So I did some more FFXIV PvP.

Lest you be in any suspense as to the results of my dalliance with beating up the other human players that populate Eorzea, I have not gotten any better.  I appear to possess negative PvP skill, and there is a firm argument that, when I die, the total PvP skill on my team actually increases by a fair amount.

That’s OK, though, because getting the cosmetic PvP armor I want doesn’t take skill or winning or any of that crazy stuff.  Every armor set costs 14,000 “wolf marks”, and a loss in the game’s mass battle “Frontline” mode rewards you 500 or so wolf marks.  Winning, which is a pipe dream, gives 1000.  So it’s better to win, really, but not essential.

In addition to the points for winning or losing a match, you also get 1000 marks for your first frontline of the day, and another 1000 marks for playing seven frontline matches in a week, and another 1000 should you WIN three of those seven.

I… haven’t yet gotten that bonus this week.  I’m at like, 2 for 11.

However, I did get enough currency from my turns as a catgirl punching bag to put together the healer PvP set.

Compared to the heavy armor look of the tanking set, it’s a much softer look.  There’s still a robotic theme to the visible bits, but the poncho sells the “this is a support character” look.

If you want the with-the-blast-shield-down-how-am-I-supposed-to-see-anything look, you can do that too.  It doesn’t light up like the tank set.

The back is basically just a reminder that Square should really do something about clipping tails.  Catpeople are the most popular race in the game, and all of the armor tends to look like this:

Seriously, it would not kill them to model in a notch.

It also has some awesome high-top sneakers.  I’m not sure how battlefield-appropriate these are, but let’s throw matters of a practical nature aside in favor of cool.

When I was masochistically running battleground after battleground in WoW in search of the PvP armor in THAT game, it took me ages because it was doled out completely randomly at the end of each match – there was no saving up currency and simply walking over to a vendor to fill out my virtual closet.  You could knock out the cosmetics in FFXIV in a week or so PER CLASS without doing much more than running a single match every day.

There ARE some super-grindy cosmetics and mounts locked away in the darker depths of the PvP achievements.  Some of them require, like, 300 frontline wins to receive.  For the people who really want to dig into PvP and make it Their Life In Eorzea, it’s good that they have that to look forward to.  For me, I’m comfortable with the super casual rewards.

 

Posted in MMORPG, videogames | 1 Comment

I should know better.

If you look through any few months of posts on this blog, you may notice a common theme – I feel a little buried by the amount of stuff I own and would like to have less stuff.  I have been digitizing, selling, and donating crap for what seems like years now and still get twitchy about how many things exist in our house.

SO WHY THE HELL DO I OWN THIS THING?

For the record, the last time I owned a CRT television was 2008.  It was a Toshiba 24AF42, which is this thing’s larger brother, and I wasn’t very fond of it.  We had a decent-sized HD set in our living room and used that for almost everything, and I wasn’t playing very many games at the time so I really didn’t notice how much worse older games looked on an LCD screen.

It was also 72.75 pounds and took up an absurd amount of room.  I had to look up how much it weighed, by the way.  I would have guessed “like 50, maybe?” which just says that I was a decade younger and rather stronger in 2008.

We gave it to a friend who wanted a TV for their garage, I think, and we were glad to see the end of it.

This Toshiba 14AF42, on the other hand, is a hair under 24 pounds and… still takes up a fair amount of space, if I’m honest, but is much less imposing.  It was a $10 impulse purchase made out of nostalgia and because I have spent far more time than I like to admit messing around with video filters in emulators and never being quite happy with the results.

When I say that older games look bad on an LCD, of course, that’s a matter of opinion.  You can take a game and play it through an emulator, like this:

Or play the same game on an LCD TV:

And compare either to the picture on a CRT:

And you might say that the CRT is rather washed-out and fuzzy by comparison, and this wouldn’t be an entirely incorrect thing to say.

You might also say that I am awful at taking pictures of TV sets, and this would be an ENTIRELY CORRECT thing to say.  The CRT picture here shows a lot of vertical lines that aren’t visible when you’re actually looking at it in person, for example, and I’m not sure how to reduce or eliminate those.

On the other hand, the CRT has an appeal to it that is difficult to define.  There is a warmth to it, and a certain charm to the slightly distorted picture – and, after all, games of the era were designed around the quirks of a glass picture tube and can look rather awful when those quirks are taken away.

This is the sort of nostalgia that leads a certain class of person to give a huge chunk of their living space over to shelves and shelves of cartridges and CD-ROMs.  I am not that class of person.  I made a lot of money selling old games to that sort of lunatic a few years ago, and I am the better for having all of that stuff gone.

I kept some Saturn games, mind you, because the Saturn is the greatest game console of the pre-Xbox 360 era.  But those are small and don’t take up a ton of space.

I sense that you are waiting for me to get to the point.  I’ll probably find it eventually.

To go off on what will initially appear to be an unrelated tangent, a few years ago I came home from Japan with a copy of Fatal Frame IV, which meant that I needed to softmod my Wii to play imports and to be able to use the translation patch created for the game.

I followed a fairly-detailed guide on the process, wound up with a Wii that could play home-brew software, then played through Fatal Frame and did nothing else with this Wii.  I suppose I could have started running pirated Wii games at that point, but most of the software available for the system wasn’t worth the bother of piracy.  Really, it’s the second-worst game console released in the last 30 years, and is damn fortunate that the N64 exists to keep it out of that bottom spot.  About the best thing you can say for it is that it sold so many consoles that there were some really obscure releases that managed to see the light of day, and we did get some decent horror games and things like Muramasa.

On the other hand, Nintendo hanging desperately on to the analog era gave a piece of hardware that addresses a very specific need.  After all, if you are actually sending your video output to a CRT, there is no need for video filters that try to simulate a CRT, and a Wii is powerful enough to emulate most older consoles but backwards enough to still support CRTs in 240P mode.

I bought Link to the Past for my 3DS and was very frustrated by trying to play it on the 3.5″ screen.  It turns out that adding 10 inches makes a huge difference in being able to see where you are and what you’re doing, and I actually managed to get Zelda out of the damn castle at the very start of the game.

Basically, the Wii makes a perfect emulation box for this specific era of game, and this TV makes a perfect display for it.  I can also play through Fatal Frame IV again, and this time I might not have such a godawful time with the piano puzzles that were designed for a CRT and nigh-impossible with LCD display lag.

Oh, and I hooked up my 60GB PS3, so I can play the first three Fatal Frame games as well.  This set has component inputs, which stunned me a bit considering it’s from 2002, so PS2 games look about as good as you can get.

I sense a ghost photography marathon approaching.

Posted in gadgets, Saturn, videogames, Wii | Leave a comment

In which, I explore the PVP options in Final Fantasy 14.

In the past, I’ve mentioned that I play a lot of different MMOs but rarely dive into the PvP side of things.  PvP is one of those things that rewards skill and commitment and… well, I generally don’t have a ton of skill or enthusiasm for it, so my typical role in any PvP scenario is to try not to feed too many kills to the opposing side.

The biggest exception to this rule was Rift, which had a wonderfully-flexible skill system that let me create a character that looked like a fragile DPS class but that was actually really tanky and had self-healing abilities that nobody expected.  My role in Rift PvP was to seem like an easy kill and lure two or three members of the opposition into chasing after me, then keep them busy while the rest of my team took advantage of their sudden numerical advantage.

It worked pretty well.

I also did a fair bit of PvP in WoW, and whenever I get the urge to jump back on THAT particular treadmill I spend five or ten minutes in the PvP section of the game’s official forums and confirm for myself that, yes, Blizzard still hasn’t done a damn thing about the faction imbalance.

But let’s get on to what I really wanted to talk about, which was the PvP side of Final Fantasy 14, what drew me into it, and whether it’s a good time.

You know, I can save you all a lot of reading and just answer those questions with a) good-looking cosmetic armor and b) no, it’s pretty awful.  But, should you keep reading, I have words and pictures.

Let’s start with the cosmetic armor, since one of the highlights of the recent FFXIV patch was the addition of some very mechanical-looking armor sets.

This is the tanking set, and I obviously fell in love with the look to the point where I spent most of a weekend day slamming my face into the PvP brick wall in order to earn enough of the currency I needed to buy it all – even the hat, and I generally don’t bother with hats.  The red light on the visor can be toggled on or off which is a neat little detail.

Here’s a slightly more close-up view.  I can’t quite decide what it reminds me of.  It’s got a bit of Crysis to it, maybe?  Or Mass Effect?

The axe isn’t from the PVP set.  It kinda goes with the theme though.

And a back side shot.  Not a backside shot.  I would say that this isn’t that sort of blog, but it kind of is.

Basically, it’s got all sorts of exciting glowy bits and sharp angles and just does not AT ALL fit in with the high fantasy theme that most of the game embraces.  Then again, you can ride around on giant plush cats or flying beds, so it’s not like Square minds a bit of immersion breaking.

Getting the full set took playing 18 PvP matches, which obviously isn’t a ton to build an opinion from, but I’ve got one anyway.

FFXIV PvP has three modes.  “The Feast”, which is an affair that drops your four-man team into a small arena with another four-man team and asks you to kill the heck out of each other, “Frontlines”, which drops three 24-man teams into a much larger arena and asks you to kill the heck out of each other and also periodically do some objectives that I never really got the knack of, and “Rival Wings” which drops two 24-man teams into a MOBA, where you have a bunch of NPCs running around in addition to all of the other players that you need to kill the heck out of.  Rival Wings was particularly difficult to understand going in blind, so I only played one match of it.

For a quick hit of PvP, “The Feast” is probably the best mode, and it’s where I spent the majority of my PvP matches.

Not that I was very good at it.

FFXIV has the typical “what do we do with tanks in a PvP situation, anyway?” problem that plagues almost every MMO.  In the PvE side of the game, tanks exist to keep the attention of NPCs away from the squishy healers and glass cannons, but players are slightly more intelligent than NPCs and can simply ignore the tanks.

Everquest II and Scarlet Blade are pretty much the only MMOs that actually did anything intelligent with tanks in PvP, and the combined player base of those at their peak was probably enough to fill a medium-sized 24-hour pancake house.  But I digress.

Anyway, FFXIV’s solution appears to be to make every class just ridiculously difficult to kill. I’m not sure that healers CAN be taken down without at least three people devoting their entire attention to the task, and even your typical dress-wearing black mage can soak up hit after hit.  It doesn’t make for a very interesting time, if I’m honest, and it’s particularly dull as a melee class since FFXIV melee has a terribly short range and people can easily dodge and dance their way out of reach.

This is where “Frontlines” actually shines, by the way.  When you have 24-man teams, it’s not that hard to actually reduce the other side’s numbers pretty quickly if you catch them spreading out a bit.

I’m sure that there are some people who REALLY get into the kick-ball, stick-ball, kill-the-guy-with-the-ball side of FFXIV, but  I’m not one of them. It was a grind that never got to be ungrindy, and the best thing I can say for it is that it didn’t take TOO long to get the stuff I wanted from it.

Except, I kind of want the healer armor set.  And maybe the bard set.  So, it’s looking like I will get back to this next weekend. I’ll update this if it manages to hook me.

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Nier, far, whereeeeeeeever you are, don’t you know that my hearth will go on?

After a few weeks of not logging into any MMOs, I’m back on the Final Fantasy XIV train.  I took a break when I realized that all I was doing was logging in to grind out some currency that I could convert into extremely small upgrades for my character, and I’m back now because they released some new story content and a new raid – which is a lot more fun than just watching numbers get slightly larger.

Naturally, I jumped in to some older content to knock the rust off before doing anything too strenuous.  It went about as well as you’d expect.

After that very quick warm-up, I decided that I would jump in to the new raid, which is the first of a planned three-part series of 24-man raids based on Nier: Automata, which was one of my favorite games of 2017.

Short summary: It’s really fun, and they did a better job of integrating the two universes than I expected.  The raid available at this point more-or-less follows the story of the Nier: Automata introduction, then throws in a heck of a twist and a cliffhanger just at the point where you expect it to end.  The next raid in the series probably won’t be available for at least six months, and it’s going to be a rough six months.

There’s gear, of course, but the real money prize is a set of cosmetic armor that lets the lucky winner dress up like everyone’s favorite android.  Only three sets of this drop on any given raid, so actually getting your hands on it means beating out some pretty stiff competition.  Some of my guildmates have run the new raid upwards of ten times without being favored by the RNG.

I should feel bad about getting it on my first run.

That actually wasn’t the most surprising achievement of choosing today to return to FFXIV.  The BIG achievement was buying an in-game house, which may take some explaining if you are used to sensible MMOs which provide an unlimited supply of instanced housing.

FFXIV is not sensible.  There are four housing districts, each one with 18 wards, and each ward has 60 houses available for sale.  If all housing plots are sold, you simply can’t buy a house.  The only way to get a plot is to wait for a house owner to go 45 days between logins, at which point their house is demolished and the plot is made available for sale.

…well, let me expand on that, because that doesn’t quite cover it.  After 45 days, the plot enters a state where it WILL be available for sale at some random point in the next 24 hours.  It isn’t immediately buyable, and there’s no way to know when it will become purchasable.

I play on Tonberry, which is a very old and heavily-populated server.  Any housing plot that comes up for sale usually has a small crowd of people gathered out front, all of them repeatedly clicking on the “for sale” sign in the hopes that, when the house does tip over from “not available for purchase”, their mouse click will be the first one to hit the “Buy now” button.

It’s one of the worst aspects of an otherwise pretty decent MMO.

In the same patch as the new raid, they added three extra wards per district.  Houses in these new wards aren’t immediately available for purchase by new homeowners, however.  They are intended for guilds who don’t yet have a guild house, but are also available to current homeowners that want to relocate.  

People who relocate help the housing crunch in the original 18 wards out a bit, since moving dumps their old plot back into the market, albeit with a random timer on when it can actually be purchased.

The plots that are available after this, of course, are usually in the less-desirable housing districts.  Yes, Final Fantasy XIV has desirable and undesirable neighborhoods to live in, and I recognize this is ridiculous, but let’s move on.

I logged in earlier today and realized that there were quite a few plots available in the lousy neighborhoods, and none of them had anyone standing at the for sale signs waiting to buy them.  There were also a few available in nicer parts of Eorzea, but those were seeing a lot of competition.

I tried a few “for sale” signs, but even here most of them gave me the “this plot of land is not yet available for purchase” message.  One did NOT, and the game quite happily took a huge sum of virtual money from my character and welcomed me to the ranks of the landed gentry.

I then trotted off to one of the NICE plots in the new housing wards and told the game that  I would like to relocate my living quarters, at which point it charged me a second huge sum of virtual money and suddenly I realized that I was now tied to never unsubscribing for more than 45 days ever.

I spent roughly six million gil to own this house.  That is about 60% of all the in-game money I have earned in my character’s lifetime.  It gives me no benefits other than the vaguely warm feeling of having a personal space.

So, with the raid down, I should get on to the new story content.  Then… well, I guess I’ll be waiting for the next content drop.  Maybe I’ll spend the next few months trying out different wallpapers and rugs.

 

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In which, one thing leads to another and I buy clothing.

A few days – maybe a couple of weeks ago – my twitter timeline basically exploded with Japanese Red Cross blood-drive posters.  Apparently, some genius at that organization decided that (a) nerds have blood, (b) the Red Cross would like more blood, (c) nerds are very weak to the power of 2D jubblies and (d) that taking advantage of (c) might result in a positive outcome with regards to their goal (b).

Hence you get posters like this one.  This is a blood drive poster.

Anyway, it turns out that the character here is the titular – I’m not even sorry – character from the manga “Uzaki-Chan wa Asobitai!” or “Uzaki-Chan Wants to Hang Out!” in its English translation, which I started reading purely because of the power of aforementioned 2d jubblies and because it looked like it was a manga about maybe a vampire waitress or something?

It turns out that the fang on the poster isn’t actually a vampire fang and the waitress thing is only a side job.  So that thing about not judging a book by its cover is still a pretty good aphorism.

Rather, Uzaki-chan is a bubbly and energetic and very friendly college student who has an older classmate who just wants to live a quiet and solitary life and go to his part-time job and focus on his studies and instead has this girl who thinks that such a life is VERY SAD and should be avoided at all costs and makes avoiding that her life’s purpose.

It’s pretty damn funny.  If you like slice-of-life manga, I fully recommend it.

Anyway, Uzaki tends to run around in a shirt with SUGOI DEKAI (“Super Huge”) proudly emblazoned across the chest area, and there are entrepreneurial sorts of people on the internet who have realized that this is a very simple design to copy.

And it is, in my mind, the perfect nerd shirt.  It is absolutely meaningless to anyone who isn’t familiar with the property, so it fades into the background of random brands we are all exposed to on a daily basis.  It’s still super nerdy but anyone who would know that is probably in on the joke.

So I bought one.

 

 

 

 

On the other hand, upon taking it out of the packaging, I had the immediate realization that, as a male-type person, I absolutely was not SUGOI DEKAI in the appropriate torso region, but that as a slightly-pear-shaped North American male-type person I was maybe a little bit SUGOI DEKAI if the print was only moved about a foot down the shirt.  So it’s really not FOR me.  I am still going to rock it with pride.

 

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An extremely specific rant on the annoyances of buying anime on macOS Catalina.

I buy a fair amount of media off the video section of the iTunes Music Store (hereafter iTMS).  It tends to be cheaper than buying blu-rays, and all I am going to do with a blu-ray is immediately redeem the digital code that came with it and then give the physical disc to the local library.

Yes, I have some OCD problems.  I’m choosing to ignore them.  The point is that I don’t like having shelves full of media around.

Anyway.  Back to the iTMS and my rant for the day.

iTunes has actually been a pretty decent place to buy subtitled anime recently.  Seasons tend to appear on the store at about 30 bucks a pop and then eventually drop to the $15 range, which is in impulse buy territory.  One show I have been waiting on is Love Live! Sunshine!!, which is a fine show but one that I would like to pay less money for.

So every once in a while I load up iTunes and check how much it costs.

Searching for Love Live! in iTunes gives me results like this:

So you can see that the show exists in both the default, English-dubbed version and in an “Original Japanese” version with proper voices and subtitles.  As a side note, you can search iTunes for “Original Japanese” and it will give you a pretty decent list of shows that are available subtitled.

macOS Catalina no longer has iTunes.

It has the Music app, which DOES have access to the iTMS (but only the music side) and the TV app, which has a new way of browsing for media.  It is not a good change.

If you search on Love Live! Sunshine!! in the TV app, you get one result:

 

Dub only.  No way to choose the subtitled version.  I checked a few other shows just in case Apple had something against everyone’s second favorite team of nascent idols, but came up with similar results in every case.

Now, compare this to the TV app on iOS rather than macOS:

The iOS app shows that the show you are trying to buy exists in two versions.

And lets you pick the subtitled version.

Looking up Love Live! Sunshine!! on tvOS works similarly to the iOS app, by the way, though I couldn’t take a screenshot to demonstrate.  It’s only macOS that doesn’t give you options.

This only appears to affect TV shows, so it’s not like it’s CONSISTENTLY broken in the same way.  It can’t even aspire to that.  If you use the macOS TV app to look up a movie available in both dubbed and subtitled versions – let’s take “Your Name” as an example – it works like the iOS app.

I have been more-or-less happy with Catalina in general.  I don’t think the transition from Mojave to Catalina was quite as smooth as previous transitions, but I get that they are trying to make a lot of structural changes to the OS.

I’m not sure which of those structural changes justify “and you can only buy English-dubbed versions of shows from now on” but I rather hope they get their heads out of wherever they have gotten wedged and fix this.

 

Posted in anime, mac | 2 Comments

On the topic of trashy anime

Let me be up front about something: I love objectively-terrible harem anime.  If you put me in front of a show and the first five minutes of the first episode are spent establishing that it is going to be the story of a sad-sack high school boy who lives with an hyper-cute sister figure who is NOT IN FACT RELATED BY BLOOD and who goes to school with a bevy of other cute girls, most of which can be neatly sorted into a half-dozen character archetypes, then you may as well just check off the next six hours on my calendar because I am going to binge that thing all the way to the end.  If the cute girls happen to be supernatural or mythological creatures of some types, this goes double.

I’ve watched Everyday Life with Monster Girls, The Testament of Sister New Devil, My Wife is the Student Body President, KissXSis, OreImo AND Eromanga Sensei, Omamori Himari, Rosario+Vampire, To-Love-Ru, and you know I should probably stop listing shows because I’m almost certainly already on a List somewhere.

However, I have always drawn sort of a line at High School DxD, even though – in theory – it should check all of my boxes.

This is why.  It starts like this:

And while I don’t demand high-brow writing, this is basically so low-brow that it could possibly be mistaken for a mustache.

On the other hand, the show just gets brought up SO DAMN OFTEN when people talk about high-fanservice-anime that I finally broke down and watched it.

It is, for the record, extremely low-brow.

While the laws of physics are commonly chucked out the window in anime, fabric in DxD follows a particularly questionable set of rules.  It can go from insanely tough and capable of restraining the most improbable set of knockers ever drawn by an artist with a questionable grasp of anatomy but an excellent idea of what sells,  to paper-thin and tearing at the slightest provocation when the plot requires that, for reasons that are self apparent, the improbable knockers must be set free.

I half-suspect that the show director mandated a maximum Time Between Nudity for the animators – and just to be certain, the pre-and-post commercial break eyecatch almost always includes a heaping serving, followed by an ending animation that features pole dancing, erotic Twister, or a bikini car wash.  If said director owns a dictionary, it stops at “subtitle”, because he does not know the meaning of the word “subtle.”

BUT

Goddamnit, I loved it.  It had genuine heart to it, and a particularly irreverant take on mashing together assorted mythologies, and heroes that shout out their more-and-more-bizarrely-named combat techniques, and a huge cast of characters from which to select the Best Girl.

For the record, it’s Rias.

And it’s not even close.

The main character – the person talking in the caption way back at the start of this post – dies in the very first episode, is reincarnated as a devil, and finds himself in the middle of an eons-old conflict between devils, angels, and FALLEN angels – who are, let’s be clear, NOT devils.  Over time, the show throws in some Norse mythology, some Journey to the West, battle nuns, witches, dragons, and – for the hell of it – Joan D’Arc in a brief action bit where she beats up an angel who USED to be a battle nun and is also the main character’s childhood friend.  There are SEVEN swords called “Excalibur”, all with different properties and most of which evolve into cooler versions of themselves, and all battles must include the antagonists describing the names and characteristics of their special attacks while the protagonists sit there politely waiting to be told exactly how someone is going to try to kill them.

It’s nuts.

Oh and there are a couple of cute guy characters, too, in a token attempt at “let’s add something for the ladies”.  Their clothing is generally made of sturdier stuff than anything worn by a girl, mind you.

Would I recommend watching this with your family over?  Probably not.  Would I recommend that you mark some time on your calendar to binge four seasons straight? Yes.  You may lose all respect for yourself.  Your friends will CERTAINLY lose all respect for you.  It does not matter.  Embrace the trashy anime as you embrace your trashy self.

Posted in anime | 3 Comments