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My Return to Eorzea: A Final Fantasy XIV Extended Look, Part 1

April 23, 2011

Victor Stillwater of Lindblum

In a couple of hours, I will have spent seven days playing Final Fantasy XIV. They were probably not the best-spent hours of my life, but they were fulfilling, relaxing hours, nevertheless.

I’m going to try writing this return to Final Fantasy XIV with fresh eyes, so I shall not be referencing my previous write-ups much. Needless to say though, I’m happy for one marked difference between my last time playing the game and my current stay in Eorzea: Exclamation Marks pointing to story quest givers and important people that need to be talked to for levequests.

Moving on…

Upon reactivating my account and logging into the game, I realized that playing the game in the manner I used to (mainly carpentering my butt off and doing more crafting than anything else) would not work, so I tried the other approach, which was to create a character that started off as a Disciple of War (in this case, a Lancer) and branched out from there.

This approach worked rather well, primarily because within the first few hours of my stay in the game, I had amassed 100,000 gil for basically talking to someone. As it so happened, I found out that my entry was rather well-timed, as they had just released a patch that introduced a new event for people to enjoy.

This new event, known as Hatching Tide, tasks players with talking to an NPC in one of the capital cities and getting an egg from that NPC every couple of hours (possibly 12). Collect a specific combination of four eggs (Lightning, Earth, Water, and Archon eggs), and turn them in to an NPC beside the egg-giver, and you would be rewarded with a spiffy egg cap that you could use as protective headgear.

I didn’t pay much heed to the quest text because I realized that I could sell the eggs for starter money, and so the first thing I did was put the first egg I got up for sale for (this is a pittance, but enough to purchase starter weapons and tools for every class) for 100,000 Gil.

A few hours later, I had enough starter money to get myself acquainted with all the classes.

Forgetting one of the quirks of the game, I attempted to alt-tab to read up on what I could do with the money and caused the game to forcibly shut down. Alt-Tabbing out of the full-screened version of the game shuts the game down, but using the configuration program to set it to windowed mode resolved that issue, though it’s a minor annoyance that I have to drag the window up a bit every time I want to see the XP values for my skills and physical level.

In any event, my stay in Eorzea included trying out every profession in the game save for the magic schools and the archer class, and I generally found my way without much trouble, since I could alt-tab and research on class skill synergy.

During this seven-day stay of mine, I contacted The Star Onions, a linkshell I was a part of during the pre-release phase, and found they were currently based on the Lindblum server. They let me into the linkshell, and I enjoyed asking questions a newcomer would normally ask, to which they would either answer promptly and politely, or remind me that there’s actually a database now for recipes and other information called Yellow Gremlin.

Combined with Eorzeapedia, a smattering of assorted guides created by players, and a gathering profession spreadsheet that outlined the actual use of notches in Disciple of the Land gathering procedures, I set out to become a strong warrior and a master item crafter.

Check back tomorrow for Part 2 of this Extended Look at Final Fantasy XIV.

On “Bad” Games, Pricing Models, and the Feeling of Fun

April 21, 2011

Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing - a "bad" game or simply not fun for a majority?

I was reading Beau Hindman’s latest Free for All column earlier and a thought occurred to me that I wanted to put in writing. In Hindman’s post, he was, in part, discussing how the free-to-play movement can be seen as the latest experiential phenomenon to take hold to the world of MMO gaming.

While free-to-play games have had a long-standing history in the realm of MMO titles available to the world, there’s been this stigma that a free-to-play MMO is is some sort of lesser being in the realm of gaming, that it is relegated to the realm of “inferior” products. We know now, through experiencing various MMO pricing models and hybrids of such models of payment, that high-quality and “less-than-high-quality” MMOs can be found in all points of the pricing spectrum.

Now, you may have noticed that I’ve placed quotation marks on some of the negative modifiers in the previous paragraph, and there’s a good reason for that. It all goes back to my personal belief that I, as an individual, have my own preferences and mindsets in life and I cannot truly say that one thing is absolutely abhorrent for everyone. Even the basic ideas of death and poverty or the basic emotions of joy and sadness are so wildly divergent in what they mean to people (such as in terms of what constitutes certain ideas, or what triggers an emotion).

As such, a corollary to my personal belief would be that the “bad” game does not exist. There are simply games that fewer people enjoy and games that a larger group of people enjoy. The sweeping generalizations that Syp recently talked about regarding gaming have to be taken out if we are to better understand why people can feel similar emotions when faced with completely different and possibly opposing stimuli.

For instance, let us take stock of Square Enix’s Final Fantasy XIV and Trion Worlds’ Rift.

When I first installed Final Fantasy XIV on my computer, I played for four or five hours and pretty much left the game entirely because it did not capture my attention. Information on the game and its various activities was scarce, and if you were the type of gamer who honed his skills on World of Warcraft, the lack of question marks to indicate quest givers would drive you insane.

On the other hand, when I first heard of Rift and played the beta, I was also not thoroughly impressed, until launch grew closer and I realized it was essentially a highly polished and technically proficient game with an intriguing storyline. If you check my Rift articles here on Games and Geekery, you’ll notice I meander between thinking the game is “meh” and thinking the game is awesome for having tanks that can self-heal.

If you fast forward to last week though, you’ll notice I barely posted anything. The simple response to this is that Rift could not hold my attention and I was madly searching for a game to occupy my free time. On Saturday evening, I decided to play Final Fantasy XIV again on a whim. I created a new character, rolled on a new server, and looked for the old guild I was chatting with online about the game. I played FFXIV for, as it happens, 14  hours straight that day (a feat that only happened once previously when I went raiding in vanilla WoW).

This week, I was reading through other blogs, and Elementalistly’s entry on how he feels about Rift kind of got to me. It wasn’t that I was offended by his post. Quite the opposite really.

You see, I was beginning to feel the exact same thing he felt when it came to Rift, only I was experiencing what he was feeling with Final Fantasy XIV, the game Elementalistly and I once both found to be less than stellar.

When I compare the two games on a purely technical level, I find Rift to be a clear leader in terms of customer-centric accessibility and polish. Final Fantasy XIV is not perfect, and still remains free-to-play so long as Square Enix deems the game to be in a state that is below their standard of what a good game should be.

Despite this, however, I know that there are people like myself who currently feel about Final Fantasy XIV the same way that Elementalistly feels about Rift. We’re all having fun in the games our preferences and predilections lead us to, and it shouldn’t matter how much you play, how much you pay, or how off-beat your tastes are.

The important thing is that you are happy with what you’re doing, whether it’s when you’re playing an MMORPG, when you’re writing that fantasy novel masterpiece about the adventurous marmot with nunchaku, or when you’re enjoying Direct TV Specials in the comfort of your home.

Mythos Hits Open Beta, Still has Kinks…

April 12, 2011

So the Open Beta of Mythos is supposed to be today, and it’s either in Closed Beta or Open Beta right now.

I was looking forward to giving open beta a go, but after downloading and installing the client (a 1GB download, I might add), I found myself unable to play the game.

It seems that some folks, myself included, are unable to run the patcher or the client for the game. Despite reinstalling the game and changing the compatibility settings for it, the game appears to be stuck with nothing more than a horizontal off-white bar to indicate that it started doing something…

AND SOMETHING HAPPENED.

Apparently, waiting eight minutes for the patcher to actually load did the trick on my end after setting the compatibility to Windows XP SP3. Not exactly an ideal solution, but I’ll take it for now. Let’s see if we can patch this up and get to testing.

It Feels Like a Horrible Time to be a Writer (or What More Can I Learn?)

April 11, 2011

One of the great difficulties in having a skill is the idea of being stuck with that skill as a primary means of livelihood in a time when the skill can grow quickly obsolete and require additional skills to shore it up.

That, I feel, is the current issue plaguing writers at the moment, regardless of where they come from or what audience they write for.

I love writing. I love discussing various topics in detail and using my words to bring meaning to others as regards the things I understand, or to ask important questions to things I don’t understand. Recently, while tackling my postgraduate degree in education and growing steadily disconcerted with the nature of my new job, I realized that if there’s something I want to get paid for, then it’s to get paid to write something. Maybe not just anything, but something that I understand and am good at, or at least, something where I feel I can be of help to others.

The problem with this mindset, nice as it is, is that the digital world likes people who can do more than one thing. For instance, if I had photo-editing skills, I could do both and have a better chance at getting a job writing. If I knew how to build websites, I could do both, and yes, I would get a better chance at getting a job writing.

My dilemma is that I don’t think I have any additional skills that would be connected directly to writing that could be marketable in this day and age, unless you count this strange ability I have to be diplomatic (or, in other words, to be able to look at multiple viewpoints) when writing, which I’m guessing isn’t that special.

This counts as horrible timing, basically, because I decided, after two weeks of formally doing calls, that I couldn’t handle the strain, and tendered my resignation (effective on the first week of May). I lack prospects, I lack funds, but I’m not lacking in the ability to learn.

Perhaps my fellow bloggers can help me out in this department. Do you happen to know of any skills I should consider learning to make my writing ability more marketable. Can you suggest sites to visit to learn how to make websites, or an SEO training course, or some other sort of training?

Looking at it from an MMO perspective, I’ve put most of my talent points into writing, so what should I off-spec as to make a dent against that big bad boss known as impending unemployment?

On The Dungeon Siege Bundle of Theoretical Awesomeness

April 10, 2011

The Dungeon Siege III Bundle on Steam is theoretically awesome.

You get three games for the price of one, and can basically play out the (somewhat meager) story that comes through in the first and second games.

Of course, it’s never really that simple, as you’re playing two rather old games, and it’s been nearly six years since the  second Dungeon Siege game came out.

 

Here are some factoids on what you will not get if you go purchase the Dungeon Siege III bundle, like I did.

1. You will not get multiplayer. This is stated prior to anyone even thinking of purchasing the game.

2. You will not get the expansion for Dungeon Siege II.

3. You (possibly) will not get to play Dungeon Siege I on your brand spanking new computer, though this appears to have been remedied somewhat, if the Steam forums are any indication.

Personally, I want to see if Dungeon Siege 2  is any fun to play, but that’s just me.

Hyper Video Cast Off: Henshin Heroes Gather Donations in Hong Kong

March 30, 2011

This is a bit of a heartwarming Kamen Rider-based post to lift the spirits of people out in the Netverse.

Some Kamen Rider cosplayers in Hong Kong spent a full day gathering up donations for Japanese relief while in-costume. The entire video is set to some heartwarming music as well, so it really gave me a nice feeling to watch it, even if I wasn’t there. Cheers!

Gullible People can Make a Mess of Everything, Really…

March 27, 2011

I’ve been reading the blog Game Journalists are Incompetent F**kwits for the past month or so, and while I haven’t been actively thinking about the issues that stem from bad journalism, I have been noticing some rather disheartening things in my part of the world that have made me place my face in my palm (at least in my head) a couple of times. Some of it has something to do with journalism as well.

Now, disasters are one thing. They are unavoidable acts of nature.

Gullibility, on the other hand? Well, that’s the root of many, many stupid actions and negative emotions that could have otherwise been prevented.

In the past few weeks since the Quake in Japan (and the quake in the Philippines ~ we had one earlier this week), I’ve noticed at least three separate instances of people believing something and reacting poorly towards that something, when some research could have allayed their fears somewhat.

The first instance is a horrible prank made by some anonymous texter (or group of texters) who sent out warnings after news of the reactor in Japan started coming out. The text message relayed to was essentially to stock up on food and stay indoors to avoid radioactive rain. Two noticeable results occurred: Panic buying in some areas happened, and one school, fearing the safety of their charges, canceled school.

The second instance is far more innocuous, but no less distressing. The picture at the top of this post was recently plastered in various areas of a local shopping center. People saw it, posted it on Facebook, and Facebook and Twitter went nuts, with posters condemning the owners of the mall for the sign… which no company, including the shopping center owners, in their right mind would dare post. The signs were a well-orchestrated prank that could potentially lose the company that manages the mall a lot of money and bad publicity… especially because people are gullible.

The last one, which is the main reason I wrote this, is very meta. Carmen Pedrosa wrote yesterday about a report she found done by Harvard, which essentially made it known that people from the Philippines are “first among ‘the world’s most gullible races.'” The reason why this is meta is simple: She links to a post by a blog called The Mosquito Press, where all this information came from, yet does not notice that their FAQ page states that the site is a satirical publication. Cue a bit of competitive journlism from a different news organization calling her out on her faux pas.

The last line on the portion of her article about gullible Filipinos? “We are gullible because we are not able (sic) or do not question information. We prefer to believe what other persons tell us.”

What does this tell us?

 

1. People are gullible, but this can be avoided.

2. The curse of gullibility can be avoided by not having a knee-jerk reaction to everything you take in with your senses.

3. Research, Research, Research.

4. When in doubt, think first.

The funny thing about all this, I suppose, is that when one is so emotionally invested into things, it gets very difficult to have a critical look at what you’re seeing or experiencing.

What does this have specifically to do with games? Not much, unless you’re one of those people who got mindfucked by Metal Gear Solid 2.

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