Finishing Heavensward

Trying to Break Me

KneeGoBoom When we planned this four day weekend of house manipulation…  I knew somewhere along the lines I would end up harming myself.  Now I have any number of minor injuries from the weekend including that time I sliced my finger open and bled all over the old PC I was pulling a hard drive from, or the time I got my arm pinched behind something and created a really strange bruise on my wrist.  However yesterday I took my self mutilation to a new level, as I was carrying the final box out to the car for the last Goodwill load of the weekend.  I went to set the box down carefully because it had something poking out of it… and I apparently lost my balance and wound up rolling down the driveway towards the mailbox.  The end result is that I have one exceptionally banged up and bruised knee that makes it hard to walk, a second banged up knee that is far better off, and a wrist that I am guessing I have tweaked a bit because I ultimately landed on it.  I am completing ignoring the piece of chat that seems to be embedded in my palm because in the grand scheme of things that one is just minor.

At this point I am trying to alternate between staying off my knee an getting up every so often and walking a bit to keep it from freezing up too bad.  At the same time I am keeping ice packs on it every few hours which seems to be helping.  The above photo is actually a massive improvement from yesterday when my knee cap itself was roughly five times its normal size.  Today it hurts a lot less to stand on my knee, but a lot more to touch it… so I am hoping that means most of the trauma is just as a surface level and not actually effecting the joint itself.  It seems like the pain in walking was mostly related to the swelling.  Today actually my bigger complaint is my wrist that hurts like the dickens when I twist it.  Thankfully nothing seems broken… except my pride.  More than anything I just feel stupid for falling.  I feel stupid that it happened on quite literally the last box… which in itself was an after thought.  I am just thankful that while I put myself in a bit of pain that it seems like I am still fairly sturdy.

Finishing Heavensward

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-05 21-24-42-48 In similar fashion to 2.0 the end of the 3.0 story concludes in a series of group story content.  Thankfully however it seems they have learned their lesson and instead of making long eight player dungeons, they created a single four player story mode dungeon and an extremely fun trial encounter.  I won’t go into much detail about either because spoilers…  but this time around they managed to get the risk and reward equation just right.  I’ve now run the four player story dungeon I think four times, and will happily run it as many times as needed because at face value it is worth 80 Tomestones of Law, and when you factor in the “virgin bonus” as we have taken to calling it…  you get 120 tomestones for what is a relatively quick dungeon run.  Similarly while the trial only rewards 10 tomestones per run, it is fast enough and enjoyable enough that when we mentioned last night that we needed people to run it… folks jumped at the chance just to see it again.

Just like 2.0 the 3.0 credit roll resolves some of the current conflicts… but opens up just as many questions about our future.  As it stands right now I am completely amped to se what 3.1 brings, because things happened… and I am intrigued as to how they will resolve.  This is the thing that I love so much about the way Final Fantasy XIV expansions seem to work.  They end on this warm and fuzzy point… but at the same time feel like you just completed the games introduction.  You know that there is going to be twice as much content before you see the end of expansion credit roll.  The only thing I am finding myself really disappointed in is my class quests.  They felt disconnected and extraneous to the Heavensward content.  Now I hear that some quests especially that of the summoner is deeply connected to this expansion, however for the Warrior which is the class I took to 60 first…  it was a fun romp with axes but nothing more.  I remember having a serious difficult time with my level 50 warrior quests… and nothing that I experienced in this expansion class quest wise even caused me to break a sweat.

And my Axe, and This Dungeon

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-06 08-18-55-05 At the launch of 2.0 getting Tomestones of Philosphy was a very painful grind, and as such it lead most of us to stop playing the game.  When we came back they managed to fix some of these problems and we were able to actually get into the end game content.  It seems like they have learned their lessons because the Tomestones of Law grind seems exceptionally easy.  In the very meager content that I managed to run, I gathered up the 570 I needed for my weapon.  Since I also had been running a significant number of Clan Hunts I managed to gather up the 395 seals needed to get the item to upgrade my 170 axe into a 180.  So far I am really liking the way this works, you do dungeon content to get tomestones to buy the gear… then do hunts to get the bits to upgrade them instead of relying on random chance at getting a drop from a raid somewhere.  My hope is that in short order I will be able to finish my law set and be in raiding form.  For the moment I will be focusing on my worst slots first, so that I can improve my viability the most… as quickly as possible.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-05 22-55-18-31 Last night I also managed to tank my very first level 60 dungeon, called the Fractal Continuum.  I have to say I like this dungeon already so much more than I liked the whole Wanderers Palace/Amdapoor Keep thing that we had at the launch of 2.0.  The other dungeon available is called Neverreap and I have yet to run it, but have heard it is similarly enjoyable.  I have to say it was plenty challenging, especially the last encounter but at this point we are in essence a raid experienced group of players and were able to rely on mechanics we learned while raiding to defeat the encounters.  I feel that the game set a pretty realistic starting gear place as well, in that you have to be at least ilvl 155 to run it.  There is a gear vendor out in the final zone that should help players “catch up” and fill out any slots they have serious deficiencies in.  I personally need to pop out there and check the vendor myself because I still have a few aging quest rewards. I feel like I am pretty happy with the state my next few months will be in as I gear out my jobs and level the ones that are not sixty.

Ding 60 Warrior

The End is Near

almostthere This morning I have places on my body that are sore that I did not even know existed.  That said I feel like we have accomplished a lot this extended weekend.  Essentially my office and my wife’s office have not seen a major clean and reorganize in over a decade.  As a result mine especially was this dysfunctional hell hole, that I simply lacked the oomph or planning to figure out how to fix.  I’ve talked about the things I didn’t like about my setup for awhile, and my wife being the master planner that she is came up with a plethora of options…  some of which we finally implemented this weekend.  Similarly she really has not used her office in a year and a half for various reasons, and really wanted to go into the new school year with the ability to use it as a functional work space.  For me I wanted the ability to broadcast easier and simply have just a more comfortable space to hang out in.

Originally the plan was to just work from Friday through Sunday… but on a whim I opted to take Thursday off as well.  Quite honestly I have no clue how I would have even come close to finishing were it not for taking Thursday off.  That was essentially the day I realized just how deep the rabbit hole went.  We’ve taken a lot out to the dumpster we rented, and we are now working on preparing our second load to good will.  But last night I managed to get the office essentially configured.  Right now there is a lot more organizational stuff to do as I box up all of the miscellaneous cables that I have laying around from tearing down my computers the first time.  Similarly there are a few places in my office where I want to add some sort of cabinet or shelving but the above picture I took last night shows the basic layout.  So far I am really happy with it, and I think it is going to work well for the long run.  The mission for today is to set back up all of my consoles and rewire them to the PC via the Elgato.

Ding 60 Warrior

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-04 21-18-28-30 With all the activity during the day, I have to admit I have been crashing pretty early most evenings during this break.  When I logged out Friday night I was roughly a sixth of a level away from 60, and figured a couple of dungeon runs would get me there.  Through out the day yesterday there were a few times where I took a break, but didn’t want to talk as much time as a dungeon run would require.  As such I started working on my clan hunts, thinking that I could dink my way through a few creatures at a time and get some experience in the process.  Clan Hunts are worth a surprising amount of experience, so as you are leveling seriously… do not over look them.  By the time I wound down for the night and wrapped up the clan hunts I was within a stones throw of 60.  When Thalen asked if I would be willing to tank the Library for him and Solaria… I jumped at the chance because I knew without a doubt I would ding inside of there.

Sure enough on the way to the second boss I dinged and also managed to pick up a few more items including this spiffy helmet…  that doesn’t really thematically match its chest piece…  but is still cool nonetheless.  Upon getting out of the dungeon I did the last few quests that allowed me to unlock the first of the level 60 dungeons, and I am hoping to run that today.  It took me almost exactly two weeks to hit the level cap, which is pretty good as far as I am concerned.  I did not have the raw time to throw at this game that some of our other free company members did, but I still feel like I moved through the content fairly quickly.  Now I can go back and start working on leveling my army of alt jobs, so that I can be multifunctional once again.  That is honestly the thing I have missed the most while leveling… is the fact that right now I am “only” a tank.  I know I have lamented this several times, but it is my hope to at least get the dragoon up there quickly.  Now begins the fun end game gearing process that I obsess over so much.

Moogles are Lazy

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-21 19-30-55-67 Due to the Independence Day holiday we opted to record this show a little early this week, and instead of spending Saturday night talking about games, we spent Friday night.  As a result there are several of us who were not quite to level 60 in Final Fantasy XIV but have since caught up and pushed through to the level cap.  However we spent a good deal of time not talking about FFXIV. Grace managed to finish the crazy attunement system in Wildstar and attended her very first raid.  She gives her opinion of the system and how it compares to WoW and FFXIV raiding.  Additionally we go down the rabbit hole that is the Four Job Fiesta and talk Final Fantasy V and the various group compositions fate has given us this year.  I apparently was one job off from the legendary group composition that the person who started the event go their first year:  Monk, Berserker, Beastmaster and Dancer.  Instead the gods saw fit to give me a Samurai so I could quite literally “pay to win”.

We purposefully saved our discussion of Heavensward to the end of the show because I knew that was the one thing we were all playing.  It is extremely difficult to discuss this game without going into spoilers, so there are some details that might be spoiled if you have not played up through the Aery dungeon yet.  The awkwardness of this show was the fact that Ashgar is quite a ways behind the rest of us, making it extremely difficult to add to discussions… because at least one point during the show he made a conjecture that we knew the truth about, but could not really go into it for fear of spoiling key plot points.  My theory is that once we have all finished the 3.0 story arc we will do yet another big “spoil everything” show, like we did for 2.55.  The best snippet for me was when Grace decided to talk about her new loathing for Moogles after completing the Churning Mists zone.  Moogles are in fact lazy bums.

The Ancient Library

Land of Lost Cables

This morning I feel like the world is angry at me.  Namely we spent the last two days doing some hardcore cleaning and rearranging of both my and my wife’s offices.  This involved taking loads of stuff to good will, and even more loads of stuff out to the dumpster we rented.  However it feels like maybe the end is in sight.  The funny thing about this process is I am finding things that I did not remember existed.  Like for example… wedding pictures…  I did not remember we had a book of wedding pictures.  I realize that statement sounds weird… because everyone remembers photos at their wedding right?  Well for us… we eloped and there was a pretty limited group of people that COULD have taken photos.  I am guessing my cousin Sarah took the photos because she does not appear in any of them, but it was still kinda cool…. and god did we look young.

We also found a stack of photos from our college graduation… and apparently overall shorts were a big thing in 1998… because both my wife and my niece were wearing them.  The other awesome thing about cleaning is finding all the things I have bought and re-bought a dozen times.  Like right now I have bins labeled video, audio, usb and network…  and all of them are overflowing with cables.  I seriously should not need to get any form of a USB cable for example for life.  I have every possible connector save for maybe USB 3.  In addition I found more iPhone/iPad cables than I remember us ever having.  So as I dismantle my office today to do the final leg of this process I should have more than enough cables to hook things up however I want to in the final configuration.

The Ancient Library

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-03 20-27-25-13 Since we are expected to participate in the Four Job Fiesta every single year…  our circle of friends has developed a deep understanding of the content contained within Final Fantasy V… in part because Ashgar has such a deep understanding of said content.  So when it was leaked that Heavensward would include the Library of Ancients needless to say we were a little excited.  Thursday night I managed to get up to the appropriate level to do the dungeon, and last night after Page64-ffv-iosall of the cleaning I sat down and managed to get a guild group to run it.  I have to say I am really damned impressed with the experience and this might be my favorite dungeon yet…  which is a pretty mighty feat considering I really really love The Vault, with its Scarlet Monastery 2.0 feel.  What is best is the way that many of the mobs pop out of books just like they did in Final Fantasy V.  In fact one of the mobs that you run into over and over is good ole page 64.

As you might suspect it has the ability to cast level 5 doom… which apparently plays by the rules set forth in Final Fantasy V.  This means players who are 59 are unaffected, but those level 60 players have to get the hell out or they straight up die.  Granted we have not actually tested this, so it might just be a rumor.  Once again I streamed my run of the dungeon so that I could capture it in video form.  The absolute best part of the dungeon is of course Byblos which takes the place of the middle boss.  The best part is when you kill him he says “Soon, the seal of the master will be open.”  I love it when Final Fantasy XIV does some fan service and so accurately depicts a mob from another game in this one.  One thing I learned is that the Gale Cut attack can be completely avoided if you just move from out of front of him when he is casting it.  So far every dungeon in Heavensward has been better than the last, so I am completely amped to see what the end game dungeons are going to be like.

The Road to Sixty

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-03 18-14-48-09The library finally paid off and I started to get some warrior drops.  The set that comes from the Library is one that I am going to have to farm up because I either look like a Sherlock Holmes era inspector or a refugee from Diagon Alley.  In either case I am a fan of it, and it looks pretty adorable when I run around like this.  Tam is going to be quick to point out that this is not a plate set of armor…  and I will give him that.  It is very much not plate, but instead a cloth robe…  but it looks adorable so I am just going with it for the time being.  The only thing that I have yet to see at all this expansion is a weapon drop.  Every single dungeon seems to drop a nice weapon, but in all cases I have seen zero axes.  As a result I am struggling through on the HQ white weapons that you get through the storyline.  I figure soon enough I will be able to purchase a nice end game weapon as after last nights shenanigans I am roughly a sixth of a level away from sixty.

ffxiv_dx11 2015-07-03 19-45-58-51 My hope is tonight…  in my newly arranged office… I will be able to push the rest of the way into sixty.  It seems there is a dungeon that folks are waiting to run that comes at the end of the main storyline.  I am more than happy to tank for my friends… I just have to get to max level first.  As horrible as 58 was… I have to say so far 59 has been pretty chill.  Just through pushing through the main storyline in the final area and then doing some side quests and two dungeon runs… I have been able to conquer most of this level.  Had I managed to actually do my clan hunts yesterday rather than getting pulled straight into a dungeon I might have dinged last night before logging.  In theory I could do that tonight and hit the cap… then catch up on the last bit of story that leads to the final dungeon.  My god… the story…  things happen and I want so bad to talk about them, but most of my readers I would assume are not quite there yet.

Bismarck Harpooned

Depths of Madness

As I warned you all, I am writing this the night before I intend to post it…  at 11pm after a fairly long day of working on our little side projects.  Essentially the offices of both myself and my wife need reorganizing in the worst possible way.  Neither has really been torn apart and put back together in a very very long time.  In fact a good chunk of today was spent shedding documents…  from 2005 or so that we kept for god knows what reason.  I had forgotten just how many bills and statements used to pile up from the mail… that are now delivered electronically.  So I spent my time alternating between shredding documents until the shredder overheated…  and boxing up things I no longer needed or wanted for Goodwill.

The problem being that I feel completely overwhelmed in how much is still left to go through.  I am horrible about just boxing things up to get it out of the way… so I have several of these boxes loaded with miscellaneous stuff.  So this whole mission is part de-cluttering but even more important a sifting of things back into logical bins.  At the same time I am trying to make my computer space more friendly, and have a better option for hooking up my console systems and still being able to capture footage from them through my computer.  Another thing I am trying to do is to give myself a workspace where I can fiddle with computers or more importantly assemble the mountain of Lego sets I have.  Then I am trying to free up some additional room to have places to display said Legos when I finally get them together.  Needless to say the next few days are going to be busy.

Bismarck Harpooned

ffxiv_07022015_200623 If you have ready this blog for any period of time, you will know that I am pretty much willing to get drug into anything if a guild member needs it.  There are some exceptions that I avoid like the plague…  I am looking at you Aurum Vale.  However if the need is great enough I can always get my arm twisted enough to run whatever it is.  Bismarck on the other hand is an encounter that I truly enjoy, so the moment someone mentions that I almost jump at the chance to run it.  What makes Bismarck so interesting is the fact that it is a vastly different style of primal fight.  While you are ultimately in a fight against the giant flying whale, you are having to deal with a lot of different elements rather than fighting it directly.  The goal is to fire two giant harpoons into the whale that allow you to wench it to the side of the island you are standing on.  From there you can dps down its weak spot.  To make things more interesting you have to deal with all sorts of weather effects, different sorts of adds, and the whale itself slamming into the platform periodically.

The funny thing about pugging a Primal encounter is that you never fully understand the mechanics at work unless someone actually takes the time to explain them.  One of the mechanics that we did not grasp completely was what exactly to do with the water globules during phase three.  It took us three attempts to get through Bismarck because we were essentially having to figure out what exactly to do with them.  The first time we killed the adds and died to lightning damage, the second time we left the water globs up… and then took a massive  burst of damage when they exploded.  The real mechanic is a bit more subtle.  If there is story weather happening, you leave the water globs up to soak the lightning damage which will ultimately kill them.  If the skies are clear however… you kill the adds before they explode.  Once we grasped this more clearly we wrecked this primal.  I have a pretty nice video of our kill above that I edited out of my stream.

Finally Fifty Nine

ffxiv_06302015_202857 The bulk of my evening was spent wandering around trying to find ways of getting experience.  After having pretty good luck with Clan Hunts Wednesday night, I started off my evening getting a new set and working through those.  It seems like they provide about an eighth of a level upon completing the first two tiers, which is nothing to sneeze at.  After finishing these off I went back out to the Hinterlands to do quests for the crazy goblins within.  These quests involve more than your normal amount of running around as you help them build their new perfect society.  I managed to just have enough quests to push on through to 59 without any further dungeons or fate running.  Now I am in the final stretch to 60, and I have heard it goes considerably faster.  I also just unlocked the next dungeon, and I have been looking forward to running it since I first heard about it.  Hopefully tomorrow before or after the podcast I will be able to pull together a group and run it.  In the mean time however… I need to head to bed because we have to get up early tomorrow to deal with more cleaning.

Sohm Al with Neighbors

The Teamspeak Conundrum

Yesterday I spoke for a bit about one of the reasons why I have not streamed that often.  Namely that I have friends who would prefer not to be broadcast over my stream, which means when I DO stream… I have had to wall myself off from my social network of friends by dropping down to the “streaming” channel.  As a result there is only so long I can seem to go without popping back upstairs because I simply get lonely down there all by myself.  Over the last year or so I have tried to figure out a set up that would work, to let me stream freely without the fear of broadcasting my companions.  The defacto tool is Virtual Audio Cables, but folks have talked about it being cumbersome and the more I looked into it… and they started talking about setting up batch files to do this or that…  it honestly scared me away.  Honestly even the website seems a bit cludgy…  so I kept looking for other solutions.

In the mean time I made attempts to make this process work using both Voice Meter and Breakaway Audio.  Neither tool admittedly was designed to do this, but I had found guides online that supposedly allowed it to work.  Problem being after setting everything up… it never seemed to work for me and there was extremely limited documentation on what I could do to tweak my setup.  Last night I finally decided to dig down into Virtual Audio Cables, and found the guide embedded above.  For starters… this is the point at which I complain that YouTube is the worst means of disseminating information.  What I needed in all of these cases was a good blog post with annotated screenshots…  all I could actually find were a series of haphazard videos.  That said the above video, when followed actually produced the results exactly like I wanted.  Last night I was able to stream practically all night long, while hanging out with friends…  and not broadcasting a single thing they said.  Additionally I bound a separate push to to talk key just for the stream so that folks watching the stream are not getting “half” of the conversation.  The videos below are the results of my evening of streaming.

Sohm Al with Neighbors

ffxiv_07012015_195121 The picture does not exactly go with this story… but oh well it is my prerogative.  Solaria’s fishing outfit looks amazing, and it makes me want to level fishing.  It does however show you that the Greysky Armada spends a ton of time milling around our guild house in The Mists.  One of the things I love about this game is that we are constantly interacting with our neighbors.  Last night Damai and I were talking in /say and a neighbor joined in, saying that he needed a dps and a tank for Sohm Al the second dungeon in Heavensward.  Damai was already spoken for, but I offered up my own services as a tank.  We queued and got in quickly and the below embedded video is the results of that run.  I did a few stupid things, one of which that wiped the party but we had a great time running dungeons with people who were essentially complete strangers until I last night.  I think it is awesome that you can have these casual run in acquaintances.

During the early days of World of Warcraft had this rich tapestry of social connections that reached into many of the other raiding guilds on the server.  When I needed someone for an activity our raid was running, I could reach out into these social channels and draw upon dozens of different people who were milling around looking for something to do.  Cataclysm however pretty much destroyed this network, and I have never really been able to build an equivalent in any other MMO… that is until Final Fantasy XIV.  The people here on Cactuar seem to crave interaction with folks outside of their insular guild units.  I am in my maximum number of linkshells and while folks get lost in their own little world… especially while leveling in Heavensward… I have still been able to draw upon them to fill groups.  As we move into more “maintenance” mode this is going to become more true.  The only thing I wish was that there was a way to create more “formal” guild alliances.  There are a handful of free companies that we hang out with regularly, and it would be nice to have a shared channel of communication that was not “opt in” like a linkshell.

Another Titan Extreme

Wednesday is normally the raid night of our second guild static.  Since the raid leader was not around he left it up to Damai to organize something…  and while we did not really have the appropriate numbers to work on Second Coil of Bahamut, there were still a large number of folks needing Extreme Primals to unlock more content.  I was asked if I “felt like tanking Titan Extreme” to which I replied “there is never a sequence of events that exists… where I feel like tanking Titan Extreme…  but I will if you need me”.  Titan Extreme is just one of those fights that is maddening on so many levels and I would place it among the five hardest fights in all of the A Realm Reborn content.  That said I make it out in my mind to be far worse than it actually is, and at this point I have the dance memorized.  This fight is absolutely about repeating the same sequence of actions over and over until the boss falls down, and as I have commented in the past… this is the sort of fight we fail miserably at.  We are amazing at fights where we have to think on our feet and adjust to change…  but doing this on Titan extreme ultimately ends up screwing the entire raid when it comes to Weight of the Land damage.

What I found amazing is just how challenging this encounter still is even though many of us were being downscaled to 50, and our gear downscaled with us.  A Realm Reborn content is absolutely going to remain relevant for new folks that have yet to experience it.  This makes me more happy than just about anything else in Heavensward.  We still have a bunch of people coming up through the ropes that have not seen any of the 2.0 raid content, and my hope is that we can have an old school night where we work on this as a guild and get people through it.  This is what I wanted from World of Warcraft all along… a way to run old content and make it still relevant to current players.  There were epic experiences like Blackwing Lair and Ulduar that are just diminished because we overgear the shit out of it, and there is no real way NOT to be overpowered… other than making some alts and level locking them at fixed points in time.  Granted we tried to do this once with a raid of level 60 locked alts…  but it still was not the same.  Final Fantasy XIV however seems to have figured out how to make it work, and I am damned thankful.  We eventually got the kill and I edited out just that part in the above video.

Hell Levels

Playing with Forge

Last night I spent a good chunk of time playing with and in doing so I forgot the problem from before… that it ultimately broadcast all of the audio from teamspeak.  However I did manage to pull a few nifty clips from one of the dungeon runs.  The problem being I have no clue how exactly to embed them in a site.  There are a bunch of features that I would love to see added to forge, namely the ability to easily get an embeddable snippet.  Similarly I would love to see a feature like Twitch and Hitbox have to export the video to youtube.  The big take away from last night is that I need to sort out how to extract teamspeak audio from my stream.  This has been on my ToDo list for some time but I have yet to actually sit down and do anything about it.  Which is somewhat unfortunate since I have several different tools installed right now that can essentially do the same thing.  I started working through a tutorial for something called Breakaway Audio this morning, but have been running into issues…  namely Teamspeak doesn’t seem to recognize the channel I set up for it.

Ultimately it would be awesome to solve this issue because I think I would end up streaming quite a bit more.  The big thing for me is that I have to choose between being sociable with my friends on teamspeak…  or streaming what I am doing.  However if I solve this issue… in truth I am probably not going to mess with Forge that much, and simply just use Twitch.  The always on functionality is cool…  but I have to disable FRAPs to make it work which takes away my primary means for collecting screenshots from games.  Generally speaking I disable whatever screenshot functionality exists in a game, and then use FRAPs to collect the screenshots in a generic “gameshots” folks, giving me a quick place to look for something I want each morning when I work on my blog post.  To get Forge to work however I have to completely exit out of this software and it did not seem to work with DxTory either which has always been my fallback general screenshoting software.  I still feel like maybe Forge isn’t a great fit for me, but I see a lot of people using it and enjoying it.

Hell Levels

ffxiv_06302015_202922 Once upon a time in Everquest there was the concept of a “Hell Level” meaning that there were certain levels that were far more difficult to get than others.  While back then these were literal mathematical break points where the experience needed was greater than the previous levels or the levels after.  However this term has continued on into MMORPGs as a frustrating patch in the leveling curve.  Right now it feels like 58 is a Hell Level because I very quickly hit another level wall, and really did not have much in the way of experience between it and the last one.  So I am currently running around in the Dravianian Hinterlands doing quests, in an attempt to make up the difference.  The problem being at this point I have yet to even reach the halfway point through level 58.  I am pretty sure that the folks that are sixty in the guild have simply chain run dungeons.

I could do that, but in truth I would rather just wait until people in the guild actually need runs.  Like last night I helped a guildie through The Vault, which is where all the clips came from.  There is just something more satisfying for me to be tanking for friends.  I ultimately have this protective nature when it comes to my friends and family, and this makes tanking feel more “real” I guess for lack of a better word.  The community in Final Fantasy XIV is awesome, and I have seen nothing bad to speak of with the influx of people for Heavensward.  I absolutely could queue for dungeons and be just fine, because at this point I know the fights well enough to be able to explain them to anyone.  The problem being when I am tanking for strangers,  I feel like I have to put on the mask of “super tank” and be bigger and better in everything I do.  I feel like I am on stage in a way, but with my friends I can just chill and I don’t stress quite so much when aggro twitches or I am slow to turn the mobs.  I know no matter what I do in the dungeon they are still going to love me when the dungeon is finished.

Viva La Fake Friday

Today is my “Friday” for this week!  This is because here in the United States most of us are getting off Friday for the Independence Day holiday.  I opted to also take Thursday because we have things we are going to be doing over the break.  For whatever reason my family growing up always did some project over the fourth, and recently I started talking about wanting to rearrange my office to be a better set up for gaming and streaming.  My wife jumped on this and said we could do a lot of the little things we had been wanting to do over the extended break.  This escalated quickly and now we are having a small dumpster delivered in our front yard on Friday.  As a result I am going to be flipping a lot of my posting, meaning I will be writing posts each night and working on stuff around the house during the days.  The first of these is likely to begin tonight, but to you the reader… it will appear just like any morning post.

I always feel the need to be honest with my readers about my schedule, because I guess to me staging content ahead of time…  feels like it breaks the nature of my whole experiment.  The original idea was that I would post something every morning without fail, and for the most part I have done this.  Just sometimes the writing actually occurs the night before.  I hope I survive the next few days because the whirlwind of change is about to suck me in.  My hope is that when I exit on the other side I will have a much better space to do my PC gaming in, and if I can also sort out my audio issues…  my hope is to also begin streaming a hell of a lot more.  The next few days however might be a lot less talk of gaming… and a lot more talk of my failings at doing home improvement stuff.

Blame Acti-Blizz

Closing in on Turn Nine

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-28 17-42-52-03 Monday night is traditionally the raid night of our static group in the Greysky Armada Free Company.  I had been wondering if we would actually raid since… well the expansion was released and we are all busy leveling.  We were wondering just how a lot of things would work out, how our gear levels would scale appropriately and how effective we would be down leveled back to 50.  It turns out I was pleasantly surprised on almost all counts and we stepped foot into turn nine once more making some of the most progress we have ever made.  We actually managed to make it through a dive bomb phase unscathed, so at least now we know what that feels and looks like.  The problem is shortly after doing so…  we started our normal “death by simple mistakes” meaning we were all getting too tired to continue on.

I have hope however that maybe this weekend or next week we can step back in there and finally get a damned victory.  Right now turn nine is our white whale…  which is ironic in a game that literally has a giant flying white whale for a boss.  This is one of those things that I just want deep down in my bones now, to move past this barrier and be able to say we have beaten it.  I realize at this point it is outdated content…  but that doesn’t matter to me.  What matters to me is taking down Nael and being able to move into the Final Coil of Bahamut.  I am hoping that we will continue plugging forward and taking down this stuff even when it is no longer relevant.  It makes me happy that the game continues to be challenging even though some of our members have long since reached the new level cap of 60.  I however was on my dragoon last night which is still only level 51.

Blame Acti-Blizz

activision-blizzard I was having a conversation yesterday with a good friend of mine, about the 6.2 patch and what has worked and what has not worked.  During the course of this chat, he threw something out there as though it were just fact… that surprised me a little bit.  This friend of mine is as diehard a World of Warcraft fan as they come, and both he and his son play on a daily basis.  So to hear it from him really took me back to an earlier conversation he and I had back in 2008, to the announced merger of Activision and Blizzard.  His comment was, that the current state of the game and the seeming lack of forward momentum… is entirely to blame on the merger with Activision.  Back when this happened he said that his greatest fear was that it would change the way Blizzard interacts with its games and with its players.  Last night he said that essentially all of his worst fears have been realized, and that the game we today is a direct result of this merger.

While we cannot say this with any certainty for me at least Blizzard has been on a downhill slide since the release of Wrath of the Lich King.  That was the last “great” expansion for me personally, and represented the closing of an era when I was completely enraptured by the game.  Granted lots of things have changed, and so many other games have hit the market… but it feels like Blizzard stopped being the revolutionary market leader… and started trailing behind in the days post Activision merger.  My question is more did they simply shift focus… did they no longer care as much about the World of Warcraft community as they did their other product offerings?  It feels like WoW is a game that has been left to largely fend for itself.  There is a large amount of hype drummed up each time a new expansion releases, but then that quickly dies down and we are thrown right back into the cycle of doing just enough to keep hope alive in their player base that things will eventually get better.  The problem is… this sense of hope is fading as players are staring down the barrel of potentially another Siege of Orgrimmar like lapse in content.

Following the Money

HeroesOfTheStorm_x64 2015-06-03 23-26-08-94 I think the problem is that quite literally World of Warcraft is no longer Blizzards most important asset.  You can see that pretty clearly as you look at the attention paid to each of their product offerings.  The favored children of Blizzard right now are Hearthstone and Heroes of the Storm, and this is evident by how much attention they seem to be getting by the company.  You have to think about the simple economics behind that decision.  If you can create a game where people will gladly plunk down $4 for five virtual cards, and potentially do so multiple times a month…  what is the pure money benefit of spending much effort on a game where the players are ONLY paying you $15 a month.  Similarly with Heroes of the Storm you have a game where you can churn out multiple new heroes a month and sell them for the priced to own rate of $10 a piece roughly, not including the skins which are also often around the $10 price point.  I saw a recent article stating that it would cost around $1000 to purchase everything that is currently available in the in game Heroes of the Storm store.

Don’t get me wrong… I don’t begrudge them either of these games because I play both of them.  The problem is… if you can churn out a few champions a month, or a new hearthstone expansion… the potential investment of time to the money it makes the company is far greater than spending the year it takes to make a brand new World of Warcraft expansion.  Even factoring in the box sales it is no wonder that the Warcraft team seems to be starved for resources when the rest of this company is thriving.  So I guess I get back to my friends point…  that the Activision merger shifted the focus of this company from making great games “whenever they were ready” to making games to maximize investor profits.  I cannot be so naive as to believe that the Blizzard of old didn’t care about profits, but I think for a long period of time they were simply shocked and baffled by their own success.  I’ve said for awhile that when you start to believe your own hype… you are setting yourself up for the fall.  I think with the Activision merger…  Blizzard saw their valuation and consumed their own hype completely.  Ultimately as I watch the company change, I fear for the state of World of Warcraft, this game that in spite of all of my better sense…  that I still care about.

Shoddy Shipyards

Struggling to Blog

This morning I am struggling a bit to find purpose as I sit down at the keyboard.  As of last night I reached level 58 in Final Fantasy XIV on my Warrior and am not quite to the next level wall.  Things are happening that are enriching the experience, but those same things are massive revelations and spoilers and I am concerned about giving too much away.  As a result I am just not sure what to talk about.  I could break out some more of my existential angst that I can presently only be a tank when someone in guild asks for groups.  I could comment vaguely about how much I am enjoying the story, and how awesome it is going so far.  Neither of which seem all that fulfilling however and as I sit here tickety tacking my keys my mind is a blank page when it comes to other things that I might talk about.

I had these grand ideas that I would stream some more this weekend, but since my wife spent most of her time downstairs… I was inclined to do the same.  I don’t like streaming when I could be disturbing her, so instead I just kept playing.  I really wish Forge did what I wanted it to do… namely that it would take real screenshots to a directory, instead of getting uploaded to the Forge website.  The problem I have run into in the past is that I cannot run Fraps at the same time as Forge, and without Fraps I don’t have my stable source of screenshotting anything that crosses my screen.  I tend to disable the in game screenshot keys and use fraps to dump all of my game screenshots into one standard directory to make pulling from it for blogging purposes easier.  The other problem with forge is that the clip size was too limited to snapshot an entire boss fight.  I also wish there was a way to back up my stream to youtube the same way I can with twitch.  Nonetheless I might give it another shot soon.

Shoddy Shipyards

Wow-64 2015-06-29 05-59-50-60 Yesterday I spent some time in World of Warcraft, for all the wrong reasons.  The night before I had left my phone upstairs on the charger, and by the time I got situated on the sofa and realized that I didn’t have my phone… and as a result did not have access to my FFXIV authenticator I could not be bothered to get up.  The Blizzard client on the other hand authenticates far less often, when connecting from the same machine over and over… and I was able to get in with just my account information.  As a result I played for a bit, long enough to unlock Shipyards and the first and I think second camps in Tanaan Jungle.  The renovations to my garrison however that resulted in the building of my shipyard however were not quite so successful as I noticed I now apparently have a break in my wall.  It was one of those things that I caught out of the corner of my eye as I rode past, and now I cannot keep myself from seeing it every time I ride to the shipyards to check on progress.

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The journey into the jungle is pretty much the same as the journey out of it.  You complete objectives which moves the storyline further, and unlocks an additional base camp.  I am not terribly far into it at this point so I am not sure how long this mission goes.  It was around the time I got to the second camp that I needed to stretch my legs… and while I was up I grabbed my phone so I could play other things.  I have to give Blizzard credit because they do this moving target as you go through a zone thing really well.  There were several moments like this during the leveling process, where you help this or that base to progress the storyline, and those tended to be the best part of this expansion.  If they had somehow managed to create an entire expansion around moving the ball forward and delivered new content on a monthly basis I think I would be significantly happier than I am currently.  As it is right now patch 6.2 just feels like too little too late for me.  Other than the break in my outer defenses, the craftsmanship of this patch seems to be on par with the rest of the content they have released, so at some point I want to finish to see how things progress.

More Mobile Gaming

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One of my biggest complaints this expansion has been that Garrisons turned out the way they did.  I was hoping for player housing, and what I got instead was a mobile game…  that was not mobile at all.  All of the mechanics that go into the garrison and the shipyard as well are the same sort of ploys that go into getting people to keep playing a mobile app.  I have been playing the hell out of Fallout Shelter for example, and it is the exact same sort of gameplay as you find in the Garrison.  You have abilities that you use and then timers that you are waiting out… so you can do additional things… all the while juggling limited resources and trying to find ways to replenish them.  There is nothing really “wrong” with this sort of cooldown based gameplay, because it seems to work phenomenally well in getting us to keep pushing buttons on our phones.  The problem here however is…  we are not on our phones.  In fact we are having to do this sort of upkeep based gameplay on a client that requires a PC to log in and check.  The end result has been me logging into my characters in the morning and in the evening for most of this expansion to do nothing but swap missions.

Wow-64 2015-06-29 06-04-40-07 I think more than anything… this has been what has grated on my nerves this expansion.  These mechanics place me into the game on a regular interval…  but I am not actually “playing” the game when I am in it.  Instead I am juggling the upkeep of a mobile game, without an easy to use mobile interface.  As I have moved forward into the Shipyards it feels like they are taking the whole follower mechanic to the next level with allowing players to customize the ships…  which means you need to go locate the blueprints to make various upgrades, while also locating blueprints for various ships.  It just feels like this would be a really enjoyable experience had they added it to the WoW Armory app as a mini-game that you could either interface with in game… or through an easy to navigate menu on your phone.  Instead the result is giving us something that feels more cumbersome than daily quests ever did, and at the same time extracting us from the game world… and keeping us holed up in our garrison scheduling this next batch of missions for our dozen alts.  This experience makes me question even further if Blizzard actually understands its player base at all… and what made their game great for all those years.

So Many Sads

Storming the Castle

ffxiv_dx11 2015-06-27 23-24-20-51 This morning I admit that I have been struggling to figure out what to write about.  It is not from a lack of material, but a conscious effort to filter myself.  Last night I leapt over a content wall in Final Fantasy XIV and it was quite possibly the best dungeon experience I have had since first stepping foot into Deadmines back in 2004.  It was so over the top amazing, that it is hard to put into words much about it because quite simply I do not want to ruin the story for anyone.   Square Enix has somehow managed to capture all of the magic of Scarlet Monastery, distill everything that made it fun… and then amply that and unleash it onto the world.  The dungeon design is vastly different than anything else I have seen in Final Fantasy XIV to this point.  On one level it almost feels like a kung fu action movie, where you are deluged with impossible odds yet somehow manage to hold things together enough to keep moving forward.  The fourth dungeon in the game is now the pinnacle of “storming the castle” experiences for me.

What makes it so amazing is the fact that the dungeon is set up by some truly phenominal storytelling.  By the time you reach this point in the story arc, you feel like righteous avengers off to save the day.  I had been stalled on this dungeon for awhile, but had been holding back doing it so that I could do it with a full guild group.  Kodra managed to get caught up last night, and the two of us entered with two others that were gleeful in keeping silent about the tactics of the dungeon.  Somehow we made it through, and our raider instincts kicked in enough to keep us from doing anything too stupid.  It is funny how those instincts are now fairly universal regardless of what encounter a game throws at you.  Final Fantasy XIV does an excellent job of messaging things you should avoid or at least take note of… and when it down… get the hell out.

So Many Sads

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Does this picture not just break your heart?  This is the saddest Bel I have ever seen in this game.  So not only does it excel at giving you moment after moment of excitement… it can also manage to punch you in the gut when the story turns in a sad direction.  Things happened…  things that made us sad, and the game is doing an awesome job of letting us know it.  Not to mention me the person behind the screen was effected by these events too, so it feels reassuring in a way to see my on screen facsimile struggling with the events as well.  I cannot expound upon just how amazing the experience of Heavensward has been so far, with the storyline from last season picking up and continuing where we left off.  I call it a “season” because really that is what it feels like.  The original 1.0 launch was Season 1, A Realm Reborn was Season 2… and now we are entering the Third Season of this really awesome television show… where I absolutely cannot wait to see what happens next.  It is a game like this that makes me feel like a game can both be engaging and deeply narrative at the same time.  I feel like I am telling the story… more than I usually do in a story driven experience.  Sure the story is happening to me…  but I identify so completely with my character.

YoshiOnFFXIV The thing is this feeling we are having is apparently completely intentional.  The above quote is from a ZAM video interview with Yoshi P from E3.  It is very clear that he feels like he is stilling one large episode of the same story, and as a result all of the little elements and people that you meet along the way have a lasting importance.  Just because you go several levels without seeing someone, does not mean they will not show up at some point in the future.  The characters in this world have their own destinies and do not just support that of the main character.  Everyone has an agenda and are given the latitude to shift in and out of the focus of what we ultimately view as the “main story”.  Ashgar and I were talking for a bit last night and he made the comment that there is enough story content in here to make an actual “traditional” Final Fantasy game.  Thinking about this I absolutely agree and in many ways this sort of storytelling that we are experiencing is the same sort of storytelling we saw in Final Fantasy VI for example… where characters shift in and out of your party but you are constantly moving forward towards an end goal.  This time we the player character are the constant in a world that is constantly changing around us.AggroChat

AggroChat 63 – There Came an Echo Show

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Last night we recorded the sixty third episode of AggroChat and the fifth AggroChat Game Club game show.  This time around it was Kodra’s pick a quirky voice controlled story driven RTS called There Came an Echo.  My experience was vastly different than the rest of my co-hosts, but it seems that pretty much everyone other than Kodra and Tam had some measure of technical difficulties with this title.  For example Thalen, Ash and I were all missing significant UI elements during our play throughs.  Several of us had to content with moments when the game seemed to just stop accepting voice input commands as well.  I however had the most issues with the game constantly crashing on me.  There was no point when I was able to actually load anything without the game going unresponsive and having to hit the “wait for program” button in the hopes that maybe just maybe it would wake the hell up and start working again.  As I said I was the only person who had issues quite that severely, and I am hoping that maybe this is just a bad patch as they recently rolled one out.

The positive however is it has good enough story and voice acting to make me futz with this game for two hours trying to make it work for me.  During the course of they show the folks that did manage to beat the game exposed all the spoilery content and I got enough of a feel for how the story goes that I really want to see it play out.  At the very least I am planning on watching a play through, and preferably one without much streamer dialog to preserve as much of the voice acting experience as I can.  The one I was watching for a bit yesterday kept talking over the character dialog… which kinda ruined the experience.  This game feels very much like a tech demo with good story and voice acting… and I would love to see this same level of effort taken and expanded into a more traditional game experience.  Sure this voice control thing is somewhat neat, but I hate talking to devices.  Devices like the Amazon Echo, Siri and even my own Google Phone experience are lost on me… because the last thing I want to do is talk to my device to have it do something for me.  The voice control was deeply awkward for me, but your mileage may vary…  Kodra and Tam both seemed to enjoy it greatly.

Pre-Ordering Games

Long Winded Answer

FFXV_Accordo Over on MMO Games we have a column called FAQ where during the course of the week someone proposes a topic, and we have until Friday to send in our responses to chime in on it.  While I don’t exactly think the name FAQ really fits anymore… since we aren’t really posting any “frequently asked questions” I do think the format is pretty cool.  Friday however was an exceptionally busy day for me, and I never got around to sending Ardua my paragraph on this weeks topic.  Part of the problem was that the question while pretty straight forward didn’t have a straight answer to it for me.  Or at least my response would have ended up far more long winded and nuanced than a simple question and answer column needed.  So I thought today I would use this prompt for my morning blog post.  The question seemed pretty simple and straight forward: “Do you Pre-purchase/pre-order MMO Expansions?”

The only legitimate question that I can answer is “sometimes”, which in itself is deeply unsatisfying.  I feel like I need to delve into my changing feelings about pre-ordering things in general.  There was a time when I thought anyone who pre-ordered anything… was a chump.  I used to look at the folks at GameStop and EB Games with derision as they tried to get me to pre-order the next thing on the horizon as I held in my hands the current “hot” thing.  I viewed it as a heinous form of up-selling product and nothing more.  Once upon a time I used to get a rush from going out on opening day to try and find a copy of whatever game I wanted to play.  I can remember a time when working at the mobile development company, when we called around to a bunch of stores trying to find enough copies of Battlefield 2 to purchase for the team…  so we could death match it later that evening.  I remember the adrenaline rush of checking the stack of games in the store to see if that one title you wanted was available.

Pre-Ordering Games

Ultimately what ended up changing this dynamic for me was the MMO.  These games marketed towards a niche of extremely devoted fans, that absolutely had to at all costs have a copy of the latest expansion in their grubby hands on release day.  After all we all know that anything less means you are going to get a late start and struggle to keep up with your friends and guild members.  There were several close calls in the past, like when I tried to get a copy of Planes of Power expansion for Everquest and had to go to four stores to be able to find it, or when I quite literally bought the last copy in Tulsa of Dark Age of Camelot: Trials of Atlantis.  The game that ultimately changed things for me however was World of Warcraft and the fact that quite literally if you did not manage to get your copy on opening day, it ended up being a month before more copies were circulating on store shelves.

I walked into Wal-mart at midnight on the night the game was released, and while there was a line wrapping around the corner at GameStop down the street…  I was able to pick up a copy without issue from a massive display.  I thought those folks who pre-ordered and were waiting in line were chumps.  That was until at least half of my local friends were unable to find copies at all, because they didn’t preorder and didn’t go searching for copies that night.  It was awkward having to try and catch them up when they finally got their hands on a serial code.  If this lesson was not enough, I saw the same thing happen during Burning Crusade, which ultimately shifted me to the side of the “pre-order”.  Something was different about the MMO and its player base, they were more dedicated… more rabid… and those previous expansions became harder to find.  Something else changed…  quite honestly I got older and less willing to go through frustrations in order to get that thing I am looking for.  I simply wanted to be able to get my game, on time, and have it there ready to go when the servers come online.

Definitely Sometimes

Now if I am deeply into a game franchise or playing an MMO… I will pretty much always pre-order the game.  Where the sometimes comes into play is largely based on what a company is willing to give me to buy that game ahead of time.  Most games that I play that are non-MMOs I will divide into three categories.  There are games that I want to play the moment it is available, and will likely pre-order no matter what.  There are games that I want to play but whenever I get a chance, without much pressure… these games I will likely not preorder and will almost certainly wait until they go on sale… probably not even interested until they are at least 30% off the launch price.  Then there are games I am vaguely interested in and would only be willing to pick up for $5-$10 on a whim.  Where a game company can change this equation is by giving me exclusive stuff that I will only ever see if I pre-order the game.  The problem here however is that almost all of the time…  companies ultimately release whatever bauble they are “gifting” players as a DLC that can be added at a later date.   This DLC also tends to go on sale just like the game does on Steam…  pretty much destroying the allure.

Ultimately to answer the question properly in the form that it was posed…  Yes I usually preorder an MMO Expansion…  with some conditions.  Firstly I play a lot of MMOs, so in order for me to snap it up the moment it comes out it has to be one I am excited to be playing, or that I expect to be spending a lot of time in.  Secondly it has to provide me something that I could not normally get if I did not pre-order.  Everquest II was the king of this, by offering limited time pre-order bonuses that you quite literally never saw again.  I am still kicking myself on missing out on that white snow wolf mount that they gave out with the preorder of velious.  So basically if they have some exclusive item that I think I will regret not having preordered to get… then I go ahead and do the deed.  The big thing I do these days however is I never pre-order physical copies of anything.  Digital copies are just nicer, because they do not rely on the mail to deliver.  I am looking for the method of acquisition that has the least pain points, and a digital code that is often times automagically applied to my account is the clear winner.