The Final Nail

I don’t like to admit defeat, but there comes a time when I just have to face reality and accept it: my rogue leveling project is virtually dead. Other than a brief one-night stand with my rogue on Jubei’thos, I haven’t logged into either project rogue in weeks. I have too much going on and not enough free time to dedicate to the project. The free time I do have has once again been stolen by something else, something major, something worth setting aside the project for … Cataclysm.

It was two weeks ago today that I was logged in on my death knight smelting a metric ton of cobalt for my rogue when I received an email notifier on my phone. At first I thought it was merely a phishing scheme because surely I wasn’t going to be getting into the Cataclysm beta. No way. No how. That is, until I decided to check the validity of the email by opening up my browser and manually entering Battle.Net’s URL into the navigation bar.

Do not be alarmed, it's just a place-holder login screen.

Wait. No. This can’t be. I’m in the … beta … ?!?

After the shock wore off I came to realize that my rogue leveling project as I intended it was dead. It was at that moment that I almost began cursing Blizzard for tossing me an invite that I couldn’t ignore, I was going to get a taste of Cataclysm and become absorbed in it.

Thankfully before I lamented too heavily on being lured away from the live servers, I came to another realization: I could level a worgen rogue on the beta servers … and that’s just what I set out to do. But before I could actually create my worgen rogue, I had to download the beta client and that meant making room for it by uninstalling the Final Fantasy XIV open beta client.

Oh SquEnix, I wanted to like XIV … too bad it’s too much like XI.

Being rather impatient, I decided to give the streaming downloading client a good … testing by loading the game prior to a full install. I knew I was going to be met with a less-than-desirable experience upon the initial load, but why wait? I could play NOW and there was nothing that was going to stop me.  Fortunately for me the client is rather smart by prioritizing the information you need rather than locking you down until it decides to download it.

Fear the stylishness of flexing in a top hat.

Thus the worgen rogue, Nevikjames, was born. No, I wasn’t able to get Nevik on the beta servers and I was rather annoyed by that fact. So if you happen to have a toon named Nevik on Lost Isles, would you kindly rename yourself with a re-customization? ^^;

I’ll save my in-depth impressions of the worgen starting experience for another entry, partially because it’s now been 2 weeks so it isn’t all that clear and I’m probably going to start another worgen rogue for comparison sakes. Suffice to say I am very impressed with the immersion and story-telling with the starting zones. By the end of worgen starting experience I found myself in an odd position, I actually hated Sylvanas!

What? How is that even possible?

I know, crazy right? I have to give Blizzard props on what they’ve accomplished with just the worgen starting experience. I was so enthralled and taken by the story that the shock of what Sylvanas pulls made me immediately create an undead hunter to get our side of the story. I haven’t gotten the hunter into Silverpine yet, but now that I got my worgen rogue running wild I’ll probably spend some time on the hunter when I get the chance.

Anyhoo, I’ll close out this entry with a thought and slight concern about my general feel of the new assassination rogue leveling experience: Mutilate is sooooooooooo incredibly OP at level 10. Most encounters last 2 seconds: ambush, mutilate, dead mob.

The Greatest Game You Never Played

Given that my blog has been mostly mmo-centric during its lifetime it’s probably safe to assume that there’s a good chance that many of you are not too big on console gaming. Or even if you are, there is still a good chance that the greatest game ever made (in my opinion of course) slipped through your fingers. I am, of course, referring to Team Ico’s Shadow of the Colossus for the Playstation 2. Simply put, Shadow of the Colossus is a masterpiece and is the centerpiece in the whole Game vs Art debate.

The premise is very simple, yet the message it conveys is as complex as you want it to be. You play as Wander and your motivation is to find a means to bring the girl you’re carrying back to life. To do this you make a deal with the Dormin who claim they have the power to bring her back, but only if you go out into the world and kill the 16 colossi. You then set out with your horse Agro with only a sword, a bow, and some arrows to achieve your task.

As you explore the Forbidden Land you’ll discover nary an enemy, just you, your horse and the occasional fauna between you and the scattered colossi. It’s almost haunting how serene and lonely the landscape is and the game is as much about the exploration as it is tackling each of the colossi themselves. Each of the colossi are different from each other and you’ll have to employ different techniques to take each one down. When you do manage to take down a colossus, you’re met with a remorseful cinematic where their life essence is absorbed into your body. It’s both satisfying and depressing. You’ll probably even feel a tinge of guilt after killing such a magnificent creature, but you must save the girl … so you carry on.

You owe it to yourself to play this game. Period. If you still don’t believe me, then watch this video …

Sold? Ok, good.

Now you understand the err in your ways for not picking this up, fret not! Shadow of the Colossus should still be relatively easy to find for PS2, but you may want to hold off until the spring of 2011 for the Team Ico Collection for the PS3. Yes folks, today it was confirmed that we’re all going to be the recipients of HD remastered versions of Shadow of the Colossus and Ico. If that’s not enough for you, Team Ico is also remastering each game to play in HD-3D if your television supports it.

If you own a PS3 and do not buy this collection then you’re missing out … and I hate you. Strong words, I know but I’m in a bit of a pickle myself. You see, I never did play Ico and holy crap is that game hard to find nowadays. Fortunately for me I get to stop hating myself for missing out on the game that started it all and get to play it glorious HD. Just after I play through on hard mode a couple of times in Shadow of the Colossus ^^;

South Sea Island Adventure

While my death knight was out running (painful) circuits around Tanaris to supply my rogue with mithril, I decided to take a detour out to the fabled South Sea Islands before they’re wiped off the map in the Cataclysm.  I only wish I was actually heading there for the Ahn’Qiraj scepter quest, but regardless I wanted to take in the sights while I still could.

I don’t really have anything interesting to add to the screenshots that I took, so I’ll let them do the talking …

So why was my death knight farming mithril? Well being the indecisive profession picker that my rogue is, he decided to drop leatherworking for engineering. Why go the route of engineer? The toys of course! He also decided that he wanted another active ability to hit while in assassination. It gets awfully boring doing mut, mut, envenom … mut, mut, envenom.

For the sake of my sanity, I hope that this is the last time I ever mess with the professions on my main. He’s now an enchanter / engineer … for good, this time. I mean it. ^^;

And Then the Next Thing I Knew …

… it was 4 am in the morning and I had successfully managed to pull wife aggro. Erp!

Yes folks, it can happen to you too if you manage to consume 12 beers in one evening. It’s been quite awhile since the last time I had an all-night WoW-bender and not for a lack of enthusiasm for the game. It’s just that I’m getting older and I value sleeeeeeeeeep all that much more now that my daughter is in kindergarten and has adopted a new “up at 8am, or earlier” routine, even on the weekends.

That and I’ve found a more reasonable sense of balance in the time that I dedicate to the game, to my wife and daughter, and my other assorted projects. So needless to say, pulling a WoW-bender just doesn’t occur all that often anymore. Sure there are plenty of times where I might think I want to forgo enough sleep to get something done in-game, but as I said, I’m getting older and those thoughts are usually dismissed quickly when I think of my comfy bed and pillow.

Okay, so what got in to me?

Well, it all started earlier in the week when I received a DM from Fimlys asking me if I would like to be interviewed for episode #101 of the Twisted Nether Blogcast. Needless to say I was honored, excited and just a wee-bit nervous. Okay, okay! Yes, actually I was extremely nervous and knew that I was going to need some liquid courage to take that edge off so I could relax and be myself on the podcast.

Things went along swimmingly during the interview (other than Comcast HSI hiccuping once) and I managed to safely keep my beer inside of its container throughout the show. Sorry Ril … you really will never live that down. It was after the interview was finished where things started to go awry.

It started off slow, but after watching some Avatar: The Last Airbender before bed with the wifey, I wasn’t quite ready to retire for the evening thanks to having a sour stomach from all the ‘za and beer I had consumed. So off I went to my cave and proceeded to log in to WoW for a quick jaunt through a dungeon or two with my troll rogue on Jubei’thos.

Two dungeons became four, which then became six and so did the number of beers fueling this crazed gaming-bender. My grasp on time faded completely and it wasn’t until my poor pregnant wife came in around 4 am that I realized what I had done. With egg on my face, I managed to quickly finish out the last dungeon run I was in and avoid further aggravation before retiring for the night.

My night ended on a high note, aside from the mild wife-aggro, with an incredible run through the Blackfathom Deeps with some friendly quality players. Being as drunk as I was, it wasn’t hard to strike up a conversation and share my euphoria from being on the Twisted Nether.  At the end of the night we all parted as friends and I promised to blog about the experience.

Well unfortunately I was just a tad too inebriated to recall much, but at least I did take a couple of screenshots so I wouldn’t forget their names … but unfortunately most of them were poorly framed ^^;

Our bear tank, Blackcow from Chromaggus, was pure win and would always move through the mob packs so that they would turn their backs for my benefit. Other than myself filling the role of DPS, we had Bárnabyjones from Saurfang laying out some great warlock dps and ParalizeJr from Jubei’thos providing AoE-hotness as a mage can. Last, but definitely not least, we had MiseryQT also from Jubei’thos making sure no one died on our run.

Thanks to this collection of fine folks my faith in the Vengeance battlegroup has been restored. I can get great groups and have a blast in the dungeon finder tool. Now if only I could spend more time on Jubei’thos to continue dinging my troll rogue. Oh! That reminds me, I probably have some unspent talent points to distribute … ^^;

For Me Homeland

I have to admit that when it was announced that Zalazane’s Fall and Operation Gnomeregan were live I was taken by surprise. Pre-Cata events happening? Now? Yes, please. Unfortunately for me, I was still at work when it was announced and unable to immediately log in and reclaim me homeland. A pity, I know but needless to say I was excited on two fronts:

  1. Having these events triggered on the live servers would indicate that progress on the Cataclysm beta is proceeding as scheduled and we should be receiving a specific launch date for Cataclysm soon.
  2. I was finally going to be able to assist in the reclamation of the Echo Isles. Trolls are easily my favorite race in Warcraft and it’s exciting to experience troll lore as it happens.

When I did get home I did something that I haven’t done in a long, long time: log in to my troll rogue on Cenarius. In some ways it was like a homecoming to head on back to Orgrimmar and ride down to Sen’Jin Village. The red rocks of Durotar actually felt inviting for once instead of yelling “I’m uncomfortable, boring and HOT. Very, very hot! You won’t like sitting on me. You’ll stay far, far away from me if you have any sense.”

Okay, maybe I’m being a little melodramatic here, but it is a homecoming for us trolls. Finally the embarrassment of being ousted from our home by a level 10 mob and his followers would be coming to a merciful end. We’re coming home baby! But first, I was tasked with a few odds n’ ends in preparation for the epic battle!

I gathered some frogs to be used as spies and then strategically placed them around the isles. Then I was tasked with heading to Razor Hill to bolster our ranks and recruit some able-bodied soldiers. Of course I decided that I needed to recruit my own little harem and gratuitously /flex in front of them.

After bolstering the ranks, I was then sent out to test my strength against a mysterious tiger matriarch troll druid!

Then of course there was dancing. Much, much dancing. As a troll, our bodies cannot help but groove to a kickin’ beat.

At the conclusion of the dance party, it was time to assemble and get ready for GO TIME.

But before taking on Zalazane, we needed to seek the assistance of Bwonsamdi …

… and some tiki shields and spears in a large hut.

Then I was finally able to sheath my daggers into Zalazane’s back.

Mission. Accomplished. For me homeland!

Like I Needed Another Distraction

So besides the infuriating distraction that was my short stint in the Final Fantasy XIV open beta, I have another little project that will take time away from my rogue leveling project. Wait, did I have a rogue leveling project? What are rogues? Where am I? Er … somebody slap me!

I bet you’re wondering what this all new distraction may be that is taking precious time away from my dear adolescent rogues. Well, I’ll tell you … if I must. I’m now semi-focused on running my death knight through Zul’Gurub to High Priest Thekal for the off chance that he drops the Swift Zulian Tiger. Fat chance, I know, but with the removal of ZG as a raid I’m compelled to at least give it a shot.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Acherus Deathcharger but I think it would grrrrrrrrreat to ride around on Tony the Tiger. I mean, how awesome would it be to see a death knight on a tiger? Awesome, right? I thought so.

So why not my troll rogue? Besides the fact that it would be a lot harder for my rogue to solo the event, I’m okay with not getting the mount on my rogue. The tiger is a sub-1% drop anyhow so the chances of getting it to drop wouldn’t be worth it since he’d likely have to duo Thekal. My rogue already has plenty of mounts at his disposal, and I prefer running around on the brewfest ram or war kodo anyways.

Anyhoo, solo’ng the event with my death knight wasn’t hard once I got the hang of it. Setting a focus on the shaman in the group is a must so you can interrupt the heals and then just spread your damage as evenly as possible. While I do have a frost build for my DK, I’ve preferred running him in my blood DPS spec just for the sustained self-healing the spec has. Having dancing rune weapon is also very handy for when Thekal enrages and calls his guardians in phase 2.

So far I’ve run ZG four times without a drop and can probably expect many many more runs without the devil’s luck. I just hope I get it before Cataclysm in case the mount is removed.

Don’t Judge a Book … (but in this case)

Disclaimer: I’m currently writing this while there is still a NDA in place for the Final Fantasy XIV open beta. Yes, it is COMPLETE bollocks that the NDA applies to the open beta and I’m sure there are plenty of players currently in the OB that are violating the TOS. At first I intended to honor the NDA, but I am so incredibly frustrated with XIV that I cannot in good conscience NOT share my experiences.

I’m not sure why, but the inner Final Fantasy geek inside of me still yearned to experience XIV despite all of the maligning I had thrown SquEnix’s way over many of the decisions they were making with XIV. It wouldn’t be very sporting and fair of me to completely write of XIV as an HD remix of XI, so it became apparent that the best way for me to speak from first-hand experience would be just that. Therefore I made the decision that I was going to get into the open beta come hell or high water.

In a lot of ways the postponement of the open beta, even if only by 24 hours, seemed to indicate just how ill-prepared XIV was to go live. I shrugged off the feelings of dread and tried to remain  optimistic that surely there would be some redeeming qualities amongst the distasteful reports coming out of closed beta. It was when it came time to apply for an open beta registration key that my spirits were almost destroyed entirely.

SquEnix’s servers buckled under the sheer amount of F5′ng that was congesting their pipes. I wasn’t surprised at all that it happened, but I couldn’t help feel a tinge of despair over the possibility of NOT getting into the open beta. I wanted to experience XIV first hand, but I wasn’t willing to buy the retail box in order to do so. No, I had too many doubts to feel good about handing SquEnix any money for what appeared to be XI with a fresh coat of paint.

Let me tell you just how excruciating it was trying to get a key. When I first saw the SquEnix account management login screen I nearly did a dance in my chair, especially when after submitting my login information I wasn’t immediately met with an error message. No, I wasn’t met a big fat internet-fail and eventually my heart rose when I saw the TOS page come up.

SUCCESS I HAD DONE IT! Now lemme just check that I agree and click on subm … WHAT THE … nothing is happening. Errors on page?! Javascript errors? /facepalm

No folks, I was met with a big bowl of internet fail and it didn’t taste good. After wiping the malcontent from my face, I sucked it up and began the whole process over again. And again. And again. I was persistent and kept at it, crossing my fingers every time I wasn’t met with a connection timeout.

In between my attempts to connect, I was somberly keeping an eye on the open beta client download. There were many times where I almost gave up, but even when it seemed like there was no hope, I kept that download going … just in case. Imagine how much I would kick myself if I had stopped downloading the ~5 gigs @ 130kb/s and actually got a key. For 90, NINE TEE, minutes I kept refreshing and/or reloading. No damn it, I wasn’t going to be denied.

Then it happened, a functioning TOS page. PRAISE BE TO YEVON!

I was in, well sorta. I still  needed to register the key which took a bit more time because not only was the key registration server congested, but so was the account management server. Even if I had not registered the key that night, I still felt GOOD. I had done it. I was going to get to experience XIV without giving SquEnix a dime … but I still had to get through the download and hope that the mirror site(s) I was getting it from had the legit code.

And … legit it was. /cheer

So after yesterday’s roller-coaster ride of emotional highs and lows, I was relieved that what I had downloaded was functional and after a small patch I was ready to jump in. I was on pins n’ needles when I loaded the launcher and logged into the game server and heard that familiar melodic theme of the crystals.

Oh Square, how could I ever stay mad at you?! Wait a second, I can’t go full screen?! What the … alright, let’s roll with it.

Back before all of the closed beta reports soured my expectations and the benchmark appeared to squash any chance I had at running this game I had aspirations to roll a Galka … er I mean Roegadyn gladiator. I’ve typically favored being a DPS class, but for some reason I felt like being a tank in XIV and damn it, I was going to be a tank. Even better was the sheer fact that I was even at the character creation screen; my computer wasn’t complete fail and was running it … as best as it could.

I didn’t spend too much time in the character selection screen but not for a lack of wanting to get in and get dirty, most of the customization selections were so subtle, that I didn’t get hung up on making my galka perfect … er, well they are galkas! A few small tweaks here n’ there and I was ready to get on with it and dig my teeth into a nice looooonnnnnng black screen as my computer and graphics card struggled to render the in-game cinematic.

Okay, let’s not panic … oh wow … this is chugging and … well, ugly.

While my computer was able to handle the game, it just wasn’t able to do it well. No worries, as long as it controls well. Once I finally had control of my galka, grrr I need to stop that, I was met with feeling completely lost with the controls. Granted I was able to move around, I just wasn’t able to move around with any sense of fluidity thanks to the piss poor mouse/camera support in XIV. No my friends, SquEnix hasn’t given two shits about what has become the defacto control scheme for MMOs in the post-WoW world. No, they wanted to make sure the game played and controlled just like Final Fantasy XI.

Good grief. I used to accept this horrible control scheme for the year I played XI?

These NPCs did absolutely NOTHING to help out.

At that point I knew exactly why the NDA was still in place, the game controls like shit compared to a modern day mmo and would arrive DOA and only sell to the XI die-hards. I had forgotten just how incredibly unintuitive the control scheme from XI was and I’m embarrassed for SquEnix that even Star Trek Online’s ground missions controlled like a dream comparatively. We’re talking about a control scheme that is not setup for mouse control at all and I cannot for the life-of-me think of a good reason why SquEnix hasn’t adopted a WoW’esque control scheme.

And to think that at one point the developers thought XIV could give WoW some competition? Did I mention that you can’t reconfigure the keyboard controls at all? Really? I mean, reeeeeaaaaaaaalllllllly?!?

Anyhoo, I decided to not throw my hands up in frustration and laboriously worked through the game intro with little in-game help. No, I wasn’t going to give up that easily and I’ve used this control scheme seven years before … it’d come back to me, right?

After finally realizing that once you’re deposited into the city you need to talk to NPCs to progress, I finally got to the point where my character, the big green behemoth Nevik James, was in the world and could interact with other players and play for really reals. My biggest point-of-interest at that point was to get outside of the city and check out the combat system … and to go attune myself to an aetheryte crystal in the desert.

I spotted a marmot on the horizon and bee-lined it to get into some action. Okay, how did combat work in XI again? Right, so I targeted the marmot, got within range and began repeatedly hitting 1 to swing my sword. Wait, there’s no auto-attack? Eventually I figured out the nuances of the stamina bar and that the highlighted box at the beginning of the bar was to indicate how much stamina it would take to hit my #1 button.

Really SquEnix? This is more interesting? /facepalm

At some point I leveled up as a gladiator and obtained a new skill, or trait, or something but couldn’t find out what exactly it was and whether or not it was an active ability to save me from the doldrums of repeatedly hitting 1. I also managed to aimlessly stumble into the camp I was supposed to attune myself to a crystal and found the crystal.

Now there was just one problem, how was I supposed to interact with the crystal? It wasn’t treated like an NPC you can highlight and target, so fruitlessly I fumbled around looking for some key that might attune me to the crystal. Eventually I decided to noob-it-up and ask in /say and thankfully I wasn’t met with “OMG f’ng noob …” Well at least open beta is good for not being berated I suppose.

Attuning myself to the crystal completed a quest I had taken from an NPC back in town and I was then given the opportunity to undertake a guildleve, XIVs bare-bones version of your a-typical quest in any mmo. It was your typical go out and kill X of Y quest but I suppose we’ll never completely get away from those …. right? So out I went to go kill three black moles. Exciting, I know.

It didn’t take long to complete, and other than discovering that I had to put away my weapon by pressing F to regenerate health I was thoroughly bored with the whole experience. Oh, there was one little neat thing about the completion of the guildleve, a node will appear that will allow you to teleport back to the crystal you attuned to. So there’s that.

I cannot express succinctly enough just how incredibly disappointed I am with my first experience and impressions of Final Fantasy XIV. It really is XI with a fresh coat of point. SquEnix hasn’t learned a damned thing about what makes an mmo thoroughly engaging and fun to play. They’ve failed on everything from accessibility to innovation. Hell, they’ve even failed to copy WoW’s control scheme to try to pull from that user-base. Final Fantasy XIV is a mess and is going to be a horrible failure … well at least from the impressions I got from the original visions shared by the developers.

But before I completely write-off XIV, I am going to keep playing it in hopes of finding something redeeming about the game. I just hope the NDA is lifted prior to launch so I can share my experiences with everyone before they go out and waste their money on this Final Fantasy XI retread. Oids.