Regularly Playing: August Edition

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It has been most of the summer since I last updated my sidebar, and a lot of things have changed.  I figured it was high time that I true things up since we are just about to go into the school year, and starting to enter a pretty tightly packed release schedule for the rest of the year.  For those unfamiliar with this feature, I functionally talk about the things that I have added… the things that are remaining… and the things that I am ultimately removing from regular rotation.  I play a lot of games at any given time… and generally speaking the moment I update my sidebar…  I have a wild mood swing game wise that leads me somewhere completely differently.  So here goes nothing!

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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Since I last posted there has been a lot of movement in this game, namely the release of a new expansion called Stormblood.  As a result I swapped my Heavensward icon out for a Stormblood one.  As far as my time in the game…  I’ve reached 70 and 310+ gear on both my Warrior and my Samurai and have fallen off significantly in the amount of time I am actually playing.  There is still plenty to be done, and I want to get back in the swing of playing on a regular basis, however lately I am deep within my own turtle session which means I tend to be favoring games where I don’t have much of a crowd.  Still well within the realm of active games, just only logging in once or twice a day instead of devoting all of my time to it.

To The Returning and New

Guild Wars 2

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This is the first time since picking up the game at launch that I can legitimately say that I am really enjoying myself while playing this game.  For whatever reason it took five years to actually click with me, and now it is like discovering hidden treasure.  I am attempting to do all the things and it is fitting the bill really well because I don’t have much infrastructure in the game currently.  My current goal is reaching 100% in all of the old world zones, which I believe is one of the requirements for starting down the Legendary weapon rabbit hole.  Another huge boon for my enjoyment of the game is the fact that there are now proper beards for non-norn characters.

Rift

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To be honest since its release in 2011 it has never really been far off my radar.  Crawling back into Rift is like wrapping myself in a warm blanket, because it is so familiar.  In the past six years I’ve had highs and lows with the game, but I know that regardless I will always return and always be interested in whatever happens to be going on.  Recently during my turtle mode game play in general, I have been spending a bit of time trying to catch up and hit the Prophecy of Ahnket level cap.  I am also digging the tweaks I made to my default outfit.  Rift in many ways feels like this snapshot of what everyone wanted in a game around its release, and in some ways it is still ahead of its time.  In other ways though it feels like a time capsule to a time when MMO games were slower paced and more methodical.  I still find it enjoyable and am always proud to feature it on my sidebar when I am playing.

Diablo 3

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Another game that is never far off my radar is Diablo 3, and with us currently being in the thrall of another season…  it is obviously occupying some sidebar territory.  This is the first season to feature Necromancers and it has been hilarious to see literally bone spikes for days.  I really don’t have a whole lot to talk about the game because if by now you don’t get my attraction you probably never will.

World of Warcraft

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I have honestly all but stopped playing World of Warcraft, but I am keeping a space on my sidebar for it because of the RoboSquid Armada.  This is effectively our weird brain chain of trying to run every dungeon and raid in World of Warcraft at level in minimal gear.  Prior to the launch of Stormblood we had left off at Blackfathom Deeps and it seems like everyone is coalescing towards starting this up again.  I am more than happy to do some madness with my baby monk.

To Those Departing

Star Wars the Old Republic

If I am being completely honest… I have to say I love what this game has become.  I had this awesome time playing through the Shadows of Revan, Ziost and Fallen Empire content and then I sort of needed a break from deeply story driven gaming.  It was also around about this time that we were ramping up for the release of Stormblood.  At some point in the future when I need to completely dive into something wholly immersive… I will pick this back up and run through the Eternal Throne story line.  I still poke my head in from time to time, but not enough to keep it on the sidebar.

Horizon Zero Dawn

This is one of those games that I really need to finish, but I have a feeling by the time I ultimately get back around to it…  I will functionally need to restart the experience.  This game is a casualty of too many other games coming out at the same time… and ultimately its playtime got eaten up by Mass Effect Andromeda that for whatever reason clicked way harder with me than Horizon did.  I really enjoyed the game but I feel like I am going to have to be in the right frame of mind to actually return to it.

Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild

Another game that has fallen off the radar that I want to start back up at some point is Breath of the Wild.  Two things happened to harm this experience… firstly a bunch of other stuff got released.  Secondly… I picked up the switch and decided to restart the game.  I still play this occasionally but not enough to really keep it hanging out on the right side of the screen.

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.

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.

Crazy Axe

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

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

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

Quiet Night

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

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

Leaving the Steppes

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

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

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

Underwater Adventures

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

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

Raubhangeddon Over

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

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

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

Tiny Wings

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This is likely going to be a super short post because reasons.  Last night was an interesting shift from my personal status quo because I guest hosted on the For the Lore podcast.  They were recording their yearly E3 multi-episode and for also reasons… @Samodean was forced to miss.  So as a result @ZenBuddhist pinged me over twitter to see if I was willing to join him and @LodurZJ as an alternate.  In the past I have always really enjoyed guesting on other podcasts in part because it lets me see how exactly everyone else is doing this recording thing.  AggroChat as a whole is largely done almost by accident, and it is sometimes nice to see how those who have a clear purpose actually piece together things.  It had also been entirely too long since I had done this sort of thing.  The only gotcha was their normal recording time is about 1 hour sooner than I could realistically get to the screen and settled in for the night.  Thankfully they pushed it back a little bit and I was able to join in.  Hopefully once again I did not make too much of an ass of myself.  I am not exactly sure what their release schedule is, because in truth the only release schedule I know is our own.  However in the near future you should be able to catch me on the first of a two part episode covering E3 2017 on the For the Lore site.

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In other news… Stormblood has officially begun…  or at least the head start for those who pre-purchased the game.  This expansion had some fairly sweeping changes, and when I first logged in it felt like my hotbars were on fire.  Many of the buttons that I had slotted were replaced by a shared pool of role specific abilities.  So that mean’t things like provoke and stun now exist in that shared tree from which I was able to slot 5 abilities in total.  This is ultimately going to lead to some interesting choices because unlike before with cross class abilities…  there were way more than five choices from that pool that I wanted access to.  I have a feeling we are going to be swapping up to attempt to tailor for specific fights.  For example I now seem to have an AOE taunt… which isn’t that important for leveling… but I could absolutely see needing that on specific fights or if you were taking over the add tank on a specific encounter.  For the most part Warrior feels the same with the big change being that we lost the 5 stack resource… that I never can remember the name of and instead get the beast gauge.  This swap has a bunch of positive benefits to the class as a whole.  For example there were many fights where I would need to hold back using Inner Beast for specific mechanics… but this meant there was the opportunity cost of being capped out at 5 stacks of the buff.  Now I have a gauge that goes from 10-100…  or functionally 10 stacks of my resource meaning that even while holding back an Inner Beast I can also keep building up at least one more attack in reserve.  The other amazing quality of life change is I am not sure if this meter actually decays over time…  I have been able to hold onto beast charges for way longer than I could have the equivalent stacks before.

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The negative of the launch so far is that the Duty instance system seems to be toast.  That means there is a point in the main story quest where you simply cannot proceed past.  The folks that habitually skip cut scenes seem to be far worse off because it seems to keep them in a bit of a locked state where they can’t interact with NPCs at all.  As a pretty rabid cut scene watcher… I did not have this problem but I did absolutely hit the wall already.  There are some that are raging against the machine in chat, and others that keep telling them to calm down.  There are of course new Jobs to work on and other things to occupy time until this gets fixed.  I am absolutely certain someone somewhere is having a really bad day and working as hard as they can to remedy this.  In truth we don’t even know if this is a development thing, but could instead be an infrastructure issue with the hosting environment.  Whatever the case…  folks are getting stalled out but that sort of goes hand in hand with the release of anything.  All in all I am happy that my character largely is going to make the transition without massive horrible feeling changes, and that we get to explore a new part of the world.  For the moment I am not bothering to glamour back my helm… and apparently have tiny floppy wings instead of bunny ears.

Leave the Game Better

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Last night as I was winding down for the evening I ended up getting pulled into a discussion about positivity and the Warcraft community.  I’ve long been a proponent of doing whatever I can to try and make MMO gaming environments better for other players.  I am what I would  call a “world tank” meaning that I permanently run around in tanky stance while questing and often times go out of my way to “tank” things that don’t even matter to me.  If I am riding through a zone and I see a squishy player fighting a boss mob… then nine times out of ten I am going to hop off my mount and charge over to help out.  I don’t even care about factional boundaries here, and I am one of those players that is just as likely to help out the Horde as I am the Alliance when it comes to taking the threat onto myself and letting people kill their monsters in peace.  I’ve been graced with a class that simply cannot die under most circumstances… and I sort of feel like it is my duty to help other people out whenever I can.  I cannot count the number of times I have been doing a quest and had someone roll up late…  and then continued to pull packs of elites just to make sure they finished their quest.  They always seem sorta surprised when I send them a tell asking them “how many more” they need for the quest.  Growing up I was in scouting, and even managed to get my Eagle… and there was a rule of camping that went a little something like “leave the campsite in as good of condition if not better”.  I sort of have this same view towards MMOs or the world in general honestly…  if I can improve the world by my presence I am going to shoot for that.

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Prior to the launch of Legion, I had gotten used to some of the cultural norms in Final Fantasy XIV.  Namely people talk during dungeon runs… at least enough to give a friendly introduction at the beginning and at the end. In part this is because there is a system in place over there that allows you to give a single commendation each run, to whatever player for whatever criteria you feel fit the situation.  I give them out for all sorts of reasons…  glorious outfits, extremely competent dps, or just someone being jovial and friendly.  In part this friendly atmosphere exists… because they reward you being nice to other players, and will straight up ban you for talking about damage meters in game.  It creates this weird bubble where things don’t work there the way they work in any other MMO community.  Knowing this… with the launch of Legion and as we started queuing up for content… I started trying to apply the same logic the World of Warcraft and shockingly more often than not it worked.  Just breaking the ice at the beginning of a run with a “Hey Folks!” seemed to go an awfully long way in improving the experience as a whole.  I noticed my usual silent runs become perforated with discussion, as it was like one person saying something broke down whatever dam was there preventing conversation.

Another thing I have done this expansion cycle that seems to have helped my own attitude is that I am just not dissecting the game and tearing it apart like I used to.  I am trying really hard to just take things at face value, and more often than not completely ignore the patch note cycle until I am ready for something.  Sure this means I have not exactly been on top of the ball on a lot of things…  like Broken Shore, and have been doing things in a grossly inefficient manner.  However it also means that I am not exposing myself to a lot of external stimuli until I am actually ready to consume it.  More than this however…  I just haven’t shared my doubts publicly because I haven’t felt the need to.  A few weeks into the Nighthold raid cycle I disappeared from the game, and faded away quietly.  I just felt like I wasn’t enjoying myself nearly as much as I was when doing other things.  So I simply walked away and did other things for awhile.  There was a moment where I could make a clean break, and my raid had a tank to step in and take over for me.  In the past I would have felt the need to explain to my readers why I did this.  Instead I just left and eventually put some thoughts together in my big “regularly playing” post, but even that probably wasn’t needed other than I was catching up my sidebar…  which is already completely out of date again.  However because I didn’t really make a big deal about it… it was so much easier to just slide back into the game a few months later when the mood hit me again.

While it might sound odd, I think for me not writing about World of Warcraft and its failings…  helped me to feel better about the game for the long term.  It also kept some negative vibes out of the community.  Sure I currently have a laundry list of things that bug me about the game, but I have come to a point of acceptance that World of Warcraft will never actually be the “one true game” for me.  I know that I will keep venturing off to play other games because it is in my nature, and that it will still feel enjoyable to keep coming back and revisiting all of my friends in the WoW.  In part this is why I am so excited that Destiny 2 is now going to be entering this same realm.  For well over a decade I have cultivated a community in the Blizzard games, and it seems like it is going to be awesome to be able to take all of these people with me into another love of mine when it launches on the PC.  While I would love to see Blizzard as a company make an attempt to instill a positive attitude in its players by introducing systems that reward the good apples…  more than systems that punish the bad, I largely accept that it is going to be up to me and players like me to be the agent of change in the world.  I know we all keep returning to the MMO space to decompress from our days out in the real world… but there is nothing keeping us from being a little nicer to one another in our adopted second home.  Games tend to develop a culture of support or toxicity… and maybe I am naive but I feel like a game can change.  I feel like we can slowly erase the toxic nature that has developed over the years and put back in its place one that is largely supporting of others.  Now this doesn’t just apply to WoW, but is I think an admirable goal in any game you play.