Eight Man

Invasion of Fuzzy

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Last night when I got home my mind was entirely on getting everything done so I could go participate in the game that must not be named.  As a result I rushed inside, changed the ferret cage, started dinner etc without really being super observant.  So by the time my wife got home, I was completely oblivious when she asked “what is up with all those fuzzy worms?”.  I threw back on my sandals and went outside and sure enough… we were being invaded by dozens of large black furry caterpillars.  They were climbing all over the garage door in groups of up to a half dozen or so.  Seeing my photo this morning reminded me to do some research. 

Turns out these are Walnut Caterpillars, and they normally forage for food in September/October in the south central region of the United States.  The odd thing is… we have no Walnut/Pecan trees which are the only things they eat.  So at first I was wondering why exactly they decided to try and find food in my front yard… then shortly thereafter I remembered…  over the summer months I helped a neighbor haul out sections of a large tree.  I am wondering if it was a Walnut, and by chopping it down he starved out these little guys.  They could be desperately foraging trying to find any food source in the area… which lead them to spill out into my front yard.  It is odd how cute and both creepy the experience of seeing them roam around my garage door was.

Stone Vigil

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Lately I have been piddling big time in Final Fantasy XIV in an effort to let some of the new crop of players catch up a bit.  As a result I have been leveling both the pugilist and archer quite a bit, and yesterday for awhile I focused on the gladiator and managed to get it to 25.  However since the game that must not be named was not really cooperating… I noticed we had just the right number of people on for the next dungeon Stone Vigil.  I had been hung up in the main storyline until I completed this dungeon, as had Rae so it would be good to get past it so we can continue on.  As I have said before, every so often the game locks you at a story element and you will not receive further quests until you have completed it.

For going into the dungeon relatively cold… it could have gone a lot worse… however it also could have gone a lot better.  There was one complete group wipe, and then another time that we lost me and Dallian our black mage.  However the only times we actually struggled were on the completely egregious trash pulls.  We managed to oneshot every boss in the dungeon so I can console myself with that thought, when I think about the rougher spots.  It feels like the trash difficulty ramped up significantly.  I don’t want to give any spoilers that you cannot already see from the dungeon preview video…  but let me tell you… dragons are assholes in the Final Fantasy world.

Eight Man

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The game has a series of encounters called Guildhests, that essentially try and teach players how to function in larger grouping dynamics.  They educate the players in how to get out of bad things, how to focus fire the worst targets… various necessarily lessons that they will need to participate in larger dungeons.  There are two hests every 5 levels after level 10, and they provide a ton of experience the first time you complete them.  This is something I had almost completely ignored until recently, when the guild made a concerted effort to try and catch everyone up on them.  The reasoning… the second level 40 hest… is the first 8 man content you can encounter.

Most of the dungeons and hests we had run, were 4 man groups… otherwise known as a Light Party in Final Fantasy lingo.  The basic group composition is 1 tank, 1 healer, and 2 dps.  These are pretty simple to fill and get started.  Eight mans on the other hand have a comp that is essentially two light partys… 2 tanks, 2 healers, 4 dps.  The problem with two tank encounters generally is that you have a “main” tank, and an “off” tank.  As we went into this scenario I think both myself and Ashgar the other tank were really hoping that was not going to be the case here.

Much to our enjoyment the encounter was balanced in a way so that one tank was constantly tagging off between a fighting a boss and gathering trash role.  Essentially we got attack from both sides at the same time forcing us to split up into two parties to handle the encounter.  There was a lot of shifting of resources back and forth as the dps burned down one encounter while the next tank gathered up and got solid aggro on the next incoming encounter.  I loved the synergy of the fight and the way that both tanks and both healers had to work in unison to cover each other.  If that was any evidence of what the 8 man raids will look like, I think I am really going to like endgame content in this game.

Wrapping Up

I have to say the more I get into Final Fantasy, the more I am enjoying it.  I went into this with an overwhelming meh feeling, but the longer I play it the more it has sunk its hooks into me.  The leveling of alternate specs needs some work, as once you run out of quests you pretty much just have to grind fates…. but I feel they are working on this.  I hate to say it but this is a game that could definitely benefit from daily quests other than the leves.  I know this sounds odd coming from my post yesterday about game jumping, but I really hope this is a game we can stick with for awhile.  I am really enjoying myself.  I hope you all have a great weekend, and that you get accomplished whatever you need to.

Game Jumping

This morning I am struggling more than a tiny bit to stay focused long enough to actually write up a blog post.  I feel like this is a side effect of my odd night.  Firstly I was feeling extremely drowsy last night, so I had a few cups of coffee…  which never fully woke me out of my slumber.  What it did however is make me completely oblivion to the fact that it is past midnight and I was not in bed yet.  Combine this with the fact that my wife woke me up in the middle of the night over essentially nothing, and we have a recipe for a groggy Bel.  Here is hoping that I can focus long enough to make something intelligible.

Game Jumping

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My post about being a content locust the other day, made me sit down and think.  I am sure I have a bunch of friends who simply do not understand why I and a lot of my friends jump games so regularly.  This is going to be my attempt to understand why the process is so alluring.  Basically launch day is like Christmas morning for me…  the game is so full of possibility.  Everything is new, or at least new enough to lure me into a feeling of being on some grand exploration.  The dungeons are all new, and there are no real guides to get in the way of figuring things out yourself.  Every mob pull is unexpected, every level gained a treasure waiting to be opened as you find out what new abilities you get to play with.

The other thing that makes a game launch absolutely intoxicating is the fact that EVERYONE is playing it.  Everywhere you turn there is a viable group combination, and everyone is excited to be doing them.  Guild chat teems with “do you want to run X dungeon?” and a chorus of “hell yes we do!”.  Everyone is excitedly talking about this thing they found or this trick they just learned.  Lunchtime becomes a discussion of specs and strategy, and every single person is looking forward to getting home and logging into the game to experience more of it.  The launch of a game is like a massive sugar rush where everything is sunshine, rainbows and magical flying ponies.

The Crash

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Like any good sugar rush… you know there is a crash coming, but at the time you simply do not give a shit because it is just so pure and enjoyable.  The problem is… an amazing game experience causes each of us to play in ways that are simply unsustainable for the long run.  We might neglect to do this or that chore, knowing that eventually this will snowball and become a weekend we have to be COMPLETELY offline to take care of.  Additionally we are all logging hours in a mad push to keep up with each other as we barrel through the content at breakneck speeds in search of the next new game high.

When the crash comes… it is sudden.  We go from 30 players online one night, to 15, to 5… as everyone falls into recovery mode.  Some recover their gusto for the game experience a few days or even a week later… but others still are just spent from the climb.  Now is the point that the reality of the game sets in.  As a player you start to notice the features that don’t work quite right, or are generally short sighted or outright missing.  You start to complain politely that the company is not addressing whatever dire need you feel is there.  Finally the feedback loop of players starts to become a chorus… and ultimately a handful of players will determine the game is unplayable and move on.

The Feet Draggers

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In every game launch, there are a handful of friends that for whatever reason will not allow themselves to commit and jump head first into a new game experience.  They have all manner of reservations, namely that folks will not stick with this one…  but in essence they are missing the point.  We are not necessarily looking for the next hundred year game… I think most of us are chasing the high of the launch.  Launching a game is extremely intoxicating… everything is fresh and new and unsullied…  and jumping into that experience is unlike anything else in gaming.  Those timid souls who watch on the side lines, until seeing their friends having so much fun becomes unbearable… they are ultimately missing the best part of the game experience.

By the time they commit and download the game… they have missed the game in its heyday if you will.  They have missed the times when everyone is excited to be doing something, even to the point of begging to do it.  They have missed a time when we did not quite yet have figured out what spec did what, and what ability worked the best.  They have missed a time when every loot drop was full of possibility, and we never knew what wonder might be lurking around the corner.  They have to become excited in a time period when everyone in the guild surrounding them is becoming progressingly less excited.

I always feel the worst for the feet draggers.  They are sold a tale of an undiscovered continent, but by the time they actually commit to getting the game they are delivered a depleted territory instead.  I have a number of friends who will hem-haw and drag their feet trying to keep from committing to anything new that comes around the corner…. only to eventually end up buying it and wondering where the magic went.  The magic is always spent in the hazy days of launch and the weeks leading past it, and that experience where everything literally IS magic and new… is worth any sticker price.

Pax Guildana

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After the initial wave of pioneers have faded away, or at least returned to sustainable play times… we have a period of the guild that I like to refer to “Pax Guildana”.  A quiet peaceful time when those of us who enjoy soloing, cast off the flurry of activity that a launch brings on and return to piddling around with some friendly guild chat to bind us together.  This is the quiet after the storm, and usually remains this way until the excitement builds about a brand new launch on the horizon.  As much as I love the thrill of being a pioneer into a brand new game world… I like this as well.  I like logging in to a peaceful and friendly guild chat, not really knowing what I am going to do that night… but more than likely doing something completely devoid of stress.

Dungeons and group activity still happens, but more out of a sense of needing to get someone this or that thing… or through a quest, than out of the sheer excitement of doing them.  Then one day someone comes to guildchat, talking about how they have discovered some new and amazing continent littered with riches everywhere the eye can see…  and the process begins to build again.  The first waves of scouts leave the mainland and soon after the second and third waves are off exploring this new land, plundering its bounty.  This of course… leaves only the foot draggers to hold down the fort hoping that the excitement will return.  If the basecamp was built well enough…  folks often WILL return…  but not in every case.

Home Base

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For me right now, Rift is my home base and Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn my forward camp.  I can say that my intent is to keep it this way… but at no time can I ever really say for certain how things will change.  Sometimes the forward camp becomes the new home… and we discover a new territory on the horizon.  Other times we fall back to home only to find out the new territory was fallow and uninhabitable.  For the time being, my intent is to play these two games and enjoy each of them as much as I can.  However with so many games on the horizon… at least one of them…  Elder Scrolls Online… a game I have been anxiously awaiting for what feels like years.  I am not sure if Final Fantasy will become the new home, and we will embark from it for the shores of Tamriel… or if that adventure will be sent out from Telara.

Regardless of from where the ships launch, I know that they WILL launch… and likely launch again for Wildstar.  As much as I try and claim that I don’t have interest in a certain game… I too often get caught up in the thrall of the addictive nature of a big game launch.  Having seen these events play out all too many times… it is just too enticing to not join in the fun.  As always I feel horrible for the foot draggers…  because they never get to experience a game in its purest form… but instead are always resigned to get the slightly used version of the game in the process.  I keep thinking one of these days… one of these games they will get hooked on the launch process as well because they will jump into it whole heartedly with no reservations.  It will only be then, that they truly understand why people jump from game to game.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to get on the road, but before doing so I need to pack my laptop and feed the animals.  This Friday I have traded the super awkward coffee for a super awkward meeting.  Not terribly looking forward to it, but we must do what we must do.  I hope you all have a great weekend.  Tonight I will be participating in something NDA restricted, so tomorrow morning I will have to come up with something interesting to say… that is in no way related to what I did last night.  Hopefully inspiration will find me between now and then.

Stalwart Locusts

Good morning you happy people in digital land.  I am having one of those mornings where I am questioning why exactly I put myself through this every day.  Not to be an intentional bummer, but this takes a lot of fortitude to keep doing this every single morning regardless of if I have something to say or not.  I am just afraid if I stop it, for even one morning I will slip back into month long absences.  I feel like I need the routine to keep me moving forward.  I would really like to get a full year of daily posts, so for now that is my goal.

I’m a Jerk

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I have to say, lately I have been feeling progressively worse about myself, so maybe this is just a downer of a post.  Primarily the source of my lament, has been that I have been essentially non-existent over in Rift.  I put all this effort and time into building an amazing instance of House Stalwart over there… and now so many of us are playing Final Fantasy XIV that it has almost over night become a ghost town.  I feel like each and every one of us still like Rift and still enjoy it, we are just wrapped up in the thrall of the new shiny object in front of us.

To make matters even worse…  Fynralyl and Psynister are being their amazingly awesome selves like normal…  and ended up pushing the guild bank fund over the top and we were able to afford the third guild vault tab.  However being the absentee leader like I have been…  it took me a few days to pop in and purchase it, then forgot to give anyone access to it.  I apparently did a piss poor job of promoting them to officers, only hitting a handful of characters for each of them.  So generally I have been a pretty lousy person of late.

I feel generally conflicted.  Firstly I still love Rift and enjoy it, and want the guild to be doing awesome things.  Much like Everquest 2, Rift is one of those games that I have always cycled back to… and since the release of the game there is only a three month stretch where I have not been playing it.  So I guess in the back of my mind I know it will always be there waiting for me.  The problem is… the people currently playing it may or may not.  Even if I am not around much, I still think breaking out and forming a permanent House Stalwart guild was a good thing for those times when the guild is super active.

Stalwart Locusts

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The sad truth of House Stalwart is it is really a tale of two guilds.  The first is a group of WoW players that have remained thoroughly devoted to that game since release and continue playing it or returning to it.  The second guild is the large roaming band of “content locusts”, that consume the content in a game only to move on to the next tasty field when it presents itself.  So as a result this guild is this massive amorphous war band that roams across the countryside pillaging things in our wake.  It might not be the most pleasant metaphor, but considering we now have about 30 people in Final Fantasy XIV whereas we had around 30 active people in Rift previously… it seems appropriate.

In part this is my fault, but in part this is just the nature of most “post-wow” players.  Once we dissolved the ties to one game, it changed the way we viewed games in general.  The fact that Stalwart is so large and so broad and ever changing… means we always have a group of people playing whatever game the people seem to want to be playing.  So when a new game comes out there are always a dozen or so people amped and ready to play it.  It doesn’t so much feel like we are jumping games, but more than we are just continuing the same ties we have always played with… somewhere else.

For me personally… leaving WoW changed my perspectives a lot.  Essentially I made a promise to myself that I would play whatever happened to be the most enjoyable for me at any given moment.  As a result I have played a ton of cool games, and met an ever expanding cast of characters in the process.  I now have so many life long friends that I have today, that I NEVER would have had if I had not given in to my wanderlust and experienced new worlds with different groups of new people.  But all of this said… I still feel like an ass when I am off playing something other than a fragment of Stalwart is playing.

Big Apology

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I guess in part, today’s post is a huge apology to those playing Rift that have noticed the active player base in the guild shrink significantly over the last few weeks.  I don’t think any of us are “done” with Rift, this is just something that happens from time to time with Stalwart.  We find a new shiny and go off and play it together.  I have a years subscription to Rift, so I won’t be going anywhere forever, I just have so many things that I want to do in Eorzea.  So many new sights to see, experiences to experience and adventures to conquer.

I still plan on trying to marshal the troops to logging back in on Wednesday nights for dungeons or rifts or whatever happens to occur.  My hope is to single that out on the calendar as “Rift night”.  Additionally as the leveling curve winds down a bit in FFXIV, I hope to push my rogue up on the weekends… because quite frankly leveling in Rift is a relaxing experience for me.  Most of the time in FFXIV has been a LOT of dungeon running, and since I am one of two tank mains… I feel deeply obligated to all the friends that are playing the game.

This is ultimately what always complicates my gaming experience.  The feeling of constant split loyalty… since there has never been a period of time when ALL of my friends happen to be in the same place at the same time.  Fortunately or unfortunately depending on your point of view… I am the leader of House Stalwart agnostic of whatever game folks happen to be playing.  It has and likely always will be a multi-gaming community, more so than just a single gaming guild.  As games come and go the important thing to me is the community of players that we have cobbled together.  That is what is eternal, and so long as we remain friends there will always be another opportunity to play together around the corner.

Wrapping Up

Sitting down this morning I had no intent of writing a post like this, but I guess it has been weighing heavily on my mind.  Hopefully it was not too big of a downer for the majority of my readers.  It still feels odd most of the time that anyone reads these ramblings.  I will be over in Rift tonight, trying to dislodge anyone I can from FFXIV in the process.  I have no clue at all what we will be doing, but I figure some opportunity will present itself.  I hope you all have a great week, and those of you who are playing it… I hope I see you in Rift tonight.

Tips For Eorzea: Part 2

Good morning you happy people in internet land.  I had another wonderful night of not being able to shut off my brain… and as a result getting to sleep well after midnight.  As was posted as a comment yesterday, I had been considering Melatonin for some time… just was not sure if I wanted to cross that threshold yet.  However it is beginning to sound like something I need or want to do.  Sleep should not be something you have to struggle to get right?

Lowbie Dungeons

sastasha-ffxiv-1293 I have two friends that have just started out in the game recently, and have reached the point in the main story quest where they begin entering a series of three dungeons.  Lethbridge is playing a Gladiator tank, and Cylladora is playing a Thaumaturgist…  so since I almost always play a tank I needed something else to run with them.  As a result yesterday I pushed my Archer up to level 16 so I could ride along for the fun.  Essentially I have been trying to level Pugilist and Archer so that I could start getting rid of all the low level disciple of war gear that I had laying around and lining my vaults.  My hope is to push both up to 20ish soon, which will greatly reduce the amount of gear I have laying around.

Leth had already run Sastasha before, but to pick up Cyl in the chain we started back with that one again.  After that we continued the storyline into Tam-Tara Deepcroft, but as it was getting late we decided to save Copperbell until tonight.  All in all they were really smooth runs.  I snagged Warenwolf to heal and he decided to use the opportunity to push up his Arcanist a bit.  The gear that dropped seemed almost tailor made for our party, and both Leth and Cyl walked away with a ton of upgrades for their class.  Once again the Foestriker chest has eluded our groups, as to the best of my knowledge it has never actually dropped for anyone.

Tips For Eorzea

Yesterday when I was writing out the various tips it felt like I had a limitless font of them… this morning not so much.  Lets see if I can dig into my bag and find something worth sharing with the class.

Quest Sparingly

One of the awesome things about this game is that you can play every class, every craft, and every gatherer on the same character.  Meaning that while you are running this dungeon you can snap up drops for a class you might play later on instead of letting them rot.  The problem with this is however you have only one set of quests to get you through the levels.  As a result most of our guild is suggesting that you do as few quests as needed to get to your level.  Focus on the main storyline quest, and then supplement it with FATEs and Levequests to get through the levels.

This is an noble goal, and one I have not followed myself.  I am seeing the negative results of having absolutely no quests to support me as I level my various alternate classes.  The only problem is that in the late 30s and 40s this concept seems to completely break down.  There are simply not enough quests to level your character by quests alone throughout the Coerthas region.  So get familiar with FATE grinding, and do it whenever possible.

FATE Contribution

FATEs are random spawning world events much like Rifts or the events in Guild Wars two.  As a result you are competing with other players to receive a good contribution score.  You are ranked based on a “medal” system of Bronze, Silver or Gold.  There are all sorts of strategies you can employ to help out your chances of getting high marks.  Firstly if you have an AOE spell that tags lots of mobs at the same time… this is almost certain to result in a good score.  This is why Thaumaturgists seem to do so well with their spamming of Ice 2.

However Raw dps isn’t really the answer per say.  The Contribution score seems to be highly based on your unmodified threat values.  As a result, tanks and healers do extremely well in getting high contribution.  As a tank you can spam your AOE threat abilities and since Flash is cross class, it is totally a valid technique to add it to your bar as a dps that does NOT have a high threat AOE ability.  I plan on doing this for my pugilist since at low levels they struggle in FATEs quite a bit.  The caveat here is to make sure you can handle the attention.  I would only Flash spam a FATE that has high participation.

Main Story Locks Content

This is a concept I noticed early on.  Essentially if you are not keeping up with your main storyline quest, you will reach a point where you are unable to get any quest in an area other than Levequests.  Each storyline quest acts as a threshold to unlock a new set of zone quests.  The game intends you to do the three dungeon crawl of Sastasha, Tam-Tara Deepcroft and Copperbell Mines starting at level 15.  If you are past that level and you have yet to do those dungeons… chances are you are going to get content locked before long.  After completing that story arc, you will suddenly have access to hundreds of quests that you simply did not know existed before.  There will be multiple points in the storyline where this occurs.  Just be aware of it and stay always focused on the main storyline.

Quest Direction

It took me an awfully long time to figure this one out, and honestly had a guild member not pointed this out I would have never noticed it.  In the on screen quest tracker, if you click on the name of a quest it functions much like you would expect and opens your quest journal for that quest entry.  However if you click on the quest text it opens your map… and tells you exactly what zone you need to be in to complete the quest.  From this map screen if you drill down into the zones it will show you exactly which quest markers are related to the specific quest.  Additionally if a quest requires you to do something like use an item on an object in the world… there will be a little item use icon in the quest tracker as well.  You can target the item in the world and then click the icon in the quest tracker to use it.

Hunt Log

If you hit H in the game interface it will bring up your hunt log.  This is probably one of my favorite features in the game.  Every 10 levels of a specific class you get a new log to work on.  Essentially you complete your log by hunting specific critters scattered throughout the world.  The first two logs will primarily be in whatever region of the world you started, be it Noscea, Thanalan or the Shroud.  This will involve some searching because some of the mobs on the list are pretty rare or only found in specific camps.  However for completing each step in the log you get a massive experience boost.  I tend to use these as a way to smooth the transition between levels, as focusing on the hunting log is certain to provide a much needing xp boost.

Grand Companies

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At a specific point in the storyline you will be asked to pick a Grand Company.  Each of the three major cities are represented by a Grand Company.  In Gridania you have the Order of the Twin Adder, represented above by the member decked out in yellow.  For Uldah you have the Immortal Flames, represented by the member in dark green.  Finally in Limsa you have the Maelstrom, represented above by the member in deep red.  While your starter city is determined by your class, you can freely choose which Grand Company you wish to tie your allegiance to and as a result which city you will be spending a large amount of your time in.

While you are get to Halitali before you open up your Grand Company… I would highly suggest against it.  Just like each class has a hunt log, so do Grand Companies.  A large number of the monsters needed for these hunt logs occur in dungeons, and the first entries of such seem to be Halitali for all of the different companies.  Additionally once you have joined a company you begin collecting seals, which are the currency for rank promotions and gear.  You can earn these by completing your companies hunt log events, by doing special grand company leves, or from random FATEs out in the world. 

Promotions are available in multiple tiers, with three sub promotions per tier.  Each tier unlocks access to a new hunt log, and a new level range of gear.  So make sure you are not neglecting your promotions as you level.  Grand company gear is some of the best gear you can get at any level.  The weapons tend to be 2-3 steps above a similar item that you could get from crafting or a dungeon.  If you are spending any amount of time doing FATEs you should have plenty of seals to go around and spend on promotions and gear.

FATE Grinding

Running FATEs back to back is hands down the fastest way to level.  When working on my Dragoon I managed to do 22 to 32 in a few hours time by hanging out in the South Shroud and hitting all the various FATEs that occur there.  The thing that you will learn is that not all fates and zones for that matter are created equal.  There seems to be certain areas that are simply better for running FATEs and as a result have a higher density of players running them… which in turn causes them to spawn faster.  Really solid FATEs are available in almost every zone…  and there is reason to go visit most of the zones because there is generally something special that drops in each from a fate… usually pets.  However here is a basic list of what zones you should be in if you are wanting to power through a good number of FATEs.

  • 10-20 – Aleport – Western La Noscea
  • 18-32 – Quarrymill – South Shroud
  • 30-38 – Costa Del Sol – Eastern La Noscea
  • 38-43 – Dragonhead – Coerthas Highlands
  • 43-50 – Revenant’s Toll (Mor Dhona)

These are the zones that generally have the highest density of players.  There are various other zones that seem to have a really good FATE range… like East Shroud around Hawthorne’s hut… but it has the same basic level range as Aleport.  Additionally I have spent a good amount of time running fates out of Camp Drybone in Eastern Thanalan.  So please know that the above list is just a golden path, there are lots of other zones and lots of other fates that are worth doing.

Wrapping Up

Well I managed to ramble on at length again and fill up another list of tips about Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn.  I am not sure if I have enough left in me to do a part three… most likely not immediately following these first two.  At this point I feel as though I have put on a ton of levels in the game.  Right now Belghast Sternblade is a 41 Warrior, 33 Dragoon, 23 Gladiator, 18 Archer, 16 Puglist, 8 Thaumaturge, and finally 10 Miner.  Currently my next mini-goal is to get Archer to 30 and pick up the Bard job as well.  I hope you all have a great day, and if you end up trying out the game make sure you try character creation in the morning.  The vast number of servers seem to be unlocked them, but locked during prime time hours.

Tips For Eorzea: Part 1

Good morning all you happy people in digital land.  I am fairly sleepy this morning, as last night I had to resort to some Motrin PM to shut my brain off.  I really hate Sunday as a construct… I always have trouble switching back over to week day mode after the freedom a weekend brings.  My brain is never quite willing to give up its freedom, and as a result always ends up fighting me a bit… namely in trying to keep me awake rather than sleeping.  Unfortunately having to resort to a minor sleep aid like I did last night also means I am going to be overly groggy in the morning.

Cactuar Returns

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For the last several weeks since the release of Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn, the server we all play on has been locked down tight from new character creation.  After the Wednesday/Thursday maintenance this eased up a bit… but only briefly.  Right now it appears like character creation is open early in the morning for most of the US realms, but locks down tight again as the day goes on.  Over the weekend we managed to get five new players that had been waiting to create characters into the game and onto our server.

One of them I was scared had messed up.  They decided they did not want to start the class they started, so as a result they deleted the character to create a new one.  When they did this the list showed that Cactuar was still open for new character creation.  However by the time they redesigned the character and went to create it… it was locked down tight.  Essentially locking them out of being able to play at all Friday evening.  Luckily however at 5 am the next morning they were able to get in, create the character and get going again.

Tips For Eorzea

I thought today I would take a few minutes to rattle on about various tidbits I have either learned or wish I had known before I started my characters.  None of these are rocket surgery, but various little things I have picked up along the way.  I am going to try my best to make them spoiler free, however I cannot guarantee there won’t be any tidbits of information that are mildly spoilery at least in the general flow of the game.

Aethernet

In major hubs there are Aetheryte crystals.  These allow you to teleport back and forth between them.  In the three major cities, there are also smaller Aethernet crystals as well.  As you roam through the city, make sure you attune to each of these.  When you have collected a full set for a city, it additionally unlocks teleports to the major gateways into the city.   This becomes super handy as you are questing and need to go back out into the world to one of the specific destinations.  Generally speaking these teleports will take you to each of the various guilds and locations in the city, as well as the exits to the various zones that connect to the city.

Favored Destinations

When you attune to the Aetheryte crystal network, it allows you several options.  One of these is to set it as a favored destination.  Doing this greatly reduces the cost of teleporting to that location.  Your teleportation cost is based on a number of factors, but is primarily based on how far away you are from the zone.  What I generally suggest is that you favorite the three hub cities Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, and Uldah.  Once you have unlocked the ability to travel between them, you will spend quite a bit of your time late in the game popping back and forth between the various areas of the world.  Once you reach the hub, you can usually travel to whatever zone you need to go to via the Chocobo network.

Set Nearby Home Point

Death in Eorzea tends to come swiftly and unexpectedly.  Almost all of the deaths I have taken that are not inside of instances, have been because I got suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed.  When you die, you get teleported back to your home destination.  At the beginning this will be your home city, however as you move throughout the world you can set your bind point to any of the large aetheryte crystals that are located in major cities… at least one per zone.  I would highly suggest that you bind wherever you happen to be hunting.  That way when you die you return to a place nearby and not someplace you will have to teleport out of to get back to doing whatever you needed to do.

Starter Gear

One of the key features that sets Final Fantasy XIV ARR apart from other games is the ability to literally do anything in the game on one character.  You can be every class, job and trade profession.  You enter the game in a set of gear that is based on your races native appearance, that can be equipped by any class or trade.  Don’t make the mistake I did and sell this… because each time you pick up a new class you start back at level 1, and therefor can only equip level 1 gear.  You can repurchase this gear from the independent trader (name varies per town) in your starter city, but it is just easier to say for the first little bit don’t sell ANY gear you might get.

Armoury Chest

Any equippable items you pick up get saved into a special inventory called the “Armoury Chest”.  This allows you to carry quite a bit of gear with you at any given time.  You have 25 slots available per individual armor type… that means 25 chests, 25 gloves, etc.  The gear you collect in one class may be useable by other classes so as you decide to multi-class you have lots of resources to draw upon.  Later on you will be able to break down spirit bonded items into Materia, which will become important for outfitting your gear and improving it.  As a result I highly suggest you do not sell gear, but instead save it until you have the ability to break it down.

Trade Coins

Almost every quest you complete in Eorzea gives you the option of receiving items or trade coins.  Now the game never refers to them by the term trade coin, but that is essentially what they are… so I have begun referring to them that way.  Essentially you have various types of Allagan coins… these come in various denominations Tin, Bronze, Silver, Gold… and there might be higher ones that I have not encountered.  They all have a base value on the vendor, Tin 10 gil, Bronze 100 gil, Silver 500 gil, Gold 2500 gil.  The gear you get from quests is exactly the same as what you can get from the market.  Often times you can get a piece of gear far cheaper than the amount of gil offered by completing the quest.  As a result keep tabs on the prices for the gear for your level range.  In most cases I would highly suggest taking the trade coins in lieu of gear.  You will almost always be able to purchase the items cheaper.

Levequests

Very early in the process of the story, you will unlock the Levemete NPCs.  They offer a type of quest called a Levequest.  These can be used to level crafting, tradeskills… and later on you can get special versions of them that will raise your standing with the various grand companies.  You get an allotment of 6 per day, and these stack up until you have reached 100.  They are an amazing source of gil, and oddly enough really solid source of gear.  Since I just suggested that you take the trade coins over the items in a quest… usually the same type of item is being awarded as a bonus for levequests as well.  So make sure you do the quest to unlock each areas Leves as you travel around the world.  Often times you can pick up gear for free by completing these. Additionally if you scale up the difficulty level by one step, you are almost always rewarded a bonus chest, and these have a chance at Aetherial versions of the normal crafted items.  Ultimately these will be your best source of upgrades for some time.

Guildhests

Do not neglect Guildhests, I am finding this out the hard way.  Around the same time as you unlock Leves in general, you unlock a special multi-player version of a Levequest, called a Guildhest.  These are essentially small dungeon like encounters that are designed to teach players the mechanics needed to succeed in Eorzea.  They start at around level 10, and will offer two new Guildhests every 5 levels.  The gotcha here that I am finding out, is to continue progressing you must have done all the previous ones.  As a result my lovely guildmates helped catch me up by running level 10-30 last night.  Once you reach the 40 quests, they start being 8 man instead of 4 man.  So I highly suggest you do these as part of your normal questing rotation.  They reward massive amounts of xp if you are doing them at the level they are offered.

Wrapping Up

I can already see this is going to have to be a multi-part post as I have a ton more things to write about… and have run out of my allotted morning writing time.  Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn is a deeply nuanced game, and with that there are lots of little pitfalls alone the way.  I will be trying to collect the various bits of information and sharing them in these bit info dump posts.  However now I need to go pack up my laptop and get on the road.  I hope you all have a great day and that it goes extremely smoothly.  I have numerous things waiting on me at work, so I figure I better get on with that.

Trade Cartels

Forgive me father for I have sinned… it is roughly 8 pm before I am sitting down to write today’s blog post.  In my defense I have been out running around all day.  Firstly to my hometown to go see my grandmother, and then later gallivanting all around the countryside in search of cheap Legos.  But that is a tale for another day… namely tomorrow.  Today I have a topic I have been wanting to write about since yesterday afternoon.  I just have failed miserably at being near a computer today to be able to do so.

Trade Cartels

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Yesterday a number of us got into a rather length discussion over twitter relating to my loot commentary, or on the lack thereof in Final Fantasy XIV.  Shortly into the back and forth I got this comment from @DesslynStorm.  Essentially to paragraph, they believe that all loot should come from crafters.  I guess in an idyllic situation this would probably be an alright thing.  The problem is that I have seen far too many games where a specific branch of crafters got a monopoly on a specific item and abused the hell out of it.

I love crafting systems and by extension generally love crafters, but in every game I have played where specific items were ONLY obtained through crafters, the Trade Cartel has reared its ugly head.  Essentially this is when a group of crafters collude to price fix a specific item so that everyone can turn a specific profit on it.  Without a doubt the most heinous of these has generally been the bag makers in each game I have played.

The Threats

On Argent Dawn in World of Warcraft, my warrior was a bit of an oddball.  He was an enchanter and tailor, namely so that I could have someone to make bags.  Bag space is one of those things that I put a premium on in whatever game I happen to be playing, and will generally go to whatever lengths it takes to make sure my characters have a decent amount of them.  I occasionally made a bag and threw it up on the auction house undercutting the competition by a large margin.  It was at this point I was approached by my first trade cartel.

A seemingly reasonable mage mentioned that I really should price my bags higher.  I told him that I was making a profit and I wanted them to move quickly, so I was fine with where they were priced.  This is the point at which the threats started pouring in… another crafter joined sending me tells.  Going so far as claiming that they would ruin me on the server.  Something that I laughed off because at this point I had been the leader of one of the largest guilds on the server for roughly three years.  I was in a pretty active raid and knew the guild leaders of most of the other larger guilds personally.

The Retaliation

But the I am pretty sure that had it been real life, the next step would have been them trying to send someone over to my house to break my knee caps.   They proceeded to start buying the bags and relisting them whenever i posted a new one.  So at this point I made it my life’s work for the next few days to flood the market with cheap bags.  If I was online I was farming humanoids for cloth and turning around and dumping them on the market at cost.  No one puts babby in a corner!  For awhile they were ravenously snapping them up, but at some point they lost their fervor and simply waited for me to get bored.

I imagine that I had run them out of their current gold, and probably made a handful of enemies for life.  But I have encountered to a lesser extent these price fixing schemes in several other MMOs.  Each time my instinct is to break the regime because I have seen what it is like when someone has fixed the market.  Early on in the life of Argent Dawn, there was a single player that had almost all of the rare enchants.  He was part of a big raid guild on my server, and as a result he had a few of the raid drop only patterns that no one else seemed to have.  Additionally he could do crusader in a time when it was not commonly known where that dropped.

Since he had 100% of the market on these enchants, he charged truly ridiculous prices.  When I finally figured out where Crusader dropped… I decided to break up his monopoly, but standing in Ironforge (the only auction zone at the time) and offering free crusader enchants so long as mats were provided.  Again came the threats, because I was cutting into his profit margins.  I am sure I had nothing to do with it, but as more people started offering free enchants with mats, he ultimately quit the server and went elsewhere.  Functionally I just really dislike when someone tries to profit unfairly on others.

Exclusivity is Bad

If you had a game where the only source of gear were through the crafters, the average player would end up having to pay far more than they do currently to outfit themselves.  I realize that Desslyn’s experience comes mostly from Star Wars Galaxies… and I feel that game is vastly different from the modern MMO in innumerable ways.  Additionally I feel like the average player within that community had a level of altruism that we will likely never see again.  So I feel like what worked in SWG will never likely work again in another game.

An example in Everquest 2, crafters can create what is arguably the best available gear in many occasions, the Master-crafted sets that occur every 10 levels.  These require some rare materials, but not so rare that they are unattainable.  Since only crafters are the source of them, they have total control over the market for them.  On the brokerage system, almost all gear is extremely reasonably priced, however a level 10 set of Mastercrafted gear will go for several hundred times the amount of gold a level 10 character would ever have to spend without buying currency.  Crafters have priced the privilege of having a good matched set of gear out of the hands of most players.

Multiple Paths

My personal stance is that all games should have multiple paths to acquire your gear.  I feel like different kinds of players want to play the game in fundamentally different ways.  Players who deeply care about crafting for the sake of crafting…. will always do it regardless if they can profiteer from it.  I feel like there should be viable options for end game gear through Crafting, Quests, Exploration, PVP, Dungeons and Raiding.  Any given player may like a mix of those things, and giving multiple options to achieve their goals in a game, allows each person to tailor their journey to suit their own tastes.

I have always thought it would be great, if you could really gain the best possible gear… by doing a series of extremely long and arduous epic quests.  By the same token I think it would be cool if crafters could complete a series of trials to synthesize rare materials and with that craft top end gear as well.  I see it as a risk vs time type equation.  Dungeon and Raid loot might be instance, but it requires a large group and repeated running to get everything you want.  Whereas with quests and crafting, it is more a cast of slow and steady wins the race… the end goal is achievable but likely takes a considerably longer amount of time.

Fallacy of Profit

I feel like the hidden root of the whole concept that all good gear should come from crafters, is that crafters by default should be able to make large amounts of profit from their trade.  This is just a foreign concept to me.  I am one of those people that crafts because I enjoy the relaxation sometimes of crafting.  I am not a rabid crafter, but when I do craft I tend to do it because I like outfitting my friends in gear.  In Rift I regularly farm up cloth to set new players and new characters up with a full set of 24 slot bags to begin their journey.  I enjoy making things for people, and making them happy in the process.

So to view crafting from the point of a cold profit based calculus just makes no sense to me.  Sure I feel like crafters should be able to get their money out of the items they make and maybe make a meager profit…  but I feel if you go into a trade skill with the purpose of making money you are likely crafting for the wrong reasons.  Crafting and the self reliance that it gives you should ultimately be its own reward without any need to tie it to monetary gain.  So I guess I question the notion that a certain class of crafter has that they should automatically be able to get rich quick through their crafting endeavors.

Wrapping Up

I feel as though I rattled on more than enough.  Additionally I am tired and sore from the days excursion.  Right now I want to relax on the sofa and boot up Final Fantasy.  One of my good friends managed to get onto Cactuar so I want to get him invited to the guild.  Tomorrow hopefully will be a much more relaxing day.   I hope all of you had a great day and that the weekend has turned out to be awesome.

I Love Loot

Good morning you happy denizens of the interwebs.  Getting a slightly slow start this morning, as I was trying to find my old pair of 10 eyelet Doc Martens.  Not sure why, but lately I have been wanting to wear them.  Positive is I found a pair of Docs, but negative is I did not in fact find the ones I was looking for.  I guess that is what happens when you don’t wear them for a decade.  Today is going to be oddly busy, with coffee in the morning with some local web developers… and a dinner at night for a friend of hours.  Hopefully all the points in-between are relatively uneventful.

Web Games

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This week a few significant web based games have been in the social discussion mill, namely folks remembering Glitch fondly and talking about the official launch of Card Hunter.  Both of them are extremely fun little games…  but I think in both cases they miss the boat a bit by being web based games in the first place.  By day I am a web developer, and I maintain a large infrastructure of websites…  so I am deeply committed to the “web” as a technology, but I simply do not feel like it is a great platform for the delivery of games, or at least it is not for me.  I guess I should explain my position a bit more than that.

Essentially the only time I can play a web based game, is when I am sitting at one of my computers at home.  I have web access almost 24/7, but I sadly do not have one of those jobs where I can fuck off all day long playing web games.  So this pretty much leaves my time to play these games when I am sitting at home… and if I am at home I have access to hardware that will run “real” games.  So in that case, there is almost never a time where I would prefer to play a browser based title than something more engaging and visceral.

Glitch was a really awesome game, and I actually logged a couple dozen hours playing it.  I was one of the beta testers and forced myself to sit down at least once a week and spend a few hours engaged with it.  The great tragedy of that game for me… is that it was not mobile based.  If I had that game on my phone, I would still be playing it… and likely it would have had none of the funding issues that eventually lead it to close.  Mobile is totally the ideal platform for this type of game, because I can access it in a way when I am in the break room, or standing around waiting for my wife to finish shopping…  essentially I can play it when I am NOT near a real computer.

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Card Hunter I fear will be a similar tragedy.  It also is a really fun game, but when I have to choose between playing it and playing a “real” game, it is going to lose out every time because quite frankly the experience is not good enough to compete with FFXIV, Rift, Borderlands 2, Diablo 3 or whatever happens to be my current game of heavy rotation.  It is a super cool concept, and I love the D&D red box era artwork and nifty feel of it all.  However the fact that it is a completely flash based game, means it will always be relegated to the land of novelty, and not something folks will seriously latch onto… since for the most part just like Glitch it will be unplayable on mobile devices.

For the longest time I thought I was maybe the only one that felt this way, but the other night talking about Card Hunter among my friends… we all expressed a similar feeling of “rather play a real game” if we had access to our home computer.  The niche for these games seems to be for people who can play them at their workplace to be honest.  Since that is often considered bad behavior and is punished in most workplaces… I feel like that is maybe a bad niche to latch yourselves onto.  The problem with anything web based is generally that as a society we see web content as “free”, so I feel like trying to extract a viable payment model from anything web based is going to be a long term challenge as well.

Quite honestly I wish Card Hunter the best of luck.  I think it is a really compelling game, I just wish I had it on my phone or tablet rather than having to play it on a computer.  I would love to be able to say that I will likely play it…but I know based on past track records it is the type of game I would play one night on a whim and then never play again.  If I could boot this up while out in the world and waiting on someone… then hell yes I would likely be playing it.  I just think this is going to be the long term issue with web based games that cannot easily be played on a mobile client.  I hate to say it, but I think Flash is just dead as far as a viable game development technology, unless they can get broader mobile device support.

Shiny Seeker

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Today is ending up as a day to talk about all the things I have wanted to talk about… but just have not quite made it to doing so.  These all seem like partial themes left on the cutting room floor.  Lately I have been blogging a lot about FFXIV, and how much I have been enjoying it.  This is still very much the case and last night I had fun running Sunken Temple of Qarn as my Warrior and then later on switched to my Dragoon to dps Brayflox’s Longstop.  The simple fact that is something I can do without switching characters… is pretty awesome by its own light.  Today however I am not going to gush on the game… but instead talk about one of the problems I have with it.

One of the things that hooked me on Everquest and MMOs in the first place was unpredictable loot.  As much as I might complain about random number generators… I have always loved that rare chance of getting something truly amazing from killing a monster.  All thought my life, I have had a fascination with randomized systems.  When I worked in a card and comic shop, I used to have an uncanny knack for being able to pull that rare foil card from a pack, or getting whatever happened to be the high priced rookie card.  Randomized loot in MMOs is this same thing multiplied over and over, and I love it dearly.

The problem with Final Fantasy A Realm Reborn… is there really is no loot to speak of from killing monsters.  Sure you can get crafting material drops, and these end up cluttering your bags… but you will never get a piece of useable gear, a rare pattern or an adorable pet from killing monsters.  In fact the number of opportunities for you to get items from your adventures is extremely limited at all.  Essentially you can get them as quest rewards, or from chests that spawn while doing leves and dungeons.  The chests give me a little shot of randomized loot goodness…  but it almost feels too few and far between.

I Love Loot

While I truly do love this game already, and I can see myself playing it for a long time.  It will never fully replace games like Rift for me.  Even now I am more than happy to log into rift and roam around killing random things… because with each mob I kill I have a chance of getting truly phenomenal.  I have talked at length about my bloodlust when it comes to games…  the desire to see what the next mob might drop feeds into this immensely.  While I am still likely to kill random mobs, I find it to be happening far less frequently in Eorzea since I am neither sufficiently rewarded by experience or by loot for doing so.  So it turns out that my bloodlust is a fairly complicated formula that does in fact take reward into account.

Honestly all they would really need to do to make me completely happy, is make it so that there is a random chance of one of the chests spawning after killing a mob.  Even a 1 in 100 chance would be more than enough to make me happily roam the countryside slaughtering families of goblins and kobolds.  Randomized loot is the thing that keeps me going out into the world and killing things for the off chance of getting something really cool that I can use on an alternate spec.  So my ultimate fear is that there will be a time where the novelty of this loot-less system wears off and I simply don’t want to play any longer.

Confused Economy

Another huge concern of mine is the economy in general.  The only way to get Gil, is from doing quests.  Killing random mobs out in the world never rewards you any money.  The best source of cash are Guildleaves.  These are short quests that involve you going out into the world and completing some objective.  These often reward random gear as well, but primarily they are a good source of money and an okay but somewhat lackluster source of experience.  The problem is… you are limited to doing 6 of these per day.  These allowances stack up until you hit 99, so if you are not playing for a few days you can still do them.

The challenge is these leve allowances are used by tradecraft, battlecraft and the guildhest system.  After a certain point, these are essentially the only “quests” that you can do in the game after you have completed all of the normal quests.  The only other repeatable source of money is from grinding FATEs, which are Rift like random events that occur in zones.  The result of this is that the economy is extremely front loaded, in that you can gain lots of money from doing the initial quests… then after completing those…  your prospects for gaining money tend to dry up significantly.

As a result, many players are finding themselves grinding up multiple characters only to view them as disposable vessels only for the purpose of taking money from them.  I myself have contemplated this if I run into dire straights.  Essentially every quest you do has a “cash” option, that allows you to take essentially trade coins that can be sold on the vendors.  Since all of the quested gear is exactly the same as the crafted options… and you seem to be able to buy crafted items far cheaper than the money reward from a given quest…  I find myself always driven to take the money payout option from each quest.  Right now I am leveling faster than our crafters can keep up… but soon there will be the option of just having one of the guild crafters make my gear.

Essentially I am concerned with how the players will keep up with the expense of playing the game.  This last patch they greatly reduced the repair costs… but there will be a certain amount of upkeep that is just required as a player.  Last nights Sunken Temple of Qarn run I considered extremely successful… but I still took 5 deaths thanks to some rather bullshit mechanics… namely an ability that seems to have no cast timer and will one shot a player if not stunned constantly.  Essentially I just feel that this loot less and cash less combat system… is inventive but deeply naïve… and so much of me hopes they will patch the game and make it work like every other MMO on the planet.

Wrapping Up

Well I need to wrap up because I have a coffee date with a group of community web developers.  I am not really looking forward to it, nor am I looking forward to the evening dinner date with friends.  All I really want to do is go home and hang out on the couch, and maybe order a salad from Rib Crib.  We have eaten fairly poorly all week, so this weekend it is going to be our attempt to do better.  I am still down roughly 60 lbs since my start so I am doing okay…  but we have to be constantly vigilant.  I hope all of you have a great weekend ahead of you.

One Room Dungeon

Good morning you happy people of the digital domain.  Last night at least in one way did not go at all like I had expected.  My wife and I originally planned on travelling to my hometown last night to go visit my Grandmother on her birthday.  However my wife got held up at work, and didn’t end up making it home until six thirty or so.  I called my mother at some point to find out “how late is too late”, only to find that she simply was not feeling well today and had been sleeping a lot.  Tuesday she had oral surgery so I think she was simply recovering from that.  As a result I made a long call to her, that way she could continue resting rather than entertain guests.  I figure we will make a trip up to see her over the weekend.

The Event

September 11th has a weird significance to me.  Sure I remember watching as the World Trade Center events unfolded, but I am not talking about that at all.  Nor am I necessarily talking about my Grandmothers Birthday… which unfortunately the World Trade Center bombings have made the easiest date for me to remember ever.  For me… 9/11/2012 was the single worst day I have ever had to experience in my career.  I found out yesterday that a coworker never really understood why we called it our “9/11 event”… we were not being metaphorical… that is simply the literal date it happened.

Yesterday was the anniversary of the day that we completely burned down our web infrastructure, and had to begin rebuilding it all from scratch.  Essentially one of our security personnel mistook a routine network intrusion scan, from a company that we pay to do exactly that… as an actual breech of our network.  9/11/2012 is the day the decision was made, by forces other than our department to shut everything down… take all the sites offline… and ship the machines off for federal investigative forensics.  It was the single worst overreaction I have seen in my history as an IT professional.

The result of all of this meant the beginning of a very dark period of that involved lots of 60-70 hour weeks trying to rebuild our infrastructure from the ground up.  Additionally it was the beginning of one of the biggest lapses in content my blog has experienced.  Much like the real 9/11 has completely changed the culture of the United States…  this event completely changed the culture of our company.  From that point on… even though we realized within a few days that we essentially cried wolf and that nothing at all had happened that was not included in a network intrusion service that we pay for… all things going forward carried an undertone of extreme security.

We have survived and I feel like the department as a whole is better off, but it was an extremely bad period to be me.  It did allow us to “reboot” several things in the way our processes work, and shed old code that had been sitting around since the early 90s.  The irony is… that a year after the fact we are still not completely done rebuilding everything we demolished that day.  We have rebuilt all of the important infrastructure, and added numerous new things to the mix… but there are still a handful of minor legacy systems that we have not addressed.  You can only do so much with a staff of three people to completely rebuild two decades worth of infrastructure.

One Room Dungeon

Last night was another guild night Wednesday over in Rift.  Originally I thought I was going to be considerably late due to the whole visiting my grandmother thing.  Instead I got home at a decent hour after taking my wife out for dinner and running a few errands.  When I logged in, we had a large assemblage of players available so I started asking for volunteers for a little mission.  Archive of Flesh is a level 57-60 dungeon, that supposedly has a chance to drop a doodad that is required to upgrade the depleted chest piece to its third state, and level 57 spec specific chest piece.  What I gathered up for volunteers was Caithris 57 Tactician support, Delariond 60 Mage dps, myself playing a 57 rogue, Lukian a 60 cleric tank, and Psynister a 56 cleric healer.

What we experienced with that group composition was almost raid like difficulty.  However over the course of multiple wipes… we managed to struggle through, learn the encounters and completed the dungeon.  The odd thing about Archive of flesh is that in essence it is a one room dungeon.  Everything of any significance occurs in the room pictured above… or the upper pathways over the room.  The room changes slightly over the course of the encounters as new bosses are revealed, each one slightly changing the rooms dynamic.  But I just found it interesting that you could make a completely compelling dungeon.. without involving any crawling at all.

To some extent the Trial of the Crusader raid in WoW did exactly this.  However that really never felt like a compelling experience.  It felt more like a slipshod raid that allowed the designers to roll something out quickly, rather than spending much time on creating a new zone.  This on the other hand felt like a completely story driven experience so that you almost forget that you have not left the entrance to the dungeon.  Weird thing is… Golem Foundry… that we ran directly after this dungeon… had almost the same kind of thing going on.  Single room with various shafts and hatches that reveal new encounters.  Both of them felt really good, and I really enjoyed the essentially “trash less” dungeon experience, without making it feel overly cheap like the Crusader encounters.

It was a fairly good run, as most of us walked away with extremely significant upgrades.  Unfortunately the upgrade doodad did not drop, so none of us were walking away with a really nice upgraded chest piece out of the ordeal.  Rae (Caithris) and I both walked away with half a levels experience towards 58.  I hope I can catch my rogue up and push it to 60 within the coming weeks.  This is largely selfish I realize, but since my warrior is already raid ready… I would really like to start running my rogue that actually needs some loving with the various guild dungeon runs.  Additionally I really like playing rogue for support than I did playing Warrior.  Bard and Tactician just feel better overall than the somewhat confused Beastmaster role.

Overall though it was a really great night.  We got in… ran a couple of dungeons and had a blast doing it.  I hope we can continue to do this as a regular thing.  The only frustration is we had a large number of folks that showed up after we had already pulled together a group.  As a result we were two short of making a second group.  So here is hoping that we can get a few more higher level folks up there and start running two groups on Wednesday nights.  I know we have the folks in our numbers, it is just a matter of getting people online during the time period.  In hindsight we should have broken apart our group between the two dungeons and tried to get some of the folks waiting in the wings in the process.  But quite honestly at the time none of us really thought about that.

Wrapping Up

This feels like a really odd post… breaking a lot of the normal formatting that I do with my blog.  Hopefully it is still overall readable.  I figure tonight will be a return to FFXIV after the server maintenance.  I am really hoping that Cactuar will be unlocked and some of the folks who have been waiting to roll there can start their characters.  My goal for tonight is to run Cutter’s Cry and maybe another Sunken Temple of Qarn.  I really want to see what is in the “treasure room” that we completely missed.  I hope you all have a great Thursday and that it serves as the gateway to a really awesome weekend.

Four Oh

Good morning you happy people of the digital verse, I am slowly waking up this morning.  Normally I have this open and writing well before six, and at this point well past.  I had a good nights sleep but I also feel like I could have likely slept forever this morning.  It took me a few minutes to realize that the alarm was going off, and that it was a thing I should care about.  Hopefully the coffee beside me will cure this present stupor.

Unintended Night

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Last night I had every intention of coming home and playing some Rift to try and push my rogue up to 60 for dungeon running.  However that is not at all what happened.  I logged into mumble, where everyone was currently in FFXIV so I ended up joining them as well.  Not that it takes much coaxing to get me into the game mind you… it was just counter to my original plans.  Tentatively I agreed to run Brayflox’s Longstop to help the people still needing gear from it.  However this ended up taking quite a bit of time to pull together.  So as I munched on the super tasty Chicken Tiki Masala takeout… I continued on with my questing.

Currently I am out questing in the Coerthis Highlands region that is essentially the “snowy zone” for the game.  Not sure what it is about snowy climates but they usually end up being some of my favorite ones in any given game.  I was a huge fan of Winterspring in the original WoW, and Icecrown seemed to be the zone I always defaulted to going to when I wanted to kill something… since Ice + Undead is a pure winning combination.  Coerthis is no let down as you wander around a truly inhospitable climate ringed with extremely fierce and isolationist royal houses.  I won’t go into details about the main story arc for the zone… but suffice as to say it is hard to win friends.

One of the best things about Coerthis is the Svaras fates, or at least off the top of my head I think that is the name of them.  Essentially there is a really awesome series of fates that begins by following a soldier northwards from Camp Dragonhead.  You battle numerous drake attacks along the way, until you reach a ruins to the north.  When that fate ends another begins immediately to hold of against a dragon onslaught.  Finally when this second fate ends, a third one begins to destroy the mother dragon Svaras herself.  They go pretty quickly, but the first fate rewards around 5000 xp, the second around 10,000 xp and the final dragon fate roughly 20,000 xp.  So if you can hop on and ride the entire thing out, you mob up over 35,000 xp and a large number of grand company seals.

Add to this big main fate a number of smaller fates that spawn in the central corridor of Coerthis, and it becomes a fairly solid fate zone.  The only danger is that the entire zone spans from 30 at the lowest points to 50 at the highest points.  So there is a high chance of roaming into areas that are just too high for you currently.  On other cool notes however… in my wandering around last night I located the plateau that Behemoth spawns on.  This is a big end game primal fight, that my server has taken down at least once.  Not sure how difficult it is, but from what I have seen it looks absolutely amazing.  I am sure there is the chance as some spiffy gear from it as well.

Brayflox Conquered

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Brayflox’s Longstop is a level 32 dungeon that appears as part of the main storyline.  Essentially everyone is forced to run it in order to progress their quest chain forward.  As a result I ran it quite some time ago for the first time, and did not like the dungeon at all.  Essentially it was the first dungeon that I learned how unreliable overpower becomes after your transition to warrior.  It is decent for initial aggro, but you simply cannot hold multiple targets for long with it.  Essentially Overpower was a crutch that I needed to discard, and this involved developing some new tactics.  Brayflox was the run that I ended up going through most of these growing pains… so I remembered it in a less than fond way.

Ironically… this is the dungeon that everyone in my guild seems to want to run.  Admittedly it has some of the coolest “unique” gear sets in the game to date.  As a side effect our players have been wanting to run the place til their eyes bleed trying to collect the last set pieces.  The big bottleneck we have is that there are essentially two tanks right now.  Myself and Ashgar are our only dedicated tanks at the high end of the level range.  We have one additional dedicated tank in the mid 20s, and a bunch of alternate tanks that are hovering in the 15s.  So since all of us prefer greatly to run dungeons as a guild, everyone ends waiting on myself or ash to be able to run the instance.

Ash was not available last night, the 1.5 HD remix of Kingdom Hearts was released… and he had given us warning he would be spending time playing that.  So as a result I offered to tank Brayflox in his place.  The funny thing is… after having conquered the Sunken Temple of Qarn… this dungeon felt like a cakewalk.  The primary difference is that I have developed strategies for multi-target tanking that did NOT rely on Overpower since then.  As a result the dungeon no longer felt like the chaotic mess that it did the first few times I ran it.  The good thing about the dungeon is that it is really pretty good experience, and with roughly ten chances at bonus chests… you end up with a good amount of loot, some of it was actually an upgrade to my current gear.

It was thanks to the two dungeon runs in Brayflox that I was able to ding 39 and equip the Flames grand company axe that was sitting waiting in my bag.  The grand company seal gear is really amazing, and I have found that it lasts normally twice as long as the average item for a given level range.  Last night Ash finally made it on, and the group that had not gone to Qarn ended up running it.  During the run he ended up getting a unique named axe, but after rattling off the stats… the grand company seal axe was still slightly better.  So it is equivalent or better to a dungeon drop for the level.

Four Oh

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After the Brayflox runs wound down, I decided to continue on with the main story quests out in Coerthis.  Over the course of the next few hours I managed to whittle down the gap to four to something extremely manageable.  After a good Svaras fate, I was within a stones throw of dinging… so I ended up picking up one of the more “killy” leve quests I had available to me.  After a few minutes of collecting pages, and summoning a big baddie… I dinged 40.  This opened up a bunch of gear to me… allowing me access to the majority of the Mithril set and a the new line of parry jewelry.  I feel as though the majority of the crafters on our server much be stalled out in this range, because all of the gear for the level could be purchased around 1000 gil… which I considered a steal.

After equipping all my new shiny baubles… it took my unbuffed, non-defiance hitpoints to 2230, which is a sizeable increase over where I was previously.  Right now I kinda look like a mishmash of gear sets, but I can live with that.  Nothing I am wearing looks too terribly heinous, even though it is technically from about four different “appearances”.  Now I really want to run the next optional dungeon, Cutter’s Cry… as a number of my Flames hunt log mobs come from there.  Additionally I would like to continue to push dragoon up.  I got him to 32 so I would have the option of dpsing Brayflox… but considering the relative guild tank shortage I doubt that will ever really be an option.

Cactuar Locked

Right now my biggest point of frustration is the fact that while everything appears to be working great server wise… and I can log in at almost any moment without a queue…  we still have a completely locked server.  As of right now I know of at least four people waiting to make characters on Cactuar the server we are on that cannot because it is seemingly perma-locked.  There is a list on the FFXIV ARR website that updates five times a day… and while other servers are coming off the lockdown… Cactuar appears to be permanently stuck in that state.  It is my hope that with today’s lengthy maintenance period… that we will finally get some additional resources and the folks who have been waiting in limbo can roll on the server.

Additionally if they offered us a way to transfer the entire guild to another server… we would likely jump at the chance.  Personally I would love to have us move to Gilgamesh, since that seems to be where the majority of folks I know that are NOT in my guild are located.  The problem is… right now our guild is level capped… and we have a massive stockpile of the guild currency to spend on the day long buffs.  I would not want to readily give that up, so in order to make a jump feasible we would need to transfer as a total unit… rather than a bunch of piecemeal server transfers.  I don’t necessarily relish the thought of moving, because after the initial launch the server community here has ended up being not too shabby.  At the very least, the public channels are not quite the painful experience that they are for me in most games.

Wrapping Up

Tonight is going to be an odd night.  We need to run up to my hometown after work to wish my Grandmother a happy birthday.  After we get back from that, whenever that is.. I will be over in Rift alternatively working on my Rogue and trying to get some dungeon runs started.  I am kinda hoping that folks won’t mind running the normals that a 57 rogue can attend, as I really prefer playing support as a rogue than I did on my warrior the other night.  The problem is I really have no clue when exactly I will be getting on, since getting away from my hometown is generally painful.  I hope you all have a great day ahead of you, and I hope mine is productive and that I can get online tonight at a decent hour.

Lord of the Crag

Good morning you happy denizens of the interweb.  This morning is one of those mornings that I am struggling to find purpose and direction as I set about with writing my morning post.  Allergies are still laying siege to me, but at least the Dayquil seems to have completely worked its way out of my system.  At this point I am thinking I will just go back to taking some Allegra and seeing if that works.  I managed to get what appears to be a good nights sleep last night, so all signs point towards this being a far better day.

Lord of the Crag

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One of the coolest fights so far that I have encountered is the second trial, this time fighting the Lord of the Crag.  Be warned there are likely several spoilers to follow so if you are not interested in them skip ahead.  Titan has always been one of the strong summoned creatures in the Final Fantasy mythos, and this time is no different.  In Eorzea he is the worshipped deity of a number of the beast races, and throughout the course of the quest line you end up exploiting one of the beast tribes Aetherite crystals to get to him.  While Ifrit was a difficult encounter due to one key mechanic… Titan is much more difficult in every way.

Firstly one of the coolest things about this fight is the amazing soundtrack.  The following link is the boss music for titan in the final phase.  It has a very Trigun feel to me, but from the very start of the fight this amazing rock theme is playing, which completely fits the feel of the encounter.  Titan is mad, and he is about to kick your ass!  The real challenge of the encounter is that the entire party takes lots of damage, a large chunk of it completely unavoidable.  My friends tend to favor the Scholar healer, so in some ways it made the encounter easier… but Scholars in general have trouble recovering from extreme spikes in damage.

Similar to Ifrit there is a do or die mechanic.  After you have dealt a certain amount of damage to Titan’s Heart will appear.  Similar to the nails in Ifrit you have to destroy the heart within a certain time frame.  Titan is going to jump up and perform a massive quake attack either way, but it is manageable damage if the heart has been broken, similar to the Ifrit Hellfire attack.  The biggest issue with the fight are the two avoidable attacks. 

Firstly every so often Titan will jump up into the air and slam back down in the center of the arena.  The closer to the center you are standing the more damage you take.  However if you are too close to the edge of the arena… you will get knocked off.  So this attack becomes a juggling act of being far enough away that your healer can recover from the damage, and not so far away that you get knocked off the platform and killed.  Second you have a shockwave like attack that shows up as a blue line drawn from titan to the edge of the platform.  If a player gets caught in this they take massive amounts of damage and similarly get knocked off the platform.

The Problem With Trials

We went into this fight completely cold, so it took a few tries for us to figure out the inner workings.  As a tank, I took massive amounts of damage from Titan on a regular basis.  I have to say the entire encounter feels extremely epic… and similar to Ifrit this is a Trial… meaning that the game for all intents and purposes pauses until you defeat it.  The big problem with Trials however is that there is little to no incentive for players to do them more than once.  I have been tanking it for various guild members as they got up to the phase, and the only reward is roughly 4200 xp and 300 gil, essentially far less xp and money than you would get for a single guildleave quest.

As a result… no one wants to do them more than once.  I mean I am always willing to tank Ifrit or Titan for guild members when they get up to the point… but there is absolutely no incentive for players to queue for them.  Quite frankly it is crap experience, and you often times end up with more of a repair bill than you could possible recover from the final reward.  I feel as though they really need to adjust the reward a bit to make namely tanks and healers willing to queue up for these and help get other players over the bottleneck.  Our guild healers have been solo queuing for the trials as a bit of a community service, but I am sure they are the exception rather than the rule.  Like with Ifrit… players are waiting multiple hours just trying to get through this roadblock… and unlike Ifrit… this encounter is not nearly as easy to roflstomp.

The Dungeons

 

At this point I have defeated every dungeon in the first part of the game.  They released two videos, the first of which I have embedded above, that give players a preview of all the dungeons they will encounter.  I have to say… having a new dungeon every 5 levels is really pretty awesome.  So far of all of the dungeons Haukke Manor is my favorite… mostly because it is essentially Castlevania in MMO Dungeon form.  Everything about the place screams Symphony of the Night… even the rock soundtrack.  Since SOTN is likely my favorite game ever… this dungeon is essentially my perfect one.  Sadly however, I have only actually run it the one time.  I am hoping when I get my gladiator up to the level I can talk some guild members into running it multiple times.

I thought it was a bit arbitrary when they divided the videos up into two parts.  However after last night… I realize there was a method to the madness.  All of the dungeons in the above video are more or less relatively easy.  Sure there are some rough mechanics here or there, but so long as you pay attention you are likely to get through without any wipes.  Last night I was completely out of it… so I intended to just piddle around on either the Warrior or the Dragoon working on leveling them.  However Tibuant has been not so patiently asking for Sunken Temple of Qarn for almost a week now.  Since he is in college, he has had a lot more playtime than the rest of us… and as a result shot ahead level wise.

Shit Just Got Real

 

He really wanted to wait to do Qarn for the first time with a completely cold guild group, and after hearing the pleading in his voice… for the hundredth time… I went in with the disclaimer that I was pretty out of it… and it would likely end in tears.  The above video you will notice… starts with the Sunken Temple of Qarn.  Essentially from what I can tell the video could be subtitled “shit just got real”.  Qarn in every way was a new kind of dungeon experience… filled with some truly brutal mechanics.  I had been watching for awhile in chat with people asking for the dungeon… and some of the side commentary made me nervous about the place.

I am not going to spoil any of the direct mechanics… but there are several mob types that can literally one shot the player… in fact that seems to be the new rule going forward.  If you don’t do whatever it is at the right time… you are going to die horribly.  The first boss encounter is a similarly brutal wakeup call, and will wipe the party before you really figure out the mechanic.  I always thought the 90 minute timer on an instance was an extreme amount of time to finish a dungeon run…  however last night we used almost every single minute.  We finished the final boss with a couple of minutes to spare.

I can’t say I am really looking forward to going back into the place.  Luckily we have almost an entire team that has yet to do the place… so they should be able to experience it completely fresh.  Namely they should not take Rae into it with them… she is really bad about spoiling mechanics without meaning to.  Granted I realize that I just went into detail about the Titan fight… but at this point most of our guild has long passed fighting that encounter… and I did warn you to skip ahead.  It was extremely fun having to figure out the mechanics on our feet and for the most part we did extremely well at all of the fights but the first and last one.  Some of the deaths were avoidable, where I simply stopped receiving heals at the wrong time.  Tib does a good job as a healer, but I can tell it is definitely not second nature.

Wrapping Up

Essentially the dungeons are hands down the best part about the FFXIV experience.  I had no real intent of doing any last night, but after getting guilt tripped into tanking Qarn I am glad I now have the experience.  I was so drained last night that I was just trying to avoid getting into anything at all.  Hopefully with the sleep today will go smoother.  I hope you all have a great day ahead of you, and that you get whatever it is that you need to get done accomplished.  I need to wrap up on one project, and begin stubbing out a second today.