Thursday, October 29, 2009

Qtipus vs. Apple Call Center

We all know the stereotype that applies to a tech support call center. They usually don't speak your language very well. In this case, English.

Three days ago, my "boss" brought in a Power Mac G4 that he says has $10,000 worth of software on it that he uses for video/audio recording and editing. The problem?

It won't power up.

That's usually a very cut and dry case. Most of the time, it's a power supply. Otherwise, it's almost always the mainboard. It's pretty rare to run into something like a stick of RAM or a hard drive that's shorting it out and preventing it from turning on completely.

So I start digging around for replacement power supplies on the web. The machine is old, so I'm not exactly expecting a difficult time finding a replacement.

For those of you that don't know, the G4 power supplies used a 22-pin, ATX brick instead of a standard 20 or 24-pin ATX brick that's used in normal desktop PC's. The odd thing about this is that the moulding for the first 20 pins on this power supply are exactly the same as the desktop PC power supply. They're wired differently though, so a standard desktop one isn't going to work.

Anyway, searching around, I find these power supplies "new" ranging from $100-$350...for the same wattage.

Easy enough right? Buy the $100 and be done with it.

Not so fast.

Y'see...experience has shown me that if you have a part with a humongous price range like that, the ones on the lower and upper ends are probably not going to be what you're looking for.

Ok, still easy. Buy the middle of the road one and be done with it.

Not so fast again...

Seeing this price range pretty much made me start dreading what was next.

I had to call Apple and find out for sure. Usually a manufacturer's price on a part is a good indication of where third party manufacturers are going to fall in terms of price. Apple's website is useless when it comes to hardware support. They want to speak to you via telephone and troubleshoot your issues. You can't just call to get a price on something apparently unless you call one of their retail stores.

Unlucky for me, all of their retail stores don't open until I'm already tied up doing a ton of other things.

I make an appointment for an apple rep to call me between 10:30-10:45AM yesterday morning. 11:45 rolls around and still no call. I leave here for the day to do the work for my business and I come in this morning to a message from an Apple Rep that was left at 3:45 yesterday afternoon.

The message stated:

Hi, this is Amber from Apple calling you regarding case #: #########. I understand you are having issues getting the machine to turn on. If you wouldn't mind, can you please unseat and re-seat the memory in the machine, then call us back at the number provided in your case email please? Thank you and have a great day.


/facepalm

Not because the suggestion wasn't a legit one, but because that's not what I was asking for.

For the type of issue, I selected "Other" and proceeded to explain that I was not looking for technical support, I simply wanted to know the price of the power supply for this computer itself.

So...calling them back this morning, I probably should have just told my "boss" to get a new mac.

The lady I got this morning apparently failed english. Horribly.

She was by far the worst tech support rep I've ever spoken to and I've been doing computer repair services for over 12 years. I can't begin to illustrate how bad her english was through text, so for the following conversation, just assume she's very hard to understand. Also understand this conversation went on for a LOT longer than the text will imply. I literally had to ask her to repeat herself 3-4 times each time she spoke.

Apple Rep(AR): Thank you for calling Apple, may I have your case ID please?
Q: #########

(What was the point of putting the case number in to an automated service if I was just going to have to say it again?)

AR: Ok, one moment while I look up your information.
Q: Ok
AR: Ok, I see you cannot get the machine to turn on.
Q: Right. I need to know the price of the power supply.
AR: Did you re-seat the memory?
Q: Yes. I need to know the price of the power supply. It's Apple P/N is: ###-####.
AR: The machine still will not turn on?
Q: No. I've already done all the troubleshooting, I know it's the power supply.
AR: I'm sorry, can you clarify which part again?
Q: Power supply.
AR: Did you try a different power cable?
Q: Yes.
AR: When you say 'power source', are you referring to the wall socket?

...

Q: I did not say 'source', I said 'supply'. The internal box with all the cables that plug into the various parts of the computer.
AR: Are you referring to the part the power cable plugs into?
Q: Yes.
AR: Did you try a different power source?
Q: Yes, I tried a different power supply and it fired up.
AR: Ok, let me put you on hold while I find out some more information.

5 minutes later.

AR: Ok, sorry for the hold. I am still unclear what you are needing. You need another power source?
Q: I need the internal power supply. Emphasis on, 'internal'.
AR: I'm sorry, if it works with a different power source, you should leave it plugged into that power source.
Q: That power supply belongs to another computer.
AR: I'm sorry, we do not sell wall socket supplies.

........... x infinity

Q: THIS FIVE YEAR OLD POWER MAC G4 HAS A BAD POWER SUPPLY - POOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEER SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUPPLYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY - IN IT. I NEED TO KNOW HOW MUCH IT COSTS FOR A REPLACEMENT!
AR: I'm so---
Q: I'M NOT DUMB ENOUGH TO CALL A TECH SUPPORT CENTER OVER A BUSTED WALL OUTLET. DID YOU HAPPEN TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE PART NUMBER I GAVE YOU? DID YOU HAPPEN TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE PHRASE "I'VE USED ANOTHER POWER SUPPLY"
AR: Excu---
Q: IT'S THE SILVER BOX ON THE INSIDE - NOT OUTSIDE IN A WALL OR NOT OUTSIDE REFERRING TO A BLACK CABLE - INSIDE THE COMPUTER ITSELF THAT HAS A LOT OF LITTLE RED, YELLOW, ORANGE, AND BLACK CABLES COMING OUT OF IT.
AR: Oh, the internal P.S.U.

(Deep Breath...keep it together Q...)

Q: Yes.
AR: I'm sorry, we do not sell those directly to the public.
Q: Can I speak to your manager?
AR: One moment please.

(Five minutes later)

Apple Call Center Manager: May I help you?
Q: Fire her.

/hangup.

Good lord.

So yeah. At some point in the near future, I'll blurb about where I ended up actually getting the power supply.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Leadership Decisions

A conversation happening late last night in Obsidian got me to thinking about the general cycle of a linkshell's life. Given the exodus of players to other MMO's like Aion recently along with FFXIV being on the horizon and various other real life circumstances that usually prevent people from dedicating as much time as they had previously to XI, a lot of linkshells are faced with their own end game.

When someone takes up a position of leadership, they're taking on an obligation to ensure the people that choose to follow them have an event to do. Expecting scheduling perfection of leadership is out of the question from a member's standpoint, but at the same time...habitually rescheduling or canceling events isn't fair to these members.

This puts leaders in a precarious position. Before I get into that though, understand that people come and people go. It's a natural part of a community's life. A guild in EQ, a linkshell in FFXI, a clan in WoW etc are all subject to this. The idea behind creating a community is obvious. They're created mostly for the social aspect of the game, but also to achieve common goals. The vast majority of the time unfortunately though, these start to crumble as members get what they want.

It's a matter of perception. The drive to pick up an item or achieve a goal often times blinds a player to exactly how much time they're investing in the game. When they finally get or achieve it, they "wake up" and either find something else to achieve or move on to something else. Does this make a person selfish? Not necessarily, but it does open the person up to that sort of questioning.

Did they really care about the community to begin with?
Did they only care as an ends to their means?
Are they willing to continue to contribute after the fact?

To the subject of these questions, it's hurtful. There are other people who benefited from their contributions along the way to their achieving their goals. It's hard to fault a person when this is the case, especially if you're not dealing with a black and white situation. If someone shows up, gets a piece of not-so-coveted gear within 2-3 events and leaves, that's black and white. If someone has literally poured years of their life into a community, that's gray.

What does leadership do then when vets aren't contributing as much time? What role to the vets have to play if they aren't contributing as much time?

In the conversation last night, Brizzy described LB's current membership scenario and it resonated a bit with me in terms of how it compared to Obsidian's. The way I understood it, rules were being changed that didn't sit too well with the vets and the vets griped/bitched to no end or left the shell altogether citing they didn't want to go through a rebuilding process.

(I've been in that situation before...it's not fun.)

This gets us back to the post title. This whole scenario of rebuilding and leadership having to make the decision to rebuild is tough. Especially when you have vets, who are largely responsible for the rebuilding having to take place to begin with through their level of inactivity, griping about it. It's almost as if vets who contributed a ton of time feel entitled to keep the status quo and just let the linkshell die rather than try to let leadership fulfill their obligations to the people who still haven't achieved their goals yet.

I've spoken at length in a couple of previous posts about the lack of dynamis attendance. Reading Brizzy's comments about LB got me to thinking about how our crew would react if a couple of the scenarios that are running through my head to bolster attendance played out.

When a linkshell's memberbase starts to wane or show disinterest in various events, leadership is faced with one of two options:

1. Thank everyone for their time and contributions and break the shell.

or

2. Find new members.

Option 2, at least in terms of FFXI, can be achieved in a number of ways, but no matter what, a leader is in a lose-lose situation.

Leadership can start advertising via shouts and forums that the linkshell is openly recruiting again.

Pros: Probably will pick up at least half a dozen people.
Cons: Probably will pick up at least half a dozen people who suck.

Leadership could start talking to other shells in similar attendance situations about absorbtion or merging.

Pros: Will pick up a lot of people.
Cons: Will probably have to form an entirely new shell and have everyone start from scratch or figure out a conversion method for the points standing and have "new" members essentially start in the same place they were in their old shell.

With either one of those scenarios, there are likely rule changes that will come about. The make up of the linkshell changed. This doesn't mean leadership will go changing rules for the sake of changing rules. It's too common for a rule to be changed to favor leadership in scenarios like this as a lot of leaders feel the need to either wave the power sword or try to accelerate the time needed to get what they want specifically. A good leader will avoid this if at all possible, but again, members have to understand that with new people generally come new challenges and those challenges have to be met head on.

Unfortunately, new people + new rules = disgruntled vets.

If any of these scenarios ever played out in Obsidian, I would bet Gungnir on the fact that there would be an uproar and the most vocal members would be the ones who have been to an average of one run per month in the past year. I can't help but feel this is probably the case with LB based on Brizzy's descriptions (I do wish LB's leadership the best of luck in the rebuilding process). Their leadership has apparently made the decision to keep things going, but are finding cockblocks all over the place from the very people that forced them to make that decision to begin with.

Vets have to realize time and place. If you had perfect attendance in Obsidian from 2005-2006, congratulations. If you show up in 2009-2010 and criticize a decision leadership has made in the 2-3 years you've been missing, STFU. Get back in touch with the reality of the shell, then make your opinions known. Let leadership do their job and if you have an opinion, express it with the understanding of your recent level of contribution to the shell as a whole. Ask why that decision is being made. Understand leadership is going to feel somewhat betrayed and that you're open to the aforementioned 'selfish' line of questioning. They're building a community. Again, community members come and go, but you don't go eat from the soup kitchen for two years, then go eat from the hamburger joint up the road for two years, then come back to the soup kitchen and bitch because they aren't serving vegetable soup 3 days a week anymore.

This is where I get irritated the most. Being a leader is a thankless job. A normal member of a linkshell gets to spend time getting some supplies and show up to an event. A leader gets to organize it, make decisions (some easy, some hard), perform the admin tasks associated with it and then...maybe gets to enjoy the event itself outside of all that shit. Members normally do not realize this is the case. I do appreciate the ones who do and make a point of thanking leaders, but these people are few and far between as a whole. I've always realized I'm there to serve and direct the people who want to join the community I'm helping to build, but when faced with a scenario like this, I'm almost floored by the fact that there are veterans out there who believe leadership should just let a linkshell die.

God forbid that linkshell exist and be successful without them.

In Obsidian's case, I don't believe we're at the membership crisis point yet. We're approaching it, but I feel like we've still got some time to make some tweaks to bolster our dynamis attendance a bit again. Ideally, I'd like to see 30+ for each run rather than the 25ish we've been seeing. The reason I don't believe we're at that crisis point yet is based solely off our Einherjar attendance.

Yes I get that Einherjar is 30 minutes vs. 2-4 hours in dynamis.

However, the Einherjar numbers tell me that our memberbase is still very large and very active.

It might be time to truly start enforcing that "Do 1-2 Dynamis runs/month or no Einherjar for you" rule.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Dr. Q Tip Us and Sexist-Card Playing Successful Woman

So Monday morning, I'm greeted with the following email to my business email address...

Chad,

I need you to come up today to do the work I've been requesting of you for the past 3 months. I'm getting sick of having you disrespect me because of your innate fear of successful women. I find it sickening that I have to ask you so many times to do what amounts to simple tasks like getting Outlook installed and my {proprietary work software name} working. I've spoken to my bosses about this issue and they assured me they would take the appropriate action necessary. I expect to see you no later than 1PM this afternoon.

Sincerely,

Sexist-Card Playing Successful Woman


(Name's obviously edited to protect identity...)

Ok...so as most of you know, I own a computer repair business. From time to time, I'm prone to run into crazy people. I can't give a ton of details here about the business SCPSW works for, but I can tell you exactly where the miscommunication happened that caused SCPSW to flip out and send me this email.

About 4 months ago, I changed the server at said business.

Actually to make this easier, we'll call this business "LMAO".

Anyway, I changed the server at LMAO due to their rapid growth. They went from a basicaly, peer to peer, 5 PC network to a 15 PC network with a Domain Controller spread across 30 square miles.

(Yes, tech speak, STFU and stay with me...)

So once I put this new server in, some of the peripheral devices that the employees used didn't work with the network anymore. Things like...

...SCPSW's laptop.

As a tech, it's impossible to know every single thing an employee is going to want to do. You pretty much have to take it day to day. I knew this laptop wasn't going to work with their company's software unless I actually put it on the new domain. I've explained to her the ramifications of doing so as she'd end up with a local profile and a network profile. I feel like I've pretty much gone over every single thing that was going to happen if I put her laptop on the domain, but to no avail.

Her mentioning of Outlook is something else that's been a point of contention between she and I. That particular version of Outlook is something she's already installed and activated on a different machine. It's license is for one machine, yet she wants me to install it and try to circumvent the activation process. I've told her repeatedly that her saving $300 is not worth risking my business and potentially getting sued by Microsoft for software piracy.

On top of that, there are three people up there that are authorized to say "Yes, we'll spend money on Chad coming up to fix your issues" and SCPSW is not one of them. So naturally, this email came as a bit of a shock.

At first, I was a little miffed, but then I found it funny. Why?

Well look at it's contents. First, she's pissed about something she's wanted me to do for 3 months. Something she's not authorized to get me to do. Second, the stuff she's saying she's wanted me to do is stuff I've gone out of my way to explain to her, but she hasn't actually responded in a manner (until this email) that would lead me to believe she understood. Third, the stuff she's wanting to use her laptop for is stuff she's got the ability to access her desktop remotely to do as long as she has internet access (remote web workplace...).

And last...but not least...

Did she really pull out the sexist card?

Really? In 2009?

When she knows my girlfriend is a successful attorney?

When 2 of the 3 people authorized to bring me to her place of employment are successful women?

When I've actually had a conversation with her and congratulated her about her level of success and the hardships she's had to go through to get to where she is?

Part of me understands why she'd have a tendency to play that card. The work environment she's in on a day to day basis is mostly men. It's a construction-based business model. Not that women can't do the construction work, you just typically don't see them doing it. This will also sound like I'm stereotyping construction workers (and to an extent I am...), but they aren't exactly known for having the capacity to treat everyone equally. There are some on that staff up there that truly do believe women shouldn't be allowed to vote, read, write, etc.

(Yes, I make jokes about that from time to time...)

(Ok...I make jokes about that all the time at Invy's expense....)

(Erm...Ok I make jokes about that all the time at the expense of most women. And ethnicities. And Nationalities. And religions. And...well...pretty much anything that should piss people off if I were serious, but all joking aside, they're made because of the sheer stupidity of the mentality.)

Still, that card being played. On the computer guy. Someone who hasn't made those jokes to anyone on a professional level.

Pay attention folks. A lesson is about to be served.

I called her boss. I asked Bossman about the conversation he had with SCPSW referenced in the email. The conversation went something like this:

Q: SCPSW is pissed at me eh?
BM: Yeah, she was upset.
Q: She name anything specific I've said or done that lead her to believe I'm sexist?
BM: No. She mostly just made it sound like you've been ignoring her for 3 months.
Q: I can send you email correspondence between she and I for the past 3 months.
BM: You don't have to worry about your standing with me. I know my employees and their tendencies and you're safe.

Ok, whew. Deconstructed one pillar of support.

Then I called her other boss. We'll call her Bosswoman.

Q: SCPSW is pissed at me eh?
BW: I heard your conversation with BM

(Oh yeah...they're married)

Q: Oh yeah, marriage...etc.
BW: She's had a bad week.
Q: So she took it out on the computer guy?
BW: Looks that way.

Second pillar of support deconstructed.

Now it's just SCPSW vs. me.

I drove an hour to LMAO.

I walked into the building.

I walked into her office.

I closed her door.

I locked it.

I sat in the chair directly across her desk from her.

I made eye contact and forced myself not to break it.

(This is really setting up like some trashy romance novel as I type this out...)

Q: Tell me. What exactly have I done the past 3 months that has made you believe I'm intimidated by your success or your gender?

SCPSW: <.<
SCPSW: >.>

(I'm following her eyes around trying to force her to see that I'm not going to look away until I have a straight answer.)

Q: You send me an email scathing me about my level of service and what you perceive to be my level of morality in relation to your gender and success. Again, what have I done to give you that impression?

SCPSW: I don't know, I was pissed when I sent that email at a lot of different things.

Q: So you're saying you basically accused me of something I could easily lose my business over because you were pissed at a lot of things other than me?

SCPSW: No, I'm pissed that it's taken 3 months for you to do this.

Q: Let's get a couple things straight. I take orders from 3 people here, you're not one of them. I've also got a paper trial of conversations I've had with you over the issue you're pissed about and you've left me without an impression up until that email about which way you wanted to go.

SCPSW: ...

Q: I'm the computer repair man. I'm not your verbal whipping post. You have issues, you take them out on the people that they need to be taken out on. You have issues with me, you come to me with why you're pissed and without the baseless accusations. We'll get along much better that way.

SCPSW: ...

Q: If you really think I'm intimidated by your success, you need to understand there are people I work for all over this state who make a lot more money than you do and are female. Two of which make more in a year than I would make in 10. You don't intimidate me. You don't scare me. I have nothing but good wishes for your success because your success means this business is successful which means, as long as I keep your bosses happy, I have a customer.

SCPSW: ...

Q: Now if you'll excuse me, I have other work to do here before I get to your requests. Take 3 deep breaths before you send me another email like that.

Then I went to a different office.

About 15 minutes later, the last authorized person there sees me as I'm walking through a hallway and stops me...

(We'll call her SubBossWoman.)

SBW: What'd you say to SCPSW?

Q: Should remain between she and I.

SBW: Whatever you said pissed her off even more. She stormed out of here.

Q: Really?

SBW: Not going to pry, but if you pissed her off that bad, it's been a long time coming. Bosses don't want to fire her cause she's so good at what she does, but she's horrible from a workplace chemistry standpoint.

Q: ...that's really your business to handle. I'm not so sure you should be telling me this stuff.

SBW: Oh no worries, it's common knowledge. I know about the email she sent you this morning. I figured you'd open your mouth about that.

Q: Yeah. Major pet peeve of mine are baseless accusations.

SBW: On another note...how pissed off were you to get here in 40 minutes when it normally takes 60.

Yeah...

ANYWAY!! (hope no policemen are reading this...)

Moral of the Story:

I hate bigots. While I'm perfectly aware the jokes I make will offend some, the vast majority of the people I make them to understand they're made in jest and I will roll with jokes at my expense as well. When I offend someone, I hope they are truly human enough to actually tell me they're offended so that I can actually try to avoid offending them later, but unfortunately, they aren't. I'm completely intolerable of people who truly believe one gender, race, nationality, etc is superior to another and am one of the first people to mouth off about it if I see someone being victimized by it. Understand, however, that as human beings, we have to be able to laugh at ourselves about pretty much anything.

There are always exceptions and lines not to cross, but those are so serious in nature, that one would hope it was ingrained in all of us not to cross those lines. Some of the universal ones would be a permanent physical ailment, personal appearance (self-deprecation is not a signal to pile on), or the epitome of an emotional disaster.

In the case of Sexist-Card Playing Successful Woman, I'm accused of said bigotry and completely without merit as I haven't made any jokes. When I'm around customers, I tend to maintain an air of professionalism that's led most of my customers to believe I actually have no sense of humor.

Unless they do something truly stupid with their computers and I just can't help myself...like the lady that literally melted the front of her computer with a space heater. Man did I have a field day with that one.

Whoops, digressed.

Anyway, SCPSW called me as I was on my way home later and apologized. She offered to take me out to lunch to make up for it, which I politely declined. People are allowed to mess up and as long as they own up to it and don't make the same mistakes repeatedly, I'm willing to forgive and forget.

This has been Dr. Q Tip Us and I'm glad I could help. :)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Crisis Core and Final Fantasy VII Stuff

A lot of you in Obsidian with me have probably already seen me talk about Crisis Core. Before I really get into that, I need to point out that since FFXI came out in Oct 2003 (NA), I haven't really played many other video games. I used to find something new to play every couple weeks.

When FFVII came out, my buddy Troy and I were pretty much standing in line to get it. I was less than a year out of high school starting college as a music education major. (YAY BAND GEEK!~) It had been 3 years since any form of an FF game had been released and, with the huge marketing buildup, we were both eagerly waiting for this to hit the shelves.

As most fans of the FF series will probably attest to, VII had a ton of impactful moments. The most notable of which was Aerith's death scene. Over the years, Square has given us a lot of characters that were memorable. Some by name only cause they're in nearly every game (Cid, Biggs, Wedge) and others because they did such a wonderful job developing the character itself that it's almost impossible to forget them. Especially if you can relate to them.

Aerith herself didn't really leave me with the impression of fitting this superbly developed character until her death scene. As a matter of fact, I barely used her the first time I went through VII. I mostly stuck with Cloud, Tifa and Red XIII. What actually stuck with me the most after her untimely death in VII was her music/theme. Even playing through a 2nd and 3rd time back then didn't get me attached to her character, but her death scene was brutal (for the time) and her music was awesome enough that she stuck with me.

I'm not a huge contemporary music fan. As a matter of fact, most contemporary music just pisses me off. I'm the guy that will buy the score to the movie rather than the soundtrack. You get me listening to some very well arranged/written orchestral piece though and that's the sort of stuff that moves me. SE managed to develop Aerith into a legend mostly due to how well Nobuo Uematsu developed her character through music.

If you think about it, how many characters from the FF series do you remember because of their music? Celes, Aerith, Rinoa, Sephiroth, and Kefka just to name a few. Well, Kefka likely due to his laugh moreso than his music, but you get the point. Most people probably don't realize it at the time the character is being developed, but later on down the road, they hear the music and go "Oh shit! That's Sephiroth's music!" rather than calling it by it's appropriate title.

Anyway, back to VII for a moment. One of the things that always bugged me about VII was the plot. It's the typical 'save the world' plot, but the depth of character development that Square went to in this game often times made me confused and pretty much to led to me mashing buttons from one battle to the next trying to get to the next CGI scene. Because of that, when I picked up Crisis Core, my memory of VII's events was rather...old and not very clear.

I knew who Zack was when I got the game. I remembered him being killed off in a flashback sequence, so playing through the game, there's the knowledge that all this time you spend making Zack a hero is going to ultimately end up in his death. With Advent Children having been released a couple years prior to this game and showing off Zack and Aerith at the end, I felt that there wasn't any real way SE could top the impact VII had and some of the showstopping footage they had put together in AC (story aside, the CGI was gorgeous).

But...

I found the game for $10 new at Toys R' Us and couldn't pass it up.

Turns out this game had me wrapped up in Zack's character pretty much from the getgo. SE capitalized on many of the musical themes from VII along with some new stuff. They also capitalized on implementing some of the same CGI sequences that made AC such a hit. Hidden beneath all of that is a very well thought out story showing Sephiroth's downhill spiral, Zack's ascension to being a hero and the beginnings of what made Cloud who he is and...most importantly I felt, putting the actual character into Aerith outside of her music. The relationship developed between Aerith and Zack certainly make for a lot of "Awww..." moments and a lot of Zack's thoughts, musings and actions after he meets Aerith revolve around her. It's clear though that this story is about Zack, not Aerith, but SE managed to do a wonderful job with her nonetheless. They even managed to make Sephiroth into a bit of a sympathetic figure as he descends into madness.

=======SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT========


The story for Crisis Core itself is rather short, but the game is long if you play through all the side missions. Pretty much from Chapter 8 on, prepare to be blown away by the events as they unfold. Some of the events you already know about through VII (Nibelheim), but the way SE presents them in CC freshens them up completely. The ending to this game is what really got me though. More on that later.

The game starts off with Sephiroth in place as Midgar's hero. Everyone wants to be him. Angeal (Zack's mentor), Genesis and Sephiroth are among the elite of the elite SOLDIER 1st Classes. Genesis goes missing, taking a number of SOLDIER members with him and Angeal, Zack and Sephiroth are sent to figure out why. As the story unfolds, cutscenes like this one take place:



Note the use of "One-Winged Angel". Once we get some answers to Genesis' disappearance, we learn the origin of the whole One-Wing thing as it's a trademark of the scientific experiments on various early SOLDIERs.

What about Aerith? How is she introduced? Like this:



Again, notice the use of the music. There are several more cutscenes like this one (very few CGI movies with Aerith in them in this game, mostly scenes rendered with the game engine itself) developing their relationship. The irony in their meeting the same way Cloud meets Aerith is a nice touch too.

What about Cloud? Where does he come in? Well, Cloud and Zack formed a friendship after their helicopter crashed in the mountains while chasing information related to Genesis:



While the story doesn't do much to show all of the various interactions between Zack and Cloud until they're in Nibelheim, once they get to this point, you start to understand why Cloud's memories are f***ed up in VII so badly. The true recounting of the events at Nibelheim take place here:



Biggest thing to keep in mind here is that Cloud pulls off the seemingly bad-assness BEFORE he's infused with Mako. Shortly after this battle takes place, Zack and Cloud are captured by Shin-Ra and given to Hojo to experiment on. Hojo sees something valuable in Cloud. Four years later, Zack manages to escape his experiment tube, frees Cloud and is now considered an escaped fugitive. Zack isn't aware of the amount of time that's passed and immediately works to keep Cloud safe and figure out what to do with Genesis.

After Zack finishes "saving Genesis", he continues to be pursued by Shin-Ra soldiers as a fugitive. Shin-Ra has unleashed a full-scale military assault in an attempt to find Zack and Cloud. The Turks meanwhile, are trying to apprehend Zack to save his life. (Vid below).



This is the first time Cloud has shown any major sign of consciousness for the past 5 years. Almost as if he knew something bad was about to happen. In the ensuing fight, Zack inevitably ends up losing. After collapsing, a Shin-Ra soldier blasts Zack in the head and leads us to this:



That near 7 minutes of footage there is literally some of SE's best work ever. Obviously it's along the same lines as Advent Children, but in AC, the characters already had an established development and there wasn't much else SE could do to further them. Here in Crisis Core however, SE gets to tell Cloud's history entirely along with Aerith's, Sephiroth's and a few others. Most notably though, Zack.

An ending like this is nowhere near as impactful unless you actually make a connection with the character itself. Throughout the entire game, Zack is developed as a bit of an over-enthusiastic, gullible man hellbent on becoming a hero and inadvertently becomes one when all of his own heroes fall from grace. The story of this ascension draws you in completely and, again even though you know what's going to happen to Zack, you literally want to sit back and enjoy the ride while you can.

The ending made me cry. I'll admit it. The gunshot to the head started the waterworks (especially when they start showing Aerith's realization of what's happening) and it ultimately peaked at the image of Cloud's face stained with Zack's blood yelling at the heavens. My only gripe though...

...I wish they had shown Tifa finding Cloud, but that's neither here nor there.

I was asked by Lect the other day why Cloud didn't know who Aerith was when they met since Cloud absorbed/shared Zack's memories and confused them with his own. The only logical answer I can come up with to an entirely illogical situation is that Zack had forgotten who Aerith was as he was being worn down. Part of the ending sequence not shown in those videos is that as Zack is fighting, he's starting to forget the important people in his life as he's inching closer to death. It's only after his becoming one with the life-stream again that he remembers Aerith's name.

Bottom line is, if you have a PSP, go buy this game. Especially now since it's on clearance for $10 in most places. There's a ton of story packed into this game. I'm hoping SE decides to redo FF7 using this game engine since they seem to be in the mood for redoing the series with the better technology out there.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Confessions of a Drunk Canuck

Qtipus: you have 87 twitter followers
Qtipus: do you even know 87 people
Toad008: You may not know it, but I'm a bit of a big deal
Qtipus: do you advertise your twitter page at your concerts? XD
Toad008: It's a reasonably close knit IT community here, so lots of the programmers follow eachother
Toad008: And I might have to start mentioning it at concerts =)
Qtipus: "Currentlybworkihg gardvtobbnot be passed out to be not padded out in my kitchen. But food news? I still Jane my phone b" is rather awesome material to advertise with
Toad008: lol
Toad008: good point
Toad008: maybe I won't
Toad008: but like most of the IT folks on my twitter list were onthat beer night
Qtipus: you need to post a meghan mccain-esque photo or something
Toad008: and knew I was out of it
Qtipus: holding your hacked DS games
Toad008: To the photoshop!
Qtipus: did you see that picture btw?
Toad008: yeah
Qtipus: i have no idea how she thought that would be perceived as normal XD
Qtipus: her boobs are pushed up and she's making a porn face XD
Toad008: it is normal, for attention seeking mySpace generation girls
Toad008: not normal for the many conservatives that follow her.
Qtipus: well yes, i'm just referring to her reaction to the reaction XD
Qtipus: massive cleavage though
Toad008: pretty epic
Toad008: not that I'm complaining.
Toad008: that's the best arguement I've seen to vote conservative in the last couple years =)
Qtipus: lol XD

You can follow Yoteo here on Twitter.

SE's Nov Job Adjustments: SMN, RNG, and BST

SE posted some updates on SMN and BST today. That followed up the RNG update from a week or so ago.

Ranger



Velocity Shot: They're increasing the duration of this from 5 minutes to 2 hours. That's always been one of the things that's baffled me about SE's job ability timers. Why do they make a JA with the same duration as recast? I get it when we have a JA that's got a 5 min. recast with a 2 hour duration (Afflatus JAs) or a 1 min. recast with a 5 min duration (Hasso/Seigan) and you can alternate back and forth, but a 5 min. recast with a 5 min duration just makes no sense.

At any rate, the benefits from this are rather obvious. Most of a RNG's damage is obviously going to come from ranged attacks, so having this up and not having to think about it for 2 hours is beneficial.

Unlimited Shot: Changing this so that the effect remains active until you actually hit your target. The benefits from this are rather obvious. Don't know how many RNGs I've heard over the years griping about missing a wind throw on sky gods or missing a weapon skill with a certain type of ammo. Not that they can simply spam weapon skills again, but in a zerg, it seems as though it would come in super handy with an Icarus Wing.

Camouflage: Changing this so that you generate less enmity from your ranged attacks. Given the main two things I fight anymore are Dynamis Lord and the various Einherjar bosses, this would be something that I'd insist on our RNGs using before they pop a weapon skill. I don't know how many times I've lost TP cause a RNG pulled hate. Depending on how much lower the generated enmity is while this JA is active obviously.

Distance Messages: This is something sorely overdue and likely was part of the reason people started using Windower en mass. This is also a reason why I never bothered leveling RNG. I don't want to use Windower and I don't want to spend time guessing where the sweet spot is. Depending on how this is implemented, I may end up changing my job leveling order from DRK - BLM to DRK - RNG - BLM. I can't imagine this would be horrible though as any assistance in finding the right ranged distance would be welcome.

All of it looks promising, although these updates were probably due years ago.

Summoner

Summoner is getting a new job ability called "Avatar's Favor". I had talked at length in this blog post about Tikki main healing an XP party. I also mentioned that if SMN had some sort of AoE refresh similar to that of Ballad I or Ballad II, they'd probably be every bit as powerful in an XP party as the old guard of healing.

The news here today actually surprised me. Not only did they get an AoE refresh, they got a ton of other stuff that seems to put them on par with COR (at least on paper).



How this is actually implemented though remains to be seen. With a two hour duration, this is obviously not an ability that a Summoner is just going to pop out like Evoker's Roll or even Refresh itself. This is basically a support ability that seems to focus on getting the SMN to keep their avatars out for longer.

All of the avatars have a different perpetuation cost. For ease of math's sake, we're just going to look at level 75 with no perpetuation reduction or refresh gear yet.

Carbuncle: 9MP/tic
Fenrir: 11MP/tic
Ifrit/Shiva/Titan/Ramuh/Garuda/Diabolos: 13MP/tic

Obviously the focus for SMN has always been on reducing perpetuation cost. There's a whole host of gear available for doing this. Not having SMN leveled myself, I'm not going to speak of the math involved in reducing perpetuation, but it leaves me with two burning questions that probably won't get answered until the update actually arrives.

1. Do these favors wear off immediately when the avatar is dismissed or is there a duration?

The answer to this question here is what will make or break the usefulness of this ability. If the effect wears off when the avatar is dismissed, then it's "Thanks for the thought SE, but you failed." If it remains in effect for at least a short period (to give the SMN a chance to recover some MP), then it's complete win.

It's awesome that you can stack them, but really, if the effects wear off immediately after the avatar is dismissed, what's the point? You'd have to build a party with all these SMNs in it and keep them there it would seem. Meaning the more buffs you wanted to stack, the few people it would actually reach.

I'm not knocking the change, but until this part of it is answered, I'm not going to get overjoyed at the prospect of finally being able to stop making the SMNs in our linkshell feel completely useless.

2. How long does it take to get to max potency?

This is kind of an augment to the first question. If the effect takes say...5 minutes to reach max potency and it's removed immediately when the avatar is dismissed, it stands to reason the SMN is going to be spending more time reaching max potency than the amount of time the party actually benefits from max potency. While some buff is better than no buff obviously, making it too long (i.e. longer than a minute or a minute and a half) just isn't worth it.

I think all of this will end up being decent for SMN in the end, but part of me looks at it with a little trepidation as SE tends to advertise some really great things, then just implement them poorly. It seems to change SMN for the better so far.

Now to go see how many threads get filled up with "WAAAAAH NO NEW AVATARS!~"

Beastmaster

This, on paper, is probably the most significant change to a job in all of the updates...and not in an entirely good way. It's obviously something BSTs have been wanting for a long time and it definitely seems to put a lot more fun into BST (albeit at the expense of your wallet). Like the SMN updates, depending on how all of this plays out, I'll reserve judgement. Looking closer at it, I'm not so sure this ends up being the best thing to happen to BST as you can make the case it makes them less self-sufficient.



What this does is give the BSTs the ability to control their jug pet's moves through the use of charges. Right from the getgo, the first thing that appears to be bad about this is the 2 minute recharge on the charges. If these moves are dependent the available number of charges and the pet actually having 100TP, why do they have to put a 2 minute recharge on these things? Hell a SCH gets charges on a 1 minute recharge and I think it's pretty safe to say they haven't exactly broken the game.

I also doubt SE adjusted the strength of the jug pets, so this recharge timer is even more baffling, especially considering just how long it takes for a pet to get 100TP.

On paper, this seems to perhaps close some of the gap our BST friends suffered in XP or meripo parties. Having the ability to choose a move to spam every 2 minutes along with the normal damage a pet and BST dish out likely accomplishes that at least a little. What does it do for end-game events though? Nothing really. It seems that it hurts them more than it helps since they now have to wait for charges and are dependent on the pet actually living for 6 minutes to build enough TP to use it. Sure, they could monitor the TP and get the pet to disengage until all 3 charges were ready, but by then, (in the case of an Einherjar boss for example), the target is dead.

Don't get me wrong...I think the idea here is a step in the right direction, but depending on just how powerful the jug pets are and how moves are distributed with the charges, this will go badly. If the Funguar is any example, I don't think this would help much at all.

Personally, I think if the charges themselves counted as an extra way to use a pet's TP move w/o the pet having TP and if you could bank your charges (like SCH) w/o having a pet out, this would look a whole lot better on paper and probably perform that way when it's implemented.

I wouldn't get completely discouraged though if you love your BST. This is the first time that I've noted SE making a specific point of telling people that they're watching closely and want to make more adjustments to BST as they see fit. So definitely test the living piss out of all this and submit your feedback to them. They might actually be listening. :)

Conclusion

While a lot of these updates look decent on paper, they need to be tested. Some of these things are just way overdue while others are rather innovative ways of updating a job and bringing them up to par with some of the others in their category. I can see some of the benefit of having these updates around in the events that I do from week to week, but again...until they're tested, I'm not going to jump onto the bandwagon.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Dark Knight, Dynamis, Einherjar, etc

Few random things from my adventures the past week or so.

Dynamis

Still seeing some rather low turnout for these runs. We're well beyond the "back to school" excuse. I had speculated before that with the increased drop rates in CoP and the Northlands, we'd start seeing a rather drastic decline once the demand was met. That's not saying we're unsuccessful in our attempts. It takes a little bit more finesse pulling and a lot more job tweaking in most cases, but the runs still turn up the generally same results.

We had Windurst yesterday. Windurst is, in my opinion, the second hardest zone to actually clear behind Xarcabard. Going in there with lower numbers tends to worry me since we're usually in cramped places fighting AoE heavy critters along with extensions being spread out all over the map. We had 2 wipes at the SMN house. One of which infuriated me and the other, on any normal day, I probably wouldn't have been pissed about but given the wipe right before it, it didn't sit too well with me.

The first wipe was caused by lack of communication. For the SMN house, we normally put the RDMs on crowd control until the BLMs can take down the 4 statues that are running around. We had 3 RDMs, 2 of which were apparently dead and afk and no one bothered to tell me. Pretty much tantamount to a complete noob moment. Needless to say, that didn't end well.

The second wipe was due to an Astral Flow going off. That SMN house is sometimes a crap-shoot. I saw the Sleeps being cast right as Tidal Wave started, but it was just a second too late. The sequence I saw and gathered went like this:

- Titan wakes up
- RDMs cast sleepga and sleep Titan.
- Leviathan had been slept via Sleep II and woke up the second after sleepga fired. (Obviously sleepga didn't land on Leviathan due to Sleep II being what slept him.)
- Leviathan Tidal Waved.

There's not really anything anyone can do when that sort of stupid timing happens. It was icing on the previous wipe-cake.

Up to this point, it had been a rather solid run. There were a couple kill-order issues, but for the most part, it was shaping up to be similar to the previous Windurst run where we had 0 wipes and pretty much raped everything in the zone sans 12ish statues. Wasted about 20 minutes with those 2 wipes, so I called an audible and changed up our strat to get the clear. The guys made up for it by basically pulling a win out of their asses.

You see, before the first wipe, they had taken down the SMN NM. This left us needing to take down the BLM and RDM NMs to pop the boss with 30 minutes left. Normally we just go counter-clockwise around the zone up to Heaven's Tower, then kill the boss on the west bridge at the fork behind the AH. The audible I called was to do it the old-school Obsidian way by moving everyone back to the base of Heaven's tower and clearing everything from there. This eliminated a number of statues that were going to get in the way of our success. I didn't pull any punches with the pulling. Often times, there were 5 or 6 birds and a couple statues roaming about the rest of the time in there. They held their ground and killed the boss pretty much at the 1 minute mark. What they ended up killing in those 30 minutes was:

- 3/4 of the Death House
- The entire BLM House
- The 6 repop statues on the HT Bridge
- The 2 statues on the back side of HT
- The entire RDM NM pull (2 chanters, 2 prelates, 2 somethings, 3 statues and the NM)
- The 2 statues repopped at the base of the bridge from the RDM NM's death (6 Yags, 2 Stats
- The Mega Boss (which I almost botched the pull by getting nuked from 50' away...)

So yeah...while I was happy they hunkered down and got the win in this zone, it just makes me wonder what happens to this zone if that focus shown in the last 30 minutes was shown the entire run. I've always found this to be the single hardest aspect of leadership. That of trying to maintain everyone's focus. Most of the time, it can be done by keeping them constantly active, but from time to time, we have runs where vets and noobs alike check their brains in at the door and ultimately ends up costing us some time.

I also think this is the main reason Dynamis, as an event, isn't something people generally look forward to. In an age of MMOs that focus on quick, low-manned content (FFXI included in recent years), it's become hard for players to justify allocating a 4 hour block of time. Ringthree suggested a while back that we start giving 10 minute breaks during runs to help alleviate the sheer amount of time spent doing a Dynamis run, but often times, we're up against the clock and 10 minute breaks aren't truly able to be given. I have started looking for those opportunities though...it's just hard to gauge when a 10 minute break can be given during each run because they're all different groups and circumstances.

As long as we're consistently hitting 25ish people for these runs, I won't worry too much. Some of the sacks have talked about pulling the plug on Dynamis if things get too bad, but I figure that's still a ways down the road. We know if it comes to that point, we're not going to get into the habit of canceling runs. The shell is too old with too much history to continually cancel/reschedule runs. Our Einherjar attendance shows that our member base is still very active though, they just seem burned out on Dynamis. I think if SE wanted to freshen Dynamis up a bit, they'd cut the max times down to two hours in each of the cities and northlands and adjust the drop rates and monster difficulty accordingly.

Einherjar

Had to postpone Odin a week due to low signups. We had 22 people signed up with a max of 24 that could possibly go. Normally, that number isn't something that worries me. What actually got me to postpone it was that we simply didn't have the right job combination. Primarily in the PLD dept.

After looking through the roster, it became rather apparent that T1 and T2 wins were missing from a very large portion of our member base. Pretty much a no-brainer to schedule those two. T1 was ridiculously easy for us Saturday. Was one of those in-and-out-in-10-minutes rooms. T2 wasn't so easy this past Tuesday, but wasn't super difficult.

The real kick to the nuts at the moment is the fact that it looks like Chahya's account has been compromised. Hopefully we don't have to postpone Odin again to finish up Dantess' set (8/9, missing a T3), but that's certainly looking like a possibility at the moment.

Dark Knight

I set a goal this weekend to get DRK to 60 and pick up Guillotine. My biggest frustration leveling this job at the moment is that most of it's scythe weapon skills absolutely suck prior to Guillotine. On top of that, Scythe was skilling horribly slow for me. You may remember from an earlier post that I went from 37-42 on XP Scrolls, so obviously no scythe skill there. I followed that up by level syncing to 31 and going from 42-50. I didn't uncap scythe until that party hit 37 obviously, so essentially, I got scythe up to about a level 41 cap when that party ended...and I was level 50. I picked up another couple levels doing FoVs with Lect and that helped out on the scythe front, but by the time I got into some parties over the weekend, I was still 9 levels behind on the scythe cap.

The party I had Friday night was outstanding. The set up was PLD, COR, BRD, DRK, SAM and RDM. While I didn't put up any eye-popping numbers, I came to the realization pretty quickly that (this being my first actual party where I was the same level as the level sync anchor) pretty much everything DRK does draws hate. It seemed like the very act of me pressing CTRL+A drew hate before I even took a swing. I managed to pick up a lot of scythe levels here. That party got me to 56 where I retooled my gear. I ran into a Mamool Besieged where I worked on capping Dark Magic and started trying to skill up elemental. Drakus pretty much made all his XP in there raising me since I kept dying to AoE.

Saturday showed promise of attaining my goals. I put together what amounted to an Obsidian party after Einherjar in the form of Mimitsu (COR), Ninjafox (DRG), Rael (PLD), Lectrikelion (RDM), and Clubber (BRD). After a bit, Rael dc'd due to a power outage, Clubber had to leave for work and Ninjafox had go try to get his name changed to something more manly I think.... They got replaced by Izman (PLD), Tohmane (MNK) and Zerolzero (BRD). After hitting 58, we moved to puks where we all got tired of leveling. We disbanded at 59 around mid-afternoon.

After assessing my skill levels at that point, I determined that I sorely needed to cap elemental magic (it was 131...with a cap of 191...) and that I should find something to skill up scythe on again as I was 5 levels under cap. I happened to catch a Troll Besieged where I did nothing but spam stone and water. I got elemental magic from 131 to 181 in that Besieged. Afterwards, I joined Kimille out in the Boyahda tree to skillup on the Steelshells she was skilling GS on. I ended up capping Scythe, Elemental Magic and Dark Magic in about an hour out there.

My attempt to put a party together afterwards when Rifu and Milie showed up failed though. All of the people that could heal the party in the form of a RDM just weren't available.

After an old man nap on Sunday, I put together a party consisting of Kakashibankai (RDM), Tikki (SMN), Kalakalo (PLD), Milie (BRD) and Rifuburade (THF) and headed back out to Puks. Kaka (/snicker) had to afk about 3 kills in due to a fire call and was AFK for the better part of 1-1.5 hours. Tikki seems to be bound and determined to change my mind completely about what SMN is capable of though. He managed to keep all of us hasted and alive while we 5-manned puks waiting for Kaka (/snicker) to come back. After an hour, I decided to replace him with Kimille and naturally, he comes back shortly after Kimille gets there...

Good thing too as Kalakalo had to leave. I had Kaka (/snicker) go change to PLD to replace Kalakalo and the party continued.

I ended up getting Guillotine and in typical DRK fashion, I damn near killed myself the first time I used it. Needless to say, the killing went a lot faster once Kimi got there as DRG and once I picked up Guillotine. DRK is now 61 and on the rise fast. Hopefully I can get it to 75 before Christmas. :)

Summoner

Back to Tikki for a second though. I had spoken months ago about Tikki main healing in Dynamis and bringing Ringthree around to the idea of using SMNs in the main healing/buffing roles of a party. When you get a SMN that understands there are two sides to the SMN coin (support and DD) and is willing to do both, SMN is actually really powerful. Obviously their hastes aren't going to match a RDM or WHM's haste and they can't mass cure with a Cure IV or Cure V, but to a SMN who knows how to play a job, they can make up for this rather easily. This was actually one of the first times I had used a SMN as a main healer in an XP party past 30 and he didn't disappoint.

I'm not saying that SMN would work in every situation, but I am saying that maybe people should take a little bit of a closer look at SMN. We all know how useful they are in the end game arena (in some cases circa 2004). I think if SE gave them a BP that did an AoE refresh similar to a Ballad or Ballad II (not both), SMN would probably find a lot more spots in an XP party. Especially if said effect could be 'buffed' with Evoker's roll. They have a huge MP pool comparative to their RDM and WHM counterparts, Auto-Refresh and what appears to be a decent chunk of enmity down gear. Tikki certainly held his own in keeping a rather suicidal party alive, so it tells me they really aren't that far off from being on the level of a WHM or RDM overall.

And a new feature I'm going to periodically put up here that's a straight play on The Daily Show's "Moment of Zen".

The Moment of Fail

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Sister vs. Transformers II

This story won't be as long as the first volume, but it's a story good enough to blog about.

Over the course of the past week, my sister has gone out to my house twice to do some walking on the treadmill. Each time she has gone out there, I've been out working. Because of this, I've received a phone call from the house when my sister gets there.

The first thing I usually think of when seeing Mom and Dad's phone number on my caller ID is that they need me to pick something up on my way back home. Which is fine, but they usually pick some of the worst times to try to call me and ask me. So seeing their number there a few days ago, I answered with "I'm busy, I'll call you back in a few minutes" and hung up.

Yeah...I hung up on my almost 3 year old niece.

I called back a few minutes later and my sister answers. Naturally, she gives me some crap about hanging up on my niece and does the fake guilt trip thing. I wasn't letting on that I was buying it, so she dropped it pretty quickly and got to the reason she had actually called me.

Apparently the phrase:

"Call Uncle Pad ask to play Transformers?"

...came out of my niece's mouth and my sister wanted me to hear it. She called my niece over to the phone and prompted her by asking:

"Can you ask Uncle Chad your question?"

"Uncle Pad, can play with Transformers pwease?"

Seriously, how do you say no to that? Not that I wanted to say no, but even if I did, how could I?

I said "Yes, you can play with my Transformers."

"Ok tank you love you Uncle Pad!" /sloppyeatingthephonenoise

(My niece likes to kiss the phone when she says bye to whoever she's talking to.)

Then my sister gets back on the phone:

"See what you've done."

This is said to me as I can actually hear my niece running down the hallway to the house towards my room and yelling various names of the Transformers. I don't know if this is typical of a three year old, but when my niece goes running somewhere, everyone in the house knows it from her distinctive, heavy footed (is that even a word?) clomping.

CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP BUMBLEBEE CLOMP CLOMP BLURR CLOMP CLOMP JAZZ CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP CLOMP RATCHET OH NO ULTRA MAGNEWS GOT A BOO BOO!!

I get the feeling I'm going to see a broken Ultra Magnus when I get home...good thing he's on clearance at the moment. :)

"I can't even get her to put princess dresses on the ones you got her anymore."

That got a Nelson laugh out of me at my sister's expense.

"I'm keeping the second one away from you..."

This was last...Thursday?

Yeah it just happened again about 30 minutes ago.

Too late now Sis...too late now.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Critical Break: 0-60 Series

Today was the last post in this series. All 8 of the main crafts have been covered. As mentioned in the Goldsmithing post, I was going to publish these guides on my own blog once the last one was published on Ring's and make a sidebar for easy access to them.

Hope you guys enjoyed :)


Next up will be the 60-100 guides for the various crafts.

Critical Break: 0-60 Series: Goldsmithing

This is an article written by me originally appearing on Ringthree's blog.

Critical Break is our crafting and economics column written by Qtipus. Q is an experienced crafter and also well versed in using the Auction House to turn a decent profit. Enough so that he was able to fund his own relic, Gungnir. Every Tuesday you will find Q's rants, raves and good crafting practices here. This week, Q continues his 0-60 series with the final installment: Goldsmithing.

Easily the worst craft to get to 60. Virtually every synth it has is a financial loss. The primary reason for it is stupidity. For starters, SE uses many of the ingots found through here as a reward in various BCNMs and Einherjar tiers. This causes a a rather large influx of the more popular ingots like Gold and Platinum ingots and as we all know...

...when the AH has 10 or more of an item up, people start getting really stupid with their undercutting habits. On the surface, this looks like a good thing since you can take advantage of said stupidity and keep your costs down, but since Goldsmithing is similar to Smithing in it's Ingot - Sheet/Ring/Hairpin/Earring - Scales pattern, the stupidity just keeps spiraling down through the various levels of financial hell.

I wish there were a way for me to write a Goldsmithing to 60 guide without starting off in such a negative way, but reality is what it is. You will lose a lot of money getting to 60 with this, so make absolutely sure you have a rock-solid method of income (or a ton of patience) before you attempt to tackle this. Some of the ingot synths can be slightly profitable, but any profit you make from them will get eaten up ten-fold shortly afterwards.

Read on for the pain...


Phase 1: Copper and Brass - Nothing Witty to Say About Them

This will be as simple as it gets through this guide. What you'll find is that you will be spending a lot of time making ingots early on, then taking advantage of the stupidity of people selling the ingots only to get victimized by more stupidity trying to sell off your results to recoup your money.

Guild. Buy the copper ores there, it doesn't get any cheaper. Stacks of these sell for a slight profit due to lazy crafters, so take advantage of it while you can. Keep some around for your next synth. If Guild prices are out of whack (i.e. more than 14 gil ea.), buy from Denvihr.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Copper Ore
Cap: Level 3

Use your previously made ingots to cap on these. Might be able to AH a few of these for a little profit, but don't count on it. Save one for your rank up, but NPC your results otherwise.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Copper Ingot
Cap: Level 7

There are usually a ton of Zinc Ores up on the AH in Bastok due to the fame quest there. Buy 'em at 500 gil or less, then buy your copper ore in the usual places. Stacks of these usually go for 9-10k on the Jeuno AH, so it might behoove you to make a few stacks specifically to sell and keep building that cash buffer if Zinc Ores stay in supply. If not, Palborough and Zeruhn Mines are the easiest spots to mine these things up with Palborough having the best rates, but far more spread out mining points.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Copper Ore, 1x Zinc Ore
Cap: Level 9

Use some of your previously made brass ingots to cap on these.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Brass Ingot
Cap: Level 11

Can skip these if you like, but probably not a good idea. Save some money again by making your own brass ingots.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Brass Sheet
Cap: Level 13

Save one for rank up. Possible to sell on AH for a slight profit, but again, don't count on it. NPC results otherwise. It's possible to skip this synth and move onto the next one depending on the availability of silver beastcoins, but again...you probably want to pick up at least a couple levels off these things before moving on.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Brass Ingot
Cap: Level 17


Phase 2: Silver - Your Wallet's Last Stand

Sometime during this phase, throw a goodbye party for your wallet, cause afterwards, you're going to lose it.

Silver beastcoins are usually cheap on the AH. This synth comes in around the same price as buying the silver ores from the guild for 341 each as long as you buy them for 4k/stack or less. Save your ingots for a later synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Silver Beastcoins.
Cap: Level 18

Buy these from Goldsmithing guild at their lowest point. Cap on these and save for later synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Silver Ore
Cap: Level 20

NPC your results here. These have no purpose to anyone whatsoever. You can cap on these or move to the next synth and cap on that. You will have less invested in the next synth and you will make more in return to NPC.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Silver Ingot
Cap: Level 22

This is purely a bridge synth. You will lose a little money on this unless you farm up your zinc ores for the brass ingot. Buy a bronze hammer from Ciqala for 300ish gil and craft away. Just NPC the results.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Brass Ingot, 1x Bronze Hammer
Cap: Level 24

Save one for rank up. These cap at 27, but at least make to 26. You're going to lose about 500-1k/synth minimum here. As with the previous hairpin synths, you can possibly recoup most of your cost if you manage to sell on the AH, but I wouldn't rely on it happening.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Silver Ingot
Cap: Level 27

Keep your costs to the absolute minimum here. If you manage to do that, you'll break even on these reselling them on the AH. These sell about average there, so you could reasonably expect to move 2-3 stacks a day. Problem is that these are pretty much one of the only consumables that Goldsmithing has, so there are people who will HQ these as a bit of a side-money-maker.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Copper Ingot, 1x Silver Ingot
Cap: Level 31

This is the last chance you have to really break even or profit from any of the synths in this guide. They sell for cost or slightly above on the AH, but move about as fast as the Hiraishin. Again keep your costs to a minimum and cap on these.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 2x Silver Ingot
Cap: Level 33

Phase 3: You Didn't Like Gil Anyway

Farming is the only way you're not going to lose your ass here. Farming the materials for some of these next synths sucks too, so that's usually not an option.

Here's the good news: You can cap this at 38 without really losing your ass as long as you buy mythril beastcoins off the AH for 14k/stack or cheaper. Ingot prices may be a little higher on other servers, but on Odin, the Ingots themselves are turning around for about 4-6k ea. Make as many of these as you can and then some, pay close attention to single ingot prices and stack ingot prices and sell according to the higher one. Turn in a Chain Gorget when you cap for your next rank.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Mythril Beastcoin
Cap: Level 38

Here's the bad new Odds are you're going to lose money here. You can buy mythril ores from the guild for as cheap as 1.5k ea and the AH is usually around the same point. Unfortunately the AH doesn't keep many ores around and the guild isn't down that low most of the time. Your only other alternative is to farm golems or antica or anything else that might drop the ore semi-regularly. A little relief is in sight with the next synth though.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Mythril Ore
Cap: Level 40

Use your ingots you just made to cap on these. The sheets sell for about the same as the ingot or a little more.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Mythril Ingot
Cap: Level 41

I put this here mainly as a bridge and didn't mention it's Vivified Mythril Ingot synth from earlier. The reason I didn't was because making your own animas requires you to have Alchemy at 75. Buying them off the AH is a joke on Odin. To me that pretty much tosses that particular synth out the window. However, there are some that make the ingot and sell it or some that find it in the Chocobo Hot and Cold Game. Compare the cost of the two materials to the sale price of Reraise Earrings and decide from there if you want to do this synth. You can buy the Mythril Earring from Scamplix or Matoaka. Due to it's low level cap and low level use, this item is spammed like crazy on the AH. They sell fast, but there's almost always a huge supply of them up.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Mythril Earring, 1x Vivified Mythril Ingot
Cap: Level 45

A brief reprieve in the mass spending dept. Make your own mats and definitely synth to cap here. You can probably skip Reraise Earrings or even Mythril Sheets and the second Mythril Ingot synth if you don't mind a 9 level gap. NPCing the results will net you a slight loss, but it takes a ton of breaks and a ton of loss before you even come close to matching what you'd lose by busting one or two reraise earring synths completely.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Brass Ingot, 1x Copper Ingot
Cap: Level 47

Phase 4: May As Well Be Charged 87,489 Every Time You Log In

There is no easy way to finish this off. Just grit your teeth and do it.

Gold Beastcoins are regularly thieved from higher level beastmen, so they're usually in steady supply. Make to cap here and keep for later synths. Turn in a Mythril Ring when you hit 48 for your last rank up.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Gold Beastcoin
Cap: Level 51

Same progression as the other ingots. The coin version is a couple levels below the ore version. Gold Ore is usually up in decent supply on both the Bastok and Jeuno AHs. You will likely lose 2-4k/ingot if you decide to resell these, but if you've been following these guides, you know to hold onto them and use them in the next synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Gold Ore
Cap: Level 53

These sell on the AH for a loss, but they sell kind of decently. Cap on these instead of Gold Sheets as you'll lose more money on those and the level gap is covered by synthesis support anyway.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 2x Gold Ingot
Cap: Level 55

These next few synths are probably going to hurt or make you sit on your inventory for a while. These do sell and they sell for about the same loss as the Gold Chains. Should definitely consider capping on these, but be prepared to have your inventory space killed on a mule for a while.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 2x Gold Ingot
Cap: Level 57

Insane loss on Odin server. You lose about half the ingot value making these and reselling. Avoid these unless you just don't want to risk a double ingot bust on the next option.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Gold Ingot
Cap: Level 58

Higher level Goldsmithers will buy these in quantity attempting to HQ the mid-level stat rings. This makes their sales streaky though and the only way you're really going to move them is to sell them at a loss. On Odin, they sell for about a 5k loss, which isn't bad all things considering, but can still add up quick. They'll kill your inventory space while you wait for them to sell too.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 2x Gold Ingot
Cap: Level 60

This an appealing option due to the fact that it's a single-ingot synth and the results sell for a profit. The unappealing part of it is that it's cap is 64 and you're probably going to bust a few of them. Catch Artisan's Advantage and try to cap on these instead of Gold Rings if you don't want your wallet or inventory space destroyed.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Platinum Ingot
Cap: Level 64, but level 60 for this guide's purposes.

There you have it. Goldsmithing at 60. You probably lost about a half-mil to a mil if I had to estimate following this guide. Hopefully you made some gil from the actual profitable synths prior to the huge loss ones.

This also concludes the 0-60 Series. What I hoped to accomplish with this entire series was to shed some light on newer options that are available due to updates that have happened since a lot of the guides have been written. I also hoped to shed light on the options that were available to make getting from 0-60 as cheap as possible. These guides will likely not have their own dedicated section on this blog, so after they've all been published here, I will publish them on my own blog and dedicate a small section to them. Hope you guys enjoyed the trip and look for my next series, 60-100 to start up soon.

Critical Break: 0-60 Series: Smithing

This is an article written by me originally appearing on Ringthree's blog.

Critical Break is our crafting and economics column written by Qtipus. Q is an experienced crafter and also well versed in using the Auction House to turn a decent profit. Enough so that he was able to fund his own relic, Gungnir. Every Tuesday you will find Q's rants, raves and good crafting practices here. This week, Q continues his 0-60 series with the seventh installment: Smithing.

Smithing was a craft I always found fascinating. Most of your swords and armors come from this craft. Yes the other crafting guilds have their share of armor and weapons too, but usually when you think of someone making a weapon or a piece of armor, an anvil and some red-hot metal getting hit with a hammer are among the first things that spring to mind. This was something that intrigued me in my early FFXI days.

At least until I started losing money.

Unfortunately, this is not a craft you can get to 60 without losing money unless you have far more patience for mining to cap on a daily basis than I do. Realistically, you can farm up NPC-able scrolls and make money at a faster clip than you can from mining. Keep this in mind as I go through this guide.



VERY IMPORTANT NOTE: Desynthesis plays a large part in saving money on some of these synths. I didn't go this route, but if I ever do this again, I'll likely set my mog house up with Moghancement: Desynthesis and spend a couple weeks collecting ingots through the various pieces of beastmen armor in my level range. Most lower level beastmen armor can be picked up for 1k or less with the results often times being 1-2 ingots of various flavors.

Phase 1: The Bait

Smithing starts off innocently enough. You'll be spending your first phase here either mining up your ores (not worth it really) or camping in front of guild salesmen. One thing to note here is the pattern most metals follow. They generally go from Ingot to Sheet to Scales in progression of skill up. Most of the metals in this guide will not get past the Sheet step as turning them into any scales will usually devalue your items pretty quickly.

Pick your favorite guild sales rep in Bastok or San d'Oria (or Whitegate if you like traveling back to the starter cities to rank up) and park yourself in front of them with some Fire Crystals. It shouldn't take long to cap on these. Save results for next synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 3x Copper Ore, 1x Tin Ore
Cap: Level 2

With more Fire Crystals, start eating up your supply of Bronze Ingots you just made.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Bronze Ingot
Cap: Level 4

If Bronze Ingots can be picked up for 75 gil or less from the Guild (or if you have any left over), buy up a few stacks and head out to Buburimu Penisula and farm up some Giant Femurs. Make these to cap. If you haven't started Bonecrafting here, odds are you'll cap that at 2 as well making these. Turn one in for your first rank up.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 2x Bronze Ingot, 1x Giant Femur
Cap: Level 8

Use up your supply of Bronze Sheets and cap on these. Check the AH in the starter cities for selling pace of these. It should be close to break even since the price of the mats is so low anyway and no one is usually dumb enough to put things like this up for < 100 gil. They're used in some other armors down the Smithing line, so they do sell, just not very fast.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Bronze Sheet
Cap: Level 10

Make up some more Bronze Ingots (or buy from Guild if super cheap) and make these to cap. These tend to be a good skill up item for Woodworkers, so you shouldn't lose any money selling the heads on the starter city AH.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Bronze Ingot
Cap: Level 14

You won't be able to resell these, but given the level gap after this, you'll want to make these to cap. They're cheap buying the ores from the Guild as usual.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Tin Ore
Cap: Level 15

Phase 2: The Trap

The innocence starts to fade here.


I mention this one as a bit of an alternative. The Iron Ingot synth will add up pretty quick. Generally making this ingot will be a little cheaper and it's used in one of the early Gobbiebag quests. Copper and Zinc ores are relatively cheap to pick up anywhere and you can usually find a few Kopparnickel ores floating around for < 500 gil on the various AHs. Kopparnickel ore is also a relatively common drop off bugbears in the Moval zones. You may opt to use this synth for a couple levels before moving onto Iron.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Zinc Ore, 2x Copper Ore, 1x Kopparnickel Ore
Cap: Level 20

For the most part, buying your ores from the Guild will be the best way to go. Iron Ores are relatively common mining results, but when you factor in cost of pickaxes and then the fact that there's a cap on how much you can mine per day, it's best just to go farm scrolls to make the money for it. Turn in an Aspis when you hit 18 for your rank up.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 4x Iron Ore
Cap: Level 20


Use some of your newly created Iron Ingots to make these.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Iron Ingot
Cap: Level 22

Hopefully Lady Luck is nice to you and you don't have to make too many of these. These are primarily used in the Makibishi synth, which is one of Smithing's rare consumables. Hold onto your results as you'll need them for a mid-30s synth.

Recipe: Wind Crystal, 1x Iron Sheet
Cap: Level 26

Say goodbye to a lot of gil. There are two things that are possibly going to play out here. The first is that you'll lose 20k/stack or so selling your results on the AH. The second is that you manage to sell all your chains by the singles on the AH and come close to breaking even over the course of the next year. Compared to the alternatives in this range, this is the best option available. Again, hopefully Lady Luck prevents you from having to make a ton of these things and actually lets you get one of those 1% HQs that give you multiple chains. Find the cheapest way possible to obtain your ingots here. That usually involves ores from the guild, but you can sometimes find the ingots on the AH for cheaper than the guild. Turn in a Bilbo for your rank up when you hit 28.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 2x Iron Ingot
Cap: Level 30

Buy Leather Trousers from whatever shop sells them as they're usually around 500g. Make your own cotton thread if your clothcraft is high enough or buy it from the weaver's guild. Use those Iron Scales you made earlier and NPC your results. This is one of the few synths that have a rather high resale value (approaching 6k with max fame). You will still lose a little money on this synth if you get max NPC value from it, but it's far less than what you'd lose trying to sell the scales on the AH.

Also, if you haven't started Leathercraft, you'll likely pick up a few levels of it here if it's below 5. I'd recommend getting it to at least 3 or 4 before skilling up on these though to reduce your chance of loss.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 2x Iron Scales, 1x Cotton Thread, 1x Leather Trousers
Cap: Level 35

When I skilled up on these, steel ingots were 6k ea. on the AH. This made it so that I had to sell all of my results to get close to break even. Now steel ingots on Odin are around 2.5-3k ea making this synth profitable to NPC even. Take advantage of this as long as you can. Odds are you don't have enough Iron Scales to cap on the previous synth, but if you're in the 33 range, it's perfectly acceptable to move onto this synth. The Ash Lumber portion of it is super cheap anywhere.

Like the previous synth, this has a subcraft you'll need to pick up a few levels in if you haven't started it at all. Woodworking caps at 6 on this. Turn one of these in for your next rank up.

Recipe: Fire Cyrstal, 1x Ash Lumber, 1x Steel Ingot
Cap: Level 38

Farm up your lizard skins (Crawler's Nest) and try to make sure your Leathercraft skill is 8 or higher. It's probably going to be cheaper to buy stacks of iron sheets off the AH at this point than it will be to make them, but if you've got max fame, farm your lizard skins and get the sheets for 2.7k or less, you can NPC the results for about break even.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Lizard Skin, 1x Iron Sheet
Cap: Level 41

The Cotton Cloth part of this synth can be made relatively cheap if your clothcraft is high enough, otherwise expect to pay about 600-800 ea. for them. This is similar to the previous synth where if you get your Iron Sheets for 2.7-ish, farm your lizard skins and keep your cotton cloth costs down, you can make most of your money back NPCing the results. These sell on the AH rather slow, but they do sell. You might opt to keep a few laying around to sell for 9-10k on the AH to make up the missing gil. Definitely make these to cap cause from here on out, it's kind of painful.

Again, be mindful of the Leathercraft sub of 12. Up to this point, it's entirely possible for you to have picked up 12 levels of Leathercraft just following this Smithing guide.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Lizard Skin, 1x Iron Sheet, 1x Cotton Cloth
Cap: Level 45

Phase 3: The Drain

A number of these synths end up being profitable, but the materials cost a lot and subsequently makes breaks super costly.

This falls in the same category as the War Pick. The prices on the mythril ingot portion of this synth has fallen quite a bit from the time I skilled up on them. On Odin, their price is currently in the 4-5k range per ingot. With Elm Lumber around 2k or less each, you can NPC the results of this for about break even or even a little profit. Hold onto one of these for your final rank up item as well.

Be mindful of the level 8 Woodworking cap.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Elm Lumber, 1x Mythril Ingot
Cap: Level 47

Buy up the ores on the AH checking Bastok, San d'Oria and the Jeuno ones. Pick up your Iron Ores from the guild. A five level gap will mean you're probably going to bust a few early on. Hold onto your result for the next synth.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Darksteel Ore, 3x Iron Ore
Cap: Level 52.

Darksteel Sheets usually don't lose any value over their ingots. Make these to cap. Buy Ingots off the AH if you don't have enough from your previous skillup session as there's not really any financial difference, just time.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Darksteel Ingot
Cap: Level 55

Loss. Pure and simple. You will lose about 2k/synth on these NPCing the results. You can AH a few of them, but they're still about a 1k loss even that way and they sell very slow. This is primarily a bridge synth to the final skillup items you'll be dealing with. Make or skip these depending on how comfortable you are with a 6 level gap.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 2x Iron Sheet, 2x Leather Gloves
Cap: Level 57

When SE implemented this and the caps were fleshed out, my first thought was "Hey, that's a kick ass skillup item!" Buying all your mats off the AH (on Odin) will run about 27k ea and the results sell fast and for about break even. Considering what was necessary before in this level range, SE gave you smithers a gift.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Dweomer Steel Ingot, 1x Steel Ingot, 2x Darksteel Ingot
Cap: Level 61, but 60 for this guide's purposes.

Falls in same boat as Erlking's blade, only with a bit of a more expensive material set. These actually sell decently fast (since most are dual-wielding them...) and for a good profit. You'll spend about 56k or so on mats with the end results selling for 70k+. It will definitely be a decent way to make some of your lost gil back, but be very careful about flooding the AH with these things. There are a lot of dumbasses out there that think if 10+ are up on the AH, they have to drop the price by 50% or more no matter how fast the things are moving.

Recipe: Fire Crystal, 1x Jacaranda Lumber, 1x Dweomer Steel Ingot
Cap: Level 61, but 60 for this guide's purposes.

This is the most common synth used to get to 60. Again, buy/make your Iron Sheets for 2.7k or less, then hit up the Crawler's Nest for your silk thread. If you start making these at 55, expect a ton of breaks since this has a cap of 66. This is far easier on the wallet than my previous two suggestions from a material cost standpoint, but don't let the initial costs fool you. Break enough of these due to the level gap and you'll see similar financial losses.

Recipe: Earth Crystal, 1x Iron Sheet, 1x Silk Thread
Cap: Level 66, but level 60 for this guide's purposes.

Whew! Smithing is 60 now! This has been, by far, the most expensive craft to level in this 0-60 series. This is also one of the more common subcrafts for various bits of armor that's floating around out there. It gets worse though...

Next week: Goldsmithing, the final 0-60 chapter.

Qtipus' Information

FFXI subscriber since NA release.