Surprise Doggo

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Yesterday did not go exactly as intended.  Each morning during the summer two events happen… firstly I wander upstairs and start blogging or at least attempt to blog.  Secondly my wife goes out on a morning walk in our neighborhood.  It was on the second part of this equation that things started going off the rails.  Something you have to understand is that my wife and I are not dog people in general.  I mean I won’t refuse petting any dog, and the neighbors dogs are my buds…  but when it comes to actually cohabiting with one that has never been a thing for us.  The problem I have is that to a dog… you are the center of their universe which is a lot of fucking responsibility.  To a cat…  you barely inhabit their universe so you just sorta exist together in the same space, which is much more friendly to my personality.  My wife walks what is in truth a couple of miles around the neighborhood and early on this pair of dogs started following her.  This little boy has a female litter mate and at some point they both ran off to chase a rabbit and only the male dog returned to my wife’s side.  However he proceeded to follow her for another mile and a half…  and during one portion of the journey decided that running off into traffic was a good idea.  He wandered around with her until she finally made it home, where at which point she went through our back gate into the backyard and this little guy hung out at her side all day long.

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We have a handful of websites that are for the bedroom community we live in, and she has blanketed them all with “dog found” posts.  The thing is… this is someones baby and he very obviously has a human…  and probably a female one at that.  He is super skittish around me…  but that could be the beard, or the fact that he has tiny stubby legs and I am 6’4″.  Last night we wandered the neighborhood asking anyone that happened to be out and about if they recognized the pupper and none said they had ever seen him.  We also loaded him up into my vehicle and took him to the vet so they could see if he had a micro chip…  and he rode like a champ happily pushing his face between my wife and I and looking out.  The thing is… he just does not seem like an outdoor dog he is in really immaculate shape.  His coat is soft and clean, and his mouth looks to be in excellent shape…  essentially someone has looked after him and loved on him and we just want to make sure we can find his home.  We are just not the sort of people that could ever call animal control or a shelter… so for the moment we seem to have a guest which is causing all sorts of problems.  Firstly he does not like being outside alone… because at about 11 pm last night when we went to bed he started barking and whining on the patio outside the bedroom.  We thought it might be a light thing but turning on some lights out there didn’t seem to help it at all.  My wife opted to take one for the team and rigged a make shift bed outside and slept for a good chunk of the night with him laying on the patio beside her.  Today it started raining… and he is now chilling in our garage because he was not really a fan of the thunder or the rain.  This is just not an outside animal…  and I hope that our wide net ends up finding his family.  The positive however is that if we do not find his home, we had a friend contact us last night that recently lost their dog…  and would be more than happy to adopt him.  I had to make a mad dash to the store last night and attempt to gather some rudimentary dog things…  food, collar, leash, ball, bone and a cheapo food dish.  Here is hoping that within a few days he has been reunited…  but in the meantime my wife seems to have a doggo.

Slow Day

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This morning I am struggling a bit to find something worth writing about.  Last night instead of throwing myself against Trial 3 in FFXIV, I opted to play some more Necromancer in Diablo 3.  Necromancer the class is extremely good, and probably what I will be playing during the next season which should be starting sometime in mid July.  The biggest problem I am running into with Diablo is that I am going to start needing to do the seasonal reboot of characters thing, given that my slots are starting to run out.  As of last night around 11 pm I got Necromancer to 70, but literally dinged…  watched the cutscenes and went to bed.  That leaves the only classes in D3 that I have never taken to 70 being the Wizard and Witch Doctor…. something I probably need to remedy at some point.  I think my little break from Final Fantasy XIV did some good, because right now I am ready to get in…. and bash my face against the trial until I get through it.  More than anything I want to get to the other side of that trial because it is currently locking me from doing a bunch of end game content.  I’ve hear that my friend Morenhai has already defeated one of the extreme primal fights, which only serves to make me feel way further behind.  I will say thought that hanging out and milling around in Diablo 3 was just about the maximum amount of social interaction that I was capable of supporting the last few days.  I’ve been going through a bit of a rough patch, and I probably need to hang out again with people to push through it.

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I really do not have a whole lot to talk about this morning other than the fact that I am going to make more attempts on Trial 3 tonight, and here is hoping I don’t end up needing another break from Stormblood as a result.

 

Army of Bone

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As I said yesterday morning I took a break from Final Fantasy XIV and the trial that has a good number of us completely high center on finishing the game.  For those unaware Diablo 3 released its first in what I hope is a series of smaller addon packs that infuse the game with a little new blood…  or skeletons in this case.  While not really an expansion pack, Rise of the Necromancer adds the much wanted class to Diablo 3 and it is implemented in a way so that it blends seamlessly with the rest of the game.  I will talk a bit more about that later, but here is functionally what you get for your $14.99…  which is amusingly easily within the bounds of converting a single WoW Token to Blizzard Balance.

  • Non-Combat Pet – disgusting half baked flesh golem thing
  • A Pair of Cosmetic Wings – you can see me rocking them in the above screenshot
  • Necromancer Themed Banner Shape, Sigil and Accent
  • Necromancer Portrait Frame
  • Pennant – looks similarly Necromancery
  • Two additional character slots – which I was apparently close to being out of
  • Two additional bank stash tabs

Lets be honest… I probably would have paid $15 for two more bank tabs but as far as I am concerned that is plenty of goodness for the price.  The Necromancer itself is insanely fun and most of last night I went around being followed by an army of undead minions.  I cheated a bit in that I crafted a full set of Cain set gear and hung on to my Leoric’s Crown which had a 95% multiplier on it…  for the Flawless Royal Ruby that I slotted in it…  giving me 130% bonus experience and 112 bonus experience per kill.  Now in my travels I have never leveled a Gem of Ease, which was the route that my friend Grace took to leveling significantly faster than me.  Regardless the experience is flying and last night I managed to make it to level 56.

The key difference this time as compared to my normal seasonal characters is that I opted to play through the original game story as is to try and catch any changes that were put in place for the necromancer.  I have been pleasantly surprised at just how well this new class blends with the original experience because they have shimmed in Necromancer specific responses from NPCs and Companions alike.  This is the first time I have actually run the game with the scoundrel as my companion and he regularly makes comments about not needing any more empty skulls following us around.  There was an event in Act II where I encountered a Necromancer out in the desert… which I greeted as a long lost friend rather than a strange traveler.  Sure it feels a little weird to have the Paladin accept you as a friend… when you functionally defile the dead and bind them into your service…  but whatever if you can manage a minor bit of hand waving what is left is a really enjoyable experience.  The other thing that was awesome… is that it has been years since I last saw these cinematic and I was impressed with just how well they still hold up.  I have so much love for Diablo 3 and it is the game that I am always rooting for good things to happen to… and small content packs like this one definitely seem like a viable way to continue growing the game.  I am more than willing to keep plunking down this $15 price point to get new classes and assorted stuff to go with it.

I am really hoping this means we might see the Druid or Amazon as a result.  Even more than rehashing characters from Diablo’s past… I would love to see them branch out and start giving us brand new concepts for characters.  What about giving us a redeemed demon, or a fallen angel to control for ourselves.  I just feel like there is a lot of life left in this game and I want to see them keep moving forward with expanding it.  What I think is cool is that functionally this expansion pack was split into two halves… the first being the content listed above… and the rest being simply patch 2.6.0 which adds three new areas to the game for everyone regardless if they purchase the pack or not.  Something called Challenge Rifts also went into the game as well as the usual number of tweaks and balances preparing us for the next season.  I like this idea of expanding both the free content at the same time as giving us an additional way to keep spending money with the game and supporting its development.  This is a weird balancing act that all of these “buy once, play forever” type of games seems to struggle with…  as in what is content that should just be free because you bought the game, and what is content that is reasonable to charge an extra fee for.  I feel like this balance with Diablo 3 seems about right and I think at this stage in the game it probably works far better than releasing a full expansion with a complete new act and 10 more levels to grind through each time you start a new character.  I would love to hear my readers thoughts on this one.  I for one am a happy camper, but I would be curious to hear some dissenting opinions.

 

Frustration

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I am rapidly entering the territory of being unable to talk about things that I want to talk about…  without getting deep into spoiler territory.  Before I get into that sort of thing… I thought I would leave you with this picture of me…  in an 80s music video…  or a Olan Mills photo backdrop whichever way you want to spin it.  Yes I did in fact stop in the middle of a pull to take this screenshot…  no I don’t feel at all guilty about it.  Last night featured some amazing highs… and some crushing lows.  At the start of the evening I rather effortlessly pulled together a group of friends to run the sixth and final leveling dungeon, and it was amazing.  It felt so much like they learned their lessons from the two 8 player dungeons that happened at the end of A Realm Reborn and managed to cram that same sort of epic feel into a 4 player dungeon.  It is weird how people never seem to have a problem waiting for cut scenes in a normal dungeon, but god forbid you watch them in any of the 8 player or 24 player content.  Whatever the case it was awesome, and featured a lot of really cool mechanics and several extremely challenging but still reasonable encounters.  I theorized this as them wanting to make sure a group of random players could complete it since this will of course be part of the expert roulette.  Then after these warm fuzzies…  they dropped the bottom out and pushed me right into the third trial after a lengthy cut scene doing the story set up for it.

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Now we are entering the realm of spoilers, because I am not sure how else to talk about my frustrations.  There is a common thread among my Free Company… and that is folks who have technically finished the expansion but not yet seen the credit roll.  For those uninitiated, there is in fact a credits roll at the end of each expansion…  and then again at the end of an expansion cycle of patches.  The reason why we have not seen the credit roll is because so far very few have lucked out to actually defeat the final primal fight.  This is a pug killer, and last night saw me making my first attempts.  On the first attempt we walked in with me playing a tank, Tam playing a Red Mage, Grace playing a Scholar and Solaria playing a White Mage…  and while we got close several times we just could not push it across the finish line.  This is one of those fights where you judiciously hold a healer limit break in reserve…. because at some point you are straight up going to need to rez most of the party.  What makes this fight so much worse than “mechanics the fight” aka Thoradin is that everything literally hits so much harder.  I feel like this is simply an issue of scaling and expecting everyone in the party to have potentially farmed Dungeon 6, rather than to attempt it immediately upon completion.  The amount of damage that the party was taking and the tankbusters when they hit me…  just added up to a frightening amount of healing that needed to be done in perfect situations.  When players were taking damage when they didn’t need to…  it just became more than anyone could handle.

The fight as a whole combines some of my least favorite mechanics from other fights, namely the destructible floor concept that we encountered in Sohr Khai.  The other part of the fight that I really do not like is that there seems to be a significant RNG element to it.  The boss has an aether meter and when it reaches full it does an attack…  but which attack it does seems to be randomed from a large pool of possible attacks.  The problem with this is that some of these are far easier to deal with than others… and this also completely flies in the face of FFXIV encounter design as we have known it to date.  FFXIV encounters are traditionally a dance that is done that the players have to learn the steps to… but once they do it feels like an elegant chorus rather than a win on some chance table.  There are some elements in this encounter that do happen in sequence but then there are others that seem to be pulled out of a hat  that you just have to deal with.  It feels like in order to get through the fight with a PUG we need firstly solid players… but also a hell of a lot of luck.  As a result there is a group of us that might be high center until we can field most of an 8 player group made up of entirely our free company folks.  That might be awhile since everyone tends to be leveling at vastly different speeds… and we have an excessive number of tanks and healers as opposed to some dps.  After last night though…. I think I am going to take the night off and play some Diablo 3 since the Necromancer pack releases today.

 

Crazy Axe

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As of last night I am now officially at the Stormblood level cap.  That said I still have a bunch of content left to run because I know my MSQ is stalled behind at dungeon at the moment…. and then I also know from hearing folks talk about it that there is another trial of some sort after that.  I was feeling a little too out of it to go seeking a dungeon group, so instead I focused on finishing the warrior quest line, which gave me a set of gear that I will probably never wear at least cosmetically… and this bizarre axe.  As a whole though Stormblood provided me with lots of glamour fodder, including this chest piece that I have become rather fond of.  I actually dinged 70 while running the second primal.  I decided to do a trials roulette, and next thing I know I am zoning into that fight.  The first pull went about as well as you would expect that a modern era primal fight would go.  On the second pull however I took a moment to ask folks if there was anything about the fight that they didn’t understand, and answered a bunch of questions.  As I was able to do I also hollered out when a few key mechanics were coming up to remind folks about them.  Things went off the rails a bit during that second attempt but we managed to hold on and ultimately finished the fight.

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The story as a whole has continued to be amazing, but I am finding myself at a loss for screenshots to put in my blog posts that are not insanely spoilery.  I find myself trying to snap moments where nothing much is going on that won’t give away any major story beats.  I find it interesting how generally speaking I am not that beholden to a story in other games…  but in Final Fantasy XIV I am anxious to find out what is going on.  I guess part of it is that in a single player story… the experience doesn’t feel real.  What I mean by that is it is something that I experience and then once the story has reached its conclusion it is functionally over…  at least for another several years until they release a sequel.  In an MMO…  story sets the stage for what is to come and gives us a glimpse in what we will be doing a few months down the road.  The story feels more alive to me because I am going to be living it, and I am going to be adjusting to whatever changes it happens to bring to the stage for a long while.  My friends and I are going to be fighting our way through the epic battles that are proposed each time the story leads us some place new.  I guess this is why I get into the lore of Destiny as well, because even though the grimoire cards are a crummy system… they give us a glimpse at the future to come and let me start day dreaming about epic adventures that are just over the horizon.

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Another thing that happened this weekend was the “launch” of Secret World Legends.  Sure they are calling it a head start, but if you are letting in everyone who played the previous game…  you are effectively launching it.  More than anything I wanted to get in and make sure that all of my stuff transferred just fine, and more importantly that my lifetime subscription did in fact transfer over into lifetime patron status.  For those who played the first game… I highly suggest you check out the page on the transfer system so you can claim anything that might be eligible for transfer.  I’ve heard that this system is only going to be available through August 31st and there are a bunch of guidelines and fine print to follow to make sure everything copies just fine.  I probably need to do some more fiddling to make sure that everything does in fact copy.  I had a character of each faction so in theory it should have…  but I probably need to go ahead and create those other faction characters so I can double check.  The most important item was of course the Csicon alien smiley t-shirt…  which I am rocking in the image above.  So far I am digging the game changes, but unfortunately it just happened to launch at a really horrible time for me since I am so heavily engaged in Stormblood.  I will continue to piddle around and experience the content, and it serves as an awesome “taking a break” game for me right now.  We talk a bit about but Secret World Legends and Stormblood on this weekends podcast, which I am embedding below.

Quiet Night

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Last night was a bit of a chill night for me, compared to the last several nights at least.  I purposefully stayed off voice chat because my wife and I were catching up on various shows that we had missed while she was travelling.  As a result I watched a bunch of episodes of Fear the Walking Dead and iZombie in a row.  I am still really not feeling “Fear” mostly because I still don’t care about the characters.  This is going to be a point of reference that is lost on some folks…  since blockbuster has been gone for awhile.  Once upon a time when a big movie was out in the theater…  a bunch of sound similar movies would show up at the local blockbuster video on the rack.  I admit there were a couple of times I rented one of these for the fun of it…  and they are just bad…  like sharknado levels of bad.  Fear the Walking Dead feels like one of those movies…  but instead trying to pass itself off as its sibling… The Walking Dead.  I am seriously not sure why I am even watching it, apart from the fact that most of us at work are using this as sort of our Walking Dead methadone.  As far as iZombie… I love everything about that series because I still hold a massive candle for Veronica Mars…  and it sort of feels like that with zombies.

As far as gaming goes….  I had a quiet night of trying to hit 67 so I could continue the MSQ.  About 10 pm I managed to get to the point where I am finally ready to run dungeon four and opted to call it for the night.  I am so amped about the events that are happening right now… and so looking forward to getting a group together tonight and running it.  I also love how the community generally refers to things as Dungeon Number or the X level MSQ dungeon…  as not to give away any spoilers.  The names of the dungeons themselves…  could in fact be spoilery…  this one probably more than any so far.  That is one of the things I love the most about FFXIV and its players is overall there is a fair bit of consideration for the feelings of others that is lacking a lot of the times in online gaming.  Sure there are jerkfaces out there, but your average person has a sense of caring about others.  I think all of the forced dungeon running and the constant need to group with other players eventually beats this sensibility into you as you go.  I’ve always been a “World Tank” where I roll up on people in need and tank the mobs for them…  but Final Fantasy XIV is the only time I actually get tanked for it.  There have been so many times I did this… and then wound up in a conversation for the next fifteen minutes with the player that I just helped out.  Happened last night…  I wound up hopping into a FATE that someone was attempting to solo…  and just on the edge of dying and before I knew it I was running through a bunch of other FATEs with this player.  Those are the moments that I really appreciate gaming with other people in the world.

Leaving the Steppes

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The pool guys did in fact come out and power wash the pool yesterday and now we are playing babysit the water hose.  It takes an excessively long time to fill up a pool with a single water hose.  In truth I am questioning if it will be done by this evening… and then we have that awkward problem of do we leave it running tonight with the fear that it might overflow?  As far as gaming time went I very obviously spent some more time in Stormblood.  First I have to tell you that I unequivocally love this expansion.  I can’t really get into all the reasons why without a whole bucket load of spoilers but suffice to say I am super impressed with what they have done and where they are going.  Heavensward was this deep dive into the culture of the Ishgardians… and for the most part except for a few notable exceptions they were assholes.  This expansion before launch seemed like it would be a similar exploration of Doma and Ala Mhigo…  but was I was not expecting was this wonderful journey through the culture of the Raen and Xaela Au’Ra.  This is really making me hope that in future expansions they might explore the culture of the Roegadyn or the Lalafel…  because really I want to know why the Lala are like the most prolific race in Eorzea.  If there is someone pulling the strings… 99.9% of the time it is going to be a Lalafel.

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As far as my further journeys in Stormblood, I have now made it through the third dungeon which we ran as soon as we could get enough people around to do it last night.  I also ran the second dungeon again for Neph and the first trial, which the more I am exposed to it the more I like it.  There are so many cool elements and mechanics going on there that I am really looking forward to learning the fight on Extreme mode.  I have no clue how far away the fourth dungeon is, but I have more or less finished up in the Steppes and am returning to Yanxia for what I am assuming is going to uncover the back half of that zone.  Every single bit of the story has been good, and it is making me bummed that I am currently story locked until I figure out a way to ding 67.  I am roughly a quarter of a level from dinging so I have a handful of options… but the one I am probably going to take is to run back and start doing side quests in the Steppes until I can push on through.  Whatever lead on the content I did have has now evaporated once I went back to following the MSQ only.  In theory tonight I will spend some time collecting Aether Currents so I can fly in a third zone, and doing side quests for probably the Mol.

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The Steppes of Azim might be my favorite zone in all of Final Fantasy XIV.  I always seem to go for the Nagrand like zones in games, the big flowing grasslands perforated by rocky outcroppings.  I thought the Heavensward zones were physically imposing, but the Stormblood zones overall feel much larger in size and scope.  I am still behind as the highest progressed finished dungeon four last night, and I am just barely on the other side of the third dungeon.  I have however passed a lot of other players like Neph and Ash, but still feel like I am lagging from where I would like to be.  I figure this is going to be a week and a half in total to get to 70 and start gearing up for the end game proper, or in my case…  start leveling the Samurai.  I have what I think are several Warrior quests to do so I might simply focus on doing those at the beginning of the night and see where that gets me level wise.

Into the Steppes

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Yesterday was the last of my vacation days, and I attempted to get in as much play time as I could.  However the first priority of the day was putting together the sideboard table we picked up at IKEA when we were in Kansas City.  All in all we put it together “mostly” correct, with one piece getting turned the wrong way in the process and neither my wife or I figuring it out in time.  Everything still works mostly as intended but we were not able to attach the backstops to the drawers…  which in truth isn’t a big deal given that the cabinet is up against a wall and the drawers can’t really go out the wrong side.  Then on top of that we have been dealing with the pool some more.  We had been fighting one of the worst algae blooms I have seen in awhile, and finally the we suggested just draining it and starting from scratch.  We had not realized that we had essentially been running on the same water since we resurfaced the pool a half dozen years ago.  It was probably time to drain it and power wash it and start fresh, which before was always something we had done every few seasons.  It is shocking just how fast a pool can drain when you have two pumps working on it.

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As far as playing catch up, I did a lot of stuff yesterday.  The above screen is a shot from the second dungeon, and when Tam woke up he decided we should run it.  Earlier in the day I managed to run the first primal fight which is tied to the main story quest, and I happened to luck out there and catch Spiral and crew about to run it for some of the Syv members.  Later in the day I ran it again to get Ashgar through it, and this time I got what was explained to me as the more complicated job… but in truth it is the easy one.  There is this one phase where the off tank picks up orbs…  but other than that it is just pretending to be dps in deliverance stance.  I am assuming in Extreme mode there will be some sort of a tank swapping mechanic.  At some point I shifted into the mode of ignoring side quests and largely just barreling forward with the MSQ, and that has allowed me to gain some ground.  By the end of the night I had caught up to dungeon three and we made an attempt at running it.  I say attempt because on the final encounter we started being plagued by disconnects from various group members.  We went through a period of fifteen to twenty minutes of trying to get everyone online and stable…  only to wipe at 5% on an attempt because half of the party disconnected again.  My hope is tonight we can get in and run it while the servers are not screaming.

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So far Stormblood feels like a much better expansion than Heavensward was, in both story and zone variety.  Time will tell if that comparison holds up once we enter the “end game” content and see how long it takes for us to tire of it.  The other odd thing that is happening is that I am feeling like I want to finish off the Warrior so I can start in leveling the Samurai properly.  I really wish they had patched in Red Mage and Samurai ahead of the launch of the rest of the content allowing folks to have a bit to level them to at least 60 before starting the content legitimately.  Right now mine is sitting at 53 and other than some thoughts about doing a few beast tribe quests with him…  I think he is going to remain there stalled until I push the Warrior to 70.  We have so many tanks right now that the pressure to keep pushing so I can viably group with my friends is very much a thing.

Underwater Adventures

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I feel like I have always been a bit weird when it comes to MMOs.  I like underwater content… pending I don’t have to care about breathing.  I took the Vashjir path in World of Warcraft and I enjoyed for the most part the underwater sections of the Nightmare Tide expansion in Rift.  So it is little surprise that I am really enjoying the underwater sections of Final Fantasy XIV Stormblood.  I feel like they made a strong decision not to force us to screw with breath bars, and I love that they implemented surface swimming in lots of old world areas like Costa Del Sol.  The real part that I loving is the fact that there are cities in giant bubbles on the ocean floor, and while sure they couldn’t help but make a slight Gungan reference during one of the quests about speeding us on our way…  overall I am loving it.  More than anything I feel really happy to be in love again with Final Fantasy.  The rough few days at the start of this expansion really made me second guess whether or not I would actually get that magic back.  For awhile now FFXIV has been a game I felt like I should play…  but just wasn’t into.  I would log in and go over to the Gold Saucer to play my daily scratch off cards… but then quickly log right back out.  I has this hope that when the headstart began we would all get enthralled in the game once more and start playing it as our primary MMO.  However in those first few days when it seemed like everything was shit, and we couldn’t move forward the MSQ…  I was starting to doubt myself.  I am thankful that I was not in fact wrong and I am setting dozens of happy people gobbling up content in the free company every night.

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The only negative is however… that I am functionally one full day behind everyone else.  That would not seem like much but it feels like I am habitually one full zone behind the rest of the crowd… or at least the folks I traditionally run dungeons with.  Now because of the first timers bonus everyone is more than happy to help someone through a dungeon.  Last night Void needed Xelphatol one of the 3.4 dungeons and I managed to get a sizable chunk of experience at level 63, so doing any dungeon content with the bonus is really worth it.  The biggest problem I have is that I see all of the (!) icons and feel like I need to do them all.  I remember going through the same problem with Heavensward and it taking one full zone before I finally realized that I should probably not do all of them and instead just focus down on the main story quest line.  Now that I have shifted to a MSQ and unlock only approach I am starting to gain ground once more.  At this very moment my MSQ is gated by the first Primal encounter, but I hit it at around 10:30 last night… and just didn’t have it in me to attempt to pull together a group to get it done.  Today however once I get time I will probably do just that and get rolling again.  All in all I am loving the expansion, and in truth it feels more “Final Fantasy” than FFXIV has at any point because we finally have a real danger in the form of the Garlean Empire.  We had a few spats with them in A Realm Reborn, but that was functionally finished the moment we cleared the launch content… and while there has been a flirtation that more was to come we had not really seen it until the precursors leading up to Stormblood.  Fighting against an Evil Empire is the core of the best Final Fantasy experiences for me, and I am super happy to finally have that feeling back in FFXIV.

Raubhangeddon Over

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Having a birthday on the internet is a really weird thing.  By the time I woke up yesterday morning in our hotel room I already had a flood of messages from folks.  I cannot put into words the warm fuzzies I got seeing that.  I attempted to keep up with thanking everyone individually but as we started roaming around Kansas City yesterday I completely lost track of where I was in the mix.  By the end of the day it was just a daunting task to try and sort out who I had thanked and who I had not.  By the time we made it home I was completely drained and crashed pretty hard.  So if I did not manage to thank you individually I apologize and please know that every single person meant the world to me.  As far as our trip… it was really enjoyable.  Once again we did our thing which is to hit every single Half Priced Books store in the metro, along with a few other stops like Micro Center and IKEA… all things we don’t have in Tulsa.  This is the second year in a row we have done this, and it was largely born out of the fact that getting my wife home after the AP reading turned into a very unpredictable experience.  Functionally when the shindig lets out they are trying to fly a surge of 4000 or so people out of a tiny little airport.  It is roughly a four hour drive from Tulsa to Kansas City with a bunch of variables that could speed it up or slow it down.  The first year she was doing the AP grading there, she ended up getting flown to Dallas and then having a long layover there so that it took roughly 8 hours for her to get home.  Admittedly…  me driving up to get her and driving back home is still 8 hours….  but at least by spending the night it is chopped up in a few segments and lets us go do some stuff in this case Saturday night and Sunday morning.  I always hate it when my birthday lands on Father’s Day because it also means everything is madness.  Micro Center is normally a fun experience, but in this case there were workers stationed every few feet and just walking around the store I wound up getting asked 8 times if they could help me.  I am not exactly sure why I find this so offensive…  but I wish there was a system where you could get a sticker from the first person you meet that says “leave me the fuck alone”.

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The other big happening of the weekend was the Stormblood launch, and in some ways it went really smoothly…  and in other ways it went tragically wrong.  Please note that I love Square Enix and the Final Fantasy XIV team… but you are going to get some salt from me on this post.  On Friday the head start began, which is an event only available to folks who had pre-ordered the game prior to a certain point.  This is really key because it is a fixed group of people, pulled from a known quantity of folks who plunked down money and purchased your game ahead of time.  In order to get into Headstart it means that you needed to register a code that was sent to you by Square Enix via email with the Mogstation.  Over the years there have been a number of events where the team has says that they just did not expect the numbers…  namely at the relaunch of A Realm Reborn and I at least partially gave them the benefit of the doubt in this statement.  However with the launch of a brand new expansion for a game with a known set of players… and a known set of preorders…  that should have given them a head start on trying to figure out how much server throughput they needed for the launch.  They failed this miserably and for all of Friday and all of Saturday…  everyone was stuck on the same quest that required the creation of a solo instance.  That means every player in a given Data Center is fighting for what is apparently a very limited number of slots available for running this quest.  The result was a mixture of reactions from the players…  and the creation of lines as folks attempted to go about this quest in an orderly fashion.  Final Fantasy XIV is literally the only place you would ever see this solution… and it didn’t take long even here before it broke down.  Granted the line concept was some superstitious nonsense given that you were not just competing against your fellow servermates…  but also everyone else in the Aether data center in my case.  So while Cactuar isn’t a massive server… it is large enough, but becomes completely drowned out by the size of the player base of Balmung and Gilgamesh which share the same server cluster.

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Yesterday during the day however at some point they put in a fix and remedied the situation, so last night in my sleepy state I attempted to move forward only to be claimed by sleep and a server disconnect in the middle of a lengthy cut scene.  This morning I popped in with every intent of taking a few screenshots and wound up playing for about an hour popping around and doing quests.  I am hoping we are through the worst of the launch, but I expect another influx of players on Tuesday when the game releases in stores.  Hopefully they have learned their lessons and have spare resources ready to stand up if they run into more problems.  In the era of virtualized servers, leased datacenter space, and all manner of licensing options…  it feels like there is little excuse not to have some resources waiting in the wings to stand up at the first sign of trouble.  I have a feeling there were a lot of design decisions on the infrastructure side that maybe don’t scale terribly well in modern computing terms.  The game is doing some odd things, like it came out during one of the E3 discussions that every time you move in the server… your entire player object is passed around including your inventory and armory chest as part of one huge object.  This came up when they talked about not wanting to expand out inventory space too much because it might crash the server in passing around too big of an object.  This just seems like a weird way of going about things, and one susceptible to memory hacks or at least rollbacks from crashes.  At this point I just need to play catch up because I have Free Company members that are already 66 or higher.