Anook Community Award

Prepping for Blaugust

At this point we are getting super close to the launch of Blaugust, and the sign ups keep coming on the Nook.  There is still time to sign up and be ready for the start of this exciting month.  Also remember there is zero penalty this year for starting late and catching up.  Last year my friend Tamrielo did something absolutely insane and wrote 31 really well formed posts in a 48 hour period.  While I would never suggest anyone do something like that, it is absolutely possible to start a week late and make up the missed progress.  Similarly I know folks will be attending Gamescom or Pax Prime during this month, so it is absolutely a good idea to stage the content ahead of time.  For the WordPress users out there I highly suggest you check out their pretty excellent mobile app (iOS, Android)  that gives you access to your blog on the go, and does a decent job of letting you compose a post on the go.

I tend to be a very pro WordPress person, but blogger is perfectly acceptible as well and while I have never used it there seems to be a mobile blogger client also (iOS, Android).  The primary reason why I tend to suggest WordPress is just that there is a path between WordPress.com free hosted service, and moving to a WordPress.org installation on your own custom hosting.  There are a number of guides out there to help this process along.  What I like so much about this is the fact that it lets someone get their feet wet and decide if this blogging thing is for them… before plunking down the money it takes to rent space on a web host and purchase a domain.  There are lots of people that never make the jump between COM to ORG, but it is nice that there is always that option if you want to do something with your blog that is not supported through the official channels.  There are also guides for going from Blogger to WordPress, but they tend to be far less straight forward.

Anook Community Award

Last night something really cool happened, namely that Lonrem the tirelessly working community manager of Anook.com posted an excellent “best practices” document on the Blaugust Nook.  If the document were not enough in helping people get the most out of their Anook experience… he also slipped a tidbit of information in down at the bottom.  For a few weeks now we had been talking about Anook wanting to sponsor some sort of award.  It was finally decided that the best way to have an Anook reward is to have the users of the website vote on their favorite posts.  Here are the basics of this award posted straight from his document.

I’ll also announce here that Anook is going to support Blaugust with a special prize! I’m going to tally up the Hearts that each blog post gets for each blogger (Blaugger?) and award the top blog with a game code. I’m going to see if I can round up other prizes from some of our friends and partners as well, no promises there! This does give a bit of an incentive to post regularly, start on the first of August, but also to share the link to your blog on Anook! If you’ve got any questions, let me know!

This is really awesome to have our first “real” sponsor…  because my pocket didn’t really count.  Last year when I started this, I decided to host the challenge off of Anook because it is a network that I love.  Lonrem singlehandedly won me over with his devotion, and the features basically keep me from ever having to build yet another custom SMF forum for anything.  So I fly the Anook banner on my stream and mention it on every AggroChat just because I love the site.  I am humbled that the site is returning some of that love and helping us get this challenge started in a bigger and better way this year.  I’ve had an idea through this contest of creating a games of the week where I suggest a handful of free to play games that folks play, and then write about their experience to help get those creative juices flowing.  While I might have been dreading the loss of my free time that Blaugust means…  I am absolutely getting pumped about how much more “real” this whole thing feels for 2015.

Surprise Alex

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-22 20-49-54-61 It is not uncommon for me to log in to Final Fantasy XIV in the evening and hear the all too familiar chime of a group invite before the game has completely loaded.  My guildies are used to ninjaing me into tanking all manner of things, and I assumed that it was yet another case of “daily expert”.  So I accepted the invite without thinking much about it, and found myself shocked when I saw the Alexander loading screen.  To make matters worse the ninja alex was turn 2, which is quite possibly the most frustrating thing for a tank to take on without having a second tank in there that they trust.  The problem being that pugs like to stack all of the mobs together, which makes it impossible for the tanks to effectively hold aggro on them.  What happens instead is that both tanks burn through all of their resources and the mobs spend the entire fight bouncing back and forth between them.  This would be fine and good if it were safe for a single tank to take them on… problem being that in the later phases you have to try and carefully split the damage to even it out.  All of the mobs on one tank is pretty much a certain wipe.

The positive of getting pulled into Alex like this however is that it took away my normal reluctance to such things, and as of last night I now have three of my four pieces of loot for the week.  All that is left is Turn 1, and quite honestly it is the least stressful for me to pug.  The tanks have clearly defined roles and for the most part they go fairly smoothly now that most people are pretty well geared.  At this point for that final item I want either a chain which would instantly give me a belt, or a pedal… which would also instantly give me an item because I have a second one in my inventory.  I have to say the way gearing works in Alex is a little maddening, but I feel that honestly it is their way of trying to delay people reaching level 190 geared.  With Esoterics in place, I can’t really see going for say the Alexander chest piece since it takes getting a lucky roll four weeks in a row on Turn 4.  My first Esoterics item of course will be the 200 weapon, because for a tank that is the single most useful upgrade.  After that I will probably assess my weakest pieces and go after what I need the most…  which is more than likely going to be my chest piece.  Of course in the mean time Square could do what they seem to always do… and change up the game by taking away loot restrictions.  That said I still think it is a little early in the patch for that to actually happen, and more than likely won’t be until 3.1.

Om Nom Dance

A Late Start

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-25 16-00-09-11 I am getting a super late start this morning on my blog post… well because things and reasons.  Last night when we finished recording AggroChat, my wife asked if it was time for bed or if I needed to stay up and edit the podcast.  I thought to myself… that bed sounded like an amazing idea and just straight up crashed.  This meant that this morning however I had to rush around a bit and edit the post while consuming breakfast.  Another thing I noticed is that apparently Final Fantasy XIV patched out their idle kick, because I was still standing in there in the middle of the Dravinian Lowlands afk all night long.  I was apparently similarly lazy in logging out from Teamspeak, which meant as folks started trying to pull things together… I went ahead and agreed to tank a few things.

Also I finally got around to doing my Minotaur Om Nom Nom Dance video voice over.  One of the dungeons that you unlock at 60 is the Fractal Continuum which includes a really strange fight.  At face value the Minotaur works just like pretty much all of the Cyclops encounters you have fought to this point.  He alternates between doing a frontal cone attack that you need to dodge and a full 360 degree sweep attack that you also should avoid.  Where it differs however is he will start channeling a group wipe attack, that you can only break… but essentially feeding him a mob.  While doing this he does a goofy little dance of sorts…  which I have taken to voicing over when I tank the dungeon.  This generally throws Grace into a fit of hysterics laughing… so I decided I should really edit together a video of the “dance”.

AggroChat 67 – The Astebreed Show

Astebreed 2015-07-25 12-08-56-63 This week we record yet another AggroChat Game Club game featuring the game Astebreed, which is an interesting mix of strange Anime Storytelling and Bullet Hell shooter. What makes the game very unique is that you are a mech… with a sword as well as your laser weapons. As far as the story goes, I think several of us were equally confused so we rely on Tam to decode it all for us… because he apparently was able to follow it the entire way. We have a lot of conversation about the tone of the game, the boss fights, the controls that may or may not have worked… and the total package.

Since adding Grace and Thalen to the podcast they were not in the initial rotation of AggroChat picks, so we did the most gamer thing ever… and rolled some dice before the show to graft them into the rotation. That means for the month of August Grace got to pick a title and we will be playing the bird dating sim… Hatoful Boyfriend… and Kodra was happier than I have ever heard him be. He loves this game, and drove us slightly mad with it when he was playing it. Now we are going to get to experience this madness for ourselves, and I am willing to bet that Game Club Seven is going to be one of the more interesting episodes of AggroChat in our history.

In Search of Esoterics

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-20 21-02-13-11 I have been a massive slacker this week when it came to grinding Esoterics, and as such am sitting at around 180.  As a result I need a whole bunch today and tomorrow in order for me to have a shot in hell of hitting the 450 weekly cap.  Generally speaking if you log in every day and run an expert roulette dungeon… you can cap fairly easily.  Guess what I have not been doing at all.  Essentially I have just not been up for group content and as a result I have been playing an awful lot of SkyForge in the meantime which is almost entirely a soloing experience for me.  However after dropping a bunch of stress last night, and finishing the paperwork on our impending home renovations I am starting to feel a little less “under the gun”.  Sure I could stress about it some more, but in my mind the decision process is over and now we just have to wait for everything to happen.

I did however have a nightmare scenario run through my mind this morning, that makes me wonder just how they are going to deal with our cable connection while ripping off the siding.  I really hope I will not be without internet for two weeks.  This afternoon my plan is to sit here and grind expert dungeons for anyone who is willing to run them with me, and as a result whittle away my missing esoterics.  I would really like to be able to get that tasty level 200 weapon within the first three weeks.  If not there is always the next two weeks I can cap to make that happen, but preferably I would like to be getting as many as I can at least until I get a few pieces of gear under my belt.  The rest of the time however I am still working on pushing my Dragoon higher and at this point I am still roughly 3/4 of the way through 58.  It kinda sucks to have dueling priorities, because I would really love to get him at 60 and geared so I have other options than just tanking.

FATE Grinding Go!

Home Improvement is Scary

A good chunk of our week has revolved around planning for some renovations around the house, and I have to say the whole process kind of wigs me out.  I have been acting pretty calm and collected because I know it also stresses my wife out…  but I feel like I am wading out into an ocean that I know very little about.  The long and short of it is that we live in a house with wood siding, which is not exactly ideal for the climate extremes of Oklahoma.  Additionally our climate seems to really be a positive environment for termites…  and when we moved in we knew the house had some issues.  Then a little over a year after moving in… we had our first swarm.  We have been on a termite plan since and it has been nearly a decade of having zero activity, but we know there is some underlying damage in the siding, but other than cosmetic issues we had not really had any problems.

That is of course until recently when we during a particularly hurricane like horizontal rain… we had a very small leak in our kitchen ceiling.  After having the roofers out, they thought it was coming in along the garbage edge of siding and up over the flashing.  This is the point at which we first noticed… just how bad our siding really was.  Throughout the course of the week we had numerous contractors out who gave estimates… and we think we have maybe decided on a company and a product.  Right now we are looking at replacing all of the wood siding with fiber cement, which is this crazy stuff that feels like ceramic tile, but looks like wood.  But this means some major money, which has us also sorting out financing options.  Being an adult is an extremely frustrating thing.  We think we have a plan figured out… but even though I know this is something that really needs to be done… it is a massive decision.  I know things will work out in the end, but this whole process is exceptionally stressful for the moment.

CPUCores

I was asked by someone on my steam friends list last night, if this program worked since I had been running it.  I actually just started testing it last night, even though I purchased it long before it showed up on steam.  I do not remember how much I paid when I bought it, but I want to say it was somewhere around the $10 mark.  It promised to improve your FPS by improving your CPU utilization, and  this is something I had been frustrated by in the past.  The machines I use are quad core or six core… and it always felt like very little of my CPU time was actually being used.  At the time I figured what the hell, purchased it… and then got busy messing with other things.  When they went on steam the developer was nice enough to send me out a Steam key as well, and yesterday I actually started testing it.  Is this digital snake oil?  Well honestly… all I can really offer is a heartfelt shrug.

cpucores_wow_without_30fps I did some testing this morning with World of Warcraft which is one of the most poorly optimized games that I have played when it comes to utilizing multiple cores.  Hell lets me honest, the game itself is horribly optimized in general… but my theory was that this game seems to be extremely CPU limited, so in theory if CPU Core optimization would help any game it should help this one.  The above graph is taken from task manager and shows that for the most part all of the cores are running at around the same amount of load and an overall 36% utilization of my CPU.  In World of Warcraft itself I was standing in my Garrison and setting roughly 30 frames per second.  The latest release of CPU Cores features a “CPU Cores It” button allowing you to scan your current process list and apply  the change to an application that is running.  If you look at the graph below you see that with CPUCores turned on, it is now pegging two of my six cores and as a whole the CPU utilization is now 64%.  In game I was still standing in my Garrison but saw a jump from 30 fps to 40 fps… which is not really earth shattering but still not too shabby and is in line with what a lot of the reports seemed to indicate.

cpucores_wow_with_40fps The confusing thing is however… that it seems like CPUCores is only really using two of my six cores.  There are some settings in there to manually override what cores it is actually using to run things, so I figure I will continue to fiddle with it and see what I can get from it.  I didn’t actually record any of my measurements last night, but I saw a bigger jump when using my laptop.  I actually started to see comparable performance to my desktop which was kinda massive.  The general advice in the community is that this is designed for medium end systems to get some additional performance out of them, and that if you already have an extremely high performance system… it is likely not going to do anything for you.  Normally speaking I run Final Fantasy XIV Heavensward on my laptop around 30-40 fps… but last night with CPUCores running I was seeing 60-70 fps which is a big jump.  Laptops are notoriously bad at CPU utilization because they are designed to safe energy whenever they can.  I feel like maybe that is the magic bullet here for using this application, because honestly the results on my gaming desktop do not warrant the purchase.  I largely bought the app because I was curious if it worked, and for the most part it does seem to do something… because a 10 fps increase is still a 10 fps increase no matter how you chop it.  My hope is that over time it will continue to work better and it seems like they are just now starting to try and optimize for AMD processors.  As always… your mileage may vary and I probably would not have paid the current $20 price tag on steam.

FATE Grinding Go!

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-24 20-12-04-49

So it appears that with 3.0.5 the changes to FATE experience have been noticed by the community.  As I looked at Duty finder it actually scrolled for the first time in a long while, with multiple FATE parties happening in different zones.  I decided to join the train in Dravinian Hinterlands and it seemed like the time spent was worth my time.  I had dinged 58 earlier in the day while running a dungeon with guildies, and after a bit of FATE grinding I managed to get to around the halfway mark to 59.  It is my hope that today I can run some more dungeons and FATEs and make a serious push for 59.  The community seems to have been reinvigorated by the patch, and it is shocking just how good Square Enix is at timing their content.  In the days leading up to this recent patch it felt like there was a slowing down as people finished their Law grind.  Instead now everyone is actively buzzing again as they are trying to get as much Esoterics as they can, so that within three weeks they can get those tasty tasty level 200 weapons.

Skyforge 2015-07-22 23-08-02-51 When I decided that I needed a break from FATE grinding, I opted to pop over into SkyForge and work on finishing unlocking all of the costumes.  After having played the tutorial as every class currently in the game… I have to say they all feel very unique.  You have everything from the mad bomber feel of the Alchemist, to the skill shots of the Archer, to the insane melee flurry that is the Slayer.  The problem is… the three classes that you get to choose from at the start are without a doubt the most generic feeling of all of the classes that I played.  This is rather unfortunate because while I feel it gives people a desire to unlock that class that they really want to play, it makes the initial grind feel meaningless and pointless since you ultimately have to play the lesser of the starter evils to get there.  I feel like this game could benefit from the Marvel Heroes approach to classes, allowing you to play a little of each of them and then after the tutorial choose the one you wanted to unlock.  I feel like eventually they will let us outright purchase these classes, but I have found that option sorely missing from the cash shop.  I would absolutely pay to unlock the Berserker for example or the Slayer…  but since I missed out on the founders packs I have no real way to do that.

Northern Thanalan Problem

Button Mash Bard

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-11 22-16-35-69 Last night during the podcast I piddled around in Final Fantasy XIV as I often do.  The fact that I had to edit a section of the podcast out because of my rapid fire keyboard mashing… means I was piddling around on my bard.  Of all of my classes… this is the one that I seem to give the least shits about actually playing correctly.  I will leave good barding up to Shiana, Warenwolf and Thalen…  me I just mash buttons and pray.  One of the problems is that I have all of these characters currently sitting at level 50 that I got to cap last expansion.  The bard, the white mage and the paladin among them.  The problem being right now without quest support there is no real handy way to get to level 51, which is the level you need to be to hit the first dungeon.  On my dragoon I have been pretty much living in dungeons, and as a result I have managed to make a significant push in level, as he is roughly half way to 55.

So last night I struggled to figure out just how to get my bard over the hump, so I could start doing the same with him.  I wandered around a bit in Western Coethas only to remember that even with the armory bonus…  FATEs in Heavensward are still pretty terrible.  Then Ashgar mentioned that I should do what I did at 49… and just go to Northern Thanalan.  So I zoned into that area and it took longer to load than either Ishgard, Mor Dhona or Idyllshire.  It turns out that pretty much everyone is living in this zone, and I guess it makes sense.  On average FATEs in Western Coerthas rewarded my bard 28,000 experience.  On average FATEs in Northern Thanalan rewarded around 21,000 experience… and the zone is about a fourth of the size of Western Coerthas… and has just as many FATEs.  This means that there is a constant train of pink marks showing up all over your map.

Northern Thanalan Problem

Screenshot (15) On the live letter this week they mentioned that they would be tweaking FATEs to make them a better value proposition for players, and I think this is a bit of an understatement in the level of the issue that is happening.  One of the interesting things about the internet and mmos is that players will figure out the shortest route to solving a problem and abuse the hell out of it.  Quickly players realized that they could simply level faster by living in Northern Thanalan… and that is quite literally what is happening.  I would estimate last night during the podcast there were somewhere close to 200 players in zone fighting over the FATEs that spawned, and in a crazy game of whack-a-mole as soon as one dropped the next one would be up and the rush would begin across zone to get the first hits in on it.  We experienced these same problems at release with the abuse of a very specific FATE in Northern Thanalan called “Dark Devices” and it seems like once again this zone is the king of the fast leveling curve.

The problem with this is that it makes the game boring.  You stand in zone and hang out there until you are 60… and quite literally players are doing this on their alternate classes, riding this elevator to the top floor and then getting off just in time to gear for Alexander.  The end result is that we are starting to see level 60 players who have not done a single class quest and as a result have NONE of their new class abilities.  Time doing class quests is time taken away from the “super efficient” level mill of Northern Thanalan.  Here in lies problem two…  this zone is a fun zone to run FATEs in… and absolutely worth while for players post 45 when Central Coerthas starts to slow down.  My biggest fear is that we are going to see a bit of an overcorrection that leads to Square nerfing the FATEs in this zone once again to try and prod players to leave it.  What I want to see instead is that they incentivize the content in the new areas… to make it worth spending time there and doing the FATEs.

More Carrot to the Stick

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-19 23-50-32-16 Those first days after launch, the FATEs were getting run and every single major boss fate was dropping all sorts of awesome items.  Then players realized, or at least Reddit realized that mathematically the FATE grinding experience was shit.  I want to see players in the zones doing the content the zones have to offer.  We long speculated that they purposefully under-incentivized the FATEs to get players to actually do quest content, because at the launch of A Realm Reborn… it was absolutely a problem with players completely ignoring quests until they hit the level cap.  The issue here is that dungeons are gated through the storyline… and without players entering the dungeon system… the queues got more than a little out of whack.  So I guess I support the notion of nerfing FATEs temporarily… but at this point something needs to be done to derail the Northern Thanalan train once again.  I don’t think we can probably afford to wait until 3.1, so I am hoping that we see a minor patch that introduces a series of tweaks that right this ships course.

In the meantime I am guessing I will start running Levequests to get over that 50 to 51 hump, because after the madness of last night…  I really did not find the Northern Thanalan experience enjoyable.  I had way too many flashbacks of the way the dark devices grind felt.  I absolutely rode that up on my Bard and then never touched it on another character again.  The game has some really awesome FATEs in the new areas that each tell a story…  some of which we ended up talking about last night.  I want Square to find a way to add enough carrot to their stick, in order to convince players that staying in the zone they are currently in and running FATEs is a valuable option.  Mostly I want to be able to knock out all of the different zone boss fates because there are interesting things sitting on their loot table if you manage to get to gold contribution.  Two weeks into the expansion though I am still loving it in spite of all the minor problems we have complained about.  We talked about this last night in the podcast, that it seems like we complain a lot…  but it is more a case of us wanting them  to iron out the rest of the wrinkles… because the game is really damned polished already.

The Gearing Game

False Starts

Yesterday I made an attempt to go to work, but ultimately was told to head home by my boss.  Over the last few days I have been pretty much living on the couch with my leg slightly elevated and alternating icepacks on it.  The problem being that I don’t exist like this in the real world, where sitting at a desk generally requires that your feet be on the ground.  While I love the arrangement of my cube at work, it really does not allow for me to elevate my leg at all.  Not surprisingly within an hour of being at work my knee was swelling something fierce.  So I headed home and started the process of icepacks over again until it started to behave somewhat normally.  The positive is however that the area that is actually swelling is rather small and contained as compared to the day the fall happened, so I guess I am recovering quickly.

The biggest problem, the one that effects this blog is the fact that my wrist has hurt an awful lot.  After struggling through yesterday mornings post, I was pretty much typing one handed for most of the day.  I wore a brace most of yesterday and as of this morning it is feeling much better.  It is still extremely tender when I move my wrist too quickly or to any extreme of motion…  but overall it is more functional.  Hopefully this means I can return to normal typing instead of this frustrating one handed mess that I dealt with yesterday.  Since it is also my “mouse hand” that is effected I have been surprised that really using a mouse doesn’t hurt much at all.  I guess in general I am used to keeping my mouse sensitivity so high that I barely have to move my hand at all to send the cursor flying across the screen.  Hopefully today will be a much better day and I will continue to mend quickly.

The Gearing Game

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-07 20-00-37-22 Like most players in Final Fantasy XIV, my life revolves around the acquisition of Tomestones of Law.  To get a full set of “law” gear it takes roughly 3500 and they have given us many options on how to get them.  Firstly there are three dungeons that reward 80 tomestones each, and an additional 40 if you can manage to catch someone who still has their first time bonus or “virgin bonus” as we have taken to calling it.  In addition to that you get 100 tomestones for both a low level roulette and a high level roulette each day, and an additional 60 for a trial roulette.  The one that surprises me however is that Expert Roulette is only worth 80, but I guess in theory it has a face value of 160 to 200 since you are getting stones from the dungeon proper as well.  In order to get into Alexander, the raid that just opened players need to reach a combined ilevel of 170 which also happens to be the level of the tomestone gear.  So in theory you need a full set in order to step through its doors.

Where you can cheat a bit is through those ubiquitous “Clan Hunts” that I have been using as filler leveling.  It turns out all of the items needed to upgrade your gear from 170 to 180 come from Centurio Seals.  Hopefully you have been doing these religiously because in order to get a full set of gear upgraded to the next step it is going to take a grand total of 2795 seals.  Now granted you can hop on the hunt train like you could in the previous expansion and in theory grind this out in a weekend.  Personally I happen to find the daily hunt mechanic rather relaxing, as I can log in… fly around the gorgeous zones and pick off the mobs one at a time.  Right now I have four pieces of gear… chest, helm, ring, and weapon.  Currently I have upgraded the weapon and ring to 180, and am saving enough hunt marks to upgrade the chest piece next.   There will come a time when I stop messing with anything other than three star and elite hunt marks, but for the time being they also serve to help level my dragoon for the lower level ones.

Dragoon Dungeoning

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-07 21-59-43-32 Right now if there is a moment when I am not engaged doing something else, or tanking something that can gain me law stones…  I am pretty much in the dungeon queue on my Dragoon.  Right now the dps queue seems relatively manageable sitting around the 10 minute mark for “leveling” dungeons.  As a result it is my hope to ride this queue for as many classes as I can manage.  After running a couple of max level dungeons, I settled into a couple of quick runs on the dragoon who is now up to “Sohm Al” level.  I have to say I find this pretty relaxing as well, because I can just sit back and poke things with a stick.  I opted to go ahead and record my dungeon run to add it to the stack of dungeon videos I have on my youtube channel.  I had not actually recorded any when I was not currently tanking, so it gives a slightly different perspective of the fights.  I have to say I am really digging the “tribal” look that comes from Sohm Al.  That helmet is freaking amazing, and is likely going to go in my glamour bin for future usage.  At this point I am roughly halfway through 53 so I figure it will take two more dungeon runs to hit 54, and then five to six past that before I can do the next dungeon at 55.  Embedding the video and cutting this post short today without a second paragraph.

Nael in the Coffin

Strange Dreams

For the last few nights I have had the strangest but at the same time most vivid dreams.  The problem is that they are for the most part utter nonsense.  For example this morning I woke up from a dream involving writer Beau Hindman.  He had reached out to me to ask if I had any gmail invites…  and for those of you for whom that makes zero sense…  Google mail was once upon a time invite only and invites were rationed and carefully guarded.  I told him that I had a couple that I could hand out, and he asked me to send one to someone.  Turns out the person in question was an old man that lived in the small town my wife grew up in.  Apparently Beau really needed to get ahold of this person… and apparently using the phone was just too cumbersome?  Trust me…  I fully understand a lack of wanting to call someone… so I too would probably go through strange lengths to avoid it.

When the guy didn’t accept the invite, I had to drive up to the small town and talk to him in person.  He was afraid that the internet would steal his soul, and by having an email account he would be supporting the terrorists or something.  So I spent the next hour talking him into accepting the invite, all so Beau would be able to contact him.  Sure it is madness, and honestly Beau and I are not even in contact that often, but somewhere in my brain it made all of this make sense.  That is the crazy thing about dreaming… is at the time none of this seems as irrational as it does when you are trying to break it apart later.  I guess Beau got pulled in because I know that he is originally from Oklahoma, and my wife often gets a staring role in my dreams…  so it is strange the way the mind weaves this seemingly plausible tapestry out of bits and pieces of leftover memories.

Nael in the Coffin

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-06 20-24-04-24 Monday nights is traditionally our Final Fantasy XIV raid group night, and last night was no exception.  For months… literally… we have been working on learning the dance on Turn Nine of the Coil of Bahamut.  For a long time now we have been super close to pushing over the edge, and held up on the madness that is the dive bomb phase.  Last night we wanted to defeat Nael by any means necessary so we could move on with our lives.  Not sure if it was true for all of our group, but I have developed a love and hate relationship with this fight, and was more than ready to put it behind me.  One of the features added with Heavensward is the ability to queue for something as an undersized group.  What this does in theory is zone you into a place without scaling your level down to the appropriate place.  What this means in practice is that you can now wreck certain zones for the purpose of collecting those dungeon drops you missed in the past.  Since several of us were sitting at level 60, we decided to give this option a shot on turn nine and see what would happen.

The truth is the very first attempt out of the gate we straight wiped to mechanics and over confidence.  After that it still took us a few tries to get the dance close enough to being correct to be able to finish off the encounter.  The funny thing is… that even with 20% echo and 10 more levels… the fight can still straight up eviscerate you.  I think we managed to down it on our fourth attempt last night, and can now move on with our lives into Final Coil.  On one level it bums me out that we didn’t “do it for real” by facing this encounter at level 50.  On the other hand however I am happy to be done with being in there.  There comes a time when you just get sick of seeing the same encounter over and over, and I remember our group reached that same place back in WoW’s Blackwing Lair with the Firemaw encounter.  It is going to be interesting to see what the next few weeks bring us as far as content goes.  Today is the official launch of Alexander, but as it stands right now… none of us are even vaguely closed to “geared enough” to tackle it.

Ice Packs and Grinding

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-07 06-43-39-47 Yesterday I stayed home from work because I was struggling to walk around.  So my key focus in life became making sure I was ice packing every hour or so for maximum effect.  This meant that most of the day I spent it hanging out on the couch with my leg propped up a bit.  It also means I spent a lot of time piddling around in Final Fantasy XIV.  Throughout the day I worked on getting all of my Clan Hunts for maximum upgrade token goodness, and did all three of my bonus law roulettes, which left a lot of time to work on my Dragoon.  Now previously I had managed to get it to level 51, which is key because that unlocks access to the dungeon Dusk Vigil.  So yesterday I spent the majority of my in game time queueing for Dusk Vigil over and over.  Before raid time last night I was but a sliver away from 53, which should grant me access to the second dungeon… Sohm Al.  The only problem with Dusk Vigil is that technically nothing in it other than the jewelry are strictly upgrades from what I had been wearing.

Sohm Al on the other hand… everything in there should be full of upgradey goodness other than maybe the weapon.  The other good thing about running all these dungeons is that I am able to soak up gear for my alt jobs for when I finally get around to leveling them.  I like that pretty much every dungeon in Heavensward offers an item set, which is unlike the old world where only every so often did a dungeon actually drop something cool looking.  I really want to finish the Dragoon set from Dusk Vigil because it looks kinda amazing.  It is a blue set of armor that looks just like the one that Lucia is wearing in the cut scenes.  In the news of me… well I am largely functioning better thanks to the constant ice packs.  At this point the swelling is down significantly and I am hoping I can function today without a lot of pain.  I am sure come this evening I will need to ice pack once more but for the time being… life seems to be grand, or at least getting there.

Finishing Heavensward

Trying to Break Me

KneeGoBoom When we planned this four day weekend of house manipulation…  I knew somewhere along the lines I would end up harming myself.  Now I have any number of minor injuries from the weekend including that time I sliced my finger open and bled all over the old PC I was pulling a hard drive from, or the time I got my arm pinched behind something and created a really strange bruise on my wrist.  However yesterday I took my self mutilation to a new level, as I was carrying the final box out to the car for the last Goodwill load of the weekend.  I went to set the box down carefully because it had something poking out of it… and I apparently lost my balance and wound up rolling down the driveway towards the mailbox.  The end result is that I have one exceptionally banged up and bruised knee that makes it hard to walk, a second banged up knee that is far better off, and a wrist that I am guessing I have tweaked a bit because I ultimately landed on it.  I am completing ignoring the piece of chat that seems to be embedded in my palm because in the grand scheme of things that one is just minor.

At this point I am trying to alternate between staying off my knee an getting up every so often and walking a bit to keep it from freezing up too bad.  At the same time I am keeping ice packs on it every few hours which seems to be helping.  The above photo is actually a massive improvement from yesterday when my knee cap itself was roughly five times its normal size.  Today it hurts a lot less to stand on my knee, but a lot more to touch it… so I am hoping that means most of the trauma is just as a surface level and not actually effecting the joint itself.  It seems like the pain in walking was mostly related to the swelling.  Today actually my bigger complaint is my wrist that hurts like the dickens when I twist it.  Thankfully nothing seems broken… except my pride.  More than anything I just feel stupid for falling.  I feel stupid that it happened on quite literally the last box… which in itself was an after thought.  I am just thankful that while I put myself in a bit of pain that it seems like I am still fairly sturdy.

Finishing Heavensward

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-05 21-24-42-48 In similar fashion to 2.0 the end of the 3.0 story concludes in a series of group story content.  Thankfully however it seems they have learned their lesson and instead of making long eight player dungeons, they created a single four player story mode dungeon and an extremely fun trial encounter.  I won’t go into much detail about either because spoilers…  but this time around they managed to get the risk and reward equation just right.  I’ve now run the four player story dungeon I think four times, and will happily run it as many times as needed because at face value it is worth 80 Tomestones of Law, and when you factor in the “virgin bonus” as we have taken to calling it…  you get 120 tomestones for what is a relatively quick dungeon run.  Similarly while the trial only rewards 10 tomestones per run, it is fast enough and enjoyable enough that when we mentioned last night that we needed people to run it… folks jumped at the chance just to see it again.

Just like 2.0 the 3.0 credit roll resolves some of the current conflicts… but opens up just as many questions about our future.  As it stands right now I am completely amped to se what 3.1 brings, because things happened… and I am intrigued as to how they will resolve.  This is the thing that I love so much about the way Final Fantasy XIV expansions seem to work.  They end on this warm and fuzzy point… but at the same time feel like you just completed the games introduction.  You know that there is going to be twice as much content before you see the end of expansion credit roll.  The only thing I am finding myself really disappointed in is my class quests.  They felt disconnected and extraneous to the Heavensward content.  Now I hear that some quests especially that of the summoner is deeply connected to this expansion, however for the Warrior which is the class I took to 60 first…  it was a fun romp with axes but nothing more.  I remember having a serious difficult time with my level 50 warrior quests… and nothing that I experienced in this expansion class quest wise even caused me to break a sweat.

And my Axe, and This Dungeon

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-06 08-18-55-05 At the launch of 2.0 getting Tomestones of Philosphy was a very painful grind, and as such it lead most of us to stop playing the game.  When we came back they managed to fix some of these problems and we were able to actually get into the end game content.  It seems like they have learned their lessons because the Tomestones of Law grind seems exceptionally easy.  In the very meager content that I managed to run, I gathered up the 570 I needed for my weapon.  Since I also had been running a significant number of Clan Hunts I managed to gather up the 395 seals needed to get the item to upgrade my 170 axe into a 180.  So far I am really liking the way this works, you do dungeon content to get tomestones to buy the gear… then do hunts to get the bits to upgrade them instead of relying on random chance at getting a drop from a raid somewhere.  My hope is that in short order I will be able to finish my law set and be in raiding form.  For the moment I will be focusing on my worst slots first, so that I can improve my viability the most… as quickly as possible.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-05 22-55-18-31 Last night I also managed to tank my very first level 60 dungeon, called the Fractal Continuum.  I have to say I like this dungeon already so much more than I liked the whole Wanderers Palace/Amdapoor Keep thing that we had at the launch of 2.0.  The other dungeon available is called Neverreap and I have yet to run it, but have heard it is similarly enjoyable.  I have to say it was plenty challenging, especially the last encounter but at this point we are in essence a raid experienced group of players and were able to rely on mechanics we learned while raiding to defeat the encounters.  I feel that the game set a pretty realistic starting gear place as well, in that you have to be at least ilvl 155 to run it.  There is a gear vendor out in the final zone that should help players “catch up” and fill out any slots they have serious deficiencies in.  I personally need to pop out there and check the vendor myself because I still have a few aging quest rewards. I feel like I am pretty happy with the state my next few months will be in as I gear out my jobs and level the ones that are not sixty.

Ding 60 Warrior

The End is Near

almostthere This morning I have places on my body that are sore that I did not even know existed.  That said I feel like we have accomplished a lot this extended weekend.  Essentially my office and my wife’s office have not seen a major clean and reorganize in over a decade.  As a result mine especially was this dysfunctional hell hole, that I simply lacked the oomph or planning to figure out how to fix.  I’ve talked about the things I didn’t like about my setup for awhile, and my wife being the master planner that she is came up with a plethora of options…  some of which we finally implemented this weekend.  Similarly she really has not used her office in a year and a half for various reasons, and really wanted to go into the new school year with the ability to use it as a functional work space.  For me I wanted the ability to broadcast easier and simply have just a more comfortable space to hang out in.

Originally the plan was to just work from Friday through Sunday… but on a whim I opted to take Thursday off as well.  Quite honestly I have no clue how I would have even come close to finishing were it not for taking Thursday off.  That was essentially the day I realized just how deep the rabbit hole went.  We’ve taken a lot out to the dumpster we rented, and we are now working on preparing our second load to good will.  But last night I managed to get the office essentially configured.  Right now there is a lot more organizational stuff to do as I box up all of the miscellaneous cables that I have laying around from tearing down my computers the first time.  Similarly there are a few places in my office where I want to add some sort of cabinet or shelving but the above picture I took last night shows the basic layout.  So far I am really happy with it, and I think it is going to work well for the long run.  The mission for today is to set back up all of my consoles and rewire them to the PC via the Elgato.

Ding 60 Warrior

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-04 21-18-28-30 With all the activity during the day, I have to admit I have been crashing pretty early most evenings during this break.  When I logged out Friday night I was roughly a sixth of a level away from 60, and figured a couple of dungeon runs would get me there.  Through out the day yesterday there were a few times where I took a break, but didn’t want to talk as much time as a dungeon run would require.  As such I started working on my clan hunts, thinking that I could dink my way through a few creatures at a time and get some experience in the process.  Clan Hunts are worth a surprising amount of experience, so as you are leveling seriously… do not over look them.  By the time I wound down for the night and wrapped up the clan hunts I was within a stones throw of 60.  When Thalen asked if I would be willing to tank the Library for him and Solaria… I jumped at the chance because I knew without a doubt I would ding inside of there.

Sure enough on the way to the second boss I dinged and also managed to pick up a few more items including this spiffy helmet…  that doesn’t really thematically match its chest piece…  but is still cool nonetheless.  Upon getting out of the dungeon I did the last few quests that allowed me to unlock the first of the level 60 dungeons, and I am hoping to run that today.  It took me almost exactly two weeks to hit the level cap, which is pretty good as far as I am concerned.  I did not have the raw time to throw at this game that some of our other free company members did, but I still feel like I moved through the content fairly quickly.  Now I can go back and start working on leveling my army of alt jobs, so that I can be multifunctional once again.  That is honestly the thing I have missed the most while leveling… is the fact that right now I am “only” a tank.  I know I have lamented this several times, but it is my hope to at least get the dragoon up there quickly.  Now begins the fun end game gearing process that I obsess over so much.

Moogles are Lazy

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-21 19-30-55-67 Due to the Independence Day holiday we opted to record this show a little early this week, and instead of spending Saturday night talking about games, we spent Friday night.  As a result there are several of us who were not quite to level 60 in Final Fantasy XIV but have since caught up and pushed through to the level cap.  However we spent a good deal of time not talking about FFXIV. Grace managed to finish the crazy attunement system in Wildstar and attended her very first raid.  She gives her opinion of the system and how it compares to WoW and FFXIV raiding.  Additionally we go down the rabbit hole that is the Four Job Fiesta and talk Final Fantasy V and the various group compositions fate has given us this year.  I apparently was one job off from the legendary group composition that the person who started the event go their first year:  Monk, Berserker, Beastmaster and Dancer.  Instead the gods saw fit to give me a Samurai so I could quite literally “pay to win”.

We purposefully saved our discussion of Heavensward to the end of the show because I knew that was the one thing we were all playing.  It is extremely difficult to discuss this game without going into spoilers, so there are some details that might be spoiled if you have not played up through the Aery dungeon yet.  The awkwardness of this show was the fact that Ashgar is quite a ways behind the rest of us, making it extremely difficult to add to discussions… because at least one point during the show he made a conjecture that we knew the truth about, but could not really go into it for fear of spoiling key plot points.  My theory is that once we have all finished the 3.0 story arc we will do yet another big “spoil everything” show, like we did for 2.55.  The best snippet for me was when Grace decided to talk about her new loathing for Moogles after completing the Churning Mists zone.  Moogles are in fact lazy bums.

Bismarck Harpooned

Depths of Madness

As I warned you all, I am writing this the night before I intend to post it…  at 11pm after a fairly long day of working on our little side projects.  Essentially the offices of both myself and my wife need reorganizing in the worst possible way.  Neither has really been torn apart and put back together in a very very long time.  In fact a good chunk of today was spent shedding documents…  from 2005 or so that we kept for god knows what reason.  I had forgotten just how many bills and statements used to pile up from the mail… that are now delivered electronically.  So I spent my time alternating between shredding documents until the shredder overheated…  and boxing up things I no longer needed or wanted for Goodwill.

The problem being that I feel completely overwhelmed in how much is still left to go through.  I am horrible about just boxing things up to get it out of the way… so I have several of these boxes loaded with miscellaneous stuff.  So this whole mission is part de-cluttering but even more important a sifting of things back into logical bins.  At the same time I am trying to make my computer space more friendly, and have a better option for hooking up my console systems and still being able to capture footage from them through my computer.  Another thing I am trying to do is to give myself a workspace where I can fiddle with computers or more importantly assemble the mountain of Lego sets I have.  Then I am trying to free up some additional room to have places to display said Legos when I finally get them together.  Needless to say the next few days are going to be busy.

Bismarck Harpooned

ffxiv_07022015_200623 If you have ready this blog for any period of time, you will know that I am pretty much willing to get drug into anything if a guild member needs it.  There are some exceptions that I avoid like the plague…  I am looking at you Aurum Vale.  However if the need is great enough I can always get my arm twisted enough to run whatever it is.  Bismarck on the other hand is an encounter that I truly enjoy, so the moment someone mentions that I almost jump at the chance to run it.  What makes Bismarck so interesting is the fact that it is a vastly different style of primal fight.  While you are ultimately in a fight against the giant flying whale, you are having to deal with a lot of different elements rather than fighting it directly.  The goal is to fire two giant harpoons into the whale that allow you to wench it to the side of the island you are standing on.  From there you can dps down its weak spot.  To make things more interesting you have to deal with all sorts of weather effects, different sorts of adds, and the whale itself slamming into the platform periodically.

The funny thing about pugging a Primal encounter is that you never fully understand the mechanics at work unless someone actually takes the time to explain them.  One of the mechanics that we did not grasp completely was what exactly to do with the water globules during phase three.  It took us three attempts to get through Bismarck because we were essentially having to figure out what exactly to do with them.  The first time we killed the adds and died to lightning damage, the second time we left the water globs up… and then took a massive  burst of damage when they exploded.  The real mechanic is a bit more subtle.  If there is story weather happening, you leave the water globs up to soak the lightning damage which will ultimately kill them.  If the skies are clear however… you kill the adds before they explode.  Once we grasped this more clearly we wrecked this primal.  I have a pretty nice video of our kill above that I edited out of my stream.

Finally Fifty Nine

ffxiv_06302015_202857 The bulk of my evening was spent wandering around trying to find ways of getting experience.  After having pretty good luck with Clan Hunts Wednesday night, I started off my evening getting a new set and working through those.  It seems like they provide about an eighth of a level upon completing the first two tiers, which is nothing to sneeze at.  After finishing these off I went back out to the Hinterlands to do quests for the crazy goblins within.  These quests involve more than your normal amount of running around as you help them build their new perfect society.  I managed to just have enough quests to push on through to 59 without any further dungeons or fate running.  Now I am in the final stretch to 60, and I have heard it goes considerably faster.  I also just unlocked the next dungeon, and I have been looking forward to running it since I first heard about it.  Hopefully tomorrow before or after the podcast I will be able to pull together a group and run it.  In the mean time however… I need to head to bed because we have to get up early tomorrow to deal with more cleaning.

Sohm Al with Neighbors

The Teamspeak Conundrum

Yesterday I spoke for a bit about one of the reasons why I have not streamed that often.  Namely that I have friends who would prefer not to be broadcast over my stream, which means when I DO stream… I have had to wall myself off from my social network of friends by dropping down to the “streaming” channel.  As a result there is only so long I can seem to go without popping back upstairs because I simply get lonely down there all by myself.  Over the last year or so I have tried to figure out a set up that would work, to let me stream freely without the fear of broadcasting my companions.  The defacto tool is Virtual Audio Cables, but folks have talked about it being cumbersome and the more I looked into it… and they started talking about setting up batch files to do this or that…  it honestly scared me away.  Honestly even the website seems a bit cludgy…  so I kept looking for other solutions.

In the mean time I made attempts to make this process work using both Voice Meter and Breakaway Audio.  Neither tool admittedly was designed to do this, but I had found guides online that supposedly allowed it to work.  Problem being after setting everything up… it never seemed to work for me and there was extremely limited documentation on what I could do to tweak my setup.  Last night I finally decided to dig down into Virtual Audio Cables, and found the guide embedded above.  For starters… this is the point at which I complain that YouTube is the worst means of disseminating information.  What I needed in all of these cases was a good blog post with annotated screenshots…  all I could actually find were a series of haphazard videos.  That said the above video, when followed actually produced the results exactly like I wanted.  Last night I was able to stream practically all night long, while hanging out with friends…  and not broadcasting a single thing they said.  Additionally I bound a separate push to to talk key just for the stream so that folks watching the stream are not getting “half” of the conversation.  The videos below are the results of my evening of streaming.

Sohm Al with Neighbors

ffxiv_07012015_195121 The picture does not exactly go with this story… but oh well it is my prerogative.  Solaria’s fishing outfit looks amazing, and it makes me want to level fishing.  It does however show you that the Greysky Armada spends a ton of time milling around our guild house in The Mists.  One of the things I love about this game is that we are constantly interacting with our neighbors.  Last night Damai and I were talking in /say and a neighbor joined in, saying that he needed a dps and a tank for Sohm Al the second dungeon in Heavensward.  Damai was already spoken for, but I offered up my own services as a tank.  We queued and got in quickly and the below embedded video is the results of that run.  I did a few stupid things, one of which that wiped the party but we had a great time running dungeons with people who were essentially complete strangers until I last night.  I think it is awesome that you can have these casual run in acquaintances.

During the early days of World of Warcraft had this rich tapestry of social connections that reached into many of the other raiding guilds on the server.  When I needed someone for an activity our raid was running, I could reach out into these social channels and draw upon dozens of different people who were milling around looking for something to do.  Cataclysm however pretty much destroyed this network, and I have never really been able to build an equivalent in any other MMO… that is until Final Fantasy XIV.  The people here on Cactuar seem to crave interaction with folks outside of their insular guild units.  I am in my maximum number of linkshells and while folks get lost in their own little world… especially while leveling in Heavensward… I have still been able to draw upon them to fill groups.  As we move into more “maintenance” mode this is going to become more true.  The only thing I wish was that there was a way to create more “formal” guild alliances.  There are a handful of free companies that we hang out with regularly, and it would be nice to have a shared channel of communication that was not “opt in” like a linkshell.

Another Titan Extreme

Wednesday is normally the raid night of our second guild static.  Since the raid leader was not around he left it up to Damai to organize something…  and while we did not really have the appropriate numbers to work on Second Coil of Bahamut, there were still a large number of folks needing Extreme Primals to unlock more content.  I was asked if I “felt like tanking Titan Extreme” to which I replied “there is never a sequence of events that exists… where I feel like tanking Titan Extreme…  but I will if you need me”.  Titan Extreme is just one of those fights that is maddening on so many levels and I would place it among the five hardest fights in all of the A Realm Reborn content.  That said I make it out in my mind to be far worse than it actually is, and at this point I have the dance memorized.  This fight is absolutely about repeating the same sequence of actions over and over until the boss falls down, and as I have commented in the past… this is the sort of fight we fail miserably at.  We are amazing at fights where we have to think on our feet and adjust to change…  but doing this on Titan extreme ultimately ends up screwing the entire raid when it comes to Weight of the Land damage.

What I found amazing is just how challenging this encounter still is even though many of us were being downscaled to 50, and our gear downscaled with us.  A Realm Reborn content is absolutely going to remain relevant for new folks that have yet to experience it.  This makes me more happy than just about anything else in Heavensward.  We still have a bunch of people coming up through the ropes that have not seen any of the 2.0 raid content, and my hope is that we can have an old school night where we work on this as a guild and get people through it.  This is what I wanted from World of Warcraft all along… a way to run old content and make it still relevant to current players.  There were epic experiences like Blackwing Lair and Ulduar that are just diminished because we overgear the shit out of it, and there is no real way NOT to be overpowered… other than making some alts and level locking them at fixed points in time.  Granted we tried to do this once with a raid of level 60 locked alts…  but it still was not the same.  Final Fantasy XIV however seems to have figured out how to make it work, and I am damned thankful.  We eventually got the kill and I edited out just that part in the above video.