Nael in the Coffin

Strange Dreams

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

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

Nael in the Coffin

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

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

Ice Packs and Grinding

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

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

Axe to Grind

Lung Infections Suck

cottonwood I’ve been in a strange place the last few days, where I am still recovering from what has turned out to be an infection in my lungs.  It has been allergies central around here and unsurprisingly my lungs have reacted negatively to it.  I had been dragging along for awhile with what felt like a constant persistent dry cough.  Last Friday I finally decided to go to the doctor when I coughed up a small bit of blood.  Turns out my lungs were actually in far worse shape than I thought.  Since then I have been on a pretty heavy dose of prednisone and am on the mend, but man…  I have to say I am still drained as hell.  I attempted to go to work like normal yesterday but ended up coming home about halfway through the day.  Today I am making another attempt to go a full day, so I am hoping the strength stays with me.  What is so strange about this one is just how drained I feel as a result of simply existing.

Why are my lungs betraying me you might ask?  The above photo is not intentionally abstract but instead my my phones camera attempting to focus on what are ultimately hundreds of tiny particles of Cottonwood seed.  This is what we jokingly refer to as summer snow, and with all the rain we have been getting the Cottonwoods have been blooming in overdrive blanketing the law with a mat of white fabric and making the air look like it is quite genuinely snowing.  Thankfully I have a day or two of reprieve thanks to the recent round of storms, but I am sure as soon as things dry up again the bloom will begin a new.  Normally this happens around my birthday in June but I guess all the moisture moved up the time table.  In any case it sucks to live through and I am just hoping that I can limp through until it has finished.  In the meantime I will continue to take this high dose pack of prednisone and antibiotics and pretend to be a normal human being.

Axe to Grind

ffxiv 2015-05-11 22-18-55-06 For months now we have been slowly keying folks through the various primal fights in our Final Fantasy XIV free company.  While a chunk of us have been sitting on the Ifrit step, the final of the original set of Extreme primals… it seemed like every time we set out to attempt it we were missing a seventh or eighth that also had it unlocked.  So we would once again shift focus and do another round of Garuda or another round of Titan to get people caught up.  Last night, finally after a new round of Titaneers we managed to get eight people on at the same time with the ability to do Ifrit.  Now I realize I could have been pugging my way through the primal encounters, and with all of the mount farming parties this is a relatively straight forward prospect.  There is just something rewarding about doing a fight that is new to you, with nothing but your free company surrounding you.  It makes the kill that much sweeter and the experience that much more magical as you accomplished a new mission with friends.  Once again we went into the fight without much research, but managed to pick up the basics extremely quickly.

ffxiv 2015-05-11 20-43-37-55 It took us several attempts but by the end of our first night ever working on the boss we had downed an Ifrit and moved on to other things.  I cannot tell you how happy it makes me to get this quest out of my log.  I know the big push for this at least from Ashgar’s side was to get the sweet axe I am pictured holding in the first picture.  For those who have completed some of the later story, you will recognize this as the axe that Moenbryda wields.  It is just one of many weapons you get as a reward for defeating the original trio of Primals, but I went with the axe because it is probably one of the more unique appearances in the game.  Now I doubt if it will ever offset my usage of my Malignant Mogaxe, but it is still pretty awesome to have it as an option for when I decide to change up my outfit a bit.  Glamouring/Transmogging/Wardrobes are one of the simple pleasures of a modern MMO.  The ability to look like you want to look is what makes these games fun to play for me.  Gone is the era of looking exactly like every other player in the game, and here to stay is the ability to craft your own appearances.  After playing Everquest and being able to tell every single item a player was wearing based on its color and appearance…  I have to say I am happy to be living in modern times.

Back to Nael

ffxiv 2015-05-08 19-17-57-51 Yes I realize this is not a picture of Nael Van Darnus but I didn’t snap any pictures from our attempts on Turn 9 last night.  Instead this is a picture of me rocking the Garuda bow because I finally feel like I have an outfit floofy enough to support it.  This weekend I managed to finish getting my 120 set from World of Darkness which makes up a chunk of the outfit above.  Since picking up the Garuda bow I have been looking for a reason to use it, and finally I think the gold and white in the Bogartyr coat works well enough with the gold and white on the bow.  Now if anyone tells me that is really blue and black I will reach through the internet and punch them in their soul.  A few weeks back we set down on a new mission, which involved alternating between working on coil and working on other things.  Since then we have finished the original three primals, Leviathan Extreme and Odin and as a result feel like we are no longer beating our heads against the wall that is turn nine.  Coming back to Nael tonight felt far more fresh than it has in a long time.

I was somewhat concerned that we would have lost progress, but in truth we picked up right where we left off and started making fast progress.  Everything about the fight is smoother now and we have been making it into the final dance phase every single attempt.  The awesome thing about this is that it feels like last night we were finally getting the pattern down.  In fact the last few attempts we were making it to the dive bombs phase consistently.  Now if we can just master where the dive bombs need to go… I have a feeling we will be clearing turn nine finally and moving on to the final coil.  I love my static group, and I love the way folks just keep plugging away without getting frustrated.  We have been on this boss for a very long time, and no one seems to have any diminished desire to KEEP doing the boss, or keep trying to succeed.  In fact everyone seems to keep doing little things here or there to tweak their performance and make things work more smoothly.  I love my free company, and I love the raid we have built around it…  my hope is that we can keep trying to get more people into the mix and maybe with Heavensward expand to a third static because the two we have now are just awesome.

We Like To Help

Reluctant Roulette

ffxiv 2015-03-04 23-21-10-21 I thought I would take a few moments this morning to address a few things we are noticing among new recruits to our Free Company.  I believe for the most part the majority of this group reads my blog at least sometimes, so here is hoping that my post will find it’s audience.  If nothing else this serves as a good reminder to anyone new to Final Fantasy XIV or considering playing it.  The first behavior I am seeing an awful lot of is an absolute reluctance to EVER use the Duty Roulette system at all.  It seems like most of the players have come from several years in World of Warcraft, where “pugging” has become a dirty word.  I fully understand this and quite honestly I was scared to use the Duty Roulette system…  that is until another FC mate tiptoed into the water and reported back that it was actually pretty awesome.  I dislike random groups in other games more than most people, and I will be the first to say that the community in this game is simply better.

The other thing you should know is that those of us who are veterans are using the Duty Roulette system constantly.  On a given night if nothing much is going on I will be queuing for either Hard Mode or Trial Roulette, and at least once a day I am trying really hard to get in at least one Expert Roulette.  Sure you occasionally stumble onto an elitist, but it is nothing like other games where you are belittled and kicked from the group for not instantly being amazing.  More often than not when a player says they are new, someone will take the time to explain the encounters to them.  Honestly I often give my player commendations to new players for having the strength to stand up and tell the group.  It makes the run go so much smoother when you know for certain if a player is going to have the requisite ancestral knowledge to understand the common way a given fight is done.  More than anything I suggest you give Duty Roulette a chance.  I’ve actually met several people on Cactuar through the roulette system, and it makes me happy to see them around.

We Like to Help

ffxiv 2015-03-16 19-51-20-83 One of the other behaviors I am seeing a lot of is players not asking for help.  I realize that in some groups this might not be the norm, but in our Free Company for the most part people enjoy helping others.  Now there might be times for this or that reason that someone cannot help, and that is perfectly fine.  However if we don’t know a given player needs something, it is impossible for us to read minds.  Our hope is that this creates an atmosphere where people are freely saying what they need to do, and others  are responding that they can help out.  A prime example is that we have known for a bit that Neph needed Dzemael Darkhold, so when she popped on the other night we ran the dungeon to make sure she got it.  Similarly we have done countless primal fights or lower level dungeons to help our dps players especially fight their way through the queue system.  Self service and the Duty Roulette are always valid choices, but when you are confronting a thirty minute long queue…  please speak up and pending it is not a raid night folks should be able to pull together a dungeon pretty easily.

Running dungeons in Final Fantasy XIV is not quite like running dungeons in other games.  The fact that the game auto scales your level to match the dungeon, and rewards you with money if you are max level…  means that running lowbies through dungeons is always a positive prospect.  In other game my primarily problem with running low level dungeons was that it ended up feeling like I was babysitting players, because at max level I could just one shot most of the encounters in the zone.  In Final Fantasy XIV, these dungeons are still viable, and it feels like you are doing something meaningful regardless of the level range.  I will never get tired of running places like Haukke Manor or Stone Vigil, and Primal fights like Garuda still end up being a challenge for our scaled down groups.  It is interesting trying to remember how you functioned without your high level abilities, and this alone makes a lot of things far more interesting than you might think.  So please if you need help, be it a dungeon or help with some crafted gear…  speak up in chat.  Right now Tam is doing an interesting census of players to find out if they are interested in raiding, so I highly suggest you fill that out from the guild message of the day.

A Night with Nael

ffxiv 2015-03-23 20-28-37-77 Last night was a bit of a refresher night in many ways.  Namely we had a few people out, which meant we snagged one of our new recruits to help out with turn nine.  The problem is our group does things a bit different than the “norm” for turn nine groups.  So there was a bit of adjustment, similarly it had been over a week since I last set foot in the zone, and I was more than a tad bit rusty myself.  I still feel like we made some progress, but we are hitting this wall on the third phase where we are just not pushing Nael hard enough to keep from getting two dragons.  In our attempt to push harder, we are getting this awkward transition to phase four and getting a dragon at the same time…  which is leading to a wipe.  I feel like I am simply not doing enough dps on my Dragoon to really make up the difference.  My tank is level 122 gear wise, but my dragoon is only 112.  Honestly I never expected to be dpsing in a raid situation, so my Dragoon has essentially gotten table scraps as far as gear goes.  I have been pushing to grab a piece of 120 gear our of World of Darkness each week in the hopes of boosting my dragoon dps just a little bit.

This however means repeating World of Darkness over and over without seeing any drops.  Last night represented my sixth and seventh run of the week, and thankfully on the final boss I saw a piece drop that I did not already have.  Sure it was only the belt, but at the 11th hour on the night before reset…  I will take quite literally anything.  I was just about to reach the point where I was going to start rolling on everything just to get a piece of gear before the zone reset today.  Largely I feel like I am being a boat anchor on our group with this fight.  We need more dps, and I am just not going to the extreme lengths that Kodra is willing to to tweak his dps.  The optimal dragoon rotation is twenty seven steps long according to the guides I have read… and quite frankly there is no way in hell I am going to be able to pull that off flawlessly every single time.  Instead I do a much more simplified and repeated sequence, but when we are on this razors edge of being able to do it versus not being able to do it… it feels like I am failing the group.  As such my answer is to try and pour gear into the problem, and as soon as World of Darkness uncaps on the 31st I will be running it until my eyes bleed farming a full set of gear.

Turn 9 Progress

Mining Delays

ffxiv 2015-03-09 06-05-17-02 Last night I had every intention to come right home from work and start mining like a boss.  I made an oven pizza, fixed my plate and was all set to catch up on the last few episodes of Star Wars Rebels while mashing buttons to break rocks.  However upon logging into the game I instantly had a group invite waiting from Tam, which generally means I am needed to go run something.  Turns out last night I got drafted to tank a random expert roulette.  Granted I had been capped on poetics for awhile at that point, seeing as I capped out sometime Saturday morning during the Pax East live stream.  However I know my FC Mates were not quite there yet, and Ashgar needed a random expert for his alexandrite map.  So I swapped back into my tanking gear and ran through Amdapor Keep Hard, which went pretty smoothly all things considered.

I kept trying to get back into mining last night but one thing or another kept sidetracking me.  I started the evening at 44 and ended the evening at 47 which I guess isn’t too horrible all things considered, especially when I put in as little actual mining time as I did.  This is why I tend to progress poorly through crafting content.  If presented the option of smashing monsters in the face, I will always take that option.  So over the course of the night I did an expert roulette, a random S Rank hunt, a treasure map…  all to avoid going back to the mining grind.  I will likely put in some effort on it this evening before my WoW raid, but I doubt I will hit 50 just yet.  Hopefully at the least on Wednesday I can wrap that up and start work on the next profession.

Turn 9 Progress

ffxiv 2015-03-02 20-18-37-90

Last night was my second night of work on Turn 9 of the Binding Coil of Bahamut, or more correctly the final turn of the Second Coil of Bahamut.  I spent significantly less amount time derping it up this week, and we spent more time kicking ass and taking names.  When we last played we were unable to get through the meteor phase reliably.  We were attempting the “roulette” method of everyone bunching up and then the group running around the circle each time someone gets a meteor.  This method requires the group to run together, and then stop at certain points until the next meteor spawns in.  The person who just got the last meteor has to cut across the circle to catch up to the party again.  For me at least it felt like pure chaos and while we managed to get through the phase once or twice doing this… it never felt like something that was terribly repeatable.

This week we threw  the suggested rules out the window and actually started to pull together that phase of the fight.  Instead of grouping up, we all spread out along the outer ring of the room.  As a meteor would drop, that player would run to another person and group up, essentially slowly dropping the rocks around the outside of the room equally spaced.  It probably seems a lot more chaotic to watch, but for us it felt far more controlled as it gave time for folks to get off a few heals during this phase.  Towards the end of the night we were able to consistently nail the meteor phase and get into phase three proper.  Now we need to learn this phase, because right now without really knowing the pattern fully… it feels insane.  My hope is if we can keep learning a phase a week we will down it shortly.  I am really enjoying turn nine, because it feels awesome when we a nail super difficult phase.

Playing Big Kid

ffxiv 2015-03-09 22-31-51-81 We performed admirably in turn nine considering that for the most part our entire raid felt out of it for one reason or another.  In fact due to the daylight savings time crap, we considered even maybe trying something a bit easier.  However once the heat of battle started, we managed to wake up and pull things together.  However those first few pulls were rather questionable.  After getting out of the dungeon I returned to mining for a bit, and had just finished a level when my friend Cuppy logged in.  A few weeks back I had to halt an intended run of Sastasha because it was going to cut into raid time, and felt pretty horrible for having to do it.  It turns out she pugged it and was now ready for Tam Tara Deepcroft, so no matter what my plans were I was totally down with running it with her.  So I put on my Paladin outfit, and like always we had a number of volunteers ready to help out.

The final mix ended up being Cuppy on her Arcanist, me on my Paladin, Thalen on his White Mage, and Kodra barding it up.  Like most low level dungeons it went extremely smoothly, but we took our time making sure to kill every last monster in the place for the maximum amount of experience.  The only time I seem to find myself playing a paladin is when doing older content, because it seems significantly easier to tank with a paladin.  Namely I find myself constantly teetering on the edge of not having any TP when I am playing my Warrior, whereas on the paladin I can just keep flashing and power through the place.   If in an absolute worse case scenario I run out of MP, I could always resort to riot blade.  Sadly however nothing of use dropped for Cuppy, so I have a feeling we will be running that place some more.  The Acolyte’s set is amazing, and will hold a player until they are somewhere in their mid 20s.  Doing piddly little dungeon runs like this really make me happy, and make me feel more connected with my free company, so it was an excellent way to close the evening.

Gold Token Currencies

Obligatory WoW SelfieWoWScrnShot_030215_181047

With the launch of patch 6.1 I have to admit I was mildly frustrated that  I had not managed to get the selfie camera to appear on my main character.  Instead it showed up in the garrison list of my hunter, so it took me a few days to notice.  Even then the default form of the camera is not a toy yet until you receive the follow up garrison mission to upgrade it.  Now that I finally have it sitting in my toy box…  I guess I have to do the obligatory picture.  Now I have seen so many of these now that I decided not to tweet it, but nonetheless I think its cute and charming.  I am surprised by just how little control over facial expressions you have, so I guess to get the picture you want to take would involve an extreme amount of patience.  This makes the folks who have posted essentially little story vignettes using the camera all the more impressive.

I know that Blizzard has caught hell from a certain brand of player over this patch not having any “tangible” content.  I for one am plenty happy with the results, namely because we got the content that goes with this patch ahead of time.  Traditionally Blackrock Foundry would have been delayed until a patch rather than put in ahead of time and unlocked at a specific time.  Do we really want to fault Blizzard for being proactive?  While it might be stupid, little features like the selfie cam, twitter integration, heirloom system and color blind system breathe life in the game for a lot of players.  While the raiders and pvpers tend to be very vocal groups, they don’t represent the “average” player.  I would imagine that the average player runs LFR and is happy to be doing so, and things like the garrison and heirloom systems really add to their enjoyment.  What I see is a blizzard that is trying really hard not to fuck up the gains they got with Warlords, and a very jaded community that is almost happy to see them fail.  The rabble over this patch is precisely why we can’t get nice things.

Gold Token Currencies

enUS.jpg

Some time ago Blizzard teased the introduction of a monthly subscription token currency that can be purchased and sold to other players for in game gold.  At the time I dubbed this “BLEX” since it seemed to be based on the Eve Online Plex concept.  Some time has passed and I think many of us had simply forgotten about this until yesterday when an official blog post appeared talking about the “WoW Token”.  Firstly I disapprove of the boring name, and I also disapprove of it being wow specific…  but both of those are beside the point.  It seems like we are now going to be getting the chance to purchase a subscription token and then sell that token on the open market.  Unfortunately many of us are questioning just how open said market will be given that the FAQ states that systems will be setting the price of the currency not the players.  That honestly concerns me a bit, because it makes me think that Blizzard will be trying to manipulate both sides of this equation.

I’ve played several other game that had something similar to the WoW Token, and in all cases played the game at the moment they introduced it.  Generally speaking for the first month it is a buyers market, with a bunch of players trying to play “catch up” and purchase in game currency for real world money.  Then things shift a bit, and the value of the currency goes up significantly, as the ready supply of folks jumping on the RMT bandwagon slow to a trickle.  Ultimately the amount of a token needs to match the value proposal given by third party gold sellers.  Based on some quick googling it looks like $15 gets you around 20k to 30k gold.  So in order to stem the tide of third party gold selling Blizzard has to make sure that the token currency is worth at least that much, essentially that it is easier to use official systems than to risk the danger of unofficial ones.

The positive effect is if this works, the gold selling and gold hacking are in essence going to be a thing of the past.  In the games that have had these token systems, there is still gold selling but nowhere near the levels that existed before hand.  Essentially having a legitimate system drives the price down so much that it is simply not profitable for anyone to bother with.  Unfortunately from the standpoint of players hoping to play for free…  this is more than likely going to be out of reach.  The price of a monthly token seems to rise with inflation, meaning that as it becomes easier to get money in game… it also starts costing you more of it to purchase your token.  I feel like only the most dedicated of players with the most free time, or the best auction house schemes will ever be able to actually play World of Warcraft for free.  In any case… I still think this is largely a positive move.

Final Boss Music

ffxiv 2015-03-02 20-24-45-73 Last night I experienced a bit of a baptism by fire, as it seems that my raid group in Final Fantasy XIV skipped turn 8 and went straight into turn 9 the week I was out sick.  The awesome thing is that it seems like they made serious progress that first night of attempts, and last night in spite of me having to play catch up and seeming to stand in the wrong place at the wrong time…  we made forward momentum.  This is the epic boss fight at the end of the second coil of bahamut, and just like turn 5, this one seems to be a guild killer.  I know groups who have been working on learning this one for over six months.  Knowing this I have to admit I went into the fight with a bit of a mental block about just how difficult it might be.  Turns out just like everything else in Final Fantasy XIV…  it is a rather predictable pattern that just requires lots of precision and execution.

Most of the wipes were absolutely due to me doing the wrong thing at the wrong time.  However as the night drug on I started to grasp the dance and we all got considerably more precise at doing it.  We actually managed to make it to the final phase which is no small accomplishment.  Unfortunately unlike turn 5, the final phase here really does seem to be the hardest.  That said we do seem to finally have a firm grasp on the “meteor” and “golem” phases and we were pretty much executing those flawlessly.  Now we just need to get back in there and start working on that final phase.  I am hoping within four nights of attempts we will have killed us a turn nine and be able to official move on to “current” content.  I love my Final Fantasy XIV raid group and Free Company, for keeping me engaged for roughly seven months now… which admittedly is somewhat of a record.