Category Archives: MMO

On Bug Repellant

Blaugust Post #28

I didn’t think this was going to happen at the start of this year, but this weekend I find myself in Seattle, attending PAX Prime with Tamrielo and Kodra. I’ve previously been to East (twice) and South, but this is my first time coming to the original venue. It’s also my first time attending any event where there’s been a Final Fantasy 14 Battle Challenge. The enemy for this event is Ravana, normally encountered as part of the Heavensward storyline at level 53. This one’s been scaled up a bit to be an appropriate challenge for level 60 characters.


We met up with another member of our free company, which meant we had 4 people familiar with the fight. Joining us were 3 people who had never played Final Fantasy 14 before, and one who did play, but was not high enough level to have seen the fight. We got through the slaughter phases pretty well, but we had some issues with the defensive phases.

I Beat Ravana

In the end though, we emerged victorious. It was actually kind of satisfying helping people who hadn’t seen it before get through, and we got nice new shirts out of the deal.

On Levels

Blaugust Post #11

Not too long ago, Tam wrote a post (and a follow-up) about why we should get rid of levels. SAO contains hints of this, mentioning how a level-based system isn’t really fair in PVP contexts, with a subtler hint at the same idea explaining why the second arc doesn’t have levels. In general, I don’t disagree with the arguments presented, but I still think levels are worth keeping.


It’s possible to have progression without using levels, but I feel that having a level as a symbol of how far you’ve come is more important than any actual increases you get from it. Diablo 3 is a good example of this, as each paragon level doesn’t get you much, but it still feels good to get the level up animation and sound. Skyrim likewise gives you a small power boost as you level, but a large part of your power is based on your skill levels, which might be somewhat far removed from your actual level. (A system was introduced after Dragonborn came out that even lets you reset your skill levels and level indefinitely.) I haven’t played a lot of SAO: Hollow Fragment yet, but it seems to work similarly. (It also has the somewhat ridiculous level cap of 250, and Kirito starts at level 100. These numbers are kind of just there.) Tam kind of dismisses this point, but I feel like it’s relatively important. Even at max level in games with vertical gear progression, you tend to make a different number go up (since both WoW and FF14 tell you your average item level). Admittedly, there’s no “ding” noise for hitting ilevel 170.

Ding 70
Yes, I hit 70 on my first character from desecrating a fire.

Baby + Bathwater

I think more than that, my problem is that most level-less systems that I’ve seen so far either aren’t (TSW) or are 100 times worse (Destiny), with a few exceptions. EVE seems to have figured this out, but it has the problem of being EVE. TSW claims not to have levels, but that’s a big fat lie, as your power is 90% based on your talisman levels. If the big skill wheel was all there was, that game could still be compelling, but they felt the need to add a power gating mechanism on top of it. Contrast this with Guild Wars (the first one), which had actual levels, but intended you to hit the level cap (20) about a third of the way through the campaign. The bulk of your time is spent acquiring additional options, especially Elite Skills, which had to be acquired from bosses out in the world. It’s not a level-less system, but it acts like one, and I find it one of the better examples of such.

There are... other problems with this wheel.
There are… other problems with this wheel.

Destiny tried to be like Guild Wars, but is structured more like WoW or FF14. The story is enough to take you to about level 20, and you have “light levels” after that. Most options for getting additional light relied on random drops, and your light level still restricted what you could do, so this ended up being worse in almost all cases than having normal levels. Bungie seems to agree, and is going to normal levels with their first real expansion. Most systems I’ve seen so far that attempt to gate power in a way that isn’t related to level don’t actually fix any of the problems Tam outlined. As a consumer of games and not a designer, levels are easy to understand and mostly work, so I think I’ll stick with them. Changes have to do better than “mostly work”, and so far I can’t think of any that have.

On Dancing

Blaugust Post #10

Last night, our Monday raid beat up Bismarck (Extreme). It helped a lot to have Belghast, who cleared it with the Wednesday group last week, but it was still the first kill for 5 of us. Bismarck is one long DPS check, but more than that it’s the kind of “controlled chaos” fight that the Monday group excels at with AOEs flying everywhere and weather changes that have to be reacted to appropriately. Clearing this fight opens up our way to Thok ast Thok (Extreme) and the hardest current encounter in the game outside of Alexander (Savage).



As suits his music, Ravana asks you to dance. It’s the kind of intensely structured encounter where you need to know what’s coming, as reacting to it is generally not going to be fast enough; it’s kind of like Titan in this sense. In addition to his normal abilities, Ravana has a series of attacks called “Liberations” (Prelude to Liberation, Liberation, Swift Liberation, and Final Liberation). Each of these is a 15 second cast (he takes bonus damage while using these) that ends with a very choreographed attack pattern. These vary in difficulty from “You remember Ifrit EX, right?” to “What madman came up with this nonsense?”.

Fortunately, all is not lost, and Someone came up with these simple animations to show one way of dealing with what’s going on. I love it when players do awesome things like this, because trying to explain Final Liberation in just text requires a lot longer than the 54 seconds of this video. Understanding how and why it works that way isn’t really something you can get from the video, so there are some drawbacks there too.

On Revenge

Blaugust Post #7

I still don’t take enough screenshots.

FF14 recently added an option where you can go into dungeons as an “undersized party” which is the only way to enter with fewer than the required number of people, and also skips the level sync portion. In all honesty I’m not sure what the intent is, but we’ve used it for two things: Entering level 50 raids at 60 and soloing old content.

Tam-Tara (Hard)

Into Darkness

Before I even properly leveled anything, one of the first things I did was go into Dzemael Darkhold on my warrior (at 50) and see if I could solo the thing. DD is a level 44 dungeon, and at the time I needed a relic drop from there and was quite tired of running it at the proper level.Turns out that except for the final boss, not only is it possible, it’s easy. The final boss is also possible, but considerably less easy. I always liked doing similar things in WoW, so I think this got me hooked on trying to solo things here.

goring blade

Further Endeavors

Fast Forward about a month, and I have a level 60 Paladin, ready to try my hand at some tougher content. Still needing Relic drops, I decided to start with Amdapor Keep, one of the “starting” level 50 dungeons. This took a bit more doing than Dzemael Darkhold, especially because the final boss has a healing debuff. I’ve been working my way down the list since then. I haven’t had any success with Copperbell (Can’t keep up DPS on the boss and do mechanics), or Lost City (The first boss just eats you, which is fatal with no party members). I did manage to solo Wanderer’s Palace and Halatali. I still have quite a few to go, so we’ll see where the brick wall is. I suspect that if I run into issues as a tank, I could always come back as one of the Arcanist classes once I get to 60.

On Ships that have Sailed

Blaugust Post #6

It’s interesting seeing things about a game that I’m done playing. If you are unaware, WoW: Legion was announced today, with the addition of Artifact Weapons (among other things). With this, they finally, finally have a weapon that feral druids give a damn about because it looks cool. (Ok, there was one other.) The Druid relic weapon enables form customization for feral and guardian druids, something that has been a complaint since I started playing and was kind of, sort of, not really addressed in Wrath, with the addition of forms based on hair/skin color.

Fangs of the First Nightsaber
It’s taken me a while of not playing WoW to realize that I care more than I thought about how my character looks when playing MMOs, and going back to the same cat/bear forms is kind of a drag. The transmog system was a great step in the right direction, but no matter what my normal armor looked like, I still turned into the same bear. No matter how awesome that weapon upgrade was, I sure couldn’t see it in cat form. Really I’m glad that they’re doing something about this, but it’s maybe too little, too late.

Ashbringer Upgrades
Other things they’re adding sound cool, like the class hangouts for all of the classes (Monks, Druids, and DKs pretty much already had these, but it’s nice to spread the love). The Artifact weapons look a lot like the weapon upgrades in Destiny (which despite my overall thoughts on Destiny, is a cool system) so I hope they work out here too. If MMO-Champion’s writeup is to be believed, they might even understand why 5-person dungeons are worth keeping around. It’ll be interesting to see where this one goes. WoW can be a successful, sustainable MMO even at numbers far below its current ones, so I think players of the game have a lot to look forward to. I just don’t think I’ll count myself among that number in the near future.

Also, I’m not sure anyone needed Demon Hunters.

On Success

Blaugust Post #4

As you may have heard by now, our previous raid night was spent working on content that we were 10 levels above. For a bit now, our raid group has been working on clearing the last of the raid content from the 2.x series, the Final Coil of Bahamut. We finally beat the final boss on Monday, and I have to say it feels pretty good.

Out of a Bind I

Months Behind

At no point in this game have we been raiding on the bleeding edge. We beat Turn 5 (The hardest boss in the game at release) shortly after the Final Coil of Bahamut (Turns 10-13) came out. We were stuck on Turn 9 for months (and the same phase of it, at that), despite making decent progress with every other raid we attempted. We finally beat it after Heavensward, and I was more happy that it was over than happy I’d beaten it. Things were a bit better moving into Final Coil, because the boss fights there are really cool. (I think T11 is mechanically one of my favorite fight concepts in the game.) As a result of being so drastically behind, we out-geared and/or out-leveled all of the content we’ve been doing.

Angry Red Ball

And Loving It

It turns out that these raids are still pretty fun this way, and nothing was a pushover (except T10, which we got below 50% on the first pull without explaining things). Mechanics are still capable of wiping you if you mess up, and while the DPS numbers are now kind of easy, standing in things meant to kill you will usually still kill you. In the final dungeons (T5, T9, T13) there are still things that can kill you with no save, like Twisters, Divebombs, or messing up fire/ice. What really gets me are some of the numbers on things not meant to kill you. Akh Morn in Turn 13 is an attack meant to be shared between the tanks that does massive, increasingly large amounts of damage as the final phase goes on. I have no idea how anyone survived this at 50 (and especially in the first groups to clear, who didn’t have full loot from the rest of Final Coil). 10k+ damage through cooldowns is kind of intense. It was certainly a rush to actually beat it.


What the Future Holds

Currently we’re looking at participating in more current content next week, probably either continuing with Alexander or taking on The Limitless Blue (Extreme). The raiding experience in this game has been quite enjoyable, so I hope this continues.

On Achievement

One of the things that came up in the podcast is my continuing progress through Final Fantasy 14’s Zodiac Weapon quest. About 2 hours before the podcast, I managed to get to the final stage before the relic weapon turns into something else, Sphairai Nexus. It’s been a long trip, and there’s still a decent amount of work to do before it’s “finished”.

Nexus Get
It’s very shiny.

Because It’s There

At this point in the game, there’s not much point in completing a zodiac weapon to actually use. The advice I give to players in our free company hitting level 60 is that you should get your relic weapon because the quest is kind of cool and because it represents probably the most convenient weapon you can get on hitting 50. Upgrading it once to the “Zenith” stage gives you an i90 weapon, and this is good enough to get you through to the next non-relic weapon upgrade. If you’re sane, it’s better to pretend that the questline doesn’t continue past this point.

After the Zenith stage, the relic quest starts going into the Saga of Zodiac Weapons, and the effort/reward ratio is a bit skewed toward effort. Nearly every patch that introduced a new tier of gear added a stage to the quest, and all of these are quite time-consuming (but mostly not terribly mechanically difficult). Most players doing this quest now (including myself) are doing it just to say that they have. There’s just something satisfying about having a goal and working toward it, regardless of the actual utility of this goal.

If you see this, you've gone too far.
If you see this, you’ve gone too far.

Not the First Time

Even in games that don’t have a real achievement system, I tend to find and make goals for myself. I notable example was in WoW, where I made a point of collecting keys. I played a druid, but I made up for a lack of lockpicking skills by carrying around every key I could get my hand on. This included the key to Tempest Keep, long after it became unnecessary, along with not-key keys like the Medallion of Karabor and the Drakefire Amulet. On a very related note, I was pretty pissed off when one of the Cataclysm patches removed 90% of the keys from the game.

For a while, if a key existed, I had it.
For a while, if a key existed, I had it.

I did other insane things in WoW, although I never got a title for it. I was a holder of the Scepter of the Shifting Sands, even though it had absolutely no purpose to me. I managed to get the entire Feralheart Set, and wore it around town (and then used it as a transmog, once that became a thing that was possible). The relic weapon quest is just really another part of this, one more facet of my desire to achieve things because they’re there. I don’t intend to stop anytime soon.

On Giant Steps

It’s not exactly a secret that the most recent Trial in Final Fantasy 14, Steps of Faith, isn’t exactly popular. I think it would be a lie to say that this is because it requires coordination or punishes mistakes harshly, because there are actually a lot of trials (even ones required for the story) that do this, like Shiva or Ultros. Today’s patch, 2.57, brings some changes, mostly by reducing the damage that a lot of the hazards do and reducing the health of most enemies (including the main enemy, Vishap), which should make it a bit easier to finish the trial before you fail. What it doesn’t change is why I dislike the trial in the first place:

Even if you know you’ve failed, there’s no way to start over until all of the events “finish”.

Vishap Wins

Super Meat Boy Philosophy

If you’re not familiar with the platformer Super Meat Boy, it’s a game that’s filled with spikes and saws and missiles and other things that will kill you, and asks you to get to the goal as fast as possible without dying. You die in one hit, so it’s a pretty hard game. The thing that makes it playable at all is that there’s maybe two seconds between dying and restarting a level. (I mentioned this in the Darkest Dungeon podcast). As a result failure isn’t that big of a deal, because before you even have time to think about it you’re starting again.

Steps of Faith is not like that. It’s the only trial that doesn’t end if your entire group is dead, it has its own unique failure condition when the dragon makes it all the way to the end of the bridge. In addition, if you miss certain things (like the giant harpoons), your chances of victory are very low, and you still have to let the entire sequence play out. This results in the time it takes for a successful run to be comparable to the duration of the duty finder lockout for leaving (30 minutes), so people frequently leave when they get it via roulette. (I haven’t seen a case this bad since Oculus, which WoW eventually started bribing players into doing.)

meat boy

Looking Forward

I don’t know if the nerfs are going to help this, but that’s really just a matter of magnitude. They may have reduced Vishap’s health to the point where you can beat on him the whole time and still win. I personally think the only required change would have been allowing the fight to reset if all party members were dead (or some other way to reset the fight). It’s a new day, and we have people in the Free Company approaching this fight again, so I suppose we’ll see in the future.

Vishap Loses

On Sword Oath

I’m already forgetting the lessons of Blaugust. I might be a bit busier than I was then, but I should keep in mind that I don’t need to write an entire book every time I hit post. With that in mind, here are a few things that came up this past week in FFXIV. While the game balance at 50 is generally somewhere between “good” and “excellent”, there are a few periods where skill order makes no sense whatsoever. Lancers, for example, do the most DPS between the levels of 12-25 by spamming Impulse Drive, and ignoring the 2-step combo that they have. The Black mage rotation doesn’t really make sense until you have both Fire III and Blizzard III, which isn’t until 38. But the worst case of this in my opinion is the Paladin.

Skill Order

When you get your Job Stone as a warrior, the skill you get at Level 30 is Defiance. It improves your survivability, helps you hold threat, and allows you to build stacks that you can’t spend for five more levels. Paladins instead get Sword Oath, which increases the auto-attack damage you do (admittedly by a decent amount). The skill they get that increases their threat and survivability (Shield Oath) is withheld until level 40. The level 35 skill is Cover, which does not assist in threat or survivability. This wouldn’t be such a big problem, except that dungeons at this point start getting quite a bit more challenging (Brayflox’s Longstop and The Sunken Temple of Qarn are a giant wake-up call) and all DPS jobs get a massive stat boost from their job stones (and some of them also get important damage skills at 30). Unfortunately, this means that Paladins are at a rather large disadvantage, and I know from enough times healing and tanking Brayflox that it isn’t just player perception.

Sword Oath

Problem Resolution

All is not lost: Paladins are perfectly capable of doing the content in this level range, it just takes a bit more work. It comes down to two things, really: Cooldowns and Target Switching.

Paladins are blessed with an entire suite of damage reduction cooldowns, and they can even steal the Warrior’s best one at that level range. In addition, the pace of combat in FFXIV is such that you can use something with a cooldown of 90 seconds about every other fight if you want. My first instinct when I was playing was to save cooldowns for emergencies, but you will get some more suited to this purpose later. Things like Convalescence, Foresight, and Rampart are nice to use whenever they make the healer’s life easier. Making their life easier then makes your life easier.

This one was a bit unintuitive to me at first too, but it’s useful and nearly required in the 30s. The only Paladin Combo that matters 95% of the time (Fast Blade->Savage Blade->Rage of Halone) has a threat modifier on the second hit, and a larger threat modifier on the third hit. It can be extremely helpful when tanking multiple things to land the second or third hit on something that isn’t your primary target, because Flash starts to not be enough in some cases. (These cases are named Summoner and Black Mage) On the other hand, if you have a strong single-target DPS in the party (Monk, Dragoon, Ninja) you might lose aggro on the primary target if you switch, so know when not to. If your party contains a Summoner and a Dragoon, mark targets and hope.

I'm not proud.
I’m not proud.

At the end of the tunnel

At level 40, you finally get Shield Oath (and will forget to use it roughly once a day for the rest of your time playing this class). At 38, you get Sentinel, a cooldown actually worth saving for emergencies (which is why it’s not in my macro). The dark days of the 30s don’t last forever, and once you get through them you’ll (hopefully) know how to be a better tank with lessons that once again apply once you have to deal with the class that can cast Flare. Have fun!

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.