FFXIV: Just call me Healbot 3000

minnie

Seen above: Pathetic leadership.

Even though most of my evening gaming time goes to FFXIV these days and I’ve been settling into a nice groove after my early weeks of class experimentation, it still feels as though I’m all but crawling up through the content. Without looking at the whole MSQ list (and I’m not because spoilers), I don’t really know how far I am. My main job is level 37 and I finished the level 34 trial not too long ago.

Sooner or later I’m going to need to buy Heavensward so that I don’t waste XP once I hit 50, I know. I keep putting it off.

Anyway, part of the reason for my pokeyness is my constant excursions into dungeons. I took a break to level up Thaumaturge to 26 for swiftcast (glad I have it and really glad I never have to play that class ever again) and I’ve been working off and on in getting a Conjurer/White Mage to 36(?) for stoneskin. Healing on a Scholar is so much fun — you’ve got the pet, you’ve got some nice heals, you have the shield thingy — that in contrast, it makes the Conjurer an exercise in trying not to fall asleep.

Seriously, at level 25, I have precisely TWO healing skills. One a direct heal (with a cast time) and one a group heal (with a cast time). Yes, I can get into dungeons quickly and that’s probably the fastest way to level up right now, but each run as a Conjurer means that I’m spamming the 1 key on the tank and occasionally DoTing enemies. I’m sure the White Mage gets better, but this is a horrid start to anyone pursuing a healing career with this class.

Anyway, I try to run at least one dungeon as a Conjurer every day to eventually get to stoneskin. Little bit at a time. Then I like to run one or two dungeons as a Scholar to get the taste of Conjurer out of my mouth and also to hopefully gear up some more. Plus, getting bonus seals has helped with leveling up my grand company rank a bit.

Most of my parties have been pretty decent. Some are a little slower, with newbies or leaders that like to talk people through every… single… fight, but for the most part people know their roles and the first half-dozen dungeons aren’t that complicated.

I did experience one run that nearly made me tear my hair out. The roulette put me in the first dungeon along with a first-time tank and a first-time DPSer (lancer), both of which did not know what to do. The Lancer kept attacking first and getting hurt tremendously while the tank didn’t ever use his flash taunt. That meant the second I started healing, the bad guys came at me like I insulted their mothers. Oh, I tried to patiently explain what these players needed to do, but neither would respond to me or change their tactics.

So I started letting the tank die because I’m petty like that and also because I was sure I could keep up the DPS between pulls. He never quite got the message, but we did finish the run and I am here to tell the tale.

After all of that, any time left is spent on the MSQ, which isn’t always a lot. Still, there have been stretches of the story that have engaged me, and the other night I found myself logging out right during a highly interesting moment when I came back to the Seven Scions’ HQ only to find dead bodies all over the place. Was there an Orochi invasion from TSW?

Computer tech help S.O.S.!

computerspecs

Since some of you reading this are far more tech savvy than I, I wanted to lay out my computer issues to date with all the information at my fingertips to see if anyone has any good suggestions. You can see my hardware specs above.

The Issue

I built this computer last year and it’s worked but hasn’t shown any measurable improvement over my previous computer (which was 4 or so years old at that point). In particular, all of my games — especially my online ones — are displaying lower-than-expected frame rates. I’ve tested several titles, and most MMOs (including Marvel Heroes, Neverwinter, WildStar, and The Secret World) fluctuate between 10-35 fps.

I am not getting any other serious problems — no crashes, no BSOD, no overheating (I’ve been monitoring CPU and GPU temps). I replaced my old graphics card with a newer GTX 950 and there hasn’t been any improvement. My machine build is based on a very tried-and-tested build from pcpartspicker.com and has no apparent conflicts.

My goal is to get the FPS up to a decent number, at least 60 so it’s not hitching constantly in play. The weird thing is that no matter what I adjust my settings at — in-game or in the Nvidia control panel — the FPS remains the same.

What I’ve Tried So Far

Here’s a list of what I’ve been trying, based on my own poking around, suggestions from various forums, and from my tech support bro-in-law:

  • Flipped between DX9 and DX11. No difference.
  • Turned power performance up to high. No difference.
  • Turned Vsync on. Turned it to adaptive. No difference.
  • Took out the graphics card and put back in my old one. No difference.
  • Reseated my graphics card. No difference.
  • Updated from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Same speed.
  • Fiddled with all sorts of in-game graphics settings. Same FPS on low as in ultra.
  • Updated all drivers. Updated them a second time.
  • Booted the computer in diagnostic mode, no difference.

Maybe I made a mistake when I put this computer together? Maybe there’s some sort of setting causing a bottleneck or a purposeful throttling down of the frame rate? I don’t know. But if anyone has any suggestions, believe me, I’m all ears.

The Secret World: Membership hath its privileges

bike

Yesterday The Secret World switched on its new membership benefits, which meant a few changes for me now that I bought into the grandmaster pack. Actually, it was kind of funny because GMs get all of the loyalty rewards that are otherwise parceled out according to days subscribed from here on out. So when I went into the store, I saw a pile of goods.

It’s all making me very satisfied for springing for GM status. The cosmetics are nice — I like the new bee suit, it’s got a Mass Effect high-tech look to it. But above that, here are my five favorite things from the membership program:

  1. Bank access anywhere — I hardly ever used the bank, since it required an annoying trip back to London. Now I can summon a portable bank wherever I’m at, and that is an inventory blessing to be sure.
  2. The bee scooter (above) and hoverboard — Love this little shiny scooter, although I might be using the hoverboard more because it seems to handle better in cramped places (platforming, etc.). Love having a hoverboard after getting used to one in WildStar. Now where’s my double-jump?
  3. Bee weapon molds — Oh my goodness, I love these so much. I now have an infinite supply of pretty cool-looking weapon molds to cover up some of the lackluster weapon designs. The pistols are pretty sweet.
  4. Bonus XP and bullion — I ran a few quests last night and found myself giddy at all of the extra XP and black bullion from completing them. This will be so, so helpful to my leveling character.
  5. Free anima leaps — OK, it’s not like anima leaps were super-expensive, but free is free and every bit of PAX saved up helps for those future purchases.

On the flip side of all of this happiness is the fact that I’ve been struggling with TSW’s performance lately. My old computer with my old graphics card could run it incredibly smoothly (no lag/hitching). My new one — with either the old graphics card or a newer GTX 950 — can’t get above 30 fps to save its life and often dives down into the teens or single digits. For an action MMO, this is terrible.

I’ve spent days troubleshooting this, trying to figure out what it is about my build that’s causing this lackluster performance. My other games run fine but not as fast as I would’ve expected with a whole systems overhaul. So far I’ve updated drivers across the board, upgraded to Windows 10 on the hope that it might do something, tried every graphics setting in TSW (on low or ultra it gets the exact same frame rate), looked up and tried every workaround on the forums… nothing. DX9, DX11… it’s all the same. Same frame rate every time. It’s so incredibly bizarre that nothing I do makes a single difference, and it’s even stumped my computer technician brother-in-law. If anyone has ideas, please let me know. I feel as though there’s some setting or obvious bottleneck that I’m not seeing, one thing that I could change that would let the game perform as it should.

I mean, it’s playable, just not always enjoyable to play, if you understand.

Quote of the Day: Nostalgia black hole

“I hadn’t realized that perhaps in both my old(er) age of adult reflexes and the fact that I’d gotten used to more forgiving, time-saving mechanics in modern games that I had fallen into a nostalgia black hole trying to get back to old school games […] I don’t really say this to state that we’ve gotten soft as we’ve gotten older and games have gotten more forgiving (I can’t tell you the amount of times I had to watch poor Lara Croft, 2013 edition, get destroyed because of my mistakes), but to say that games have evolved a bit with respect to how respectful they try to be with the time gamers have to play.”

~ Overly Positive

Chrono Trigger, exercise, and me

chrono

As I wait out the cold (but so far, not particularly snowy) Michigan winter and look forward to the days when I can take my bike out on the road again, I’m keeping my exercise routine going with a half-hour of indoor biking a day. It’s not as hard or thrilling as regular biking, that’s for sure, but at least it’s something.

I have a friend who has been on a program that involves going to a gym for an hour, hour-and-a-half every day and my mind boggles at being able to do such a thing. With four kids, I’m more or less tethered to the house or to at least a couple of them at all times. I haven’t been alone in my house for probably three years now — not even for an hour. So taking that much time to do a gym run is impossible at this stage in my life, and even going out biking for 40 minutes requires making sure my wife is in a position where she can handle the kids.

Anyway, I’m just glad I have the exercise bike at all. My wife bought it several years ago and then abandoned it, so I took it over and made it my own. Right now it sits in the corner of our living room, tucked in a small nook between a bookshelf and our couch. It’s far easier to step into a different room of the house to work out, let me tell you, than having to leave the house altogether. The kids can — and do — come into the room to read or talk, and I can squeeze in that 30 minutes wherever there’s time that day.

While I don’t get the freedom and sense of speed that real biking entails, there is one major plus about exercise biking: I can use my iPad. There’s a nifty little ledge on the bike panel that holds it perfectly, and as the timer tracks the half-hour, I try to lose myself in the tablet so that it all goes by quickly.

Reading, checking email, and following up on Twitter are all preliminary activities, but what I’ve been doing the most as of late is playing through Chrono Trigger.

chrono2

As much as I’ve always loved Chrono Trigger and picked it up over the years, I’ve only completed it once — as a teenager. I guess the other times were aborted starts and issues with platforms. But now, doing it in 20-30 minute chunks as I cycle, I have a feeling I could get through the entirety of it for a second time in my life. This is helped by its length; Chrono Trigger is actually a fairly short (~15 hours) RPG, which was offset by the game’s “new game+” mode with alternate endings.

And the iPad version is definitely not perfect. It’s a huuuuuuge download (have to have all of that music!), the graphics look too muddy and there’s no retina support, and the controls are sometimes too wonky (especially in switching between combat targets). But it’s Chrono Trigger, it works, and it’s still a whole bundle of fun.

I’m still quite charmed by the game’s expressive sprite and pixel art style. And while the music continues to get a lot of love and praise today, the tight plot pacing, the distinctive characters, and the way that it deftly handles the complexity of time travel deserves acknowledgement as well.

When I wrap it up, I’m planning on continuing with some other older titles. I have FFVI (purchased when it was on sale — I know the mobile version isn’t well-liked, but hey, it’s either this or I’ll probably never play it ever), Grim Fandango, Tales from the Borderlands, and Game of Thrones to go through. After that, maybe FFIX when it comes to mobile, which should be soon.

Got to say that I’m impressed that this iPad Mini 1 is still chugging along. I thought I would’ve replaced it by now, but since it still works and can play these games, why should I drop a few hundred for a new one? It’s hard to justify that.