Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Blue Mage & Puppetmaster flagged

Apparently all the talk about true sight mobs only applies to the Corsaire flag quest, since I encountered no such enemies in either the PUP or BLU run, both of which were completed last night without too much fuss. The only thing I really hated about the PUP quest was that infernal boat to Nashmau. Good lord, so much time wasted! I seriously hope they have outpost quests for these places.

I'm tempted to try the COR flag soon, since the new zones are still crowded with high-level EXP experimenters and people still flagging the jobs. Some of these zones might become more or less deserted later on, depending on the EXP setup and how many parties will be supported, making it more difficult to trounce through the area in search of the ??? point.

I'm really mostly interested in BLU, since it seems to have high survivability as a solo job. It might be interesting to level this job for a little variety when I'm tired of BST every once in awhile (or maybe try combining the two?). If I had the time, I would start looking into PUP, since the alchemical tools just seem ideal for me, but it doesn't seem to be a highly solo-able job. So it will probably get placed on the back burner, behind WAR, BST, BLU (and of course WHM/BLM which I need to level for BST). Who am I kidding...I'll probably never touch it. But the puppet is so damned cute, I just had to unlock the job. I'm a sucker for cute stuff that you can upgrade/collect; still recovering from Animal Crossing, if you have to know.

In the middle of the questing (literally while I was running semi-lost in Caedarva Mire), I get an invitiation to EXP in Uleguerand Range. Figures, doesn't it? It was 11PM so, um, {Thanks for the offer, but I'll have to pass}. Dammit, I hate passing up EXP.

I have an early hand rehab appointment tomorrow, but I'm still going to try to get some EXP on my Ninja tonight, once I rebuild my macros... While we're on the subject, this 'rebuild' process from the 360 migration is going to take longer than I'd thought. The macros are OK; nothing too complex there. But my maps! My precious, precisely marked maps! *Sob*... Those will take awhile to restore.

Monday, April 24, 2006

New jobs, zones... and markets

Bad port gripes aside, I'm happy about the new jobs and areas since they've given the Silent Oil market a boost, as well as left other markets and guild camps open.

Rampant undercutting had dropped oils down to 30k or less per stack for weeks back in March, which made it more lucrative to either sell the ingredients on their own, or craft random batches of other alchemical items that sold at a fair profit (Mercury, Poison Potion, Hi-Potion, Firesand, Sleeping Potion) and salvo the AH.

The second night I logged in I noticed Silent Oil stacks were going for 60k. $_$ I had no hope of actually crafting any new batches since Giddeus had been overrun by Blue Mages, so I quickly sold the 3 of the 4 stacks I had for personal use. Before I'd noticed or even thought about the Silent Oil rush, though, I had camped the Bibiki Bay fishing guild (completely deserted in the new job rush) and cooked up 7 stacks of Poison Potion, which go for a steady 40k. Then I noticed there were only 4 people in Korroloka Tunnel, so I farmed up a few stacks of Slime Oil, which go for around 40-50k.

I like this expansion...

The reason for the gil-drive though -- other than opportunism -- was to make the final stretch to the Utsusemi:Ni price (between 720-760k; about 100k higher than when I'd left). I got the scroll yesterday, with about 200k left over. So that's done... on to my other checklist items: cap Great Axe, get last pieces of AF, get to 61 for LB4 quest. I tried to form a Kuftal skillup party to no avail. There were about 100 people in Jeuno, in contrast to 500+ players in the Alzhabi/Whitegate zones. Then I tried to form a level 60-61 EXP party with similar results, since everyone is level 10-20 now. I think I'll wait until the 30's get more crowded and try to exp my NIN to 37 (possibly tomorrow night).

Some friends of mine hopped on and decided to do the BLU quest, so I tagged along for the fun of it (I'm actually aiming to unlock and level PUP once I get more information about it). I'd already aquired a boarding pass by turning in a random BST testimony that I'd kept (for no apparent reason; here's to being a pack-rat). We bought the Sunsand on the AH for 2000 gil, got the Siren's Tear (had to unequip our weapons for this, not sure why), and skipped the Bloodstone (again not sure why; I was tired and didn't really care if I had to make a trip to Dangruf Wadi later).

Once I finally made it to the NPC in Whitesands who 'divines' fortunes, I had to waste a few minutes after my first attempt at answering his questions only resulted in a 1000 gil fee and a vague dismissal to 'go harvest' in the new zones. One of my friends, Les, was asked for the Bloodstone (doh!), and the other, Lee, got the same 1000 gil fee and no hint. On the second attempt, I checked Allakhazam and used the answers some players provided, but got the same results (and another 1000 gil fee ><), while Lee got a request for Sunsand (which he didn't have ... double-doh). Les Mog-warped to Jeuno to go hunt for the ??? in Dangruf Wadi, and Lee logged off since he was fallling asleep. While waiting for a Vanadiel day to pass, I read further and noticed people were getting different results with the same answers... So I decided it was either random, job-based, or day-based. I tried the exact same answers as the previous day and got a request for something blue from the banks a river (i.e. the Siren's Tear). Joy!

Traded it to the NPC. Nothing... Talked to the NPC, and he would say something along the lines of 'I can't charge you for my services'. It was late, I was dozing off, and there were no BLU on the LS to help me out, so I logged, assuming I'd probably have to wait another Vanadiel day & trade again.

I tried it this morning with no results when it dawned on me that I hadn't zoned after getting the request (duh). After this, the NPC still did nothing but stare blankly when I traded the item. So I spoke to him, and he started telling me to 'forget about what he said'. I almost hit the ceiling when I saw this until he gave me a response option to follow through on the quest. Once the CS ended, I spoke to him again and he instructed me to deliver the item to another NPC in Bhaflau Thickets.

Guess I'll be exploring that zone tonight, which I'm assuming will require Sneak and Invis in some areas until I find the NPC (and a careful avoidance of the True Sight imps I've been told about).

Friday, April 21, 2006

The 360 version

This Xbox360 should be dubbed the Frustration Machine of Death. I know there's an awesome hardware configuration in that box, but the platform is 0 for 2 so far in providing me with games that don't have glaring bugs which should have been caught with rudimentary beta testing. It's like having a car with an amazing engine, but finicky transmission or poor brake response... and the worst part is that I can't get in under the hood to mess with it.

To anyone with the PC version thinking about getting this version to play on your couch, don't bother unless you have a recent HDTV. It looks comparatively terrible in 4:3 in normal interlaced mode. The gamma has been made incompatible with these televisions (way too high), and the color saturation is much too low. Gamma too high + Saturation too low = a washed out, bland looking, mess. You can adjust RGB gamma manually in the game and turn it down, but this tends to make it too dark, without the appropriate black level, and the saturation is still a problem. And to make things worse there's a screen refresh glitch causing the image to 'stagger' when you turn or move quickly (called 'screen tearing'), making it look like you're playing FFXI through a junky emulator. If you have a nice HDTV, then go for it, and I envy you... it seems to run fine on those.

To anyone with the PS2 version, if you have the expendable $560-$570 and no PC that can play the game without sinking $700+ into it, then the resolution boost on this version is worth it (no more flickering artifacting 10 feet beyond your character), but with some major caveats:

If you have a recent HDTV, by all means get this version. HDTV users seem to be very happy with it. Colors and gamma seem to be OK, and the screen real estate you save by running this in 720p is considerable (you can actually see what you're doing during an EXP party without the chat log taking up 1/3 of the screen).

If you don't have a recent HDTV and plan to play on a monitor, hold on there bucky.

It doesn't matter whether your monitor has been able to handle higher res games before, even other 360 games. SE has not made this game completely compatible with the VGA cable. What's frustrating is that beta testers were able to run things like 1280 x 1024, or 1024 x 768, through their VGA cables with no problems... until the release went live, and for whatever reason SE changed something without testing it (hello...what's the point of beta?). All the other problems that I mentioned about the interlaced TV mode are here: the gamma, the saturation, and the screen tearing (which actually seems worse, but is probably just more noticeable when not interlaced). Mind you the machine you're using is far above spec for this game. It runs circles around most of the machines that have been playing this software for the past 2 years. Yet it ends up looking like you're gaming on a rig that can barely handle it. As Gilbert Gottfried would say in those "I love the 80's" shows: SquareEnix. W...T...F?!

Edit (4/26/2006):
I've tested other resolutions, and there are tolerable alternatives that seem to ameliorate the tearing, but still don't fix the framerate. The key is to stick to the 'intended' HDTV resolutions of 480p and 720p (latter recommended). The 720p equivalent in VGA res is 1280 x 720. This results in letterboxing on a 4:3 and the pixel density isn't exactly spectacular, but the tearing is nowhere near as noticeable. I can see this looking much nicer on a 16:9 or 16:10 monitor or an HDTV with adjusted saturation & black levels.

If you only play PS2 on a normal 4:3 interlaced TV, and just want the resolution upgrade on the same TV... it depends upon whether getting rid of the jaggies and distance compression are worth $560 to you (as well as the trade-off for the screen tearing). You won't gain much real-estate (the fonts and text boxes are still huge in 480i), and will have to deal with the color and refresh problems I mentioned above, but the image will be much more crisp and the environments do look a lot nicer when you're not peering through flickering PS2 compression artifacts.

OK, now I'm off to file a bug with SE and be thoroughly ignored. Hopefully they'll fix the problem in some distant patch months from now.

I'll put up another post later about my first actual day back. I just had to unload this one... after taking 2 hours to install this thing and getting this kind of performance, I was fit to be tied.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

FFXI ETA: April 18 ... Baby ETA: any time

I'm still refraining from typing after work until my physical therapy is done, which should be around the release of the expansion. However... my next child is due around that time (actually s/he could be born any day now), so my gaming will be quite sporadic for awhile. Given my RL situation, I'm thinking of switching jobs to something more solo-able, and leveling Warrior when opportunities arise and I have the time. I'll probably slowly become a Beastmaster, with the heart and cojones of a Warrior (not that BST doesn't already require balls of steel), which I think is a great combination personally. It's funny... in RL my machismo is next to non-existant. I'm a soft & quiet & sensitive Dad. But my alter egos in games always evolve into something else, though I'm still pretty quiet in MMOs too.

Anyway, my updates will probably become less frequent, given the amount of time I have to play the game, much less log it. But I will make an effort to update at least once a week.

Terry, feel free to put me in your 'Not So Much' category of blog updates. ^^

And thanks to all the people that have been checking my blog with freakish regularity.

For anyone who cares, I will post a picture of the new little one when s/he finally arrives as well.

Hope you're all having fun out there.

Oh and for anyone who thinks I'm just farting around with Oblivion instead of playing FFXI... meh. It's not the cat's meow, unfortunately. In terms of scope & depth of content, it doesn't hold a candle to Morrowind. It is a very nicely realized gorgeous hack-&-slash set in a rather boring (but pretty) area in the world of Elder Scrolls, with AI that is extremely fun to mess with since it is capable of the funniest and dumbest moments ever witnessed in a game. For RPG newbies, this game is the second coming. For people who've followed the series, it's a prettier, smaller, and more restrictive sandbox than any of the prior iterations. It's still fun to pick up and mess around with for a couple of hours at a time but, they've lost me as a hardcore fan.

Random P.S. For laughs, check out A Smithy's Life if you haven't already. Brilliant.