Last night was as the post title might give away… a really good night. Lately in Final Fantasy XIV I have been caught up in one of two different grinds. The first being getting everyone to 50 by running floors 51-60 over and over again in Palace of the Dead. The second being leveling crafting through the use of the Ixal beast tribe quests… which is significantly more time consuming that it initially seems. There have been so many nights I have completely squandered the entire evening trying to get that last high quality item needed to turn in a quest. This past evening however we ran group content, and actually had a full team of eight players. Granted at some point during the evening we lost Mor, and Neph is in Iceland and unable to game with us… but we have built back up to a large enough group that we can do things together without queuing in randos. Not that random players in Final Fantasy XIV are ever really a problem… it is just nice to not have to explain that we are hashing things out on a voice chat that they don’t have access to. The prime target of the evening was Zurvan the last of the warring triad. While I was not really a huge fan of Sephirot… I have to say both Sophia and Zurvan are awesome fights. Zurvan is a bit more of a good old fashioned avoid the shit fight… but still very fun to tank at least.
After finishing up Zurvan we got another person keyed for the last part of Alexander by running them all in sequence. I have a feeling we are ultimately going to be doing a lot of this at some point given that both Stormrazor and Muspel are coming up through the ranks. It sounds like at some point we really need to run the early Alex for Storm, which is absolutely a thing we can do. All in all the Alex fights are extremely fun… except for maybe that middle section. There are definitely some memorable encounters, but I simply don’t like it nearly as much as I like the first four and the last four. I actually managed to roll lucky and walked away with an accessory and a belt, which takes my total item level up to 247… which I am simply hoping is high enough to avoid another gear wall during the next batch of content. That has been the problem with Heavensward and one I am hoping they are fixing for Stormblood… the hitting of walls that are not super easy to get to through casual content. I still feel like they need to be doing a round of hunts each item tier to help folks catch up in a solo manner as well as through doing group content. Final Fantasy XIV as a whole is a weird social experiment… of applying pressure in one direction and rewards in another direction to try and influence player behavior. Sometimes it works out perfectly… and other times it feels cludgy as hell. The gear barriers are one of those rare occasions in this game where I feel like they made the wrong choice. That said it was a really great night of running stuff with friends, and now that we seem to have a regular group of eight people… so many other options open up.
My madness continues… and last night I joined in with Grace and eventually Storm and Muspel to do some Palace of the Dead. Essentially PotD is the new FATE grinding, and while it can be sort of repetitive, I never seem to get tired of it. I mean I thought Tam was insane when he went through his own period of time where he lived in dank dungeon, but now I finally get it. What I am loving about it is that I can just hop in… run a bunch of Palace of the Dead… mentally be somewhere else like watching a movie or a television show and then still feel like I made significant progress at the end of the night. The first goal has been to catch up my classes to 50, because it is going to allow me to have a massive house cleaning of everything that has been clogging my retainers. I have a problem with gear, because I know that eventually I would love to have every single class to the level cap. That is just the sort of person I am. In World of Warcraft I actually achieved this goal prior to the launch of legion and had at least one of every alliance character sitting at 100, and three horde characters as well.
Currently I have my Warrior sitting at 60 and he is my only viably geared character for doing big kid stuff. Then you have my Dragoon that I also leveled to 60, but promptly abandoned because playing that class in Heavensward was just so much less enjoyable for me than it was in ARR. When I was last furiously playing the game I was working on my Bard, which had become my defacto dps class for awhile and I managed to get it up to 55. Then we drop down to my 50s which are Paladin that I have not touched since Heavensward because I simply don’t really like playing a Paladin tank. We have my newly raised trio of casters in the form of the Scholar, Summoner and Black Mage all sitting at 50. Then we drop down to some 30 somethings with Ninja at 38, Monk at 33, and Dark Knight at 33. I have yet to even pick up the quest to be a Machinist or an Astrologian but at some point I probably need to do that so that I can weave those into the rotation as well. Now I am sort of torn as to what I should pick to level next, but for the moment I am leaning towards either the Dark Knight because I miss playing heavy armor classes… or the Ninja because they are just really fun to play.
The other set of goals that is staring me in the face is that when I last left my crafting… I had managed to push everything up to 21… with mining and foraging sitting at 50. At some point I really want to start this grind again and push everything up to at least the point where I can make glamour prisms. In theory I should be doing my beast tribe dailies to use those to level my crafting, but I just haven’t reached a point of getting back into the game enough to sort everything out to be able to do that. Once I finished with the Sahagin I sort of let the beast tribe thing die once again… but in theory should be doing the Ixal at least for crafting levels. Whatever the case it seems like I have been assimilated back into Final Fantasy XIV, and have more goals than I can realistically accomplish. My Warrior gear could also always be improved, but I am just finding PotD a relaxing way to spend my evenings… but sadly one that is not terribly interesting to write blog posts about.
This is another one of those mornings when I feel like I don’t have much of anything to talk about. Work encroached upon my gaming time, first with a meeting that I did not get out of until 6 pm… when I normally get out of the office around 4/4:30. Second when I did get home I had a bunch of things that I needed to look into given that we are still ironing out the issues with a brand new website launch. As a result by the time I finished up I largely just crashed on the sofa and watched some Black Mirror as I had not touched season 3. That show is extremely creepy, but also something that I cannot really stop watching. It is a sort of technological tales of the crypt, and if you have never watched the show… be prepared for some disturbing content. That said it is still very much worth your time and the latest season has at least one gem scattered among the digital nightmares in the form of the San Junipero episode. Anyways this morning is going to be a random screenshot post morning because I am not sure what else to really talk about. I am still fairly groggy and probably shouldn’t have finished the 4th episode last night, and instead just headed on to bed.
I am not entirely certain of the context, but this is of course a screenshot from Wildstar. I believe it is from the moon mission where you have to figure out what happened to all of the miners. Even though I have long struggled to really click with this game, I cannot deny how much of an interesting vision it really is. The art direction was on point and everything feels like it exists in the same shared technicolor delusion. For whatever reason I never really liked how spastic their flavor of hotbar combat felt. Most recently I paid a little money to be able to create a Chua Warrior and I found it enjoyable… but still not really clicking as hard as I would have liked. Honestly this game and Guild Wars 2 sort of exist in the same space for me… where they are equally interesting to visit but not exactly the same of place I want to call home. I will say though that the people who do play the game regularly are amazing and I am super happy to have a whole bunch of them occupying my social media streams. This is one of those games that I root hard for… just from a distance.
We go from a game that I don’t really get fully, to one that I absolutely do… but still don’t end up playing that often. I believe this screenshot is from one of the opening shots of Makeb which was the sequence of content I last played during a December 2015 binge of the game thanks to Force Awakens Star Wars hype. I honestly thought I would similarly return during the Rogue One hype machine but it never actually materialized. I realize I am missing so much great content, and I keep saying that one of these days when I hit a lull in whatever other games I happen to be playing that I will swoop back to Star Wars the Old Republic and gobble up all of the goodies I have missed. I still have yet to start any of the Shadow of Revan content… let alone Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne. I did have an active sub, but I let that lapse at some point… they keep roping me in with offers of “subs get X shiny bauble” and then I never actually end up playing. I should in theory pop back in before this last bit of sub time lapses and I am stuck playing in freemium hell.
On to yet another game that I have really fond memories of but never end up playing. This is I believe a screenshot from one of the betas for The Secret World. To the best of my knowledge this was me creating my very first character. To be truthful I never was a huge fan of the character creation system in TSW, as it always felt like I never could create exactly the character that I wanted to create. However on so many levels I loved this game, but the biggest problem is attempting to return to it. Since you can repeat almost every quest it becomes extremely hard to see just what you have completed and what is new and something you should focus on. When they release an issue I find it hard to actually track down all of the things that have been added and given that I last actively played during “Last Train to Cairo” which was issue number six… and they are currently on fifteen there is a ton of content I have missed. I just find it extremely hard to get back into the game after being gone for so long… and given all of the systems that they have seemingly loosely tacked onto the base experience.
I don’t have an awful lot to say about this screenshot other than I thought it looked cool, so I decided to post it. This is of course from Farcry 3 Blood Dragon, which is this insane 80s movie romp. If you took every 80s sci-fi film and distilled it to its campy roots, then dumped all of that pure essence in a blender… you wind up with Blood Dragon. If you have never checked it out, you probably really should given that it regularly dips down into the $5 territory. It is a completely stand alone experience and does not require Farcry… nor does it really have anything to do with the Farcry Franchinse at all other than modeling some of the open world roaming gameplay.
Cactuar is a strange place and I love it. This is of course the server a bunch of us play on in Final Fantasy XIV and compared to so many other game servers… this one just seems to have a bizarre and friendly spirit to it. There are a whole slew of us that have been practically living in Quarymill as we grind away at Palace of the Dead to level secondary classes and get a shot at tasty replica raid gear. As a result Grace and myself happened to be milling around in town waiting for the festivities proper to begin that evening. Grace pointed out that there were two people bouncing around on Big Chocobo mounts… and we both agreed something to the effect that we should both join in and make this happen. So within moments of us joining the fray and bouncing around wildly on our giant chocos… this happened. Granted a few more guildies came over and joined in the fun but most of us this from just random people talking in /say as we bounced around happily. This sort of thing is honestly an almost nightly occurrence on our server. I cannot count how many times I have been in a major hub like this and a random pony party broke out, where everyone mounted up on their extreme primal mounts and started running around. Sometimes it even evolves into a parade as we all run around throughout the zone.
Cactuar is a weird place and I love it. There are so many times I have had to step afk and typed /mdance before leaving… and come back to a whole bunch of other strangers there with me also dancing the Manderville and somehow almost perfectly synced up with me. I have so many people on my friends list because they had an amazing outfit and we just struck up a conversation, and we /wave madly at each other anytime we pass out in the world. Argent Dawn the server I play on in World of Warcraft has always had its bizarre streaks, but more often than not there was an undertone of malice there. In Final Fantasy XIV folks just seem to be interested in enjoying themselves far more than bringing other people down in the process. I am sure Cactuar also has its dark underbelly, but generally speaking folks are friendly and more than willing to join in the silliness if given a chance. It is funny how a server develops a certain culture, which is honestly the main reason why I question games that are essentially server-less. I know our server “feels” different than a lot of the other larger servers, and I am never quite certain how that sort of thing develops. I mean I guess it could simply be because our server mascot is a half man half cactus… which doesn’t exactly evoke feelings of being hardcore and brutal. Although… anyone who has ever fought a Cactuar knows the score as they fall over after a 10000 Needles attack.
In other news I finally got to see the Sophia primal fight, as there were a bunch of us who had never done it. I realize we are a few patch cycles behind on this one, but I have to say I really enjoyed it. It was like all of the things happening with Leviathan… but messaged far far better. There are a lot of moving parts on the fight, but we largely winged it without having seen it and only the most vague description of the fight from those who had. We single tanked it, and that role fell onto me… since really I don’t have a well enough geared anything else to do big kid content on. I had an awful lot of fun with the moving back and forth on the platform to avoid this ability or that… or the platform shift as the scales get out of balance. We also did a one tank, one healer Ravana Extreme and that fight is still madness. I would love to do that some more largely because I would really like to get my axe from there… also of as a side note I would love to do some more Bismarck for the same reason. I guess ultimately I really am a Warrior main, given that I didn’t swap at Heavensward and still have no plans to swap for Stormblood. Of all of the gear I own… it is my Warrior gear that I end up enjoying the most.
So yesterday I mentioned that I had plenty of Aetherpool to get a weapon, but found out that I apparently needed to have completed the full 1-100 Palace of the Dead experience to purchase it. Confession time here… before last night I had never actually completed any further into PotD than floor 70. Most of my running lately has been resetting and running 51-60 over and over which tends to give between 1/2 and 3/4 of a level worth of experience depending on your level. I am sure this slows down in the post 50 grind, but regardless considering how fast most of the runs go it is well worth my time. Given how fast the queue is… I am guessing the community as a whole has also decided it is well worth their time. For the moment I have been focused on getting up my characters to 50, which would allow me to clean out a significant amount of gear from my extremely clogged retainers. Last night I hung out in a holding pattern until my wife got home, and then we both walked to dinner and finally around 7:30 I had arrived at a place where I could get committed to running something serious. I mentioned that I really needed to get to floor 100 and within moments Tam, Ash and Grace had volunteered for the run. All told it took roughly 2 hours to get through the 51-100 content, which no matter how you chop it is a raid like effort of sitting still in one place for a long period of time. As far as experience goes I went from 33 to 37 and am just barely shy of dinging 38 so just a little less than a half level per flight of floors. I also managed to bump my Aetherpool up to 85 weapon / 87 armor as seen in the final score shot from the dungeon.
The first five sets of floors were pretty chill, but quickly things kinda turned to madness. We had a sequence of floors with just a silly amount of Chimera and Dragon on them, and in truth we pomander of rage’d the last three floors just to go quicker. We picked up plenty of silver chests and exited with 9 treasures… but we didn’t exactly go out of our way to do full clears either. If we had unexplored rooms and the portal activated… we were far more likely just to hop straight in than to spend any more time. This become more so as we got into the last few flights and it was clear that we were all getting tired of the run. I am super thankful to my friends because I probably would not have successfully pugged my way through that one. I have had great luck with 1-10 and 51-60… but pretty much any other set I try they end up failing miserably and I am just out thirty minutes worth of frustration in the process. Grace on the other had has somehow managed to pug her way to 100, and I salute her. Her intestinal fortitude for dealing with strangers is so much stronger than mine. After running 1-50 for Muspel over the weekend, and then running 51-100 for me last night… I think it might be a long while before I sign up for another complete run of Palace of the Dead. I greatly prefer speed running the first flight over and over to trying to do the entire thing in a single sitting.
This weekend it finally happened… I finally reached a point where I am full saturation once again in Final Fantasy XIV. I am not really sure if it was the Fan Fest news trickling out over the weekend, or the introduction of Stormblood. Whatever the case I spent the majority of the weekend plunked down on the sofa playing FFXIV. Now the bizarre part of this however… is that I played a bunch of classes that I traditionally never play. I almost exclusively played finger wigglers, which lead my guild to wonder if I had been replaced by a pod person. Would I even know if that actually happened? I mean do the pod people actually know that they are pod people? Whatever the case two different things were happening this weekly. Primarily I was using the Palace of the Dead to level classes that would be cool to have at max level… but that I don’t really want to level properly. Namely Scholar and Summoner, which admittedly is the same leveling process… but I spent most of the weekend running around with Garuda Egi in dps form. I finished the grind Sunday Afternoon and then went rummaging through my vault to find something to wear. Thankfully I managed to scrape together enough gear that I picked up along the way to hit somewhere in the vicinity of 110.
From there I spent a good amount of time catching the Summoner and Scholar up on their quest chains… which were laughably easy now that I overgeared them by a significant portion. The thing that is making the leveling process awkward is that I switched Grand Companies between now and the last time I leveled… and as a result my vault is full of a bunch of Immortal Flames gear that I cannot actually use. Side note… Maelstrom completely fails because the low level Black Mage weapon is a one-handed item. Regardless I managed to catch up quickly and now have four sets of awesome gear… 2 for summoner and 2 for scholar because I guess they just straight up give you the recolored version now? The recolor was pretty different on scholar so I went with the good ole classic. On summoner however they both looked pretty samey and I went with the evoker set not really knowing if that is the original or the reskin. Side note… summoner “Egis” are hilarious as a Lalafel since they are always larger than you are.
After getting Summoner and Scholar to 50… and through their class content… I shifted gears and started working on Thaumaturge. I had managed to get it to 26 a long time ago only because it was the level needed for a cross class ability. I stopped there expecting to never pick it up, but instead tonight I dusted things off and tried to make a viable build work. I guess in part I am wanting to get all of my casters to 50… so I can have a massive cleaning out of my vault given that I have so much gear laying around and there is zero way I can survive another expansion with the vault in its current state. In truth I think it would be kinda cool to get ALL of my classes to 50, but given that I have not even started on Machinist and Astralogian…. and only have Dark Knight to 33 that might be awhile off. I do however find Palace of the Dead extremely relaxing, especially the manner in which I am running it. I am simply running 51 to 60 over and over which still seems to move the bar up nicely on weapons. The other side benefit of the weekend is that I can now purchase my next weapon upgrade for the Warrior… however in order to do that I am going to actually have to beat level 100 at some point. I can begin pestering my friends about that now… but having run 1-50 for a friend this weekend… I know just how much of a slot doing an entire PotD can be in one sitting.
This weekend was a bizarre one. We are still very much under the gun of a release date, and I attempted to do whatever I could to further that goal. However for all of Saturday our building was without power, and I was instead on call just in case something went wrong. The building power went down at 6:30 in the morning, and by the time we started recording AggroChat we had not yet gotten the all clear. I was just hoping that things would cycle off of the generators as successfully as they did cycling onto them, and that I would not end up getting interrupted during the podcast. Sunday was a mixed bag of work and doing all of the other things that we ultimately put off until Sunday like laundry and various errands. The weekend as a whole wound up being a very random mix of games as I played whatever I could during the brief moments of downtime. As you can see by the Chateau Belghast image above, I started fiddling around with Fallout 4 once again, and scrapped my old house and built this one instead. The inside is largely unfurnished but I am digging the outside quite a bit. It took me far longer than it should have to sort out how best to attempt centering the neon text, but in the grand scheme it seems to look okay. The frustrating bit with their neon font is that is is in no way monospaced with the characters all varying pretty wildly in width.
In Final Fantasy XIV I am still very much getting back in the swing of things, and have fallen into the pattern of doing Beast Tribe dailies. In theory I started down this path because I wanted a reliable source of ventures for my retainers, so that I could keep sending out my gatherers on field exploration. However I also really like mounts, and over the course of the last week or so I have been pushing up the Sahagin, not necessarily because I love the mount, but more because it was the next closest faction. For a long period of time, it was the faction I was spending the rest of my daily allowance on while working on the Sylph. Yesterday however I managed to push Sahagin across the finish line and now have my truly bizarre Sapsa mount to ride around on. I figured what better place to take a picture of it than in the waters of The Mists, where the Free Company house is located. Next up should be the Kobolds as once again… they are the next closest given that I had been spending my extra ventures on them while working on the Sahagin. I mean I know there are lots of other things I SHOULD be doing… but I just can’t bring myself to pug dungeons yet. After a string of bad experiences with Palace of the Dead… I don’t much feel like pugging that one either. The problem there is as we talked about on the podcast, is that if you fail… you lose all progress gained which seems deeply punitive for a random group activity.
Finally I spent a good amount of time this weekend playing Elder Scrolls online. I failed to take any screenshots so instead you get an interior shot of my home. I pushed forward the story line in Malabal Tor a bit, but the big problem with ESO is that I tend to wander wildly. I find it extremely hard to stay focused and instead I wind up going after the next object on the horizon that looks interesting, and as a result never seem to end up getting my objectives accomplished. There is always a fallen log to harvest, or an outcropping of ore to mine. Whatever the case I find myself continuing to move steadily towards 160 champion levels, which is the current item cap. Unfortunately I have a feeling this is probably going to change with Morrowind, but for the time being getting there.. and being able to craft a set of gear that will last me for a bit tends to be my focus. The other thing that I am realizing is that 160 champion levels is just a drop in the bucket given that quite literally every build I find expects you to have at least four or five times that amount. There is a part of me that wishes I had never actually faded away from this game, because at this very moment I am so impossibly behind the curve. Then again I think that overwhelming amount of content is what has been drawing me there much in the same way as it did for A Realm Reborn until we caught up. I know there is more to do than I have time to do it… and in some way that is insurance from ever really getting bored.
Yesterdays post was a little more bleak than they usually are, and the bizarro thing is… I think writing it helped a lot. It helped putting the frustrations and dread into a single post and sending it out into the world. Its almost as if typing the words lessened the hold the malaise had on me. Then again the activities of last night helped quite a bit as well. However I will get to that shortly. First off I want to show off my home in Elder Scrolls Online. I went back and forth on a few different homes before finally settling on Mournoth Keep in the Halcyon Lake area of Bangkorai. I remember being extremely fond of the main campaign in Bangkorai so that fit for me as well as the fact that since I chose Daggerfall Covenant as my original faction… I wanted something to call home in the same area. In truth I have not done much with it since getting it, largely because I have not had much luck in getting pattern or furniture drops. I am being told that looting furniture seems to be the best way to do that. In theory I could resort to stealing, or instead just fine one of the many towns controlled by enemies and run amok looting there. I have a feeling through with the focus on housing there is going to be a lot of competition for lootables.
Now on to the events of last night and how they seem to have turned around my spirit. For awhile now Squirrel, Jex and myself have had an informal Thursday night thing where we go off and do small group content in Destiny together. Originally this was the night when we took on the Challenge of Elders, but more recently we have been running all three of our characters through the weekly nightfall. I have yet to get an icebreaker, so I largely think they are humoring me until I actually get one. Whatever the case it is a lot of fun, but due to the bizarre schedule since coming back from PAX it had been a few weeks since we last did one of these nights. In truth I had not actually played Destiny since probably January 19th now that I am thinking about it. I was extremely rusty, and by the sheer number of times that they had to rez me it showed… but regardless I think we all had a lot of fun. This week the Nightfall is Dust Palace which is something that has been in the rotation since year one… and that everyone has memorized at this point. As a result we were able to run through three characters worth of Nightfalls in way less than an hours time. During the Nightfall runs they asked me where I was on progress on the quest line to unlock the Outbreak Prime weapon, which requires you to group together in a fire team with a Titan, Warlock and Hunter to make forward momentum.
The truth is I had not really made it terribly far other than picking up the occasional progress from our Thursday night runs when the stars happened to be aligned and we wound up choosing to play different classes on a given run. Like they often do… they set out to change that and we ran a sequence of Archon’s Forge to finish out the step I happened to be on since those apparently count as “public events”. It was around this point that we realized that we did not have three characters with the devices needed to do the decoding step of the quest chain. There is a phase that needs to be completed in a social area where a titan, warlock and hunter input a sequence on this item that drops from the quest chain. If all three sequences are correct you can click through and get to the next step. After a little shuffling we realized that Jex’s warlock had already completed the quest, and Squirrel’s hunter was on the step I had just completed. So we continued on to catch Squirrel up in the process and ran a sequence of three heroic strikes, and then three public events to get us all on the same stage of the quest. After that back to the social area to complete the matrix and move on to the next step.
It felt like the night was still relatively young, so instead of hanging it up for the evening we pushed on into the next quest which involved collecting a bunch of SIVA tech by killing splicers. This also required us to run the Sepiks Perfected strike, which we knocked out in short order by simply doing the 320 light version. From there it was back into Archon’s Forge to complete three events, and farm up the rest of our SIVA Tech fragments. All of which went extremely quickly and before we had finished the three events, we had gotten 100% of our fragments. Watching those things scroll by 2 at a time on the right side of the screen was madness as we tore apart the forge event. Finally it was another trip back to a social space, this time to solve a four by five matrix. It took a half dozen attempts but we finally got the right numbers on all three of us, allowing us to move to the final step. Now both Squirrel on his hunter and myself on my Titan are on the step that requires us to simply kill any three bosses in the Wrath of the Machine raid. Then I will have my very own Outbreak Prime pulse rifle, and can do silly damage to SIVA targets with my nanites. All it all it was exactly the sort of concentrated fun that I needed to pull me out of my funk, and even though I am staring down the barrel of what will almost certainly be an extremely stressful day… I suddenly found a new packet of spoons with which to confront it.
Yesterday was kind of a shit day. I got to work around 7 am, ran around like a chicken with my head cut off and didn’t get home until after 6:30 pm. To make matters worse I wound up skipping breakfast with the idea of just grabbing something from the cafeteria in the basement… but apparently they changed hands and are no longer open at a reasonable hour for breakfast eating. When I got home I ate some left overs and planned on largely chilling out on the sofa with my laptop, however within minutes I was falling asleep at the keyboard. Instead of opting to consume caffeine to forcibly prop my eyelids open like I do so many nights… I simply went with it and crashed hard. I know I woke up a few times, one of which I vaguely remember going to the kitchen to get a drink… but for the most part I was completely dead to the world not really becoming aware of my surroundings until about five minutes before the alarm was set to go off this morning. Bel is still a very sick Bel, and while I am taking some stuff whatever respiratory hell that I picked up at PAX South seems to be lingering. Unfortunately work is absolutely madness right now and we are pushing towards a hard deadline… one that honestly made me think if going to PAX was a good idea at all in the first place. So I am suffering through it, and largely just collapsing into my desk chair and trying to think clear thoughts… that is until yesterday when a firestorm erupted not even vaguely related to said deadline. All of the sudden I am back in the same meetings I attended six months ago… and being told to develop the same solution I suggested six months ago but was largely told wasn’t needed. Suffice to say… it was a miserable day to be a Bel.
As a result I don’t have much that is exciting to talk about other than the fact that something strange happened. We had essentially a virtual run on the banks in the form of the WoW Token going from 60,000 gold to 115,000 gold and back down to around 66,000 gold all within a 36 hour period. So what caused this? Well quite simply the law of supply and demand, but more importantly the release of the ability to fund “Battle.net Balance” from consuming a WoW token instead of simply trading it in for subscription time. If you will indulge me in a quick side bar here… didn’t Blizzard say that as far as branding goes “Battle.net” was going away? I find it bizarre that they are rolling out a new feature with this same branding instead of simply calling it “Blizzard Balance” or something super generic like that. Essentially all of those folks with pent up desires for products on the Blizzard store, suddenly had the ability to cash in their bankroll and buy those things pushing the demand for tokens way higher than the demand for actual gold. In truth this should have been foreseen given that there will always be a constant need for things on the store that previously cost cash, but there is a constantly dwindling number of aspirational gold needs in the game. Sure you could really drop a silly amount of money and buy outright that 2 million gold spider mount… but at the end of the day it does nothing but sit there as a supposed status symbol. Whereas in the past with the Tundra Mammoth and Yak… those greatly improved game-play especially when it came to leveling alts. However I won’t lie that the thought of being able to sell a token and purchase the Alliance motorcycle did cross my mind as something I might be willing to do.
What I want to talk about more than anything else is the absolute windfall that this means for Blizzard. When you purchase a token for $20 it can be then traded for goods valuing $15… be it in the form of a monthly subscription or now in $15 of Battle.net balance that can then be spent on anything from physical merchandise to the digital services they provide. Every time a token changes hands Blizzard makes $5 off the top, regardless of what it is spent on. My theory is that a lot of the tokens over the last two days were spent purchasing digital services… like character moves or renames… things that folks had been wanting to do for a long period of time but just been unwilling to cough up hard currency to make it happen. If that is the case then every single one of these token purchases also essentially amounted to pure profit. I have been a long time critic of the prices that Blizzard charges for character moves or renames… when essentially they are charging for access to what is now a completely automated and scripted interaction. Once upon a time there was a labor cost associated with these services, because someone manually kicked off a SQL script to make it happen… however that has not been the case for over a decade and the price never actually went down. If folks spent their tokens on digital game purchases, or in game items for Hearthstone, Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch… then again that is mostly pure profit. The only time there are serious physical expenses factoring in is if someone purchase tangible items on the store like a Murloc plush or an Overwatch hoodie. Even then… they are still making a decent profit on that item or they would not be selling it. Basically the Token system allows Blizzard to double dip and make a profit on the front end and the back end of every purchase… and at the same time ensures that the folks that are grinding out the gold are actively playing their properties.
In truth I think we can expect one of these “runs on the bank” each time something new is released from Blizzard. A new champion in Heroes of the Storm… bam the token price inflates as folks scurry to purchase it. The Diablo 3 expansion pack that adds Necromancers releases… same thing… a rush to sell off some gold to purchase the thing that folks want. I think of this much like the lottery system, in that once the reward gets to a certain point… it brings people out of the woodwork that would never normally buy tickets. Personally that price point is somewhere around 300 million dollars for a lottery, because that prompts me to start buying the occasional one off ticket here and there on the vague chance that I will actually win. For WoW players that price point seems to be 100,000 gold for the US economy and 200,000 gold for the EU economy. The bizarre part of this is that I don’t think the balance feature is even available on the EU realms yet, and it absolutely had no effect on China, Taiwan, or South Korea yet… but in truth those three markets are madness anyways. Regardless… the fact that players can now cash in their gold for tangible goods… that they could then in theory sell on secondary markets like Ebay tells me that we are going to change the dynamic considerably. You have just essentially let players start turning game time in to real dollars, which is a strange paradigm and one that is not entirely dissimilar to the traditional third party gold markets. Granted this is going to be a SUPER lossy process, but one that will exist nonetheless. One that more than likely only the most sage of gold making wizards will ever figure out how to tap. Things are going to be really strange from this point out.
[Edit] I just heard from my friend Nyn that you cannot apparently use Battle.net balance to fund physical items… so that at least negates some of my commentary. However that does mean that tokens going to Battle.net balance are essentially going to be largely pure profit for Blizzard.
I’ve admittedly been pretty sporadic in my gameplay of Final Fantasy XIV since just shortly after the launch of Heavensward. For whatever reason the story this time never quite clicked in the same way that it did during A Realm Reborn. Additionally Alex never felt nearly as interesting as Coil… so it just felt like I was grasping at things to tie me to the game but struggling to find them. More than all of these I think the two dungeons per cycle business hurt the most, because it turned something that I used to love… Expert Roulette into a grind because there was always the dungeon you enjoyed… and the dungeon you disliked in every patch cycle. All of this said I have been poking my head in periodically and was at least aware of the mentor program. The idea being that Square would create a way to identify players who know lots about the game… which was an interesting theory. In practice it largely just means you have a Tank, DPS and Healer at the level cap. Also as I found out last night it apparently makes you feel like you need to run around barking orders and throwing shade on how bad you feel the rest of the party was doing. Even though I was attuned for it… I never actually ran the second of the 25 player raids called the Weeping City of Mhach. Collectively folks just call it the “Wiping City” and for good reason… because we died an awful lot but given that it was the first time myself or Grace had been in there… I thought we did largely okay.
The funniest part of the night was the Forgall fight… which involves becoming zombie but not going full zombie and avoiding some things while absolutely standing in others. In short it is the traditional insane dungeon fight that simply requires constant execution… and has mechanics that will straight wipe entire parties. It is a rarity that there are fights where you need to use the healer level three limit break… but during the course of this fight we used it at least twice… and there might have been a third time I didn’t realize. We were at a point where we had no tank and maybe three people total still up, and a bunch of us assumed we were wiping it out and running back. We were wrong… as the “Mentor” continued barking orders and telling people to rez this person or that person… during a contorted fight that felt like it took 20 minutes to finally beat. The truth is I had no clue what I was doing, but I finally got finished off by an actual fight mechanic as one of the attacks takes you to 1 hit point… and requires chain healing to keep the tank from instantly dying afterwards. We had maybe a single healer up at the time and I fell down hard… but just in time for another tank to get rezzed and pick it up. I feel like this was the sort of fight where we needed to play Yakety Sax … but slowed down to the point where it almost sounds like a funeral dirge.
The fight that I got the most enjoyment from however had to be Ozma… an encounter that I had heard about for awhile now. Largely I had heard about it being the group killer, in that it required a lot of moving parts that rarely got coordinated properly among the alliances. Thankfully I was on voice chat with my Free Company and they were able to give me enough of a heads up about what I should be doing. It also helps that early into the fight we lose the entire B alliance, giving me a run seeing the mechanics the first time and then allowing me to take that experience into the second smoother attempt. All in all we nailed it pretty well on the second go, and for the most part by the end of the encounter I learned everything that I needed to do to appropriately tank the fight. The reason we were running Wiping City however was to get me some gear… and unfortunately not a single tanky piece dropped. However I do feel confident enough to probably solo queue tank for the place and start soaking up more gear that way. The risk of playing FFXIV irregularly is that the game moves on without you… and I hit yet another wall with the latest patch. I was sitting at 220 from my last attempt to catch up… and this time around the first dungeon requires 230. There are of course a lot of more grindy ways to catch me up… but we were trying to take as many short cuts as possible.
Before disappearing and flaking out last time I had managed to put in some progress on the 235 weapon from Palace of the Dead and as I talked about yesterday our little run pushed me pretty far… but not quite over the tipping point. So last night once finishing the Wiping City, we broke up into a smaller group and did some Palace of the Dead and over the course of a few runs managed to get me to 39 weapon 32 armor. During all of the stuff I managed to accumulate enough Lore tombstones to upgrade my earrings to 230, and at some point during the evening Tam hooked me up with a set of 250 legs to replace my then lowest slot. I had enough cash accumulated to manage picking up the 250 ring as well since my next lowest slot was that. All together those four pieces of gear pushed me up to exactly 230 item level, and thus makes me viable for a lot more content including the dungeon that is blocking my quest progress. Unfortunately however I have had this patch cycle spoiled for me, because before I remembered to turn off player titles… I actually happened to be running Deep Dungeon with someone that was showing their new title off. Now I am not sure exactly how it is going to go down… but I know something is going to go down. Ultimately that is not necessarily going to ruin the impact, just a bit of a bummer to have it spoiled in a way that really should not have even been a thing. While I wouldn’t necessarily count myself as “caught up”, I am at least in a much better place than I was. I need to do a lot more palace of the dead so that I can pick up the next weapon… but that one requires 60 weapon/armor which is still a very very long ways away. My only revision of that content would be to make the end of sequence mini-boss drop one of whatever your lowest rank happens to be armor or weapon. Also of note… you can see that thanks to the new weapon I did some glamouring and am once more the Bunny Samurai.