Heavy Crowns

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

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

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

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

Derpest Dungeon

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

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

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

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

Restless Weekend

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

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

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

Social Structure and MMOs

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

 

Regularly Playing

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Yesterday I decided to start “truing up” my “Regularly Playing” section of my hot bar.  This area has been through many changes throughout the years and the whole idea was just to let readers know what I am actually playing right now.  It originally started as me simply i-framing in the information from Raptr… but since I don’t actually use that server or any other equivalent games tracker that isn’t going to work.  I shift games quite often, and I wanted a way to indicate what games are currently “on tap”.  So this shifted from “Now Playing” to “Frequently Playing” and eventually wound up with the verbiage of “Regularly Playing”.  The goal now is to evaluate the list once a month and make adjustments to keep it “mostly true”.  I realize I am finger quoting a lot of shit in this post, but the truth is I come home and log into whatever seems enjoyable unless I have a specific activity planned that night.  Over time some stuff fades away and other games get added, so I thought as part of this process I would talk a bit about where I am currently in each game on the list, as well as a bit about any that I might have removed or didn’t quite make the cut.

Destiny: The Taken King

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I am still just irrationally enthralled by this game, though over the last week I have not played quite so much because I am starting to get back into MMOs once more.  This week has been all about Iron Banner, because I am trying my best to get my Hunter to Rank 5…  in spite of not being here for the weekend due to travel plans.  The major goal of the month was to hit 335 light and I have managed to do just that on the Titan, however I am still lagging on the Warlock and Hunter with the primary slot that they need the worst being literally any legendary quality artifact.  I need to sort out what I can do to get one of those because I have plenty of infusion fodder to feed into an artifact… they just have 320 blues currently equipped.  The only real frustration that I have with Destiny right now is that Bungie is apparently shit at math.  We were told that several activities would drop an item equal to your current light level of better.  However now sitting at 335, there are still a truly silly number of activities that drop 334 items.  From Challenge of Elders turn-ins last night I got both a 334 weapon and 334 arms, and from an exotic engram I got a 334 secondary…  all while showing up in game as 335 light.  This is pretty maddening since 334 is useful for infusion if you are desperate but what you want to see is 335s so you can bring up ALL of your gear to that light level.  Regardless I am still loving the game and I am hoping that the next big patch will address this problem.  Also hoping that when I get back from my trip I can finish the push to Rank 5 because I am roughly halfway to Rank 4 at the moment.

Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward

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This marks the second week of me being “back” at least as far as doing the Tuesday night raid content is involved.  I am still very much in “catch up” mode, but I am enjoying myself.  As far as downtime activities I have started the grind to get elemental crystals for the first Anima weapon, aka the Relic 2.0 or 3.0 depending upon how you are counting.  I am loving being Lala-Bel once more and I guess whatever funk I was going through that was keeping me from playing MMOs has passed because I am enjoying myself again.  I very much need to be doing a nightly Expert but that has yet to happen quite yet.  After yesterdays post however I found a whole slew of people willing to be tagged and pulled in for expert running.  Now I just need to get back from this weekend and get started on this proper.  Also apologies ahead of time for the nightmares that will be induced by the creepy-assed Calcabrina dolls.

Diablo 3: Reaper of Souls

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Season Six is very much winding down to a close, and I have managed to accomplish pretty much everything that I could have hoped for… at the very least I got my additional stash tab.  I have friends who still have things to knock out to get theirs so I am very much in a help as needed mode.  That said I am still poking my head into the game on a regular basis to farm for Menagerist Goblins…. something I have yet to actually see.  The highlight of the season was something that I did not even realize was a thing until it dropped.  I guess the cosmic wings are among the rarest item this time around.. because it is RNG on top of RNG on top of RNG.  You have to get one of the rainbow goblins to show up… and then have to get it to drop the Whimsydale portal… and then have to get a specific mob to show up in there to get them.  In any case pretty much any time I get a Whimsydale portal I holler at anyone who happens to be on to come along with me now just in case they drop again.  I’ve made it way further this season than at any other time… the only thing I am not looking forward to is trying to merge my current seasonal bank into my non-seasonal bank once more.

Overwatch

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This is the newest addition to the list and also the one I have spent the least time playing.  This week was the official launch of Overwatch, and my friends list has been completely on fire about this game.  I played it enough in beta to know that I liked it, and then ceased to play it any further waiting for launch.  Now that launch is here however… I have all of these competing priorities.  The game is really good and so far I have yet to find a champion that I don’t like… pending I give them a serious chance.  I was largely diametrically opposed to D.Va largely because the mech looked like a killer whale mixed with a guardian mode veritech.  However after getting the carbon fiber skin from a loot box… and giving her a proper try I found out that I really enjoyed it.  The game is probably the best designed shooter I have played in a very long time.  The thing that is going to keep me from really sinking my teeth in however… is it has no PVE/Exploration gameplay like Destiny.  If I could have Destiny set in this universe with character progression and collecting awesome weapons…  I would be completely hooked.  This will likely always be a game relegated to the “once or twice a week” column for me largely because I am just not that competitive.  Earning loot boxes is a cool reason to keep playing, but eventually there will come a point where I run out of things I care about that came come from lootboxes.

World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor

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This is the backburneryist of backburner games for me right now.  I’ve gotten in the habit of logging in daily and collecting my free money from the garrison… especially now that I put a massive dent in my finances and bought the Grand Expedition Yak.  That said every now and then I do play one of the characters that I am still in the process of leveling.  I have this grand idea that it would be fun to roll into Legion with a full list of level 100 characters, however I somehow doubt that is going to happen… much the way as it has never actually happened during any of the other expansions.  However that said the alt of choice right now is my druid that I am slowly pushing up.  In truth I am in a holding pattern until Legion and largely not paying a ton of attention to the game in the meantime.

Things Removed From List

Elder Scrolls Online

The truth is the MMO Funk hit and I never really returned to playing this regularly.  I still very much want to, but it is going to need another lag in some other game for me to really sink my teeth into it.  The game that exists today is amazing and they have done a really good job of keeping the content fresh.  The biggest problem is I really don’t have anyone to play with over there on the North American server cluster.  Now if I were playing on the EU side… I know lots of active and happy guilds.  I would absolutely play with the Whitestar folks were that really a viable option.

Warframe

While initially interesting to me, this game just did not sink its teeth into me the way it did the rest of the AggroChat crew.  There is just something that I don’t like about it… and I have tried to reason out what exactly it was.  I still have an account and still have some cool stuff on it, so I might at a future date return to it, but it never really replaced my love for Destiny.

The Division

While technically it was never actually on the sidebar… it probably should have been.  I was all about The Division at launch and that excitement did not even manage to carry me through to the level cap.  I am sitting around level 26 and I am just not sure what is holding me back.  Largely the content at that level doesn’t feel nearly as interesting or rewarding as it did at lower levels.  The packs of mobs out in the world seem to be scaled for group play, and when you down folks… they don’t seem to be dropping anything interesting.  In theory I could hold my nose and grind through it… but what would  I be grinding for?  I am so far behind the curve in gear and it doesn’t feel like the game really gives you a lot of great options to catch up.  There has been a sequence of changes that I really didn’t feel like had me in mind.  At first I liked that it felt like you could progress through the game on many different vectors and end up at the same loot goal.  However the crafting material nerf really hurt that feel for me.  This is something I might return to later, once they offer some Destiny like catch up mechanisms to give players a hand up.

Tricksy Shotgunner

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Surprise Banner

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This weekend as I have said before I will be going to visit friends in St Louis, or more literally Lake St Louis.  As a result we will be taking the weekend off from the podcast, and I will be taking the weekend completely off from my blog.  I am not sure if I will be making a post Monday or not…  because in theory if things work as intended we should be back Sunday night.  One of the things I was mildly relieved about was the fact that I would not be missing an Iron Banner.  There is a nasty bug going on right now that happens in a certain circumstance… which primarily involves the rocket launcher from the raid… if it happened to roll with the Clown Cartridge perk.  It combined with Cocoon meant that you could have limitless regenerating ammunition and be able to fire rockets long before the heavy ammunition showed up in crucible matches.  As a result they completely cancelled Trials of Osiris, and looked like they were going to cancel this months Iron Banner.  However yesterday unexpectedly Lord Saladin showed up at the tower, and just like that Iron Banner was on for the month of May.

I know without a doubt that there is no way I can manage to get three characters through to rank 5 this time around because I will be out of town for most of it.  However I decided to focus on my hunter that is my second highest light character.  The hope being that somewhere in this process I get some decent infusion fodder if nothing else.  This go around the weapons are the Fusion Rifle and Sidearm… neither of which I am actually interested in.  As far as armor we have Chest and Arms again, both of which are pieces that my Hunter has.  In theory I should probably be doing this on the Warlock because he could use both of them.  I did however manage to ALMOST hit Rank 3 last night on the Hunter and knocked out some of the harder achievements like “top score” for a match.  It was a lot of fun, and a whole bunch of that I chock up to the Lord of Wolves Shotgun.  I had not really fallen in love with this weapon, but I had moved it to the hunter at one point because it was 335 light and I needed something to get my light levels up.

What makes this weapon awesome is that it works unlike pretty much any other shotgun.  Firing it feels more like a pulse rifle, and at least now… no one seems to be expecting it.  So many times I managed to pick people off just outside of normal shotgun range with a single burst to the head.  While it doesn’t hit quite as hard as a traditional shotgun…  it still hits plenty hard and the perfect balance perk seems to help quite a bit with the otherwise nasty recoil.  This feels like one of those meta breaking weapons, that will probably only work well against untrained players.  There are plenty of ways to counter it… and lord knows last night several people figured it out.  However for guarding flags… this combined with Trip Mines seemed to be super effective.  Hunters are just brutal in any of the PVP modes, and that throwing knife… so much fun to use, so much cursing when it is used against you.  I am certain that I pissed off a handful of people during the night, because there was this one guy that seemed to make it his personal mission to seek me out and kill me…  not always effectively which probably only added to the frustration.  Its my hope that maybe I can push to Rank 5 tonight and then maybe try pushing the Warlock when I get back from my trip.

Goal Failing

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As stupid as it might sound… this is the thing that I have missed the most from Final Fantasy XIV.  The whole standing around and interacting while in the at the Free Company thing.  Unfortunately this is also something that doesn’t really happen that often.  It feels like with Heavensward there are not as many reason to keep returning to the Free Company house as there used to be.  Also the FC is going through that pre-patch doldrums with not that many people being on within a given night, unless that night is Tuesday.  I have been trying to clear my schedule so that I can participate in Tuesday night shenanigans and this week was no exception.  For whatever reason however we struggled quite a bit, and in part I think that was because we were way short of a standard 8 player group.  Towards the end we were down to five players… 1 tank, 2 healers, 2 dps which for most of the classic Extreme Primals was doable but considerably more difficult.  As a tank I had to start dealing with mechanics that I usually never see like weight of the world.  The other bummer was that through all of this struggle… we didn’t see any pony drops… and no real interesting weapons either.

As far as failing at my goal… it was my intention to get in every night and run at least one expert.  The problem being… nobody has been around and my desire to solo queue is minimal.  It is one of those hurdles that I need to push myself over, because I realize that it is not terribly likely that I will run into one of the “git gud” idiots.  Most of the community is pretty damned chill, but there is a small fraction that feels just as toxic as any other.  It was one of these people that halted another friends queue frenzy, and I guess I am afraid I will bump into one of those and have my happy reunion with this game halted.  If you can bring two players into a four player group… you can mitigate a lot of frustration and if nothing else kick the offending party.  However I wish I had a regular group of people to queue with for nothing more than a single expert, because god knows I need the currency to buy upgrades.

 

DAW2016: Square Enix

SquareEnix

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Developer Appreciation Week is here!  For the uninitiated the concept of Developer Appreciation week dates back to 2010 and was started by Couture Gaming the Blogger formerly known as Scarybooster.  The idea was simple, spend a week talking about all of the things you love about various game development companies and studios.  As a blogger we spend plenty of time pointing out what is wrong in the games we love, and talking about ways that they could be better.  That said it is important to understand that for most of us this critique comes from being a huge fan of the games and genres as a whole.  So during this week we point out the things that are going right and make a point of mentioning all the things we really appreciate out there.  If you too are a blogger please feel free to join in by posting your own Developer Appreciation Week ideas.

SquareEnix

I knew sooner or later I would end up needing to do Square Enix because at various times during my life they played a huge role in shaping how I looked at games.  Lets go back to a time and a place where the only gaming news I got was through Nintendo Power magazine.  In one of those issues I was first introduced to a game called Final Fantasy.  For ages I had been looking for the personification of Dungeons and Dragons in game form, and while the gold box games did a decent job of doing just that… there was always something missing.  Final Fantasy bridged the gap and gave me precisely that, along with a story line that made me care about all of the dungeon crawling.  I remember being so insanely excited when I went to a nearby Walmart and they had this game in stock.  The only negative was that within a short few days I would be heading to Boy Scout camp for an entire week.  While I normally loved camp, this was quite possibly the most miserable week of camp I have ever experienced.  All that I really wanted to be doing was playing Final Fantasy from the comfort of my bedroom… and instead I was making campfires, and hiking up sharp flint rock strewn paths.  When I finally got home, firing up that Nintendo and playing Final Fantasy was quite literally the best feeling ever.  Regardless of how exhausted I was from a week of camp, I still ended up pulling an all nighter and getting through that damned Marsh cave.

When Final Fantasy 2 was released… aka Final Fantasy IV for the rest of the world… it once again dominated my life for a period of time.  I was completely blown away by the graphics at the time, and also amazed at how much more complex the story line of that game was.  This was also the point at which I learned the hard lesson of save at every single save point, because of a bad mishap with the Magus Sisters.  The game also introduced the term “Spoony Bard” into my vocabulary and for that I will always be grateful.  This was also the first game that gave me characters I had no interest in playing…  I am looking at you Edward and your inability to do any real damage.  The game also gave my quite possibly my favorite goofy archetype of character…  the Dragoon, with its amazing but also sometimes frustrating jump attack.  I was completely hooked on the notion of having this huge cast of characters that I could switch between at will…  but then ultimately only ever seemed to play with the same party ever.  For the most part that party was Cecil, Rydia, Kain, Rosa, and Edge… with that last spot being highly variable as I went through the play session.  This is really something I do even today when I play for example a Bioware game.  In Dragon Age Inquisition, my party is pretty much permanently Cassandra, Dorian, Sera and my character.

It wasn’t until High School that Final Fantasy 3 was released…  or Final Fantasy VI for the rest of the world.  I remember it coming out around Christmas break and at first I rented it…  which was a truly dumb idea given that the Super Nintendo didn’t have memory cards.  The main reason for this was because the game itself was something stupid like $85 when it released, which was an awful lot of my limited resources at the time.  However after a few days of playing the game I was making a trek to the big city to try and find a copy.  After searching a dozen different stores I finally found a copy at Target, and much to my shock it was on sale for only $65.  I am not sure exactly sure what it is about Final Fantasy VI, but for whatever reason I think this game will always be my favorite.  I tend to love games that pull a bait and switch on me, when you think you are nearing the end of the game… only to realize that the world just got much larger and instead of being nearly done… I was just barely starting.   I also have a soft spot for a lot of the characters in this game, because it managed to make me feel things that video games had not really succeeded in doing up to this point.  Ashgar and I have had a conversation about this… and for me the game that did all of these things was Final Fantasy V.  However for me… that game was not available and didn’t even receive a fan translation until I was well into college.  The two games do a lot of the same things, I just happened to experience six first.

Over the years there has been a string of Final Fantasy titles always in my life, and several non-FF series games that I loved as well.  For example I love beyond love Vagrant Story, and I remember playing the hell out of it when it came out on the PSX.  I also spent more than my fair share of time playing Chrono Trigger, and the subsequent follow up games.  Then there are games that I wish would get a reboot like Parasite Eve that were so amazing for the time in which they came out.  Essentially there has always been some Square Enix game somewhere in my life, be it Bravely Default that I am slowly working my way through on my 3DS downstairs on my bedside table, or the Kingdom Hearts collection I have sitting beside my PS3 ready to start in earnest.  All of these are in fact great experiences, but the one I feel like I really need to talk about is the miraculous rebirth of Final Fantasy XIV.  This game was released in 2010 and was essentially universally despised.  I remember getting into the beta for it and finding it just largely uninteresting more than anything.  I didn’t hate it, I just didn’t really feel anything about it.  So I was more than happy to return to World of Warcraft, and forget that the game existed.

However in August of 2013 the game relaunched as A Realm Reborn, and I have to say I was shocked at just how much I liked the title.  We played for a handful of months until our group ran out of content that we could realistically complete.  Then July of 2014 I decided to fire the game up again, because I wanted to see how it had progressed in our absence.  Final Fantasy XIV was one of those games that our group left on good terms.  What I found waiting on me was this rich cache of content that laid untapped.  Over the next several months we had what could only be termed as a renaissance of MMO gaming all centered around this game.  I was happy to raid once again, and happy to be doing pretty much all of the tropes of a MMORPG.  What made all the difference was the loving way in which this game was being crafted.  I have to give huge shouts to the localization team and namely Koji Fox.  Final Fantasy XIV is so amazingly well written and is packed full of more feels than most games ever manage to muster.  There is content that will make you painfully belly laugh, and other times infuriate you for all of the right reasons.  Then there are moments that will make you cry… and there are certain cut scenes in this game that even the mere thought of will summon up the waterworks.

While I am currently on a break from the game after burning myself out again with the launch of Heavensward, I know sooner or later I will return and be happy to do so.  Heavensward was quite possibly the expansion I have looked forward to the most from any MMORPG that I have played, since maybe the launch of Trials of Atlantis in Dark Age of Camelot.  Unfortunately much like ToA…  I got my expectations up way too high, and the content drought that followed the launch ultimately ended up with me stopping playing.  However as a couple of patches have built up for me, I plan on returning soon…  probably after I get the upcoming Diablo 3 season out of my system.  I am happy to know that there is still a very thriving guild presence in this game waiting on me.  I have a feeling that sooner or later we will all return for yet another renaissance of MMO gaming and when it happens… it will be in huge part to just how great Final Fantasy XIV turned out.

Bunny Samurai Returns

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Half Undressed

I am back on the wagon as far as cutting out caffeine during the evening.  During my post PAX illness without really intending to, I quit drinking pop.  Any time I attempted to it hurt my already ungodly sore throat so I switched to mostly drinking water, juice or fake koolaid.  As a result my intake of Caffeine seriously plummeted, causing a few side effects.  Firstly my operating range… was greatly stunted, and by that I mean that I am able to stay awake until 10 pm max instead of my normal Midnight to 1 am sleep times.  Additionally I noticed that I actually slept better and fell asleep easier…  so after all of these years of thinking caffeine had little to no effect on me…  I am guessing I was completely wrong.  Monday night I was being lazy and ended up drinking Mountain Dew, instead of making something else to drink and when I finally tried to go to bed around 11 pm I found it significantly harder to actually get to sleep.  As a result last night I opted to drink mostly water, and once again returned to being able to fall asleep easily.  This however has some strange side effects…  like my body is still used to getting 4 to 6 hours of sleep a night, and for some reason when I go to bed at 9 pm I end up waking up again sometime around midnight.

So last night I ended up waking up around 11:30 pm and my body apparently thought I had slept a full night.  The television was blaring because it seems that I crashed hard and forgot to turn it off.  In my brain I am guessing that I equated the television to the alarm clock, and I started going through the routine of grabbing underwear and taking off my night clothes and heading for the bathroom to take a shower…. only to realize that it was not in fact 5:30 am part of the way through that process.  It is one of those moments when I was glad my wife was still completely conked out… because I am sure I looked like an idiot… half undressed, holding my underwear stumbling for the door.  The point at which I realized was when I went to turn off the alarm clock only for it to finally dawn on me that it was the television.  Now I am not saying I am giving up caffeine completely… because I just finished a tasty cup of coffee.  I am however trying really hard to not drink anything with caffeine once I get home from work, and I have absolutely cut energy drinks out of my life completely.  I am still very much going through  the phase where every time I pass a cooler in a store that is loaded with them…  I get that desire to purchase one.  The positive however is that for the most part I don’t “need” one, and other than yesterday after not sleeping terribly well the night before… I haven’t had any real moments during the day where I was fighting drowsiness.

New Machine Thing

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For the next few days I will likely be installing games on the new laptop, playing them once or twice and then moving on to installing another game.  This seems to be my tradition when it comes to getting a new machine, because ultimately I am wanting to see how much better everything seems to perform.  Last night the first game on the menu was Dragon Age Inquistion, which I finished installing Monday night.  It ran beautifully and using the Geforce Experience settings it picked reasonably high settings, or at least high enough to NOT have playdough hair.   After that I played some Fallout 4 and once again… it ran beautifully on reasonably high settings.  The thing I am noticing is that there seems not to be nearly the gap in performance between the gtx 960m and the gtx 960 as there has been in previous generations.  For the most part I am able to run things in the same sort of fashion I have come to expect on my desktop machine upstairs…  which honestly makes me even happier.  I was fully expecting the 960m to perform something akin to the 760/860 which had always been the case before… where a mobile card was roughly a full generation behind the desktop equivalent.  Maybe Nvidia realized that this felt shitty and was also deeply confusing to the customers?  The next game on tap will be to install the Witcher 3, which was another in the long list of games that my laptop simply would not play.  At some point I will settle down and actually begin to play some of these games… rather than just launch them to see how pretty they look.

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Towards the end of the night however I did manage to settle into a single game… that is at least until sleep claimed me.  Yesterday was the release of the 3.2 patch in Final Fantasy XIV and I have honestly been fairly scarce in the game since well before the launch of 3.1.  I always said at some point I would get drawn back in, and I guess last night in installing the client that started to happen.  I am not sure yet if I will stick around for a long period of time… or if this will simply be another one of my “content locust” passes where I gobble up all of the new stuff and move on to something else.  I do however want to see the new story content in 3.2 before someone online spoils any of the key plot points, which considering that is already happening to folks…  I need to move fast.  Last night I didn’t get much more accomplished than the first few steps of the continuation of the main story quest.  I did however see several other quests that I am guessing are the new Hildebrand and new dungeon starter, that I will at some point have to pick up.  The thing is… there hasn’t been a moment where I didn’t care about this game…  I just wanted to play other things instead.  I have a feeling that it will be up to the MSQ to determine if I really want to stick around after finishing the content.  It seems like they also made some significant changes to the game, that I will have to sort through and determine how they effect me.  One of my guildies last night told me to respec out of Strength because apparently Vitality is now literally the only stat that applies for tanking, so thankfully I had enough company marks to do that.  This makes me wonder just how deep the rabbit hole of changes actually goes.