Lore-abiding citizen

It’s been about a month since I posted about WoW’s latest expansion, Dragonflight, and at the time I was pretty positive about the whole thing.  I’m actually still quite positive about it!  It’s a little less metaphysical than the Shadowlands expansion, which was all about the afterlife and redemption and uh…

I’ve mostly forgotten really.  There were some delightfully wicked little fairies in it and then we went off to discover that all of the various afterlives were actually constructed by some sort of spiritual Magrathea and then the big evil guy of the expansion turned out to be a construct himself and honestly I doubt they are ever going to come back to this storyline ever.

And that’s truly a shame because the expansion included the Best NPC ever, voiced by Aysha Selim, and I desperately want to know what her Whole Deal was.

Dragonflight is much less abstract.  There are some good dragons and there are some bad dragons and the bad dragons drop loot and that’s all I need to know.

…well, that’s all I usually need to know.  For some reason I got really into running around and actually doing all of the side storylines and got my first “Loremaster” achievement since 2016’s Legion expansion.  This is an achievement you get for walking up to literally everyone you can find with an exclamation mark over their head and doing whatever they tell you to do.

Most of the side quests are pretty enjoyable and my only quibble with them is that a couple of them send you into my least favorite instanced dungeon in the entire expansion.  This is very unusual for Loremaster achievements, as I understand, since the achievements in previous expansions have largely been doable without grouping.

I elected to get around the requirement by being overgeared and a tank and doing the dungeon solo.  This took longer than doing it the “right way” would have, but I enjoyed being able to set my pace and not being responsible for leading a group, which is an experience roughly equivalent to trying to herd four kittens all chasing different laser pointers.

The whole questing experience is also made considerably nicer by the dragon riding system.  The last few WoW expansions have disabled flight at the beginning of each expansion, which is (a) a way for the developers to make you actually ride around their carefully-crafted areas on foot so you can really appreciate the work they put in on them and (b) has the side effect of slowing you down quite a bit so you can’t chew through everything the expansion has to offer in the first week.  Being able to fly to and from quest objectives has made getting around an absolute joy by comparison.

I actually have another post I’d like to write talking about how the loot system in Dragonflight is also a considerable upgrade, but that’s going to be boring and full of numbers.  I’ll leave off here for now.


Posted in MMORPG, PC Gaming | Leave a comment

In which I shoot myself in the foot, and then fix it with a shell script.

I don’t make a secret out of my long-running MMO habit, at least on this blog.  I tend not to mention it in polite circles, because an MMO habit is one step above admitting that you are a heroin enthusiast, but nothing about the internet is particularly polite.

My policy of late has been to drop MMOs at the point where I realize that I am simply logging on to Make The Numbers Bigger, and not because I am enjoying the game or the people I play with.  I do tend to keep a bunch of screenshots around, however, so I can occasionally go back and look through them to remember when these were cutting edge graphics:

Everquest’s sharks were prone to transcending their watery limitations, at least in the early days.

One slight problem is that I tend to get a ton of screenshots after a while, and if I move from device to device to play on then the screenshots tend to get jumbled up and out of order.  One way to work around this is to toss them all in a directory and sort it by date.


Recently, I was working to clear documents and pictures off a couple of Windows PCs, and did so by uploading everything to iCloud Drive and then deleting it from the PCs.  I did not realize that one of the TINY INCONSEQUENTIAL QUIRKS of iCloud Drive on a PC is that it updates the time/date stamp on the file to the date uploaded.

So this is what a folder of screenshots from FFXIV looked like:

OK, so.  This is less than optimal, but there’s still timestamp information. It’s just in the file names rather than the metadata. Surely I can work with this.

So after a fair bit of hard work browsing StackExchange, I came up with this.  No guarantees that this will work for anyone other than me. I stole most of it from other people without properly understanding what they were doing.

# fixdates
# reads dates in filenames and tries to set the file date from the date stamp in the name
# character replacement stolen from https://stackoverflow.com/questions/2871181/replacing-some-characters-in-a-string-with-another-character
# dash escape stolen from https://superuser.com/questions/528162/how-to-escape-in-bash
# relies on all single digit days and months having leading 0s.

for filename in *.*
	# Set up our variables
	# drop the extension.  May break with filenames with multiple periods?

	# drop dashes
	filenamenodash=$(echo $filenamenoext | tr -d "-")

	# replace underscores with spaces
	filenamespaced=$(echo $filenamenodash | tr _ " ")
	# this will replaces both dashes and underscores but let's leave that aside for now:
	# filenamespaced=$(echo $filenamenoext | tr -- -_ " ")
	# and yes the -- is important since it says "there are no more options after this point, treat the dash you're about to see as a character"
	# break the extensionless filename into components by space
	read -ra filenamearray <<<"$filenamespaced"
	for i in "${filenamearray[@]}"
		if [ "$itemsize" == "8" ] && [ "$itemsize" -eq "$itemsize" ]; # cheap way to check if something is a number
			((filegood++)) # we have a date, touch is go
		if [ "$itemsize" == "6" ] && [ "$itemsize" -eq "$itemsize" ];
		# we have a time? probably
		if [ "$itemsize" == "14" ] && [ "$itemsize" -eq "$itemsize" ];
#			This looks like date and time in one string.
#			We're going to assume date first because otherwise is madness

	if (( filegood == 1 )); # We think we at least have a date
		if [ "${fulldate:4:2}" == "19" ] || [ "${fulldate:4:2}" == "20" ];
	touch -d "$year"-"$month"-"$day"T"$hour":"$minute":"$second" "$filename"
	echo "Bad file (Couldn't find anything that looks like a date):" "$filename"

And this, for the time being, seems to work and I have my screenshots back to the proper times and dates.

Also, it’s generic enough that it worked for files with their time stamps in the following formats:

Kandagawa Jet Girls 2022-05-23 23-24-14.mp4

But there’s little to be done for uPlay unless I massage the filenames manually first or figure out how to parse the entire string for “2019” or “2020” and then extract the date from that point and add leading zeros to the single-digit entries and… look, Ubisoft, would it have killed you to write your dates in a little more sensible manner?

Assassin's Creed® Unity2019-4-17-15-33-0.png
Tom Clancy's The Division® 22019-10-4-2-25-9.jpg

Also a space between the game title and the date would have been cool.

But gosh dang it, I have the world’s hugest sense of satisfaction right now.

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World of Warcraft: How to Main Your Dragon

So, the latest World of Warcraft expansion came out a couple of weeks ago, right when I was supposed to be studying for the JLPT. So I didn’t get very far into it until after the test.

Now that I have… it’s pretty good? I think I like it?

For context, I have to admit that Warcraft Lore is one of my weakest points as a nerd. I never played any of the RTS games and I’ve only played WoW during a couple of more recent expansions. So my experience with WoW has included a lot of times where I’m following a storyline and then there’s a Very Dramatic Cutscene where SUDDENLY SOMEONE APPEARS and I’m like, huh, everyone seems very shocked by this.

Sometime the unexpected guest, or guests, turn out to be dragons, and that’s the case with Dragonflight. But, you know, these are good dragons and very rarely eat people.

WoW seems to have a lot of good dragons, and bad dragons, and my wife who has played far more of the game and read far more of the supplemental material is very up-to-date on which is which and which dragons are GOOD dragons BUT had dads that were total jerks. This is different from my typical approach to dragons, which is to ask whether I need frost or fire resist gear.


The previous WoW expansion was set entirely in the afterlife, and consisted of a storyline where you marshaled your forces to fight back an evil, but extremely hot, vampire daddy and then found out that he was JUST A PAWN AND THE REAL VILLAIN was…


…was super boring by comparison. Like, they made one charismatic villain and peaked.

Thankfully, the dungeons were top class and kept me coming back time and again. Except you, Plaguefall. You get to sit in the Bad Dungeon Corner and think about what you did.

So after that, your characters come back to the Real World and presumably have a very hard time convincing everyone that you saved the world again because it’s not like anyone on Azeroth actually saw hot vampire daddy. But hey, champagne all around, except now there are evil dudes running all over Azeroth summoning elementals which is a fair less metaphysical sort of danger.

It turns out that these guys are trying to bring about the rebirth of some evil bad dragons who we’ve never heard of before because there was a war with the good dragons like a super long time ago and the good dragons won but they didn’t want to kill the really bad dragons so they just imprisoned them because good is dumb.

I’ve already forgotten why this is any of my concern as a non-dragon. It would have helped if one of them had just come clean and said something along the lines of

“Look, we may be immortal flame breathing lizards the size of a greyhound bus but we could really use some help from you puny mortals. We’ll let you keep anything you get off their bodies. Do we have a deal?”

Mind you, the raid zone where you do this hasn’t opened for business yet, so everyone is just running around the world and doing all of the other stuff you can do, which includes a pretty bitchin’ dragon flight simulator and storylines revolving around the day to day challenges of Centaurs and Walrus dudes and how you puny humans can make their lives easier, one quest at a time, in exchange for 40 to 60 gold and possibly a new pair of shoes.

There are some Bad Centaurs to go with the Bad Dragons, as an aside. All of the Walrus dudes seem pretty chill, though.

If you’ve done enough chores and want to get into some five-man instanced content, the expansion has eight dungeons at launch. I’ve run all of them at least once and there don’t seem to be any real stinkers. None of them seem quite as fun as Shadowland’s De Other Side, but maybe they’ll grow on me.

Dragonflight also brings the game’s first new class in quite a while, the Evoker.  Evokers are limited to a single race, which is also the game’s first new race in a couple of expansions, and there are a LOT of Evokers running around right now.  The evoker class can choose between healing and DPS specializations, so if you like to play tanks in MMOs and liked being in demand before, you may find the added popularity either welcome or overwhelming.

Also roughly half of my WoW guild has switched over to Evoker mains for the upcoming raiding and mythic season.  So I am predicting a lot of drama around mail armor.  I will be continuing to play a Paladin and ignoring the entire issue.

For anyone masochistic enough to do crafting in a MMO, WoW did a pretty comprehensive overall of the crafting system. I still haven’t quite wrapped my head around it, but my impression is that it seems less awful than FFXIV’s crafting, but not as good as EQ2’s crafting. It definitely promises payoff for people who deep dive into it, but it also lets you invest deeply into specific crafting specialties with no way to reset them should you suddenly realize you’ve made huge mistakes.

Also there’s PVP for those who want it, even if the Horde and Alliance officially have a truce now. I did a lot of that in Shadowlands, but don’t feel like doing any more of it in Dragonflight. Presumably it’s less of a hot unbalanced mess early in an expansion launch cycle, so getting in on that now is likely going to be the best time for it.

Look, I’m not going to pretend that I’m suited to review an MMO expansion, or even that doing so in its first month is a good idea. But Dragonflight seems good so far and if you’ve liked WoW in the past, but fell off with Shadowlands, I think you’d enjoy this one. It also wouldn’t be an awful place to start playing, since you get to level from 1 through 60 in the fairly down-to-earth Battle for Azeroth expansion and then go right into Dragonflight without any weird detours to alternate dimensions.


Posted in PC Gaming, videogames | Leave a comment

It’s like poetry, it rhymes. A dose of online nostalgia.

So it’s been an exciting week on the Internet. Twitter found out that saying “yeah, so whacha gonna DO about it?” to the world’s richest man might not have been the greatest plan, and the site has been experiencing some … challenges ever since. An awful lot of people seem to be looking for somewhere else to go that fills the same role, and I keep seeing Mastodon kicked around as the Next Big Thing so I naturally did some research.

To be clear: I’m not particularly worried about the future of Twitter, and if the site inexplicably went down tomorrow I would only REALLY miss the English Word of the Day twitter account and like two or three other cool people I follow.

Plus a whole lot of Genshin Impact fan art of various levels of work safeness.

But to get back to my original point, I started looking into this Mastodon thing and it instantly snapped me back to the person I was like 30 years ago, because it’s like FidoNet all over again.

If you weren’t online 30 years ago, or maybe not even alive 30 years ago, FidoNet was this big, mostly non-commercial network of computer bulletin board systems. Like, imagine that you really liked parrots and you wanted to devote a computer and a phone line to running a program that that let people call in and talk to each other about parrots and download parrot pictures and maybe play parrot-centric games. FidoNet would let your system communicate with OTHER systems run by parrot fans, so people on your parrot site could talk to people all across the world without paying long distance bills.

OK, yeah, one more thing from the dark ages of history. It used to cost money to make phone calls – or computer modem connections – to anywhere outside of your immediate geographical area. So instead of every parrot fancier in town making multiple long-distance calls to all the different parrot fan sites, your local parrot Uber-fan would shoulder the costs of batching up all of your conversations and exchanging them with all of the other sites.

Anyway, FidoNet was how the individual systems, which were called Nodes, could communicate with each other, and the conversations about parrots, or cars, or movies, were sent around on a system called Echo Mail. The idea was that countries were split up into smaller and then larger geographic areas and messages were routed in a way that was the least cost. It would sometimes take days for your messages to reach all of the other parrot fans throughout the world, and their replies might take days to come back.

In theory, FidoNet had two social rules and one technical rule. The technical rule was that for an hour every night your system had to be closed to users and open for FidoNet communications, and the social rules were “Do not be excessively annoying, and do not be excessively annoyed”.

In practice, there were a ton of other rules and a whole mess of politics.

For example: because Echo Mail was expensive to run, systems would typically all pay money to ONE guy who would handle the process of collecting and distributing all Echo Mail from and to a particular geographical area. That guy got to pick what Echoes, or discussion topics, he would forward. Our local Echo Mail host was pretty famous for not liking certain topics (anime among them), so he simply wouldn’t host offending Echoes. Also, if it turned out that he thought you were forwarding messages to a system that wasn’t paying HIM, he would simply cut you off the network. In that case, your option was to try to find another source for Echo Mail and incur the network charges yourself.

Oh, and then he went through a messy divorce and left town, breaking Echo Mail for every system that had been paying him.

There’s a reason it used to be called “Fight-O-Net”.

Side note, because every system you used was literally Some Guy’s Computer, the person running the BBS had full access to everything on it. So if you were sending private mail to another user of the same system talking about what a tyrant the admin was, the admin was right there reading it. They could also see your passwords – this was before passwords were hashed, so they were typically just stored in plaintext – so if you used the same password on multiple sites you REALLY had to trust the admins.

So. Back to Mastodon. Where the admins can read your DMs, just like in the FidoNet days.

Every Mastodon instance is its own distinct thing and ALSO part of a larger network, like FidoNet Nodes and the FidoNet itself, and Mastodon admins are a lot like the BBS administrators of old. They have an interest in a topic, they are willing to spend money to host a system for people to talk about that topic, and their system can interface with all of the other systems.

And woo boy the drama is right there, just as strong or maybe stronger.

For example: there are a lot of legitimately awful sites on the internet, so there are some very well-intended blacklists to ensure that the users on the awful sites can’t interact with users on your site.

On the other hand, you – assuming you’re daft enough to set up your own Mastodon instance – may have your site wind up on one of these lists because, oh, you have one legitimately awful user, or maybe you have a user who just seems problematic or maybe because you yourself aren’t blocking the right sites. You can get off these blacklists, sure – just correct your behavior and grovel in the right ways, make sure you’re blocking the right sites and you’ll be back in the good graces of the community in no time. In the meantime, if you’re an individual parrot fan and not the admin, you probably have no idea why your feed just went dark.

So say you’re an admin and you have a guy that signs up to your instance at 2 AM and blasts racist nonsense to every other site he or she can find and you wake up at 8 AM to an inbox full of angry email and need to deal with the collective Karen that is the internet when it isn’t getting its way Right Now.

Or, heaven forbid, someone on your instance toots something that goes viral. Suddenly dealing with the server costs of 20,000 Boosts may put you into massive debt, because Mastodon doesn’t seem to have copied the hub and spoke model of FidoNet. Your system is responsible for sending that Boosted Toot out to every other instance that interacts with it via point-to-point connections, which are fast but oh-so-very inefficient.

From a user’s point of view, since the individual sites are largely run by hobbyists and nerds, you also run the very real risk of the Messy Divorce or maybe even the “You guys have ruined every bit of fun I once found in this, I’m pulling the plug” and suddenly all of your data poofs into the virtual ether.

So after educating myself on what the heck Mastodon was all about, I naturally went looking for drama. I confess, it was just a massive nostalgia hit at this point. It brought me right back to those late 80s/early 90s flame wars that seemed SO IMPORTANT at the time.

Honestly, this is the virtual equivalent of eating a lot of really greasy food. It may taste good in the moment, but you are going to regret it in a few hours.

Anyway, one particular complaint kept popping up over and over: To wit, there were a ton of people who had their own super nerdy, super niche space that was their haven, and they naturally wanted to make it easy for other Cool People to join this space.

And then the Cool People came, and some slightly less Cool People that they knew, and some generally entirely un-Cool People who wanted to get in on this thing that was suddenly Happening, and the original batch of Cool People suddenly feel that they’ve lost control of their space.

And man, if that don’t sound familiar.

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I’ve assembled something!

I bought this Lego Y-Wing shortly after seeing Star Wars : Episode IX : Skywalker-palooza in the theaters, in December of 2019.  It has been sitting in its box ever since, slowly collecting a fine layer of dust and taunting me with its state of disassembly.

Roughly a year ago, I opened the box, took out the four bags of parts, read the instruction booklet and then put everything carefully back in the box.

Tonight I decided to just get down to it, and three-and-a-half-hours later I was holding a damn Lego representation of the best starfighter to ever come out of the Star Wars universe.  It also made me realize why the Y-wings shown in the Clone Wars series were designed with the armor plating around the engine, because man those struts are some kinda flimsy and the armored design probably made the toys considerably easier to make in a way that was sturdy enough to survive the first five minutes of play.

Speaking of this as a toy, it’s pretty cool.  You’ve got two spring-loaded blaster bolts you can fire out of it – and a spare for when you inevitably lose one – and the bomb bay holds three bombs that load in from the top.  You also have a rotating ion cannon up top and it has space for a pilot and the included nameless Astromech Droid.

I mean, I’ll never actually chase the cat around with it making engine noises and firing blaster bolts at him, because that would be childish and I am a Grown Man Now.

Part of being a Grown Man apparently includes wasting three years before assembling a Lego kit.  But at least it’s finally done.

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I’m FINALLY caught up to Genshin Impact

My recent Game of Choice has been Genshin Impact, which is a huge rabbit hole to fall into. It may be the most dangerous game I’ve played, barring actual MMOs like WoW or the original Everquest, and I’m not just saying that because it provides hot and cold running waifus and husbandos for any taste which can be yours for a mere $HOWMUCHYOUGOT.

Rather, it’s dangerous because there is just so much to DO and it’s so easy to just get lost picking flowers and mining rocks and hunting for treasure chests for hours at a time. I used to point at Skyrim’s quest that sends you to High Hrothgar as the ultimate example of a game that gives you a clear objective to accomplish while also making sure that there are dozens of distractions along the road from Point A to Point B, but Skyrim has nothing on Genshin.

That being said, I really didn’t click with the game when I initially tried it.

I started Genshin about two weeks after it launched in 2020. My wife wanted to find a mobile game we could play together, and Genshin had a co-op option that sounded interesting. It turned out that co-op was a bit limited and required getting a fair way into the story to unlock, so that didn’t go anywhere. I mucked around a bit and got up to like Adventure Rank 10.

Nearly a year later, Genshin announced a collaboration with Sony and Horizon: Zero Dawn, where you could get Aloy as a playable character if you were Adventure Rank 20 when a certain patch happened. I didn’t really understand how to grind Adventure Rank, but I came back to the game and went nose-to-the-grindstone on any quest I could find in order to make the deadline for the patch.

I then didn’t really play it any more for quite a while.

Come this summer, I picked it up again for some reason and managed to get to Liyue. It was super confusing to figure out what to do and in what order, because at this point there were a million* things in my quest log and there were new quests being unlocked all the time. I finally decided to buckle down and do everything I could before going to Inazuma, which was the region that had been released at about the same time Aloy was given out.

I got super lost at this point, and getting through Liyue took over three months. Really Genshin should make it more clear that Archon Quests = Main Quest. Story Quest = Character-focused Side Quests. World Quest = Side Quests. At least it’s pretty good about pointing out when one quest or another is blocked by needing to complete something else, and actually pointing you to the “something else”. It didn’t help that the Chasm is a region you can get to during the Liyue quest line, but it doesn’t actually fit into the overall story until you’re almost completely done with Inazuma.

As an aside – once I hit Inazuma, I made a huge mistake when getting the boat. I immediately used it to sail all over the map, meaning that I unlocked a ton of regions and quest lines well before I should have. I strongly suggest not doing this. Play through the Inazuma storyline and only go to new islands when you’re told to.

From entering Inazuma to completing Sumeru (so far) took about a month and a half, and I have to say that the writing has only gotten better and better. The Mondstat story was constantly roadblocked by Adventure Rank requirements and the mountains of text in Liyue made it a super drag at times, but Inazuma and Sumeru just knocked it out of the park in making Teyvat into a world that I wanted to come back to.

If I had any one thing to complain about here, it would be the many Inazuma world lines that were time-gated, meaning that you would do one short bit of story and be told “come back tomorrow”… as in real-world “tomorrow”… to get the next story quest.

If you’re at all curious, I simp for Best Girl Noelle, but unfortunately she’s a little bit annoying to run around the world with because Mihoyo just LOVES to throw a bunch of enemies with various elemental shields at you, and grinding those down without the specific opposing elements is an exercise in frustration.

Hence my go-to team. I’ve got Electro, Cryo, Pyro, and Hydro characters to make any enemy shields basically an afterthought, a claymore character for mining, a bow character for “now you need a bow character” puzzles and a damage rotation that consists of “set everything on fire and electrocute it, then spam water attacks while everything dies to lightning and hot steam”, or “freeze everything, then hit it with a big sword” as I feel like it.

It also uses all 4* characters, and two of them are even characters you are guaranteed to get simply by playing the game. I think Beidou and Diona have to be acquired via gacha, but with a low rarity rating they show up a lot.

Anyway, I’m finally caught up to the story so I can now join the ranks of people who actually need to wait for the next patch for more content. Well… there are a bunch of character stories I haven’t seen, and I skipped a ton of world quests while I was running around Sumeru, and… and…

Yeah. It’s a dangerous game.

Posted in iOS, PS4, PS5, videogames | Leave a comment

I did some woodworking

I recently discovered the joys of buying refurbished micro-format PCs, specifically a couple of HP EliteDesk 800 G3s. They’re basically the size of a Mac mini, easily able to run server versions of Windows (I’m using Server 2019 on both) and are extremely easy on the electric bill.

Technically, they can stack on top of each other… But I’d like a little more airflow, and the ability to take one server out of the middle of a stack without shuffling the entire stack.

Enter my latest woodworking project, made from about five bucks of dowels and a hunk of MDF I had lying in the scrap bin in the garage.

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not all that impressive. I just cut the MDF down to two 8″ by 9″ panels and made a 4×4 grid of dowels. I’m deliberately not showing you the sides.


It fits the EliteDesks, a Mac mini and a NUC very well, and I didn’t spend any money on Amazon. Plus I feel super manly for actually getting to use power tools.

If I made a second one, I’d probably cut the dowels a little shorter. These were trimmed to 10.5″ because I didn’t want things to be too snug, but I think I could trim an extra half inch and make things look just a little neater.

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All’s Well That (Endwalkers) Well?

Finished up FFXIV’s Endwalker expansion today – just the main story, mind you, I haven’t gone in to any of the post-launch content or done any of the optional stuff like raiding. I’m not really feeling any great need to at this exact point in time, however, so I thought I’d write up what I thought and then maybe come back to the game later on.

I haven’t played much FFXIV in the last couple of years. I was keeping an active subscription solely because I’d lucked into a housing plot and you lose your house if you’re inactive for too long. At some point, I logged on to go through all of the post-Shadowbringers stuff in order to be READY for Endwalker, and I pre-ordered Endwalker so I’d have the pre-order bonuses, whatever those were… and then it released last December and I’ve just gotten around to playing through the main story over the last couple of weeks.

The promise of Endwalker was that it would wrap up all of the story that started with your player getting off the boat (or wagon) way back in the opening quests of A Realm Reborn, and it does this pretty well. You meet old friends, there are unexpected callbacks to prior events, evil is defeated, good rules the day, you’re off to unspecified adventures. The last couple of hours of the story include a dungeon, with some actual teeth to the dungeon bosses, an 8-man trial that is packed full of WOAH moments, and a solo duty that is just *chef’s kiss*.

If that’s enough for you, stop reading here! From here on out I mostly complain!

It’s a shame that almost the entire story up to that point is told through painfully-long cutscenes, most of which are just a handful of characters standing around and expositing while you try to ignore the godawful textures that the game has been stuck with since its beginnings as a PS3 title.

Don’t zoom in. Just don’t do it.

There are a few breaks from the reading – like every FFXIV Expansion, there are six dungeons and three trials, and those actually involve some action, and there are a handful of solo duties which might be fun if you got to play your own character instead of being forced into whatever alternate skin the game thinks you should be wearing – but by and large the main story is, well, a story. Talk to person A, which triggers a cutscene, watch the cutscene, take five steps and talk to person B which triggers another cutscene.

Sometimes you have to sneak around – has there ever been a fun mandatory stealth section in any game ever? – and sometimes you will be tasked with a quick escort mission where you will stop three or four times to fight a couple of monsters, but those don’t come nearly often enough to break up the monotony of what feels like a visual novel, but without even the hope of porn.

It’s a shame the story doesn’t do more to get you out into the world. Like most FFXIV expansions, Endwalker’s zones are gorgeous and made more vibrant and alive with the weather system – still unparalleled in any MMO I’ve ever played. The combat animations, when you get to fight things, are satisfying and the sheer PUNCH of damage spells is just perfect.

Please keep in mind that I was playing as a healer – a Scholar, to be precise – and even the single nuke they give to healers has a solid, satisfying BAM to it.

There’s also a joy to the way FFXIV lets you start moving just before a cast finishes. The sense of dancing out of a nasty AE at the last second just brings an irrepressible grin to my face every time I do it.

Having said that, the zones just feel empty, populated with easily-dodged packs of monsters that exist …for some reason. Probably for repeatable “kill 10 x” quests that aren’t part of the main story. If you’re running around as a combat class, you don’t get to see gathering nodes, there aren’t any collectibles or any real reasons to explore, and once you get flying you will pretty much just be flying over all of it anyway.

Moreover, the dungeons don’t really exist “in the world” either. Of the six dungeons in the main quest, five of them are accessed by boarding a vehicle or by walking through some sort of mystical portal. There’s no finding a sea cave that turns out to be a pirate stronghold, here.

The Trust system from Shadowbringers returns, which lets you play through the dungeons with NPC members instead of needing to find other people, and it’s a low-key way to run them that lets you check out the scenery at your own pace. The dungeons, more than the overworld, are where FFXIV likes to stick little bits of lore, and I enjoyed being able to stop and read the books.

You can also get all the drops from the dungeons all to your own without needing to share, which is a time-saver if you’re trying to collect a specific set of gear for the way it looks. I mention looks specifically because dungeon gear is nothing more than a collection of stats, with higher-level pieces having larger numbers than lower-level pieces, and no special effects that would drag you back to a dungeon multiple times trying to get Just That One Special Piece.

Like, I have never been a huge fan of Diablo-style loot games where you are swimming in piles of similar gear and need to decide whether the +0.2 crit chance on THIS piece is better than the 0.2 crit damage on this OTHER piece, or whether it’s better to have a higher base damage on a weapon or whether you should use the weapon with the lower base damage that also has a 30% chance to set your opponent on fire 2.4 times a minute… but FFXIV’s loot is a Baskin Robbin’s with 31 flavors of vanilla.

And none of them are even vanilla bean.

To follow up my loot rant, I had a long rant here about FFXIV dungeon design, but I read it through a few times and it sounded super whiny so I elected to delete it. I will sum it up as “There are 18 dungeon bosses, 16 of them are pretty dull, one of them actually requires the healer to pay a little attention to debuffs, and one of them may be the only heal check in a game that relies almost entirely on DPS checks. Maybe they’re more interesting if you’re playing a tank.”

Anyway. When you get to the credits of Endwalker, you’re treated to a long scroll of monochrome screenshots from earlier expansions, so you can remember the fun times you had in those. Some of them actually had you playing your characters, rather than watching cutscenes!

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Grinds, silly:

I am no stranger to games that encourage, or actively require grinding. I played Everquest for several years, and I can vividly remember spending hours at a time starting at an empty spot on my screen that would, every six minutes, be populated with a single monster, which I would then kill.

The six minutes between spawns were largely spent with my character sitting down to maximize health regeneration so that I’d be ready for the next one.

I did this for HOURS. Mostly while eating unhealthy snacks.

So in comparison, grinding my way through the first Chrono Circle season pass wasn’t THAT bad. I only needed to, basically, play the game 19 times before I unlocked all of the cosmetics.

This is also my first time completing a “season pass” in any game. They are silly things, and I didn’t understand the mechanic behind them for quite a long time. “DLC, but you don’t get everything you paid for unless you log in every day for a month” was such a foreign concept that my mind dismissed it out of hand as being ridiculous.

Nonetheless, that’s apparently how they work and they’re a Thing that we are unlikely to see the end of any time soon.

Chrono Circle’s Season Pass was, at least, less ridiculous. You didn’t have to pay for it separately – you make progress on it simply by signing in to your AM Pass account and then playing the game. The only manual step needed is to sign on to the Chrono Circle web site and click the claim buttons for every reward you unlock.

So while I did play a LITTLE more Chrono Circle than I might have otherwise in order to unlock the final item in the Season Pass, it was just playing more of a game I already enjoyed. I also had, like, two months to play the 19 games needed to max it out.

But, looking back, it was a little dumb. Chrono Circle is a rhythm arcade game in an environment littered with the burned-out husks of rhythm games that failed to catch on. The nearest Round One has like, FOUR Wacca cabinets – that’s a game that released in 2019 and has already had its online service element canceled. There is a SUPER high chance that the cosmetics I unlocked will have a shelf life roughly equivalent to the sour cream you opened two weeks ago when you were making tacos and then put back in the fridge planning to make more later and then just never got around to.

Man, I have made some pretty tortured analogies in the last 15 years of occasionally updating this blog, but that may rank in my top 10. Moving on.

I think what I’m getting at is this. I’m enjoying this game, with its mix of high-voltage music and seizure-inducing flashing lights and haptic feedback, and it’s kind of cool that I have some limited-edition virtual items to customize the game presentation for me… but there’s definitely a realization of how ephemeral they all are and how grinding specifically to fill a bar to get them would be a particularly silly thing to do.

Good thing I didn’t do that! Right?

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In which, I finally make some use of my “smart” TV.

So, a couple of nights ago my wife and I sat down and watched “Luck”, which is an Apple TV+ exclusive animated movie that had a funny enough trailer to actually get me to subscribe to Apple TV+. I have seen this trailer roughly seven thousand times on twitter and other sites. I suspect I am not alone in this.

Having now seen the movie, iI I had to write a short review of “Luck”, it would probably include the phrase “Well, the trailer was funny”. Some of the creature designs are cute, I guess. I was also oddly and strongly reminded of Teela Brown from Niven’s Ringworld series, and that wasn’t a series I had thought about in years. I guess that’s a positive thing? I should totally re-read those.

Despite my generally lukewarm response to the film, I will acknowledge the positive messages that came out of it:

First, it’s pretty strong on the message that bad luck isn’t the catastrophe it seems like if you learn to prepare for things going wrong, and second that bad luck makes you better able to deal with adversity. Both of these resonated with me, and I’m totally not just desperately trying to justify my ATV+ subscription here.

While I do not suffer from atypically bad luck – quite the contrary, in fact – I do find that I have my best days when something goes wrong and I’m forced to figure out how to fix it.

Case in point: I’m following a few anime series this season, and one of them is a particularly awful piece of isekai drek called “Harem in the Labyrinth of Another World”, which is mostly notable in that the main female lead looks an awful lot like Isabelle from Animal Crossing, albeit with massive bazongas, and that the main male lead is even more of a murderhobo than most fantasy protagonists. Like, we’re talking serial killer levels of sociopath here. I cannot morally justify watching this show, but I cannot look away.

This show IS available on Crunchyroll, but I would charitably describe their presentation as “unwatchable” and thus I have been watching fansubs. Which brings me to the chain of events that I went through earlier:

Goal statement: Rather than watching the show on my computer screen, I’d like to watch it on the moderately-sized television a few feet away, from the comfort of the chair in front of the television, and I don’t want to spend time re-encoding the files. I also don’t want to run an HDMI cord from the computer to the TV as that would be unsightly.

First attempt: The TV has a built-in media player app, and some USB ports. Copy episodes to USB stick, plug into TV, it turns out that the TV can’t read the USB stick as it’s formatted in a Mac format. Erase USB stick, reformat to ExFAT, TV can now read it and the media player can even see the files and play them… without subtitles.

Second attempt: Install VLC for Android TV. Play episode. First episode plays with subtitles. Second does not. Some time here spent trying to figure out if the episode has subtitles (it does) and why VLC for Android TV isn’t working. It turned out that the answer was to change the default subtitle language from “no default language” to “en”. I have no idea why this was necessary for some episodes but not others. Fansubs are not entirely known for quality control so who knows. Now I have subtitles working.

While doing this, I also noticed that VLC has an option to get video files off a network share, which would save me the annoyance of copying them to a USB stick. I, therefore, set my ~/Movies folder to shared, pointed VLC to my desktop computer and it immediately told me that there were no files it could play.

This seemed odd, because it hadn’t even given me a login error or prompted me for a username/password. I found a suggestion online to turn off SMB1 in VLC’s settings – I have no idea why VLC defaults to SMB1, as an aside, it’s been deprecated since WINDOWS VISTA – and that didn’t seem to make a lick of difference.

Finally, out of frustration, I force-quit VLC and restarted it and tried to connect to my desktop again… and it immediately prompted me for credentials and suddenly I could happily stream anything in ~/Movies.

Let’s hear it for the power of Turning It Off And On Again.

Side note: seeing the contents of ~/Movies from the VLC file browser made me realize that I had been tossing random video files in there for years and that it was a godawful mess of a directory, so I spent several minutes whipping it into shape. Another positive outcome!

But then I got to thinking. If I could stream files from my desktop, I could certainly point it at the well-organized video library on my NAS as well… and I could probably set up network shares in VLC on the iPad as well.

So now, instead of my former process of running video through handbrake to make it compatible with the iPad’s TV app, then copying it over via Finder, I can simply stream the original files over my local network. No transcoding required, no slow file copy required, just point, click, watch, and then delete because no way on earth I’m going to want to watch this series a second time.

ALSO, I’ve been watching Crunchyroll/Netflix/Youtube/etc off the PS5 apps, but setting up VLC pushed me to finally install and configure all of the various streaming apps – including HiDive, which doesn’t have a Playstation app – on my TV proper. So I’m also saving however much power a PS5 sucks up, which I suspect is quite a bit of power even if it’s just playing a video.

So all in all, a very positive outcome to the day and it all started simply because the built-in media player app on my TV couldn’t display subtitles.

Posted in anime, gadgets, random, video encoding | Leave a comment