Thursday, July 26, 2007

Let's Rest for a While.

I'm taking a bit of a reprieve. Life has been rather complicated lately, for lack of a more detailed explanation. But, things have finally come to a head, and are mostly looking up. Ingame, this means I'll probably be going on a short break. I'm not entirely sure how this will all play out, but I'll need some time to get it all sorted. I've been playing a bit of some other games in my free time, as well as reading and so on. FFXI is an afterthought right now, and will be on the back burner for a bit.

That said, nothing much is actually going on in Vana'diel for me right now. I did acquire some Horomusha Kote, with Monk and maybe even some Ninja and/or Samurai leveling in mind.
MNK was 34 when I got them, and rests about halfway through 35 as of this writing. It's been a matter of soloing quite a bit on Easy Prey and a couple rotten, next-to-no-gain parties. I'm going to try to get a little more progress before I go on break, but no particular plans. Whatever I feel like doing pretty much.

SummerFest is on again (Sunbreeze Festival officially). Goldfish scooping is back, as well as moogles in town selling swimwear and yukatas to celebrate. In addition, evenings bring fireworks and festive music in and around the town areas. I like SummerFest because it reminds me a lot of the time when I started FFXI three years ago. Obviously, starting in July meant SummerFest '04 started shortly thereafter. It was the first event my brother and I saw in the game. Fun stuff!

I happen to love summertime, and hot weather agrees with me just fine. I love sunshine, long days, and cooling off with a cool drink or icy treats. Bring it on!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Three Years Running.

This entry isn't as much of an update as it is a commemoration. July 24th, 2004 was the day I created Draconum and bought my Linkshell, TheSolonavi. Today is a birthday of sorts, reminding me of the times I've enjoyed in Vana'diel.

I had created about four characters previous to Drac. They were from various nations and were different races, as I got a feel for the game and figured out which settings I liked best. Draconum actually resides on my third content ID, with a couple of slots used by mules (storage charcters) in front of him. At the time I started playing FFXI, I was living alone in a house of my own. All I was doing was working and wasting time. I recall the weekend I went to see I, Robot in the theatre. I left the movie so disheartened that I dropped by where I worked, at Best Buy. I finally decided to go ahead and drop the cash on Final Fantasy XI and the required components to get it up and running on my PlayStation 2.

My brother came over and we installed everything onto the PS2. We've been FF fans since around 1990 or so, and the concept of Massively Multiplayer being injected into my favorite series left me feeling apprehensive at best. However, once I got in and saw what an MMO was all about, I was hooked. My brother created a character and loved it too, so I bought another FFXI setup and sent him home with it. Teepo was his finalized character on his own account, and when he started Teeps I created Drac and TheSolonavi LS for us to easily communicate with and establish a community of friends.

That's precisely what we did. TheSolonavi started out as a newbie haven of sorts. Many fun-loving guys and gals who learned the game's ins and outs, telling jokes and helping each other out along the way. This continued for until late October/early November, and at that time I went on a six-month hiatus. When I returned, I found that TheSolonavi had all but disappeared but for a couple remaining members. I continued on as ever, and slowly started finding new people as well as old friends who fit in to the LS.

TheSolonavi has never been a particularly goal-oriented Linkshell. We don't generally organize mass-raids or missions, or have scheduled times for anything in general. The LS has been quite large in population in the past, but eventually I grew to not accept strangers into my little world. Since I took breaks from FFXI for somewhat long periods of time, I found that most of the fringe weeds itself out. I also was burned enough times by people who would join, knowing my overly helpful nature, get what they wanted, and bail out. This is their prerogative and I don't hold much of a grudge, if at all. However, it became clear to me that what I wanted was a smaller, more intimate group of friends who all know each other. Y'know, Cheers-style.

Nowadays, I log in and know every name on the list. I keep track of much of my linkies' names, locations, job levels, mission progression, and personalities. It's a juggling act most days to keep myself happy as well as the group, but it's been entertaining throughout. We set up static parties, go on numerous Artifact raids, Notorious Monster hunts, quests, and just random fooling around. I love this LS and I would be remiss if I didn't take time out now and again to let the linkies know they're a great bunch of weirdos.

I look forward to seeing each person online during the week, some of whom I speak with on the phone, most of which I know on a first-name basis (rather than character names). I tend to give my linkies nicknames as they remind me of things or people or events. This has been a bit of a game at times, when I announce a person's nickname and they get to hear the story of why I arrived at such a moniker. The LS talks to me about their gameplay as well as their real lives. I reciprocate by being pretty open and honest about my life as well, and I believe we're constantly learning from each other.

If ever there was a "good environment" for my mind, FFXI has been it. I've had more fun than I could ever explain, over countless hours and many sleepless nights. I've wondered at times if I shouldn't just drop the game and find/revisit other hobbies, but every time I come close, something happens in the Linkshell that reminds me exactly why I'm playing after three years. I wouldn't want to trade in my time with TheSolonavi for much of anything, and I'm certainly happy in my free time because of it.

I do not know how much longer I will play FFXI. In fact, I've been on both sides of the argument; at times I've said I've had enough, while other times I've said they'll have to drag me kicking and screaming out of Vana'diel when Square-Enix closes down the servers. There is a new expansion pack on the horizon, called Wings of the Goddess. I will certainly plan to be there when the red carpet unrolls for this new addition, and with a little luck, I'll have the same friends to back me up who've always been here.

Hats off to Square for crafting an impressive, if sometimes frustrating, foray into Massively Multiplayer Online gaming. The atmosphere and adventure contained within this game has left my jaw on the floor at times, and my adrenaline pumping at others. I've met some of the best friends I could ask for, and put time into overcoming challenges both ingame and out. Art imitates life, as the saying goes, and I believe that holds true here. Many aspects of the world can be looked at with a similar awe or a mirroring viewpoint as those projected in Vana'diel. It's a great experience to have two "worlds" to live in at the same time, whereas it could be argued some people never take time to live in the world with which they're already accustomed.

Finally, thank you to everyone who has made my FFXI experience what it has been. Some have been challenges, some have been teriffic friends, others have become like family to me. At the very least, a cynic could say my linkies are a better form of an offline game's Artificial Intelligence. But the way I see it, at best, my linkies are my extended family.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Internal Strife Variety.

Random Picture of the Day: Liabelle, my NPC Adventuring Fellow, dons almost the whole Coral armor set as we tackle Promyvion for a Tactics Pearl.

My Warrior is intended to move forward. I really do want it to level. I'm not even kidding! Why does it remain stagnant in the mid-40s, then? Sheer, unadulterated incompetence. Honestly, the parties have just been straight awful of late. Nonetheless, I'm dedicated to at least getting WAR to 50 before holding off. I may end up storing the gear, working on Artifact quests for it at my leisure, and picking it up again later down the line. Warrior just isn't doing it for me right now. I like the job in general. It's relatively entertaining to play, too. The slow pace the last few weeks and the fact that tanks, to be blunt, suck, means I've been killed more often than I'd care to admit and can't get much done.

In the White Mage life, I've hit 56 (and read my Raise II scroll at last). Sodako is loving his Thief progress and that makes much of the difference to me. WHM doesn't mean a whole lot to me, and the job is starting to bore me in my current moods I've been in. However, knowing that playing WHM for the linkies creates more entertainment/worth for me.

I haven't been to Dynamis lately, for a couple weeks probably now. Two basic reasons for it:
1) Feiwong is rumored to be in the Dynamis LS under another new character, which puts me off if it's true.
2) Real life job situation has been busy and Dynamis starts in early afternoon for me. Too busy trying to sort out the important stuff to bother holding everything off for 3-4 hours for Dynamis.

I do enjoy SpiritsofEvolution so far. They're a good crew; they're very strong event-wise, with many jobs and skills available. The leaders are nice and approachable, and I've addressed the Feiwong possibility already. We'll see what happens, 'cause if I find out it actually is Feiwong I'm not going to be comfortable. So far it's been determined by the leaders of SoE that it's not him. I sincerely hope they're correct.

Rounding out my usual main objectives, I'm sad to say I haven't merited much in a while, either. Come to think of it, I'm not really even sure what the hell I've been up to in FFXI over the last week or more. Honestly I think I've been putzing around and/or discussing life with friends more than anything else.

We've had a little bit of conflict within TheSolonavi (my LS) of late, which is always a touchy thing for me. People in my shell almost always all get along great; that's how I pick people in general, for their willingness to accept weirdness and be weird themselves. Sometimes having "big" personalities or strong-willed people all in the same place at once creates a little strife. I've seen it before, and I hope it evens out soon. I love my LS and I love all the close friends I've got. I hate being in the middle of something I can't truly control without acting like "dad." Despite having a nickname of "Papa Draco" before, it was for different reasons and I'm not going to place myself in the middle of choosing between friends. It'll possibly leave me angered by adults not getting past some conflicting views or behavior of each other, but I have to say my piece and let the cards fall where they will. Not everything a friend does makes you happy, but being their friend usually involves living with it and accepting them anyhow. This is a lesson I've been reminded of in my life as well as in FFXI.

So, overall things have been, as this entry's title suggests, riddled with strife of different varieties. Both inside and out of FFXI, I'm unsure of what I'm really going to be doing in the near future. My life usually finds a way to balance itself out, sort the issues, and get me through just fine. I'm at the point where I have done about as much as I can do, spreading myself thinly across all these different aspects. I can only have faith that I'm going to see better, more manageable days soon enough.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Flying Kites.

Random Picture of the Day: Cyric looking pretty in his DRG setup and shooting off fireworks before Dynamis-San d'Oria.

First thing I wanted to write a blurb about is my "next project" job. I have geared up Warrior, and that's a fairly adequate and fun choice. However, I've secretly been hoping for and trying for a couple NM drops that would push my MNK forward. I've not been one to want to level Monk in the past, but I've got lots of experience watching friends like Fmtwo, Zooted, Noodles (aka Thatsmypunk), Bloodless, and others beating stuff senseless with their fists.

What does this mean for me? Well, O-kote would be the first and most obvious gear piece. Brown Belt is the other piece I'd want to get soon. These both can be bought, or acquired through the NM and quest, respectively. My skill levels are all pretty much capped for MNK other than Guarding skill (only doable on Monk) and Hand-to-Hand which would obviously grow with levels. In essence, all I'd need is a few main pieces of gear to perform the job well. On a sillier Monk note, I like the way my character model looks in MNK Artifact gear.

Switching gears: The static had a nice weekend, with sessions on Friday and Saturday. We got from 50/51 to 55/56 in the two efforts. Sodako is heartily enjoying his THF AF, having almost reached where his old character was on Thief years ago (59). Galb has grown into Ninja a bit more recently, and is doing a bang-up job keeping things under control. I think we all rejoiced a bit when we got into range of moving to Aht Urghan areas. From here on out it's a fairly straight shot with easy-to-access camps and easier-than-they-probably-should-be targets to kill.

I had been using RDM in static up to 50, but switched to WHM. Not entirely sure of the exact reasons, but I just wasn't feeling like RDM was fitting me yet. I never felt like my performance in the job was really satisfying me. On the flip side of that, WHM has been an enjoyable, somewhat easy ride all along. I love my Regen spells and on most occasions I can keep my party going with Haste and Regen, while keeping my MP at a survivable threshold.

Meriting is going well for the most part. Dungeonwhipper and I probably like Bhaflau Thickets camp killing Greater Colibri the most. These birds reflect magic, but they're somewhat easy to kill for the good amount of XP they yield and their number of spawns/respawn rate. Most of our parties involve me looking for a WHM and a PLD. If I get someone else to play PLD, I get to bust out the DRG. WHM is there for obvious reasons, Haste/healing, and then I just fill with DD to help Galbatorix's DRG kill stuff.

Valion, an old friend of mine, has been going with us on his PLD, which has been great. Allowing us to use two Dragoons versus the birds (who are weak to piercing weapons like Polearm) means we can really let loose. I believe we pulled in 8-9k XP each hour in our last party, and that's without use of Bard, nor any of the generally accepted "burn party" setups.

Monday night, we had two different party attempts. Both of which were somewhat interesting, and only one of which yielded any XP at all. The first experience was made comical by inviting someone who I used to hold in high regard, in order to help him regain his lost level 75NIN. He's still an overall good guy and a decent (if not quite good) player. However, he rubbed me the wrong way (didn't think there was a wrong way to rub me, did you?) in his partying etiquette. He questioned my choice of camp, took it upon himself to try and tank instead of our PLD, etc. These things weren't horrid offenses by any means, but the bottom line is: if you want to run a party, go make one yourself. He did bring along a Bard, who was a mutual friend anyway, and we did pretty good chains of XP on Hilltrolls at Mount Z.

Later in the night Valion, DW, and Galb were out for the night. I tried to remake a party with Sodako, Encino, Zooted, and a couple of ... well, what turned out to be a couple of goofballs. The Thief was high as a paper kite, and hyperactive as all get-out. The Dark Knight we invited didn't have most of the Staging Points to travel to camp, and also was having his internet shut down for maintenance at an undetermined time, so it was "interesting" that we were chancing it. Long story short, we stood around for a while debating camp, then somehow started listening to the stoned kid and were heading out to the Colibri camp.

Sodako and I suddenly came to our senses (having been mostly laughing it up watching this all unfold) and realized that with a Black Mage (Encino) this was going to be a fairly dumb idea. Greater Colibri reflect magic, duh. So we backtracked once or twice moving to new camps before I finally couldn't handle it anymore. I advised that the DRK get his Staging Points soon and I'd be happy to re-invite him, and advised the THF to sober up before trying to mess up a party with me again.

Overall, we laughed it off as comedy, but my good mood I'd been riding all day eventually gave out. I just don't have the patience for willingly wasting a party of six's time, effort, money, and Imperial Standing (points used on Sanction, Runic Portal warps, etc). Live and learn, and another day we'll start up more progress.

Until next time~

Friday, July 6, 2007

Roller Coaster.

Random Picture of the Day: Double-fire weather in Rabao:

It's been a rather hectic roller coaster the last week or two. We as an LS have seen some fun things as usual, but also some really crappy luck at times. NM hunting on Mee Deggi and Ose have continued (to shaft me), but we did get Supergirl a Sirocco Kukri. It's a nice dagger for her THF, and the camping was fairly entertaining. It's a contested NM, so we had to head to Cape Teriggan and wait amongst quite a few other hopefuls.

Just as the wind weather started (the requirement for the NM to spawn), I had knelt down to rest a few MP. Sure enough, that very second I see the faint outlines of the big bird. I stand up right away, and snap my Jump / High Jump macro a couple times, seeing Supergirl and a few of our competition running at it. I got the claim, and incidentally got to finish off the NM as well. It was a nice perk to the end of a rough day for me. Supergirl was ecstatic.

On the meriting front, I've spent a few merits on DRG and PLD, including recast timers for Job Abilities and acquiring a new JA, Chivalry. This allows me to convert my TP to MP every 20 minutes. I can further merit this to 17.5 and eventually 15 minute recast. I've used it already quite a few times in merit party and NM fights alike, and I'm pleased with the utility of Chivalry, heightening my durability.

Dungeonwhipper has finally hit 75. This was something I'd been working toward since I met her, essentially. She was level 50 and had been for a year already when we got together. I started dragging her along on parties whenever I could, and we've finally reached the goal. So good for her; though I was more excited about it than she was, it seemed.

Also worth noting is that my LS now has two 75 DRGs. Galbatorix hit the cap shortly before Dungeonwhipper did, making it his 2nd time to 75 (as well as two more within a few levels of it). Sodako is 73WHM as of this writing, and I know he wants that finished up despite not particularly enjoying it as much as he did previously. Encino, having returned to the game recently, is 73 BLM, and hopefully that can be moved as he gets time to play.

My Warrior has been geared up and leveled to 46 now. I enjoy it fairly well so far, and always have liked my first job. I used to tank as WAR when I started out, since advanced (unlockable) jobs were much rarer. Now, I'm essentially a backup tank if needed, but a damage dealer by definition. At 48 I get to equip Viking Axes, with +10 Accuracy on each. With those and a Life Belt (+10 Acc as well), my performance increases a lot. Naturally I'm looking to get level 50, so I can start my quests for what will be my seventh Artifact armor set.

In a saddening turn of events, another good friend of mine has decided to leave FFXI behind. Vysala was the leader of a linkshell called KnightsofSandoria, which was a small group of friends and never grew past that intimate arrangement. Vysala and her hubby, as well as her in-game buddies invited me to their static in the 50~ range a long time ago. I ended up joining their static and taking a pearl to the LS. We had some great laughs and fun parties, and even after the static divided we all stayed friends. Vysala is one of the sweetest people I've ever met and this game will be different for me now that she's gone.

I have a signed item from her and these parting shots to remember her by, and I salute Vysala a heartfelt farewell. I hope all goes well for her in the future. Take care!