Friday, 3 June 2016

Tomb Raider

I got the Tomb Raider reboot waaaay back for "free" on PlayStation Plus on my PS3 and I just picked it up and started playing it again. I recently had the opportunity to fast travel back to some previous areas and do some completion I'd missed the first time round. Having completed that I was delighted to find I was only at about 66% total completion so hopefully got a huge chunk of the game left to enjoy.

When it launched there was some pretty valid criticism of some of the tropes employed in the story telling and that jaded my experience at first but, as a game, I can't recommend it enough. If you like that sort of thing.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

What it's like to play FFXI

Back in the day we all played FFXI. My brother occasionally gets tempted back for a dabble. On his most recent foray he has what can only be described as the quintessential FFXI experience. I never played any other old school MMOs so I dunno how typical this is but it's classic Final Fantasy.

He writes (FYI he's dyslexic and I haven't proofed or corrected it):

So, the other day I started to collect blue spells again. It was going well but I realised if I upgraded some of my gear to llvl119, there were some with more blue skill etc which would make it easier.
So I looked into it and the upgrade to  Relic Feet 119, was much easier if I upgraded the old relic to +1 before making the jump to 109, then 119. It also saved me a lot of money.
So I needed to farm dynamis for some currency and the -1 item so that I could make it. before then upgrading it to ilvl119.
So I changed to thief, and I was annoyed that I was still using the Thf Knife and assassins armlets for TH, as it was brining down my ilvl score which in turn reduces the effectiveness of my Trusts therefor making anything I do on Thf more hassle.
So I thought, I will see what I can do to get some of the better TH items, I saw that I had the +2 version of the Empyrean armour from Abysea for the feet, and when upgraded to the new ilvl109 version had +2 TH and +3 on the ilvl119. I looked at the upgrade requirements and all I need was 1 item from an NM in Abysea.
Excellent I thought, and I said the one thing you should never say when playing FFXI "i'll go do that quickly then". Bored yet? this hasn't even got to the long winded bit.
So I looked at the NM. To pop the NM, you needed a Key Item from a lesser NM, and to guarantee the Key Item you need to get the red proc on the mob by using the right weapon skill. So I tool up as my newly levelled and skilled up warrior, as its the send best job for procs, covering about 80% (nin is best). I check the NM I needed to kill and it is popped using 3 farmable pop items, all for sale on the AH house. So I buy a pop set and head off as War/thf.
I choose the wrong atmas, and didn't pick the one with TP regen, I pop the NM and trying to proc the Red !!! was taking a long time as I was wafting on some weapons. Anyway, the proc turned out to be a WS from SAM, and as I had subbed Thf not SAM I couldn't proc it. Bugger I thought. but luckily the KI dropped anyway.
I popped the NM with the KI, without reading the wiki. turns out the NM does a disease breath move which knocks down your HP to a tiny amount if you tank it from the front. I was using a Trust tank who stood in front, died and the NM them proceeded to kill everyone else. GREEEAAATTTTT.
It's ok, ill just farm another 3 pop items.
First pop item, drops from normal mobs, I rounded up about 15 of them, fell cleaved a few and got a pop!
Second pop item, drops from a 10 min respawn NM, went and killed it, it didn't drop....
Third pop item comes from an NM, to pop this NM, you need a pop item from the mobs round his spawn...
It takes me 20 minutes, to farm another full pop, I pop the NM again, but the proc is Samurai again and the KI doesn't drop.
I then farm another pop, I get lucky, and its done in 5 minutes (still got sub thf here with TH2). I pop and no joke the proc is Sam again! no drop
So fuck it, I got back to Jueno and go War/Sam with the wooden katana. head back, minus TH. I buy another pop set and pop the NM! The proc this time is now NIN, so I cant proc and the KI doesn't drop....
So I go to farm another pop, with out TH. it takes 60 minutes to farm one pop set. In the end I ended up getting the bloody pop item I needed from a golden chest rather than the bloody NM.
I pop and proc the NM and the KI item drops, hurrah.
I pop the NM and tank it myself, making sure I am behind the mob, I kill it and item drops hurrah.
It's now 11pm, im arsey tired and stressed at the fact I spent 4 hours, doing something that stopped being fun after about 45 minutes, that I didn't even need to do, to do the thing I actually wanted to do. I log out and uninstall the game.
So the thing I did, to speed up the thing I wanted to do, to speed up the thing, to speed up the other I thing I was already doing, took 4 hours in the end.
TLDR - don't fucking play FFXI, until I reinstall it again in 2 weeks (read days).

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

PvP matchmaking revelations

Well, this was an eye opener and no mistake.

It basically says that, if the matchmaking system is working perfectly, when you're playing at the peak of your ability you should have a 50% win/loss ratio. If your ratio is above that, you're probably playing against weaker opponents.

And there we go. If you ever looked enviously at players with a win/loss ratio above 0.5 console yourself with the fact that the matchmaking system is giving them easy games.

What it also means is that your ratio doesn't measure how good you are. It measures how good you are against people that have the same skill level as you. For me, this is great news because I'll I want from PvP is fun and not to be dead weight on my team. Now I have a good idea when I am achieving that.

N.B. this whole theory goes to hell in team games

Friday, 19 February 2016

Who's in the wrong #FFXIV

This literally just happened to me.

I rouletted (yes, that's a verb) into Thousand Maws and straight off the bat the Healer says: "I can't cast Protect because I'm Level Synced D:" The Tank immediately drops and I explain (guessing because I'm not sure) that the Healer needs to reorder the Additional Skills so that Protect is further left.

We then had to disband because... well, what tank is going to Roulette into "Party in Progress"?

Personally, I think the Tank was a 1st class asshat. What do you think?

Monday, 15 February 2016

"Your mother was a hamster and..." #D&D

If you've played D&D as, or with, a Bard you'll be all too familiar with this. Bard can cast a few spells and one of the spells it can cast for free (a cantrip) is called Vicious Mockery, which is described thus:
You unleash a string of insults laced with subtle enchantments at a creature you can see within range. If the target can hear you (though it need not understand you), it must succeed on a Wisdom saving throw or take 1d4 psychic damage and have disadvantage on the next attack roll it makes before the end of its next turn.
So, basically, it hurts their feelings and puts them off what they are doing. It's kind of like sledging in cricket. As a level 1 Bard you'll basically do this:

It's pretty much your only direct damage spell at L1. Or so I thought.

I just hit level 2 and in preparation for tonight's session I was looking at which new spell to add to my list and I discovered Dissonant Whispers:
You whisper a discordant melody that only one creature of your choice within range can hear, wracking it with terrible pain. The target must make a Wisdom saving throw. On a failed save, it takes 3d6 psychic damage and must immediately use its reaction, if available, to move as far as its speed allows away from you.
Well, gee, that looks good! Not sure how I missed it or why it's not recommend in the "quick build" for Bard as it seems pretty decent.  What I also noticed is that it's exclusive to Bard: no other class can cast it. Since we're a big group there is a real danger of taking spells that another class could cast better and that got me thinking: what other spells are exclusive to Bard in D&D 5E?

It wasn't all that easy to find out. I actually used the data from Grimoire and searched inside the files for all the Bard spells, then each other caster class in turn, deleting as I went. I ended up with four. Yup, just four spells that Bard and only Bard can cast. Two of them I've already mentioned and the other two are Compulsion and Power Word Heal.

Power Word Heal is a level 9 spell (so you need to be level 17 to cast it) and is pretty straight forward:
A wave of healing energy washes over the creature you touch. The target regains all its hit points. If the creature is charmed, frightened, paralyzed, or stunned, the condition ends. If the creature is prone, it can use its reaction to stand up.
Compulsion on the other hand, like VM and DW, is pretty fun:
Creatures of your choice that you can see within range...On a failed save...Until the spell ends, you can use a bonus action on each of your turns to designate a direction that is horizontal to you. Each affected target must use as much of its movement as possible to move in that direction on its next turn.
The creatures can still attack, so not much use against ranged enemies, but you can use this to provoke opportunity attacks or just control the room a bit. It's a level 4 spell, though, so there may be much better options available by the time you can access that.

And finally, Heroism is another notable level 1 spell, which can otherwise only be cast by a Paladin.
A willing creature you touch is imbued with bravery. Until the spell ends, the creature is immune to being frightened and gains temporary hit points equal to your spellcasting ability modifier at the start of each of its turns.
For a level 1 spell it's a decent buff and I can think of a few occasions so far where I would have used it. So far our DM has rolled very badly and we haven't taken much damage but it's only a matter of time before our luck runs out...

Saturday, 13 February 2016

The elements #FFXIV #FFXI

Along with crystals, elemental magic is a long standing part of Final Fantasy lore. Aside from providing familiar and consistent spell names like Aero, Firaga and Meteor these elements have been deeply embedded in the MMOs created by Square Enix. Well, one of them at least...

In Final Fantasy XI, the elements were involved in almost everything. There were eight elements: fire, ice, water, earth, wind and lightning/thunder plus light and dark. Of course these were associated with your usual Black Mage nukes like Blizzard and Stone but also Ninjutsu spells and a Summoner Avatars. What's more there were eight days of the week, one for each element and a point on the compass dedicated to each element. There was also weather associated with each element, which could result in a storm, also known as "double weather". Most obvious and, I guess, frequently encountered was the double ice weather that caused blizzards but the double light storms in Qufim Island were rare and beautiful.

Each of the elements also had corresponding elemental strengths and weaknesses as shown below:

It was widely believed, but never confirmed, that this elemental relationship even affected synthesis. In other words, attempting synthesis with  a Wind Crystal on Earthsday was more likely to result in success, while using it on Iceday increased the chance of an HQ result. The speculation extended to which compass point you faced!

The weather also affected some weaponskills and activated certain bonuses on some equipment. One of the most sought after was the Desert Boots, which made you run faster in a duststorm. When the Scholar job, which could create it's on own localised duststorm, was introduced some people got very rich...

In many ways, the degree to which the elements were involved got a bit daft. If you were a mage and wanted to maximise your damage you needed a corresponding staff and even a belt! The speculation about how the elements affected crafting bordered on tinfoil hat crazy and let's not even get into how the moon affected skill gain!

However, I can't say I'm not disappointed to see a lot of this missing from Final Fantasy XIV. One of the things I loved about Black Mage in FFXI was that you were a true master of all the elements. In FFXIV the elemental spells have been split between Thaumaturge and Conjurer. This does make a lot of sense when you consider that a max level BLM in FFXI would only ever cast Blizzard and Thunder spells as, for some reason, they were created to be the most powerful. Also, the Light and Dark elements have been replaced by the Astral and Umbral dichotomy.

In FFXIV a lot centres on the Twelve, and I expect the days of the week are named for them but if they are, I haven't been able to confirm it. The Twelve also don't seem to be mentioned much in the story, except by swearing pirates. Maybe I'm too new to the game to fully appreciate the implications of the new "affinities" but I suspect that a lot of the details were lost, or never fleshed out, when the original FFXIV died. If that's the case it's totally understandable but the elemental system in FFXI really added a richness to the lore that I am, so far, missing in FFXIV.

Friday, 12 February 2016

First steps to pen and paper

In September I changed jobs and instead of taking a 3.5 hour round trip to work it’s now more like 1.5. Obviously this is good for all sorts of reasons, the main one being I get to see much more of my children, but what it also meant is that I could do some “after school” activities.

Because of my work hours I haven’t really been able to make any friends where we live so that was the first thing to be remedied. I thought a lot about what I’d ultimately like to do with my new friends so I’d know where to start. The resurgence of board games was very much on my radar, as was a desire to play some of the 40k table top games I loved in my early teens. I'd also been listening to a new podcast called The Adventure Zone and that made D&D sound like an awful lot of fun. But, to be honest, I thought RP was something people would be less inclined to do with complete strangers. So finding some people to play an RPG with wasn’t a strong motivation; it was more something I thought might come with time. 

Armed with this self-awareness I set about searching for groups and message boards for clubs in my area. A lot of the clubs seemed to play old school war games or straight board games and games like 40k didn’t get much of a look in. The best bet was a local group on that seemed to do a bit of everything. It felt a bit weird signing up to try and meet people online until I thought about online dating. If people can find love, I said to myself, I can surely find some people to play toy soldiers with.

As chance would have it, the first meetup I attended was actually a one-off D&D 5E taster session that the meetup leader ran. After that it turned out that I didn’t actually have all that much time to attend the meetups and I only managed to attend a few of the more social events. That did the trick, though, because me and another prospective dungeoneer managed to find our way into a D&D group starting a campaign with a novice DM. We’re now playing 5E with a nice mix of beginners and experienced, but patient, players. It really couldn’t have been a better start for me. 

We've only played two sessions so far and both have been fun. I'm really looking forward to getting to know the group better and I think the campaign could be pretty long running. I'm already formulating a plan to broaden my horizons even further but more on that another time.