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Winning

What do Hannibal, and Robert E. Lee have in common?

They lost.

They were also very unlikely to ever win.

Hannibal and Lee won famous, shattering victories. They won seminal battles and frequently dictated the course of entire campaigns if not wars with impunity for extended periods of time. They dominated the battlefield, imposing their will on the enemy. Yet they lost.

There were operational reasons they lost, Hannibal had no ability to breach the walls of Rome, or to besiege it. Lee never had the resources to force a major decision. But that wasn’t the extent of it.

They didn’t have the ability to string victories together to break the will of the enemy to fight like Scipio Africanus, or Grant and to carry through on their battlefield victories to conclude their wars.

Hannibal entered Italy and proceeded to destroy every army the Romans could scrape together time after time. To the point where the Romans more or less sat behind their walls and ignored the armies as much as possible. Hannibal could win all the battles he wanted but he couldn’t break Rome’s will.

Lee won victories just as devastating but he lacked the capability to string these victories together. On occasion he simply left the field and failed to seek a final decision, settling for driving back the Federal armies, but he never could turn A victory into victory for his “country”.

The US has won nearly every battle in the Vietnam War, and in Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet at the end of our contribution to the Vietnam war the North Vietnamese overran the south at about the same speed as they could drive through it. Iraq is as stable as a 3 year old doing cocaine and it’s an open question whether the current regime in Afghanistan could hold a PTA meeting let alone the determined Taliban offensive that is in the offing. We are a great nation for winning battles but we have forgotten that you have to win the war. We assume that if you score enough points time will run out and you can dump the gatorade and go hit the showers.

To win you have to set your goal and work backwards. Hannibal knew he had to take Rome but once his siege train was lost in the Alps he never reconstructed it (and it might not have done any good against Rome’s walls) and Rome is a rather hard city to besiege. Lee never could make the assault on Washington DC or destroy a Federal Army enough to let him inflict serious damage on the North to force a decision, instead scoring victories then letting the Union lick its wounds until the next time. America hasn’t set a goal since wrapping up the show on the U.S.S. Missouri and since then we have spent a lot of time accomplishing very little.

“But Corelin” I hear you ask “This is a gaming blog. Why are we talking about this stuff?”

Because it’s my damn blog! GET OFF MY LAWN.

And because it’s important in gaming. Sun Tzu famously said “Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.” I realize quoting him is a bit pompous. You may have read my blog before, it happens. Hannibal, Lee, and every US General since Ike put down his stars has forgotten this lesson. They go into battles prepared to win but not wars.

EvE Online has seen this as well. When I was in CoW our “Planning” was lucky to get 20 people with the right ships/fights in anything like the area we were fighting in. The Russians on the other hand were famous for getting the ever living snot knocked out of them for months then suddenly winning the whole damn war. Goons take meticulous planning to the level of any modern organization to turn their cavalcade of clumsy cohorts into a well-oiled machine. Admittedly a steampunky, lurching, “who knows what that bit” does machine but it gets the job done.

When you are getting into a game you need to set goals, and you need to at least be able to figure out how to reach them. FF XIV has lots to do and it’s very easy to get overwhelmed by choices. EvE has an even bigger menu and higher bars to leap to get there. Minecraft is a mind boggling game with nearly infinite possibilities (your world is about the size of Neptune) where you can get lost for days until you realize what you want to do, or just give up.

On the tabletop you are given objectives. You know what you have to do to win you just have to do it. And keep your opponent from doing it. The same rules apply though. Just because you have an objective doesn’t mean you are past step one. You have to define the objective in a way that your force can accomplish it, and hope they can. You have to plan what you will do to overcome your opponents moves and then you have to execute.

Have a plan. Stick to it. And let me know if you want me to write a post on how Lee was a terrible General.

I Level Capped my Money Making Job! Now I’m poor.

So my miner hit 50! Always a good time in FF XIV. Now I have access to high level crafting mats. I can efficiently farm crystals and in-demand materials to buff my wallet. AND I’M OVER A MILLION GIL POORER AND MIGHT PAY MORE THAN 4 MILLION TO MAX IT OUT.

Yeah. I’m POOR. I mean incredibly poor. I’m nowhere NEAR first to market of course, and I can’t gather the absolute top end gear. I’m making money at an acceptable rate, I could probably clear a couple hundred thousand on a work night and I don’t doubt I could clear a million on a GOOD weekend binge. Between the ventures I can complete and the unspoiled nodes as well as crystal grinding or finding key materials to farm I am quite sure I can make a lot of money out there but WOW is it pricey.

Right now we are a month or so out from the 2.55 or whatever patch which will probably be the last content patch before Heavesward. Heavensward will render all my gear useless and require me to start over. That being said it’s not the worst money grind I’ve ever had and it’s certainly a different sort of engagement in gameplay style.

Money isn’t a huge deal in FF XIV. There’s not a lot of things you need to buy and it seems like accumulating it to buy vanity gear or to fill in key pieces (or help level an alt) is the big priority. I will keep grinding money and try to figure out the best ways and places to spend it when the expansion drops but it will be interesting to see how fast I can make money and how worthwhile it is to upgrade gear I will be dropping in three months or less.

For the Love of the Game: Final Fantasy

So I’ve played Final Fantasy for a long time. My parents bought me the first one for the NES so long ago they might even have still been married. I was only barely old enough to understand 90% of what was going on and much of the game was simply beyond me. I bought and read the guides, I played the game and eventually beat it. As young as I was this was an incredible accomplishment. Keeping the focus to grind away, figuring out the game systems enough to actually beat the various levels, cutting through thousands of enemies and finally solving the “clues” in the game to bring down Chaos. I still love this game and have re-purchased it several times. The characters are bland, with no lines and no personality as the party is highly variable, and the NPCs are scarcely more developed but the game was fun, with interesting puzzles and challenges and I still love it.

FF XIV Callback: This is the toughest one. A four fiends dungeon might be fun. Warmech Primal fight could be a truly epic battle. Unfortunately by modern standards this game is kind of thin.

The next game I got to play “originally” was FF IV on the SNES. This game was a horse of a different color for sure. The story was far more advanced, with characters who came and went as the story demanded, who had personalities and abilities and motivations that differed from each other. This game included some of the great characters, with Kain, Cecil, Palom, Porom and Tellah all being amazing, the ubiquitous Cid had one of his better appearances and while the ladies weren’t up to their later qualities they were at least interesting characters. This is another game that was very easy to enjoy and that I thoroughly relished beating and playing over again.

FF XIV Callback: This game also should have the next iteration of the Crystal Tower in the Tower of Zot. Seriously squenix. MAKE THIS HAPPEN. And yes I know Demon Wall was already in FF XIV. TOWER OF ZOOOOOOOT!

Final Fantasy VI was the next to grace our chores and it’s my favorite of the series. Goodness what a game. Terra and Locke share a spotlight that has a lot of work to do to cover the best overall cast of any FF game. The real star of the game, though, is Kefka, the kind of guy that gives nihilism a bad name. Kefka takes this game from being a top tier game in a great series to being the defining game in the series. From his appearance to his theme to his mad laugh, Kefka came to personify everything you hated in a villain. Oh and he treated you with such utter contempt. WOW did he piss me off. One of the longest games for me to beat but OHHHHHH so satisfying.

FF XIV Callback: The part of this I’d love to see in XIV would have to be the Phantom Train. Yes I know WoW JUST did a train dungeon. Fuck it. Let’s show these folks how it’s done.

Final Fantasy VII is my third favorite. Yes it fell that low. It’s NOT a bad game at all. It’s a great game and it added a lot without betraying the core of Final Fantasy. Cloud is a great hero who stands tall even when his world comes apart at the seams. The rest of the party is a lot of fun, my problem is with Sephiroth. The giant emo bastard just pisses me off the wrong way. It’s like he wants your approval at the same time as he’s stabbing Aeris in the back. He’s not a villain, he’s a bully. He just rubbed me the wrong way and the lack of an awesome hero combined with a villain who didn’t do it for me knocks the game down even though the gameplay, the graphics, the cast, and the story were fantastic.

FF XIV Callback: We just got the gold saucer, maybe not what I’d have picked but certainly a worthy callback for this game.

Final Fantasy VIII was my first real disappointment in the series. From Cloud, who manned up after finding out terrible terrible things about his own life, to Squall who had his greatness handed to him and WHINES about it like a little baby. Yeah he eventually gets his shit together but it finally happens in the most lazy, grudging, and painful way possible. Finishing this game was a godsend. There were good sequences and some of the changes were interesting but my GOD Squall was a whiny bastard. I’ve never rooted for the villains as much as I did in this game.

FF XIV Callback: You know what,I’m good stopping at triple triad. I’m sure there’s some dungeon, some event that I missed but… fuckit I’m good calling it a day.

Final Fantasy IX was a breath of fresh air. It was old school final fantasy, it was young, energetic, filled with laughter and brilliance. It also features the absolute best and bravest hero in the series. Vivi is the MAN. Faced with a lifespan better measured in months than years, racism and hostility, and a rain of bad news sufficient to make Noah look for lumber; he tightens his belt, steps up to the plate and does what needs doing. Zidane is great, Garnet is good, Freya is good, the whole party is fun but Vivi makes the game. There’s no comparison between him and Cloud or Squall or even Cecil. He’s on another level and quickly becomes a beloved character. The gameplay is classic ATB, the summons are fun, and the atmosphere is fantastic. It easily earns it’s spot as the 2nd best game in the series.

FF XIV Callback: This one kind of screams for Hildibrand. I mean they could do something with the Lifa tree, but Hildibrand seems like he’d like “I want to be your canary”.

Final Fantasy X is a really interesting game. There’s a lot to be said positive and negative. It’s a tearjerker for sure, and Tidus is an interesting hero. He might be the only guy in the world who whines MORE than Squall… but Squall is a volunteer special forces soldier whereas Tidus is a sports superstar who finds himself in the middle of the most awful war he could imagine. And then things get worse. The difference is Tidus mans up fast and Squall is still whining. This game had a brilliant cast of people who interacted like you would imagine real people would in these situations, villains you love to hate, a story that drives you to binge-play like mad and and ending that just yanks the rug out from under you.

FF XIV Callback: Can we make it so I can kill Seymour Guado a lot? I mean like a lot. I mean like low level dungeon trash? FINE but Anima HAS to be a Primal fight. And I want to kill Seymour.

FF XII is next. I’m not doing the MMOs. Ugh. What a bland game. You give up a ton of control and eventually figure out the best way to play the battles is to come up with a good script and walk away. Then you do the same for the rest of the game. The story is interesting but not urgent, the characters are bland and I just couldn’t make myself finish it.

FF XIV Callback: Honestly I don’t know. There’s a lot I still don’t know about this game.

FF XIII I did manage to finish. The tutorial on how to do the credits was a nice touch, I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to do. This game suffered by alternating between leading you by the hand and murdering you with bosses whose abilities had suddenly escalated by an order of magnitude. It’s a weird game with a lot of systems I liked but I couldn’t get attached to the characters and the voice acting was just painful to listen to. It really really was.

FF XIV Callback: I loved the huge flying fal’Cie. Running raids through one of these (active or fallen) could be one hell of a lot of fun.