Posted in FFXIV, Gaming

FFXIV: Earning the Amaro Mount – All Jobs to 80!

At the beginning of 2019, I had just finished leveling all of my FFXIV jobs to 50. The straggler jobs were my tanks, jobs that I really had no intention of ever leveling. Most of my tanks were sitting in the mid-30s during 2018, when I first decided… Yeah… I’m going to make an effort to bring all of my jobs to level cap. And I’m going to do it without any boosts or skips from the Mog Store.

As some folks know, I’m generally okay to play most DPS jobs in groups. But when it comes to tanking and healing, I’m not so comfortable. That means that leveling all the tanks and healers was done solo and outside of roulettes, which is one of the faster ways to level.

Let me just say… Beast Tribe Quests.

Years upon years of Beast Tribe Quests. And I’m not exaggerating. There have been very few days in the past 3-4 years that I’ve not logged in to run my battle Beast Tribe Quests for whatever job I was leveling, at whatever stage that was in.

Granted from 30-60 I had help from running Squad dungeons. Levels 60-70 is really the slump area for solo leveling jobs. Again, lots and lots of Beast Tribe Quests. And really, that’s about it if you don’t want to farm FATEs (and really, FATEs without a focused party is pretty slow).

At level 70, things speed up quite a bit. First, there’s only one set of battle Beast Tribe Quests this expansion, but it gives just as much experience as quests did when there were two tribes. Essentially, 5-10 mins of time every day earns a pretty significant chunk of experience – probably the most experience-per-minute you can get.

On top of that, you do have the option to run Trusts. However, I didn’t run Trusts all that much – I only leveled two jobs through them, enough to level the Trust teams. I’m just not big on running a bunch of dungeons now days when I don’t have to, even if I have a Trust team.

Quests in Shadowbringers scale to whatever level your job is, and they give a good deal more experience than I expected when you stack them all up. In fact, I failed in my attempt to finish cleaning up quests before I got all my jobs to 80 because I vastly underestimated the XP they gave. I still have two more zones worth of quests to finish. Granted, these are only one-time XP boost, but if you have a job you just don’t want to run in parties, any XP is good XP.

Anyhow, it’s a weird feeling to not have to run Beast Tribe Quests today. But even with this big achievement out of the way, I still have more than enough to keep me busy both on my main and my various alts. First, I’m finally going to focus on all those crafting/gathering relics that I’ve put off!

Oh, and finally leveling Blue Mage on this character. That’s a thing, too. 🙂

Posted in Gaming

Sea Salt – Play as a Cthulhu Cultist

I had no idea what Sea Salt was before I played it. I simply saw it was going to be leaving the Xbox Game Pass library soon, and was motivated to give it a try.

What is Sea Salt? The game describes itself as:

Sea Salt is an action strategy hybrid, in which you are an Old God summoning unfathomable horrors to blight the human lands. You will have your sacrifice, and humanity will pay for denying you what you are owed.

I’d say that’s pretty accurate.

First, the game is oozing atmosphere and dark character. Even with the pixel graphic style – with the implied violence of the game, I don’t know how else they could have done it – you still can feel the dark, gritty aesthetics through and through.

This game is violent, as I just noted. You are a cultist who summons up hordes of creatures from the deep. The whole goal is to hunt down and tear apart humans to appease your dark god. While the art style can only imply the violence happening, trust me when I say, drawing and quartering a defeated boss enemy in pixels is still pretty gruesome. I guess my imagination filled in the blanks.

Which is the point of the game. It does what it’s meant to do.

As you beat bosses, move through the story and earn achievements, you unlock more types of creatures with different abilities to add to your horde. You can also unlock new cultist, it seems.

Looking at the reviews, I can see that eventually, this game has a few criticism in the later levels, mostly having to do with its simplicity. The controls are very simple – you move your mouse cursor and your horde follows (for the most part) where you’re pointing. You hold Space bar and they attack.

So really, the strategy of the game is to direct your horde to tear apart enemies while taking as little damage as you can. Each boss fight I ran across had a different strategy to overcome. Though I didn’t play super far into the game, just observing the boss provides a pretty intuitive idea of what you need to avoid and when you need to attack.

The problem, I hear, comes is in the later-stage strategy. You have tanky minions that can take damage but do very little damage of their own, glass cannon casters who die if an enemy so much as looks their way, and others in between.

Unlike standard RTS games, you can’t separate minions in your horde and move them individually. So, you can’t send in your tanks first and make a strategy where they actually protect your casters, etc. Also, sometimes the AI has a mind of its own and goes wandering off or taking the long road. Stragglers to the horde get killed pretty easily.

So all of that means that while the concept of the game is meant to be gruesome fun, in later stages, I read it can get frustrating. I only played a few scenarios in before I decided I had a good enough feel for what this game was trying to do.

A paythrough of the intro to the game

There’s a kind of dark satisfaction in rampaging through town as a horde from the deep, but I couldn’t get past the knowledge I was participating in so much senseless slaughter. After a few stages, I decided it really isn’t my kind of game.

Despite my feelings on it, is this something you’d enjoy?

Posted in Gaming

FlowScape: Painting a Digital Environment

FlowScape was a program that I picked up over the Steam winter sale at Syn’s suggestion. It’s not really a game, persay, but it has elements that make it feel game-like.

I’ve spent a little bit of time messing around with it so far – the idea was we could use it to make natural backgrounds for our webcomic art. So, I don’t have a full grasp on what all it can do and what the limitations might be. But from what I have experimented with, it should do what we need it to.

Flowscape isn’t just a digital art or 3D sculpting program. It’s pretty intuitive to use and it has very chill and relaxing background music that accompanies you while you play (some of the tracks were by Skyrim composer Jeremy Soule).

You can start with a random seed that plops down an environment and some animals and edit that if you want. Or, you can make a blank slate and do your own thing.

I rolled a few random seeds so you could see some of the variety in the starter environments you get.

Modifying the environment really is as easy as selecting plants, items or animals and “painting” them in with your mouse. It’s hard to explain, so I’m dropping a video here instead!

Steam reviews note that this is a great immersive program for worldbuilding and often used for creating atmospheres for tabletop gaming. And I can really see that. I’ve hardly scratched the surface of what this program can do, but as the video above shows, there’s quite a bit that can be done with it.

I’m not sure if they’ll ever open it up to something like the Steam Workshop, but having the community create assets for it would be absolutely incredible! While there’s not yet a Workshop built in, the Flowscape Discord has it covered:

I think I need to join this Discord. I’m sure there’s lots of inspiration to be had there!
(Note: And there is.)

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 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 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 Gaming, Steam Gaming

Tabletop Simulator Fun

Over my Christmas vacation, I suddenly was struck with the urge to play a board game. But seeing all my friends and family are so far away, the only way this was going to happen was through some kind of online game.

The Steam sale was about to kick off that very afternoon, so I started browsing the board game section to see what I could see. There’s plenty of games out there like Life and Monopoly, but not all of them are multiplayer, and some don’t have the greatest of ratings – especially if you want to host a game for other people to connect to online.

At the top of the board game section in Steam is Tabletop Simulator. For whatever reason, I’d put the game on ignore and was completely overlooking it every time I did a search. After a while of picking out possibilities, I finally came back to the top ten. That’s when I mentioned to Syn that Tabletop Simulator was the number one game for this section.

She knew of it and told me it was apparently pretty cool. So I began to look into it and was blown away when I did.

There are literally hundreds of tabletop game mods in the Workshop for Tabletop Simulator!! I could not believe my eyes!

Someone is stacking up those kids! XD

When I realized exactly HOW MUCH this one game could do, and then when it went on sale for $10 during the winter sale, we quickly bought a 4 pack and gifted it to the entire Posse.

There is simply so much gaming potential here if you have friends who are into this sort of thing. I hosted several games for several people in different locations across the US, and no one had trouble connecting, playing or staying connected.

We’ve only tried two mods so far – Uno and The Game of Life. We haven’t tried anything fully scripted, though Uno had some scripts for dealing the cards that was a nice addition.

Much of the fun seems to come from the bumbling of people trying to play a board game in a virtual environment. There’s a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to interacting and controls, but that’s easily master with a little practice. Still, we had plenty of “spills” and car pile-ups during the Game of Life, which just led to a lot of hilarity.

And when an artistic-type finishes Life early on while everyone else is still playing the game, interesting things can happen to the gaming table – which allows you to draw and add text to it…

Drawing on the game board
I fibbed

So anyhow, A+ for Tabletop Simulator and all the amazing mods you can pick up for it. We had a grand time with this, and I hope we’ll be able to explore so more games going forward!