Familiarity in Proximity

Mega Servers Continued

A few days ago I made a post on about launch issues and game servers, and the problems and solutions that come from various server scenarios.  In my post I presented some discussion about the various styles of servers and the weaknesses that each have.  Mega Servers are an awesome technology but there are problems with it, namely that it reduces the casual proximity of players.  In my post Doone made a comment, and while I normally would have simply posted it as a reply…  I am thinking that maybe I need more space to go into my thoughts.  For sake of not having to make you jump through a bunch of hoops I am going to repose his comment here.

Im not sure why anyone thinks Megaservers make it difficult to build community? Do you mean that it’s too many people to build intimate connections? Because if thats the case, then we’re just talking about social tools, not megaserver tech. Players just need a reason to interact and that doesnt change because of megaservers.

AA’s current situation is embarrassing. Theres not any good excuses for their current situation. This isn’t the first MMO launch, not even the first MMO with land and other features that complicate server flexibility. Theyre simply unprepared for deliberate reasons. There’s just no way they didn’t know what they needed for a smooth launch.

It’s worse that people who shelled out hundreds of dollars to support development are reporting not getting that 4 day advantage they were promised. That’s a serious charge.

Should AA have gone Megaserver? I don’t see how this wasn’t mandatory given the kind of features it has. You need a vast server community that’s STABLE. And you can’t have that when your system is as inflexible as the one they’ve adopted. I think they’re sinking their own ship right now.  — Doone

While I agree with the bulk of what he said, I thought I should maybe clarify my points about mega servers.  At first glance they look like a magic bullet for the problem.  At the very least I thought they were a magic bullet for launch day woes, however they have their own problems that do not always show up early on.

Informal Community

ffxiv 2014-09-22 18-11-33-975 There is a certain kind of community that happens spontaneously by just being around the same players each and every day.  For example the above picture is that of one of the late game hubs in Final Fantasy XIV Revenants Toll in Mor Dhona.  Upon arriving at the Aetheryte crystal I am immediately seeing some familiar places that tend to frequent it.  You can see a name marked in orange as someone I have already friended.  However more than that I recognize if not the names, but the guild tags of many of the players surrounding me.  There is a sense of familiarity in seeing the same players day in and out, and when one of them is in need you are more likely to step in and help out.  This is the way friendships in MMOs used to be formed through shared activity, not just shared guild tag.

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-22-567 In Final Fantasy XIV it has instanced housing wards, where you purchase a house and in theory become neighbors with lots of other players.  Our house is across the street from a Market Board which is the way that you access the auction house economy.  Over the course of weeks of being in close proximity with several other players, we have struck up a bit of a friendship.  One of which is the name in orange in the above Mor Dhona photo.  There is lots of spontaneous interaction that happens just by being around other players and gaining that sense of common goals.  This picture is when we just spontaneously put on our brand new Dragon Warrior inspired Blue Slime King hats and started dancing together.  But the interaction has spread much further than that, and I’ve helped these players out in the world beyond our neighborhood, as well as had my heart warm each time I happened to see one of them out in the wild.

A Server of Strangers

eso 2014-03-31 21-54-58-07 I’ve played many games so far that have some form of a blended server environment.  World of Warcraft for the last several years has blended the leveling zones for the entire battlegroup to make each server feel more populated.  The most recent poster child for Mega Servers however was the Elder Scrolls Online.  Before launch they made several promises about creating a situation that grouped like minded players together into virtual servers, while still all being part of a much larger farm.  While we had one of the smoothest launches since they could easily scale up the hardware temporarily, and reduce it later as needed…  there are a lot of problems that came from not being with a fixed set of players.  Admittedly some of the issues are due to the poor decisions made with the user interface.

In the above image, can you easily tell where my group mates are?  Can you tell the names of players surrounding me?  In both cases the answer is a huge nope, and this poor design choice of obfuscating information about other players only served to make the mega server concept feel that more alienating.  Everyone that was not you became another nameless faceless person taking up room and competing for your resources.  While this is the extreme, I’ve had the same thing happen in World of Warcraft when I encountered players from other servers.  It was like that they were somehow less important to me, since they didn’t share the same server lineage.  I knew that I would likely never see them again, so why even bother trying to be friendly?

Familiarity in Proximity

WoWScrnShot_102913_165101 In a traditional server structure there is familiarity in your actions.  You end up noticing players that do the same things as you do.  It might be farming a specific location on the map because you like the look of it, or crafting at a specific machine.  In hub based MMOs like World of Warcraft, you spend inordinate amounts of time milling around whatever your faction end game city tends to be.  I would spend hours running circles around Dalaran while dealing with raid and guild business over text.  While doing this I used to favor certain areas of the town and vendors, and I started taking note of who else seemed to like milling around these same places.  Over time I would start up conversations and get used to seeing the same people.  If they were gone, I would wonder what they were up to and hope that they were okay.  Over the years there are so many contacts that I have made… that ultimately turned into later guild members that I made only because I noticed they were in the same place as me and decided to strike up a conversation.

The problem with the mega server is that it destroys this kind of familiarity through proximity.  I feel like Elder Scrolls Online was the absolute worst case of this, because not only did it rob you of being around the same people all the time… it also took their names and guild tags from you.  One of the important aspects of a guild is it becomes far easier to recognize than individual player names.  Over time you start to associate a certain kind of behavior with a certain guild tag, and then when you see one of those people leading an event you have an informed decision as to whether or not this is going to be a good thing.  As a guild leader, my people were amazing and the absolute best advertising I could ever have created.  I would get random messages from players who ended up running a dungeon with one of my people, and they wanted to take time to compliment me as guild leader on how nice they were.  It is this kind of interaction with others that I hope to preserve with whatever ends up being the next server model.

The Happy Medium

2012-08-22_234640 As I said in my first post, I think there is a happy medium somewhere.  I think the ultimate version of mega servers, allows you to checkmark certain characteristics that you favor and then creates essentially a virtual server populated with the same players every time.  Similarly I think there are ways for games to maybe more easily identify players that you have interacted with in the past.  The biggest problem with Elder Scrolls Online is that every player felt anonymous.  Even my own guild members, I struggled to locate them in a mob.  This should never be the case, you should always be able to pick your friends and guild members out of the biggest sea of names and faces.  Similarly I think it is important to be able to identify players, because it allows you to form those connections in your mind that if I saw this player in my crafting hub and they are out here doing the same action…  I am invested in maybe going that next step and inviting them to a group.  I want us to keep the best aspects of the traditional server structure, and find new ways to scale them as we go forward.

I want to leave with an excellent post from Sig of Crucible Gaming called “How WoW Ruined MMO Gaming”.  While the title is hyperbole, there are some really good thoughts contained within, and it seems like Sig  mourns the interconnectivity of the previous era of gaming.  Once upon a time we needed players, and as such generally treated them better.  As games have removed the need for having other players we have eroded that base of civility.  While in many cases I think that World of Warcraft has poisoned the well in doing away with some things that were absolutely normal previously, I don’t think we are in an unredeemable state.  Final Fantasy XIV has proven to me that there can exist a game that is both social and modern at the same time… and that has a thriving and cohesive community.  I think the ultimate trick will be finding ways to take what they have done there and scale it to other games.

Leopard Print Paladin

Susceptible to Grind

Destiny_20140920104852 This weekend I played a good bit of Destiny because it is the perfect game for those moments when I don’t feel like I am get into something terribly detailed.  I play this game much in the same fashion as I play Diablo 3, in short bursts with the ability to jettison out if needed to go do something else.  As such this has become in many ways the game I play when I know we are going to be leaving the house soon.  I am never more than just a teleport to orbit away from safety, which makes me consume the game voraciously in small doses.  As such I have mostly been running the game in private mode with my fire team locked down to keep people from popping in at random.  I feel like I don’t want to deal with the expectations of others when I am playing a game in this fashion.  Generally speaking I am either moments from leaving the game, or playing the game while camping something in Final Fantasy XIV…  and in either case I am not exactly responsive enough to be a proper group mate.

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The bulk of my gameplay has been doing either patrols on the Cosmodrome or on the Moon.  I finally got a blue engram to drop, but unfortunately it was for my class item… which is essentially just decoration.  Instead of the traditional “flag football” towel, this one is a series of 3 banners that hang down from my waist.  One of the things I am learning about myself is that I am deeply susceptible to grinding.  I find it super easy to zone out and just wander around aimlessly in an area.  I seem to be able to get infinite amounts of entertainment value from simply wandering around killing Fallen and Hive on the moon and accepting the little mini-quests.  As such I was level 16 before I actually finished the Moon this weekend and got the quest chain sending me to Venus.  I am sure I will be 20+ before I finish Venus, because as soon as I unlock the next patrol zone… that is more than likely what I will be doing quite a bit of.

Destiny_20140920112437 I think part of the problem with Destiny is the fact that it has relatively little to go with as far as Story goes.  As such I find absolutely no sense of urgency pushing me forward to keep completing missions.  In a game like Mass Effect 3 I felt like I was moments away from doom at all times, so I just had to keep pushing forward and trying to turn back the tide in a war larger than myself.  In Destiny they have failed to infuse the narrative with any of this.  Sure things are going horribly wrong out in the galaxy, but we have this last city that seems completely immune to the effect of what is happening.  Sure The Traveler is “dying” but I don’t feel this happening, I feel like that is generations away and I have just been drafted into essentially a science fiction stalemate.  So I have zero issue wandering about and taking time to smell the “helium coils” as it were.  The moment to moment gameplay are what keeps me engaged with this game, and the story line and as such story quests could not exist at all and I would still be happy.

Leopard Print Paladin

ffxiv 2014-09-22 06-44-52-320 At the beginning of the weekend I was a level 40 newly christened Paladin of Uldah.  Over the course of the weekend I managed to push my way through to 46 and get the first of my spiffy gear.  For those who are not familiar with Final Fantasy XIV, at 45 you complete a class quest that will reward you four pieces of “Relic” gear that represents the defacto look for your class.  This means you get a full set of gear minus two slots.  The belt is not terribly important because no belt really changes the look of something drastically.  However the other missing piece is the chest piece and it is essentially the item that always ties a class set together.  On the Lalafell the paladin “short shorts” look is minimized by the total lack of height, however of anyone else it looks like you are wearing white boxer shorts without the chest piece that gives you the plate skirt that is so characteristic of a paladin in this game.

There is a full set of gear that drops in the dungeon Dzmael Darkhold, that rarely sees much use since it is level 44, and at 45 everyone gets their class set.  However the one piece that is extremely useful is the chest, which thankfully in all of my journeys I have gathered up a few of these.  The problem is that for pretty much every class there is something goofy going on with this set.  For the tanks the set features an inexplicable leopard print inlay, with no way to “dye” the pattern away.  So as a result for the last few levels you end up looking a bit goofy until you finally ding 50 and get that class chest piece.  Thankfully for me I also managed to pick up a nice pink quality chest for 47 that should make the outfit look a little bit more put together for the last few levels.

Red Bunny Samurai

ffxiv 2014-09-22 06-46-10-323 The other thing I am realizing is just how much of my other gear will work for Paladin.  Almost all of the dropped pieces and jewelry from the endgame levels worth for Marauder, Warrior, Gladiator and Paladin.  The problem with this is that I have several of the pieces glamoured to look like the Warrior class set.  Apparently this will not show as such when I equip them however, and quite frankly the Syrcus tower set looks like crap for plate wearers.  So I am wondering what set I am going to glamour to that can be neutral and work for both classes.  The most important thing after all is that I still have a proper bunny hat.  While I freely admit that I stole wearing this helm from Tam, I think I have more than made it my own… since it was clearly designed to be worn by a Lalafell.  He tends to favor the white one with the full face mask, where I am enamored with the red one that allows my full face to show through.

My goal for the coming days is to push the paladin to 50 and get it fully geared in 90 or better items.  I’ve been stockpiling hunt marks to be able to do this the moment I ding, but I am really not sure how many pieces I will actually need to buy.  All of my jewelry is dual class, as well as my chest, belt, and boots.  That just leaves three pieces of gear that I actually need to purchase, and then again I will need to spend the requisite 1125 tomestones of mythology to get the zenith weapon and shield.  Right now I have a dilemma I suppose in that I am really close to being able to purchase my next Animus book, but I am also really close to 50 at this point.  I don’t have the tomestones to do both.  In theory I can get the book and the process of simply getting my relic weapon should give me more than enough tomestones to be able to at least craft the relic.  Then I can deal with grinding out the rest as a paladin if I so choose.  In either case I should have another animus book and a 50 paladin soon enough.  Then I suppose my focus turns to finishing off my White Mage.

#FFXIV #Destiny

Fallen London

AggroChat Episode 23

Last night once again we gathered myself, Rae, Ashgar, Kodra and Tam and recorded yet another action filled episode of Aggrochat.  I would love to think it was action filled, but more likely than not it was just a lot of rambling about about various things.  I titled this weeks broadcast “An Intimate of Devils” because one of the games we talked about is the web based Fallen London.  Several of us are playing it but really only myself and Kodra have spent a good amount of time doing so.  Somehow we both managed to align ourselves with the Brass Embassy which is the home of the demonic residents of Fallen London… the Devils.  It turns out that apparently the plural of devil is an “intimate of devils” so I thought it was an interesting if not fitting title for the show.  If you have not caught on I try and name the shows something that might cause someone to click through on it.

Other than that we talked at length about the Microsoft acquisition of Minecraft, and what its possible ramifications could be.  We talked a little bit about Final Fantasy XIV and especially about Rae’s journey to become an Omnicrafter and get to 50 on all of her professions.  We spent a large chunk of time talking about Destiny and our experiences playing the game… and trying in vain to find the story.  Currently the Tokyo Game Show is going on, so we talked a bit about the games that were being shown there especially Final Fantasy XV or “Final Fantasy Roadtrip” as we have taken to calling it.  Finally we discussed for a bit what all was happening at the League of Legends World Championship.  We ran a bit longer than normal clocking in at an hour and ten minutes, but hopefully you enjoy what all we had to say about a large number of topics.

Fallen London

lodgings A few weeks back my good friend Tarantella convinced me to give a web based game called Fallen London a shot, and since then I have been playing it quite a bit, often times feverishly burning through my turns multiple times a day.  I liked it so much that I decided to become an “Exceptional Friend” which is their equivalent of a patron system giving you a second “candle” worth of turns.  That is the rather nice way of them displaying how many turns you have left.  You start off with a rather large candle and as you take turns it slowly burns down to just the stub.  If you have played the early web based RPG Kingdom of Loathing, the gameplay will be very familiar.  You are allotted a fixed number of turns, and then periodically you gain a new turn.  The turns regenerate at a rate of 1 per every 10 minutes, so generally speaking each morning you will start with a fresh candle of 40, or in my case two candles of 40 since I am a patron… and then you play through those and start accruing them back until you are at the maximum number of turns again.

one of the things that makes this more interesting than say Kingdom of Loathing is the fact that you get what are essentially “chance” cards that you can play.  These also regenerate at a rate of 1 level 10 minutes until you have 6 in reserve.  The size of your current hand is determined by the quality of your lodgings.  You start with only one card in your hand, and then as you upgrade your lodgings this increases.  Right now my lodgings is a decommissioned steamer and it allows me certain types of cards to show up as well as increasing my hand size to three.  These cards tend to give you far better rewards than wandering around the various districts of Fallen London.  I say wandering, but there is no action combat in this game.  Everything is carried out by making a series of text based decisions, and the game has a Everquest style color coding system to show how difficult the encounter is.  If you mouse over an option it will tell you specifically what the chance of success is.  There are various items that can be spent to give yourself additional chances at completing the task.

It’s About the Setting

houseofchimes The aspect of Fallen London that makes it appealing to me is that you have this London by Gaslight era setting infused with all sorts of Cthulhu elements as well as a fair bit of steampunk.  The background of the game is that London is the 5th great city to fall, and in this case it means to be consumed completely by the earth.  In the early bits of the game I found it unclear if this was literally a fissure in the earth or if the city was somehow transported into another dimension.  In either case it finds itself surrounded by a great subterranean ocean known as the “Unterzee”.  Additionally the city has found itself host to several supernatural entities that find it as a handy stopping off place between their own realms and that of the above world.  So the game is a game of factions and secret societies… and you as the player have to tiptoe your way through them figuring out exactly who you choose to align with.

Personally I have found myself fond of the “Rubbery Men” which are essentially Cthulhu style deep ones in suits that wander around the city trading for mysteriously throbbing stones.  Additional over the course of my exploits I’ve found myself getting closer and closer to the Brass Embassy as I mentioned above, the cloister of devils that visits our fair city between trips above to take the souls of men.  The artwork overall for the game is extremely simplistic, but at the same time evocative of a dark and mysterious world that it is trying to induct you into.  The game is not terribly action packed in that you essentially are doing a lot of text adventure, but nonetheless I find it compelling.  It is like a self driven pen and paper role-playing game.  I’ve made more than a few false steps as I have tried to figure out my way around the world… not the least of which was somehow pissing off the patron that had gifted me some really nice things.

An Evolution

2014-09-21_00007 One of the problems with Fallen London is that the way it is set up is designed to ration you out a few turns at a time.  Additionally you are essentially “landlocked” inside of London.  There are missions that open up storylets in different areas, but all of which are roughly connected to Fallen London proper.  The folks at Failbetter Games have created Sunless Sea that is now available on Steam Early access to address this problem.  This time instead of taking the role of a prisoner being released into Fallen London, you are taking the role of a Steamship captain giving you mobility outside of town.  You and your fearless crew embark upon missions outside of the city and engage in battle against pirates and sea monsters while trying to gain the favor of the factions within the city.  I’ve not played a ton of hours yet, but I am nonetheless intrigued.

2014-09-21_00001 The game does not really hold your hand, and in a way it reminds me quite a bit of FTL in that you can screw up spectacularly and wind up dead within a few turns.  While wandering around the “Zee” you have to watch several things… the hunger of your crew, the fuel of your vessel and your hull integrity.  As you wander about the in your vessel, you will encounter new areas and if there is a dock jutting out in to the water you can explore on shore.  So far I have found a few new areas, each with storylets that will likely come into play later as I get further into the game play.  The overall interface of the game is very familiar if you have played the web based Fallen London.  The primary difference is you have to learn what a whole new set of stats means, in that they do not use any of the same baseline abilities as the web version has.

Doing Battle

2014-09-19_00003 Eventually you are going to encounter something that wants to take a chunk out of your hull.  Combat itself is turn based and strategic in nature.  In order to perform most of your attacks you need to illuminate your target to be able to aim properly.  As such the opening salvos of combat tend to be you throwing flares out into the water to light it up properly.  There is the option to do a wild salvo, but the chance of hitting the target and dealing serious damage is pretty low.  As such I tend to throw out 3 flares first so that I can hit the target with a full force attack.  On small targets like this abyssal crab it generally only takes a single hit.  When you start encountering pirates however you will have to a bit more tricky.  I’ve noticed that the pirates prefer to open with wild salvos which generally do little damage but can stress you out as you are trying to light up the target.

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When you defeat an enemy you are given a series of options based on how far you have progressed as a character.  In the case of the Crab, you are given the option to harvest it for supplies or dissect it to learn knowledge.  More often than not I take the supplies as this is quite literally how you feed your crew, and anything that keeps me from having to spend Echo to buy supplies makes me happy.  When I took out a pirate ship I was given the interesting option of sending it to shore with a skeleton crew and getting more resources from the ship.  I ended up getting quite a haul of Echo from doing this, but it greatly reduces the number of available crew members when you do it.  I am sure that has an opportunity cost later on as a result, but I have not quite run into a situation where the number of crew members mattered.

Tomb Colonists

2014-09-21_00005 Right now in my game I am spending most of my time running Tomb Colonists to Venderbight.  The Tomb Colonists are one of the stranger factions of Fallen London.  They are in essence mummies that travel around in coffins.  So basically as I am doing this, I am hauling three coffins at a time and getting a pretty decent payout when I get to Venderbight and sell them back to the Tomb-Colonists there.  It isn’t exactly glamorous but it is worth quite a large amount of echo… something I am sorely lacking.  I need to do some research to see what it takes to get a more efficient engine because right now it seems like I am burning through a good deal of my profit in simply buying up fuel… which greatly limits my range of movement.  I figure in coming sessions I will explore more of the coast line and see what trouble I can get into.  Unfortunately however I don’t really know how to gauge how rough an encounter is… so I feel like at some point I am just going to die horribly to something too strong for me to take.2014-09-21_00004 Right now I am very much digging the narrative of both games and the setting.  I only wish there was a way to have the two games be connected, in that I was either playing the same character or somehow being a benefactor one way or another.  I did notice I was able to log in with my Fallen London account, but I did that right before starting this post… so I have yet to see just how connected they end up being.  Long story short, I highly suggest you check out Fallen London since it is completely free to play.  If you like the setting and find the various factions as compelling as I do, then I suggest you also check out Sunless Sea.  I am looking forward to exploring more of the “Unterzee” as a Steamship “Zailor”.  Right now Sunless Sea is under $20 for steam early access, and I feel like that is an absolute steam considering just how much interesting content I have already seen.  The one thing still on my wishlist is for a proper mobile client for my phone, then I would be raving wildly about how awesome of an experience this is.

#AggroChat #FallenLondon #SunlessSea

Of Game Servers

The Server Dilemma

This week there has been a bit of a war waging in the ArcheAge community between two factions.  The first faction wants them to open new servers so that they can play the game and not have to wait in 10+ hour long queues.  The second faction doesn’t want new servers to be opened at any cost, because it serves to dilute the community, and in a game where land ownership is a crucial part of the experience there is no real way to merge the servers.  I feel like this is one of those arguments when both sides have equal merit.  Generally speaking when a company spins up new servers to help cover the launch weekend users, they also end up having a bunch of completely dead servers months later that have to be merged.

The ultimate problem with new servers, is that we want to play with our friends.  By nature an MMO is a social experience, and at this point most of us bring with us a large group of friends and acquaintances that we want to be in close proximity to.  As such lots of players will roll on another server only to get the feeling of actually playing the game they crave, but ultimately later on re-roll once the opening weekend crush is over to be in the same place as their friend.  So I feel like new servers by nature are a damned solution to the opening weekend problem.  Any servers that spin up are by nature less valuable to established players than the original servers.  They will have less of an economy, and less resources to run any group content.  Having done this multiple times, there is a certain pride in playing on a “day one” server.

Abolishing the Server

For a long time I thought the solution to this problem was to simply do away with the server infrastructure entirely.  Elder Scrolls Online launched with a Mega Server infrastructure, where instead of pool resources into smaller named and classified clusters of servers… they just dumped all of them together in one of two larger data centers US and EU.  This allowed them to simply add more nodes to the cluster to gently smooth out the server load without actually interrupting the users experience.  I have to say after the what has to be hundreds of game launches I have experienced…  this concept made for one of the absolute smoothest I have seen.  We were able to get in and play without needing to fuss about what server our guild was going to be on.  It solved so many issues and let us get in and play with our pool of players.

The problem there however is that as the population dwindled and our regularly nomadic guild did what they were good at… and moved on to the next big thing, we were left without much of a community.  The only intimacy we had in that game was that which we brought with us.  Coming back to Final Fantasy XIV it has refreshed my understanding of just how important that server community is to the overall feel of a game.  The night we bought player housing, we had various folks from different guilds popping by our house and welcoming us to the neighborhood.  Our housing district has not one but two dedicated linkshells for communicating with “neighbors” and after months of doing hunts and fates we’ve joined other really social linkshells that flesh out the rich community feel that I had been craving.  So while the Mega Server answers one question, I feel like it comes up lacking in the social aspect greatly.

A Transitional Population

The Rift launch looked like pretty much every other game launch in memory.  I compared a game launch to a natural disaster the other day, because really it is very similar.  There is this crashing wave of users that hit the servers, and that which they don’t break they flood to the point of bursting.  After the storm clouds cleared they were left with the same problem as always.  Some servers had massive queue times, whereas the others where relatively dead.  World of Warcraft tried to solve this problem by allowing players free character moves between overpopulated servers to very specific under populated ones… and as a result a bunch of thriving communities were born out of the leftovers of higher populated ones.  We would not have the Scryers or Wyrmrest Accord servers were it not for this process, so it feels like it mostly worked well.

Rift however went a step beyond this in allowing any character to transfer to another server for free.  There were some restrictions initially about transferring from PVE to PVP, but over time these went away as they patched in the “Faction as Fiction” concept.  This allowed players to self sort, and overall it seems to have worked.  I’ve moved around quite a bit during the time since this went live in that I started on Shadefallen a server that was whisked away in a great depopulation of servers.  From there I moved to Faeblight, and then to Deepwood to hang out with Liore and the Machiavelli’s Cats…  and then back to Faeblight again because I missed being on a Role-Playing server.

This solved the problem of being fettered to a server and having your friends disappear on you.  You could freely transfer elsewhere to play with a different pool of players.  One of the big problems I have with World of Warcraft right now is that my friends are so splintered across so many different servers.  While you can do cross server grouping to an extent, it just isn’t quite the same as being on the same server and in the same guild.  At $25 a pop it would simply be cost prohibitive to move my army around to another location, even though Argent Dawn where we are currently has seen it’s better days.  With the Rift situation it becomes relatively easy to move your guild to a new location and set up shop again on more favorable shores.  The big thing that Rift is missing however is an equivalent to the BattleTag system that gives you a simply way to connect all of your friends with one single ID.

The Hybrid Approach

I feel like maybe there is a hybrid to these options out there that we just haven’t seen yet.  I really like the concept of the mega server in that it removes the work of even having to discuss what server everyone will be located on.  It also opens things up.. so if you meet someone that plays the same game as you…  there is never that moments later heartbreak when you realize you are on different factions or different servers.  What I think we are missing is the concept that Elder Scrolls Online talked about when they were launching, that never quite panned out.  Originally the idea was that while everyone would be on a mega server, we would be able to self sort into pools of players with like interests.  This would apply an almost dating website series of questions to identify what types of goals you are focused on when you play an MMO.  Then through these questions you would be sorted into the cohesive community that best represents your interests.

So when you are wandering around the Capital city, you are seeing the players that represent your tastes in MMOs.  If you like being around role-players and crafters, you would end up being shuffled into a very collaborative environment.  If you like competing with other players and doing battle to determine who has the most skills… then you would be shuffled into a very competitive focused environment.  I feel like a scenario like this would give me some of the permanence from the community that I found I craved when I came back to Final Fantasy XIV.  I like being involved with the community just outside of my guild.  Guild is a comfortable home for me, but it isn’t the end of my universe, and I crave interaction of new ideas and new players.  I feel like this self sorting mechanic would allow for both seamlessly.    You could have different types of players in the same guild, but self sorting into their own little “perfect community”.

The Solution

Essentially I have seen a lot of solutions for the same problem, and each of them has fallen short.  That doesn’t mean that we should just declare that there is no right answer to the problem and fall back to the old tried and true server structure.  I feel like traditional servers are going to be a thing of the past, but we need to find ways of carrying the best aspects of that intimate server community forward with us.  I am interested in seeing how people solve the problem moving forward.  Games like Landmark and eventually Everquest Next will be tasked to solve it, and with Landmark they are already moving in what feels like the right direction.  The ability to move between servers freely gives you the ability to play with anyone also playing the game.  The permanence of an individual island however gives you a localized community feel.  Do I think it is perfect?  No, but I think it is a step in the right direction, and I hope more games try doing something new instead of falling back on the pitfalls of the server.

Booking Dungeons

Final Fantasy Roadtrip

This week the Tokyo Game show is happening and we are starting to get a trickle of goodies out like the long awaited updated Final Fantasy XV trailer.  After watching it, I have to say this looks like it might be a Final Fantasy quite unlike the others.  My friend Kodra mentioned how unusual it was to see an automobile in the Final Fantasy setting, and I had not really thought about it until then but he is right.  It has almost been as though they have denied the existence of Automobiles in pretty much every setting other than Final Fantasy VII.  Even in the super futuristic VIII they had the requisite flying airships in the form of giant aircraft…  but they still lacked anything even resembling an automobile.  Let alone a crazy sedan with suicide doors like they are touring the countryside in for this game.

From the video this seems like the game is going to be more like Final Fantasy XII was in the form of a more “Action Combat” approach to the JRPG.  This has its fans and its critics, but I have to say one of my favorite Final Fantasy “cousins” was Vagrant Story that featured a very action combat game play style.  I even liked Final Fantasy XII for what I played of it, at some point I want to go back and finish the game.   What intrigues me the most about the game is the way it feels like the monsters are almost part disaster movie, like they are taking a road trip to survey the countryside like some sort of awkward rubberneckers.  I just hope I can control which ever character I choose, because man I am all about the big dude with the beard and the knock-off buster sword.

Castlevania Dark Souls Edition

Another game I have been looking forward to on the PS4 since this years E3 is the game Bloodborne.  At TGS they released a new trailer with some more tasty bits about the gameplay featuring what looks to be multiple classes for the player to choose from.  I’ve somehow almost entirely missed the Dark Souls madness, but I am looking forward to this game as it feels more firmly in my wheelhouse.  I love Castlevania, and I love  the dire battle against the things that go bump in the night feeling that this game has.  I just hope that the gameplay is every bit as fun as it looks like in the trailer.  For a game like this to work for me, the moment to moment gameplay has to feel amazing… and from what I have played of Dark Souls my problem tends too be the wonky feeling control scheme.

This is probably going to to be a title that I end up trying before actually picking it up.  I am sure this is blasphemy here but I actually thought Dragon’s Dogma felt much better than Dark Souls as far as moment to moment gameplay.  As such I am really hoping that the control scheme is more similar to Dogma.  In any case it is a grim dark game about slaughtering the undead and such, and that along makes me a happy camper.  We need more games where we roam the country side slaughtering baddies for fun and profit.  The only negative that I can see from the trailer is that like Order 1886 it looks a little bit “on rails” for my tastes.  In any case I am watching both of those titles closely.

Booking Dungeons

ffxiv 2014-09-19 06-45-54-737 Wednesday night we had tried to run Pharo Sirius for my friend Waren to complete this first Animus book and wound up failing miserably.  In my infinite wisdom I attempted to bring along two of our lowest geared players, one of which was the healer… and quite simply he didn’t have the mana to heal the place at just barely ilevel 48 the bare minimum.  Last night however we changed up the mix and brought in a very seasoned healer and cleared the dungeon with minimal effort.  That really became the theme of the night, cleaning up dungeons both myself and Warenwolf needed for our Animus books.  So in total we ran Pharo Sirius, Lost City of Amdapor, Tam-Tara Deepcroft and Stone Vigil.  For the last of these we managed to grab one of our up and coming healers that still needed experience and got her roughly a level in doing the place.

Essentially what we learned through the failure that was Wednesday, and the success that was Thursday is that pretty much you can only afford to have a single player in the mix that is significantly undergeared for the content.  There were other issues Wednesday night, like the fact that the player had not completed the level 50 quest and was missing both the piece of armor from it and more importantly the critical ability you get that for white mages is your full heal.  I cannot impress upon new players enough that the moment you ding 50…  go complete your last Job quest.  It always gives your class something that you will desperately need from that point onwards.  The game assumes you have these abilities, and will throw things at you that often times require them.

As far as leveling goes I managed to get my Paladin to 39, which let me equip a sweet new Grand Company weapon.  Since I got Zantetsuken waiting on me in the bank, I thought I would take this opportunity to glamour my weapon to look like the Blazefire Saber.  This might literally be the only time I get to use my spiffy gunblade from the Lightning Returns event…  since seriously there is no weapon in the game nearly as cool as Zantetsuken.  Additionally I have been banking the Hunt Seals needed to buy my Paladin a full set of gear the moment I ding 50.  I am not sure what exactly happened, but at this point I have definitely changed focus from leveling the White Mage to pushing up the Paladin.  I think more than anything it was my realization that I lacked a class to easily grind additional Atma bits on, now that I screwed up and got my Warrior Atma weapon first.  Atma grinding does two useful things for me…  firstly I get the chance at atma bits, but more importantly the steady flow of company seals keeps my ventures running.  Hopefully at some point this weekend I will have a brand new paladin ready to go.

#FFXIV #FFXV #Bloodborne

Outside Looking In

Game Launches

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 11-36-43-71 This is going to end up sounding like a strange topic for me to talk about, especially since I have raged at length on this blog before about bad game launches.  However that said, it seems odd to be on the outside looking in at a game launch going horribly awry.  For the first little bit I could fall back on the statement of “have these people never seen a game launch before?” but at some point we crossed the threshold into silly territory.  There was a report on twitter that I read earlier about someone waiting in a 10 hour non-subscriber queue and waking up this morning to find they were still 115 in line.  Then when the queue finally ticked down to 1 person remaining, they got disconnected.  Similarly I have heard all sorts of nightmares about the amount of Patron time for a game showing at one moment that they have a full year of paid time, and then the next moment showing that they have 30-60 days.

Of course this is all anecdotal evidence since I am not playing the actual game.  I feel like this launch however has a whole host of issues that may or may not be entirely Trion’s fault.  The thing that folks need to keep in the back of their head is that ArcheAge is not their game.  They might be promoting it, and bringing a localized version to America…  but they didn’t build the game and there are lots of things that are quite simply out of their control.  I feel like there is a bit of a massive cultural disconnect between Trion and XL Games that likely only exacerbates any issues that might be happening.  Similarly there seems to be this new trend of Denial of Service attacks against companies servers when they launch a new game.  It happened with Wildstar to some extent, and over the last few months has been happening regularly to various game providers.  Reports have Trion fighting off a DDoS while trying to launch this new game… and quite frankly as someone who has experienced one of these… there is often times little that can be done other than hoping the perpetrator gets bored and moves on.

Outside Looking In

archeage 2014-05-08 23-11-34-600 The strangest experience is watching this all unfold as a spectator.  Generally speaking I am almost always on the front lines as a new game launches.  I’ve got my limited edition collectors deluxe vip section seat ready to go and have already explored the world during the head start.  So generally speaking I view these launches through the eyes of someone having to deal with the issues, and getting frustrated with the folks parroting “just play something else for a bit”.  Now I feel like I am on the verge of being one of those folks to spread the same wisdom.  After a weeks time, the servers will stabilize either through a obsessive interest or because Trion has added a good bit of resources.  In either case life will return to a normal pattern in relatively short time.

As a gamer I would always fall back on the argument that a game company had “sold access” to the game, so they should know just how many people would be playing.  That is like me saying that I know a Tornado is coming, so my house should be prepared to brace for impact when it actually hits.  Game launches are this industry’s version of natural disasters.  Players are this insane wave that comes crashing down on the servers hard and fast and with relentless and obsessive repetition.  When Final Fantasy XIV launched we resorted to making hardware macros to try and log into the game, and as a programmer I KNEW that I was essentially adding to the weight of the problem by constantly spamming the servers…  but as a gamer I didn’t give a shit, I just wanted to play my shiny new toy that I rightfully purchased.

Were I interested in ArcheAge I would likely be right there with all of you gnashing my teeth and rattling my sabers about the bullshit situation we were having to endure.  As an outsider, the whole ballet feels very predictable.  All of this said I am not trying to be apologetic for Trion, because at some point a company needs to learn from the mistakes of their peers.  That said when a game launches blissfully smoothly like The Elder Scrolls Online, we tend to not even notice.  We only seem to care when we are inconvenienced from playing the game.  While a bad launch might signal doom for a game, if it goes beyond a certain threshold… a good launch doesn’t actually really predict long term success.  As such it likely doesn’t really benefit a company to over prepare for a launch, when they can just ride out the first few days and the relatively short attention span of the internet zeitgeist will have forgotten about the rough spots.

Hoping for Better

ARCHEAGE 2014-05-08 19-14-56-71 I have lots of friends playing this game, as I always seem to have lots of friends playing every new game.  For their sake I hope things improve by the weekend so that they can enjoy some relaxing game time.  I played quite a bit of this game in Alpha and later Beta and it has so many interesting ideas.  The problem for me more than anything else was the toxic community, and the griefer culture that seemed to evolve around various aspects of the game.  Go afk in a relatively safe town, and when you walk back to the screen you might end up dead on the battlefield somewhere because a player thought it was funny to push you out of town with a tractor.  That sort of game play is not compelling to me other than the fact that I find it interesting that someone, somewhere thought that was a good idea.

At my heart I am a Care Bear and at its heart ArcheAge is a serious open world player versus player game.  So while it was interest to experience, just like with Eve Online… I don’t feel like this game was really designed for me.  Had Trion created a Co-Operative server I would have been there with the rest of you on day one being frustrated by the events.  However from my understanding it was XL Games that was completely against the concept of a non-pvp realm.  The game has a lot to offer for those willing to put up with the other players, and put up with these issues at launch.  It has one of the most interesting and detailed crafting systems I have experienced in any game.  The biggest strike against the game for me personally however is its almost complete and total lack of proper beards.  Thankfully I was able to get around this problem in Destiny by playing an awesome looking robot, ArcheAge sadly has no robots.

#ArcheAge

Minecraft and Microsoft

Of Minecraft and Microsoft

minecraft-xbox-one Monday the news broke that Microsoft would be buying Mojang, the company behind Minecraft for 2.5 billion dollars.  Since then I’ve seen a lot of varied reactions on this, but I had not quite formulated my own thoughts yesterday morning so I didn’t mention it.  I admit I am a bit scared for Minecraft as a game to be in the often ham fisted hands of Microsoft.  The thing is this is my own personal biases showing through.  While I make my living supporting Microsoft products, in truth I have not been a huge fan of the company since Bill Gates ejected himself from the picture.  I’ve felt that they’ve made a significant number of missteps on a many fronts, more importantly to the topic of this conversation on the gaming front.  In a way I feel like this makes Microsoft look like they are making a desperate grab at relevance by purchasing the juggernaut that “all the kids are playing”.

From the standpoint of Notch I completely understand why he did this, and I support his decision.  Notch has always been one of those figures for which the spotlight has burned a little too much.  He blew up his own blog Notch.net when he posted this statement, so it made its way over to Paste Bin.  In the statement he explains how he feels like he had become this symbol, and not a person and for those of you who haven’t not watched the This is Phil Fish video Notch mentions you should really check it out.  It talks about the weird relationship we have to developers, especially in the indie world.  I honestly feel like Notch has always wanted to be this guy who worked on interesting projects, and just had the fortune or misfortune depending on your point of view of one of those projects going viral behind his wildest fevered imaginings.

So we have this odd marriage.  Microsoft desperately needs to claw its way to relevance, and Notch needs a company with the infrastructure to support his creation.  The Minecraft community can be extremely awesome, but they can also turn on a dime into an unruly mob as they did over supposed terms of service changes.  I highly suggest you check out Notch’s “Literally Worse than EA” post to see the point at which I think he decided he was getting out.  As an avid player of Minecraft since the early days of beta, my only hope in all of this is that Microsoft can keep from fucking it up.  They have this golden opportunity to prove to the world that they are not these clumsy and confused overlords.  Do right by this game and you might have just won yourself a lifetime of supporters.  Do wrong by this game and you likely caused the next few generations to hate you.  Ultimately this is not about me or my generation, but the children growing up with Minecraft as their generations Lego.

The Story Barrier

ffxiv 2014-09-16 21-43-56-381 Last night we had the intention to go do the next few parts of the Coil of Bahamut raid.  We did not however have the necessary well geared bodies to pull this off, so instead we opted to do the two instances that come at the end of the main story of the game.  Castrum Meridianum and The Praetorium are both 8 man dungeons that are extremely story and cut scene heavy.  They often act as the bottle neck for players who have just finished leveling to 50, since so much of the end game content cannot be completed until you have finished this step in the main story quest.  This is one of my biggest complaints about the flow of the game, is that you have this massive gulf to cross when you think you are nearing the end.  You can of course queue for these two through the Duty system, but there is a significant problem with that.

Folks have figured out tricks to run these dungeons extremely quickly, and if you do so they are worth are lot of Tomestones of Mythology for limited work.  As such folks tend to power pull these dungeons and anyone who stops to watch the story gets lost in the mix, often times missing entire boss fights because they are locked in a cut scene.  This is extremely frustrating since so much of the final act of the story gets played out in these two dungeons.  As such we try and wait until we have several 50s that need these before running them, since to run the two dungeons while watching waiting on cut scenes is around a two hour long Endeavour.  Last night we had a block of time when we had a bunch of individuals online at the same time so we knocked them out for Thalen.

It had been a long while since I had watched all of the cut scenes and I have to say I am still impressed with the events at the end of this game.  I don’t want to go into spoilers but the conclusion of the main story sequence is so satisfyingly “Final Fantasy”.  It has all of the elements that make a game like this feel epic.  Big boss fights, orchestral music with the requisite choral requirement, huge spell effects and large scale devastation.  You cannot come out of The Praetorium without feeling like the big effing hero of the day.  This is the way the ending of every video game should feel.  The awesome thing here is that the story just keeps going, and in fact I feel like we are building to just as big and exciting of a conclusion somewhere down the line.  I find myself actually waiting with baited breath on the next segment of the storyline coming with 2.4.

Recruitment and Games

I had a situation happen last night when two of my friends officially declared that Final Fantasy XIV was the worse.  In truth I think they were referring to the hassle that is the Square Enix account management process, and in that I absolute agree with them.  Square seriously needs to rethink the number of hoops you have to jump through to be able to play their game.  Someone has to be pretty damned committed to giving them money to suffer through that bullshit.  That said it did bring up a slightly different point, that I thought I would talk a bit this morning.  I get super excited about video games, and in my enthusiasm I feel like I need to share that experience with others.  As such through a series of posts on my blog I gush about various features of a game, and some of my friends have taken to calling me the “games pusher”.  At its core, I want to share the enjoyment I am having with my friends… because I want them to feel awesome about things too.

The thing is this doesn’t always work, and that is completely okay if it doesn’t.  People enjoy games differently, and as such the things that might be perfect for me are not going to be perfect for everyone.  So if you see me gushing about a game, it does not mean that I expect you to like it just as much as I do.  Hell I find it awesome that people have even tried to play whatever it is that I am playing.  Of the folks who have taken the “FFXIV challenge”, a few of them have tried and decided they loved it.  Still others have decided this game is not for them at all and walked away from it.  I still love both camps equally, and for the folks who fought through the struggle that is account management to try it…  I am especially appreciative that they push so much effort into it.  Ultimately not every game has to be just right for everyone.  We can play different games and still be awesome friends.  That said I don’t think I will ever stop trying to get folks playing the game I am playing and on the same server I am playing.  That is just too deeply ingrained in my nature.

#FFXIV #Minecraft

Hopelessness of Odin

Impending Patch

Last night was an odd evening for a handful of reasons.  For starters when I first got home I attempted not to get into anything terribly involved.  As such I did a random low level duty roulette and managed to get Haukke Manor.  I think overall it went really smoothly, especially considering we had a brand new White Mage that had never healed it before.  I attempted to explain all of the fights, and was shocked and amazed that my party requested a full clear instead of the normal abbreviated rush.  Everything went pretty smoothly all things considered as I took the time to explain the final fight and what I was expecting from each of the party members.  I’ve found that often times on fights with very specific mechanics, no one wants to admit to not knowing what to do.  If I simply give an abbreviated explanation, overall it tends to go considerably smoother.

When my wife got home we walked to dinner and hung out for a bit.  By this time I was absolutely starving, but to be fair she warned me exactly when she would be getting home.  I should have eaten a snack when I first got home or something, because by the time we hit the Mexican restaurant I was absolutely famished.  When we left the house it looked like it might open up on us, and originally we were headed to a BBQ place, but while walking it started sprinkling a little bit.  Thankfully by the time we got out of the restaurant any signs of sprinkles had disappeared and we walked home on an extremely gorgeous evening.  I love being within walking distance of several restaurants, because there is just something cool about being able to walk to dinner in an otherwise traditional car culture.

Hopelessness of Odin

ffxiv 2014-09-15 21-33-25-687 With the patch downtime quickly approaching, but the time I got back from dinner I had roughly an hour and a half of play time left before the servers went down.  I tanked another low level random, and then opted to start working on my Paladin Hunt log.  For various reasons I have shifted my focus from working on my White Mage to pushing up the Paladin.  As I said yesterday I went from 28 to 35 Sunday and managed to get 36 and almost 37 last night.  I was essentially minding my business and porting from zone to zone cleaning up sections of my hunt log.  When I zoned into South Shroud I thought the place looked really odd.  One of the cool things about FFXIV is that you can check the current weather conditions by mousing over a little icon on the minimap.  When I did that I started to get excited… the conditions were “Hopelessness” which is a unique weather condition when the Odin event has spawned.  I shifted to my warrior job and shouted into zone “WAR LFG” and within seconds I got an invite.

It seems that Warriors are the kings of cheesing out FATE contribution, so they are apparently highly sought after for fights like Odin.  It seemed like everyone was coalescing on Urth’s Gift, so I headed that way.  I had never actually managed to catch Odin in progress before, and by the time I got there someone had just pulled him.  I was not quite ready for the sight in front of me, which seemed to be roughly 200 players working away feverishly to get him down.  The above shot is from the battle, and pretty much represents what the experience feels like.  The entire area is a wash in spell effects, which makes his attacks extremely hard to see.  During the battle he periodically casts these massive AOE fields that you realistically need to run out of.  I avoided most of them, and with less than 3% of his bar left I finally ended up dying.  I rode out the battle before releasing and managed to get gold contribution, which means I earned 5 Odin Mantles.

jIKMXpjzantetsuken What is awesome about getting gold contribution is the fact that you actually get enough of the tokens to be able to purchase something right then.  Both Odin and Behemoth have a number of really cool items you can pick up for mostly cosmetic purposes.  You can get barding that makes your chocobo look like Odin’s mount, or you can get a helmet and chest graphic that makes your gear look just like his.  The item however that I was interested is the one that any Final Fantasy fan will immediately recognize…  Zantetsuken his insane sword.  While the stats on the blade are no longer that great, thanks to the wonders of the glamour system I can make any blade look like this.  My good friend Ashgar has had one for some time now, but I had to scrounge around this morning to find a picture of someone wielding it.  As soon as I get my paladin up to 50 I too will be rocking the blade of Odin…  which to be truthful is probably longer than my Lalafell is tall.

Winding Down

Sagacyte After the excitement of Odin I was wandering around, and popped over to Uldah to purchase more Ventures when I ran into the ever amazing Sagacyte Luxaloix.  It is always awesome to bump into twitter folk while wandering about the server, and it seems like last night was a night for doing so.  Earlier in the evening Sagacyte had bumped into the very amazing Spiral Sun and posted about it as well.  Thankfully the meetings were commemorated in picture, so I could totally use them…  as in my rush I absolutely forgot to take one.  I love bumping into folks I know while wandering about the server.  When doing Odin there were a bunch of folks from the Howling Moon free company in the thick of the battle as well.  I was pumped to find out that Ayla Noye also managed to get gold contribution from the event, so we will all be rocking Odin goodies in the housing zone.

On top of all of this it appears that the 2.38 patch that went in this morning has a ton of quality of life modifications to existing systems.  It seems they are focusing on making some tweaks to make 2.4 go more smoothly, including some visual changes to Limsa Lominsa… which makes me wonder if the new Thief and Ninja NPCs will be located in that city.  The biggest news for me personally from the patch is the new command to copy an existing hotbar.  One of the big frustrations is that when you switch jobs, most of your hotbars change with you.  That means when you switch from Gladiator to Paladin for example you have to reconfigure your hotbar, as it defaults to giving you ones filled with the abilities in the order in which you received them.  This command will let you copy one current hotbar to a new hotbar slot in a different profile.

Another big one for me which is kinda silly is I am pumped that they added a /hug emote.  In every MMO this has kinda been my default interaction with a player that I happened to meet out in the world.  Apparently the Japanese are not big huggers, because after a year of the game they still had yet to put that emote in.  As a result my default had been /joy which is what happens to be pictured above.  So I will be happy to be able to do drive by huggings in game soon.  Another awesome change is the ability to scale back the spell effects.  Maybe I would have actually been able to see what Odin looked like were this system in place last night.  In any case, the patch looks to be a great one and I look forward to delving into all the things they added like Personal Player housing.

#FFXIV

Dance of my People

Enter the Jigglehats

ffxiv 2014-09-14 22-10-22-567 Yesterday the Breaking Brick Mountains event started in FFXIV which is a repeat of an earlier event used to commemorate the launch of DragonQuest X.  For those not terribly familiar with the Dragon Warrior/DragonQuest franchise, it has a rather distinctive art style.  So seeing that art style appear in Final Fantasy XIV is extremely entertaining.  The quests have this great Dragon Quest stylized “Quest Accepted” and FATE related text that just makes me happy to see in game.  The quest itself is rather simple.  You talk to Havak Alvak near the Central Thanalan gate in Uldah, which sends you to talk to the Beefy Businessman down by the Thaumaturge guild.  From there you have to find a specific fate called “Brick by Brick”.  This will lead into one of two other FATEs either called “Brick by Stone Brick” or “Brick by Gold Brick”, both granting you quest completion.

One of the things I love about Final Fantasy XIV seasonal and special events is that they are super easy to complete.  I used to hate how frustratingly grindy other games events were, in that if you did not participate every single day of a holiday you could not get all the prizes.  Even with the Lightning Returns event, and trying to collect all of the weapons… it essentially meant I had to farm 5 different FATEs and then was completely done.  This event in total took maybe 30 minutes, and most of that was travel time.  Completing the quest nets you a Thug’s Mug cosmetic helm and a Wind-up Brickman cosmetic pet.  Next to the Beefy Businessman there is a Toughie Peddler NPC that sells the amazing “Jigglehat” or more properly known as the King Slime Crown.

It has become common place for our guild and the members of Howling Moon free company to mingle around while waiting on things to happen.  The events of last night are pretty common, in that we each tend to hang around the market board just down from our house, which can be seen in the background of the above image.  It all started when Joren Noye started up with this amazing outfit that he had built around his Jigglehat, that was mostly comprised of a dyed to match vanya robe.  What happens when to amazing Lalafell meet?  Well we dance of course, and within moments the ever adorable Jade Taiga showed up as well.  Well it was not long before Ayla Noye joined in as well, and we had an impromptu jigglehat party.  You have to love any game that supports this sort of random dancing in silly hats.  My friend Tam is convinced that the entire point of this game is to collect ever more amazing hats.

Paladin Soul

ffxiv 2014-09-14 09-52-39-215 I spent most of yesterday working away quietly on my Gladiator turned Paladin.  I completed the final level 30 Gladiator quest, and went through the opening quest for becoming a Paladin.  So far the 30 and 35 quests that I have completed are significantly easier than most of the job quests that I have done on other characters.  I am guessing that at some point in the near future they will drop the floor out from under me with a quest that is significantly more difficult than the others.  I personally thought the final level 30 Gladiator quest was rather challenging, in that I seemed to fail it the first time for no apparent reason.  I was doing everything they had told me to do and then all of the sudden I got duty failed.  Upon trying it again this morning I apparently did all of the things that I was supposed to and then some because I passed, but still have no idea what I did the first time versus what I did the second time.

I started the day at level 28 and finished the evening about halfway to 36.  I have yet to really sit foot in a dungeon yet, and have been mostly doing the FATE grind.  First in Costa Del Sol and now I am out in Coerthas.  In part I guess I like FATE grinding because it is mindless and something I can do over and over.  Additionally I have really become addicted to the whole Quick Ventures system, and I view FATEs as a way to feed Venture tokens to my Retainers.  For those that are unaware you can buy 5 venture tokens for 1000 grand company seals at your grand company quartermaster.  So far I am digging playing the Paladin again, but in truth I am mostly leveling this so that I once again have a good class for grinding FATEs to get Atma parts.  I maybe made a mistake in going for the Atma weapon on my warrior first.  That is pretty much the ideal fate grinding class, and in order for me to get another one up with that sort of survival… I am going to have to play my paladin.

Moonwalker

Destiny_20140913141700 Other than playing quite a bit of Final Fantasy XIV, I spent the bulk of the rest of my weekend playing some Destiny.  At this point my Titan is level 10 and I am spending most of my time in the Moon Patrol zone.  While I was waiting for FATEs on Saturday to spawn for my Animus book, I was hanging out on the PS4 wandering around either the Cosmodrome or Moon Patrol areas.  This is pretty much the ideal play style for me.  I like wandering about doing mini quests and killing lots of Fallen and Hive aliens.  However if you listen to our podcast you can tell that several of our cast have a real issue with the fact that the game has very little tangible story.  The story that does exist is questionably written and even more questionably acted.  For me, it is enough story to keep me entertained, but we have already agreed that I need and more importantly want significantly less story than most folks.  Wandering around and killing things is totally enough motivation to keep me enthralled, especially when the controls feel so damned good.

Destiny_20140910225853 The weird thing for me is I tend to lose motivation to do the various missions whenever I actually unlock the patrol zone.  It is as though the mission only serve as a vehicle to unlock patrol and once I have done that I have no real interest in progressing further.  At some point soon however I should really finish clearing out the moon, but in the mean time I am wandering around the surface looking for interesting stuff.  I love it when I find a chest or a new place that I had overlooked previously.  I love exploring this game, but find it more than marginally frustrating when I encounter the “turn back now” wall around the outskirts of the areas.  At least with the Cosmodrome you have understandable boundaries that limit you to just being on this one island.  On the moon you can see forever, so it makes no sense why I cannot wander out in the open, as there are no logical obstructions.  In any case, I am still really enjoying the game and look forward to playing more of it.

#FFXIV #Destiny

Of Animus Books

Destiny of Poppy

Last night we recorded the latest episode of AggroChat.  This week we were joined once again by Tam and the regular cast of AggroChat…  Asghar, Rae and Kodra.  I went into the night thinking we would end up gushing about Destiny quite a bit, but in truth it turns out we all have a some very valid complaints about the game.  We do in fact talk about the good points, but also we talk about the weaknesses of the story.  Moreso we talk about the fact that there really isn’t much of a story at all.

Apparently this week some craziness happened in League of Legends with the team Unicorns of Love.  It seems as though they broke one of the taboos of the game and played Poppy in competitive play  More so than that they seemed to dominate a match with her.  We talk about the ramifications of this and get into an offshoot discussion about what happens when something is toxic for a game.  When a game changes the class or mechanic that you love, what do you as the player do?  I know a good part of why I wont be playing Warlords of Draenor, at least not at launch is the fact that Blood Deathknights “feel wrong” in ways I cannot quite quantify.

Of Tidal Bardings

ffxiv 2014-09-14 10-05-52-018 Since the last three days have been spent working on my Easing Into Eorzea guide series, I have not really posted much that was actually about me or my endeavors.  In fact this morning it feels more than a little weird to not be working on the next segment of that guide.  I guess in part I wanted to get some of the most basic information out there especially since I have a good number of friends either just starting the game or considering starting it.  One of the problems with Final Fantasy and just how content dense it is, is that it has so many different systems that it just expects you to know how to use.  I remember when we first started playing, it took me weeks to figure out what everything did and even to this day I am still finding systems that I knew nothing about.  So my goal was to try and flatten this learning curve by discussing things from the perspective of a player who is used to playing traditional western MMOs.

However this does not mean that I stopped doing things while writing these guides.  One of the most exciting things from the past week is that I managed to get Tidal Barding.  The entire reason why I was going for Turquoise color with my chocobo, was that it would match the Leviathan bardings perfectly as seen in the picture above.  Leviathan has been my favorite summon since Final Fantasy IV and as a result I knew when I saw this that I would have to get it for my chocobo.  The problem is that it involves getting a rare drop from Extreme Mode Leviathan, when I have not done any of the Extreme primals leading up to that.  The other issue is that it is a three star armorcrafting pattern, meaning it takes an extremely well geared crafter.

This is the point at which my good friend and awesome cosplayer Spiral Sun rides in to the rescue.  It turns out her Free Company leader could make the barding, so I shopped around on the market and managed to piece together all the bits needed.  All told I think I spent around 150,000 gil to gather up the bits, which is a significant discount over what the completed barding had been going for on the market boards.  Last night I checked it was still floating around the 500,000 mark.  So thanks to Spiral I am now sporting my spiffy barding, and with the Turquoise color it works almost perfectly.  The barding and bird kinda meld together perfectly and it feels like I am in fact riding around on a tiny Leviathan.

Of Animus Books

ffxiv 2014-09-14 10-23-09-943 The other thing I have been working on in Final Fantasy XIV is my Animus Weapon.  Late last Sunday I managed to wrap up my Atma grind and I was able to convert my Bravura Zenith into a Bravura Atma.  The problem is the Atma step is basically a “half step”.  While the weapon is in fact ilevel 100 instead of ilevel 90…  the stats of it remain the same.  You power up the Atma weapon by completing a series of books, each one giving your weapon a stat boost.  To complete the weapon you have to do this 9 times.  Each book costs 1500 tomestones of mythology and requires you to kill 100 mobs (10 each of 10 types), run 3 specific dungeons, complete 3 specific fates, and complete 3 specific guild and company leves.  Throughout the day yesterday I knocked out all of the steps for my current book other than the three dungeons.

So today at some point I plan on running the three dungeons which are…  Tam-Tara Deepcroft Normal, Stone Vigil Normal and Lost City of Amdapor.  I figure I will ask in guild to see if anyone needs these dungeons before running them, because I would far rather complete them with a guild group.  After turning in the book I will get +2 strength to my current Atma weapon and it will put me one step closer to the finished Animus.  Then it begins the process all over again of grinding up 1500 tomestones of mythology for the next book.  My guild thinks I am mostly insane for this, but at least Cylladora and Warenwolf are doing it with me as well.  I believe Cav is maybe on the same step also.  Essentially the fastest way to get the mythstones is to grind hunts, and as of yesterday Waren is now in the most popular of the hunt groups, so hopefully that will help things out a bit.