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.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Defending Ring Get!

Last week Thursday I had planned with 3 other people to do a few KSNM 99 battlefields. I personally did not want to do Turtle or Behemoth because the chance at HQ is so low and the drops off the NQ Kings were of no interest to me. Since I still want a Hecatomb Cap and a Ridill is still a fun toy I wanted to do the Wyrm. However, Korhil needed tongue and egg for Black Belt and a minuscule chance at a Defending Ring is better than no chance at all.

The setup was WHM (Cyrille), SMN (Korhil), BRD (Jesseblue) and a THF tank (me). Without having used the Scherzo + Earthern Armor before, all I knew about it was how well it worked on the tougher Voidwatch NM's.

I hadn't done this KS99 before at all, so knew very little about it. It casts pretty frequently and so keeping the Scherzo/EA up was pretty important. Sometimes they'd go down just as Meteor hit, but usually at least one of them was up. At just under 1.4k HP I was dropped as low as 200 HP on regular Meteors. I wasn't at max HP at the time as I believe the highest damage for regular Meteors I saw was around 800. Only one of the "final" Meteors killed me and. The others were long gone and EA wore off a second or two before the spell connected and so it was really flukey.

The battlefield clear times were around 11 minutes. I used Red Curry Buns and Aura Stole its warcry for some nice Attack numbers. I was a bit surprised to see a 1.8k Dancing Edge outside Abyssea. I used two evasion Kila's and evasion seemed capped, I don't know how much less I could have done with, but as it stood one cast of Utsu: Ni would almsot always las until the next Meteor hit.

NQ Behemoth
I loved blazing through it at max speed. Everyone joined in and meleed as it was really easy. I tried getting TH upgrades but iirc never ended up with more than TH7. I knew the droprate on HQ pop was low so I was really happy to see one Savory Shank drop.

King Behemoth
It seemed to cast less frequently than the KS99 version and did perhaps a little bit more damage per spell. We fought it the same way as the KSNM version and the results were the same as well. It had a bit more defense and HP and the fight took about 17 minutes (I used Mug timer as an indication).

Then the unexpected happened and a Defending Ring dropped! Since it was Korhil's pop we kind of waited for him to make a decision. We hadn't discussed item distribution at all beforehand since we never expected this. Korhil was the only one there for the BB item so he got it naturally. He suggested we freelot the ring (he's a hero) and I won the lot.

Defending Ring
What it means for my RDM PDT set is that I get up to 50% without using hands, legs (were already obsolete), head and feet slots. My HQ darksteel pieces for those can probably go into storage now as I don't use them on other jobs. That means I get to keep movement speed and two tics of refresh while running away or some melee gear while face tanking. Not to mention I obviously replaced the Dark Ring in my idle set with it, which makes my idle set 41% to 47% PDT (at night) and all I need to do to hit the 50% cap is swap in a Darksteel Harness and augmented Dark Ring. Since I dont'use spellcast I don't think it's worth making a different set for nighttime.

For THF it means 23% MDT (crappy thrown together set) and for PLD it's pretty much fulltime piece. My macros are still pretty incomplete for PLD since 90% of what I use it for is AoE farming.

I don't know if the drop rate was adjusted and you can imagine that at this point I don't really care. I hope it's still rare as hell so that I can feel special! Still: good luck to anyone trying.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Apademak trio

I finally got the chance to use up the Apademak pop I had been holding on to for months. Since Kingcem has his Kannagi now and could use the horns, we went out there trying to "prove a point". Namely that Apademak is not hard.

The setup was RDM/DRK + NIN/DNC + WHM. Why DRK sub when you can get stun from /BLM? I've cast stun by mistake before, reacting to something I'm not supposed to, so I was thinking of using Weapon Bash from DRK sub in case that happened. The damage from a single NIN took about 15 min to kill it IIRC. However, I'm not sure if evasion gear was used. I should probably find out. Kingcem's NIN is pretty well geared and I'm not sure an average NIN could do the same. Why is that important? Because Apa builds stun resistance and towards the end of the 15 min I would start to see resists. I used both Future Fabulous and some Haste gear to lower my Stun recast. I could have done with less and can switch to something like Ultimate to increase my magic accuracy. The second fight I nuked a bit to help take it down faster. I had my damage filters on so I wouldn't miss Apa's spells in chat spam. Because of that I can't really see how hard my nukes hit. I'd cast Haste and Addle between stuns when needed, other debuffs don't seem to stick to the point that I just gave up.

With only Tenebrous Mist and Dreadstorm (beause it was tanked from the side) the WHM didn't have much to do either. So there's some freedom there for if you want grellow weakness. A second melee kills it faster and so Stun resistance would be even less of an issue. I'm thinking a Duo is very possible but enmity cap might become an issue.

During the last fight I tried letting Thundaga3 go unstunned towards the end to postpone resistance build-up, thinking that AoE's couldn't be self-targetted. To my surprise it was and it DID level up. So even though I expect that you could fiddle around with your chat filters (making only self-targetted spells show up) to make sure you only stun the necessary spells, I'll personally stick to stunning everything and killing faster.

A few weeks later
We did another 5 Apademaks and we had some extra help this time. With the damage from a BLM and THF the fights did seem shorter, but again I didn't time it precisely. On the last one I would estimate it took 8 minutes because when it was at 20% my composure timer (which I used at start) was just reaching zero.

This time I didn't have my own damage filtered and with Ultimate on the Bliz4's were doing a respectable 1.2k damage. Towards the end of one of the fights I pulled hate with a nuke which could be disastrous if you get hit with Dreadstorm and it nukes right after. So I toned it down and limited my nukes to about 4 or 5 per fight.

This time I used Ultimate for the extra magic accuracy, MM because always... and Future Fabulous for recasts again. It seemed to happen at least once per pop that it would start casting before my timer was up. Sometimes as much as 5 seconds were left on the recast. Fortunately with Addle on it takes long enough to cast that no spell got through. I would consider equiping AF2 body and Goading Belt for the recast reduction next time, but all in all a single stunner seems a safe bet. Not a single Stun was resisted this time around.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Briareus solo & Brulo duo

Nothing special about Briareus solo, you say? Give it a minute. At the time of this writing I've solo'd this mob as THF/NIN 4 or 5 times. Each went down without a hitch thanks in great part to temp item meds.

With the huge evasion double EVA daggers give you on top of THF skill + traits, the only challenge in this fight is regaining HP in between Mercurial Strikes enough to be safe from the next one. Since 1111 is the most damage they can do, you'll want at least that much. However, to cover myself from bad luck I always took a wider margin. To do this I didn't use meds exclusively, but also used Mounted Champion (20HP regen) as one of my Atmas. Colossal Slam can only be done outside of Meikyo Shisui when Mercurial hits for 888 and 999 damage. When that happens you can wait a few attack round until it's close to being able to TP and start running backwards while in first person. This means you'll still be able to land melee hits, but will already be moving away when it starts charging the tp move. Unless you encounter an obstacle while running back, you will be out of the AOE range of Colossal Slam when it goes off, just like when you SHOULD be running when it 2hr's after a 1111 damage Mercurial. This means Colossal Slam can be completely neutralized and the regaining HP, as said before, remains the only challenge. Trebuchet and Mercurial damage will add up. You could easily turn around and hold Bria while you let Regen do all the work, but that will really slow you down.

Limiting TP moves in this fight also greatly reduces the need to wait for regen or the number of meds required. This would go for all solos, so using Subtle Blow and AGI where possible is more of a general advice. I have the following sources of Subtle Blow in my gearset: Asagaya's Collar, Nusku's Sash, Heed Ring and Dragon Harness. That's right, I melee in Dragon Harness. The sacrifice in speed, which leads to longer fights, is worth it when it's not a magic casting mob, and longer doesn't necessarily mean riskier. Plus 10 Subtle Blow is pretty rare in a single slot. There is also AGI on it, which since a recent patch also affect TP fed per attack. For this same reason the AGI on the evasion daggers are extra useful. TP feed is severely reduced thanks to all these factors.

Having some close calls while trio'ing this it seemed like a tough fight to duo. The hate cap was reached about 3 quarters into the fight the first time around. This lead to a nasty cycle of the tank needing to melee to get hate while at the same time taking considerable damage from spikes that he would require healing and the mages would pull hate again. With this enmity bouncing it wasn't a big surprise that mages got hit with Inferno. We made several mistakes. No reliable way of dealing with spikes. No way for the mages to avoid capping hate. Not enough defense against Inferno. These three problems only needed two solutions. Using Accession Phalanx a large portion of the spikes damage was nullified, leaving Regen2 to take part of almost all the other damage taken (form spikes). This reduces healing needed and enmity cap becomes much less of an issue as long as you don't cast unnecessarily. The second thing we did was using Future Fabulous Atma which made Inferno do about 50% of the tank's HP (don't remember exactly how much it was). FF on top of no other MDB reduces magic damage by 33%, so taking that into account it should be survivable either way with a decent HP pool and an MDT set.