Mobile Matters

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For years I have said that I really did not think that gaming on my phone was really my “thing”.  It was a platform that I largely felt didn’t quite fit my lifestyle, because in part I felt like I either had access to PC and Consoles…  or simply didn’t have the ability to game period.  Recently however I have been eating the hell out of those words.  For the last week or so I have been getting used to a new phone, and at some point I will probably do a proper review of it.  Functionally I could not bring myself to spend $800 to $1000 on a new phone… and my Samsung Galaxy s5 had lots of problems.  This lead me to branch out and look into some other options… and I finally landed on the ZTE Axon 7 which is a very solid attempt at a Chinese flagship killer.  When I finally do a proper review I will get around to more about that, however suffice to say I am enjoying it.  There is a thing that happens with PC gamers…  when we get new hardware.  We go through this phase of installing everything that we have cared about in the past… and trying it out on the new setup to see what has and has not improved.  With this new phone being so much more powerful than my previous one…  I found myself going through this same routine and testing out things like the android Hearthstone client.  When I say the previous phone had issues…  it is because once upon a time I rooted my phone in an attempt to bypass the AT&T blockade against tethering/wifi hotspots on my current plan.  I still have one of those ancient grandfathered in iPhone unlimited plans…  and while they have raised the price there is no way in hell I am giving up $25 a month unlimited mobile data.

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While the S5 is technically no longer rooted, I seem to have tripped some anti-tamper seal of a sort on the phone and it fails the Google Safetynet test that app manufacturers have started incorporating into their apps.  This means that I was forced to stop playing Pokemon Go when they patched in this protection, and similarly have been unable to experience Fire Emblem Heroes, Mario Run or a whole slew of newer games that just do this check by default.  The biggest problem with me and phone gaming in the past however was the battery life, and the way that a few minutes of Final Fantasy Record Keeper could shave off 25% of my battery before I even realized.  With the new phone this seems to no longer be the issue that it once was… and either because the processor does not need to work nearly as hard…  or the fact that I have a 3250 mAh battery (instead of 2800 mAh) I can functionally play games and still use my phone for everything else that I want to.  As a result lately I have been heading to bed fairly early and then chilling out there and playing mobile games until sleep finally claims me.  Similarly while I am out and about I am starting to play a lot more Pokemon Go, but have not really gone out on catching jaunts like I did around the release a year ago.  I contemplated going out last night but it was still over 90 degrees outside after 9pm, so I figured I would leave that to a cooler evening.

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The games that have seemed to clamp down the hardest on my attention however are Fire Emblem Heroes…  which is a thoroughly charming tactics style combat game and of course Final Fantasy Record Keeper that I already played a significant amount of in the past.  This is the point where I admit that I have never actually played a Fire Emblem game in the past, and while I am sure the actual games are not terribly similar to this mobile title…  it does make me a hell of a lot more interested in them.  The premise is largely nonsense…  but it is the sort of nonsense that I find myself enjoying at the moment.  The biggest problem with these games is that I really have no clue what I am doing on a regular basis… and not even sure what the best way to do anything in game is.  I’ve been slowly working my way through the story in Fire Emblem, and in Record Keeper I noticed that they seemingly have gotten less sparing with handing you a bunch of characters.  I worked my way through most of a Final Fantasy XIV themed event dungeon… and picked up Yshtola, Minfilia, Yda, Papalymo, and Cid…  and started working my way through a similarly FFXII Zodiac Age themed one.  Much like in Pokemon Go… the excitement for me is in the collection of new characters and not so much in the leveling and battle.

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Lastly I have been slowly working my way through Final Fantasy V on the phone as an attempt to do things like play over my lunch break…  which admittedly has not actually happened yet.  I got completely wrecked last night by Garula, which means I am going to have to sort out a decent strategy for this one.  Of course I am not playing the game legitimately… and instead am doing the Four Job Fiesta…  which means I am attempting to take him down as a party of four Black Mages.  Its time to go figure out some strategery so I can get past him and get my next set of jobs.  I find the mobile FFV client a little wonky… and especially in mobiles where you need fine motor control…  that is not a thing the touchpad really gives you.  Getting through the poison plants at the top of the mountain was not really a thing…  so I simply opted to walk through a couple and take antidotes.  Regardless it works well enough for my needs and gives me a reasonable platform without really shackling me to a specific location for playing it.  I kinda hope we eventually get a version on the switch through either virtual console… or a release of this mobile port to it.  Whatever the case….  someone seems to have replaced me with a doppelganger that does not mind mobile gaming all the sudden.

 

Warbears and Stormsplitter

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We will lead off with the accomplishment of the night.  I knew I was pretty close to the ARR Warrior “Raid” mount but I had lost sight of actually going after it specifically.  I never really did anything to purposefully grind for this, and for the most part got my 200 “high-level duties” organically by running various raids with the free company. It was at some point during our Omega runs that I happened to notice I got the achievement, and that prompted a trip to the guy near the waterfall in Gridania… who also apparently had the Maelstrom themed mammet waiting for me as well.  The way I ride this mount is sort of insane, with me reaching down and trying to hold onto the fur and it runs around insanely.  It is funny how animation cycles affect how we feel about the speed of a mount, because while this is technically the same speed as everything else I own…  the feels so much faster because of the dynamic run loop.  Grizzled warbear is probably the most Bel mount in existence…  and it is only slightly sad that it doesn’t fly.  There is however a newer bear that supposedly does have the ability to fly… and at the moment I am 49 of some silly number of 70+ content needed for that achievement.  I doubt I will purposefully grind for it, but instead someday also be surprised when I see its achievement scrolling by after tanking a dungeon for someone.

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Once upon a time in a small town far far away…  I was a little skater punk kid.  Technically I only grew up an hour away but we are going to call it far away for sake of the narrative.  I was lucky enough that I had a half pipe in my yard, that we bought second hand and moved to our location and reassembled.  Now this was too small to have a roll in, so it was functionally a “drop in” style ramp.  For those unindoctrinated… most ramps have a bit of metal coping at the top of the lip that is there to protect the wood of the ramp from the “trucks” aka axles of the skateboard as you come up to the top and grind.  Getting onto the ramp involved danging your board out over the edge of the ramp, with your back trucks butted up against the metal coping and then shifting your weight from the tail of the board to the front causing you to “drop in” to the ramp.  I found this process completely terrifying, and each time I went out to skate the first few runs involved me not being willing to give myself over to gravity… and ultimately sliding down the ramp on my ass.  Eventually I would loosen up and get comfortable and be able to drop in just fine for awhile and be able to ride the ramp legitimately for the rest of the day.

The reason why I have related this analogy is that for the most part… doing new organized content in an MMO is like dropping in for me.  I am super hesitant for awhile and unwilling to venture off on my own and give it a shot.  I didn’t do a whole lot of solo grinding of Alexander because I felt like I needed that safety net there in case something went wrong.  Similarly this expansion I have thusfar been unwilling to join a party finder group to do Susano Extreme or Lakshmi Extreme, and last night…  was the moment I dropped in for the first time.  My friends Mor and Grace decided that we were going to do the encounters, and we recruited Muspel as well…  and the four of us…  two tanks and two heals set forth to build a party finder group.  Susano was for the most part a learning experience, but very quickly it became a situation of having to work the kinks out and get our dps up high enough to be able to beat the enrage.  With about 20 minutes to spare we manage to do it and I got my first kill under my belt.  Lakshmi did not go so well, and not only was it much harder to pull together the group…  but it also was pretty clear early on that we had nowhere near enough dps to be able to finish the job.  After some wipes… having someone drop… refilling the group and re-queuing…  only to wipe again due to not enough damage…  we opted to call it for the evening.  That said I now feel significantly more comfortable in either fight as a tank, and in theory I would probably be willing to solo queue from now on.  I got over the coping…  and got my weight shifted in the right way and now am more or less fine.  However it is only because I went into the content with some people that I trusted… that I was eased over the edge, so I appreciate it when someone is willing to just hang out with me and answer my questions while I do new harder content.

Leveling DPS is Butts

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One of the best parts about Final Fantasy XIV is that you can literally be every possible class be it crafting or battlecraft on the same character.  One of the worst parts of Final Fantasy XIV is that for the most part leveling alt jobs has been a pretty grindy proposal.  When you first set down to level in Final Fantasy XIV, you have all of these side quests and main story quests to keep the game feeling fresh and keep the content moving forward at a decent clip.  Unfortunately when you sit down to level any of your other Jobs you find out just how much of your original quest experience came from that unrepeatable main story.  As always I leveled my Warrior first because well…  like it or not I am a tank at heart and for three expansions now I have not deviated from that mission.  There was some brief flirtation with potentially going Dark Knight, but in the end Warrior just suits me best.  However now I have reached that point where I have functionally geared the warrior as far as I can without the aid of Omega drops, and as a result I have turned my attention to trying to run my first DPS up.  You can tell by the above image that my DPS of choice this go round is the brand new Samurai job.  The only problem there is…  quite honestly leveling as a DPS without the aid of the Main Story Quest…  is butts and highlights some of the problems that Final Fantasy XIV still has when it comes to a lack of reasonable alternate leveling paths.

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Previously in A Realm Reborn era especially… I used to hop in a FATE grinding party and move on with life.  There were fabled zones like South Shroud or Northern Thanalan that were largely devoted to groups of players running around and trying to kill the FATEs as fast as possible.  Unfortunately with the transition to Heavensward, there was a massive nerf of FATE experience and with it the grind party devotees started to disappear.  When Palace of the Dead was introduced it gave us a ladder to follow to slowly bring those alts up to speed through grinding sets of 10 floors at a time.  Unfortunately however the PotD experience is pretty horrible with the bar barely moving at level 61.  There is a bit of a FATE presence in The Fringes, but everyone is fairly disorganized with no groups available through the party finder.  There was some talk over the weekend of maybe starting up a guild FATE party just to get all our various alts leveled in a reasonable manner.  My current MO has been to queue for a dungeon or roulette and grind FATEs until it pops and in the grand scheme of things this has worked well enough.  Over the weekend I went from 60 on my Samurai to 65 as of last night, which a huge chunk of that happening during recording the podcast and simply bouncing from FATE to FATE until we finished.  I remember that is also how I leveled my gathering professions, since while I am podcasting I can seem to grind something without even noticing it.  I would also try this with Palace of the Dead, but before long I would find myself running circles in Quarymill while we recorded…  much the same as I used to run circles in Dalaran.

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I honestly thought I was being clever in this expansion, and after the end of Raubahn Savage…  I found myself up enough in experience that I started attempting to ignore every side quest and only push through with a laser focus on the main story.  My thought was this would ultimately help out the first alt that I leveled, and over the weekend I returned to Ruby Sea where I had dozens and dozens of quests to complete.  Unfortunately…  these quests provide next to no experience and simply only add bits of story to help flesh out the world a bit.  I spent about an hour and completed a dozen or so quests… when I realized that my experience bar had moved less than if I had gotten gold in a single FATE.  Hell to be truthful just wandering the world grinding random mobs seemed to be better experience than the side quests were providing.  In the past this would be the moment that I would start leaning heavily on Battlecraft Leves…  but unfortunately much to my frustration it seems that they simply do not exist in Stormblood.  There are crafting leves in Kugane but neither there nor Rhalgar’s Reach have anything for the battlecraft jobs.  I mean leves were a horrible experience in Heavensward and the thought of having to keep popping back to the Foundation between rounds was maddening.  However they were there if you got desperate and there were many times I got desperate enough to see some steady progress on the experience bar.  There are hunts of course, and I have been doing my daily hunt logs but again… while they are an excellent source of seals…   they are a pretty crappy source of experience.

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If I am playing a tank or a healer… then this whole question of how to level becomes moot.  You simply queue for dungeons and ride the constant string of instant queues until you hit 70.  However there seems to be something missing to help the DPS get a leg up.  Now the leveling roulette and 50/60 roulette seem to go significantly faster than queuing for a specific dungeon.  Over the weekend leveling roulette seemed to be about a 10-15 minute queue for dps, and 50/60 somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 minutes…  with queuing for an individual level and gear appropriate dungeon taking somewhere in the neighborhood of 30-40 minutes.  If I was able to run FATEs while waiting on the queue to tick down it did not feel too horrible, or at least it felt like I was making steady forward momentum.  However if I happened in one of the patches where the folks were not touching the FATEs at all…  it was noticeably dragging.  Compare that to the experience of playing a healer or a tank… with their push button get dungeon mechanics and it just feels lousy.  At least with Palace of the Dead providing reasonable experience, you could skirt a lot of the issues and get by just fine with four dps parties in there.  I am not sure where it is on the roadmap, but I am really hoping we see the next iteration of Palace of the Dead launching with 4.1.  Until then… I think once I finish leveling the Samurai I will probably focus on my other tanks and my healers before returning to the DPS queue hell again.  This is also why I have been trying to offer my short tank queues whenever possible to the free company…  because leveling DPS is butts.

Army of Bone

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As I said yesterday morning I took a break from Final Fantasy XIV and the trial that has a good number of us completely high center on finishing the game.  For those unaware Diablo 3 released its first in what I hope is a series of smaller addon packs that infuse the game with a little new blood…  or skeletons in this case.  While not really an expansion pack, Rise of the Necromancer adds the much wanted class to Diablo 3 and it is implemented in a way so that it blends seamlessly with the rest of the game.  I will talk a bit more about that later, but here is functionally what you get for your $14.99…  which is amusingly easily within the bounds of converting a single WoW Token to Blizzard Balance.

  • Non-Combat Pet – disgusting half baked flesh golem thing
  • A Pair of Cosmetic Wings – you can see me rocking them in the above screenshot
  • Necromancer Themed Banner Shape, Sigil and Accent
  • Necromancer Portrait Frame
  • Pennant – looks similarly Necromancery
  • Two additional character slots – which I was apparently close to being out of
  • Two additional bank stash tabs

Lets be honest… I probably would have paid $15 for two more bank tabs but as far as I am concerned that is plenty of goodness for the price.  The Necromancer itself is insanely fun and most of last night I went around being followed by an army of undead minions.  I cheated a bit in that I crafted a full set of Cain set gear and hung on to my Leoric’s Crown which had a 95% multiplier on it…  for the Flawless Royal Ruby that I slotted in it…  giving me 130% bonus experience and 112 bonus experience per kill.  Now in my travels I have never leveled a Gem of Ease, which was the route that my friend Grace took to leveling significantly faster than me.  Regardless the experience is flying and last night I managed to make it to level 56.

The key difference this time as compared to my normal seasonal characters is that I opted to play through the original game story as is to try and catch any changes that were put in place for the necromancer.  I have been pleasantly surprised at just how well this new class blends with the original experience because they have shimmed in Necromancer specific responses from NPCs and Companions alike.  This is the first time I have actually run the game with the scoundrel as my companion and he regularly makes comments about not needing any more empty skulls following us around.  There was an event in Act II where I encountered a Necromancer out in the desert… which I greeted as a long lost friend rather than a strange traveler.  Sure it feels a little weird to have the Paladin accept you as a friend… when you functionally defile the dead and bind them into your service…  but whatever if you can manage a minor bit of hand waving what is left is a really enjoyable experience.  The other thing that was awesome… is that it has been years since I last saw these cinematic and I was impressed with just how well they still hold up.  I have so much love for Diablo 3 and it is the game that I am always rooting for good things to happen to… and small content packs like this one definitely seem like a viable way to continue growing the game.  I am more than willing to keep plunking down this $15 price point to get new classes and assorted stuff to go with it.

I am really hoping this means we might see the Druid or Amazon as a result.  Even more than rehashing characters from Diablo’s past… I would love to see them branch out and start giving us brand new concepts for characters.  What about giving us a redeemed demon, or a fallen angel to control for ourselves.  I just feel like there is a lot of life left in this game and I want to see them keep moving forward with expanding it.  What I think is cool is that functionally this expansion pack was split into two halves… the first being the content listed above… and the rest being simply patch 2.6.0 which adds three new areas to the game for everyone regardless if they purchase the pack or not.  Something called Challenge Rifts also went into the game as well as the usual number of tweaks and balances preparing us for the next season.  I like this idea of expanding both the free content at the same time as giving us an additional way to keep spending money with the game and supporting its development.  This is a weird balancing act that all of these “buy once, play forever” type of games seems to struggle with…  as in what is content that should just be free because you bought the game, and what is content that is reasonable to charge an extra fee for.  I feel like this balance with Diablo 3 seems about right and I think at this stage in the game it probably works far better than releasing a full expansion with a complete new act and 10 more levels to grind through each time you start a new character.  I would love to hear my readers thoughts on this one.  I for one am a happy camper, but I would be curious to hear some dissenting opinions.

 

Crazy Axe

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As of last night I am now officially at the Stormblood level cap.  That said I still have a bunch of content left to run because I know my MSQ is stalled behind at dungeon at the moment…. and then I also know from hearing folks talk about it that there is another trial of some sort after that.  I was feeling a little too out of it to go seeking a dungeon group, so instead I focused on finishing the warrior quest line, which gave me a set of gear that I will probably never wear at least cosmetically… and this bizarre axe.  As a whole though Stormblood provided me with lots of glamour fodder, including this chest piece that I have become rather fond of.  I actually dinged 70 while running the second primal.  I decided to do a trials roulette, and next thing I know I am zoning into that fight.  The first pull went about as well as you would expect that a modern era primal fight would go.  On the second pull however I took a moment to ask folks if there was anything about the fight that they didn’t understand, and answered a bunch of questions.  As I was able to do I also hollered out when a few key mechanics were coming up to remind folks about them.  Things went off the rails a bit during that second attempt but we managed to hold on and ultimately finished the fight.

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The story as a whole has continued to be amazing, but I am finding myself at a loss for screenshots to put in my blog posts that are not insanely spoilery.  I find myself trying to snap moments where nothing much is going on that won’t give away any major story beats.  I find it interesting how generally speaking I am not that beholden to a story in other games…  but in Final Fantasy XIV I am anxious to find out what is going on.  I guess part of it is that in a single player story… the experience doesn’t feel real.  What I mean by that is it is something that I experience and then once the story has reached its conclusion it is functionally over…  at least for another several years until they release a sequel.  In an MMO…  story sets the stage for what is to come and gives us a glimpse in what we will be doing a few months down the road.  The story feels more alive to me because I am going to be living it, and I am going to be adjusting to whatever changes it happens to bring to the stage for a long while.  My friends and I are going to be fighting our way through the epic battles that are proposed each time the story leads us some place new.  I guess this is why I get into the lore of Destiny as well, because even though the grimoire cards are a crummy system… they give us a glimpse at the future to come and let me start day dreaming about epic adventures that are just over the horizon.

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Another thing that happened this weekend was the “launch” of Secret World Legends.  Sure they are calling it a head start, but if you are letting in everyone who played the previous game…  you are effectively launching it.  More than anything I wanted to get in and make sure that all of my stuff transferred just fine, and more importantly that my lifetime subscription did in fact transfer over into lifetime patron status.  For those who played the first game… I highly suggest you check out the page on the transfer system so you can claim anything that might be eligible for transfer.  I’ve heard that this system is only going to be available through August 31st and there are a bunch of guidelines and fine print to follow to make sure everything copies just fine.  I probably need to do some more fiddling to make sure that everything does in fact copy.  I had a character of each faction so in theory it should have…  but I probably need to go ahead and create those other faction characters so I can double check.  The most important item was of course the Csicon alien smiley t-shirt…  which I am rocking in the image above.  So far I am digging the game changes, but unfortunately it just happened to launch at a really horrible time for me since I am so heavily engaged in Stormblood.  I will continue to piddle around and experience the content, and it serves as an awesome “taking a break” game for me right now.  We talk a bit about but Secret World Legends and Stormblood on this weekends podcast, which I am embedding below.

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.