Saturday, December 10, 2011

Game Over

Yep, I quit, and it's pretty definitive as far as I'm concerned. This won't be a sad goodbye, but sort of a game review that's been over 6 years in the making.

The Visuals
FFXI was my first and is at this point the only MMORPG I've played. Though I've read about and seen a lot of other ones, I was never tempted to pick them up due to the commitment/addiction to FFXI. I picked this game over other based purely on its visuals. To this day I haven't seen an MMO that could match its art-direction. The models are simplistic but look good. The pallette is limited but the colours are so well matched that the game can offer many different moods and atmospheres. The skill of the modellers and designers improved as you can tell by comparing old zones to newer ones. I especially enjoy Porgonorgo Isle and the Shadowrealm zones which showed off some very nice improvements in many aspects, and especially plant/shrub models. Animations aren't amazingly well done, but I haven't seen better special effects for spells and job abilities in other MMO's.

Not sound effects, which aren't anything special, but the music. Square games have always had great scores, and FFXI is no exception. The fact that there is a group that can tour the world exclusively playing the game's songs says a lot.

Learning Curve
A lot of the game's improvements to low level play came very late in the life of FFXI. Early on I found the Valkurm Dunes to be very unforgiving. There were hardly any high level players around that area. Rarely there'd be one powerleveling a party and you could beg them to run across the zone to raise you at Selbina zone-line, because you got killed by a Goblin Smithy for the 10th time and didn't want to walk back from San d'Oria. Though it gave a sense of adventure, there was a lot of frustration and time spent GETTING to the fun and very little time having the actual fun. Transportation got better and a lot had to do with leveling up past a certain point. So, it was just the first time going up that was really hard, the second time you had an easier time.

As expansions were released teleports were added and slowly traveling was no longer a huge chore. The game became much more enjoyable as these things were introduced, which made you wonder what the point was of not having htem before.

Early End-game
I didn't experience much of this becauss of leveling slowly while also joining the game later than most. Navigating Sky was an important skill, I was told, and I made it a point to get the maps and learn my way around soon after getting access. However, I was one of the few. So what ended up happening was people dying and needing help getting to the rest of the group. This cost a lot of time and when you finally got to the trigger mobs, it was a matter of fighting for claims. Let's just say... it sucked.

Dynamis runs I did early on weren't that good, and later on when I ran them myself I understood why. Too much coordination is needed and very few people take direction well. The system isn't bad, in fact, it's a nice challenge. However, the majority of the player-base wasn't fit for it. It was technical, certain jobs and roles were ESSENTIAL, which meant anyone going afk in the 2+ hours of the event could potentially ruin everything.

Sea had all the navigational issues of Sky (and then some) with worse drop rates and overall less appealing rewards. Limbus on the other hand was a sign of good things to come. Once you knew what to do, a small balanced group could clear any zone and you could get your hands on some very nice drops off Omega/Ultima while having fun trying to clear the zone in record time.

Aht-Urghan and HNM's
AU expansion brought assault which IMHO is one of the best events in the game. The missions were very diverse and not all combat-related. It required teamwork and knowledge without having a ridiculous time-investment. Salvage was a good event after they introduced the starting crates. After that the only reason I didn't do it because of the notoriously bad drop rates, cost of Imperial Wootz, but most importantly: lack of enough skilled friendly players to reliably beat the bosses. The EU playtimes weren't the best and after I finished college I couldn't play with NA's anymore. Also Kujata and later Valefor were pretty crappy servers.

Having camped some Fafnirs (and fought it twice, omg!) I had enough of HNM's in no-time. Camping Aspid was arguably worse, but I didn't do much of that. I didn't get to fight Hydra until I did the tier10 assaults, but my LS did get Cerberus a few times. Being on Stun duty for GoH was pretty exciting, I'll admit. I never fought Tiamat, but... killing Jormungand with Dreamcatchers was a very proud day for me. Somehow that undesirable monster was considered one of the toughest fights after Vrrtra. AV was still considered unkillable at the time.

Wings of the Goddess
Campaign gave me hope of leveling jobs other than THF, RDM and PLD. It was a good event at the time, and made a lot of solo play possible that wasn't before. However, the mistake in that system was its complexity and unpredictability. You had to stay in town to know when battles were going to take place, but then you'd be a half hour early. If you only moved out when you saw battles on your map, you'd often be too late to get a meaningful reward. Ops were unrewarding (not at first, but the nerfed them). The complexity was in how players could affect influence and nation strategy. Nobody cared enough to figure it out. All in all it was a good expansion, but a bit disappointing after ToAU.

I liked it. Let me start by saying that. Fights became about knowing HOW instead of bringing as many people as possible. Bards were no longer "needed". BLM's became super-useful again after a long period of zergs and SAM+WAR-onry exp parties. Moving in the direction of low-manned events was a good thing IMO. The rewards were great. Huge improvements over what was available before, but not only that... everything was attainable. Nothing seemed impossible to get. Even Empyrean weapons became a dime a dozen.

Missions and Story
The best moments in the game were doing and beating missions with friends. I had the best time clearing all assaults, finishing CoP, ToAU and WotG missions. Even clearing all Dynamises was a big achievement to me. Doing them with friends was the biggest reason for enjoying them. I don't regret the hours I spent doing those, as opposed to the many lost hours LFP, camping NM's or walking from place to place.

Why I stopped
So many people quiting and playing less and less tends to make the game less enjoyable. I still had things I wanted to do, but I I'm ok with leaving them undone. It's just a matter of silly principle. It's a good but flawed game. I'm glad I played it, I'm just sad I played it SO MUCH.

I'm not going to say good-bye or thanks, that's too cheesy. I'm still around, I'm just doing other things now. I DO want to say thanks to anyone that read this blog. Keeping this blog was one of the funnest things about FFXI. Going all into theory and actually being asked for advice about equipment and strategy made me feel less guilty about nerding out on the game.

Awesome Music Tip: FINAL

Friday, October 14, 2011


Since I called some of my older entries "weekend update" I thought I'd continue that trend. So I've kept up my almost daily ~2 to 3 hour playtimes and got a couple of old goals done over a longer period of time. For one..

I haven't used it much outside of the initial "omg I need to try the WS out right away" testing. I pulled a bunch of mobs for Shield Mastery to feed me TP and wailed on Cuijatender. The WS didn't do much damage and the light SC was reduced as well. I ondly managed to get it between 60 and 70% before dying. Wanted to give it a go in Attohwa, but couldn't find a free NM to try it on. It's a little bit anti-climactic, but I'm still very happy I have that ridicularge sword. Almace on RDM could be pretty good, but I can't get the most out of it that way. Leveling BLU is such a chore though...

I've been doing WoE off and on since the last version update. I'm up to 66 Devious Die for upgrading my Daka (dagger). I only obtained 6 of them myself, the rest were all bought for 100k or less. They're common from Flux 11, but fewer and fewer people do WoE, which means people rarely have the confidence they'll beat Flux 11. They still do 9 quite frequenbtly, but I've been focussing on 7 to get more coins. I got enough for a g.axe, but I'd really like to make a gun for access to Wildfire.

I leveled DNC to 95 to make better use of this Rudra's Storm and because I wanted to stop complaining about how DNC is a better soloist and DD than THF and just jump on the train instead. The DNC train. It's a smooth ride. Soloing a darkness skillchain with two crit hit Rudra's is a thing of beauty. I now understand much better why people say mobs don't have enough HP for it to be worthwhile, usually. NM's on the other hand, I love stabbing those. I have 3 AF3 pieces left to +2, but other than that I got all other pieces I need for TP and WS. A lot was inherited from THF. I can recommend anyone that enjoys THF to pick up DNC unless their principles won't allow it.

I have to say Ochain still seems years away at the rate I'm going. Competition for VNM's is usually pretty high during my normal playtimes. At the very least SE can make T3's repop in 10 min instead of 20. Once someone's worked their way up to a T3 abyssite, why the hell would you need to limit them AGAIN? Also, the rate at which T2 abyssites convert is low enough that you can go on some pretty bad streaks. I was 0/8 two abyssites ago, of which 5 were Gamayun solos. That's a long enough fight to make you really pissed when it doesn't change color. I found someone to team up with, but that means halving your droprate (due to splitting 50/50) and it's not like being with two people doubles your efficiency.

I'm currently without an LS, but still playing and somewhat enjoying the game thanks to some friends. We did some Dynamis which turns out to be fun!! I hadn't done it since they changed cities and northlands. I read about the changes and never thought it'd be fun, but it kind of is.

Awesome music tip #7

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Chione NIN solo

Chione is a popular mob due to the higher drop rate of Colorless Souls off Ogopogo. It's often camped and due to the random nature of T2 to T3 conversion you could be out there a while camping against multiple people. On Valefor it doesn't seem as bad as other servers, from what I've heard.

I blogged about trying it on THF/DNC before. It went pretty badly. I used a ton of meds but couldn't overcome the frequent nukes at low HP. After that I did it a few more times with other people and I learned more about the mob. Running backwards in first person, for one, was my favorite way of dealing with Ice spikes. When duo it's really not necessary and just slows you down, but it was something I was determined to use in any future solo attempt.

I saw a BLU do this evasion tanking. It was a pretty smart move to rely on spells to damage it when one of its own spells is incoming. You can Head Butt and interrupt its casting early on when the casting time is not as fast (at around 10% HP its spells start reaching the unstunnable). So at low HP a BLU could make a big light SC to avoid stretching out the last bit.

So, yesterday I gave it a shot on NIN/DNC with Razed Ruins, Mounted Champion and Future Fabulous Atmas. Kiting it backwards meant I only got hit by Ice Spikes once or twice due to running into terrain or being locked from Curing Waltz. It took about 3 Waltzes to recover from Heavenly Strike and about two from Blizzaga3. Freeze2 never hit, but it could have happened. later on while recasting. I saved TP for the last 50% of the fight so I could recover more easily, but I sat at 300% TP for quite a bit, so it doesn't seem very necessary. I tried to make one set of shadows last for all melee between its spells. If I recasted more than that I'd spend a lot of time standing still and not damaging it. I needed to melee in an evasion set for that to work most of the time. For future attempts I'll try to mix and match to make a compromise DD/evasion set.

It starts to cast much more frequently at low HP. So it's not just casting time, but also recast time that is shortened. Unless it starts to very heavily favor Blizzaga3, you should be ok. The amount of damage is easily recovered from through Waltzes and you always have meds to back you up. Paralyze from spikes did proc somewhere late on, but I was so busy recasting shadows and maneuvering that by the time I got around to Healing Waltz, it had already worn off.

During backwards kiting I stumbled upon a few possible pinning spots. Unfortunately they were in high traffic areas so I wouldn't attempt to use them. Especially with all the competition. It took about 18 minutes start to finish, which I don't think is all that bad. Since all three T2 Heroes VNM seem soloable (though Koios being by FAR the easiest) I'm a little but more hopeful about gathering Colorless Souls. Since I could get away with only bothering people for the T3 and gather up to 3 different pops on my own. I'd be completely independent with a second account, but that's not happening.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Job Adjustment Wishlist

Shut up. It's my blog.

THF aka Ranger wannabe
I want:
  • higher damage bolts for ranged DD'ing
  • TH upgrades to be able to proc on ranged attacks
  • Trick Attack to work on ranged attacks
  • more debuff bolts like stun and paralyze additional effects
  • better bloody bolts for recovering HP when soloing
  • critical hit guaranteed from any direction with Sneak Attack sacrificing the DEX modifier when not behind a mob
  • Mug to work for cruor
  • Gilfinder to work for cruor
  • Steal to obtain temporary items (always) instead of regular items, making it no threat to game economy and much more useful.
  • Despoil to take the place of steal for those few places where getting an item is still preferrable
  • Perfect Parry/Evasion or something like Third Eye to 100% evade a single physical attack
RDM aka don't hate the player
I want:
  • Haste II (approx 20% Haste)
  • an enfeebling spell to lower a mob's Magic Attack
  • water-based spikes spell (bubble spikes/armor?) with strong attack-down or STR down effect
  • a Magic Accuracy bonus from Saboteur
  • native access to drain and aspir
  • a job ability that mimics accession/manifestation
  • rebalancing Phalanx II to comensate for above adjustment
  • enfeebling spell to lower damage resistance (PDT/MDT/DT) kind of like what Tomahawk does
  • BLINK!!!! Improve the spell by reducing casting time and get more shadows depending on enhancing skill. At least make it somewhat similar to Occulation
SAM aka I want to be invincible!
I want:
Seigan tanking to be somehow improved (perhaps gaining TP from counters or anticipated attacks)
... that's it. Seriously, the job is really strong just not desirable.

PLD aka I don't have an Ochain or Aegis
I want:
  • not to be made/broken as a viable tank by having/lacking an Empyrean or Relic shield
  • not to feed mobs way more TP by getting hit than any other job does evading
  • Flash's effect and accuracy to be improved
  • damage dealing potential to be improved while single wielding a sword/shield combo (occasional counter when blocking an attack?)
  • more Shield Mastery
  • way better Defense Bonus traits. Though this may be broken for normal mobs, NM's usually hit many times harder.
  • new divine magic nukes
  • better Magic Attack gear or give us traits for the above item
  • reduce Divine Emblem recast
  • Cover to be self targeted and anyone standing behind me gets covered
  • A shield-block stance. At sacrifice of offense and healing abilities (Slow +100%?) a 100% block rate for a short duration. I'm thinking as a countermeasure for Hundred Fists or a predictable TP attack, filling up the gap between Reprisals and making Tower-size shields more useful.
So there. Now I can go back to being disappointed by the actual adjustments.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Leveling Ninja and Gamayun solo

The journey I took to leveling ninja involved getting it up from 48 leeching. Pulling in an Altepa party at level ~70 (which went surprisingly well with some random evasion gear). Pulling in a BLU burn leech party from lv 85 to 88. That last one was pretty awesome as I got to use Danzo sune-ate and some more THF-inherited evasion gear to pull all the Tauri in Vunkerl comfortably with only 2 regen Atmas. At 88 I took a break and recently I started skilling up my Katana and Ninjutsu which got me enough exp to break 89, which is where I'm still at right now.

I got me Ninja Chainmail, because it's still very good to TP in and got me Iga legs +2 thanks to some stones I had stored up form many Sobeks. I finished off Iga feet thanks to Argonar and soon after the +2 thanks to Cyrille and Kingcem. My TP set is pretty decent with the exception of still missing Iga head. Lots of other pieces are leftover from other jobs. Yesterday I even got me Iga Erimaki (the neck piece) which makes it look like everything is coming along nicely. However, there is a huge gaping hole in my TP gear where a main-hand Katana should be. I'm thinking about an evasion Sekka+2. Other than there's Oriandori and the new Katana from Dynamis Windurst. that I have a Kamome and Hiwa until I ding 90 at which point I have a Kogara. As cool as two black kunai models looks and as awesome as low-delay weapons are, I will still feel really gimp doing Blade: Jin in a 40 DMG weapon.

Speaking of Blade: Jin. That is quite a disappointment coming down from Evisceration. I almost want to main-hand Twilight Knife at this point. With capped dagger merits and no Blade: Hi, it might not be so bad. An amazing piece of gear if you don't have Blade: Hi is Iga Ningi +2. Stats galore for WS, and so much so that it's sometimes better than Ninja Chainmail to TP in, though I'd have to run the numbers to exactly when and by how much. Right now the numbers are very variable and I've WS'd as low as 400 and as high as 1.8k while skilling up (only had RR for damage at the time). The WS set is thrown together like most other stuff, but I wouldn't call it "bad". Some notables: Aias Bonnet, which carries over. I've also been using Rager Leggings cus they seem intuitively better than anything else I have thanks to uncapped Katana skill. Necklace is Asagaya's, though it should be Breeze Gorget, which is in storage. Pants are Tumbler Trunks. Back is Atheling. Belt is Anguinus. Body is (don't laugh) Byrnie+1. It's a crappy piece for Jin, but I'm really looking to save inventory and I don't have anything better at the moment. Ninja Tekko +1 seem really nice for Jin, but no way I'm going to spend time on that! Gimping it up!

The biggest reason for leveling NIN was wishing I could sub NIN and DNC at the same time while playing THF. It sounds strange, but a lot of THF's want to play like DNC and NIN. SE won't really let them, by giving them no (native access to) Stun, reasonable means of recovering HP, debuffs and damage increasing abilities that apply to solo or tanking situations. I honestly think they could all be solved by giving THF exclusive access to a new set of strong X-Bow ammunition, but that's just because I'm nostalgic for the days when X-Bows were a THF staple and very useful. Acid bolts are still very useful when pulling but that hasn't been relevant for me in a long time. A guaranteed critical hit from any direction that also works on WS sounds like something THF should have had a long time ago and now DNC and soon WAR will be able to do this. I'm digressing. My NIN was meant to solo stuff I couldn't on THF and where TH didn't matter as much. To put it plainly: VNM's.

Gamayun Solo
After all this talk about NIN you might expect me to talk about how I used my freshly leveled/geared NIN to take down Gamayun. However, I used THF. I decided that my THF is so much better geared than NIN at this point that it's still the better choice. Assuming debuffs wouldn't land on NIN and that meds would cover damage taken from Aerial Blast I went out last night to give it a shot.

There was no competition for it. It was hanging out around its endpoint among the Sinister Siedels. The first fight I had most filters on so I couldn't count shadows using log messages. I played it safe for the most part. I recast shadows when I hit 1 shadow despite the frequent double attacks. Gamayun seems to have normal old-world attack speed (240 delay) unlike a lot of new NM's. Evasion from two Kila's was enough to seemingly cap evasion and tanking was comfortable. The few times I did take melee damage it was around 250 per hit with a bit of enaero damage on top. Mounted Champion made up for that comfortably.

Gamayun took very low damage from melee. Crits (with only RR for damage) were averaging around 50 and WS around 500. I used some drinks the first fight to speed it up and they made a big difference, but didn't last all that long. I don't know if it's just piercing damage or all physical damage in general, but the defense/resistance seems higher than Koios or Chione.

Aerial Blast did 1609 damage exactly each time. I had Future Fabulous Atma and was fulltiming Twiligh Torque and Defending Ring. Accounting for those the unmodified damage is upwards of 2800. Which was more than my HP pool at the time. Damage taken from AB could have been regenned. However, to be safe you'd have to stop feeding it TP until you could survive a second AB. Instead of doing that I used meds. Both fights it only used AB three times and Whispering Wind once. With bad luck it could really drag out and become an epically long fight.

NIN would be better at this if it was equally skilled/geared, but right now it's not. I'm still assuming that NIN is needed to solo Chione and that THF can't do it reliably. I might have to go out and try again before making up my mind.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Empyreans Ease and Popularity

The 10th Vana'diel Census confirmed what we all already knew, that Empyrean weapons are far more numerous than Relic weapons and of course the disproportionately difficult Mythic weapons (I hate it when people call them Mystics...). They take so much less time to bring to a usable level than relics and mythics that it's hardly a surprise.

On top of the overall faster acquisition is the fact that Abyssea time was not and certainly is not a limiting factor anymore. That means that you're almost always able to work on your Empyrean for as long as and as frequently as you're able to play FFXI. Technically if you consider farming gil to buy currency equal to working on your relic/mythic then the same could be said for those types. However, one of the most efficient ways of obtaining gil IS farming currency, so it's not exactly in the same league.

The seperate paths of Empyreans have notably differing levels of difficulty. For the weapons the trophy stages are:
Glavoid - Itzpapalotl - Orthrus (Dagger, Great Axe)
Chloris - Ulhuadshi - Dragua (H2H, Polearm, Scythe)
Briareus - Sobek - Apademak (Sword, Katana)
Fistule - Bukhis - Alfard (Axe, Bow, Club)
Carabosse - Cirein Croin - Isgebind (Great Katana, Gun, Great Sword)
Kukulkan - Sedna - Azdaja (Staff)

Since the instrument and shield don't have NM and VNM stages their difficulty is different, but for those:

Iron Plates - Colorless Souls - Azdaja/Apademak (Shield/Harp)

For weapons the La Theine path is generally considered the easiest overall path and Tahrongi the hardest. I agree with that consensus and would add that both Carabosse and Cirein require few people to kill and can both be solo'd. Carabosse would take a long time, but it can be done. For shield/harp I'd consider them overall to be harder despite having fewer trials, because of the VNM system which artificially creates more competition and forces a longer time to completion unless you get a lot of help/extra T3 pops.

Yes, you could buy trophies from groups that don't need them, but with the exception of Fistule, Cirein and Briareus there are no easy ways to get Empyreans solo (if that even counts as solo) unless you brew everything. If you have trouble getting help then your best bet is farming the popset yourself and trying to trade upgrade items for help. I don't know if the "[NM] farm. Trophy: X. 1/?" shouts really work. I imagine you'll have a hard time getting competent helpers since most dedicated players will have the majority of their AF3 upgraded.

As for brewing. Cruor farming is pretty fast with 2 or 3 people. Enough that you could get 100k+ in a short evening of play. Some NM's are easier to brew than others, but if you really had to you could manage doing it all completely solo. It'd take you a long time of hardcore cruor and popset farming, but the fact that the Abyssea system makes it possible to be 100% independent if you had to, makes a big difference.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Walk of Echoes changes and FFXI rewards systems

From the Official Forums:

Q. If you fail to clear the area will you receive any reward at all? Will it be like campaign union where even though time runs out you will still get a treasure chest after you have been evaluated?
A. There will be no reward if you fail to clear the area.

Q. I’d like to know whether the brown treasure casket that everyone can lot on upon clearing an area will be removed or if they will remain.
A. It will be removed. Think of it as all the items up till now will be either added or taken away from each player’s rewards.

As far as I know there currently hasn't been a definitive decision about making WoE a closed area or keep it open like it is now. Initially they wanted to close it off, but due to the amount of feedback on the Official Forums they decided to have a vote. Regardless of that point they will be making it so that NOT clearing an area won't give you any rewards. Forcing people to clear the area will probably mean forcing some type of cooperation/planning/strategy.

I'm all for strategy and planning, but I'm not eager to have to gather people against their will to do this event. There is nothing in it for anyone except a few rare situational pieces of gear and of course coins right now. So you'd think the obvious route would be to make WoE appeal to a larger audience. I think it's only natural that they add new and interesting drops to draw more people to the event than just those after upgrading their knock-off Empyrean. I can only hope that they do a better job at it than Dynamis. Although the new weapons and accessories that drop off the Arch bosses are good. The main draw of Dynamis is still the currency. I'm sure that I am not alone in thinking that the drops are not enough to get someone in there if they don't care about currency/gil.

A personal reward at the end of the battle sounds like voidwatch, and we all know how happy poeple are about THAT system. That was sarcasm. Getting something you don't want isn't so bad. Seeing someone ELSE getting something they don't need and you DO (desperately) want is quite a bit more painful. FFXI and other MMO's have the bad habit of giving you a chance at something after you've completed a challenge. If you win a race/challenge in the real world, you generally know beforehand what the prize is. It might not be why you're competing, but it's not a gamble. The winning team of any sport at the end of the season gets a bonus in their paycheck, not a Powerball lottery ticket (maybe as an extra!). I understand that developer don't want the very best rewards to be too easy to obtain, but they seem to re-forget the lessons they learned in the past.

Remember Assault Points? You had to do a bunch of assaults before having enough points to get your reward with varying prices. Ichor from Einherjar worked the same way. These were great systems because they allowed you to save up points to be spent on the EXACT thing you wanted, not a random thing. Although there are problems with the Empyrean trials (mostly just the large differences in difficulty and the crappy VNM system), they are essentially the same slow progression of saving up trophy items like they were points. Over the course of 50 items the relatively high droprate evens out. If you made each stage a single trophy that had a 1 in 50 chance of dropping, you'd see a much larger variation of streaks in the playerbase. Some people would go 1 for 1, while others could take 100+ turns. Where is the sense/logic in that? That is in essence what a large part of FFXI's reward system STILL is. I got a defending ring recently. Yay me, but what's the point of making such a strong and desirable item so varyingly difficult to obtain? Depending on your "luck" a relic is more attainable. Mog Bonanza rank1 seems to agree. The same varying results applies to the conversion of NQ to HQ pops.

To top it all off, SE's random number generator seems very prone to streaks and "favoratism". I'm not knowledgable enough on statistics to know if you could even prove such a theory, but it does seem like more than just an anecdotal claim. Tiny probability combined with large time investments per iteration do not a good rewards system make. Please developers, let me save up for my rewards. I don't expect it NOT to be a grind, it's an MMORPG after all. I just want some light at the end of these tunnels.