Restless Weekend

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gamesoftheyear2016_partonecombined

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.

Game Changer

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In Another Castle

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Last night was my raid night in Final Fantasy XIV, but before hand my key focus was trying to get my Mage to 100.  I am not exactly sure what has lit a fire under me, but I am on this mission to have at least one server full with level 100 characters.  As you can see in the above image, I am actually extremely close to getting there.  Now granted I have the OTHER side of my linked server to start working on…  but Belgaoh my Monk remains the only sub-100 character I have on Argent Dawn.  The only problem there is he is SIGNIFICANTLY behind the curve sitting at only level 53 right now.  I keep thinking that if I can get on at the right time, and have at least one easy to get to invasion event I will be able to push him through to 60 so that he can fly, which is going to be the key to getting more events on him.  As of yesterday I thought I was nearing the end of the gear grind and even created a spreadsheet as an attempt to track progress in outfitting my characters in level 700 gear.  The take away from that process seemed like I was going to spend the next several days working on my leather wearers to catch them up in progression.

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Then this happened.  I opened I believe 34 chests that I had gathered up on the mage in leveling from 90 to 100, and out of those chests seven different items came up as warforged.  Apparently yesterday during the day at some point they patched in the ability for chests to spawn warforged gear, meaning that all of those characters I thought I had finished with really have only scratched the surface.  I still think however my core mission is to get all of my characters outfitted in at least 700 gear, and if some of them get more trips to the candy shop in the hopes of finding warforged… then that is fine too.  Ultimately I realize that all of this gear is going to be replaced within the first few minutes of questing in the Broken Isles.  However for the time being I think this is probably a brilliant idea.  The longer they can keep players actively participating in this event the better, because for the time being it is an amazing source of leveling and gear for everyone involved.  I somehow doubt I will be able to get my monk all of the way to 100 in the short time available without focusing ENTIRELY on the monk, but I am definitely going to ride the elevator for as long as I can.

End of Expansion

One of the things I am realizing is that I apparently love the end of expansions.  Cataclysm was the expansion that broke me and my desire to be playing World of Warcraft, causing me to fade away and go play other games.  However I remember clearly that towards the end of the expansion I came back and really enjoyed myself.  There was so much to be doing, and everyone had a great casual attitude about it all.  For me personally I knew that nothing I was doing really mattered in the grand scheme of things, because as soon as Pandaria was released every last piece of gear I gathered would be replaced with greens.  So in this low pressure environment I allowed myself to piddle around without purpose and had a complete blast.  Similarly I remember coming back at the end of Pandaria and having the same fun experience, running around aimlessly on the timeless isle and doing all the little things that were fun but served no major purpose.  Here I find myself once again in a similar pattern with Draenor, and I feel completely in my zone.  The problem is that I wish I knew how to bottle this feeling and keep it alive during the rest of the expansion.

I am not sure how to take the joy that I feel at the end of an expansion when I am unfettered by expectations and pressures…. and keep that alive during the rest of the game.  There is a switch that flips in my brain when an expansion launches that says “okay Bel, you need to be useful… go grind your face off”.  I wish I knew how to turn that switch off completely because I think that is the thing that keeps getting in my way when it comes to enjoying an MMO for the long haul.  I essentially burn myself out, over and over… game after game… by focusing on some lofty goal that I cannot accomplish without significant help from others.  I end up ignoring the goals that are entirely up to me to complete, and those are probably the things that I technically enjoy more.  I have had a blast alting my way to 100 over the last few weeks and bringing my own personal army up to snuff.  As I look towards Legion, and Starfall Prophecy and whatever the Final Fantasy XIV expansion ends up being… I need to figure out how to keep this magic from the end of an expansion alive every single day I play the game.

 

Long Time Coming

Bug Squish

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At the launch of Heavensward we absolutely wrecked us a Sky Whale, but struggled a bit with Ravana.  It was a combination of insane amounts of incoming damage, mixed with the fact that we consistently failed at Final Liberation.  As we all faded away and off into other games, the one big regret many of us had was that we never actually managed to take down a bug.  Last night we finally set that record straight, and defeated Ravana.  In true fashion for our group however, the kill was a complete mess.  In fact I managed to get knocked off right before we finished the fight, because some random roofer was knocking on my door.  In Oklahoma our version of ambulance chasers are fly by night roofers looking to repair “hail damage”, and this guy had an equally questionable name to go with it.  So in my somewhat distracted state I was just a bit too close to one of the attacks that knocks you off the edge.  Ashgar somehow managed to survive alone until we finally pushed him over the edge at the last possible moment.  There is a final final liberation… and we probably killed him as the bar passed the O and was creeping up on the N…  aka seriously the last moment before we all died a horrible death for our hubris.  Of course like is usually the case no axe was dropped… but instead we did manage to pick up a pretty spiffy looking book that reminds me of a strange armored butterfly.

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After downing a bug, we set our sights on Final Coil since a few of our modern assemblage were not with us when we managed to take this down the first time.  We started off with Turn 10… and honestly had to relearn fights as we went.  So much of this happened so long ago… that we maybe partially remembered a mechanic here or there but had largely forgotten the bulk of them.  We outgeared a good deal of the mechanics, but in truth what this really meant is that we could simply chain resurrect players when they died instead of dealing with the proper mechanics.  Ashgar and I attempted to think on our feet and deal with this as best we remembered them…  the primary example of this being the giant metal clad hydra that serves as the boss of Turn 11 who happens to have an attack that will straight up oneshot the current tank if it is not taunted off.  Traditionally we have a firm cut off time of 10pm CST but we went over a little bit.  Tam called our final attempt on Bahamut for the evening, and that happened to be the attempt we pushed across the finish line and got the win.  I am so happy to have been able to come back and take on these fights for the folks who had never seen them.  While I want to keep progressing into content that I have not seen, it is always good to go back and do the stuff we have, just to remember how far we have come.

Legion Lock

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In other news I managed to push across the finish line in a completely different sort of fight.  For whatever reason I have had a fire lit under me to level a bunch of my stragglers up to level 100.  I pushed the Rogue from 92 to 100, Druid from 95 to 100… and then started on my Warlock that happened to be sitting at level 75.  As of last night I managed to nudge him across the line to 100 and even got in a quick LFR before the FFXIV raid.  I was honestly shocked to find out that you could queue for Highmaul LFR at item level 615, and I absolutely did just this.  I am not sure why I am enjoying my warlock so much.  It is just a style of game play that I have never really spent much time doing… and this represents the first “finger wiggler” I have ever legitimately leveled to the current cap.  I’ve had a Priest and Mage temporarily at “cap” but in both of those cases it was a boosted character so it really does not count.  I think part of it as well is that I really want a proper character to start farming transmog items for all of my cloth wearers.  I also want a tailor that I don’t mind grinding cloth on, because the Shadow Priest is absolutely not that character.  Now with the launch of Demon Hunters tonight, I fully expect to be attempting to do that madness…  however in the meantime I am really looking forward to exploring the world with my army of demon buddies.

Dankest Dungeon

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Palace of the Dead

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Last night I was not terribly certain what I would be doing with myself.  For the last several days I have been heavily focused on transmoggy things over in World of Warcraft, but on the same day that patch was released the newest patch landed in Final Fantasy XIV.  Before I left work I saw Tam ask if anyone would be interested in taking a trip into the Palace of the Dead… or as he has begun referring to it the “Dankest Dungeon”.  This had been something on my radar for a long awhile, with the theory being that you had a brand new leveling path for alts.  I have an army of alts and honestly you can only manage so much FATE grinding before you need some other path.  It seems like everyone on my server has gotten the same idea, because apparently to queue for the dungeon you have to be standing in Quarrymill.  I snapped this photo last night but if you looked in any direction you would have seen pretty much the same density of players.  In many ways this reminded me of the wall Revenant’s Toll felt on raid reset day.  Neph wanted to play her Dark Knight, Tam his Black Mage, and Thalen his Machinist…  which left me needing to do the team focused thing and play a healer.  Anyone who knows me very well will know I am not really the best healer in the world.  The irony there is that I started my MMO career in Everquest as a cleric…  the go to healer for any serious content.  I also feel that experience pretty much generated a massive mental block against ever wanting to do it again.

Now I have had a White Mage for a good while, and actually enjoyed myself leveling that.  However for whatever reason the Scholar class has never really clicked with me.  Before the launch of Heavensward I managed to get Arcanist to 30 and actually claim both the Scholar and Summoner jobs but pretty much stalled out shortly thereafter.  I felt like I sucked at the class and simply stopped queuing for dungeons, because for ever Tam Tara there would be five Brayflox that I struggled to deal with.  The interesting thing about the deep dungeon is how it has its own parallel leveling system, and how it apparently invents things that simply don’t exist.  For example when you go in as a job…  you don’t exactly get the path that you took to get to your level.  For example I had Eos and Selene really quickly rather than my Carbunkle friends, which is I guess the same thing that happens when you get leveled down in a dungeon.  On the other side of the equation, Kodra commented about having a serious challenge dealing with trying to function in the dungeon as an Arcanist without the Scholar job.  Arcanists play this strange role of not quite but almost healer, that I remember struggling with when I ran dungeons…  because I was also note quite a dps.  The early levels seem to heavily favor dps, with the last set that we completed before I was literally falling asleep at the keyboard…  needing us to actually do proper group tactics to get through.

Weapons of Light

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So as you move through the dungeon there are chests that you open that do a bunch of different things.  Firstly you get a shared group inventory that contains these items called Pomanders.  These cause various effects both to buff your party, and to counter act the negative effects of the dungeon.  For example there is one that shows the entire map so you can navigate to only the rooms that contain chests, or another that will disable all traps in a floor.  There are still others that are designed to counter act very specific negative effects gained from certain encounters, like Pox that stops all health regeneration.  This one is particularly nasty if placed on the tank…  which it was for a significant period of time last night.  The natural instinct for me is to clear every room, but you are timed from the moment you set foot inside and have sixty minutes to clear ten floors.  At first this seems like an easy task, as we quickly breezed through the early levels.  However once we got onto the third set of floors that timer started to make a big difference, and in theory you are given roughly six minutes per floor.  As a result we started pulling the levels in a minimal clear fashion with our dps fanning out at times to scout ahead and try and determine which path we should go down as a group.  The name of the game is finding the blue and silver chests that contain “gear” upgrades… and by that I mean +1 to your arms and armor score which serve as the gear for the dungeon.

The most interesting thing about the experience is how you gain your abilities during the normal arc that occurs as you level up.  However for whatever reason I thought I would hit a ceiling and simply stop getting abilities when I hit level 31 which is what would have happened were I running dungeons.  Instead I continued to move forward and am now in my 50s gaining heavensward scholar abilities that are unlocked through quests.  So in theory this is a crash course in how to play your class… long before you actually get the abilities.  As to whether or not this worked…  I started out the dungeon run extremely rough and almost all of the healing was coming from Selene the murder fairy.  As we moved forward I started to get the hang of it, and was using adlo like a mad man followed up with some direct healing.  People died, a bunch… or at least more than I am happy with… and we ended up wiping on a really bad luck trap spawn.  However as the night progressed I started feeling significantly more comfortable healing as a scholar.  In theory I would feel much better stepping into a dungeon now than I did before last night.  All in all I got roughly three levels which is a slightly faster progression rate than running dungeons, but not the sort of speed that is going to lead to a lot of chain power leveling.  I had a lot of fun and just wished that we had been able to start earlier in the evening so that I could see the end of the dungeon.  I definitely want to do this again soon.

 

Everything Must Go!

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Rushed Raiding

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Last night was the second running of our reconstituted Monday night group, but unfortunately this time around we were missing a Thalen.  So instead of working through the content we planned on doing with was Ravana Extreme, we opted to start work on the second part of Alexander.  We had seven folks gathered up so we figured grabbing a single pug wouldn’t hurt at all.  We also decided to be up front with the pug, in that they were hanging out with a group of learners.  The most awesome of possible circumstances happened in that the game ended up giving us someone on our own server.  As a result we met a new friend Lux Tenebrae who happened to join up as a semi-permanent 8th last night.  We like to go into fights fairly blind, and then adjust and shift until we have a grasp on the movie parts.  So both of the Alexanders that we completed last night took more than one attempt, but at the same time it feels like we have a firm enough grasp on the fights to be able to come in next week and completely wreck them.  The fights themselves were extremely fun, and pretty much anything with the Alex background music is going to rate high on my radar.  We had to cut things short however because last night began the maintenance period that will eventually get us patch 3.35 which for all intents and purposes is the “Deep Dungeon” patch.  I think every single one of us is looking forward to this as a way of leveling our army of alts.

However once we got out of the raid we had roughly thirty minutes left before the servers reset.  At the not so subtle nudging of Neph we pulled together an expert group and decided to go for it.  By the time we got zoned in we had less than thirty minutes to go and Hullbreaker Hard set out before us.  We had an early wipe due to hubris and standing in stuff, but we recovered quickly and made it through the zone in a good clip.  When we pulled the final boss we had two minutes left on the official clock from the set time of the maintenance period.  The thing is we continued on fighting after time was at least in theory up.  Then something strange happened… firstly Kodra got disconnected, but we were able to finish the boss without him.  We got our loot and zoned out… and then both Tam and I got disconnected at exactly the same moment.  Then moments later Neph did as well.  So it seems like quite literally they were flushing connections one at a time as they cycled through the server preparing to shut it down.  The positive is that three of us managed to get credit for the expert… the negative is that Kodra did not but I am sure we will all be willing to make it up to him later.  This was one of the funnest dungeons I have fun in a long while because we were really pushing ourselves trying to beat the timer… which while we didn’t quite make it we came really damned close.

Farewell to Gold Farms

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The other part of the evening was spent going from character to character and purchasing Smuggled Sack of Gold over and over until I completely depleted my garrison resources.  Yesterday was essentially liquidation night of everything from my garrison that might sell for a decent bit of gold.  I also went to Wrath era Dalaran and checked the various PVP vendors to see if any of that gear was something I might want for transmog purposes given that with today’s patch all of that is getting shifted away from gold to honor based purchases.  On a handful of my characters this also meant scrapping lumber yards to build trading posts…  just to liquidate their resources for cash.  The whole process was an extremely fun atmosphere because quite literally everyone else in the guild was pretty much doing the same.  In a shared chat earlier in the day macros had been posted to speed up the process and there we sat spamming away purchasing gold bags and opening them at the same time.  In many ways it felt like we were all saying goodbye to what ended up being a frustrating expansion, and more than that… saying goodbye to our daily garrison chores.  Today the first of the Legion pre-patches go live and with it a removal of pretty much all of the ways to make gold from the garrison.  This is a bit of a double edged sword because even someone like me, was able to compile a decent amount of gold just by logging in periodically and opening bags of gold from my garrison missions.

That said not a single moment of doing this really felt fun.  It was a chore for me because I felt like if I was not cycling through all eleven characters on Argent Dawn I was essentially “leaving money on the table”.  So doing my Garrison chores mean spending thirty minutes to an hour doing nothing but interacting with NPCs and queuing missions all before doing anything fun or interesting.  So removing the gold from Garrisons will always be removing any leverage it had over me to actually do the crap contained within those instanced walls.  What gets replaced instead is the every so much more exciting mission of farming all of the transmog bits from all of the old world dungeons and raids.  Most of my characters have a fat stack of salvage crates waiting to be opened in the hopes of gathering up new appearances to unlock for the system.  I still think overall the transmog changes are a bit of a half assed system compared to what other games have, but it is a far better system than World of Warcraft currently has.  Tonight will more than likely be spent going character by character and checking things into the transmog system and getting rid of everything that is literally clogging my bank, void storage and inventory.  I started a bit of this last night in selling off any non cosmetic gear that was for alternate specs other than whatever I considered my “main” role on a character.  Getting things in the Transmog system however will pretty much clear up the rest of the space and allow me to actually start saving more interesting items.