Warbears and Stormsplitter

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We will lead off with the accomplishment of the night.  I knew I was pretty close to the ARR Warrior “Raid” mount but I had lost sight of actually going after it specifically.  I never really did anything to purposefully grind for this, and for the most part got my 200 “high-level duties” organically by running various raids with the free company. It was at some point during our Omega runs that I happened to notice I got the achievement, and that prompted a trip to the guy near the waterfall in Gridania… who also apparently had the Maelstrom themed mammet waiting for me as well.  The way I ride this mount is sort of insane, with me reaching down and trying to hold onto the fur and it runs around insanely.  It is funny how animation cycles affect how we feel about the speed of a mount, because while this is technically the same speed as everything else I own…  the feels so much faster because of the dynamic run loop.  Grizzled warbear is probably the most Bel mount in existence…  and it is only slightly sad that it doesn’t fly.  There is however a newer bear that supposedly does have the ability to fly… and at the moment I am 49 of some silly number of 70+ content needed for that achievement.  I doubt I will purposefully grind for it, but instead someday also be surprised when I see its achievement scrolling by after tanking a dungeon for someone.

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Once upon a time in a small town far far away…  I was a little skater punk kid.  Technically I only grew up an hour away but we are going to call it far away for sake of the narrative.  I was lucky enough that I had a half pipe in my yard, that we bought second hand and moved to our location and reassembled.  Now this was too small to have a roll in, so it was functionally a “drop in” style ramp.  For those unindoctrinated… most ramps have a bit of metal coping at the top of the lip that is there to protect the wood of the ramp from the “trucks” aka axles of the skateboard as you come up to the top and grind.  Getting onto the ramp involved danging your board out over the edge of the ramp, with your back trucks butted up against the metal coping and then shifting your weight from the tail of the board to the front causing you to “drop in” to the ramp.  I found this process completely terrifying, and each time I went out to skate the first few runs involved me not being willing to give myself over to gravity… and ultimately sliding down the ramp on my ass.  Eventually I would loosen up and get comfortable and be able to drop in just fine for awhile and be able to ride the ramp legitimately for the rest of the day.

The reason why I have related this analogy is that for the most part… doing new organized content in an MMO is like dropping in for me.  I am super hesitant for awhile and unwilling to venture off on my own and give it a shot.  I didn’t do a whole lot of solo grinding of Alexander because I felt like I needed that safety net there in case something went wrong.  Similarly this expansion I have thusfar been unwilling to join a party finder group to do Susano Extreme or Lakshmi Extreme, and last night…  was the moment I dropped in for the first time.  My friends Mor and Grace decided that we were going to do the encounters, and we recruited Muspel as well…  and the four of us…  two tanks and two heals set forth to build a party finder group.  Susano was for the most part a learning experience, but very quickly it became a situation of having to work the kinks out and get our dps up high enough to be able to beat the enrage.  With about 20 minutes to spare we manage to do it and I got my first kill under my belt.  Lakshmi did not go so well, and not only was it much harder to pull together the group…  but it also was pretty clear early on that we had nowhere near enough dps to be able to finish the job.  After some wipes… having someone drop… refilling the group and re-queuing…  only to wipe again due to not enough damage…  we opted to call it for the evening.  That said I now feel significantly more comfortable in either fight as a tank, and in theory I would probably be willing to solo queue from now on.  I got over the coping…  and got my weight shifted in the right way and now am more or less fine.  However it is only because I went into the content with some people that I trusted… that I was eased over the edge, so I appreciate it when someone is willing to just hang out with me and answer my questions while I do new harder content.

Quiet Night

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

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

Leaving the Steppes

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

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

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

Underwater Adventures

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

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

Raubhangeddon Over

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

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

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

Leave the Game Better

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

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

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

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

Level Scaling Tech

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

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

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

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

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

 

A Good Night

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

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

 

Random Screenshots #4

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This morning is one of those mornings when I am super thankful that I cobbled together the random screenshot tool.  Last night I sort of failed at doing any measure of directed content.  I tuned into Spiral’s stream as she continued to push forward into Final Fantasy V and spent most of the night alt tabbing between twitch and Final Fantasy XIV.  I’ve been on this mission to make sure that I complete the Ixal quests each day, and they take significantly longer than your average quest.  In truth the bulk of the slowdown is all of the swapping back and forth between classes and having to craft items over and over until I get X number of high quality baubles for the turn in.  Sometimes I just get unlucky, and the higher crafting gets the harder this seems to be.  So while I might only need 4 items for the turn in… I might end up with a stack of 15 normal quality items that I had to craft to get those four HQs.  Needless to say when I finally finished up with the quests it was around 9 pm last night… and I was feeling largely done with Final Fantasy XIV for the night.  So instead I popped into the bedroom where I have my Wii U connected and played some more Zelda.  It is growing on me, but I still find a lot about the game frustrating, or at least non-intuitive.  As a result I don’t have a whole hell of a lot to talk about this morning, and definitely no screenshots so… once again I crawl back into the vault and do a random sort.

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Chua Starting Area – Wildstar

While I may have issues with Wildstar… it will always be a gorgeous game.  This is I believe a screenshot from the tail end of Crimson Isle, the Chua/Draken starting zone.  There are times I miss my little Chua, and I went so far as to create a new one awhile back as a Warrior.  The problem is the game of Wildstar itself just never quite clicks.  There is just too much going on visually for me, and the style of targeted directional abilities with hotbar combat never seems to feel as good as I think they hoped it would.  I feel like the game would feel a lot better on a console where you can bind your main attacks to the triggers and bumpers and control movement and aiming with both analog sticks.  In theory you could emulate this… but keyboard to controller emulators never quite work as flawlessly as if you set the controls up for that purpose out of the box.  Just like running a console with a mouse and keyboard…  you are trying to fake out the hardware while using out another control scheme under the hood.

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Funny thing that I get a World of Warcraft image in this search because I really have not talked about the game lately much.  I am admittedly on a bit of a break right now, and in part I am simply just not forcing myself to log in when I don’t really want to.  For three or four weeks the real world got in the way of my raiding… and then I just got out of the habit of logging in regularly.  As it stands I have this meeting on Wednesdays that usually lets out about 6pm which leaves me an hour to get home.. find food and log into the game for the raid which is simply too rushed for my tastes.  So for the moment I am on extended leave, until the spirit drives me to start playing again.  This image is from me finding the Burning Plate of the Worldbreaker… aka the Protection Warrior alternate appearance.  This is probably the moment in Legion when I was playing the most intently, and every single day I made a trek out here to see if the shield was up.  The day it finally was… I took lots of screenshots and I so happily used this appearance until I got something newer unlocked recently.  The Legion launch and the first few patch cycles will always be a happy memory… even if I have sort of fallen out of the habit of playing the game.

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Another happy moment in a game… at the end of a long grind is when I finally got Turquoise on my Chocobo in Final Fantasy XIV.  For those who are unfamiliar… your base Chocobo can be dyed through an insane process of feeding the chocobo various fruits.  What makes the process maddening is that one set of fruit alters the RGB values… and another set of fruit seemed to instead alter CMYK.  When we first started doing this it was largely trial and error before the calculators came out… and even when they existed it never really was an exact science.  At the time we were doing this… the fruit for dyeing was prohibitively expensive.  While we were trying to keep an active stock of seeds growing in the garden… it never quite met up with the desires.  If you find yourself interested in this process, check out this calculator because it seems to be the best.  I remember towards the end I teetered back and forth between three colors until it finally clicked and gave me the Turquoise that I was hunting for.  All of this…  was simply to make sure that it matched my Leviathan Barding.

Tiny Black Mage

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

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

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