Musings from a Noob Raider

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In the last article, I talked about my experiences in Gordias, watching the rise of Alistair Castello (renamed to Alis Carroll). I watched as she pushed herself to get better and in turn, pushed me to become a better shot caller and tank.  I looked at different styles of shot calling, read up on optimal set-ups and pulls, and put them into practice as I lead different groups in Gordias and Midas Savage. I realized that I was a visual learner and needed to experience the pace of the fight rather than read about it.

Before I start the next subject of this article, I want to give a history of how I started to play Final Fantasy XIV (FFXIV) before I go into my observations of the server and how I started raiding.

I was introduced to FFXIV observing my brother playing the game.  Hearing Uldah’s night theme music made me realize how much I actually missed playing a Final Fantasy game;  the music would make me feel nostalgic about my FFXI days in high school.  At the time, I was playing Dota 2 for a casual team that was participating in a few tournaments. With every early round loss, FFXIV was becoming an extremely appealing option for another game to play.  While I was browsing Twitch streams, I noticed Zillieness was playing FFXIV and asked her how it was.  She talked about how the combat and overworld battle encounters (FATEs) were really cool but she found the questing at the beginning to be terrible.  Yulia (former Roslyn Monselium on Brynhilder) was the third person to talk to me about the game and she was the one who invited me to do the free trial to give the game a shot, starting my first character on Brynhilder.  Seeing the game unfold in front of me and how it was presented is one of the most impressive things I have ever seen in my time in gaming.  Actually playing the game instead of just watching allowed me to be immersed in the world as well as join up with a few friends.  Unfortunately, my time with Yulia was cut short because she had nursing school coming up. I decided to go to the same server my brother was on Famfrit.

I started playing just before Heavensward launched (patch 2.5) and I was just leveling up with hopes of one day raiding with my brother and his group.  While they were focused on personal agendas, I was encouraged to learn and grow as I would one day become the tank for the group.  Famfrit during this time was a booming server with a steadily rising population.  The launch of Heavensward brought in even more new players as well as giving incentive for older players to return, including several of my brother’s friends.  I actually got the expansion a week later so it took me longer to get to level 60, but I had the others to help explain the late game farming and raids.

The new raid, Alexander Gordias was really interesting because of how much hype was surrounding it. People were talking about how this was the first time a story mode (the easier form of the raid) and a savage mode were introduced because of people feeling like they missed out on the story of Bahamut Coils.  To me, this was just hype for new content so I didn’t think about it too much and I decided to try it out on my own.  During this time, I left my initial guild (Light) as they were focused more on helping new players for Rule of Rose.  Gordias Savage raids were the main focus of the server due to the new mechanics and hard gear check that blocked users from progressing.

The road block for a lot of these groups was that their damage output was not good enough to kill Faust (mini-boss before the real encounter).  A lot of groups were questioning whether or not they had the personnel to handle the gear check. This resulted in many groups and guilds disbanding and forming new ones.  This was extremely reminiscent of how teams in the North American Dota scene would break up after losing three scrimmages and form new teams that would only last for two weeks.  In Dota, it was more extreme because when rosters were revealed people were posting things like “one month” as a tell of how long the team would be together for.  After seeing statics break up, I would see people posting about how server transferring to Gilgamesh (in some cases Leviathan) would be the answer to their raiding problems.  These people would later blame the server for not producing enough raiders and then they would transfer in hopes of finding whatever it was they were looking for.

Transferring never actually crossed my mind because I always felt like raids could be beaten on any server.  I was always the kind of person to see things through and hope for the best because ultimately it’s a team game.  My old Dota teams lost a lot of games but we stuck it out and things started to turn around and we turned a lot of scrimmage losses into tournament match wins where it mattered the most.  Ultimately what made those Dota teams successful was how we approached our games and how it was going to take time before things were going to click. What happened to these raid groups were them succeeding immediately, then blaming certain people before breaking away.  I feel there’s a sense of entitlement to this guild jumpers, they want perfection but refuse to put in the time to understand the player behind the character.  I understood people transferring to different servers, but their reasoning for doing so always felt off to me.  The wave of server/guild jumps created a mindset for even casual players to go off in search of “more”.

What was surprising was how many of my casual friends were wanting to transfer because they felt like they had a better shot at “doing maps and expert roulette” on another server.  I always wondered about these choices, as if the unknown possibilities were more important than staying together.  These people were willing to spend extra money to do the same exact thing without the groups they’ve grown with.  The worst part of it was that they paid money to transfer back. It was a weird mental fight between “optimal play” and enjoying the game with friends, where the other choice was always so tempting. Regardless of what they were all looking for, I found my role within the server I stuck with.

After helping a friend with Bismarck extreme, I became a substitute for his group who took me on permanently because they were missing a tank. In fact, I was one of the only people in the channel that played tank that didn’t transfer out.  Despite me feeling like I was undergeared, I found that I just needed to know what was going on and as long as our DPS players were on point, clearing was never a problem.  Sadly, the group eventually decided that if they wanted to get further, they would have to go to another server because a couple of their original members were on the verge of quitting.  They asked me if I wanted to transfer with them to Sargatanas but I declined and stayed on Famfrit because I believed that I could get further without having to transfer.

A month and a half later, I get a message from a friend (Rina) asking if I could sub for her group because they needed another tank.  I gave it a shot and while it didn’t clear, I was willing to sub for the week just so they have someone until their tank came back.  On the last day, I said my farewell and wished them luck but Relicus (the temporary raid leader) said that he wanted to talk to me about possibly joining the group and I accepted.  I liked the camaraderie of raiding and the people in the group were very understanding.  What I was told was that I would stay with the group for the remaining part of the year until their original tank came back.  It was a weird sense of being accepted while at the same time not being a real member of the group.  Over time, the group began to question why they weren’t clearing raids consistently.  The discovery was that several member of the group were not invested in the raid, leading to lackluster performance that affected the whole group.  What I thought was going to be a mandatory static meeting ended up being the announcement that the original tank was going to come back on our next raid day.  So instead of people being spoken to, the other tank came back into the picture and now the group is carrying three tanks, putting a rather glaring light on me as the odd one out.  I thought I solidified my spot on the team, but since old tank was the original leader I was quickly replaced and tossed aside. My thoughts on the group were that competence wasn’t the focus, it was familiarity.  Members refused to invest fully without their normal leader, then were happy to return to “normal” when he came back. I thought that Relicus (black mage) and Rina (healer) deserved to be on much better teams because they were on a level that was above the rest of the group.

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Relicus as a raid leader was good but I always thought that it was better for him to join a group that could relieve the pressures of shot calling. Having to focus on damage while babysitting people who would often not be in position and still be aware of what’s coming is incredibly overwhelming.

For Rina, her role as a main healer was always going to be in demand so I was always sure she would get a lot of offers to join groups.  I felt that she needed to be in a group that could help elevate her level of play rather than one where she would have to play down to the group’s level.  Her skill was burdened by the group making constant lazy mistakes then demanding that she fixes everything. She was one of the few people I could talk to about what I was going through with the constant changes because no one else could relate. I will always credit her as one of the primary people who influenced me to continue to raid.

At this point, I was thinking that the design of Gordias Savage made players burn themselves out on raiding. There was not enough people to replace the ranks so a lot of groups just disbanded or transferred, only to find less success.  My other thought was that a lot of players were more casual than they previously thought themselves to be. Gordias was never going to just “get easier” so players just laid down and quit.  This was going to be the same raid for the next six months (turned into eight months because of the developers taking a vacation).  Turn 3 Gordias Savage (A3S) was the “static killer” and caused a lot of groups to give up because of how highly tuned it was.  The fight mechanically is the best fight FFXIV has to offer and it also tested optimization of each class to truly squeeze every drop of damage that players can produce.  From what I was seeing on Famfrit, groups were wiping to the same parts every time and with no progress made they just decided to stop and take a break.

After spending some time raiding and getting to see what the raid scene was like, it dawned on me that it was very similar to Dota but without gear checks that locked content from players.  The thoughts of going back were starting to fill my head and I would look at my Skype groups with Forrest and Roragok thinking about queueing up some games while I was just sitting around on FFXIV wondering what I’ll do next.  I don’t think people really understood what I was going through mentally with joining a static and realizing that my days were starting to get numbered.  My friends from the Dota Skype group were starting to talk me into joining them for scrimmages until they got their team set.  At least they told me that I was going to be a filler until they got their support player back but they would call me if anything happened.  While it was identical to the tank situation I had in FFXIV, I figured it’d be a nice break from the constant failures and lack of progress in the raids.  Playing for them would be put on hold until I was talked into joining a new group.

 

 

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