Friday, September 18, 2020

Final Fantasy XIV: I Never Thought I'd Fight a Moogle

I've continued playing Final Fantasy XIV. Quite a bit actually.

At the beginning of the month I declared that I wanted to "...knock out all of the side quests in the base game and level up some of the other classes first." I technically haven't leveled classes, I've only added the black mage to my collection of level 50s. But I have completed, as far as I know, all the side quests that launched with the game in patch 2.0. There's a bunch of them, so of course it's possible that I missed one here or there. I haven't of course, done all the class quests yet, as that requires leveling each class to 50.

I also haven't done the Coil of Bahamut raid. I don't know what to expect from this experience. I've done the Trials on Hard mode and found them challenging but not overly difficult. Is legacy end-game content in FF14 going to be a proper pain? Am I even going to find a group for it?

Either way, we're on to the 2.1 content. It's a small main story quest (that I've already done), a couple of side quests, and 'extreme' mode versions of all the trials (one off boss fights). Or at least that's the parts I plan on doing. I've already done the trials on both normal and hard modes. I'm finding my motivation to take on yet another version of these fights to be a bit flagging. These might get socked away in the MMO junk drawer for a while.

The main story quest has been ... 'alright'. I'd certainly be disappointed with it if this was a single-player Final Fantasy game. But the high praise given to the story in the expansions is keeping me motivated to see things through.

What was fun, and slightly absurd, was the trial fight against Good King Moggle Mog. I mean firstly, listen to this music that plays during the fight:


I'm pretty sure this theme, at minimum, heavily resembles 'This is Halloween' from Nightmare Before Christmas.


(Does this technically make this a Kingdom Hearts crossover?).

Borrowing aside, it feels absurd to be laying the wood to Final Fantasy's cuddliest creatures. What's next? Punching out chocobos? That doesn't feel that unlikely at this point.

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Would Someone Please Take My Money?

About once a month I look over the Everwake family budget and update all the numbers. It takes maybe 20 minutes now that I have a system, and it involves mostly copying and pasting. But about two months ago I stared good and long at the line item in our savings budget, 'Vacation Money'.

It was a melancholy moment indeed when I deleted the label for the more generic "Entertainment" moniker.

With the Covid-19 pandemic going nowhere in a hurry, our outings have been small affairs, usually hiking about the various state and national parks that litter the lands around our home. Walking in public parks doesn't exactly eat into the budget.

And perhaps that's well enough. This holiday season has no shortage of money-sinks for the video game inclined with the launches of the Sony PlayStation 5, Microsoft Xbox Series X, and the RTX 3090 graphics card. Add a potential purchase of a Valve Index VR set to the mix and this is looking like a might expensive season even without booking a day at the beach.

That of course, hinges on these various company's ability to actual take the money I'm trying to give them. I've been sitting on the wait list for the Valve Index for about 3 months now, and at a certain point I have to wonder if sitting out until the Valve Index 2 isn't becoming a more prudent option. 

Additionally, last night Sony screwed the pooch with a pre-order launch of the PlayStation 5 that arrived a day early. Word on the street is that Wal-Mart jumped the gun on releasing pre-order sales and the rest of the retail world dutifully followed suit. For Sony, who may very well not be at fault for any of this mess, selling out of your product a month before you intend to ship it isn't exactly a failure in their eyes. But yours truly was apparently 12 hours too late to secure his own Alienware-knockoff console.

Restocks will happen, later rather than sooner, and I'll get my hands on the next-gen yet. But so far this season I'm 0 for 2 on hardware, and this Tuesday's release of the Xbox Series X pre-orders might be my last chance. The 3090 graphics card looks handsome enough, but I've had my 2080 for only two years and I have some misgivings about upgrading so soon. If my luck continues, it may either be consolation prize, or a clean sweep of my lack of consumer prowess.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Final Fantasy 14: In Search of a Quest

So the landscape is thus ...

I completed the 2.0 Main Story Quest on my Gladiator/Paladin. He is now at level 50, waiting to do the 2.1+ story quests.

I decided to level a Thaumaturge to 50 by doing all the side quests in the game. He is currently at level 24, having run out of quests to do for his level range. There are quests from level 26+, but you can't actually turn them in until you are the appropriate level.

I'm honestly surprised that their aren't enough side quests to level a second class. I mean there is certainly no mandate from up high that it must be so, but I do find it odd. This second class is even getting double XP by glint of having a class level higher than it. 

There is of course dungeons, levequests, and FATES to level up on. But those are all a bit mindless and tedious. I was hoping for enough unique, story content to level up two classes, if not more. FF14 has an awful lot of experience bars to fill up, but didn't bother making a whole lot of unique content in order to fill it up with. Every MMO is grindy, for some reason I was expecting FF14 to be less so.

All of this is even more odd considering the changes introduced in 5.3. My RSS feed has several bloggers reporting that the Main Story Quest is providing so much XP that's they're outleveling their main class beyond the MSQ's levels. Having a character that's in their level 40s while still doing level 24 MSQ quests seems common. 

It would seem to me that the XP curve is a little all over the place. Obviously, the developers want to stretch content out as much as possible while putting in as little effort on their part as possible, particularly in regards to older content. Repeatable content is the key to that, but it comes at a price. The questing is so anemic in 2.0 that it lets the entire world building down. A quest chain introduces an NPC with a problem, you turn in 5 bear butts, and then you never talk to them again. Again, lots of quests in MMOs work that way, but most MMOs have at least some quests that don't. 

It feels as if the developers made X number of quests for a questing hub, then turned 4-6 of them into levequests. Any quests left other got put on the world map and turned into side quests.

I've heard rumbles of complaints about questing in 2.0 in general. I wasn't sure if that was solely the MSQ, which can at times be both the dismally paced and tedious. But I suspect the side quests suffer because they're filler. The devs really seem to want you in that Duty Finder, adding population to low level dungeons and keeping the game seem alive and popular. 

Again, nothing here is the end of the world. It's no one's birthright to have multiple "alts". But the questing feels a bit stingy from an XP standpoint, and 5.3 was an opportunity to address that.

My goal was to knock out all the 2.0 side quests this month. Turns out, I may very well finish before the three-day weekend is done.

Assuming I'm willing to do a lot of non-questing first.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

September Goals

 I was doing so well. Knocking out my Promptapalooza prompts every day.

And then I didn't.

Rolling into our seventh month of quarantining and I'm just as angsty as ever.  But it's the first of the month and that feels like a nice, round reason to get back into things.

My last month has been light on video gaming. A pretty usual thing for me in August. I've filled in that spare time with more outdoorsy activities. I even did a bit of properly distanced socializing. 

Most of my RSS feed is a 'September Goals' post of one form or another. Let's do that then.

Gaming
I've been playing Final Fantasy 14 off and on for about two months now. I don't really know why. I like Final Fantasy. I like MMOs. Why haven't I played it more before now? Some questions don't have answers. I am playing it now, and recently completed the base game's storyline.
 
Well not recently, I actually did it last month, right before the 5.3 patch came along and shortened the quest line. Or reduced the XP needed, and still left the vast majority of the quest line? I'm having difficulty getting a straight answer on the matter but it's done regardless. I still need to complete the quests from the base game's patches. But first I want to knock out all of the side quests in the base game and level up some of the other classes first.

Biking
For living in one of the flattest locations in the United States, the local bike paths seem to have plenty of hills anyway. I dug my wife's old commuter bike out of the garage and handed it over to the local bike repair shop. They did a good job with it. And then I immediately went a broke part of the front brake taking it home. Thankfully, some percussive-based metalworking got everything back in order.

My hometown is small, a full-loop of the bike-safe roads is only about 5 miles or so. Thankfully, nearby towns have some longer dedicated paths and were only about 2 hours away from a proper 300 mile path that I won't be defeating anytime soon. Altogether I was able to do about 15 mile trip yesterday. Not a lot for experienced bikers but enough to make my legs jelly this morning.

I want to do a 25-mile ride before the end of the month. I can't really tell if this is ambitious or not. But I'm not that out of shape. I think it's plenty doable.

Blogging
4 posts a week. It's not like I really have anything else going on.

Drawing
In my never ending quest to own every computer accessory ever made, I purchased a Wacom Intuos drawing tablet and have begun doodling. I have no art talent at all. The only C I ever got in school came from 7th grade art class. And I had to hustle to earn that.

But I don't think there is anything inherent to it. I just haven't tried particularly hard at it. Writing and choir classes always came easily to me back in the school days and so I never needed to take an art classes in high school or college.

But I like doodling little pictures of our corgi and various stuffed animals. They make me happy and they make the wife happy. I also want to get some bits of art on this blog. Either some headers or in the side panels. I've looked into paying actual artists to it but ran into surprising amounts of friction getting people to email me back. Between this and home ownership I'm finding it puzzling difficult to give people money sometimes.

Either way, I purchased a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. It came up in recommendation threads more often than anything else and was only a ten dollar purchase on Amazon. So far, it has a lot to say about the psychology of learning and the human condition. I really just want to draw a dog with a fluffy butt. Nonetheless, I want to try to get through the exercises in this book before the end of the month.
 
Site Updates
I have been tinkering in the background on this blog. And by tinkering I mean rewriting it all from scratch. Blogger was never meant to be the long term home for this project. It's limiting and kind of ugly. I'm having no problem with the HTML and CSS portions of building a site, but trying to incorporate a CMS into my own code is proving to be a bit beyond my means, at least for now. 

I may actually give up on comments altogether. Most of my conversations around the blog tend to happen other places. I may just include an email form at the end of each blog and people can email there thoughts and I can include them in the next day's post. It sounds delightfully low-tech, but I suspect nobody is actually going to suffer through their browser opening a random email client and dealing with all that. But it's a thought.

Whether I actually push a new site live, stick with blogger, or give up and retreat to WordPress, I want to have it all done before the end of the month. I'm spending more time tinkering with this blog than actually blogging.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Blaugust Prompt-a-Palooza Day #8: An Excuse For a Picture of My Dog

If you had a mascot to represent you, what would it be? 

I already have a mascot. It's a stuffed sheep who goes by the name Happy.

Why? No real idea. Me and Mrs. Everwake bought him at a regional grocery store when we first moved in together for the heck of it. This started a long tradition of me buying stuffed animals, usually sheep or video game themed, whenever she had frustrations with her work and needed a pick me up.

We buy less sheep than we used to. Which is a nice metric.

Why sheep? Again, no real idea. I just think their funny.

I also consider the Everdog a bit of a mascot.

Unlike Happy, Everdog is terrible at video games. One could blame the lack of thumbs but I blame the lack of focus. My dreams of my furry daughter becoming an eSports star will not go away though.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Blaugust Prompt-a-Palooza Day #7: Which End of the Hammer Do I Use?

What skill do you want to improve on the most?

Is everything an answer? It's amazing how at the age of 32 I'm still mostly crummy at everything. I assumed at this point in my life I'd be able to juggle, change a tire, or basic gardening.

But as the owner of a newish house the skill I mostly desperately need is basic handyman stuff. I've never painted a wall before. Or replaced the carpenting. And while our house is nice enough, certain portions of it are more outdated than others.

Most of this stuff isn't hard. I just need to sit down and do it. I know for a fact that some of the dumbest people I know are capable of doing these things, so I best be able learn how to do it myself.

Stuff I had been meaning to do in the spring got put on hold because of the pandemic. When I've had contractors come out for quotes they either weren't wearing a mask or had it underneath their chin. The local hardware stores, both big names and small independent shops, have been incredlbly resistant to mask or social distancing measures. And of course money, it seemed prudent in a economic crash to be hoarding money, not spending it on expensive aesthetic upgrades.

But things are about as evened out as they can be in our neck of the woods. Our money situation is stabalized and hardware stores are mandated by the state to enforce masking. So as go about my day I'm making a mental list of which offenses are truly the most offensive. The old, stained carpet in the entryway. The ghoulishly awful vanity in the ground floor bathroom. The color of every wall in the house.

Winters can be very harsh here in Minnesota, particularly so when you live in the norther part of the state. So handy man season, for at least most projects, isn't going for too much longer.

So it's time to get my Bob the Builder on and start doing this stuff. I wish it was as drag-and-drop as the housing in most MMOs. But to be honest, I hardly ever did housing in those games anyways.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Blaugust Prompt-a-Palooza Day #6: "Neverwake" Quoth the Raven

What is a favorite Quote/s, and tell us why.

I had to think long and hard about this one. I don't really deal with quotes a whole lot. Using the same literary strategy as a takeout bag from Chipotle feels a bit guache. I quoted the Art of War to my mother last week and couldn't have felt more like a tool.

Then again, I hamfisted in a Poe reference on this post's title so perhaps I've got a bit more tooly potential in me yet.

Anyways.

Most Americans are familiar with Jackie Robinson, the first black baseball player in the modern era. He was a tremendous player while dealing with the height of Jim Crow-era bullshit. He is an American icon and key player in the Civil Rights movement.

This post isn't about him.

I want to talk about the guy who signed him.

Branch Rickey was the general manager of the then Brooklyn Dodgers who wasn't going to let a little thing like a fuckton of racist fans keep him from signing the best ballplayer he could. He also innovated such concepts as job training (the minor leagues) and not taking a 90 miles per hour baseball to the head unprotected (batting helmets).

The bar for innovation was a lot lower 70 years ago.

Anyways.

He was a massively success man I wouldn't normally think about. But he has an enduring quote that sticks in my brain an awful lot: "Luck is the residue of design."

Like a lot of his contributions, this isn't exactly a profound statement. Nonetheless, I find it useful because I'm not a profound man. It's the execution of it all that I care about.

Sometimes I find myself having a string of rotten luck. Nothing usually too major, just annoying things like stubbed toes and accidentally leaving a bag of dog poop to fester in my entryway closet. But while bad things are always a threat to happen just because, I do sense that they tend to happen when I've gotten complacent. Maybe not getting enough sleep, I've let myself get distracted by a wrong opinion on the Internet, etc. It's never a comfort in the moment, but as a whole I'm soothed by the idea that life can go more smoothly if I'm vigilant about making it so.

I think this keys into some of my resistance about luck, or "randomness", in video games. I can just about smooth over the potholes in my real life my keeping an iron grip on our budget, heeding health precautions in a pandemic, etc. But boot up a game of Hearthstone and all of that control over my life goes out the window.

Not a fun experience for me.

Again, nothing profound here. But it is a quote that affects how I think about my everyday life. Although announcing I'm a risk averse control freak is probably not news to anyone who has ever read this blog. Or met me.

But I'm definitely not a tool. I have that going for me.