Posted in Gaming, Nintendo 3DS

FF Explorers: First Eidolon Down

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I’m slowly making progress in Final Fantasy Explorers. Enjoying the game a lot and learning what all it has to offer. I beat Ifrit tonight – really liked his design in this game, too.

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Started out leveling a Knight as my first class. I’ve upgraded her armor further than the image below shows, and tamed my first creature – a Mandragora. Leveling it up so it can be a side healer for me.

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I’m also making all kinds of neat ability combos. How about a taunt that sets things on fire and has a chance to cast death? Yes, please! ūüôā

Posted in Geek Stuff, Mobile Gaming

Jailbreaking Isn’t Hard to Do (Whited00r iPod Touch)

WhiteD00r-LogoSo I’ve been on a bit of a “purpose kick” lately – meaning I’m cleaning up old, outdated things and finding a better purpose for what I have. If I feel I don’t have a purpose for something, I’ve been giving it away.

Many years ago, I swore I had no need for a smart phone. Back then, I didn’t. Instead of a phone, I picked up an iPod Touch. Mine is a second generation, to be exact, dated 2008 on the back.

Yesterday, I rediscovered my iPod, and took it to work with me with all intentions to leave it on the “gifting” table in the break room for someone else to take home. What need do¬†I have for an item that couldn’t even run any apps anymore? I think that was the problem I eventually ran up against… the final update for the iPod Touch G2 was iOS 4.2, and as apps moved on, there was nothing I could install from the app store.

But after I charged the iPod and turned it on for the first time in years, then did a factory reset on it, I started having second thoughts about giving it away. The back was scuffed up quite a bit since I never had a case for it, but the front still had the original screen protector, and the device worked like new. Slow, but like new.

Still, my question remained: What could I do with an old iPod Touch (aside from playing music). So I did some research, and fell upon the idea of jailbreaking it.

Now, jailbreaking is not something I’ve considered doing on any of my devices before this. I always imagined myself bricking something in trying.

apptimemachineBut this one is 8 years old, and I didn’t see the harm in messing around with it. I found a specific firmware called whited00r which not only jailbreaks the device, but upgrades the interface to look like iOS7, and includes¬†an app market with the integrated¬†AppTimeMachine. This was the big seller for me.

So I went to the site, downloaded whited00r, followed the instructions and restored my iPod to the new firmwear. I had some moments with iTunes wanting to hang, but that wasn’t whited00r’s fault. When it was done, I had a functional iPod Touch that looked a whole lot like an iOS 7 device.

Not only that, but the App Store was automatically replaced with the AppTimeMachine shop, which has¬†rolled-back versions of many apps that work with the version of iOS installed by the firmware! I was able to test out a few of them, which installed and launched just fine – such as Pandora and IHeartRadio. Other apps would install, like WordPress and Dropbox, but due to being outdated and unsupported, it threw errors or didn’t work right when I tried to use then¬†for things.

I discovered I had a set of discarded computer speakers in my closet Рwhich I had almost thrown away -and that the iPod accepted the PC speaker jack like headphones. Suddenly, I had a lovely little Pandora radio player for my bedroom.

Instead of giving the iPod away, I invested in a new case and a new screen protector to spruce it up. I’m now enjoying toying around with old apps and seeing what works with this new jailbreak firmware.

What do you do with your old technology? Do you save them for a rainy day (like me), do you give them away, or do you find ways to re-purpose them? 

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Void Ark Bard Set Complete!

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I was pretty stoked when I somehow managed to see the Bard legs drop, and win them against another Bard, during Void Ark tonight. It’s the last big piece I needed for my set. I’ve been waiting on the drop for weeks, and been taking healer drops instead since I just never see this. I still need the belt, but I don’t count that, because I’m probably just going to fill that slot with an Alex upgrade. So, Zuri’s finally coming along.

I also saved enough Law Tomes to get my¬†Haurchefant portrait, too. I put all the paissa dolls around it because I think¬†Haurchefant would find that cute. And they look like they’re cheering for him. ūüôā

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Posted in Gaming, Nintendo 3DS

Final Fantasy Explorers: Tough to Find

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Today, my little FF app reminded me it was the release day for Final Fantasy Explorers. I’ve been on the fence about whether to pick it up or not, so I was waiting for the reviews.

But now that it’s released, I’m hearing there’s a shortage of physical retail copies. Amazon has apparently over promised their pre-orders. So if you weren’t one of the early preorders, your game isn’t in your mailbox today. Bummer.

Reports are coming in that other b&m stores are selling out or have very limited supplies. I went to Target to do my weekly grocery shopping and stopped by the games section to see one copy left. I picked it up there,¬†where¬†the guy behind the counter told me they only got two copies in, and his scanner had no idea when they’d get another shipment.

Yikes!

So, reviews are sorta mixed on this. People are comparing it to the obvious – Phantasy Star Online and Monster Hunter. Some people are knocking it because they say it’s much, much easier than Monster Hunter. But you know what? That’s alright with me.

I’ve only played Monster Hunter 3 for the Wii, and that was about 5 years ago. I remember the difficulty being pretty tough for me, though I did learn and get better, despite the challenge. So, if this game is a fun romp that’s similar to MH, but with a FF twist to it… and it’s a tad easier? Well, then it sounds like a game that’s fun to me!

I’ll let you know what I think once I’ve got some time under my belt! Anyone else picking this up?¬†

Posted in Gaming, MMORPGs

Which MMOs Make You Feel Badass?

badaPardon my French, but I used that word in my title on purpose. This post was inspired by a book I’m reading for¬†work entitled Badass: Making Users Awesome by Kathy Sierra. So the word is totally relevant in this case.

Now, the entire idea behind this book is really interesting. Catch this.

The¬†book’s author notes that for a brand or product to succeed against competitors, it’s not just¬†quality, customer service, design, or how cool a product is – though those things help. It’s more about¬†the feeling the user feels when they use the product – do they become better and better at something, and take pride in what the product helps them create? Do they feel awesome¬†at doing whatever task the product is supposed to help them¬†to accomplish? If so, they are more likely to talk positively about the product, and that product is more likely to succeed based on the user’s organic, word of mouth promotion.

To quote one of the editorial reviews on the Amazon page:

Believe it or not, many people don’t care how awesome your product is. Instead, they care about how awesome they are when they use your product.

Daniel H. Pink

MMOs That Make you Feel Awesome

I started thinking about this in terms of MMOs and games, and I realize the same can be said of what¬†we choose to play. I don’t know about you, but I tend to gravitate towards games that either make me feel awesome about my character/skills or allow me to build a character that I feel is awesome in some way. In short, we’re more likely to be loyal to a game that makes us feel good about our digital selves or¬†our accomplishments¬†– whatever we see our accomplishments as being.

This can be different for each person. It could be that you feel awesome at PVP. Maybe you’re a pretty darn skilled healer or tank for your guild. Maybe you’re proud of the house and farm you built in your sandbox game. Maybe you’ve collected enough mounts and pets to put a zoo to shame.

All these goals provide an intrinsic feeling of awesome. And the games that don’t do that for us on a personal, individual basis are less likely to get our money and time.

The Awesome Progression

Another thing to take into consideration is that player growth may be gradual, especially if a player is brand new to a certain game. So how well does the game move a player from being a “noob” to being what the player perceives as a competent player?

What about MMOs that are perceived as nothing but “grind?” What about¬†when a game you’ve played for a while suddenly introduces a new feature (that then becomes grindy, too punishing, and unrewarding)? The book warns about what happens when you make users feel like they’re stuck in a “Suck Zone.”

Credit: Scanned from
Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

I’ve been here before. When I start to ask myself why I’m wasting my time hitting my head against a wall over and over. Gaming is supposed to be fun, right?

Usually, this is a fast track for me finding a different game that feels more rewarding.

Then, there’s the MMO expansion syndrome. The devs have all these great ideas for new features and fun things to bring players back to their game. They raise the level cap, and suddenly, all that hard-earned gear becomes something of the past. The trash mobs on the overworld map are dropping better gear than what you raided hours to get.

Or there’s some new feature or strange upgrade system or the game locks you out until you attune to something, and it’s just frustrating. You used to be at the top of your game.¬†Suddenly, you find yourself back in the suck zone, and that… well… sucks.

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Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

Proper progression, the book suggests, is one where the game is able to balance changes without taking away the progress and learning the player has made. That should look something like this:

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Credit: Scanned from “Badass: Making Users Awesome” Book

While that’s¬†a good thing to shoot for in a game, MMOs have it difficult because they appeal to gamers of many different playstyles. It may be easy to pacify that RPer or person who just wants to decorate their in-game house (throw fluff at them). But what about those players who always demand a challenge? Who want that uber raid to overcome? And when does the uber raid go from a balanced challenge that makes a player feel good about what they’ve achieved to being something so over-the-top difficult that only 1% of the playerbase could ever hope to beat it?

Well, all those thoughts aside…

My questions to you are: 

Which games have made you feel awesome? Did you stick around them longer? Recommend them to gaming friends? Blog about them? Become part of that community?

Which games failed to make you feel awesome, or lost the awesome over time? Did you eventually leave, or did you keep trying to return to see if you could recapture that awesome?

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Healing Crystal Tower Sunday

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Whoa. Wait. No, you didn’t misread that title!¬†

I did, indeed, heal my first raids this weekend. And they were, indeed, Syrcus Tower and World of Darkness.

Slowly, quietly, I have been leveling Zuri’s White Mage while gathering crystals for my first Relic weapon. I’ve gathered them all now, and White Mage is only at level 57… so, I have a ways to go before I reach level 60. So close, so far away.

Each week, I’ve been rolling for healing gear in Void Ark, and have been able to gather many drops… since my Bard legs don’t seem to want to drop. So, I’ve been slowly working on end game gear, but I’m not quite there yet. But there is one raid I can run at my level.

Crystal Tower Sunday

Crystal Tower Sunday is an initiative started by clever folks on the FFXIV Reddit. CT is a series of three raids that used to be pretty popular before Heavensward dropped. However, now that a lot of it is somewhat trivial due to many players being far overgeared, and the fact that the dev team hasn’t really put CT in a raid roulette or made drops there desirable for level 60 players, it’s really, really hard to get a queue together to play it.

This is sad because it’s a series of really fun raids. It’s also the raid content that fresh level 50s and folks who don’t have Heavensward can enjoy. It’s a favorite among some of our FC, including Syn. And I still have to admit that I enjoy it more than Void Ark and miss running it.

CT Sunday is an allotted time when people of all servers and data centers get together and queue up for the raids in order to actually have a chance to play it. The idea is to relive the fun we used to have and teach players who are new to the fights the mechanics. This week was really successful in that I saw two runs that were really dedicated to getting the new players through.

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Despite being a 24-man raid, CT is a place of learning and honing end game skills. For me, I really learned how to work in a large group and got better at my Dragoon rotations by playing CT. I think playing CT was the time when the game started to click for me… so it was always an instance that we encouraged new level 50s to practice in.

Now, you’d think a raid wouldn’t be the best place to practice, but it really is. Yes, there are mechanics to learn (and practice), but once you understand what the fights are about and how to handle them, the rest of it is learning how to work in a group to the best of your ability. Large boss fights have just enough staying power to let you practice rotations, but also enough mechanics to teach you how to effectively dodge and work in a group.

Learning to Heal

I’m not sure where it came up that I could practice healing on Zuri in CT. But it seems like a natural place to start. It’s a large group, yes, but I had¬†a second healer (Syn) to back me up, despite all of my own self-doubts. Plus there are four other healers to help take the pressure off if things start going poorly for our teams.

I know the fights and mechanics in CT well after doing them so many times as DPS. But all these things¬†didn’t keep me from fretting and entering the queue in my scared-to-death hand-shaking state of mind I usually get when I’m doing something totally different for the first time.

I may have leveled a White Mage to 57, but I rarely healed a dungeon past Brayflox before this. My mind is wrapped around the DPS perspective (with a little tanking experience thrown in), which is really, really different than what you think about and focus on when you’re healing.

Suddenly, you’re watching health bars and trying to make sure the main tank stays alive. It becomes a more personal experience as you start to notice the names and jobs of people in your group – especially those DPS who seem to be struggling to stay alive.

Some of the folks playing CT were brand new to the raid, so we had a mixture of levels, gear and experience. It made for some pretty interesting situations. Never were we at risk for wiping, but I saw more deaths as a healer in CT than I usually do as DPS.

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Part of it is because I’m still trying to practice concentrating on two things at once: mechanics and health bars. As as DPS, all I have to worry about is mechanics and rotation… and those two things blend into one pretty naturally for me. As a healer, I found myself fudging easy mechanics (Mortal Gaze) now and then, and felt that perspective shift the most.

I’m learning the woes of healers, as well. Such as… when you’re healing so hard to keep the DPS alive, but they die anyhow. Then all the aggro that was killing the¬†DPS¬†focus-fires you down, despite you pulling the mobs to the tank. ><

I also have some trouble knowing when to shift in and out of Cleric Stance to do damage. The moment I pop in and get a stone off seems to be the moment some DPS is eating AOE. Now, part of that could be because the DPS was new to mechanics, too, but it made me leery about stance dancing before I felt comfortable just dealing with healing + mechanics.

Overall, though, I think I have potential as a healer. I didn’t dislike it. In fact, I asked to go through WoD a second time just to practice it some more (and got picked at by Syn for it). Hey… I can only get in the raid every Sunday, so might as well keep practicing the thing I’m already learning, right?

I wasn’t as nervous the second and third time through, though I feel like I need a lot of practice to unlearn the ways of DPS and think like a healer. It’s a whole different way to play FFXIV, almost like a new game in a way, and that’s a rather exciting prospect.

PS – Check Reddit for upcoming information on Crystal Tower Sunday this weekend. Spread the word! Join in! I want to practice my healing more! ūüôā

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Posted in Gaming, Steam Challenge

Steam Challenge: Castaway Paradise

 

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Game: Castaway Paradise 
Time Played: 3 Hours

I totally blame this on Micawber, my brother-in-law, who introduced me to this. He’s interested in Animal Crossing, but doesn’t own the game or systems to play it. So, he’s been on the lookout for something similar for PC or mobile. Then he stumbled upon this on Steam, and it sounds like he’s totally addicted.

I picked it up, too, because it’s on sale this week, and I figured $5¬†wasn’t too much a loss if I didn’t like it. It touts itself as a blocky-looking Animal Crossing for PC, though my understanding is that it’s a port from the mobile version. As a lover of Animal Crossing through the years, I decided to try it out.

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I feel that it’s somewhat a cross between Animal Crossing and Farmville. You do feel the remnants of the mobile gaming monetization there – though they’ve changed the PC version to have no in-game purchases. There’s a VIP status in the game, which you earn by reaching level 15, that I can’t help but feel was probably what you bought into on mobile. It’s fine, because it doesn’t distract from what I’m playing at all… I just notice these things having played too many Facebook games.

The Farmville elements come in the form of quests that you pick up from the villagers. Unlike Animal Crossing where you accidentally stumble upon deeds to do for your neighbors by chatting with them or passing them by, this game throws a quest list up on the side of the screen, so you always have something to do. That’s not so much a bad thing, but it does differ in that you’re leveling and working on objectives.

There’s a bit of a timer when it comes to crops, similar to Farmville. However, not watering crops won’t lead to their loss, so it’s not quite as punishing.

To say that the game takes inspiration from Animal Crossing is an understatement. While it takes place on an island instead of a town, it has many of the elements you expect from an AC game: fishing, bug catching, decorating, collecting things in a museum, upgrading your home, changing your character’s looks, meeting animal villagers and doing stuff for them, and, of course, cleaning up weeds.

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The one thing it does lack is the multiplayer functions. You can’t visit a friend’s island and hang out with them, which is a bit of a bummer.

The game’s aesthetics work for what they are, though I’m still getting used the blocky style character art. The way my character runs bugs me a bit, and the flailing about the villagers make when they “wave” to you is also questionable.

The game’s dialogue tries very hard to imitate AC’s quirky fun, but just doesn’t quite have the same charm and feeling behind it. Because villagers don’t move in and out, and conversations don’t happen as organically, I don’t get the sense of forging relationships (good or bad) between them.

If I don’t like a villager in AC, I can knock him with a shovel or toss him in a pitfall and hope he moves out sometime. Here, it seems like I’m stuck with these characters no matter what I think of them. Vice versa, I still have pictures that some of my old AC friends sent me before they moved out sitting in my house. *sniff*

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That’s not to say that Castaway Paradise is a bad game. It’s not. It’s fun and it has its own style… it just gets overshadowed by those like me who have played way too much AC in the past. It feels a little more geared towards kids – and would actually make a great kid game, IMHO, as it’s very safe – but adults can enjoy it, too.¬†Micawber seems to be captivated by it, at least, having never played an AC before.

So if you’ve never tried an AC game, or you are looking for something similar to AC on the PC, I can suggest Castaway Paradise. Just don’t expect it to have the same development as a full-blown Nintendo-created game from the Animal Crossing series and you should be fine. It’s cute for what it is, and worth it if you grab it on sale.

Recommended: 

yes

Yes, if you enjoy AC type games and can catch it on sale.

Posted in Browser Games, Gaming, Virtual Pets

Appaloosa Patterns Released in Horse World Online

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Over the winter, I’ve somewhat taken a break from breeding horses at Horse World Online. While I’m still a big fan of the site and all it offers, just so much was going on and my stables have gotten quite a bit disorganized.

Yesterday, the team made an announcement that got me excited, though. The much-awaited white patterns have been added to horse genetics! My understanding is that you have a chance to find these hidden genes in many of the base breeds you adopt from the wild – and you have to have new bloodlines to get these.

A lot of time went into not just the art, but the research and science behind the genetics that cause these patterns, which is quite impressive! The thing I love most about Horse World Online is their desire to really base as much of the game as possible on real life colors and genetics.

The guide below provides a sample – you can see a bigger version of this on their official website.

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Posted in Gaming, Nintendo 3DS

LoZ: Master Sword

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As I promised in a previous post¬†I am consistently working on playing through Legend of Zelda titles this year, starting with A Link Between Worlds. Tonight I learned how to take screenshots from my 3DS to Miiverse, so now I can better chronicle my progress. I’m only playing a little bit here and there, but at least trying to make some progress each day. That’s been working out for me.

So, last night I got the last pendant I needed to unlock the Master Sword. Today I puzzled through the Lost Woods and claimed my prize!

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I also went to rescue Zelda, but died (for the first time since I started playing) on the boss. I have an idea what I need to do to beat it, but didn’t feel like running all through that dungeon again tonight. I’ll try again tomorrow.

This game is really big on puzzles. I’ve been pretty stern¬†in figuring them all out myself, though there have been a few times I really wanted to go to the Internet for help. But I didn’t! So I’m doing well!