Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Bound by Faith

In order to reach my goal of getting my final two FFXIV jobs to level 80, I’ve been running Trusts with my Gunbreaker this month. I’d already leveled half of my Trust party a long while back, and those who were left required a Tank for team composition. So this made sense to do.

I absolutely love Trusts when it comes to going through MSQ on a second or third or fourth character, as I tend to do. However, using them to level alt jobs, while it’s pretty quick to do, is not my method of choice. I’d much rather take my time and just do beast tribe quests every day – that’s a quick 5 mins of work vs. the 40-something mins the Trust party drags out dungeons to be.

That being said, I did much of it for sake of earning the achievement: Bound by Faith.

I don’t often chase titles and achievements in FFXIV, but I decided long ago I wanted my main to have a fully leveled Trust group. I’m not even sure why. I guess I do like the title that comes with it: Trusted Friend.

Speaking of titles, I did decide to take part in the leaderboards for the ongoing Ishgard Restoration on Tad. I realized quickly that he first needed a crafting job leveled to 80 – all of his of any mention were in the 50s. So I speed-leveled his Goldsmith and have been slowly pulling him up the ladder to secure a spot for when the event ends tomorrow.

I’m pretty happy with this spot, just as long as I’m in the top 100 to get the title. I have a stack of materials in his inventory with plans to continue turn-ins for the next few days.

I’ve sadly had NO luck with Kupo O Fortune in earning either the trike or the new casual attire coffers. I’ve kept my eye on them price-wise and they’ve slowly been coming down. But I’m still not keen in plunking down over a million gil for the outfit just yet. I like the outfit, but I don’t know that I’d use it a whole lot, so I’m holding back.

Anyhow, I’m hoping my luck will turn and I know that the Kupo rewards aren’t going anywhere in the long run, either. So hopefully once the new hotness wears off, it’ll become more affordable.

Posted in Gaming

Astrologaster – A Comedy of Errors

I mentioned in yesterday’s post that I’d not finished just one, but two games last week! Astrologaster was the second game I completed over the weekend.

Though I’m linking to the Steam page for it, I played this as part of the Xbox PC Pass free trial I picked up last month. I had so much fun with this that it alone was worth the price of the Pass for a month (if I’d been paying for it)!

I guess that story-driven (visual novel-ish) games have just been a thing for me lately. I had no clue what this game was about when I started it. But once I understood the experience I was in for, I was hooked and along for the ride.

The game is set in Shakespearian England and carries with it a blend of witty language (all fairly pleasingly voice acted) and a wry, sometimes quite suggestive or dark, humor. If you can appreciate the type of clever humor that the game is shooting for, then you’ll likely have a ball laughing along.

The end of every line of Mary’s songs rhyme. Given that, you can fill in the blank that the “fa la la la” leaves you. 😉

You play as Doctor Simon Forman who seeks answers to his patient’s needs from reading the stars. Interestingly enough, Doctor Forman was a real fellow (I learned after I finished the game and went to look it up on Google), and he actually did keep a case book with information on his querents – which is loosely what the game references.

The only problem is, Doctor Forman achieved his position by fluke in curing the plague. He doesn’t actually have a medical license, and now London is cracking down on anyone who practices without one. So your goal is to earn letters of recommendation from your clients by earning their approval through treating their situations with tact and care.

Only… this is easier said than done. Sometimes you provide the best honest choice (from what you’re given by the stars), and that’s not what your client wants to hear at the moment. They’ll go away annoyed with your answer (you lose points with them), only to come back at the next visit to tell you that your advice had been true (and you earn the points back and often much more).

As the game continues, you quickly start to realize that there’s a web woven between a number of your clients. This can be due to being married, or having met one another somewhere outside of your practice, etc. Some of the answers you provide, should the client follow them, sometimes effect another client – who then comes back to you, completely unaware you were the cause of the fortune/misfortune in their life.

No one in this game, not even Doctor Forman, is a saint by any means. You get that pretty early on as you peek into the dark humorous undercurrents of the lives of his clients. Eventually, you’re “reading the stars” for some characters but providing solutions less due to what the stars tell you and more because of what you know about other people that your current client does not.

I have to admit that though I tried to play the straight and narrow in the beginning, the mischief of this game is infectious. I ended up giving some advice that I knew would lead specific unsavory characters into… less than kind situations… with other characters. I may have been grinning evilly while I did it.

And that’s part of the fun of it all. You never know how a client is going to take even your best-intended advice. So you learn to cut loose and try out some of those what-ifs from time to time.

In the end, though, I managed to earn about 8-9 letters of recommendation from my clients. And that was enough for my fine Doctor Forman to earn his license!

I can see replayability in this game, especially if you weren’t able to secure the letters of recommendation needed for his license, but I’ll be content in my initial experience – blunders and all. While I had good fun and a few regrets on choices I made, I find it even more fun to watch other people play the game through online and see what they choose.

Oh, and I can’t write a post about this game and not mention the hugely talented choir of singers that narrated many songs along the way. They were just icing on the cake!

If any of this interests you, check out some videos out there on the game or just try it for yourself. It’s worth a romp.

Posted in Gaming, Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch: Resolutions, Done with my Coffee Talk

I’m pleased to announce that I finished a game this week! (Gasp!) Actually, I finished TWO games, but I’ll talk about the other one later.

It’s been a while since I’ve played a game from start to finish, even one of the shorter indie games. So I felt pretty good to be making my resolutions to play more Switch Games a reality this early in the year.

I wrote about how I was playing Coffee Talk and how the story being broken into 20-30 minute pieces really did well to fit into my nights. I was able to consistently pick the game up just about every day until I finally completed the main story.

Of course, the game let me know that I missed some content along the way (this was stuff you wouldn’t have been able to figure out unless you looked it up online). While I’m curious and really enjoyed my time with Coffee Talk, I have way too many other games to tackle to circle back to it at this point.

By the end of the game, I was a little sorry that the story was over. I had fun getting to know the folks at the coffee shop and seeing how they developed and connected with each other. There were no huge shocking plot twists in the end – it remained all fantasy slice-of-life.

Though I’m still curious as to who/what my character was – it was hinted at but never explained. Maybe that’s the content I missed. Who knows!

Onward!

So, while I still had momentum on my Switch, I decided to pick another game from my backlog to tackle. I looked over titles that I’d started but never finished and chose to return to the remake of Link’s Awakening.

I wrote about my experiences with the game back in 2019 – yes, it’s been that long! I know that I had a lot of fun playing it but… for whatever reason, I just set it down and didn’t get any further than I was at the point when I wrote a post about it.

Seeing that I was only three dungeons in, I had a choice to make. Either I could push on with the save I had (though I only dimly remembered what had happened up to that point) or I could start over since I wasn’t too terribly far into the game.

I decided to start over and picked a clean save spot. In playing it over the weekend, I’m almost back to the point where I was when I left off before. I remembered a few things that helped me get through a bit faster this time around, but for the most part, it was like playing the game anew for me.

I’m going to try to pace myself, like I did with Coffee Talk, and work towards finishing this game. I have a handful of games that are in a similar unfinished state (some which I just won’t spend the time to start over from scratch again), but I’m feeling good about making progress in my Switch backlog.

And it’s fun, too, of course!

Posted in Blogging

My 7th Blogiversary!

Today I celebrate this blog’s 7th year! Every time I hit this milestone, I’m surprised that I’ve stuck with it for yet another year. But I also couldn’t imagine not writing for this blog, either!

Not to start out on a bummer note, but last year was not my proudest year when it comes to maintaining this blog. My mind was on other blogs and other communities, and I really let this one slip through the cracks. I didn’t participate in any of the Blaugust events and I honestly am a little shy to try to poke my head back into that group on Discord (I have trouble keeping up with Discord as it is).

But that being said, I really want to turn that around this year and get back to writing for this blog. I’ve started that already in consolidating many of the mini-blogs that took away from time blogging here. I think that’s been a good direction to go in.

Some Stats

First, I’m super stoked that I have over 400 followers on WordPress Reader now! Thank you all! 🙂

I usually don’t talk about stats on my blogiversary, but I think I will this year. I’m surprised that despite having written significantly less this past year (almost 100 less posts from the year before), it didn’t have a huge effect on my traffic. I had less views, but only marginally.

I only have stats dating back to 2016 when I migrated this blog to WordPress.com

I guess I’ve gotten to a point where the content is basically keeping the blog going even if I take a little break from adding to it. The most popular post of last year is one that I wrote back in 2018 on the FFXIV Bard Music Player! In fact, it was so popular that I even updated that post last year with the newest BMP information.

However, there were some posts I wrote last year that figured in my top viewed, too, such as:

  1. FFXIV – Ocean Fishing Guide
  2. FFXIV: Patch 5.21 – Diadem for Gatherers
  3. FFXIV: A Dragon’s Best Friend
  4. FFXIV: Patch 5.3 – Flying is Coming to ARR Zones, ARR MSQ Consolidation
  5. FFXIV: YoKai Watch Event Returns!

Yeah, FFXIV content is a staple on my blog. No surprise about that!

WordAds

I’m going to talk about something else I rarely do: monetization.

I don’t blog for profit or really for stats and views. That’s never been my focus for this blog, which has always been an outlet for me to post whatever I’m excited about at the moment – be it in the gaming world, or some hobby that’s fascinating me.

That being said, I have posted before that I do run WordAds on this blog. I’ve been told that folks who run pop-up blockers don’t even know this – and that’s fine. I also run a pop-up blocker on most of the Internet, so I don’t blame you.

Somehow, this blog still generates a small amount of revenue. Not a lot – lately it’s been something between $9-$20 a month. But, again, interestingly, despite having cut back in content last year, I still managed to make a bit more than the year before.

Basically, this blog made $141.98 last year.

Yes, I do get paid every time the revenue hits $100 – which has only been twice since 2018. So I can confirm that WordAds makes good on its promises to pay.

Earning about $142 is enough to pay this blog’s hosting cost for the year, cover the cost of the domain name, and maybe another domain name or two I that own. So really, all this revenue goes to paying the expenses of hosting the blog that’s making it, and that is completely fine with me.

Into 2021

Now that I’ve made up my mind to put much more attention back on this blog in 2021, I’m looking forward to seeing where it’s all going to go. I’ve been making an effort to play a wider variety of games in January already, and I’m trying to be more active on my Twitter again.

Hopefully I’ll meet you back here in a year to see what this year turned out to look like. Trying to make it a good one!

Posted in Fiddle

Two Years of Fiddle

While this isn’t the exact date of when I first picked up a fiddle to learn to play, it’s the day I’ve dedicated as my fiddle anniversary. About this time two years ago, I was just starting to become serious about practice.

This hasn’t been a completely seamless experience for me – I had a couple months in the first year when I set the instrument down and wondered if I’d ever pick it back up. But I did, and I’m glad that I did.

This past year has been a focus on evolving my practice and being as consistent as I can with practicing every day. As of February of last year, I’ve only missed about 5 days of practice (a day or two was due to things I couldn’t control). That is absolutely astounding for me, and I’ve learned a lot by sticking to a schedule as much as I did.

I learned to spend more time practicing songs, rather than just skipping off to the next tune in the book. I learned when to say when – identifying songs that were out of my skill range and were only causing frustration.

I found a way to consistently practice sight reading, and this has gone really well! I also started the process of learning vibrato – this has been a very slow, difficult journey. Honestly, I didn’t expect it to take as long as it has, but it’s been another learning experience.

I started to really focus on bowing exercises and found a more consistent practice book for scales. I also experimented with gear such as rosin, shoulder rests and chin rests.

I have to say that looking back a year ago, I’ve changed just about everything I was doing with practice except the fiddle and the bow! And even sometimes then, I do pick up my secondary fiddle just to mess around on it. 🙂

Being completely self-taught, I’m having to rely on resources in books and online for my learning. This has been a discovery process as I’m always looking to pick up some new knowledge and implement it to see if it works for me. I know that I probably would be much “further along” (whatever that means) if I had a teacher guiding me, but that’s not a reality for me at this time still. Maybe one day.

My focus for this year is to remain consistent in practice. I want to continue to evolve my practice exercises, work on finding good tone and clean string crossings, develop what I’ve started with my vibrato, and build up playing endurance.

My lack of playing endurance is what’s hurting me most right now. My practice sessions are getting longer, but my shoulders start to ache, and it falls apart near the end when I’m working on my most intensive tunes. I need to find a way to strengthen my shoulders in order to better finish out my daily practice and to just play longer over all.

Still so much to work on! I hope to be reporting good things come this time next year!

-Header Image Source-

Posted in FFXIV, Gaming, MMORPGs

FFXIV: Ishgard Restoration 5.41

It’s that time again! The Ishgard Restoration is underway and the Skybuilder Rankings are open again! I do believe this is the final leg of the Restoration story-wise. I’m not sure if this will be the final leaderboard rankings as well.

While I’ve earned a title for my main and my RP alt, I have yet a third character, Tad, whom I’ve leveled all gatherers to 80 on. He started the Restoration with only three crafting jobs in the 50s (he now has one in the 60s after last night’s efforts), and I’d like to make progress on these as well.

I’d considered working on a title for him, but I quickly realized that you don’t actually get points in the ranking if you’re not crafting the higher level recipes. So everything I did on his level 50-something goldsmith didn’t count yesterday. If I really want to be ambitious, I could push to get this job into the 70s, where I think you start accumulating points(?) It wouldn’t be impossible to get on the leaderboard for my server at this point still.

Because I had to mine up lower level mats to level his crafting jobs, Tad didn’t get much in the way of points for his mining or botany, either. I’m somewhat tempted to just buy the materials (since they’re already cheap) and focus on leveling my crafting job up instead. I just don’t know how much effort I feel up to putting into the title a third time, though I always enjoy gathering in the Diadem when other people are around and active.

The Diadem itself has undergone quite a change, too! Gone are the heatwaves and yellow, thank goodness. Welcome is the gentle snowy weather instead. Much easier on the eyes!

If you’re taking on the rankings this time around, I wish you luck! I still need to catch up on a lot of the quests in Ishgard, but it’s been pretty fun to see content built just for crafters and gatherers, and how much of a crowd it always draws.

Posted in FFXIV

FFXIV: Taking Amazing Screenshots with GShade Filters

Link to the GShade website. Download and see help documentation there.-

Several years back, I wrote about how I’d installed Stormshade as a filter for my FFXIV screenshots. Sadly, over time, I noticed that Stormshade had not updated and was far from using the newest version of ReShade. Neither was it adding any new filter presets that I could see.

It wasn’t causing any technical trouble, but I decided I wanted to explore more maintained and up-to-date options. This meant trying out GShade, which I’d heard so much about.

Not only was GShade extremely simple to install, but it came with so many preset filters (the website notes there are 450+ presets) by default that I simply was beside myself! Installation was as simple as downloading the .exe and running it. No fiddling with folders – it knows where to find a standard FFXIV install.

It gives you the option to install the presets, but I don’t see why you wouldn’t. This was so much simpler than having to download the presets yourself and find proper folders to put them in for use.

And then, once you launch it, GShade gives you a bit of a tutorial walkthrough on how to do stuff. I was so used to my Stormshade settings that I quickly customized GShade to work the same way (which is not GShade default). And now I’m as happy as I can be every time I sit down to take an artistic screenshot with filters.

An example of the same picture with several different filters. Click to see bigger images:

There’s lots, lots more to choose from than that. So, if you’re looking to spice up your /gpose in FFXIV, give this a shot!

Posted in Fiddle

Fiddle String Swing

Back in September of 2020, I picked up a set of Thomastik Alphayue strings for my Master fiddle. While I’m sure for the right instrument they could be a good set of strings, they just weren’t working out for mine. They sounded scratchy (due to certain rosin) and often muted on the G and D strings far more often than I’d like.

Also, when putting new strings on any instrument, there’s a period of time where the strings must stretch and settle. During this, you have to retune several times – sometimes even during a single practice session. I always check tuning before I practice, and a settled set of strings doesn’t usually need much tuning from day to day.

The Alphayue strings took weeks to finally settle. I’ve never had strings slide out of tune so much for such a long period of time after first putting them on.

While I did get the Alphayue on sale at a good price, I was still reluctant to switch them off for something new because I felt that I’d hardly gotten my use out of them. That’s when I noticed some discoloration on the strings of my Bunnel – indicating those strings would need changing pretty soon.

So, the idea came to me that I’d pick up some new strings for my Master and put the Alphayue on my Bunnel, which is my back-up fiddle. That way, those strings didn’t go to waste, and hey… they might even sound better and fit the Bunnel more. Who knows?

This time around, I decided to try D’Addario Zyex because not only do they have good reviews, but the D and G strings were available in silver. I’ve never tried a silver violin string before, but D and G on my Master have a history of being a bit nasal-sounding. So I was curious to see if this improved that.

I had an extra Hill E string (which remains my favorite) that needed to be put to use, so I only bought three Zyex strings and not a full set. My strings arrived yesterday, much to my surprise – they weren’t supposed to be here until Saturday – and I did the string swing between the two fiddles.

One of the first things I learned to do back when I got my first cheap fiddle was how to change the strings on it. I know some beginners are a bit antsy to mess with this, but it’s really not that difficult. I’m saying that without ever having a string break on me, though. I think I’d be a little more scared if one should pop!

Also, I used to practice learning guitar back in my high school/college days, so changing strings isn’t something unknown to me. …Despite the fact guitar and violin strings are very different animals!

Anyhow, I have one practice under my belt with the new strings. It’s hard to tell yet because they’re still stretching and settling in, but I think these are a marked improvement in sound over what I was using before. I haven’t had time to experiment with the Alphayue on my Bunnel to see if they sound similar on different fiddles, either.

I’ll let you know on down the line how it turns out!

Posted in Gaming, Nintendo Switch

Nintendo Switch: Coffee Talk

In trying to make good on my goal to play more of my Switch backlog, I began playing the game that I picked up over the holidays with the Switch gift card I got from family. I’ve had my eye on Coffee Talk for a bit, and seeing it on sale, decided to pick it up.

Coffee Talk might fall into the visual novel category… maybe… except unlike most visual novels I’ve played, this one doesn’t have you making choices and trying to romance a character in the story (so far). In fact, about the only thing you as a player do is make the best coffee or tea for your customers as you can.

Oh, and you serve as sort of the central heart of the community and cast of characters in the game. Which is really what the game is about.

The combination of low-fi music, pixel art style and slice-of-life storytelling in a modern fantasy Seattle connects with me. Each night when you open your store there are new folks to interact with, new coffees to learn to brew and new or expanding stories to hear.

Much of the game is observation and listening. Really. That’s it. The characters (including your own) interact on their own – there’s even a button that allows for conversation to move automatically without you needing to press a button all the time.

Every now and then you have to fix something for someone to drink, but it’s nothing like some of those cook-serve-delicious timer games. This is laid back, and you even have a in-game phone app that updates as you learn new drinks or when you need to reference drinks you’ve already made.

The app also includes news stories for the world these characters live in, which is a very interesting world! You have modern-day humans and elves and cat girls and and orcs and vampires and werewolves all rubbing elbows at your counter each night. You never know what personal trouble someone is dealing with and who at the counter might provide advice for their situation.

The characters are well-defined and feel like individuals with their own backstories. They also have social media pages on your in-game app where you can go back and look at the details of their profiles. These update as you discover new things about the people who frequent your shop. I’m definitely finding myself fond of them.

Each night serves as a new story arc, and these can last from 15 to 30 minutes each. I find it pretty easy to sit down and play through a night or two each day as it doesn’t require a whole lot of time to do. It’s also quite chill and relaxed, so I’m finding it a nice game to pick up each evening for a story or two.

If any of this sounds interesting to you, I’d say give the game a shot. I’ve really enjoyed it!

Posted in Fiddle, Fiddle Progress Report

December Fiddle Progress Report

I know it’s a few days late to post a progress report from December, however, I had so many goal posts to make around January 1st, this post just got pushed back a bit.

So what all happened in December? Aside from me deciding to move my blog posts from my dedicated Fiddle blog to this (which is still in the works)?

With the passing of Christmas, I finally put away the only carol I’d been playing since November, which was Silent Night. I started playing Silent Night last year around the same time, and this year I feel that I’ve certainly improved upon it. Silent Night isn’t a difficult tune, but it has a number of long bows and stops that I’ve had to work very hard to clean up and make sound better.

It was during this that I started getting frustrated with bouncing and jittering on long bows. I began experimenting with different things to figure out what was causing it. I changed bows, changed rosin and tried to loosen the bow some. Turns out, what I needed to do was actually tighten my bow more than I though I needed!

While I still have a bit of jitter and bounce sometimes, tightening the bow made it all sound a whole lot better! Live and learn.

I’ve decided I really don’t care for the Thomastik Alphayue strings on my Master. I just don’t like how the D and G strings sound especially. I poked around waiting for some holiday sales on strings that never showed up (I guess they held off after Black Friday sales).

Yesterday, I just caved and ordered a set of D’Addario Zyex with silver D and G strings. I figure I can afford it after getting an unexpected stimulus check, right? These weren’t terribly expensive (Obligato were much more), and I’ve heard good things about them. I wonder if the silver strings will improve the muffled tone that I’ve heard on other strings. I guess I’ll find out – looking forward to trying them and reporting back next month!

I stepped up my sight reading exercises to Level 2 in the Sight Reading Factory. Level 1 was getting to be a little too easy with just two strings and little note variation. This adds the G string notes (which I really need to learn to read), eighth notes, dotted notes and some rests. It’s taken some time getting used to the variety, but I think it’s been a good change.

I haven’t made changes to the tune lineup in December, other than dropping Silent Night. I’m hoping to finally get to a point where I feel I can move on from Russian Folk Song so that I can make progress in my EEI book. Maybe soon?

My consistency was pretty good in December. I missed two practices, one on a day that I was in the ER with family for 7 hours… so I just didn’t have the energy to even think about practicing. I’ve been a little bit more flexible in allowing myself time off from practice because I’ve been able to bounce back each time and get right into the habit again. But I still want to keep my consistency as high as I can.

Onward into 2021!