Friday, August 31, 2007

Playing the Ponies.

The August version update brought a new event for FFXI players: the Chocobo Circuit. There are new areas in each town's Chocobo Stables area by which you can enter the Circuit. Once inside, you can travel around to different areas of race headquarters.

Within the Circuit, you can visit the paddocks to check up on the health, statistical values, and more of each Chocobo participating in the day's events. In addition, you can check the boards to see the odds as they are figured for each race. Then, you speak with an NPC and place your bets, choosing the two birds you predict will place 1st and 2nd (in any order, so long as you have the right ones).

To be honest, I didn't think twice when I read that this was being added to the game. However, being as bored as I was last night, I decided I would go visit and see what there was available. I was, in a word, addicted. I spent a good few hours running from the grandstands to the betting areas. I bet on numerous races, and I got a kick out of dragging a few friends to the Circuit with me. We sat around chatting in between races, we heckled the passersby, and we shouted at the Chocobos during their sprints toward the finish line.

I've never been a gambler, but I loved doing this. I lost repeatedly at first, not knowing how to properly pick the birds. As I figured out the charts and saw some of the trends, I started making better picks. I did actually win one race, picking the correct two birds. Not a massive amount of gil, but I did win enough to put me back ahead of when I showed up.

Overall I think the Chocobo Circuit will be a nice way to kill time when not doing anything terribly progressive. In practical terms, time spent staring at my Moogle while chatting with friends can be converted into time spent watching the races. Certainly more interesting than the inside of our Mog Houses, yes?

Pics from my first day at the races:

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Besieged: Time for Work!

I'd like to bring up Besieged, because it has been a fairly big part of what I do in FFXI since the release of the Treasures of Aht Urghan expansion pack. For the sake of clarity, Besieged is a large-scale battle waged against Beastmen within the walls of the city of Al Zahbi. Most of my friends (and probably many strangers) know that I am a Besieged junkie. I'm almost always there defending the realm, so to speak.

Upon the release of ToAU, my girlfriend (Dungeonwhipper) and I liked the idea of Besieged right away. We would attend nearly every battle even when it occurred late at night. In fact, we would check the Besieged Map often, and if the Beastmen were preparing an attack, we'd head to Al Zahbi and wait for hours sometimes. It got to the point that she and I would set an alarm to wake us up in a couple hours, knowing the Besieged was going to start at that time. Afterward, we'd go back to sleep and get up for work soon after.

For those who have participated in Besieged, it usually is a love-hate relationship. You either can't stand the negative aspects, or you find it enthralling enough that you just can't resist the kill-or-be-killed nature. The enemies who breach Al Zahbi's walls during Besieged are of high level and must be attacked by many players at once. Up to 700 players can cram into the zone at once; any stragglers who show up late are de-zoned to nearby Aht Urghan Whitegate. The players get into parties & alliances, and the shouting begins. There's almost always someone who starts the silliness, and many will follow (including myself on days I'm feeling ornery). Smack-talking, insult fights with other players, internet meme rehash, movie quotes, cliches all over the place... you name it.

Actual combat proceedings in Besieged are extremely laggy, which is a generally accepted fact to most but always seems to surprise a portion of the audience through either inexperience or stupidity (or both?). The monsters are tough, many of them have Area-of-Effect attacks which wipe out many of us at once, and our medics are given more than their fair share of work to do. People drop like flies out there, with massive damage inflicted before many of us even know what happened. It can be an exercise in patience just to get a Raise and manage to escape from the fray long enough to recover before continuing.

Besieged would last anywhere from an hour to three hours, sometimes the entire operation would last the better part of an afternoon. This has been modified in a version update, however. The maximum allotted time for a Besieged attack is now one hour real-time. Why does all this chaos occur? Because no one likes to share the Ass Candy, of course! Al Zahbi has a special chamber called the Hall of Binding, in which the Astral Candescence is housed & protected. The Beastmen want it, and we want to keep it. The story dictates that the Candescence is essentially the governing force behind everything in Aht Urghan.

The players who participate receive Imperial Standing (a numerical value representing your "worth" to the Empire) and EXP for their efforts, upon successfully repelling the Beastmen forces. If we fail, the Astral Candescence is taken to the Beastmen stronghold and a crew of us must brave the dangers to retrieve it. Players like to possess the Ass Candy because we get bonus EXP and some other available bonuses from it. The Beastmen want the Ass Candy because they know it annoys me. Okay, that's probably not why they want it but who really cares why? They're trespassing and they need a good beating now and again. Reason enough for a call to arms if you ask me.

Overall, Besieged has been a lot of fun. It is indeed frustrating at times and doesn't always feel worth the long time investments (again, the time factor was just recently changed) but there's something about this event that just gets my blood pumping. Standing toe-to-toe with devastating enemies alongside hundreds of friends and strangers alike... makes me want to share pictures!

Shield Bash the Troll NM, just to show it whose city this is:

Galbatorix and I caught napping on the job in the streets of Al Zahbi:

Generally not a good sign when your city is full of pissed-off dragons.

The Undead Swarm's queen of nastiness herself: Medusa. Bad, bad news.

The tubby, mummy/zombie thing next to me is a Qutrub. I really, really like killing them.

Sometimes Besieged keeps us waiting. During times of crisis, we conga.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Get a Grip!

The version update for August has been implemented and the players are already feeling the substantial effect. From new items to new events, the update was another hefty one. I was pleased to find that there were many alterations that, while subtle-sounding perhaps, could and probably will deeply affect how we play.

The first change I was inundated with was that 2-handed weapons are now more potent. Apparently our Strength and Dexterity stats now translate to more Attack and Accuracy. Previously, 2STR = 1Attack and 2DEX = 1Accuracy. This formula remains the same for 1-handed weapons, but 2-handers now enjoy 1STR = 1Attack and 1DEX = 1Accuracy. This is an obvious poke at the prevalence of melee jobs subbing Ninja in order to Dual Wield.

Also directly affecting me right away is the apparent enhancement of the Accuracy Bonus trait Dragoons get. I am unsure as of yet how many "sequels" we have gained, but at minimum it would be Accuracy Bonus II, which would add another +10 Acc innately. Adding this trait to the already boosted Att and Acc ratings we're now looking at, and my Dragoon becomes even more dangerous and fun to play.

Square Enix also modified some Weapon Skills. Some more notable ones include Skewer and Penta Thrust for Polearm (i.e. DRG). The TP modifiers have different effects toward the performance now. Between the 2-handed boost and the WS change, I got new personal best damage totals from both the aforementioned attacks.

Also new this month is the inclusion of an entirely new class of items: Grips. These are equipped in the offhand slot for 2-handed weapon users in order to receive beneficial statistics or enhancements. The more interesting ones being things like +3% Critical hit rate, +2% Double Attack rate, and the one I will probably purchase using Imperial Standing Credits, the Axe Strap with +20HP and +3STR. Some grips have stat boosts for mages like +MP and enmity down. Most grips are available at level 65, with some lesser ones available at level 30.

Other notable updates I'm aware of so far include the Aht Urghan storyline completion (which I'm far from) and the new Chocobo Circuit. The Circuit may be pretty interesting, as both a new pastime and a way to make extra gil and even make new friends (or enemies?) by placing bets.

Lastly, I'll comment on the fact that Beastmaster has been altered in a big way. BSTs used to have an Exp penalty when fighting alongside a Charmed monster. This penalty has been removed. The convenient part of this is that I had just decided to finally level Beastmaster before my break. I've been wanting to get around to it for years now, but never managed to properly motivate myself. Now I'll almost have to.

I'm still not yet playing on a regular basis again, but these updates are certainly significant. Time will tell how much it affects the game and my personal playtime within it. With an expansion pack (called Wings of the Goddess) on the horizon, we have plenty to do in anticipation.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Wasn't I Busy Before?

I'm back to FFXI... Well, sort of. I have access to my account again. I just don't happen to find myself caring all that much. I am in a new location, which means I have a different internet connection and different circumstances. The net isn't impressing anyone thus far, and the circumstances are leaving me with little motivation to do anything about it.

So far I've just chatted with a few people, catching up on life and ingame happenings. Not too much has changed for anyone else in the last three to four weeks, so it didn't take long to be up to speed. I have a few things I'd be able to work on if I really think about it, but I've not been sparked to take any action just yet. Perhaps it is the relative lack of energy lately, or perhaps I'm in a bit of a rut.

Today happens to be August Update Day as well. There are quite a few changes in aspects such as Besieged, 2-handed weapons, Genkai quest difficulty, specific job enhancements, Weapon Skill retooling, and more. It will be interesting to see the degree to which the game changes due to this update. The last few major updates have been of high-quality overall, so I have little reason to feel otherwise about this one.

Obviously, not much to report, but worth noting that I am indeed technically playing again. I just haven't found anything to do to keep me logged in for long.

Time will tell~

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Un Poco Loco.

"A little crazy." Pretty much sums up the last two weeks or more. Things have changed, and changed quite a bit. To skip details and go to the headlines: I spent a week on vacation in San Diego visiting my uncle, and I am now currently staying with family in Minnesota.

Yeah... Hawaii --> Southern California --> Minnesota. That's a lovely change, wouldn't you agree? I'm ambivalent just how much I like the whole situation, but overall it is indeed what needed to happen for life to progress and get on the proper track.

So, I'm busy working and settling into my new digs. So far, so strange. I have a very interesting cast of characters I'm living with now (the family, of course). It's nearly enough entertainment just observing the events throughout the day. Almost don't even need digital entertainment. Almost.

FFXI is starting to creep back into my mind. Admittedly, I haven't thought about it for more than a minute or two for about two weeks or more. There is talk about the August update making waves, with some cool possible additions in the works. Apparently they're going to tweak Weapon Skills and add some new equipment for use in the "offhand" slot of two-handed weapon users. So far, I've seen a picture of a weapon attachment which gives -3% weapon delay for a two-hander. The possibilities are promising, with an idea like extra parry skill or something along those lines.

I'm anxious and motivated to get some major life things accomplished right now, so my gaming might be more structured. Usually I just screw around and play whenever I feel like it, but right now I will shift my focus toward the objectives that have come up.

In comedic news, Feiwong apparently got his bought/stolen character Hyuga banned by SE. So he's out of my Dynamis Linkshell and on to whatever new character it'll be. I got some chuckles from that.

Well, that's about all for the update. Within a day or two I should know if I'll have an internet connection stable enough to be viable for playing. Then I'll go from there. Until next time~