A Good Night

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Last night was as the post title might give away…  a really good night.  Lately in Final Fantasy XIV I have been caught up in one of two different grinds.  The first being getting everyone to 50 by running floors 51-60 over and over again in Palace of the Dead.  The second being leveling crafting through the use of the Ixal beast tribe quests…  which is significantly more time consuming that it initially seems.  There have been so many nights I have completely squandered the entire evening trying to get that last high quality item needed to turn in a quest.  This past evening however we ran group content, and actually had a full team of eight players.  Granted at some point during the evening we lost Mor, and Neph is in Iceland and unable to game with us…  but we have built back up to a large enough group that we can do things together without queuing in randos.  Not that random players in Final Fantasy XIV are ever really a problem… it is just nice to not have to explain that we are hashing things out on a voice chat that they don’t have access to.  The prime target of the evening was Zurvan the last of the warring triad.  While I was not really a huge fan of Sephirot…  I have to say both Sophia and Zurvan are awesome fights.  Zurvan is a bit more of a good old fashioned avoid the shit fight… but still very fun to tank at least.

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After finishing up Zurvan we got another person keyed for the last part of Alexander by running them all in sequence.  I have a feeling we are ultimately going to be doing a lot of this at some point given that both Stormrazor and Muspel are coming up through the ranks.  It sounds like at some point we really need to run the early Alex for Storm, which is absolutely a thing we can do.  All in all the Alex fights are extremely fun…  except for maybe that middle section.  There are definitely some memorable encounters, but I simply don’t like it nearly as much as I like the first four and the last four.  I actually managed to roll lucky and walked away with an accessory and a belt, which takes my total item level up to 247… which I am simply hoping is high enough to avoid another gear wall during the next batch of content.  That has been the problem with Heavensward and one I am hoping they are fixing for Stormblood…  the hitting of walls that are not super easy to get to through casual content.  I still feel like they need to be doing a round of hunts each item tier to help folks catch up in a solo manner as well as through doing group content.  Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is a weird social experiment… of applying pressure in one direction and rewards in another direction to try and influence player behavior.  Sometimes it works out perfectly… and other times it feels cludgy as hell.  The gear barriers are one of those rare occasions in this game where I feel like they made the wrong choice.  That said it was a really great night of running stuff with friends, and now that we seem to have a regular group of eight people…  so many other options open up.

 

A New Tank Enters

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Down to Goblin Town

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This morning I am having one hell of a hard time getting started, largely because it feels like I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about.  It was a Monday night, and that means raiding in Final Fantasy XIV.  However it was also a night that I was seeming to have a pretty frustrating migraine headache.  So in truth it was a good thing that we were breaking in a brand new tank… or at least one new to our group.  Pixel Executioner I am pretty sure is something that once upon a time I knew from the Blog Azeroth community, but thanks to the miracle of the fact that everyone seems to be connected on the internet I am getting to know him again thanks to Neph.  Pix had apparently never quite finished the original run of Alex so we started our evening there, with turn four otherwise known as “Burden of the Father”.  This went down in really short measure, and so long as you are tanking the boss…  you really don’t have a clue there are any mechanics that need to be dealt with.  The only thing as the boss tank that you have to worry about is Discoid which signals you are just about to take a ton of damage.   As a result this was the absolute perfect first tanking foray of the evening to break him into the rhythm.

After that we moved into the next part of Alexander and ran through the next four turns.  The awesome thing about this is that it gave me a nice little break between fights to kinda chill out and try really hard to forget my head was trying to kill me.  I am pleasantly surprised where we have come as a group, because I remember struggling a little bit when we first did Alex Midas, but last night it seemed really easy.  Well that is until we reached turn seven…  which has a significant amount of madness going on.  The awesome thing there is that we finally learned how to mechanic one of the phases.  Previously the answer to getting through the fire jail was just to have rez ready to go to bring back whoever happened to get locked in it.  Instead this time we learned that during the fire phase you just stand still and do nothing until your group brings you out of it.  If you move however… you die… and we were trying to do stuff and move…  which is apparently a bad idea?  The best part about the night is that we managed to actually finish the second Alex for Pix.  We were coming down the to the end of our normal run time, and I honestly thought we did not have anywhere near enough time to finish.  However we managed to pull a victory out on the final boss… having only gone about five minutes over our normal close time.

It was a really great night and apparently luck was on my side.  For awhile now I had been sitting on one of pretty much all of the items needed for the various armors that require two items.  Over the course of the evening apparently the game decided it liked me, because I won a significant number of rolls and suddenly shot up in item level.  I managed to complete the arms last week, but this week I managed to complete helm, boots and belt bringing my item level up to a respectable 113.  At some point I really need to spend some time getting back in game and finishing off my weapon in Palace of the Dead, because there were several moments last night when the fact that Pix my co-tank had one… made it harder to maintain threat.  In all honesty I have been struggling to remain interested in Final Fantasy XIV.  I am enjoying raid nights, but I am simply not wanting to put any of the other time in to make sure I am geared enough.  Which I know has to be frustrating to my raid mates.  I feel like I am fairly horribly geared as a whole, at least compared to what I could be.  The problem being when I sit down after a long day of work… I keep logging into World of Warcraft instead of Final Fantasy XIV.  Especially with the launch of Legion happening next week… my FFXIV time is likely to continue to be in Triage mode for awhile.

Everything Must Go!

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Rushed Raiding

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Last night was the second running of our reconstituted Monday night group, but unfortunately this time around we were missing a Thalen.  So instead of working through the content we planned on doing with was Ravana Extreme, we opted to start work on the second part of Alexander.  We had seven folks gathered up so we figured grabbing a single pug wouldn’t hurt at all.  We also decided to be up front with the pug, in that they were hanging out with a group of learners.  The most awesome of possible circumstances happened in that the game ended up giving us someone on our own server.  As a result we met a new friend Lux Tenebrae who happened to join up as a semi-permanent 8th last night.  We like to go into fights fairly blind, and then adjust and shift until we have a grasp on the movie parts.  So both of the Alexanders that we completed last night took more than one attempt, but at the same time it feels like we have a firm enough grasp on the fights to be able to come in next week and completely wreck them.  The fights themselves were extremely fun, and pretty much anything with the Alex background music is going to rate high on my radar.  We had to cut things short however because last night began the maintenance period that will eventually get us patch 3.35 which for all intents and purposes is the “Deep Dungeon” patch.  I think every single one of us is looking forward to this as a way of leveling our army of alts.

However once we got out of the raid we had roughly thirty minutes left before the servers reset.  At the not so subtle nudging of Neph we pulled together an expert group and decided to go for it.  By the time we got zoned in we had less than thirty minutes to go and Hullbreaker Hard set out before us.  We had an early wipe due to hubris and standing in stuff, but we recovered quickly and made it through the zone in a good clip.  When we pulled the final boss we had two minutes left on the official clock from the set time of the maintenance period.  The thing is we continued on fighting after time was at least in theory up.  Then something strange happened… firstly Kodra got disconnected, but we were able to finish the boss without him.  We got our loot and zoned out… and then both Tam and I got disconnected at exactly the same moment.  Then moments later Neph did as well.  So it seems like quite literally they were flushing connections one at a time as they cycled through the server preparing to shut it down.  The positive is that three of us managed to get credit for the expert… the negative is that Kodra did not but I am sure we will all be willing to make it up to him later.  This was one of the funnest dungeons I have fun in a long while because we were really pushing ourselves trying to beat the timer… which while we didn’t quite make it we came really damned close.

Farewell to Gold Farms

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The other part of the evening was spent going from character to character and purchasing Smuggled Sack of Gold over and over until I completely depleted my garrison resources.  Yesterday was essentially liquidation night of everything from my garrison that might sell for a decent bit of gold.  I also went to Wrath era Dalaran and checked the various PVP vendors to see if any of that gear was something I might want for transmog purposes given that with today’s patch all of that is getting shifted away from gold to honor based purchases.  On a handful of my characters this also meant scrapping lumber yards to build trading posts…  just to liquidate their resources for cash.  The whole process was an extremely fun atmosphere because quite literally everyone else in the guild was pretty much doing the same.  In a shared chat earlier in the day macros had been posted to speed up the process and there we sat spamming away purchasing gold bags and opening them at the same time.  In many ways it felt like we were all saying goodbye to what ended up being a frustrating expansion, and more than that… saying goodbye to our daily garrison chores.  Today the first of the Legion pre-patches go live and with it a removal of pretty much all of the ways to make gold from the garrison.  This is a bit of a double edged sword because even someone like me, was able to compile a decent amount of gold just by logging in periodically and opening bags of gold from my garrison missions.

That said not a single moment of doing this really felt fun.  It was a chore for me because I felt like if I was not cycling through all eleven characters on Argent Dawn I was essentially “leaving money on the table”.  So doing my Garrison chores mean spending thirty minutes to an hour doing nothing but interacting with NPCs and queuing missions all before doing anything fun or interesting.  So removing the gold from Garrisons will always be removing any leverage it had over me to actually do the crap contained within those instanced walls.  What gets replaced instead is the every so much more exciting mission of farming all of the transmog bits from all of the old world dungeons and raids.  Most of my characters have a fat stack of salvage crates waiting to be opened in the hopes of gathering up new appearances to unlock for the system.  I still think overall the transmog changes are a bit of a half assed system compared to what other games have, but it is a far better system than World of Warcraft currently has.  Tonight will more than likely be spent going character by character and checking things into the transmog system and getting rid of everything that is literally clogging my bank, void storage and inventory.  I started a bit of this last night in selling off any non cosmetic gear that was for alternate specs other than whatever I considered my “main” role on a character.  Getting things in the Transmog system however will pretty much clear up the rest of the space and allow me to actually start saving more interesting items.

 

Week In Gaming 9/13/2015

Very Rough Week

As you could probably tell from some of the subtext of my posts this week… it was a pretty rough one for me emotionally.  Work is still being stressful, but honestly that really had nothing to do with this one.  For our country September 11th has some pretty tragic context, but for me it has completely different issues.  Firstly September 11th was the birthday of my grandmother, and she would have been 90 this year.  I miss her an awful lot, and there are days where it is just rough to think about her.  Her birthday always brings back memories of her, which are honestly all good…  but there is a bittersweet melancholy associated with it.  She essentially raised me during the first years of my life, because she was my constant babysitter and companion.  She is also the one member of my family that really seemed to appreciate my wife being a member of the family.  If that were not enough to get me down in the dumps…  this week also marks the anniversary of a pretty horrible period of my life.  In September of 2012 I lost my Grandfather, and the day after the funeral…  September 11th… a pretty horrific event happened at my work place.   It quite literally with zero hyperbole ushered in the worst six months of my life.  Someone screwed up, and screwed up badly…  and I had to deal with the fallout and recovery.  So each time this day comes I get a little gun shy.  So this past Friday I was crawling in my skin as I waited for they day to end.

Demon Huntering

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As far as gaming this week, I had a pretty cloistered time of it.  I am still very much in my “hiding out” mentality, and I guess in part I think it was just me waiting for this week to pass me by, dreading Friday.  I spent some time working on my Demon Hunter in Diablo 3 and I think when I last played I was about halfway through 69.  At some point soon I hope to pop back in and finish leveling him to 70.  I also spent some time farming away on Rifts, Greater Rifts and Bounties attempting to get blood shards…  which I then disappointingly spent trying to get class set pieces.  I have been stuck at 3 of 4 pieces of the set I am going after on my Barbarian for a few weeks now.  I am not sure but Diablo might have worked its way out of my system for a bit.  I finished off the seasonal stuff, but as of last night Grace on the podcast talked about additional seasonal rewards.  I am just not sure if I will be willing to do any of the crazy things that are required to get them.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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The big event of this week was that I apparently have fallen into a Star Wars the Old Republic shaped hole.  I have played this game off and on since release, but this is really the first time I have felt I was actually back in the swing of things.  I’ve played alts a lot in the past, but this is the first time I have actually continued the storyline on my Jedi Guardian main.  As of last night I finished Makeb and am working through the precursor content leading up to Shadow of Revan.  My plan is to finish the story content before the drop of Fallen Empire next month.  Additionally I am taking advantage of the insane twelve times experience bonus.  Last night during the podcast I started working on my Chiss Smuggler and I have to say…  having access to Treek as a tanky companion makes that experience so much better.  Seriously… I hate Corso Riggs so much…  and was completely stalled out trying to play a smuggler because he annoyed me so much.  Treek is simply a better tank.. in that she jumps AT the mobs instead of grappling them back to me.  Who though a tank companion pulling back to the healer was a good idea?  Anyways as soon as I wrap this post I intend to go downstairs and play some more Smuggler… that was how much I was into it last night.  I may or may not have stayed up until 1:30 in the morning playing.

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am very much in a lull right now with Final Fantasy XIV.  I talked about this a bit on the podcast, but it is strange… that even while in this lull I still consider it my home base of operations.  I figure when 3.1 lands which should be soonish…  everyone will be invigorated once more and we will return to logging in every single night.  In the mean time I am playing a lot of other games as not to force myself.  I am still raiding on Monday and Wednesday nights, and this week we managed to get a few more people through Bismarck Extreme.  I really want to defeat Ravana Extreme before the new content lands, but one of the big problems we are having is… that honestly it just feels like there isn’t much content for us to be doing.  When we returned to Final Fantasy XIV July 2013 we had a years worth of content to explore since we had last played.  While we managed to slowly whittle our way through all of it… it gave us tons of small goals to work towards.  In Heavensward there really does not seem to be the much for us to work towards.  We can clear Alexander Normal in our sleep, and are pretty successful with Bismarck Extreme.  We are working on Ravana Extreme and I believe it is in our sights…  but Savage Alexander just isn’t a realistic goal, namely because I can’t bring myself to do the gear grinding that it would require to really be viable there.  I am well enough geared to do all of the content I feel like I could do… and I just don’t have the drive to push towards that bleeding edge.  So instead I play other games and wait for another content drop.

AggroChat 74 – Force Binds Us

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We start of this weeks show by talking about our continued adventures in Diablo 3, and while a some of us have slowed down our progress Grace talks about falling back into the familiar rhythm of chilling out in solo play. With the upcoming September 29th release of Wildstar Free to Play she also talks about spending a lot of time on the test server, and the recent hoverboard racing event testing. Thalen this week spent time venturing into some single player games that had never got around to playing. First we revive our discussion of Wolfenstein New Order and why you should play it for so many different reasons. In a shocker we find out that Thalen never actually played Fallout New Vegas, which spawns a discussion about our appreciation of the game.

Kodra on the other hand spent his week mostly playing a bunch of indie titles and talks about Circa Infinity and The Magic Circle. Magic Circle being the game that he spent a significant amount of time at Pax talking to the Dev about. Additionally we are all jealous of him as he talks about his experience playing Mario Maker, which is essentially Infinite Mario. This spawns a discussion about each of our early attempts at creating content for our friends to play like Excitebike, Wolfenstein, Doom and Descent. Related to Magic Circle, a seperate discussion breaks out about the Stanley Parable and what it says about gamers themselves.

Ashgar is still heavily involved in LBX: Little Battlers Experience and has even gotten in his model kits from last week putting at least one of them together. He helped to clear up some of my confusion that there is in fact a Roleplaying game there, and it is very similar to the style of game that Pokemon is. We also get into a length discussion about Pokemon Go and how the Ingress type game is likely going to change what we are playing next year. There is really no way this is not going to be a huge title, and for the most part we agree that Ingress has been a tech demo leading up to this.

Finally several of us have spontaneously gotten sucked back into Star Wars the Old Republic. Right now it is impossible to go anywhere in the world without being bombarded by Force Awakens merchandise, and after a point I simply could not resist the pull of nostalgia. The best thing about coming back to a game after years of being away is the huge backlog of content available to be played. The current twelve times experience bonus for subscribers helps as well, because you quite literally only have to focus on your class story to get leveled which was always the best part of the game. Ash, Bel and Tam are all caught in the gravity well of this game for the moment, and it sounds like some of our other hosts might have gotten the bug as well. We will have to see next week if we are still talking out it, or if we have gotten it out of our systems.

[AggroChat] [Direct Download] [iTunes] [Stitcher]

 

 

Ravana Attempts

Unbreaking Google+

Last night I had a message from a long time friend of mine, asking me why I was no longer posting my daily posts on Google+ to which I kinda gave a head tilt and went “huh”?  I had certainly seen my posts making their way to G+ anytime I checked my messages over there.  Then I took a closer look and saw that they all said “shared only with you” which kinda defeats the purpose of syndicating posts in the first place.  It turns out that nothing I have posted since July 28th has made it to G+ which is more than mildly frustrating.   I un-linked my account from Jetpack Publicize and relinked it a few times, but I never saw the prompt that I once saw asking me to select what type of sharing level for my posts.  So I took to the search engine to try and figure out what was happening.  Sure enough it seems like Google did something to change its policies with what level of access external apps have access to your account.  You apparently need to go into Settings > Manage Apps & Activities and then find the WordPress app or whatever else you are using for syndication.  This will allow you to edit the permissions for how it will be sharing to your feed, and like I said before apparently the new default is “Only You”.

After posting about this last night it seems that this pretty much happened for everyone universally.  I thought I would take a quick moment and at least explain how to fix it.  As far as syndicating my posts… I tend to take the approach of broadcast what I write pretty much everywhere.  Each of the social networks kinda has its own vibe and while I greatly prefer using Twitter, there are folks that read my content that equally greatly prefer G+ or Facebook or even Tumblr.  My goal has always been to deliver my content as in as painless of a manner as possible for folks to read.  I personally am not a huge fan of Facebook, and in fact I went through the crazy process of deleting my personal account once upon a time because it annoyed me.  However when I started blogging I signed up for an account just for the purpose of reblogging my content because I know there are people who do prefer to use Facebook.  Granted it might get annoying as shit if you follow me on multiple platforms to constantly see duplicate postings, but I guess that is a chance I am willing to take because I don’t want anyone to feel excluded or left out of the process.  Maybe this is strange but my daily posting thing… feels like all of us are taking a journey together and I don’t want to leave anyone behind.

Ravana Attempts

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As is always the case last night was we gathered up the Monday team and did some eight player content in Final Fantasy XIV.  We started the evening by burning through all four parts of Alexander Normal for the folks who are not running it and capping out early like I am.  At this point my Warrior is sitting at level 190 and I have everything I can get out of Alexander other than the chest piece.  So as of today I will be largely running the place to help out the gear on my Dragoon.  At some point I hope to get the chest piece but largely for cosmetic reasons because the Alexander gear set looks amazing.  Last week we managed to burn down Bismarck Extreme and now both the Monday and Wednesday teams are keyed for the next primal encounter.  As such instead of beating the sky whale again we decided to make attempts on Ravana Extreme.  Now going into this place we had heard horror stories about how rough the encounter was and how it was another Titan Extreme where you had to move exactly at the right time and keep repeating a pattern.  Honestly I didn’t see that at all.  Instead I saw an encounter with a repeatable pattern but significantly more wiggle room  to adjust as we went.

We made some serious progress last night, and I think more than  likely we will be able to defeat him next week.  Each attempt we kept creeping closer to the goal, and essentially what is going to be the make or break moment is dealing with the Final Liberation phase.  If we can learn that particular dance we will have the encounter, and it honestly did not feel like we were too terribly far off from that process last night.  Granted at this point we are significantly better geared than the first groups that attempted the fight, but my hope is that we can get in and start farming this guy so that folks can get the really awesome weapons.  In truth I hope that we can farm both primals because there are absolutely weapons that come from both of them that I would like to see.  We had the two handed sword drop from Bismarck last Monday and it looked amazing.  It is the stupid things like getting glamour items that motivate me, and at some point I want to organize 2.0 extreme primal farming runs so that we can start to get folks their ponies.  As it stands we only have a couple of ponies in the guild, and I think my Leviathan pony was the first.  We need to figure out a method because really I would like to make sure everyone gets at least ONE primal pony before other people roll on it.  Granted eventually it would be awesome to have people get a full set, but I would be happy with having everyone with just one as a starter.

Entering Whitevale

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This morning I am having one of those mornings when I am easily distracted.  The cats are tearing through the house chasing each other like they have gone mad.  There is a dog barking and it sounds like it is coming from my back yard… even though it is really across the green belt.  I keep flipping over to twitter, and having to force myself to put my fingers back on my keyboard and type in my WordPress window.  Largely since this is Blaugust I wanted to include this little tidbit because it absolutely happens to me too.  There are days when you cannot keep your train of thought, and I have learned to just go with it.  Start writing the things that seem most natural and eventually somehow you will get back on track.  Last night was one of those nights for me as well, and I flipped back and forth between games quite a bit as the evening wore on.  Before the raid I spent time over in Wildstar with the purpose of trying to “finish Galeras”, which is a bit of a daunting task because there are a silly number of quests in that zone and many of them you will never actually find unless you go wandering around aimlessly.  Bit by bit however I explored the regions of the map that had yet to be explored and I am now relatively confident that I have at least gotten most of the quests out of the way.

That now means the moment I have been dreading is upon me…  and I had to take the flight out to Whitevale.  I guess in part the reason why I have been avoiding doing this is that Whitevale ultimately was the zone that broke me when I played the game at launch.  I am not sure entirely what it is about the place, but it felt like moving slowly through molasses.  I think in part it was due to the fact that Dominion side there simply were never that many players in the zone, meaning that I could never get a group to do any of the group objectives, and the mob density meant that it was super hard to move anywhere without having to fight a dozen mobs.  The zone also seemed to have a higher concentration of the challenger and superior difficulty mobs than the other zones.  It seemed like I could not move anywhere without seeing one of those horrible flashing red shielded mob types that I had to try and chew through in vain.  As a result I have honestly been scared of getting to this zone because it was my fear that once again it would break me.  I have actually been enjoying the content so far, and finding playing the game refreshing.  So hopefully maybe I can make my way through Whitevale because supposedly everything on the other side of it… is significantly better.

 

Bahamut Is Down

Some Personal Stuff

I feel like it has been pretty noticeable that I have been in a bit of a funk for the last few weeks.  When this happens I tend to extract myself from the world until the passes, which isn’t necessarily the smartest thing that I can do.  However over the years I have done this as my coping mechanism, because I am always afraid I will snap at someone when I get moody.  For a bit yesterday I was wondering if my magical happy pills were not longer working, but then my wife asked me something.  Was my low as low as it has been in the past…  and to be honest no.  Normally the world would be crushingly oppressive, and instead I just felt sort of permanently bummed out.  So I guess maybe things are working just fine, they are just filling in the valleys so that the lows are quite as low as they would have been otherwise.

Yesterday was one of the more stressful days that I have had in awhile.  We had someone patch a server and due to a conflict between the Windows Update Service and MacAfee that we have seen numerous times now… it caused a process deadlock that ended up taking down production services for hours.  This was stressful in so many ways, because while there was nothing I did to cause it… there was also nothing I could really do to help it either.  It was another department with another manager… and another set of priorities responsible for the fault and the fix.  So when I came home…  I was at an extremely low point.  However my wife and I went out to dinner, and then as the evening went on I started to feel better about the world.  It was like peeking out of a fog to see a lovely day behind it.  I guess in the grand scheme of things… if all of my low spots are like this from now on…  I will count myself lucky because while it sucked, it was manageable.

Bahamut Is Down

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-03 20-49-56-40 One of the struggles in game is that I feel like I am caught between two worlds a bit.  It has taken longer than I expected to get the Monday night raid group pieced together and ready to do Heavensward content.  As a result we have been focusing on trying to get through the Final Coil of Bahamut, and made some significant progress.  Last week we were just shy of forming a group, so going into Turn 13 last night… we were all rusty.  However it feels like we got our bearings more quickly than normal and made a few adjustments.  Previously I had been tanking Bahamut at the twelve o’clock position which seems the most obvious place to drag him as you are running in… and do the traditional drag the boss while running thing.  Instead we swapped things up and I drug up back to the six o’clock position we entered the room at.  This allowed Ashgar to pick up the adds significantly easier and also allowed the DPS to burn them down faster.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-03 20-51-40-81 The real challenge however was like always… we suck at dive bomb phases.  However in spite of the fact that you ultimately have to deal with something like five divebomb phases, they seemed to come together more smoothly than we were used to.  Essentially you have to find Bahamut, and move out of the way while also moving out of the way of Twintania that comes barreling through immediately after him.  I think we only made it through two or three of these phases completely clean, however we did manage to rez the few players that got pushed into a wall.  I am constantly impressed at still how difficult of a fight this is.  Sure this is expansion old content at this point, but I am damned happy to be able to say I have defeated Bahamut, and I have a title and a minion to show for it.  Paragon to a really spiffy White Mage Cane as a result, and part of me wants to try and muster the troops to do this more often so that we can farm the really awesome weapons for folks.  I have to say…  the most stressed I have ever been in Final Fantasy XIV is trying to find a way to survive Ahk Mourn.  On the positive side…  Alexander turn 3 has caused me to get really good at timing Holmgang.

Alex Finally

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-03 21-44-31-73 Last night was a significant night because not only did it see us beating Turn 13 of Final Coil of Bahamut… but it also saw us officially starting this expansions raid content as a group.  I love the Wednesday night group, and I am enjoying what is happening there… but there is something extra special about getting the Monday night group into Alexander.  While Kodra, Grace and I are parts of both teams, there will always be something special about my first Final Fantasy XIV raid group.  So it makes me happy that this week everyone was up to 170 and several were considerably beyond that…  even though it took a little bit of cheatery to get Ash’s paladin in the zone by wearing some strength jewelry.  We only really had time to do turn one of Alexander, but we came really damned close to oneshotting it.  Had we not started freaking out because we thought we were coming up against the hard enrage… we absolutely would have downed it in the first try.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-03 21-08-41-56 On the second attempt everyone felt more confident and we pushed the dps so much harder than before.  The awesome thing about coming in on a Monday is that several of us were already capped on Alexander pieces for the week which meant pretty much all of the newish folks walked away with something spiffy.  I look forward to coming in next Monday and clearing all four turns of Alexander, and getting everyone their freebie accessories.  From there maybe some Bismarck and Ravana?  It makes me happy to feel like I am making forward momentum with both teams.  The only thing that frustrates me a little bit is that I feel like we should go back and do Turn 8, which is the turn that Monday night skipped to start work on Turn 9.  So maybe next week I can talk people into doing that so that we finally can close the book on the Coil of Bahamut.  I don’t want to sacrifice getting people through Alexander for it, but I would love to be able to say I have beaten each of the turns.  All in all it was a pretty great night, not just for the raid victories but for also clearing away the fog that I have been dwelling in.

Anook Community Award

Prepping for Blaugust

At this point we are getting super close to the launch of Blaugust, and the sign ups keep coming on the Nook.  There is still time to sign up and be ready for the start of this exciting month.  Also remember there is zero penalty this year for starting late and catching up.  Last year my friend Tamrielo did something absolutely insane and wrote 31 really well formed posts in a 48 hour period.  While I would never suggest anyone do something like that, it is absolutely possible to start a week late and make up the missed progress.  Similarly I know folks will be attending Gamescom or Pax Prime during this month, so it is absolutely a good idea to stage the content ahead of time.  For the WordPress users out there I highly suggest you check out their pretty excellent mobile app (iOS, Android)  that gives you access to your blog on the go, and does a decent job of letting you compose a post on the go.

I tend to be a very pro WordPress person, but blogger is perfectly acceptible as well and while I have never used it there seems to be a mobile blogger client also (iOS, Android).  The primary reason why I tend to suggest WordPress is just that there is a path between WordPress.com free hosted service, and moving to a WordPress.org installation on your own custom hosting.  There are a number of guides out there to help this process along.  What I like so much about this is the fact that it lets someone get their feet wet and decide if this blogging thing is for them… before plunking down the money it takes to rent space on a web host and purchase a domain.  There are lots of people that never make the jump between COM to ORG, but it is nice that there is always that option if you want to do something with your blog that is not supported through the official channels.  There are also guides for going from Blogger to WordPress, but they tend to be far less straight forward.

Anook Community Award

Last night something really cool happened, namely that Lonrem the tirelessly working community manager of Anook.com posted an excellent “best practices” document on the Blaugust Nook.  If the document were not enough in helping people get the most out of their Anook experience… he also slipped a tidbit of information in down at the bottom.  For a few weeks now we had been talking about Anook wanting to sponsor some sort of award.  It was finally decided that the best way to have an Anook reward is to have the users of the website vote on their favorite posts.  Here are the basics of this award posted straight from his document.

I’ll also announce here that Anook is going to support Blaugust with a special prize! I’m going to tally up the Hearts that each blog post gets for each blogger (Blaugger?) and award the top blog with a game code. I’m going to see if I can round up other prizes from some of our friends and partners as well, no promises there! This does give a bit of an incentive to post regularly, start on the first of August, but also to share the link to your blog on Anook! If you’ve got any questions, let me know!

This is really awesome to have our first “real” sponsor…  because my pocket didn’t really count.  Last year when I started this, I decided to host the challenge off of Anook because it is a network that I love.  Lonrem singlehandedly won me over with his devotion, and the features basically keep me from ever having to build yet another custom SMF forum for anything.  So I fly the Anook banner on my stream and mention it on every AggroChat just because I love the site.  I am humbled that the site is returning some of that love and helping us get this challenge started in a bigger and better way this year.  I’ve had an idea through this contest of creating a games of the week where I suggest a handful of free to play games that folks play, and then write about their experience to help get those creative juices flowing.  While I might have been dreading the loss of my free time that Blaugust means…  I am absolutely getting pumped about how much more “real” this whole thing feels for 2015.

Surprise Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 20-49-54-61 It is not uncommon for me to log in to Final Fantasy XIV in the evening and hear the all too familiar chime of a group invite before the game has completely loaded.  My guildies are used to ninjaing me into tanking all manner of things, and I assumed that it was yet another case of “daily expert”.  So I accepted the invite without thinking much about it, and found myself shocked when I saw the Alexander loading screen.  To make matters worse the ninja alex was turn 2, which is quite possibly the most frustrating thing for a tank to take on without having a second tank in there that they trust.  The problem being that pugs like to stack all of the mobs together, which makes it impossible for the tanks to effectively hold aggro on them.  What happens instead is that both tanks burn through all of their resources and the mobs spend the entire fight bouncing back and forth between them.  This would be fine and good if it were safe for a single tank to take them on… problem being that in the later phases you have to try and carefully split the damage to even it out.  All of the mobs on one tank is pretty much a certain wipe.

The positive of getting pulled into Alex like this however is that it took away my normal reluctance to such things, and as of last night I now have three of my four pieces of loot for the week.  All that is left is Turn 1, and quite honestly it is the least stressful for me to pug.  The tanks have clearly defined roles and for the most part they go fairly smoothly now that most people are pretty well geared.  At this point for that final item I want either a chain which would instantly give me a belt, or a pedal… which would also instantly give me an item because I have a second one in my inventory.  I have to say the way gearing works in Alex is a little maddening, but I feel that honestly it is their way of trying to delay people reaching level 190 geared.  With Esoterics in place, I can’t really see going for say the Alexander chest piece since it takes getting a lucky roll four weeks in a row on Turn 4.  My first Esoterics item of course will be the 200 weapon, because for a tank that is the single most useful upgrade.  After that I will probably assess my weakest pieces and go after what I need the most…  which is more than likely going to be my chest piece.  Of course in the mean time Square could do what they seem to always do… and change up the game by taking away loot restrictions.  That said I still think it is a little early in the patch for that to actually happen, and more than likely won’t be until 3.1.

Fifty Eight Singularity

Blaugust Update

Right now we are three days away from the beginning of Blaugust, and at this point I am happy with the pre-event response.  If my count is correct, we have 35 different people signed up to do the challenge, and as I remember last year we managed to pick up a bunch of people after the start.  This is a bit of a double edged sword for me at least, because while I am amped as hell to see all these fine folks participating…  I am also realizing that in three days time my casual reading of the internet is over.  I flip into stat keeper mode as I tabulate the posts that folks have made on which day to verify that at the end of the month they have in fact made their thirty one posts.

Blaugust is this strange dichotomy in that for most people it has nothing to do with the prizes that will be handed out at the end.  However since I am offering them as an additional carrot…  I feel like I have to perform my due diligence and keep track of everything.  So as we near the start of this event I am a mixture of anticipation and dread.  My hope is that everyone will include the day they are posting for in their post so that I can easily checkmark off a post on a given day.  I struggled so much trying to reconcile timezones last year, and folks proclivity for posting after midnight but meaning it for the previous day.  I remember Joseph Skyrim was amazingly awesome about always including what day he was posting for, which made the whole Australia thing so much easier.  I think in the coming days I will go back through the list of people who did it last year and determine just how many are repeat participants.  Just giving things a summary glance it certainly seems like there are many.

Finally Alex Four

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 21-39-55-23 I am just realizing that apparently yesterday… I did not actually have FRAPS running while playing Final Fantasy XIV.  So that means all of the times I thought I was taking a screenshot, I apparently was not.  As a result you are getting a screenshot from Turn 3 of Alexander instead of Turn 4 as I intended.  For the last several weeks I had been hoping to run Alexander will a full guild group, however last Wednesday we struggled a bit on Turn 2 and only managed to get through Turn 3 before running out of time.  Turn 4 is a huge deal, not necessarily because of the fight… but because the quest turn in at the end of it rewards a Gordian Bolt.  For a little over a week now I have been staring at my 170 ring and grimacing because it was my one sub 180 that I still had.  So the drive to get through Alexander Four was pretty strong for me, because it meant I would finally be able to replace that last ring with a shiny new 190 ring.

Yesterday afternoon I finally got the courage to pug it with zero guidance from the guild, and in truth it was not nearly as painful as I had expected.  Firstly the fourth turn is a blast and is one of the few fights where I find the off tank role far more enjoyable than the main tank.  There is a mechanic that works somewhat like C’Thun’s swallow mechanic from World of Warcraft, causing the off tank and another player to get sucked through a series of tubes into another room.  There you have to burn down a “Doll” add within a certain timeframe before getting pulled back into the main room again.  For me personally this meant rationing my cool downs so that I could survive, but also hoping and praying that I got a heal upon exiting…  because you literally get sucked in back to back if the dps is going too slowly.  There was a bard that each time I got paired with her, which is strange because you would think with all of the recent buffs that would have been a great choice to burn the add.  Anyways… it took about four attempts but we managed to get it.  I did both the main tank and off  tank roles, but like I said I absolutely prefer to off tank it simply because seeing my tiny Lalafell self go flying through the air is hilarious.

Fifty Eight Singularity

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-26 20-13-33-56

Yesterday I had a decision to make, and I think I hinted at it in my blog post (truth is I rarely remember what I write from day to day).  Essentially I could either grind out all of the esoterics I needed to cap, or instead I could work on my Dragoon.  In truth I split it down the middle and pushed my Esoterics a little higher, before ultimately retiring for the evening to work on the Dragoon.  I ran a course of three Vaults, and still am coming up short in experience to push across the finish line. As a result as I was starting to get more sluggish right before bed time, I decided to do my first Levequests of the expansion.  One of the strange things about Heavensward is that all Levequests come from an NPC in Foundation just up the ramp from the Aetheryte crystal.  This means that the game freaks out slightly when you attempt to accept the port after finishing one.  In the Dravinian Hinterlands it kept dropping me off at the Bigwest Shortstop instead of actually porting me back to the foundation.  This makes me think that the game initially intended there to be Levequest vendors in every zone, but ended up deciding that they wanted to try a centralized vendor in Foundation instead.

The problem being that Fifty Eight still seems like a hellaciously long level, even with the Armory Bonus firmly in place.  I did a grand total of six level 58 levequests, and each one barely made the xp bar move.  However I was able to whittle it down to just enough that I think by doing my hunts tonight I might actually be able to ding.`  The reason why I want 59 so badly is somewhat stupid…  mainly I am tired of the lance that I am using.  I think it looks ugly as shit… but for the single level I am using it… I cannot bring myself to spend the money to glamour it to something more enjoyable.  Especially when I know that I have a level 59 lance waiting on me.  It is at the very least giving me that added push to get the hell out of this level on onwards to the final push for 60.  I have also gotten a little sick of running the Vault.  It was awesome the first dozen times I was in there, but now the music is grating on my nerves.  I also simply think that the Library is a much more enjoyable dungeon, and does not have a death trap of a boss quite the same way as The Vault does.  I still find that final encounter in Vault to be the hardest in the leveling dungeons, and I feel sorry when I see a healer struggling to keep up with the massive room wide damage.  Hopefully tonight will see me dinging 59, and I can move on to more enjoyable pastures.

Begrudging Enjoyment

Even More Clarifications!

Starting to get really amped because two days in we have like two pages worth of signups on the forum thread.  Since I guess I am the grandmaster of ceremonies, I am getting random questions and have been doing my best to assuage fears.  When those questions seem general enough that someone else might have them… I have taken to dumping them in the intro to a morning blog post to help clarify for anyone else reading that might be interested.  One of the interesting questions that I had yesterday was if folks could mix things up a bit.  Since I am opening the door to vlogging, it was wondered if you could do a mix of the two.  The short answer is absolutely!  The long answer is just make sure you post your video embedded in a blog post, and advertise it on the Blaugust Nook with what day it was for, just to make my life less hell when it comes to tracking and tabulating this madness.

Next question is what happens if a given blogger is obligated to be posting every so often on another site?  Do they have to also post something new for that day on their personal blog?  The easy answer here is yes…  but with an asterisk.  If you are posting a bigger entry somewhere else, it is absolutely cool to post a stub on your own blog linking to the bigger post.  Just do a quick synopsis of the post and let folks click through if they want to read more about it.  This way you technically have your daily post, but also are linking to the article that you spent the bulk of your daily writing time working on.  This is maybe a strange case, but I know that several of our bloggers do the occasional long form article for another source.  The important thing is that we need it tracked through the Blaugust Nook so I can give you appropriate credit.

Night of Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 21-41-38-05 Pretty much since its inception I have been helping out with the Wednesday night static in our free company.  Initially I had intended it to simply be something that I filled in on, but as I dropped my World of Warcraft raiding… I found that I had time to commit to it more seriously.  So presently with the Monday night crew we are working through Final Coil of Bahamut, and on Wednesday nights we have been working on Normal mode Alexander.  Last night we had every intention of getting through all four wings, but we struggled a bit with turn two due to some changes in how we were dealing with the adds.  As soon as we went back to the way we had previously defeated it, things clicked back into place and we pushed through it fairly easily.  That took us to turn three, a fight that I had not actually seen yet.  Thanks to the expert tutelage of Wulf or as “Wul” as his friends call him…  I was caught up to speed and after the second attempt it started to feel pretty natural.

From here it was just learning this particular dance and getting our dps up high enough to burn through it before we hit the hard enrage.  Right now that seems to be a problem in general with what we are trying to do.  We struggled with the dps check on Bismarck, and struggled again on turn three.  As a  Warrior I am personally swapping to Deliverance stance every single time I am not in the main tank role so I can push a little more dps and also trying to keep up Storm’s Eye as often as possible… largely when I don’t actually need the damage reduction effect of Storm’s Path.  If we can somehow solve the problems we are having on the DPS end however I think we are ready to rock higher content.  The dance part seems to come pretty naturally, however there were still several points last night where folks stood in damage that could have been avoided.  Part of this is learning, but part of this is trying desperately to avoid tunnel vision.

Begrudging Enjoyment

Skyforge 2015-07-22 22-22-05-86 I’ve gone through a strange evolution with SkyForge of having some vague interest, but finding the game play largely unsatisfying for my first few play sessions.  Now that I have unlocked the core abilities of the Paladin, I am actually finding it rather enjoyable.  I think this game suffers from what so many games suffer from…  rationing of abilities.  I know Final Fantasy XIV has this problem where most classes don’t really feel like they should until you are around level 40.  SkyForge for the most part has this problem until you have unlocked your base abilities.  Had I taken the time to really spend much time in the virtual matrix thing that lets you test every class, I would have realized that the rabbit hole was so much deeper than I was giving it credit for.  Another interesting side note… if you finish the training on a given class you unlock the ability to permanently use its class costume.

Skyforge 2015-07-22 23-22-31-75 I booted up SkyForge after the raid last night, with every intention of just poking my head in and then logging right out.  Instead I wound up unlocking three costumes and completing a really cool dungeon like mission on an island full of undead Virds.  With all of my abilities unlocked the fights started feel more purposeful in design, and less about simply repeating the same attack over and over.  There was a boss that required me to intersect one type of beam while avoiding taking the other… and actually dragging the boss into the path of it so that it would take the damage.  This felt fresh and enjoyable, so maybe I simply had not seen the “real” game yet.  This is ultimately the frustration of designs that doll out abilities one at a time, is that you can’t really see what the final result is going to be like until you have invested a serious amount of effort into the game.  Granted this game DID give me an avenue to see how a Paladin or Knight would play…  but I simply did not spend much time doing it.  Tonight I plan on trying to unlock a few more of these class costumes, so I can get a feel for how some of the other options play.  Right now this is shaping up to be an MMO with MOBA character design… and I think I dig this.

A Small Patch

Blaugust Clarifications

Yesterday I had a handful of questions about Blaugust that I thought I should address this morning, just in case anyone else had it.  Firstly it is absolutely okay to write content ahead of time and stage it to release over the course of the month.  With both Pax Prime and Gamescom happening during the month of August, this is more than likely going to cut into some writers schedules.  I know last year there were several folks doing great… and then they went to Gamescom and dropped off the face of the planet.  Being able to cover schedule irregularities is a necessary coping skill to deal with keeping a schedule.  While I personally prefer not to schedule posts ahead of time, quite literally everyone else does this.  So for the purpose of Blaugust this still absolutely counts towards your thirty one posts.

Another question that I had is whether or not it is cool to tell a story in thirty one parts.  This is also absolutely fine, and like I said yesterday this is a challenge about longevity and regularity…  not necessarily what you are writing about.  A prime example of this is during my NaNoWriMo run in 2013… I knew that I could not do it and blog at the same time.  So instead I just posted my nightly words each day as my blog post.  So over the course of the month I essentially broadcast the draft of my story to the world.  In the case of the person who asked me yesterday, they wanted to write the back story of their primary game character over the course of the month.  That seems completely valid, and at the same time something that would be extremely awesome.  The constraints of this contest are about producing thirty one posts during the month, and so long as those posts mean the constraints of the challenge you are doing just fine.

A Small Patch

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 06-32-08-08 I have a good friend Rylacus who is going to be starting Final Fantasy XIV soon.  Over the year plus I have been contiguously playing this game I have talked to him about the patching schedule.  I mentioned that about once a quarter we get a big patch, and usually more than once a month we get little minor patches.  The problem being that he had no real frame of reference as to what I meant by those two things.  Yesterday 3.0.5 was released and this is absolutely what I would call a “small patch” by FFXIV standards.  When I linked him the patch notes he was completely floored by the fact that we call that a minor patch.  A lot of things happened yesterday, not the least of which is the introduction of the Esoterics tier of Tomestones.  I keep thinking at some point they are going to run out of goofy names to call these, but they seem to have a limitless fount of them.  This allows players to purchase item level 200 items, and returns us to the state of the weekly tomestone cap of 450.  The weapons once again are priced just enough to force players to hit that cap three weeks in a row to get them.

Yesterday was also another significant moment for me and my Warrior as I finished upgrading all of my gear to level 180 (other than the Alexander ring that I should be getting tonight… ).  This means I am essentially “done” gearing with Law and can now start diverting that to my Dragoon who is roughly halfway to level 58.  I was reaching this point where running dungeons was not nearly as important for me as it had been in the past, and then bam… a small patch releases and once again I am infused with this desire to hit the dungeons every single day.  This time around Expert Roulette is going to be my key focus, and we have learned in the past that through running a single roulette every day for several days in a row.. you can cap your tomestones without doing anything terribly insane.  What I marvel at however is the timing of their content.  Quite literally just as we started slowing down our dungeon running fervor… they launched yet another tier of gear giving us even more reason to get excited about running dungeons again.  This game is absolutely phenomenal at figuring out the right mix of carrot and stick.

Final Coil

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-20 20-27-08-11 Another huge thing yesterday is that Savage Alexander opened and now the bleeding edge of Final Fantasy XIV raiders can throw themselves against that content.  As of this morning it seems like only a handful of free companies have defeated the first turn, and only one or two have managed to defeat the second.  So it seems like it will take folks a good deal of time to actually conquer this raid.  For our guild however, we are still very much in the gearing process and have yet to be able to field a reliable “normal” Alexander run on a regular basis.  What our Monday night group has been working on instead is finishing out the Final Coil of Bahamut.  I realize we are quite literally “months behind” as the saying goes, but I am still very much enjoying myself.  We managed to take down Turn 12 on Monday night and made what I feel is significant progress on Turn 13.  Ultimately it will probably take us a few more weeks, which is good… because we still only have one geared tank for the Monday raid.

As a result… I ended up solo tanking turn 13… which is quite possibly the most hectic thing I have done in a long time.  My world became entirely centered around making sure I had five stacks of wrath at the right moment… so I could hit Inner Beast plus another cooldown… in order to survive the tankbuster…  which of note means that it literally does enough damage to decimate my 25,000 hit points.  The worst timing however was on the pull when quite literally I was hitting my fifth ability and gaining my fifth stack of wrath… as the attack was casting that I needed Inner Beast for.  Needless to say that night stressed me the hell out… but hopefully we can down him soon.  I would love if the axe dropped, because it is super amazing looking.  What I really hope however is that we can finish gearing and start work on Bismarck Extreme, Ravana Extreme and Alexander for gear.