March 2017 Gaming Goals

Another month, another chance to see how badly I failed to meet my gaming goals. How did I do in February?

February Goals

FFXIV: Finish the available Main Story Questline and see the new-to-me raid content.  – Check! Well, almost. I’ve done all of alexander and Dun Scaith, plus Sophia. The only thing I’m still missing is the last trial of the warring triad, and I’m hoping to see that this week.

FFXV: Pick this back up and play at least 2 chapters. – Nope! I did pick it back up. I really really tried to play. But where I left off skytroopers kept dropping in on me every few minutes and they were so much higher level than me I had no chance. Running away constantly is not super fun. I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong but I’m probably going to have to restart or ask for help so I can move on.

WildStar: Keep playing once a week, and get my new esper alt to level 30.- Sadly Nope. I played a little in February but my interest tapered off as I got drawn deeper and deeper into the FFXIV abyss.

Justice Monsters V: Clear all of the quests on any difficulty. -Nope. I really thought I’d get through this but I didn’t quite make it. I’ve been playing but mostly farming crystals to upgrade my monsters instead of doing the quests.

March Goals

FFXIV: Keep up with the MSQ as it releases. I don’t want to be left behind when the expansion arrives.

Get at least one more job to 60. This should be easy since ninja is at 58 and astrologian is at 56. I just want at least one more option to mess around with in the down time before Stormblood.

Do the new Hildebrand quests. I haven’t even started the new set that came along during Heavansward. I should probably get on that.

Avoid burnout! This is a strange one, but one of my goals for March is to play FFXIV a bit LESS than I have been. I’ve been running all the raids and doing my daily roulettes and chain running palace of the dead recently. I need to dial things back a bit so I’m not burnt out before all the fun new stuff gets here.

WildStar: Keep playing every week. I’m holding on to this game by a thread and I don’t want to fall completely away from it again. I need to keep setting aside a little time for it.

FFXV: Make some headway. Either by forging ahead through the troubles I’ve been having with random encounters, or by starting over and seeing if I can get myself off to a better start. I really want to love this game but after my initial infatuation with it I’ve been bouncing off it so hard.

Horizon Zero Dawn: I was fully prepared to miss out on this one, or at least wait a while until the price came down. However the amazon prime preorder discount coupled with a forgotten gift card leftover from xmas meant that it’s actually within my budget. I started it last night and so far it’s been AMAZING so I think I’ll be pretty motivated to finish this one.

It’s a pretty FFXIV heavy month here honestly. I’m hoping I can walk the line of getting things wrapped up before the expansion and not completely burning myself out.

I’m a Bard

I had a lovely long weekend and spent most of it doing increasingly silly things in FFXIV, and tying up loose ends in WoW. On the WoW front, I’ve been gradually losing interest since Nighthold released, and only partially sure why other than being distracted by FFXIV. I’ve resolved to let my subscription lapse for a little while, so I spent some time cleaning up my bags, making sure my mail was empty, and other housekeeping things. I realized that the Love is in the Air event was about to end and I had barely even tried to get a rocket this year, and I’m surprisingly ok with that. Even though they changed it so you don’t have to be max level to try, I just couldn’t bring myself to care enough to grind myself into the dirt trying for such a low drop chance mount. I did grind archaeology a little bit, since the bi-weekly quest is currently rewarding a ghost moose mount. Somehow grinding for a set endpoint is much easier to stomach than grinding for a tiny random drop chance. Anyway now I’ve got a sweet new mount and can walk away from the game for a break in style.

On the Final Fantasy front I am fully engaged in what feels like a series of weird side projects with no main overarching goal. My scholar is now geared enough that I feel comfortable that I’ll be able to get into whatever the next set of dungeons is without issue. That means that I’m still slowly working on her gear but it is no longer any sort of priority. I also managed to get my summoner’s gear over the threshold needed for expert roulette. This not only means that I get showered in upgrades, but also that I can actually run dungeons with my healer buddy again finally. Hooray! Mostly the end-game stuff feels like keeping time until the next new thing arrives, and I’m ok with that. I have a lot of other silly things vying for my attention.

One of the silliest things actually got completed this weekend. I finally finished my scholar’s zeta weapon. It took way too long, and probably wouldn’t have happened if most of the steps hadn’t been nerfed into the ground by the time I got to them, but I still feel weirdly proud and happy to have completed it. I will be starting the Heavensward weapon quest soon, but it will be nice to take a breather for a little bit before I start.
Another thing I’ve been doing a lot of is running Palace of the Dead. In my last update about my bard, she was trapped deep in the hell of the subligar levels. As of Monday she’s now level 50 and looking much better. I didn’t have any ironworks gear laying around for bard, but I did have some ilevel 100 gear that looks just lovely with her garuda bow thank you very much. Aside from the bard I’ve also gotten my lancer and marauder up to 30 this way, which means I have a freshly minted dragoon and warrior. I doubt I will be playing either of them very often but it has been fun to try them out and to see their class stories. Now I am only missing monk, paladin, and dark knight and I’ll have all the combat jobs unlocked.

The last week or so have seen a renewed flurry of activity in my free company, with lots of new faces and old friends returning to the game in preparation for Stormblood. It has been really fun introducing some people to the game, or helping folks gear up and run new-to-them content. Playing with friends definitely helps make a game more fun and more “sticky”, I’m constantly bouncing around doing all kinds of things I probably wouldn’t be doing on my own. My only real concern is that I’m going to get burned out before Stormblood gets here, so I’m planning in advance to take a mini break before that happens. Other than that I’m settling in and enjoying all the company and the silly things to do!

The Subligar Levels


I’ve been playing more FFXIV than anything else for the past week or so. This has led to some fun times and some questionable fashion choices. Not that anybody would choose to wear this outfit if it weren’t the best available gear for the level. The subligar levels are not kind.

Palace of the Dead got added to the game right around the point when I was drifting away, so even though I was subscribed at the time I never ran it. Since I’ve been back I’ve been making up for lost time, chain running it to level some alt classes and score a sweet weapon upgrade for my scholar. I waffled a lot over what class to level. I started with my ninja since that’s closest to being done but by the time I hit 55 I needed a break. Then I decided I wanted to level all my low classes together so I could start getting rid of lowbie gear. I managed to get everything to at least 26 or so before a clear winner emerged. So now I find myself leveling a bard.

Barding it up in the random levels of PotD is a super relaxing time. Unlike ninja, where I feel like I’m playing whack-a-mole with my ability buttons, bard has a rotation I can keep on top of with relative ease. It also keeps me safely out of melee and back in my comfort zone, as far away from angry monsters as possible. Running the 51-100 floors means the exp is coming at a furious pace, plus I can start working on more weapons now that my scholar’s is fully upgraded. I suspect when I hit 50 and the exp slows down I might get bored and swap to something else for a while, but for now I’m having a blast.

Meanwhile my scholar is also making progress. On the nonsense front, I’ve moved to the zodiac stage of my relic weapon quest thanks to my old FC mate who was gracious enough to bake me some sort of horrible eel pie so I could finish the prior step. Now I just need to farm some light to finish that off so I can start on the Heavensward version. Let’s all take a moment of silence in memory of my sanity.

In the slightly-less-nonsense realm, I’ve continued to make steady progress gearing up. Notable additions include the previously-mentioned weapon from PotD, and the healer hat from Dun Scaith. The hat came with a side of salt, since I won it while running with my white mage buddy who desperately wanted it for transmog but had already won an item on the previous boss. Ah, those delicious white mage tears. To add insult to injury I immediately glamoured it into the scholar tophat because the scholar tophat is the best tophat. Sorry friend!

I’m not sure if I’ll get to try out my new hat at our weekly FC raid night this week since tonight is some sort of holiday or something. I am sure that I’ll be spending a lot of time in Eorzea this week though. Hopefully it will be enough to get my bard far far away from the subligar levels for good.

Out of the gear valley

I finally managed to slowly claw my way out of the item level valley I was stuck in with FFXIV. This was about equal parts hard work grinding tomes, generosity from my FC fellows, and the dumb luck of having enough tokens from Alex section 2 to put toward a weapon upgrade. Without all of those things I’d probably still be griping about how all my friends were having fun without me. Instead I got to see 2 new dungeons and one new raid and finish up the available MSQ.

It was actually weirdly frustrating to see ilvl 245 gear dropping like candy from the new expert dungeons. Yes, I’m happy that I’m getting lots of upgrades but it is so unsatisfying to immediately replace gear that I spent so much time grinding tomes for with green dungeon drops 15 levels higher. I accept that some amount of gear resetting is a fact of life in MMOs but FFXIV’s gear progression and gating seem incredibly uneven. Gear complaints aside I did enjoy the 2 new dungeons, although I like fighting dinosaurs much more than fighting people and mechs.

The thing I spent the most time on since getting my gear sorted out has been random non-progression activities. For instance I spent several hours farming old dungeons for the quest to upgrade my Nexus weapon, then hit a wall because nobody on Cactaur is selling the “tailor-made eel pie” I need. Gross. I also somehow found renewed interest in leveling up all my alt classes, and after this weekend all my combat classes are at least level 23. It felt good to throw out some of that low-level gear I had been hanging on to and it was just fun to spend a few hours figuring out different classes. I’m looking forward to getting everything up to 30 and unlocking jobs for all of them. The only down side is that I haven’t played some of these classes in so long that I had no idea what was happening in their class quests. Sorry GLD lady, I have no idea why you’re so mad at this other guy, please just give me my new ability and/or weapon upgrade, thanks.

I’m really happy I’ve gotten back into the swing of things in FFXIV again. It feels good to play with my friends there and it has been fun catching up on the story that makes the game so strong and endearing. I hope my newfound interest in alting doesn’t send me down the road to fast burnout. I suppose it could be worse, at least I haven’t jumped into the black hole of crafting classes…yet.

Gaming Goals February 2017

Whoops I posted in a new month without going over my gaming goals first. Let’s remedy that, shall we? First, a look back at January’s goals

January  Goals

WoW: Get that starbunny pet. Nope. I didn’t solo a single raid or even look for pets on the auction house. My WoW time took a nosedive last month, and I’m taking it off the goal list for February.

Diablo 3: Get all the cosmetic goodies from Season 9. Yes! And I got my stash tab! This is the closest I’ve ever come to finishing the season journey entirely, since I got 3 conquests done without too much trouble.

Get all the goodies and achievements from the Diablo anniversary event. Yes! It took a couple evenings of farming temporal priests and named monsters but I got it done before the event ended.

Destiny: Run some strikes with friends. Nope. Barely played Destiny at all last month.

Justice Monsters V: Clear the normal quests on Master difficulty. Nope. I discovered another round of quests past the 10-x series that have dual elemental focus so I’ve been working my way through those.

WildStar: Play once a week. Yes! I’ve actually been playing a little here and there and really enjoying myself again. It turns out that leveling a new alt was just what the space zombie doctor ordered.

February Goals

FFXIV: Finish the available Main Story Questline and see the new-to-me raid content. This is all locked behind an item level requirement of 230 or 235 so it means a bit of grinding but I’m sure I can get there.

FFXV: Pick this back up and play at least 2 chapters. The game is great and for some reason I dropped it suddenly. I need to make progress on it so I can eventually talk about it on the podcast!

WildStar: Keep playing once a week, and get my new esper alt to level 30. I’m keeping these goals modest because I don’t want to wreck a good thing. I’m just happy to be back in the game and see some of my old friends again.

Justice Monsters V: Clear all of the quests on any difficulty. I’m revising my goal from last month since there’s a bunch of quests I didn’t know existed then! I’d also really love to upgrade one of my monsters to legendary before the game ends, but without pouring money into a dying game that seems unlikely to happen.

Gear Valley Woes

I’ve been happily poking at FFXIV over the last week. It doesn’t have its claws back in me super deep yet, but I have at least been enjoying myself. Part of what’s keeping me from fully embracing my return to the game is that I am once again stuck in a bit of a “gear valley”. By this I mean that my gear isn’t good enough to do the newest content yet, but it is good enough that doing the highest level content I can will only net me marginal upgrades at best.

I’m aware this is often an issue in MMOs but it feels more pronounced in this case. I’m not sure whether it is because my fastest option for gear is Weeping City, which is painful compared to its 2.0 counterpart, or whether it is the fact that the more fun options like Alex have prohibitive queue times. Anyway after playing for a week I’m only a couple points away from being able to run expert roulette. I know it isn’t the end of the world to have this delay but I want to be able to play with my friends and also see the new story stuff that’s such a key part of the game.

To prevent myself from burning out running the same two dungeons over and over for “bookrock” currency I also made a tiny alt. Alts in FFXIV are a terrible idea, since you can of course be every single class on one character without having to start the whole story over. On the flip side, seeing the beginning of the story again after several years has been pretty fun, and wandering around the woods outside Gridania has been surprisingly soothing even if it is full of gross bugs and fungus. It’s been forever since I spent more than 10 minutes at a time just questing in FFXIV, and it has been good for my enjoyment of the game. I’ll probably try to fold things back into my main and maybe spend some time leveling one of my lowest classes like lancer, but for now part of the fun is going back to the start like re-reading a beloved book. It is a nice way for me to remember how much I enjoy the game when I’m not slamming my head against a gear check wall.

Yet another return to FFXIV?

Last night all my friends were about to do silly things in FFXIV and I suddenly decided it was time for me to join them. After some complications with my credit card and getting resubscribed that made me yell a lot, I managed to log in. I had tried to play using the free 4 day trial SE sent me over the holidays, but I mostly just looked at my quest log and full inventory, shrugged, and logged off. This time I had my friends around to goad me into doing things.

The thing ended up being Weeping City, which I had not yet set foot in. I had apparently done the quest to unlock it before I left though, so we could queue right away. Everything I had seen about the place called it “wiping city” or some variation, and I had definitely heard some tales of woe. Since I barely remembered what my buttons did I suspected we were in for a bad time. Instead it was the most ridiculous fun I’ve had in ages, and possibly the silliest thing I’ve ever seen in an MMO.

The first boss was fine, I barely remember what even happened. The second boss, the zombie guy, was by far the prize of the night. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, and was trying to navigate by listening to my well-intentioned friends try to call out mechanics as we went along. Mostly I was failing, and since I was healing that led to various deaths and battle rezzes. At one point the majority of our alliance was down, and the others weren’t doing a whole ton better, but the boss was at maybe 20% health. Eventually our whole alliance was dead. Luckily our Limit Break 3 had just filled, so when one of the other alliance’s healers rezzed me I got to hit my shiny LB3 button and save everybody.

In a story about someone who knew what they’re doing, this would be where everyone pulled it together and won. Instead, I immediately died again and we continued to do pretty badly. I lost count of how many times I died and was rezzed. But we kept going, rezzing when we could and keeping maybe 5-10 out of the 24 people in the raid alive at any given time. Somehow, unbelievably, we actually won anyway. I didn’t keep track but I suspect every single person in the raid died at least once, and likely several times. I know I died at least 5 times and probably a lot more. If ever a raid fight deserved to be set to clown music it was this one. The whole thing probably would have gone twice as fast if we had just wiped and tried again. When we won I laughed harder than I have in ages. Thank you friends and random strangers in that raid, I needed that laughter more than you know.

Honestly the rest of the place passed in a blur. We wiped once on Ozma, but did fine the second attempt. That fight seemed neat. Then the last boss had some weird hair or something??? and we 1-shot her without much difficulty. We technically got through the whole place with only the 1 wipe on Ozma. My only regret is that I didn’t stop laughing long enough to take any screenshots!

Solo Dungeoning

I finally got myself back into WildStar on a regular basis this month. I’m still having trouble finding purpose on my max-level main, but I’ve been doing what I love most and running expeditions. The last time I played with any regularity was right when the Arcterra content was launching. Because of that, I never played through the Vault of the Archon story dungeon. Now I have fixed that oversight.

The Vault of the Archon is the second max level story dungeon, and it is focused on solving the mystery that is uncovered at the end of Omnicore-1. As an Exile, I got to journey alongside Deadeye Brightland and Dorian Walker in search of Eldan secrets. To be honest, the whole thing was worthwhile just to listen to the banter between these two characters. There’s a mechanic where you have to scout ahead and secure safe spots for everyone, and each time you clear a new one they have a small conversation when they catch up to you. On my first playthrough I didn’t do all of the side content so I only saw a small part of their interaction, but the second time I made sure to clear the entire place just so I could hear them talk. I would love more of this kind of storytelling in games please.

As for the dungeon itself, it wasn’t super challenging in my out-of-date raid gear but it was fun. If I want a real solo challenge I’ll be getting one in their next update anyway with the new expedition and “Mythic +” style scaling difficulty. Doing all of the optional exploration in the dungeon for a gold medal was pretty time consuming but now that I know my way around I’m sure it will speed up. There’s way more encounters in this one than in Omnicore-1 if you do a full clear. Running both of these story dungeons back to back took up an evening of playtime but did a great job of reminding me why my heart will always belong on Nexus.

A Quiet Start to the New Year

I’m doing my best to keep this place from being abandoned this year but lately I’ve had more to say in my book posts than anything else. There hasn’t been too much exciting going on in my gaming life to talk about. I’ve been mainly playing old staples like WoW and Diablo 3. Then there’s Danganronpa: Trigger Happy Havoc which I have a lot to say about but need to wait so I can talk about it on the podcast instead. I’ll still give a quick status update here since the blog must go on!

First up, WoW. I’m definitely hitting a boredom stage with Legion now. I got enough artifact traits on my main class and spec to unlock the 5% boost and then promptly lost all interest in doing world quests. Or much of anything to be honest. I’ve been poking at alts but since there’s a much higher amount of effort, and specifically group content, needed to progress professions in Legion I haven’t been that motivated to care about my alts as much as I used to. Raiding has also reached an awkward plateau where we can fairly easily clear normal EN and ToV and heroic EN, but anything past that seems like too much effort for not much reward. I took a mini break from raiding over the holidays and was hoping to come back energized but instead I got the opposite. Now I’m looking forward to Nighthold being released next week(?!) so we’ll have a new challenge. If that doesn’t re-energize me then I suspect it will be time for a short break from the game.

In D3 news, oh hey it’s season 9! I’ve been enjoying this season far more than the past few, even though there’s not really much new to speak of. The anniversary event was small but a fun distraction at the start of the season. I think the big thing that has drawn me in this time around is that I’m not playing a demon hunter. The past few seasons I’ve stuck with demon hunter because it made life easy for completing the season journey. While I don’t actively dislike the playstyle like I do for melee classes, it still ranks below casters in terms of general enjoyment for me. So swapping to a witch doctor has been a breath of fresh, plague-and-spirit-filled air. While wizard is always going to be my favorite in terms of raw power and player fantasy, there’s something incredibly fun about the silly abilities of the witch doctor. My only regret is that I chose to play this class in a season where their free set bonus emphasizes dots instead of pets, so I don’t get to have swarms of zombies and such following me around while I throw piranhas at things. Anyway my initial plan for this season was just to get far enough to unlock the cosmetic stuff, but it looks like I might keep pushing the season journey a bit farther than that.

Last but not least, my reading list is still looming over me. I set my goodreads goal for this year at 12 books, which seems very reasonable. I don’t have a timetable for my reading challenge other than trying to get through at least one a month, and I have a lot of other books outside the challenge that I want to get through as well. That said, the review for the next item on the list may have some delay. The Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson appears to be the first time in this challenge that I’ve encountered a series that I actually want to keep reading, so even though I have finished the first book I will be holding off on my review until I decide if I am going to read all three.

So that’s what I have been up to. Nothing exciting but nothing bad either so I can’t complain. I hope the new year is treating you well so far!

Book Challenge #96: Lucifer’s Hammer by Lary Niven & Jerry Pournelle

It’s time to knock another book off of my challenge list. This time we’re discussing #96, Lucifer’s Hammer by Lary Niven & Jerry Pournelle. First published in 1977, this novel looks at what happens when a comet collides with Earth. Spoilers Ahoy!

Let’s get  this book’s biggest strength laid out right up front. The authors do an incredible job of setting up the science. I don’t pretend to know if everything presented about the comet and its physical effects is completely accurate, but as someone with a career in the geosciences, it feels plausible. The initial strikes are devastating, but they also set off secondary disasters like earthquakes and tidal waves. These all combine to change the landscape and the weather substantially, and add challenges for the survivors to worry about. The only piece of the science that felt really unlikely to me was the fact that the space station survived and the astronauts were able to return safely, and I can allow that suspension of disbelief for the sake of the narrative. Overall the science felt good, if very depressing.

The story itself follows a whole host of characters for several months before and after “Hammerfall”. There are so many characters that in fact today, about a week after I finished reading, I can’t even recall all of them or their names. The book moves around to different perspectives for each chapter and it does help to give a much wider view of what is happening than a smaller cast possibly could. We get to see the stories of scientists, astronauts, politicians, religious leaders, and filmmakers side by side with those of a mailman, an accountant, and other more mundane folks. The comet starts as a vehicle for self-promotion for the amateur astronomer and the documentary filmmaker, then becomes an object of interest and a means to an end for scientists and politicians. Once it becomes clear that the comet has a chance of hitting Earth, it becomes an object of religious fervor and a scapegoat for moral transgressions. Having so many perspectives let us see all these different angles of the comet first-hand. Once the disaster happens it also lets us see the many different ways that the comet ruined lives.

A few times while reading this one I felt the hopelessness of the situation and considered giving up on the book. After all, the time of holiday stress is not the greatest for reading a depressing book about the end of the world. This hit me the most when reading the perspective of Maureen, the senator’s daughter. She’s very pragmatic about their chances for survival and has a hard time reconciling the fact that she has to be a leader and a voice of hope for the town when she has none for herself. The hopelessness is compounded by sexism that gives the unwritten understanding that she can’t take over leadership when her father dies, so she has to choose a husband that can. I’d like to hope that if this book were written today her situation would be more in her own hands and less dependent on the men around her.

The way women and people of color are portrayed definitely contribute to how dated the novel feels. It is very difficult to disentangle how much of the racism and sexism are the too-real human response in the face of societal breakdown, and how much are the authors’ biases bleeding through. I very much got the feeling while reading that the authors would probably consider themselves on the progressive end of the spectrum for the time, but the results still widely miss the mark by my standards today. For example, in the space station, there’s some interesting discussion and parallels between the woman cosmonaut and the black astronaut and the pressures they face to appear perfect. Unfortunately in the same chapter the woman’s actions get dismissed as part of her “monthly troubles”. I could also rail at length about the lack of agency of all of the women in this book, or about the black characters who start out as criminals and end up cannibals. Suffice it to say that race and gender issues are a problem this book acknowledges but doesn’t deal with very well.

In the end I can see why this one is rated as a classic, and can agree even if I don’t think it holds up quite so well 40 years later. It is a good example of its genre that gives a reasonable look at what might happen in the months surrounding a catastrophic event like a comet impact. Heck, it even manages not to end on an entirely depressing note which was a pleasant surprise. Large-scale disaster stories like this generally don’t work very well for my tastes. I much prefer the chance to get to know a smaller cast of characters, regardless of the scale of the problems they face. That, in combination with how dated it feels in terms of both society and technology, led me to give this one a middling score.


Lucifer’s Hammer by Lary Niven & Jerry Pournelle

Rating: 3/5 stars

Verdict: Excellent example of apocalypse fiction from its time. Unfortunately apocalypse fiction isn’t my thing, and this one in particular feels pretty dated now.

Next up: Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy.