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.

Requiem for Kill Quests

Good morning you happy people in the wondrous digital frontier.  Today is yet another day marred by these horrible allergies.  I am so ready at this point for a hard rain or even a minor freeze to clear the crap out of the air.  I feel like I am having to deal with a full summers worth of allergies all within in few weeks.  Right now the ragweed count is off the charts, and this has always been one of my worst allergies.  Odd thing is… my wife has always gotten sick and lost her voice right after the start of the school year, but we never really figured out why.  Signs are pointing to ragweed induced hay fever, and so far treating it like that is seeming to work.  But the over the counter stuff we are using is making both of us massively drowsy…  but it is working well enough.

Cousin it’s your Cousin

 

The other day my friend Rae linked me this video… and it has been stuck in my head ever since.  I find myself constantly singing to myself “Niko it’s your cousin, why don’t you take me bowling”.  I had not been introduced to the Miracle of Sound before now…  I think maybe I had heard a few of the songs but they are all pretty amazing.  Essentially it is yet another ubiquitous YouTube star and similar to Malukah he writes songs almost exclusively based on video games.  Many cases he takes dialog from the game, and remixes them into really catch tunes.  One of the best tracks though is inspired by Game of Thrones called “Halfman’s Song”.  The guy is super talented and definitely worth watching more of the videos and subscribing to the channel in general.

Now comes the deep dark confession… that I have never played Grand Theft Auto IV.  So having played many of the games up to IV… I totally understand the type of character Niko’s cousin is… but I’ve never actually played the game or any of its expansions.  I played several of the others quite prolifically but the problem I run into each time is that the world feels dead to me.  Sure it is cool to roam around causing mayhem… but I always think it would be much more enjoyable if I could do it with friends.  I have this problem in a lot of games that feel like they SHOULD be MMOs.  While I adore the Elder Scrolls games… I have always longed to have friends with me in that world instead of more NPCs to interact with.

Lord of Ifrit

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One of the cool features of Final Fantasy XIV is that every bit of instanced content has automatic scaling built into it.  As a result it is super easy to tag along with friends when they reach points you have already finished.  For example yesterday there were a few friends who had not passed the “Bowl of Embers” trial that as I have said before acts as a roadblock from you getting to new content.  So they needed an additional dps, and I tagged along as my Dragoon.  The only negative is that it will cause you to lose any abilities you did not natively have at the level it scales you to.  So you will find yourself adjusting to playing in a fashion you may not be used to.

In the case of my dragoon… I lose the ever amazing jump ability, as well as the third part of my combo chain.  So I had to revert to the older playstyle of flanking to get the buff then switching to impulse drive backstabs.  I wish they had gone with the more common scaling down abilities option rather than the old style EQ2 lose abilities method.  So far it has not been nearly as game breaking as it was in EQ2… since you lost access to newer versions of spells… causing you to have to go rifling through your spell book to find the ones that WOULD world for the instance.

Additionally I tanked the three dungeon sequence of Sastasha, Tam-Tara Undercroft, and Copperbell as a Gladiator.  I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised at just how differently tanking as a Gladiator feels to tanking as a Marauder.  It is a more strategic feeling combat, more slow paced and deliberate.  Whereas the Marauder feels like an all out rage fest as you try and get as many mobs as you can in your overpower cone.  I can definitely see some merits in the other tanking style, and at some point I figure I will finish leveling gladiator to 30, and conjurer to 15 so I can pick up the Paladin soul.  My big disappointment is that you cannot change classes in a dungeon.  My hope was that I would be able to switch back and forth between Paladin and Warrior based on the requirements of a given fight.

Requiem for Kill Quests

One of the other disappointments so far with Final Fantasy XIV is it has roughly half the number of quests I would like it to.  The best means of gaining experience seems to be doing normal quests for NPCs.  The problem is there are only enough of these quests in the world to really support leveling a single class.  As a result for my sub classes I am forced to much grindier methods… such as fates, leves, and the occasional guild dungeon run.  I feel like this is a growing problem in games as they are trying really hard not to do “Kill 10 Rats” quests.  For whatever reason… these are now out of vogue with the player base in general… and as a result game companies are trying to scrub their games of them.

Thing is… I love kill quests.  One of my favorite things in Dark Age of Camelot was the kill quest givers.  They would send you off to kill random mobs, only giving you the direction from them for guidance.  I wish modern games had an NPC like this called a Huntsmaster that literally just sent you out into the world to kill X number of mobs.  Thing is… I naturally have an extreme bloodlust when it comes to carnage in a game.  I like killing things, and my friend get annoyed with me at times because I can only go so long without engaging in combat.  So if we are running to a dungeon… there will be numerous stops along the way for me to randomly charge a mob.  Having a kill quest gives me a way to focus this bloodlust towards what feels like a larger purpose.

I realize that I am in the minority… and most players seem to want deep and meaningful story content in the form of quests.  While story quests are fine… I honestly don’t really like them that much.  As I am playing a game I am building a narrative in my head… that is often times at direct odds with the narrative that the game is trying to tell me.  So as a result when I enter one of these story quests… it forces me out of my own little world that I am building for myself… and into the world that the game designers have deemed for me to participate in.  Like I said… I realize I play games in a largely different way than most players do.  I think I have developed this reaction after having spent years doing kill, escort and fedex quests… and as a result I have started building storyline to make all of them important to me.

I guess at the end of the day, I hate that these short bursts of purpose are now out of vogue with the player base.  I liked them especially because there was a clear end in sight.  With so many story quests, you never really know how many actions you are committing to upon accepting the quest.  You could be accepting a quest that would be three short steps all within the same zone, or an epic sixty step quest that involves travel through half of the games content to complete.  Ultimately I guess I don’t like the not knowing how much of my time I just promised to an NPC.  I hate abandoning quests, but there are times where I just don’t have the patience to jump through that many hoops at a time.  As a result I have always favored the super simple kill X quests as a way of getting in and doing something that feels like it means something in short bursts.

Wrapping Up

Well time for me to wrap things up.  They are having cake for my grandmother back in my home town this afternoon, so I am trying to figure out if I can realistically commit to going or not.  Additionally today will be laundry day so I will be spending most of the day swapping out loads.  All of this while fighting the allergies and the strong desire to just go back to bed… is going to make a less than enjoyable day.  I hope you all have a much better day ahead of you, and I hope that the start of the week is relatively smooth.

Dragoon Get!

Good morning you happy people out in digital land.  The last two days have been pretty horrible, at least in the way that I have felt.  However at roughly 2:30 yesterday afternoon something “broke”, and I started feeling a bit better.  I shifted from being shivering and piling on as many blankets as I could find with no real appetite.. to being hot and having a ravenous appetite.  While my allergies are still going more or less haywire…  I think whatever bug I had has moved on and I will be well on the mend.  I am super thankful it is Friday however, as everything I seem to do just wears me out right now.

Dragoon Get!

ffxiv 2013-09-06 06-06-04-71

After getting level 30 on my marauder and switching over to Warrior, I immediately set my sights on catching up my lancer.  One of the key design flaws in this game appears to be a severe lack of quests.  Essentially there are enough quests for you to level ONE class, but each additionally class you want to push up has to grind their way through the content.  Every 5 levels you can get a class quest that will upgrade your weapon and armor, but essentially other than that you are on your own.  There are of course leve quests but they are not really that good experience wise, and you are limited on the total number of those you can do a day.  Right now the best and fastest way to level is to grind Fates.

Fates are essentially a cross between the events in Guild Wars 2 and the Rifts in Rift.  They are random and sometimes player kicked off events that spawn in a zone.  They have a time limit to complete the objective, and players are rewarded based on contribution.  Unlike some games this one seems to be entirely based on the unmodified threat table.  As a result healers and tanks seem to have an easier time getting “Gold” ranking than say a single target dps.  There are certain zones that have become hubs of sort for Fate running, and roaming groups ping pong around the zones picking up credit.

Fate Grinding

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This is essentially how I pushed from level 22 to 30 on my lancer, but running fate after fate.  Sure it was super repetitive… but there are a few advantages.  Firstly… Gil the currency is really hard to come by.  It is only awarded by doing quests, leves and fates.  There is no way to earn it from just killing random mobs.  As a result Fates become one of your best repeatable sources of money.  Additionally Fates reward grand company seals, which you can then use to upgrade your rank in your chosen grand company or buy some really nice gear upgrades.

After all my fate grinding I was able to bump my rank up several steps and buy a nice level 30 axe for my warrior and spear for my dragoon.. as well as a really amazing tanking hauberk that is pictured above.  Additionally there are certain fates that reward various nifty things from getting maximum contribution.  The fates are generally puns based on pop culture or songs… so the localization team had a lot of fun with them.  In Costa Del Sol there is a fate called “It’s Not Lupus” where you fight a boss named “Cancer”… which is a House reference… and if you get maximum contribution it gives you a little crab pet to follow you around.

Gold Sinks

ffxiv 2013-08-29 20-26-00-25

One of the things that really concerns me going forward with the long term health of the game is the huge number of gold sinks, and relative lack of ways to actually earn money.  Always in the past my defacto answer for needing money was just to go farm mobs until I got the amount of cash that I needed.  I have always loved mindless slaughter…  however in FFXIV it has lost some of its luster since npcs out in the world NEVER drop loot.  That is just not a thing this game does at all… essentially your only sources of loot are dungeon chests, leve chests, quests and occasionally fates.  This leaves you with relatively few opportunities for money making.

Other than grinding fates over and over… the next best way for money seems to be running Guildleave quests.  The oddity about these however is that you only earn 6 allowance a day.  Now these allowances stack up until you have 99 of them, but if you are using them as a way to get money or to gain experience you can burn through them really quickly.  While the game is amazingly fun, and I really love the freedom of the whole multiclass concept… I can see how very quickly we are going to enter a territory of currency micro management.

In theory I am guessing all of this is to make the crafting that much more valuable, and force players to create a market economy.  That is all well and good but right now I would far rather dump my materials on our most seasoned veteran crafter to push him up in ability… than to try and sell items on the auction house to regain some of my lost gil.  The market also is completely unreasonable at times.  Gear seems to be dirt cheap overall, since you can gain it in multiple places… and there is really no functional difference between quested and crafted drops.  However all the other things… are way out into the stratosphere as far as cost.  Lord help you if you want black dye for example.

I am hearing of level 50 characters needing start alts just to run through the quests to steal money from them.  That is going to be a sad activity if that ends up being the way MOST level 50s pay for their repair bills.  Right now that seems to be one of the bigger money sinks.  Everything has durability, and everything you do damages it somewhat.  Ultimately this is going to be the thing that pushes me to level a crafter, so that I can end up repairing my own gear.  There has been talk of adding in dailies and other ways to earn currency, but we will just have to see how heinous these end up being.  If they are similar to the leve quests, which give me a random chance at really nice gear upgrades… then I might be completely fine with them.

Back On Track

ffxiv 2013-09-06 06-37-26-12

Last night I finally got back to leveling my main class properly once more.  After dinging 30, getting the Warrior job I took a bit of a break from the main storyline to level a bunch of other things.  Right now I currently have 32 Warrior/Marauder, 30 Dragoon/Lancer, 22 Gladiator, 12 Pugilist, and 6 Thaumaturge.  As I said the other day I ran up the 12 Pugilist because it has some of the most powerful cross class abilities… namely the amazing “Second Wind” which equates to a free potion when used.  I seriously could not have passed the level 30 lancer quest if I did not have this ability… so far the toughest encounter I have faced in the game.

Leveling Lancer to 30 and picking up Dragoon was purely a “want to” not part of some broader scheme.  I have always loved Dragoons in the Final Fantasy universe.  There is just something about the jump command that mystifies me.  The ironic thing is… I dinged 30, finished the Dragoon quest… but have yet to actually fight anything and USE the jump command.  I immediately switched out my gear to my level 16 gladiator set and started leveling it.  My goal there was to hit 22, so that I could get the cross class ability “Provoke” which is literally one of the only snap aggro abilities in the game.  I figured this would greatly help me in the ultimate goal of my Warrior soul… tanking instances.

Essentially I am at a point where I have the low hanging fruit from both of the cross classes that feed into Warrior… namely Pugilist and Gladiator.  So I feel as though I finally have a full range of abilities at my disposal for being the best possible Warrior tank I can be.  Ultimately I will level my Gladiator at some point, because I would really like to have both a max level Warrior soul and a Paladin soul at my disposal.  Each of the tank classes functions vastly different, and I am sure there will be cases where either one will be far superior.  Normally I favor sword and board, but quite frankly… the weapons that gladiator gets look horrible for the most part… which is greatly destroying my enjoyment.

As of last night I am up to the next major dungeon in the storyline, Brayflox’s Longstop… so here is hoping we can get a group together tonight.  Quite frankly myself and the other tank have been the bottleneck in the ability to run dungeons.  The dps seem to always be far ahead of us in the quest line and they are waiting on us to catch up so we can tank the instances for them.  The only problem is… in order to effectively tank you need all of the sub abilities that feed into your class.  In both cases, myself and the other tank have been spending a lot of time picking up those sub class abilities.  Now that I finally have my set, I should be fine with mostly focusing on the main storyline from this point on.

Wrapping Up

Well it is once again that time, and I need to wrap up this post and get on with my morning.  I hope you all have a great weekend ahead of you.  For me I am hoping that I finish mending from whatever crap I have gotten, and that the allergens in the air die down a bit so I can live normally.  It is bad enough that my wife has even been bothered by her allergies… and she rarely if ever is.  Is it too much to ask for a cold snap so that everything will die out?

Once upon a Cleric

Morning all you people out in internet land.  For the second day in a row I feel absolutely miserable.  I think overall it is just a massive overload of allergies, but it has managed to go and piss off my asthma.  As a result I ended up at home about halfway through the day yesterday and have been juggling breathing treatments ever since.  I have yet to decide if I am going to attempt going in today, but right now it doesn’t seem likely.  I feel worse than I have felt in a long time.

Once upon a Cleric

Today’s post has been spurred on by a comment on twitter to yesterdays post.  Essentially a friend of mine said that they would make a healer out of me yet.  To which I replied… that few would believe but I actually started out my MMO gaming “career” as a healer.  The friend of course could not believe that… so I figured today I would regale you all with the tale of how I ended up being so damned tank centric.  We are going to have to step into the way back machine and go backwards through the years quite a bit to around 1982.

My mother was a high school teacher, and as a result I spent large amounts of time milling around the high school after hours as she finished up with her lessons.  There was a traditional at the end of school each year… that essentially anything left in the lockers by the end of the day was thrown away.  As a result the janitorial staff and by proxy us teacher kids got to rummage through whatever was left in the lockers.  Stuffed in the bottom of the locker I found the thing that would begin my descent into madness… an Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Players Handbook.

From that point onwards I was obsessed with all things D&D and roleplaying, and I was especially hung up on the cleric class.  I loved the concept of a battle priest, fighting undead and wielding both weapon and holy spells.  This obsession was only further cemented when I read the novel “Pools of Radiance” and was introduced to the Tarl the Cleric of Tyr.  I loved the fact that he was just as good with a weapon as it was with turning undead.  I thought it was a cool concept and the idea was only furthered with the awesome images of battle priests in the Warhammer games.

Tiny Elvis

EQPic_OasisDorfonGiant

Scan forward a decade and in 2000 I got hooked on Everquest by a friend of mine.  He introduced me to the whole mythos by having me play his second character on a Vox raid.  Pretty much the most epic way possible to get introduced into MMOs.  I pretty much went out the next day and picked up Everquest, the Kunark expansion and the newly released Scars of Velious.  When it came time to choose a class, there really was no option but a Dwarven Cleric of Brell.  I was completely enamored with the concept of battle priest fighting undead.  That concept lasted pretty well into my late 30s… when I began to realize that my life as a cleric was that of a heal bot.

The end game reality for a cleric was the Complete Heal rotation.  For those of you who are not familiar with this concept… essentially each cleric establishes an order and it is agreed upon before the fight.  Each of us then set up a macro that shouted “Casting CH – Ready Cleric #X” whereas the X was replaced by the correct priest in sequence.  When that cleric saw their number scroll by they were to count to 12 and then press their own macro.  Then return to a watching for their number to scroll by state.  The end result is that the tank received a complete heal every 3 seconds… instead of the normal 12 second cast time of the spell.

I have to say this made combat in the dungeons and raids and extremely boring and binary system.  Watch chat for your number, cast your heal, return to not paying attention until your cool down was up.  It was not until I dabbled with EQ1 a bit recently that I realized just how much downtime that game had.  You were still chained to the screen of sorts, but I can remember healers knitting, reading books, all just waiting on their complete heal rotation.  The thing that soured me on the experience however was not having any control over my own destiny.  I essentially followed someone else into a dungeon and was there until they determined it time to leave.  This experience has forever soured me towards healing in general.

The Celt

belghast_daoc

The game we played after we fell out of love with EQ and the hours spent standing around doing nothing… was Dark Age of Camelot.  The above image is the very first incarnation of Belghast Sternblade.  The Celt Champion was a really amazing class, in that it had ranged spells to pull with, loads of debuffs and was equally proficient in the tank, off-tank and dps roles depending upon how it was specced.  Most of the time I tended to favor two handed weapons and served in a dps and offtank in a pinch role for the various excursions.  My friend juggled the roles of both main tank and main healer by dual boxing a Dwarven Warrior and a Celt Bard together. 

This is the point at which I should note that the bulk of my time playing DAoC was spent on Gaheris… the carebear server… largely because it gave us three whole realms worth of zones and dungeons to explore instead of the rather claustrophobic single realm setup.  Adding to this trio we had a Lurikeen enchanter that served as our primary dps.  It was amazing the amount of things we could pull off with the small group we had.  There were many times I had to offtank a mob just to spread out the damage enough to get through the fights.

When I started doing Keep and Dragon raids… I got drafted into the full tank role a few times and really enjoyed it.  This is essentially the game in which I got my first tastes of tanking.  I liked the taste… and ultimately ended up doing quite a bit more with our alliance.  As we moved on to other games I started favoring the hybrid/offtank role because it gave me soloing versatility and a key group dynamic that I could fill.  When we played City of Heroes, I was a blades/regen scrapper which in many ways was one of the more tanky classes in the game.  Once again a friend played the full bore earth tank, and I alternated between dps and off tanking as needed.

Bait and Switch

wow_exeter_paladin

This is Exeter, a tankadin… and my intended main when World of Warcraft released.  In beta the Paladin had been the ultimate synthesis of Battle Priest and Tank.  I had so much fun running around with my friend who was playing a nuking priest at the time.  My attacks would debuff the target against holy damage, and he would come in for the kill and demolish it.  It was like the perfect symbiotic match…  then Blizzard completely destroyed it at the 11th hour right before release by introducing the “Seal” system to replace the “Strike” system.   Over night Paladin went from being the most amazing thing I had played so far… to feeling absolutely awful and confused.

With release… I stuck to my guns and tried to make a Paladin work… and so long as I had friends to level with I was doing awesome.  Then tragedy struck… we had a death in the family, and I simply was not around for a few weeks.  When I came back all of my friends had long since leveled past me, and I found trying to solo on the paladin a thoroughly frustrating mess.  Since the one thing above all else Hunters were renown for was their soloing ability… I started playing Lodin.  I was able to catch up to my friends with surprising speed and I played a hunter just effective enough to not be a horrible strain on my party.

Hunter Happened

lodin_half_giantstalker

I never really intended on playing Lodin as a main character… I just intended on using him as something to catch up to my friends… then later leveling Exeter on my own and returning to the intended role of Tankadin.  However one thing lead to another… and a good friend of mine ended up starting a raid, that needed hunters… and before I really realized what I was committing to, I was a half GiantStalker decked out raiding hunter.  The funniest and most ironic part is… that I ended up on the one class that had a cast rotation similar to the complete heal.  Once we entered Molten Core I got indoctrinated into the Tranquilize rotation.  Just like complete heal… hunters would set an order and we would then “tranq” the next enrage effect.

I had a lot of good times raiding with the Late Night Raiders, and I met a ton of people that have become permanent fixtures in my gaming life… but quite honestly I was never a good hunter.  I could pass as one, and I could sit around 3rd in damage when compared to our other hunters if I really pushed it… but I just did not care about the class the same way the others did.  My instinct was always to get up in the face of the mob and beat on it with something…  and I hated pet management above all things.  I managed to get Exeter to max level… but it ended up feeling just horrible.  At that point Paladins tanked with Seal of Rage… which was a glorious mess that never really worked at all for holding aggro.

Priest Enabler

Belghast_pulling

Around about this time a good friend of mine mentioned that she would like to level a healing priest, but didn’t really want to go through the grind that was leveling a healing priest.  I had been kicking around the notion of leveling a tank, but again leveling as a tank was a painful experience.  So as a result we decided to level my human warrior Belghast and her dwarven priest Finni together to make the process easier.  This was probably a bad thing… because it was the first moment that I realized how amazing priests are.  They enable me to make really bad decisions… like pulling ALL THE THINGS in an area and then living to tell the tale.

I loved this new play style of making everything hate me… then getting bailed out of my bad lifestyle choices by someone else.  The two characters shot up extremely quickly, and before I knew it I was tanking the unofficial raid nights for Late Night Raiders.  The problem is… the more I got into tanking… the more I hated playing Lodin.  The only problem… Lodin was geared… and there was no way to get as geared as the LNR tanks.  So I bided my time, continued getting tanking experience and “apprenticed” of sorts under the various really good warriors that we had in our raid.

One of the best things about an expansion… is it is a complete gear reset.  As a result I used the Burning Crusade expansion to be my springboard to ditch the hunter and move forward as a “real” tank.  From that point onwards I have essentially played nothing but tanks as main characters.  Be it my Warrior in Rift, or my Marauder/Warrior in Final Fantasy… I always gravitate towards tanking.  It took some time… but I finally found that one role that really suits me.  Which I guess in a way is why I am so passionate about tanks being a thing going forward.  It is a role I feel that I play fairly well.

Wrapping Up

So there you have it… the tale of how I went from being the most healery of healers to playing absolutely nothing but tanks.  I figured it was a tale worth telling, especially since there are folks that still have trouble thinking of me as ever playing anything but a tank.  The ironic thing is… there are a group of folks I raided with at the time that still think of me as Lodin the Hunter.  I was a really horrible hunter.  At this point… I am going to go crash on the sofa as I feel absolutely terrible.  I sincerely hope you are having a much better day than mine.

Support Belghast

Good morning all you happy people in digital land.  So far I am having another allergy ridden morning as I struggle to shake off my stupor.  Right now I just want to go back to sleep, but I know that is really not within the realm of possibility.  My lungs are pretty junked up this morning, so starting to wonder if I need to take a breathing treatment.  Here is hoping that by the time I have finished writing this post that things will have cleared up and I am feeling much better.  I kinda wish I had one of those cookies from the Matrix that makes everything feel “right as rain”.

Moment of Truth

FFXIV_ReviewOfHeadStart

This morning is in essence the moment of truth for Squeenix.  Either players will be able to log in normally or at least within a few tries and get on with playing Final Fantasy XIV… or they will likely start to drop out of the game giving up.  Today’s maintenance has been sold as the cure to the problem in many ways.  If it ends up not being so… I am questioning just how much patience players will have.  I know my guild is getting to the point where our patience is worn extremely thin at this point.

I originally thought the title of this subject was going to be “Epic Letdown”.  Launching Final Fantasy XIV Realm Reborn was literally the first thing I did when I got upstairs.  I was greeted with the familiar 1017 shuffle as pictured above.  My immediate thoughts were “what the fuck”.  This has been such an up and down rollercoaster.  I feel like I have gone through the stages of grief with the outrage and the denial and finally I have arrived at the sad acceptance that they didn’t have a clue one what they were doing.

However I did a few quick searches and stumbled across this post.  Essentially it said that they were going to throttle logins immediately after the servers came back up… and in theory they have just now come back up.  Then over time this morning they will ratchet down the restrictions to make sure that the servers stay stable.  In essence that makes sense I suppose.  So shortly after this… I attempted to log in and got a 20 player queue and in within a few minutes.  Right now things seem tentatively “better”.  Time will tell as to whether or not the login lottery is gone… or if I am just seeing the effects of it being 6:30 in the morning. 

I want so hard to believe that things are back to normal, or at least back to Beta 3 normal…  because the recent norm has been pretty jacked up.  We have several people in the guild who are unable to purchase the game and get onto Cactuar, so here is hoping that in the coming days they are able to do so.  An encouraging sign was that apparently Squeenix gave Amazon the nod to go ahead and start offering digital sales and downloads yesterday afternoon.  That was the point at which I started to get extremely hopeful… because to me that meant they really felt this was the solution.  Here is hoping that it remains playable over the next few days as more players come online.

Support Belghast

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Last night was a pretty momentous occasion for our little guild over in Rift.  It was the first time since the founding a few months back that we had five level 60 players online at the same time… or quite honestly even in the guild period.  Over the last few days Fynralyl and Psynister hit 60 on their main characters, and within the last week or so Sylladora did as well.  They joined myself and Lukian who had been 60 for some time and simply been waiting for some more guildies to start up regular dungeon runs.  The only problem with this… is we have a bit of a strange group composition.

The five of us add up to be 2 warriors, 2 mages and a cleric.  Lukian had been working on a healing spec, so I knew we had that covered.  Either Psynister or I could tank… so that should be good… but I thought Psyn pretty much ONLY had a tank spec, and since he needs tanky gear for elites I figured it was best to have him in that role.  Fyn and Sylla would of course be dps… which left us missing one key role…  Support.  At the last minute I remembered that in Storm Legion, Beastmaster had turned into a support tree, so after a little bit of fiddling I reset one of my unused roles to be the default Trailblazer preset (Beastmaster/Tempest/Reaver) support build.

It took me a little bit to get a grasp on my hot bars and set up a few macros, but within 10 minutes we were ready to go with me queuing as a support role.  It turns out that the Beastmaster is essentially a big walking buff bot.  I bring with me 6 different group and raid buffs that do everything from increase our damage, to reduce our damage taken, to causing a small hot every time I do a finishing move.  Essentially I am a lot like an Everquest bard…  I make everyone in the party somehow better, but you don’t really notice it until you don’t have one.

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at just how cool the re-skinned beastmaster cat pet looked.  The previous version was this ugly emaciated blue thing, so apparently with storm legion there was a massive improvement in the models.  I have to say playing it does not feel nearly as gratifying as playing a Bard… which was the only Rift support I have been used to.  The effects of my work are far less tangible.  I know that just me being in the party is reducing all damage taken by 5% and causing everyone to deal 5% more damage…  but you really don’t show up on the meters either in the damage or healing you do.

I need to do more research into the support warrior roles, and come up with potentially a better spec.  I went for this one namely because you could be semi effective at range with the addition of the tempest abilities.  Also I feel as though I really did not have much time to soak in the abilities before trying to create some haphazard hot bars.  It worked well enough however and we were able to get through the random normal 60 we queued for.  Sadly only one piece of gear was usable… and even it was for the wrong spec. However hopefully over the coming weeks we will get some folks good gear.

Wrapping Up

Somewhat of a low news morning for me, but I did ramble on at length about two things so I figure this is a good place to cut it off.  I need to finish getting ready and get on the road.  I still feel like death warmed over, and my lungs still feel like crap.  So much of me wants to just say fuck it and take a sick day… the only problem with that is I don’t really see any end to this until the weather gets colder.  It is like all the allergies are hitting at the same time.  Anyways.. hopefully all of you out in digital land are doing far better than I am… and that you are all having an amazing week.  I am resigned to telling myself that we are at the halfway point to the weekend.

Pugilism

Good morning you happy people in digital land… I am somewhat awake and once again sitting at the keyboard in the morning.  I know that over the holiday weekend I was a slacker and ended up logging late in the day for two days… but now it is time to return to reality and as such the morning posts begin once more.  All in all it was a pretty good Labor Day weekend, we ran out and did quite a few things and I managed to get in a decent amount of playtime in on various games.  I even managed to hit the suggested point in the NDA title, so I call the weekend as a whole a success.

Another Cool Find

Lego_Gungan_SubYesterday my wife went shopping with her mother and sister and I pretty much stuck around the house doing laundry, changing the ferret cage, and playing a lot of Final Fantasy.  Right now there is a lot of closeout going on at the various Wal-mart locations around us, and she said she would check the ones in Joplin if they ended up there.  I had honestly pretty much forgotten about it when I got a series of texts asking about various sets.  I still think it is so damned cool that she is more than willing to feed my addiction to all things Lego.

At the first store there were many sets that I already had, and one that I had picked up at our store… but in amongst the various heavily marked down boxes was a gem.  The Gungan Sub is a set I have thought was cool for some time, but it had an $80 pricetag that like all the bigger sets makes me not willing to pick them up.  However yesterday she found it for only $40 so it was a definite buy especially considering this one is another out of print set from 2012.

This apparently is a re-release of a model by the same name that came out in 1999 for the release of the Phantom Menace.  It looks like the model has been improved in every way, and in addition there is the first Queen Amidala minifig which is pretty sweet looking.  Of course in the travels my wife found lots of stuff for herself, including a bunch of scarves that were on clearance and a few tops.  It sounds like she had a good time hanging with her family, but I still think it is awesome that she thought to check the Legos and actually found some.

Pugilism

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Now that I managed to get to 30 on my main class and pick up the Warrior job I have backed down a bit from pushing through the levels.  One of the frustrations with specialization is that you can no longer access all of the cross class abilities.  So by switching into Warrior I lost access to all the nifty toys I had from my Lancer sub class.  As it stands currently, Warriors only have access to cross class abilities from the Gladiator and Pugilist classes.  Since there are quite a few good low hanging fruit in the Pugilism tree, I decided to swap over and run up a few levels there.

I have to say I enjoy the way pugilist feels.  In many ways it reminds me of the way the martial arts hero felt in City of Heroes.  You have lots of awesome kicks and punches and a really interesting combo system.  Basically how combos work in this game is that when you hit an ability, it will highlight the next ability in sequence… and if you press it you get some special added effect.  The problem is if you miss the second attack, it is a lost opportunity. 

With the Pugilist, each attack applies a short term buff to your character, and this buff is what controls the ability to proceed through to the next attack.  This means even if you fail to hit the target with the second attack, there is always a chance to pull out a second attempt at the attack and proceed down the combo tree.  Additionally they get a third step in their combo building process amazingly fast, within the first few levels.  This makes the class design feel extremely responsive early on in the leveling process.

Right now my goal is to hit level 12, which will give me access to a few really nice cross class abilities.  First we have Featherfoot, which increases evasion by 25% for 15 seconds.  Next we have Second Wind, that is a variable heal that builds off attack power.   Lastly we have Internal Release, which increases Critical Rate by 30% for 15 seconds.  I have heard that the Marauder ability Berserk which increases attack power by 50%, will greatly buff Second Wind.  While Berserk keeps you from using special attacks for 30 seconds after its duration… it could be a handy combo in a clutch situation where you are tanking and need a large heal NOW.

Primetime Patching

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At the point of posting about the prime time patch, I had not really don’t the time conversion myself.  Essentially the “Wednesday patch” is actually a Tuesday evening patch for the United States.  I feel as though a million oceanic players are reveling in the frustration saying “see what it feels like”.  The maintenance period is essentially 7 pm to 1 am central time, so pretty much encompasses the entire playable time period I would normally be in a game.  All will be forgiven if this fixes the issues and we can finally stop the “1017 shuffle”.

I heard an interesting theory about what is happening to the servers and why they cannot support any more players.  The theory states that it is not actually a problem with the individual shards themselves, but a problem with not having enough resources on the “instancing server”.  The game makes constant use of throwing players into instanced scenes in the game as you complete some of the games more epic quest moments.  This additionally is supposedly the same server that is used by every dungeon in the game.  The majority of player disconnects involve going into or coming out of an instanced area.

The theory further poses that it is this instance infrastructure that was just too small to support the current deluge of players.  This server was supposedly scaled for around 100,000 concurrent players, whereas we have well over that on a given basis.  This is also why in the final beta test, before they imposed the caps… the main issue at hand was the complete and total failure of the instance system halting players from progressing in their quests.  If this is in fact the case they may literally be able to throw servers at the problem…and after this maintenance all may be resolved.  I really hope this ends up the case…  because the game is far better than its shitty infrastructure shows.

Wrapping Up

Well it is time for me to take the trash out, feed the cats and get on the road.  I hope you have a great short week ahead of you.  My hope is that no real crisis arise and I can get some things knocked off my extremely long list.  More than likely tonight I will be back in Rift, as I am sure the guild thinks I have fallen off the face of the earth.  Looking forward to trying to get some more dungeons going this Wednesday for guild night.  Crossing my fingers that the maintenance fixes everything, and I will be able to play FFXIV at will, and not feel like I need to play it whenever I can actually connect to the game servers.

Warrior Get!

Good afternoon folks… I have been a horrible slacker this morning and am just now sitting down to blog.  Quite honestly… I feel like crap again… even more so than I did yesterday morning.  The allergy thing is kicking my ass… right now my lungs and head feel like they are full of concrete.  I rolled out of bed around 9 am and have been moping around the house since.  Essentially it feels like the seasons are all jacked up… this is the way I normally feel mid July.

State of FFXIV

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I am just starting off this post with a reminder… that the current state of Final Fantasy XIV Realm Reborn is bad.  The game is fully playable and really damned enjoyable if you can make it into game.  However at least once a night one of us gets essentially permanently locked out for the evening.  Making it through the login tries as shown above takes brute force and luck.  This weekend has honestly been far worse than anything since the last night of the head start.  The lobby server and JP and EU/US realm lists are taking a dump on a regular basis, so it is by sheer luck that any of us are making it in to play the game at all.

So once again… I highly suggest that you DO NOT BUY THE GAME YET.  Give it a month or so, right now Square seems to be working on fixing things… but they are doing so at a glacial pace.  Supposedly we will have a all realms maintenance on Wednesday to add resources to the servers.  The bad thing is that essentially it is happening during primetime for the United States.  I hope that this remedies some of the issues, but they could have done much better timing wise.  Considering like 90% of the players are in EU/US… timing it in a way as not to convenience the Japanese players only further cements my believe that Square in general could give zero shits about the US/EU player base as a whole.

I have heard through the blog and twitters verse that people are hunting from store to store trying to find a copy.  Seriously… save yourself the headache and wait until they restore digital sales.  We each have our preferred methods for getting through the login lottery.  Yesterday evening I set up my “spam 0 over and over” macro and used the time to clean my office and break down a few dozen Lego models into parts.  As I was finishing up and cleaning the top of my desk with a wet wipe I got through.  Others seem to try for 30 minutes and then go off and do something else.  Whatever the method is… you are far better just waiting until you don’t have to jump through the egregious hoops.

Bowl of Embers

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One of the big problems right now in the game is there are a large number of absolute bottlenecks that prevent you from moving forward.  The first of these is the “Bowl of Embers” quest line that leads to an instance.  I am going to try my damnedest not to spoil anything, because the instance is really damned cool and feels extremely epic.  However you have to do it with a well balanced 4 man group.  Once again we have the same problem in FFXIV as we have always had in the games leading up to this point.  DPS is simply more popular than Tanks and Healers, and since leveling a healer is fairly difficult… they are FAR rarer than tanks are.

As a result there are literally hundreds of players bottlenecked by not being able to get this quest completed.  The most jacked up thing about it is… you are offered no more quests ANYWHERE until you finish this one.  I got my way to the quest, and then continued leveling as I didn’t have a guild group handy.  I managed to push my way from 15 to 20 doing nothing but my hunting log quests and guildleaves.  I thought the game got super sparse never realizing that I was being held back by not having done the Bowl of Embers.

Upon completing this one quest… there were quests everywhere waiting on me.  One of my friends decided to take it upon himself to queue as a healer one night while we were all out questing.  One poor thaumaturgist had been waiting in the bowl area for 3 hours… not realizing she could leave the area and continue playing the game while queued.  So she had literally been just sitting there waiting on the queue to pop all that time… getting more and more frustrated as each hour passed.  So far this is the worst thing about the game play that there are roadblocks like this every so often that halt not just the main story… but ANY questing.

Warrior Get!

ffxiv 2013-09-02 13-11-58-90 My focus of late has been two fold… firstly to get to level 30 Marauder so I could do the Job Specialization quest and become a Warrior.  Secondly it has been to get far enough in the storyline to unlock the Haukke Manor dungeon.  That is another odd thing about this game… you can’t queue for a dungeon until you have unlocked it through the main storyline.  Essentially the other players have apparently had more playtime than me and the other tank.  So we have had a guild group just waiting to do Haukke Manor but no tank to do it.  A few players have risked pugging, but the vast majority of us really only care to group with guild members.

So as a result I have felt a certain internal pressure to level through the quest chain as fast as I could so I could start tanking this instance for people, as it appears to be another logjam in the storyline.  One of the weird things about taking a job is that you gain one really powerful effect upon getting it… but end up giving up your ability to cross class other than from two specific lines.  So essentially a Warrior can only gain cross class abilities from Gladiator and Pugilist.  This sucks a little bit because I had a really nice survival and slow ability from the Lancer line.

Right now my next plan is to focus on leveling my lancer for a bit, because I would really like to get it to 30 so that I can have a second job by picking up Dragoon.  That way I would have both a dps and tanking job that I could fall back on for alternate dungeoning.  The only negative is that while leveling the lancer I will essentially have to focus on running fates and guildleaves as I have already completed most of the quests available.  To some extent I wish there were a number of repeatable quests available that you could do regardless based on your current class.

Daedalus Returns

ffxiv 2013-09-02 13-35-56-37 Another really cool thing that happens at 30 is you unlock the ability to turn your riding chocobo into a battle companion.  Essentially they can take up the role of healer, dps or tank and become similar to the mercenaries in the Everquest games.  Of course you forfeit the ability to ride them as they are battling beside you, but it allows you to tackle more difficult encounters solo as you bring your own little duo along for the process.  They level as you fight with them, and you use this to purchase abilities.  Far as I can tell you can eventually teach them all of the three stances abilities.

Summoning them costs a Gysahl Green, which is the traditional Final Fantasy Chocobo food of choice.  I am going to have to figure out which vendor sells the greens so I can buy a big stack.  You get the first one as part of your quest chain.  So far my Chocobo only knows the first level heal, but I literally just got this ability before coming downstairs to force myself to blog.  The game really has so many little hooks that make you care about it.  It reminds me at times of Everquest 2 in the number of intricate systems it has behind the scenes that it takes awhile to find.  This game screams WoW clone at first viewing… but the more I get into it, the more rich it is.

Wrapping Up

Well I managed to bang out a blog post and keep my one post a day streak up.  Tomorrow I will be returning to the normal scheduled early morning posting.  Overall this extended weekend has been a really odd case.  I figure no one is likely waiting with baited breath to read my posts anyways.  More than likely folks will catch up on their RSS readers after the long holiday weekend.  I hope you all have had an excellent one, and I hope you keep my friend Sylladora in your thoughts.  I just found out she is having to put down her dog this weekend, and it is always extremely rough to lose a long companion like that.