Sunday, November 30, 2008

Extensions of Earlier Comments, and Questions at FanFest

Basically, some comments on my first weekend on Leviathan, and some other stuff:

First, the blog is now on the Tarutaru Times Online –
A whole bunch of nice blogs on there with a lot of thoughts on Final Fantasy XI. Check the Times and some of these other blogs out.

Second, I would be remiss if I didn't thank my social linkshell from Asura, Monkees. They were basically the only non-financial reason I stayed on Asura the last six months. They were a lot of fun to be around, and we had a good time. Littlemunkey, Soop, Hectorxx, Clatuu, shell leader Vipreubaud, and, of course, the “den mother” of the group, Wilmakitty. Thank you all, and those who I did not name. Keep in touch with me.

Third, at least two other players were the ones who actually gave Leviathan as a recommendation as the writing came, more and more, on the wall. Kobayashimaru is one of them, and I thank him for that. The second was the last person I talked to on Asura, and I didn't get his/her name. Sorry.

Also thanks to all the Asurans on my friend list, and bricks to all those I had on my blacklist.

Goals for the week? Kinda continuing the holding pattern – farming the promies as Dragoon, Besieged as Red Mage, Dancer gets Sharlene to help in Kuzotz, and the 75 Beastmaster is around for Campaign for merits. Waiting for the new update.

Speaking of, that gets to the main part of today's message.

The North American Final Fantasy XI Fan Festival is this weekend.

Wished I could've gone, but didn't have the $40 ticket price for the three-hour time frame that tickets were actually open. I really have to wonder what drew so many people to this event so quickly this year as opposed to the Wings of the Goddess sneak peeks at last year's event (which I did attend).

Obviously, the news about the mini-expansions for 2009 will be one subject, and another will be all the goodies in the soon-to-come December version update (which is NOT tomorrow's maintenance).

I do think the Salvage item abuse exploitation will be a major subject in this event, especially when the efforts of the Special Task Force are brought up. Also, effects to combat RMT PlayOnline message spam (which will probably mean that such messages can only go to and from friends on your friend list, real soon now...) will be high on the list.

I have some other questions that I, personally, would put into the pot for the development team and the like:

Given the present state of the real-life world economy, can you give us a general idea about the stability of the future of Final Fantasy XI?

I realize that this isn't a question a lot of people want to hear. But it's reality, especially given present events.

When the three expansions are all out, will the total content added to the game essentially equal one of the larger (previous) expansions?

That's about the price we'll end up paying ($10 per), about the equivalent of the original release-date prices for the expansions.

Can the new Treasure Caskets be opened by any player “on the hunt”, or are they simply tagged for the player (or the party) who made the kill to spawn it?

For those who do not know (and we're not quite 100% clear whether this is a “Fields of Valor” situation or a general “in the field/hunt” situation), there will be a new feature in the December update for Treasure Caskets, basically drops on any and every fight (whether there might be an “only for monsters who grant XP” restriction is unclear) which can be temporary items for the players, or even the possibility of gear only to be found in such Caskets.

You can understand the concern if these Caskets are openly available to any player who comes upon them. “Thief” would take on a whole new meaning.

To the Special Task Force: Will the recent revelations about end-game players' conduct make the administrators of Final Fantasy XI reconsider the drop-rates (or even the very existence) of some of the end-game mechanics like Salvage?

I have a feeling, save the December update stuff, this will be one of the hottest topics of FanFest. As a player who does not RMT, use exploits, nor use third-party software to play FFXI, I can only hope the “banhammers” rain fast and furious on this. If the amount of kvetching by these end-game cheating bastards is any indication of the number of players who abused these exploits knowingly, I expect the number of bans to be in the thousands.

I think you could even make a case, if it is as prevalent as is feared, that the entire future of Salvage as a game mechanic might be in danger. I've never played Salvage – have not that much desire to after seeing how much cheating is going on. The Special Task Force has to come down hard on this, and I expect some degree of question of this regard to be one of the hottest topics come Saturday.

For the record, a number of FFXI Premiere Sites will be giving continuous updates from the Hollywood Renaissance this weekend, so check them out.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last night was my last night on Asura.

Game over, Asura. Game – over.

After another Besieged loss, some introspection, and a check on my December finances. I finally made the move.

Here's the account of my last material night on Asura.

We were about to go into a double-header Besieged. Maximum force level (a rarity for Asura, the last four months), Undead first, then Trolls.

About ten minutes before the Besieged, real life takes precedence. My friend and roommate (who is about on her last nerve with the entire planet, and no blame to her for it – with three people dead due to Black Friday, frenemies thinking they (or the NFL – I'm a sports fan, but sick of the corruption garbage) are more important than her grief over the loss of the one person who has loved her in the last number of years, and all that crap which has been imposed on her this year...) basically was being undercut and harassed by people in a simulated club that she is the assistant manager of over the last several weeks. She cares about this very deeply and works very hard there. And when she gets angry, she's worse than me, and not only is that saying something, but I don't want to see her like that. So she gets precedence over even a FFXI Besieged at that point.

Friday's event, she had been harassed, to the detriment of the entire club, by an idiot who basically thought it nice to basically (in pro wrestling terms) “go into business for himself”. He's more important than anyone else, and no one is taking the ultimate actions to get rid of this bastard. Basically, it's either people like that, or her. She can't take this anymore.

What does this have to do with Final Fantasy XI, Besieged, and Asura?

The same damn stuff happens there too.

Once I get my friend settled down enough that I can rejoin the game full-time, the Undead Besieged has been going for about 20 minutes. And, sure enough, party requests and all this garbage are going full-tilt. And my blacklist is filling quickly – I must've put 12 people on there tonight.

I'm also keeping the people abreast, in shouts, of the status of the generals. About 20 minutes after I rejoined, even with Wizard's Drink and a Convert, I run out of MP and rest just as I had told the people that Mihli was 100% health.

2 minutes later, Mihli falls.

15 seconds after that, Zazarg follows her.

Basically, at this point, people are STILL trying to recruit for parties, and the whole thing just begins to degenerate. Especially after about 3-5 minutes, Najelith bites the dust. It is now apparent that the Undead who can even one-shot the Serpent Generals themselves are doing so!

I shout to try to find out the last general's location (Rughadjeen), but, before I can buff up and run there, he's gone too.

Hall of Binding opens, and it's a tense 15 minutes to keep the lamiae and the like from taking the Astral Candescence. Basically, Lamiae #2 and 3 basically are having their way with us, but none of the Undead basically have the idea to just turn around, grab the Astral Candescence, and win the Besieged.

People were basically still trying to zerg (overwhelm) the damn Nemean Lion while the Hall of Binding was open. It was clear that a host of players didn't give two damns about keeping the Astral Candescence, and I let them have it for it.

We actually do “win” that Besieged, if you can call that winning – they did retreat.

Problem is: 2nd half of the doubleheader, Trolls. No generals left, Hall of Binding open, we are toast.

Finally, when it became clear we were completely toast, I lost it and basically asked how many of these players had basically cheated their way to all their Salvage gear.

15 minutes after the Trolls entered, they had the Astral Candescence, for the 49th loss of Besieged for Asura, the most (or 2nd most, depending on updates) of any server.

And the venom was flying. I got several very inflammatory tells from one player, and told him, less than politely, to go screw himself as a sanctimonious... Got a couple players to support me raising Hell, but I had finally had enough.

Well, anyway... At that point, I had to leave for some other real-life issues... But this is all the same thing. Everyone's into business for themselves – no regard, of any kind, for the greater good. Whether it's the simulated club my friend busts her ass for, the Wal-Mart where shoppers murdered this 34 year-old overnight stocker because they just had to have their fucking TV for $40 or whatever..., or this server's Besieged “tactics”, it's clear this is not an uncommon thing. I know I'm not perfect, but, for the dear love of God, at least try!!!

After I logged off, I had some time to think. Wait a minute... If my check gets direct-deposited today... At that point, I ran the numbers, and realized that all I had to do was wait for the check to get direct-deposited, and do some research on the World Transfer Service.

The only reason I had stayed on Asura this long was that I could not afford, because of tight funds, to leave. This month, I finally had enough wiggle to do it.

So... As of a little after 4 AM Pacific Daylight Time this Saturday, November 29, 2008 – I am no longer Starcade on Asura – I'm Starcade on Leviathan.

We'll see how it goes. I hope it goes well.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Yes, it's a game, but, as long as I'm here, I'm here to win it...

There's a reason I want to leave Asura. (The only reason I haven't is that the World Transfer Service costs $25 to change servers, and, being on a limited income and trying to help a roommate pay her rent here is an issue sometimes...)

A little background on how I'm playing right now, first: I have a 75 Beastmaster which I use, right now, for meriting in Campaign (and for anything which requires a 75 to complete). My 57 Dancer is helping my Adventuring Fellow (Sharlene, now level 57 herself) through her quests. My 54 Dragoon is farming Recollections and Memories in the Promivyons (and some of the Memories are quite profitable -- several hundred thousand gil in the last half-month or so).

(Hello to third Mog House Safe expansion, seventh Gobbiebag expansion, Garrulous Ring, Magi Coat and Silken Hat, several expensive 50-ish Red Mage spells, etc...)

And my 55 Red Mage (which I use as my sub for healing and buffing in Campaign) gets levelled in Besieged.

Therein lies the problem.

I now have about 40 players on my blacklist, and they basically all are from Besieged incidents.

Basically, what I have seen on Asura (historically, either the worst Besieged server of all the servers on Final Fantasy XI, or very close) is that the people do not actually care if they win the Besieged or not. They are more interested in the personal rewards or their own character advancement.

This is done in two ways relevant to this rant:

1) You can skill up your weapons and spells and skills in Besieged. (You can not if you are tagged as taking part in Campaign, for the record.)

2) You can basically try to recruit parties for various quests, missions, etc. you wish to have completed. Goes on all the time in Aht Urhgan.

OK. The problem comes in when it's clear that the players take these actions independent of whether the Astral Candescence is kept in Al Zahbi or not.

I mean, we're technically under Martial Law here, and all non-combatants were ordered out of Al Zahbi when the Beastman army breached the final defense line and entered the city.

That means: We have one task -- one -- until the Beastman retreat. Keep the Astral Candescence.

That means you take whatever actions you have to. Fight, a suicidal Diaga (which I've done more than a few, to try to get a mess of monsters off an Allied General), actually Raise someone*, Cure what you can find to be cured, etc.

You don't shout for something which has nothing to do with the Besieged and only to do with your sorry, greedy little character. If you aren't in to fight, get out of the Besieged.

*This also could apply to those people (of whom there are more than a couple in every Besieged, it seems) who die (as is quite expected in the Besieged), and then just lay there. Raises, which are not MP-cheap, are wasted on these people, and their presence takes up valuable resources which do not allow the players who don't have tricked-out computers *raises hand as one* to see all the relevant action going on.

I'm sick of it. If I see it, they MIGHT get one warning. But if a group of people are doing this, then they probably are going to go on the blacklist.

And then I'll let people know to get on task.

That leads to the other complaint:

"Chill out. It's just a game!!"

The fact that I'm a very competitive person is lost on these guys.

The fact that I find Besieged a wonderfully intense part of FFXI is also lost on these guys.

But the fact is: I know I'm in a game -- but, if I'm in the game, I'm here to win it. Otherwise, I can be doing something else (for FFXI, see above!). When the rest of the server decides they don't care whether we keep the Astral Candescence, it restricts my ability to advance in Besieged by helping Asura win and gain a winning streak. At that point, it is my business.

So, as was once famously said: "You play to win the game." In Besieged, either play to win, or get the f--- out.

So how DID you get that character so high?

I was actually going to post a rant about what I see (far too damned often) in Besieged -- and that rant is coming today.

But, then, thanks to the Tarutaru Times Online, I saw an issue that I just have to address, as a paying member of the community.

I was on FFXI about 3 AM Wednesday morning (Pacific Time). We actually were in a Besieged. All of a sudden, I see a significant System Message proclaiming an emergency maintenance on a number of higher-level areas. Most of these areas had to do with either Assaults, Salvage, or they were BCNM's in the past Vanadiel Shadowrealm.

OK. That happens from time to time -- an issue comes up which has to be dealt with now.

But what concerns me (very strongly) is what that issue ended up being...

There apparently was a very dirty little secret about those areas. One could take several parties into some of those areas (I'm assuming the same exploit could've been done in the BCNM areas, so they decided to work those too...), and use an exploit to duplicate the drops (many quite valuable, especially in Salvage), disrupting the game balance and economy in ways I don't necessarily believe I needed to go into.

This upset me. You see, to my knowledge, I don't cheat on Final Fantasy XI and I don't think I, nor anyone else on the game, should have to.

So, with that, I sent the following message to the Special Task Force as a "suggestion or comment":


I am not a happy player right now, except for the fact that I am more than happy, that, even with a 75 Beastmaster, that I have not jumped head-long into endgame.

I was on, this morning (11/26/08 about 3 AM PST) when the emergency maintenance took place to fix what appears to be a big-time cheat exploit (in Salvage and some of the past Vanadiel BCNM areas – where players had been known to use this exploit to increase the drop rate (by duplicating items, apparently) in these areas, especially in Salvage) on the part of what might well be a significant part of the end-game community of Final Fantasy XI. I was happening around some of the community sites and came upon this comment from “Dennis” (apparently Kimiko of the Siren server) on 1UP (name found through the listing on the Tarutaru Times Online):


Personally, I have to give SE credit for patching this issue quickly upon its realization, but at the same time I must take issue with the endgame community as a whole. You all have known about these now for the last several weeks, if not months, and yet rather than do the right thing you all decided to exploit this to your own ends. It makes me wonder just how many of the Salvage pieces that are completed right now are the result of this exploit. You cry that Salvage drops are piss-poor at best? Ok, so maybe they are, but that in no way gives you carte blanche to outright cheat.

This is, apparently, an exploit which people knew of and used for a LONG time.

I am going to put this in zero uncertain terms. This is a job for the Special Task Force. They need to find out who started it, and every player (possible) who knew of the exploit and used it. The use of such an exploit is a clear violation of the FFXI Terms of Service, and every player who knowingly used this exploit must be banned and characters removed from Final Fantasy XI, no matter how many players eventually get tossed.

This not only disrupts the economy of a number of the servers, but also disrupts fair play for those of us who do not choose to use illegal third-party software or exploits or whatever other cheats may exist.

One of the complaints I often make about some of these players (especially when they play with no regard to server-wide events like Besieged, but only for themselves) is that I openly wonder if some of these players only got to where they are by buying their characters. Given news like this, I begin to wonder if taking the players to the next level of that requires certain levels of outside-the-rules cheating as well.

Every player who has knowingly used this exploit must be banned.

Every player who has used this exploit (knowingly or not) should lose all items from the relevant areas, because their actions have not only unfairly gained all such items, but disrupted game economy balance and game balance as a whole.

We pay good money to play this game fairly, and those of us who don't exploit should demand the removal of all who knowingly do. You've got a LOT of work to do, Special Task Force.

Starcade from Asura


The post to which I refer has a link to a forum of high-level players, pages of which are open bitching by high-level players that their dirty little secret got out and got taken care of.

Here's a hint: You cheated. What you did was a violation of the Terms of Service you agree to when you pay your $12.95/mo for that character.

No uncertain terms about it. At minimum, you should lose all items from those areas. If there's any idea that you knew of this exploit and did it anyway, poof goes the character. The Special Task Force needs to delete ALL characters (and I don't care if it's thousands) who knew of this exploit and did it anyway.

They need to take a serious look as to whether Salvage can be, well, salvaged. There's a very real chance they've completely destroyed the balance to that entire part of the game.

I make a "joke" sometimes... When I see things which frustrate me, I openly /shout as to whether some of these players actually bought their characters.

When I hear of conduct like this, I really begin to wonder how they could get their characters that high without cheating.

SE has to ban 6-10K accounts a month (a recent report at VanaFest in Japan last weekend put the number of banned accounts, since the STF started, at somewhere near 400,000) because of illegal situations -- but this needs a special look. This is something, frankly, which may actually force them to take a look at serious actions impacting thousands of characters.

I'm just disgusted. I know that saying "Shame on you." to them does no good -- they have no shame in their game. It's all about "pwnage". They don't care as long as they get away with it.

It's time for them not to "get away with it", but that's going to take a lot of work by the STF.

Starting Again...

I guess I kinda left this thing a little too long and, now, have decided to start over -- this time, as a Final Fantasy XI blog.

My name is Michael, and (for now -- and I'll explain that in about my third post) I play on the Asura server of Final Fantasy XI as Starcade. I didn't start right away, and had a LONG lay-off from the game as my computer access was limited due to funds.

I purchased a laptop about 18 months ago, and got back into the game hardcore. Once my living arrangements stabilized, I've been playing quite a bit.

Right now (as of Thanksgiving Day, the re-launch of the Dark Renegade's Musings), I have one level 75 (Beastmaster), and three more jobs on the 55 range (Dancer at 57, Red Mage at 55, and Dragoon at 54). I'm levelling all three of those, as I'll explain in another post -- but I have two rants to go on first before I really get to anything more on myself.

I like to solo -- and part of it is that I don't trust a lot of the other players (and I'll get into that in the two rants that I will go on).

I don't expect everyone to agree with me nor that I will make that many friends. I do not have a high opinion of a lot of the players whom I've seen (and read about) in recent weeks and months. But, as I told my linkshell in exasperation when I finally decided to take on BST to level up a job to 75, I like this game and play it and pay for it because it's _Final Fantasy_. There's a certain thing about it (and it does translate to this game, in it's own way) that actually does some very good things.

But, before I get to the rants (separate posts), let me give some thank yous:

-- The Vanadiel Podcast Alliance and They are not only an entertaining bunch of shows, but they give a lot of information about the game and the FFXI community.

-- The Tarutaru Times Online. The motivation to blog my thoughts on Final Fantasy XI. (Also, the place where I found the subject matter for my first non-introductory post.) Read some of the blogs referenced here. They definitely have some good thoughts.

-- Square-Enix. I had my concerns about the economic future (RL economy) of FFXI, but it really sounds as if Squeenix is trying to weather the storm and keep Vanadiel going.

Anyway, I have rants to get on to -- so, on with the asbestos suit and out with the flame-thrower...