MMO News Roundup

I’m trying an experiment here: A list of MMO news that I found noteworthy during the week. I’m trying this slightly retro blogging format because, to be brutally honest, for most MMO topics, I have a lot of trouble summoning up more than a few sentences of commentary, which results in a glut of unfinished blog drafts and a paucity of published posts (ha!). The challenge here will be finding a picture to use.

Not at all related, but something I did this week.

Chronicles of Elyria is dropping SpatialOS. I know almost nothing about this specific game, but you couldn’t throw a rock last year without hearing about how SpatialOS was going to change the world. Now we learn that changing the world is apparently too expensive. In the dev update, Caspian wrote, “In January of 2017 we began the long process of taking what was mostly an offline, single-player game…” Stop right there! Why?? Why ruin it?? Okay, and lastly:

Project Gorgon is coming soon to Steam Early Access. My standard rule for Early Access games is to avoid them unless they are under $10. In this specific case, however, I have played Project Gorgon before, so I know exactly what to expect and I might spend more for it. I don’t want to play it through Steam, though. I hate playing MMORPGs through Steam. I hope there is a non-Steam version.

Life is Feudal is now on Steam Early Access. The real one, that is, not the stripped-down lite version(s). This game is on my radar, but I’m not paying $30 to try it. Also, as previously mentioned, I don’t like playing MMORPGs through Steam.

Final Fantasy XIV 4.2 is almost here. I have almost nothing to say about this except, oh yeah! That new patch is almost here! I didn’t realize this until recently, but Square Enix has a whole page devoted to it. Presumably, they’ve been doing preview pages for every patch and I’ve just never noticed it before. No wonder everyone always knows what’s going to be in the patch before I do! I will need to review my 4.1 post to refresh my memory on where we are in the Main Scenario.

Amazon’s New World disappeared and returned. New World disappearing would have been in last week’s post, if I’d been doing this back then. Now New World is back. The biggest news was really the leaked New World video. I didn’t watch it. Why bother? I’m supposed to start getting excited about a game that isn’t even far enough along yet to announce–let alone release–a buggy, pre-alpha, barely-compilable, full price early access edition with fully-functioning, fully-debugged cash shop? (Don’t judge me, you know every AAA game from now on is going to release like that.)

And now we know why Chronicles of Elyria can’t afford SpatialOS. They can’t attract money because of an antiquated notion of “maintaining creative control” in a world full of cash grabs, loot boxes, and micro transactions. (Personally I think it’s because they used “MEOW” in public.) High marks for integrity, but I hope they (and their employees) are prepared to go to the figurative grave for it. How about sell that single-player offline game?

Raph Koster wrote about game development costs again. No comment except that it all rings very true to me.

Albion Online is fine despite secretly firing half their team before Christmas. Nothing to worry about. Perfectly normal. The game is expanding, even! (It is plausible to reduce a development team size after launch, but seriously, who is buying that Albion Online is going gangbusters? I actually mean that literally. Who is buying Albion Online?)

Rift will be opening a subscription-only progression-ish server in Spring. Didn’t Allods Online do this? I might be tempted to try it, because I think we can all agree that Trion cheapened Rift considerably with the increasingly-aggressive cash shop, but I’m already paying a FFXIV subscription and I don’t need/want another one.

And in the gossip section of this post, I suspect one of the above stories prompted this tweet from MassivelyOP’s Bree Royce:

P. S. I’m aware that all of these links go to MassivelyOP. It’s true I’m somewhat biased in that I like MassivelyOP, but it also happens that I almost always see news there first. I actively looked for interesting stories elsewhere and couldn’t come up with any.

Single-Player Holidays

The last thing I mentioned playing was Divinity: Original Sin. I sort of gave up on it. It’s a great game and all, but it’s just too exhausting. I went through two boss fights in a row (SparkMaster 5000 and Radagoth) and both times, luck was the determining factor for success. That’s just not fun. I don’t know how all the people who play tabletop games do it. :)

I last logged into FFXIV on December 22nd, when I got the Christmas bear mount in about twenty minutes in the FFXIV Starlight celebration (I also got the Bard Perform skill, which was underwhelming).

I installed EverQuest II and started a new Conjurer, which seems to be one of the few classes in that game that I like (Warden and Necromancer are the only other two classes I’ve played more than like 5 levels). I had a lot of fun with it until I bought Divinity: Original Sin. I haven’t logged in since.

On January 6th, I finally re-installed ESO after my big SSD crash. This time, I realized that the breadcrumbs I thought had been leading me to Morrowind back in June of last year were not that at all, and I had been following some random quest that was totally unrelated to the expansion. My mistake I guess for thinking that the NPC who ran up to me after I logged in the first time after installing the expansion would actually be giving me a quest related to the expansion. It explained why it felt like it was taking such a long time to get to Vvardenfell. :) This time, I just waypointed right to Seyda Neen and looked around for a bit. It didn’t make much of an impression on me. I didn’t even take a screenshot. The most memorable part was an NPC guard telling me that her talents were being wasted guarding an empty building.

Right before I logged out I noticed that I had mail which had an attachment which I had to consume in order to finally start the quest that led me to Morrowind. It was a pretty convoluted set of steps hidden in a place I rarely look. I read my mail in MMORPGs about as much as I read my mail in real life–not very often. Mail is not a great way to deliver story content to me. I wish they would just put the new quest in my log without me having to do anything.

Anyway, I played ESO for about a half hour and felt like I had seen enough for the forseeable future. Maybe when they launch the new wardrobe system I will log in for another half hour to change my outfit. I don’t know what it is about ESO but I always feel like I’ve already done all of the new and interesting stuff way back in the months around launch time, so there’s never much of a “hook” to draw me into the game. It’s always just … more of the same.

Other than that I have been playing Morrowind (the old one) and Oblivion. I also installed the Skyrim Special Edition (the only other game I bought in the Steam winter sale) but I just can’t play three games simultaneously. It’s hard enough with just two.

Finally, the entire reason I’m writing this post is to test out a new Corsair K55 keyboard I bought to replace my 10+ year-old dying Logitech G110 keyboard. It was still mostly fine for playing games, but anytime I tried to use it to actually type words, for example, into a blog post, the keys would stick and it was just too frustrating to deal with. I got the K55 largely on a recommendation I saw on Keen and Grav–his criteria matched mine pretty closely. Non-mechanical, quiet, full-sized, etc. It “feels” different (the keys feel very tall to me) so it’s going to take a while to get used to, but overall it works fine. The “RGB” flashing disco lights thing is just ridiculous to me, but I was able to set it to a solid color by installing the “manager” tool. It still does a disco strobe thing every time you reboot though. I’m not sure this keyboard feels like it’s really designed for longevity, but we’ll see. (It does not feel any more solid than the old, dead Logitech it replaced.)

Incidentally, the best keyboard I’ve ever used for typing is the MacBook Air chicklet keyboard. My fingers fly across those keys at light speed with almost no effort. This Corsair K55 is a pale shadow of that, but at least it works without the keys sticking.

Endgame Viable Awards 2017

It’s time once against for the prestigious Endgame Viable Awards for 2017, posted a bit early because the 31st is a Sunday. Hopefully I won’t play any new games over the weekend to skew these results.

2016 Awards

2015 Awards

I give out three awards: Game of the Year, MMORPG of the Year, and MMORPG Expansion of the Year. In my warped worldview “Game of the Year” sort of implies Steam game of the year and excludes traditional MMORPGs.

Eligibility

My awards are chosen from among games that launched in 2017 which I have personally purchased and played in 2017. This includes free-to-play releases, even though technically I didn’t “purchase” them.

I do not consider early access purchases as eligible, to punish developers for pushing their games too early. So, for example, Conan Exiles can never win an award from me because they launched the Early Access version and I bought it in 2017. If the game goes on to launch for real in 2018, it cannot be considered for my 2018 list because I already bought and played it for the first time in 2017. I can’t pretend I’m playing it again for the first time in 2018.

On the other hand, Dirt Rally is eligible for the 2017 awards because I purchased the release launch in 2017. Despite it being available for purchase since 2015, I did not buy any of those Early Access versions, so it is eligible for my list. (And a good thing, too, as it turns out.)

It’s not a perfect system, so don’t @ me.

Steam Purchases 2017

I highlighted eligible titles in italics.

  • Jan 31 – Conan Exiles (Early Access), 29.99
  • Feb 17 – Rise of the Tomb Raider 20 Year Celebration, 23.99
  • Feb 18 – Company of Heroes 2 Master Collection, 9.99
  • Mar 2 – Factorio (Early Access), 20.00
  • Mar 4 – CHKN (Early Access), 9.74
  • Apr 26 – Batman Arkham Knight, 7.99
  • May 13 – Alan Wake Franchise, 3.99
  • Mar 14 – Dirt Rally, 18.00
  • Jun 2 – Titan Quest Anniversary Edition, 3.99
  • Jun 26 – Ultimate Doom, 1.24
  • Jun 26 – Subnautica (Early Access), 9.99
  • Jun 26 – The Beginner’s Guide, 3.99
  • Aug 3 – Dark and Light (Early Access), 24.89
  • Sep 22 – Stellaris, 15.99
  • Sep 26 – Assassin’s Creed Unity, 9.17
  • Sep 26 – Assassin’s Creed Rogue, 6.11
  • Sep 26 – Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, 14.39
  • Oct 31 – Necropolis Brutal Edition, 4.49

I can’t find any other games I’ve purchased this year outside of Steam (excluding those below).

New MMORPGs Played in 2017

Depressingly enough, according to Syp’s MMO Timeline, the only other launches in 2017 that could have been considered were Albion Online and Tree of Life. I’d be interested in trying these games but given the complete lack of positive buzz, even the modest $20-$30 entry point seems too risky for something that I would probably discard an hour after installing it.

* I don’t think SWL counts as a “new” MMORPG in 2017. It seems more like FFXIV 2.0, which I would have counted as an expansion in 2013, had I been doing this then. SWL is not even an expansion. It’s effectively a re-launch of the same game, which is an entirely unique category. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to consider it an update to the same game, and ineligible.

MMORPG Expansions Played in 2017

Dates below are my date of purchase, not necessarily the launch date.

  • Jun 9 – FFXIV Stormblood, 39.99
  • May 22 – Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind, 39.99 (Amazon)
  • Aug 5 – Lord of the Rings Online Mordor, 39.99
  • Sep 22 – GW2 Path of Fire, 29.99

Winners

And the winners are …

  • Game of the Year 2017 – Dirt Rally. By default. It’s a fun game, but there was literally no other choice.
  • MMORPG of the Year 2017 – No award. Neither Revelation Online nor Kritika Online deserves this title, not least because I’m not sure I could even classify them as “MMORPGs” under my definition of the term.
  • MMORPG Expansion of the Year 2017 – FFXIV Stormblood. It had far more story depth than Path of Fire, and brought much-needed changes to the game (by which I basically mean the Bard class). ESO Morrowind and LotRO Mordor could not hold my attention for more than a a few hours total. (In fact I never even *got* to Morrowind in ESO because the breadcrumbs were so obtuse and confusing.)

FFXIV – Loot Window Screed

I’ve been doing a lot of Alliance Raids in Final Fantasy XIV since 4.1, so I’ve seen the loot window a whole lot lately. This is a 3000-word screed on everything that’s wrong with the UI in this window.

This is probably not unique to FFXIV, by the way. But it’s the one I personally see most often.

First let’s go over how it works in case you haven’t experienced it. At the end of the raid or dungeon or whatever, after defeating the Big Bad, someone finds and clicks on the shiny loot chest (an unnecessary and antiquated step in the process, but let’s just go with it). A window then pops up on everyone’s screen that shows what’s in the chest. You then have an opportunity to choose whether to “roll” on each piece of loot in chest. The game then randomly selects a “winner” for each piece. It’s pretty standard for an MMORPG, though I might argue again that it’s a bit of an antiquated system.

But I don’t have any problem with the concept of how the loot is given out. I don’t even mind the Need or Greed system, although once again I think it’s a bit antiquated these days. (I think there should only be “Roll” and “Pass” options and the game should internally select Need or Greed automatically. Or even better, just give every player a piece of loot, like GW2 and some other newer games do.)

My problem here is with the UI of the loot window itself. It’s so onerous and frustrating to deal with.

I should explain that I’m a software developer. Our kind (in my opinion) prefer computers to do things for us, so we don’t have to. I’m a big fan of Larry Wall’s famous quote that the three virtues of a programmer are laziness, impatience, and hubris. I don’t want to do anything manually when the computer can do it for me.

So let’s talk about that UI.

It’s possible there are keyboard shortcuts for the buttons in that window, but I don’t know what they are. FFXIV is not particularly good at shortcuts for window buttons so I’m skeptical. You certainly can’t tell one way or another just by looking at the window. If they added keyboard shortcuts, that would be a good first step in the right direction to solving my issues, but it wouldn’t go nearly far enough.

So we have to use the mouse to move all the way over to the window. We have to click on every piece of gear in the row, then click on Need, Greed, or Pass, one at a time. So it’s a bit of a clicker puzzle, like a weird version of a Simon game, or an RTS. Click up there, then click down there, then click up there again, then click down there again, again, and again. And it’s not unusual to see a large number of items to decide on, as in the screenshot above.

One odd characteristic of this loot window is that it’s very easy to move it around. You might think that clicking and dragging the title bar would move it, but in fact clicking and dragging anywhere in the window will move it. Including clicking the loot icons. If you happen to accidentally hold our mouse button down a little too long when selecting a piece of loot, the window will move. When that happens, I have to visually refocus and find the new position of the buttons. It’s annoying.

Now keep in mind, often you have to deal with this window while you’re fighting monsters, or running to the next location. It’s not like you can just stand there for five minutes carefully going over everything in this window, carefully clicking in the right spots, carefully assessing whether or not you really need these items or not. Assuming you don’t want the rest of your group to yell at you, that is.

There is a timer on the loot window. If you don’t want anything at all, you can simply ignore it and eventually it will go away. But that takes a solid 5 minutes. That’s a bit rude to your fellow players, who might be anxiously awaiting that one piece of gear in that window. It’s polite to roll on the loot as soon as it’s convenient (at least I think it’s polite). In the case where you don’t want any of the loot, that means playing the clicker mini-game of selecting each piece of gear to Pass on it. Click up there, click down there, click up there, oops, moved the window! Now click down there in a slightly different place.

One simple suggestion might be to add a way to Pass on everything all at once. But that wouldn’t help without other, more dramatic changes. Given the number of people who would accidentally lose their loot, FFXIV would undoubtedly add two or three confirmation dialogs, which would effectively negate the benefit of passing on everything in the first place.

One other quirky problem that I think is specific to FFXIV: While you’re running to the next boss, making your decisions in the loot window, you might encounter a transition to another zone. (In the alliance raids, for example.) If you do, that loot window closes and once you’re in the new zone, you have to re-open it to continue where you left off. It’s very irritating. I try to stop before I get to those transitions, but sometimes I forget.

You might think that would be all there is to complain about in that loot window. We are just getting started!

Obviously the game won’t let you Need on a piece of gear for another class, which is why the button is disabled in the above screenshot. I believe I was playing Dragoon at the time and that’s probably a tank chest piece. If I had been playing a tank, though, I could have clicked on the Need button to roll on it against other tanks. But if I was already wearing that chest piece, or had it in my inventory, after I clicked the Need button, the game would tell me that I already had it and couldn’t roll on it. After I clicked the Need button. (This applies to Greed as well.)

Why does it have to wait until after I click the button to tell me I can’t roll on it? If it knows after I click the button, how does it not know before I click the button? The Need and Greed buttons should both be disabled with an explanatory message to say that I already have the item. For bonus extra credit, the entire item should be disabled so I can’t even select it, so I don’t need to click on the Pass button either.

Now after playing FFXIV for four years or so, your inventory is probably a bit full. You probably moved a lot of gear from your inventory to your retainers for safekeeping. You might not be able to use that tank chest piece now, but if you happen to get it in a Greed roll, you can put it away until some day when you’ll eventually level that tank job to 50. The problem is, once you move that gear to your retainers, that loot window can no longer tell whether you have that gear or not. The game is fine letting you Need on an item that you already have sitting on a retainer.

If you’re a nice person, you can find out if you really need the item or not. If you right-click on a loot item (and this applies almost anywhere in the game), the game provides a Search For Item menu which will search your retainers to see how many of that item you have. So you can use that feature to determine whether you already have one or not, but it’s an extra step.

You might ask, why do I care? What’s the harm in rolling on a piece of gear I already have somewhere on my retainers? I can just throw away the one I don’t need (I don’t think you can sell or trade it). Basically it comes down to not wanting to be a jerk to other players in the group.

Here’s a fairly common situation: Right now I’m leveling my Dragoon from level 50 to 60 by running Alliance Raids. I’m already wearing most of the full set of Demon gear from World of Darkness (the highest tier raid), because last time I played my Dragoon, World of Darkness at 50 was the endgame. I replaced my gear from Labyrinth and Syrcus Tower (the lower tiers) and moved them to my retainers.

Now I’m working on leveling my Dragoon, and often I get Labyrinth or Syrcus Tower in the alliance raid roulettes. After a boss, sometimes I see a piece of Dragoon gear come up as loot. I’m playing Dragoon, so I can roll Need on it. But do I really need it? Maybe, maybe not. I have a lot of the Labyrinth and Syrcus Dragoon sets, but I don’t know if they are complete or not without going through the extra step of using that Search For Item feature. It would be nice to finish the gear sets just for completeness’ sake. I could roll Need on it and throw away the piece if I don’t need it, but what if there’s another Dragoon in the group who just got to 50 and really does need it? It would be rude to deny him his loot.

(I actually just found out that when you reach level 50, the game now gives you a complete set of item level 90 gear, so these days nobody technically “needs” a piece of gear from Labyrinth except for cosmetic purposes.)

There is also the issue that my Dragoon is already wearing the better Demon gear, so technically I don’t “need” the older gear at all and really shouldn’t have the option to roll Need. I have actually been yelled at before for choosing to Need on an older piece of gear to complete a set that I clearly didn’t need, when somebody else in the group wanted to Greed on it so he could use it for an alternate class. I think he was wrong to make that demand, but I can sort of see his point. The game should have forced us both to roll against each other for that piece, because for both of us it was a “want” and not a “need.”

Looking so far into the minds of players might be beyond the capabilities of a loot window, though. The game would need to know a lot about the gear sets we have and don’t have and be able to compare it to the gear we’re wearing.

For now, I would just like the loot window to be able to look at what’s in my retainers’ inventories so I don’t have to use that Search For Item feature.

(Search For Item, by the way, is better than nothing, which is what I thought we had for a long time. I only recently discovered that Search For Item feature, and this might have been a much longer rant without it.)

Surely that must be all there is to complain about in the loot window? Ha! Read on!

After the chest piece, there’s four items in that loot window above which are used for “augmenting” gear to make them better. I only know that because I’ve looked it up before. The first time I encountered them I had no idea what they were. And even now, I don’t know any of the specifics about which gear it augments or how much it augments it. Since that’s a loot list from Syrcus Tower, I know it’s not going to be much use to me in leveling up my Dragoon, but again, it’s possible some of that could be useful to an alternate job. It’s possible the augmented gear looks really cool and I might want to use it for a glamour.

The point is, I have no idea whether to roll on those augments, and there is literally no way to find out within the confines of that loot window whether I should or not. (The popup item descriptions of augments are notoriously unhelpful as to what they are for.) I suppose I could alt-tab out and go to a wiki page, but that’s going to take a while, and it’s not something I can do while running to the next boss. I just have to guess whether I think I might need them or not. I still have the option to be a bastard and roll Need on them whether I need them or not, but again, I don’t particularly want to be rude to someone else who might genuinely need them.

In reality, if you don’t roll Need on those kinds of things, you’re not going to get them anyway. I honestly don’t know why I still cling to this notion of trying not to be rude about loot in the Alliance Raids. I’m pretty sure everybody in PUGs automatically rolls Need on the augments, minions, and orchestration rolls no matter what, and I’m the only one struggling with this moral dilemma about accidentally denying other players a chance at the items. To be honest, it’s more of a concern to me in FC groups.

Next in the loot list is the Onion Knight minion. I don’t always remember whether I’ve gotten a minion or not. In the Onion Knight case, I thought for sure I already gotten it from countless runs of Syrcus Tower, but I didn’t. I passed on it for a week before I finally wondered what it looked like, went to summon it, and found I didn’t have it. And again, the game doesn’t tell me if I have it already or not. I feel it should disable the minion icon and automatically pass on it if you already have it.

(Somehow I had it in my head that the game would let you roll on minions you already owned, but it turns out it doesn’t. But it does the same as with gear: It doesn’t tell you until after you click the button.)

Now you can open your Minion list and sort of eyeball it to see if you have that minion in your list already. It’s better than nothing, but again, it sure would be nice if the game would automatically figure this out for me.

You have visually spot the minion icon in that grid or roll the mouse over every icon and read the tool tip to figure out if you have a minion already. And there are multiple pages of them to look through. And I don’t even have that many.

There’s more?? You betcha.

The last two items in that loot list are a pair of Orchestration Rolls. In Final Fantasy XIV, you use these to play music while you’re in the inn or presumably in your house or whatever.

As you might be able to guess, I never have any idea whether or not I’ve already unlocked an Orchestration Roll, so I typically have to guess on whether to Need, Greed, or Pass on them. As I mentioned above, I would have to Need to have any chance of getting one, because everybody Needs on them. But again, I don’t want to deny somebody else a chance to get one if I already have it. There’s a good chance I would already have it, considering that I’ve run these Alliance Raids a hundred times before, but sometimes they add new loot to these windows. Like, for example, Orchestration Rolls, which I think were added to the game after the Crystal Tower raids.

You have the option to open up your list of Orchestration Rolls to look up whether you have one or not, but the Orchestration window is poorly organized and you have to first find the “category” that the music is under. In this case, we assume it would be under Raids. You have to hover over the item in the loot list to look at the tool tip, which tells you the name of the Roll. Then you have to look through your list to see if that name is already there. It’s better than nothing, but it’s a laborious searching process and something that I feel like the game should be able to do automatically for me.

Here we have to identify the Orchestrations by name, there are no icons to look at. The “only display rolls obtained” checkbox helps whittle down the list a little.

In this case, you can’t use “Search For Item” to find them, because that only looks for physical items in your inventories. Once you unlock the Orchestration Roll, it “consumes” the item, which disappears, so you can no longer search for it.

Unless the Orchestration Roll is a “Faded” Orchestration Roll, it turns out. I didn’t even know these were a thing until the past week. I kept trying to double-click on them to unlock them, and I would stare dumbfounded at my screen when nothing happened, over and over again. It turns out these are crafting components used to make Orchestration Rolls. I don’t know how to craft with these things, so they sit in my inventory. Conveniently, this allows me to use the Search For Item feature in the loot window to determine whether to roll on them or not.

Okay now I’m tired of writing about this, and will end here.

I love Final Fantasy XIV but there are some areas where the game’s UI is a primitive mess, and this is one of them. They created yet another one of those “generic” window UI systems which should be more specifically tailored for the specific needs of the game. A whole lot of games do this, and it’s annoying.

It’s on the rise, too, because of the rise of games using “generic” game engines, like the Unreal Engine or Unity, and “generic” middleware components. The developers spend their time on the models and animations and sound effects in their game and ignore the systems that are “built in” to the game engine, which results in awkward UIs that people “just get used to.” I say enough! Power to the people!

P.S. I happen to be available right now if anyone wants to hire me to fix their game’s UI design. :)

FFXIV – Raids ‘n’ Things

That’s the World of Darkness minion.

I started to write this as a comment on Aywren’s post about Alliance Raids, but it was getting too long.

I agree completely about using the Alliance Raids to level from 50. My testing shows you get 200-250k experience per run (tested at level 58 and 59), not counting rested experience, and Roulette bonuses, which add that much more. That’s a crazy high amount of experience-per-instance, bested only by dungeons, which usually take longer to get into and finish.

Before 4.1, my Samurai was stuck at level 56, the only alt job I have over 53 at this point, and it’s felt like an incredible slog to gain levels. (It also felt like an incredible slog to level my main Bard job to 60, too, which is one reason I didn’t play Heavensward very much.)

But when I (finally) realized Alliance Raids give out experience points in addition to tomestones and gear, I felt like I started to make tangible progress and got my Samurai job to 60. My “power leveling” strategy involved selecting the 57 or 59 dungeon, Labyrinth, and Syrcus Tower in the Duty Finder, wait for the pop which usually came within 5-10 minutes, and repeat ad infinitum. 90% of the time I got the raids.

Incidentally I don’t think I’ll be leveling the Samurai job further anytime soon. At first I thought it was fun, but as new abilities were added on the way to 60, it got more and more complex, to the point where I just don’t think it’s worth it anymore for the cool running-holding-sword animation. :) I had to rearrange my entire hot bar scheme just for this one job, so I could see and understand the chains of combos better. I initially said it was “like” the Dragoon, but now I would say it’s more complex than Dragoon, which was already fairly complex (not even counting whatever they’ve added after 50).

Having finally reached 60, I was finally able to spend my Poetics!

Rawr! Frog minion is a bonus. I have no idea where I got it.

Also, you know, everyone plays Samurai now. It wasn’t unusual to get two in a dungeon group. I will probably go back to Dragoon for my melee DPS of choice. Sadly I don’t like many of the armor sets and I’m too lazy to glamour. :)

Oh one other thing about Samurai: I didn’t complete the level 54 class quest until level 58 (“Blood on the Deck”). That thing was insane. I kept expecting them to nerf it but they never did. It’s a three-phase encounter and the third phase is unmercifully brutal; the boss guy does crazy high damage to you. I had to run in circles around him until my health regenerated enough that I could take another couple of swings, then run away again.

Back to the Alliance Raids. The three Crystal Tower raids are quite fun. But I want to push back a little bit on the idea that the current raids are tailored more for the hardcore crowd whereas the older raids are more casual. They may be casual now, but when Labyrinth first came out, there was exactly the same chaos, wiping, and mental anguish that exists in Rabanastre today. Alliances wiped all the time, particularly on that part where you split into three groups, and on the Bone Dragon boss, and the Behemoth boss. I remember quite well having to run to activate those towers as a Bard because tanks were dead all over the floor and healers were desperately trying to raise them while the raid-wide damage was getting too high. I even healed Labyrinth a bunch of times and it was brutal (at least for me). There was much hand-wringing and blame passed around. Perfect runs typically took about 40-45 minutes. (I used to run it once a day on my Bard for the gear and tombstones.)

The point is that the Alliance Raids have been tuned to be fairly hard when they come out. As the community learns them, and especially as people out-gear them more and more, they become more and more casual. I haven’t been in any of the level 60 raids since I got to 70 but I imagine they’re a lot more friendly than they once were.

That being said, Rabanastre seems a little bit easier at launch time than some of the previous raids were when they came out. I don’t find myself feeling confused and overwhelmed by mechanics, and I’ve only completed three raids as of this writing. Previous raids took way more completions before I felt really comfortable with them.

As for the Crystal Tower raids, personally I’d like to see them sync the item level for those first three raids down a bit more, so that the mechanics are more relevant. Especially on the first and second ones. You can more-or-less completely ignore the mechanics on those two now. (Most alliances do exactly that.) Even if half the raid gets killed for some reason, the other half can still finish the raid.

World of Darkness, though, still has relevant mechanics—I know this from a sad personal experience of getting stuck in a group that wiped 4 or 5 times and took a total of 55 exhausting minutes to finish.

In other news, I’ve leveled my dinky level 25 Gladiator into a slightly less dinky level 41 Paladin, thanks to the Command Missions. I think I prefer the old school Paladin over the Dark Knight as a tank job. It suits my character’s lifestyle, if that makes any sense. But again, I don’t like to wear a lot of bulky armor so eventually I’ll have to glamour something more suitable. I’m liking my current set of “infantry” and “cavalry” gear. It’s nice and compact. I would love to eventually have an endgame tank glamoured with newbie gear just to see people freak out about it. :)

Sporty tankwear for the summer months!

I didn’t quite plan for how much it costs in Company Seals to go on Command Missions, though. It costs a lot. I guess they didn’t want people to spam those missions all day every day. Which is basically what I was doing on Paladin. I mean, why would you not partake of an easy lower-level experience point dispenser? It’s a bit dull to run the same dungeon over and over again, but they go by fairly quick without other humans involved.

Speaking of tanking and Paladins, I noticed that holding onto aggro suddenly got a whole lot easier as soon as I hit 30 and got the Shield Oath ability. If I work at it, I can actually keep the super-aggressive AI Bards from grabbing threat all the time. (Usually I don’t bother.)

FFXIV – 4.1 Features

Last time I only talked about the story, but this time I want to talk about some of the new features in Patch 4.1.

Royal City of Rabanastre

The new Rabanastre Raid is typical for an alliance raid. Lots of mechanics and most of them try to kill you. By now I’ve learned that it’s pointless to try to watch a guide beforehand for these things, so I just jumped in totally blind. (The guides out in the first week aren’t that great anyway. Video guides just drone mechanics at you in a monotone with background video that may or may not be related to what is being said. That means you, MrHappy. :) Thankfully I recognized many of the mechanics from previous instances. But some of them are brand new, especially on the last boss, and some explanation is needed. That first PUG wiped three times I think. (Though honestly I don’t remember dying on the last boss even though I had literally no clue what to do.)

Incidentally, a week after it was introduced, people are already whining about wipes. Seriously?

I don’t think Rabanastre is as hard as some of the previous raids were when they came out, but I’m not a great judge. I love the alliance raids, even the hard ones. I don’t feel any pressure to perform well in them, because I feel like I’m pretty invisible in a group of 24 people. They are like Rift rifts and GW2 world events in that regard (except you get awesome loot!). You know, unless I accidentally wipe the whole raid. But so far that’s never happened. I think. :) Also I think they specifically design the alliance raids so that even if a certain percentage of people have no idea what is happening, you can still get through them. (As opposed to the 8-man “real” raids, which are designed so that every participant needs to be on their game to at least some degree.)

The gear drops are item level 330, which is awesome for me, since I’m still wearing the drab green-and-orange item level 310 gear. The first drop I got was a pair of orangey-brown gloves, though, so I’m a bit dubious about what this gear is going to look like.

The Alliance Raid Roulette is a nice addition. I initially pondered on Twitter why anyone would need or want to go back to the level 50 and 60 tier raids. I have only done the raids at 50 and 60 specifically to get the endgame gear needed to do the next tier of activities, and/or as a casual way to get the newest tombstones. But Aywren rightly pointed out that these raids are now a useful leveling activity for getting from 50 to 70, which currently isn’t a very easy path after you finish the Main Scenario Quest on your main job. At least it isn’t for me. I almost wonder if they are intentionally making it more difficult to level alternate jobs above 50, passively urging people to choose and stick with a “main” job for endgame.

Command Missions

I really haven’t played very much FFXIV for the last couple of months. The only thing of any note that I’ve accomplished is sending my Adventure Squad on missions now and then. They reached Rank 2, which conveniently is the requirement to try out the new Command Missions in 4.1. (Incidentally I seem to be “stuck” at rank 2.)

My first Command Mission was the dungeon Halatali. I played my lowly level 26 Rogue class. Running Halatali with the AI squad was like no PUG experience I’ve ever seen. :) Trying to get my squad not to stand in the purple AoE on that last dragon was quite a chore. I can’t say it was terribly fulfilling, compared to a human run. But it had the very impressive advantage of popping immediately as opposed to waiting thirty or forty minutes in a DPS queue, and of course no human interaction was required. I even gained a level, so not bad. I only did that dungeon once, though.

Next I tried Toto-Rak, the dungeon that almost every human player I’ve ever seen groans about whenever it pops for a PUG. I always want to apologize when I’m at that level. Rest of group doing leveling roulette: “Oh god, not THIS dungeon!” Me: “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, it’s the best dungeon I can do at this level!” I personally don’t mind it, but there’s a lot of mindless running toward the end.

Anyway, armed with the knowledge that my AI companions would be behaving like drunk teenagers, Toto-Rak went a little better. I abandoned any pretense of using “normal” dungeon behavior. My basic strategy now is to run headlong into each pull and attack the nearest mob, then switch to whoever the tank decides to attack, which may or may not be the mob I started with. (I have a macro key that selects the tank’s target.) It’s faster than trying to direct the tank to “engage” first.

The last boss in Toto-Rak, unfortunately, is a chaotic mess that basically boils down to a DPS race of me killing the boss before the mechanics overwhelm the party. Sometimes I die and have to run all the way back through the slime that slows you down, and it’s annoying. But still, I gain levels very fast, so it’s a minor inconvenience. It’s far, far quicker than waiting for real dungeon queues if you’re a DPS.

This zone better be in the next expansion. It looks amazing!

The command missions are great for leveling alts, but I don’t think they are very good at teaching dungeon behavior. The AI tank behaves strangely, and the AI DPS pulls threat almost constantly. The AI healer is generally okay… it even does some DPS, apparently afraid that the AI party will yell at it for slacking back in the squad room.

If, like me, you thought you could learn to tank better so you could do more PUGs as a tank and maybe even level a tank somewhere closer to the endgame, you might need to rethink. I tried to tank normally using my Gladiator job, trying to maintain threat on everything. I pull a mob, then watch as my party attacks the other mob, pulls threat instantly, and I’m left fighting one mob while the party fights the other mob(s). I gave up and went back to the above method. I pull something, the party attacks whatever they feel like, which is usually not what I pulled, but it doesn’t matter because eventually everything dies.

Admittedly Gladiator is the worst at establishing threat at low levels, and back when I tried to tank, “real” dungeon runs typically went roughly the same as I just described with me trying to chase mobs all over the place to regain threat because DPS just blasts away without giving new tanks even one second to establish threat. (Insert comments from veteran tanks saying, “It’s so easy! Just do so-and-so and everything sticks like glue!” Sure, okay, whatever. :)

Bottom line: Command Missions are fantastic for gaining alt levels fast, not so great as a learning tool.

As for what they do for your Adventure Squad, I have no idea. :) It doesn’t look like much.

 

FFXIV – 4.1, The Legend Returns

I dragged myself away from Guild Wars 2 for a little while to play through the FFXIV 4.1 Main Scenario Quest, “The Legend Returns.” I’m so happy to be caught up with FFXIV and be in a position to play these patches when they come out, instead of rushing to catch up later. I didn’t even have to get any new gear. This is probably the first time I’ve ever been so caught up in any game.

Story spoilers below if you haven’t played it yet.

First of all, let me quickly say that the difference between the story development in Guild Wars 2 and Final Fantasy XIV is night and day. FFXIV is extremely character-driven, while GW2 seems much more plot-driven. Not to play favorites or anything, but character-driven stories are objectively, unquestionably much better. :)

Overall I felt like The Legend Returns started weak and ended strong. Until the very last quest, I felt like we were ping-ponging all over the place (not unlike GW2 hehe) with no real direction. Then everything tied together, and I was honestly surprised at how it turned out.

But: I’m a little concerned about what they are doing with Lyse. While I like Raubahn a lot, I feel like bringing him back to Ala Mhigo undercuts what I feel like is Lyse’s main story arc–growing into a strong leader in her own right. How is she going to do that with Raubahn looming over her shoulder?

They really *did* sit in a circle. Hippies!

It’s possible that Lyse could become the civilian leader, while Raubahn confines himself to the military. Given the new democratic structure of Ala Mhigo, that makes sense. Lyse showed signs of growing again, at least as a diplomat. But I’m just … worried about it. Raubahn is a huge presence on-screen, while Lyse isn’t. She as a character could easily get lost behind his massive shadow.

I did not expect Raubahn to end up back in Ala Mhigo. I was 100% sure that they were setting us up for Raubahn to die at the end of this patch. (I thought he would die before the end of Stormblood too, since he gave his sword to his son.) Frankly I think that would have been a better story choice. It would force Lyse to grow into the leader she needs to be, without any crutches. Failing that, I thought they would surely send Raubahn back to Ul’dah, to give Lyse the room she needed to grow. (She even said it herself, something like, “what will I do if Raubahn leaves?”)

But enough about that.

Initially I questioned the choice of frivolously putting a new dungeon (an “adventure”) at the very beginning. It was a bit of a turn-off. (I don’t play the MSQ to unlock new dungeons, I play it to learn more about the characters and their stories! And, you know, because you have to play it.) In retrospect, given the serious nature of the rest of the story, it made more sense. And people who don’t care about the story at all probably appreciated it.

I was very happy to see more of Fordola and her backstory. I think I mentioned that I wanted to know more about her character after Stormblood. I liked that they showed us a sort of bond between Arenvald and Fordola, which may or may not develop in the future. If nothing else, they are two sides of the same coin: Two people from the same background, “of an age,” who made radically different life choices.

I was glad to see Fordola have a redemptive moment, and I was glad to see that she chose it. (I am a sucker for redemption stories, though.) I think they played the “angry mob’s” reaction pretty well, represented by that one old man. It was a small step, but a positive one. What’s next for The Butcher?

What the heck is going on with Yotsuyu?? She must have lost her memory or something. When they kept the camera on her face after Gosetsu left, I fully expected her expression to change from child-like surprise to an evil smirk, but it didn’t. Some sort of post-traumatic childhood regression I guess. How will her redemptive storyline compare and contrast with Fordola’s?

And I guess somebody must have dug up Zenos’ body or something. They offhandedly mentioned something about his grave site, and then at the end we saw a couple of Imperial folks talking about rumors that he never died in the first place. Palace intrigue!

P.S. The new dungeon was okay I guess. I PUGged it, stumbled and bumbled through it, then forgot about it five minutes later.

P.P.S. Am I crazy, or have they done something to improve the graphical quality of the cut scenes? Several times I remember thinking, “This looks better than usual.” Particularly the scenes in Fordola’s cell. Something about the lighting perhaps.

FFXIV – Yo-kai Grinding

I’ve had a Yo-kai Watch in my inventory for a while, but I never knew what it was for or where I got it. I remember finding it in my inventory, and I kept looking at it, thinking, “What the heck is this thing for?”

Well it turns out that I must have accidentally done the Yo-kai Event quest in 2016. I have no memory of that, but when I went to find the Yo-kai quest-giver in Ul’dah the other day, he/she/it was nowhere to be found. I went to the Gold Saucer, followed the crowd of people, and found the Yo-kai vendor, which I must have already talked to in 2016 too. I even had the Yo-kai Medallium book, and one Yo-kai Medal on one of my Retainers.

I’m not much into minions (especially these extremely weird minions) but if nothing else, this Yo-kai Event is a great opportunity to level some alt jobs. People are out in droves grinding FATEs right now. Basically all you have to do is equip the Yo-kai Watch and participate in FATEs in low-level zones, and you earn one Yo-kai Medal per FATE. But more importantly, you get experience points! Oh, and you can purchase the minions from the Gold Saucer vendor with the medals.

I don’t know what these things are supposed to be either.

Once you have Yo-kai minions, if you equip the watch and summon a minion and participate in FATEs in the correct region, you earn Legendary Yo-kai Medals (at I’d say roughly a 30% drop rate), with which you can purchase weapons from the Gold Saucer vendor. The weapons have no stats and are kind of silly-looking, meant only for glamouring. You can find the correct region to farm by consulting the Yo-kai Medallium book (in your quest item inventory).

So some of my Labor Day was spent getting two weapons: The White Mage staff and the Bard bow. I gained a White Mage level (up to 56) and a Dark Knight level (up to 40). Sadly, neither White Mage or Dark Knight are particularly well-suited to FATE-grinding. Instant-cast ranged damage is your best bet for FATEs, which means you see a whole lot of Bards, Machinists, and Red Mages out there killing everything before you can even get to the mobs. Thankfully it doesn’t take a whole lot of effort to get a silver or gold medal in a FATE.