FFXIV – UI Wish List for Heavensward

With the Final Fantasy XIV expansion Heavensward coming soon (June 23), I thought I would put together a list of all the nagging UI issues that I hope are addressed in 3.0. It’s a testament to how good the game already is that I have trouble coming up with any significant gameplay issues to complain about–only these nitpicky UI faults.

(Knowing how good Square Enix is at patch notes, I could probably go somewhere and find a detailed list of exactly what’s going to be in Heavensward, but let’s just assume there’s still some doubt about the feature set. And also that I haven’t seen much of anything about Heavensward except what I’ve seen in FC chat and that benchmark.)

Naturally I have the same wish that everyone who plays FFXIV has: I wish I didn’t have to put away my Chocobo to queue in the Duty Finder. But I’m guessing that if they haven’t fixed this by now, they never will.

I so desperately want to be able to turn off the Okay/Cancel dialogs that pop up all the time. Only the ones that prevent you from destroying important gear should remain. I’m thinking in particular of the ones that come up when you teleport.

I wish there was a key I could press to begin Synthesis. Right now I always have to grab the mouse to click the button.

Of course I want more inventory space, or at least more armoury space. I have purchased (ie. rented) 2 extra retainers and I still find myself juggling all of the stuff I keep, and I only have 9 of the 20 classes at 50. Barring that, I would love to be able to mail gear to an alt. (I realize that would undermine Square’s retainer revenue stream, but I can dream.)

On a related note, which would help alleviate the above issue, I would love to be able to access retainer inventories with fewer mouse clicks. It’s bad enough opening one, but switching between one and another is a chore, and there is a lot of waiting. Showing all of the retainer inventories at once would be a Godsend.

Being able to craft with materials stored with your retainers would be a really, really nice improvement for crafters. That way you wouldn’t have to keep moving things from your retainer to your inventory and vice versa all the time. It would also solve the issue of having to switch between retainers a lot.

Showing the number of items in your retainers’ inventory in crafting dialogs would be very helpful, too.

I also wish the game didn’t close the crafting window when you start talking to a retainer.

Speaking of retainers, it would be really nice if they could come to you instead of me always having to go to them. I mean, one of mine is a 50 Archer so there’s no reason she can’t meet me out in the field or in a dungeon somewhere. :)

Somewhat related to retainers and inventories, I wish there were better searching tools to find gear. Or maybe a way to save different sorting presets.

I would love to have a key to toggle nameplates on and off. Sometimes I want to temporarily disable player nameplates in raids (when stacking) or in Mor Dhona (for obvious reasons). As far as I can tell, there is no way to macro this yet.

And speaking of nameplates, it always surprises me that there is no way to change the nameplate color of members of your Free Company.

I would also love to have a key to toggle between mouse/keyboard controls and the controller. I always have to open the UI panel and click the toggle. (I often use the controller for gathering or fishing.)

I wish there was a way to set the opacity of UI panels, such as the party list or the threat list.

In need/greed dialogs, it would be nice if it took into account your retainer inventories, too. Usually it won’t let you roll on a unique item if you already have it, but if you’ve moved that item to your retainer, it doesn’t know you already have it. I can’t remember all the gear I’ve gotten so I rely on the game to tell me whether I should roll on something or not. (I don’t want to hinder anyone else’s chances of getting something I already have.) (And I sure can’t keep everything I get in my inventory.)

Especially during cut scenes with voiceovers, I wish I didn’t have to keep clicking to continue after every paragraph of dialog. Sometimes I just want to sit back and watch. (A great example would be the finale cut scenes at the end of the 2.5 Main Scenario.) If there’s an option for this, I haven’t seen it.

Camera controls, camera controls, and more camera controls. I know some people don’t like it, but I love moving the camera to the left or right, a la ESO, so that your avatar’s head isn’t in the exact center of the screen. Moving up and down would also be nice so that you could have your avatar fill the screen from top to bottom. Mainly this would be for screenshots but I would probably use it in combat, too.

An example of the camera off to the side, as seen in ESO.
An example of the camera off to the side, as seen in ESO.

And finally, this is a wish I have for every MMO: I’d love to be able to chart the history of how all of my stats have changed over time. I’ve taken to documenting my class levels in a spreadsheet so I can look back and see how long it’s taken me to reach milestones and so forth. It would be nice if the game did that for me, or at least allowed me to export data that I could then import into my own spreadsheet. It would be cool to look at how my Accuracy stat has grown over time (by class), for example. It’s totally worthless to the game, but statistics are cool.

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Serious nerdity.

FFXIV – Who Is Bogatyr Anyway?

Experts Unlocked. With some help from the FC, I finished all three of the Expert dungeons so I can finally do the Daily Expert Roulette. Now the Poetics will really start rolling in!

Ironworks Magitek Bow. I had finished two books of the Animus relic upgrade quest but at the rate I was going it would be another ten years before I would be able to upgrade the Artemes bow again. So I went on a Poetic Tomestone farming blitz (as much as a DPS can blitz queues) so I could buy an Ironworks bow. After spending all my Poetics on the new bow, I took a trip to Hyrstmill to upgrade it to a shiny new 130 Augmented Ironworks Magitek bow. It’s the first time I’ve held something different than the foldable Bard bow since, oh, I don’t know–I can’t even remember when.

Ready for anything. More or less.
Ready for anything in Bogatyr’s gear and a Magitek bow. And it’s even waterproof.

Bogatyr’s Ranging Gear. With the Expert dungeons unlocked, and all the repetitions of dungeon runs for poetics, I’ve picked up the full set of Bogatyr Ranging gear. I think it’s cool. It has a sort of Russian cossack flare to it. It’s the first thing I’ve glamoured in the game so far. (You can tell I’m really dedicated to cosmetics.) (By the way, who is Bogatyr?)

Laurel Goobbue. It was the first mount I saw in FFXIV that made me think, “OMG I’ve got to have that.” Over a year later, I finally got to Trusted relationship with the Sylphs and bought the Laurel Goobbue mount, which I believe is the very first mount I’ve gotten besides the various freebies that come as quest or veteran’s rewards. (After all that reputation work it was still 120,000 frickin’ gil.)

Finally!
Finally!

The only other mount I’ve seen that makes my jaw drop is that red and black round Christmas ball ornament. With a lalafell clinging to the top, it’s the most hilarious thing I’ve ever seen. (I imagine it’s a drop from somewhere in Binding Coil.) Unfortunately that one wouldn’t work for me since I’m not a lalafell.

Binding Coil Turn 9. I ran Turn 9 with the FC Wednesday night. That place is evil. The mechanics don’t seem that difficult on the surface, but there are so many random things that could happen to end the raid. One little thing goes wrong and it’s back to the beginning. The farthest we got was the Meteor Barrage after the first set of Golems. I really enjoy doing raids in FFXIV, but at my advanced gaming age, 2 hours is a long time for me to stay focused on one thing.

Kitty power!
Kitty power! Wish I had that ability on my hotbar somewhere.

Main Scenario. In other news I’ve reached The Steps of Faith in the main scenario, though I haven’t tried it yet. It took me about three days of PUGs to get through The Chrysalis so I’m a little gunshy. (I think they nerfed it in the most recent patch though.)

And finally, I solved the problem of never getting the Crimson Hat drop from Labyrinth of the Ancients. Behold, the Crimson Chapeau:

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Is there nothing a glamour can’t fix?

NBI Talkback – Early Access

Early Access and Kickstarter – Do you support unfinished games?

This question is worded a little ambiguously, perhaps intentionally… what does “support” mean? I certainly support the development of new games, by which I mean that I always want people to try to make games.

As for financially supporting unfinished games, sometimes I do and sometimes I don’t. I’ve been refining my criteria (see below), but it depends on the situation. I have not supported any game projects on Kickstarter, however I have purchased about a half dozen Steam Early Access games. I have also “bought into beta” a few times too (ArcheAge and Landmark are the biggest examples).

To me it all boils down to risk versus reward.

Kickstarter is a fairly high risk, low reward proposition in my mind, so it doesn’t make much sense to back a game project there unless you happen to know and like the developers. The risk is that the developer will take your money and run, or never finish the game, or change the game entirely from their initial proposal. The “reward” is a lot of buggy releases, and a few dollars off the eventual retail price. (Increasingly I’m also wondering if people consider it a reward to have the opportunity to psychologically terrorize a developer on their early access forums.)

Steam Early Access is more of a low-to-medium risk, with a higher reward (mostly instant gratification). There are a lot of reviews there you can read to help you decide whether or not to take that chance. And if you wait a few days after the game “launches,” you can almost always find someone who is streaming it so you can actually look at it first, or bloggers will write up some first impressions of it.

Buying betas (or “founder’s packs”) is more of a case-by-case basis. With ArcheAge and Landmark, I considered them extremely low risks, with decent-sized rewards. I knew I would like ArcheAge because I’d already played the Russian version, and I was pretty excited to play the Westernized version. True, I paid a premium to play it early, but considering the value of the virtual goods in the founder’s packages, it wasn’t that much of a premium.

As for Landmark, I didn’t know anything about the game, but I trusted (and still mostly trust) that a company like then-SOE-now-Daybreak will actually finish the game and get it to market. So I knew I wouldn’t lose my money. But in retrospect, I probably should have waited. I don’t exactly regret buying a founder’s pack, but if I had known the condition of the game before making my purchase, I would have waited. Because they were basically selling us a prototype.

And because of that Landmark experience, I’ve set myself some loose guidelines on how much I will spend on unfinished games.

If it’s a totally unknown game from a totally unknown developer, I won’t spend more than $10-$15. This also includes games I might be interested in but have seen or heard lukewarm reviews, or seen game footage that makes me wonder about the quality of the developer studio. I have a lot of Steam Early Access games in my wish list in this category. I won’t buy them unless they go on sale.

If it’s an unknown game but I trust the company, or I like what I’ve seen in game footage or streams, or it’s getting good reviews from peers, I might spend $20-$25 on early access.

(If it’s a known game but the publisher is Daybreak, who is known to release prototypes as products, I won’t buy it unless it goes on sale for much less than $20. That means H1Z1.)

These days I can’t see myself spending more than $25 for an unfinished game unless it’s backed by a major AAA studio, or at the very least has a free demo that I can try first. Unless a game concept just blows me away, I can wait until the open beta or the release date. I’ve got plenty of other games to play and not enough time to play them as it is.

But I’ll always reserve the right to change my mind and buy something on impulse.

The NBI And Starting A Blog

Two weeks into May, and after posting a talkback post, I realized that I hadn’t even mentioned The Newbie Blogger Initiative (NBI). This is a good indication of how bad my blogging has been lately. But enough about me.

NBI is a very cool effort to promote new blogs and to spread the word that now is a great time to start a blog if you’ve been thinking about doing so. NBI is generally focused on gaming blogs but nobody is going to stop you from starting a non-gaming blog, too.

Good reasons to start a blog:

  • You like to write or you want to get better at writing.
  • You have something to say but nobody will listen.
  • You want to join a loose community of crazy blogger people.
  • You want to learn more about web publishing.
  • You have some knowledge or experience that could benefit others.

Bad reasons to start a blog:

  • You want to make a lot of money.
  • You want to make a little bit of money.
  • You want to make even a single cent of money. (Insert your local country’s smallest denomination of currency there.)

I’m not saying it’s impossible to make money by blogging. I’m just saying that “content marketing” is a huge commitment and unless you’re a robot, or quite lucky, or you started your blog ten years ago, your time would probably be better spent on other ways to make money. Perhaps self-publishing an ebook. (Your chances of making money there are small, too, but I would say slightly better.)

The point is that most bloggers blog simply because they love to blog. Starting a blog is intimidating at first–not knowing if you picked the right name, not knowing if anyone will read your posts, not knowing if your RSS feeds are working, not knowing how to insert pictures or fiddle with widgets or customize the CSS or whatever. But over time it gets easier, and you’ll start to find a voice and a rhythm that works for you.

Then, if you’re like me and I’m sure most other bloggers, you’ll eventually lose your voice and your rhythm again and have to re-discover it over and over again. Because blogging, like writing itself, is not always easy. But it’s very rewarding to be able to look back over your body of blogging work as it grows month after month and year after year and say, “Hey, neat, I did that.”

Party Business and Bio Break both have far better lists of the NBI participants than I could do, and of course the NBI site has tons and tons of blogging information.

Welcome and good luck to everyone starting or re-starting a blog this month!

NBI Talkback – GamerGate

Slightly belated, but…

How did GamerGate affect you?

It actually didn’t affect me per se. I was a passive observer and it wasn’t discussed that much where I spent time on the Internet. I generally don’t read “hard-hitting” game journalism sites like RPS, Kotaku, and whatever others there are, and I definitely don’t venture into their comment sections. I think I only unfollowed one person on Twitter because of their relentless talk about GamerGate.

I did learn some things from GamerGate and its fallout though.

GamerGate demonstrated that there is a rather large conservative population among gamers that I had never seen before. Prior to GamerGate, I viewed gamers as apolitical, or maybe Libertarian-leaning, so that was an eye-opener. But it seemed that the ideals of the average GamerGate supporter correlated very strongly with the ideals of the average political conservative (in America, at least). Political conservatives tend to despise “the liberal media” so it was probably a natural fit for them to despise “the gaming media.”

It’s also been interesting (by which I mean depressing) to see that the “unrest” (if you will) that turned into GamerGate also bled over into other industries like genre fiction. If you’ve followed any of the controversy around the Hugo award nominations this year you’ll find it very familiar: It seems like many of the same conservatives that are GamerGate supporters are also trying to overturn the Hugo establishment. I guess the surprising thing to me is how much of an overlap there is between game audiences and fiction audiences, though I suppose if you think about it, it shouldn’t be that surprising.

I feel like it’s human nature to divide ourselves up into “us and them” sides. Perhaps as gamers we are even more susceptible to it: Most of our games force us to pick one of two factions or teams to play on. But if you take a step back and look at GamerGate (and the Hugos) objectively, the issues are complex and opinions can span a wide variety of gray-shades. (For myself, I can find both merit and fault in both sides, which is true of most things in life.) Sadly, many people just pick a side and run with it, because that’s the path of least resistance.

FFXIV – New To Me Dungeon Diary

In my latest FFXIV ventures, I’ve done a number of level 50 dungeons for the first time, which is something I really hate, especially so long after they’ve been out. I just hate being “the new guy” in a dungeon, especially in FFXIV because it actually announces it to everyone. (Fortunately there is a reward to the other players for running with a new person, so nobody is likely to kick you out.) Here is my brief diary of how they went. (Spoiler: They all went better than expected.)

The Wanderer’s Palace. As I recall the only troublesome part of this dungeon is the last boss, and our tank wanted us to burn him instead of dealing with the actual mechanics, so it was pretty easy. (I ran this a second time for a Zenith book and it was the same: Expect to do a “speed run” and basically ignore the mechanics.)

Pharos Sirius. I don’t remember anything about this run, except I’m pretty sure we bulled our way through most of the mechanics without much finesse. I think I died a few times during a trash encounter with Puddings that kept splitting.

Copperbell Mines (Hard). The tank seemed fairly new. The experienced person was very nice but for some reason felt compelled to explain how to do the “speed run” version of the dungeon, so we kept dying because the tank wasn’t used to it. In the first part we ran through and ignored the mobs and focused only on the Stone Walls. With the first boss we did some crazy strategy where we stacked right at the beginning and burned the boss while standing in all the AoEs. It seemed like a terrible idea to me, and I would have hated to be the healer, but it worked on the second try.

Lost City of Amdapor. I went through this with a new, tentative Warrior who was accompanied by an experienced Ninja, and an experienced healer. It went very smooth but kind of slow because this was the first tank I’ve seen in a very long time who didn’t run headlong into danger without any care for the consequences. At some point the healer got impatient and started running ahead to pull things. Normally that would start a fight but in this case I think the tank actually appreciated it. Anyway we had enough DPS that we didn’t have to worry about the doors on the last boss, which was nice because I didn’t really understand them from the video I watched.

Snowcloak. Main Scenario dungeon. Everyone was nice and the run went very smooth, despite nobody saying anything or explaining anything to me. I watched a guide though so I had some foreknowledge of the mechanics. Main Scenario dungeons tend to be easier than the others anyway, and there was very little to worry about except getting out of AoE effects. On the second boss, don’t attack the Spriggans or Snowballs, and on the third boss, run behind the last spike when the Big Bad Wolf does a Lunar Cry, and that was about it.

Keeper of the Lake. Main Scenario dungeon. My first time through this was a very quiet, businesslike run that went smoothly with hardly any complications. The only mechanics I worried about were moving out of AoEs. (Somebody else kicked those canisters around on the second first boss–I’m still not sure how to do that.) I don’t remember any of the trash or bosses being that difficult or complicated, and I’m a bit surprised this is one of the “Expert” roulette dungeons. I ended up with a Bogatyr Bard coat which I thought looked pretty cool so I might just glamour it up if I can get the rest of the set (and all the fiddly bits you need to do glamours).

Something I learned after Keeper of the Lake: I had been under the impression that I needed to unlock all of the “High-level Roulette” dungeons before I could unlock the “Expert Roulette.” But after doing Keeper of the Lake, I noticed that all you have to do is complete the last three dungeons to unlock it, even if you’ve not done any of the others.

P.S. I feel like they should sync down to 90 instead of 110 for some of the earlier 50 dungeons (and Labyrinth of the Ancients). At 110 people can just blitz through them and new people like me end up not knowing anything about the real mechanics. You see it all the time in Labyrinth: Nobody does the Bone Dragon right anymore but everyone is so overgeared that you still make it through somehow.

Progression Report – April

Oh crap, I forgot to write one of these for April.

Well, it’s not hard to figure it out.

I started out playing mainly Star Trek Online and made it to, I don’t know, 30something I guess, and then I was bitten by the FFXIV bug again and spent the rest of the month there. Final tally: STO 34 hours, FFXIV 127 hours. (Though I’m sure at least 25% of those FFXIV hours were AFK time.)

My progression in FFXIV is further documented here, here, and here. Basically, I reached 50 in Black Mage and Alchemist, and obtained more and better gear for Bard and Dragoon from Syrcus Tower and World of Darkness. And I completed the Main Scenario up to the Snowcloak dungeon quest.

FFXIV – Ding, Ding

Last Wednesday was a rough day at work* so I was too beat to try Turn 5 again, but Saturday the guild was kind enough to re-run it for me and we breezed through it like it was nothing. Thanks everyone! The previously-hated Dive Bombs were no sweat this time. Now I have the Second Coil of Bahamut unlocked for future escapades. (One of these days I’ll have to go back through Turns 1-4 just to see them.)

I’ve slowed down a bit on completing the Main Scenario so I haven’t done any more trials. There’s still plenty of time before the expansion in June so there’s no reason to rush, and honestly some of it is a bit dry. It turned out I wasn’t done with 2.3 after all since there was a lot of chatting with NPCs all around the world after defeating Ramuh. At this point though my time is probably better spent unlocking level 50 dungeons.

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Sunday I finished leveling Black Mage to 50. (Or as I like to call it, “Blast Mage.”) As with most previous classes, once I get to the high 40s, it becomes impossible to stop until I reach 50, even if there’s no compelling reason to get there in a hurry. Toward the end I did a combination of FATEs, Aurum Vale, and Low-Level Duty Finder, but surprisingly enough in the end I dinged 50 by completing my Hunting Log. There’s a healthy amount of XP in that last tier.

To celebrate, I put on the two pieces of Crimson gear I had saved from ages ago, bought a random level 55 wand from the Marketplace, and jumped immediately into Labyrinth of the Ancients to start replacing that hideous class quest gear. (I’ve always liked the Crimson gear anyway.) It’s a really different experience this time. With no gear and under 3000 health, those AoEs in Labyrinth hurt, not to mention all of the 130+ geared players looking at with disdain for messing up their speed-farming.

So now I have Bard, Dragoon, and Black Mage at 50, which pretty much covers all the DPS options I’m interested in right now.

One of the nice things about taking several months off from FFXIV is that when you return, you have 100 Levemete allotments and a ton of rest experience waiting. (Honestly I can’t even remember the last time I didn’t have my bar full of rest XP.) And with 100 Tradecraft Levemetes it’s relatively easy to level a crafting profession. Just pick the quest that rewards the most experience for the least expensive materials (in terms of money to buy or time to make or gather) and repeat for five levels. Then move to the next location and repeat.

So leveling Alchemist went pretty fast and I made level 50 on Monday night. I picked Alchemist, by the way, because it was already at 32, and I think I originally started it because Alchemist is the melder for the White Mage relic, and at the time I was leveling WHM. So to celebrate hitting 50 Alchemist I finally melded two materia onto a stick for my WHM relic. That’s probably the extent of what I’ll do with it for the forseeable future. I had hoped that I could also use Alchemist to meld for the Black Mage relic but naturally that requires Goldsmith.

Speaking of crafting I’ve been looking into endgame gear for crafters a bit. Man what a rabbit-hole. There is so much to look at and think about and buy before you can do anything decent. I wanted to craft a one-star botanist hat with my weaver, but first I had to get out ffxivclock.com and harvest up a bunch of Crawler Caccoons so I could make Twinthread. Then I realized you can’t make Twinthread unless you have Craftsmanship 275. So I had to buy some gear and melding components to get that higher. Then I ran out of Lightning Crystals so I had to go harvest a bunch more of them too. It’s all very time-consuming and hella-expensive if you have to buy anything from the Market. Generally speaking, I enjoy crafting, but not when it takes all day and all your money just to make one thing.

* A pattern which is becoming far too common for my liking.