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.

Level Scaling Tech

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I am in this place with SWTOR Knights of the Fallen Empire where I am honestly not sure what more I can say without my blog turning into a massive spoiler fest. ¬†There are a lot of events going on and many of them have surprised me. ¬†This is a little shocking given that I consume a lot of gaming media and that KotFE has been technically out since October 2015. ¬†I am not sure if I purposefully ignored SWTOR articles… or if I just didn’t come across that many. ¬†Whatever the case essentially everything from Shadows of Revan onward has been a completely new story experience for me without me knowing any of the elements ahead of time. ¬†So while I recognized characters like Theron Shan or Lana Beniko… ¬†I knew nothing about them going into this recent binge of playing the game. ¬†We’ve talked about this on the podcast before, but returning to an MMO and seeing years worth of content laid out in front of you is a pretty great thing. ¬†Especially in a situation like SWTOR where they have a reasonable level scaling system.

Yesterday Syp posted something over on his personal blog Bio Break talking about level scaling systems. ¬†His specific discussion centered around whether or not level scaling systems were good for games, which was brought on by his recent journeys in LOTRO. ¬†Over time my own feelings about the systems have changed. ¬†You can scan through the backlog of this blog and find me talking about Mentoring systems, where games allow high level player A to drop down to the level of player B and run content with them. ¬†This seemed to me like the most elegant solution to the problem of being able to run content with your friends. ¬†That was until I encountered Guild Wars 2, and the fact that no matter where you go your character is scaled down to the level of the world. ¬†The concept of evergreen content is a big one for me… because I like when a game expands over time rather than contracts. ¬†While Guild Wars 2 is not the best example of this… because of the fact that there is plenty of content that you will never be able to play again in that game… ¬†it did make me appreciate level scaling as a replacement for mentoring.

The only problem there is that when the world is constantly the same level as you, it robs you of one of the quintessential MMO experiences of leveling up and becoming more powerful. ¬†The world always feels the same to you, because you are functionally always the same relative ability levels to it as you level. ¬†In situations like that the levels themselves feel like a completely extraneous concept. ¬†Why even have a number that goes up if the world is always going to be functionally the same difficulty. ¬†When we started playing Final Fantasy XIV they had an extremely elegant solution for this in the form of their dungeon finder. ¬†Each dungeon had a functional level range from the moment you first were able to zone in… to the moment that it considered was the upper bound of levels. ¬†So if the average mob level in an area was 35, then functionally the maximum level the game would allow you to be was 40, scaling everyone over that level down to that point. ¬†The only negative here is that this ONLY applies to dungeons, and in truth it would have been interesting to see this same sort of system just work out in the world as a whole.

That I guess is functionally what is going on in Star Wars the Old Republic, and I am loving it. ¬†Each piece of content be it planet, flashpoint, or something else… has a functional level range attached to it. ¬†Once again it is functionally along the lines of being five or so levels over whatever the maximum level of encounter for that area. ¬†Then the game rewards you as though you were fighting something your own level in terms of both experience and loot drops. ¬†This means that you can go anywhere and do anything without feeling like you are getting nothing from it. ¬†At launch this was absolutely a problem with SWTOR and it was extremely easy to out level an area, and reach a point where the experience gain was no longer worth the time you spent on a planet. ¬†This was especially true as I remember on Tatooine which in itself was a huge planet with lots of side content. ¬†By the time I “did everything” I ended up several levels ahead of the curve and functionally kept getting more and more over-leveled as I went through the rest of the planets.

Now there is a certain measure of freedom in being able to just go and do the content without having to worry about level… and in many cases gear. ¬†While leveling my Imperial Agent, there were a few points where I went 10 levels without upgrading any of my gear… and really did not notice a significant amount of power drop off. ¬†Then again I did exit the class storyline at level 58… so there was some significant over-leveling going on there that might have been easing the transition. ¬†The thing with this system is however that while you are gaining power and you FEEL powerful… there is never a point where you are just waltzing through ¬†field of enemies gently tapping them and watching them explode. ¬†When you run someone through a low level dungeon in World of Warcraft for example on your level capped main… you can functionally breathe on mobs and they impale themselves in a shower of loot. ¬†SWTOR feels like a happy medium, of letting your power level increase without completely trivializing the game. ¬†Sure most of the time I am not actually afraid of death, but I still feel heroic doing content… ¬†because I am having to use my abilities to take things down rather than a single auto swing. ¬†As a result I have somewhat shifted my focus from user driven mentoring systems… ¬†to seeing more games adopt this sort of level scaling. ¬†The best part about Legion honestly was the way that content has scaled to the player while leveling through it, and if only Blizzard had applied this tech to the world as a whole… it would be a much more enjoyable experience. ¬†I like knowing that I can revisit those areas that I enjoyed so much in the past, and still having an interesting time.

 

Regularly Playing: May Edition

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I had a realization over the weekend as I stared at my sidebar… ¬†that it has been a significant amount of time since I last did the regularly playing thing. ¬†The last one I was able to find was on October 3rd of 2016… ¬†some 210 days ago. ¬†I may or may not have completely fallen off the wagon on this concept. ¬†The original intent was to take a moment once a month to “true up” the side bar and shift out what I was no longer playing for what I was currently playing. ¬†As a result we are going to see some significant moving and shaking in the list as a result.

To Those Remaining

Final Fantasy XIV

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I am still going fairly strongly in Final Fantasy XIV, and while I might not log in every night I am logging in multiple times a week. ¬†I am definitely still making the Tuesday night raid thing, and while we don’t always make progress each week we get together to do something. ¬†Thanks to the wonder of cross server grouping we have been able to pull in our friend Kelesti into some stuff as well. ¬†Largely we are all in a big holding pattern until the release of Stormblood which comes in July, and as a result I am still in the middle of my “level everything” binge. ¬†Right now my Machinist is just shy of 40, and that leaves Astrologian the only thing that has yet to be touched. ¬†The whole purpose behind all of this madness is so that I can purge my vault of anything at minimum sub 30… and the grand hope is to sort through anything sub 50 and be extremely judicious in what I choose to keep. ¬†Still having a lot of fun in Palace of the Dead, just have had other distractions of late.

To the Returning and New

Skyforge

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This is one of those games that has not graced my sidebar in a very very long time. ¬†In July of 2015 I played quite a bit of the game around the time that it launched, and while I enjoyed it… it always felt like it was missing something. ¬†Apparently October of last year an expansion released that added in pretty much all of the features that I am finding myself enjoying now. ¬†Additionally the game just works better with a controller than it ever did with a keyboard and mouse and while I returned primarily on the PS4… I am also dipping my toes back into the PC experience as well. ¬†Both are extremely fun and I am not entirely sure how long I will be splitting time before I officially pick one platform. ¬†Whatever the case if you have ever played this game I highly suggest checking it out. ¬†It has some issues… namely you are limited to three classes at the start with no clear path to add new ones. ¬†However each of the classes is doing something somewhat unique which makes them more enjoyable than the standard Tank, Mage and Healer that they represent.

Star Wars the Old Republic

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There are two things that are shocking about this game gracing my list. ¬†Firstly that apparently I never actually made a “now playing” widget for it, and secondly… that I am back playing it again. ¬†I blame a sequence of nostalgic events happening at exactly the same time… ¬†all of the hype about the next Star Wars movie, the love of Rogue One, and my deep enjoyment of Mass Effect Andromeda has lead to an upwelling of love for both Bioware and Star Wars. ¬†As a result I have returned to an old mission, which is trying to level through all of the class stories.¬†¬†I managed to finish off the Sith Sorcerer and am now through Hoth so far in the Imperial Agent. ¬†It seems as though I picked one of the best storylines for last, and even though I am not traditionally a stealthy/shooty type class… ¬†there is something extremely awesome about this one. ¬†I largely went Sniper because my Smuggler on the other side of the fence is Sawbones/Healer. ¬†I am having a blast right now, so I am going to ride the enjoyment until it lasts. ¬†The goal is to push forward into the story I have not touched on my Jedi Knight main after finishing the Agent story… ¬†which involves Shadow of Revan, Fallen Empire and Eternal Throne.

Horizon Zero Dawn

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I do not normally put many single player games on the regularly playing list, but we have this sequence of amazing ones being released in short order. ¬†One of those is Horizon Zero Dawn, which is a game that I hit hard at launch… and then for whatever release lost momentum to Mass Effect Andromeda. ¬†As a result I have been slowly playing it here and there as time and desire allows. ¬†I could force myself through the story, but I want to play it when I want to play it… and that is right now involving the occasional hour long session of hunting giant robot dinosaurs rather than pushing forward the main story. ¬†I am still very much enjoying the game, but I need to find some catalyst that really gets me back into it and dying to play the next chapter. ¬†In the mean time however I am still enjoying the “bowplay” if I can coin that term.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

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This is very much another “as desire hits me” sort of experience. ¬†When the game came out I picked it up on the Wii U and in the time between then and now I have managed to pick up a switch effecting starting back at square one. ¬†This stalled my progress a little bit but for the most part I have returned to where I left in the Wii U and am once again moving forward. ¬†I have designs on starting to take this to work and playing a little over lunch and on break times. ¬†While I have the switch I really have not done a lot of handheld play with it remaining largely docked upstairs so I can play it with the pro controller. ¬†It is a great game and in spite of having a lot of things that frustrate me about the game… is yet another in a long list of titles contending for my game of the year bid.

To Those Departing

World of Warcraft

While I still have an active account, I am just not really playing at all.  I logged in shortly after the last patch and got bored and logged out again.  I fell off the raiding bandwagon about halfway through Nighthold, and honestly just sort of reached the point I have in so many other expansions.  I think in theory I could come back and play casually and enjoy the experience but there are just simply too many other things I would rather be playing right now.  So as a result this is going to find its way off my side bar, but I did have the forethought to simply comment it out rather than remove it because I am sure at some point around Blizzcon time I will get hit by the bug once more.

Rift

Much like with Nightmare Tide… I just failed to gain traction with the latest expansion the Starfall Prophecy. ¬†A large part of my struggle with Rift is that I can never seem to find a warrior spec that I really like anymore. ¬†What I ultimately want is a juggernaut for doing PVE/Leveling content that can burn through the mobs with nonexistent downtime. ¬†If I ever find that spec again I will return to the game and happily finish up leveling. ¬†The other huge struggle is that the game lacks a reliable current font of knowledge. ¬†The forums in theory have a lot of the information but it is this blend of current information and ancient and no longer reliable, and I just lack the mental fortitude to sift through it. ¬†I am hoping that after writing this… Muspel or PK will come to the rescue once again with a viable Warrior build like they have in the past. ¬†The other huge challenge with Rift is the fact that none of my gaming infrastructure is playing the game, nor do any of my regular suspects have any interest in the game at this point.

Destiny

It hurts more than a little bit to be adding this game to this space on my list. ¬†The truth is I am just not playing it right now and I don’t see that changing for the foreseeable future. ¬†I have too many other games fighting for my attention, and while I absolutely know I will be returning with Destiny 2… ¬†the amount of stuff that I can do solo or want to so solo is pretty limited. ¬†At this point it feels like I would be working towards something that is ultimately going to disappear. ¬†I also have a lot of questions because as it is right now… I am looking at making the leap to PC from PS4 for the second game… and I am not sure what if anything might transfer.

Guild Wars 2

Adding this one to the list really doesn’t take a lot of effort. ¬†I was only into this game so long as some of my friends were actively playing it. ¬†Once Tam and Ash and Kodra faded away… so did I. ¬†It is still not my favorite game but I have developed a certain appreciation for it. ¬†Most of what it is doing however isn’t really all that interesting to me. ¬†I largely got to play along with my friends only because I had maxed out my Warrior soloing for ages without them. ¬†He was geared and ready to go… and will still be there if it ever has a resurgence. ¬†Much like Warframe this is a game that was not ultimately for me… ¬†but somewhat enjoyable so long as I was playing with friends.

 

 

 

 

Twitter GOTY “Poll”

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Last night was a bit of a rough night, because we had a massive storm blow through. ¬†A side effect of the storm was the fact that about 11:30 my wife woke up on the couch because something dripped on her foot. ¬†In the middle of our living room, dripping from one of the beams was a slow trickle of water. ¬†At that point there really isn’t much to do other than put down a towel and a bucket and hope it stops. ¬†However that sort of ruined any thoughts of a really solid nights sleep. ¬†This morning I had originally intended on writing about a rather hamfisted absurdist article that is making its way through my twitter circle, but in truth I am simply going to not deal with that today. ¬†It reminded me of conversations that myself and Tamrielo have on a regular basis… but I also wanted to approach the topic with more grace than I probably have in me right now. ¬†So instead I am going to answer a twitter poll in blog form.

While technically not a poll, it is definitely a thing that I thought looked interesting so this morning instead of tearing into discussions that I don’t really want to get into… ¬†I started thinking back upon various years and trying to determine the games that mattered the most to me during that time. ¬†Also I may or may not be applying a little “in retrospect” to a few of these choices, but that is also ultimately my prerogative. ¬†I limited myself to only picking games released during a specific calendar year, but in many cases the true impact the game had happened much later.

2012:  The Secret World

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I really cannot say enough good about this game… from the perspective of someone just starting out playing it. ¬†I’ve said an awful lot about this game over the years in three pages worth of blog posts… and probably some others that I failed to categorize correctly. ¬†This often makes my “best games I am not playing” list whenever I compile one. ¬†Functionally there are two vastly different game experiences… ¬†the leveling game when you are digging through the story and trying to solve the mysteries of the world… ¬†and the end game where you lose all creative freedom that you had while leveling. ¬†The first game is phenomenal and something that I feel everyone should experience at least once. ¬†The later… ¬†is ultimately what caused us to quit and keeps me from reattaching to the game for any length of time. ¬†However that said the ride is well worth it, and the game has some of the more interesting dungeons in MMOdom… ¬†until you reach nightmare levels where everything sort of falls apart. ¬†I am really looking forward to the re-release of the game under the Secret World Legends name… and hoping beyond hope that they can give me an experience to latch onto with both hands.

2013:  Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

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The impact this game has had on me and my friends is immeasurable. ¬†Largely because it gave us a common ground in the form of an MMO experience that we all care about. ¬†More than anything however it knows how to tell story in and interesting and serialized fashion, where the story arc from one expansion sets up the key players for the next. ¬†This is also the only MMO that has ever sufficiently pulled off a surprise plot twist, and has done so many times…. and been willing to assault structures that I assumed were fixed and sacred to the game itself. ¬†From August onwards in 2013… ¬†my life pretty much belonged to Final Fantasy XIV until we slowly petered out when we ran out of things we were capable of doing. ¬†However we came back and had a renaissance with the game that has continued to the present times with this still being the game we can all sort of agree on.

2014: Destiny

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This is another game that realized its ultimate impact on me long after the year it actually released in. ¬†Destiny is a really important game to me for a whole lot of reasons. ¬†Firstly it has amazing moment to moment gameplay and it is hands down the best feeling shooter I have ever played. ¬†From the moment I heard about the world and the setting I was completely sold… and in truth this is the game that pushed me to buy my way into the current console generation. ¬†I got my PS4 console the week the first PlayStation exclusive alpha was happening, and the little I played of it hooked me extremely hard on the concept. ¬†Year one had a lot of problems, and I¬†sort of picked at it like you might pick at the remains of a meal you know you are done with… ¬†but just keep nibbling on. ¬†I did return to paying regularly towards the tail end of the first year, so that I was primed and ready for the launch of The Taken King. ¬†From Year Two on however I have been a dedicated acolyte of the world, and own it for both PS4 and Xbox One… ¬†and am contemplating making the leap to PC version with the launch of Destiny 2. ¬†The game still has some narrative problems, but it does not stop me one bit from enjoying it.

2015: Fallout 4

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I love Fallout as a franchise. ¬†I still remember saving up the cash to buy the first one when we were in college, and I was completely hooked. ¬†I am not old school enough to remember Wasteland fondly, but I have always been a fan of the whole post apocalyptic nukepunk genre. ¬†So while I am listing this as my game for 2015… ¬†it is a hype cycle that began long before and continues long after. ¬†This is still the game I boot up when I am in a specific mood. ¬†Similarly I have played Fallout 3 and Fallout New Vegas countless times, and Fallout 4 simply replaces those in succession. ¬†This game is proof to me at least that I care far more about systems, and gameplay… ¬†than I really do about the main narrative in a game. ¬†In fact the only reason why I probably beat this game is because we chose this as our November/December AggroChat game club game for the tail end of 2015. ¬†I would probably still be avoiding the main story… and still off on my own having adventures in my head…. ¬†which is in truth my preferred method of playing a game. ¬†Just talking about the game has given me this huge urge to boot it up… ¬†right now… ¬†which would be a horrible idea considering I have to go to work.

2016: World of Warcraft: Legion

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I have to give a lot of credit here to World of Warcraft and the rebirth of the game that happened with the launch of the Legion expansion. ¬†They took a game I thought I no longer really cared about, and was legitimately done caring about…. and turned it into an experience that I rabidly played. ¬†I even managed to return to raiding and didn’t check out this time until we were a few bosses into Nighthold… ¬†which is in truth way longer than I lasted in Draenor. ¬†I’ve reached this point where I am not really playing the game or following it now… but the transformation that took place should nonetheless be honored. ¬†They tried a whole bunch of new ideas that they admittedly borrowed from other games… but wove it together in a fashion that felt new and fresh. ¬†Similarly I feel like it has to be said that they have done and continue to do a great job of managing patch cycles. ¬†They finally broke the “three and done” mold that had happened with Pandaria and Draenor and by all accounts are still releasing interesting content. ¬†I know at some point I will return and at the very least finish out the Legion flight meta achievement, but for the time being I am simply not forcing myself to play a game I am not super into. ¬†Legion however is probably going to go down in history for me as their best expansion… ¬†toppling what was previously my current favorite Wrath of the Lich King.

 

So now that I have given you mine… what are yours? ¬†Feel free to post them in the comments section here… or join in the twitter poll. ¬†I am curious to hear everyone’s thoughts.

 

 

 

 

Pretentious Magitek

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This morning my cats are being little butts. ¬†The normally sweet one is prancing back and forth on the keyboard… and the one that is normally a butt just wants me to keep flinging a rubber band for her to chase. ¬†None of this is really conducive to sitting down and writing a proper blog post. ¬†The sweet one has now taken to sitting on the cabinet to the left of the computer and staring… ¬†occasionally meowing. ¬†She is likely afraid that she will waste away to nothingness in the time it takes me to write a post, and believes that I really should stop doing whatever it is humans do and go feed her. ¬†On top of this I am having some hardware issues… ¬†with a box that is not connected to this one but it is frustrating me to the point where I am constantly reaching over to the other keyboard and fiddling with stuff. ¬†This also is not super great for writing a fully functional blog post. ¬†However I still need to somehow push forward and come up with some form of brilliance… ¬†even if that is dollar store brilliance that is on clearance for only 50 cents.

Last night I did not really do much in the way of gaming. ¬†I finally finished watching the last episode of Iron Fist, and while doing so I worked on my baby machinist. ¬†I managed to get¬†back over the 60 barrier and turned my weapon red in the Palace of the Dead… ¬†which makes no difference when it comes to the speed of leveling but feels like it does significantly for your ability to burn things down quickly. ¬†I hit a string of parties with a tank and three dps…. and all things considered they tend to go pretty smoothly. ¬†The only rough spots are when the group decides to fan out and split down different pathways. ¬†In theory this is not a horrible way to approach the dungeon as a whole, but if anyone ends up pulling a mimic it is a certainty that someone will get pox. ¬†As I have spent more time in the dungeon, my focus has shifted to trying to avoid pox at all costs… ¬†at least until we have a pomander of purity waiting to be used. ¬†Most of my wipes in Palace of the Dead have revolved around a bad pull combined with folks having pox. ¬†The absolute worst moments are when a tank attempts to tank…. ¬†without having a healer. ¬†I mean I get it… as a tank our instinct is to run in and gather everything up. ¬†However that is just not really a viable option for running Palace of the Dead unless you have a pocket healer going in there with you.

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Another thing that has happened that I have not really talked about is that I crossed the 500 commendation barrier and now have my giant pretentious golden magitek armor. ¬†I admit I was a little disappointed when I found out that the tune it plays is exactly the same as the normal magitek armor. ¬†The weird thing about the commendation system is that it pushes me to be friendly even if I am not really feeling like doing so. ¬†I tend to open every dungeon with a “hey folks” and close every dungeon with something along the lines of “thanks for the run, have a good one”. ¬†I am not sure if this matters but I usually can at least steal a single commendation from each run. ¬†Now my friends who random queue more often have been at the 500 mark for a very long time… ¬†I largely pushed through the last 150 or so while dungeon the deep dungeon. ¬†It feels like “strategic niceness” is a thing, and I feel sorta dirty admitting that sometimes I am just doing it for the sweet sweet comms. ¬†The only problem is… even after having gotten the mount I am still keeping up the practice. ¬†I think at some point it just began to feel normal to greet people when you join a dungeon and thank them when you finish… ¬†so while this largely started out as a way to leech commendations from folks it has apparently become a ritual now for me. ¬†This in part is why I wish other games would implement something like the commendations system. ¬†I’ve noticed that while a lot of groups are completely silent… ¬†that practice of the greeting at the beginning breaks the ice enough to get people discussing things if we run into problems. ¬†Folks seem far less likely to sit on a mimic chest and try and solo it down for example, when they have talked at the start of a run. ¬†It is like the act of a simple greeting makes it perfectly okay to say other things later, and while I tend to zone out… ¬†it is nice to have the occasional line of dialog flying by in party.

Chasing Aloy

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It feels odd that it is Wednesday and I am just now getting around to writing one of my traditional “mixed bag” sort of posts. ¬†Those are generally a Monday thing given that I have a bunch of gaming time to talk about in general, and almost always it is a shotgun blast across a bunch of different games. ¬†However Monday was the anniversary post, and yesterday I wanted to write up my final thoughts upon beating Andromeda… so finally we are where we are writing about the assorted debris of the weekend. ¬†If you had talked to me last week, you would have seen someone who was excited to be finishing up Andromeda so I could move back to Horizon Zero Dawn as my primary game. ¬†While I have played it a few times… ¬†that hasn’t really been what happened because for whatever reason I am having a bit of trouble easing back into the game. ¬†Essentially it feels like the skills I had developed early on are painfully rusty, and the section of the game I am in doesn’t have nearly as much call to purpose so I feel a little bit like I am either stuck in “roam around aimlessly and kill zoids” mode, or trying to force my way through the few story quests I have. ¬†The last town I reached gave me a slew of side quests, so in theory I will probably spend some time doing those to try and get myself reacquainted with the game. ¬†The frustrating part about this is I do not want to be bouncing off of it… but for whatever case it just hasn’t quite fit my mood. ¬†Maybe coming off Mass Effect Andromeda… I just sort of need to play a vastly different kind of game.

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The game I am playing a truly shocking amount of instead is Skyforge. ¬†Pretty much every night I am at least getting in long enough to run a few missions. ¬†Right now I find the bite sized gameplay appealing because there is no massive overarching commitment. ¬†I can pop in for a few minutes and play a little bit, while feeling like I had a meaningful experience. ¬†I had talked the game up to some of my friends and was super saddened to find out that apparently the female models are a boob jiggle mess. ¬†I mean I knew that was a thing among the South Korean developers… but I didn’t know it was a Russian thing as well. ¬†The other big problem with the game is that you ultimately have a long list of interesting classes…. ¬†but no easy way to access them. ¬†You functionally have to start the game as a Paladin, a Smite Nuking Healer, or a Ice Mage… and then work your way to whatever class seemed interesting. ¬†For me this was just perfectly fine given that I really like the Paladin as a class, and ultimately will probably always play it as my main in the game. ¬†However I have a lot of friends who were interested in other classes but are never going to make it through the grind to ultimately get there. ¬†I am shocked that you cannot simply buy your way to freedom in the game and unlock whatever class you really wanted to play… ¬†or better yet allow characters to pick any single class to start with. ¬†I mean the game has some really interesting classes like an Alchemist, the Kinetic, or Gunner… ¬†so there is a lot of interesting stuff going on but unfortunately if you don’t like tank, mage and healer… you are going to bounce super hard before you get there.

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Finally I have been still popping my head into Final Fantasy XIV on a regular basis and working on my overarching mission… ¬†which is to get all of the classes to at least 50 before the release of Stormblood. ¬†I’ve set 50 as the goal because it allows me to jettison the bulk of the leveling gear from my bank vault, and reaching that level seems completely reasonable with Palace of the Dead. ¬†Over the weekend I managed to push the Monk to 50, and am now sporting the full set of Allagan look-a-like gear that I have been picking up through the dank dungeon. ¬†I like the set quite a bit because it is one of the few “armored” looking sets that you can get for a monk. ¬†We had this lengthy discussion the other day about how we each favor different styles, and for me… it needs to be symmetrical and heavily armored to really make me perfectly happy. ¬†What is left on the leveling track is Machinist and Astrologian… neither of which I had even trained in. ¬†I picked up the Machinist from Ishgard and almost immediately hopped back into the Palace of the Dead rather than doing any of the actual class quests. ¬†I have to mention that it was a bit of a chore to sort out what all abilities I should actually be using with that class… and how it functions. ¬†However once getting used to it, I have to say I like it quite a bit. ¬†It is gimmicky and RNG gated… ¬†and I still have no clue if I am actually playing it correctly… ¬†but for casual dungeon running it seems like a lot of fun.

A Good Night

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

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

 

Tiny Black Mage

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My madness continues… and last night I joined in with Grace and eventually Storm and Muspel to do some Palace of the Dead. ¬†Essentially PotD is the new FATE grinding, and while it can be sort of repetitive, I never seem to get tired of it. ¬†I mean I thought Tam was insane when he went through his own period of time where he lived in dank dungeon, but now I finally get it. ¬†What I am loving about it is that I can just hop in… run a bunch of Palace of the Dead… ¬†mentally be somewhere else like watching a movie or a television show and then still feel like I made significant progress at the end of the night. ¬†The first goal has been to catch up my classes to 50, because it is going to allow me to have a massive house cleaning of everything that has been clogging my retainers. ¬†I have a problem with gear, because I know that eventually I would love to have every single class to the level cap. ¬†That is just the sort of person I am. ¬†In World of Warcraft I actually achieved this goal prior to the launch of legion and had at least one of every alliance character sitting at 100, and three horde characters as well.

Currently I have my Warrior sitting at 60 and he is my only viably geared character for doing big kid stuff. ¬†Then you have my Dragoon that I also leveled to 60, but promptly abandoned because playing that class in Heavensward was just so much less enjoyable for me than it was in ARR. ¬†When I was last furiously playing the game I was working on my Bard, which had become my defacto dps class for awhile and I managed to get it up to 55. ¬†Then we drop down to my 50s which are Paladin that I have not touched since Heavensward because I simply don’t really like playing a Paladin tank. ¬†We have my newly raised trio of casters in the form of the Scholar, Summoner and Black Mage all sitting at 50. ¬†Then we drop down to some 30 somethings with Ninja at 38, Monk at 33, and Dark Knight at 33. ¬†I have yet to even pick up the quest to be a Machinist or an Astrologian but at some point I probably need to do that so that I can weave those into the rotation as well. ¬†Now I am sort of torn as to what I should pick to level next, but for the moment I am leaning towards either the Dark Knight because I miss playing heavy armor classes… or the Ninja because they are just really fun to play.

The other set of goals that is staring me in the face is that when I last left my crafting… I had managed to push everything up to 21… with mining and foraging sitting at 50. ¬†At some point I really want to start this grind again and push everything up to at least the point where I can make glamour prisms. ¬†In theory I should be doing my beast tribe dailies to use those to level my crafting, but I just haven’t reached a point of getting back into the game enough to sort everything out to be able to do that. ¬†Once I finished with the Sahagin I sort of let the beast tribe thing die once again… ¬†but in theory should be doing the Ixal at least for crafting levels. ¬†Whatever the case it seems like I have been assimilated back into Final Fantasy XIV, and have more goals than I can realistically accomplish. ¬†My Warrior gear could also always be improved, but I am just finding PotD a relaxing way to spend my evenings… ¬†but sadly one that is not terribly interesting to write blog posts about.

Ode to Cactuar

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Cactuar is a strange place and I love it. ¬†This is of course the server a bunch of us play on in Final Fantasy XIV and compared to so many other game servers… ¬†this one just seems to have a bizarre and friendly spirit to it. ¬†There are a whole slew of us that have been practically living in Quarymill as we grind away at Palace of the Dead to level secondary classes and get a shot at tasty replica raid gear. ¬†As a result Grace and myself happened to be milling around in town waiting for the festivities proper to begin that evening. ¬†Grace pointed out that there were two people bouncing around on Big Chocobo mounts… and we both agreed something to the effect that we should both join in and make this happen. ¬†So within moments of us joining the fray and bouncing around wildly on our giant chocos… ¬†this happened. ¬†Granted a few more guildies came over and joined in the fun but most of us this from just random people talking in /say as we bounced around happily. ¬†This sort of thing is honestly an almost nightly occurrence on our server. ¬†I cannot count how many times I have been in a major hub like this and a random pony party broke out, where everyone mounted up on their extreme primal mounts and started running around. ¬†Sometimes it even evolves into a parade as we all run around throughout the zone.

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Cactuar is a weird place and I love it. ¬†There are so many times I have had to step afk and typed /mdance before leaving… ¬†and come back to a whole bunch of other strangers there with me also dancing the Manderville and somehow almost perfectly synced up with me. ¬†I have so many people on my friends list because they had an amazing outfit and we just struck up a conversation, and we /wave madly at each other anytime we pass out in the world. ¬†Argent Dawn the server I play on in World of Warcraft has always had its bizarre streaks, but more often than not there was an undertone of malice there. ¬†In Final Fantasy XIV folks just seem to be interested in enjoying themselves far more than bringing other people down in the process. ¬†I am sure Cactuar also has its dark underbelly, but generally speaking folks are friendly and more than willing to join in the silliness if given a chance. ¬†It is funny how a server develops a certain culture, which is honestly the main reason why I question games that are essentially server-less. ¬†I know our server “feels” different than a lot of the other larger servers, and I am never quite certain how that sort of thing develops. ¬†I mean I guess it could simply be because our server mascot is a half man half cactus… ¬†which doesn’t exactly evoke feelings of being hardcore and brutal. ¬†Although… anyone who has ever fought a Cactuar knows the score as they fall over after a 10000 Needles attack.

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In other news I finally got to see the Sophia primal fight, as there were a bunch of us who had never done it. ¬†I realize we are a few patch cycles behind on this one, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. ¬†It was like all of the things happening with Leviathan… ¬†but messaged far far better. ¬†There are a lot of moving parts on the fight, but we largely winged it without having seen it and only the most vague description of the fight from those who had. ¬†We single tanked it, and that role fell onto me… ¬†since really I don’t have a well enough geared anything else to do big kid content on. ¬†I had an awful lot of fun with the moving back and forth on the platform to avoid this ability or that… or the platform shift as the scales get out of balance. ¬†We also did a one tank, one healer Ravana Extreme and that fight is still madness. ¬†I would love to do that some more largely because I would really like to get my axe from there… ¬†also of as a side note I would love to do some more Bismarck for the same reason. ¬†I guess ultimately I really am a Warrior main, given that I didn’t swap at Heavensward and still have no plans to swap for Stormblood. ¬†Of all of the gear I own… it is my Warrior gear that I end up enjoying the most.

One Hundred Floors

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So yesterday I mentioned that I had plenty of Aetherpool to get a weapon, but found out that I apparently needed to have completed the full 1-100 Palace of the Dead experience to purchase it. ¬†Confession time here… before last night I had never actually completed any further into PotD than floor 70. ¬†Most of my running lately has been resetting and running 51-60 over and over which tends to give between 1/2 and 3/4 of a level worth of experience depending on your level. ¬†I am sure this slows down in the post 50 grind, but regardless considering how fast most of the runs go it is well worth my time. ¬†Given how fast the queue is… I am guessing the community as a whole has also decided it is well worth their time. ¬†For the moment I have been focused on getting up my characters to 50, which would allow me to clean out a significant amount of gear from my extremely clogged retainers. ¬†Last night I hung out in a holding pattern until my wife got home, and then we both walked to dinner and finally around 7:30 I had arrived at a place where I could get committed to running something serious. ¬†I mentioned that I really needed to get to floor 100 and within moments Tam, Ash and Grace had volunteered for the run. ¬†All told it took roughly 2 hours to get through the 51-100 content, which no matter how you chop it is a raid like effort of sitting still in one place for a long period of time. ¬†As far as experience goes I went from 33 to 37 and am just barely shy of dinging 38 so just a little less than a half¬†level per flight of floors. ¬†I also managed to bump my Aetherpool up to 85 weapon / 87 armor as seen in the final score shot from the dungeon.

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The first five sets of floors were pretty chill, but quickly things kinda turned to madness. ¬†We had a sequence of floors with just a silly amount of Chimera and Dragon on them, and in truth we pomander of rage’d the last three floors just to go quicker. ¬†We picked up plenty of silver chests and exited with 9 treasures… ¬†but we didn’t exactly go out of our way to do full clears either. ¬†If we had unexplored rooms and the portal activated… we were far more likely just to hop straight in than to spend any more time. ¬†This become more so as we got into the last few flights and it was clear that we were all getting tired of the run. ¬†I am super thankful to my friends because I probably would not have successfully pugged my way through that one. ¬†I have had great luck with 1-10 and 51-60… ¬†but pretty much any other set I try they end up failing miserably and I am just out thirty minutes worth of frustration in the process. ¬†Grace on the other had has somehow managed to pug her way to 100, and I salute her. ¬†Her intestinal fortitude for dealing with strangers is so much stronger than mine. ¬†After running 1-50 for Muspel over the weekend, and then running 51-100 for me last night… ¬†I think it might be a long while before I sign up for another complete run of Palace of the Dead. ¬†I greatly prefer speed running the first flight over and over to trying to do the entire thing in a single sitting.