FFXIV – Ding, Ding

Last Wednesday was a rough day at work* so I was too beat to try Turn 5 again, but Saturday the guild was kind enough to re-run it for me and we breezed through it like it was nothing. Thanks everyone! The previously-hated Dive Bombs were no sweat this time. Now I have the Second Coil of Bahamut unlocked for future escapades. (One of these days I’ll have to go back through Turns 1-4 just to see them.)

I’ve slowed down a bit on completing the Main Scenario so I haven’t done any more trials. There’s still plenty of time before the expansion in June so there’s no reason to rush, and honestly some of it is a bit dry. It turned out I wasn’t done with 2.3 after all since there was a lot of chatting with NPCs all around the world after defeating Ramuh. At this point though my time is probably better spent unlocking level 50 dungeons.

ffxiv_04262015_211229

Sunday I finished leveling Black Mage to 50. (Or as I like to call it, “Blast Mage.”) As with most previous classes, once I get to the high 40s, it becomes impossible to stop until I reach 50, even if there’s no compelling reason to get there in a hurry. Toward the end I did a combination of FATEs, Aurum Vale, and Low-Level Duty Finder, but surprisingly enough in the end I dinged 50 by completing my Hunting Log. There’s a healthy amount of XP in that last tier.

To celebrate, I put on the two pieces of Crimson gear I had saved from ages ago, bought a random level 55 wand from the Marketplace, and jumped immediately into Labyrinth of the Ancients to start replacing that hideous class quest gear. (I’ve always liked the Crimson gear anyway.) It’s a really different experience this time. With no gear and under 3000 health, those AoEs in Labyrinth hurt, not to mention all of the 130+ geared players looking at with disdain for messing up their speed-farming.

So now I have Bard, Dragoon, and Black Mage at 50, which pretty much covers all the DPS options I’m interested in right now.

One of the nice things about taking several months off from FFXIV is that when you return, you have 100 Levemete allotments and a ton of rest experience waiting. (Honestly I can’t even remember the last time I didn’t have my bar full of rest XP.) And with 100 Tradecraft Levemetes it’s relatively easy to level a crafting profession. Just pick the quest that rewards the most experience for the least expensive materials (in terms of money to buy or time to make or gather) and repeat for five levels. Then move to the next location and repeat.

So leveling Alchemist went pretty fast and I made level 50 on Monday night. I picked Alchemist, by the way, because it was already at 32, and I think I originally started it because Alchemist is the melder for the White Mage relic, and at the time I was leveling WHM. So to celebrate hitting 50 Alchemist I finally melded two materia onto a stick for my WHM relic. That’s probably the extent of what I’ll do with it for the forseeable future. I had hoped that I could also use Alchemist to meld for the Black Mage relic but naturally that requires Goldsmith.

Speaking of crafting I’ve been looking into endgame gear for crafters a bit. Man what a rabbit-hole. There is so much to look at and think about and buy before you can do anything decent. I wanted to craft a one-star botanist hat with my weaver, but first I had to get out ffxivclock.com and harvest up a bunch of Crawler Caccoons so I could make Twinthread. Then I realized you can’t make Twinthread unless you have Craftsmanship 275. So I had to buy some gear and melding components to get that higher. Then I ran out of Lightning Crystals so I had to go harvest a bunch more of them too. It’s all very time-consuming and hella-expensive if you have to buy anything from the Market. Generally speaking, I enjoy crafting, but not when it takes all day and all your money just to make one thing.

* A pattern which is becoming far too common for my liking.

FFXIV – Where I Hate Dive Bombs

It’s been a big week in FFXIV.

I finished out the 2.2 and 2.3 main scenario quests, getting through both the Leviathan and Ramuh trials with relative ease. Both PUGs beat them on the first try despite me not knowing what to do when Ramuh tethers you to someone else (hint: pick up 3 blue orbs like Pac-Man).

FFXIV Onion Gear

Over on the Dragoon class, I finished the first relic quest to get my Zenith Gae Bolg spear, and also picked up the Onion gear set from Labyrinth (well, all but the belt, but you can’t see that). It’s nice to have a dragoon set that doesn’t make me look like a terrifying robot.

Just so you know, you young whippersnappers doing those three Hard Trials for the relic quest have it soooooo easy now. I blew through all three in heavily overgeared PUGs without any sweat. You barely have to worry about the mechanics now. There was only one wipe on Garuda when the DPS wasn’t quite high enough to burn down the boss while ignoring the adds. It was nuts.

Back on my Bard, I finally picked up the last of my Atmas and upgraded my Artemis Bow, which was pretty cool until I noticed that it doesn’t glow anymore. Now there’s a whole new grind of books to make it glow again. And then apparently there’s a hundred more upgrades after that. So, yeah, no shortage of tasks to work on there while waiting for queues. (Sadly everyone is camping the mobs you need to kill.)

Saturday I finally delved into the World of Darkness for the first time, which went surprisingly well. I lucked out and got a really nice group that helped me (and one other newbie) with the mechanics. I still died a lot, but overall it could have been a lot worse. And I picked up the Demon Tabard of Aiming so I have nothing to complain about. (If I’m not mistaken, that continues my streak of getting a drop in my first run of all three Crystal Tower raids.)

And I’ve been continuing to level my Black Mage class, which is now up to 40. I don’t know why I’m doing it, though. Black Mage seems to be the new Bard–everyone has one. Probably because it does ridiculous damage and it has that sweet, sweet AoE Limit Break.

In the crafting department, I think I’m either going to level Alchemist or Leatherworking next. And after Black Mage, it’ll be the dreaded Gladiator/Paladin, the most terrifying of roles in FFXIV (for me, at least). Especially now that all the DPS people are over-geared and doing Low-Level Roulettes, so it’ll be that much harder to hold threat.

Bahamut Turn 5

Wednesday night I joined a guild group doing Bahamut turn 5. It was kind of a comedy of errors for me. I plugged in my USB headset to get in TeamSpeak before we started but of course I forgot that FFXIV has never been able to detect when to switch to headphone audio so I had game sounds coming from my speakers and voices coming through the headset. Then I discovered that despite checking and double-checking all the settings it refused to broadcast when I did push-to-talk. So that was annoying.

As far as learning the fight everything seemed okay until the accursed Dive Bombs, where I seemed to have a complete mental block on how to avoid getting hit. “Run up the hill after you hear the beeps” seems like a pretty simple concept but it sure wasn’t working for me and it’s probably just as well my mic wasn’t working at that point for all the variations of dubya-tee-eff coming out of me. I can’t believe it was because I was too slow because on my screen it looked like I was among the first out of there every time. Which makes me think I was too fast, but if the objective is to dodge an AoE how can you be too fast? Maybe I was laggy and didn’t realize it. The only thing I can figure is that I must not have been accounting for my position relative to the targeted player. (Conceptually it seems similar to one of the dragons in Syrcus Tower where one guy gets a target and you have to move away from him.)

Whatever it was, based on reading and watching videos afterward, it didn’t seem like it should have been that difficult. It was especially frustrating because it didn’t feel like I did anything different between the times I was hit and the times I wasn’t hit. (I wish id recorded it so i could see what i did wrong. Think I will do that from now on, if I don’t get summarily banned from ever going again.)

Anyway despite that it was fun. I like the approach FFXIV takes to raids. There is a component of learning what to do, but even if you know exactly what to do, the execution of it often takes some practice to get it right.

FFXIV – Ramping Back Up

I’m starting to get back into the swing of FFXIV. Over the weekend I played more than I have in ages. I finally got a chance to play a bit with the guild which was a lot of fun.

My first priority is finishing the Main Scenario, what with the expansion coming and all, so I picked that up again. I had stopped at Thornmarch (King Moggle Mog or whatever) because, given my last experience with PUGing Titan (Hard), I had no wish to enter another impossible Trial, so I kept putting it off. Then over the weekend I decided to buckle down and finish it. I watched a guide but I couldn’t really follow what was going on, so I decided to leap headlong into the middle of a PUG and experience it firsthand. I figured I would learn what I could, and when the PUG fell apart, I would ask the guild to see if there was anyone around who could help.

Well, it turned out that Thornmarch (Hard) is not very hard. I think there were two of us new to the Trial, but nobody gave us any instructions or marked any targets. I just winged it and tried to do what everyone else was doing. (In such cases I try to look for the target which is losing health the quickest and go after that one.) The first time, we wiped, and then someone thought it might be a good idea to tell us that, after the big dance party and light show, we had to kill all the adds before The King got below 65% health (or something like that). Basically, we should concentrate on the adds and ignore the King. (I’m pretty sure that’s what I was doing, but maybe somebody else was focusing on The King, I don’t know.)

On the second try, we pretty much breezed through it. So here’s my advice if you’re new to Thornmarch: Shoot all the little moogles while dodging the bad stuff, watch the dance party, then shoot all the little moogles again before shooting the big moogle. That was the full extent of the strategy I got out of it. I believe there is supposed to be some optimized order of killing the moogles but nobody marked anything and it seemed like everyone was shooting a different target, so nobody was on the same page and it didn’t seem to matter. For a trial marked “hard” it was not that hard. Maybe everyone is way overgeared for it now. (I actually put on some ~70 gear for it instead of my ~96 gear because it only required ~50something gear and I wanted to play it at least close to level-appropriate.)

Anyway, I finished that part of the story and moved on to the next. I believe a Leviathan Trial is coming up in my future soon.

The least intimidating Black Mage ever.

Secondarily I’m also working on leveling my Black Mage class to 50, to have more DPS options (Bard and Dragoon are my other two). As of this writing I’m at BLM 35. Basically I just do a Low-Level Roulette every night along with two or three leve quests and that gets me about one level each day. Pretty soon I’ll also be able to hang around Camp Dragonhead and ride the continuous-FATE-train to 50 (if that still exists).

The third goal is to continue to grind FATEs for Atmas. I do this while waiting for the above Low-Level Roulette to pop, which can take a good half hour or more on Cactuar. As of now I have all but three of them. I don’t even remember what kind of bow I’m going to get from these things. (I also need to do plain relic quests for Dragoon and White Mage but those are for another day.)

Star Trek Online – Delta Recruitment

I’ve enjoyed Star Trek Online quite a bit over the weekend. I’ve tried to play STO several times in the past but I could never get into it, but for some reason (boredom, probably) I’m “getting it” now.

Wilbert taking on time-traveling weirdos from blue space.
My heavily-armed away team takes on time-traveling bad guys from blue space.

Perhaps it’s because they just started this Delta Recruitment event at the exact time that I began playing again. I abandoned my two previous characters (who were no higher than the STO equivalent of level 1 or 2) and made a new Star Fleet “Delta Recruit” dude. I don’t have enough STO experience to know exactly what’s different but I gather that Delta recruits level a lot faster and get bonus loot to help you along the way. I seem to gain one level (or “grade” I think they’re called) after each story mission I complete, which is pretty cool.

I’ve been very surprised by the depth of the game. Neverwinter (also from Perfect World/Cryptic) isn’t very deep, so it’s nice to see all kinds of fiddly bits in STO to play around with. Things like Bridge Officers, Duty Officers, Traits, etc. Lots of things to put into slots, in other words. Sometimes that can get overwhelming but so far I like it in STO.

(I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that Leonard Nimoy’s voiceovers give a pang of wistful sadness.)

Here are some tips I’ve learned that have vastly improved my enjoyment of the game this time:

Pixelated Graphics. One of the first things I noticed was that the default settings made the graphics look pretty awful. It turns out there’s an odd setting called “Resolution scale” (under Options/Display) that for me was set to around 0.70. God knows why this setting exists, but it means it renders a picture that is 70% smaller than the screen resolution you’ve chosen, so your game looks like it’s sort of pixelated from being scaled up. I guess this is for less powerful computers, but it seems like this should not be on by default. Anyway, change it to 1.00 if you don’t want to vomit from looking at lousy graphics.

Space Controls. The default space controls were a big turn-off for me, so I made a few strategic changes. By default, your forward and backward keys are mapped to pitch up and down. I changed them to throttle up and down which feels more natural to me. (Space flight is actually more 2D than 3D in STO so the ability to go up and down is not all that important–it’s no Elite Dangerous in other words.) I also discovered that holding down the left and right buttons allows you to directly steer your ship in a mouselook kind of way, which is a huge help. Unfortunately if you don’t use invert mouse it’s backwards from standard flight controls (mouse back should be up, forward should be down–I haven’t found a setting to change it).

Moving Hotbar Actions. This drove me bonkers for a long time. Normally you just drag-and-drop abilities where you want them, but not so in STO. You have to hold down the right mouse button to drag-and-drop hotbar actions. I guess this was to keep from requiring a “lock” setting to prevent accidentally moving things.

Random Strangers. I’m in a turtling mood right now, so if you’re like me and would rather avoid random strangers joining you on Patrol missions: Open the Social menu. Click on Team Settings. Change the Team Join Mode from the default of Open Team to Closed Team (or whatever you want). (I think people are more likely to join you if you’re a Delta recruit because of that Dilithium team bonus thingy.)

So there you go. It’s a fun game that’s taken me many, many years to discover.

April Camp NaNoWriMo

I thought I might start crossing over a bit and post more about my writing here on this blog. It seems to me that the subjects of MMORPGs and genre fiction are pretty closely related anyway.

I am off to a terrible start in the April Camp NaNoWriMo event. I set myself a modest goal of 30,000 words (since I don’t think this story is a full novel), and I’m already about three days behind schedule. I’m just not “feeling it.” My story idea seems like an awful idea again that makes no sense. (Exactly what happened to me the first time I started writing it.)

Still, I’m hoping to get into the swing of things pretty soon. I spent a month preparing a reasonably complete (well, 75% complete) outline to work from, so that should help a lot. While working on the outline, I was pretty excited about the idea, so I’m trying to hold onto that sentiment and trust that this story will turn out better than it seems right now.

General Request For Podcasters

This happened to me while listening to a podcast during my morning pre-work routine: My mind was wandering while the podcasters were talking, then something in what they were saying about a game grabbed my attention and made me want to check out said game. But I had no idea what game they were talking about, so I had to rewind until I got to the very beginning of their discussion topic to find out the name of the game.

So my request is for podcasters to please re-iterate the name of the game they are talking about periodically during their discussions or news items. Quite often podcasters will call it “it” and if the discussion goes on for a long time, you won’t know what “it” they’re talking about unless you were paying attention at the very beginning where one person says, “here’s some news about XYZ game.” Or even worse, if you pick up listening to a podcast a week after you heard the beginning part, you’ll be totally lost. It’s a bit frustrating sometimes, especially when you’re doing something with your hands and can’t get to the rewind button.

Alternately, somebody could invent “tracks” for podcasts (like CDs) so you could just skip forward and backward to the beginning of each discussion section.

Progression Report – March

March was definitely a low point in my 2015 MMORPG activity, but don’t panic. This is normal for me. There’s usually one or more months during the year when I end up watching television instead. Still, I accomplished a few things.

In Rift, I continued to log in every few days to collect Minion rewards and send them out again. My bank and inventory is bursting with useless junk.

In Final Fantasy XIV, I forgot to mention that I joined the cool blogger Free Company on Cactuar. Unfortunately every time I log into FFXIV I stand around feeling like I don’t have any goals to accomplish. I do have goals, but none of them are interesting to me right now, which is a shame because it’s awesome to see so many other people *cough* finally *cough* getting on the FFXIV bandwagon.

In a surprise move toward the end of March, I created a Romulan faction character in Star Trek Online and ran around for less than an hour. I could see myself playing some STO in April because it feels “new” to me right now, but historically the game has never clicked with me.

In Neverwinter, I finally put the time in to level my Great Weapon Fighter from level 59 to 60. That took about 2 hours.

In Guild Wars 2, I played about 3 hours and finished up the Echoes of the Past story. And the most amazing thing happened: I found a staff!!

GW2-Monsoon-Staff

This is literally the first staff upgrade I’ve seen since I hit level 80 like two years ago. Unfortunately it’s a stupid useless healing staff, and I normally use an axe anyway, but just knowing that it’s possible to still find gear upgrades out in the world is encouraging. But as a super casual 3-hour-a-month player, I guess I will have to wait another two years to find another one.

SWTOR held another double-XP weekend from March 27-30, which salvaged a month otherwise completely devoid of logging in. I spent 4 hours questing in Balmorra over the weekend, leveling my Jedi Guardian from 32 to 35. (Still, I cancelled my subscription which ends on April 11.)

Now for something completely different. I’ve seen a lot of people talking about how great Marvel Heroes is, so I went ahead and downloaded it. I’m not a superhero person but it’s kind of a fun game in a super-casual kind of way. I played a whopping 12 hours and after trying a bunch of heroes, went with Colossus and leveled him up to 19.

Rawr.
Colossus practicing his skiing stance.

I played nearly 13 hours of Trove in my quest to get a character up to level 20 so I can get a free Budgie mount in Rift. My Fae Trickster is now up to level 13. I typically play just long enough to fill up that bar in the top-right corner, then log out.

Topping the list for March, I spent almost 17 hours playing Path of Exile, another ARPG which arguably doesn’t even belong here. I played most of the different archetypes but I’m sticking with the Templar as my main, who has reached the god-like level of, coincidentally, 17.

I didn’t play any TSW or The Repopulation in March.

In the single-player game department, I played mainly Banished and Civ 5 with a smattering of Dragon Age II and Legend of Grimrock thrown in.

In April I’m planning to work on a story for Camp NaNoWriMo, so my gaming time might be further limited. But I hope to continue leveling my Fae Trickster in Trove, play some more STO, and hopefully get back into FFXIV. Maybe I’ll work on my Black Mage class.

P.S. I don’t know if I can keep up this pace of monthly progression reports, I might switch to quarterly. :)