FFXIV – Bard 4.0 Thoughts

I posted a comment on Aywren’s blog that made me think I should write a short post about what I’ve learned about the Stormblood Bard job. Then I wrote a way too long post about it, because that’s what happens when I’m bored for long periods of time.

I’ve leveled a Samurai from 50 to 55, but other than that, I’ve been playing the Bard almost exclusively in Stormblood. I’ll admit the new abilities were a bit tough to grasp at first, but fortunately it wasn’t an impediment to playing through the content. I got through the whole MSQ story without doing much of anything with the Ballads, and it wasn’t until after I got to 70 that the new stuff started to “click.”

When I say “new” stuff I actually mean the same ballads, but which gained entirely different functions, among them: Mage’s Ballad, Army’s Paeon, Wanderer’s Minuet, Foe Requiem, and Battle Voice.

You can pretty much forget everything you previously knew about those ballads, because they are 100% different now. You can also forget that the names of the ballads have any relation to their function anymore. Mage’s Ballad? Yeah it doesn’t do anything with mana, a fact that took me a stupefyingly long time to learn. (I literally thought the tooltip must have had the wrong description for like 8 whole levels.)

Here is my take on the altered abilities:

Wanderer’s Minuet: Enables a buff that allows building stacks of “Repetoire.” Repetoire only builds when your DOTs do critical damage, so keep your DOTs going on your targets at all times. When you get three stacks of Repetoire you can use “Pitch Perfect,” which is a hefty damage ability. (Actually you can use Pitch Perfect with one or two stacks as well, but it’s less damage.) This one is probably the most straightforward of the ballads to understand and use, and perhaps a good place to begin the learning curve.

Army’s Paeon: Enables a buff that increases the speed and damage of your attacks with every stack of “Repetoire.” As above, Repetoire builds when your DOTs do critical damage. It’s straightforward to use, but the effect seems fairly negligable to me so I don’t use it very often except on long boss fights when I get bored.

Mage’s Ballad: This essentially enables a buff that causes your Bloodletter and Rain of Death abilities to proc more often. Again, only if you maintain your DOTs on targets. I find this now to be the most effective way (ie. the only way) to do AOE on big packs of trash pulls. Once you have DOTs going on several targets, trigger Mage’s Ballad, and the Rain of Death AOE ability will proc almost every global cooldown. It takes some practice but it’s very effective. In single-target situations Mage’s Ballad just lets you hit Bloodletter more often, increasing damage.

Foe Requiem: Simply increases damage taken by 3% for nearby enemies, effectively buffing your party DPS. (Presumably you need to stand close to the enemy targets.) It uses up mana as it plays, and it doesn’t last long. I often forget to use it. It’s a pain because it’s one of the few Bard abilities that isn’t an instant cast. Probably the best time to use it would be in those rare situations where you have to kill a target very quickly or the group wipes. (Like the nails in the Ifrit trial.)

Battle Voice: Another buff that increases direct hit of all party members by 10%, but it can only be triggered when singing another ballad. I have to admit I never use this, even though it sounds pretty useful when I write it down. :) This one hasn’t yet made it to the two highest-priority hotbars which have keybinds.

And here are some thoughts on other abilities:

Peloton: This Role ability is the replacement for Swingsong, which I use only in dungeons between mobs. I don’t know it for a fact, and I’ve never heard anyone ask for it, but I assume people like to run faster through the boring parts, especially on the Roulettes.

The Warden’s Paean: Removes a detrimental effect. I thought this was new, but it was apparently in Heavensward as well, and I never used it. I still don’t use it. I’m not sure it’s even on a hotbar. I suppose it would help the healer if I removed my own debuffs, but the cooldown is really long and frankly I’m not even looking for debuffs in the heat of battle as a DPS.

Troubadour: Adds an additional party-wide defensive buff based on which ballad is in effect. No one has asked for it, and I can’t think of any situations that would have been significantly improved by using it, so I generally ignore it. If the almighty “meta” ever demands it I’ll start using it.

Nature’s Minne: Increases healing rate on yourself or another party member by 20%. Okay? I guess? I occasionally cast this on myself if I’m low on health and happen to know I’m about to be hit with some damage, just to make things easier on the healer. (In such cases I might also use my emergency self-heal Second Wind.) Otherwise I’ve not yet encountered a situation where this is needed. I’ve yet to encounter a healer who has asked for help with healing, or who would be helped by a 20% buff on healing.

I have to say that the support abilities of the Bard in Stormblood fall into a similar category as the support abilities of all classes in Rift: They aren’t supportive enough to really warrant using them. A buff that increases defense by 10% doesn’t sound terribly valuable to any group. Now if it was a buff that increases defense by 50% I could see people wanting that.

By the way, I found that Square Enix actually has a fairly comprehensive reference for the Bard job (and all other jobs), something I wasn’t even aware of. It has a very handy “Patch 4.0 Adjustment” next to each ability that tells you how each one has changed. It doesn’t go so far as to tell you how you should use the abilities, but it’s a great guide for the exact function of every ability, which is something I like. When I know the exact function of the abilities, the way you use them and chain them together becomes far more apparent and intuitive to me. That’s something guides tend to lack. They just tell you what to do without telling you why you should do it.

The bottom line is that the Bard is very enjoyable to play again. You can move around again without having any effect on your ability to produce damage, and that’s what attracted me to the class in the first place.

Shelf-Life of an MMORPG

“Remember when we used to talk about Three-Monthers? Ah, those were the days!” –Bhagpuss

That quote from Inventory Full made me chuckle, because I had recently been thinking that it took me precisely three weeks to play through the Stormblood expansion story. And that was going slow, recording everything, talking to everyone around the quest givers, and reading all of the unvoiced text out loud for the video. I could not possibly have done it any slower.

As I’m writing this post, it is Monday, the fourth weekiversary after I started the Stormblood Main Scenario Quest, and I feel like I’m rather close to being “done” with the expansion until the next patch. I have but to log in and run daily roulettes to slowly build up my gear levels, or else turn to leveling alternative jobs (which I have already started).

I’ve done all the available level 70 dungeons (there are only three right now, but I assume over the next two years, if past performance is any indicator, that number will grow closer to fifteen or twenty). I’ve bought all the ilevel 310 gear with Tomestones of Verity. I hit the 450 weekly cap of Tomestones of Creation in like two days, so I’ll be filling in my accessories with 330 gear over the coming weeks. Thanks to the FC, I’ve been through the Omega raids V1.0-V4.0 and got some drops for 320 gear. (The raids are so familiar to the general player population now, two weeks later, that the first time I did it on Saturday, we only had 4 FC members and 4 random PUG members, and we got through all four of them on the first try, no wipes.)

The only things I haven’t completed yet are the two Extreme trials and Omega Savage. (That I know of, at least.) I would enjoy doing those eventually, but I don’t feel any compelling need to do them. (I was in an FC group that attempted Lakshmi Extreme but we didn’t finish it. It’s just a matter of time though. I’ll probably do that this coming weekend.) I’m not the kind of player who has an overwhelming compulsion to get all of the best-in-slot gear. I just want good enough gear that I can see everything in the game that I want to see (it’s a bonus if the gear kind of matches and looks cool), and I’m pretty close to that. (My Bard item level is 306 right now, and I think the maximum gear is 330.)

So it seems like the target amount of new content produced in any MMORPG release is roughly one month of new experiences for casual players, followed by infinite months of repeated daily content grind. And if you’re a dedicated overachiever, far less than that. I remember seeing people in the FC capping out after a week or two, and that was after early release launch issues put everybody behind a couple of days.

The days of getting three solid months out of a new MMORPG release seems like a lifetime ago. As Bhagpuss documented, it’s a good thing there are so many MMORPGs now that we can bounce from one to the next to keep ourselves entertained year-round. (Unfortunately most aren’t up to the quality of a AAA game, which means you can measure their shelf-life in days, not weeks.)

FFXIV – Collectables Grokked

I’m going to try to document here what I’ve figured out about gathering collectables in FFXIV, because there is almost a 100% chance that I will forget this someday and a future version of me will need to re-learn it.

Collectables are similar to the Grand Company Provisioning missions you can do once per day, which look like this:

Collectables are a bit better, though, because you can hand in a lot more every day. (By the way, my spellchecker insists that I should be writing “collectibles” but the game spells it “collectables.”)

First, open up the Timers in the Duty menu, and then click on Rowena’s House of Splendors. That will tell you which collectables you should gather. (It does you no good to gather collectables if they aren’t listed by Rowena.)

You can see in the screenshot above that Rowena’s House of Splendor is looking for Yellow Quartz, Yellow Copper Ore, and Dragon Obsidian from Miners. The Yellow Copper Ore is highlighted: That’s because I had already collected one at the time of the screenshot, which shows as a 1 under the Inventory column.

You can right-click each item and choose the rather unintuitively-named “Search For Item by Gathering Method” to discover where to find it, if you don’t already know. You will need to “unlock” each item before you can collect or gather it, just like the good old days before level 50. Everything is “hidden” until you gather it normally at least once.

In the above list, Lv. 50 Dragon Obsidian can be obtained at any mining node in Western Coerthas. You don’t have to do anything special or wait for the timed nodes that only appear at certain times of day. Accordingly, they award the least experience. You could simply mine those all day long and turn in hundreds of them, but that would be a bit boring. Also each collectable consumes one inventory slot and they don’t stack, so there’s a soft limit on how many you can carry.

How do you actually acquire the collectables? To get, for example, a collectable Dragon Obsidian–the easiest one–you go to a mining node as usual. (This one is in Western Coerthas.)

Activate your Collector’s Glove ability (which you should have gotten at level 50 when you started Heavensward). You can do this at any time. It’s like a buff, so once it’s activated it remains on.

Nothing much will change, but you should see the word “Collectables” appear at the top of the Mining window. (It took me some time to figure that out.)

Now you can mine the Dragon Obsidian by clicking on the Dragon Obsidian slot. But instead of a chunk of ore going into your inventory, you’ll get a different gathering interface that looks like this:

Here is where you use the new abilities you picked up when you got into Heavensward. You should have gotten a new ability called Methodical Appraisal. There are many varieties of Appraisal abilities that do different things.

Each time you use an Appraisal, it uses one gathering attempt and moves the Rarity bar to the right, and adds 10 Wear. In this example, we can perform three Appraisals before Wear is at 30/30. (In my experience so far, the gathering attempt is wasted if you go over the maximum wear.) As with all gathering and crafting, you can juggle everything by combining various abilities from your hotbar, but I’ll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

Once you’ve gotten the maximum possible Rarity you can get, click on the Collect button. You can do this once for every remaining gathering attempt. In the case of this Dragon Obsidian, I usually only have one attempt left so I’ll only get one collectable.

Notice back in Rowena’s list of collectables, she provided a Collectability rating. She will only take this Dragon Obsidian if the Collectability ends up at 240 or higher. The Rarity you achieve, along with other factors I don’t fully understand, is what determines the final Collectability rating.

You can see in the above screenshot that the Collectability ended up being 385 despite the Rarity bar sitting at 372. I have no idea why. Random? Based on your equipment and item levels? Who knows? That’s beyond the scope of this post. :)

Now for the most important part, the part which took me days to figure out which apparently nobody took the time to write in any of their guides. What the heck do you do with collectables once they are sitting in your inventory??

I knew that there was a Collectable Appraiser in Idyllshire, but she wouldn’t talk to me:

This left me so confused for so long, until I finally stumbled upon this other Collectable Appraiser in Revenant’s Toll:

Finally, I found someone who would take my collectables! I had written off Revenant’s Toll as a place I never needed to go again, so I never thought to look there.

Anyway, click on the Collectable Appraiser and you’ll get the standard interface for handing over items, and then you’ll get your experience rewards. (You have to hand them over one at a time, unfortunately, which is a pain if you’re returning with a dozen of them.)

I showed the example of Dragon Obsidian above, but you don’t really want to focus on that. To maximize your experience, you want to go for the Unspoiled nodes which appear all across the land at timed intervals.

I suppose it’s possible to go out into the world and discover where and when the Unspoiled nodes appear by careful observation and note-taking, but you might find it easier to go to any of a number of FFXIV timer web sites. I used to use ffxivclock.com but lately I’ve grown fond of ffxiv-gathering.com.

The idea is that every 2 hours (Eozean time, which is, I don’t know, 20 minutes real time?), an Unspoiled node becomes available somewhere in the world. Fly to that spot and gather from it, and you get much better stuff. In these cases, though, you have to “reveal” the items before you can collect them. If you did any gathering at the level 50 endgame, before Heavensward, you probably know the drill.

Use Toil of the Mountaineer or Toil of the Pioneer to reveal the “out of reach” items.

If this is the first time gathering at this node, you’ll need to use your abilities to reveal the “Unknown” items. In this case I happened to know I wanted the Old World Fig in slot 2:

From there you collect as shown above with the Dragon Obsidian. Enable Collector’s Glove, increase the Rarity as much as possible, and Collect. Typically I get three or four collectables from an Unspoiled node.

If you are lucky and hand in a bunch of starred items, you can level pretty quickly. I leveled from 51 to 57 on both Miner and Botanist over this past weekend.

Ranking My Play Personalities

Thinking Play had a very interesting post recently about Play Personalities, something I had never heard of before. I recommend reading it. It’s a bit like a Meyers-Briggs test for how you spend your leisure time, or the Bartle Test. Here’s my self-assessment of how I fit the different play personalities:

The Joker. Nope. Well, maybe a little. Sometimes I do like to poke fun at things that other people find deadly serious, much to my own detriment on Twitter. Although I am not a “class clown” by any stretch of the imagination.

The Kinesthete. When I was younger, sure, but not now that walking across a room has a relatively high chance of causing injuries.

The Explorer. I can strongly relate to this one, in that I am constantly seeking out new things to learn and study. I don’t ever physically go to new places though. In theory that would be fun but *cough* massive anxiety *cough*.

The Competitor. I don’t seek out competitions anymore, but when I do get involved in a competition, I always try to win and crush the hopes and dreams of all opposition. In a nice way.

The Director. Nope, nope, nope, and more nope.

The Collector. Not really. In the past I flirted with collecting guitars, and I think it would be fun to collect real live swords, but I’m too dern miserly in my old age now. (Although some guitars can be good investments… hmmmm.)

The Artist/Creator. Of course the one with a slash in it and the most awkward to write in a sentence is the one I probably most identify with. When I look back over my life and try to generalize all of the things I’ve had fun doing, I would say that the one thread that connects them all is creating things that weren’t there before. Software development, writing, music, blogging, videos, drawing. It is one of the great ironies of my life that it’s hard to earn a living doing most of these enjoyable things.

The Storyteller. I can also relate to this one. Not only in the form of writing stories, but you can also see this aspect of me most recently in my 58-part YouTube playthrough of Stormblood–Why not watch it today! You might be the first one!–which was very much “play” for me. You can see it in a lot of my blog posts, too, since I usually try to make at least some attempt to entertain, and I try to make my posts a sort of narrative from the top to the bottom. Except for this one of course, which is just a straight infodump.

If I were to rank these play personalities, I would probably do it like this:

  1. The Artist/Creator
  2. The Explorer
  3. The Storyteller
  4. The Competitor
  5. The Joker
  6. The Collector
  7. The Kinesthete
  8. The Director

* Note that the “featured image” for this post has nothing to do with anything. It is a picture of the latest dungeon gear set I got from FFXIV, right before I scheduled this post.

LotRO – Mordor Is Here Too Soon

Standing Stone Games started taking orders for the Mordor expansion in LotRO, which is “expected” to release July 31. $40 for the no-frills version.* The moment is finally here. The moment I’ve been dreading for so long: The moment when everyone else will get to experience the MMORPG cultural event of the decade, while I sit on the sidelines, peering longingly through the cracks in the fence, trying to catch a glimpse of the prize at the end of the rainbow. Or some metaphor or another like that.

This is the exact thing that I’ve tried to prepare for for over a year now. How much progress did I make on that preparation, you ask? Well, I leveled my Hunter from about 48 to 55. So yay? I was just 50 levels short of my goal. (It felt like I played a long time to get those 7 levels, too.)

Last week, I used up 5995 of my ~7000 Points Formerly Known As Turbine to buy a level 95 boost for my Dwarf Runekeeper. I arrived in a camp I’ve never seen before with a bunch of new stuff in my inventory, each of which exploded into more stuff. I equipped a whole new set of armor which if I were to be generous looks about as awful as a set of cloth armor can possibly look. Frankly it looks like a set of white thermal underwear.

I quickly discovered that I could not equip the Advanced Riding trait thingy because I had not yet learned regular Riding. My dwarf was level 19 when I started, standing around the area of that horse farm near Bree, and I think the last time I played him years ago I had been looking around there to find a horse. (Actually I think I have a horse, I just can’t ride it.) So I sought to find my way back to that horse farm to learn Riding.

Through clever use of a Mithril Coin and an unfinished quest, I found my way back to Strider in The Prancy Pony. (Otherwise I would have had no clue how to leave the town I was in other than by picking a direction and walking. Getting around without Hunter teleports is a pain!) Then I was back in the same predicament I was in before: I had no idea where to find the Riding trait. So I logged off.

A few days later I logged back in and pulled up the LotRO Store and found the Riding trait I was looking for the easy way. And as it turned out, since I’m technically a free player at this point, I had to buy it. After getting the Riding trait I was finally able to use the Advanced Riding trait and the Combat Riding trait. I warped back to Level 95 Camp.

“Level 95 Camp” as I call it. Oh LotRO. Your primitive screenshot capabilities are so quaint.

There are some big changes in LotRO life between level 50-something and level 95. I have a “war horse” now, which is apparently a special kind of horse that does more than just run fast. You get a whole new hotbar while you’re riding and I have no idea how it works or whether I should even try to learn it.

Thankfully I had gone through the Legendary Weapon trainers at level 50, so I had at least an inkling of a clue what to do with the unidentified Legendary Runestone I ended up with. Instead of getting actual weapons with the 95 boost, you get three random weapon pack thingys which let you select the kind of weapon you want. Of course, not having played RK in ages, I had no clue whatsoever what to pick. I chose a Lightning Rune because I think the skill tree I picked said something about Lightning affinity. I’ve no idea if that was right or not. I’m saving the other 2 weapon box thingys for later when I actually understand whether or not I want a legendary rune bag or a legendary bridle, and what kind I want.

Now I don’t have even the vaguest idea of what to do, where to go, or how to play this 95 RuneKeeper with hotbars filled with unknown abilities. There weren’t even any quests to follow. [Update: I found a quest! It was, um, right in front of me the whole time.] (It’s even worse than when I got a free high-level Necromancer in EQ2.) I’m thinking my chances of leveling from 95 to 105 on this character before the end of the month are slim to none.

Of course–of course–the Mordor expansion comes with its own level boost. So I should have just waited before getting the 95 boost. Oh well. (I actually contemplated waiting for this exact reason. But in all my reading of all the posts expertly declaring what to expect from the coming Mordor expansion, nobody said to expect a level boost. Way to go, games journalists.)

I asked Twitter for some help on which class to play in LotRO as a solo player (besides Hunter), and it seemed like the two most prominent answers were Runekeeper and Minstrel. I have a Hobbit Minstel in the teen levels I think, so perhaps I’ll use that one for Mordor.

* I have no comment on the pricing uproar. I almost always get the cheap editions of games and expansions, and I have no interest in the High Elf, and no time to play one even if I did.

FFXIV – Stormblood Story Summary

I’m going to make an attempt here to summarize the FFXIV Stormblood story for my own future reference. There are going to be spoilers ahead if you haven’t played, although I’ll try to keep it fairly high-level and leave out every detail of how everything turns out. (That means I’m not going to tell you who lives and who dies, muhahaha.)

(You can consult any of a wide variety of Wikis if you really need all the details, and may I also suggest the 58 video series I uploaded to YouTube if you get really bored and need to see all the spoilers? I just may.)

I’ve broken the story down into four parts as I perceived them.

For those that don’t know anything about FFXIV, your character is known as the “Warrior of Light,” a hero with special powers and whatnot. By the time of Stormblood, you’ve already saved the world a number of times, and these days you hang out with your long-time friends in the Scions of the Seventh Dawn, a sort of Justice League for Eorzea and beyond. (I have to train myself to think of “Eorzea” as a smaller part of the game world now.)

Part 1 – Gyr Abania (to level 63)

Fighting at Baelsar’s Wall, from Heavensward.

Our story begins with the events at the end of Heavensward: For reasons that are too complex to get into, and which are a little bit fuzzy in my mind anyway, The Alliance finds itself battling the Garlean Empire at Baelsar’s Wall.

The Alliance wins at The Wall, but balks at the prospect of marching north to liberate Gyr Abania from the Empire without the consent of her people. (A thinly-veiled reference to the Iraq War I suppose.) The Alliance requests Lyse–a native of Ala Mhigo with contacts in the resistance–and the Scions of the Seventh Dawn to negotiate on behalf of The Alliance.

Lyse leads the way into her homeland.

We do some errands for the locals in Gyr Abania to gain their trust and their consent to fight the Garlean Empire. But just as The Alliance, led by the Flame General Raubahn, plans to take the Garlean stronghold of Velodyna, the Empire attacks the resistance base at Rhalgr’s Reach and delivers a resounding defeat to the good guys. Even the vaunted Warrior of Light is no match for the powerful Garlean leader Zenos.

Part 2 – The Ruby Sea (to level 65)

Arriving in Kugane after an eventful voyage across the sea.

While the locals in Gyr Abania lick their wounds, Lyse and company sail far to the East to gain support from Doma and open up a second front in the fight against the Garlean Empire. On arriving in the city of Kugane, we discover that we can’t reach Doman territory until we dislodge the Empire from a little town called Isari.

The Confederacy to the rescue!

After some trials and tribulations under the sea, we enlist the help of the Kojin of the Blue (good ninja turtles) and the Confederacy (pirates) and liberate Isari.

Part 3 – Doma (to level 67)

The Empire rounds up conscripts from Namai.

Finally arriving in the Doman territory of Yanxia (pronounced with a two syllable YAN-SHEEUH for those as ignorant of Asian pronunciation as I), we find the people in no mood to fight, having suffered under 25 years of oppression from the Garlean Empire. We seek out Lord Hein (pronounced HEE-IN), the rightful ruler of Doma, to inspire the people.

The Naadham on the Azim Steppe.

Hein lives in hiding in the Azim Steppe, a place populated by three warring tribes. By fighting in a ritual Naadham battle, Hein and our merry band build even more allies for the fight to free Doma from the Garlean Empire. Hein returns to Yanxia with his new coalition of the willing to reclaim Doma Castle and his rightful rulership of Doma.

Part 4 – Ala Mhigo (to level 70)

Conrad leads the resistance to victory in Gyr Abania.

Finished in the East, Lyse and the Scions return to Gyr Abania, stronger than ever, ready to tackle the Garlean Empire once more. We find Raubahn and The Alliance and the resistance pressing the assault into Ala Mhigo territory, and rack up victory after victory against the enemy.

Where does the Garlean Empire get these wonderful toys?

In the end we storm the Ala Mhigo castle and face off in an epic battle against our old nemesis Zenos, who has harnessed the power of a primal dragon.

Criticisms

I enjoyed the first three parts of the story, but I felt like the last part when we returned to Gyr Abania and went on to The Lochs slowed down and lost its momentum. Possibly some MMORPG weariness was setting in, but I think it was more because there were fairly significant gates at 68, 69, and 70 that required you to level up before you could proceed with the story. There were also some diversions that ultimately didn’t matter to the main story (Emanation and the Lupin fight).

Yotsuyu, who must have studied under Cruella de Vil.

Another reason I liked the first three parts is that I felt they established more personal connections for Yotsuyu, the main antagonist in the East, than they did with Zenos in the West. I never liked Yotsuyu, but I understood her character. I never felt like I “understood” Zenos. I think they could have done more with Fordola, too (another adversary). Supposedly she was fighting for the same freedom as Lyse, but I didn’t quite follow her logic. I hope they explore that more in the patches because I feel like there could be a good story there somewhere.

Overall I don’t think they did enough to sell me on Lyse’s connection with her homeland, either. I would have liked to see more backstory with her father. It actually would have made more sense to me for M’naago to be following the arc that Lyse did. I understood her relationship with Conrad and the resistance more than I did Lyse’s. I liked Lyse as a character, and I liked her tentative steps toward becoming a leader, but it just didn’t seem like she was all that important to the story.

Still, a great expansion. Well worth it.

FFXIV – Stormblood Story Complete

I reached Bard level 70 Sunday afternoon. Yay! But that’s not all that much of an achievement in FFXIV. You can’t do much of anything with the endgame until you finish the Main Scenario Quest. And…

I finished the Main Scenario Quest Monday night!

After reaching level 70, you need to do the Ala Mhigo 4-man dungeon and the Menagerie 8-man trial.

I finished Ala Mhigo with a relatively uneventful PUG Sunday night. Then I tried a PUG for the Menagerie, which immediately follows–this has become a tradition of sorts in FFXIV. A final 4-man dungeon followed immediately by a final 8-man trial. I think both ARR and Heavensward ended this way. In those cases, the final 8-man trial was a pushover. You just showed up, dodged a few AoEs, and won the game. Roll credits.

Wellllllll. The Royal Menagerie is a little different.

The Royal Menagerie actually only has one animal in it. A really big one.

Overall I would rate the dungeons and trials that I’ve done in Stormblood to be relatively straightforward. There were very few surprises for someone who had the experience of all the dungeons up to 60 under their belt. Emanation was the first one that I wished I’d studied up on before entering it, but still, my PUG got through it after just one wipe. (I swear it wasn’t my fault! I hope.) That experience caused me to watch a video before going into Ala Mhigo and Menagerie, just in case.

In the case of Menagerie, watching a video didn’t help much. The level of complexity in this trial rivals that of an Alliance Raid boss.

I think three of us in this Sunday night Menagerie PUG declared that we were new to it. We wiped five times, then the group broke up. That was fine, because Game of Thrones was looming just twenty minutes away by that point. Based on the overall performance of the group, I’d guess that more than three were new to this trial, or at least the rest weren’t very comfortable with it. The group did make progress, and I was 100% sure we were going to clear it on the last attempt (all but one made it through the Quick Time event), but then something catastrophic happened and everyone died with like 20% left on the boss. I don’t even know what happened–I thought we were on a roll.

It reminded me quite a lot of that time I tried to do Titan (Hard) in a PUG. Not very many PUGs were capable of doing Titan (Hard) in those days. PUG after PUG after PUG failed at it.

Anyway, I got home from work Monday night and jumped into another PUG. After the multi-wipe experience I felt like a pro with the mechanics, and this group cleared it on the first try (although I still died once in the second phase). As it turned out, it’s probably just as well that I didn’t finish it Sunday, because there was a good hour of credits and cut scenes following the trial, which would have cut into Game of Thrones.

Surveying the Ala Mhigo battlefield.

Gathering

On another subject, during downtime over the past week, I’ve started looking into my gathering jobs again. I thought I might work on Fishing (currently at a whopping 19) but my brain exploded at all the work involved in finding the right bait and locations to fish, not to mention the intense inventory space demands, so I quickly abandoned that idea. (I know, I know, I’m sure there are step-by-step how-to guides out there, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.) I’m not entirely sure what to do with fish anyway, except cook them, and my Culinarian level is way down at level 7. I almost never eat food in FFXIV, except when I need to make room in my inventory.

So I turned back to Mining and Botany, both of which are still at 51. Sometime during Heavensward, I started putzing around with those jobs, getting them from 50 to 51 with levemetes, but I just didn’t “get” it. There are Collectibles and new abilities and I never understood how to use them or what to do with them, so I ignored them, which made it somewhat of a chore to gain experience.

Recently I skimmed over a Mining guide and it finally sunk in: Gathering is totally different after level 50. It’s been a chore for me because I was ignoring the Collectibles and new abilities. So I spent about a half hour adjusting my hotbars and running around Western Coerthas and experimenting with these new abilities and I ended up with some “collectible” ore. I think.

This is the final Bard gear set. They seem to have forgotten the pants. :)

Then I spent another half hour teleporting all over the world trying to figure out what to do with collectible ore. I thought I had to sell it to someone, or trade it to someone, or something. But nobody at the levemete table in Foundation is interested, and I couldn’t find anyone else who was. And naturally the Mining guide I read is not even a little bit helpful in this regard. I guess it must be sooooo obvious to everyone what to do with collectible ore that they didn’t bother writing it up. The help guides within FFXIV are also maddeningly brief in their explanations of new systems.

I have to admit, though, I’m not seeing as much benefit in leveling gathering and crafting jobs as I once did, way back in ARR. It seems like gathering and crafting is now an entirely self-contained ecosystem that doesn’t intersect with adventuring at all. In the old days you needed to craft to attach materia to get through certain quests (unless you happened to know some crafters). But now there are Materia Melder NPCs around to do it for you. Crafting’s only purpose now seems to be either just for the fun of it, or for making money selling to other crafters. Since I basically never spend gil on anything except teleport fees, I don’t need any more money. I make way more than enough just on plain old ordinary adventuring.

Solving Long DPS Queues

I saw someone somewhere (FC chat maybe?) mention that they wished FFXIV would make their dungeons 5-man instead of 4-man so that DPS queues would go faster. (Belghast also recently lamented over the problems of leveling DPS.)

It’s an interesting idea but I don’t think going to 5-man would significantly help the problem of slow DPS queues. I’m quite sure the ratio of DPS to tanks and healers in any given MMORPG is probably something like 25 to 1, if not 100 to 1. They would have to make dungeons into 10-man affairs with 1 tank, 1 healer, and 8 DPS to have any significant effect on DPS queues right now, in my opinion.

And that would be awesome, but it would only be awesome during peak times on populated servers around expansion launch time. The rest of the time, everyone would be waiting in a queue.

It occurs to me that perhaps they should make dungeon parties variable-sized, based on the server population at any given time of day. Peak time? You need 5+ DPS, 1 tank, 1 healer. Off time? Back to 2 DPS, 1 tank, 1 healer.

Of course then you’d have to make significant changes to the dungeons to make them more dynamic. Though it doesn’t sound like it would be that hard to implement. Simply add a multiplier to the health of each mob or boss based on the number of extra DPS slots. (I would think you’d want to have the difficulty ramp up in an exponential curve as you add more DPS, instead of a linear progression.)

It’s probably not that simple, though. I’m sure there would be other factors to consider as well, like interrupts. It would be silly if you could reel off 10 interrupts on a boss from 10 different people in a row. Maybe increase the interrupt cooldown timer by a multiplier based on the number of DPS as well. Maybe increase all cooldowns on long-term DPS abilities (for example, the Bard ballads).

Here’s another idea: Tank and heal bots! If DPS has waited more than five minutes, give them some AI bots. It’s not like tanking or healing is hard. Zing! Hey-oh! rimshot

(Seriously, they have some healing and tanking AI programmed into MSQ duty instances already. And also in that new thingy where they train new players to play in groups.)

DPS queue problem solved! Send me lots of money. Thanks!