Thursday, March 24, 2011

Catching up Starcade...

Well, we are less than seven hours from the restart, and I'm about to get a nap before the game restarts.

Before I do, a quick update on where Starcade stands...

Six jobs are level 90.

DRG (fully capped and merited), DNC (fully capped and merited), SAM (fully capped and merited), BST (fully capped and merited -- all hail the Power Sheep!), RDM (not capped, but fully merited), and MNK (my first job in the game, my 6th to 90, neither capped nor merited).

WHM got to 77 -- just got my Raise III in a BCNM before the stoppage. NIN is 50-ish, others getting there.

Dynamis: Lengendary is still going, though for how long after the Dynamis changes, I dunno. Got my polearm to level 2, and now working on the 16 100-Bynes to get it to level 3 (farming for gil, mostly Abyssea pops like the Orobon Cheekmeat and Pursuer Wings). We got our Xarcabard win, finally, so we're branching out a bit. Next run is supposed to be Windurst. Only win I do not have is Tavnazia.

Abyssea: Shit-ton of DD atmas (have Razed Ruins, Voracious Violet, and many others). Have all zone bosses, Caturae, and the Discernment Abyssite and Crimson Traverser Stone. The only win I don't have is The Wyrm God himself.

AF3: No +2's. +1's abound, including four on DRG and three on DNC -- but I still don't have the base feet for DNC, even though I've had the eight seals for quite some time!

Wings: Got stuck on the last Bastok mission, so got Sandy a fair way up until I got stalled on a mission that needs help there! So haven't gotten to the end of that.

ToAU: Does anyone do that any more?

Zilart: On Apocalypse Nigh.

So that's a quickie update. Off to bed.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Another ISP-cap warning...

On one of my first posts since returning the blog to active service, I sounded a warning to gamers on certain ISP accounts.

After some research and what I found out today, sounds like I have to do another one.

First thing anybody should do if they are on or considering a capped ISP: Meter your Net usage with a program like NetMeter, like I did.

THEN: Try to find out what your ISP is saying your Net usage is.

Today, I did some research, and, with the NetMeter numbers and what the (soon-to-be-former) ISP was saying -- and nothing was adding up. (In fact, the ISP's numbers were double the NetMeter totals.)

No one's been on the account other than authorized people.

And when did this start, apparently? Two weeks ago. Gee... Coinkydink???


Be very careful going forward. They might try to get you coming _AND_ going... They'll gladly over-meter you to nail you for overage charges.

If you must be on a capped plan, get and document how much Net your system is using.

And get it on paper, so that if your ISP tries to stiff you, you can challenge them.

Ides of March V: An Uneasy Return

It all began with a meeting, or so the legend says...

I'm sure the community is abuzz with the announcement that the game would return this weekend. With a 10% conservation in power consumption (meaning that Square-Enix will be minus their air conditioning for a long period of time, as well as shutting off a few more lights), they are able to offset the server power usage (which was about 12% of their entire power usage as a company!!!) and can, hence, return the game to service on Friday morning at 4 AM PDT (8 PM JST Friday night).

This is, of course, with the caveat that, if the situation should worsen (and I'll say right now that I doubt it won't, especially as Japan gears up for the spring and summer -- if there isn't some degree of major continuing conservation effort or some major power rerouting, the game is going to be down more than it is up over the summer!), the game could go back down at pretty much any time.


That said, two thoughts:

1) I'm shocked it's only going to be about a two-week suspension. Fukushima Daiichi is GONE. Their power infrastructure took a massive hit with the earthquake, tsunami, and all-but-certain nuclear meltdown. Without a major power rerouting, this could end very badly.

2) I swear to God that I have seen some of the most shameful trolls I have ever seen in and around FFXI on the official (English) forums in the last 10 days.

They basically confirm many of the worst suspicions which made me angry enough to raise Hell and to take names on this blog.

I know that people troll for a reaction and all that garbage, but the fact is that to even have it within one's mind to be as callous, disrespectful, and just downright not able to have one ounce of human compassion because THEY JUST WANT THEIR GODDAMN GAME, GOD DAMN IT!!...

*sigh* And we wonder why most of the Japanese, even with accommodations like the auto-translate system and the like, want nothing to do with the English-speaking playerbase...

Well, anyway, you have it back Friday.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ides of March IV

Some corrections and thoughts as we head into the sixth day without FFXI:

On my Twitter, I noted a forum post which reported that Square-Enix had donated 100,000,000 yen to the relief effort.

This number was correct. My math, of the current exchange rate, was not. I added a zero to the dollar conversion. The number (at 80 yen/$) is $1,250,000 -- the rate is fluctuating wildly, as a massive "prop up the dollar" motif has pumped several yen per dollar back into the rate since.

Second, about four hours ago this morning, Square-Enix announced that the games were going to be down at least two additional days, with the next update probably coming on Tuesday, March 22.

Don't hold your breath: A supposed localization person with Square-Enix who works on and plays FFXI reported the following on his Twitter... YMMV:

feyuey its chaotic around the office....i'll provide updates when i can...but i don't expect anything until mid april or later....#ffxi #ffxiv

Third (and related to the second): A respectful disagreement (though a strong one) with Aneiro. Yesterday, he and his cohorts put together a quick-turnaround Limit Breaking News 19 (which is now at the top of the website -- but may not be for long. With no XI or XIV, LBR is trying to get content out quickly, so the second half of the GFFD may be out soon.)

After about 10-15 minutes on the Japan situation and the suspension of the games, they went in to some of the reported changes in the now-May version update. None of that, except for my feelings on how bad Dynamis is about to get cockblocked, is a disagreement.

My disagreement comes right at the end of the show, and I'm probably one of the people Aneiro is talking about.

Disclaimer: Nothing I say here is to indicate that the servers being put back up as soon as humanly and humanitarily possible is not the intention and desire of Square-Enix.

However, I cannot, at this time, agree with Aneiro with the clarity and strength he states it that the servers are, categorically, going to return.


Because I think we are all (both here and in Japan) getting bullshitted on the severity of the nuclear and electric situation in Japan to a serious level.

I question not that Aneiro has received news that is far more optimistic than anything I've read (my jaw dropped at the apparent inconsistencies with some of his reports and some of mine -- and I've been everywhere from BBC World Service to Reuters to various blogs and message boards that I can stomach).

What I've been reading (and this is now from Yahoo! this morning) indicates that they are going to have to entomb Fukushima Daiichi, Chernobyl-style. This appears to indicate that the reports of a full containment rupture appear to be true, and that not only is the plant dead, but the chances are that it will, at best without rather immediate action (if it isn't doing so already), go China Syndrome.

My understanding is that the Fukushima plants provided a double-digit percentage of all of Japan's power. There is now talk that it could be weeks to months before the daily battles to prevent an apocalyptic meltdown which could take out a large swath of land near the plant end.

Some of the statements made by the Japanese press indicate that they are on to that the government is trying to tap-dance around the severity of the situation. Even with the honorable nature of most Japanese culture, it is clear that nerves are fraying. Japan finally raised their belief on the damage on a seven-point scale of nuclear disasters to a Level 5, though most people believe it's been a Level 6 (only surpassed by Chernobyl) for most of the last week! Many reporters are very out of character in their blasting of the present situation.

Here's the thing: The power conservation efforts which have required the game shutdown are going to go on for quite a while, I am sure. I am almost certain that, even if the game is brought up, it will no longer be a 24-7 operation.

This doesn't have to go on forever for Square-Enix to be forced to permanently terminate FFXI and (ESPECIALLY) FFXIV (which is still, for all material purpose, in a gamma test situation).

The Square-Enix MMO division is not in very good shape before the earthquake took place. Now, they are not going to be able to get revenue for not only the entire outage, but probably (as a goodwill gesture to the players) one entire billing period thereafter.

The question that everyone who wishes to take a position on whether the servers will return is the following: Can the power situation be restored feasibly before the servers are down for such a period of time that it is no longer worth it for Square-Enix to restore them?

I'm not as sure as Aneiro is.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Ides of March Part III

Today, I hope the "LET'S GET THE SERVERS BACK UP!" idiots got a nice dose of reality, on two fronts.

#1, it now absolutely appears that Fukushima #1 appears not only to be a total loss, but headed to catastrophic meltdown. I know there will be people who will throw their hands up at what probably will be an apocalyptic hypothesis for Japan, but the continuing rising of levels to the point that the workers can't even work there, the remaining (and hugely brave -- and almost certainly dead) last fifty people working to try to prevent an absolute meltdown at the plant.

Aftershocks continue, to complicate things even further.

As many have said, one has to wonder what Japan did to piss the deities off.

#2, we actually got a rather surprising announcement from the Dev Team at Square-Enix early this morning.

Quoting from the Dev Tracker Square-Enix provides on the official forums:

Rolling blackouts and restrictions on public transportation have been implemented across eastern Japan as part of the earthquake and tsunami disaster relief effort. Consequently, we have chosen to delay the upcoming major version update initially planned for mid-April.

While the new release date has been provisionally revised to May, we are unable to provide a detailed schedule at this point in time. The previously announced world merger will likewise be postponed.

We would like to express our apologies to our players, and will do our utmost to keep you abreast of the latest developments. Thank you for your continued understanding in this difficult time.

Put straight:

We were about a month out from the version update when the Earthquake hit. Please remember that this probably involved testing the new features, etc. -- and the testing is done on one of the servers (which they obviously had to shut down the test server, Atomos, as well).

More and more, it appears that any restart will probably coincide with May's ninth anniversary event, if at all.

This probably means you can forget about FFXI for at least the rest of the month of March, and, depending on the timetable (and circumstances in Japan), probably a degree of April as well.

We are probably now looking at at least a 2-6 week delay in FFXI/FFXIV services, and restarting them at all starting becoming less and less of a chance pretty quickly as the time begins to recede to and past that 6-week threshold.

In closing, and to give you an idea of perspective on the situation, I turn you to one of the people whom I have had strong disagreements with:

Limit Break Radio's Aneiro was working on post-production on the first half of "The Great Final Fantasy Debate" (which I listened to live) when the announcement of the servers going down hit.

So, even tired and losing his voice, he felt the need to append to the beginning a very prescient and poignant three and a half minutes that I think you all need to listen to.

Even if you don't get the (very hilarious - with all the barbs and the like) first part of the GFFD, go to and click on the player and listen, at the least, to the first three and a half minutes. Over "Distant Worlds", he gives some badly needed perspective here, especially to the trolls and jackalopes who feel the need to make demands of a badly crippled company and nation (Japan) at this point.

When I put a "Pray for Japan" tag on these posts, I kid not.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Ides of March II

Needed to do that first one.

And I need to do another one on another subject.

If you have a big-name ISP at this point, you probably are already aware of this. If you aren't, it's time for an education:

Various ISP's (including AT&T, who announced it this week) are imposing usage caps on their users, as an offshoot of the end of "Net Neutrality".

AT&T's changes take effect May 2nd, and involve the following:
  • Their regular DSL customers will be capped at 150 GB for a month.
  • Their U-verse package customers (phone, Net, cable) will be capped at 250 GB a month.
  • Once you go over three times in three separate months, you are billed an extra $10 for every 50 GB you go over.
They claim this will only impact about 2% of their users, in that their average user only uses about 18 GB a month.


This is a blatant extortion by AT&T (and the other companies involved) to push customers into their higher end service, which also includes them getting off the Internet for much of their movie/sports/etc. content and back onto the television where they can be simply ad-ed and product placed to death!

This is, of course, right about the same time AT&T announces that they now will offer people to see MLB Network content on AT&T accounts. This is also the time that AT&T plasters their sponsorship of the March Madness On Demand stream - a great service.

But I went ahead and got a usage meter installed on my computer this afternoon, to show how ridiculous this is:

I turned the meter on about the time that the first game was about to go into overtime. Just the last :30 of the first game and the five-minute overtime (which took maybe 20 minutes total)... 300 MB.

I turned the second game (in progress, and a rout for Clemson at this writing) on. Two-thirds of the way through the first half: Another 430 MB.
  1. This is blatant extortion of people, like myself, who are sick of "Five Hundred Channels, and Nothing On", and cut our cable about a year ago. Just the short time I've had the meter up shows me just how ridiculous their claims are -- and stories are that they will eventually constrict the caps further as time goes on.
  2. This is a blatant effort to silence people considered "dangerous" (more simply, "opponents") from the Internet, pushing large-scale Internet users off because they can't afford the overages. I've always said that, as we head to TSHTF, they were going to try to silence people that TPTB did not like. Easiest way to do that? Charge through the nose for the Internet so people can't get it any more. I would fully expect further limitations on public Internet places like libraries and Wi-Fi cafes to be coming as well!
  3. This is a blatant effort to end the YouTube/Ustream/JustinTV/ESPN3/MMOD/Netflix/etc. and so forth Streaming Video Revolution. I can understand anyone who wishes to make the claim that piracy needs to be squashed, but, as I demonstrated above (about 85% of the first half of Clemson-UAB: almost half a GB), this effort DOES NOT discriminate between legal and illegal content. No secret has been made that the Internet has basically allowed people to get their own opinions and formulate their own beliefs without being controlled by the Main$tream Media without choosing such control. Limit the options for opinions, and you can more easily shape the sheeple. Just imagine how much people are trying to get information about the earthquake and nuclear crisis in Japan -- so much so that I had trouble getting on to Ustream this morning!
  4. This is a blatant effort, in the guise of that control, to make the television networks and the Main$tream Media important again. Well, the M$M is bought, CNN is more concerned with that asswipe Charlie Sheen "winning" than any real news, and I don't want to listen to Limpballs, Hannity, or anyone else who openly wants me and all around me dead! With streaming video, the television networks are dying -- it's been admitted. So why not shove people back to television by pricing their Internet out with ridiculous overage charges. Then, when the average is reduced, lower the caps... More people to get "Fair and Balanced" on.
  5. This is a blatant effort to punish gamers too. This is why I posted it here. Imagine how much bandwidth you're taking up for a four-hour Dynamis run. A multi-hour Abyssea run... God knows what on the PS3 and the XLax and all that stuff... I have no use for most American gamers, but, again, this does not discriminate on the basis of conduct. The only way, frankly, that one would hold to the "average" AT&T claims for their customers is to NEVER stream, up or download. NEVER download anything of much consequence. NEVER game. Effectively, to shut off the computer except for the occasional e-mail and websurfing (which, when it does not involve intensive stuff like YouTube, etc. uses almost no bandwidth -- ON EDIT unless someone either jacks into your network or ads are on the pages you do which DO stream or use video....). Now, imagine if you're The SpeedGamers Live, and you're trying to make gaming into your job in this economy, and you get stiffed with this! (Not saying he is or isn't, but just imagine that for a second.
(Three side comments: First, was that Charlie Sheen on the fucking Capital One commercial I just saw?

Second, for the first half of Clemson-UAB?? 550 MB.

Third, congratulations to the aforementioned Speed Gamers for a $15,200 Classic Pokemon marathon fundraiser for ALS research! Next marathon of theirs is Metroid for Mother's Day.)

If you have a capped system (now or announced in the future) and any degree of a limited income, GET THE FUCK OUT IF YOU CAN. Some won't have an option, and that's probably going to mean basically no gaming, no downloading, no streaming.

Shove them back in front of the TV, where you believe they belong.

AT&T and all other ISPs doing this: PLEASE FUCK OFF.

The Ides of March I

OK, I thought I was never going to use this blog again.

No, not because TTTO removed me (and rightfully so!), but just because I really felt that I would not be able to have a feasible discussion on the merits of FFXI without possible criminal repercussions.

The reason I'm doing this first post is to kind of get out in some degree of public (through the Twitter and the like) some of my feelings on the earthquake, the damage, and the effect on Japan and on the future of FFXI...

... if there is one.

I know people don't like hearing that. For God's sake, I've already seen people flame me for it.

Simply put, you aren't getting my agreement on this one.

I know what some say to try to downplay this situation.

This is a situation which cannot be downplayed. Period. End of story.

And anyone (and there have been many) who have said "Pearl Harbor! USA! I'm an American patriot!!" are fucking scum and deserve to have the crap kicked out of them.

And yes, that was actually done by some jackass who vandalized the Wikipedia page reporting on the quake.

There are several towns near Sendai that are GONE. Finito. Kaput. Gone.

Don't believe me? Watch the video. There's a chilling Australian comparison on their Australian Broadcasting Network site of "before and after" pictures, with entire towns (or major parts thereof) just -- plain -- wiped -- off -- the -- fucking -- map.

To all of you insensitive American-gamer (and not all American gamers have come out and said this -- but the predominance of the "GET THE SERVERS BACK UP!! BLARGH!!" jackalopes have been US-based) types who think only of yourselves (and, as I expected, this was far more than just in-game content, as I said repeatedly here), a fucking reality check:

1) The quake was so powerful, the entire main island of Japan is now eight feet closer to the United States.

2) The quake was so powerful, the Earth's axis has been moved by four inches, speeding the rotation of the Earth by a measurable amount (nothing you'll notice, but a measurable amount nonetheless).

3) There is a significant portion of the coastline near the epicenter which the Pacific Ocean has now taken. The coastline by Sendai has been changed.

And please note: In none of this have I said about the real issue which could be terminal for literally hundreds of thousands over there...

We've got a nuclear power plant, the Fukushima if I'm spelling that correctly (and the #1 plant within there), which is almost certainly going to completely melt down at least a couple of the damaged reactors.

Japan greatly relies, because of its lack of natural resources, on nuclear power. Over and above the radiation danger to the Japanese (especially near Tokyo, if the winds head that direction, as they had in the last couple of days before a front came through and started sending the air over Sendai to the Pacific), the fact is that the infrastructure is first-degree FUCKED.

Who knows if they will ever be able to regain enough integrity in that or other plants downed by the quake to get sufficient power to the Japanese before a humanitarian nightmare hits the table (even worse so than now!). The Japanese are a proud people, yes...

And that is to say nothing of what happens if -- and I truly, watching the news and catching up on everything, believe it's a matter of WHEN -- Fukushima #1 goes ka-blooey.

And yet we've got a bunch of little fucking children (no surprise on XI) wondering why the game has to go down and demanding Square-Enix restore the servers.

I wish to say publicly:

I stand in full support of Square-Enix' decision to terminate play, as a statement of the social responsibility it has to the people of Japan to conserve energy in this terrible crisis. Anyone who disagrees with that is an idiot.

Point One: As of about 10 AM their time Wednesday, the fifth day after the 9.0 quake (and they are still getting 6.0+ aftershocks all around where the mega-thrust occurred), 2 million are without power, a half a million are in shelters, and the temperatures are about zero degrees Celsius -- freezing.

THIS GAME IS NOT GETTING BACK UP IN A WEEK FROM THE TERMINATION. It would be irresponsible (and that's saying a lot more in Japan than it would in the U$A -- an example of that in my second post) for Square-Enix to do so.

Point Two: If what is happening at Fukushima #1 is as bad (or, given the veil of some silence over this, much worse) than what is feared, that plant is going thermonuke, and a large portion of that area is about to become uninhabitable.

And then you get the radiation, and is Japan going to be able to ever physically recover from this?

Point Three: There are rolling blackouts (which is probably what forced Square-Enix' hand -- it was stunning to me (though I must admit a small short-sightedness) in that I didn't realize what kind of miracle it was that we got 48 hours of the game before Square-Enix declared stoppage) in most, if not all, of Japan!

Initial word (and this is probably without nearly the information on the devastation we have now) was trickling out that the probable timeframe of the blackouts might be the end of NEXT month!

How would you like a reopening to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the game??

This is why I actually put "The End" as one of my tags to this. I used to put that out for times that I was being warned (or being GMed) for my own conduct -- but this is different.

If it starts getting past the first of May or so, how much longer could Square-Enix go and feasibly restart XI (or especially XIV, which is still effectively in gamma test) at all?

My honest opinion: That quake might've finished Square-Enix' MMO division. We won't know until we get a decent idea of how much they can rebuild in a short period of time.

But see above -- this is a resource-poor nation which has relied on nuclear power to sustain a population of 130,000,000 or so on islands which total about the size of my home state of California!

So any fucking jackass who's more concerned about his six level-90 jobs or his initial work on a Gungnir or what AF3 +1 he still needs just needs to JUST SHUT UP.


Rant over -- on this.

So, what can be done?

I know I'm not the richest person in the world -- I scrimp and struggle to eat, keep a roof over my head, and occasionally be able to provide people with peace and quiet and me some R&R by going places from time to time.

But the humanitarian efforts need money. So

Yahoo! has a page of "where to donate" efforts going up.

Being an anime and gaming fan (especially of streaming marathons), a number of events have already been put into motion:
  1. Stephanie Sheh is putting together a We Heart Japan event to raise funds on Thursday, March 17, at Meltdown Comics on Sunset Blvd. in Los Angeles. Screenings, an art auction, and a number of autograph signings are scheduled.
  2. The One Piece podcast, through Global Giving, is doing a 24-hour anime industry podcast to help raise $25,000 for relief efforts, as "Anime Fans Give Back to Japan". For Facebookers, there is a donation-matching program for up to $5,000 in donations -- see the podcast site for details and some of the guests scheduled. The marathon is scheduled for 6 PM EDT this Saturday night (the 19th) through the same time on Sunday (the 20th).
  3. A smaller scale anime/manga blogger event can be found here -- Anime and Manga Bloggers for Japan. Every dollar helps. Doctors Without Borders and Shelterbox get that money.
  4. As a measure of how much we have to set our differences aside, the official Anime Expo podcast, AX Live, is doing an extended podcast Thursday night (possibly from the above event?) to raise funds.
  5. Anime conventions, probably throughout this anime season, are going to be doing fundraisers. Check your local anime convention.
  6. The Australian IGN crew is doing a 24-hour gaming stream for fundraising, focussing on 24 Japanese video games which have touched us. Their stream will start at 3 PM PDT on Thrusday for 24 hours. The Australian Red Cross relief efforts are the beneficiaries here.
Yes, I got all that from Anime News Network -- they don't like it, they can kiss my entire rotund behind.

Anyhoo, I have another post I want to do on a different subject -- a word of warning to any FFXI people on several different ISPs. You may want to very quickly relocate.

Beware the Ides of March indeed. Part II to come.

ON EDIT: They just evacuated the workers from Fukushima #1. The radiation has become too much for them to even do minimal efforts. Pray for Japan. It's about to get ugly, at least by current view.