Thancred vs The Evil League of Evil

Soooo Eeeeeevil
Soooo Eeeeeevil

It’s been FOREVER, and I know it! So long that I just remember the highlights of what we did on our last “story night” before we ran out of main story quest and moved into the side stories of the level 60 content.

But clearly, I had to mention the Warriors of Darkness. We stumbled across them while following rumors of a well-dressed mysterious stranger who was performing feats of derring-do for the residents of the Dravinian Forelands. The rumors led us instead to a monochromatically coordinated adventuring group making short work of Ravanna. A sudden Echo flashback showed them confronting an Ascian who seemed to be about to deflect their attack with an idea for better work they could be doing. Naturally, we have seen the leader of the Ascians conspiring with creepy-elf Urianger on some means to restore the balance, now that we, the Warriors of Light, have had our connection with Hydaelen restored and her power once again at our command. So clearly they have been turned.

And, clearly, we still don’t know what game Urianger is playing. We’ve only seen the scenes of his betrayal as players; our characters haven’t seen his betrayal in an Echo (yet). We all await that happy day. But, we wait without the Evil League of Evil, who all ported away as they joined Yet Another Alexander Run. Or so I imagine. I couldn’t think of any other queue that would have room for a warrior, a paladin, a white mage, a black mage, and a bard.

With Thancred finally again found, and Yda and Papalymo (we find in OOC cutscenes) making do in hiding, only Minfilia is still entirely unaccounted for.

With Ravanna out of the way (though not by any of our doing), our pact with the dragon Vidofnir was fulfilled. The primal danger to the local Dravanians had been removed. She promised to take our offer of alliance with the Eorzean compact nations to her father, and get back to us well within a normal mortal lifetime, probably.

Satisfied, we returned to Ishgard.

There, we found that the Holy See was pushing back a little on Ser Aymeric’s grand plan of reunification with the rest of Eorzea. Sure, the Archbishop and his elite Heaven’s Ward turned out to be frauds (and also now: dead), but that was no reason to burn down the entire Church. Everyone else needs THEIR chance at gaining superpowers too, after all, and who really wants to grind levels when you can just hitch a ride on the uncritical worship train and gain power from the prayers of the faithful?

Pushing back with a knife, as Aymeric was stabbed by an agent of the Church. Stabbed, but not killed. Other Church agents had been sent to burn the homes of any who would follow Aymeric, as well as some small charring at sites near the Church in order to draw away suspicion. But such evil cannot hide, and soon the bishop responsible was pinned within the Vault with several hostages. Aymeric, even in his wounded condition, took on the bishop and his lieutenants while I and the Fortemps boys freed the hostages, then joined Aymeric in a final battle against the bishop.

The bishop escaped at the last moment, and took a final hostage, a young girl, with him to the parapet and dangled her off the side of the wall, daring us to try and take him.

Saved by the Lizard!
Saved by the Lizard!

The bishop was so busy monologuing that he forgot what he held, and dropped the girl into the air, where she fell, and fell, and fell, and fell onto Vidofnir’s back. The dragon had been flying to Ishgard to tell us of Hraesvelgr’s decision to consider an alliance, when she saw an opportunity to show the true nature of the good dragons.

Her other news, however, was not so great. The reincarnated Nidhogg had gathered together the remains of the Dravinian Horde and taken off. Whether or not Estinien can ever become separated from Nidhogg… is unknown even to the dragons.

And that’s where the main story quest as of patch 3.1 ended. Next week, Kasul and I start on the 3.2 story. Between now and then, I’ll be reposting some of my daily logs as posted to Google+.

See you in Eorzea!

Mister Estinien Loses an “O”

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Do I have to say by this time that there WILL BE spoilers here, as there are for every post? The guides for this part of the quest were VERY CAREFUL to avoid any specifics about who or what you’d be fighting.

When we left off, we were JUST ABOUT to ride on mini-Midgardsormr’s back to “The Flagship”, Azys Lla’s center of power. That power is due to the Warring Triad, which, Google assures me, are three primal Primals that were caught and frozen into stone. We first met the Warring Triad in Final Fantasy VI/III, but this was the first I’d heard of them in Final Fantasy XIV.

Kasul had done a ton of quests, fates and dungeon runs to get to 60, so it was with some anticipation that we took our two-seater chocobo to the steps of the Flagship and spoke to Wedge’s Guidance Node for the last time. Once it had granted us access to the Aetherochemical Research Facility, it promptly turned chalk white and smashed, lifeless, to the ground. We’d have to do something about that at some point.

I expected to meet up with the Archbishop pretty darn quickly, but it wasn’t to be. We first had to fight our way through a company of Garlean Imperial soldiers, then several groups of cloned Allagans. They do like their clones… would Azys Lla really be considered abandoned if Allagans, even cloned ones, were still running around? The Allagan clone twins that showed up during the Crystal Tower quests still seemed to be fairly aware of who they were and where they came from….

We caught up with Regula van Hydrus, the coward who abandoned his solo fight with us to run ahead into the facility. But to no avail. His attacks were weak, and Kasul were getting the impression that life was going to be easy from now on. We weren’t wrong. The optional dungeons AFTERWARD, wellllll……

The second boss was a strange Allagan amalgam that changed forms, each of which came with its own strategy. But that couldn’t stop us. Even the weird one way down lifts (well, “drops”, technically) couldn’t stop us.

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I guess we should have expected the Ascians ever since Urianger showed up with the White Auracite that had swallowed another Ascian in the past. I expected to see Lahabrea… but I didn’t expect to see Igeyorhm, the sole female Ascian we’ve seen, with him. We’d have to fight them both. At the same time.

Which became even more literal when we had them on the ropes. They refused to back down, instead, they drew upon their cores of power and melded together to form… LORD ZODIARK!

Lord of the Dark
Lord of the Dark

But perhaps Lahabrea and Igeyorhm were still weakened from their fight against we warriors of light. Or perhaps Hydaelyn’s crystal gift blunted his powers. Lord Zodiark was forced to withdraw….

…. but that was denied to him by Hydaelyn’s power, and he was forced out of the Ascian Shadow Void and back to us. Too weak to continue, he dissolved back into Lahabrea and Igeyorhm.

We had White Auracite, and we had Estinien’s Eye of Nidhogg. We used the auracite to trap Igeyorhm, and the power of the Eye to burn her out of existence.

White Auracite, eating an Ascian
White Auracite, eating an Ascian

But that left us without the necessary power to take on and destroy Lahabrea once and for all. The Eye had immense power, but it would take some time to store enough aethyric energy to make it a danger to any Ascian.

It was THEN that the Archbishop arrived, with six of his Heavensward Guard carrying a stone coffin.

The coffin of the ancient King Thordan, the one who first betrayed the Dravanians and began the Ishgard nation on the legacy of blood, treachery and power. On whose body lay Nidhogg’s second eye.

The Archbishop could have handed us the Eye, and we could have used it to destroy Lahabrea, but he had different plans. He finally took the power that had been given him by all the worshipers of Ishgard’s false religion… and powered up. As the resurrected King Thordan, the original betrayer. He took Nidhogg’s second Eye and put it into the crosspiece of the aetherial sword that had earlier just been his staff.

As King Thordan, the Archbishop took a swing of the sword and Lahabrea was no more.

An Uneven Fight
An Uneven Fight

He and his knights weren’t finished with us. We pursued them into the Singularity Reactor, where they would free the Warring Triad and take control of Eorzea and probably all of Hydaelyn.

They were ready for us. King Thordan threatened us with his sword, zapped us with the power of Nidhogg’s Eye, and sent his Heaven’s Ward knights at us, and maybe if it had just been one Warrior of Light, it would have happened. But eight of them was too much for him. We killed all his Knights, and then we killed him. Hydaelyn was spending all her power to make sure his strongest attacks were ineffective. Thordan lost hold of his power, reverted back to a lowly Archbishop, and then went screaming into the void, leaving behind only his sword, with Nidhogg’s Eye still pulsing in the crosspiece.

Nidhogg Reborn
Nidhogg Reborn

Estinien finally caught up to us. He had the Eye of the Azure Dragoon back from us, noticeably already starting to show signs of power. When he spotted the second eye in Thordan’s sword, he had to have it, have BOTH eyes. That was his undoing. Estinien had the strength to control one eye’s power, but not two. Like all Ishgardians, dragon blood runs in Estinien’s veins, and only needs a small awakening to transform them into a dragon. Nidhogg’s spirit used the power of the eyes to awaken the transformation within Estinien in such a way as to make him into a new body for the dragon’s spirit — with both eyes intact.

Nidhogg reborn, more powerful than ever before, leaped into the sky and was gone.

And that was the end of the Heavensward main story quest.

Lord Commander Aymeric brought Ishgard into the Eorzean Alliance. Lord Haurchefant was laid to rest in the mountains above Ishgard. Elidibus, the white robed Ascian, is worried that the balance has shifted toward the Light, and decides he must do something to shift things back toward the Dark. He is last seen talking to a mysterious Warrior on the surface of Hydaelyn’s moon. And finally, outside Idyllshire, a mechanical primal, the fortress Alexander, shrugs to life.

An Overdue Encounter

Let me stamp that for you...
Let me stamp that for you…

Kasul was sooo close to 59, so we spent a little time doing quests and running Fates and those were actually pretty fun. There’s a storyline dealing with fights between good and bad dragons that we took part in. The bad dragon has all sorts of bad dragon friends, but all the good dragon had was us. Well, sometimes a Fate train would come chugging in, complete the Fate, and steam off once more, and that was fun. I even changed to Dragoon for a bit of it, got level 54 out of it and could wear some of the armor I got from quests while leveling up my Paladin job.

But 59 meant we could meet up with Y’shtola’s old mentor, Master Matoya. Our dear old elder witch has animated, dare I say, sorcerous brooms sweeping up the place and bemoaning the obtuseness of dunder-headed adventurers who cannot possibly understand what is important to an animated broom. Froggy servants stood around the place, offering gear to unlucky heroes.

Y’shtola was right about Matoya. She DID know all about making aethyric lances for the prows of airships. Sure, that seems like kind of a specific knowledge to HAVE, but it was clear she could not leave it to fall into the hands of the Garleans, when they tore through Sharlayan, driving out all who lived there. Except Matoya…. she hid behind an ice wall that you would never have suspected hid a lair if you hadn’t already seen the exact same thing in Snowcloak. And whatever happened to Iceheart, anyway?

Matoya had encrypted the book and stored it in the Great Gubal Library, where a large number of traps would keep it safe forever from all who would seek to steal its secrets. Unless they were four random adventurers, in which case that would be fine.

The Library was a heck of a lot of fun. Book walls. Glowing stacks of books. Monsters who you could read like… like an open book. There, I said it. You get the idea.

Well, we wandered about for quite awhile looking for the Magical Devices A-F: Aethyrical Airship Fittings of the Pre-Garlean Era, but out of all these thousands of millions of books, which would have it? We eventually stumbled into the den of the Everliving Bibliotaph, and even though we really messed up the fight, we pulled out a win. And, oh, THERE it was… right there in the middle of the room was the book we wanted. Weird. I guess the Bibliotaph had been reading it.

I doubt he liked the ending much.

Trust not thine Creepy-elves
Trust not thine Creepy-elves

Matoya begrudgingly decrypted the book for us, warning us that the knowledge was only one part of the puzzle. It would still need a power source. Hmm. Well, didn’t Estinien have something like a dragon eye or something that was full of power? So let’s go ask him how he feels about giving that up. Matoya kept Y’shtola back for a moment as we left, told her she had noticed that Y’shtola was now blind and was using her vital life force to “see” her surroundings. (I called that she was blind last week…. not that they didn’t make it very obvious).

Good time to figure out where all the important plot people are at the moment.

  • Minfilia was texting Hydaelyn (the planet) and didn’t notice a sewer tunnel crushing her. Not dead until we see the body.
  • Estinien is helping with the aftermath of the abdication of the Archbishop and the installation of Aymeric.
  • Cid, Wedge and Biggs are working on their Star Trek puns
  • Y’shtola is with us, using her disability to get preferred chocobo parking.
  • Alphinaud is being “read” by Matoya. Clever girl.
  • His sister is stuck in Baphomet’s Coil
  • So’s their granddad
  • Tataru is dancing for tips in the Forgotten Knight. Really.
  • Urianger is making friends with Ascians in Waking Sands and trying to get adventurers killed in extreme primal battles.
  • Hildy has given up the whole rebel crimelord thing.
  • Thancred was teleported somewhere by Y’shtola at the cost of her life and sight. Not dead until we see the body.
  • Ysayle/Iceheart is shacked up with the dragon Hraesvelgr
  • Hydaelyn (the planet) is still silent, aside from gradually renewing our Warrior of Light powers.
  • Haven’t heard from Midgardsormr for awhile, and why hasn’t he reacted to us as we regained our Warrior of Light powers?

Kasul and I had been wondering where everyone was; I think this was our best guess before last night.

Estinien, it turned out, was all too happy to use Nidhogg’s eye to power the lance, even though it seemed he was having trouble keeping the eye’s power in check as he brought it out to show. Y’shtola warned him that Nidhogg’s evil would consume him, but Estinien vowed to eat the eye before he would let it eat him.

Dragon eyes. An important part of a good breakfast.

While Cid and his crew worked out the details, Y’shtola sent us to say goodbye to everyone. The round of goodbyes ended with sage words from Lord Commander Aymeric, and a heartfelt meeting with Lord Fortemps, where he gifted us with the shield his son used to save us at the cost of his own life. I understand there is an epilogue to this story. I made light of it at the time (why couldn’t they pay the hundred gil and have it mended first???), but it really was a nice little coda to that part of the story.

Urianger came by at the end and handed his ex-(because she died)-(while he watched)-girlfriend’s white auracite to Y’shtola just in case we might need it later. It has been known to keep Ascians from re-incarnating, and it’s a little odd that a friend to the Ascians, like Urianger, is betraying his best buds like this. I cannot wait to find out what his whole evil plot might be.

Rerouting all power to the forward deflector array
Rerouting all power to the forward deflector array

And then it was off to Azys Lla. Estinien did not swallow, and was not swallowed by, Nidhogg’s eye as he channeled its power into the aethyric lance. It successfully shattered the impermeable membrane around the ancient Allagan city and we passed through to fertilize it with our prime directive. Or something.

But we weren’t the only ones that passed through the portal. The new Garlean flagship had been lurking (somehow) in the clouds, and came through after us, firing all their guns at us and looking like the lightning field in front of Mingo City. Every shot missed. Yes, Flash, but we only have fourteen hours to save Eorzea!

Even though the flagship was entirely ineffective, they might eventually accidentally hit something and it did not seem like they were going to stop before they followed us all the way to the city. And then what!?

Just then…

Iceheart came flying up on the back of Hraesvelgr, the Luck Dragon. I guess they kissed and made up. Hraesvelgr reared up and forced the Garlean dreadnaught to stop, allowing our escape. Iceheart did a point break off Hraesvelgr’s back. While the Garleans killed the two Aevises that had accompanied her, she called upon Saint Shiva’s power one last time, clutching one of the crystals that are the basis of a Warrior of Light’s power. All along, Ysayle had been one of us, another Warrior of Light. And she was using Hydaelyn’s divine power for a final transformation.

As Saint Shiva, Iceheart stopped all the enemy shells in an ice matrix, and turned herself into an ice missile aimed straight at the heart of the ship. Where she allowed the enemy shells to explode.

Not dead until we see the body… but I think she might actually be dead.

We’d soon find out why Iceheart and Hraesvelgr were so interested in Azys Lla….

Confronted by Gaius von Baltar
Confronted by Gaius von Baltar

Azys Lla seemed a dead city, filled with ancient mechanisms and stray monsters. Wedge literally stumbled on an ancient sentinel (shades of Arthur Clarke’s “The City and the Stars”?) which … you know, I’m reminded just how much Clarke’s stories creeped me out when I was a kid.

Anyway, the Sentinel allows Cid to awaken parts of the city, but he needs the rest of us to go to each quadrant of the city and manually reset the transportation hubs. Alpha quadrant, Beta, Gamma and Delta quadrants… the Star Trek was strong here. Kasul figured the Imperials were the Romulans of this scenario. They must have been using a cloaking device to not be seen as we came through the barrier!

Turns out the Romula… er, the Garleans had come to ground in the Gamma Quadrant. After being warned to avoid drawing the attention of the Imperials, we walked straight through their camp because… reasons…. We were caught, of course, and Gaius von Baltar decided to take us on all himself. This led to a solo battle which took me a couple times. First time was learning the encounter (and having Kasul on Skype sharing his ideas really helped), second time I made it through. Staying alive is an issue. Thankfully, one of the new Paladin skills is a fairly decent heal, and a good MP regen buff is now part of my rotation, thanks to advice from Psychochild on G+.

We’d seen all these mechanics in various hard mode dungeons. Oh yeah, Gaius’ new ultimate attack was “Terminus Est”, which was the name of Severian’s executioner’s sword in Gene Wolfe’s “Shadow of the Torturer”. Were all these F&SF references in the original Japanese version of the game, or were they all added by the translators?

Someone has a really deep knowledge of the genre, at any rate.

Estinien, Alphinaud and Y’shtola stayed behind to keep the Imperials from pursuing us, following Gaius’ cowardly flight as the battle turned against him. We continued alone to the Delta Quadrant to waken the last (Stargate the Movie-like) short range teleporter and finally arrive at Flagship, home to the mysterious “Warring Triad” and the likely destination of the Archbishop.

Tiamat!
Tiamat!

As we approached Flagship, we came across a monstrous dragon impaled on some sort of device. The dragon demanded to know who interrupted its agony. Midgardsormr appeared in dragonling form next to us and revealed that this was Tiamat, sister to Bahamut, both of them his children, brought with him as eggs to this world eons ago. When Bahamut was killed, Tiamat agreed to give up her freedom and power to the Ascians in order to bring Bahamut back to life. But the life they gave him was cruel and tormented, and is a raid dungeon now that I have hopes to someday see.

Tiamat went on to accuse all the beast tribes and other peoples summoning primals or using primal/divine power for themselves as draining all of Hydaelyn’s (the planet’s) strength. If this power is not abandoned, it will destroy the world and all life on it. Ah, finally. It’s not a Final Fantasy game unless there is some crystal-related threat to existence. After extracting a promise from us to defeat the Ascians and all who would use primal powers…

Because hold on here… This is the SAME THING the Garleans want. I am STILL not sure why we aren’t allied with them. This came up as a plot point in the ninja quest and was not satisfactorily answered.

Anyway, after extracting the promise from us to do what we were going to do anyway, Hydaelyn (the planet) took us into the crystal world and bestowed upon us the last remaining crystal blessing. She spoke to tell us that we had earned once again her full blessing, an honor that was repeated by Midgardsormr. He’d removed them from us before, but he admitted we had earned the right to them.

Midgardsormr gave us a version of himself (bigger than the minion, but not ACTUAL size, claimed the tooltip), and we set off to the final chapter of the story….

Except not right away, as Kasul is just halfway through level 59. Next week, though, we see how this chapter ends, and what plot the latest patch has brought. We might be within a few weeks of catching up to the present in the story.

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BANNED FROM BLOGGING!!!!!

I’ve been doing daily game reports on G+ for a few days, and decided I’d blog them on the character blog everyone has on the main FFXIV site. I got some flack from some spoilsports who thought I shouldn’t blog about what I did in the game using the game’s blogging feature… which confused me a little. I dunno what they think it is for.

But, as a little omake, here’s today’s report:

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Level 50 dungeon: Amdapor Keep
Leveling Dungeon: Cutter’s Cry
Trial: Thornmarch (Hard)

I did have Advanced Combat Tracker on through all the runs today, so I knew, before the black mage mentioned it, that the group’s dragoon wasn’t doing his job. The black mage was doing a great rotation, and I was doing my best, but the dragoon was being outdamaged by me on most fights, and by the HEALER on some. Toward the end, the BLM wanted to kick him, but I declined because I just wanted to finish. The dragoon got angry and finished up TREMENDOUSLY on the last boss, cursing all the time.

dragoonshame

Cutter’s Cry was very standard. Everyone did their job. I started very much switching between tank and dps modes through the dungeon, as appropriate, and my dps was pretty good.

Thornmarch had some new folks. I main tanked, as I normally do, because this is one trial where you really need someone to do the managing. I’d told the offtank what HE needed to do, but he had issues, eventually he died, everything went south, but we had full limit break and I had all my defensive cooldowns and some DPS won the trial for us at the last moment.

I picked up some normal quality upgrades in Azys Lla last night, and had enough tomestones of Law to buy the feet for the Fending outfit. Not enough Clan Centurion marks to upgrade the breastplate yet, and still a couple days from Friendly rep with the Vanu.

Ja mata ne!

TIS-100 Sequence Indexer

Sequence Indexer program
Sequence Indexer program

It’s been long enough that I should go over what TIS-100 _IS_. TIS-100 is a programming puzzle game by the makers of SpaceChem (a previous obsession). Where SpaceChem kind of hid the programming knowledge necessary to solve the puzzles beneath a fun graphical abstraction, TIS-100 just strips away the candy coating. TIS-100 simulates a fictional multicore reduced instruction set computer (RISC). There is no RAM. Sometimes there is a stack or two. Each processor has just one directly-accessible register.

This is SUCH a niche game. Take your set of gamers. From that, select the ones that are programmers or who are interested in programming. From that, select the ones that have experience with assembly language, or are interested in programming at the chip level. From that, select the ones that love optimizing machine code. For a computer that doesn’t exist.

There is a very thin plot to TIS-100, exposed a fragment at a time in notes left by your crazy uncle, the uncle who left you this mystery computer after his tragic death. I’m just two segments from the end….

Segment 62711 – Sequence Indexer

  1. Sequences are zero terminated
  2. Read a sequence from IN.0
  3. Read index values from IN.X
  4. Look up index values in sequence
  5. Write indexed value to OUT

The processor diagram for this puzzle has two stack nodes with a processor node between them that provide a clue to the solution. The data will be read into the top stack, then we will build a node that moves data from one stack to the other until the correct value is on top of the bottom stack. Then the output node will read this value and… output it.

The first time I tried this puzzle, several months ago, I got stuck trying to limit the amount of data being moved from one stack to the other and I just got overwhelmed. This time, I got a basic solution running and then added the smarter stack management (that’s the node on the middle left).

I got as far as I could, fighting sleep. The automated analysis showed my solution was faster than most, but not fastest by a long shot. I found a much faster solution on the Internet. This better solution was roughly similar, but it included a fast path for when the index was the same as the previous index. It also moved the calculation of the necessary stack motion to the index input node. Mine is way over to the other side, and precious cycles are wasted getting it there. This other solution is the first place I have seen the Jump Relative Offset (JRO) instruction used.

Well, I bow to the better programmer, but I am happy with my solution :)

Next: A Sequence Sorter!