FF14 MSQ Complete

The thing I did here that I regret is that I had marathon sessions through, rather than taking more time to better absorb all the amazing the MSQ actually delivers. This is entirely due to the absolutely stupid queue lengths near peak times. Logging on at 10am means instant queues. Logging on in the evening is a 4hr queue. (Side note, this means that our guild is pretty much meaningless right now.)

I don’t plan on any spoilers here, though I suppose there may be a slip up here and there. I played through as a White Mage.

I mentioned this in my prior FF14 post, in that Endwalker is simply more FF14. You will get dungeons at the required levels, you will get trials at the required levels. You’ll have 6 zones to explore. You get “free” gear at 89, and piles of non-jewelry while leveling. The are maybe a dozen combat quests all the way through, though there are some solo duties to get through. Mechanically, there are no surprises here, which is frigging amazing.

I’ve yet to poke around with the Sage or Reaper. I don’t know how popular they are going to be long term; I certainly do see a bunch of reapers in my group content. None of my trials ever had a Sage, though as a healer that’s not really indicative. I will say that there is a substantial amount of content that requires massive healing output, which really plays to the WHM strengths. Also, Warriors are apparently immortal now. The fights do not necessarily add crazy new mechanics, but do require much more visual awareness of the boss rather than simply avoiding the fire. Most bosses have multiple tells that allow you to avoid major damage, some effects which will stack and probably cause wipes.

The art and music are the best FF has ever been. I don’t know what type of drugs they give the art team, but each environment is distinct and feels meaningful. The last 2 zones in particular are just spectacular to see.

The story… well you’ve read more than enough on it from multiple sources. I enjoyed it thoroughly, for multiple reasons. It’s a rare event where a story is able to both open and close threads that were spun nearly a decade ago. And the big bad here follows in the themes of Final Fantasy through and through. This is clearly a capstone story, as the end of the last zone until the credits is just chocked full of call backs and closure. I’m sure I’ll have some things to nit pick eventually but for now it’s about absorbing what was there. I don’t think it’s possible to enjoy this story without having played at least Shadowbringers, which is a hell of a time investment for anyone coming into FF14 cold.

I guess the real question here is “was it fun?” Without reservation. And technically, I’ve just dipped my toe in the ocean of content that’s here. Best of luck with those queues.

EGS Free Game – Control

Epic Games has had free games every day for the holiday break. Today’s game is Control.

It is one of the best games I have ever played, with tons of secrets and interesting lore, combined with superb controls and an amazing throw mechanic that is hard to describe other than visceral. Plus, it helps that the game looks simply amazing on any setup you can run.

Anyways, this is a really short post to simply state you should absolutely pick this up if you don’t already have it, and the $10 coupon on EGS would be well spent on the Foundation DLC.

COVID Math

The problem with statistics is sample variety and size. If you look at 3 apples in your house, you may think that all apples are red. Omicron statistics are heavily weighted towards the sub-65 demographic right now, which is giving early indications that this variant is milder, up to 2/3rds milder. Larger sample sizes will determine this as being accurate or not. As to why the sample size is smaller, there’s a laundry list of reasons, though primary is that older people (who have survived so far) are being cautious and limiting risks of exposure. Recall that there are 5.4 million less people on the planet due to this disease, and that only accounts for countries who accurately report numbers.

But the stats portion, where there are lower odds of require hospitalization is the interesting metric. Let’s take that 2/3rd number and simply state it at 66%. Compared to 100 cases of Delta requiring a hospital visit, only 33 afflicted by Omicron would need similar treatment. Again, super preliminary, but argument all the same.

The challenge with % is that they are not reflective of absolute volume. If I gave you 10% of $1,000 you would get $100 and it would be a decent gift. If I gave you 10% of $1,000,000 you would have $100,000 and that would probably change a lot in your life. Hospitals don’t work on %, they work on number of beds. If they have 200 beds, when it hits 201 they need to make choices and someone is going to get less service.

Statistically, to occupy the same amount of beds as Delta, Omicron would need to infect ~3x more people (100 Delta vs 33 Omicron). Omicron has a 2 to 3.5x increased transmission rate, again with preliminary statistics. If it’s on the low end, then the hospital load will increase but hopefully be manageable as compared to Delta. If it’s on the high end, then things are going to go downhill pretty quick.

Perhaps we’ll luck out and all future strains will be mild and this can turn into an annual cycle similar to the flu. That’s about the most hopeful thing I can think of right now. Until then, stay safe folks.

998 Bottles of Beer on the Wall

I’m feeling quite under the weather and my whole family is in isolation for a while. It sucks.

Given that I am therefore not working, and in the moments of some lucidity outside of cough syrup, I figured I’d see if I could log into FF14. “Peak hours” were giving me queues near 3,000 or more. Can’t be that bad near lunch time, right?

Well, the queue was 998.

Let’s play a game. You get to guess how long that took to clear through?

Just a tad over an hour. Of which, thankfully, I have wireless headphones that let me do something actually useful during that period. Or semi-useful given my state of mind.

Interesting tangent. In the mid 00’s I used to work in a science organization. One of my tasks was scouring eBay for 386 components because the foundry we had was only able to run on a specific set of hardware. Hard-coded and proprietary elements made scaling or support a challenge…and it was cheaper to get parts on eBay than to rebuild a black-box system. Was.

Early Thoughts

It’s FF14, just more of it? Can I say how pleasant it is not having to relearn my entire class kit when an expansion comes out? It’s like going to a restaurant that has undergone renos and they have a brand new menu. Why should I just not go to another restaurant? This is more like the local pub having a few new beers on tap.

It’s more of the good stuff. Like how XCOM2’s War of the Chosen kept all the good bits and added more. I won’t spoil anything, because clearly if I could only experience the game while so ill I need to isolate, there are many more people who have not even dipped a toe.

There are a few QoL items to highlight. First, city Aetheryte give you a map for easier (and logical) transport. Belts and HQ items being gone are super nice on inventory. The Aether Compass has moved to collections, which was a bit jarring. Daily hunts are way easier to complete. And on the instanced quest duties, you get a profile of the character speaking rather than just their name… that’s oddly useful to remember who-is-who in a game with what feels like 4 dozen side characters.

Next Up…

Well, I have 21 days of “free” playtime, which I guess makes up for 19+ days of quite astounding queues. I’d have to guess that this will extend until the queue times peak to something considered “reasonable”.

FF7 – When Cats and Dogs Get Along

SquareEnix has always had a very odd pricing scheme. Any of the prior FF games regularly go in the $20-$60 range, depending on when they have released. FF12 Zodiac Age was released in 2017 and still sells for $60 (Nintendo is right up there with this sort of thing).

The FF7 remake was originally a PS exclusive but now we can play it on PC. Here’s a screenshot of the price point.

I am sure there are some people out there that will pay this price, no doubt. There are whales in F2P games after all. This PC price is $15 more than the PS4 version, brand new. And the game offers nothing new for the PC compared to the prior release.

It doesn’t help that the game isn’t optimized for PC either. I can’t for the life of me remember a time where SquareEnix ever did optimize for launch.

Looking at my wishlist, I could buy 3 “expensive” games for this price. I could buy the original FF7 for $8 (If I didn’t already have it). It’ll be interesting to see how this works out, or how long this price point lasts. Until then, let’s see the craziness of cats and dogs getting along.

Cyberpunk 2077 – 1 Year Later

I picked this up on one of those crazy sales a few weeks ago, figured I should take a look at what the hubbub was about. This is a good example of a game where the vision is out of the reach of the developers.

You know how we’ve had to deal with the dark ages of Star Wars games since EA took over? As much as the games themselves were really quite horrible, there was the added tax of managing expectations. Cyberpunk 2077 has a similar battle, where the setting itself is both widely exploited yet has some dark corners to explore. Whatever you imagine Cyberpunk to be, well, it’s here. People with technology modded to their bodies. Gangs. Corporations running everything. The game never goes beyond expectations here, and feels bound by its familiar trappings. The biggest missed opportunity is that the city itself never becomes a character.

I won’t harp on it too much, but there are still plenty of bugs in this game. People randomly pop in, they go through walls, and enemies/cops have horrendous AI.

The “game” parts are ok I guess. The hacking game really stands out as being painfully boring. Driving feels like someone forgot how car physics works. Melee combat “floats”. The shooting part feels ok, at least in terms of recoil/spread, though the amount of clips/reloads required to get through anything does not scale appropriately. The start takes too long, then it cruises in the middle, then the end has massive bullet sponges. I do enjoy the BrainDance section, where you move around in a video recording experiencing other’s memories. Stealth also feels good, with quite a few missions offering good options in that regard. The less said about the character progression or crafting, the better. It’s meaningful in a P&P session, but doesn’t work here.

The highlight here would be the quest writing and voice acting. Appropriate to the setting, there are only a few “good” and “bad” choices, with nearly everything else fitting in the grey zone. The main quest itself is incredibly short (but awesome), in hindsight, with an expectation that you take on the various side jobs along the way. That quality is less strong… for every River crime investigation you get 6 Delamain rogue taxi cab quests. It feels like there’s missing half a game here in terms of opportunities.

The major complaint is with regards to gigs, smaller side quests that require about 5 minutes of time. Either you take out a bad guy, or unlock a door, or find one item. Complain about Fallout 4 if you like, but it has 10x more meaningful content than this game.

It’s hard to imagine that this game came from the same folks who made the Witcher series. Or rather, it’s hard to imagine that they actually launched this. It would be a great game if it was made by someone else, again to that point of managing expectations. It’s worth $30, but at that price point, nearly any game is worth it. Alternatives in this setting: Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Shadowrun, The Ascent, Ghostrunner, or CloudPunk.

And In Other News

Time seems to be slipping like sand through my fingers of late. A high level of exhaustion, compounded by frustration, and now this emerging Omicron variant that is quite likely going to prevent a “normal” holiday season… all playing pinball with my sanity.

At work we delivered a critical piece of tech early, save millions of dollars in doing so, and now the natural endorphin crash is showing it’s head. Frustration abounds due to continual poor planning practices which seems to always generate more work that we should have avoided. I’ve been 6 months in this new role and found a tremendous shift towards more a more strategic approach within my realm of control… outside of it though, what a right mess. I’m also aware that the grass isn’t greener… it would just be a different set of problems to solve. At least here I can have some influence.

Hockey was going great. The team was firing on every single cylinder at their last match, effectively reaching my end of year goal 3 months ahead of schedule. I say was because up here in Igloo-ville, Omicron is just tearing through our medical services. It’s one thing to have the vaccine and mild symptoms, but there are those that are having larger reactions and stuffing hospitals. There are more than a few now that have all but shut down and diverted patients to other provinces. Shutting down just before the holidays and some semblance of finally normal really, really sucks. Our city hasn’t yet locked down, but quite a few sister cities have. It’s now a matter of time/luck.

And to top it off, my gaming laptop fell yesterday. The charging port wasn’t working and the screen bezel had detached, meaning the hinges were breaking the case. I’ve still got my PC building gear here and I was able to get both “fixed” with some special glue. I’m conscious how much of an outlet my gaming is, so having that put aside for any period of time isn’t so pleasant a thought. Did I mention that FF14 queue times are still in the 6000+ range? Oh, they are also dropping slower now too. Thanks to supply chain issues (and primarily crypto miners), that issue is not going to get solved anytime soon.

So backlog it is, and the upcoming holiday game sale. I’ll likely pick up another gaming laptop too, they are cheaper than an after-market 3060 up here. Think about that for a minute.

FF14 Endwalker Early Access

I would love to exalt the neat and new things that FF14 has brought out in their most recent expansion. How the new zones flow, the MSQ is better, and the music somehow continues to improve. And then how much fun it is to play the Sage and Reaper.

I would, truly.

But there are 6,977 people in the queue ahead of me. And it drops by about 100 every 2 minutes. That’s around 2.5 hours in the queue. I’ve tried just letting it stand, but error 2002 abounds. I do not have the time (or frankly the patience) to just let a queue sit and eventually work itself out.

Network Architecture

I know enough about this field but not enough about how SquareEnix has designed their authentication to provide much insight. Given the consistent queue issues since the summer, it would be foolish to assume that they have not gone to great lengths to try to change their scaling and design. Given that they have mentioned supply chain issues would infer that cloud offloading would not be a full relief valve on this problem.

I would be quite surprised if this issue gets solved anytime soon, aside from people just stopping from playing. If anything, this is likely to get worse as there aren’t many other games vying for eyeballs (SWTOR does have an expansion mind you, and there’s certainly some overlap) and we’re about to hit the holiday break.

Was this foreseeable? No question. Was this preventable? There’s no way for anyone but the devs to answer that.

In the Meantime

Time to fill with other bits. I coached a hockey tourney this weekend, so there was 3 days completely absorbed.

I gave Outriders another pass yesterday. A few recent balancing patches were applied, and I figured I’d give it another run. At the time, I was running T12 (of 15) runs, making gold time. With the exact same loadout, T12 feels as hard as prior, and the rewards don’t appear to have been improved. I guess I’d need more time to get a better idea of what the changes actually are. And get into a decent spot for the upcoming DLC. Still consider it one of the better looter/shooters, what with the complete lack of PvP.

I also finally picked up Disco Elysium on sale. I’m an hour or so in. I like the format and the story, but have a general dislike for the controls. The game part isn’t too much fun, but the actually content certainly is. Probably be giving this burst over time.

I figure I’ve got a few weeks, if not until January until FF14 is sorted out. Should be ample time to clear out some other bits in my library.

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.