Trials of Ascension

Computer Crash

This morning I really don’t have the time to devote to a proper post as I got upstairs, ate my oatmeal, drank my coffee and then noticed one of my computers was stuck in a booting up loop.  As a result I spent most of my normal blogging time trying to resurrect it.  It appears to be gone now, and I will have to figure out what happened over the weekend.  But in the meantime as I play a somber rendition of taps for it… I need to get a post together today. 

Trials of Ascension


File this in the “Yet Another MMO Kickstarter” category.  Trials of Ascension came across my RSS feed this morning so I felt like I needed to check it out.  Their claim is that they plan to build a “truly innovative MMORPG” and some of the things they mention wanting would definitely be different.  The tech demo they posted looks pretty spartan, but then again so did the Pathfinder tech demo. Hopefully given resources they will clean that up a bit.  In it’s current state it reminds me quite a bit of the old Atari published MMO Horizons.  Some of the features they mention wanting are…

  • Perma Death – 100 deaths and the character stays dead
  • Random Everything – no static spawns or dungeons
  • Hardcore Gameplay – video talks about wanting to challenge the players a lot
  • No Fast Travel – feels it shrinks the world too much
  • No Global Chat – whisper and shout only work within a radius
  • No Names – can’t see character or npc names
  • Magic Difficult – magic is hard to acquire but extremely powerful
  • GM Team – live GM events and interaction
  • Cooperative Crafting – players have to work together to craft items
  • No Minimap – world map but no way to tell exactly where you are
  • No Con System – no way to determine the level range of a player or mob

Not For Me, But Maybe You

So what they propose is a drastically different game than what is available currently.  I am posting this on my blog because I figure there are several of my readers who would be excited to play something like this.  The problem is… I am not.  I read the list of features they want to implement, and I remember the fervor that was whipped up before Vanguard released about it being a return to hardcore gameplay.  The problem is… players will say they want this sort of a game but they never seem to show up with their pocket books when one is released.

Maybe Kickstarter is a viable vehicle for this sort of niche vision, and potentially it can get built and find a quiet following to keep the lights on.  Mostly I am just shining a light on this existing to let folks who might want to support it know about it.  Personally nothing they are describing sounds like “fun” to me.  I like my modern conveniences and I tend to rebel against the games that don’t have them.  However that is not to say that there are not players out there who have been craving this more hardcore and primitive gaming experience.  In that case support the hell out of this game and hope it makes it through to fruition.

WoW Remix

Gamer Nature

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One of the things I have learned while playing Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn… is that any player from 11 or 14 classic… really hates it when a player compares the game to World of Warcraft.  I’ve seen so many of these “classic” players fill with so much rage the first time someone mentions WoW.  Yesterday I encountered a small bit of it outside of the game in a G+ thread where myself and another tank were giving an up and coming Gladiator some advice on how best to deal with multi-mob threat.

Best advise I have to you is: don’t expect this game to have "WoW equivalents." This isn’t WoW. It’s not a WoW clone. It’s not trying to be WoW. You’ll enjoy the game a lot more if you take it as it is, rather than forcing it to fit some molded preconception you have for it. You’re trying to fit a circle peg into a square hole.

WoW Remix

So I found the above comment rather puzzling.  Especially coming from where this game did… the new version while not a “WoW Clone” is at the very least a WoW Remix.  Almost every ability I have has some simulacrum in World of Warcraft.  For example I think of my Warrior as a mix between a Druid tank and a Deathknight tank.  While it is in fact a unique beast… I still refer to the process of tabbing through mobs and applying Butchers Block as “Tab Sunder”.  Everything ultimately gets referred to more often than not by the wow name for it.  I don’t teleport back to my home location… I hearth.

Since most of the active MMO gamer pool has a relatively short memory… this is the way it has always been.  Before WoW claimed the crown as the most popular MMO… each new release got referred to by the terms we used in Everquest.  Damaging yourself to get back mana… was referred to as “Twitching” or “Cading” in reference to the Necromancer or Shaman spells.  Any form of a speed boost was often referred to as “SoW”, I can remember hearing people call the various speed powers “SoW” in City of Heroes.  To some extent listening to the FFXI diehards talk in FFXIV ARR has been a trip down memory lane… because those players carried with them terms from EQ into XI like DD for direct damage.

Top Dog Sets Rules

Awhile back there was a thread somewhere asking what games you would suggest to new players… and quite honestly despite my sordid relationship with the game, I have to say I would always suggest that someone play at least SOME World of Warcraft.  In my own guild we have a few players who have never played the game, and as a result they miss the references that are made in guild chat and mumble all of the time.  Thing is… this is not just a thing my guild does, this is a thing EVERY guild does in EVERY new game.  World of Warcraft had its own vocabulary that was grown out of the lingo that we used in Everquest.  Essentially as that game eclipsed the other games, its ability names started to take the place of the previous ones that were used.

Today going into any MMO for the first year at least… every single thing in game is going to be referred to by its WoW equivalent.  So the fact that as a seasoned MMO player… I can find immediate and direct WoW equivalents makes me think that the above statement is a little naïve.  FFXIV very much has wow equivalents, just like every game since the rise of wow has… and every game after will as well.  It is the fact that a game becomes the market leader that determines who dictates the vocabulary, because essentially there is nothing new under the sun.  Everything we do in FFXIV also has a direct EQ vocabulary equivalent, as everything we see today is a remix of the things that came before it.  The comparisons will someday shift again, but only when a game has eclipsed the current leader.

Final Funk

Pull Resisted

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Last night I resisted the desire to re-up my World of Warcraft account… in part because I really did not feel like playing much of anything.  When I first logged in I popped into Hearthstone to see what the daily quest happened to be.  It was win two matches with a paladin or priest deck, neither of which I have even finished unlocking the basic cards for.  I made a valiant attempt at victory on a paladin, only to find out that practice victories did not count.  Essentially there is no way in hell right now that I could beat an actual player with either of those decks… even though priest seems to be pretty damned hax based on my regular loss record against them.

After that I popped into Rift for a few but could not seem to find the oomph to play that either.  Though since the shiny vault was backed up again, I figured I would at least take the time to pilfer through that and help relieve some of the stress.  I have been in these unknown funks before, but I am not sure what to do to kick myself out of this one.  Ultimately I ended up retiring to bed and playing Pokémon Y until my wife joined me some time later.

Final Funk

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I think in part my present funk is due to the fact that once again I have topped out another game and lack the drive to do much of anything further in it.  I am still very much enjoying the dungeons when we can pull those together, and I want to do more 8 man content especially now that we have a fresh 50 to run through it.  However I don’t have a single thing I really care to do in game the rest of the time.  So as a result I am simply not logging in.  I did the All Saints’ Wake and it was extremely disappointing and finished within like 10 minutes time or running errands throughout the various cities.

One of my game designers always brings up the “moment to moment” play, and I guess for me this is what is lacking in Final Fantasy.  After pushing my Warrior to 50 and then grinding up a Bard to 50 as well doing literally nothing but FATES… I find myself lacking the desire to do the FATE grind ever again.  Normally tradeskills is a thing that fills in the gaps, providing me some downtime between grinds.  However you can tell a tradeskill system is bad if I would far rather play the EQ2 mini-game crafting system than do anything within the FFXIV system.

Another huge thing that tarnishes my enjoyment of FFXIV is that like it or not… I am a bit of a loot whore.  At the very least much of my homicidal rage against monsters… is because I know they have a chance, albeit slim of dropping something amazing.  I like playing the loot pinata, and when a game has that sort of a loot system I can happily grind again at mobs never quite knowing what the next one will drop.  FFXIV on the other hand has absolutely no meaningful loot.  Mobs drop crafting items, and since I don’t really care about crafting…  there is absolutely zero excitement there.

So as I stand currently I am not playing the game much at all.  My friends have access to me via instant message, twitter, text message… so I figure if they need me to tank for them I am more accessible than most folks.  In the meantime I keep trying to figure out something that excites me to do in the time between dungeon runs.  My other friends seem to default to League of Legends, but quite frankly I don’t enjoy the game enough to ever queue with strangers.  So as a result I end up trying to resist the desire to re-up wow and playing quite a lot of Pokémon.

Failing Resolve

Perfect Drug

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This morning I am having a bit of a slow start getting going… so as a result I spent the last 30 minutes or so crawling through my news reader looking for something to inspire me.  At which point I landed on this post from Liore talking about her feeling the need to apologize for playing World of Warcraft and the overall negative reaction she has gotten from other gamers.  I think in part… the negative attitude is due to the fact that there is really no such thing as a former WoW player.  I don’t really intend hyperbole with, but much like an alcoholic you are never really fully over World of Warcraft.

I was so damned pumped the day I got into the Hearthstone beta, and while I am presently having a blast playing it despite how many times I get beat…  it has awoken some things that I was not quite ready for.  I cannot count how many times after a game of Hearthstone this weekend that I considered reactivating my account and “playing some wow”.  I am still resisting, and my little interaction a week or so ago with a trial account is keeping me in part from doing it.  World of Warcraft this is wonderful marzipan world that is awesome so long as you are willing not to think about it too much.

Can’t Not Think


The problem is… each time I go back to the game I just end up frustrated about the decisions they didn’t make.  World of Warcraft is like that friend you know with so much potential, but they keep making horrible life choices.  So when I go back I get frustrated by the Transmog system, and the piss poor community support, and the fact that every single social channel that used to be my lifeblood in the game is dead…  since most of the folks I care about have long since moved on.  For me World of Warcraft is this magical thing that will never again be, because we have all fundamentally changed from the days when it was our nightly obsession.

We reject WoW so harshly because we know it is basically an empty promise.  All it takes is a little bit of nostalgia and reminiscing about the “good ole days” and we are ready to re-up for another ride.  Hearthstone has been horrible for me in this aspect, because seeing the cards and the artwork… makes me want to go play Belghast and actually get him to level 90.  However my allergy to pugging, or more so TANKING for pugs will end up in tears as I would be going back with no real support structure.  House Stalwart still exists, but it is a shell of what it once was, and going back and seeing that is hard on me as well.

Failing Resolve

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All of this said… I fully expect over the next few weeks this nostalgia trip that is Hearthstone will eventually end up in me reactivating my World of Warcraft account.  I figure I will only last a week or so if I do, and even knowing this going into it… I full expect to do it anyways.  I spent most of the weekend trying to play various things without really having much success.  I played a little rift, patched up gw2, played a lot of pokemon and hearthstone… and even considered patching up SWTOR.  All the while trying to avoid the fact that the rush of nostalgia is demanding me playing some WoW.  But all of this is why we push back so hard when we see a friend slip back into playing the game.  We know deep down inside that we are likely next to follow.

Halloween 2013

Spooky Pasta!


One of the things I love in the various MMOs I play or have played… are the varried Holiday events.  Some of them make an extreme effort to fit them into the lore of their world, and others just cut and paste a real world tradition onto their land.  Both have their merits and both are enjoyable so long as they don’t involve too much grinding.  Each game seems to pick and choose holidays, but there are two that every game seems to have…  Christmas and of course Halloween.

Halloween time is generally my favorite holiday because the traditions itself usually involve killing lots of dark denizens of the night.  Additionally the playing dress up theme usually means some cool weapon and armor skins that you can use throughout the rest of the year.  Currently we are in the run up to Halloween itself, and as a result pretty much every MMO has some form of event going on marking the holiday.  Going to take a few minutes this morning to talk about some of the cooler ones.

Nights of the Dead


This event runs in Everquest 2 from 10/15 through 11/11 and is probably the grand daddy of all Halloween events.  Each year they keep adding new content, but still leaving all of the old content in place.  Zam has a really great guide to the various quests and events.  If you are one of the new to EQ2 folks who just partook of the free level 85 event… I highly suggest checking it out.  However even with a brand new account you can still participate in most of the fun.  My personal favorite event is the hedge maze that drops lots of nifty cosmetic gear.

Blood and Madness


Guild Wars 2 supposedly has a really amazing event called Blood and Madness that kicked off on October 15th that involved a series of limited time events (one day only) finally culminating in a big event that only exists Halloween night.  Dulfy has a pretty comprehensive guild to the events, but for the most part if you are not already doing this series you have missed out this year.  This has been my key bitch about Guild Wars 2 to date… I hate the concept of short run limited time events.  The amount of busy work needed really only allows someone who ONLY plays GW2 to keep up… and because of this I just can’t be bothered to attempt it.  I would love to see this as a long term event that ran the entire length of the holiday, but until then it will be out of my reach.

Autumn Harvest


Rift has an event called Autumn Harvest that starts on October 17th and runs through Halloween and potentially a little bit past.  They have chosen to focus on the harvest aspect of the holiday and as such have sent you to a special version of the Realm of the Fae where you help Atrophinius and his minions bring in the amber sap harvest.  There are a ton of cool things you can get, including a phantom version of several popular mounts.  The coolest feature of the event however is that you can get these short time use potions that make tons of artifacts show up on the ground in the realm of the fae.  This is a huge catch up on collections event.  This year around there are a ton of new items to be gotten and you can check out this preview guide on Rift Junkies.

Hallow’s End


Hallow’s End is an event that occurs in World of Warcraft from October 18th through November 1st.  There are tons of nifty things going on like trick or treating, but the meat and potatoes of the event is the Scarlet Monastery Headless Horseman instance.  I have a love/hate relationship with this holiday.  Every year it has been available (and that I have been playing wow) I have participated in the event… all for a shot at the extremely awesome flying headless horseman mount.  Every single year I have come up empty handed.  When a game company places an item in an event, like a mount… that is usable every day… and makes it a super rare random drop… I want to stab them.

All Saints’ Wake


Currently there is an event going on over in FFXIV that is completely new to me.  All Saints’ Wake started a little early, but was intended to run from October 18th through November 1st.  All of the time zones get a little discombobulated in the translation.  While I am not partaken in the event yet, so far the other one I have seen has been what I would call “Holiday-Lite” in that there is a FATE going on that awards some sort of currency that you then use to purchase things off a vendor.  Since the vanity gear system is not in place yet, this makes the things you can acquire super limited, but I plan on gathering them up just in case.  One of the most humorous observations from last night is that apparently the Pumpkin helms… are repaired by Cullinarians.

The Rundown

That is the rundown of the big ones I know of that are going on, but like I said in the first part of the post… this is the one holiday that pretty much EVERY MMO celebrates.  I can even remember in Hellgate: London there being a Halloween event of sorts that took its form in a Guy Fawkes day celebration… that happened to have a lot of Halloween themed stuff.  I would be curious to hear about any events that are your favorite that I missed.


Battle of Cards

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I am getting around super late this morning to make a blog post.  On a whim I decided to take Friday off, since for my wife it was her fall break.  I figured the two of us could hang out around the house or do whatever.  Then over night I noticed a rather frantic message from my boss.  It seems like after 5 his boss had requested something by noon today… that would involve a lot of feedback and information from us worker bees.  So as a result I got up around 8 am, got dressed, went out and grabbed breakfast and have been remote into work for the last hour working on the list of information.  As a result… my normal early morning post is delayed.

Yesterday I was extremely pumped to get home, because over night I seemed to have received an email from Blizzard saying that my account had finally been flagged for the Hearthstone beta process.  Since everyone and their brother is live streaming this on Twitch… I am assuming there is no actual NDA going on… or at least not one currently enforced.  So as a result I snapped multiple pictures last night as I played and will be weaving them in here and there.  I have to admit I went into this a bit skeptical… not really sure if I would like it or not.  From the video I had seen, everything about the game feels rushed much like a LFG dungeon group.  Even though you rarely think more than one round ahead… there is still a lot of strategy going on.

The Education


Day[9] has a really good series of videos walking through his first experience with the game, and I highly suggest you watch it if you are curious about how you get into the game.  Basically Blizzard has done an amazing job of user education, in that to get started in the game you HAVE to play through a tutorial.  Fortunately it does a really good job of slowly introducing you into the various mechanics, and as a result you can pick up the strategy of the game extremely quickly.  You play through a series of NPC card fights…starting with Hogger and finishing with an Azerothian Super Villain that I won’t spoil for now.

Once you have finished with the tutorial it has taught you basically everything there is to know about the Mage deck.  Essentially the decks are all themed after one of the World of Warcraft classes.  I notice that Deathknight is conspicuously absent… so they must be intending to add that in as an expansion opportunity.   For those who are familiar with the Duel of the Planeswalkers series of MTG games for consoles and steam… you will be used to the way you progress from here.  Now you can take your mage deck and challenge the other classes, by defeating them you unlock the ability to play as that class.

The Sticky-ness

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The biggest surprise for me is just how sticky this game was.  I got home around 5 pm and started playing around 5:30.  I ended up playing this game without pause until around 9:30.. and only then because some guild members needed me to tank a FFXIV dungeon run.  I have to say that is fairly unheard of for me, when it comes to card games.  I have copies of all of the Duel of the Planeswalker games that have been released, but have maybe logged 50 hours total among ALL of them.  There was just something about the physical card game experience that never quite translated to the online version.

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Last night over the course of the evening, I managed to unlock all of the different class decks.  At various points through the evening I was rewarded with either gold or actual packs of cards.  The game uses a quest like system to give you little goals to work towards.  If you look above you can see that in the screenshot I have 2 of the 3 wins needed to earn 10 gold.  There was another quest I had to level one of the classes to 10, and in doing so I unlocked a pack of cards.  Essentially it seems like there are two kinds of cards you can get… Basic cards that are unlocked through completing quests and scenarios and leveling… and Expert cards that are unlocked through either purchasing or winning packs of cards.

The Money

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Since this game is free to play, you have to be asking yourself… where do they make money.  Well like always with any card game it is in the packs.  I took a screenshot of the current store interface.  You will notice that the packs that be bought with either in game gold currency that you earn by completing achievements or be purchased with real world currency.  You can purchase a single pack with 100 gold, 2 packs for $2.99 ($1.49 each), 7 packs for $9.99 ($1.42 each), 15 packs for $19.99 ($1.32 each) or 40 packs for $49.99 ($1.24 each).  So as you can see in buying in bulk like you would expect you keep getting more and more of a discount on the per pack price.

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Through the course of play last night I earned 5 packs of cards either through a combination of gold or actually winning the packs outright.  I have to say the sound design and animation are amazing… and really capture the same excitement of opening a real pack of cards.  You can double click the pack to open it… or for a more tactile experience drag it open.  Similarly all five cards in a pack come flying out onto the screen… but do so face down.  This allows you to flip them over one by one similar to sifting through a physical pack of cards.  They know their audience well and have put in a number of tactile hooks to increase the sense of suspense to see if you have something good or not.

Versus Players

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Currently you have the option of playing progressively harder NPC decks, or setting out and playing some physical players.  Quite honestly I have found playing players a bit easier than playing the expert decks.  There are two PVP modes of play… the first of which is simply building a custom deck and then taking it on the road to fight against other players.  The second of which is the Arena, which serves as this games “draft” mode, giving both a more random experience but also potentially a more balanced one.

I am not sure if this regenerates but you get at least one free Arena token, after that it appears to either cost 150 in game gold or $1.99 to unlock additional tokens.  In the Arena you choose a class and then are presented with a series of three cards.  The card you keep goes into your arena deck, and the other two are discarded.  This continues on until you have chosen 30 cards for your deck.  An Arena deck lasts until you have lost three times.  At the end of the match you are rewarded based on how well you did.  For me I got 2 sacks of gold 2 packs of cards and a rare paladin card for playing.  I won three times and lost three times.

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The interesting thing about the Arena is the fact that you don’t have to play it all in one sitting.  So long as you have not lost your three matches you can continue playing arena.  There is some bar of gems that fills up each time you win, but I am not 100% certain how that works.  You might get punted out of the Arena if you win too often as well.  Last night I played through a single arena match and then was off playing custom games with players.  My little hunter deck seems to be doing pretty well, so I will likely return to doing some of that today.  I have to say I am very pleasantly surprised in just how good of a game Hearthstone is.

Subtle Tweaks

Fountains of Gil

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Last night was the first night I have played FFXIV seriously since getting Pokemon.  Well I suppose that is a bit of a misnomer as I was in game Tuesday night to help a guild member through the Garuda Primal… but suffice to say it was the first time I have really done something serious in a bit.  In that time they released a fairly significant patch to the server, and it was for most of us the first time experiencing the changes.  I have to say overall they are pretty positive.  You can see the full patch notes here, but I will talk about a few of the significant items.

One of my largest complaints, that I have mentioned a few times is that this game has absolutely tons of gold sinks… but no really viable gold fountains other than crafted high quality end game gear.  Even that has been dropping drastically as the best in slot HQ Robe of Vanya started out around 1.5 million gil and is now down to 400k gil on Cactuar.  The main problem is, that in our little group since hitting 50 each of our pools of gil has been falling severely with no real way of gaining it back at a reasonable rate.  Apparently Squeenix has heard our plea and implemented the strangest gold fountain I have ever seen in a game.

Apparently they did not like the fact that players were skipping trash packs in dungeons and doing “speed runs”, because when they put their fountain in it has in essence patched two holes in the boat.  In the level 50ish dungeons, the trash packs now drop a not insignificant amount of gil…  we were mostly seeing around 50 gil per mob.  This means that the dungeon as a whole is a really good way to gain back some of that cash we have been losing.  Over the course of the evening in running Amdapor Keep and Wanderers Palace once each I got around 6000 gil.  That is not enough to make me wealthy… but it is enough to stave off the slow bleed of currency.

Subtle Tweaks

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To make Wanderer’s Palace more appealing they have increased the number of “rockbooks” aka Tomestones that drop.  Between a running of Amdapor and Wanderer’s I had enough to go out and purchase the Darklight belt, so I was pretty pleased with that.  The trend continued last night with minor drops happening for our dps and healing, and not a single viable tank drop in sight.  In the first picture in the post you can see I have swapped out my “so you decided to hit 50” chest piece for one that dropped in Wanderers…  but sadly it was an exact side grade.  I just wanted to look slightly different for a bit, so I snagged it.

In one of the patch notes threads, we had seen the extremely ambiguous patch note of “adjusted difficulty of level 50 encounters”, which we all took to mean that they made things more difficult.  However upon running the two 50 4 man dungeons last night, it seemed like a lot of the fights were easier, or at least I was not taking nearly as much damage as before.  Granted this could be to a large number of factors, not the least of which is that we are all fairly used to the encounters now.  However it did feel like I was taking less raw damage than I was previously, especially on a few of the more troubling packs.

Goodbye Bullshit

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In the past I wrote about the absolute hackery that was the Dark Devices FATE in Northern Thanalan.  The FATE that essentially all players seemed to universally extend out as long as humanly possible to farm the constant flow of instant spawn cultists.  If you were in the right group, and you got a tag in on every mob you could get some truly amazing experience.  During one group we managed to get an over 300 chain of kills, and that FATE along was worth just over a half of a level a 48 when I was leveling my bard.  However if you were NOT in the chosen party… you got to waste 15 minutes of your time and next to no experience for the process.

I am proud to announce that they did in fact fix that bullshit.  Apparently now the cultists no longer instant spawn, and as a result there is no point in delaying the FATE.  So as a result I am imagining that FATEs in Northern Thanalan are now nice and smooth, as quite honestly OTHER than Dark Devices it was a rather enjoyable zone for grouping.  It is smallish in size but packed full of really high value fates including the really cool Chimera fate in the northern end of the zone that awards a pet.  Hopefully as a whole the experience of grinding from 45 to 50 is better for most players.  Our guild has just about determined that the best way to boost a player to 50 is to hang out in the zone and kill the various Garleans as fast as you can, rather than trying to FATE anyways.  We’ve helped a handful of folks get the last bit towards 50 doing this, and it seems like something that is easily repeatable.

Party Like it’s 1995



I have been fairly oblivious to the world for the last few days, and as a result I had fallen behind on my news reader.  The thing that I found most interesting was this article on Massively talking about a potential League of Legends Universe online TCG.  I feel like I would love any game set in the League universe that is not League.  The world they have built up around the MOBA has some pretty awesome lore, and in part that is why I continue to play the game in spite of my problems with the control scheme.  My friends and I have talked about how successful we thought a single player game would be set in that world, but I could see an online TCG working as well.

Party Like It’s 1995


A friend and I were talking about this news, and he made the comment that it is 1995 all over again.  In a way that is exactly what it seems like to me as well.  For those who were not part of that scene during the TCG boom during the mid 90s… suffice to say every potentially marketable property got made into a card game.  I like a sucker probably played most of them out of sheer love and nostalgia for Magic the Gathering the one that started it all.  Some of them stuck around and gained a life of their own like Pokémon or Yugioh because they were driven by external motivators… and some were really amazing and died on the vine like Rage and Vampire: The Eternal Struggle.

However during the 90s… you could find a card game for any property you wanted to play, and I think among my friends we at least bought a starter deck of most of them.  Magic the Gathering has had an online component for years, but for the most part it has never gained traction because it was arcane to get into, and Wizards of the Coast still very much favored the physical market.  In essence it was a cheap copy of a physical property and the company seemed fine with that.  What we are seeing now is a new crop of games conceived for online play, and that offer rule sets that would never really work in a physical card game.

The Next Boom


Much like we have seen for MMOs and MOBA… we are going to see a lot of companies entering this marketplace, trying to TCG-ize their existing intellectual property.  Even though neither has released, it seems like the two leaders going into the marketplace are Hearthstone by Blizzard and Hex by their TCG business partner Cryptozoic.  While they will be competing in the same space, and have quite a bit of overlap… I feel like each of these games is going after a slightly different player.  Hearthstone is going after the “easy to learn, hard to master” demographic, with a deceptively simple mechanic that leads to extremely fast paced duels.

While I have not actually played it (hey Blizz flag my account already), I have watched more than a handful of youtube videos and live streams.  Essentially it seems like a really straight forward rage style duel mechanic.  The thing that I initially am not a huge fan of is the way that combat works.  It seems like there is no real defense mechanic, or at least not one in the way I have come to expect from Magic: The Gathering.  As a result the gameplay is extremely in your face and aggressive, but does not feel terribly nuanced.

Cryptic Gameplay


On the other side of things you have Hex: Shards of Fate by Cryptozoic… which is a oddly fitting company name for their approach.  It feels like they are trying to be Magic: The Gathering 2.0 with an evolved rule set and extremely cryptic and nuanced gameplay.  This is the type of game you go into already at a massive debt of knowledge, but as you learn the rules and uncover strategies you are rewarded for your ability to assimilate the information.  It looks like it will support some extremely long running duels, much in the same way Magic did, with players coming back from the brink to snatch victory out of defeat.

Personally while I really want to play Hearthstone, Hex seems more my style.  It is less Pokémon and Yugioh and more Magic: The Gathering… the game that started the craze and still has a honored spot in my heart.  Currently I think there is more than enough market share for both of these games.  However all of the late comers that are creating online TCGs… are likely going to get left out in the cold the same way all the other boom economies have worked.  Mainly I don’t see anyone else bringing something truly unique to the table.  During the physical card game boom, we saw lots of different themed versions of M:TG, and to a lesser extent I figure we will see this again.

Been There Done That


Currently both games are very fantasy oriented, so I expect the other genres to get on the act shortly.  Since DC is working on a MOBA… I fully expect to be seeing a DC themed online card game.  To be honest… the VS system that incorporated both DC and Marvel had a decent amount of success during the physical card game wars… so it might be a property worthy of resurrection in an online form.  Additionally I fully expect there to be a Star Wars themed product offering with the upcoming 7th movie entering production.  Then I am sure there will be other properties that jump on the bandwagon that we can’t even fathom being a card game…  just like last time.  The problem is… all of this has a feeling of “been there done that” for me.

I experienced this rush of excitement and crushing disappointment several times before during the 90s, as a property I cared about was turned into a truly un-inspired card game amalgam.  To some extent we are still living through this each time an MMO spins up only to sputter out a year or so later.  Another tidbit from my news feed yesterday was that Mummy Online was shutting down… I literally did not even know it existed in the first place.  So MMOs are currently coming and going without me even realizing it.  Basically I am bracing myself for a lot of shoddy card games to be released in a short period of time, trying to cash in on the “new” craze of digital collectible card games.  So as much as I look forward to Hearthstone and Hex… I am entering what I feel will be a new trend with quite a bit of trepidation.


Age Gap


I feel like there is this huge phenomena that I completely missed the boat on.  Even though it was my generation that brought the Gameboy to the world, and I can remember getting one in 1989 it was never a primary console for me.  It was that thing I played when I was on a trip, or more often my younger cousin played when he was visiting.  For him the Gameboy was totally a primary means of gameplay, but for me… it was more novelty than anything else.  The battery life was pure shit, so it was not like you could actually take it anywhere for long periods of time without a large stock of AA batteries to fuel it.

Additionally it made everything you played look spinach green.  There were various big name titles that came out like Metroid II that provided an experience that did not exist on the bigger consoles…. but by that time I had the Super Gameboy and the ability to play these games in pseudo color.  While I bought a Gameboy Advance and later a second hand Gameboy SP they were still more novelty devices for me.  As a result I feel as though I almost completely missed one of the biggest crazes to ever hit gaming.



I was already well into the working world when the whole Pokémon insanity happened.  It was one of those games that I knew existed, but since I didn’t really play Gameboy much, I had never actually experienced.  My first entry into the world actually happened when the card game was released.  Before it really blew up, it had become something that the card gamer folks dabbled in at my local game store… and I had a starter deck and a handful of boosters.  It was a charming little game, and it played rather quickly as compared to Magic: The Gathering that could often times drag on for ages.

I did not really encounter the Gameboy game until much later, when I played Pokémon Blue on a Gameboy emulator.  I found it a charming game, and quickly became addicted to capturing these little critters, but the experience ended there for the most part.  I don’t think I ever actually beat the game.  Once the novelty wore off I was back to playing my JRPGs on the PlayStation, and traded Pokémon for Jade Cocoon. I likely would have stayed disconnected from the Pokémon experience were it not for MMO games and often times being one of the oldest folks in the raid.

Battle Pets


A large number of the gamers that I play with on a regular basis are one full generation younger than I am.  As a result… Pokémon was a huge deal for that group.  I can remember talking about WoW Pokémon with a small measure of disdain when it was originally announced, but mostly because I really did not get what is so fun about it.  However when it was released I went from antagonist to addict in no time.  In fact for the first several nights after the release of Mists of Pandaria, I wandered around doing nothing but battle pets.  I have always been a pet collector in MMO games, but being able to do something with them… made the whole experience that much better for me.

The thing is… this also made me realize that this madness called Pokémon totally worked on me.  I began to feel like I had missed an entire experience.  Over the last few months my inner circle of gamer friends have been prepping for the release of Pokémon X and Y, and while at the time I didn’t think much about it… the closer it got to release the more I wanted to participate this time.  I have not owned a Gameboy since the SP, and have completely missed the DS era.  As a result I missed a number of games that I still want to play.  So I feel like I have a significant backlog of games I want to play for it.


However the big title on the horizon that I would have had to play… was Legend of Zelda:  A Link Between Worlds.  A Link to the Past is one of my favorite games of all time… I put it very close to Castlevania Symphony of the Night… the game that is likely my all time favorite.  I was always a fan of Legend of Zelda, spending countless hours beating the first one.  However, Link to the Past was that game that really proved to me the raw power of the Super Nintendo.  I picked up a copy on my way home from getting outpatient sinus surgery and I played the hell out of it as I recuperated.  When I heard there was a sequel coming to the 3DS I knew sooner or later I would end up with the console.

Taking the Plunge


Much to the frustration of my wife I am sure… last night I took the plunge and picked up a black/black 3ds XL and Pokémon Y.  My immediate group of friends have been keeping the X and Y thing pretty balanced so I could have gotten either.  Basically for me it came down to the fact that I would far rather have a crazy red and black flying bird with three hands…  than some kind of blue faerie antelope.  Other than that… I really could not tell you the difference.  I played the absolute crap out of the game last night, and spent most of that time catching Pokémon and then trading them off using the crazy wonder trade system. 

This has to be the coolest feature I have found so far.  Basically since the 3DS is an extremely connected device, you can place any Pokémon you do not want up for trade, and receive a Pokémon that another trainer does not want.  Essentially it is the whole, one mans trash is another mans treasure concept… and while I am sure at later levels you mostly get things you have no interest in… starting out I found it to be the source of many Pokémon I was interested in.  I oddly enough ended up with quite a few interesting and potentially rare ones mixed in with the dross.

I still feel a little overwhelmed.  Having never really played a Pokémon game… there are so many things that have changed since my brief experience with Pokémon Blue.  Luckily I have various friends that serve as an almost encyclopedic tome of knowledge about all things “pocket monster”.  They have been helping me out immensely especially in evaluating which things are good and which things are not so good.  I feel like I have a couple of decades of research to do before I even feel like I have a slim grasp on what all is going on.  I am now a proud member of the 3DS era, so I can now add a “friend code” to the long list of other social identifiers I have.

End Game

Slowing Down

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For most of us in House Stalwart the wild ride that was the Final Fantasy XIV storyline has come to a conclusion.  As a result a large number of us have dialed back our playtime a bit to recover.  This is only magnified by the fact that the game that none of us may speak of is having yet another event and a large number of us are actively playing that.  The storyline was extremely exceptional and did everything I would expect in the ending of a classic final fantasy game.  However this time it left the door completely open.

It felt much like that first time you transitioned Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past into the Dark World.  It feels like we just scratched the surface of the game, which I guess is how the ending of the storyline content should feel in every MMO.  Lots of things are resolved, but very quickly you realize that nothing at all is truly resolved.  Now that we have spent all the storyline we are left with the fact that other than the wonderful story… the FFXIV experience is a rather skeletal one.

End Game

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Basically eight of us have entered the phase of the end game at this point… which is extremely limited.  Each step along the path has some pretty severe gear requirements, so what we have ahead of us is a large amount of running the same two dungeons over and over.  Basically you are given two paths forward for gear.  The first of which is running two 8 man dungeons that reward a lot of tomestones, but absolutely no gear…  or running two 4 man dungeons that drop gear but very few tomestones.  Neither option feels really good, considering for the time spent running Amdapor you really do not end up with much gear.  I’ve run it three times as a tank and have yet to see a single drop.

The real problem is the fact that each run through the dungeon racks up a not insignificant repair bill.  One of the big problems I have talked about before is the fact that there really is no good way to gain money at level 50.  I carried with me into the end game about 200,000 gil, and that has been going fast as I use it for various needed things at the maximum level.  The options I have before me are grinding fates which pay out around 200 gil each, grinding leves which pay out around 500 gil each…  and playing the auction house.  The problem with the auction house is that `the only thing worth anything really are high level crafted items.  Leveling your crafting however can bankrupt your character… so it is a bit of a catch 22.

Relic Weapon

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The goal of the game right now seems to be to get your relic weapon and later on your +1 upgrade to it.  This is the best item in the game you can get, but much like the Everquest Epic weapon it is a long and drawn out process.  To start down this path is a rather expensive one.  Firstly you have to acquire the base weapon, for a Warrior this is the Barbarian’s Bardiche.  This is crafted by a high level blacksmith and is gathered together out of bits that have to be farmed from a combination of dungeons and overworld zones.  They currently go for about 10,000 gil on the open market, and since I do not have access to a max level Blacksmith that is the option I chose to go with.  In my experience it costs far more than 10,000 gil to get a smith to create one for you.

From there you need to infuse 2 Battledance III materia onto the item.  This once again has to be done by a level 50 blacksmith… and the going rate per infuse on my server is 10,000 gil.  Acquiring the Battledance III materia is a whole other matter that is far more time consuming.  These are gained from disassembling level 45 or higher items that are 100% spiritbound.  The problem is… individual items can be disassembled into a wide variety of different materia.  I spiritbound a set of Mithril Plate gear, and did not manage to get a single Battledance III.  Ultimately I had a guild member give me one of them, and I bought the second on the open market for 15,000 gil.

So just to get to the point of turning in the infused axe I have already spent over 50,000 gil once you factor in the material costs of the infusions.  I apparently got off easily… for a Paladin or a Scholar apparently the costs are more like 100,000 gil.  From here it is a series of monsters that I have to take down, starting in Coerthas with the Chimera and ending with Hard Mode Titan.  All of which is rather honestly a pretty horrific grind, considering by the time you get to Hard Mode Titan, you damned well better be in full darklight gear, the set you get from the tomestones I talk about grinding out earlier.

Grind, Grind, Grind

Ultimately this is going to be the thing that kills the game for me if they do not introduce some less grindy paths.  Right now I have the option of grinding for money, grinding to level other classes or grinding out end game gear.  There is nothing left to do in the game that is anywhere near as enjoyable as the questing experience was.  At this point, the game is a really fun ride to 50, and then grind city afterwards.  I still greatly enjoy the dungeon runs, and I look forward to doing more of that, but that involves getting a large number of people online at the same time.  When there is not a full groups worth online, I am finding myself lacking in things I really want to do.

At this point I have leveled my Warrior to 50 and my Bard to 50…  but any additional characters involve lots and lots of either mob grinding or fate grinding and right now after having done it twice… that lacks any sort of luster.  So I find myself piddling around in other games waiting on enough of a critical mass to form in FFXIV that we can do some dungeons.  At this point I really lack interest in doing anything else in the game.  I think as time passes I will want to level other classes, but after having ground out two to 50, I need a bit of a break.  As a result I have been piddling around in League of Legends and finding myself pining away from my Hex invite.  FFXIV still has a ton of potential, but they really need to make some changes in 2.1 to make the game more livable.