The Vana’diel Diaries (December 2006)

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Valkurm DunesThings are slowing down in Vana’diel, or rather I’m slowing down. The chaos of the rapidly approaching holidays combined with an onslaught of really outstanding new games has made getting consistent playtime next to impossible.

And it’s not just one or two new games; it’s a truckload. Call of Duty 3, FIFA 2007 and Gears of War for the Xbox 360 to name a few, not to mention Final Fantasies XII for the PS2 and III for the Nintendo DS. Let’s not even talk about Star Wars Battlefront 2 finding its way to my shelf…that’s just too much game to go around.

The Blackwind Linkshell imploded this month as well, and that group of friends was a big reason I popped online every night. Norm probably wouldn’t go out for a few beers every night if the gang at Cheers all went their separate ways, and I feel much the same.


October 28

It’s creepy. It’s crawly. Ladies and gentlemen I give you the CRAWLER’S NEST!

This was my first foray into the legendary Crawler’s Nest, and I was going sans map to boot. Thankfully, my party included a THF who knew the area well and was willing to pull.

My shiney brand new Serpentine Gun is hot. There was another RNG in this party, and I was consistently out-damaging her. I hate to get into these little contests; they accomplish nothing. The bitch insulted my +1 Noct Beret (“No effective RNG should be without the Emperor’s Hairpin.”) so I had to represent. You all understand this, right?

We took position in a sickeningly overcamped room I’ve heard referred to as “The Sack Room.” It looks like someplace straight out of Aliens. These big, bulbous, red sacks hang from the ceiling. They pulse and throb and I expect a hoard of Facehuggers to come bursting out any minute.  The good news is we were still able to chain as many Worker Crawlers as we wanted, and 35th level was a walk.

I’d like to offer thanks to Nedesco, our PLD, who led me out of the Crawler’s Nest after the party broke up. Without him I would’ve been lost in the high grass. Thanks buddy.

Back to San d’Oria, back into the NIN gear. It’s time to go put another few levels into the subjob. I’m so dreading this, but it won’t really matter. Final Fantasy XII drops on Halloween, and that will mean a hiatus from Vana’diel. By the time I’m ready to Ninja my way into Qu’fim, Vaan will be a sky pirate.

(Did I mention Erador made 50th? I’m so jealous.)


October 31

Happy Halloween!

I didn’t play a lick of FF XI today, but I don’t think FF XII is going to wrench me from Vana’diel as dramatically as I had originally projected. It’s a fantastic game, to be sure, with gorgeous artwork, colorful characters (Balthier rocks) and a good story. All the pieces that make a great adventure/RPG game are there: sound, voice-acting, gameplay, combat, character advancement—all are top notch.

The game simply doesn’t grab like some other Final Fantasy titles. VII, VIII and X all had me at hello. I was hooked so bad my other games sat and languished for weeks and weeks on end; last night I decided to play a little Call of Duty 2 online simply because a boss battle was getting annoying—that simply didn’t happen with some previous incarnations of the game.

So I’ll be around FF XI more than I thought. I found myself missing the game and, moreover, missing the people. That, and I still want to pick up a few levels of NIN.


November 4

It’s been a few days. I’m about 15 hours into Final Fantasy XII, but there will be a whole review of that on GC in a few weeks. Today I jumped back into Vana’diel, and while it wasn’t an especially productive day, it was fun.

I geared up for some hot Ninja action and choco’d down to the Valkurm Dunes. The party went…badly. I hate to scold my groups, but this one just didn’t click and I felt like we could’ve avoided a near wipe if people would’ve listened to me.

It’s Erador, Arikias, UltimateBio and me, waiting for our last two outside of Selbina. We got aggro’d by a Goblin Gambler, and it’s not going well for us. This one had eaten his Wheaties. Bio started the fight with about 1/3 his MPs. He did the best he could, but rapidly ran out. I started calling for people to rush for zone, and no one did. I started to run and turned around…everyone still fighting. I resign myself to go down with the team and rejoin them (yes, perhaps I should’ve followed my own advice). Arikias, Erador and I all die; UltimateBio zones the goblin—day late, dollar short.

Angelkiss raises the three of us, and we hit the beach, beat up a few goblins and pugils…things are going well. We pick up about 1,500 xp before pulling one truly ornery pugil. Apocolypse is down on MPs and runs out during the battle. Arikias and I run into the worse string of bad luck I’ve ever seen— the two of us just couldn’t land a hit for nearly 30 seconds. By then we’re all knockin’ on heaven’s door. I throw the Ninja two hour ability and literally blow myself up. It does a good bit of damage to the enemy, but doesn’t take him out (I die with no xp loss, which is a pretty nice little perk). Again some of the group dies, but a few others able to zone. All in all, this was a pretty crappy outing.

Changed back into the Ranger gear and went to do the first Promyvion mission with BlackSabre, Amiraphe, Lordj, Erador and FatCharlie. This was cool. We actually went inside the teleport crag called Dem. Things went smoothly until the NM fight. We followed the basic strategy (although I almost blew it by being a little overanxious in the beginning), but we still couldn’t carry the day. The NM, a really big…thing (I honestly can’t describe him—need to take a picture) spawned a bunch of baby monsters and we couldn’t put him down before being wiped out. Just the same, it was fun—we’re doing it again either today or next weekend.


November 5

More soloing. I have never enjoyed solo play, but I’m at a weird point: at 18th level I was almost too high for the dunes, but just a smidge too low to really be slugging it out in Qufim Island. Solo time.

I hit La Theine Plateau yesterday for a few hours.  I beat up on some goblins and sheep until that proved boring. I was only about 1,000 to 19th at the time. I decided to move up to the more fertile lakes in north La Theine, beating up the numerous goblins, crabs and sheep there. That’s where I ran into a problem. I ran afoul of a 12th level Beastmaster named Bkm (nice name, buddy).

Stop a minute—Beastmasters (BST) can control some mobs and use them to do their dirty work Pokemon-style. Once a mob is controlled, no PC can attack it. Back to the story.

Three times I had approached a mob and drawn swords on it only to have Bkm control it, robbing me of that tasty little morsel of xp. So when I walked up on him having Squirtle take on a Goblin Butcher, I had no problem killing the other crab next to him—the crab he claimed he had “in reserve” for when his first one died. He whined and bitched at me for about 15 minutes about how I nearly killed him. I tried to explain my position, even offering to stay out of his way if he employed a little common sense and stayed out of mine. Nothing doing. Jerk. Buy a vowel, you ignorant ass.

I continued my killing spree and picked up 19th. From there it was down to Valkurm to take on Hill Lizards. I’m about halfway to 20th. I’d like to make 22nd before going back to RNG.

Blackwind LS is going through a rough patch. Some of the officers are frustrated that events they have worked hard to put together aren’t happening. I can understand that—it sucks to throw a party and have no one show, particularly when you’ve gotten a bunch of positive RSVPs. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do if it crashes. The LS has been my Vana’diel family for months now, and it’d be tragic to have it fold.


November 6

Solo’ing really does bite. There are people who can solo effectively and enjoy it and would rather solo than party. Good for them, but that ain’t me. I’m trying to solo to 20th for two reasons: I want to start partying up in Qufim, and it seems I really can’t tank effectively in Valkurm. I get the impression everyone expects NINs to tank, and I do a lukewarm job of holding the hate even when I’m spamming provokes and limit breaks and ninjitsus. Hate me today, you damn mobs! Hate me tomorrow! Hate me for all the times I’ve Blade:Retsu’d on you!

Tonight I think Erador’s going to change into his MNK gear and we’re going to duo in Valkurm. That should be safe and keep the stream of xp flowing smoothly. 20th should be a slam dunk, and with a little luck I should be able to make some big strides towards 21st.


November 8

Taking full advantage of a sick day, I planted myself, headache-of-death and all, in front of my Xbox 360 for some Final Fantasy XI. The goal: make 22nd NIN or die trying.

My first hour or so in game I spent re-equipping. Some research I’d done on the job had given me a new outlook on how to play the blink tank, and new equipment was required. The next hour was spent wishing I could pull an invite…which I did not. Frustrated, I decided to go solo in Valkurm. I ran all the way back to Jeuno from Qufim Island, then airshipped back to San d’Oria, then choco’d down to Valk. I had just drawn katanas on a hill lizard when I got an invite. Life is weird that way.

Baaaaaaaaaaack to Jeuno. I rushed to Qufim to meet Kayashi, Asynia, Blayron, Djcardo and Moshisoku, only to wait 20 minutes for people to gear up. I wasn’t really in a rush, so I was more amused at the ‘hurry-up-and-wait’ than impatient and grumpy. We finally made it out and took it to some Snippers.

And it didst rock.  I picked up nearly 10,000xp in just under three hours. I was about 2,000 from 22nd when we disbanded.

After touching up my equipment a bit, I returned to Valk to solo. Fortunately, my good friend Setsuni popped online and offered to PL the rest of the way. Bless her. Dinged 22nd and a little buffer before calling it a day and returning to San d’Oria.

Blackwind LS has a meeting Saturday, followed by a second attempt at the Promyvion at Dem. This time we shall emerge victorious.


November 9

“And they sang dirges in the dark

the day the linkshell died….” – Don McLean “American Pie”

(Okay, those aren’t quite the lyrics, but you get it…and I love that song.)

The Blackwind LinkShell closed its doors for good today. I’m still a bit dumbstruck, and it’s nearly a full day since Erador called me with the news. It’s heartbreaking. It’s crushing. It’s one of the worst things that could happen. I’m angry, disappointed, frustrated, excited and optimistic all at the same time. It was a good night for a few beers.

(And I swear, the first one who brings the “it’s-just-a-game” is getting bitchslapped back into October.)

Logically speaking, I know people are people; all social groups eventually breed conflict in one form or another, and frequently that becomes too much for the group to bear. No one paid the people who lead the LS to hold things together—they did it to create and maintain a social environment where people helped each other obtain their goals in the game. Logically speaking, I know that everyone has their limits, and eventually any one of us can be pushed to a point where enough is enough. I don’t blame anyone for this. I can’t.

Speaking from the heart, I’m just crushed. This was my family. I looked forward to yakking with them on the forums every day. I enjoyed hearing what they were doing, and I like to think they had at least a passing interest in what I was up to. The support structure we had, both moral and otherwise, was ever-present. If I needed help with something, it was there. I looked forward to the time when I’d have a strong enough character to reciprocate.

Anyway, rather than walk aimlessly about the mean streets of Southern San d’Oria, I decided to do something. Erador and I batted some suggestions for new LS names back and forth for an hour or so, and eventually came up with Tempest Fugit. I liked the word Tempest—kind of a little shout-out to Blackwind, and Erador came up with the clever play on words (Tempus Fugit being Latin for “Time Flies”). I whipped up a steel blue linkshell and TF was born.

I’ll be the first to say I’m not really sure what I’m doing. It took me an hour just to come up with a Message of the Day. My short-term goal is to recruit some old Blackwind’ers (I’ll take as many as I can get) as well as some new people who seem like a good fit. I want to model mine after Blackwind—a social linkshell for mature (well…somewhat mature) players willing to support and help each other out whenever possible. Long-term I’d like to set up a Web page with a forum to permit communication (both game-related and otherwise) between us all. Sound familiar?

Events? Meetings? Missions? Promys? Zilart? I have no idea. A lot of this I’m making up as I go along, and a lot of it I’m just gonna fake, but I’m excited about it.


November 13

I actually didn’t go in-game at all last night, but I did do one thing of note: I started the Tempest Fugit Web site at www.tempestfugit.net.

Right now it’s pretty pedestrian. Pretty ugly. The home page doesn’t match the forum (which is pretty bland), but it’s there. I need a logo and I need some help getting one of the pre-made templates to fit the format a little more cleanly. I’m hoping I can conscript one of our members who has experience in doing such things.

Still, I’m proud of what was done. I’m excited about having gone out and actually set this up. It’s a big step, I think, in lending real credence to our fledgling linkshell.

I’m home sick today after having gotten hold of a bad chicken wing last night. If I get to feeling better, maybe I’ll pop in game and drop the news to the group.

One last thing: starting December 1 the diaries with be moved to the Tempest Fugit website. This has been a wonderful place to share my experiences and for the Blackwind brass to have left this up even after the Blackwind LS passed on is very kind.


November 16

I’ve taken a number of days off the game—probably too many. Between my wife’s new job and the arrival of just too many good new games (Final Fantasy XII, Gears of War, Call of Duty 3 and Final Fantasy III to name a few) I’m just overwhelmed. It probably couldn’t come at a worse time.

I feel like Tempest Fugit is sort of on idle, and it really requires me, Erador or Shadowblade to be online more frequently to get pearls out and welcome members both new and old. I’m going to try and spend a good bit of time on this weekend to do just that. I’d also like to play a few more levels of WHM in Valkurm before going back to San d’Oria and Rangering up.


November 17

In my absence, Tempest Fugit has really cooled off. Shadowblade had some good ideas for recruiting new people as well as retaining members. It sounds like I’ll be spending more time online, at least in the beginning here; hard to inspire confidence in your LS members when you’re off gunning down members of the Locust Horde.

Without casting a spell, I ran back from Valkurm to San d’Oria today to switch back to RNG. (Take that, frakking Battering Ram!) To my surprise, my second choco hatched. After being christened “YoungArcher,” my new bird took a few walks and got used to his feet. Here’s to hoping this one outpaces GalaxyCool once it’s time to race.


November 21

This is the longest hiatus I’ve taken from Final Fantasy XI since I started playing seven months ago. There are times I’ve really missed it, and times I’ve thought maybe it’s time to hang up the spurs indefinitely. The dissolution of Blackwind has had a much more profound effect on me than I thought; even though I have a linkshell of my own that I really should be helping to shepherd through its early days, I miss BW very much.

Erador and I got to talking about why Tempest Fugit is faltering in its infancy. I had hoped that Blackwind would just fold into TF, that everyone would sign on and life in Vana’diel would continue as it always had. He suggested that the linkshell hadn’t just ended, but it had fragmented into numerous cliques, and everyone had gone their own way.  I think he’s probably right. We’re not going to become the next iteration of Blackwind; we’re going to have to pay our dues, recruit dilligently and work at building a linkshell community with the same feel.

With a lot of holiday time in front of me, I plan to dive back into FF XI with a vengeance this weekend. I’m still about 100 xp shy of 35th, and I really want to make 36th this weekend. With any luck, Blacksabre, Kaizersan, Erador, Lordj, Cupkeeki and myself will take our third go-round at Promyvion-Dem this weekend. I’ll keep you posted.


November 26

Has it really been that long? My break from FF XI lingers on and I have little real desire to jump back in with both feet. I’ve played five or more days a week for better than half a year—I can’t remember a game I played that extensively for that long.

My new chocobo is YoungArcher. The little guy hatched while I was on my break, and I imagine he was right pissed after I abandoned him for so long. Suck it up, little guy—get used to disappointment. After feeding him and compensating for being a crappy chocobo parent, I got an invite to go beat up spiders and beetles in Garlaige Citadel. Ick. An airship ride, a choco ride, down some stairs and it’s go time.

It was actually kind of difficult to get used to moving around. I’ve been playing Gears of War (which kicks ass) a lot over the past week or so (including a marathon 11 hour session at Erador’s place Saturday), and moving the FF XI camera provides a completely different character movement scheme than moving Marcus about in Gears. I got turned about more than once, and paid the price on a long pull.

Tempest Fugit is growing…very, very slowly. We picked up an old, old, old school Blackwind member named Treestump and another ex-Blackwinder, Vudoku (who is very cool). It’s heartening to be picking up all these folks, but I’m still seeing zero traffic on our forum, and that’s sad. When the longest thread is Shadowblade and I trading Final Fantasy III stories, things are bad.


Next Time: Another shot(s) at Promyvion-Dem, more Rangering and the beginning of the Artifact Equipment quests!

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Steve Hamner is a former staff member from GameCola's early days as a monthly email newsletter.

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