Heavy Crowns

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I’ve admittedly been pretty sporadic in my gameplay of Final Fantasy XIV since just shortly after the launch of Heavensward.  For whatever reason the story this time never quite clicked in the same way that it did during A Realm Reborn.  Additionally Alex never felt nearly as interesting as Coil…  so it just felt like I was grasping at things to tie me to the game but struggling to find them.  More than all of these I think the two dungeons per cycle business hurt the most, because it turned something that I used to love…  Expert Roulette into a grind because there was always the dungeon you enjoyed…  and the dungeon you disliked in every patch cycle.  All of this said I have been poking my head in periodically and was at least aware of the mentor program.  The idea being that Square would create a way to identify players who know lots about the game…  which was an interesting theory.  In practice it largely just means you have a Tank, DPS and Healer at the level cap.  Also as I found out last night it apparently makes you feel like you need to run around barking orders and throwing shade on how bad you feel the rest of the party was doing.  Even though I was attuned for it… I never actually ran the second of the 25 player raids called the Weeping City of Mhach.  Collectively folks just call it the “Wiping City” and for good reason… because we died an awful lot but given that it was the first time myself or Grace had been in there… I thought we did largely okay.

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The funniest part of the night was the Forgall fight… which involves becoming zombie but not going full zombie and avoiding some things while absolutely standing in others.  In short it is the traditional insane dungeon fight that simply requires constant execution… and has mechanics that will straight wipe entire parties.  It is a rarity that there are fights where you need to use the healer level three limit break…  but during the course of this fight we used it at least twice…  and there might have been a third time I didn’t realize.  We were at a point where we had no tank and maybe three people total still up, and a bunch of us assumed we were wiping it out and running back.  We were wrong… as the “Mentor” continued barking orders and telling people to rez this person or that person… during a contorted fight that felt like it took 20 minutes to finally beat.  The truth is I had no clue what I was doing, but I finally got finished off by an actual fight mechanic as one of the attacks takes you to 1 hit point…  and requires chain healing to keep the tank from instantly dying afterwards.  We had maybe a single healer up at the time and I fell down hard… but just in time for another tank to get rezzed and pick it up.  I feel like this was the sort of fight where we needed to play Yakety Sax …  but slowed down to the point where it almost sounds like a funeral dirge.

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The fight that I got the most enjoyment from however had to be Ozma… an encounter that I had heard about for awhile now.  Largely I had heard about it being the group killer, in that it required a lot of moving parts that rarely got coordinated properly among the alliances.  Thankfully I was on voice chat with my Free Company and they were able to give me enough of a heads up about what I should be doing.  It also helps that early into the fight we lose the entire B alliance, giving me a run seeing the mechanics the first time and then allowing me to take that experience into the second smoother attempt.  All in all we nailed it pretty well on the second go, and for the most part by the end of the encounter I learned everything that I needed to do to appropriately tank the fight.  The reason we were running Wiping City however was to get me some gear…  and unfortunately not a single tanky piece dropped.  However I do feel confident enough to probably solo queue tank for the place and start soaking up more gear that way.  The risk of playing FFXIV irregularly is that the game moves on without you… and I hit yet another wall with the latest patch.  I was sitting at 220 from my last attempt to catch up… and this time around the first dungeon requires 230.  There are of course a lot of more grindy ways to catch me up… but we were trying to take as many short cuts as possible.

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Before disappearing and flaking out last time I had managed to put in some progress on the 235 weapon from Palace of the Dead and as I talked about yesterday our little run pushed me pretty far… but not quite over the tipping point.  So last night once finishing the Wiping City, we broke up into a smaller group and did some Palace of the Dead and over the course of a few runs managed to get me to 39 weapon 32 armor.  During all of the stuff I managed to accumulate enough Lore tombstones to upgrade my earrings to 230, and at some point during the evening Tam hooked me up with a set of 250 legs to replace my then lowest slot.  I had enough cash accumulated to manage picking up the 250 ring as well since my next lowest slot was that.  All together those four pieces of gear pushed me up to exactly 230 item level, and thus makes me viable for a lot more content including the dungeon that is blocking my quest progress.  Unfortunately however I have had this patch cycle spoiled for me, because before I remembered to turn off player titles…  I actually happened to be running Deep Dungeon with someone that was showing their new title off.  Now I am not sure exactly how it is going to go down… but I know something is going to go down.  Ultimately that is not necessarily going to ruin the impact, just a bit of a bummer to have it spoiled in a way that really should not have even been a thing.  While I wouldn’t necessarily count myself as “caught up”, I am at least in a much better place than I was.  I need to do a lot more palace of the dead so that I can pick up the next weapon…  but that one requires 60 weapon/armor which is still a very very long ways away.  My only revision of that content would be to make the end of sequence mini-boss drop one of whatever your lowest rank happens to be armor or weapon.  Also of note… you can see that thanks to the new weapon I did some glamouring and am once more the Bunny Samurai.

Restless Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, because at least for me it centered around recording our “Games of the Year” show on AggroChat.  This is generally speaking a huge ordeal given that our show is made up of six very different minded people.  Back during the days when we had four regular hosts it was less of a proceeding but now that we essentially have six people each picking three games a piece… that means we wind up talking about 18 games, which as it turns out divides neatly into two 9 image panels.  The above image is the first of these and serves as the backdrop for our normal show card of sorts, however with the text over it you can’t necessarily make out all of the images involved so I decided to post it here.  You can as always find the show on AggroChat or my method of choice for sheer simplicity of listening…  YouTube.  The reason why this largely dominated my weekend is because we ultimately recorded two podcasts that were both two hours long before I set down to edit them.  Post edits they both clock in around an hour and twenty minutes, which really is shocking given that I did not actually time anything out in an attempt to make them work as relative set pieces.  I guess however if you set out to record nine games per show… the end result comes out fairly evenly.  I did make an attempt to shuffle the deck in such a way as to put the games I thought we would most likely talk the longest about divided evenly among the shows.

So we recorded from 8 pm CST until just after midnight, and then I got up around 7:30 Sunday morning and edited until 12:30…  and as a result every other element of the weekend felt like it was shoved to one side or the other.  Of course all of this madness has a purpose since the double episode is timed perfectly to cover the absence of myself and Ashgar as we go to Pax South.  Now in theory Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen could record without me… but that would mean I had the forethought to have the mess that is our show in a state that I could easily hand over the reigns to an understudy.  I have not planned ahead that far, and while I do have a series of Audacity and Photoshop projects to speed up the process…  I am not sure if I could even properly explain what exactly I do each week.  It is my hope however that I managed to not only publish yesterday, but also schedule everything else to publish next Sunday while I am driving home from San Antonio.  Staging a publish to happen without me is always a fraught thing for me… because so rarely does it actually work as intended.  Even if it does… I am literally stressed beyond reason until I see the tweets show up in my timeline from the publish process actually doing its thing appropriately.  In the grand scheme of things however…  it is not the most important thing in the world… but it is important to me.

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As far as gaming went this weekend that was equally scattered.  I patched up Final Fantasy XIV and made it far enough to hit the first instance gate, before ultimately walking away.  Similarly I patched up Wildstar, created a Chua Warrior and played to around level seven before once again walking away like a bored child.  As far as gaming that managed to last for more than an hour…  we had World of Warcraft where I finally hit 35 points on my Protection Artifact and started pushing up Fury instead.  I have gotten back in the habit of logging in each day to do my Emissary quest because now there is also a potential legendary upgrade waiting at the end of the grind.  I started doing my Time Walking dungeons… but only managed to make it through the first one tanking it before once again wandering away.  The game that seemed to stick the hardest was Elder Scrolls Online where I completed a good chunk of Malabal Tor, a zone where I am already completely enthralled by the storyline…  even though it involves largely nothing but elves and their internal politics.  I’ve decided that the Bosmer are what it takes to make me really enjoy Elves.  I am really enjoying the whole lore regarding the Green Lady and the Silvenar, and I guess in truth that was an aspect of the lore that I had either forgotten or ignored in playing other Elder Scrolls games.  I even managed to have a few emotional gut punches last night, when I lost characters that I actually really liked during one quest chain.  In truth all I want to do right now is hide in my blanket cocoon on the couch and play more ESO, but that said I do want to at some point get a Mythic+ in for the week since I have a +5 Maw of Souls key.

Bel’s Fake Game Awards

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This break has been a bit of an odd one…  namely because I have completely screwed up a few times and failed to blog.  Even worse… I forgot I forgot to blog.  It is as though I have been in a bit of a weird time warp where I lived a bit separate from the rest of the world for awhile.  So instead of being connected like I usually am…  everything has just sort of flown over the top of me without ever really sinking in.  I have not been logging into MMOs hardly at all… and when I did it was for a specific focused purpose rather than just hanging out there.  The break has been about falling into a number of game shaped holes…  including Destiny, Minecraft, Bloodborne, and most recently Tyranny.  However today represents the beginning of me trying to get into the swing of things.  I technically have two full days left…  well not full given that its 9 am when I am finally getting around to writing this morning.  However it is time for me to do my sham of an attempt at an Awards Show…  that I started last year, where the categories really don’t exist and no one actually wins.

Something Is Missing

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Pokemon Go

Recently in the name of better health and that whole tradition of trying to start the New Year off right…  my wife and I have been spending a lot more time walking.  One of the things I greatly miss that was a huge part of my life during 2016… is Pokemon Go.  One of the updates essentially screwed me over and locked me out at least semi-permanently from playing the game.  The Google Safety check… seems to think my phone is rooted even though it is not.  My only work around is to actually root my phone and install one of the many applications that will hide root from Pokemon Go…  defeating the entire purpose of their safety check.  However I am reaching a point where I really want to play the game… and I might just resort to this.  Essentially this game was a good chunk of my year… or at least I was obsessive about it for two months.  Pokemon Go did something that no game really has…  made me care about mobile as a gaming platform and as a result it should get a significant shout out.

You Can’t Go Back

Diablo 2
Diablo 2

For the AggroChat Game Club, we tend to pick a game for both November and December…  since once you take the holidays into account… you really have a single functional month.  Last year the game that spanned the two was Fallout 4, and this year Grace chose Diablo 2 as her pick.  At first I was all about this because I have some seriously rose colored lenses about this game and my memory of it.  I remember trying to see who could get through all of Act V in a single lunch break, and so many farming runs to see if we could get the coveted set pieces.  However on replay…  I have changed drastically in my tastes since this game released, and while I was on the Diablo 3 doesn’t feel right bandwagon initially…  I have evolved.  Diablo 2 now feels like a grindy mess of a click fest with very little carrot and a hell of a lot of stick.  So I am honestly wishing I had NOT replayed the game…  and could leave it sitting happily in my memory untouched.  My recent experiences…  are proof of that adage that sometimes you can’t go back home.

But Maybe Sometimes You Can

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World of Warcraft: Legion

Saying that however… there are apparently times when you can go home and enjoy yourself in the same ways you used to.  There was a period of time when I was convinced that Warcraft would always only tangentially matter to me.  That I mourned a time and a place and a specific group of people that were long going and could likely never been aligned and arranged in the same pattern again.  I’ve devoted a lot of digital ink to this lament throughout the years…  and then Legion comes along and proves me to be completely full of shit.  I am not exactly sure what it is about this expansion but for the first time in seven years…  I feel more hope for the game ahead of me… than nostalgia for the time that has long passed.  I thought I was done raiding in World of Warcraft… and instead I am actively raiding three times a week…  one night of progression, one night of farmed content, and an amazing karazhan team.  I am super happy with the state of the guild, and the game… and how far we have come.  I am amped about the prospects of starting Nighthold on time when it releases…  and while I have not spent much of this break in game it still very much feels like home.  While I still have issues with some of the disjointed feeling of the forced faction storyline at times in Legion…  the bulk of the content is amazing and just seems to keep getting more interesting.

But Sometimes It Doesn’t Last

Final Fantasy XIV
Final Fantasy XIV

The other subtext of the year is how I have apparently fallen out of love with Final Fantasy XIV.  We made an attempt to get the band back together and start raiding once more… and it worked amazingly for awhile.  Honestly the Free Company is still an active and happy place…  just with myself not really playing much of a role in it.  I keep thinking that it will be fun to return…  but I knew something was a miss when I started completely blowing off the holiday events that I used to love so much.  Now I am significantly behind in gear and in story… and it is going to take a significant push to catch back up.  This push however is just something that I have not been willing to do as of yet.  I am excited about Stormblood…  but nowhere near as much as I was prior to the launch of Heavensward.  I guess the scale of Heavensward felt limited… with two dungeons per patch instead of three, and that alone wore on me.  When you are grinding two dungeons in an expert tier… it gets super old really fast.  They have since added in other content to occupy time like the deep dungeon…  but it also feels extremely grindy in nature.  I know at some point I will return and happily do so… but in the meantime I have simply not been forcing myself to log in and play a game I was not entirely into.

With Guns Blazing

Destiny
Destiny

The real winner of the year as far as my total time spent… I feel is probably Destiny.  This game has gone from being something that never quite clicked…. to turning into a game that I obsessively play on an almost nightly basis.  Over the break I spent a good chunk of my time playing “Not-Wipeout” and participating in the Sparrow Racing League.  I managed to hit the currently light cap of 400, and instead of it diminishing my desire to play… it seems to have only spurred me on further trying to get infusion fodder to upgrade all of my favorite items.  I cannot tell you how much being able to bring my favorite weapons from Year 2… into Year 3 has improved the game for me.  Traditionally MMO items are just stat sticks with a look and a feel…  and cosmetic systems make it so that you can look however you want therefor really negating any need to keep using older items.  Destiny however…  your items have a feel and a purpose and greatly effect the gameplay.  I have guns that I love… that feel amazing to use… that I cannot actually quantify in words as to why.  For example I love the Fabian Strategy… even though I technically have far superior legendary items that don’t eat my single exotic weapon slot.  I just feel sorry for my friends who are casually interested in the game… because I go from zero to “let me show you my pokemans” in a frighteningly short amount of time.

Bad Christmas Was A Bust

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The Division

This time last year… I was looking forward to the impending launch of The Division.  I thought this game would end up being my new Destiny, and even better so because it allowed me to get the sort of gun play and looter shooter action I craved without having to resort to consoles.  Unfortunately that was not the case and I never actually made it to the level cap.  Going into Division I thought I would have a strong community to support me… but one by one my friends checked out quickly for a lot of reasons not directly connected to the game play.  Largely they objected to the themes… and enough so that at least one of them immediately turned around and refunded the game through steam.  I could have reached outside of my circle of friends and found new communities…  but I was left with the awkward situation that my PS4 clan was of course playing on that platform and that I just didn’t really want to have to pester folks to play with me on the PC side.  As a result I solo’d a hell of a lot… and reached a point where to progress at the speed I wanted to progress I needed some people with me.  There was also the technical problem that I just don’t really like playing a third person over the shoulder shooter nearly as much as I enjoyed playing Destiny.  Even more than that…  the thing that was missing was the futurism of Destiny weapons.  None of the guns felt any different than any other gun to me… so ALL SMGs felt the same, ALL LMGs essentially felt the same etc…  they were more stat sticks than something that felt unique or individual.  I still hold hope that at some point that I will be able to get back into the game and push the last bit to hit the level cap and start doing interesting content.

Awesome But Not My Deal

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Overwatch

Sometimes there is a game that I am way more into the game world… and the lore than actually playing it.  This is very much the case with Overwatch.  I love the characters, and all of the storyline that is coming out surrounding the game… and while I enjoy playing the game in small bursts it just never seems to be the game I choose to play on any given night.  As a result I am something ridiculous like level 6… and have only logged a few hours in total playing the game.  I think much like with League of Legends… I would enjoy playing with a team of friends… but then you run into the issue of getting bored with bots… and not having the chops or desire to learn them to play against other pre-made teams.  I also tend to be most happy when I am playing Torbjorn, but always end up playing Reinhardt or Mercy because I end up getting randomed into a team full of Hanzos and Genjis.  I wish I had the burning desire to play this game because I love everything about its world and what it is doing with its narrative.  In truth I find myself mourning the game it could have been…  back when it was originally slated to be a new MMO.  I would to play a Destiny like game… set in the Overwatch universe.

 

Social Structure and MMOs

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I’ve talked off and on about Imzy, and how it is filling a niche for me at least that Google+ used to in that it allows for a sort of long winded discussion that twitter just simply doesn’t.  Yesterday I read a post there that made me realize something I had been trying to sort out in my head for awhile.  The vast majority of my gaming time is spent playing MMOs and I tend to have several that I am in various states of active in at the same time.  However I rarely if ever gain any sort of permanent traction in them, and after a few weeks of play tend to fade away again until the whim hits me to fire it back up.  I go through a cycle of curiosity that leads to excitement…  that leads to confusion and disillusionment that ultimately ends with me leaving once more.  I will pick up a game and for a few days to weeks it is going to be the most interesting thing in the world as I get adjusted to the systems and mechanics again.  However I always reach this point where an overwhelming sense of “what now” hits me.  When that happens I wind out going right back to whatever it is happens to be my core game…  which if we are being honest with me is an alternation of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.  I have been working on my games played during 2016… and decided to extend that out to all of the games that are easy to track thanks to my blog.  There is a clear pattern of when I start getting super excited about WoW I shift away from FFXIV and versa vicea.  There is of course some overlap, but you can see a back and forth pattern that emerges.

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So the question is then…. what do these two games seem to have that so many others don’t.  The answer was sitting there waiting for me to notice. I often talk about games having great communities…  but generally speaking this is in broad terms and extremely non-specific.  Most games have some excellent niches in them, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really do much to add core enjoyment for me.  I keep returning to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV… because those are the games that I have established communities in.  There was a time when I was willing to branch out and meet new people…  plunk myself down in a brand new game and start growing an entirely different infrastructure.  The community that I have right now… is in large part the result of me doing this over and over.  Each new game I go into I meet a whole new cast of people…  but at some point that began to change.  As I gathered a larger and larger core of players… I stopped looking outside to the community nearly as much and instead looking to my guild.  While I am still meeting a lot of new people… they are coming with the pedigree of knowing someone I already know and am familiar with…  which of course speeds up the social footnotes that come from meeting anyone new.

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Last night was a prime example of this happening, because we were raiding in World of Warcraft and had someone pop by and join….  that I had not personally played with in several years.  My personal community in House Stalwart within World of Warcraft seems to have this ability to stay evergreen… and always have a certain chunk of the population that is active and always happy to be there.  House Stalwart my guild has existed for twelve years…  in spite of my actions.  When I left WoW to start playing Rift I tried my best to burn down everything about the game… actively recruiting people away to play this new an exciting game.  I did the same thing for Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online… and countless other games.  However at its core… the guild still remains and not only that… but has remained viable for the purpose of doing interesting end game content the entire time. Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV guild… while considerably younger just seems to endure whatever boom and bust cycles we go through population wise, and in both cases….  I know that I can return at any point and will be welcomed back with open arms.  In truth I think pretty much everyone who has touched either guild feels the same way…  which is why folks are constantly showing up from out of the woodwork and reintegrating back into the core at least for a little while.

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So the problem that exists with nearly every other game…  is I just don’t have anything close to this infrastructure…  nor do I really have the emotional or intellectual strength to try and forge it.  There have been House Stalwart offshoots in damned near every MMO that has existed… or at least as a guild community we have chosen a specific server and faction to all roll on.  However for most… these interludes serve as a vacation from the game they were already playing… and after a break most folks wind up going right back to the familiar.  In a traditional MMO I need to have something that I am building towards, and that object on the horizon is usually doing interesting things with my friends.  So while it is absolutely fun to pop in and play Rift or ArcheAge for a weekend…  I find hard keeping motivated when I know I have no real facilities to do any of the big interesting things… other than pugging.  I am spoiled to be honest, and so many years of not having to PUG has soured my experience as a whole.  Any random person I encounter is somehow tarnished by the memory of all of the good times I have had with my guild throughout the years.  After generations of MMOs… this has lead me to be rather insular in my gaming habits and tending to return to the folks I already know and respect rather than trying to create something new.

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So now days I tend to operate in two modes.  I have the games that I am active in and have deep social connections… and the games that I slink off to when I need to limit my social connectivity and turtle for awhile.  I tend to gobble up whatever new content is available, and then happy drop that game by the wayside as I return to active duty again.  Games like Star Wars the Old Republic, The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online are great for this role, given that they all have deeply engaging stories that you can find yourself completely lost in…  so much so that you forget that you are essentially alone in a crowd of strangers.  There are a lot of games that I think I would enjoy… if I had a similar stable infrastructure.  However at this point… to be honest… folks are pretty stratified in their gaming habits.  I can no longer really make an impassioned argument as to why they should abandon X game that they know and love for Y game that is new and different.  I know this boom and bust cycle all too well at this point… and while it is a hell of a fun ride, to some extent I am getting that fix elsewhere.  For me personally… the Diablo 3 season mechanism perfectly emulates the feeling of “unwrapping” a brand new MMO and rushing with your friends to level as quickly as you can.  This time however we all know it is perfectly fine to fade away once you have achieved your  goals…  because its a game we will all return to again and again as new seasons happen.  I have been the cause of so much frustration and disappointment in my gaming career…  that I guess in some part I would rather slink off alone… than get folks excited about yet another game that I am sure we will all abandon within three months time.  However that same instinct…  is what keeps any of these games from actually gaining traction.  What I realized this week when reading the post on Imzy is just how desperately I need that social infrastructure for me to be able to enjoy a MMO.

FFXIV Early Decisions

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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

Server

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.

Race

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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.

Class

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.

Other Worlds

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Last night marked my return to the Monday night raid thing in Final Fantasy XIV, that I had not been able to attend the last few weeks for one reason or another.  I know most of my blog coverage lately has been about Legion, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for lots of other games.  The intention was to pull together last night and do a lot of raidy bits, but I kinda ruined that.  I’ve written about the struggles to get Luna integrated with our household and the other two cats.  Things are still not going well, and I am not sure if they ever will at this point.  She simply hates other cats, and I cannot seem to get her from charging the other cats when she sees them.  This is a sort of behavior I have never seen in any of the other cats we have had throughout the years.  It has gotten so bad that the only real way we can stop her is by dousing her with a spray bottle.  Which seems to do NOTHING for the long term effect and only distracts her for the moment…  because seconds later she is charging once again.  So the only other option is to keep her shut up in my wife’s office…  which is a somewhat shitty life.  Now we are on that hard precipice of trying to decide what is best for her and what is best for our other two cats.  We have some options, but one of them is of course to return her to the organization we adopted her from.  I’ve never really felt as much as a failure as I do right now because we have tried so many things…  including the extremely expensive pheromone night light things.  In any case…  Tam really likes to just queue the group instead of doing a ready check, and there was a period of time where I was away from the screen dealing with cats.  The end result of too many of these premature queues unfortunately is that I locked the entire group out, at which point we dissolved instead of waiting thirty minutes for it to clear.  We did however at least get a single kill in before that happened, and knocked out some needed content for one of the guildies.

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The other game I have been occasionally poking my head into is Guild Wars 2.  I have a really fraught relationship with this game, but it has been something that I have patched up multiple times and attempted to play.  I say attempted, because no matter how many times I try there is just something that never quite clicks with me.  I made it to about 65 on my own recognizance… and then got boosted due to the daily login system the rest of the way to 80.  While I have tried a bunch of different classes… it feels like the one I still like the most is Warrior in spite of how lousy melee generally feels in this game.  During a recent sale I managed to pick up Heart of Thorns for $18… and I figured it was well worth giving it a try for that price.  With that came with a boost to 80, but I have not figured out what class I actually want to use it on.  During Pax South 2015 when they announced the expansion… I thought Revenant was going to be the class for me.  However the boost allows you a “try before you buy” sort of functionality… and in practice the class just doesn’t feel like anything I am interested in.  It is this strange amalgam between WoW Shaman, Deathknight, and Rogue and in a way that just doesn’t exactly feel like something I want to play.  During the boost it hands you a hammer and a pair of swords, but I am wondering if maybe one of the other weapon combos feels better since as warrior I only really like greatsword and hammer.   In any case I popped in last night for a bit and started actually trying to move my original story forward… I stalled out around 60 and just never tried to pick it back up.  Maybe the story will hook me into the game in a way that the gameplay never actually did.

Regularly Playing: July/August Edition

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I just realized the other day that it had been a long while since I had done one of my regularly playing posts.  The general idea is to true up my sidebar list of games and bring it into alignment with the games that I am actually playing on a fairly regular basis.  Some of these might not be every day occurrences but they represent the regular rotation of games you are likely to see me talking about.  At some point however I fell off the wagon and went the entire month of July without any form of an update.  As a result I am doing this to cover both July and August and get me up to date.

To Those Remaining

World of Warcraft

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I am legitimately playing World of Warcraft more actively than I have in years.  More than likely this is the most seriously I have played since before the launch of Cataclysm.  I am really enjoying the game, and the changes to the various specs… and even enjoying the Legion launch event more.  Over the last few days I have been using this event as a bit of a springboard to help level up some of my sub 100 characters because every two events you participate in seems to be roughly a levels worth of experience, even in the 90s.  So I took my Shadowpriest last night for example from 92 to 94 in two full rounds of the event.  As far as the rest of the game there is still a ton of stuff I want to do, that mostly centers around running older content and collecting appearances.  To say I am looking forward to the Legion Launch is a bit of an understatement.

Final Fantasy XIV

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Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand has fallen a little bit by the wayside.  It is that game that I am logging into only to raid… which ironically is traditionally my stance with World of Warcraft.  I am loving the Monday night raid team, and we are now starting to do more serious content.  I still have little to no drive however to level or gear, at least until the content we are doing requires it.  That might be a thing that happens soon because we have pretty much defeated all of the “easy” end game content and are now starting down the path of the more difficult stuff.  However it feels amazing to have “the band back together” and doing raids together  as a team.

Rift

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At the very least right now I am logging in every day to participate in the Starfall Prophecy launch event, which is namely collecting prophecies that I can then later turn in for rewards.  The pre-order bonus means that we will get access to some awesome stuff like the artifact finding mount, and I want to make sure I don’t miss out on any of that.  Otherwise I need to really hunt for a group of players that are more active.  I don’t want to disband the House Stalwart guild or anything, but I might consider moving Belghast off to another guild, because I would like to see Comet of Ahnket before the expansion lands since the lore seems like it will give me a headstart into understanding what is going on.  Additionally I want to spend a sleepy afternoon at some point doing more Intrepid Adventures.  Those things are just absolutely fun as hell and it is a style of “LFR” that I wish more games would look into implementing.

To The Returning and New

Diablo 3

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As stated when I originally removed it from the list, I knew that it would be a limited time thing.  With the beginning of this month came the launch of Season 7 of Diablo 3, and a return of several of us to actively playing again.  This time around we do not have nearly the throng of players that we did with season six, but myself, Grace and Thalen are all fairly active.  This time feels a little cheap though because we all seemed to opted for the fastest possible clearing class…  or at least our view on that.  The Demon Hunter is a powerhouse and one that you can get up and running insanely quickly.  By the time we dinged 70 we were already pushing content hard and fast, and after roughly a weeks time I am now clearing greater rifts in the 50s like they are a cakewalk.  The only question now is just how serious I am going to be on trying to get that extra stash slot.  Right now there is so much going on, that I am afraid Diablo 3 is going to fall by the wayside.

Pokemon Go

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Pokemon Go is something that did not even exist on my radar when I did the last “Recently Playing” and has been something that has dominated my life since.  I have gone through the stages of grief with this game, and have reached a point where I continue to play it without really understanding why.  I wrote the other day about some of my frustrations, and they are very real.  However still… anytime I leave the house I check for nearby Pokemon each time I stop and get out of the car.  As the heat starts to chill the hell out… and we no longer have 100 degree days I will probably start resuming my evening pokestrolls.  However when it is 100 degrees at 9pm at night… it is just too damned hot to go out roaming too far.  I hope this game gets some much needed changes, because the ones thusfar feel like they are taking it in the wrong direction.  Niantic Labs still does not seem to understand that they made a MMO.

No Man’s Sky

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This one is seriously brand new… but I have a feeling that over the coming weeks it is going to be a new obsession for me.  I called it Interstellar Skyrim, and it invokes the same sort of feelings in me.  The problem being… all of this is pending you can actually get it running on your machine.  There are lots of problems ahead of this title before it reaches serious mass adoption, and I hope that in the coming weeks they can push through them.  To say it has performance issues is the understatement of the century right now, and I am questioning my original plan to get this on the PC.  That said I am committed at this point and still very much enjoying the experience.

To Those Parting

Destiny

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I have so much love for Destiny, but for whatever reason I have drifted away from it in the last few weeks.  In both the month of July and August I have not really played much, so I am temporarily removing it from the list.  I know without a doubt in Mid-September when Rise of Iron hits, that I will be back and actively playing it again.  In the meantime however I feel like I have gotten it out of my system for the moment.  However if my friend Grace suddenly decides to start playing again, I will likely be right back there with guns a blazing.  I think a huge part of it is that I really have not been spending all that much time up in my office where my Playstation 4 is, and instead hanging out on the sofa playing on my laptop.  Much like when I remove Diablo 3 from the list… this is absolutely going to change in the coming months and I am sure I will have yet another resurgence.

ArcheAge

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I feel like ArcheAge is a casualty of simply too much other stuff going on right now.  At the beginning of July I had a bit of a renaissance with this game and managed to push through to fourty six… and then the content seemed to dry up a bit.  The quests are still there, but they seem to be generally less plentiful, and the progress I was making felt a bit bogged down.  As a result this sort of just fell by the wayside, and I am sure at some point I will reignite my fires for this game because at the end of the day I still very much like it.  The biggest thing that came from this last journey is that I realized that PVP isn’t as big of a hurdle as I was expecting.  I have technically spent the last dozen or so levels in pvp enabled areas… and really did not run into a single issue.  Flagged players avoided me, and I avoided them and we continued questing along happily.  At some point I am sure I will return, but for the time being I am removing it from my list of “active” games.

Long Time Coming

Bug Squish

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At the launch of Heavensward we absolutely wrecked us a Sky Whale, but struggled a bit with Ravana.  It was a combination of insane amounts of incoming damage, mixed with the fact that we consistently failed at Final Liberation.  As we all faded away and off into other games, the one big regret many of us had was that we never actually managed to take down a bug.  Last night we finally set that record straight, and defeated Ravana.  In true fashion for our group however, the kill was a complete mess.  In fact I managed to get knocked off right before we finished the fight, because some random roofer was knocking on my door.  In Oklahoma our version of ambulance chasers are fly by night roofers looking to repair “hail damage”, and this guy had an equally questionable name to go with it.  So in my somewhat distracted state I was just a bit too close to one of the attacks that knocks you off the edge.  Ashgar somehow managed to survive alone until we finally pushed him over the edge at the last possible moment.  There is a final final liberation… and we probably killed him as the bar passed the O and was creeping up on the N…  aka seriously the last moment before we all died a horrible death for our hubris.  Of course like is usually the case no axe was dropped… but instead we did manage to pick up a pretty spiffy looking book that reminds me of a strange armored butterfly.

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After downing a bug, we set our sights on Final Coil since a few of our modern assemblage were not with us when we managed to take this down the first time.  We started off with Turn 10… and honestly had to relearn fights as we went.  So much of this happened so long ago… that we maybe partially remembered a mechanic here or there but had largely forgotten the bulk of them.  We outgeared a good deal of the mechanics, but in truth what this really meant is that we could simply chain resurrect players when they died instead of dealing with the proper mechanics.  Ashgar and I attempted to think on our feet and deal with this as best we remembered them…  the primary example of this being the giant metal clad hydra that serves as the boss of Turn 11 who happens to have an attack that will straight up oneshot the current tank if it is not taunted off.  Traditionally we have a firm cut off time of 10pm CST but we went over a little bit.  Tam called our final attempt on Bahamut for the evening, and that happened to be the attempt we pushed across the finish line and got the win.  I am so happy to have been able to come back and take on these fights for the folks who had never seen them.  While I want to keep progressing into content that I have not seen, it is always good to go back and do the stuff we have, just to remember how far we have come.

Legion Lock

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In other news I managed to push across the finish line in a completely different sort of fight.  For whatever reason I have had a fire lit under me to level a bunch of my stragglers up to level 100.  I pushed the Rogue from 92 to 100, Druid from 95 to 100… and then started on my Warlock that happened to be sitting at level 75.  As of last night I managed to nudge him across the line to 100 and even got in a quick LFR before the FFXIV raid.  I was honestly shocked to find out that you could queue for Highmaul LFR at item level 615, and I absolutely did just this.  I am not sure why I am enjoying my warlock so much.  It is just a style of game play that I have never really spent much time doing… and this represents the first “finger wiggler” I have ever legitimately leveled to the current cap.  I’ve had a Priest and Mage temporarily at “cap” but in both of those cases it was a boosted character so it really does not count.  I think part of it as well is that I really want a proper character to start farming transmog items for all of my cloth wearers.  I also want a tailor that I don’t mind grinding cloth on, because the Shadow Priest is absolutely not that character.  Now with the launch of Demon Hunters tonight, I fully expect to be attempting to do that madness…  however in the meantime I am really looking forward to exploring the world with my army of demon buddies.

Dankest Dungeon

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Palace of the Dead

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Last night I was not terribly certain what I would be doing with myself.  For the last several days I have been heavily focused on transmoggy things over in World of Warcraft, but on the same day that patch was released the newest patch landed in Final Fantasy XIV.  Before I left work I saw Tam ask if anyone would be interested in taking a trip into the Palace of the Dead… or as he has begun referring to it the “Dankest Dungeon”.  This had been something on my radar for a long awhile, with the theory being that you had a brand new leveling path for alts.  I have an army of alts and honestly you can only manage so much FATE grinding before you need some other path.  It seems like everyone on my server has gotten the same idea, because apparently to queue for the dungeon you have to be standing in Quarrymill.  I snapped this photo last night but if you looked in any direction you would have seen pretty much the same density of players.  In many ways this reminded me of the wall Revenant’s Toll felt on raid reset day.  Neph wanted to play her Dark Knight, Tam his Black Mage, and Thalen his Machinist…  which left me needing to do the team focused thing and play a healer.  Anyone who knows me very well will know I am not really the best healer in the world.  The irony there is that I started my MMO career in Everquest as a cleric…  the go to healer for any serious content.  I also feel that experience pretty much generated a massive mental block against ever wanting to do it again.

Now I have had a White Mage for a good while, and actually enjoyed myself leveling that.  However for whatever reason the Scholar class has never really clicked with me.  Before the launch of Heavensward I managed to get Arcanist to 30 and actually claim both the Scholar and Summoner jobs but pretty much stalled out shortly thereafter.  I felt like I sucked at the class and simply stopped queuing for dungeons, because for ever Tam Tara there would be five Brayflox that I struggled to deal with.  The interesting thing about the deep dungeon is how it has its own parallel leveling system, and how it apparently invents things that simply don’t exist.  For example when you go in as a job…  you don’t exactly get the path that you took to get to your level.  For example I had Eos and Selene really quickly rather than my Carbunkle friends, which is I guess the same thing that happens when you get leveled down in a dungeon.  On the other side of the equation, Kodra commented about having a serious challenge dealing with trying to function in the dungeon as an Arcanist without the Scholar job.  Arcanists play this strange role of not quite but almost healer, that I remember struggling with when I ran dungeons…  because I was also note quite a dps.  The early levels seem to heavily favor dps, with the last set that we completed before I was literally falling asleep at the keyboard…  needing us to actually do proper group tactics to get through.

Weapons of Light

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So as you move through the dungeon there are chests that you open that do a bunch of different things.  Firstly you get a shared group inventory that contains these items called Pomanders.  These cause various effects both to buff your party, and to counter act the negative effects of the dungeon.  For example there is one that shows the entire map so you can navigate to only the rooms that contain chests, or another that will disable all traps in a floor.  There are still others that are designed to counter act very specific negative effects gained from certain encounters, like Pox that stops all health regeneration.  This one is particularly nasty if placed on the tank…  which it was for a significant period of time last night.  The natural instinct for me is to clear every room, but you are timed from the moment you set foot inside and have sixty minutes to clear ten floors.  At first this seems like an easy task, as we quickly breezed through the early levels.  However once we got onto the third set of floors that timer started to make a big difference, and in theory you are given roughly six minutes per floor.  As a result we started pulling the levels in a minimal clear fashion with our dps fanning out at times to scout ahead and try and determine which path we should go down as a group.  The name of the game is finding the blue and silver chests that contain “gear” upgrades… and by that I mean +1 to your arms and armor score which serve as the gear for the dungeon.

The most interesting thing about the experience is how you gain your abilities during the normal arc that occurs as you level up.  However for whatever reason I thought I would hit a ceiling and simply stop getting abilities when I hit level 31 which is what would have happened were I running dungeons.  Instead I continued to move forward and am now in my 50s gaining heavensward scholar abilities that are unlocked through quests.  So in theory this is a crash course in how to play your class… long before you actually get the abilities.  As to whether or not this worked…  I started out the dungeon run extremely rough and almost all of the healing was coming from Selene the murder fairy.  As we moved forward I started to get the hang of it, and was using adlo like a mad man followed up with some direct healing.  People died, a bunch… or at least more than I am happy with… and we ended up wiping on a really bad luck trap spawn.  However as the night progressed I started feeling significantly more comfortable healing as a scholar.  In theory I would feel much better stepping into a dungeon now than I did before last night.  All in all I got roughly three levels which is a slightly faster progression rate than running dungeons, but not the sort of speed that is going to lead to a lot of chain power leveling.  I had a lot of fun and just wished that we had been able to start earlier in the evening so that I could see the end of the dungeon.  I definitely want to do this again soon.

 

Everything Must Go!

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Rushed Raiding

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Last night was the second running of our reconstituted Monday night group, but unfortunately this time around we were missing a Thalen.  So instead of working through the content we planned on doing with was Ravana Extreme, we opted to start work on the second part of Alexander.  We had seven folks gathered up so we figured grabbing a single pug wouldn’t hurt at all.  We also decided to be up front with the pug, in that they were hanging out with a group of learners.  The most awesome of possible circumstances happened in that the game ended up giving us someone on our own server.  As a result we met a new friend Lux Tenebrae who happened to join up as a semi-permanent 8th last night.  We like to go into fights fairly blind, and then adjust and shift until we have a grasp on the movie parts.  So both of the Alexanders that we completed last night took more than one attempt, but at the same time it feels like we have a firm enough grasp on the fights to be able to come in next week and completely wreck them.  The fights themselves were extremely fun, and pretty much anything with the Alex background music is going to rate high on my radar.  We had to cut things short however because last night began the maintenance period that will eventually get us patch 3.35 which for all intents and purposes is the “Deep Dungeon” patch.  I think every single one of us is looking forward to this as a way of leveling our army of alts.

However once we got out of the raid we had roughly thirty minutes left before the servers reset.  At the not so subtle nudging of Neph we pulled together an expert group and decided to go for it.  By the time we got zoned in we had less than thirty minutes to go and Hullbreaker Hard set out before us.  We had an early wipe due to hubris and standing in stuff, but we recovered quickly and made it through the zone in a good clip.  When we pulled the final boss we had two minutes left on the official clock from the set time of the maintenance period.  The thing is we continued on fighting after time was at least in theory up.  Then something strange happened… firstly Kodra got disconnected, but we were able to finish the boss without him.  We got our loot and zoned out… and then both Tam and I got disconnected at exactly the same moment.  Then moments later Neph did as well.  So it seems like quite literally they were flushing connections one at a time as they cycled through the server preparing to shut it down.  The positive is that three of us managed to get credit for the expert… the negative is that Kodra did not but I am sure we will all be willing to make it up to him later.  This was one of the funnest dungeons I have fun in a long while because we were really pushing ourselves trying to beat the timer… which while we didn’t quite make it we came really damned close.

Farewell to Gold Farms

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The other part of the evening was spent going from character to character and purchasing Smuggled Sack of Gold over and over until I completely depleted my garrison resources.  Yesterday was essentially liquidation night of everything from my garrison that might sell for a decent bit of gold.  I also went to Wrath era Dalaran and checked the various PVP vendors to see if any of that gear was something I might want for transmog purposes given that with today’s patch all of that is getting shifted away from gold to honor based purchases.  On a handful of my characters this also meant scrapping lumber yards to build trading posts…  just to liquidate their resources for cash.  The whole process was an extremely fun atmosphere because quite literally everyone else in the guild was pretty much doing the same.  In a shared chat earlier in the day macros had been posted to speed up the process and there we sat spamming away purchasing gold bags and opening them at the same time.  In many ways it felt like we were all saying goodbye to what ended up being a frustrating expansion, and more than that… saying goodbye to our daily garrison chores.  Today the first of the Legion pre-patches go live and with it a removal of pretty much all of the ways to make gold from the garrison.  This is a bit of a double edged sword because even someone like me, was able to compile a decent amount of gold just by logging in periodically and opening bags of gold from my garrison missions.

That said not a single moment of doing this really felt fun.  It was a chore for me because I felt like if I was not cycling through all eleven characters on Argent Dawn I was essentially “leaving money on the table”.  So doing my Garrison chores mean spending thirty minutes to an hour doing nothing but interacting with NPCs and queuing missions all before doing anything fun or interesting.  So removing the gold from Garrisons will always be removing any leverage it had over me to actually do the crap contained within those instanced walls.  What gets replaced instead is the every so much more exciting mission of farming all of the transmog bits from all of the old world dungeons and raids.  Most of my characters have a fat stack of salvage crates waiting to be opened in the hopes of gathering up new appearances to unlock for the system.  I still think overall the transmog changes are a bit of a half assed system compared to what other games have, but it is a far better system than World of Warcraft currently has.  Tonight will more than likely be spent going character by character and checking things into the transmog system and getting rid of everything that is literally clogging my bank, void storage and inventory.  I started a bit of this last night in selling off any non cosmetic gear that was for alternate specs other than whatever I considered my “main” role on a character.  Getting things in the Transmog system however will pretty much clear up the rest of the space and allow me to actually start saving more interesting items.