Is Cantha enough draw for Guild Wars 2?

Amid that whole Blizzard mess of last week was the full reveal of Guild Wars 2’s third expansion, End of Dragons. One can only hope that this will, indeed, be an end of the dragons, because that’s something that this MMO has run into the ground and sorely needs to move past.

Overall, it was a good reveal. Guild Wars 2 has had a very rough couple of years, but now it feels like it’s emerging with solid visible leadership, a big product for people to get excited about, and hope for the future. It’s one of those games that fell from glory a while back and needed a win. It’s too early to say if Cantha will be that win, but at least this is a nice boost of publicity and community excitement.

And good for Guild Wars 2, you know? I’ve had my ups and downs with this game, but I’ve never been at a point where I didn’t want it to win. There are many great features and designs, and it’s an easy game to return to. I’m sure this press reveal is stirring a lot of returns right now, because there’s nothing like an MMO coming alive again with a promise of big future stuff to call back the faithful.

As for the expansion reveal itself, I guess I’m a “5” out of a 1 to 10 scale. Right squat in the middle. To be honest, Cantha itself has never been a huge draw for me, both in the original Guild Wars or here. I know it has this rabid cult following, but I’m not part of that.

I was hoping that we’d get some news about some really exciting features — housing, for instance, no pun intended — but this reveal stopped short of dangling something that made me say, “Now I’ve GOT to play it!” There’s some new mount types, ok. Fishing? Yeah, that’s so underwhelming a feature that the only time I see someone hyping it up is a developer who needs another bullet point for a feature list. Some more story, some new elite specs, a whole lot of “more of the same.”

That’s not necessarily bad. Guild Wars 2 needed more ANYthing at this point, and this looks to be a full package. The skiffs — player boats? — is the most interesting-sounding of all of the features.

I’m looking at this expansion and feeling the equal pulls of apathy toward GW2 and the usual FOMO of a community rushing toward the bright new shiny. But it’s going to be warring with a lot of releases and launches for the rest of 2021 — and End of Dragons’ 2022 date is far past that. Perhaps it’ll be a revisit later this year or early next year to see if the Guild Wars 2 bug might bite again, but that’s a big “perhaps” with me.

Syp’s gaming goals for August 2021

July 2021 in review

  • This wasn’t a terrible month for gaming but it did see a significant change in direction following the revelation of Really Bad Stuff over at Blizzard that prompted me to drop WoW Classic like a hot potato. So while I did get my Warlock up through some of Zangarmarsh, there I left her — and uninstalled the game on all of my computers. I think it’s the first time I’ve uninstalled WoW in recent memory.
  • Fortunately, things were brighter for Final Fantasy XIV. I got into a good pattern of playing through Heavensward’s 3.X main story questline while gearing up my Machinist, exploring the Golden Saucer, joining a free company, and enjoying life as a Lalafell. A week before the end of the month, I was already in Stormblood.
  • Another interesting gaming shift was a solid return to Lord of the Rings Online as I picked back up my high level characters and worked through some of the newest content.
  • I also wrapped up my Curse of Monkey Island retro gaming series and said goodbye (for now) to that format. I may do another retro run in the future, but for now you won’t be seeing my weekly post on an old game here.

August gaming goals

  • I do very much wish I had more free income to splash on games, because I’d love to pick up both Wildermyth and Sims 4: Cottage Living, but I’m going to have to save funds for New World. Because I’m SO excited about what’s shaping up to be a pretty good MMORPG, from word-of-mouth and personal experiences, and I’m counting down the days to playing this in late August.
  • Aside from working on whatever beast tribe I’ve picked at the time, my only Final Fantasy XIV goal for the month is to get through Stormblood 4.0. It’s a very tall order — 122 quests in all — but why not shoot for the stars? That’s about four quests a day, which is pretty doable.
  • In Lord of the Rings Online, I want to get my Lore-master through Elderslade and work on setting up a “for fun” alt for an article series. Haven’t decided which yet. Stay tuned on that front.
  • I have a couple of betas I’ll be playing: Ship of Heroes early in the month and Book of Travels at the very end of the month. Quite psyched for both of these.

Battle Bards Episode 198: Final Fantasy XI expansions

Battle Bards Episode 198: Final Fantasy XI expansions Battle Bards

Return with us to the lands of Vana'diel, as the Battle Bards dip into the ocean of Final Fantasy XI expansion music. While Syl might be chiding Syp over his inappropriate attire, at least these amazing tunes can overcome all hostility! Episode 198 show notes Intro (feat. "Where It All Begins," "Vana'diel March #4," and "Echoes of a Zephyr") "Kazham" "Breaking Ground" "The Cosmic Wheel" "Autumn Footfalls" "Bustle of the Capital" "Unity" "The Sanctuary of Zi'Tah" Which one did we like best? Listener notes from Katriana and Branden Jukebox picks: "The Town of Luncheon" from Chicory, "Sarah's Song" from Tyrion, and "Dolphin Surf" from Tetris Effect  Outro (feat. "The Pioneers") Talk to the Battle Bards on Twitter! Follow Battle Bards on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Google Play, iHeartRadio, and Pocket Casts! This podcast is produced using copyrighted material according to Fair Use practices as stated under Section 107 of the 1976 Copyright Act.
  1. Battle Bards Episode 198: Final Fantasy XI expansions
  2. Battle Bards Episode 197: A royal affair
  3. Battle Bards Episode 196: Project Gorgon

Return with us to the lands of Vana’diel, as the Battle Bards dip into the ocean of Final Fantasy XI expansion music. While Syl might be chiding Syp over his inappropriate attire, at least these amazing tunes can overcome all hostility!

Episode 198 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Where It All Begins,” “Vana’diel March #4,” and “Echoes of a Zephyr”)
  • “Kazham”

  • “Breaking Ground”

  • “The Cosmic Wheel”

  • “Autumn Footfalls”

  • “Bustle of the Capital”

  • “Unity”

  • “The Sanctuary of Zi’Tah”

  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes from Katriana and Branden
  • Jukebox picks: “The Town of Luncheon” from Chicory, “Sarah’s Song” from Tyrion, and “Dolphin Surf” from Tetris Effect 
  • Outro (feat. “The Pioneers”)

FFXIV: Ramping up into Stormblood

Boy, it really worked out that I started getting into FFXIV this past month, now that WoW is no longer a part of my gaming routine. I’m glad I’m not left with that awful feeling of fishing around for an MMO to fill any sort of gap, because really, there aren’t enough free time as it is to get in everything I want to be doing with FFXIV.

While I’ve been working on making up a list of long-term goals, for the next few months my priorities are going to be rather simple: Stick with a class to level 80 and get through all of the MSQ. My general plan is for the rest of the year:

  • Finish Heavensward patch MSQs in July (accomplished!)
  • Get through Stormblood 4.0 in August
  • Get through Stormblood 4.x in September
  • Get through Shadowbringers 5.0 in October
  • Get through Shadowbrings 5.x in November
  • Start in on Endwalker in December

It might be too ambitious, I’m not sure, but that feels doable with my schedule. When I get caught up, I’ll then start branching out into more side projects and objectives.

The recent Make It Rain event encouraged me to at least stop in to the Golden Saucer, which is one of many parts of this game I’ve never investigated. I took the tour, started getting my daily scratcher tickets, played a few games of Triple Triad, and mentally bookmarked the rest for further exploration.

I do remember Triple Triad from old school Final Fantasy. I liked it at the time and kind of like it now, so I can see working to collect cards to build a good deck.

But I wasn’t going to let a casino distract me for too long! Heavensward was finally finished as I wrapped up all of the patch MSQ segments. I could’ve done without the first half, which was little more than an extended epilogue of elves and dragons and more dragons and I really don’t care about dragons in this or any game so it’s kind of a lost cause with me. Dragon dies? The game wants me to cry but I’m just shugging and moving on. It’s an upstart lizard with delusions of grandeur.

The second half of the Heavensward patches — the Stormblood prologue — were much stronger, with a few rather interesting twists and reveals. I didn’t feel like it was as much busy work, and I liked how there’s even some setup for Shadowbringers there with the Warriors of Darkness.

I felt really good seeing the Stormblood logo come up. My interest hasn’t faltered one bit, and I’m settling into a good routine of logging in every night to see where the story takes me. I am a little concerned that Stormblood won’t be that good — I hear people praising the first and third expansions an awful lot but never this one — especially considering how long I’m going to be in it.

Nostalgia Lane: My first three computers

I think all of us have at least one — if not more — computer that meant a lot to us from our past. For me, I have three, all of which happened to be the first three computers that I personally owned.

My first computer was a 386 that I bought with money from working at Pizza Hut as a teenager. By my sophomore year in high school, I was so tired of begging time on the family computer and wanted one to call my own. I recall that I had to convince my parents that owning a computer was an investment for college, and so they relented and let me pick up what I now recognize to be a slightly substandard machine for the time.

Still, it was mine! It came with Windows 3.0, which I soon upgraded to 3.1. While I did some school work and programming on it, mostly this computer was for games and games only. It’s where I played such classics like Wing Commander II, Doom, and Ultima Underworld. I remember rushing home from school every day, eager to get into another lengthy Masters of Orion campaign.

Sad as it is to say, this computer might’ve been my best friend in high school. Other people went on dates and parties; I was happy to be fiddling with autoexec.bat and config.sys to make my programs work even better.

That computer — already long in the tooth — didn’t make the transition with me to college as planned (I donated it to my family as a replacement family computer). The college I went to announced that starting with my class, it was equipping all of us with laptops (that we had to pay for — I think the final cost spread over for years was $2400). It was a laughably chunky laptop with a trackball mouse, but like everyone in my class, I adored it because it was my first portable computer.

I took that thing all over campus, and it was great to have that freedom to write papers under the trees or sneak in a game of solitaire during a boring lecture. We never had internet on it (the next year’s class got that nice upgrade), but I did encounter Windows 95 for the first time on it and pushed its 100 MB hard drive to the limit with fonts, games, badly written poetry, and fuzzy WAV music clips.

That one laptop lasted me for five years — 1994 to 1999 — during my college era, so I definitely got a lot of use out of it. But I certainly couldn’t play any games made after 1995 on it, which really rankled me. This is why I missed out on some of the big essential titles of the ’90s, as I simply didn’t have a machine on which to play them.

After finishing college, I took all of my graduation money and splurged on a brand-new computer. This was a Compaq, if I recall, with a 15″ CRT monitor and a nice sleek short tower. Again, not the best or most powerful machine, but it was a huge upgrade that allowed me to play whatever I wanted.

Just like how my first computer was a great companion in college, this Compaq was my buddy as I moved to a new state (and then a second new state) with my early career. It’s where I finally had internet access (dial up!) whenever I wanted it, and where I enjoyed The Sims and KOTOR and StarCraft and so, so many more games. It’s not, however, the machine that I first used for MMOs, but still, it was a great gaming platform and what finally pulled me away from consoles.

My laptop I sold to a collector at a garage sale back in 2015 (I took out the hard drive), while I gave my Compaq and all of my older games to a college buddy who didn’t have enough money to buy his own.

There’ve been many computers since then, some of which I’ve blogged about here, but none that have that special spot in my heart due to being first, rare, and a vital part of my bachelor lifestyle.

LOTRO optimism on the rise after a long, dark night

I love how unpredictable years can be when it comes to MMO news, developments, and my personal gaming journey. A few months ago I stepped away from LOTRO pretty hard and let that recharge timer commence, and it was only very recently that I felt any urge whatsoever to log in.

However, this time, my return wasn’t necessarily triggered by “oh man I miss that game!” so much as a growing sense of optimism about LOTRO in general and SSG in specific. After that wildly uneven year of 2020 — with a great promotion and a horrible server/comms issue — it’s looking so much better with the studio being far more communicative. Plus, I genuinely am getting excited for the next expansion and want to be in a good position to enjoy that.

I haven’t decided on which character I’m going to carry forward as my main, but it’ll be either my Lore-master or Minstrel. I’m going back and forth between them, getting used to their playstyles and feeling out which one I want to play for the long haul.

With my Lore-master, I’ve been venturing into Elderslade (the pre-Gundabad zone) for the first time. It’s a nice if somewhat unremarkable place. Kind of a craggy set of valleys with a few beautiful vistas and waterfalls. I don’t know how much I’m digging this Dwarves vs. Orcs storyline, but at least if I hate it, the devs said that it’ll be concluded with Gundabad. We’ll be moving on in any case.

It’s also proving to be a good WoW substitute now that I’ve uninstalled WoW Classic and the Battlenet client. I’ll talk more about that another day, but at least here I’m getting that WoW-style combat and feature set.

I do want to be pushing myself to remember to queue up for more instances, because that’s a side of the game I’ve very rarely seen so far. I would like more. It’d probably be easier to get a group if I set up a healing build on my Minstrel.

I’ll leave you with this, a picture of Syp falling to his death, which I do at least once a day (and not ironically).

While I will be most focused on a high level character to stay up to date, I have already laid out plans to experiment with a new alt for fun. Something I haven’t done to death before, which leaves me with a few strong options:

  • Stone-Axe Dwarf Burglar
  • Dwarf Rune-Keeper
  • Beorning Beorning

I’m mulling these over but would welcome suggestions and thoughts on those classes. Any Burglars, RKs, or Beornings out there who want to evangelize their role to me?

Blizzard, I am disappoint.

No doubt that by now you’ve read the highly disturbing allegations leveled against Blizzard by the state of California for discrimination, sexism, and abuse in the workplace. The state wants to take Blizzard to court for a jury trial, and there’s no doubt going to be a lot of news following this.

And while the legal process will play out as it does, in the meantime each Blizzard player and fansite writer/streamer will have a court of their own in their hearts. Do they believe these allegations? Does this line up with what we know of Blizzard to date? And if so, what do they do about it?

It’s certainly not the first time that anyone’s dealt with that struggle between liking an art form and hating the artist. I’ve always been of the opinion that you don’t listen to the mob telling you what to feel/do but rather to evaluate it yourself and make a judgment call whether or not you continue to support that. You have to decide what the line is where, if crossed, nixes your patronage.

I’m of the personal opinion that these allegations ring true and probably don’t scratch the surface of some of the really bad stuff that happens behind closed doors in companies where people let power and authority go to their heads. It should be exposed and dealt with, both externally (lawsuit) and internally (clean house and reform).

I’m very disappointed in Blizzard, and that’s putting it mildly. If my daughter went to work at a games company — and I would use every ounce of my persuasion to attempt to convince her not to, based on my experience covering this industry — I would want her to be paid fairly, treated well, and protected from predators. Blizzard, from these indications and others, loves to wave a flag of virtue while letting slime slosh around its corridors.

So I’m done with World of Warcraft and WoW Classic, at least until or unless I see Blizzard making a concerted, genuine effort to reform. I doubt it will. I think we’ll get a lot of noise and fancy-sounding programs, but nothing of real substance. It stinks for me as a gamer — I like these games! — but it’s really nothing compared to those employees affected by such a toxic work environment. So if this is what it takes for any semblance of justice to come about, I’m willing to be challenged in my entertainment choices and forego an MMO that I’ve enjoyed for the better part of two decades.

It’s not me, Blizzard, it’s you.

FFXIV: Giant dolls make me go “Lalahell no”

If nothing else, Final Fantasy XIV is proving to be such a screenshottable game that I’m having a hard time culling pictures down to a handful to share in these posts.

It definitely was a great decision on my part to resume questing with my former character who’d already gotten through the core Heavensward expansion. Since every story beat from here on out is new to me, I can log in every night and have that expectation of discovery.

And it doesn’t hurt that I’ve put in the time to unlock flying in all of the zones. Man, flying makes such a difference in this game, and I never get sick of taking my chocobo to the skies.

One mental obstacle that I’ve had to contend with is ignoring that internal pressure to “catch up CATCH  UP” with everyone else in the game. If there wasn’t an expansion coming out this fall, I doubt that voice would be as loud, but… it’s there. I know there’s a huge amount of content — two expansions and three expansion patch cycles — between where I am now and where veteran players are, but there’s no rushing it. There’s no brute-forcing it, nor fretting about it. Like any MMO with a long and involved story arc, it’s best to enjoy where you are and trust that you’ll get there… evantually.

So I’ve been going through the 3.X main story quests, which I’ve dubbed “more dungeons and dragons.” Honestly, I’m more than done with Heavensward in terms of themes and characters. It wasn’t horrible, but the Syp demographic isn’t enthralled by developers going “hey, let’s keep that Elf-and-dragon parade going!” past the point that you felt this storyline concluded.

The patches so far — I’m in 3.4 as I write this — have had some really good beats, including that upside-down castle dungeon with the creepy doll boss. That’s nightmare fuel right there.

I’ve also been faithfully working on a single beast tribe reputation grind every day. I figure I’ll just do one until it caps out and then pick up another one until I’m done with them all. I’m doing the Vanu Vanu, which is great if you like giant angry-looking chicken-bears living on floating islands despite lacking the capacity for flight.

I also took some time off of my routine to hang out with my free company when it was throwing a hide-and-seek event the other night in our neighborhood. It was really nice to see everyone in person (so to speak), although the housing reminded me that I’m so far away from being able to afford even the smallest cottage. One gil at a time!

All things considered, I feel like I’m in a really good place with FFXIV. It’s not annoying me (dragons aside) and I have two classes (Machinist and Scholar) that I’m flipping between for when I want to enjoy specific playstyles.