Just how much of one game can a person take? How long can you do the same thing without inevitably getting bored? For me, it turns out it's about two years with an additional year of apathy and denial tacked on the end. I think FFXI died to me around the same time my friendship with Armidal did and everything from then on was just a coast toward the end. When you have a circle of close friends that you're happy with, every realistically conceivable item acquired and a perfect spread of jobs leveled that makes taking anything else up yet another fruitless task, what else is there left to play for?
Unrealistically conceivable e-peen items!
For four solid days, Rex, someone whom I had mutually shared FFXI disdain with, bombarded me with little trinkets of Warcraft information over AIM. Aside from being a blindly stoic FFXI fanboy, the one problem I had with WoW was my inability to grasp any concept of detailed information from it. If someone posted a screenshot of their character highlighting a new item they'd just received I would stare at it in bemusement, my eyes unable to differentiate and pluck it out. if someone were to put a few items side-by-side, the amount of stats would confuse me. Et cetera, et cetera, you get the idea. But here was a good friend I'd experienced a respectable chunk of Vana'diel with breaking WoW down into layman's terms with bias against FFXI's archaic stubbornness. Suddenly, WoW actually seemed pretty appealing after so long of drifting in a game I'd felt I'd long done all there was to do.
On the fourth day of this in-depth persuasion to defect to the other side, the fabled Hydra Haubert incident happened in Dynamis-Tavnazia. As most know by now, Epoc got it uncontested, which was the right decision. A long time member who is at everything with his heart in the linkshell deserves a pointless e-peen item such as that. For me though, it just put everything in perspective. Like I said earlier, I was playing for items and friendship at this point and this was a tough reality check. If I wasn't enjoying playing and at the back of the item queue (which, in truth, was a terrible reason to continue playing) within a dictatorial system, why continue? With all this on my mind, I decided to just log out in the safehold there and then to begin downloading the WoW client with my trial code in hand.
Me and Bluetonberry had discussed playing WoW a handful of times in the past but the same situation always came up - his inability to comfortably pay a second monthly fee. By this point though, I was acting first and thinking second which is why it took me by surprise when I subtly dropped a link to the WoW client in his AIM and he took it completely in his stride. He knows how much I platonically love him so to this day my only guess is that he knew I'd finally broken to have said only "k lol". That or he didn't think things would work out as well as they have. I'll always be unwilling to leave BTB behind which is why this was silently a huge relief to me. I'd rather be unhappy doing the same old shit over and over in FFXI for another year than be in WoW without him. Bluetonberry and, later, Artica, are the only reasons I played and stayed sane as long as I did in FFXI.
Artica wasn't someone who needed much convincing to throw in the towel and move to WoW with us. One of the first things that stunned me when I joined Solstice was the way certain people spoke to him and treated him like shit. From the beginning, it seemed he was marked for special derogatory treatment for taking a Dalmatica and getting burnt out on camping long before every other person capable of equipping one could. Humans have their reasons for acting the way they do but FFXI seemed to bring out the worst in people an alarming amount of times. Never before has John Gabriel's greater internet fuckwad theory seemed more pertinent than it did over the last few months of FFXI. But I digress; I was perhaps the only one aware of his dirty little Friday night secret - Excel, his BWL raiding Rogue on Alleria. Combine these two factors with the exit of a certain Mithra he was emotionally tight with and what reason was there for him to stay? Only Sparkle and Fade really, which I have to commend him on for staying with as long as he did after fully quitting.
So with the two lovers in tow and enough catalysts to ignite thermite, the natural starting place for us all in WoW was on Anethema with Rex, Huds and Kaali. The first thing that struck me about it was the graphics. The game I'd spent the past year dubbing an N64 reject was actually the most absorbing atmosphere I'd experienced in a game since Wind Waker. The ambiance, the sheer scale of the landscape, the fluidity of it all was breathtaking, overwhelming. That aside, it was actually my first run through Ragefire Chasm on a Friday night that made me realize that if I was going to play an MMO, WoW was going to be it. As a first parallel of many, on a Friday night I was infamous for not playing. It wasn't by choice mind you, simply one driven by the fact that with only a few hours to play it was impossible to achieve even the most basic of tasks within FFXI. But here I was having an absolute blast in the beginning instance with my few hours of play, being rewarded and advancing myself at the same time. I was still so exhilarated by my experience when I woke up for work the next day that I got straight out of bed, sat in front of my PC and upgraded my account. Despite everything, it was still hard to let go of all I'd worked for in FFXI and WoW really did just start out as something to try. It's a testament to it's greatness that it only took three days for me to shake that mindset.
I guess things were going as well as could be expected on Anetheron but, me being me, I naturally had long term plans kicking around in the back of my mind. Randomly, this is where Odyne enters the picture for the first time with her topic regarding end game on the old BG forums. After reading Bert's reply to it I couldn't stop thinking about what the future holds for us if this is the general consensus among guilds. Just trying to look out for me, Artica and BTB was going to be tough enough in a game I was so new to. The thought of having to get at least six of us all into one raiding guild was a daunting prospect (though less so than starting one from scratch).
With all this on my mind, Artica naturally informed me a few times that his character on Alleria would always be his main focus. As mildly malicious as that reads, it was a pretty understandable decision for him to make given that he probably shared the same sentiments writ in the paragraph above. Predictably, when I made my quitting entry, Blue Garter came calling again like they did a year ago when they all walked towards the light. From my naive point of view, the solution seemed simple - re-roll on Azshara with Artica and BTB to join a guild I had idolized and had idolized me that could wrap us in cotton wool and ensure our progress through the upper echelon of the game. In my mind, doing this eliminated the impending split we were likely to face if we wanted to experience end-game to the fullest while keeping each of the two core friendships together. Most importantly, Artica would be with me full time which was the biggest dilemma I faced. In Rex's mind though, things were quite different.
For Artica, BTB and myself, I still think I made the best decision for us re-rolling on Azshara with Blue Garter but I so deeply regret the way I handled it. As far as I saw it, I was doing Rex, Huds and Kaali a favor by removing the burden of us noobs in their eventual pursuit of end game experiences. In hindsight, thinking I could just stop logging on my Anetheron toon with the people that had convinced me to play the game in the first place and expecting them to share the same ideals without explanation was fucking stupid. In the final conversation I ever had with Rex, he subtly destroyed me in a way a person of his intellect best could and understandably now hates me. He really laid it on thick which was no more than I deserved. I can honestly say that very few people have ever hurt me with words like Rex did that day and if you ever happen to read this I just want you to know that I truly am sorry.
All of Blue Garter has been amazing to me so far. There's a few people in the guild that have gone that extra mile to make me feel just that bit more accommodated too, those that made the rough starting just that bit more comfortable, those that continue to help me progress. The two that immediately come to mind from the start of the game are Setsuko and Fira. The moment we started, Fira sent Artica, BTB and I 10g each to get started then helped zerg us through WC and RFK instances for some rock solid items. Essentially, his early assistance allowed us to get up to the point we left Anatheron at faster than I ever thought possible. Which was great.
My friendship with Setsuko started with her riding out to Durotor to load me up with 14 slot bags to distribute among the three of us. From then to this day, Setsuko has been a really good friend and someone I enjoy talking to about all sorts of crap. As strange as it seems typing this, it's weird to think how differently things might've been over the past few months had it not been for having her to talk to about certain things. I don't really know why we hit it off so well but, in an internet stalker type way, I always read with anger at the way one of her ex-boyfriends treated her on the old BG forums. This is not the place to be talking about that though and I'm in no way trying to present myself in an e-bone, knight in shining armour sort of way. My head is screwed on these days since that last tragic friendship - every one is platonic now.
Surprisingly, Twentytwo has been the other huge pillar of support for me. I say that because, as an outside looking in, 22 was one of the more quieter members from FFXI BG whom I had very little interaction with in any way, shape or form. Yet it was he that sent me that PM on his birthday demanding I re-roll on Azshara as a present to him - how could I resist a man with charm like that? In hindsight I wonder if he just wanted me to pop out of a cake wearing no more than a red ribbon around my penis. Still, re-reading his PM now in another tab makes me think my initial analysis was, infact, correct. Silliness aside, he answers every question I have, gives me advice constantly and doesn't sugar coat his words when giving me critique or words of wisdom. I would be utterly lost without him even now as I try to let go of his hand and stand on my own two feet during raids.
All things considered and, as odd as it may sound, I've had a lot less interaction with Bert than I thought I would've at this stage. I don't actually think that's too much of a bad thing though with how many I already had nurturing Frankenstein's creation. In a way, 22 has taken the role I foresaw Bert taking as my mentor but at the same time created himself in my eyes as something totally different, better even. 22 may have taken the role of teaching me how to walk before I can run but Bert is now that awe-inspiring tank that I always hope to one day emulate. I guess it's kinda geeky to think like that but I remember from one of my first ZG runs where I was still predominantly clad in blues and he's sporting four piece Dreadnaught effortlessly tanking six versions of a mob that was singularly tearing me to pieces. It was jaw dropping to me. Before joining BG I was told some crap Bert by people who may or may not have had just cause which I decided to take with a My Three Suns degree of salt. I'm glad I did because he's a good person and one hell of a good raid leader.
I leveled to 60 as hard as I possibly could which was stressful for the duration. Trying to keep up with Artica who had done this four times before and not leave the inefficient Tonberry behind was a constant headache from start to finish. Still, I got there in the end three days behind Artica and seven ahead of BTB with all of us doing multiple runs of every instance along the way. For someone who leveled as many jobs as I did in FFXI, it was surprising how often I felt the burn of trying to get to 60 as fast as humanly possible. There were times where I would find myself questioning the decision to watch the weeks beloved Champion's League games for fear of creating an inefficient leveling process. Still, as I said, I got there in the end and an hour after that end I was raiding AQ40.
Within ten minutes of being in AQ40 I'd gotten Gauntlets of Steadfast Determination and an Ancient Qiraji Buckler.
Of course, I'm not complaining but I can't help but wonder if a tiny part of the reason I was granted the best shield this side of The Face of Death was because of the shock value it would create on someone still wearing greens. If it was than it worked because, low and behold, a few moments after arriving back in Orgrimmar, I had a swarm of Spitfire's around me missing trades and invites on me. That wasn't the best thing though - in one Alterac Valley game, a cross-server Hunter spent a good few minutes sending me whispers demanding to know what sort of guild would put a shield so good on someone with equipment that bad. It didn't really bother me as such, I thought the tone in the guys words was hilarious as I imagined the expression on his face but I can't deny it irked me somewhat that it was assumed I didn't appreciate what the green Turner prize nominee adorning my back meant. I did and I'm still thankful for it to this day.
World of Warcraft is a funny game with gear. In FFXI, even the greatest items (Ridill, Defending Ring, uh...) didn't mean you could suddenly kill something you couldn't before. Aside from the bonus of killing things a little faster or more efficiently, nothing really mattered and getting gear was simply another process of aesthetically saying "I've stood in a zone longer than you". In WoW, equipment is paramount to success because if enough people don't have good enough gear, you can't progress to the next level.
Let me make two over-elaborate models here to place FFXI on WoW's framework to give a better understanding of why I defected to the other side. Imagine the following;
- Every attack Tiamat does is Fire based. Every. Single. Attack.
- The only conceivable way to fight it is for your main tanks to get around 200 Fire resistance to decrease damage far enough to hold hate and survive.
- Your melee need to get around 90 themselves to be able to negate enough damage to not be mana sponges (yes, I'm going way out of left field here and pretending that melee actually get to enjoy the game and have fun fighting Tiamat and not adds).
- To acquire enough of the most efficient pieces of Fire resist gear, your linkshell has to kill Fafnir enough times to get it for enough people.
Now, keep all that in mind while you read an interpretation of Boyahda and Fafnir as a WoW raid;
- You can enter Boyahda once a week at any time that suits you regardless of anyone else on the server wanting to do it. It will be your version of Boyahda with nobody else but you and your linkshell allowed to go in it.
- Fafnir isn't technically in his own zone, he is part of a seamless Dragon's Aery which is a part of Boyahda. He is the final boss.
- The first boss of Boyahda is, say, Aquarius. However, before you can get to him, you need to kill the "trash" standing between you and it.
- This isn't your standard FFXI trash though, these mobs cannot be slept and require precise coordination among several tanks, curers and damage dealers. It'll be tough at first and you'll die alot but as members get enough experience it'll just become second nature to everyone.
- Along the way, all this trash has a small chance to drop a really nice item for any of the jobs present.
- All jobs are present because every single one of them has a needed purpose regardless of whether someone thinks they suck or not. For example, Dragoon does less damage than every other melee class but only a Dragoon's High Jump can dispel a Robber Crab's Scissor Guard.
- If an item drops and no one needs it, it's still not wasted because... say... a Goldsmith can pick it up and turn it into a 1mil crafting item for the guild bank.
- So after all that trash you finally get to Aquarius, the first boss of Boyahda!
- He's tough and you wipe. The only penalty for this is a percentage of your gil and a short run back. There's no EXP loss so there's no fear of people holding back; experiment with your strats till your heart's content!
- You wipe and wipe as you refine your strategy but finally get it down and get drops - no boss can drop nothing here.
- The drop is a pair of AF boots with genuinely amazing stats that's better than anything your linkshell or individual members can take down anywhere else at their current stage. Someone will definitely need it because AF of a job that isn't there can't drop and every job in the game is there because they all bring something essential to the table. On top of your pair of kick ass AF boots is two items that follow the same logistics as above.
- At this point, if people are tired, you can quit Boyahda and come back tomorrow. Now you've killed Aquarius, all the trash you killed before him won't repop and Boyahda won't "restart" until, say, Wednesday.
- You go back the following day and finish it up, getting your linkshell up to Fafnir having killed all the bosses along the way and gotten amazing loot that is visibly upping your kill speed and ability to stay alive.
- Unfortunately you wipe to Fafnir because he's just too hard for your linkshell's current state. Your strat is fine but your equipment just isn't good enough yet.
- A few weeks later, you've finally done enough Fafnir-less Boyahda runs to accumulate equipment for your whole linkshell to take him down. Huzzah's are in order!
- Among the loot are a tank body piece and a melee body piece. For sake of continuity it should be AF but for the sake of simplicity lets say Koenig Body and Adaman Hauberk. The Koenig Body's stats are amazing, far better than what your tank is wearing and, thanks to the game's intuitive way of calculating damage, it is visibly lowering the amount he takes. The same applies to the Adaberk - that Warrior's damage has gone through the roof. How can something this overpowered be in the game?!?
- Along with those two body piecs were some invaluable Fire resistance pieces.
- A few more Boyahda Fafnir runs later and not only is your standard of equipment significantly higher than it was a month ago but your Fire resist gear is high enough that you might be able to take Tiamat down.
- A few Tiamat attempts later and you have her down, the Frost resist equipment gear she keeps dropping is proving invaluable as you try to gear your members up in preparation of Uleguerand Range and Jormungand.
- In Uleguerand, that Adaberk doesn't see quite so overpowered anymore. In here you're back to the levels of damage you were doing at the start of Boyahda but outside of here in Ballista and in EXP parties, you're a God.
- You notice Jormugand drops an upgraded version of Adaman Hauberk - how can something so overpowered be...
Now, if you actually read all that, forgive me for how long it was but this is progression. This is the fundamental that drives WoW end game - does it not seem appealing? Does it not seem like it would be nice to constantly move onwards and upwards instead of repeating the same shit every week while perpetually moving sideways?
Why does Fafnir still drop the best weapon in the game when there are mobs so much harder than him?
In WoW, taking two-handed sword progression as our example;
Zin'rokh, Destroyer of Worlds is worse than
Ashkandi, Greatsword of the Brotherhood which is worse than
Claymore of Unholy Might.
Zinrok drops from Hakkar in Zul'Gurub, a 20 man instance that is pretty easy and one of the first raids a starting guild will do. Ashkandi drops from Nafarian in Blackwing Lair, the second hardest 40 man instance. CUM drops from Gluth in Naxxramas, the forth 40 man instance in the game which is currently the hardest content available. So in summary, the better the sword is, the harder the mob that drops it and harder the instance is.
I ask again - why does Fafnir still drop the best weapon in the game when he pops everyday and can be killed in 10 minutes yet the 3-8 day spawns that takes more people, more coordination and more time to kill drop absolute shit let alone an upgraded weapon?
Does this make sense to anyone?
It doesn't but someone will try to justify it.
My aim with the above section is not to antagonize current FFXI players into arguments but to offer a thought provoking read in a way I wish someone had written for me a year ago. Be happy with the game you play but don't brush off the others for so long only to regret the wasted time later on like I did.
Regardless of what anybody thought before, I meant it when I said that I would never go back to FFXI but at least now I can say it with some conviction having such a huge slice of experience under my belt. To bring up Odyne yet again, and not to trivialize her bad luck, it saddened me to read this because it's exactly what I didn't want to happen to us and helps me to further put into perspective the decisions I hastily made for us. Even at this early stage, I've had some personal shit to deal with as someone kindly pointed out that a few of the members felt I was an item whore. It depressed me pretty badly and I would be lying if I said I didn't consider quitting but what would that have achieved? I'd have been turning my back on people that have shown faith in me like a coward. And you know what? They were right anyway, I was being an item whore but unlike in FFXI, this was totally innocent. Someone tells me I need stamina on my DPS items to be able to better survive so I take an item for a neckpiece that wasn't really an upgrade over what I already had, not realizing I was depriving healers of one of the best necks in the game in doing so. I took a pair of pants over someone that I found out afterwards desperately needed them because I really thought they were an upgrade at the time. For that one, instead of considering the blame lie with me, I got annoyed that my hand wasn't held and that nobody told me not to take them. I will regret taking them till I can help said people earn them back and then some. I used the word "innocent" because they honestly weren't taken out of greed. To me, happiness in WoW is not about items but having fun and being useful at every single raid which, sadly, means having good enough items. Everything I stand a chance at getting now I'm taking a step back and thinking twice whether it would be better suited to someone else, whether it would be a bigger upgrade for them. As strange and unbelievable as this may sound coming from me, I've actually gotten a bigger thrill from passing a few items to people than taking them myself. I'm grateful to people for showing me the error of my ways because I don't want this game to feel like FFXI again where I was unhappy for long periods of times over dumb items.
With my morals fixed and my desire to atone burning ever stronger, my ability to tank is sometimes depressing. I try really, really hard and have respecced to a 31/5/15 build to do better but there's certain fights and mobs I seem to really struggle with. My biggest problem with some mobs is getting the initial aggro at the start which causes them to run around and rape healers as I die a little inside and feel the higher up's faith in me decay a little bit more. I want to tank and DPS peripherally but our tank slots are pretty much set in stone and my DPS doesn't touch a lot of our other member's. I'll get the balance somewhere but I must keep reminding myself that I've been raiding for a little over a month solidly and have made such a disgusting amount of progress already. I keep losing sight of that.
Blue Garter has allowed me to clear AQ20, AQ40, ZG, MC, BWL and kill Onyxia multiple times. They've given me the opportunity to kill Patchwerk, Grobbulus, Gluth, Anub'Rekhan, Faerlina, Maexxna, Instructer Razuvious, Noth, Heigan and Loatheb a varying amount of times within Naxxramas (which I must confess to being obsessed with).
In short, Blue Garter has allowed me to do what they've spent the past year achieving in little over a month and I love them to the point of tears for it.