Bribing Good Behavior

Better Community

ffxiv 2014-10-28 20-17-28-489 Yesterday I posted this picture and said that the person dancing with Sagacyte and I was a friend of his.  Turns out that apparently this was not the case.  The way she waved and immediately started dancing with us, made me think that she must have known him.   So yeah… complete and total stranger came over and started interacting and now she is another person on my friends list.  I guess I shouldn’t be shocked since this sort of thing happens all the time.  There is a community spirit that infuses Final Fantasy XIV, and I am still not entirely used to just how prevalent it is.  There are lots of quests that involve you walking into an area and a bunch of mobs spawn on top of you.  The mobs that actually belong to you are marked but you can help out with any of them.  It is a rare occasion that someone will move on after their mobs are dead and not help you kill yours.  There was this one tank the other night that I swear “tanked” five sets of these mobs as new people walked into the spawning area.

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-19-484 This sort of thing is absolutely commonplace now, but the strange thing is…  it wasn’t.  What is strange about Final Fantasy XIV is that my friends and I played this game seriously at launch for roughly three months.  Then we wandered off to do other things, and upon returning were shocked and amazed at how much the community had improved.  At launch it felt like every other MMO, with folks doing the same kind of selfish actions that are so common place in other games.  Running a random dungeon, likely meant that you would have one person complaining that you were pulling to slow, and another person complaining that the dps wasn’t somehow good enough…  even though there are no meters for that.  Basically the community had the same rampant asshatery that we’ve all experienced in “modern mmos”.  Upon returning however we found that this negative element was almost completely gone.  Sure you will encounter an abusive player every so often, but the community as a whole seems to have done a drastic turn around.

Bribing Good Behavior

GoldenMagitechArmor One thing that we noticed quickly that had been added to the game since we last played was the player commendation system.  What makes the system interesting is that at the end of every duty, each player gets a single commendation that they can award to another player from that group.  Now normally when a game has a system like this, you can queue exclusively with guild members or friends and cheat the system.  However in this case you cannot reward commendations to your guildies, but have to instead use it on a stranger.  The other half of this equation is that you are rewarded both your giving commendations, and greatly rewarded for receiving them.  Each week there is a challenge log entry for handing out commendations that gives the player a bit of experience and some gil.  As far as the receiving side they have set up a system of increasing rewards for 10, 50, 100, 300 and 500 player commendations.  The final reward is the golden colored Magitech armor that you see in the above screenshot… something that pretty much everyone I know universally wants.

What has happened as a result is that players are actively trying to win commendations while in dungeon runs.  As a whole they are far easier to work with, and more willing to stop and explain mechanics if you simply speak up and let them know you are new to a fight.  In fact I have seen entire raid groups come to a grinding halt just to explain the mechanics of a fight to a new player.  Often times another player will mentor the newer player through what they actually need to pay attention to on a given fight.  The only thing I have seen much frustration really is when a group wipes because a player didn’t understand the mechanics… and didn’t speak up about it at the beginning of the run.  This leads players to be more willing to speak up about things that confuse them, or things they are having issues with… which then get solved as a group.  Admittedly there is some content that is the equivalent of WoW’s LFR… but even then inside each individual team there is usually some camaraderie as the run goes on.

Rewarding Communication

ffxiv 2014-09-30 22-14-09-885 I have long been one of those individuals who have stated that the addition of the dungeon finder to World of Warcraft made the game a significantly worse place.  Sure it made getting groups easier, but it changed the way we ran dungeons permanently.  The “push a button, get a group” nature of the tool had a ton of unforeseen consequences, the worst of which is it dehumanized your interaction with other players.  Instead of people that you had to communicate with in order to get a group in the first place…  they became roles that enabled you to get your loot Piñata at the end and nothing more.  The first thing to go with the dungeon finder was discussion in dungeons other than screaming at other players for not living up to some set of standards.  Folks stopped talking while running dungeons, and most players just kept their head down and tried to make it through the dungeon all the while trying not to be called in the carpet for being “bad”.  It was during this era that I stopped running with strangers, because every time the experience was just so damned maddening.

ffxiv 2014-09-30 22-15-09-573 With Final Fantasy, I restarted the game a few weeks ahead of the bulk of my friends…  meaning my only option was to do random dungeons or either do no dungeons at all.  The first thing I noticed when I set foot into a dungeon was that players greeted each other, and once that happened the communication started flowing again.  Players seemed more willing to talk about what was going on with fights, what they needed help with… and even things completely unrelated to the current dungeon run.  Granted all of this might be some elaborate act in an attempt to earn player commendations…  and being the friendliest in the group usually earns you at least one…  but whatever the cause it is a drastic improvement over the standard MMO environment.  I think we have a case of “fake it until you make it” going on here, where players might start out faking a friendly attitude, but over time of doing this over and over… something changes inside you.  I find myself not getting upset at the mistakes of other players, and not dwelling on what went wrong… but focusing more on what needs to happen for things to go right.

Positive Leadership

I am not sure if I can account all of the positive changes simply to the player commendation system.  I feel like the more aggressive players that make up the early MMO rush have moved on from the  game, leaving behind only players that are really dedicated to the Final Fantasy franchise for one reason or another.  Additionally the way that the developers of this game interact with the fans is just completely different.  I’ve talked about this before, especially in relation to the way the game developers at Blizzcon interact with their fans.  It often times feels like they are living out some rockstar fantasy up on stage, and there is always a tinge of condescension when they answer fans.  Watching Fan Festival on the other hand… was like watching one big fan talking to a bunch of other big fans.  One of my friends commented that Yoshi-P seems to treat us more like investors in his vision, than customers.  Another friend chimed in and said that it was almost like he was this super benevolent guild leader.  In any case the difference in interaction shows, and trickles down to the player base as well.

So I think all of these little things add up to an atmosphere that rewards the player for being helpful and showing community spirit.  So much in this game cannot be accomplished without other players, and the constant fiddling and tweaking with systems always seems to air on the side of supporting collaborative play rather than competition for resources.  Granted Final Fantasy XI and XIV 1.0 had really interesting communities, and to some extent the XIV 2.0 and beyond community is standing on their shoulders.  Even in the midst of all the rogue zergy nature going on with the release of a new class…  players are still far more polite about everything than they were at launch.  At this point I don’t care if they essentially have bribed us into being nice passive team players, the end result adds up to a very positive player experience.  It had been a really long time since I had felt a sense of pride in a game community, and I am damned proud to be a Final Fantasy XIV player and even prouder to be a member of the ever amazing Cactuar server community.  For years Azeroth was my home base as I wandered out to explore other games, but I think at this point that new title belongs to Eorzea.  There is so much awesome stuff coming down the pipe, and I cannot wait to experience it all.

#FFXIV #FinalFantasy

We Survived Math Camp

British Vittles

britsnacks

I had said earlier in the week that the math conference I was working at not only represented teachers from almost every state, but also represented a handful of countries.  Among those were a couple of Brits, one of which decided to bring a bunch of items for us to try.  On the final day he set out a bunch of things that had not been consumed on a table for anyone to grab.  I nabbed a box of Jaffa Cakes initially, since I had heard about them from various people but never tried them.  This box represents the various things that were not taken, and since we were picking up the place to make it presentable they all came home with us.  I’ve had a Cadbury bar before, so I have not broken into it yet, but I have managed to try both “cakes” and “biscuits”.

I am not sure what I was expecting when it came to Jaffa Cakes, but the reality was absolutely nothing like I was expecting.  To put it into terms for the American palette when we think “sponge cake” we tend to think a Twinkie or one of the ubiquitous yellow cakes you buy to make strawberry shortcake.  This version of sponge cake tastes more like a stale vanilla wafer that has been sitting out on a table for a week and soaking up moisture.  The orange filling tasted a bit like a melted gummy bear, and the chocolate was more a kin to bakers chocolate.  The end result was not unpleasant but just not what I had been expecting.  I actually kinda like them, but I think that might be the fact that I am consuming something that I cannot otherwise get, so there is a bit of a forbidden fruit aspect to them.

On the other hand the Hobnobs or simply “biscuits” are rather good.  Like it doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to wonder why they are popular.  It is like a cross between an oatmeal cookie and a saltine cracker.  More so almost like really good granola made into a cookie form.  While I doubt I would go out of my way to eat a Jaffa Cake, I would totally be down with biscuits in the future.  All of this time I honestly thought that British biscuits were just American cookies, but nope it is a completely different animal.  We have things here called digestive biscuits, so I am honestly wondering if they are related to these kinds of biscuits.  Now the cool thing is that if I ever get a hankering for either of these items… there is a British foods import shop in town that stocks all sorts of stuff like this.  I likely would not have gone out of my way to try these things, but I am happy that I now know what they taste like.

We Survived Math Camp

I have to say it feels good to be able to say that we survived math camp.  I feel like we need a t-shirt or something to commemorate the event.  I honestly have a massive respect for the individuals who have hosted the event in the other locations, because the amount of prep work and little details that went into this undertaking was a bit staggering.  On top of that the fact that my wife and I lived in a sort of split household during the course of the events, meant that neither of us slept really well.  The first thing we did upon getting home yesterday was taking a nap.  I was surprised at just how many people had arranged for trips to the airport of their own volition rather than needing to run multiple car loads this time around.  I ran a single load on Saturday evening, and then another yesterday.  I have one more to take this morning, but for the most part there was not the mass number of loads that we had as folks arrived.

While I feel like I really had little to do with it, it feels nice to see people talking about how much they enjoyed their time in our city.  It is weird how after spending all this time prepping…  I take comments about the school system with personal pride.  I found myself using the royal we throughout the course of the week, like I was actually part of it or something.  Granted I have done a lot of work for the school system over the years as my wife needed this or that, but I never really felt connected to it other than “that’s the place my wife works”.  After essentially living for a week out of the building, and supporting those inhabiting it… I feel a deep connection to it all.

In other news… I tried Chicken and Waffles yet again… and yet again I don’t really see why the meal is heralded as so awesome.  After the conference split up about 11 am all of the folks what did not need to immediately rush to the airport went out to eat.  There I ordered chicken and waffles, since it was a place I had never eaten before.  I’ve tried it three or four times now… and every time it is a rather bland chicken breast or chicken strips over a nice big thick waffle… with all of it drenched in syrup.  It is charming but nothing earth shattering and overall I find the meal rather bland.  I just feel like I am somehow missing some cultural touchstone.  Like maybe I am supposed to be enthralled by the absurdity of putting chicken and waffles together.  But considering growing up I made grilled cheese sandwiches with waffles…  it doesn’t seem that odd to me.

Ding 40

ffxiv 2014-07-27 22-23-10-700 When we finally got settled in for the night, I popped back into Final Fantasy XIV to work on my dragoon some more.  Since the last time I played the game actively, it has made a number of really nice quality of life improvements.  Namely the addition of the Duty Roulette system that allows you to get assigned to a random dungeon out of a large stack of potentials.  The best part about this is that the experience gain inside the dungeon seems to scale to your level.  That means you could get assigned to a level 15 like Halatali and still get the same experience you would running a much higher level dungeon like Cutters Cry.  For the purpose of leveling this means you have extremely rapid queues, and while the gear that drops inside may not be usable, the experience gain stays consistent.

ffxiv 2014-07-27 21-18-19-766 Another nifty thing that I learned last night is that apparently while we were gone, they added in some perks for having an account authenticator.  In addition to having the three discounted teleport locations, you can now set a single free location if you have you account set up with the authenticator.  Since my grand company of choice is the Flames, that made it an absolute no brainer for me to use Uldah as my freebie. This now allows me to move Coerthas to one of the discounted locations, since I no longer need it for Uldah.  For better or worse Coerthas seems to be the best place for running FATEs, and I will likely be there until at least level 46 when Mor Dhona really starts in proper.  In any case alternating between Duty Roulette and FATEs seems to be a rather enjoyable way to level, and if I get much play time today I will probably be able to push through to 45.

We have a number of errands to run today, and another math camp person to run to the airport.  However once I get back from that my plan is to work on the level 40 Dragoon quest.  Since the 35 quest so simplistic, I am expecting this one to be a major undertaking.  The warrior quest chain had some definite gimme quests, but others that took all the skills I had learned to that point to be able to push through them.  The cool thing is that it seems like we are starting to get a bit more activity in the game.  A number of friends were talking about firing it back up last night, so it will be interesting to see how active it gets in the coming days.  Cactuar is still an extremely populated server, as all weekend long it was barred from new character creation.  However as of this morning it was open again.  Hopefully the couple of new people can get in and create a character today.

#FFXIV

Podcast that Wasn’t

The Final Day

I am up bright and early for a Sunday morning, because today is the final day of the Math conference.  On the arrival day I had to ferry trips back and forth between the airport, and today I am having to do the same thing.  The conference only actually runs for two hours, but I imagine the school itself will be open a bit longer as folks wait around for their rides.  My hope is that everyone checks out of the hotels before heading to the conference, so I don’t actually need to make any trips between those.  That was the piece that actually slowed things down the first time was dropping folks off at the two different hotels.

At this point I am ready for it to be over, so that our lives can return to normal.  I fully appreciate the gravity of what this event is for the folks who are attending it, but each night I have had to go home and sequester myself.  I am not good at dealing with an overabundance of human beings, especially not ones needing something from me.  There are a lot of things I feel bad about, but one of the big ones is that I spent most of the conference hiding out in my wife’s cube in the collaboration room.  I watched twitter, and came out of my hiding place whenever someone needed something.  However it served as a bit of a safe space where I didn’t have to try and make small talk or “act normal”.

Podcast that Wasn’t

Well it finally happened, a weekend when all of the members of AggroChat were busy at the same time.  Because it didn’t really feel right to not do anything… I recorded a quick blurb that I am calling Episode 15.314 in honor of the fact that my entire week has been consumed by playing a supporting role in the math conference.  This week I simply did not have the time to plan for a full replacement cast for the podcast.  I could have maybe pulled something together last minute, but I was honestly too drained to carry the cast forward.  At least we made it to fifteen episodes before needing a week off.  Next week hopefully we all will return to normal and be ready to be entertaining.

The funny thing is… the moment I recorded and posted this…  Kodra showed up.  So in theory we could have maybe limped along last night with Me, Kodra and Tam.  But I figured it was better just to take the week off if I thought I was not going to be my normal charming self.  Like I said above… I have had to do so much glad handing this week, that my social normality buffer is just gone.  I am not sure if I could carry on an intensely direct conversation with two other individuals… even if said individuals are really close and long term friends.  The blurb I recorded hopefully is charming enough, and talks a little bit about what we all have been doing.

Svara Still Awesome

ffxiv 2014-07-26 20-01-18-829 Coerthas is still an amazing place to run FATEs in, and I spent most of my evening running around out here hopping from event to event.  The king of all FATEs will always be Svara, which for the undoctrinated is a series of three connected FATEs that tell the story of the Isgardian fight against the giant dragon Svara.  First off it is completely epic to follow the path of this dragon and fend off the Isgardians from all of her children, then finally down the big beast at the end of the sequence.  It is also epic the amount of experience you get, considering if you hit gold participation in all three fates it is worth around 40,000 xp which is a really nice chunk all at once for about 15 minutes of work.  What makes Coerthas extremely awesome as a zone is that there are a bunch of this heavy xp fates and you can pretty much spend the entire night running between them all soaking up as much xp as you can.  I figure I will likely stay here until I hit 40 before moving on to someplace else.

ffxiv 2014-07-26 19-09-48-884 I am already enjoying playing the dragoon so much more than playing the bard.  Don’t get me wrong, the bard is enjoyable… but it is also the class that everyone seems to be playing.  Every time I solo queued for a duty roulette I would end up in a dungeon with a bard as the second dps.  Playing melee is just much more my style, and the Dragoon delivers some seriously potent direct damage.  Its weakness however has always been the fact that it has little to no area of effect damage.  In fact if I remember correctly it has a single attack, that I do not even have yet.  However they seem to have fixed some of the problems that existed in early release with FATE contribution.  Back then spamming any AOE was the key to getting high contribution.  However it seems like you can focus down a few spawns and still get the same scores that you would if you were just AOEing everything around you.  My goal today after all of the madness is over with shuttling people back to the airport is to do some more duty roulette.

#FFXIV #AggroChat

Wildstar Woes

Crack Dealer

So my reputation as a gaming crack dealer is intact, as I spent part of yesterday teaching another gamer to play Magic: The Gathering.  I guess it is fitting that we taught him at a Math Conference, considering it was invented by a mathematician.  In my defense this time, the attendee asked for someone to tutor him in the ways of planeswalking, and considering I was not actually attending sessions but instead just waiting around to be needed, I volunteered.  We met yesterday morning at 9:30 in the third floor commons area and I brought my patented “box o’ decks”.  @Jay2thaVee was a complete rookie to the concepts of magic and had not purchased any decks.  Thankfully I had left a few of the various $14 starters I have picked up in their original states, as those are pretty much the easiest way to learn.

Unfortunately I take “devotion to black” seriously, and every single deck in my box save for one had black somehow mixed into it.  He played a white/black nyx prebuilt, and I was playing a black/blue theros prebuilt.  Basically for the first game I played with my hand on the table, so he could see what exactly I was doing and when I was doing it.  Additionally every so often when he seemed to lack a play I would nudge him a little bit to explain how the cards in his hand might be useful.  By the time we got around to the second match he was up and running and ready to kick ass… and in fact he did just that.  The second match was excellent in that it showed just how quickly fate can change with the play of the right cards.  We both had cards in play that helped us soak back up some health in each upkeep so for a long time we were in a bit of a stalemate as I could only do as little more damage than he could heal up each round.

Thanks to an artifact that gave all of my creatures lifelink I was able to soak up quite a bit of health during this long drawn out stalemate.  At this point I was starting to get a creature advantage on him as well as a health advantage.  Then with a single play he rocked my world.  Granted I had to explain how good the card he held in his hand was, and why he should play it… but when he plunked down Banishing Light.  Now I must have been extremely tired or something, but I completely misread the card yesterday when we were playing.  It says banish “target” and for some reason I read that as “all” non-land permanents.  So I played it as though it was a complete board wipe, which made the game more interesting.  He began to make progress on chipping down my extremely high health pool which was like 32 or something similar at that point.

Then I get the big guns onto the board with my Abhorrent Overlord.  So I once again start whittling down his health at the same time as he chips away mine.  I do 6 health, he regens 2, and so on until we get to a point where he has 11 health and a serious creature advantage on me, and I have my single big guy as he eats everything else I can get on the board and 9 health.  He manages to do 10 damage to me in one turn and it is pretty much over.  However of all the ways to learn magic this is one of the better matches I have played.  It shows just how tentative a lead can be at any point in the game.  When we misplayed the banish card, it looked like the game was over… but had i not had several rounds of getting crap to play I could have maybe pushed back to get the victory.  In any case I think he is hooked and going to buy a couple of decks for he and his son to play together.  Sounds like awesome times.

Wildstar Woes

WildStar64 2014-07-26 08-21-14-508 Last night I got a rather frank question from a friend of mine regarding Wildstar.  Some time ago another friend had handed him one of the free trial codes that we got for preordering.  He just now got around to trying it a month and a half after launch.  While he enjoyed the game, it wasn’t like the most enjoyable thing he had ever played.  His question was how many of the Stalwart crew were still playing, and if he should pick it up.  He followed us into Elder Scrolls Online, and while he loves that game, he finds it extremely solemn to be playing by himself all the time.  The big thing is that he didn’t want to jump into Wildstar and it to be the same experience for him.  His question was, should he buy the game.  Now I could have put the hard sell on him and lead him down a path that would have ultimately lead to disappointment…  but I was honest with him.

For the most part in the circle of friends that he is part of… Wildstar has come and gone.  There are a few of us who log in periodically but this game had probably the briefest of “glory days” of any title we have played to date.  I only made it to 26 before slowing down and to the best of my knowledge none of us actually made it to the level cap.  I enjoyed aspects of the game, namely the dungeons…  but for whatever reason as much as I should love this game… the drive to play it was just missing.  I am still piddling around, this time on the Exiles side on Evindra but running into the same lack of drive to log in.  Everything about this game should be something that I really enjoy, and you could not ask for a better community team or company supporting it.  But when I ask myself what I want to play in a given night, this game never seems to come up on its own.  To be honest most of the time I was leveling my Chua Engineer it was the boom boxes that kept me logging in every night more than anything else.

So while I think there is a great game here, I had to be honest with him that he probably should give it a pass if he is only interested in playing with the Stalwart/Masks crew.  I think one of the things that really hurt this title was the fact that we simply rolled on the wrong faction for the wrong server.  Dominion side on Evindra is dead… like when I got to Whitevale I sat around for two hours waiting for someone else to wander by so I could take out one of the world mini-bosses and not so much as another adventurer came by at any point during that time.  To be truthful it feels like wandering around Illium you might see a dozen other players at any given point, whereas on the Exiles side you are constantly bumping into people.  The problem is with only 6 slots per server, it really negates the concept of playing both factions.  Within a few days all of the people who were primarily Exile, had deleted their Dominion alts to free up space for more Exiles.

So once again we are stuck at the problem of having all of my time devoted into what has essentially become a non-starter character.  So when confronted with the idea of re-rolling…  I just can’t be bothered to put much effort towards it.  Ultimately if my immediate circle of friends is not playing…  then what exactly am I rushing around to get leveled to be able to do?  I am sure I could roll with any number of the guilds on the exiles side, but I just am not sure if I have the social oomph left in me to start from scratch without being able to rely on the folks I hang out nightly with on voice chat.  I feel like Wildstar might have run its course through the internet as well.  I am seeing a lot of folks who claimed diehard loyalty to the game “taking a break”, which we all know is the beginning salvo in the “quitting the game” conversation.  I am not ready to cancel my subscription yet, but I am just struggling to find reason to log in.

Dragooning It Up

ffxiv 2014-07-26 08-06-32-335 Lately I have been back playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV.  I feel like I parted with that game on really good terms and it has always been extremely charming.  When not working on hunts I have been working on leveling the dragoon.  If we can convince a repeat of the other night to happen, when we all logged in to run a dungeon, that place me playing a DPS character.  Ashgar unfortunately only has two tanks to 50, and I have a Warrior and a Bard.  That said I have never really felt deeply connected with the bard.  It does amazing damage and is super useful, and mostly was easy to level through Fates.  The class I would far rather play dps wise is the Dragoon, so lately I have been taking advantage of the Duty Roulette option and running some random dungeons.  I have to say the groups I am getting randomly are actually extremely friendly and communicative.  I feel like maybe this game has crossed the threshold of shedding all of the folks who were caustic and toxic… and now really has devoted fans left.

I guess the real challenge will be what this game feels like trying to tank it with random groups.  At some point I will work up the nerve and tank a random as my Gladiator seeing as I would really love to get to Paladin conversion levels.  There is still a lot to like in this game, and it is the only Asian inspired title that has managed to create a male character I actually enjoy playing.  There are proper beards here, and you have options other than “pretty boy” as far as facial features go.  We will see how long it take for me to get this game out of my system this time, but so far I am really enjoying myself.  I feel like at some point I need to dig up a list of what all new content is available, as there have been three rather large patches since I last played the game regularly.  FFXIV is pretty horrible about advertising what is new from the game interface itself, so I think there are probably some other ways to level that I am just missing.

#MagicTheGathering #FFXIV #Wildstar

The Search for Internet

Gopher Belghast

Yesterday was the first official day of the conference and it went far more smoothly than we could have hoped for.  Everyone seems so full of excitement and just brimming with ideas that when put together with the other teachers seem to cause random outbursts of inspiration.  When you see the number 180 written out it doesn’t seem like that many people, but when you are confronted with that many at one time…  it seems like a rather large group indeed.  The conference has folks from around the country and many from outside of it.  There is a pretty huge contingency from our neighbor to the north, and a few from across the pond as well.  I’ve heard there is an Irish teacher here, but I have not met her.  While watching the twitter hashtag during the day everyone seems to be getting so much from the process.

My morning was extremely busy, as I played gopher for any teacher that had forgotten something.  I did a lot of runs to the store to pick up this or that and deliver it to their class room.  From a tech support standpoint everything seemed to go smoothly, as the morning sessions tended to be put on by folks who are already seasoned presenters.  After lunch they had the keynote session and twitter blew up after that, so I am guessing the guy was extremely dynamic.  In the afternoon I finally sprang into action with a few last minute games of “trace the cable” to figure out what exactly had gotten unplugged in the shuffle.  A number of the issues were ones we simply could not resolve due to the fact that my wife’s school employs a rather draconic web filtering system.

The Search for Internet

I admit much like a student I spent a good chunk of my time yesterday in search for a way to circumvent the web filtering system.  It seemed like every other site I attempted to hit was either blocked for partially malfunctioning because some content delivery network they use as actually the thing being blocked.  You find out just how many things you read are hosted off things like Imgur when you encounter a web filtering system like this.  A few weeks back we lost our router, and I am still in the RMA process with Asus to get a replacement, but one of the nice features of the Nighthawk is that it comes with a really cool OpenVPN client.  So a good chunk of my morning was spent trying to configure this.

For starters I could not remote into my machine at the house, as apparently RDP was blocked by the draconic filters.  So I did one of the most truly contorted things to gain access to it.  Apparently my workplaces web based SSL vpn worked just fine, so I remoted into work… and then turned around and remoted into my machine at the house.  I was pretty sure I was moments away from ripping a hole in the internet.  There I configured the client the router, and when it came to downloading the OpenVPN client… I had to do that on my home machine and gmail it to myself, since the OpenVPN website was blocked as well.  Finally when I got everything installed I fired it up… and for a moment I thought it might be going to work… but the packets kept timing out.

So not only did they have a web filter in place but they also had a packet inspection firewall in place that was knocking down the packets coming in that it recognized as OpenVPN.  In utter futility I flailed around a bit trying a different combination of port, maybe hoping I could disguise the traffic as something common.  The problem is since I am on Cox internet, all of the common and benign ports are being blocked on my end since they don’t want you hosting a web, ftp, or mail server at your house.  So after trying a dozen or so ports and going through the contorted process of transferring the configuration over gmail just to make sure it was working…  I gave up and resigned myself to playing some Bejeweled 3.  This is how you can tell I am really bored…  I play Bejeweled because at this point I can play it on auto pilot.

Towel Day

After giving up for a bit and playing a few rounds of bejeweled I had another idea.  For some time I have known exactly how to root my Samsung Galaxy S5, but didn’t do it for one reason or another.  Like I felt like that was just a mess I didn’t want to deal with, and any of the potential ramifications of doing it.  I want to be able to fiddle with my device freely, but at the same time I have no interest in doing a lot of the reasons why you root an android in the first place.  Essentially I wanted to hold off doing it until I had a solid reason to.  The complete and total lack of decent internet at the school was apparently that reason.  The Samsung S5 has a built in Wifi hotspot but in their infinite wisdom AT&T seems to have installed a piece of software the blocks it anytime it tries to start.  You have to be on one of the metered plans to use it, and since we are on the old grandfathered unlimited plan…  this means we cannot.

The thing is I see the reasoning for blocking it.  They don’t want someone using their phone as their ONLY internet provider and doing all sorts of random stuff like bittorrent over their wireless network.  For me however I want to be able to use is as a backup network when I cannot for some reason connect to one.  I feel like if I am paying for this device, I should be able to use its internet connection in any way I see fit within reason.  The rest of the world can do this without problem, and carriers outside of the United States don’t throw up these artificial restrictions.  So emboldened by my frustrations… I installed the Towel root on my phone, and turned to the dark side.

It still took me a little bit of doing, but right now I have my phone connected to my laptop via bluetooth and PDAnet and the connection is amazing.  I figured all of this out pretty late in the day but I was able to get out and play some FFXIV with little to no lag.  I just have to figure out how to also connect it to my chromebook, and then I will have a way to use it when I do not have access to WiFi.  Even cooler this also means I should able to finally use a Dualshock 3 controller with my android to play some emulator games!  Everything that I have heard tells me that the android is a truly amazing emulator system, but in order to get it working well you need root access.  Now that I have finally crossed that threshold I figure this is dawning a new age of random crap I use my phone for.

Hunting Malboros

The Night Before

This mornings post is going to be a little scant on visuals so I am just going to leave you with this amazing cinematic trailer that Riot released yesterday called A New Dawn.  You should totally watch it and marvel at just how awesome Graves is.  If you watch the making up they talk about the whole video having a meme running through it “Graves is not impressed”.   Onwards to the real post.  This morning is the beginning of the Mathematics conference, and throughout the day today I will be playing chauffer to a group of folks who need ferried from the airport to the hotel.  As a result we spent some time last night cleaning out my wife’s Pontiac Torrent since it has the most comfortable seating for a large number of adults.  The thing that makes that vehicle awesome is that it has a sliding bench seat so you can push it back for extra leg room but still have a significant amount of cargo space.

coffeeandmonster I went comatose around 10:30 last night, but apparently my wife is having schoolgirl jitters.  As a denizen of twitter as well…  I guess I would probably be jittery about meeting a bunch of folks all at once from the twitterverse.  Granted this is the third running of this conference, but it has never been anywhere near as large as it is this year.  We have apparently completely sold out two hotels and they are booking in a third overflow hotel now.  To give me fortitude to get through a day of meeting all of these people I don’t know but will be expected to be cordial with…  I am leaning on both coffee and a monster ultra.  Mostly I just wanted to show off this awesome WW2 Dalek poster coffee mug we found the other day.  My wife actually spotted the Doctor Who mugs first, and there were a bunch of designs to choose from… but I have always been partial to the WW2 era propaganda poster from Victory of the Daleks.

So while I conked out completely around 10:30 my wife was apparently up until 1 am.  Then when I woke up this morning at 5 to get around and showered, she was awake again and responding to tweets.  I think its adorable that she can be all hyped up on nerves and I will likely be the same way when January rolls around and I go to Pax South.  I am not sure if  have mentioned that on my blog or not yet, but as of right now I have tickets for all three days to Pax South.  I may or may not be attending Sunday, but I am definitely going to try and be there for Friday and Saturday.  I figure the last day of a con is likely the “anything you missed” day and all the major stuff will likely occur on Friday and Saturday.  I might be completely wrong, but that would at least give me Sunday to drive home.  If you are also going to Pax South give me a shout, because I would love to arrange some sort of a twitter/blogosphere/whatever meetup.

Attack on Deathshead

WolfNewOrder_x64 2014-07-22 18-59-17-748 I made it a bit further in my play through of Wolfenstein New Order but I am still struggling with crash to desktop issues.  I had a spot in the moon base that was doing it, and now am having a spot in Deathshead compound that is kicking me out.  Last night I gave it a few attempts but just didn’t have the patience.  I think next time I try it I might shut down EVERYTHING, including DXtory that I generally have running so I can take screenshots.  I know some games get a little pissy about overlays, or it might simply be that I need to disable the steam overlay.  In any case this game is really amazing and it gives me totally unrelated hope.  This past weekend at Quakecon, ID Software gave an exclusive peak at Doom 4 that has apparently just be renamed Doom and is somewhat of a reboot.  If Machine Games can give us a game as awesome as Wolfenstein… I have high hopes for what Doom has in store for us.

As my friend Kodra has said before, Wolfenstein is very much exactly what games felt and sounded like in the 90s.  Everything was industrial metal…  and we liked it.  I am perfectly fine with this throwback syndrome, because the modern FPS is nowhere near as much fun as the first generation of them used to be.  We have come so far in trying to make everything more and more realistic, and I think in that struggle we lost sight on what actually made the games fun.  If Wolfenstein and the reboot of Doom herald in an era of interesting level design with secrets and multiple paths to the objective… then hell yes I want to return to the 90s.  Right now my goal is to make it through Wolf one way or another by this weekend, so we can potentially talk about the ending on the podcast.  We will of course warn people ahead of time before the spoilers start flying.

Hunting Malboros

ffxiv 2014-07-22 20-18-24-344

This is one of those moments when I really wish Hitbox.tv knew what “today” and “tomorrow” actually meant.  For the last several days they have said that they would have the export to youtube functionality back up and running today or tomorrow.  I realize they are a small company and this is a beta product, but at this point it is seriously making me consider going back to Twitch.  I don’t want to, but I also like having the ability to embed video recorded from the night before in my mornings blog post.  Complaining aside…  one of the things that I have been enjoying since coming back to FFXIV is the hunt system.  Each day you can go to a hunt board in your grand company offices and grab a new set of wanted posters.  They call them bills…  but “handbill” hasn’t really been used popularly in the United States in decades.

I love that the various wanted posters just list a bounty and a basic location for where the mob will spawn.  In general I can remember where in each zone that type of mob already exists, and usually the type you need is intermingled within the pack.  This system would totally be a quick enjoyable jaunt out into the world if it were not for the two FATE based encounters each day.  Here you are either super lucky or have to wait around for hours.  Last night I streamed a fairly boring stream, because it was me killing Malboros and Dark Sylphs while waiting on an apparently rare fate to spawn.  The positive is this is causing me to actually level my chocobo.  As of last night I dinged level 3 on it and made a goodly dent into 4.

The big thing I have noticing is it is super horrible about standing in stuff.  Like I had to do all sorts of crazy to try and position the Malboros in such a way as to not let the Daedalus (my chocobo) get breathed upon.  Hint… I am pretty horrible at this and probably went through a dozen gysahl greens during the course of the night resummoning him.  I find this game extremely relaxing compared to the spastic pace of Wildstar.  I have lots of love for that game, but just watching the world absolutely wears me out.  Coming back to FFXIV and its more sedate pace felt like crawling into a warm bed.  Granted the combat system is still interesting in that I am constantly having to move out of stuff while keeping up my combos, but it is far less button mashy since everything has a sizeable cool down.  In any case I am enjoying myself, and at some point I am going to get brave enough to do Duty Roulette for the big prizes.

#WolfensteinNewOrder #FFXIV

Follow the Shiny Bauble

Too Many Things

So for whatever reason this weekend has conspired to have a bajillion competing things happening at once it seems.  Firstly this weekend is like the prep weekend for the conference that I will be taking off from work next week to help my wife with.  Three years ago her and several of her twitter buddies decided to make a conference appear out of thin air, and this year it is being hosted here in the Tulsa metro.  As a result I am being a dutiful husband and helping out however I can.  That means today I will be moving things and testing out the various technology in each of the classrooms that will eventually host random speakers.

Right now my only fear is that the systems are designed to be hooked up to a VGA out and 3.5 mm jack.  Some of the newer laptops only actually have HDMI out…  especially the Mac laptops.  So here is hoping those people bring their own hookups because otherwise we might be pantomiming some of the power point presentations.  Needless to say my entire day today will be spent running around like a madman trying to get things set up as much as we can.  The problem is there are lots of other things going on this weekend.  Honestly I think game companies do this shit on purpose…  where they should time their events to be on opposite weekends as a thank you to the fans.

Destiny Beta

Destiny Beta_20140719081821 This weekend is the return of Destiny to my PS4.  I wish I could embed some video from my play sessions to date, but alas the Hitbox export to Youtube is still on the fritz and I have not figured out how to embed videos directly.  But if you are so inclined you can check out the first and second videos.  At some point this weekend I want to record some more footage in the hopes that someday I can upload it somewhere meaningful.  The second video is especially hilarious because I did not realize that it was picking up teamspeak while I recorded as well as my PS4 chat.  However once again it seems like the PS4 only picks up MY side of the conversation even though I am picking it up from an external capture card.  I really wish I knew a way to hang out on teamspeak, but have my voice from teamspeak get transferred as mic input to PS4 party chat.  I have some ideas but it involves a massive rube goldbergian effort.

Destiny Beta_20140719082406 I have to say I still very much love this game, and compared to the Alpha weekend… it seems extremely polished now.  A lot of the issues with voice acting are gone and the end product feels really good.  Similarly I seem to get items that are way over my level a lot less, so I am actually able to use and equip the various ingrams I find.  Ingrams for un-initiative are basically like unidentified loot from Diablo or similar games.  You get them while out in the field and you have to take them back to town… or in this case Tower to have a scribe identify them for you.  Most of the time the items you get are way better than anything you have access at that level, and they often have the side effect of “leveling up”.  When an item reaches a certain point they unlock special abilities that you can purchase on the item.  I have a pair of gloves for example that greatly increases the striking power of my grenades.

Destiny Beta_20140719082201 Everything about this game is awesome if you really want to get down to it.  You take a really good shooter, probably one of the best I have played in years and wrap it in a warm blanket of MMO style progression… and you have a game that is right in my wheelhouse.  My only question is just how many of the traditional Call of Duty/Battlefield crowd will be jumping ship.  I really don’t feel like the game is for that demographic, but instead for the players that absolutely love Borderlands 2.  While the loot doesn’t drop quite as frequently as it does in BL2, all of the leveling options feel really good.  The one thing I wished from BL2 was that I would have a persistent character that existed on the server, instead of one that existed in my local save game, with all of the things that come along with that.  Destiny gives me that, and I really think we are looking at the new model for MMO gaming.  Player Interaction light, action oriented co-operative and competitive environments.  That is not to say that grouping is not key in Destiny, but it is on a scale that is much more casual friendly in that you only need two other people to really tackle the most intense of situations.

Destiny Beta_20140719081907 Once again I am playing a Titan, because it fits my personality.  I want to be able to rush in, gun things down and throw them the hell back with a shockwave.  I don’t remember the name of the attack but you get it around level 5 or 6 and it is executed by pressing left and right shoulder buttons at the same time.  There are few more satisfying things in a game than jumping up in the air and watching everything fly away from you in brilliant slow motion ragdoll physics.  This class makes me feel powerful and mighty, and about as subtle as a nuke.  All of which fit me perfectly in how I like to play.  Kodra was playing through Wolfenstein last night… and to make a point Tam asked if I could remember what the crouch button was.  Kodra immediately chimed in “you mean the most important button?” and I was like “Nope! I have no clue what crouch is… I just baited the enemies to come attack me in the open and gunned them down.”  Subtlety feels like a complete waste of time when you could just kill every last thing that moves.

An Old Friend

ffxiv 2014-07-19 08-45-57-846 Another thing going on this weekend that is fighting for my attention is that they are having a free weekend for Final Fantasy XIV ARR.  For whatever reason lately I have been missing the game, and I feel like it is one of those games that I parted on good terms with.  I simply ran out of things that I wanted to do.  Right now the biggest problem I have with the game is that the people I know that are still playing it… are spread out in various tiny puddles scattered across a long list of servers.  When I first connected to the game it had me choose my Data Center, which temporarily gave me some hope that they had done something to consolidate the long list.  Apparently that is not the case and each server is still its own little island as far as grouping and guilding, but instead the Data Centers serve the purpose of the Battle Groups in World of Warcraft.  They are essentially your pool of players for doing anything that requires a group.

ffxiv 2014-07-19 08-46-45-762 The game is just as enjoyable as it ever was.  The hardest thing so far was remembering where the hell I kept my abilities and getting my hotbar back in order.  I think I got most everything to a place where my fingers can return to muscle memory for hitting.  I am sure a few things are out of place but the key combos that I hit constantly are all in the right places.  The main thing I did last night was participate in a hunt, which is a kind of daily event that appeared in a patch while I was out.  Basically each day you got to a hunt NPC and they give you this card… which is a physical item in your inventory with a bunch of wanted posters for the day.  These involve wandering around the world and killing specific mobs that appear in specific places.  The first three were pretty easy, and then the tedium set in for the last two.  Apparently these mobs were part of rarely occurring FATEs so I had to just sit around waiting for it to spawn.  For the most part it wasn’t too bad except one of them occurred in a level 3 area…  so I couldn’t even work on leveling my chocobo while I waited.  I am not sure if there is enough here to keep me for very long, but I am enjoying playing for the time being.

The Path Not Taken

archeage 2014-05-08 22-34-42-478 Another big thing happening this weekend is the beginning of ArcheAge closed beta.  Up until this point there were only two ways to get into Alpha testing.  Either you had to know someone like I did, or plunk down your $150 and buy the most expensive founders pack.  This weekends the floodgates have opened letting everyone in that has bought even the cheapest of founders packs.  The problem is I feel like I have been burned by my experiences in Alpha.  The community was so heinous and toxic that I just don’t want to have anything to do with it.  At this point Glyph is running in the background right now downloading the 21 gig patch that is needed to get it up and running in closed beta, but that said I am not sure if I will play it much.  There are a lot of problems I have with the game, not all of which can be improved.

I still have a fundamental problem with the character design.  While I managed to find one I could live with, I am still not terribly happy with it and the lack of “real” beards in most Korean games.  I do want to give it a try to see if letting in all of the closed beta players may have fixed some of the problems with the community.  One of two things is going to happen… either the super toxic voices are going to be drowned out in the sea of not so horrible…  or they will adapt to the “young eating” culture that is the Alpha game.  I know Trion is working hard on trying to find ways to moderate the toxicity, but I am just not sure if it will be enough for me.  At the end of the day I am a huge carebear and want to spend my time collaborating with other players… and not competing with them.

Follow the Shiny Bauble

The thing that frustrates me the most about this weekend and weekends like it when it seems like every single company is fighting to steer the hype train, is that it trains us to be flighty.  I feel like what is happening right now is that each of these companies is trying to fight for front page presence against any news that might be coming out of QuakeCon.  The problem is…  your player base is nowhere near as loyal as you might want them to be.  By constantly dangling shiny baubles in front of our faces… all it really does is train us to constantly be on the look out for the next shiny bauble.  So many weeks when it comes to gaming I feel like the James Woods character from Family Guy “Oooh a piece of candy”.  Ultimately I feel like the constant vying for our attention is only serving to make us less interested in staying any one place for terribly long.

Look at me for example… I already play a long list of games with no real signs of landing in any one place for terribly long.  This weekend I am looking at playing three more games that I was not really playing before.  But I didn’t start out this way, because I played Everquest for 3 years, Dark Age of Camelot for 3 years, and then World of Warcraft for a solid 7 years before the launch of Rift and the beginning of my rampant nomad phase.  Now I just follow whatever happens to suit my mood, and as a result I am popping between games on a weekly basis.  I feel like in part I was trained to be this way by the game industry constantly dangling an every tastier steak in front of me.  So I feel like stacking all of these events on the same weekend is just the highly of how frenetic things have gotten.  I decided long ago that life was too short to be playing something I was not enjoying, so I doubt I will be changing my nomadic ways any time soon…  but folks have to stop and thing that the constant fight over the hype cycle is only serving to make more people nomadic in the process.

#Destiny #FFXIV #ArcheAge

2013 Retrospective

Grand Experiment in Review

2012 was an extremely horrible year for me and at least professionally I would rank it as quite possibly the worst year I have ever had.  I would put it as worse than the year I was out of work for six months after the dotcom crash.  On September 11th 2012 my company suffered what they thought was a network attack, that only later the security guy pulled his head out of his ass and realized it was a regularly scheduled security scan… that he himself authorized.  The results of this was a massive overreaction that caused me and my team to spend the rest of the year and a good chunk of the beginning of this year rebuilding damned near everything that touched the web.  Why did we have to do this?  Because they quite literally pulled the servers out of the racks and sent them to the FBI, leaving us next to nothing to work off of.

So next to that year, this year has seemed like an absolute dream.  However it has been more than that for me.  2013 has been a year of personal growth and exploring new things.  In April when I finally pulled my head above water after the “faux” security incident, I really wanted to make a break back into blogging.  I fell off of the planet shortly after the security event and simply could not bring myself to write about anything.  Coming back I devised what I called a “grand experiment”, namely to blog each and every day even if I didn’t think I had much to write about.  At this point there are 237 posts categorized as “The Grand Experiment”, and without fail I have blogged every day even when it was a struggle to do so.

Has the experiment worked?  Well functionally yes I have managed to blog every day, but more importantly has it provided an interesting stream of content?  Quite honestly I don’t know.  Most of the time I feel like I am a little kid writing to a make believe audience.  When I talk to someone who mentions something I have written… I am always shocked.  I feel like no one actually reads my stuff, that I am mostly just writing it for my own benefit.  People seem to enjoy what I write, and I have a regular stream of readers… but I will never have the type of audience that the bigger bloggers have.  I am just too rough around the edges for that sort of thing.  For the most part I am happy with the results of a year of blogging and my long-term goal is to make it at least one full year of posts without pause.  That of course will be up April 26th of 2014, which seems like it is far in the future right now.  However I don’t see myself losing steam at any point soon.

A Healthier Me

Another big change in my life over the course of 2013 is that I am considerably lighter.  In March my wife and I began to shift the way we relate to food.  I say it in terms like that because really we have completely changed our relationship to food as a whole.  To say we went on a diet doesn’t really encompass the level of change.  Diets are about the short term, but we wanted to make permanent and long-term changes in the way we ate.  Namely we focused on trying to find a new and sustainable way to live.  At this point I am 70 lbs smaller and have hit a bit of a plateau over the last month.  However the fact that I survived both Thanksgiving and Christmas without breaking that plateau makes me happy enough.

My wife on the other hand continues to lose at a steady pace and is now down roughly 60 lbs.  At some point I need to get super serious again, as I have become lax of late.  However the current weight seems to be a place I can comfortable stay without any real intervention.  I have reached my goal and it is time for me in this new year to refocus myself and set a new one.  I will never be a small man, I come from a long line of really big people.  I am however happy enough being able to say I am a “smaller” man.  The thing I was not expecting to be honest were the health benefits.  As a whole I am far healthier than I was a year ago, and the primary benefit is that my Asthma that I have struggled with my entire life… and have even been hospitalized for… is really a mere nuisance these days.  I can go months on a single inhailer, and that is not a thing I have ever been able to do in my life.

Professional Growth

In the last year I have grown more into the role of the manager of my group.  I have learned to delegate more, which is something I have always struggled with in my life.  I was good at accepting assignments, but never very good at passing them on to my troops, instead trying to take them all on myself.  My team is pretty amazing and I would be lost without them.  I guess in some small way I have learned to have more faith in them, and trust that they will do as much diligence with an assignment as I would have.  As a result I have shifted more into the architect role for my group and part-time project manager and full-time traffic cop.  Making sure all of the assignments are going to the right places and all seeing at least some progress.

We usually have 50-60 active projects for a team of three people.  So it involves lots of juggling.  Various forces in my company want me to move up into a permanent management position.  However I simply do not want to distances myself from the “real work” enough to take them.  Additionally right now I am responsible for three extremely highly functional people, and I don’t think I  could cope with being put over less functional people that I would some how have to whip into shape.  I am not really great with confrontations, and as a result I think I would flounder.  Either that or it would be similar to me as a raid leader, and I would turn into a real asshole.  For the time being I think I am happy with where I am and what I am doing.

I Wrote A Novel

One of the things I have always wanted to do in my life was to write a novel.  I made several false attempts at various times over the years but never could seem to push myself to do it.  This November I joined the NaNoWriMo event, and over the course of the month knocked out my first novel.  I have no idea if it is actually any good, because honestly I have not even read it since finishing it up.  I plan in the new year to tear it asunder as I edit it, and fix any issues.  However regardless if it completely sucks, I have accomplished a goal.  I managed to write a novel, and that is a thing most people can’t say about themselves.  I didn’t do it to get famous, or be published, I did it mostly just to prove to myself that I could.

The weird thing about it is, November seems like a lifetime ago.  The whole concept of writing 1500 words per night was just absolutely draining.  My entire life revolved around that novel for those thirty days, which is honestly longer than I have stuck with anything like that in my life.  More than anything I feel like it was a venue of personal growth.  I did a thing I never thought I could, and I did so in a methodical way in which it felt like success was assured from the moment I started.  Sure I faltered a few times along the way, and there were a few days I didn’t write a blessed thing.  However I kept moving forward towards the eventual 50,000 word count goal and I achieved it.  I think more than anything I am proud of this accomplishment from 2013.

A Year of Gaming

This is a gaming blog afterall, so during 2013 I played a lot of games.  I played way more games than I can ever manage to remember, but I will try and run down a few of the big ones.  The list of major titles is as follows.

Oddly enough I am beginning this new year not entirely differently than I began the last year.  January 2013 I was still involved in the launch of Mists of Pandaria, and it was not until April that I really began to distance myself from that game entirely.  World of Warcraft and I have this love/hate relationship.  I get frustrated with it so much, because it seems that they always seem to take the most short sighted solutions to problems, and there are so many games that there that do various things it does…. so much better.  However as a total package I feel like the game is unbeatable.  It offers the most good things in one package.  The realization for me however after my 2+ years of absence from being serious about the game is that it is not about the game at all.  World of Warcraft is about the people playing it, and I had missed the ragtag group of people known as House Stalwart immensely.

The game I probably played the most often during the year however was Rift.  I want to love rift so badly, the promise of the game is really great.  The problem is it just lacks something that I can’t quite put my finger on.  It is a technically superior game in every aspect, but it is like it lacks a cohesive narrative that makes me care about the world every single day.  The dragons were a thing I thought I  could get behind.  But now that we have systematically killed each of them off, I cannot say in a single sentence what the world of Rift is.  I think that might be the problem, there is no one clear narrative to the game.  You cannot say “this game is” and have even half of the people agree on it.  I still play it occasionally and there is still an incarnation of House Stalwart there that Psynister and Fynralyl are keeping alive.  I thank them so much for being there, but I just can’t seem to care about the game right now.  I am sure at some point I will again.

Final Fantasy was another major force for the year.  This was a game I never intended to like because really I feel like me and Japanese RPGs had a messy divorce quite some time ago.  I had a group of friends actively wanting to play it, so against my better judgment I went along for the ride.  What I found however was a really well crafted narrative and dungeon experience.  If I could have kept experiencing new bits of immersive content, I would have likely stuck around.  However once you reached the end of the game, it was exactly that…  the end.  All paths lead to massive amount of grinding, and for whatever reason… while I can stomach grinding all day long in World of Warcraft… I could not stomach the particular FFXIV brand of grinding.  Namely I blame this on the overall lack of meaninful drops in the game.  If I have a chance of getting something cool while killing mobes, no matter how remote the chance… it feels exciting to me each time I open a loot window.  There was nothing that could drop from mobs in the world that I would ever care about.  Additionally gearing up to get to a point where we could raid, was just not a bridge I was willing to cross.

Games for 2014

There has been a game I have been in super secret closed door testing since February.  I cannot name the game by name, but I have to say I am still extremely excited about it even after most of a year testing it.  I have watched the game grow from something that felt polished to something that really is amazingly rich and polished.  I don’t think I will quit WoW this time for another game, because I have set down some pretty solid roots there again.  However I know I will also be playing this game, at the very least two to three nights a week.  It is probably the least wow-like game I have played in a long while, and because of that I feel like there is room in my heart for both games to have a unique space.

Past that I am really not certain what 2014 will hold.  I know that I am not really interested enough to purchase a PS4 or an XBox One, so I think I will be exiting the console mainstream once again.  I am mostly a PC gamer to be honest, and since my gameloft has been taken over by my wife I am okay with not having access to the consoles.  More than anything I am looking forward to the various stores beginning to liquidate their stocks of PS3 and XBox 360 games, so I can pick up the titles I always wanted to play but didn’t have the desire to pay for.  Additionally there are still a lot of things on the DS/3DS that I want to play, and I am looking forward to picking up the newest Zelda game.  I am sure there will be a number of surprises along the way, games that catch my fancy enough to deserve lots of blog posts.

I hope that 2014 will be as positive force in my life as 2013 has been.  Additionally I hope each and every one of you out there can say the same.  My friend @AlternativeChat has declared 2014 the “Year of Faff”, and I am down with this notion.  I think we all need to learn how to faff about in the game worlds we are in, because stopping and smelling the roses is the only real way I know to break the cycle of burnout.  I have tried my best to embrace this concept, and hope to continue to do so in the year to come.  More than anything, I feel like I am sick of jumping games every three months, and I get the sense that the gaming world as a whole is somewhat sick of that as well.  I hope we can each embrace our own faff, whatever that might mean.

End Game

Slowing Down

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For most of us in House Stalwart the wild ride that was the Final Fantasy XIV storyline has come to a conclusion.  As a result a large number of us have dialed back our playtime a bit to recover.  This is only magnified by the fact that the game that none of us may speak of is having yet another event and a large number of us are actively playing that.  The storyline was extremely exceptional and did everything I would expect in the ending of a classic final fantasy game.  However this time it left the door completely open.

It felt much like that first time you transitioned Legend of Zelda a Link to the Past into the Dark World.  It feels like we just scratched the surface of the game, which I guess is how the ending of the storyline content should feel in every MMO.  Lots of things are resolved, but very quickly you realize that nothing at all is truly resolved.  Now that we have spent all the storyline we are left with the fact that other than the wonderful story… the FFXIV experience is a rather skeletal one.

End Game

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Basically eight of us have entered the phase of the end game at this point… which is extremely limited.  Each step along the path has some pretty severe gear requirements, so what we have ahead of us is a large amount of running the same two dungeons over and over.  Basically you are given two paths forward for gear.  The first of which is running two 8 man dungeons that reward a lot of tomestones, but absolutely no gear…  or running two 4 man dungeons that drop gear but very few tomestones.  Neither option feels really good, considering for the time spent running Amdapor you really do not end up with much gear.  I’ve run it three times as a tank and have yet to see a single drop.

The real problem is the fact that each run through the dungeon racks up a not insignificant repair bill.  One of the big problems I have talked about before is the fact that there really is no good way to gain money at level 50.  I carried with me into the end game about 200,000 gil, and that has been going fast as I use it for various needed things at the maximum level.  The options I have before me are grinding fates which pay out around 200 gil each, grinding leves which pay out around 500 gil each…  and playing the auction house.  The problem with the auction house is that `the only thing worth anything really are high level crafted items.  Leveling your crafting however can bankrupt your character… so it is a bit of a catch 22.

Relic Weapon

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The goal of the game right now seems to be to get your relic weapon and later on your +1 upgrade to it.  This is the best item in the game you can get, but much like the Everquest Epic weapon it is a long and drawn out process.  To start down this path is a rather expensive one.  Firstly you have to acquire the base weapon, for a Warrior this is the Barbarian’s Bardiche.  This is crafted by a high level blacksmith and is gathered together out of bits that have to be farmed from a combination of dungeons and overworld zones.  They currently go for about 10,000 gil on the open market, and since I do not have access to a max level Blacksmith that is the option I chose to go with.  In my experience it costs far more than 10,000 gil to get a smith to create one for you.

From there you need to infuse 2 Battledance III materia onto the item.  This once again has to be done by a level 50 blacksmith… and the going rate per infuse on my server is 10,000 gil.  Acquiring the Battledance III materia is a whole other matter that is far more time consuming.  These are gained from disassembling level 45 or higher items that are 100% spiritbound.  The problem is… individual items can be disassembled into a wide variety of different materia.  I spiritbound a set of Mithril Plate gear, and did not manage to get a single Battledance III.  Ultimately I had a guild member give me one of them, and I bought the second on the open market for 15,000 gil.

So just to get to the point of turning in the infused axe I have already spent over 50,000 gil once you factor in the material costs of the infusions.  I apparently got off easily… for a Paladin or a Scholar apparently the costs are more like 100,000 gil.  From here it is a series of monsters that I have to take down, starting in Coerthas with the Chimera and ending with Hard Mode Titan.  All of which is rather honestly a pretty horrific grind, considering by the time you get to Hard Mode Titan, you damned well better be in full darklight gear, the set you get from the tomestones I talk about grinding out earlier.

Grind, Grind, Grind

Ultimately this is going to be the thing that kills the game for me if they do not introduce some less grindy paths.  Right now I have the option of grinding for money, grinding to level other classes or grinding out end game gear.  There is nothing left to do in the game that is anywhere near as enjoyable as the questing experience was.  At this point, the game is a really fun ride to 50, and then grind city afterwards.  I still greatly enjoy the dungeon runs, and I look forward to doing more of that, but that involves getting a large number of people online at the same time.  When there is not a full groups worth online, I am finding myself lacking in things I really want to do.

At this point I have leveled my Warrior to 50 and my Bard to 50…  but any additional characters involve lots and lots of either mob grinding or fate grinding and right now after having done it twice… that lacks any sort of luster.  So I find myself piddling around in other games waiting on enough of a critical mass to form in FFXIV that we can do some dungeons.  At this point I really lack interest in doing anything else in the game.  I think as time passes I will want to level other classes, but after having ground out two to 50, I need a bit of a break.  As a result I have been piddling around in League of Legends and finding myself pining away from my Hex invite.  FFXIV still has a ton of potential, but they really need to make some changes in 2.1 to make the game more livable.