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.)

WildStar – Dungeons Are Too Hard… For PUGs

Quick status report: My mood improved a lot over the weekend, and I had a mostly-enjoyable time playing WildStar. As of this writing I have a 25 Esper, 15 Spellslinger, 15 Warrior, and 15 Engineer. I spent a fair amount of time leveling up three alts so I could experience adventures/dungeons with some other classes. (Getting from level 10 to 15 is pretty brutal the third and forth time.)

So dungeons. Man. Those two level 20 dungeons are serious PUG-killers. This is the first MMO where I’ve wondered why they bothered to include a LFG tool. Unless you’re a total masochist like I am, I would strongly advise you to join a guild to do dungeons in some kind of cohesive group. For reasons I’ll explain below, PUGs are going to be terrible or deserted.

I spent 2 hours and 38 minutes getting through Stormtalon’s Lair in a PUG. It was my third attempt at it, because the first and second attempts broke up even before getting to the first boss. But in this third PUG we got through the first boss on the first try without any casualties, so I thought we were on a roll. Unfortunately we proceeded to struggle through the entire rest of the dungeon on both trash and bosses (a massive understatement). In the end, we managed to beat the final boss with just myself and a Medic chipping away by ourselves after everyone else had died. I recorded a video of the whole run, but apparently it’s too big to edit down on my computer. I don’t think I got a single loot drop the whole time, but at least I got the achievement for completing the dungeon and now I feel like I know every encounter inside and out.

My fourth dungeon attempt was the Ruins of Kel Voreth, in which the other four players were members of a guild. We spent 25 minutes trying to kill the first boss, where each time I was the last one left standing, and then I left because I did not want to spend another two hours with them. Neither of the next two PUGs I joined could beat the first boss in Kel Voreth, either.

Here’s my theory on why PUGs are dying: Few other games have prepared anyone for the skills you need in the very first WildStar dungeons. Certainly anyone coming from a primarily WoW-based background is going to have to re-learn everything they knew. And WildStar itself does not train you enough–the first Adventure is nowhere near as demanding as the first Dungeon. Nowhere in the first Adventure do you need to interrupt or even dodge that much.

Also, you can watch a guide all day long, but it’s not the same as experiencing these dungeons first-hand. In the past, groups usually wipe because somebody wasn’t aware to do something, which you could resolve by watching a guide beforehand. But in WildStar it’s a lack of execution that kills PUGs, not a lack of knowledge, and that can only be fixed with practice.

I suspect that in three or six months when people get more used to the game we’ll have forgotten how hard the first dungeons were, but in the meantime let me see if I can give out some newbie DPS survival advice.

First: You are primarily responsible for your own safety. You cannot rely on the healer to protect you. The tank should keep you from taking direct auto-attack damage, but that’s about it. In practical terms what this means is that you must always think about dodging and moving above everything else, particularly if you are in melee range. Even if you don’t do a single point of DPS, if you can train yourself to dodge effectively, you are ahead of the game. I cannot stress this enough because if you miss a single telegraph, you’re going to be hurting or dead, and the group will suffer. (I suggest using a dash button instead of double-tapping movement keys–I have mine on a mouse thumb button.)

Second: Get an interrupt ability on your hot bar in a convenient place, and be ready to use it. Every class gets one quite early. Almost every boss in the first two dungeons has some telegraph ability that will wipe the group unless two or more people interrupt it, and I can only assume it will get worse in the later dungeons. Your interrupt will probably have a 30-second cooldown, so try not to waste it. Some things must be interrupted and some things don’t need to be. (It only takes two out of the five of you to do the interrupt correctly, but you might be surprised to know how many PUGs can’t manage it. Most people expect the DPS to do it, but anyone that’s paying attention can.)

Those two things are the most important things you need to know about the first dungeons. Dodging and multiple interrupts.

So are the dungeons too hard? I guess it depends on how you look at it. In one sense it was just right. I was never bored. I was engaged with every fight and had to make decisions crucial to the success of the group. I was never on auto-pilot like you get with most dungeon runs in other games. Likewise I was never frustrated because I couldn’t meet the challenges of the dungeon.

But. There are major social consequences to setting the difficulty bar high.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I expect to be rewarded for spending 2 1/2 hours persevering through hard times in a dungeon, and other than the intrinsic reward of feeling good about myself, I wasn’t. I got jack squat for that Stormtalon effort, and in fact I’m sure it cost more gold in repairs than I earned. Even if I’d gotten something, at level 20 it’s only going to last a few levels anyway. So the lesson that the average PUG player is going to learn is: If the going gets tough, leave the party and find a new one. Otherwise you’re going to waste your time and gold. Very soon the only people left in the queues will be newbies who haven’t seen the dungeons yet and experienced players who like to yell at newbies. Everyone else will only run dungeons with a group of people they’re comfortable with. In that sense, yes the dungeons are definitely too hard. It won’t take long before every group disbands after the first wipe. (Incidentally, that’s what happened in the FFXIV hard mode trial PUGs.)

So I guess my stance is that the first dungeons are just about right for static groups willing to put in the time and work together, but they are too hard for PUGs.

Are any guilds recruiting Exiles on Evindra? :)

WildStar – Headstart Screenshots

Just some random screenshots from the WildStar Headstart weekend.

I started out playing a Spellslinger, thinking I would play an easy-mode ranged DPS class to tour all the dungeons, but I realized at level 8 that I was bored and disgruntled. I switched to an Esper, and started to have a lot more fun. It also helped to choose the Everstar Grove zone which I had not seen in beta.

Overall I think it was a very smooth launch, except maybe for the first few hours, but I was asleep when all the connectivity problems happened. :) Personally I haven’t seen any queues.

Hulk smash!
In case you thought only the Dominion side got to torture and kill test subjects…
Gassing of infected Mordesh. Well, at least they asked to be put out of their misery.
This was an “Event” instance. Like a Dungeon, but not a Dungeon, or an Adventure. Totally different things!
Hero shot next to a satellite dish.
My First Adventure: The Hycrest Insurrection, in which I did terrible, and may never recover from the psychic trauma. The six-side die subtly indicates that there is loot that requires a need/greed roll.

FFXIV – Trials, A Cheat-sheet For Ranged DPS

(Resurrected from my Drafts folder.)

Trials in FFXIV are cool little instances that consist of a single boss in an arena-like setting. The normal ones require four players, and you queue for them just like a dungeon. (Or if you actually know real humans who play games, you can go in with a pre-made party I guess.) I find them quite fun.

This is actually an 8-man Titan Hard Mode trial, but you get the idea.
This is an 8-man Titan Hard Mode trial, but you get the idea.

If you want to complete the main story quest, you have to go through four of these things (as well as numerous dungeons). (Yes, the game does, in fact, force you to group with other players to do the main story. The LFG tool is relatively painless, though.)

I recommend studying the mechanics of these trials for a bit before attempting them, unless you think you’ll be in a group that won’t yell at you. Since the introduction of the low-level roulette, a lot of impatient people are just farming them. Here are the highlights for a ranged DPS:

The Bowl of Embers (Ifrit). The first trial, and the easiest of the three by far. 1) Avoid the ground AoEs (there are no red circles). More appear in the second half of the fight. 2) Make sure to switch to the fragment that appears about halfway through. That’s about all you need to know. If you have trouble with this, you can pretty much forget a career in running dungeons or raids.

The Navel (Titan). The second trial, much harder, and some PUGs aren’t going to make it. 1) When he jumps in the air, run close to the red ring but not past it or you’ll get knocked off. 2) Get out of the way of Titan’s column attack quickly. (Make sure you compensate for any lag. Sometimes it looks like you’re clear, but you still get clobbered.) 3) Switch to Titan’s heart when it appears about halfway through the fight and burn it quickly. 4) Break out any party members that get encased in stone during the second half of the fight.

The Howling Eye (Garuda). The third trial, and oh man, what a pain it is. Many PUGs will fail this. 1) Hide behind stone columns when Garuda disappears. Remember she comes down on the opposite side the second time. 2) When you’re not hiding, stay away from the columns; they take damage from Garuda’s attacks if you’re too close to them. 3) Burn down the flying adds quickly with an AoE because they’ll peck at your columns. 4) Don’t forget to run closer to Garuda to get out of the big tornado AoE near the end, after the columns are gone. 5) Good luck. Your success at the end depends on how well you do at the beginning.

Cape Westwind (Rihtahtyn sas Arvina). This is where you finally learn why all of your dungeons have said, “Light Party,” because this one requires a “Full Party” of eight people. (Before this, I wondered if there was a “Dark Party.”) I honestly do not even remember this one. I feel like because there were 8 people, it was pretty easy.

There’s a lot of cut scene action in and around the trials. I don’t understand why they put so much of that into these group activities. I want to watch the movie, but I feel like I need to skip past them quickly because the rest of the group is waiting for me. And unfortunately cut scenes dealing with the trials are reeeeeally loooong. (By the way, I found out you can re-watch all the cut scenes in an Inn.)

Down the Rabbit Hole

I’m a bit surprised to say this but I don’t think I’ll be playing TSW beyond the free month. In fact, I stopped playing long before the free month ended. I’m still glad I pre-ordered it, though, because it deserves to have a chance. But I realized that I don’t feel much of a sense of character advancement while playing. You don’t get new weapons very often, and you don’t really get new powers very often, either. Like I said before, as your character advances, you get more choices of powers, but you don’t really get more powerful powers like you might expect. So often times, when you gain new abilities, you find there’s no reason to change what you’ve already been using. The only things to look forward to are new NPCs telling new stories, and maybe a new piece of clothing now and then.

Anyway, during the time I’ve not been playing TSW, I’ve been back down the rabbit hole of Rift, where your character advances constantly, now even at the level cap. I stopped playing right after patch 1.5, so I missed 1.6, 1.7, and 1.8. I started back up just in time for 1.9 and Summerfest. At first I started a new Defiant character, but now I’ve dusted off my 50 Guardian Dwarf Mage from Byriel, transferred to Wolfsbane, and joined a guild, and I’m now trying to “gear up” so I can actually do guild stuff. I was invited to go along on some Raid Rifts one night, and, well, let’s just say that success or failure didn’t hinge on my actions.

In the holy trinity of Tanking, Healing, and Damage, the Rift Mage is only capable of Healing and Damage. I originally leveled my mage as an Elementalist, which is technically a DPS class, and it’s not terrible–when you switch to the DPS pet, it has a fairly reliable damage output over time with a simple rotation, plus a whole lot of other useful utility and survivability features–but it’s never going to be a “top DPS” spec, unless you’re playing with a bunch of under-geared 50s. In my case I was playing with a bunch of well-geared 50s, who were reliably doing 2000-3000 DPS compared to my pitiful 400 DPS. (Sometimes I couldn’t even hit the mobs. I just felt good when I did more DPS than the tank and healer.)

So now I’m trying to find a pure DPS spec, the proverbial “glass cannon.” Back at 1.5, I think the Stormcaller was still considered the best DPS soul for mages. Pyromancer and Warlock were also favorites. I personally have never had much luck with a pure Warlock, and I don’t want to deal with the complexities of the Stormcaller rotations, so I’m concentrating on Pyromancer combinations right now.

(I also have a Chloromancer spec, which is way more fun to play than a DPS spec. But the realities of life as a non-founding member of a guild means that 95% of the time, you’re going to be called on for DPS, not healing.)

First I tried a pure 51-point Pyromancer. Using a standard rotation of fireballs and procs, I couldn’t even match my Elementalist damage. So I ditched that pretty quickly and, after a little research to find the current FotM, went with a Pyromancer/Warlock build. Warlock has a lot of damage-boosting abilities which help Pyromancer. Now I’m doing a little better damage on average. Though it doesn’t seem hugely better than Elementalist, if you ask me.

But here’s the thing: Pyromancer’s damage is a lot more “bursty” than Elementalist. It depends a lot on when the procs come up. Sometimes, when everything hits at just the right time, you can do an incredible burst of damage in a short time. But other times, when nothing procs, you have nothing but the fireball going and damage isn’t that great.

I noticed that all of the guild DPS roles were filled by Rogues, both melee and ranged. And I mean every single one of them. I’m pretty sure I was the only Mage trying to do DPS among the dozen or so people there. I found it strange because before 1.5, I seem to remember that warriors were considered the best DPS by a mile, at least on the forums.

So anyway, now that I have a spec, the only thing I need is better gear. And the only place I’m going to get better gear now is Expert Dungeons and Raids. In the six months after launch, and the last few weeks, I got my mage mostly purple gear with some blues and a Focus of around 150 just from solo and crafting gear. That’s technically more than enough to do the Expert Dungeons, but I never tested it out before.

It turns out, it’s plenty, and Experts are pretty easy. But not for the reason you might think. Let me tell you why. In all three of the expert dungeon runs I’ve done so far (two CC and one AP), everyone else has been WAY over-geared. I mean these people are running in T3-level raid gear or whatever, doing 3000 DPS easy. And they are hardcore about their dungeon runs, too. They don’t wait around. They go anywhere from fast to omg-I-can-barely-keep-up blindingly fast. The tanks just go charging into the middle of everything without a second’s thought for their own safety. One guy didn’t even wait for everything to be killed. He just kept running with mobs trailing him, and the rest of us ran behind throwing instant damage spells. If you get into a group like that, you can literally not do a single thing and still get through the dungeon. One time, two of us got locked out of the final boss encounter in Charmer’s Caldera because we didn’t get over the bridge fast enough, and the remaining three (the healer, the tank, and a DPS) still blew through the boss like it was nothing.

Of course, if you don’t do anything, you’ll probably get yelled at or kicked, so I did my best to contribute. But generally the only things I could do to help was A) not stop to look at anything, B) not get killed or seriously hurt, and C) throw down Firestorm AoEs around the tank for the brief moments when he stands still. The rest of the time, I could barely even get a spell off before everyone else had burned through the mobs.

Fortunately, everyone was pretty nice and didn’t say, “omg that mage sux.” Most likely only because of A and B above, though. As long as you don’t actively hinder the group, or roll need on stuff you obviously can’t use, I don’t think anyone cares. (By the way, I had no trouble hitting things with a focus of 150 in Experts, and I suspect that a group of five at my gear level would have been fine, too.)

On one hand, it’s pretty awesome going on these speed runs because you accumulate plaques quickly without a lot of effort (the last one I did could not have taken more than 20 minutes). Plus, you get the “Speed Run” achievements while you’re at it. But on the other hand, you don’t really learn much about the real capabilities of your class. And you definitely don’t get to actually look at the dungeon, or like, complete any quests you might have. So if you want to experience the storyline of the dungeons, or experience their challenge the way they were intended, the LFG tool doesn’t help much.

I’d like to try healing with my mage but there’s no way I’m going to attempt that in an Expert with these psycho speed runners. Oh, I know, I’ll queue for random Normal dungeons and check the Mentoring box. (You can queue for Normals and Experts at the same time, apparently.)

I also need to setup Mumble for this guild I’m in. They have this wacky idea that voice communication is faster than macros. Where did Mumble come from anyway? Ventrillo used to be the only thing out there, but now all I hear about is Mumble. I guess people like it because it’s open source.