Category Archives: Meta

On Moving

This is a test, more than anything else. Once upon a Time Ashgar acquired ashfang.com because he couldn’t get ashgar.com. Then as he got older and figured out that some things can be obtained for money, he also got ashgar.com.

It’s about time I set up something here that isn’t a redirect.

On 仮名

Blaugust Post #25

At this point Tam probably knows more Japanese than I do, and I took a quarter of it in college to fulfill a communication requirement. (The options were sign language, a foreign language, or a selection of classes that would make me re-live high school English. It wasn’t a difficult choice.) One of the things that brings back memories is learning to read Hiragana/Katakana, and more importantly, how to write using them.

This was actually the part of learning a language that I was pretty good at. I came up with somewhat odd ways of remembering what meant what. It actually helped me that several of them have extremely similar shapes, because then I could easily pick out the differences and remember them that way. , , and are a good example of this. Over time, I got faster, and through repetition I learned to write them too.

I had the same textbook Tam is using, but also a workbook for practice. I also had classmates for practice speaking and understanding, and I begin to realize the importance of that too. Maybe I’ll start falling back down this rabbit hole, if only so I understand when people near me say and write otherwise incomprehensible things.

On Tam’s 11 Questions

Blaugust Post #14

I realize this isn’t how this is supposed to work, but I found his pretty thought-provoking.

1. What is the best spell to cast?
If I were to be practical, a healing spell, but that’s boring. My actual answer is Shapechange. I feel like there are a lot of problems that have easy solutions if you can turn into a dragon, you just need to watch out for hero-types that get the wrong ideas.

2. What food item(s) from a game do you want to eat above any others?
Dirge’s Kickin’ Chimaerok Chops seem like something that has to be tried. It took me a lot of work to get the recipe for those, and chimaeroks went nearly extinct with the Cataclysm, making this an incredibly rare delicacy. The only part that bothers me is that it requires Goblin Rocket Fuel.

3. You’ve got an infinite supply of one consumable, and can never carry any others. Which consumable do you choose?
Teleport Scrolls seem like they would be handy, especially if it’s one of the types that lets you go to any familiar place, not just somewhere you mark as “home”.

Town-Portal

4. You have to choose a race and class that you’re never played seriously before. What do you pick?
I pretty much only play humans in games where there are no other options at all, and I tend not to play straightforward mage-types, but I really don’t see either of these changing anytime soon. I haven’t really ever played Orcs, so I might give something like an Orc Bard a shot.

5. What game did you think you would hate but actually loved?
It took a lot of convincing to get me to play the first Borderlands, as it released when I was in a state of thinking I hated First-Person Shooters. (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 came out the same year, and I wasn’t a fan of that series.) Borderlands was amusing, and fun to play, and the wide variety of weapons made it awesome for me (even if Vladov is the best manufacturer). Co-op also helped in a big way.

6. What game did you think you would love but actually hated?
Darkest Dungeon. This seemed like it should be the kind of game that I liked, being a party-based roguelike with a unique art style, but I couldn’t stand actually playing it. In addition to my other problems with it, it bothers me on a few levels that characters develop mental afflictions from stress.

7. Pick a zone from any game to live in. Why?
I’d probably get annoyed by the elves eventually, but Gridania seems like it would be a pretty nice place to be. It’s nice and foresty without being quite as potentially lethal as the non-city shroud zones.

Gridania

8. You can excise one class from every future game. Which? Why?
I believe Thalen and Tam are correct in identifying that Warriors are an issue, but I think the class that needs to go is Barbarian/Berserker because classes like that limit what warriors can do. Making a class that is “like warrior, but gets mad” doesn’t do anyone any favors, just give warriors actual options, one of which might include “gets mad”.

9. What’s your favorite story?
The Odyssey. This is one of the few pieces of classic literature that High School English didn’t make me hate.

10. What hobby does no one (yet) know you have?
A few people do know this, but I don’t think I’ve mentioned it to a wider audience. I’m a bit of a musician and played trombone throughout most of high school and all of college. I’m currently in a location where practicing that is something that just isn’t going to happen, and I’m (slowly) learning to play bass.

11. What’s your favorite secret shame?
I have a general fondness for musicals. I have the soundtracks to several (including Rent, Wicked, and Starlight Express) in my music library. This has resulted in some really odd reactions from roommates and family members.

12. Why can’t Ashgar count to 11?
I’m a programmer, and off-by-one errors are one of the 2 hard things in computer science.

fencepost

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.

Progression

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 Fantasy

Blaugust Post #9

One of the experiences from my childhood that I remember strongly is during a neighborhood block party, my mom rented a projector and a whole bunch of people watched Star Wars in our basement. I was always fascinated with the planets, and space, and astronauts; I even went to Space Camp when I was 10. It might come as a bit of a surprise that at this point in my life, I vastly prefer Fantasy to Sci-fi.

Irony

Really, it’s the Dragons

I know Medieval Fantasy is standard and boring to a lot of people, but if it has swords and magic, I’m still interested. I just like the concept of doing things that don’t really need an explanation. Magic in most settings is internally consistent, but doesn’t work based on any real world principles, and I actually enjoy that. Likewise, fantasy opens up possibilities for things that can’t exist according to physics. Dragons are chief among these, but most of the monster manual qualifies. My initial qualifier, “has swords and magic”, doesn’t lock down medieval settings, as Shadowrun and The Dresden Files also qualify.

More Irony

Like a Marshmallow

There are exceptions, of course. I’m a big fan of both Star Wars and Mass effect, but neither of those really fits into the realm of hard Sci-Fi. (In fact, both of these settings qualify as “has swords and magic”.) Things like 2001: A Space Odyssey or even Ghost in the Shell tend to lose me after a bit. Star Trek is somewhere in between, because it chooses to disregard odd parts of reality while still feeling like Sci-Fi.

On the Liebster Award

Blaugust Post #8

liebster-award
Grace called it a blogging disease, I think of it as more of a chain letter. Either way, thanks for the Liebster award!


Here are my 11 random facts:

  1. I am the youngest person on the regular cast of Aggrochat.
  2. I’m a decent ice skater, and used to play hockey.
  3. However, if you put me on roller skates, I just fall down a lot.
  4. I will admit to liking a single song by N’SYNC. Said song is produced by one of my favorite EDM artists.
  5. I was given my first computer (a laptop the size of a briefcase) when I was 4. I could barely carry it.
  6. I have beaten Mega Man 8 more times than I can count. While in school, I beat it every time I came home, which meant about twice a year.
  7. WoW was technically my first MMO (and like Grace I didn’t play before Burning Crusade), but before WoW I was in the beta for Wish.
  8. I have an irrational love for shapeshifter characters. This has manifested in me playing a Druid whenever it comes up, but it isn’t limited to just that.
  9. I buy rulebooks for Pen and Paper RPGs I’ll likely never play, just to see what’s interesting in them.
  10. As far as food goes, I believe that cinnamon makes almost everything better.
  11. Despite claims to the contrary, I’m not a robot.

And here are Grace’s Questions:

1.Why do you blog?
I blog to get my thoughts out to whoever might be interested in reading them. In some ways the podcast serves as this, but the blog helps for more long-form thoughts.

2. What was your favorite childhood cartoon show?
The answer to this question depends on how you’d like to define “childhood”. I remember really liking the Powerpuff Girls when I was younger (It premiered when I was 7). Later, I was part of the Toonami generation, and really liked Dragonball Z.

3. Fantasy or Sci-Fi?
Fantasy, full stop. Exceptions are made for Sci-fi that’s really just pretending to not be Fantasy, like Star Wars or Mass Effect.

4. What’s the most amazing place you’ve ever been? I was too young to gamble (or anything else, really) when I was there, but I really loved Las Vegas. It’s just an amazing spectacle, and I haven’t seen the like anywhere else.

5. Pizza: Chicago or New York?
In general, Chicago Pizza is better than New York Pizza. However, it’s nearly impossible to actually get good Chicago-style pizza outside of Chicago while a bunch of places do a decent imitation of New York-style pizza around the country, so in most locations the opposite is true.

6. If you could only pick one game genre to play for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I’m a big fan of Action-RPGs. If I can stretch that definition far enough to fit Diablo, Kingdom Hearts, and Elder Scrolls under the same umbrella, so much the better.

7. What inspired your character name?
This one’s easy. There’s some more story there, but that’s the name I took for my Druid in WoW when we started playing Horde-side, and it ended up sticking.

8. What is your greatest gaming moment or achievement?
I like soloing ridiculous content, and every so often I drag other people into it. I managed to solo the first boss of AQ40 at level 80 (it required a silly amount of Nature Resist gear), but I’m more proud of getting enough people in to clear the instance. I’d previously had groups that even at level 80, could not get past Twin Emperors, so doing it with a few guildies was a pretty awesome experience.

9. Do you share your love of games with your real-world friends and family, or keep it to the internet?
I keep a Pikachu Amiibo on my desk at work, so my love of games isn’t exactly a secret. I’ve gotten into discussions about games with family and co-workers, but a lot of my current co-workers play World of Tanks, which I don’t have a lot of interest in.

10. Have you ever had a really weird pet?
Nope. I had a dog once, and when I move somewhere that allows them, probably will again.

11. What is your favorite type of environment/biome in-game and IRL?
I’ve always been a big fan of forests. I grew up in a location where nature trails were readily available, so I spent a decent amount of time walking and riding through shaded areas in the summer. In games, forests (but not jungles) tend to be relatively quiet and mysterious, but they sometimes have the “twisty little maze of passages” thing going on. My tolerance for that trope depends on how much you’re expected to rely on trial-and-error.


And 11 more questions:

  1. Why do you blog? Yes, I know it’s a repeat. Deal with it.
  2. What’s the first game you remember playing?
  3. Dogs or Cats?
  4. Do you have a favorite villain?
  5. What are your thoughts on escort missions?
  6. Borrowing from the “stereotypical interview questions” list, What would you say is your biggest weakness? (I did actually get this question a lot last year.)
  7. What character archetype do you find yourself playing most often?
  8. Other than games and the means to play them, do you own any gaming-related items?
  9. Because I know who these questions are going to, I can ask this one: What’s your favorite system for Tabletop RPGs?
  10. What upcoming games (if any) are you looking forward to?

Because Thalen hasn’t beaten me to it, Tamrielo and Kodra, have fun with this one.

On Lessons not Learned

Blaugust Post #1

It’s August 1, which means it’s the 2nd Annual Blaugust. I participated in this last year in order to get more practice writing in general. I did a pretty good job of it, and then I moved halfway across the country and didn’t keep up nearly as well. This Blaugust post is the first one in over a month, after all.

What Changed

I feel I have gotten a bit better at actually hitting publish on random thoughts I type up. I have fewer half-completed posts just sitting around since August of last year, compared to before I did Blaugust.In addition, writing a post isn’t really an ordeal. Some of my posts get a bit rambly, but I try not to evaluate the quality of a post purely based on its length. As long as a post contains something that might be considered interesting or informative to someone, I’m pretty happy.

Louisoix

What Needs Work

I’m still lacking in “make post time” since the move. I might have to borrow a note from Bel here and write a post in the morning. I get up early enough for this, but it would mean a bit of a change in schedule. I do get a bit self-conscious about what I’ve been playing, as it’s just been “Final Fantasy” for a while now, and I feel like it’s a bit boring saying the same thing over and over (although I haven’t been doing the same thing constantly, so it’s kind of a silly concern). We’ve got another month to work these things out. Maybe I’ll even play something that Isn’t Final Fantasy 5 or 14.

The Job Fiesta is still going on, though…

On Schedule Slip

It’s the first week of the Newbie Blogger Initiative, which means I’ve now been doing this for a year. I haven’t kept up nearly the schedule that Belghast does, or even my own personal goal of twice a week. It used to annoy me that people would post about missing posts in webcomics, but when you previously did something regularly, it kind of stays on your mind. Unless you plan out time every day to do something like this, Schedule Slip is probably going to happen. This remains true if you write your posts ahead of time, unless you are diligent enough to keep a buffer of more than one post.

Causes

For me, my posting got a lot more irregular when I moved, and lost the ability to write and publish things during lunch. Even before I started my new job (and I had actual free time), I didn’t realize how important it was to my posting to have a time period set aside every day to do it in. Other things I’ve written about already. I have 3 drafts that I could finish and publish half-written. There’s a lot of “not good enough” that I feel about these, but really, I shouldn’t have to.

Then there are the other reasons. Just this past week, Tam and I had technical issues. Travel happens, and personally, I’m not the biggest fan of writing a post on an iPad. Life gets in the way sometimes.

Solutions

For me the solution is going to be setting aside time on specific days to drop everything and write more. The blog posting is a nice supplement to Aggrochat, and appearing on the same website is an added bonus. Bel gets around it by posting every single morning. Tam does something similar, but on weeknights. I think that might work better for me, so I guess I’ll find out if I can have more output this month.

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 Definitions

There’s been a rash of stupidity in the gaming field lately. I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t weigh in on it in some way, especially when we agreed to avoid talking about it in last week’s podcast. When I answered the questionnaire from “Cannot be Tamed” I glossed over the question about whether or not I considered myself a gamer. It’s time to expand on it a bit.

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Yes, but that doesn’t say anything useful about me.

Words Have Meanings

I’m an incredibly literal person. To me, the word “gamer” denotes “someone who plays games regularly”, kind of like biker, or moviegoer. Given the giant segment of the population that it applies to now, I’d say that attempting to apply any qualities to this label is a lost cause. I suspect that as my generation grows older, this segment will continue to grow. I’m sure that almost any descriptor you can think of, you can find a “gamer” that it would apply to. As of late, this includes assholes, nice people, women, men, students, people who play MMOs 12 hours a day, and people who play Candy Crush on their way to work. “Gamer” isn’t meaningless, but its value as a label is questionable.

With that out of the way, it’s completely stupid some of the things people have been doing in the name of this label. Regardless of what your personal opinions may be, it’s never okay to embark on a campaign of harassment against someone who doesn’t share your opinions.

#IStandWithGanondorf

I don’t always agree with the things he says, but I’m with Jim sterling on this one. Even ignoring that you should be a decent human being to other people, it’s not a bad thing for the medium if games are made to appeal to a larger audience than “18-25 year old white male”. The industry’s treatment of women and minorities is usually pretty terrible, and AAA games will probably have to get over that to appeal to a wider audience. This is really irrelevant to the issue, though.

I guess I’m annoyed that a thing I like is now associated with terrible behavior. It’s really not the first time, but it’s not going to stop me. “Gamer” covers half of the people in this country, and I know they aren’t all dicks. I’ll be over here playing games like usual. Destiny’s out in a few days, after all.

-Ashgar

P.S. Have I mentioned that attaching “-gate” to things is supremely stupid? Watergate got that name from the actual name of the location it took place. Not everything needs to be “something-gate”.

P.P.S. If someone wants to place me in the SJW camp for this post, can I please be a druid? Warriors are so boring.