FF14 Quick Leveling Guide (1-80) – Endwalker

FF14 has a few paths for leveling. I wanted to write a quick summary of my recommended approach. I’ll update again in a couple months once Endwalker has settled.

Experience Boosts

Hopefully you pre-ordered something, which will give you access to an earring that increases EXP gains while leveling. Being in a guild will give a flat 10% boost as well. Logging out in a town (the moon icon near the EXP bar) gives rested exp gain of 50%. Finally, any food will give 3% exp gain and is super dirt cheap.

Also of note, if you are leveling a job that is a lower level than your highest one (e.g. you are leveling a 30, and you have a 70), you get an EXP boost as well! For that reason, it’s a huge benefit to fully level 1 job before taking on others.

If this is your first character & job

Fresh sprouts (you have an icon over your head) have two choices. Either you follow the Main Story Quest (MSQ) on the top left of your screen from 1-80 or you buy a pass to jump straight into Shadowbringers territory. I strongly recommend you do the MSQ. It will guide you through most of the systems, unlocks a bunch of stuff, and the story is absolutely worth it. It will take about 200 hours, all told, if you don’t skip cutscenes. It is worth it, and a great way to meet people.

Alternatively, you can boost to level 70 and skip the quests (pay for both) and then select NewGame+, allowing you to replay the MSQ and still access all the systems. This is certainly viable if you have friends at the end with whom you wish to play.

If this is your second job

The first thing I would recommend is unlocking all the flight points in all zones. This will take a couple days to knock out (aetherial compass to find the nodes, then 4-6 simple quests per zone). Insanely useful.

After that it boils down to level ranges and your preference:

  • Level 1 – 15: Unlock the job, complete the Rank 1 hunting log, and then do FATES near Aleport until 15. You will want a Chocobo companion, likely set to healer, to make this go smoother. It is better to do lower level FATES without sync, than to do a high level one that takes longer.
  • If you are a healer or a tank, you are better off just queuing for Duty Finder for leveling dungeons (avoid the 50/60/70 ones – the gear requirements here are too high). You’ll get decent experience, gil, and stuff to sell. Queues are usually pretty fast. If you are a DPS, or don’t ever want to worry about gear levels…
  • Level 15-61: Palace of the Dead is the place to be. You need one class at 17 to unlock (you have one at 80). Run it a a matched group, and keep going 10 floors at a time until you’ve cleared floor 60. From then on, just re-run floors 51-60. Gear doesn’t matter at all here… but you want to pick up the blue chests to have stat boosts instead. Weapon + armor buffs max out around 65, so you’ll be a while before that happens. Pomanders aren’t that big of a deal here.
  • Level 61-71: Heaven on High. This is PotD version 2 and you cannot access it until 61. Very similar structure, you’ll be repeating floors 21-30. There is one floor type that sucks, it’s entirely open. Save your esper summons to clear this one out. Aether boosts are also present, so your actual gear does not matter a lick.
  • Level 71-80: Bozja. This requires to the Return to Ivalice quest be completed and then start the resistance quests. You need to be 80 to start it, but 71 to access it with another job. You will be item level synched and boosted to level 80. Again, no need for gear at all here, everyone gets synced to the same stats and level. You can enter with level 1 gear and deal a much damage as someone in full epic gear. The goal of this zone is to complete as many FATES as possible, increase you rank (this is quickly explained in game), which will then open critical engagements (8-24 person events). Leveling here is pretty quick.

These 3 last activities are repetitive, but they are also social and quite quick. The neat bit is that they lock you to level 60/70/80 along with the skills, allowing you to fully experience the job quickly, and set up you hot bars. Even if you don’t use them for primarily leveling, it’s a good idea to run through them just to get a feel for the jobs. It also means that you only need to buy Poetics gear at the end of your leveling journey, and only per role (tank, healer, melee DPS, physical range, magical range). It’s very economical. However, without gear you wont be able to do any Duty Finder activities – if you do plan to buy gear while leveling, I suggest doing so at 51/61/71. Buying gear at the X0 levels is usually 3x the cost and half the stats of a level X1 equivalent.

Have fun leveling!

Final Pass

FF14 shuts down for a couple days to prep for Endwalker’s early access launch. If the last night is any indication, those servers are going to take a beating when they come back up. Even solo duties (class quests) were failing. Good that there’s clearly some pent up demand, less good that the architecture woes are not yet fully resolved. If I was a guessing man, that would be main reason for any launch delays.

So where am I now?

I have the character link in the top left, but for posterity I took a screenshot before logging off. Ignore the item level for now, I am doing deep dungeon runs that sync your character gear to a given level. I shouldn’t need to buy any gear until 80 (15-51 in PotD, 51-61 in HoH, 71-80 in Bozja – you don’t need any gear for any of it.)

I did manage to get my White Mage to 80 and my Gunbreaker. I was hoping to get a DPS role to 80 as well, and the Dancer is the closest so far. Honestly, my real goal was to get everyone to 15 so that I could clear out my starting level gear. That worked (Blue Mage has a different leveling system). I didn’t bother showing crafters as I don’t have any. Gatherers are all at 80, and my Retainers are at 60 right now… well shy of useful for EW. No biggie.

My White Mage is fully leveled with a more than decent ilvl to start EW. I do think I’ll run through with the Gunbreaker though… tanking with him has been a lot of fun and instant queues are nothing to sniff at.

It’s not shown here, but I’m at 5m gil as well, which is way more than enough to keep me going. The Duty Finder (LFG) system has been the main source of gil. PotD/HoH give no meaningful amounts of gil.

Am I ready for Endwalker? I guess I am. MSQ is all complete, bags are ready, quest log has only 2 entries. I’ve got all the old flight points too. I’m also in no terrible rush to complete the content – I still am not even 50% done on the older stuff! I’ll plug away as I go and see where the world takes me. It’s been a right long time since I’ve been excited for an expansion, kinda feel like I don’t want to get my hopes up too high.

Guess we’ll see on the other side.

Chrono Cross

My feeds of late are chocked full of speculation that SquareEnix is working on a remake of Chrono Cross, the sequel to Chrono Trigger. Chrono Trigger is an absolutely astounding gaming achievement, one of those markers where you can see games before, and games after. When Chrono Cross came out, it had some massive shoes to fill, and didn’t really hit it all the way out of the park. It is still highly regarded, no question!

First, the art style was a whole lot different, what with it being on Playstation. The relatively seamless battles of CT, where replaced with the more FF variant of an overworld, and a battle view. There was a whole lot of RNG here, compared to CT.

Not bad for 1999

Second, the battles themselves had a somewhat complicated mechanic of chaining elemental effects. So complicated in fact, that the true ending requires you to get 7 elemental attacks in order – including the enemy attacks. The leveling an skill system also added some complexity. I loved the strategic elements, way more than in CT.

Third, the story was no longer about time travelling but travel across 2 dimensions. You still had actions in one area that impacted another, but they were harder to detect and understand. There are 2 story quirks along the path as well that can be really hard to follow when they immediately show up. You really need to play the game twice to get the full picture – not something everyone is willing to do.

Fourth, there are 45 playable characters. That’s insane. And it will take at least 3 playthroughs to get them all. Each has a specific nuance to the story and will impact a future playthrough. It’s just wild when I write this out, that I actually collected all of those multiple times.

Fifth, there are 12 endings in Chrono Cross. 12! Only 2 you can get on the first playthrough. That feels like a giant hurdle.

I have tried to play Chrono Cross over the years; I still have the disks. Unfortunately, the scaling is wonky between the game and the menu, as the latter appears hard-coded. Which is honestly a shame, since the game really is quite good. Even in the emulation scene, CC is notoriously hard to configure.

The last bit here is if this is a remaster or a remake. From a resource perspective, I don’t see how they would have a team to remake the game, in secret, while also working on FF7. Nor that the sales would ever justify that investment, unless it was a pitch to get a new entry in the series (like with Mass Effect). Remaster seems the more reasonable approach, where the interface has a simple update, and we get the overlay boosts (faster combat/travel/etc…)

It’s no secret that SquareEnix is looking to recoup some money after recent financial hurdles. Pixel remasters of 1-6 abound. FF12 Zodiac Age made mint. Given the recent re-release of FF9, it’s certainly feasible to remaster Chrono Cross for today’s PC / Switch crowd. I’d certainly give it a go.

When the Bottom Falls Out

All civilizations are predicated on a disposable workforce. The measure of how disposable has changed, but it takes only a minor look across the globe to see how well that has worked out. Your Nike shoes aren’t made by adults with retirement plans…

The way most of this works is that a pyramid of financial power has things go forwards. People at the top do next to nothing of use in the day to day work, and yet share a massive amount of the financial rewards. The people at the bottom are what makes the world go round. Lose the board of a company, things still roll for quite a while. Lose the people running the store, then there’s no money coming in at all.

The workforce has undergone a massive shift due to the pandemic, with dozens of causes, a few of which below.

  • The largest one is simply death. 5.3m people have died. Not all of them are working age granted, but it’s still a massive global impact.
  • Retirement. When sh!t goes sideways, people take a sober look around them. A lot of people simply decided to nope their way out and move on out of the market. The age curve has a massive amount of baby boomers all leaving the market within a very small window. The lack of training/information sharing also means the people retiring are creating gaps in the ability for a business to conduct business.
  • Birth rates. The replacement rate is 2.1 In 1990, the global rate was 3.2, primarily driven through massive medical breakthroughs in 3rd world countries (lower child death rates). Today, it’s 2.3 globally. In the US it is currently 1.64.
  • Immigration reforms. This one is touchier… but if there are less country-born people to replace the workforce, those people need to come from somewhere. There are very few people in Canada/US that are willing to pick fruit in an orchard for 10 hours a day for $50. If these jobs are not filled, then food rots and doesn’t get to the supermarket/table. Global travel restrictions and reforms have certainly dropped overall immigration rates.
  • Stimulus packages have dramatically favoured the already financially stable, especially in the US. Even in Canada, the stimulus package was substantially higher than minimum wage and allowed people the time to assess their state.
  • Abusive practices are highlighted. The restaurant industry is a big one, where people are paid minimum (or less), have shifting hours, often work evenings/weekends, and have to put up with Karens on a daily basis. Many people have taken the opportunity during the closure to gain a new skill or new job, and found a better life balance. In particular replacing that other group that finally retired. I would be remiss not to point out r/antiwork
  • Employer/Employee relationships are transactional. Corporations have made it clear that money matters more than people, and the current generation of workers has very little attachment to the company they work for. Maybe the people, or the tasks, but not the company.
  • Wages vs inflation are not reflective of wage vs cost of living.
  • Remote work allows people to perform many types of tasks from anywhere. Particularly in locations where the cost of living is much lower than an urban setting. This increases the number of jobs available to an individual, and therefore choice.

The ‘bottom’ of the workforce therefore has less workers available to do the jobs, and the businesses now need to compete with the market. If Burger King offered $100,000 to flip burger, they wouldn’t have a staffing issue. Combine that with less company loyalty, people aren’t exactly willing to take any amount of stress when they can easily find somewhere else for either better hours or more money, or even both.

Seems like the disposable workforce has been disposed of. Fancy that.

10 Year Project

In 2011 I underwent a rather significant career change – from a medium sized organization to one with a very large scope of work. I was somewhat bored at the time, having completed pretty much all I wanted to at the time, and was hunting for an interesting project. I had a couple names, called around, and ended up taking a very interesting project that allowed me to work remotely for 6 months. I still recall sitting in my car, along a remote highway, just being happy to have 1 bar on my tethered cell phone.

The success on that activity opened some doors to an even larger project, one that was both transformational and made more than enough turns in the national media. I went very deep into that project, taking some gambles that both burned me and turned out well. I suffered a burnout in that period, and learned where that proverbial line is. I spent nearly 6 years on that project, in a direct fashion, before making a pitch for a tangent project.

I tend to get antsy when things are operational, I need to have very hard challenges and love to build teams to get through it. This new project was wilder than the first one, a group had tried for 2 years prior on a technical issue and wasn’t able to get over the hump. My team was able to solve that in a few weeks after having scoured the globe for options. It’s hard to describe the feeling of launching a global-first service, and having done so twice by this point, it’s a rush is like a drug.

I remained a consult on the national project during this time, and was moved around the organization to take on similar ‘impossible’ tasks. I butted heads more than once, but with some people, process, and tool changes, was able to find some success on those challenges. At various points I was asked to come back to the project core, but for a pile of reasons I wanted to do something else. Eventually, I had reached a point where that particular project had to close out, a new one established to replace it, and then this whole pandemic hit us hard.

I guess the tangent here is that our organization supported virtual teams (I’ve clearly supported it for years), while also requiring that management be physically on site. The larger support group also required on site work, typically due to the ‘grey hair effect’, where the older generation didn’t see how it could work otherwise. When the pandemic hit, the organization needed to rapidly pivot to support a fully remote workforce, and that caused a bunch of fires.

Sure enough, I eventually land back into the main project fire to both close out and start something new. And now we’re in the final phases of the original close out – taking up the month of December. I am happy that we are moving to something more modern and sustainable… there are issues of course, the grass is never greener, but it’s where we need to be. Yet I am also finding it bittersweet to close out such a large chapter of my life. I’ve made most of my career off the shoulders of that particular project, met a ton of great people, and delivered what felt like miracles.

It’s making for a very interesting month, at least in the mental space. I opened a major chapter 10 years ago, and this is where the next one is going to begin. Looking back as to where I started, I never would have guessed I’d end up here. What a run.

Sales-a-palooza

There are countries where by law they cannot mark an item on sale, unless said item was actually sold at the original price for a set period of time. The concept of MSRP (suggested price) is irrelevant. If the sale price lists 20% off, then the product had to have sold at that price prior.

We’re in the middle of Black Friday, which comes with “sales” everywhere. In the dark ages (pre-interwebs), you really weren’t able to tell if it actually was a sale or not. Today, sites like camelcamelcamel give easy reference to historical price point. So that 4K streaming stick at 50% off… well that’s the actual regular price. For most physical assets, you’re actually better off buying at a different time of year – perhaps of benefit if you’re trying to close off some holiday shopping. It’s a bit like COSTCO… if you need a lot of stuff now at a good price, great option. If you are looking for better price points, then a regular grocery store sale is a much better deal.

Virtual assets aren’t a whole lot different. Nearly all stores allow you to build wishlists, and they will let you know when there’s a sale on that item. Cyberpunk2077 is on sale, but it’s also on sale every month. Disco Elysium as well – $2 cheaper than 2 weeks ago. Epic Games, Steam, GMG, GOG are all having big sales, and my library of unplayed games is feeling a bit “meh”. If history repeats, the boxing day sales, in 1 month, will be an even lower set of prices.

Tangent – I still remember the joy of being a kid and unwrapping a game for my birthday or Christmas. I will forever remember unwrapping Hero’s Quest (Quest for Glory 1) at my grandparents. Today, I can still by a virtual game as a gift and delay delivery… well on some platforms at least.

Look at this awesome box art!

The slight exception to all this is the Nintendo e-shop. There are very rarely any 1st party sales… in fact most games are still selling for brand new prices. Breath of the Wild launched in March 2017 and still sells for full price. It doesn’t help that the e-shop itself was designed by drunk monkeys in 2011, and has the least useful interface since AOL. You still can’t buy a gift for anyone on the store. In a fun time travelling twist, your best bet for a Switch game is to rummage through a sales bin, or a used games rack. If you want to buy for yourself, there are “sales” in the concept that BotW is on sale for more than the base price of Cyberpunk2077.

If you’re looking to get a bunch of stuff in a short time window, Black Friday/Cyber Monday may scratch that itch. If you’re not bound by time, you’re better off just creating a watchlist and checking other sales. And obviously, if you don’t need it, the best sales price is when you don’t actually buy it.

Tim Hortons

Tim Hortons is an iconic Canadian establishment. A village turns into a town when it gets a Tim Hortons (and then a city when it gets a Canadian Tire). It’s been around since the 60s, and currently operates in 14 countries. Roll up the Rim was a matter of parliamentary debate in terms of odds of wining (it actually changed some of our laws).

From ’67 until ’90 it remained a rather small scale operation – Canada wide for sure, but really focused on coffee & donuts. In the mid-90s it merged with Wendy’s, which main benefit was figuring out how to get hot meals into the pipeline. It was not viewed as a positive by the Canadian public. Early ’00s, Timmy’s overtook McDonalds as the fast food location of choice in Canada, split off from Wendy’s and owned 76% of baked goods and 63% of the coffee market. That’s damn big.

In 2009 Cold Stone Creamery (ice cream) was put into 50 stores. That shut down in 2014. The coffee chain continued to grow, and in 2014 was merged with Burger King, or more accurately an international conglomerate of faceless capitalists. By 2018, its reputation had fallen to 67th in terms of Canada’s most reputable companies.

Now you’re asking, what the heck does this have to do with anything? Well, it’s related to yesterday’s post about nostalgia and the feeling of friendship with a company.

Timmy’s grew on a very simple concept. Decent coffee and baked goods, served quickly, at an affordable price, and early in the morning to boot. There were certainly donut shops prior to this, as well as diners, but the sheer brand appeal of a consistent experience was the seller. I mean, that’s why brands exist in the first place, right? There aren’t too many non-franchised donut shops around, right?

The fast-food boom of the 90s was not lost on them, and the partnership with Wendy’s allowed them to integrate processes to quickly get food to customers. When I say quickly, I don’t mean the 5 minute wait at a burger joint. I mean 90sec and you are served and out. This mattered most at the drive through, where people were used to ordering, showing up at the window with all the items prepared, and simply paying. The time it took to process payment was the time it took to get food prepared for the next person. The logistics in this are impressive… but for another topic.

This worked for a very long time, as the choices made on what food items to serve fit within the service standards – at least for a while. The ice cream integration is a really good example of poor planning. DQ gives you ice cream cones in 20 seconds, soft-serve. SCC uses a mixing palette to get you ice cream, a process that takes 2-3 minutes per order. While the novelty was interesting at the start, it eventually caused massive queues in the stores that prevented the “coffee and donuts” folks from getting what they wanted. It also cost a pile to keep things cold and clean (it’s much more space than keeping things warm).

This experimental phase of adding and removing complex menu items kept going. A sandwich seems like an easy thing to manage, but when you have options and substitutes, things get complicated. The workers are doing an amazing job, given the area to work in, but it’s nearly as much effort to make a Timmys sandwich as a Subway version. At low demand, this is manageable. When someone orders 4 different sandwiches in one go… things buckle.

Further, the need to increase franchises means that the quality of ingredients has to suffer. It’s a matter of scaling… there is only so much AAA product available on the market after all. If you mix with AA or A level products, it’s still comestible but will costs WAY less. Price points are important in quick serve food joints, so those businesses need to work on volume with smaller margins to make a profit. Starbucks can sell a $9 coffee, and 4x slower speed of Tim Hortons $2 version.

The value of Tim Hortons was based on food quality, speed of delivery, and price point. As the menu and franchises expanded, the quality of the food suffered. As more complex menus abound, the speed of delivery suffered. As other companies started to offer alternative options for coffee, the price point itself became a debate. As a result, the opinion today of Tim Hortons a lot lower than it once was, and sales are down. They still do great work in the community (TimBits hockey is a sort of ritual passage), but as a company, the type of loyalty they used to command has long since moved on. There are no boycotts here… simply that people have seen alternative options that meet their needs and shopped elsewhere.

Which begs the question, would Tim Hortons have taken a different path if they opted not to enter the food market? Time travel is the only way to answer that one.

What does merit discussion is how this particular thought process, of growth for the bottom line impacted the client’s perspective of the company. They have moved from the conceptual mom and pop family friendly location to a cleaner corporate image. That has distanced people’s attachment to the company, and once trust is lost, it’s incredibly hard to regain. That particular nuance is something that we are clearly seeing in the AAA game space… Will Tim’s take a different approach here, with a return to a more customer focused experience, or stay with the corporate objectives? Will we see that in the video game industry?

Nostalgia Bias

rant-ish post here…

I was at the US/Canada women’s hockey game last night, quite a good show. It was at full capacity and about 90% women. Normally when I got to any sporting event, the lineup for the men is extremely long – this time I was the only person in the washroom. Felt odd.

The rink we were in was the OHL (top junior level in Canada) and I went to quite a few games as a child with my grandfather. I’ve also played in the rink quite a bit. I remember it being bigger, with a specific set of sounds and smells. I’m not saying that my memory is accurate, simply that it was an odd feeling of broken deja vu. I expected a certain experience and got something different – still good, just different.

We tend to use nostalgia as a safety blanket of sorts, to be wrapped in the familiar. Folks trying to make money certainly do capitalize on this – the mini-NES, pretty much every movie remake, heck Stranger Things is pulled right out of the glamorized childhood. Which is all fine and dandy when you only look at the good parts. You may listen to a playlist of the “best songs of the 70s” but that is ignoring every bad song that was also released. We look at the gold standard and just cut and paste it again.

Video games are there too, what with progression servers on EQ, or emulated UO realms. They purport to be clones of the time, but the reality is that these are nigh unplayable today if they took their original ruleset. WoW Classic had to rejig a pile of rules to fit modern game expectations. The entire FF series has been relaunched more times than Skyrim at this point… and all sorts of quality issues abound.

But nostalgia relates to more than the game itself, but the idea of a relationship with the developer. There was a time, believe it or not, where you could just talk to the developers of a game! Or that they wanted to talk to you. Lord British’ infamous speech / firewall death is a great example of that perception of “one of us”, or even Brad McQuaid’s approach to community development. The Blizzard mantra of “it’s done when it’s done” actually meant something. There was an agreement between the players that the devs put something out, and we’d just assume it was good.

Then we got horse armor. I’ll pick on this particular event, because it best exemplifies the act of a developer moving away from being gamers and into the mechanics of game development. When development matured from a passion to a business.

From that point forward, we’ve had the DLC revolution, the MTX/F2P craziness, and the pre-order shenanigans to get the most amount of money out of gamer pockets as possible. But why? How can indie studios be “successful” in today’s age, where the AAA studios can’t seem to launch anything without it looking like Anthem? The problem is us.

We keep rewarding the behaviour. Gamers continue to pre-order. They continue to support companies that have absolutely horrendous practices, holding out hope that they will change. Why would they? They only want your money, and once they have it, then don’t really care much past that point. “Oh, next time they will actually do what’s right.” Please, let me know where this actually occurs. Let me know when “positive messages” to a cancerous tumour had an actual effect, or that “thoughts and prayers” actually did something.

There’s a false equivalency that says gamers supporting bad company practices are as guilty as the companies themselves. That’s certainly not true, just like the getaway driver for bank robber didn’t actually commit the crime. Are gamers an accessory if they have knowledge and still make the decision? Yes, that’s rather clear as well. If a company made the absolute best cookies in the world, but you knew that they needed to use kittens to make the machines work, a lot of people would still buy them. If they used children instead?

Yes, it sucks that the things you enjoy are often made by people with no actual morals or ethics. Yes it sucks that the things you used to love are now controlled by capitalists who will do anything to make a dollar. But none of these things are actually required to live. This isn’t a choice between heating a home and putting food on the plate.

But what about the employees? Won’t they lose their jobs? Do you think any doctor goes “well, it would be a shame to amputate this leg, the toenails are painted so pretty, let’s just let that cancer be ok?” Should you give time to see if there’s a treatment that can be applied? For sure, and it’s up to gamers to determine when that clock is due. People take chemo before giving up after all, they fight until the last edge. But there’s a point where chemo/treatment stops working and people simple have to accept their fate. And good golly does it suck to lose someone to an indiscriminate disease, through no fault of their own. And it sucks to have to give up a part of our past, the joy that a game can bring.

Nostalgia only gets you so far. At some point, reality hits and decisions need to be made. You want things to change, be that agent of change. “Thoughts and prayers” don’t count.

Wheel of Time – Series

Where LotR was the fantasy foundation for, well, pretty much everything, Wheel of Time (WoT) can be seen as the major precursor to the sprawling epics of today (think what Game of Thrones should have been). I read the series multiple times, re-reading every book when a new one came out – fair to say it’s been formative in my understanding of fantasy literature.

WoT spans 13 (!!) novels, and close to 12,000 pages in paperback. It took 23 years to get it all out, and the main author (Robert Jordan) passed away before the final 3 novels could go out. Others have tried to emulate this structure (Sword of Truth is next up, which is a long post itself) with varying levels of success. The logistical nightmare of building something this large, with this many meaningful characters is astonishing. And to actually be able to finish the storyline with some level of quality is astounding. The most meaningful part of this series is the approach to magic use in fantasy settings – a setting of its time. Both men and women have access to magic, though the men have to pass through a taint in order to access that power – eventually rendering them mad. While I am certain there are plenty of ‘woke’ people who will see this as a bad setting, actually reading the books demonstrates a continuous level of grey at all levels. From that initial separation and frankly, stereotype, the world needs to find some balance. Rarely does it work out.

It’s certainly a filmable series, but the sheer size would make this closer to 600 episodes without some amazing writing and editing. Amazon has taken that bet. Amazon released the first 3 episodes of 8 for season 1 last week. New episodes every week until Christmas.

Something was there before…

First 3 Episodes

I don’t think it’s possible to spoil a 20 year old story, but I guess there are people who don’t know King Kong loses in the end, or that the Titanic sinks.

The focus for these is really exposition, setting the stage for what comes. You meet the main characters of import – Rand, Mat, Perrin, Egwene, Nynaeve, Moiraine, and Lan. There are quite a few others along the way, and generally if they have more than a few lines of dialogue, they will be important later on. You get a quick overview of what happened an age ago, see Two Rivers, the trolloc battle, Shadar Logoth and the tinkers.

The army of shadow is well done, with the faceless in particular quite ominous. Think of the orcish army from LotR, but on serious evil steroids. The character learn quickly enough that they have been quite sheltered and that life outside their town is much more complicated. The major factions are put into play in some fashion, and the episodes generally follows the flow of the first novel.

There are no sex changes here, which makes sense given that this concept is sort of fundamental to the story capacity. They are multi-cultural, which works out just fine in the short term. It will be interesting to see how the Seachan are approached in future seasons… but that’s a while to go still. The actors do a serviceable job, with rather apt representations of their novel versions. Rand and Mat are easy enough to run with… Perrin is going to be interesting to see develop. In the novels, he has continual self-doubt that defines his character for a very long time. I’m quite curious to see how the actual Forsaken are cast and played through – they tend to be written as exaggerations of character flaws, with centuries of experience to plan ahead.

Now, is it a great series, with amazing production values and tight writing? It is not. It lacks the discovery element of modern writing style (think the wonder of Harry Potter), a martial approach to pretty much everything (like GoT at the start), and the need to set up dozens of threads for future tugs. How many series are able to knock it out of the park in the first season?

Is it worth watching? I would certainly recommend it, and for two reasons. First, so that you can experience the foundation for modern fantasy stories. You may think it’s a trope now, but it probably became one because of this series of novels. Second, because we could all use more series in this genre where the characters and plot are aligned. For every Expanse or Handmaid’s Tale, we get a Red Notice, or Warrior Nun.

I’ll have a fulsome review once all 8 episodes are out.

Busy Busy

Blogging is a type of therapy for me. It organizes my ideas and provides some much needed clarity. When I don’t blog, things start getting mixed in my head, and I feel unbalanced. I haven’t had a post up in quite a few days, and I’m really feeling it.

Work

I’m at the tail end of a multi-year project, and we’ve had enough success that we’ve been able to shave off a few weeks from the schedule. Perhaps best framed like “we’ve removed all the contingency”. This weekend has an absolute massive milestone that’s been in the works for nearly 10 years, and then some weeks of soak to make sure everything lines up. There’s high confidence but still some significant anxiety that it goes through.

It’s been an absolutely chaotic run since the pandemic hit, and this will be a major capstone to that period. There are high odds that my body just crumbles once this crosses the finish line as the stress won’t be there to keep it together. Fingers crossed I’m able to deflect that enough prior.

Coaching

Had an out of town tourney with both kids, and that meant 8 hockey games in 2 days – coaching one of them too. I had a blast, as the groups are really quite fun to be with and the girls really came together for some team bonding. Doesn’t stop the schedule though with regular hockey still taking up 4-6 time slots a week, and some rather significant administrative challenges to boot. I’m also mentoring some new coaches in this process, and making some efforts to build a package for new coaches in the future. A sort of “pay it forward” mindset.

I have been more than fortunate to have an amazing support team through my development – not everyone is in that situation. It takes an army of volunteers to make anything like this look easy, so the more folks we can get involved, the better for everyone.

Family

The “return to normal” for school and hockey has been great for my kids’ metal health. A year to me is like most others. A year to them is a lifetime. We’ve gone to some great lengths to try and replicate the face-to-face experience while doing things remotely… but nothing replaces kids playing with kids. Wife’s mental health is not to be ignore either – she’s a major social butterfly and the outlets now are a HUGE positive.

If anything the pandemic has allowed us to sort of reset on what’s important. There’s less fluff, and more creativity. Less filling time and more filling experience. Hope others have had a similar way.

Games

Pretty much only FF14 for the past while. I’ve got every battle class up to at least 15 now (allowing for easier leveling in PotD). WHM/GNB are at 80, DNC is in the mid-60s. All the harvesters are at 80. Haven’t bothered with any crafters as I expect that Endwalker is going to have some rather major ripple effects on that space.

I did learn to do maps the other weekend. What a surreal experience that’s more in line with an ARPG like Path of Exile or D3. As with many FF14 things, the in-game explanation isn’t super clear. And yet, I am continually amazed at how this game continues to find ways to make you spend time in a group without this massive time pressure to get stuff done.

I also have enough tokens (100) to get that jacket from the Moogle event. I don’t think I would have been able to if not for the 2 week delay.

I will say that this is one of the first expansions I’ll be going through where I have little interest in just plowing through to the end-game. I have months of not years of content that I can get through before the Endwalker stuff is pressing. Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly looking forward for the journey, but compared to most MMO’s, I am not so much chasing the destination of hitting level 80.

There’s not much else on the gaming radar otherwise. The Steam winter sale will come along shortly, I’ll likely clear up my wishlist then. And there are certainly enough dumpster fires in the AAA space to fill up blogs-a-plenty in time. I’m curious about Horizon Forbidden West, but not like “let’s buy a PS5” level of curious. Monster Hunter Rise is already on my Switch (you should get it on PC if you don’t have a Switch). Elden Ring means nothing to me. Maybe give Outriders another go, as it announced a DLC coming out. Dyson Sphere Program will get another run through after the holidays.

Misc

I did pick up my first Gundam a few weeks ago. It was about 20 hours to put together, with my eldest daughter. I’ll have a post on that soon enough. It’s like LEGO for adults, and I am still amazed at the engineering required to produce a sprue with 2 different types of plastic.

I’ll have to force myself to blog for the next few days, to get back into the right mindspace. Let’s see what pops out.