Warbears and Stormsplitter

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We will lead off with the accomplishment of the night.  I knew I was pretty close to the ARR Warrior “Raid” mount but I had lost sight of actually going after it specifically.  I never really did anything to purposefully grind for this, and for the most part got my 200 “high-level duties” organically by running various raids with the free company. It was at some point during our Omega runs that I happened to notice I got the achievement, and that prompted a trip to the guy near the waterfall in Gridania… who also apparently had the Maelstrom themed mammet waiting for me as well.  The way I ride this mount is sort of insane, with me reaching down and trying to hold onto the fur and it runs around insanely.  It is funny how animation cycles affect how we feel about the speed of a mount, because while this is technically the same speed as everything else I own…  the feels so much faster because of the dynamic run loop.  Grizzled warbear is probably the most Bel mount in existence…  and it is only slightly sad that it doesn’t fly.  There is however a newer bear that supposedly does have the ability to fly… and at the moment I am 49 of some silly number of 70+ content needed for that achievement.  I doubt I will purposefully grind for it, but instead someday also be surprised when I see its achievement scrolling by after tanking a dungeon for someone.

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Once upon a time in a small town far far away…  I was a little skater punk kid.  Technically I only grew up an hour away but we are going to call it far away for sake of the narrative.  I was lucky enough that I had a half pipe in my yard, that we bought second hand and moved to our location and reassembled.  Now this was too small to have a roll in, so it was functionally a “drop in” style ramp.  For those unindoctrinated… most ramps have a bit of metal coping at the top of the lip that is there to protect the wood of the ramp from the “trucks” aka axles of the skateboard as you come up to the top and grind.  Getting onto the ramp involved danging your board out over the edge of the ramp, with your back trucks butted up against the metal coping and then shifting your weight from the tail of the board to the front causing you to “drop in” to the ramp.  I found this process completely terrifying, and each time I went out to skate the first few runs involved me not being willing to give myself over to gravity… and ultimately sliding down the ramp on my ass.  Eventually I would loosen up and get comfortable and be able to drop in just fine for awhile and be able to ride the ramp legitimately for the rest of the day.

The reason why I have related this analogy is that for the most part… doing new organized content in an MMO is like dropping in for me.  I am super hesitant for awhile and unwilling to venture off on my own and give it a shot.  I didn’t do a whole lot of solo grinding of Alexander because I felt like I needed that safety net there in case something went wrong.  Similarly this expansion I have thusfar been unwilling to join a party finder group to do Susano Extreme or Lakshmi Extreme, and last night…  was the moment I dropped in for the first time.  My friends Mor and Grace decided that we were going to do the encounters, and we recruited Muspel as well…  and the four of us…  two tanks and two heals set forth to build a party finder group.  Susano was for the most part a learning experience, but very quickly it became a situation of having to work the kinks out and get our dps up high enough to be able to beat the enrage.  With about 20 minutes to spare we manage to do it and I got my first kill under my belt.  Lakshmi did not go so well, and not only was it much harder to pull together the group…  but it also was pretty clear early on that we had nowhere near enough dps to be able to finish the job.  After some wipes… having someone drop… refilling the group and re-queuing…  only to wipe again due to not enough damage…  we opted to call it for the evening.  That said I now feel significantly more comfortable in either fight as a tank, and in theory I would probably be willing to solo queue from now on.  I got over the coping…  and got my weight shifted in the right way and now am more or less fine.  However it is only because I went into the content with some people that I trusted… that I was eased over the edge, so I appreciate it when someone is willing to just hang out with me and answer my questions while I do new harder content.

Titans and Skywhales

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Two Worlds

Badass New Speeder and Armor Theme

Last night was a bit of a mixed night, in that I logged into Final Fantasy XIV early in the evening… and then spent most of the night with my chair turned to the side playing Destiny instead.  I largely logged in when I did to be available for any raid shenanigans later that evening and also be available for various folks who were wanting to get friends invited to the guild.  So I sat there with my headphones on attempting to monitor both games at the same time and doing a fairly poor job of paying attention to guild chat.  I gotta say I am enjoying the Titan again now that I gave up on the whole defensive thing and went back to striker.  There is something gratifying about doing Fist of Havoc in the middle of a pack of mobs and walking away to tell the tale.  Largely I spent my evening working on quests and bounties.  There are a handful that I cannot for the life of me figure out how to complete…  what the fuck is an “attachable grenade”?  I thought at first it was the lightning grenade that “sticks to any surface” but after a bit of reading this morning apparently it is the FIRST grenade option… which I don’t think sticks to anything.

Can’t Go Wrong With Black

At this point I am level 30, which I have to say really quickly how much nicer it is to have a simply leveling curve instead of that light bullshit.  Having to sift through items and find the one with the highest light amount…  was maddening especially when it often meant you were maybe turning down an otherwise superior item.  The only thing I question at the moment is the fact that all of this “leveling” gear is upgradeable…  whereas I am swapping out gear pretty much every single time I go out into the world, so upgrading it really is meaningless.  The only thing I am still holding onto right now is my exotic gun, and that is simply because I have not found anything with higher damage.  The moment I find a hand cannon with better stats, this exotic will likely get chunked in the bank for nostalgia reasons and I will happily use the next gun with better stats on it.  I am still fairly firmly attached to a Hand Cannon as my primary weapon… or as they for some reason occasionally refer to them as “Sidearms” instead.  As far as secondary and heavy… I am pretty partial to the Sniper Rifle and the Machine Gun because that combo gives me a strong way to pick mobs off at range… with a heavy with some serious stopping power.  Stopping power that you need for the Taken invasions that seem to spring up at random in every single open world zone in the game.  I stuck around on Mars long enough last night while working on a “kill champions” bounty last night, that I got to fight the same event several times in a row.  The giant Taken Vex Minotaur thing… is freaking brutal.  I don’t think it is quite as bad as a spider tank, but still pretty horrible to content with especially when there are not a ton of players around.

Taking Down Skywhales

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While fiddling around with Destiny a large gathering of folks started showing up in Final Fantasy XIV.  After a bit Kodra being the awesome person that he is, took it upon himself to try and make a group happen.  I am super thankful that he did… because I was absolutely not paying a whole lot of attention because I was busy trying to headshot Taken.  It turns out we had a few people who had not managed to get Bismarck Extreme yet, so that set our course for the evening.  Learning nights are interesting when you are teaching a handful of people a fight, because it ends up shifting the balance for the rest of the group as well.  Players who were the newbie last time, step up and become the experts and I saw that happening quite a bit last night.  Bismarck Extreme is still serious business even though we have downed it several times now, and I went into it knowing that it would take a few tries before we finally got it down.  On our first attempt we predictably missed the back on the first try, but after that we adjusted and started hitting that first hurdle pretty reliably.

The hardest hurdle as always is getting down the two snakes in time.  The challenge there was simply a matter of keeping all of our dps alive and busy killing sky snakes because during that phase if you lose a single player it is highly unlikely that you will be able to pull it out.  We are quite simply not geared enough to be able to carry that objective too hard.  In truth we downed the boss the try in which we kept everyone alive.  That just happened to be about 15 minutes before the instance timer ran out.  I think it was a pretty great night though all things consider and we broke a few more players into the rigors of end game Final Fantasy XIV content.  For the time being Monday night raids are on hiatus until November when the 3.1 patch lands, and I think in the mean time we are going to use Monday nights as a sort of “get stuff accomplished” night for whatever anyone happens to need.  I would not mind farming more Bismarck or even getting a group back into Binding Coil of Bahamut.  Cosmetic gear is always a strong draw to get me back into a place.

 

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.

 

A Quiet Night

Second Time Just as Sweet

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Every now and then things get left on the cutting room floor for one reason or another.  For example I really wanted to make my post about the possibility of making our own convention…  but I had lots of other things to talk about as well.  In Final Fantasy I am presenting sitting in this interesting position being a part of two very different static raid groups.  Last week in the Wednesday night group we managed to get Bismarck Extreme, and I was absolutely over the moon about it.  This had been one of those challenges that we had struggled with over the course of a few weeks, namely in getting enough geared people online at the same time to take it down.  That has been the biggest challenge for Wednesday nights honestly is getting people to commit to regular attendance.  With my original raid group on Monday nights, attendance was never the issue.  The struggle there was mostly gearing, or at least the fact that we did not have two geared tanks for awhile.  However that changed as soon as Ashgar got his Paladin to 60, and geared it in record time.  Over all the gearing levels of Monday still lag behind Wednesday, but we found out this week that it apparently doesn’t really matter all that much.

Last Monday we finished up turn 13 of the Final Coil of Bahamut and started the first turn of Alexander Normal.  This week I figured the plan was to run all four phases of Alexander normal, mostly to help folks get some gear pieces.  I did not realize that we had intended to do attempts on Bismarck at the end of the night.  After struggling so much to get through that fight on the Wednesday group, I honestly expected us to walk away with a lot of experience but no kill under our belts.  I was absolutely wrong, and I am shocked at just how amazing getting a first Bismarck kill felt with my second raid team.  In the past in World of Warcraft, the first kill of a boss is special, but additional kills feel significantly less so.  I remember getting my first 10 man Arthas kill several months ahead of us getting it as a 25 man raid and that blunted the excitement considerable.  I have to say getting through Bismarck Extreme a second time is just as sweet as it was the first time.  My hope is that both groups can start doing this on a semi regular basis which will give me access to so many expanse totems.  Now I guess I really do have to get serious about the Ravana Extreme fight.

A Quiet Night

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I had every intent of coming home and working on getting my Alexander drops for the week, but that didn’t really pan out.  I hit somewhat of an irrational low spot yesterday, and as a result I didn’t really feel like being around all that many people.  As such I avoided logging into Final Fantasy XIV and instead played a few other games.  Mylin started a discussion over twitter about the Everquest II Time Locked servers, which I guess was responding to some comments I had made earlier in the week.  The problem being that I was spending the evening downstairs on my laptop, and I guess I had never actually installed Everquest II on it.  There is a streaming client for these occasions, the problem is that the EQ2 streaming client is horrible.  The performance halts every few minutes as the game downloads more assets, making the game experience nigh unplayable.  I should have simply waited the thirty minutes to an hour that it would take to download the full thing…  but I was being impatient.  The end result was a frustrating stutter stop experience as I attempted to quest my way through Freeport.  Honestly this is a dual problem for me, because no matter what I try the new Freeport always performs like shit.  I really miss the old multi-zone Freeport because I never had these issues back then.  Now I generally want to avoid going to that town like the plague.  I noticed both the Neriak and Gorowyn ambassadors were offering me a switch in my allegiance, but I was uncertain if Gorowyn even existed in this version of the game.

Ultimately I need to do some reading because I will more than happily pop to the Darklight Woods starter experience if given an option.  I consider it the absolute best starter zone in the game.  I’ve burned through my stockpile of station cash and I feel made some awesome decisions.  I ended up picking up a handful of the bags that are being offered since I did not really want to go tailor just to make bags, and I ended up picking up a set of shadowknighty looking cosmetic armor.  I have long felt that if you look good you feel better about playing your character.  Finally I spent the last of it picking up the tanky rhino mount, but I’ve never really cared for the way mounts look in this game…  so I tend to have it permanently hidden.  As a result I feel like a bard in that I am just running irrationally fast for no apparent reason.  Mounts can make moving around cities awkward as you ultimately end up blocking some of your view as you try and get into buildings and such.  I am still only level 11 because really… I had forgotten how slow progression used to go in this game before all of the assorted experience bonuses.

Saving Farmers

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I could only handle the stutter and stop gameplay of the streaming client so long before I jettisoned Everquest II for favor of Wildstar.  This is a game I want to devote more time to playing because I am really enjoying myself.  It scratches the World of Warcraft style game itch pretty well, and playing the Exiles has this fun firefly vibe to it.  Quite honestly I think had I started Exiles I probably would have stuck around longer than the initial month.  I was not a huge fan of the Dominion, but the Chua made playing them tolerable for awhile.  Personally I still think red versus blue faction divides are extremely dumb, and this game is just another reason.  My friends wanted to play Dominion, so I joined them there and had a fairly miserable time being a cartoon bad guy.  If I could have grouped with them on my Exile it would not have been a problem.  Instead there was a faction wall, and I am pretty much universally against faction walls.  The difference this time however is that no one I know actually plays Dominion on Entity.  This is actually somewhat sad as I can log into my Chua and the Dominion capital city is an absolute ghost town.  I roamed around for a good ten minutes one night before seeing a single other player, and when I finally did it was because there were a few people hanging out at the bank.

As of last night I dinged twenty two and finally can use a spiffy sword that I had been holding in my inventory for awhile.  There is just something about a weapon upgrade that is special.  I could be wearing ten levels lower of gear in every other slot, but if I have a current weapon… I feel good about my life.  There were some oddities going on with the server, because it seems like the opening of the free to play beta made more people realized that the game still existed.  I admit I am guilty of forgetting to log in.  I get caught up in Final Fantasy XIV and doing Eorzean things, but I think I am going to make an effort to start logging in more.  Since I have friends playing over there already it might be easier to remember.  I am trying my best to push through the Galeras content as fast as I can because I am just ready to see new areas.  I did move into the desert region of the zone so that was a bit of a welcome change, although as of last night I was back in rolling hills and farm lands.  At some point I need to do the two dungeons I recently unlocked to see if I can get any spiffy upgrades.  The highlight of the night however was getting to the next Shiphand mission, because so far those are my absolute favorite part of Wildstar.

 

 

Extreme Whales

Last night I got a little piece of advice from Syp, who said that I should take care of myself and that no one would care if I took a few days off.  I greatly appreciate the sentiment, and while I feel like this is probably the most brilliant idea…  I am not likely to do it.  In part this “every morning” thing is a much needed routine in my life.  Much like dreams are a way for us to sort through the days events, in many ways this morning blog post is a way to reorder my thoughts before I start a new day.  While it started with the goal of “write more content” It has wound up somewhere in a therapeutic space.  Getting up every morning and writing something…  is important to me in ways I don’t fully grasp.  Additionally I have now done this two and a half years roughly, so another part of me simply does not want to “break the chain”.  I am however likely to fiddle with my format a bit until my wrist is fully healed.

Extreme Whales

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-02 19-43-23-05 Right now we are in this limbo area where people are still in the process of gearing in order to be able to do higher level content.  To do Alexander the first raid you must be ilevel 170, which means you need to have a full set of Tomestone of Law gear with at least one upgraded item.  Since I only hit 60 a few days ago I am not quite there yet.  As of last night I managed to hit ilvl 166 and in theory should be able to upgrade another piece of gear tonight if I manage to get any play time.  For awhile now I have filled in for the Wednesday night raid group, which was admittedly a bit of an imposition when I was still raiding in World of Warcraft…  but now is not so much.  Wednesday night is generally speaking a pretty good night for me to raid considering that my wife is off at church for a large chunk of it.  So as we move forward into Heavensward I am probably going to offer myself as a more permanent part of that group.  Since we could not do Alexander we set our sights last night on Bismarck Extreme, which only has a requirement that individuals be level 60.

The fight is in essence a series of dps checks, because apparently the island we are standing on gets more and more battered as the fight goes on.  At a base level the fight works pretty much the same as it does on hard, except for the fact that you realistically need to get down the back scale during the first chain phase.  I feel like Wulf and I made a lot of progress on learning this fight as tanks, with the hardest part being the elemental snake swap.  The snakes send out a debuff that makes it so that players need to be dpsing the snake of the opposite color of the buff they currently have.  This means tanks also need to swap targets, and at first we were trying to meet in the middle and trade off, but it seems that quite honestly this is a job for provoke.  Right before a potential swap Wulf and I would target each others snakes and then hit the taunt if we saw that we needed to.  Thankfully it seems to work magically, because normally speaking “just taunting” has minimal effect in this game when it comes to swapping targets.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-07 17-46-06-52 While we beat the first dps check, we consistently failed at the second one… which is burning down the elemental snakes before hitting the point of no return where the skies to dark… and Bismarck nukes us into oblivion.  Thankfully each of us still has a lot more gear we can get so we are simply hitting a gear wall.  I think if we get enough upgrade pieces in the next week we will totally rock this fight and down us the first extreme primal of the expansion.  Then we will move on to Ravana Extreme… that happens to drop the best weapons in the game currently.  I have to say I had a blast with the fight, and it was awesome working with Wulf.  The few times I had tanked for the WoW raid, it was when he happened to be out for the night, so I think this might be the first time we have actually worked together in progression content.  In part I somewhat hope we have the people to pull this together for an attempt on Saturday during the pre-podcast raid block.

Sohm Al with Neighbors

The Teamspeak Conundrum

Yesterday I spoke for a bit about one of the reasons why I have not streamed that often.  Namely that I have friends who would prefer not to be broadcast over my stream, which means when I DO stream… I have had to wall myself off from my social network of friends by dropping down to the “streaming” channel.  As a result there is only so long I can seem to go without popping back upstairs because I simply get lonely down there all by myself.  Over the last year or so I have tried to figure out a set up that would work, to let me stream freely without the fear of broadcasting my companions.  The defacto tool is Virtual Audio Cables, but folks have talked about it being cumbersome and the more I looked into it… and they started talking about setting up batch files to do this or that…  it honestly scared me away.  Honestly even the website seems a bit cludgy…  so I kept looking for other solutions.

In the mean time I made attempts to make this process work using both Voice Meter and Breakaway Audio.  Neither tool admittedly was designed to do this, but I had found guides online that supposedly allowed it to work.  Problem being after setting everything up… it never seemed to work for me and there was extremely limited documentation on what I could do to tweak my setup.  Last night I finally decided to dig down into Virtual Audio Cables, and found the guide embedded above.  For starters… this is the point at which I complain that YouTube is the worst means of disseminating information.  What I needed in all of these cases was a good blog post with annotated screenshots…  all I could actually find were a series of haphazard videos.  That said the above video, when followed actually produced the results exactly like I wanted.  Last night I was able to stream practically all night long, while hanging out with friends…  and not broadcasting a single thing they said.  Additionally I bound a separate push to to talk key just for the stream so that folks watching the stream are not getting “half” of the conversation.  The videos below are the results of my evening of streaming.

Sohm Al with Neighbors

ffxiv_07012015_195121 The picture does not exactly go with this story… but oh well it is my prerogative.  Solaria’s fishing outfit looks amazing, and it makes me want to level fishing.  It does however show you that the Greysky Armada spends a ton of time milling around our guild house in The Mists.  One of the things I love about this game is that we are constantly interacting with our neighbors.  Last night Damai and I were talking in /say and a neighbor joined in, saying that he needed a dps and a tank for Sohm Al the second dungeon in Heavensward.  Damai was already spoken for, but I offered up my own services as a tank.  We queued and got in quickly and the below embedded video is the results of that run.  I did a few stupid things, one of which that wiped the party but we had a great time running dungeons with people who were essentially complete strangers until I last night.  I think it is awesome that you can have these casual run in acquaintances.

During the early days of World of Warcraft had this rich tapestry of social connections that reached into many of the other raiding guilds on the server.  When I needed someone for an activity our raid was running, I could reach out into these social channels and draw upon dozens of different people who were milling around looking for something to do.  Cataclysm however pretty much destroyed this network, and I have never really been able to build an equivalent in any other MMO… that is until Final Fantasy XIV.  The people here on Cactuar seem to crave interaction with folks outside of their insular guild units.  I am in my maximum number of linkshells and while folks get lost in their own little world… especially while leveling in Heavensward… I have still been able to draw upon them to fill groups.  As we move into more “maintenance” mode this is going to become more true.  The only thing I wish was that there was a way to create more “formal” guild alliances.  There are a handful of free companies that we hang out with regularly, and it would be nice to have a shared channel of communication that was not “opt in” like a linkshell.

Another Titan Extreme

Wednesday is normally the raid night of our second guild static.  Since the raid leader was not around he left it up to Damai to organize something…  and while we did not really have the appropriate numbers to work on Second Coil of Bahamut, there were still a large number of folks needing Extreme Primals to unlock more content.  I was asked if I “felt like tanking Titan Extreme” to which I replied “there is never a sequence of events that exists… where I feel like tanking Titan Extreme…  but I will if you need me”.  Titan Extreme is just one of those fights that is maddening on so many levels and I would place it among the five hardest fights in all of the A Realm Reborn content.  That said I make it out in my mind to be far worse than it actually is, and at this point I have the dance memorized.  This fight is absolutely about repeating the same sequence of actions over and over until the boss falls down, and as I have commented in the past… this is the sort of fight we fail miserably at.  We are amazing at fights where we have to think on our feet and adjust to change…  but doing this on Titan extreme ultimately ends up screwing the entire raid when it comes to Weight of the Land damage.

What I found amazing is just how challenging this encounter still is even though many of us were being downscaled to 50, and our gear downscaled with us.  A Realm Reborn content is absolutely going to remain relevant for new folks that have yet to experience it.  This makes me more happy than just about anything else in Heavensward.  We still have a bunch of people coming up through the ropes that have not seen any of the 2.0 raid content, and my hope is that we can have an old school night where we work on this as a guild and get people through it.  This is what I wanted from World of Warcraft all along… a way to run old content and make it still relevant to current players.  There were epic experiences like Blackwing Lair and Ulduar that are just diminished because we overgear the shit out of it, and there is no real way NOT to be overpowered… other than making some alts and level locking them at fixed points in time.  Granted we tried to do this once with a raid of level 60 locked alts…  but it still was not the same.  Final Fantasy XIV however seems to have figured out how to make it work, and I am damned thankful.  We eventually got the kill and I edited out just that part in the above video.

Splashy Pony Brothers

Thanks to my Friends

This morning I had every intention to sleep in, but I guess my body the way that I have trained it over the years conspired against me.  I woke up moments after the alarm would have gone off normally, and then stayed in a sort of half sleep half awake state until I finally gave up around 6:30.  Now an hour later… I am finally pulling myself away from my insanely scrolling twitter feed to attempt to write a blog post.  I guess I had forgotten just how overwhelming being on twitter can be on your Birthday.  I love each and every one of you, and maybe this year more than most…  which is something I will elaborate on shortly.  June is the travel season for my wife, and each year she has a series of conventions and other events that she travels to.  This has been a thing for several years, but no matter how often it happens…  you never quite get used to it.  During the month of June she will be gone for a week, home a few days, gone another week etcetera.  So the best Birthday present I could possibly get right now is her flying home today… and I am really hoping that her plane is not delayed by the remnants of the Hurricane.

Now in the past I have struggled with this existence of being alone for the better part of a month.  This has generally been the time of the year when my depression flares up the most, since I am generally speaking sitting alone in a house with my thoughts and a menagerie of animals.  This year however has been different, and I think it is thanks to all of you out there that relentlessly check in on me.  I feel like I am surrounded by so many awesome people that seem to love me that I am never really completely alone.  There is always a message waiting on my response somewhere, or someone looping me into a conversation.  The AggroChat crew especially has become this second family that hunts me down if they don’t hear from me in a few days, because they know my tendencies to cocoon when the depression starts.  I want to thank all of you for essentially keeping me from dropping into my normal yearly funk.  My friends and my free company have been this offsetting force of amazing in my life and as a result have kind of made every day my wife has been away more tolerable.

Splashy Pony Brothers

ffxiv 2015-05-04 21-02-18-84 I spent my final night in FFXIV before the downtime the same way I have spent many nights, hanging out on Teamspeak and helping folks do content.  It seems so strange that last night was the end of one era of Final Fantasy and tomorrow morning will begin another.  In a way I kind of like the fact that we have this entire day outage, because I guess in some way it makes the whole process seem more real.  In some games I have literally logged out of one client and back into a brand new one over the course of thirty minutes, and it always felt strange.  I am sure there are people out there that are frustrated by being locked out of the game for this period of time, but I guess for me it makes the experience more meaningful.   I am just hoping that I can get to sleep early tonight and that the excitement won’t be too overwhelming, because in many ways it feels a bit like Christmas Eve and I am five years old.

Last night we managed to down Odin with a batch of new people, and in the process met a really nice White Mage on Cactuar, that I have subsequently friended.  I am consistently surprised by just how nice people generally are when we find them through the server party finder system.  In fact this one gets bonus credit because we screwed up and originally thought we needed another dps.  Upon explaining our screw up she was cool and said that she also could heal the fight.  Moments later we were making attempts on Odin and shockingly I think it only took us three tries  before we defeated him.  After that we attempted to sort out what we were doing next, with many people mentioning Titan…  but in the end we wound up going to do Leviathan Extreme instead.  This is one of my favorite fights, but this time they needed me to be a Paladin and do the stun lock thing.  I am just not comfortable tanking as a paladin and the whole experience felt frustrating, as compared to my warrior.  However I managed to do a decent enough job that we pushed through and got the defeat.  To make things even cooler a pony whistle dropped and now Mor and I can be splashy pony brothers!

A Strange Birthday

FFXIVisPatching So now that I am wrapping up my blog post I need to hurry around like mad.  I need to be at the airport to pick up my wife around 1:30, and in the meantime I need to attempt to pick up the house.  While it is not exactly in bad shape, because really I haven’t done anything that crazy since she has been gone…  it needs a round of sprucing up so she has a nice place to come home to.  Additionally I need to gather up the information I need to get my car tag, since she mentioned maybe doing that on the way home today so that we don’t have to get out of the house and do it tomorrow.  So while I would love to hang out in my pajamas and play video games all day… I suppose I will have to go off and be and adult.  It is going to be awesome to have my wife home again, but it is also a strange experience getting used to not being the only person in the room.  Unfortunately it will be a short lived experience because if I remember correctly she is heading back out again on Sunday, but this time for a much shorter trip.

In the meantime my Final Fantasy XIV client is patched, and I am floored that it was only 4.3 gig.  From what I am hearing this morning however they have apparently been patching in assets for months.  Supposedly half of the zones that we will be exploring have been in since the launch of A Realm Reborn.  I hope this all means that tomorrow is going to be an extremely smooth launch, but I still need to get my laptop started patching as well.  I am sure there will be some sort of a final patch when the servers come back up from the downtime that lets the client know it is time to be Heavensward, but I am hoping it is a small one.  I guess in theory this game is scaled to work well over consoles, so it makes complete sense that it would have really tight patches.  So far I am impressed and I am hoping that feeling continues through the launch.  This game had an exceptionally rocky start with the relaunch in August 2013, and I am hoping they have learned their lessons.

Shiva Down

Last Of the E3 Shows

I think at this point I am ready to be done with E3 2015 for awhile.  In theory yesterday was the tail end of the major conferences.  I have to say that when I originally made my statement that Bethesda had won E3, I was doing so with an over exaggerated amount of hyperbole.  I have to say however as the dust settles… they still managed to put on the best event and was the only show where every single thing they announced was something I cared about, at least on some level.  The most frustrating event for me personally was the Square Enix event, in part because they combined a line up of amazing games…  with a high school speech classroom quality of presentation ability.  I am not sure how they managed to make these games seem boring, but they certainly did.  All of that said I am completely amped to get my hands on Just Cause 3…  or that game that lets me blow everything up.  I got a see a little bit of game play on Twitch yesterday evening that showed them taking out bridges… and I could not be more enthralled.

The surprise of the year still is Microsoft in the fact that they presented me with what was an overall enjoyable conference after several years of being frustrated by their product offerings.  The problem being that last night during PC Gaming show they pretty much destroyed all interest I had in picking up an Xbox One, when they started announcing that several more previously Xbox exclusives would be coming to PC.  It seems as though I am going to finally get to play Gears of War in the new premastered form, and get my hands in the new Killer Instinct.  This makes me question even more of their previous “exclusivity” statements because it seems like they are treating Windows 10 and Xbox One as the same platform.  I guess in the grand scheme of things I am completely fine with this.  This lets me focus on a Gaming PC to get the Xbox exclusives and PS4 Console to get any remaining Sony exclusives.

Tony Hawk Pro Skater 5

tony-hawks-pro-skater Of all the games that I saw over the course of the last three days, the one that I am the most gleefully happy about is probably a surprising title.  I am so damned excited to see the return of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater franchise to modern gaming, and yesterday I got to watch some game play on the twitch stream.  It looks and feels like a beautifie d version of the game I loved and remember spending so many hours playing in the original playstation, and later the playstation 2.  I cannot fully explain my love of this game, other than the fact that one upon a time I was a little skater punk kid.  While I never had the skill to do half of the things that you can do in THPS, I always wanted to carve and insane session out like my one time idols.  This is absolutely a guilty fantasy fulfillment experience for me, that allows someone who is relatively uncoordinated and has a shitty sense of balance to do insane grinds down every possible surface I can find.

Now Tony Hawk Pro Skater HD has been available on Steam for awhile now, and while I enjoy it quite a bit…  it is missing a lot of the reasons why I enjoyed the THPS series.  Firstly I loved the create a Skater mode that allowed me to essentially create a version of myself in the game and work my way through a “career mode”.  This feature thankfully has been confirmed to be in the new THPS5, as is the create a skate park feature that is also missing from HD.  Apparently there is going to be an in game market of sorts that will allow you to swap skate parks with folks online, greatly extending the replay ability of this title.  The negative is that it will initially release on the PS4 and Xbox One and then later on the other platforms including PC.  For me this is a simple decision since I played all the original Tony Hawk games on with a playstation controller in my hand, I have no problem picking this up for the PS4 which will also let me play it over my Vita.  Watching folks play this game, and seeing the new version of Warehouse and School 2… that has been renamed to School 3…  just put a massive cheesy grin on my face.

Shiva Down

ffxiv 2015-06-15 21-04-02-97

I had originally intended to write about this yesterday, but wound up with far too much to talk about on the E3 news front.  Monday night was our last raid night before the expansion lands Friday morning, and as such we focused on the two things that have been in our way for awhile now.  The first of which is the last of the extreme primal encounters, Shiva.  This fight is such a frustrating experience because it combines elements we are horrible at.  Namely our group is bad at doing the same dance over and over.  For example on Turn 9, everyone else does this method where they stack up and run as a group to drop the meteors.  However for us we simply do this thing we lovingly refer to as the “Benny Hill maneuver” where we just try and spread out around the edge of the room and move as the meteors drop.  Shiva combines elements of get away from everyone and stack the hell up in a way that ultimately ended up in many deaths along the way.

The worst of her mechanics is the bow attack, which she starts in phase two.  This fires arrows in a 270* arc from the front of her meaning that you have to be stacked tight on her ass to keep from getting hit.  What makes it worse however is that the normal damage dealt by bow to the tanks is truly insane.  Ashgar and I had to essentially cycle through cooldowns while in bow phase to have a shot in hell of staying alive.  On the attempt we defeated her, our strategy absolutely revolved around staying alive long enough to get a level three limit break… and then using that to resurrect the entire party and finish her off.  There is something so damned satisfying about the level three healer limit break, it is like a giant screw you to the boss when you can bring back your entire party.  It makes the whole experience seem like one of those insane Anime come from behind victories.  While we did not get much further in Turn 9, we did manage to take down the last of the Extreme primals so I can go into this expansion with a feeling of accomplishment.  Granted I know we will be fighting all of these extreme primals again partially for ponies and partially to get other guild members through the quests.  I feel like I am completely ready for Ishgard now, and I am going to have so much trouble sleeping tomorrow night.

Cat Bel and Snowlion

Alone and Awake

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-08 09-43-12-18 This morning I am doing everything a bit discombobulated.  I ended up taking a massive name yesterday, and as a result took some melatonin to force myself to get to sleep at a decent hour.  The end result is me waking up at 4:30 instead of 5:30…  so I am just going to roll with it.  Today is the first morning I am getting ready by myself, and that is always a strange prospect.  We are now entering the season when my wife travels to go to conferences, and this time she will return in a little over a week on my birthday.  It is always strange to go through this each year, and as normal as it is I never seem to get used to it.  Technically yesterday was my first day without her, but since my allergies were trying to kill me, my focus was on simply surviving the day and less on living in it.  The allergies seem to be improved, but then again I am not actually out in the world yet.

Yesterday however I was struggling to breathe from the moment I woke up so that at least is not happening.  You’d think that staying home all day would have been an excellent opportunity for some gaming, but alas I actually tried to do some work.  Around noon I was feeling worse and opted to lay down for a nap… and wound up sleeping until 4 pm.  So I am guessing that maybe there was more at work than just the allergies.  I am not a big nap taker because generally it means I cannot sleep that night, and even when I do take a nap it is rarely longer than an hour.  So for me to sleep that long probably means I needed it.  The end result today however is that my time scale for everything is a little off.  As again I am mostly just going to roll with it and see if I can function normally today just offset by an hour.

Cat Bel and Snowlion

ARCHEAGE 2015-06-08 18-25-31-72 So as it turns out you apparently do only get two character slots in ArcheAge regardless of what the tooltip says.  Thanks to everyone for helping explain this one, because even Trion support seems not to know.  As of the conversation I had two nights ago they thought I should have at least gotten four.  So I purchased a third slot and moved on with the creation of my own Cat Belghast also known as Belglaive on the Tahyang server.  I have to admit, that at first I thought I was not going to like this whole cat man thing, but the longer I play the character the more I am actually enjoying.  I will admit part of the enjoyment is the snowlion mount I get to ride on.  If you thought carrying a foal around on your back was adorable… just wait until that is a lion cub.  One of the first quests is to go out into a field and cheer up a forlorn lion cub… and absolute adorableness ensues.   The animations are a little strange to get used to, like for example when I do a charge attack instead of sliding into the target with my shoulder I seem to leap into the target feet first, which is a little disjointed.

I also opted to go for a completely different path.  Always in the past I had chosen to go Battlerage and Defense, but instead I am mixing things up and going Battlerage, Shadowplay and Auramancy which is apparently the “Dark Runner” class.  I felt the more feral nature of the Firran character called for something more vicious and less tanky.   For the time being I am going down the path of Dual Wield which is giving everything a really awesome feel.  Right now I charge in, whirlwind, and then hit my normal attacks and things seem to just evaporate.  I just got a new attack from the Shadowplay tree but honestly I rarely have time to hit it, things are simply dying that fast.  Now I at least feel comfortable that I have something on both sides of the fence whichever direction we plan on going as a group.  I think the last thing said was that we would let Kodra decide which direction he wanted to play.  I feel comfortable on either side now, but I will say my leaning is still towards the side that will eventually get dwarves.

Ice-skating with Primals

ffxiv 2015-06-08 21-21-03-01 One of the things that has been noticed with our group is that we start out extremely solidly on a fight and then deteriorate over the night.  This means our first or second attempt will almost always be the best of the evening, and then maybe just maybe we pull things out by the skin of our teeth at the end of the evening.  As a result Tam wanted to try something slightly different last night and we went into turn nine for a half dozen or so attempts before moving on to something else for the evening.  Sure enough we had some of our best attempts early on and then got significantly worse from there.  When we hit that point where we were just making stupid mistakes we opted to shift focus and go make attempts on Shiva Extreme.  This is the last of the primals that we have not attempted and beaten on Extreme mode.  I have to say I was not really fully prepared for how annoying this fight ended up being.  I’ve said before that there are two types of fights in Final Fantasy XIV.  The first is one where you have to learn a dance and repeat that dance over and over until you win.  The second type is where you adjust to things that are happening and move around to account for this fact.

We are extremely good at the second type, and tend to defeat those encounters quickly.  However when a fight requires us to memorize a pattern and execute said pattern over and over…  we tend to struggle there a bit.  Last night however I feel proud of the progress we made.  We were consistently getting Shiva into the 30% range for most of the night, we just need to get better at two things really.  The first thing… we are really bad at moving behind her and stacking tight enough for the bow attack which does a 270 degree arc attack in front of her that will oneshot everyone including the tank.  When she hit me with it, the attack dealt 18,000 hit points… which even for my  silly warrior health pool was way too many.  The other thing is that we need to get better at dodging circles.  These come in the form of hailstorm that causes the group to spread out and not overlap, and later in the form of circles on the ground.  Between these effects and the bow… that pretty much accounted for all of our party deaths.  If we can figure out how to stay alive through all of that mess we will easily defeat her.

Axe to Grind

Lung Infections Suck

cottonwood I’ve been in a strange place the last few days, where I am still recovering from what has turned out to be an infection in my lungs.  It has been allergies central around here and unsurprisingly my lungs have reacted negatively to it.  I had been dragging along for awhile with what felt like a constant persistent dry cough.  Last Friday I finally decided to go to the doctor when I coughed up a small bit of blood.  Turns out my lungs were actually in far worse shape than I thought.  Since then I have been on a pretty heavy dose of prednisone and am on the mend, but man…  I have to say I am still drained as hell.  I attempted to go to work like normal yesterday but ended up coming home about halfway through the day.  Today I am making another attempt to go a full day, so I am hoping the strength stays with me.  What is so strange about this one is just how drained I feel as a result of simply existing.

Why are my lungs betraying me you might ask?  The above photo is not intentionally abstract but instead my my phones camera attempting to focus on what are ultimately hundreds of tiny particles of Cottonwood seed.  This is what we jokingly refer to as summer snow, and with all the rain we have been getting the Cottonwoods have been blooming in overdrive blanketing the law with a mat of white fabric and making the air look like it is quite genuinely snowing.  Thankfully I have a day or two of reprieve thanks to the recent round of storms, but I am sure as soon as things dry up again the bloom will begin a new.  Normally this happens around my birthday in June but I guess all the moisture moved up the time table.  In any case it sucks to live through and I am just hoping that I can limp through until it has finished.  In the meantime I will continue to take this high dose pack of prednisone and antibiotics and pretend to be a normal human being.

Axe to Grind

ffxiv 2015-05-11 22-18-55-06 For months now we have been slowly keying folks through the various primal fights in our Final Fantasy XIV free company.  While a chunk of us have been sitting on the Ifrit step, the final of the original set of Extreme primals… it seemed like every time we set out to attempt it we were missing a seventh or eighth that also had it unlocked.  So we would once again shift focus and do another round of Garuda or another round of Titan to get people caught up.  Last night, finally after a new round of Titaneers we managed to get eight people on at the same time with the ability to do Ifrit.  Now I realize I could have been pugging my way through the primal encounters, and with all of the mount farming parties this is a relatively straight forward prospect.  There is just something rewarding about doing a fight that is new to you, with nothing but your free company surrounding you.  It makes the kill that much sweeter and the experience that much more magical as you accomplished a new mission with friends.  Once again we went into the fight without much research, but managed to pick up the basics extremely quickly.

ffxiv 2015-05-11 20-43-37-55 It took us several attempts but by the end of our first night ever working on the boss we had downed an Ifrit and moved on to other things.  I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to get this quest out of my log.  I know the big push for this at least from Ashgar’s side was to get the sweet axe I am pictured holding in the first picture.  For those who have completed some of the later story, you will recognize this as the axe that Moenbryda wields.  It is just one of many weapons you get as a reward for defeating the original trio of Primals, but I went with the axe because it is probably one of the more unique appearances in the game.  Now I doubt if it will ever offset my usage of my Malignant Mogaxe, but it is still pretty awesome to have it as an option for when I decide to change up my outfit a bit.  Glamouring/Transmogging/Wardrobes are one of the simple pleasures of a modern MMO.  The ability to look like you want to look is what makes these games fun to play for me.  Gone is the era of looking exactly like every other player in the game, and here to stay is the ability to craft your own appearances.  After playing Everquest and being able to tell every single item a player was wearing based on its color and appearance…  I have to say I am happy to be living in modern times.

Back to Nael

ffxiv 2015-05-08 19-17-57-51 Yes I realize this is not a picture of Nael Van Darnus but I didn’t snap any pictures from our attempts on Turn 9 last night.  Instead this is a picture of me rocking the Garuda bow because I finally feel like I have an outfit floofy enough to support it.  This weekend I managed to finish getting my 120 set from World of Darkness which makes up a chunk of the outfit above.  Since picking up the Garuda bow I have been looking for a reason to use it, and finally I think the gold and white in the Bogartyr coat works well enough with the gold and white on the bow.  Now if anyone tells me that is really blue and black I will reach through the internet and punch them in their soul.  A few weeks back we set down on a new mission, which involved alternating between working on coil and working on other things.  Since then we have finished the original three primals, Leviathan Extreme and Odin and as a result feel like we are no longer beating our heads against the wall that is turn nine.  Coming back to Nael tonight felt far more fresh than it has in a long time.

I was somewhat concerned that we would have lost progress, but in truth we picked up right where we left off and started making fast progress.  Everything about the fight is smoother now and we have been making it into the final dance phase every single attempt.  The awesome thing about this is that it feels like last night we were finally getting the pattern down.  In fact the last few attempts we were making it to the dive bombs phase consistently.  Now if we can just master where the dive bombs need to go… I have a feeling we will be clearing turn nine finally and moving on to the final coil.  I love my static group, and I love the way folks just keep plugging away without getting frustrated.  We have been on this boss for a very long time, and no one seems to have any diminished desire to KEEP doing the boss, or keep trying to succeed.  In fact everyone seems to keep doing little things here or there to tweak their performance and make things work more smoothly.  I love my free company, and I love the raid we have built around it…  my hope is that we can keep trying to get more people into the mix and maybe with Heavensward expand to a third static because the two we have now are just awesome.