A Small Rant on Online Music Stores

I’m liking the soundtrack for Final Fantasy 14. At first it felt off, too classical. Nothing wrong with that, but some parts seem out of place in an online game. For example, while Mozart and Beethoven were geniuses and wrote masterpieces, I’m not sure any of their symphonies would make a good soundtrack to a game.

However, I did really enjoy the music in the 3 city-states of ARR: Gridania, Limsa Lominsa, and Uldah… all have nice ambient music. And the Chocobo riding music. And, eventually it all grew on me, from cut-scene music to fight music and so on. OK so violin melodies still seem a little out of place, but it isn’t as jarring now.

So I looked into buying the soundtrack. I checked iTunes and Google Play. Four albums are in each store, but the Google Play version is consistently 33% cheaper. $30 vs $20 as rough estimates. That is a fairly significant difference, especially since I’d like to buy all four. So I started with a purchase from Google Play.

I went to download the album, and instantly hit the first problem:

That says “a maximum of 100 songs can be downloaded at once. Please select fewer songs and try again.”

Yes, granted most albums don’t have 100 songs, but ARR and Stormblood do (ARR is 119, Heavensward is 58, Stormblood is 105, and Shadowbringers is 88). What really sucks is I can’t figure out a way to multi-select on Google Play. It tells me to select fewer but I don’t have that option – I can pick one, or all. Thus I can either download the entire album at once (except if there are 100 songs in which case it errors), or download each song individually.

One at a time. For about 119 songs. #$%&*!@(*

Becoming a bit angry, I downloaded the first song. I got another popup:

That says “Are you sure? [Why not try Google Play Music for Chrome instead?]”

So I tried that, but got an error that won’t resolve:

And the promised update never seems to take.

So… it seems my only option for downloading this music is to get each song individually. That takes four clicks per song:

  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu
  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu
  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu
  • 1 to click on the 3 dots to show the context menu

To recap: I can’t download the entire album at once, because that is too many songs. I can’t find a way to multi-select several songs so I have to get them one at a time, which takes 4 clicks per song.

And: Each song I downloaded shows 2 popups: one to tell me I can only download a song twice but Google Play Music for Chrome lets me around that.

But: Google Play Music for Chrome is busted and never works for me. It just cycles that dialog box.

So: I have to download each song, one by one, each time dismissing the annoying popup, and then the 2nd confirmation.

I’m not a UI designer, but in my unprofessional opinion, this is abject failure of storefront design.

I’ve bought large albums on iTunes (100 greatest classical music, collections like that) and downloading was ONE simple click. Not some crap arbitrary limit forced by lazy software developers.

I’m considering spending the extra money to buy the other albums on iTunes, which has a non-user-hostile way to download an album with a single click. Even though the Heavensward and Shadowbringers soundtracks should download with a single click, I’d rather pay Apple than reward Google for their stupid miserable user experience getting purchased content.

FF14 – Garuda

The end of the ARR main sequence quests is in sight… but there is one more primal fight to finish: Garuda, in the Howling Eye.

I watched MTQCapture’s video on the fight beforehand, so I have an idea of how it works. I mean, I’m all for the fun and puzzle solving aspect of going in blind, except this fight is years old so I don’t have to do that!

The fight went well,but I’m glad I watched the video in order to know to hide behind the rock piles when Garuda started her screaming.

Questing remains fun, because I do enjoy the fantasy landscapes of Eorzea. After completing a quest that brought me this area, I just wandered around aimlessly in these bridges of broken orange crystals because I thought it was beautiful.

I’ve been impressed with the Duty Finder and how reasonable it has been to find groups in order to progress along the MSQ. On one hand, if the devs are going to require mandatory grouping in order to advance, you expect there to be a solution offered to the players.

Other MMO have group finders, but the in FF14 works so smoothly it is amazing. It’s a system where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole – syncing levels down, changeable classes/jobs, cross-server grouping, a healthy population in the first place, with the double genius of the roulette system: entice players with extra rewards for a role in need (i.e. group needs tank, healer, or DPS) plus the randomness of which unlocked dungeon is picked (prevent “favorite” dungeons from getting all the attention and ensure they all have a chance of being filled) – it all adds up to frictionless grouping.

Queueing as a Summoner, a DPS job, it doesn’t take much time at all to find a group. I think the worst was between 10 and 15 minutes, often it is 5 mins or less. That’s faster than the global LFG system I had to deal with in WoW Classic earlier this year, and a lot less work… in order to participate in what is theoretically the whole point of games in this genre.

Once you queue, you can’t change class/jobs and still enter. Even if you are the same role. I found this out when I queued as a Summoner but then removed my soul crystal to be an Arcanist instead. I remember thinking that due to level syncing and losing a few of my most recent abilities, I’d be better off as the base class (answer is: no, it’s fine, if you sync down levels you just lose the ability to use the particular skills that are higher level than the sync). The game warns about this so you can change back.

I mention this because I’ve read in ESO there is a problem of players getting tired of DPS queues and queuing as “fake tanks” as redditors call them. To be fair to ESO many posts state that many dungeons on normal mode don’t actually need a dedicated tank and it’s fine. Folks get saltier when players want to run harder dungeon modes and queue jumpers sneak in.

FF14 doesn’t have this problem due to stricter class roles. A really functional group finder is a game changer. πŸ˜‰ Ba da bing.

FF14 – The Stone Vigil

I kept playing along the MSQ, not needing anything else to level. I’m not complaining, obviously the design to get folks like me to the higher levels, play the latest content, (buy the latest expansions and subscribe), needs a little xp boosting to help out.

Along the way I had to help out around the castle at Whitebrim Front, and came across a startling deja vu:

I flashed back to LoTRO and the Balrog’s (Durin’s Bane) corpse that is located in Zirakzigil. Also crashed into the snowy landscape. OK the LoTRO wiki screenshot doesn’t look very similar but I swear you can get a view very similar to the one above! Or my memory is shot, who knows. πŸ˜‰

Next up in as a mandatory dungeon was Stone Vigil. And here was where I had my first difficult run. Before this, every instance was smooth sailing.

Not to say this was a disaster, but this was the first instance where the party wiped. Right near the start, literally two turns from where you start out.

The thing is, I don’t really remember what happened. We started normally, started the fight, and I was busy going through my rotation, avoiding AoE skills. And then, I hit the ground, and got a popup about returning to the start or waiting. I looked over and the tank was down, perhaps even the other DPS had already restarted and ran back. I suppose technically we didn’t wipe, as in, the entire group was down at the same time. It was more like two players were down, came back one at a time but in the meantime another player went down, etc. so we cycled what ~3 were in the fight at any given time.

Being so close to the start we did manage to beat that initial fight, regroup, and continue.

And here’s the magical thing – nobody complained.

The tank didn’t scream, the healer didn’t scream, the other DPS didn’t say anything. We just… went on and like it was no big deal. I payed super attention the next few fights, worrying maybe I stood in AoE and that caused the healer to save me but then the tank got hit hard just then, etc. Fortunately, the next fights went just fine.

For all I know, what happened could have been anything from a player got distracted by a real life situation, a player fat fingered their skill, we were catastrophically unlucky with a pull, or somebody forgot the role the queued for (I’m sure this happens as this game lets you switch classes/jobs!). Or something else entirely. But nobody griped and several minutes later, we beat the instance!

So, chalk up another victory for the FF14 playerbase and taking things in stride. It’s a game, have fun, trust the other players, don’t gripe and threaten to quit the group at the first sign of trouble. Because I can easily imagine other games where a group hits a “rolling wipe” in the first fight past the entrance, and everybody bails.

Scholar Clothing

In the long term, I want to switch over and try out healing. That’s part of why I chose Arcanist, since the xp is shared with Summoner (DPS) and Scholar (Healing). It’s super efficient, getting two characters for the price of one.

So far my only experience healing is doing the Scholar job quests. Due to the increased XP gain, I was level 45 and could do In the Image of the Ancients to get some very snazzy clothing.

Don’t I look awesome?! In my Scholar gear. The Summoner gear looks cool too (I also cranked out the level 45 Summoner quest that grants armor) but the hat has a horn like I’m a unicorn. I’m digging the look of the mortar board.

FF14 – Brayflox’s Longstop and The Navel

This definitely marks the furthest I have been in the MSQ. I’ll be honest, I don’t remember doing Haukke Manor the previous time I played, but I checked old blog posts and I did. So there’s a reason to keep a blog – to remember things. πŸ˜‰

Moving along in the MSQ I arrived at Brayflox’s Longstop. I haven’t been paying super attention to the story line, but I believe I’m here because I’m gathering supplies for my own banquet, and need wine and cheese. Of course, the cheese guy wants me to first take care of the dragon problem inside Brayflox’s Longstop.

I don’t require Hugo/Nebula award winning prose and storylines, just having an overarching story to follow helps guide from zone to zone. So… it’s fine!

The dungeon itself was fun, and a change of pace since it was set outdoors. It was also very colorful and I enjoyed it. Actually, this whole game is very colorful – even in a relatively bland setting the graphics effects from other players is eye catching. Nothing wrong with that!

After finishing Brayflox’s Longstop and enjoying my banquet, I was inducted into the “cool enough to fight a Primal” club, and received orders to fight at The Navel. So my banquet totally wasn’t a last dinner, just in case, it was a pre-celebration on my upcoming victory!

The Navel is classified as a Trial, which means it is essentially a one-room dungeon with a boss fight. No trash pull, no travel… just you (and the rest of the team) vs the big guy.

It was a tough but quick fight with us prevailing, and of extra importance for me as an Arcanist/Summoner/Scholar is that defeating the Primal Titan unlocks my next Summoner Class Quest, Austerities of Earth. Onward!

LoTRO – Troll Cave

Back in Middle Earth I began a task Halbarad set out for me: get Dwarves, Elves, and Men to cooperate against the threat of Angmar. That is, I was working on Vol 1 Book 3. πŸ™‚

I decided to take a quest I generally ignore, one that led to a giant troll cave south east of Meluinen.

I defeated the troll-keeper, Favargair, and also completed troll slaying deed because there were so many inside the cave system.

There were also trolls outside, east past Merenost. I had ventured here a few times in the past but also generally didn’t need to (due to xp buffs and so on, not needing to do every single quest available for quite a while).

As for the troll I fought, it is true even in bear form he was bigger that me, but he was not the victor!

Next session I plan to finish up book 3 and then see how many levels I am away from starting book 4 on level. In the past I would either complete the east side of North Downs, or go to Evendim. I remember doing some quests out of Tinnudir on my Lore-master, the character I most recently leveled into the 40’s. I may stick around the North Downs and work on slayer deeds in order to get my virtues to decent levels.

FF14 – Friendliness (and Haukke Manor)

If you read any MMO subreddit or forum for any amount of time, you’ll find people asking about how friendly/helpful the community is. It seems like ESO, FF14, LoTRO rank comparatively well, and other games maybe no so much.

Well I had a nice interaction with my group in Haukke Manor, a dungeon on the MSQ mandatory path.

To sum up, we fought through pretty well, encountering no problems. After one boss fight, I went to look at what loot was in the boss chest. When I was done making my need/greed/pass selections, everyone else was gone! Out of the corner of my eye I saw one group member float then vanish, so I know they didn’t run out of the room.

But the instance wasn’t over… hm I figured there was some teleportation thing on the ground I missed. So I clicked around a little, ran around the room, but found nothing.

After ~30 seconds and still finding nothing, I did a party message:

me: where did you guys go?

them1: we just used Return. It should be on your skill bar.

them2: used in an instance it takes you back to the start

them3: final fight is right up the stairs and it is faster than running back to the start

me: oh, I thought I missed some teleportation thing to click on the ground. be right there!

Hehe, it was a knowledgeable player optimization!

What I thought was cool was nobody was angry I didn’t know about it. Whew. πŸ˜‰

We did win and the way the entire group was so helpful when I couldn’t figure out where they went, without being elitist or condescending, really left me with a positive impression. It’s minor, I’m sure out of millions of players there will be jerks, but this was a very nice experience.

After one even messaged me to ask if I was new at FF14. Yes but no? I played and subbed before on PC, then tried it on PS4 (but didn’t like using the controller as much as mouse/keyboard for this game; however I’m fine with ESO with a controller), and am now on yet another account using the new free trial.

But since I’m on the free trial I couldn’t answer and thank them. 😦

I do plan to sub this time around, when I reach 60. By playing an Arcanist I can level two jobs at the same time, so I’ll have a Summoner and Scholar at 60!