FFXIV: Back and looking fabulous

If nothing else, Final Fantasy sure loves its gigantic beasties of doom (GBOD). They usually get the right-of-way in an airship traffic situation.

So yeah, this weird Final Fantasy kick that I’ve been on this past week or two has led me sauntering back to XIV. It wasn’t that far away; I had eyed it as a possibility for a 2018 experience, although I originally thought it would be later this year. But I’ve found that when there’s interest, there’s no reason to wait with games. Figured it couldn’t hurt to sub up for a month, see if there’s some stickiness there, and if there are still oversized Moogle loveseats.

Oh good. I needn’t have worried.

Even though it’s been, oh, 10 months or so, it probably took me about 15 minutes before I slipped back into XIV’s controls like I never left. The mission I logged in to find myself staring in the face was a combat-escort deal, so I had to get reacquainted with my fighting skills quickly. It helped that there weren’t too, too many of them.

I treated the first night back like a mini-reunion tour, hitting up the buffet of FFXIV’s offerings. I ran a few quests. I quickly healed a hard mode dungeon (without a single casualty, thankyouverymuch). I teleported over to my Free Company’s new guild hall, which was quite cozy and decked out.

Yeah, I think I’ll be hanging out here for the duration of the game’s existence. Lots of books to read, you know. You all have fun putting yourself in mortal peril for a handful of gil.

I even went back to my personal room, which was… not as bad as I remembered, but definitely not up to Syp’s standards of personal housing coziness. I’ll have to work on that.

Probably the most of my time was spent trying to catch up with the updates to the glamour system since last I was in the game. I heard about this new dresser thing that let you make templates of cosmetic sets, and since I had about three vintage Final Fantasy wardrobe sets sent to me as veteran rewards, I wanted to start fresh with a makeover.

But that was much easier to conceptualize than to execute. The thing about Final Fantasy XIV is that while it’s very robust in its feature set, it doesn’t do anything the “normal” way that you might see in most other MMOs. Sometimes that’s fine, it’s just different, and you get used to it. But I’m not going to make that concession with the glamour system. It’s restricting, frustrating, and way too awkward to use.

I spent too much time (during which my anger spiked) as I tried to get this cosmetic set applied. I had to look up where to go for the glamour prisms now (Grand Company) and I bought 20 that I ultimately did not need. But my pieces wouldn’t show up in the dresser options, and Google searches didn’t help in that regard. Eventually, my guildies helped me out by telling me to try adding these pieces to the armoire (!?) and then the dresser would recognize them.

And because that makes no sense whatsoever, of course it worked.

Anyway, since I’m also playing through Final Fantasy IX right now, I went with the Tantalus outfit. I won’t lie — this set pleased me. No cat tail, at least on this character, but it’s spot on. And now I’m ready to dig back into the main storyline and see what dopey elves need help with this year.


LOTRO: Fine, Mordor, you win

Dear Future Syp,

No doubt you’re reading this because you’ve decided to come back to Lord of the Rings Online after another extended absence, perhaps because some shiny new content has released, and perhaps because LOTRO is like an old girlfriend you can’t quite get out of your head. It’s part of your MMO marrow, and I understand that.

You’re probably checking out this post because whenever you come back to an old MMO, you’re curious about your most recent adventures, where you left off, and why you took a break. I think I can answer most of that for you.

You just about got through the entirety of the base Mordor expansion, although your time, attention, and interest started to flag in the final zone. In fact, you never quite finished up the last zone, choosing instead to focus on the Black Book of Mordor epic storyline — and even that you left undone, with three or so chapters to go. It shouldn’t be too bad.

So why did you leave? Because LOTRO just wore you down. No, to be fair, it was Mordor in particular that wore you down. The slow progress. The omnipresent gloomy atmosphere. Those public dungeons that took just about forever to do. The lack of any exciting new carrots to chase. You couldn’t even be bothered with the new allegiance system, and the more aggressive lockboxes didn’t help any.

Mordor just wasn’t thrilling for you. It wasn’t eye candy, and in the absence of a welcoming and enjoyable environment, story is all that’s left. And while there were highlights, it wasn’t as memorable as it should have been.

Plus, there was that weird feeling like you were playing in the game’s extended epilogue now that the ring had been destroyed. Sure, you knew that there were things to be done, places to go, and fights to be had, but it all felt downhill. You understand that? Sure you do.

Best of luck with your quests, future Syp. I know you want to see this game through and that you might regret the time you took off that you could have put to use. But quite frankly, you needed the break or else you would have seriously started to resent the game. Mordor ended up being Moria Part II with its oppressiveness, and just like everyone needed to get out of Moria, you needed to get out of Mordor.

Say hi to your Lore-master for me and give your bog-guardian a pet on the head. He was a loyal fellow for having followed you so far.


February 2018 Syp

Battle Bards Episode 115: EVE Online

Forgettable ambient noise or entrancing space sounds? This is the debate that’s at the core of today’s episode, as the Battle Bards take on EVE Online’s beloved and perhaps misunderstood soundtrack. It’s a journey that goes far beyond our galaxy to one full of intrigue, industry, and space discotheques!

Episode 115 show notes (show pagedirect download)

  • Intro (feat. “Below the Asteroids,” “Odyssey,” and  “I Saw Your Ship (symphony version”)
  • “Akat Mountains”
  • “Minmatar Rock”
  • “Hail to the Explorer”
  • “Theme from Jita”
  • “Red Glowing Dust”
  • “Merchants, Looters, and Ghosts”
  • “The Dealer”
  • Which one did we like best?
  • Listener notes: Veon91, Zen Dadaist, KatsPurr
  • Jukebox picks: “Musik 2” from Hotline Miami, “Battlefield One” from Battlefield 1, and “Theories of an Eager Heart” from Planet Coaster
  • Outro (feat. “EVE Fanfest 2013 Theme”)

Trying to get organized in World of Warcraft

I just fell off the world… and onto a new one!

In some ways, I’m envying the crowd in World of Warcraft these days that have already pre-ordered the expansion and are spending the hours leveling up the new allied races. This isn’t something I want to do right now, mind you, but it’s just an envy of the leveling and questing process vs. the endgame economic loop that I’m in. There aren’t a lot of story arcs and zone progression for me right now, is what I’m saying.

In addition to refining how I’m trying to make gold in WoW, I’ve been working on sorting out just what my characters should be doing. Let me say that I’m frustrated with how the game’s structured its level 110 content, because it is confusing as all get out to know what to do and in what order. I’m not talking at all about the dungeon-raid grind — that’s something I’m avoiding altogether because I like my life. I’m talking about Argus and finishing up the order hall quests and getting class mounts and trying to push my champions to ilevel 950 and the multiple different quest arcs that are thrown at you. Some aren’t that important, some are. But so many are just not that easy to follow, and the game has lost me at several points.

It’s for this reason that I welcome the reset of a new expansion, even as I’m grumpy about losing the artifacts and legendaries that we spent so much time acquiring and building up. I’m just tired of the headache of trying to sort out the important stuff from the quest noise that builds up in my logs.

So right now if I have time after dailies and whatnot, I’ll try to work on one quest in each of my three character’s logs so that I’m not purely spinning my wheels here.

This also meant finally taking my Warlock Syperstar out of semi-retirement, where she’s been spending months in the Garrison making hexweave bags and wishing for a better life. As a rather fresh level 110, she has so much more to do in terms of quests and gearing up. I’m not going all-out on it, but she is at least doing her daily emissary rounds and helping to bring in a bit of extra cash via order hall missions. Three characters seem like a good number for a gold-making enterprise, and I’m making on average 12-18k gold every day (depending on sales, that could be a lot more).

This effort has paid out in spades. In addition to covering my monthly sub, I’ve generated enough gold for tokens that allowed me to pre-purchase Battle for Azeroth for free. Again, it’s more the principle of being able to earn your own way than actual affordability… but hey, that’s $50 I can spend elsewhere!

I’m also trying to be mindful of too much routine and the looming specter of burnout. As I said last week, there are a lot of games that I want to be trying out this spring, as well as the desire to hit up past MMOs like Elder Scrolls Online and FFXIV. I want to be in a place that if I only had 30 minutes or so to log into WoW, I could still do a lot in keeping my sales and gold generation going.

DDO: Spelunking in the Caverns of Korromar

Last week’s signature DDO adventure for me was hoofing it through the Caverns of Korromar as part of my efforts to get through House K quests. I know I’ve mentioned before that I have this negative reaction to seeing “long” or “very long” on the dungeon descriptions, because I know I’m in for a trek. This was a “long” quest, and sure enough, it ended up being about an hour of gameplay for my little solo team.

What initially frustrated me about Caverns of Korromar is that it is anything but a straight-forward dungeon romp. DDO works hard to break me out of established patterns with quests like this, and while I initially balked and grumbled at having to deal with a non-linear mission, in the end it felt satisfying and fair.

So the story here is that there was a Dwarven excavation deep in the jungle that had become overrun by undead. On top of that, something “evil” is lurking deep within it… and I’ve been drafted to go find out what it was.

It wasn’t an easy task. Just getting TO the excavation was tough enough, since the main gate was sealed and the only way in was through a sewer mini-dungeon. Then I had to find the entrance proper… at which point I was finally at the dig site. Which had five separate instances. And no mini-map within those instances. To make matters even worse, DDO Wiki — which is usually a fountain of useful information — was kind of a bust on this particular quest.

So the idea here is that all five excavation entrances are to the same underground map, just in different areas. By jumping in and out of each of them, I could gradually discover and solve the various clues that would lead to the unlocking of the magically shielded arena in the middle. It wasn’t too tough, just somewhat disorienting — especially at first. I think there was only one fight when things went south quickly and I found myself on the run with only a couple of dozen hit points.

But gradually, I solved all of the pieces (dull-witted that I am) and gained access to the arena.

At which point a Beholder started zapping me and I was like “HOLY MOLEY A BEHOLDER!” Trust me when I say I was fortunate to get the above screenshot. Fights in DDO happen very fast and you can get yourself wiped out if you’re lollygagging trying to take screenshots.

It was a surprising and cool end boss, and thanks to my machine gun crossbow and my pocket Cleric, we cleaned up just fine.

I even had time to take a selfie with the dead Beholder! So majestic in life, so disgusting in death.

Syp’s spring MMO dance card

As I mentioned last week in my gaming goals post, I’ve started to realize just how much is happening this spring with MMOs. It’s certainly caused me to change some previous plans I had for these months as I’m shuffling around games that I want to play — or at least try. As of right now, here are the online titles that are vying for a spot on my dance card this season in order of when they’re coming out:

Wild Buster, Antaria Online, Broke Protocol

All of these are early access titles that I picked up either for dirt cheap at a Steam sale or for free. Figured that I would give them a look sooner or later, so they’re occupying that “whenever I have time” spot.

Closers Online (launches February 6)

This is one of those action MMO imports with fixed characters that I usually ignore, but I miiiight want to give this a shot. I love the cel shaded graphics and the modern setting, so at least my curiosity is piqued.

Tale of Toast (early access February 23)

I have a soft spot for very indie MMOs, especially ones with an interesting look or style. Tale of Toast meets these standards, although its “hardcore” nature will probably keep it from being more than an idle look and a once-off blog post.

Villagers and Heroes mobile (releases on iOS February 26)

Still awaiting a good, dependable, and accessible mobile MMO, and I have high hopes for this one. I like what V&H does as a game, and as a mobile title it might just hit the spot for those off-hours.

Project Gorgon (early access in February or March)

I feel like I’ve been waiting to properly play this game for years now, and I’ve long said that once it hits early access (and lowers its chance for massive world changes), I’d start for good. Well, it should be happening fairly soon!

Sea of Thieves (launches March 20)

I do have some mild reservations about the PvP angle and the depth (or lack thereof) for this pirate title, but I am insanely excited about it even so. Can’t wait to join up with a crew and go treasure hunting on the open sea!

Shroud of the Avatar (launches March 27)

I once had hopes for this game, but right now it isn’t looking all that great for Garriott’s Ultima Online follow-up. Low population and a general dissatisfied word-of-mouth experience outside of the rabidly loyal. Still, I paid for it and promised that I would come back to see the launch version when it happened. We’ll see if it’s turned around enough!

RIFT Prime (spring 2018)

Depending on whether or not Trion will allow us to keep the characters from the new Prime server, I’ll be there with bells on day one. Really warming up to the idea of returning to this great MMO, especially with a new angle and challenge. Starting over is always fun.

Missing Final Fantasy

As I’ve talked about many times before, I have this weird love/hate thing going with the whole Final Fantasy franchise. It wasn’t a defining series for my childhood or anything; I only got into it with Final Fantasy VII back when I was in college and continued on until X. I lost interest in the console versions past that, and the MMOs have been a hit-and-miss affair with me.

Yet I will confess to some affection for the series. I recently fell into a playlist of Final Fantasy restrospective videos that I found fascinating, especially since they contained a detailed look at the earlier games that I never touched. The videos stirred in me a bit of nostalgia as they reminded me of some of the elements that I liked — the music, the atmosphere, the 400-pound swords — in addition to the weirdness and the more frustrating aspects of the series. FF7, in particular, made such an imprint on my gaming history that to this day it’s the title that I associate with the original PlayStation.

There really should be an accessible term for a person who is somewhat less than a “fan” of something but more than a very casual acquaintance. Or a fan in the past tense, maybe? That’s how I’ve been with Star Trek for decades now (although I think that fandom was just about quashed thanks to Discovery) and it’s what links me to Final Fantasy.

You know how it goes. Nostalgia and awareness is raised, and the next thing you know, you’re diving headfirst into games of the past. I finally got around to starting Final Fantasy IX on my iPad (which I purchased a long time ago for a promised second playthrough and never did it), and my SNES Classic keeps reminding me that I have a date with the sixth game, which I’ve never played but probably should just to shut up people whose eyes bug out when I tell them that. And there’s always the lurking through of Final Fantasy XIV, which should totally appeal to me on paper and only partially does in play.

To scratch at this itch, I’ve started to play the two Final Fantasies that I purchased for mobile way back when with the intention to enjoy. There’s FF6, which I’ve never played all of the way through, and FF9, which I adored on PlayStation but only did a single playthrough on that console. I’ll have deeper reports in weeks to come, hopefully, but so far both have been surprisingly enjoyable, hitting the spot.

It’s probably only a passing fad. Something to indulge for a little while, to scratch that itch, and then forget about once more. But it’s harmless fun, so why not? My college self would be giving me a thumbs up in approval, and at the very least, I can enjoy these soundtracks all over again as I listen to them on loop a billion times in a row.