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Main Story Sidequest

Against all odds, I remain playing FF14. Some days. For about an hour or two at a time.

Had I stuck with the Pugilist, I would have unsubscribed a month ago. Instead, I decided to try out the Archer and… I’m actually having fun. Usually. The mobility of instant-casts makes up for a lot of what I can only describe as the “jankiness” of FF14’s combat system. No attacks seem to have any weight to them – they are all high-pitched squeals and brightly flashing lights.

There is also an extremely noticeable delay in state-based attacks. For example, the Archer has a Kill Shot/Execute ability that’s off the global cooldown which triggers at 20% HP. Which is fine… except that it always lights up almost a full second after the target is below 20%. Combined with the default 2.5 second GCD, and enemy attack animations not being synced with their damage, the game feels like you’re playing with 250ms lag all the time.

I continue to slog through things though, because everyone talks about the fantastic story.

Know what I did on Monday? I /danced with some Sylphs to earn their trust. Then did some fetch quests for said Sylphs. Then helped out a bar owner, which involved talking to half a dozen people around the world to find out where a particular NPC went so I could return an earring. Then I helped the NPC make some liquor as a gift. Then went on a side quest to catch a traitor in the woods, ostensibly as something to do to pass the time. Finally, I found the the missing Sylph elder hiding (spoilers!) in another mandatory dungeon.

Best. Writing. Ever.

It really isn’t. I’m too committed to seeing this experiment to its conclusion, to see for myself if there is any redeeming value in playing FF14 for its story, to quit now. But I really, really want to. I have to imagine that SWTOR would be a better use of my time at this point.

Still, I shall overcome. With active, conscious effort.

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Legendary Out of the Way

It finally happened last night:

wow_legendary

3rd best one, I guess.

My views on legendaries in general hasn’t changed since a month and a half ago. Indeed, in a very ironic sense, finally receiving a legendary at the long end of a hidden pity timer might be the motivation I needed to finally stop doing Emissary Quests, and most World Quests altogether. Lord knows how I would feel if another one drops after I kinda gave up farming Order Resources and thus never unlocked the “You can equip 2 legendaries” bonus. Even if I started right now, the research timer alone is 14 days.

So, yeah. Go me. The legendary’s effect is to reduce the cooldown timer of my 3 minute DPS cooldown that I never use outside bosses anyway. I don’t anticipate that changing anytime soon.

In the meantime, I’ll continue unlocking Draenor flying, farming Ulduar transmog, and perhaps get around to using my level 100 boost on something.

Back in Draenor, Apparently

Don’t ask. I don’t know either.

… but apparently I had a wild hair the past day or two to pick up the Bind on Account Rings that you get from doing the Shipyard quests in Warlords. I think the train of thought was that even if I spent money transferring toons off of Auchindoun, a few were at, or even below level 90. Plus, you know, the future, man.

In any case, this triggered a cascade of research and dicking around to the point that my namesake paladin is now scouring Tanaan like it’s June 2015. I even took another look at unlocking Draenor flying, but 1) fuck Blizzard for that entire fiasco, and 2) getting the 20% bonus to reputations (e.g. Trading Post Rank 3) requires Exalted with any Draenor faction… and I’m not even Honored with any of them. I suppose I could just use Medallions of the Legion without the bonus, but I don’t actually think there are enough of them on the no-pop wasteland that is Auch.

In the meantime, I’m just lurking around rare spawn sites for Shipyard equipment and doing my best Jedi Mind Trick on the passing level-capped Horde. I was only “ganked” once, by a Blood Elf hunter that saw my attempts to hearth out as too irresistible to ignore. Too bad I have the auto-bubble talent, which led me to just hearthing again, this time at double speed.

All of this is quite silly, of course. I’m pretty sure whatever time I’m spending on this is more than I’d save with +5% XP gains. At the same time, my druid is basically in passive grinding mode for Legion Pathfinder and this side project gives me something to work towards a bit more actively. I haven’t yet stuck my foot in a BG or LFR or even a Mythic dungeon.

So, I’m doing it wrong, but I’m doing something. And that’s fine for now.

Dilemmas, Part 1

Time will tell whether or not that one remaining New Years prediction will come true, but…

WoW_Reactivate

…yeah.

What pushed me over the edge were all the reports about the Legion pre-expansion event XP. I haven’t actually experienced a good expansion event since the lead up to Wrath, so it’s actually surprising that Blizzard hasn’t tried the ole “easy XP” route before. Then again, perhaps they really needed the scaling level tech in place before they were able to. Regardless, since I only ever got one character up to 100 in Warlords, this provided a nice opportunity to boost some of the alts.

Then came the dilemmas.

My primary dilemma is this: I’m still stuck on the low-pop wasteland of Auchindoun-US. The one remaining friend I have who has been playing WoW all this time has server hopped a few times until landing on Sargeras-US in a Mythic-level raiding guild. So… what do I do?

  • A) Choose a new main, pay $25 blood price to transfer, use level 90 & 100 boosts for alts.
  • B) Choose new main, but use level 90 & 100 boosts to create one and an alt.
  • C) Do nothing.

A) is annoying and I don’t want to do it; $25 is absurd, and has always been absurd. Of course, I have 335k gold locked on Auchindoun, so I’d have to start from scratch otherwise. Or take up my friend’s offer of some seed money on Sargeras – he apparently accumulated 1.7 million gold via Garrison farming over the course of the expansion. While I am relatively confident in my ability to pay him back via AH shenanigans, I disliking owing people anything.

B) makes for an interesting situation. Getting an instant 90 and then farming Invasions will quickly get me fully geared and ready for Legion, probably with time to spare to level professions. Or create a level 58 Death Knight, and get that guy boosted via Invasions. The instant 90 will also unlock the ability to get a Demon Hunter, which of course starts at level 98. So between the level boosts and Invasions, it’s entirely possible to get four new max-level characters on an entirely different server with minimum fuss. Minus the gold situation.

C) is actually what I am leaning towards at the moment. Cross-realm tech means I can technically group/dungeon/raid with my friend no matter what server we are on. Mythic raiding is still disabled from what I recall, but the chances I buckle down for the hardcore raiding I swore off of three expansions ago are between zero and Nope. Of course, this means I can’t be in their guild, meaning I miss the chatter and social aspects that (usually) make MMOs worth playing in the first place.

The one wrinkle that bears examining is that Sargareas-US is one of the largest servers in WoW, and it is PvP too. Auchindoun is also PvP, but even with cross-realm activated, the place is generally sparse. In both a A) and B) scenario, I would likely have to contend with queue times near launch and potential ganking 24/7. Something I am not exactly looking forward to.

Hmm. I shall have to ponder some more.

This is TERA

Any time you feel that MMOs like WoW have gotten too silly over the years… well:

Tera_Crazy

This is a thing that can happen.

This is TERA.

Absolut TERA

I have been playing TERA for the last week or so. Because of course I have.

Before I begin with my impressions, I think it’s time to have a frank discussion on how miserable a job game designers do in terms of opening presentation. For example, right out of character creation, this was what I was presented with:

TERA_Opening.jpg

Wut.

I’m not even talking about the large advertisement for “Elite Status” or whatever. I’m talking about how I cannot even see my own character. Yes, I closed and resized as many windows as I could immediately afterwards. But… really? Do the designers ever actually look at their own game a few years after it goes live? Or do they (or executives) just mandate more and more bullshit that slowly fills the screen and call it a day? TERA is not unique in this regard by any means, but come on.

One of the reasons I made myself a note to try TERA at some point was its much-lauded combat system. “The best combat system in any MMO” was a frequent refrain. Monsters have collision, you have to aim your skills, “Big-Ass Monsters” are known as BAMs in-game, animation locking and canceling differentiate the boys/girls from the men/women,  and so on.

My reaction after hitting level 28: shrug.

It’s entirely possible that TERA got caught up in the same general early-game nerfing that seems endemic in MMOs. At least, I’m assuming that you are not supposed to be one-shotting most normal mobs with low-cooldown attacks as a Gunner. Or easily collecting the “relic” weapon pieces such that you end up running around with the equivalent of an epic weapon for each new area, rendering all quest reward weapons as vendor trash. My first encounter with a BAM was a Basilisk that I had not noticed was a BAM until it survived three entire attacks. “Oh, this is new… nevermind, it died.”

Actually, I am pretty sure this is exactly what happened to TERA. Around level 20, I got a “call to arms” quest to play in a Battleground. A win awarded 850k+ XP, which got me three entire levels at once. I doubt that was in during launch.

By the way, that BG? Some crazy-ass nonsense where you play as baby giants in diapers. Ask me if I’m kidding. I dare you.

TERA_Baby.jpg

I wasn’t kidding.

It’s an interesting phenomenon, now that I think about it: how pretty much every MMO eventually drifts until it becomes a caricature of itself. For example, from what I understand, TERA has always had a “sexy” element to it, in terms of female armor, the loli Elin, and so on. Then the next four classes that the designers introduced were female-only, including two Elin-only classes.

I’m not sure when stat underwear was introduced, but I imagine around the same time:

TERA_Underwear

Hard to tell if that description is intentionally ironic, or…

I suppose such mission drift is perhaps inevitable. After all, it seems silly to criticize a company for producing something its audience wants to buy. I have the utmost sympathy for those members of said audience who were originally sold a much different good, before the, erm, “invisible hand” took the wheel. Game designers presumably must cater to the audience they have at that moment, and not some hypothetical audience that fits the original artistic vision. It’s easy to pontificate when it’s not your own dollars at stake.

That being said, I don’t think TERA is for me. I can appreciate a good pair of Firemane Leggings as much as the next guy, but I feel like this game is way off in (or on) the weeds at this point. Even in the “serious” parts like combat, I couldn’t help but think that Guild Wars 2 did it better. Maybe not collision-wise, sure. But at least GW2 presents itself as including an actual world and not a series of shadow box corridors carved with invisible walls.

And GW2 is, you know, much more pleasant to play.

I dunno. If you had some other kind of experience with TERA, I’d be interested in hearing it.

Vita Not (Yet)

So, I was all set to get the Vita – in time for the vacation I am currently on – but I get a message from the seller telling me that they have not yet sent the item because the Vita is not turning on. Which, on the one hand, I appreciate; getting a broken item and then possibly having to fight them for a refund would consume a rather annoying amount of time. However, the verdict on whether or not they could repair the Vita did not come until yesterday, so I have missed all the auctions I could have been bidding on instead. Heavy sigh.

PayPal refund secured, I am once again faced with the delimma.

Money is quite fungible, so I could certainly move it around and perhaps pick up some Steam games. Or perhaps put it towards the purchase of a new phone, which has been an issue for quite some time. Or I could continue on my present path and get the Vita (plus all those other things too, if I’m honest).

I dunno. I’m currently typing this on a tablet at the beach. I’ll worry about this later.

 

Vita’d

I just bought a Playstation Vita and I don’t know why.

…okay, maybe I know why:

PSVitaDeal

A bargain at twi… pretty much that price. Or less.

The amount of both hem and especially haw I was engaging in was truly ridiculous. As you all know, I dislike decisions generally, much less ones with deadlines. In this case, it was the $15 that eBay was giving everyone for making a purchase over $75, as long as it done by 8pm EST on Friday. On top of that, I am heading on vacation the week of the 4th, so it’s entirely possible that the Vita doesn’t make it to me before I leave.

Want to know what pushed me over that final edge? It was this:

PSVita16gb

Still criminally overpriced.

Even on eBay, the 16gb Vita memory cards are still $25 used, and $35 new. My auction includes two of them, and along with the 8gb one (a $20 “value”) brings the Vita price itself down to ~$75. Or $55 if you buy memory cards from Amazon. So… pretty close to what I spent on the PSP.

Of course, the continued existence of my PSP triggered some intense buyer’s remorse. Simply put, I don’t play much else than my PC games these days. Or since college, really. It took games like The Last of Us and Journey to convince me to get on the PS3 bandwagon, and I have yet to finish anything else on the system. Red Dead Redemption? Years worth of PS+ freebies? Nope. Similarly, not much progress has been made on the PSP front since buying it just about two years ago. Booted up Legend of Dragoon and some SNES classics for fun, and that was about it.

The really embarrassing thing about this purchase is that I don’t even know what games I have for it. Sony’s website is about one of the most egregiously useless pieces of website garbage I have seen in quite some time. This isn’t like Steam or GoG or even Origin where you can see a nice listing of all your games. Nope, it’s just pages and pages of unsortable nonsense. I have apparently accumulated 269 individual titles (free DLC counts as a title) from over three years of PS+, and the only way for me to actually tell which are Vita-playable will be to Ctrl-F and create a spreadsheet.

So, in essence, I had to have bought the Vita to figure out what games I own. Pelosi would be proud.

Having said all that, there are a few factors that make this less of an insane impulse buy. The first is that my PSP has a weirdly distorted screen thing going on, which dampened my enthusiasm after the initial vacation impetus for its purchase faded away. The second is that my living arrangements will be altering a bit in the coming months, which may or may not impact my PC usage. Finally, it was such a pain in the ass to actually play games on the PSP, and so I’m hoping that’s less of an issue this time around with the Vita.

In any case, I suppose we will see how this… plays out.

Vanilla Challenge

With all the talk about private vanilla servers and the ease in which they are logged onto, I had an idea for some gonzo journalism. “I’ll join one and document my experiences!” Then I remembered something: a whole lot of the vanilla (and TBC) experience was utter garbage. Take paladins, for example. Just… the entire class.

SynCaine doesn’t see this as a possible problem:

I know you didn’t play WoW in vanilla, but do you honestly think some minor class issues (you are talking to someone who did the plaguelands rep grind using a raid spec tank) would have that big an impact on what is overall far superior content and design?

Uh… yes? The paladin experience was unremitting garbage on into TBC when I started, and by all accounts vanilla was worse. But, hey, that is clearly not going to impact the amazing 2004 design. Despite, you know, having to interact with everything through the prism of said garbage class design and moment-to-moment gameplay.

Amusingly, what we know from Nostalrius is that almost 25% of all characters on their two servers were Warriors. The Warrior/Rogue/Mage trifecta was nearly half. Three guesses as to which classes were on top back in the day.

Classes.JPG

Hmm.

But why speculate on these vanilla issues when we can pontificate? Put your money time where your mouth is, and roll a paladin on a private server now! Or a druid. Or a shaman. And don’t heal in dungeons or at the endgame. Nobody cares what sort of nonsense you put up with in 2004, what matters is the nonsense you are willing to put up with (and potentially pay $15/month for) today.

I’m thinking about doing so myself, despite my New Year’s resolution, and despite the fact that we all know what is going to happen. It will be awful because it is objectively awful if you are not zen meditating inbetween mob pulls. Vanilla was probably popular back in the day because it was the least painful entry into a nascent, virtual world filled with co-dependency mechanics to ensure you made internet friends. Which was great if you needed some, but I’m full up these days, thanks.

You know what, though? Fuck it. Let’s wreck this train.

VanillaWoW.JPG

Don’t say I never did anything for you.

 

It Worked

The final (?) chapter of my GTA 5 woes has come to its end.

After uninstalling the “corrupted” GTA 5 installation, I emailed GameBillet to ask them to reinstate their download page that I had brief access to when I originally bought the GTA 5 key from them. From there, I committed myself to downloading 30 individual 1.9 GB files from their servers.

Nothing (other than Steam) is ever that simple though. The first problem I encountered was the fact that Chrome would hang on 100% download completion without actually “finishing” the file. This was not a GTA 5-specific issue, but rather something I have been experiencing for the past month or two with Chrome, even on 125 KB downloads.

Chrome_Stop

Ain’t nobody got time for that. Except for me.

To ensure this would not be a factor, I ended up reinstalling Firefox and downloading from there. This prevented the hung downloads, but Firefox was unable to handle downloading more than six files at a time, so that is what I limited myself to.

The next issue was that after a day of this, I couldn’t log into my GameBillet account, and the “forgotten password” request couldn’t be completed because it stated that my email account didn’t exist. Pretty goddamn strange considering I had two emails from their support team not four days ago. Luckily, I was able to find the original email that contained the download links, so I could still download direct from there.

The final boss, as in most RPGs, was somewhat of a let-down. Having downloaded all the .bin files, I had to run the installer to combine them. Which meant duplicating the 60 GB files on my SSD because of course. After deleting some other games I doubt I’d ever play again (or at all), I logged into Rockstar’s shitty Social Club interface…

…and had to download a 2 GB patch. At 200 kb/s. Fine. I made the time.

Then, the moment of truth.

GTA5_Success1

Never felt so good driving around a corner.

It worked. It really worked. I was able to get to and through the 2nd mission. I didn’t play for much longer beyond that point, but at least I did not run into the exact same breaking point as before, and that’s something.

While this remains another example of my parsimony biting me in the ass, I don’t really blame GameBillet in this scenario: I blame Rockstar and every game maker with their own shitty download client. If Social Club downloaded at more than 200 kb/s, I wouldn’t have had to use a VPN and it wouldn’t have corrupted my files. The real lesson learned here is that Steam fucking earns their 30% cut, and Rockstar is going to eat that cut every goddamn time from here on out.