Luck in Alex

What Happened to Bel Folks Stuff?

I figure at this point some of you out there have to be asking yourself this question.  Quite honestly I am not sure what has happened, other than the fact that I am still fighting a bit of a funk.  With AggroChat I am supported by my cast of friends, and we have a specific format that we follow…  and that takes a lot of the pressure to perform off of me.  With “Bel Folks Stuff” I have to be “On” the entire time we are recording.  The end result is a much more draining experience, and I have to be in a certain mindset to make it work.  I walked back and forth on this point in my mind numerous times.  I still have a long list of people that I would like to have on the show, but do I force it just for the sake of keeping what passes for a schedule?

So far the answer I have kept giving myself is “No”.  This blog…  I can make a post out of thin air, but when it come to a podcast…  that is not a skill I have achieved yet.  The podcast and the idea behind it are not dead yet though, even if I am going on two months without a show.  In part I did not set a strict schedule because I wanted the process to feel natural and spontaneous.  The problem being that in order to get this sort of approach I have to be feeling up to the challenge.  Since Blaugust is this big challenge about creating regular content, I thought it was also important to talk about my own failings.  While we are running like clockwork with AggroChat, Bel Folks Stuff on the other hand is a bit of a mess.  Hopefully I will peek through whatever fog I happen to be in and will get back my moxy.  For the time between… all I really have is a heartfelt apology that I have failed to do more shows.

Luck in Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-08-03 06-34-19-26 Other than my odd little Minecraft mission, I had one major goal yesterday.  That was to get close to capping Esoterics and finish getting items from Alexander.  Earlier in the week I had managed to get into an Alex group with a few guildies, and in that process knocked out drops from 2, 3, and 4 leaving me only 1 to worry about.  Alexander turn one tends to be the more sane of them, and at this point it is the one that almost everyone knows how to do well.  I had mentioned this goal Saturday on voice chat, and my friend Warenwolf mentioned that he would like to go along with me.  The problem being that I took most of the day to get into the mood for doing some Alex.  However last night we zoned in together, and managed to get through it with absolutely no frustrations.  I myself needed either a Pedal or a Chain which would get me my boots or belt respectively.  It turns out that both Waren and I were on the lucky side as I won the Chain and he won a Bolt taking both of us to 182 item level.

On the other side of the goal, my adventures through the weekend have taken to 30 Esoterics away from capping.  A single expert tonight will push me over the cap, and put me in a good place for getting my weapon either Tuesday or Thursday.  Getting a new weapon is always a huge motivation factor for me.  As a habitual melee player… weapons mean so much and are essentially the soul of the class.  When you get a new one… your class for a moment feels completely new to you as you experience bigger numbers or higher threat values.  While I have enjoyed my level 180 weapon… I am more than ready to toss it in the dustbin because the 200 axe looks freaking amazing.  It is a return to the feel of the original Warrior artifact set that I felt in love with.  Right now the plan is to try really hard to grind out the rest of my esoterics on Tuesday, so that I have the axe ready for our Wednesday night raid.

Hunts are Great XP

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This expansion many of us have been following a little trick on how to make leveling feel less painful.  Clan Hunts are something that I find extremely relaxing as I pop around through several different zones taking out hunt marks and getting centurio seals in the process.  There however has been some method to my madness, and that method revolves around trying to take down as many hunt mobs as I can with a level or under leveled job.  Essentially the plan has been that for Western Coerthas, Sea of Clouds and Dravianian Forelands that I end up using a character around level 50.  Originally this was my Dragoon, until I managed to get him to around 55 and I simply did the entire course of hunt marks with him.  Now I am doing this with my Bard, and while I have not really played him other than this process… I already have him to 52.  The next two in line for leveling like this are my Paladin and my White Mage…  while the Paladin is probably going to be doable… I am questing just how easy it will be for me to push the White Mage through hunts.

What is nice about this process is that I personally focus on my hunts and not necessarily how fast I am gaining experience.  As a result it seems that I magically got to level 52 on the Bard without really trying.  Ultimately as you get higher in level those early Hunts stop paying out quite so nicely in the experience department, and you reach a point where you have to grind to get to the level cap.  However before you hit that juncture… it certainly feels nice to see your classes almost leveling themselves.  The best part about all of this is that this process feeds my ability to keep upgrading Law gear, and the other awesome happening of the weekend is that my Dragoon is a single ilevel away from being able to do Alexander as well.  In the process of grinding out my Esoterics on Tuesday, I should get enough Law to get to 170 and then I have two options for doing Alexander each week.  There are some nights I can stomach the process of tanking that place, and others that I would enjoy sitting in the backseat and dpsing more.  I would be happy if I never had to tank turn two again.

Northern Thanalan Problem

Button Mash Bard

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-11 22-16-35-69 Last night during the podcast I piddled around in Final Fantasy XIV as I often do.  The fact that I had to edit a section of the podcast out because of my rapid fire keyboard mashing… means I was piddling around on my bard.  Of all of my classes… this is the one that I seem to give the least shits about actually playing correctly.  I will leave good barding up to Shiana, Warenwolf and Thalen…  me I just mash buttons and pray.  One of the problems is that I have all of these characters currently sitting at level 50 that I got to cap last expansion.  The bard, the white mage and the paladin among them.  The problem being right now without quest support there is no real handy way to get to level 51, which is the level you need to be to hit the first dungeon.  On my dragoon I have been pretty much living in dungeons, and as a result I have managed to make a significant push in level, as he is roughly half way to 55.

So last night I struggled to figure out just how to get my bard over the hump, so I could start doing the same with him.  I wandered around a bit in Western Coethas only to remember that even with the armory bonus…  FATEs in Heavensward are still pretty terrible.  Then Ashgar mentioned that I should do what I did at 49… and just go to Northern Thanalan.  So I zoned into that area and it took longer to load than either Ishgard, Mor Dhona or Idyllshire.  It turns out that pretty much everyone is living in this zone, and I guess it makes sense.  On average FATEs in Western Coerthas rewarded my bard 28,000 experience.  On average FATEs in Northern Thanalan rewarded around 21,000 experience… and the zone is about a fourth of the size of Western Coerthas… and has just as many FATEs.  This means that there is a constant train of pink marks showing up all over your map.

Northern Thanalan Problem

Screenshot (15) On the live letter this week they mentioned that they would be tweaking FATEs to make them a better value proposition for players, and I think this is a bit of an understatement in the level of the issue that is happening.  One of the interesting things about the internet and mmos is that players will figure out the shortest route to solving a problem and abuse the hell out of it.  Quickly players realized that they could simply level faster by living in Northern Thanalan… and that is quite literally what is happening.  I would estimate last night during the podcast there were somewhere close to 200 players in zone fighting over the FATEs that spawned, and in a crazy game of whack-a-mole as soon as one dropped the next one would be up and the rush would begin across zone to get the first hits in on it.  We experienced these same problems at release with the abuse of a very specific FATE in Northern Thanalan called “Dark Devices” and it seems like once again this zone is the king of the fast leveling curve.

The problem with this is that it makes the game boring.  You stand in zone and hang out there until you are 60… and quite literally players are doing this on their alternate classes, riding this elevator to the top floor and then getting off just in time to gear for Alexander.  The end result is that we are starting to see level 60 players who have not done a single class quest and as a result have NONE of their new class abilities.  Time doing class quests is time taken away from the “super efficient” level mill of Northern Thanalan.  Here in lies problem two…  this zone is a fun zone to run FATEs in… and absolutely worth while for players post 45 when Central Coerthas starts to slow down.  My biggest fear is that we are going to see a bit of an overcorrection that leads to Square nerfing the FATEs in this zone once again to try and prod players to leave it.  What I want to see instead is that they incentivize the content in the new areas… to make it worth spending time there and doing the FATEs.

More Carrot to the Stick

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 23-50-32-16 Those first days after launch, the FATEs were getting run and every single major boss fate was dropping all sorts of awesome items.  Then players realized, or at least Reddit realized that mathematically the FATE grinding experience was shit.  I want to see players in the zones doing the content the zones have to offer.  We long speculated that they purposefully under-incentivized the FATEs to get players to actually do quest content, because at the launch of A Realm Reborn… it was absolutely a problem with players completely ignoring quests until they hit the level cap.  The issue here is that dungeons are gated through the storyline… and without players entering the dungeon system… the queues got more than a little out of whack.  So I guess I support the notion of nerfing FATEs temporarily… but at this point something needs to be done to derail the Northern Thanalan train once again.  I don’t think we can probably afford to wait until 3.1, so I am hoping that we see a minor patch that introduces a series of tweaks that right this ships course.

In the meantime I am guessing I will start running Levequests to get over that 50 to 51 hump, because after the madness of last night…  I really did not find the Northern Thanalan experience enjoyable.  I had way too many flashbacks of the way the dark devices grind felt.  I absolutely rode that up on my Bard and then never touched it on another character again.  The game has some really awesome FATEs in the new areas that each tell a story…  some of which we ended up talking about last night.  I want Square to find a way to add enough carrot to their stick, in order to convince players that staying in the zone they are currently in and running FATEs is a valuable option.  Mostly I want to be able to knock out all of the different zone boss fates because there are interesting things sitting on their loot table if you manage to get to gold contribution.  Two weeks into the expansion though I am still loving it in spite of all the minor problems we have complained about.  We talked about this last night in the podcast, that it seems like we complain a lot…  but it is more a case of us wanting them  to iron out the rest of the wrinkles… because the game is really damned polished already.

Tonberry Tactics

Not Enough Coffee

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

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

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

FATE Crack

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

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

Regeneration Tagging

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

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

Regressive Gameplay


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

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

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

Tonberry Tactics

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

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

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

Wrapping Up

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

Mayhem in Mathosia

Just a Gigolo

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Last night I was feeling fairly antisocial.  I logged into Rift for a little bit, but was feeling overall meh about the game, especially since I knew the bulk of the guild would be in FFXIV anyways.  I still feel bad about the fact that almost all of the Rift guild moved rather abruptly to Final Fantasy… but that just kinda happens with recent games.  Since I was not super amped about doing things with people… I decided to run around as a Bard and grind FATEs.  I have been working up the class so I could have something dpsy to play when we had too many tanks and not enough other things.  I had originally intended this to be my Dragoon that is sitting at 32…. but as I started to play the Bard it just leveled so much faster.

At level 45 in FFXIV you get a series of quests that give you four of the 5 pieces of your archetypal class look armor.  This is commonly referred to as the Artifact gear and through the first series of quests you get every slot but your chest piece.  This often leads to some bizarre looks, but honestly I am not sure the bard set COULD look goofier.  I am somewhere between a rockstar, a gigolo and a movie style gypsy.  In no case does this make me feel epic and awesome… and in the matter of a single quest I went from looking like the Dread Pirate Roberts to David Lee Roth.

Vanity Slots to the Rescue?

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Supposedly there are vanity slots on the way… and they seriously cannot get here soon enough.  I am mildly depressed to think I will have to wear a pair of pants that look like they were crafted from a circus tent until then.  The above image is the set I loved to wear…  Foestriker.  This comes from the first three dungeons… and I have been slowly gathering the rest of the pieces of the outfit.  Everything about the look seems epic to me… and I felt like the elite archer I was supposed to be.  The bard outfit on the other hand looks like I am 5 years old and got to dress myself for the first time.

Apparently I am not alone in this assessment, as most of the major forums have at least one “wtf is wrong with the bard gear” thread.  Overall most of the other class outfits I have seen have been amazing looking.  Dragoon looks like everything you would expect it to be, as does Warrior, and Paladin looks very much like the defensive tank that they are supposed to be.  Even Scholar with its quirky “I bought this jacket at an army surplus store” looks pretty cool.  So right now the bard outfit seems to be the “Moon Moon” of the crowd.  Which is kinda sad… considering just how amazing the bard class as a whole really is.  If I knew just had bad I would end up looking… I might have focused on leveling up the dragoon instead.

Server Shuffling

2013-10-03 06_31_06-I need server transfer now! - Page 9Yesterday it was announced that Final Fantasy XIV A Realm Reborn would soon open up server transfers.  In an attempt to reunite friends and loved ones… the first five days of server transfers will be completely free.  This is generally an extremely good thing… since there were a few Stalwarts who were not patient enough to play the “get on Cactuar” game that usually involves creating characters at odd hours.  The only negative is that if you look at the list below… our realm is specifically flagged as one of the three US realms that are extremely highly congested.

As a result… the opening of server transfers may make our server queues even worse.  Essentially every night there is a very small queue when we attempt to log into the server, the hope is that even if the queues increase we will never have to go back to using our login macros to get through the sea of 1017 errors.  As a guild we would consider moving elsewhere, but it would mean starting over from scratch and moving separately.  It feels like they planned this poorly in that they did not offer a guild move option.  Currently we have essentially maxed out our guild, and all the frenetic questing of the first few weeks in part is what pushed our level up to where it is now.  Without the assistance of the quests… it would likely be far harder to reach.

Additionally we have almost maxed out our faction with the Immortal Flames… which means we could consider switching factions and starting the process of leveling our reputation there.  So the prospect of having to discard all this progress and start from scratch just does not seem like something we would want to do.  We have very few people on other servers, so for the most part it is not a huge ordeal.  I imagine that the folks transferring TO Cactuar however will have to do it during off peak hours, which could be a bit tricky since there is only a five day window to get that free transfer in.  No word yet has been posted as to when the server transfers will begin.

Mayhem in Mathosia

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I think this week why I have been so focused on trying to push up the Bard is that I know I will be spending most of my weekend playing Rift.  Last week they announced a brand new server event called Mayhem in Mathosia.  The goal of the event is in essence to get Rift back to its roots… massive large scale invasion events spanning multiple zones.  During the event there will be unique planar drops that include new colors of Hellbug Mount, a unique Kirin, and some cosmetic gear.  I want it all…  I want it now.

The schedule looks a little something like this…

Phase 1: Friday, Oct. 4 – Saturday, Oct. 5 – Silverwood / Freemarch
Phase 2: Sunday, Oct. 6 – Monday, Oct. 7 – Gloamwood / Stonefield
Phase 3: Tuesday, Oct. 8 – Wednesday, Oct. 9 – Scarlet Gorge / Scarwood Reach
Phase 4: Thursday, Oct. 10 – Saturday, Oct. 12 – Moonshade Highlands / Droughtlands


So I will likely be spending most of my time over in Rift this weekend and most of next week trying to gather up all the goodies.  I will of course be popping back into FFXIV if someone needs a high level dungeon run, or to help out with instances as needed.  We have been trying our best to be available anytime a guild member is on high center due to needing to do a specific dungeon run.  I still would like to get my rogue to level 60… but the 50+ leveling just feels like a tedious process.  Which is a bit disturbing considering I am right now playing a game where I am forced to level unaided by quests.  By completing enough of the various invasions you can win the unique appearance Hellbug above, so that will be what I am working towards.