Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Play Better, Suck Less: Spellcast Part 1 - Let's Get the Complaining Out of the Way.

Play Better, Suck Less is a column dedicated to getting the most out of your FFXI experience in game and out. Whether Windower improvements, new game-play techniques, sweet strats or new tech, it will all be covered here! Today, we try to decipher Spellcast and make it usable for those that aren't fluent in multiple programming languages.

I have always heard that Spellcast was great, that you can use it to do all sorts of magical mystical things, and that it was a boon to all players. It could also give out ice cream and free blow jobs, but unless you can figure out how to use it, it is basically worthless. And this is the major problem with Spellcast. A lot of people just don't know how to use it. Yes, all of the things it can do are wonderful, but the person that makes it and the people that use it all too often assume that everyone in FFXI does or should know how XML works, how it all should function, and worst of all, their instructions on how to make it work are esoteric and obtuse. I have heard that it is like a tree or a book or some other things that make no sense at all.

So, this is the beginning of a guide to help you figure out how to use Spellcast if you happen to not work in the programming industry.

I am learning as we go along too, so if I make a mistake then point it out to me, and we can fix it together. I really wish I didn't have to make a guide like this, because I believe it would be relatively easy for the maker of Spellcast or other people that use it to make an UI that would generate the XML you would need for making macros and equipment lists for whatever conditions. Spellcast as it exist is a half finished work, very powerful but also very user unfriendly and daunting to those that would like to use it but don't know XML. I think Spellcast is a perfect example of why software companies have different people to create the code and to create the instructions to use the program. Ok, wish me luck!

Getting start: The very first thing to do is download Spellcast from the Windower.net website. There are a lot of things that Spellcast does without even having to set up macros. They are almost exclusive for people that type out every command. So if you use a controller most of the time, then it probably isn't going to help you very much from just installing it.

At this point it is hard to even know where to start for those that have never done this before, but I will give it a try. Trying to figure out how to use Spellcast from the beginning is nearly impossible from the instructions provided if you don't already know XML. The best thing to start out with is the work that some other people have already done and making it work for you. You can find those here. Once you find one that you like, you will want to add it to your Spellcast file. Even though Aikar claims that his is the most complicated XML file, it is also the most straight forward, and includes explanations of what information goes into each area, and is preset to be used for BLM. I wish I could add it in here but the code would destroy this post. LOL

Take a look at Aikar's XML file and start thinking about how you can use it. Next week we will start looking at getting it to work with your gear or another job.


leybot said...

Gah! I have to wait a whole week for the next SpellCast lesson?!

Try out AutoExec as well, it's a good precursor if you plan on learning SpellCast.

Also, the regulars on the forums are quite helpful. Some are kind and some are demeaning, but both are helpful nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

The Spellcast + AutoExec combo is amazing. I use it for swapping into SA / TA gear and taking it off after the SA/TA'd hit lands, and also swapping into pure accuracy gear for Hundred Fists and then back to normal TP gear when it wears off.

Anonymous said...

I think it would be awesome for Black Mages to learn how to play their job without such tools. I did. Just my opinion.

Ringthree said...

I think that most BLM do learn without Spellcast. They end up using Spellcast because there is just too much to do on BLM that can't really be utilized without it.

I learned without Spellcast, but there are just too many spells, situational pieces of equipment and conditions to be truly effective as a BLM without it. Which is sad to me. Why would you pursue perfection on your jobs if you can't take advantage of it.

I believe this is an imbalance in game design, melees, tanks, healers, supports, ranged damage all have different macro requirements yet the macro system as it exists barely supports one or two of those groups.

I used to think that we should live with poor game design, but in the end this is a game, and while frustration with playing it may happen because of the fights we do or strategies or whatever, frustration shouldn't stem for poor game design.

You do make a good point and I will remember to put it in the next post about Spellcast. Thanks for reading, and if you wouldn't mind could you leave your name and server so I can credit you in the post.

Anonymous said...

I learned to drive without cruise control. It wasn't an option in my first piece of junk. I still get so angry when I see today's punk kids who don't even know how to use a gas pedal! Get off my road! :)


Anonymous said...

"I think it would be awesome for Black Mages to learn how to play their job without such tools. I did."

What does "pressing a few extra macros to swap an extra 6 pieces of gear" have to do with playing your job? Have you ever watched a youtube video where a BLM is manually swapping in their sea obi every time they cast a spell and thought "wow, that really is annoying" and it's distracting you from what the video is really about?

It's not autopilot. You still have to know not to cast Thunder spells on Khimara (or whatever) and stun/sleepga at the appropriate times.

Simple truth is, the best mages are using Spellcast for their gear swaps. Unless you think fulltiming fantastic pieces like Uggalepih Pendant, sea obis, and Sorcerer's Tonban is a good thing?

Every "honest" person balks at the idea of using something that is considered "cheating" by very vocal members of the community. Spellcast is not black, nor is it white. It is somewhere in the middle, and I am ok with that. I enjoy not having to go through all ~200 of my SCH macros every time I get a new piece of gear. I enjoy not having to edit my spell/gear swaps every time I do an event because I can tell spellcast to change my thunder4s to thunder2s and use my level 60 cap gear whenever I do a BCNM60.