Finding the Fun in Final Fantasy 14

As a mmo player away from mmo’s for a while you get these urges. Urges deep down that feel like some kind of deep dark hole sucking up everything else around it, it needs to  be filled but you have to find the right thing to fill it with. (boy it was hard writing all that without overt innuendos)

Anyway, I say this because that’s where I’ve been lately. I have quite a few awesome games I’ve been playing lately but for some reason they just weren’t enough. Sometimes I would just stare at the desktop looking at these icons, occasionally starting one up before turning them off again. The are great games but not the experience I want at the moment. I want a mmo, I want that familiar feeling to fall into once more. It’s that particular style of gaming comfort I’ve found I can’t be without for too long now.

I needed something and there are a few options to pick from. I tried Guild Wars 2 for a bit but it just didn’t click. Didn’t fulfill the particular whole inside. Firefall a little and yeh, not quite there either. Elder Scrolls will be soon but I still don’t really hold much hope in it keeping my interests. I enjoy it to an extent but it just never felt right for some reason. The secret world is fun, and it certainly fills a certain corner of what’s missing but I only need short fixes of that particular part.

That brings me to Final Fantasy 14 which I’m currently playing and filling up that familiar space once more. I still have the same issues as when I tried it way back at release, but now after being through the big modern releases I’m starting to forgive those elements are was fairly critical of before. The modernised mechanics and elements they have are great, but they were just missing in other areas and fell apart as a whole experience. Final fantasy seems to get it mostly right but what it does is very well-integrated and makes sense as a whole experience.

They have cute cat girls too

They have cute cat girls too

I’ve been incredibly impressed with a few other aspects as well and I think this is what has been drawing me more into the game.

First even though I haven’t been watching the game too closely I have been incredibly impressed with the rate, quality and quality of the content that has been added since release. They have offered a wide range of new activities, new fluff items to procure, mini games to enjoy and keep you in-game. New challenges to overcome. More important than that though is what they have been adding seems to avoid the usual pitfall of obsoleting areas of the game. If anything it all seems to support itself.

Following on from this point is that I was rather amazed that most of those early zones still had a lot of activity in them. There were a range of people traveling around. Occasionally High level characters doing particular leves, or whatever that thing they do is. Crafters gathering their wares. Reasonable amount of people doing dungeons as well, even in my own peak time. Those Fates (dynamic events) seem incredibly popular as well. It is fantastic that they’ve created an activity that always seem to be quite useful to all people play. It’s just experience but due to the, what I originally thought of as restrictive,  lack of quests and methods of leveling alternatives keeps these events and the zones active. With this design it also means you have a great activity to do with friends (like the cutest Murf you ever did see) of any level that is useful to all involved, it’s very well done.

A wild murf appears

A wild murf appears

I was a little skeptical about the community too. Many have been saying how great it has been for them but, I still suspected that certain usual mmo troll attitude to an extent. Boy was I surprised when I tested this theory in a dungeon when I said at the start that I was new and my first dungeon run. I mean coming on, I was the tank as well so that was bound to get a rise. Nope, nothing but helpful and supportive the entire way. In any other mmo that would be an immediate party kick or drop group.

The other thing I am thankful for at this early state of play is having a decent trial period. The one failing, I think, of a lot of these sub mmo’s lately  as here it gave me enough room to experience enough of the game to get a decent impression. And here I am now, a day in and already a level 20 Marauder

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Guest Post: A Primer for Good Grouping

Yay, a blogger friend that also started during last year’s Newbie Blogger initiative has a guest post for us and he made it into a rant just for little ole me… I’m so proud.

C T (Christopher) Murphy is a self proclaimed master of geek culture, writing words of absolute brilliance and insight on games, books, and TV. Hmm, maybe not that God like but he has certainly produced some really intriguing pieces that critique and amuse. Sadly he hasn’t been writing as much anymore which really is a shame (hint hint Mr Murphy) but what he does is pure quality (unlike my dribble) and there are plenty of posts well worth going back over if you have the time.

Just take a peek at one rather fancy looking profile with all the links including google, twitter, Facebook and the blog. Also, pop over to the Geek Force Network where you can check out some of his more recent work, one of which even got me back into anime again.

A Primer on Effective Early Grouping in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

It’s that time again, boys and girls! Out of the abyss of nothingness (or in this particular case, out of a stillborn corpse not mourned by anyone), a new world has been born (reborn). With it comes new experiences (that you’ve had before), a new world with new people (that you’ve met before), and entirely new gameplay to sink your teeth into (which you’ve most assuredly played before). I have had an absolute blast in my brief time exploring the wilds of Eorzea in Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn, save for one exception: the grouping, in all its vanilla-classic MMO glory, has been utterly abysmal.

Don’t be a dick:

I am not sure if reaching max level in the original release of FFXIV makes you worthy of some veneration for your patience or if it is a complete indictment of your lack of taste, but I am sure that it has absolutely no bearing on an almost entirely different and far superior game. It is no excuse for you to lord your superiority over me or anyone else as unlucky as to be queuefucked ((the act of having your brief window of time in which you may be able to get an entire game/instance/match completed completely ruined by a typical internet jerk)). It’s a new game, people are going to play it like its new, and we don’t need a long, rude lecture on how you came to be in control of the entire universe. Unless you are in control of the entire universe, in which case, I am most sorry Lord Emperor Douchebagus.

In a similar vein, just because you have played World of Warcraft for the last six years does not make you an expert on the genre. It also doesn’t give you, again, the right to be a dick about things. I have been playing MMORPGs since I was 12. If anyone has the pedigree to be a hypercritical prick on the internet it is me. But do I? Only when I blog, not when it really matters inside the dungeon!

Case in point, last night I was running the game’s very first dungeon. Within two pulls, I noticed a slight issue: there is no focus fire. Somehow, my two DPS and my Healer are finding ways to kill the entire wave at the exact same time without any AOE (which sounds like it would take more coordination and cooperation than simply shooting whatever is low, but I digress).  Given that this is the first significant grouping experience of the game and the game is just releasing today, my patience with new players is fairly high. And unlike the early dungeons of Guild Wars 2, the A Realm Reborn’s first dungeon is very forgiving and requires very little skill to complete.

My healer wasn’t so patient. While I am tanking my heart out, he announces very proudly and with no hesitation, “hey assholes stop being newbs and focus targets”. When his sentiment turned into, “if u dont focus I wont heal u” our Lancer decided to bite back with this bit of wisdom: if u dont heal I will use potions. That might be a viable strategy if he didn’t immediately walk into a large group of mobs in the next room while the rest of our group was still finishing a pull. SIGH. The ensuing argument included a lot of ‘Go back to WoW’ and ‘I can out DPS you as a Healer’ and ‘u tryhard faggot’. The Lancer decided to just autofollow us through the rest of the instance without doing any DPS and the Healer mellowed out to congratulate me on the loot I managed to get.

One dick is a problem, but two dicks? Twice the problem! If you don’t want to play with someone then leave, not torture the other two especially nice people who only wanted to finish the run in peace. I did get my peace and quiet once we wiped: the Lancer refused to leave so the Healer left for him.  Oh well, I will run it again another day.

The actual primer:

Now that the most important piece of advice I can give you has been covered thoroughly, here are a few other bits of wisdom that haven’t changed since I started playing MMOs, especially not ones as safe as FFXIV:ARR.

    1. Attack what the other guy is attacking. FFXIV:ARR dungeon groups consist of one Tank, one Healer, and two DPS. In other words, assume the other DPSer is a moron and just follow his lead as if he is your Main Assist. Healer and Tank? Do whatever you need to do.
    2. Wait a few seconds before you roll your head across the keyboard. Look, I know you want a leg up on the currently non-existent DPS meters, but save your PUG Tank a heart attack and let him get a little aggro before you start spamming your burst.

Bonus Tip: if the Tank has never been in melee range of the mob you want to attack, don’t shoot it.

  1. Have Fun. It is depressing that, after my decade+ playing MMOs (or really any game on the internet), people still need a reminder to have fun. MMOs have only gotten easier to pick up and play since I started too. Fifteen minutes running a dungeon is not worth getting angry, no matter how egregious that Bard’s stat allocation. Relax or, if you must,  walk away when you start to heat up.
  2. It’s just a game, but please take it a little seriously. Cracking a joke or having to take a piss in the middle of a run is fine, but don’t leave the entire group hanging for ten minutes because your friend broke out the bong. Also, even when you are doing something for fun, that doesn’t mean you have to deliberately suck at it. Take some pride!

While I doubt I have changed hearts and minds, I can at least queue up for my next painful run with a clear conscience now that I’ve given the Internet a few friendly reminders on the absolute basics of MMO grouping. If you have any more rules to suggest or you just want to talk about a particularly egregious rule breaker, leave a comment below.

Final Fantasy and a Preview Reborn

Twas the week before head start, for this little hater

and the servers were groaning under the newest beta;

Sliders and options were fiddled with care,

in the hopes our avatars would induce quite a stare;

The gamers were hunched with their headsets and mice

in the hope that dear god, this mmo would be nice.

Ok enough of that…. As you may or may not have heard an mmo called Final Fantasy 14 (stupid roman numerals) has been reborn. Is it an abomination of the undead that needs its head bashed in with a shovel, or a phoenix risen from the ashes in a blazing glory…probably neither..

Pretty much everything I said in my previous review still applies. It still feels rather ancient in its ideals, is missing key mechanics that are just a standard now and just that general polish we expect from certain areas is missing. The dialogue boxes still annoy the ever-living hell out of me, the questing is still extremely dull, the major cities and zones are still badly planned, and the amusing mute puppet theatre that are the cutscenes are still there. I have seen a few decent improvements like the mob animations but it is still pretty much the same game I hated before.

But for some reason, this time around I’m enjoying myself… ARRR, I am a confused sort at the best of times.

City Sights

I’ve gotten into that old world groove of picking up quests and going on a mindless rampage across the countryside. The tab targeting and hefty skill bar use is oddly relaxing. The new zone, Limsa Lominsa, that I’m in seems to offer a better questing experience that isn’t so fragmented and that city and area around it are much more to my style. It really is a visual marvel at times.

ffxiv

Loving the medieval influences

Classy Cat

I really did not like the conjurer class I played last time as it was a complete and utter bore to play, I never got far because of this as I just couldn’t stomach much more of the awful combat. For better or worse combat is a major part of this online worlds and when its bad the whole experience suffers. This time with the Arcanist it all just felt right.

While I like pet classes to an extent I much prefer the magical variety rather than the ranger style and this pet class is truly just perfect. The pet is an extension of yourself in many ways and you have a really extensive collection of commands to use, I was even finding myself moving it around or calling it to heel so it would avoid aoe, I can command it to guard or stay, to use specific skills and all manor of other commands. Also the pet feels tanky enough that it can take hits proficiently but enough that care still needs to be taken, it’s a delicate balance but I think they got that right. Final Fantasy does pet classes perfect…I’m so relieved.

Making it further this time I finally get what the whole job system can achieve and it is a truly remarkable system, it offers a lot of choice but also guidance on how to build your character. It is all very slow to start…too slow at times but it seems that the more you play the more options you have and the more diverse your build becomes. I’m really interested to see where it takes us in the end game dungeons and how it all works in PvP. Should be fun.

ffxiv arcanist pet

Fly Girl

I spent around 5 hours or more just fishing in this open beta. I couldn’t explain why…I’m not even sure myself but there is something so absolutely awesome about this gathering profession. I think it tapped into my inner explorer a little with how you traverse the zones and find rivers, beaches and piers to fish from. The different styles of bait keep you wanting to progress and find different, and bigger fish and how it asks you to pay attention throughout, watching the line for that little tug makes it rather enjoyable to me. It seems I’ve only just scratched the surface too as there are a variety of lures to craft and buy and apparently the moon cycles can play a part in what you’re able to catch. I like to fish in real life as well (and am pretty dang good too) and this was a good virtual representation for those down times in between combat which are just as important to get right.

ffxiv fishing

Worldy Ways

The detail they’ve put into the world really do make it something interesting enough that you want to stay in it longer and see more. The lands, while open seem extremely detailed in the way they are structured with plants, rocks, and outcrops. There are enough human settlements and structures that the world feels lived in but not enough that it feels over crowded. It is a land being developed but also containing a little mystery.

The weather effects are an excellent detail on top, it might be fluff but it is fluff that makes the world feel less static and more alive. There are an extensive collection too; a day and night cycle with decent lengths that add a little bit of variety to the environments as your traveling and questing. There are variations of cloud cover and wind movement, and a storm system that comes along every now and then blanketing the world in rain. I don’t think it is on a cycle either as I couldn’t pick any particular patterns out of it which really is a nice touch

ffxiv sunset

The monster designs, while over the top and completely wacky at times offer a range of diversity you don’t see very often in MMO’s. They aren’t just re-skinned animals from day-to-day life (although there are those too) but more animals and monsters plumbed from the depths of the creators imaginations. They look and feel alien in many ways which really helps immersion into this new online world of Eaorzea.

ffxiv rawr

The amount of detail that has gone into the world and many of its locations is amazing. They all keep with a certain architectural style but belay a sense of understanding about what makes a world.. a world. Tables and chairs for shops, the guild crafting locations contain every many of device you would expect, and the mechanical contraptions contain enough components that you can believe the exist. At no point did I have to suspend my disbelief at how this world works and functions, it is populated developed as much as you would expect and more.

ffxiv airship

Opinions and Uncertainty

And after all this I can’t believe how well the game runs. Keen and Graev noted the amazing performance in their recent impression piece on their relative old computers and I have to agree. My laptop is badly in need of a service as the stuttering during gameplay has gotten quite bad. In GW2 I will frequently have the screen freeze after using skills or certain zerg encounters, even in Shadowrun Returns I get a few but here it runs like a dream. That is either voodoo at work or some magnificent coding and it makes a huge difference on how the play feels.

They only place my true irritation lies right now is in the way Square Enix handle their account management, it is actually quite hilarious how bad their system operates. There are so many different options and account settings entered from various sources that each only allow a certain amount of editing. It took me close to an hour to find where I could download the new game client from because It is hidden away within the beta forums which, for god knows why doesn’t have a link to on the main site. The lack of forethought in the design of these sites really is amazing. The last thing you want to do is make it hard to access your game, especially when your a subscription mmo in this day and age yet this goes beyond that sentiment into the territory of rage inducing.

Bhagpuss at Inventory Full also picked up on the sentiment of uncertainty I’ve been feeling lately as well because of this appalling account system. I have yet been unable to enter my promotional code as it is invalid… apparently this is a rather common thing for the people who ordered through Amazon or other companies not Square Enix. This reeks of mismanagement by them, Amazon is a major distributor and if you can’t get it right for them in speaks volumes as to your companies incompetence.

I have no idea if it will work, whether I’ll get the right code for headstart, or even if I’ll have to start again on a new account and create another character. The content is barely interesting enough to do the first time, if I had to do it a second time I don’t know if I could be bothered.

I hope it does work out because I have enjoyed it enough that I would like to continue. Because of the detail involved, and the extensive range of features it feels more like a true MMO than most that have come out in recent times and I kind of like that. Without those it would be a sub par MMO at best but with, it appears to be worth a shot.

First Impressions of Final Fantasy

Don’t Bother with it.. No seriously. I’ve already purchased it because I was just after something new but I would not recommend it to anyone else after playing in the Beta this Weekend. Come release I’ll probably play it for a little while but I don’t see that being for very long, I’m likely to not even hit the cap.

Final Fantasy is the epitome of whats wrong with the MMO industry. It has this wonderful pretty coating, the character creation is nice, the graphical quality is rather high, the Environments are gorgeous, and the music is absolutely entrancing. There are even many great mechanics that you may not notice like housing, inn use, and even a fully fleshed out day and night with moon cycles that can affect certain in-game things but don’t be fooled as once you get past that you realise just how terrible and mind-numbing the entire experience is.

I am truly amazed that this is a reboot of a product that was somehow worse as even though it’s been in development again for many years its honestly like the last 5 years of mmo developments never happened. The combat is your basic hit trading, tank and spank style that WoW popularised many eons ago. There is no improvement to this.. none at all, in fact it feels like a downgrade to wow as at least they threw in a heap of skills for you to use. As a Conjurer I was using one skill to kill mobs for all ten levels, I could have used a couple more but they honestly weren’t needed. Just pew pew and watch for the occasional cast on the mobs or aoe. Maybe it’s exciting for a new mmo player, or even a fan of Final fantasy but to a mmo vet it is just boring… so very boring.

YAAAAAAAWN

YAAAAAAAWN

The Questing is the same you might get anywhere else but without any of the interesting iteration that may make it enjoyable. The way the quests are set up seem rather frustrating too as you will be having to constantly turn in quests at another area as well as changing the area where you pick up and complete quests only after a few quests. Jumping back and forth between zones does get rather tiring, there is a waypoint teleporting system that could make it easier but it is very badly planned and signed. I get what they were trying to do, having the zones contain different levels of monsters in particular areas means you have many higher level characters questing around the newbs to give help and advice.. it’s also nice to see some of the amazing armors they are wearing (and they do look nice). I even liked how I could take a peek rather easily at these higher level areas environments and monsters but it creates a very fragmented experience. If you’re creating a Themepark at least make it easy for people to find the rides.

Oh and the speech bubbles..wow. There is just so many of them all the time containing inconsequential bits of dialogue. I prefer a more streamlined experience where I can pick up quests and then just go about my business. I don’t want to be spending minutes picking these quests up. Now I’m not averse to quest dialogue and story, I will take my time to devour it all but only if it is interesting and most of what I read was not. Just give me a big wall of text and be done with it please as this is not meant to be a…. haha, I was about to say a console experience but it really is. I’ve played single player games on PC that have suffered from bad porting, now I’ve played an MMO that’s suffered as well.

The gathering, collection and interaction system in this game is god awful as well. It uses that old style select and click method but it is very unresponsive, it takes many clicks for it to respond.. or maybe that was just input lag. I thought a use key was pretty much an improvement to usability that is a standard to MMO’s now.. apparently not. Apparently they’ve been living under a rock for all these years and have neither heard or played many of the other MMO’s that have released and this is one mechanic where that is very obvious.
ffxiv

If I want active combat I’ll go to Tera. If I want a better questing experience I’ll play GW2. If I want interesting story I play (and wait) for TSW quests, and if I want a refined theme park experience I’ll play Rfit. Final Fantasy XIV adds absolutely nothing to the genre… it might have been good if it released many many years ago but now it looks and plays like a dinosaur. Now it can be ok. Getting into that rhythm of mindless killing again and ticking off everything in the checkbox is actually rather relaxing. I went from point to point to point, killing and collecting for hours but it wasn’t an enjoyable… it was more familiar and calming in its repetition. In this day and age that is not something that gives me hope for the games future though and being purty isn’t enough.

*Note* First impressions are exactly that. I may have missed many things and I haven’t even seen what end game amounts too, it may be awesomely amazing. What I expereinced was not.