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

Flashbacks

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Pokémania

Age Gap

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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.

Pokémania

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

Fighting Nostalgia

Familiar Itch

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Over the last few days I have been feeling immensely nostalgic about World of Warcraft.  This tends to happen to me as we near Blizzcon time, and I start to see twitter a buzz with people excited to be attending the convention.  Some of my tweeps have even resorted to Blizzcon countdown clocks, and yesterday they finally reached the 20 somethings in days left til the conference.  With this wave of nostalgia comes the all too familiar desire to re-up my account and play some of it.  It would not have been the first time I did so on a whim, and is more than likely not going to be the last.

However I am wise to this trickery, or at least have a contingency plan in place.  I have come to the realization that I like the idea of playing WoW a lot more than actually playing it.  As a result I keep a trial account at the ready for when of these urges strikes, and last night I patched up my client once more.  I figure if I make it through playing the trial account with the desire to play more WoW… then it is probably time to re-up.  I figure this is a decent litmus test to see whether or not the desire to play is real before I spent $15.

Fighting Nostalgia

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As a result I rolled a brand new Worgen Warrior on my trial account and proceeded to play.  Immediately the buzz of the nostalgia started to wane.  I had honestly forgotten just how spammy playing a low level warrior was, and by example EVERY World of Warcraft melee character.  The unpredictable nature of rage and to a lesser extent energy left me with a decision.  I either spent the entire time fighting watching my bars to optimize cooldowns… or I could just spam whatever basic attack I wanted to ALWAYS go off.  Being a relatively impatient player… I always chose the spam route.

After a few minutes of spamming Heroic Strike… I remembered just how much my fingers used to ache after a dungeon run, always banging on the key I wanted to fire next because I could not be bothered to actually watch my bars.  Basically my master plan of fighting the wave of nostalgia worked, all too well.  I made it to about level 5 on my baby Worgen, to the point at which the forsaken show up… at which point I was supremely bored and logged out of the game.  Having a taste of the gameplay reminded me that it really was not as fun as my mind had built it up to be.

Project Phoenix

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Sometimes a game is much more enjoyable to remember fondly, than to actually play it.  Right now there is a kickstarter going on called Project Phoenix.  The goal of it is to essentially recreate the magic that was City of Heroes/City of Villains.  I had so much fun playing these games, and regularly descend into bouts of nostalgia swapping with another friend of mine on mumble.  The problem is… I think CoH is another game that is much more enjoyable to talk about fondly than to actually play it.  I remember so much about the game, but every time I tried playing it again during its later free to play years the whole experience just felt lacking.

I wish this project the best of luck, but super hero games for me seem like they were a phase of a bygone era.  I have tried Champions Online and DC Universe Online and in both cases… I was carried into them on the nostalgia of City of Heroes but found both gaming experiences somehow unable to live up to my memories and as a result my expectations.  I think World of Warcraft and City of Heroes are both games for me like the original Everquest… extremely enjoyable to sit around and talk about the “good old days” but not really fun for me to play any longer.

Thing is… I think that is perfectly okay.  I think nostalgia works that way, it makes us romanticize things that would now be trivial.  For example I can remember being amazed at just how huge the sandbox that my father made for me was, and how I spent hours playing in it with my Tonka trucks.  However were I to evaluate it from adult eyes, I would likely find it tiny and boring… and be ready to stop in a few minutes.  Often times things we remember so fondly end up tarnished if we go back and re-experience them.  This has been the case for Everquest, Dark Age of Camelot, City of Heroes, World of Warcraft and a long list of other games that I have moved on past… but tried to rekindle that flame.

Bun’Jitsu

Hexxen

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As you can see from the above image I am almost 80% finished downloading the Hex: Shards of Fate Alpha client.  Starting late yesterday Alpha invites began trickling out as the servers came up.  They of course are starting off with the highest supporters and working their way down the list, only allowing small bits in at a time to keep from cratering the servers.  As a result I figure it will take a few days for them to reach us plebeians that only supported enough to get INTO the alpha in the first place. 

However at one point yesterday they stated that it would likely take a few weeks to get down to the “slacker backers” aka folks who supported the project after the kickstarter finished.  If that is the case it should be a matter of days not a matter of weeks, which is good.  I know there were a large number for $250 backers and that is the tier that is starting invites now.  The majority of my friend are all like me and in the $60 mere-human range.

Bun’Jitsu

I have to say I am really looking forward to getting some playtime with this.  Everything about it feels like a different take on Magic: The Gathering for the online age.  I am already pretty fond of the Shin’Hare… which happen to be a combination of Wild (green) and Blood (black).  That was the deck combo I always relied on in MTG so here is hoping it will be equally effective in Hex.  Besides any race that has a card called Bun’jitsu has to be amazing right?  I just love the concept of these crazy twisted anthropomorphic bunny rabbits.

They released a PDF with all of the initial cards in it yesterday to backers and almost immediately someone took that and broke it out into an amazing deck builder site, so you should totally check that out.  Additionally on Reddit there is a Hex Alpha FAQ thread that is worth checking out as it has a number of useful links… including the downloader for the alpha client.  Like usual we have a pretty decent sized community that will be playing this off and on so I expect it to join the ranks of League of Legends as one of our regular non-MMO games.  If you are part of this madness as well let me know!  I am always looking for more people to hang out with while playing various titles.

Pugs Over Easy

Pugs Over Easy

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If you have read my blog for very long at all, you will know that I am extremely gun shy about grouping with strangers.  Namely in my time tanking I have had some pretty horrible experiences both as a tank and believe it or not healer in the various games I have played.  Prior to World of Warcraft, I did this all the time… but with the advent of the dungeon finder everything seemed to go downhill.  Today’s post is not really a reflection of any real or imagined events that have happened to myself recently, but instead spurred on by finding the most perfect analogy that wraps up my feelings about pugs.

My friends have all been following the release of Jinx the new champion for League of Legends extremely closely.  Midday yesterday they linked me this thread on the forums posted by someone called Dread Pirate Arbuthnot.  The intent was to explain what ranked play is like, but for me it rang true of the vast majority of my pugging experiences.  As a DPS you can fade quietly and anonymously into the background and just do your job… but as a tank or healer… you always end up to blame for whatever failings the group has.  On with the copypasta!

Look I can describe ranked play in a really simple analogy

So you want to eat a cake, right, but you only have eggs. So you have to find four other people who have milk, sugar, a blender, and chocolate. But you show up, and the blender guy throws his blender to the ground and screams EGGS OR I FEED, and then the other three people start yelling at you to give up your eggs. Then you have to piece together the broken blender, and it’s not really working properly, but you found some tape so it’s working. Except the beaters are kind of wibbly wobbly now, so it isn’t mixing the batter very well. The other four players start to scream at you for not blending the cake well enough, since that’s your job, and then the milk guy has to go leave for 15 minutes because his mom just made dinner.

Are you understanding this so far? Ok good

So any ways once milk guy is back you have the cake, and its time to put it in the oven. The problem is that there are professional baking teams who just played a world baking tournament, so everyone wants to bake a cake like theirs. Even though your cake is chocolate, they want to cover it with icing meant for a vanilla cake, because that’s what the Asian cake bakers do. You try to insist that your cake would be much better with chocolate icing, but they tell you to commit suicide. Finally, your shitty cake monstrosity comes out of the oven and it isn’t even edible because of the whole process, and apparently cakes need more ingredients than just eggs and milk and chocolate.

Then you go into the post cake lobby and everyone unanimously agrees its your fault

Then you immediately hit the ‘bake again’ button and pray that this time you can just ADD THE GOD DAMN EGGS

This seems to happen regardless of how many guild members you bring into a pug.  Last week at some point I got drafted into trying to get one of our healers and her dps hubby through the Cutters Cry instance in FFXIV.  I knew I should tank it, but I could really use gear on my Bard at the time… so at the nudging that it would be okay I stayed in as a dps class and we attempted to pug a tank.  I knew this would be a decision I regretted. 

Tolerance for Frustration

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We proceeded to go through the instance with the tank only ever trying to hold aggro on a single target in each pull.  Additionally it felt like he was going out of his way to stand in every bad thing he could.  We limped along and did not manage to finish the dungeon before the timer ran out… and at the end… the tank was raging against us for somehow holding him back.  We kept our cool and didn’t respond in kind… but this just bookends every experience I have had in pugging.  When I saw the above post, it explained the feeling so well. 

Granted there is a lot of league of legends specific stuff buried in there…. but the thrust of it is true.  Doing a successful dungeon run with random people involves a crazy juggling act and if any one person doesn’t bring their specific ingredient it falls to hell quickly.  Without a doubt the person that gets the blame is almost always the tank or the healer.  In the case of the single target tank, I am pretty sure he all his rage was directed at our healer…  who could not keep him healed because the adds kept killing her.  While I and her husband did as much kiting as we could to keep her alive… and we made it as far as we did because of this… there was only so much you could do when the tank only wanted to tank a single mob at a time.

I guess after years of really good guild groups I have found my tolerance for frustration extremely lowered.  On a regular basis I have one of my less patient friends asking me to queue for various things with him… and my answer is always the same.  I will only do it if we have a full guild group.  Ultimately I would rather wait weeks to make that happen, than to step foot into and tank another PUG group.  Granted I am exceedingly lucky in that I generally DO have a large guild group that I can rely on.  As a result I try my best to help the other members of the guild with whatever dungeon they happen to be needing at the time.  It just works better when you have a non-judgmental group of friends doing something, than a bunch of strangers.

NBI Poetry Slam

Internet Dragons

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Last night my group wanted revenge for the previous two attempts at Amdapor Keep.  During the day we plotted our path and strategized what we would change, and when our fearless healer made it online, we went into the dungeon once more.  It has been a long time since a dungeon had gotten the better of any of us.  That is one of the odd things about Final Fantasy XIV is that you have a fixed amount of time to finish any dungeon.  For Amdapor Keep we had 120 minutes, and quite frankly we used every single minute of that in past attempts to try and reason through the fight.

On my first run through the dungeon, the group I was with had mastered the first boss encounter, and in the subsequent two runs we had one shot it without much issue.  This meant on attempt two we spent nearly an hour and a half working on the Demon Wall encounter.  For anyone that has played a Final Fantasy game, they will immediately realize the encounter, as it is one of the more legendary ones that seems to appear in most games.  Essentially you have a fixed amount of time to destroy the wall before it destroys you.  In the MMO version, it essentially reaches a point where there is just too much damaging going out to be healed through.

However the little tweaks we employed in the strategy worked well enough that on our first attempt, I managed to get knocked off the side and the group still recovered without a tank to finish taking down the wall.  This brought us forth to new batch of trash… that basically included a version of the boss from Haukke Manor mixed in multiple times within the packs.  I don’t think we actually wiped on any of this trash, but it was some of the more annoying trash I had encountered to date.  Finally we were up against the final boss of the dungeon… that is some form of a black dragon.

It took us 30 minutes of tries but we managed to formulate a workable strategy, and then it clicked in place once we learned the secret to avoiding massive amounts of damage.  With 30 minutes to go we managed to make it through the encounter, this time without losing a player and finish off the boss.  Amdapor Keep is doubly awesome in that it rewards both the currency we need and some fairly nice gear as well.  Over the course of the dungeon our dragoon got a pair of boots, bard a chest piece and I believe legs, scholar healer neck, ring and pants… and alas me the tank nothing but the satisfaction of killing the encounter.  I hope to go back in now that we can hopefully farm the dungeon for goodies.

NBI Poetry Slam

Yesterday one of my good blogger friends Syl posted a call to arms of sort.  Her idea is that we “shake the bonds of srs blogging bzns” and join the ranks of many other bloggers who have written poetry over the subject of games, gaming and MMOs.  If this concept were not fertile enough, she also pinged me over Twitter to let me know that she was expecting an entry from me.  So I realize I am not getting out of this at all.  Warning… just like my blog, my poetry is “different”. 

I spent a lot of time writing poetry in the past, and even participated in more than a few poetry slams at various coffee houses during my high school and college days.  I tend to draw inspiration from beat poets…  but my own brand of poetry is a bit “odd”.  She was expecting a poem about my current MMO crush… Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn… but I chose to draw inspiration elsewhere.

The Tank

born of stone
embraced by fire
Juggernaut standing
with stalwart purpose
and sharpened will

moving slow
into dank crypt
long axe slung
across broad tense
rampart shoulders

leading cautiously
this weary band
of wizened adventure
moving closer
to the maelstrom

with pealing cry
and furious motion
swings bold axe
cleaving flesh
commanding attention

this is my domain
my steely sphere
of present influence
and none shall pass
my constant vigil

Hopefully that will appease the Syl god and she will not sent me furious messages over twitter of disappointment.  I think it is a pretty cool idea and I look forward to reading what other people come up with.  NBI started out with a simple purpose of trying to help out new bloggers, but it has taken on a weird blogging festival atmosphere for the various sponsors.  Its almost like a holiday that lets us mingle together with a shared purpose, and I feel like this poetry slam idea really adds to that purpose.  Syl will be collecting all the entries on her own blog, so it will be interesting to read them all together in one place.

Much Ado About Mathosia

Much Ado About Mathosia

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A few days ago I wrote about the upcoming zone event that had been advertised for Rift, called Mayhem in Mathosia.  So I have to say it sounded really cool, major invasions going on for a few days in certain areas of the world.  I did not have a chance to log in Friday night, but after running around town I logged in yesterday evening and participated for an hour or so.  I have to say overall I am extremely disappointed.  I expected there to be more going on than there actually was.

I wandered around Freemarch did several major invasions and quite honestly the entire time I was wondering why exactly they made a big deal about this.  The invasions themselves felt absolutely no different than the ones that NORMALLY happen in Freemarch.  As far as the loot that was supposedly available, I saw no sign of that either.  The only thing out of the ordinary I managed to get were a bunch of gifts that you could give to the people of freemarch.  I am guessing there is an achievement for giving these out, as it did not seem to really do much of anything otherwise.

Maybe after doing FATEs in FFXIV I have come to expect more out of an event, or maybe I had just worked this up in my mind to be something bigger than it actually is.  In either case I found the experience overall disappointing.  I fear that in order to see any of the loot they are touting you would have to literally grind events for hours… and the frustrating part there is there was a significant amount of time that passed between the spin down of one event and the start up of the next.  The event so far seems like “much ado about nothing”, and while I am sure I will pop in and participate in some of the other zones… it is no longer a priority for me.

A Fitting End

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Since the Rift event was a massive disappointment, I ended up back in FFXIV with the guild.  For awhile now we have been trying to get eight players to 50 so we could finish out the storyline.  The final arc takes place over the course of two eight man dungeons, and I really wanted to experience it with my guild members and freshly.  One of our members got impatient and finished things up on his own, since he was the first 50… but he has generally been really good about keeping the surprises silent so we can experience dungeons together for the first time.  Dallian was the last to reach 50 of the 8 man team, and as a result we spent a bit of time last night killing random stuff in Northern Thanalan to push him across the line.

The conclusion felt as epic as this game deserves, and the fact that it takes place over two eight man dungeons and an eight man trial only adds to this feeling.  There has only been one other MMO that I have played that had anything close to an ending, and so far this game sets better with me.  At the end of SWTOR you had a nice clean tie up… that went nowhere… nothing in the world changed around you.  However in Final Fantasy you essentially have completed one chapter of the game, and are treated to a nice epilogue.

This would have been cool enough alone… but the moment you finish the sequence… you are given the NEXT set of quests to start carrying on AFTER the events of the finale.  The peace you just fought for is only the opening act of a much more dangerous tale.  The thing is… while you are playing out the finale, at no point does it feel like anything other than the end of a game.  You are even treated with credits upon finishing the quest.  It feels like finishing any other Final Fantasy game, but in the continued traditional of being the most inappropriately named series… there is nothing final about it.

I am really looking forward to seeing new content released.  It has been rumored that the 2.1 patch will include a new 4 man, 8 man and the 24 man raid content.  If we can somehow manage to keep our entire guild interested… we might someday be able to do the 24 man content by ourselves.  At very least we seem to have a really well balanced 8 man team.  The two 8 man dungeons were a bit of a letdown in one area however.  The 8 man guild hest was extremely awesome in that there was no main tank… and as fights progressed both tanks were equally active.  However in the two Garlean dungeons, there was definitely one main tank and one tank dealing with everything BUT the boss.  After how equitable the division of labor was in the hest, it was disappointing to see it fall back to the old standby of main tank/off tank.

Tonberry Tactics

Not Enough Coffee

This is one of those mornings when I feel like there is simply not enough coffee in the world to make me out of this stupor.  In part this is my own making.  At 4:40 I woke up on my own accord, thanks to my very own bladder alarm going off…  and then I decided it was an awesome idea to go back to bed… knowing that I would be awoken by the alarm at 5:30.  Had I just gotten on up and proceeded with the day…  I likely would be just fine right now.  So instead I sit here staring at the screen trying to make thoughts coalesce into word form.

Today should be an interesting day for me.  When I was younger I was part of my high school gifted and talented program.  I feel as though maybe the entrance requirements were a little lax if they were willing to take me.  The gifted and talented coordinator, that we lovingly referred to as Jaunamama fought hard to get us some truly unique experiences, many of which I suspect came out of her own pocket.  One of these was the Tulsa Town Hall lecture series.

Essentially she would take two of us on the long trek to Tulsa to attend one of the lectures in the series, then make a grand day of it all.  We would go to lunch someplace nice, and usually finish the afternoon with a tour of the Philbrook or something along those lines.  For the last five years, I have worked across the street from the performing arts center without thinking much about it.  This year however upon listening to the advertisements on NPR, something clicked and I signed up for the lecture series.  Luckily I have a pretty awesome boss and he has filed this down in my PPR as “Personal Development”.

FATE Crack

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A few days ago I complained about the Dark Devices FATE in Northern Thanalan, but to be truthful…  once you reach about 45 the zone as a whole tends to be the best place to level.  So as a result I have been spending quite a bit of time out there doing the various fates.  There are a number of 25k-40k experience boss fates, one of which that drops a pet if you manage to get gold.  So as a whole the zone is really worth while even if it did not have everyone’s favorite… Dark Devices.  I guess to some extent… I understood why the fate was so popular but I never really understood its full potential until yesterday.

Over lunch I was working on leveling my Bard like I have been the last several days, and when I did the ubiquitous “BRD LF FATES” shout in zone, I got invited to be a part of a custom built dark devices group.  Essentially the eight man group consisted of 3 White Mages, 3 Black Mages, 1 Bard for mana song, and 1 Paladin for flash.  How the group works is a thing of terrifying brilliance… and totally relies on poor game mechanics.   Essentially the mission at hand is for the black mages to spam attacks, the paladin to spam flash… and the white mages to cast regen on opposing players.

Regeneration Tagging

While this does not seem too heinous at face value… it gets there quickly.  Apparently one of the ways that healing works is that when regeneration is ticking on a player, it causes aggro to be generated on the pull for the healer that cast it.  So far that seems to be working as intended… it has worked that way in most MMO games.  Where things go off the rails is the fact that apparently it also TAGS the mob to the healers party.  This means by keeping regen up on opposing parties, you can essentially siphon off their kills and give your group credit.  This is the king of all “dirty pool” maneuvers, and I do not condone it in the least…  however this is so prevalent that if you have a white mage in your party… they are more than likely doing it.

When it works… it works insanely well.  In Final Fantasy XIV there is the ability to chain kill mobs and each additional mob you kill adds a multiplier to the process.  I believe you are initially given 60 seconds once the chain begins, and if the counter is low enough, each additional kill resets the counter back to 10 seconds.  As a result a big AOE group can get some extremely high chains, but I believe eventually the multiplier caps out around 200%.  During the lunchtime group… we managed to get a 354 uninterrupted chain… meaning after the first 20 or so of those… every single mob killed was worth +200% of its face experience value.  As a result I made literally over 75% of a level on one single phase of a fate.

Regressive Gameplay

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Dark Devices is a serious gimmick, and still one that I hope they break… because quite frankly it is a bit of an unfair advantage to those players that can get access to a good AOE group.  That said… since it is not considered an exploit I am certainly going to benefit from it as much as I can.  Yesterday at lunch I was level 45 and after a few more hours out in Northern Thanalan I am over halfway through level 49.  Granted I have the insane post 50 xp bonus going on for my bard, but that is some seriously fast leveling.  No wonder you see the same people out in the zone every single day farming the fate, over the course of a few weeks you could push almost every single class you had to 50.  I did not start out there until around 44, and as a bard you really don’t have all the tools you need to be successful until 46.  However I am seeing fresh 40s out there trying to make the fate work for them.  The method if nothing else… is brutally efficient.

The thing that strikes me the oddest about this entire process is how much it reminds me of the original Everquest.  Essentially I have leveled my Bard almost entirely through FATE grinding, and as a result that means sitting in a zone shouting for a group.  This is essentially the same sort of thing I can remember doing so many times in the Dreadlands.  Throughout the course of the night I would end up in multiple groups that would hunt mobs outside Karnor’s Castle, or various other key farm spots around the zone.  If you by miracle ended up with an extremely well balanced group, you might even brave the railroad that was Karnor’s Castle itself.  As much as you can solo in FFXIV, you can never beat the type of experience you can get with a party… especially while running FATEs.

I think to some extent it is this throwback to an earlier time… this regressive gameplay that has made the game so damned sticky for me.  It is like going back and playing Everquest, but taking with me all the bells and whistles and perks of a modern MMO.  Essentially the game is almost completely solo-able if you so choose to… but the group content is extremely good when it happens.  My huge problem with EQ2 is that while the soloing is amazing, any time you get more than two players together in the same place it feels like a facerolling mess.  Granted I have not actually played a lot of the Velious dungeon content, but even the big dungeons like Mistmoore have felt this way to me.  FFXIV does an amazing job with the dungeon content in making it feel like it requires effort and planning to get through it.

Tonberry Tactics

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A few days ago we took a group into Wanderers Palace and had some mixed results.  Over the course of the dungeon run we figured out how a lot of the tactics worked, but simply ran out of time before we could formulate a winning strategy for the final encounter.  We like to go into these dungeons completely cold, and figure out the boss mechanics on the fly rather than trying to rely on some guide to tell us how to do it.  So since we failed to finish the dungeon, there were several of us who had been plotting revenge.  Yesterday during the day, over IM we conspired to build a team to take on the challenge that night.

Overall I have to say the run went tons smoother, but primarily because we understood how the mechanics worked.  We went through the dungeon essentially wipe free and that left us with worlds of time to distill just how to defeat the final encounter.  After a few failed tries, we figured out the rhythm of the fight and managed to find a way to juggle the constant stream of adds, and the insane amount of damage the Tonberry King deals from his Grudge attack… that scales based on the number of adds you kill.  As a whole the entire encounter felt like a giant tug-of-war match, trying to keep me alive as the tank, but keep the adds off the healer.

I didn’t get much from the dungeon other than the experience of running it, but I believe both our Bard and Dragoon walked away with some really nice upgrades.  From the second boss a really nice chest piece dropped… but it was statistically identical to the one I received from my level 50 class quest.  So I passed and let someone else pick it up as a greed item… though honestly if it is the same stat wise, it won’t be of much use to anyone.  This is not the type of dungeon I want to run more than once a night, because it takes a lot out of you…  however I enjoyed myself.  Quite honestly there are not ANY dungeons that I really want to chain run, because even with the smoothest group these dungeons require more of you than previous games.

Wrapping Up

Well it is that time again and I need to finish this up.  I have not really posted much for the Newbie Blogger Initiative this week, but I have plans to do so this weekend.  During my Saturday and Sunday posting time I have much more time to work through a topic, so I figured I would use both days to post advice articles.  There is so much good stuff out there this year, and I need to get on with updating my blogroll to include the rest of the blogs that have signed up during the Class of 2013.  I hope you all have a great day and that it continues on into a great weekend.