Quiet Night

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

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

Leaving the Steppes

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

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

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

Underwater Adventures

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

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

Raubhangeddon Over

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

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

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

Tiny Wings

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This is likely going to be a super short post because reasons.  Last night was an interesting shift from my personal status quo because I guest hosted on the For the Lore podcast.  They were recording their yearly E3 multi-episode and for also reasons… @Samodean was forced to miss.  So as a result @ZenBuddhist pinged me over twitter to see if I was willing to join him and @LodurZJ as an alternate.  In the past I have always really enjoyed guesting on other podcasts in part because it lets me see how exactly everyone else is doing this recording thing.  AggroChat as a whole is largely done almost by accident, and it is sometimes nice to see how those who have a clear purpose actually piece together things.  It had also been entirely too long since I had done this sort of thing.  The only gotcha was their normal recording time is about 1 hour sooner than I could realistically get to the screen and settled in for the night.  Thankfully they pushed it back a little bit and I was able to join in.  Hopefully once again I did not make too much of an ass of myself.  I am not exactly sure what their release schedule is, because in truth the only release schedule I know is our own.  However in the near future you should be able to catch me on the first of a two part episode covering E3 2017 on the For the Lore site.

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In other news… Stormblood has officially begun…  or at least the head start for those who pre-purchased the game.  This expansion had some fairly sweeping changes, and when I first logged in it felt like my hotbars were on fire.  Many of the buttons that I had slotted were replaced by a shared pool of role specific abilities.  So that mean’t things like provoke and stun now exist in that shared tree from which I was able to slot 5 abilities in total.  This is ultimately going to lead to some interesting choices because unlike before with cross class abilities…  there were way more than five choices from that pool that I wanted access to.  I have a feeling we are going to be swapping up to attempt to tailor for specific fights.  For example I now seem to have an AOE taunt… which isn’t that important for leveling… but I could absolutely see needing that on specific fights or if you were taking over the add tank on a specific encounter.  For the most part Warrior feels the same with the big change being that we lost the 5 stack resource… that I never can remember the name of and instead get the beast gauge.  This swap has a bunch of positive benefits to the class as a whole.  For example there were many fights where I would need to hold back using Inner Beast for specific mechanics… but this meant there was the opportunity cost of being capped out at 5 stacks of the buff.  Now I have a gauge that goes from 10-100…  or functionally 10 stacks of my resource meaning that even while holding back an Inner Beast I can also keep building up at least one more attack in reserve.  The other amazing quality of life change is I am not sure if this meter actually decays over time…  I have been able to hold onto beast charges for way longer than I could have the equivalent stacks before.

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The negative of the launch so far is that the Duty instance system seems to be toast.  That means there is a point in the main story quest where you simply cannot proceed past.  The folks that habitually skip cut scenes seem to be far worse off because it seems to keep them in a bit of a locked state where they can’t interact with NPCs at all.  As a pretty rabid cut scene watcher… I did not have this problem but I did absolutely hit the wall already.  There are some that are raging against the machine in chat, and others that keep telling them to calm down.  There are of course new Jobs to work on and other things to occupy time until this gets fixed.  I am absolutely certain someone somewhere is having a really bad day and working as hard as they can to remedy this.  In truth we don’t even know if this is a development thing, but could instead be an infrastructure issue with the hosting environment.  Whatever the case…  folks are getting stalled out but that sort of goes hand in hand with the release of anything.  All in all I am happy that my character largely is going to make the transition without massive horrible feeling changes, and that we get to explore a new part of the world.  For the moment I am not bothering to glamour back my helm… and apparently have tiny floppy wings instead of bunny ears.

RoboSquids Vs Stockade

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I am taking a break from my regular E3 regurgitation and commentary…  to talk about what might be the last ride of the RoboSquids for awhile.  This coming Friday is the launch of Stormblood and with it a lot of us will be working on leveling and get settled into that game.  As a result our time for screwing around on low level characters in World of Warcraft is going to be limited.  As a result we decided to tackle the one that we had all been dreading…  the Stormwind Stockades.  Now normally folks just queue up for this dungeon and ignore the fact that like Ragefire… the dungeon entrance is embedded in a faction capitol.  To recap our rules…

  • Level lock at the minimum level for each dungeon
  • Use whatever means necessary in-between levels
  • Attempt all raids even if we superfail
  • Must compete all dungeons at level before moving on
  • No heirlooms in dungeons
  • Must get to the dungeon naturally and zone in
  • Gear cannot be solved by money
  • Blue quality or higher gear can only come from questing, robo-squid group random drops, or bosses at or below our level lock

I emphasized the rule that is the problem here.  At level 20 we had to make our way into Stormwind and get to the zone in for the stockades on our own.  There were four of us… myself, Grace, Mor and Ashgar.  Like with the Deadmines we ultimately chose to enter through the Grom’gol airship and then run up to Stormwind from there.  Two of us chose to take the land route of… Stranglethorn > Duskwood > Westfall > Elwynn and then go through the front door.  Myself and Grace chose to hop on our water striders and try and make it up the coast and then enter through the docks… thinking that might end up missing some of the guard density.  My ultimate goal was to get to Lions Rest which is the shrine that was erected to replace the big empty area that was formerly the park.  My thought was that potentially this had fewer guards and I could then get closer to the dungeon entrance and potentially rez hop my way in.

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The funny thing about this entire trip is that I had no clue that the graveyard assigned to horde players…  is the Eastvale Logging Camp.  I posted a screenshot for reference, each time we died we had to run where my arrow is currently all the way to wherever the hell we died in Stormwind.  Simply running across Elwynn forest each time ate a bunch of time.  While we were doing this run I decided to start streaming it… and looking back it took roughly 50 minutes for all four of us to make our way into the instance area.  We started a race of sorts as we tried to rez our way across Stormwind… and without really meaning to I won.  I had an absolute lucky break in that I could rez up on a significantly higher vertical surface and bypass a lot of the dock area.  Similarly I also had a lucky rez around the Lion’s Rest area and was able to get into the instance area in about 35 minutes.  Grace who also took the dock route joined me at about 44 minutes and then Mor not that long after… and Ashgar having the roughest time getting inside.  Ash however took one for the team early on as he attempted to use the spirit healer at the instance hoping to hop back up right there.  However whatever faction code is in place caused him to resurrect back at the Eastvale Logging Camp.  The funniest part of the night however was the fact that it took us 50 minutes to run there… and 10 minutes to actually do the instance.

After finishing up the Stockades we decided to go ahead and make the push to Blackfathom Deeps.  The ultimate goal would have been to go ahead and finish up the level 20 dungeons and allow us to start leveling towards the next cap of 24.  However moments after all four of us zoned into the instance…  we got disconnected.  Last night the servers as a whole had a significant issue, where folks either could not log in, could not see their characters…  or simply could not finish loading into the game.  Just about when we were going to give up I managed to log into the dungeon…  and shortly after Grace and Mor were as well.  Ash unfortunately was stuck in a disconnect loop, so we opted to start clearing trash hoping he could eventually make it in.  We had cleared to the first boss and were starting to clear the way to the second boss…  when Grace disconnected.  What was worrisome was the fact that she no longer was responding on Discord as well, meaning whatever issue was happening was on her end… not the server.  At this we finally decided that the world was trying to tell us something, and that we should just call it for the night.  The frustrating part however is by the time Grace got back in moments later…  it seems like the servers as a whole had stabilized.  We are not really sure how we are going to do the RoboSquid content going forward, but we might need to set up an almost raid night happening once a week or something.  At this point we have run…

  • Ragefire Chasm
  • The Deadmines
  • Wailing Caverns
  • Shadowfang Keep
  • Stormwind Stockade

Five dungeons down… only One Hundred Fifty Nine instances left to go…

Mixed Results

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Yesterday I spoke about an idea we had of trying to level lock and run dungeons “legitimately” and as a result slowly work our way through the content as a trio.  I personally went with a Brewmaster Monk, a class I have never really devoted much time to playing.  Grace similarly fell into a familiar role of healing, rolling a Mistweaver Monk.  That left Mor with rolling an Assassination Rogue to be our damage dealer.  We went into this experiment quite honestly expecting to largely face roll Ragefire Chasm.  What happened instead was absolutely not anything even vaguely close to facerolling.  From the first pull we knew we were in for some work, given that firstly…  we were in an assemblage of whatever gear we happened to scrape together making our way to 15.  Secondly we were going in as a trio instead of a full five player group.  All in all given how much we underestimated the content…  I feel largely okay about the evening.  We struggled our way through the dungeon, boss after boss until we sat stalled at the final encounter.  Lava Guard Gordoth has this ability called Seismic Slam, that deals damage to all players within 25 yards of the boss.  There is no cast bar or from what I can tell any real way to mitigate this.  The challenge simply put is the fact that this ability was a oneshot, and we could see no real way of avoiding it.

The problem here is that we are quickly realizing that the content is seemingly scaled for players in Heirlooms… and not necessarily gear that you happen to get organically.  When I am in my full heirloom set of gear like pictured above I am sitting somewhere in the vicinity of 1600 health.  When wearing completely legit questing gear…  I am sitting somewhere around 500 health.  Quite simply put we were running into a hard gear wall that we need to scale somehow.  Because we are insane however…  we are planning on attempting to throw a rope over the ramparts and scale that wall anyways.  The first challenge is to decide what the actual firm guidelines are for this project.  Right now we have a handful of rules written in a spreadsheet where we are attempting to keep track of the item levels for each dungeon.  The rules to date look a little something like this.

  • Level lock at the minimum level for each dungeon
  • Use whatever means necessary during the in-between levels
  • Must complete all dungeons at level before moving on
  • No heirlooms in dungeons
  • Must get to the dungeon naturally and zone in
  • Attempt all raids even if we super fail

What we failed to address however is what exactly is fair game for gearing ourselves to be able to complete the content.  There are a bunch of options that I see and they all sorta have their own pluses and minuses.

Continue Questing While Level Locked

This one is pretty straight forward.  Stay level locked and just keep working on quests, with the thought process that eventually you would get good enough gear to be able to complete the content.  The positive here is that it is entirely organic… at least in a fashion, the the negative is you are functionally making the next level grind a bit harder given that you will need to do more grinding and have fewer quests to rely on.  That said we have already agreed that leveling between dungeon locks in heirlooms is completely fair game.

Auction House

Another thing we need to identify is if we are willing to allow purchasing items from the Auction House.  My gut feeling here is no, especially given that we are currently in the twink PVP bracket and some of the decent options are going for as much as 300,000 gold.  It always just feels wrong to buy our way to success in the dungeons.

Pre-Farming Gear

Another option is to simply run our alts through the dungeon and farm up a bunch of greens then trade them around.  If I remember correctly Deadmines drops greens like candy and they should in theory be in the appropriate level range.  I am mostly torn on this one because this is my gut reaction on how to solve a gearing problem… just throw a bunch of greens at it.  However this also maybe tarnishes the legitimacy of the runs.  Similarly we could simply take turns running each others characters through a zone… but that actually feels significantly worse to me given that you are able to pick up boss loot as well as an assortment of random greens that could have dropped anywhere in that level range.

Battlegrounds

Grace and I actually tested this one out and in the grand scheme of things this seems like a reasonable option to get an assortment of greens.  The one match we played we both got really nice at level cap greens that were sizable upgrades over our questing look.  The negative is that for Grace at least it did not seem to respect her loot spec choice and she continued to get agility gear instead of intellect gear.  Additionally as stated this is the twink bracket which means it isn’t exactly the fairest fights in the world.  However wearing heirlooms seemed to put us on a fairly even footing with the twinklords.

Crafted Gear

The potentially best option is to get a bunch of gear crafted that the characters can wear and start with that as a baseline.  The challenge and frustration here is that Blizzard is generally lousy at crafted gear.  It is nearly impossible to create a full set of gear at any given level, so you still wind up wearing a mishmash of items level 5 to 15 in order to finish enough pieces to get a reasonable set of anything.

Random Dungeon Bags

We have all but agreed this one is out of the picture because the gear that comes from the random bags you get at the end of dungeon finder dungeons…  is scaled pretty similar to heirlooms.  That means we will once again gear way past what our ultimately target goal is.  We are looking to make the dungeons a challenge, but somehow find a happy medium where they are also not impossible like Ragefire appeared to be tonight.  We’ve just reached the point where we need to hash out these ideas and potentially come up with others, and lay down some additional ground rules on how we want to gear these characters.  Best to decide it now because we are going to have a lot of gearing in our future.  The awesome thing about this however is that it is making us appreciate greens that we have been thoughtlessly vendoring for years.

RoboSquid Armada

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Myself and a few friends may be deciding to engage in some madness.  The idea spawned out of a discussion about how World of Warcraft would be a more enjoyable leveling experience if it featured the same style of instance level scaling that Final Fantasy XIV does.  For those not familiar, in FFXIV you have a set of levels for a given dungeon much the same as you do in World of Warcraft.  For example Deadmines is generally thought of as a level 15-16 dungeon…  so in this case if it were FFXIV you would zone in and be downscaled to the level of the zone regardless if you are level 25 or level 60.  The other feature of the level scaling is that you are limited to using abilities that exist within that level range… which in itself can be slightly annoying because you might need to do some hotbar swapping.  The experience feels good however and you get to run the dungeons with your friends without necessarily feeling like you are powering them through the content.  For years I have beat the drum of the need for “mentoring” in World of Warcraft, where you can voluntarily drop your level to that of a friend.  While we absolutely know that the level scaling tech could do this… thanks to the Legion zones and Invasion event…  it seems like the Blizz crew simply doesn’t want to add this feature.  So we decided to take things into our own hands.

Years ago they put in a functionality of being able to lock your level and effectively turn off experience gain.  For the most part this was entirely intended to be used by the thriving “twink” PVP scene that flourished during Vanilla and the Burning Crusade expansions.  However some time ago we also used this for the purpose of raiding and I was a tank in a guild called “Years Behind” that attempted to raid all of the vanilla content with level locked 60s.  That derailed a small bit because there was a significant amount of gear that you could equip at 60…  but effectively came from the BC expansion, meaning some of those greens straight up wrecked hard fought purples from the raid content.  Regardless it was a lot of fun to experience the raid content the way it was meant to be experienced, rather than steamrolling it with a bunch of wildly overleveled characters.  The only negative with level locking is that it is a bit cost prohibitive… in that it costs 10 gold every time you want to lock your level… and another 10 gold every time you want to unlock it.  As a result in order to complete this project we decided that we would need a benefactor…  namely the already well geared characters of myself and Grace.  With all of this in mind…  last night we set forth to create a brand new set of low level horde characters.  I myself am playing Belgwyb… a Female Orc Monk with the bluish skintone…  in a slantwise honorific of the best Grand Company leader ever… Meylwyb Bloefhiswyn.  Grace created another Monk but I believe she is going healy, whereas I am of course intending to go tanky.  Finally Mor rolled an undead rogue, which gives us some semblance of proper dps.

The idea is a simple but also probably a slightly insane one.  We level to 15… then lock our level and attempt to run Ragefire Chasm and Deadmines.  If we cannot for some reason complete a dungeon during a fixed level range… we unlock and begin leveling again only to lock later and try again.  The goal being to get through all of the dungeons in the game… especially the vanilla era ones with appropriately leveled and geared characters.  The catch is that we are not using heirlooms at all.  That is for a few reasons… firstly the xp gain boost would make like madness in trying to control our levels and secondly…  using heirlooms is the equivalent of using blue or purple gear all of the time while leveling greatly reducing the difficulty of all encounters.  The other constraint we are placing upon ourselves is that we must run to the dungeon and be able to zone in naturally.  This means for Deadmines we are in fact going to have to do the Gromgol run up to Westfall through a bunch of really nasty stuff that can and probably will straight up wreck us.  I am going to try and convince my companions to let me stream these adventures because I have a feeling they are going to be memorable.  The fact that we are trying things at the right level is increased in difficulty by the fact that there are just three of us doing this, and not a full team of five.  Our first step is to hit 15 however we want… and then we begin the dungeon crawl.  I of course will be sharing our adventures…  good or bad here on the blog.  We formed a guild last night for this process… and named it the RoboSquid Armada because that is apparently what happens when you get the three of us together and tell us to name something.

Invasion Frustrations

legioninvasions

legioninvasions

Most of the time I attempt to remain positive about the games I am playing… and at least a good deal of the time it works.  World of Warcraft is one of those titles that I just have too deep a history with to not at any given time be carrying a lot of baggage.  This generally builds up to the point where I write a big long piece complaining about a myriad of things in the game and tend to be super depressing for a bit until I finally cancel my account.  This is in fact a cycle that has played out numerous times in the history of this blog…  initially around Cataclysm and repeating with every expansion to date.  With the launch of Legion I tried something different…  just fading away quietly whenever the time came that I needed to have a break from the game.  For the most part this has worked extremely well, but there are still some residual frustrations.  The thing is…  I get frustrated with World of Warcraft not because it is a horrible gaming experience, but instead for quite the opposite.  There are so many things that the game does right… that I can see the potential of what it could be with a little tweaking here or there.  So when I ultimately write a frustration piece, it comes from a place of love rather than a place of hate.  But in the past this hasn’t felt that different for any of my readers so in large part I have attempted to avoid them entirely.

There is however something that really frustrates me right now happening in game.  With the 7.2 patch it introduced the Broken Shore questing area, and with it started the Legion Invasions.  Now if you have been with this blog for awhile, you will know that I loved the Invasion feature during the lead up to the Legion launch.  I used and abused this feature to level my army of alts to 100…  but in truth also had a really damned good time doing it.  The concept was simple… every 4 hours some new part of the world would be invaded and as a result you could guarantee that any time you logged in, you would have access to an invasion to go run.  I think this “always on” aspect of the event was one of the things I liked most about it.  My personal time schedule didn’t matter so much, but instead I could simply log in whenever it fit me and go do some invasion content.  Unfortunately the reboot does not work this way but instead is limited to two events per day with widely varying start times.  The above image is a cut and paste job from the WoWhead invasion tracker on their front page… and the in game interface.  The invasion that is going on right now started at 2 in the morning CST and the next one will be tonight at 8:30 pm CST.  These invasions are starting every 18 1/2 hours which means if you just happen to hit them at the wrong time… it might be a few days before you see another one.

Why this is frustrating is that it seems arbitrary and unnecessary given there is already a perfectly reasonable solution in place.  Each morning at roughly 10 am there is the daily reset, that clears all of your heroic locks and resets your access to daily quests and such.  The better solution to me would have simply been to leave a given zone hot for 24 hours and each time the daily reset happens switch zones.  So instead of 18 1/2 hours… you end up with 24 hours…  which sure in the grand scheme of things means that fewer invasions are happening but it also guarantees that regardless of your time constraints you are able to get one in every day.  The only reason why I care I guess…  is just like the pre-launch invasions…  I actually like doing them.  Sure there is a shot at gear on the line, but I find the whole process of doing the quests enjoyable because it feels like I am retaking a zone.  Now I imagine the chief problem with this idea is the fact that the invasions themselves were designed to be limited content with each one providing a limited set of World Quests that cause the normal ones in that zone to de-spawn.  That might be an issue were it not for the fact that I know Blizzard has a reasonable instancing technology as exhibited by the fact that the pre-launch invasions all worked in that they zoned you into a fresh instance of the zone that was in the early phases of the quest.  The Broken Shore invasions honestly should have worked similar, in that you zone into whatever the “hot zone” happens to be and get access to the handful of invasion specific world quests… and then get zoned right back out after you have completed the scenario.

The frustration again is that this almost works perfectly, were it not for the frustrating arbitrary gauge of 18 1/2 hours between invasions and the fact that they expire after 6 hours.  I get that they were trying to spread the times around so that they would at least line up once a week for most players with their normal play window.  The end result however feels like the worst possible solution, because unless you happen to be playing 24/7 or setting alarms just to get up for invasion events…  you are going to miss out on a lot of the fun.  There are honestly a whole lot of design options that would have been better.  I know there are technical constraints at work here, but the version we got just doesn’t feel like the best that blizzard could have done.  The problem with this rant is the fact that it is too late to be relevant…  but I still feel like making it regardless.  The 7.2 patch landed back in March and it is now June when I am finally really experiencing it.  The likelihood that any tweaks are made to the way invasions work is also extremely minimal.  The likelihood that anyone from Blizzard reads my blog… is also extremely minimal.  Legion as a whole has been a very unfriendly expansion for playing alts… and the Invasion system is this weird amazing thing for helping push up your alts and gear them.  I personally would probably end up running every single one of my alts through the invasion, but in order to do that right now I have to either play at really strange hours or hope to hit the start at exactly the right time.  I realize this is not a big deal either way, but just spending time this morning pointing out that it could feel so much better.

Deep Rabbit Hole

wowscrnshot_060517_061728

wowscrnshot_060517_061728

What is funny is that my weekend is not really going to shock anyone who has been reading my blog lately…  but it actually shocks me.  I would have thought that this recent obsession with World of Warcraft would have worked its way out of my system just as soon as I reached my goal.  My Orc Deathknight is 110 and rocking gear enough to bring him to 872 which makes the character my second best geared.  Instead of detaching when I reached my goal, or shifting to a brand new product…  I find myself spending more and more time on him.  Right now its the only the second alt that managed to get a hidden artifact appearance, and the only alt so far that has managed to get a legendary.  I am still shocked at just how fast the catch up mechanics can pull you up in the game.  Functionally if I manage to get a second legendary that will put me in contention for item level with Belghast my main.  I think what has helped is just how fun Unholy feels right now.  It is hard to quantify exactly what I like about it… but in part it is a high survival dps build that I can run around doing stuff with.  Back in the day when I first fell in love with my Death Knight it was thanks to the insane damage/survival combination that blood was.  Unholy sort of brings that same thing to the table with the side benefit of having the artifact weapon summon a mini army of the dead every minute or so.

The only negative however is that right now Blood feels horrible, so I don’t really have a tanking option that I enjoy.  I need to sit down and do some more research because I keep thinking that surely I am just playing it wrong.  It feels insanely squishy, and my ability to regen back health also seems way less than I am used to from blood.  In fact right now my Unholy feels way more stable and survivable than Blood… which should be the be all end all of tanky goodness…  or at least it used to be.  At this moment I have both my Unholy and Blood weapon fully unlocked to Broken Shore levels, and both have a decent assortment of relics in them to buff the item level.  Whatever the case though when I choose to play Blood I find myself barely surviving elites…  whereas with Unholy I can rip through them without seeing my health drop significantly.  If I have any blood players among my readers…  I am wondering what am I missing?  What is the ability that makes them playable as tanks?  Going up through the ranks on my DPS characters I have ended up with a bunch of DK tanks… and they all seemed squishy.  I just assumed it was “pug tank” that was the problem and not the class itself, but I am super hoping I am simply just not prioritizing the right abilities or something like that.  Going to spend some time doing research, because I really would love to have a viable tank option horde side that I actually enjoy playing.  Last expansion my “horde main” was my Tauren Paladin… and Paladin tanking is about as exciting for me as watching paint dry.

wardrobemanager

The other thing that I discovered this weekend is an addon thanks to my friend Giulietta.  For awhile now I have already been drifting deep into the Rabbit Hole on Transmog farming trips, but largely in a haphazard and uncoordinated manner.  While hanging out after the raid on Friday, a very sleepy Giu and I got to talking about farming warrior appearance gear and then he shared with me the addon that he has been using.  Functionally m0nAr’s Wardrobe Helper keeps track of everything you have appearance wise from all of the places in the world where you can obtain it.  So for example in the screenshot above I selected Normal mode Scarlet halls… and it shows that I have an Axe that I have not collected the appearance for off of Armsmaster Harlan.  I also noticed this morning that you can pop out a handy mini list to drag somewhere on your screen while you are running the place to keep track of what you are still missing.  While it is not showing it on this screenshot because I have not been farming anything in the Deathknight…  out beside each of the instances it also keeps track of your lockout so you can at a glance see what is and is not open for you to farm.  As a result of this addon I started focusing on the Burning Crusade era instances last night, and I gotta say… seeing the text come across my screen saying I collected a new appearance makes me super happy.  The only problem is… this is a super deep hole that I could be finding myself in… because the addon also gives you completion scores for how much of a given expansion or instance you hav collected.  Giu is already on the road to madness that is trying to hit 100%…  and sadly I am finding myself trailing along behind him willingly.

Lastly… because I decided to start doing this on Monday’s here is this weekends AggroChat podcast.  There may or may not be a part where I cry/sing the first line to the theme for Vernoica Mars.

Topics Discussed:

  • Destiny: Personality Changes in Taken King
  • Stormblood Changes
  • World of Warcraft
  • Deathknight Madness
  • Elder Scrolls Legends
  • Magikarp Jump