Leveling DPS is Butts

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One of the best parts about Final Fantasy XIV is that you can literally be every possible class be it crafting or battlecraft on the same character.  One of the worst parts of Final Fantasy XIV is that for the most part leveling alt jobs has been a pretty grindy proposal.  When you first set down to level in Final Fantasy XIV, you have all of these side quests and main story quests to keep the game feeling fresh and keep the content moving forward at a decent clip.  Unfortunately when you sit down to level any of your other Jobs you find out just how much of your original quest experience came from that unrepeatable main story.  As always I leveled my Warrior first because well…  like it or not I am a tank at heart and for three expansions now I have not deviated from that mission.  There was some brief flirtation with potentially going Dark Knight, but in the end Warrior just suits me best.  However now I have reached that point where I have functionally geared the warrior as far as I can without the aid of Omega drops, and as a result I have turned my attention to trying to run my first DPS up.  You can tell by the above image that my DPS of choice this go round is the brand new Samurai job.  The only problem there is…  quite honestly leveling as a DPS without the aid of the Main Story Quest…  is butts and highlights some of the problems that Final Fantasy XIV still has when it comes to a lack of reasonable alternate leveling paths.

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Previously in A Realm Reborn era especially… I used to hop in a FATE grinding party and move on with life.  There were fabled zones like South Shroud or Northern Thanalan that were largely devoted to groups of players running around and trying to kill the FATEs as fast as possible.  Unfortunately with the transition to Heavensward, there was a massive nerf of FATE experience and with it the grind party devotees started to disappear.  When Palace of the Dead was introduced it gave us a ladder to follow to slowly bring those alts up to speed through grinding sets of 10 floors at a time.  Unfortunately however the PotD experience is pretty horrible with the bar barely moving at level 61.  There is a bit of a FATE presence in The Fringes, but everyone is fairly disorganized with no groups available through the party finder.  There was some talk over the weekend of maybe starting up a guild FATE party just to get all our various alts leveled in a reasonable manner.  My current MO has been to queue for a dungeon or roulette and grind FATEs until it pops and in the grand scheme of things this has worked well enough.  Over the weekend I went from 60 on my Samurai to 65 as of last night, which a huge chunk of that happening during recording the podcast and simply bouncing from FATE to FATE until we finished.  I remember that is also how I leveled my gathering professions, since while I am podcasting I can seem to grind something without even noticing it.  I would also try this with Palace of the Dead, but before long I would find myself running circles in Quarymill while we recorded…  much the same as I used to run circles in Dalaran.

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I honestly thought I was being clever in this expansion, and after the end of Raubahn Savage…  I found myself up enough in experience that I started attempting to ignore every side quest and only push through with a laser focus on the main story.  My thought was this would ultimately help out the first alt that I leveled, and over the weekend I returned to Ruby Sea where I had dozens and dozens of quests to complete.  Unfortunately…  these quests provide next to no experience and simply only add bits of story to help flesh out the world a bit.  I spent about an hour and completed a dozen or so quests… when I realized that my experience bar had moved less than if I had gotten gold in a single FATE.  Hell to be truthful just wandering the world grinding random mobs seemed to be better experience than the side quests were providing.  In the past this would be the moment that I would start leaning heavily on Battlecraft Leves…  but unfortunately much to my frustration it seems that they simply do not exist in Stormblood.  There are crafting leves in Kugane but neither there nor Rhalgar’s Reach have anything for the battlecraft jobs.  I mean leves were a horrible experience in Heavensward and the thought of having to keep popping back to the Foundation between rounds was maddening.  However they were there if you got desperate and there were many times I got desperate enough to see some steady progress on the experience bar.  There are hunts of course, and I have been doing my daily hunt logs but again… while they are an excellent source of seals…   they are a pretty crappy source of experience.

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If I am playing a tank or a healer… then this whole question of how to level becomes moot.  You simply queue for dungeons and ride the constant string of instant queues until you hit 70.  However there seems to be something missing to help the DPS get a leg up.  Now the leveling roulette and 50/60 roulette seem to go significantly faster than queuing for a specific dungeon.  Over the weekend leveling roulette seemed to be about a 10-15 minute queue for dps, and 50/60 somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes…  with queuing for an individual level and gear appropriate dungeon taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 minutes.  If I was able to run FATEs while waiting on the queue to tick down it did not feel too horrible, or at least it felt like I was making steady forward momentum.  However if I happened in one of the patches where the folks were not touching the FATEs at all…  it was noticeably dragging.  Compare that to the experience of playing a healer or a tank… with their push button get dungeon mechanics and it just feels lousy.  At least with Palace of the Dead providing reasonable experience, you could skirt a lot of the issues and get by just fine with four dps parties in there.  I am not sure where it is on the roadmap, but I am really hoping we see the next iteration of Palace of the Dead launching with 4.1.  Until then… I think once I finish leveling the Samurai I will probably focus on my other tanks and my healers before returning to the DPS queue hell again.  This is also why I have been trying to offer my short tank queues whenever possible to the free company…  because leveling DPS is butts.

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.

It’s Finally Here!

Birthdays are Weird

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Having a birthday and being an active member of social media… is a strange thing.  Yesterday I was completely overwhelmed by the number of birthday wishes that came flooding through.  I tried to respond to all of them and thank each person individually…  but I am almost certain I missed a few people in the furious scroll.  I have to say how special all of you guys made me feel yesterday, and more importantly how loved.  It made an otherwise stressful day seem more manageable.  I had taken the day off from work, but also my wife was to be flying in mid day.  I talked about this a bit yesterday but she was off grading AP exams again, and we were both concerned that she would get delayed by the weather.  Technically this did happen but she was lucky enough to make the connecting flight in Dallas and got home on time.  However about the time I picked her up is when the worst of the weather starting hitting.  I am not used to this whole gale force winds and pouring rain thing, so I have a whole new appreciation for the folks that are used to riding out tropical storms.

We made it home safely however and eventually changed into dry clothing.  We grabbed a whataburger on the way home, and almost immediately after eating my wife was conked out on the sofa snuggling with all three cats.  I put Venture Brothers on Hulu and broadcast it to the television via chromecast and continued my leveling in ArcheAge.  The more I delve into this game the more it reminds me of older games.  I absolutely found a Kithicor Forest last night, and for those who are not familiar with that name… it was a forest in Everquest where during the day relatively harmless and non-aggressive mobs spawned, but at night large amounts of max level undead spawned and roamed.  In this case in ArcheAge I happened to find a rice paddy that by day had some crocodiles but nothing major, however when the sun sets, a whole slew of skeletons spawned in.  While they were not max level they were however damned near instant spawn making it extremely easy to get overwhelmed.  I am still very much enjoying this game and even though Heavensward is happening I still plan on poking my head back in every now and then.

Sleep Won

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 06-46-13-61 I had all the intention in the world to get up this morning at 4 am and begin playing Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward as soon as the servers came online.  However when it came around to last night, and heading to sleep around 9 pm, I opted that I should just sleep in.  Systems are always glitchy when they first come online, and instead I got up around 6:30 and after getting out and getting breakfast started streaming around 7 am.  I have to say so far everything has been going pretty smoothly all things considering.  I had to fight the login boss about five times, but eventually I got to the character load screen and managed to do the introduction quests that got me into Ishgard and house Fortempts.  I have to say the new city is gorgeous, but confusing as hell to navigate.  This one has tons of ups and downs and it seems like the quest you need to get to is always on the wrong level of the zone.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 06-51-31-66 With this said it is going to take a significant amount of time before I can navigate it near as well as I can any of the existing cities.  However I would put it along the lines of Limsa Lominsa as far as frustration taken to learn the layout.  I had similar issues rolling a Marauder and starting there originally.  As far as the expansion it seems to have completely cured the DPS queues, with everyone rolling Dark Knights.  Apparently folks are reveling in the fact that they can now instantly queue as any dps class, and I have to admit it is giving me pause and making me want to level my ninja a bit.  Instead I am forged ahead with my plan to level the warrior first.  I have to say I am impressed with the difficulty of the mobs.  The early quests in Ishgard reward level 115 gear and I am rolling into the expansion with 127 combined ilevel.  Things hit hard, and take a long time to take down…  so I cannot imagine coming straight to  Ishgard after leveling through the original storyline.  I guess in a way this might be why they are forcing people to defeat 2.55, because in order to do that…  you have to have gotten your ilevel up significantly.

It’s Finally Here!

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 08-15-59-02 Right now in Coerthas Western Highlands, the fates are rolling nonstop, and I have to admit a big part of me wants to take advantage of this while I can.  As a warrior I can pretty much cheese my contribution and get gold rating almost 100% of the time.  Earlier on the stream I rolled up on a FATE that was 90% complete and managed to generate enough threat to get to gold before it despawned.  Right now it feels amazing to see that experience bar moving again and so far I am really happy with my choice.  As far as what the future will bring…  I just want to play the game 🙂  I am not in a massive rush to get to 60, but I also want to be able to experience the dungeons with my friends.  Here is hoping that I can unlock the first dungeon before too much long and check it out before the end of the day.  In the mean time I am going to cut this blog post short and wish you all a great day…  I know I will be having one as I explore Heavensward.

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