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.

FOMO Before an Expansion

We’re 2 weeks or so from Endwalker releasing, and with any new release to an existing game, there are bits that are made redundant from that launch. In really great expansions, there’s a build on the prior material so that it remains relevant – in particular with single player games. XCOM 2, Witcher 3 and similar games are super examples of this model.

MMOs can be a bit different, especially those that focus on the destination rather than the journey. Themepark MMOs often suffer from this, where the content itself is only relevant for a window of time, primarily due to the power scale problem (the carrot is bigger numbers). When the content is predicated on start and end state (e.g. you have to be between this level and this level), then there comes a point where you either make it irrelevant OR you find a way to ‘hobble’ the player to keep it relevant.

There’s the approach of ‘mandatory’ content in order to access the new stuff. Maybe you need to complete a specific quest chain or achievement. Or maybe as a crafter you need to make the stuff from content A in order to be good enough for content B. There’s a legacy cost when something like that is implemented, where you have gates that extend the experience before the larger player mass. FF14 has like 200 hours of MSQ before you get to the ‘end game’ (which is somewhat of a misnomer). WoW used to force you to go through older content simply to have your levels increase. You hit a number and then left that area. WoW’s current leveling experience is irrelevant now. You can level anywhere, and the sole goal is to hit a magic level – so people all follow the most efficient route (WoD).

Today, if you had skipped the last 3 expansions in WoW, it wouldn’t matter. Heck, it wouldn’t matter if you never played at all, your experience would be near the same as an existing player re-rolling. It’s like 2 days of playing to get to max level, which negates 8 of 9 pieces of content (Vanilla to BfA). When’s the last time someone did Wailing Caverns? The flipside to this is that content becomes irrelevant means that it’s quite hard to actually complete it. If you wanted to see any raid in BfA, good luck getting a team organized for it. When the next expansion comes out, who in their right mind is going to even set foot in Torghast as group?

FF14 is different, in that the wide majority of content is mandatory. You are going to step foot in 80% of dungeons for sure, a few raids, a bunch of trials, and every zone. Whether you do dungeon A today or wait 6 months, you will still need to do it. It’s practically impossible to miss out on something. Now, there are exceptions. Things like Eureka are not relevant at max level, and Bozja will soon follow. Crafting and gathering is still relevant, all the way through. And even once you reach max level, all the group content forces scaling on the player to keep it relevant. I still run Satasha, the first dungeon from 8 years ago.

There are other MMOs that find a middle ground. You need to go through the dance in LoTR and SWTOR of main quests, but you never really need to do group content to progress… and it doesn’t scale at the end. I really enjoyed the flashpoints at the start of SWTOR, and outgrowing them felt less fun.

I get the idea of FOMO when something new is coming, because we’ve often been trained that the stuff we are doing now won’t be relevant later. Maybe there’s a mount or some cool looking gear to pick up that just won’t be there. I guess the question then comes, “does it really matter?”, and then you kind of realize it doesn’t. So for those playing FF14, there really isn’t much FOMO to be hard. Even if you don’t complete the MSQ to 5.5 prior to launch, it doesn’t matter because all the content will still be there, still accessible to everyone. That’s a super refreshing thought.

Hot Take! Blizzard News

Quarterly results came out for ABK yesterday. No big surprises. Diablo 4 and Overwatch 2 are delayed further (their leadership all left / was fired). Income is not pipeline based but MTX instead. Diablo 2 remake made some bits of money. Stocks are down ~15%. Fine enough, they are getting hit in the bottom line. Maybe something useful will come from it?

Or maybe they will get rid of their BIPOC Blizzard leader instead? Jen Oneal leaves Blizzard, and Mike Ybarra takes over leadership.

Hot take time! (brought to you through knee jerk armchair reactions!)

J Allen Brack left ~90 days ago, replaced in all but title by 2 people, which was really weird at the time. Felt more like grasping at straws with no succession plan in place prior. It was obvious something was going to shake out.

Jen Oneal ran a successful company. Vicarious Visions delivered quite a bit over the years and was good enough at their job that they were bought out by ABK. While there was hope they could stay a studio under the umbrella, the company was fully merged a few days ago. When that happened, it was pretty clear that other changes were coming.

When you’re actively being sued for discriminatory practices, by multiple fronts, perhaps it’s not good optics to lose your BIPOC leadership and go deep with the white male demographic. This isn’t to say Mike Ybarra is a poor leader, at all. But to somehow find a way to lose your first and only Blizzard female leader in 20 years gives a crazy message to the public. What kind of clown show exists where you can’t find a way to make this work? How bad of a work space is it, that you can’t keep an executive on staff?

Again, it was always clear that either Jen or Mike had to move aside to support a restructure. That the concept of a Blizzard President was all but dead, it was too corrupt and incompetent to survive under the Activision “shareholders first” approach. It’s that in all of this mess, where there’s a clear opportunity to implement a more diverse leadership structure Bobby said so: We will increase the percentage of women and non-binary people in our workforce by 50% and will invest $250 million to accelerate opportunities for diverse talent 

There’s enough piling on Blizzard’s missteps these past few weeks. It would be great if they could actually walk the talk for just a little bit. And that’s only the stuff the public gets to see, which is just the tip of the iceberg! It’s a car wreck that just won’t end, and the rubber necking will continue.

FF14 – Palace of the Dead

Am I ever late to the game!

Want a rogue-like dungeon crawler, that has increasing difficulty, some randomization, character growth, AND rewards for participation? Holy cow, coming here AFTER having experienced Torghast is an eye opener.

Palace of the Dead is 5 years old. That’s just before patch 7.1 in WoW-Legion. It’s a standalone dungeon crawler that exists outside of the rest of the game. Your level, gear, skills, consumables, and pretty much everything else doesn’t matter here. It’s 200 levels deep, with bosses and exits every 10 floors. You start floor 1 at level 1, and gain experience up to 60 (usually before floor 50). If you are level 13 outside the dungeon, you can still unlock level 60 skills inside the dungeon.

Why run it?

  • You get experience, gil, and tomes from completing floors. It’s one of the most efficient leveling methods from 1-50.
  • You can get cosmetic weapon skins
  • There are random cosmetic drops within (accursed hoards)
  • It’s a challenge!

What is it?

  • 200 floors of death
  • Around 10 enemy types per 10 floors
  • One boss per 10 floors
  • Ability to save progress every 10 floors
  • Ability to have “permanent” damage/armor increases for future runs
  • Support for solo, fixed or matchmade parties
  • Can mostly do without a healer or a tank
  • Hidden traps
  • Chests with temporary or permanent buffs
  • Mimics!
  • Heaven on High is PotD part 2, relevant from 50-60.

Lessons Learned

  • The permanent buffs (aetherpool gear) are the source of offense and defence power increments
  • The permanent buffs have a cap per floor, so even if you had +50 if you restart at floor 1, the value is closer to +15
  • All temporary items (pomanders) are removed after killing a boss. Use them.
  • Once you complete level 50, you can restart at floor 50. This should be the first goal.
  • Defence is more important than offence. Bosses in particular hit like trucks.
  • There’s no durability or gil costs
  • You cannot exceed floor 100 if you have even a single death
  • Floors 100+ require a fixed party (or solo)
  • Solo runs are quite hard, and very dependent on RNG. Red Mages have the best toolkits, followed by tanks.
  • Mimics will end your run.
  • Most group runs take 15 minutes to clear 10 floors.

Torghast Deltas

PotD is a mix of the rewards from Mage Tower and the structure of Torghast. When PotD was new, you could swap your progress for some decent gear increments – that’s not relevant today. The rest of the differences:

  • You can save every 10 levels. You don’t spend an hour+ and lose all progress.
  • All starting and progress is specific to PotD. Your ilvl before entering, or character level, have zero impact. You can’t brute force it.
  • PotD is still relevant after 5 years. Torghast stopped being relevant a long time ago.
  • The RNG for player power is capped at 30% offense, 40% defence. Torghast had simply broken RNG where you either turned into a walking god or reset a run.

Raid Trash

The idea of trash in a dungeon is not new, at all. What is more of a construct of online gaming is the idea that trash is infinite.

Way back in the Ultima Online days, which I still consider the grand-daddy, each dungeon had spawn cycles because it was all open. 500 people on a server could all be in the same location. Dungeons needed to respawn so that multiple people could participate. They were also structured in a way that there weren’t any bosses per say, you just had enemies.

EQ took the concept of open dungeons and then started adding bosses. It didn’t take very long for people to realize that bosses were not a good investment of time, at least in the leveling process – enter spawn camps. What we saw next was the concept of uber bosses at max level, which were designed for more people and focused rewards – raids. In most functional respects, they were just like dungeons, tons of regular enemies that respawned quickly. The bosses though, in order to reduce the odds of ‘farming’, they had day/week timers to respawns. If the good stuff was once a week and everything else took up space with no rewards (you didn’t need the xp), well, everything but a boss was trash to needed to wade through.

WoW’s model took the raid structure from EQ and found a middle ground with instancing. Group sizes were limited, depending on the content type. Raids were effectively just longer/harder dungeons. You had trash in both, and the trash could respawn if you took too many attempts at taking down a boss. Vanilla was really painful, like 15 minutes between dungeon respawns. That eventually got longer. Raids had a longer timer, a few hours, but also stopped certain spawns if you killed a boss.

They were still called trash, and for a reason. With very low odds, you could get a random drop upgrade while taking out trash. For some well designed areas, the events were a precursor to a new mechanic from the next boss. Otherwise, all the spawns up to a boss were just a time sink.

We’re 2021 and the top two dungeon runners have an interesting and split approach to this concept.

WoW – All dungeons are based on trash. Regular dungeons this is a time waste, while bosses are the challenge. In M+, trash is actually the hard part as you’re racing a clock. Raids have trash, and now there are spawns used to farm other items. There are a LOT of pulls of trash in raids, including patrols. The challenge here are the bosses, which can take dozens of attempts.

FF14 – All dungeons have trash, none respawn. Interestingly, you can often kill all the trash in 1 single mega pull, if you know what you are doing, dramatically speeding up the clear process. There are also trials and raids. Trials are just boss fights – no trash. Raids are quite limited (works out to 1 per expansion), and has a group of 3 parties. There’s non-respawning challenging trash (if you’re at-level), and they often represent the next boss’ attacks. Usually works out to 3-4 pulls between bosses, which is pretty quick all told.

This goes back to the fundamental understanding with players around time management. WoW still focuses on a single relevant tier at any given time, and in order to make that have some sense of value, it gets padded with as much stuff as possible. Castle Nathria is 100% irrelevant today (even less relevant than any Legion-era raid), and it’s less than year old. The Praetorium is 8 years old and groups are still running it. FF14 doesn’t have a need to pad anything, it can just offer you a seemingly endless buffet of choices. I will rightfully admit that WoW’s carrot-on-a-stick of increasing numbers by 2% is the core driver that pushes this model, and therefore has a different set of expectations that FF14’s ‘do what you want’ vibe.

I keep finding more and more example of conflicting design philosophies between these big games. You can read all about Ion explaining that he has a lot of players, with different playstyles to accommodate, and he can’t please everyone. Ok… so does every MMO, including the ones with bigger audiences than his. It’s interesting that the others have figured this out.

Small Victories

I volunteer as a hockey coach. Ice time alone is about 8 hours a week. If I was a parent, I’d double that at least to account for prep/travel time. As anyone in the admin space knows, it’s more like 4x the time investment, often more. Saturday I left the house near 9am and got back home near 10pm, then back at it at 6am the next day. It’s not a complaint… I get a lot of enjoyment from it. Seeing the kids progress, and do so with smiles, is worth every single second.

This year has been exceptionally challenging as it’s trying to restart an engine that was effectively stopped last year. The kids that did play last year, well a lot of them decided to quit the sport entirely because of the experience. Restarting any large and complex process on top of rebuilding trust that this will be a ‘return to normal’ is a herculean effort. Full empathy for anyone in a school trying to do the same. People know what ‘normal’ means, and their expectations are not being met. That’s trying a lot of patience for many people, and the outbursts are reaching people that have no authority in the situation. I read enough bad news stories of people confronting restaurant folks to asking them to wear a mask… how does making minimum wage mean you should get yelled at? I’m fortunate enough to have a good relationship with my parents, but I still get the batch of tough questions and hard choices. It’s a rough time for anyone trying to make a positive impact and we are growing short on volunteers.

I’m just focusing on what I can control right now, and taking small strides forward. Normally I’d have a season plan ready, but that’s just not possible. It’s a focus on the immediate rather than the strategic, something I have not done a good job with in the past.

We had an exhibition game out of town this weekend. In a normal season, I’d already be playing regular games, but things are still sorting themselves out. We do have a tournament in 2 weeks, and it’s a horrible experience to have your first game in that setting. So we set this one up to get as many wrinkles out as possible – and we had wrinkles.

  • The COVID protocols here were different than at home
  • A few skaters were missing pieces of equipment. We had to go buy it.
  • The pre-game coach chat had half the team still getting ready, so the mental readiness part wasn’t super clear
  • A few skaters were not ready for the start of game
  • The other team put in 2 goals in about 2 minutes, which really deflated the team
  • 3 of the skaters had never played anything close to a game before. It took 2 periods to sort that part out.
  • The skaters were absolutely gassed by the end of the game. It was good to see.
  • We had some great scoring chances, just no puck luck

Those things are all expected to some degree in the first game. The skaters all came away with a different appreciation for what it means to be skating again in a game and I know we will all be in a better spot next time. Knowing that ahead of time meant that I had rather low expectations for the outcome. The plan was rather simple:

  • Every skater needed to come off the ice tired, having pushed to their ability
  • By the end of the game, they all understood the basics of positioning
  • That we’d recognize each skater’s positive work through immediate feedback
  • That we’d recognize the hardest worker post-game (they get a hard hat)

By the end, that’s exactly what happened. We lost the game, but the amount of positive progress was amazing to see. Each shift was better than the prior one, and the team didn’t crumble after getting scored upon. The end of the game it looked like a real hockey team! And while they certainly were disappointed with the score, they still had smiles on their faces.

This is a different space for me. I am extremely self-driven, and to split that out for each skater, multiple times in a small time frame is crazy exhausting. Yet I have a great support team around me, and we’re all on the same page when it comes to this year’s approach. We’re just going to focus on the next shift, the next attempt. The rest is so hazy we can’t worry about it. Celebrate the small things, enjoy it all the more.

Dune 2021

I took English Lit in a catholic high school, and one of the assignments was a comparison of golden age authors against new age. To properly date that latter portion, I went to high school in the 90s. The books were of our choice, and I went and picked out Foundation and Empire by Asimov. I had read a few of his stories and thought it may be a good attempt (as it isn’t very big). I can still recall my teacher explaining to me I couldn’t pick a book in a series without starting at the start… and she offered instead that I pick up Dune. (I still read the Foundation series, multiple times over years… I’ll come back to this).

Dune is considered new wave (at least in today’s view) where sci-fi moved away from the technology and into the psychology of the characters. That’s in line with how society was coming to terms with the war being over and a bunch of flower children I suppose. I can still recall looking at the brick of a tome (before Wheel of Time’s doorstops) and wondering what I was getting into. I read the crap out of that book. And when I found out they made a movie about it, I was extremely excited! It was not a good movie, for many reasons. In the early 2000s we got a decent take on this with the Sci-Fi miniseries, with Children of Dune being a real standout.

Sci-fi, the good stuff, it not about laser beams and rocket ships. It’s often cerebral, and the dissection of what it means to be human in inhuman circumstances. That makes filming it quite difficult, as the exposition in a story is often hard to put on screen. You can’t just pick anyone to transform an idea from paper to screen – they have to fundamentally understand the entire story from start to end. The why more than the what. Dune is many things, and one of the more obvious ones is the examination of pre-determination, and religious zealots. Think about that for a minute. In today’s overly extra sensitive climate, how could any critique of religion not generate some negative feedback? Visually, the novel is sparse and monochromatic as the eponymous Dune is just one big giant desert. There’s a limit to how interesting you can make a desert.

Dune isn’t impossible to film because of it’s complexity, but it’s simplicity.

Denis Villeneuve

I have been a fan of him for a very long time. I’m fortunate enough to have experienced his earlier films in French, as he’s Canadian… and his extension into sci-fiction has been absolutely amazing. Arrival is based on a short story, with a slow burn pace that really messes with your assumptions throughout. Blade Runner 2049 is somehow an extension to a high point in sci-fi cinema. Of all the sci-fi sequels you have seen, how many would you actually consider ‘good’? Terminator 2 and Aliens are the only ones that come to mind, yet those are focused more on the action than the sci-fi portion (ironically, the 3rd+ films in those series are bad and from different directors).

Denis Villeneuve has a touch on both creating and presenting interesting characters, and framing them in such a way that the world is just as important. Think Zack Snyder’s ‘comic book shots’ but with actual purpose. There are very few directors today that can make the world itself a character, and Dune (the planet) is absolutely a character that needs focus.

Impossible Task

Making a great film requires so many pieces to fit really well together. The idea and script – for sure – but the passion from the actors as well. The sets need to be solid, the photography stellar, and the music emotive. There’s an element of luck here, both in the opportunity provided and then the ability to deliver. You’ll get something amazing like The Deer Hunter, and then from the same director, something horrible like Heaven’s Gate. Consistency is very rare, and then being consistent with social expectations even more so. Zack Snyder is super consistent. 300 and The Watchmen are deconstructions of their comic book variants, filmed in nearly the same method. That worked in earlier context. Man of Steel is a rough film because you are comparing it to something like Iron Man or The Avengers.

There are very few directors that have general free reign to build a film of their choice. Peter Jackson still has that, though it’s been a while. Christopher Nolan prints money. Clint Eastwood directs a heck of a film. How many others have a string of not only commercial but critical successes?

The Film

How about I actually talk about it for a minute?

Give the above constraints, the film does a spectacular job in all the meaningful areas. It wisely avoids the spacing guild’s theatrics and focuses almost entirely on the people and the planet(s). There’s no voice over, not internal dialogue, you never see the emperor. There’s no fantasy elements here – it feels physical and raw, which is a fascinating thing for any sci-fi movie. Certainly helps that every actor does a great job with their characters. I could do with a stronger Jessica, as the Bene Gesserit threat isn’t as obvious here as it is in the books. And Jason Momoa’s Duncan is well, Jason Momoa. That works in this film’s context, but Duncan is a pivotal character in the series and I’m curious how that will play out. Timothée Chalamet really surprised me. Paul is a complex character, where he is continuously fighting against a destiny that he didn’t want, and a teenager no less. It’s an interesting take to have multiple perspectives of the same vision, though I can see how some would see it repetitive.

The director of photography, combined with the musical score are borderline nature documentary in quality. It is hard to make a monochrome setting interesting, without some form of overexposure, but I found it worked really well here. The books really focus on how the Fremen are the desert, and vice versa. The limited exposure of Fremen in this film mean that the desert has to do the lifting. It’s like it’s giving people permission to simply exist. The sandworms appear more realistic than the world destroyers found in other iterations, which again is more in line with the books. This is the type of film that is made for the movie theatre, it’s an experience!

I think that’s the part I enjoyed the most about this interpretation. Similar to Jackson’s original LotR trilogy, it’s crystal clear that the production team understands the source material. They aren’t trying to put their spin on the story, but are trying to bring a complex story from the 60s to the 2020s.

If I had one disappointment is that the story ends earlier than I expected, and that the 2nd part won’t start filming for nearly a year. The benefit here is that the actual characters will have real-world aged, which is appropriate since their time in the desert is not a short one. The downside is that I am very much looking forward to more of this.

Absolutely a film to see.

Blizzcon 2022 Cancelled – Larger Trend

Not exactly surprising.

There’s the pandemic factor, no question, but having a virtual con is still something of use. Warframe and EvE can still manage this, with arguably much smaller bases, so that’s a fun factor to consider. And yet…

The purpose of a convention is to get a bunch of people who are fans of something together, and use that herd to pump up the view of the future around the theme. As much as they can be seen as massive interactive ads (SDCC for example), there is still the base that people go to these things to get good news and good vibes.

BlizzCon has had issues on this for some time, because the relationship between the fans and the developers has been very one sided. A cool idea gets pitched, people get pumped, and the eventual product is cut down to bare bones and doesn’t work. I can still remember WoD’s garrison pitch – you could move it between zones and it was interactive with other players, very customizable. What the heck actually got delivered? Farmville. That Blizzcon was nearly 10 years ago. And all goodwill for this was lost with the Diablo Immortal presentation – an announcement that should have been an email and not a stage delivery. tldr; if you don’t have good news to share, that you have a reasonable chance of delivering, keep quiet.

This assumes that people actually want what you’re selling. There is a lot of “you think you want it, but you don’t” mindset from the dev team, where player feedback was ignored and instead favored the extremely simple themepark design of “this way and only this way”. It’s certainly a difficult balance to manage a very large playerbase, one that is clearly distributed across multiple veins. The folks that enjoy pet battles are unlikely to enjoy raiding, for example. And yet, when the people who do enjoy pet battles provide feedback, and that is ignored, or raid feedback is ignored, well… you end up here. Where the player base has lost a lot of trust in the dev team.

Kaylriene’s post on this facet had me head nodding a lot. One the one hand, there’s the simple fact that Blizzard takes ages to deliver relatively tiny bit size morsels, which often lack the necessary polish that you’d expect with more time. On the other hand, Blizz puts in clear time gates to stretch out the content for as long as possible, which means people experience the flaws for a longer period. From a dev perspective, these things should offset each other – from a player perspective that’s a different story, because the market has changed.

10 years ago we were starting to scratch the concept of always online games. Games in the sense of more than an MMO. The larger proliferation of smartphones really pushed this model to the mainstream, and then consoles quickly followed. Nowdays, you can’t take 2 steps without finding something that is permanently online and has a massive player base. Every game today on a best-seller list is multiplayer (if it is SP, then it’s there a month and fades). Dev companies are fighting for eyeballs and clicks with the minimal amount of investment possible (*cough* FIFA *cough). So let’s look at Blizz pipeline.

  • Overwatch – hasn’t had an update in over a year and won’t have one until Overwatch 2 comes out
  • Overwatch 2 – ummm
  • Heroes of the Storm – this is on maintenance mode
  • Hearthstone – 3 releases a year or so, with a big release this Spring
  • WoW – 9.1.5 is all recycled content and no dates for 9.2 (is that the last patch?)
  • WoW Classic – perhaps a Frozen Throne announcement, but the general vibe from TBC is that the model is somewhat broken where 2007 content is meeting 2021 playstyles (and bots)
  • WoW Classic 2.0 – seems something closer to progression servers from EQ is coming.
  • Diablo 4 – we’re 2 years away
  • Diablo 3 – nothing
  • Diablo Immortal – it’s still in beta and is not targeting the Blizzcon audience
  • Diablo 2 / Warcraft 3 / Starcraft 2 – all in the rearview mirror

There’s not much to talk about!

Oh, and the fact that Blizzard is still being sued and a chunk of their leadership has moved out certainly changes the tone of any conversation.

It’s a really fascinating case study of multiple smaller issues causing a cascade of larger ones, resulting in a problem space that has no single solution. Seems oddly analogous to Theseus Ship – the Blizzard we grew up with is certainly not the same one we have today.

FF14 – Fishing

I’ve written numerous posts on the fact that fishing is a pre-req for me to consider any game an MMO. I’ve seen all flavors of this skill in what feels like 30 years. From WoW’s ultra simplistic point and click, RIFT’s artifact hunt, to UO’s really fascinating view on treasure hunting.

FF14 takes the more complex road for fishing. Leveling fishing isn’t hard. You could just take a trip on the Fishing Boat (every 2 real time hours) for 20 odd minutes and fly through the levels. It’s extremely efficient and barely costs anything – plus, gear level makes no difference here at ALL, from level 1 to 80. If you want to optimize that fishing for the highest returns, then I suggest Zeke’s spreadsheet. You get rainbow fish, dolphins, gulls, secret fish and of course, mounts to claim here. So there’s a very good reason to keep doing this at 80.

Alternatively, you could fish in Foundation from 10-60. There’s some benefit as you can sell the material, but it’s hard to argue with a ocean trip that gives you 8-10 levels in 15 minutes.

If you were to take the more traditional path, things can get pretty complicated. IRL, fishing requires water, line, and bait. Well, FF14 takes that approach as well which makes it harder to figure out.

  • Water isn’t obvious. Some things look like they are fishable and they are not, others suddenly are. Eventually you will fish in sand, clouds, and lava.
  • Line (or overall gear) impacts the ability to real in a fish (gathering) and the quality of a fish (perception). Nearly every quest required a HQ version of a fish. This is meaningless for ocean fishing.
  • Bait is something else. There are dozens of types of bait and each fish has a favorite. Some fish just won’t bite without. Bait is used on each cast, so you can go through a fair chunk. To combat this sprawl of bait, you can instead use lures. They work on more fish, but bits take longer (~50%) and you’ll catch everything instead of the specific ones. If you are hunting a specific fish, then you want to use bait – makes a world of difference in ocean fishing.
  • Fishing is heavily based on RNG. Botany/Mining is clear what you’re going to get. You could have the best gear, best bait, and the right location and still not find the fish you want.

In Stormblood, you’ll unlock the ability to spear fish. Thankfully, you will only be required to use that skill for 1 single quest. That quest feels more complex than it should be. Gathering in that expansion was mostly underwater… not much fun.

The actual fishing skills you get as you level are a bit different than the other gathering jobs. You can mooch (re-use a caught fish as bait), try to double hook fish to get more than one, have patience (which ups HQ but you must press the correct hookset button to catch), or a few other “manage the RNG” skills. So while you don’t have any control once the line is in the water, the rest of the fishing is plenty complex if you want it to be.

So why fish then?

Well, the most notable part is that fishing is a ridiculously profitable profession, more so than Botany and Mining on my server. Ocean fish will not sell, but everything else does. Most HQ fish for quests are in the 1k-10k price range. Normal fish for cooking are 200g-1000g each. That’s not bad for standing in one spot.

Second, you can frame most fish for decoration. There are others that you can plop in an aquarium as well.

Third, the ocean fishing gameplay is my kind of fun. 24 folks throwing lines over the boat, all trying to trigger the rainbow effect and get to that 10k point threshold for the final mount.

Fourth, and most importantly, it’s fishing. Is that not enough?

My only complaint in all this is that the game gives you a few dozen tools to fish and the general idea of what they do, yet the fishing log is really bad at giving you the actually useful data to keep catching fish. Knowing that a specific fish likes a specific bait and a specific time of day would be super useful information to have in-game. Sadly, you need a web page open to make sense of the chaos.

Fishing in FF14 is probably the most enjoyable implementation of the skill I’ve ever played in an MMO.

Tanking in FF14

I’ve got a healer (WHM) to 80, and there’s a reason they call it green DPS. The goal of the game, at a high level of skill, is to spend as little energy as possible on healing, everything should instead be focused on DPS. It’s a strange balance… and had I not played a Monk in WoW with Fistweaving, I’m sure it would have been much more jarring.

Tanking is a different boat though. It’s often seen as the hardest role in an MMO, the default leader since you’re the vanguard for any given run. M+ tanks in WoW certainly suffer from that… and DPS love to complain about not skipping certain trash packs, or things taking too long, or a dozen other things. They never step up to tanking though!

FF14 tanks are all pretty much the same. Getting aggro (enmity) is extremely easy here, and near impossible to lose. There’s the odd tank swap in a raid, but in so much of the content, it’s just not a consideration.

That leaves the idea of giving and receiving damage.

Tanks as DPS

Each tank has an optimal DPS rotation, and that often depends a lot on the target. There are breakpoints for AE attacks, and then staggering buffs to optimize damage over long cycles. Blah, blah, blah… what you need to know is that some skills trigger other skills and you should continue to press buttons until there are no more blinking icons – then start it over again. And in all honesty, you could just press the same button all the time (AE attack for trash, single target for bosses) and most would not see the difference.

Tanks as Sponges

This is different, where tanks share a common set of cooldowns that reduce incoming damage. All damage mitigation is multiplicative, so you want to avoid stacking any particular cooldowns. When pulling groups of enemies, you want to use the better cooldowns at the start, when there are more things attacking you. The idea of “wall to wall” pulls, meaning pulling all the trash up to the next hard door requires not only great understanding of cooldowns, but a healer that can pump out a decent rate, and more importantly, DPS that can clear out parts of that pack before your cooldowns expire. I like to take on the first group in a dungeon, and then time how long it takes for the enemies to die and see if the healer does DPS or not. Quick kills and green DPS = good to try a large pull.

For single target enemies (bosses mostly), they usually have 1 big attack called a “tankbuster”. Understanding which attacks are tankbusters and not is important more for progression, less for leveling. For a LOT of fights, you should be able to soak the damage on the first pass, if you’re at full HP. Eventually you’ll use your big cooldown, then 2nd cooldown, and the first one would be back for the next big attack.

Tanks have stuns and interrupts. I wouldn’t stress too much about those. Put them on the bar, learn when to use them. Your healers will thank you for it, but it also won’t break a run.

Each tank also has a “oh crap” button. Gunbreakers should not use this skill.

Tanks as Herders

This is really where tanks shine. An ok tank will run into a pile enemies and then be surrounded. A good tank will run through the enemies and group them together for AE attacks, having them face away from a group. A great tank will do all that and then “shuffle” the AE attacks, meaning that they will move out of the AE attacks, and then return to their original spot, reducing the amount of movement enemies take.

This is very obvious for trash pulls, especially wall-to-wall ones. It matters a lot for bosses too.. especially those that have rear attacks. There are a few DPS classes that really want an enemy to stay in one spot.

Tanks as Peelers

To get an enemy to attack you, you need to hit it. Enemies that spawn while you’re already in battle need to be attacked and sometimes it can be really hard to target them. In most cases they will show up on the target list on the left side of the screen, which you can manually select and then attack at range. In the odd cases where there are spawns and they don’t show up, you need only walk a tad an perform an AE attack. You will be peeling enemies off your teammates.

What if We Wipe?

The joy of FF14 is that there are very few timers and you can take your time to get through most content. There’s no big push to go faster… at least until you reach the max level content and have some comfort on the role. If you die, then there’s usually a really good reason for it (90% of the time it’s the DPS).

Tanking itself seems to be a stressful position and you do have some additional responsibilities, but it’s also the easiest roles in the FF14 party structure because of all the various things you’ll be doing. If the enemy is hitting you and not your group, and you’re not dying, then you’re doing fine.