there.  Everyone is joking that they are trying to recruit everyone to Seattle, but honestly  the cost of living difference would be horrible coming from Tulsa.  Besides according to the New York Times we are apparently this up and coming hipster hub.  It is shocking the number of smaller game conventions that are happening in this area.

In any case this week we talked about Trine 2, an exceptionally beautiful game about a Gluttonous Warrior, a Grumpy Wizard and a Larcenous Rogue.  Honestly this is one of the shortest shows we have recorded in a long while because there just wasn’t a whole lot to talk about  in regards to Trine.  We came down on multiple sides of the game with some of us enjoying it, others not feeling much of anything about it, and still others disliking it immensely.  From that aspect I feel like the first round robin title was a success.  From the aspect of giving us a lot of material to talk about, maybe not quite so much.  We also announced our third game club title, which would be one of my picks:  Darkest Dungeon.  Since that is a game about dungeons… and mental illness I have a feeling like it is going to create a lot of stories as a result.

The Paetron Thing

Yesterday I wrote a strange piece, and among many things that folks got out of it, at least one person thought I was talking at least in some part about the current Patreon trend.  I honestly didn’t mean it to come across like that, but it is proof that we can all read the same post but take vastly different messages from it.  Patreon and I have this odd relationship, where I think it is both really awesome… and worrisome at the same time.  The awesome part is it gives people who are creating a lot of really awesome content a way to actually do that as a living, providing them a semi-regular source of income from the creation of “stuff”.  The troublesome aspect is that I seem to see people who are NOT creating much content, throwing up Patreons left and right because it seems to be the latest way to get something for nothing.  Internet celebrity is apparently now a thing worth funding?  In the case of full disclosure I back a couple of different Patreons because the people involved are creating a regular stream of content that I value, so I don’t want it to sound like I am against the concept.

Where I end up wrestling with myself is that there are times I think “man it would be nice to have my costs offset”.  Within a few seconds a little voice inside me pipes up and says that if I did advertising or a patreon or any other way of offsetting my expenses that it would somehow “cheapen” the process.  I’ve always considered my blog a labor of love, and this whole getting up every morning to write something new is something I do… because I enjoy it, not because I am trying to profit from it.  All of that said there are some very real and concrete expenses to keep it all up, and if I did not have a good paying job I would have to stop doing pretty much everything that I do.  I added up some details this morning and for hosting and domain registration alone I am paying the equivalent of a little more than $60 a month once you factor in everything.  Then you tack onto that another $150 a month for really fast internet, and various game subscriptions and you quickly get into some real money.  So while part of me thinks that I should be creating a Patreon as a sort of Tip Jar, there is another part of me that says “don’t”.

Limited Funding

Patreon is an amazing thing for those who are creating the content and actually needing the money to keep the process going.  The problem is…  I don’t need the money in the strictest sense.  My fear is that as people start popping these accounts up for the fun of it, that they will dilute the money away from the people that actually need it.  The blogging and the podcasting and the occasional streaming… are all part of my larger hobby of “gaming” and I just view all of these costs as being part of that bigger habit.  If I were to lose my job or something drastic like that, I would actually have a real need for it.  I feel like setting up a Patreon now would be akin to “crying wolf”, and asking for the goodwill of my readers and listeners before I in the strictest since needed to.  Maybe I am odd in my point of view, in that I view this relationship between reader and writer as some sort of a social contract.  I provide for you, and you give me a reason to keep making content.  But like all relationships I feel like there is always the problem that one side might end up taking advantage of the other.

Setting up a Patreon page, because it is seems to be the popular thing to do…  feels like  taking advantage of that relationship.  Because honestly I know there will be people out there who do donate because they want me to feel loved and appreciated.  I have an exceptionally warm group of readers and listeners.  I appreciate every single one of you out there, and that is a big part of the reason why I have turned down every single person wanting to place advertisements on my blog.  I don’t want to cheapen that relationship, and I don’t want to tarnish our friendship.  That is not to say that at some point the expenses of my sites will grow to a point where I simply cannot weather the entire burden myself.  But that time is not now.  Until it reaches that point then I will continue avoiding trying to “monetize” what I do for my own personal enjoyment.    I will continue also suggesting people show support for the Patreons that DO need the funding, and are providing a wealth of content as a result.

Crowd Sourced Opinion

Cruel Nation

This mornings post is going to be a little bit out of the ordinary, in part because I don’t really have a story to tell, and I also woke up thinking about this one.  This post is a call back to my earlier post this week called “hip to be mean” where I talk about how frustrating it is that the default reaction at times seems to be to bash ideas rather than to bolster them.  With this post I got a number of really good comments but one stuck out in my mind.  Roger from Moderate Peril wrote “Plus I truly believe that we have entered an age where the old ideologies are waning and people are just more unpleasant and self centered.”. I admit I struggled with this statement for a bit when I first read it.

I wanted to disagree with him, because I don’t want to live in a world that is growing more cruel.  However the more I think about it, the more I think he is probably right.  The social media age has not been exceptionally good on our empathy.  I feel like it has overloaded us in such a way that our only reaction is to worry about our own well being.  When you are confronted with so much “faux crisis”, it becomes sometimes hard to detect when there is something serious that you need to react to.  So when you see something… you never really know if someone is just being hyperbolic or if they really do need assistance.  I tend to favor on the side of reaching out and treating things seriously…  only to feel dumb a few minutes later when said person claims to “only be joking”.

Crowd Sourced Opinion

The other big problem I see is that we seem to indulge in a lot of crowd sourcing of our decisions.  Social media allows us to ask questions and receive answers in lightning speed.  The problem is unlike the real world you are often taking council from strangers on your personal matters.  So if you ask if you should dye your hair green, more than likely the answer will sound a little something like“hell yes! do it! do it! do it now!”  The problem is… these individuals likely know nothing of your real world situations.  You might work in an environment where dying your hair an “unnatural color” could be a fire-able offense.  I have quite literally seen that wording written into a number of contracts.  So in being urged off the ledge to make drastic changes they could be pushing you into some real life trouble.

This crowd sourcing of our thought processes leads us to this dangerous territory where the loudest and most confident opinion wins.  This “group think” leads people to drift along in someone else’s tide, because at least on some level it is simply easier than having to decide all these things for yourself.  In some ways this isn’t a bad thing… for example I have this pied piper effect of getting people to join my guilds.  I have the best intentions for every member and only want them to have a happy and safe place to spend their leisure time in games.  However if my motivations were impure I feel like I could probably bend this same behavior to my whims.  Not everyone has the purest of intentions, and sometimes people are just trying to use others to make a quick buck.

The Hive Mind

When I see a “movement” spring up on the internet, my first instinct is to react.  Moments later however there is a second instinct, that I jokingly call the “snopes instinct”, where I start to question the motivations behind it.  I’ve spent a lot of time googling various things I have read that seemed a little too perfectly aligned to be real.  Sometimes it works out that the facts in fact do align, but other times you quickly uncover the true nature of the scam.  We live in this time where the once fantastical is right at the tips of our fingers, but I feel like somewhere we have lost our natural instinct to be skeptical in regards to the things we experience.  While I would never advocate tinfoil-hattery…  I do try my best to “question everything”.  Not everything is a conspiracy, but some things may in fact be someone trying to enthrall you in a mission that you did not actually sign up for.

I’ve been told that people trust me because I am stable.  That I am the same person today, that I was yesterday and will be tomorrow.  The strange thing about that is that I am constantly changing my opinions and outlook.  Each time I take in new data I evaluate it against the data I held true before.  If the new data reveals something new, or is in some way “more true” than the old…  then I jettison the old attitude and replace it with a new, but not after serious evaluation.  Because of all of this…  it is not that I think we are getting more cruel.  I just feel like we are doing a poor job of making sure the decisions we are making, are in fact our own.  The hive mind can be a beautiful thing when you need to get something accomplished quickly… but it does a very poor job of adequately expressing your personality, hopes, dreams and aspirations.  What it does do however is an amazing job of preying on our fears.  All of this said, I firmly believe we have within us a radar for sorting out the conflicting data, and coming to a decision on our own independent of what the deafening crowd is screaming.

Disappointment in Draenor

Death of Dungeons

Wow-64 2014-12-03 21-59-47-284 So yesterday I originally set out to write a post about World of Warcraft, and I am guessing this morning I will actually make good on that threat.  Last night we raided Blackrock Foundry, and overall it was an enjoyable time.  I managed to actually pick up a second piece of “tier” gear giving me the two piece set bonus.  Unfortunately each of the pieces I swapped out was significantly higher level than the 670 normal gear level.  For gladiator however I have a feeling that the two piece set is going to make the difference since it means the occasional free shield charge proc.  I am still finding joy in playing with my friends while raiding, the problem is right now I am not finding much joy in anything else is World of Warcraft.  As I said yesterday and a few other times… were I not actively raiding in this game I would probably be unsubscribed once more.  There are a lot of reasons why Warlords of Draenor simply is not working out the same way as Pandaria did, and I thought I would take this mornings post to write about some of my frustrations.

Firstly the big one seems to be that Warlords destroyed the dungeon running culture.  In my guild no one runs dungeons, at all.  Largely because there is no real point to running them.  What I mean by this is that through clearing Nagrand and mixing in a few crafted items you can get any alt ready to run LFR without having set foot in a single heroic.  I’ve proven this on both my Deathknight and my Hunter, and if I bothered leveling another character to 100 chances are that is the path I would be taking as well.  The gear gained through heroics just is not enough of a carrot to deal with the frustrations of running the dungeons.  I ran the hell out of heroics on Belghast until the first wing of Highmaul LFR opened, and then never again other than the complete some of the Inn quests.  I love running dungeons, but there has to be some reason to be running them… some reward waiting at the end of the frustration.  The sad truth is that heroics are far harder than Highmaul LFR, so the risk versus reward equation is out of whack.  Without the need to cap some token currency each week, we no longer have the incentive to keep running them with the guild.

Garrisons and Ashran

Wow-64 2015-03-27 06-34-56-71 Garrisons have been this mixed bag, that in some ways I really like because it gives me my own private Stormwind that I can do my banking and trade skills in peace.  Unfortunately that is also a double edged sword since no one is actually venturing out into the hub cities.  We log into our Garrison, and live there until time for us to venture out into the world for raiding.  The most social activity is when we invite other guild members into our Garrisons for the purpose of doing an invasion.  This feature could have been something to bring players together rather than keep them apart.  I feel like there is this missed opportunity where they should have connected the hub city to our Garrison, in that our garrison was like a “quarter” of the hub.  This would mean that sure players would spend a lot of time in their Garrison but there would also be the incentive to pop out to the larger city for the resources they are lacking at home.

I also feel there was a massive missed opportunity for guilds in that there should have been  another “quarter” that was a “guild garrison”.  This would allow guilds to have some common goal to pull towards, bringing them closer and allowing this guild garrison to have better resources that could be shared by the entire guild.  Instead we have our Ashran hub located in a PVP zone, that at least at the start you could not even queue for instances from.  It is quite literally a town we all go to on Tuesday to collect our weekly raid tokens… and then never set foot in again.  Compared to Shattrath, Dalaran, The Shrine, or even the revamped Orgrimmar and Stormwind…  Ashran hub cities are abject failures.  They don’t bring players together, and only serve as a jumping off point for pvpers waiting on the next match.  The previous hubs have felt like these grand cities that had a personality of their own, and begged you to come explore them.  Ashran just looks like a lazy camp hastily thrown together on the edge of a battlefield.

Disappointment in Draenor

Wow-64 2015-03-20 06-34-09-37 There is a lot that Warlords does right, and I really did enjoy questing my way through the new content.  The problem is there is a lot more that it seems to do wrong.  Once upon a time World of Warcraft was this game that had something for many different play styles.  While not all of them were as well supported as others, there were still many supported methods of play.  The problem that I keep coming back to with Warlords of Draenor is that it feels like Blizzard thinks there are only two types of players now.  The first are the raiders, and they are giving them plenty of loving this expansion with a mix of awesome flexible raiding modes and the super hardcore Mythic raiding. Blackrock Foundry is one of the best instances they have designed in a really long time, and Highmaul was this fun romp as well.  The other type of player Blizzard seems to recognize… are the folks who wished they had the time and devotion to raid.  For these players they have given them the current “tourist mode” LFR content, allowing them to collect shiny baubles, see the storyline and feel like they accomplished something once a week.

There are more than those players however trying to play the game.  There once was a very rich and diverse crafting and harvesting ecosystem, and both were routes to both financial success and enjoyment.  The problem is that Garrisons have essentially decimated this play style by replacing it with a daily login “facebook game”, where you flip a few switches every day and get candy as a result.  Harvesting is now utterly meaningless because you can level and army of alts and receive far more resources in 15 minutes of logging in multiple characters than you can in three hours of serious farming.  On top of this, since the majority of serious tradeskill items are linked to garrison resources it devalues their creation.  Also placing a three item cap on the number of crafted items you can have, takes away the value of trying to craft a full set of anything.  After the first few weeks I stopped doing my crafting cooldowns, because it didn’t really feel like there was any point to all of it.  I was not building towards any larger goals, because I accomplished almost all of them within the first month.  Now my time in World of Warcraft is largely spent around me logging Belghast in each morning, and each night to flip the switches and keep the Garrison humming…  all for the promise of my next loot crate and potentially some upgrades to support my raiding habit.  Which cause me to question why I am even logging in at all.

#WoW #Warlords #Draenor

Hip to be Mean

Jackals and Idiots

This morning I had this post in my head that I was going to write, talking about my present funk with World of Warcraft, and how I would not be still subscribed were it not raiding.  I was going to talk about the ramifications of this expansion and how it is weighing heavily on my guild and the activities of its players.  While it feels like I had written this same post numerous times in the past, I thought like maybe I had new things to say about it.  I said I “was” going to write it because at some point yesterday I started reading a post linked to me by a friend.  While it took me several tries over the course of the day to actually finish it…  I am glad that I did.  In the post a blogger/journalist/whatever you want to call it interviews someone who makes games.  We don’t know what role they play, or what company they worked for… but as the interview unfolds none of that really matters since  they are largely talking in generalizations.

As a blogger, and podcaster, and now writer for a professional games site…  I could find a lot of offense in what the person had to say.  He calls folks like me Jackals, and the folks playing the games idiots…  but I can’t hold any real venom for the person because were I in their shoes I probably would feel exactly the same.  I am not really sure how it happened but over the years I have met and become friends with a lot of people that work in the industry.  I have listened to horror stories of working in the trenches, and tried to be a positive ear to turn to when they knew layoffs were looming over their heads.  I’ve heard just how personally some reviews effect them, and how helpless they felt as they had to make this or that decision for the sake of getting a product out the door.  While I don’t think that I would feel the “press” were Jackals per se, I would definitely have an opinion that many of them are opportunistic and prone to their own flavor of “band wagoning” as a game is taking on water and sinking.  After years of having your livelihood depend upon the good nature of strangers, I am sure I would have a pretty poor opinion of the enthusiast press in all flavors.

Hip to be Mean

I feel like one of the root problems is that somewhere along the line it became hip to be mean.  If we are operating in the gaming space it is a fact of life that we are nerds and geeks or at least former nerds and geeks.  You don’t spend your time writing about a very intricate and detailed thing without being at least at one time in your life…  extremely devoted to it.  I feel like each of us are in some way vying for some undefined “street cred” in the things we say, and there are absolutely times where I have to stop myself from falling into that trap.  There is a quiet game of one-ups-manship that happens when you get a bunch of gamers together in a room.  It starts as simple as nostalgia… when someone starts reminiscing about the games of the past…  and someone else has to throw down that they started in an earlier era…  and the instinct is to escalate from there.  So if you started in Nintendo, I feel obligated to point out that I started with the Atari…  and then someone else will feel obligated to point out that they played pong.  This literally happened casually in the course of five minutes the other night in our WoW raid, without any of us really realized it.  No one meant anything mean by it, but there is this constant and subtle battle for relevance when you get gamers together.

When you take this natural instinct and magnify it, I think you end up with rant bloggers and you tubers that seem to like nothing  at all in the world.  It is like being mean and ranting about a subject is a “cruise control for cool”, and frankly I am tired of it.  I used to be a pretty negative person, and in fact it is deeply rooted in my core to be pretty pessimistic.  I expect the worst out of most situations and am pleasantly surprised when things do not go horribly wrong.  About three years ago I made a conscientious effort to change this, to focus on the joy we should all be feeling while playing games rather than the mountain of negativity that is so damned prevalent.  Even if you are bitter and jaded, at some point in your past you had to have felt the spark of sheer magic the first time you played a game.  I remember being absolutely transfixed by these shapes dancing across the television screen, and being in awe when I realized that my hand on this crude object could control what they did.  There is magic in the process, and as someone who has tried to make a game I still have a sense of wonder when I realize just how much work went into the creation of even the worst title.

People Make Games

We have this modern tendency to think of the people that make the things we use as nameless faceless corporations.  So we think of Electronic Arts for example as this evil company that is trying to fleece us for our money and give his horrible games in return.  When in truth Electronic Arts is an assemblage of hundreds of really hard working and well meaning people who just want to make something awesome.  They grew up on the same dreams we all did, wanting to make video games for a living… and unlike most of us they held onto those dreams and chased them rather than accepting something else for their fate.  The people that make video games are my equivalent of a professional athlete, they are the people that fought hard enough to achieve the goal of creating that thing they love so much…  for a living.  So having known developers in all forms over the years, and listening to them talk about what they are trying to do… and the games that they are trying to make.  I have a hard time viewing these companies as the evil empires they are made out to be.  No one sets out wanting to make a horrible product, and no one deserves to feel like they are hated by the people that are supposed to be their fans.

So knowing that there are people and families depending upon the games I play, gives me a slightly different perspective on what would otherwise be a failure.  I find it harder to rage about this game being horrible, and everyone who created it being horrible by association.  The irony of this post was that I had originally planned on writing about my frustrations with a game, a post that could very much feed into this same cycle of hatred.  The difference is I try my best never go indulge in the rant, or at least not fully indulge.  I’ve been told that my angry posts are nicer than some peoples regular posts, and while I have a hard time believing that…  I have heard it enough times to assume it is largely true.  In part I have to think that the empathy I have for the people who are making the experiences that I  still very much do find joy in…  is the difference.   So if I talk about Blizzard being dumb for not doing something…  I know that behind the scenes there are countless heroes struggling every single day to try and create the best possible game they can given the struggle of working with what is now a fifteen year old code base.  We started playing these games because they made us happy, that they gave us a bit of joy… and let us indulge sometimes in a bit of escapism.  I try my best to focus on that, and the tingly feeling I still get when I play something really good.  Maybe it is simply that I am now staring down the barrel of 40, and that I don’t want my legacy to be that of a raving asshole.  In any case I am going to still struggle to remain a positive voice in an otherwise sea of negativity… and I am hoping over time more people will join me in my lifeboat.

Bel Propaganda

Guild Infrastructure

greysky It has been an insane ride with our free company.  It is like the floodgates have opened and folks are now recruiting themselves.  More truthfully it seems that when someone gets a foothold in our free company, they tend to recruit their friends to join it as well.  As a result some strange stuff is happening, like last night it was pointed out that apparently we are now ranked 15th on our realm and climbing as far as activity goes.  That is apparently up from 70th on our realm…  which is absolutely insane, needless to say we are a guild on the move apparently.  What is awesome about this is just how damned friendly everyone is.  Each time a new infusion of people join the guild there is so much happiness in guild chat, with everyone welcoming the new players.  My biggest hope is that we can keep this general sense of joy going forward.  What is even more awesome is just how many of the new people are perfectly comfortable hanging out with us on voice chat each night.  We are now contemplating the very real possibility of being able to field multiple serious 8 man groups at the same time, which a few months ago would have seemed crazy.

As a result of all of this…  Tam and I had a discussion yesterday in which we released we were getting far too large to not have any guild infrastructure.  When it was just a handful of us that were in constant communication… it worked more or less to not have any semblance of a guild website.  However now that we have all of these new people we are having to create something resembling a modern guild.  When we came back in July I stubbed out a site on Anook but we never really populated it with anything.  As of yesterday this is changing, and I hope that we can get the rest of our guild to sign up and join in the fun there.  Largely I am choosing Anook, because a lot of people already have accounts there… and dealing with running a forum is a pain in the ass.  Forum software is often one of the largest attack vectors on any site, and if you do not keep a rigorous schedule of constant updates…  it is liable to get compromised.  I simply don’t want that sort of liability any more, and since Anook offers a fairly robust forum, shared image galleries, an event calendar, and a nifty way to link guild streams together…  it seemed like a really nice fit.  Not to mention that Lonrem is amazing and has been willing to support damned near any hair brained scheme I have come up with.  Folks have already started populating the shared image album, which is awesome.

Bel Propaganda


Another thing to come out of yesterday is something of a recruitment piece.  Over the last several weeks I have been giving essentially the same talk to everyone that joins the free company.  Not that I mind having this conversations, but I felt like I was spending a lot of time repeating myself just getting the most basic information out there.  I got to thinking… if I could condense this talk into a single page I could create something easy to link to new people.  It is by no way an attempt to stop questions, but more to give players that are new to our group a quick info dump about who we are and what we are like.  After creating this I realized… that I also created a tool to let people entice their friends.  So as such I thought I would offer up the link here this morning for any of my Free Company mates that might be reading.  You can now go to and get a quick dump of a bunch of information about our free company and our basic guidelines.  So when your buddies ask you about your free company, you now have a quick thing you can link them to explain further.  I used it yesterday afternoon and so far people seem to dig it.

While on the topic of propaganda… I had to include the above photo that Rae sent me.  She was feeling out of sorts on Monday night, and while the bulk of us were raiding Turn 9… it seems she was up to shenanigans in our housing zone.  I am really not sure how this happened but apparently an impromptu pony parade occurred where everyone broke out their favorite pony mounts and rode around our housing zone.  I absolutely love that this sort of thing happens.  A large number of us idle in the housing zone when not doing anything, and we have developed this awesome community of players that do the same.  The night we bought our house, we were welcomed by a bunch of neighbors from the houses around us and over time we have gotten to know several of them.  It is awesome logging in and running to the market board, only to get /hugged several times along the way.  Cactuar is a truly amazing place, and I am so happy that we apparently chose correctly when we rolled there over a year ago.

Heroic Hans and Franz

WoWScrnShot_032415_202250 Trying to mix things up a bit, and get our folks upgrades… my Raid has been working on some of the Heroic encounters in Blackrock Foundry.  Last week we made significant progress on the Hans and Franz encounter, and had some lessons learned that we took into this week.  Namely two things really lead us to this victory.  Firstly better awareness of who was getting the body slam attack, and for them to move out of the raid making sure the tank did not take the debuff.  Secondly better self awareness in trying really hard not to get pinned down by the crushers as they came through.  Last night we had some of the worst possible luck as far as RNG goes and the patterns we could potentially get.  There is this one pattern that was killing me damned near every time because the boss would be in the center of the room… and the only free space on the far left edge.  On the last few tries, including the one when we managed to down them… I started prioritizing my own survival to damage time spent on the boss and I feel like the rest of the raid did essentially the same thing.

We managed to pull out a fairly narrow victory, but I have a feeling that since we now believe we can do this fight…  future attempts will be much smoother.  From there we moved to work on Beastlord Darmac, and had a few heartbreaking attempts getting him within 2% on our best.  That fight… is just madness on heroic with so much shit in the room being on fire during the later phases.  There are several things we need to work on, but I feel like we CAN improve and potentially down them next week.  Largely the spear maintenance needed to be better, both in folks moving so they do not get pinned and folks breaking out individuals who did get pinned.  The amount of time you have is really tight, and this needs to be an all raid effort when someone is gets stuck.  Secondly I feel like during the last phases we needed to move the boss more often, because the amount of flame surrounding him made it damned near impossible for melee to dps.  If nothing else we made solid progress and I feel like with a bit of polish we can knock this one out as well.

We Like To Help

Reluctant Roulette

ffxiv 2015-03-04 23-21-10-21 I thought I would take a few moments this morning to address a few things we are noticing among new recruits to our Free Company.  I believe for the most part the majority of this group reads my blog at least sometimes, so here is hoping that my post will find it’s audience.  If nothing else this serves as a good reminder to anyone new to Final Fantasy XIV or considering playing it.  The first behavior I am seeing an awful lot of is an absolute reluctance to EVER use the Duty Roulette system at all.  It seems like most of the players have come from several years in World of Warcraft, where “pugging” has become a dirty word.  I fully understand this and quite honestly I was scared to use the Duty Roulette system…  that is until another FC mate tiptoed into the water and reported back that it was actually pretty awesome.  I dislike random groups in other games more than most people, and I will be the first to say that the community in this game is simply better.

The other thing you should know is that those of us who are veterans are using the Duty Roulette system constantly.  On a given night if nothing much is going on I will be queuing for either Hard Mode or Trial Roulette, and at least once a day I am trying really hard to get in at least one Expert Roulette.  Sure you occasionally stumble onto an elitist, but it is nothing like other games where you are belittled and kicked from the group for not instantly being amazing.  More often than not when a player says they are new, someone will take the time to explain the encounters to them.  Honestly I often give my player commendations to new players for having the strength to stand up and tell the group.  It makes the run go so much smoother when you know for certain if a player is going to have the requisite ancestral knowledge to understand the common way a given fight is done.  More than anything I suggest you give Duty Roulette a chance.  I’ve actually met several people on Cactuar through the roulette system, and it makes me happy to see them around.

We Like to Help

ffxiv 2015-03-16 19-51-20-83 One of the other behaviors I am seeing a lot of is players not asking for help.  I realize that in some groups this might not be the norm, but in our Free Company for the most part people enjoy helping others.  Now there might be times for this or that reason that someone cannot help, and that is perfectly fine.  However if we don’t know a given player needs something, it is impossible for us to read minds.  Our hope is that this creates an atmosphere where people are freely saying what they need to do, and others  are responding that they can help out.  A prime example is that we have known for a bit that Neph needed Dzemael Darkhold, so when she popped on the other night we ran the dungeon to make sure she got it.  Similarly we have done countless primal fights or lower level dungeons to help our dps players especially fight their way through the queue system.  Self service and the Duty Roulette are always valid choices, but when you are confronting a thirty minute long queue…  please speak up and pending it is not a raid night folks should be able to pull together a dungeon pretty easily.

Running dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV is not quite like running dungeons in other games.  The fact that the game auto scales your level to match the dungeon, and rewards you with money if you are max level…  means that running lowbies through dungeons is always a positive prospect.  In other game my primarily problem with running low level dungeons was that it ended up feeling like I was babysitting players, because at max level I could just one shot most of the encounters in the zone.  In Final Fantasy XIV, these dungeons are still viable, and it feels like you are doing something meaningful regardless of the level range.  I will never get tired of running places like Haukke Manor or Stone Vigil, and Primal fights like Garuda still end up being a challenge for our scaled down groups.  It is interesting trying to remember how you functioned without your high level abilities, and this alone makes a lot of things far more interesting than you might think.  So please if you need help, be it a dungeon or help with some crafted gear…  speak up in chat.  Right now Tam is doing an interesting census of players to find out if they are interested in raiding, so I highly suggest you fill that out from the guild message of the day.

A Night with Nael

ffxiv 2015-03-23 20-28-37-77 Last night was a bit of a refresher night in many ways.  Namely we had a few people out, which meant we snagged one of our new recruits to help out with turn nine.  The problem is our group does things a bit different than the “norm” for turn nine groups.  So there was a bit of adjustment, similarly it had been over a week since I last set foot in the zone, and I was more than a tad bit rusty myself.  I still feel like we made some progress, but we are hitting this wall on the third phase where we are just not pushing Nael hard enough to keep from getting two dragons.  In our attempt to push harder, we are getting this awkward transition to phase four and getting a dragon at the same time…  which is leading to a wipe.  I feel like I am simply not doing enough dps on my Dragoon to really make up the difference.  My tank is level 122 gear wise, but my dragoon is only 112.  Honestly I never expected to be dpsing in a raid situation, so my Dragoon has essentially gotten table scraps as far as gear goes.  I have been pushing to grab a piece of 120 gear our of World of Darkness each week in the hopes of boosting my dragoon dps just a little bit.

This however means repeating World of Darkness over and over without seeing any drops.  Last night represented my sixth and seventh run of the week, and thankfully on the final boss I saw a piece drop that I did not already have.  Sure it was only the belt, but at the 11th hour on the night before reset…  I will take quite literally anything.  I was just about to reach the point where I was going to start rolling on everything just to get a piece of gear before the zone reset today.  Largely I feel like I am being a boat anchor on our group with this fight.  We need more dps, and I am just not going to the extreme lengths that Kodra is willing to to tweak his dps.  The optimal dragoon rotation is twenty seven steps long according to the guides I have read… and quite frankly there is no way in hell I am going to be able to pull that off flawlessly every single time.  Instead I do a much more simplified and repeated sequence, but when we are on this razors edge of being able to do it versus not being able to do it… it feels like I am failing the group.  As such my answer is to try and pour gear into the problem, and as soon as World of Darkness uncaps on the 31st I will be running it until my eyes bleed farming a full set of gear.

Night Means Business

Weekly Caps

ffxiv 2015-03-19 23-18-41-40 Another weekend down, and I have somehow managed to cap poetics at the 11th hour.  I did not get near as much playtime as I would have liked over the weekend, and I was pretty horrible about managing to do an expert roulette every single day.  That said I still managed to cap without a whole lot of issue yesterday evening while watching television.  This meant that I also managed to get a second item this week in the form of the ironworks neckpiece.  Right now this only leaves me with the ring that is sub 120, as far as the full set of poetics gear I still need a chest and a belt.  One of those will take multiple weeks to get, so at this point I am trying to decide whether or not to go after the expensive piece, or to go for another 375 item and upgrade my final 110 item to 120.  I really wish that World of Darkness had a shot at dropping jewelry, or at the very least rings since that seems to be the problem item for all of my classes.

The problem with rings in Final Fantasy XIV is that they are unique equipped.  Now there is a slight trick to this, that the unimproved and improved version of the same ring count as two separate items.  This means I could buy a second ironworks ring now that I have an augmented one and get rid of that last 110 slot that way.  This always feels wasteful since you are essentially never going to use that non-augmented ring for anything other than a bridge to slightly higher stats.  This is one of those things that I hope they work around in the expansion, making more ways to fill that second ring slot without resorting to wasteful spending of tokens.  Another thing I would love to see is for max level players to get a few tokens for running free company mates through low level content.  I was honestly concerned that I might not make the cap this week because I spent most of my weekend tanking lower stuff for friends.  I wouldn’t change a thing, but it would have been nice to know I am slowly inching towards the cap when we were running Dzemael Darkhold or Aurum Vale.

Lower Content

ffxiv 2015-03-22 18-35-46-30 Other than the stress about hitting the 450 poetics weekly cap, I had a blast this weekend running free company mates through lower level content.  Over the course of the weekend I tanked a few primal fights, a couple of trips into Stone Vigil, a couple of trips into Dzemael Darkhold, and if I am remembering correctly at least one trip into Haukke Manor.  Essentially anytime a guildie needed something run, I stepped up and offered…  sometimes with some caveats attached like that I was already in a run.  What makes me even more happy is it seems like most of the guild is doing the exact same thing.  Our folks really genuinely seem to enjoy helping, and this makes me extremely happy to see it in action.  I find it interesting that even though we are spending a lot of time running content below our actual gear levels, that they still feel fresh and challenging each time we sit foot in them.  That is a real testament to just how good their dungeon content is, that after running Haukke for what has to be close to the 100th time, it still feels just as enjoyable.

The awesome thing is that thanks to all of this dungeon running we have a whole new flock of players getting close to hitting the level cap on their first classes.  I believe Syl hit 47 on her Black Mage, and I know Grace is somewhere in the 46ish range after our various runs throughout the weekend.  What is so awesome about this is that doing 8 player content is going to be all that much easier as we keep adding new folks to the mix.  The awesome thing is, there is a possibility that at some point we can actually be running two full parties at the same time.  This is going to be great for offering lots of different content options to the group as a whole.  It is a super exciting time to be playing Final Fantasy XIV in the Greysky Armada, and all of it just has me pumped to log in each night.  I am thoroughly enjoying the game and really looking forward to June and the Heavensward expansion.  That said also really looking forward to the 2.55 patch coming March 31st.

Night Means Business

FINAL FANTASY XV EPISODE DUSCAE_20150322124217 I spent some time yesterday afternoon playing the Final Fantasy XV demo, otherwise known as “Episode Duscae”.  The demo starts our cast of road trippers a bit into the content from the sounds of it.  Their vehicle has broken down and they are having to make some cash to pay for repairs.  This serves as a way to teach the player about combat.  The other thing that it should have taught me better was that the day/night cycle means serious business.  I did what I always do in games, and went wandering off the path looking for combat wherever I could find it.  I took on packs of Saberwolves, and foolhardily a giant pack of what I think were called “Gerdua”.  They were these huge lumbering tusked calf things, and somehow I managed to aggro around a dozen of them.  I got a lot of practice using the parry options to take them down.  As night fell the game reminded me that I really should camp for the night.  The problem is it did not really message well where i should camp or even how I should go about doing this.  On my map was a house icon, and an exclamation point there saying something about making camp.

So I wandered off in that direction in the middle of the night, and from out of the sky came a horribly bright light signaling an enemy drop ship was just about to flood me with baddies.  After dispatching the first party of four heavily armored troopers, I started getting attacked by Goblins.  The goblins were no big deal because they had minimal hit points, in fact after some time I started really enjoying wrecking them.  That was until a second and third drop ship showed up…  so I started trying to juggle eight heavily armored troopers and a half dozen goblins running in to fight me.  I was actually holding my own for a bit, until the Saberwolves started showing up…  and at that point I was pretty much done for.  I thought to myself “That Escalated Quickly” and it really did… one minute I am doing just fine and feeling like I have a chance and the next moment the entire world seems to be attacking me.  So when this game tells you to camp…  I suggest you camp.

FFXIV for PS3 Closeout

AggroChat #49 – Road Trip Fantasies Type-0

During this show we are joined by our normal cast of Belghast, Rae, Tam, Kodra and Ashgar as we devote the majority of the show to lots of different things Final Fantasy.  We talk the release of the Final Fantasy XV Demo and how this has sent Tam back into the 90s.  We talk Final Fantasy Type-0 and how we are enjoying this very different Final Fantasy Offering.  We also talk about how the Final Fantasy franchise going to more “on rails” games turned several of us off the franchise for awhile.  Ashgar beats Ori and the Blind Forest and talks a bit about his feelings regarding the ending.  Tam talks about his enjoyment of Dreamfall Chapters and how it isn’t really required that one has played the previous games.  Rae talks about her new Noms website, where they plan on making a recipe a week and reflecting on what the various authors think of it.

I talk about my current funk with my World of Warcraft raid and how the frustrations there are harshing my enjoyment.  We also delve into a deep session once again where we talk about the differences bertween WoW and FFXIV raiding.  We also have a session of “Tam Told us So” now that the news about crafting specialization has taken some of the focus away from us all becoming Omni Crafters.  I talk about my return lately to Elder Scrolls Online and the conversion to a Buy To Play system.  I talk about a game I did not expect to like but find myself begrudgingly enjoying, and that is ZMR:  Zombies Monsters Robots.  Finally we close out the show with some discussion about the League Championship Series and the introduction of the new roaming support champion… Bard.

FFXIV For PS3 Closeout

FinalFantasyARRXIVPS3Yesterday we spent the day mostly roaming around, in an effort to get out of the house more than anything. Tis the season for post Christmas clearance in all the various stores as they start closing out one seasons stuff in preparation for summer.  This is generally an awesome time to pick up all sorts of random bits, but more often than not I am hunting for Legos.  I’ve already found several sets deeply discounted and I have reached the point where I really don’t pounce on something until it is at least half off or more from the original price.  In my journeys yesterday I noticed that it seems like all of the Target stores are closing out their PS3 copies of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.  This creates a unique opportunity for players who have been on the fence about playing the Game.  Throughout my journeys yesterday I found it between $6 and $10 for a boxed copy of FFXIV  PS3.  Now if you act very quickly you can turn this PS3 copy into a PS4 copy with several caveats.

Firstly this offer goes away on March 31st, so you will have a limited amount to time to actually do it.  Secondly you have to have a PS3 or access to a PS3 to make this work.  You have to log your PSN account into a PS3 and bind that PS3 to your account.  Then you have to  boot up FFXIV and log into the game, thereby registering your PSN account to your Square Enix account.  Finally you have to go into the Mogstation and you can click the link that should now appear at the bottom of your account screen.  This should give you a code that you can then enter through the Sony Playstation store on your PS4 to get a copy of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn of PS4.  This is a ton of hoops to jump through but it should allow you to get a copy of FFXIV ARR for really cheap.  There are some caveats here… firstly when you claim your PS4 copy, it nullifies your PS3 copy.  Secondly this does not give your account a PC License, which would be a separate  purchase.  I did this some time ago myself but I had forgotten all of this bullshit that you have to do until yesterday when a friend was trying to make this work.  I normally play on my PC but I like having the option to play on PS4 especially since you can remote play through a Vita or PSTV.  Granted the controls are kinda wonky, but it would be well worth figuring it out for leveling and crafting as such.

City Building

Cities 2015-03-21 11-45-41-43 Another game that I have been playing around with lately is the confusingly named Cities: Skylines.  It seems like I was suffering the same confusion that so many other gamers seem to be… that Skylines was somehow connected to the Cities XL and Cities XXL franchise.  That colon apparently is there to somehow differentiate the games, because they are in fact from two different companies.  I had played XL in the past and was not terribly impressed, so when I say the buzz about Skylines I for the most part ignored it.  That was until I actually watched some game play footage and saw that the game was essentially everything I wanted the last couple of Simcity titles to be.  Overall the game feels very much like a logical successor to Simcity 2000, which was really the last big city building game that I enjoyed playing.  If you take the concepts from that game, and bring them up to modern standards you have the Skylines interface.  The game strikes this balance between trying to have mind bending graphics and being pleasant to look at and play with.

I took this screenshot because I am pretty damned proud of getting my first upgrade.  Apparently in the years since I have played Simcity 2000, I have gotten pretty horrible at city building.  The biggest problem I am having with skylines is that it seems difficult to figure out how best to build the roads and utilities to conserve space for zoning.  The above city is actually my second attempt at creating something viable, and so far it is working okay.  My first city was a complete mess because I didn’t really know what I was doing.  I have a feeling that this second city will also be a learning experience as I try and figure out how best to optimize putting in an electrical grid and such.  All I do know for certain is that skylines is definitely a way to lose an hour without realizing it.  I started playing this as my wife was getting ready to leave yesterday morning, and next thing I know she was ready.  I feel like I need to watch some people playing it to figure out how best to do things again.  The standard grid that I used to build in doesn’t appear to really work here.  If nothing else this feels like the true “next best city building game.