StS – Ascension 10 completed

Slay the Spire is an example of a game that didn’t initially click with me. I played it enough to unlock the 3rd character (the Defect, at the time), maybe beat the first boss, and the kinda put it aside.

Later, a year ago, I picked it up again. I vaguely remember it being on sale for the Nintendo Switch, and I thought the game was perfect for that system, especially since you can save the game whenever and come back at the start of whatever fight you were doing (this can be used to save-scum). A new character, the Watcher, was rolling out and I wanted to unlock it.

This time, I paid more attention to the game. Card effects, status effects and how they worked, what game terminology meant (e.g. ethereal vs intangible, etc). I found the wiki, and did some reading: relics and what they did, the patterns of encounters, etc. I even watched portions of streamers that the SlayTheSpire subreddit recommended (Jorbs, LifeCoach) and came away some good info.

Now, Slay the Spire is one of my favorite games. It’s the game, outside of MMOs, that I have the most time in. It’s a fantastic mix of luck and skill… and like Scrabble and Backgammon, player skill can steer towards a positive outcome.

I’d say half the reason I buy games during crazy sales is I’m hoping to grab another gem like Slay the Spire.

Anyway, after a lot of games (hundreds?), my favorite character is the Defect. He’s a robot that summon orbs to assist in the fight, so a successful run involves trying to build up a lightning, frost, or dark deck, or a mix, whether or not to pick up focus cards, or increase orb count, etc. Basically, choosing what to do given a menu of choices, building the deck towards a goal, trying to address current weaknesses and future needs. A successful run also involves choosing what cards not to draft, because each card taken dilutes the deck, lowering the chance of any particular card getting drawn. Or another way to look at it, more cards means more turns to get your best cards another time.

The basic outline of the game is a series of encounters leading to a boss fight, repeated 3 times. If you beat the 3rd boss (which means you also beat boss 1 and boss 2), you unlock a new challenge – Ascension levels, and a 4th boss, the Corrupted Heart (I’ve beaten the Corrupted Heart on everyone except the Watcher) if you also collected the red, green, blue keys along the way.

I have all characters in various low Ascension levels, but for now, I’m concentrating on advancing the Defect as high as I can get. I’ll play the others for variety, but 4 times out of 5 I’m playing the Defect.

This run began with me trading in my starter relic for a random one, and I got Busted Crown: extra energy each round but 2 fewer cards to choose from after a fight. I used that to keep my deck thin, selecting frost cards and eventually creating a strong blocking deck. I just had to survive a few turns to set it up. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So each encounter revolved around playing blocks to minimize damage while adding frost orbs, or invoking them to help prevent damage. After getting my blocking machine established, I would wear down my opponent. For boss 3, the Awakened One, I eventually was passively blocking for a huge amount per turn, allowing me to win.

Beating Ascension 10 grants an achievement, as well as the ability to start the next Ascension level. The ultimate goal is to beat the Corrupted Heart in Ascension 20 (!!). My victories against the Corrupted Heart have all occurred at low Ascension levels, and relied more on luck than typical runs (great relics, encounters that granted strong cards as well as luck drawing them when needed, etc.) That’s just honesty, the Corrupted Heart fight is MUCH harder than any of the regular boss fights and I don’t always beat them.

ESO – Stonefalls

My plan to rotate among the MMOs I’m playing? Yeah, not quite there. But I am doing pretty well playing ESO for ~2 hours a few times a week. In theory, I should be able to slot in FF14 no problem. I just need to actually do that.

I’m trying to better divide my time among various hobbies so ramping up slowly is more sustainable in the long run. I picked ESO to get onto a schedule with first, because a friend plays. Not like my other friend who plays LoTRO (that I can never seem to meet up with or even see online; we have very different play times), this friend is on frequently, and we overlap schedules!

So I’m leveling up, following the zone guide, which is fantastic. Open it up holding X (I play ESO using a controller, even on Stadia/PC), peruse the various categories, and hit X to keep exploring. What this does is select the next item in an unfinished category and highlights the general vicinity.

For instance, here is my zone guide for Stonefalls. The top category is “Main Story Quests” and I’ve done 16/16. Under that is “Wayshrines” and I’ve found 14/14. Next is “Delves” and I’ve completed 6/6 – completing a Delve means exploring and defeating the boss somewhere inside (Delves are designed for solo play so this is very doable). Under that is “Points of Interest” and I’m only 16/18, and the next PoI I haven’t done is “Brothers of Strife”. So that’s next, it is highlighted in the map and I can make my way there.

Generally, a PoI is completed by doing 2 or 3 quests in that PoI. In typical fashion, the first quest unveils part of a story that the followup quests concludes. The quest chain in Brothers of Strife involved gathering materials for an investigation in a historical event, and then actually participating in that event.

I really like the quests in ESO, they are a cut above the usual fare of gathering items (flowers, bear skins, what have you) and returning. For example, one I did earlier was “King Aphren’s Sword“. It starts with an NPC needing help recovering a sword. Except it was split into 3 parts, so you need to fight your way to three areas in order to gather them up. Every time you recover a piece, a ghostly girl appears with short scene about the past.

After getting the 3 pieces, you venture into a tomb and confront the ghost of King Aphren. It turned out he spent all his time running the kingdom and ignored his daughter, but you can help him make amends by giving her the sword. What about that guy that started the quest in the first place? Well you can decide whether to help him or help the King. I decided to help the King out of sympathy, plus the original NPC needs a lesson in sub-contracting his work out without advanced payment. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I wrapped up enough of the zone guide to move on (finishing the PoIs, then finding the Striking Locales, Set Stations, and Mundus Stones. I’ll come back for the Skyshards and Library Books another time; the rest I view as optional – the Public Dungeons, World Bosses, World Events). Time to pick off a handful of quests in my journal, then move to Deshaan, the next zone, and continue the original story line!

I think this location is quite striking. We have a beautiful waterfall on the left, amidst a grassy hill and some trees. And in the distance on the right is a lava waterfall, flowing through a rocky volcanic mountain. Right now I have my non-combat pet dog out, photo-bombing (ok, not really since he’s tucked away in the corner) in the lower left corner. ๐Ÿ™‚

The game looks and plays amazing on Stadia, which still causes me to pause in wonder when I remember I’m playing in a browser tab and don’t have any of the ~100GB of files on my PC that ESO consists of. The PS4 version looks/plays well too, but I’ve mostly dropped those chars in favor of the PC version (shared with Steam, Stadia) due to my friend, plus the enormous convenience of being able to play when I’m visiting family.

I’m still logging into the PS4 version, at least this month, because the daily reward on the 21st is… 100K in gold!! I’m sure the multi-millionaires don’t care and likely prefer the collectable items (mounts, pets, housing stuff, wearables) but I’m still at the point where 100K comes in handy. IT takes around 45K in gold to fully train a horse, and while I’m really just playing one char, I’d like to have a nice buffer for possibly training up the horse on another. This is ideal, because it doesn’t take long to log into a char and quickly train for the day at 250 gold a pop. So while I’m leveling up my Templar I could easily be training the horse on an alt, Warden for instance, not that I’ve already made one and am parked at the horse trainer with spare cash from previous daily rewards. ๐Ÿ˜€

Over on the PS4, I finished my horse on my main and am nearly done with training on 2 other chars. This gives me a lot of options for future play and takes very little time. So every month I see the big reward is a pile of gold, I make a note to grab the daily rewards!

Cyberpunk 2077 – The Pickup

I’m not too good at action shooters, which is fine. I generally play console games on the easier difficulty settings – I’m mostly there for fun and story, not for honing my fast reflexes and aim.

So I got to a mission in Cyberpunk 2077 that I had some trouble with, called “The Pickup”. Not to spoil too much – but you go in to deal with a gang that captured a military robot, and partway through, the owners attack trying to recover it. Understandable. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I am determined to play Cyberpunk “non violent”, or I’ll settle for “low body count”. I try to avoid killing NPCs, and have been successful so far. Granted, this mission is only about 4 hours into the game, and I’m a slow player… in previous missions I was able to sneak up behind an enemy and render them unconscious, and kept going. I also hack items along the way, which so far has meant disabling cameras or distracting enemies (causing floodlights to blink).

Anyway, I had some trouble getting by this mission. First attempt or two, I tried to run through to the exit, but that proved unsuccessful. I don’t want to lay waste to a bunch of enemies, surely there was a better way?

Well, I found that there was – hang in the back, do the hacker thing (disable cameras, cause floodlights to distract) and let the friendly NPCs take almost every enemy out! Haha!

Once or twice it felt like there was a trigger – one regular shooter seemed invulnerable to my team, and I say team very loosely. So I crept up, and punched out a NPC wielding an assault rifle. That caused the action to continue to the next room. It happened again, so I did the same thing – running down the stairs in order to punch someone unconscious.

The final room featured 2 enemies wearing some kind of power armor, and 2 regular enemies. Fortunately, we had a friendly guy wearing even better robot power armor! So I just stayed outside and let the friendly guy cleanup everyone. When there was only one enemy left, I crept into the room, and so did my NPC partner, who appeared to be invulnerable.

I looted along the way, and scavenged everything in that last room, picking up “epic item components” off one of the enemy robot armors. Sounds like I can use those towards high quality items in the future!

The next mission involves a heist, in fact it is called “The Heist”, so I hope I can complete it the way I want – skulking around, hacking, and at worst rendering someone unconscious.

The game runs well for me, via Stadia. I’ve only hit one bug so far, while driving the car. Steering locked up and I crashed into a building. After a few seconds of nothing, I crashed to the desktop (which for me meant crashing back to the Stadia game launcher in a Chrome browser tab). Re-entering the game, I found myself as the target of a police shootout – evidently I had actually continued driving through a crowd, along the sidewalk. Fortunately on easy mode I just had to backup to the street, and floor it. They didn’t chase me, which is fair since crashing into a storefront/people wasn’t my fault. ๐Ÿ˜‰

2020 Partly in Review

Switch

Nintendo sends out a summary of games played and so forth:

The bulk of my hours was split between Slay the Spire (which I also own on Steam), Fitness Boxing, and Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate.

StS is fantastic and my total combined time on Steam and Switch is approaching 300 hours. My favorite character is the Defect, whose mechanic is summoning and evoking orbs for various effects: lightning for damage, frost for shield, plasma for energy, and dark for damage (scales up over time). On Steam, I’m at ascension level 6, whereas on Switch I’m on ascension level 2. The game has randomness, but allows skillful choices to steer towards an improved/better outcome. It is easy to pause and resume, which really helps.

Playstation

I remember getting these kinds of summaries for Playstation, but I haven’t seen it yet. So… not sure, maybe it is still coming? I’m curious what my numbers look like there. It’ll be mostly God of War, ESO, some Ghost of Tsushima.

PoGo

Over in Pokรฉmon Go, I hit level 41:

I have the XP for level 42, but lack 2 of the achievements: using berries to catch 200 pokรฉmon, and evolving each of the eevees. The latter is the reason I’m currently walking a flower eevee – getting in 10km for a future flower Umbreon (and later, flower Espeon). The Glaceon and Leafeon evolve with special lures on pokรฉstops, while the Flareon, Jolteon, and Vaporeon are random (which is extremely annoying). Playing the odds I evolved 2 flower eevees into a Flareon and Jolteon, but producing a Vaporeon is now just a 1/3 chance so I’ll just do regular eevees since they are more plentiful.

I’m evolving flower eevees for this (except for the Vaporeon as noted above) because I already have a set of shiny and regular eeveelutions. I’ll work on a different set, flower eevees instead – and I don’t have enough party hat eevees for a set of those. I already used the naming trick or I’d be able to guarantee myself a flower hat Vaporeon. I know, I know, #firstworldPoGoproblems.)

Disc Golf

I took up disc golf midway through the year, as a way to get some social distance outdoors fun in. I found out that a few friends also played, without any of us knowing the others did. I also introduced 2 friends to the game (and am working on another) so once it warms back up I’m looking forward to playing a round every week or so.

Of course there is an app for that, and I’m using UDisc, the official app of the Professional Disc Golf Association. It’s pretty handy, letting you keep score, and often displaying a map of the course. It utilizes the phone very well, letting you measure how far you threw a disc with GPS (subject to GPS accuracy).

I’m a RHBH thrower (right hand back hand) and a good throw for me is a little over 200 feet. I’ve tried forehand and it feels really weird. So, something to work on here and there. I can improve my distance by at least 50% (i.e. throwing for 300 feet) so there is huge room for improvement.

I’m also working on accuracy, throwing the direction I want to go. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I am fairly accurate, so my favorite courses are wooded or lightly wooded, since those tend to have shorter distances from tees to baskets, favoring accuracy over distance. Worst case for me are wide open courses, because those tend to have large distances involved – after all, if there aren’t many obstacles the only way to increase difficulty is to lengthen the holes.

MMOs

I’m going to try a round robin system in 2021. If left to my normal scheduling, I’ll tend to “split” time between 2 games in a 80-20 proportion, which is pretty far off of 50-50. 3 games comes down to 70-20-10 or even 80-10-10 – basically one game is dominant while the others get a cursory log in.

But I like 3 games… FF14 has a fun storyline, smooth mechanics, and above all hassle-free grouping. Which is the point, otherwise I could be playing a single player game. I’m nearly at Ishgard and looking forward to unlocking Astrologian.

LoTRO of course is my very long term game, which I wander away from but come back missing it. I left my Boerning partway through Vol 1 Book 3, Defense of Trestlebridge as I recall, and want to move him along. I somehow have not managed to meet up with the coworker who also plays, but that’s fine, I’m poking along with a different character than the one I used my Valar boost on. Maybe I’ll just give up on meeting up with my coworker and look for a kinship to join.

ESO’s action combat feels a lot different, but the variety is nice. Now that I switched over to the Stadia version, I can play while visiting family (and also freed up nearly 100 GB on my gaming PC). I have a friend also playing via Stadia, so there is the possibility of questing together with someone I know, maybe even doing some basic dungeons. I don’t think we’re interested in hardcore modes, veteran modes, any of that stuff…. just the basic XYZ Dungeon I version would be a ton of fun.

So, I was thinking about some kind of day-pinning rotation: ESO on Tue/Fri, FF14 on Wed/Sat, LoTRO on Thu/Sun (with Mon off since that’s currently Zoom boardgames night). I’ll schedule ESO first as that’s the game I have a friend actively playing, and try to sync up. So this overall plan is a 33-33-33 split without emphasizing or ignoring any particular game.

Or maybe be more flexible and try for something like ESO Tue, FF14 Wed, LoTRO Thu, and then whatever for the other 3 available days. Worst case one game gets 2/3rds of the attention, but at least play each game once a week.

I know, probably overthinking this but that’s what this end of the year planning time is for. ๐Ÿ™‚

Cyberpunk 2077

I checked my Stadia account this evening, and noticed the play button was live for Cyberpunk 2077. Hm… perhaps the midnight Dec 10 launch was in Europe so here in the U.S. we get it hours earlier the evening of Dec 9. Nothing to download and no day 1 patch… instead I could just launch and play. ๐Ÿ™‚

However I couldn’t play long – only about 30 minutes before needing to do some other stuff. I might be able to play another hour or so before bed… we’ll see.

So I’m obviously not getting 4K graphics, even though I think I’m eligible (being on the Stadia Pro trial). Maybe current conditions are forcing a downgrade to 1080p (I’m not even sure how to tell what resolution and fps you are running at, without in-game support or some extra tool that queries your graphics card). But it is certainly playable.

This game is clearly designed with controllers/consoles as first class citizens, because all the dialog choices so far can be cycled via up/down arrow or mouse selection. Confirming a choice is ‘F’, moving and driving is WASD – fortunately the driving section was brief because that is one game mechanic where a controller is far, far superior to a keyboard.

The plot so far, which I do not believe contains much in the way of spoilers given I’m a paltry 30 mins into the game, is that my character, a Nomad, takes on a job to deliver a package to Night City. This section of the game is basically a tutorial and I think it’ll open up now that I’ve arrived. Kind of like exiting the cave after Skyrim’s intro dragon attack sequence.

I mostly just wanted to post this because while ESO on Stadia was a major draw, the Cyberpunk 2077 deal over Black Friday was irresistible (again, that was preorder the game and get a free controller and Chromecast Ultra, for an overall $10 savings). And now it’s here!

EDIT: How could I leave out a screenshot of the game… played on my phone?!

So I suppose that’s my apartment or base, when you are loading up… my phone is a Pixel 3XL and the game does work. Granted, my eyesight isn’t good enough to want to play this way for any amount of time, but the game does run. It’s like magic almost.

The virtual controller (you can see faint outlines around the edges) is a nice touch. Tapping the screen makes the virtual controller light up and become active – hot zones on the screen work like a controller. It does work, although I do fat finger quite a bit; however that would improve with practice.

Ok enough fiddling, I should either actually play the game or get some other stuff done. Over the weekend I’ll try doing dailies in ESO (grab daily reward, train horse) on my phone. Because I can. ๐Ÿ˜‰ And mostly just to see how viable that is.

Triple Dipper

I’ve double dipped (buying a game I already own) too many times to count. Sometimes in order to get a higher def or remastered version of the game, sometimes to play on newer hardware, etc. Example of this include the Ratchet & Clank series I owned on the PS2… well when the all-in-one PS3 remaster came out, I bought it.

Sometimes it is to play on additional hardware. For example, Slay the Spire. I have this on Steam and like the game so much I bought the Switch version too.

This folks is but the tip of the iceberg. I’ve double dipped so many games I’d need to audit various game libraries to count them. Heck, half the stuff I’ve bought on GoG are games I loved from the 90’s (Descent, Syndicate Wars, Magic Carpet, Planescape Torment, etc) so those count. Never mind I’ve barely even started any of them up… I just wanted access to a copy of those games since my originals are long gone.

These days it is easy to double dip, various Humble Bundle tiers often make sense to buy the top level, which includes the lower levels and possibly (probably) games already owned elsewhere. I went in on that crazy itch.io’s 1500 games for charity bundle – I have no idea about um… 80% of what that even included so it’s possible I’ve double dipped another 50 games (just guessing and that might be conservative) without even knowing it.

I’ve got other douple dips too: Dark Souls (PS4 and Switch), lots of indies like Supergiant Games (Bastion, Transistor, Hades – I have for both Steam and Switch), Klei games (Don’t Starve, Invisible Inc – I have for both Steam and Switch), etc. What can I say… other than I do try to catch good sales. ๐Ÿ™‚

But the triple dip, now that is rarer. And I realize I’ve done that twice now. Both are MMOs…

One is, *drum roll*, Elder Scrolls Online. Yes, I bought the Stadia version in a Black Friday sale. Base game, Morrowind, Summerset, Elsweyr, Greymoor, for $20?! Heck yes. And I’ve been playing on my chromebook and it is fine. Well, mostly fine. It’ll be much improved when I get a mouse and/or the Stadia controller. Trackpad… not ideal for this use case.

First dip was my original Steam purchase. Second dip was the PS4 version. Third was the Stadia version.

I linked the Stadia purchase to my ESO account (which also linked the Steam version, as I found out when I went trolling through my account info) so I had access to my existing chars. I could have restarted since I wasn’t all that far along, but I had collected the $100K daily reward, been training a horse, etc. I figure I’ll continue my Templar and then also play a Warden now and then.

Second MMO I’ve triple dipped is… Final Fantasy 14! Yes, I bought this on Steam years ago (and bounced off it). Then my second dip was the PS4 version, but didn’t like the controller option. I think the controller is fine for actual combat and selecting skills, but so much stuff in an MMO is sorting inventory, open various journals, using a map, and all of that didn’t feel as nice on the PS4. (Whereas the UI for ESO has been progressively streamlined and more and more controller-friendly starting years ago with the single player games. Plus ESO is more action-combat rather than tab-target.)

Third dip into FF14 was back on PC, taking advantage of the play-for-free-through-Heavensward content, and for that I had to create a new account and eventually went on to sub and buy Stormblood and Shadowbringers. I’m still really enjoying the game this time around and plan to keep on chugging through the MSQ, and enjoy the frictionless grouping for content.

LoTRO is only a double dip for me, but those two purchases were for two lifetime accounts. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve gotten my money’s worth there for sure.

ESO – Stonefells

I’ve probably spent more time on my PC ESO account (Steam, and now linked to Stadia), but I’m further along on my PS4 account and also have played it more recently. But, I’m eager to try out ESO via Stadia, doing more than just collecting daily rewards or training my horse. So, I picked up my long neglected character on the PC account, Melanncthe, a Dark Elf Templar.

First order of business was to reset my stats and skills. I’ve come to realize there are better more focused ways to assign this stuff – in fact the “novice” skills guide in game does a pretty decent job advising what skills/morphs to take – so I looked up where to go. Any of the capital cities works and it turns out I was already in Mournhold! So I found the re-dedication shrines and reset my char back to a nice blank slate to spend points on. I’m not claiming expertise but I know I did a MUCH better job distributing stats and skills this time around.

After that I glanced over my quests and … decided to take a step back and remember what I was doing. So I traveled back to Davon’s Watch in Stonefells and pulled up the zone guide and saw I was missing a few things. Like, most everything. What can I say, I was wandering randomly before (and in my defense I’ll claim that the zone guide didn’t exist at the time, which is true because UESP says that came along in update 21, Feb 2019). SERIOUSLY, it didn’t exist for the first ~5 years of the game??? Wow, that was a tremendous addition to the game, it’s felt like it has been there forever and I leaned on it heavily on the PS4.

Completing the zone guide for Stonefells would be a perfect task to get back into playing – maybe not everything, like world bosses and world events, but definitely things like quests, wayshrines, delves, points of interest, striking locales, skyshards… fortunately I had finished the zone quests and 14 of 16 wayshrines, so my goal was to get those other 2 wayshrines and then do a little exploring and a quest or two.

One wayshrine I needed was “Brothers of Strife” so I ported to the nearby “Fort Arand” and started traveling. Soon enough I found a quest giver standing outside Fort Arand, and started the quest “Suspicious Silence”.

Suspicious Silence had me battle through an enemy camp to retrieve orders, which led to the follow up quest Venom of Ahknara. That quest had me fend off 3 assassins infiltrating the fort, explore a dungeon in order to seal it off from an invading force, and then defeat their leader, Ahknara. Fortunately there was another player around because that last fight against Ahknara was tough, but between both of us (generously speaking, they did 70% of the work) we did it.

Screenshots work differently on Stadia – they capture to your Google account and from the app (sigh) you can create a share link. Like this:

https://stadia.google.com/capture/60ef3657-666b-4f3e-9511-2f0c612eb217

I can’t figure out how to get WordPress to render that inline… I guess the previous method of downloading the image and uploading it to the WordPress image library to then insert will still work. I’ll keep fiddling around for a better solution; in the meantime:

Anyway, that is ESO played in a Chrome web browser on my gaming PC. And here is a screenshot from Chrome on my Linux NUC (no video card, only integrated graphics):

This shot was taken the next day, not immediately after (I should have waited in game longer for the day to brighten), so the fact it is darker is more about the time of day in game. Next time I’ll get a pair of screenshots by grabbing one when I log off, then hopping on my other computer to get another.

I’ve got more things to try out with Stadia – controllers, and of course playing ESO on my Android phone, because I can! Am I’m really curious how well it works.

FF14 – Crystal Tower raids

I reached the point in the MSQ where I had to do the Crystal Tower quests to advance. This is a series of quests that leads you to complete 3 raids: Labyrinth of the Ancients, Syrcus Tower, and World of Darkness. Once again I do like the design here, everybody has to raid to advance in the plot and open up new areas.

The raids themselves aren’t too hard. The fights alternate between “trash fights” and “mini boss” fights, with the usual mechanics of extra adds, move out of the telegraphed attack areas, etc. However, at least one fight per raid does throw some extra stuff at you.

In Labyrinth of the Ancients, during the King Behemoth fight, he’ll attack players and leave a giant pile of rocks. Stand behind that pile when he casts Meteor because the rock pile will protect you.

Later, the special attack of the final boss is something to watch for: Ancient Flare by Phlegethon. It kills everyone unless the raid group runs to the platforms at the edge of the arena.

In Syrcus tower, the Amon fight is similar to King Behemoth from Labyrinth, except Amon will freeze players with a pile of ice. Stand behind that pile of ice when he casts Curtain Call and you’ll be protected.

Later, the final boss special attack is Ancient Quagga from Xande. This does enormous damage unless you stand in the aura of his previous attack. It splits damage among players, but also makes them float above the floor… and floating players take no damage from Ancient Quagga.

In World of Darkness, I would put the toughest fight as the first real fight, after clearing the initial trash. That would be Angra Mainyu who has 4+ mechanics to watch out for. He is the boss the taught me the value of “focus target” (shift F) which pulls up a smaller window of the target stats and cast bar. This lets me switch to a different target, such as a player in order to heal them, or an add in order to attack, while still keeping an “eye” (haha, a pun since Angra is a giant floating eyeball) on the focus target.

Angra does:

  • Mortal Gaze, which is avoided by looking away (turning around in game). If not, run to the light up circles in the middle of the room quickly.
  • Double Vision, which splits the room into red and white floors. You need to alternate which color you stand in.
  • Roulette, which splits the room into 4 quadrants with one add each. Don’t be in the last quadrant when the last add dies.
  • Level 100 Flare and level 150 Doom: keep running out of the circle if you are tethered.

It’s crazy, whoever designed this encounter must have won a bet at the Square Enix offices, because Angra has more mechanics than basically the rest of the raid combined.

OK, there is a fun/crazy fight against Cerebus, where one group tries to get shrunken down and eaten by Cerebus, to fight in his stomach! But this is smooth sailing compared to Angra, where there is so much to look out for.

Duty Finder to the rescue and I managed to knock off these raids in a few days, and advance in the MSQ. Soon I’ll open up Ishgard, new zones, new jobs!

Stadia

Google launched Stadia, their game streaming service, a little over a year ago. I participated in their trial, the one where you could play/stream Assassin’s Creed Odyssey in a web browser… it worked well. Very well. I tried it on my NUC, which is running Ubuntu Linux and had nothing but integrated graphics, and the game looked and played just fine. It was mind boggling.

But, I didn’t wind up getting a Stadia or subscribing. The launch was confusing, with a complicated chart of different levels of support, and the whole thing about having to buy the games even if you owned them on a different platform. I’ve done plenty of double-dipping, but do try to avoid it for full priced games.

Plus as the cynics would say, what happens to your purchases when Stadia eventually shuts down? And it has been a tough year, with everyone else launching their streaming platforms, from Nvidia’s GeForce Now, Amazon’s Luna, plus Sony and Microsoft launching their next gen consoles with their already established streaming services…

Anyway, a friend received a Stadia from her brother who got one since he’s a YouTube fancy level subscriber, and also a Stadia subscriber, so he passed it along. And I got a demo of it, one year in.

It was… good. Great? I mean, games were there, they ran, it worked just fine. I was still kind of so-so on the whole thing, with the minor exception that I’m out of town a bit more often these days, now and for the forseeable future. Yes I take precautions and so does my family in this COVID world, but I’m planning to travel for most holidays, and then socially distance with my family, rather than just socially distance at my home. ๐Ÿ˜‰

And while the Nintendo Switch does fill in the gap, I would also like to play some other games not available for the Switch. In fact, Stadia is kind of ideal for my use case: my mom’s TV.

So my interest it a bit higher than it was a year ago. I looked over the list of Stadia games (the one on Wikipedia, which is useful, rather than the pointless one on the Stadia website) and saw a few that caught my eye. Ones that I don’t own, like Cyberpunk 2077, Hitman 3 (both coming out in the near future), Elder Scrolls Online (how cool would it be to be able to play a few hours while visiting for a long weekend?!).

I looked more, and figured out the crucial product tiers for me. That would be: Stadia Pro is the subscription service that ALSO lets you stream 4K, for $10 a month; vs the non subscription service that only lets you stream 1080p, for $0 a month. The other one is Stadia Premeire, which is the controller plus Chromecast Ultra, for $100 (except by clicking the “take a sneak peek at Black Friday offers” you’ll see that this will go on sale for $70 a few days from now).

The other thing not entirely clear, is that you can play via the Google Chrome browser, and use mouse/keyboard. This is how I did the AC Odyssey preview and as I mentioned, it worked amazingly well.

Now I have a 4K TV, but my mom doesn’t, so regular Stadia (non Pro) is fine.

So… ability to play ESO while traveling. I probably need to repurchase the game on Stadia, which I don’t mind, but the benefits would be ability to play while I’m traveling (jump in to pick up daily rewards, train horse, do a bit of questing), ability to play with my friend (who is 100% Nintendo otherwise), with some minor benefits like saving 100 Gb of space on my PC and Playstation.

That was enough to tip me over to signing up for Stadia. I started the process, and when I finished, I was greeted with an ad:

Basically, get a game I am planning to get anyway, with a controller bundle I was going to get anyway (this Fri when it goes on sale for $70), for $60 (the price if you click the pre-order button) – that’s like getting the game for free and $10 off the upcoming sale price of the controller/chromecast?? Plus I have $10 to save on a game purchase…

I did not have to ponder this for long before doing it.

So, I think sometime in the next few days my Stadia Premiere bundle will arrive, and then on Dec 10 I should be able to crank up Cyberpunk 2077. Nice! EDIT: OK it seems the Stadia Premiere bundles won’t ship until after Cyberpunk 2077 releases, to avoid dealing with cancellation and returns. So, mouse/keyboard/Chrome until I can give it a spin on my TV.

Of course, I’m not going to throw away my Switch, PS4, gaming PC, etc. The Stadia fills a niche for me, so while I’m not going to convert over 100%, I would be willing to buy a handful of games on that platform.

FF14 – Healing through the lag

I logged in yesterday evening, looking to kick back and do a few roulettes on my Scholar. No problem, this is part of my routine, besides pecking away at the MSQ.

The roulette dungeon I got was Snowcloak. And right away, I could tell something was wrong, because the game looked like a stop-motion animation movie. It was about 4 seconds of normal movement, followed by 1 second of freeze-in-place.

I ran to catch up to the group, just in time to see my character freeze in place… and die. This was during the very first fight, so I just respawned, resummoned my fairy healer, ran back, and made the best of it. I’m sure the others were impressed with the healer that died during the very first fight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Combat continued in this herky jerky fashion. I figured the best strategy, if I was to be essentially out of commission for 20% of the fight duration (or more) was to keep Adloquium on the tank as much as possible. It provides a shield buff (called Galvanize) partly nullifying damage, then keep it on the others even if they weren’t in immediate danger. Basically burn extra mana by overhealing and rely on the fairy to heal me.

At one point I mentioned in chat “ugh this is like a stop-motion animation movie”. One of the party members replied “tell me about it”โ€ฆ hm maybe I wasn’t the only one experience the lag?

This worked well and got us to the 2nd boss fight against the Yeti. The fight took a while, due to lag and positioning issues cause by lag, and eventually my luck ran out as I saw myself in the cross hairs of 2 column attacks from adds, frozen.

Anyway, Yeti killed me so I respawned and ran back. Fortunately the group finished the boss off so we continued, and reached Fenrir.

I tried to contribute more DPS, but somewhere about halfway through the fight, I lagged to another death. I respawned, took the shortcut, but that still left a lot of ground to cover before reaching the boss. One by one the group succumbed, and I felt bad about that but I couldn’t really do much.

Nobody said anything.

So we gathered up again, restarted the fight. This time, I only threw my DoT attack (Bio 2), and skipped other attacks in favor of Adloquium upkeep, plus throwing Sacred Soil and the fairy’s Whispering Dawn on cooldown, while staying as mobile as I could.

It was a long fight, I think everybody was dealing with lag and opting for safe play – running out of a telegraphed attack very early rather than staying in range to land an extra hit or two, things like that.

I died yet again, but this time the boss was down to ~5% health so I didn’t respawn and instead just watched, hoping the group would finish him off. They did and we finished, whew. I was so relieved I typed “thank goodness” to the group before everyone exited.

It was surely tough for all but for my troubles as the healer, the group all gave me a commendation. This is another thing I like about FF14 ๐Ÿ™‚

I decided to call it a night after this due to network performance. And check around to see if I was the only player experiencing the lag.

But I was not – I found a thread on reddit about how terrible the lag was for the entire Crystal data center. Aha, looks like Comcast/Xfinity was having issues.