Final Fantasy XIV- The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Over the weekend, on what I can truly label as a whim, I signed up for a two week trial of Final Fantasy XIV.  I’ve been hearing some good things as of late, and the game itself seems to nod more in the direction of the older titles.   I was hopeful enough that I dusted off an old alternate email for the trial, figuring I would snag a referral code with my main email/account once I bought the game, which was 50% off over the weekend and started up my sub.

So things went both better and worse than I anticipated.

The game is *beautiful*.  The graphics are great, the anime style isn’t too over the top, and they got ocean and the beach done pretty well, which is always high marks in my book.

I was not disappointed by the scoring either – queues from the original FF games can be heard throughout and got me pretty excited – as did this class system that harkens back to some of what is, to me, the high points of the series (especially Tactics).

Character creation is a gem as well – lots of choices, but I dont have to input hex-a-decimal codes or determine how many centimeters of jaw line I want.  Preset options, but lots of them for lots of different areas.  Heck, I was feeling good enough, and open enough, to try something new for me – I created a cat character.   I never create cat characters.  My gut reaction to SWTOR adding Cathars was to throw up a little in my mouth.  But variety is the spice of life, and so I took the plunge.

I wasn’t disappointed once the game started either!  My own narrator?  How many MMO’s give you your own action-movie narrator to tell your story?  And how many of them drop you directly in a capital city where you can explore immediately and not have to wait until some later level?!  Good stuff all around.

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IN A WORLD…where HZ finally breaks down and plays a cat girl…

I would like to be dramatic and tell you that it was hard to put my finger on where it all went south for me, but that just wouldn’t be true at all.

I know the exact moment it went south.  And that was when I put my head down on the table and sighed, because six hours later I was still in the capital city, running around doing errands for random people – fetching this, dropping off that, filling up lamps with oil.   And not so much that I had to do those things, because I learned the city really well and it was a nice change of pace, but because after six hours of doing all that, I still hadn’t hit level 10.  I probably wouldn’t have cared about that particular level itself, except that after another hour I decided to go buy and axe and try being a Berserker for awhile.

(Because I was tired of mashing the same two buttons representing the only abilities I had access to…)

But, since you can’t change classes until level 10, that was a bust.  And a pretty big disappointment.  So I headed over to do the level 5 housing quest!  That will spice up life a little, would love a little beach bungalow.

Well, turns out there is a limited number of plots (all of which were full), you have to be a high level character to buy one, and they are not cheap at all.  See, any one of those would have been a substantial enough barrier, but hitting me with all three at the same time, while labeling it a “level 5 quest” was just a jerk move.

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Even the NPC’s try to rub it in…

And that wasn’t the only “what the hell” moment I had.  In fact, it wasn’t even the biggest.   The biggest was when I got a level 6 quest that spawned a level 12 monster and an NPC to help me.   The NPC said, “don’t worry about healing yourself, I will take care of you, just hit them” or something to that effect.  It was stupid, because I died.  It was ironic because she uttered that line right before she let me die.

And then there was the moment when I realized that I was drawing arcane geometric symbols to cast my spells, and that I was apparently able to do so even though I was wearing mittens.   Wait, why the *@#$ am I wearing mittens?!

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Anyway, at some point 8+ hours in, grinding away at level 9, with the same two damn abilities (well, I had a third now, but it was on a 60 second cooldown), I just kinda gave up.

I mean, I *want* to like the game.  Everything is there that I would normally want and love in an MMO.   Except that I just can’t hack the madness of the ultra slow pace.  Especially when I start thinking about cross-class abilities and stuff, because one of the big draws, for me, was not having to have an alt, but being able to play everything.  Now I don’t want to play any of those because the idea of mashing the same button over and over again (in between the constant running of errands) for multiple nights just to unlock a single cross class ability leaves me with a “nope” feeling.

I guess its not a total loss.  My open mindedness has been rewarding I suppose, because that cat girl was really starting to grow on me.

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Me-ow.

You Can’t Quesh Me!

New years call for new blog layouts, yes?  I like this one but unfortunately it has this terrible propensity for further cropping the images I already cropped to serve as headers.  So if you are currently looking at only half a plane, or my Sith from the nose down, my apologies.

Speaking of which, Lord Valgaut is my new main in SWTOR, and I just finished a run through this post’s titular planet last night.  Having finished up my Agent last year during all the 12x fun, I decided to put away my multitude of alts to finish him up.  I may regret the decision, as I still have only seen half of what SWTOR has to offer, not having a Republic toon above level 15 or so.  As a new subscriber (again) I did get a free Level 60 Token, but I’m not sure quite what to use it on yet.   Maybe a Sith Juggernaut, as that’s the one storyline I already know (from running the game with my brother) and am not really interested in repeating.   Does anyone know if using a Level 60 Token unlocks a class towards the Legendary achievement?  And do you still get to go through all your companion stories if you make a character with that? Hate to miss out on those…

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Anyway, its taken me two days to acclimate to all the new systems – mods at even levels, the reformatting of Heroic missions, the Influence system with companions.  I have to say, I like them all so far.  There is only one thing I had always hoped they would upgrade or introduce that is not yet in the game – the ability to switch sub-classes.  Of course, if everything is intact except the main class story (see my questions above) then I guess I could just use the token or pay the money to “remake” my Agent class into the Sniper I always wanted but couldn’t have because we needed a healer long before the appropriate companion class came along.

Anyway, just wanted to pass a thanks along to Rowan at I Have Touched The Sky, for helping to rekindle my desire to explore The Old Republic with his recent posts, and answering some questions for me.

The other touchstone was The Force Awakens of course, thought not in the way I thought.  As we finally get to see the main story of the franchise being written and full of a new and different set of possibilities, it made me come to appreciate The Old Republic time period once again.  Han, Luke, Leia, and the rest are so larger than life that its hard to imagine space in their galaxy for my own imaginative stirrings – but TOR?  Well, TOR seems big enough for everyone.  And right now that suits me just fine.

Opening the 2015 Time Capsule

I do this every year in lieu of predictions, and because it is fun for me to gauge expectations versus reality on a year in gaming.   Later this week or early next we will start a capsule for 2016.   But for now, despite my irregular posting as of late, I wanted to take this opportunity to look back on what was a very odd duck year for me personally.

I Was Looking Forward To Three Things…

 

Level Capping in Marvel Heroes

At this point last year I had just gotten Rogue and wanted to get her and my two favorite characters at the time, Taskmaster and Moonknight, up to a point of max level “or at least to where I have all their fun abilities, including ultimates, unlocked.”  Boy did I nail that one!  And it was as fun as I had hoped it would be!

Level Up

Currently my roster includes all three of those beauties at level 60, with their unique gear and complimentary artifacts, costumes, and trinkets.  Not ready for raiding perhaps,but then I’m not into that, so…yeah.

Behind them includes several characters in their 30’s – Dr. Strange (didn’t enjoy, gave up on him for now), Star Lord (leveling alongside my brother), Hawkeye (on the back burner), and War Machine (my current main character).

I also have four more heroes I want to purchase (Black Panther, Dr. Doom, Psylocke, and Winter Soldier), and own seven that I don’t really have any interest in playing (Iron Man, Thing, Cyclops, Jean Grey, Human Torch, Cable and Thor) thanks to free hero boxes.

 

Unleashing the Tiger in War Thunder

I never made it there.  I tried to get a better AA tank into the lineup, and then more tanks got added, and then the US tanks came, and then the British tanks came…anyway, I am literally no further along than before.  I have gone an entire year and made zero additional progress towards that Tiger.  I guess I didn’t really want it after all?

 

More Jets!

I can’t remember what jets I did or didn’t have unlocked at this point last year, but currently I own three of the buggers, five if you count a pair of rocket assisted USSR planes:  Gloster Meteor I, Me 109TL, and the FJ-1 Fury.  I am also very close to unlocking the Me P.1092 and the Yak-15.

WoWp underwent some tremendous changes this year, and my play time with it did too.   I think I quit back in February or March because you just couldn’t get anything other than 3v3 matches and it wasn’t fun anymore.  I skipped a big marathon to get a free t8 premium (which I now regret).   And then later in the year, they added bots to every match, which despite the whining was the best possible move they could have made.  The game is easier now (a good thing for general audiences), population has actually recovered a good bit (up to 600 concurrent from 300 on a normal night), and the old fun of those giant furballs is mostly back.   They also finally added in the Republic  Thunderbolt line.

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On the down side – the introduction of pay to win elements like cash exclusive premium ammo.   But then…War Thunder has some obvious P2W elements as well, and I still play it.   In the end, the game was fun again, and this proves that that is pretty much all that matters to me.  I completed the Christmas marathon (just barely) and collected a new t8 premium, this time forgoing a jet for the ultimate iteration of my beloved t5 Spitfire, the t8 Seafang.  And speaking of WoWp…

 

I Had Three Burning Questions for 2015…

 

What will become of WoWp?

“Where will things stand a year from now? Will the game be improved, with greater numbers of players, or will it have dwindled south? Will it even still be around?”

Well, despite some hiccups and steps back the game is definitively in a better place than it was a year ago.   Despite our frustrations with the developer (and this is wholly their fault), they have made good progress this year.  Better than I would have thought at this time twelve months ago.  A better game, with twice as many players, is almost unbelievable.   So whatever frustrations I may continue to have, I will do what I can to play and support the game.

 

What Will Elder Scrolls Unlimited Actually Look Like?

Turns out this wasn’t all that much of a burning question for me.  My sub ran out about the time they went F2P and I haven’t logged in since.  Part of that was the surprising rise of SWTOR that I experienced as my son dove into that and dragged my brother and I along for the (admittedly fun) ride.

So, I don’t really know what things look like there.  I do seem to remember that crafting was changed in a way I did not like, and that nothing really exciting has come out of it.   So with other things on my plate, I have moved on.  I would like to go back for a bit I think….we will see what 2016 brings.

 

What MMO Closures Will 2015 Bring Us?

Well it brought some, but none that I was all that concerned with.   One I listed as a question mark was Dragons’ Prophet, and it is indeed gone.   One I thought for sure would be dead and done was Pirates of the Burning Sea, but it continues to drive forward in a remarkable display of stubbornness and skill.

Maybe instead I should have asked what MMO changes 2015 would bring us – look at Sony’s buyout, Wildstar’s F2P transition, SWTOR and GW2’s new heavy expansions, etc.  It was definitely a year of movement, and mostly in a positive direction it seems like.

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I Had Three Places I Wanted To Return To…

 

ArchAge Online

Never made it back in, and just haven’t felt that classic “fantasy MMO” itch at all lately.  The classic MMO itch is covered by SWTOR, while the fantasy itch gets scratched via single player RPG’s (brilliant titles like Darkest Dungeon have sucked up my time) and the engaging action combat of TERA Online.  So I’m not really sure what AAO could offer me at this point.

 

Dominions 4

I did play a solid scenario of this and even blogged the early portions of the game last year.  But despite the great improvements on Dom4, especially graphics, I found it was not quite what I was looking for.   And then this fall Conquest of Elysium 4 was released – basically, a Dominions skinned version of a Rogue/HoMM crossover.   And I went back and played some CoE3, and I realized this was really what I had wanted before.   So CoE4 is on my wishlist for the coming year.

 

Uncharter Waters Online

Well, UWO underwent some big changes this year itself – being sold off and bought up by a new company.  I like some of the things the new owners have done with the game, but I don’t like that the move meant I can’t play through Steam anymore.  I have it downloaded and patched, but never found time to squeeze into it.  Maybe in 2016?

 

Well there we go, that’s the 2015 Time Capsule, unlocked and scavenged through.   Next week we will seal another one.   I can only wonder at the moment what January 2017 will look like.

BB 70 – Dreaming

Its been years since I did an EVE Blog Banter post, but this topic fits a nice bill for me.   You can find more of the BB pack here.

Dear CCP, I want a Space-Pony and a Space-Puppy and a….
If CCP was Santa and you could ask for anything (in-game obviously) what would it be? A new type of ship that is tailored to your game-play? A change to mechanics? A battleship mini-doomsday weapon? Proper hats for your avatar? Opening of that bloody door? There are so many different options depending on what you do and what you want to get out of Eve Online. What would you like to see in your virtual Christmas stocking from CCP?

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First off, I would love to have Santa CCP bring me one of the classical aspects of space combat.  I want marines that I can use to board another ship, a space station, or a planetary headquarters.   Where are my drop pods and assault shuttles and power armor?  We already have some concept art and background from Dust 514, Santa CCP needs to hook us up with some mechanics.

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Secondly, one of the remarkable online successes this year has been Armored Warfare’s use of PvE matches.  It has drawn players that normally wouldn’t be involved in the game and provides a nice break (or challenge) for the regular PvP crowd).

I would love for Santa CCP to bring me a more detailed, interesting, involved, and fun version of its current boring PvE regimen.  I don’t mind repeatable random missions, but they need to be rewarding enough to be worth the time it takes to do them.  And it wouldn’t hurt if the missions grouped you up with other pilots with similar objectives.

There is a very deep and profitable side of EVE Online that CCP hasn’t even begun to tap yet, and they need to get it going.  And quite frankly, as the game gets longer in the tooth, and the power gap between veterans and newcomers (or even just casual regular players) grows into a chasm, this would be an option for addressing some basic needs in the community.  Even more so with the stasis that null sec seems to have locked itself into.   In other words:  this would be a new and interesting side of EVE for old and new players alike.

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I’ll cross my fingers and hope Santa CCP is listening.  It would be great to have a reason to sub up again.  Finally.  :-p

AW: Game, Set, Match

 

There has been some banter back and forth between the giants, much as there was last year between War Thunder and World of Tanks, but that tiny rivalry has been shoved aside (and rightly so, WT makes an entirely different breed of tank game) for this one.

But the banter here has had some bite in it, with jabs traded over twitter and in on-site articles.  And now, this.   I’m not sure how WoT can respond, if at all.  Generally they seem to be letting AW have the last word…

World of Warplanes Adopts a Pay to Win Policy

I have not been around much lately, but I had to mark this occasion.

In a rather desperate and distasteful bid to salvage some cash from World of Warplanes, Wargaming has greenlighted the adoption of “Pay to Win” strategies in the game.   Starting with update 1.9, the gun and damage systems have been overhauled, making critical hits more common and fires more dangerous.

This is the third time now that they have made major changes to the weapons and damage systems of the game.  Stop for a moment and think about how you would react if your favorite game changes the mechanics of how DPS works three times.  Now also account for the fact that these changes have never been requested by the player base.   Can you feel the rage building?

And not, to top it all off, with this third unasked for change comes another.   From now on in World of Warplanes, the best ammunition, the ones that give a bonus to the now more dangerous critical hits and fires, can only be bought for gold (real world currency).

Yes, you heard that right.  Only real world cash on the barrelhead will allow you to purchase the best damage rates for your weapons.  They cannot be earned as rewards or purchased with in game currency.

For a game that has gone from 3k players a night in Open Beta down to 300 players a night now, its a strange move to make.  I suppose the argument is that those 300 left are so diehard that nothing will make them leave at this point, and to recoup their losses, those 300 will have to be sacrificially bled on the altar of Wargaming’s failure.

Adding credence to this theory is the other major part of Update 1.9 – instead of the usually 3v3 battles necessitated by the low population, all matches will now be filled to 15v15 with AI bots.  The idea of attracting new players and increasing the population has officially been set aside in favor of a life-support model that will allow the game to limp along.

Me?  I’m already out.  War Thunder has finally found a sweet spot where their flight model is good and workable, and the game balance is there for fun times.

With this loss to Gaijin in the air, and the fact that Obsidian has, with the launch of Armored Warfare today, beaten Wargaming at its own best game on the ground, I have to believe we have passed Wargaming’s high water mark.  I know that sounds impossible, but I guess ten years ago I would have thought it was impossible for MySpace to become completely irrelevant to social media.  I have a feeling that ten years from now, Wargaming will still be around, but at a fraction of their former glory.

Overpromised and Underdelivered

I just read about the latest Derek Smart drama, which, like Summer Blockbuster movies, is fun and goes great with popcorn but lacks any real depth. Still, it got me to thinking, and reading the rather succinct summary of demands that Smart laid down at RSI’s feet. And it occurred to me that a couple of those are things that I would love to see out of Cryptozooic’s Hex crew as well.

Now you may not see the comparison as fair right away, but from an original backer perspective, I think it is. SC funded on Nov. 19, 2012 with 2.1m and 34k+ backers. It promised that: “The people who pledge for their spaceships will get to test-fly them long before the general public. 12 months in, we will allow the early backers to play the multiplayer space combat Alpha, and then 20-22 months in they will get to play the Star Citizen Beta, adventuring around the huge open galaxy, well before the general public.” If you’ve followed the story at all, you know those numbers were slightly exaggerated. 24 months for that combat thing, and 32 months and counting on that Beta.

Meanwhile, Hex funded on Jun 7, 2013, with 2.3m and almost 18k backers. It stated: “Our goal is 300,000. This amount will insure we can meet the last of our art and engineering requirements” and “we have built a series of deliverables that we believe can be completed in the remaining development time we have scheduled. We have tested the game systems and feel confident everything will socket together and create a fantastic experience. Further game testing is of critical importance, and we have planned for a staggered beta phase that will allow us to polish the experience and catch all the bugs (this is will include both private and public testing).” Alpha was scheduled for Aug of 2013 and Beta for Sept. Alpha launched a couple of months late and Beta as well, but neither Alpha nor Beta had any of the promised MMO elements that were supposedly all but finished. 25 months later, that is still true. Even basic character creation does not exist.

Another comparison: just as SC has sold and sold and sold, so too has Hex. While no MMO is even on the radar yet, Crypto continues to rake in money from the sale of tickets to PvP tournements, as well as the sales of starter and booster backs. They have also now just completed and launched their third set of cards. I’m sure that there is a volume differential on the sales, but you can see the parallels, yes?

So Smart had 7 demands, but really for HEX, we can dismiss the 7th outright, as I am not aware of any nepotism issues. Here’s the rest:

1. disclose the full detailed (private jet travel? we want to see it) P&L accounting (money in off-shore bank accounts? we want to know about them) for every crowd-funded dime that has been raised and spent on this project. Allow an independent forensics accountant, hired by backers, to come and do an audit. This is standard practice in developer-publisher relationships. So you know how that works.
2. disclose the true state of the project in terms of what is expected to be delivered, and when. Allow an independent Executive Producer, hired by backers, to come and do a project review in order to get an accurate picture of the game state, so we know when it is likely to see the light of day – if ever
3. disclose the true timeline for the project’s completion. As per the above.
4. setup a page offering refunds to all those who REQUEST it. The TOS is going to be the first thing attacked in any lawsuit. It is not likely to survive a legal challenge. Plus, the FTC will trump all that crap anyway, so there is that.
5. admit, in no uncertain terms, and apologize that the scope of the project has changed since the original $2.1m kickstarter crowd-funding campaign
6. halt all further crowd-funding activities until a sizable part of the game – as originally pitched in 2012 – has been delivered to backers who have paid for it. In other words, STOP selling virtual items and taking money for vaporware

Now for me, #1 is not strictly necessary. I’m not worried that Crypto is off partying on private yachts or something. And #5 is only really necessary if they have indeed decided to drop the MMO portion of the game.
And I have to say here, if they have looked at that, as developers, and said – we just can’t do that, its beyond us or no longer something we want to pursue – *that’s okay*. Just enact #4 above and I’m happy to walk away from the whole fiasco with no hard feelings.

But if the MMO is still really on the table and in development I want to see #2 and #3 as soon as possible. Right now, there is no timeline, not even a whisper of when these things might be coming to a test server. No questions are answered about them, no information is given. At least tell me something.

And if this is an issue, then just “TOS” me out and gimme my money back. I mean, I’m not as (in)famous as Smart, but if that’s the only way to get this resolved, I promise I can be just as much of a pain in the ass.