Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Blaugust 2022: FFXIV Island Sanctuary

It is hard to describe how much I enjoy Island Sanctuary these days.  I tip my hat to the developers at FFXIV. They seem to have combined the things I enjoyed about garrisons with the thing that made the farm in Halfhill so relaxing and fun, mixed it all together into a beautiful and relaxing zone, and then added a fair degree of silliness and fun.  I'm spending a reasonable amount of time in my Island Sanctuary, not just because it provides a great place to hang out and be productive while you're waiting in queue for your daily roulettes.

I keep forgetting that I should be farming materials for the top-level crafting and gathering gear I never bothered making for myself and my retainers.  But at the moment, the Island Sanctuary is too much fun to be bothering with that.

I'm currently sitting at level 7 with my Island Sanctuary.  I've upgraded my Cozy Cabin, Workshops, Granaries, Pasture, and Cropland.  I've got one of every type of animal up to medium hanging out in my pasture.  I'm coming off two rest days for the workshops, so I'm waiting until I accumulate enough cowries to unlock the next plots of land in the upper area.

A handful of exciting things that I've discovered along the way:

  • Always make sure that you've crafted all the equipment that shows up in your log.  Almost all of it is used to unlock something new, and that something new will almost always provide you with a decent chunk of experience.
  • For farming materials, Google is your friend.  The spot that shows up on your map to gather certain materials is often not the best spot for those materials.  If you're short on a particular material, do a little research before heading out.
  • It appears, the way it is laid out now, that the pasture is not large enough to hold one of each animal available, including all of the rares.  So be selective about what you're snagging.
  • If you haven't discovered this already, your mount is insanely fast on the Island, and there is no fall damage.  So go crazy getting from place to place.
Tomorrow will be a regular weekly update to finish out Blaugust.  



Friday, August 26, 2022

Initial Thoughts on FFXIV Patch 6.2 (no spoilers)

I have now played through a substantial portion of the more casual content released in Patch 6.2.  I have not yet done the new part of the Tataru questline, but that'll give me something fun to write about next week.  I had been taking quite a bit of time away from FFXIV in favor of World of Warcraft and ESO, but I seem to be back with a vengeance now.

As is usual with FFXIV these days, the storyline for the latest portion of the MSQ was outstanding.  Both the new dungeon and the new trial were challenging without being too over the top.  I ran them both on the first day, so some wiping was involved because there weren't yet any videos to watch to learn the fights.  One of the other things I love about FFXIV.

I also have finished all four circles of the new raid instance.  The mechanics on these are challenging and fun.  I don't think we actually had full wipes on any of these circles, but there were definitely a lot of rezzes going out.  The continuing storyline for this raid instance can be a bit of a tear-jerker and opens up many exciting possibilities, given what we already know about some of the characters involved and how we potentially interact with them later on.  

So yes, I'm just dancing around the feature released in this patch that all casual players like me have been waiting for - Island Sanctuary.  For my World of Warcraft friends, Island Sanctuary is what you might get if you combined the fun things about Garrisons with a little bit of Animal Crossing and the best parts of your farm at Halfhill, put it in a gorgeous location, and made it feel like an enjoyable, relaxing experience.  

I've been spending a lot of time on my island sanctuary so far, building up my production buildings and landmarks, working through my pasture and capturing animals for it, and getting my garden plots all up and running and planted.  It's been a ton of fun and a great way to stay engaged and productive if you're waiting in queue for your next roulette while you are leveling your alts jobs or farming tomestones.

So here are the downsides for those of you that are ready to pop in and give it a try.  It doesn't solve the issues with the availability of player housing.  Player housing in FFXIV is one of the most fabulously customizable things around, but they are extremely hard to get, even under the new lottery system.  While you get a Cozy Cabin on your island sanctuary, and you can upgrade that Cabin as you progress, there doesn't appear to be any ability to customize the interior at the moment.  And while it does have an Orchestrion player, it doesn't currently have a summoning bell or glamour dresser (which maybe they could add later on?!)  So if you're looking to scratch that itch, you'll still need to be putting in your regular lottery entries.

The other downside, for anyone new to FFXIV, is if you start from scratch, it will take you a long time to unlock this.  One of the requirements to unlock Island Sanctuary is that you have to have completed the MSQ up through the end of Endwalker.  And that could easily take you 2-3 months to do.

But as a reward for those who have done that, it's so enjoyable and fantastic it's hard to describe.  Two thumbs way up.  



Thursday, August 25, 2022

Blaugust 2022: My Crazy Summer

My summers are usually pretty busy, for reasons I will get into shortly, but this summer has been even crazier than usual.  I've discussed some of these things before in this format, particularly when discussing how I got into playing World of Warcraft in the first place and why I continue, but I'm going to provide a little more background on my personal situation here.  

The first significant change impacting my summer is that I recently changed roles at work, effective May 1st.  I'm in finance for a large U.S. multinational and had been in my previous role for 8 years.  This new position is pretty different from what I was doing before and very different from what I've done most of my career.  It has been a big adjustment.  It also potentially involves much more travel, which I'm not particularly thrilled about at this stage of my career.  So that has added to the insanity of what is almost always a challenging summer anyway.

My youngest two children are both competitive swimmers, and they're both pretty good.  I travel a great deal during the summer for swim meets.  It is not unusual during the summer that I may be out of town for a swim meet for 5 or 6 weekends in a row.  Often, these meets may run over four days, so I will often be leaving Wednesday evening and not returning until late Sunday night.  My middle son ended up qualifying for Junior Nationals this year, which was out in California, while my youngest son qualified for what is called Zones, which meant he was supposed to be in South Bend, Indiana, at the same time.  Because of a medical condition, my wife cannot drive long distances, so if we have the two kids in different cities simultaneously, either our middle son needs to drive himself, or someone needs to ride with a friend.  

Junior Nationals in California was a great experience but exhausting.  His previous swim meet, leading up to that, was a meet called Futures and was in northeast Ohio, about 45 minutes outside of Cleveland.  There was only a day between the two meets.  So we finished the meet in Ohio, drove 3 hours home, and hopped on a flight to California at 8 am the following day.  From around mid-June until August 8th, I was only at home generally two days per week, and for that ten-day period, even less than that.  Trying to take that on in addition to a new position at work really made the summer challenging.

That's my son in the green cap

But wait, that's not all!  The same son that had qualified for Junior Nationals this summer was also preparing to leave for University in the Fall.  We just dropped him off this past weekend.  So the summer was also jam-packed with finding a roommate, signing up for housing, making sure that his AP and transfer credit was taken care of, setting up his schedule, and shopping for everything he'd need to live away from home for the first time.  Our son is attending Carnegie Mellon University, about 3 1/2 hours from home.  He's going to be studying Chemical Engineering and also will be on the university's swim team.  

Finally, our youngest son has also started high school, but instead of going to the same local high school that his brother went to, he decided that he wanted to attend a private Catholic high school about 30 minutes away that many of his friends attend.  So he has spent a chunk of his summer attending a Latin preview class in addition to his usual early morning swim practice.  This new high school also has a water polo team, which he decided he wanted to try.  So, of course, his first water polo tournament of the season was the weekend after we returned from California and Indiana, with the move-in to University coming directly afterward.

I'm also working towards a Masters Degree in Accounting with a concentration in data analytics.  One of the things that I'm thinking about doing as I approach retirement is perhaps teaching college accounting.  And I need this credential to make that happen.  So I also had a summer class I took on top of everything else. 

So that has been my summer.  Despite that, I still managed to find time to play several different games and post about those games in this space.  But that should give you a general idea of why that pace has been slower than usual.  

Tomorrow, I'll post my regular weekly update, covering my initial thoughts on the latest FFXIV patch!



Friday, August 19, 2022

Back Into FFXIV

My ability to post has been curtailed lately due to some personal stuff going on.  So once again this year, my Blaugust output is much less than I would have hoped.  I don't usually write much about things going on in my personal life, but I may do a post on Monday with the current run-down.  

From a gaming standpoint, the big event for the past week is that I have hopped back into FFXIV and am probably spending more time there than I am in WoW.  I have mostly been working on leveling my Astrologian and my Red Mage.  Each day I'm running the alliance raid roulette and the frontline roulette on the Astrologian, and then on the Red Mage, I'll do the leveling roulette and the MSQ roulette.  I've also been going back on the Red Mage and knocking out some of the hard mode and max level dungeon quests from the level 50 dungeons that I have sitting in my quest journal.

In WoW, I'm down to basically just working on the Korthia and Zereth Mortis reps each day.  I had been leveling alts as well, but I sort of ran out of steam on that.  I may come back to it.  I left things off with my Enhancement Shaman.

Finally, on ESO, I did finish up the High Isle story quest line, which I really enjoyed.  I'm now back to working on the final alliance story quest line, which for me is the Ebonhart Pact.  I'm currently in a zone called Deshaun, or something like that. 

Early next week, I plan to do a quick update on what's been going on with me in real life, why the summer has been a bit crazy, and the pretty significant life events that we have coming soon.



Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Blaugust 2022: Weekly Update

 This week's update spans a couple of different games, so let's get to it!

Guild Wars 2

Somehow I missed the announcement that Episode 3 of Living World season 1 had been released.  For those of you that aren't familiar with Guild Wars 2, one of the odd downsides of the game in its current format is that there is a significant content gap between the original game and Living World Season 2, which is sort of the intro patch to the Hearth of Thorns expansion.  You get thrown in with an entirely new group of characters in Living World Season 2 and you have no idea who these folks are or where you encountered them.  That's because, Living World Season 1 was available to play when live, but then forever disappeared, other than a brief summary that was available in-game that still didn't make a ton of sense.  Until recently.

They've been releasing the original content a bit at a time since not long after the latest expansion.  Episode 3 apparently was released recently, and I went ahead and did the play-through of that, which did not disappoint!

Elder Scrolls Online

I've continued to work on the main story quest for High Isle.  It's an interesting new area and at least so far, the story holds together well.  There seems to be a fair amount to do an explore on the new island, so that will be enough to keep me busy in ESO for a while.

World of Warcraft

Finally, in World of Warcraft last week, I finally managed to get my four-piece set bonus last week, which means I'm not theoretically adequately geared for an LFR hero.  I'm continuing to work on reputations each day on Joar and leveling a few alts.  The enhancement shaman just recently hit level 53 and will be heading off to Maldraxxus shortly.  

That's the update for this week!



Monday, August 8, 2022

Blaugust 2022: Games I Currently Play

As I mentioned in my Blaugust kick-off post, this started as a blog dedicated to leveling alts in World of Warcraft, but over the years, I've taken a shot at various other games and have talked about them here.  Some are ones I enjoyed for a while, but I am no longer playing, like Rift, SWTOR, and Wildstar.  Others, I continue to play at varying intensity levels, including FFXIV, GW2, and ESO. 

Here are my current thoughts on each of the games that I'm currently playing.


Final Fantasy was a great distraction for me when I was getting seriously burnt out on World of Warcraft early in Shadowlands.  The things that I really enjoyed about FFXIV was the consistent ongoing storyline, characters that you really became very invested in, and the ability to do lots of different jobs on a single character.  You could essentially be an altoholic, without ever giving up your character identity.  The community in FFXIV is also fantastic.  They've designed the gaming systems in a way that rewards people for being patient and helpful and that really shows.

The main downside for me of FFXIV is that once you've worked through the MSQ a single time on whatever job you choose to do it on, the most efficient way to level other jobs is by just constantly queuing for dungeons and raids.  I wish more than anything that FFXIV had a questing experience that was feasible for leveling alt jobs on a single character.  


Part of the reason I started playing World of Warcraft in the first place is that I enjoyed playing games like Oblivion and Morrowind with my son.  I expected then, when they came out with an MMO version of those games, that it would be something I loved and naturally gravitated to.  That didn't initially turn out to be the case, but it's something I picked up again once I'd stepped away from World of Warcraft and is now a game that I really enjoy.

The open-world questing content for me really fits well with my play style, which can result in regular interruptions and makes constant raids and dungeons challenging.  The storyline and ambiance are very familiar from years ago playing those original games.  It's not something that I'm able to dedicate myself to entirely, but when I just need a break from some of the other games, ESO is always a great place to go.

My big wish for ESO is that they had a more typical auction house set up.


This is a game that I have picked up and put back down a lot since it was initially released many years ago.  It was something that I always struggled to push through.  However, in the content draught before Endwalker released for FFXIV, I picked it up again and finally managed to push a character all the way through the story.  Initially, it was a ranger that I leveled through the original old-world content, but once I got the boost from purchasing some of the expansions, I switched to necromancer.  

I like the story-driven content of GW2 and the ability to always be doing something interesting in the open world.  I don't like having the elite specializations locked behind significant grinds for points, or the fact that everything that performs really well in the game seems to be melee.  Even for my necromancer.  This is definitely a game that I enjoy playing now a lot more than I did when it was first released and something that I find myself picking up again from time to time, particularly when new content batches get released.

In terms of recommendations, if you are an absolute solo player that would prefer not to engage with anyone, I'd recommend ESO, if you love thriving communities and tear-jerking stories, FFXIV is the place to be.  If you're looking for something with challenging game play where you can do a little of both, GW2 might be worth checking out.

That's it for now.



Thursday, August 4, 2022

Blaugust 2022: Topic Selection

This blog has never really intended to be a way for me to develop some kind of massive audience - good thing, huh!  It has always really been about a place for me to store a record of what I've been getting done with the video game side of my life.  Sort of like a personal diary for my online gaming persona, Joar.

As a result, I tend to fairly strictly limit what I discuss on the blog to topics that center around gaming and the games I'm playing.  I have gone on tangents on things that are more closely related to my real life, like the various posts that I've written analyzing Blizzard's SEC filings and earnings releases.  I'm in finance and accounting in real life and in previous roles, have been responsible for the SEC filings and earnings releases for my own company.

I do, especially now, as I discussed in my first Blaugust entry, play several different MMO's, so the blog isn't strictly dedicated to World of Warcraft anymore.  I feel comfortable talking about different games that I'm playing and what I think about them.  I'll also talk about things that are tangentially related to those games, like how their community relations seem to work, how their finances look, and general thoughts on the developer team. 

I don't generally get at all political on the blog and tend to stay pretty far away from current events and real-life topics.  There have been minor isolated exceptions to that rule, but in general, it's a mantra that I follow pretty closely.  I've debated changing that stance, particularly over the last few years when I've felt like I have less to say about games, and more to say about other topics, but so far I've held to that rule.

Leveling has always been my real passion with these games, so I tend to spend a lot of time talking about tips and advice for dealing with solo open-world content.  Each week tends to just be an update on what I've been doing and the progress that I've made.  If there is a significant development, patch, or release for one of the games that I've been playing, I'll also generally provide my thoughts after I've had a chance to play it through.

That's it for today's update!



Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Blaugust 2022: A Regular Weekly Update

 I don't normally write as often as I'm hoping to during Blaugust - although I already missed day 2 - but I do at least attempt to get a weekly update down in these spaces, so I'm going to take the opportunity today to do the regular weekly update, and we'll return to more Blaugust themed posts tomorrow.

I managed to get my demon hunter to max level before the leveling bonus expired on Tuesday.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that I had apparently forgotten to write down the starting /played time, so I have no idea how long it took.  Going back and leveling him using the main storyline quests worked just fine, and I actually dinged 60 not long after entering Revendreth.  I suspect that it wasn't quite as fast as using straight threads of fate simply because of all the cut scene time.

I've now started to work on the shadow priest and have him at level 57 or 58 already, using the good old-fashioned Threads of Fate method.  The shaman will be up after that, and I honestly have no memory of whether I normally level this one as enhancement or elemental.  I'm hoping it's enhancement because I suspect that will be quite a bit easier.

I also managed to finish up Revendreth rep on my main, which leaves only Maldraxxus of the original group.  Then it's just a matter of finishing up Korthia and Zereth Mortis reps, and I'll have the complete set.  I did manage to get the 70 exalted reputations achievement too, which was kind of cool.  Although it doesn't seem to actually reward anything.

And that's the update for this week.



Monday, August 1, 2022

Blaugust 2022: The Evolution of Wow Alt Addiction / MMO Casual

I started this blog a little over 13 years ago, in June 2009.  My youngest son, who is heading off to high school this year, was just a little over a year old.  My oldest son, who is now married, owns his own house and works in IT, was 13 years old.  A lot has happened over that period of time.

These pages have evolved pretty significantly over that period of time.  It really started as a way to document, what I thought was a fairly ambitious plan - to level a character of each class to max level.  The idea behind the blog was to document that journey, share any tips or tricks learned along the way and share thoughts on the current state of the game from the perspective of a casual leveler / altoholic.

I started the blog during Cataclysm, although I had been playing, primarily on my warlock, since early in Burning Crusade.  The goal was achieved fairly quickly, with the mission accomplished in September of 2010.  

I didn't really start branching out and covering other games until things started to go stale towards the end of Cataclysm, and I picked up playing Rift in September of 2011 and spent some time discussing that game.  From there, I continued to bounced back and forth between Warcraft and some other games, playing and talking about SWTOR in January 2012, 

Mists of Pandaria brought a refreshed focus on WoW, along with a new goal of killing the final expansion end-boss, Garrosh, on all of my max-level characters.  Fortunately, that raid ended up being out for so long, that goal was easier to achieve than one would have liked.

In 2014, after that LFR goal was achieved, I added the goal of leveling a character of each class alliance-side as well, so started embarking on that once I had gotten all of my Horde characters to max level in Mists.  The summer of 2014 also involved the introduction of Wildstar, so I gave that a shot and spent some time talking about my impressions of that game.  

It was also late in this year that I started doing regular discussions of Activision-Blizzard's quarterly earnings releases.  This was something that I only did for a year or two, because it quickly reached the point where Blizzard had so many different properties, that there stopped being specific disclosures in those releases related to Warcraft.

I hit the goal of a character from each class and each faction at max level in May of 2016, almost 7 years to the day after the initial birth of the blog.  From there, things stayed pretty steady with Warcraft for a very long time.  I think I finally ended up with something like 42 max-level characters.  Basically 3 of each class, with a few extras besides.  

In September of 2020 I started to play FFXIV much more than I was playing WoW, while I was waiting for Shadowlands to release.  And I will I picked up and leveled three toons to max immediately upon Shadowlands release, it was then that I hit a while.  I ended up unsubscribing from WoW in March of 2021 and spent the next 15 months or so focused entirely on FFXIV, Guild Wars 2 and Elder Scrolls Online.  

Then about 2 months ago, I got the urge to pick up WoW again and see what had changed.  So now we're back to having WoW content in the feed again, along with a little interspersed from other games.

Tomorrow, I'll talk a little bit more about how I decide what to write about each day and what kinds of topics I am, and am not usually interested in pursuing.

That's it for now.



Dawntrail Progress

Since last week's update, I finished the MSQ for Dawntrail and have unlocked all of the expert dungeons so I can start running expert ro...