On Saving Time

At this point I’m not sure where I first heard it, but I find when it comes to dungeons in Final Fantasy 14, the following is quite true:

Nothing wastes more time than people trying to save time.

So to my tank in Aurum Vale this past week, this one’s dedicated to you. It’s a bit of a rant, so sorry ahead of time for that.

Slow Down

The nature of some of the high level content in FF14 means that you may end up doing some dungeons rather often, especially if you decide to continue the relic quest past the atma stage (I don’t recommend this if all you care about is having a good weapon). Sometimes this makes people a bit impatient. Recently I’ve noticed a trend in doing nonstandard things in an attempt to “save time” and finish the instance faster, particularly on the part of tanks. Strategies for this range from reasonable (pulling more things than intended), to ridiculous (ignore all mechanics and hope for the best), to mildly exploitative (skip pulls by sending someone, usually the tank, on a suicide run). The only reason I call that last one mildly exploitative is because Square Enix seems to have reduced or eliminated the ability to do this in some of the older instances, and designs most current instances to make it impossible.

The thing is, there are very few things that slow a run down more than a wipe, and some of these things lead to that very scenario. If your entire party isn’t on-board, a suicide run is a disaster waiting to happen (I’ve even seen this go bad in the first turn of Binding Coil). Speedpulling is well and fine, unless your healer isn’t aware of what it takes to keep up with such high damage on the tank (or worse, isn’t aware that they need to hold off on heals until things have some amount of aggro and get instantly murdered). As far as ignoring mechanics goes, almost all cases where this is viable require high DPS, and sometimes people try without being aware that it’s an issue. A wipe in the last phase of Howling Eye (Hard) takes a lot longer than simply killing the adds would have, and I encountered this when going for my Scholar relic recently. Other notable examples include the Bone Dragon and King Behemoth in Labyrinth of the Ancients.

Communication is Key

The most important thing is that your entire group is prepared and willing to go along with whatever you’re doing. If someone says that they’re not familiar with a particular instance, or doesn’t feel confident in their ability to do a speed run, don’t try it anyway. If your party’s DPS is a pair of dragoons, you’re not really saving time by pulling more things at a time. On the other hand, if you have a Bard and a Black Mage feel free to pull as many things as you can without giving your healer a heart attack. If you’re in an instance below level 50, it’s important to keep in mind that some classes are missing relatively important tools (Flare, Perfect Balance, and Medica II come to mind immediately) and if you’re in an instance low enough there are some classes that don’t have any AOE abilities at all (Monks get their only worthwhile one at 30, Summoners get vastly improved AOE ability at 30, Dragoons get their first at 42 and a better one at 46).

The one that really gets me is ignoring mechanics without warning the party, particularly when this requires healers to kite or tank something they were previously unaware of. I first encountered the “screw the healer” strategy in Cutter’s Cry, and I’ve since seen it in Copperbell Mines and a few other places. It also tends to be the go-to in the Crystal Tower instances, even though there are somewhere between 2-5 tanks who don’t really have anything better to do who could be picking up adds instead of fighting for aggro on a miniboss. (Mini-rant: If you’re a tank, and you’re in one of the 24-man instances without a real job, please don’t fight whoever’s tanking a boss for aggro. In fact, turn on Sword Oath/turn off Defiance, and you will help more by doing damage than you would by spinning the boss. The exception here is when there are adds that need to be handled, most notably on Glasya and Amon, but you can switch your tank stance on when you get there if you’re paying enough attention.) If your healer doesn’t know what they have to do, they’ll die, and you’ll wipe, and have to do the whole thing over again. There are many more examples of this, like not killing the pillars in the last boss of Qarn, or ignoring the Iron Giant in Labyrinth. More uptime on the boss doesn’t speed things along if it causes a wipe.

It’s the little things

THAT SAID, there are some genuine ways to save time in instances that don’t endanger the group. For DPS classes, the biggest one of these is knowing your own class. If you are a bard, and you don’t anticipate the need for TP or MP regen, Foe Requiem increases the damage of your dots and Flaming Arrow even if there are no magical DPS in the party. (It also pulls from a very long distance, so be careful with it.) For Monks, Perfect Balance can be used to get a lot of AOE damage out of spamming Rockbreaker. For Black Mages, Blizzard III and Fire III replace Transpose entirely (unless you mess up).

Another thing that can help as a healer is casting damage spells. In particular, Holy is one of the game’s best AOEs, and the associated stun helps to reduce incoming damage on the tank. For Scholars, Shadowflare is also very good and causes a slow on everything standing in it, again reducing incoming damage. Provided you keep an eye on MP (Holy is very expensive) and don’t neglect normal healing duties, a bit of healer DPS can go a long way.

If someone’s new, an explanation ahead of time is better than a wipe later. It’s ok to suggest other things, but make sure everyone’s prepared and willing to go along with whatever strategy you’re using. Otherwise you’re just wasting time.

On 1812

If you heard the podcast from February 1, you may have already heard a bit about Overture (I mentioned it again on February 8). Since the podcasts I’ve learned a bit more about it, and I’d like to share. It’s an interesting game, if a bit basic, and I’ve lost several hours to it already.


Overture is in many ways a real-time roguelike in a more traditional sense than that normally implies. It has somewhat randomly generated levels (although they all appear to be overall rectangular, so that part isn’t that interesting), random enemies, and swift death when you’re still learning what you’re doing. Play somewhat resembles games like Diablo, except you move with WASD and attack with the mouse. You move somewhat faster when moving in the direction you’re facing and not attacking, which it turns out is an important mechanic. The game asks you to defeat enemies in 10 levels while challenging a boss at the end of each. Beating a boss allows you to upgrade either your health or your mana, and you are also given the opportunity to spend gold on random chests.

When you inevitably die, you retain the gold your character finished with, and you can use it to upgrade characters or unlock new ones; it’s somewhat similar to Rogue Legacy in this sense. Upgrading only seems to improve your damage output, not your resources, so you still need to remain evasive or you’ll die pretty quickly. Items in the dungeon can improve your attack, defense, and mana regeneration, generally speaking. Weapons frequently have another effect that triggers on-hit, essences frequently have a similar effect on-kill. These can range from bursts of damage, to more gold, to potion drops.


Meet the Cast

The playable classes are divided into 4 groups of 5 classes: Warriors, Rogues, Mages, and Shamans, where that last one houses everything that didn’t fit neatly into the first 3 categories. Generally warriors have higher defense, rogues move faster, and mages have significantly faster mana regeneration. Most Shamans have one of these also (Paladins have the defense of warriors, Priests have the mana regen of mages, etc.), but a few are slightly different. There are both short-range and long-range classes in most categories, although mages tend toward long-range and warriors tend toward the opposite.

All classes have a “standard” attack on right-click, these vary in effectiveness and range by class. Some examples here are the Peltast (warrior) who throws spears that go through enemies, the Trickster (rogue) who can attack wherever the cursor is without a projectile, and the Invoker (mage), who has a very short-range, very low damage fireball. Right click is usually a secondary attack that costs mana, usually . The Barbarian (warrior) gains a stackable damage aura, the Witch (mage) has a very powerful spray attack, and the Bandit (rogue) has a fan of knives burst.

A few classes have a right-click that isn’t a one-off attack. The most notable case is the Invoker, who becomes a demon with a primary attack that shoots homing fireballs. This form drains mana and you revert to the very weak base form when it runs out. The Brute works similarly, turning into a hammer-throwing berserker, but the brute isn’t quite as helpless when not transformed and has some big disadvantages for transforming. There’s also a Druid (shaman), who only spends mana on switching forms, and doesn’t have a noticeably stronger one. The caster form has a long-ranged magic missile, but moves slowly. The wolf form is very fast (faster than most rogues) and has a high attack speed, but a very short-range. Departing from the transformation theme, there are also oddballs like the Arsonist (mage), who randomly lights fires when right-click is held, or the Necromancer (mage) who summons skeletons.


Meet the Opposition

There are a lot of enemies in this game, and depending on enemy type they seem to act slightly differently. A lot of them are fairly basic and will merely walk toward you, like most skeletons, and rats, and bats. Minotaurs are a special case because they also have this behavior, but are much, much faster than most other enemies, so they usually feel like they’re charging you. There are quite a few archer or mage-type enemies that will attempt to shoot at you from afar, most of them will try to avoid you if you approach them. Others will just continue trying to shoot you in the face. Behaviors seem to get more complex as you get further into the dungeon, and I haven’t seen the later floors yet.

There are also champion-type enemies that get a random name and more health and damage; if they have other properties I haven’t noticed. These aren’t usually a threat by themselves, but traps sometimes call 3-4 of them in addition to a swarm of normal enemies, and that can cause problems. There are also minibosses with somewhat more varied abilities, these are a threat on their own. Most levels have a large slime that thinks it’s a boss from a bullet hell game guarding the staircase. This was the cause of death for most of my first characters.

Of course, then there are the actual bosses. The “tutorial” warns you that you need to be able to move fast in boss fights, and that’s largely accurate. The game doesn’t pull punches, and sometimes has bosses that rush you in addition to their projectile attacks. Boss tactics don’t stop there, and they can also summon other enemies, lay traps, or interfere with you in other ways. Now that I’m getting more familiar with the game, the level bosses are my most common cause of death.


Apparently this is a thing you can do

I didn’t know about it when I mentioned it, and it ended before I could point it out, but Overture actually had a Kickstarter conclude recently, even though the game is “finished”. The goals of the campaign were to get it on more platforms (Mac & Linux), soundtrack improvements, and performance improvements. I had mixed feelings about this at first, but after a while I concluded that I don’t think it’s a bad thing. Nowhere are the developers misrepresenting the product currently for sale or what they wanted to do with the Kickstarter. It’s an interesting step in post-release support, but not an entirely unwelcome one. I’m just not sure I personally would buy the game again just to get my money added to the Kickstarter pool.

I do recommend Overture to anyone looking for a generally uncomplicated roguelike where things might get a little crazy. I’m certainly having fun with it.

On Big Things

Let’s talk about Gigantic.

Not a MOBA

MOBA is joining RPG in that the meaning of the acronym applies to many games not included in the genre. “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena” is a good description, but Gigantic doesn’t have minions, it doesn’t really have lanes, and you can’t break your enemy’s base. Instead, it has capture points, and summons, and giant fighting creatures.

The goal in Gigantic is to destroy the enemy team’s Guardian while defending your own, but that is a bit like saying the goal in Football is to score more points than the other team. In Gigantic, this is accomplished by performing various actions that grant Energy to your guardian. When it has a full bar, it will go rampaging toward the enemy guardian, rendering it vulnerable to player attacks for a little while. Kills grant energy, as does attacking the opposing guardian when it’s not vulnerable (this actually steals energy, but requires getting through the enemy team without dying). I think the capture points have some effect on how quickly your bar fills, but I didn’t get a chance to see that during the playtest. Since only one guardian is on the offense at a time, it plays out a bit like a football game, with alternating attack and defense.

After enough times of this (or I think if one of the guardians is low enough on health?) The Clash begins, and the guardians adopt positions that are much closer to each other, effectively reducing the playable space. Points can no longer be captured once this happens, and kills are worth increased energy. This greatly accelerates the pace of the game, creating a definite “endgame” scenario. It remains to be seen (by me, anyway) if this prevents games from being drawn out unnecessarily.


Summon Creature

The mechanic for capturing points is also somewhat non-standard. Points are taken by summoning creatures on them while they’re neutral. Which creature you summon seems to have some effect on your team, one example is a treant that slowly healed the team members that were near it. There was also a cerberus that granted vision of the enemy team on the minimap, and a drake of some kind that I don’t know what it did. These creatures fight for you in any confrontation close enough to the summoning point, which makes defending one much easier (generally) than attacking one. I would say it takes a coordinated effort to take one out, but it’s possible that the character I was playing (Charnok) is too squishy for it. Belghast claimed that he came close to doing it with Margrave (who is a tank) and probably could have if he were more familiar with the game. These summoning points are the territory control mechanism, and they’re the points that fights tend to start around unless one of the guardians is currently on the offensive.

gigantic canyon summoning circle

Motley Crew

One of the things I find very interesting about Gigantic (but unfortunately didn’t get a chance to personally explore) is that you are playing a very different game depending on which hero you’re currently playing as. The cast isn’t yet very large, but they seem to have a lot of archetypes covered. There are 14 revealed heroes, and Motiga mentioned that there are more in development. There seem to be a few characters for people who really like shooters (Voden, Roland, Imani, HK) who all focus on somewhat different roles. Imani for example is fragile, has a large crossbow, and is a sniper. HK is more durable and firmly believes in the Vladof philosophy, making his effective range somewhat shorter.

There are also a variety of characters who don’t rely on such careful aim, including most of the game’s melee characters. The already-mentioned Margrave is a tank, and can be quite disruptive while not dying. Tyto (the owl-dude who seems to be prominent in the game’s marketing) is very dangerous and fairly evasive, but can’t take much punishment. These characters rely much less on your aiming ability, and instead on your ability to navigate the map and get to where you can be the most effective.

There are characters that don’t fit neatly into either of these camps like Xenobia, who has a kit filled with debuffs and support via murder (or enabling murder), or Vadasi who is a more traditional supporting character and can power her abilities with her own health. (I’m told these two pair very well on the same team.) There are also a few mage-types, like Mozo and Charnok, who I got to play at PAX.


Categorizing this game is somewhat difficult, other than “surprisingly fun” and “competitive multiplayer”. I suppose it also has arenas in which you do battle online. I look forward to more coming out about this one, because I can’t wait to play more of it.