2014 Blaugust Wrap-up

Wrapping Up Blaugust

This mornings post has taken a bit longer than I had originally hoped for and is caused by a number of reasons.  Firstly I slept in extremely late this morning, and secondly we cleaned the house for a bit before I finally sat down to tabulate the results of this months contest.  Additionally it took me a bit longer to roll all of the dice than I had intended, but here I am writing the wrap up post.  There is no way I can adequately express in words what this entire endeavor has meant to me.  Like I have said more than a few times…  I really expected to get maybe five participants at most in this month long challenge and instead at last count we had 52 individuals that joined in.

More than that I have watched a fledgling community solidify around the shared challenge.  There has been so much cross posting as part of this event, where someone will post an idea… that will spark another blogger, and another until it has echoed through the entire community.  We’ve had discussions on the meaning of gamer, a handful of surveys and and most recently an interesting discussion on what exactly our blogs name means.  My ultimate hope is that going forward this connective tissue we have built will stay just as strong as it has the last month.  There has been some talk about trying to organize a series of twitter chats using a specific hashtag to have long freeform discussions about the things that matter to us in our community.  I think I would love to see someone take the ball and run with this one, because I know it works well in my wife’s mathematics communities.

Blaugust Survivors

In my mind each and every person that participated in the contest is amazing.  I want to thank you all so much for taking the time to devote to this initiative.  Even if you couldn’t post every day… your attempts and struggles mattered to me.  Towards the end of the challenge I became extremely focused on who was posting every single day, but I don’t want you all to lose sight of the fact that just by joining in you have won to me.  As such I want to take a moment to recognize every single member of this Blaugust community and give you a nifty little banner that you can attach to your blog with pride.  You came, you saw, you rocked this Blaugust thing!  I’ve kept the images huge on purpose to allow you to scale it down to fit your blog without losing resolution.

Blaugust Winners

The next group that I want to recognize is all of the folks who spent hour after hour making sure they had a new post each and every day.  I cannot express in words just how awesome you all are.  Some of you are seasoned veterans at this blogging things, but even more interesting is just how many on this list have not even made their first year anniversary yet.  I know it was a struggle for some, but you all rose to the occasion and created some extremely interesting content as a result.  You not only survived Blaugust, but you kicked its ass and are taking a victory lap.  Once again you get a nifty doodad for your blog, to significant that you Won Blaugust 2014.

Now For the Prizes

As with any contest there have to be prize winners and a good chunk of this morning was spent rolling a lot of dice and recording the results.  You can check out the full spreadsheet here of the rolls for each of the winners.  I am not sure how long my prizes will last but quite honestly I would love to give each and every one of the winner something for being so amazing.  I’ve had a few people mention that they are willing to donate for the cause, so over the coming weeks I might see if I can make that happen.  However for the time being… the final results are in and…

  1. Grand Prize – Alternative Chat
  2. Also Awesome 1 – Missy’s Mojo
  3. Also Awesome 2 – I Has PC
  4. Also Awesome 3 – Echoes From The Abyss

I will be getting with each of you over the next few days to pass out your prizes.  If I still have prizes left to give I will be going down the spreadsheet and sharing the love as best I can.  Hopefully the whole prize thing doesn’t lose sight on the fact that all of you that participated are awesome, and strength willing I hope to do this same thing again next August.  Here is hoping we can continue to support the creation of awesome content in our little community.  I hope you all enjoyed yourselves, and I look forward to the next event!

Chocobo Madness

AggroChat Episode 20

Last night we recorded our 20th episode of aggrochat.  Quite honestly it doesn’t feel like it has been long enough for us to rack up 20 weekly episodes.  Rae was off traveling to visit some friends for the Labor Day weekend, so that left us with myself, Ashgar, Kodra and Tam.  We started the show by bidding a fond farewell to Blaugust since today is the final day of the month long blogging initiative.  Some pretty awesome content has come out of it, and as of last night we still had 29 people who had posted something each and every day of the month.  That is pretty impressive when you consider just how much content was churned out as a result.  Not everyone has posted daily on the Blaugust nook… myself included but still we have over 700 posts there during the month.  In total I believe we had 52 different participants that in some way joined in the fun, so I a wholeheartedly applaud everyone on the job well done.

After that we started a discussion about trash mobs, or more so why exactly we refer to non-boss encounters as trash.  It hasn’t always been the case there was a point at which we just referred to everything as encounters, and in part I think that is because over the years the care and thought that went into non-boss encounters was lacking.  We reminisce about some of our favorite non-boss encounters and talk at length about how we feel that encounters in general can be improved.  I really enjoyed the discussion last night, so hopefully you all will as well.

Chocobo Madness

With the 2.35 patch Final Fantasy XIV introduced ways to dye your Chocobo unlike quite any other dye system I have encountered.  Generally speaking in other games, you buy a dye or you pick a color from a selector and you end up with your color relatively simply.  It might be cost prohibitive to get the color you want, but there is very little guess work.  Final Fantasy XIV on the other hand introduced a system that is sheer madness.  First you have to purchase seeds for various fruits that can be found on vendors.  The seed is then grown in your garden and over the course of two days ripens.  You can shorten this time by doing various things and the yield can be increased based on the type of soil that you use and the fertilizer.  Where the madness goes into play is that these seeds increase or lighten various color sliders starting from the base yellow.

rgbcymk_chocobo When the system was originally patched in, the forums were of course a buzz with trying to figure out the formulas for each of the colors people might want.  After lots of trial and error it has pretty much been agreed upon that the two types of fruit… the fruit that darkens a color and lightens a color are essentially on two different color mixing systems.  The darken fruits are on RGB and the lighten fruits have the side effect of increasing CMY.  This makes trying to mix a specific color absolute insanity.  The end result are several different guides for mixing colors and others that list supposed recipes for specific combinations.  The problem with all of this is that it doesn’t seem to be an exact science and there is a large random element to just how much a given fruit effects the end plumage.

The Results of Madness

ffxiv 2014-08-30 10-34-22-578

So entering into this I knew I was fairly insane.  My ultimate hope was to arrive at turquoise so I fed my chocobo 15 Doman Plums and 10 Mamook Pears as a start.  Doman Plums being the fruit that lowers the red value and at the same time raises the Cyan value, and Mamook Pears being the fruit that raises the Green value.  The problem with this system is that you have to stable your bird and wait essentially six hours to see what the final result was.  The new color is revealed to you as part of a cut scene.  So before I went to bed Friday night and hoped I had made a good combination of fruits.  Saturday morning I got up fairly early and was excited to log in to see exactly what the end result was.  It turns out that I was pretty close and ended up with Celeste Green (R:144,G:184,B:180) which is really close to the shade of Turquoise I was actually after.

So now I have the hard decision of do I leave well enough alone for the time being, because I am actually rather fond of the color.  Or do I go for broke and try and push Celeste Green to the next step which would be Turquoise the shade I was actually after.  The problem is I have no clue if I just feed doman plums in the hopes of getting there, or do I need to feed O’Ghomoro Berries and Mamook Pears in the hopes of darkening both blue and green at the same time instead.  For the time being, and since fruit is so insanely expensive right now I think I am going to leave things alone and just be happy I got close to the color I wanted.  Now my attention turns to trying to get the Tidal Barding to go with the new color… but that is a whole different rabbit hole for another day.

#FFXIV #Chocobo #Dyes

Two Posts from the End

Life Got In the Way

While my daily blogging routine is set in stone now and I am absolutely unshakable in my devotion… my whole keeping tabs on the Blaugust event apparently wasn’t.  As a result I had managed to get massively behind in reading all of the blog posts and crediting them in my Google Drive spreadsheet.  I am not sure if I will be running this event again in the future, but if I do I will have to engineer something more manageable for keeping track of whether or not someone had posted during that day.  As the contest went on I stopped being quite so strict as to account for people posting in a different time zone than say their blog is configured.  I noticed a lot of double posts on one day, and then occasional lapses.  I finally reasoned this out to be someone posting after midnight, and quite frankly I didn’t feel like being that hardcore about the requirements.

Additionally I am making a executive decision and counting Wow In the Details among the grand prize contestants instead of as somehow a contestant with an asterisk.  They started one day late but have since double and triple posted several days to make up for it, and since they have not broken the posting pattern at all…  I just can’t in good faith hold them behind for starting a single day late.  Since I am being loose on the whole posting after midnight thing… I didn’t feel like I could hold her to somehow being excluded from the grand prizes for starting a single day late… when she has not dropped a day since.  In a future running of the contest I would hope to have some sort of self serve / honor system that allowed folks to tick off a post when they make it.  The Nook thing is great for having all of the posts in one place, but no better for tracking than anything else.

Two Posts From the End

At this point I see two distinct camps among the participants.  There is one group that has enjoyed the challenge and the motivation to post more.  Then there is another group that feels like they have committed to something but later wished they had not.  In any case at this point we have a long list of people “winning” the competition already by continuing to post daily.  I have to say how massively proud I am of you all, especially the folks who either started their blogs for Blaugust or came from the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I originally intended this to be mostly a thing for Veteran bloggers, a way to inspire them to ratchet up their posting frequency and be willing to most more “off the cuff” topics.  What I did not expect was just how many participants we would have.  At last count I believe we have 52 total blogs that are competing in the contest and of those 29 are currently in the running for the spoils of victory.

If you see your name in the above list, then you should pat yourself on the back for making it this far.  If you don’t see your name in the list, you should still pat yourself on the back for participating.  It has been amazing to sit back and watch as this whole thing unfolded around me.  I never expected to gain the amount of traction that it has, nor did I expect quite so many people to be vying for the finish line.  I have met several new faces through this process, and I believe there has been a lot of time mingling among the various writers participating.  The challenge now is to take this momentum that we have here and keep it going through the rest of the year.  I am not suggesting that each of you adopt my schedule of daily blogging forever… but hopefully you’ve proved to yourself that you can do it.  If you can do daily posting, you can easily cut back to a every other day schedule.  It is up to you to figure out what exactly fits your time and desires, but I encourage you to find a schedule of some sort.

The Finish Line

Now for some final business details as we stare down at the finish line.  Firstly, if you are on this list make sure I have some form of contact information for you.  That means you either need to be following my twitter, my anook, my steam, or have arranged some other method for me to contact you.  On September 1st I will be rolling the dice to determine who wins all of the prizes I mentioned in the announcement post.  For sake of novelty, I plan on using actual dice 2D10 or percentage dice as they are often known.  As a programmer and a gamer I have learned not to trust random number generators.  My goal is to use a dice cup to remove my own influence from the rolls as well.  The most important thing however is that you check the spreadsheet to make sure I have given you full credit for all of your posts… especially if you are NOT on the above list but believe you should be.  Thanks to everyone who has participated in making this an interesting month.

Flourishing Communites

No Longer Mainstream

This morning I am struggling more than a bit to find a topic to write about.  I keep coming back to a conversation last night on teamspeak regarding our identification or lack thereof with the term “gamer”.  One of my friends talked about how he has slowly distanced himself from the title because it no longer really offered anything in way of meaning for him.  It no longer really clearly identified his interests.  I guess to some extent I am no longer a mainstream gamer either if you really think about it.  When there is a big show like E3 It is evident that I no longer care about the games that seem to get the most press like the Call of Duty or Battlefield franchises.  Granted there was a time where I was happy to throw money at both of these, but that time has passed.

Instead I tend to focus on the games that give me the most freedom to inhabit the worlds.  The narrative game play experience is still fun on occasion but the games I tend to play every night offer some way for me to inhabit them.  The top franchises seem to be mostly about fighting against other players, whereas I want to cooperate and collaborate with them in creating social environments.  The thing that keeps me tied to Final Fantasy XIV right now is just how vibrant and alive the community is, and how easy it has been to find the social strata I have craved.  It is something that has just been lacking from other games I have played in the last few years, and I am not really sure why exactly it is lacking.

Flourishing Communities

I wish I knew why that sense of community flourishes in some games but not others.  I think in part it is due to isolation from the more negative forces of the internet.  The games that have had some of the best environments, have also been games that I felt where under appreciated.  In Everquest II the Antonia Bayle server community is amazing, and has a thriving role-playing and community event presence.  Similarly in Lord of the Rings Online the Landroval community is equally amazing, and offers everything from casual concerts at the Prancing Pony to intricate community events.  In both cases these are games that are not pulling in the big attention and I think the end result causes a much more tight knit and insular community.  Similarly Final Fantasy XIV has been somewhat isolated from the mainstream and developed a community that flourishes around a love of the game.

So I guess my pondering is, do these communities thrive because the mainstream gamer has shunned them?  I’ve literally seen some of my more mainstream friends turn their noses up visibly when I have mentioned I was playing Everquest 2, or Lord of the Rings Online…  and I am sure the same would be the case with Final Fantasy XIV.  In the case Final Fantasy XIV there is still a lot of bad blood out there surrounding the failure that was 1.0.  In the case of the others, I think it is mostly because they were “not WoW”.  I am beginning to be of the opinion that playing a second or third tier MMO is the best experience, pending you find a server that still has a thriving and active population.  The people that have stuck around there, do so for various reasons… but it often means that the community is well established and stable… and with a little effort welcoming to new comers.

Gamer Lacks Meaning

Now to drift back to the original discussion from last night about whether or not gamer is a meaningful term.  There was a time where that term meant something, a shared experience that became immediately relatable.   Now gaming in general has become so fragmented that just because someone self identifies as a gamer, doesn’t meant at all that you have any shared experiences.  I ran into this Wednesday at the funeral with my cousins.  There were four of us nephews… of us at one time or another have self identified as gamers.  However as we started to talk about them two of them immediately started talking about their latest call of duty exploits, and another pair of us started talking role playing games.  So when the term gaming was summoned it meant two vastly different things.  I still find myself unwilling to fully abandon the title of Gamer, even though most of the images that currently evokes no longer really represent me.

Maybe I have shifted my focus in the way my friend Tam has shifted to “Game Designer”.  Maybe the fact that I am now a “Game Blogger” better denotes my interest in gaming and my point of view on it all.  Even “MMO Gamer” probably does a far better job of representing my interests than “Gamer” does.  I think some of the discussion is about whether or not labels are important at all, and I think they are mostly.  Labels, especially one ones someone self identifies with are a kind of social shorthand.  It is like a sketch of the person that they want the world to see them as, and is meaningful in trying to align interests but not much more than that.  Once you get to know someone you learn their hopes, fears and aspirations… the labels stop being meaningful at all.  Prior to that however they act as a way to grease the wheels of interaction.  The problem with this however is that gamer is coming to represent something I do not support and do not want to be part of.  I would love to think that I could reform the title and bring it back to something just, pure and true…  but I think we have long crossed the point of no return and are now seeing the last death throes of “Gamer”.

The Family I Know

Of Large Families

I grew up Catholic which also means I come from a long line of extremely large families.  My Grandfather was one of five children, and each of them for the most part had five or six children of their own.  My mother for example is one of six siblings, and my “aunt” that just passed away is one of five.  The end result is that the get-togethers on that side of the family where relatively massive.  As a child I was completely comfortable with the way that “mom” and “dad” worked and “grandma” and “grandpa” but most of the other relationships just baffled me.  As a result pretty much any adult female that was not either my mother or my grandmother ended up being my “Aunt”.  No one decided to correct me so it stuck.

My Aunt Marilyn while technically my first cousin once removed, was an Aunt in every since of the word that actually mattered.  She was this quiet presence in everything that happened in my life from the occasional little league game, to getting my eagle scout and to countless band concerts.  She had a way of showing up at exactly the right moment.  She also had this magical way of knowing exactly what was hip and trendy and whatever us kids might be into at the time.  This morning I woke up to an alarm clock that she got me when I was 12 or 13, and every time I wake up to it I think of her.  It was little things like that, something that she knew I would need but I didn’t even realize myself that just baffle me.

The Family I Know

At the Rosary on Tuesday night I got up to talk about my Aunt which is something I had wished I had been able to do at my Grandmothers funeral recently.  I had regretted not saying something then, so I figured I shouldn’t pass the occasion now.  In many ways this is the family I knew the most growing up and as a result they feel most like home.  As kids my mother and my aunt Margaret Ann decided that me and my second cousins would be closer than that.  As a result they tried to create as many opportunities for us to get together and play.  Growing up I spent huge swaths of time either at their house or them in my hometown.  When my wife and I decided to elope, it was my cousin that I called upon to stand up for me on the spur of the moment.

As we have all gotten busier we have drifted apart but seeing them yesterday was an extremely good thing.  We exchanged the most current cell phones and promised to make plans to get together, and I sincerely hope we will.  My generation is just going to have to start putting out the effort to make occasions to get together just like my parents generation did.  As each of these members of the previous generation passes on what is going with them is more than their life.  What is leaving is the glue that held us together.  We will have to step in to make sure that bond doesn’t break.  Each of us has reached a point in our lives where we are more or less stable, so it is time to start trying to see each other more often.

Down the Rabbit Hole

ffxiv 2014-08-27 15-13-35-284 When I finally got home and put out a few fires, I was able to log into Final Fantasy XIV and check out the festival that started today.  It seemed fitting that while I had been remembering family, the game had been having an in game remembrance event called the rising.  For those that do not realize it, “A Realm Reborn” or FFXIV 2.0 is both literally and figuratively rising from the ashes of the previous game.  When 1.0 came to a close they destroyed the world with the dread comet Dalmund and the arrival of the Primal Bahamut.  The Rising event commemorates the rising of the world out of the ashes of the previous one.  There is a single relatively short quest,  that comes long with an extremely charming bit of storyline.  Completing the quest gets the players a “Huzzah” emote that at least as a warrior causes me to jump up high into the air with my axe held aloft.

My focus over the last few days has been on getting my White Mage to thirty four so I can cast stoneskin.  The problem is I have noticed I am sorely lacking another ability that comes from Thaumaturge.  There was a point last night when I was healing a dungeon that I simply could not cast fast enough to save the tank who had moved out of range of my healing.  If I had swiftcast which is a Thaumaturge cross class ability I likely could have saved him.  Seeing the need for it I opted to start working on my Thaumaturge to at least get him to level 26.  This is the way that everything seems to go in Final Fantasy XIV.  In order to be truly efficient in one thing, you need a whole bunch of other things leveled as well.  For the moment my goals are gearing the Bard through the hunt quests, and then working on Thaumaturge to 26 so I can continue onwards with my White Mage to the level cap.

White Mage Soul

The Best Intentions

Yesterday I read a post by Missy Mojo lamenting just how “un-fun” Blaugust has become for her.  I fear that there are a lot more people out there feeling the same.  I hear the same sort of lament in Kodra’s voice each night as he says he really needs to do his blog post.  The idea behind Blaugust was simple, to challenge people to do the same thing I do and write something, anything every day.  The thing is that the challenge grew legs of its own and sucked in a lot of newly minted bloggers along with the veterans.  I figured I might have five or so veteran bloggers take up the challenge as I did a year and a half ago.  The thing is I didn’t get there over night, and in fact had been blogging for around four years before I decided to post regularly.

This is probably the worst kind of event for someone new to the craft to start under, and we had huge participation by folks who started just for this even or started under the Newbie Blogger Initiative.  I promise my intention was not to grind people down with daily blogging, but instead to fill the gap that often happens in later summer for content.  In many ways it has worked better than I could have imagined, and tragedy in my own life has caused me to fall behind in the reading department.  My biggest fear is that this whole experiment will cause large lapses in content for the newer folks like Missy.  If you are doing this every day and not enjoying it, then it kinda defeats the point of blogging in the first place.  I give you complete permission to drop out of the contest with no hard feelings or lamentation.

White Mage Soul

ffxiv 2014-08-27 06-41-19-389 The primary goal of yesterday for me was to get my conjurer to 30 so that I could become a White Mage.  Since I already have a 50 tank, 50 ranged and 50 melee…  I felt like I needed some sort of max level healer at my disposal as well.  As far as healers go, I have enjoyed my time healing dungeons on the conjurer far more than I have enjoyed any healer in a long time.  The style just feels natural and I can usually land in a relaxing rhythm during each dungeon.  I figure the healing will get more complicated as I get more tools at my disposal but for the time being I am enjoying myself.  I had leveled Arcanist to 15 over the weekend in preparation for nearing 30 conjurer, since White Mage is a combination of the two.  I might return to leveling Arcanist at some point so I can become a scholar, but I feel no real pressing need to either.

The thing I found funny was that the level 30 Conjurer quest was far more difficult than the quest to actually become a white mage.  Even moreso I found it odd that in order to do my quest to get the unicorn mount I had to shift back to Conjurer as well.  In any case I finished both and am now an up and coming white mage ready to take on the world.  After coming home from the rosary last night I worked my way up to 32 so that hopefully someday tonight I can start running Brayflox for gear.  I have two pieces of the battlemage set but I would really like to get the rest of it, or at the very least the robe.  Additionally I would not mind seeing the white mage ring drop either.

Gearing the Warrior

ffxiv 2014-08-27 06-51-03-594 Since it is pretty certain that I will be needing my Warrior for when we start Binding Coil of Bahamut hopefully soonish, I opted to start rolling on Warrior gear in Syrcus tower.  Yesterday Tam and I decided to queue together for our weekly loot run.  Unlike other games you can run Syrcus as often as you like, but you can only take a single piece of loot from there each week.  The nice thing is this allows you to keep running it in the hopes of getting that one item you need.  Since most of the people  in there are after the item to craft their weathered weapon almost all of the gear rots, or at the very least it isn’t terribly contested.  The run started off really smoothly, and our group had a warrior tanking… which to some extent made my heart sink a little.  My goal going into the place was the pick up some warrior loot, but I brought my dragoon just as a backup in case something phenomenal dropped.

The first boss went extremely smoothly, and I was feeling like our tank was doing an amazing job.  On the first boss the warrior gauntlets dropped and moments afterwards the tank was asking for us to pass or roll so he could equip them.  We all did as asked and the moment he got the loot he dropped from the party.  This was the first time I had seen this happen, but apparently it is a frequent occurrence in Syrcus.  The awesome part though is that he was replaced by a really well geared Gladiator, and on the very next boss the Warrior chest piece dropped, allowing me to pick it up easily.  So that combined with picking up the soldiery tome ring takes my Warrior to 91 ilevel and more than ready for the Coil.

#FFXIV

Family but Not Family

Sleeping In

This mornings post is coming significantly late because yesterday was extremely draining.  I am not sure how much of it I said in previous posts but yesterday I went to the funeral of my Great Aunt in Oklahoma City.  Both my Mother and Father have their own medical issues to where if they were forced to drive it on their own they would have struggled seriously.  Right now my mother is going through some back problems, and my dad vision problems…  so I knew that I really needed to offer to drive.  They are the type that would not likely have come out and asked for it, but the moment I offered they latched onto the idea with both hands.  Multiple times during the day my mom said how grateful she was that I drove.  I hate driving, especially on longer trips, but I figured it was a thing I needed to do.

The draining aspect was that I felt like I was essentially parenting my parents.  My mothers hearing has been going through the years and the multiple hour trips to and from the city involved a lot of me yelling at the backseat so she could hear me.  Anytime my father and I would attempt to carry on a conversation she would mishear a snippet of it and start off on a tangent.  Which was fine but trying to jump like that all day long including when we were inches away from each other…  really can wear you down.  I am starting to wonder just how long it will be before we need to get her a hearing aide.  Her mother/my grandmother wore one for as long as I can remember, so I am sure that bad hearing is simply another ailment that runs in the family.  Since I seem to be a sponge for the bad ailments that both of my parents have… I will likely inherit that one as well.

Family but Not Family

Something about this batch of the family that you have to understand is that even though we are only two hours apart…  I have not seen most of them in years.  The last time I saw any of them I believe was at my grandmothers funeral almost a decade ago.  I do not believe that any of them came up for my grandfathers funeral, which I guess makes sense as he was not related by blood to any of them.  So a few of them I have seen within the last decade, but the bulk of them I have not seen since I was five or six.  A couple of the people were recognizable from my memory banks, others were not at all.  One of them I only remembered as the person who bit me once at a family reunion at Great Grandpa Smiths house… and he has been dead for longer than I can remember.  Another one of the daughters wasn’t even alive back then, so I had never met her in any form.

This brand of the family seems to have a genetic disposition for girls…  my great aunt had two daughters, and then each had two daughters… then when you get to the grandchildren there were something like 25 daughters and 1 single boy.  But if you think about it…  my grandmother and great aunt came from a batch of four girls and a single boy, so maybe it is just a thing with the smith DNA favoring females.  My grandmother and great aunt talked every single day until my grandmother passed away, so there was an extremely tight bond there.  Most of my recollection of my great aunt and uncle was from them coming to my hometown to visit.  My grandparents were dairy farmers so they didn’t really go anywhere…  they could only go so far as they could get back home by milking time.  As a result people came to visit them… not the other way around, so large swaths of time passed between visitations.

It is weird to step into a room where everyone knows you, but you barely know them at all.  Maybe I just wasn’t listening as my grandmother tried to relate all of the details of their lives, and maybe it was just simpler because my grandma only actually had three grandchildren to talk about instead of a veritable army of them.  In any case it creates this whole situation where you know they are all related to you, but none of them really feel familiar like family should feel.  They all have really amazing families from the looks of it.  I went up to one of the girls husbands, and asked if his name was “Mike” because for some reason I knew that it was.  Finally we figured that that he manages a nearby QuikTrip store that I go to pretty often.  I would love to get to know them all better, but unfortunately the connective glue is gone.  With my grandma gone and great aunt gone… as sad as it sounds I doubt the family will get together again like this.  My generation just doesn’t seem to be as well connected to the past as the previous ones.

Another Weapon Down

ffxiv 2014-08-25 20-57-39-704 When I finally got home last night I decided to start working on my Bard relic weapon quest line.  As we have gotten people up to fighting level I spent a bit of time over the weekend barding it up.  There are just situations where double dragoons is not the best idea in the world, and I don’t necessarily mind playing at a bard, in fact for short periods of time I find it extremely relaxing.  Over the course of a series of dungeons run to catch Kodra up to being able to do high level roulette, I picked up enough upgrades to take my bard to ilevel 65.  The biggest problem was that I still had a less than optimal weapon, and that more than anything was limiting my damage output.  Since I was not feeling up to playing with the big kids last night, who unlocked the various zones needed to do elite roulette I decided to quietly plug away on the relic weapon.

Thankfully I had the foresight to get Warenwolf to bind my materia to the precursor weapon some time ago.  All I needed to do was start in on the quest chain proper.  The Dhorne Chimaera was as easy as they came, and within moments of queuing it popped and then about ten minutes later I had collected that first piece.  The next piece involved running Amdapor Keep, and I have to say this was probably the trickiest part of the night.  The queue took about 20 minutes, but when it finally popped the team that I ran it with went extremely smoothly… zero wipes and other than the tank pulling things a little differently than I was used to I had my rune in about thirty minutes time.  After some running about I was on the kill 24 mobs step, which took a little bit of time to do but with my healer Chocobo out it went pretty easily.

Next up was the Hydra in Halatali, and it died extremely quickly as well.  I think it might have died faster than the time it took me to queue for it.  Finally was the last three primal fights, and this would have gone quicker had I not queued for normal mode Ifrit first instead.  I guess I was more tired than I realized.  Both Hardmode Ifrit and Garuda died in a single attempt, and then Titan took about three before we managed to beat the boss.  I still have yet to get the whole rock bomb thing every single time.  Like there is one specific pattern that always gives me fits, but overall while it took all evening it was definitely a doable task to get my relic weapon quickly.  I hear there was a bit of a rollback last night due to the massive denial of service attack going on…  so here is hoping I log back in again this morning and have my relic.  Now I just need to finish collecting the bookrocks to be able to make it a Zenith weapon.

#FFXIV

Adventures with Sound

The Crab Boss

1319862686_realtek-1 Over the last several years every computer I have owned has had one thing in common.  The onboard sound card has been made by Realtek, and with each of them I have experienced various quirks.  Sometimes the mic output is too low, sometimes there is mechanical noise that I can never seem to filter out.  In all cases I have been annoyed to no end with dealing with them, but for the most parts too lazy to really change.  In part this is because I remember days when the only real option for a sound card was a Creative Soundblaster, and I’ve had my own series of issues with them.  Additionally I remember add-on soundcards rivaling at least a low end graphics card in overall expense to pick one up.

About six months ago my on board sound card decided to go flaky.  I made a mistake to decide to update my Realtek drivers when I was doing the same for my LAN drivers.  After installing the reference drivers I lost all use of the soundcard.  No sequence of uninstalling and reinstalling various community drivers, the reference drivers from realtek, or the ones posted on the MSI support page seemed to restore full functionality.  In the past I have used a USB headset before with decent success so I shopped around to find one that I found comfortable.  The end result was picking up the Logitech g430 headset, that comes in a rather fetching blue and black color palette.  The install was easy enough, but early on I noticed a few quirks with it, in that I had to plug it into one of the two USB 3.0 ports on my machine.  Once I figured out that this was what was happening, I resolved the issue and soldiered on.

Adventures With Sound

g430-gaming-headset-images

For the most part these headphones were excellent and the Logitech drivers provided some really nice 7.1 surround sound emulation.  As far as communication went I seemed to be understood well, and transmitting both clearly and with plenty of volume.  It was during this time that we birthed the ideas of our podcast, and it was with this headset that I have been recording all of the episodes.  As I listened back to the recording however I noticed something that bothered me.  All of the other guests came through with much more full sound than my own voice.  My voice sounded very flat and tinny and no matter how much I fiddled with the settings did it seem to actually improve it.

After some research I found that this was pretty much a universal complaint with this particular headset and namely the usb soundcard that accompanies it.  It seems like it does a great job of output, but a pretty poor job of input, only allowing for 16 bit audio.  The result is the “flat” sound that I had noticed and that frustrated me.  The suggestion universally was to hook the headset to onboard audio for the microphone, and the usb for the 7.1 surround output.  This seemed like a hack at best, but no amount of fiddling with the drivers and settings managed to fix the problems I noticed.  This eventually lead me to start looking for other options, and as always that ended up with me searching Amazon.

Xonar Ping

P_500 For years I have had an unnatural love for all things Asus.  As a result I have owned a number of products and when I buy something I always tend to start with seeing what their product offering is.  A search of Amazon lead to what I expected, there to be a lot of Soundblaster options, but mixed in among them was a Asus Xonar sound card that had relatively good reviews.  The best part was it was cheap, currently $26.99.  I ordered one with my Amazon Prime membership, and it arrived on my doorstep Sunday morning.  I was shocked to find that something actually delivered on a Sunday, and it was not like I actually paid for overnight or anything of the sort.  Within a few minutes I had popped it in my case, and booted back up.  I grabbed the latest drivers from the Asus website and popped into a game… and the sound was amazing.  It was every bit as good as the Logitech software was capable of and then some.

Then I hopped on Teamspeak to hang out with my friends and test it there.  Immediately upon speaking I got “Is there a Helicopter in the background?”.  I recorded some test audio and sure enough there was a very noticeable mechanical disturbance in the background of my audio that seemed to get worse the longer I talked.  My heart sunk, and immediately I had flash backs of all of the fiddling I had done with both the Realtek and Logitech sound drivers to see if I could get something better than what I was.  I could get the sound to go away momentarily, but it always returned regardless of the settings.  Once again I took to the internet and found people complaining of this, and leaning towards that I would need to RMA the card and get a new one.

New Drivers New Hope

There in the middle of the stack I found a glimmer of hope.  There was a thread by a poster saying that he had all of the issues I was having, and ditching the Asus drivers fixed his problems.  I guess the Xonar drivers are notoriously bad, and that there is another group that has released a Unified Driver for the Xonar family.  I downloaded the drivers hoping that this would maybe fix my issues as well.  It took a series of reboots to uninstall the current driver and install this new unified driver.  I booted into a game and it sounded amazing just as before, and this time upon firing up Teamspeak, I was greeted with “the helicopter is gone!”.  This is the part of technology that I like the least, the wide variance in which drivers work best for which cards.

I realize that it has become tedious for companies to release a specific driver for a specific revision of a product, but I feel like the age of the universal driver for a “Family” of products has been riddled with this sort of issue.  Right now for example I am currently self locking myself to a specific version of the GeForce drivers, as I had all sorts of hell when I tried to update to the latest version.  In any case, I have recorded a few audio samples and am extremely pleased with the results, so here is hoping with future episodes of AggroChat there will be far less disparity between our voices as there was in previous episodes.  Hopefully the tinny flat audio is a thing of the past.

.

A Darker Doctor

AggroChat Episode 19

Last night we recorded the latest episode of AggroChat, and welcomed back Kodra from GenCon.  For the most part the AggroChat crew has had their heads firmly planted in Final Fantasy XIV and that much hasn’t changed.  Kodra regaled us with the tales of what he did with his time at the convention.  LARPs are one of those things I have always been interested in but never really participated in.  I did a little bit of a local World of Darkness LARP in High School, but it wasn’t really my scene.  As Kodra talks about the ones that happen at GenCon it feels far more like improvisational theater than gaming.  In any case it sounds awesome and if I ever make it to GenCon I will totally join in the fun with him.

Additionally we talk a little bit about MMO design and theory and how Final Fantasy XIV has made tweaks to the game in order to support the community aspect.  So far it is working because that is the overwhelming thing that I am enjoying the most from our time playing.  We also talk a bit about Dungeons and Dragons 5th Edition and our upcoming campaign.  There has been some talk about maybe streaming it, but I somehow doubt that is actually going to happen.  Rae talks at length about her awesome character concept, and I talk a bit about the Grudgebearer Cleric I will be playing as well.  This weeks episode had a very non-video gaming feel to it, and it was pretty enjoyable.

A Darker Doctor

mpc-hc 2014-08-24 09-59-28-843 Yesterday was the day the world was introduced to the new Peter Capaldi Doctor Who.  So as the world was enthralled by the BBC airing of the show and subsequent BBC America rebroadcast… where was I?  Well I spent my afternoon shopping with my wife and then my evening recording AggroChat.  With all of the weight loss my wife has gone through, she pretty much is in dire straights on trying to find a new wardrobe for the school year.  I figured it was far more important to help her find that, than to sit at home and catch Doctor Who as it was originally broadcast.  As a result I have just finished watching the show this morning, and I have to say so far I am very pleased.  I don’t want to go into any spoilers really, because hopefully you are going to watch it yourself.

mpc-hc 2014-08-24 09-55-54-107 First off I have to say I am of mixed opinion on the new Doctor Who intro theme.  You can listen to it here as someone has uploaded it to youtube already.  It just feels over produced to me… and extremely “muddy” if that makes sense.  I can tell that they went went back to the fourth doctor theme and sampled it heavily…. and that aspect I like, but all of the modern crap that they seem to have layered on top of it is frustrating.  I would love to see them just make a nice clean Doctor Who opening theme without all of the auditory graffiti.  I am sure over time I will get used to it, but right now it is just grating on my nerves.  As far as the show itself the production quality was impeccable as always.  I always like the episode that happens right after a regeneration because you get to watch the doctor in his most vulnerable state, when he isn’t quite sure of this new body.

With Capaldi it feels like gone is the zany doctor that flails about, and a different form of “Mad Man” has replaced it.  I am liking the darker take on the doctor so far, and I am also liking the fact that the series is distancing itself from “companion as love interest”.  I am sure to some of the more modern fans this will be a point of frustration, but to someone who has watched a lot of Doctor Who over the years, I prefer the days when the companion was just that… a travelling companion for the adventure.  I think the franchise will be in solid hands for awhile now, and I would love to see Capaldi have a run to rival Tom Baker.  I am tired of the Doctor changing quite as often as he has been, especially since we have long retconned the original storyline of a limited number of regenerations.  Overall I enjoyed it, but I look forward to seeing more episodes to really set my opinion of it in stone.

Return of Ultima Weapon

ffxiv 2014-08-23 22-25-22-628 While waiting on the audio to render last night for AggroChat I got pulled into an 8 man raid with the rest of my Final Fantasy XIV guild on Cactuar.  One of the quests that was added to the game post launch in Mor Dhona takes unlocks the Hard Mode version of the Ultima Weapon primal encounter.  I won’t go into any of the details surrounding the Ultima Weapon itself because spoilers… but in theory we had heard that everything about the Hard Mode of the encounter is significantly harder than the first few turns of the Bahamats Coil raid.  After last night I am guessing that was in fact the case.  This fight is absolutely insane, but I am pleased to say after three tries we managed to down it and clear it from all of our quest logs.  I returned to my role as a tank, and since at this point I somehow managed to pass Ashgar in gear I ended up starting off the fight and playing the role of Soak of a lot of the bombs that happen during the fight.

What makes the fight so cool is that it is the first tank swap encounter that I have run into here in Final Fantasy XIV.  This is a common mechanic in World of Warcraft now as a way of keeping both tanks engaged in the fight, and they seem to do it very well here as well.  Now the swaps have to be timed carefully, but since Ash and I have worked together on many occasions this ended up fine.  Essentially you have to hit provoke which raises your threat to 1+the highest targets threat, and then start spamming your highest aggro ability to make sure you gain a decent lead.  Basically during the swap I would hit provoke and then spam butchers block a few times to make sure I had a nice lead.  At this point the target would peel away from Ashgar easily and I would be in control again for another three stacks of the debuff.

Now the coolest aspect of the fight is that we didn’t even realize there were weapons to be gotten.  I feel like this fight is worth more than an ilevel 80 item…  but in any cases it was one hell of a fun encounter to be done with guildies.  As hard as it was, I could totally see myself doing it again because this felt like a true challenge.  It required each of us to do something to add to the fight.  Towards the end of the fight we had to have a few DPS sacrifice themselves to make sure all of the bombs got blocked, and then we slowed dps allowing the healers to catch up and ressurect them.  It was awesome seeing each person fully engaged in what had to be done.  I am so proud of my guildies for accomplishing this, and now I have no doubt at all that we will do fine making progress in the Coil.

#DoctorWho #AggroChat #FFXIV

Fears Verified

Death Visits

It is shaping up to be a bad week.  I realize at this point it is Saturday and the week is technically over, but bear with me.  Thursday I got a text from my father telling me that my Aunt Inez had passed away.  Technically she is a Great Aunt and the sister of my Grandmother that passed away close to a decade ago now.  So given her age it is not terribly shocking news, but I feel horrible that she lived roughly two hours away… and I have not seen her since my Grandmothers funeral.  At the least I think she attended the funeral, but that day was such a blur that I can’t really be certain.  I know she was not at my Grandfathers funeral a few years ago, because she wasn’t well enough to travel.  I don’t know the details of when the service will be, but I was figuring I likely should make the trip.

That was at least until last night I got a call from my mother.  Another Aunt has been in and out of the hospital more times than I can count over the last few years.  I say Aunt but again that is a bit of a misnomer since she is technically my second cousin…  but she treated me like a nephew pretty much all of my life and I was too young to realize that my cousins and I did not have the same relationship to her.  She has been in final stage renal failure for quite some time and having to take eight hour dialysis pretty much every other day.  In fact when my Grandmother on my moms side passed away earlier this year, I had thought my Aunt would go before her.  Last night on the phone my mother said that she had been given a terminal diagnosis and was being transferred to hospice.  Yesterday they stopped dialysis which gives her a prognosis of two to four days at the most.

As at peace as I thought I would be with this… it turns out I really am not.  In fact my mother called my cell phone at 7 am this morning…. and I am scared to death to return it.  My wife and I had planned to come visit her today, since we couldn’t go together last night.  My fear is that I am going to pick up the phone and call my mother back and find out that she passed in the night.  I have a complex mix of feelings about how exactly I am with this possible event.  So long as I don’t call her back, it is like it hasn’t happened yet…  and for all I know it might not have.  There is part of me that thinks it is a blessing, because she has not had any semblance of a qualitative life in the last six years or so.  The single solitary joy she had was mealtime, and if that is the happiest you are all day long…  then it tells me life is pretty horrible.  Another part of me deeply mourns the fun and interesting aunt that she was for most of my life, and that she hasn’t been able to be for the last decade.  I know that once I finish my blog post, I will call my mother back and whatever it is that has happened will not longer be sitting out in a buffer somewhere… but will be very real.  This mornings post I guess is a way of psyching myself up to receive the news.

Fears Verified

I did not actually make it through my post this morning before receiving another call from my mother.  It was in fact what I had feared, that my aunt passed away over night.  She drifted off to sleep and never woke up and passed early this morning around 2 am.  I guess they had known about this for longer than they had told me.  She found out sometime on Wednesday, and at that point her and my mother went into planning mode, planning all of the elements of her funeral.  Apparently she also threw all of her renal diet measures out the window and ate the things she had been craving.  The one that I found the oddest was the fact that apparently she had been craving a snickers bar.  So much so that she asked my mother to go out and get her one right then.  By some quirk of fate my mother had purchased a snickers bar that morning and it was sitting there in her purse just waiting for the request.

My aunt was one of people that when she made up her mind she did it whatever it was.  If she decided she wanted to go to a craft show, she would show up at the house early that morning and say “get in the car, we are going to a craft show”.  More often than not my mother would tag along for whatever adventure it was that they were off to, be it going to a movie or going on a road trip.  When I was younger there were many weekends she would decide that we were going off together to visit my cousins, and me and my Aunt would go off on an adventure where I am sure I would talk her ear off about whatever thing I happened to be into at the time.  It turns out that when she realized there was no getting better, she set her mind to planning on her passing.  It sounded like during the day yesterday she had set all of her affairs in order, making sure my mother had transferred enough to her own account to pay for the funeral.  After that it seems like she decided she was done with everything that needed to be done and simply drifted off peacefully.

Just Dance

ffxiv 2014-08-22 09-29-47-430 As not to end this mornings post on a somber note, I thought I would mention something that warms my heart.  Final Fantasy XIV is a very charming game, and as such it seems to attract a certain type of gamer that is more than willing to stop and smell the roses.  When I go idle I am notorious for starting up one of the many dances that I have been collecting in game.  Often times when I return to the keyboard I will be joined by one or more people who have decided to take up dancing beside me.  This happens as an almost nightly ritual in the housing ward our guild has a plot in.  I will go down to the market board, and while checking out what has been posted I will start up a dance.  Before I know it Naine one of the neighbors will have joined me, and on occasion others will as well.  The community is weird like that, and I am growing to love it.

The above screenshot is of me and a new friend going through our little dance ritual while waiting on something to spawn.  I feel like if you stop to dance with a Lalafell, you are destined to become instant friends.  So the next time you happen upon someone dancing in whatever game you happen to be playing… take a moment to join in.  It is moments like this that make the virtual world seem so much closer than just an assemblage of pixels.  On a side note I am extremely happy to see so many friends either renewing their accounts or starting new ones to come hang out on Cactuar with us all.  I am really hoping this will be a game I set down roots in for a long while.  We are already involved in a bunch of different active link shells and it feels like we have connections far deeper than just our immediate circle of friends.  I have not felt that way in any game since the early days of Warcraft, and I have to say it feels really awesome.