Weekend of the Dead

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This weekend it finally happened… I finally reached a point where I am full saturation once again in Final Fantasy XIV.  I am not really sure if it was the Fan Fest news trickling out over the weekend, or the introduction of Stormblood.  Whatever the case I spent the majority of the weekend plunked down on the sofa playing FFXIV.  Now the bizarre part of this however… is that I played a bunch of classes that I traditionally never play.  I almost exclusively played finger wigglers, which lead my guild to wonder if I had been replaced by a pod person.  Would I even know if that actually happened?  I mean do the pod people actually know that they are pod people?  Whatever the case two different things were happening this weekly.  Primarily I was using the Palace of the Dead to level classes that would be cool to have at max level… but that I don’t really want to level properly.  Namely Scholar and Summoner, which admittedly is the same leveling process…  but I spent most of the weekend running around with Garuda Egi in dps form.  I finished the grind Sunday Afternoon and then went rummaging through my vault to find something to wear.  Thankfully I managed to scrape together enough gear that I picked up along the way to hit somewhere in the vicinity of 110.

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From there I spent a good amount of time catching the Summoner and Scholar up on their quest chains…  which were laughably easy now that I overgeared them by a significant portion.  The thing that is making the leveling process awkward is that I switched Grand Companies between now and the last time I leveled… and as a result my vault is full of a bunch of Immortal Flames gear that I cannot actually use.  Side note…  Maelstrom completely fails because the low level Black Mage weapon is a one-handed item.  Regardless I managed to catch up quickly and now have four sets of awesome gear… 2 for summoner and 2 for scholar because I guess they just straight up give you the recolored version now?  The recolor was pretty different on scholar so I went with the good ole classic.  On summoner however they both looked pretty samey and I went with the evoker set not really knowing if that is the original or the reskin.  Side note… summoner “Egis” are hilarious as a Lalafel since they are always larger than you are.

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After getting Summoner and Scholar to 50… and through their class content…  I shifted gears and started working on Thaumaturge.  I had managed to get it to 26 a long time ago only because it was the level needed for a cross class ability.  I stopped there expecting to never pick it up, but instead tonight I dusted things off and tried to make a viable build work.  I guess in part I am wanting to get all of my casters to 50… so I can have a massive cleaning out of my vault given that I have so much gear laying around and there is zero way I can survive another expansion with the vault in its current state.  In truth I think it would be kinda cool to get ALL of my classes to 50, but given that I have not even started on Machinist and Astralogian…. and only have Dark Knight to 33 that might be awhile off.  I do however find Palace of the Dead extremely relaxing, especially the manner in which I am running it.  I am simply running 51 to 60 over and over which still seems to move the bar up nicely on weapons.  The other side benefit of the weekend is that I can now purchase my next weapon upgrade for the Warrior…   however in order to do that I am going to actually have to beat level 100 at some point.  I can begin pestering my friends about that now…  but having run 1-50 for a friend this weekend… I know just how much of a slot doing an entire PotD can be in one sitting.

Chateau Belghast

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This weekend was a bizarre one.  We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal.  However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong.  The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear.  I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast.  Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands.  The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime.  As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead.  The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit.  It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay.  The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.

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In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies.  In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration.  However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction.  For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph.  Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on.  I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located.  Next up should be the Kobolds as once again…  they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin.  I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet.  After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either.  The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail…  you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.

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Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online.  I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home.  I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly.  I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished.  There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine.  Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap.  Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus.  The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount.  There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve.  Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up.  I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.

Heavy Crowns

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I’ve admittedly been pretty sporadic in my gameplay of Final Fantasy XIV since just shortly after the launch of Heavensward.  For whatever reason the story this time never quite clicked in the same way that it did during A Realm Reborn.  Additionally Alex never felt nearly as interesting as Coil…  so it just felt like I was grasping at things to tie me to the game but struggling to find them.  More than all of these I think the two dungeons per cycle business hurt the most, because it turned something that I used to love…  Expert Roulette into a grind because there was always the dungeon you enjoyed…  and the dungeon you disliked in every patch cycle.  All of this said I have been poking my head in periodically and was at least aware of the mentor program.  The idea being that Square would create a way to identify players who know lots about the game…  which was an interesting theory.  In practice it largely just means you have a Tank, DPS and Healer at the level cap.  Also as I found out last night it apparently makes you feel like you need to run around barking orders and throwing shade on how bad you feel the rest of the party was doing.  Even though I was attuned for it… I never actually ran the second of the 25 player raids called the Weeping City of Mhach.  Collectively folks just call it the “Wiping City” and for good reason… because we died an awful lot but given that it was the first time myself or Grace had been in there… I thought we did largely okay.

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The funniest part of the night was the Forgall fight… which involves becoming zombie but not going full zombie and avoiding some things while absolutely standing in others.  In short it is the traditional insane dungeon fight that simply requires constant execution… and has mechanics that will straight wipe entire parties.  It is a rarity that there are fights where you need to use the healer level three limit break…  but during the course of this fight we used it at least twice…  and there might have been a third time I didn’t realize.  We were at a point where we had no tank and maybe three people total still up, and a bunch of us assumed we were wiping it out and running back.  We were wrong… as the “Mentor” continued barking orders and telling people to rez this person or that person… during a contorted fight that felt like it took 20 minutes to finally beat.  The truth is I had no clue what I was doing, but I finally got finished off by an actual fight mechanic as one of the attacks takes you to 1 hit point…  and requires chain healing to keep the tank from instantly dying afterwards.  We had maybe a single healer up at the time and I fell down hard… but just in time for another tank to get rezzed and pick it up.  I feel like this was the sort of fight where we needed to play Yakety Sax …  but slowed down to the point where it almost sounds like a funeral dirge.

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The fight that I got the most enjoyment from however had to be Ozma… an encounter that I had heard about for awhile now.  Largely I had heard about it being the group killer, in that it required a lot of moving parts that rarely got coordinated properly among the alliances.  Thankfully I was on voice chat with my Free Company and they were able to give me enough of a heads up about what I should be doing.  It also helps that early into the fight we lose the entire B alliance, giving me a run seeing the mechanics the first time and then allowing me to take that experience into the second smoother attempt.  All in all we nailed it pretty well on the second go, and for the most part by the end of the encounter I learned everything that I needed to do to appropriately tank the fight.  The reason we were running Wiping City however was to get me some gear…  and unfortunately not a single tanky piece dropped.  However I do feel confident enough to probably solo queue tank for the place and start soaking up more gear that way.  The risk of playing FFXIV irregularly is that the game moves on without you… and I hit yet another wall with the latest patch.  I was sitting at 220 from my last attempt to catch up… and this time around the first dungeon requires 230.  There are of course a lot of more grindy ways to catch me up… but we were trying to take as many short cuts as possible.

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Before disappearing and flaking out last time I had managed to put in some progress on the 235 weapon from Palace of the Dead and as I talked about yesterday our little run pushed me pretty far… but not quite over the tipping point.  So last night once finishing the Wiping City, we broke up into a smaller group and did some Palace of the Dead and over the course of a few runs managed to get me to 39 weapon 32 armor.  During all of the stuff I managed to accumulate enough Lore tombstones to upgrade my earrings to 230, and at some point during the evening Tam hooked me up with a set of 250 legs to replace my then lowest slot.  I had enough cash accumulated to manage picking up the 250 ring as well since my next lowest slot was that.  All together those four pieces of gear pushed me up to exactly 230 item level, and thus makes me viable for a lot more content including the dungeon that is blocking my quest progress.  Unfortunately however I have had this patch cycle spoiled for me, because before I remembered to turn off player titles…  I actually happened to be running Deep Dungeon with someone that was showing their new title off.  Now I am not sure exactly how it is going to go down… but I know something is going to go down.  Ultimately that is not necessarily going to ruin the impact, just a bit of a bummer to have it spoiled in a way that really should not have even been a thing.  While I wouldn’t necessarily count myself as “caught up”, I am at least in a much better place than I was.  I need to do a lot more palace of the dead so that I can pick up the next weapon…  but that one requires 60 weapon/armor which is still a very very long ways away.  My only revision of that content would be to make the end of sequence mini-boss drop one of whatever your lowest rank happens to be armor or weapon.  Also of note… you can see that thanks to the new weapon I did some glamouring and am once more the Bunny Samurai.

Derpest Dungeon

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Last night did not exactly go as intended, but it was a pretty great night nonetheless.  Originally I had hopes of getting a Mythic+ group together so that I could use my +5 Maw of Souls keystone.  That said I didn’t really exert a whole lot of effort in finding it either, and when I finally got settled in for the night after a bunch of idling there were only a handful of us on.  Instead I opted to work on my time walking dungeons in the hopes that I might get more of that tasty tasty Essence of Aman’Thul from the weekly quest.  When we got a group together it consisted of Rylacus and his son Tinoke who both still needed 2 dungeons… myself who needed 4 and then Bled and Phy just because they are awesome and love me enough to do a bunch of time walking dungeons.  In truth I had completely pug tanked one of the dungeons so I could have suffered through it if I had to, but I enjoy tanking for my friends way more than I enjoy tanking for strangers.  In any case we got to chit chat back and forth on Discord while doing the dungeons and that made the four go much faster.  I had hoped by the time we finished there might be more people around, so we could pull together that Mythic+ but alas that was not the case.  In truth I am guessing it was a good thing since a crisis arose while we were doing the Time Walking heroics.

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I hate printers, probably more than any piece of equipment ever.  They never seem to work as intended and always require an inordinate amount of fiddling.  One of the things you have to know is that many nights my wife can print as much as an entire ream of paper for her class.  When I am upstairs I am also at least in part the warden of the printer, and get yelled up at to fix issues when they arrise.  Now earlier in the evening she was printing perfectly fine… and then all of the sudden things stopped spooling entirely.  I tried my best to correctly diagnose the problem, but none of the rampant googling actually provided anything that was useful.  Of note… we have a massive workgroup printer that weighs about 200 lbs and is precariously connected to a machine that acts as a print server via parallel to usb cable.  It works 99% of the time but is just brittle enough to make me constantly uncertain of what might be causing the problem.  We tried a sequence of rebooting the laptop and rebooting the “server” to no luck.  She was able to hit file shares on the “server” without issue, but any time she tried to access the printer it said that it did not exist.  However I could print to that printer from any other computer on the network so the connection was still there and active.  Finally in my destination I started fiddling with home group settings, and changed her share settings because I was literally trying everything I could reasonably think of.  Instantly it was like something refreshed her machines permissions and she could suddenly see the printer and life was once again good.  Once again… let me express my undying hatred for printers.

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Apparently Tam had been trying to get a hold of me while deep in printer diagnosis hell.  Over the weekend I made a vague attempt to catch up on the Final Fantasy XIV content, but hit a both literal and figurative wall…  in the form of the Baelsar’s Wall instance.  I was not about to pug tank it… and it turns out apparently I couldn’t anyways because my item level is too low.  I am currently sitting at 220 but apparently need 230 to get there.  When I finally got patched up and logged in, Ash was needing to go to bed which left us with Tam and Kodra and seeing as I had not actually run any of the second half of the derpest dungeon, we opted to form a group for that.  I have to say… while I have struggled in the past to get in and have fun…  the deepest dungeon really hit the spot.  The deepest dungeon serves the purpose of being quite possibly the easiest way to get weapon upgrades, with a mini game system that I have talked about in the past that involves collecting “gear” and leveling both your weapon and armor to 30.  When you have collected 30 you can turn that in for a very solid 235 weapon which would be a sizable upgrade for me.  Now when I entered last night I was sitting at the point where I stopped playing last time… which was somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 weapon and 14 armor.  By the end of the night if I remember correctly I was sitting at 30 weapon and 28 armor… so pretty close to being able to collect my first weapon.  It seems like the 51-100 floors move your item levels considerably faster… either that or we simply got lucky.  To be honest, I had more fun in FFXIV last night than I have in a long time…  and the above screenshot is there to simply serve as a reminder to just how insane Cactuar is as a server.

[Edit] – I can’t re-title the post without breaking every link that I syndicated this morning.  That said I am finding out that “Derp” has some problematic roots and is a word that makes a lot of folks uncomfortable.  It’s not really a word that is of any importance to me so going to attempt to jettison it from my vocabulary.

Restless Weekend

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This weekend was a bit of an odd one, because at least for me it centered around recording our “Games of the Year” show on AggroChat.  This is generally speaking a huge ordeal given that our show is made up of six very different minded people.  Back during the days when we had four regular hosts it was less of a proceeding but now that we essentially have six people each picking three games a piece… that means we wind up talking about 18 games, which as it turns out divides neatly into two 9 image panels.  The above image is the first of these and serves as the backdrop for our normal show card of sorts, however with the text over it you can’t necessarily make out all of the images involved so I decided to post it here.  You can as always find the show on AggroChat or my method of choice for sheer simplicity of listening…  YouTube.  The reason why this largely dominated my weekend is because we ultimately recorded two podcasts that were both two hours long before I set down to edit them.  Post edits they both clock in around an hour and twenty minutes, which really is shocking given that I did not actually time anything out in an attempt to make them work as relative set pieces.  I guess however if you set out to record nine games per show… the end result comes out fairly evenly.  I did make an attempt to shuffle the deck in such a way as to put the games I thought we would most likely talk the longest about divided evenly among the shows.

So we recorded from 8 pm CST until just after midnight, and then I got up around 7:30 Sunday morning and edited until 12:30…  and as a result every other element of the weekend felt like it was shoved to one side or the other.  Of course all of this madness has a purpose since the double episode is timed perfectly to cover the absence of myself and Ashgar as we go to Pax South.  Now in theory Grace, Kodra, Tam and Thalen could record without me… but that would mean I had the forethought to have the mess that is our show in a state that I could easily hand over the reigns to an understudy.  I have not planned ahead that far, and while I do have a series of Audacity and Photoshop projects to speed up the process…  I am not sure if I could even properly explain what exactly I do each week.  It is my hope however that I managed to not only publish yesterday, but also schedule everything else to publish next Sunday while I am driving home from San Antonio.  Staging a publish to happen without me is always a fraught thing for me… because so rarely does it actually work as intended.  Even if it does… I am literally stressed beyond reason until I see the tweets show up in my timeline from the publish process actually doing its thing appropriately.  In the grand scheme of things however…  it is not the most important thing in the world… but it is important to me.

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As far as gaming went this weekend that was equally scattered.  I patched up Final Fantasy XIV and made it far enough to hit the first instance gate, before ultimately walking away.  Similarly I patched up Wildstar, created a Chua Warrior and played to around level seven before once again walking away like a bored child.  As far as gaming that managed to last for more than an hour…  we had World of Warcraft where I finally hit 35 points on my Protection Artifact and started pushing up Fury instead.  I have gotten back in the habit of logging in each day to do my Emissary quest because now there is also a potential legendary upgrade waiting at the end of the grind.  I started doing my Time Walking dungeons… but only managed to make it through the first one tanking it before once again wandering away.  The game that seemed to stick the hardest was Elder Scrolls Online where I completed a good chunk of Malabal Tor, a zone where I am already completely enthralled by the storyline…  even though it involves largely nothing but elves and their internal politics.  I’ve decided that the Bosmer are what it takes to make me really enjoy Elves.  I am really enjoying the whole lore regarding the Green Lady and the Silvenar, and I guess in truth that was an aspect of the lore that I had either forgotten or ignored in playing other Elder Scrolls games.  I even managed to have a few emotional gut punches last night, when I lost characters that I actually really liked during one quest chain.  In truth all I want to do right now is hide in my blanket cocoon on the couch and play more ESO, but that said I do want to at some point get a Mythic+ in for the week since I have a +5 Maw of Souls key.

Social Structure and MMOs

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I’ve talked off and on about Imzy, and how it is filling a niche for me at least that Google+ used to in that it allows for a sort of long winded discussion that twitter just simply doesn’t.  Yesterday I read a post there that made me realize something I had been trying to sort out in my head for awhile.  The vast majority of my gaming time is spent playing MMOs and I tend to have several that I am in various states of active in at the same time.  However I rarely if ever gain any sort of permanent traction in them, and after a few weeks of play tend to fade away again until the whim hits me to fire it back up.  I go through a cycle of curiosity that leads to excitement…  that leads to confusion and disillusionment that ultimately ends with me leaving once more.  I will pick up a game and for a few days to weeks it is going to be the most interesting thing in the world as I get adjusted to the systems and mechanics again.  However I always reach this point where an overwhelming sense of “what now” hits me.  When that happens I wind out going right back to whatever it is happens to be my core game…  which if we are being honest with me is an alternation of World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV.  I have been working on my games played during 2016… and decided to extend that out to all of the games that are easy to track thanks to my blog.  There is a clear pattern of when I start getting super excited about WoW I shift away from FFXIV and versa vicea.  There is of course some overlap, but you can see a back and forth pattern that emerges.

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So the question is then…. what do these two games seem to have that so many others don’t.  The answer was sitting there waiting for me to notice. I often talk about games having great communities…  but generally speaking this is in broad terms and extremely non-specific.  Most games have some excellent niches in them, but in the grand scheme of things that doesn’t really do much to add core enjoyment for me.  I keep returning to World of Warcraft and Final Fantasy XIV… because those are the games that I have established communities in.  There was a time when I was willing to branch out and meet new people…  plunk myself down in a brand new game and start growing an entirely different infrastructure.  The community that I have right now… is in large part the result of me doing this over and over.  Each new game I go into I meet a whole new cast of people…  but at some point that began to change.  As I gathered a larger and larger core of players… I stopped looking outside to the community nearly as much and instead looking to my guild.  While I am still meeting a lot of new people… they are coming with the pedigree of knowing someone I already know and am familiar with…  which of course speeds up the social footnotes that come from meeting anyone new.

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Last night was a prime example of this happening, because we were raiding in World of Warcraft and had someone pop by and join….  that I had not personally played with in several years.  My personal community in House Stalwart within World of Warcraft seems to have this ability to stay evergreen… and always have a certain chunk of the population that is active and always happy to be there.  House Stalwart my guild has existed for twelve years…  in spite of my actions.  When I left WoW to start playing Rift I tried my best to burn down everything about the game… actively recruiting people away to play this new an exciting game.  I did the same thing for Final Fantasy XIV and Elder Scrolls Online… and countless other games.  However at its core… the guild still remains and not only that… but has remained viable for the purpose of doing interesting end game content the entire time. Similarly the Final Fantasy XIV guild… while considerably younger just seems to endure whatever boom and bust cycles we go through population wise, and in both cases….  I know that I can return at any point and will be welcomed back with open arms.  In truth I think pretty much everyone who has touched either guild feels the same way…  which is why folks are constantly showing up from out of the woodwork and reintegrating back into the core at least for a little while.

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So the problem that exists with nearly every other game…  is I just don’t have anything close to this infrastructure…  nor do I really have the emotional or intellectual strength to try and forge it.  There have been House Stalwart offshoots in damned near every MMO that has existed… or at least as a guild community we have chosen a specific server and faction to all roll on.  However for most… these interludes serve as a vacation from the game they were already playing… and after a break most folks wind up going right back to the familiar.  In a traditional MMO I need to have something that I am building towards, and that object on the horizon is usually doing interesting things with my friends.  So while it is absolutely fun to pop in and play Rift or ArcheAge for a weekend…  I find hard keeping motivated when I know I have no real facilities to do any of the big interesting things… other than pugging.  I am spoiled to be honest, and so many years of not having to PUG has soured my experience as a whole.  Any random person I encounter is somehow tarnished by the memory of all of the good times I have had with my guild throughout the years.  After generations of MMOs… this has lead me to be rather insular in my gaming habits and tending to return to the folks I already know and respect rather than trying to create something new.

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So now days I tend to operate in two modes.  I have the games that I am active in and have deep social connections… and the games that I slink off to when I need to limit my social connectivity and turtle for awhile.  I tend to gobble up whatever new content is available, and then happy drop that game by the wayside as I return to active duty again.  Games like Star Wars the Old Republic, The Secret World and Elder Scrolls Online are great for this role, given that they all have deeply engaging stories that you can find yourself completely lost in…  so much so that you forget that you are essentially alone in a crowd of strangers.  There are a lot of games that I think I would enjoy… if I had a similar stable infrastructure.  However at this point… to be honest… folks are pretty stratified in their gaming habits.  I can no longer really make an impassioned argument as to why they should abandon X game that they know and love for Y game that is new and different.  I know this boom and bust cycle all too well at this point… and while it is a hell of a fun ride, to some extent I am getting that fix elsewhere.  For me personally… the Diablo 3 season mechanism perfectly emulates the feeling of “unwrapping” a brand new MMO and rushing with your friends to level as quickly as you can.  This time however we all know it is perfectly fine to fade away once you have achieved your  goals…  because its a game we will all return to again and again as new seasons happen.  I have been the cause of so much frustration and disappointment in my gaming career…  that I guess in some part I would rather slink off alone… than get folks excited about yet another game that I am sure we will all abandon within three months time.  However that same instinct…  is what keeps any of these games from actually gaining traction.  What I realized this week when reading the post on Imzy is just how desperately I need that social infrastructure for me to be able to enjoy a MMO.

Eorzean Melancholy

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I find myself going through a bit of an odd patch with Final Fantasy XIV, or more so I guess one that has been dragging on far longer than I expected.  When A Realm Reborn launched I was reluctantly playing because my friends were playing.  However something happened along the way and I fell in love with Eorzea.  We drifted apart once our little circle of friends started exiting the game, only to come back a year or so later in full force.  Ultimately Final Fantasy XIV was the game that we left, without really having a reason other than simply running out of things we were able to do.  Mind you… not things we WANTED to do…  things we could realistically do with the gear levels we had without copious amounts of grinding.  When we ultimately came back there was an entire years worth of content waiting for us to explore and it quite literally took every moment up to the release of the expansion… and a bit after it to be able to see and explore all of it.  I cannot remember another expansion for any game that I looked forward to with near the anticipation that I did Heavensward.  While the story content was fun to level through, it was also an expansion of limited scope.  It is strange that getting two dungeons per patch cycle instead of three makes a huge difference…  but it really did and it made each new set of experts feel monotonous.  You would ultimately have the dungeon you liked, and the dungeon that you disliked…  and it always felt like you ended up getting queued into the dungeon you really did not care for.  I am looking at you Neverreap.

Once again we faded away from the game, and while I stayed subscribed this time… I pretty much only poked my head in for new content patches and holiday events.  Recently we made a push to “get the band back together” and start raiding again.  The problem there being that while I am interested in raiding with my friends…  I really want to put zero effort into actually getting the gear NEEDED to raid properly.  When I lay out the options I have before me each night…  I never end up choosing to spend my time in Final Fantasy XIV.  This week another content patch was released, and the game has almost lapped me once again since I was existing in “barely eligible” territory before.  There are several of the new things, like the story content that I can complete right now with my item level.  However to be a proper and reasonable tank I really need to get in and devote some time to gearing.  Unfortunately I really just don’t want to.  It is extremely hard to stay viable in a game that you find yourself only willing to play once a a week.  The malaise has been strong with this game for me, and I am not entirely sure why.  I have always been one to complete each and every holiday and quest that springs up…  and now I have this sad line of broken quests that I never actually finished.  I completed one part of the multi-part burning rangers quest… but never actually finished that up so while I have the armor I have none of the poses.  The Yokai event has been started but I have not actually put enough effort into anything to actually get pets or weapons.  Similarly I realized last night that I apparently completely missed The Rising, because while I kept thinking I will do it someday… I ran out of somedays to do it in.  Finally the Palace of the Dead arrived… and while I have done some with friends I have yet to actually finish any weapons.

I guess it disturbs me how uninteresting all of this seems to me right now, and I have no clue why.  Its like waking up one morning and realizing that you and your best friend… really don’t have much in common.  So often when I fade away from an MMO there are clear reasons why,  this decision or that decision that caused me to get frustrated and quit.  Final Fantasy XIV however is just simply dying from my own neglect and unwillingness to visit it.  On some level that makes me really sad because I am not sure what it was about the Heavensward cycle that made it so much less sticky for me personally than the Realm Reborn.  I think a big part of it is my attraction to loot, and the fact that it feels like there is nothing that I can really do with my time other than hopping on the expert dungeon train.  What I mean is that FFXIV for all intents and purposes is a lootless game… or at the very least a game devoid of interesting drops.  Sure there are chests at the end of dungeon encounters that reward items, but I am talking about is open world free range loot.  I like the fact that in other MMOs there is always a chance, albeit slim that I might get something awesome to drop when I kill any random mob out in the world.  This pushes me to run amok and slaughter everything I come across… in the hopes that this one might be the one that gives me something awesome.  Final Fantasy unfortunately gives me stacks and stacks of crafting materials that I don’t care about, especially since I find the auction house system and selling said materials cumbersome as hell.  So what ends up happening is every mob death feels equally meaningless to me, because there are no situations being set up like that one time I killed a Giant in Stranglethorn and go`dt the Skullflame Shield.

Final Fantasy XIV has hands down some of the best group content, but similarly it is equally boring.  Sure there are the occasional item that has a nifty graphic that you can pick up from roulette, but for the most part you are running dungeons not to get interesting gear… but instead to increment a number of tokens until you can then spend those saved tokens on a piece of gear.  Even then, for the most part gear is an incremental stat stick, that unless you are replacing a 180 with a 220… is not immediately noticeable that the game feels immediately better.  Granted this is a problem with a lot of MMOs when you pick up items that don’t do something.  I am running into this problem with World of Warcraft at the moment in that every single trinket I get just seems to give me a bunch of stats and doesn’t actually do much in the interesting column.  The big problem however is that I just don’t feel more awesome when I put on better upgrades in Final Fantasy XIV… largely because how I judge that “feel” is by my effectiveness to take down random stuff out in the open world.  Since there is nothing actually interesting to kill in the open world…  it is defusing that feedback circle for me.  Ultimately I get gear to feel more powerful taking down things that maybe I once struggled.  It is the “Sand Giant” effect played out in a smaller scale over and over and over for me.  In Everquest there were these mobs called Sand Giants that decimated players in what was ultimately a level 20ish zone called the Oasis of Marr.  However there was a moment of sweet retribution when you could come back at 45-50ish and destroy them and get all of that pent up revenge.  Gearing in an MMO has this same effect for me… as I level there are always big bads that I maybe struggled to take down… and then it feels great to eventually turn the tables on them.  Apart from the early raid content…  I don’t have that experience in FFXIV and I think it is why the open world combat feels so dull to me.  Anyways… this post has gone on far longer than I expected it to, but it still is sad to me… that for many of these reasons…  I am just not finding myself playing much Final Fantasy.

Operation Hey Folks

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For the last week and some change, I have been running at least one dungeon a night.  Often time I am queuing with less than a full party.  This is a situation that generally causes me great anxiety, because I like going into a group knowing that folks I know… outnumber the folks I don’t know.  I said awhile back that I have been trying to force myself to be more cordial in dungeons.  As a result I have adopted my common “Hey Folks” and “How Goes?” greetings.  My friend Grace that I am often dungeoning with has been doing the same.  Mostly we had a discussion awhile back about how this is the common expected behavior in Final Fantasy XIV, and that maybe if we attempted to treat World of Warcraft the same we might get similar results.  Folks in FFXIV are largely charming and willing to help you sort out mechanics that you might not understand, all just because you spoke up and said you were new to a dungeon.  My experience in the past of WoW has not been nearly that charitable, but I was willing to give it a shot either way.  The awesome thing about going in with the majority of a party… it means the moment someone resorts to toxic behavior you can punt them quickly.  All in all I have to say I continue to be pleased at just how well this is going, even in Heroics.  If you present a friendly face, more often than not it has been met with a similarly friendly response.

Last night we had someone drop shortly after introductions…  which I am hoping was just a case of them getting disconnected or being needed elsewhere.  However others in the party not only were cheery but performed admirably.  At the end of the dungeon run we took time to praise the Deathknight for example who did an amazing job of pull casters into the group, and pulled off a clutch rez when our healer inadvertently stood in some “bad”.  All of this is really making me wish that World of Warcraft would adopt a commendation system similar to Final Fantasy XIV.  I think a lot of that culture is based on the fact that at the end of a dungeon run, each player gets a single commendation that they can give to someone in their party.  There is the additional caveat that you cannot give commendations to members of your own guild, meaning you have to be giving random strangers these nods.  To make it something that folks are actually interested in receiving there are a number of achievements based on the number of commendations you have, and some of the rewards are things like mounts, titles and cosmetic items.  Basically the system would port perfectly to World of Warcraft random dungeons, and give some additional reinforcement of good behavior.  Last night for example I greatly wished I had the ability to heap tangible praise on this Deathknight for doing a pretty amazing job all around.  Even the mage that ultimately replaced the dropped Demon Hunter, was deserving of commendations because for the most part everyone “mechanic’d” like a pro.

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Other than dungeons, last night I spent most of my time attempting to catch up in Suramar.  I had been lagging behind horribly in the questing there, namely when it comes to unlocking things in the actual city proper.  I am not a huge fan of stealth mechanics, and it is foreign to me to attempt to sneak around.  A huge part of me wants to simply fight my way from one side of the city to the other… but the sheer mob density here makes that not really a viable option.  Similarly I don’t believe a lot of the quests are actually open to you unless you are wearing the illusion.  As Tam and I have commented… Suramar is like being a High Elf Enchanter in Neriak…  for those who ever had that experience in the original Everquest.  The illusion works most of the time, but occasionally there is someone all to happy to murder you.  As you progress however you start to build little enclaves where you are more or less free to roam safely.  Last nights grind was focused on getting far enough in to be able to start unlocking some of the lucrative world quests, one of which yesterday was an epic trinket.  Before I went to bed last night I managed to unlock the dinosaur quest… which is truly amazing and with it the trinket world quest.  Nothing quite as fun as riding along on the back of a devilsaur and gobbling up demons and evil elves.

Other Worlds

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Last night marked my return to the Monday night raid thing in Final Fantasy XIV, that I had not been able to attend the last few weeks for one reason or another.  I know most of my blog coverage lately has been about Legion, but I still have a soft spot in my heart for lots of other games.  The intention was to pull together last night and do a lot of raidy bits, but I kinda ruined that.  I’ve written about the struggles to get Luna integrated with our household and the other two cats.  Things are still not going well, and I am not sure if they ever will at this point.  She simply hates other cats, and I cannot seem to get her from charging the other cats when she sees them.  This is a sort of behavior I have never seen in any of the other cats we have had throughout the years.  It has gotten so bad that the only real way we can stop her is by dousing her with a spray bottle.  Which seems to do NOTHING for the long term effect and only distracts her for the moment…  because seconds later she is charging once again.  So the only other option is to keep her shut up in my wife’s office…  which is a somewhat shitty life.  Now we are on that hard precipice of trying to decide what is best for her and what is best for our other two cats.  We have some options, but one of them is of course to return her to the organization we adopted her from.  I’ve never really felt as much as a failure as I do right now because we have tried so many things…  including the extremely expensive pheromone night light things.  In any case…  Tam really likes to just queue the group instead of doing a ready check, and there was a period of time where I was away from the screen dealing with cats.  The end result of too many of these premature queues unfortunately is that I locked the entire group out, at which point we dissolved instead of waiting thirty minutes for it to clear.  We did however at least get a single kill in before that happened, and knocked out some needed content for one of the guildies.

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The other game I have been occasionally poking my head into is Guild Wars 2.  I have a really fraught relationship with this game, but it has been something that I have patched up multiple times and attempted to play.  I say attempted, because no matter how many times I try there is just something that never quite clicks with me.  I made it to about 65 on my own recognizance… and then got boosted due to the daily login system the rest of the way to 80.  While I have tried a bunch of different classes… it feels like the one I still like the most is Warrior in spite of how lousy melee generally feels in this game.  During a recent sale I managed to pick up Heart of Thorns for $18… and I figured it was well worth giving it a try for that price.  With that came with a boost to 80, but I have not figured out what class I actually want to use it on.  During Pax South 2015 when they announced the expansion… I thought Revenant was going to be the class for me.  However the boost allows you a “try before you buy” sort of functionality… and in practice the class just doesn’t feel like anything I am interested in.  It is this strange amalgam between WoW Shaman, Deathknight, and Rogue and in a way that just doesn’t exactly feel like something I want to play.  During the boost it hands you a hammer and a pair of swords, but I am wondering if maybe one of the other weapon combos feels better since as warrior I only really like greatsword and hammer.   In any case I popped in last night for a bit and started actually trying to move my original story forward… I stalled out around 60 and just never tried to pick it back up.  Maybe the story will hook me into the game in a way that the gameplay never actually did.

A New Tank Enters

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Down to Goblin Town

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This morning I am having one hell of a hard time getting started, largely because it feels like I don’t really have a whole lot to talk about.  It was a Monday night, and that means raiding in Final Fantasy XIV.  However it was also a night that I was seeming to have a pretty frustrating migraine headache.  So in truth it was a good thing that we were breaking in a brand new tank… or at least one new to our group.  Pixel Executioner I am pretty sure is something that once upon a time I knew from the Blog Azeroth community, but thanks to the miracle of the fact that everyone seems to be connected on the internet I am getting to know him again thanks to Neph.  Pix had apparently never quite finished the original run of Alex so we started our evening there, with turn four otherwise known as “Burden of the Father”.  This went down in really short measure, and so long as you are tanking the boss…  you really don’t have a clue there are any mechanics that need to be dealt with.  The only thing as the boss tank that you have to worry about is Discoid which signals you are just about to take a ton of damage.   As a result this was the absolute perfect first tanking foray of the evening to break him into the rhythm.

After that we moved into the next part of Alexander and ran through the next four turns.  The awesome thing about this is that it gave me a nice little break between fights to kinda chill out and try really hard to forget my head was trying to kill me.  I am pleasantly surprised where we have come as a group, because I remember struggling a little bit when we first did Alex Midas, but last night it seemed really easy.  Well that is until we reached turn seven…  which has a significant amount of madness going on.  The awesome thing there is that we finally learned how to mechanic one of the phases.  Previously the answer to getting through the fire jail was just to have rez ready to go to bring back whoever happened to get locked in it.  Instead this time we learned that during the fire phase you just stand still and do nothing until your group brings you out of it.  If you move however… you die… and we were trying to do stuff and move…  which is apparently a bad idea?  The best part about the night is that we managed to actually finish the second Alex for Pix.  We were coming down the to the end of our normal run time, and I honestly thought we did not have anywhere near enough time to finish.  However we managed to pull a victory out on the final boss… having only gone about five minutes over our normal close time.

It was a really great night and apparently luck was on my side.  For awhile now I had been sitting on one of pretty much all of the items needed for the various armors that require two items.  Over the course of the evening apparently the game decided it liked me, because I won a significant number of rolls and suddenly shot up in item level.  I managed to complete the arms last week, but this week I managed to complete helm, boots and belt bringing my item level up to a respectable 113.  At some point I really need to spend some time getting back in game and finishing off my weapon in Palace of the Dead, because there were several moments last night when the fact that Pix my co-tank had one… made it harder to maintain threat.  In all honesty I have been struggling to remain interested in Final Fantasy XIV.  I am enjoying raid nights, but I am simply not wanting to put any of the other time in to make sure I am geared enough.  Which I know has to be frustrating to my raid mates.  I feel like I am fairly horribly geared as a whole, at least compared to what I could be.  The problem being when I sit down after a long day of work… I keep logging into World of Warcraft instead of Final Fantasy XIV.  Especially with the launch of Legion happening next week… my FFXIV time is likely to continue to be in Triage mode for awhile.