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!

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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.

TL;DR:

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.

 

January 2017 Gaming Goals

Let’s see how I did with my very modest December goals, shall we?

December Goals

WoW

Clear Trial of Valor: Yay we did this! I’m lucky to have a raid team that I still enjoy playing with and that seems to be making reasonable progress. Also bonus rainbows.

Level a hordie alt to 110: Technically I finished this on January 2, but I’ll call it a win anyway. My horde priest is now at 110 and can go back to being abandoned as soon as I finish her order hall campaign.

Complete the new raiding with leashes and get my starbunny pet: Nope. I’m still missing a couple pets from ICC and I didn’t run it once the whole month. Whoops.

Destiny

Get my connection issues resolved and play some strikes with my friends without getting disconnected: Well I got part A of this down, but never ran any strikes. Half of a goal is better than nothing I guess?

Get my light level up above 310: I did this and then some. Hooray for sparrow racing league!

WildStar

Play at least once a week: Nope. I can’t tell you how sad this makes me.

Diablo

Beat Diablo 2 in time for our Aggrochat game of the month podcast: Nope. I gave up partway into act 2. Some games are better left in the past.


January  Goals

WoW

Get that starbunny pet. I’m super unmotivated to work much on my main now that I got my 5% healing boost, so I should have plenty of time to finish this.

Diablo 3

Get all the cosmetic goodies from Season 9. Yay new pet!

Get all the goodies and achievements from the Diablo anniversary event. I’ve been looking forward to this since it was announced and I’m annoyed it didn’t start on the 31st! I want to play in glorious retrovision!

Destiny

Run some strikes with friends. Same goal as last month. I’m super casual about this game but it is definitely more fun with friends.

Justice Monsters V

Clear the normal quests on Master difficulty. I’m so sad they are pulling the plug on this game in March. Before it disappears I want to try to get through as much as I can.

WildStar

Play once a week. I’m gonna keep putting this on the list because I love WS and I really do want to play it. If I can just get over the “returning to a MMO inertia” I know I’ll enjoy myself.


That’s it for January goals. I’m trying to keep them modest again because I find if I have too many goals I get overwhelmed and end up accomplishing nothing. Here’s hoping this is the month I finally get back into WildStar!